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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 199: Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:06 pm
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[quote="JoeyKnothead"]From Post 195:

JoeyKnothead wrote:

Given the common declaration that this god is infinite in regards to time, I propose that any action he may take may be considered both "slow" and "fast". That's the beauty of the god concept - it's all things to all people.


That's an acceptable proposition. But I also think that the beauty of God is that he is extremely personal, and so he speaks to us in terms we will understand. So when he says slow he means slow.

JoeyKnothead wrote:

Ask the starving, the prayerful, the lacking.


Yes, I'm sure it's no coincidence that the starving, the prayerful and the lacking understand the goodness of God.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 200: Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:13 pm
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Fuzzy Dunlop wrote:
spayne wrote:
I wasn't addressing the Euthyphro dilemma in my response. However, I do think that the Bible addresses/resolves this. In the Bible morality is not defined by God's commands; but rather it is rooted in God's nature and character of absolute goodness and holiness. This identity of holiness then expresses itself through God's commands to present a moral order that is objectively good (because its source is objectively good). The goodness of God is understood to be a foundation of his character, not simply that God is equal to or is being compared in some way to what good is. God simply IS good. Finally, the Bible says that we are made in his image and that we have his word written in our hearts. The conclusion therefore is that humans have the moral intuition to recognize his laws as being objectively good.

How is this different from the second horn of the dilemma?

When you say:
"This identity of holiness then expresses itself through God's commands to present a moral order that is objectively good (because its source is objectively good)"

It seems equivalent, based on your terminology, to:

"This identity of holiness then expresses itself through God's commands to present a moral order that is objectively good (because its source is God)"

But I'm confused because you're talking about holiness, which is a term I think you would need to define.


I think the Christian would understand the holiness of God to mean that he is transcendentally separate or set apart; that there is nothing or no one like him. And this would include his absolute moral purity. He is literally incapable of doing anything but good.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 201: Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:28 pm
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spayne wrote:
He is literally incapable of doing anything but good.

...with good being defined as what God is. Ok, so again, how is this different from the second horn of the dilemma? There's some subtlety here that I'm missing, I think.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 202: Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:30 pm
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Hey Jackelentern,
I just thought I would point out that your response seems to prove what I am saying here.


Umm no it doesn't..
Quote:


Your modus operandi on this board has been continually to judge Christians for their beliefs in ways that are often harsh, disrespectful, rude, stereotypical, and mean.


I don't judge Christians for their beliefs, I judge only the beliefs in question. Nor have I ever stated that what I've said magically applies to all Christians... Make sure you know what I am criticizing because it seems you are confused between criticizing a belief vs the person with the belief. And and in worst case here, you are speaking from a position of hypocrisy.. :/
Quote:

But yet, all the while, you preach a philosophy of tolerance and peace. Where is the morality in that if you are such a good atheist?


Atheists can be just as bad... Often I have to stand up for you Christians and your religion when some Atheist thinks it should be banned and persecuted... Tolerance btw deals with practical tolerance. I only need respect a certain belief system enough not to seek to ban it, commit violence against those who have it ect. There is nothing wrong with challenging those beliefs in a debate, and do remember that you are on a debating forum to which is a proper venue for this.. And nor am I perfect model, or a perfect person.
Quote:

I never stated that atheists don't know what morality is or that Christianity somehow has ownership of some kind of moral order.


That's not the impression I got, but ok.. At least that is clear then and we can move on and accept that. Smile


Quote:
I simply said that Christianity, as opposed to making this a philosophical issue, makes it personal. Blessings to you today.


You do realize that is often used as an insult and false argument, but if you were actually sincere, then that is indeed a nice thing to do.. I think anyone that is sincere about being morally nice to each other will express such on a personal level..

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 203: Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:03 pm
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Artie wrote:
arian wrote:
Mithrae wrote:
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?


I believe the monkey will continue to pull chain A and get the big-reward, as I see humans who have little value for absolute-morals do even if it causes pain and suffering for their fellow man.

Now if you switched monkeys with dogs, ... ?? Think


You didn't actually read the link did you? Go back and do that.


The result as published in a paper by Stephen Preston of University of California at Berkeley and Frans de Waal of Emory University showed that the monkeys no longer pulled on chain A which administers the shock. Two-thirds of the monkey will only pull on chain B which does not administer any shock. And the remaining third will not pull on any chain for as long as 5 days. There was one monkey that refused to pull on either chain for as long as 12 days. Quoting from the paper: "These monkeys were literally starving themselves to prevent the shock to the conspecific."

Next is the opinions, assumptions and guess-so's as if the scientists speak monkey;

This indicates that monkeys exhibit empathy, and some can say compassion, and other say altruism. Whatever term you call it, it is clear that even in primate monkeys, an individual is able to relate to the pain of another individual and will make decisions that will reduce the other's pain.

I'm sure most people here have had two puppies growing up in their homes at once, and when you punish one for pooping on the carpet, the other hides with its tail between its legs. Animals are aware of danger, not some deep emotional feelings for each other. We can 'interpret' the monkeys refusal to pull the chain ANY WAY we want, the monkeys will not object.

When animals sense danger their own or the others of their kind, they recognize and try to avoid the cause. If pulling the chain (or pooping on the carpet) causes the other obvious pain, eventually they avoid that which caused hazard, that's all. Birds in Africa will warn Gazelles, of Lions on the prowl, it's survival in the wild, not some emotional gesture.

I guess after this test they observed the monkey that has been pulling the chain apologize and hug the other monkey, am I right?

They recognize and then try to avoid danger, that's all.

When a Bear attacks one of the wolves, the others scatter, now I could write an entire book making up and listing all kinds of human emotions between the wolf pack. Disney has been doing that for many years, and Stephen Spielberg has done this too with a horse. The attempt here is to brainwash people into believing that animals (or even robots) have more emotion than humans. Rolling Eyes

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 204: Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:11 pm
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I'm sure most people here have had two puppies growing up in their homes at once, and when you punish one for pooping on the carpet, the other hides with its tail between its legs. Animals are aware of danger, not some deep emotional feelings for each other. We can 'interpret' the monkeys refusal to pull the chain ANY WAY we want, the monkeys will not object.


Actually, the Monkeys did a better job than the humans did.. :


YouTube


And btw arian. they weren't studying puppies... And of course you seem to need to appeal to a denial of evidence in order to believe that animals are magically emotionless beasts ect and just randomly do things.

Quote:
They recognize and then try to avoid danger, that's all.


This is how it works in humans too silly... However, empathy is shown to be the recognition of danger and danger to those of your own.. Many animals display empathy to which includes dolphins..

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 205: Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:30 pm
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Autodidact wrote:
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There's no such thing as moral beliefs other than as a human invention otherwise monkeys wouldn't exhibit moral behavior such as empathy and compassion. Unless you think monkeys have a belief system? Morals are simply a result of evolution just as our bodies are.


Quote:
"I ought to respect the lives of others" or "I ought to treat others as I would like to be treated" are moral beliefs. Are you saying neither of these beliefs have a truth value, that both of these beliefs are false, or something else?


What I'm saying is, if you want to live a happy and fulfilling life, then you ought to do these things.


I have known people who would get sick if they helped someone out, especially if it didn't benefit them in some way.

It's easy to say morals are an option, but watch how those same people will complain if someone breaks those morals and has caused them harm!

Would you consider 'communism' as an expression of a 'happy and fulfilling life'? I know Christian morals can achieve this, and so did hundreds of nationalities who accumulated here in the United States of America. Never in the history since nations existed has so many lived in peace under a set of morals as what we have here in the States. So why destroy it? Why tear it down to some primitive animal state like the 'survival of the fittest'? Why?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 206: Sat Mar 03, 2012 12:19 am
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Would you consider 'communism' as an expression of a 'happy and fulfilling life'? I know Christian morals can achieve this, and so did hundreds of nationalities who accumulated here in the United States of America. Never in the history since nations existed has so many lived in peace under a set of morals as what we have here in the States. So why destroy it? Why tear it down to some primitive animal state like the 'survival of the fittest'? Why?


America wasn't founded on Christian morals and values. It was founded on trying to escape them and keep them out of government. And if you haven't noticed, America is becoming dangerously close to becoming a Religious police state / theocracy.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 207: Sat Mar 03, 2012 12:20 am
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Re: I am seriously questioning my atheism

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Haven wrote:

Debate question: [i]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.


Objective morals not existing do not show that atheism is wrong or false. The reality may just simply be that morals are human derived and not objective. I also see no issue with atheists calling something evil just as long as they acknowledge that they're speaking on the scale of belief and not objectivity. To date, I don't see any examples where everyone agrees on the same morals and that's even with THEISTS because some theists have differing views from other theists.

To my knowledge, there is no objective framework for morality in atheism but throwing God into the picture without evidence of a god is going off of emotion or by what you'd want despite not having evidence. And besides lack of evidence for God, there's also a lack of evidence that objective morals exist so jumping to God is a jump in logic.

So the problem that people perceive with morals and atheism is not being able to have moral justification to call anything evil and to act on stopping it. I don't believe this is a problem for just atheism but really for EVERYONE and their system of belief because at the end of the day we all end up trying to impose our rules on others, and when we have enough strength in numbers we usually end up attacking and forcing others to adhere to our view of right and wrong. Perhaps, if God was more evident and clear on his rules and on enforcing them, then there would not be an issue here.

On a side note.. you mention that you're questioning atheism and based on other information in your post (which I left out from post #1) perhaps you can consider just being an agnostic. In my opinon, if someone finds good reasons on both sides but can't make up their mind as to which side they're on, then the only tenable position may be agnosticism.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 208: Sat Mar 03, 2012 12:42 am
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TheJackelantern wrote:
Quote:

I'm sure most people here have had two puppies growing up in their homes at once, and when you punish one for pooping on the carpet, the other hides with its tail between its legs. Animals are aware of danger, not some deep emotional feelings for each other. We can 'interpret' the monkeys refusal to pull the chain ANY WAY we want, the monkeys will not object.


Actually, the Monkeys did a better job than the humans did.. :


YouTube


And btw arian. they weren't studying puppies... And of course you seem to need to appeal to a denial of evidence in order to believe that animals are magically emotionless beasts ect and just randomly do things.

Quote:
They recognize and then try to avoid danger, that's all.


This is how it works in humans too silly... However, empathy is shown to be the recognition of danger and danger to those of your own.. Many animals display empathy to which includes dolphins..


Your Youtube video is a perfect example of a weak mind, and this would never happen to me unless I was in on the joke.

Yes, by the teaching of evolution, people eventually accept that they are nothing but animals, and that even animals can show more compassion than humans.

In school, especially in College, evolution is presented as intelligent rational reasoning, while 'creation' is put down as dumb, unscientific ignorance. This is brainwashing just like you showed in the video, and which college kid would want to be labeled stupid? This also proves that most kids 'know' evolution is a lie, just don't want to be labeled stupid, so they go along with it.

This is also evident on this forum, especially with the creator (OP) of this particular topic we are on. "Since no one could prove one way or another, I will remain an atheist."
Why if no one proved it one way or another?
What happened to 'Seriously questioning my atheism"??

Because you guys make the theory of evolution sound like the 'smarter, more intelligent choice' whether it's true or not, the same result is achieved as in the little experiment in your video, and the poor person is succumbed to 'Indoctrination', or 'brainwashing'.

We Believers are trained to avoid falling into such traps, and if we are sure of something, we are taught to stand on that in faith. I don't care if the entire school claimed that an obvious 2 inch line is a foot long, I would still stand on the obvious and say it is two inches. I would have 'jumped' out of my seat and looked each of my classmates straight in the eyes and would have asked them if they were serious or not? Then I would have taken a ruler, and bring them back to reality.

Eph 4:13-15
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
NKJV

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