Scared of Death

Posted by on July 30, 2010 in Thoughts | 28 comments

What happens when we die? Well I’ve thought over this one a few times and the conclusion is always the same. I am not afraid of the conclusion I reach.

The Horsehead Nebula

The Horsehead Nebula

Don’t worry, I’m not dying any time soon. What made me want to write about this was a FaceBook comment left for me today:

“UNLIKE you Marty I KNOW BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT WHERE I AM GOING…”

Yes this came from a religious person, angrily (and in quite an aggressive way) saying that she know she’s going to heaven, and that I am ignorant of what happens after death.

OK. Fine. I’m not going to argue with that. Especially in not ALL-CAPS.

So anyway this got me thinking about what I know, only my knowing comes from evidence, not a promise.

I know that I come from the universe, I am a part of the universe and will return to the earth, decomposing to become nothing more than the chemicals and compounds of which my body consists. My brain will cease to function as the electrical impulses that make me “tick” slow down and stop, and I will only live on in the memories of other people and any legacy I may leave behind. All this is documented, and repeatable. In fact it repeats often and daily, and once for every person (and animal) who has ever lived before. All the matter from which we are composed has been spewed out of great stars, and recycled over and over again over billions of years. Why would this this be different for a human over an ant, or an asteroid, or a star?

I wonder if it makes a difference to a person’s perception of the inevitability of death and the knowledge that there is nothing afterwards, or the anxiety of not knowing and actually caring? Do religious people actually suffer more or less stress? If you believe in the afterlife, does it make you slightly removed from the physical world in such a way that you renege on your earthly duties?

The way some fundamentalist speak and act, one could easily assume this. And staking all your hopes on the possibility there may be a heaven, with its extreme unlikelihood seems like it may cause a bit more stress than simply admitting that there is nothing afterward. If you put all your eggs in the “afterlife” basket seems like a waste of effort to me, really.

I’ve wondered also whether the stories of an afterlife were originally told as a way to remind people to remember the dead, with the shaman or mystic saying words like “you will live on forever in the memories of your families, and in the genetic legacy you leave behind you,” and somehow got shortened to “you will live forever”.

I think this quote attributed to Isaac Asimov pretty much sums up my views on death:

“Although the time of death is approaching me, I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism.”

I think this acceptance of “nothingness” has something to do with some understanding of scale of the universe, and the knowing that this planet floats alone in this immensity of deep space. We already walk this life alone. Why should death be any different?

I don’t want to die, and I am most certainly not welcoming the end of my life, but it seems to me that given that death is inevitable for ALL of us that obsessing about it and what happens afterward is counterproductive, and frankly a waste of my time. Life is too short to worry about its end! And I certainly don’t intend on dying any time soon!

So I guess my message is, “Don’t procrastinate, you only get one ride in life, make it the best ride you possibly can. Oh, and there is no afterlife.”

Stumble This!

Further Reading (in light of the comments below)
Is the Bible True of False?

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28 Comments

  1. That’s pretty much my view too – what the hell is there to be afraid of? Once you’ve kicked it, you don’t know any better.

    If you accept the fact that death is game over and that we don’t deserve to live forever in some fake happy place then you can at least get on with things and make the most of now.

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  2. Excellent post, mate. My first thought was a Richard Dawkins quote: “Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you”.

    As Carl Sagan said – and you’ve echoed – we are star stuff, and we will return to the stuff of the universe when we die.

    Like you, I figure this life is too short to be over-worried about its end. We float alone and insignificant through the vastness of space, but for a short time we are aware. We can live and love. Let’s not waste that – and miss the joy of this life – imagining some almost-certainly non-existent afterlife.

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  3. Fantastic! I 100% agree with you and Isaac Asimov – it’s because of atheism that I’m not scared of death. Sometimes it it creeps me out how unafraid I am of dying. I think the fact that (I believe) nothing happens after you die is actually comforting.

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  4. Interesting post, Marty. Usually those who are so outspoken about not being afraid to die come from the religious sector, so to be on the other side of the coin is quite interesting and eye-opening.

    One of the statements you made in your post was that, “In fact it repeats often and daily, and once for every person (and animal) who has ever lived before.” My question is how you reconcile the multiple deaths of Lazarus and the idea that Enoch and Elijah didn’t die. These are all from the Bible and seem to go against this claim. Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead would also go against your viewpoint. The issue is that if you say that these are not true, then you would have to be required to give evidence in support of that claim.

    Also, if hell were to actually exist, then why wouldn’t someone be afraid of it? Hell is considered to be a place of eternal torment, which I know personally I would be terrified of. If you allow for the possibility for it to exist, then it would probably be really scary; so you have to believe that it doesn’t exist, which again means you need evidence in favor of your claim. A point I have made previously to others is this: if as a theist I am wrong and you are right, then we both end up in the same place; if I am right and you are wrong, then we don’t both end up in the same place. Doesn’t this mean that the theist’s position is the one with more weight and should arouse more curiosity?

    I think most Christians would agree with you that when people die their bodies return to the ground from which they came. It is the concept of soul that speaks to both the afterlife and to the existence of God, and I think that’s the real debate in question here.

    Not trying to pick a fight by any means here; just offering an alternative perspective. :-) Thanks for posting!

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    • How do I reconcile it? I don’t need to reconcile it any more than I need to reconcile any characters in fictional books. Because that is how I view the Bible, as a work of fiction.

      As to the point about hell, if hell existed, then yes it would be something to be sacared of. But Hell is another fiction, or at least it is unprovable. Again, I don’t need to give evidence of this any more than I need to give evidence that Narnia or Middle Earth exists. It came from a work of fiction and should be treated as such. Unfortunately in both of these situations the burden of proof is on you and your position. Likewise you have to convince me that the soul even exists, as I really do not believe that it is the case.

      Thanks for your input.

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    • In contrast to Marty, I will jump in at you. You attempted to use a version of Pascal’s wager, which means you lose automatically. It’s a ridiculous argument which demeans both our logic and your faith.

      All the other points have been rebutted ably. The main one I want to address is your notion that non-belief requires evidence. That’s completely backwards, and I’ve discussed why on my blog. Think of weird health practises or supplements etc – you wouldn’t (I hope) believe those claims without evidence … ie you would not require evidence for non-belief. Belief – in anything – is the condition which requires evidence.

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  5. What I really meant to get at in my third paragraph was that if you can’t supply evidence to support the claim that hell doesn’t exist, then you are acting on faith that it’s not there. This is a perfectly acceptable position to be in, but it puts you on equal or lesser footing with those who believe in an afterlife.

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  6. I’ve always found it funny, how the people who love to be “one with god” and “desiring to sit by him in the afterlife” are the most afraid of death.

    Like you said, we get one ride. Enjoy it the best you can.

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  7. Atheistclimber,

    Thank you for your response, and for doing so in a respectful manner. You don’t know how much I appreciate that in this day and age, where a lot of people are ready to pounce at first movement. So thank you. :-)

    That said, I think a burden of proof exists for you too, because if you believe the Bible is a work of fiction, then to make such a claim you would have to show evidence for this belief, as well as reject all of the historical evidence already gathered to support its authenticity. How you can say it is a work of fiction when it gives names, dates and locations that have been verified through external corroboration and archaeological finds is surprising to me, so I would like to see some of your evidence.

    As to my burden of proof for both the existence of hell and the existence of soul, I would say that I cannot prove to a certainty that these exist, because if I could then everyone would just believe, but we know that is not the case. What I can do is try to give you the best plausible evidence that I can. To do that, I would look at morality and emotion. Where does that come from? If right and wrong come from society, then it is subjective and one cannot really say that anything is wrong. Raping a woman, for instance, could not really be considered wrong, because morality is subjective. But if raping a woman is universally accepted as a bad act, then we have to wonder where this objective morality comes from. The Christian attributes this to God; to what does the atheist attribute it?

    But if we have things that are right and things that are wrong, where do those come from? If (and only if) the Christian view of God exists, then we know where we get good, because by definition God would be perfect goodness. But as to evil, we have to consider an alternative side to the supernatural coin, which is where the product of hell, the devil and demons come in. Again, this is supported by the Bible, so this would fall back under your burden of proof as to its fictitious nature.

    As to the soul, the best way I can think to explain this is the idea of the intangible vs. the tangible. If biological processes are all that we have, then everything would be tangible. But how do we explain that we have intangible concepts? How do we reconcile knowledge, love, emotion, morality? If these are tangible, you could show them to me. Many say these are housed in the brain, but if I were to ask you to show me love, you would show me neurons. The two are not the same, and science would agree with me. The best science can say is that these neurons interpret information to arrive at love, but they can’t say where love comes from. The soul is the theist’s explanation for the intangible nature of concept; I submit that the naturalist has no reasonable answer.

    Thanks again for your candor. Let me know what you think or if you would rather I went away quietly and not troll.

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    • Sabepashubbo, while you’re answering everyone else’s questions, can you please give your response to the Euthyphro Dilemma? It can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma Do check it out…..it’s a doozy of a problem for theists!

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    • “But if raping a woman is universally accepted as a bad act, then we have to wonder where this objective morality comes from. The Christian attributes this to God; to what does the atheist attribute it?

      The consequence of raping a woman is that the woman is suffering. Suffering is a universal, objective state – practically every organism on the planet has evolved methods for avoiding suffering. If suffering is virtually universally avoided, then suffering is a bad thing! Hence an act causing suffering is a bad act. Hence raping a woman is a bad act. Rocket science this is not….

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  8. @sabepashubbo said:
    “How you can say it is a work of fiction when it gives names, dates and locations that have been verified through external corroboration and archaeological finds…”

    I have a question for you sabepashubbo, is Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code a work of fact or fiction?

    I’ll let you dwell on that, and get back to you with some more.

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  9. @sabepashubbo I am curious to know what has “been verified through external corroboration”, what were these “archaeological finds” and just exactly what are these finds evidence for? Surely there is no firm evidence for the miracles or for the divinity of this character the Bible calls Jesus. Is there? Anything less than that wouldn’t make believing in the divinity of Christ any more convincing that a belief in Russell’s Teapot.

    I really don’t know what it going to happen to my consciousness after I die. I would be very surprised if my consciousness continues after the death of my body, but hey, anything is possible in this very strange universe. But even if it does survive my physical death I don’t see any good reason to dwell on it while I am here on earth. It would only distract me from doing the best I can with this life that I have.

    I seems highly unlikely to me that an intelligence capable of creating this virtually infinite universe couldn’t come up with a better way to forgive us for being born with original sin (as if we had a choice) than by having himself crucified for our sake.

    I’d love to hear your response to my question @sabepashubbo as I have a Christian friend who made similar claims about archeological finds, but she was unable to provide me with specifics.

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  10. I’m only going to briefly address one of your points (at work and short on time!), but I’m sure others can take up the slack…
    You say:
    “Raping a woman, for instance, could not really be considered wrong, because morality is subjective. But if raping a woman is universally accepted as a bad act, then we have to wonder where this objective morality comes from. The Christian attributes this to God; to what does the atheist attribute it?”
    Now, human beings are social animals. I might see a woman being raped and say ‘without the word of God, how do I know this is wrong? Should I not just let this man rape this woman? Maybe what he’s doing is right according to his own personal rule book?’
    This, however. would be a very superficial response. Let’s look at this from a purely subjective, selfish point of view: I don’t want to be raped. I don’t want to be murdered. I don’t want to be robbed. These are all unpleasant experiences that would make me very unhappy. If, then, I see someone else being raped, and I do nothing because I have no basis for making moral judgements regarding the rapist, I am contributing to the evolution of a society in which I might be the next person to be raped while others stand idly by debating ethics.
    So without the intervention of an external agent, it is possible for me to develop a code of ethics remarkably like those that mainstream, present-day Christians have cherry picked from that flaming wreckage of outdated tribal mythology you call ‘the bible’, and effectively reinvent ‘the golden rule.’

    ps If you think JHVH condemns rape, you should read your bible with a tad more care ;-)

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  11. @sabepashubbo Actually, since there is very little corroborating evidence for the historical accuracy that shows that it is non-fiction, the burden of proof is wholly on you. You’re the one making the claim that the Bible is the Word of God. You’re making an outrageous claim that is not reasonable to assume. For example, pick up a random book on your shelf, and then take the story at face value. Does it seem reasonable to assume that it’s true? What if you picked up 2001: A Space Odyssey? It’s equally as likely to be true as it is if you picked up American Prometheus. The difference is that there is corroborating evidence for one, and not the other, and that it’s not reasonable to assume anything you read is factual. That’s why the burden of proof is on you.

    As for your argument on the origin of morality…I’m sure most of us here have encountered that argument before, and on many occasions, and it’s not a good one.

    Imagine that you are a part of a small tribe, probably a dozen or so families, about 50 people altogether. Imagine if you have no moral code, no punishment against murder, stealing, etc. Crime, as we know it, would be rampant. Murder would be quite common as any small dispute could turn deadly. The tribe’s population would be in decline. The tribe would die within a generation or two.

    Say, for instance, you were in a different tribe that outlawed murder, stealing, etc. Crime would be quite low. People know that there is a punishment that outweighs the benefits of committing a crime. That population would grow. That tribe would survive for many generations until it becomes too big and it splits into two or more smaller tribes.

    You see, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the existence of morality that doesn’t include the existence of a god. If morality didn’t come into being, then humanity would not exist, or would not exist in the state we know.

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  12. Hi there, Sabepashubbo. I would like to address some of the points you raised in order, so here we go:

    “I think a burden of proof exists for you too, because if you believe the Bible is a work of fiction…”

    I think it would be fair to say all literary works should be considered fiction until empirical evidence is presented to verify the accounts within. Some books do not lend themselves to such examinations (such as autobiographies) because it is extremely difficult to verify the specific accounts of one person’s life. Still, no one is claiming that autobiographies are the literally inspired words of the creator of the universe, inerrant, and a perfect guide for moral living to ensure eternal happiness. That’s one hell of a claim and requires massive supporting evidence.

    “How you can say it is a work of fiction when it gives names, dates and locations that have been verified through external corroboration…”

    Each claim should be taken in (somewhat) isolation. There is a huge difference between verifying the existence of Salem and the existence of witches. In the same manner a place called Bethlehem does not demonstrate a virgin birth.

    “To do that, I would look at morality and emotion. Where does that come from?”

    If you are claiming all human morality stems from the one source, then you should demonstrate this is actually the case – without resorting to the observation in the first place (begging the question). We are all one species of social animal and it is not surprising we all have the same basic set of social guidelines.

    If however you are claiming that the Christian god supplies the source of all morality, then we should expect those who follow his laws, rules, and guides to be more moral than those who do not. Yet this is exactly the opposite of what we observe. Study after study verifies strict Christians are more likely to get divorced, have higher rates of teenage pregnancy, and are over represented in the prison population. Add the uncomfortable fact that many use their faith as motivation to perform hideous acts on doctors, women, children, and homosexuals (to name a few) and you have a terrifying combination.

    “If right and wrong come from society, then it is subjective ….”

    Non sequitur. We can derive objective moralities from our innate nature without invoking celestial spy camera deities.

    “Raping a woman, for instance, could not really be considered wrong, because morality is subjective.”

    If you really think you might go around raping women because no great sky pixie is watching you, then I submit that you in fact do not have any morality to begin with. Morality is what you do when nobody is watching – doing the right thing to avoid punishment or to curry favour is not what we are striving for.

    “The Christian attributes this to God….”

    For what reason? Simply because it’s what they believe? That is not a good basis to convince anyone else.

    “But as to evil, we have to consider an alternative side to the supernatural coin, which is where the product of hell, the devil and demons come in.”

    And where, pray tell, did these originate from? According to the mythology your god created them, yet we are still to assume he is an all loving entity.

    “But how do we explain that we have intangible concepts?”

    Demonstrate one intangible quality any one of us has.

    “How do we reconcile knowledge, love, emotion, morality?”

    These are either labels for real things, or judgements of behaviours and emotions.

    “If these are tangible, you could show them to me.”

    Check out brain scan images.

    “Many say these are housed in the brain, but if I were to ask you to show me love, you would show me neurones.”

    Exactly, because “love” is a mental process that occurs within the brain. What you are asking for is a jar of love, which does not exist.

    “The soul is the theist’s explanation for the intangible nature of concept.”

    But you have not answered the question. How does the soul experience this thing (substance?) you call “love”.

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    • Responses:

      Point #1: Autobiographies aren’t considered such because they don’t claim to be such. Since the Bible itself claims to be the inspired Word of God, we need to look at the evidence for its historical accuracy. The external corroboration I’ve already provided in response to some of the others is part of the equation, but the internal consistency is the second part, which I understand is much in debate but I think stands when one takes an objective hermeneutical approach to the text instead of cherrypicking verses without establishing context.

      Point #2: Agreed. Not all of the stuff in the Bible can be proven to a certainty, but neither can what happened in Caesar’s Gallic Wars (by the way, look up how many pre-1000AD copies of the Gallic Wars we have compared to the New Testament; which one is more believable?), so we can’t accept that as real then, nor can we accept most of the writings of the ancient Greeks. Apply the same context to all of them, and the Bible has much more authority for its authenticity than any of the others.

      Point #3: My one source is the concept of soul, which we will discuss later. There is no “begging the question” then. This is where your atheistic perspectives come into play. How can you say that divorce, wedlock pregnancies, abuse on other people are “following God’s rules”? To say that is God’s moral code means one has not studied said moral code, and I would encourage you to look more deeply at what the Bible says on such matters.

      Point #4: Isn’t this sort of what I’ve been saying, that we derive objective morality from our innate nature? My question still remains: where do we get this innate nature from biologically? I guess that’s where we’ll discuss the brain and intangibility. To be continued.

      Point #5: “Morality is what you do when nobody is watching”…doesn’t this mean morality is separate from social evolution and culture? And if it’s what you do when nobody’s watching, why do you choose to do what you do when nobody’s watching, and how can that be considered wrong without an objective moral compass? I think you’re making my point for me here.

      Point #6: The Christian attributes this to God because there is no reason to submit this is biological as I’ve tried to explain, and also because the Christian takes the Bible as truth. See points #1 and #2.

      Point #7: God created the angels that chose to revolt, yes, but He also gave them the same free will He gave us, and this free will implies more love than not having it, because without it we would just be mindless robots doing whatever He wanted us to do. A choice gives us the opportunity to choose HIM, thereby increasing the quality of the relationship. Besides, God doesn’t give ALL of His love to us, because if we had perfect love we would be God, and we are so obviously not God. But that means without perfect love we have the choice whether to take advantage of what He has given us or not. So these ideas of hell, the devil and demons come from free will, which we all possess too. So I guess you can say they’re as much our fault as anything.

      Point #8: Love, peace, patience, morality. Show me their tangibility, which goes to the next points.

      Points #9,10,11: Again if they are real things, you could show me love. A judgment of behavior means that the brain is interpreting these things, not creating them. If the brain biologically creates love, then you either have to show me tangibility or that something tangible can create something intangible. Brain scan images: I see waves, not love. Again, you are trying to equate two things that science does not. You have to do better than this as a naturalist. The burden of proof is on you here, because I’m already stating that these concepts live intangibly in the soul, for which there is no refutation because there is no proof of tangibility. To a theist, emotions live in the soul, are interpreted by the brain, and are expressed in things like facial expressions and physical posturing. There is no reasonable evidence to the contrary.

      Point #12: The soul experiences love because it is placed there by God. The reason we all have love is because we all possess a soul. But people interpret it differently, because we all have brains that are able to process things differently. That’s why something you see as love is not necessarily seen by someone else as love. That doesn’t mean love doesn’t exist; just how it is interpreted is different. Besides, if love were biological, couldn’t it be destroyed completely? Or morality? Couldn’t we cease to have any morality if it were biological, and wouldn’t that mean that humanity would cease to exist? See Allen’s comment.

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    • Point #1

      “Since the Bible itself claims to be the inspired Word of God….”

      And how exactly do you know this claim is true? Because the Bible says it’s true? And you know this because god says (in the Bible) that the Bible is true? Have you ever heard of circular reasoning?

      “….we need to look at the evidence for its historical accuracy.”

      Again, as I said above, demonstrating there was a place named Bethlehem gets you nowhere near proving Mary was a virgin when god get here “up the duff”. You need evidence for each individual claim. They either stand or fall on their own merits.

      “… but the internal consistency is the second part…”

      Are you aware of the incredible number of contradictions in the Bible? Let me give you one tiny example: In Exodus 20:13 god says “though shall not kill” (one of the 10 commandments held up by many Christians as the perfect guide for a society), yet in Exodus 32:27 God says “Thus saith the Lord or Israel…slay every man, his brother, and every man in his companion, and every man his neighbour.”. Which is it?

      A long time ago I made a video on this subject – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVpTzThdsds

      Point #2

      “Not all of the stuff in the Bible can be proven to a certainty, but neither can what happened in Caesar’s Gallic Wars ….”

      But neither are they extraordinary claims. Wars have been occurring for as long as our species can remember, but for all the people killed not one of them has ever miraculously returned to life after spending 3 days stone cold dead. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      Point #3

      “My one source is the concept of soul ….”

      Which you have not demonstrated to exist. Once again your reasoning is circular – we are moral which proves a soul, and a soul exists because we are moral.

      “This is where your atheistic perspectives come into play.”

      No such thing. I am a sceptic when it comes to your claims. My rejection of them makes me an atheist.

      “How can you say that divorce, wedlock pregnancies, abuse on other people are “following God’s rules”?”

      I didn’t. What I said was that millions of people claim to be fervent followers of Christ, yet their populations exhibit larger rates of divorce, abortions, teen pregnancies, and sexually transmitted disease.

      “.. I would encourage you to look more deeply at what the Bible says on such matters.”

      Thanks. I have read the entire Bible and it’s one of the things that lead to be reject the entire nonsense.

      Point #4

      “My question still remains: where do we get this innate nature from biologically?”

      It’s innate; hence we do not need to derive it from anywhere. But if you insist, the behaviours we consider “moral” result in an evolutionary advantage, thus make us more likely to survive over competing strategies.

      Point #5

      “… and how can that be considered wrong without an objective moral compass?”

      As I said – morality is innate. This is the very definition of objective.

      Point #6

      “The Christian attributes this to God because there is no reason to submit this is biological as I’ve tried to explain…”

      Sure Christians attribute desirable behaviours to the Christian God, but they do not have good reasons for doing so. Simply asserting it as fact does not make it so.

      Point #7

      “God created the angels that chose to revolt…”

      Evidence please. Ever seen an angel? Ever seen one created? You are claiming to know they have free will – how do you know this?

      “… and this free will implies more love than not having it, because without it we would just be mindless robots doing whatever He wanted us to do.”

      So God cannot predict the results of giving us “free will”? What makes him “all knowing” in this scenario?

      “So these ideas of hell, the devil and demons come from free will ….”

      And because God gave us “free will” he implicitly created hell, devils, and demons. Nice one God.

      “So I guess you can say they’re as much our fault as anything.”

      So God gets a magical “get out of hell free” card. I call this special pleading.

      Point #8

      “Love, peace, patience, morality. Show me their tangibility…”

      They are NOT tangible. They are mental constructs we use to label certain types of behaviour.

      Points #9,10,11

      “A judgment of behavior means that the brain is interpreting these things, not creating them….”

      Total failure.

      “If the brain biologically creates love, then you either have to show me tangibility or that something tangible can create something intangible.”

      Brain activity is internally experienced as many things. We can induce brain patterns which result in feelings of euphoria, happiness, or nausea. You ARE your brain. There is no dualism here.

      “Brain scan images: I see waves, not love. Again, you are trying to equate two things that science does not.”

      No, what I see are patterns which repeatedly result in similar feelings within the subjects. We can observe, measure, and predict the results of chemical and electrical interference on the brain. We witness the changed personalities and behaviours of those who have damaged their brains through injury or drug use. Every piece of evidence points to the brain being the origin the personality.

      What you are doing is extending this to include something called a “soul”. I am open to the idea, but what you will need to do is demonstrate such an entity exists and describe how it interacts with the brain (or the person). You have not gone anywhere close to this yet.

      “The burden of proof is on you here, because I’m already stating that these concepts live intangibly in the soul..”

      There is a claim for which you have accepted the burden of proof. I am willing to hear your best argument for how love can live intangibly in a “soul”.

      “… for which there is no refutation because there is no proof of tangibility.”

      …and already you are admitting you have no tangible evidence and your hypothesis is not falsifiable.

      “There is no reasonable evidence to the contrary.”

      There is no reason to accept it as fact either.

      Point #12

      “The soul experiences love because it is placed there by God.”

      Yet another bald faced assertion. Don’t suppose you have any verifiable evidence for this claim?

      “The reason we all have love is because we all possess a soul.”

      Assertion without evidence.

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  13. It’s too bad that Lot didn’t have a copy of the bible, or else he wouldn’t have let those bastards rape his daughters. And then it was too bad the daughters didn’t have a copy when they got their dad drunk and had sex with him.

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  14. Wow. Looks like I started a wildfire. Let me try to address as many as I can without it getting too laborious for me to write or for you all to read. :-)

    Skiapod, let me have a day or so to look into the dilemma you listed, for I have not heard of it. I will get back to you on this. As to your claim that any act that causes suffering is a bad act, then if you were shoot someone in self-defense, it would be a bad act. Defending a spouse’s honor from verbal attack would be a bad act, because it could cause suffering in the other individual. Hitting a home run to win the game would be a bad act, because it causes the opposing team to suffer shame in defeat. Rocket science? I’ll let you be the judge.

    Oz Atheist, has Da Vinci Code ever purported to be non-fiction like the Bible has? And what dates, locations and places that have been verified by external corroboration and found in the Da Vinci Code are fiction? Let’s call a spade a spade, and look at what purports to be historical and what doesn’t. Haven’t read your blog yet that you took from this, but I suppose I may be able to make the same comment over there.

    Paul O’Donnell, read Josephus for external corroboration, even as to the existence of Jesus Christ. For archaeology, look at the example of the city of Jericho, where only the findings that the original walls fell outward from the city to create a perfect ramp of rubble for the Israelites to get up would allow the siege from the book of Joshua to happen realistically. What evidence do you have to refute that? There’s evidence on both accounts. Have at it. As to the nature of life and afterlife, an afterlife doesn’t distract from this life; rather, it compounds and defines new meaning for having it. As to the original sin, who caused that? Certainly not God if you take the Bible at face value. And sending His Son to die on a cross definitely shows me His love for me in not wanting to be separated from me for eternity, and also that God isn’t willing to subject you to any more suffering than He is willing to go through Himself. Sort of makes Him personal, doesn’t it? But let’s not get too personal now. :-)

    Fergal, how do you know that murder, robbery, rape are unpleasant experiences to begin with? If it’s that they cause pain and suffering, then that would define your code of ethics, for which I could point you to my comment to Skiapod. Your code of ethics in that situation would also mean that getting a shot from your doctor to prevent tetanus is just as bad as getting raped. Forgive me for not agreeing. In order to distinguish between the two you need objective morality, not social evolution. PS Show me where the Bible promotes rape, and I’ll show you a verse either mis-spoken or taken out of context. People who don’t read the Bible seriously tend to do both.

    Working my way through, folks. Let me break this up into two chunks. :-)

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    • Sabepashubbo, some decent points there, but I don’t believe they preclude the use of reasoning (and common sense!!!!!!) to establish morality using suffering as an objective standard.

      If God told you to rape a woman because it is good (and it is good because he said so), and if you didn’t you would burn in hell, you’d do it?

      And what about things that are not covered in the Bible? What is that based on?

      And what about the evil and suffering encouraged by God in the Bible? What do Christians do when they conveniently cherry pick from the Bible?
      Also, if atheism is conducive to rampant immorality, why are mostly secular societies (e.g., Sweden) the safest places in the world. Look at the evidence, instead of nonexistent divine providence.
      Sorry about the rambling nature of this; I am doing at this at work, which is wrong – because my real boss says so :)

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    • “… read Josephus for external corroboration….. ”

      Josephus wrote about the phenomenon of Christianity, not about Jesus himself. He was not an eye witness, nor probably even spoke to someone who was. He lived far away and centuries after the events he writes about, and even then mentions them briefly and in passing.

      Josephus adds as much weight to Christianity as I would add to Islam if I were to write about Muhammad today. None whatsoever.

      Try again.

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  15. Part 2. :-)

    Allen, see my comment to Paul O’Donnell for corroboration and archaeology, although that is a very narrow scope of all of the historical evidence for the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible. As to your morality example, what is the basis for outlawing crime, murder, etc.? If you were to apply the same example but replace crime with pregnancy/birth, you could develop a moral code that teaches that pregnancy is wrong and the first culture would outlive the second. You need some kind of basis for establishing your moral code, or else we could place any act in place of crime/murder and get very different results. That’s why I believe in objective morality. I agree that if morality were not here humanity could not sustain its existence. No problem there. The question is what morality is and where it comes from. No one has seemed to argue my point of intangibility. Do you dare? :-)

    Andrew Skegg, I need to respond to you individually. Your post is too long to try to wrap into the others.

    EricHetvile, that would definitely have helped matters, wouldn’t it? But if we are instilled with objective morality, wouldn’t Lot and his daughters have had it too? So they are without excuse as well, although we are much more accountable if we have an instruction manual that they didn’t. I think what you’re doing, whether you meant to or not, is actually supporting my point instead of invalidating it. Sorry if that’s not what you meant to accomplish.

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  16. I’m only back because I promised Skiapod I would respond on the Euthyphro dilemma. If you guys are going to dispute the credibility of Josephus (Oz Atheist) and make ad hominem arguments (Andrew Skegg), then I would point your lasers elsewhere, because I’m not here to defend against either.

    Skiapod, the issue I see with the Euthyphro dilemma is the assumption that morality is something that was created, and therefore it is something that God has to either act on or react to. The Christian perspective is that morality is a part of God’s nature; in essence, He IS morality, just like He IS love, IS truth, etc. The piece of Himself that God has given us as morality shows what His morality is like, but since we can’t use anything but analogical language to talk about God we can’t know what pure Morality actually is. What morality entails is a part of our innate nature that understands that there are things that are right and there are things that are wrong. What is wrong is what is contradictory with God’s nature (for instance, lying is wrong because it is contradictory to God’s nature, since He cannot lie). I think the false-dilemma response on this site (particularly Timothy McCabe’s inference of mathematically breaking it down) is notable and appropriate here.

    In addition, (and this sort of addresses Andrew’s Biblical contradiction), if you were to actually read the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible, you would see that the Bible does not condemn killing someone. The verse in the 10 commandments is “You shall not MURDER”. This is internally consistent when in Aramaic Jesus says, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not MURDER, but I tell you that anyone who hates his neighbor has committed murder in his heart.'” So killing is not bad; it is murder that is universally immoral. Don’t you think if killing was wrong we would be sending all people who killed in self-defense to prison too, especially because it causes suffering?

    But again, to use suffering as the objective moral standard means that every act that we take as humans has the potential to be wrong, because it could inflict suffering on someone else (see the getting a medical shot or hitting a home run arguments previously). This would also mean that the suffering of Jesus on a cross is a bad thing, even though the Christian understands that there are absolutely good implications as a result. There has to be some kind of objective measuring stick outside of suffering by which we measure right and wrong, good and bad.

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    • I challenge you to find a single ad hominem attack in my posts.

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    • One question: you account morality to god and Christ, his suffering etc, how do you account for morality among those who are not Christian and in religions older than Christianity?

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  17. Atheistclimber,

    I wasn’t going to respond anymore, but as you are the owner of this blog I feel I owe you the courtesy, since it is to your post I responded originally.

    I think you misunderstood when you said I account morality to Christ’s suffering. I was saying quite the opposite. What I’m saying is that you can’t say that Christ’s suffering on the cross was morally bad, because to the Christian think of all the good that came from that. It was merely a theistic example of why suffering can’t be the objective measuring stick for morality. It sounds like you agree, so your issue is with Skiapod, and not me. :-)

    How do I account for morality among Christians and in religions older than Christianity? Well, I think I’ve stated from the beginning that morality comes from God and dwells in all people. God didn’t start existing only when Christ died, and God doesn’t exist solely for the Christian. That would be akin to saying that God created only the Christian humans but He didn’t create the non-Christian humans. That’s absurd; either all of us were created by Him or none of us were created by Him. I think we all agree to that point.

    However, if God exists, then He is the definition of perfect Morality, which He extends to all people. That means from the very formation of our world, people had morality as a part of their nature, given to them from God. The Christian God transcends time and space, and so He has always existed and will always exist, which is how people before Christianity and non-Christians are able to possess the same morality as modern-day Christians. To the Christian this makes perfect sense, because if we’re all accountable to God we sure as heck better all start off from the same point.

    Hope that helps. :-)

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  18. “…read Josephus for external corroboration…”
    The passage in Josephus’ account in which Jesus is mentioned is in dispute, even by biblical scholars, it is fairly widely accepted the passage was added later by a Christian. Some, mainly Christian, scholars do accept that the words are Josephus’ but that he is only repeating what someone else said. Either way it doesn’t add a whole lot of weight to the authenticity of the Bible.

    As far as Jericho goes, I recommend you read my blog, hopefully it will answer some questions, including why I referenced The Da Vinci Code, bit disappointed that you didn’t read it before trying to respond to it? (you can comment back here or there)

    As far as your statement “look at what purports to be historical” that’s the whole point. Christians purport the bible is historical but there is conflicting evidence or a complete lack of evidence for some (many?) of the events. So is it historical or not. I say not.

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