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Jeff Mitchell

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« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2011, 12:14:39 am »
emailestthoume wrote:
   

For example, the biblical assertion that Jesus of Nazereth existed would be an objective truth grounded in the world in a sense—he was physically present in this world a crucified. I know that objective moral truths cannot be grounded in this world, but I think that having objective moral truths are important weather or not you are a Christian. For example, it is objectively morally wrong to rape children for the fun of it.

 


Over the past couple of days I have written five pages of rationalization, justification, and other philosophical stuff, but I should be able to sum it up.  It is highly probable that the Jesus the bible discusses existed.  It probably is the objective truth.  We can be pretty confident in certain things, but we can't know that we are in possession of an objective truth.  There is very little absolute certainty in the world, so we have come to rely upon working models of truth- those truths that are able to predict actions in our world or that seem rational.  Just because we cannot know if we have an objective truth doesn't mean that we should just throw our hands up in despair though.  I believe that in terms that humans can use, Sam Harris' idea of "objective good" being that which increases the general well being of conscious beings is a good starting point.  I think that it is better than the idea of looking in a 2000 year old book for our modern morals.  To the extent that certain biblical teachings increase human welfare, I think they can be considered to be morally good- but they are so because they are in sync with our modern morals, not because they come from God.  Many of the moral concepts in the bible are good and valid- in fact, they are so good and valid that have been used in many civilized nations without the help of the Christian God.

If I haven't been clear enough (I probably wasn't very good at the philosophical aspects), let me state what I think is generally obvious, although you will of course disagree.  It is flat out wrong to think that the Christian god, through the bible (or otherwise), is the only (the "true") source of human morals.  Christian "objective" morals were around long before Moses, and certainly long before Jesus,
and would be true even if Christianity hadn't been invented.  Trying to point out where earlier civilizations had practices that would be considered bad by today's "Christian" moral standards is only going to bring an equal number of examples of how Christians had practices that would be considered bad by today's "Christian" moral standards.  Trying to say that "well, those Christian examples obviously weren't in accordance with 'objective' morals" will only beg the response, "for hundreds of years they believed that burning suspected witches and stoning people were justified by the bible, why is your current justification any more trustworthy than theirs?"  Is it because you studied it more?  Is it because only now do we "know" that certain rules only applied to the Jews in the time the laws were given, and that Jesus' death substituted faith for adherence to those rules?  Is it because the Holy Spirit has told you in an "unmistakable" revelation?  Please believe me that I'm not mocking this- I just don't see how any human experience can be unmistakable, especially when you have Evangelical Christians, Mormons, Muslims, etc each having "unmistakable" but contradictory revelations.  Even assuming unmistakable revelations of truth, is your line to God any less suspect than that of previous Popes who committed crimes of amorality?  I presume you're not Catholic, but they were the only Christians around during that time (that I know of), surely the most holy men in that faith, who can trace their ordination lineage (apostolic succession) directly back to St Peter himself, that claim they (under very rare circumstances) are infallible in their understanding and communication of God's will.  

We can continue to go back and forth about philosophical matters, and I value it for the education I'm getting from it, but I felt I should lay my cards on the table for you at this point.  For me it all comes down to the overall implausibility that I, if I convert with my whole heart and become the best Christian possible, will find answers in Christ and the bible any more satisfying than if I were to instead continue in my atheistic (agnostic, if you prefer) search for moral truth.  I hope I haven't been too blunt or rude with my words- this is going to sound funny, but I am enjoying the conversation and don't want you to be offended, even as I make statements you surely must consider blasphemous.  You must have heard it all before, but if not- maybe better from me for the first time.

emailestthoume wrote:
To affirm this poses the same problem for everything outside of mathematical and logical truths. For example, on this view, that it is wrong to rape a child for the fun of it independently of human opinion is not a mathematical or logical truth. Therefore, if you hold to what you said above, it cannot be validated, you cannot be positive it is true, and you cannot declare it to be objectively true.  

I read your below responses and I see that  I have in a sense painted myself into a corner.  Until I change my mind, I think you  are right that if we cannot prove the objectivity of morals or truths,  then we cannot say that it is objectively wrong to rape a  child.  I was resistant to admitting that I felt that way, because I  don't want to look like I am not absolutely against the rape of a child,  and any admission that there is no way to know that it is objectively wrong seems to imply that I am admitting that for someone it could be moral to do so.

But- I do believe that it is morally wrong, absolutely reprehensible.  How do I know?  You may claim that it is imprinted in my heart by God, even though I am not a believer.  I have to admit that my parents could have been influenced by Christianity, and maybe American society as well.  Regardless, I don't believe that I received it from an objective being.  Even if we cannot prove that child rape is "objectively" wrong, we can still show that it is wrong in a moral framework that applies to all civilized people- namely, that it increases the suffering without any kind of good to outweigh it.  I'm not sure in which situation the good would outweigh the bad, but that's an obvious question to pose that I can't answer right now.  I know that Dr. Craig doesn't think much of Sam Harris' moral landscape concepts, but I believe it's a good starting point for us to construct a meaningful framework in which to answer the very difficult moral questions.  We simply cannot rely on people's interpretations of the bible to be the final answer.  Put yourself in my shoes- would you want a Muslim imam dictating your morals?  Christianity's teachings are closer to what I would consider rational morals, but I still don't want them imposed on me simply because they came from your God.  There needs to be a better reason than that.


emailestthoume wrote:
For biblical truths, (though one would have to first accept the authority of the bible to consider them true) there are some things that are obvious that one would have to be dishonest to say that the bible does not affirm them. I bet you would agree as well. Things like "God exists," and "Jesus is the Son of God." I am not saying everything is obvious, but I think the
    basics of what one would need to know to be saved are. Certainly, I would say, that some things are unclear to me about the bible, but that doesn't mean that important objective truths are not.
         
The problem, of course, is that I don't accept the authority of the bible any more than the authority of any other ancient text.  There are certain things that might give it more credibility than other texts (multiple confirming accounts, etc), and certain things are fairly plausible so I'm willing to take their word for it.  But, I can't justify believing the miracles of the bible simply because it says they happened.  I haven't seen anything that has been proven to defy the laws of the universe as we know them, and therefore have no reason to believe that they happened in biblical times either.  I am under no intellectual obligation to accept those biblical statements as fact or even reasonable probability.

emailestthoume wrote:
For the second part of the sentence, "the central argument for biblical objectivity..." I am not sure I understand your meaning. Perhaps you could clarify it. I will hold of from responding so I don't misrepresent it.

What I meant was that (unless I'm wrong) Christians believe that the bible is the objective judge of truths and morals.  Why is the bible the objective judge of truths and morals?  Essentially, because it says it is.  I don't see another argument for it... actually that's not true.  I just remembered John 7:17, but if I haven't received the Holy Spirit to have Him tell me that the bible is true, I have no reason to believe it.  I know that Craig believes that everyone has at some time had an experience of the Holy Spirit, but I just think that's false out of improbability and personal experience, and I can't imagine an argument that would persuade me to accept it.

emailestthoume wrote:
But anyway I hope I didn't seem like I was responding to your weakest points. I read you post many times, perhaps I have just missed some arguments, but I think you may have arguments about the bible that are more implicit and I didn't want to put words in your mouth and phrase them myself.

I appreciate you responding to my more personal statements- I do know that, whatever disagreements we have, you seem like a good person genuinely interested in helping me understand more.  Being an apostate, I'd better be right about things or your description of my fate is not gonna be fun though...

One thing to bring forward from previous posts is the definition of "atheist."  I agree that traditionally atheist has been thought of as one that has a belief that there is no god, but I think the majority of thinking atheists would be intellectually dishonest if they thought they could PROVE there was no god, or that they believed it just on faith.  If they were forced to really think about it, they'd have to say that it is so improbable that it may as well be proven- but that's a subjective statement.  And for your example- if I don't have the belief that Obama was born in the US, that's different than saying that I have a belief that he was not born in the US.  The latter requires evidence, the former does not.  What if I'd never heard of him?  I couldn't have a belief one way or the other.  How could I provide evidence of something I don't even know about?  Must I provide evidence for my unbelief in the thousands of gods that have been invented by man throughout history, or just the Christian one (or just the contemporary ones that I have heard of, even in passing)?

Thanks for another round, take care
-Jeff

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« Reply #16 on: June 01, 2011, 07:41:08 pm »
Jeff, I enjoyed reading your response. I am enjoying this discussion as well. It is interesting to hear your views on these issues, and it helps me to clarify my thinking in order to discuss them with you.

I like that you raised issues about the Christian God, and I will get to that discussion, but I wanted to point out that the argument Dr. Craig gives based on objective moral values and duties does not necessitate the Christian God, or the God of any religion. Those would be separate issues. Many people over the years, especially in the 19th Century have believed in a Deist God, I think because they thought that he was a philosophically helpful and necessary being. I know that as a Christian, I don't believe that a Deist God will do you much good, however I would think that an argument for such a being would make the Christian God more plausible. (but as I said that would be a separate issue)

So to get into the issue of objective moral values, I will explain why I think why believing that there is a God is needed. I think first it would be helpful to just think as a scientist or philosopher on this issue. As an engineer, this is something you probably do much better than me, and I bet you have a very logical mind. So look at the world as a scientist, and I think you will notice that we have evolved releativly recently in the age of the universe. (by the way I don't disagree with evolution, just so you know) We are intelligent animals, who came from apes who came from lesser evolved animals who came from even lesser evolved animals. What makes us so special? We are simply more intelligent apes (who many not even outlive cockroaches) on this tiny spec of dust called the planet earth which is doomed to perish in the eventual heat death of the universe.

Just logically speaking, why would we have moral worth, so that it is objectively wrong to harm a person? Our affirming moral values are something that have developed in order for survival. There is nothing more to them then that. How could evolution give us moral obligations? How could evolution make moral values valid and binding independent of human experience? On this view of the world, I don't see why they would be binding at all or valid. Or why one ought to obey them. This is not the invention of people like Dr. Craig, it is an idea that has been along since the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declared "God is dead," and held this view about morality himself.

So my point is this, that on atheism, when we look at the universe as scientists logically, there is no reason to think that moral values and duties are binding, or are obligatory. On the other hand, if there is a God, whatever God that may be, could guarantee that human beings have moral worth. In Christianity, I see this in that we were all made in God's image, giving us intrinsic moral worth. But it could also be that any other God endowed us with moral worth or "inalienable rights," as the US declaration of independence says.  

God, being the standard of goodness which we judge by, would also give us a real, objective, being which would ground our judgments about objective moral values.

Something you mentioned was, how do we know what is objectively true? And doesn't it do us no good to know that objective moral values exist if we cannot ever know for sure what is objectively true?  I think these are both important questions, but I don't think the first one is relevant here. I thought you described something well that might be the case in another post, as to how we know what moral values are. You said we can get close I think, like if the objective moral value is "5," we could be doing pretty good at around 4 and 6.

To answer the second question: what good does it do us that objective moral values are philisophically grounded, if we can never know if we have reached one? I think that even if we can only make educated guesses about what they are, it is very important that they have a real grounding. I don't think Sam Harris' "what is good for human flourishing is objectively good," will suffice. This is because it cannot answer the question, "why?" It just assumes that human biengs have moral value, or assumes that we can just define humans moral value into existence.

But you may say, "everyone would agree on this definition, so whats the big deal?" I think that, yes, everyone would agree on this definition, for now. However, this is very easy to say if you live in a society where everything is going relatively well. The Hitlers don't come along until the people are starving, and that is when the foundations of society are all up for grabs. What happens then if what is grounding moral values is just the definition of Sam Harris?

I will get to the issue of the Christian God in my next post, hopefully tonight or tomorrow. I am honored that you are taking the time to discuss this with me, and I appreciate how you are thinking this through rationally and respectfully.

Take care,

Jeff #2 (<- = me)


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« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2011, 07:31:58 pm »
   

Jeff, I responded to the philosophical issues (hopefully it was responding to what you were actually arguing) in the last post, and I would like to deal with the specific issue of Christianity in this one. I am enjoying doing this, and I think I have a tendency to do what I feel like I ought to do rather than what I enjoy, (not that this is always good or Christian) so that's probably why I am just finishing my response now. But just to make clear, I am in no way expecting you to just "trust me" that what the bible says is true, or to just trust me that God exists or Christianity is true. So, let us discuss...


Trying to point out where earlier civilizations had practices that would be considered bad by today's "Christian" moral standards is only going to bring an equal number of examples of how Christians had practices that would be considered bad by today's "Christian" moral standards.  Trying to say that "well, those Christian examples obviously weren't in accordance with 'objective' morals" will only beg the response, "for hundreds of years they believed that burning suspected witches and stoning people were justified by the bible, why is your current justification any more trustworthy than theirs?"  Is it because you studied it more?


In one post, perhaps overly dramatically, I posted a quote from Hitler in which he used evolutionary theory to justify his murder of the "inferior race." Someone responded, clearly, Hitler did not know much about evolutionary theory! I imagine scientists feel the same way when they read things like that. This is how I, who almost has a degree in biblical studies, feel about people who misuse the bible. My point is that there is a real science to interpreting the bible, but people can ignore the science of it, and twist it the same way Hitler twisted evolution to justify his massacres. (not that this was his only justification) I hope I have answered the philosophical question of objective morals in my last post.


           

do we "know" that certain rules only applied to the Jews in the time the laws were given, and that Jesus' death substituted faith for adherence to those rules?  Is it because the Holy Spirit has told you in an "unmistakable" revelation?  


As an interpreter of the bible, there are few things clearer than that the Old Testament Law no longer applies. I am discussing this with a Jewish person on this site, and he really will not accept the letters of Paul for that reason. Paul said we are dead to the Law, it is nailed to the cross, and we are now under the law of love which Jesus preached. So it has nothing to do with "unmistakable revelation" when we are talking about interpreting the scripture for the Church. Just as Dr. Craig gives arguments for his position on the existence of God (when that is the topic), rather than just expecting you to accept his personal experience, so biblical theologians must settle the matter by the text itself, interpreted through the framework that the bible interprets itself, and in the context of the whole narrative which the bible presents itself. I would bet that every sort of evil and distortion comes from failing to follow these basically self-evident principles. (and these are principles which the bible itself presents)


            Please believe me that I'm not mocking this- I just don't see how any human experience can be unmistakable, especially when you have Evangelical Christians, Mormons, Muslims, etc each having "unmistakable" but contradictory revelations.  


It doesn't logically follow, though, that just because many people claim unmistakable revelations, they are all wrong. You are right that there are many claims, which is all the more reason to subject your experience to every question that you can throw at it. For me, I only think I have good reason to believe I exist because I believe Jesus exists and loves me. (and Descartes has been refuted with his "I think therefore I am" if I am not mistaken) If he loves me, I must exist, I conclude. However, as I said, I do not expect you to take this as evidence for God.


             

 

For me it all comes down to the overall implausibility that I, if I convert with my whole heart and become the best Christian possible, will find answers in Christ and the bible any more satisfying than if I were to instead continue in my atheistic (agnostic, if you prefer) search for moral truth.  




On the purely logical end, if God does exist, then there are moral truths that you would not be fulfilling if you do not believe in Him. One, for example, is loving God. What I would bring in here is Dr. Craig's arguments for the existence of God, which I don't think he shared in the debate with Sam Harris'. I think he expressed them well in his debate with Antony Flew available on youtube, or any of his other debates where the topic is something like, "does God exist?"

On the specifically Christian end, I am not sure I can prove to you logically that Christianity is true. (though Dr. Craig tries to get close with his argument about Jesus' resurrection, which usually shows up in his existence of God debates) However, also, purely logically, it does not follow from that that Christianity is not true, or that you cannot know (or at least be as sure as you are about anything) it is true.

As an engineer with a logical mind, I bet this sort of claim is harder for you to accept, but hear me out. I think our most important and basic beliefs cannot be proven with mathematical equations, scientific experiments, or logical syllogism. For example, that I am not in the matrix, hooked up to electrodes being simulated to think the world around me is real. You might say, well I don't really know that this is not the case. If so, that is fine with me. I would be happy if you believed in God with as much certainty as you believe that the external world is real, even if you don't really know that either are real. I am not offering proof here that it is the case that you do know this about God or C
   hristianity, but I am saying it is at least possible that you could.

Other things we can know without math, science, or logical inference (using "know" loosely), is that a note in a song is off, that a musician has made a mistake. There is no chain of reasoning needed for such a thing. I think one reason we can know that a note in a song is off even if we haven't heard the song is because songs are created by people and represent person intention. We can easily recognize personal intention (sometimes not so easily, like with women who are bewilderingly attractive and distract).

Well according to Christianity God is a person (in the sense that he has a mind, a will, and emotions), so maybe you could reckognize His work. I would challenge you to read Matthew 5-7 (perhaps again) and ask if you do have any intuitive knowledge being triggered. I am not offering proof here, I'm just saying that it is possible.

             

I hope I haven't been too blunt or rude with my words- this is going to sound funny, but I am enjoying the conversation and don't want you to be offended, even as I make statements you surely must consider blasphemous.  You must have heard it all before, but if not- maybe better from me for the first time.

I am not at all offended, and I have heard much much worse. Dawkins.... arg....


             

Must I provide evidence for my unbelief in the thousands of gods that have been invented by man throughout history, or just the Christian one (or just the contemporary ones that I have heard of, even in passing)?

 


I think you do raise a good point here. However, I think it would be helpful for atheists to either drop the title "atheism," or come up with a new one, for the popular understanding of atheism seems to me to be people who claim that there is no God. If this is not their claim (which seems to be the case, as many define atheism now as the "lack of belief in God" which requires no evidence) I think it is misleading for them to continue referring to themselves as atheists, as this has meant traditionally in philosophy that they claim there is no God. However, I am not really sure about that issue.


Anyway, I look forward to reading your response. Also, don't feel obligated to continue this if it is getting to be too much work to respond to (in light of the length I am writing these). But I am happy to do some more rounds if you are interested.

Cheers,


- Jeff #2


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Jeff Mitchell

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« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2011, 03:50:19 pm »
You may want to grab a snack before starting to read this one- it's pretty long.  The funny thing is, for every paragraph I've included below, there are about four that I've written and then discarded.  If brevity was a moral good I'd be in trouble.
emailestthoume wrote: I don't believe that a Deist God will do you much good, however I would think that an argument for such a being would make the Christian God more plausible. (but as I said that would be a separate issue)

I agree here- I don't think the Deist god does much good- I'm not entirely sure why people believed in it except to supply an answer to all things that people did not (do not) understand.  And I do agree that if you could prove the existence of a Deist god (or another generic one) it would necessarily help make the Christian God more plausible, but I still don't know how one would go about proving that one religion is "more true" or the "absolute truth."  I think it's a more realistic argument to have though- "assuming that there is a god, which religion is the most plausible?"  This has implications for real, modern people and their beliefs, regardless of the actual existence of the underlying god.

So to get into the issue of objective moral values, I will explain why I think why believing that there is a God is needed...
How could evolution give us moral obligations? How could evolution make moral values valid and binding independent of human experience? On this view of the world, I don't see why they would be binding at all or valid. Or why one ought to obey them.

I think this is a very valid question, indeed the question to be asking.  And of course, I don't have the answer .   But I think this is an area of human understanding that we are exploring in science.  I think that the more we discover about the brain and mind, the closer we will get to an answer.  We have evidence for, and a well supported understanding of, brain chemistry and brain development that can explain why people feel compelled to act in certain ways.  Granted, this science is fairly young and incomplete.  But it is moving in the right direction, and I'm confident (based on the history of growth in knowledge in other fields of science) that we'll eventually discover why we tend to follow the golden rule, perform seemingly selfless acts, and even sacrifice ourselves for loved ones or a cause.  In general, We can think and communicate, and  that encourages understanding of others and a psychological attachment  to some things and a psychological repulsion from others.  Sometimes  they can get confused, just like any other psychological belief system  (Why "good" ordinary citizens committed atrocities or didn't act to stop  them under Hitler).  But maybe the exceptions prove the rule?

"Where's the ought" you say?  I'm still looking into it but my reasoning leads me to think that there isn't an objective "ought" other than the motivations in individuals' minds- which are extremely complex, but still rooted in biology and chemistry.  I have no reason to believe anything else.  I suppose it might be convenient if we had someone telling us how to behave (not that I think it would change anything), but we can't just make something up out of convenience if we are honestly trying to find an answer in this world.  Why jump to the conclusion that some invisible father figure breathed some mystical "soul" into each one of us at conception and THAT is why I feel compelled to act in certain ways?  I'm not convinced that the "ought" question, as we currently ask it, is unanswerable by science- we just need to back away from the preconceived notion that "ought" is a set of rules that necessarily must come from a higher being and think about what result we are trying to achieve by asking this question.  Science might lose this particular argument (I don't actually know), but is it the right argument to be having?  Have the rules of the debate been defined with a specific outcome in mind?

I don't feel this way because I have an axe to grind against religion or belief in god and I needed to come up with a theory to support my claim against them.  It actually has nothing really to do with disproving religion.  Real science isn't about trying to prove or disprove something that originated outside of science.  It is approached from the position of "I don't know, so I'm going to investigate," as opposed to "I know, so I'm going to go back and try to find scientific justification for this."  

Lastly, to answer your question regarding the objective worth of human life, I'm not sure if anything gives human life objective worth.  What exactly does that mean?  That it should be furthered under all circumstances?  That it should be furthered under certain circumstances?  What does the bible say?  Is it definitive?  Would all Christians, even all biblical scholars, agree on exactly what the worth of human life is?  If I ask the really difficult moral questions (murder one to save a hundred, is torture ever justified, does the bible really demand the death penalty for murders, etc), would I get the same response from everyone?  (serious question).  I'm not saying that a lack of religion (whatever label that status earns oneself) gives anyone the correct answers to these- but maybe it prompts one to search for (and maybe even find) a well-reasoned answer.

 I think that there is a reasonable framework that, as humankind, we can work to make valid and binding in a way that religion could not be.  It is human nature to not follow a being or body that one doesn't recognize as having authority.  Therefore, unless everyone consents to be bound by the Christian God, He can be valid and binding all He wants but it's not going to change anything in this world.  
One might behave in a manner in  keeping with the rules set forth by the being, but it's not because  they're set forth by that entity- it's because the rules are in keeping  with the value system one gleaned from another source.  Until we start seeing people turning into pillars of salt for specific acts of disobedience, there's no evidence of this binding agreement and therefore there's no reason to believe it.

To make claims as to know "objective" morality and the  "objective" value of human life I think is to overstep one's bounds.   Sounds bad to say it, but I think it's only because we haven't had a  seriously open discussion about what reasoning grounds morals.   If God grounds morals, we don't need to reason- we just need to read and  heed.  And if we're wrong (which we aren't, because we have the  biblical truth on our sides), then what?


So my point is this, that on atheism, when we look at the universe as scientists logically, there is no reason to think that moral values and duties are binding, or are obligatory. On the other hand
   , if there is a God, whatever God that may be, could guarantee that human beings have moral worth. In Christianity, I see this in that we were all made in God's image, giving us intrinsic moral worth. But it could also be that any other God endowed us with moral worth or "inalienable rights," as the US declaration of independence says.  

Why does God guarantee that human beings have moral worth?  I just don't understand what "moral worth" actually means I guess.  I don't even understand the concept that since we are made in God's image, we have intrinsic moral worth- is it because God, by definition, has moral worth and we inherit that worth since we are made in His image?  How much of His image do we inherit then, and if not all of it then why did we happen to get lucky and inherit moral worth?  Also, while I'm glad that the framers of the Declaration said we all have inalienable rights, I'm not sure why they came from God.  (I know why at the time they said the rights came from god- I just don't know what makes that statement true).  Why did our idea of God choose those rights, when other gods (and the same one in some circumstances) did not choose to confer them to their followers?  

Another issue I have is the idea that the God of Abraham didn't seem to think much of the "intrinsic moral worth" that everyone says He espoused.  I try not to go back to the old testament too much because I'm never sure which parts are still in effect and which are abrogated by the new testament, but what was the moral worth of the many, many humans that God destroyed?  And since God's moral nature is unchanging, how can his murder (I can't think of why it wasn't murder) of those people be reconciled with his command not to murder?  I just am not sure what exactly the Christian value of life's worth is.  

What if we have things backward?  What if we've fallen prey to a causal fallacy of saying that Christians believe in God, and are therefore "moral?"  What if, instead, people get their morals first from some other source, and if those morals are mostly in agreement with Christian morals they tend to be the ones that gravitate toward (or stay with from childhood) the Christian god to support what they already believe to be true, at least in the beginning?  You actually see this a lot in modern churches- relatively few people believe ALL of the church doctrines.  Catholics the world over are using contraception because they don't agree with that teaching.  Many also fail to abstain from eating flesh meat on Fridays.  Many (most?) Christians don't tithe properly, and the abortion rate for Christians is astonishingly high considering just how grave a sin it is.  What if, instead of people getting their morals from the bible, we humans get our morals from somewhere else and just attribute the ones that we and the bible are in agreement on to God?  The others?  Well, I'm sure God didn't actually mean his commands that way.

How can we claim that we receive our morals from the bible when we don't agree with parts of it?  That's like saying I learned math from a textbook, but I disagree with some of it so I'm using an alternate type of math to cover the parts I disagree with.  If you think about it, for someone to disagree with the math book, one needs to construct their ENTIRE understanding of math from a separate source (reason, thought, intuition, whatever), and then attribute the "truths" that overlap with the math book to that book, and attribute the "truths" that conflict with the math book to some other source.  The first math book may have helped with the initial understanding of math, but it was all processed and rationalized using some other understanding- otherwise parts of it wouldn't be discarded.  I'm sure I'm not making my point very well here, but it makes perfect sense in my mind...



Something you mentioned was, how do we know what is objectively true? And doesn't it do us no good to know that objective moral values exist if we cannot ever know for sure what is objectively true?  I think these are both important questions, but I don't think the first one is relevant here. I thought you described something well that might be the case in another post, as to how we know what moral values are. You said we can get close I think, like if the objective moral value is "5," we could be doing pretty good at around 4 and 6.

I think that the first question is actually the most important one.  Philosophy is a fun past time, but if there is no implication for the real world what's the point?  I don't want to be so abstract that I can't acknowledge that certain teachings in the bible seem to be in agreement with what the western civilized world considers to be good practice.  I imagine that, to use Sam Harris' example, burning the eyes out of every third born child because... well for any reason I can think of, must be at least very close to an objective "bad" if there was one.  But do we need to acknowledge the idea of an objective bad in order to condemn this act?  Is our condemnation only valid if we pretend to know that it is the objective truth?  If I say "6" and you say "4"- isn't it sufficient that we are close to each other, without having to pretend that we know that there is some number value that is the objective truth?  What if we're way off and the objective truth is actually "15?"  What do we do then?  Well, we don't even know that it's 15, so you keep thinking that "4" is correct and I keep thinking that "6" is, and we continue in our ignorance of the absolute truth.  I'm still not convinced that the existence of absolute truth is necessary.  Maybe the argument is more that the belief in an absolute truth is necessary.  That might be an interesting argument.  I'll have to think about that one...  Anyhow, let me reiterate- I am not saying that any of this proves that there is no absolute truth.  I'm just saying that there doesn't seem to be a way to settle an argument over who knows the objective truth, other than in mathematics or logic (which for some reason I want to put into a separate category- they just don't seem to fit with other concepts).

To understand why I have such a problem with this, consider how I think.  I'm an engineer- I know when I'm "right."  If the space shuttle gets home safely, I know I designed it well.  If the nuclear reactor containment vessel stayed in tact under the conditions for which I designed it, I was right.  If not, I was wrong.  If we preform a series of well constructed experiment that show prayer to a specific god actually achieved some predictable response, I might be skeptical at first (it goes against every other scientific piece of knowledge I've gained in my life) but I'd have to look at it seriously.  And I absolutely would.  I just haven't seen anything yet that compels me to consider faith.

To answer the second question: what good does it do us that objective moral values are philisophically grounded, if we can never know if we have reached one? I think that even if we can only make educated guesses about what they are, it is very important that they have a real grounding. I don't think Sam Harris' "what is good for human flourishing is objectively good," will suffice. This is because it cannot answer the question, "why?" It just assumes that human biengs have moral value, or assumes that we can just define humans moral value into existence.

I'm not sure we've given the study of the mind and brain enough time to say that it cannot answer the question "why."  And anyhow, th
   e question of "why" only is really applicable when you say that there is one set of objective moral truths handed to us.  Otherwise, the answer is simple- that's just how we evolved- the "why" would be a series of evolutionary pressures.  It would be like asking "why did sea creatures grow legs and start to walk on land?"  (As an aside, I don't see how Christianity is compatible with human evolution- at which point are we saying that God created man?  Australopithecus?  Homo Sapiens?  but that's another thread)  Also, look at the alternative answer-  The theistic answer for "why?" is "because I said so," and I don't find that any more satisfying than I did when my own (biological) father said it.  I'd rather say, It's an interesting question, let's look at what we have in common and try to understand how our minds developed to incentivize certain behaviors.  Why do we value human life?  Why do we think that burning childrens' eyes out is wrong?  If torturing someone could reliably result in saving lives, why is it (or is it not) a justified behavior?  I know I don't have the academic background to really argue these points, but it seems "self evident" that we have different societies with different religious beliefs, and certain "moral" behaviors overlap.  Why?  Is it because God made everyone's beliefs to overlap?  No, it's because there is something external to each of our particular gods, or even lack of a god, that we all share.  

I don't want to speak for Mr. Harris but the way I see the idea of "that which increases human flourishing" is to be more an explanation of an observed behavior.  I'm not sure if it was just some arbitrary definition he plucked out of thin air, to "define his moral framework into existence."  I'm sensitive to that practice, because I think that's what the Ontological argument (in all forms) does.  I personally see and experience an inclination to increase human flourishing- I think empathy has a lot to do with it.  You see it in disaster response, people give of their time and money to help people they don't even know.  This behavior of trying to lessen human suffering or increase human flourishing could be called anything- let's make up a name " flibber-jabber."  But the behavior seems to be similar to what people have traditionally considered to be morals (when not defined as "that which is God"), so maybe it makes more sense to use that term.

As for assuming that humans have "moral worth," I think that term has a lot of baggage especially for a devout believer.  Of course you have a problem with even the hint that moral worth can come from somewhere other than God- your very definition of moral worth relates to being made in the image of God so anything else would necessarily be false.  But again- it's an observable fact that the majority of humans, regardless of religion, see some value in human life.  I have children and I love them more than myself.  Is it because God gave them moral worth?  I'm pretty sure that's not the case.  I left my belief behind before they were born.  If I didn't value their life, I would have killed them a long time ago- truthfully, they are a bit of a burden.  I'm not positive why I value their lives- it's probably selfish (I need the unconditional love they provide, I need to be needed, it gives me a sense of superiority, they will in a sense be an extension of my life after I die, etc.), but I see no need to believe that their lives have value only because they are made in the image of some god.  There are far more relevant reasons than that.


[QUOTE/
But you may say, everyone would agree on this definition, so whats the big deal? I think that, yes, everyone would agree on this definition, for now. However, this is very easy to say if you live in a society where everything is going relatively well. The Hitlers don't come along until the people are starving, and that is when the foundations of society are all up for grabs. What happens then if what is grounding moral values is just the definition of Sam Harris?
[/QUOTE]
Again, I'm not sure that everyone is agreeing with this definition because Sam Harris made it up and it is a nice concept and he seems to be a nice enough guy- I think that people agree with it because it seems to fit what we observe.  I think that agreement based on definition is much more prevalent in religions- where "good" is defined as "God."  I think that in the real world "good" is, maybe a little sloppily, represented in actions that one "feels" to be good- whatever the scientific cause, or "why," for this.  Yes, this "feeling" can be manipulated, sometimes to extremes.  Which is why we need to build our framework in the absence of such manipulation and then hold to it when a potential manipulator comes along and tries to play on our human psychological weaknesses.  I suppose that's one pragmatic advantage to the bible- it is written down, and now we have a pretty nice interpretation of the bible.  If we can hold onto that interpretation when the going gets tough, maybe the bible could be useful.  

But why stick with an outdated document?  Why not revise it to incorporate 2000 years of moral evolution?  Surely there have been advances in that time?  There are situations now that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John couldn't have dreamed about- how are we to treat extraterrestrials if we meet them?  Do they have "moral worth?"  Is interplanetary travel morally wrong?  This is the world that God made, would we be wrong to leave it?  Is cloning wrong (and is it because it's specifically called out in the bible, or just the implication of "playing god")?  Is it wrong to create matter and anti-matter particles in the lab, since only God can create "stuff"?

And while I understand what point you are trying to make with Hitler's rule of Germany, we should be careful because it's easy to draw conclusions that may not be accurate.  94% of Germany was either Catholic or Protestant (self-proclaimed) in 1939 according to the census performed that year.  I think that it was a complicated situation, and I would never say that a significant portion of the population committed atrocities because of their religion, but maybe despite it?  The most forgiving analysis might say that the good works (helping the persecuted escape, etc) outweighed the bad, and maybe it could have been worse?  I haven't researched it and wouldn't want to make an incorrect statement regarding such a sensitive subject, but I think it is safe to say that millions of people were exterminated and persecuted in a region controlled by a country in which 94% of the population was Christian.  I don't see how this could be held up as an example of how religion and a religious moral system prevented the degradation of human morals in society.  Again- please understand, I don't believe that religion and the church was at fault directly- I just believe that in at least some instances it supported the Nazi regime, and in many cases it just stood by.

Sorry to end on such a bad note- maybe I should tell a joke here or something... Bottom line, I don't think that we can rely on religion to really bring together humanity in a way that advancement of human understanding can.  To claim that science has no authority in determining what behavior should be acceptable is a scary thought.  It's the only thing I have to believe in!



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« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2011, 10:48:32 pm »
Let's see if I can be any more succinct in this post...
emailestthoume wrote:                

This is how I, who almost has a degree in biblical studies, feel about people who misuse the bible. My point is that there is a real science to interpreting the bible, but people can ignore the science of it...

I know you were referring to "Christians" who have twisted the bible to suit their needs, but I wanted to take the opportunity to say that this is one area in which I really try to be intellectually honest.  If I misrepresent the bible by anything I claim, I hope you will call me on it.


As an interpreter of the bible, there are few things clearer than that the Old Testament Law no longer applies.

I wasn't trying to directly question the validity of the claim that the new testament supersedes the old laws- I meant that it seems so obvious to you now that witches don't have to be killed anymore, but for hundreds of years it didn't seem that obvious.  Maybe I have that wrong and am making a poor point.


It doesn't logically follow, though, that just because many people claim unmistakable revelations, they are all wrong. You are right that there are many claims, which is all the more reason to subject your experience to every question that you can throw at it.

I agree- I'm not trying to prove that they are all wrong.  Just that we can't know know if any of them are "right."

             

 


On the purely logical end, if God does exist, then there are moral truths that you would not be fulfilling if you do not believe in Him. One, for example, is loving God. What I would bring in here is Dr. Craig's arguments for the existence of God, which I don't think he shared in the debate with Sam Harris'. I think he expressed them well in his debate with Antony Flew available on youtube, or any of his other debates where the topic is something like, "does God exist?"

If a generic god exists, is it necessarily a moral imperative to love it?  Or to believe in it for that matter?  I always get a little confused when going back and forth between the generic god (maximal being, perfect good, etc) and the specifically Christian God ("Thou shalt love me").  Sometimes I make the mistake of attributing personal deity qualities and requirements to the impersonal god that (unless I'm missing something) is always argued for when it comes to existence.  I understand moral duties as they come from the Christian God (or any other personal god), but can moral duties come from a generic one?  I don't think I've heard or read Dr. Craig to argue that position, especially in any of his arguments for the existence of a god.


On the specifically Christian end, I am not sure I can prove to you logically that Christianity is true. (though Dr. Craig tries to get close with his argument about Jesus' resurrection, which usually shows up in his existence of God debates) However, also, purely logically, it does not follow from that that Christianity is not true, or that you cannot know (or at least be as sure as you are about anything) it is true.

The thing is, given the seemingly unique human disposition for belief in a higher power, and the psychological weaknesses we all have (and had 2000 years ago), I just think it is so much more likely that the divinity of Jesus was a mistake, rather than real.  I don't doubt that he existed, and historically it seems that he did present himself to be the messiah.  There are just too many examples throughout history, even today, where people have been misled to believe things that just weren't true.  Go to a revival where healers are making the deaf hear, the blind see and the cancer vanish- only to find that, no, it was all a hoax and the people might actually be worse off because they stop taking medication or fall into depression because they evidently lacked the faith that was required of them to keep their heavenly gift of healing.  The ability for us humans to deceive ourselves is absolutely amazing.  It doesn't seem like Jesus would be a deliberate fake.  I'm not sure how to reconcile it.  It's the same thing with Muhommed, same with Joseph Smith (although I do think he was a certifiable crackpot, with good evidence...).  Same with all of the pharaohs, who proclaimed themselves to be earthly deities.  I just think that the probability of Jesus being divine is very low, despite Dr. Craig's equations.  I'm not saying this to try to disprove his divinity- just explaining why it's difficult for me to look at Christianity (or any religion) as being founded in reality.

I think our most important and basic beliefs cannot be proven with mathematical equations, scientific experiments, or logical syllogism...
I would be happy if you believed in God with as much certainty as you believe that the external world is real, even if you don't really know that either are real.

Other things we can know without math, science, or logical inference (using "know" loosely), is that a note in a song is off, that a musician has made a mistake. There is no chain of reasoning needed for such a thing. [...]

Well according to Christianity God is a person (in the sense that he has a mind, a will, and emotions), so maybe you could recognize His work. I would challenge you to read Matthew 5-7 (perhaps again) and ask if you do have any intuitive knowledge being triggered. I am not offering proof here, I'm just saying that it is possible.

I know what you're saying, and I  don't want to sound like a scientific zealot here  but even many  aspects of such intuition are rooted in the way our brain works and the  way it is well suited for pattern recognition- so well suited that  sometimes we see patterns that aren't really there.  Contrary to what my wife says, I'm not always argumentative for the sake of arguing... I think that this is actually one of the reasons why I am so skeptical- because we are so well adapted to see patterns, and believe what is presented to us.  I would think that even if intuitive knowledge is triggered, it is much more likely that it is the result of my brain seeing patterns or assigning truth where there actually is none.

That being said, I will actually go back and read Matthew 5-7 tonight.  I'm not that stubborn...


I think it would be helpful for atheists to either drop the title "atheism," or come up with a new one, for the popular understanding of atheism seems to me to be people who claim that there is no
   God. If this is not their claim (which seems to be the case, as many define atheism now as the "lack of belief in God" which requires no evidence) I think it is misleading for them to continue referring to themselves as atheists, as this has meant traditionally in philosophy that they claim there is no God. However, I am not really sure about that issue.


I think you're right- especially now that I see the stir that this claim is causing in the community.  I didn't realize it was as big an issue until I started looking into it.  I realize that it looks like atheists (agnostics, whatever) are trying to redefine the term so that they don't have to be held accountable to prove that God doesn't exist.  Maybe that's the motive of some.  I just think it makes more sense to simply say that "a" "theism" is simply one without any belief in a god.  But I wouldn't want anyone to accuse me of word games and semantic trickery so I'll go by agnostic I suppose.  But that's a little misleading as well.  I'm agnostic about unicorns and leprechauns as well but I don't need to label myself as a unicorn agnostic... Actually, I don't label myself as an "a-mythological creature-ist" either.  Come to think of it, I don't think I need a label.  I'll just be Jeff.  Eh.  What ev's.  


I guess I'm not sure what I'm  looking for with these discussions- Even though I argue and disagree  with a lot of the things you say, I appreciate you informing me of the  viewpoints.  I think I'm most interested in how things are justified-  but then when I read some authors I just get frustrated by the  arguments.  The moral arguments were especially clarifying for me on my  own viewpoint, and I'm not sure I would have figured out what it is I  believe without you to pull on the other end, so thank you.  
 
I also was very interested in having a civil conversation- I am  extremely disappointed with some of the atheist sites out there and  their attitudes.  It does actually make me wonder if I'm in the right  company- but then again they are just the most vocal and outspoken.   It's even the same to a degree with the major speakers- Hitchens first,  then Dawkins.  I think Hitchens has some good points (not very good with the strict philosophy though), and I'm somewhat in agreement that religion, just by its own virtue, should not be afforded any more "respect" (meaning immunity from criticism) than any other idea- political, social, financial, etc.  There is absolutely no reason to be mean spirited toward individuals though, and I think sometimes he goes down that road a bit.  


I thought Dawkins was a little more of a gentleman until I read his response to Dr. Craig's criticism of Lawrence Krauss' decision to press the 2+2=5 joke, even when it implied that he was saying child rape could be moral under certain certain circumstances.  For once, I thought that WLC was surprisingly restrained and not quite so pompous (maybe I'm just getting used to him), but when I saw Dawkins' extremely harsh, almost knee-jerk response I was very disappointed.  Craig didn't make any unfair statement or dishonest characterization of the incident that I could see.  I think that maybe it was just the last straw or something but he really got under Dawkins' skin (and the collective skin of almost all of the members on that site).  I think they're just angry with Craig's style, and maybe irrationally angry with the arguments he presents.  I really don't like Craig's debate style but if his opponents let him get away with it it's their own fault.  I mean, the guy's only been doing debates for like the last 100 years or so (sorry Dr. Craig...) in the exact same style- it's not like you can't prep for it (which Krauss evidently did, since he wore the 2+2=5 shirt...).  Anyhow... bottom line is that I think shutting down dialogue or shouting down any dissenting opinion is just... well, un-American  We can't possibly hope to move forward together if we don't understand one another.


I think I've written about 4000 words today, you'd think I was getting paid to do this...


Take care.




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« Reply #20 on: June 06, 2011, 11:57:37 pm »
If I may bring back the original question I don't think we ever truly answered- how do we know that, as Dr. Craig states, "[God] intends that the letter to the  Romans  be His Word to us.  Romans is therefore a case of appropriated  or  delegated speech, much as a boss makes a letter composed by his   secretary his own by affixing his signature to it."  I'm not trying to disprove anything here- actually just an honest question of Christian Particularism.  Is it because Paul was inspired and guided in writing his letter, and the compilers of the bible decided to keep that letter in the collection because of divine intervention or guidance?  It was God's plan all along to have a book compiled that retained certain writings and discarded many more, and the ones that were retained were specifically chosen by God?  Or I guess, the writings were inspired by God, and selected by man, who was guided by God in his selection process?

I guess I'm asking because for me, it would just be more believable if the bible were merely a collection of stories about events, selected by man because they were the most consistent, or their message was in keeping with what the compilers thought God's message through Jesus really was.  But was everything in the bible actively selected (somehow) by God Himself?

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« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2011, 01:58:43 pm »
ReasonableJeff wrote: If I may bring back the original question I don't think we ever truly answered- how do we know that, as Dr. Craig states, "[God] intends that the letter to the  Romans  be His Word to us.  Romans is therefore a case of appropriated  or  delegated speech, much as a boss makes a letter composed by his   secretary his own by affixing his signature to it."  I'm not trying to disprove anything here- actually just an honest question of Christian Particularism.  Is it because Paul was inspired and guided in writing his letter, and the compilers of the bible decided to keep that letter in the collection because of divine intervention or guidance?  It was God's plan all along to have a book compiled that retained certain writings and discarded many more, and the ones that were retained were specifically chosen by God?  Or I guess, the writings were inspired by God, and selected by man, who was guided by God in his selection process?

I guess I'm asking because for me, it would just be more believable if the bible were merely a collection of stories about events, selected by man because they were the most consistent, or their message was in keeping with what the compilers thought God's message through Jesus really was.  But was everything in the bible actively selected (somehow) by God Himself?


Jeff, I appreciate the time you are taking in writing these posts, and I am very encouraged by how seriously you are taking these questions. I am going to respond to all your posts, but for some reason or other, I decided to respond to this one first.

I am not sure exactly how God had a hand in the selection of the books of the bible, but I believe he did.

However, this would not be the case I would make to you as to why to accept the books in the bible. The books were selected because they fit certain criteria. In the New Testament, for one, they had to have been written by an apostle. I know there are other gospels which claim to have been written by apostles, but they are "gnostic" and present a totally different Jesus. They are generally dated to the second century, and fit second century gnosticism well, while the New Testament writings are dated to the first century, the earliest being Paul's letters, one of which is like 50 A.D. I am pretty sure the only gnostic gospel that has a chance at being contemporary to the N.T. writings is the so called sayings "Gospel of Thomas."

However, if this gnostic Jesus was the true Jesus, why would he be crucified by the Romans? (one of the most clear historical facts about Jesus) The Jesus which walks around saying cool sayings is a threat to no one. Also, even the radical "Jesus Seminar" believes that Jesus' mentor was the Jewish apocalyptic prophet "John the Baptist?" (who is mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus, and is not just mentioned in the N.T.)

To go from traditionalist first century Judaism to gnosticism that basically loses Judaism entirely for no apparent reason just makes no sense. The N.T. writings fit first century Judaism like a glove, while gnosticism just doesn't seem to fit at all. And another thing is that the sayings gospel of Thomas is clearly familiar with a wide range of N.T. writings. The problem is that I don't think any author is familiar with that wide a range of N.T. writings until the second century. It is not that they weren't out there, but they weren't circulated to all of the churches yet.

I think I need some coffee, but as for the Old Testament, the canon was already established even before Jesus, and it included the same books that we have in our Old Testament today. Jewish people likewise have the same books. Anyway, feel free to ask about that more, but for now, I'm gonna get some coffee!

Cheers,

Jeff

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« Reply #22 on: June 08, 2011, 02:25:52 pm »
Jeff,

I just read my above post again and I realize I may have not really answered your question.... next time I should have coffee first!

Anyway, to get to what I now feel was your question, I am not sure I have heard what exactly God's hand was in the collection of the bible. My guess is that God worked through the actions of free creatures to get the right books in the bible. God, knowing what any free creature would do in any given situation, put people in situations that he knew would achieve his desired end--to get the right books in the bible. But as I mentioned, it was an informed decision that was made as to which books would be put in, and certain criteria were used, one of which was that it was written by an apostle.

Anyway, if this doesn't answer your question, let me know and I will abide by the epic philosophical principle of, "third time's the charm," and hopefully get it on that try. I have my coffee now....

- Jeff


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« Reply #23 on: June 08, 2011, 03:53:00 pm »
   

So this is a response to about a third of what you wrote in your first post. So you will get more responses but I figured I would just post them as I get them done.


But I think this is an area of human understanding that we are exploring in science.  I think that the more we discover about the brain and mind, the closer we will get to an answer.  We have evidence for, and a well supported understanding of, brain chemistry and brain development that can explain why people feel compelled to act in certain ways.  Granted, this science is fairly young and incomplete.  But it is moving in the right direction, and I'm confident (based on the history of growth in knowledge in other fields of science) that we'll eventually discover why we tend to follow the golden rule, perform seemingly selfless acts, and even sacrifice ourselves for loved ones or a cause.


The problem is that we already have the answer as to why we obey the golden rule, namely, because it has been found by evolution to be conducive to survival. I don't disagree with evolution, or that the immediate cause of our believing in moral values is evolution. (I would say the ultimate cause would be God's providential ordering of the process) However, on atheism, I don't see why they have deeper significance than being survival aids. Why ought we to not murder rape, abuse, etc...? Because it is conducive to survival? What if someone would rather enjoy their sins than survive long and propagate their genes?

 

 

"Where's the ought" you say?  I'm still looking into it but my reasoning leads me to think that there isn't an objective "ought" other than the motivations in individuals' minds-

 

 

Then isn’t it the case that if I say rape is wrong, and someone says, “no it’s cool,” neither of us are right, since there is no objective standard by which to judge by? (Unless it could be true for me that rape is wrong, and true for him that it is cool)

 

 

I have no reason to believe anything else

 

 

If you believe rape is wrong even if people said it is right I think you would. If you would say society determines moral values, then what about societies which have thought it was fine to have slaves? Was it then moral for them to do so?

 

 

Why jump to the conclusion that some invisible father figure breathed some mystical "soul" into each one of us at conception and THAT is why I feel compelled to act in certain ways?

 

 

I wouldn’t jump to this, but with the moral argument assert a philosophically necessary God which is the objective standard of morality. I feel this argument itself is more emotion than my belief in objective moral values. Why think that we are just physical objects? Because that is all we see? Physical objects are by definition all that is perceivable with physical eyes anyway. Science is physical science. Of course all it can tell us is about the physical world, because that is its only job. Many philosophers today and some of the great minds throughout history such as Einstien, Aristotle, and Descartes believed otherwise. Why just apriori rule out everything which cannot be investigated by science?

 

 

I'm not convinced that the "ought" question, as we currently ask it, is unanswerable by science- we just need to back away from the preconceived notion that "ought" is a set of rules that necessarily must come from a higher being and think about what result we are trying to achieve by asking this question.  Science might lose this particular argument (I don't actually know), but is it the right argument to be having?  Have the rules of the debate been defined with a specific outcome in mind?

 

 

I just don’t think the ought sort of question is the question that can be answered by science. Its not that we haven’t found it, but its just not the sort of question science can answer, anymore than a thought is not the sort of thing that can have a color and the number seven is not the sort of thing that can have a weight. I am not alone in this claim, which is one reason that I think many philosophers atheist and theist alike have given negative reviews to “A Moral Landscape.” One I found is from Skeptic Magazine, written by Massimo Pigliucci. He is the head of the Philosophy department at his university and editor in cheif of "Philosophy and Theory in Biology" I really have nothing personal against Sam Harris, but my point is that his believe that science can give us morality is not standing the test of reason.

 

 

Here are some quotes from the article I mentioned,

 

 

“Surely we can agree that the properties of triangles in

 

Euclidean geometry are "facts," in the

 

sense that no one who understands Euclidean

 

geometry can opine that the sum

 

of the angles in a triangle is not 180° and

 

get away with it. But we do not use science,

 

or any kind of empirical evidence

 

at all, to arrive at agreement about such

 

facts. Morality, of course, is not mathematics,

 

but it is easy to show that science

 

only informs, doesn't determine, our ethical

 

choices."

 

 

“…Harris evades

 

philosophical criticism of his positions…”

 

 

“He seems unaware

 

of (or doesn't care about) the serious

 

philosophical objections that have been

 

reused against consequentialism, and

 

even less so of the various counter-moves

 

in logical space (some more convincing

 

than others) that consequentialists have

 

made to defend their position.”

 


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« Reply #24 on: June 08, 2011, 07:58:41 pm »
I really need to try to limit my writings- I feel like I'm being a little selfish in treating this as my own blog (and commandeering a Christian Apologists site at that!)  
emailestthoume wrote:
...I am not sure I have heard what exactly God's hand was in the collection of the bible. My guess is that God worked through the actions of free creatures to get the right books in the bible. God, knowing what any free creature would do in any given situation, put people in situations that he knew would achieve his desired end--to get the right books in the bible. But as I mentioned, it was an informed decision that was made as to which books would be put in, and certain criteria were used, one of which was that it was written by an apostle.

[edited to include:]  Yes, you answered much of my question, in both of your posts.  I tend to wander in my questions so it's not surprising if you have trouble hitting a moving target... [/edit]

I guess my overall question was how Gods word (literally His message to us, not just a story about Him) actually came to be in our hands today.  Much too long a question for this thread I think.  I was looking for two things: what distinguishes historical account from documented revelation, and then how that divine revelation made it in the NT.  Despite all of the "And God Said" attributions, the NT seems like a history with a bunch of letters encouraging the faith of others and explaining how best to live a good, godly life and keep the church as he knew it alive.  It just doesn't seem like God is speaking through Paul.  I'll continue to read up on it and maybe get some more insight.  I can believe, unless I discover evidence that leads me to discard this belief, that the NT was mostly written by contemporaries of Jesus, or within a few generations of him.  But I just have a hard time going from "Paul was writing about what he was taught about God" to "Paul was delivering the actual word of God."  I'll research more (I'm looking at the links below)- please don't feel obligated to respond to this one, I need to do more homework.  Always open to your comments though.

http://www.doxa.ws/Bible/Canon_NT2.html
http://bible.org/seriespage/bible-written-word-god


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FNB - Former non-believer

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« Reply #25 on: June 09, 2011, 12:32:06 pm »
You may find part of your answer in talk about "theories of inspiration," which talk about how the divine and human author worked together to produce the final product. As for the epistles, your right that it is unusual, but just a quick comment. I don't know if it helps, but they were regarded as scripture early on. I am not quoting this as an authority but only as an early church document,

"Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear  brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these  matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand,  which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other  Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:15-16)

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« Reply #26 on: June 10, 2011, 01:08:25 am »
Jeff,
I have been reading your responses and there seems to be a lot there and I am not sure what to respond to. (and I imagine you wouldn't want me responding to every point) Perhaps if you would like to contiune discussion about anything you said, you could either copy and paste it below this, or sum it up, so I know what that would be. If not that's fine too, I'm up for whatever.

Take care,

- Emailest-Jeff


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« Reply #27 on: June 12, 2011, 03:17:02 pm »
emailestthoume wrote:            

The problem is that we already have the answer as to why we obey the golden rule, namely, because it has been found by evolution to be conducive to survival. I don't disagree with evolution, or that the immediate cause of our believing in moral values is evolution. (I would say the ultimate cause would be God's providential ordering of the process) However, on atheism, I don't see why they have deeper significance than being survival aids. Why ought we to not murder rape, abuse, etc...? Because it is conducive to survival? What if someone would rather enjoy their sins than survive long and propagate their genes?

 

Yes, I would think that natural selection would be a good starting point for figuring out how we came to behave the way we do today.  I also think that just because we came to behave this way doesn't mean that we are necessarily acting in accordance with an "objective morality."


I'm always cautious when I say this, and I'm still working things out in my mind, but I don't yet see why morals need to have a deeper significance than being simply the way we have come to treat one another.  We have developed emotionally and psychologically in a certain way (perhaps by natural selection...), and that "certain way" has led us to develop sympathy and empathy, and to think logically about what is best for everyone's survival.


What if we had developed a different way?  I think our intuitive, common sense morals would be different.  Morals in society were different in old testament times.  Women were viewed more as property.  Slavery was viewed differently.  "Taking wives" (which, don't kid yourself, did not mean getting down on one knee and popping the question) was not only permissible, but ordered by God Himself.  Rape was wrong, but really only because it devalued another man's property.  Ok, yes, it was fornication as well, but that's not the sin that rape is described as being committed- it's the monetary consequence and, sometimes, the idea that the woman was less able to be married later, that was important.  Today I think that the general moral outrage we feel when we see the news story about a rape is not due to the monetary value of a woman but because of the suffering it causes her.  The reason behind the morality of an act is important in modern society.  Morals change, and will continue to change.


But I see that I have actually not answered your  question- If someone feels that they would rather cause another human  harm, they would be acting against our laws, which are based on our  commonly evolved sense of what is best for humanity (aka "morals" or  those "natural rights").  They  would be removed from society.  We might attempt to reform them, or we'd just lock them away.  If someone is beyond reform and their crime was especially heinous we might remove them from existence (as we know it)- we might kill them.
 


 

Fringe individuals do not dictate what we consider to be good or bad.  Our current "good" moral state isn't the result of a few people thinking that they'd just be nice for a change.  Likewise, a few psychopaths that have some wires crossed in their brains are not going to cause our society to fall into a global abyss of sin.  Similarly, our society is not propped up morally by Christians.  Do you really think that we'd all just start fornicating in the streets, murdering whomever we wanted, and boiling babies for fun if there were there no God to tell us not to?  My goodness, how does Sweden manage to not implode?  Surely they must be in the most severe state of moral decay, since they have one of the highest percentages of non-theists in the world.  Why does everyone think that the threat of spending eternity in a lake of fire is the only think keeping the fabric of our society together?


One serious question I have for Christians is, why is murder wrong?  I know God said so (although I'm not sure why those commandments apply to non-ancient-Jews, since I'm told those were the only people to whom the laws of the old testament were binding), but are we even permitted to ask if there is some rationale behind the commandment?  Why should we honor our mother and father, and love our neighbor as ourselves?  Does it even make sense to ask this?  Can we, or should we, know the reasoning, or is it truly sufficient that it came from God?


Quote
"Where's the ought" you say?  I'm still looking into it but my reasoning leads me to think that there isn't an objective "ought" other than the motivations in individuals' minds-

   

Then isn’t it the case that if I say rape is wrong, and someone says, “no it’s cool,” neither of us are right, since there is no objective standard by which to judge by? (Unless it could be true for me that rape is wrong, and true for him that it is cool)

 

I left my quote in because I don't want to appear to pretend I didn't say what I said.  You and I probably agree on 99% of our morals, maybe differing slightly on abortion and... whatever else.  Yes, I do believe that rape (in any form), murder (depending on the definition), and boiling babies (bet you were worried about that one) are all wrong, and we have the right to condemn those humans who would commit these crimes.  Are they objective morals?  Don't know.  But I know they cause unnecessary suffering, and are prejudicial to good order and discipline within a society and therefore are wrong, and deserving of prevention or punishment.

   ace="Georgia" size="3">

When I say that I don't know if there is such a thing as an "objective" moral, that doesn't necessarily meant that I believe in a moral free-for-all.  I understand the philosophical problem of "well, how can you punish anyone else if there is no objective morality?"  But I'm not really comfortable with the idea of punishing someone else for their actions just because they conflict with your particular idea of what your God wants you to do- meaning, they conflict with your particular version of morality.  

Imagine if, as Glenn Beck would have you believe, radical Islam (isn't is all radical though?) takes over the entire world because Obama isn't Christian enough to stop them.  Would Muslim judges be "right" to punish you for violating a law in the Koran, as interpreted by some guy who has studied it thoroughly?  You say "no, of course not, because my God as I understand Him is the only one that represents the objective truth."  But really, isn't it just a "he said, she said?"  I'm afraid of being judged by people who think that they know the mind of your god almost as much as you are afraid (or should be) of being judged by a fundamentalist Muslim cleric.


If you believe rape is wrong even if people said it is right I think you would. If you would say society determines moral values, then what about societies which have thought it was fine to have slaves? Was it then moral for them to do so?

So... who determined moral values in the year 20 C.E.?  (YHWH)  And what exactly were those moral values?  Are they the same as we hold today?  Who determined moral values in 300 C.E.?  (Jesus, and I presume the writings of the apostles) Are they the same as we hold today?  Honestly?  And I'm not talking about what society thought of the morals- I'm asking literally, what were God's orders to us 2000 years ago, and what are God's orders to us today?  Do you honestly think that God expected the same of humans 2000 years ago as He expects of us today?  I like to think that we might be a little bit more refined in our morality today than back then, but there is no room for this moral evolution in an unchanging god.


I do not believe that it is, or ever was, moral for any society to force another human to do something against his or her will without some significant overriding human need (justification) for it.  Was the Vietnam draft in the US slavery?  Men were forced to do something against their will, but there was an overriding societal need for it (or so the government that represents and serves our society thought at the time).  I think that it was morally justified, even if maybe ultimately mistaken.  Likewise, was there an overriding societal need for land owners to purchase or capture slaves around the time of the birth of Jesus, plus or minus a few hundred years?  I don't think so.  Therefore I think it was as "wrong" back then as I think it would be today.


However, it's kinda ignorant to just look at it in today's terms.  As you know, 2000 years ago it was perfectly moral and part of society.  You could have asked anyone and they would have said that, of course it is moral to own slaves.  It's our god given right.  Oh, and also our god given responsibility to "take care of" our slaves.  Slaves from our own people have certain rights.  Even foreign slaves had some "rights" given by God.  Sure, they're slaves, but we let them get circumsized and they get the Sabbath off, after all.  Heck, they have it better than some free Hebrews.


And even if I'm wrong about my perceptions, the simple fact is that there were those who were pressed into servitude against their will.  Fine- it wasn't always as bad as Ben Hur makes it seem.  But is that really the criteria for moral goodness?  No, of course not.  


If you claim that forcing a person to do something they otherwise would not have willfully done ("slavery") is wrong today, it means it is objectively wrong to do so.  It means that there is an objective truth to the question, and the objective truth is that it is wrong.  Therefore, the objective truth in biblical times was that it was wrong, objectively wrong, regardless of society's perceptions, regardless of the early church's self-preservationist need to "not rock the boat" in order to survive.  


How many things do we do today that, 2000 years from now humanity will  look back upon and exclaim, "Wow- how could they have thought THAT was  moral???'


 

Why think that we are just physical objects? Because that is all we see? Physical objects are by definition all that is perceivable with physical eyes anyway. Science is physical science. Of course all it can tell us is about the physical world, because that is its only job. Many philosophers today and some of the great minds throughout history such as Einstien, Aristotle, and Descartes believed otherwise. Why just apriori rule out everything which cannot be investigated by science?

 

I wrote some things in response but they were kinda all over the place.  I think that we are just physical objects because that's all I have reason to believe, and that's all I need to believe.  No religion has given me a credible reason to believe that their mystical being explains all that we don't know (and all that we do).  Every time we discover that some phenomenon is just the natural effect of a preceding known cause, it's one less thing that relies upon God solely for existence.  Why do earthquakes happen?  What was once ONLY explained by assuming God's wrath (what else could it be?) now has a pretty well understood cause.  How did our universe come into being (if it did indeed come into being and wasn't just always there)?  You confidently say "God" and I say "We're still trying to figure that out."  You ask "Why is there anything at all if God didn't have a reason for bringing it into existence," and I ask "Why did God bring 99.999999999...% of our universe into existence if he was just concerned about us humans on this 'Pale blue dot'?"  God, at least for me, raises many more questions than He intelligently answers.


Why rule out everything which cannot be investigated by science?  I'm not sure I even really understand this concept.  Science is just the search for knowledge o
   f the world that we can, in any sensible or measurable way, understand.  The act of investigation is merely trying to understand our world without just making stuff up.  That's the whole point of science.  What would you rather me use to figure things out?  We have to have some standard for ruling out bad or incorrect concepts, don't we?  If I said there is a flying spaghetti monster that governs everything I do, surely you can rule that out- that's just silly.  There's no reason to believe that.  If I said that Allah spoke directly to me and told me to fly a plane into a building, and it would be better for humanity if I did so, surely we can rule that out as a credible fact.  If I survived somehow and was on trial, and all I said was "Allah told me to do it," can we really expect the jury to pause a second and say "Yeah, that makes sense..."?


Sure, religion gives us plenty of answers for real-world phenomena.  Why did the river flood?  It's because we didn't pray hard enough.  Why did the earthquake happen in Haiti?  It's because of their tolerance for gays.  Why does God allow specific instances of suffering in this world (children with cancer, etc)?  Well, I actually don't know but God has His reasons.  It simply CANNOT be that it's the absolutely random mutation of cells within the little girl's body- that she simply drew the short straw.  No, there HAS to be a reason.  Why?  Well, there simply has to be one, because otherwise there's no way to make sense of this world.  I don't agree with that.  There is suffering in this world because in any system you will have situations that are less desirable than others.  It's just the way it is.


I'm not saying that it's not possible that there is something beyond what we can measure or observe empirically.  But unless we can detect it somehow- unless it has some kind of effect on our knowable world, it is of no interest to me, or anyone.  If we don't observe or sense something in the knowable world, how can we even speak of it in knowable terms?  Ok, sure- concepts, ideas, definitions don't actually have to refer to something with existence.  We have an idea of Santa Clause and unicorns.  We have a concept of objectivity.  We have a definition of God (actually, a LOT of definitions of God...).  But that doesn't mean that we need to pretend they exist.  A belief can have real consequences in our world as we've seen.  And as soon as our "knowledge" that we gain from non-physical means impacts our physical world, I say it belongs to the realm of science.  Economic theories can be played with all you want in the non-physical world, but as soon as money's on the table I expect some kind of scientific rigor applied to that theory.


   

I just don’t think the ought sort of question is the question that can be answered by science. Its not that we haven’t found it, but its just not the sort of question science can answer, anymore than a thought is not the sort of thing that can have a color and the number seven is not the sort of thing that can have a weight...

These conversations have made me really think about what I believe, and I thank you for that.  It's also causing me to really look at the meaning behind certain words and concepts.  One that I'm having a lot of trouble with is the idea of "ought."  Why ought I do this, or ought not do that?  Of course, science answers ought statements all the time- you ought to clean that beaker well (otherwise you'll get contaminated results).  I ought to report my results accurately and completely (otherwise my credibility will be shot and I won't be able to earn money to eat).  But we're not talking about that of course...


What are we talking about, then?  Oh yeah, that's right- I ought not murder.  God gives us a clear "ought."  Science supposedly cannot tell us that we ought not murder.  But then I have another question.  Why ought we not murder in God's eyes?  Is there a reason, behind the commandment?  And is it a reason that science absolutely cannot detect?  Is it because of some divine rationale unknowable to us, or is it because of some worldly consequence of that action?  I don't think that the incentives of heaven or the threats of hell are suitable answers to the "ought" questions of morality- they are just incentives and threats.  There must be a reason why you go to hell if you murder, or you go to heaven if you lead a moral life (and receive the grace of God).  


I'll try to sum up my thoughts- If science cannot tell us why we ought to act morally, then I don't think God can either.  Why did Jesus say to turn the other cheek?  Are we to obey simply because that's the narrow path we need to take to get into heaven?  Is there honestly no earthly benefit to turning the other cheek?  If there is an earthly benefit to turning the other cheek, that benefit is detected and understood only through behavioral science- the observation of the causes and consequences of our actions.  Imagine if Jesus explained the rationale for his beatitudes ("...turn the other cheek, because violence only begets violence and to react passively will deflate the situation and besides, you will learn more from restraint than you will from lashing out..." and whatever else Christians have come up with as a rationale for this).  Would he not have been employing behavioral science to justify his instructions?


I wrote so much more, but maybe another time.  However, with all of the above being said, my final question is simply, why do we need to have an "ought?"  Somehow we have come to possess this set of morals.  We behave a certain way.  We can make theories of why we behave in certain ways, and this is called psychology, psychiatry, behavioral science, etc.  Why does there need to be some great meaning behind everything?



Here are some quotes from the article I mentioned,

 

Quote
 

“Surely we can agree that the properties of triangles in

 

Euclidean geometry are "facts," in the

 

sense that no one who understands Euclidean

 

   "MsoNormal" style="">geometry can opine that the sum

 

of the angles in a triangle is not 180° and

 

get away with it. But we do not use science,

 

or any kind of empirical evidence

 

at all, to arrive at agreement about such

 

facts. Morality, of course, is not mathematics,

 

but it is easy to show that science

 

only informs, doesn't determine, our ethical

 

choices."

 

 

   

I'm not a blind follower of Sam Harris.  I actually don't know that much about him, and I kinda got bored with "Moral Landscape" about 3/4 of the way through.  I admire his search for truth and honesty.  I think that he has good, honest intentions when it comes to finding truth in the only way that has been shown we can reliably find truth.  I can't debate the philosophical merits (or lack thereof) of his books, but I know that I tend to agree with his ideas.  That is to say, I have a pretty good idea of what my ideas are, and he tends to agree with me (and is maybe a little more concise... but maybe not).

I wasn't going to be so bold as to debate the critics you cited, but I really don't understand the analogy above between euclidean geometry and morals.  He (She?) says that we do not use science to come to agreement that the interior angles of a triangle sum to 180 deg, but everyone agrees on it.  It seems to me that the obvious next question is "why does everyone agree on it?" but that answer is not provided.  I wonder if the answer is "because God imprinted Euclidean geometry on our hearts."  In all seriousness, though- I think it's because we have shown that the concept produces predictable results, and is consistent within its own definition.  The definition of a triangle necessarily requires that the internal angles sum to 180 deg- otherwise it wouldn't be a triangle.  

Likewise, the definition of murder is something that can be communicated, and can be shared.  If there is some aspect that someone disagrees with, then we can communicate to refine the definition and if no agreement can be made then two separate words or concepts come out.  Does murder require intent?  No?  Yes?  We disagree- we'll call murder without intent "manslaughter," and murder with intent simply "murder."  

Merely communicating and sharing a definition doesn't dictate our decisions regarding those definitions.  Ethical choices are still choices.  We make those choices based on information.  That information consists of what we feel the outcome of our choice will look like, and what the implications of that outcome are.  The only difference between your moral code and mine is that you have a different set of implications than I.  You believe you will earn a place in heaven, I believe that if I hurt other people in life I will be lonely and sad because others will not want to be around me (and I'm sad because chemicals in my brain are released, and evolution has taught my brain to avoid situations that present this chemical, and so on...).  Is your set any better, or any more reliable than mine?  Do I trust your set any more than you trust mine?  Probably not.  But I trust your humanity and my impression that you seem to be a good guy.  I have a feeling that your God tends to spring from your morals more than vice versa...


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« Reply #28 on: June 12, 2011, 03:26:00 pm »
emailestthoume wrote: Jeff,
I have been reading your responses and there seems to be a lot there and I am not sure what to respond to. (and I imagine you wouldn't want me responding to every point) Perhaps if you would like to contiune discussion about anything you said, you could either copy and paste it below this, or sum it up, so I know what that would be. If not that's fine too, I'm up for whatever.

Take care,

- Emailest-Jeff


For some reason I didn't even see this post until after I wrote my last novel.  I certainly don't expect you to respond to everything (or anything) I've written.  Please don't feel obligated to respond at all- there are plenty of other posts we can chime in on!  It's completely understandable to just let this one go, especially since my posts seem to be approaching infinite length.  I just find that once I start writing a lot pours forth, and I actually do edit and remove a lot of material!  

Thanks for the conversation, and I look forward to seeing your input in other forums if not this one!

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« Reply #29 on: June 13, 2011, 01:10:55 am »
   

Ok, well I responded to some!


Morals in society were different in old testament times.

 

 

I don’t think morals were different. One thing about the Christian story that is often misunderstood, that Jesus made clear is that Old Testament laws were not always ideal commandments. We hear Jesus say things like “for the hardness of your heart Moses wrote you this precept." (not that God didn't direct Moses to) And you have heard that it has been said “quotes O.T. law…" but I say unto you "insert better commandment.” Since God gives people free will, what if he gave them all perfect commandments in OT times? I imagine people would just throw them all out, rejected God all together.

 

 

Do you really think that we'd all just start fornicating in the streets, murdering whomever we wanted, and boiling babies for fun if there were there no God to tell us not to?  My goodness, how does Sweden manage to not implode?

 

 

This is no argument against the Christianity, because if I am right that Christianity is true, God’s moral law written on the conscience would cause people to have a built in reason to avoid evil. You cannot presume my view to be false in order to argue against it, because that it just a circular argument.

 

 

One serious question I have for Christians is, why is murder wrong?


Because human beings have intrinsic moral worth. They were made in the image of God who has moral worth. They were cut from the same cloth so to speak. If the cloth was purple, even a tiny piece of it would be purple. I would ask you the same question, that if there is no God, why is murder wrong? If its because it is wrong to hurt people, why is that wrong? Because it has been more evolutionarily beneficial? That doesn’t make it wrong. Its not just that you don’t yet know, there is no reason to think it would be wrong.



 

Are they objective morals?  Don't know.  But I know they cause unnecessary suffering, and are prejudicial to good order and discipline within a society and therefore are wrong, and deserving of prevention or punishment.

 

Your “therefore” is unjustified, it is just an assumption. When you use “therefore,” you are assuming some logical inference. However, there is no rule of logical inference which would allow you to conclude, “therefore are wrong, and deserving…” (unless you assume your conclusion in your premise--that it is wrong to cause necessary suffering) This is my point, if there are no objective moral values, things like rape are not wrong. I am not concluding this as a point to push religion, I just don’t see any way out of it. But as I said, a deist could believe in objective morality as well. I just wanted to be clear, questions about Christianity are strictly irrelevant to the existence of moral values. You seem to sometimes go from one to the other, but remember that they are separate issues.

 


 

I'm afraid of being judged by people who think that they know the mind of your god almost as much as you are afraid (or should be) of being judged by a fundamentalist Muslim cleric.

 

 

I am afraid of being judged by people who think teaching Christianity to your children is the same thing as child abuse, that we are all just animals, that humans are not special, that evolution can dictate our morality, etc… However both issues are not relevant to the problem that faces us. They are very important, but not for the truth or falsehood of the existence of objective moral values.


However, if there were no objective moral values, if Glenn Beck wanted to impose on all of us his radical views, he wouldn’t be doing anything actually wrong. If you think its wrong and he thinks its right, there is no objective answer, only both of your opinions, of which, neither is closer to the truth independent of both of your opinions. If you say it is wrong because it hurts people, I would again say, given atheism, what makes hurting people wrong?

 

 

I'm asking literally, what were God's orders to us 2000 years ago, and what are God's orders to us today?

 

 

That’s the point of having theologians, to ask and answer that question based on our different circumstances today. I think this point that has been brought up a lot and it may be solved by me pointing out that when I say objective moral values exist, I am not claiming there are, “do
    not kill,” “do not steal,” etc… For anyone who believes the bible, these cannot be absolute anyway, for there are times God commands people to kill. To give an example, the Obama health care bill I think was like 2,400 pages long. This guy running for president in the next election said all bills should be only 3 pages long. I disagree with the latter, but I think he brought up a good point. Bills should be summed up in something like three pages so that we are not overloaded by information. However, I still think there should be the 2,400 pages, because there are a lot of exceptions to the general rule because of certain situations.

 

 

So, though this analogy is not perfect, what I am trying to say is,

 

 

The ten commandments are like the 3 page summary of God’s Law to the Israelites.

 

 

Though when I say objective moral values, I am assuming that there is a full 2,400 pages (probably much more) to cover every exception to the general rule, and everything that didn’t fall under the general rule.  

 

 

The important thing is that there is some objective standard, and objective truth about moral judgments. Even if we can only get close to finding out what the objective truth in a given situation is, its important that there is an objective truth about moral judgments, because otherwise all moral judgments are likewise invalid.

 

 

Likewise, was there an overriding societal need for land owners to purchase or capture slaves around the time of the birth of Jesus, plus or minus a few hundred years?  I don't think so.  Therefore I think it was as "wrong" back then as I think it would be today.

 

 

If you claim that forcing a person to do something they otherwise would not have willfully done ("slavery") is wrong today, it means it is objectively wrong to do so. It means that there is an objective truth to the question, and the objective truth is that it is wrong.  Therefore, the objective truth in biblical times was that it was wrong, objectively wrong, regardless of society's perceptions, regardless of the early church's self-preservationist need to "not rock the boat" in order to survive.

 




 

It’s a complicated issue with the case in the bible, because as I said, God’s commands in the bible are not always necessarily the best ones. (they would be best for that situation, but not al He could be assuming that if he were to outlaw slavery entirely, the people would use their freewill to completely reject God and turn to the customs of their neighbors which were much worse. So if God gives certain rules for slavery, it could be because he has accepted that free creatures would reject outlawing slavery entirely, and throw off any care for God’s good will. (and not because God likes slavery)

 

 

However, and I am not saying this for any reason but that it seems to answer your question, it could be that societal conditions are part of the 2,400 pages which includes exceptions.

 

 

I wrote some things in response but they were kinda all over the place.  I think that we are just physical objects because that's all I have reason to believe, and that's all I need to believe.

 

 

Every time we discover that some phenomenon is just the natural effect of a preceding known cause, it's one less thing that relies upon God solely for existence.  Why do earthquakes happen?  What was once ONLY explained by assuming God's wrath (what else could it be?) now has a pretty well understood cause.

 

 

What would you rather me use to figure things out?  We have to have some standard for ruling out bad or incorrect concepts, don't we?

 

 

I would have you use reason, experience, and intuition, as you must to everyday with your most important beliefs. Every claim you made in your post which cannot be put into a scientific experiment to be tested, (including the claim “everything which we can know can be investigated by science”) is not the place of science to investigate. This sort of scientism is self-refuting and so by definition cannot be true. That self refuting claims cannot be true is as certain as the fact that 1+1=2. The problem is that it is not true that you only believe things provable by science. You believe you exist, you believe humans are morally valuable, you believe that logical and mathematical inferences hold etc... (logic and math are not science, but are one of science's presuppositions)


?  If I said there is a flying spaghetti monster that governs everything I do, surely you can rule that out- that's just silly.  There's no reason to believe that.

 

 

In this case, I have strong reasons to believe you made it up. If had did not have these reasons, I shouldn’t just rule it out apriori because it cannot be investigated by science. (for the reasons mentioned above)


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So there is no confusion, as to morality which I talked about earlier,


- I say that your identification of good with things that are beneficial to humans (or conscious creatures) is an unjustified identification apart from objective morality.


As you question the influences of society and religion, and even intuition and experience,  I hope you are questioning the influences of evolution on your judgments as well. It could be that you are just identifying morality with humans (or sentient life) because evolution has influenced you to favor this identification, not because it is true.


- Jeff