Monday, July 16, 2018

God and Genocide: An atheist answers Matthew Flannagan's trifles about Numbers 31

Atheist bible critics like myself constantly confront Christian "apologists" with disturbing stories in the bible in which God or his followers committed some type of moral atrocity that we are pretty sure the apologist would never try to morally justify, such as child massacre.  We do this in the effort to use the apologists common sense as a tool to get him or her to give up the bible or take a liberal position on it.

In Numbers 25, the Israelites fall into sexual sin with the Midianite, in a place called Peor.

6 chapters later, God tells Moses to take "full" vengeance on the Midianites because they had tempted Israel into sexual sin.  The following quote is long, but the part about killing children for the sake of convenience is found in v. 15-18:
 1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
 2 "Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people."
 3 Moses spoke to the people, saying, "Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the LORD'S vengeance on Midian.
 4 "A thousand from each tribe of all the tribes of Israel you shall send to the war."
 5 So there were furnished from the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.
 6 Moses sent them, a thousand from each tribe, to the war, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war with them, and the holy vessels and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand.
 7 So they made war against Midian, just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed every male.
 8 They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.
 9 The sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their cattle and all their flocks and all their goods they plundered.
 10 Then they burned all their cities where they lived and all their camps with fire.
 11 They took all the spoil and all the prey, both of man and of beast.
 12 They brought the captives and the prey and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest and to the congregation of the sons of Israel, to the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by the Jordan opposite Jericho.
 13 Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the congregation went out to meet them outside the camp.
 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war.
 15 And Moses said to them, "Have you spared all the women?
 16 "Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.
 17 "Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.
 18 "But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.

 19 "And you, camp outside the camp seven days; whoever has killed any person and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves, you and your captives, on the third day and on the seventh (Num. 31:1-19 NAU)
Most Christians are justifiably scared of this biblical bullshit, and quickly change the subject by talking about how the new covenant in Christ is one of Grace and we are not commanded to kill each other any more, etc.  Many Christians personally hate the OT.  We grant the concession of defeat.

But some Christians are die-hard apologists and would rather be slowly burned alive, than admit their bible-god was an unconscionably barbaric petulant asshole.  They will split hairs all day long like a jailhouse lawyer, just to get away from the obvious meaning of a biblical text.  Jesus is not found in scripture, he is found in playing word-games, and telling yourself that splitting hairs about what should be inferred or not inferred from what God didn't say, is what the seriously Holy Spirit filled Christians spend most of their daily lives doing.

Two such apologists would be Matthew Flannagan and Paul Copan, evangelical Christian philosophers and co-authors of Did God Really Command Genocide?: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God (2014, Baker Books).

In that book, Flannagan wastes the readers time with some trifling sophistry in the effort to arrive at the conclusion that the actions of Moses in Numbers 31 were more more barbaric than God had intended.  I reply to these absurd trifles in point-by-point fashion:

The third example Morriston cites to make his point is the defeat of Midian as recorded in Numbers 31. The Israelites fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man (v. 7). After the battle, however, Moses commanded Israel to kill all the boys and every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. Morriston says Yahweh was angered by the fact that some young Israelite men had worshiped Baal alongside their new Midianite brides, writing, “Not only must the Israelites be punished, but the Midianites must be punished for causing the Israelites to be punished.” God’s stated reasons, according to Morriston’s thinking, are inadequate.
But Morriston appears to have misread the text. First, consider his claim that the text explicitly states that God’s reason for commanding the killing of the Midianite women and boys was “spiritual infection” because “some young Israelite men had worshiped Baal alongside their new Midianite brides.” There are several problems with this.
First is the fact that, in the text Morriston cites (Num. 31:17-18), God himself does not explicitly command Israel to kill all the Midianite women and boys. God’s command to Moses regarding the Midianites is actually recorded in Numbers 25:17-18 and 31:1-2. God explicitly commands Israel to respond to the Midianites’ spiritual subterfuge by fighting against the Midianites and defeating them. The reasons why Israel is to obey isn’t the spiritual infection of women as Morriston says, but rather the fact that Midian has been hostile toward and deceived Israel.
The Numbers 31 text does not explicitly attribute the command to kill the women and boys to God, but to Moses.
 Then maybe you missed the word "full" in Numbers 31:2?  Was that a superfluous word?
Morriston acknowledges this, but suggests three reasons why this observation doesn’t come to much. (1) Moses is regularly characterized as being very close to Yahweh, faithfully obeying his instructions most of the time; (2) Yahweh expresses no disapproval of anything Moses does in this story; and (3) Yahweh himself is the principal instigator of the attack on Midian.
I can give a better reason: first, the "full" in 31:2, as already argued.  Second, the fact that the Midianites successfully enticed the Israelites into sexual sin, just proves the Midianites were not one of the far away nations for whom Mose' rules of warfare allowed to be spared/enslaved, rather the Midianites were one of those "nearby" nations that must, under Moses' rules of war, be "totally" destroyed, since they proved to achieve the sin-enticement result that the mass-annihilation commanded was intended to preempt:
 10 "When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.
 11 "If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you.
 12 "However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.
 13 "When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.
 14 "Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.
 15 "Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations nearby.
 16 "Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.
 17 "But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you,
 18 so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God. (Deut. 20:10-18 NAU)
Since the Midianites certainly did teach the Israelites to commit idolatry and other sexual sins, only a fool would trifle that because "Midian" isn't specified in the war-book's list of condemned nations, Moses "should have known" that 99% extinction of the Midianites was more than what God wanted.

Flannagan continues:
These responses, however, are inadequate. Consider the last point first. The fact that someone is the “principal instigator” of an attack doesn’t entail that he approves of every single action that takes place within the battle in question.
The fact that a woman is the mother of a 3 year old girl doesn't necessarily mean she loves the girl, but we are reasonable to presume this would usually be the case and require viewing of good evidence before we are obligated to think that any specific mother/daughter case is an exception.
Similarly with 2: the lack of explicit disapproval in the text does not entail approval.
 But the lack of approval also doesn't entail disapproval.  If you wish to claim God disapproved of the higher level of slaughter Moses called for, that is your burden to prove.  Your view of the text is hardly a priori.

31:2 has God saying Moses should take "full" vengeance on the Midianites.  If the result of the war comports nicely with "full" vengeance, then the burden of proof is on the apologist to argue that the the way Moses carried out the attack order was "too full". 
Morriston’s argument is an appeal to ignorance; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
There is no reason, other than fear of one's god looking stupid and sadistic, for pretending the "full" of 31:2 meant something less than the full-scale destruction Moses actually carried out.
It is not uncommon in biblical narratives for authors to describe sinful behavior without expressing explicit disapproval.
But the burden of showing the way Moses carried out this command of God was more extensive and sinful than God wanted, is on YOU.
In most cases, no doubt, the author expects the reader to know certain actions are right and wrong.
Not likely; the originally intended recipients were mostly illiterate, they weren't "readers".  Hence, they likely would accept the story at face value, like every Christian commentator on it did between the 1st and the 18th centuries,  and not trifle about what can be implied by God's failure to condemn something.
Finally, regarding 1, the fact that someone is portrayed in the text as close to God or faithful to him does not mean that every action he is recorded as doing is commanded or endorsed by God. Consider David, or Abraham.
Consider Jesus too.  Do Flannagan's trifles here justify a person's refusal to believe Jesus was always in conformity to the will of God?  After all, just because he was the son of God doesn't necessarily...and so you see the desperation in Flannagan's atomistic analysis.
A second instance of Morriston misreading the text is that not only does he attribute Moses’s reasons to God; he also misstates the reasons Moses does give in the context. The real issue is that the Midianite women had been following the devious advice of the pagan seer, Balaam, who had been explicitly commanded by God not to curse Israel. Balaam had led the Israelites into acting treacherously at Baal-Peor. This is the clearly stated issue (31:16). What occurs, when the background is taken into account, is not that some Israelites marry Midianite women, but rather these women use sex to seduce Israel into violating the terms of their covenant with God—an event that threatened Israel’s very national identity, calling, and destiny. This act was in fact deliberate.
 Then what's your problem with Moses' refusal to spare any except the virgin girls?  
So Morriston’s comments are far off the mark when he insists that the Midianites could not have been trying to harm the Israelites by inviting them to participate in the worship of a god in whom they obviously believed. The whole point of the exercise was to get God to curse Israel so that a military attack could be launched by Moab and Midian. The picture isn’t one of innocent Midianite brides, but acts tantamount to treason and treacherous double agents carrying on wicked subterfuge.
Sounds pretty serious.  But your trifles are still pointless:  If you are claiming Moses required more destruction than what God intended in 31:2, then say so and explain why, quit pussy-footing around with trifles about how God can condemn something without explicitly saying so.  What textual evidence is there to suggest God disagreed with the degree of death and destruction Moses called for? 

And Flannagan's skepticism seems more extreme than is warranted for a Christian bible believer.  n Numbers 31:14, Moses is "angry" with his military leaders for sparing the women.

Shouldn't a Christian believer in bible inerrancy like Flannagan first assume that Moses had expected his men to inflict total destruction?

Once again, if 31:2 has God decreeing "full" vengeance on the Midianites, what textual evidence makes Flannagan so positively certain that the full manner Moses carried out God's orders, effected more death than God wished?

Didn't this Moses and his Hebrews believe in corporate solidarity, the doctrine that holds you responsible for sins of your leader even if you were not personally guilty?  

Didn't this god hold entire cities responsible for murders that went unsolved or idolotry committed by a few (Deut 13:12-18; 21:1-9)?

Didn't the Israelites manifest the same observation of corporate solidarity when willing to spare anybody that might come under Rahab's roof (Josh 2:12-14; 6:22-25)?

Didn't this god refrain from revealing Achan as guilty of stealing the wedge of gold, until after God decided this sin, unknown to Joshua, should cause Joshua to suffer more than the expected number of battle casualties (Joshua 7, i.e., only Achan sinned this way, but God spreads the guilt to the entire nation saying "Israel has sinned...they have taken some forbidden things..." v. 11-12)?

Didn't this god kill off seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba, all because David had chosen to take a census of Israel (2 Sam. 24:15 NAU)?

Doesn't this god condition his grace on the children confessing both their own and their fathers' sins (Leviticus 26:40)?
Didn't the god Moses served kill a bunch of toddlers and babies with a flood in the days of Noah?  Or maybe Flannagan will trifle that the flood waters  inflicted no harm on anybody below the age of accountability?

Didn't the god Moses served decree that the sin of Adam and Eve should inflict all of their descendants?

 Didn't this god visit the iniquity of the fathers up to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:5,6)?

Why should anybody think the killing of the babies in 31:17 was against the will of a god who routinely killed babies for other people's sins?
 13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.
 14 "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die."
 15 So Nathan went to his house. Then the LORD struck the child that Uriah's widow bore to David, so that he was very sick. (2 Sam. 12:13-15 NAU)
There are solid reasons for saying Moses' actions in Numbers 31 didn't inflict more death than God intended in 31:2:

  • Christians automatically presume the sinful human leader correctly conveys God's sentiments, always placing the burden on those who would cry for an exception (i.e., Flannagan blindly presumes just whatever the biblical prophets credited to God, really was from God, and requires liberals or skeptics to overcome that presumption).  So Flannagan cannot coherently pretend that an assumption of Moses' consistency with God is too speculative.
  • Moses' god routinely killed children for the sins of their parents, so the call to take "full" vengeance, without further qualification, would naturally be taken to mean the children shall share in the guilt of the parents.
  • Moses himself adhered to corporate solidarity.   God should have specified this case was exceptional and limited, if He didn't want somebody who believed in corporate solidarity to get the wrong impression about how extensive the vengeance should be.
  • God obviously wanted the Midianite men to die, since he called for battle despite knowing the Midianite men would rise to the defense of their nation. 
  • it would be stupid and foolish to suggest maybe God only wanted the guilty adult Midianites killed, and the Hebrews should just walk away from their war victory leaving the orphaned Midianite kids to fend for themselves
  • God obviously wanted the death of the adult women who were personally guilty of the sexual sin at issue.  If he didn't what sense would it make to say God wanted Moses to make war with the Midianite men, but not the women who were instrumental in causing the idolatry to take place?
  • God or Moses was the author of a war-book that included instructions on how to justify impregnating the female war captives (Deut. 21:10-14).  Moses' sparing of the virgin girls was in harmony with what Moses or God allowed elsewhere.
  • God obviously wanted the male Midianite children to be killed, since a) raising them as foster children would likely give rise to possible blood-feud after they grew up (an excuse many Christian apologists hide under), and b) God never makes good on his promises, therefore, God's promises that kids will not depart from proper Jewish teaching if they are raised in it (Proverbs 22:6) could not possibly be taken seriously by anybody faced with such a foster care situation.
Flannagan has no basis whatsoever for his trifling suggestion that the massacre in Numbers 31 was somehow more extensive than God intended.

Therefore, the inerrantist who compares Moses' actions in Numbers 31 to everything else that can be known about him, his god, and his ideas about just war, has no other option but to admit the massacre of innocent children and babies in this dreadful story was the will of God.

Cold Case Christianity: Did Frank Turek pretend to be an atheist?

This is my reply to an article by J. Warner Wallace entitled

A few years ago, a gentleman (we’ll call him “John”) replied to a blog I posted at As a skeptical non-believer, John wasn’t responding to what I had posted, but to fellow atheists who had been interacting with Christians in the comment section. John’s post was controversial but honest. In fact, he clearly delineated the problem of atheistic moral grounding. While the comments on the blog aren’t typically all that courteous, John complained they were too courteous, especially given the atheistic worldview of the people who were posting. Here’s what John had to say:
Then you'll forgive me if I prefer to interpret "John" as a Christian pretending to be an atheist.
“[To] all my Atheist friends.
Let us stop sugar coating it. I know, it’s hard to come out and be blunt with the friendly Theists who frequent sites like this.  However in your efforts to “play nice” and “be civil” you actually do them a great disservice. 
We are Atheists.  We believe that the Universe is a great uncaused, random accident. All life in the Universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself.  While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, civility seem to exist, we know they do not. 
Then this atheist is stupid and sounds like one of Frank Turek's minions.  Obviously morality exists.  The fact that all morality is ultimately relative and subjective does not mean it doesn't exist.  Under your logic, when I decide whether or not to disobey my wife's command to avoid cookies until after dinner, this doesn't exist, because it involves a moral decision that doesn't come from God or the bible.

There is no biblical or universal law on whether kids should receive a formal education.  And your Jesus never expressed or implied the slightest justification to say kids needed any such thing in the first place.  But that hardly argues that there's no morality involved in the modern person's decision to make their kids attend school.  The morality might be subjective, but its still there.  What fool thinks "subjective" means "non-existent"?
Our highly evolved brains imagine that these things have a cause or a use, and they have in the past, they’ve allowed life to continue on this planet for a short blip of time.  But make no mistake: all our dreams, loves, opinions, and desires are figments of our primordial imagination.
That's a reductionist way of putting it, something that sounds like what Turek would say, but yes, that's correct, but only because it isn't being pushed to the extreme Turek pushes it.  But as we will shortly see, he does push this further and thus lands himself in fallacy-land.
They are fleeting electrical signals that fire across our synapses for a moment in time. They served some purpose in the past.  They got us here. That’s it. 
No, if they got us here, there's a darn good chance they will continue having beneficial significance in our lives.  It isn't like there's some giant truth out there that says electricity and brain synapses stop benefiting human beings after 20,000 b.c.
All human achievement and plans for the future are the result of some ancient, evolved brain and accompanying chemical reactions that once served a survival purpose.
And they still serve a survival purpose no less than they did thousands of years ago.  The fact that we now have cars, computers and telephones doesn't change the fact that the prior conditions of the mind that enabled us to survive the wilds of prehistoric life, continue to operate in our brains today.  The cave man finds a stick and discovers its use in fighting off competing tribes.  Today's high school student uses computers to prepare for college exams.  There's more sophistication, but the basic survival mechanisms are still the same. We still resolve things down to whether the way we react to a circumstance will facilitate our injury or our ease.
  Ex: I’ll marry and nurture children because my genes demand reproduction, I’ll create because creativity served a survival advantage to my ancient ape ancestors, I’ll build cities and laws because this allowed my ape grandfather time and peace to reproduce and protect his genes. My only directive is to obey my genes. Eat, sleep, reproduce, die.  That is our bible.
 You might take a look around in Christianity.  They also constantly focus on eating, sleeping, reproducing and dying.  Their choice to believe in some pie-in-the-sky utopian fairy tale ending doesn't change the fact that they grope around putting forth just as much effort at basic survival as the atheists.  Whether a person raises a family working as a youth group pastor or as a freelance atheist bible critic, doesn't make an ultimate difference.  If you don't concern yourself with food, water and shelter, you can look forward to dying.
We deride the Theists for having created myths and holy books.  We imagine ourselves superior.  But we too imagine there are reasons to obey laws, be polite, protect the weak etc.  Rubbish.
 Not rubbish. There are reasons to obey laws, and those reasons remain vaild even if they don't point back to god, such as the threat of jail.  There are reasons to be polite, and those reasons don't stop providing reasonable justification for the behavior merely because they don't point back to some god:  its pretty obvious to even stupid people that being polite works wonders at making life more easy, while being impolite merely increases the probability that others in the group will not be interested in helping us surivive.

Protecting the weak is not a good example, since people debate whether weak people should be allowed to perish.  We take care of our elderly, but unfortunately there comes a time when we have to decide that facilitating their death is better than preserving their life.  There's a huge rift between the legislator who decrees only jail for the convicted pedophile, and the community at large who can think of no better solution than the prison guards putting him in main population and thus ensuring he gets beaten to death.
We are nurturing a new religion, one where we imagine that such conventions have any basis in reality.
Yes, this "John" is definitely a minion of Frank Turek, or Turek himself.  His crazy denial of the reality of atheist morals is a dead giveaway.  Morality is obviously proven to exist when the adult atheist man decides against having a one-night stand with the lady he met at the bar.  The fact that he doesn't ground this personal choice in god or something the bible says, doesn't mean the moral doesn't exist.  You may as well  say counterfeit money doesn't exist because it is not legal.

And the fact that the moral is completely subjective doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  Subjective things still exist despite their subjective nature.  I have a moral that says I shouldn't purchase alcohol for minors.  But under your logic, that moral doesn't exist because it is subjective and I refuse to link it back to god.  How stupid!
  Have they allowed life to exist?  Absolutely.  But who cares? 
Anybody who has normative genetic predispositions.   Animals are not made in the image of god, yet many of them obviously 'care' about group survival.
Outside of my greedy little gene’s need to reproduce, there is nothing in my world that stops me from killing you and reproducing with your wife.

Which person is morally superior?  the atheist, who says he isn't killing the guy down the street and impregnating the widow because of his group-survivial genes and childhood conditioning, who therefore likely won't be persuaded to change his mind about it?

Or the believer in god, whose similar moral opinion can be reversed very quickly merely upon their discovery that God wanted them to kill this man and impregnate his wife?

According to the bible, God specified conditions under which the Hebrew army man who recently massacred the female war captive's family, can get her pregnant:
 10 "When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive,
 11 and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself,
 12 then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails.
 13 "She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.
 14 "It shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go wherever she wishes; but you shall certainly not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her, because you have humbled her.    (Deut. 21:10-14 NAU)
Nothing in the text expresses or implies that she has to give consent, and in light of how utterly secondary women were in ancient Israel, it is irresponsible for apologists to split hairs in their dishonest effort to make this passage harmonize more with modern western notions of decency and fairness.

Even if we assume the only female war captives caught by the Hebrews would be virgins, still, they could possibly have been betrothed to another man in their own nation before the Hebrews invaded, so with all the kidnapping the Hebrews did under Moses and Joshua, surely some of the Hebrew army men eventually impregnated pagan women who had previously been pledged to, betrothed to or otherwise promised to another man in their own nation before the war.

Methinks the smartest apologist in the world shouldn't have raised the alleged immorality of a man killing another man and impregnating his widow.  It makes you sound as if you hate the murder and forced marriages decreed by YHWH just as much as atheists do.

Moses ordered the Hebrews to kill all of the Midianites and spare only the virgin girls, a sparing which inerrantist commentators say was for the purpose of using them as house-slaves or wives:

 9 The sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their cattle and all their flocks and all their goods they plundered.
 10 Then they burned all their cities where they lived and all their camps with fire.
 11 They took all the spoil and all the prey, both of man and of beast.
 12 They brought the captives and the prey and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest and to the congregation of the sons of Israel, to the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by the Jordan opposite Jericho.
 13 Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the congregation went out to meet them outside the camp.
 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war.
 15 And Moses said to them, "Have you spared all the women?
 16 "Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.
 17 "Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.
 18 "But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves. (Num. 31:9-18 NAU)
 Women who had known men sexually, whether Midianite or sinful Israelite men, were to be considered unclean, since they were the main instrument of Israel’s demise at Baal Peor. Only the young girls would be allowed to live so that they may be taken as wives or slaves by the Israelite men, according to the principles of holy war (Deut 20:13–14; 21:10–14). By this they could be brought under the umbrella of the covenant community of faith.
Cole, R. D. (2001, c2000). Vol. 3B: Numbers (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; 
The New American Commentary (Page 499).
Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Wallace continues:
  Only the fear that I might be incarcerated and thus be deprived of the opportunity to do the same with the next guy’s wife stops me.
Yup, Frank Turekism 101 all over again. I'm an atheist.  My reticence to kill the guy down the street and impregnate his wife draws from a combination of my genetic predispositions (being human implies desire to conform to the group to one degree or other, which enhances survival) and the way I was raised (obey the laws).  So if there are barbaric atheists whose sole reason for refraining from such activity is the threat of jail, that hardly argues that this is the motive of all atheists.

Turek's problem at that point is that we don't need anything more than genetic predisposition and environmental conditioning to rationally justify our actions.

While we would not approve as a society of the mean kid who grows up to be in and out of jail all the time, I'd bet the farm that he's only doing what everybody else is doing:  reacting to his genetic impulses as they were shaped to one degree or other by childhood conditioning.  We wouldn't allow him to do as he pleases, but at the same time, we'd have difficulty blaming him.  If a kid is born to genetically defective parents and is raised in violence-ridden squalor and learns that hurting other people solves his problems, you couldn't really blame him.  If you could, then we wouldn't have to worry about subjecting children to violent and sickheaded ideas, after all, when they become adults, they'll have "no excuse" for being sickheaded and violent themselves.

So while popular sentiment says "I was raised by bad parents but I turned out ok so there's no excuse for your actions!', the truth is that the degree to which an adult can overcome improper childhood conditioning depends on their genetics.  That's why some abused kids turn out fine and others simply repeat their parent's mistakes.  That scientific truth might not jive well with society's need to hold people "accountable", but common sense says society would be more objective if its ideas of civility were based on genetic truths.   And we already recognize a mitigating factor if the convicted criminal can show that they have a mental defect, or were raised by crazy parents.
  Some of my Atheist friends have fooled themselves into acting like the general population.  They live in suburban homes, drive Toyota Camrys, attend school plays.  But underneath they know the truth.  They are a bag of DNA whose only purpose is to make more of themselves.
 Yup, Frank Turekism 101, all over again.  Hi, Frank.  How much fun do you have lying about yourself on the internet?  What, did you notice that the moral law in the bible never applies when you are online?

Or did you recently discover those two bible verses that teach lying is acceptable to god where it achieves a greater good (Exodus 1:19, James 2:25)?

Or maybe you suddenly discovered a bible passage that would give you the perfect excuse to lie: God commissioned an evil spirit to come into your mouth and tell lies:
 19 Micaiah said, "Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left.
 20 "The LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said this while another said that.
 21 "Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.'
 22 "The LORD said to him, 'How?' And he said, 'I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, 'You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.'
 23 "Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you." (1 Ki. 22:19-23 NAU)
Frank's claim to fame is a stupid bit of sophistry by which he blindly assumes that in the absence of god, life must always be viewed in absolutely 100% reductionist terms. So Frank would insist that if atheism is true, then a hammer is not a 'hammer".  Because it is ultimately a collection of atoms, then that is all that it can be, if god doesn't exist.

Unfortunately for Turek, there is no semantic or philosophical justification for the assumption that in the absence of God, absolute reductionism must always steamroll any other perspective.  Turek would have difficulty explaining how it could possibly be incorrect for an atheist to believe that something can be more than merely the sum of it's parts.  Yes, the hammer is a collection of atoms, but why would god need to exist to justify the atheist in asserting that some collections of atoms prove themselves much more efficient at driving nails into wood (hammers), and other collections of atoms are absurdly useless toward achieving the same goal (pillows)?

There's no reason to think god needs to be invoked to explain how creatures can see differences between one collection of atoms and others.   Lizards are not made in the image of God, according to Turek and his bible, yet lizards clearly don't think collections of atoms we call "rocks" can perform the same benefit to them as those collections of atoms we call "insects".  So even life forms Turek admits lack a spirit and a rational mind (i.e., those we'd expect to exist in an atheist universe) would not, in the atheist universe, see everything in completely reductionist terms, and therefore go around viewing different collections of atoms (glass, acid, air, sand, insects) as all equally useful for food.

If lizards can rightly discern differences between individual collections of atoms without needing to be made in the image of god, so can human beings.
So be nice if you want. Be involved, have polite conversations, be a model citizen.  Just be aware that while technically an Atheist, you are an inferior one.  You’re just a little bit less evolved, that’s all.  When you are ready to join me, let me know, I’ll be reproducing with your wife.
Your god clearly intended for lower mammals to engage in competitive mating.  So don't put it past him to want to see humans doing this too, as he stages his sadistic gladiator games and watches from above in all the glory of Nero Caesar.  

You can also be steamrolled by atheist criticism of bible-god's morality.  If all of God's actions are righteous, then all of his omissions or failures to act are also righteous.  So when you are walking down a lonely deserted street, and discover some man raping a women, you are forced to conclude that God obviously didn't wish to stop this, so as a good Christian, you cannot automatically conclude god wanted you to stop it either merely because your freewill decisions caused you to be on the same part of the earth at the tie the rape is happennding.  If God didn't stop it, there is no guarantee that he wants YOU to stop it either.  God's refusal to interfere justifies the same inference you'd draw if you notice any other human being just standing there watching a rape and doing nothing even when the danger would not likely increase were they to interfere by calling the police.

Some would say that a philosophy which requires you to think for a while about whether to put a stop to a rape, cannot be superior to other philosophies that counsel the viewer make an effort to stop this crime.
I know it’s not PC to speak so bluntly about the ramifications of our beliefs, but in our discussions with Theists we sometimes tip toe around what we really know to be factual.
Granted, there are plenty of atheists who don't know enough about the philosophical issues to maintain consistency with their beliefs when engaged in dialogue with Christian apologists.
Maybe it’s time we Atheists were a little more truthful and let the chips fall where they may.  At least that’s what my genes are telling me to say.”
Good idea.  Some atheists are exactly like Christians, and worry so much about sounding good that they end up misrepresenting themselves as more aligned with others than they really are.
John bluntly captured the true nature of morality when it is untethered to a transcendent source.
 No he didn't.  The ultimately atomic nature of human beings does not mean there is nothing else that is true about them, as I carefully explained above.  There are rational reasons to think some collections of atoms are more useful to a goal than others.  Humans desire to exist in groups and impose injury on outsiders who threaten the group's peace and survival, whether they are ultimately nothing more than atoms, or ultimately spiritual creatures made in the image of a god.

If insects like bees and ants can still engage in society-like functions without needing to be made in the image of god, then human beings can also engage in societal behavior without needing to be made in the image of god.  
Since posting this comment, I’ve been able to peek at John’s life in a very limited way and I’ve had a brief interaction with him. He appears to be a creative, responsible, loving husband and father.
He also appears to be rather stupid, shallow, and far closer to Frank Turek's absolute reductionist fallacy than any "atheist" I've ever seen.
In fact, his outward life looks much like the life you and I might lead as Christians.
Liars can never perfectly mask the truth.
As an atheist, my moral compass was much like that of the Christians I knew. But knowing what is far different than knowing why. I embraced a particular set of moral laws even though I couldn’t account for these laws in a world without a transcendent moral law giver.
Then you were a stupid atheist.  Once again, since you deny insects are created in the image of God yet they still engage in group-think and other group-survival actions by helping each other, then apparently "made in the image of god" is not necessary to explain the fact that humans do the same.
I typically attributed morality to some form of social or cultural evolution, but as John correctly observes, our selfish genes are not interested in the welfare of others when their personal survival is at stake.
Adopt several crack babies and raise then yourself, then we can talk about your unselfish genes.  Until then, continue achieving your goal of attracting attention to yourself by selling Jesus at a reasonable discount for prayer groups and apologetics clubs, you capitalist insect, you.
Without a true transcendent source for morality (and purpose), skeptics are left trying to invent their own, justifying their subjective moral rules as best they may.
I don't see the problem.  Us moist robots trying to achieve a somewhat utilitarian goal in the quest to survive and thrive due to our mammalian genetic predisposition toward working for the group's overall good,  is a hell of a lot better than serving a sadistic sociopath "god" who causes men to rape women and beat children to death (Isaiah 13:16-17).

When a person harms us contrary to societal convention, we rationally deal with it by talks, lawsuits, settlements, notifying the police, etc.  This is morally far superior to the stupid idea that their harming us offends some big man in the sky, necessitating that he come down to earth and kill himself to appease his own wrath.  The whole god's-justice-required-that-Jesus-die-for-our-sins bullshit is contradicted by other biblical texts making it clear that god sometimes sees no problem in dealing with sin by simply waving his magic wand and freeing the sinner from the the legal consequences the Law required.  King David killed Uriah the Hittite, then committed adulterty with Bathsheba the widow.  Look how easy it is for god to exempt this unconscionable rascal from the death penalty for murder and adultery:
 7 Nathan then said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, 'It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul.
 8 'I also gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!
 9 'Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.
 10 'Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.'
 11 "Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.
 12 'Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.'"
 13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.
 14 "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die." (2 Sam. 12:7-14 NAU)
If God can just "take away" a person's sin like this, then obviously Jesus' death was far from "necessitated" by God's righteousness.

By the way, smart guy, you own infinitely righteous god encourages the "sinful" people living in the last days to just keep on sinning:
 8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
 9 But he said to me, "Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God."
 10 And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.
 11 "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy."
 12 "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
 13 "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (Rev. 22:8-13 NAU)
 If Wallace thinks pedophiles are "filthy" in raping kids, then child rape would be one of the filthy things Jesus is telling sinners to continue doing in Rev. 22:11.

Some would argue that an atheists indefensible moral hatred of pedophilia is still preferable to a morality grounded in a god who wants child rapes to continue occurring.

Wallace continues:
In the end, as John rightly observes, they end up “nurturing a new religion” and creating for themselves the very thing they detest.
That's also stupidly reductionist.  Yes, atheism is true.  No, that doesn't necessarily imply some life forms won't become self-deceived and end up concluding their fantasies are actual reality.
When John first posted his comment (and I first started talking about it on my podcast), many of the other atheists who post at CrossExamined were infuriated. Some denied John’s identity as a skeptic and accused him of being a disguised Christian.
 Count me in.  It was either Frank Turek or one of his cohorts.
But in my interaction with John, he told me he was weary of hearing fellow atheists mock their opponents for hypocrisy and ignorance, while pretending they had a definitive answer to the great questions of life.
 Sounds like something a Christian pretending to be an atheist would say.   And nobody pushes the alleged absurdity of atheist morality more than Turek.
He simply wanted his fellow atheists to be consistent.
 Then he might start off showing that he thinks glorifying Christ by honesty is more important to him than the lesser good he thought he could gain by lying about his true identity.
As it turns out, theism provides the consistent moral foundation missing from John’s atheistic worldview.
 That's right, if you want to rape women and kill children and engage in other realities of ANE warfare, the best chance you have of convincing others you were morally justified to do so, is to assert that God exerted irresistable sovereignty over your brain so much that your freewill disappeared and you were put in the same position as the fish that has been hooked and is being reeled in:
 1 And the word of the LORD came to me saying,
 2 "Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him
 3 and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.
 4 "I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; (Ezek. 38:1-4 NAU)
That oughta give you something to Google for the next 5 years:  If God respects human freewill, why does he characterize his sovereignty over unbelievers and their motives, with metaphors that bring to mind images of animals who are being forced to move against their will?

Maybe Ezekiel was a hyper-Calvinist?

Maybe bible inerrancy is false doctrine?

Don't forget to remind us, Wallace...God will not help Christians do what they need to do, unless they purchase your books.   There's a presumption of "buy Wallace's books!" in every New Testament teaching on prayer.  Leaving us all wondering how the Holy Spirit could have managed without you for 2,000 years.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Challenge to James Patrick Holding

Mr. Holding seems to specialize in red herrings.

For the last few months, he has been posting videos to his YouTube account wherein he refutes this or that hideously inconclusive skeptical objection to some aspect of the resurrection of Jesus.

Unfortunately, he has chosen to make Christianity look good by batting down the more stupid and uninformed skeptical objections, that any fool with access to Google could tell are false or likely false.

Holding apparently needs a refresher course in common sense:  The historicity of the resurrection of Jesus depends on the extent to which the testimony to that effect in the NT passes standard tests of credibility.  Telling your yammering children that the ancient Jews didn't believe in resurrected ghosts, might get rid of a couple of skeptics, but then again, me telling my own readers how stupid it is to play with live rattlesnakes might get rid of a few churches, but hardly does anything to hurt Christianity proper.

Holding needs to do videos on issues that actually matter, such as:
  • Whether unbelievers can be reasonable to refuse to use bible inerrancy as a hermeneutic.  Bible inerrancy is hotly debated by inerrantists themselves, and is denied by most Christian scholars.  It has nowhere near the universal acclaim that other hermeneutics have, such as "grammar", "immediate context", "genre", etc, therefore, there is no justification to view an otherwise contextually and grammatically justified interpretation of a bible verse as wrong, merely because it would conflict with something the bible or the human author himself said elsewhere.  So something more than "that would make the bible contradict itself!" needs to be whimpered before an otherwise contextually and grammatically justified charge of contradiction in the resurrection accounts need be rejected.
  • Why god doesn't use his disposition-changing magically coercive telepathic ability to make even the most pagan unbelievers change their minds and believe whatever he wants them to believe (Ezra 1:1, Daniel 4:33), to help today's unbelievers see the light, since God's use of such methods leaves him no excuse to bitch about how closed-minded unbelievers are.  Nothing is preventing God from using such ability except his own desire that unbelievers remain obstinate.
  • Why most bible scholars are wrong to claim modern canonical Greek Matthew is anonymous.
  • What we should infer from the fact that every church father who wanted to tell the reader what language Matthew wrote in, says it was Hebrew, while none of them declare that Matthew composed or translated in Greek, and why the obvious inference "Matthew likely didn't author or translate any Greek language gospel" should be viewed highly improbable despite its obvious merit.
  • Whether the bible provides enough information about the gospel authors themselves, aside from the question-begging assumption of their alleged gospels, so that we can reach reasonable confidence in forming a conclusion about their levels of general credibility
  • Why unbelievers should bother with the question of Matthew's authorship, when not even staunchly conservative apologists for the eyewitness authorship of the gospels, such as Dr. Richard Bauckham, are willing to say Matthew wrote it.
  • Whether, assuming Matthew saw the risen Christ and heard more teaching about the kingdom of God for a 40 day period (Acts 1:3), he would be likely to knowingly exclude such from his gospel (Matthew 28).
  • Why we should believe Mark wrote a resurrection appearance narrative that was later lost, when common sense says his requesting church would have recognized the fragile preciousness of the single autograph, and would likely have guarded against possible loss by making copies at the very earliest period before the repeated use of the original scroll or codex would cause the resurrection appearance narrative at the end to be lost.
  • Why we should believe Mark wrote a resurrection appearance narrative that was later lost, when common sense says the resurrection appearance story, being the most joyful part of the Christian story, would be the part most likely to be enthusiastically memorized by Mark's requesting church, so that losses through corruption of the text itself could be overcome by simply writing a new copy from memory.
  • Whether the Mary mother of Jesus in Mark 3:21 who concludes her son is insane and tries to put a stop to his public ministry (i.e., "take custody"), is the same Mary the mother of Jesus who somewhere between 30 a.d. and 65 a.d., allegedly told Matthew and Luke her prior experiences of God and angels back when she was pregnant with Jesus, and how these confirmed in various ways to her full satisfaction that Jesus was truly divine.  Since Mary thus wasn't forgetful, she was either apostate or lying.  Or Mark speaks of Mary in 3:21 as having thoughts so contrary to the nativity stories because Mark himself knew nothing about nativity stories, despite his source, Peter, being within Jesus' "inner circle", being thus especially likely to have more access to Mary and her testimony than most of the other apostles.
  • What exactly is wrong with concluding that a person as interested in the divinity of Jesus as Mark, would not likely "choose to exclude" nativity stories that strongly support his theological agenda, and therefore, Mark excludes the nativity stories probably because he doesn't know about them or thinks them false.
  • If Holding doesn't like the "Jesus couldn't do real miracles" conclusion we skeptics draw from Mark 3:21 and John 7:5, can Holding show that his own explanation for the unbelief of Jesus' immediate family is more likely true?  What?  Were Jesus' mother and brothers just brick-stupid recluses?  or maybe Holding never discovered, until about two seconds ago, that the vast majority of Christian translations of Mark 3:21 are wrong?
  • Why unbelievers should bother with John's gospel, when conservative scholars like Licona and Craig Evans admit John was not above putting words in Jesus' mouth which Jesus never spoke, and was not above allowing his theological agenda to relax his concern for historical accuracy.
  • Why apostle Paul should have shit to do with the discussion of resurrection eyewitnesses, when not even the most explicit NT accounts of Paul's interaction with the risen Christ, justify classifying Paul as an 'eyewitness'.
  •  Paul claimed that he took a trip to heaven, and that 14 years later, he still couldn't tell whether that trip was physical or spiritual (2nd Cor. 12:1-4).  If Holding were being prosecuted for a crime on the basis of the testimony of a witness whose history included such similarly wildl esoteric claims, he would surely scream his head off that the witness doesn't have enough credibility to sustain the charge.  Why then does Holding expect unbelievers to think such indecisive mystics like Paul are the least bit credible?  How can we know when a person's shockingly bizarre claims of taking nearly indescribable trips to heaven does or doesn't justify viewing their credibility as fully impeached?
  • Why unbelievers should be impressed with the "eyewitness" testimony to the resurrection, when the only such testimony that comes down to us today in first-hand form, are, at best, Matthew, John and Paul, that is, forgetting about the fatal problems of gospel authorship and the equally fatal problem of whether the resurrection stories of Matthew and John actually come from these individual men.
  • How unbelievers can be expected to give a shit about any tyrant, real or unreal, who causes men to rape women and beat children to death (Isaiah 13).  Don't forget that God also claims he will take just as much "delight" to inflict such horrors on people, as he delights to bless them (Deuteronomy 28:63).
  • Why unbelievers should think the bible god "loves" them, when in fact god's refusal to do his best to convince them the gospel is true, necessarily implies a rather shockingly limited "love" at best, and more likely implies a genuine hatred, since any parent who solely by choice did less than their best to rescue a drowning child is not exhibiting "limited" love, but "no" love.
I thus suspect that the reason Holding fucks around with the more stupid trifling skeptical objections is for the same reason any skeptic would try to refute Christianity by exposing the errors of snake-handling and the prosperity gospel.  In both cases, you can make your own beliefs look better if you choose only the most dumbshit idiots as representative of the opposition.

Go ahead, Holding, remind your readers that yes, you already had all these relevant video-topics in mind, you just didn't get around to getting serious until an atheist complained that you are spending too much time in the sandbox.  Perhaps God is telling you to stop using other people's hard earned cash merely to give you another reason to sit on your fat ass.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Cold Case Christianity: Yes, God’s Sovereignty Robs Us of Our Freedom

This is my reply to an article by J. Warner Wallace entitled

Christianity describes a God who sovereignly calls believers to repentance.
And apparently, the original Jewish church didn't realize, until Acts 11:18, that God had called the Gentiles to repentance, despite how often Jesus had previously preached repentance to the Gentiles (Matthew 4:12-17) and many gospel texts saying Jesus' popularity at a prior time was out of control and caused entire towns to trample each other just to go see him (e.g., Mark 1:45).  Only desperate inerrantists would dare speculate that those texts were only talking about towns where no Gentiles existed.
Does this mean humans are mere puppets under the direction of an all-powerful Being who controls all decisions and dictates the final outcome?
Yes.  Otherwise, you need to explain why god wanted the reader to visualize him putting a hook in a person's jaw and pulling them around, when he talks about the reason a future army "gog and Magog" decide to attack Israel.  See Ezekiel 38:4.  If those sinners had already freely decided for themselves to commit this sin, it is error to use the metaphor of "hook in your jaws" to explain.  Hooks in jaws don't exactly bring to mind images of God respecting human freewill.

You also need to explain what God was doing to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:33, if it wasn't completely overriding his freewill.  So if God can violate human freewill once, then you lose, and the "God respects our freewill" can no longer be the ultimate show-stopper you think it is when answering questions about evil.  If God has no problems violating Nebuchanezzar's freewill, God cannot have any problems violating the freewill of a rapist just before they commit their crime.  That's right, Wallace:  Daniel 4:33 is the monkey-wrench in your "true love must be free to choose" bullshit. 

And worse, sometimes true love will use force to prevent a loved one from the deadly consequences of their own rebellious stupidity, such as the father who has his 19 year old daughter involuntarily committed because she is so out of control and likely to hurt herself or others.  If true love makes plenty of room to justify use of force, then presto, you can no longer argue that God's true love for the rapist require that He just sit by and let the rapist do whatever he wants.  If God struck the rapist dead just before the act, nothing about "love" would be any more violated in this than in what God himself does many times throughout the bible, using force to overthrow and kill enemies.
Does the Christian God allow humans any freedom to choose for themselves?
Sure, some parts of the bible teach that. But those parts cannot be reconciled with the above-cited passages.  It doesn't matter if God "usually" respects human freewill...his willingness to violate it takes away any intellectual justification you have to hide behind the "god respects human freewill" excuse, as if this was some monolithic unchanging truth.
The relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will has been a topic of hot debate for two millennia; I doubt that I’ll be able to solve it in a blog post.
Good call.
But I do think the definition of free will lies at the root of the confusion and apparent dilemma.
It does.  If God infallibly foreknows what you will choose to do tomorrow, well, HE doesn't think you could possibly deviate from that forecast, because HE doesn't think his predictions can be proven wrong, so if YOU believe you have freewill, it is only an illusion you entertain because you are ignorant of what's in God's mindIf you could know your own future as certainly as God does, you would not claim you have freedom to choose.  You would instead claim that you cannot do anything other than make the precise choices God infallibly predicts you'll make.
Most of us would like to think that we are free to make any choice possible in any given situation, but if you think about it, that’s really not the case. Even the choices you thought you were free to make were limited by your pre-existing nature (your inclinations, desires, likes and dislikes).
Good call.
Have you ever cleaned out your closet and discarded an ugly shirt, tie or dress that was given to you as a gift? Why did you throw it away? You discarded it because it was taking up space. Every day, as you decided what to wear, you were free to choose that article of clothing, but you never did. Your nature (in this case, your taste in clothing) restrained your choice. In order to understand what the Bible teaches about “free will”, we need to distinguish between two concepts of freedom:

“Libertarian” Free Will:
This view of free will maintains that humans have the ability to choose anything, even when this choice might be contrary to our nature (our inclinations, desires, likes and dislikes). We might call this “Unfettered Free Will”.

“Compatibilist” Free Will:
This view of free will maintains that humans have the ability to choose something, but this ability is restrained by our pre-existing nature (our inclinations, desires, likes and dislikes). We might call this “Self-Fettered Free Will”.
But if God knows the future infallibly, then this would restrict your freedom too. Here's the syllogism:

Premise One:  Infallible means "incapable of failing" 
Premise Two:  God infallibly foreknows that you'll steal a candy bar tomorrow.

Conclusion: Therefore, if God infallibly foreknows that you'll steal a candy bar tomorrow, your future stealing of a candy bar, is incapable of failing.

Here's the scary part:  Suppose a man rapes a child.  Did your god infallibly foreknow that this man would do this?  If so, then because the man's action was incapable of failing, the man was incapable of doing otherwise.  Sure, society as we know it would fall apart at the seams if we allowed criminals to go free since nobody can avoid making the choices they do, but then again, we've chosen to create a society that runs more on perceptions than reality.  We hold people accountable because we need to in order to have the society we wish, not because ability to choose otherwise is some proven scientific fact.

Believing a person is capable of doing otherwise might be what we need to believe to keep America's justice system running the way it does, but expediency doesn't dictate actual truth.  The wife can solve a lot of potential problems in her marriage by turning away from the evidence that her husband committed adultery, but her desire to retain consistency hardly determines actual reality.  She can have her happy marriage if she wants, but she needs to be honest and admit its only happy because she prefers perceptions rather than actual reality.
Our practical experience tells us that we don’t make choices that are completely unfettered (unrestrained) by our nature. There is a local Volkswagen dealership in our area that specializes in manufacturing pink Beetle convertibles. That’s right: Pink. They make them one at a time and sell dozens each year, all to young women, according to the sales manager. I can honestly say that I would never purchase that car, and if I was given one, I would sell it. While I clearly have the freedom to purchase it, my nature (my inclinations, desires, likes and dislikes) prevents me from doing so. While I consistently choose what I want freely, I would never freely chose the pink Beetle. My will is “self-fettered”. I bet you’re just like me. Many of us would never choose to order an anchovy pizza. Many of us would never choose to cut our hair in a “mullet” hairstyle. Our natures (our inclinations, desires, likes and dislikes) restrain us.
But I can imagine you doing a publicity stunt and eating an anchovy pizza while you get your hair cut into a mullet while driving down the road in a pink Beetle...if you thought doing so would increase sales of your book.  Now go have a private talk with your marketing director, and ask them whether the time has come to start taking bigger risks in order to keep the attention of today's attention-deficit "Christians".
The Bible recognizes God’s sovereignty and man’s “fallen” nature (our inclination toward rebellion and the denial of God’s existence).
But it doesn't recognize any sympathy for the fact that our fallen natures aren't our fault.  God's constant bitching about sin leaves the distinct impression that he doesn't think the fallen nature can be blamed for sinful choices.   It also leaves the distinct impression that God is less like an educated dictator and more like an irrational person who can solve a problem facing them, but who prefers to just back and bitch out it.  If you ask me, God is a dumbass, who needs to shut the fuck up and start taking action.

And don't be deceived.  The fallen nature of man is not the inevitable by-product of Adam and Eve's choice to rebel.  You forget that the God answered the Fall with a "curse".  It was God who decided that the earth should become a fucked up place requiring lots of human strain and effort to enable survival:

If God is free, then he could have chosen not to curse the world or humanity, in which case Adam and Eve's sinning wouldn't have had much more cosmic effect than what happens when a three year old steals a cookie before dinner.  Sin? Yes.  Inevitable degradation of the rest of humanity?  No.
16 To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you."
 17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.
 18 "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field;
 (Gen. 3:16-18 NAU)
Wallace continues:
We see descriptions of this reality in Jeremiah 13:23, Mark 7:21-22, Romans 3:9-12, and Romans 8:6-8. The Bible also teaches, however, that humans have the freedom and ability to choose the things of God, including the salvation offered through Jesus Christ.
A theory that cannot be reconciled with the puppet-notion that is absolutely necessitated by God's infallible foreknowledge.  If God infallibly foreknows that Billy will hear the gospel but will always reject it unto death, then Billy doesn't have the freedom to deviate from his infallibly foreknown conduct, which would otherwise mean Billy doesn't have sufficient freedom to prove God's predictions wrong.  Remember, whatever is infallibly foreknown is incapable of failing.  That's the dictionary definition for "infallible".  Google it.
This ability to choose is described in passages like Joshua 24:15, John 7:17, and John 7:37-39. So, how do we, as fallen humans inclined to deny God, have the ability to choose God?
That question is utterly irrelevant to people who reject the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.  The Bible teaches God's full sovereignty and man's freedom to choose, because it contradicts itself.  Only inerrantists find the least bit of sense in struggling to live fully in the shadow of obviously contradictory philosophy.  Everybody else says "fuck god, he knows that I wouldn't deny him if he simply interacted with me directly the way a caring friend would."  God's appeal to our 5 physical senses has no less possibility of getting us to change our minds, than the prosecutor's appeal to a juror's 5 senses:  jurors change their minds all the time when convinced the empirical facts justify doing do. If we can make sacrifices in the effort to please other human beings who interact with our 5 senses, there is no reason to think we'd do otherwise if Jesus physically appeared to us and interacted personally with us the way real friends do.  Only desperate apologists, knowing perfectly well that Jesus is no different than a fairy, blindly insist that no more effort on God's part could possibly be to our benefit.  But on the whole, people are far more prone to change their wrongful opinions so as to accord with obviously established facts, when they can tell that doing so will substantially increase the likelihood they will avert disaster.

If God had no problems parting the Red Sea to Pharaoh's notice, he should have no problems giving us infallible visions of whatever terrible fate awaits those who reject the gospel (in light of Ezra 1:1, you cannot deny that god has magically coercive telepathic ability to get people to believe whatever he wants them to believe).  Most people are sane and do not willfully defy common sense when they can tell that their intended course of action is proven to likely result in catastrophe.
Well it appears that God (in His sovereignty) works at the level of our nature rather than at the level of our choices. God changes our hearts first, so we have the freedom to choose something we would never have chosen before (because our nature prevented us from doing so). You and I then have the freedom to choose within our new nature, and we are, of course, responsible for those choices.
Only if you can prove that god has changed the nature of all sinners sufficiently so that they can freely choose a gospel call that they'd otherwise reject. You aren't going to do that, and it wouldn't matter if you did, you are never going to get around the problem of how God's infallible foreknowledge allofor our future choices to be any different than what God predicted they would be.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Dr. Flannagan bases objective morality on what morality "seems" objective to him (!?)

 Update:  Dr. Flannagan ceased his dodging the issue and responded in a more direct way in one of his later replies on June 26, 2018, so I've changed the title of the post.

Dr. Flannagan has posted several articles displaying the fallacies of the moral relativist position.

I replied to each, challenging him to explain why he thinks torturing babies to death solely for entertainment is objectively immoral.

He has made his first response, and it is clear that he is less than forthcoming about those reasons.

I replied with 7 reasons why he need to stop focusing on the alleged errors of the moral relativist position and start providing the positive evidence for his own objectivist position.  My 7 reasons are cross-posted below for convenience, followed by my point by point reply just in case any Christian thought it couldn't be done. 
Dr. Flannagan,

There are 7 important reasons why you should get down to brass tacks and provide your first reason for saying torturing babies to death solely for entertainment purposes, is objectively immoral:

First, I’ll do what philosophers routinely do, and concede my alleged errors *solely for the sake of argument*. 

Second, you are the one asserting that baby-torture is objectively immoral.  Suspiciously, you never get around to saying exactly why, you rather prefer to just balk at the fallacies in the moral relativist objections.  But it wouldn't matter if you were correct in your criticisms of me, that doesn't fulfill your own burden to provide positive evidence/argument in favor of what you believe.

Third,  despite your bible telling you that unbelievers are either completely incapable of, or else highly unlikely to, engage in correct thinking with respect to godly truths (1st Corinthians 2:14), you still provide many arguments to non-Christian philosophers and audiences.  I may therefore safely assume that, even if you judge me to be wrong in many of my views, this will no more slow you down in setting forth argument to me, than it slows you down from setting forth argument to other equally spiritually blind atheists. 

Fourth, you and I are not conversing in private, where you might otherwise think it legitimate to say my ignorance renders continued dialogue pointless.  There are obviously many Christians less educated than you, who are reading your posts here, and they would benefit from seeing your reasons for saying baby-torture is objectively immoral.   Even if you believed that your revealing here your first reason to say baby torture is objectively immoral, wouldn't benefit *me*, you could not hold such a negative view of all the other Christians who learn from your posts, and who, like most Christians, cannot imagine how they could demonstrate any act to be ‘objectively’ immoral apart from merely quoting the bible.  You are helping thousands or perhaps millions of Christians when you answer my challenge directly.

Fifth, you actually can't really say for sure whether God would or wouldn't open my understanding if you gave your first reason for saying baby-torture is objectively immoral.  Don't you believe that God somehow works through your online posts, even if He doesn't make them totally inerrant?  And if you believe in Ezra 1:1 and Daniel 4:32-33, you cannot deny the ability of the bible-god to make even his enemies believe  whatever he wants them to (i.e., Cyrus came to believe the Jews should be freed from exile, Nebuchadnezzar came to believe he should eat grass).   Don't underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit as he works through your posts.

Sixth, it doesn't matter how much you try to justify refusal to answer my below-repeated challenge directly, you can hardly "expect" a moral relativist to appreciate your reasons for saying baby torture is objectively immoral, if you constantly refuse to reveal those reasons.  It would be any different than the atheist who “expects” Christians to appreciate why he thinks God doesn’t exist...while never getting down to the business at hand and actually specifying those reasons.

Seventh and finally, your continual refusal to actually deliver the actual goods could be reasonably construed as your refusal to “correct those who are in opposition…” (2nd Timothy 2:25), or to "provide a reason for the hope that lies within you (1st Peter 3:15), or a refusal to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3).  At the end of the day, your willingness to do apologetics eventually obligates you to do something more than merely point out inconsistencies in the non-Christian view and start laying the basis for your own positive case, a thing that doesn't require you to mention anybody else's fallacies or misunderstandings.

Now that you've discovered that the benefits of revealing exactly why baby-torture is 'objectively' immoral, outweigh any perceived risks, let's try this again:

You believe that torturing babies to death solely for entertainment purposes, is objectively immoral. Why?

Because the bible tells you so?
Because most humans say it is immoral?
Because you personally find it revolting?
Because all strong feelings about a moral issue necessarily come from God?
Some combination of the above?
Some other reason or reasons?

I cannot fulfill my burden to provide direct evidence of atheism by hiding behind continual attacks on the morality of the bible-god, and YOU cannot fulfill your burden to provide direct evidence that baby torture is objectively immoral, by constantly hiding behind complaints that the moral relativist position is fallacious. 

Let everything be done decently and in order.

I look forward to further dialogue with you,

---------endquote---------I now reply to him in point by point fashion
If that is true, then you should be able to establish the correctness of the proposition “torturing babies to death solely for entertainment purposes is objectively immoral” WITHOUT relying on what anybody else “believes or accepts” about that subject.
Ok two things here. First, that inference doesn’t follow: Even if a proposition is objectively true, it doesn’t follow that a person can demonstrate or establish its truth.
  That's irrelevant.  You've already committed yourself to the premise that child-torture and rape are objectively immoral.  If you are being serious, then you should have reasons for thinking such acts are objectively immoral.  Please reveal those reasons.

Second, no proposition can be established “without relying on what someone else believes or accepts”.
So under your logic, I cannot establish "trees exist" is objectively true without relying on what someone else believes or accepts.  Nice going. 
This because proof and argument always involves inferring a conclusion from prior premises, that one’s interlocutor believes.
 On the contrary, I see no reason to think I'd have to get a second opinion if I draw the conclusion that 2+2=4.
If you can’t appeal to what a person believes you can’t prove anything at all. we are starting to discover that whatever your proof for the objective immorality of baby-torture is, you are going to have to depend on at least something I currently believe in order to prove the proposition.  That's fine, but you talk all cocky about objective morals, as if they would be true even if no humans believed in them.  Well pardon me, but if you need to appeal to something the interlocutor believes, and yet none of them believes something you need to make your case, you are shit out of luck.
For example, you can’t establish that the physical world exists independently of anyone perceiving it without appealing to what someone else accepts or believes. Nor can you establish that events existed in the past independently of whether on remembered them or not without appealing to something some else believes or accepts.
Fine:  do whatever you think must properly be done to establish that fatal baby-torture is objectively immoral.
Indeed, the dictionaries tell us that “objective” means
“not dependent on the mind for existence”
Unfortunately, you don’t define technical terms in a discipline like meta ethics by looking at dictionaries. Dictionaries only tell one common usage, they don’t necessarily convey the way terms are used or the precision they are used with within a discipline.
But you constantly use the word "objective" in connection with "morals" in the articles you expect the average person to read.  Yet you never carefully define "objective" in any way that might suggest you mean anything more narrow than what the dictionary means.  Indeed, your constantly analogies to the objective existence of physical things like the world make perfect sense upon the dictionary definition.
But it also seems to me this definition is mistaken as its too broad. Take the judgement: “John was in pain when Billy smashed him in the head with a brick” that judgement is either objectively true or false, by believing or willing John wasnt in pain doesnt make it so. However, seeing pain is a mental state its truth also depends on the existence of minds. So mind independence isnt a good definition of objectivity. What objectivity requires is that a judgement is incorrect independently of what philosophers call our evaluative attitudes towards it.
Ok, so go ahead and demonstrate that the judgment of the sociopath who says "torturing babies to death solely for entertainment is morally good" is incorrect independently of what philosophers call our evaluative attitudes towards it.
Our evaluation that the proposition is true or false or our evaluation that the action is good or bad. Evaluative judgements are obviously mental judgements, they are a specific type of mental act and not the same thing as mind generically. Consquently, doesn’t require complete mind independence.
Then perhaps my rebuttals to you did some good, and maybe now you'll update your attacks on moral relativity by reminding the reader that you were using "objective" in a philosophically narrow sense not as broad as the dictionary definition.  You can hardly blame a reader for assuming your unqualified words take their normative dictionary definitions.
    So go ahead…demonstrate that that the proposition...
Sure when you demonstrate physical objects exist without appealing to something someone believes or accepts.
That is a willful failure on your part to fulfill your own burden of proof.  You talk all day every day about the fallacies of moral relativism, sort of like the atheist who talks all day about the evils of the bible-god.  

But you never get around to stating your reasons for saying baby-torture is objectively immoral, sort of like the atheist who never gets around to stating the reasons for saying god doesn't exist.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that you are correct about this need to appeal to what somebody else believes in order to "demonstrate" something:  If you need to appeal to things you think are in my mind, feel free to do so.  Do whatever you need to do to prove the proposition that fatal baby-torture solely for the sake of entertainment is objectively immoral.
Does your inability to do so show that mean the physical universe depends on my mind for existence? Was I around at the big bang, if I died tomorrow would that mean you cease to exist and the whole universe is annihilated?
Sorry, hard to figure out what you are saying.
Another dictionary defines ‘objective’ as:
“having reality independent of the mind”
So go ahead…demonstrate that that the above-cited moral proposition has “reality independent of the mind”.
See above about relying on dictionaries to settle the meaning of technical terms and the mistaken definition your relying on
 You know…just like you also don’t need any human input whatsoever to demonstrate anything else that you would characterize as having “objective” existence, such as trees.
 That again doesn’t follow, obviously trees exist independently of minds, if every human being in the world committed suicide tomorrow the olive tree in my garden wouldn’t pop out of existence. However, it’s not true that you can demonstrate the existence of trees without appealing to something humans know or accept.
I disagree, but in the interest of furthering the argument, fine, then appeal to something I know or accept, to help you demonstrate the objective immorality of torturing babies to death solely for entertainment.
Your confusing the conditions necessary for something to exist with the conditions necessary to know something exists. Not the same thing.
On the contrary, you mislead the reader with your many uses of "objective" which you apply not only to morals but to physical realities that people commonly refer to as existing "objectively", such as when you appeal to the reality of the physical world.  Will you admit you could have made clearer your narrowly nuanced use of "objective", or will you insist that the average reader obtain their Ph.d in philosophy before they dare presume anything whatsoever about your use of language? 
 If you start asking me questions, you’ll be violating the definition of objectivity. You don’t need my input on anything, nor do you need to know whether I accept or believe any certain way about it, to achieve your own stated goal of demonstrating the above-cited moral proposition to be objectively true.
 That again doesn’t follow for the reasons I cited above, pointing out judgements are true or false independently of whether we think they are, doesn’t entail one can demonstrate or know they are without human input.
You’ll need to fix up that fallacious inference before your objection has any soundness.
 And you'll need to update your attacks on moral relativity so that the readers, most whom presumably don't have a Ph.d in philosophy, will recognize that when you say "objective", you don't mean the sense that the dictionary provides.
    You could also clear things up by directly answering the question of why you think said baby-torture is objectively immoral in the first place.
    Is it immoral because the bible tells you so?
    Is it immoral because most humans say it is immoral?
    is it immoral because you personally find it revolting?
    Is it immoral because all strong feelings about a moral issue necessarily come from God?
    Some other reason or reasons?
Unfortunately those questions assume the same mistake I mentioned above, your first question is about why I think a certain action is wrong it asks what my grounds or reasons for believing something is.
 Um.. Sir...asking you what grounds or reasons you have for believing something, cannot possibly constitute a "mistake", unless you think it is a 'mistake' for people ask you why you believe what you believe?  Is there some different Dr. Matthew Flannagan who engages in apologetics, who is different than you?  You are  C  L  E  A  R  L  Y   being evasive.  Those questions were legitimate even assuming I misunderstood you to a shocking degree.   

The problem is you then in the next few sentences take that to be the same as asking the question of why an action is immoral.
Ok, then forget my allegedly  fallacious understandings and give your reasons for saying baby-torture is objectively immoral.  We can worry about my ignorance and misunderstanding of your stated reasons after you state them and then after  I reply to your stated reasons.  You never know, I might address your reasons in ways that aren't fallacious.
That’s just a bad inference, I can ask a person why they believe sub atomic particles exist, and they might reply they believe it because they were taught it in a physics class.
 So apparently answering the question directly is actually possible, and in our case,  you just don't wanna.
That doesn’t mean that sub atomic particles exist because science teachers say so.
Agreed, but the direct answer clears the way to begin a more penetrating analysis.  While conversely, simply refusing to get in the ring and contenting yourself to shout from the sidelines has the clear benefit of preventing you from getting steamrolled.
If they exist, they existed a long time before science teachers or even humans came on the scene.
Ok...then if there are reasons to say baby-torture is objectively immoral, those reasons existed long before humans existed.  You are forced to agree to that by reason of your presupposition that God's morals have been the same from all eternity and were no different back before he created anything.
So, sorry, but your objections here seem to be just based on a series of non sequiturs.
 And I'm equally sorry that you did a rather unconvincing job of evading a direct challenge. It doesn't matter if I have a worse understanding of your position than a two year old would:  That would not intellectually or morally compel you to stay quiet about the reasons you think baby-torture is objectively immoral.

Dr. Flannagan, why can't you just forthrightly acknowledge that you think torturing babies to death is objectively immoral because the bible tells you so?

It doesn't matter if that simplistic basis could be shot out of the would still correctly reflect what you believe, wouldn't it?  It is dishonest to keep your true reasons hidden because you are afraid they can be refuted.

 Update: June 26, 2018:  Flannagan made another reply.  I responded briefly at his website and include that below, followed by more more lengthy point by point response:
Dr. Flannagan,
I provide a point by point response to you at my blog, but for now, it’s probably better to limit my posting here to resolving one of our important disagreements necessarily involved in the objective morality debate.
You have stated repeatedly in prior posts that when the moral relativist characterizes somebody else’s moral viewpoint as “wrong”, the relativist is necessarily implying an objective standard of moral right and wrong.
For example, you said that objectivity is presupposed when somebody admits any certain moral view was “mistaken”. 
“Stephen Evan’s similarly stresses that we assume or presuppose that moral judgments are the “kind of thing we can be mistaken about” and we criticise societies and other people for making mistaken moral judgments, all of which presupposes objectivity.”

“…or the fact we think some cultural mores or moral systems are worse than others and so on, all of which presuppose objectivity. Or the fact we engage in debate with other people over what is the right thing to do.”
 Your most direct statement on the subject was:
“…I put forward a hypothetical situation where a community endorsed the torture of children and asked whether you think a society which judged it was ok to do this was mistaken in doing so, or whether you thought there judgment it was permissible to torture children was correct. In fact, I put the challenge to you in the post? Most people judge that such a society does make a mistake, which shows that they presuppose that moral judgements are objective.”
I believe you were wrong to assume an objective standard of moral right and wrong is being presupposed when the moral relativist declares that somebody else’s viewpoint is “wrong”.

That is because there are numerous examples from real life in which we find it totally legitimate and justified to declare a person “wrong” on the basis of an admittedly non-objective, subjective or entirely relative standard.
Suppose I impose a 9 p.m. bedtime on my 7-year old daughter on a school night. When she says “I don’t have to do what you say”, I reply “you are wrong”. Is my assessment legitimate? After all, there is nothing in nature, any religious text, our deepest moral intuitions, or any viewpoint that most human beings agree on, which specifies what precise bedtime a child must obey on a school night, or specifies that a child must obey just anything the parent says at any time.
That situation is 100% subjective, yet it is legitimate for the dad to characterize his daughter’s rebellious attitude in that context as “wrong”.  Can you agree with me that “you are wrong” can be a legitimate moral criticism even in the absence of any objective moral standard?
I honestly cannot imagine how you could possibly infuse my chosen bedtime of 9 p.m. in this context with any objectivity, given that bedtime for kids is something parents wildly disagree about, precisely because there is no objective standard to apply in the first place.

here is my more detailed point by point reply:
Barry, you seem to have missed the key point of my last post. Which is your suggestion I am under some kind of burden to prove this is simply false.
But you'll have to agree the reader would be a bit curious that while you denying having a burden here, you still chose to proceed as if you believed you did.  Apparently, I struck a chord.
To demonstrate why I think its objectively wrong to torture babies for fun let me ask you some questions. These are to elucidate some premises which hopefully you and many of my readers will agree upon
1. If someone tortured a baby for fun, they grabbed a two year old and beat it repeatedly with a belt in front of you so it was bleeding and screaming in agony, and laughed as they did it repeatedly saying “I am doing this purely for fun, I have no other reason” would you d you honestly say that a person who did this did no wrong?
In my opinion, that child-abusing man would be morally 'wrong'. 
2. If as I suspect the answer to the above question is no, suppose the person who was whipping the flesh of the child in front of you told you he thought his action was perfectly ok, and there was nothing wrong with it, and that he was part of a community whose mores endorsed this sort of behaviour, would you change your opinion and claim that what he did wasn’t wrong, but was morally perfectly acceptable?
Inapplicable, see above.
Now I suspect, unless you’re a total Psychopath, that your answer to both these questions is “No”.
 It wouldn't matter if I was a total Psychopath...your duty is to "demonstrate".  You aren't "demonstrating" but only "assuming" if you simply assume total Psychopaths hold only those morals that are objectively wrong.
If it is however then, you have claimed both that (a) the action is wrong and (b) individuals and communities who judge it isn’t wrong are mistaken. If (a) and (b) are correct then morality is objective.
Incorrect.  I often tell my school-age daughter she is "wrong" to disobey my imposed bedtime of 9 p.m. on a school night.  But this does not imply she is objectively wrong, and my calling her "wrong" doesn't imply that I think she is violating some objective standard of morality.  My choice of what time she should go to bed is utterly relative, and differs wildly from parent to parent.  There is no natural law that says 9 p.m. is the proper bedtime for kids on a school night.  There is nothing in the bible that says 9 p.m. is the proper bedtime for kids on a school night.  And there is nothing in our deepest human intuitions that says 9 p.m. is the proper bedtime for kids on a school night.

Likewise, there is nothing in natural law, the bible, or our deepest human intuitions, that says a child should obey just anything at all which their parent might command at any time.   So my choice of bedtime for her is completely subjective.  Yet it is also legitimate and reasonable to characterize her rebellion toward this bedtime as "wrong".

Other examples, for the limited purpose of justifying wrongness on the basis of a completely subjective standard could be adduced:  We today spell it "connection", but back in the 17th century, the "correct" English spelling was "connexion".  But if any child in America today wrote it that way on a spelling test, the teacher would declare it "wrong".  It would be legitimate to declare such test answer  "wrong", meaning "wrong for reasons limited solely to the culture we currently live in".  Nobody would argue that by saying "wrong", the teacher is logically implying that there is an objectively correct way to spell that word. So you are incorrect to automatically accuse the moral relativist of necessarily implying an objective standard of moral right and wrong when they classify disobedience to some moral as "wrong".
Of course you could respond by biting the bullet and saying that in your opinon a person who beats a child in that way for fun does nothing wrong at all. But I would take that as a reduction ad absurdium of your position.
 Why?  It IS my opinion that this form of child abuse is morally wrong.  And in light of your other presuppositions, such as that I'm not god, and therefore cannot know everything there is to know about morality, casting my view as "opinion" constitutes justified reserve.
I suspect that many of my readers who you are so concerned about would have a similar response.
I don't see the relevance.  Unless you concede that an objective moral can be established by something which "many" people have to say, then what "many" of your readers would conclude about my viewpoint, has no relevance here.
If you have to say that there is nothing wrong with actions I spelt out in 1 and 2 to justify the kind of religious scepticism you want to justify then your position is implausible and to put it mildly close to sociopathic.
I'll play devils advocate here:  I detect an assumption in your argument that you haven't justified just yet: On what basis would you judge "implausible" the moral viewpoint that says it is good to torture children solely for entertainment purposes?  Your reference to "sociopathic" seems to indicate that your basis for implausibility here is what the majority of humans would have to say, since of course "socipath" refers to a person whose morals contravene those held by the majority of human beings.

Either admit your case for objective morals depends to some extent on what the majority of human beings feel is morally good/bad, or justify your intuitive disagreement with the sociopath without appealing to what the majority of human beings feel is morally good/bad.

Indeed, it is only a sociopath who seriously thinks it good to torture babies to death solely for entertainment, unfortunately, you are going to need something more than "most people would disagree with you!" before you can show the sociopathic position to be objectively immoral.
Perhaps you think I am under some kind of burden to prove 1 and 2.
You are.  He who asserts, must prove.  If you assert fairies exist, I'm under no obligation to believe they do until after you have provided some evidence in support.  That principle applies across the board, including applying to atheists who assert god's non-existence.
You think that when we see a child beating flayed with such intensity that its skin is bleeding and its screaming in agony we can’t claim that’s wrong until we have provided some kind of scientific empirical justification, cooly examining all the data, solving the is ought problem, and so forth. And that until someone does this the rational stance is to say that the person does nothing wrong at all.
First, "cooly" implies impartial unbiased research. So by saying we need not 'cooly' examine all the data, you are saying we need not conduct partial and unbiased research on the matter of whether torturing children to death solely for the sake of entertainment, is objectively moral or immoral.  But that implies justified reliance on your own existing moral prejudices/biases.  And whatever you conclude you arrive at by relying on your own existing moral prejudices/biases, that conclusion is hardly "objective".

You might think this, but I would just dispute that it seems pretty evident to me that’s simply an absurd and ridiculous stance to take.
So your case for 'objective' morals is necessarily premised, to some extent, on what "seems" to be absurd.  That's rather subjective of you.
I have already explained why I contend that your suggestion that anyone who asserts something carries some kind of burden of proof in my first post.
Yes indeed.  That's why you have a burden to demonstrate whatever you assert to be true, as would be the case with anybody else.
So until you actually respond to these criticisms you cant just assert that the burden of proof is on the person who opposes child flaying and the sadist’s position is the default one
Strawman fallacy, I never said the child flaying or sadist's position was the default.  I've made clear in this reply that a) I agree with you that such child abuse is morally wrong, but b) I am not necessarily implying the existence of an objective standard for morals in saying that, anymore than the teacher implies an objective standard for how to spell "connection"
seems to me to be mistaken,
Ok, sadism toward children solely for entertainment "seems" to be mistaken to you.  And sadism toward children solely for entertainment "seems" to be morally good to an extreme sociopath.  How would you "demonstrate" whose position was more objective?  I have an answer:  appeal to what the vast majority of people believe.  But that comes at the price of you admitting error, and admitting that what has "seemed" immoral to the vast majority of human beings, is a legitimate basis upon which to label their moral views "objective".
its similar to the position of a person who says they won’t believe the world isn’t a figment of there imagination until someone proves it actually exists. Or the solipsist who refuses to believe other people actually exist until someone proves it. Or the person who demands you prove the proposition “nothing is red all over and blue all over at the same time”.
I realize you feel strongly about your moral outlook.

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