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Ethics of Christianity and Atheism

First Universalists Again Join Secular Bible Study!

1stU-SBS attendees will join Philosophy scholar Frank Burton and Atheist scholar August Berkshire to explore the similarities and differences between the ethical precepts and practices of Christianity and Atheism.

Frank will first introduce us to the history of ancient ethical/moral codes, including those of Monotheistic Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and touch on the later teachings of major Christian philosophers like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Kierkegaard and MLK.

August will then introduce the atheist perspective on morality with and without God. He will examine belief in a generic god and a specific god (of Judeo-Christianity) and argue that it is impossible to be moral based on god-belief except by accident. He will ask whether belief in a god has a helpful influence on moral actions, even if a god doesn't actually exist. August will present evidence that morality derives from our naturalistic evolution as a social species. He will explain how our physical brains affect our moral judgments and give examples of morality found in non-human animals. Finally, he will present examples of secular codes of ethics.

Then two weeks later in our followup Part II, Dialogue, we'll discuss questions like these:

  • Does (or should) the Bible have an absolute moralistic or legalistic authority on Christians?
  • Can a religious person hope to be good only by applying naturalistic ethics to their God-belief?
  • Have Christians been dependent on arbitrary strictures found in the Bible, or are such strictures historically grounded and convergent with naturalistic ethics?
  • Do modern Christians believe that love alone is the criterion for moral action, and that reflection on scriptures simply helps inform that morality?
  • If atheistic ethics is evolved, not chosen, do atheists continue to question their ethical assumptions once they abandon religious doctrine?
  • Is there a common ground for morality across many different belief systems? If so, is it the same as atheists' naturalistic ethics?
  • Is Natural Law non-Christian? Even if Jesus taught it, too?
  • Should we actually love our neighbors? Or just tolerate them?
  • Are most communists, socialists, liberals and libertarians atheist? Are most conservatives Christians? If so, why?
  • If the Bible teaches us to give our worldly goods to the poor, from what influence does the "prosperity gospel" arise?
  • Does everyone agree laying down one's life for another is a highest good?
  • If Christians and Atheists each claim moral authority, how do they each explain the cause of immorality within their own groups?
  • In what ethical worlds do different restrictions on abortion originate? How about when they're restrictions on contraceptives and stem cell research?
  • Is non-violent resistance the exclusive territory of Jesus, Gandhi and MLK?
  • Why don't atheists rape, pillage and murder if for them there's no Hell? Don't Christians avoid doing these things only because they fear eternal flames?
  • Why don't Jews eat ham, now that it's free of trichinosis?
  • Why don't we have slaves anymore?

We will ask these (and other) questions of each other and our two Speaker-Moderators, Frank and August, in a free-wheeling debate on what it means when we say "Christian Ethics" and "Secular Ethics"!

Be GOOD, and don't miss our 1stU-SBS Joint Meetup Series on August 9 & 23, on the "Ethics of Christianity and Atheism" -- or you'll feel oh so BAD!

RSVP " YES " today!

Stele Containing The Code of Hammurabi

The Ten Commandments

The Golden Rule

The Rich Entering the Kingdom of Heaven

Non-Violent Resistance

Religious Doctrine Influenced by Natural Philosophy?




Unalienable Rights: Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness

Objectivism & Libertarianism


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  • A former member
    A former member

    Great presentations. I am looking forward to great discussions at our next meeting.

    August 12, 2011

  • Mike and Annetta C.

    I really enjoyed Frank's historical review of the origins of ethics and the elaboration about "prior art" for many religiously-attributed ethical concepts. August's presentation on ethics sans-god included all the main points humanists (like me) accept.

    August 10, 2011

  • Tomomi

    Smooth, professional, and very informative. And then the atheist got up and spoke. (j/k) I immensely enjoyed learning about Ur-Nammu, the Eloquent Peasant, and details about the Code of Hammurabi.

    August 10, 2011

  • Frank B.

    Thanks to our co-Meetup attendees from MN Atheists, including Rohit, Brooks, Jerry, Douglas and others, and to our regular SBS and 1stU attendees! Come on back in 2 weeks, ya'll, so you can weigh in with August and me on the relative merits of religious vs. secular ethics!

    August 9, 2011

  • Frank B.

    So far we've got about 9 coming from SBS and more than dozen predicted from 1stU -- sorry about the glitchy RSVP-ing for guests!

    August 5, 2011

  • Frank B.

    Sorry for the late notice, but it'll be a fun SBS Meetup on a major border demarcation between our own SBS Membership. Don't skip THIS one!

    July 29, 2011

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