Dialogue with Ben

Ben: If I understand you correctly, you may not be able to comprehend why some people would hurt others, but you wouldn’t say that their path in life; their ultimate goal, is any less valid than your own. Have I represented you accurately?
Thomas: Not exactly. I can’t comprehend why people hurt others because I’m not in their skin, soul, whatever and because what I have learned about myself has made hurting others on purpose incomprehensible. I have no way of knowing why others do what they do and don’t see how I can judge them.
Ben: You said that in your worldview, the world should be a place “where everyone accepts everyone”. Why?
Thomas: “Should” is the operative word in that statement. It is not the way the world is, it will not be that in my lifetime and probably never but my view of a perfect world, heaven, if you will, is one in which everyone accepts everyone else. I use the word “accepts” rather than “love” because love is a word that has too much emotion and misunderstanding attached but I am basically talking about Christ’s central message of love for everyone. The reason everyone should accept everyone, other than because it is what Christ wanted, is that to do otherwise is frequently a source of conflict.
Ben: What if butchering another human makes someone happy?
Thomas: Accepting a person as they are does not include accepting certain behaviors.
Ben: Should we judge or encourage a serial killer like Tommy Lynn Sells?
Thomas: Judging his actions is a no-brainer. Putting him away forever or killing him is all fine with me.
Ben: Why should everyone accept everyone?
Thomas: It’s really hard to love someone if you don’t accept them for who they are. Accepting is not condoning or agreeing with; it is “I see you as a person.”
Ben: Why should we love everyone?
Thomas: Maybe you think Satan wrote Matthew 5: 43-48 and Luke 6:27 or are you picking and choosing? But rather than rely on the Bible I’ll give you my own answer from my own life. While trying to follow the advice from your savior, Jesus, I have found that the more successful I am at loving neighbors and enemies the happier I am. Hating Tommy Sells may make you feel better and if that is the case, it is what you should do. Finding it in my heart to love him, while difficult, makes me feel better. Do I love him enough to think he should be running around in society? Hell no.
Ben: Is your worldview morally superior to the worldview of Tommy Lynn Sells?
Thomas: Sells is a character in my life similar to the ghosts in Pac-Man. I have no morally superior worldview
Ben: Do you exist in a worldview of total relativism where anything is right for anyone?
Thomas: I exist in a place where there is only one person I can change and, thus, only one person to judge. Put me on Sell’s jury and I’d judge his actions unacceptable and I wouldn’t care much what happened to his body but I might feel some compassion for his soul (if I was in a dualistic mood). I have no idea what is right for you or for Sells or anyone else.
Ben: Would you appeal to the Bible? But if you do, why reject so much of it while taking just the parts that you like?
Thomas: Gosh, Ben, it seems to me you are rejecting the passages I cited above. Of course I take the parts I like as do you. There is enough contradiction in the Bible to make everyone happy.
As an aside, I’ve done some research into religion and serial killers and haven’t found one that came from an atheist upbringing so I was further amused at Sells statement: “I’ve made my peace with my maker.”

8 thoughts on “Dialogue with Ben

  1. You missed my point Thomas and yet at the same time, you proved it. Let me interact with several of your statements and see if I can make this any clearer:

    1) “I have no way of knowing why others do what they do and don’t see how I can judge them.” So a woman who cares for orphaned children in Nigeria and a priest who rapes children in New York are both impervious to your judgement because you can’t fully comprehend their motivations?

    2) “The reason everyone should accept everyone, other than because it is what Christ wanted, is that to do otherwise is frequently a source of conflict.” And what’s the problem with conflict? Why should it be avoided? Why should I care about what Christ wanted?

    3) “Accepting a person as they are does not include accepting certain behaviors.” And what would these “certain behaviors” be? Are these “certain behaviors” wrong or just not what you prefer? Why should we not accept them?

    4) “Judging his actions is a no-brainer. Putting him away forever or killing him is all fine with me.” But in #1, you said that you can’t judge someone. Why should he be killed? Why not celebrated as a hero who removed weaker humans from the planet?

    5) “I have no idea what is right for you or for Sells or anyone else.” This is my point: You have no absolute standard for morality or anything else. Your entire worldview is undergirded by opinions and preferences. Read through your 5 statements again….and you accuse the Bible of contradictions?

    Finally, you said: “Gosh, Ben, it seems to me you are rejecting the passages I cited above. Of course I take the parts I like as do you. There is enough contradiction in the Bible to make everyone happy.” I am not forced to pick and choose Thomas, because I believe that God authored the Bible, thus I believe that the entire Bible is true, authoritative and completely sufficient for my life. There is no part that I throw out or ignore. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Because “All” means ALL, I don’t have to pick which parts I like and which parts I don’t. I accept the entirety of Scripture and praise God for His infallible words. And this is my standard. You might not like it, but my entire worldview finds an anchor in the Bible. The questions I was asking in 1-5 above were not questions for US….they were questions for YOU. My worldview can answer every question consistently. I can call Tommy Lynn Sells evil because my worldview acknowledges the reality of such a notion. Yours does not on any objective level. As I said in a previous post, your worldview reeks of inconsistency. You cannot tell me why, according to any objective standard, love is preferable to hate and hurting someone is wrong while helping them is good. All you can do is say: “my view of a perfect world, heaven, if you will, is one in which everyone accepts everyone else”. Well that’s great Thomas. I feel all warm and fuzzy. But why should everyone accept everyone else? To avoid conflict? Why should conflict be avoided? Because people don’t like it? Why should people’s likes and dislikes be the guiding light for ethics? Who cares what people like and don’t like. Football players don’t like losing the Superbowl. Does that mean that the winning team has committed a moral atrocity? If I don’t like paying taxes, can I take the government to court for crimes against humanity? Come on Thomas, you’re a smart guy. How does this make sense? Where is the consistency? You don’t like God. I get it. Not a problem. But in your rejection of Him (at least the Old Testament version), you have neutered your worldview of an absolute. You are god in Thomas world. There is no higher standard other than you. And guess what that makes your worldview?

    Absolutely meaningless.

    • Hi Thomas,

      I read your most recent response to my post on your essay, but there was no “reply” button, so I thought that I would make a quick comment here.

      At this point in our dialogue, I’m not sure we can proceed much further. We both acknowledge that our worldviews are 1) firmly held by each of us and 2) difficult for the other to “enter into”. Let me attempt to summarize by listing (in my opinion), the biggest objection we have with the other’s worldview:

      Thomas – your biggest objection to my worldview would be that I believe in a bloodthirsty deity who is capricious and malevolent (at least in 2/3 of the Bible) AND I take a book written 2-5 thousand years ago by over 40 different authors to be the ultimate and infallible source of truth since it was authored by the evil (or at least unstable) god I claim to believe in even though there is no hard evidence that Yahweh actually A) exists or B) authored the Bible.

      Ben – my biggest objection to your worldview is that I see it as wholly inconsistent and without a foundation. I cannot comprehend how a transcendent deity (I think this is the god you would latch onto) without any clear characteristics (accept love) and who doesn’t seem to be incredibly personal could at the same time be the grounds for all wisdom, knowledge, morality and truth. Simply put: without the self-revelation from the personal creator-God Yahweh, your worldview cannot account for that which is most precious and important for humanity; namely ethics, purpose, hope, justice, truth, meaning and…dare I say, even love.

      Have I accurately summarized where we both stand in relation to the other’s worldview? Please feel free to tweak if necessary.

      A final question in light of this: is there any hope for unity of thought or belief between the two of us? If so, how do you see that manifest itself?

      I have immensely enjoyed our conversation. Forgive any appearance on my part of hostility or provocation. I do get very passionate about what I believe and that certainly comes out in this dialogue, but I also respect and admire you. It has been a pleasure to “cross swords” with such a worthy opponent.

      • Ben, I think I understand your worldview and I certainly don’t object to it. I don’t object to anyone’s worldview. In fact, I support anyone’s worldview that does not foment hatred. I would hope that your and anyone else’s worldview would help them live a wonderful and happy life as mine does for me but that is not my business and even if I thought it was, I wouldn’t know how to go about helping them because, while we are all similar, we are also very much individuals. I don’t think you believe in a bloodthirsty god. I think you believe in a god that sits in judgment of you and all others but that he is just. I think you believe that anyone who doesn’t believe in the god you believe in is going to go to hell. We can debate this and other issues of your worldview and we have. When I wrote the central essay of this site I was doing it from your worldview of Satan (the premise of the essay) which you have confirmed. I suspect that the inconsistencies you perceive in my worldview are because of my entering your worldview. For me to debate your worldview from some other worldview would be difficult if not impossible. It would be like a Taoist celebrating Mass or a Monk teaching Taoism. That you find it to be inconsistent is most likely because you have not understood it.

        You are probably correct in saying that our worldviews are firmly held though I like to think I’m still open to new thoughts. As stated, I think I do understand your worldview but you are having trouble understanding mine. If you are interested in understanding mine, you need to go back to the image of circles that I gave you before. The foundation of my worldview is that I exist, that there is much about my existence that is unknown to me but that I have perceptions through my senses and that I try to live a life with those perceptions.
        In writing “I cannot comprehend how a transcendent deity…” you are ascribing a deity to my worldview. What does exist in my worldview is the notion of deities, yours included. I don not believe or have faith that there is a god or many gods nor do I have faith or believe there is no god. Apparently this is difficult to comprehend.
        It is probably best that we stick with your worldview as it is the one that is more common and better understood by many. Within your worldview ethics, purpose, hope, justice, truth, meaning and even love are not possible without belief in judgment by a deity and the reward of heaven and the threat of hell. Have I got that right?
        You ask: “is there any hope for unity of thought or belief between the two of us?” Was that your goal? My goal was an interesting dialogue that others might find interesting as well. There may be some who read our dialogue and find a kindred spirit in your thoughts and beliefs and some who find the same in mine. We may help some strengthen their belief, some others may feel a need to make some changes and others may feel they have thoughts that put ours to shame. At the very least we have been exercising a very important muscle, our brain, and that has got to be a good thing.
        I fully agree with your last paragraph.

        • “Within your worldview ethics, purpose, hope, justice, truth, meaning and even love are not possible without belief in judgment by a deity and the reward of heaven and the threat of hell. Have I got that right?”

          Nope. You don’t have it right. Ethics, purpose, hope, justice, truth, meaning and love are not possible except for an ultimate and self-revelatory personality that all these are grounded in. A Biblically guided, Christian worldview is the only worldview which can coherently and consistently explain this:

          1) Ethics – Yahweh’s law is the basis of right and wrong. This law is born out of His very character; He is the final standard of goodness because He is inherently good (Psalm 136:1). Therefore objective good and evil both exist.
          2) Purpose & meaning – We are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and have His inspired words to guide our lives; most urgent of all is to bring the gospel to the nations (Matthews 28:19). This gives purpose and meaning to every single day.
          3) Justice – God will judge the world (Hebrews 4:13). All evil and sin will be dealt with. No peccadillo will go unpunished.
          4) Love – God is love (1 John 4:8), and since He has shown us the greatest love (1 John 4:19), we in turn can and must demonstrate selfless love to others.
          5) Hope – In a word, Heaven. Not to indulge in sensual pleasures for eternity, but to worship God and bask in His glorious presence. No pain, no suffering, no tears, no death (Revelation 21:4).
          6) Truth – God cannot lie (unlike Satan) and His words are always true, which means that there is a standard of absolute truth which transcends culture, time and people.

          I VERY much doubt that your worldview can coherently and consistently explain all 6 of these things. Your failure to respond to my December 12th post in this dialogue only further confirms my suspicions. I’d love to be proven wrong, but offer some fresh ideas. Please don’t point me back to your article on love (which really doesn’t offer much in terms of an absolute reason why we ought to love other people).

          Yours respectfully,
          Ben

          • Dear Ben, You sent two posts on 12/12. My response was intended to cover both. It is difficult to debate unless you understand what I’m writing. I’m going to respond to your 5 points now but I’m afraid you are so firmly entrenched in not understanding me that it won’t make a difference.

            You missed my point Thomas and yet at the same time, you proved it. Let me interact with several of your statements and see if I can make this any clearer:

            1) “I have no way of knowing why others do what they do and don’t see how I can judge them.” So a woman who cares for orphaned children in Nigeria and a priest who rapes children in New York are both impervious to your judgement because you can’t fully comprehend their motivations?

            I’m not sure “impervious” is what you meant but as to the individuals depicted, yeah, I’m not going to judge them. I do judge action one good and action two unacceptable. You want to stand in judgment of others, go ahead, not my business.

            2) “The reason everyone should accept everyone, other than because it is what Christ wanted, is that to do otherwise is frequently a source of conflict.” And what’s the problem with conflict? Why should it be avoided? Why should I care about what Christ wanted?

            My answer to the questions you pose here can all be found in the Bible.

            3) “Accepting a person as they are does not include accepting certain behaviors.” And what would these “certain behaviors” be? Are these “certain behaviors” wrong or just not what you prefer? Why should we not accept them?

            Your questions are kinda weird though I guess you are coming up with them because of some strange notion you have of my worldview. OK I’ll go ahead and answer them though I’m pretty sure you already know the answers. The “certain behaviors” are those found in the Bible and many other books and in the laws of governments around the world. Morality is not an exclusive of any belief.

            4) “Judging his actions is a no-brainer. Putting him away forever or killing him is all fine with me.” But in #1, you said that you can’t judge someone. Why should he be killed? Why not celebrated as a hero who removed weaker humans from the planet?

            My sentence is meant to be actions vs person and “all fine with me” is a flippant remark meant to be dismissive as in “not really my business”. A few lines later I wrote “ Put me on Sell’s jury and I’d judge his actions unacceptable and I wouldn’t care much what happened to his body” If called upon in my life to perform the job of judging, I would do it but in general I’ll go with the several Biblical verses about judging like “Judgment is mine sayth the Lord” and “judge not least yea be judged.” But that’s just me picking some passages I like.

            5) “I have no idea what is right for you or for Sells or anyone else.” This is my point: You have no absolute standard for morality or anything else. Your entire worldview is undergirded by opinions and preferences. Read through your 5 statements again….and you accuse the Bible of contradictions?

            Not only do I see no contradictions in my statements, I don’t think they contradict the Bible either. That you see the Bible as the absolute standard for morality leaves out a whole raft of standards many preceding the Bible by hundreds of years.

            I’ll get to your most recent post soon. In the meantime here’s a hypothetical question that might be interesting. If a genie appeared before you and offered to grant you one wish, would would it be?

          • Ben, you write: “A Biblically guided, Christian worldview is the only worldview which can coherently and consistently explain” ethics, purpose & meaning, justice, love, hope and truth. I suggest you read some history. What you say cannot exist without God’s great example kinda did exist before the Bible stories were first thought up and long before the words of Jesus were turned into a religion by Christians. Read about some other cultures. Do some research into atheists and other nonbelievers. Get your head out of the Bible and look around at the world without sand in your eyes. Your belief is solid and won’t be shaken by learning more. Go for it.
            Reading suggestions: anything by Joseph Campbell, The History of Civilization by Will Durant, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pirsig.

  2. Yes….well, thanks for the suggestion. History happens to be one of my favorite subjects by the way. And as for learning about other cultures, I’m up to 17 countries visited and I expect to hit 20 by mid-2016.

    I’ve also studied opposing viewpoints (specifically atheism, Mormonism and Islam) for years – literally, years. While I’m fascinated by them, I also find all three worldviews to be hopelessly inconsistent and completely bankrupt; lacking substance, vitality, explanatory power and truth……kind of like your worldview Thomas.

    I’m content with ending the conversation here. I’ve enjoyed the discussion. I’ll let you have the last word, should you so choose.

    P.S. If a genie appeared before me and offered to grant one wish, I would wish for you to understand and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and the only way to God and eternal life.

    • Ben, thank you for your compassion for me with your genie wish. I believe that there are wonderful lessons in Jesus’ teachings and that by following them, love thy neighbor, etc., this life can be heaven. I would like to wish that everyone loved everyone as Jesus wished but I feel that is too much to ask for so my genie wish is that everyone simply understand the difference between knowing and believing. Also unlikely, but a goal that a world leader could help move toward. As for everybody loving everybody, that is my view of heaven.
      It has been stimulating and fun.

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