Saturday, April 25, 2009

Episode 39 Holier Than Thou

Does Atheism result in immorality? Christian apologists are using two surveys to argue that Christians value moral behavior more than the non-religious. For another "God Thinks Like You" the doubtcasters remind the holier-than-thou crowd that "Ye shall judge them by their fruit." Also, apologist William Lane Craig's case that a loving God is consistent with the idea of hell is also challenged for this weeks Counter-apologetics segment.

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Sabio Lantz said...

Before testing the morality theory, I wish we could test out the a taxonomy of atheists. For example, I would like to split atheists into two groups, those who have been never been religious and those who are converts from religion. I wager the later group is more moral.

Any other taxonomies and guesses?

Jeremy said...

Sabios wager could be correct, but I'm not sure what it would show. When it comes to morality, confidence in ones belief is a better predictor than content of belief. If deconverts could be shown to be more moral than "natural atheists" it would still be unclear whether that was was due to the strength of their convictions or previous religious upbringing. Id wager the former is more likely.

Sabio Lantz said...

I thought the confidence thing was only a predictor of happiness -- though I do imagine happy people tend to be more moral.

I'd wager that good people like the company of good people and in the USA they congregate to churches. Community, as the recent Michigan study showed, is important. Thus, I am hinting at the fact that goodness draws you to religious support (thus religion), while rebellion ("nonagreeableness") draws you to Atheism.

Thus later in life converts to atheism have already proven they are drawn to the good, but have intellectually matured and have other support groups and thus are now ready to stop sacrificing rationality for limited minded community.

Taylor said...

Sabio's wager is meaningless as it stands, since "moral" is undefined, and "more moral" is even more undefined, if that's possible.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Taylor
Please Don't Change FocusFor progress in conversation, people assume common terms (or they need to go back and establish common terms). I think Jeremy & I were assuming the terms of the article itself and thus there was no need to redefine or to go into meta-ethic foundations.
We were both discussing at the same level -- but you have tried to change the level to an area I care not to venture in this conversation.

Luke said...

If you had checked my index of 400+ atheism vs. theism debates, you would see there is indeed a link to audio of the Bradley-Craig debate (not just a transcript):


You guys are great. Keep up the work and the humor!

Luke said...

Oh, and I appreciate the high quality of your podcasts. Keep releasing GOOD episodes, even if you don't release them so often.

mc2 said...

"Societal indicators; of murder, all the major crimes, teenage pregnancy, divorce, abortions" "All those have gone down" "We are a much more moral society" - paraphrased.

What are the data sources for these statements?

Anonymous said...

Dude just google the terms "crime rate by year" or go to the Guttmacher institute's data on abortion and teen pregnancy. Nearly all of these indicators peaked in the 80s and 90s and have decreased in the U.S. (but the decrease is not as much as in Northern Europe).

mc2 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mc2 said...

Anonymous, I appreciate the obvious answer but was looking for something much deeper. Perhaps I should not have used the term "data source".

Looking at the bare numbers doesn't give the true reflection. Abortion for example; if the number of users of contraceptives has increased that will affect the number of pregnancies that are aborted, the number of actual people engaging in sexual intercourse that are capable of creating a pregnancy has an affect, the affect of "day after" type contraceptives, the accuracy of the source of the abortion data.

The same can be said of divorce data - considering the reduction in marriages.

I am not disputing numbers, merely questioning the validity of determining whether "societal indicators of morality" can be accurately measured based upon dry numerical values in a vacuum. Especially if the method for collecting or analyzing those values has changed.

Anonymous said...

Its difficult to assess why abortions have gone down from that combination of effects. My point is, that as long as the number has gone down, its difficult to interpret that any way other than that is an improvement. If your argument is that "yes abortions have gone down, but people are still having sex, so the level of immorality hasn't decreased" then all i can say is "have a nice day".

As far as divorces, i will say the same thing.. if your argument is "yes divorces have been reduced but that is because the number of people marrying has decreased or the number delaying marrying has increased... and that is somehow less moral than a divorce" then again have a nice day.

As far as the accuracy of the statistics, the Guttmacher institute is nearly universally recognized as the best source for sexual and reproductive behavior.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness come on, morality does not depend on one's religion
or atheist beliefs.

Hmm happy people have better morals? What ? Lol many depressed people can't even bring themselves to go outdoors, never mind be amoral.

Marriage, does that prove a good morality ? Are affairs being recored on for the stats as well ?
Should we then believe that people don't lie, so stats actually mean what, imo not much of anything.

Could abortions have decreased because there are even more teens having children, after all who would want to cross the line of the " fetus worship grps" to get into a clinic ?
Maybe there is more birth control utilized, now isn't that a great concept no pun.

Would the 8 years of Bush & cronies in office touting it a sin, have anything to do with that ?
"To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin."
[Cardinal Bellarmine, 1615, during the trial of Galileo]

Anonymous said...

With respect to Sabio, I understand your logic but it still seems a pretty arbitrary distinction. It also seems to me an ill-considered division. We really should be working to herd cats, not divide ourselves into moral categories. Though I hate it when the religious make moral comparisons, I don't think it's good for us to fall into that disgusting old trap of moral superiority. I don't care to hear anyone making claims to moral superiority, no matter who they are or what they believe (or don't believe).

In other words, the price of having the moral high ground is not flaunting it. Cool?

Sabio Lantz said...


You put forward an interesting idea. You said, "We really should be working to herd cats, not divide ourselves into moral categories."

Hmmmm, I think that Atheists would gain a better place in the world if they were more moral. I agree that we should fight for a place before any unity, but we need voices in the community, just as religious folks need in their communities, to become better versions of ourselves. Don't you think?

Vulpix said...

Such an odd coincidence: I listened to the audio version of the Bradley-Craig debate just one day before I listened to the "Holier Than Thou" episode of Reasonable Doubts. I found it by Googling the phrase "atheism theism debates", which led me to an indexed list of audio files. Coincidentally again, the first one I chose to listen to was the Bradley-Craig debate. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was a sign from God.

It looks the maintainer of the index, Luke, has already commented on this. Thanks, Luke, for providing the audio file; and thanks, Reasonable Doubts, for providing an an excellent analysis of the discussion.

JohnFrost said...

The discussion on what atheists consider moral versus what Christians consider moral reminded me of this video:

mc2 said...

My point is the numbers. The open phrase "societal indicators" is only as valuable as said indicators. The bare numerical values do not give a true reflection as many variables affecting those raw numbers have changed.

I'm not arguing a moral/amoral stance. I am pointing out a possible problem with a blanket statement using statistical information that cannot be truly verified based on raw numbers.

Divorces for example: If the number of marriages have gone down then a true measurement of "divorces" - the breakup of the relationship cannot be measured because those "family break ups" are not measured accurately. Similar issues exist with the other "societal indicators".

The problem of using data in this fashion is no different from the biased surveys mentioned in the podcast.

If the moral/amoral argument is going to be reduced to a mathematical argument, then it should use accurate data.

Anonymous said...

I feel terrible for just saying thanks, rather than concocting an argument one way or another.

On that note, thanks for the podcast. I will be looking forward to the next one.


Spencer "Thunderball" Thayer said...

So does anyone have the William Lane Craig and Ray Bradley debate in an audio format? I cannot find the William Lane Craig and Ray Bradley debate expressly in the list. A lot of Graig stuff just no Bradley.


Spencer "Thunderball" Thayer said...

Wait I apologize, it's there.

Torgo said...

I recently listened to the Craig-Bradley debate, and was glad to hear you guys discussing it. I thought you misrepresented one point of Craig's though. When Bradley raises the issue of Heaven, Craig responds that it's possible (Craig's favorite word, I think) that God could not have feasibly created a perfectly good heaven without first having his creatures live through a world like ours. Thus, when and if Craig says Heaven is not a possible world, I think he means that it is not feasible for God to have created Heaven alone, straight away, without first having his creatures live a life in a fallen world. Craig tries to distinguish "feasible" from "logically possible", but I don't recall what the distinction is, and I'm not sure he made it that well in the debate.

What I was hoping Bradley would have said to Craig's argument here is something like the following--and this line of argument can be used against a lot of Craig's retreats to the possible:

There is nothing prima facie logically impossible about God creating a Heaven or another world in which free creatures always choose the good (or at least choose it a lot more often than they actually do in this world). There is not contradiction of the square-circle kind in supposing a world free from evil (or with less evil). And if God is omnipotent, then prima facie, we can suppose that he has the ability to create such a perfect world, even if we cannot give an account of it. Thus, given these two points, the burden of proof is on the apologist to show that such worlds are in fact logically impossible or infeasible. Simply saying that they might not be is not sufficient.

Any thoughts?


P.S. You mentioned you're looking for some atheist songs. I don't recall you mentioning this one before: "None of the Above" by Duran Duran, on the "Wedding Album."

Spazticus said...

Slightly off-topic; does anyone have some reference for the segment about Fred Phelps? I'd like to look into that further. Thanks!

Lee said...

Well done on another great podcast.

I, like many here I guess, enjoyed the discussion on WLC (William Lane Craig)

I heard this debate months back and though WLC got his arse kicked - and know I know why :-)

Had to listen to the debate again on the way home from work tonight - it would be nice to hear the counter arguments against WLC last points.

Anyway - keep you the good work.


Strider said...

Love the show. Two songs that have some atheist content are: "A Man in a Purple Dress" on The Who's last release the "Endless Wire" and "Guaranteed" on the "Into the Wild" soundtrack. Also, I'd highly recommend both albums.

Strider said...

Regarding atheist music:
The Who's last album "Endless Wire" had a song called "A Man In A Purple Dress" and the soundtrack to "Into the Wild" has a song called "Guaranteed" and both are fairly atheistic in their message. Both albums are really good, too. Love the show.

Strider said...

Apologies for the double post, trouble logging in; I hate having to do that.

Anonymous said...

Great podcast as always. But I was most struck by the "Christian Salts" part. I've decided to market my own Satanic salts. Blessed (or is it unblessed, cursed, wanked on?) by a Satanic priest. I'll sell them on Etsy! I'll call them Satan Salts. Or maybe "Sal del Diablo" since I'm an illigal spanish immigrant taking american jobs. Ooooh, what if it's a lesbian Satanic priestess. I can probably charge more for that.
Thanks for the greatly informative pod!

Lee said...

Hi Strider,

"Regarding atheist music:"I missed that question... I will have to look out for those songs.

A couple of favs for me are Motorhead's Orgasmatron and Blaze's The Path and the Way.

I blogged them with a youtube video for each and give the lyrics
(And sorry, this isn't suppose to be a plug for my blog - just too lazy to look for them on the internet)


Anonymous said...


I can't believe that I haven't seen your index of debates before! You've got to have a recording of every word by every atheist/theist over the entire 21st century there.


Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

At the beginning of the podcast, it was announced that the charts would be on the website somewhere, but I can't find them. Can somebody buy me a vowel, please?

Meredith said...

I just wanted to say I really look forward to each podcast. I check my itunes EVERY DAY and I have to try very hard to be patient.

Keep it up, keep it awesome.

PS: More of those funny shorts would be lovely!


Did you ever think of doing a video podcast?

Captainchaos said...

Altruism is closely correlated with ethnic genetic interests. Life's only purpose is the transmission of itself through time. The purpose of one's life then is the transmission of their unique gene frequencies 'forward'. And these preponderate in their ethny. It is not merely reproductive fitness that is in play, but inclusive or group fitness as well. Societies that display high levels of involvement and altruism are genetically homogeneous ones (e.g., Scandinavia and Japan). As genetic similarity theory explains. That, very simply, is the fertile ground in which a moral life is most apt to grow.

But, of course, acceptance of the above is an act of heresy unto itself. After all, the question inevitably arises, "So God is dead, now what?" More neo-liberalism (the marriage of cultural Marxism and global capitalism)? No self-respecting materialist can any longer take any of that bilge seriously.

Jamie said...

I finally got a chance to listen to the podcast and really enjoyed it. Non-believers can be considered more moral than their Christian counterparts in terms of views and treatment of nonhuman animals as well; 50% of vegetarians self-identify as atheist or agnostic whereas only 1/3 are Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish. I'm sure you covered this in your most recent podcast, which I'm eager to listen to...

In terms of experimental research on pornography, it's the VIOLENT porn that society may need to be worried about. Men express more negative attitudes toward women after watching it, and Donnerstein & Berkowitz (1981) found that it can lead to aggression against women (intense shocks to a female confederate on a "learning task" who earlier in an unrelated experiment angered the participants).