The famous parables of Jesus cursing a fig tree and chasing moneychangers from the Temple, widely touted by both believers and nonbelievers as morally warranted, illustrate a kind of unreasonable entitlement that reveals an unflattering side of the character of the New Testament Jesus. In this essay Stephen Van Eck tackles the tendency by believers and doctrinally influenced nonbelievers to hold to a pre-existing conception of a morally perfect Jesus that leads them to overlook otherwise blatant character flaws revealed through such parables. Van Eck also provides grounds for understanding the approval of abusive treatment portrayed at the hands of the New Testament Jesus as one historical root of anti-Semitism.
At a time when brutal leaders ruled according to the divine right of kings and serfs approximated slaves, intolerance fostered by the union of church and state led to the execution or jailing of heretics representing a threat to state power. But more than three centuries ago, chiefly in England and France, an epoch now known as the Enlightenment broke forth, spawning ideas that later grew into what we now call modern liberalism. The Enlightenment roused a new way of thinking: a sense that all people should have some control over their lives, a voice in their own destiny. Absolute power of authorities—either on the throne or in the cathedral—was challenged. Reformers sought to improve society and benefit nearly everyone using human reason and the scientific method. It is from this Enlightment spirit that the freedoms enjoyed across modern liberal democracies today sprouted, projecting a model for humane, safe, and fair treatment.
Ritual is one of the most universally enjoyed human experiences, but it is often tangled up in supernatural claims that are insulting to our intelligence. Hiram Crespo, founder of the Society of Friends of Epicurus, discusses how the contractarian theory of Epicurean philosophy may be applied to the creation of rites of passage that retain their utility while being purged from superstition.
The Bible has long been lauded as a moral guidebook for humankind. In this article, Robert Shaw asks whether the Bible offers any guidance to help us deal with the more complex issues that we face in the modern era. At a time when many minds are focused on the forthcoming US presidential election, Shaw also considers whether the Bible gives any counsel as to how countries should be governed, and what types of political leaders are biblically preferred.
The pandemic gripping the world raises the age-old philosophical dilemma called "the problem of evil"—which asks why a supposedly all-loving God does nothing to stop horrors like diseases, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and the like. If there's an all-merciful father-creator, why did he make breast cancer, childhood leukemia, cerebral palsy, natural disasters, and predator animals that rip peaceful grazers apart?
In this article explaining why he self-identifies as a humanist, Leslie Allan first explains what he found attractive enough about humanism to adopt its label. Then he outlines what he takes to be humanism's three guiding principles. Finally, he explores a humanist view of what gives our lives meaning and purpose.
One common expression of religiosity by candidates for government office in the United States is a statement that Judeo-Christian values are foundational for American society and government. Unfortunately, no one has the idea or the courage to ask candidates what they mean by "Judeo-Christian values." In this essay Michael D. Reynolds attempts to determine what this phrase might mean.
"The Anthropic Principle: Too Clever by Half" argues that Christians' effort to fall back on the anthropic principle to defend their concept of God falls short not only on scientific grounds, as Victor Stenger and others have pointed out, but on moral grounds as well.
Jesus is presented by Christians as the greatest moral teacher, as "God made man," yet some of his alleged teachings are so highly objectionable that it would take a warped mind to consider them "good."
The conventional notion about the character of Jesus is that he was an extraordinary person: unique, grand, captivating, a paragon of virtue, and a teacher of concepts that all human beings should use to govern their lives. But is this true? The biographical material shows that Jesus was not a peace-maker, did not offer socially useful ideas other than being charitable, possessed no ethical concepts more advanced than those of his society, and did not have original thoughts. The evidence does not prove that he was charismatic. The prevalent notions that Jesus was the perfect human being, a great teacher, or the perfect moralist are constructs created because of the belief that he was divine.
"Based solely on scientific principles and research, a book could be written counseling us humans about how to treat each other ethically. This book might contain a scientifically based purpose for humanity. Science-based principles of effective parenting could be taught in public schools so that all future parents would learn them."
"I will argue that if everyone in the world adopted a position of respect and tolerance for all people and the environment the world would be a better place. This is more likely to happen with a secular morality than a religious morality because religions often do not preach tolerance and respect for other people or the environment. A religious morality often falls down due to intolerance and a lack of respect for others. Indeed, I go further and argue that a secular morality is better than a religious one because it will produce a more tolerant, respectful world."
What authority can we trust to provide good answers to life's big questions? For questions about the physical world--how it got here, how it works, where we came from--the discoveries of science give us honest and reliable answers. But science does not claim to know the answers to moral and social issues, which are of utmost importance because they determine how well we can live together. Religions do claim to have the answers in this area, but how good are their teachings? A careful look at moral issues addressed by religions can tell us a lot, and maybe even provide a guide to validating our own moral choices.
Here is a problem: On the one hand, human society cannot survive without an injunction against the wanton killing of fellow human beings. On the other hand, man is an aggressive animal. Dehumanization (i.e., the likening and equating of human beings with animals) is often used by religions to justify the killing of others. While one code says "an eye for an eye," another commands you to "love your enemies." Here you read "Thou shall not kill!"; there you find "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them."
"As a humanist psychotherapist my view is that to promote secular ethics and create a humanistic world, we need to respect human rights and associate sex with love and affection, rather than sin and guilt. To grow as a human species and evolve as sexual beings, we need to embrace advances in science and psychology rather than age-old scriptures that impose contradictory sexual morals and create fear in people."
Bible-believers obstinately argue that the divinely sanctioned massacres in the Bible were morally justified--even an example of God's goodness and mercy! If, however, we begin with the assumption that God did, in fact, order those biblical massacres, then let us ask if God is truly good. If this is to be a reasoned inquiry, then we must begin with the possibility that God may or may not be morally perfect. All possibilities must be on the table at the start of an objective inquiry; the evidence must decide, not preconceived doctrine. Are these massacres more likely the work of a morally perfect god or are they more likely the work of a morally defective god?
Job is the ultimate biblical hero. His long-suffering and unflinching faith is legendary and the stuff of great sermons and Sunday school lessons, and in the end Job is rewarded for his continued faith in the face of adversity. The standard interpretation of Job is that we should use him as a role model, accept adversity unquestionably, and never question God. But a critical interpretation reveals that God was the villain of the book, undeserving of Job's—or anyone's—devotion.
After eleven years in the Catholic priesthood, Dr. Uhl followed his agnostic conscience, left the Church and became a family psychologist. Much of his joy and success in his psychology practice came from helping his clients deal with their superstition-based guilt and fears. This article on atheist ethics is based on his presentation at the 2009 AAI (Atheist Alliance International) Convention in Burbank, CA.
Christian apologists are quick to tout the notion that human morality must be based upon an objective, unchanging standard. These defenders of the faith speak at great length in an attempt to enumerate the absurdities of a moral code which is relative to time, culture and person. However, if one dissects their arguments they are shown to provide no logical case for objective morality; rather, they merely assert a need for it and show that relativism does not meet that need. Not only do they fail to show a naturally necessary case for objective morality, they fail to understand that their own stated mechanism—in this case the Christian god—necessarily fails to impart humans with an objective moral code upon which they can reliably base decisions.
"As atheists and humanists we must question the term 'perfection,' and ask it what it is doing for us. Is it damning us? Is it limiting us? Is it some impossibly high standard meant to keep us humble? Or can we say, 'Perfection is honestly doing one's best'"?
This is an ironical reading of the popular "Frosty the Snowman" song, looking at the metaphysical and ethical implications of a snow golem bestowed with an instant personality.
The legitimacy of the three main commandments of the Gospels--"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," "Love your neighbor as yourself," and "Love God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind"--is accepted not only by believers, but the first is admired by many unbelievers as well. However, although they sound pretty, they do not pass philosophical scrutiny, and they must be rejected by a morally-minded and reasonable person.
When a belief system is justified with life having a greater moral value than death, life will be encouraged. When a belief system is justified by death having a greater moral value than life, death will be encouraged. Humankind's destiny should not be the end of its collective existence.
A Review of The Science of Good and Evil : Why People Cheat, Share, Gossip, and Follow the Golden Rule by Michael Shermer, in which Shermer presents what he describes as "a new theory of provisional ethics."
The role of religion in promoting social change moves front-and-center on Martin Luther King Day. But how useful can religion really be?
"If I want to be a moral and ethical person I cannot be a Christian."
There are good reasons why we rely on expert opinion when it comes to scientific claims ... and "fairness" has nothing to do with it.
The ban on cloning passed by the House of Representatives poses a chicken and egg problem of a different sort.
After Iraq's decisive defeat in Kuwait, Saddam Hussein threatened to invade Kuwait again! Two years later, he tried to assassinate the emir of Kuwait and former President Bush. In October 2000 he sent five divisions to western Iraq after getting consent from Syria for an attack against Israel. Hussein has repeatedly stated that he wants to turn Iraq into a "superpower" that will dominate the Middle East. Although it will be a difficult and costly undertaking with no guarantee of success, war must be weighed against the larger costs and risks of leaving a nuclear weapon equipped Saddam Hussein in charge.