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Posted: 30 July 2006 04:26 AM   [ Ignore ]
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What would make abortion or homosexuality "wrong" if there is no god telling you so?

Scientifically speaking, what one is aborting is a fetus and not a child.  It does not live, breathe, think, or have emotions.  In addition, if you do not believe in God, how then can you be so offended by it?  I would assume that you do not believe that we are all endowed with souls by our creator… and if nothing more than a blob of organless chemicals is being removed from a woman’s body, what is there to be upset about?

As for homosexuality, yes, plenty of recent scientific evidence has pretty much proven that homosexuality is the result of inherent genetics and not one’s "choice".  I was offended that someone called it a "genetic defect".  It may not be reproductively useful, but I would certainly not call it a defect.

Even if homosexuality IS a choice, which is completely bogus, why would it be wrong?  What is wrong with being yourself or even making a choice that is on the whole entirely harmless to society?  Particularly without the influence of God and religion to make you feel guilty for it?

I’m fairly new to agnostic and atheism philosophy and I have to be honest… I sit on the wrong side of the fence with all of you because I’m a bit of a pantheist post-modernist, but I cannot even begin to fathom how one can deny God because belief in him/her would be giving in to ancient man-made fairytales but accept prejudices bred into you and sustained by social stigma?  Instead of following the way of God, you’re following the way of man/society… which may be quite a bit worse.

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Posted: 30 July 2006 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Re: Some things…

First of all, codieleigh, welcome to the forum. I see you are touching on a number of “hot button” issues, which is a good thing.

[quote author=“codieleigh”]What would make abortion or homosexuality “wrong” if there is no god telling you so?

Nothing, so far as I can see, for very much the same arguments as you give.

[quote author=“codieleigh”]I sit on the wrong side of the fence with all of you because I’m a bit of a pantheist post-modernist, but I cannot even begin to fathom how one can deny God because belief in him/her would be giving in to ancient man-made fairytales but accept prejudices bred into you and sustained by social stigma?  Instead of following the way of God, you’re following the way of man/society… which may be quite a bit worse.

Er, just suppose for a moment that our notions of god are created by “man/society”. That is, there is no independent evidence for god’s existence. True, we have books where folks claimed to have talked with god, but we also have books where people claimed to talk with Shiva, Allah, Zeus, Thor, dead ancestors, space aliens and Santa Claus. So the mere existence of claims is of no importance—the claims cancel each other out. They are also not backed up by any sort of independent experimental evidence.

So belief in god is, as you put it, a “prejudice ... sustained by social stigma”. (I don’t know that it is “bred into us” as you put it, by which I mean that I don’t believe that belief in god is somehow genetically programmed. It’s much more complex than that).

So—when you say we’re not “following the way of God”, I can honestly say that I have no idea what that means. Whose god? When? Why that god’s “way” and not some other god’s “way”? Based on what evidence? (I appreciate that you are a pantheist. It would be interesting to hear what sort of belief that amounts to, since there are so many different forms of pantheism.)

You’ll also have to explain what you mean by “following the way of man/society”. Certainly, as humanists, we do want to “follow the way of humanity” in the sense that we believe human welfare, actualization and happiness is the best end for mankind. As for society, some of its ways are good and some bad. I doubt there is a single person on this forum who would claim we should “follow the way of society” blindly in all things.

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Posted: 30 July 2006 07:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The sentence for the latter part was kinda confusing.

I meant that while not believing in God because it’s ridiculous, he is being just as silly by believing that homosexuality and abortion are wrong, simply because society told him so.  And in his case, it’s quite a bit sillier than a Christian or other religious person believing so because he doesn’t have anything except nearly inborn social prejudices against homsexuality, abortion, etc. to give him reason.  At least a Christian can say “God told me so”.  Someone who is both atheist and intolerant baffles me.  He is following the way of man (whose prejudices are based on his notions of God) to support his intolerance, rather than the way of God (who, I believe, would not support intolerance).

I don’t believe that our concept of “God” is inborn.  Also, in this context, “following the way of man” is negative because he is accepting man’s hatefulness.  Generally, I think “following the way of man” is a positive thing although I would describe that “way” as “following one’s own way”.  I hope this clarifies.  I can be a bit confusing.

And thank you for the welcome.

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Posted: 30 July 2006 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Ah, sorry about the confusion. Yes, it seems to me that by definition, were god to exist, he would not support intolerance of the sort you outline.

Of course, the believers will say that god didn’t get his ideas about abortion and homosexuality from the society. They will say that he gets these ideas from who-knows-where in god’s mind.

The notion of god, it seems to me, can be used to stabilize a culture’s prejudices. Every culture has its prejudices, of course; but then many believers construct a sort of god who agrees with the societal prejudices and hence justifies them. This apparent justification can work as a stabilizing force: if you don’t agree with the prejudices, you are effectively ostracized as an “unbeliever”.

This gets round the possibility of actually having to discuss these issues in public and maybe change minds ...

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Posted: 30 July 2006 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yes, it is true that most believers will say that it is because of “God’s word” that they have established their ethics systems and/or prejudices.  I get a kick outta so many people have completely different moral ideologies all stemming from the same god.

The problem isn’t that people are unwilling to discuss these issues in public.  I think the problem is that everyone is so convinced that their own viewpoint is the most righteous that rather than discussing the issues to change minds or to make progress, they discuss issues to feel better about themselves.  I worry that many atheists take the very same approach as the believers that they fight against.  It is important not to evangalize from any side of the fence.

We need to create a world where each viewpoint can be considered just as valid as any other.  Sure, I think Christianity or Islam or Hinduism or any other are quite ridiculous, but I will also fight to the death any person’s right to practice or follow those religions.  I’m a little fed up with the “angry atheist” crap.  It’s just as annoying as the “happy Christian” crap.

All this just generally speaking…

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Posted: 30 July 2006 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“codieleigh”]I get a kick outta so many people have completely different moral ideologies all stemming from the same god.

Well, but that begs the question ... They would not say they are praying to the same god (at least many of them would not). They would say they are praying to the One True god, and the others are praying to false gods or idols.

[quote author=“codieleigh”]We need to create a world where each viewpoint can be considered just as valid as any other.  Sure, I think Christianity or Islam or Hinduism or any other are quite ridiculous, but I will also fight to the death any person’s right to practice or follow those religions.

Well, the viewpoints are logically contradictory (they say different things) so they can’t all be valid. At most one of them is. But you are right that we need to fight for a world in which one can believe whatever one wants, freely. ... and a world in which one can be free to investigate and critique freely as well.

Of course, “believing” is different from “practicing”. That is, there are some practices which are criminal and can’t be allowed. For example, some Christian Scientist parents want to withhold medical care from their children because of their beliefs. I think you and I will agree that the parents are free to believe what they wish, but they are not free to withhold medical treatment from someone under the age of consent.

Similarly, parents are free to believe that the world was created in 6,000 BCE, but they are not free to put that into history or biology textbooks for public schools.

[quote author=“codieleigh”]I’m a little fed up with the “angry atheist” crap.  It’s just as annoying as the “happy Christian” crap.

Well, yes, either one can be annoying. But to be fair, there is virtually no “angry atheist crap” in public media today. There is plenty of “happy Christian crap” everywhere you look, from the White House down ... so the two are hardly comparable.

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Posted: 09 August 2006 05:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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We need to create a world where each viewpoint can be considered just as valid as any other.

I have to disagree, Codie. There are certain beliefs that deserve no respect whatsoever, beliefs such as “all homosexuals should be killed”, or “it’s okay to fly planes into buildings for the glory of Allah”, or “sex education shouldn’t be taught in schools”. These kinds of beliefs have serious repercussions and are quite detrimental to society when they are followed to their logical ends. And while I agree that people should be allowed to believe such garbage, these beliefs are completely undeserving of respect and should be excoriated as claptrap very publicly and ridiculed in the extreme.

BTW, see you at the picnic.

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Posted: 10 August 2006 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Bill…

All of the beliefs you mentioned aren’t really beliefs… they’re actions.  If you believe that homosexuality is wrong, I’ll disagree, but I’ll respect your choice to believe that.  If you believe that Americans deserve punishment for their ways, I’ll mostly disagree, but I’ll respect your choice to believe that.  If you take action according to those beliefs by killing homosexuals or flying planes into American buildings, then you deserve no respect at all… yes.

I think we should be able to accept and tolerate all points-of-view.  None is less valid than another.  However, it is when you take action according to those beliefs that problems start.  No person, regardless of the harmlessness of his or her belief, should be able to impose his or her ways on any other person.

I recognize how naive and idealistic this might seem to most people, but that’s what I think.  Unfortunately, because of human nature/habit, most of our beliefs will always result in action.  For the record, I don’t respect the actions, I just respect a person’s right to believe as he or she chooses… no matter how bogus their ideas might be to me.  Most people don’t.

See you Sunday!

Codie

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Posted: 11 August 2006 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Can I take us back to the god issue? I have a lot of theology in my background and the god that we speak of now (understand I was taught theology during a period that started in 1941 and ended officially in 1955, after that my study was on my own) has no relationship whatever to the god that the Roman Catholic church described carefully and in great detail in the texts we used. The protestant’s god then was not the same as the RC god but it was pretty much as monolithic. But not now!

Today’s god is the god of preachers reading their bibles on their own and cooking him up or the god they were taught about by other preachers in the bible colleges they attended. Lets understand that the god we have in these huge churches in the round is not the RC god nor is he the god who is worshipped in the next church down the road. He is different in each church depending on what preacher is describing him. He is not god in the overarching sense of the RC god, the god with but a single all encompassing thought existing in eternity, a place reserved for only him.
This god, the modern one, operates in temporal space, changes his mind. talks with presidents he is not eternal just a more powerful version of the human soul which exists in the same space as he, named aeviternity where time is the measure of the changes of mind or views of those there.

We need to know that the beliefs of those who attend the churches are formed by family and by the preacher, it is the preacher who either has his own set of beliefs and ethics formed by his reading of the bible (Billy Graham) or formed by the bible college that he attended (Moody Bible Institute). The introduction to the book “Misquoting Jesus” tells of the author’s travels as a youth with a protestant background who attended a bible college had a Born again experience he attributes to peer pressure and then his interest in the bible as a book brought him around to the views he now holds.

If we discuss god we have to define the god we are discussing. If we wish to bring believers into the humanist fold we should be prepared to discuss, not science, not reason but the frailties and fallibility of the christian religion, the bible as its source book and its history as the prop of kings. the same is true of any discussion with Muslims. We have to know the Quran, the history of the branch of the religion that is the subject of the discussion.

Lots more can be said but the recent essay by the Free Inquiry religion editor makes these self same points. It is most pertinent.

And one last point, the god we are talking about here is the one that exists in the minds of the writers and those several gods exist nowhere else

Jim

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Posted: 12 August 2006 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“codieleigh”]All of the beliefs you mentioned aren’t really beliefs… they’re actions.  If you believe that homosexuality is wrong, I’ll disagree, but I’ll respect your choice to believe that.  If you believe that Americans deserve punishment for their ways, I’ll mostly disagree, but I’ll respect your choice to believe that.  If you take action according to those beliefs by killing homosexuals or flying planes into American buildings, then you deserve no respect at all… yes.

I think we should be able to accept and tolerate all points-of-view.  None is less valid than another.  However, it is when you take action according to those beliefs that problems start.  No person, regardless of the harmlessness of his or her belief, should be able to impose his or her ways on any other person.

Hi Codie,

I understand where you’re coming from and do agree with the thrust of your message: certain actions must be disallowed (e.g., as illegal) and yet one must be free to believe what one wants to.

But in the stating of this you have apparently got yourself into a contradiction. In the first paragraph above you say you disagree that homosexuality is wrong, yet in the second paragraph above you say that we should accept such views. It seems to me if you disagree with them you aren’t accepting them.

Now, perhaps we should ‘tolerate’ such views in the sense that we should recognize that everyone is free to believe what he or she wants to. But we shouldn’t accept the views, as you yourself say: we should disagree with them. They are wrong.

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Posted: 12 August 2006 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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But we shouldn’t accept the views, as you yourself say: we should disagree with them. They are wrong.

I don’t believe anything is inherently right or inherently wrong.  Morality is subjective and relative.  Some views are wrong to me, but that doesn’t mean much.  This duality of right and wrong and yes and no and life and death and good and evil isn’t for me.  I prefer an existence of unity.  Yes is no and no is yes.  Right is wrong and wrong is right.

But like I said, I am among the all-embracing post-modernists that you all align yourselves against.

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Posted: 12 August 2006 03:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Codie - I used to be in your camp, but I altered my view slightly this summer…  I think we’d agree that there are no “absolute” or “inherent” rights and wrongs that are constant throughout time and space.  BUT - I now concede that through science, we can “discover” certain moral and ethical “truths” the same way we can physical laws in the universe (credit goes to DJ Grothe for this point)... What I mean by that is that when we look objectively at humanity, we can find certain patterns of behavior and physiological realities - the most basic being that humans tend to like well-being and they tend not to like suffering… well-being defined as physical comfort, health, companionship, peace, etc., and suffering involving physical pain, loneliness, emotional pain, etc… so there’s an objectively, universally true ethical basis.  It may not be true for aliens, but given humans, it’s true.  Now, when it comes to more specific, nuanced moral dilemmas, I’d agree that it’s near impossible to ascertain a “correct” morality.  But leading ethicists like Peter Singer argue that the well-being standard works well in most situations.

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Posted: 12 August 2006 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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[quote author=“codieleigh”]I don’t believe anything is inherently right or inherently wrong.  Morality is subjective and relative.  Some views are wrong to me, but that doesn’t mean much.  This duality of right and wrong and yes and no and life and death and good and evil isn’t for me.  I prefer an existence of unity.  Yes is no and no is yes.  Right is wrong and wrong is right.

The problem with this stance is that it gets you into a certain problem when you say we should deal with the actions that spring from these beliefs. If the beliefs themselves aren’t wrong, then what is wrong with allowing the actions that spring from those beliefs?

Right is wrong and wrong is right ... hmmm ...

To take one example, by your lights, slavery is “right”. So why fight it then?

To take another example, female subservience to males is apparently “right”. So why fight it then?

Human despoilation of the environment—of any sort—is “right”. So why fight it then?

What you suggest would lead to total inaction in the face of any purported ethical judgment, because it is fundamentally anti-ethical. It basically says, “Who cares?” when any ethical issue comes up.

I am not arguing that ethical judgments are simple, easy or always obvious. Sometimes they are vague, difficult, or cut both ways. One does have to contend with these difficulties as one figures out what is right and what isn’t.

The post-modernist sort of ethical relativism doesn’t answer or contend with any of these problems, and as such is really not intellectually responsible or enlightening. It strikes me as a kind of cop-out.

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Posted: 13 August 2006 01:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Those things are not right TO ME.  So I fight them.  Those things are obviously right to someone, or else they wouldn’t exist.  Why is my belief that they are wrong the ultimate truth?  All truth is truth.  My truth is very important to me… but no more important to me than another person’s own truth is to him/herself.

It’s important for me to be ACTIVE against the things that I CONSIDER to be wrong.  But right and wrong both sprout from the same thing.  To a believer I say, if God created all things and God created goodness… did he not also create evil?  If God created all things, did God not also create Satan?  Evil is just of much of God as goodness is.  And each person, each religion, etc., defines its own concept of goodness and evil.

Anyway, I’m just saying we all define our own standards of right and wrong, often according to the ways of our parents, our society, or our religon.  All of those beliefs are right to the person believing them and wrong to the person opposing them.  There is, then, no ultimate right or wrong.

It’s not a cop-out.  Those who worship the gods, achieve the gods.  Those who revere the fathers, achieve the fathers.  Those who look beyond conventionality, achieve such.  It’s just saying I’m no more right or more wrong than anyone else on the planet.

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Posted: 13 August 2006 03:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Codie, I think the issue Doug is getting at is there are ascertainable right ethical positions in this worldwide society. They can be discovered without reference to the mindsets of the persons investigating the issue.

What I think about right and wrong on any subject may or may not be correct absolutely. This isn’t ethics by vote of the majority, democratic ethics. The majority can easily be wrong if they vote on a particular ethical issue.  There are ethical absolutes.

For example - - the killing of one person by another, the killing of defenseless animals, torture, suttee, slavery; these all are bad or evil acts.

The interesting question is can a social custom, slavery for example, be right and not evil if it is approved by the whole of society? Say it carries the day in an honest referendum by 95% of the vote. Suttee would have been approved overwhelmingly at one time.

In this day and age we execute people deemed to deserve that fate by lethal injection and we use sterilized needles. I suppose the death penalty will carry in this country by a huge majority. Does that make it ethically right (or wrong?) If right then is execution by any means wrong? Example hang, draw and quarter?

Jim

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Posted: 13 August 2006 03:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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We don’t take such a stance when it comes to physical things. We don’t say “the world is flat to the Pope, but round to Columbus”. That would be loony. Why? Because if the Pope were to be chained in Columbus’s hold during his journey across the oceans, the Pope wouldn’t suddenly fall off the edge of the earth.

That is to say, there are always disagreements about everything, but in some circumstances there are deeper facts of the matter—e.g., the actual shape of the planet—that make one view correct and another view wrong.

There are also some sorts of beliefs, clearly, that amount only to opinion. If you like vanilla ice cream and I like chocolate, there is clearly no deeper fact that makes one of us right and the other wrong. BUT that is also to say that I would be ethically wrong to force you to eat chocolate if you preferred vanilla. These sorts of beliefs that are nothing more than opinions are beliefs about personal preference or fashion.

If you really believe that there is no deeper ethical fact of the matter at any time then what you are saying is that ethics is basically a matter of personal preference or fashion. But then what gives you the justification to “fight” (as you say) for one ethical end rather than another? Why not fight for slavery and female oppression? By your lights slave traders and female oppressors are as justified as anyone else.

Slavery, oppression, murder, etc., it’s all fashionable sometimes and some places with some people, and not fashionable at other times with other places and other people. All a matter of personal preference: some people like to enslave and murder. Comes and goes like skirt lengths or bell-bottom jeans. Ho hum. I take it that’s your view?

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