Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ... 49, 50, 51  Next

Reply to topic
Guest
First Post
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 21: Thu Mar 01, 2012 2:54 am
Reply

Like this post
Shermana wrote:
If you were offered by the government $10,000,000 to go kill a random person with a guaranteed get away (guaranteed), would you do it? Would you lie or steal in a way which would earn you $10,000,000 if you were guaranteed to not get caught but it cost someone else their life?


Absolutely not. I hold such things to be absolutely wrong and there is no way I would engage in such acts for any amount of money. Besides, I wouldn't "get away" with anything under your scenario -- the guilt would torment me until my dying day. Never, ever would I engage in such evil acts.

This, to me, is the problem with moral relativism. If morality is simply subjective, relative opinion, one can justify anything they want. Only objective moral facts and imperatives offer a solid basis for any sort of consistent morality.

Goto top, bottom
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 22: Thu Mar 01, 2012 3:00 am
Reply

Like this post
Quote:


Absolutely not. I hold such things to be absolutely wrong and there is no way I would engage in such acts for any amount of money. Besides, I wouldn't "get away" with anything under your scenario -- the guilt would torment me until my dying day. Never, ever would I engage in such evil acts.


Who is an Atheist to call something "evil"? Unless you believe in Moral Absolutism, how can you call something "evil"? And by your next response, you seem to believe in Moral Absolutism, but WHO says what is moral? You? What is "evil"? Why would you have "guilt"? Because of societial pressure? Is this guilt "natural"? Is it the product of "evolution"? Why not just dismiss these "guilty feelings" like so many, even Christians do?

Quote:
This, to me, is the problem with moral relativism. If morality is simply subjective, relative opinion, one can justify anything they want. Only objective moral facts and imperatives offer a solid basis for any sort of consistent morality.


What is an "objective moral fact"? Who decides on what is objectively moral? Do you consider something more "social" like Cheating on a spouse (or with someone else's) to be objectively immoral? Why is theft immoral? Entire societies in the past (i.e. huns, aztecs) made their existence through plunder and mayhem, were they evil? Were they collectively wrong?

Goto top, bottom
View user's profile 
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 23: Thu Mar 01, 2012 3:15 am
Reply

Like this post
Shermana wrote:

Who is an Atheist to call something "evil"? Unless you believe in Moral Absolutism, how can you call something "evil"? And by your next response, you seem to believe in Moral Absolutism, but WHO says what is moral? You? What is "evil"?


I agree, and this is exactly why I am seriously questioning my atheism.

Quote:
Why not just dismiss these "guilty feelings" like so many, even Christians do?


Because that's not the kind of person I am.

Quote:

What is an "objective moral fact"?


A truth-apt statement on what is right or wrong. For example, "murder is always wrong" would be an objective moral fact (assuming moral realism is true).

Quote:
Who decides on what is objectively moral?


Good question. Under atheism, objective moral values are impossible, as I have shown earlier in this thread.

Quote:
Do you consider something more "social" like Cheating on a spouse (or with someone else's) to be objectively immoral?


It depends on the nature of the marriage relationship (open marriage vs. monogamy), and the feelings of all individuals involved. I personally feel it to be immoral, but I don't know if I would go as far as to call it "objectively immoral."

Quote:
Why is theft immoral?


Theft is immoral because it hurts another sentient being.

Quote:
Entire societies in the past (i.e. huns, aztecs) made their existence through plunder and mayhem, were they evil? Were they collectively wrong?


I believe they were collectively wrong, however, I realize that I have no basis for claiming this on atheism.

Goto top, bottom
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 24: Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:02 am
Reply

Like this post
Wow - one of the best threads I've read in a long time Smile Pretty much everything I might've contributed has been said already, and a lot of other good stuff as well. So just a few brief comments...

Regarding God as a basis for objective morality, Abraxas and T-mash have mentioned Euthyphro's dilemma (didn't know it was called that 'til today), eloquently stated by Abraxas as "Is it good because God loves it or does God love it because it is good?" As a Christian Knight seems to favour the former option, but I think he's correct in suggesting that reducing this to "God's subjective opinion" borders on a meaningless statement. Coming as is supposed from His very nature, a God-defined 'good' is not arbitrary and I would add that since the notion of 'subjective' requires reference to some objective other, it's a meaningless term to apply to a creator-deity. Of course there'd still be the question of exactly what this deity deems to be good, and probably the best (and perhaps only valid) answer is what He created me to feel and think is good. At the moment I'm inclined to think a 'God' works as a fill-in-the-gaps answer to objective morality if that's what one desires, but makes no difference in pragmatic terms since we should think and feel the same regardless of whether we postulate a nebulous god-concept or not.

Regarding objective morality without God, I don't think anyone's yet mentioned Buddhism as a possible point of comparison - though several people have pointed out that non-theism doesn't automatically require adoption of strictly naturalistic/materialistic views. I think that any notion of morality which is independant of thinking minds would have to be religious or faith-based; despite himself being a moral relativist ThatGuy offers gravity (or perhaps other truly fundamental aspects of how reality behaves) for comparison in that it's not irrational to allow that some things 'just are' even without any present understanding on our part. But since morals (unlike gravity) always involve the thoughts/actions of thinking beings granting them some status in the absense of minds would still have to be an act of faith. (Strictly speaking, from what little I know I don't think Theravada Buddhism suggests there's anything without thinking minds, but it serves as an example of objective 'morality' without a God at least.)

Regarding not-particularly-subjective moral relativism I think Darias makes a good case, along with comments from others. I think his comments are quite a reasonable counterpoint to Hume's is/ought problem which Haven mentioned and Knight expanded on. We don't have a simple dichotomy between objective morality and the equivalency of all moral or amoral viewpoints. I and 99% of humanity 'ought' to behave in a certain fashion because it's in our nature, courtesy of our capacity for empathy. Exactly what this type of behaviour 'is' - building both on that empathy, and on evolutionary and cultural principles of perpetuating a society, and on thought excercises eliminating the subjective 'me' from the equation - can be derived and improved upon through logic and philosophy (at the level of our entire species, in the last century). For a basis of comparison, I'd suggest that in this view morality can be considered even less subjective than language; if nothing else, the evolutionary imperative of perpetuating the genes/group/species from which empathy is apparently derived and to which many modern secular moral systems refer is far more universal amongst living organisms than language. In fact it's an interesting irony that Knight refers to language as being derived from God alongside morality - yet I can't imagine even the most ardent atheists, naturalists or materialists among us would say "That's only your subjective opinion on how to construct, punctuate and spell a sentence!"

Admittedly, with that view of morality it seems we lose the option of condemning others as truly 'evil' - though in many cases we might have good reason to say that they've violated their society's and their own probable moral outlook when they're acting from anger, greed or the like instead. But in the case of the Nazis for example (again, given my very limited knowledge), it may be that they genuinely believed uniformity of race and religion amongst the people of the earth would ultimately be of great benefit to the species. If so, how validly we could condemn that approach from a position of moral relativism is wide open to debate, I think - especially since this particular view of moral relativism requires that it's an ongoing learning and experimental process for the species (a la Fuzzy Dunlop's post).

But ultimately I think that more important than the objective truth of the matter is the process of questioning. Besides being guidelines for how we treat others - extending our usual empathy even to those we've never met, and into situations where different emotions/circumstances might otherwise prevail - I suspect that the real question of morality is not so much one of knowledge or facts, as of the context and value which we can derive from our chosen answers. Some of my favourite authors (or, if I were prone to using lofty-sounding speech, some of the richest developmental experiences I have had Laughing ) were those who probe and question why we act as we do, offering their insights even into the minds of those we might consider despicable. In fact, those authors who compel us to feel some empathy even for those who don't have any themselves (Terry Pratchett's later works and especially David Gemmell come to mind). I might even go so far as to say (and frankly this is a new epiphany to me as I write it) that I consider the importance of 'morals' to come not from how I should act, but from how and why I choose to act in the context of my life, society, biology and logic. So with a nod in the direction of I am all I am, if I had to pick my favourite post of the thread so far (besides this one, of course), I'd have to go with Slopeshoulder's post:
Slopeshoulder wrote:
While the above makes it clear that I don't think of God as a giver of laws, or look to religion to be a rulebook, I do think that religion can function aspirationally and culturally, as a reposit for and locus of our god concept which works as a vessel for our best moral leanings and discoveries (and in faith terms may have their source and object in God). Religion sacrilizes and ritualizes these, and embeds them in our human narrative mythos, in a way that transcends state and culture. And doing so might make our moral strivings that much richer.

When I think of people like reinhold neibuhr, walker percy, evelyn waugh, graham greene, soren kierkegaard, gk chesterton, fyoder dostoievski, leo tolstoy, simone weil, daniel berrigan, walter rauschenbusch, jim wallis, peter berger, elie weisel, assorted liberation theologians, even bono, patti smith, jk rowling, and the dalai lama, etc - robust, earthy and reflective people who have looked at and tasted the darkness in life - I find their engagement with religion to be compelling, if not always sharing the particulars of their theologies, case by case. And personally I find it richer and more satisfying than what comes out of the atheist community (perhaps because the latter is so young and has been underground), with albert camus a powerful exception. So it's not all evangelical/biblicist christianity vs. hard atheism. Some of the most clear eyed ethicists work in a religious philosophical and academic framework. And some dont.
To me, truth has to add up, but the big ones also have to glimmer and resonate a bit. I call that shiney vibey bit God. It makes things richer.

But I agree that we don't need a god for objective morality, or that there is objective morality. But it helps, as it is a lens into the human experience, and a way of being in the world that gives equal weight to head, heart, hunches, intuition, emotion, etc. Works for me. But then I'm not nuts. so let's weed out the nuts rather than marginalize religion. That's a mistake that the french revolutionaries through the communists all make. It's a pity.


Last edited by Mithrae on Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:11 am; edited 1 time in total

Goto top, bottom
View user's profile 
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 25: Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:07 am
Reply

Like this post
Haven wrote:
Quote:
Entire societies in the past (i.e. huns, aztecs) made their existence through plunder and mayhem, were they evil? Were they collectively wrong?


I believe they were collectively wrong, however, I realize that I have no basis for claiming this on atheism.

Sure you do. Their actions are evil from the perspective of our society. They were not evil from their own perspective, and they had their reasons for behaving as they did. We disagree with those reasons and reject such behaviour. If we're not "objective" in our assessment of evil, so what? Why does this matter? Like many human concepts, "evil" changes and evolves over time to mean different things to different societies and different individuals.

I'm not quite understanding how any of these realizations lead you to question atheism. You don't seem to be making an argument, other than a big appeal to emotion or consequence. You agree that objective morality, as the theist generally sees it, is not true, but you really really want it to be true, therefore you think that maybe god exists after all. Am I missing something? Because this doesn't seem like any sort of logical reasoning to me.

I think partly people should get over such simplistic, cartoonish descriptions of behaviour anyway. Calling something like Aztec religion "evil" doesn't mean much. Instead, we should be looking at the circumstances which led the Aztecs to behave as they did and try to understand how they rationalized it. Many people like to use "evil" as some inexplicable cosmic force that sometimes enters into people and causes them to do horrible things ("oh, that guy was just evil"). But people always have their own reasons for doing things that we should strive to understand instead of imagining some battle between good and evil taking place. It's the same cartoonish view of reality that leads some to think that people are "getting away with it" if they don't get poked by a demon with a pitchfork after they die. Sometimes people do things we consider evil, and sometimes they don't get caught. They still die like everyone else. Life isn't perfect, but being unable to deal with the harshness of reality is no reason to appeal to a magical postmortem judicial system.

Goto top, bottom
View user's profile 
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 26: Thu Mar 01, 2012 6:23 am
Reply

Like this post
Mithrae wrote:
Of course there'd still be the question of exactly what this deity deems to be good, and probably the best (and perhaps only valid) answer is what He created me to feel and think is good. At the moment I'm inclined to think a 'God' works as a fill-in-the-gaps answer to objective morality if that's what one desires, but makes no difference in pragmatic terms since we should think and feel the same regardless of whether we postulate a nebulous god-concept or not.


I think you'll be hard pressed to justify that moral "objectivists" - those who believe ought-statements have truth values - all share the same moral intutions. But if you can't, then justifying one's own moral intuitions (or reforming them accordingly) by appealing to God is extremely relevant, as pragmatics would not be as clear-cut as you seem to suppose.

But your point about identifying the set of things which God regards to be good is well-taken and brings me back to my point that ethics cannot be divorced from epistemology. It isn't sufficient to believe in, say, a deistic god in order to justify moral duties, for then one would only have his moral intuitions as his justification. But due to different moral intuitions, by what means can we judge which align with the deistic god's own views? None. Divine revelation is a necessary corollary to divinely grounded ethics. This is one reason why I'm interested in what Haven will do.

Mithrae wrote:
Regarding not-particularly-subjective moral relativism I think Darias makes a good case, along with comments from others. I think his comments are quite a reasonable counterpoint to Hume's is/ought problem which Haven mentioned and Knight expanded on. We don't have a simple dichotomy between objective morality and the equivalency of all moral or amoral viewpoints. 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?

Mithrae wrote:
For a basis of comparison, I'd suggest that in this view morality can be considered even less subjective than language; if nothing else, the evolutionary imperative of perpetuating the genes/group/species from which empathy is apparently derived and to which many modern secular moral systems refer is far more universal amongst living organisms than language. In fact it's an interesting irony that Knight refers to language as being derived from God alongside morality - yet I can't imagine even the most ardent atheists, naturalists or materialists among us would say "That's only your subjective opinion on how to construct, punctuate and spell a sentence!"


There are various modes of language - English, French, sign, etc. - but meaning is necessarily communicated by language. One's use of language can be ambiguous, however. I think it would be better if we did away with "subjective/objective" terminology in discussions like these and instead focused on the truth values of relevant propositions.

Mithrae wrote:
But ultimately I think that more important than the objective truth of the matter is the process of questioning.


I disagree. This seems to abstract moral duty from the equation. It seems to me that you are emphasizing that "if we want x, we should do y." But rather than ask why we want x, should we want x? Why? Whatever answer one ultimately gives will be either true or false, and knowing which it is would seem to be more important than asking questions as to why we want x, at least in the context of a discussion about moral duties.

Goto top, bottom
View user's profile 
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 27: Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:01 am
Reply

Like this post
Haven wrote:
On atheism, moral relativism isn't just the best (most coherent) option, it's the only rational option. There is no way objective moral values and duties can exist on atheism because...:

Take the same argument and apply it to theistic view, I don't think moral objectivism works there either.

(1) The problem of moral facts. While statements about deities could be constructed according their own characteristic (It's against God's nature to tell lies,) there is no way that such values can serve as moral value. They are simply statement about the nature of the deities. Alternatively deities can construct moral values based on their wisdom of how best to act in a given situration, they are non the less (no doubt very wise) opinions of the deities.

(2) The is-ought problem (Hume's guillotine). It is logically impossible to derive normative statements (thou shall not murder) from statements of fact (God commands it). Even if the wishes of the deity is made clear to everyone, there would still be no imperative for people to conduct their lives in accordance with those wishes.


Next up, a moral subjectivist such as myself would answer these questions thus:

Quote:
Who is an Atheist to call something "evil"?

An atheist as a moral agent is to call something "evil."

Quote:
Unless you believe in Moral Absolutism, how can you call something "evil"?

By applying their judgement.

Quote:
WHO says what is moral? You?

Exactly.

Quote:
What is "evil"?

Actions that I don't like, to such a degree that I insist others from performing.

Quote:
Why would you have "guilt"? Because of societial pressure? Is this guilt "natural"? Is it the product of "evolution"?

It's biological in nature. Societial pressure is one way this nature manifest itself.

Quote:
Why not just dismiss these "guilty feelings" like so many, even Christians do?

Because I am a moral person.

Do any of these response seem absurd to you that you still think subjectivism is untenable?


Finally I would like to hear your opinion on my latest reply in the Morality as brute fact thread.

Goto top, bottom
View user's profile 
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 28: Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:55 am
Reply

Like this post
Knight wrote:
Mithrae wrote:
Of course there'd still be the question of exactly what this deity deems to be good, and probably the best (and perhaps only valid) answer is what He created me to feel and think is good. At the moment I'm inclined to think a 'God' works as a fill-in-the-gaps answer to objective morality if that's what one desires, but makes no difference in pragmatic terms since we should think and feel the same regardless of whether we postulate a nebulous god-concept or not.


I think you'll be hard pressed to justify that moral "objectivists" - those who believe ought-statements have truth values - all share the same moral intutions. But if you can't, then justifying one's own moral intuitions (or reforming them accordingly) by appealing to God is extremely relevant, as pragmatics would not be as clear-cut as you seem to suppose.

But your point about identifying the set of things which God regards to be good is well-taken and brings me back to my point that ethics cannot be divorced from epistemology. It isn't sufficient to believe in, say, a deistic god in order to justify moral duties, for then one would only have his moral intuitions as his justification. But due to different moral intuitions, by what means can we judge which align with the deistic god's own views? None. Divine revelation is a necessary corollary to divinely grounded ethics. This is one reason why I'm interested in what Haven will do.

Very true, which is why I specified a nebulous god-concept. My point was that if a person's (Haven, in this case) only real reason for appealing to deity is as a basis for objective morality, the question of divine revelation regarding the contents of that morality remain as-yet unanswered. Until that person reaches further conclusions on the subject (and having rejected evangelical Christianity in the past, I'd assume that at least is not in Haven's sights) the nebulous god-concept is all they have. So this person's thoughts and feelings will ultimately be the basis on which they judge the morality which they ascribe to a deity, leaving little or no practical difference from moral relativism. Of course even their assessement of the truth or falsity of any particular 'divine revelation' will depend on their thoughts and (to a lesser extent) their feelings, but I think we can assume that if there's divine revelation it should be apparent to those who honestly seek it. So granted, my comments apply only to an intermediate stage between supposing a god-concept to accomodate objective morality, and a hopeful future date of discerning what this deity actually requires.

Knight wrote:
Mithrae wrote:
Regarding not-particularly-subjective moral relativism I think Darias makes a good case, along with comments from others. I think his comments are quite a reasonable counterpoint to Hume's is/ought problem which Haven mentioned and Knight expanded on. We don't have a simple dichotomy between objective morality and the equivalency of all moral or amoral viewpoints. 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.

Knight wrote:
Mithrae wrote:
For a basis of comparison, I'd suggest that in this view morality can be considered even less subjective than language; if nothing else, the evolutionary imperative of perpetuating the genes/group/species from which empathy is apparently derived and to which many modern secular moral systems refer is far more universal amongst living organisms than language. In fact it's an interesting irony that Knight refers to language as being derived from God alongside morality - yet I can't imagine even the most ardent atheists, naturalists or materialists among us would say "That's only your subjective opinion on how to construct, punctuate and spell a sentence!"


There are various modes of language - English, French, sign, etc. - but meaning is necessarily communicated by language. One's use of language can be ambiguous, however. I think it would be better if we did away with "subjective/objective" terminology in discussions like these and instead focused on the truth values of relevant propositions.

We can say that X is not language or X is not communication, with just as much objective validity as we can say that Y is not moral or Y is not 'good.' In fact it's worth considering that the god-concept can detract from morality qua inter-personal behaviours, and instead suggest things like homosexuality or wearing clothing of mixed fabrics as an affront against the deity itself. To that extent I suppose the comparison with language breaks down compared with God-defined morality. But as far as moral relativism goes, both language and morals serve a purpose between people, and as you've further illustrated language is the considerably more divergent and 'subjective' of the two. But that doesn't diminish the validity of either morality or language.

Knight wrote:
Mithrae wrote:
But ultimately I think that more important than the objective truth of the matter is the process of questioning.


I disagree. This seems to abstract moral duty from the equation. It seems to me that you are emphasizing that "if we want x, we should do y." But rather than ask why we want x, should we want x? Why? Whatever answer one ultimately gives will be either true or false, and knowing which it is would seem to be more important than asking questions as to why we want x, at least in the context of a discussion about moral duties.

You're presupposing that there is an answer to your questions, or that there are any moral duties (in an objective sense). Or perhaps not... I suppose you're correct in that "why do I want X?" is not a more important question than "should I want X?" But asking why I want X is an important part of questioning if I should want it, or indeed if there's anything I 'should' want. Obviously, so far I'm of the opinion that there really is no 'should' - in effect, that there is no truly objective truth-value to the statement that murder is wrong.

My comments reflect that perspective, I admit. But since in general terms humans generally come to fairly similar views on what they 'should' do - allowing for the increasing size over the millenia of the group/s with whom we identify, and the various mutations of 'good' and 'bad' which have been introduced by god-concepts - I still thinks it's fair to say that how we'll generally interact with others will not be greatly altered by our views on why we should or simply why we choose to act thus.

Curiously, in this post I've suggested that religion as a source of meaning is ultimately a better promoter of moral outcomes than non-religion, since non-religious 'meaning' essentially defaults largely to self-interest. But it's worth bearing in mind that religion as a source of morality can just as easily be an inhibitor of our natural empathy as a promoter of our common humanity and equality before the divine.


Last edited by Mithrae on Thu Mar 01, 2012 8:04 am; edited 1 time in total

Goto top, bottom
View user's profile 
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 29: Thu Mar 01, 2012 8:04 am
Reply

Like this post
Knight wrote:
Mithrae wrote:
Of course there'd still be the question of exactly what this deity deems to be good, and probably the best (and perhaps only valid) answer is what He created me to feel and think is good. At the moment I'm inclined to think a 'God' works as a fill-in-the-gaps answer to objective morality if that's what one desires, but makes no difference in pragmatic terms since we should think and feel the same regardless of whether we postulate a nebulous god-concept or not.


I think you'll be hard pressed to justify that moral "objectivists" - those who believe ought-statements have truth values - all share the same moral intutions. But if you can't, then justifying one's own moral intuitions (or reforming them accordingly) by appealing to God is extremely relevant, as pragmatics would not be as clear-cut as you seem to suppose.

But your point about identifying the set of things which God regards to be good is well-taken and brings me back to my point that ethics cannot be divorced from epistemology. It isn't sufficient to believe in, say, a deistic god in order to justify moral duties, for then one would only have his moral intuitions as his justification. But due to different moral intuitions, by what means can we judge which align with the deistic god's own views? None. Divine revelation is a necessary corollary to divinely grounded ethics. This is one reason why I'm interested in what Haven will do.


Of course, this is assuming that 'divinely grounded ethics' exist, and that 'divine revelation exists'. I can not see how to distinguish this from 'This is what I want to be true, so let me call it a divine revelation from God'. As Susan B Anthony said I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desire

Goto top, bottom
View user's profile 
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 30: Thu Mar 01, 2012 8:10 am
Reply

Like this post
Haven wrote:
Shermana wrote:

Who is an Atheist to call something "evil"? Unless you believe in Moral Absolutism, how can you call something "evil"? And by your next response, you seem to believe in Moral Absolutism, but WHO says what is moral? You? What is "evil"?


I agree, and this is exactly why I am seriously questioning my atheism.



Help me understand this. In a theistic system, who determines what is evil? If, as Knight and others say, God determines this and determines it based on his "nature" I still am not hearing an answer. Did this god create its nature? If not, then the nature of god allegedly determines what's moral and what's immoral, god had no choice in the matter. But what was it that gave this god its nature? Is it that God is naturally good? What's good? If god's nature happened to be that good to it was rape and murder, would they be good? How does adding this god into the mix get you any closer to finding out the origin of morality? God did not create all things, according to the mythology. God did not create god and god did not create god's nature.

Next, I'm wondering how you get from is to ought with a god. Allegedly the god is. The god insists on being worshiped. That is, they say, the way things are. Just because that is, does that mean that that ought to be? We would be created, but why should we, with minds of our own, agree with and follow the teachings of that god? If that god told you to rape and murder an innocent, would you? Or would that be immoral no matter what the god said?

I'm not understanding how the "god did it" answer helps at all. And that's before we even get into the question of how we could figure out what the god thinks is moral. Is it something we are all built knowing? Then each person can be built knowing different moral values or each person could feel that they know different moral values and feel obligated to act on those values because they are obligated to obey god. If God's told us is through some other source, we have an added layer of complication. how do we determine what that source is? Let's say it's the Bible. Wouldn't a fundamental way to see if that is the source to check and see if the god described in it behaves in a moral way. If the god acts immorally then it must be wrong. Or do we subjugate our own moral views to whatever the book says and assume that the god must be acting morally because it's the god, so we need to alter our own moral views to justify the god's seemingly immoral acts? As some do, for instance, by saying that killing the children of a people you've slaughtered is moral because you are sending them to heaven.
I'm just not seeing it.

Goto top, bottom
View user's profile 
Display posts from previous:   

Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ... 49, 50, 51  Next

Jump to:  
Facebook
Tweet

 




On The Web | Ecodia | Hymn Lyrics Apps
Facebook | Twitter

Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group.   Produced by Ecodia.

Igloo   |  Lo-Fi Version