2nd Debate, Atheism and Morality, 5th Round, Matt's Response

Fifth Round:  Matt's Response, Part A


Note: the ">" signifies an earlier post.


(this post is too big to fit in a single post. Therefore, it is in two parts)

Matt5: What I have cautioned concerning written versus oral debates is taking place. My opening post was 138 words. Chad's response was 527 words. I responded with 441 words--trying to keep it brief. Chad's next response was 464 words. My next one was 783 words, then Chad with 1808, me with 2961, Chad with 4201, me with 4333, Chad with 5317; and now this post with 14,500+ words. The atheists complained that an oral discussion would not allow true critical examination. I have been examining Chad's statements as he has mine, and now my post is exceedingly long as a result. I certainly hope all the atheists who complained are reading what they have asked for. This dialogue is taking more and more of my time, and I have other responsibilities that have been put on the back burner because of it. Therefore, we need this soon. We are not going to agree on several points, and we need to continue nonetheless.

Chad5: I must confess to some frustration at this point--not because you haven't responded to all of my points but because where you have responded it seems in many cases that you have ignored what I wrote. In all honesty, as I write this I have serious questions over whether you are debating in good faith or whether you simply wish to state and restate your position with little interest in understanding atheism or answering my posts. I hope these concerns will prove unfounded as we continue.

Matt5: I can see why you would be getting a little frustrated. I, too, am getting frustrated because I do not think that you are acknowledging my analysis. I understand your position, and I disagree with it. Perhaps you're expecting that if you clarify your position, that I need to agree with it. I don't.

Matt5: Furthermore, you do not have to worry about my debating you in good faith. I read what you say and respond to what you say. That is well-documented. I just do not want to let a position that you promote to go unchallenged, namely, this lack of faith argument in relationship to actions. The reason I restate the position is that you restate yours. This is why I said we need to agree to disagree and move on. Instead of doing that, you now imply that somehow I am not debating in good faith. (Is this an ad hominem?)

Matt5: If I were to ignore many of your responses, in order to keep his brief, I suspect that the atheists would use it as an opportunity to claim I'm not able to respond to your argument. This is a problem in this written discussion. Since the atheists tend to see most everything I say and do in a negative light and because the atheists have requested a written discussion, the length of this discussion necessarily must increase. That is an obvious problem. Therefore, for the sake of brevity, after this post when I respond to your next post, I will extract certain points out of it and respond to those only, and I will attempt to leave the bulk of the discussion on the side--particularly those areas we have already discussed.

Matt5: I do not believe that you are consistent in your claim that lack of belief is a legitimate position to hold when it is compared with your actions and the actions of other atheists who also hold that verbal claim. I understand that you want me to believe that there are other factors that can lead to actions besides belief. I am simply saying that all of your propositions around "lack of belief" can be reduced to belief statements--which I will show later--face it--we are not going to get past this. We have both made points that we think the other needs to concede. For the sake of future brevity, let's agree to disagree.
Chad5: I will try to illustrate what I'm saying with some specific "reply with quotes" sections, but otherwise will try to cover the remaining issues in the "what is atheism" part of our discussion so we can move on to morality where I think a lot of work remains to be done.

Chad5: On the source of actions:

Chad5: You continue to assert that actions come from beliefs, and continue to avoid any mention of other factors. In so doing I believe you are creating a false dichotomy - unfortunately you snipped my discussion of this false dichotomy and essentially repeated your original claim as though my post hadn't been written.

Matt5: I dealt with your argument stating it was a false dichotomy when I mentioned the law of excluded middle. You then tried to reiterate your case using subcategories of lack of belief, if I remember correctly, and tried to establish that my categorization is incorrect. I had hoped you would admit that beliefs lead to actions, and that we can deduce one's beliefs based upon one's actions. For you to say that actions follow lack of belief in something or non-belief in something, in my opinion, is illogical. I tried to demonstrate that lack of belief, grammatically, is a passive construction. Furthermore, I have made it clear that I believe the "lack of belief" position of the atheists is a strategic position held by them in order to try to remain intellectually unassailability. I am directly and definitely assailing that position which I consider to be in error. This is why I have focused on the relationship between beliefs and actions and not non-belief's and actions--as you are focusing on. Undoubtedly, it is far more logical to conclude that actions are the result of a person's beliefs rather than based upon what they don't believe. In the case of your argument, you are trying to convince me that when a person has a lack of an intellectual position, it results in an action. I don't buy it. I conclude that actions follow beliefs, and I further believe that atheists, in general, believe there is no God; and their actions follow their active denial of God. Now, this may or may not sit well with you (please believe me that I mean no offense,) but this is what I believe because this is the best conclusion I can draw based upon the actions of the atheists that I have encountered. They say they lack belief, but they are constantly and continually refuting theistic beliefs--undermining theistic arguments, demeaning Christians, calling them names, insulting them and all the while claiming they "lack belief in God." I see this as a grave inconsistency; and I am forced, personally, to conclude that they are behaving in a manner consistent with their beliefs not because of their lack of belief.

Chad5: My assertion remains that actions come from a combination of factors including beliefs, "stakes," the ability to affect future outcomes, and the cost of engaging. This is important because if true it invalidates your claim that we can deduce beliefs from actions unless we account for the other factors. I sought to illustrate this with the "gambling in Vegas" story and asked:

Matt5: I'm glad to see that you admit that actions follow beliefs. A risk is a risk because there is a comparison of value and consequences. Values related to belief's. Someone "risks" based upon a set of beliefs and values according to those beliefs and not because they have no belief in something. The desire/hope to affect a future outcome means that you believe you can indeed affect a future outcome. If you did not believe you could, why would you even try to do anything? Therefore, "the ability to affect future outcomes" is reducible to set belief statements; namely, that you believe you can affect change which is why you seek to affect change. Likewise, the "cost of engaging" can be stated in value terms; the latter being a subdivision of belief since value (cost) is related to what one believes and not what one does not believe. Now, if you are trying to tell me that we cannot deduce someone's beliefs based upon her actions, then it would seem that the legal system that often tries to determine motives (i.e., reasons for behavior) of criminals based upon her actions would be invalid. Sorry, I do not see you as being consistent in your argument.

Chad5: Do you think her non-belief in his vision is stronger in the latter example? I submit it is identical but the stakes of the question are higher and this is why she argues against trusting his vision whereas she might have just indulged him if he only wanted to bet $10.

Chad5: You replied: "Matt4: I agree that the higher the consequence, the more serious the result; and the more serious a "vision" should be taken."

Chad5: Unfortunately this ignores my question. I agree that if we think a question is important we should expend more thought on it . . . but what I asked is whether her non-belief (or disbelief if you prefer) in the reliability of her husband's vision/intuition regarding the wheel is necessarily stronger when he wants to bet their life savings than when he wants to bet $10?

Matt5: She believes that the risk is too high. The truth is that she believes his judgment is in error, and she believes he is not trustworthy in that judgment. She is not acting because of a lack, but because of belief. This is the point I'm going to continue to make: actions follow beliefs and not lack of beliefs.

Chad5: I submit that while she might do some quick thinking and reflection and conclude more strongly that her husband's vision is unreliable, this is not at all necessary for her different actions in both stories to be sensible. The increase in "stakes" alone is plenty to explain why she might indulge the bet when it's $10 and argue strenuously against it when it's $10,000.

Matt5: I thought you said you were married, so I think that it would be safe for me to say that your spouse would consider your actions in light of your past actions. This is a natural phenomenon that we husband's experience with our wives. They remember things. So, I don't think your illustration helps you if you're trying to make it a point that the wife would not consider the past actions and behaviors of her husband when considering whether or not to trust him in serious decisions. Nevertheless, she is your fictional character, and you can do with her as you wish. But I would suspect that any rational woman would believe that the consequences involved in the loss of a large some of money would be greater than the consequences of the loss of a little money, and that her beliefs/values would definitely affect her actions with her husband in that regard.

Chad5: (Similarly, an atheist may hold the same level of lack of belief or active disbelief regarding Martians, the Christian God and Odin, but only spend time debating the existence of God because there are billions of people who believe in God and who affect his life as a result of their belief.)

Matt5: I know that that is what you have been trying to say. I have been trying to respond to that very thing by saying that this "lack of belief" claimed by atheists is an inaccurate representation of their position. Again, I believe it is an attempt by the atheists to try to gain an unassailable strategic position. However, I see it as being very assailable, and I see it as being inconsistent with their actions. I know of no one who ever acts because he doesn't believe something. I see people behave in various ways because of what they do believe, do claim, do desire, do want, etc. I cannot ever recall someone defending himself because he lacks belief in aggression. I cannot ever recall someone running in a race because he lacks belief in competition. I cannot ever recall someone voting because he lacks belief in politics. Like I said, whenever I have spoken with anybody and asked them why they are doing something, they always tell me it's because of such and such a belief. I have never once in my entire life heard anybody say that they defended themselves because they lacked belief in aggression or say they ran in a race because they lacked belief in competition or voted because they lacked belief in politics. Have you ever heard of anything like this? I haven't. But you want me to accept your notion that you refute theistic proofs because you lack belief in God. To me, this is a grave inconsistency between claims and actions.

Chad5: Please answer my question so we can continue.

Matt5: I did.

Chad5: On atheists working to support their disbelief:

Chad5: I fear we will do nothing but waste time here, but I'll try to answer you. Your comment that you know of only one atheist who honestly wanted to believe in God but was unconvinced of the evidence is, IMO, very telling.

Chad5: I want to believe in God if and only if God exists. That is true whether by "God" we mean God as you understand him, God as Metacrock understands him, God as oldbob understands him, as unfusilier understands him, etc., etc. And those are just Christian variations on God.

Matt5: Since we haven't defined who God is yet in our discussion and since our discussion is about atheism and morality, I will forgo comments about whose view of God is correct.

Chad5: It's really very simple. I have been told by many people of many different Gods. I have reflected on what they have told me, on my own experience, and on the arguments and supposed evidence for these claims. And I have honestly concluded that there is insufficient reason for me to believe any of these claims to be accurate.

Matt5: Then I conclude that you don't believe in God. I would further conclude that you believe the evidence for God's existence is insufficient.

Chad5: I have no need to "further" this lack of belief. If God does exist (in one of these forms or in some other) I certainly want to believe in him. If God doesn't exist, I do not want to believe in him--I would rather not have a false belief.

Matt5: How do you further a lack of something? Anyway, I see a problem. You have stated above "I want to believe in God if and only if God exists." But since you have a working assumption that God does not exist, then logically speaking, you do not want to believe in God since your working assumption is He doesn't exist.

Chad5: If you look at what I and many, many other atheists have written in response to the (roughly monthly) question, "Why would an atheist come to CARM?" you would see ample reasons . . . none of which depend on your presupposition that we are here in an effort to maintain or spread atheism.

Matt5: So, are you trying to convince me that because of the atheists' lack of belief, that you atheists (in general) are motivated to come here and refute theistic evidences and blatantly break CARM board rules (not you specifically); and that by so doing you are not trying to promote the atheistic position when you defend it, attack Christianity, undermine Christian evidence, and try to refute theistic proofs? No one asked the atheists or forced any of them to come here to CARM and attack Christian beliefs, evidences, proofs, etc. The atheists come here for a reason--not for a lack of a reason or reasons. All they have to do is go somewhere else or not come here at all. Yet, they exhibit the behavior consistent with those who want to continue in disbelief. Remember, you have admitted that you have a working assumption that God does not exist; and that logically from your paragraph above, you do not want to believe in God. Therefore, since you do not want to believe in God, this is why, I assume, you are coming here trying to challenge our beliefs. In my opinion, actions reveal beliefs.

Chad5: It is, of course, your call on whether we are being honest or not.

Matt5: In no way have I inferred or suggested that you are not being honest in our discussion. I am, however, very honest with you. I think that it is unfortunate that you must question my honesty (ad hominem?) because I have not accepted what you're telling me.

Chad5: On lack of evidence for X and positive evidence against X:

Chad5: I gave the example of an invisible ghost and a purple ghost and said that while I simply lack belief in the invisible ghost due to lack of evidence:

Chad5: I don't believe there is a glowing purple ghost in the room with me because if there was I would see it. Thus, I have specific evidence that no such being is in my room, in addition to the above considerations.

Chad5: Your reply implied that by evidence I meant certain proof and also raised a number of possible reasons for why I might not see such a ghost. This misses the point, which is that there is a difference between lack of belief due to lack of credible evidence (which may reasonably support a working assumption that X does not exist) and positive disbelief due to specific evidence against X.

Matt5: Your earlier statement about ghosts was that the reason you didn't believe one was there in the room with you was that you could not see it. I merely took your statement and analyzed it logically and demonstrated to you that your criteria for not believing in the ghost was insufficient and could even lead you to a false conclusion. This is nothing more than what the atheists do to the Christians who make arguments and assertions and claims about God. Therefore, I assumed it was perfectly okay to do that with your comment on ghosts.

Chad5: Do you truly see no difference between an invisible ghost and a (large, unhiding, standing right in front of my apparently functioning eyes) purple ghost? (Extras added so we can stay on the point rather than getting sidetracked by hypotheticals about why I might not see the ghost.)

Matt5: The difference between an invisible ghost and a purple ghost is that the invisible ghost is not purple. By definition, if it is invisible, it doesn't have a color. To be invisible means it is not seen. We see colors.

Chad5: On the Law of the Excluded Middle

>Chad4: Yes, but within the "do not believe" category there
>can still be more than one coherent possibility. Just as the
>law of excluded middle says that you either consider me your
>best friend or you don't . . . but within "Chad is not my best
>friend" there is still room for "Chad's a friend" and "Chad's
>a big jerkface".
>Matt4: We are arguing semantics here. It is true that you
>are not my best friend. However, the statement "Chad's a
>friend" is a different statement from "Chad is not my best
>friend." The law of excluded middle applies to each and each
>subcategory is a statement to which the law of excluded middle
>can equally apply.

Chad5: Of course it is a different statement. However, "Chad is a friend" is one of many true statements belonging to the set of statements for which "Chad is my best friend" is false. Similarly, if we apply the LEM to the statement, "I believe that God exists" what's left in the set of sentences for which the first is false is much broader than you are willing to admit. It includes:

Matt5: This is not a discussion about what I'm willing or not willing to do. If you want to state that you "believe" that I am unwilling to admit, that is fine.

Chad5: "I have sufficient evidence that God does not exist to call God disproven,"

Matt5: Restated: "I believe the evidence for God's existence is insufficient."

Chad5: "I'm really unsure about whether God exists,"

Matt5: Restated: "I believe it is possible that God exists, but I don't know."

Chad5: "I see no evidence either way but given the extraordinary nature of the claim consider it unlikely," and

Matt5: Restated: " I believe that the extraordinary nature of the claim of God's existence is not supported by the evidence."

Chad5: "I see no evidence either way but given the extraordinary nature of the claim consider it extremely unlikely."

Matt5: "I believe that it is extremely unlikely that God exists given that I see no evidence either way."

Chad5: You are simply abusing the Law of Excluded Middle. You want it to say that anyone who says "False" to the statement, "I believe God exists" must say "True" to the statement, "I believe God does not exist". This is simply incorrect, and not how the law works. Of the four positions above, each of which would answer "False" to "I believe God exists," the first would answer "true" to "I believe God does not exist" the second would answer "false" and the third and fourth might go either way, depending on how semantically uptight they were.

Matt5: No, that is not what I'm saying, and that is a misapplication of the law of excluded middle. The law of excluded middle simply states that a statement is either true or false. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is either true or false that I believe God exists. It is either true or false that you believe God exists. That's it.

Matt5: I am not saying that you "must" believe that God exists if you don't affirm belief in God. What I'm trying to say is that the term "lack of belief" is a non-falsifiable strategic stance held by atheists in an attempt to gain an unassailable position, and that it is inconsistent with the grammatically passive claim of "lack of belief." And, atheists behave in a manner consistent with an active belief that no God exists rather than a passive and non-falsifiable, "I lack belief in God." As you have admitted earlier and as I pointed out above, you have a working assumption that God does not exist and if God does not exist, you do not want to believe in Him; therefore, you do not want to believe in God because you have a working assumption He does not exist. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that you are acting based upon your belief that no God exists.

Chad5: Does lack of belief imply denial of God?

>Chad4: This may be the source of some of our confusion then.
>I categorize Martians (and gods) as nonexistent too, but only
>as a working assumption based on a lack of any reason to
>believe they exist. That is quite different than my
>categorization of the statement "Chad's wife did not give
>birth to their daughter Jade" as false, since I have quite
>reliable evidence to the contrary (having been there at the
>Matt4: You just said that you categorize God as nonexistent.
>This means that you believe God does not exist.

Chad5: No, and this is one of the areas where I question your good faith. Not only are you ignoring pretty much everything I have said that puts this in context, it also seems clear that having agreed that "lack of belief in God" was a valid part of the definition of atheism you are repeatedly asserting that it is not--or, more specifically, that "lack of belief" is really identical to "active disbelief".

Matt5: Hold on. I am not ignoring "pretty much everything" you have said. That is a very inaccurate statement. I have repeatedly addressed you over and over again. Yet, now you're trying to say that I'm ignoring it. Look at the volume of information that I have given you. Furthermore, when you categorize God as nonexistent, that doesn't mean you believe He doesn't exist? Is that right? Then, if I were to categorize a person as evil, then it doesn't mean I believe he is bad? You tell me that you categorize God as nonexistent. But, how can you categorize God as being nonexistent without also believing He doesn't exist? This kind of logic baffles me. You can either categorize God as nonexistent, existing; or you are undecided. But you have chosen to categorize Him as nonexistent. If you want to tell me that this means you don't believe He doesn't exist, go ahead. But I have difficulty with the logic of your stating that something is nonexistent while not believing that it does not exist.

Chad5: I lack belief in God(s) because I see little to no reason to think that God(s) exist. I know that I exist but I can conceive of countless possible explanations for why I exist. The Christian God is one of them, but only one . . . and seems no more plausible to me than any of a dozen I could imagine during a walk around the pond near my home.

Matt5: I guess that your lack of belief in God is equal to the category that God does not exist, but it means you don't believe that God does not exist, right? I have no problem with your lacking belief in God because you see no reason that God exists. I have a problem when your lack of belief leads to the action that is identical with someone who believes there is no God, and yet you say you lack belief in God. To reiterate, the "lack of belief" position is, in my opinion, an inconsistent statement when compared to actions of those who hold it and then actively seek to destroy theistic groups and undermined Christian beliefs.

Chad5: By the way, I don't currently have positive belief in any theory of origins of existence itself. This will be relevant when we get to your presupposition that I'm a philosophical naturalist.

>However, above you categorize God ias nonexistent. This is an
>active and willful decision on your part to assert that God
>does not exist. If this is not true, then please explain to
>me how your categorization of God as nonexistent does not
>qualify as an active and willful decision to assert that God
>does not exist.

Chad5: If you had read what I wrote, you could answer this for yourself. I characterize God as non-existent as a working assumption, as I do with any and all extraordinary claims for which I see insufficient evidence. This is virtually the definition of atheism we agreed to and yet, having accepted that definition, you refuse to accept it.

Matt5: It is precisely because I have read what you have written that I'm asking the question. I see many inconsistencies which I pointed out in our discussion. I accepted your definition of atheism and am now tackling it. I did not agree that atheism is consistent with its own self-declaration. I certainly hope you did not expect me to accept your definition of atheism and then not tackle it.

Chad5: Why don't I believe in ghosts? In ESP? In alien races observing us from cloaked ships? In Odin? In reincarnation? In literal soulmates?

Chad5: In every case it is the same. I consider the claim extraordinary and the evidence lacking. There is nothing obviously active or wilful about it. I did not decide to find the evidence for ghosts uncompelling. I simply find it so. I did not decide to find the evidence for ESP unconvincing. I simply find it so.

Matt5: Ok. No problem.

Chad5: And I did not decide to find the evidence for God uncompelling. I simply find it so.

Matt5: Ok. No problem. This is what you find.

>Chad4: It seems that when we say "lack of belief" you hear
>something more like "lack of opinion" as though we are
>pretending to have no view on the subject. That's not what
>we're saying, however; rather, we are making a distinction
>between a working assumption that X does not exist (we lack
>belief in X) and a positive belief that X does not exist (we
>believe in ~X based on evidence that ~X).
>Matt4: Yes, that is going what I have been saying. At the
>risk of sounding impolite and accusatory (which I am not
>trying to be), it is my opinion that the phrase "lack of
>belief" is a strategic attempt to construct an atheist
>position that is as unassailable as possible. I also believe
>that it is inconsistent with atheistic actions. Atheists, in
>my opinion, behave more consistently with an active disbelief
>in God rather than a passive "lack of belief."

Chad5: This is an example of what I'm talking about. I state (not for the first time) quite explicitly that there is nothing "passive" about lacking belief while having a negative working assumption and you respond as though I'm claiming the opposite. (This is also, of course, another example of you attacking "lack of belief" well after agreeing that it should be part of the definition of atheism.)

Matt5: You mean if I agree that something is part of the definition, I'm not been allowed to examine critically that definition? Just because I agreed to work with a definition, does not mean that I find that definition sufficient. Remember, I wanted to know what you believed atheism was. Once we agreed on a definition, I proceeded to analyze it. You shouldn't be complaining about that. After all, this is a debate, right?

Chad5: As much as it would pain me to restart at the beginning, I think you have a choice to make here. Either agree that lack of belief is a valid part of the definition of atheism or else come clean that you don't and never did consider it such. If the former, then stop undermining our agreed-upon definition. If the latter, perhaps we should abandon any discussion of morality and debate whether lack of belief is coherent or, as you seem to see it, a maneuver designed to create an unassailable position.

Matt5: I agree that the statement "lack of belief" is a valid part of the definition of atheism. However, if I were to debate a Mormon on who God was, I would want to have his definition of God nailed down first. We would probably come up with something like this, "the Mormon definition of God is that God used to be a man on another world, who was exalted to Godhood, who has a goddess wife, and who has a body of flesh and bones." I would been agree that this is the definition of the Mormon God. Then, I would proceed to dismantle it. I hope this clarifies the idea that it is not necessary for me to abstain from critically examining your position once I have agreed on what your position is.

>Matt4: I never stated that actions only follow beliefs. But
>I have been saying that actions reveal beliefs, and that we can
>get a pretty accurate estimate of someone's beliefs by
>looking at his actions.

Chad5: The latter virtually implies the former. By insisting on drawing conclusions about belief from actions while ignoring other factors, you essentially eliminate those other factors.

Matt5: "Virtually implies" is rather vague. Nevertheless, I have repeatedly stated my case that beliefs follow actions. This is why I believe, based upon the evidence of the actions of atheists, that they actively believe there is no God. This is my opinion based upon the evidence that I have seen. You claim there's a lack of sufficient evidence for God's existence, and you want me to accept that is your position. Okay, then please accept my position that the evidence/behavior of the atheists leads me to conclude that they believe there is no God.

Chad5: Moreover, you come close to contradicting yourself below when you say:

>Chad4: No, I'm demonstrating that there are more possible
>explanations for level of action than simply "belief vs. lack
>of belief vs. disbelief".
>Matt4: Yes, I know that. But I am not convinced by your

Matt5: Then I did not contradict myself, did I?

Chad5: This is a critical point for understanding atheism and, I suspect, will be a critical point in our discussion of morals given where you're starting. So let me state my position as clearly as I can so that you can tell me where you agree or disagree.

Chad5: A person's actions follow from a complex interaction of many factors, including but not necessarily limited to: beliefs, "stakes" and ability to affect potential outcomes.

Matt5: I have no problem with this. Let's break down your comment. Actions follow beliefs. Actions follow "stakes" (risk factors which are based on value assessment which definitely implies belief in the value). Actions follow the belief that you can affect the future. And, I like to add, I believe that you are making my case for me since each of your factors as reducible to belief statements.

Chad5: On the influence of theists on my life:

>Matt4: I cannot dispute what I do not know. If you say they
>have a big influence on you, then I will believe you. If you
>say they have not influenced you greatly, I will believe that
>instead. Just tell me which one it is.

Chad5: I'm frankly stunned that you could even ask, but OK. Here are just a few ways that Christians have affected or continue to affect my life as a result of their beliefs: as a child I was required to pledge allegiance to one nation, under God, although I did not believe in God. Actually, I refused this requirement, which caused me no small amount of difficulty. There are Christians who, as a result of their religious beliefs, want my daughter's eventual science classes to teach nonsense instead of the then-current scientific consensus. This very moment there is a proposed amendment to the US Constitution which, if passed, will harm many people I love, and many more who I do not know but value nonetheless. This is just one area in which the life of non-heterosexual people is hurt by actions taken due to religious beliefs. At some point during her childhood it is extremely likely that my daughter will, if she is an atheist, be told that she is going to hell. I recognize, of course, that you may see these actions as benign, or even as positive. But from my perspective they are harmful.

Matt5: So, I can conclude that you believe it is wrong to be made to pledge the allegiance using the reference to God? Is that right? Or do you lack an opinion on the matter? Apparently, you also believe it is wrong to teach "nonsense" in science classes (I consider evolution to be nonsense, by the way). I don't know what you're talking about regarding the Constitution. But I'm concluding that you do not want your daughter to be told she is going to hell. So, I assume you believe this is wrong. In all of your statements, I see no lack of belief or opinion regarding saying the word God and the Pledge of Allegiance. I see no lack of belief or opinion regarding nonsense in science classes. I see no lack of belief or opinion regarding the issue of hell being described as your daughter's destiny. What you're telling me is that you, a loving father, act out of your beliefs and have definite opinions based upon those beliefs. What I find interesting is that you apparently want to impose your moral values upon others.

Chad5: What do I do as an atheist?

>Chad4: I have never tried to disprove the existence of God.
>Nor have I ever, to my knowledge, tried to deconvert a theist.
>What I do is: 1. Argue against specific arguments for God as
>invalid. 2. Attempt to help theists understand atheists and
>Matt4: So, you don't try and disprove God's existence, yet you
>argue against specific arguments for God's existence? Is that

Chad5: Yes. If someone offers up an unsound argument for something, I will challenge that argument. I have challenged arguments from atheists and evolutionists as well, by the way.

Matt5: Do you think that I would be inconsistent if I said I don't try to disprove illegal aliens enter America, yet I try and refute arguments that they do? Or would you think I was illogical if I said I don't try to disprove that cancer exists, but I try to refute all arguments that support its existence? Or, would you think I was inconsistent if I said that I don't try to disprove your arguments in our discussion here, but I continue to do so? I don't know about you; but if someone approached me that way, I would not consider him very logical or consistent.

>Chad4: Hopefully I've shown that while stronger beliefs can
>lead to stronger actions, higher stakes can also lead to
>stronger actions. "Does God exist" is a high-stakes question
>at the level of human interaction.
>Matt4: Of course, I argue this all the time with people. I
>tell them they better take the issue of God very seriously
>because eternity is a long time to be wrong.

Chad5: This is another example of you essentially ignoring what I've written and responding to something different. My point is that the question "Does God exist" is a high-stakes question at the level of human interaction. In other words, it is a high-stakes question because Christians and Muslims and other theists are trying to impose what they see as the consequences of their beliefs on other people.

Matt5: Chad, I am agreeing with you that higher stakes can lead to stronger actions. So why do you say I'm ignoring you? Is it because I'm not agreeing with your conclusions? Anyway, this is why I work so hard to refute atheism, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc., because the stakes, I believe, are eternally measured. For you to say that I am ignoring what you've written is confusing to me--particularly when I agree with what you just said. Please note, eternity is a higher stake than mere human opinion about the future. By your admission, eternity qualifies as a higher stake risk than human interaction. I merely took your position and worked with it logically.

Chad5: Your reply ignores this critical point.

Matt5: No, my reply acknowledges the critical point.

Chad5: On Martians:

Chad4: Thus, at first you said that you didn't actively believe there to be no Martians but simply didn't believe there were any. According to you, this explains why you don't expend energy either defending your non-belief or promoting it. But now you say that you categorize the existence of Martians as false.

Matt4: I think you missed a qualifying statement in the above paragraph: "if I actively believed there were no Martians . . . " I think that it answers your objection.

Chad5: If you read your original post on Martians and your subsequent post there is a clear contradiction between them. However, this is a sideline.

Matt5: If is so clear contradiction, why you say it is one without proving it? I would prefer that you either ignore it or prove it instead of making a statement you don't back up.

Chad5: On ad hominems:

Chad5: This is a subtle point, but worth being aware of. The ad hom fallacy usually refers to insults or attacks on character, but it applies equally to "arguments" that focus on the person rather than the position. Every time one departs from the facts of a position and speculate as to why the other person holds the position, one is committing the fallacy.

Chad5: Looking at the above example, if I address why I believe you answer to be inadequate, that is valid. But suppose I go on to say, "It seems to me that you deliberately refuse to acknowledge that theists impact the lives on non-theists because this would explain why atheists engage in the question and would thus weaken your claim that our actions must be explained by an active belief in the non-existence of God." In that case I would not be attacking your position but you--and doing so in a way that allows no rebuttal.

Matt5: You can certainly rebut if you want. There's nothing in the structure the sentence that forbids it or makes it impossible. But, the phrase, "it seems to me" qualifies as an opinion and observation about evidence with a conclusion. I find it interesting that you have questioned my honesty, and yet try to yet point out a vague ad hominem attack on my part. It is not your questioning my honesty an ad hominem attack?

>Matt4: Great. Me, too. Since we have discussed atheism as it
>relates to belief, disbelief, actions, lack of belief, etc.,
>perhaps it is time to discuss morality in relationship to the
>atheistic position. Therefore, at this point I think it is
>worth discussing the tenets of atheism since a person's
>morality is necessarily related to beliefs, and beliefs are
>often based on tenets. I know that you have beliefs about
>morality, and that you are an atheist. Therefore, there will
>be a relationship between your morality and your atheism.

Chad5: Perhaps, but only in the sense that there is a relationship between my morality and my non-belief in reincarnation, my non-belief in the Tao, and my non-belief in Karma.

Chad5: My morality derives from my values--i.e., from what I do believe. While my beliefs are all consistent with my atheism, I suspect that you greatly overestimate the extent to which they are determined by it.

Matt5: That is certainly possible. I believe it is also possible that you underestimate it.

>Matt4: You admitted that atheism is a position. Good. I do
>not see how you can hold an intellectual position without
>there being principles inherent in that position.

Chad5: With respect to atheism, the basic principle is that extraordinary claims should be assumed false unless and until there is sufficiently compelling evidence supporting them.

Matt5: Why should you assume them false? The odds of a particular individual winning the lottery are extraordinarily slim. Yet when it happens, you easily believe it. Do you denying individuals one because the extraordinary claim of having won requires extraordinary evidence? Is your watching TV and extraordinary event? Is watching the newscaster say an individual won also on extraordinary event? I quote this from an article of mine on CARM, "Requiring extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims sounds good on the surface. But, it is subjective. The fact is that a person's presuppositions strongly affect how and to what degree the statement is applied. For an atheist the extraordinary evidence would have to be "exceptionally" extraordinary in order to overcome his atheistic presuppositional base. This is why the atheist must require "extraordinary evidence." It enables him to retain his position should the extraordinary level of the evidence not be met. Therefore, requiring extraordinary evidence effectively stacks the deck against the claim."

Chad5: I do not see any moral consequences to this principle, although you may differ.

>Maybe I am
>reading too much into it, but I propose that as an atheist,
>you have certain "presuppositions": 1) Disbelief in God,

Chad5: Since, as noted, we've agreed that "lack of belief ordisbelief" qualifies, this is not necessarily the case. Nor do I think it best describes my own beliefs. It is certainly not a presupposition.

Matt: Are you saying you do not have disbelief in God? If you lack belief in God, do you also lack disbelief in God?

>No absolute moral code or source for absolute moral code

Chad5: I do believe that the phrase "objective moral code" is about as meaningful as "objective standard of beauty" or "objective value". However, some atheists do believe in objective moral codes. Also please note that even if I came to believe in God I would not believe in objective morals, any more than I would start believing in square circles.

Matt5: If you came to believe in the God I believe in, you would believe in objective morals. That is part and parcel of believing in an absolute and unchanging God.

Chad5: (I'm deliberately replacing "absolute" with "objective" since I don't actually know anyone who doesn't believe in absolute morals . . . including those of us who think morals are subjective.)

Matt5: Okay. To not know anyone who does not believe in absolute morals means that you know people who believe in absolute morals, including those who believe morals that are subjective. Interesting. Something that is absolute is final. So, how can something that his absolute be subjective? I do not think you're being consistent at all.

, 3)
>materialistic naturalism (that all things in the universe can
>and will ultimately be explained via natural physical,
>chemical, energy laws, etc.)

Chad5: Not at all. Again, I am forced to ask why you went to such lengths to reach and agree upon a definition when it seems clear that you have no interest in sticking to it.

Matt5: Perhaps you have not thought through your atheism sufficiently to categorize the positional elements included in it. My habit is to think things through to find certain aspects of a position, so that I might more accurately represent it and discover its weaknesses. Nevertheless, as I have already stated, agreeing on the what something means does not mean that I agree that what it means is correct.

>and 4) denial of the

Chad5: Also no. I neither affirm nor deny the supernatural. Moreover, I'm not even sure that "supernatural" is a coherent concept. If something interacts with the natural world, it is natural in every meaningful sense. See, for example, the excellent essay, "A bias towards naturalism?" on www.talkdesign.org <http://www.talkdesign.org>. If something has no interaction with the natural world, then it is like His Supreme Indifference--a thing that might exist but that we can do nothing but speculate about.

>Matt4: I propose (with possible future modifications) that
>morality within the atheist system is subjective; and because
>it is subjective, truth, right, and wrong are all relative.

Chad5: There is no such thing as "the atheist system". There are various forms of humanism. There is the golden rule. There is Kant's moral imperative. There are undefined moral systems derived from values. There are taoist concepts of harmony and the way. An individual atheist may subscribe to one of these systems, or to some other system.

Matt5: All the atheist positions you may allude to have common denominators: disbelief in God, denial of the true God, evolution, naturalism, etc. Though not every atheist would agree to all points, there are common threads; otherwise, you would not have the ability to be commonly called atheists.

Chad5: Moreover, some of these systems believe in moral absolutes. They simply don't derive them from the commands of a specific being.

Matt5: I know that, and I think they are inconsistent in so doing.

>Because there are no moral absolutes and because atheist
>morality is subjective, atheists are free to alter their moral
>behavior depending on the circumstances and whatever desires
>suit them at the time.

Chad5: Absolute nonsense, even ignoring the fact that some atheists hold to what they believe are absolute morals. I believe that all moral systems derive from our values. I know that mine do. My values do grow and change modestly over long periods of time, but I cannot suddenly decide to change them.

Matt5: You mean it is absolute nonsense to say that atheists are not free to alter their moral behavior depending on the circumstances and whatever desires suit them at the time? If it is nonsense, then you're saying that they are restricted and wound to moral behavior not matter what the circumstances were desires. This would imply an absolute moral system independent other circumstances and desires. I really think you are making a great logic error here. To continue with your comment I ask why aren't they free to alter their moral behavior--if it is absolute nonsense that they can? What binds them to the absolute requirement of moral rigidity? Finally, if you are going to say that something is absolute nonsense, please demonstrate that using logic.

Chad5: Example: Not long ago, I spent the night at the house of an attractive friend while in California. She is single and quite interested in me. Specifically, if I wanted to have sex with her, she would be very willing. According to your logic, I should be able to "turn off" the value I place on fidelity to my wife, honesty, and my wife's happiness (which would be put at risk if I were to cheat since she might find out) and have an affair.I could not and cannot . . . and the idea that I should be able to do so because my values are subjective shows a severe lack of understanding of what "subjective" means. (It does not mean "weak and flimsy".)

Matt5: All you're telling me is that in your subjective morality, you have chosen to be faithful to your wife. But, I noticed that your risk of being caught was a factor. What would the corollary suggest? (Incidentally, I remain faithful because God wants me to be faithful, and in my wedding vows I promised God that I would be.) I know what subjective means. You were given me a good example of it. For you, faithfulness to your wife (for whatever reason) is what you choose to be. For another atheist, faithfulness to his wife might be something he doesn't happen to put any moral value upon. At best, all you have to offer me in your subjective atheist morality is that you prefer to be faithful to your wife. That's it. I applaud that faithfulness.

(Notice, I did not say that all of
>them will). Therefore, there is nothing to prevent an atheist
>from lying, as an example, if the situation warrants it. (I
>am not talking about highly exceptional situations like hiding
>Jews in Nazi Germany--to lie there is still a sin and another

Chad5: If the situation warrants it? What does that mean? If it warrants it from a moral perspective (as with the Nazi example), then of course the atheist's morals won't prevent him from lying. Indeed, they might require it! The same would be true for many Christians.

Matt5: What I mean by if the situation warrants it is that if the atheist has sufficient motivation to lie, then why doesn't he lie? By the way, the issue is with the atheist morality--not the Christians.

Chad5: If by "the situation warrants it" you mean that it serves the interests of the individual but goes against his/her moral code, then the values that underly that moral code are still there.

Matt5: And what is to prevent the atheist from changing his or her moral code based upon the circumstances, or the need for some gratification, desire, fulfillment or whatever else might motivate him or her to change his or her moral code? Remember, the moral code is not absolute. It is derived from experience, preferences, ideas, beliefs, society--all of which can change. Being that atheist morality is subjective, that is, it is up to the individual who's to say what will happen? This is the fundamental problem with atheist morality.

>Since I like to put flesh and blood on ideas,
>let's take the CARM discussion boards as an example. There
>are rules for the boards to which all of us are supposed to
>keep. (Of course, I do not expect absolute perfection. There
>is grace on these boards. Also, application of those rules
>cannot be perfectly consistent either). Given that the
>atheists, by signing up, agree to uphold those rules, then
>shouldn't we expect the atheists to adhere by them? ("should"
>implies moral obligation).

Chad5: The word "should" is meaningless on its own. It has meaning only in the context of a standard. There are several standards that could apply here, such as:

Matt5: If "should" only has meaning in the context of a standard, then should you not provide that standard, so we might know whether or not you should or should not behave in a certain manner? If you provide a standard, on what basis do you, an atheist, say that it is a standard? If there is no standard, then how do you have moral obligation in your statements?

Chad5: Societal norms: If you agree to follow the rules of a club or society, you should follow them. If you can't follow them, you should leave.

Matt5: Oh my. Can I properly conclude from your above statement that the atheists who don't follow the rules of CARM should all leave? I'm very interested in your answer especially since in so many of the atheists blatantly break the CARM rules.

Chad5: Chad's moral system: happens to include the above, assuming the society is not so harmful that opposing it justifies extraordinary measures. (Just to clarify, CARM doesn't come close to this, but if someone joined the KKK with the intent of undermining it I wouldn't necessarily consider their actions immoral.)

Chad5: God's moral system: seems pretty clear that lying is not a good thing.

Matt5: Correct.

Chad5: Now there could certainly be an atheist whose moral code does not see violating CARM's rules (after agreeing to abide by them) as morally bad. If so, then violating the rules would be:

Chad5: Bad by the standard of societal norms, bad by the standard of my moral system, bad by the standard of God's moral system and not-bad by his moral system.

Matt5: Chad, is it bad or not? That is the question. Is it bad for atheists to violate CARM's rules? Is it wrong for them to do that Chad? Or are you going to tell me that it is and isn't bad, depending on how you look at it? If that's the case, we have a free-for-all moral system.

Chad5: I assume that you think that there is an objective basis for saying that one of these moral codes is superior to all others (and indeed morally binding on all), but I don't agree.

>But what if the atheists don't like
>the rules, and for whatever reason, choose to violate them at
>different times? Are they wrong for doing that? (I'm asking

Chad5: They would be wrong by my moral standards. They might not be wrong by their own. People do, after all, disagree as to what is moral. (Even Christians disagree substantially over what is moral.)

Matt5: Clarification: we are not discussing Christian morality . . . So your moral standard contradicts other atheist moral standards. This means that you contradict each other, and you have no right to condemn the actions of other atheists who break the CARM rules. You have no right to say they were wrong for doing so because what you have is your own subjective moral system that you would not be able to impose upon them. If, however, you stated that they are being inconsistent in their own morality by agreeing to the rules when they sign up but fail to abide by them later, then all you are doing is saying that they are being inconsistent. If you are saying they are being immoral, then you are imposing upon them your moral judgment. But this would be an inconsistency on your part. Perhaps the same atheist you might theoretically condemn has the subjective moral standard that not abiding by the rules of CARM is morally acceptable--for whatever reason he or she sees fit. In fact, that same atheist could condemn you for condemning him.

Matt5: Here we have an excellent example of the problem of atheism and morality. You, as an atheist, have no grounds upon which you can condemn or correct the actions of other atheists. In fact, this has already been proven to be true in practice. On the CARM discussion boards is the option to alert the moderators to rule violations. I checked with Diane, who receives every single alert. She has stated that she has never received, to the best of her recollection, any alert from an atheist exposing the rule violation of another atheist. However, she has received many many such alerts from atheists against Christians. Also, she has stated that many Christians have sent alerts on other Christians. Since atheism has no moral standard, no moral absolutes, and is subjective, I could not expect and I do not expect consistent and fair moral judgments from the atheists. They have failed miserably to be fair. I would expect and do see a double standard since they can easily justify to themselves the condemnation of Christians but not atheists. This is of course a demonstration of hypocrisy (whether the person sees it or not) which is backed up by the evidence which, in my opinion, demonstrates the moral bankruptcy of the atheistic presupposition. As I have been saying, beliefs lead to actions; and the "lack of belief" in moral absolutes has resulted in a double standard from the atheists. They are quick to condemn Christians, but they refrain from exposing each other's rule violations to which they have agreed to abide by; and yet they blatantly break regularly. Proof is below.

>I hope that you can see that those who claim the label of atheist with their "lack of absolute morals" are behaving in a rule-violating manner.

>If they are wrong, why are they wrong since morality is
>subjective. (I'm asking you). If they are not wrong, why not?

Chad5: They are wrong by my moral standards for the reasons given above.

Matt5: And is your moral standard correct? Only to you. You have no basis to condemn another atheist for their breaking of the rules. As I said above, this same subjective moral standard manifests itself in the lack of the atheists to moderate themselves. In fact, I have specifically told Diane to tell the moderators to hold off dinging the atheists for rule violations. In the week or so of our discussion, the atheists have become more and more bold in their assault upon myself, other Christians, and the rules of the boards to which they have agreed to abide by when they signed up. They are proving to all of us that they have a double standard, are inconsistent, unfair, and lack self-regulation. This is why we need board rules and moderators, and why we cannot trust the atheists as moderators--none of them have exhibited moderating ability in fairness by exposing "their own." Furthermore, since they claim the title of atheist, we are concluding that their actions are resulting from their beliefs, namely, that their morality is subjective; and because it is subjective, they have no need of answering to anyone else.

. . . go to part B


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.