Can a person be good without God?

A common theme among Christian writers is that God is the ultimate source of morality, often called “the moral argument”. Probably the pithiest expression of this idea is from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, in which one of the characters argues that “if God does not exist, … everything is permitted.” Many readers quickly see where this is going and consider the reverse; if morality is not just a matter of personal taste, then God must exist. Of course this is only a superficial treatment; a more thorough presentation of the moral argument, along with responses to some common objections, is found in the first chapters of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. It’s available in a YouTube version here which I recommend highly.

However one puts it, claiming that morality comes from God is a good way to pick a fight. There is a widespread belief Continue reading “Can a person be good without God?”

Does religion do more harm than good?

I can appreciate the reasons why some find it difficult to believe what I believe, or even to believe in God at all. Throughout this blog, I’ve engaged the big questions around this issue, but in this post I am concerned with a secondary topic. Whether my religion, or anyone’s religion, does more harm than good is a different question from whether it is true or false, but it is important in its own right. Continue reading “Does religion do more harm than good?”

Why don’t Christians just keep their beliefs to themselves?

As you might guess by poking around this blog, I enjoy sharing my Christian faith.  I realize, however, that most non-Christians feel that they have heard enough about Christianity already, and are not eager to hear more.  Because of this, it is important for me (and other Christians) to be tactful and sensitive about the topic.  Rather than talking about God as often as I would like, I need to treat people with respect by taking note of their wishes, and being judicious in terms of when it is appropriate to bring up the subject.  When the topic does arise, I should avoid the temptation to monopolize the conversation, and should make sure that I reflect well on the Gospel by sharing it, as Peter said, with gentleness and respect.

Having said all that, Continue reading “Why don’t Christians just keep their beliefs to themselves?”

Is religion always losing ground to science?

Religion and science are often presented as being in conflict, causing many people to feel that they have to choose one or the other.  The conflict is often described in terms of a historical narrative, which I will paraphrase briefly here in my own words (not following any specific author, but drawing from the observations of various people I’ve spoken with over the years who think this way):

First, there was ancient man, who was ignorant and believed in all sorts of local gods living on places like Mount Olympus, or inhabiting stone or wooden idols.  He couldn’t explain anything, and saw miracles and supernatural events everywhere. The Norse, for example, attributed thunder and lightning to the actions of Thor. Over time, the wiser among men, through reason and observation of a common-sense but not scientific sort, concluded that there were no gods actually living on Olympus and the stone and wooden idols in fact were powerless and lifeless.  Yet the still couldn’t explain most of what they saw, so they attributed Continue reading “Is religion always losing ground to science?”

Is evolution in conflict with Christianity?

According to my own definitions of each term, no, evolution and Christianity are not in conflict. However, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is rejected by approximately half of self-described Christians in the U.S. (according to surveys).  The most conservative churches take explicit stands against the theory.  The Catholic Church and most mainline Protestant denominations, however, find evolution and Christianity to be compatible (for example, a vast number of Christian clergymen and women have signed here).  In general, those individuals and churches who Continue reading “Is evolution in conflict with Christianity?”

Which church is the One True Church?

It is often reported that there are about 30,000 denominations within the Protestant branch of Christianity alone. This often leads to the suggestion is that if so many different churches each claims to be the correct one, perhaps none of them are. Sometimes this point is made by Roman Catholics as a kind of argument against Protestantism, the implication being that since they are both far older and numerically far larger than any Protestant institution, it is more likely that theirs is the true faith. However, I’ve also seen this line of thinking used in support of arguments against Christianity in general. Looking at the splits over the centuries into so many Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant groups, why should one believe Continue reading “Which church is the One True Church?”

Is divorce acceptable under any circumstances?

Many of the social issues in our media and politics today – abortion and gay marriage for example -are topics on which Jesus never spoke directly, at least not in any case that was recorded in the Gospels. Christians can consult other books of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience in order to try to draw the correct conclusions on these issues.  However, without direct teaching from Jesus, there is always going to be sincere disagreement.

One social issue on which Jesus did speak directly, however, Continue reading “Is divorce acceptable under any circumstances?”

Does Christianity forbid sex before marriage?

Most Christian denominations do teach that sex before marriage is always a sin, and the importance of chastity is a common theme in Christian literature at least as far back as St. Augustine. I don’t take lightly the weight of tradition in this matter, and the purpose of this blog is not to set my own views up as being authoritative over those of other Christians. However, this blog does aim to honestly confront the issues that might be decisive in driving large numbers of people away from Christianity, and it must be admitted that this is one of those issues. It has been reported that in present-day America, most people have sex before marriage (~95%). So do most conservative Protestants who are active in their faith (~80%). It is not unusual Continue reading “Does Christianity forbid sex before marriage?”

Does God hate gays?

No. Christianity is clear that God is love, and doesn’t hate any of His children. Anyone claiming to the contrary is badly misrepresenting the Christian faith. Such voices get far more attention than they deserve, and I won’t dignify any of them with a link.

The more significant controversy is whether gay relationships are by their nature sinful, or not. Christian social conservatives use biblical arguments to attack homosexual behavior rather than gay people.  They are typically careful to remind people to “love the sinner, hate the sin”.  For some, this maxim might just be lip service to cover up a prejudice to which the biblical passages provide convenient support.  There is no good reason, however, to believe that all or even a majority fit that description.  Just as it is possible to “love the sinner, hate the sin”, it is possible to disagree with someone’s argument, but give their sincerity the benefit of the doubt.

Other Christians interpret the same scriptures much differently.   Continue reading “Does God hate gays?”

What does Christianity say about the death penalty?

Christians are split on whether or not there should be a death penalty.  Most mainline Protestant denominations oppose the death penalty.  The Roman Catholic Church is opposed to it except for extraordinary circumstances, and the Eastern Orthodox churches have a similarly nuanced view. Fundamentalists and most conservative Protestants generally support the death penalty.

It seems that one’s view of the death penalty flows from one’s overall view of the Bible.   Continue reading “What does Christianity say about the death penalty?”