I'm currently having a discussion with a friend of a friends about bringing Bibles back into schools so our kids can be more moral. I've pasted the conversation and I'm just wondering what your thoughts where on how I've responded. I tried to make my response simple and quick because I don't find long responses compelling to read.
Yes, after studying religion and the Bible for the better part of the last 10 years, reading apologetics, and watching debates my mind is pretty much made up on the matter, but I'm open to new arguments on the matter.
I think that for a proper discussion on you guys' real topic "bringing Bibles back into schools so our kids can be more moral" - about bringing "morality" or better values into the society, you shouldn't stay on the level of scripture analysis.
The Big Value discussion, IMO, is a huge hot potato. The thing about values and ethics is, that you can support and argue well for almost any kind of value system (Ideological Dilemmas, Michael Billig). The question is, which ethical system or set of values to choose and promote if you can argue for any of them?
Since "because of religion" is not a good argument for non-theists, e.g. Sam Harris says we can find good values through science, but I don't agree. One of "semi-science-based" (economics-based) value systems is Ayn Rand's Objectivism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivism_%28Ayn_Rand%29) which basically states that egoism leads to better societies. Really?
Yea, but even the religious field has acknowledged that we really need to think about this "which morals to choose" question, see Dalai Lama about religion not being "enough" anymore: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/13/dalai-lama-facebook-religi...
One of the most egregious examples of misguided bible "morality" may be found in Judges 19:22-30. If someone wants to tell me how the rape of a woman can be construed as moral in ANY context, never mind the one found in that particular passage, I want to hear it. What's worse is that that same passage virtually duplicates the action taken by Lot in Genesis 19:7-8 - in that case, offering his two virgin daughters to a mob - so that he and his guests are not disturbed!
By any measure, these actions are despicable, and they are not alone in the old testament.
Two useful sources:
The Skeptic's Annotated Bible (searchable by subject)
and Why Does God Hate Amputees (a discussion of the morality of the Bible using amputees)
There is so much wrong with this fellow's arguments it is difficult where to begin. Besides, it is up to him to show the Bible is a morally-justifiable code to inculcate trapped students who cannot bow out and will come under pressure to stay, to teach.
Forget the moral fight. The person you argue with is already convinced his idea of the Bible is the morally-correct one. Morals do not proceed from the Bible. Ask, without his referring to anything in the Bible or his faith, what reason or evidence he has to suppose the Bible is the correct version of morality and events, and argue from there. He could not accept the Bible is a moral guide unless he already had one independent of the Bible.
Try these arguments instead:
The Argument for the Secular State: The Secular State (one disinterested in religion) is the best protection that religion has from the depredations of the State, and vice versa. Consider: who will interpret the Bible for the students of a public school? A Mormon teacher? A Jewish teacher? A Catholic teacher? A Lutheran teacher? An Assembly of God teacher? A Muslim teacher? A Wiccan teacher?
Would he demand a knowledge of the Bible to use it for instruction (a violation of religious tests of the Constitution), and who would write those tests? The USA is the most religious of the Western democracies because of its secular disinterested State. All other Western monarchies and democracies have state religions, and a much greater populace of atheists. Does he wish that for our democracy too, because anyone who truly thinks about what is in the Bible is already on the path to atheism. Is his faith that strong?
Should the Sate uphold the Bible as a set of instructions of any sort that the school must teach (or even if the local school board does), then the State must rule which version is acceptable (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Coptic, &c) and what teaching is acceptable amongst all possible positions.
If the State were to teach the Bible as morally-correct, will it also include the Vedas? The Qu'ran? A Wiccan Book of Shadows? Once the State rules on a religion, it marginalises all other religions.
And if the State mandates a particular version of Biblical Truth (tm) over all other versions of Biblical Truth (tm), then indeed the State has adopted a State religion, and freedom of religion, speech, and assembly are overturned.
It is noteworthy that Evangelicals are particularly concerned about following the Constitution, except when it involves religious freedoms. Then they want nothing to do with it. They are anti-American.
The Evangelical Elect are in favour of this, because they believe it is their version that will be adopted. Are they that sure of themselves? Do they wish to find out what real persecution is? (Hint: it is not removing Nativity scenes from government land. It more resembles heresy and blasphemy laws, interpreted by the State.)
The Argument from Reality: In no way does the universe, as depicted in the Bible, operate as depicted by observation and evidence. For what good reason should the stories, dreams, beliefs, and prophecy of a Bronze Age culture long dead be considered in any way meaningful to modern discussion?
Do you like your flush toilet? Do you hold the science behind the function of a syphon to be relative to the modern world, or where to build your latrine.
How does the Bible address such moral issues as insider trading? Environmental degredation? The Germ Theory of Disease? Medical Science? (The last particularly bothers me, since I have epilepsy. The Bible [in both testaments] instructs that epilepsy is the result of demon possession. There are those in the USA that honestly believe this, and would either try to "cast out" my demons, or have me stoned, and not with weed.)
The Argument of Marriage: The Fundamentalist Elect (tm) are particularly concerned for "one man, one woman" marriage. But marriage in the Bible, not even the New Testament, is depicted that way. It is one man and one woman, one man and several women, one man and one or several women and his slaves and concubines, one man and one or several women and her slaves and concubines, your dead brother's widow, children, &c.
The Argument from the First Amendment: The Bible is not prohibited in schools. Most schools carry it in their libraries, and all students may bring one to read at their leisure time, like any other book. Prayer is not prohibited in school (think five minutes before an examination). Such arguments as taking God out of schools are really arguments of religious privledge coupled with arguments for freedom to proselytise on government property and at the taxpayer expense - refer back to the State Religion argument.
Ask if your freind is an American first, or a Christian first. Does he hold the Bible or the Constitution as the foundation of American law and society. If he answers the first, he is an enemy of the Constitution.
Think about that. Government officials (even little village councilmen like me), military enlisted and officers, and a whole range of people affirm (or swear) to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. Anyone who would uphold the Bible over the Constitution is an Enemy of the State.
There is only one Bible verse that matters here: 1 Peter 3:15 - "But sanctify the Lord God in you hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: . . ." (link has notes on the text and leads to The Skeptic's Annotated Bible)
Amongst the Fundamentalist Elect (tm) this is called "the Great Commission." This commission holds that a person whose faith is challenged must be prepared to give the reason for their faith.
It is up to him to convince you of the merit of his claim that the Bible is suitable for moral teaching in schools, not you. He is commanded by his own Bible to understand all within the Bible to give reasoned argument. Thus his argument of "show him where it is" violates the New Testament Great Commission. That is his job according to the Bible. He should already know. An atheist should not know more than he according to the Great Commission.
(But if he takes the Great Commission seriously, and seeks to understand, really understand, what is in the Bible, he is on the way to scepticism, then atheism. Ask if his faith is strong enough to read and understand the entire Bible before he argues its merits to you. Snore . . . Numbers . . . begat begats and pages more begats)
Today's New Testament moral quote: Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.--1 Timothy 2:11-12
I would just say that it is against the Constitution to pass out religious books in public schools. The end.
Actually it is not. The Bible may be taught as literature, as may any other religious text/
The Bible may also be taught in the context of a comparative religion class. However, the Fundamentalist Elect (tm) do not want their children exposed to such ideas as Wicca, Hinduism, Shintoism, the Papacy, Gnosticism, &c, so you will never see comparative religion in a public school below the university level.
Actually I knew that. I should have been more clear. We studied the bible as literature in high school. That was in 1985! But passing it out to kids in order to study morals (implying that the bible is where you get your morals) would be not legal I think. At the least it would be skating very close to the line. The Fundies are a whole other story. They are insane in my opinion.
Hence my long post above with references, referring to the believer's commission in the Bible to justify his faith by reason as given in 1 Peter 3:15.
There is no possible context that slavery, murder, genocide, &c can be justified as moral. None. But the Bible itself says the believer must give account, not the unbeliever.
I thought that was a pretty good bit of prose for an ex-Wiccan never-Christian who has no apologetics training other than self-defence against my American religious bretheren.
If God is omnipresent, as depicted by Christians, no secular power could ever take him out of the schools. He is always there, by their own reckoning.
Wow, excellent responses. I appreciate the information you've provided and the time, thank you very much.
Alas he's gone of the rails and posted the below response:
(Needless to say I'm pretty much done wasting my time with this individual as I don't have the time or patience to correct every single error in his statements. Instead I will try to provide links for him to read if he's really interested in the topic. Feel free to post any suggested links for him. I'm thinking Matt Dillahunty's superiority of secular morality as a good starting point? ( http://blip.tv/the-atheist-experience-tv-show/matt-dillahunty-the-s... )
Oh, gad ... "fairness!" Someone needs to tell this dip that fairness and justice are not naturally occurring concepts. Ask a mother cheetah if she thinks it's fair if her cubs get killed by hyenas while she's out finding food for them, never mind ask a resident of Darfur if it's fair that the Janjaweed raise havoc with them when all they want to do is survive.
Fairness is a concept invented and defined by MAN, to attempt to create equity in a world which doesn't care if we live or die. Justice is no different, and both concepts have been arrived at by cultures which existed before the old testament was ever penned.
The problem is that your opponent doesn't want to hear any of this. He can't conceive of a world without his deity, and so long as that is the case, any discussion will be fruitless.
There is no hope for him. He's single-minded and not too bright. If he can't believe the universe started from nothing, where does he think his 'god' started? Oy Vey!
Theists always favor the God is the FIRST CAUSE argument (never a theory),
Though if you consider Stephen Hawking's theory, where the universe started as a Black Hole, then in such a Black Hole, time does not exist, thus there is no time for a God to exist before the Black Hole erupted into the expanding universe.