The God Delusion - Chapter 7

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The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Post #1

Post by otseng »

McCulloch's questions:
Is there is a moral Zeitgeist that continually evolves in society, often in opposition to religious morality?
Do believers really use the Bible as a source of their moral values?

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 7

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> "I've always liked the quote from Lewis for various reasons. Substitute hunger for sexual desire and Lewis is basically saying: It's perfectly natural to want to have a sex with a woman, just as it is to be hungry: what separates us from the beasts is the fact that we don't arbitrarily take the food when we know we shouldn't."

Quite correct you are! And nicely stated. "Natural to want" - whether the fulfillment is achieved is quite apart from the wish.

Except that we are among "the beasts", don't forget. There's an old joke among biologists about how natural selection supplied us with the "basic drives". These are typified as "The Five Fs" - Feed. Fear, Flight, Fight and . . . er . . . um . . . "Reproduction".

I suppose if a guy wanted to share his eggs with you, though, you'd have to make a judgment call on how good the eggs looked. ;)[/quote]

That's so. And it's exemplified by a comment of Richard's elsewhere [TSG] that we seem to be the one species that can "rise above" [a terrible term] by making rational choices about our hungers [among other things]. The whole "morality" debate must rest on how those decisions are confronted and made.

Richard was only partly correct, since it seems all the higher primates have mechanisms for dealing with similar issues.

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Post #42

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seventil wrote:
otseng wrote:McCulloch's questions:
Is there is a moral Zeitgeist that continually evolves in society, often in opposition to religious morality?
Do believers really use the Bible as a source of their moral values?
1) I wouldn't think of the Zeitgeist is by its nature opposed to religious morality.

2) I think the New Testament is a good source for moral values (key the slavery and chauvinist verses) - however, I believe in the underlying "Moral Law" (that C.S. Lewis often speaks about) as our ultimate guidance for morality and ethics. This Moral Law, I believe, can reach it's apex through Christianity.
I think that portions of the NT can be used for moral values, but I think that if you are to use the NT as a guide, you cannot ignore the OT. Herein lies a major issue. When you pick and choose what is being used for morality from one book, how do you get to say which is moral and which isn't when they are all inspired by the same author? And the moral law need not even be related to Christianity. Rather humanity does it well enough. If we consider the moral law a Christian concept, once again, we have to fall back to the source, the bible. Once again, we have to determine who is righteous enough to pick and choose what moral values should be enforced and which shouldn't.

St Augustine was quoted by St Aquinas in Summa Theolgiae: Augustine teaches that two points should be kept in mind when resolving such questions as interpretation of scripture: 1) the truth of scripture must be held inviolably. 2) wheen there are different ways of explaining a scriptural text, no particular explanation should be held so rigidly that, if convincing arguments show it to be false, anyone dare to insist that it is still the definitive sense of the text.

Now personally, I think #1 cancels out #2, but for the sake here, even the elaborate extent used to keep scripture intact still can't define which parts should be considered morally right. Rather, if we can convince X amount of people in the right places, that commandment 3, 5,7 (random numbers) are no longer valid or are false for the times in which we live, by means of logic or reason perhaps, then we can validly say that we no longer must follow these commandments. But once again, under whose authority is this being made right.
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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Post #43

Post by QED »

seventil wrote: In Mere Christianity, Lewis wrote:

1. There is a universal moral law.
2. If there is a universal moral law, then there must be a universal moral lawgiver.
Therefore,
3. There must be God.

That was his basic proposal and spent a good deal of time trying to prove this.
Very interesting. I have reproduced your entire post in a new debate topic titled CS Lewis: Proof of God through universal morality? Rather than digress too far from Chapter 7 here, I would hope to see any follow-up in that new thread. I look forward to debating it there.

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Post #44

Post by otseng »

Confused wrote:But if one exception exists where the person doesn't realize that what they are doing is wrong, can we say the the concept of right/wrong it innate, or simply the presence of it is makes it innate, not the concept itself?

I would not think that exceptions would invalidate it. Exceptions exist in many things and would not necessarily invalidate them. Invoking the insanity plea would not always mean they would not have known what was right or wrong. So, there are even exceptions to the exceptions.
But what we consider moral would change.

How do you define "moral" here?
If we went back to the days before the womens rights movement and asked most of those living then if they thought it was immoral to see women as property, I would be willing to bet more would say it wasn't immoral than would say it was. The same for slavery. The fact is that it was acceptable at that time. Some may have seen it as wrong, but more saw it as right otherwise the movements would have happened long before they did.

I would disagree. During the times of slavery and womens rights, on what basis then could people argue that they were wrong? If morality depended simply on the law, then there would be no basis to argue that it was wrong.

Even the founding of the USA was based on moral law. If the law was the highest principal, then America would have no basis to usurp authority and become an independent country.

From the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands, which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Sta ... dependence

Here, they argued that there is a higher principle than the British laws. By appealing to the natural law, they argued that they have the right to become independent.
Confused wrote:
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: Natural selection has never been fair. It just is.

Yes, natural selection is amoral. Good and bad cannot be applied to it.


Agreed
otseng wrote:However, like I've mentioned before, we do apply good and bad to human natural selection. If natural selection simply weeds out those that are not able to survive, then it should also be considered amoral when this is applied to humans. But it is not. It would be considered immoral to apply this to humans.


You lost me here.

When any animal kills another animal, it would simply be natural selection at work. Good or bad cannot be applied to it. It is just how things are. But, when humans kill other humans, nobody says that it is simply natural selection at work. Or if a human dies as a result of getting drunk and running into a tree, we don't say that nature has selected out those with the inclination to drive under the influence. When we go to war, we don't say that nations are trying to terminate the weaker nations and select them out.
I see it this way, if God exists, he should represent what man should strive for. He should be the benevolent, all-loving entity. If such is true, then His standards should be higher than natural selection. He should represent fairness. Is He not the model for man just as parents are the model for their children?

In a way, yes, he does represent fairness.

Mat 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

However, he also represents other things - love, justice, goodness, power, mercy. And these things are mentioned much more often than fairness in the Bible. So, fairness is not really a concept strongly emphasized in the Bible.
Loyalty isn't always right. It can be misplaced easily.

I'm not arguing that being loyal to any particular person would always be the right thing to do. But, I'm saying that we consider being loyal is the right thing to do. We all frown on disloyalty.

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Post #45

Post by QED »

otseng wrote:When any animal kills another animal, it would simply be natural selection at work. Good or bad cannot be applied to it. It is just how things are. But, when humans kill other humans, nobody says that it is simply natural selection at work. Or if a human dies as a result of getting drunk and running into a tree, we don't say that nature has selected out those with the inclination to drive under the influence. When we go to war, we don't say that nations are trying to terminate the weaker nations and select them out.
This is a very subjective human view; if we saw our pet cat being killed by a fox we would not be so quick to be as indifferent as you suggest. We see all these things in the context of a collective society and, I would suggest, have an innate appreciation of the kinds of behaviour that would disrupt the society we rely upon for our collective survival. All it takes is for there to be a unit of inheritance for morality.

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Post #46

Post by Confused »

otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:But if one exception exists where the person doesn't realize that what they are doing is wrong, can we say the the concept of right/wrong it innate, or simply the presence of it is makes it innate, not the concept itself?

I would not think that exceptions would invalidate it. Exceptions exist in many things and would not necessarily invalidate them. Invoking the insanity plea would not always mean they would not have known what was right or wrong. So, there are even exceptions to the exceptions.
Yes, there are exceptions. It is these exceptions that make the presence of something innate, not the something itself. Exceptions invalidate the notion that morality is innate if one person is born without it. Exceptions invalidate that certain reflexes are innate if one person is born without it. Once again, we say the presence is what makes it innate, not the actual trait.

otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:If we went back to the days before the womens rights movement and asked most of those living then if they thought it was immoral to see women as property, I would be willing to bet more would say it wasn't immoral than would say it was. The same for slavery. The fact is that it was acceptable at that time. Some may have seen it as wrong, but more saw it as right otherwise the movements would have happened long before they did.

I would disagree. During the times of slavery and womens rights, on what basis then could people argue that they were wrong? If morality depended simply on the law, then there would be no basis to argue that it was wrong.
At the time, they couldn't argue it was morally wrong because the majority didn't see it at morally wrong. It isn't the law that made it morally wrong or right. It was the mindset of the society of the times. When the case was made that it was morally wrong, then changes occurred. But if you asked anyone at the height of slavery if it was wrong to treat a slave as if they were inhuman or women as property, most would have said, "that is just how it is" until enough people disagreed and revolted against it.
otseng wrote:
Even the founding of the USA was based on moral law. If the law was the highest principal, then America would have no basis to usurp authority and become an independent country.

From the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands, which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Sta ... dependence

Here, they argued that there is a higher principle than the British laws. By appealing to the natural law, they argued that they have the right to become independent.
True, but how many times does lawyers skew the wording of the D of I to work in their favor. If all had practiced it, then women and slaves wouldn't have been oppressed, but they were. Because it was the accepted practice then. Slaves weren't seen as men. Women were seen as property.

otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:
otseng wrote:However, like I've mentioned before, we do apply good and bad to human natural selection. If natural selection simply weeds out those that are not able to survive, then it should also be considered amoral when this is applied to humans. But it is not. It would be considered immoral to apply this to humans.


You lost me here.

When any animal kills another animal, it would simply be natural selection at work. Good or bad cannot be applied to it. It is just how things are. But, when humans kill other humans, nobody says that it is simply natural selection at work. Or if a human dies as a result of getting drunk and running into a tree, we don't say that nature has selected out those with the inclination to drive under the influence. When we go to war, we don't say that nations are trying to terminate the weaker nations and select them out.
There is nothing natural about a human killing another human. That isn't nature, that is man. When animals kill, it is usually for food. They usually choose the weakest in the pack. Hence it is survival of the fittest. Is it good that one animal kills another to eat? Is it bad? No, it isn't even related to natural selection, rather self preservation. Natural selection is merely a by product. If a human drives drunk and kills himself, he would win an honorary mention in The Darwin Awards for stupidity. I would say that is natural selection. Anyone dumb enough to drive drunk is a weak link. War is a tricky one. But once again, that is actions of man, not natural selection, although the notion of survival of the fittest may still apply. I don't think we can look at natural selection as moral or amoral. It is nature not nurture.
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:Loyalty isn't always right. It can be misplaced easily.

I'm not arguing that being loyal to any particular person would always be the right thing to do. But, I'm saying that we consider being loyal is the right thing to do. We all frown on disloyalty.
Not all frown on being disloyal. If your best friend tells you in confidence that he tortured and killed a 6 year old, would it be frowned upon for you to break that confidence?
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What we do for others and the world remains
and is immortal.

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Post #47

Post by otseng »

Confused wrote:Exceptions invalidate that certain reflexes are innate if one person is born without it.
Rather than pointing to exceptions, I would rather think an indication of innateness would be that it is not something that is acquired or taught during one's lifetime. If it is not learned from someone else, then it must be innate.
At the time, they couldn't argue it was morally wrong because the majority didn't see it at morally wrong. It isn't the law that made it morally wrong or right. It was the mindset of the society of the times.
If the mindset of the times is what dictates whether something is right or wrong, then the majority would always be considered to be right. There would be no basis for the minority to say that the majority is wrong. Because by your definition they would then always be right.
If all had practiced it, then women and slaves wouldn't have been oppressed, but they were. Because it was the accepted practice then. Slaves weren't seen as men. Women were seen as property.
So, during that time, slavery and female discrimination was the right thing to do then. They didn't do anything wrong by holding slaves and mistreating women.
There is nothing natural about a human killing another human. That isn't nature, that is man. When animals kill, it is usually for food. They usually choose the weakest in the pack. Hence it is survival of the fittest. Is it good that one animal kills another to eat? Is it bad? No, it isn't even related to natural selection, rather self preservation. Natural selection is merely a by product.
Natural selection says nothing that being killed for food is a requirement. It's simply for some organisms that are better adapted to the environment to reproduce more than those less adapted. If one country is better adapted to the environment of war, then they will be able to reproduce than those less adapted.
Is there is a moral Zeitgeist that continually evolves in society, often in opposition to religious morality?
I'd like to summarize my position by stating that morality does not evolve in society. Morality is derived from the natural law and not from the the beliefs of the majority of the population at any particular time.

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Post #48

Post by Confused »

otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: Exceptions invalidate that certain reflexes are innate if one person is born without it.
Rather than pointing to exceptions, I would rather think an indication of innateness would be that it is not something that is acquired or taught during one's lifetime. If it is not learned from someone else, then it must be innate.
Toddlers don't immediately know how to share, or that taking toys is wrong, or that hitting is wrong. These milestones are evaluated based on childhood development. If no one ever tells a toddler that taking a toy away from another is wrong, will the toddler eventually understand it on his own?
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: At the time, they couldn't argue it was morally wrong because the majority didn't see it at morally wrong. It isn't the law that made it morally wrong or right. It was the mindset of the society of the times.
If the mindset of the times is what dictates whether something is right or wrong, then the majority would always be considered to be right. There would be no basis for the minority to say that the majority is wrong. Because by your definition they would then always be right.
How else can we evaluate the events in history? We can't consider an action from X amount of years ago, that is related to that generation/society, as if it had the same mindset we have now. Social evolution applies heavy here.
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:If all had practiced it, then women and slaves wouldn't have been oppressed, but they were. Because it was the accepted practice then. Slaves weren't seen as men. Women were seen as property.
So, during that time, slavery and female discrimination was the right thing to do then. They didn't do anything wrong by holding slaves and mistreating women.
Much as I hate to say it, based on the societal norms and values for that time, they did nothing wrong.
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: There is nothing natural about a human killing another human. That isn't nature, that is man. When animals kill, it is usually for food. They usually choose the weakest in the pack. Hence it is survival of the fittest. Is it good that one animal kills another to eat? Is it bad? No, it isn't even related to natural selection, rather self preservation. Natural selection is merely a by product.
Natural selection says nothing that being killed for food is a requirement. It's simply for some organisms that are better adapted to the environment to reproduce more than those less adapted. If one country is better adapted to the environment of war, then they will be able to reproduce than those less adapted.
Survival of the fittest. Hence, the weakest in a herd of elk is likely to be a lionesses dinner. Adaptation is another matter, though the same principles. Survival of the fittest, the species that has the ability to adapt to a changing environment is most likely not going to become extinct.
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: Is there is a moral Zeitgeist that continually evolves in society, often in opposition to religious morality?
I'd like to summarize my position by stating that morality does not evolve in society. Morality is derived from the natural law and not from the the beliefs of the majority of the population at any particular time.
:( . I don't think we will agree with this finality. But of curiosity, which from of natural law are your referring to? Aristotle, Stoic, Christian, Hobbes, Liberal, Contemporary Catholic?

I am assuming Christian. If so, then I am correct, we will never agree.
Christian natural law
Despite pagan associations with natural law theory, a number (though not all) of the early Church Fathers sought to incorporate it into Christianity (the suspect devotion of the Stoics to pagan worship no doubt aided in this adoption). This was true in the West more so than in the East. The most notable among these was Augustine of Hippo, who equated natural law with man's prelapsarian state; as such, a life according to nature was no longer possible and men needed instead to seek salvation through the divine law and grace. In the Twelfth Century, Gratian reversed this, equating the natural and divine laws. Thomas Aquinas restored Natural Law to its independent state, asserting that, as the perfection of human reason, it could approach but not fully comprehend the Eternal law and needed to be supplemented by Divine law.

All human laws were to be judged by their conformity to the natural law. An unjust law was in a sense no law at all. At this point, the natural law was not only used to pass judgment on the moral worth of various laws, but also to determine what the law said in the first place. This could result in some tension.[14]

The natural law was inherently teleological in that it aimed at goodness. Its content was therefore determined by a conception of what things constituted happiness, be they temporal satisfaction or salvation . The state, in being bound by the natural law, was conceived as an institution directed at bringing its subjects to true happiness. In the 16th century, the School of Salamanca (Francisco Suárez, Francisco de Vitoria, etc.) further developed a philosophy of natural law. After the Church of England broke from Rome, the English theologian Richard Hooker adapted Thomistic notions of natural law to Anglicanism.

I think the bolded portion is what gives me the greatest problem.
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Post #49

Post by otseng »

Confused wrote:
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: At the time, they couldn't argue it was morally wrong because the majority didn't see it at morally wrong. It isn't the law that made it morally wrong or right. It was the mindset of the society of the times.
If the mindset of the times is what dictates whether something is right or wrong, then the majority would always be considered to be right. There would be no basis for the minority to say that the majority is wrong. Because by your definition they would then always be right.
How else can we evaluate the events in history? We can't consider an action from X amount of years ago, that is related to that generation/society, as if it had the same mindset we have now. Social evolution applies heavy here.
You can't judge events in history. Because whatever happened to be the majority position at the time, it would be right at that time. There'd be no way to say that any majority position was wrong at that particular time.
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:If all had practiced it, then women and slaves wouldn't have been oppressed, but they were. Because it was the accepted practice then. Slaves weren't seen as men. Women were seen as property.
So, during that time, slavery and female discrimination was the right thing to do then. They didn't do anything wrong by holding slaves and mistreating women.
Much as I hate to say it, based on the societal norms and values for that time, they did nothing wrong.
That would be the only logical conclusion based on moral relativity.
I don't think we will agree with this finality.
Of course I don't expect many to agree with my conclusion.
But of curiosity, which from of natural law are your referring to? Aristotle, Stoic, Christian, Hobbes, Liberal, Contemporary Catholic? I am assuming Christian. If so, then I am correct, we will never agree.
Why would you disagree if I would say Christian? Would you potentially agree if I said any of the others?

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Post #50

Post by Confused »

otseng wrote: Why would you disagree if I would say Christian? Would you potentially agree if I said any of the others?
As always, ahead of the game. You know you ruin any good hits when you predict my path. I hate it when you do that!!!!! #-o My opinion wouldn't change regardless of which form you chose. I think each form is a varying degree of extremism. And I think no form actually demonstrates anything that can contribute to a construct of absolute morality. But each does give insight into history and I think the insight seriously damages the credibility of it.

But I am ready to move on to the next chapter. We are beating a dead horse here unless some others join in with differing insights to offer.
What we do for ourselves dies with us,
What we do for others and the world remains
and is immortal.

-Albert Pine
Never be bullied into silence.
Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
Accept no one persons definition of your life; define yourself.

-Harvey Fierstein

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