Theists, Atheists Fighting Torture Together?

As a Humanist, I technically don’t identify as “religious.” But I was proud to join the National Religious Campaign Against … Continued

As a Humanist, I technically don’t identify as “religious.” But I was proud to join the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

I recommend that atheists, agnostics, and the non-religious support the NRCAT’s efforts to define torture as a moral issue, and as an evil for which we must not stand. In fact, we should support it passionately and join in its efforts enthusiastically. Let’s sign NRCAT’s “Torture is a Moral Issue” statement en masse, support its efforts to influence public policy, and encourage our Humanist and atheist organizations to join its religious congregations in screening the film “The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib.”

However, I also call on the good and decent religious people rallying around this issue at On Faith and the NRCAT to publicly acknowledge that theists and atheists can share equally in denouncing torture. This afternoon I asked Rev. Rich Killmer, the distinguished Presbyterian Minister who directs the NRCAT, if his organization would consider -anywhere on its website- saying explicitly that the campaign welcomes the support of Humanists, atheists and the non-religious. Killmer indicated that it’s highly unlikely they would do so (he did acknowledge many of his supporters are likely not religious, and said I should “go for it” in asking my own community to support his). As much as I respect his cause and his tremendous dedication to it, such a response strikes me as, at best, inadequate for an organization professing moral leadership.

Of course, this raises two big questions I hope you will join me in discussing:

1. Should the non-religious join and support specifically religious campaigns and coalitions?

2. Should progressive religious and interfaith campaigns do more to reach out to the non-religious?

I spent a long last week traveling from Boston to the “Interfaith Youth Core” conference in Chicago and then to “Beyond Belief: Enlightenment 2.0,” a gathering of renowned atheist scientists and thinkers at the Salk Institute in San Diego. At each, I went from speaking engagement to Q & A to behind-the-scenes discussions, urging that the answer to both questions above must be “Yes!” Going from dialogue with Eboo Patel and Sheikh Hamza Yusef one day to Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett the next was quite an experience; maybe I’ll write more about it later.

In short: reactions were mixed on both sides, regarding both questions. There is mutual mistrust and misunderstanding between leaders of theistic and atheistic communities (yes, the latter do very much exist, though they believe deities do not) in the US and beyond. But I was also buoyed by the hope many on both sides expressed: that yes, we can find moral common ground to work together in deep friendship and respect.

But what do you think? Is “Interfaith” a valid approach to the torture issue and others like it, or a sneering condescension towards atheists? Is it enough to quietly “tolerate” Humanists in progressive coalitions, or must we celebrate their participation as equals in moral discourse?

Greg M. Epstein
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  • lepidopteryx

    David:Well said.

  • A Hermit

    Good post by Mr. Epstein and a great comment by David. Thank you both!

  • Ilana Alazzeh

    The world is need of more piety and less self righteousness…[whether religious or otherwise]

  • Priver

    David put it pretty well, I think.

  • E favorite

    First of all – David — I love you. Where have you been?Now my own views:Of Course! We’re all humans, after all. It will work out great, as long as the campaigns are focused on improving the lot of humanity and not on saving souls from the eternal damnation that Jesus promised for all who don’t accept him. (I mean, talk about torture!)2. Should progressive religious and interfaith campaigns do more to reach out to the non-religious? Of course! Find out we’re not demons, that we have morals and care about the same things that all good people do. We just don’t believe that invisible, supernatural beings are watching over us. We may care more intensely, because we think this is the only live we have. As I’ve said elsewhere in this forum. I think liberal and moderate Christians have more in common with atheists than they do with fundamentalists, and having been a liberal Christian recently myself, it disgusts me to see Christians cowering in the face of fundamentalist extremists just because they believe in the same God. We’re all here on Earth together. I think we can make the most of our time together by focusing on understanding and being kind to each other. If there is a God, as I recall, “doing unto others” counts toward that eternal life He promises to those who believe.

  • David

    I do believe that “interfaith” is a valid approach to torture, but I guess we have to define what we mean by interfaith. Historically, “interfaith” coalitions have been collaborations across faith traditions for a common purpose. As a person of faith who identifies as a United Methodist Christian, my experience of my faith tradition has taught me that I am supposed to value life – all life – and torture is antithetical to what I would consider the sacred value of life. I believe that my faith tradition also tells me that I am supposed to love, be inclusive of, and be in relationship with all people because all of humanity is of sacred value. I think that many faith traditions would find common values of honoring, respecting and being inclusive of all people. As such, many faith traditions have found common ground upon which to enter into coalitions.Regretfully, many faith traditions have not valued or even considered what agnostics, atheists, humanists, etc. would have to say about the value of human life or really anything for that matter. I think many “people of faith,” including myself for a long time, find/found it difficult to fathom the concept of morality without a God behind it. Yet, I have no right to assume that just because an atheist or a humanist does not believe in what I do that he or she does not follow or believe in some sort or moral ethos. With that said, there are many common values, e.g. respecting human life against torture, protecting the environment, etc. that I presume many atheists, agnostics, and humanists might share with me as a person of faith. Therefore, I believe that the concept of “interfaith” either needs to grow to include agnostics, atheists, and humanists or we need to find some new vocabulary that resonates for both people of faith and people with moral perspectives who do not believe in a god, etc. I do not believe that people of faith should have to give up what they believe in order to accommodate people who do not believe; but I also think that the vice versa is true. There should be no presumption that atheists, agnostics, and/or humanists should have to believe in or adhere to anything in order to work with people of faith. So where does that leave us? I think there is so much that both communities can mutually learn from each other and still grow in their own belief system/ethos/”insert term that I do not know because I am a person of faith and still have much to learn about what it means to respect non-believers and preferred terminology.” I do believe that we share common values. One of the great challenges is going to be how to begin building relationships across faith and no-faith communities in ways that are mutually respectful. As to the question: “Is it enough to quietly “tolerate” Humanists in progressive coalitions, or must we celebrate their participation as equals in moral discourse?” I believe that mere toleration is never enough. If we cannot see each other as equals, if we cannot speak to each other as equals, then we definitely will not act, treat, or think of each other as equals. This will only continue to breed animosity and mistrust between our communities. I am a person of faith who wants to be in better relationship with atheists, agnostics, and humanists. I believe that we can come together as equals in moral discourse. I believe have and share common values but we will value them for different reasons and I think that is okay. The differences are good. The diversity is good. It is what makes us who we are – human.

  • patient

    This conversation reveals the importance of not continuing to draw a line between “belief” and “non-belief.” It is a very seductive issue as presented as it encourages simplistic caricatures that hide more than they illuminate, where they build walls of distrust rather than promoting understanding. Those who continue to tout the belief/non-belief dichotomy should be seen as profiteers; some do build financial gain and/or fame while most use it to cloak their inability to understand others.It is time for we non-theists to draw a line between constructive and destructive behavior joining with others in constructive activities and avoiding, even reproving those bent on negativity.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Greg -It’s not a matter of uniting. It’s a matter of not allowing differences to separate us.By starting from the premise that two opposing camps should get together to fight the idea of torture, you are setting up what amounts to a temporary truce between rival factions. That truce will crumble as soon as a new argument arises between the theist/atheist viewpoint, or when this administration denounces torture and stops practicing it in our names.Guess which scenario is the odds-on favorite to happen first?I think a better way to unite against terror is to eschew ALL labels of division, be it theist/atheist or Yankees fan/Red Sox fan, and to find common ground as Constitution- and law-loving citizens.Religious or non-religious beliefs have no bearing whatsoever on the moral and legal issues surrounding torture. To suggest otherwise is to create issues where none really exist. Worse, it sets up the conditions for eventual failure along long- and well-defined philosophical lines.Good chatting.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Greg -It’s not a matter of uniting. It’s a matter of not allowing differences to separate us.By starting from the premise that two opposing camps should get together to fight the idea of torture, you are setting up what amounts to a temporary truce between rival factions. That truce will crumble as soon as a new argument arises between the theist/atheist viewpoint, or when this administration denounces torture and stops practicing it in our names.Guess which scenario is the odds-on favorite to happen first?I think a better way to unite against terror is to eschew ALL labels of division, be it theist/atheist or Yankees fan/Red Sox fan, and to find common ground as Constitution- and law-loving citizens.Religious or non-religious beliefs have no bearing whatsoever on the moral and legal issues surrounding torture. To suggest otherwise is to create issues where none really exist. Worse, it sets up the conditions for eventual failure along long- and well-defined philosophical lines.Good chatting.

  • Paganplace

    Of course, it’s really only the xenophobia of theocratic mindsets that impedes people of all beliefs and non-beliefs getting together on issues that we can all get behind. We may disagree on *much* of the theocratic agenda: hurting gay people and enforcing sex-related tabooes and controls that rely on particular theologies to even be a concern tends to rely on the theocrats insisting that only their form of religion qualifies one to take a stand on something, or even have any morality or sense of right and wrong at all…They depend on this xenophobia and exclusionary doctrine in order to seek their control at all, and thus, it seems, even end up effectively-ignoring, if not ending up on the *wrong side* of humanist issues like poverty and health care and torture, …perhaps cause they can’t allow themselves to believe that humanism *is* a good thing, or that any good can come of it. This, of course, simply isn’t the reality of things, and I think it *has* to fall to coalitions like this to take the lead.

  • E Favorite

    David – I’m at the Center for Inquiry Conference (The secuar society and its enemies) in NY right now and can assure you that the sentiments here are similar to those you describe. It’s very heartening.I think as there are more and more people like me – recent atheists after decades of religious belief,there will be fewer atheists who characterize believers so negatively.I must say, I haven’t seen that negative perception myself, in my new community of atheists.

  • Viejita del oeste

    Frankly, I have a hard time taking anyone who claims there is any religious or humanistic justification for torture seriously.

  • Jeff P

    What an awesome post by Greg and follow up by these commentators, especially David. David, you rock! I too had been a “believer” for about 40 years, and had my de-conversion experience, so to speak. Thanks E Favorite, for describing exactly my feelings.This dialogue gives me great hope. Can I find the “spirit” of this conversation in Texas? If not, I know where to bookmark my browser!Thanks to everyone for such a hopeful, generous, encouraging and uplifting dialogue.

  • RichardR

    I DO NOT favor secularists and atheists joining a specifically religious group- even for as worthy a cause as this (Do any of the above posts take this firm stand? Not that I saw).

  • e favorite

    David, regarding yur description of the negative attitudes atheists have toward theists, don’t forget it works both ways — atheists are often viewed with contempt and gross misunderstanding.As someone mentioned at the conference yesterday (paraphrasing) – atheists don’t burn theists at the stake, we just say we think their God is superstition and myth. Not flattering, true, but just words, and words of criticism that theists are not accustomed to hearing.Also, most atheists are used to living in a world surrounded by theists – many of us were theists. We know from our own experience that you’re not all “delusional” and completely devoid of reason. True, some of us wonder how an intelligent person can believe in an invisible supernatural being, but we see it everyday. I must say, I haven’t noticed that I’m any more reasonable or intelligent since I gave up belief. I’m certainly more informed, and more concerned about the effects of religion, though.

  • e favorite

    David, regarding your description of the negative attitudes atheists have toward theists, don’t forget it works both ways — atheists are often viewed with contempt and gross misunderstanding.As someone mentioned at the conference yesterday (paraphrasing) – atheists don’t burn theists at the stake, we just say we think their God is superstition and myth. Not flattering, true, but just words, and words of criticism that theists are not accustomed to hearing.Also, most atheists are used to living in a world surrounded by theists – many of us were theists. We know from our own experience that you’re not all “delusional” and completely devoid of reason. True, some of us wonder how an intelligent person can believe in an invisible supernatural being, but we see it everyday. I must say, I haven’t noticed that I’m any more reasonable or intelligent since I gave up belief. I’m certainly more informed, and more concerned about the effects of religion, though.

  • K

    One of the more common complaints I hear from the theists has to do with their assertion that atheists cannot be moral, can’t even understand morality without divine guidance of some kind.They apparently have never developed their own moral center independent of their religious teachings. Indeed, this is one the of main reasons used by many theists as validation of their beliefs, and for this reason they will not be able to accept that atheists have a claim on morality of any kind.Consider how we feel when confronted by a believer who insists that ‘creation science’ is a science. I wonder if they feel the same way when we claim knowlege of morality?

  • E Favorite

    Jeff P – Welcome – xoxoxo Hope to see you here often. How did you learn about this forum?RichardR – regarding calling yourself a rationalist – fine, but I was rational when I was a believer – in every aspect of my life — except when it came to belief in god — which frankly, I didn’t think about much. I was an extremely lazy believer. Religion didn’t get in my way, but when I started actively questioning it and researching it, I discarded it, in a very rational way. I think what distinguishes most non-believers from believers is belief in invisible supernatural gods. Now, it may not be rational to believe in such entities, but a person who believes in them can be completely rational in other ways.

  • John

    if they wont follow leave them behind

  • John

    if they wont follow leave them behind

  • RichardR

    JeffP: I’m all for working together (as I said) against torture – which is obscene and completely antithetical to everything the United States stands for. It’s always one of the hallmarks of a dictatorship.PaganPlace: I believe that Cheney, Bush, Rice and Rumsfeld (and others) should be tried as war criminals. As I say above, torture is criminal – and not only under International Law but under U.S. laws as well.

  • Deb

    As a Humanistic Jew, my faith manifests itself in faith in human potential. With this as a basis, I believe that nontheists can join with theists to work on issues carrying moral impact, torture and the genocide in Darfur being two good examples. In the discussion following a screening last night of “The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” by the Social Action Committee of Machar, The Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism, we focused on what we could do, over and above “social action,” on the issues raised by the film. We were saddened by the inability of the young military personnel to question the morality of the orders they were given, and we agreed that our responsibility is to raise our children to have a clear understanding and ability to analyze and question, and to understand what is moral and what is inhumane. To answer your questions, yes, there are areas where the religious and the secular can reach out to one another and work together without compromising our own values.

  • Deb

    As a Humanistic Jew, my faith manifests itself in faith in human potential. With this as a basis, I believe that nontheists can join with theists to work on issues carrying moral impact, torture and the genocide in Darfur being two good examples. In the discussion following a screening last night of “The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” by the Social Action Committee of Machar, The Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism, we focused on what we could do, over and above “social action,” on the issues raised by the film. We were saddened by the inability of the young military personnel to question the morality of the orders they were given, and we agreed that our responsibility is to raise our children to have a clear understanding and ability to analyze and question, and to understand what is moral and what is inhumane. To answer your questions, yes, there are areas where the religious and the secular can reach out to one another and work together without compromising our own values.

  • arlene pearlman

    Faith – everyone has it – religious folks have faith in their god, pantheists in nature and as a humanist, my faith is in people. Can we EVER get past labels and simply use interfaith as a way for ALL people to come together????Can we ever simply apply the Golden Rule?

  • arlene pearlman

    Faith – everyone has it – religious folks have faith in their god, pantheists in nature and as a humanist, my faith is in people. Can we EVER get past labels and simply use interfaith as a way for ALL people to come together????Can we ever simply apply the Golden Rule?

  • David

    E Fav,I like your thought:”- Believers are willing to accept that atheists can act morally without guidance from supernatural, religious beliefs. – Atheists willing to accept that believers can act rationally on matters not pertaining to their supernatural religious beliefs. – Therefore, believers and non-believers are willing to work together on moral issues affecting society.Interested in your feedback.”My feedback is as follows:First and foremost it would seem logical to work out a plan for theists and atheists to work together in harmony concerning moral issues we would have to decide what is moral and amoral, wouldn’t we? To do that we would be establishing a set of moral absolutes which is the very thing that you all deny which really would mean that all you atheists would be theists and it would just be theists working together. Moral absolutes point to an absolute being right? Isn’t that why you deny them? So how can we work together to help society in moral issues when it’s those very issues we cannot agree upon? And if we all did agree upon them, then wouldn’t that mean that we are all theists….or illogical atheists if you want. But nobody like to be illogical, therefore we would all be theists. Yeah….I like that idea E Fav….when do we begin?

  • E Favorite

    To RichardR – how long have you been a non-believer? How much have you talked about it with others, both believers and non-believers? I ask because I know that non-believers often don’t voice their views openly to believers and it sounds like this might be the case with you. Whatever – welcome to the dialogue.To All – I propose the following as a starting point for theist/atheist dialogue on moral issues: – Believers are willing to accept that atheists can act morally without guidance from supernatural, religious beliefs. – Atheists willing to accept that believers can act rationally on matters not pertaining to their supernatural religious beliefs. – Therefore, believers and non-believers are willing to work together on moral issues affecting society.Interested in your feedback.Hell, no, It’s not enough to “tolerate” Humanists, unless religious people think that “doing unto others” applies only to other believers – irrespective of their beliefs, as long they believe in “something” – meaning “something supernatural that provides moral authority.” You know, a rational religious person would discard that thinking as irrational. I suspect any religious resistance to including atheists as full partners in programs meant to improve society comes from concern that the success of such an effort would prove something believers don’t want to help prove – that people don’t need God to be moral. I hope I’m wrong about that, but if the resistance continues, my suspicions will grow.

  • David

    Just wanted to point out that the last post is a different David than the David who started off the comment chain.

  • Paganplace

    I mean, seriously… is there some point we weren’t informed about, at which you’ll start giving a crap about others, or we on our own till your screen goes dark, here?

  • David #2

    Hi all,I thought I would get the conversation flaring. Looks like I did a swell job. No offense meant. Let me expand please before I am automatically assumed “the ignorant one”.What E Fav propeses is that we all come together as one big happy family and fight for moral truths. What I find is that this is not realistic. This is fantasy. No matter how great it sounds, there is a huge problem with this. WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT STARTING POINTS ON WHAT IS MORAL OR NOT. I just do not see how we can fight for moral well being when none of us agree on what is moral or not. The only ones that agree on this are theists because we claim morals as absolute and God given. Non-theists claim they are relative and this divides them not from just theists but non-theists as well since being relative how can they all agree on the same morals? Great, we can all agree that torturing is bad and maybe we can team up together and get George Bush in a headlock until he taps out, but in reality the very next match could be about homosexuality or abortion and then we are divided. A wise man once said:”A nation divided amongst itself cannot stand”Ok let’s unite for a common cause, but the problem is that we cannot agree on the common cause. Therefore what is the reality of the situation? We are divided. Yep, that sucks, but that’s reality. Really quickly from my faith point of view that we can all relate. The greatest commandment is to 1a. Love the Lord you God1a. does not apply to the non-believers.If we all followed 1b we all can agree on the very morals that God has given us in an absolute sense. If we love everyone we will not steal, murder, lie, or torture. If we all can agree on that, then I think that’s the closest we can come on working together. And that does not even require God to follow that. But then again if that is agreeable then that would be an absolute moral….and well…..isn’t that what all of you deny? So, good idea E Fav, but not realistic. We can share in the act of ridding torture but the very next day throwing shots at each other for disagreeing about homosexuality and abortion. The problem has nothing to do with believing in God or not, the problem is that even in your own atheistic circles you cannot agree on morals. If that were the case they would be absolute and that would require the very thing you are denying.Trust me, I appreciate the dialogue and the compromise we must all make to survive as humanity. But this is one of the many reasons why I believe in God; because He is the only way that truth can make sense and that moral structures can work. Otherwise we are left to make our own moral laws which will end up in exactly what we are seeing in today’s world. Chaos.Nietzsche said two things that are relevant.1. God is dead and we have killed him.God died in the 19th century and not even half way through the 20th century more people were killed than the previous 17 centuries. What does that tell me? That by the 20th century, great minds like Neitzsche influenced the masses to create your own set of moral laws. And what has happened? The evidence speaks for itself.Until we can agree on morals, how can we fight for moral rights together? I wish we could, but I see the reality and unfortunately the reality for humanity seems bleek. The only hope I see for humanity is the Cross and the hope that applies to that faith. I know you do not see it that way and can not even begin to fathom the understanding on the subject, but after years of study, the only thing I see freeing humanity is the sacrifice made for all of us and to accept that sacrifice is to understand that no one is good. Not one…only God. Until we see ourselves for who we really are, how can we who are evil in our hearts fight for what is morally right, especially when these morals are not agreed upon? The only way is the Cross. I find no other way and please, let me know when you do. Sorry for the religio lecture, but that is what is reality my friends.Love you all. :)David #2

  • Paganplace

    RichardR”However, I also will not sanction or even implicitly approve of that which makes torture possible: irrationality. In a free society, the religious have every right to their beliefs — but not (properly) with any secularists’ intellectual support.”I should hasten to point out, Richard, that I *am* a secularist. I have my faith and my religion, but I have no problem with the idea that… in fact, I insist that, we be governed by common reason and human values. For instance, I may deeply believe that harmony with the Earth is of great importance to our spiritual well-being and future, but I don’t advocate environmental responsibility on the *basis* that ‘Goddess says so.’ Don’t have to.

  • David #2

    Paganplace,I’m not blaming Nietzche, I’m actually agreeing with him. I blame humanity for the chaos of the world today. It doesn’t seem to be getting much better is it? Neitzche made an astounding prediction that once we kill God we will kill ourselves. I agree with him. Not just based on a belief in God but also by the evidence as the 20th century being the bloodiest of all time. It doesn’t look so good for the 21st either. You can disagree if you want, but then I must assume you don’t watch the news. And since I make the claim that morals came from God, then why not prove me wrong instead of making a blank statement? Good luck.Much love,David number dos.

  • K

    So let me get this straight David2, we either agree with everything you believe, or we believe none of what you believe … is that correct? There can be no common ground between us whatsoever.And this too – we don’t believe in your god because we don’t want to have morals … is that correct also?Consider this, can you David2? I don’t believe in your gods because it seems to me to be a ridiculous proposition. Your assertions seem to support this idea in my mind.There may be believers with whom we can share common ground, but David2 isn’t one of them. That’s a primary truth unfortunately. Our mere existence as non-believers troubles this simple mind more than it can stand. For him to work with us on moral issues would bring into question the fundamental core of his existence.What an incredibly weak and shallow mind it is too.

  • E Favorite

    Ajdelos Reyes – thanks, but I’ll start the dialogue with Christians like David1 – assuming more of that kind come forward. And part of what we’ll work on is helping each other to learn how to deal productively with people on both sides, who present “dictums” (dicti?), telling the other side what they must do or how they must think.David1 – where are you?

  • David #1

    In response to several of the above conversations:This is where I think we begin to fall apart. When we ask people to prove that a belief is right or wrong, then we’re fundamentally starting from a position of divisiveness. There isn’t any room for common ground, shared values, etc. if we start off by saying, “morals came from God, then why not prove me wrong” or that non-theism and theism is a question of “reason, knowledge and science v. faith, superstition and primitivism.” I believe that such statements only drum up feelings of defensiveness, combativeness, mistrust, etc. among all groups and lead us to believe that theists and non-theists really don’t have anything in common. But I do believe that we do, indeed, share common values. What are these values? One such value could be Sustainability of the Environment. We all live on one planet, there are limited resources, and there are many ways in which we could use these resources that sustain the environment; pollute, destruct, damage, destroy, etc. the environment; and a mix in between on some continuum. As theists and non-theists we could come together as a coalition of people around efforts to create a society that better sustains our world, environment and global resources. The reasons why theists and non-theists value Sustainability of the Environment are probably different and diverse between theists and non-theists as well as within these communities. These differences are IMPORTANT. We should be taking time to learn what these differences are because they better inform us as to who each other is as a theist or non-theist, they might shed light on areas in which we might have more shared values or areas in which we differ in opinion, but more importantly, they help us individually better understand why we have come to believe, think, and feel what we do as theists and non-theists. In other words, we grow in our own understanding of our theism and non-theism by interacting with people different from us. Folks have rightly pointed out that these differences do have the potential to inhibit common and collective action. However, I think the mere fact that we have common values to begin with should be enough to bring people together to start talking to one another in order to build relationships across faith lines and across theism and non-theism lines. It is through the development of these personal relationships with people who are different from us that we might begin to humanize the proverbial “Other” and see how even in our differences – even if our opinions aren’t going to change with regards to belief or non-belief – if we in fact grow in our theism or non-theism – we can still begin to envision a world where non-theists and theists can live at the very least in co-existence and at best with mutual respect for one another.Call me idealistic. Call me irrational. But my experience tells me that there is a better world we can live in now and an even better world we can build together. I think there is a process and methodology that can make it happen as highlighted above and I know that people are doing it and living it out.

  • David #1

    David #2: I also just wanted to point out that although many theists believe that some sort of Divine Being is behind morality and creates order out of chaos, I do not believe that people of faith/theists are “of one accord” on what that morality is. You referenced two issues: homosexuality and abortion. Let me first iterate that I do not – do NOT – want this to become a conversation about the morality of the above two issues (there are other blogs for that) and want the thread of conversation to continue to center around theist and non-theist relationships. With that said, there is great diversity in the theological and moral positions regarding homosexuality and abortion across faith traditions. In my own United Methodist Christian denomination, alone, there is a wide spectrum of beliefs with regards to the morality of such issues and there are people representing this full spectrum who all utilize Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason to justify their positions. And somehow – within the mystery of our faith – we all still are able to claim to be a part of the same family. I am saying this because I think that it is overly simplistic to say to non-theists, “the problem is that even in your own atheistic circles you cannot agree on morals.” I think such a statement can be said in truth to people of faith. It can be and is argued that people of faith cannot agree on their morals and therefore shouldn’t be taken seriously. I am not for a syncretist world as I do not believe that what we all fundamentally believe is – or boils down to – the same thing. If we did, then there wouldn’t be a need for interfaith and theist/non-theist dialogue. Instead, due to the nature of humanity, we share common values to which we subscribe for different reasons. As such, I think that it is important that we be open to dialogue with fellow people of faith about our ideas concerning morality but also begin conversations with non-theists about how they conceptualize morality. We live in a diverse world with diverse people and diverse beliefs. Talking about shared values, believing in shared values, and/or acting on shared values does not mean that we have to agree on how we come to believe what such values mean to us individually or collectively. It does require, though, utilizing the common value that humans are of value and worth. In this manner, we humanize each other despite our differences and allow for the possibility that we might be able to empathize with someone else’s experience. We see each other as human beings and not as objectified adversaries.

  • E Favorite

    David2 – thanks for pointing out that you’re a different guy. You sure sound different. I don’t understand what you’re saying and don’t think I want to try – as your tone seems negative.Thankfully, I know all Christians are not like you — with David1, my own former self and my many Christian friends as examples.

  • E favorite

    Thanks, David #2 for your recent response.Again, David the Methodist – thanks for your input and tempering the tone and substance of this discussion;Now, back to my proposal – David the M, what are your thoughts on the following as a starting point for atheist/theist discussion:- Believers are willing to accept that atheists can act morally without guidance from supernatural, religious beliefs. – Atheists willing to accept that believers can act rationally on matters not pertaining to their supernatural religious beliefs. – Therefore, believers and non-believers are willing to work together on moral issues affecting society.

  • Anonymous

    Atheists are responsible for denying a non-physical or spiritual reality and presenting science as supporting the view that only materialism exists. This has enormous implications for disease and health. The denial of mind or spirit as non-physical leads an approach that denies the truth about lifestyle diseases and so-called mental disorders. Many people play very dirty games to manipulate and control others, especially spouses and workmates. This game play leads to diseases such as heart disease. And it is for everyone to discover this for themselves. I have set out the foul play in experiments that people can do to discover for themselves the dreadful consequences. I welcome anyone who wants to know more to my website

  • E favorite

    david #1 – thanks for your comments. I’m glad you came back.

  • David #2

    David #1,Wonderful posts my friend. I do believe you have it right on the button on many issues. My seemingly negative posts are not the whole of my opinions or beliefs and I would like to add that I share many of the same values that you have. For example, I do believe theists and non DO share many common morals and I believe my faith addresses this issue when saying that we all have the moral law written on our hearts. My disagreement is this. I do not believe that theists and non-theists are at odds as a whole. Yes, we have different beliefs but I haven’t first hand seen this to affect the way we socialize on a normal basis (away from threads such as these) and also to work together on certain issues. A good example would be 9/11 or Katrina. It wasn’t about faith or no faith. It was about being human and helping mankind regardless of faith or race, gender, sexuality, etc. So regardless of my knuckleheaded posts and seemingly negative attitude, I feel in ways that we can work together given the right circumstances or environment. The problem is that I have no way of knowing where a non-theist stands on moral issues. Yes, we probably would work well in the face of tragedy, but I’m afraid it will take a lot more than that to change the face of the world. By the way David, I never meant to bring up homosexuality or abortion to debate upon. You are right that this isn’t the thread for that and I sure don’t feel like getting into it. And, without getting too far into it, it is unfortunate that the Church can be split on moral issues when they are plain and clear. But again, you are right in that even the Church cannot agree upon morals so how can I conclude the same for non-theists. The only difference I can see is that we have a starting point for morals whereas non-theists start where they please. But thank you David. Wonderful posts. Take care.Much love to ya.Number 2

  • David #2

    Hello all again,Very nice conversation we are having. David the Methodist, I’ll stick with David #2. I don’t mind it. I still win a ribbon being in second place. :)David, I am interested in this inter-faith movement. I think it has some positives but also some negatives. I have heard many inter-faith movements being brought up but the most dangerous problem with these movements is the compromise of the truth. Yes folks, the “T” word. Nobody likes that word these days, huh? And I do believe that is the problem not only among secular society but within the Church as well. Truth is no longer a must. And like you mentioned even within the Church, some specific doctrine cannot be agreed upon anymore. Interfaith relations as a whole can be a great thing, but sometimes not for Christians. This opens the door to a compromise on the truth of Jesus Christ. That is just something that no Christian could or should ever compromise. Even though I agree that an interfaith movement COULD be a good thing, I do believe that it would have to be structured in a way that would allow us to not compromise our faith in order to please man. Concerning morals, yeah we should ask each other what we morally believe in. It would be easy to ask me because I would just say to turn to Exodus 3. For non-theists, where do they turn to? To each is own. It can vary. I just read an article about the atheist convention is Seattle. One atheist talked about how prostitution should be legal along with drug use because it does not hurt anyone else. I would find it hard to believe that all atheists can agree on this. This is the starting point I’m referring to. Yes, I can ask an atheist what they believe is moral, but then I would have to ask them all. That would be very difficult and would make the interfaith dialogue that much more difficult. Otherwise, I’m all for the holding hands and stopping world hunger. But I really don’t see how having a different belief system has affected that. But to solve the immorality problem of society is impossible. Theists and non could never agree upon all morals.So, I guess in my opinion; Inter-faith dialogue, WONDERFUL! We should never stop talking. Inter-faith movement….hmmm….not if it compromises truth or opens the doors for inter-faith merging. I am strongly against the mountain analogy. “We are all climbing the same mountain, but just on different sides, but we all end up with the same conclusion”. No. Not true. Sounds great..kind of like a 60’s “free love” fest. But we all know how that ended up….drugs and STD’s. I do hope to continue in inter faith dialogue. It’s a wonderful step for humanity. Of course in our current time it would seem that the dialogue would need to be more focused on Islam than anything. I do wish for more muslims on here. But maybe soon. Wishing you all well.Love ya folksNumero dos