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The End of God Talk

The End of God Talk

According to Anthony Pinn, God has outlived God’s usefulness. Imagine a forced retirement party. The CEO of the universe has made a few missteps—misrepresented his enterprise, mismanaged his employees. God’s questionable decision-making forced what was once a private operation to go public. Middle management is handwringing. They know they haven’t represented God as well as they could have. They foresee a hostile takeover but fear there is nothing they can do. Because the majority stockholder is now an African American nontheistic humanist theologian who is convinced that God is too dated to do the universe any good. He presents God with a plaque thanking him for several centuries of service and politely acknowledges that it’s time for him to go.

God’s ouster is the premise of Pinn’s The End of God Talk. He isn’t disrespectful to or dismissive of Christian theism, he simply posits its uselessness while rescuing some of the structures of theology for organizing the lives of African American nonthesitic humanists. Pinn begins by exploring photography and architecture as the places where one can find theology. His most convincing argument for the place where African American humanist theology can develop is in the sociopolitical, economic, cultural, and relational conversations that occur within a barbershop. Pinn describes the barbershop as a safe space where patrons are invited to freely explore “the large questions of life” thus providing the theologian with “vital source material.”

The camaraderie found within the barbershop reflects the importance of community for Pinn but only on a superficial level. He argues that the organizing principle of African American nontheistic humanist theologizing is not just a community of living beings or structured social interactions but community also recognizes “the integrity of the quest for complex subjectivity.” Without God at the helm, the foundation of African American nontheistic humanist theology is the push forward, the search for more, the rejection of restraint, the acceptance of struggle, and the embrace of what Pinn describes as “and…”

The rejection of a transcendent God as well as beliefs about heaven and an afterlife necessitate an emphasis on human embodiment and the now. The wholeness and fullness that accompanies the quest for complex subjectivity demands an embrace of the body typically rejected by Christian theologies. Although the body is fragile and its presence temporal, Pinn argues for the body’s meaningfulness though close readings of the distorted human figures in the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Pinn locates beauty in the historically oppressed black body as a “fundamental interest in life” and the “sheer force of will.” This persistence in the face of trouble and struggle also reflects the ethics of African American nonthesitic humanist theology. The pursuit of justice is paramount and only tempered by the recognition that humans often fall short of their ideals.

Throughout the book, Pinn celebrates the mundane and the ordinary as religious. In his chapter “Humanistic Celebration as the Ritualizing of Life” he writes: “Every activity, every location has the potential to be consciously arranged as a p(l)ace for encountering and celebrating the depth of our being, and our being in connection to other realities.” Pinn’s rescue of the mundane as religious is perhaps the book’s greatest strength.

Whereas Christian theism has urged adherents to detach the soul from the body to look up to God, and to anticipate an afterlife, Pinn offers an alternative—embrace the beauty of the body, look around, and live right now.  Pinn plainly presents his alternative.

African American nontheistic humanist theology seeks to present something less dramatic and instead simply notes that the symbol God, as organizing principle, has never contained any “real” substance and does not serve a purpose. That is to say, God does not “die” in that God never lived. God, in other words, is simply an age-worn bit of theological vocabulary. God must be replaced with a symbol capable of generating a different and more productive response and organizational pattern to life.

The only problem with replacing God is that God will not go gently into the good night. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman authors of How God Changes Your Brain argue that once God is introduced to the human consciousness, the neurological concept never goes away. Pinn critiques other theologians for their shadow references to God because declaring God dead acknowledged God’s existence, and yet Pinn’s call to replace God always already acknowledges that there was once a previously powerful signifier.

Whether God is real or rhetorical, God is a powerful symbol with which humans have aligned themselves for the purposes of both good and evil. God’s relationship to power is so, well, powerful, that it would very difficult to simply replace. God is an age-worn bit of theological vocabulary because of the victories secured, the injustices righted, the populations conquered, and the money made in the shadow of God’s presence. Fear of God’s righteous vengeance comprised the core of the African American jeremiad that black rhetors from Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Barack Obama have used in various forms to advocate for justice. Whether God is real or not, God, as a signifier and a symbol has been rhetorically useful for people vying for power. Since oppression still persists, perhaps God has not yet outlived God’s usefulness.

Pinn’s desire to replace theism with a nontheistic humanist theology not only raises questions about whether Pinn minimizes God’s symbolic usefulness, but it also raises questions about his conceptualization of humanity. Pinn never describes humans as perfect, but he plays down humanity’s penchant for evil. Although he acknowledges slavery and situates his African American nontheistic humanist ethics within Harriet Tubman’s determination to move black bodies to freedom, there is no mention about the evils African Americans have inflicted upon each other or how his ethical system would account for those who traffic bodies toward places of desperation and despair.

And while Pinn should be acknowledged for including Tubman, the practice of spotlighting a woman suggests she was an exception to the rule. In all fairness, Pinn cites many womanist theologians as well as bells hooks and Alice Walker. However, his primary case studies privilege the work of men like Richard Wright, Henry David Thoreau, and Frederick Douglass. Furthermore, he mentions no comparable woman centered space akin to a barbershop where African American nontheistic humanist theology can be found. There is also no mention of sex or pleasure. Entire sections of the book are devoted to rescuing the body from Christian theologies with no mention of physical pleasure which was the most notable human expression/form of communication harnessed by the church. Pinn seems to gloss some very important aspects of the human condition. If replacing God does indeed include wholeness and fullness, humanity should be represented wholly and fully as well.

Perhaps, the moral of the story is God’s outster as CEO does not change the corporate climate. Management is still patriarchal. The business plan has not been fundamentally altered. Instead of a hierarchal leadership, Pinn proposes a horizontal one. For now. But normally one hostile takeover precedes another. We’ll see how long the end of God talk will last.

About Dr. Ebony A. Utley

Ebony A. Utley, Ph.D. is an expert in popular culture, race, and romantic relationships. Her critically-acclaimed book, Rap and Religion: Understanding The Gangsta’s God, addresses all of the above by closely examining the juxtaposition--and seeming hypocrisy--of references to God within rap music. In her other research, Utley examines how Americans talk about race and racism, asks probing questions about women’s experiences with infidelity, investigates beliefs about marriage, and explores the tenuous relationship between hip hop and love. Her writing has appeared in a variety of high-profile publications including Black Women, Gender, and Families, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Huffington Post, Marriage and Family Review, Ms. Magazine, Truthdig, Religion Dispatches, and Women and Language. In addition to national radio, print, and online appearances, Dr. Utley lectures at universities across the country and is an associate professor of communication studies at California State University Long Beach.
  • Deborah_B

    In terms of symbolic usefulness, in American insurance and liability contracts, we have "acts of God" to explain floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and other catastrophes. :)

    • Peter

      I always thought if I had billions I'd love to challenge the insurance companies and their weaselly way of voiding insurance because it was "an act of god." Prove god.

  • Anthony McCarthy

    I'd like to know how Pinn explains a moral obligation to respect the inherent rights of all people on an equal basis within his frame of thought. And by that I mean a moral obligation of sufficient strength, of a reality sufficiently strongly held by enough people so that it really has an effect in real human activity and interaction that effectively counteracts the desire to not respect inherent rights universally, without discrimination, even when doing that is advantageous or desired.

    The great problem of human activity is getting people to not commodify, use, abuse, hurt and kill other people. Getting some people to not do that individually might work with some people who don't believe God has morally obliged them to behave that way, I have absolutely no faith that an entire society can escape catastrophe if enough people don't believe God requires us to do that. It's rare enough among people who profess to believe that.

    I've gone from the typical agnosticism of the college educated class to complete disbelief that there is any substitute for God and moral obligation if democracy, equality, and a decent society is the goal. I located my belief in God in my search for a just society, I didn't start out looking for God. I found God because that was the only thing where I was looking.

    • Spuddie

      Pretty damn easily.

      Religion never defined or created morality, only codified it for easy digestion. The (largely Christian) form of morality seems to be somewhat infantile in understanding. One acts or fails to act morally strictly out of a system of divine rewards or punishments. Its not unlike how one deals with toddlers or a Pavlovian subject. Acting purely out of such self-interest is hardly a deep form of morality in any sense.

      In most cases the religious based morality becomes an excuse for sectarian based immoral acts. For example, the first 3 of 10 commandments are purely enforcement of sectarian conduct (Monotheism, No idolatry, keep sabbath). They have nothing to do with greater notions of moral conduct towards others. Moral behavior easily exists absent such rules.

      People will always act moral or immoral regardless of divine admonishment. You don't need to pledge yourself to god to act morally. Never did. One doesn't need to read a word of the Bible to know that destructive, selfish, dishonest acts are wrong. Every society has such rules. It is innate to the fact of people living as groups.

      "I have absolutely no faith that an entire society can escape catastrophe
      if enough people don't believe God requires us to do that."

      Whose God? Does it have to be the Abrahamic one? Are you saying polytheistic societies cannot be moral?

      • Anthony McCarthy

        "Religion never defined or created morality"

        1. I didn't say that religion defined or crated morality, I said God did. 2. Your statement is based in absolutely no evidence but is just another of the Just-so stories that have become so popular in the past 35 years of the intellectual fad of making up stuff about the entirely lost pre-history of our species. I would challenge you to produce the earliest documentation of codes of moral behavior to support your contention that that first documented evidence is non-religious. 3. "Where do you find your evidence that "in most cases the religious based morality becomes an excuse for sectarian based immoral acts." You have made assertions about three of the "ten commandments" without any evidence that even that limited list has "in most cases" had that effect. More unsupported story telling, in other words.

        4. Atheism, especially that based in supposedly scientific materialism, can't produce any basis for an absolute moral obligation to respect the rights of other people (not to mention other living things) that stands regardless of calculations of self-advantage, preferences, whims. Where does that moral obligation come from? In every case I've pressed that with atheists they come up with some evidence free, evo-psy mumbo-jumbo that doesn't establish the reality of that moral obligation but merely asserts it is the product of mutual agreement for some asserted "evolutionary advantage". If the history of religious assertion of that obligation being as real as molecules and gravity has a spotty record of making people behave better, the far more easily rejected Just-so story you've come up with is even more easily debunked and ignored. It is useful for showing what a bunch of malarachy evo-psy is because natural selection, the supposed basis of their stories, is all about struggle for personal advantage not moral behavior. "Survival of the fittest" as even Darwin defined natural selection in the fifth edition of Origin of Species really does mean "survival" as in someone else doesn't. Someone else in the same species, including ours. It's the opposite of the morality that can produce egalitarian democracy. which has to come from somewhere else.

        I didn't say anything about any specific religious tradition. Many polytheistic religions contain assertions of the kind I specified. If you don't know enough about religions to know that, it's not my fault.

        • Spuddie

          1. "God dictates morals not religion" That is circular logic at its most common. God (or Gods) is expressed by cultures through religion. Since there is no objective evidence of God speaking directly to a society outside of religious texts, it is the religion which states, "God's view of morality"

          2. Codes of conduct and morality without any reference to religion:
          Code of Hamurabi, Ancient Roman civil law, Aristotle's works on ethics and politics, English Common Law, Confucianism of Imperial China

          3. Evidence of religious inspired immorality:
          The Crusades, The Inquisition, witch Hunts, the 30 Years War, Bosnian Genocide, 9/11…

          My assertions about the 10 commandments are plain as day:
          1. I am your God, you will have no other God before me
          2. Do not worship graven idols
          3. Keep the Sabbath Day holy

          None of those have any bearing on morality. They are strictly to uphold sectarian religious rites and customs.

          4. Your complaint is really that atheism has not produced easy to digest shorthands for morality. Well that is a complaint which really misunderstands the nature of morality. Atheists usually have to take a more contemplative stance since religious belief is the overwhelming norm of society. Atheists usually have to defend their views more often and more rigorously, in comparison to religious belief. This is a group least likely to need to rely on easy to digest short-hands for complicated concepts like morality.

          We need to move a little beyond a checklist of rules and think about morals as they really exist. As a series of interactions with others. Morality does not exist in a vacuum. It is an integral part of how we deal with others. Being human is really the only requirement to understanding morality. Empathy and common sense have more to do with moral codes than any pronouncement from on high.

          When you talk of religious based morality, you are really only discussing Christianity's take on the subject. One which posits the idea of absolute hard and fast rules based on the Bible as the be all and end all, with no debates. Other faiths uses the religious texts as a jumping off point for further discussion on the subject of morality. Mature moral discussion requires debate, going beyond blind adherence to actual understanding of a situation. Religion may provide a simple starting point, but it is not one which is required.

          We deal with people everyday. It doesn't take the Bible to know how beneficial it is to be honest and altruistic. Worries over divine punishment or reward certainly do little to encourage or curtail moral behavior. Only the least mature or most dogmatic people ever take such things seriously in their daily interactions.

          You engage in a false dichotomy to claim the alternative to religious notions of morality is to adopt a psuedoscientific one. People who talk of "scientific materialism" are usually looking for an excuse to substitute religion for things where they don't belong such as in science. Morality is not definable scientifically any more than any other part of society.

          • Anthony McCarthy

            The Code of Hammurabi? You mean the thing that starts this way:

            "When Anu the Sublime, King of the Anunaki, and Bel, the lord of Heaven and earth, who decreed the fate of the land, assigned to Marduk, the over-ruling son of Ea, God of righteousness, dominion over earthly man, and made him great among the Igigi, they called Babylon by his illustrious name, made it great on earth, and founded an everlasting kingdom in it, whose foundations are laid so solidly as those of heaven and earth; then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind."

            The Roman law? You think a thoroughly theocratic government, eventually with DIVINE EMPERORS! preceded the Mosaic Law? I think you're in need of review of some basic time lines. I could keep going on that way but there's no point when you've already lost it decisively.

            "3. Evidence of religious inspired immorality:

            The Crusades, The Inquisition, witch Hunts, the 30 Years War, Bosnian Genocide, 9/11…"

            All of which are in opposition to the teachings of Jesus, none of which are in opposition to anything materialism or atheism can produce. You want a list of the sins of atheist governments? The Reign of Terror, the murders under the Calles government in Mexico. Stalin, the GRD, the satellites who the Soviet government occupied and suppressed, installing anti-religious governments. China under Mao and up to today, North Korea…. I can tell you how the crimes of those governments are in direct opposition to the morality Jesus taught, tell me what atheist moral code they violated.

            Um, getting back to the Code of Hammurabi and what you said about it, you really should find out what the thing said before you use it in an argument. And if you think the English law, made by legislators who were mostly professed Christians, with the monarchy-crowned by an Archbishop- with a state church is separable from religion you will have to explain yourself.

            I could go on to the rest of your things but you might want to review it before I get to it.

            • Spuddie

              Your view of religion and ancient societies is rather ahistorical. By your arguments, despots who claim divine right are enforcing God's morality. In practice, it meant a rule has no constraints whatsoever to their rule. God's morality is whatever the ruler chooses. So you think all monarchs are somehow really chosen by the hand of God?

              You have things switched around. Your claim is that morals and laws are based on religious lines. That God inspires the apparatus of state. Truth of the matter was always the other way around. Religious principles were subordinated to the civil authority. Prior to the fall of the Roman Empire, religion was in service of the state. The state was not formed on lines of the religion.

              The preamble to the Code of Hammurabi is a perfect example of that. In all of that reference to deities and whatnot, what you really have is a ruler saying, my authority comes from the Gods you are not allowed to question it! Not much different from a divine right monarch ruling by decree. The purpose of the code was to create a consistent code of conduct and spare a ruler from the annoyance of dispensing justice from on high (as is their right under the Gods firm hand!)

              Roman civilization was the flipside to theocracy. A theocracy means the religion sets the form for the state. In Ancient Rome, religion was always in service to the state. Emperors were gods in name only and divinity was treated with apathy. A convenience of politics and treated as such. This is why Romans were so freaked out over Jewish zealots, Druids, and Christians. People who divorced the nationhood from the religion and took their religious beliefs seriously.

              Your take on English Civil Law is just silly. I guess anything done in a society of Christians is automatically attributed to Christ (unless its an atrocity). Unless you can find actual reference to authority being derived from religious texts, you are just making a wild assumption here. But in fact, it was set up in direct opposition to the notion of divinely inspired rulership.

              First of all, it was not created by legislators, but on nobles who wanted to delegate the authority over the affairs and disputes of peasants without getting directly involved. Convenience to the leadership and enforcement of land ownership dictated the tenor of its rules. It was designed to be completely separated from the decree of the Crown. Our modern inheritance and real estate system has absolutely nothing to do with anything religious based. It is based on various lords trying to keep property from falling into the hands of the King (who is placed in the position by God himself!).

              You will find most laws are based more on the convenience of society than any grand moral notions or religious inspiration. At best you would have some blanket thanks to God, but little to nothing actually modeled on religious lines.

              3. "All of which are in opposition to the teachings of Jesus, none of which are in opposition to anything materialism or atheism can produce."

              You don't get off on the "Not real Christians/Muslims/…" dodge. The acts were done in the name of the religion as practiced. It doesn't matter whether you think Jesus's teachings are meant to be followed in a certain way. They were followed in such a violent fashion by people who were professed adherents of their religion. It is not for you to decide what faith someone else is. Its what they identify themselves as which counts.

              You seem to confuse anti-theism with atheism. One need not oppose religion to be absent religious belief. Atheism in of itself is not an attack on religion as much as it is a personal rejection of belief. When one is a Christian, it is not seen as an attack on Islam or Buddhism. It is simply what one believes.

              The terrors of communists are simply a replacement of state induced terror from religious excuses to secular ones. Ideology of any given dictatorship is always superficial at best. A means to an end. It makes no difference whether they are theocrats or communists. They are not opposites at all. Simply flip sides of the same horrific coin.

              • Anthony McCarthy

                You clearly didn't read it, it, it directly contradicts what you said it was " then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; "

                I could have pointed out passages of the Analects of Confucius that directly refute your contention about them. Here's how I said that in my morning blog post on this discussion:

                The Analects of Confucius, VII Chapter 22 says:

                The Master said, `Heaven produced the virtue that is in me. Hwan T'ui what can he do to me?'

                XX Chapter 3 says:

                The Master said, `Without recognising the ordinances of Heaven, it is impossible to be a superior man.

                So, the atheist's citation, if they had bothered to read it, says that heaven not only produces virtue but it is impossible to be a superior man without recognizing the ordinances of heaven. Clearly the atheist use of Confucius in this argument is based on suppression and distortion or, more likely total ignorance. Its success could only depend on ignorance and being too lazy to look up what the document says.

                • Anthony McCarthy

                  The Roman Government was a theocratic system, incorporating worship of gods, including A NUMBER OF EMPERORS, LIVING AND DEAD!

                  Putting it as plainly as possible, you're either spouting off out of ignorance or you are intentionally lying, I don't know which it is but you're clearly misrepresenting some rather plain and obvious facts of history that are not open to your representation of them. Even when those are put right under your nose. I'm not surprised when atheists do that, anymore. It seems to be what the current atheist polemics are based in. I will be frank and say I've come to expect that of people who think morality is a mere social construct. Lying in order to try to gain an advantage is not forbidden by a mere social construct, under materialism morality is merely a temporarily and optional fiction.

                • Peter

                  Paul, and elsewhere in the NT, it clearly states that you should be subject to the governing authorities. In their day that, of course was Rome, whose Emperors claimed they were gods. So what, was Paul wrong? Were the Emperors morality perfect? Right. You, therefore, don't need a bogus religion to dictate morality. In fact, most religions, including eastern religion, are the most barbaric in history. Liberate yourself.

                • Anthony McCarthy

                  The history of atheist governments includes The Reign of Terror in France, the Calles dictatorship in Mexico, The Soviet Government, including that wonderful guy,, Stalin, the Chinese government under Mao and on to today, the puppet governments that Stalin installed in Eastern Europe and free lancers like Tito in Yugoslavia and Hoxha in Albania. And don't forget the atheist paradise that North Korea is. I will grant that Cuba under Castro is probably not as bad as the alternatives in Latin America but I'd still rather not be "liberated" by it.

                  I'd compare the percentages of governments with state religions in that period with those which were officially atheist. That would be 100% brutal, bloody dictatorships as opposed to a smaller number of those for governments with state religions.

                  Atheism with political power has a 100% record of being a brutal and bloody dictatorship Name a single one that wasn't.

                • Spuddie

                  Governments formed upon ideological lines besides democracy are full of atrocities be they theocracy or atheist. SFW?

                  Ideology means nothing in such a context. Playing a numbers game is rather infantile. Besides the religious inspired maniacs have a much longer history. Its a silly form of discussion.

                  The idea that one form of dictatorship is ever the opposite of another is a silly idea which should have been consigned to the garbage bin of history after the Cold War.

                  Democracy certainly doesn't require a religious basis and in fact works best when secular in nature. Neutral to religion and respectful of the right to any given faith and sect to practice without fear of government intrusion or endorsement.

                • Anthony McCarthy

                  I was talking about atheist governments which have a 100% record of being brutal, bloody dictatorships. I used to overlook that fact out of some misguided belief in leftist solidarity, now I've come to see that atheism is a really bad basis for leftist politics, as its amoral materialism would lead, logically.

                  Democracy can either be secular, as I'd prefer, or have a state religion – with religious freedom guaranteed. Such governments can be anything from the best try at democracy to a pretty brutal dictatorship, as well. If they are brutal, bloody and dictatorial, they certainly aren't following the teachings of Jesus or most other religious figures I'm aware of. It's not perfect but the record of even governments with a state religion is less than 100% brutal, bloody dictatorships.

                • Spuddie

                  All dictatorships are brutal and bloody no matter what lines they are drawn from. Ideology is something which could never be taken seriously in such places. Such governments use ideology merely a tool for maintaining power and cultivating outside help ("useful idiots", fanatics and collaborators). Consistency and adherence to an ideology in a dictatorship never exceeds its expedience.

                  You are trying to equate atheism with brutality and it is rather silly. Any and every form of ideology has been turned into the basis for brutal dictatorship. Singling out atheism is short sighted and infantile.

                  Democracies by their nature are secular. Not atheist, but not drawn from any given religious background. In order to respect religious freedom such things are necessary. Religiously neutral does not mean anti-religious. But it also respects the idea that no religious belief at all can be accepted as well.

                  There is no such thing as a truly free democracy drawn on religious lines. Such places will inevitably engage in sectarian discrimination and attack personal liberties in one form or another.

                  NO government ever acts on the lines of the religious texts invoked or practiced be they the works Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha or whatnot. None ever truly will. The expediencies of government preclude such things. Religious belief and adherence is something whose power is personal in nature.

                  Scaling it up from there means it is practiced as a matter of coercion rather than belief. That defeats the purpose of morality in a religious context. If you are following a law out of fear of earthly punishment you are not acting moral at all. Far from it. It is the most base form of behavior possible. Rank self-interest. A religious based government will always be detrimental to personal liberties because it requires people to forgo following religious ideas out of honest belief and substitutes it with compulsion under the color of law.

                • Anthony McCarthy

                  The atheist, anti-religious governments I listed, pretty much all of the officially atheist governments in recorded history, were absolutely consistent with the amoral standards of scientistic materialism and would be excused by the frequently asserted "moral" standard of prevailing social norms. They and all other murderous, oppressive, bloody regimes, atheist, "Christian" or other violated the teaching that you were to do to others what you would have them do to you, to turn the other cheek when attacked, to love your enemies and pray for them, and all other applicable teachings of Jesus and the other Jewish prophets.

                  You don't get to hold Christianity responsible for governments that violate the most basic of Christian teachings while, at the same time, exonerating atheism for atheist governments that didn't violate any atheist standard of "morality".

                • Spuddie

                  Of course I would to hold Christianity responsible for nations which claim to be officially Christian if I were to go with your infantile argument. After all it would be logically consistent. That is merely the end result of your own argument. You don't get to selectively chose which applies and which doesn't out of convenience. If you make a rational argument, you are bound by rational modes of discussion.

                  But I reject your argument outright, because any dictatorship's ideology is a sham front for the public be it atheist, religious or whatever. What part of that argument did you not get? Any ideology can be used to form dictatorships.

                  It is not up to you to deem whether something is truly Christian or not. That is something the people themselves identify with. Plenty of professed Christians commit immoral acts. Sometimes they claim to be doing it in the name of Jesus. Whether you disagree with their claims is immaterial.

                  You can quit the "No true Christian" fallacy already. Its overused, illogical and ridiculous. You can also try actually reading about atheist philosophies once in a while instead of relying on Christian fundamentalist propaganda on the subject.

                  There is nothing in atheism as a philosophy which promotes immoral and atrocious behavior. You are merely arguing your phony strawman that without religious belief there are no morals. As I have shown over and over again, religion is not the sui genesis of morality nor even a necessary component to its discussion. So the constant phony trope of equating atheism with amorality is just circular logic at this point.

                  Your whole premise is garbage because religious based morality fails to be moral once it is adopted by a government. Once a religion becomes an official guiding line for a government it loses the moral standings of the religion because governments enforce such things by coercion. Conduct induced by coercion is not moral conduct at all.

                • Anthony McCarthy

                  Jesus didn't claim to be establishing a government, he was rather plain about that saying his kingdom was not of this world. He's certainly not responsible for peoples' actions WHEN THEY DO WHAT HE SAID NOT TO DO. Atheists who deny the reality of moral obligations, saying that they're nothing but social conventions can hardly escape blame when people act as if they believed they weren't bound by moral obligations, doing whatever they figure they can get away with. That Stalin was able to get away with a lot more than most people signifies absolutely nothing in the typical atheist exposition on the subject of morals. He was absolutely in line with, for example, Richard Dawkins' declaration that there was "no evil, no good" in the universe. He was absolutely opposed to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

                • Spuddie

                  No notion of religious morality can survive endorsement by a government. Once it does, it ceases to be morality at all. Moral decisions are always personal, and at no point require a religious basis. At best religion is a shorthand. Nothing else.

                  It doesn't matter what you think Jesus's teachings are either. People who identify themselves as Christians are not immune to the notion of performing immoral acts which are in line with religious beliefs. Religion doesn't create morality nor ever truly addresses it in a deep way.

                  You are still woefully mistaken as to what atheists actually believe. At no point is there the notion that atheists deny morality. That is fiction created by people trying to denigrate atheist belief. Stalin's beliefs were never more than "do what makes Stalin happy". Despite this fact, you still repeat the same nonsense. The gainsay association of him with everything about atheism is getting silly.

                  You have not done a thing to support your POV. The most you have done is made snide, ignorant remarks to denigrate atheism and make truly ridiculous claims about history.

                  Instead of constantly insulting my intelligence with your ridiculous notions as to what you THINK atheism means, try doing some research on the term "secular humanism" and get back to me.

                • Anthony McCarthy

                  No, it doesn't matter what I think Jesus' teachings are BECAUSE WHAT HE SAID WAS WRITTEN DOWN. You might as well say it doesn't matter what I think Bertrand Russell said or Richard Feynman said or you said BECAUSE I CAN READ WHAT YOU SAID.

                  I used to not think a lot about atheism until Harris and Dawkins came out with their books and I read what lots of atheists said online. Now I think it's been a major blight on the culture of humanity and a particular burden of the left which it has attached itself to. There is nothing politically progressive about materialism or atheism, it is an intrinsically amoral ideology and the left doesn't exist as an amoral entity, that's for the right to be. I've become convinced that atheism, as an amoral ideology, is bound to produce political catastrophe, as it did in all of those countries, under all of those atheist governments I've mentioned. Amorality has its consequences and those are consistent with the history of atheists with political power.

                • spuddie

                  And despite writing these things down, most people professing belief in them still and will always, selectively follow whichever teachings are the most expedient for a given situation. Again, what you think of as Christian is immaterial to the subject of what is done by people who identify themselves as Christian.

                  Even Jesus and his pals and successors acknowledged that it is actually impossible to actually follow him to the letter and be without sin. Christians performing immoral and sinful acts are to be expected.

                  Frankly considering the fiction and the hostility towards atheism by many religious groups, one should not be surprised to see animosity returned in one form or another. Your own views of atheism are pretty damn unreasonable ignorant, second hand and more or less based on hearsay. You just sling the same nonsense over and over again.

                  You haven't been convinced of anything about atheism. You came in with a preconceived notion of it and refuse to bother to understand what it actually means. Atheism is not amorality. Never has been. Religion has never defined or created morality. You have been constantly giving credit where it is not due.

                  You are just too pigheaded and full of Fundamentalist christian nonsense to get that. Its kinda typical of people who convert to a more dogmatic faith. It completely closes one's mind to the possibilities that what they are being inculcated with may not be the only POV out there.

                  As for political catastrophe, I would be more worried about people like yourself. Those who seem to have no problem in destroying personal freedoms to enforce their sectat

                • Anthony McCarthy

                  Atheism is amoral, as I've shown, it can't be anything else.

                  The champion murderers, enslavers, oppressors of the past century have either been openly and enthusiastically atheists such as Stalin, Mao and a number of equally vicious atheists with a lower body count attributable to them. And I wouldn't count Hitler out of that, while I can show you a large number of religious believers, clergy, laypeople who tried to follow the Jewish Law and the teachings of Jesus, there isn't any record I can find of him murdering people for being atheists. Martin Bormann, one of his closest confidants in the Nazi party was openly atheist and viciously anti-religious. As long as you weren't an atheist in a rival political group, you were probably entirely safe under the Nazis. If you tried to put the teachings of Jesus into practice you'd probably get killed.

                  The people who have done most in the past century to extend civil rights in the United States have been religious, most of them Christians such as The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In other places many have, such as Archbishop Tutu and Bishop Helder Camera.

                  I don't trust anyone who believes inherent rights, equality, moral obligations to respect rights even when that is disadvantageous or not desired with political power are as real as atoms and molecules. Yet it's just such things that atheists such as Richard Dawkins can say are imaginary social conventions and people think it's some kind of great progressive statement. No it isn't, it's the refutation of progress, decency, and liberalism and the validation of selfishness and depravity.

                • Anthony McCarthy

                  The question of whether or not someone professing Christianity is living up to what Jesus taught is relevant to seeing how their actions match what they claim to believe. Fred Phelps claims to be a Christian but he violates any number of the teachings of Jesus, "Love your enemies and pray for them" being among those. Anyone who murders, steals, enslaves, etc. is violating what Jesus said was the most important part of the moral law, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (which he and Hillel agreed was the heart of The Law).

                  You can't say Stalin was violating any moral teaching of atheism when he starved millions to death in Ukraine as a means of genocide or when, in his paranoid dementia, had Jewish doctors murdered because when the aged communists in his regime started dying, some of their doctors were Jewish. Luckily, the old tyrant, himself, died before that could turn into a major genocide of Jews in the Soviet Union. And so many of his fans in the West, who had never taken the opportunity to live under his great rule, wept. Only to turn as soon as the Communist Party demoted Stalin by listing just some of his crimes. As soon as it became the party line, the CP members here dried their tears and tried to distance themselves from their recently beloved man-god. Except for some who were horrified to find out that what his critics had been saying for decades was confirmed and they left communism, some sleazy ones for the far-right, with whom the communists have a lot in common, some for the real left.

                  I think the left would have always been better off it it hadn't gotten suckered, mostly by atheists, into mistaking dialectical materialism as some great leftist movement. Materialism, atheism is the negation of the bases of the left. Communism, always rejecting democracy and freedom, was never an ideology of the left. Marx might have spouted a few liberal ideas but his system was always a negation of liberalism. It's too bad he tried so hard to be sciency, it was his undoing.

                • Spuddie

                  You are ignorant of history and use only the most superficial means to support your argument. Your premise is that morality and laws flow from the religion, not that
                  religion came from the state. You fundamentally misinterpret facts here with way too much snark and a lot of truly shallow reasoning here.

                  Rome was not a theocratic system at all. That is a modern definition for a government organized on religious lines. You have it bass ackwards. The Roman system is one where religion served the state and was a function of it. Those gods and deified emperors were tools of the state and treated as such.

                  Romans never had a problem acquiring religious ideas from conquered cultures and readily incorporated them without much ado. If religion was a force in defining society it would not have been treated by the Romans the same way a teenager treats a shopping mall.

                  The Romans were not like the Greeks. Their mythology was rather unimaginative, derivative and usually for some political motive. The Aeneid was an attempt by the Romans to retcon their history to something more imaginative (by cribbing Homer's Odyssey mercilessly). Ovid's work reflected his troubles in courting women above his social station and are full of political jibes.

                  Aside from 2 acknowledged insane emperors who missed the memo, the Roman society seldom took religious rites seriously nor understood how others could. This is a society which was at a loss as to why zealots in Judea (or even Gaul), could not just accept acquiring foreign gods as easily as they did.

                  Morality is more than a social construct. It is an innate part of interaction when people live in units beyond a family. It doesn't require any kind of granting from on high. One doesn't need to ascribe to a religion to understand morality. In fact if your morality is keyed solely to religious precepts, you are more likely to understand such things in only a shallow, immature fashion. You would be more likely to bend your moral code to fit religious sectarian expedience in a given situation. They don't call it "lying for Christ" for nothing.

                  Fact of the matter is you are more comfortable slinging the patently untrue premise that atheism is amoral than having a legitimate reasonable discussion.

                • Anthony McCarthy

                  "Rome was not a theocratic system at all. "

                  It instituted worship of emperors as a secular government? Good, Lord, is there no bottom to the nonsense atheists will spout? Even your favorite autho

                • Spuddie

                  Actually it says precisely what I claimed. Especially once you understand what the code entails beyond its preface. Hammurabi is claiming his rule is divinely inspired and here are his rules. The code itself governed religious practice as well. Religion being subservient to the code and the ruler. Again, religion as a function of state rather than the progenitor of it.

                  Confucianism doesn't actually adhere to any specific given divinity or religious dogma. You are reading heaven to mean a more Abrahamic version as compared to a more generalized notion of divinity which is referred to in the text. Just like your take on ancient cultures, you are using modern or extra-cultural definitions in a way to distort original meanings. One must remember the Emperor of China was also considered a divine figure in the state religion(s) as well. Heaven easily can refer to noble decree. It isn't what you think it is.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucianism
                  Although Confucius the man may have been a believer in Chinese folk religion, Confucianism as an ideology is humanistic and non-theistic, and does not involve a belief in the supernatural or in a personal god.

                  Not atheistic, but not actually religious either in a real sense. Laws and conduct do not come handed down from God to enforce heavenly conduct, but for the purposes of social harmony among people. It is a much more complicated and personal concept than what you envision.

                • Anthony McCarthy

                  You talk like you learned English from Irwin Corey. Both of the things you cited directly contradict what you said, the primary documents, not some ideologically "edited" Wikipedia post. I forget, is PZ Myers still bragging about his buddies "editing" Wikipedia articles to make it more to their liking?

                  Both the Code of Hammurabi and the Analects of Confucius directly claim that the source of moral law is either their Gods or "heaven". I don't know who Confucius thought was handing that law down from heaven as he didn't say but that's what it said. Confucius said that you couldn't be good without "recognizing the ordinances of heaven". It doesn't get clearer than that.

                  At this point I'm not going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you obviously are lying about what is right there to be seen. And I will assume you are knowingly lying about the Roman and English law, both of which instituted religion in their respective empires. Both of which claimed the legitimacy of Divine appointment for their heads of state.

                  I can't keep you from lying but I can point out that you are lying. It would be dishonest and irresponsible not to point that out, at this point.

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