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Why would a Christian want to change the world?
Posted: 23 September 2012 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 121 ]
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I just want to clear something up here. 

I didn’t mean to suggest that there is a logical contradiction between the statements ‘I want to make the world a better place’ and ‘I want to save as many souls as possible’. Just taken in isolation, these two statements are OK. The tension arises when we put these two statements together with the Christian world view as a whole and all the other things the Christian says and does.

So, for example, I hear things like the following:
1. (In the context of the problem of evil) - Poverty is a good thing because it toughens people up, allows us to show virtues that would otherwise be impossible, brings people running into the arms of Jesus, etc. 
2. (In an ethics context) We want to create a better world and completely eradicate poverty. 

This is the kind of inconsistency I’m worried about, and the kind of thing that Maitzen and Sehon are brilliant at spotting.

Now, my own view is that the fundamentalist will say absolutely anything to try to get God off the hook and in their mind guarantee themselves a place in heaven for being a good apologist, but what we need to do is remind the fundamentalist of all the things they’ve said in this context when they are talking about ethics, social justice and humanitarianism. We will then start to see all of the inconsistencies in their overall world view.

[ Edited: 23 September 2012 03:29 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 23 September 2012 06:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 122 ]
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George - 23 September 2012 02:31 PM
Bryan - 23 September 2012 01:49 PM

But if God’s purpose is (as you mentioned separately) to create responsible beings who have opportunities for growth, sacrifice and heroism then we need the possibility of bad things happening.

I didn’t know that.

That we can probably remedy.  Describe to me any act of heroism that is possible if nothing bad can happen.

If you can’t think of one it may not be an accident.

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Posted: 23 September 2012 06:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 123 ]
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Dom1978 - 23 September 2012 05:44 AM

     

You can read Sehon’s article against skeptical theism here: 

http://www.bowdoin.edu/faculty/s/ssehon/pdf/sehon-skeptical-theism.pdf 

Sehon’s article has “skeptical theism” as its specific target.  The arguments don’t translate well to use against Christians in general, even if you narrow it down to Protestant fundamentalists.  That’s the biggest reason you’re having trouble selling it to me.  But FWIW I don’t think Sehon argues his point particularly effectively.  I think his understanding of “skeptical theism” turns a caution into a doctrine.

You can listen to Maitzen’s lecture “God vs Morality” here, and also read some of his papers: 

http://philosophy.acadiau.ca/maitzen_cv.html   

Bryan, no I don’t think I’ve read that particular book by Lewis, but I’ve read most of his other Christian books, and I do admire him as a writer.

Here’s a line fairly typical of Maitzen (at least in the first paper I looked at):

“My claim is that no supreme being could treat the child in the way I’ve described, whichever label we choose for that treatment. To put it mildly, there’s something less than perfect about letting a child suffer terribly for the primary benefit of someone else—whether for the benefit of a bystander who gets a hero’s chance to intervene, or for the benefit of a child-abuser who gets to exercise unchecked free will.

Maitzen, in short, thinks humans need moral training wheels to keep them from exceeding some undemarcated barrier between permissible suffering and the other kind of suffering.  Either that or there’s no justification for letting us have free will in the first place.  I didn’t get to the argument that’s supposed to support his point.  I’m diverted toward his argument for an atheist’s brand of moral realism.  I’ll post my impression of that separately.

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Posted: 23 September 2012 07:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 124 ]
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Bryan - 23 September 2012 06:11 PM

Describe to me any act of heroism that is possible if nothing bad can happen.

Give me omnipotence and I am sure I’ll think of something. You know how the story goes: if you are willing and able ...

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Posted: 23 September 2012 07:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 125 ]
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Maitzen on crossing the is/ought divide:

(Bl)  Some ethical sentences, standardly construed, are true.
(B2) Either no ethical sentence, standardly construed, is true, or torturing babies just for fun is morally wrong.
Therefore:
(B3)  Torturing babies just for fun is morally wrong.

Taken charitably, Maitzen is trying to refute the argument of another philosopher who argued against the possibility of crossing the divide.  Toomas Karmo wrote that there is no sound argument (sound=valid argument where premises and conclusion are true).

Maitzen’s argument is trickery.  He smuggles oughts into his non-moral premises in both instances.
Paraphrased
B1:  One ought not to do some things.
B2:  Of the things one ought not to do, one is undoubtedlly torturing babies just for fun.

Maitzen does not derive “Torturing babies just for fun is wrong” from his premises.  Rather, he constructs an argument to try to make it appear that he did.

There’s no pure “is” in either premise.  Instead, we have “oughts” smuggled into both premises to justify a conclusion that that Maitzen probably had in mind at the outset.  It’s logical trickery.  It’s not that different from saying “It is true that one ought not torture babies for fun, therefore one ought not torture babies for fun.”  To present it as a case for deriving an “ought” from an “is” is ludicrous.

Does Maitzen show a legitimate flaw in Karmo’s definitions?  Maybe.  Does Maitzen legitimately cross the is/ought divide?  It’s hard to see how when both premises affirm the existence of oughts.

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Posted: 23 September 2012 07:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 126 ]
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George - 23 September 2012 07:49 PM
Bryan - 23 September 2012 06:11 PM

Describe to me any act of heroism that is possible if nothing bad can happen.

Give me omnipotence and I am sure I’ll think of something. You know how the story goes: if you are willing and able ...

Consider yourself in possession of omnipotence for the sake of argument.  Doubtless you’re sufficiently well-endowed mentally that we’ll see no subsequent request for infinite knowledge.  wink

Heroism without the possibility of ill consequences, please.

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Posted: 23 September 2012 09:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 127 ]
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Bryan, I certainly don’t want to support everything that Maitzen has written. I just think he’s right to say that atheism/secularism fits better with ordinary common-sense morality than Christianity does.

1. Christianity says it’s a good thing when a Christian child dies. 
2. Christianity says that death in itself is not a bad thing, and so killing someone is wrong only because you’re breaking God’s commandments and not because you’re harming someone. 

Just these two very simple examples show that common-sense morality fits better with secular morality than it does with Christian morality, and I find it puzzling that you’re not even willing to concede this point.

I also agree with Maitzen that Christians often say one thing in a problem-of-evil context and another thing in an ethics context. So at one time they’ll say free-will should never be interfered with, and at another they’ll say we absolutely must interfere with it. Likewise, they’ll say poverty is good for us in one context, and then they’ll say we ought to eradicate poverty at another point. In other words, they just say whatever they can think of in order to try to defend their religion, and they don’t worry too much about whether these things actually fit together. They’ll say, “Well, it’s just different in this context,” or “It’s just different for God.”

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Posted: 23 September 2012 09:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 128 ]
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Bryan - 23 September 2012 01:49 PM

But if God’s purpose is (as you mentioned separately) to create responsible beings who have opportunities for growth, sacrifice and heroism then we need the possibility of bad things happening.


This strange God that you speak of, has no need to grow Itself.  It can sacrifice Itself, or not, as It chooses. It cannot be heroic, unless it contrives adversity for Itself (which seems pointless as it can have any outcome that it chooses).  Yet It created beings that It wants to learn to grow, sacrifice and be heroic.  It could create beings that already know how to do those things, but I can’t imagine why It would want them either way, unless we anthropomorphise God, which, of course humans have, in the course of conceptualizing It.

So this anthropomorphised God, is lonely, and only wants as companions, those who learn to grow, sacrifice and be heroic under conditions of compatibilist free will. The subservient, but perfect angels are just not enough.

IMO, the entire argument about God’s morals being the only “real” standard for human morals, is ludicrous, because the conception of the deity, in the first place, is ludicrous.

But of course God-believers will not recognize that.

So Dom wants them to recognize something else, through rational persuasion.  But if they could be rational about such things, they would likely not be a God-believer, anyway.  So the effort seems to me to be a futile one.

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Posted: 23 September 2012 09:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 129 ]
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And where do other animals fit into this “test” of heroism that makes you “superior” if you survive it?  Is that not called the evolutionary process? Or are animals and other living bio-organisms not worthy of higher quality instruction?
If we survive any test it is our own destructiveness. And that is supposed to make us divine in some way?

I find this whole notion of man being special in the eyes of god an exercise in egocentrism.  Ahhhh, yes, in order to earn “dominion” over the earth man must pass extra special tests of courage and honor. Kinda like the difference between “bootcamp” for animals (grunts), and “Westpoint” for humans (officers and gentlemen).

We have had some 3,000+ years of divine instruction to practice for our tests, but it seems that we have learned very little that is of practical moral value to mankind or the earth for that matter.  I see absolutely nothing special about man’s moral behavior except more sophistication in killing other living things and each other. And yes, we might be able to reach the stars someday, but heaven will be forever out of our reach, IMO.


Call me cynical.

[ Edited: 24 September 2012 12:16 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 23 September 2012 10:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 130 ]
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Dom1978 - 23 September 2012 09:33 PM

Bryan, I certainly don’t want to support everything that Maitzen has written. I just think he’s right to say that atheism/secularism fits better with ordinary common-sense morality than Christianity does.

That kind of ignores the problem the naturalist/secularist has with giving an epistemological justification for accepting any moral precepts at all.

1. Christianity says it’s a good thing when a Christian child dies. 
2. Christianity says that death in itself is not a bad thing, and so killing someone is wrong only because you’re breaking God’s commandments and not because you’re harming someone. 

Just these two very simple examples show that common-sense morality fits better with secular morality than it does with Christian morality, and I find it puzzling that you’re not even willing to concede this point.

I’m not a skeptical theist.  I don’t think it’s a good thing when any child dies, including a Christian child.  Nor does Christianity say that death in itself is not a bad thing.  Jesus wept when Lazarus died.  Jesus brought him back to life later one, but the death still brought him to tears.  And why should it be so?  Death is the separation of the spirit from the body, which were designed to go together since Adam.

I find it puzzling that you think it puzzling I won’t concede your point.

I also agree with Maitzen that Christians often say one thing in a problem-of-evil context and another thing in an ethics context. So at one time they’ll say free-will should never be interfered with, and at another they’ll say we absolutely must interfere with it. Likewise, they’ll say poverty is good for us in one context, and then they’ll say we ought to eradicate poverty at another point. In other words, they just say whatever they can think of in order to try to defend their religion, and they don’t worry too much about whether these things actually fit together. They’ll say, “Well, it’s just different in this context,” or “It’s just different for God.”

Who says free will should never be interfered with?

Given that God is different from people (as George has helpfully noted) isn’t it obvious that things really do tend to be different when it’s God rather than people? 

One needs a reasonable grounds for saying otherwise, specific to a given situation.  That’s one area where I found your two philosophers a bit careless.

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Posted: 23 September 2012 10:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 131 ]
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I don’t think it’s a good thing when any child dies, including a Christian child.

Well if Christians believe that the child goes straight to heaven to be with Jesus, then surely they should be celebrating the death of a Christian child. This is the point, and this is why we believe that the Christian world view conflicts with common-sense morality. The secular world view, on the other hand, gives the right answers when it comes to the wrongness of killing and the badness of death. Maitzen’s point here, of course, is that most Christians deep down also believe in the secular moral position rather than the fundamentalist Christian one. I totally agree with him on this point, but it’s more a psychological point than a philosophical one. It’s important, though, because it means this is the right way to go about trying to show Christians that there’s something wrong with their world view, rather than going on about irrelevant stuff as the new atheists tend to do.

[ Edited: 23 September 2012 10:30 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 24 September 2012 01:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 132 ]
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Bryan,
Given that God is different from people (as George has helpfully noted) isn’t it obvious that things really do tend to be different when it’s God rather than people?

I am sorry, but your conclusion is far from obvious to me.
IMO, God is not merely different from people, God is different FOR all people. But “things” are the same (objective reality) regardless of what people think (subjective observation and interpretation).

As to the thread question itself, why would anyone want to change the world? The obvious answer is because we have made a mess of it so far. What theists fail to see is that contrary to its noble intent ( I am being generous), theism itself is a major contributor to the mess we are in.
Christians say, “if only you believe in God and Jesus, the world would be so much better”, then follow it with, “If you are an apostate (atheist) you will spend eternity in hell”
Muslims say, “if only you believe in Allah and Muhammed, the world would be so much better”, then follow it with, “If you are an apostate (infidel) I will send you to hell”

wiki,

Many religious groups and some states punish apostates. Apostates may be shunned by the members of their former religious group[1] or subjected to formal or informal punishment. This may be the official policy of the religious group or may be the action of its members. Certain types of churches may in certain circumstances excommunicate the apostate, while some religious scriptures demand the death penalty for apostates.

And I am sorry to disagree with you, Dom, on your statement re the “new atheists”. I’ve been an atheist all my life and I’m old, but when I was young I have physically felt the “wrath of God” from believers, just for saying that all things, including people, were composed of atoms. Hypatia (1650 years ago) was a perfect example of a moral person as well as being a brilliant scientist who’s life was just “snuffed” out by Christian zealots. This stuff has been going on for a long time now and nothing has changed. Enough already!

IMO, New Atheists have a perfect right to agressively defend atheism where an individual is responsible and can be held accountable for his actions regardless of divine command (argument from false authority), and bring attention to the immoral practises of theists in the name of God. People need to be reminded of the unspeakable crimes committed in the name of “spreading the good news”.

[ Edited: 24 September 2012 02:23 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 24 September 2012 02:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 133 ]
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One of the criticisms of new atheism, and Dawkins in particular.

This is what egged Terry Eagleton that time to start his review of Dawkins’ The God Delusion with the memorable line:

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the “Book of British Birds”, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/carl-packman/why-the-new-atheists-are-_b_1897393.html?view=print

Is this idiot using Darwin as an argument ?

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Posted: 24 September 2012 04:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 134 ]
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Bryan - 23 September 2012 07:53 PM
George - 23 September 2012 07:49 PM
Bryan - 23 September 2012 06:11 PM

Describe to me any act of heroism that is possible if nothing bad can happen.

Give me omnipotence and I am sure I’ll think of something. You know how the story goes: if you are willing and able ...

Consider yourself in possession of omnipotence for the sake of argument.  Doubtless you’re sufficiently well-endowed mentally that we’ll see no subsequent request for infinite knowledge.  wink

Heroism without the possibility of ill consequences, please.

No, I am not sufficiently well-endowed mentally to think of such a possibility. But God is, since he is omniscient. He created evil because he wantet to. Or is it because he had to? Is logic greater than God?

I thought you said he could make 2+2 equal 5, had he wanted to. Why not, then, give us the power to commit heroism without there having to exist evil?

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Posted: 24 September 2012 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 135 ]
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Personally I don’t enjoy reading the new atheists. I don’t agree with the idea that religion is to blame for almost everything bad in the world, and I don’t like this idea of trying to split the world into the rational, enlightened good guys on one side and the backward, superstitious bad guys on the other. What’s more, their take on the history of science that has Christianity constantly holding back progress is oversimplified in the extreme. Virtually no historian of science would agree with the stuff you hear from these guys.

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