It seems to me that one of the key arguments for the existence of God by Christians, Baptist and Calvinist in particular, involves a method of debate commonly referred to as double-speak. Not surprisingly this method is used incredibly well by the Bush administration. Basically how it works is that you create a statement which you assume to be true and then you argue from that vantage point. Then when anyone tries to argue against a point you are making you point back to your original made up statement and show how your argument is supported by it. When people see the two statements tied together in such a way, they tend to think of the statements as supporting each other. In the lay persons mind tying these ideas together in such a way makes them irrefutable.
Let me explain with a better example. I have an old friend Chris, with whom I used to play guitar for in his Christian rock band. Chris in incredibly intelligent and for many years I looked up to him as a hero, especially in my Christian years. What I have realized lately though is that his arguments for the existence of God all hinge on a made up premise, and it is quite a solid one. The premise is that without the existence of God or "a higher power" there can be no right or wrong. This sounds like a simple premise but it is deadly if accepted as true. Here is the reason.
If you buy into this premise you cannot argue the existence of God, or rather the lack of existence from an atheistic standpoint. As an atheist you would be arguing that God does not exist. Chris's argument say's that there can be no right or wrong, no good or evil without God. Therefore if you say God does not exist then you can't be right because there is no right or wrong. Therefore God must exist because that is the only way that either of you can possess the ability to be right or wrong. Therefore the only right answer is that god must exist!
This style of argumentation runs rampant in the Christian community and unfortunately it is incredibly effective. Another one that is very common is the betting man's call for salvation. This is a Christian argument for accepting Christ into your life, or what Christians like to refer to as "Being Saved." Basically you have two bets according to this argument. You can either accept Christ into you life or you can choose not to. Now, if you accept him and you are right you go to heaven, but if you accept him and your wrong you just die and go in the ground like everyone else. A positive and a neutral outcome is produced for acceptance. If you don't accept him and you are wrong you go to hell. If you don't accept him and you are right then you go in the ground. A negative and a neutral outcome are produced by not accepting him. Clearly the better bet is on acceptance. So on and on we go.
The notion that right and wrong cannot exist without the existence of God is one that needs to be put to rest. It is a statement that is entirely without justification. Right and wrong are inventions of man just as God is. The problem is that the way that we think about right and wrong were originally forged by religious institutions through the use of memes. A meme is an idea. These ideas can be thought of by one person and disappear or they can become more and more popular until they appear in mass consciousness and are accepted by entire generations. What causes the success of a meme is when it is successful for a society. For example lets take a meme that most human societies have adopted…..Not killing your own.
As men started to evolve, become less solitary and began living in groups they soon discovered that there where many advantages to living in these groups. One of these huge advantages is the fact that there is safety in numbers. One of the disadvantages to living in groups is that the competition for resources could become so heated that one could be killed in the dispute. It could be truly fatal for the group as a whole if the group started killing each other. So eventually it becomes a punishable offense to kill someone in your own group. When the success of the group was furthered as a result of this meme it becomes ingrained in the culture of the group as if it was always the way. Killing has now become wrong. In modern day societies these rules are handed down in a much similar way. The difference now is that religious organizations hand down these rules. They have enough followers that blindly believe that God is speaking through the religious organizations that when these ideas are delivered and are successful then they are perceived as being handed down directly from God.
Memes are a way of setting up standards of right and wrong in order for a society to be able to survive. Many people through the belief of a higher power accept these ideas as divine and are thus ruled by these ideas. In modern life most people accept these belief structures with the belief that they are passed down from God himself and they don't understand the direct societal implications and necessities of these ideas. Hinduism for example was effectively used in order to keep native peoples that were conquered by the Iranians (Aryans) in check in 1500 B.C. The system was a caste system. The Iranians were born with any privilege that they wanted to have over their native slaves. If a native so much as looked at an Iranian wrong in public he could be killed on the spot. Even though the native indigenous people out numbered and could have easily overthrown their Iranian oppressors, Hinduism taught them to accept their lot in life. They would never rise up because they were promised better things in the life to come. This set of beliefs allowed the Iranians to establish one of the most successful societies of their day.
In the time of Karl Marx we saw a back lash against such a belief. Marx who is famous for coining the phrase "religion is the opiate for the masses" saw that people where going through hell in this life because they believed that if they took it in stride that they would get a better life after they died. Marx led a social movement that strived to get people to rise up and live this life to the fullest and not to wait for the next life. He was the champion of making your situation better now. Karl Marx started a whole new meme rolling. It was taken into mass consciousness. Then a new set of right and wrong was created, not by God but by us, by what we deemed to be right or wrong and enforced as such.
Now I am no longer a Christian, but I would definitely not consider myself and Atheist. I think that both schools of thought are equally ridiculous. Both make assumptions about things that we cannot possibly know. Both require a leap of faith for their most basic tenants to be accepted. If one is right and the other is wrong, how could we know? But to answer that argument with doublespeak is to avoid the argument altogether. In my letters to Chris my arguments have either been ignored or answered with something along the lines of this "Well you could be right, you could be wrong, am I right or wrong to think that?" Well that is very clever but it answers nothing. I will answer you though. It is a matter of context. In one society under one set of memes, you may be right, in another you may be wrong. At your church with all of the people that agree with you, you are right. At the Hindi temple you are wrong. In some places some actions are considered wrong and in others the same actions can be considered right. I will not ever put anyone down for grasping a set of ideas that make them or their group better people as a result, but I will not stand idly by while outrageous Christian philosophies are pushed on our public education system in an effort to brainwash another generation into funding our religious infrastructure so that we can create more hateful exclusionist to haunt free thinking generations to come. So all of you Christians out there, just tell me one thing since you apparently have the only vantage point for deciding it. Am I right?