My Conscience Makes Me Barf

Last time I wrote I addressed the comments of Dan Savage while addressing a group of high school students at a journalism conference.  The anti-bullying icon used the opportunity to verbally bully the young theists, specifically Christians and Jews, in the audience.  More intolerance from a supposed tolerance advocate, further evidence that the myth of tolerance is one-sided.  In any case, a thoughtful commenter on my last entry essentially posed the questions to me; Do I really think I ought to be, “lustful, prideful, angry, bitter, greedy, vengeful, and jealous?;  Is society actually telling [me] to treat other people poorly, never forgive, never compromise and be promiscuous?”; Why do I need a Bible to follow my conscience?  Let’s take a look at the reality of the answers to these questions, because I think though frequently posed by atheists, these are really pretty simple questions to answer.

To the first question on whether or not I should do these morally degenerate things, the answer is obviously: no, I don’t think I should. I think most people would generally agree with this. However, what they wouldn’t agree with is what constitutes the morally degenerate behaviors.  That is where society comes in.  We must all necessarily base our concepts of these morals on something.  The question is what are we basing them on?  In the end the atheist has a problem with where their values system comes from.  In the absence of objective moral law, I can really only get my values system from myself or from my society.  Neither one of these sources is adequate, as either one excludes you from being able to tell me my morals, or my society’s morals, are wrong.  Fortunately, on my worldview at least, we’re all created in the image of the Moral Law Giver, which means that at least to some extent, we have some similar sense of right and wrong built into us so even though our belief in the foundation of morality may differ, we can agree on some major points of morality.  Extreme things like murder, rape, theft, etc will generally be accepted as morally wrong among most individuals or societies.

However, it turns out we also have free will, which means we can defy what we know is right and wrong, and re-train our consciences into believing what once was wrong is now right, or vice versa.  We don’t believe it though, because from our own perspective we’re in the right.  History is filled with examples of people and societies whose consciences accepted things which they never should have (ie European and American slave trade, Nazi Germany).  We look back and condemn these behaviors with hindsight, but what would I really have done if I was there, and let my own conscience and society be my guide?  I suspect it would be no different from now as we normalize things like marriage hopping, porn, ladder climbing greed, and revenge seeking.  Embedded in some other culture, I’d probably have come to accept that Jews or Africans are not people.  I’d retrain my conscience to believe this to be permissible.  Moreover, I’d have no reason not to conform to society.  That is, unless I had some objective standard removed from human tendency by which to measure my own conscience.

At the same times in the past that society was normalizing morally abhorrent behavior, people like William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer were standing up against other people’s consciences and fighting, even dying, for what was objectively morally right.  We see now that they were correct in doing so, and that the cultures that promote slavery and genocide are wrong. You see, without some foundation, conscience becomes only a matter of popular opinion.  So yes, I do need a foundation upon which to calibrate my conscience.  That then, is why I rely on the Bible.  Why I choose the God of the Bible over other possible foundations is a longer discussion, but the short explanation is that I believe it is because it is well-supported, where other foundations are not.

I think it is actually quite apparent that people’s consciences, while useful for day-to-day guidance, cannot be fully trusted unless properly trained.  In the end, when you pose this question about conscience, the question I think the you are really asking is not why can’t I just follow MY conscience, but why can’t I just follow YOUR conscience.  You want to be the foundation of my morality.  You would prefer I give up the God of the Bible, so that you and/or society may take His place.

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10 thoughts on “My Conscience Makes Me Barf

  1. “In the end the atheist has a problem with where their values system comes from.” I disagree. As an atheist myself, I think non-believers actually have a stronger sense of moral values, since we don’t go to church on Sunday and receive unconditional forgiveness for our sins, no matter how awful those sins might be. In fact, I would argue that the Christian moral value system is structured somewhat like the Washington State’s OSHA program, which counts the need for a prescription for a work related injury the same as being killed at work. They are both equal, statistically, as one OSHA recordable. To my knowledge, a sin is a sin, so one type of sin doesn’t rank higher than the other. So whether you use the lords name in vain, or cut someone’s head off with a chainsaw, it still counts as one sin, which can be forgiven on Sunday for the low cost of dropping a dollar in the collection plate. That doesn’t sound like a very good moral guideline to me. And what’s the deal with some sins changing over time, like eating meat on Friday? My morals come from living in society and trying my best to live a just life. By that, I mean that the decisions I make are intended to not affect other people negatively, as I don’t want to be treated negatively myself. To me, it’s simple math, and is something that doesn’t require subscribing to organized religion. The mistakes I make, I carry with me as reminders of what I’ve done wrong, in an effort to not repeat those mistakes. There is no clean slate to start the week on Monday.

    “History is filled with examples of people and societies whose consciences accepted things which they never should have (ie European and American slave trade, Nazi Germany).” I agree, a little. European and American slave traders, and owners, were primarily Christians. In fact a law from the House of Burgesses of 1705 says quite clearly “1705– All servants not Christians in their native countries and imported to Virginia were slaves. Slaves remained slaves even if they traveled to England.” Society put an end to slavery by going through a civil war, not because the church stepped in and put an end to it. Also, Nazi’s, before the war, were primarily Christians as well, until the Nazi regime decided it would be better off without the church getting in the way of their influence, as the war progressed. So, in both cases you could argue that Christian values did nothing to stop these atrocities, and that it wasn’t until society stepped in and put an end to it. It’s facts like this and mountains of others that I find bothersome. Christians take credit for only the good things (like church sponsored soup kitchens!), and forget about a lot of the really awful things that have happened in history.

    “We look back and condemn these behaviors with hindsight, but what would I really have done if I was there, and let my own conscience and society be my guide? I suspect it would be no different from now as we normalize things like marriage hopping, porn, ladder climbing greed, and revenge seeking. Embedded in some other culture, I’d probably have come to accept that Jews or Africans are not people. I’d retrain my conscience to believe this to be permissible.” Well, if you were following Christian moral guidance, you probably would have, since Christians have participated in and not put an end to any of the things you’ve listed above (I mean, c’mon, polygamists are Christians!). And there’s more, like creepy pedophile priests that prey on the children of their followers (You’d think, that if there was an all powerful God, people who molest little children would spontaneously combust! Unfortunately, they don’t, so what does that mean?), and the churches who spend billions trying to hide that they exist or fund their relocation. I can’t fathom why anybody would want to align themselves with an organization that tolerates that. And by tolerate, I mean not demanding that each and every one of these offenders are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    “I think it is actually quite apparent that people’s consciences, while useful for day-to-day guidance, cannot be fully trusted unless properly trained”. It’s too bad you feel that way. I don’t have any “training”, so it seems you’ve already judged me as untrustworthy. I think there are a lot of people out there in the world that would disagree with your assumption. I think one of the greatest crimes of organized religion is that the belief in a greater being, that there is no way to prove exists, or doesn’t exist, takes away people’s want to believe in themselves. I see too many people sitting around doing nothing, waiting for God to show them the way, or provide them the answer, while not taking any responsibility for their actions or what happens to them in life (“I guess God didn’t want me to go to college”, or “God told me drown my children in the bathtub before my spouse got home from work”). The truth is, we all have the ability to make good things happens in life, positively impact others, and add to society as a whole. Christian moral guidance is not required to live a just life that is respectful of others and one that positively adds to society.

    • Mark – Thanks for the thoughts!

      There’s a lot I’d like to repsond to here, but I’ll try to stay on the point of conscience. First though, I will say that Christians also make me barf! Throughout history there have people calling themselves Christians who have done evil and tried to use their religion to justify it. I think this goes to my point though. This is largely liberal “Christians” (or just cults) who ignore sound hermeneutics, and let their consciences and emotions be their guide. I would agree with you that it was in a big part the Church in Germany that allowed Hitler to rise to power by letting their nationalism (politics) be the source of their justice, not religion. I agree with you that there are unjust religious oranizations that ought to be prosecuted. However, the misdeeds of people, no matter what they purport to believe, says nothing of the soundness of the belief itself though. I can say, “I believe chocolate is good for you!”; then eat some chocolate and murder my family, but it doesn’t follow that my claim that chocolate is good for you is wrong just because I wasn’t good. People can try to use whatever they want as a shield for their immorality.

      Getting back to the idea of following our conscience, if I’m understanding you correctly, you define a “just life” as not making decisions that affect other people negatively. Is that correct? What do you mean by “negative”, and on what foundation do you base your ideas of “negative” and “positive”? Correct me if I’m wrong, but on your view we’re just nature right? I’ve never quite understood how nature can be “good” or “bad”. It’s just nature. It started by accdient and with no purpose, it proceeds by accident with no purpose, and it will end by accident with no purpose. The really “awful” things in history, no matter who perpetrated them, would just be nature taking its course. Without some metaphysical foundation, good and evil are an illusion based on individual (or societal) perspective, in which case the decisions that you make may be affecting me negatively from my perspective, although you may percieve them as positive. For instance, if I offer a bottle of whiskey to a gentleman, but find out he is an alcoholic, should I give it to him or not? He probably percieves that gift as affecting him positively. I would percieve it as affecting him negatively. Which one of us is right? Again, it seems like to live a “just life” from your perspective I would need to follow your conscience, not my own. Moreover, in the end it wouldn’t really matter who’s conscience I follow anyway since negative and positive impacts are simply illusory. Am I missing something?

      • Getting back to the idea of following our conscience, if I’m understanding you correctly, you define a “just life” as not making decisions that affect other people negatively. Is that correct? What do you mean by “negative”, and on what foundation do you base your ideas of “negative” and “positive”? Yes, that is correct. “Positive” and “negative” actions are largely defined through societal norms, conscience, and education. Having the opportunity to live and work in two cultures (US and China) I see the differences daily in how people are treated in both places. The societal norms in China are far more primitive than the US, but when you present the reasons why something should change, they get it. For example, it’s far more acceptable in China to completely take advantage of and exploit (as in, to treat unfairly, be unjust) those who have less social status and wealth, but when you explain to those in control of those people (ie: employers) why they should treat these people with the same respect and dignity as they would treat their peers, they usually agree and often feel ashamed about how they’ve treated these people. I’m not saying I’m over here in China changing overall societal norms, but when I have discussions along these lines with the people I know, it’s clear they feel bad about the mistreatment of the lower class, but it’s what they are used to, since it’s deemed “okay” to do so by their society. These societal norms are changing, as the level of education and awareness increases, which develops their conscience. I think if we were to sit down and discuss what a positive action is, and what a negative action is, we would agree on what they are, even though we arrive at these decisions differently, or that we might use a different method of guidance.

        “Correct me if I’m wrong, but on your view we’re just nature right? I’ve never quite understood how nature can be “good” or “bad”.” Yes, we’re “just” nature. In general, concepts of “good” and “bad” don’t apply to nature as a whole, or at least to those living things that lack the capacity to learn what a positive or negative action is. You can, for instance, teach your dog not to pee in the house, and if your dog pees in the house, it will recognize that as a “bad” behavior, because of your teachings. Humans, on the other hand, have the ability to learn very complex ideas. This didn’t happen overnight, because it takes time to develop languages and ways to pass on information to the next generation (from storytellers and cave paintings, to, I guess, PowerPoint and HD TV), so there doesn’t have to be a constant reinvention of the wheel. For instance, you know way more about electricity than Benjamin Franklin ever did because you’ve benefited from the knowledge and progress that built off of his initial experiments. It isn’t complex stuff like it was in his day, it’s now common knowledge. Life expectancy also plays a big role. If humans had the life expectancy of a dog, we would be nowhere close to where we are today, since a longer life allows more time to think critically about complex problems and solutions. But, again, the ideas of “good” and “bad” are only applicable to those who can understand them. As a society, we don’t expect those who have severe mental retardation, or who suffer from dementia to know what “good” and “bad” actions are, because they lack the capacity to understand. Which is why, if they commit a crime, our legal system looks into whether or not they had the capacity to understand at the time of the crime.

        “It’s just nature. It started by accdient and with no purpose, it proceeds by accident with no purpose, and it will end by accident with no purpose.” Yes. The environment in which will live is what is necessary for us to exist. It’s why there aren’t humans on any of the other planets in our solar system. If the atmosphere, or food supply changes, and they are changing, it will bring us to extinction, like pretty much everything else that’s ever lived on this planet. I’m assuming by your statement that you believe the opposite, that humans are here for purpose (that a deity is up in the sky planning what he’s going to do with your life, or something to that affect), that this was not just an accidental stroke of good luck. That’s where I think we fundamentally disagree, which is fine. I’m a tolerant guy.

        “Without some metaphysical foundation, good and evil are an illusion based on individual (or societal) perspective, in which case the decisions that you make may be affecting me negatively from my perspective, although you may percieve them as positive.” Well, the example you give, of whether to give an alcoholic a bottle of whiskey or not, is really a simple decision. We know from science and medicine that alcoholism shortens a person’s life, decreases the overall quality of it, as well it negatively affects relationships and one’s ability to contribute positively to society. So, I would say education, societal norms, and conscience all play a role in deciding that it’s a bad idea to give this guy a bottle of alcohol. It’s not clear to me why I would need a “metaphysical foundation” to be able to make that call. Furthermore, most alcoholics know, despite the want for another bottle of booze (a short term positive), that it is bad for them (a long term negative).

        “Again, it seems like to live a “just life” from your perspective I would need to follow your conscience, not my own.” No, it would be my hope that you would want to live a just life as well, using your own education, conscience, and life experiences to help you decide what is just. Independent thought is what has evolved our society to what it is today. If we followed the beliefs of just one person, or one belief system, our society would be nowhere near as rich and robust as it is today.

        “…negative and positive impacts are simply illusory” I disagree. Unless you’re playing extreme devil’s advocate, positive and negative impacts are typically quite clear to those who’ve had a an adequate education to understand all the facts and enough life experiences to be able to understand the impact of different outcomes. For example, if a farmer plants a crop and feeds his village, that’s a positive impact. Why? Well, as humans we know it’s necessary to eat to live, so having food is a good and positive thing. If someone burns the farmers crop before it’s harvested, that’s a negative impact, and so on. Sure, you can come up with whatever example that doesn’t fit, or rides a really fine line between good and bad, which could lead you to call positive and negative illusory, but I think that’s only in the extreme.

      • If good and bad are grounded through societal norms, conscience, and education, then how are they not illusory? Doesn’t this mean if Hitler had won WWII and we were all speaking German right now, that “good” would be extermination of the Jews and disabled people via eugenics, since that would be the societal norm, how our consciences were trained, and how we were being educated? Further, what gives you the right to preach your societal norms to the Chinese? Why shouldn’t the strong oppress the weak? Prides of lions do it, why shouldn’t people? We’re all just equally nature aren’t we? Or is it also wrong for a pride of lions to oppress its weaker members?

      • If good and bad are grounded through societal norms, conscience, and education, then how are they not illusory? They are subjective in the way that a professor grades an essay, looking for factual content, structure, and logic. You wouldn’t say that the work of Mother Theresa only has the illusion of being good, would you? You wouldn’t say Hitler has only the illusion of being bad, would you? That’s because factual evidence, conscience, and societal norms show that their actions are not illusions.

        Doesn’t this mean if Hitler had won WWII and we were all speaking German right now, that “good” would be extermination of the Jews and disabled people via eugenics, since that would be the societal norm, how our consciences were trained, and how we were being educated? No, there was resistance to Hitler’s ideas and dictatorship before he came to power and throughout the war, obviously. Societal norms are created by all of the generations that are alive at any given time. Hitler would have to not only win the war, but be in power for several generations for that to become true. Fortunately, conscience, societal norms and education put him in his place. It’s just too bad it took so long. He was only able to come into power because post WWI Germany was looking for someone to blame for all their problems (Treaty of Versailles).

        Further, what gives you the right to preach your societal norms to the Chinese? Well, let’s get one thing straight, I don’t preach to anybody. However, if I see behavior that I view as unjust or fly’s in the face of societal norms shared by many parts of the world, I ask questions. I think that’s fair. Questions spawn return questions and then a discussion begins. You have to remember that China is under the iron curtain of news media. They simply don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the world, or what’s really going on in their own county. The people I know in China have never heard of what went on at Tiananmen Square in 1989, or virtually anything else that makes the government look bad. Are you saying we shouldn’t educate?

        Why shouldn’t the strong oppress the weak? Prides of lions do it, why shouldn’t people? We’re all just equally nature aren’t we? Or is it also wrong for a pride of lions to oppress its weaker members? It’s not clear to me why you would try to compartmentalize all living things as being the same. Obviously, humans are not like lions. Both nature, sure, but not the same. Virtually every living thing has some unique ability, physical characteristic, or skill set that allows them to eek out a living on earth. If they don’t, they become extinct. Lions take advantage of prey through speed and brute strength to ensure they have enough to eat. They go after the weak because it uses less energy, which is what you get when you eat. Humans have intelligence which allows us engineer solutions to our problems. You don’t have to chase down your next meal out in the street in front of your house, or take advantage of the sick, or elderly, because we’ve created a food supply network. The same principles should apply to how people are treated. Problems can be solved by creating solutions, not by oppressing the weak.

      • Hmm. I may not be getting my question across correctly. On my view, I would NOT say good and evil are an illusion, because I believe in objective moral laws in the same way I believe in the laws of logic. I’m saying on a purely naturalist view, I’d be forced to accept that good and evil are subjective, and therefore and illusion. Having any “positive” or “negative” would suggest that nature has a preference, which is quite impossible since only things that have minds can have a preference.

        I didn’t ask what DID happen after WWII, I asked what would have happened IF Hilter had won the war (and say those several generations passed). This would have been a possibility (or would be a possibility in some future scenario). In that possible world, where everybody’s consciences came to the conclusion that it is good to erradicate the weak (hey, they’re just competing for resources and polluting the gene pool anyway, right?), on your view, would it still be wrong even though nobody in that possible society thinks it is wrong? If the food supply network you talk about broke down, and the world was overpopulated, would it then be okay to take advantage of the sick or elderly because we would be forced to compete like lions?

        Sure you dislike what went on in Tiananmen Square, but what if, for the sake of argument, I say I like it? What makes you right and me wrong? Sure people may be harmed, or even killed, and you might say that is “bad” and try to re-educate me, but it seems you’d just be re-educating me with your own opinion, not any real objective truth about reality.

        All things taken into consideration though, you almost seem to be wanting to affirm objective morality and intrinsic human value. Are either of these the case on your view of reality?

        By the way, I appreciate your taking the time to kick this around with me, especially in your own words. Some people have the tendency to just debate with YouTube links rather than processing their own thoughts. You obviously prefer to do your own thinking, and I competely respect that!

      • Mike:
        Hmm. I may not be getting my question across correctly. On my view, I would NOT say good and evil are an illusion, because I believe in objective moral laws in the same way I believe in the laws of logic. I’m saying on a purely naturalist view, I’d be forced to accept that good and evil are subjective, and therefore and illusion. Having any “positive” or “negative” would suggest that nature has a preference, which is quite impossible since only things that have minds can have a preference.

        Mark:
        Well, some of this may be getting lost in semantics. In my view, subjectivity is not an illusion, it’s arriving at a conclusion based on your perspective, which takes into account, education, societal norms, and life experiences. An illusion is something that is opposite of, or unlike, what you thought it was, like airport security. It’s there to try to weed out the bad apples, and make people feel secure about air travel, but in truth, it does little to increase the actual safety of flying, so it’s an illusion of safety. Good and evil is subjective, because in a lot cases it depends on your perspective. For instance, in general, across the globe, murder is viewed is an evil act. However, murdering the man who is about to kill your family, is generally viewed as an acceptable action (defense). But, in the end, it’s still murder. What’s your response to that using objective moral law? Under objective law for murder, it would seem that murder is never okay (thou shalt not kill), no matter what the circumstances are (let your family die?). If that’s not true, then wouldn’t it be subjective morality? Nature absolutely has preference, in fact most living things have the most easily definable preferences. I would say that any living thing, with even the weakest of brain function, has the response that it is “positive” to have food to eat, shelter, and protection from predators, as well it would be “negative” to not have these things. Ever see a wild salmon, bald eagle, or teenagers eat? I would say they all view food quite positively.

        Mike:
        I didn’t ask what DID happen after WWII, I asked what would have happened IF Hilter had won the war (and say those several generations passed). This would have been a possibility (or would be a possibility in some future scenario). In that possible world, where everybody’s consciences came to the conclusion that it is good to erradicate the weak (hey, they’re just competing for resources and polluting the gene pool anyway, right?), on your view, would it still be wrong even though nobody in that possible society thinks it is wrong? If the food supply network you talk about broke down, and the world was overpopulated, would it then be okay to take advantage of the sick or elderly because we would be forced to compete like lions?

        Mark:
        Okay, fine, perhaps I misread or didn’t get what you getting at. Yes, it’s true, if Hitler had won the war, and enough generations had passed while he was in rule, then the new societal norm would be that it is good to eradicate the weak. However, I’ve read that such shifts is societal norms take as much as 10 generations before they really solidify as a societal norm (which, if you look at the end of slavery in America, it’s pretty close), and since Hitler was using military force, and not swaying public opinion in occupied territories, it would be extremely likely that the societal norms that were in place, pre-occupation, would have prevailed. 10 generations is long time to keep the wool pulled over people’s eyes. It’s just one of the reasons why a solid, well rounded, education for the masses is so important, and also shows why dogmatic, herd mentality is so dangerous. The children of today need to be highly educated, free thinking individuals, to ensure that something like Nazi Germany doesn’t happen again (that said, similar atrocities are currently happening in the Sudan with little action from the international community. So much for “never forget”).Regarding the food thing, the world is already overpopulated (Scientists estimate that the planet is happiest around the 1 to 2 billion people range, in terms of available water supplies and food production without the use of fossil fuels), and we are rapidly using up the earth’s resources to the point that there will be a massive die off at some point, most likely when we run out of oil, since it’s such a driving force in the production of food. Huge populations already receive foreign food aid, and when the aid givers can no longer feed their own people, guess what happens to those people who need food aid? It’s a grim view, but I don’t really see a way around it (Jesus, where’s your nifty little basket of fish?). Not having oil will shut off the economy and force us, like you say, to compete like lions. I’m not really sure what you mean in terms of “take advantage of sick or elderly”, but, in terms of cannibalism, I think every last scrap of everything would have be consumed before that was even considered, and even then only considered if the very next step is absolute extinction.

        Mike:
        Sure you dislike what went on in Tiananmen Square, but what if, for the sake of argument, I say I like it? What makes you right and me wrong? Sure people may be harmed, or even killed, and you might say that is “bad” and try to re-educate me, but it seems you’d just be re-educating me with your own opinion, not any real objective truth about reality.

        Mark:
        We’re back to the subjectivity of “positive” and “negative” actions. It’s very likely that there are people in China who approve of what happened in 1989, however, the reaction from the international community (I don’t know of any outside party that was in favor of it, but it is possible) was that it was a negative, unjust, response against those involved in the protest. Typically, educated societies in first world nations support freedom of public expression as well as freedom of the press. It’s not an argument of whether I’m right or you’re right, it’s bringing to light an event that happened and letting them draw their own conclusions. It may be that everybody is fine with it, but it’s up to them to decide, and in order for them to draw any sort of educated conclusion, it requires education of the facts ,which should include learning about the reactions of other countries. Since the government has prevented them from knowing about it, as well as knowing what societal norms are across the globe, they have little basis to judge what’s to be expected of those who run their country. I believe they need a labor movement, free speech movement, women’s right’s movement, rhythm and blues movement, etc., to help raise the quality of life up to the level of other developed nations. But, again, it’s not up to me, it’s up to them and whether they are even interested to know about life and societal norms in other countries. So far, they’ve only really been interested to know why US wages are so much higher…

        Mike:
        All things taken into consideration though, you almost seem to be wanting to affirm objective morality and intrinsic human value. Are either of these the case on your view of reality?

        Mark:
        I see myself more as a subjective moralist, while holding myself to a higher moral standard than I expect from other people. It doesn’t, however, mean that I see myself as better than anybody else. I’ve always been a fan of trying to lead by example, and I hope to have a positive impact while encouraging everyone to educate themselves on the things that interest or affect them. In terms of intrinsic value, yes, I believe most things in society have both intrinsic and instrumental value. Not sure if that answers your question…

        Mike:
        By the way, I appreciate your taking the time to kick this around with me, especially in your own words. Some people have the tendency to just debate with YouTube links rather than processing their own thoughts. You obviously prefer to do your own thinking, and I competely respect that!

        Mark:
        It’s been fun! I like a nice friendly debate, and I thought you might enjoy some perspective from a real live Atheist 😉 I also appreciate your willingness to grind through this. I believe it helps shape and fine tune perspectives, as well it gets you to think in depth about things that wouldn’t have ordinarily come up.

      • Mark:
        Well, some of this may be getting lost in semantics. In my view, subjectivity is not an illusion, it’s arriving at a conclusion based on your perspective […]

        Mike:
        Yes, semantics are a tricky thing, but important for understanding I suppose. It seems to me you just defined what an illusion is. A magician’s illusion is all about making something appear possible from your perspective, that isn’t really possible. At first glace it looks realy, but if you think through the magicians illusion compared to what you know about reality, you’ll see that your perspective doesn’t comport with the way reality is. When morality is subjective, a thing may appear to be positive or negative to you, but that’s just your perspective. Somebody else’s perspective may be the exact opposite. If I say abortion is wrong, and you say it is right, we can’t both be correct. The law of excluded middles does not permit that. Either we’d both be wrong, because morality doesn’t exist, or only one of us would be right because there really is some objective moral law at play. Either morality is *all* an illusion, or it exists objectively. I would say your airport security example is a great example. If morality is subjective, then it is just an illusion perpetrated by evolution to makes us feel good (just like airport security is perpetrated by the government to make us feel good) or bad about certain actions important only for meaningless survival, for even survival cannot be good in and of itself. It’s just random nature. Further, if that is the case, I have no reason be believe I should trust any of my senses, because blind evolutionary process could pick irrational or illusory behaviors simply because they lead to survival, not because they tell me anything true about reality. Throw science out the window in that case. Perhaps realizing that is the next step in evolution, so that I can free myself of the burden of morality and my senses, and get on to weeding out the weak members of the species who haven’t realized this yet!

        Mark:
        For instance, in general, across the globe, murder is viewed is an evil act. However, murdering the man who is about to kill your family, is generally viewed as an acceptable action (defense). But, in the end, it’s still murder. What’s your response to that using objective moral law? Under objective law for murder, it would seem that murder is never okay (thou shalt not kill), no matter what the circumstances are (let your family die?). If that’s not true, then wouldn’t it be subjective morality?

        Mike:
        Actually, I’d disagree with that characterization of murder. The Hebrew world “ratsach” in the 5th commandment is more accurately translated “murder” than “kill”, suggesting predation or rage as the cause of the killing. Murder is the unjustified taking of an *innocent* life. Not all killing would be murder on my view. That doesn’t make the moral law subjective, it just means that the morality of actions are not absolute. Circumstances and intent influence the action. Usually, I’d say, the morality of an action could be determined not necessarily by the action itself, but by the intent of the action. Consequently, I’d say most moral laws are broken with some sort of selfish motive. One could stab a woman in the stomach with the intent to subdue her and rob her, but a doctor could do much the same thing with the intent of delivering a baby. Therefore, it isn’t the action that necessarily needs to be evaluated morally, it’s the intent of the action. If I kill a man defending my family, I’ve done no evil. I’ve justifiably taken his life in that circumstance. I have not murdered him.

        Mark:
        Nature absolutely has preference, in fact most living things have the most easily definable preferences. I would say that any living thing, with even the weakest of brain function, has the response that it is “positive” to have food to eat, shelter, and protection from predators, as well it would be “negative” to not have these things. Ever see a wild salmon, bald eagle, or teenagers eat? I would say they all view food quite positively.

        Mike:
        You’re taking nature to mean individual creatures. I was talking about nature as a whole. Nature (ie the universe), doesn’t have a mind, and therefore can’t have a preference. With regards to animals we could get into the difference between instinct and preference, but that is for another time 😉

        Mark:
        […] Yes, it’s true, if Hitler had won the war, and enough generations had passed while he was in rule, then the new societal norm would be that it is good to eradicate the weak […] Huge populations already receive foreign food aid, and when the aid givers can no longer feed their own people, guess what happens to those people who need food aid? It’s a grim view, but I don’t really see a way around it (Jesus, where’s your nifty little basket of fish?). Not having oil will shut off the economy and force us, like you say, to compete like lions. I’m not really sure what you mean in terms of “take advantage of sick or elderly”[..].

        Mike:
        Perhaps we’ve reached the root of the difference here, or maybe I misunderstand your position. I believe that even if those 10 generations passed and every last person had trained their conscience that it was “good” to eradicate the weak, they would be wrong. It would still be evil. “Take advantage of the sick or elderly” were your words that I just borrowed. I took it to mean that perhaps, like lions, we’d *intentionally* weed the weak out of society. Not that we’d just have no way to take care of them and dispose of them by attrition, but that we’d actively cull the herd, which is basically what Hitler endorsed via the writing of Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s the logical conclusion of Darwinism. I guess I still see no reason why on your worldview this wouldn’t be acceptable. I understand that it is not *your* particular preference, but since it seems good and bad are mere preferences, it doesn’t really matter if you prefer it or not. If the majority of society takes a turn that seems evil to you, say we outlaw rhythm and blues, you have no grounds to complain about it. Might makes right. If you’re weak or in the minority…too bad for you.

        Mark:
        I see myself more as a subjective moralist, while holding myself to a higher moral standard than I expect from other people. It doesn’t, however, mean that I see myself as better than anybody else. I’ve always been a fan of trying to lead by example, and I hope to have a positive impact while encouraging everyone to educate themselves on the things that interest or affect them. In terms of intrinsic value, yes, I believe most things in society have both intrinsic and instrumental value. Not sure if that answers your question…

        Mike’s Conclusion:
        That pretty much answers it. However, it seems we’ve arrived at the conclusion that if morality is not objective, then what remains are subjective morals which are just glorified personal or societal preferences. Additionally, I don’t see how anything can have any sort of intrinsic worth if all of existence is merely an accident. That worth would also be an illusion, like airport security, in order to get us to carry on with our lives like they mean something, even though in reality life is meaningless. However, I think we actually take very similar views on our responsibility to our fellow man as we actually live out our lives. I just don’t believe there is any way to philosophically ground that responsibility as anything other than opinion without a transcendent Moral Law Giver. I believe it is an objective moral fact that evil has been done, and continues to be done in China, even if (I know this is not the case) everybody in China could not care any less. Oppressing the weak, forcefully silencing peaceful protest, and things like infanticide are objectively wrong. They always will be. I believe tendency is to let the conscience slip into a “me” grounded state, which is why I use Biblical principal to ground my conscience. I don’t think I’ll become a dictator anytime soon, but there are lots of less extreme examples that society has normalized such as sexual promiscuity (including porn consumption) and over-consumerism (the American dream). Over time, an unchecked conscience is able to adapt to horrible things if society is allowed to be its guide, including the extreme examples like genocide.

        I’ll let you give the last words on this if you want. Thanks again for your thoughts. I’ve kicked similar types of ideas around with plenty of “real live atheists”. Let me tell you, you’re the cream of that crop! What seems to be the existence of objective morality to me is one of the top big reasons that if Christianity was proved wrong today, I’d have to admit I was wrong and go looking for the real God. I still find subjective morality untenable, but you voice your position respectfully and well thought out so I can at least understand where you’re coming from. Many other atheists just start calling both me and God names, and throwing out red-herrings. I suspect it is because it isn’t morally wrong from their subjective perspective, even though I think it is objectively wrong to treat people like that so I don’t return the volley. 😉

        PS – Would you mind if I posted this entire back and forth as an entry on my blog? Most people won’t see the comments because WordPress handles them kind of lame. I think it is a great example of how we can have differing worldviews, express them, and still get along at the end of the day. People, Christians most definitely included, need to learn how to do this better. You’d make a much better Christian than a lot of Christians who take the title as some sort of cultural identity rather than a lifestyle. Let God know if you ever want to come over to the light side 🙂 If you’re ever back in town look me up and I’ll buy you a beer and we’ll get to the bottom of how you explain the way something came from nothing!

      • I left your previous comments in for context.

        Mike:
        Yes, semantics are a tricky thing, but important for understanding I suppose. It seems to me you just defined what an illusion is. A magician’s illusion is all about making something appear possible from your perspective, that isn’t really possible. At first glace it looks realy, but if you think through the magicians illusion compared to what you know about reality, you’ll see that your perspective doesn’t comport with the way reality is. Somebody else’s perspective may be the exact opposite. If I say abortion is wrong, and you say it is right, we can’t both be correct. The law of excluded middles does not permit that. Either we’d both be wrong, because morality doesn’t exist, or only one of us would be right because there really is some objective moral law at play. Either morality is *all* an illusion, or it exists objectively. I would say your airport security example is a great example. If morality is subjective, then it is just an illusion perpetrated by evolution to makes us feel good (just like airport security is perpetrated by the government to make us feel good) or bad about certain actions important only for meaningless survival, for even survival cannot be good in and of itself. It’s just random nature. Further, if that is the case, I have no reason be believe I should trust any of my senses, because blind evolutionary process could pick irrational or illusory behaviors simply because they lead to survival, not because they tell me anything true about reality. Throw science out the window in that case. Perhaps realizing that is the next step in evolution, so that I can free myself of the burden of morality and my senses, and get on to weeding out the weak members of the species who haven’t realized this yet!
        Mark:
        “If I say abortion is wrong, and you say it is right, we can’t both be correct.” True, which is why this is still a heated debate across the world. I would argue that it’s not possible to have an objective viewpoint (unjust) on abortion, that it would have to be subjective, and based on knowing all of the facts surrounding the pregnancy. Perhaps it’s your viewpoint that no fetus should be aborted, ever, despite the doctor telling you that fetus is classified as “incomplete” and will die at childbirth if not before, posing great risk to the health of the mother, or that a woman who is raped should also have to give birth and raise the offspring of her attacker. I just can’t understand such absolute viewpoints when there is such a broad range of circumstances that can happen in any given life. Furthermore, it’s not a match to see who wins the battle of “correctness”. Nor is there a prize to win. In that regard, I very much believe morals are subjective, and based on your own education, conscience, life experiences and, as in the two examples mentioned above, special circumstances.
        Absolutely! Blind evolutionary process DID “..pick irrational and illusory behaviors simply because they lead to survival..”. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you’ve played right into the hands of nature, from selecting your wife, which was influenced heavily by deep evolutionary instincts that told you she would be a good selection for having children (why you were attracted to her in the first place), rather than by choosing a mate who you never met, but passed a written exam, or as opposed to choosing, say, your sister (genetic conflict), or a woman that appears to be riddled with disease, or already pregnant, or any number of the things most men find unattractive, all the way to feeling the urge to have a place to live with your wife (nest) and feeling the urge to have children (gene survival). Illusion or not, you jumped right on natures conveyor belt and have done exactly what billions of humans, animals and organisms have done before you, including participating in “actions of meaningless survival”. I’m guessing those “actions” (your family) aren’t meaningless to you, but those meanings may be purely the illusion of what nature wants you to look for, which would give your genes the best chance for survival. No matter who you are, if you are alive today, your ancestors were successful in surviving, at least long enough to procreate. Thus, survival is the one trait that is common to all living things, and therefore it is very deeply engrained in our instincts, which is the driver behind wanting to survive and pass those genes on. There is no “good” or “bad” in any of this, just instinct. If you choose to add purpose or meaning to that, it’s purely of your own want to satisfy the need of trying to rationalize your own existence (why am I here? Surely there must be “good” reason!), which is purely a human need due to advanced intelligence. Perhaps you need that to be happy, that’s fine, but it’s still just an illusion. I’m fine with understanding the mechanics and I’m comfortable living in a society with subjective morals, based on education, conscience, and societal norms which have done, in my opinion, a better job at helping to shape our society than objective morals have. Furthermore, the idea of subjective moral laws have opened up avenues for discussions like this one, which would not have happened if we all followed the same set of rock solid objective moral laws. Without discussions like this, how would we know if the moral guidelines we are following are actually working to better the society we live in? It seems to me that if everyone bought into the same objective morals, we would be nothing more than robots responding to binary code. And lastly, just an observation, but it seems that my approach is to look at situations subjectively (based on my education, conscience, and life experiences), and make subjective moral decisions based on my conclusion, whereas those who follow objective moral laws, start with an objective law and work backward (subjectively) to try an interpret the meaning of that law so it fits better into the reality we live in, as the discussion below regarding the 6th commandment demonstrates.
        Mike:
        Actually, I’d disagree with that characterization of murder. The Hebrew world “ratsach” in the 6th commandment is more accurately translated “murder” than “kill”, suggesting predation or rage as the cause of the killing. Murder is the unjustified taking of an *innocent* life. Not all killing would be murder on my view. That doesn’t make the moral law subjective, it just means that the morality of actions are not absolute. Circumstances and intent influence the action. Usually, I’d say, the morality of an action could be determined not necessarily by the action itself, but by the intent of the action. Consequently, I’d say most moral laws are broken with some sort of selfish motive. One could stab a woman in the stomach with the intent to subdue her and rob her, but a doctor could do much the same thing with the intent of delivering a baby. Therefore, it isn’t the action that necessarily needs to be evaluated morally, it’s the intent of the action. If I kill a man defending my family, I’ve done no evil. I’ve justifiably taken his life in that circumstance. I have not murdered him.
        Mark: Well, okay, but this travels down the path of Bill Clinton’s argument of “..what the definition of is is”, a little, but I see your point and I’ll give it to you this time. Still, it seems a little subjective and convenient to choose which definition you prefer, rather than taking the standard “kill” which we’ve all been accustomed to and what is still shown on most public displays of the ten commandments. I still see lots of gray area here. What if murdering the attacker wasn’t necessary to stop the attack (you stopped the intent), but you did it anyway (heat of the moment, let’s say). Would you be a murderer then? In any case, it seems like there is plenty of subjectivity here, or at least enough to poke holes in the idea of objective moral law when related to the timing of when it’s okay to take someone’s life, and when it’s not.
        Mike:
        Perhaps we’ve reached the root of the difference here, or maybe I misunderstand your position. I believe that even if those 10 generations passed and every last person had trained their conscience that it was “good” to eradicate the weak, they would be wrong. It would still be evil. “Take advantage of the sick or elderly” were your words that I just borrowed. I took it to mean that perhaps, like lions, we’d *intentionally* weed the weak out of society. Not that we’d just have no way to take care of them and dispose of them by attrition, but that we’d actively cull the herd, which is basically what Hitler endorsed via the writing of Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s the logical conclusion of Darwinism. I guess I still see no reason why on your worldview this wouldn’t be acceptable. I understand that it is not *your* particular preference, but since it seems good and bad are mere preferences, it doesn’t really matter if you prefer it or not. If the majority of society takes a turn that seems evil to you, say we outlaw rhythm and blues, you have no grounds to complain about it. Might makes right. If you’re weak or in the minority…too bad for you.
        Mark: I think we’re pretty close in understanding each other. My position is that it would be VERY unlikely to get to that point, (10 generations passing where the societal norm changed to where it was “good” to eradicate the weak) unless the education system collapsed completely, everywhere on earth – for many generations, and people were reduced to following a certain set of rules (like objective moral laws found in the Koran, Mad Magazine, and the Bible, etc.) dictated to them by dominate figures in the society (in an uneducated society, there are still a few that are smarter than the rest). An uneducated society could fall prey to say, an eleventh commandment “thou shall eliminate those over the age of 65, and those who have red hair”. Fortunately the education system is widespread and fairly robust, so the power of education, conscience, and pre-existing societal norms would never have allowed your scenario to happen for any length of time. The big difference here between humans and lions (lions representing all living creates) is that lions don’t intentionally weed out the weak, as one might assume with the term “natural selection”. They go after low hanging fruit like the rest of us (why work harder than you have to?), so if a lion chases after a herd of gazelle and kills the last one in the pack, he might have killed the weakest one, or he may have caught the strongest one off guard. The lion didn’t evaluate the whole herd and decide which one he should kill based on his beliefs or what he considers to be defects or traits worthy of eliminating from the herd. However, over time, natural selection catches up with the weakest and weeds them out, since we all compete for the same resources, and since those change over time, certain animals prosper and others fade into extinction depending the availability of food and whether the environment accommodates their survival needs. That will happen to humans at some point, and it’s unlikely that will coincide with the end of all life on planet earth. Only weird, evil humans put thought into who they consider weak and deserving of being eliminated, and fortunately those weirdoes are few and seldom acquire enough power to carry out such actions. But it does bring up the question, if the majority of Germans had been atheist following the WWI, instead of being Christian, would they have offered resistance to the rising power of the Third Reich? I would be inclined to say yes, simply because atheists are more in tune with subjective morality, conscience, and societal norms, and typically don’t subscribe to objective moral laws or follow, without question, the leadership of those who’ve been granted the illusion of power (priests, bishops, David Koresh, Adolph Hitler, or the Almighty Himself).
        Mike’s Conclusion:
        That pretty much answers it. However, it seems we’ve arrived at the conclusion that if morality is not objective, then what remains are subjective morals which are just glorified personal or societal preferences. Additionally, I don’t see how anything can have any sort of intrinsic worth if all of existence is merely an accident. That worth would also be an illusion, like airport security, in order to get us to carry on with our lives like they mean something, even though in reality life is meaningless. However, I think we actually take very similar views on our responsibility to our fellow man as we actually live out our lives. I just don’t believe there is any way to philosophically ground that responsibility as anything other than opinion without a transcendent Moral Law Giver. I believe it is an objective moral fact that evil has been done, and continues to be done in China, even if (I know this is not the case) everybody in China could not care any less. Oppressing the weak, forcefully silencing peaceful protest, and things like infanticide are objectively wrong. They always will be. I believe tendency is to let the conscience slip into a “me” grounded state, which is why I use Biblical principal to ground my conscience. I don’t think I’ll become a dictator anytime soon, but there are lots of less extreme examples that society has normalized such as sexual promiscuity (including porn consumption) and over-consumerism (the American dream). Over time, an unchecked conscience is able to adapt to horrible things if society is allowed to be its guide, including the extreme examples like genocide.
        I’ll let you give the last words on this if you want. Thanks again for your thoughts. I’ve kicked similar types of ideas around with plenty of “real live atheists”. Let me tell you, you’re the cream of that crop! What seems to be the existence of objective morality to me is one of the top big reasons that if Christianity was proved wrong today, I’d have to admit I was wrong and go looking for the real God. I still find subjective morality untenable, but you voice your position respectfully and well thought out so I can at least understand where you’re coming from. Many other atheists just start calling both me and God names, and throwing out red-herrings. I suspect it is because it isn’t morally wrong from their subjective perspective, even though I think it is objectively wrong to treat people like that so I don’t return the volley.
        PS – Would you mind if I posted this entire back and forth as an entry on my blog? Most people won’t see the comments because WordPress handles them kind of lame. I think it is a great example of how we can have differing worldviews, express them, and still get along at the end of the day. People, Christians most definitely included, need to learn how to do this better. You’d make a much better Christian than a lot of Christians who take the title as some sort of cultural identity rather than a lifestyle. Let God know if you ever want to come over to the light side If you’re ever back in town look me up and I’ll buy you a beer and we’ll get to the bottom of how you explain the way something came from nothing!
        Mark’s conclusion:
        “However, it seems we’ve arrived at the conclusion that if morality is not objective, then what remains are subjective morals which are just glorified personal or societal preferences.” Yes, but I would wonder why you place little to no value in subjective, educated conclusions, and long term societal preferences, but instead choose objective moral laws written by humans who claim to have received these messages from God a couple thousand years ago, without any real proof? Doesn’t that seem a trifle flakey to you? What gives these authors any credit at all? (There are many people out there today who claim to be Jesus (son of God) or God, but they are dismissed as being “nuts”. Why? What’s the difference between the original Jesus, or the one we think is the original “real” Jesus, and anyone else who says they are the Son of God today?) To me, that’s a pretty big leap, and heavily weighted in the *want* for there to be a God, any God, based on the belief that humans aren’t capable of running a society on their own or, as I suspect, are unable to provide enough protection for wealthy people of status. This is also in line with my own belief that religions were formed as a means to control people and protect the rich, before the arrival of automatic weapons and modern military force. The promise of a better life in return for following the rules in this one, is a pretty good recipe for order and control of the masses. Society is well structured now, and there are laws to protect everybody, so why are objective moral laws from a Supreme being necessary?
        “What seems to be the existence of objective morality to me is one of the top big reasons that if Christianity was proved wrong today, I’d have to admit I was wrong and go looking for the real God” In other words, you have at least a fleeting glimmer of doubt about your belief in the Christian God being “real”, since you acknowledge Christianity could be “proved wrong”, and if it doesn’t pan out, there are always other Gods to try, in a seemingly desperate hope of someday finding one that offers “real” objective moral law? This seems like a control thing to me; a want to live in a world of absolute certainty (objective moral law), when in reality we live in a world of ever changing uncertainty (subjective moral law). If I came up with a list of objective moral laws, would you believe in me? (I hope not. I hope you’d believe in yourself first) Not that I’m calling myself a God, but I do have the power to create life (as do you), and the power to take life away(as do you), as well, I have the ability to know just about anything if I set my mind to it (for now, but I am getting older…). And what makes the Christian God the one you’d want to follow in the first place? Is it because the Christian message is really so much better than other religions? Is it because there is a place to worship close to your house? Do you think that if you had been born in Pakistan, instead of the US, you would still worship a Christian God? It’s a bit confusing to me, and seems, well, very subjective…
        “I believe it is an objective moral fact that evil has been done, and continues to be done in China, even if (I know this is not the case) everybody in China could not care any less. Oppressing the weak, forcefully silencing peaceful protest, and things like infanticide are objectively wrong. They always will be.” Under objective moral law, you are right, but under natural law or if viewed subjectively it’s easy to see (though not justifiable in modern society) why these societal norms were/are in place. China has few social safety nets, as well, it lacks many of the benefits of living in the modern society that we grew up in, like medical care, birth control, charities, credit, the Simpsons, welfare for the disabled, etc. In China, if you have no money, you don’t eat, and if you have no family to care for you, you die. It’s as simple as that. Obviously, having too many children is a good way for the entire family to die, since the majority of the population still lives in dire poverty and food is a luxury. So, from natures perspective, there was a time when infanticide was needed to ensure that the rest of the family would survive (gene survival). Ultimately, I think it’s too easy to place blame for moral crimes if you don’t know or understand all of the facts and circumstances, or if these situations have never applied to you. I’m not defending infanticide, but I can understand why, if you’re barely existing with 5 kids, why it might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back to have the 6th. Since there is no natural birth control, other than trying to figure out the rather unreliable “rhythm method” the Catholic church endorses, there are three options, stop having sex (not gonna happen) or try and feed as many as 20+ children (also, probably not gonna happen) or abortion, which, in rural societies, without the benefit of medical care, would come after birth. It’s an ugly truth, but it is what it is. Is it an objective moral crime to survive, at the cost of infanticide, or should everybody die because that moral crime is too unbearable? Again, not in defense of infanticide, but trying to figure out how anyone would get to this place in the first place…
        I’m curious about what you mean regarding ““me” grounded state”? Does that reflect self-centered survival motivations, or greed? I don’t think either of these require anything more than a critical self-evaluation which, I acknowledge, is a skill, but one that everybody can learn and doesn’t require the use of faith based principles. Also, I’m not sure what you mean by normalized, perhaps you mean behavior that is normal to society, but is not normal to you, but who’s to say what’s “normal” anyway. If it’s a completely homogenous society you’re after, where everybody has the same values, ideals, and wants out of life, I would seriously question whether that’s healthy for the long term success of humanity. I certainly wouldn’t want everybody to think like me, because I learn from and draw inspiration from those who are different from me. I think everybody is different and has a complex odd mixture of qualities and ideas, and that’s a good thing. For instance, I am very different from you, but I think there is a place for both of us in this society, and I think we both add to it. Additionally, I think humans have always done what they’re doing now (albeit, with very slow societal shifts), it’s only a matter of how much more aware of it we are, through the use of the internet, social networking, and endless channels of HD TV etc. Promiscuity is no more prevalent today than it has been in the past, people are just more comfortable talking about it, and since the internet is one big megaphone, it only takes a few stories to give off the impression that something is epidemic, which doesn’t accurately reflect the reality of society as a whole.
        Likewise, you’ve been the cream of the crop from the creationist side, and I thank you for that. This has been a very enjoyable discussion for me and, I completely agree, people on both sides need to learn to do this better. I too have been called all sorts of horrible things and, in years past, I have been guilty of returning fire. Now, at the ripe old age of 37, I tend to back away, because these topics are fairly well entrenched in peoples beliefs, and it’s not like I’m going to, or even want to, convince someone that the way I live my life is how they should live theirs. I promote education and careful, critical thought, and that’s about it. Well, and I promote IPA, because it’s clearly far superior to other beers.
        Feel free to post this whole exchange. I don’t think there is anything in here that’s too off the wall, or anything that will get me burned at the stake, but if everybody suddenly buys into objective moral law, who knows? 😉 Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of WordPress, and it’s been kind of a struggle to post too. It usually takes at least a couple tries. The site looks nice, but the functionality is lacking. Thanks for the endorsement, but I’ve already been a Christian, up until about the age of 14 or 15. It just didn’t work for me. I was even an “Alter boy”, or whatever they call the kid that goes up, lights the candles, and carries the cross in during opening procession. But, it just didn’t feel right, like I was lying to myself. Ultimately, I didn’t believe (tried to, even thought it might be interesting to be a priest, but neither of these ideas stuck), and I found it rather liberating to leave the church and start my own journey of discovery, instead of trying to fit into the Christian mold. I’d love to get together and have a beer, both for discussions like this, and to catch up in general. I think the last time I saw you I was living in Anacortes (maybe we both were? Can’t remember..), which was a very long time ago. Currently, I split my time between Whitefish, MT and Songgang, China, more or less month on, month off, but I find myself in the Valley periodically to visit my parents. I’ll probably be up your way late June to early July before I head back to China. I’ll let you know when I’m going to be up that way and see if that works with your schedule too. I’m looking forward to reading your future barfs. Cheers!

  2. Pingback: The Falsifiability of Jesus « Mike's Mind Barfs

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