Stemming from responses to my newspaper columns, I've engaged in email conversations with a few people who wrote to disagree. I always begin respectfully, usually providing evidence for what I've said. Sometimes the conversations go on for a while. In a couple of cases we've met for coffee and actually become friends. More often than not, though, the writer usually storms off in a huff when he (or she, in only one case that I recall) finds the need repeatedly to confront actual facts to be too unpleasant.
There are a couple of people who like to engage on religion. Boy, to the extent that I try to get them to see other ways of looking at things, is that a waste of energy! But I persist as long as they want to, or until I can't stand the repetition, the circular reasoning, the persisting inability to accept that belief differs from knowledge. Here's an email I just received, to which I responded at length. You can probably guess what I said. I do respect his earnestness and the obvious degree to which his belief gives him what's obviously much-needed comfort. But, geez, what passes for "thought" and cogent argument; and he does go on so...
My first comment would be on the Idea you have presented several times that the only difference between you and I is that I believe in one more god than you. This is a perspective statement and not a statement of fact. Let me explain. Because you have an Atheistic method of looking at the world you also place, perhaps unknowingly, all other perspectives as being subservient to yours. In your way of viewing the world you see forces or gods as imparting their "will" or "force" onto a given situation. In your perspective Empathy is the overriding "force" or "impetus" driving the various gods to direct their "will" or "force". I think then as you have explained it to me this in very brief is your Atheistic world view.
Another Atheist may have and historically have had, other perspectives or world views. For instance Stalin was also an Atheist but his overriding impetus or direction of his own "will" and "force" appears to be the establishment of a utopic societal order. You of course could view this in terms of Empathy in a Macro sense (establishing the best human management, i.e. government, system), but in the Micro sense (killing of millions of people) there was no Empathy there. This then brings into play differences within the Atheistic framework of thinking. There are other Atheists of course that also have different ways of looking at the world while still holding on to a Non-Theistic view of Space-Mass-Time. In other religions these differences are called "Sects". I also view these differences within Atheism as "Sects" though nobody would understand what I was talking about if I did this without explanation. These sects are different competing views of how the overall agreed upon assumptions of any particular religious system work out in real time. The overall assumption of Atheism is, Secular Naturalism, or any other non-intelligent force driven explanation for existence.
In a religion such as Christianity I also have a perspective. My perspective is different than yours and I also place your perspective in a subservient position to mine. My perspective is that there is one force easily identified by the word "God" but infinitely misunderstood but such a simple title. That single God-Force brought into being all Space-Mass-Time at his discretion and without impute or assistance from any other. That single God then created among other things a being he entitled as "Man". Man was different than "Animal" and different than "Matter". God Placed Man into a perfect but non-infinite location (Garden of Eden) and gave Man limited Knowledge (knowledge of Good) about his situation/condition. That God also gave Man the ability to choose to have Knowledge of evil (evil is anything opposed to God) by conducting a singular forbidden choice (Eating the fruit). Man chose to know evil or know that which is opposed to God, which brought on the current paradigm in which I live. That is Knowing both Good and Evil. Through a bunch of events (Bible) God, by words and deeds, explained and was explaining to man both that he, God, was going to provide a way for man to be in right relationship with God again, and that Man was not created with the ability to know evil and have that knowledge be of benefit to him. Because God created Man I believe Man has intrinsic value, not empathy value, as God has placed that value upon Man and as explained in - of course - The Bible. In particular the facts of Jesus mission on earth and in particular his removal of sin, evil, as a factor in separating individuals from God (Himself) which came at a great personal price/sacrifice of himself who was simultaneously also the creator of the perfect world in the first place.
Within perspectives we can operate sometimes in unison and sometimes in opposition. For instance: There was a Christian, an Atheist and a Hindu standing beside a lake. All three of them saw someone drowning in the lake. The Hindu refused to come to the assistance of the person drowning. He cited the fact that Karma ruled within the happenings of the world. He agreed that drowning was bad but said that the person had done something very bad in a prior life and was being punished for it in this life. This drowning thing was one method the Brahma was using to bring about balance within universal life. If he were to save the person from drowning he would be interfering with the Brahma resulting in his own bad karma. So for the good of the world as well as himself he will let the person drown. The Christian and the Atheist dive into the water to save the person from certain death. However they have divergent religious reasons for the save. Lets say the Atheist sees the world through the lens of Empathy. He then saves the person because he perceives that the biological mass that is drowning will cause sadness in other biological masses (family, friends, community) if his biological functions cease. The Christian also saved the person. However he does this because he is given specific instructions by God regarding his relationship with other people. In short he sees the person as having intrinsic value to God and so he also has intrinsic value to himself not because the Christian declares it to be but because God has defined it to be.
Now lets go further. Lets just say that this Christian and this Atheist who agreed on the saving of a life were placed into a different situation. Lets say the Kim Davis situation (Marriage certificate court order thing) previously discussed. Regarding the morality of the decisions at play the Atheist says that there are many Gay-Lesbian people who what the title of being "married" conferred upon them by the state. The Atheist decides out of Empathy that he does not want these Gay-Lesbian people to feel bad or feel out of community or of lesser value by being told by society at large that they can't have the title of "Marriage" applied to their relationship. The Atheist founds his understanding of this relationship as a random attraction between two persons who just happen to be of the same sex. The randomness of their attraction is based loosely on the same randomness idea of existence formulated in an Evolutionary understanding of a persons existence.
The Fundamentalist Christian looks at the same situation and has a different take on it. That person sees that God created Man Male and Female. That God created both the Male and the Female aspect of Man incomplete in the boundary of it's own sex. God created Male and Female to create one whole as a union. Marriage itself is an acknowledgement before God of ones incompleteness as a self and wholeness as God created it to be. Societies declaration of a different understanding of "Marriage" is but another instance of the outworking's of the Knowledge of evil. So As part of Jesus admonition to be the "Salt" of the earth the fundamentalist speaks out against a non-God centered understanding of Marriage. And so now we have the Atheist and the Christian who both participate in saving a life of a drowning person at odds over the source of correctness of ones attitude towards this specific marriage morality.
Now on a personal not I don't think the Government should be issuing any Marriage Licenses. It once was the case that mirages (sic!) were recorded in Churches not Courthouses.
You say " it’s silly to think that without the Bible, or Koran, or Book of Mormon, etc, one can’t live a moral life". This is apparently a proverb or axiom you live by. What is the proof of the statement. In particular what is morality and who determines morality. I would disagree for instance that the Koran has the same moral scheme as the Bible as it advocates killing Christians as a class of person. But then I would place Killing into a moral scheme. An evolutionist (not you but others) may not wish to do the same. The book of Mormon is similar to the Bible in personal morality though quite different in the Identity and Destiny aspects of religion.
How do you determine what is Moral? What Process, scheme, science or rational do you use to determine morality? If you do not need the Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon etc. to live a moral life what is it that you use to determine morality? How are you able to conclude that this thing is moral and this thing is not moral? It seems to me that an Atheist mortality is arbitrary and random. Is it? Show me how it is or is not? I presume you view yourself as living a moral life without these religious guides. How do you conclude what is moral specifically?
But more importantly how do you determine what is true? You say you believe Evolution is true and is a groundwork for your Atheistic belief. What are the specific repeatable, knowable, verifiable scientific observations/discoveries that lead you to atheism? For instance I could go into a Cosmological Argument or a Teleological Argument for a designer/God/initiator of this Space-Mass-time Cosmos/Universe. I don't know if you have any real interest in that. But I am interested in what specific Science (not this or that person who has a doctorate or is head of a university program believes Evolution) information leads you to conclude that Evolution is the way it all happened. What repeatable experiment, equation, or set of data lead you to the conclusion that Evolution is on the other side of the Equals sign.Congratulations if you made it through all that.
This, folks, is the sort of thinking to which the R party has pandered for decades, in the knowledge that such believers will be the easiest of marks. It's this sort of absolutism (the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it) along with inability so see themselves from another perspective, that is the best explanation for the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. And don't even start on what passes for logical argument. It's impenetrable.
Again, for providing comfort and a way through the world that would otherwise be intolerably confusing and threatening, I'm happy such people have found their religion. But when that sort of "thinking" (as opposed to the sorts of Christians I know) becomes the basis for political thought and action, it's deeply, deeply frightening.