Pope Drops Catholic ban on Condoms

Hey skeptics, quick news item for you all,

In a historic change of mind, current pope, Pope Benedict XVI, has reversed the official Catholic stance on Condoms. He has come out saying that they are not immoral, and that they are effective for reducing AIDS.

He hasn’t completely permitted them though, he stated that they should only be used to prevent the spread of disease, so as to preserve life; then they are moral.

Of course, the Pope is still endorsing abstinence as the number 1 prevention of STD, and I have to agree with him… abstinence is a very good way to stop STD (seems rather logical), but so are condoms, and the Pope is finally endorsing that fact.

Is God the Final Arbiter of Morality?

Ciao skeptics,

In today’s post, I am going to be talking about an argument which originally I could not find a problem with, due to the fact that it had all the bases covered. I knew there was something wrong with the argument, but I couldn’t find any holes with it. First though, some background.

In Ethics & Faith a fortnight ago, the topic for the lesson was morals, and I thought to my self how easy it would be to sweep the room, seeing how immoral the old-testament god is. I brought up the old idea asking whether or not killing 1 to save 100 is moral. He told me that killing the 1 to save 100 was immoral, and that he would do nothing, due to the fact that his bible told him to never murder. I then proposed the point that if killing 1 to save 100 is immoral, then god wiping out 2 whole cities, Sodom & Gomorrah, to stop them from a bit of rape and blasphemy must be magnitudes more moral. What he said next is the argument which stuck me up, he told me that god is the final arbiter of morality, what he says goes, and that his ways are higher than our ways.
I’d heard many Christians say before “God’s ways are higher than our ways”, but I had never heard the murder of the old-testament god justified by this cop-out. Basically telling me that god writes the rules, he can do whatever he wants because what he says goes, and that the definition of morality is god.

I immediately had to think about this one, and I could not find anything wrong with it, if you accept that god writes the rules. But both of the eventual holes I found with the argument came about during more recent discussions with the school father.

The first comes about due to a story about Jesus. When Jesus is growing up, he goes fasting in the desert for a while, and is tempted by the devil, so that he can experience the ways of humans. When I was reminded of this story, I had a light-bulb moment. If Jesus is god, and god can justify his actions due to the fact that he is god, then why doesn’t Jesus succumb to temptation and do what the devil says. I mean, it’s not a sin when Jesus does it, because god writes the rule book. Jesus can do what ever he likes, turn the stones into bread, because he can write a loop-hole in the rule book which allows him to do it. After thinking “So god can write and re-write the rules when he likes then… that reminds me of something I know” I had a second argument against this excuse of god.

The second inspirational moment I had was during school worship, when our Father told us (and god) that God is worthy of much worship and praise. Any god who can do what they want, when they want, even if it is against the rules they write, is definitely NOT worth praise!

Anybody who has ever been outside around children has met somebody who changes the rules when they like to suit them. There are people like that who still act that way into their adulthood. When you spend some time with them, you get very angry at them, and have some thoughts about them which can be summed up with “Hypocrite!”
Now imagine that this person is your god! If you knew that your god could kill you right now, as well as the rest of your family and friends, for no particular reason, and justify it by saying “Well, I write the rule book, so I can do what I want.” I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of eternity with this bloke, living by his rules, which could change at any time, whenever he wants to do something the rules don’t allow him to.

God, if he is allowed to do whatever he likes, because he writes the rules, is not going to be a very good god to live with, and is a god who I would not call god. He would be the sort of guy who would say “Do as I say, not as I do.” which is a huge sidestep on morality.

Do atheists believe in invisible intrinsic morals?

Hello to everyone on the world-wide web,

Today’s post will be talking about an argument I read on a Christian blog a few days ago, I will give you the context of the argument. The blog topic was about ‘how to convert an atheist.’ and It was a list of about a dozen simple ways to persuade an atheist to convert to Christianity. It started with simple ones like “Take your atheist to a Christian event, and make them see how much happier they will be with god.” (Obviously for the softest Atheist in all existence), and “Ask them about why they are an atheist, it will make them feel comfortable when you ask questions about their religion.”, and “Make sure not to use biblical quotes when talking to the atheist, this is just silly.”
You know, some of those  obvious and common sense ones, but one tip struck me at first, it went like this, “Ask why, if they do not believe in an invisible god, then why do they believe in invisible morals?” and I thought this was a very interesting statement, so I will delve into why I believe there a morals, and why I don’t rape and pillage all the time because I do not have to impress any deity to get into heaven.

A common question raised by Christians is “What do you base your morals on if you have no deity to listen to?” This is a good question, and I always answer them with something similar to this. My moral judgement is based on past experience, common sense, possible future consequences and how actions affect others. If its my mother asking the question then she will respond with a scoff and “Like you consider others consequences!”

It is true mum, that my judgement is not always clear, but neither is a Christian’s. I don’t believe that morals are invisible, there do seem to be some underlying basic common sense rules that any human can come to realize, without needing a deity to give it too them, and these are best outlined in the UN’s declaration of human rights. These rights were written by many different people across may different countries and many different religions, and settled on something which is really just a lot of common sense.

It is also true that, being an atheist who knows that they only get about 80 years on the earth and have to make the most of it, they will probably not do something which  will abruptly bring somebody’s life to an end or to drastically change it. If you know that the man on the other end of the gun you are holding will not continue to live, and not fully experience life, if you pull the trigger, I am a whole heap less likely to kill that man, because he only has this life on earth and I would not want to finish it for him. Another thing stopping me from being a very antisocial, non-law-abiding citizen is laws and a social life. If I acted like what Christians think atheists would act like, then I would have no friends and be spending my life in jail.

I will leave you with a quote from Carl Sagan, “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”  Carl Sagan, an astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and science popularizer of some note.