Thursday, October 4, 2018

Liberty Without God?


Professor N.T. Wright of St. Andrews University has delivered a series of lectures at the University of Aberdeen's King's College Conference Centre.  These are the 2018 Gifford Lectures:

The Gifford Lectures are an annual series of lectures which were established by the will of Adam Lord Gifford (died 1887). They were established to "promote and diffuse the study of natural theology in the widest sense of the term — in other words, the knowledge of God." A Gifford lectures appointment is one of the most prestigious honors in Scottish academia.

Natural theology…is a type of theology that provides arguments for the existence of God based on reason and ordinary experience of nature. This distinguishes it from revealed theology, which is based on scripture and/or religious experiences, and also from transcendental theology, which is based on a priori reasoning.

The educator and historian Jacques Barzun described the Gifford Lectures as virtuoso performances and "the highest honor in a philosopher's career."

Wright’s first lecture in his series, entitled “The Fallen Shrine: Lisbon 1755 and the Triumph of Epicureanism,” offers his introduction – including a broad sweep of what he intends to cover throughout his eight-part series.  The entire series is entitled “Discerning the Dawn: History, Eschatology and New Creation.”  As with all of my work based on videos, I will do my best to capture the statements.

You want my advice?  If your time is limited, watch the lecture; don’t read this post.  This is a long post (2500 words), the length only reflecting my view of the value of many of the statements made by Wright in this hour-long lecture.

In this lecture, he examines the period of the Enlightenment and the rebirth of Epicureanism – including its path through and with Deism.  He examines this event through both the French and American Revolutions, through the emergence of reason-without-God as a god. 

He offers an important caveat regarding a study of history and philosophy: he does not assume that once an insight is offered, it is universally embraced – in other words, events such as “the Enlightenment” aren’t events at all; those who we now label as early Enlightenment thinkers didn’t think of themselves this way at the time and weren’t viewed this way by their peers.  They were just thinkers.

The Lisbon Earthquake

Wright offers Joseph Addison’s “The Spacious Firmament on High,” written in 1712:

What though, in solemn Silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial Ball?
What tho’ nor real Voice nor Sound
Amid their radiant Orbs be found?
In Reason’s Ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious Voice,
For ever singing, as they shine,
The Hand that made us is Divine.

Wright offers that this is natural theology at its best: the natural world sings of its creator, and human reason (also from the creator) can hear that song.  “Such ideas were widespread.”  The Christianity of the early eighteenth century was a post-millennial Christianity – man was making a steady progress toward perfection on earth, with Christ returning after this golden age of 1000 years. 

Then came the earthquake of Lisbon on All Saints Day in 1755.  Along with subsequent fires and tsunamis, this 8.5 – 9.0 magnitude quake virtually destroyed Lisbon, and the death toll is estimated at up to 100,000. 

The earthquake had struck on an important religious holiday and had destroyed almost every important church in the city, causing anxiety and confusion amongst the citizens of a staunch and devout Roman Catholic country.

The event was widely discussed and dwelt upon by European Enlightenment philosophers… The earthquake and its fallout strongly influenced the intelligentsia of the European Age of Enlightenment.

Returning to Wright: “The fallen shrine of Lisbon symbolizes the collapse of optimistic natural theology.”

This Time it’s Different

But earthquakes and the like had been known to Jews and Christians long before this; yet, the reaction this time was much different.  Wright explores why this might be so: “perhaps [earthquakes, etc.] only became a problem when Christianity took a Deist form….”

People, in other words, already had socio-political reasons for wanting traditional Christianity to be untrue, and now they had epistemological tools to help.  The Lisbon earthquake then was seized upon by those who – for whatever reason – wanted to reject Europe’s Catholicism and Protestantism alike.

There were Voltaire’s sarcastic comments about God and Lisbon, ‘will you now say that this terrible event will merely illustrate the iron laws that chain the will of God.’

These comments expressed what many others were thinking, and when the dust had settled the Deism which Butler had opposed had been replaced with a similar and sharper worldview – a revival of the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism.

Christianity, Deism, and Epicureanism

While people would – and still do – confuse Deism with Christianity, no such confusion was possible with Epicureanism.

Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention.

Epicureanism does not deny the existence of the gods, rather it denies their involvement in the world. According to Epicureanism, the gods do not interfere with human lives or the rest of the universe in any way.

Returning to Wright, “After 1755, Epicureanism had come to stay.”  Whatever the gods are or aren’t, whatever they do or not do, “religion is a human invention designed to keep the masses docile.”  All we have is atoms moving randomly, bumping into each other and producing…whatever they will produce.

That’s all there is to life.  And when we die, we die.  So there is, in both senses, nothing to be afraid of.  From Epicurus himself, through Lucretius’s poem, and to Machiavelli, Thomas Jefferson, and many more since.  Epicurus was the great enlightener of antiquity, a view echoed by Karl Marx.

Modern life is constructed on these foundations. 

Deism was widespread in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries throughout Britain and elsewhere, and offered an easy transition to full-on Epicureanism.

What is the connection?  They share the view of the gulf between God, or the gods, and the world we live in.  The Deists believe in a Supreme Being, a watchmaker who made the machine and keeps it well-oiled and ticking. 

For the Epicurean, the God, or gods, had nothing to do with making the world and have nothing to do with its maintenance – nor is the world a well-oiled rational machine, since it makes itself and all in it by atoms randomly bumping into each other. 

Hence, there is no problem of evil in Epicureanism – the world is what it is; the gods therefore don’t care about how we behave, and we won’t be judged.  Prayer, devotion, and holiness will have no effect on the Epicurean god(s); the lack of an afterlife combined with no view on evil results in…evil, appropriate for today’s nobility.

Epicureanism and the Enlightenment

The term “Enlightenment” was first coined by the English in the nineteenth century, often in mocking those “shallow continental intellectuals.”  Yet, the roots of the Enlightenment must be traced to that same little island, beginning in the sixteenth century: Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and David Hume.

By the early nineteenth century, William Blake was shaking his fist, not only at the movement’s French leaders (“mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau”), but also at their underlying Epicureanism.

There is a book being published tomorrow by Steven Pinker called The Enlightenment is Succeeding, or words to that effect.  This mythology lives on.

I might add: succeeding at what?  This Enlightenment did not immediately overwhelm all western thought, and there were other great thinkers who continued their work outside of this theology.  “But there was a tide coming.”

Atheism is the end of the Epicurean road.  And they supposed it based on [air quotes in video] “science.”  Superstition has reigned, but now came the light.  A new world, free from interference, free from fear of divine condemnation.  Now that we found how the world works, we will do things our own way.

Wright cites a poem by William Ernest Henley, Invictus, with its most well-known line: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”  Twenty years later, the University of St. Andrews awarded Henley a Doctor of Divinity.  Let that sink in, and ask: where was liberty lost?

A Future Without God

Wright presents “Five Straws in a Strong Wind”; signals pointing toward the future without God.  First, the Revolutions in America and France: “Both France and America, in their very different ways, wanted to get God off of the public stage.”

In France, the Goddess of Reason found a home at the Notre Dame Cathedral (this “Goddess” was the brainchild of Pierre Gaspard Chaumette, a leader of the Revolution and chief architect of the Reign of Terror; he was later beheaded); getting rid of princes and getting rid of God were two radical ways of saying the same thing.   Robespierre attempted to mediate, with a form of Deism; he was soon after beheaded.  “Epicureanism, and not Deism, was the new orthodoxy.”

Wright cites Thomas Jefferson, “I too am an Epicurian,” (with full context here).  Most of the founding fathers were Deists, although “consistency in theology was not their strongest suit.”  The Deistic separation of God and the world was to be mirrored in the strict separation of church and state.

Thomas Jefferson, for his part, quoted Virgil, “Novus ordo seclorum - a New order of the ages.

This, appearing on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States in 1782 and on the back of the one-dollar bill since 1935.  Consider the events of 1935 and place these in the context of an Enlightenment continuum. Perhaps just one more revolution.

Second, the rise of pre-Darwinian evolutionism. 

Note the ‘ism.’  This isn’t just a theory about biology; this is a worldview in which evolution necessarily took place without divine guidance.  Some people have called this naturalism, but that is inadequate.  It is Epicureanism.

That which was being studied and that which was being invented would do its own thing without God’s interference.  “Put the question of God on one side, and science will flourish.”

Third, there was the “radical economic theory of Adam Smith,” with The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776:

Arguing of the existence of an invisible hand – motivated by self-interest – that would guide the flow of money without intervention to bring about social improvement.  …The clock would work by itself.

Fourth, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:

Arguing, inter alia, that an other-worldly and squabbling Christianity had helped to sow the seeds of imperial decline. 

Fifth, and “right in the middle of all this,” there came what is to be called “The Quest for the Historical Jesus”:

Hermann Samuel Reimarus believed, as a Deist, in a good and wise deity who had to be discovered by unaided reason, since the Old-Testament was misleading nonsense, and the New Testament was a self-serving fabrication.  Jesus was, in fact, a failed would-be revolutionary, who died a failure and whose body was hidden by his followers.

Summing it up:

Heaven and earth remain opaque to one another.  All these things go together: politics without God, science without God, economics without God, history without God, and, finally, Jesus without God.  Their godfather, if that isn’t exactly the wrong term, was David Hume.  By 1800 the shrine had fallen, and a brave, new, independent world had been born.

Nicolas de Condorcet said what many had been thinking: “the human race had been set free at last from its shackles and was now advancing with a firm and true step along the path of truth, virtue, and happiness.

Progress Without God

This new world embodied the idea of progress – and the technological and industrial progress cannot be denied.  But how could this “inevitable” progress exist with Epicureanism; after all, the atoms will collide however they like.

Wright further offers Hegel and ultimately Karl Marx.  Progress would happen and would happen automatically.  By the end of the nineteenth century, it was widely assumed in Britain and Germany at least, that the Kingdom of God was at hand.  Wright isn’t so sure:

The idea that science and technology are making the world better is ambiguous: industrial pollution, atom bombs, gas chambers, tell a different story.  But the ideology of progress ignores these counter-examples.

It is worth considering the risks of technology to humanity without God.  Actually, it is considered daily, but the “solution” offered is government regulation, government negotiation, government treaties. 

By the end of the nineteenth century, we find the following combination of philosophical and cultural beliefs: Epicureanism, with God out of the picture; second, the scientific theories about evolution give credence, however unjustifiably, to a belief in progress – whether through steady advance or revolution: Hegel or Marx; this coincided with, third, actual political movements – and this toxic combination is with us still.

And beginning with the twentieth century, the West committed suicide – a suicide induced by events transpiring even four centuries earlier.

Wright offers several who have sounded the warning alarms – some of whom, it seems to me, were also fruit from the same Godless tree: Rousseau, Dickens, Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, Theodore Adorno.  “Postmodernism itself directly challenges this narrative of progress.”

In other words, this “toxic combination” brought forth its own Hegelian dialectic – as if the debate can be had without God as part of the discussion.  Many of these challengers may have been right to challenge; however, without re-introducing what was missing, their challenges were, perhaps, no better than that which was being challenged.  Nietzsche, I would say, certainly understood the ramifications of God being dead.

Our Situation Today

Wright offers that the conversation today is at best confused.  While many enjoy the fruits of modern western technology (“I prefer a modern dentist to a pre-modern or post-modern dentist”), this should not suggest that western culture is also equally desirable. 

No wonder we are in such a tangle, with multi-culturalism and post-modernism identity politics.  Our philosophical basis gives us neither a clear understanding of what’s happened nor the tools to cope.  These are the puzzles we face after the fall of the shrines.

Christian leaders are not helping.  When faced with the challenge of steering through this Epicurean world, instead of turning to the Bible, they turn to Plato – not noticing that in doing so the Bible is unwillingly and inappropriately being dragged along behind.

Wright sees two implications in this: first, Western Christianity has largely abandoned the biblical hope of new creation and bodily resurrection.  Second, holding a Platonic spirituality within an Epicurean metaphysic is an open invitation to Gnosticism. 


There are one or two points with which I might disagree with Wright; there are perhaps a half-dozen points that make me uncomfortable – albeit far less so than I would have been had I listened to this perhaps five years ago; there are a dozen or more points that shed light on what was lost via the Enlightenment.

There are many parts of the Enlightenment that I embrace.  The question is: what was lost?  Herein, Wright makes clear his view of that which was lost – the Christian God.  The more I consider this issue of moving toward liberty, the more I conclude that such views are correct.


  1. "Atheism is the end of the Epicurean road."

    And nihilism is the end of the atheism road. But left-libertarians don't seem to grasp that fact. They cling to their deep and abiding faith in "Rights."

    I've had something resembling the following conversation on more than one occasion:

    "You believe in God?" the Atheistic Rights Theist asks.

    "I believe in God."

    "Whose God?"

    Uh-oh. Faith smashed!

    "The same God Who is the Author of Natural Rights," I answer.

    Ha! He thought I was going to ask, "Why do you hate God?"!

    "Rights," the Atheistic Rights Theist solemnly intones, "are logical constructs governing the behavior of moral agents. How those moral agents came into existence is irrelevant."

    Nothing faith-based in that statement!

    "So you believe in Rights?" I ask.

    "Of course."

    "Whose version of Rights?"

    "What are you talking about?" The Atheistic Rights Theist sounds annoyed.

    "I'm making a statement of fact. There are competing versions," I answer.

    "Rights are objective, rational, discoverable."

    "I agree. Whose version of 'objective, rational, discoverable'?"

    "You're a mystic," the Atheistic Rights Theist parries.

    "Meaning what? I believe in God?"

    "Yes. Theism is irrational. It poisons your thinking."

    "That may well be, but atheists subscribe to competing versions of Rights." Again, I'm stating the obvious.

    "They can't all be right."

    "I didn't say they could."

    "Why do you hate Rights?"

    1. "And nihilism is the end of the atheism road"

      You're probably right, especially when one generation of rational atheists gives birth to a new one (assuming that's still considered something that is to be done). As Stefan Molyneux has pointed out, atheists are much more likely to place the State (rather than disciplined reason) in the God-shaped hole.

    2. "As Stefan Molyneux has pointed out, atheists are much more likely to place the State (rather than disciplined reason) in the God-shaped hole."

      I have to remain out of discussions on matters of God for personal reasons, but I'd like to point out that Molyneux developed his book on "Universally Preferable Behavior" in the same vein that Jefferson did with the "Jefferson Bible", out of an Enlightenment style attempt to rationalize ethics/morality while leaving out the issue/question of God.

      His comment is somewhat ironic in that regard. I believe he admits that there is no incentive for anyone to follow "UPB" ethics, or for that matter Christian ethics/morality, without a "God"(in fairness to him). But it's an interesting juxtaposition to say the least.

      To me, it all circles back to CS Lewis's question: "Where does morality come from?"

    3. A prediction, before 'this' is over, Stephan Molyneux will drop his UPB.

    4. I have not been able to bring myself to watch the "debates" between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson, but have seen plenty of commentary on it from Paul VanderKlay. Harris can't find his way out of the drain in which he is circling.

      Apparently, viewers are moving away from Harris's version of UPB and toward Peterson's version of ethics grounded in the stories of and lessons from the Bible.

      Peterson is doing what virtually all well-known Christian leaders are failing at - and many are not even trying: providing sound reasoning to demonstrate that there are reasons to pay attention to Scripture and live by its teachings.

    5. Nick,

      Molyneux did one of his "Wrong about X" episodes concerning atheism, and part of that had to do with being exposed to Tom Wood's arguments on the role of the Catholic Church in the history of liberty and reason. He hasn't renounced his atheism or his UPB ethics, nor do I believe he will, he's just pointing to general trends and the underlying reasons.

      He basically recognized that although you can be a moral atheist (UPB, NAP, natural law, etc.), generally, atheists tend overwhelmingly to be statists, and that Christians have a natural shield (whether or not they choose to use it) against statism since they believe in a higher law, or a law above the proclamation of any man or group of men.

      Molyneux is all about strategy now. He's done the philosophy and he's arrived at what I consider to be the truth of politics; that hasn't changed. He's sort of following in the footsteps of Rothbard in that he's trying to build coalitions that will yield the most fruit (like aligning with Trump), and he's worried about the rapidity by which the left wants to destroy Western civilization.

      One thing about him (that I take with some reservation) is that he's fully a child of the Enlightenment. I'd like to see him tackle the same questions that Bionic has on this blog - particularly the decentralized Christian freedom of the Middle Age and the dark (or anti-liberty) side of the Enlightenment. Maybe he has already and I've just missed it?

  2. Without God you are free to sin all your want. That was the point of the Epicureans right? Let's comfort our consciences that there is no judgment so that we can do what we want with no shame.

    This is all just from the first lecture? I may have to listen to that. But then there are 7 others. Do I have 8 hours I can give to this?

    1. If I recall correctly, Wright offered that some Epicureans felt this way, others felt that it was a call for more diligence / humility or something like this.

      As to listening to them all...I have listened to the second and will write about it - not nearly as pertinent to topics at this blog, but still rich.

      I would recommend listening to this first one. I don't feel as strongly about the second - but again, through the lens of topics discussed at this blog.

    2. I listened and now I have to at least listen to the 2nd. I really enjoyed it. My reading of NT Wright before was not positive, but he essentially is calling people to read the Bible itself with as little bias as possible. Try to understand it as it was intended by the authors. Good stuff.

    3. This is the Godly answer of the Euthyphro's Dillemma: there's no right & wrong outside of what God says so. Hence anyone who sees injustice that isn't covered by the Bible then it's no injustice at all or if it appears God orders injustice then they're wrong too.

  3. I could almost post the entirety of J.R.R. Tolkien's poem "Mythopoeia" as a fitting comment to this wonderful article, but I'll try and just give the highlights:

    "a star's a star, some matter in a ball
    compelled to courses mathematical
    amid the regimented, cold, Inane,
    where destined atoms are each moment slain."

    A fitting caricature of the Godless worldview.

    "The heart of man is not compound of lies,
    but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
    and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
    man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
    Disgraced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
    and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
    his world-dominion by creative act:
    not his to worship the great Artefact,"

    Our hearts still call us to God and nobility even though we've turned to worshiping ourselves and material existence.

    "Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme
    of things nor found within record time.
    It is not they that have forgot the Night,
    or bid us flee to organised delight,
    in lotus-isles of economic bliss
    forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss
    (and counterfeit at that, machine-produced,
    bogus seduction of the twice-seduced)."

    Dang those last two lines hit hard. We sold our souls to the Devil in exchange for material progress, even though much of it is illusory and not without terrible consequences.

    "They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,
    and yet they would not in despair retreat,
    but oft to victory have turned the lyre
    and kindled hearts with legendary fire,"

    On those who've not forgotten God.

    "I will not walk with your progressive apes,
    erect and sapient. Before them gapes
    the dark abyss to which their progress tends -
    if by God's mercy progress ever ends,
    and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
    unfruitful course with changing of a name."

    Without God, progress leads to the "Abyss." I think that's a fair characterization of the mass atheistic bloodshed of the 20th century thanks to modern industrial manufacturing and cold utilitarian reasoning. Here Tolkien is also wise to the leftist tactic of changing the name of their ideology (by appropriating a good one) once bad experience wears out a prior one.

    1. Stay tuned...your last paragraph hints at the focus (at least for me) of his second lecture. I will publish it in a couple of days.

    2. Looking forward to it. Enjoy the weekend.

  4. How can there be liberty with the God of the Bible who commands people to worship and love him and threatens to harm us if we don't?

    It's plainly obvious who the lord is, just understand the "Love of Christ":

    "One night, a young girl is watching a movie with her kind and loving Atheist father. An intruder breaks in, brutally murders the father, and then rapes and murders the young girl.

    The intruder is never caught, but later on makes the Lord his personal savior and turns his life around.

    At the day of judgment the little girls asks christ why her kind and loving father is going to hell and why the man who raped and murdered her was going to heaven. The lord smiled at her and said, "because the man who raped and murdered you made me his lord and worshipped me like I was God, but your dad did not."

    Who does the God of the Bible sound like--the king of creation and author of your soul who gave you the precious gift of life for you to do make of what you will? Or the lord of the angels who was cast out of heaven because he was jealous of the king and tried to usurp him?

    I've met the Watchmaker and I can tell you, so long as people worship the freak God of the Bible - the suffering will get worse.

    1. Your lack of understanding of history is only exceeded by your lack of understanding of theology. Well, it is also exceeded by your lack of understanding of human nature.

      No wonder you are, and shall always remain, "anonymous."

    2. False assumption 1, there are any good people that deserve heaven. False assumption 2, the way into heaven is by doing good things.

      You're correct in a sense. The whole salvation thing isn't "fair". Your sins are either paid for by Jesus' blood or not. But instead of pounding your fist like a jealous child. Realize the spiritual physics and align your will with it.

  5. Thinking further about this lecture, I also caught Wright's allusion to Medieval worldview and it's effect on politics, economy, religion, science, and philosophy.

    He talks about rejecting Platonic spirituality that is assumed in Epicureanism and leads to Gnosticism, where the material and spiritual realms are separated and opposite. He describes the Medieval Christian idea comprised of natural and supernatural where the supernatural is not opposite to natural and miracles are not an invasion of the natural order. They believed, I think rightly, that the natural and supernatural are intertwined with both have Creator God as the source. God creates natural interwoven with supernatural. Therefore, spiritual things are always interacting with us and miracles are God working through his creation in different ways.

    I don't know if I understand that idea completely, but I think it captures in some way the creation as described in the Bible. Sorry if this is too theological. But it is in line with the discussion of this article and the warning Wright is giving in his lecture.

  6. Liberty was formally lost in America when the 18th-century Enlightenment founders made liberty a goal (almost a god) instead of a corollary of implementing Yahweh's perfect law of liberty (Psalm 19:7-11, 119:44-45, James 2:12) as the supreme law of the land.

    "[B]ecause they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law ... they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind...." (Hosea 8:1,7)

    Today's America is merely reaping the inevitable whirlwind resulting from the wind sown by the constitutional framers.

    For more, see Chapter 3 "The Preamble: WE THE PEOPLE vs. YAHWEH" of free online book "Bible Law vs, the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective" at

    Then, find out how much you really know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of a book that examines the Constitution by the Bible.

  7. I used to think it was our fault, but the last 5 centuries has been done done to us.

    Of course there's plenty of blame to be laid on our elites and ourselves, but check out

  8. But in the end aren't we all Epicureans when we knowingly sin.

  9. The Walking dead n'aura donc plus de meneur ?

  10. I don’t consider atheism a legitimate perspective. In order to exclude anything from existence, including God, one must be simultaneously aware of all the exists, in an eternally existing, infinite reality.

    From this perspective, a moralizing atheist, with zero evidence, is impossibly transferring to self, the omniscience necessary to judge an unfathomable number of lifetimes, each filled with countless decisions regarding moral obedience and sin, forgiveness and redemption.

    The politicized morality of collectivism, especially atheist communism, is then a false claim to moral superiority, acquiring an undeserved moral authority to compel all to forsake every region, and obey a single oppressive moral imperative. This is either totalitarian hypocrisy, or theocratic heresy; both stealing from God, the omnipotence required to replace political rewards and penalties, with God’s promise of eternal life or damnation.

    That leaves legitimate politics as the tax funded pursuit and penalization of only criminality, foreign and domestic, with universally untaxed, unregulated, choice driven freedom regarding every economic, social, religious and cultural relationship. That is libertarianism, also individualism, as well as Deist agnostic doubt about both atheism and every faith. Can’t ask now, but perhaps this was responsible for a majority Diest decision to initially separate church and state.

    Seems to me that would leave unlimited apolitical churches of every faith, providing moral instruction, spiritual council and care of the needy. As only self reliant people are compromised by natural disaster, injury, disease, economic error or familial tragedy, without a welfare state, they would all contribute whatever they can to a perpetual increase of charitable institutions. Most importantly both return to God alone, all moral judgments and penalties.

    1. I think you may misunderstand atheism.

      Atheists don't reject the existence of a God(s) per se, they just don't see any proof for its existence.

      Until such proof exists, there is no reason to assume the existence of (a) God(s).

      The atheist _believes_ there is (are) no God(s). The burden of proof is on the claimant that there is (are) God(s).

      Assuming that you believe in the biblical God, how can you reject Vishnu? The atheist is in the same position, except that he not only rejects Vishnu (because no proof), he also rejects the biblical God (because no proof).

      Btw: All morals are an attempt to obtain for self at the cost of others. No matter their source.

      All social interactions (including non-interaction) are based on reciprocity backed up by aggression.

    2. Rien,

      "Atheists don't reject the existence of a God(s) per se"


      "The atheist _believes_ there is (are) no God(s)"

      If they believe He does not exist, then they reject His existence. Agnostics are open to the possibility. Atheists are not. There is a valid reason for there being two words to describe these two very different positions on God. Atheism requires its own level of faith, while agnosticism does not. Murray Rothbard was an agnostic, and Walter Block is an atheist.

      "All social interactions (including non-interaction) are based on reciprocity backed up by aggression."

      Did you mean force? Even if you meant force, as in self defense, I would still disagree. There are many who cannot, do not, and openly will not defend themselves. If you meant aggression, as in initiated force, I'm completely baffled.

      As far as JR's understanding of atheism goes, after reading his post, I haven't the faintest clue.

    3. ATL: "If they believe He does not exist, then they reject His existence."

      Let me try to make the point clear by an analogy: If I say there is a teapot shaped object orbiting Jupiter, then chances are you will say: That could certainly be the case, but where is your evidence for it?

      If I then say: there is none, but I -an millions of others- firmly believe it is there.

      You are likely to say: Ok, you may believe what you want, but I see no reason to believe that that teapot is there.

      That is very much the atheist standpoint: They don't _believe_ God(s) exists because there is no proof. They are not saying that God(s) cannot exist and don't exist. (At least the atheists that have some sense of logic!)

      "Even if you meant force, as in self defense, I would still disagree. There are many who cannot, do not, and openly will not defend themselves."

      True, but that does not matter. People who enter in a reciprocal interaction are aware that most people will back up their reciprocal claim with violence (directly or indirectly through the state). Hence they must assume that this is the case. Even if the other person will in fact not back up his claims. (This is a 'commons' property)

    4. Rien, “Until such proof exists, there is no reason to assume the existence of (a) God(s).”
      That is so. I did not prove the existence of any God with my comment, nor can I, as the human mind can neither comprehend a being able to create an eternally and infinitely existing universe, nor His creation either, as there are no limitations in either infinity or eternity allowing a human mind to grasp existence. Expect that is why religions are also called “faiths.”

      However, I will need to know the process by which you prove the existence of any entity, before I can address your thoughts. I have discovered with much introspective effort, although so self evident as to be laughable, that every mind is blind, deaf, unable to touch, smell nor taste anything. Each relies upon sensory perception to distinguish all that physically exists. The process is automatic, the only control of it, the intentional focus of one or more senses on an object, such as the electronic device you are using. The provides a mental grasp of the observational limitations of its existing parameters, allowing each to _see_ where this device ends and all else begins, by contrasting the device with all else around it, including the space between it and other things.

      These observations place a precept of that one entity inside a mind, which is the observable support for the inseparable origin of existence and identity. (Refuting the abstraction of existence from identity, supporting identity politics.) This latter is the observation of the unique characteristics which each uses to identify existing things, the more intense the focus, the more accurate the precept, without relying exclusively on time consuming initial identification processes.

      This could be fatally time consuming, so each abstracts and categorizes the observable characteristics of each entity, labeling the concept “lions,” “rabbits,” "rip tides," etc. All these categories serves as the predictive knowledge humans need to survive and thrive. No other acting entity uses knowledge, all having survival instincts, instead. We also find existing entities with these precepts, as these unique characteristics are part of the memory used to differentiate, for example, our own Dad from the category “Dads,” or our own keys from the category “keys” referencing all the other keys in the world. Both categories reference an incomprehensible infinity of all the Dads and keys, ever to exist. The observations of Dad as he ages also change our perceptive knowledge of him, allowing his children to keep track of him. Dad will never escape us, as long as he lives.

      This is the process by which each distinguishes between the many concepts inside a mind, as to which reference concretely existing entities and relationships, and which reference abstracts. Although abstracts do reference that which exists outside every mind, these concepts, themselves, exist only inside a mind. How do you differentiate what exists, from errors believing something exists but does not?

    5. “Btw: All morals are an attempt to obtain for self at the cost of others. No matter their source.” I _heartily_ disagree; moral choices are those obeying God’s commandments. His commandments are all exactly the opposite of this savagery. It is the failure to follow these commandments, especially the explicit non-aggression of Christianity, that has created today’s circumstances, in which many believe themselves morally obligated to serve only self via aggressive exploitation of everyone else. The non-existent moral aspect is the ego inflation of believing oneself the origin of all things wise and wonderful, obscuring actions proving the opposite. I haven’t read a lot of religious doctrine but I’m fairly certain there are no Gods insisting each must enrich self with theft and murder and the last one standing wins eternal life. Although the observation of moral practices, today, seem to prove many think exactly that.

      “All social interactions (including non-interaction) are based on reciprocity backed up by aggression.”

      As previously stated the decision between aggressive and cooperative interaction, is an objectively derived “means to valued ends” mental process, with the end of peaceful co-existence requiring the means of cooperation. I do not think that “objectively derived” infers inevitably accurate, as some do; rather all means choices are objectively derived from outside each mind, while the accuracy/inaccuracy of means is proven by the observable consequences of actions, not the choice of means. Conversely, just as you describe, if the intent is to exploit others in service to self, the certain means is aggression. I continue to puzzle over whether intent or error has led so many to choose aggression as means of acquiring values. I am certain that good intentions, making a teensy error in means, is the excuse each needs to endlessly increase exploitation.

      I see no reciprocity in aggression, as one must lose, so another may gain. Also non-interaction is not also interaction; the latter word infers existing actors, creating observable consequences. Neither are possible with non-interaction. I try to ensure the same word references the same thing, as this is not only effective communication but the mental organization necessary to prevent my words from creating an inconsistency in perspective, that alternate between reality and an accidental creation of a non-existing reality. The conflation of interaction with non-interaction, could will lead to this, in which both words reference actions; the former is; the other is not.

    6. Hello ATL,

      I’ve been reading your comments a long time, enjoying them all and agree that you are the go-to guy for sensible libertarian advice. This is, of course, an attempt to distract you from my checkered past, as I believe I detected a bit of hostility in that last sentence. However, Bionic and I have privately smoothed our mutually ruffled feathers and I am changing my evil ways. He will continue as always, tolerating impudence and insult, more than is humanly possible.

      So this is sincere appreciation for your efforts here, from which I have learned much, as well as a hope to start afresh. Also, I intend to curb my verbosity, although this isn’t the best format for solving every problem in the world. I should get my own blog. You are likely thinking; “Yes do, this instant if possible.” :)

      “As far as JR's understanding of atheism goes, after reading his post, I haven't the faintest clue.”

      Her, JudyRae. Perhaps my reply to Rien has clarified some things. If not, I will be pleased to answer any questions.

    7. To everyone. While writing to ATL just now, I realized that I offer many personal observations, which, men especially, are likely find both intrusive and offensive. Perhaps seeing this a hunt for gossip instead of enlightenment.

      Thinking that over, I concluded this a biologically derived maternal trait, as one must continuously watch one’s children, both their emotional moods and actions, to prevent youthful ignorance leading to injury. A mother’s responsibility, as the very young turn to mom for guidance and comfort, unless there is maternal abuse. That may be why women don’t often excel at math and science, as there is nothing of the personal in which women are often more interested.

      I am now aware of this and will keep this kind of thing to myself, adhering to the masculine approach; serious consideration of each topic, occasionally sipping virtual cocktails and complaining about my lack of sleep. :)

      Also, that was my last feminist smiley face. A major sacrifice, as I use them extensively. I have addressed as serious that intended as humor or satire, not always clear on the internet, and a smiley prevents others doing the same with my observations.

    8. jr: "However, I will need to know the process by which you prove the existence of any entity, before I can address your thoughts...."

      Why do you believe I exist?

    9. jr: "me: “All social interactions (including non-interaction) are based on reciprocity backed up by aggression.”"

      Typo, aggression should be 'violence'.

    10. Rein, I explained the method I use to know what exists in this comment... jrOctober 10, 2018 at 7:27 PM

      I was expecting a reply of point by point disagreement or agreement. This ball is in your court.

    11. Rein. That was a bit harsh, perhaps discouraging. You just separated the meaning of two words, violence as visible, while aggression invisibly threatens disobedience with violence. Language is a bit of a mess, but if you continue to do just this, defining each word until you are sure different definitions of the same words, or two or more words appearing to differentiate circumstances, when they do not, you will eventually have a mind successfully differentiating knowledge from error.

      Plenty of examples here, Nick Badalamenti, with his research, now owns the meaning of “common wealth.” Bionic revisits the “NAP” and the word “individualism,” knowing eventually he will resolve uncertainty, just as ATL reexamines libertarian ideas looking for errors, correcting his own, and those of others. I did the same, here, when I allowed a perspective of survival instincts to limit into error, the reality representing perspective of no human instincts, at all. All here seem to be looking for the supportive evidence of certainty, none caring whether they appear right to anyone else, only to replace error with knowledge.

      Not often explicitly stated, but this is the certainty necessary to allow a mind to operate as a tool of self preservation, as undetected errors will be used just as efficiently, to turn any mind into a weapon of self destruction. Resolving this, not only allows a mind to reject propaganda with truth, but is, also, the finest deceit detector available, each knowing when someone is attempting to shore up their self image with belittlement of yours. Best of all this is a mind unhampered by isolating arrogance, knowing what it wants and how to get it.

      That is not what you appear to believe; incessant savagery, winner takes all. Rather a life filled with loving personal relationships and satisfactory social relationship with many others, mutually fulfilling personal interests, where ever they intersect. There, too, is self reliant satisfaction in a career you love, whether mowing lawns or launching satellites. I hope you find this. I hope everyone finds that, for each in finding this personal peace, will lead to world peace, as well.

    12. jr: Actually I believe you did not explain that at all.

      I tried to provide a better answer than this, but the subject is too big. I cannot provide it in the time I want to spend on this. Sorry, I should not have picked this discussion topic.

    13. jr: "You just separated the meaning of two words, violence as visible, while aggression invisibly threatens disobedience with violence."

      I don't know what you mean with that.

      Aggression is usually taken on this board to mean "violence without provocation". However that would be wrong in the way I used it, since violence for failing to deliver on (implied) reciprocity can be justified under the NAP as defence.

      Aside from that, you are free to disagree wholeheartedly with that statement, after all it's at your own peril...

    14. "violence without provocation". However that would be wrong in the way I used it, since violence for failing to deliver on (implied) reciprocity can be justified under the NAP as defence."

      Excellent clarity and perfectly accurate.

  11. P.S. Thinking _that_ over, I realized I contradicted myself with this sentence….

    " Thinking that over, I concluded this a biologically derived maternal trait,” as I just wrote there are no human instincts, that cannot be overridden with choices. My own baby proved this, as she kept losing weight while I frantically searched for a formulae she finally found tasty.

    So I’ll correct myself; it is not maternal instinct, but emotional response instead, to warm, cuddly babies, that makes one want to nourish and protect. Although some people don’t like babies, at all. I haven’t given male/female differences much thought. If anyone sees any error, please correct.