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Why would a Christian want to change the world?
Posted: 30 September 2012 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 151 ]
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Bryan - 30 September 2012 10:02 AM

Sure, but morality itself is also unproven (in the sense of moral realism).  The point about positing a god is that one can reasonably hypothesize an accurate or somewhat accurate moral compass based on the existence of a god.

I don’t see how this works? I guess you’re saying that we have a somewhat accurate moral compass because God made us that way.

I can just reply or we have a somewhat accurate moral compass because natural selection made us that way.

What advantage do you have?

I also think there is a problem with this somewhat accurate moral compass idea. People’s moral compasses do vary quite a lot between individuals and from place to place and time to time. I’m not quite sure what the moral compass idea has to do with moral realism, it’s not like we can rely on our moral compasses.

Stephen

[ Edited: 30 September 2012 10:48 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 30 September 2012 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 152 ]
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Bryan - 30 September 2012 10:38 AM
George - 24 September 2012 04:22 AM
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?

My argument is that if one insists on arguing a straw-man version of omnipotence where it is a premise of the argument that god can do anything up to and including the impossible, then it is child’s play for that god to not only accurately derive 5 from 2+2 but also to cheefully exist despite being impossible via the law of non-contradiction (the premise of the argument is that god can do anything including the impossible; existing despite the impossibility of existing in the face of contradiction is no problem for a being that can do the impossible.

Sorry for not detecting your reply earlier.

But it isn’t impossible to make a world with much less suffering and at the very least God could have made no world at all.

I believe all arguments against this are just excuses for God. We only need to look around to see this is not the best of all possible worlds.

Stephen

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Posted: 30 September 2012 11:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 153 ]
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Dom1978 - 24 September 2012 04:42 PM

Bryan, I can tell you’re eager to get me into a discussion about META-ETHICS.

Is that so?  I think it’s the most important issue for secularists to address, certainly.  On the other hand I started out by saying it isn’t my wish to derail this thread, and I’ve specifically thanked you for addressing (after a fashion) the problem I’m identifying.

Your question of how we can know that our moral intuitions are really really true also falls into this meta-ethical category of things I don’t want to talk about.

Okay, then.   

You should realize as a basic point of public debate that people will often expect you to defend your own position instead of attacking that of others.  That’s where the “throwing stones/glass houses” thing came from.

So let’s get back to the matter at hand, namely Maitzen’s claim that our ordinary ways of thinking about ethics fit much better with atheism/secularism than they do with Christianity.

Maitzen’s using premises from meta-ethics.  One of the premises is an apparent lie that the problem you don’t want to talk about has been addressed (“our ordinary ways of thinking about ethics fit much better with atheism/secularism”).  If you press the argument your opponent has every right to question the premise.

It seems to me that the Christian should just bite the bullet on this one and admit that Maitzen is right. They could perhaps even come up with some story about how sin has warped our moral sense. So whereas they should as Christians be celebrating the death of the Christian child, they just can’t bring themselves to do this.

Maitzen’s “our ordinary ways of thinking about morality” is an idealized fantasy.  Humanity is all over the map regarding many aspects of morality.  We had a statement earlier about how people who want to kill other people (forgive any imprecision in the paraphrase) are simply not healthy.  But based on what?  At the basis of Maitzen’s argument is an unwillingness to use on his own position the logic he would use against Christianity.  People who don’t take such arguments seriously are onto something. 

Bryan, I didn’t want to ignore your responses. It’s just that I couldn’t make head nor tail of them. All you gave me in response was some story about Jesus crying when someone died. The question is whether the Christian world view as a whole suggests that death is a good thing or a bad thing. If I kill a Christian, then according to secular ethics this is a bad thing because I’ve harmed that person, but according to Christian ethics I’ve actually in some bizarre way benefited this person because he’s now with Jesus in heaven.

Yet by Maitzen’s own argument the Christian is ethically frozen and can’t even make the determination that the person is better off with Jesus because he doesn’t know what that person would have done if allowed to live.

As you wrote earlier:  “As Maitzen has put it, the Christian who tries to stop these things from happening could be like a person who goes around trying to stop vaccinations because they hurt people. They think they’re doing the right thing, but they’re actually messing things up really badly.”

So Maitzen thinks that the logical extension of Christian ethics leads to two apparently contradictory ends.  Does that seem logical?

This is why Maitzen argues that Christianity destroys morality. You can only have morality if you have some basic starting points that most people can accept, such as the badness of death and the wrongness of killing. Belief in heaven takes away these foundations and thus destroys morality.

Existing morals exist regardless of acceptance by anyone.  You get a moral society only to the point that the morals reflected in that society are real morals and not merely subjective morals (otherwise all societies are pretty much equally moral). 

You have a tendency to make statements apparently critical to your argument that in turn rely on having a meta-ethical foundation of their own.  That thing you don’t want to talk about.  If you’re not willing to talk about those things (that is, not willing to support the premises of your own argument) then I suggest you change the argument and adopt the style I recommended to your earlier:  Try to make Christian morals contradict one another.  That way you don’t need to make statements the other guy can expect you to support like ” (O)ur ordinary ways of thinking about ethics fit much better with atheism/secularism than they do with Christianity.”     

So it’s important that we see all of this first and foremost as an attack an fundamentalist Christianity, and not as some kind of argument for atheism or naturalism.

You made it the latter your own self when you evoked the comparison where atheism/secularism supposedly makes a better match for the way we ordinarily think about ethics.

We don’t need to know what the truth is in order to attack Christianity.

Right.  I pointed that out ages ago in this thread.  You can try to attack Christianity according to its own consistency.  But the argument you’ve been using makes claims about how atheism/secularism relates to ethics.

We could say that Christianity is internally incoherent and immoral, but we still don’t have a clue what the truth about the universe is. That is pretty much my position.

confused

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Posted: 30 September 2012 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 154 ]
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StephenLawrence - 30 September 2012 10:43 AM
Bryan - 30 September 2012 10:02 AM

Sure, but morality itself is also unproven (in the sense of moral realism).  The point about positing a god is that one can reasonably hypothesize an accurate or somewhat accurate moral compass based on the existence of a god.

I don’t see how this works? I guess you’re saying that we have a somewhat accurate moral compass because God made us that way.

I can just reply or we have a somewhat accurate moral compass because natural selection made us that way.

Why would a blind process geared toward survival of the fittest make your moral compass accurate unless by a happy coincidence survival of the fittest is a moral good?

What advantage do you have?

Gods work by intention.  Blind processes work blindly.

I also think there is a problem with this somewhat accurate moral compass idea. People’s moral compasses do vary quite a lot between individuals and from place to place and time to time. I’m not quite sure what the moral compass idea has to do with moral realism, it’s not like we can rely on our moral compasses.

Stephen

Ah, well now you’ve just identified yourself as a ringer I’ve picked to throw water on the idea that there’s some kind of common understanding of morality on which atheists and secularists can rely.  wink

If we can’t rely on our moral compasses at all, even in the smallest fashion, then it seems that ethics as a whole is utterly doomed.  Do you agree?

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Posted: 30 September 2012 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 155 ]
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StephenLawrence - 30 September 2012 10:47 AM

But it isn’t impossible to make a world with much less suffering and at the very least God could have made no world at all.

That’s assuming that suffering doesn’t bring forth a greater good that is impossible without suffering.

I believe all arguments against this are just excuses for God. We only need to look around to see this is not the best of all possible worlds.

If free will is part of the best possible world then it cannot be created with meticulous future detail.  So if a world with free will isn’t the best possible then whose fault is it?

You might end up worse than me for dragging the thread off topic, Stephen.  wink

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Posted: 30 September 2012 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 156 ]
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Bryan - 30 September 2012 10:09 AM
Write4U - 24 September 2012 11:14 AM

Here is a possible explanation of a fundamental moral compass. Fear. Fear of the unknown after we die.

Why would fear serve as an accurate basis for a moral compass?  If I’m afraid of Jews would that make antisemitism a (good) moral stance?

That’s how theism is able to marry the concepts of dying being both bad and good at the same time.
“Only through me” and “by my laws” will you not have to fear death because you will meet your maker and experience everlasting bliss in the hereafter.

It becomes a problem when theists insist that their particular compass always holds true and that without their specific fixed compass you cannot navigate life.
Secularists recognize that we are all in the same boat, but that in order to be able to navigate one must occasionally adjust the compass to allow for relativistic “errors”.

This also explains why stepping on a bug has nothing to with morality. We kill bugs from fear. Some bugs can kill you, theist and atheist alike.

How would one identify a relativistic error without some fixed point (some moral directive from the domain of moral realism) with which to compare?

I am not saying that fear contributes to logical morals. But fear of the unknown (and pain) makes a person susceptible to moral teachings. Present an “insurance policy” and many people will accept a strict dogma that leads to everlasting “oneness”.

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Posted: 30 September 2012 05:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 157 ]
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Write4U - 30 September 2012 02:01 PM
Bryan - 30 September 2012 10:09 AM
Write4U - 24 September 2012 11:14 AM

Here is a possible explanation of a fundamental moral compass. Fear. Fear of the unknown after we die.

Why would fear serve as an accurate basis for a moral compass?  If I’m afraid of Jews would that make antisemitism a (good) moral stance?

That’s how theism is able to marry the concepts of dying being both bad and good at the same time.
“Only through me” and “by my laws” will you not have to fear death because you will meet your maker and experience everlasting bliss in the hereafter.

It becomes a problem when theists insist that their particular compass always holds true and that without their specific fixed compass you cannot navigate life.
Secularists recognize that we are all in the same boat, but that in order to be able to navigate one must occasionally adjust the compass to allow for relativistic “errors”.

This also explains why stepping on a bug has nothing to with morality. We kill bugs from fear. Some bugs can kill you, theist and atheist alike.

How would one identify a relativistic error without some fixed point (some moral directive from the domain of moral realism) with which to compare?

I am not saying that fear contributes to logical morals. But fear of the unknown (and pain) makes a person susceptible to moral teachings. Present an “insurance policy” and many people will accept a strict dogma that leads to everlasting “oneness”.

I don’t understand why that type of genesis for a moral compass would serve a valuable role in the conversation currently taking place in the the thread.  What am I missing?

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Posted: 30 September 2012 07:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 158 ]
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Look at the morals that are being used in the OT.  One cannot argue that these were founded on sound moral reasoning. There never was a fundamental moral compass.  Its all relative to environmental pressures.

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Posted: 30 September 2012 10:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 159 ]
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Write4U - 30 September 2012 07:29 PM

Look at the morals that are being used in the OT.  One cannot argue that these were founded on sound moral reasoning.

Why not?  Have you ruled it immoral to use such reasoning via divine command?

I invited the thread creator to argue via a contradiction between Christian morals.  Write4U prefers to just skip to the end.  wink

There never was a fundamental moral compass.  Its all relative to environmental pressures.

Okay so if there’s no moral compass then what’s wrong with anything in the OT?  How would you know?  Are you the one with the compass the rest of us are missing?

If it’s contradictory for a Christian/Jew to kill, it’s just as contradictory for a moral relativist to argue from moral outrage.

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Posted: 01 October 2012 12:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 160 ]
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Bryan - 30 September 2012 12:36 PM

Why would a blind process geared toward survival of the fittest make your moral compass accurate unless by a happy coincidence survival of the fittest is a moral good?

Morality can be put as be good to each other, very roughly, or don’t harm others unless you have to,again very roughly. It makes sense that we would have evolved a moral compass because of the consequences of doing so. Social animals would have better survival chances as a result of this.

Clearly God hasn’t made my moral compass accurate all the time as it has changed quite a bit over my life and differs quite a bit from others. I’m hardly likely to be always right.

If we can’t rely on our moral compasses at all, even in the smallest fashion, then it seems that ethics as a whole is utterly doomed.  Do you agree?

I really dunno, but the fact is we can’t rely on our moral compasses. I dunno what relying on them in some small fashion means b.t.w.

70 years ago people committing homosexual acts were imprisoned for it. And that was aligned with a lot of people’s moral compasses at the time, less so now. I see that as utterly wrong. Now if we rely on our moral compasses we are stuck because these different compasses point in different directions.

So if we can justify our moral beliefs they must be justified by something else. Which is why I say the theist has as much problem justifying his moral beliefs as the athiest.

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Posted: 01 October 2012 12:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 161 ]
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Bryan - 30 September 2012 01:42 PM
StephenLawrence - 30 September 2012 10:47 AM

But it isn’t impossible to make a world with much less suffering and at the very least God could have made no world at all.

That’s assuming that suffering doesn’t bring forth a greater good that is impossible without suffering.

Not really, it’s conceivably possible to bring about the greater good with less suffering.

And it’s still no comfort at all to those that do the suffering. Better just to make no world at all, or make a world without sentient beings.

And much suffering seems as unnecessary and bad to you as it does to me, you just are prepared to take a leap of faith and say there must be a good reason and we just don’t understand.

If free will is part of the best possible world then it cannot be created with meticulous future detail.

Then God wouldn’t be all knowing. And in any case, yes it could be created with meticulous future detail. And it could be made so that everybody freely chooses to do the morally right thing every time, God would just need to know what everybody would freely choose to do in all the possible circumstances and ensure they are in the right circumstances to freely choose to do the right thing.

Stephen

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Posted: 01 October 2012 12:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 162 ]
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StephenLawrence - 01 October 2012 12:16 AM
Bryan - 30 September 2012 12:36 PM

Why would a blind process geared toward survival of the fittest make your moral compass accurate unless by a happy coincidence survival of the fittest is a moral good?

Morality can be put as be good to each other, very roughly, or don’t harm others unless you have to,again very roughly. It makes sense that we would have evolved a moral compass because of the consequences of doing so. Social animals would have better survival chances as a result of this.

So is your answer to my question “It can’t” or what?

Clearly God hasn’t made my moral compass accurate all the time as it has changed quite a bit over my life and differs quite a bit from others. I’m hardly likely to be always right.

Clearly Ford didn’t make the engine of my car very well because it ran out of oil and froze up after 20,000 miles.  A properly designed engine runs great forever with no maintenance.

I’ll explain the analogy if it’s mysterious to you.

If we can’t rely on our moral compasses at all, even in the smallest fashion, then it seems that ethics as a whole is utterly doomed.  Do you agree?

I really dunno, but the fact is we can’t rely on our moral compasses. I dunno what relying on them in some small fashion means b.t.w.

“some small fashion” is more than nothing.

So if we can justify our moral beliefs they must be justified by something else. Which is why I say the theist has as much problem justifying his moral beliefs as the athiest.

See your answer to my question at the top.

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Posted: 01 October 2012 12:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 163 ]
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StephenLawrence - 01 October 2012 12:30 AM

Then God wouldn’t be all knowing.

That doesn’t follow.  God wouldn’t be “all-knowing” in the same way god can’t be “all powerful” if god can’t create a rock so massive god can’t lift it.  I’ve already explained the problem with that.

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Posted: 01 October 2012 01:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 164 ]
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Bryan, let me try to explain why I think the meta-ethical questions are off-topic here.
It could be that values are strange immaterial things like platonic forms or something,
and it could be that we were created by a super intelligent being who gave us a moral
sense so that we could come to know these values. This whole story could be true, but
the fact remains that the fundamentalist Christian world view is completely out of sync with our moral intuitions about death and killing, as Maitzen has pointed out. Our moral
intuitions about death and killing seem to presuppose that there is no heaven, and so they fit well with atheism and possibly some forms of Judaism and liberal Christianity, but not with fundamentalist Christianity. The key point, which I’ve stressed many times already, is that our moral intuitions are out of sync with the fundamentalist Christian world view, and this remains true whether our moral intuitions are evolutionary adaptations, divine gifts, or cultural products. 
 
However, I do think that Maitzen is dead wrong when he suggests that morality is only possible on an atheistic world view. I just see this as hyperbole on his part. It’s perfectly possible for a liberal Christian, say, to admit that they have no idea what you have to do do get to heaven or whether heaven even exists, and that ethics should be concerned only with this life and this world. So they basically just agree with the secular person that ethics is this-worldy, and they’re agnostic about the afterlife. It’s only because fundamentalist Christians think they know things about heaven and what you have to do/believe to get there that they end up with all these deeply counter-intuitive ideas about death and killing in this world.   

Your point about relativism is a very important one. It could be that people from different cultures or with different political views differ considerably in their moral intuitions. I’ve heard that people in experimental ethics have discovered that people in the East tend to be more Utilitarian whereas people in the West tend to be more Kantian (and more individualistic) in their ethical reasoning. Despite all the variation, though, I am fairly optimistic that you could get enough common ground on which to build a secular ethics. Something like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights might be an example of this.

Finally, I just want to add that one fundamentalist, William Lane Craig, has recently bitten the bullet here and accepted that Christian ethics is counter-intuitive (putting it kindly). If you listen to his Reasonable Faith podcast, you will hear him defending the genocide commanded by God in the OT on preceisely these grounds. Apparently, slaughtering children isn’t really bad for the children as they go straight to heaven anyway. It’s only bad for the soldiers who have to do it, since it may damage their souls! This is a perfect example of a guy who actually takes his world view seriously and follows the logic through.

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Posted: 01 October 2012 02:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 165 ]
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Bryan - 30 September 2012 10:44 PM
Write4U - 30 September 2012 07:29 PM

Look at the morals that are being used in the OT.  One cannot argue that these were founded on sound moral reasoning.

Why not?  Have you ruled it immoral to use such reasoning via divine command?

No, I don’t find it immoral, to me it’s superfluous. I have found many moral directions in the compass from atheists. Is it immoral for an atheist to use such reasoning without divine command?  Divine command is not a necessity and by Ockham’s razor….........

I invited the thread creator to argue via a contradiction between Christian morals.  Write4U prefers to just skip to the end.  wink

Yes, I believe it is possible and very likely that our morals are dictated (evolved) by environmental pressures. God is superfluous, IMO.

There never was a fundamental moral compass.  Its all relative to environmental pressures.

Okay so if there’s no moral compass then what’s wrong with anything in the OT?  How would you know?  Are you the one with the compass the rest of us are missing?

If it’s contradictory for a Christian/Jew to kill, it’s just as contradictory for a moral relativist to argue from moral outrage.

There are some good morality messages in OT and some terrible ones as well.  Does claiming divine command justify killing somebody? That would be an argument from authority without authority.
It was not until the NT that the fundamental moral rule (golden rule) showed up in its proper context. Until then it was “an eye for an eye”. Which is still used in context of the golden rule by fundamentalists.

  Jesus’ rule applied. Just think how many great changes would be made from the single individual, nations, and the entire world if all started practicing Jesus’ teaching. The individual would be kind, loving, and considerate to those with whom he came into contact, because this is how he desires to be treated. Others, practicing Jesus’ rule would be as they should to the practitioner. Nations and the entire world would be in perfect harmony. Crime, racism, and all human abuse would cease to exist. The world would never know war again.

  http://www.biblequestions.org/Archives/BQAR358.htm
Very noble, except history conflicts with this argument.

At least let any moral argument be from logic, not because it is written (by god?) and must therefore be obeyed under all circumstances.

[ Edited: 01 October 2012 03:24 AM by Write4U ]
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