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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 461: Wed Apr 18, 2012 5:00 pm
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Bust Nak wrote:
1robin wrote:
The sanctity of human life is inherent in our unique relationship to God. The bible reenforces the idea of human worth incessantly. While our inherent value being important, given relevance, and explanation by God I do not suggest they it's importance outweighs Gods Justice in some instances where they are in conflict.

You are talking about Christianity again and not theism.

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If there is one religion that is true then it is the natural progression that the aspects of that religion are used in the explanation of issues related to it. There is no conflict with referencing a religion and it's specifics to propose a likely or possible explanation for human worth unless you presume that all religions are false which is unknowable.

Then compare the specifics with humanism, and not atheism.

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It is possible that humanism has some influence on me but I doubt it is very much at all. Humanism was not the dominant formative force on the society I live in and is a poor explanation for my values. When I have looked into humanism I found many of it's tenants to be inconsistent with my values so once again it has little effect on me.

Well of couse not all of your values came from humanism, just the stuff like loving your neighbours or equality.

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Humanist philosophy is wuite a bit younger than the major religions so who influenced who should be obvious. What I have read about Humanism does not speak of a objective justification for human value and many times scholars admit to the borrowing of ideas from religion(many catholicism) by humanists

That's because the ideas behind humanism is so ingrained in humanity, you don't even recognize them as borrowed.


As I am defending Christianity to some extent then this is what I should mention.

Why should I compare humanism I thought this was a debate about doubting atheism. That's the thread were in anyway.

You prove any of my values come from humanism whis is by far less influential than Christianity and many other philosophies through history and I will respond.

Are you saying that the philosophy of humanism that appeard somewhere around 1500ad is actually inherent in my human nature itself.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 462: Wed Apr 18, 2012 5:05 pm
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Goat wrote:
1robin wrote:


1. I am not tacking on any arbitrary religion to some assumed starting point. I am referencing the most widely accepted religion in the history of man. It exists separate and previous to me so it is not subject to distortion by me. It contains the only justification for the value of life not any assertion "smuggled in by me". It is part and parcel of "God is there" not as a separate system, it is how we know God is there. There is no reasonable argument for God is there without the religion. They are not separate and can't be divided.


Well, you are right, you can't have a reasonable argument for god without the religion, and it is reasonable for you to choose the religion you are most familiar with, and in this case, the religion that the original poster was coming from.

However, the question remains 'Can you have a reasonable argument for God WITH the religion. The original poster was having doubts about that. His specific issue was that was resolved when it could not be shown that 'objective morals' exist. That could not be shown to be true.

Can you show a 'reasonable argument for God' WITH the religion? I have yet to see any , no matter what religion is assumed.

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2. I did not have time for your link but I have already seen many atheist's (Hitchens, Dennet, Dawkins, etc.....attempt to get morals out of evolution and it is one of the weakest arguments and most desperate attempts I have ever heard.
But I apologize for not having time to check your out.


Considering the vast differences in morality between different Christians, can you show that Christian morals 'came from God'? "God did it" is a heck of a lot weaker than showing how morality can evolve is.


3. I didn't see what you are talking about with the my doubts projected on something else point.

4. Because you value your life is not evidence for an atheistic sanctity of life proof. The motivation for that fact is selfish. The sanctity of all life is not selfish but objectively benevolent.


Is it 'objectively benevolent"?? Care to prove that? If the 'sanctity of all life' is true, then you approve of making sure that the hook worm, malaria, and the bubonic plague survive in a robust manner.

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5. The sanctity of life issue only is only valid from a personal but objective point of view any subjective point of view of it is deficient in explanatory power for it's existence.


Please support this is true, other than your personal opinion, or based on the opinions of writers from 2 to 3 thousand years ago?


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6. You proved my point in that reprisal is a fear of punishment and your motivation, which doesn't account for any act of altruism and so lacks explanatory power.


Empathy and recipricol altruism is a survival characteristic. You help me, and I'll help you, and we both can survive better.

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7. Non-bull feathers. Many philosophers and historians point out the obvious fact that most people in the west especially are the product of Christian and democratic influences so deep that they may not be recognized in connection with their original source. For example our inalienable rights found in the constitution. Your value system like it or not is based in large part on society and society is largely based on the influences mentioned above.


And, many philosophers and historians point out that the source is far older than Christianity.. Your point?[/quote]

I am sorry I don't have time to respond to I think three different people in this thread as well as the other threads I am involved in. You guys can really post ad nausium (that's not meant as an insult) and this topic deserves it. I wish I did have the time this is a good discussion. I will respond as much as I have time for, and wish you all luck until I talk to you again.
Selah,

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 463: Thu Apr 19, 2012 4:29 am
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1robin wrote:
As I am defending Christianity to some extent then this is what I should mention.

Why should I compare humanism I thought this was a debate about doubting atheism. That's the thread were in anyway.

Because atheism is the alternative to theism, where as Christianity is an alternative to humanism. You say atheism doesn't offer certain human value but Christianity does, hence Christian has an advantage over atheism, but the same argument can be use like this: theism doesn't offer those human value but humanism does, hence humanism has an advantage over theism.

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You prove any of my values come from humanism whis is by far less influential than Christianity and many other philosophies through history and I will respond.

I am not talking about which is more influential, I am talking about the source of the ideals. Just as most people's first taste of point and click graphical user interface is on a PC running windows, the source of a GUI came from Apple Macintosh.

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Are you saying that the philosophy of humanism that appeard somewhere around 1500ad is actually inherent in my human nature itself.

Exactly. Any social ideals that binds humanity together is humanism. The name is new, the idea is not.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 464: Thu Apr 19, 2012 10:07 am
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RESPONSE TO GOAT:


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Considering the vast differences in morality between different Christians, can you show that Christian morals 'came from God'? "God did it" is a heck of a lot weaker than showing how morality can evolve is.


The difference that christians display has nothing to do with God. What he says is the moral standard is the absolute standard. If Christians can't agree on what he said that has nothing to do with there being an absolute standard. Much of morality loosses it's justification when seperated from an objective or an overarching source. How could an atheist tell Stalin he was actually wrong for killing 15,000,000 people. What argumentation could you possibly use that it is actually wrong. There is no wrong or right in atheism only advantagous or non advantagous, and that depends on whos perspective it is. Now that is a heck of a lot weaker than God did it.



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Is it 'objectively benevolent"?? Care to prove that? If the 'sanctity of all life' is true, then you approve of making sure that the hook worm, malaria, and the bubonic plague survive in a robust manner

That was my bad I should have said the value of human life, I thought it was pressumed but apperanly not. If The sanctity of human life is a true statement there is no doubt that it is objective as it includes the whole and is not subject to or dependant on any sub group. I think it is the Hindu that believe in the canctity of all life, which if true would have to be objective.
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5. The sanctity of life issue only is only valid from a personal but objective point of view any subjective point of view of it is deficient in explanatory power for it's existence.


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Please support this is true, other than your personal opinion, or based on the opinions of writers from 2 to 3 thousand years ago?

It is inherent in the nature of a universal condition that applies to all that is not dependant on a subgroup. The only real question is if it is true. I don't know how that argument could be proven or disproven.



Let me restrict the defanition of altruism for this discussion.
1.The belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. If you give up your seat for an old lady it is not for the hope of getting her to give hers up later. Christ was not hopeing for someone to die for him some other time. As a matter of fact anyone who has given their life for another did so with a motivation that naturalism can't justify.


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And, many philosophers and historians point out that the source is far older than Christianity.. Your point?

Athens, Rome and Jerusalem did not exist before the old testament which is believed to be part and parcel a part of the Christian faith. What exactly were you trying to say here anyway?

Sorry the formatting got away from me.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 465: Thu Apr 19, 2012 10:17 am
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RESPONSES TO BUSTNAK:

1robin wrote:
As I am defending Christianity to some extent then this is what I should mention.

Why should I compare humanism I thought this was a debate about doubting atheism. That's the thread were in anyway.

Quote:
Because atheism is the alternative to theism, where as Christianity is an alternative to humanism. You say atheism doesn't offer certain human value but Christianity does, hence Christian has an advantage over atheism, but the same argument can be use like this: theism doesn't offer those human value but humanism does, hence humanism has an advantage over theism.


Maybe if you could point these things humanism offers that Christianity doesn't I could figure out what you are driving at.

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You prove any of my values come from humanism whis is by far less influential than Christianity and many other philosophies through history and I will respond.

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I am not talking about which is more influential, I am talking about the source of the ideals. Just as most people's first taste of point and click graphical user interface is on a PC running windows, the source of a GUI came from Apple Macintosh.
Ok give me the values that I have that you think I smuggled in from humanism and then I will respond.

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Are you saying that the philosophy of humanism that appeard somewhere around 1500ad is actually inherent in my human nature itself.

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Exactly. Any social ideals that binds humanity together is humanism. The name is new, the idea is not.
Can you prove that any particular value came from humanism alone.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 466: Thu Apr 19, 2012 11:14 am
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1robin wrote:
Maybe if you could point these things humanism offers that Christianity doesn't I could figure out what you are driving at.

That would not help illustrate my point. Rather I will point of that humanism offers fulfillment and meaning in human life, where as theism gives no reason to value life at all.

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Ok give me the values that I have that you think I smuggled in from humanism and then I will respond.

I don't think you personally smuggled in values, but rather, religion imported said values. Take the ten commandments for example, only the first four are religious, the last six are humanist ideas.

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Can you prove that any particular value came from humanism alone.

No, that would involve dispoving the existence of deities.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 467: Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:10 pm
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1robin wrote:
RESPONSE TO GOAT:


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Considering the vast differences in morality between different Christians, can you show that Christian morals 'came from God'? "God did it" is a heck of a lot weaker than showing how morality can evolve is.


The difference that christians display has nothing to do with God. What he says is the moral standard is the absolute standard. If Christians can't agree on what he said that has nothing to do with there being an absolute standard. Much of morality loosses it's justification when seperated from an objective or an overarching source. How could an atheist tell Stalin he was actually wrong for killing 15,000,000 people. What argumentation could you possibly use that it is actually wrong. There is no wrong or right in atheism only advantagous or non advantagous, and that depends on whos perspective it is. Now that is a heck of a lot weaker than God did it.


Really?? Care to show that there is an 'Absolute morality' at all? Claiming absolute morality came from God (and I am assuming the Christian God in your claim), and no Christian group can agree on what this morality is, where is the evidence for this 'absolute morality' ? Although there is this claim for 'morality' from God, yet no way to show that one morality is from God verses another set of moralities. Can it show that is it something more than 'advantageous' or 'non-advantageous' for Christians too, but only claimed from God? What can you show that except for the CLAIM the morality of the Christian is from God that it is actually 'From God'? Now, assuming that you can now show that any morality is FROM God, how do you kow that it's 'a heck of a lot weaker than God did it?

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Is it 'objectively benevolent"?? Care to prove that? If the 'sanctity of all life' is true, then you approve of making sure that the hook worm, malaria, and the bubonic plague survive in a robust manner

That was my bad I should have said the value of human life, I thought it was pressumed but apperanly not. If The sanctity of human life is a true statement there is no doubt that it is objective as it includes the whole and is not subject to or dependant on any sub group. I think it is the Hindu that believe in the canctity of all life, which if true would have to be objective.

It is objective?? Would a lion or a tiger agree with that? IT sounds like it is very subjective to 1) one's own self and 2) Modern society. I seem to remember a quote from a Christian not so long ago considering the length of history' (attributed to various people over the years) of "Kill them all, and God will sort them out" (or god will know his own). The sanctity of human life is subjective to humans... and alas, not even to all humans.


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5. The sanctity of life issue only is only valid from a personal but objective point of view any subjective point of view of it is deficient in explanatory power for it's existence.


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Please support this is true, other than your personal opinion, or based on the opinions of writers from 2 to 3 thousand years ago?

It is inherent in the nature of a universal condition that applies to all that is not dependant on a subgroup. The only real question is if it is true. I don't know how that argument could be proven or disproven.


Then, of course, in my opinion, it can't be 'objective'. From a subjective, selfish point of view, I will say that human life of all breathing humans is important (being a breath human myself)

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Let me restrict the defanition of altruism for this discussion.
1.The belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. If you give up your seat for an old lady it is not for the hope of getting her to give hers up later. Christ was not hopeing for someone to die for him some other time. As a matter of fact anyone who has given their life for another did so with a motivation that naturalism can't justify.


That is where empathy and reciprocal altruism comes in. And yes, naturalism can justify that behavior. A book that lays that justification out is "The Selfish Gene", by Richard Dawkins. Mind you, it does not mean that the individual is selfish, but it shows how altruistic behavior can help the GROUP, at the sometimes expense of the individual.

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And, many philosophers and historians point out that the source is far older than Christianity.. Your point?

Athens, Rome and Jerusalem did not exist before the old testament which is believed to be part and parcel a part of the Christian faith. What exactly were you trying to say here anyway?

Sorry the formatting got away from me.


The Old testament did not promote democratic principles at all.. and the rule of law predated the OT.. The Code of Hammurabi for example dates back to the 18th century bce, and the OT was written down around 700 bce.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 468: Thu Apr 19, 2012 4:09 pm
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1robin wrote:
How could an atheist tell Stalin he was actually wrong for killing 15,000,000 people. What argumentation could you possibly use that it is actually wrong.
So if God hadn't told you that killing 15,000,000 people was wrong you would think it was right? So you have no kind of reason or logic or conscience or morals or compassion or love or empathy or altruism inside you telling you that killing 15,000,000 people was wrong? You see, these are just some of the things most atheists use to differentiate right from wrong. Since we have those things and more we don't need a deity to tell us right from wrong.
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Let me restrict the defanition of altruism for this discussion.
1.The belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. If you give up your seat for an old lady it is not for the hope of getting her to give hers up later. Christ was not hopeing for someone to die for him some other time. As a matter of fact anyone who has given their life for another did so with a motivation that naturalism can't justify.
Giving up your seat for an old lady is nothing different than when mongooses support elderly, sick, or injured animals, chimpanzees help humans and conspecifics without any reward in return, bonobos aid injured or handicapped bonobos, vervet monkeys give alarm calls to warn fellow monkeys of the presence of predators, even though in doing so they attract attention to themselves, increasing their personal chance of being attacked, or when african buffalo try to rescue a member of the herd captured by predators risking injury to themselves, This is called the Golden Rule and as I just demonstrated existed long before religions came along. That is why a lot of religions have incorporated the Golden Rule in their teachings.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 469: Fri Apr 20, 2012 8:25 am
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[quote="Bust Nak"]
1robin wrote:
Maybe if you could point these things humanism offers that Christianity doesn't I could figure out what you are driving at.

Quote:
That would not help illustrate my point. Rather I will point of that humanism offers fulfillment and meaning in human life, where as theism gives no reason to value life at all.
As I was defending that Christianity does supply the only justification for many of our most cherished beliefs like life, liberty, and the pusuit of happiness, justice then I won't defend theism. Even Thomas Jefferson (no Christian) saw that there is no other source sufficient to account for inalienable right besides God. Argueing against a generic theism is a waste of time, it would only have meaning once a particular diety and it's characteristics are accounted for. Theism devoid of these doesn't exist.

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Ok give me the values that I have that you think I smuggled in from humanism and then I will respond.

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I don't think you personally smuggled in values, but rather, religion imported said values. Take the ten commandments for example, only the first four are religious, the last six are humanist ideas.
Ok give me the ones you can prove were adopted from humanism by christianity. Just because the 10 commandments and humanism have things in common doesn't mean that christianity got them from humanism. There was no agreed upon content of humanism until well after Christ.
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Can you prove that any particular value came from humanism alone.

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No, that would involve dispoving the existence of deities
It is not necessary to disprove a diety to show humanism is the lone source for some values.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 470: Fri Apr 20, 2012 8:43 am
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Artie wrote:
1robin wrote:
How could an atheist tell Stalin he was actually wrong for killing 15,000,000 people. What argumentation could you possibly use that it is actually wrong.
So if God hadn't told you that killing 15,000,000 people was wrong you would think it was right? So you have no kind of reason or logic or conscience or morals or compassion or love or empathy or altruism inside you telling you that killing 15,000,000 people was wrong? You see, these are just some of the things most atheists use to differentiate right from wrong. Since we have those things and more we don't need a deity to tell us right from wrong.
It doesn't require a belief in God to know what is right or wrong. It requires God to justify those beliefs. I noticed you answered the question by asking me one. What would you say to Stalin?
Quote:

Let me restrict the defanition of altruism for this discussion.
1.The belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. If you give up your seat for an old lady it is not for the hope of getting her to give hers up later. Christ was not hopeing for someone to die for him some other time. As a matter of fact anyone who has given their life for another did so with a motivation that naturalism can't justify.
Quote:
Giving up your seat for an old lady is nothing different than when mongooses support elderly, sick, or injured animals, chimpanzees help humans and conspecifics without any reward in return, bonobos aid injured or handicapped bonobos, vervet monkeys give alarm calls to warn fellow monkeys of the presence of predators, even though in doing so they attract attention to themselves, increasing their personal chance of being attacked, or when african buffalo try to rescue a member of the herd captured by predators risking injury to themselves, This is called the Golden Rule and as I just demonstrated existed long before religions came along. That is why a lot of religions have incorporated the Golden Rule in their teachings.


In Christianity we believe that the conscience that all creatures have was given to them by God in the beginning. I won't say more because I don't want to get sidetracked with a boring origins debate. Even accepting this conscience I mentioned for every benevolent act you may find (for which you have no way of establishing the motivation) there are an endless amount of brutal unjust acts of cruelty. This is accounted for by the biblical fall. It would seem that if you give credit to evolution for morality you also have to say it accounts for WW1, WW2, Hitler, Stalin, Atilla, Nero etc..... this sound like a inconsistent scitsophrenic moral system. That does not mean it's not true it means even if it is we should act as if it isn't. My comments in the quote above were not meant as a proof for biblical only morality. It was a response to your saying that the only reason you wouldn't kill anyone is that consideration to be returned. We are getting a little far afield here.

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