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Jeff Mitchell

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« Reply #30 on: June 18, 2011, 02:43:03 pm »
emailestthoume wrote:  
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.


It seems as though you are saying that God lied about what true morality entailed because it wouldn't have been accepted.  I accept the idea that God gave us free will to either follow Him or reject Him.  It seems like a very fine line that you're walking here though.  On one hand, God could instill in us an undeniable knowledge that He is the one true God, but he does not because that would be encroaching on our free will too much.  On the other hand, God tells man selective "truths" because they might reject Him if he reveals too much?


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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.


I'm not arguing against Christianity with that statement- arguing against the Christian (and generally religious) view that without objective morals handed down by God, and the understanding that they have been handed down specifically by God, humans would behave "immorally" by Christian moral standards.


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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.

The whole notion of "wrong" and "right" completely depends on what you assume to be true.  When you say "That doesn't make it wrong," you use wrong in relation to an ultimate authority that has somehow communicated the "wrongness" to us.  He has made a decision on the matter.  If God hasn't made a decision on the matter, it cannot be moral or immoral.  I actually think that Craig would agree with me on that matter- He just thinks that there are "negative" repercussions for holding the view that there is no such God, and I think that the repercussions are that one is able to actually look at things more objectively with respect to humans, than one that believes in a strict set of rules handed down by their particular God.  

Every "moral" that you value is (you believe) rooted somehow in God- therefore, since I don't believe in God, I can never describe my motives, urges, desires, whatever (my version of "morals") in a way that will be in keeping with your God-based morals.  I can still describe why I think we behave the way we do, and why I think we are justified in judging others and acting to stop or prevent acts that are not in accordance with our reasoned beliefs.  But I'll never be able to really explain to you why these are "wrong" in your terms, because you specifically define "wrong" as being relative to God.

With your analogy, I still don't get why the fact that human beings have intrinsic moral worth, by virtue of our being made in the image of God, necessarily means that the unjustified killing of a human being is actually wrong?  Unless you carefully define "intrinsic moral worth" to mean "a quality that should not (according to God) be... terminated?  Ended?"  I'm not sure what definition would suffice, and also what justification might be available that could augment this definition.  Also, since death actually brings one closer to God (for those that don't go the other route), why does the taking of a life actually denigrate a human's intrinsic moral worth?


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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.

You're right, I try to be careful about my use of the word "wrong," and I let that one slip (like the different equations for gravity, the results of our notions of "wrong" are close enough to get us through most conversations- just not this particular one!).  

I'm still refining my thinking about what wrong actually means, and I think that I describe it better in my other posts in the "Craig defends God's genocide and infanticide" thread.

In the above quoted conversation I meant "wrong" more in the societal and legal way- the way that society has come to regard those acts.  I didn't mean it in the objective sense, but I admit I'm not sure I had clarified the distinction very well even in my own head when I wrote that.  You were right to call me on it.



I do think that it is vital to consider religious morals in their specific religious context though- Craig can argue the very philosophical notions of a generic god grounding morals, but in practice different notions of god's qualities lead to very different notions of objective morality.  I think that Christianity has everything to do with the grounding of Christian morals.  One cannot say that our specific morals are grounded in a generic god.  To be grounded in a god at all, that god must be defined pretty well.  When you say that good is what God is, your concept of "good" is only as good as your concept of "god," which is governed by your specific religion.


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 don't think Glenn Beck is "wrong" in the objective morality sense, I think he's wrong in the worldly, pragmatic sense.  But either way, I wasn't actually arguing a
   gainst him...

To your point though- when he says there is a God, and I say there probably isn't, I don't think there is an objective way to know which of us is right.  The question has nothing to do with the one realm in which we can determine things to be "right" and "wrong" on our own- this physical world.  Neither of us is closer or farther from some "objective truth," but that doesn't mean that he's not flat out batty from a human perspective.  I don't need him to be "objectively" wrong- he's wrong in every other way that actually matters to this existence of ours.  But I think I'm getting off course...


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.

I do, in fact, question the influence of evolution on my judgements.  Absolutely- science demands that I do.  That's the whole point.  And surprisingly, you've pretty much summed up what normally takes me 5 paragraphs to say- what we call "morality" is simply how we have come to be "wired" to behave.  I question my actions because I know that what I do is the product of things that have happened in the past- both in the biological sense, and in my own personal journey through life.  I question everything.

I haven't written replies to everything, so if there was a point I should have answered please let me know.



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FNB - Former non-believer

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« Reply #31 on: June 18, 2011, 08:51:03 pm »
This conversation was dead, but now liveth! Gods will be done!

It seems as though you are saying that God lied about what true morality  entailed because it wouldn't have been accepted.  I accept the idea  that God gave us free will to either follow Him or reject Him.  It seems  like a very fine line that you're walking here though.  On one hand,  God could instill in us an undeniable knowledge that He is the one true  God, but he does not because that would be encroaching on our free will  too much.  On the other hand, God tells man selective "truths" because  they might reject Him if he reveals too much?


I think you are operating under the belief that God has suggested that all the commandments in Old Testament Law were the perfect rule of God. However, I don't think this does justice to the context of the story. In the context the law was actually given because when God spoke all of his commands perfectly to the people and the people couldn't handle it,

"And they said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen. But don't let God speak directly to us, or we will die!" (Ex. 20:19)

I would have to refresh my memory a bit, but I think scholars also divide the OT law into two types, apodictic and casuistic. One would be the ten commandment moral commands which would could be applied to all people at all times, and the other was only for the nation of Israel. Actually, I was talking to a Jewish person on this site, and he thought the idea that all people were under the law as very strange. Jews believe that the law was only for Jewish people, and I think there is some truth to this. Anyway, though I don't believe it is simply only for Jewish people, I don't think that aside from the Ten Commandments, there is real reason to think that this was God's perfect moral code, and I am basing that on the context of the story itself.

I'm not arguing against Christianity with that statement- arguing  against the Christian (and generally religious) view that without  objective morals handed down by God, and the understanding that they  have been handed down specifically by God, humans would behave  "immorally" by Christian moral standards.


I don't want to argue that people would behave immorally unless morals were handed down by God. I will grant you that this is not true for the sake of argument. What I would like to argue would be the moral argument, that goes like this,

1. If God does not exist objective moral values do not exist
2. Objective moral values do exist
3. Therefore God exists

However, as I mentioned somewhere else, I am no expert in moral philosophy, and perhaps I shouldn't even try to argue this because I am admittedly very much a layperson in this area.


The whole notion of "wrong" and "right" completely depends on what you  assume to be true.  When you say "That doesn't make it wrong," you use  wrong in relation to an ultimate authority that has somehow communicated  the "wrongness" to us.  He has made a decision on the matter.  If God hasn't made a decision on the matter, it cannot be moral or immoral.


I am not sure I am understanding you, but I will respond to what I think you are saying and apologize ahead of time if I respond to my own imagination. The last sentence of yours, I think on my view, would be like saying, "if a square didn't have four sides, it could not be a square." But that could never be. It is necessarily true that a square has four sides. Likewise, because God (if he exists) is good, then it is necessarily true that he will command what is right. So murder would be wrong necessarily. I don't think it would make sense to say "if God commanded murder to be right, it would be right," any more than "if a square had three sides, triangles would be out of a job." Again, I am speaking as a layperson, so I hope I am not saying something that is incorrect.


I actually think that Craig would agree with me on that matter- He just  thinks that there are "negative" repercussions for holding the view  that there is no such God, and I think that the repercussions are that  one is able to actually look at things more objectively with respect to  humans, than one that believes in a strict set of rules handed down by  their particular God.  


I am not exactly sure what you mean, but I think I disagree! I think Dr. Craig would not generally argue that if we believe in no God, then there are repurcutions, but that "if God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist." (then would proceed to steps 2 and 3 of the moral argument) The Sam Harris debate was a bit unusual of a topic for him. (I don't watch sports... debates r my sport....)

Every "moral" that you value is (you believe) rooted somehow in God-  therefore, since I don't believe in God, I can never describe my  motives, urges, desires, whatever (my version of "morals") in a way that  will be in keeping with your God-based morals.  I can still describe  why I think we behave the way we do, and why I think we are justified in  judging others and acting to stop or prevent acts that are not in  accordance with our reasoned beliefs.  But I'll never be able to really  explain to you why these are "wrong" in your terms, because you  specifically define "wrong" as being relative to God.


I don't think I am asking you to judge morality in relation to God. What I think my main point was, is that if there is no objective morality, then morality as it is commonly understood loses meaning. (because everything becomes, it seems to me, personal or societal relative opinions) Now this is a point that many atheists and theists alike agree to, (even atheists who affirm objective moral values) so it is not directly about the existence of God.

With your analogy, I still don't get why the fact that human beings have  intrinsic moral worth, by virtue of our being made in the image of God,  necessarily means that the unjustified killing of a human being is  actually wrong?  Unless you carefully define "intrinsic moral worth" to  mean "a quality that should not (according to God) be... terminated?   Ended?"  I'm not sure what definition would suffice, and also what  justification might be available that could augment this definition.   Also, since death actually brings one closer to God (for those that  don't go the other route), why does the taking of a life actually  denigrate a human's intrinsic moral worth?


I am not exactly sure in what sense we are created in the image of God, or how exactly that this invests us with intrisic moral worth. However, I don't think this makes a big difference. As I see it, on Christian theism I have a good reason to think that humans are morally valuable, because God has clearly said so. (in the bible, for example in Gen 9:6 which connects the "image of God" with murder deserving punishment) And on any kind of theism which believes that God somehow made humans morally valuable, they have good reason to think that humans are morally valuable. However on atheism, I see no good reason to think that humans are morally valuable. No where can I look at the composition of a human and find moral value. In fact, if I don't look at the world through my religion, everywhere it appears that biology testifies that humans are just more intelligent apes who may not outlive cockroaches.

To your point though- when he says there is a God, and I say there  probably isn't, I don't think there is an objective way to know which of  us is right.  The question has nothing to do with the one realm in  which we can determine things to be "right" and "wrong" on our own- this  physical world.  Neither of us is closer or farther from some  "objective truth," but that doesn't mean that he's not flat out batty  from a human perspective.  I don't need him to be "objectively" wron
   g-  he's wrong in every other way that actually matters to this existence of  ours.  But I think I'm getting off course...


First, I do actually think he is "flat out batty." But I don't understand that if he were to say Obama is a moral monster, and you were to say, "obama is not," why either one would be closer to the truth if there is no objective moral truth about the matter. You have your subjective opinion, and his subjective opinion. What makes a subjective opinion that Obama is a moral monster any more true than a subjective opinion that he is not? The only way to save this situation, I think, would be to say that society or mass opinion determines what is right and wrong. However, if that is true and you live in America, then I think atheism is wrong, because the large majority believe there is some sort of God. If it is world opinion, then the same thing would hold.

what we call "morality" is simply how we have come to be "wired" to behave.
 

I hope I was not insulting. I didn't mean to say that you did not quesiton, I just wanted to make sure you did not forget to question this area. As I said, I am no expert on moral philosophy, but if "morality' is simply how we have come 'wired' to behave, why think it suggests true beliefs?" Why think that rape is actually wrong, rather than "we have become wired to believe it is, though this was done simply because it was beneficial to survival?" If we can get away with a crime, why not commit it if it will be fun? Because we have become wired to believe that it is wrong? I don't think that is a good reason, because all that shows is that we have been wired to believe something and does nothing to suggest the belief is actually true.

From my standpoint as a layperson (I think I might need to read up on this more), I don't see why on that view rape is actually wrong. I see why people would believe that it is. However, (on this view) now that we have become conscious of its origin as a simple survival aid, I don't see a reason to obey it if we think we can survive better in certain situations by disobeying it.

Take care,

- The Jeff which hath no degree in Engineering.

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Jeff Mitchell

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« Reply #32 on: June 29, 2011, 11:05:18 pm »
I'm glad you brought this one back!  I'll see how succinct I can be (fat chance...)
emailestthoume wrote:
It seems as though you are saying that God lied about what true morality  entailed because it wouldn't have been accepted.  I accept the idea  that God gave us free will to either follow Him or reject Him.  It seems  like a very fine line that you're walking here though.  On one hand,  God could instill in us an undeniable knowledge that He is the one true  God, but he does not because that would be encroaching on our free will  too much.  On the other hand, God tells man selective "truths" because  they might reject Him if he reveals too much?


I think you are operating under the belief that God has suggested that all the commandments in Old Testament Law were the perfect rule of God. However, I don't think this does justice to the context of the story. In the context the law was actually given because when God spoke all of his commands perfectly to the people and the people couldn't handle it,

"And they said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen. But don't let God speak directly to us, or we will die!" (Ex. 20:19)

I would have to refresh my memory a bit, but I think scholars also divide the OT law into two types, apodictic and casuistic. One would be the ten commandment moral commands which would could be applied to all people at all times, and the other was only for the nation of Israel. Actually, I was talking to a Jewish person on this site, and he thought the idea that all people were under the law as very strange. Jews believe that the law was only for Jewish people, and I think there is some truth to this. Anyway, though I don't believe it is simply only for Jewish people, I don't think that aside from the Ten Commandments, there is real reason to think that this was God's perfect moral code, and I am basing that on the context of the story itself.

I'm fine with looking at the OT in context- I think our contexts are probably different, but I'm actually not that knowledgeable on the history of the ancient Isrealites so I don't have much authority in that area.  I understand now that the OT was basically for the Jews of the day and the NT is for post-Jesus Christians (this actually isn't super-widely known, I'm pretty sure most members of organized Christian religion don't understand that... which is a shame)


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I'm not arguing against Christianity with that statement- arguing  against the Christian (and generally religious) view that without  objective morals handed down by God, and the understanding that they  have been handed down specifically by God, humans would behave  "immorally" by Christian moral standards.


I don't want to argue that people would behave immorally unless morals were handed down by God. I will grant you that this is not true for the sake of argument. What I would like to argue would be the moral argument, that goes like this,

1. If God does not exist objective moral values do not exist
2. Objective moral values do exist
3. Therefore God exists

However, as I mentioned somewhere else, I am no expert in moral philosophy, and perhaps I shouldn't even try to argue this because I am admittedly very much a layperson in this area.


The thing I don't like about the moral argument is that there are several definitions that only make sense within Christian theology.  Being heavily influenced by Christianity here in the US, on it's face it seems to be a simple set of statements.  But once you look at them from an other-than-religious viewpoint, the problems come out.  I take "objective" to mean, "true independent of human perception," which I think is fine for this.  

"Moral values," on the other hand,  is a highly problematic statement.  I still don't really know what those are.  Unless you narrowly define them as "God's commands as written in the bible" (which I don't think you are doing), how can we talk about them as if they are a constant, knowable (although technically, perception of them isn't necessary), communicable concept?  And if they aren't these things, what's the point of having them moral values as "defined" in this argument?

And the final objection I have is the assumption that objective morals do in fact exist.  I notice how it's just thrown in there like it's a fact, not needing any justification or proof.  I know it seems obvious to you, but it's not obvious to me (and no, I'm not just being stubborn or deliberately ignorant )  I just see too much variation in human morality and different shades of gray in our decisions once you get away from the simple rape and killing and boiling babies examples (plus other reasons).  And no, I don't think that my viewpoint automatically dooms me and others like me to a life of selfish depravity or Nazi-like tyranny...


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The whole notion of "wrong" and "right" completely depends on what you  assume to be true.  When you say "That doesn't make it wrong," you use  wrong in relation to an ultimate authority that has somehow communicated  the "wrongness" to us.  He has made a decision on the matter.  If God hasn't made a decision on the matter, it cannot be moral or immoral.


I am not sure I am understanding you, but I will respond to what I think you are saying and apologize ahead of time if I respond to my own imagination. The last sentence of yours, I think on my view, would be like saying, "if a square didn't have four sides, it could not be a square." But that could never be. It is necessarily true that a square has four sides. Likewise, because God (if he exists) is good, then it is necessarily true that he will command what is right. So murder would be wrong necessarily. I don't think it would make sense to say "if God commanded murder to be right, it would be right," any more than "if a square had three sides, triangles would be out of a job." Again, I am speaking as a layperson, so I hope I am not saying something that is incorrect.


I actually think that Craig would agree with me on that matter- He just  thinks that there are "negative" repercussions for holding the view  that there is no such God, and I think that the repercussions are that  one is able to actually look at things more objectively with respect to  humans, than one that believes in a strict set of rules handed down by  their particular God.  


I am not exactly sure what you mean, but I think I disagree! I think Dr. Craig would not generally argue that if we believe in no God, then there are repurcutions, but that "if God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist." (then would proceed to steps 2 and 3 of the moral argument) The Sam Harris debate was a bit unusual of a topic for him. (I don't watch sports... debates r my sport....)


Yeah... I just re-read what I wrote and I'm not 100% sure what my point was... I think I was re-stating in a convoluted way your premise above ("If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist")- that, if God didn't exist to make a decision on a matter, that matter couldn't be considered to be "right" or "wrong."  I wasn't making the argument you thought I was, but to be honest, I'm not sure I was making an argument at all...  I know the point I was trying to make but I did a very poor job and I've expressed the point better elsewhere so I'm going to pretend like I never wrote that.

But since you bring up the square and triangle analogies- I think that geometry and math are bad analogies for morals.  A square is defined as an object (either conceptual or real) that has four sides of equal length, with right interior angles, or something like that.  You're right that it wouldn't make sense to say one had three sides-
   not because it violates our geometric intuition, but because it simply isn't in keeping with the definition of the concept.  Math is similar- the answer to 2+2=? isn't derived from some objective moral-like truth, it's gained from the definitions of the terms "2," "+," and "=."  

Morals, on the other hand... I don't even know where to start.  Yes, "murder" is objectively wrong.  But only because "murder" is defined as a "wrongful" killing.  I contend that "rape" is similar- the definition of "rape" is such that it means "wrong."  Otherwise, the act would just be called "sex."  We have to look at the underlying crime being committed (violation of free will, promotion of suffering, etc) in order to understand why something is "wrong."  

Let's do another one... boiling babies- this one is actually hard... Come to think of it, I'm not sure that boiling babies is wrong in the same way, because there's nothing in the definition of "boiling" or "babies" that means "wrong."  So why is it wrong?  God doesn't actually say anything against it directly... but I imagine it goes back to the "do unto your neighbor" or "not kill (without justification)" clause.  I know why I think it's wrong, but it's subjective so it doesn't count.

Here's a question though (the only one I'll ask you to answer, in fact)- is boiling babies more wronger than euthanizing a 94 year old terminally ill cancer patient who is in great pain and wants to die with some dignity?  And if so, why?  If they are the same crime (both are simply murder, after all), why?


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Every "moral" that you value is (you believe) rooted somehow in God-  therefore, since I don't believe in God, I can never describe my  motives, urges, desires, whatever (my version of "morals") in a way that  will be in keeping with your God-based morals.  I can still describe  why I think we behave the way we do, and why I think we are justified in  judging others and acting to stop or prevent acts that are not in  accordance with our reasoned beliefs.  But I'll never be able to really  explain to you why these are "wrong" in your terms, because you  specifically define "wrong" as being relative to God.


I don't think I am asking you to judge morality in relation to God. What I think my main point was, is that if there is no objective morality, then morality as it is commonly understood loses meaning. (because everything becomes, it seems to me, personal or societal relative opinions) Now this is a point that many atheists and theists alike agree to, (even atheists who affirm objective moral values) so it is not directly about the existence of God.

But doesn't morality have to be judged in relation to God?  Isn't that the point of this whole discussion?

I wrote a bunch, but I'll save it and just ask: What actually happens if, as you say, "everything becomes... personal or societal relative opinion?"


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With your analogy, I still don't get why the fact that human beings have  intrinsic moral worth, by virtue of our being made in the image of God,  necessarily means that the unjustified killing of a human being is  actually wrong?  Unless you carefully define "intrinsic moral worth" to  mean "a quality that should not (according to God) be... terminated?   Ended?"  I'm not sure what definition would suffice, and also what  justification might be available that could augment this definition.   Also, since death actually brings one closer to God (for those that  don't go the other route), why does the taking of a life actually  denigrate a human's intrinsic moral worth?


I am not exactly sure in what sense we are created in the image of God, or how exactly that this invests us with intrisic moral worth. However, I don't think this makes a big difference. As I see it, on Christian theism I have a good reason to think that humans are morally valuable, because God has clearly said so. (in the bible, for example in Gen 9:6 which connects the "image of God" with murder deserving punishment) And on any kind of theism which believes that God somehow made humans morally valuable, they have good reason to think that humans are morally valuable. However on atheism, I see no good reason to think that humans are morally valuable. No where can I look at the composition of a human and find moral value. In fact, if I don't look at the world through my religion, everywhere it appears that biology testifies that humans are just more intelligent apes who may not outlive cockroaches.


I understand that the bible tells us that we are valuable, and I guess that's enough.  But... it's only enough if the bible is true.  Say the bible is shown to be completely false tomorrow... does human life cease to have value?  Is the belief in God sufficient to give life value?  Actually, one doesn't even need belief in God- they just need to follow their conscience that tells them life is valuable.  

Also, technically, atheism isn't really a belief system so it wouldn't provide a reason to think that humans are morally valuable (you'd need to look at natural moral law explanations for that).  But I know what you mean.  It's a tricky question.

To your point, I do actually think that we are technically "more intelligent apes who may not outlive cockroaches," but that doesn't mean that we don't grieve when another human dies (indeed, even much lesser-evolved animals at least seem to grieve in some fashion), or feel love, or recognize beauty.  I wonder why we don't argue about any of these other psychological attributes we have- I think that they are essentially the same as our moral  intuitions.  Where is the "love argument for the existence of God?"

I might be onto something here... It's a shame I'm not a Christian anymore, I might be able to take credit for that one.


Quote
To your point though- when he says there is a God, and I say there  probably isn't, I don't think there is an objective way to know which of  us is right.  The question has nothing to do with the one realm in  which we can determine things to be "right" and "wrong" on our own- this  physical world.  Neither of us is closer or farther from some  "objective truth," but that doesn't mean that he's not flat out batty  from a human perspective.  I don't need him to be "objectively" wrong-  he's wrong in every other way that actually matters to this existence of  ours.  But I think I'm getting off course...


First, I do actually think he is "flat out batty." But I don't understand that if he were to say Obama is a moral monster, and you were to say, "obama is not," why either one would be closer to the truth if there is no objective moral truth about the matter. You have your subjective opinion, and his subjective opinion. What makes a subjective opinion that Obama is a moral monster any more true than a subjective opinion that he is not? The only way to save this situation, I think, would be to say that society or mass opinion determines what is right and wrong. However, if that is true and you live in America, then I think atheism is wrong, because the large majority believe there is some sort of God. If it is world opinion, then the same thing would hold.

But the difference is, there is real world evidence on Obama's moral actions.  I guess maybe not whether we'd call them "moral" or not- but there's evidence for specific acts like, genocide, murder, cheating on his wife, etc.  It's like Obama's birth certificate.  In that case, there actually WAS an objective answer but we didn't find out for quite a while.  For a long time there were very vocal people that looked at all of the "evidence" and declared that he was not born in the US.  I think this is sort of like the argument we're having here- except that we will not know what the "objective" truth is about if there are objective moral values until we die and we either simply cease to exist, or we go to Heaven or Hell.  At least Obama could release his birth certifi
   cate- God could do the same, but He hasn't so far- at least not in a credible way.

I think we'd have to narrow down moral monster.  Some believe that he is because of his support for embryonic stem cell research, but for the most part I think that he is not (and I'll assume that it's objectively true that he is not), but there are some that believe he is.  And what would happen if the majority of Americans believed the opposite of the objective truth?  How would the result be any different than if I were to say that we couldn't know for sure whether he was or was not a moral monster?  He'd still be voted out of office, regardless of the objective truth.  Such is our state of existence.  It's the same with God- how would the result in our morals be any different if there was or wasn't a God?  The course of human events would still march on.


Quote
what we call "morality" is simply how we have come to be "wired" to behave.
 

I hope I was not insulting.

Not at all- it was a great point, and I'm glad you made it!

And anyway- it's almost impossible to offend me- I'm a moral relativist atheist after all   Seriously, I don't think you would, or could, really insult me, and your comment wouldn't have been insulting even for a person with less self confidence


I didn't mean to say that you did not quesiton, I just wanted to make sure you did not forget to question this area. As I said, I am no expert on moral philosophy, but if "morality' is simply how we have come 'wired' to behave, why think it suggests true beliefs?" Why think that rape is actually wrong, rather than "we have become wired to believe it is, though this was done simply because it was beneficial to survival?" If we can get away with a crime, why not commit it if it will be fun? Because we have become wired to believe that it is wrong? I don't think that is a good reason, because all that shows is that we have been wired to believe something and does nothing to suggest the belief is actually true.

From my standpoint as a layperson (I think I might need to read up on this more), I don't see why on that view rape is actually wrong. I see why people would believe that it is. However, (on this view) now that we have become conscious of its origin as a simple survival aid, I don't see a reason to obey it if we think we can survive better in certain situations by disobeying it.


I hear what you're saying, but I think that instead of using examples like rape and boiling babies, I think that we need to look at the fundamental concepts underlying the acts.  Forgive me for repeating myself here, but I think that we should be asking the question, why is causing unnecessary suffering "wrong."  Or, why is depriving someone of their free will without overriding justification (whatever that is...) "wrong."  And honestly, I think it's valid to say that these things are wrong because the normal, fully functioning human has emotions and desires that guide us away from these fundamental actions.  Just like we avoid pain, and take refuge from fear (two fundamental psychological factors), we typically avoid acts that cause guilt (although there may be a learned component to that one), and I think that the "normal" human suffers to a certain degree when she witnesses suffering of others, and therefore has a biological/psychological aversion to others' suffering and is compelled to ease that suffering.  

I'm not talking absolute terms here- I know there are some without these capabilities.  There are humans that have nerve damage and have no feeling in their hands, and they feel no pain.  And I know that these aren't super quantifiable emotions.  However, I think that if one is honest, they will admit that these emotions lie at the heart of acts we consider immoral.  The commandments cover the easy ones, but the hard ones we judge based on things other than stone tablets.  These are the lowest common denominators, and the REAL reason why we feel certain acts are wrong.

I suppose if one wanted to push, they could ask, what if 90 percent of the people didn't feel any empathy and they had overactive sexual urges that brought them to rape people with no remorse.  Fine.  If you're in the "moral" 10%, sorry.  Not that it's good, or OK (or "right").  Still sucks for you, you still think "man, these guys are really immoral..."  But at the end of the day, whether you are "objectively" morally in the right, you're still going to be violated.  I don't like that scenario any more than the next guy, but there's not a whole lot this moral guy can do.  If you're one of the last 10 Christians on an otherwise lawless, corrupt, immoral earth, you might find some comfort in the idea that you're going to go to heaven, but that's not going to do you much good while you're waiting for your next life.

Am I being too practical?

As always, thanks for your thoughts!

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FNB - Former non-believer

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« Reply #33 on: June 30, 2011, 12:55:47 pm »
   

Hey, I think I rivaled you for length on this one... hehe... I also put your quotes in italics to expose atheists as people who can only write diagonally. (or b/c I typed this on MS Word, to help me see what you said and what I did...) I am enjoying this discussion, and I especially appreciate the tone and your willingness to see the other sides of issues.


ReasonableJeff wrote: I'm fine with looking at the OT in context- I think our contexts are probably different, but I'm actually not that knowledgeable on the history of the ancient Isrealites so I don't have much authority in that area.  I understand now that the OT was basically for the Jews of the day and the NT is for post-Jesus Christians (this actually isn't super-widely known, I'm pretty sure most members of organized Christian religion don't understand that... which is a shame)

 

 

Its unfortunate that many Christians don’t know basics about the bible, though Christians do recognize that the food laws are not binding. But to point out about how the OT law is clearly no longer binding for Christians, I will give you a few verses,

 

 

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ,… (Rom. 7:4)

 

 

“And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he [Moses/God] wrote you this commandment.” (Mark. 10:5, speaking a part of the OT law)

 

 

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. (Gal. 2:19)

 

 

 

All Christians recognize this at least in part when it comes to food laws of the OT.


"Moral values," on the other hand,  is a highly problematic statement.  I still don't really know what those are.  Unless you narrowly define them as "God's commands as written in the bible" (which I don't think you are doing), how can we talk about them as if they are a constant, knowable (although technically, perception of them isn't necessary), communicable concept?  And if they aren't these things, what's the point of having them moral values as "defined" in this argument?

 


 

I think moral values just refer to things that are morally wrong, such as “it is wrong to rape someone for the fun of it, or it is wrong to kick babies for the fun of it.” As long as you agree with the latter two statements, you would agree that there are moral values. I will get to the divine command theory lower down.


I just see too much variation in human morality and different shades of gray in our decisions once you get away from the simple rape and killing and boiling babies examples (plus other reasons).

 

 

I don’t know if you were, but in high school I think I was very misled as to what it meant to believe in objective/relative morality by my teachers. For example, there was an instance where we learned about a society that ate their dead relatives and it was a respectful ceremony and nothing seemed to be wrong with it. Now, if I ate a dead relative I would be considered pretty screwed up and perhaps immoral.

 

 

However, contrary to what I was taught, this is not an example of morality being culturally relative. The conditions are different, the person in the other society really believes that what they are doing is honoring the dead, while I would not share that belief, and if I did, it would probably be because of some mental imbalance, and not because of any moral reason. So there are different conditions, giving us different moral situations.

 

 

The belief of a person does sometimes have a role in whether what they are doing is wrong or not. (For example, if I truly believe that I am a shark by some very unique mental disease, and I attacked a kid on the beach, I wouldn’t be being immoral, just insane.) However, its not, how it was presented to me, a case of the same exact moral situation being different across cultures—the situation, even if not immediately obvious, is different. I could accept that my eating of people was wrong and that other dudes people munching was moral while still accepting objective morality.

 

 

Whoa…. sorta went on a tangent there….

 

 

And no, I don't think that my viewpoint automatically dooms me and others like me to a life of selfish depravity or Nazi-like tyranny...

 

 

If objective moral values do not exist, I don’t see how you can say what Hitler did was wrong. I think if people really understood that on atheism our belief that it is morally wrong to kill humans and morally right to give to the poor is just an illusion that we have held because it is profitable, you would see much more crime and wrongdoing. However, I think very few people understand this. Second, I think that everyone knows better. I think we all know that morality is binding on us all and we have oughts and
    ought nots. (which would, I think, necessitate theism being true, but hey, you know I would be cool with that…)

 

 

I have noticed, when you are in split second situations and you want to do one thing out of lust, its very easy to give yourself excuses as to why it is not really wrong what you are doing. Probably you have noticed this as well when doing what is right is very difficult. Believing that morality is just a survival aid like my beard which it is no more wrong to disobey than to shave would be a frighteningly logical excuse (on atheism). In fact, if it were true, it would be illogical to even give an excuse.

 

 

I contend that "rape" is similar- the definition of "rape" is such that it means "wrong."  Otherwise, the act would just be called "sex."  We have to look at the underlying crime being committed (violation of free will, promotion of suffering, etc) in order to understand why something is "wrong."

 

 

Rape would be different because violation of the victims will is only wrong if you are operating on the assumption that one ought not to violate their will or harm people. I only mention this because I have used these as an example in the post…otherwise it would be nitpicking.

 

 


Let's do another one... boiling babies- this one is actually hard... Come to think of it, I'm not sure that boiling babies is wrong in the same way, because there's nothing in the definition of "boiling" or "babies" that means "wrong."  So why is it wrong?  God doesn't actually say anything against it directly... but I imagine it goes back to the "do unto your neighbor" or "not kill (without justification)" clause.  I know why I think it's wrong, but it's subjective so it doesn't count.

 

 

On my view, I think it would be that because God has made humans in his image, and so it would be wrong to hurt them because you would be harming an agent of intrinsic value, and sinning against God. On your view, it seems like you admit boiling babies is not wrong. Is that true? If so, I would advise you to think about doing it if you could get away with it and enjoy it. (not that you would, but some people would)

 

 

Here's a question though (the only one I'll ask you to answer, in fact)- is boiling babies more wronger than euthanizing a 94 year old terminally ill cancer patient who is in great pain and wants to die with some dignity?  And if so, why?  If they are the same crime (both are simply murder, after all), why?

 

 

I am more of a liberal Christian, and though I would generally disagree with euthanasia, but I am ultimately undecided with regards to extreme instances. But I think this might not have answered your question. What I would say is that they are not the same crime. Though they could both be called murder, in the courts systems would be a good analogy because there are different degrees of murder. (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) I think the intent of the “criminal” would be important. (The Dr. Kevorkian type probably has a much better intent).

 

 

But doesn't morality have to be judged in relation to God?  Isn't that the point of this whole discussion?

 

 

I am not sure what I meant, perhaps I made a mistake. I think this quote from The Craig may explain what I was trying and failing to get at,

 

 

 

“The Divine Command theorist does not define moral values or duties at all; rather he asks for their ontological foundation. We can accept the customary understanding of moral terms like “good, “right,” “wrong,” etc. with equanimity. We’re not making a semantic claim about the meaning of moral terms. Rather we are trying to explain their objective foundation. Similarly, the naturalist is not pressing a semantic claim about the definition of words but is offering a different foundation for values and duties than the theist.”

 

 

I understand that the bible tells us that we are valuable, and I guess that's enough.  But... it's only enough if the bible is true.  Say the bible is shown to be completely false tomorrow... does human life cease to have value?  

 

 

If the bible is false, no. But if there is no God, as far as I can tell humans never had moral value, and it was just an illusion from evolution.

 

 

Is the belief in God sufficient to give life value?

 

 

No, it would have to be God. However, if you are someone who is among the oppressed of the world, I would bet that it would be hard not to think life was hopeless curse if you didn’t believe in God. God could punish your oppressors and reward you in the next life, even if you are powerless to do anything about your situation in this life. This belief gives great comfort to many of the world’s abused populace. I think this is one reason why it is often many of the poor people of the earth who believe in God.

 

 


I might be onto something here... It's a shame I'm not a Christian anymore, I might be able to take credit for that one.

 



 

Thou shalt not steal… I’d have to give you the credit for it anyway!

 


   

 

I think this is sort of like the argument we're having here- except that we will not know what the "objective" truth is about if there are objective moral values until we die and we either simply cease to exist, or we go to Heaven or Hell.  

 

 

I think we do know that objective moral values exist, or at least we know they exist as much as we know anything. Arguing for the latter, I would say this,

 

 

What are you more sure of….

 

 

 

1.     You are not a brain in a vat hooked up to chemicals to make you think there is an external world—there is no external world

 

1.     Raping children for the fun of it is wrong. (I omitted “objective” because I think when we use right and wrong in common speech we all mean actually wrong as opposed to “wrong in my or society’s opinion)

 

 

 

1. You are not Barak Obama in a dream

 

2.  Raping children for the fun of it is wrong. (one sick example is enough to                       make the point…)

 

 

 

1. evolution and atheism are true (which would rule out objective morals)

 

2. Raping children for the fun of it is wrong.

 

 

The last example set is a little different, but if you answered #2 for the first two sets you are just as rational to believe in objective morality as you are in believing you are not Barak Obama or a brain in a vat.

 

 

The third example set would show that you are more rational in believing in objective morality than evolution + atheism.

 

 

Even though this is not giving you 100% knowledge, if you answered 2, it should mean that you believe in objective morals as much as the existence of the external world, or the unreality of you being Barack Obama in a dream. If so, I think you should accept the second premise in the moral argument—objective moral values do exist.

 

 

At least Obama could release his birth certificate- God could do the same, but He hasn't so far- at least not in a credible way.

 

 

I think this is an interesting example. As for Obama, should we have believed that he was a citizen even though he didn’t actually release his birth certificate? Though this argument may not work if you are a conservative of a certain sort, (I think they are called “birthers” or “people without  anything better to do….” jkjk) I think that though there was not such direct evidence as the release of a birth certificate, you really should have believed he was a citizen. Likewise, you could be asking God for a birth certificate (as in the analogy) and this request could be unreasonable because there is actually good evidence. One such evidence we are discussing, so I beg you not to pull a Donald Trump and demand the certificate… (nothing personal or serious, but I had to throw Trump in there somehow…)

 

 

 

And honestly, I think it's valid to say that these things are wrong because the normal, fully functioning human has emotions and desires that guide us away from these fundamental actions.

 

 

This wouldn’t mean that rape is wrong, just that people have a natural aversion to it.

 

 

Just like we avoid pain, and take refuge from fear (two fundamental psychological factors), we typically avoid acts that cause guilt (although there may be a learned component to that one), and I think that the "normal" human suffers to a certain degree when she witnesses suffering of others, and therefore has a biological/psychological aversion to others' suffering and is compelled to ease that suffering.

 


 

The  “normal” healthy human having an aversion to something doesn’t make that something wrong. I think that the weight of what you said would fall on the question, "if morality is an illusion, can we still live what we would normally call moral lives?" This wouldn't affect the moral argument, but I have a few comments...


I think humanity is keen on giving themselves excuses for sinning, and I fear where society will go if it realizes what Neitsche did about morality—that if there is no God, it is simply an illusion. We have drugs for irrational fears, and if morality is an irrational fear, and guilt an irrational emotion, and people really believe this, they will develop drugs to eliminate it. It would probably start with giving them to soldier with PSTD. I have heard of such drugs actually being tested on the news. It may seem unlikely for them to be used now, but what about 100 years from now, what about 1000?

 

 

The commandments cover the easy ones, but the hard ones we judge based on things other than stone tablets.  These are the lowest common denominators, and the REAL reason why we feel
   certain acts are wrong.

 

 

I am fine with that. As I said, I think the tablets are general rules not always applicable in every situation in a strictly literal sense. I agree about emotions as well. I think this is probably one would know objective moral values exist. Though on atheism, such emotions are certainly illusory because the existence of them would require a miracle or a God.

 

 


I suppose if one wanted to push, they could ask, what if 90 percent of the people didn't feel any empathy and they had overactive sexual urges that brought them to rape people with no remorse.  Fine.  If you're in the "moral" 10%, sorry.  Not that it's good, or OK (or "right"). Still sucks for you, you still think "man, these guys are really immoral..."  But at the end of the day, whether you are "objectively" morally in the right, you're still going to be violated.  I don't like that scenario any more than the next guy, but there's not a whole lot this moral guy can do.  If you're one of the last 10 Christians on an otherwise lawless, corrupt, immoral earth, you might find some comfort in the idea that you're going to go to heaven, but that's not going to do you much good while you're waiting for your next life.

 

 

If moral values are culturally relative, then neither of us would have any business telling them they are doing something wrong. Since moraty would be determined by the culture, and this culture considers rape not wrong, it actually would not be wrong. To say otherwise would just to be irrational, and probably on their cultural morals, immoral.

 

   

I am not sure what you believe about morality exactly, but you seem to be accepting relative morality or morality as just an illusion. (though perhaps a helpful one)

 

 

If morality is relative to culture, you have no basis making cross cultural judgments, like, “it is wrong for the countries of the middle east to jail homosexuals.”

 

 

If morality an illusion, burning an orphanage is no wrong than doing the Macarena.


My point is not to make your views seem absurd, (though I love comedy in arguments) but to convince you that God exists by the moral argument. Though I have a feeling that this may take more comedy mixed with argument...


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Sandspirit

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« Reply #34 on: June 30, 2011, 02:38:35 pm »
Let's do another one... boiling babies- this one is actually hard... Come to think of it, I'm not sure that boiling babies is wrong in the same way, because there's nothing in the definition of "boiling" or "babies" that means "wrong." So why is it wrong? God doesn't actually say anything against it directly... but I imagine it goes back to the "do unto your neighbor" or "not kill (without justification)" clause. I know why I think it's wrong, but it's subjective so it doesn't count.


You have a problem figuring out why boiling babies is wrong? I count myself lucky only to have encountered you on the internet.

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« Reply #35 on: June 30, 2011, 07:19:59 pm »
Sandspirit wrote:
Let's do another one... boiling babies- this one is actually hard... Come to think of it, I'm not sure that boiling babies is wrong in the same way, because there's nothing in the definition of "boiling" or "babies" that means "wrong." So why is it wrong? God doesn't actually say anything against it directly... but I imagine it goes back to the "do unto your neighbor" or "not kill (without justification)" clause. I know why I think it's wrong, but it's subjective so it doesn't count.


You have a problem figuring out why boiling babies is wrong? I count myself lucky only to have encountered you on the internet.


If there's no objective morality, I think this is what happens, because relative morality is just subjective and therefore can lay no obligations upon us. Plus there are good recipes on food.com for babies.

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Jeff Mitchell

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« Reply #36 on: July 02, 2011, 01:19:22 pm »
I kept my italics in your quotes, but my new stuff is in blue... just to show how non-conforming and random I am
emailestthoume wrote:            

Quote from: ReasonableJeff
I'm fine with looking at the OT in context- I think our contexts are probably different, but I'm actually not that knowledgeable on the history of the ancient Isrealites so I don't have much authority in that area.  I understand now that the OT was basically for the Jews of the day and the NT is for post-Jesus Christians (this actually isn't super-widely known, I'm pretty sure most members of organized Christian religion don't understand that... which is a shame)

 

 

Its unfortunate that many Christians don’t know basics about the bible, though Christians do recognize that the food laws are not binding.


Yeah, I think I got side tracked there- I guess I just found it interesting that I've learned more about Christianity in the last month than I did in years of attending church.  No point being made, really.


Quote

"Moral values," on the other hand,  is a highly problematic statement.  I still don't really know what those are.  Unless you narrowly define them as "God's commands as written in the bible" (which I don't think you are doing), how can we talk about them as if they are a constant, knowable (although technically, perception of them isn't necessary), communicable concept?  And if they aren't these things, what's the point of having them moral values as "defined" in this argument?

 


 

I think moral values just refer to things that are morally wrong, such as “it is wrong to rape someone for the fun of it, or it is wrong to kick babies for the fun of it.” As long as you agree with the latter two statements, you would agree that there are moral values. I will get to the divine command theory lower down.

I think there are moral values, even if one says it's RIGHT to kick babies.  The question isn't whether moral values exist, it's whether they exist objectively, whether we can know what those objective morals are, and whether those objective morals are binding on individuals.


Oh, and I know you don't need me to state this, but for the record- I don't advocate rape or kicking babies.



Quote
I just see too much variation in human morality and different shades of gray in our decisions once you get away from the simple rape and killing and boiling babies examples (plus other reasons).

 

 

I don’t know if you were, but in high school I think I was very misled as to what it meant to believe in objective/relative morality by my teachers. For example, there was an instance where we learned about a society that ate their dead relatives and it was a respectful ceremony and nothing seemed to be wrong with it. Now, if I ate a dead relative I would be considered pretty screwed up and perhaps immoral.

 

 

However, contrary to what I was taught, this is not an example of morality being culturally relative. The conditions are different, the person in the other society really believes that what they are doing is honoring the dead, while I would not share that belief, and if I did, it would probably be because of some mental imbalance, and not because of any moral reason. So there are different conditions, giving us different moral situations.

 

 

The belief of a person does sometimes have a role in whether what they are doing is wrong or not. (For example, if I truly believe that I am a shark by some very unique mental disease, and I attacked a kid on the beach, I wouldn’t be being immoral, just insane.) However, its not, how it was presented to me, a case of the same exact moral situation being different across cultures—the situation, even if not immediately obvious, is different. I could accept that my eating of people was wrong and that other dudes people munching was moral while still accepting objective morality.

 

 

Whoa…. sorta went on a tangent there….

I'm not sure if I completely understand you here- are you saying that the same act, if done for different reasons, could be moral in one situation and immoral in another?  In my concept of morality I might agree, but it seems strange when I try to fit it into your moral system.  I don't think you meant it this way, but it sounds like the argument could be made that female genital cutting/mutilation (FGC/FGM) could be immoral for me because of whatever reasons I might have, but could be moral for parents in northeast Africa whose intentions are simply to help their daughter to resist premarital sex, prevent her from being a social outcast, and continue the tradition of enhancing her feminine beauty.  If you're not familiar with the practice, you should give it a read... I just learned a LOT about it (and am still disgusted by the practice, by the way).  But the parents can have very good and honorable reasons-in their minds- for doing it.  It's usually not to purposefully subjugate women/girls, as far as they consciously are aware.  Here's another arti
   cle that
, while still taking sides, at least shows a different perspective than I've ever seen.


This seems to me like a real world example of an moral dilemma, and one that might be a little more nuanced than boiling babies.  I would like to see the practice abolished completely, because I reason that it causes emotional and physical suffering without sufficient positive effects (i.e., medical effects, to increase life span and decrease pain in life- and increasing lifespan is a positive effect because, on balance, life is pleasurable and the longer you live the more pleasure you experience, because, because, because...).  


I realize these aren't at all objective statements.  While I think FGM wrong, I can't think why we could call it objectively wrong.  We can still use strong language to condemn it.  We can still work to end the practice.  Ok, maybe I can't judge the Kenyan mother and call her objectively immoral.  Maybe I can't try to convince her of the objective immorality of it, but I can try to convince her that it is harmful and doesn't have redeeming benefits.  I can try just as hard as anyone else to end the practice.  But I can't imagine that simply calling it objectively immoral is actually going to bring about any change.  


What would be the Christian moralist's take on FGM?  If it is immoral, why is it immoral?  And what is the end result of it being considered immoral?  I actually think this is an important question for anyone who thinks about morals to work through in their minds.



 

Quote
And no, I don't think that my viewpoint automatically dooms me and others like me to a life of selfish depravity or Nazi-like tyranny...

 

 

If objective moral values do not exist, I don’t see how you can say what Hitler did was wrong. I think if people really understood that on atheism our belief that it is morally wrong to kill humans and morally right to give to the poor is just an illusion that we have held because it is profitable, you would see much more crime and wrongdoing. However, I think very few people understand this. Second, I think that everyone knows better. I think we all know that morality is binding on us all and we have oughts and ought nots. (which would, I think, necessitate theism being true, but hey, you know I would be cool with that…)

 


I know you are being sincere, but I think it's a little funny to hear that people would ignore their moral intuitions if there wasn't a God enforcing them (somehow).


I know I keep repeating myself here, but there is a difference between your idea of wrong and my idea of wrong.  Your idea of wrong is completely dependent on objectivity, so of course without objectivity there is no wrong.  THAT is an objective truth (because it is a case of being consistent with a definition).  But my idea of wrong depends on reason and our "best" values, which stem from our most basic psychological desires and fears.  I know that's not a satisfying answer to you, but since you have a very firm belief in what constitutes morality and right, and good, it's not surprising that you wouldn't agree with my version (just as I don't agree with yours).  But let me try


You say that in atheism, the belief that it is morally wrong to kill and morally right to give to the poor is just an illusion.  I get how you arrive at that (no god = no foundation for objective morals = inability to be told what is right and wrong -therefore- no right or wrong) but you are just ignoring all other naturalistic theories of objective morality.  I don't personally subscribe to them, but they should be considered at least.  Besides- I didn't say that we can't say it's "morally wrong to kill."  I said that we can't call it "objectively morally wrong to kill."  We can still lock someone up for being a threat to us.  We just can't tell him he's going to hell for violating God's morals (which I fail to see the importance of anyhow).


Seriously, just because someone doesn't believe in the objectivity of morals doesn't mean they don't think one course of action can't be preferred over another.  That's just silly.  I mean, really- any time we make a choice to be kind, or to be mean, or to take the spider that crawled up from your shower drain outside so it doesn't drown (I like animals in general), etc, you are acting on impulses that feed into one's intuitive moral framework.  Not that killing a spider is necessarily immoral- just saying that the human urge to let the spider live is similar to other urges that govern our (moral) behavior.  For the vast majority of us, we have a brain/mind (reinforced by society and family) that steers us to try to increase pleasure and decrease pain in ourselves, which (through our empathy and expectation of reciprocation) usually leads us to try to increase pleasure and decrease pain in others.  We do these things naturally, without invoking a god, and without relying on objectivity.


Lastly, you say you think that everyone knows better than to claim there aren't objective morals.  I presume this means non-theists and followers of other religions as well as Christians?  If that's the case, why do we need religion for morality?  Even if Paul was right about our moral intuition secretly coming from God, it just seems to be a completely useless idea.  Here's the honest truth- no on else's concept of morality is binding on me other than as it is written in the laws of our society.  How could it be?  I'm the only one that has control over my actions and decisions.



 

I have noticed, when you are in split second si
   tuations and you want to do one thing out of lust, its very easy to give yourself excuses as to why it is not really wrong what you are doing. Probably you have noticed this as well when doing what is right is very difficult. Believing that morality is just a survival aid like my beard which it is no more wrong to disobey than to shave would be a frighteningly logical excuse (on atheism). In fact, if it were true, it would be illogical to even give an excuse.


You have a beard? Huh, not what I pictured

That's not a good analogy- first, I don't believe morality is "just a survival aid," I believe that it's just how we have come to be.  Sure it evolved, and went through different iterations before we inherited it, but morality is governed by our emotions and psychology.  And morality strictly deals with how we behave with other humans (sentient creatures?), not with our personal preferences of facial hair grooming.



 

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I contend that "rape" is similar- the definition of "rape" is such that it means "wrong."  Otherwise, the act would just be called "sex."  We have to look at the underlying crime being committed (violation of free will, promotion of suffering, etc) in order to understand why something is "wrong."

 

 

Rape would be different because violation of the victims will is only wrong if you are operating on the assumption that one ought not to violate their will or harm people. I only mention this because I have used these as an example in the post…otherwise it would be nitpicking.

 

I agree actually.  I was trying to squeeze two points into one (usually I have the opposite problem, stretching one point over four paragraphs...).  First, "rape" is wrong no matter what your moral system, because, like "murder," it is used to mean an act that is wrong.  Where people differ is in what constitutes rape.  Actually, this is just semantics and I'm not sure it's doing any good in the conversation.  The second part was how I examine morality, which of course is subjective, so you're right that if someone didn't value the same things I did they wouldn't think it was wrong.  But I would, and I'd work to convince others that it's wrong.


I think we're kinda going in circles.


 

But under theism, why is rape wrong other than fornication?  Well, that's the first question- is rape more wrong than simple consensual sex.  And THEN, why?  God never said "thou shalt not violate the free will of conscious creatures" or "thou shalt not cause unnecessary suffering."   I'm trying to figure out why so many things that God never actually talked about are immoral, or more immoral than other things.  We can't use reason, because that just puts you in the same boat as me (it would be man's reasoning, which could not be objective because it didn't come from God- it would be your reasoning against mine, which incidentally, is what I believe it all comes down to anyhow...)


Let's do another one... boiling babies- this one is actually hard... Come to think of it, I'm not sure that boiling babies is wrong in the same way, because there's nothing in the definition of "boiling" or "babies" that means "wrong."  So why is it wrong?  God doesn't actually say anything against it directly... but I imagine it goes back to the "do unto your neighbor" or "not kill (without justification)" clause.  I know why I think it's wrong, but it's subjective so it doesn't count.

 

 

On my view, I think it would be that because God has made humans in his image, and so it would be wrong to hurt them because you would be harming an agent of intrinsic value, and sinning against God. On your view, it seems like you admit boiling babies is not wrong. Is that true? If so, I would advise you to think about doing it if you could get away with it and enjoy it. (not that you would, but some people would)

 

OK, I think we've left the realm of reality here... no matter what one calls it, no human would boil a baby unless they were seriously defective- in which case your concept of morality wouldn't make any more difference than mine.  I don't want to use the words "wrong" and "right" because these words come with a lot of baggage- they are completely tied to God for you.  Since I don't believe in God, I think it's fairly obvious that I don't use those words in exactly the same way.  That is completely different from saying that I don't have concepts of what I ought to do and not do.  I think it's obvious that all of us have those concepts because we constantly evaluate situations and choose one course of action and leave the other courses of action behind.  


We all have our own moral systems.  No two people have the exact same moral system.  Your view that God has made humans in His image is just as arbitrary as anyone else's moral system they use to make decisions.  Sure, if you believe that God grounds morality then for you, your concept of what god is grounds morality.  In your mind He grounds morality for everyone, but that is a completely subjective and useless concept unless others believe the same way.  If other people believe the same way, then all that means is that man has selected a certain moral framework (that happens to be written in the bible) by which to live, and that these people choose to abide by the rules of that framework.  Whether God is pulling the strings or actually issuing the commands is completely irrelevant.  If enough people believe that the bible provides an "objective" set of rules, and become powerful enough, they can use their power to impose this system on others.  These "others" do not need a god to tell them what to do- they have the society that imposes these rules.  Maybe they'll come around to attribute the moral code to god, maybe they'll just follow it because they have to.  Either way, the result is the same.  



 

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Here's a question though (the only one I'll ask you to answer, in fact)- is boiling babies more wronger than euthanizing a 94 year old terminally ill cancer patient who is in great pain and wants to die with some
    dignity?  And if so, why?  If they are the same crime (both are simply murder, after all), why?

 

 

I am more of a liberal Christian, and though I would generally disagree with euthanasia, but I am ultimately undecided with regards to extreme instances. But I think this might not have answered your question. What I would say is that they are not the same crime. Though they could both be called murder, in the courts systems would be a good analogy because there are different degrees of murder. (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) I think the intent of the “criminal” would be important. (The Dr. Kevorkian type probably has a much better intent).

 

How does one come to that conclusion?



 

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But doesn't morality have to be judged in relation to God?  Isn't that the point of this whole discussion?

 

 

I am not sure what I meant, perhaps I made a mistake. I think this quote from The Craig may explain what I was trying and failing to get at,

 

   

“The Divine Command theorist does not define moral values or duties at all; rather he asks for their ontological foundation. We can accept the customary understanding of moral terms like “good, “right,” “wrong,” etc. with equanimity. We’re not making a semantic claim about the meaning of moral terms. Rather we are trying to explain their objective foundation. Similarly, the naturalist is not pressing a semantic claim about the definition of words but is offering a different foundation for values and duties than the theist.”

 

I'll have to chew on that one a bit...  I don't understand what he means by accepting moral terms with equanimity.  What is the "customary understanding" of moral terms like "good," "right," "wrong," etc.?  How do I tell if something is good or right, in the customary way? I know this probably seems like a dumb question, but I assure you I'm not just (knowingly) leading you on a wild goose chase.  I could just be ignorant, but if one doesn't know what "good" and "wrong" mean (semantics), what's the point in determining an objective foundation?  

 


 

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I understand that the bible tells us that we are valuable, and I guess that's enough.  But... it's only enough if the bible is true.  Say the bible is shown to be completely false tomorrow... does human life cease to have value?  

 

 

If the bible is false, no. But if there is no God, as far as I can tell humans never had moral value, and it was just an illusion from evolution.

 

But... But... wait.  If the bible is false, you've got the wrong god, right?  You can't know anything about your God if the bible is false- Doesn't objective morality come from the Christian God and your knowledge of Him through the bible?  I think the answer for you is that God MUST exist, precisely because you believe humans have moral value...  (i.e., with the moral argument, your belief is self-enforcing).


And I want to make sure that I understand what you mean by "humans never had moral value," because I don't agree if you mean that we wouldn't value human life without God.


 

Is the belief in God sufficient to give life value?

 

 

No, it would have to be God. However, if you are someone who is among the oppressed of the world, I would bet that it would be hard not to think life was hopeless curse if you didn’t believe in God. God could punish your oppressors and reward you in the next life, even if you are powerless to do anything about your situation in this life. This belief gives great comfort to many of the world’s abused populace. I think this is one reason why it is often many of the poor people of the earth who believe in God.

 

I disagree- value is a human term, and a very relative one at that.  The value I place on something is bound to be different than the value you would place on it.  If someone truly believes that God exists, it is the exact same result whether God exists or not- at least in this world.

 


 

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I think this is sort of like the argument we're having here- except that we will not know what the "objective" truth is about if there are objective moral values until we die and we either simply cease to exist, or we go to Heaven or Hell.  

 

 

I think we do know that objective moral values exist, or at least we know they exist as much as we know anything. Arguing for the latter, I would say this,

 

 

What are you more sure of….

 

 

 

1.     You are not a brain in a vat hooked up to chemicals to make you think there is an external world—there is no external world

 

1.
   
Raping children for the fun of it is wrong. (I omitted “objective” because I think when we use right and wrong in common speech we all mean actually wrong as opposed to “wrong in my or society’s opinion)

 

 

 

1. You are not Barak Obama in a dream

 

2.  Raping children for the fun of it is wrong. (one sick example is enough to                       make the point…)

 

 

 

1. evolution and atheism are true (which would rule out objective morals)

 

2. Raping children for the fun of it is wrong.

 

 

The last example set is a little different, but if you answered #2 for the first two sets you are just as rational to believe in objective morality as you are in believing you are not Barak Obama or a brain in a vat.

 

 

The third example set would show that you are more rational in believing in objective morality than evolution + atheism.

 

 

Even though this is not giving you 100% knowledge, if you answered 2, it should mean that you believe in objective morals as much as the existence of the external world, or the unreality of you being Barack Obama in a dream. If so, I think you should accept the second premise in the moral argument—objective moral values do exist.

 

I've read this section several times and I'm still having a hard time understanding it. I think it's possible that we are just a brain in a vat, and that everything we experience is a simulation.  My gut instinct was to say "not very likely" but I'm not sure we can even say that- on what grounds would we say that it's likely or not?  If we cannot somehow discover that something is true or not (as is the case with this example), then we cannot possibly say anything about the probability of it being true or false.  I really do think the issue is a good analogy for both "objective" morals and the existence of some god.  I can't really say whether your version of objective morality is true, because I can't discover if it's true- I either have to take it on faith, through faith in God, or not.  I can't really say that there is a Christian God because (as far as I've been able to discover) I can't discover that it's true- I have to take the Apostles' words for it.  


From everything we know, we are physical beings in a physical, real world, with predictable physical laws that allow us to learn about this world.  We appear to do this thing called "thinking" and we appear to exhibit things we call "emotions" and since there are other entities in this world that appear to behave in a similar fashion as me, and think within the same general rules of thought that I think, it appears that there are other beings in this world that I can communicate with.  Could they all just be figments of my imagination and my mind is the only thing that is truly "real?"  I guess so, but that doesn't help me live my life.  It's not a useful theory for me to use as I make my way through this apparent world.  If you want to operate in the world as it's presented to us, you need to operate in the world as it's presented to us...


As for raping children- what difference does it make if I say it is objectively morally wrong?  Before you go knee jerk reactionary on me, hear me out.  I'm perfectly able to claim and believe that nobody should do it or be allowed to do it, and since most of us feel the same way in civilized society, we make laws to discourage the act and punish those that commit the crime.  THIS is the way we enforce morality.  If we left it up to God to enforce morality on earth, and none of the human means, I do think that there would be more "immorality."  But thankfully, we don't leave it up to God- reasonable people get together and use human mechanisms to achieve some goal, which is usually based on relieving suffering and promoting a sense of fairness.  Sure, these are relative terms, but that's ok- it works.  It doesn't always work- acts and people slip through the cracks, but eventually society moves in the direction of relieving suffering for all.  On the other hand, the church can preach that it is objectively morally wrong all it wants, but that doesn't protect my kid from the the coach or the pervert or the priest, does it?  What real, tangible good does some silly claim to have objectivity on your side do?  We do live in the real world after all, not some philosophical world (can you tell I'm a skeptical engineer?)


I hope I'm not coming across too harshly.


As for atheism, I don't know for sure that there is no god (which is what I think you're getting at).  I do think that agnosticism is true, meaning we can't know if there is or is not a god.  Maybe there is one, maybe there isn't, but I haven't seen any reason to believe there is one in this world.  Evolution?  I didn't think that was in debate here.


Just to be clear- I don't think that one needs to believe in objective morality to believe that there are better and worse ways to behave.  There are a lot of very smart people that seem to think otherwise (including your hero and mine, Sam Harris).  Even Sam believes that there is objective morality.  I'm sure you guys see something I don't, but alls I know is that it doesn't make sense to me to go around saying "there is some objective morality" and then not be able to back it up with anything from this world that we live in.  


The only conclusion I can reach is that morality, in the only way that matters in this world (which is how an individual decides how to behave), only truly exists in each individual.  We can modify our moral beliefs to be in line with others, after having a reasoned, thoughtful debate on how we should behave, but we can't pretend to impose our morals on others just by citing some passage in a book or telling people they'll go to hell for not honoring their parents.  We can come together with other individuals and debate, and compromise, and come up with a human system of laws that enforce our shared principles of morality, in an attempt to protect our society, but a megachurch pastor can't get up on stage and get me to change my behavior unless he/she uses human reasoning to make me think my behavior could be better in my own terms.



 

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At least Obama could release his birth certificate- God could do the same, but He hasn't so far- at least not in a credible way.

 

 

I think this is an interesting example. As for Obama, should we have believed that he was a citizen even though he didn’t actually release his birth certificate? Though this argument may not work if you are a conservative of a certain sort, (I think they are called “birthers” or “people without  anything better to do….” jkjk) I think that though there was not such direct evidence as the release of a birth certificate, you really should have believed he was a citizen. Likewise, you could be asking God for a birth certificate (as in the analogy) and this request could be unreasonable because there is actually good evidence. One such evidence we are discussing, so I beg you not to pull a Donald Trump and demand the certificate… (nothing personal or serious, but I had to throw Trump in there somehow…)

 

I think that's a fair analogy, but I don't see the evidence for God that you imply is there. I don't think I'm being unreasonable in asking for some kind of direct evidence (not just "the universe is really complicated and we don't know how it started- therefore, God exists").  With Obama, there was very good reason to believe that he met the minimum qualifications for the presidency, and then when he was first questioned about it he supplied his certificate of live birth ("short form", which is the legal version).  He had supplied every piece of evidence the law required- sure, it was possible that he forged everything, but there was good reason to believe he was born in the US.  And, it's not like he had lived his whole life abroad and just happened to come to the US three years prior to running for office... this wasn't exactly an extraordinary claim...


However- the claim that any particular god exists is pretty extraordinary, which, as I think Carl Sagan said, requires extraordinary evidence to support it.  But I don't even see regular, garden variety evidence.  I see that the universe is complex and beautiful and conforms to extremely tight laws, but just because my limited mind can't explain how these laws came to govern doesn't mean that I should just make something up (or believe someone else's story without evidence or sufficient reason to believe it's true).  


In this particular discussion, I see that humans tend to behave in a way that reflects our human nature of empathy, but I don't pull from that behavior that objective morals exist, and so I don't see object morality as evidence for the existence of God.  There have been a lot of times in history when we have not known the answer, and just attributed the cause to God (earthquakes, floods, sun rising, sun setting, tide coming in, tide going out (thanks Bill O'Reilly), locusts, crop damage, tree branch falling, winning a basketball game, winning or losing a war, etc), eventually knowledge and investigation of the natural world provided a slightly better explanation.    


It's tempting, I'm sure, to think that I disbelieved in God first and that drove me to disbelieve in objective morality to suit my needs- that's not the case.  I tried to discover how morality could be objective as a separate question from the existence of God, and came to the separate conclusion that morality, as we know it, isn't objective.  I'm not trying to come up with ways to deny the existence of God.  Just explaining why I don't consider any of the arguments in favor of His existence to be convincing.



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And honestly, I think it's valid to say that these things are wrong because the normal, fully functioning human has emotions and desires that guide us away from these fundamental actions.

 

 

This wouldn’t mean that rape is wrong, just that people have a natural aversion to it.

 

Granted, for your concept of "wrong."  If the only reason why you think it's wrong is because you think God told you it's wrong (through his placing value on life, or through a passage in the bible, or through some direct revelation), then I agree- this wouldn't be convincing to you and human suffering doesn't even come into the moral calculus.  But it you're looking at it from a pragmatic, worldly perspective, wrong absolutely can mean a natural aversion.  I happen to think that lighting a cat's tail on fire is wrong.  It's not immoral though because cat's don't have the same value as humans (correct me if I'm wrong- no pun intended...).  But I have an extreme natural aversion to causing a cat pain.  I happen to think that FGM is wrong.  I have a natural aversion to it.  And I reason that it causes lasting emotional and physical suffering with no overriding benefit.  I'm not sure why Christians would think it's "wrong" (and some Christians, along with others in those societies that practice it, believe that it is right).  



 
Quote

Just like we avoid pain, and take refuge from fear (two fundamental psychological factor
   s), we typically avoid acts that cause guilt (although there may be a learned component to that one), and I think that the "normal" human suffers to a certain degree when she witnesses suffering of others, and therefore has a biological/psychological aversion to others' suffering and is compelled to ease that suffering.

 


 

The  “normal” healthy human having an aversion to something doesn’t make that something wrong. I think that the weight of what you said would fall on the question, "if morality is an illusion, can we still live what we would normally call moral lives?" This wouldn't affect the moral argument, but I have a few comments...


I think humanity is keen on giving themselves excuses for sinning, and I fear where society will go if it realizes what Neitsche did about morality—that if there is no God, it is simply an illusion. We have drugs for irrational fears, and if morality is an irrational fear, and guilt an irrational emotion, and people really believe this, they will develop drugs to eliminate it. It would probably start with giving them to soldier with PSTD. I have heard of such drugs actually being tested on the news. It may seem unlikely for them to be used now, but what about 100 years from now, what about 1000?

 


I'm not sure why we would consider morality to be an irrational fear.  Why would anyone ever prescribe a drug to remove a person's natural inhibitions?  It seems to be against the best interests of society.  Maybe it'll happen some day, but it'll happen with or without religion.



 

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The commandments cover the easy ones, but the hard ones we judge based on things other than stone tablets.  These are the lowest common denominators, and the REAL reason why we feel certain acts are wrong.

 

 

I am fine with that. As I said, I think the tablets are general rules not always applicable in every situation in a strictly literal sense. I agree about emotions as well. I think this is probably one would know objective moral values exist. Though on atheism, such emotions are certainly illusory because the existence of them would require a miracle or a God.

 

 

Emotions are illusory?  I don't get it.  We have emotions.  We feel them.  we experience them.  I'm not sure why you say that the atheist believes that emotions are illusory, and why you think that emotions require a miracle or a God.  I think I'm missing something here... sorry!


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I suppose if one wanted to push, they could ask, what if 90 percent of the people didn't feel any empathy and they had overactive sexual urges that brought them to rape people with no remorse.  Fine.  If you're in the "moral" 10%, sorry.  Not that it's good, or OK (or "right"). Still sucks for you, you still think "man, these guys are really immoral..."  But at the end of the day, whether you are "objectively" morally in the right, you're still going to be violated.  I don't like that scenario any more than the next guy, but there's not a whole lot this moral guy can do.  If you're one of the last 10 Christians on an otherwise lawless, corrupt, immoral earth, you might find some comfort in the idea that you're going to go to heaven, but that's not going to do you much good while you're waiting for your next life.

 

 

If moral values are culturally relative, then neither of us would have any business telling them they are doing something wrong. Since moraty would be determined by the culture, and this culture considers rape not wrong, it actually would not be wrong. To say otherwise would just to be irrational, and probably on their cultural morals, immoral.


   

I am not sure what you believe about morality exactly, but you seem to be accepting relative morality or morality as just an illusion. (though perhaps a helpful one)

 

 

If morality is relative to culture, you have no basis making cross cultural judgments, like, “it is wrong for the countries of the middle east to jail homosexuals.”

 

 

If morality an illusion, burning an orphanage is no wrong than doing the Macarena.


My point is not to make your views seem absurd, (though I love comedy in arguments) but to convince you that God exists by the moral argument. Though I have a feeling that this may take more comedy mixed with argument...

 

I  don't get why people are so hung up on calling morality "objective" and  thinking that just by saying it, they then have a "right" to impose  their version of morality on others.  Seriously- if it makes you feel  better about forcing another culture to stop the practice of FGM to call  it objectively immoral, then fine- do what you gotta do.  But you're  just fooling yourself.  Either you have a good reason for imposing your  morality on others, or you don't.  And by good reason, I mean a reason  that other humans will accept, not just what you think God likes or  doesn't like.  
   


   

I  feel like I have a pretty darned good reason for working to stop it,  and I can certainly work to educate the people committing the act, work  with the government to outlaw it and impose penalties for committing the  act, and convince people that forcing (even through indoctrination)  their daughters to go through it is not in the best interest of  society.  Maybe I'm successful, maybe not.  But claiming to have God on  my side only helps if
   the people committing the acts 1.) believe in the  same God as I, and 2.) I can convince them to change their mind about  how our shared God thinks regarding FGM.  Otherwise, do you really think  anyone committing FGM cares what your God thinks?  
   


   

Honestly,  what do you care what Allah thinks about morality?  What do you care  about what any other god thinks about morality?  If you don't feel the  need to respect another's version of god-given morality, what makes you  think that anyone else is going to respect yours?  And if they don't  respect yours, then what's the point of claiming moral high ground  (except, again, that it will set you up better in the afterlife, which  means nothing to non-Christians as well).  
   


   

I  guess maybe I've misled you- not purposely, but because I haven't been  arguing my point long enough to know what others think my beliefs really  mean.  I understand the issues of "well, who's right" and "don't  cannibals have just as much right to impose their morality on us as we  have to impose ours on them?"  I'd answer that they have just as much  right to try to convince us of  their morality.  But they would do that regardless of whether you or I  said they have some "right" to do it.  I absolutely do NOT believe that  we have to remain silent and not judge the actions of others.  We do NOT  have to say "well, FGM may cause tremendous amounts of suffering, but  hey- that's just their culture."  I do not believe in cultural relativism.
   


   

I  have very good reasons for believing in my own moral framework.  And I  think that it's a good way to live.  And I can show others that my way  is a good way to live.  Who are you to tell me otherwise? (that's  actually a real question, not rhetorical and combative )  There is no  reason for me to comply with your morality unless I see it as a good  way to live, or if there are civil laws that require me to comply with  it (and punishments if I don't).  


WHEW!  wow, you'd think I was writing a book.  I write so much because it helps me to understand my own views, which are still forming to a certain extent.  But I think that I've been fairly consistent (if maybe not thorough).


Your serve.



7

Jeff Mitchell

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Can we know the mind of God?
« Reply #37 on: July 02, 2011, 01:39:50 pm »
Sandspirit wrote:
Let's do another one... boiling babies- this one is actually hard... Come to think of it, I'm not sure that boiling babies is wrong in the same way, because there's nothing in the definition of "boiling" or "babies" that means "wrong." So why is it wrong? God doesn't actually say anything against it directly... but I imagine it goes back to the "do unto your neighbor" or "not kill (without justification)" clause. I know why I think it's wrong, but it's subjective so it doesn't count.


You have a problem figuring out why boiling babies is wrong? I count myself lucky only to have encountered you on the internet.

I wasn't going to reply to this because I thought you were deliberately misunderstanding my point, but I think maybe I wasn't clear.  The first sentence was just to  point out the difference between a name of an act that defines it as  wrong (rape, murder), and an act that doesn't have that type of a name.  It wasn't  an important point, and I could (should?) have just left it out.

My last sentence was supposed to mean that Emailest wouldn't regard my reason as sufficient because it is subjective (not culturally relativistic though)- not that I didn't think it counted.  I think my reasons are quite sound.  I actually think that Emailest's reasons are on shaky ground, because they are rooted in something that is not of this world, no one truly can see or experience it, and different people in the world have different ideas of what a particular god wants us to do.  It's not only completely subjective, but it's appealing to random belief (pick a god, any god) instead of the one thing that humans do have in common and could actually make a difference in the global human condition- our ability to reason, think, empathize, and compromise.

You may still be glad that you only know me through the internet, but that's ok- you have every right to judge me.  However, you're fooling yourself if you think your version of morality- objective, "true," "right," or otherwise- will have any bearing whatsoever on me.  Plus, I only boil babies- I imagine you're safe.


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« Reply #38 on: July 02, 2011, 01:44:48 pm »
emailestthoume wrote:
Quote from: Sandspirit
Let's do another one... boiling babies- this one is actually hard... Come to think of it, I'm not sure that boiling babies is wrong in the same way, because there's nothing in the definition of "boiling" or "babies" that means "wrong." So why is it wrong? God doesn't actually say anything against it directly... but I imagine it goes back to the "do unto your neighbor" or "not kill (without justification)" clause. I know why I think it's wrong, but it's subjective so it doesn't count.


You have a problem figuring out why boiling babies is wrong? I count myself lucky only to have encountered you on the internet.


If there's no objective morality, I think this is what happens, because relative morality is just subjective and therefore can lay no obligations upon us. Plus there are good recipes on food.com for babies.

So tell me, how am I obligated by Christian "objective" morals? (shortest post ever!)

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Sandspirit

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« Reply #39 on: July 03, 2011, 03:04:45 am »
You may still be glad that you only know me through the internet, but that's ok- you have every right to judge me. However, you're fooling yourself if you think your version of morality- objective, "true," "right," or otherwise- will have any bearing whatsoever on me.


"Judge" is a loaded word. I'm happy to use it although it sounds a bit grandiose under the circumstances. We all have opinions about the people we encounter, good, bad or indifferent. All these responses are judgements of a sort.

If my version of morality is correct it will inevitably have a bearing on you, due to its objectivity. If I'm wrong you've nothing to concern yourself about.

Plus, I only boil babies- I imagine you're safe.


I didn't deliberately misunderstand you, I just wonder why we need a reason not to boil babies. But that's another, very long discussion.  

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« Reply #40 on: July 03, 2011, 03:22:38 am »
ReasonableJeff wrote:
Quote from: emailestthoume
Quote from: Sandspirit
Let's do another one... boiling babies- this one is actually hard... Come to think of it, I'm not sure that boiling babies is wrong in the same way, because there's nothing in the definition of "boiling" or "babies" that means "wrong." So why is it wrong? God doesn't actually say anything against it directly... but I imagine it goes back to the "do unto your neighbor" or "not kill (without justification)" clause. I know why I think it's wrong, but it's subjective so it doesn't count.


You have a problem figuring out why boiling babies is wrong? I count myself lucky only to have encountered you on the internet.


If there's no objective morality, I think this is what happens, because relative morality is just subjective and therefore can lay no obligations upon us. Plus there are good recipes on food.com for babies.

So tell me, how am I obligated by Christian "objective" morals? (shortest post ever!)


Because God who has given you life is goodness itself and he has made people (including babies) in His own image. His very being is such that it ought to be respected and boiling babies disrespects it greatly because the babies are made in his image and therefore share in his goodness. God's commands flowing necessarily from His could nature would obligate you to obey, given that he has every right to command you stuff (given that he gave you everything good you receive, even life itself) and you have every obligation to obey (because he is perfect goodness itself and you are obligated to obey for the same reasons he has the right to command you stuff. What I would ask you is, how could you be obligated by either abstract values (if there is non-God objective morality) or by the opinion of society? (<- relative moral values)

I will just ignore everything you said an just respond to this... just kidding. Response comin'.

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« Reply #41 on: July 03, 2011, 12:03:11 pm »
Sandspirit wrote:
You may still be glad that you only know me through the internet, but that's ok- you have every right to judge me. However, you're fooling yourself if you think your version of morality- objective, "true," "right," or otherwise- will have any bearing whatsoever on me.


"Judge" is a loaded word. I'm happy to use it although it sounds a bit grandiose under the circumstances. We all have opinions about the people we encounter, good, bad or indifferent. All these responses are judgements of a sort.

If my version of morality is correct it will inevitably have a bearing on you, due to its objectivity. If I'm wrong you've nothing to concern yourself about.

Plus, I only boil babies- I imagine you're safe.


I didn't deliberately misunderstand you, I just wonder why we need a reason not to boil babies. But that's another, very long discussion.  

I just meant the word "judge" in the basic way- wasn't trying to make a statement with it.  I was sincere when I said you had every right to judge me.  I think my tone was slightly negative, and I shouldn't have used it.

Let's assume your version of morality is correct, and I just don't know it or don't accept it.  What bearing does that have on me, objective or not?  In this world, I mean (not any other).  

Lastly, I think it's absolutely critical that we think about why boiling babies is wrong, just as we need to think about why rape is wrong, why killing for fun is wrong, why embryonic stem cell research is wrong, why female genital mutilation is wrong, why male genital mutilation is wrong (wait... is it?), why sexual relations between an 18 year old male with a female the day before her 18th birthday is wrong (or at least, more wrong than sexual relations between two 18 year olds- I'm referring to statutory rape), why failing to honor one's parents is wrong, why certain wars are right, why certain wars are wrong, why a married couple using a condom is wrong but a married couple deliberately refraining from sex during periods of fertility is okey-dokey (had to throw one in for the Catholics in the crowd...), and any number of other moral questions.  THE LONGEST RUN-ON SENTENCE EVER!!!

I don't trust my intuitions completely.  When I have to, I have to- otherwise, I like to subject them to reasoning.  I like to know "why" I'm doing something- either I have good reasons, or I don't.  I think that God falls under the same logic- either He has good reasons, or He doesn't.  I know that's not how many Christians think- Any reason that God has is, by definition through God's perfect goodness, a "good" reason.  

But so long as we still have well-intentioned Christians who ask questions that aren't 100%, definitively answered by God, we need to use some other reasoning to tease out His intentions toward us.  And as soon as we use human reasoning, we are tacitly confirming the notion that God must have good reasons for ordering us the way He does, which seems to imply that He is bound by something external to Himself.  Either something is "good" regardless of our thoughts on the matter, which means that we can't rely on our thoughts to determine goodness, or there is some other (seemingly) objective standard of goodness that we can use, to figure out "what would Jesus do?"    

Yes, we need a reason why boiling babies is wrong- we all have reasons for why we do what we do of course.  My reason is that it causes suffering in another conscious being and I have a natural, emotional, psychological aversion to causing that suffering.  Emailest's reason is because God made us in His image (implying that we should not destroy others that were made in God's image), and (I hope I'm not misrepresenting his view here) there is no other reason necessary.  I'm not clear exactly what your reason would be... but you might be somewhere in the middle, judging by some of your past posts?  

A little more soap box than you were asking for, but... well, that's just how I roll.

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« Reply #42 on: July 03, 2011, 12:42:25 pm »
emailestthoume wrote:
Quote from: ReasonableJeff
Quote from: emailestthoume
Quote from: Sandspirit
Let's do another one... boiling babies- this one is actually hard... Come to think of it, I'm not sure that boiling babies is wrong in the same way, because there's nothing in the definition of "boiling" or "babies" that means "wrong." So why is it wrong? God doesn't actually say anything against it directly... but I imagine it goes back to the "do unto your neighbor" or "not kill (without justification)" clause. I know why I think it's wrong, but it's subjective so it doesn't count.


You have a problem figuring out why boiling babies is wrong? I count myself lucky only to have encountered you on the internet.


If there's no objective morality, I think this is what happens, because relative morality is just subjective and therefore can lay no obligations upon us. Plus there are good recipes on food.com for babies.

So tell me, how am I obligated by Christian "objective" morals? (shortest post ever!)


Because God who has given you life is goodness itself and he has made people (including babies) in His own image. His very being is such that it ought to be respected and boiling babies disrespects it greatly because the babies are made in his image and therefore share in his goodness. God's commands flowing necessarily from His could nature would obligate you to obey, given that he has every right to command you stuff (given that he gave you everything good you receive, even life itself) and you have every obligation to obey (because he is perfect goodness itself and you are obligated to obey for the same reasons he has the right to command you stuff.

Ok, but seriously- I don't get it.  Maybe I'm using the wrong word- I might be obligated in your view, but what I'm trying to figure out is what compels me- what motivates me- into acting in accordance with your objective moral guidelines?  When all is said and done, I don't act, and I don't see any reason to act, in accordance with your objective morals unless they happen to coincide with MY subjective morals- and in that case, it's for my own subjective reasons and not your objective ones.

The only thing I can think of is heaven and hell- that I'm gonna get what I deserve in the next life, either good or bad.  I can't really argue with that.  But I don't believe it, so... we're back to square one.



What I would ask you is, how could you be obligated by either abstract values (if there is non-God objective morality) or by the opinion of society? (<- relative moral values)

I don't think that non-God objective morality obligates us any more than God's objective morality.  Not sure about the "opinion" of society, but I do have a vested interest in obeying laws.  I'm not truly obligated by them.  I could break the law (and I would, if I thought they seriously violated my morals)- but at least the laws give me a reason to behave a certain way (my own self-interest).  I think that relative moral values (cultural relativism) is wrong as well- it's the coward's way out, in my opinion- a way to not have to take a stand.  I'm not sure exactly what title that leaves me with  I guess Secular Humanist?  I don't like to be tied down though...

Nobody HAS to behave in a certain way- that's the natural reality of free-will.  Animals have instinct, which compels them to behave a certain way without anyone teaching them.  Humans have reflexes (sucking, turning toward the side of the cheek that was brushed with a finger or nipple, etc), but that's not the same as conscious behavior.  You very well could "see the light" and deny the Holy Spirit tomorrow (although I know I'm playing with fire now- literally- so I'll tread lightly).  You have that choice, which is why the act is so damning.

I have a feeling that my thinking about "objectivity" and the thinking of others that espouse non-theistic objective moral systems might not be that different, and that I'm just misunderstanding the way they use the term "objective," but I'm not sure.


I will just ignore everything you said an just respond to this... just kidding. Response comin'.

You know me, I'm happy to argue with whatever you throw up here  I'm just glad to be here...


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« Reply #43 on: July 03, 2011, 01:36:52 pm »
Ok,  but seriously- I don't get it.  Maybe I'm using the wrong word- I might  be obligated in your view, but what I'm trying to figure out is what  compels me- what motivates me- into acting in accordance with your  objective moral guidelines?  When all is said and done, I don't act, and  I don't see any reason to act, in accordance with your objective morals  unless they happen to coincide with MY subjective morals- and in that  case, it's for my own subjective reasons and not your objective ones.


My point that is that morality is illusory unless there is objective moral values and that they are given by God. In the comment that you were responding to, I gave the reasons why you would be obligated in that situation. This is not arguing for Christianity directly, and if I wanted you to believe Christianities specific moral truths, I couldn't do so by this argument.

The moral argument that I am offering here is basically

1. If there is no God who is goodness and commands morality, morality is illusory
2. Morality is not illusory
3. Therefore, there is a God who is goodness and commands morality


Not sure about the "opinion" of  society, but I do have a vested interest in obeying laws.  I'm not truly  obligated by them.  I could break the law (and I would, if I thought  they seriously violated my morals)- but at least the laws give me a  reason to behave a certain way (my own self-interest).  I think that  relative moral values (cultural relativism) is wrong as well- it's the  coward's way out, in my opinion- a way to not have to take a stand.  I'm  not sure exactly what title that leaves me with  I guess Secular Humanist?  I don't like to be tied down though...


I think secular humanists believe in objective morality... or at least relativism. What I am pretty sure you are left with is moral nihilism--essentially nothing is wrong about boiling babies. Here is the wikipedia definition, and I think it is accurate...

Moral nihilism (also known as ethical nihilism or amoralism), is the meta-ethical view that nothing is moral or immoral.  For example, a moral nihilist would say that killing someone, for  whatever reason, is neither inherently right nor inherently wrong.  Morality may simply be a kind of make-believe, a complex set of rules  and recommendations that represents nothing real and is seen as a human  creation


Nobody HAS to behave in a  certain way- that's the natural reality of free-will.  Animals have  instinct, which compels them to behave a certain way without anyone  teaching them.  Humans have reflexes (sucking, turning toward the side  of the cheek that was brushed with a finger or nipple, etc), but that's  not the same as conscious behavior.  


I don't think we disagree here. I don't think we have to do certian things, I just think we "ought to."

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« Reply #44 on: July 04, 2011, 03:21:49 am »
Let's assume your version of morality is correct, and I just don't know it or don't accept it. What bearing does that have on me, objective or not? In this world, I mean (not any other).


For the moment I'll go for the short answer. Christopher Hitchens has talked on a number of occasions about the existence of evil, by which he means people who murder and torture not primarily for expedient reasons but because of the gratuitous satisfaction inflicting pain on others brings them. Hitchens rejects absolutely the "supernatural" but accepts the transcendent. He says he wouldn't trust anyone who doesn't know why we need art, music, architecture, literature and so on. I agree with him and I think anyone who takes the time can find this need for the transcendent and, included in this, a sense of good and evil. You can do it too and I think if you do you'll find the same things Hitchens found. I think the need is unavoidable, it will surface in various ways during your life, you can push it away but your life will be far poorer for having done so.

Of course you can tell me the need for the transcendent doesn't exist, or if it does it's the product of evolution. I can't persuade you otherwise because I can't transfer my experiences to you but my understanding is that this need exists within me but originates from without.  

Lastly, I think it's absolutely critical that we think about why boiling babies is wrong, just as we need to think about why rape is wrong, why killing for fun is wrong, why embryonic stem cell research is wrong, why female genital mutilation is wrong, why male genital mutilation is wrong (wait... is it?), why sexual relations between an 18 year old male with a female the day before her 18th birthday is wrong (or at least, more wrong than sexual relations between two 18 year olds- I'm referring to statutory rape), why failing to honor one's parents is wrong, why certain wars are right, why certain wars are wrong, why a married couple using a condom is wrong but a married couple deliberately refraining from sex during periods of fertility is okey-dokey (had to throw one in for the Catholics in the crowd...), and any number of other moral questions. THE LONGEST RUN-ON SENTENCE EVER!!!


I'm afraid I can't help you here because I don't think you can reason your way to morality. This will sound odd I know, but I think if you look at your own life and try to find a sense of purpose (which I believe we all have) then right and wrong will become less perplexing.