Saturday, 15 June 2013


Just who is being brainwashed?

When I was a teenager I began to tell my grandmother about Jesus Christ. I didn't hammer her with my belief, but as we would talk it would come up naturally in conversation.  Her response was to tell me that I take after my great-great-grandmother who was also 'religious' and then, when I pointed out that faith in God was not something that could be passed down through our genes, like eye-colour or  height etc, she told me she thought Christians (including me) were actually brain-washed.

For years it hurt me that she thought I was brain-washed. She wasn't an educated lady, but she was streaks ahead of Richard Dawkins in her assumptions that I (and others like me) were simply deluded.

So am I brainwashed? Bearing in mind that those being brainwashed often don't know it, I want to look at the evidence - who is being brainwashed and who is qualified to make judgements?

Brainwashing normally occurs in one of two ways. Firstly it occurs through subliminal messages - where something is repeated so frequently that you begin to believe it.

Okay - so its true - I have heard from about the age of 3 or 4 that there is a God and that this God created our world. However, as an adult the bible tells me not to believe everything I hear. I am not to take everything at face value, but am to ask questions of it and seek out the truth (I'm not sure this is typical brainwashing strategy).

The apostle Paul said 'Test everything. Hold on to what is good' ( 1 Thessalonians 5 : 21).  The bible tells me I am not to put my brain in my backpack and go skipping through life blindly ignoring every question that is raised against God, or accepting every statement made in the name of God. Jesus tells me I am to ‘Love the Lord [my] God with all [my] heart and with all [my] soul and with all [my] MIND.’ This is the first and GREATEST commandment! (Matthew 22 : 37 - 38). I am not even to accept everything that a preacher, apologist or teacher says without being careful to check that this is indeed what is right: Jesus said: 'Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.' Matthew 7 : 15. I am not even supposed to rely on my own judgements and see myself as the fount of all knowledge - setting myself up as judge over what I personally like and don't like, over what I personally agree with or don't agree with. The bible tells me not to 'rely on my own understanding.' (Proverbs 3 : 5).

So, repeating something to me over and over again is not going to be so effective if I am constantly checking it out. However, it strikes me that my grandmother, an atheist constantly believed all subliminal messages put to her that there was no God without ever stopping to question whether this was true or not, without ever checking anything for herself. When I asked her what she believed about the Universe and where it came from she told me that it had always been here. The bible told me that this could not possibly be true. The bible told me that in the beginning God spoke the world into being...

Today science backs this up. Science used to believe that the world was eternal - it had always been here and always would be. Scientists now know that the universe almost certainly had a beginning and that it will almost certainly come to an end, what they don't know is WHY the universe began, and they are still guessing at how. I think I know! The bible says God 'said' let there be... Oh yeah, that's a bit childish isn't it. What, God said the magic words did he? Uh, no...stay with me here!  The DNA code in all living things is a language code...God introduced language into the Universe, logic, reason and sense in all that he had made. The bible says God 'spoke' - DNA shows us his language!

I then asked my grandmother where we came from and she told me - with a wink - that we came from monkeys. I asked her if she truly believed that and she said she did. She couldn't explain evolution to me, she had no idea how or why it was supposed to work, but if everyone believed that this is where we came from who was she to argue with them. She refused to check it out, refused to consider any alternatives, refused to think about anything concerning God - but it would be laughable to think that she had been brainwashed...wouldn't it?

The second way that brainwashing works is through reinforcement. Here wanted behaviour is rewarded and unwanted behaviour is punished. Okay lets think about this. If you wanted to brainwash someone into being a Christian it would be mighty difficult, because doing the right thing seems to get you nowhere in this world. A little bit of tax evasion, a little white lie, a little bit of gossip - the odd lustful thought...its what makes the world go around isn't it? How about indulging in the passions of the flesh...that's fun isn't it. Who wants to deny themselves anything? So, how is wanted behaviour being rewarded then?  Being a Christian sounds like hard work and certainly doesn't make you the life and soul of the party. This world does not reinforcing the Christian's behaviour, because everyone can see that its the last thing anyone wants! And yet the Christian hangs on - having tested everything they are holding onto what is good (even though at times it seems to make life a lot harder). My grandmother once told me that if I wanted to get ahead in the world I'd have to give up my God malarky.

But is the atheist receiving any subliminal messages based on reward and punishment? Well, possibly yes! Daily they see that those who make it big in this world are those who do not believe in God - the successful celebrity, the rich businessman, the model, the singer, the actor....they don't need God do they? They receive messages  from their idols, in their newspapers, on the radio, on TV, in Holywood films, in soap operas, in music, in art, in literature, in philosophy... they receive the same message, again and again, that there is no God. The message is that they don't need God, he's not there, he never was and he never will be, but they never stop to question the truth of the matter because when they look at the Christian, they are bombarded with a different message. The Christian is a mealy mouthed kill joy who is a pain in the neck everywhere he or she goes. They see how Christians are portayed by the media - Christians are never seen as amazing or cool. Here the atheist sees that life without God is good - and life with God is boring and miserable.

Interestingly, the Christian receives the same message. A message that warns that if they continue with his 'delusion' they will be unpopular and unwanted -  they will be laughed at, ridiculed and despised. But despite receiving this message, despite realising that they will no doubt suffer for their faith in Jesus Christ, they hang on because they have tested the truth!  It does not seem like a classic case of brainwashing to me. I wonder if its the atheist who is brainwashed then? What does the evidence suggest to you?


  1. I’m not really one to reduce Christian beliefs to brainwashing, as the term is both loaded and highly subjective, to the point of being almost useless. However, I appreciate that in your discussion of it you draw out certain elements associated with the term that are, themselves, at least useful to address.

    I would also like to point out that you’ve completely missed the point of them.

    The first is that you conflate subliminal messages with hearing a message repeatedly. Subliminal messages are messages that you are not aware of existing, but are said to affect you at a subconscious level – for example, seeing a word flash on a screen for less time than your brain has to register the phenomenon.

    That correction aside, you focus more correctly on the tendency of humans to habituate themselves to myths – whether true or not – simply by hearing the message repeatedly.

    Habituating ourselves to myths is not something that unthinking people do, but something that everyone does. The fact that you give serious intellectual thought to difficult and challenging questions does not shield you from the effects of it.

    When we repeat certain beliefs, they eventually become strong enough that we believe them, and become even more resistant to contradictory evidence. That is, why we are susceptible to confirmation bias.

    So when you indicate that “repeating something is not going to be effective” because you have given it thought, you miss just how dominant this effect is (this is also why the specific methods we use to arrive at our answers, methods that *must* reduce bias as much as possible, are so important).

    Your second point refers to operant conditioning, or reinforcement; a significant phenomenon put forward by psychologists like B.F. Skinner, though you fail to mention how negative reinforcement can be just as relevant as positive reinforcement.

    And again, you miss the point.

    Every time you say something like “Jesus loves me” and, especially, when you hear it repeated by someone else, or when another person offers any kind of encouragement, your body sends a powerful dose of endorphins your way. The same would be true for football fans, having someone appreciate one of your blog posts, or receiving a compliment on your brand new hardwood floor.

    Social reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools for socializing behaviour there is, and can be derived from any number of evolutionary origins (humans, as with the rest of our ape-like ancestors, are highly social and we depend on socializing for our very survival).

    If this was not the case, and your challenge was legitimate, how do you propose we understand the convictions of people from suicide bombers to Jonestown residents to the various doomsday cults who, even after their eschatological predictions failed, they nevertheless remained convinced of an obvious lie?

    In each of these cases, there are significant costs, whether social costs as in the doomsday cults, or the loss of their very lives, as in suicide bombers and the residents of Jonestown. I suspect you might be willing to argue that these individuals in each of these groups were brainwashed, yet clearly those beliefs offered no significant advantage.

    Finally, I feel compelled to point out the irony in how you have adopted the cosmological explanation of the universe, because it can be skewed to confirm your prior beliefs about Genesis 1 and 2, while disregarding the scientific consensus on evolution.

    On what basis do you have to accept the theory of the Big Bang but not evolution, other than that one seems to work within your belief system, and the other does not? Both have a significant consensus in the range of 98-100% amongst relevant scholars.

    So what is the difference?

    Could it be, against your arguments to the contrary, that you’re falling prey to confirmation bias? Accepting only those aspects of science that you like, while putting every ounce of energy you have into trying to disprove those facts you don’t like?

  2. Dear Kalen,

    Interesting response! Thanks. I'm glad we agree that reducing a Christian's beliefs to brainwashing is useless. I published this article in response to a debate between Dinesh D'Souza and John Loftus in which Loftus repeatedly claims that Christians are brainwashed. My purpose for the post was to show how unlikely this is given the way that Christians are portrayed in today's media etc.

    I concede your point about my use of the word 'subliminal' though. In retrospect I would edit that word out, but I stand by my point.

    As for me accepting science as and when it suits me, I don't think I am, although I could respectfully say the same to you when you argued on my other post: Enemies of Evolution ( that "Nature may not care for us, but we can still care for one another." Why would that be the case and where does this sudden caring nature come from? Aren't you inserting morality and caring into a theory that has no room for it?

    Interesting debate Kalen. Thanks for your interest in my blog.

  3. Thanks Kim. Who says there's no room for morality within a naturalistic perspective?

    From a strictly pragmatic perspective, atheists typically demonstrate themselves to be extremely moral. Look at the American prison system. It doesn't take long to recognize how under-represented atheists are, while the religious are over-represented.

    The typical apologetic response to this is to argue that, yes, atheists can be moral, but they have no basis for their morality.

    It’s true that, from a purely materialistic perspective, there are no intrinsically evil or forbidden acts; however, I also believe there are still things we should not do – namely, harming others. Murdering someone may not be intrinsically evil in the universal sense, but it’s still a bad thing to do. Atheists tend to have a fairly simple starting point when determining what’s moral – don’t harm others.

    But how do I know that not harming others is “good?” Don’t I have to appeal to some external source of morality to say that not causing harm is better than causing harm?

    Not really. In fact, I think I’m even biologically programmed to be empathetic in this way, at least on some basic level. Though, even if this weren’t the case, I’d still be able to make rational arguments that being kind to others is better than being unkind. Having friends rather than enemies is pretty swell.

    Still, back to the biological case I made: let’s take a look at modern primates for some examples of how this might look.

    There was a study done some 11 years ago or so that looked at morality in Capuchin monkeys. In this study, they had 2 Capuchins from the same social group, and the monkeys had to give the researcher a small pebble to receive food. There were two types of food, cucumber and grapes, with grapes being the preferred choice.

    To one of the monkeys, the researcher provided cucumbers, to the other, grapes. At first, the cucumber was perfectly fine for the one monkey. But as soon as he realized the other was receiving grapes, he threw the cucumber back at the researcher, got angry, and generally raised hell – the researcher was being unfair, and the Capuchin monkey knew it.

    But it went even further. In some of the trials, the monkey that received the grapes actually started refusing to accept the grape until the other monkey likewise received one -- a form of altruism and self-sacrifice. He, too, recognized that it was unfair for him to receive grapes, and the other only cucumber.

    We already know (or at least, I think I can make this claim – let me know if you disagree!) that most moral claims are not monopolized by any particular religion. Across the globe, groups of people have independently come to the same conclusions: killing and stealing is bad; justice and fairness is good.

    The Capuchin monkey trial goes even further and suggests that these kinds of moral beliefs are not even specific to humans. Rather, it occurs throughout the animal kingdom (though, of course, not in all species and not consistently – evolution creates a wealth of diversity, even in this regard)!

    Therefore, I reflect on my natural tendency to be empathetic towards other people, and I set that as the foundation for the rest of my moral reasoning. Whenever I ask myself if something is “good” or “evil,” I will first ask, “Will this harm anyone? Will it benefit anyone?” And I try to determine what I will do from there.

    Atheists can also use this foundation to resolve moral questions in even more complex situations, from what social support structures are reasonable to what, exactly, constitutes free speech.

    It may not be objective in the theistic sense, but then, it doesn’t have to be. And the immense variety of moral claims that have been made, abandoned, and refined by every religion and person in history is a testament to subjective moral truth.

    With all of that said, can you address why cherry picking the science that suits your beliefs doesn't reveal you as being strongly biased?

  4. Hello again Kalen.

    You asked ‘who says there's no room for morality within a naturalistic perspective?’ well I guess it was me! ☺ However, I don’t think I’m alone here. The fact that morality does exist within a non-theistic framework points more to the existence of man being made in the image of God, and I agree with you when you say man is actually ‘biologically programmed’ to be empathetic, to not harm others and so on. By definition, naturalistic evolution is only interested in survival and reproduction, not truth. Atheist philosopher J. L. Mackie said that moral properties are "queer" given naturalism, and went on to say "if there are objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god."

    You said that atheists ‘typically demonstrate themselves to be extremely moral’ – I’m not sure about this, however I have absolutely no doubt that some do and some are indeed ‘extremely moral’ – my question is why are they? So, yes, you anticipated my argument perfectly. Logically and rationally, morality in a non-theistic context, is without grounding. If Human beings were produced by valueless processes, we must ask where their human worth and dignity came from? Like you, I do not feel I need to appeal to some external source of morality to determine that not causing harm is better than causing harm - like you, I also believe I am biologically programmed to know right from wrong, but unlike you, I feel I need to know who did the programming.

    As for the American prison system being under-represented by atheists…you really believe this? I’m in the UK, I have not accessed statistics like these, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if someone ends up in prison their morality may not be that high and lying on a form that says ‘tick your religion’ may not be beyond them. I know of someone in prison who ‘converted’ from Islam to Christianity just to get out of fasting during Ramadan. I also heard about a guy who claimed to be a Jew in prison, because he had heard you are served a lot of good kosher meat. As much as these statistics would make your case somewhat stronger, what someone claims on a form when they arrive in prison really should be taken with a pinch of salt. I think we both know this.

    The capuchin monkey trial is fascinating and I enjoyed what you wrote about it, but I do think we have to be careful not to overly anthropomorphize animals by giving them human motives. You said yourself that when you are trying to determine if something is good or evil you ask yourself questions about whether it will harm or benefit anyone and you try to determine what to do from there, I don’t think the Capuchin monkeys can do this. Just because some animals sometimes show altruistic behaviour it does not mean that they have any concept of ethical understanding. Animals act on instinct. Animals do not reason. A dog will protect his owner whether his owner is a good person or a serial killer. Animals do what suits them best. We have wildlife programmes that show animals within one species ambushing each other, killing each other’s offspring and even resorting to cannibalism – but we have no indication that the animal considers itself to be doing something morally or ethically wrong, so by the same token how can we say that the animal is exhibiting a morally right choice when he shows an act of kindness? This is just our perception of what we observe.

    With regards to cherry picking science, I do weigh up what I read and hear and try to find out if it’s accurate or not. Don’t you apply this principle to everything too? For example, some scientific research will show you that certain vaccines cause autism, while others will show you that this is not true – as a rational human being you have responsibility for weighing up the evidence and, to the best of your ability, deciding what you will believe. This has been really interesting Kalen!

  5. This is a long one, as I’m starting to include more references to actual studies (though, for now, I’m largely not linking to them, just to save space.) Ask for any study I’m referring to and I will happily source my material.

    I’ll break this into a few parts.

    Certainly you’re not alone in arguing that morality cannot be defended from a naturalistic perspective, though such arguments occur almost exclusively within theistic circles.

    You cited J.L. Mackie, but I think you should differentiate between his usage of the term objective morality (that is, morality that exists independent of human thought) and subjective morality (that is, morality that exists as a cognitive construct). They are not the same, and you know as well as I do that Mackie posited his own method for constructing a secular morality.

    You also completely misinterpret him, suggesting he thought morality was “queer” within naturalism. That is not at all what he said – in fact, it’s the very opposite of his argument. Mackie argued that *objective* morality is queer, in "Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong," because “if there were objective values, then they would be entities or qualities or relations of a very strange sort, utterly different from anything else in the universe.”

    Again, this is not an argument against naturalistic morality (a position that he affirmed), but against theistic *objective morality.* If you’ve read Mackie, surely you must recognize this because it’s a fundamental feature of his philosophy. So it simply won’t do to misquote an atheist philosopher in this debate, as I do check sources.

    For the remainder of my response, I am only putting forth one argument:

    ***Naturalism can explain morality.***

    Please note the word “can” – I am emphasizing only my theory’s plausibility, specifically to challenge your statement that there is no room for morality within atheism.

    Thus, you can still assert that I am *wrong* but that does not defeat my argument; I'm arguing only for it being possible (more work would have to be done to go from plausibility to demonstrably true, though I'm not afraid of that challenge either).

  6. By and large, mammals are born without the tools necessary to survive their earliest years and require social support for much of our lives, both against the elements and against predators. This social reliance provides the evolutionary pressure for greater social altruism.

    The fact is, the kind of morality we have is exactly what you would expect from an evolutionary system. Maybe it’s also what we would expect from a theistic system (though maybe not), but certainly an evolutionary one. The Capuchin monkey example I provided remains operative because, while you assert we should not anthropomorphize animals too much to suggest they’re more like humans than they are (I agree), I would similarly argue that we should not incorrectly assume they are so distinct from us as to be beyond comparison (there’s no reason to think this).

    As I’m sure you know, within evolution there are not typically drastic leaps of evolution from one generation to the next, but rather it is always a spectrum. You’re right that the morality of a Capuchin is not as nuanced as that of a human, and certainly lacks the symbolic language to represent it, but it is there and it’s exactly at the stage of development we would expect given the structure of their brain and their proximity to us genealogically.

    You mention how some animals are so amoral that, in many cases, they will kill one another, act cannibalistically, and so on. Thus, you are attempting to solidify the (allegedly) clear distinction between animals and humans. But how distinct are we?

    Monkeys typically form themselves into smallish communities, generally no more than 100 to 150 individuals. When a small party of say 5 or 6 monkeys discovers a lone monkey from another tribe, one of two things will likely happen. If the lone monkey is a male, the raiding party will kill him – often brutally. If the lone monkey is a female, the raiding party will typically rape her and bring her back to the larger community so that she may bear offspring for their own tribe, rather than their competitors.

    Does this sort of situation not play itself out in human societies as well? Go to any professional European football (soccer) game wearing the away team’s jersey. Better if the home team is Manchester United. Then tell me humans don’t readily form arbitrary groups and quickly dehumanize their perceived opponents to the point of criminal activity, in some instances.

    In the middle-east right now, I’m sure you’re aware of the protests that have been happening. During these protests, if you are attending as a woman, there is an extremely high chance you will be beaten, dragged away, and gang-raped by groups of men. This is a situation that has played itself out repeatedly not only recently, but through history (even in Christian nations).

    No doubt you are aware of the extraordinarily high rates of paedophilia within the Catholic church, the boy scouts, and other Christian-affiliated organizations. Not to mention the entire history of Christian development which oversaw the mass dehumanizing and slaughter of Indigenous people the world over, all in the name of Jesus Christ.

    You also argue that there is no “indication that the animal considers itself to be doing something morally or ethically wrong,” but that is precisely what I’ve argued.

    As further evidence, numerous studies have demonstrated Chimpanzees actively deceiving one another, as well as their human caretakers. I’m curious under what circumstances a Chimp would seek to deceive its caretaker if it was not aware it had transgressed some social code?

    Not only does this suggest that they have the kind of empathy in which they can recognize the intent of external agents (that is, they’re able to understand that *you* think differently than *they* do), but they even exhibit all the signs of being embarrassed by the activity of being caught. This is not the brutish, unthinking characterization you’re familiar with.

  7. Again, I’m not carrying the conclusion any further than I have to, but it is data and it does need to be considered. You cannot write these off as unimportant because you’ve already assumed that humans are one thing and animals are another. This, again, is precisely how I’m suggesting that you’re suffering from confirmation bias (by the way, autism was only linked to vaccines in one study, which was discredited. The primary author was stripped of his licence and he was later convicted of fraud).

    The fact is, not only are monkeys capable of more than I think you might be giving them credit for, but humans may be far less moral than you may want to admit.

    Regarding the survey on American prisoners, researchers who use surveys do tend to take your criticisms into account, and such factors can be controlled for to within a certain margin of error. Moreover, other studies have suggested that anonymous surveys tend to be accurate, as long as they suspect the survey will remain anonymous. Otherwise, people generally do not lie on an anonymous survey, even within prisons.

    Another point in fact, if the surveys argued that atheists were overrepresented in prisons, I suspect you would have no complaints using that information against me. Unfortunately for your position, that is not the evidence we have.

    Recent studies have also demonstrated that criminals will use religion to justify their crimes. For example, a criminal might argue that if he commits a crime against another criminal, the double negative would be justified under God. Another might argue how God has to forgive everybody. These are real justifications by real people; I can link you to the study if you want it (it’s quite recent).

    Whether or not you agree with these individuals in how they’re interpreting religion, that is precisely how it is being used. Certainly it’s not atheistic, whatever it is. It’s also precisely this kind of interpretive exegesis we would expect to see if morality is subjective, rather than objective. Everyone can essentially cherry pick whatever moral codes they want to suit their needs, and – this is the important part – they can *actually believe that what they are doing is right.* They’re saying their actions are justified and they actually believe it.

    I can’t even begin to explain how significant that distinction is.

    I’m certain you will respond by arguing how if everyone can simply pick and choose their own morality, then how, again, can we say one action is more moral than any other. How can we say the criminal is wrong? And again I will refer you to the arguments I presented above, in which we’ve evolved a *basic* sense of morality.

    I will also advise you that individuals are born with different capacity for moral behaviour – some individuals with psychopathy actually lack empathy altogether, not of any fault of their own – and that evolution is messy. Again, your anticipated complaint that it is difficult to assert one behaviour is more or less moral than any other is not a challenge to an evolutionary model of morality, but is, as I’ve repeated, exactly what we would expect.

    Morality is not objective (external), but subjective (internal). However, subjective systems can still be discussed in relation (that’s the whole point of subjectivity), and thus in terms of better or worse (adaptive or maladaptive; beneficial or harmful; etc.).

    As one final thought, I can also point to multiple studies that correlate religiosity in nations to greater instances of rape, violence, divorce, you name it, while other studies demonstrate how atheists tend to be generally more tolerant, less dogmatic and better educated than the religious. To cite the concluding remarks of one such study, “atheists would make for pretty good neighbors.”

    With all of that out there, I’m curious to see at this point how you might still defend the argument that morality cannot exist without God.

    1. Kalen, when I refer to morality, I am specifically talking about objective morality, which I think is what gives honest atheists the most difficulty. I believe J.L Mackie was saying that the whole nature of moral reasoning has such an immense configuration to it that it is impossible to actually arrive at a rational defence of it apart from invoking a moral personal first cause. Even the very brilliant Bertrand Russell said ‘I cannot believe that values are simply a matter of my personal taste and so I find my own views actually quite incredible and I do not know the solution.’

      You asked me whether humans and animals really are so different? I believe they are. The gap between animals and man is too great for evolution to adequately explain. However, I grant you that just as the animal kingdom is capable of great cruelty, so too certain groups of people can develop ‘pack mentality’. You mentioned the bad behaviour of Man U - ahem, I mean European soccer fans, as an example. I fully agree! But here you are saying that humans are behaving like animals to the point of ‘criminal extent’, which shows that you know that their behaviour is wrong. As we both now agree, animals do not have this sort of awareness – but yes, their behaviour is exactly what I would expect from what you term as ‘morality… from an evolutionary system,’ but this is the morality that an atheist with any kind of philosophical sophistication must have. If you do away with the notion of God you struggle with definitions of good or evil and must become like an animal with no concept of either, and doing whatever suits you at any given time – whether it is good or evil. Holding on to objective morality and atheism at the same time creates a totally incoherent world-view.

      You mentioned the atrocities committed by some ‘so called’ Christians in the name of Christ, and the extraordinarily high rates of pedophilia within the Catholic Church in particular. I fully agree with you and would never justify their actions – accounts like these are absolutely shameful, despicable and abhorrent. However, if we go back to our football (soccer) illustration – if one fan kills another fan and says he’s doing it for the team, does this make the team bad? My point really is that just because someone says that they are a Christian does not mean that they are truly living according to Christ’s teaching. The gospel of Matthew tells us this: “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” So I would say that we need to apply this wisdom to all people who claim to be Christians…even those in the American prison system ;-)

      You keep saying I am suffering from confirmation bias, but I’m not. I think it was Aristotle who said that the mark of an educated mind is to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. I have told you that I believe animals act on instinct and learned behaviour – as lovely as some of their actions may be. I also believe that humans are far less moral than I would like, but I believe the reason for that is because humanity is turning its back on God and frequently going against what they know to be right in favour of a ‘morality’ of their own creation. I intend to write a post about this fairly soon, so maybe you can wait for that before we discuss this further. In any case we’ve drifted a long way from ‘brain washing’, which is what this post was originally about. Again Kalen, thank you – look forward to crossing swords with you again one day.

  8. Thanks Kim, I appreciate the clarification re: objective vs. subjective morality. You're right that, within a naturalistic perspective, objective morality doesn't exist (though I would argue it doesn't exist within a theistic system, either -- at least not in practice).

    "If you do away with the notion of God you struggle with definitions of good or evil and must become like an animal with no concept of either, and doing whatever suits you at any given time – whether it is good or evil."

    This ignores the reality of atheists and all of the arguments I've presented, and is demonstrably false. In short, you do not need objective morality to be moral, for all the reasons I've presented above. We do struggle with right and wrong, but so do you.

    "As we both now agree, animals do not have this sort of awareness."

    I rather argued the opposite of this. Animals do have awareness, especially primates, at least on some basic level.

    Naturally there's much more to say, but I will await follow-up posts.

    Thanks again.