Below is a recent conversation I had with someone I am assuming was an atheist, and I decided to post it here because this is a very common conversation I have had, and thought maybe some of you looking to share your faith more might find helpful. Nothing has been edited from the original posts made by the other person, and mine have only been edited for grammar. No content has been changed so I do apologize for some of the choppy sentences.
The background for this conversation was in regards to whether the government should outlaw abortion. I said, for the Christian this is not even a debate; even for a Libritarian who doesn’t think the government should regulate many things. Abortion is murder, therfore the government should protect its citizens, especially those who cannot defend themselves. Below was one of the responders:
“So you’re saying Christianity should set the laws; we should move towards a theocracy. Should we also adopt biblical attitudes towards slavery and the role of women in society? Or alcohol? Should we start adding bits from Islam, too, because our government doesn’t support just one religion? Sharia law also doesn’t like abortion.”
-Yes, because morality=theocracy…this is called a “slippery-slope”. It is also a logical fallacy.
The issue isn’t whether Christianity should be setting laws. Everyone has a worldview and believes a certain way. You should vote for people who will uphold what you believe is right. That will obviously mean a conflict of world-views, but someone’s will be enforced whether it looks more like Christianity, or more Islamic, or more eastern, etc.
I will not even address your apparent misunderstandings about what the Bible says in regards to slavery and alcohol because it is irrelevant to the topic.
For the Christian (and many others) murder is morally wrong therefore, should be illegal. This isn’t about preference; this is about a fundamental belief about all human-kind and their value because they are made in the image of God.
Those who are not Christians (or at the very least someone who does not believe in divine revelation), have no grounds for saying anything is right or wrong morally, so they need to stop imposing their beliefs on others 😉.
I only say that to point out the obvious contradiction of someone attempting to impose their beliefs that others should not impose their beliefs.
“So Sam- I assume you are vegan? You keep saying it doesn’t matter if one is Christian, then arguing from a Christian vantage.
Let me explain better, as it is no slippery slope: you stated above that your religion shows you that a mass of 100 undifferentiated cells is a human life. Therefore, to abort it is murder. You want that codified into law to compel those who disagree with you to take an agreeable course of action, regardless of their values or situations. That is a theocracy; the law being determined by the tenants of a religion.
So you’re using biblical standards to define morality, but not responding to biblical standards of morality because they are irrelevant….
Murder is morally wrong… So you’re vegan. Or is it only human lives? If a fertilized egg fails to implant in the uterine wall, then a woman has committed manslaughter in your view: she didn’t mean to kill, but did by accident.
Only Christians (“or at the very least” another superstitious belief system) can’t define morality?? HA. When was the last time atheists went to war to promote and defend their worldview? How about Christians? (Hint: it’s happening today.)
Killing a self – conscious human is morally wrong. I’m vegetarian; I think it’s wrong to kill cows, too. But I’m not forcing you to adopt a cow and care for it in your house, regardless of your ability to do so.
At LEAST, I hope you fight for more money in the foster system, maternity leave, child assistance, free prenatal and pediatric healthcare for all, and free, high-quality education for all kids. Otherwise you’re just creating an even worse humanitarian problem than the one you are trying to solve.”
-Let me be clear: It absolutely matters if someone is a Christian or not. If my beliefs are correct, than those who do not recognize that they live in rebellion to their Creator, and do not acknowledge that they need Christ to satisfy the penalty for that sin, will spend eternity in Hell…so it matters a great deal.
However, you obviously do not acknowledge this, so you are going to do and say things that are contrary to my beliefs-i.e. force your world-view on me because you will vote and act in a way to perpetuate what you believe to be right and wrong (that’s not a criticism).
To answer your specific example: Animals are not made in the image of God, and no sin is committed in killing them for food. I would say it is wrong to kill animals needlessly. We are to be caretakers of creation, not destroyers.
As to the morality question: Both those opposed to religion and those in the name of religion have done horrible things. The question is, what do you ground morality in?
You and I both believe in objective morality. It is wrong to rape, it is wrong to murder, it is wrong to… *fill in the blank.
The problem is, if you do not acknowledge a transcendent foundation for morality, you have no grounds for which to say something is morally wrong.
I’m NOT saying that non-Christians are all bad people, only do bad things, and that Christians are the only ones who can do right things. That’s absurd.
The difference is, we have a God who determines what is morally right and wrong. The authority is higher than us. It has to be, for if it isn’t, than all truth really is relative and the individual is the determiner. This means you can’t actually say rape is objectively wrong (though I’m sure you agree that it is). On what basis do you tell the rapist he is doing something wrong? You could say, it’s harmful so you shouldn’t do it. Why should he/she care? Survival of the fittest and all.
Your last paragraph is also irrelevant to the topic, which is: ‘Is it morally wrong to murder babies in the womb?’
I agree all those good things should be being done. Christians should be doing more to help, but to pretend we don’t is also foolish. Most orphanages are…that’s right, at the very least, religiously established. Most charities are…that’s right. Most hospitals…yep. But there is still more we should do.
This does not in any way determine the morality of the current controversy.
At what point is a human self-conscious? Does the birth canal magically endow self-consciousness? No? So is it wrong to kill a baby at 6 months after birth? This is absurd.
We know what the cells are, they are human. They don’t become a turtle, or a bird, or something else. They are a human-being. No debate.
So yes, I believe the governments role is to protect its citizens. This most especially includes those who cannot defend themselves.
“Your religion says your religion matters and you believe what you believe. That makes sense. Just like Muslims, Mormons, ancient Greeks and witches.
I’m forcing no view on you. You don’t want an abortion? Don’t get one. See how easy that is to respect the will of others in their own lives?
Ah, but animals are lives, are they not? You said taking lives were wrong. But there are no nutrients that animals have that cannot be gained by eating plants; all animals killed for food are needless animal deaths. So welcome to vegetarianism!
What do I ground morality in? Rather than a book translated dozens of times, selected chapters by the council if Trent, and which were written several hundred years after the events in many cases, I base mine in the idea if the least harm to the least people. I don’t need religion to tell me stabbing you in the neck with a knife is wrong; I figure it out on my own. But hey; if you need religion to figure out you shouldn’t rape someone, I’m glad you have it!
Your next argument is a boring argument from apologetics which has been debunked for a century, so I’m not even going to delve further into it; I get the impression, rather than wanting to listen to learn, you’re trying to argue me into believing in an all-good, all-powerful bearded white magic guy in the sky that has the power to stop infant cancer but chooses not to.
Religion obeys borders. If you were born and raised in India you’d be saying the same thing of Budhism or Hinduism.
You’re arguing morality, for babies to be born, but that their care afterwards is irrelevant. That it’s irrelevant if they’re sick of preventable illness, that their families could starve if the mother gets laid off after birth… at least you acknowledge you are pro-birth rather than pro-life. After they’re born it’s irrelevant. (See, to MY morality, forcing a woman to have a child she knows she can’t support and then abandoning her is wrong… So I guess we DO have different values.)
You like straw man arguments, don’t you? Awareness comes from sufficient brain activity that a fetus does not possess; given time, it likely would. But at that point, it does not.
The cells have human DNA, but they are not human yet. Just like an acorn is not a tree and a speck of dirt is not a clay pot.
Also, saying that condoms aren’t wrong is to be heretical of the Catholic church’s dogma, the largest group of Christians in the world, and ignoring the message of God given through his infallible servant, the Pope.”
-Your response leads me to ask if you read my entire response or simply skimmed it for I answered several things you bring up-again.
Much of what you said-again-is mostly irrelevant to the specific topic; but I am happy to branch. I will do so by re-quoting your statement and answering below.
“Your religion says your religion matters and you believe what you believe. That makes sense. Just like Muslims, Mormons, ancient Greeks and witches.”
-Sure, and your belief also dictates to you what you believe to be important. We agree.
“I’m forcing no view on you. You don’t want an abortion? Don’t get one. See how easy that is to respect the will of others in their own lives?”
-This isn’t really the issue though there is an inconsistency, I believe, in your position. If my premise is true, that abortion is murder, then I don’t think you would use the same argument.
“Hey, if you don’t want to murder someone, then don’t.”
-By implication the argument says if someone doesn’t think murder is wrong, then go for it. Who am I to judge?
Obviously, I don’t think you would agree to the use of this model if we were talking about the murder of an adult, rape, or any other act you believe to be morally wrong. Where we disagree is that abortion is murder. If this were about ice cream flavors, I would totally agree with your formula.
“Ah, but animals are lives, are they not? You said taking lives were wrong. But there are no nutrients that animals have that cannot be gained by eating plants; all animals killed for food are needless animal deaths. So welcome to vegetarianism!”
-I answered this above, but let me reiterate: Animals are not made in the image of God. God told us we can eat them. Animals are not persons, nor are they self-aware (nor will they ever be-I do not believe self-awareness to be the complete standard because a newborn is not fully self-aware. Interestingly you, who made the argument about self-awareness, surely you would say it is wrong to kill an infant…you did not address this sufficiently).
“What do I ground morality in? Rather than a book translated dozens of times, selected chapters by the council if Trent, and which were written several hundred years after the events in many cases, I base mine in the idea if the least harm to the least people. I don’t need religion to tell me stabbing you in the neck with a knife is wrong; I figure it out on my own. But hey; if you need religion to figure out you shouldn’t rape someone, I’m glad you have it!”
-Ok, so much to address.
Let me make your argument for you: The Bible has actually been copied thousands upon thousands of times, not simply hundreds. It also has been translated into many other languages; you are correct. However, this actually affirms the reliability of the Bible because it is the most traceable document of any ancient document by an incredible amount. We have over 5,700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament ranging from possibly as early as the 1st century on. No other document of antiquity can even come close to this claim. Even the best sources we have that tell us what we know about Rome are dated, on average, 500 years after they were written.
For example: We have some manuscripts of the earliest date with Livy-300 years after he wrote the original. We have about 20 of these.
Tacitus: we have 3 manuscripts written 800 years after the originals
Suetonius: We have a massive 200 (not speaking sarcastically. 200 is an amazing amount to have of literature from this point and time), problem is, these copies are 800 years after.
I could go on, but the point is, they are much less reliable than the manuscript tradition we have for the New Testament, yet no-one question the validity of the Roman Empire and what we say we know about it.
I will link several interesting debates and talks about this since you seem to be a person who likes to research things, which I appreciate.
Also, despite what you may have been told about the Council of Nicea, at no time was the New Testament ever controlled by any one group. This means we can simply compare manuscripts to get back to the original. If I give 30 people the Gettysburg Address and ask them to hand copy it, I will get at least 30 varying copies. Most of these errors will be things like “to” and “too”. No 2 manuscripts will be the same (most likely), but also no manuscript will contain all the same minor errors; so by comparing all 30 we could easily reconstruct the original. Same with the Bible, except that we have thousands upon thousands to compare instead of just 30.
As to the council of Trent: This was in response to the Protestant Reformation and was not until 1543. The books of the Bible had been pretty well established well before Trent (around 400 AD with Athanasius’s 39th Easter letter in 367 and then with Augustine at the Council of Hippo) but Trent officially canonized the Apocrypha due to things in those sets of books that helped establish Catholic doctrines that the Protestant rejected. This is not all that was done at Trent, but the only part relevant to your point.
Your premise for “least harm to least people” is great…except, why? You have no higher authority than yourself to claim this to be the standard. On what grounds do you tell Hitler trying to make a genetically better human race is wrong? You say he is hurting lots of people, he says “So what?”. You have no authoritative grounds to tell him what he is doing is wrong because your view is based entirely upon what you personally think is good for society. Hitler disagreed. Obviously, you and I both would say that what Hitler did was horrible; the difference is, I can say why it is objectively (this word is important) wrong. You cannot.
You misunderstand the argument when you say “If you need the Bible to tell you not to stab people in the neck…” I have already acknowledged that non-Christians do good acts and that Christians do bad acts. This does not speak to why things are objectively good or evil. We agree that it is wrong to stab people in the neck but again, you have no basis for saying it is objectively wrong though you know it to be. If someone disagrees with you, you can call them crazy, but you cannot tell them they are wrong because they don’t have to submit to your opinion-for that truly is your basis.
“Your next argument is a boring argument from apologetics which has been debunked for a century, so I’m not even going to delve further into it; I get the impression, rather than wanting to listen to learn, you’re trying to argue me into believing in an all-good, all-powerful bearded white magic guy in the sky that has the power to stop infant cancer but chooses not to.”
-Interesting. Who debunked them?
Next, I do not believe one can be convicted by arguments alone. This is not simply rhetorical persuasion. I believe that it is the Holy Spirit who convicts the heart of it’s wickedness and the need for a Savior. This is primarily done through the sharing of the Gospel.
I love to learn, I love to study and I have listened to hours and hours of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, Muslim Imams, Mormons, Catholics, Protestant, and many others because I desire to really understand and know what others believe and not make caricatures of their beliefs.
Yes, I do believe God is all knowing, all powerful, and all present. As to His physical appearance…the Father doesn’t actually have a body, but I know you’re not actually asking questions about how God looks or the Trinity, so I’ll digress.
As to why evil exists: I firmly believe the Bible teaches God is sovereignly in control of all things, and that all things have a purpose. Your appeal to infant cancer is emotionally impacting but not actually a substantial argument, because on your system-so what? You are using my world-view of objective moral good and evil to accuse God of being morally evil. I am not completely sure of your particular beliefs but I’m going to venture a guess and assume it’s in the “non-religious” category. On a naturalistic system, we are all just a bunch of random cells and chemical anyway so who cares?
“Religion obeys borders. If you were born and raised in India you’d be saying the same thing of Budhism or Hinduism.”
–Religion obeying borders is demonstrably false if you look at major missionary movements throughout history, but I understand your point. You typically believe what you are raised to believe.
I disagree that I personally would because of how I believe the Bible teaches God brings people to a knowledge of Himself. There is not a scenario where I would not have become a Christian.
That is not to say I deny that what culture you grow up in drastically can shape your life, but the calling of the Holy Spirit upon a persons life transcends cultural nurturing.
(On a technical note, I probably would not be making the same kind of arguments because eastern religions don’t really engage in these kind of discussions. They aren’t normally the proselytizing types.)
“You’re arguing morality, for babies to be born, but that their care afterwards is irrelevant. That it’s irrelevant if they’re sick of preventable illness, that their families could starve if the mother gets laid off after birth… at least you acknowledge you are pro-birth rather than pro-life. After they’re born it’s irrelevant. (See, to MY morality, forcing a woman to have a child she knows she can’t support and then abandoning her is wrong… So I guess we DO have different values.)”
-Again, I answered this but you seem to have missed it. Forgive the bit of sarcasm here, but what part of, “I acknowledge we need to do more” and “but we are doing the most” was misunderstood? Most hospitals, orphanages, charities, pregnancy centers, birthing centers, etc were established by Christians (in title at the very least). So, we are doing exactly what you accuse us of not doing.
Also your augment is that it is ok to kill humans to avoid a humanitarian problem. Forgive me if I see this as absolutely contradictory and absurd. What is to keep it from being extend beyond the womb and into limited child programs…oh wait.
Let me also be clear, I am pro-life.
“You like straw man arguments, don’t you? Awareness comes from sufficient brain activity that a fetus does not possess; given time, it likely would. But at that point, it does not.”
-As I said above, you didn’t actually address this sufficiently. On your definition it would be alright to terminate a 6 month old infant. I know you don’t believe that. Also, that definition of awareness is by no means universal scientifically.
“The cells have human DNA, but they are not human yet. Just like an acorn is not a tree and a speck of dirt is not a clay pot.”
-If you destroy the acorn, will it then not become a tree? Did you then not just in fact terminate the life of a tree in it’s beginning stages? Obviously, I do not believe it is morally wrong to crush acorns, it’s just your analogy does not hold.
“Also, saying that condoms aren’t wrong is to be heretical of the Catholic church’s dogma, the largest group of Christians in the world, and ignoring the message of God given through his infallible servant, the Pope.”
-Good thing I’m not Catholic. Papal infallibility is a horribly erroneous doctrine.
As to the use of condoms: Even many Protestant would agree that they are not moral to use, but that actually doesn’t have anything to do with abortion per-se, but rather the purpose of sexual intercourse. It is argued that is is purely selfish and lustful to have sex without the possibility of having children. There is a little overlap in that they can argue that you are hindering an egg from being fertilized, but that is still not the same as terminating an already fertilized egg.
This is long and I will have a good deal of respect for you if you actually persevered and read it the whole way through; but this is also where I bow out. I have said my piece, you have said yours.
I would encourage you to continue to research things and not broad-stroke all religions as the same. The truth of the Gospel is distinctly different and the only means by which human-kind can be reconciled to their Holy Creator.