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PostPosted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:04 pm  I am seriously questioning my atheism Reply with quote

Disclaimer: This post may be out of place on the Christianity and Apologetics forum (even though it does have some relation to Christianity), if it is, I apologize and ask that it be moved to a more appropriate place on the forum. However, I do intend this thread to be a discussion, if not a debate, so I felt this was the best place for it.

As many of you know, I am an ex-evangelical Christian and a current atheist. By "atheist," I mean I lack belief in god(s) of any kind, although I do not assert that there are definitely no gods. Since departing from Christianity, everything has made so much more sense: an eternal Universe (defined as the totality of natural existence) explained existence, evolution explained the diversity of life on earth, the absence of god(s) explained the problems of evil, inconsistent revelation, and so on.

However, there is one thing that I have been unable to account for under atheism: morality. Atheists almost invariably state that moral values and duties are not objective facts, but are simply subjective statements of preference and have no ontological value. That is, of course, until we are presented with cases of true evil, such as the Holocaust, the atrocities of Pol Pot, or the horrible psychopathic serial killings of individuals like Jeffery Dahmer. Then we as atheists tacitly appeal to objective moral values and duties, saying that individuals who commit should be severely punished (even executed) for doing "evil," saying that they "knew right from wrong." But if right and wrong are simply statements of subjective opinion, then how can we say that others knew "right from wrong" and are accountable for their actions? If relativism is true, they simply had differing opinions from the majority of human beings. However, it seems obvious to me (and to the vast majority of others, theist and atheist alike) that this is absurd -- the monsters who carried out the aforementioned acts really, objectively did evil.

Given this, the only reasonable conclusion is that moral facts and imperatives exist.

However, atheism appears to offer no framework for moral facts. Because of this, a few weeks ago, I started up a discussion on Wielenbergian moral realism, which states that objective moral values are simply "brute facts" that exist without any explanation. However, others rightly pointed out that the existence of "brute facts" is ontologically problematic and that the best explanation (on atheism) is that morality is simply subjective. Additionally, even if atheistic moral facts existed, the Humeian problem of deriving an "ought" from an "is" would preclude them from acting as moral imperatives; commands which human beings are obligated to follow.

In light of these airtight logical objections to atheistic moral realism, I was forced to abandon my position on moral facts and tentatively adopt moral relativism. However, relativism still seems problematic. After all, if morality is subjective, no one person can accuse another of failing to recognize the difference between "right and wrong," however, it is obvious to me (and, I would suspect, to other atheists as well) that right or wrong really objectively (not subjectively) exist.

The only rational conclusion I can seem to come up with is that there is a (are) transcendent moral lawgiver(s) who both grounds moral facts and issues binding moral commands on all humanity; i.e., God(s). This echoes evangelical Christian philosopher William Lane Craig's moral argument, which syllogism reads:

WLC wrote:
Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists


Premises 1 and 2 seem bulletproof -- (1) was demonstrated earlier in this post, leaving (2) as the only premise to attack. However, (2) seems to be as obvious as a hand in front of my face. The conclusion necessarily follows from (1) and (2), so is there any rational reason for me to reject the conclusion of the argument?

Remember, I am no believer of any kind. I am a staunch, educated, informed atheist, and I am well aware of the philosophical arguments against God(s), such as the problem of evil, the dysteleological argument, the problem of omniscience, etc. I'm also well aware of the plentiful empirical evidence against the existence of God(s), for instance, evolution, mind-body physicalism, etc. These are the reasons I reconverted from Christianity in the first place. However, I don't see way around this problem other than to accept either that our apparently obvious sense of moral facts is somehow mistaken, or that (a) theistic being(s) exist.

Debate question: Are my issues with atheism legitimate? Can atheism provide a coherent moral framework other than nihilism, relativism, or subjectivism? Do these problems really present evidence for theism? Is William Lane Craig right? Is this a real problem for atheism, or are my (our) emotions simply overriding my (our) rationality?

Feel free to present evidence for or against atheism, Christianity, or any religious or nonreligious perspective in this thread.
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 141: Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:40 pm
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Goat wrote:
rosey wrote:

WOW!! This post has gotten a lot of activity in less than 24 hours!! Congrats Haven! I found that what your post states is very similar to a book I've been reading of late. This argument on moral relavitism (spelling?) and objectivism (spelling?) has caused me to lose my atheism. I am now hovering somewhere in between agnostic and theist. Many Atheists claim that morality is subjective, and evolution has simply carved our consciences into what they are now. I find this somewhat disturbing. Does that imply that the random forces of evolution could make the next stage of humans consciences prefer to dine on other's raw flesh? And thus it would not be wrong? Their has to be an objective morality, and completely random forces that I'm not even sure exist cannot supply objective morals.


You are doing some misinformation here. Evolution is not 'Random forces'. It is the forces for survival. In a social animals, which humans are, this has promoted the trait of altruism. It isn't 'random forces' at all. The 'dine on human flesh' seems to be an emotional statement to try to evoke a negative reaction against an idea, rather than look at what the idea is at all.

The moralistic framework is instinctive in all social animals. .. altruism, cooperation all contribute to the survival of the group (if not the individual).

In my opinion, if there were objective morals, there wouldn't be the concept of morality, since those morals would be so instinctively followed there wouldn't be any variation for there to be conflict about.

If morals come about through EMPATHY, and reciprocal altruism , then there will be certain commonalities. Not eating your neighbor would be a common value.


Isn't there a difference between objective and absolute? Absolute being something higher than all of us that we have no choice but to obey, objective being based on empirical facts?

The empirical facts would be the traits acquired through evolution.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 142: Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:44 pm
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Goat wrote:
rosey wrote:

WOW!! This post has gotten a lot of activity in less than 24 hours!! Congrats Haven! I found that what your post states is very similar to a book I've been reading of late. This argument on moral relavitism (spelling?) and objectivism (spelling?) has caused me to lose my atheism. I am now hovering somewhere in between agnostic and theist. Many Atheists claim that morality is subjective, and evolution has simply carved our consciences into what they are now. I find this somewhat disturbing. Does that imply that the random forces of evolution could make the next stage of humans consciences prefer to dine on other's raw flesh? And thus it would not be wrong? Their has to be an objective morality, and completely random forces that I'm not even sure exist cannot supply objective morals.


You are doing some misinformation here. Evolution is not 'Random forces'. It is the forces for survival. In a social animals, which humans are, this has promoted the trait of altruism. It isn't 'random forces' at all. The 'dine on human flesh' seems to be an emotional statement to try to evoke a negative reaction against an idea, rather than look at what the idea is at all.

The moralistic framework is instinctive in all social animals. .. altruism, cooperation all contribute to the survival of the group (if not the individual).

In my opinion, if there were objective morals, there wouldn't be the concept of morality, since those morals would be so instinctively followed there wouldn't be any variation for there to be conflict about.

If morals come about through EMPATHY, and reciprocal altruism , then there will be certain commonalities. Not eating your neighbor would be a common value.


Indeed.

Altruistic action and empathy would seem to have evolved along the lines of:

Immediate self --> close kin --> extended family --> tribe --> tribal groups --> and so on.

It has taken a couple of hundred thousand years, but slowly slowly....

Not so long ago it was de riguer to attend public executions...time to party! In some parts of the world it would still appear to be the case while in civilized countries executions no longer occur.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 143: Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:00 pm
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From the OP:

Quote:

...
Atheists almost invariably state that moral values and duties are not objective facts, but are simply subjective statements of preference and have no ontological value. That is, of course, until we are presented with cases of true evil, such as the Holocaust, the atrocities of Pol Pot, or the horrible psychopathic serial killings of individuals like Jeffery Dahmer.

Are you be willing to stop all those doing the haulocasting? The Pol Potting? The Jeffery Dahmering?

By what authority would you support, or seek to prevent such?

Quote:

Then we as atheists tacitly appeal to objective moral values and duties...

I don't "tacitly appeal" to objectivity in anything. I appeal to, "Y'all, we need to sort this out."

Quote:

saying that individuals who commit should be severely punished (even executed) for doing "evil," saying that they "knew right from wrong."

I don't near promote we punish 'em for doin' it, near as much as I appeal to we gotta keep 'em from doin' it.

Quote:

But if right and wrong are simply statements of subjective opinion, then how can we say that others knew "right from wrong" and are accountable for their actions?

We don't much care if they know the difference, but that when we see 'em a-foulin' out, we step in.

Quote:

If relativism is true, they simply had differing opinions from the majority of human beings.

Yeah they differed, and we aim to get on 'em about it.

Quote:

However, it seems obvious to me (and to the vast majority of others, theist and atheist alike) that this is absurd -- the monsters who carried out the aforementioned acts really, objectively did evil.

Seems to be objective.

Quote:

Given this, the only reasonable conclusion is that moral facts and imperatives exist.

And among that is the "moral fact and imperative" that exterminating the Jews is a good thing.

I happen to disagree, thus, we see that deal there is subjective.

Quote:

However, atheism appears to offer no framework for moral facts.

That's 'cause there ain't none.

Murder is wrong!

Muck with one of mine and see what I care about that "moral fact". My "moral fact" is that if you cause such harm to one of mine I feel like I need to end your life, I'm a-gon' do everything I can to make that happen. And I don't care if it hair-lips the Gov'nor.

Quote:

Because of this, a few weeks ago, I started up a discussion on Wielenbergian moral realism, which states that objective moral values are simply "brute facts" that exist without any explanation. However, others rightly pointed out that the existence of "brute facts" is ontologically problematic and that the best explanation (on atheism) is that morality is simply subjective.

Exactly. I could vote for a Republican, while everyone around me'll tell ya I tend to the Democratic side of the ledger, but dangitall if I don't declare myself an Independent.

Quote:

Additionally, even if atheistic moral facts existed, the Humeian problem of deriving an "ought" from an "is" would preclude them from acting as moral imperatives; commands which human beings are obligated to follow.

Just like I said. I don't seek to murder folks. Until one of them folks mucks with one of mine.

Quote:

In light of these airtight logical objections to atheistic moral realism, I was forced to abandon my position on moral facts and tentatively adopt moral relativism. However, relativism still seems problematic. After all, if morality is subjective, no one person can accuse another of failing to recognize the difference between "right and wrong," however, it is obvious to me (and, I would suspect, to other atheists as well) that right or wrong really objectively (not subjectively) exist.

Nope. They're subjective as all get out, the deal is in convincing folks we got the right take on 'em.

Quote:

The only rational conclusion I can seem to come up with is that there is a (are) transcendent moral lawgiver(s) who both grounds moral facts and issues binding moral commands on all humanity; i.e., God(s). This echoes evangelical Christian philosopher William Lane Craig's moral argument, which syllogism reads:

Mr. Craig suffers from the exact same condition I've seen within so many theists I've ever met - thinking their "knowledge" (in this regard) is confirmed.

While I might carry on in such a fashion as to indicate I know it all, I have many exes'll tell ya I don't.

Quote:

Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.

He could exist and be as 'evil' as anything one may imagine. Come to think of it, ask the Abrahamic religions about that'n.

Quote:

Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists

Nope. Mr Craig has some stuff he ain't happy about folks doing, and has drawn the unsupported conclusion that his favored god is in agreement.

Quote:

Premises 1 and 2 seem bulletproof --

Would you trust a "seemingly bulletproof" jacket?

Quote:

(1) was demonstrated earlier in this post

"Proclaimed" and "demonstrated" ain't even synonymous, much less similar.

Quote:

leaving (2) as the only premise to attack.

If premise 2 is incapable of "attackin'" folks, why ought folks even fret it?

Quote:

However, (2) seems to be as obvious as a hand in front of my face.

How might'n something seem "obvious"?

Quote:

The conclusion necessarily follows from (1) and (2), so is there any rational reason for me to reject the conclusion of the argument?

'Cause neither one of the premises have been shown to be true.

Quote:

Remember, I am no believer of any kind. I am a staunch, educated, informed atheist, and I am well aware of the philosophical arguments against God(s), such as the problem of evil, the dysteleological argument, the problem of omniscience, etc.

With all respect, and with admitting I could well be wrong about it all, if you were so informed, you wouldn't even be questioning the deal there icon_wave

Quote:

I'm also well aware of the plentiful empirical evidence against the existence of God(s), for instance, evolution, mind-body physicalism, etc. These are the reasons I reconverted from Christianity in the first place. However, I don't see way around this problem other than to accept either that our apparently obvious sense of moral facts is somehow mistaken, or that (a) theistic being(s) exist.

With all respect, I contend what we're witnessing here is the lack of confirmable knowledge being used to introduce the god concept.

Quote:

Debate question: Are my issues with atheism legitimate?

Given the subjectivity of so many of your notions there, only you can offer a sufficient answer.

Quote:

Can atheism provide a coherent moral framework other than nihilism, relativism, or subjectivism?

Such would depend on how much coherence one can go about coherin'.

Quote:

Do these problems really present evidence for theism?

Evidence is what folks use to come to the conclusion they get at.

Quote:

Is William Lane Craig right?

No. See above.

Quote:

Is this a real problem for atheism, or are my (our) emotions simply overriding my (our) rationality?

The only "problem" for atheism that I'm aware of is folks continually asserting there's a god "up there" while steadfastly being unable to show they speak truth.

Quote:

Feel free to present evidence for or against atheism, Christianity, or any religious or nonreligious perspective in this thread.

See above. I contend that through no nefarious act, the theist will present as confirmed that which ain't. I contend this, when given the totality of the evidence, bears witness to the theist - God love 'em and we ain't here to get on 'em about it - placing all of their fears, hopes, wants, wishes, and other unquantifiable dealings into the god concept.

I contend that for the theist, all that which is unknown and unknowable will find comfort in the loving arms of the god concept.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 144: Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:30 pm
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Haven wrote:
Disclaimer: This post may be out of place on the Christianity and Apologetics forum (even though it does have some relation to Christianity), if it is, I apologize and ask that it be moved to a more appropriate place on the forum. However, I do intend this thread to be a discussion, if not a debate, so I felt this was the best place for it.

As many of you know, I am an ex-evangelical Christian and a current atheist. By "atheist," I mean I lack belief in god(s) of any kind, although I do not assert that there are definitely no gods. Since departing from Christianity, everything has made so much more sense: an eternal Universe (defined as the totality of natural existence) explained existence, evolution explained the diversity of life on earth, the absence of god(s) explained the problems of evil, inconsistent revelation, and so on.

However, there is one thing that I have been unable to account for under atheism: morality. Atheists almost invariably state that moral values and duties are not objective facts, but are simply subjective statements of preference and have no ontological value. That is, of course, until we are presented with cases of true evil, such as the Holocaust, the atrocities of Pol Pot, or the horrible psychopathic serial killings of individuals like Jeffery Dahmer. Then we as atheists tacitly appeal to objective moral values and duties, saying that individuals who commit should be severely punished (even executed) for doing "evil," saying that they "knew right from wrong." But if right and wrong are simply statements of subjective opinion, then how can we say that others knew "right from wrong" and are accountable for their actions? If relativism is true, they simply had differing opinions from the majority of human beings. However, it seems obvious to me (and to the vast majority of others, theist and atheist alike) that this is absurd -- the monsters who carried out the aforementioned acts really, objectively did evil.

Given this, the only reasonable conclusion is that moral facts and imperatives exist.

However, atheism appears to offer no framework for moral facts. Because of this, a few weeks ago, I started up a discussion on Wielenbergian moral realism, which states that objective moral values are simply "brute facts" that exist without any explanation. However, others rightly pointed out that the existence of "brute facts" is ontologically problematic and that the best explanation (on atheism) is that morality is simply subjective. Additionally, even if atheistic moral facts existed, the Humeian problem of deriving an "ought" from an "is" would preclude them from acting as moral imperatives; commands which human beings are obligated to follow.

In light of these airtight logical objections to atheistic moral realism, I was forced to abandon my position on moral facts and tentatively adopt moral relativism. However, relativism still seems problematic. After all, if morality is subjective, no one person can accuse another of failing to recognize the difference between "right and wrong," however, it is obvious to me (and, I would suspect, to other atheists as well) that right or wrong really objectively (not subjectively) exist.

The only rational conclusion I can seem to come up with is that there is a (are) transcendent moral lawgiver(s) who both grounds moral facts and issues binding moral commands on all humanity; i.e., God(s). This echoes evangelical Christian philosopher William Lane Craig's moral argument, which syllogism reads:

WLC wrote:
Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists


Premises 1 and 2 seem bulletproof -- (1) was demonstrated earlier in this post, leaving (2) as the only premise to attack. However, (2) seems to be as obvious as a hand in front of my face. The conclusion necessarily follows from (1) and (2), so is there any rational reason for me to reject the conclusion of the argument?

Remember, I am no believer of any kind. I am a staunch, educated, informed atheist, and I am well aware of the philosophical arguments against God(s), such as the problem of evil, the dysteleological argument, the problem of omniscience, etc. I'm also well aware of the plentiful empirical evidence against the existence of God(s), for instance, evolution, mind-body physicalism, etc. These are the reasons I reconverted from Christianity in the first place. However, I don't see way around this problem other than to accept either that our apparently obvious sense of moral facts is somehow mistaken, or that (a) theistic being(s) exist.

Debate question: Are my issues with atheism legitimate? Can atheism provide a coherent moral framework other than nihilism, relativism, or subjectivism? Do these problems really present evidence for theism? Is William Lane Craig right? Is this a real problem for atheism, or are my (our) emotions simply overriding my (our) rationality?

Feel free to present evidence for or against atheism, Christianity, or any religious or nonreligious perspective in this thread.


I could get into a long winded-post in reply to your OP but frankly at the moment, I don't have the time.

As such I will ask this. Is your questioning of your atheism, pointing you to go back to the Christian god model in a claim to "find" the cause behind your morals dilemma, and, is that based on Lane Craig's purported "words of wisdom" or something more? Think

I don't know how many god models you have investigated but there ARE thousands out there on offer and a mass of them have a history far older than that of the bible, whether it be the OT or the NT.

Anyway, I see it this way. I do reckon there are moral absolutes and unfortunately it is religion that removes the absolute OF the sense of morality to a subjective place, despite the "disclaimers" that it's OK to do "stuff" in some "god's" name.

All you have to do is study ancient cultures to see that they were far more about barter, compassion, fairness, altruism... than any modern day (and modern day I AM talking over the past 3000 odd years) "god believers" are and they didn't revere "humanised" style god models at all, IF god models at all and they got on just as dandy as candy.

I also wonder why you seem to need a confirmed direction from outside of "self" to appreciate or acknowledge what you "think" IS right vs wrong. icon_confused2

Catalyst.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 145: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:50 am
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I guess I am no longer questioning my atheism . . . the answers presented in this thread and in other conversations have restored my "non-faith." There could be several secular explanations for objective morality (as mentioned earlier), or morality may be entirely subjective. Either way, I will continue to live a moral life and I won't concern myself with this question anymore, as it appears that we simply do not have an answer. Theism, however, is not an answer.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 146: Fri Mar 02, 2012 3:23 am
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Knight wrote:
Mithrae wrote:
Knight wrote:
Mithrae wrote:
I and 99% of humanity 'ought' to behave in a certain fashion because it's in our nature, courtesy of our capacity for empathy.

I don't see how this applies to deviants. Even if we are predisposed towards making certain choices, how does it follow from that alone that said choices ought to be made?

It doesn't. The 'ought' is in my nature, and in the nature of most of humanity as I said. I'd suspect that the gaps between "This is how I like to be treated" and "This is how s/he likes to be treated" (in other words, empathy) are based largely on family relationships throughout childhood. The big and unjustified leap in reasoning is "This is how I ought to be treated," which most children seem to infer simply from their desire to be treated thus; but looking back on my own and my friends' and siblings' experiences, it seems to progressively dawn on us that logically you can't have that without subsequently acknowledging "This is how s/he ought to be treated." It's true that there are those (sociopaths in psychological terms, though sometimes given more hostile or dismissive labels) who, for one reason or another, haven't grasped "This is how s/he likes to be treated" on the same fundamental, emotional level that most of us do. Clearly there can be no 'ought' for them - but the rest of us still 'ought' to do our best to provide for needs of both them and their (hopefully only prospective) victims. I don't need to call someone evil to disapprove of their behaviour.

More broadly, since the moral conceptualisation starts with oneself, then extends to one's family, then one's society, it seems obvious that even into the 21st century we're still struggling with extending it to the level of the species. While we who live in the wealthiest countries still give any creedance to national boundaries and aren't making it our overwhelming priority to compensate the colonised regions from whom we've derived much of our wealth (and for that matter, reclaim much of the wealth the 1% have gathered even from us), I consider it nothing short of blatant hypocrisy for anyone to condemn the national boundaries on ethics displayed for example in the pages of the Tanakh - people with thousands of years less technological and ethical development than we - or from examples posted in this thread by a follower of the Tanakh, the Huns or the Aztecs.

Even that doesn't make sense to me. Why ought we to do what it is our nature to do? Calvinists think the nature with which we are born is morally corrupt and ought to be eliminated through sanctification.

Why ought this morally corrupt nature be eliminated? Either we're compelled to act in a certain way, with no free will - in which case 'ought' is as meaningless a concept as saying a rock ought to fall when dropped - or we have a choice to make which can be informed by facts of circumstances, context and consequences, but not determined by them - in which case 'ought' is a value judgement of which facts will most consistently sway our decisions. The supposed existence of a deity who formed us and the nature and development intended for us may be pretty good motivating factors; but so are the supposed existence of millions of years of evolution which formed us and the nature with which we've been left as a result.

An atheist might say that - because of a few million years of evolution and social development - loving our families, helping those in need, not killing, not stealing and so on (in effect, treating others as we'd like to be treated) is generally the best way to pursue happiness for oneself and society as a whole.

A theist might say that - because of the way God created us - loving our families, helping those in need, not killing, not stealing and so on (in effect, treating others as we'd like to be treated), along with loving/worshipping God, is the way to pursue happiness for oneself and society as a whole.


There's differences between the two views, certainly, though in general terms I believe that central element of empathy as expressed in the Golden Rule is common to all moral systems.

But for starters, the task of atheists - motivated ultimately by self-interest - is to work out a functional system of behaviour and hopefully means of implementing it as effectively as possible, to best promote individual gain through the gains of all. Some people obviously will believe that their individual gain or happiness is best served by ignoring such systems of behaviour, and the ongoing project of an atheistic moral system needs to either accomodate such people (eg. the world's current billionaires, and indeed the wealthy colonial nations as a whole) or restrain them (eg. murderers, rapists, thieves).

The task of theists - motivated ultimately by self-interest - is to figure out exactly how they're meant to love/worship God and what (if any) requirements he has beyond treating others well. For example, are they required to avoid clothing made from mixed fabrics, the eating of swine and shrimp, and kill homosexuals or witches? Promoting the gains of all other people appears to be a secondary consideration in this view; obedience to God is simply presumed to be the best thing in the long run, even if it's not understood at the time. But again, some people will obviously believe that their individual gain or happiness is best served by ignoring any or perhaps all specific incarnations of theistic morality.

In other words, both views are quite similar in their basis for morality - our nature as human beings and the reason why this is so - and in both views there will be some (or many?) in society who reject or distort the consensus moral views. Of course an atheist moral system must by inference acknowledge its imperfection/s as an ongoing process alongside social developments, whereas a theistic moral system, if adopted, lays claim to divine authority and will likely be much more tenacious in its failings.

A God-centered approach to morality would therefore seem to be
- a little more selfish in seeking God's approval and merely presuming that's the best course with regards to others also
- a much more obscure and uncertain quest in discovering what this deity actually requires from amongst the myriad of competing claims on the subject, rather than formulating our own codes of behaviour
- and likely to be more resistant to change and persistent in error.

Why ought we seek out some kind of theistic moral system?

Doing what it's in our nature to do - to have and express empathy for others - would seem to be the simpler, more obvious and potentially more beneficial choice regardless of 'oughts.'

As an interesting point regarding empathy and evolution...
    Imagine an experiment where you have some monkeys in a cage. There are two chains. Chain A will provide a large quantity of food for the monkeys. Chain B will provide a small quantity of food. Next the experimenters set it up so that pulling chain A will also give an electric shock to another monkey in another cage. The monkeys can see each other. And in particular the monkeys sees the pain of the shocked monkey. It is easy formulate the conclusion, even for a monkey, that pulling on the chain that gives the large food reward will result in pain for another monkey.

    Now the question is whether the monkeys will continue to pull on the chain A to get the large food reward or will the monkeys be sensitive to the other monkey's pain. What is your guess?

    Continued here...

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 147: Fri Mar 02, 2012 4:52 am
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Autodidact wrote:
Well, we don't usually consider taste to be objective, so that would be an odd way to talk. I think if you have never tasted either, and are forced to order one, pizza would be a better bet for you.

Right, but you seem to be saying that if action X generated more well being than action Y, then action X is objectively more moral than action Y, how does that differ from food X generating more tasty signal than food Y mean food X is objectively more tasty than food Y?

I am saying objectively measuring the results of certain action, doesn't make morality any more objective than food taste.

Haven wrote:
...it appears that we simply do not have an answer.

Well moral relativism and objectivism are both internally consistent and externall consistent with the outside world, so it's a matter of which view makes the most sense to you, and atheism/theism can be fitted around either. There is no practical difference between the two.

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MPG Recipient Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 148: Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:31 am
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Mithrae wrote:
Why ought this morally corrupt nature be eliminated? Either we're compelled to act in a certain way, with no free will - in which case 'ought' is as meaningless a concept as saying a rock ought to fall when dropped - or we have a choice to make which can be informed by facts of circumstances, context and consequences, but not determined by them - in which case 'ought' is a value judgement of which facts will most consistently sway our decisions. The supposed existence of a deity who formed us and the nature and development intended for us may be pretty good motivating factors; but so are the supposed existence of millions of years of evolution which formed us and the nature with which we've been left as a result.


Mithrae wrote:
Why ought we seek out some kind of theistic moral system?


"Ought to" doesn't imply "ability to." As to why we ought to eliminate our corrupt natures or seek out a theistic moral system, I've already answered that. We're responsible to God because God created us to be responsible. It's a part of our identity. Responsibility presupposes a sovereign to whom one is responsible, not a free will. And again, this whole discussion is tied to one's epistemic views. I wouldn't make any of these claims if I didn't think they weren't grounded in Scripture, the presupposition of my own epistemic views.

Mithrae wrote:
There's differences between the two views, certainly, though in general terms I believe that central element of empathy as expressed in the Golden Rule is common to all moral systems.


How would you want to be treated if you were a criminal?

Mithrae wrote:
In other words, both views are quite similar in their basis for morality - our nature as human beings and the reason why this is so - and in both views there will be some (or many?) in society who reject or distort the consensus moral views.


Could you expand on what you mean by "basis," particularly as it does or doesn't relate to the concept of the justification of one's morality?

Mithrae wrote:
A God-centered approach to morality would therefore seem to be
- a little more selfish in seeking God's approval and merely presuming that's the best course with regards to others also
- a much more obscure and uncertain quest in discovering what this deity actually requires from amongst the myriad of competing claims on the subject, rather than formulating our own codes of behaviour
- and likely to be more resistant to change and persistent in error.


I don't see how it is selfish for a servant to want the approval of his master. Also, while your second point may be true for someone like Haven who is (or was, I guess) moving from ethics to theology rather than vice versa, it will not hold true for those who work the other way around. And I think this thread is a good example of why I would disagree that theists will be "more... persistent in error." I've not always been a Calvinist, you know.

Mithrae wrote:
Doing what it's in our nature to do - to have and express empathy for others - would seem to be the simpler, more obvious and potentially more beneficial choice regardless of 'oughts.'


Is that in our nature? I would contest that. Why do we have so many criminals in our society if you're right? My little brother knows how to lie pretty well. Did he learn that or does he realize that because it in not his interest not to get in trouble and to tell the truth would get him in trouble, not telling the truth is the "more beneficial" option? Self-interest rather than empathy pervades our culture.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 149: Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:50 am
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Haven wrote:
I guess I am no longer questioning my atheism . . . the answers presented in this thread and in other conversations have restored my "non-faith." There could be several secular explanations for objective morality (as mentioned earlier), or morality may be entirely subjective. Either way, I will continue to live a moral life and I won't concern myself with this question anymore, as it appears that we simply do not have an answer. Theism, however, is not an answer.


As a Believer, I agree that 'theism' is NOT the answer. Theism is the belief in a god or gods, the one god (God) being more powerful than the others, but still one of those gods, not necessarily the God of the Bible. Our Creator is NOT amongst those man-made gods, for all things created (including all them theistic gods) are IN our Creator who 'Is'. Our Creator is very much 'necessarily' the God of the Bible.

Man needed to create 'religions' to worship all them theistic gods, along with strict doctrines to keep them alive in the minds and hearts of men. Upkeeping and maintaining these doctrines has caused millions of brutal murders over the centuries, for these theistic gods are personal to each religious worshiper, especially to those maintaining these gods and benefit from collecting their tithes and offerings.

You said: "You will continue to live a moral life", right? Which 'definition' of 'morals' are you referring to? Dahlmers? The Nazis? The Jews? The so called Christians, or the Bibles, ... Which, for they vary greatly?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 150: Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:09 am
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[quote="Bust Nak"]
Autodidact wrote:
Well, we don't usually consider taste to be objective, so that would be an odd way to talk. I think if you have never tasted either, and are forced to order one, pizza would be a better bet for you.

Quote:
Right, but you seem to be saying that if action X generated more well being than action Y, then action X is objectively more moral than action Y, how does that differ from food X generating more tasty signal than food Y mean food X is objectively more tasty than food Y?

I am saying objectively measuring the results of certain action, doesn't make morality any more objective than food taste.
I don't know if I would say it's more moral. It's more of a practical approach. Think of virtue as the Greeks did--about how to live a good life. It's a subject of study. How should we live, so as to have the best and happiest life? That's something we can learn about, and many sources can contribute to that: the study of evolutionary psychology, nueroscience, wisdom from all sources, and, very carefully, personal experience.

So it's more like a cookbook than saying that x is better than y.

Being kind to other people is one of the things that contributes to a happier life. Others (outside of luck) include being authentic to one's true nature, being honest with others, doing creative, satisfying work, having material comfort, not being greedy for fame, power or wealth, loving and being loved, practicing gratitude and forgiveness. If you can manage to get all these going in your life, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a happy and fulfilling life.

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