This portion deals with the topic of Threats And Promises, Punishment And Reward.
Part 1: Timothy McVeigh as “Christian Terrorist”
Part 2: Introductory Conclusion
Part 3: How To Be Ethical Without a God
Part 4: Threats and Promises / Punishment and Reward
Part 5: Selfish Morality
Part 6: The Alien Rape Voyeurs
Part 7: The “Problem of Evil”
Addendum: The Desperation of the Deicidal, Memetic Eugenics and the Evolutionary Watchmen, part 1 and part 2
Threats And Promises, Punishment And Reward:
At 49:57 into part 1 we get a taste of another argument from outrage,
The God of the Bible is blood thirsty…any system of thought that has a hell in it is not ethical and not moral.
This is merely an assertion and not a logical argument. However, well over one half of an hour later Dan Barker eventually hints at the source of his outrage.
At 25:52 into part 2 he stated:
Any ethical system that’s based on threats and promises is morally bankrupt. Christianity is based on a promise of heaven and a threat of hell. That is a morally bankrupt thing to do. Because you’re making, you’re basing your ethical things not on the inherent worth of an individual person because they are a part of your species. You’re doing it to please your daddy, you’re doing it to get points, you’re not doing it because you think I’m valuable.
Next, in order to evidence that Christians are inwardly (in their thoughts, feelings and motivations which are inaccessible to Dan Barker) motivated by “threats and promises” he shares an anecdote about conversing with a Muslim about Islam and Allah’s decrees. The Muslim stated that he was being nice to Dan Barker because “Allah commands me to be nice to you.” Then Dan Barker, based on a premise of discrediting Christian ethics by appealing to Islamic ethics, concludes by stating:
That’s what Christianity is saying, you should be nice to people because, you know, because of the reward you’re gonna get.
Indeed, the argument was premised upon Christianity’s ethics but argued from Islamic ethics—this is a non sequitur or gargantuan proportions.
Incidentally, that “Any ethical system that’s based on threats and promises is morally bankrupt” means that every law of every country on Earth is morally bankrupt since they are based on based on threats and promises.
Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor positively affirming God’s non-existence and affirming absolute materialism
But precisely what is Dan Barker’s issue with threats and promises, heaven and hell? At 27:05 into part 2 he clarifies:
But let me ask you this: if the promise of heaven motivates you to be ethical, or to be kind to others, doesn’t that show how little you think of others? You’re not being good because of themselves [sic]. Or if the threat of hell motivates you to be kind to others, doesn’t that show you how little you think of yourself? Don’t you think of yourself as a potentially good person?
Those of us who are naturalists and secular humanists will say very simply: if you wanna be a good, kind, ethical person then, then be a good, kind, ethical person. There’s no mystery there, there’s no secret to morality. What we would say is: be good for goodness sake.
Note that Dan Barker presumes to know what motivates the world’s 2.5 billion individual Christians (as well as all who have ever lived). He has touched upon a typical fallacy committed by many atheists which boils down to: theists do good in order to gain rewards and out of fear of punishment but atheist have pure benevolent motives.
This is fallacious on many accounts and I have touched upon the topic in three of my essays:
Do Any Atheists Have Pure Motives?
The Red Light of Punishment
And partially in James Randi - the Amazing Atheist.
Ultimately, Dan Barker’s argument merely demonstrated a lack of knowledge of normative, general, orthodox, biblical, good old fashioned Christianity. Since Christianity does not hold to a works based salvation theology (soteriology), Dan Barker’s statements about good deeds being motivated by “the promise of heaven” are simply not an issue.
Dan Barker may be shocked to find out that 2,000 years ago it was Jesus who taught us to “be good for goodness sake” when He stated:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who despitefully use you…For if you love those who love you, what thanks do you have? For sinners also love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks do you have? For sinners also do the same. And if you lend to those of whom you hope to receive, what thanks do you have? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return. And your reward shall be great, and you shall be the sons of the Highest. For He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil (see Luke 6:27-35).
Notice the combination of worldly and otherworldly: do good because people need good done for them, do not do good only to get something back and God will still reward you even though you did good because people need good done for them and you did not do good only to get something back. This way you will have more to give.
Dan Barker may also be shocked to find out that circa 3,500 years ago it was Moses who taught us to “be good for goodness sake” when he stated:
If there is among you a poor man of one of your brothers inside any of your gates in your land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother. But you shall open your hand wide to him, and shall surely lend him enough for his need, that which he lacks. Beware that there is not a thought in your wicked heart, saying, the seventh year, the year of release, is at hand, and your eye may be evil against your poor brother, and you give him nothing.
And he may cry to the LORD against you, and it is sin to you. You shall surely give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God shall bless you in all your works, and in all that you put your hand to. For the poor shall never cease out of the land. Therefore, I command you saying, You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor, and to your needy, in your land (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).
The Old Testament lays out a marvelously empathetic and sympathetic system of ethics. Again, we see the worldly and otherworldly.
Note that Dan Barker refers to thinking of ourselves as potentially good people. Could this not be considered a selfish motivator for doing good? We will focus on this in the next segment.