An Atheist Should Not be President of the United States
1. Our country was founded on Christian/religious principles.
Example: In the Declaration of Independence...it says that all people are created by God with certain rights.
So: Atheists can't make an objective claim about people having rights. With atheism...rights are all subjective. No rights/privileges really exist. Who wants a person in power that sees rights as subjective?
2. Atheists have no objective reason to be moral. This isn't to say that atheists can't be moral...but they have no objective reason to be. All of their reasons to be moral are subjective. And subjective morals are those that depend on you, your situation, culture, and your preferences. Subjective morals change, can become contradictory, and might differ from person to person. This is the best that atheism has to offer us as a worldview.
Example: If an atheist makes the claim that murder is wrong, then why is it really wrong? Opinions do not create ethical standards.
Objection 1: Some people claim that they are moral to benefit society. The problem with this objection is the fact that benefiting society is a part of what it means to be moral.
Objection 2: Morality is an instinct. Problem with this claim is that morality is actually the thing that decides between which instincts to follow. Example...you hear a gun firing and a woman screaming for help. You most likely have two instincts...risk your life and help woman or to run away (which seems like the stronger instinct). Morality might push one to help the woman even though the stronger instinct is to save yourself.
So: Why have a person in office that has no reason to be moral?
That is my argument. I hope this will be a fun debate.
I accept this debate. The burden of proof is solely on my opponent, as they are arguing for a change and going against the current norm.
R1: America was founded on Christian/religious principals
My opponent has given his example of the declaration of independence, however he hasn't said why that applies to this topic. I will use an example of a mcuh more important document, the US constitution. Which is a secular document, as it doesn't mention the word "God" or even the word "creator" once. In fact, two of America's founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, used the constitution to establish seperation from church and state. Jefferson was a deist who supported a government with limited powers, and Madison wrote that human rights are determined from secular, natural laws, and not by gods and religions. These two founding fathers obviously favored secularism, and it shows in the US constitution, so my opponent's claim that America was founded on religious principals is false.
My opponent has also failed to give the importance of this argument, why does the claim that America was founded on christianity excuse the exemption of quite a few Americans from the political process?
R2: Atheists have no objective reason to be moral
This is true, atheists have no objective reason to be moral. However this doesn't make them unfit to be president. Morals are subjective, and that's the truth. In fact, what my opponent believes to be "moral" probably isn't the same as what other people believe. This is a pretty weak argument because my opponent doesn't even tell us what he means by the word "moral." Does he mean the morals provided by religion? Because these morals aren't always good, and have given us quite a bit religious extremism and violence throughout history. Why is someone who subscribes to these morals better than someone who admits that morals are subjective? Another alarming thing that my opponent states is that people have no reason to be moral without fear of reprisal by an all powerful god. I will use his example here. An atheist says murder is wrong, and they believe it's wrong. Whereas a religious person believes murder is wrong because they will be punished if they commit the crime. I would much rather have a person who truly believes murder is wrong than someone who only avoids it in fear of punishment. My opponentsays that "opinions do not create ethical standards," but then what does?
I'll counter my opponent's last statment here. I would much rather have a person in office who believe in their morals based on their subconcious and their own reasoning, than someone who's had morals indoctrinated into them from a centuries old book, and who's only reason to follow these morals is fear of punishment.
My opponents "objections" don't make any sense. They say that benefiting society is a part of what it means to be "moral." But obviously my opponent doesn't know what "moral" means. Since they haven't done so I'll provide a definition here, from Oxford dictionaries.
Moral: concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character:
The entire fact that my opponent is using the word moral expecting us to know what he means by it, is proof that morals are subjective. We don't know what he's talking about, because morals are different for each person.
Objection 2 doesn't relate at all to the topic. My opponent says morality is an instinct, however it isn't. I'll define morality here, again, from Oxford dictionaries.
Morality: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.
Your principals and instincts can be two totally different things. What someone decides is right after a long time of delibiration is not the same as their split second decisions in dangerous situations.
So my opponent has demonstrated their complete lack of knowledge as to what morals are, and is acting like the term "moral" describes only one final set of proper morals.
That's the end of my opening round statements. I'll toss the ball back to my opponent.
You claim that I haven't supplied a reason to explain why I cited the Declaration of Independence. That is completely false. The Declaration was used to show that the United States is founded on Religious principles. You claim that the notion that "America was founded on Christian principles is false." Obviously you are incorrect because I quoted the Declaration of Independence which states that rights are endowed by God. How can you say America was not founded on religious principles when our Declaration of Independence says that rights come from God? Almost all of the founding fathers were religious as well. For example...
a. In a 1794 letter to the Massachusetts Legislature, Samuel Adams wrote, "In the supposed state of nature, all men are equally bound by the laws of nature, or to speak more properly, the laws of the Creator"
b. John Adams said ""Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Utopia, what a Paradise would this region be."
c. John Hancock said "Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. ... Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us."
d. Benjamin Franklin said "Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshiped."
My opponent also claims that "these two founding fathers (Jefferson and Madison) obviously favored secularism." This is also not true. Again, in the Declaration, Jefferson said that "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Jefferson believe that rights were given to humans by God himself. On the other hand Madison said (in his writings) that "religion [is] the basis and Foundation of Government."
My opponent also claimed that the Constitution does not mention God in it. Let us take a look at the constitution to see if his statement is true. Article Seven states that "the Seventeenth Day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America." The Constitution does mention God.
My opponent also claimed that the Constitution is a more important document. Not only is that statement highly subjective but he seems to think that this would negate the fact that our country was built on religious principles. The words of our founding fathers (as shown above) expressed their religious principles, the Declaration states that rights are given by God, and the Constitution mentions God and advocates religious freedom (1st amendment) and not secularism.
My opponent also says that I failed to give the importance of this argument. Lets take a look at what I wrote. I said that "Atheists can't make an objective claim about people having rights. With atheism...rights are all subjective. No rights/privileges really exist. Who wants a person in power that sees rights as subjective?" In other words, Atheists should not be President because they believe rights are subjective. That is my first reason. I don't know how I could have made that any clearer.
Response to Second Counterargument:
It was stated that "morals are subjective, and that's the truth." I find it interesting that my opponent believes that morals are subjective but also believes that truth exists objectively. I would be interested to find out why my opponent believes that morals are subjective but at the same time believes that there is a such thing as truth.
It was also stated that what I believe "to be moral probably isn't the same as what other people believe." Is this true? Not really. Almost all people believe that murder is wrong, lying is wrong and etc...This is not to say that people do moral things all the time or that there aren't some people with completely different values (Hitler). After all, even though most people can walk, it doesn't mean that there aren't a few that can't. But most people agree on what is moral and on what is immoral.
It was also stated that "Another alarming thing that my opponent states is that people have no reason to be moral without fear of reprisal by an all powerful god." This was never said once in round one. It was merely claimed that religion gives the only reasons to be moral. Fear may be a reason but it is not the reason most religious people use. Most religious people are moral because they love their God and want to do their best to honor him. Fear was not even discussed in the opening argument.
It was asked by my opponent what created ethical standards if humans do not? Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration would claim that humans get their rights from God. Actually, 70% of the people in the United States would agree with this. After all, 70% of the people in the United States are Christian. If rights are subjective like my opponent claims, then humans could take away rights and no person could claim whether that was right or wrong (objectively) because rights would merely be a matter of opinion.
Another thing that was said is that he would "rather have a person in office who believe in their morals based on their subconscious and their own reasoning." This is a problem considering he hasn't given a reason for being moral. And he won't be able to do this because religion gives the only reasons (not just fear) for being moral.
My opponent also completely misunderstood what the objections were for. They were there to show what other people would use as reasons to be moral. I refuted those objections because my claim is that people have no objective reason to be moral. I don't actually make those objections myself.
Lastly, it was stated that the original argument inferred that the term "moral describes only one final set of proper morals." Let me affirm this, there is an objective moral code given by God. At least, that is what is believed by our founding fathers and by 70% of the people in the United States. The fact that he views morality as subjective is one of the reason why an atheist shouldn't be President of the United States. And as already explained, it would be much better to have a President that believed in God given rights and in objective morality.
Thanks again to my opponent. I will enjoy continuing this debate.
Before I start, I would like to add in one essential argument to the debate.
The US Constitution
The US Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Now we can look at the first amendment. Which states…
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"
The supreme law of the land states that Congress cannot infringe on people's right to freedom of religion. This in fact was used in a US Supreme Court case in 1961, where the court reaffirmed that the first amendment of the constitution prohibits states and the federal government from requiring any kind of religious test for public office.
The supreme court and the constitution clearly state, and have reaffirmed, that you cannot hold religious requirements for people running for public office.
The fourteenth amendment states…
"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States"
It's pretty obvious here, that not allowing atheists to run for president, is infringing upon their privilege as citizens of the US, and would be in violation of the 14th amendment.
Declaration of Independence and Founding Fathers:
A big argument my opponent has been using is that America was "founded on religious principles." While I have disproved that religion has any authority over the secular law of the land [the constitution is a secular document], my opponent seems to think that simply because the American founding fathers were religious, we are now allowed to discriminate based on religion. Simply because the declaration of independence mentions God holds no importance to the topic at hand. Why does this bar atheists from becoming president? My opponent has failed to address this one main concern. Let's assume for a minute that the declaration of Independence was in fact the supreme law of the land [instead of the constitution], it doesn't say anywhere that people of differing religious beliefs must be given less rights than Christians.
The US Constitution:
Here my opponent states that the constitution does in fact mention God in it. Let's look at this passage…
"the Seventeenth Day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America."
How does this refute anything I've said? The main thing that makes the constitution a secular document is that it doesn't advocate for certain religions over others. This little passage has nothing much to do with the topic at hand, because it doesn't concern the election of a president or atheism in general.
Another thing that I found interesting was that my opponent continues to assert that the founding fathers were religious. No one is disagreeing here. However the founding fathers are not the governing authority today, they don't hold the power of the supreme court in deciding laws today, and they cannot choose to disregard the constitution. The word of the constitution holds more sway than the religious beliefs that the founding fathers held.
Finally my opponent tries to explain the importance of this argument, they say that they already stated "atheists cannot make objective claims about people having rights. With atheism rights are all subjective…"
This doesn't even come close to explaining why it's relevant to the topic at hand that our founding fathers were religious, or that god was referenced to in the declaration of independence. Until my opponent explains what any of this has to do with the resolution of an atheist becoming president, this argument holds no value.
I had stated that morals are subjective. And I gave my reasons why, the morals of one person can easily differ from those of another. For his rebuttal, my opponent doesn't even address this argument, and instead tries to start an entirely new debate about the objectivity of "truth." This again, is straying from the topic at hand, and has nothing to do with atheism or the presidency.
For his second paragraph, my opponent basically made his point for me. Hitler had values and morals that were completely different than were accepted at the time, and he was considered to have had good morals and values by those who followed him [quite a few people.] My opponent says that most people agree on what is moral and what is immoral. Does this mean that the majority gets to decide which morals are objectively good, simply because they're the majority? We can apply the same concept of Hitler here. He had the support of the majority, he was elected in after all, but simply having majority support does not make his interpretation of morals correct.
In the third paragraph, my opponent claims that religion gives reasons to be moral. Then he states that these reasons have nothing to do with fear, but with love instead. He then says that most religious people are moral because they love their God. He has to prove this, because if you look at almost all religions, they promise rewards for those who obey, and punishment for those who don't. Heaven, eternal paradise, is given to those who follow, therefore the only reason that is evident is a reward in the afterlife. Hell, eternal punishment, is given to those who do not follow, therefore the only reason to be moral is to avoid this terrible punishment. It is clear that religions use these two concepts to persuade people to follow them, either in fear of punishment, or in pursuit of a reward.
In the fourth paragraph my opponent gives some useless states about 70% of the US being Christian. He doesn't explain what this has to do with the proposal of barring atheists from presidency. He also said that ethical standards were obtained from god, because Thomas Jefferson said so. This is just quoting someone else, who is saying the same thing my opponent is, without any evidence.
Next my opponent states that rights are subjective. I never said this, I said morals are subjective. We have clearly defined human rights, and these are objectively enforced.
God's objective moral code
My opponent states that it would be better to have someone who believes in God's given rights and morality. Let's take a look at some of this.
Deuteronomy 22:23 and 22:24 states that if a woman is raped in the city, then both the rapist and the victim can be stoned to death. What kind of morals are these? Where punishing the victim is acceptable?
Deuteronomy 23:2 also permits a generational curse, putting restrictions ten generations down the family line.
The New Testament has restrictions on women speaking in church as well.
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law."
All this just goes to show that "the word of God" isn't the perfect code of morality, and isn't even that good.
But regardless of all this, I could argue that the worst thing about having a religious president is that he strongly believes in a god without any real evidence. However this is not a good reason to completely bar them from becoming president. Anyone can become president if they are a citizen of the US, and that is their right.
It is quite sad that people would focus on something as insignificant as someone's personal beliefs instead of their election platform, and what they're actually going to do as president.
- That concludes my round 2 entry, and now I toss the ball back to my opponent to continue this fun debate.
It was asserted by Midnight1131 that "the supreme court and the constitution clearly state, and have reaffirmed, that you cannot hold religious requirements for people running for public office." This is absolutely true. But my argument is not that Atheists cannot be President of the United States. My argument is that they should not be President of the United States. In other words, I am fully aware that an Atheist can become President but in my personal opinion they should not be President because they do not believe in God given rights and in Objective Morality. I am not even trying to prevent Atheists from running. All I am saying is that if they run for President, they should not win because of the reasons I have provided.
My opponent also believes that I believe that "simply because the American founding fathers were religious, we are now allowed to discriminate based on religion." I have never said this once. I believe that our President should believe in God given rights and should believe in objective morality. Atheists believe that everything is subjective and that is a problem. If there are no absolute moral standards or absolute rights, people can do whatever they want or people can take away rights and no one could get upset because there would only be opinions about what rights/morals exist.
My opponent also says that "simply because the declaration of independence mentions God holds no importance to the topic at hand." Really? It is very significant that our founding fathers believe in God given rights. They did not believe that rights were subjective and created by the opinions of mere humans. The main argument in the Declaration was "that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (God given rights), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." And what did our founding fathers do? They created a government based on the religious principle of God given rights. When you read the constitution of a right that people have, the founding fathers believed that the right came from God.
My opponent also keeps making the mistake by saying that the Constitution was a secular document. Synonyms for the word secular include the words nonreligious, areligious, lay, and etc. But the Constitution (according to the Declaration) was made to protect humans' God given rights. The Constitution mentions God, and lists rights that people have because of the existence of a God, and protects the right to be involved in any religion the people choose. The document is not secular by any means. In fact, it encourages religion and so did the founding fathers. A secular document would not have given people religious freedom.
My opponent also asks (about the quote that mentions God) "How does this refute anything I've said? The main thing that makes the constitution a secular document is that it doesn't advocate for certain religions over others." My reference refutes your statement that God is not mentioned in the constitution. You said that in attempt to prove that the document is secular and you were wrong. The Constitution does mention God. And no, the fact that the document advocates religious freedom is proof that the document is not secular (nonreligious). The founding fathers included their nonsecular beliefs into the Constitution. They created the Constitution to give people their God given right and created it to give people religious freedom. There is nothing secular about the Constitution.
Lastly, my opponent says that "until my opponent explains what any of this has to do with the resolution of an atheist becoming president, this argument holds no value." I have explained the importance twice already but I will do it a third time since it is still not understood. Our founders believed in God given rights, they created the Constitution to tell people they had these God given rights, and they did not believe that rights were subjective (like atheists). If rights were subjective, they could be taken away without any reason. No one could get upset with people taking away their rights because all that would exist would be opinions about what rights exist. That is a problem and thank God our founders believes in God given rights.
My opponent states that "And I gave my reasons why, the morals of one person can easily differ from those of another. For his rebuttal, my opponent doesn't even address this argument." Lets us take a look at what I said. Maybe he accidentally skipped this part in my last response. I said and I quote "Almost all people believe that murder is wrong, lying is wrong and etc...This is not to say that people do moral things all the time or that there aren't some people with completely different values (Hitler). After all, even though most people can walk, it doesn't mean that there aren't a few that can't. But most people agree on what is moral and on what is immoral." I did address my opponents argument. Almost every single person on the planet knows what is moral. Are their exceptions? Sure. Just as there are always people that cannot walk there are people that have no morals.
My opponent also uses my example of Hitler to say that his morals were different than others. I do not disagree with this. Again, there are always people that cannot walk and there are always people that have no morals. Hitler was a sick demented person who believed in subjective morality. And by the way, if morals are subjective, no one could say that Hitler was wrong because he merely just had an opinion about what was moral. This is nonsense of course. But that is another topic. Also, it should be noted that Hitlers values were not in the majority. And no, the majority doesn't decide what is moral. According to our founding fathers, God decides what is moral and God decides what rights people have. If humans did, it would also be subjective and meaningless.
Then my opponent goes on to misrepresent me yet again by saying "then he states that these reasons have nothing to do with fear, but with love instead. He then says that most religious people are moral because they love their God." I never said the reasons for being moral have nothing to do with fear. I said that fear is a reason for being moral but not the only one. Most Christians in the United States are moral because they love their God. My opponent also states that "Hell, eternal punishment, is given to those who do not follow, therefore the only reason to be moral is to avoid this terrible punishment." I do not have the time or the characters to go into this. But my opponent has misunderstood why 70% of the people in the United States are moral. I would invite my opponent to go to a Christian church and find out if people are singing to God out of fear or out of love.
Due to character limits, I have to make this conclusion short. My opponent goes on to attack the Christians God's morals (wish I could get into this) and expects me to be aware of the same moral standard he uses. This is proof of objective morality. Finally he goes off topic to explain that people believe in God without any real evidence. This is false. The evidence for God is the Cosmological, Teleological, Ontological, Moral, Biblical, Mathematical, and etc arguments for God.
Thanks for a great debate. I will look forward to your last response.
To start off I would like to say that my opponent never fully specified what he meant by the resolution, leaving it open to interpretation. It's very easy to think that by saying "an atheist shouldn't become president" is equivalent to Ben Carson saying "a muslim shouldn't become president," and then he continued to say, on a later date, that he meant muslim candidates should be required to reject certain parts of their religion. It's very easy to interpret the resolution differently, and I am allowed to do so as my opponent hadn't given any real specifications. He isn't allowed to suddenly re-clarify the resolution in the last round. After that my opponent pretty much dropped all my arguments relating to the constitution.
In his final round my opponent says two different things, first he rejects my statement that he believes that "simply because the American founding fathers were religious, we are now allowed to discriminate based on religion. But then he goes on to say the declaration of independence is important because "it's significant that our founding fathers believe in God given rights." My opponent basically discredits himself here, he doesn't try to defend why he thinks it matters that the founding fathers were religious, and in fact denies that he said this. But then in the very next paragraph he goes on to say the same thing, again, without explaining what this has to do with the topic at hand. This entire argument is useless because my opponent hasn't explained why it matters. He says this…
"…that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (God given rights), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…"
Now what does this have to do with the prospect of an atheist president? Nothing. My opponent even ends his paragraph with…
"When you read the constitution of a right that people have, the founding fathers believed that the right came from God."
Again, he doesn't explain why the personal religious beliefs of our founding fathers has any impact on our elections, and he hasn't done so throughout the entire debate, thereby making this argument void.
After this my opponent says that the constitution is secular, simply because it mentions God. However he hasn't quoted any significant sections of the constitution to back up his claim. The only section he quoted was a line telling us the date of independence, nothing really that significant that affects us today. He then makes the absurd claim that a secular document wouldn't have given people religious freedoms. Why is this so? He doesn't explain this. The definition of secular is -
Not connected with religious or spiritual matters. - It is a secular constitution that is most likely to not restrict people's religious freedoms by subscribing to one religion only. This claim by my opponent is false, and he has failed to show that the constitution isn't a secular document.
In the last paragraph of part one my opponent basically restates his claim that it would be a bad idea to have an atheistic president because our founders were religious. He says that they created the constitution to tell people they had these "god given" rights. This is wrong, they created the constitution, the supreme law of the land, to enforce the rights that were agreed upon by Americans at the time. They created the constitution to be the objective document that ensures we have our rights.
My opponent also makes the false claim that atheists believe rights are subjective. This is wrong. I never said this once in the debate. Atheists believe that morals are subjective, however this doesn’t mean that they will go ahead and break laws every time they feel like it. My opponent keeps saying that atheists believe rights are subjective, but he hasn't proven that any atheist thinks this way. While religious people use religion as their objective measure of rights, atheists use the constitution and the fundamental human rights that have been agreed upon globally.
My opponent does not really prove that morals are objective. In fact, he even states that "most people agree on what is moral and what is immoral." Then he thinks that this is proof that morals are objective. The majority getting together and deciding that one thing is correct doesn't make it objectively correct. Most people agreed with Hitler and his Nazi party in Germany, does that mean they were the most morally correct people in Germany?
For my last statement, a main thing that I would like to point out is that my opponent has said over and over again that "god decides" and "god gave us our rights," however he is assuming that god actually exists. He hasn't given any evidence of this. He does briefly try to refute this by saying that there are Cosmological, teleological, ontological, moral, biblical, mathematical, etc. arguments for god. This statement is useless and contributes nothing to the debate as my opponent couldn't even find one specific piece of evidence for god. The reason that this matters is he says we shouldn't have a president who doesn't believe that god gave us our rights. However he can't even prove that god did give us our rights, which renders almost his entire argument useless. I say that it is far worse to have a president who blindly believes that there is a god, without having any evidence to support his claim.
And with that I'll conclude this debate. I'd like to congratulate my opponent on doing a great job on what appears to be one of his first debates on DDO, and would like to welcome him to the site. Thank you for instigating and putting in the time to debate this topic.
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