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Why atheists do end up kicking cats

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"One of us has to be rational. I vote: You!"

Recently, I asked “Are atheists immoral ,” commenting

It’s not so much that [materialist] atheists are immoral, but that immoral people are often atheists. That is, the guy who kicks cats anyway, and fears divine retribution, may resolve his problem by deciding that there is no God and therefore no divine retribution.

Then he goes back to kicking cats in peace. Other atheists don’t like him but what can they do?

The comments were interesting, including

Velikovsky at 5:

I don’t know about in the great white north but I know what an atheist cat lover in Texas might do.

Well, yes, but the problem I anticipated is not quite answered in this way. It is not about taking action. It’s about determining a moral ground for doing so. Jurisdictions in the great white north are as well able as any other to enact laws against cruelty to animals, and even to enforce them. They could enact strange and useless laws that afflict both man and cat, helping neither party, but providing a living for bureaucrats. And, whatever the merits of their cause, people can risk taking the law into their own hands. The dilemma is, how to construct a rational and moral basis for saying that the Atheist League’s members, many of whom are active in animal welfare, are right and the cat kicker is wrong.

It gets more complex. Assume that the population’s makeup gradually changes. The town comes to be dominated by members of an ignorant and violent sect that believes that dogs and cats are unclean – and that it is a virtue to punish them accordingly. What sustains the atheist in the face of persecution for his animal welfare work – other than the conviction that sect members are ignorant and violent? However well founded, such a conviction is not likely to sustain a person long in the face of persecution.

After all, the materialist atheist can have no conviction that he is right in any transcendent sense. His selfish genes cause him to oppose the sect’s cruelties. And the sect is now dominant in public affairs. Sustaining injuries or death from public and private persecution by the sect is pointless because he lives for this world only.

David W. Gibson at 16 says,

I’ve never seen any indication that which church (if any) one attends, has any correlation at all with how well one follows the golden rule. Or with how reliably one keeps one’s word. Or with how tenderly one treats one’s cat.

Not sure I follow. If that’s true, all moral persuasion from any source must be equally useless. It makes no difference whether one belongs to the Atheist League or the ignorant and violent sect, how one behaves toward cats. Unlike Gibson, I have seen plenty of evidence that it does make a difference. But where life experience differs, who shall decide?

Elizabeth Liddle says, at 21 that atheists have a rational base for ethics, but does not say what it is. The trouble is, if we are mere products of our selfish genes and live for this life only, I am not sure what a “rational base” would be. The most we can say is that the Atheist League members’ genes’ and neurons’ behaviour put them in conflict with the genes and neurons of the sect’s members – and that the atheists will likely lose the battle and go extinct. And that cats’ fate will be the least of it.

Gibson attempts to help at 27 by saying,

If there is no untimate basis for morality, some people just think this means there can be no basis for morality whatsoever.

No indeed. Witness the fact that the sect views cat kicking as morally correct, even obligatory. And they are the majority. How does the minority atheist know he is right? Or, as kairosfocus puts it at 31:

… the issue is whether rights and wrongs are even meaningful, beyond one species or other of “might males right.”

Really, the Atheist League can invoke only its minority preferences, and at best hope to get a “second class citizen” exemption from kicking cats. Without any hope of being right in principle – because their own creed does not sustain any such hope. And in any event, the immoral people who only professed to be atheists  - to escape a sense of guilt and impending judgement – are a fifth column within their League. They undermine morale by kicking cats and arguing for compromise on core values, in order to fit in. The rest follows.

You may treat this thought experiment as a parable or prophecy if you wish.

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109 Responses to Why atheists do end up kicking cats

  1. When the moral subjectivist is asked what the basis is for any such morality, it will eventually shake down to consensus (majority decides), which then brings up the question, if morality is a description of how people ought to behave, and the consensus is that atheism (or insert whatever the minority opinion is of the one you are debating) is immoral, then isn’t the atheist being immoral by their own definition of morality? Shouldn’t they try to conform to the consensus norm?

    When confronted with the conundrum of how to advocate for a change in moral views if the minority is by definition always an immoral position, the subjectivist will then have to insert another principle for “what is moral”, something along the lines of “what is best for most people”.

    But, what if “most people” disagree with that principle being a moral axiom? Even if we agree with it, how do we resolve fundamental conflicts of how to define “what is best” for most people?

    All non-theism based moralities eventually reduce to “might makes right”, which is self-evidently not a sound moral principle. There is either a god, or there is no morality worth troubling oneself over.

  2. I’ve said it is perfectly possible to derive a system of ethics without reference to theism, and I’ve also said how (essentially, the Golden Rule ensures that individuals don’t prioritise their own interests above those of other). That’s objective ethics, by definition – a system of ethics that transcends subjective desires.

    I’d like to know how you derive an objective system of ethics from theism.

  3. Dr Liddle

    I am disappointed.

    You have been repeatedly pointed to discussions on how an ethical theism grounds — at worldviews level — OUGHT in the foundational IS of an inherently good, loving Creator God.

    Nor is this point exactly news in our civilisation, it is a classic point of the Fathers in response to Euthyphro dilemma type arguments. (Cf here on for just one 101-level approach, as you have been previously directed.)

    Such theism based on the Good God who made us equally in his image is also historically a key part of the foundation of modern democracy, as Locke’s citation from Hooker in Ch 2 Sect 5 of his 2nd essay on civil govt shows, and as is reflected in the US DOI of 1776. Hooker:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.

    Absent an ethical, creational anchor for fundamental equality, the Golden Rule evaporates into treat my tribe well, treat others as objects to be used.

    Just as the OP observes.

    Please, think again.

    GEM of TKI

  4. I’m sorry kf, but I still have not read a post that explains to me how you derive an ought from theism.

    How does theism tell you what is right and and what is wrong? Objectively?

  5. btw, your link doesn’t work – could you give it again?

  6. PS:

    Absent an ethical, creational anchor for fundamental equality, the Golden Rule evaporates into treat my tribe well, treat others as objects to be used.

    I agree that it can easily so evaporate. I see no evidence that theism rescues it, though. Indeed, religion is a major factor in tribal identity, witness countless wars waged on religious pretexts.

  7. Elizabeth,

    What if I disagree that we should live our lives by the golden rule? What if, rather, I think that morality should refer only to what is in my best interest? What if I disagree that I should treat others like I want to be treated (especially since I’ve never seen any evidence that treating others one way will result in reciprocal treatment)? What will arbit our disagreement?

    As far as deriving an ought from theism; unless humans were created to fulfill a purpose, there is no objective “good”; “good” refers to purpose or goal. A thing is “good”, or a “should”, only if it advances or fulfills a purpose, moves towards a goal.

    If humans simply pick whatever “good” they wish to advocate for, then the good is subjective, and thus morality is a subjective description of a subjective commodity. If humans have an objective purpose (which could only be possible if they were created by a sapient entity for a purpose), then morality is a subjective description of an objective commodity.

    Either way, humans can come up with “oughts”, but the problem with deriving oughts from a subjective good is that it is no different from any subjective fashion or taste; there is no basis for agreement on any principle other than happenstance proclivity, because we are doing nothing more than asserting what our personal tastes are.

    The agreement that “the good” is objective gives us reason to believe that we can can reason our way to understanding proper moral behavior even if we disagree about many things. If “the good” is an objective commodity – the purpose of humans – then there will be (as with any objective commodity) self-evidently true statements (such as: it is always immoral to torture infants for one’s personal pleasure) that can be found which will serve as the basis for reasoning to necessarily true moral statements, statements that are true on a contingent basis, and general principles of morality.

    However, the agreement that “the good” is a subjective commodity gives us no hope that reason can discern true statements about what “the good” is, any more than reason can discern which tastes better – an apple, or an orange. Thus the moral subjectivist must abandon reason and move to rhetoric, emotional pleading, and appeals to consensus, empathy, or conscience, when they have provided no rational ground to consider any of those things.

    In the end, subjective morality can only lead to might makes right as the basis for moral principles, whatever form that might may take – emotional, strength, manipulation, consensus, etc. Only theistic (objective human purpose) morality provides a sound basis for a rational morality.

  8. I still don’t understand how you are deriving morality from theism. You say: only theistic (objective human purpose) morality provides a sound basis for a rational morality.

    I don’t understand what this means.

  9. F/N: Following up, I must point out that evolutionary materialism by contrast has in it no IS that grounds OUGHT. As Plato points out in the clip below, it ends up in one variety or another of radical relativism, manipulation of perceptions in the community to support this view or the other, and ultimately can only appeal to “the highest right is might.”

    That is, from one of the leading lights of our civilisation, we have been warned for 2350 years, on the matches we are now playing with in the name of “science.”

    Here is Plato’s warning from 360 BC, in The Laws, Bk X:

    ____________

    >> [[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . .

    [[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made . . . These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . . >>
    ____________

    Yes, we were warned 2,350 years ago on the amoral implications of evolutionary materialism. By a leading voice in our intellectual culture. Who in correction then went on to discuss the self-moved ensouled living entity, and to draw a cosmological design inference. (He began by distancing himself from the pagan traditions.)

    Those who refused to heed this and subsequent warnings have some serious explaining to do.

    GEM of TKI

  10. Pardon, I don’t know what went wrong. Link.

  11. I still don’t understand how you are deriving morality from theism.

    I don’t understand what this means.

    I don’t expect that you ever will, regardless of how many times I, or anyone else, explains it.

  12. Thanks!

    So, what I think you are saying there, kf, is that it’s not so much that theism gives you your objective “ought”, but that, specifically, Christianity does, because Jesus endorsed the Golden Rule, and we know that this is correct because of the evidence that Jesus is God?

  13. It tells you that the moment you subjectively decide that the bible/quran/torah/book of mormon/fill-in-the-blanks… is an objective description of the foundational truths of our existence.

    And that is the root of the problem. Theism can be no more objective than the subjective choice to believe in it.

    Of course theists of all colours will now step up and claim that their partcular colour is, objectively, the one and only true one and all others are false.

    And round and round it goes.

    fG

  14. You could answer my question, Elizabeth:

    What if I disagree that we should live our lives by the golden rule? What if, rather, I think that morality should refer only to what is in my best interest? What if I disagree that I should treat others like I want to be treated (especially since I’ve never seen any evidence that treating others one way will result in reciprocal treatment)? What will then arbit our disagreement?

  15. Meleager,

    If humans have an objective purpose (which could only be possible if they were created by a sapient entity for a purpose), then morality is a subjective description of an objective commodity

    Why assume that” purpose” leads to some objective moral good ? Orcs created by Sauron were objectively morally good?

    In the end, subjective morality can only lead to might makes right as the basis for moral principles,

    In the view of many atheists the divine is the ultimate “might makes right”.

  16. Well, I think I understand kf’s explanation, but that seems specific to Christianity.

    I’m not aware that you have given me one. I mean, you have mentioned the idea that under theism, humans are created to fulfil a purpose, but how are we supposed to know what that purpose is without making a “subjective” judgment? Many cultures have assumed that they were created to fulfill a theistic purpose, but have responded by assuming that their creator wanted human sacrifices, or the death of infidels.

  17. Meleager:

    What if I disagree that we should live our lives by the golden rule? What if, rather, I think that morality should refer only to what is in my best interest? What if I disagree that I should treat others like I want to be treated (especially since I’ve never seen any evidence that treating others one way will result in reciprocal treatment)? What will then arbit our disagreement?

    Human justice systems.

  18. Well, exactly.

    That’s why I acknowledge some force to some specific arguments about one deity rather than another: we know ours is the right God because of the miracles!

    But a general argument for theism as the source of objective morality seems doomeed to me.

    And the miracles argument seems to land us in dueling miracles. Not to mention crusades, which don’t exactly reflect a non-tribal interpretation of the Golden Rule.

  19. Dr Liddle:

    Pardon but, first, there you go again: “I see no evidence that . . .”

    This is selectively hyperskeptical dismissal, again — as has been pointed out to you before, and at minimum verges on willful denial of that which is evident.

    You may well DISAGREE that ethical theism provides warrant for OUGHT on the foundational ID, the good Creator God, but that is utterly not the same as that there is “no evidence” backed up by reasoned argument that provides support or warrant for the proposition.

    And indeed it should be evident to all but those willfully blind that if our world was created by a good God in accord with his character then that world will have in it not only an IS capable of grounding ought, but a framework in which the struggle to virtue makes sense.

    Namely that the power to truly love and act on love demands the power of real choice. Unfortunately, choice is not real unless it can be turned in other, self-centred directions.

    And in that context your proposed rebuttal argument:

    religion is a major factor in tribal identity, witness countless wars waged on religious pretexts . . .

    fails.

    For, that some would chose to abuse the good to do evil, is not a refutation of the reality of or our duty to the good.

    The reality of counterfeit money is a back-handed proof of the real thing, not grounds for saying that real money does not exist. Or, equivalently that there is “no evidence” that real money exists.

    Yes, religion has been abused — something that is prone to be underscored and shouted out drumbeat fashion by those whose only defense here is to distract from their own amorality — but the truth is that it is the self-same motive of doing the right under God that has given rise to ever so many of the good things in our civilisation and world history that we find ourselves benefitting from.

    That is why when I find a refusal to balance the regrettable fact of abuse with the greater fact of right use [just say in our day, a name like Mother Teresa of Calcutta], AND the force of the point that it is the good God who does provide a ground for OUGHT, that is telling.

    Ever so telling.

    If one’s image and speech about religion runs to trotting on on Torquemada to the neglect of those who rebuked him — e.g. BOTH of the greatest saints in Spain at the time [and I say that as a convinced Protestant] — that is telling me something and none of it good.

    If one is ever so hot about how religion “always” leads to theocratic tyranny, but one is unwilling to acknowledge how the double covenant view of nationhood and government under God made great contributions to the rise of modern democracy [cf documentation here], that is revealing as well.

    It shows the pernicious effects of glorified poisonous village atheist rhetoric in our time, and it is high time that it was recognised for what it is and corrected.

    Now, it is patent that we are finite, fallible, morally fallen/struggling and too often ill-willed. But it is equally plain that absent an IS that gives a warranting ground for OUGHT, we are left in a might makes right amoral mess.

    The only is that has that capacity would be the good Creator God. One who made the world in a way that reflects that goodness.

    I am not saying that such is a proof of the reality of that God, only that absent such, we are stuck in one species or another of might makes “right” amorality.

    Where I do think that there is a reason to infer from the reality of ought to the reality that grounds that ought, starts from the fact that we have a global consensus that we are bound by ought. If you doubt me on this, simply observe how we quarrel: we appeal to the right, and the reply is almost never “me is lion and yuh is sheep so shut up and go down de troat smooth and easy!”

    But, that is exactly what “might makes right” leads to.

    So, please, think again.

    GEM of TKI

  20. I asked:

    What if I disagree that we should live our lives by the golden rule? What if, rather, I think that morality should refer only to what is in my best interest? What if I disagree that I should treat others like I want to be treated (especially since I’ve never seen any evidence that treating others one way will result in reciprocal treatment)? What will then arbit our disagreement?

    To which Elizabeth responds:

    Human justice systems.

    So when the fundamentalist Muslim and the Atheist disagree about whether or not it is moral to spread atheistic ideas (and also disagree about the golden rule being the basis for morality – since obeyance of said rule would make both equally tolerant of the other spreading their ideas), and they take it to sharia court in Iran, then since a human justice system arbits the dispute and concludes the atheist’s position immoral, then it is by your definition (arbited by a human justice system) immoral; and further, the court decides the moral thing to do is stone the atheist to death for their immoral behavior, that too is by definition the moral thing to do?

  21. Why assume that” purpose” leads to some objective moral good ? Orcs created by Sauron were objectively morally good?

    I’m using the term “good” in the Aristotlean “Final Cause” sense, not in a subjective sense. If we were created for the purpose of annihilating the kingdoms of men, that would be our “good”. Our objective purpose would be the grounding for what “good” means.

    In the view of many atheists the divine is the ultimate “might makes right”.

    It can only be said that “might makes right” if there is an assortment of different things that might can be used to enact as right. If there is only one right, one good, then might doesn’t make it right, it is fundamentally good, and fundamentally right. Might can only be used for the good, or against it. God is not postulated as having good, or on deciding what good is, or choosing or inventing good; god is what good is. God is good.

  22. Meleager:

    I’m using the term “good” in the Aristotlean “Final Cause” sense, not in a subjective sense. If we were created for the purpose of annihilating the kingdoms of men, that would be our “good”. Our objective purpose would be the grounding for what “good” means.

    Well, exactly! That’s my point! How do you decide what objective purpose is?

    How do you distinguish the True God from False Gods if not subjectively?

  23. How do you distinguish the True God from False Gods if not subjectively?

    The same way we discern any true statement from false ones – we use logic.

  24. FG:

    It is painfully plain that you are resorting to empty rhetoric in dismissive resistance to the actual argument that can be read here on.

    I have provided the argument, it is you who needs to provide to us some evidence that you have read it with understanding. Yes, YOU need to provide the fair paraphrase, to show that you comprehend what you object to.

    Then, once you have shown that you understand what you object to, kindly show me where in the main argument there is any appeal to any particular religious tradition or scripture.

    You will find none, for the argument in question is a worldviews argument.

    I think you owe us an apology for making a false assertion in the teeth of easily accessible evidence, that the issue is philosophical, grounding of worldviews, not religious.

    Your patent antipathy for and contempt towards the Christian Faith is driving you into closed mindedness and willful, empty rhetorical dismissal on ill-founded talking points about circularity. (If you want to see what a warrant for the core claims of that faith are like, I suggest you look here for a 101 level survey. And it would be interesting to see your fair summary and response on the merits.)

    Please, do better than this.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: FYI, the crusades — which were indeed badly carried out and associated with some pretty awful behaviour by people who should have known better, were in fact counter-offensives to a surge of conquest, abuses and massacres of thousands of pilgrims and worse [e.g. the 1065/6 equivalent of the 9/11 attacks -- ever wondered why so many Germans, Franks and English cared about events in the Middle East?]. They were not simply tribalistic hatred, and the common rhetoric to that effect is grossly ill-informed and misleading. Worse, the trotting out of one-sided litanies of the real and imagined sins of Christendom as though that countered the principles as already explained is simply a revelation of the sort of well-poisoning rhetoric that you have swallowed and the resulting hostility. Sadly, fairly common in our day. What you need to realise is that there is not an IS that can ground the OUGHT that transcends the tribes then you are stuck in the trap of might makes right.

    And, since you seem to have a particular antipathy to the Christian scriptures, I will cite them on this matter, as it turns out from the passage used for the sermon we just listened to today:

    Col 3:5So kill (deaden, [a]deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God).

    6It is on account of these [very sins] that the [holy] anger of God is ever coming upon the sons of disobedience (those who are obstinately opposed to the divine will),

    7Among whom you also once walked, when you were living in and addicted to [such practices].

    8But now put away and rid yourselves [completely] of all these things: anger, rage, bad feeling toward others, curses and slander, and foulmouthed abuse and shameful utterances from your lips!

    9Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old (unregenerate) self with its evil practices,

    10And have clothed yourselves with the new [spiritual self], which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into [fuller and more perfect [b]knowledge upon] knowledge after the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it.

    11[In this new creation all distinctions vanish.] There [c]is no room for and there can be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, [nor difference between nations whether alien] barbarians or Scythians [[d]who are the most savage of all], nor slave or free man; but Christ is all and in all [[e]everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person].

    12Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].

    13Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].

    14And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony].

    Do you observe the aspect of the text that transcends just the tribalism I raised this morning before we set out to church in the teeth of a passing tropical storm?

    That is an example of the challenge we must ever face to live by the Golden Rule etc on the ground.

  25. Dr Liddle:

    Actually the worldview level ethical theism under main discussion here is before questions of specific theistic traditions come up.

    Indeed a pioneer of this pattern of thought in at least some respects is Plato, in the very passage I have repeatedly cited from The Laws Bk X.

    GEM of TKI

  26. Elizabeth Liddle:

    I’ve said it is perfectly possible to derive a system of ethics without reference to theism, and I’ve also said how (essentially, the Golden Rule ensures that individuals don’t prioritise their own interests above those of other).

    So you’ve said it. So what.

    I say it is perfectly possible to derive a system of ethics from a bowl of pudding.

    What makes your system better than mine?

  27. VS:

    that is because — being themselves trapped in systems that boil down to might makes right — they are willing only to see the power of God [and to perceive it as a treat, especially in cases where they are suppressing truth and right they know or should know], they do not reckon with the issue that we are specifically dealing with God who is good as to essential character so that goodness and God cannot be severed.

    In fact this is the only concept of God that is logically and morally coherent. (Which is itself a clue that you are on the track of the truth here. That which is ultimately true will be empirically adequate, logically coherent and explanatorily elegant and powerful.)

    GEM of TKI

  28. Actually it is worse, she just admitted implied that might makes right, it is the justice system of the most powerful that prevails.

  29. Mung,

    I say it is perfectly possible to derive a system of ethics from a bowl of pudding.

    What makes your system better than mine?

    Good question.

  30. It is perfectly possible to posit a set of rules on the might of your mind or the assertion of your feelings or of court systems and parliaments backed up by police forces and armies, but that has utterly nothing to do with grounding this beyond the particular consensus of a given culture and time, i.e we are back to there is no right, there is no wrong, there is only power. Reductio ad absurdum, nihilist style.

  31. Pardon, I just made several responses on points above, and provided a link that I hope works. (I struggle with this threaded system.)

  32. Well, derive it then. Go on, let’s see it.

    I can’t tell until I’ve seen it.

  33. And if the most powerful is God, what then?

  34. Melleager:

    God is not postulated as having good, or on deciding what good is, or choosing or inventing good; god is what good is. God is good.

    So” good” is relative and subject to which god you believe in? Kinda like atheists without the middle man.

    It can only be said that “might makes right” if there is an assortment of different things that might can be used to enact as right.

    Yes I see the difference in an absolute sense,but in actuality god’s might is used to enforce the good, by punishing the bad if not now then unavoidably in the future.It hard to see a big difference between(as a homage to Denyse ) the bloated government giving you a choice between the good in their view( paying taxes ) or jail.

  35. OK, go on. How do you distinguish your God from, say, Allah?

  36. Morality is inextricably tied to the “good.” What does it mean for something to be good? Something is good if it operates the way it was designed and intended to operate. Thus, a good can opener is one that opens cans well. A good pencil is one that writes well. A pencil cannot be a good can opener because it was not designed to do that. If it tries, not only will it fail in its mission, but it will destroy itself in the process. (Of course a good thing can be used for a bad moral purpose, such as a knife [used for torture] or gas [used for genocide as in a gas chamber])

    What is a good person? A good person is one who habitually behaves in a way that is consistent with the purpose of his existence, which is to achieve union with God by choosing to love God and neighbor. What is a good act? A good act is one which moves a person in the direction of the purpose or destiny for which he was created. What is morality? Morality is the behavioral standard or vehicle by which we arrive at our destination. If we have no destination, then it is ridiculous to speak of morality at all. All this will become evident to you the moment that you try to define the meaning of the word “good.” Why not have a go at it?

    The golden rule is fine as far as it goes, but it does not provide sufficient information about how and when a person is successfully achieving his/her moral end. An adulterer could love his neighbor as he would prefer to be loved—if he happens to prefer adultery. The objective moral law clarifies that point where the golden rule is vague and elusive: Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery.

    The standard (morality) must come from the outside because the purpose that defines the standard (the good) comes from the outside. If we are not designed or created for a purpose, then there could be no such thing as a moral act or an immoral act since there would be no ideal to achieve or frustrate. Accordingly, morality cannot be subjective or fashioned according to one’s personal tastes. Indeed, the whole point of morality is to inform us about which of our preferences ought to be retained and which ones ought to be abandoned—not to codify our preferences and call them morality.

  37. KF

    In fact this is the only concept of God that is logically and morally coherent. (Which is itself a clue that you are on the track of the truth here. That which is ultimately true will be empirically adequate, logically coherent and explanatorily elegant and powerful

    That is nicely put. But really, the logic of god is what motivates the majority? I think it is equal part carrot and stick,his power not only to punish eternally but reward with the ultimate desire of most humans, everylasting life.

  38. —Elizabeth, “OK, go on. How do you distinguish your God from, say, Allah?”

    One could point to at least twenty five major differences. For one thing, the Christian God provides a set of moral absolutes based on His unchanging goodness and explains the relationship between those standards and the end for which we were created, which is union with God. The Muslim God can be unreasonable and whimsically change his mind about what is and is not good (The doctrine of abrogation). Further, Allah, as expressed in Muslim theology, has no desire to be intimate with his creatures. To be personally intimate with someone is not the same thing as submitting to a master/slave relationship.

  39. FG: You seem to be particularly worked up over miracles. Actually, there is just one miracle that needs to be really addressed, this one. After that we can address any other claimed miracles that are said to counter this one. So, can you refute this particular miracle and the 700 year old prophecy behind it? G

  40. [What will arbit our disagreements on morality?]

    Elizabeth: “Human justice systems.”
    You have it backwards. Civil law is not supposed to inform the objective moral code, the objective moral code is supposed to inform civil law.

    To understand that point, just ask yourself this question: Which human justice system arbited our disagreement about civil rights? Was it the American justice system that once ruled in favor of slavery or was it the American justice system that later ruled against it?

    In fact, it was Martin Luther King’s appeal to the Divine moral law (humans are made in the image of God) that shaped the improvement in the human justice system.

  41. Well, that distinguishes them, I guess, Stephen, but it doesn’t tell me which one is the True God.

    Although I’m not that persuaded by your distinctions:

    For one thing, the Christian God provides a set of moral absolutes based on His unchanging goodness and explains the relationship between those standards and the end for which we were created, which is union with God.

    Where?

    The Muslim God can be unreasonable and whimsically change his mind about what is and is not good (The doctrine of abrogation).

    Abraham and Isaac? Exodus 34?

  42. Divine moral law has been appealed to to justify all kinds of atrocities.

    The fact that sometimes it shapes what we would call improvement in human justice is something to be grateful for.

    But I’m still waiting for enlightenment as to how we are supposed to derive a system of ethics from religion in general, and Christianity in particular. How do you judge which commandments to take seriously and which to discard?

  43. So, it seems that in Elizabeth’s moral view, since she has declared “human justice systems” the arbiter of moral principles (and thus morality) if a human justice system considers it moral to exterminate jews, torture infants or treat women and children as property, then those things are by definition moral.

    That means that if Elizabeth found herself in a culture where the justice system decreed that she submit to her husband’s brutality and not learn to read or drive, but simply produce children, than that is what she should pursue as her behavioral “ought”, since morality describes how people ought to behave.

  44. Meleager: please tell me how you decide whether a religion in which the deity decrees that women submit to their husband’s brutality is or is not the True Religion.

  45. re 4.1.1 FG “Of course theists of all colours will now step up and claim that their partcular colour is, objectively, the one and only true one and all others are false.”

    I think what gets lost in these kinds of debates is the idea that one at the outset must postulate a ‘god” and from there derive an objective “good”. Of course once one appeals to a “god” then the questions about which god ( as if it is possible that if God exists there can be more than one LOL) starts to populate the bandwidth of the stheist and round and round we go.

    One need not appeal to a “god” to postulate the idea that there is “objective good”, a good that exists independently of what one thinks is good. The starting point is not God’s existence, it is (IMO) if there is such a thing as “good” there must exist an “absolute good”, an absolute standard that is unchangeable. Indeed an absolute unchangeable oughtness. If there is no such thing as “absolute good” talk about good is nonsense. As KF rightly points good is reduced to whatever “might” makes right.

    We see this in Meleager”s questions directed and ever so artfully dodged by Elizabeth. Indeed the subjectivist cannot answer the question as to what is good other than ultimately to appeal to “whatever might makes right is good” Indeed Faded Glory and I went back an forth for weeks over at the old ARN blog where eventually FG admitted ( after weeks of back and forth) that this was indeed the case.

    Velokofsky seems to agree that might does indeed make right and that the theist is in the same position as the atheist only the theist appeals to Gods might and the atheist appeals to the might of man. I cannot speak for all theists but not all theists would agree. If God is the ground of good it need not be because of Gods might rather Gods being. Because God is good “good makes good” because God is right “right makes right”

    Vivid

  46. Elizabeth:

    Abraham and Isaac? Exodus 34?

    as if this were evidence of God being unreasonable and whimsically changing His mind about what is and is not good.

    Had God actually let Abraham kill Issac, you’d have a point. But He didn’t, did He.

    As for Exodus 34,

    Exo 34:13-14 NASB “But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 –for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God–

    which you conveniently ignored, in which God states His reasons which are moral, not whimsical.

    Now if you want to accuse God of being Moral and Jealous, that would be different, but that wasn’t your argument, was it.

  47. Elizabeth:

    Divine moral law has been appealed to to justify all kinds of atrocities.

    And had God Himself actually dictated those atrocities, you’d have a point. But misguided zealots committed the atrocities.

    When someone violates the Constitution, do you blame the words of the Constitution, do you blame the founding fathers who wrote it, or do you blame the violater?

  48. “Well, that distinguishes them, I guess, Stephen, but it doesn’t tell me which one is the True God.”

    “But I’m still waiting for enlightenment as to how we are supposed to derive a system of ethics from religion in general, and Christianity in particular. How do you judge which commandments to take seriously and which to discard?”

    Elizabeth these are nothing more than rabbit trails to distract the obvious fact that your only basis for what is good comes down to what KF wrote

    “i.e we are back to there is no right, there is no wrong, there is only power. Reductio ad absurdum, nihilist style.”

    What is so ironic is that you almost seem to be arguing that the God of The Old Testament is bad when under your system he cannot ever be bad since if God is almighty, and might makes right, God is always right and good. To repeat KF

    “Reductio ad absurdum, nihilist style”

    Indeed Vivid

  49. This started with the comment

    It’s not so much that [materialist] atheists are immoral, but that immoral people are often atheists. That is, the guy who kicks cats anyway, and fears divine retribution, may resolve his problem by deciding that there is no God and therefore no divine retribution.

    Later comments have claimed that this is not about might being right. If so, then divine retribution can have nothing to do with it, since retribution is imposed by might. To be consistent with the claim that might is not right, the sentence should have read:

    The guy who kicks cats anyway, and feels bad about it, may resolve his problem by deciding that there is no God and therefore no basis to feel bad.

    But unless you’re a psychopath, it’s probably hard not to feel bad about a destructive outburst of anger. You can’t reason your way out of feeling bad, whether an atheist or not.

  50. Elizabeth:

    I’m not arguing about flavors of gods or religions; I’m explaining to you the difference between rational morality and non-rational morality. If there is an objective good, then there are self-evidently true true statements we can make about that good, in the same sense that we can make self-evidently true statements about all sorts of things we hold to be objectively-existent phenomena or as extensions of first principles.

    It is self-evidently true that it is immoral (not good) to be cruel; brutality is a form of cruelty. There is never any moral justification for cruelty. Cruelty is fundamentally evil (not-good). Therefore, it is necessarily true that it is immoral to be brutalize your wife – or anyone else – regardless of what any god supposedly decrees or any “human justice system” legalizes.

    You see, when you proceed from the premise that there is an objective, necessary good, it provides a rational axiomatic basis by which to disagree with and challenge the claims of any society, legal system, or religious decree by using reason and logic. Without a sound basis, one is left appealing to self-defeating, subjective principles for their moral system, inserting them and removing them whenever one finds their particular moral proclivity they are advocating at a standstill.

    Is cruelty ever morally justifiable, Elizabeth? Is brutality ever morally justifiable? In and of themselves? Unfortunately, under your “human justice system” arbiting system, the answer is “yes” – whenever a society considers brutality and cruelty legal, it is then moral.

  51. If you want to make the claim that under atheism we have no objective basis for morality, it is not a “rabbit trail” to ask what the objective basis is for morality under theism.

    Because as far as I can tell, picking a basis out for morality out of any theism involves subjective cherry-picking.

    I’m inviting people to convince me otherwise. kf has had a go.

  52. Meleager, I entirely agree that it is self-evidently immoral to be cruel.

    What I am saying is that this self-evident truth has nothing to do with theism, and that you have not demonstrated to my satisfaction that it is.

    In fact, if we take the God of the bible as a model, it is far from self-evident that cruelty is immoral, as the God portrayed there frequently advocates it.

  53. “If you want to make the claim that under atheism we have no objective basis for morality, it is not a “rabbit trail” to ask what the objective basis is for morality under theism.”

    This is funny, most atheists deny that there is an objective good, an objective morality that exists outside of whatever we think is good. So you are asking me to disprove the position of the atheist that there is no objective good? Really???

    Actually my position is not that the atheist has no objective basis for morality. It is my position that any atheist that denies that there is such a thing as an objective standard of good is using words that have no meaning ie “morality” To say something is moral is to assume there is some objective standard by which one can compare various degrees of moralness. If that standard does not exist morality is nothing but a word that means “my particular preference” “The way I think things should be” “How I think people should act” etc, etc.

    Vivid

  54. And had God Himself actually dictated those atrocities, you’d have a point. But misguided zealots committed the atrocities.

    Numbers 31.

  55. Actually my position is not that the atheist has no objective basis for morality.

    Excellent. In that case we do not disagree.

  56. “Excellent. In that case we do not disagree.”

    Which means the following indeed is a rabbit trail :)

    “it is not a “rabbit trail” to ask what the objective basis is for morality under theism.”

    Vivid

  57. Elizabeth said:

    Meleager, I entirely agree that it is self-evidently immoral to be cruel.

    Is it still self-evidently immoral to be cruel even if the local justice system says otherwise?

  58. Seems so to me. And that’s reflected in the kinds of laws most societies come up with. People don’t like cheaters – people who exploit other people for selfish ends.

    Of course in societies where the laws are drawn up by only one section of society, things often go wrong.

    Theocracies have a poor record in this respect.

  59. For you, yes, it seems. I apologise for assuming a position you did not hold :)

  60. No need to wait. Consult 5.1.3. It was designed specifically for you.

  61. Again, God’s judgement on the Midianites of some 3000-3500 years ago was punishment for Midian’s role in Israel’s apostate behavior at Baal of Peor.

    It wasn’t whimsical, it wasn’t without cause, nor was it directed at someone or some group extant today. And so any misguided zealot who thinks he is God’s avenging angel today, against the Midianites of old, has taken action of his own accord, not at God’s direction. But you already knew that.

  62. I appreciate all the efforts that went into changing our format for the better, but unless we have a reply section for every division and subdivision, it is going to a be a very difficult process to manage.

  63. Dr Liddle:

    You lead me to make a theological point, so do pardon a moment BA, CH et al.

    Let’s put in what you left out:

    And if the most powerful is [the good, loving, just Creator] God, what then?

    Why, you get this:

    Jn 3: 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him . . . 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

    GEM of TKI

  64. Methinks it is your turn first to provide the system of morality you have said you can derive but so far as I have seen, never have laid out as a cogent, coherent frame.

    Do, remember, you have to first provide an IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT.

  65. Don’t forget what Molech stood for, what Asherah poles and associated groves were about, and so forth.

  66. Right. So as long as God is good, it all works out. But you are right back with the Euryphro dilemma.

    Or rather, you have come down on one side of it – you recognise your God as the True God because He is Good. In other words, your a priori moral yardstick enables you to distinguish the True God from false gods, not the other way round: your a priori True God determining your moral yardstick).

    Which is perfectly Christian: “by your fruits ye shall know them”.

    But it’s not, AFAICT, what is being argued here.

  67. But it doesn’t answer my question. It just goes round in the same circles.

    Tell me how you decide which of several candidate Gods is the True God that is the external arbiter of Goodness.

    And, if you pick the bible God, tell me how you decide which precepts are the Good ones, and which are not. Because there are plenty of appalling ones.

  68. –WJM: “Is it still self-evidently immoral to be cruel even if the local justice system says otherwise?”

    –ED: “Seems so to me.”

    –ED: “What I am saying is that this self-evident truth has nothing to do with theism, and that you have not demonstrated to my satisfaction that it is.”

    You are trying using my answer to your specific question about how morality proceeds from God as a distraction from WJM’s specific yet different question about how to arbit our disagreements about morality. Why did you do that?

  69. Correction: Elizabeth, You are using my answer to your specific question about how morality proceeds from God as a distraction from WJM’s specific yet different question about how to arbit our disagreements about morality. Why did you do that?

  70. Dr Liddle:

    Excuse me!

    This is the very same religion where we are commanded to submit to state authorities but also must challenge them if they step out of line of the higher authority, the good and just God.

    The very same religion where so soon as the matter came up as a serious question, abuse and battery of wife and children were deemed constructive abandonment of the marriage, driving out with blows as opposed to abandoning it by flight.

    And, let us set that famous submission passage in context, as it is now being used as a political rhetorical club by the ignorant and unstable who on a 2,000 year old tradition of error wrench the teachings of Paul into pretzels to their own ruin and that of those who foolishly follow them — and I am here directly citing Peter on the abuse of Paul.

    Okay, the key text:

    Eph 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God . . . .

    8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

    “Wake up, O sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

    15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. [--> Use common good sense, in short] 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. [--> Let me add here, a key comment: the principle is that Christ can speak through any of his own, so we had better be open to hear that voice from the other, including those under our position of authority or influence, even the least little child]

    22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

    25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. [ --> One who batters or brutalises his own body is demented at best] He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

    So, the text is set in a context that makes plain what is being promoted, and it is explained in a way that highlights reciprocal duties of husbands and wives. Husbands are to love their wives and lay down their lives for them, even as Christ did so for the church, and wives are to respect their husbands.

    If you think you can find in that a basis for:

    the deity decrees that women submit to their husband’s brutality

    . . . then your reading is sadly distorted by rage.

    Dr Liddle, on this one you are wrong.

    Period.

    Please think again and correct your error.

    And int eh wider culture, the hatred of the gospel, the Christian faith, the scriptures and Christian ethics has led to a warped, slanderous, accusatory mis-reading of this passage. (The repeated attempt to publicly smear Mrs Bachmann is a capital case in point of such hateful abuse.)

    It is high time that his should stop.

    GEM of TKI

  71. Look, I’m not “dodging” any question, or presenting any “distractions”.

    Meleager asked:

    So when the fundamentalist Muslim and the Atheist disagree about whether or not it is moral to spread atheistic ideas (and also disagree about the golden rule being the basis for morality – since obeyance of said rule would make both equally tolerant of the other spreading their ideas), and they take it to sharia court in Iran, then since a human justice system arbits the dispute and concludes the atheist’s position immoral, then it is by your definition (arbited by a human justice system) immoral; and further, the court decides the moral thing to do is stone the atheist to death for their immoral behavior, that too is by definition the moral thing to do?

    No, of course it isn’t. As I’ve said, I think you can derive a reasonably objective morality as being behaviour that does not set benefit-to-self above benefit to others, and we set up human justice system to deal with “what if” people violate that morality.

    Obviously a human justice system based on something other than that will not work, but that wasn’t the question you asked.

    And I am STILL waiting to hear how you derive anything better – more “objective” – from theism. Not from Islam, by the sound of things – so how do you figure that your God is right, without making some value judgement yourself?

    AFAICT is there is NO “objective” way of determining what we “ought” to do, we just figure it out, over the generations, in such a way that most people are cooperative and cheaters are discouraged. The golden rule comes up repeatedly, because it seems to work.

    Unfortunately lots of worse things also come up, frequently from sources claiming divine authority.

  72. Dr Liddle:

    Kindly explain to us who in this thread has advocated tyrannical misrule that is based on a taking of the name of God in vain, blasphemous abuse of God’s name to do injustice?

    I again call on you to read here on some key roots of modern democracy that you seem to have overlooked.

    Yes, Christendom has had its sins, but in the hands of the prophets and reformers who challenged such was the premise that we are equally created in the image of God and are due respect for our rights.

    Historically, that is what led to reforms and to liberation and transformation. But instead of acknowledign this, we see repeated reorts to well poisoning.

    And all the meanwhile, we find nowhere the faintest trace of a grounding of the OUGHT in an IS that can bear it, on atheistical premises.

    The might makes right of courtrooms under men who are tyrannical is just as dangerous as any other form of “the highest right is might.” The recent decisions in the UK regarding the Johns and the Bulls are capital recent examples in point.

    FYI, there are unjust judges.

    So, kindly find a better base than that.

    GEM of TKI

  73. “witness countless wars waged on religious pretexts”

    They are not countless. The Encyclopaedia of Wars documents 1,763 wars. 7% were religious and only about 3% were non-Islamic religious wars.

  74. I think we’ve ended up at cross-purposes again, kf, and I’ve got to go, so I can’t put it right. My comment was a response to Meleager and I was using his example. I wasn’t even thinking of the passage you mention.

  75. Vivid

    Velokofsky seems to agree that might does indeed make right and that the theist is in the same position as the atheist only the theist appeals to Gods might and the atheist appeals to the might of man.

    As I said before if you have to use logic to determine the one true god who is the good, what prevents an atheist if desirous to follow the same course? The good is the objective good, whatever path gets it done.

    The argument seems to be without god authority the ” good” cannot be enforced universally. However it seems the ” good ” can be logically arrived at, in which case Elizabeth’s argument that atheists can have a moral code is correct. You may argue the basis but equally you can argue your basis for picking your god. Kinda in a hurry hope that makes sense

  76. Dr Liddle

    Can you kindly give a fair summary of what has been pointed out here?

    And, can you kindly tell me how that summary worldview level argument constitutes a case of cherry picking? [And it may be helpful for you to explain your reading of Eph 5 if that is a case in point of "cherry Picking" in your estimation.]

    Meanwhile, can you kindly provide on the evolutionary materialistic or other atheistical frame an IS that grounds OUGHT beyond might makes right?

    GEM of TKI

  77. Philip

    The issue is amorality and nihilism, presented through an example. On evolutionary materialist grounds, might makes right, and in fact it is precisely people with defective consciences who are often attracted to such a view.

    And, unfortunately, it is possible to benumb one’s conscience.

    A society or civilisation that promotes worldviews that make amorality seem reasonable and “scientific” is buying trouble, bigtime.

    Which is what Plato warned us about ever so long ago now.

    GEM of TKI

  78. VS:

    The argument seems to be without god authority the ” good” cannot be enforced universally.

    Not at all.

    the issue is warrant, as in what is it that provides and IS that grounds OUGHT. Without that, we are back at might makes right.

    Which should warn any sensible person who knows the history of the past 100 years.

    GEM of TKI

  79. So, earlier I asked:

    What if I disagree that we should live our lives by the golden rule? What if, rather, I think that morality should refer only to what is in my best interest? What if I disagree that I should treat others like I want to be treated (especially since I’ve never seen any evidence that treating others one way will result in reciprocal treatment)? What will then arbit our disagreement?

    To which you answered:

    Human justice systems.

    However, now you are (apparently) saying that human justice systems are not the arbiter of “what is moral”, because at least in some cases, “what is moral” is self-evidently true and not subject to arbiting by any authority, consensus, or even by a supposed edict by god.

    We apparently agree that cruelty is self-evidently immoral, which means we ought to not be cruel, which tells us – in part – how we ought to behave in various circumstances. It is incumbent upon us to understand the logical consequences of this position.

    What does it mean when we say that certain behavior is wrong? Let’s look at an analogy; if we want to bake a cake, we there is a certain range of behaviors we can enact to successfully bake a cake. “Baking a cake” is our goal, and there are behaviors that lead to the completion or fulfillment of our purpose, and other behaviors that do not contribute to it, and still others that detract from our potential in fulfilling or acquiring our purpose.

    Is any behavior “wrong” without a goal or purpose? IOW, if I have no objective, is throwing nails, sand, and oil into a mixing bowl and blending them together wrong? How can it be wrong, when there is no goal or purpose to our actions? Behavior is only “right” or “wrong” in relationship to a purpose; “oughts” can only exist if there is a purpose, otherwise we can do whatever we want because our actions cannot be judged in relation to serving any purpose.

    However, we know that some behavior is wrong, regardless of who disagrees or what appeal to authority decrees; so we know there must be an objective purpose our behaviors can either help fulfill, or be irrelevant towards, or work against – otherwise, claiming that a behavior is objectively wrong (self-evidently wrong) is a nonsensical assertion; behavior can only be right or wrong, moral or immoral, in service for or against an objective purpose.

    Without an objective purpose, there is no objective, Aristotlean “good”, no objective right or wrong; there is no way to say that something is self-evidently wrong regardless of consensus or authority saying otherwise.

    That self-evidently, incontrovertibly true moral statements exist requires that there be an objective purpose to human existence.

    Now: can purposes (goals) exist without a sentient entity forward modeling that purpose in its mind?

  80. I have asked for a choice of thread vs timeline.

    Will take time to code.

    G

  81. “It’s not so much that [materialist] atheists are immoral, but that immoral people are often atheists.”

    I think that’s wrong. Atheists are UNDER-REPRESENTED in prison populations. As a “finger in the air” test, it’s probably a pretty good indication that immoral people usually aren’t atheists.

    Unless you consider that disbelief is immoral, in which case they are ALL immoral!

  82. Dr Liddle:

    In short, we are back at moral relativism and an underlying amorality:

    AFAICT is there is NO “objective” way of determining what we “ought” to do, we just figure it out, over the generations, in such a way that most people are cooperative and cheaters are discouraged. The golden rule comes up repeatedly, because it seems to work.

    This then comes back to refusing to recognise the source of the GR which happens to be religious, and grounded in our equality as being made int he image of God that gives us equal moral worth and grounds rights, i.e. having dismissed the religious tradition in the moral foundation of our culture you are forced to go back and borrow without acknowledgement from it.

    Worse, you then try to poison the well:

    Unfortunately lots of worse things also come up, frequently from sources claiming divine authority.

    Sorry, but a lot worse things also come up from unjust secularist judges and politicians and bureaucrats and media stars and pundits, before we get to the list of such dictators from the past 100 years, too.

    the issue is not whetehr we have moral struggles and chalelgnes and are prone to errors.

    the issue, again, is what is it that provides and IS that can ground OUGHT.

    Absent such we are back at might — including might at manipulation [which is then backed up by the hammer of the state for those whose consciences refuse to go along] — makes right.

    You have now effectively conceded that atheism has in it no IS that can ground OUGHT.

    So, it is morally absurd and bankrupt.

    We can safely lay it to one side as a serious worldview to guide a civilisation, for one thing we are properly convinced of is that we have rights and those ought to be respected.

    Now, let us consider the approach that the only credible ground for OUGHT is the good Creator God who has made us in his image and thus endows us with certain unalienable rights:

    When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions [Cf. Judges 11:27 and discussion in Locke], do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    I challenge you to identify the specifically theistic and even more specifically Judaeo-Christian themes in this foundational document for modern democracy, in light of the already linked.

    GEM of TKI

  83. Folks,

    It seems the key point has been conceded.

    Game over, case closed.

    GEM of TKI

  84. Pardon, Dr Liddle

    Your remarks in the light of recent public uproars, makes this very text highly relevant.

    The Christian faith, and Paul in particular, have long been slandered on this specific context.

    You have said something that encourages that reading on this context, and so it is entirely in order to correct the slanderous misreading.

    Submission and authority in the Christian Faith, whether in family, workplace or polity, NEVER excuses support for abuse or oppression.

    GEM of TKI

  85. Elizabeth said:

    No, of course it isn’t. As I’ve said, I think you can derive a reasonably objective morality …

    Reasonable to whom, and by what standard? “What does “reasonably objective” mean? I can write up any set of rules, title it “moral rules”, and then we have an objectively-existent set of moral rules; but then we could have a billion diverse sets of moral rules that are “reasonably objective” by the standard that they are “physically enumerated rules”.

    Perhaps you mean “reasonably objective” in the sense that “many people will agree to” the rules you have written down; if that is what you mean by “reasonably objective” then what you really mean is “consensus” or “majority”; yet you have already said that some moral rules are self-evidently true regardless of what any authority says, including a consensus-empowered human justice system.

    So, what do you mean by “reasonably objective”?

    …as being behaviour that does not set benefit-to-self above benefit to others,

    (1) And if the majority of the people do not agree with this principle?

    (2) And if they do, who then gets to define what the “benefit” paradigm is, which things are and are not benefits by that particular conceptualization of “benefit”, and what benefits are more important to other benefits? Majority rules?

    Hitler believed that exterminating the Jews would be a benefit to the greater whole of mankind, do you not agree? You do realize that Eugenics programs sterilized tens of thousands of “undesirables” based upon ideas of benefiting the greater good, right? Are those examples of “reasonably objective”, beneficial morality programs? If not, why not? Who is to say otherwise, and by what standard or principle? Once again: if not an objective good, what standard do we refer to that makes any difference in a logical argument about morals?

    and we set up human justice system to deal with “what if” people violate that morality.

    So I take it here you are saying that the only objective downside to being immoral (by the community standard) is if you get caught? There is no downside to being immoral, other than being caught and punished by the local community?

    Rational morality requires that we premise an objective good from which self-evidently true moral statements can be drawn. No other premise can lead to a rational morality that is not based, one way or another, on some form of might; or can it lead to any meaningful system of consequences for immoral behavior, if such consequences rely only on the ability of “might” to discover and penalize.

    And “might-makes-right” is a necessarily immoral principle.

  86. –Elizabeth: “But I’m still waiting for enlightenment as to how we are supposed to derive a system of ethics from religion in general, and Christianity in particular.”

    Please excuse me, but this question seems to reflect a certain confusion. You can “derive” a general system of ethics by reasoning and observing the natural moral law, which is what WJM has been trying to explain to you. In this sense, the moral law is discovered; it is not invented or created, or arrived at through consensus.

    Biblical ethics, which are consistent with the natural moral law, are, for the most part, not “derived.” On the contrary, they are already there in finished form. One simply agrees to follow them or not follow them. To be sure, one can develop an increasingly sophisticated understanding about them through study and Church teaching, but the moral standard itself is a given.

    —”How do you judge which commandments to take seriously and which to discard?”

    You don’t. It’s an all or nothing propostion.

    Let’s take a closer look at them: The Ten Commandments (Old Testament), The Sermon on the Mount (Including the Beatitudes), and the exhortation to Love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourself (New Testament). There is nothing to choose here. The latter command us to love and the former tells us how to love. If we follow that light, more will be given. It really isn’t very complicated.

    If you want to make the claim that some of God’s actions or some of His specific commands (not precepts) in the Old Testament do not resonate well with you, that is an entirely different matter. I am prepared to discuss that point if you like, but it is not the same point as the exposition of a universal moral law in the Old Testament or its more perfect expression in the New Testament.

  87. To look at it from the other perspective, hypothetically, if God doesn’t exist (which would be the atheist stance), it would mean his law was invented by people, and thus would amount to subjective human prejudices masquerading as objective. There would then, naturally, be thousands of different religions, all incorporating our common human moral commonalities but each reflecting the biases of the original creators – in other words, without exception, the moral edicts of all religions would be a combination of the archaic views of a particular time and culture (for instance, guidelines for slavery), rules which don’t seem to have an objective benefit for humanity (for instance, prohibitions against homosexuality), and the timeless values that seem universal (such as the Golden Rule).

    The thing is, as much as you want to make this about subjective morality, atheist ethics are grounded in something empirical (the affect of one’s actions on others) and *are*, thus, the most objective. Theistic morality is by definition subjective because they’re rules that are subject to change. For instance, the Old Testament says you can have as many wives as you want – King Solomon has 300. Now, obviously, you can’t. The secular moral explanation would be that polygamy was always wrong, and now we simply better understand that, just as we’ve come to better understand everything, over time. From a theistic perspective, either the Old Testament was not the literal, moral guide created by God, or morality itself changed.

  88. Most anyone who believes that there is a true God (myself included) must admit that he could have identified himself more plainly if he chose to. He coud personally end these debates about his existence and identity quite easily.

    It’s reasonable to assume that this would be a deliberate choice. If he’s all-knowing then he must have foreseen that there would be some confusion and uncertainty.

    It also follows that he is not likely to be proven or identified by objective logic, as if it’s a math problem with only one accurate conclusion. Why choose not to write his name across the sky and then leave a logical puzzle behind for us to solve?

    Elizabeth mentioned earlier that any identification of him is subjective. That’s the truth. We each choose to measure any moral standard by our own or to measure ourselves by it. And give conflicting moral standards, we must make those choices, even if we do so passively.

    So why leave us with seemingly confusing choices? For one thing, our choices under such circumstances reveal far more about us than if we were confronted with in-your-face evidence. Sort of like what a child does when he thinks no one is looking compared to when his parent is standing over him.

    Do we choose a religion that requires little or nothing from us? One that emphasizes self-righteous criticism of others? One that tells us we can get rich? Are we inclined to seek out reasons to believe that there is no God? We’d like to think that our choices are objectively the best, but despite any available evidence there is some subjectivity. They reflect our choices and preferences.

    We could reason that religions are hypocritical, commercial, and take sides in wars, and that’s all true. But do we take that as our cue to set it all aside, or do we look for the exception? Jesus said there was a wide road and a narrow one. He also said many who had nothing to do with him would claim to speak for him, and that weeds would grow where he sowed wheat. Clearly discernment would be needed to tell the difference.

    I don’t say any of this to be judgmental, because I’m really not. But the answers aren’t found beneath a bottomless pit of philosphical arguments. Just that we have to look for them if we want them. If we keep knocking we’ll get an answer. Sometimes they come looking for us.

  89. StephenB,

    The Ten Commandments (Old Testament), The Sermon on the Mount (Including the Beatitudes), and the exhortation to Love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourself (New Testament). There is nothing to choose here.

    Actually, the Law, including the commandments, was for the Jews. Not to say that it’s okay for everyone else to murder, but the sabbath in particular was a sign of their covenant with God. That’s also why Christians can eat pork.

    the exhortation to Love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourself (New Testament).

    Actually both were part of the Law. When asked which two commandments were the greatest, Jesus answered with those. That’s interesting because one was one of the ten commandments while the other wasn’t. This (and other) scriptures indicate that the commandments and law were not separate entities. So it follows that if we are under the commandments then we are also under every single other law.

  90. Would you briefly expand on this?
    the issue is warrant, as in what is it that provides and IS that grounds OUGHT.
    thanks

  91. Would you briefly expand on this?
    the issue is warrant, as in what is it that provides and IS that grounds OUGHT.
    thanks

  92. For my part, I would argue against the proposition that Christians, by virtue of being under the new law, are no longer obligated to keep the commandments. In fact, the moral standards for the New Testament are even more demanding than the standards for the Old Testament. Jesus Christ did not lower the bar; he raised the bar. [It is not just a matter of fleeing the acts of adultery and fornication, but also avoiding lustful thoughts; not just abstaining from murder, but also avoiding hate and cruelty of speech; not just refusing to steal, but also giving generously;--and so on].

    Granted, we are liberated from “legalism,” or the notion that we can achieve salvation simply by being moral, but we are not, it seems to me, excused from keeping the commandments, which contain the minimum requirements demanded by love. Indeed, we keep the law of love to the extent that we keep the commandments and conform our behavior to the Sermon on the Mount. Insofar as we break one of these commandments or exhortations, we are refusing to love in that context.

    Granted, this is not possible without God’s help, but that is the point is it not, to achieve perfection through God’s grace ["Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect?"] The idea is not to bypass the Ten commandments but to trascend them–to achieve such a high degree of love that breaking a commandment would be unthinkable.

  93. 93

    “the bible/quran/torah/book of mormon/…”

    All the books you mention refer to the same God of Abraham.

  94. 94

    “And the miracles argument seems to land us in dueling miracles.”

    Too bad no methodology exists whereas one could collect data and fit models to it to help determine these things.

  95. 95

    “How do you distinguish your God from, say, Allah?”

    Allah means God. There is no different Christian/Jewish God. It is the same Creator. Muslims differ from Christianity with respect to the role of Jesus. Muslims except the virgin birth, and place Christ as a prophet, but not divine. Islam teaches that the prophet Mohamed was visited by the angel Gabriel, not God. Different from Christianity, whereas Christ speaks directly to the Father. There are no dueling Messiah’s. Neither Mohamed, Moses, or Buddha for that matter make the claims that Jesus does. So by their own admission, they distinguish themselves.

  96. A society or civilisation that promotes worldviews that make amorality seem reasonable and “scientific” is buying trouble, bigtime.

    Any society that became amoral would quickly start to break apart, and as that happened people would look towards some form of morality again, out of fear, if for no other reason. The state of amorality would effectively annihilate itself; nature abhors a vacuum. The danger is not that people are going to start thinking that amorality or nihilism is reasonable: it is that they will believe in an “objective morality” that is dangerous and destructive.

  97. Philip:

    It is actually worse than that.

    The desperate resort to contain anarchy is well known: tyranny.

    Indeed, that is the core principle of fascism — in the teeth of the unprecedented existential challenge, some core community identity group turns to a political messiah, the great man who can rescue us from utter chaos, and who therefore has a right to be a nietzschean superman, above morality; or as Schaeffer pointed out, an oligarchy could emerge, or we could even see the shadowy tyranny of those who manipulate the public to get the magic 51% vote.

    And such a tyranny by the individual, the group and/or the shadowy manipulators in the hands of the amoral or nihilistic, is a road to a new dark age.

    Our civilisation is in mortal danger.

    GEM of TKI

  98. Mel:

    The truly self-evident will be true, will be necessarily true, and its denial will lead to patent absurdities.

    There are indeed self-evident moral truths, but the problem is that they are connected to the issues like: morality– oughtness — is real, so we live in a world where there is a foundational IS that grounds OUGHT.

    There is only one serious candidate for that job.

    But, so many are so desperate to avoid that implication, that they willingly embrace the absurd and deny that the absurd consequences and incoherences are just that, absurd and self-refuting. They deny and suppress the truth; soon, en-darkened in mind and benumbed in conscience, they demand approval of error and wrong.

    Resemblance to the current picture of our civilisation is no accident.

    Nor is resemblance to what Plato described in The Laws, Bk X, or Paul in Rom 1 and Eph 4:17 – 19, or Jesus in Matt 6:22 – 23:

    Matt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

    Our civilisation is in mortal danger and many do not understand the conflagration that threatens, even as they resort to incendiary words and rhetoric.

    We need to think again, and pull back now.

    Or, we will face a horror and conflagration that we do not begin to conceive of in our worst nightmares.

    Already, the fires have begun to spread.

    Mortal danger!

    Stop the madness!

    Fire!!!

    Douse it now, before it burns totally beyond control!

    GEM of TKI

  99. VS:

    Please read here, where the point is developed at 101 level.

    In the most desperately compressed summary, I am here highlighting a point popularised by Hume, that there is a gap between commonly accepted IS-statements and premises, and OUGHT-obligations. He artfully expressed a surprise to see the usual IS suddenly giving rise to an ought and challenged the grounding of ought.

    It turns out that here is a major gap between is and ought that needs to be bridged by any serious worldview that professes to guide individuals and communities.

    To do that, we have to have a foundational is in the worldview that can bear the weight of ought. (Note, I did not say, the religious institution, or the school or the state, I said in the worldview.)

    The worldview being pushed ever so hard in our day, evolutionary materialism, only permits matter, energy, space, time and things that draw on or depend on these materials and forces. It has no ability to bear the weight of ought. It is inherently amoral, and ends in the principle that Plato pointed out: the highest right is might. Which opens the gateway to factions, chaos and embracing tyranny to get enough stability to survive for now, i.e. as long as I am last in the line for the crocodile, it is enough. Maybe, something will happen . . .

    The Euthyphro dilemma, ironically [it is usually presented to try to undermine any foundation of morality], shows the way forward. The necessary being and architect of the cosmos, who is also a loving, inherently good, caring Creator God, is an IS that can ground ought, on the strength of his goodness.

    In that context, we are equally made in his image, as morally governed creatures, who thus have unalienable rights, that we are obligated to mutually respect. Life, liberty, reputation, etc. Governments are then instituted under that context, by consent of the community, to defend the civil peace of justice from those who would war against such rights, by robbery, fraud, invasion, etc. Governments that fail in this duty should be reformed or replaced. Hopefully by the peaceful means established in recent centuries, the ballot box.

    But therein lieth the rub.

    If a people can be systematically deceived and benumbed in conscience, they will vote in tyranny, usually in the form of charismatic, glib-tongued political messiahs who promise rescue from danger.

    Hence the need for guaranteed protection of independent individuals and institutions that fearlessly stand for the truth and the right. And, the need to come down hard on those who would persecute, censor or slander such.

    A difficult task, and by no means necessarily a sustainable one.

    THAT IS WHY THERE IS EVER A NEED FOR COURAGE AND FOR REFORMERS.

    Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and we have been asleep at the wheel.

    GEM of TKI

  100. Dr Liddle:

    Divine moral law has been appealed to to justify all kinds of atrocities . . . . I’m still waiting for enlightenment as to how we are supposed to derive a system of ethics from religion in general, and Christianity in particular. How do you judge which commandments to take seriously and which to discard?

    Why do you persist in a category confusion like that, not to mention an insistence on a barely veiled hostility?

    Religions as such — being human, cultural institutions — no more than courts, governments or media houses and personalities or even university academic staff [even the ones dressed in the holy lab coat] — do not and cannot ground moral law, the truly binding OUGHT.

    At best, they may teach it [or as the case of the troubles in Ireland vs Col 3:5 - 14 as pointed out shows, may also fail tot each it], but the premises of such law, the ISes that can ground OUGHT come under an entirely different head.

    Even, our consciences are not enough, they — if properly trained and not benumbed — testify to that law implanted within. Which is a clue, this is a core part of our being.

    As you have been forced at length to concede, evolutionary materialism and the like, have no basis in an IS that can ground OUGHT. So, such a worldview is morally bankrupt and absurd. It has no answer to the testimony of conscience within than to dismiss it as a delusion or manipulate it as a handy emotion to use to rhetorical advantage.

    Such a bankrupt worldview cannot stand in a world where ought is patently real.

    (Oh, how ironic then is the old — now plainly failed — appeal to the reality of evil to try to make the existence of God seem absurd. For, in it lurks the problem of good vs evil. If evil is real, so is good, and if good is real, then so is The Good. this of course is desperately compressed and can be elaborated.)

    Let’s cut to the chase scene.

    The only serious candidate for an IS capable of grounding OUGHT is the necessary being and architect of the cosmos, who is also a loving, just, inherently good, Creator, Lord and God.

    Once such a being is on the table, it is immediately apparent that the old Euthyphro dilemma type argument [unsurprisingly -- it was properly directed at the old pagan gods who were precisely not as just described] misses the mark, as God is not separate form good, nor is good simply another world for his arbitrary decree. Good is at he core of his character and so the creation of which he is the architect builds in that moral character, in particular in creatures who are ensouled and enconscienced, made equally in his image. So, we have rights, a proper expectation that our dignity as being so made should be respected, starting with life, liberty, and reputation, etc. Governments — executive, judicial and legislative — in particular exist to protect those rights by guarding he civil peace of justice, and are subject to reform or replacement if they fail.

    In that context, the core moral principles are respect for the good God and Lord of our nation and the world we live in, and respect for our fellow creatures made in his image, i.e love to God and love to neighbour as to self. Then we can jointly look to the stewardship of our common land, and world, etc.

    None of this should be strange to us. Just, an astonishing hostility and pile of fallaciously dismissive rhetoric have been erected to hide it from view.

    As to the idea that the first point of departure is that divine moral law can be appealed to to warrant abuse and atrocity, this misses several key issues, coming out the starting gate:

    1: We are finite, fallible, morally fallen/struggling and too often ill-willed, so we must be open to correction and reform.

    2: That takes care of most cases, i.e. abuse and fraud are not a reason to dismiss right use.

    3: it also points to the failure of institutions charged to teach and carry out the right, i.e. it implicitly embeds the same error of institutional relativism corrected in this post above.

    4: As was pointed out yesterday, the case of abuse that was flung out with quite incendiary words, husbands abusing wives, Eph 5 to use a specific case, makes it quite plain from context that authority never justifies abuse but instead calls for self-sacrifice to the point of laying down life, literally if necessary. Which is sensible and a case of a carefully balanced and reasonable teaching that can be wrenched out of context by the unstable and unlearned.

    5: the same obviously extends to the courtroom or the government, as we can say see from the example of the apostles in dealing with the Sanhedrin in Ac 4 – 5: should we obey you, or God?

    7: That is, human authority is under the higher law of our nature as made by the perfectly good and just. (Hence the rights to freedom of conscience, religion, prophetic correction, expression assembly, association etc.)

    8: However, there are such things as evildoers, and so there are those who bear the solemn duty of the sword, to protect the civil peace of justice, from enemies foreign and domestic. Including he power of lower magistrates to act jointly with or for the people and interpose themselves in defence of the innocent, as say we may see in Daniel 1 – 4.

    9: And that includes cases where some polities have made themselves plagues upon the earth. We may decry what say a Bomber Harris did, after the fact, but we must then answer, what is the reasonable and feasible means of containing a Nazi Germany and breaking its power? Or, what about an Imperial Germany? [It was failure to sufficiently break the latter that led to the rise of the former.]

    10: In that context, I think we must realise that the private individual slapped on his cheek does not hold the same moral state as the policeman who bears the revolver and truncheon in defence of the community, or the soldier with the M-16 or AK 47, or the statesman who must decide whether to loose the power of armies, knowing full well the horrors that may obtain, as there may be worse horrors that are predictable if he does not.

    11: So, while we do try to restrict wars and the like, we have to recognise that there are different circumstances, and that God as ultimate authority, is in a very different position than we are. Every death, every soul brought before him to account, is under his responsibility as ultimate Lord and Judge. And, we are in no position to push God into the dock and sit in judgement on him. But we are in every position to know and recognise that goodness is central to being God, so we can understand at least the rudimentary principles of what happens when God must judge nations, by consequences, by prophetic correction, by relevant degrees of destruction if they defy correction and become plagues upon the earth.

    12: So, let us listen to Dembski’s remarks on Boethius:

    In his Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius states the following paradox: “If God exists, whence evil? But whence good, if God does not exist?” Boethius contrasts the problem that evil poses for theism with the problem that good poses for atheism. The problem of good does not receive nearly as much attention as the problem evil, but it is the more basic problem. That’s because evil always presupposes a good that has been subverted. All our words for evil make this plain: the New Testament word for sin (Greek hamartia) presupposes a target that’s been missed; deviation presupposes a way (Latin via) from which we’ve departed; injustice presupposes justice; etc. So let’s ask, who’s got the worse problem, the theist or the atheist? Start with the theist. God is the source of all being and purpose. Given God’s existence, what sense does it make to deny God’s goodness? None . . . . The problem of evil still confronts theists, though not as a logical or philosophical problem, but instead as a psychological and existential one [as was addressed above] . . . .

    The problem of good as it faces the atheist is this: nature, which is nuts-and-bolts reality for the atheist, has no values and thus can offer no grounding for good and evil. As nineteenth century freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll used to say, “In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments. There are consequences.” More recently, Richard Dawkins made the same point: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” ["Prepared Remarks for the Dembski-Hitchens Debate," Uncommon Descent Blog, Nov 22, 2010]

    GEM of TKI

  101. Please cf here above and onward as linked on the IS-OUGHT issue.

  102. 102

    Agreed, the laws are a reflection of God’s principles. So, for example, even though there is no longer a commandment to build a fence around our roof, we understand the principle that we must take precautions to protect life.

    Other laws were specific for those people in that time. For example, not eating pork, wearing a garment with a blue fringe, and the sabbath had purposes which are no longer relevant. (We can’t always say for a certainty what the purpose even was.)

    Sort of like telling your child never, ever to cross the street without holding your hand. At some point there’s an understanding that it’s no longer necessary. Its purpose is served. In this case it’s not an understanding – it’s explicit.

  103. And such a tyranny by the individual, the group and/or the shadowy manipulators in the hands of the amoral or nihilistic, is a road to a new dark age.

    The last thing the tyrant wants is anarchy or nihilism. Tyrants are not amoral or nihilistic, rather they want people to believe that their power is justified by what is right. If people believe that, it secures power while minimizing the need for expensive and potentially treacherous armed forces.

    The potential tyrant may have certainty about what is right because he believes in himself; he comes to believe that everything he thinks is right must objectively be right.

    That is the reason we need to limit access to power, even for those who may appear to be on the side of the angels.

  104. And you still haven’t explained why it’s the Bible that gives the “finished form” of the moral law, rather than some other religious scripture. They could make exactly the same claim on exactly the same evidence.

    In fact, Islam could take the claim further: as a later religion, and the last of the Abrahamic religions, it could claim that it’s scripture provides the final form of divine revelation.

  105. Dr Liddle

    The issue is precisely that the good God is the foundation of morality, but this is also simultaneously non-arbitrary, i.e there is such a thing as moral coherence. In the end the immoral or the amoral will be incompatible with clear moral principle. As in, it will be clear that once we have a community of morally governed creatures made in the same equality of the imago dei, then one cannot consistently act outside the premise of mutual benevolence.

    For instance [And I here respond in part to an SB case], if one’s neighbour does want to be loved adulterously [and one may be more than willing to go along], that leads to a violation of the spouse and the wider community [even if the spouse is willing to go along that is not enough . . . ], so that if such adultery became the norm, the influence of such ever-spreading adultery would lead the community to break down. Of course, to those caught up in the heat of the moment such a cool logical case may not be apparent, and some even at their best may not be able to follow the chain of hypothesis and inference that would lead to the conclusion. So, we immediately see the reason for teaching the community moral rules that specify and give key controlling examples of moral principle. Commands by a trustworthy and good God, should not be taken lightly.

    Indeed, let us observe here Deut:

    Dt 10: 12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

    I am afraid Euthyphro’s dilemma is thus misdirected when targetted at the God of the Judaeo-Christian Faith traditions.

    the issue, as has been pointed out over and over again, is that when one has an inherently good God as Creator and Lord, then one can see the objective goodness of moral principle, that principle is embedded in the foundations of reality, and it is non-arbitrary.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I am struggling with this new format which is apt to cause gaps in spotting exchanges. I have requested that we have timeline as an alternative view.

  106. Dr Liddle,

    I have responded on Euthyphro, here. (I struggle with the new format.)

    GEM of TKI

  107. kf:

    This then comes back to refusing to recognise the source of the GR which happens to be religious, and grounded in our equality as being made int he image of God that gives us equal moral worth and grounds rights, i.e. having dismissed the religious tradition in the moral foundation of our culture you are forced to go back and borrow without acknowledgement from it.

    No, the “source of the GR” does not “happen to be religious”. It has come up in countless cultures, probably because the idea that people are of equal worth makes sense. It certainly isn’t grounded in the idea that we are made in the image of God, because it is found in cultures in which that is not a core belief.

    And it certainly isn’t original to Christianity.

    It seems to me to be simply the most objective ethical rule people are capable of coming up with – in other words, it seems to be the rule that comes up ubiquitously, no matter what the belief system – it’s a product of our social and cognitive capacity, not a product of a set of beliefs, or otherwise, about our supernatural origins.

    In contrast, the bible is full of commands that most Christians don’t in fact keep. Why not? Because most Christians, in my experience, understand that actually we judge biblical precepts by whether they make good ethical sense, not the other way round.

  108. Thanks! I’m off on holiday shortly, but will try to respond when I return.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  109. The holy dish holds form loosely and is pliable. Thou knowest it is good.

    All that do not hold form loosely and are not pliable fail to follow the example of the holy dish.

    They are anathema.

    The holy dish commands us to re-elect Barack Obama for he has the consistency of the holy dish and perfectly follows its way.

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