Suicide Twins Read God Delusion!

Last week, two Australian twins visiting Denver, went to the local shooting range to commit suicide. Kristin and Candice Hermeler (29) where seen smiling on video footage before shooting themselves in the head with .22 calibre handguns. Candice survived but her sister died at the scene.

The twins were clearly disturbed and had an obsession with the 1999 Columbine Massacre which took place not so far from the shooting range. You can read about the sad case here, but what I find remarkable was the Australian Heralds headline – “Suicide Twins Kristin and Candice Hermeler Had God Delusion in their Luggage.”

Clearly the implication was that the suicide was linked to reading Dawkins’ book. But what the article fails to give due weight to is that they also had a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment ” as well as a bunch of dreadful music CDs. I think, “The Very Best of Christopher Cross” is just as much a suitable candidate.

People commit suicide for all manner of reasons but I would have thought that atheism is far down on the list. In fact, one could argue that religion can be a motive as we know that belief in the afterlife is one of the incentives used to cajole suicide bombers.

Who put that bloody big rip in the sky?

It is a shame that these twins felt that suicide was worthy and worse that they decided to do it in public. The video released does not show the actual moment but there are others gathered around them at the range. I have always thought that this was an immensely selfish thing to do anyway for the traumatic impact that it leaves on others. When I read about the case, I was reminded of Adam Rutherford’s talk at TAM London about the Alpha Course. His opening slide was the image of the climber on the top of the mountain range asking more or less, “Is this all there is?” Adam replied, “Yes, and it’s fucking awesome.”

Somehow I think that people contemplating suicide, when they are perfectly healthy, need to stop looking inwards, but rather look at the fact that they are some of the luckiest people in the world. Of course, this is precisely the problem with suicide, but then, questioning the value of life without God, does not help.

32 Comments

Filed under atheism, In the News

32 responses to “Suicide Twins Read God Delusion!

  1. Gerard Simons

    People who resort to suicide have come to the end of the line or have fallen prey to the Dark Side. Or whatever. Where spirituality is absent, negativity will come in to take its place.

    • People who resort to suicide have had their fill of cliches, being pigeonholed and late eighties power ballads.

    • Where spirituality is absent, negativity will come in to take its place.

      Why? Support that statement, please.

      I could just as easily assert that “Where spirituality is absent, superior swimming ability will come in to take its place.” Or I might assert that “Where critical thinking is absent, negativity will come in to take its place.”

      Hell, start by even defining “spirituality.” If by that, you mean having hope and meaning in your life, then your statement is a tautology: “When people lose hope and meaning, a lack of hope and meaning take its place.” Um, yeah, nice… Problem is, people find their own hope and make their own meaning — with no “spirits” involved. So ‘spirituality’ is maybe not the best word choice for that…

      • Twin1

        “The twins were clearly disturbed…”
        How the fuck would you know? Did you know them personally? Treat them? Your generalization is made based on a book & CD found in their luggage.
        Suicide has nothing what-so-ever to do with insanity, being “disturbed,” etc. It is about pain and wanting to end that, not living. Unfortunately, assholes such as yourself are the reason why depressed people don’t seek help–they don’t want to be labeled or pushed around by the all-knowing who hide behind keyboards.

  2. That Herald headline is pathetic. What qualifies for journalism in Australia is hugely depressing I’m afraid.

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  4. Anne

    There is no shame in suiciding. There is no shame in living.
    Both are consequences of the circumstances in which we have lived and how they are combined with our genes. Should bees be ashamed when they suicide to neutralize a threat? Was it shameful for the people that committed seppuku? More likely the opposite.
    In christian cultures, we are not free to do what we want with our bodies because they belong to god and we are merely administrators of it. That is why it is considered a shameful to suicide. It is similar in other cultures and the opposite in others.

    Considering suicide a shame is thus a prejudice.

  5. John W

    “In fact, one could argue that religion can be a motive as we know that belief in the afterlife is one of the incentives used to cajole suicide bombers.”

    This, I think, is a stretch of the definition of “religion”. Someone who has been brainwashed virtually from birth that all infidels must die, that the only way for sure to go to heaven is through “martydom” by killing these infidels, and that once there they will be serviced by a bevy of virgins throughout eternity sounds more like a true delusion to me than a bonafide religion.

    It seems that the premises that we base our arguments on have fallen prey to the marginalization of the meanings of words. How about this: let’s call fanatical Islamist suicide bombers what they are, which is “crazed terrorists”. And let’s call what they follow a “cult of hate”, since it’s unrecognizable as a religion.

    • ‘…sounds more like a true delusion to me than a bonafide religion.

      Right. So how do you decide the bona fides of a religion, then? Is it just one you agree with, perhaps?

      ‘It seems that the premises that we base our arguments on have fallen prey to the marginalization of the meanings of words.

      It seems to me that it’s more about whether you think your particular religion is valid or not. You don’t like radical Islam because you’re not an adherent. I don’t like Christianity because I’m not an adherent. I am unable to understand the thought processes of Christians in the same way as I am unable to understand the thought processes of Islamic suicide bombers. Both are unfathomable irrational processes to me. Bruce’s argument is sound – religion (ALL religion, let’s not quibble here) uses motivation with no basis in rationality, and that’s quite plainly what he meant.

      (Please don’t take this as a defence of Islamic – or other – terrorism. Violence in the name of an abstract belief is to be abhorred on any level.)

  6. Arno

    ..wow, just another great example of illusory correlations. I suppose the girls weren’t playing enough video games/didn’t have a copy of the satanic bible/didn’t watch enough movies/didn’t listen to rock music/ weren’t goths/ wore different socks of different pairs to make for a sensational headline.
    Yeah, the media is sickening when it comes to rubbish like this. Poor girls.

  7. John W

    anaglyph,

    You don’t like Christianity because you’re not an adherent? What does that mean? I’m not an adherent to palm-reading and acupuncture because they don’t make sense to me. What I like or don’t like hasn’t nothing to do with it. It’s not personal.

    Perhaps your personal feelings are clouding your judgment? Because if you are unable to make a distinction between the major world religions, including both Western and Eastern ones, and the cult of hate adhered to by Islamist murderers, then I think you are committing a grievous error of moral relativism. By your logic, the Nazi’s belief system would qualify as a “religion”, and the Jews that were murdered by them were just as guilty for adherence to “unfathomable and irrational” processes. Might this be the rationale that some of the Nazi murderers used to justify gassing and then burning Jews in ovens?

    I don’t like radical Islamists because they want to kill me and my family. I like my Egyptian neighbors across the street, who are Muslims, just fine because they don’t want to kill me, and they bring me fresh meat at the end of Ramadan.

    • You are committing your own ‘error of moral relativism’ by positing that any particular ‘major world religion’ has some kind of inherent superiority as a belief system. A person who is a devotee of fundamental Islam sees Christianity as being just as evil as you see fundamental Islam. The violence and terror tactics of radical Islam are an inevitable result of a system of belief that is based on absurd constructs. Here’s your problem of moral relativism: Islamic suicide bombers don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. You think it’s wrong because it’s not something that fits with your world view or religious beliefs. Make whatever moral case you want – it simply doesn’t matter. Religion allows you to have whatever moral code you like because ‘God’ endorses it. Christianity has been in its time just as guilty of ‘terrorism’ as Islam. A ‘cult of hate’? You don’t have to fish very deep to find tenets of violence and revenge (endorsed by God) in the Christian bible. How are they different?

      My point is that all religious beliefs lead, eventually, to this problem. If you make up your own rules (which all religions do) then you also make up your own morality.

      Your stirring of Nazism into the argument makes no sense to me. ‘My logic’ didn’t say or even imply that irrational and unfathomable thought processes are the exclusive domain of religion. Elliptical thinking doesn’t necessarily result in religion, even if religion is the result of elliptical thinking. A lack of religion doesn’t equate with an evil moral position just as the abiding by a religion doesn’t equal a good moral position (even if religious people would like to think that).

      To clarify my point of view: I know many Christians and I like them. I know many Muslims and I like them. I even know two people who call themselves Satanists, and I like them. But I don’t like Christianity or Islam or Satanism or Sufism or Hinduism or any other dogmatic construct that puts supernatural agencies in charge of human decisions.

      • Jacob Vohs

        Well as many others have said, Christians are atheists about all the god’s I’m also an atheist concerning. With the exception of the one they believe in. So you see, atheism isn’t a hard or irrational choice; it simply puts the Christian god with Zeus, Odin, and Isis in the dust bin of anthropologic history where they belong.

  8. John W

    anaglyph,
    So, you have a personal distaste for organized “religions”- i.e. you don’t “like” them- because you think they delude? Is that your position? Why can’t you just disagree, and be done with it? Why must you personalize your disagreement and in the process judge the motivation, intelligence and veracity of believers and those that they follow? You sound Dawkinsian in this way.

    I disagree with many tenets of Islam. I disagree with tenets of Judaism. I even disagree with doctrine and tenets within my own Christian faith, yet I don’t “dislike” any of them. I don’t dislike atheism, for that matter. I think atheists are wrong, but it’s not personal.

    This gets back to my original position that words have distinct definitions that impart specific meanings, and we should strive to call something what it is to avoid relativism and “broad-brushing”. Your admitted dislike of religion leads me to conclude that your position against it is personal and therefore clouded by emotion, and so is irrational.

    I’ll end with this:
    “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.” -The Analects of Confucius, Book 13, Verse 3
    (I don’t dislike Confucianism, either.)

  9. Your admitted dislike of religion leads me to conclude that your position against it is personal and therefore clouded by emotion, and so is irrational.

    My dislike of religion is based on what I see people do in the name of it. I dislike the concept of torture, too. Does that mean my view of it is ‘clouded with emotion’? Is it ‘irrational’ to dislike the the idea of torture?

  10. John W

    Torture is an immoral act, and I loathe such behavior because it is inhuman and cruel. The correct human response is to dislike immoral acts because they provide the impetus and energy to work against it.

    Religion is not a behavior per se. It is the expression of a belief system.

    Is your position that belief in God is immoral? If so, then I can understand why you would dislike it.

    Drawing moral equivalency between faithfulness and the performance of an immoral, cruel and inhuman act seems disproportionate and ill-conceived to me. So, I think your emotional reaction to religion is misplaced.

    • Religion is not a behavior per se. It is the expression of a belief system.

      Well, I know that. Maybe torture was a bad example. Plug ‘ritual cannibalism’ in there instead – that’s the expression of a belief system that I think we could probably both agree is an undesirable human activity.

      Is your position that belief in God is immoral? If so, then I can understand why you would dislike it.

      Morality is necessarily consensual, in my opinion. I don’t believe that a constructive global morality in the 21st century can be handed down by religious imprimatur. Otherwise how do you decide which morality is a worthy morality? Your god is always going to tell you that your own religion is the most moral. Do you think Islamic fundamentalist terrorists believe they are acting immorally? I assert that they do not! They are just operating within their own religiously dictated morality. It’s a different story if you measure them by consensual human standards, however, because we all agree (most of us anyway) that killing other humans because of what they believe in, is not desirable behaviour. Immoral, if you like.

      Most of the major human religions (Buddhism being an exception) feature a god or gods that condone killing for reasons that are wilful at best. How can that not be immoral?

      Of course, if you’re inside one of those religious systems, it’s totally OK, because your god says it’s OK! Personally, I find it very hard to understand how religious people are not able to see this massive hypocrisy. It all stems from the belief that your own religion – almost always the one you inherited by birthright – is the right one, and all the others are wrong. There is no rationality operating there.

      So, to answer your question, no, I don’t think a belief in god is inherently immoral. But I do believe that most, if not all, religions condone immoral behaviour when judged by consensual human standards.

      So, I think your emotional reaction to religion is misplaced./em>

      You seem focussed on trying to make my appraisal of religion seem like an entirely emotional one. Why is that? I have come to my very considered views on religion after much deliberation over most of my adult life. I was raised in a (very happy) religious family but, after thoughtful examination I found the family religious world view unfulfilling. So I read widely and asked a lot of questions. As a result, I happen to think that religion is not a good idea. I simply said I didn’t like it, not that all religious followers should be burnt at the stake or something.

      • John W

        Comparing religion to torture sounded hyperbolic to me, and hyperbole is often associated with strong emotion. In this context, a negative emotion. The fact that you use the word “dislike” also implies an emotional, visceral reaction. I don’t find “ritual cannibalism” any more suitable as a comparison to religion because it is also a discrete immoral act, despite its being dressed up in some ritual or ceremony.

        I’m guilty of getting my morality from God. But, I don’t recall seeing that inscribed word for word on some tablets somewhere where I go back and check periodically to make sure I read ’em just right, despite Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood depiction. Although the one about not killing people seems to stand out pretty well in my recollection, so I’m not sure which major religion it is that you think condones the willful killing of people.

        I’m also not sure what you mean by morality being necessarily consensual. But now that I think about it some more, I understand why a question about the morality of belief in God wouldn’t make sense to you. So, I withdraw it.

        I stand by my original contention that Mr. Hood’s broad definition of religion in the context of his comment was meaningless due to it’s extreme morally relativistic comparison between the warped belief of Islamic fanatics and what the vast majority of faithful people believe in the afterlife.

        I do not believe for one second that I get to heaven because of anything that I do on this earth. I only get there through God’s grace. This is theology 101, and Mr. Hood and you fellas (I’m including Mr. Sweet as well) would do well to read a basic text on Christian theology before you make such nonsensical comparisons.

  11. So perhaps we can envision some alternate reality where John W’s assertion that “Religion is not a behavior per se. It is the expression of a belief system” would be a fair argument to make. Why does it matter if I believe there is an invisible dragon in my garage, right? What difference does it make to you?

    There could be a time in the future where we might reasonably ask this question. But my god man, look around you. Look at the influence that silly dogmatic beliefs with as much plausibility as “the dragon in my garage” are having on the political process, especially in America. Look at how much trouble we are having getting same-sex marriage recognized, even though there are no reasonable secular arguments against it whatsoever.

    If none of this was happening, if personal religious belief were kept separate from the political sphere and public influence, if it really was just “the expression of a belief system” and not causing all kinds of negative “behavior[s] per se”…. then you might reasonably argue that the “emotional reaction” of folks like anaglyph and myself “is misplaced”. But that’s not the world we’re living in, is it John W? We’re living in a world where calling religious practices into question can get you accused of bigotry; where the silly dogmas of two-thousand-year-old goatherders are directly responsible for impeding social progress; where elected politicians making choices affecting the US government and the entire world sincerely believe that anthropogenic global warming is not a problem because God’s gonna rapture everybody up to heaven in a few years anyway….

    Dude, for any progressively-minded person in whim that doesn’t provoke an “emotional reaction”, I don’t know what to say.

    • To be clear, the difference between my above comment and “broad-brushing” is that I’m avoiding the question entirely of whether religious belief is okay in the absence of all of these horrible political problems brought about by the special deference accorded to faith-based beliefs in the public sphere. I don”t have to worry about the size of my brush — because it doesn’t actually matter to me if you follow a denomination that doesn’t contain any counter-productive/bigoted dogma, and that keeps what dogma it has out of the public and political spheres. I’m still going to advocate against the special pedestal accorded to religion, because leaving aside any questions regarding this hypothetical world where religion isn’t screwing everything up, I know exactly which direction I want to move things in right now. And that’s towards less respect for religious belief.

      (Note that less respect is not the same as less tolerance. Believe whatever you want; just don’t ask me to say that it’s a reasonable thing to believe, or ask me not to ridicule what you believe if you choose to put it out there in the public marketplace of ideas. The belief that Jesus wants everybody to be heterosexual vs. the belief that the American health care bill is going to create “death panels”… both of those beliefs deserve nothing but abject derision. Oh, we’ll tolerate people who believe that baloney, for sure. But don’t ask us to respect them.)

  12. John W

    Mr. Sweet,
    Do you expect me to continue to express my opinions when you suggest that I’m nuts (i.e. my “alternate reality”), and that my sincerely held beliefs deserve ridicule? Anyway, I think my beliefs are worthy of respect because the actions they produce are actions worthy of respect, e.g. giving to charity, serving my community, raising moral children, not cheating, stealing from or killing people. In a phrase: treating others as I would have them treat me. You know, all of that crazy Christian stuff.

    I’m not sure the dragon in your garage is quite as inspirational, but I could be wrong.

    Why can’t I just be wrong to you anti-religion people, and not be accused of insanity or diagnosed as shizophrenic? Don’t you see the not-so-subtle ad hominem in this tactic? Why don’t you keep your comments limited to what I say, and not who you think I am, what my motives are or how sound of mind I am?

    There is a perfectly rational argument against gay-marriage because, it can be argued, that traditional heterosexual marriage is a societal stabilizer and is the optimal environment for the raising of children. However, for fear of being labeled a bigoted homophobe for making such an argument, it’s rarely articulated in public

    Jesus was a carpenter by trade and the Apostles were fishermen. I’m not sure what goatherders you are referring to, but I do know where you could get more up to speed on your allusions if you’re interested.

    • Do you expect me to continue to express my opinions when you suggest that I’m nuts (i.e. my “alternate reality”), and that my sincerely held beliefs deserve ridicule? Anyway, I think my beliefs are worthy of respect because the actions they produce are actions worthy of respect, e.g. ..raising moral children…

      And do you expect me to continue to express my opinions when you suggest that my lack of any sort of religious belief impairs my ability to raise my children to be moral? I’d rather you called me nuts :p

      Anyway, the “alternate reality” I was referring to was a hypothetical one in which religion isn’t screwing up American politics, not to your religious beliefs. Just to be clear.

      But yes it is true… if you think that a carpenter was born to a virgin, raised the dead and healed the sick (at least once by spitting on them!), and then when he was crucified he came back after three days… yeah, I’ma ridicule that. That’s crazy!

      In a phrase: treating others as I would have them treat me. You know, all of that crazy Christian stuff.

      Some variant of the Goldren Rule has arisen in every civilization throughout history, because frankly, it’s fairly obvious. Versions of it long predated all of this “crazy Christian stuff”. It’s somewhat offensive to these other ancient cultures that you imply they were unable to come up with that one their own.

      And yes, it is the central principle of most ethical systems. Good for you.

      Why don’t you keep your comments limited to what I say, and not who you think I am, what my motives are or how sound of mind I am?

      Until this comment, I didn’t say a damn thing about you. Go back and check. Seriously. Read it over carefully. I didn’t even say that much about religious people — I just said that the automatic respect accorded to religion was having a clear deleterious effect on society, and that’s why I advocate against it. I definitely never said anything about your motives! Where are you even getting that?

      Why can’t I just be wrong to you anti-religion people, and not be accused of insanity or diagnosed as shizophrenic? Don’t you see the not-so-subtle ad hominem in this tactic?

      I said your beliefs were crazy; I didn’t say you were crazy. And to be clear, I don’t think you are. However, I do think you are deeply misinformed, as demonstrated by this comment:

      There is a perfectly rational argument against gay-marriage because, it can be argued, that traditional heterosexual marriage is a societal stabilizer and is the optimal environment for the raising of children.

      Except that every single reputable study which has sought to measure this has discredited that argument.

      In 1970, one could have (speculatively) made that argument. In 2010, that argument is not valid. Based on statistical correlations involving the demographics of those who believe this false information, it is a fair bet that your religion is what makes you blind to this. So do I think your religion is doing bad things for you? Yes, I do.

      And to be clear, I teach my children not to cheat, steal, to treat others as they would be treated, i.e. all the other things you do. I just don’t also teach them to hate gay people based on a mistaken impression of reality and/or the dogma of ancient goatherders (yes, goatherders! See below) So that seems like a good thing to me…

      I’m not sure what goatherders you are referring to

      The Israelites. You may not have noticed, but better than 50% of your holy book was written by them, y’know… Including the most blatantly anti-gay parts (though the New Testament contains its share too)

      I presume you also eschew shellfish, since we all know that if you are going to eat fish, scales are s a societal stabilizer and are the optimal environment for the feeding of children. Leviticus, mofo!

      • D’oh, blockquote fail. Well, I’m sure it’s parseable.

      • John W

        Just to clarify some facts:
        As far as I know essentially all of the Bible was written by Israelites. Of course, all of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew by Israelites. All of the Gospel writers were of Hebrew descent as was Paul, who, it is believed, was the sole author of the the “letters” attributed to him; although these were written in Greek, not Hebrew, along with most of the New Testament.

        Paul was certainly not a goatherder, he was a tax collector by trade until that incident on the road to Damascus. But, I don’t know about the Gospel writers. I suspect that many of them probably owned a few goats since this was a primary source of protein during this era in the Middle East.

        Another fact check: Despite Mr. Sweets assertions, there is currently no definitive evidence in the sociology or scientific literature that same-sex parenting is equivalent to heterosexual parenting in terms of outcomes for children raised in these situations:
        Meezan W, Rauch J. Gay marriage, same-sex parenting, and America’s children. Future of Children. October 2005;15(2):97-115.
        Same-sex marriage, barely on the political radar a decade ago, is a reality in America. How will it affect the well-being of children? Some observers worry that legalizing same-sex marriage would send the message that same-sex parenting and opposite-sex parenting are interchangeable, when in fact they may lead to different outcomes for children. To evaluate that concern, William Meezan and Jonathan Rauch review the growing body of research on how same-sex parenting affects children. After considering the methodological problems inherent in studying small, hard-to-locate populations–problems that have bedeviled this literature-the authors find that the children who have been studied are doing about as well as children normally do. What the research does not yet show is whether the children studied are typical of the general population of children raised by gay and lesbian couples. A second important question is how same-sex marriage might affect children who are already being raised by same-sex couples. Meezan and Rauch observe that marriage confers on children three types of benefits that seem likely to carry over to children in same-sex families. First, marriage may increase children’s material well-being through such benefits as family leave from work and spousal health insurance eligibility. It may also help ensure financial continuity, should a spouse die or be disabled. Second, same-sex marriage may benefit children by increasing the durability and stability of their parents’ relationship. Finally, marriage may bring increased social acceptance of and support for same-sex families, although those benefits might not materialize in communities that meet same-sex marriage with rejection or hostility. The authors note that the best way to ascertain the costs and benefits of the effects of same-sex marriage on children is to compare it with the alternatives. Massachusetts is marrying same-sex couples, Vermont and Connecticut are offering civil unions, and several states offer partner-benefit programs. Studying the effect of these various forms of unions on children could inform the debate over gay marriage to the benefit of all sides of the argument.

        The fact is, we just don’t know. Same-sex marriage has not existed for long enough to draw any conclusions yet on the impact on children. My contention is that from both societal and evolutionarily advantageous standpoints, we should err on the side of heterosexual rearing of children as the optimal situation.

        This does not mean that gay couples should be disallowed from adopting children in the event that a suitable heterosexual couple cannot be found. Certainly a loving home, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents, is better than some orphanage.

        I wouldn’t have gone on about this if I hadn’t been called an “idiot” for my stance on same-sex parenting. And, my religion NEVER taught me to hate anyone, including gays.

  13. The fact that you use the word “dislike” also implies an emotional, visceral reaction.

    Despite my clarifications on this point, you insist on rephrasing it to suit your purpose. I reiterate: my views on religion, including my dislike of it as a concept, come from thirty or more years of considered thought. There’s nothing visceral about it. In fact, it’s possibly the most rigorously intellectual pursuit in which I’ve ever engaged. You plainly don’t care to accept that a person can come to such views through considered thought. It ‘has to be’ a visceral reaction. Why?

    I don’t find “ritual cannibalism” any more suitable as a comparison to religion because it is also a discrete immoral act, despite its being dressed up in some ritual or ceremony.

    It’s only a ‘discrete immoral act’ to you. It’s not immoral to people whose world view encompasses ritual cannibalism. I’m not sure why you can’t grasp this idea.

    I’m not sure which major religion it is that you think condones the willful killing of people.

    Oh dear. Did you really say that? I was hoping you’d be sensible enough not to dispute that particular point:

    •Deuteronomy 17:12
    •Leviticus 20:13
    •Exodus 21:15
    •2 Chronicles 15:12-1
    •Deuteronomy 13:13-19
    •Deuteronomy 13:7-12
    •Isaiah 14:21
    •Numbers 25:1-9

    …to list only a very few from the Christian Bible. There are similar passages in the Koran and the Upanishads and most other religions you care to name.

    Most of the ones above are exhortations directly from God to kill people who are non-believers. The one from Isaiah encourages the killing of children for the ‘sins of their fathers’.

    Maybe you don’t think any of these things are relevant to you. How, then, do you decide what you should and should not heed in the Bible?

    I’m also not sure what you mean by morality being necessarily consensual.

    I guess you don’t. You evidently believe that morality can only come from a ruling handed down by your chosen supernatural being. But this doesn’t explain how secular cultures, or religions other than yours, manage to live moral lives. Maybe you think they don’t? I do notice that you avoid tackling any of the really hard issues I raised, like how you can know that your religion is the one with the ‘right’ moral stance.

    But now that I think about it some more, I understand why a question about the morality of belief in God wouldn’t make sense to you. So, I withdraw it.

    I didn’t say it didn’t make sense to me – you’re rephrasing me again to suit your own ends. I believe, in fact, that I actually considered your question and answered it quite coherently.

    I do not believe for one second that I get to heaven because of anything that I do on this earth. I only get there through God’s grace.

    Interesting. So you believe your actions in this life are immaterial to your acceptance into the Kingdom of God? Nothing you do or say influences your God’s decisions? He is totally capricious, in that case. Surely, by that logic, it matters not one whit what you do here? What makes you behave morally then?

    This is theology 101, and Mr. Hood and you fellas (I’m including Mr. Sweet as well) would do well to read a basic text on Christian theology before you make such nonsensical comparisons

    I believe my reading of theology is quite significantly better than ‘a basic Christian text’. Is yours?

  14. Sorry – that last was a reply to John W. The threading gives up after three replies, evidently.

    • John W

      (I’m sorry I’m not familiar enough with this format to use the block quoting feature).

      “Maybe you don’t think any of these things are relevant to you. How, then, do you decide what you should and should not heed in the Bible? ”

      I heed the entirety of the Bible, not just the Old Testament or certain passages from books in the Old Testament, which you cited as evidence that God condones murder. There’s a reason that the Bible includes an Old and New Testament, just as there’s a reason that the Odyssey follows the Iliad. It completes the mythology. They each stand alone ok, but they make a lot more sense when they are put together.

      “What makes you behave morally then? ”

      Since I believe that morality comes from God (which is why I withdrew my question about it since my definition of morality is different than yours and Mr. Sweet’s- I didn’t mean to offend you, Mr. Sweet), and I believe that grace is a gift from God given freely and with love, then an appropriate response to that gift is to do what God says. It’s my choice, of course, and I am far from doing it well. It’s really no different than the response I tried to give to my own earthly father for the sacrifices he made for me. Although the stakes are much higher.

      Many Christians misunderstand or misinterpret this and do in fact concentrate far too much on what the think they ought to do to please God out of fear. However, the theological principle is clear: grace is a gift from a loving God given at great cost to Him. Any Christian scholar, priest, pastor or minister of any major Christian denomination will tell you this. Human nature, however, is bent on conforming to the law out of fear. This is what both you and Mr. Sweet seem to be fixated on, i.e. this base nature of human beings and their natural tendency to respond to an authority out of fear, which I grant you manifests itself as rank hypocrisy.

      Failing to make this distinction, think leads to an unnecessarily cynical existence where people persistently distrust each other’s motives, give with expectation of reward (or don’t give at all) and then fail to appreciate this gift of life.

      I choose faith because it rejects man’s baser nature. I choose religion because it’s the only social construct we’ve come up with to become faithful.

      I don’t choose “religion” because I’ve been brainwashed and abused throughout my childhood, and then promised some perverted version of Nirvana when I die as a reward for blowing myself up in a crowd of innocent women and children.

      That’s the only point I was trying to make regarding Mr. Hood’s original post.

  15. I do not believe for one second that I get to heaven because of anything that I do on this earth. I only get there through God’s grace. This is theology 101

    Heh. Dude. You do recognize that there are a multitude of Christian sects, some who emphasize grace, and some who emphasize works. We’re supposed to guess which one you are?

    Oh no wait. Since there is only One True Faith, we should all know that. Any other “theology 101″s that disagree with this principle are false theologies.

    Anyway, I’ma finished here. When I jumped in, despite John W’s assertions that I assumed certain negative things about him, I went in with a tentative assumption that we were speaking to a person with reasonable opinions, who just happened to be religious. (Which, despite John W’s twisting of my words, I think is actually quite common. Lots of very nice and very sane people happen to hold crazy religious beliefs, and IMO they’d be better people for discarding them) Anyway, I no longer believe that to be the case in regards to John W.

    And in any case, I am pretty sure Bruce doesn’t really appreciate this sort of highly polemical theism-related discussion on his blog, since that’s not really the topic at hand. So I’ll stop, with these parting words: John W, despite your misrepresentation of my initial comment to you, I actually made no presumptions about you, and did not think you were an idiot. I simply disagreed with you. Now I think you’re an idiot. Have a nice life.

  16. Mel

    Christians: Bla, bla, bla, bla.
    Atheists: You said, “Bla, bla, bla, bla.” Actually it is bla, bla, bla, blu.
    Christians: No it isn’t!
    Atheists: Nanny Nanny poo poo!!
    Christians: Something that doesn’t make sense!!
    Atheists: I talk in big circles so I can try to confuse you!!!
    Christians and Atheists: Can we start this conversation over so we can have more confusing arguments that don’t really go anywhere?

    Me: I wish Christians and Atheists would just stop talking to each other.

  17. John W

    Me: I wish people who have nothing productive to say about certain topics on internet forums would just ignore them and keep their self-indulgent whining to themselves.

    I can dream, can’t I?

    • There are always those kids in the class that can’t actually assemble any kind of coherent thought but insist on talking anyway. They usually end up becoming politicians or comment trolls.

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