Out From Under the Umbrella

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Evolving Morality


I’ve been reading around the blogosphere for, now, going on four years.  The reason many Christians to try to give for their God not outlawing certain practices falls woefully short of any sound logic. So the reasoning goes, and I have used this reasoning myself in my Christian days, that God did not want to take away our free will, our autonomy, our ability to choose these things.  Take slavery, for instance:  Christian logic dictates God’s edicts about the treatment of slaves is merely legislation of a societal practice already in place.

This same logic rationalizes the way the spoils of war were treated. By spoils of war I don’t just mean possessions.  Or do I?  What are women and children in the Bible if not possessions?  When Israel made their conquests they were told to annihilate their foes, killing all the men, and taking the women, children and livestock for their plunder(Deut. 20:13-15).  The Israelites were authorized to use their plunder for themselves.  Got that?  They could use the women and children.  These were the rules of engagement for those cities who simply lay in their path on the way to their promised land.  Oh sure, those cities would be offered a chance for a peaceful surrender; one that involved submitting themselves willfully to slavery.  Who could resist that offer?

Even worse were the rules of engagement for the cities to which they would lay siege and call home.  In those cities they were to kill everything that had breath(Deut. 20:16-18). Men, women, children, the precious babies, livestock….everything. Why?  Because their idolatry might rub off on the Jews.  Yes, those tiny little newborns, little kiddies, and cattle would lead God’s people down the primrose path of destruction.  The only thing safe in those cities were the fruit bearing trees(Deut. 20:19-20).  Anything else was fair game for use in their efforts to win the battle.

These rules came from that staunch arbiter of objective morality, Himself.  Himself has declared himself to be good, so Divine Command Theory suggests that anything that Himself does, commands, or says is also good.  We don’t have to like it; we just have to believe it an do it.  What does it say about the supreme being that some consider to be the author of all things ethical that we have evolved past these archaic and barbaric practices in most of the civilized world?  What does that say about morality, in general, that you and I are more compassionate, more advanced in our thinking than the supposed creator of the universe?

I think it says quite a bit about where morality really comes from.  Let’s talk about the ten commandments, shall we?

ten_commandmentsIf the Judeo-Christian God did not mean to impede free will, autonomy, or choice why lay down any laws at all?  If making a law against an act infringes on free will why do the ten commandments not infringe on free will? The making of a law does not infringe on the notion of free will at all.  What’s that saying?  Rules are made to be broken?  Reading through the ten commandments objectively( 😉 ) one can easily see that these are a social construct.  The first four deal with unification of he people.  We all worship the same deity, in the same way, and with the same fervor.  That intensifies the last six.  If the people believe that these laws are being laid down by a supernatural being who will strike them down for disobeying the last six they’re much more likely to obey them.  The leaders could say, ‘hey, it’s not us, it’s God!’

Telling children to obey their parents seems like a good place to start.  After all, children belong to their parents; it’s only right that they should kowtow to their every demand and command with a hearty ‘yes sir!’ and ‘yes ma’am!’.  What if the parents are terrible?  Same deal, right?  Only in today’s society we recognize that sometimes staying as far away from our parents is the most honoring thing we can do.  We don’t automatically assume every parent to be worthy of having children.  Just because a person has reached a certain age doesn’t follow that they’ve reached any level of maturity or sanity, for that matter.  We know that now.

Many translations change ‘Thou shalt not kill’ to ‘Thou shall not murder’.  We know that instinctively, do we not, that murder is not acceptable in society.  We have evolved with, not only a sense of empathy, but a sense of survival that tells us that if we murder everyone else we might be king for a day, but in the long run we’re kind of screwed.  We need other people, we need a community, to survive and perpetuate our species.

Adultery, theft, and covetousness all deal with possessions.  You read that right.  Possessions.  In the Old Testament the only way a man committed adultery was to fornicate with another man’s wife.  A man could have as many wives and concubines as he wanted and never was considered to be committing adultery.  Why was it adultery for him to have sex with another man’s wife?  Because she was his possession.  He owned her and any children she might have so if she fornicated with another and bore children the other man could lay claim to those children.  The husband would have now way of knowing if those children were his property or not.  On the other hand, a woman could only have one husband.  Many read into the New Testament a command for marriage to be between only one man and one woman, but that’s taking serious liberties with the scripture.  Nowhere is the practice of polygamy condemned.  You won’t find it.

Not bearing false witness against our neighbors is a rational and reasonable law.  Slander and false testimony intended to deprive a person of their property or good reputation is detrimental to a functioning society.  Again, a social law for the good of the community.

Do we really need a deity to tell us not to do these things?  Does laying down the law impede our ability to choose?  Simply, no.  Is this by any means objective morality?  Clearly not when the deity, Himself, arbitrarily chooses when and how they should be implemented.  It’s not okay to kill your neighbor, but it is okay, even commanded, to slay the entirety of a nation?  Even the way the spoils of war are treated has evolved because we know that however we treat prisoners of war will be meted out to those of our own who are taken captive.  Thus we’ve created laws which prescribe the code of conduct regarding the treatment of prisoners and plunder.  We’ve made slavery, rape, and abuse against the law in most countries.  We recognize the harm that is perpetrated, not only to individuals, but to entire societies.

Why do Christians continually excuse the lack of compassion and morality their god displays with the wave of a hand and write it off to free will?  It’s a ridiculous notion if you really consider it.  ‘Thou shalt not have slaves’ is much easier to say and shorter to write than the plethora of laws concerning treatment of slaves, up to and including how to beat your slave and in what circumstance it is acceptable to kill him or her.  That’s no more an infringement than ‘thou shall not murder’. ‘Thou shall not rape’ is much better than ‘if a woman can’t be heard screaming out you must pay her parents the dowry and marry her’.  If a person cannot read these laws and come to the conclusion that these were a product of the times and the society, instead of rationalizing how God isn’t complicit in abhorrent behaviors because he was merely a legislator, then they seriously need to re-examine their ability to reason at all.

Still, even though we’ve evolved past these simplistic, barbaric, archaic laws there are those who murder, steal, lie, cheat and covet. The laws set forth in the Bible are no more objective than the laws let forth by society.  There is no more objectivity in a given law simply because it comes from an ancient document.  Those who hold that objective morality comes from God are deluding themselves.

I’m in agreement with Violet that morality has evolved over time.    Ignostic Atheist summed it up well with this comment in response to Mark Hamilton’s moral argument:

Morality has 20/20 hindsight, therefore it is absolute (duh, of course that was wrong to do). In the future, we may discover thing that we do now are immoral, therefore morality is relative (this is nice, but oh, it hurts someone down the line). If a person can argue that slavery is absolutely wrong, but admit that, at one point, it was considered acceptable, then they must adopt the relative framework, because it is impossible to know, even if there exists an absolute framework to discover, whether or not you have fully discovered that framework.
Well, duh!  That’s absolute morality, folks.

114 thoughts on “Evolving Morality

  1. The ten commandments of the Christian and Jewish holy texts was a rip off of the code of hammurabi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi

    That’s why they had to be in stone. The first four ‘laws’ are about god himself, meaning that 40% were about how to worship. They are all negative laws, none say ‘be excellent to one another’

    Note that these laws were so important that Moses broke the first set into pieces because the Jews at the bottom of the mountain on which god himself was sitting could not get their worship correct.

    Further note that Jewish scholars and others today believe the story of Moses and the exodus, including the 10 commandments bit, are just a story and never really happened… because there is no evidence for it at all.


    • Not having gone to University and having been highly discouraged from consulting any material outside of the Bible or otherwise approved by The Southern Baptist Convention, imagine my shock and dismay upon learning about the Code of Hammurabi. 😯

      Right, all the people knew that Moses was on the mountaintop chatting it up with God, himself, but they just couldn’t wait so they melted down all their jewelry and made a cow to bow to. M’kay.

      And I thought somewhere in all of that I wrote that Moses likely didn’t exist at all, but it was getting so long I didn’t go into great detail. Maybe I should find a link to some backup for that, but most people don’t actually click on the links. 😦


  2. The Greatest Commandment given by God to Moses and then given by Jesus to all of mankind can be paraphrased as the following:

    Love God and love your neighbor.

    The Greatest Commandment is ancient.

    Since God is not a ruthless dictator like your average atheist thug politician he leaves it up to man to freely choose his own way.

    Since murder and stealing are natural laws it is no surprise that prohibitions against them appear in nearly every culture at any time in history.


  3. Good post and very true. I wrote in a post of mine on atheism and morality, “Morality is the generally accepted standards of behavior within the society at a point in time. For individuals, morality is the willingness to accept, if not embrace, the generally accepted standards of behavior held within a society at a point in time. Morality is not objective. It’s not absolute. It’s relativistic.


    • “Morality is the generally accepted standards of behavior within the society at a point in time.”

      I would also add that those morals seem to be evolving. As Ignostic Atheist said, hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to look back and see harmful actions after the fact and build upon that. We are quite reactionary. That’s why we have warning signs on outdoor grills not to use them inside, for instance. Some nitwit used it inside, caused him/herself harm and with the benefit of hindsight the company sticks a warning sign on the grill. Because it’s easier to look back and see what could have been done better.


  4. you nailed this post.


  5. That was really interesting. All that stuff about possessions and adultery is relatively new to me, and I can see how it makes sense of so much more. I hope Mark pops round and gets enlightened, my conversation with him went no-where – again.
    Love your chat with SOM, that’s an inspiring way to deal with his comments. 🙂


    • Up until relatively recently women were considered chattel – property to be had like a cow or a car. I’m not surprised that your conversation with him is falling on deaf ears. It’s easy to talk past one another when dealing with issues of morality depending on what the presuppositions are. If one presumes a god then that god will be the source of what they presume is objective morality. It’s easy to see within their own scriptures, though, that even that morality is subjective. The only thing that remains remotely objective morality is God-worship. One might argue that those ten commandments are always objective. IOW, not keeping them is always wrong. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who actually keeps the Sabbath, though.


      • Part of the difficulty, I think, lies in the confusion between absolute morality and objective morality. Absolute morality is a standard, courtesy of a moral giver or a strange, separate moral reality. Objective morality is determined independently of an individual and impartial to biases. For some reason, people have taken to calling absolute morality objective, and then contrasting objective with relative, as though they are opposing positions. They are not.


        • Agreed. I’m guilty of using the terms that way myself. But I can see where absolute morality and objective morality could be and are often conflated.


    • I agree Violet. Ruth has found a smooth way to deal with SoM


    • Violet, it’s been an interesting time over at “askthebigot” 🙂 It’s nice to be back over here with reasonable people.

      Great post Ruth !


      • Thanks, Ken. I followed along over there. It was very interesting.


      • Ruth, I’m really glad you did this post today. I needed a “reset” back to reality. Yes morality is evolving, but there are still people like askthebigot and her followers who sincerely believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible and nothing has changed in 2500 years.

        I believe they are examples of what indoctrination does to someone.


      • Haha, glad you popped over, it was a relief to know the conversation continued after I was deleted.


      • You’re not alone. She was getting ready to delete Ark too. I did challenge her reasoning for “un-approving” your comments . She simply said if we wanted to discuss it further, we could do it on our blogs not hers. She obviously isn’t the least bit interested in hearing anyone else’s point of view.


  6. Ruth how can you say all the above about the Ten Commandments? Did you forget that of all the things we have in the bible, it is only these that we are told he personally wrote on stone tablets which Moses didn’t seem to care about since he made better use of the tablets anyway!


  7. That’s a damn good point about the commandments actually contravening free will. Funny, that’d never occurred to me. Great work! Another logical blunder to add to my list 🙂


    • John,

      God’s commandments can’t possibly contravene free will since every man, woman and child ever born has always been free to disregard them.

      I use you and every other atheist as proof that my statement is true.


      • “free to disregard them…” Now come on SOM, finish the sentence. “Free to disregard them… under threat of certain and guaranteed punishment.” The equation just doesn’t look too “free”, does it?


      • SOM , did you even bother to read Ruth’s Post from beginning to end ? No rational person could keep drinking the koolaid if they read it ….. at least without some serious questions about what they believe.

        Did her post raise any questions in your mind ?


        • Chief,

          Here is the thesis of Ruth’s post. It is the second sentence:

          “The reason many Christians to try to give for their God not outlawing certain practices falls woefully short of any sound logic.”

          Here is God proving that Ruth’s thesis is false:

          “You will love God with all your whole heart, your whole soul and with all your strength. And you will love your neighbor as yourself.”

          That says it all.

          No rape. No pillage. No slavery.

          Because God outlawed them.

          That atheists insist on blaming God for the evil that men do shows that atheists don’t have any real arguments against God’s goodness, his justice, his wisdom or his mercy.


          • So, the rest of the words in the Bible are just filler? Or, some things just warranted a ‘thou shalt not’ and others just a ‘don’t beat them quite to death’? The only things God said were to love him with our whole hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves and the rest of the book is a man-made construct?


          • Ruth,

            To find out whether the rest of the Bible is filler, you’ll have to do a little reading and a lot of study to find out for yourself.

            I’m only quoting Jesus and Moses, from the Bible.


          • SoM,

            I’ve read. A lot. I’ve studied. A lot.

            I’d like to have meaningful discussion about these things. When Christians wave off these questions with, “Love God, love your neighbor,” it doesn’t address the issues. Moreover it gives the impression that, not only are the questions not relative or important, but that they ought not even be asked.

            I’ve raised serious concerns within the framework of the book you, yourself, have called inerrant – not using any outside sources or materials. While I realize that some portions of the Bible are merely supposedly reports of what happened during a particular time, what I have questioned here are written down as commands from God, himself.

            You have reconciled the same God who said to kill everything that breathes with the one who said ‘Love God, love your neighbor,’ as if that is some kind of magic trump card.

            This isn’t meant to be argumentative. You come here and make sweeping generalizations about “you atheists” when you refuse to engage with any sources or back-up for your arguments. Maybe you have compiled years of study and all of that just works together to form your arguments, but one would think that if you are all that well-read you could provide citation to actual material.

            Lastly, when you dismiss scholarly works as being heretical out of hand when you haven’t even read it, and you refuse to read or consider any citation or material that doesn’t confirm your bias it leaves little room for discussion. You speak of Moses writings as if they are, in fact, his writings. Even the Catholic teachings are open and honest with the fact that the OT was written anonymously.

            Moses likely didn’t even exist. To say you’re only quoting Moses is less than satisfying.


          • Ruth,

            I quoted from Moses and Jesus.

            They are the one’s God, the Father, chose to teach mankind about Himself.

            I have waved off nothing.

            What I have done is give you the most fundamental teaching of the Bible, it’s basic meaning, in fact.

            That isn’t what I say, it’s what God said.

            God said it in the Old Testament and Jesus repeated it clear as a bell in the New Testament.

            That the fundamental meaning of the Bible doesn’t match your atheist talking points and your leftist university indoctrination into atheism is only natural and to be expected.

            To understand the Bible you have to understand the religious teachings that are its source.

            Atheist propaganda is the absolute worse source for learning what the Bible means.

            It’s like learning gourmet cooking from a rat who livings in the sewer.


          • Which is why I have purposely steered clear of any atheist writings. What I have studies is the Bible itself and Bible commentaries by Bible teachers.

            It has been none other than the Bible, itself, which caused me to become an agnostic/atheist.


          • Ruth,

            You have not studied the Bible.

            You have studied the atheist interpretation of the Bible.

            To learn what the Bible means you have to go to the institution that composed the Bible and gave it to mankind.

            That institution is the Catholic Church.

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the official compendium on the authentic meaning of the Bible.

            Unless a book has the “nihil obstat” approval of the Church inside the book’s cover, it’s phony baloney.

            It is the Church who gets to define its own teachings, self appointed blowhards who are pushing personal agendas.


          • So it is your contention that anything not sanctioned by the Catholic Church is atheist in nature and not to be trusted?

            So the fact that I have studied from the Southern Baptist approved materials makes them atheist in nature?


          • Ruth,

            You are now playing word games, which is a tacit admission that you have no real response to irrefutable facts.

            My point is that only the institution that first composed, published and taught the Bible has the authority and understanding to determine its meaning.

            You can spin that any way you like, but that simple fact remains.


          • I asked questions. I didn’t make statements. I wasn’t spinning anything. I wanted to know your position on the matter.

            Are you saying that any teachings outside the Catholic Church are hokum?


          • Ruth,

            The Catholic definition of heresy is any teaching that disagrees with those taught by Jesus and passed to the Apostles.

            In the New Testament, Jesus makes it clear that he founded his church on Peter the Rock and that only the Apostles and their hand picked successors had the authority to teach the doctrines of Christianity.

            That means that the first Protestant, Martin Luther (a Catholic priest) had absolutely no authority whatsoever, other than what he granted to himself, to redefine Christianity, which is what he did.

            The Catholic Church teaches that Protestantism is a heresy because its teachings differ from those taught by the Bible and by the Church.

            The Protestant citation of the Bible as the basis for Christian doctrine is as phony as the atheist citation of science as the basis for atheism.


          • That seems a rather odd accusation from an organization that hijacked Judaism.


          • Ruth,

            The Jews who sent Jesus to his most horrid death felt exactly the same way.

            But Israel was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70AD and the Jews scattered all over Sam Hill.

            It wasn’t until 1948 that the Christian Allies of Western Civilization re-created Israel and gave it back to the Jews.

            Quite an act of mercy, don’t you think?


          • Unless a book has the “nihil obstat” approval of the Church inside the book’s cover, it’s phony baloney.

            To paraphrase: “Only Catholicism can refute Catholicism.”


          • Apparently the Holy Spirit only works and talks through Catholic priests. That’s pretty scary.


          • Ruth,

            There is no refutation to faith.

            You should know that first hand since atheism is proven to be 100% faith-based.

            And no matter how many facts you are presented with you folks just keep parroting the same talking points.


          • As I am agnostic with regards to a god, I make no proclamations stating there is no god or gods. I haven’t been presented with sufficient evidence for any particular god.

            What you are calling facts is the Roman Catholic Church’s interpretation of scripture. If scripture is, in fact errant, it matters not who interprets it. If the beginning assumptions are faulty the conclusions drawn from treating it as inerrant will be just as faulty.

            Time and time again you have been presented with evidence – scientific, archaeological, philosophical, etc. – by various people and you dismiss it because it doesn’t have the Catholic Church’s seal of approval on it.

            By whose authority is the Catholic Church the arbiter of truth with regards to scripture? You claim as fact that the Catholic Church is the only authority with regards to both tradition and scripture. Which rite within the Catholic Church?






            Finally, you can rest assured when you lay your head down on your pillow that you have informed us all of our impending doom. Regardless of who has the authority to rightly divide “God’s Word” Jesus himself said(if you believe that Jesus actually said any of what is recorded in the Bible) it was his job alone to separate the sheep from the goats(not that either are particularly flattering terms) and the wheat from the chaff. Again, if you believe scripture to be true, Jesus said himself that many would say to him on the day of judgment, “Lord, lord, didn’t we preach, and teach, and drive out demons in your name?” and he said to them, “depart from me I never knew you.”

            I do hope you’re confident you aren’t in that group. But you must understand by now that, given free will, we have the choice to deny the authority of the Catholic Church. I’m exercising my god-given(according to you) free will to reject that authority, possibly at my own peril. As I don’t believe in hell or anything of the sort I’m not too worried.

            As for parroting the same talking points…pot meet kettle. You repeat the same tired lines over and over to no avail. What is your purpose in commenting here? I didn’t seek you out. You sought me out. The purpose of my blog is not to refute your faith. Keep it. It’s all yours. You have every right and prerogative to believe whatever it is you wish. As do I.


          • Ruth,

            Does not JK Rowling have the authority to interpret her own works?

            The Catholic Church compiled the Bible out of all the spiritual literature that had been circulating in Europe, Africa and the Near East for centuries.

            The duly authoritative and appointed bishops of the Church are the one’s who built biblical scripture around the teachings of Jesus and his Apostles.

            Consequently, it is the Church who gets to define its own work.


          • JK Rowling gets to interpret her own works because she wrote them. The Catholic Church may have compiled the Bible but they didn’t write it. The just jumbled a bunch of books weren’t even all written at the same time, together to form one canon. The Bible is comprised of a lot of different books. So, while the compilation may be the Catholic Church’s work, the writings are not.


          • Ruth,

            You missed the part about the bishops sifting through all the spiritual literature that had been circulating around Christendom for centuries.

            How did the bishops know which works to pick for their Bible?

            By the 4th century the Church was in a death struggle with very powerful, widespread heresies.

            The Bible, plus the work of the great saints of that era are what turned the tide.

            The Bible is Catholic because it was compiled by Catholic authorities.

            Without the Church there would have been no Bible, only the Jewish Torah.


          • And yet, the Catholic Church had murderous intent toward those wishing to translate scripture for the masses. Why do you think that is? Was it for noble reasons? That’s highly questionable.

            You may wish to rely on someone else to tell you what scripture means and how it should be interpreted. What does that say about you that you can’t understand it’s meaning for yourself.

            Again, SoM, I’m not under the authority of the Catholic Church. You are, but only because you have placed yourself there. I reject it’s authority, as is my right. You accept it, as is yours.


          • Ruth,

            The first Bible, the Vulgate Bible was written in Latin, the language of Empire.

            Most people until very recently were illiterate.

            And the printing press was invented around 1500AD.

            Consequently, it was impossible for there to exist a Bible for “the masses,” until modern times.

            The Church’s scrupulous and strict adherence of its own doctrines and its own work (the Bible) is a wonder, not a scandal.


          • SoM,

            I’m going to ask you, nicely, to stop littering up my post with your Catholic Church propaganda. Did the Catholic Church burn people at the stake for translating the Bible from Latin into common language or not?


            I have acknowledged your right to believe whatever you wish. You have provided no proof for the validity of the foundation of your faith, merely interpretation and paraphrase.

            Now, I though I made it explicitly clear that I reject the authority of the Catholic Church. It’s authority does not extend to me, nor anyone who is not of the Catholic tradition. It is simply not an organization with which I wish to affiliate myself for reasons, not the least of which, are that they did in fact burn people at the stake for perceived heresy.

            Because I reject the authority of the Catholic Church you will have to come up with some better documented proof than ‘because the Church said so’.


          • Ruth,

            A study of the Church includes all the warts and shortcomings of the men who served it.

            Logically we must understand that the men of the Church are people of their own life and times.

            Consequently, you are trying to employ a logical fallacy called the Nirvana Fallacy in addition to imposing upon the past, the modern Christian values you have absorbed from modern Christian society:

            “If it isn’t perfect it is no good,” sums up the Nirvana Fallacy.

            The modern Church adheres to the very values you hold the people of long gone centuries to, yet that isn’t enough for you either, is it?

            That’s because human beings can never be perfect.

            So the Nirvana Fallacy is a cheap bit of sophistry that atheists use instead of a real argument.


          • I’ve asked you nicely to stop with the Catholic Church propaganda. I never said that because it isn’t perfect it is no good. Now who is twisting words? I’m merely pointing out that I don’t think the Catholic Church is any more authoritative, nor any less a product of evolution, than any other.

            I don’t believe in your God. I don’t believe the Bible is an inerrant document. I don’t believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. I don’t believe that he was resurrected. At most what I believe is that Jesus existed, he possibly had a small following, and that he died. It is upon that basis I reject the authority of both the Catholic Church and the Bible.

            I have said that time and again and that isn’t good enough for you.


          • Ruth,

            Your beliefs are diametrically opposed to the facts.

            In fact, to you, the facts are Catholic propaganda.

            It doesn’t make any difference the subject, atheists consider any opposing argument to be either mental illness or propaganda.

            And look at you acting like your villain Catholics with your insistent attempt to squash any opposing ideas.

            You are exactly like the people you are criticizing.


          • Show me some facts regarding the virgin birth or the resurrection apart from errant scripture and we’ll have something to talk about.

            What you are calling facts are based on an erroneous document. I’m not squashing anything. I’ve pointed out to you what constitutes proof for me. That your standard is significantly lower is not my problem.


          • Ruth,

            By asking about the virgin birth you just used another logical fallacy called moving the goal post.

            Atheists are too poorly equipped with intellectual tools to form any arguments based on facts and logic.

            To the atheist a fact is anything they agree with or believe in.

            And that is exactly how a barbarian thinks.

            It has always been the duty of the Christian to stand against barbarism.


          • Okay. I thought I’d slip that one past you. Thanks for playing along.


          • Ruth, I agree with what you said to SoM above – we all get to make up our own minds, after careful consideration and deliberation. In my church, there is no talk of Hell; it’s a concept that is not accepted by most people I know – simply put, we don’t believe that SCARING people into behaving is a worthy pursuit.

            Another favourite Blogger of mine puts it this way and I agree with her. IF there is a god – and that’s a huge IF – I think s/he/it will be more impressed with the way I have treated people (or, if you’d rather a motto it could be concisely reduced to, “Don’t be an asshole”) than whose cosmic butt I’ve kissed.

            Simply put, I believe that the here-and-now is what we’ve got – the hereafter is anybody’s guess.


          • Carmen,

            Of course we can all make up our minds about everything we want.

            But our desires and our personal bias are not what determines what is true or false.


          • But our desires and our personal bias are not what determines what is true or false.

            Clearly you have none of those.


          • “Simply put, I believe that the here-and-now is what we’ve got – the hereafter is anybody’s guess.”

            Exactly! 🙂


      • Nice try SOM. “No rape. No pillage. No slavery. Because God outlawed them.”

        So he must have outlawed himself !


        • Chief,

          How can you say that?

          The Bible means what it means, not what atheists say it means.

          If you don’t come to grips with that then clearly it’s proof that atheism is nothing but propaganda meant for the uninformed.


      • SOM, I can say that I have studied , not just read the Bible with open eyes. I have 2 bible commentaries which I refer to as well. The Oxford Bible Commentary and A Catholic Commentary by Raymond E Brown. Even they point out many of the fallacies of the Bible. I have read the works of Geza Vermes who until his death last year was considered one of the premier scholars of the Bible. He doesn’t believe a physical resurrection occurred nor does he believe in the virgin birth.

        I’m not just hanging out in blogs to get my education. I took religion very seriously just like Ruth and many of the others here. But questions kept growing in number to which the Bible had no answers.

        Ruth did an excellent job showing how the Bible keeps losing credibility because of the absurd commands the Bible God said which our current society can no longer tolerate.

        No one here is telling you to burn your Bible. But you might do what Thomas Jefferson once did and cut out the parts that make no sense or that no longer can be tolerated.

        I have a Jefferson Bible. It’s a very thin book…………


        • Chief,

          The Catholic Church teaches that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

          That means Raymond WhatHisName? is a phony.

          So are the other authors you cite.

          Atheists shills is all they are.


      • SOM, “That means Raymond WhatHisName? is a phony.” “Unless a book has the “nihil obstat” approval of the Church inside the book’s cover, it’s phony baloney.”

        You are so totally clueless ! You are the one who needs to go back to school and do your research !

        There is an old saying, “It is better to appear stupid and remain silent than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”

        What wikipedia says about Raymond E Brown, “16] Much of Brown’s work was given a Nihil obstat and an Imprimatur (the “nihil obstat” is a statement by an official reviewer, appointed by a bishop, that “nothing stands in the way” of a book being given an imprimatur; the “imprimatur,” which must normally be issued by a bishop of the diocese of publication, is the official endorsement — “let it be printed” — that a book contains nothing damaging to Catholic faith and morals).[17] Brown was the expert appointed to review and provide the nihil obstat for The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, the standard basic reference book for Catholic Biblical studies, of which he was one of the editors and to which he himself contributed, as did dozens of other Catholic scholars.[18] The biblical scholar Ben Witherington dedicated his book The Jesus Quest to Brown (along with John P. Meier).[19]”


        • Chief,

          I am drawing on the Western Tradition which goes back over 2500 years.

          Who are you to call Aristotle, Saints Augustine and Aquinas and the 2000 year old Catholic Church clueless?

          Instead of responding with insults it would be great to at least one atheist in this new century actually make an effective argument.


      • SOM, you might also want to read this link about the “phony” Raymond E Brown as you refer to him. Thanks to ARK for providing it earlier in this thread.



      • Ruth, you are so very welcome. It is obvious S.O.M. doesn’t visit blogsites to share or even challenge points of view in an honest and intelligent way.

        For him, a Catholic, to discount Raymond Brown as a phony shows he opens mouth before engaging brain. I own the Catholic Bible Commentary which Raymond E Brown happened to be largely responsible for . I knew the instant SOM referred to him as a phony , he didn’t have a clue.

        Though I never believe in “banning” someone or even “deleting” their comments, there comes a time when people just have to be ignored . After a while they usually get the hint .

        Just a thought …….


        • That RCC Koolaid must be awfully good.

          I’ll leave it for now, just because he’s betraying his own ignorance, as he so often does. He still didn’t address any of the actual points I made or questions I asked. The only thing he could manage to do was school me on the authority of the Catholic Church. I swallowed enough of the Southern Baptist Koolaid to turn red. I don’t trust “church authority” anymore. He can peddle his RCC propaganda elsewhere.


      • SOM,” Who are you to call Aristotle, Saints Augustine and Aquinas and the 2000 year old Catholic Church clueless?”

        I wasn’t calling these people or the Catholic Church clueless ! I was calling you clueless ! You were the one calling one of the Catholic Church’s premier scholars , Raymond E Brown a “phony” because you had NO clue who he was.

        You need to read comments on these blogs 3 times before you respond once.


    • I just fail to see how commanding people not to own slaves or rape women, using specific language just like the ten commandments, infringes on free will any more than the ten commandments themselves. My point is that is silly logic. That Bible God legislates rather than mandates gives these practices his implicit endorsement. Now, the belief in hell, on the other hand changes the game considerably.


  8. silence of mind-

    I understand where you are coming from, really I do. I was there for many years as a Christian. Believing that God was so good and that the golden rule was the lens through which to see all other scriptures.

    I just don’t think it’s a very honest position in the end. Jesus and Moses also said many other things that don’t seem to fit into the Golden rule. It also gave God a free pass on the massive killings he commanded of Israel’s neighbors.

    How can you say that God commands us to love our neighbors and then turn around and defend his commands to kill Israel’s neighbors?

    It’s these sort of contradictions that woke me up to the hopeless pursuit of trying to reconcile modern morality with the moral deficiencies of the God of the Old and New Testament.



    • Exactly. When one can say that the whole of scripture boils down to ‘Love God, love your neighbor,’ how can they justify the wrathful God of the Old Testament?

      I’ve heard this rationalized a number of ways. One of them being:

      God is creator so he is deserving of all our worship and praise. The reason he gave these instructions was to keep his chosen people from being led astray. (I have even sat under teaching that was of the opinion that the reason the world is in it’s current state of chaos is that the Israelites didn’t do as God commanded them. Because they didn’t kill every breathing thing we have all these different religions).

      Quite loving, wouldn’t you say?


    • Agnostic,

      I’m not writing my comments based on “where I’m at.”

      My comments are simply composed, basic Christian teachings.

      Jesus said that the entire meaning of scripture could be summed up:

      “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”

      I didn’t say that, Jesus said that.

      Consequently, your argument is with Jesus, not with me.


      • come on….of course you’re writing where you are at.

        And if I’m not mistaken, you typed this response, not Jesus.

        I understand that you are quoting him, but are you seriously going to just side step my response?


  9. I agree with Jeanette Walls’ mother in the book, The Glass Castle – they should be referred to as the Ten SUGGESTIONS. . 🙂 – it works for me.


    • Well, that is how most Christians treat them, anyway. 😀


    • Carmen,

      By what authority does Jeanette Walls get to redefine the Ten Commandments as the Ten Suggestions?

      They are called commandments because that is what they are.

      The Jews and the Christians get to define their own beliefs, not atheists.

      Atheists can’t even explain atheism adequately, in fact.

      The atheists insistence on butchering language and annihilating the traditions that form the basis of civilized culture can only lead to cultural disintegration and a return to barbarism.


  10. I have it on good authority that it was all a complete misunderstanding based upon erroneous translation. The NIB – New Improved Bible- unexpurgated) with footnotes and a colouring in section for kiddies will read:

    And yea, Moses went up the mountain to espy across the land of Canaan where he would soon liquidate every living thing, as commanded by his god, Er…Ja…well.
    And, lo, after discussing the spoils of war and the profit, he came down the mountain with his Ten Commandos

    My emphasis.


  11. SoM, I’m a high-school English teacher. One of the tasks we pound away at is the difference between a FACT and an OPINION. In Jeanette Walls’ mother’s opinion the Ten Commandments should be called the Ten Suggestions. I agree with her opinion. In your OPINION, the Catholic Church is the authority on the Bible. It is not a fact. In case you doubt that, I urge you to read the opinions of others – Jehovah Witness, Southern Baptists, yada, yada and also, while you’re at it you might want to consider the other 40,000 different opinions of all those other religions. . .


    • Carmen,

      Christian teachings have nothing to do with opinion.

      Christian teachings are based on truths which are meant to reconstruct the original, Godly human nature that Adam and Eve destroyed.

      That God issued “commands” speaks to the essential nature and utmost importance of what God is teaching to mankind.

      Calling the Ten Commandment, the Ten Suggestions is not only linguistic brutality, it is cultural and philosophical nihilism with unattenuated bigotry as its source.


  12. SoM,

    I repeat. . .your OPINION. I have my own.


    • Carmen,

      You know that by reducing facts to opinion you are making facts worthless.

      That’s because one opinion is as worthless as any other.

      That is a standard tactic of atheist propaganda.

      Our Western Heritage has led to the development such a grand Western Culture precisely because systematic thinking has replaced bias (opinion) as the means of determining truth and falsehood.

      Declaring that the facts that I cite are as worthless as your own opinion is not an argument.

      It’s an admission that you can’t argue against the facts.

      And that is precisely why I cite facts, not my own personal opinion.


  13. Ruth, this is an excellent post. Brilliant, really. I’m going to read over it a second time, but first….

    Since my deconversion, the NUMBER ONE topic my friends and family bring up to me is morality. I’ve heard things such as “Well, NOW what’s to stop you from cheating on your husband?” Or, “What does it all matter to you, anyway. I mean, from your world view why do you care about right or wrong.” I could go on, but you know where I’m coming from. I’m already so tired of hearing it! Do the comments/jabs ever stop?!


    • These are just the things that rumble around in this noodle of mine.

      It’s scary to know that the only reason your friends don’t cheat on their spouses is because…God. What about theft and murder and such? Apparently they don’t realize that the Golden Rule is far reaching and has application outside of religion. Do they not have an ounce of empathy for their spouses? At any rate, if God is the only reason they don’t do bad things maybe they ought to hang onto him – for the rest of our sakes.

      I hear you loud and clear. I get tired of hearing that sort of thing, too. They’re really just parroting what they’ve heard from the pulpit, most likely. I’m not sure these types of comments will ever stop – unless folks like us show them we didn’t turn into the devil, himself, the moment we stopped believing.


      • Thanks for the reply, Ruth. You’re right, they’re just parroting what they’ve heard from the pulpit…and the apologists.

        Last summer I told a friend of mine I had decided to leave church and went into my explanations as to why. Almost immediately, she asked about my morals and where I would get them now. I answered. Then she asked me why I couldn’t “just fake it” and come to church anyway. I know where she’s coming from, but I told her I’m too moral for that – I can’t just can’t lie. Go figure.


    • @JBars

      Do the comments/jabs ever stop?!

      They stop quicker if you don’t respond to them. Otherwise, simply agree with them, indicating just how low your morals have dropped and best they lock up their husbands & boyfriends.
      I suspect, the harassment will stop even sooner if you include girlfriends.

      I have a suspicion such friends will part company faster than the sea in front of a better class of prophet.



    • “Do the comments/jabs ever stop?!”

      Yes and no. Depending on the people involved, they might not. But there are answers for questions like that:
      Q. “Well, NOW what’s to stop you from cheating on your husband?”
      A. “Basic human decency, love of my husband, empathy towards other people, a sense of loyalty, and if all else fails, enlightened self-interest. Do you really mean to tell me that the only reason you don’t cheat is because you think God will disapprove? Because that doesn’t make you sound like a terribly moral person…”

      Q. “What does it all matter to you, anyway. I mean, from your world view why do you care about right or wrong?”
      A. “Because right and wrong are still right and wrong, even if we don’t always recognize them or get them right. It’s not really that different. Believers have to figure out what their God thinks is right and wrong – the Bible doesn’t offer much guidance for when it’s okay to cut someone off in traffic, just to pick a random example – while unbelievers make moral decisions purely on the basis of how they affect people. When you look at it in terms of real-world results, the process is surprisingly similar.”


  14. SoM, again – what you BELIEVE is an opinion, not a fact. As an Elder in my congregation (of a very liberal denomination with their OWN beliefs), I can tell you that my BELIEFS have changed, the more I dug into the supposed facts. For instance, after 56 years you know what I believe to be true from the bible (which I refer to as my ‘least favourite fiction’)? Jesus lived. That’s it. (and I think there are scholars who debate even that.) Your bias/blinder is obvious and I would say it definitely colours everything you believe.
    Try removing it.

    And Jbars, I wanted to pass along that our ten grandchildren, who are being brought up in secular homes, give every indication that they are going to be people with good morals. You know why? They are treated with kindness, respect, and experience sensible parenting from people who love them unconditionally. Also, they have wonderfully kind, decent parents.


    • Carmen, that’s very encouraging. Thank you! I see my own four children growing up and have every reason to think they will too. 🙂


    • Dear Carmen,
      For your sanity’s sake, it is best to note that SOM’s recreation times vary depending on which of his handlers’ are on duty and the variance and strength of the dosage of his medication.
      If one bears this in mind before opting to engage him then at least you are forewarned.
      And please don’t offer him bananas as the potassium doesn’t agree with him.

      In The Interests Of Mental Health


      The Ark.



      • 🙂 Thanks, Ark! I appreciate that! But you know, teachers just can’t resist trying to straighten someone out. .. . I mean, why go through the rest of one’s life being WRONG??


        • Then rap him over the knuckles with a metaphorical ruler, tell him he is being a very naughty boy and make him write lines.
          And promise you will visit his blog to make sure his spelling is correct.

          Or better still…simply ignore him.


          • I checked him out; I think you gave me some good advice. (and I only read the latest Blog entry) I needed the reminder about naughty boys needing attention – even if it’s negative!
            That was a lesson on alliteration, not metaphor. 🙂


  15. Ruth, I just discovered that you are actively writing again, and writing quite a bit! That is terrific news! Sorry I am late to the party – I really do not prowl the blogsites much any more. I must make an exception in your case. This is a terrific article. I still remember I finally realized that our morality has definitely evolved over time. It was a shocking realization at the time, as was much everything else. Would you say that any of your moral values have changed much since you lost your belief? I can say that mine sure have.


    • Hey, HeIsSailing! Thanks for coming over.

      I blog somewhat sporadically. Sometimes several days in a row and then not for another two weeks. No real schedule.

      Well, I didn’t suddenly become a cat burglar, or a pick-pocket, or a mugger. And I didn’t become a hired assassin, or an axe-murderer or anything. But I have become much more accepting and loving toward those who have lifestyles different from my own. My views about the LGBT community, women’s issues and a host of other social issues have changed quite a bit!


  16. “You should know that first hand since atheism is proven to be 100% faith-based.”

    Okay, someone help me out. When believers regurgitate this Christian favorite, what exactly is the implication? Are they saying that “faith-based” theism is bad and built upon a flimsy foundation, and therefore, “faith-based” atheism is just as bad and just as flimsy? Or are they conceding that “faith-based” atheism is good and that it’s right up there with “faith-based” theism in terms of plausibility? Which is it?


    • Hi there, boomslang. Welcome and thanks for commenting.

      He says he can prove this in three sentences and then comes at you, if you bite, with non sequitur and gibberish. I’m sure he’s busy collecting the toll from another bridge at the moment or he’d be glad to enlighten you.

      As you can see he “schooled” me on the fact that I’ve just relied on the wrong interpretation of scripture and therefore have an atheist’s mentality. A mentality, he says, is without reason.


      • I’ve just relied on the wrong interpretation of scripture and therefore have an atheist’s mentality. A mentality, he says, is without reason.”

        Ah, yes…a mentality “without reason”. Uh-huh. Isn’t it funny how this very same “unreasonable” mentality serves you well when it tells you that Muhammad didn’t really fly off into the clouds on a winged pony? Isn’t it funny how this clumsy, atheistic mentality of yours tells you that the angel “Moroni” didn’t really bury some magical, golden tablets in the side of a hill in the Tri-state area? Would the most devout, cocksure Christian question your reasoning abilities when it comes to your dismissal of those propositions? I’ll wager not. You simply take your reasoning abilities one step further when it comes to the claims of virgin births, talking snakes, walking cadavers, and whale-stomach sleepovers.

        So, no, it’s not that atheists are “without reason”; it’s that theists compartmentalize 😉


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