Does Conscience in Humans Prove Absolute Morality?

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fred barclay
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Does Conscience in Humans Prove Absolute Morality?

Post #1

Post by fred barclay »

Hello everyone! I'm Fred Barclay. I am a conservative Christian who takes the Bible at face value. I live all over the place right now, travel a lot, and love learning.

Divine Insight and I will be debating, Does the Existence of Conscience in Humans Prove Absolute Morality? (the original title of this debate, but apparently it was too long.) I will be the protagonist, and he will be the antagonist.

We have agreed to a limit of 24 rounds. At the end, we will both give a closing statement.

My position is that the conscience bears witness of a standard of moral absolutes in the same way a mirror bears witness of you. The image is not you, and it may even be distorted, but its existence shows that you exist--and in fact, it could not exist apart from you. In the same way, the conscience is not a moral standard, but it is an image of that standard, and apart from that standard could not exist. Therefore, just as your existence can be demonstrated by your image in the mirror, the existence of a universal standard of moral absolutes can be shown from the existence of the conscience.

I will emphasize here that I believe that this standard is both universal and absolute. It applies to all humans, and everyone knows of it. It also is unchanging--what's right and wrong has always been that way.

To all my readers, I ask for patience! I am traveling literally 50% percent of the time now, and sometimes I can't make the time to answer in what would ordinarily be considered an acceptable amount of time. I will do my best, but I will not always be quick. :D

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Re: Does Conscience in Humans Prove Absolute Morality?

Post #2

Post by Divine Insight »

Greetings everyone. I welcome Fred Barclay to this head-to-head debate.

I too was a Christian who was taught that the Bible can be trusted to hold truth. As a devout Christian I actually studied the Bible in depth with the intention of helping others better understand its truth. It was clear to me that clergy and churches based on the Bible could use some help in discovering truth since they were clearly not all in agreement. However, the study of the Bible has only demonstrated to me why Christians are so confused about truth. I no longer believe in the Bible, or any of its claims.

I have agreed to debate head-to-head with Fred on this topic simply because he has shown a sincere interest to have a very formal debate where a very specific topic is addressed in detail. It is my position that his claim has no merit and that this can easily be shown. He is making a claim to have "proof" of something.

"Does the Existence of Conscience in Humans Prove Absolute Morality?"

My answer to this question is that it most certainly does not. And I offer the following reasons which I may elaborate on further during this debate.

1. We can't even be sure that all humans even have a moral conscience. Some humans certainly act as if they don't.

2. All humans are not in agreement with what they consider to be moral or immoral.

3. If human conscience cannot be shown to be absolute or consistent between humans then it most certainly doesn't suggest absolute morality, much less serve as proof for absolute morality.

4. The very concept of "conscience" is really nothing other than a concept of how a person emotionally feels about their actions, or the actions of others. It's basically founded on emotion. I hold that these emotions are far more likely to be created by a person's personal experiences, upbringing, and social pressures. This also explains easily why different people have a different conscience when it comes to various moral issues. This emotional concept of "conscience" would naturally evolve in any sentient social species. There is not need to evoke an imaginary external absolute source for morality.


These four points are my main objection to Fred's claim that human conscience proves absolute morality.
fred barclay wrote: My position is that the conscience bears witness of a standard of moral absolutes in the same way a mirror bears witness of you. The image is not you, and it may even be distorted, but its existence shows that you exist--and in fact, it could not exist apart from you. In the same way, the conscience is not a moral standard, but it is an image of that standard, and apart from that standard could not exist. Therefore, just as your existence can be demonstrated by your image in the mirror, the existence of a universal standard of moral absolutes can be shown from the existence of the conscience.
I hold that Fred's own statement above clearly demonstrates that conscience does not suggest any standard of morality. He confesses himself that human conscience is "distorted" from what he would consider to be absolute morality. A distorted conscience cannot be used as "proof" of the existence of an absolute morality.
fred barclay wrote: I will emphasize here that I believe that this standard is both universal and absolute. It applies to all humans, and everyone knows of it. It also is unchanging--what's right and wrong has always been that way.
Here Fred is simply stating his belief. A personal belief does not constitute evidence for anything much less qualify as proof.

He also claims that everyone knows it and it is unchanging. But this doesn't even reflect history. The morality of men has indeed changed over time and throughout different cultures. If human conscience actually reflected some sort of moral absolutes then we should expect all cultures and all individuals to ultimately agree on what is moral or immoral. But we clearly don't see that. On the contrary we see precisely the opposite where moral values change over time, and different individuals will passionately disagree on what they feel should even be considered to be moral or immoral.

So yes, I reject his claim that human conscience proves absolute morality. I don't see where this ideal has any merit at all.

I won't go into any further details here since we have 22 posts left to go. I'll turn it back over to Fred and he can begin addressing our differences on this question in greater detail.
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Post #3

Post by fred barclay »

Thank you, Divine Insight. Let me begin by saying that I look forward to this debate, and the opportunity to learn and grow.
You are right in saying that I have a personal interest in this issue. In fact, I would say that we all do. If the conscience does exist, then man (and woman :D ) feels that he ought to act a certain way, if only according to his own standard. The moment you begin entertaining the idea of a conscience--even if you feel that your standards are different than others--you will begin to think in terms of right and wrong. If in fact you do think this way, then it will modify how you act. And if your actions are modified, then how you act to, interact with, and react to other members of the human race will change.
If, on the other hand, you dismiss the conscience, you loose all guide to your actions. You will not be able to judge right from wrong--again, if only from your own standards--because you will not feel that there is a right or wrong, or at least not one that concerns you. And because of this, how you treat your fellow men will change--or at least not improve. (And how to judge "improvement" apart from a moral standard?)
Since we all like to be treated fairly, and most of us are not cruel for cruelty's sake, we all have a personal interest in the conscience.

Now, before I go any farther, I would like to dismiss the idea that conscience is some sort of guilty feeling or emotion when you do wrong, and warm feeling or emotion when you do good. This certainly is an aspect of it--indeed, the best-known aspect, if perhaps not the most useful--but it is only an aspect. To say that these feelings are the conscience is as erroneous as saying that light is a light-bulb. A light-bulb certainly produces light--provided, of course, that the power is on and the bulb is not blown--but the light is only an attribute to the bulb. The bulb produces light, but the light is not the bulb. And if the bulb were to blow, would we say that it is no longer a light bulb? No. It certainly is no longer a useful bulb, but its brokenness does not diminish its being.
Similarly, the conscience may be distorted, or twisted, so that it no longer produces feelings, but that does not diminish its existence.
I am not altogether convinced that the flexibility of the conscience as regards feeling is such a bad thing. We all know that feelings are fickle, and often misguide us. The conscience would be but a poor guide were it to prompt us only with good or bad feelings. If this were the case, we could reduce the conscience to the role of a computer functions (a shout out to all my fellow programmers!) You input an action, it returns pleasure or pain, and you're done. Now, if this were the case, imagine if the conscience malfunctioned. Suddenly, good produces bad feelings, and evil produces pleasure. If the role of the conscience were merely to guide you by feelings, then you may go and do as you jolly well please. But if the conscience were to have a deeper meaning, and be a better guide than just using feelings, then we are without excuse when we do something we know is wrong but that produces pleasure.

Very well then, I have said what conscience is not. What is it then? The word conscience is composed of two parts, con, which means "with", and science, which means "knowledge." So conscience means "with knowledge." The conscience serves as your knowledge of good and evil. It prompts you to do what is right based on your knowledge. It similarly prompts you to avoid evil based on your knowledge. Notice that, again, I didn't say that it is a self-rewarding/punishing system. The conscience is not so much there to give you a feeling (which we've already said is fickle anyway) about an action you've done as to prevent you from doing evil and to guide you instead to good. Now the conscience tends to be stronger for the avoiding evil part then for the doing good. But if you eliminate the evil choices you might have made, then you are left with good.

Conscience, as I said in my initial post, only bears witness of a moral standard and is not the standard itself. When you realize this, all sorts of discrepancies regarding differences in consciences (or rather, most of the time, fickle emotions) fall away. In the same way that a dusty mirror will bear witness of you, but only dimly, so will every conscience bear witness of a moral standard, if but poorly.
In the same train of thought, no-one would deny that you exist had they seen your image in the mirror (leaving out theatrics such as puppets.) They might see that the mirror is dusty, and needs cleaning, but they will not deny that you can be shown to exist through the mirror. Since a conscience does exist, what are we left to believe? That it sprang up of its own volition? This cannot be, since a non-existent entity has no will to make itself exist. Rather, we conclude that the conscience is either a moral standard in and of itself, or it is an image of a higher moral standard.

Which is it, then? If the conscience were a moral standard in and of itself, we should expect to see widespread incongruency in consciences. Some consciences might say that murder is never wrong, others that rape is okay, and yet others that the end justifies any means whatsoever. There should be no point on which a large majority of the human race agrees..
If, on the other hand, the conscience is only a reflection, then we can expect to see some lesser differences, but a great deal of congruency. This in fact corresponds to reality. There are differences, yes, but a much greater deal of sameness. As C. S. Lewis said, "Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to--whether it was only your own family, or your countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed you must not have simply any woman you liked." (Lewis, Mere Christianity) It is this sameness we see which points us to a higher moral standard.
This is dangerous ground we walk on. If there is indeed a higher moral authority, then what would you call that authority? Would it not be God of some degree? And if there is a higher standard, is it not believable that you will be held accountable for how well you have kept it? But this is beyond the debate topic.

Now as to Divine Insight's objections:

1. We can't even be sure that all humans even have a moral conscience. Some humans certainly act as if they don't.
True enough on the acting part. But on the other hand, are you going to argue that humans are not deceptive? If they are deceptive--and they are!--then actions are but a poor guide to base evidence upon.
Furthermore, I never said that humans are bound to follow their consciences. The conscience is not the engine, if you will. It certainly doesn't force you to follow it.
I would predict that their actions would change were it they or someone they care about that their actions were done to. So they have consciences, they just choose to suppress them.

2. All humans are not in agreement with what they consider to be moral or immoral.

Also true on the surface. But if you dig deeper, as I mentioned above, you will find that the differences are not as significant as you first imagined.
Furthermore, all humans are in agreement as to some things being immoral. Murder is immoral--who would disagree? So is rape and theft.
Now you will say, "That's not fair! All humans are agreed on that!" Well, what do you call that? Is that not therefore universal? And does it not concern morality? And is it not absolute? (Is there any doubt that cold-blooded murder is always wrong?) So all humans do have at least a measure of conscience that is universal and absolute. And as I said before, it therefore points to a higher standard.


3. If human conscience cannot be shown to be absolute or consistent between humans then it most certainly doesn't suggest absolute morality, much less serve as proof for absolute morality.

I think I just showed that at least some aspects are consistent and absolute.

4. The very concept of "conscience" is really nothing other than a concept of how a person emotionally feels about their actions, or the actions of others. It's basically founded on emotion. I hold that these emotions are far more likely to be created by a person's personal experiences, upbringing, and social pressures. This also explains easily why different people have a different conscience when it comes to various moral issues. This emotional concept of "conscience" would naturally evolve in any sentient social species. There is not need to evoke an imaginary external absolute source for morality.
As described above, we make a dangerous mistake to associate conscience with only emotion. Conscience is independent of the emotions, although it makes use of them. Rather, conscience is the knowledge of right and wrong.
In addition, Divine Insight has made a logical error. He states that people's morality is influenced by society. I would ask, "What makes up a society? Is it not people?" So he is in a logical circle. If society influences people, and people influence society, this does not answer where the morality comes from in the first place. All it does is conveniently remove the responsibility for morality from the shoulders of the individual and place it on an impersonal society. It may diminish feelings of guilt if you don't think it through, but it really places the blame nowhere.

Now as to Divine Insight's premise that a distorted proof is no proof at all. What is he basing this view of distortion on? Himself? If so, I feel no compulsion to agree that it is distorted. On a higher standard--a universal assumption that all know what distortion is? Hmm...sounds like he does accept at least some level of universal absolutes. What's more, it is a moral system of universal absolutes--science can't describe the quality of distortion. Neither can math. Distortion is not purely a logical problem either. It is a philosophical one--one that concerns itself with morality. Distortion is comparing what it wrong with what is right--and showing how wrong it is. And rightness and wrongness are moral problems. So Divine Insight, you just demonstrated a standard of moral absolutes.

How about this? I don't really feel like keeping the 24 rounds of this debate we agreed on. I feel more like having at least 60. Would you accuse me of violating some code of morality? Did I lie to you when I agreed to have 24? Am I violating our agreement? But what's the harm? After all, if there is no system of moral absolutes, and no knowledge of them (the conscience), then why worry? If you feel cheated, what should I care? Your standard is yours, and mine is mine. Didn't you say that "We clearly don't see...that individuals...ultimately agree on what is moral or immoral?" Fair enough then, I will do as I please. And while I'm at it, you better not complain if I steal from you. My morality must be different from yours. I don't agree that stealing is wrong, and I want your gear.
On the other hand, you must clearly see that there is both a standard and a knowledge of that standard. So I will be keeping the 24 rounds we agreed upon, and I will not be stealing from you.

That's it for now!

Oh, I have to say this. Divine says that he "no longer believes in the Bible or any of its claims." How about this, in Proverbs 30:33, "For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife."
Would you like to twist your nose and see if you can get blood, or will you believe some of the"claims" from, you know, the book that you accept nothing from? :D

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Post #4

Post by Divine Insight »

fred barclay wrote: Thank you, Divine Insight. Let me begin by saying that I look forward to this debate, and the opportunity to learn and grow.
My posts will be physically large because I'm going to quote everything you say to better illustrate precisely which points I am responding to.

And so here we go:
fred barclay wrote: You are right in saying that I have a personal interest in this issue. In fact, I would say that we all do. If the conscience does exist, then man (and woman ) feels that he ought to act a certain way, if only according to his own standard. The moment you begin entertaining the idea of a conscience--even if you feel that your standards are different than others--you will begin to think in terms of right and wrong. If in fact you do think this way, then it will modify how you act. And if your actions are modified, then how you act to, interact with, and react to other members of the human race will change.
You're right, if I thought of conscience in the way you describe here I would agree with your conclusions. But I see no reason to think of conscience as you describe it here. Conscience is an emotionally feeling we get when we know that what we are about to do, or have done, will be considered to be wrong by someone. So our conscience is most likely driven by ideas we already have concerning what might be good or bad behavior.

Your suggestion that our conscience drives our choices concerning what's moral has no evidence to support it. Especially considering that we change our conscience about things when we re-evaluate our moral values and decide to change what we accept or reject as moral behavior.

If our conscience was driving this process, then once we feel that something is immoral we should never change our conscience concerning that particular issue, yet we do. Humans change what they believe to be moral or immoral all the time, and their conscience changes to be in agreement with what they believe. So clearly their conscience is not driving their moral standards as you propose.
fred barclay wrote: If, on the other hand, you dismiss the conscience, you loose all guide to your actions. You will not be able to judge right from wrong--again, if only from your own standards--because you will not feel that there is a right or wrong, or at least not one that concerns you. And because of this, how you treat your fellow men will change--or at least not improve. (And how to judge "improvement" apart from a moral standard?) Since we all like to be treated fairly, and most of us are not cruel for cruelty's sake, we all have a personal interest in the conscience.
I am in complete disagreement with you on this point. We don't need a conscience to judge right from wrong. On the contrary, we can simply appeal to reason, and logic. Using reason and logic alone we can create a highly moral code of conduct.

So your claim here that without conscience a person will not be able to judge right from wrong is clearly and demonstrably false. There is just no justification for your claim here at all. So you are working from false assumptions that hold no truth.
fred barclay wrote: Now, before I go any farther, I would like to dismiss the idea that conscience is some sort of guilty feeling or emotion when you do wrong, and warm feeling or emotion when you do good. This certainly is an aspect of it--indeed, the best-known aspect, if perhaps not the most useful--but it is only an aspect. To say that these feelings are the conscience is as erroneous as saying that light is a light-bulb. A light-bulb certainly produces light--provided, of course, that the power is on and the bulb is not blown--but the light is only an attribute to the bulb. The bulb produces light, but the light is not the bulb. And if the bulb were to blow, would we say that it is no longer a light bulb? No. It certainly is no longer a useful bulb, but its brokenness does not diminish its being. Similarly, the conscience may be distorted, or twisted, so that it no longer produces feelings, but that does not diminish its existence.
I see no reason to believe that conscience is anything other than emotional feelings based upon intellectual knowledge that we process.

Your analogy with a light-bulb is a very poor analogy. A light-bulb does produce the light so while it may not be the light it is most certainly the source of the light. The light is not some magical thing that visits only working light-bulbs. Yet this is what you seem to be trying to suggest that conscience is. It's some magical knowledge that only visit working humans (i.e. light-bulbs). And if they don't seem to have a conscience it's not the fault of the conscience but rather it's the fault of the malfunctioning human.

I certainly will grant you that this reeks of a Conservative Christian value. But I don't think you are making a rational case for this at all. At best all you could hope to do at the end of the day is proclaim that everyone who doesn't have the same conscience concerning values of morality that you have must then necessarily be malfunctioning humans.

That's not about to fly anywhere outside of Conservative Christian Revival Meetings.

Conscience is not our source of morality. Conscience is really nothing more than a label we give to our emotions concerning how we feel about moralities that we have been taught to believe in.
fred barclay wrote: I am not altogether convinced that the flexibility of the conscience as regards feeling is such a bad thing. We all know that feelings are fickle, and often misguide us. The conscience would be but a poor guide were it to prompt us only with good or bad feelings. If this were the case, we could reduce the conscience to the role of a computer functions (a shout out to all my fellow programmers!) You input an action, it returns pleasure or pain, and you're done. Now, if this were the case, imagine if the conscience malfunctioned. Suddenly, good produces bad feelings, and evil produces pleasure. If the role of the conscience were merely to guide you by feelings, then you may go and do as you jolly well please. But if the conscience were to have a deeper meaning, and be a better guide than just using feelings, then we are without excuse when we do something we know is wrong but that produces pleasure.
Just as a personal note. I don't even think about conscience anymore. I don't need to even have a conscience to make moral decisions. I can make moral decisions based entirely on logic. So I don't even see conscience as playing a significance role in my life. Nor has it played a role in my life for many decades. It seems to me that conscience would only become apparent if a person was already considering doing something that they already know is wrong.

I mean seriously Fred. Is your conscience what drives your behavior? I seriously doubt it, and I also seriously hope not. Because if it does that would mean that you don't even know what's right or wrong until you starting doing it. Only then would your conscience tell you that you are doing something wrong.

Do you not go around pillaging and raping people simply because when you start thinking about doing those things your conscience tells you that they aren't good things to do?

I would think that would be a horrible way to go through life.

I think conscience plays a large role in the lives of children. If a mother tells a child not to eat her fresh baked cookies the child is going to have a very bad conscience about disobeying the mother and eating the cookies. But is there anything innately immoral about eating fresh-baked cookies? Clearly not.

This “conscience� in the child is driving by a single thought, “What would my mother think of me if I did that?� That is the source of the conscience in the mind of the child.

A religious person who thinks of God as their “Heavenly Father� is basically running on this same mentality. “What would my Heavenly Father think of me if I did this thing that I know he disapproves of?�

And clearly being a Conservative Christian, I think it's safe to imagine that your conscience is driven much along these lines, even if you may not think so.
fred barclay wrote: Very well then, I have said what conscience is not. What is it then? The word conscience is composed of two parts, con, which means "with", and science, which means "knowledge." So conscience means "with knowledge." The conscience serves as your knowledge of good and evil. It prompts you to do what is right based on your knowledge. It similarly prompts you to avoid evil based on your knowledge. Notice that, again, I didn't say that it is a self-rewarding/punishing system. The conscience is not so much there to give you a feeling (which we've already said is fickle anyway) about an action you've done as to prevent you from doing evil and to guide you instead to good. Now the conscience tends to be stronger for the avoiding evil part then for the doing good. But if you eliminate the evil choices you might have made, then you are left with good.
I would accept your semantics of the word “conscience� as being “with knowledge�, but I would also point out that conscience is indeed an emotional feeling. Therefore Emotional Conscience, is nothing more than emotions driving by knowledge. And that's precisely what I believe conscience to be. The knowledge you possess on moral issues is what causes you to become emotional over actions regarding those moral issues So the moral knowledge that you already possess (from whatever source you obtained it) is what drives your conscience, not the other way around as you are proposing.
fred barclay wrote: Conscience, as I said in my initial post, only bears witness of a moral standard and is not the standard itself. When you realize this, all sorts of discrepancies regarding differences in consciences (or rather, most of the time, fickle emotions) fall away. In the same way that a dusty mirror will bear witness of you, but only dimly, so will every conscience bear witness of a moral standard, if but poorly.
In the same train of thought, no-one would deny that you exist had they seen your image in the mirror (leaving out theatrics such as puppets.) They might see that the mirror is dusty, and needs cleaning, but they will not deny that you can be shown to exist through the mirror. Since a conscience does exist, what are we left to believe? That it sprang up of its own volition? This cannot be, since a non-existent entity has no will to make itself exist. Rather, we conclude that the conscience is either a moral standard in and of itself, or it is an image of a higher moral standard.
I totally disagree with you that conscience is even an existent entity in and of itself. It's not. Conscience is clearly nothing more than our emotional reaction to things we intellectually believe are moral or immoral actions. So conscience doesn't even have an independent existence of it's own. You wouldn't even have a conscience is you didn't already have some idea of right versus wrong. And those idea don't need to be absolute, all they need to be are ideas that you perceive to be standards.
fred barclay wrote: Which is it, then? If the conscience were a moral standard in and of itself, we should expect to see widespread in-congruency in consciences. Some consciences might say that murder is never wrong, others that rape is okay, and yet others that the end justifies any means whatsoever. There should be no point on which a large majority of the human race agrees..
Where do you come up with this unrealistic demand? Why should there be no point which a large majority of the human race agrees? Most people are logical. We are also a social species that has natural compassion for our own kind. The fact that most people would not wish to be murdered or raped, and can logically see that it naturally follows that it would be utterly illogical to think that it should be ok to then do this to other humans, should come as no surprise to you at all.

It is perfectly natural in a purely secular world that any species that evolved together socially will naturally come to feel compassion for each other and understand morality in the very basic, obvious and logical terms of treating others as they would like to be treated. This is a no-brainer and this principle was around long before Christianity so it doesn't come from there either.
fred barclay wrote: If, on the other hand, the conscience is only a reflection, then we can expect to see some lesser differences, but a great deal of congruency. This in fact corresponds to reality. There are differences, yes, but a much greater deal of sameness. As C. S. Lewis said, "Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to--whether it was only your own family, or your countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed you must not have simply any woman you liked." (Lewis, Mere Christianity) It is this sameness we see which points us to a higher moral standard.
The amount of agreement and disagreement we see between people's moral values is in complete harmony with a secular evolutionary picture of the world. For religious people to claim otherwise is nothing more than wishful thinking on their behalf.
fred barclay wrote: This is dangerous ground we walk on. If there is indeed a higher moral authority, then what would you call that authority? Would it not be God of some degree? And if there is a higher standard, is it not believable that you will be held accountable for how well you have kept it? But this is beyond the debate topic.
Not only is this beyond the topic, but I would also ask where this higher moral standard could be found? If you point to the Bible I'm going to go throw up. The Bible does not represents higher moral values than I personally hold as a subjective individual. On the contrary, it holds far lower standards. I would need to lower my moral standards to support the immoral standards of the Biblical God.

So don't even go there. Like you say, that's beyond the scope of this debate. If you would like to debate the moral standards of the Bible in another debate perhaps we can do that someday. But don't expect me to support the moralities taught in the Bible. I passionately reject them as being highly immoral.

So even if you did convince me that there is some sort of moral absolute, that still wouldn't point me to the Bible or the Biblical God. On the contrary, it would actually be good reason to dismiss the Biblical God.
fred barclay wrote: Now as to Divine Insight's objections:

1. We can't even be sure that all humans even have a moral conscience. Some humans certainly act as if they don't.
True enough on the acting part. But on the other hand, are you going to argue that humans are not deceptive? If they are deceptive--and they are!--then actions are but a poor guide to base evidence upon.
Furthermore, I never said that humans are bound to follow their consciences. The conscience is not the engine, if you will. It certainly doesn't force you to follow it.
I would predict that their actions would change were it they or someone they care about that their actions were done to. So they have consciences, they just choose to suppress them.
Your just guessing that they have a conscience. Actually it's been shown that psychopaths don't feel compassion for their victims. And they most likely have no feelings of conscience either. So I see no reason to accept that they have a conscience just because you say so.
fred barclay wrote: 2. All humans are not in agreement with what they consider to be moral or immoral.

Also true on the surface. But if you dig deeper, as I mentioned above, you will find that the differences are not as significant as you first imagined.
Furthermore, all humans are in agreement as to some things being immoral. Murder is immoral--who would disagree? So is rape and theft.
Now you will say, "That's not fair! All humans are agreed on that!" Well, what do you call that? Is that not therefore universal? And does it not concern morality? And is it not absolute? (Is there any doubt that cold-blooded murder is always wrong?) So all humans do have at least a measure of conscience that is universal and absolute. And as I said before, it therefore points to a higher standard.
No, it doesn't point to a higher standard at all. On the contrary pure secular evolution of a social species explains the major consensus on the biggies. But clearly the extreme differences once we move beyond these obvious things quickly become dramatically apparent. Thus “proving� beyond any reasonable doubt that there is no higher moral standard on these other issues.

Homosexuality is clearly one of them. There are many people who see absolutely nothing at all wrong with same-gender love. Whilst other people scream that it's extremely immoral. And there isn't likely to be any moral resolution to those differences of opinions.

Slavery was another biggie. Many Conservative Christians clearly supported slavery as being perfectly moral. They even used the Bible and Jesus himself to condone slavery in the name of their supposedly perfectly moral God. Yet, that moral ideal seems to have fallen by the wayside. There aren't too many people today who would argue the slavery is moral.

You can't just point to few obvious things that most humans agree with and claim that this indicates a higher absolute moral standard. It doesn't.
fred barclay wrote: 3. If human conscience cannot be shown to be absolute or consistent between humans then it most certainly doesn't suggest absolute morality, much less serve as proof for absolute morality.

I think I just showed that at least some aspects are consistent and absolute.
No you haven't. To begin with not even all humans will agree with the major moral issues you had pointed to. Some people actually believe that there are many valid reasons for killing people. You used the term�murder� but murder itself is a term that implies a wrongful killing. All these people need to do is find justification for the people they want to kill, and suddenly they aren't commuting “murder�.

For example, in some cultures if your wife cheats on you, you can kill her as an honor killing. It's not murder. It's an “Honor Killing�. My cousin was just murdered by her abusive husband. He does claim that she was cheating on him. Therefore he could claim that he didn't murder her at all but instead it was an “Honor Killing� to protect his honor.

So there's an extremely problem what why you are claiming are “absolutes�. In truth there do not exist any absolutes in the sense that you would like to believe.

fred barclay wrote: 4. The very concept of "conscience" is really nothing other than a concept of how a person emotionally feels about their actions, or the actions of others. It's basically founded on emotion. I hold that these emotions are far more likely to be created by a person's personal experiences, upbringing, and social pressures. This also explains easily why different people have a different conscience when it comes to various moral issues. This emotional concept of "conscience" would naturally evolve in any sentient social species. There is not need to evoke an imaginary external absolute source for morality.

As described above, we make a dangerous mistake to associate conscience with only emotion. Conscience independent of the emotions, although it makes use of them. Rather, conscience is the knowledge of right and wrong.
You haven't shown that your claim here is true. On the contrary you have merely asserted this because apparently you wish it were true. No doubt because you think it will somehow support your Conservative Christianity. But actually even if conscience did prove the existence of a higher moral standard that wouldn't support Christianity. On the contrary, it would rule out Christianity as having anything to do with this higher moral standard because the Christian Bible is extremely immoral itself, condoning slavery, male-chauvinism, penal substitution, and many other immoral concepts.
fred barclay wrote: In addition, Divine Insight has made a logical error. He states that people's morality is influenced by society. I would ask, "What makes up a society? Is it not people?" So he is in a logical circle. If society influences people, and people influence society, this does not answer where the morality comes from in the first place. All it does is conveniently remove the responsibility for morality from the shoulders of the individual and place it on an impersonal society. It may diminish feelings of guilt if you don't think it through, but it really places the blame nowhere.
Human morality has apparently arisen from many different sources. Unfortunately many of which were immoral superstitions themselves.

In more recent modern times morality has begun to be driven by reason, logic, and common sense, rather than superstition. And because of this morality has improved.

Humanity could never create a moral code by mutual consensus of conscience. You confess yourself that different people have different conscience experiences. So we could never derive an absolute standard of morality from human conscience.

So where do you suggest humanity would get this higher moral standard from?

Please don't suggest ancient barbaric Hebrew mythology. That was in fact a superstition that has already been responsible for many moral and immoral standards throughout history.

fred barclay wrote: Now as to Divine Insight's premise that a distorted proof is no proof at all. What is he basing this view of distortion on? Himself? If so, I feel no compulsion to agree that it is distorted. On a higher standard--a universal assumption that all know what distortion is? Hmm...sounds like he does accept at least some level of universal absolutes. What's more, it is a moral system of universal absolutes--science can't describe the quality of distortion. Neither can math. Distortion is not purely a logical problem either. It is a philosophical one--one that concerns itself with morality. Distortion is comparing what it wrong with what is right--and showing how wrong it is. And rightness and wrongness are moral problems. So Divine Insight, you just demonstrated a standard of moral absolutes.
Absolutely not. I have not demonstrated a standard of moral absolutes.

To begin with everything you have claimed his is based upon your own false premise: The idea that some “Higher Moral Absolutism� exists and is being “distorted� through human conscience, is your unsubstantiated claim.

I was actually suggesting just the opposite. I am stating that if your claim is true that human conscience is a distorted image of a higher absolute morality, then clearly human conscience cannot be claimed to “prove� the existence of a higher absolute morality.

You have shot your own “proof� in the foot.

However, what you are totally failing to recognize and acknowledge is that I do offer a sound basis for a meaningful and realistic moral foundation. And that foundation is simply reason, and logic, If you want to call that a strong basis for an “Absolute Morality� then I can't argue against that. It could certainly be an “Absolutely Logical and Reasonable Morality� since it is based upon both logic and rason.

You had already erroneously and wrongfully claimed that if I'm not using conscience as a basis for my morality then I have no basis for morality. That is a false claim on your part that hold not truth whatsoever. I point to logic and reason as all that is required to construct a perfectly sound system of morality. There is no need to imagine a “God� or a “Higher Magical Morality�. It's just not even necessary at all.

Morality can be based entirely upon reason and logic. Sam Harris has even written a book on this very topic.

Image

There is no problem with constructing a morality based upon logic and reason.

fred barclay wrote: How about this? I don't really feel like keeping the 24 rounds of this debate we agreed on. I feel more like having at least 60. Would you accuse me of violating some code of morality? Did I lie to you when I agreed to have 24? Am I violating our agreement? But what's the harm? After all, if there is no system of moral absolutes, and no knowledge of them (the conscience), then why worry? If you feel cheated, what should I care? Your standard is yours, and mine is mine. Didn't you say that "We clearly don't see...that individuals...ultimately agree on what is moral or immoral?" Fair enough then, I will do as I please. And while I'm at it, you better not complain if I steal from you. My morality must be different from yours. I don't agree that stealing is wrong, and I want your gear.
On the other hand, you must clearly see that there is both a standard and a knowledge of that standard. So I will be keeping the 24 rounds we agreed upon, and I will not be stealing from you.
And every point you've just made here can be reduced to logic and reason.

Also, your argument here doesn't help your cause as a Conservative Christian. Because in truth, even the religion that you look to for your “moral absolutism� is not in agreement with religions other people look to for their “moral absolutism�.

So whether you realize it or not, all human moral values are “relative� to some personal subjective belief.

I'm not saying that morality based upon logic and reason would be an “Absolute Morality�. It would certainly be a system of morality that was indeed relative to logic and reason.

And the other point I would like to make here too is that everything doesn't need to be judged in terms of morality.

For example, is it moral for me to have a chocolate bar for dessert after dinner? I would personally say that this is a meaningless question. It's neither moral nor immoral for me to have a chocolate bar for dessert after dinner.

The idea that every single action we take must have absolute moral consequences it itself an absurd idea.

And the same may be true for something like homosexuality. This is a big issue for religious people on moral grounds. For other people it's not a moral issue at all. There's simply nothing wrong with it and therefore it doesn't even need to be judged in terms of “morality�.

This whole idea of “Absolutism� is a faulty idea from the get go.

So no, you have not even come close to showing the conscience proves absolute morality. On the contrary you have confessed yourself that conscience is like a “dirty mirror�. Your own description.

How can something that even you confess is not absolute from person to person prove the existence of any absolute standard?

You don't seem to understand the criteria required to prove something. You can't point to something that you claim is “broken� in most people and simultaneously proclaim that it proves the existence of some higher “unbroken� concept.

If it's your position that most people's conscience is distorted or broken, then it clearly isn't suggesting the existence of any higher moral standards, much less proving the existence of such a thing.
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Post #5

Post by fred barclay »

I'm sorry it's taken me so long. I've been traveling more than usual, and have not had the time that an answer deserves until now.
Conscience is an emotionally feeling we get when we know that what we are about to do, or have done, will be considered to be wrong by someone. So our conscience is most likely driven by ideas we already have concerning what might be good or bad behavior.
I agree that it is driven by ideas we already have, but as you can imagine, I disagree as to where they came from. If your idea is taken to its logical conclusion, someone somewhere still has to decide what is right and wrong. You said that the guilt comes from knowing that someone considers what you do or are about to do to be wrong. Where did they get that idea from? From someone else? If so, where did that come from? Do you see what I'm saying? You are running in a logical circle here.
Furthermore, if what you said is the case, then we should be guilt-ridden 24/7. I know that Hindus consider eating meat--especially beef--to be wrong, yet my conscience doesn't bother me when I eat meat. Almost everything is forbidden by someone or the other. If my conscience is derived from what others think then I would be in trouble every second.
Here's another example. Some--not all--of the Amish would frown on me even using a computer and typing this response. If my conscience were "an emotional feeling get when know will be considered wrong by someone" I would not be typing this, and neither would you. So to say that it comes from our preconceived notions of what others think is a fallacy.
It is perfectly natural in a purely secular world that any species that evolved together socially will naturally come to feel compassion for each other and understand morality in the very basic, obvious and logical terms of treating others as they would like to be treated. This is a no-brainer and this principle was around long before Christianity so it doesn't come from there either.

I want to examine this first in a purely historical context. Christianity arose in the 1st century AD, in the midst of perhaps the most homogenous society known at that point. Nearly all the known world had one Caesar, one common language (Greek), a common system of roads, a common law (Roman law, in addition to and superseding regional law), and many other commonalities. Society had no excuse, if your premise is correct, not to have had a compassion for one another that was based on the obvious and logical terms of treating others as they would like to be treated. Society should have been working together to create a utopia that had never been seen before. But were these the conditions that Christianity arose in? No! Fathers could have their children killed at birth and for many excuses afterwards. Women were not even considered second-class citizens, but rather property. The slave trade was no better and in many ways worse than what would come to America. Capital punishment was extended for many different crimes. Society paid to see men kill one another--and later, to see animals rip men apart.
It was in this context that the Christian proclamation of morality was so shocking. In fact, Paul proclaimed that men had no excuse for their actions, that what was to be known about God (and conscience, I'm not going off topic here) had been plain from the beginning. This concept of absolute morality was totally different than what the Romans had developed. Left to themselves, they had not developed this idea of treating others kindly that you say they should have. No society ever has. Sure, you have the occasional philosopher who says what ought to be done, but no society ever has followed it.

Alright, enough history for now. I want to examine your claim that morality can be developed by logic and reason. Logic is simply the determination of valid reasoning; the "acid test" of whether reasoning is correct or not. So really, by your claim, reasoning is enough to determine morality.
Reasoning is good. But reasoning is unable to answer questions of morality, and vice versa. For example, the storekeeper who gives a 50 in exchange for a 20 is not acting immorally, but illogically and unreasonably. Contrariwise, the burglar who steals 1000 is not acting illogically--logically, he can use the money--but immorally. Reason is useful to determine which chess piece you should move next, and where to move it. But reason can't tell you why you shouldn't cheat. In fact, reason could tell you why you should cheat. Let's say that you don't like your opponent and therefor his opinion of you doesn't matter, and that you will lose nothing of value if you cheat--a case of "nothing to lose and everything to gain."Logically, then, you might have a reason to cheat and win the game. But morally you know that cheating is wrong.
Furthermore, logic fails when two people's logic are opposed. Your opponent might say "You oughtn't have cheated." This is logically correct for him. You, on the other hand, have gained by cheating. Logically, you have done well by cheating. So who's right here?
On the other hand, if you both have a moral standard that you both know, then he can appeal to it and say, "Cheating is wrong." Likely, you will not be able to argue. (In fact, I'm willing to guess that you in fact do agree that cheating is wrong. Why? In many cases there is no logical reason?)


The amount of agreement and disagreement we see between people's moral values is in complete harmony with a secular evolutionary picture of the world. For religious people to claim otherwise is nothing more than wishful thinking on their behalf.

Please back this up. How do you know it is "in complete harmony" with what evolution predicts?

Now I want you to consider an example. Please bear with me on this. I say none of this in malice or in a mocking attitude--in nothing but utmost respect for the patients and their families.
Imagine a brain-damaged patient. He has nothing to contribute to society. He cannot communicate, cannot take care of himself, and in fact leaches from society on a whole. (Unfortunately, this is relatively common.) Why is he allowed to live, from a logical standpoint? He contributes nothing. He takes a lot of resources that could go to others--perhaps to starving children. Where is the logic in allowing him life?
Or consider a mentally-handicapped woman for whom the illness is genetic. From an evolutionary standpoint, she is weakening the human race if allowed to reproduce. Survival of the fittest--a purely logical methodology--demands that weakness be eliminated if the species is to survive. So why is she allowed to live in freedom and choose her own life?
Logically, these people should be highly restricted or even killed. But morally, we don't do this, because we have some innate part of us that demands we care for the less fortunate. We go against all logic, and weaken the human race (from a logical standpoint) when we care for them. Why do we do it?

My challenge to you is to show me why morality can be derived from logic.

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Post #6

Post by Divine Insight »

fred barclay wrote: I agree that it is driven by ideas we already have, but as you can imagine, I disagree as to where they came from. If your idea is taken to its logical conclusion, someone somewhere still has to decide what is right and wrong. You said that the guilt comes from knowing that someone considers what you do or are about to do to be wrong. Where did they get that idea from? From someone else? If so, where did that come from? Do you see what I'm saying? You are running in a logical circle here.
Why would you say that I'm running in a logical circle? You're the one who seems to have a problem with someone coming up with their own ideas of what might be moral or immoral. I don't have that problem at all.

I think history actually shows otherwise. Many thing that are considered immoral by the ancient Hebrews were not considered immoral by many other cultures, and vice versa. So clearly the buck stops somewhere, and apparently it stops with the cultures that make up their on ideas of morality.

No logical circle require. That entirely your fallacy.
fred barclay wrote: Furthermore, if what you said is the case, then we should be guilt-ridden 24/7. I know that Hindus consider eating meat--especially beef--to be wrong, yet my conscience doesn't bother me when I eat meat. Almost everything is forbidden by someone or the other. If my conscience is derived from what others think then I would be in trouble every second.
Well, there you go. You've just verified that not everyone feels guilty about the same things. You've actually verified my position. Thank you very much.
fred barclay wrote: Here's another example. Some--not all--of the Amish would frown on me even using a computer and typing this response. If my conscience were "an emotional feeling get when know will be considered wrong by someone" I would not be typing this, and neither would you. So to say that it comes from our preconceived notions of what others think is a fallacy.


But the only reason you don't feel guilty about that is because you couldn't care less what the Amish think. If you actually believed in the same version of Christianity that they believe, then clearly you would feel guilty.


fred barclay wrote:
It is perfectly natural in a purely secular world that any species that evolved together socially will naturally come to feel compassion for each other and understand morality in the very basic, obvious and logical terms of treating others as they would like to be treated. This is a no-brainer and this principle was around long before Christianity so it doesn't come from there either.

I want to examine this first in a purely historical context. Christianity arose in the 1st century AD, in the midst of perhaps the most homogenous society known at that point. Nearly all the known world had one Caesar, one common language (Greek), a common system of roads, a common law (Roman law, in addition to and superseding regional law), and many other commonalities.


For one thing you're dead wrong already. The know world was not under the rule of Caesar, nor was everyone Greek. Where did you ever get that idea?

fred barclay wrote:
Society had no excuse, if your premise is correct, not to have had a compassion for one another that was based on the obvious and logical terms of treating others as they would like to be treated. Society should have been working together to create a utopia that had never been seen before. But were these the conditions that Christianity arose in? No! Fathers could have their children killed at birth and for many excuses afterwards. Women were not even considered second-class citizens, but rather property. The slave trade was no better and in many ways worse than what would come to America. Capital punishment was extended for many different crimes. Society paid to see men kill one another--and later, to see animals rip men apart.


You seem to be forgetting that all of that was under the Old Testament laws. And the Old Testament is the foundation of Christianity. Without the Old Testament Jesus is nothing.

fred barclay wrote:
It was in this context that the Christian proclamation of morality was so shocking.


I don't even think that you have a clear picture of Christianity. What does the Christian Gospels say? They say that Jesus himself proclaimed that he did not come to change the laws, and that not one jot nor one tittle shall pass from law.

Yet here you are acting like Christianity represents some new form of morality.

fred barclay wrote:
In fact, Paul proclaimed that men had no excuse for their actions, that what was to be known about God (and conscience, I'm not going off topic here) had been plain from the beginning. This concept of absolute morality was totally different than what the Romans had developed. Left to themselves, they had not developed this idea of treating others kindly that you say they should have. No society ever has. Sure, you have the occasional philosopher who says what ought to be done, but no society ever has followed it.


Where did I ever claim that humans would naturally do what is logical or reasonable? Empires like Roman were not built on logic and reason, they were built on greed and lust to have power and control over people.

And probably a lot of what drove that mentality was that in those days if you didn't oppress your neighbor you would quickly find your neighbor oppressing you.

In fact, the teachings of Jesus were actually absurd and unrealistic in those days, and may still be absurd and unrealistic even today.

fred barclay wrote:
Alright, enough history for now. I want to examine your claim that morality can be developed by logic and reason. Logic is simply the determination of valid reasoning; the "acid test" of whether reasoning is correct or not. So really, by your claim, reasoning is enough to determine morality.
Reasoning is good. But reasoning is unable to answer questions of morality, and vice versa. For example, the storekeeper who gives a 50 in exchange for a 20 is not acting immorally, but illogically and unreasonably. Contrariwise, the burglar who steals 1000 is not acting illogically--logically, he can use the money--but immorally. Reason is useful to determine which chess piece you should move next, and where to move it. But reason can't tell you why you shouldn't cheat.


Let me stop you right here and simply say that anyone who needs a God in order to not cheat, would indeed be in a very sad state of affairs.

In fact, anyone who needs a God in order to be a moral person is already in seriously bad shape.

fred barclay wrote:
In fact, reason could tell you why you should cheat.


Not to an intelligent person who is truly capable of reasoning.

fred barclay wrote:
Let's say that you don't like your opponent and therefor his opinion of you doesn't matter, and that you will lose nothing of value if you cheat--a case of "nothing to lose and everything to gain."Logically, then, you might have a reason to cheat and win the game. But morally you know that cheating is wrong.


Are you saying that you see nothing wrong with cheating? And that the only reason you would refrain from it is because some God has commanded that it is immoral?

Is that your position? :-k

fred barclay wrote:
Furthermore, logic fails when two people's logic are opposed. Your opponent might say "You oughtn't have cheated." This is logically correct for him. You, on the other hand, have gained by cheating. Logically, you have done well by cheating. So who's right here?


Do you really need to ask me? I personally think you should be able to figure that one out on your own using pure reason.

fred barclay wrote:
On the other hand, if you both have a moral standard that you both know, then he can appeal to it and say, "Cheating is wrong." Likely, you will not be able to argue. (In fact, I'm willing to guess that you in fact do agree that cheating is wrong. Why? In many cases there is no logical reason?)


There are times when cheating is the appropriate action to take. And that is when you are up against someone else is is clearly cheating and they will end up oppressing you if you don't cheat to save yourself.

The idea that cheating is "absolutely immoral" under all possible circumstance is absurd.

If you could defeat Hilter's Army by cheating, would you do so? Of course you would, you'd be a complete fool not to. In fact, the most devout religious people would simply apologize to God and say, "God please forgive me for what I am about to do", and then they would cheat to kill Hitler.

So don't tell me about these religious morals. No one in their right mind would follow them if it meant their demise to a cheating enemy.

How many Christians do you know who would turn their other cheek to a rapist who broke into their house and was raping their wife and daughters? You know as well as I do that any sane Christian man would kill the rapist on the spot to stop him using whatever method possible.

These lofty ideals of religion are not only illogical, but they are clearly insane. Any God who would tell people to turn the other cheek and put them on the same planet with mentally ill psychopaths would be a God unworthy of anyone's worship.

Religions values are not only illogical, but they are insane.

fred barclay wrote:
The amount of agreement and disagreement we see between people's moral values is in complete harmony with a secular evolutionary picture of the world. For religious people to claim otherwise is nothing more than wishful thinking on their behalf.

Please back this up. How do you know it is "in complete harmony" with what evolution predicts?


Because evolution predicts the randomness that we see. It's that simple.

Moreover there is absolutely no evidence at all to support your claim that there exists any absolute morality.


fred barclay wrote:
Now I want you to consider an example. Please bear with me on this. I say none of this in malice or in a mocking attitude--in nothing but utmost respect for the patients and their families.
Imagine a brain-damaged patient. He has nothing to contribute to society. He cannot communicate, cannot take care of himself, and in fact leaches from society on a whole. (Unfortunately, this is relatively common.) Why is he allowed to live, from a logical standpoint? He contributes nothing. He takes a lot of resources that could go to others--perhaps to starving children. Where is the logic in allowing him life?


I am a strong supporter of legal euthanasia when a situation is hopeless. It may actually be the best possible thing to do to end the life of someone who is brain dead. Of course, if there is hope that a person might recover that's another story. But I think that should be left up to the relatives and loved ones of the person who is in that situation. I don't think the state should force people to keep brain-dead bodies alive on religious grounds.

fred barclay wrote:
Or consider a mentally-handicapped woman for whom the illness is genetic. From an evolutionary standpoint, she is weakening the human race if allowed to reproduce. Survival of the fittest--a purely logical methodology--demands that weakness be eliminated if the species is to survive. So why is she allowed to live in freedom and choose her own life?


If her illness is genetic then I think it does make sense that she should not partake in procreation.

Do you think it would be moral of her to pass her defective genes onto a child under your "Religious morals"?

And where does the God of the Bible even address these kinds of situations at all? :-k

fred barclay wrote:
Logically, these people should be highly restricted or even killed. But morally, we don't do this, because we have some innate part of us that demands we care for the less fortunate. We go against all logic, and weaken the human race (from a logical standpoint) when we care for them. Why do we do it?


We do it partly out of compassion, and partly out of stupidity. It's really not doing anyone a favor to help someone procreate who is going to be passing on a mental illness to their offspring.

In fact, why would anyone even want to do that? Do you think that would be "moral"?

fred barclay wrote:
My challenge to you is to show me why morality can be derived from logic.


The question isn't "why", but rather "how".

And I think Sam Harris has already done this. But he has done if from a highly intellectual point of view where he considers things from the standpoint of humanity as a whole. This is something that many people are not capable of doing.

Just as you have suggested in your scenarios above, you have only considered why should or should not cheat from a very personal "egotistical" vantage point. And by "egotistical" I simply meant that you are considering all of this from the vantage point of your own individual worldview.

One thing you need to understand about someone like Sam Harris is that he's a humanitarian. He considers humanity as a whole. He had also studied Buddhism for many years and has mediated on their line of thinking. So naturally he's going to be viewing the world as a human thinking in terms of humanity. He's not looking at the world as an egotistical Sam Harris wondering what might be best for him on a personal level.

So in a sense Sam Harris is already an enlightened human being. He's capable of looking at the bigger picture. Therefore he sets up his premises based upon this bigger picture of humanity.

If we are going to set up a system of morality for humanity then we need to ask, "What is the best for humanity", not what is the best for any one individual person's egotistical gain.

So your arguments for greed or cheating don't actually fit. You're arguing from the vantage point of an individual asking what might be best from your personal perspective.

Before you can even begin to understand a logical system of rational morality you first need to step back and look at humanity as a whole. Not forgetting the fact that humanity as a whole is still made up of individuals.

You will still need to take into account what is best for the individuals, but not from a selfish egotistical perspective.

And that changes everything.

~~~~~~~~

But here are my questions to you:

You've stated that you are a Christian. So I take it that you accept the moral values given by God and Jesus.

So here's the question, "Do you actually agree with the moral values of Jesus?"

I find this question to be very enlightening because there can only be two answers. You either do, or you don't, and both of these are extremely revealing.

For example, if you do agree with the moral values of Jesus, then all you are truly doing is giving Jesus your "seal of approval" on morality. Obviously you approve of this morality.

On the other hand, if you disagree with moral values of Jesus, then clearly you do not agree that Jesus' morals are valid.

So the problem here is that either way, it's your judgement.

~~~~~~~

I realized this early on as a Christian. Am I agreeing with Jesus? Or is Jesus agreeing with me? Clearly if the former is true then so is the latter. ;)

So I can't be getting my moral values from Jesus if I am the one who is giving my approval to the moral values he taught.

Moreover, I also realized that the main reason Christians love Jesus so much is because he basically renounced the immoral values of the Old Testament God, even though he claimed not to.

That was the other thing that became vividly apparent to me. Most Christians do not support the immoral values of the God of the Old Testament. In fact, when they see cultures that behave according to those laws, (Like ISIS, and the Taliban) they are very quick to renounce those cultures as being highly immoral.

So clearly even Christians aren't in harmony with the morality associated with the God of The Old Testament. They most certainly aren't getting their moral compass from him.
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Post #7

Post by fred barclay »

(This does not count as a round in the debate--if you disagree I'll erase it, so as to not go over the debate limit we agreed upon.)
Yes, I absolutely agree with the morality of both the Old and the New Testament. I'd love to get into a discussion about this but that is outside the range of this debate. Maybe after this is over we could discuss it, or at the same time in another debate/thread, or pause this and start a new debate/thread? Your call.

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Post #8

Post by fred barclay »

Here is your logical circle. I mentioned murder and rape as wrong. Let's use rape for this example, because killing someone (such as in war, or in defense of others as in the example you mentioned) is not always murder, and may be justified; but I don't think you can find a justification for rape:
Alright, if, as you say, you "have no problem with someone coming up with their own ideas of what might be moral or immoral," can you tell me why rape is wrong for both you and me? Bear in mind that, by your reasoning and admission, I am free to come up with my own definition of right and wrong. If I decided that rape was okay, would you not do everything in your power to stop me? Or would you stand by and let me have my way?
I'm sure you would try to stop me. This is where your position is shaky. What grounds do you have for stopping me? I can think of 2 reasons:
(a)Is it in the best interests of the victim? If so, what about my interests? What makes his or her interests more valid then my own? Why should the victim's preference interfere with my own preferences? Please don't say anything about it "being in the best interests of society." That is subjective. And anyhow, society is comprised of people, so if you were to stop me, you'd be hindering people based on other people's wishes. This is where one aspect of your circle comes into play. How can you determine who's wishes are to be followed, and who's are to be denied, if morality is self-determined?
(b) It's wrong. Again, by your reasoning, this is subjective. Why should I not be allowed to pursue my own path? What are you determining wrongness by? To have any effect on me, and to give you any justification to stop me, the standard must be known and accepted by both you and me.
However, if you accept a moral standard that is known to all men (universal), you then have justification to stop me, and to protect my victim.
I do not mean to insinuate that, were you to see this happening, you would need to stop and think,"Do I accept a absolute, universal moral standard?" and then base your response on it. If you even had hesitation on rescuing someone from rape, I shouldn't think much of you. It should be a instinctive, immediate response. Why, though? Why shouldn't you or any other human being even have to think whether or not to rescue the victim? Because you know rape is wrong, and your protective nature to defend others from wrong asks you to help.

So to take a break from all this clutter, let me ask you flat-out. Would you do everything in your power to stop a rapist? If so, why are you rating your morality higher than his, since you say you have no problem with self-determined morality?
On the other hand, if you accept that wrong is wrong despite any personal preference to the contrary, you will have no problem describing why you would stop a rapist.

Earlier you said that to follow the God of the Bible would require you to lower your moral standard. I noticed that you didn't have to explain what you meant by "lower"--you assumed I knew, and so would everyone reading this debate. That sounds an awful lot like a universal standard--else how would I know what "lowering" or "raising" your standard would be (motion is relative)? In fact, this hints of absolutism as well--else what I consider raising you might call lowering, and vice versa. However, instead of having to explain exactly what you meant to me, you just said "lower", and you knew that I would know what you meant. This indicates an absolute moral standard--which, if you recall, is what we are debating. :D
Well, there you go. You've just verified that not everyone feels guilty about the same things. You've actually verified my position. Thank you very much.
I'm afraid that your position was not verified. If absolute morality determines wrong, then by default it determines right as well. Then, regardless of any attempts by others to call good as bad, it still stands as good, and I would have no problem ignoring their attempts. If I know that it is good, how could I proceed doing it in less than full confidence, knowing that others' opinions do not determine the standard?

Now I would like you to explain a contradiction you've given. First you said that it is entirely possible to determine morality based upon reason and logic. Now you've said that you have no problem with people determining morality and immorality for themselves. How do you reconcile the two? As I'm sure you've seen, people's reason and logic often do not coincide. In that case, who is right, and who is wrong? (And how are you determining rightness and wrongness anyway?)

Let me make sure I've got this straight. You believe that morality is determined by men--that it has no existence apart from intelligent beings who invented it. In this case, what does it matter? It's no more than a fairy-tale; an invention. And I can comfortably live my life ignoring what others think.
For one thing you're dead wrong already. The know world was not under the rule of Caesar, nor was everyone Greek. Where did you ever get that idea?
In the first-century AD, the entire known world was under control of the Romans, or under its influence. True, parts of India and most of Asia was not ruled by them, although large areas were influenced by them. But these were outside the standard definition of the "known world."
Furthermore, I did not say everyone was a Greek. (Where did you get that from?) What I did say was that Greek was the common language of the Empire. Not everyone understood it, of course, but many did. Greek was in a position similar to that of English nowadays. If you were "educated", you likely spoke it, as well as your mother tongue(s).

You seem to be forgetting that all of that was under the Old Testament laws. And the Old Testament is the foundation of Christianity. Without the Old Testament Jesus is nothing.
I'm glad to see you say that. I was actually going to explain how Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, not its abolisher, but I didn't want to go too far off topic.Jesus proclaimed no new morality. He just fulfilled what that morality demanded.
Now all of what I said was referring to the Roman Law, not OT Law. Again, the scope of OT Law and it's meaning is beyond the scope of this debate--perhaps another one, if you want?

As a side note, you call Christianity possibly absurd. Did you know the Bible calls it foolishness, and hidden from the (self) wise?

I find it interesting that you think of Hitler and rapists as immoral (I do too, of course.) If morality is as you say a personal decision, who are you to decide this. I'm sure Hitler didn't consider himself wrong. If you do not accept a absolute moral standard, on what grounds are you determining his morality?

The turning the other cheek is in response to an insult. Slapping me on my either or both cheeks will not kill or significantly harm me. In this case, I am not to retaliate for personal insults.
However, the Bible also gives room to defend yourself and others--even if it involves killing the attacker. If it is a dangerous situation, and God has not specifically told me to not resist (and He hasn't to date), I have no problem keeping others alive. I do struggle with the idea of defending myself by killing someone else, but I have no doubt I would do whatever was necessary to keep myself alive if the situation arose. Danger has a way of dispelling nonsense philosophy!
Moreover there is absolutely no evidence at all to support your claim that there exists any absolute morality.
Ultimately, the nature of this debate is philosophical, rather than scientific. There will not be hard evidence of the same nature that you and I as scientists are used to, and either one of us can deny what the other says. I cannot prove absolute morality scientifically, but I believe that reason and logic--the tools you hope to construct morality with--can be used to demonstrate morality.


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This is off-topic as I mentioned above, but, yes, I absolutely agree with the moral values of Jesus.

There is a difference between agreeing with Jesus and Him agreeing with you. I agree with doctors that too many chocolate bars are bad for me, but if I eat too many, I'm sure the doctors will not agree with me. In the same way, I can agree that we are to "Love the LORD your God with all your soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself," but if I do not practice it, do you really think Jesus agrees with me?
Agreements--especially personal agreements--are fickle. What matters more are actions. If I say I love God, but hate you, would you believe me?

I really would love to talk about this OT morality that you repeatedly mention, but I believe it's outside the debate range. If you want to discuss it, decide how and I'll do it--within limits, of course. I'm not going to discuss it while hanging upside-down from the dirigible dock of the Empire State Building. :D

Best to you!
Though you might want to know that, while I don't agree with you, I find your posts thought-provoking and very well done. I'm enjoying this. ;)

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Post #9

Post by Divine Insight »

fred barclay wrote: Alright, if, as you say, you "have no problem with someone coming up with their own ideas of what might be moral or immoral," can you tell me why rape is wrong for both you and me? Bear in mind that, by your reasoning and admission, I am free to come up with my own definition of right and wrong.
This is totally false. I never said any such thing. You are misunderstanding the concept of subjective morality. For one thing, you are clearly locked into a concept of absolute morality and are therefore incapable of even understanding the concept of subjective morality. You need to let go of the concept of absolute morality before you can understand subjective morality.

Subjective morality is nothing at all like an imagined absolute morality. But that doesn't mean that it's not reality. In reality all that exists are subjective moralities. That's just the cold hard fact of life.

You claim that everyone will agree that rape is absolutely morally wrong. But if that's the case then why do rapists even exist at all?

Also, it's not unlike killing. There are people in this world who believe that under certain circumstances rape is perfectly moral. And that is subjective morality. Moreover your view that morality associated with Christianity is "absolute" is itself a subjective judgement on your behalf. So even though you think your subjective sense of morality is absolute it's not. You're only kidding yourself.
fred barclay wrote: If I decided that rape was okay, would you not do everything in your power to stop me? Or would you stand by and let me have my way?
I'm sure you would try to stop me. This is where your position is shaky.
My position is shaky? Hardly.

On the contrary Fred, you as a devout Christian would be the one who must not intervene or try to stop the rapist. Don't you recall that according to Jesus the only moral thing for you to do is to turn the other cheek?

Besides, it's not my position that everyone within a society should be able to act on their own personal subjective sense of morality.

Because what you fail to realize is in that situation my subjective morality would be to kill the rapist. ;)

But clearly you can't do that as Christian, because as a Christian you must turn the other cheek. If a rapist is raping your wife right before your very eyes you are to turn the other cheek and offer the rapist your daughter to rape as well.

Do you agree with Jesus that it would be moral for you to do nothing to the man who is raping your wife, and that you should simply offer him your daughter to rape as well?

If not, then you find yourself in disagreement with the morality preached by Jesus.
fred barclay wrote: What grounds do you have for stopping me? I can think of 2 reasons:
(a)Is it in the best interests of the victim? If so, what about my interests? What makes his or her interests more valid then my own? Why should the victim's preference interfere with my own preferences? Please don't say anything about it "being in the best interests of society." That is subjective.
This go back to what I way saying about recognizing humanity as a whole. You need to have an enlightened view of reality where you are thinking in terms of humanity as a whole rather than continually thinking about individual desires.

Also, we're not talking about the best interest of "society" here. We talking about humanitarianism. Humanitarianism is not a society. Societies themselves can become hateful toward each other even though they are all made up of humans.

You need to rise above that mentality as well. And this is probably something that is not even doable in reality because most humans simply aren't intelligent enough yet. And may potentially never rise to that level of development.

If you can't understand why it would be a humanitarian disaster to allow individual humans to force themselves onto other individual humans then there isn't much I can do for you. For people like Sam Harris and myself it's obvious why this would not be good for humanity as a whole. (for humans in general).

In fact, in almost every case if you were to force your ways onto the rapists they would not like that either. Therefore they are already not acting in a reasonable and logical manner.
fred barclay wrote: And anyhow, society is comprised of people, so if you were to stop me, you'd be hindering people based on other people's wishes. This is where one aspect of your circle comes into play. How can you determine who's wishes are to be followed, and who's are to be denied, if morality is self-determined?
So are you suggesting that we should live as Jesus preached and just always turn our other cheek to every crime that is being committed against any individuals?

Are you arguing that rapists should not be stopped?
fred barclay wrote: (b) It's wrong. Again, by your reasoning, this is subjective. Why should I not be allowed to pursue my own path? What are you determining wrongness by? To have any effect on me, and to give you any justification to stop me, the standard must be known and accepted by both you and me.
However, if you accept a moral standard that is known to all men (universal), you then have justification to stop me, and to protect my victim.
I do not mean to insinuate that, were you to see this happening, you would need to stop and think,"Do I accept a absolute, universal moral standard?" and then base your response on it. If you even had hesitation on rescuing someone from rape, I shouldn't think much of you. It should be a instinctive, immediate response. Why, though? Why shouldn't you or any other human being even have to think whether or not to rescue the victim? Because you know rape is wrong, and your protective nature to defend others from wrong asks you to help.
So what are you arguing for? I thought you were a Christian? According to Jesus you are to turn the other cheek and resist not evil.

Is that how we run our society? I think not. On the contrary, that would be foolish. So we already aren't running our society based on the moral guidance of Jesus.
fred barclay wrote: So to take a break from all this clutter, let me ask you flat-out. Would you do everything in your power to stop a rapist? If so, why are you rating your morality higher than his, since you say you have no problem with self-determined morality?
I never said that I have no problem with self-determined morality. Where did I ever say that.

My position is quite simple. In reality there is no absolute morality. Period.

I'm I pleased with this situation? No, I'm not. I would love for there to be an absolute morality, and and absolute enforcer of that morality. But that's nothing more than wishful thinking. There is no such thing in reality.

All that exists is subjective morality. That's just a fact of life. I never said that I have no problem with this. I have as much problem with this as I have with Rabid Bears, Ebola, Cancer, psychopaths, etc. And even fanatical religious people who do horrible things in the name of their fictitious Gods.

All I'm saying is that human morality is entirely a man-made concept. It's entirely subjective, and that's just a fact of reality. Whether you like the situation or not is basically a moot point.

fred barclay wrote: On the other hand, if you accept that wrong is wrong despite any personal preference to the contrary, you will have no problem describing why you would stop a rapist.
I would stop a rapist to protect that person being raped. In fact, I would personally think so lowly of the rapist I would kill it as easily as killing a rabid bear and not even think of it as being "human" even though it might genetically be a human.

I personally have no problem with dismissing some "humans" from even qualifying as humans.

But my personal feelings on this matter are moot.

In the meantime you would need to turn the other cheek to the rapist if you are going to live by the morality preached by Jesus.

Are you prepared to do that? Especially when the rape victim is your own wife or daughter? :-k

Or would you be like me and kill the rapist first and ask question later?
fred barclay wrote: Earlier you said that to follow the God of the Bible would require you to lower your moral standard. I noticed that you didn't have to explain what you meant by "lower"--you assumed I knew, and so would everyone reading this debate. That sounds an awful lot like a universal standard--else how would I know what "lowering" or "raising" your standard would be (motion is relative)? In fact, this hints of absolutism as well--else what I consider raising you might call lowering, and vice versa. However, instead of having to explain exactly what you meant to me, you just said "lower", and you knew that I would know what you meant. This indicates an absolute moral standard--which, if you recall, is what we are debating.
In a sense we can have a standard of morality that is based upon a sound rational framework. That's as "absolute" as anything can be. My framework for morality would necessarily be based upon my subjective experience as a human (there is no escaping that one). Along with reason, logic, and human compassion for others, based upon my own human experience.

Our individual human experience is paramount. And this is true of everyone. It cannot be ignored. We based our moral values on what we determine to be harmful or not harmful based upon our own human experience.

For example, do you think it's immoral to go around bashing people in the face with a large rock in your hand? Of course not. And why would you think this would be immoral? Well, because you would not like for everyone to come to you bashing your face in with a rock because it hurts and causes permanent damage.

If it didn't hurt and caused no damage you would have a problem with it.

Our sense of morality is absolutely based upon the human condition along with reason, and logic.

When I say I would need to lower my moral standards to abide by the rules of Biblical Morality its because Biblical Morality demands that I harm other people for absurd reasons. For example I am to kill anyone who works on the sabbath. That would keep me pretty busy in today's world by the way. ;)

I am to stone my unruly children to death. I am to sell my daughter to her rapist. I am to keep slaves and beat them to within an inch of their life if they don't do precisely as I say. I am to seek out those who worship and preach of other Gods and kill the entire cities in which they live.

It's a horribly immoral religion.

And Jesus confirmed it when he said that that not one jot nor one tittle shall pass from law until heaven and earth pass.

I'm not going to become like ISIS and the Taliban just to appease the God of the Bible.

And then of course, there's the totally self-contradictions of Jesus. Jesus himself renounced the stoning to death of sinners. So who should I obey? The God of the Bible or the God of the Old Testament? They can't even agree with each other.

And Jesus would have us turning the other cheek to all evil. That would mean that we shouldn't even have police department. If you become a cop you will find yourself in violation of Jesus' "Turn the other cheek" rule.

There is no rational morality to even be had from the Bible.
fred barclay wrote: Now I would like you to explain a contradiction you've given. First you said that it is entirely possible to determine morality based upon reason and logic. Now you've said that you have no problem with people determining morality and immorality for themselves. How do you reconcile the two? As I'm sure you've seen, people's reason and logic often do not coincide. In that case, who is right, and who is wrong? (And how are you determining rightness and wrongness anyway?)
This is not a contradiction at all. On the contrary it only seems like a contradiction to you because you cannot abandon the concept of "absolute morality" for even a moment.

A morality based on reason and logic would not be "absolute". It would simply be the best we could do as a thinking rational species.

And it's certainly not going to work very well if we have individual egotists proclaiming that their "logic" should trump other people's logic. :roll:

All logic and reason is only as good as the premises upon which is it based. This is why a system of morality for humans would need to be based upon humanitarianism and not on egotism.

We also need to understand that this could never be an "absolute" system of morality. It would simply be the best that we could do.

We really have no other choice.

Where else are we going to obtain a sane system of morality for humans? :-k

We're certainly not going to find it in the Bible. The Old Testament would have us killing people for all manner of reasons, not the least of which would be to support our Biblical religious bigotry.

We certainly won't find it in Jesus unless we are prepared to just turn the other cheek to all acts of evil and violence and never life a finger to stop it. That's not realistic either.

So the Bible is absolutely useless. And so there you go. At least it's "absolute" about something because it is indeed absolutely useless.
fred barclay wrote: Let me make sure I've got this straight. You believe that morality is determined by men--that it has no existence apart from intelligent beings who invented it. In this case, what does it matter? It's no more than a fairy-tale; an invention. And I can comfortably live my life ignoring what others think.
Morality is indeed determined by men. It has no existence apart from the men who invented the concept.

You ask, "In this case, what does it matter?"

Well, it matters to the men who invented the concept. If it wasn't an important concept to them they wouldn't have invented it in the first place. ;)

Besides, where is there any evidence that a God who commands men to seek out those who preach of other Gods, and burn their cities to the ground, is anything more than a fairytale? :-k
fred barclay wrote: In the first-century AD, the entire known world was under control of the Romans, or under its influence. True, parts of India and most of Asia was not ruled by them, although large areas were influenced by them. But these were outside the standard definition of the "known world."
All you are doing is expressing a prejudiced western view here.

I'm sure the people who were living in India and Asia thought of the western world as "Outside the standard definition of their known world".
fred barclay wrote:
You seem to be forgetting that all of that was under the Old Testament laws. And the Old Testament is the foundation of Christianity. Without the Old Testament Jesus is nothing.
I'm glad to see you say that. I was actually going to explain how Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, not its abolisher, but I didn't want to go too far off topic.Jesus proclaimed no new morality. He just fulfilled what that morality demanded.
You could never make this stick. In fact, all you've just said here is that there should be absolutely no difference between the morality taught by Jesus and the morality taught by the Old Testament. If that's the case, then we should be able to toss out the New Testament entirely and obtain all our moral values from the Old Testament alone.

We should still be stoning our unruly children to death. We should still be stoning sinners to death. We should be stoning anyone who works on the sabbath to death. We should still be seeking out people who preach of other Gods, kill them and everyone in the villages from whence they came.

According to you, if you are a Christian, and a Muslim builds a mosque in your neighborhood, you should look into the matter. And if they are preaching of any God who is not the father of Jesus they should be killed, and their mosque should be burned to the ground.

Are you doing that? And if not, why not? :-k

You claim that Jesus did not come to abolish the Old Testament Law.
fred barclay wrote: As a side note, you call Christianity possibly absurd. Did you know the Bible calls it foolishness, and hidden from the (self) wise?
I know that the Bible itself is foolishness. And therefore anything it has to say can be dismissed as foolishness. I wouldn't even bother mentioning the book if it wasn't for religious fanatics who can't see how horribly immoral the Bible truly is.
fred barclay wrote: I find it interesting that you think of Hitler and rapists as immoral (I do too, of course.) If morality is as you say a personal decision, who are you to decide this. I'm sure Hitler didn't consider himself wrong. If you do not accept a absolute moral standard, on what grounds are you determining his morality?
You keep going back to a concept of "absolute morality". I see no evidence for any such thing.

In fact, you seem to continually approve of my personal subjective views on morality as being on a quite high level. This is probably because you and I will most likely subjectively agree on many moral issues. But clearly not on all of them.
fred barclay wrote: The turning the other cheek is in response to an insult. Slapping me on my either or both cheeks will not kill or significantly harm me. In this case, I am not to retaliate for personal insults.
You need to be very careful here as well. Because now you are getting into the very gray area of pushing your own subjective morality onto the teachings of Jesus. ;)

In fact, this is what religious people actually do. They are actually just using the Bible, God, and Jesus to support their own subjective opinions via their own personal subjective interpretations.

You can't avoid subjective morality because it's all that truly exists. ;)
fred barclay wrote:
Moreover there is absolutely no evidence at all to support your claim that there exists any absolute morality.
Ultimately, the nature of this debate is philosophical, rather than scientific. There will not be hard evidence of the same nature that you and I as scientists are used to, and either one of us can deny what the other says. I cannot prove absolute morality scientifically, but I believe that reason and logic--the tools you hope to construct morality with--can be used to demonstrate morality.
But we actually can use the scientific method of observation to simply look around us and see that there is no absolute morality in the world.

Does nature exhibit any absolute morality? No.

Animals naturally eat each other.
Disease naturally attacks innocent people.
Natural disasters harm innocent people.
Genetics even cause genetic defects for no good reason.

There is no natural morality in the world. Therefore absolute morality does not exist in the natural world.

The only place we see the concept of morality at all is in the minds of men. And even they disagree among themselves on the concept of morality. So we don't even see any absolute morality in men.

So there is no evidence that any such thing as absolute morality exist.


fred barclay wrote: but I believe that reason and logic--the tools you hope to construct morality with--can be used to demonstrate morality.
Well, now you are actually suggesting that I'm right. If you believe that reason and logic could be used to demonstrate morality, then you've just conceded that it could be used to build a system of morality.
fred barclay wrote: If I say I love God, but hate you, would you believe me?
I do not believe anyone who claims to love God. That's actually impossible.

At best all you can do is love your imagined idea of what you would like for God to be.

But if you told me that you hate someone I would indeed take your word for it. ;)
fred barclay wrote: I really would love to talk about this OT morality that you repeatedly mention, but I believe it's outside the debate range.
I agree it's outside of the topic of this debate. This debate is about how you believe conscience proves absolute morality. But let's face it, in the long haul being a conservative Christian you are hoping that this could somehow lead back to supporting the Biblical God in some way.

I would argue that this could never happen.

I have rejected the entire Abrahamic picture of God. I don't believe in the God of the Old Testament and the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall from Grace. I most certainly don't believe in Jesus as the demigod Son of the God of the Old Testament.

And more to the point, I have absolutely no bad conscience about rejecting these absolutely absurd stories. Yet if conscience was somehow linked to an "absolute morality" that was somehow connected to the Biblical God, then I should feel guilty and immortal for having "rejected" the Word of God.

So actually in my case conscience proves that the Bible cannot be from any God, because it it were then I should have a bad conscience about having rejected God when in fact, I actually feel very good about rejecting ancient Hebrew mythology and religions that preach religious bigotry in the name of their jealous Gods.

So if conscience is associated with any absolute morality, then clearly absolute morality cannot have anything to do with the Biblical God, otherwise I would not have a perfectly clear conscience for having rejected that dogma.
fred barclay wrote: Best to you!
Though you might want to know that, while I don't agree with you, I find your posts thought-provoking and very well done. I'm enjoying this.
I'm very pleased that you are enjoying this debate.

The only point I would like to summarize here at the end is the following:

You seem to have it in your mind that I support a morality based on reason and logic as having some "absolute authority" in and of itself. Or that I feel that this is some sort of ideal situation.

I support neither.

I simply recognize that in reality there is no such thing as absolute morality above that to which humans bestow upon it. The very concept of morality is a man-made construct. It is our subjective desire for things to be perfect.

I'm sure that we would all love to live in a world where there could be absolute morality that everyone would agree with. It would even be super great if there was no need to even enforce it because every person in that perfect world would simply behave in a way that is compatible with that absolute morality.

But that idealized situation simply isn't reality.

And because of this we must acknowledge this and recognize what can be reality.

In the end I would rather see humanity evolve to a level of reason and logic as their basis for morality than to continue to support ancient archaic God-myths where the jealous God has clearly commanded people to murder heathens for merely not worshiping him.

That would be a far less moral world than one run by reason and logic, IMHO.

Jealous God myths are dangerous and they are ultimately not "moral" in terms of reason or logic.

The closest we can ever come to an "Absolute Morality" would be to create a moral system based upon reason and logic. Then we might some day be able to say that our system of morality is at least "Absolutely Reasonable and Logical". ;)

That's as close as we could ever get to an "Absolute Morality".
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fred barclay
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Post #10

Post by fred barclay »

My computer's back!
This is totally false. I never said any such thing.
Did you not say:
You're the one who seems to have a problem with someone coming up with their own ideas of what might be moral or immoral. I don't have that problem at all.
I repeat "I don't have that problem at all.
Seems to me that you first said that you have no problem with a self-determined morality. So now you're saying that you do?
You need to let go of the concept of absolute morality before you can understand subjective morality.
On the contrary, I propose that you cannot even begin to understand a subjective morality apart from the understanding of an absolute one.
See, one accustation agains those of us who believe in an absolute morality is that we "try to cram it down" other's throats. I submit to you that, if subjective morality is all that exists, then this should be no problem, because if my self-determined morality says that everyone is to believe what I do, and that how others feel is of no regard, then those who affirm relative morality should give us the freedom to demand they follow it.
It would be an absolute moral statement--false, by the way, but still by definition absolute--to say that "What's wrong for you may be right for me." This is the epitome of moral relativism--the self-determination of morals--yet it demands an absolute moral statement. Of course, it can be torn apart by the realization that this absolute statement proposes a relative condition that directly demands that the absolute statement itself be relative.

I think a major difference between our positions is that you assume that all morality is relative--even (and probably especially) a morality that claims to be absolute. I assume that all morality, by definition, is absolute. Not true, necessarily, but absolute.
From your view, there is no point in elevating a particular morality above the others. From my view, your position is like trying to follow a non-magnetised compass--it swings back and forth with no sense of direction.
However, I doubt that my view of your view is entirely accurate. For one, I suspect that you do have an absolute morality whether you'll admit it or not.
One of your favorite claims is that "xyz sin is not offensive in some cultures." Enough about other cultures! What about you? The fact that you cannot say it is not offensive to you indicates that it is. In fact, you seem to feel quite strongly about rapist--as do I. I would readily empty every bullet I had into a rapist--or a murderer, or a pedophile, etc.--although I suspect I would do it a bit more soberly than you. I still recognize that they are human--and, as you know with my Christian beliefs, I would know that I am sending a soul into eternity. I hate having to kill animals; humans would be worse, and I pray I never have to. But this is rather off-topic.

Don't you see that in proclaiming some acts to be offensive to you, you are espousing the idea of moral absolutism? And by offensive, I don't mean "disliked."
I dislike barramundi, but you eating it is hardly offensive. But I hate rapists, and you and I will both stop them if possible. When you proclaim that some acts are so offensive that you will take action to stop them, you are placing your morality above that of the perpetrator's. By definition, you are placing your morality as absolute.
Because what you fail to realize is in that situation my subjective morality would be to kill the rapist.

But clearly you can't do that as Christian, because as a Christian you must turn the other cheek. If a rapist is raping your wife right before your very eyes you are to turn the other cheek and offer the rapist your daughter to rape as well.
I said this earlier, but it's worth repeating here. Turning the other cheek refers to not responding to a personal insult. It's not something I'm perfect at yet, BTW. But nowhere does the Bible indicate that we are to let evil have free reign--no, we are to stop it at every turn! I will kill a rapist rather than let him rape my wife or girls. In fact, I will kill him (or her) rather than let him rape anyone!
Christians have for years struggle over whether you can kill another man to save yourself. But they don't disagree that killing to protect others is right. This is according to Jesus' morality. He never at any point forbade killing in self-defense.

Now, going back to the cultures, if your daughter and you were taking a vacation in one of these areas, and a man tried to rape her, what would you do? Would you say, "I'm sorry, honey, but that's not wrong here. Try to be culturally understanding. I just hope that these people aren't cannibals also." and walk off, leaving her to be raped? I hope--and from your posts I have no doubt that you would--that you would instead run to her rescue with everything you've got. The only way she will be raped is if you're killed first.
What are you doing here? You're placing your morality above that of the natives. Why? If morality is relative, then the morality of the natives should matter just as much as yours. If you feel that your morality should override that of the natives, then you're setting yours up as absolute, i.e. it is right, and the other is wrong.
For people like Sam Harris and myself it's obvious why this would not be good for humanity as a whole. (for humans in general).
So you are going to set up an absolute morality after all!
In fact, in almost every case if you were to force your ways onto the rapists they would not like that either. Therefore they are already not acting in a reasonable and logical manner.
Precisely! Who ever said that the absolute morality I believe in was illogical? If it is worth its salt, it will be as logical as anything. We're supposed to use it as a guide to tell us what to do, right? I sure hope it's logical.
Therefore, anyone who disobeys it IS acting illogically.
So we already aren't running our society based on the moral guidance of Jesus.
To our loss.

As a side note, have you ever noticed a difference between Jesus' "Golden Rule" and that of others? Jesus said, "Treat others the same way you would want them to treat you." Other's version was more like this, "Don't do to other's what you wouldn't want them to do to you."
Do you notice the difference? One version is about doing, the other is about not doing. I can avoid doing a lot of things to you, and still have a rather nasty attitude towards you. But if I follow Jesus and actually treat you as I want to be treated, then I can do nothing short of loving you.
My position is quite simple. In reality there is no absolute morality. Period.
Is this absolute?
All I'm saying is that human morality is entirely a man-made concept. It's entirely subjective, and that's just a fact of reality. Whether you like the situation or not is basically a moot point.
Is that "moot point" a subjective or absolute one?
And is it absolute that morality is entirely subjective?
How are people like you and Sam Harris ever going to convince the world to follow your morality if in one breath you say, "This is relative," and in the other you say, "But it applies for all of you."?
In fact, I would personally think so lowly of the rapist I would kill it as easily as killing a rabid bear and not even think of it as being "human" even though it might genetically be a human.
The apostle Paul would perhaps agree with you. He wrote of God giving people over to their desires if they rejected Him long enough. Many believe this "giving over" is permanent and irreversible.
Or would you be like me and kill the rapist first and ask question later?
That assumes I'd even ask questions. Don't think too highly of the rapist. ;)
This is not a contradiction at all. On the contrary it only seems like a contradiction to you because you cannot abandon the concept of "absolute morality" for even a moment.
That IS a contradiction. You, my friend, cannot abandone the idea that ther are no absolutes to see how absurd such a statement is.

This will be all for now--I'm pretty tired. On my next post I plan on taking more of an offensive position.

I'd like some feedback on how I'm doing. Am I staying on topic, or do my thoughts wander aimlessly? Is this the sort of debate you'd enjoy having, or would you place me on your "Do not debate" list forever? Private message me with your response, please. (This applies to anyone who is reading this, as well as Divine Insight. I want feedback from as many as possible.)

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