Friday, November 28, 2008

Atheism and Life

On my blog over at www.checkmate101.blogspot.
com I was challenged to approach the world from an atheists perspective and see what I came up with. I gave my word that I would post a blog to that effect and we could further discourse the issue. So I'm going to write about what some of my conclusions would be if, hypothetically, I were an atheist.

Just to make sure there is no confusion, I am not an atheist; I am a Christian theist. I'm simply trying to examine what conclusions an atheistic world view would lead me to, largely for the purpose of better understanding this philosophy and opening discourse on the issue.

One of the questions I've struggled with has been that of morality. I don't doubt that atheists behave morally, for the overwhelming majority do. What I question is the motivation for behaving morally.

Men such as Frank Zindler and Christopher Hitchens propose that we should behave morally because of an enlightened self-interest. That is to say, I want moral behavior not because I necessarily care about other people, but because I care about myself. For example; if somebody with AIDS is bleeding to death on my doorstep, I don't necessarily have to care about that person to intervene. I should intervene solely because of my desire not to catch AIDS.

We could also look to acts of heroism. For example older members of a family of apes often intentionally lag behind when attacked by leopards/other predators in order engage the predator in a suicidal fight to protect the younger and more healthy members of the family.

In both these cases we see some sort of self-interest. In the first case an interest in protecting my own life, in the second case an interesting in protecting my species. What I question though is what makes the individual "hero's" actions in either case good? I understand we're fighting for survival, but why is survival a good thing? I realize that we can't breed, promote our species, increase the quality of life, etc... if we don't survive; but why is it to our benefit we do those things anyway?

Under an atheistic world view, whether we survive and help the species and planet tremendously or whether we all go extinct instantaneously makes no difference. The end result is the same. I might be able to understand this if I thought pleasing our natural self was worth living for. But let's think about that, why should we try to please our biological nature by eating, making friends, having sex, etc...?

The only answers I've found as of yet indicate that we do this to survive, we do this because it's natural, we must do it. Thus it seems to me that naturalism has greater faith in fate than Calvinists do. Think about it, we exist because of natural processes, our behavior is controlled by natural processes, our world runs according to natural processes, and we try to survive to satisfy those natural processes so that more people can exist to further satisfy them. Is it just me or does that not seem very much like fate? Does it also not seem that a great deal of faith, at least the amount required by a Christian theist like myself, is required to live, eat, drink, breath, and die solely because of and for nature?

Aside from this, I must ask on what basis was Hitler morally wrong? The only bad thing, based solely on enlightened self-interest, was he caused the world to turn against him and thus nature caused his demise. See, enlightened self-interest assumes a great value to life, and it has no right to make that assumption. Based on a solely atheistic view we are nothing more than a bunch of organs and bones, we are matter, and that is all we are and that is all we'll ever be (remember, I'm trying to find atheistic answers).

If matter can neither be created nor destroyed, and we are solely matter, who is to say Hitler was wrong to make 6,000,000+ people change form? Remember, according to atheism we're just matter, thus I don't see a whole lot of difference between us and ashes and it makes no difference in what form the matter we are presently composed of appears. I don't see how an atheist can assume any inherent value to life. Hitler was simply a product of his biological make-up and life circumstances (as far as they influence it, I believe in both nature and nurture, rather then either/or), and I don't see how any atheist can make the claim in the least that their morals are superior to his simply because they have different morals due to biological/psychological processes.

I suppose some people might try to invoke the Utilitarian Rule, that we do the greatest good for the greatest number of people. But again I ask, what's good? According to atheism why is it better to survive than to change form into ashes? Why is it better to be preserved rather than to decompose?

I imagine my thoughts here may offend a great deal of atheists, but I assure you that's not my intention. I was asked to see what assuming an atheistic world view would lead me to, and this is the first big issue (I may write more blogs to this effect, depending on how many issues are addressed in comments). I dare say at this point most atheists would prefer I remain a Christian rather than de-convert, I'm afraid I'd be an ever-so dangerous atheist.

God bless!
Joey

26 Comments:

Blogger Knitterman said...

First, I am a former Christian and now I'm a firm atheist. You close your post with the concern some atheists might be offended. I am not offended and I appreciate your attempt to discuss the issue from a reasonable stance to open understanding and dialog.

Your post is too long to address as a whole, but I did want to comment about the scenario where a person with AIDS is bleeding and dyeing on my front steps.

As a gay man, and having lived in the French Quarter in the early 1990s, it is a real enough possible scenario. :-)

Because I know about universal precautions and dealing with a patient's bodily fluids, I would practice safe personal handling for personal safety. BUT I would remain with him while calling for medical intervention. My instinctive concern would be to avoid contracting AIDS, but my human concern would be as strong and would act NOT from self-preservation but from compassion to ease that person's suffering in whatever way would be most appropriate.

That may be just my own nature, having been in situations where compassionate help is the only option, but I believe that most atheists have a great capacity for compassion, and for putting that into action for the benefit of others.

I'll bookmark this blog and come back later to see the thoughts of others. I might also write at length on my own blog, or send my readers here to dialog.

Again, thank you for avoiding the name-calling approach toward atheists and/or atheism. We aren't the wicked people some people think we are. We simply have no theism. :-)

Fri Nov 28, 06:37:00 AM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Knitterman,

Thanks for your thoughts. I do write long posts, and I'm sure you'll soon see even longer comments.

I firmly agree that most atheists, theists, deists, etc... have a great capacity for compassion. But if we look at naturalism, than compassion evolved (I'm assuming an atheistic evolution, not a theistic evolution in which God or a god may have guided the process) to help the species survive. What I wonder is what is this principle that binds all species to strive for survival? Why does it matter? If it's simply our nature, than, having evaluated that nature and realized it's rather purposeless, why do we live by it?

Thanks again for your thoughts, I greatly appreciate the respect and civility you display as well.

God bless!
Joey

Fri Nov 28, 08:21:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Great to see you wrote this post – great to see you are thinking about what it would mean if there are no gods. It’s just another way of looking at the world.

However don't confuse atheism with anything more than the non-belief in gods - it isn't really a worldview - anymore than your non-belief in fairies is a worldview.

Rest assured though that nothing you wrote offends me – I think you are wrong on many points and it will take me time to comment in full. (Which I will try and do, but I have less time at the moment to do so).

Your main point was regarding morals... I think the theist who believes in absolute morals and that these come from God has bigger problems.

Billy (a regular commenter on my blog) has written a post on this topic recently... if you don’t mind ‘strong language and views’ (Warning given) – please take a look.

http://basketofpuppies-billy.blogspot.com/2008/11/
euthyphro-logic-and-impotence-of-moral.html

... and I'm sure you'll soon see even longer comments.
Oh yes...

If you like I could post my reply as a post on my blog – linking to your own. You might gain more atheist views this way, if that is what you want.

Have to go now

Take care, and I hope you had a good Thanks Giving – we actually had turkey on Thursday but for unrelated reasons.

Lee

Fri Nov 28, 02:48:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Jonathan said...

I would simply say that you've approached the whole post from the wrong perspective.

There is no such thing as an "atheistic worldview".

Atheism is simply the absence of belief in God, gods and the supernatural.

To be honest I'm not sure what perspective you are writing from here. It certainly isn't where not believing in God leads you. If anything, it's where a believer believes that lack of belief would lead you (try saying that fast three times!). And that's a different kettle of fish.

Fri Nov 28, 03:01:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Lee,

I anticipated you'd think I'm wrong on many points. In a way finding out where I'm potentially wrong is basically a major point of the entire exercise. I definately understand not having a lot of free time, take your time.

Billy's posts and comments (when I read them, which is not nearly as frequently as I should) are always thought-provoking. I'm sure I can find a WLC article that discusses the issue ;-) (I'm sorry, I looked at some of the comments and couldn't resist).

I did have a great Thanksgiving, thank you. I'll admit I was a little weighed down with what's happening in Mumbai, but I think the whole world shares that sentiment.

Jonathan, thanks for your input. Both you and Lee point out that atheism is just the absence of belief in any type of supernatural being.

But I read articles by people like Frank Zindler and he proposes things that atheists should affirmatively believe (enlightened self-interest, among other things). On the American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org/Atheism/ they essentially have a doctrinal statement.

I realize not every atheist will necessarily agree with what's said there, just like not every Christian agrees with what John Calvin wrote, but it still seems very much like a world view to me.

I readily admit I am a believer attempting to find where non-belief leads, which is why I'm glad Knitterman, Lee, and yourself are here to correct me.

God bless!
Joey

Fri Nov 28, 03:35:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

My sons are now sleeping, so I have until I have ‘screams’ to reply.

I’ll use my usual point-by-point reply so I can be ‘brief’

So I'm going to write about what some of my conclusions would be if, hypothetically, I were an atheist.

I think you gave it a bloody good try for a first attempt – but as Jonathan pointed out, you are not quiet there and it still seems to be from the point of view of what a ”believer believes that lack of belief would lead you”.

Still… small steps :-)

Just to make sure there is no confusion, I am not an atheist; I am a Christian theist.

Ah… what’s that ‘famous’ quote again?

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours"
Stephen Roberts

I'm simply trying to examine what conclusions an atheistic world view would lead me to, largely for the purpose of better understanding this philosophy and opening discourse on the issue.

The only conclusion atheism should lead you too is the non-belief in the supernatural and gods.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Other philosophies can ‘fill in the gaps’… how about:-

"Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you."
Socrates circa 470-399 BC

Of course Socrates wasn’t the first or last person to walk the Earth and say such things :-)

One of the questions I've struggled with has been that of morality. I don't doubt that atheists behave morally, for the overwhelming majority do. What I question is the motivation for behaving morally.

And this is a very good question, but I don’t think the Christian view answers it any better – in fact, I would argue (as you might guess) that it fails to answer the problem at all.

Men such as Frank Zindler and Christopher Hitchens propose that we should behave morally because of an enlightened self-interest.

There are many ideas going around – the best we can do at the moment is highlight the ones that are clearly false.

I should intervene solely because of my desire not to catch AIDS.

This analogy fails doesn’t it? If my desire was purely not to catch AIDS I could do nothing – just walk away. Or wait until the person dies, get a can of petrol and set the corpse alight.

No, we intervene with the hope and desire to reduce suffering (but this has nothing to do with the non-belief in the supernatural).

What I question though is what makes the individual "hero's" actions in either case good? I understand we're fighting for survival, but why is survival a good thing?

Well, if you don’t think survival is a good thing you probably would not sit around at night worrying about it.

It’s ‘in our genes’ is probably the best answer I could give at short notice.

Didn’t Richard Dawkins write a book about the Selfish gene? Never read it myself – maybe some clues can be found within it?

Under an atheistic world view, whether we survive and help the species and planet tremendously or whether we all go extinct instantaneously makes no difference. The end result is the same.

I cannot agree with this.

We are born, and we die… true, but it is the bit in the middle that we call living that is important.

However, again – not sure what this has to be with atheism or how it would be any better if I believed what you have said about your God.

At least I don’t have to worry about Hell (or if I am following the right God in the right way) – this has to be an improvement :-)

I might be able to understand this if I thought pleasing our natural self was worth living for. But let's think about that, why should we try to please our biological nature by eating, making friends, having sex, etc...?

We are really getting off tangent now… atheism remember is just the non-belief in gods. (You will be bored of hearing this by now I am sure)

I see no evidence that the universe loves me in anyway, in fact I can think of a billion and one examples of how the universe is out to kill me.

So, just because I might want the universe to love me (or indeed try and fool myself into thinking that the universe does) it means nothing to the universe – it doesn’t change the truth.

If you are falling off a cliff and you wish you had a parachute – just wishing for it won’t change anything.

This is what I see wrong with theism – the theist wishes for there to be a parachute and that this will make it all right in the end.

Why should we worry about global warming if Jesus is coming back soon to fit everything?

Thus it seems to me that naturalism has greater faith in fate than Calvinists do.

Fate?

If I drop an apple, is it ‘fate’ that it will hit the floor?

Think about it

OK – that is were I am going wrong :-)

we exist because of natural processes, our behavior is controlled by natural processes, our world runs according to natural processes, and we try to survive to satisfy those natural processes so that more people can exist to further satisfy them. Is it just me or does that not seem very much like fate?

It’s just you :-)

At a very high level maybe – but at this high level you have not determined the details. You have choices that you can make. You could try and decrease the suffering in the world or increase it for example.

Does it also not seem that a great deal of faith, at least the amount required by a Christian theist like myself, is required to live, eat, drink, breath, and die solely because of and for nature?

It takes no faith at all… when you sleep your body seems to know how to survive by breathing and so on - some things are just ‘natural’. (Do I have faith in this ‘natural’ you may ask? No more than my faith in the sun rising tomorrow)

Aside from this, I must ask on what basis was Hitler morally wrong?

He caused the unnecessary suffering of millions – this is wrong and so should be obvious :-)

remember, I'm trying to find atheistic answers

Natural answers might be a better phrasing?

If matter can neither be created nor destroyed, and we are solely matter, who is to say Hitler was wrong to make 6,000,000+ people change form?

All atheists will agree that a lump of coal and a cat are different.

So for me, one it is OK to throw into the fire, the other should not.

The lump of coal does not and will not feel suffering – the cat will.

This is why an atheist today can say what Hitler did was wrong – as simple as that.

Now you can ask the question how the lump of coal and the cat came to these different chemical compositions- but that is a different question and one that should not be confused with the point you are raising here I feel.

I don't see how an atheist can assume any inherent value to life.

I don’t see how I can assume otherwise?

Hitler was simply a product of his biological make-up and life circumstances

And the Catholic priests who liked to play with children just a little to closely were the result of their ‘life circumstances’ but I can still call their actions wrong and sick.

It is that easy isn’t it? Each caused a greater and unnecessary suffering of others.

I don't see how any atheist can make the claim in the least that their morals are superior to his simply because they have different morals due to biological/psychological processes.

This is why for thousands of years some thought it was right to keep slaves.
Some thought it right that gays should be stoned to death, that some men thought women and children were to be seen and not heard.

Our morals change, they are fluid yes, but when our morals are reached by reason they seem to be for the better.

Or do you think the morals found in history are better than the ones found today?

Any examples you wish to bring to the discussion?

I suppose some people might try to invoke the Utilitarian Rule, that we do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Erm… so far, so good.

But again I ask, what's good? According to atheism why is it better to survive than to change form into ashes?

I just don’t want to be ashes thank you very much… so will avoid it while I can, knowing that it will not be avoided but it will be fun trying.

I dare say at this point most atheists would prefer I remain a Christian rather than de-convert, I'm afraid I'd be an ever-so dangerous atheist.

It sounds like you would be a danger to yourself at the moment… but this isn’t your fault. You have been raised to think this way all your life.

I’ve been an atheist all my life and I feel I have a rather happy outlook on life (though I freely admit the stresses of life do come my way also, but this is all part of life)

OK, have to go… my responses have been quick, so I am sure I will be happy to change my mind on many if you can provide me good reason.

It should give you something to get your teeth into anyway

See ya

Lee

Fri Nov 28, 09:55:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Just read this

I readily admit I am a believer attempting to find where non-belief leads

non-belief in gods and the supernatural you mean?

It's got me to where I am today :-)

Happy with a wife and 2 young boys.

Love it - life is good

Another quote came to mind (don't know why, but I will share it anyway)

"The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality."
George Bernard Shaw

Lee

Fri Nov 28, 09:59:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Lee,

Very thoughtful response which I greatly appreciate.

To address your last point first,
It sounds like you would be a danger to yourself at the moment… but this isn’t your fault. You have been raised to think this way all your life.

I’ve been an atheist all my life and I feel I have a rather happy outlook on life (though I freely admit the stresses of life do come my way also, but this is all part of life)


I don't think it's any body's fault. Perhaps its just natural.

The stresses of life get to everybody. In some ways stress is a good thing (the stress of a test motivates one to study). But I'm very glad you have a happy outlook on life.

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours"
Stephen Roberts


Well I do not believe in Allah, Thor, Zeus, etc... so I suppose the quote is correct in that respect. But typically I've thought of atheists as not believing in any gods, and I do believe in one God; so I still think the term monotheist is more accurate.

The only conclusion atheism should lead you too is the non-belief in the supernatural and gods.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Other philosophies can ‘fill in the gaps’… how about:-

"Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you."
Socrates circa 470-399 BC

Of course Socrates wasn’t the first or last person to walk the Earth and say such things :-)


Epictetus also discouraged sex before marriage before Paul did (even though Jews discouraged it before that). I very much think there's a lot everybody can learn from other philosophies. Even within Christianity there is freedom to lean towards Epicureanism or Stoicism or Phenomenalism (though none of those philosophies are entirely in agreement with Biblical Christianity).

And this is a very good question, but I don’t think the Christian view answers it any better – in fact, I would argue (as you might guess) that it fails to answer the problem at all.

Based on Billy's post I'll say I take a very different stand on this, but I can only fry so many eggs at once.

This analogy fails doesn’t it? If my desire was purely not to catch AIDS I could do nothing – just walk away. Or wait until the person dies, get a can of petrol and set the corpse alight.

No, we intervene with the hope and desire to reduce suffering (but this has nothing to do with the non-belief in the supernatural).


I agree the analogy fails. I'm so glad I've finally found an atheist who believes Christopher Hitchens is wrong on something :-) [If I didn't mention it in the original post, Hitchens came up with that example].

However, I fail to see why suffering is a bad thing. Aside from that we could end suffering totally by just pulling a trigger. To give another Hitchens example, he argues that people in North Korea can at least escape the dictatorship by death. If he truly believes that death is better than living under a dictator than I'd expect him to advocate nuking North Korea.

Truly that decision could be permissible under the Utilitarian Rule, provided Hitchens truly believes this is the "greatest good" for the people of North Korea.

At any rate there seems to be an assumption that we have a right to live free from pain and suffering, we have a right to live freely. Such a conclusion was reached by the Founding Fathers of my country, with the catch that we are "endowed by our Creator". If that was the basis for their assertions than does not the removal of that statement leave their assertions without a foundation?


Well, if you don’t think survival is a good thing you probably would not sit around at night worrying about it.

It’s ‘in our genes’ is probably the best answer I could give at short notice.

Didn’t Richard Dawkins write a book about the Selfish gene? Never read it myself – maybe some clues can be found within it?


I know he wrote that book, but I've never read it either. Though I would like to get my hands on some Dawkins books.

At any rate, desire to survive is given by our genes, motivated by our genes, and we strive to survive to please our genes. I don't see how that's very good motivation. And if there's a mutant whose genes are not much like this on what basis are our genes in the least bit superior to his? On the basis ours lead to the survival of individuals and society? That would seem to be very circular reasoning.


I cannot agree with this.

We are born, and we die… true, but it is the bit in the middle that we call living that is important.

However, again – not sure what this has to be with atheism or how it would be any better if I believed what you have said about your God.

At least I don’t have to worry about Hell (or if I am following the right God in the right way) – this has to be an improvement :-)


I hoped you would not agree with that.

It has to do with this topic with what I addressed above. Why is it good to survive?

If we nuked the whole world we would end all suffering, and the death would be quite instantaneous if we did it right (I heard we have enough nukes to destroy, or change the form of, the entire planet 36 times or something like that).

Than my question is why is it better to have life than to not have life? I'm afraid I may be entirely missing what you're trying to say.

Why should we worry about global warming if Jesus is coming back soon to fit everything?

I've actually heard this before (by theists, sadly). I would say we were commissioned to take care of the planet (e.g. -be stewards), and in large part we've caused global warming so we're obligated to do something about it. It is because of opinions like these I sometimes say atheists agree with me more than many theists. Even though we disagree on our motivation, we both agree we should do something about global warming. Whereas with many theists, we agree on motivation, but disagree on how to handle global warming.

It should also be pointed out that no man knows the day or hour Jesus will return. In business there's an assumption called "Going Concern", that is, we assume a business will continue to function indefinitely (otherwise accountants might think since the business is going under they don't need to keep records, without records it would be very difficult to liquidate the business). Such a going concern assumption might be a good environmental assumption.

At a very high level maybe – but at this high level you have not determined the details. You have choices that you can make. You could try and decrease the suffering in the world or increase it for example.

Alright, I think that's a sufficient answer for that, you got me on fate.

It takes no faith at all… when you sleep your body seems to know how to survive by breathing and so on - some things are just ‘natural’. (Do I have faith in this ‘natural’ you may ask? No more than my faith in the sun rising tomorrow)

I mean faith that survival is better than extinction, that joy is better than pain, etc...

He caused the unnecessary suffering of millions – this is wrong and so should be obvious

And suffering is a bad thing?


Natural answers might be a better phrasing?


Well as a Christian I believe in a lot of natural answers, but I guess solely natural answers, that exclude the possibility of a deity.

All atheists will agree that a lump of coal and a cat are different.

So for me, one it is OK to throw into the fire, the other should not.

The lump of coal does not and will not feel suffering – the cat will.

This is why an atheist today can say what Hitler did was wrong – as simple as that.

Now you can ask the question how the lump of coal and the cat came to these different chemical compositions- but that is a different question and one that should not be confused with the point you are raising here I feel.


But putting either coal or a cat in a fire one still gets ashes. Again, why is survival better than extinction, or why is suffering bad? Again, we could eradicate all suffering by quickly nuking the entire world; but I think most people would have objections to that.


I don’t see how I can assume otherwise?


If you affirmatively believe life has inherent value than the burden for proof is on you.

One does not need proof to not believe in the inherent value of life.

It is that easy isn’t it? Each caused a greater and unnecessary suffering of others.

Addressed above.


Our morals change, they are fluid yes, but when our morals are reached by reason they seem to be for the better.

Or do you think the morals found in history are better than the ones found today?

Any examples you wish to bring to the discussion?


So we have reason in our nature, why couldn't God be moral in his nature (the problem presented in Billy's post)?

I just don’t want to be ashes thank you very much… so will avoid it while I can, knowing that it will not be avoided but it will be fun trying.

Well now, ashes can float, they don't feel pain, they could be found with a scout troop singing around the campfire, etc... Doesn't sound too bad to me.


"The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality."
George Bernard Shaw


A good point, but you're the one who has said, twice now, that you're happy/ have a good out look on life.

God bless!
Joey

Sat Nov 29, 08:17:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Thanks for the response, I’ll try and post a full response tonight (I hope).

I will just leave one thought though.

Who says the universe should offer the reasons you ask for?

The universe just might be a brute fact and hence will provide no such answers. Wishing for such answers though, without evidence or reason that they might exist, can and does cause problems. (You mentioned one with regards global warming – I don’t think your Christians friends will be doing anything about it based on what you said.)

Have to go – train to catch

Lee

Sun Nov 30, 12:34:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Time for my more detailed reply?

I notice a pattern in your post and reply:-

You seem to want to know ‘why’ – you seem to want to have ‘certainty’ in your life.

My response (as you know/guess) would simply be this –

“Why must the universe offer us answers to ‘why’ questions?”

Until you can answer that – you really should not go any further.

The danger in doing so could be that you will accept an answer that promises ‘certainty’ but at a price that you cannot test it or show it to be false (or indeed true). (A faith position plain and simple)

I am very sceptical about claims that cannot be falsified or shown true (certainly before I hand over my money)

But why ask ‘why’ anyway?

Science can and will resolve the ‘hows’ in better and greater detail (to the limit our monkey brains can think)

These ‘hows’ might help understand some ‘why’ questions (like why I look like my parents)

However most of the big ‘why’ questions, to me, are pretty meaningless - if there is no hope to answer them.

Unless, of course, you can convince me otherwise?

(I did write a post on ‘why’ questions on my blog… if you are interested?)

It also seems, worryingly (though I hope you are only being hypothetical), that if you didn’t believe in your god that you could not see any reason why life should continue here on Earth?

This would show to me that religion can give the wrong reasons to be good – but more later.

And as been noted before, you also seem to be coming at this from the wrong direction.

Maybe a better question to ask would be, “If there are no gods, what would I expect to see in the world?”

Not the personal question you are asking which seems to be, “If I believed there are no gods in the world, what meaning could I find?”

There is a bit of a difference.

The next question (for another post of course) would be to ask, “If there is a God, and His message and ‘character’ is detailed in the bible, what would we expect to see in the world?”

The response: ‘precisely what we observe now’ is not a helpful a prediction – it cannot be falsified. It could also be said for the ‘million and one’ other religions in the world (and the bible clearly states it is the only true religion doesn’t it?)

No, the differences in the Christian belief will have to be highlighted to differentiate from other ‘false’ religions. Specific predictions will have to be made that are different from any other religion.

If this cannot be done – then Christian is either false or useless as a hypothesis.
(For this argument I will assume that gods are possible – the deistic god will be the default assumption, evidence/arguments for the Christian will be required)


Time to reply directly to your points and to get back on topic.

Well I do not believe in Allah, Thor, Zeus, etc... so I suppose the quote is correct in that respect.

Yes, and this is the important part of the quote. Do you know why you have dismissed ALL those other gods?

Once you do, you know why I dismiss one more i.e. yours. The reason and logic is precisely the same I think so I am just more consistent with it :-)

That is the point of the quote – you are a non-believer in a million and one gods, but believer in one.

I am a non-believer in a million and two gods – so we are not that different :-)


RE: "Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you."
Socrates circa 470-399 BC


I raised the quote merely to show that mankind can think about what is right and wrong without inserting any gods.

We can come to ‘good morals’ by trail and error or by logical thinking alone.

We don’t need gods for this.

‘Most’ Christians, when asked, what is the most important teaching from Jesus will quote the ‘Golden Rule’ – as I have shown, you don’t need to be a son of God to think of that one.

Based on Billy's post I'll say I take a very different stand on this, but I can only fry so many eggs at once.

As you know, it is hard to find two Christians who agree sometimes :-)

For an atheist this isn’t a problem – no one is claiming we are ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’.

I agree the analogy fails. I'm so glad I've finally found an atheist who believes Christopher Hitchens is wrong on something :-) [If I didn't mention it in the original post, Hitchens came up with that example].

You tricked me... Of course the great prophet Hitchens can’t be wrong :-)

Just kidding - I stand by what I said... Hitchens makes many mistakes, just listen to the man talk science – it’s awful.

However, he does raise many good points against gods and religion.

I really do wonder how Hitchens responded to this AIDS question – I doubt he would say we should leave the person to die? I need to know the quote in context. (The question and response in full)

However, I fail to see why suffering is a bad thing.

It just feels all-wrong – that is good enough for me at this stage.

I personally don’t like the feeling of suffering myself, and so I assume neither will anybody else.

The majority seem to agree with me – it seems to work.

Aside from that we could end suffering totally by just pulling a trigger.

If the individual wishes to pull the trigger on themselves, then this opens one line of discussion.

If an individual wishes to pull the trigger on many others – this is a different discussion and easier to have a quick response.

The individual is wrong because they are increasing the suffering in the world.
(This could even be argued for the individual suicide when we think about it – if I decide to run under a tram tomorrow, I will be increasing the suffering of my family and friends. It would be a selfish act on my part – given my responsibilities as a father and husband. Wouldn’t you agree? Again, nothing to do with gods or religion)

To give another Hitchens example, he argues that people in North Korea can at least escape the dictatorship by death. If he truly believes that death is better than living under a dictator than I'd expect him to advocate nuking North Korea.

Isn’t this taking Hitchens out of context?

Hitchens is comparing North Korea to Heaven and Hell with this comparison isn’t he?

Compared to entirety in Hell, at least the people in North Korea can die and escape the suffering (or die and expect this so-called heaven).

Not so with God’s plan with mankind for ‘wrong doers’ and Hell anyway (if the hypothesis was true which Hitchens assumes for this example).

And come to think of it, off on a tangent I know, can you name a wrong/evil action that your Christian God could perform?

If I take the bible literally, for example, genocide isn’t a problem. So based on this – what Hitler did is OK with the bible... neither is there a problem killing babies (the flood and that business with hardening of hearts resulting in God killing the first born sons.)

Jonathan did a recent and rather nice post around this topic I think.

At any rate there seems to be an assumption that we have a right to live free from pain and suffering, we have a right to live freely.

Not ‘right’ – it is just the preferred situation as I said.

One that might be worth fighting for?

Or do you disagree?

Though I would like to get my hands on some Dawkins books.

The last one I read was ‘of course’ the God Delusion – but if we are talking about his science books, it was the Blind Watchmaker nearly 20 years ago. (So a bit dated now maybe)

It removed the last possible hiding place for God in my mind and ‘confirmed’ my lack of belief in gods I had all my life.

So, a pretty good book in my view….
(I wonder if this is why some theists do not want evolution taught to children? Another topic for another day – just a question that popped into my mind – it happens a lot)

At any rate, desire to survive is given by our genes, motivated by our genes, and we strive to survive to please our genes. I don't see how that's very good motivation.

Good or bad – we cannot deny the facts :-)

If you want to talk about ‘good motivation’ – is it good that the Christian are ‘good’ for their desire to get into heaven, or because they have been ‘told by their invisible friend to follow rules’ or because the fear of Hell if they didn’t?

Isn’t it better to be ‘good for goodness sake’? (The path that the atheist can take honestly)

For example, I don’t kill people because ‘deep inside’ I know it is wrong.

If God commanded you to kill me, would you do it?

<>
(I know I don’t have to do this – you know the bible better than me)

Religion then seems to give bad reasons to be good, and ‘good reasons’ to be bad. (I wonder who said that first?)

That would seem to be very circular reasoning.

I may have to come at the problem from a different angle then – take it ‘square on’ :-)

If we nuked the whole world we would end all suffering

Wrong – you have increased the suffering.

Before dropping the bomb people were happy going about their lives. You would have ended that with a huge explosion.

You have restricted the ability for others to enjoy life (or at least make their own choices, right or wrong).

Still – I must ask again, what has this got to do with the atheist view that gods do not exist?

and the death would be quite instantaneous if we did it right

That would not be the point – you would have stopped me loving my children and stopped my children having children for them to love.

I could talk about the heat death of the universe, or the sun running out of fuel, or many ways in which it could be argued that ultimately there will be no life here on Earth in X years (or the universe is Y years).

But this is NOT the point – ending it all now artificially will stop billions living out their lives. You would have made a ‘positive action’ to end it all.

You do not have the right to stop them (unless you could provide a reason that you do?)

Than my question is why is it better to have life than to not have life? I'm afraid I may be entirely missing what you're trying to say.

I could ask the same question to you – the Christian.

If it is your belief that ‘heaven awaits’ right, so why don’t Christians celebrate death? (Or do they?)

Either way - Why don’t you try to speed up your trip to heaven by doing a good, but very dangerous, deed?

Give away all your money and belongings (I think this is from the bible) and then hang around war zones and try and catch bullets to save the life of another?

The fact that you don’t means you actually think like me – life is good, and it is worth living to the ‘max’. You might not understand the details, but the facts are there.

I've actually heard this before (by theists, sadly).

Yep – so have I, and why I raised it.

I would say we were commissioned to take care of the planet (e.g. -be stewards)

Does it actually say that in the bible – about the planet that is?

What about the moon can we muck that up instead?

and in large part we've caused global warming

Surely it is God’s will – it is His chemistry after all? (Just kidding)

It is because of opinions like these I sometimes say atheists agree with me more than many theists.

That’s funny if you think about...

Even though we disagree on our motivation, we both agree we should do something about global warming. Whereas with many theists, we agree on motivation, but disagree on how to handle global warming.

You can use reason and evidence with me – is that the difference?

How could you change the mind of your Christian friends on their view?

In business there's an assumption called "Going Concern", that is, we assume a business will continue to function indefinitely ... Such a going concern assumption might be a good environmental assumption.

Couldn’t I make a similar assumption with life? Life is a ‘Going Concern’ and we should not try and terminate it on purpose..

Alright, I think that's a sufficient answer for that, you got me on fate.

Hooray – I got one :-)

I mean faith that survival is better than extinction, that joy is better than pain, etc...

No faith involved – it is judged by experience. It could even be measured could it not?

Ask someone how happy they are on a scale of 1 to 10 – then hit them in the face really hard and repeat the question.

Do this study on 10,000 people and publish your results (if the police don’t stop you first)

I am tipping that most people will be happier BEFORE they had the suffering of being hit in the face.

What do you predict based on your experience?

And suffering is a bad thing?

It isn’t my preferred choice – and neither does it seem to be the majority view.

This is good enough for me to say that suffering is a bad thing… maybe, maybe not – I don’t have any absolutes.

I know that those who think it is a good idea to suffer the experience of jumping off tall buildings without a parachute or safety net don’t tend to have many children :-)

Evolution and our genes could then explain our current situation as I have said before.

But putting either coal or a cat in a fire one still gets ashes.

One screams more than the other… one shows signs of distress.

Based on my own experience, I relate screams and signs of distress as negative experiences.

The other is a lump of coal and shows no sign of life, it does not scream when placed into the fire and shows no sign of distress. I do not feel bad about burning it…

Now I’m not a fan of cats in general, but placing them in fires I ‘know’ is wrong (others may disagree – maybe cats taste good and the BBQ is the best way to cook them?)

Again, why is survival better than extinction, or why is suffering bad?

Again, test if for yourself (suffering, not extinction)

Get a cup of warm water and a cup of boiling hot water – if you have to place your hand in one of them, which would you chose and why?

Whatever the underlying reasons – I think I can predict which one you will choose.

I don’t need ideas of gods to make this prediction, just experience.

Again, we could eradicate all suffering by quickly nuking the entire world;

Wrong – you would have increased it to very high levels, and not allowed the ‘freedom’ of others to decide for themselves how they could/should enjoy their lives.

but I think most people would have objections to that.

All rational atheists will have these objections I suspect.
Most theists will also…

However, I can see how some religious folk might think it is a good idea by ‘bringing on the End’ and the return of their ‘god/s’.

They could be ‘doing God’s work’ after all – doesn’t the bible say something about the world ending in fire?

They will be nutters - we will both agree – but how do I show them to be wrong in their view?
(Off on another tangent I know – sorry, the question of faith does that to me)

If you affirmatively believe life has inherent value than the burden for proof is on you.

I don’t ‘affirmatively’ state anything – if I did, I take it back right now :-)

My beliefs (like the sun rising tomorrow) are based on experience and reason.

I use this to believe life is worth living. As I see my son’s grow up, I have this ‘feeling’ reinforced.

However, I could be wrong, and be just a ‘brain in a jar’ and nothing outside my mind is real… however, this isn’t a great thing to believe in, so I don’t.

I could be wrong though…

One does not need proof to not believe in the inherent value of life.

So I don’t need proof to ‘not believe’ in gods then… excellent :-)

Remember to be consistent with your reasoning.

RE: “Our morals change, they are fluid yes, but when our morals are reached by reason they seem to be for the better.

Or do you think the morals found in history are better than the ones found today?

Any examples you wish to bring to the discussion?”


So we have reason in our nature, why couldn't God be moral in his nature (the problem presented in Billy's post)?

If you add ‘god’ to your equations/assumptions (where I had none) - you have to justify and explain your god, the burden is on you.

How would this god help explain what we observe for example?

I said our morals change over time, how does a god help to explain this fact?

The natural explanation I gave (morals evolve over time) does seem to fit the observations nicely without the additional assumption of God. (Ockham’s razor is on my side)

Well now, ashes can float, they don't feel pain, they could be found with a scout troop singing around the campfire, etc... Doesn't sound too bad to me.

Ashes don’t have children that develop and grow (and no, I don’t count a raging fire as developing or growing in these terms – you just get more ash that way)

Ashes don’t think or have any ‘self awareness’…

Plenty of time to be ashes, I still rather avoid that state for as long as possible.

A good point, but you're the one who has said, twice now, that you're happy/ have a good out look on life.

It was just a quote that came to mind while writing (maybe for no reason what so ever)

Yes I am happy (most of the time – though at the moment people are getting made redundant at my place of work “left, right and centre” so this reduces some of the happiness I have at the mo)

I mention my ‘happiness’ because you seem to be asking about ‘purpose’ and reasons not to nuke the world and end it all. I felt it would also be ‘interesting’ to note that I do not get my happiness from the belief in gods – though you knew this.

However, my worldview isn’t dependent on my happiness – the happiness (and purpose) I create for myself.

Certainly, ‘atheism’ has nothing to do with my happiness one way or the other.(Though many an ex-theist has said that atheism has made them happier, but I cannot comment on that)

The quote, I think, was merely responding to those theists who claim that their religion makes them happy. (Which is not a position you have been arguing from here so it was just a random quote I suppose)

You argument/questions here seem to be based on or around the question “If there is no God, why should I bother to live?”

I hope my responses here are giving you some of my reasons, and I hope you are able to pause and think

See ya

Lee

Mon Dec 01, 01:21:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Oh, and I posted this last reply on my own blog so others can point out where I am wrong.

That and to plug this post :-)

Lee

Mon Dec 01, 01:24:00 AM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

“Why must the universe offer us answers to ‘why’ questions?”

Until you can answer that – you really should not go any further.


Well, assuming atheism, the universe is not obligated to do anything. Which is my point. We do need answers to questions like "why" we should prefer life over death, otherwise we'd be motivated to commit suicide (or at the very least, not motivated to attempt to live).

It also seems, worryingly (though I hope you are only being hypothetical), that if you didn’t believe in your god that you could not see any reason why life should continue here on Earth?

This would show to me that religion can give the wrong reasons to be good – but more later.


Yes, entirely hypothetical. I'm attempting to assume certain things; which can be hard when I don't actually believe them (though I once did this for a debate over whether we should amend the U.S. Constitution to allow naturalized citizens to become president, and in assuming that we should I convinced myself of the position).

And I agree that avoiding hell is bad motivation for doing good. But it's not my motivation for doing good.

Several times you bring up the point that simply for our love of other people we should behave morally, e.g.- not nuke the world. I brought up the Utilitarian Rule to attempt to justify (hypothetically, of course, I don't really believe we should nuke the world) this decision. And, as I'd hoped, you disagreed.

So what is the "greatest good" for the "greatest number" is somewhat subjective. In at least one society on our planet wearing nothing but a chord around the waist is the norm. In that society not wearing the chord would be viewed much like nudism would be viewed in our cultures. Just as our cultures disagree on this point cultures and "experiences" of individuals are not consistent.

In some places in Africa certain surgeries are performed on young females, and they are performed as a norm, not as a form of torture. In our societies these same practices are deemed unnacceptable. Now you'd say we shouldn't do it because it causes unnecessary suffering. However that society doesn't seem to view it as causing much suffering, and they certainly don't view it as unnecessary.

Therefore I don't see on what moral basis we should discourage this. Based on that society's "experience" they still think it's a good thing. But we are both strongly oppossed to this, so is it wrong because our cultural experience leads us to believe it is wrong, or is it inherently wrong?

The response: ‘precisely what we observe now’ is not a helpful a prediction – it cannot be falsified. It could also be said for the ‘million and one’ other religions in the world (and the bible clearly states it is the only true religion doesn’t it?)

Yes, "precisely what we observe now" is a very bad answer. But with certain examples we must examine the circumstances.

If a Catholic priest rapes a young boy, which unfortunately has happened, does that mean Jesus does not truly liberate people from human depravity? Or does that mean that the priest was not actually behaving as a Christian? After all, Biblically (see I Corinthians 7) marriage is not forbidden among pastors, Christian workers, priests, ministers, or anything else we want to call a church leader. So what has happened does not demonstrate the weakness of the Gospel, but actually proves Paul was correct in his exhortations to the Corinthians, Timothy, and Titus (in I Timothy and Titus Paul establishes qualifications for overseers/pastors and deacons; one of which involves marriage. Thus the Catholic Church doesn't have a very good basis for barring marriage among priests). So the problem is not in God's commands, but in an institution's and invididuals disregard.

Hopefully that's clear, if not I'll try to explain it again.

Yes, and this is the important part of the quote. Do you know why you have dismissed ALL those other gods?

Once you do, you know why I dismiss one more i.e. yours. The reason and logic is precisely the same I think so I am just more consistent with it :-)

That is the point of the quote – you are a non-believer in a million and one gods, but believer in one.

I am a non-believer in a million and two gods – so we are not that different :-)


Yes, I know precisely why I have dismissed those other gods (though, admiteddly, I'm not very familiar with every god; in Hinduism alone there are thousands).

I have put numerous other philosophies and religions to the test to ascertain why I'm not those things either. I know why I'm not a Phenomonalist, Stoic (though I agree with some select Stoic ideas), Epicurean, etc...

Of course I'm relatively young, so I can not claim to have put every philosophy and religion to the test. I doubt most people have. I think a much better approach is to find what one does believe or does not believe.

As an atheist you don't have to examine every single theistic religion to know you don't believe them. You know the foundational premise (there is God/ a god) and you know until that is resolved you can not possibly believe any of the theistic religions.

Likewise on the basis of my foundational belief Jesus is the way, truth, and the life I can automatically discount all the various thousands of Hindu gods.

Wow, I think I'm way off topic, sorry about that.

We can come to ‘good morals’ by trail and error or by logical thinking alone.

But what happens when our trial and error with say, vaginal mutilation, like I addressed above, does not necessarily agree?

The argument becomes "well that keeps them from having children", which brings us back to wanting to survive and that's addressed below.

For an atheist this isn’t a problem – no one is claiming we are ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’.

Well given the nature of hymns I doubt you'd be singing from any hymnsheet at all :-)

Though certain religious songs, like GFH's "Hallelujah" Chorus seem to be pretty popular and enjoyed even by those not of the a Judeo-Christian faith.

Just kidding - I stand by what I said... Hitchens makes many mistakes, just listen to the man talk science – it’s awful.

However, he does raise many good points against gods and religion.

I really do wonder how Hitchens responded to this AIDS question – I doubt he would say we should leave the person to die? I need to know the quote in context. (The question and response in full)


Yes, Hitchens does raise good points. I watch him a lot.

At any rate, the context is a debate with his brother. I was concerned when I first saw the title of the youtube "Hitchens Vs. Hitchens", and thought Christopher may have gone schizophrenic on us or something.

You can see the entire thing here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmnVQLOd9Lg

I don't remember which clip it's in, I know it's after the first 6 or so, because that part is about the war in Iraq.

For the record, I have to say Christopher won that debate.

It just feels all-wrong – that is good enough for me at this stage.

I personally don’t like the feeling of suffering myself, and so I assume neither will anybody else.

The majority seem to agree with me – it seems to work.


And God just feels so good :-)

The majority of people on Earth believe in God/a god, it just seems to work.

And some people like pain. I know that at least one local hospital self-mutilation is being treated more and more frequently. Most evidence seems to indicate this is a nation-wide trend.

(Feeling is not the reason I believe in God, btw).

If the individual wishes to pull the trigger on themselves, then this opens one line of discussion.

If an individual wishes to pull the trigger on many others – this is a different discussion and easier to have a quick response.

The individual is wrong because they are increasing the suffering in the world.
(This could even be argued for the individual suicide when we think about it – if I decide to run under a tram tomorrow, I will be increasing the suffering of my family and friends. It would be a selfish act on my part – given my responsibilities as a father and husband. Wouldn’t you agree? Again, nothing to do with gods or religion)


I don't see how that increases suffering (hypothetically, I highly discourage running under trams). Ultimately if we could just all understand that life does not have inherent value, and our emotions are not really all that beneficial, we could very easily get over suffering/grief over the loss of a fellow conglomoration of atoms :-)

Isn’t this taking Hitchens out of context?

Hitchens is comparing North Korea to Heaven and Hell with this comparison isn’t he?

Compared to entirety in Hell, at least the people in North Korea can die and escape the suffering (or die and expect this so-called heaven).

Not so with God’s plan with mankind for ‘wrong doers’ and Hell anyway (if the hypothesis was true which Hitchens assumes for this example).

And come to think of it, off on a tangent I know, can you name a wrong/evil action that your Christian God could perform?

If I take the bible literally, for example, genocide isn’t a problem. So based on this – what Hitler did is OK with the bible... neither is there a problem killing babies (the flood and that business with hardening of hearts resulting in God killing the first born sons.)


No, he's not comparing North Korea to Heaven/Hell (at least not in the sense that the U.S./Britain is Heaven, NK is Hell). He says that at least someone who dies in North Korea ends the pain, whereas if God exists there is hell and so they still don't escape suffering.

It's in the same debate I put the URL for above.

At any rate, I'm assuming on the genocide question your referring to Israel and all the Canaanite groups. How are we defining genocide? I would view it as the systematic destruction of a particular race solely because they are that race (just an off-the-top-of-my-head one).

And so we have to ask were the Israelites commanded to attack these nations because they were Hittites/all the other "ites"? No. They were attacked for their immorality.

If we apply the Utilitarian Rule, which you've agreed is a good moral guideline, it's arguable that the greatest good was done for the greatest number in these cases. If Egypt had kept slaves, and prospered, and conquested into Europe, other parts of Africa, Asia, etc... what damage would have been done? Probably more than what was done with the death of the firstborns, and probably the entire army.

It's possible that the Earth's population would have never reached 6.5+ billion if we were under an Egyptian/Canaanite empire. So if you're positively asserting a moral injustice than you must demonstrate why this was immoral, but you seem to avoid positively asserting things.

Not ‘right’ – it is just the preferred situation as I said.

One that might be worth fighting for?

Or do you disagree?


Preferred by whom, and what makes that preference authoritative?

Good or bad – we cannot deny the facts :-)

If you want to talk about ‘good motivation’ – is it good that the Christian are ‘good’ for their desire to get into heaven, or because they have been ‘told by their invisible friend to follow rules’ or because the fear of Hell if they didn’t?

Isn’t it better to be ‘good for goodness sake’? (The path that the atheist can take honestly)

For example, I don’t kill people because ‘deep inside’ I know it is wrong.

If God commanded you to kill me, would you do it?

<>
(I know I don’t have to do this – you know the bible better than me)

Religion then seems to give bad reasons to be good, and ‘good reasons’ to be bad. (I wonder who said that first?)


What defines "goodness sake"?

This statement makes an appeal to a transcendent goodness. That is, my good and your good are assumed to be the same.

At any rate, why did William Wilberforce or Abraham Lincoln do good? It was not just "for goodness sake".

I don't do good because I want to avoid Hell or get into Heaven. Why do you do good towards your wife, children, friends, cousins, neighbors, etc...?

Arguably, you love those people. I follow God's moral law because I love Him. Even if there were no Hell I would still do good solely because I love Jesus Christ.

What I've been arguing is there's not much of a standard for "good", nor much motivation for survival, apart from some transcendent morality which it seems your statement assumes without basis.

At this point if God commanded me to kill you I would know it is not God commanding this.

A few years ago, working at a Christian camp, a camper asked myself and the senior counselor "what if God told me to commit suicide?". To which we responded God would not command murder. The senior counselor had dealt with this issue personally, so I let him handle most of it.

Now I'm guessing you'll probably ask about the Old Testament conquests and Abraham's near-sacrifiice of Isaac.

I think I addressed (at least in part) the OT question. What many people ignore about the sacrifice of Isaac is that God stopped it. Isaac lived, Abraham did not sacrifice his son. There's an entire theology behind this passage, but I don't think we must address that (yet, anyway).

Wrong – you have increased the suffering.

Before dropping the bomb people were happy going about their lives. You would have ended that with a huge explosion.

You have restricted the ability for others to enjoy life (or at least make their own choices, right or wrong).

Still – I must ask again, what has this got to do with the atheist view that gods do not exist?


Happy as in surviving? As in satisfying their emotions? Does it "feel" good?

In dropping the bomb I would have also ended millions of people's hunger, starvation, struggle with AIDS, etc...

Outside of a transcendent morality, or inherent value in life, there is little reason I should not do this.

But this is NOT the point – ending it all now artificially will stop billions living out their lives. You would have made a ‘positive action’ to end it all.

You do not have the right to stop them (unless you could provide a reason that you do?)


I have not the right or I have not the preference? Because you already said we don't necessarily have a "right" to not experience suffering. So whether I'm initiating what you view as suffering or not makes little or no difference.

I don't need any more "right" to do this than applying the Utilitarian Rule to establish that life is difficult for most people on earth and that cumulative difficulty/suffering outweighs the cumulative love and happiness.

If it is your belief that ‘heaven awaits’ right, so why don’t Christians celebrate death? (Or do they?)

Either way - Why don’t you try to speed up your trip to heaven by doing a good, but very dangerous, deed?

Give away all your money and belongings (I think this is from the bible) and then hang around war zones and try and catch bullets to save the life of another?

The fact that you don’t means you actually think like me – life is good, and it is worth living to the ‘max’. You might not understand the details, but the facts are there.


Well as a Christian I believe there is a "why" for us being here, I do believe in purpose. Paul addresses this in Philippians 1:21 "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (NIV).

And there are a great many wonderful people who have given up what they have to benefit the world. Jim Eliot and Nate Saint (along with a couple other guys) died as missionaries to the Auca. But what they did paved the way for their wives and children to live with that tribe, convert it, and end their wars and fighting which eventually would have eliminated them as a race. In fact Frank Drown, a missionary to a couple nearby tribes, had to dissuade a tribal leader from taking revenge on the Auca who had killed Frank's very good friends.

What those missionaries did was dangerous, they sacrificed a lot to do it, but ultimately it benefited those tribes. I realize you won't appreciate the fact that they converted them, but as a result of that conversion the Auca are still a people and the Jivaro (not sure if I spelled that properly) do not head-hunt.

Well I was hoping to give you a full reply, but I must go.

God bless!
Joey

Mon Dec 01, 08:58:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Well I was hoping to give you a full reply, but I must go

Be careful what you wish for right?

No problems, I enjoy talking and thinking about this topic.

I have a train to catch so cannot reply in full now... just your first part which is the important bit.

We do need answers to questions like "why" we should prefer life over death, otherwise we'd be motivated to commit suicide (or at the very least, not motivated to attempt to live).

No - you do and you have been told this story since you were a child no doubt. Your friends will be backing up this idea everytime you raise the question.

I think they are wrong.

I don't need such answers, I am lucky to be alive.

“Why ask the questions, when there no answers?” (A line out of a fav song of mine)

Just think about the odds of you being alive today, just on the first order approximation - Your mother and father had to met, fall in love and have sex (the really important bit) at precisely the right time. A day either way on this sex business, and YOU would not be you.

I was thinking only yesterday - if my wife to be didn't like my rubbish chat-up line (pick up line?) all those years ago in a rubbish nightclub in Leeds - my two sons would not be here. I might have two different sons yes, but not the ones that I have.

A amazing stuff

Have to go... trains stop for no man

Lee

Mon Dec 01, 12:38:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Billy said...

Hi Joey, no offense was taken. I do like your willingness to try and see a different perspective.

As an atheist, you dont need to understand the basis of morality. You just need to know that it exists. It is up to the theist to demonstrate his claim, and that is certainlt problematical. I wont make assumptions about your view on absolute morality, but if you do believe they exist, we can discuss that.

Wanting to know the basis of morality is a different question - it is not wrapped up in a non belief in god, although it can be an issue for some believers and non believers alike.

but why is survival a good thing?

It is not good in any objective sense, it is just the way it is. Natural selection will favour those that survive - I assume you accept the evolution of antibiotic existence in bacteria - it is the advantage that allows them to survive - it is not good or bad beyond the benefits to the bacteria. We may even say it is "good" for the bacteria and "bad" for us.

I don't think Hitler was objectively wrong. People often cite him and wait for an emotional agreement from those they are speaking to. I want to make clear though that although I say he was not wrong, I disagree with what he did. It just means my position is a relative one shaped in part by natural selection and cultural influences (Many Germans thought he was right, and this is worth remembering too) The point is that I see no evidence of any unbendable moral law that was broken. Right and wrong are human concepts. A feeling that you have done something wrong can be a good behaviour modifyer - that means you are more likely to conform - this is important for a social species - exile means you lose status and the benefits of society.

I would question the christian basis for morality - other than the bible, what arguments can a christian use that shows homosexuality is absolutely wrong?
Are many christians not acting out of some form of self interest too- escape from hell?

You talk of fate etc, but that is not how it really is. Evolutionary "fate" is not predeterministic. The best adapted may not even survive - there is no guarntee - random accidents and disease can affect the fastest, strongenst, largest and most intelligent with equal measure.

If morality is evolved, it does not mean that we cant feel love or have other emotions. It does not mean that it devalues your personal human experience. I may even argue that in the absence of an after life, I should value people more and treat them well because of that.

Lee mentioned Socrates (wasn't aware of that quote), Confuscious came up with the golden rule earlier. He said "force not on others that which you would not choose for yourself". So, there are two other cultures who came up with the notion before the bible. In fact, most "good" bible teachings were in use elswhere (and earlier).
http://nosha.secularhumanism.net/es
says/sierichs6.html

Mon Dec 01, 12:56:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Isn’t this fun?

I’m tempted to do a similar post myself with me taking the position of the theist… the only problem is I suspect you will ‘cry foul’ and tell me I am misunderstanding God and/or the bible. (If not you, some Christian will cry ‘that’s no my God’)

Still – if I have time I might do it if you think it would be constructive.

Yes, entirely hypothetical.

Phew… I was worried you would lose your faith in God and destroy the world for a second :-)

I'm attempting to assume certain things; which can be hard when I don't actually believe them

No problems – I will try and help you out and correct you when you go wrong.

I hope you are getting a better understanding of my position – a non-believer of gods from birth - Doesn’t mean I am right of course.

The trick is to change your assumptions when required and not hold onto ideas shown false just to maintain any preconceived ideas.

Ideas that cannot be tested and falsified should be doubted and we should proceed with care.

(though I once did this for a debate over whether we should amend the U.S. Constitution to allow naturalized citizens to become president, and in assuming that we should I convinced myself of the position).

If you become a citizen of new country, if it is to mean anything, you should have the same rights as citizens who were born into it.

Otherwise, you have a 2-tiered system and quiet literally a 2nd class citizen. What would be the point? What would it mean to be a citizen?

And I agree that avoiding hell is bad motivation for doing good. But it's not my motivation for doing good.

So what is your motivation for good?

The desire to go to heaven, or to follow the rules of your God unquestionably?

Or does the desire come from within?

Maybe something else?

So what is the "greatest good" for the "greatest number" is somewhat subjective.

So you want it to be absolute? Objective? Can you show such an option exists?

I know you desire it, but that is not the same thing

In at least one society on our planet wearing nothing but a chord around the waist is the norm. In that society not wearing the chord would be viewed much like nudism would be viewed in our cultures. Just as our cultures disagree on this point cultures and "experiences" of individuals are not consistent.

Yes, and you know what – these differences I consider evidence that there are no such thing as absolute morals :-)

The fact that cultures do not agree on morals (clothing in this case) is ‘suggestive evidence’ for me that morals come from ‘within’, from the culture and environment that we are raised.

I’ve also pointed out the historical changes in morals on this thread. More evidence for my case I think.

On a previous post we discussed the morals of eating human flesh – again, cultures do not agree. (I even provided an example of Christians eating human flesh in order to survive, but I cannot remember your response on whether they were morally wrong in doing this)

Now, if there was a God, a personal God – who takes an interest in what we do – and absolute morals exist which come from God (somehow) so that mankind is born with this knowledge of absolute morals. I would expect different cultures to agree on what is morally right and wrong. They do not.

What does this mean?

It means, for me, that morals are learnt in someway (evolutionally and/or educationally)

IF absolute morals exist (and I still need to be shown that they do) then they are ‘blind’ and unknown to mankind it would seem. However this isn’t what the Christian tell us… someone has a problem.

Can you resolve this issue for me please?

Did we lose this knowledge in the Fall? (This would be odd; since the ‘crime’ was eating the fruit of knowledge wasn’t it?)

In some places in Africa certain surgeries are performed on young females, and they are performed as a norm, not as a form of torture. In our societies these same practices are deemed unnacceptable. Now you'd say we shouldn't do it because it causes unnecessary suffering. However that society doesn't seem to view it as causing much suffering, and they certainly don't view it as unnecessary.

This is an argument FOR relative morals isn’t it? - not absolutes which you claim exist.
(Oh, and doesn’t the bible say something about cutting off the top of willies? The Jews still play this game I am told – and with no medical reasoning I think it is morally wrong)

So this observation of yours is precisely what I would expect to see (though it doesn’t make me happy)… these cultures education/progress is a little behind that of the West (maybe their religious beliefs are holding them back – what would you suggest?)

I’m surprised you didn’t mention Aztecs with their human sacrifices - until some good Christians put a stop to in the 1500’s :-)

Maybe I should open my history books a little more.

What about those nice Christians who use to burn witches and fellow Christians with a different understanding of the bible?

Oh, and what about those nice religious people in the Middle East who still think it is a good idea to stone women to death, and throw acid in the faces of women getting an education?

Sorry, Joey – I am missing your argument here, your point was?

Morals are not absolute was it?

How would showing me people that have different ideas for their morals actually help you show me that absolute morals exist and they come from an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God?

I need your help again on this one.

Therefore I don't see on what moral basis we should discourage this.

What ‘moral basis’ would we use?

You are still assuming that there are absolutes – there isn’t (unless you can show me otherwise – I am still waiting, so asserting and start showing)

I would therefore use reason, logic and evidence… the ‘Golden Rule’ seems useful here, and I’ve already shown that no gods are required to believe or to come to this conclusion.

Based on that society's "experience" they still think it's a good thing.

However the ‘society of the world’ has moved on – these folk you talk about are living in the past using ‘ancient wisdom’. (Another problem with religion if you ask me)

But we are both strongly oppossed to this, so is it wrong because our cultural experience leads us to believe it is wrong, or is it inherently wrong?

I think you know my answer to this… if you don’t you have not been reading/understanding what I have been saying.

I will throw in another example from history – which has nothing to do with religion (honest).

War is bad, we can agree on this, but wars happen today and have throughout history.

Today, ‘the people’ get very upset when a ‘few dozen die’ in battle (Hell, if 1 Aussie soldier dies in battle today, their names are all over the news over here in Oz – for a day or two anyway)

The bombing of civilians is just seem as morally wrong now in the West and so not going to happen – but when a bombing ‘goes wrong’ and civilians are ‘killed’… major news for weeks. Major outcry.

Rewind 65 years – World War II.

Do I need say any more?

Hundreds of people die in battle each day, it made the news true – but it is just ‘one of those things’, no major outcry.

As for bombing civilians… well, the RAF didn’t see this as an issue with their ‘carpet bombing’ (if only it was the carpet) of whole cities.
(Not deemed a war crime you will notice)

Yet there were ‘rules’ for what you did with captured soldiers – they had ‘rights’, you didn’t just kill them. That would be wrong. You don’t just kill soldiers who had surrendered. (Though the Japs had different ideas)

Rewind nearly 600 years – the battle of Agincourt 1415 (English killing the French in a major way – history is great fun)

During the battle, Henry V (of Shakespeare fame) has captured many French soldiers (nearly as many French prisoners as numbered in his own army) but the battle wasn’t won yet. More French soldiers appeared in front of them.

So what did Henry V order? Kill all the captured French soldiers of course… was there an out cry after the battle from the French? Nope, it was a battle, and this is what you did in battle… you see, morals and rules change.

Here ends my history lesson for the day.

So from the example above – which action was ‘morally wrong’ and why?

Or do you observe what I have been saying – that morals change, and improve for the better, over time as societies move forward.

There are no absolutes, so none of the above can be called morally wrong absolutely by me, but how wars are fought today are ‘morally better’ than 65 years ago, and better then 600 years ago.(Would you agree? If not, why not)

Still, I hope in my lifetime we learn that wars are just morally wrong all together and our differences can be discussed and resolved without fighting?

(Such a dreamer as I am)

Will this happen? Not if people use their bible as their sole guide – we have to hope that society improves because it isn’t coming from any ancient holy text I know about.

RE: ”The response: ‘precisely what we observe now’ is not a helpful a prediction – it cannot be falsified. It could also be said for the ‘million and one’ other religions in the world (and the bible clearly states it is the only true religion doesn’t it?)”

Yes, "precisely what we observe now" is a very bad answer. But with certain examples we must examine the circumstances.

I glad we can agree on the first part – I am worried about the second but lets see…

If a Catholic priest rapes a young boy, which unfortunately has happened, does that mean Jesus does not truly liberate people from human depravity? Or does that mean that the priest was not actually behaving as a Christian?

Please look up the logical fallacy “no true Scotsman”
(Maybe it has a different name in the states)

Also, haven’t you missed the most important part of my comment?

What would you expect to see in the world if there was an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God as described in the bible?

What unique observation would you expect to see in the world, which could be falsified, if your beliefs/assumptions about Christianity are true?

I stated “the differences in the Christian belief will have to be highlighted to differentiate from other ‘false’ religions. Specific predictions will have to be made that are different from any other religion.”

This was an interesting point I thought? Maybe you ran out of time… no worries.

Hopefully that's clear, if not I'll try to explain it again.

I think you have just outlined a logical fallacy as I said – look it up, and tell me what you think.

It seems if a Christian does an act that is ‘unchristian’ in your eyes, then they are not really a Christian – No true Christian would do such a thing…

the “No true Scotsman” fallacy as I said.

I will need to come back to this I guess.

Yes, I know precisely why I have dismissed those other gods (though, admiteddly, I'm not very familiar with every god; in Hinduism alone there are thousands).

Excellent – let’s hear some reasons then, pick a god/religion you are more familiar with, how about Islam?

Oh, and before we start - “Because I believe in the bible and the one true God” is not an argument, but circular reasoning.

I’ve asked this question before to other Christians, and I get responses like “their holy book disagrees with my holy book, so they must be wrong”

I hope you realise that I need a little more than that.

(Oops, I realise already I have taken us off topic – but I hope you agree it is still a fun discussion)

Of course I'm relatively young, so I can not claim to have put every philosophy and religion to the test. I doubt most people have.

I’ve not looked into every one either (this is why I think it is only ‘very unlikely’ there is a god) – however they all seem to have ‘common themes’ which once dismissed makes it a little quicker to apply to the next religion.

I think a much better approach is to find what one does believe or does not believe.

We have to be careful on the ‘what you believe’ part…

As an atheist you don't have to examine every single theistic religion to know you don't believe them.

Yep – I take a sceptical position until they show me something that makes me change my own position. A position of reasonable doubt

You know the foundational premise (there is God/ a god) and you know until that is resolved you can not possibly believe any of the theistic religions.

To a point yes, but I want to add a little to your comment.

If any religion makes a claim that they ‘know’ God and how He interacts in the world (and for what reason) – then the burden of proof is on them to present some arguments, reasoning and evidence for their claims.

It is no different to someone making a claim that they have been abducted by aliens, or they have seen the Loch Ness monster.

And you have agreed with me on this point in the past. Why do you have one rule for one, and another rule for your religion?

Likewise on the basis of my foundational belief Jesus is the way, truth, and the life I can automatically discount all the various thousands of Hindu gods.

Oops – you have fallen into the trap of circular reasoning I mentioned earlier.

In trying to ‘prove’ why your position is right, you assume that you are right and this proves all other positions are wrong.

Can you see what is wrong with this logic?

This might work for you, but it isn’t going to convince anyone but yourself (and young children who trust adults blindly)

RE: ”We can come to ‘good morals’ by trail and error or by logical thinking alone.”

But what happens when our trial and error with say, vaginal mutilation, like I addressed above, does not necessarily agree?

Discussed already – one culture has come, by trail and error, that vaginal mutilation is ‘morally right’, another (my own) has come to the conclusion that it is sick and disgusting.

Apart from that – I don’t know what you are asking me?

The argument becomes "well that keeps them from having children", which brings us back to wanting to survive and that's addressed below.

Does it? I will read on…

Well given the nature of hymns I doubt you'd be singing from any hymnsheet at all :-)

Oh I don’t know – atheists write songs as well you know. We just cannot agree if we like the sound of them :-)

Yes, Hitchens does raise good points. I watch him a lot.

What a nice drunk he is :-)

Not sure I would want to invite him to any dinner parties though

At any rate, the context is a debate with his brother. I was concerned when I first saw the title of the youtube "Hitchens Vs. Hitchens", and thought Christopher may have gone schizophrenic on us or something.

I’ve been meaning to watch that debate, so thanks… I will try and download it to my ipod.

For the record, I have to say Christopher won that debate.

He is a good debater, and I’m glad you can say he won the debate.

I’ve listened to many a debate with atheist Vs theist – some times the atheist wins, sometimes the theist.

People forget that you can agree someone won the debate without actually agreeing with what they said. It is a silly game debates when you think about it.

And God just feels so good :-)

Insert ‘life’.

Life just feels so good :-)

Maybe, if you wish to hold onto ‘godly’ ideas – you can say ‘life is god, god is life’

Then we might start to agree more… it doesn’t help you with Christianity though but it removes some of your objections to atheism.

The majority of people on Earth believe in God/a god, it just seems to work.

The majority of people do not understand and insert the supernatural to fill in the gaps.

History has shown this, but I’ve spoken enough on history for one reply.

And some people like pain. I know that at least one local hospital self-mutilation is being treated more and more frequently. Most evidence seems to indicate this is a nation-wide trend.

Yep – no absolutes in the world :-)

(Feeling is not the reason I believe in God, btw).

We will have to come back to this then

I don't see how that increases suffering (hypothetically, I highly discourage running under trams).

I am the sole ‘money earner’ in my family. If I die, no more money coming in – no food, no house… big problems for my wife and children left behind.

Add to this I would not be around to help raise and educate my children I hope you can see why it would be selfish for me to jump under the tram.

I can think of more reasons, but that will do for discussion.

Ultimately if we could just all understand that life does not have inherent value, and our emotions are not really all that beneficial, we could very easily get over suffering/grief over the loss of a fellow conglomoration of atoms :-)

Just try not eating for a few days and tell me if you enjoy it…

If I kill myself, food will be short for my family (taken to extremes) and so they will suffer in my absence.

‘agreeing’ that life has no value is like ‘agreeing’ we don’t need to eat, breath or drink. It isn’t in my nature to think otherwise.

Billy has outline an evolutionary explanation – those that ‘value living’ will have more children than those who just decide they are all stardust and should just stop breathing.

The outcome are beings who ‘value life’… can I explain it more than that? Do I have to? Nope…


No, he's not comparing North Korea to Heaven/Hell (at least not in the sense that the U.S./Britain is Heaven, NK is Hell). He says that at least someone who dies in North Korea ends the pain, whereas if God exists there is hell and so they still don't escape suffering.

I’ve heard Hitchens use this argument in several debates and we seem to have a different understanding.

Memory tells me (not that I have listened to many debates you understand) that Hitchen normally introduces the idea of North Korea by saying something like “I know what heaven will be like” and goes on to describe North Korea as a ‘celestial dictatorship’. Where the people have to praise their ruler every minute of everyday and thank him for what they have received.

I think it is then where he says, “At least with North Korea you can die” which is quickly followed by “Christianity won't let you do that. Despite many the atrocities in the Old Testament, there was no everlasting punishment for the dead until Jesus meek and mild came in the New Testament.”

Always gets a ‘laugh’ the Jesus bit from the ex-Christians in the crowd.

You think I have heard too much of Hitchens?

So I don’t think Hitchens is saying you should just ‘kill yourself and end it all’ but comparing the ideas of Christianity and what it would mean if true.

Hence, I think you took him out of context :-)

But as I said – I might agree with him on some points and disagree strongly on others.

It isn’t about the man, but his ideas… some I reject, some I agree with.

At any rate, I'm assuming on the genocide question your referring to Israel and all the Canaanite groups.

Maybe… so many killings in the OT I get mixed up. The one where God told them to kill everyone, including the children – apart from the women who have not ‘known’ a man which they should take as they brides.

How are we defining genocide? I would view it as the systematic destruction of a particular race solely because they are that race (just an off-the-top-of-my-head one).

I don’t wish to play with words too much… it is the actions that were undertaken I wish to highlight as morally wrong by today’s standards.

Some would say that what Hitler did to the Jews wasn’t ‘solely because they are that race’ so it is a dangerous word game you want to play with.

However, I will quote the bible at you… sorry about this

However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you.
Deuteronomy 20:16-17


Seems pretty specific about races – and not just “kill all the badies”

However, as I said – it is the actions I am talking about.

And so we have to ask were the Israelites commanded to attack these nations because they were Hittites/all the other "ites"? No. They were attacked for their immorality.

And the ‘immoral’ children and babies? Can you explain that one please? Can a baby BE immoral? (I will answer this for you if you like)

Did you read the post on Jonathan’s blog – covered this topic nicely.

If I am understanding the bible correctly, I thought the main reason was because these people just ‘happened’ to be living on the land ‘promised’ by their God.

If we apply the Utilitarian Rule, which you've agreed is a good moral guideline, it's arguable that the greatest good was done for the greatest number in these cases.

I wish to use a very strong swear word now… sorry in advance.

BELGIUM!!! Absolute Belgium…

Phew… I feel better now :-)
(Hope you know your Douglas Adams)

Maybe ‘killing the guilty’ we could agree on… killing those that were harming others you could be right… but ALL the children? All the women who have ‘known’ a man?
(And the animals… don’t forget the animals…)

the LORD our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them—men, women and children. We left no survivors.
Deuteronomy 2:33-34

"Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them. "They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
Numbers 31:15-18

When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
Joshua 6:20-21

The only reason you are saying what you do is because you believe your God can do no wrong… well, you are wrong - modern morals teaches us this (and remember the history lesson about war I gave earlier? Your bible adds to my examples does it not – assuming they are true accounts of course, which you do not doubt. Morals then have changed and improved other time)

If Egypt had kept slaves, and prospered, and conquested into Europe, other parts of Africa, Asia, etc... what damage would have been done? Probably more than what was done with the death of the firstborns, and probably the entire army.

I’m sure Hitler was telling his people the same type of story in the 1930’s about the Jews…

Be consistent – I repeat this regularly.

How is Hitler wrong taking into account the bible stories?

Oh I know… you don’t believe ‘God told him to do it’ – and there in a nutshell is the problem.

So if you're positively asserting a moral injustice than you must demonstrate why this was immoral, but you seem to avoid positively asserting things.

I cannot assert something is morally wrong due to some ‘absolute’ because I don’t believe such things exist. I assert no such thing.

You assert that absolute morals do exist, so why is what described in the bible (which I quoted above) ‘right’ and Hitler’s actions ‘wrong’?

Preferred by whom, and what makes that preference authoritative?

Preferred, as I said, by me. Others might disagree.

You keep looking for ‘authority’ - I don’t make arguments from authority for a reason you know.

What defines "goodness sake"?

Don’t you know your Father Christmas songs?

You better watch out, you better take care…
He knows who has been naughty or nice,
So you better be good for goodness sake?

(I’ve missed out some lines, time is running out)

This statement makes an appeal to a transcendent goodness. That is, my good and your good are assumed to be the same.

I’m making an “argument from the authority of Santa Claus” – I thought you would like that? It is nearly Christmas after all :)

At any rate, why did William Wilberforce or Abraham Lincoln do good? It was not just "for goodness sake".

Who said it was good? The bible was rather clear on slavery – and many Christians at the time used the bible to justify the keeping of slaves. Or have I got my history wrong?

I don't do good because I want to avoid Hell or get into Heaven. Why do you do good towards your wife, children, friends, cousins, neighbors, etc...?

To minimise suffering – I thought I said this before?

It also makes me ‘happy’ – for some reason, my genes ‘reward me’ with nice ‘feelings’ when I am ‘good’, and make me ‘feel guilt’ when I do bad.

It seems to work in an evolutionally sense.

I follow God's moral law because I love Him.

A few points here.

One, you have not shown that God exists.
Two, you have not shown God’s laws are moral
Three, or that following His command always brings you to the best moral outcome
Four, people followed Hitler and Stalin for ‘love’ as well – people thought their moral laws were right.

Even if there were no Hell I would still do good solely because I love Jesus Christ.

Why do you love Jesus? Outside the bible (and the teachings from people who believe in Jesus as you do) what actually do you know about him?

I think it can be summed up in one or two sentences (and I think I am being generous)

What I've been arguing is there's not much of a standard for "good", nor much motivation for survival, apart from some transcendent morality which it seems your statement assumes without basis.

‘Transcendent morality’?

You do agree that we have ‘rules for behaviour’ in our society?

Do you agree that these have (and continue to) changed over time (I have already provided examples)?

Apart from these two points, not sure what else I need to do on the subject of morality?

The issue of ‘absolutes morals’ and these coming from God are your assertions which YOU have to show.

At this point if God commanded me to kill you I would know it is not God commanding this.

How would you know this? How could you be certain?

You say you believe in God, so what would you need as ‘evidence’/’reason’ that it was God who is commanding you to kill me? Enough for you to ‘do the deed’?

If you take the bible literally, God has commanded such things in the past – so why not in the future?

A few years ago, working at a Christian camp, a camper asked myself and the senior counselor "what if God told me to commit suicide?". To which we responded God would not command murder. The senior counselor had dealt with this issue personally, so I let him handle most of it.

And the senior counsellor seems not to have read the bible… I’ve provided quotes already on this where God clearly commanded murder/killings...

Now I'm guessing you'll probably ask about the Old Testament conquests and Abraham's near-sacrifiice of Isaac.

Oh yes… you know me :-)

I think I addressed (at least in part) the OT question. What many people ignore about the sacrifice of Isaac is that God stopped it. Isaac lived, Abraham did not sacrifice his son.

I’m also sure that the child had no mental scares from such an experience… “Belgium”

So I grab my son, take him up a hill – tie him down, get a large knife. Hold this knife above my son’s head and as I am just about to bring it down to kill him I say… “Only joking lad…”

And this is supposed to be a good example from the bible about faith?

Think about that for a second – the bible promotes this as a great act of faith does it not?

Abraham was prepared to kill his son on faith alone. (No evidence, since this would not require faith of course – Abraham did not, could not, know that God was going to step in, since this would void the story. Abraham was therefore prepared to complete the act – since God knew it, or do you think Abraham trick God?)

So, Abraham hears a ‘voice’ telling him to kill someone he loves, and on faith alone is prepared to do it… to the bitter end.

There are other examples in the bible… how about God allowing the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter to Himself for example. (Judges 11:29-40) (Tips hat to Billy)

Now I ask again, if God tells you to kill me, would you do it?

Read more here:-
http://basketofpuppies-billy.blogspot.com/2008/09
/if-god-commanded-it-would-you-kill-your.html

Happy as in surviving? As in satisfying their emotions? Does it "feel" good?

It what my selfish genes tell me :-)

In dropping the bomb I would have also ended millions of people's hunger, starvation, struggle with AIDS, etc...

No, you have just killed them and I have address this already.

Outside of a transcendent morality, or inherent value in life, there is little reason I should not do this.

If you cannot understand that the ‘feeling of suffering’ is bad, and that others also, more than likely, have the same feelings – then my selfish genes and their desire to survive will have to remove you from society.

I suspect I will be able to reason with other people who also have similar selfish genes and so the majority (in our little society) will be able to perform this act of ‘removal’.

Our society will then lock you up in a nice room with padded walls with a special jumper with sleeves that tie at the back.

For our own good you understand :-)
(Notice our morals in this society does not result in your burning at the stake or anything like that for being a lunatic – our morals have moved on)

Can I point to an ‘absolute moral’ for my justification for this action… nope.

Does our society grow and improve by this action… probably, if it didn’t we will die.

Simple really.

I have not the right or I have not the preference? Because you already said we don't necessarily have a "right" to not experience suffering. So whether I'm initiating what you view as suffering or not makes little or no difference.

See above… I am dialling the number now – 911 isn’t it in America? :-)

I don't need any more "right" to do this than applying the Utilitarian Rule to establish that life is difficult for most people on earth and that cumulative difficulty/suffering outweighs the cumulative love and happiness.

If you can convince enough people of your views – you might be on to something.

I would still disagree for the reasons given.

Well as a Christian I believe there is a "why" for us being here, I do believe in purpose.

Your purpose could be to catch bullets in Iraq? Have you even considered that? How would you know until you try? Why not? A fast track to heaven could be yours :-)

If you ask me, you would be better to enjoy this life – the only one you will have, but I’m not a Christian.

What those missionaries did was dangerous, they sacrificed a lot to do it, but ultimately it benefited those tribes.

There you go then… go convert some tribes in dangerous places instead :-)
(I hope you know I am joking)

I realize you won't appreciate the fact that they converted them, but as a result of that conversion the Auca are still a people and the Jivaro (not sure if I spelled that properly) do not head-hunt.

Maybe it was a lesser of two evils then :-)

Well I was hoping to give you a full reply, but I must go.

But, but, but… :-)

I can wait…

Lee

Tue Dec 02, 01:41:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Bill Lee mentioned Socrates (wasn't aware of that quote),

It is hard to find a thinker who didn't come up with the Golden Rule... maybe it should be called the cheap copper rule because they are 10 a penny it seems.

I chose Socrates because he died for his beliefs...

Lee

Tue Dec 02, 01:44:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Susie Q said...

“Men such as Frank Zindler and Christopher Hitchens propose that we should behave morally because of an enlightened self-interest”.

That isn’t at all what, I can’t speak for Zindler, but for Hitchens—It is evolutionary that we are moral. We are social creatures. This makes sense because animals that stay in groups have a better chance of survival for themselves. We have an instinct to ‘take care of our own. As for…

“That is to say, I want moral behavior not because I necessarily care about other people, but because I care about myself. For example; if somebody with AIDS is bleeding to death on my doorstep, I don't necessarily have to care about that person to intervene. I should intervene solely because of my desire not to catch AIDS.”

I am a nurse and take care of people everyday with AIDS and I am also atheist. Though the sentence is a little confusing, I am assuming you are trying to convey the absurdity in such a thought. Well done, because it is bollix. as well as absolutely not the point. We help because compassion helps ME survive in the long run. This is not a conscious thought but an instinct as well as logical fortitude instilled through the natural selection. I can use my logical brain to overcome the instinct to survive as I know how to protect myself from acquiring AIDS.

As for the good argue…”good” is subjective. The universe doesn’t care and is neutral. As for pleasing yourself. You please yourself by believing in god. It pleases you to know that you are ‘faithful,’ you probably find this virtuous. Belief and god and the combination of the 2 is subjectively good to YOU.

I don’t understand how you equate fate with survival or the mere fact of survival is a belief in and of itself.

Again, morality is a subjective vice. You are trying to make something evil. In our perspective because we are human and have the capability to be empathetic to those Jews that suffered does not equate right or wrong. It disgusts us because it puts one’s survival to an end. Hitler using his twisted logic did not forsee himself as failing. To illustrate what I mean by the millions of jews that lost their life…If you’re a meat eater do you view yourself as a carnivorous Hitler? Probably not.

You are right we are just matter. However, using a pun, we matter to each other because of survival.

You seem to want to find some magically meaning in this world. A purpose for which you can gain inspiration, as do I.

However, you cannot make an argument out of sheer desires or beliefs that human existence has some sort of hierarchy on purpose. To say that atheist have no value of life would be to go against survival and our natural born instincts. I very much value my life and those around me. Just because you don’t understand how that happens doesn’t mean it isn’t the truth.

Tue Dec 02, 08:24:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

If you’re a meat eater do you view yourself as a carnivorous Hitler?

Ah, well... yes - but it is my fondness for carrots and peas means that I let them live, and eat steak instead. The sheep want to be eaten anyway – just look at them… silly creatures. (Sorry)

I suspect eating meat will be the next moral step... once we get over the health issues (certainly don't think it is good for young children to only eat veggies – maybe adults can get away with it, don’t know)

So in 150 years or so, they might look back at pictures people like me with steak on my plate and think I am an immoral bar-stool – just like those slave owners 150 years ago

Lee

Wed Dec 03, 12:46:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Rune said...

Hi Joey,

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Atheist morality. I'm always surprised that Christians believe that they, themselves act morally.

I believe that neither Christians nor Atheists are guided by morality.

Morality is an oversimplification of often complex human psychology.

I have outlined an example of an experiment that was conducted to test the morality of Christian Seminarians here.

I hope that this can add something to your understanding of Atheism.

Rune

Thu Dec 04, 10:36:00 AM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Wow, I'm amazed at the response this post is receiving! Very glad so many people have found interest in this.

Several comments have brought up the same point, so I'll address the point rather than the individual commentators (at least for a moment).

Regarding purpose I'm simply wondering why we all get up in the morning? I think everyone believes in some type of purpose, even if it's not a divine purpose. Surely all the comments here have a "purpose", a goal or an aim. There is some reason that every single one of us gets up in the morning.

As of yet the responses seem to indicate we get up, we reason, we "love", we behave in a socially acceptable manner primarily to survive. But as I've explained, and several have agreed, extinction is not a "bad" thing; just something we prefer because of a random genetic happening. If we can agree than my assertions about life, assuming atheism, are correct.

Lee, in all your assertions against the Bible, specifically the OT passages you listed, you're making a judgment that our morals today are superior to the morality of the Bible.

If survival and extinction are equal, and assuming atheism I firmly believe they would be, on what is this assertion based?

I would go further and ask on what basis is anything true? "Well, we've learned so much through science and it's made life so much better and helped us survive..." Erm... I can agree we've learned from science.

I question whether it has actually made life better or helped us survive. After all, science helped us make cars, which use gas, which causes global warming, which will definately not help us survive.

Even ignoring that; we use science to learn we must survive, we use science to help us survive, and we argue for survival over extinction because science tells us it should be so... Seems slightly circular to me.

Look forward to continuing the discussion more in depth shortly, but finals are approaching and I think I'll be better equipped to survive with a college degree rather than without one =)

God bless!
Joey

Fri Dec 05, 07:50:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

I will try not to repeat myself further – you still need to address most of my points I feel.

Regarding purpose I'm simply wondering why we all get up in the morning?

That’s easy to answer – this morning I heard my son shouting me, telling me to get up.

Who needs alarm clocks?

I am then told I need to get his breakfast, my son is very good at telling me what to do.

Now I am told we need to go to the shops to see Father Christmas...

My 3 year old son then is one of my reasons to get up in the morning. Another reason is my 4 month old who is nice enough to remind me at 5am how much he loves me :-)

As of yet the responses seem to indicate we get up, we reason, we "love", we behave in a socially acceptable manner primarily to survive.

Yep

If we can agree than my assertions about life, assuming atheism, are correct.

I love how you say ‘assuming atheism’... can you say “if there are no gods” or “if the bible is wrong”? :-)

Lee, in all your assertions against the Bible, specifically the OT passages you listed, you're making a judgment that our morals today are superior to the morality of the Bible.

Didn’t I ask you this?

Are the morals recorded in history better or worse than the morals of today?

Do you think what was recorded in the bible (in the quotes provided) moral?

If the actions quoted from the bible are moral in your eyes - why is what Hitler do to the Jews wrong?

Please explain - you see, I think you have problems with your worldview you just do not realise.

These are questions you need to answer – I don’t believe in absolute morals.

If survival and extinction are equal, and assuming atheism I firmly believe they would be, on what is this assertion based?

Survival just feels better :-)

But I assert it based only on my experience and nothing more.

What does your experience tell you?

I would go further and ask on what basis is anything true?

So you think it is true purely because of God?

This makes no more sense than saying it is true because of the universe? Or it is true because of an invisible blue unicorn.

I don't understand where you are coming from on this matter, sorry.

we argue for survival over extinction because science tells us it should be so... Seems slightly circular to me.

This isn’t my argument.

Look forward to continuing the discussion more in depth shortly, but finals are approaching and I think I'll be better equipped to survive with a college degree rather than without one =)

On what basis can you assert this?

Don’t recall any mention of degrees in the bible :-)

I hope you are not avoiding my earlier points... I thought they were rather good.

Must go, Father Christmas awaits...

See ya

Lee

Fri Dec 05, 03:51:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Billy said...

Hi Joey,

Survival and extinction are not the same. Natural selection favours those most suited to survive. There is no purpose, it's just how it is. Morally however, it is neutral. That's not the same as saying survival is neither good or bad.

Sat Dec 06, 04:17:00 AM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

On what basis can you assert this?

Don’t recall any mention of degrees in the bible :-)

I hope you are not avoiding my earlier points... I thought they were rather good.


Solely on the basis of my personal observation of individuals with degrees versus those without them, and I was being a little bit sarcastic with the last point.

And no, I'm not avoiding, or at least I'm trying not to as far as time permits.

Isn’t this fun?

I’m tempted to do a similar post myself with me taking the position of the theist… the only problem is I suspect you will ‘cry foul’ and tell me I am misunderstanding God and/or the bible. (If not you, some Christian will cry ‘that’s no my God’)

Still – if I have time I might do it if you think it would be constructive.


This is most certainly fun.

I imagine, depending on what theist is commenting, you probably would be accused of not properly understanding God and/or the Bible. Don't feel bad, I get accused of that too :-)

Seriously though, I doubt my assertions demonstrated a complete understanding of the implications (or lack of implications) of atheism, but I've come to a much better (though by no means complete) understanding.


If you become a citizen of new country, if it is to mean anything, you should have the same rights as citizens who were born into it.

Otherwise, you have a 2-tiered system and quiet literally a 2nd class citizen. What would be the point? What would it mean to be a citizen?


I couldn't agree more, I'm 100% with you on this one.


So you want it to be absolute? Objective? Can you show such an option exists?

I know you desire it, but that is not the same thing


Well we've both agreed that the Utilitarian Rule (along with a few others I mentioned) is a good guideline.

If God does not exist, or if the Bible is wrong; than I certainly wouldn't want morals to be absolute/objective.

It's much easier for me personally to ignore issues like global poverty and the AIDS epidemic. With no God or gods the situation becomes morally indifferent; neither "good" nor "bad".

Yes, and you know what – these differences I consider evidence that there are no such thing as absolute morals :-)

The fact that cultures do not agree on morals (clothing in this case) is ‘suggestive evidence’ for me that morals come from ‘within’, from the culture and environment that we are raised.

I’ve also pointed out the historical changes in morals on this thread. More evidence for my case I think.

On a previous post we discussed the morals of eating human flesh – again, cultures do not agree. (I even provided an example of Christians eating human flesh in order to survive, but I cannot remember your response on whether they were morally wrong in doing this)

Now, if there was a God, a personal God – who takes an interest in what we do – and absolute morals exist which come from God (somehow) so that mankind is born with this knowledge of absolute morals. I would expect different cultures to agree on what is morally right and wrong. They do not.

What does this mean?

It means, for me, that morals are learnt in someway (evolutionally and/or educationally)

IF absolute morals exist (and I still need to be shown that they do) then they are ‘blind’ and unknown to mankind it would seem. However this isn’t what the Christian tell us… someone has a problem.

Can you resolve this issue for me please?

Did we lose this knowledge in the Fall? (This would be odd; since the ‘crime’ was eating the fruit of knowledge wasn’t it?)


To address your last point first there is some discussion about what "tree of knowledge of good and evil" means. Some scholars suggest this is a merism, for example if we were to say "they came big and small" what we're really saying is "they all came".

I'll try and explain this from my Christian theist perspective, I'm going to attempt to simplify things as much as possible for brevity and clarity:

Man kind is created in God's image, our nature is, in ways, reflective of God's nature.

But then the fall takes place, and our nature is scarred/damaged.

Therefore, under this view, regardless of what a society perceives as moral it is held against the standard of God's morality; an absolute/objective morality.

Is man kind moral by nature? To an extent. But according to this view I would not expect man kind to always agree on morals. In fact, I would expect to see murder, rape, theft, deception, etc....


This is an argument FOR relative morals isn’t it? - not absolutes which you claim exist.
(Oh, and doesn’t the bible say something about cutting off the top of willies? The Jews still play this game I am told – and with no medical reasoning I think it is morally wrong)


I need to make sure I understand you properly here...

Assuming there is no God than there is nothing inherently right or wrong about circumcision. In this case the Jews are not morally wrong to practice this.

Assuming there is a God, are you saying He would not have the right to demand such a thing? Of course, Abraham could have very well chosen NOT to be circumcised.

Medically the CDC, WHO, and UNAIDS all indicate that circumcision can significantly decrease the chance of contracting HIV during penile-vaginal sex.

You are still assuming that there are absolutes – there isn’t (unless you can show me otherwise – I am still waiting, so asserting and start showing)

I would therefore use reason, logic and evidence… the ‘Golden Rule’ seems useful here, and I’ve already shown that no gods are required to believe or to come to this conclusion.


This goes to what I mentioned above about the basis of anything being true.

You assume reason, logic, and evidence are absolute; on what basis? I mean sure, we use science to invent computers to help us share and process information, which will ideally help us survive. But here again survival comes back to being the root of all things.

Yet there were ‘rules’ for what you did with captured soldiers – they had ‘rights’, you didn’t just kill them. That would be wrong. You don’t just kill soldiers who had surrendered. (Though the Japs had different ideas)

Ummm... if God does not exist I don't see how it would "just be wrong" to kill captured soldiers.

There are no absolutes, so none of the above can be called morally wrong absolutely by me, but how wars are fought today are ‘morally better’ than 65 years ago, and better then 600 years ago.(Would you agree? If not, why not)

Assuming God does not exist I would not agree that the way we fight wars today is 'morally better' than at former times. Shoot, with over-population we should just blow everyone else away. I believe Randy Newman summarized it in the words "Boom goes London, boom Paris, more room for you and more room for me" (You should especially appreciate that song, Australia is spared because we don't want to hurt any kangaroos).

Just remember I'm saying that assuming God does not exist, but in reality I believe God does exist so I do not truly advocate the above philosophy.

I must be going, I realize I've still got a lot of your points to address. With the way it is snowing I wish I could take a train to where I have to drive to...

God bless!
Joey

Sat Dec 06, 01:50:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Solely on the basis of my personal observation of individuals with degrees versus those without them, and I was being a little bit sarcastic with the last point.

I was being silly also, but I notice you use your personal observations for this claim. Does it show familiar with my arguments?

And no, I'm not avoiding, or at least I'm trying not to as far as time permits

Sorry about that – my comment didn’t come across as I had intended, I guess I needed another smiley face. I was more giving myself praise in a silly way.

With the way it is snowing I wish I could take a train to where I have to drive to...

My mum back home in England was telling me she couldn’t get to work due to the snow – I just told her that she should come over here, it was 30 degrees (no idea what that is in Fahrenheit) Don’t think that helped matters.

Have to go, busy day ahead – thanks again for the reply

Lee

Sat Dec 06, 02:41:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

We are both in danger of going around in circles – I certainly seem to be repeating myself a lot, so obviously I am failing to be clear about my views.

I have seen no evidence for absolute morals – something is neither ‘right’ in an absolute sense, or ‘wrong’ in an absolute sense.

Just because you wish to label an act ‘absolutely wrong’ doesn’t mean that you can do this. (And certainly if you want to say it is God who provides absolute morals you have more explaining to do)

However, as a thinking, breathing animal – I do have preferences (as I have often explained)

These ‘preferences’ form the basis of my morals. It really as simple as that.

As a thinking breathing person you also know of these ‘preferences’ – I might not be able to fully to explain them, we might not fully agree on them, but they are there. (And if my hypothesis for morals is true – I would expect them to change over time as I mention – this isn’t so for absolute moral by definition.)

So ‘Preferences’ – not absolute morals.

If you see it as ‘preferences for survival’ then so be it – it makes life that bit easier to live is my only point.

And as we have seen, we can agree on the major points of morality – I suspect if we both wrote a list of 101 immoral acts we might agree on most. (I suspect where we differ might have something to do with strong religious views – I could guess in advance maybe a couple of these)

If you still wish to persist with your absolute moral claims, then as I have repeated often, please present an example of an act that is ‘wrong absolutely’ – it is your assertion – your hidden premise - it is for you to back it up.

It should be easy for you to do so, if your claim is true.

Remember though, you are asserting these absolutes based on the existence of God and the bible being true, and anything you say I can ‘judge’ based on my observations in the world. i.e. if you say something is ‘absolutely wrong’ then we should not see God doing such an act (or allowing nature to do it)

So how about a brief list?

Genocide? Nope, the bible is full of it as I quoted. So how can a Christian say what Hitler did was ‘absolutely wrong’?

Killing babies and young children? – again, similar quotes provided from the bible – was Hitler just following the guidance of the bible?. How do you square the ‘moral actions’ in the quotes to your personal views on Hitler? How can you say it is morally wrong when Hitler does an act, but not when it is written God Himself has done worse?

Injustice? How about killing 42 boys (not sure on the number) just because they called someone ‘Baldy’ – it’s in the bible, so it must be true right? Is being mauled to death by bears fair and just for children calling people names? If this is an example of God’s actions, so it cannot be ‘absolutely wrong’ can it? So, it most be morally right? So being consistent, if a today someone commands their Rottweiler to maul to death one child, it cannot be morally wrong using your method?

Cannibalism? I’ve already given an example where this has happened I recent history, by Christians, in order to survive. Can you say it was ‘absolutely wrong’?

I will stop - My point in this is that unless you can show me something that is ‘absolutely wrong’ (or absolutely right) – I just don’t see how you can assert absolute morals. In fact, I see your position to be on very shaky ground to be able to call almost any act ‘wrong’ IF you maintain that the bible is true and your morals are based on God’s guidance/standard.

Remember I do not claim absolute morals, an act isn’t absolutely wrong or right– just if it goes against ‘my preference’ I deem it as immoral. (And I freely admit I could be wrong, like my taste for eating meat)

You claim that these absolute morals come from God, well – what are they, and does God demonstrate them Himself?

If God doesn’t follow the laws, then how can they be ‘absolute laws’ if they do not apply to Him? The laws would then just be dictated by God, and so if God decided, they could be changed at anytime – they are subjective then are they not? (Erm… this argument seems familiar)

So the morals you are arguing for are in fact relative, and are based on your belief in the bible – which as we have seen isn’t were you get your morals from.

“But we are all going to die so what’s the point in living” (I have heard you cry)… well, sorry – we have to find our own purpose and reason for life, holding onto the comfort blanket isn’t going to help anyone.

Just because someone wants a purpose doesn’t mean the universe owes one – we should just be happy to be alive.

In fact, if the sole reason for living is to please a dictator, well – to me, this sounds worse than any nightmare I could think up – now if it was an all-loving dictator that could be differ, but be don’t observe that now do we. Besides, on a morality front it does seem to waiver responsibility, anything bad could be brushed under the carpet of “well, it’s just God’s will – and we cannot be expected to understand that”

An awful bias for morality.

Anyway… on to your last set of comments.

If God does not exist, or if the Bible is wrong; than I certainly wouldn't want morals to be absolute/objective.

You’ve failed to show that absolute morals exist (and what has ‘want’ got to do with anything?)

An aside - I remember an argument, it was from William Lane Craig, that states something like, “If absolute morals don’t exist, then God doesn’t exist. Absolute morals do exist, therefore God exists”

It’s just an assertion, meaningless unless it can be shown that absolute morals exist.

Remember, this was just an aside - no need to comment if you don't want.

It's much easier for me personally to ignore issues like global poverty and the AIDS epidemic. With no God or gods the situation becomes morally indifferent; neither "good" nor "bad".

I see it precisely the other way around.

If there is a God, with a plan and who created ‘absolute morals’ and all that – seeing people in poverty, and the AIDS epidemic etc must be precisely ‘God’s will’.

They cannot be ‘morally wrong’ IF it is God’s will :-)

I might not, as a believer, understand why God is doing such things, but since as a believer I have to resolve the ‘problem of evil’ in someway… any observation of ‘unnecessary suffering’ has to be explained away. Otherwise, God could not be said to be all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful.

Can you see the problem a Christian like yourself creates?

I don’t believe in God – I dislike both global poverty and the AIDS epidemic (and don’t get me talking about what I think about Christians who say condoms are evil)

I dislike them because I would not want it to happen to me or my family or friends – the ‘golden rule’ I guess at play again.

My ‘preferences’ tells me I do not like it.

Oh, and can you explain the HIV virus to me without invoking the theory of evolution? Maybe Billy could help us out on this one :-)
(another aside of course)

To address your last point first there is some discussion about what "tree of knowledge of good and evil" means. Some scholars suggest this is a merism, for example if we were to say "they came big and small" what we're really saying is "they all came".

I need you to explain how you are interpreting this verse in this way – it seems pretty clear to me what the bible is saying. Why the re-interpretation?

Man kind is created in God's image, our nature is, in ways, reflective of God's nature.

Ah… reading the bible (and the quotes I provided) this could explain a lot about wars and suffering in the world :-)

But then the fall takes place, and our nature is scarred/damaged.

Erm… but God still does nasty things, before and after the fall - what’s His excuse?

And why does learning ‘knowledge’ cause us to be ‘scarred/damaged’?

Doesn’t it also mean that, being ‘scarred/damaged’ we can no longer know what these ‘absolute morals’ are that you claim exist?

How do you in fact know that they exist, or what they are? How can you assert them?

Therefore, under this view, regardless of what a society perceives as moral it is held against the standard of God's morality; an absolute/objective morality.

OK – but you do not know what this standard is, our nature is scarred and damaged you said?

Also, as I have shown with quotes from the bible, God’s example is far worse than what society has come to agree is morally right.

How do you explain this?

Is man kind moral by nature? To an extent. But according to this view I would not expect man kind to always agree on morals. In fact, I would expect to see murder, rape, theft, deception, etc....

So you expect mankind to have no knowledge of these absolute morals, and so they will vary?

It seems you are arguing for something by saying that all the evidence will always point away from what you are claiming is true – absolute morals.

You have not argued for them, rather that you expect mankind not to show any knowledge of these absolute morals.

So what was my point again?

If absolute morals exist – they are not known by mankind seems to be your argument. Whether they exist or not isn’t important since you argue that they are not known by man.

Actually, the argument you have given seems to be in the style of "If not A, it must be B"

"If God does not exist, there can be no absolute morals, I want absolute morals to exist, so God must exist"

Not a good argument I would hope you agree.

Assuming there is no God than there is nothing inherently right or wrong about circumcision. In this case the Jews are not morally wrong to practice this.

Again – my view is that there are no absolute morals, you have not demonstrated otherwise.

That said, assuming there IS a God – I still don’t see how you can say anything is morally right or wrong :-)

You have the same problem – you just don’t realise it.

I say ‘they’ are morally wrong if there is no medical reason for the action – just hacking off the top off the willies of children for the ‘fun of it’ seems immoral in my book. (It would also seem to suggest that man was made with a ‘design flaw’ – no problem for a believer in evolution, but what do you think?)

Assuming there is a God, are you saying He would not have the right to demand such a thing?

He would have to justify this act, otherwise we are just slaves to the whim of a dictator.

Another problem you have though, assuming there is a God, is knowing if this is actually what He wants. As soon as you start ‘debating’ about it (between believers or non-believers it doesn't matter) you have a problem on the absolutes – you should not be able to debate them. Yet they clearly are debated around the world :-)

Of course, Abraham could have very well chosen NOT to be circumcised.

This is from a man willing to kill his own son with just blind faith (and yes it has to be blind in this case since any evidence would go against the use of faith – and God would know that)

Medically the CDC, WHO, and UNAIDS all indicate that circumcision can significantly decrease the chance of contracting HIV during penile-vaginal sex.

Not sure of your point here.

A ‘rubber on your willy’ seems to work well... I will place more trust in that actually working most of the time. Not cutting off the top off willies.

You assume reason, logic, and evidence are absolute; on what basis?

Sorry, where did I say they were ‘absolute’? Please explain where I have gone wrong.

Ummm... if God does not exist I don't see how it would "just be wrong" to kill captured soldiers.

Well, if God does exist, and assuming the bible is true – it is very clear that it is absolutely morally right to kill captured soldiers, not only that but their family, children and animals as well.

So back to my original question - Which do YOU honestly think is the more moral? (And no more ‘if there is no God’ business… just tell me what YOU think – your ‘gut’ feelings)

If I use your assumption of God existing and the bible being true – what the Americans are doing in Iraq is wrong – what they SHOULD be doing is killing everyone – men, women and children. I’m sure George Bush said he had God on his side at some point.

Remember we cannot pick and chose between ‘absolute morals’ since if you could, they would not by definition be absolute - so what is it to be?

Assuming God does not exist I would not agree that the way we fight wars today is 'morally better' than at former times.

No, this is wrong… I asked you a simple question I thought – are wars being fought today ‘morally better’ than how they were fought 65 years ago, 100 years ago, 600 years ago? (You can answer this with your belief in God if you like, but you cannot refer to God as your reasoning since I have already shown the bible describes far worse war crimes done by or in the name of God)

With your argument of ‘if no God’ it seems you are being ‘neutral’ and cannot say if one is more moral than the other.

This is true in one sense (no absolute morals after all), but the question was what do YOU personally think. Or do you ‘think’ that if no God exists you cannot express an opinion?

I believe Randy Newman summarized it in the words "Boom goes London, boom Paris, more room for you and more room for me" (You should especially appreciate that song, Australia is spared because we don't want to hurt any kangaroos).

Actually, I use to live and work in London so I am not to sure.

I also use to work in Slough, (just west of London, and maybe made ‘famous’ by the TV series ‘The Office’) and a line from a poem by John Betjeman always comes to mind when I think of Slough.

“Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now”

Lee

Mon Dec 08, 01:38:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

On a different note, I am talking to a Jehovah Witness nearly every week at the train station, and have been trying to discuss the Flood with her.

Last week she gave me a 3 page ‘response’ and I have responded in kind with a 4 page response.

Since you both agree that the Flood happened and there are no mistakes in the bible – do you fancy taking a read of my response and tell me where I am going wrong?

I’ve blog about it here:-
http://strawmen-cometh.blogspot.com/2008/12/
weekly-jw-chat-my-response-in-print-re.html

I suspect my JW friend might say I am not assuming God and the bible are true first - but that goes against God and his message being revealed in the bible

Thanks

Lee

Mon Dec 08, 12:34:00 PM 2008  

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