Atheists Steal Rights From God

Atheists Steal Rights From God

Atheist Richard Dawkins has declared, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”

But Dawkins doesn’t act like he actually believes that. He recently affirmed a woman has the right to choose an abortion and asserted that it would be “immoral” to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. According to Dawkins, the “right to choose” is a good thing and giving birth to Down syndrome children is a bad thing.

Well, which is it? Is there really good and evil, or are we just moist robots dancing to the music of our DNA?

Atheists like Dawkins are often ardent supporters of rights to abortion, same-sex marriage, taxpayer-provided healthcare, welfare, contraceptives, and several other entitlements. But who says those are rights? By what objective standard are abortion, same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, taxpayer-provided healthcare, and the like, moral rights? There isn’t such a standard in the materialistic universe of atheism. So atheists must steal the grounds for objective moral rights from God while arguing that God doesn’t exist.

Now, I am not saying that you have to believe in God to be a good person or that atheists are immoral people. Some atheists live more moral lives than many Christians. I am also not saying that atheists don’t know morality. Everyone knows basic right and wrong whether they believe in God or not. In fact, that’s exactly what the Bible teaches (see Romans 2:14-15).

What I am saying is that atheists can’t justify morality. Atheists routinely confuse knowing what’s right with justifying what’s right.They say it’s right to love. I agree, but why is it right to love. Why are we obligated to do so? The issue isn’t how we know what’s Right, but why an authoritative standard of Rightness exists in the first place.

You may come to know about objective morality in many different ways: from parents, teachers, society, your conscience, etc. And you can know it while denying God exists. But that’s like saying you can know what a book says while denying there’s an author. Of course you can do that, but there would be no book to know unless there was an author! In other words, atheists can know objective morality while denying God exists, but there would be no objective morality unless God exists.

If material nature is all that exists, which is what most atheist’s claim, then there is no such thing as an immaterial moral law.  Therefore, atheists must smuggle a moral standard into their materialistic system to get it to work, whether it’s “human flourishing,” the Golden Rule, doing what’s “best” for the most, etc. Such standards don’t exist in a materialistic universe where creatures just “dance” to the music of their DNA.

Atheists are caught in a dilemma. If God doesn’t exist, then everything is a matter of human opinion and objective moral rights don’t exist, including all those that atheists support. If God does exist, then objective moral rights exist. But those rights clearly don’t include cutting up babies in the womb, same-sex marriage, and their other invented absolutes contrary to every major religion and natural law.

Now, an atheist might say, “In our country, we have a constitution that the majority approved. We have no need to appeal to God.” True, you don’t have to appeal to God to write laws, but you do have to appeal to God if you want to ground them in anything other than human opinion. Otherwise, your “rights” are mere preferences that can be voted out of existence at the ballot box or at the whim of an activist judge or dictator. That’s why our Declaration of Independence grounds our rights in the Creator. It recognizes the fact that even if someone changes the constitution you still have certain rights because they come from God, not man-made law.

However, my point isn’t about how we should put objective God-given rights into human law. My point is, without God there are no objective human rights. There is no right to abortion or same-sex marriage. Of course, without God there is no right to life or natural marriage either!

In other words, no matter what side of the political aisle you’re on — no matter how passionate you believe in certain causes or rights — without God they aren’t really rights at all. Human rights amount to no more than your subjective preferences. So atheists can believe in and fight for rights to abortion, same-sex marriage, and taxpayer-provided entitlements, but they can’t justify them as truly being rights.

In fact, to be a consistent atheist — and this is going to sound outrageous, but it’s true — you can’t believe that anyone has ever actually changed the world for the better. Objectively good political or moral reform is impossibleif atheism is true. Which means you have to believe that everything Wilberforce, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King did to abolish slavery and racism wasn’t really good; it was just different. It means you have to believe that rescuing Jews from the ovens was not objectively better than murdering them. It means you have to believe that gay marriage is no better than gay bashing. (Since we’re all just “dancing to our DNA,” the gay basher was just born with the anti-gay gene. You can’t blame him!) It means you have to believe that loving people is no better than raping them.

You may be thinking, “That’s outrageous! Racism, murder, assault, and rape are objectively wrong, and people do have a right not to be harmed!” I agree. But that’s true only if God exists. In an atheistic universe there is nothing objectively wrong with anything at any time. There are no limits. Anything goes. Which means to be a consistent atheist you have to believe in the outrageous.

If you are mad at me for these comments, then you agree with me in a very important sense. If you don’t like the behaviors and ideas I am advocating here, you are admitting that all behaviors and ideas are not equal — that some are closer to the real objective moral truth than others. But what is the source of that objective truth? It can’t be changeable, fallible human beings like you or me. It can only be God whose unchangeable nature is the ground of all moral value. That’s why atheists are unwittingly stealing from God whenever they claim a right to anything.

But how do we know that’s the Christian God?  Doesn’t he do evil in the Old Testament? And what about the “separation of church and state”? Those are some of the many questions I address in my new book, Stealing from God: Why atheists need God to make their case, from which this column was adapted.

290 replies
  1. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    “But Dawkins doesn’t act like he actually believes that. ”

    He said the universe doesn’t care about us, he said DNA doesn’t care. He didn’t say that WE don’t care, he didn’t say that WE shouldn’t care.

    So there’s no conflict in what you quote him saying and how he acts, and what he believes.

    “In fact, to be a consistent atheist — and this is going to sound outrageous, but it’s true — you can’t believe that anyone has ever actually changed the world for the better.”

    Not true at all – you only have to believe that suffering is a bad thing and best kept to a minimum. And seeing as suffering is real whether or not God exists, you don’t need to believe in God to believe in the former. Unless you believe suffering is only bad if a God exists – in which case I would say you don’t actually think that suffering is bad at all.

    Reply
  2. Frank Turek says:

    To Dawkin’s credit, he believes we should be anti-Darwinian in our behavior. The problem is according to his materialistic worldview where we all just “dance” to our DNA, there is no “should” or should not. He is smuggling in a moral law that his worldview doesn’t afford him. We, as mere moist robots, do what we do because to the laws of physics.

    Reply
  3. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    “If God does exist, then objective moral rights exist.”

    You just assert this, without justification. How do you get from the ‘Is’ of God existing to and ‘Ought’ of objective moral values (OMVs), without yourself smuggling in other rules like ‘Creating something = getting to decide what is right for them’ or property laws, which themselves require justification BEFORE one grants that OMVs naturally flow from the existence of a God?

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      You are correct Andy that ultimately you get an ought from an is. But that “is” is God’s nature which is the ultimate Good. You can’t get behind or underneath that anymore than you can get behind or underneath the laws of logic. In fact, the immaterial laws of logic, morality, mathematics, etc., find their foundation in God’s nature. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean the God of Christianity. We need more evidence to establish that. However, it does mean that if you are going to admit (which I hope you do) that anything is objectively right or wrong– like loving babies is right and torturing babies for fun is wrong– then you need the objective foundation of God’s nature (as opposed to the subjective, shifting opinions of changeable human beings).

      If you object, as you appear to be doing, by saying that “God has no right to tell me what to do,” you are appealing to a moral standard. But what standard is that? Atheism affords no moral standard. Everyone is just “dancing” to the music of his DNA. So to bring up any moral objection, you are stealing a moral standard from God to argue against Him.

      Do you deny that human beings have objective moral rights, regardless of what anyone thinks?

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “But that “is” is God’s nature which is the ultimate Good. You can’t get behind or underneath that anymore than you can get behind or underneath the laws of logic”

        You’ve not explained it, Frank – you’ve just presented it as a brute fact. Saying it just is is no different to saying it just is in a Godless universe. You’re the one making claims about God’s moral authority. I’m asking your justification.

        Why does God’s nature ‘ground’ moral truths? If God liked baby torture, that would make it moral by your logic. What would that actually mean?

        Reply
        • Frank Turek says:

          Andy, you can’t explain first principles– that’s why they are called first principles. Since God’s nature is the ultimate ground of Good, He grounds moral truths not arbitrarily but essentially.

          Do you deny that human beings have objective moral rights, regardless of what anyone thinks?

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      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “Since God’s nature is the ultimate ground of Good”

        Again, you’re just offering this as a brute fact, Frank. What makes God’s nature the ultimate ground of Good?

        “you can’t explain first principles– that’s why they are called first principles”

        Then why demand that atheists explain them? Why claim that a God is necessary to explain them? If you’re granting yourself the first principle that God’s nature grounds Good then you should allow atheists to claim ‘first principles’ with regard to morality too. You seem to be saying that the laws of logic need God’s nature to explain them. If anything comes under the banner of ‘first principles’ I’d say the law of non contradiction qualifies. As soon as you’re saying God is required you’re denying that. You’re also suggesting a scenario where a different nature could have led to different laws, which strikes me as absurd – the LNC must sure exist even in a Godless universe.

        “Do you deny that human beings have objective moral rights”

        I’m not denying anything, I’m asking you to justify your claims.

        You’ve claimed that atheists act as if a God exists, and I’ve not seen you justify that. You’ve not demonstrated that objective moral values exist.
        You’ve not shown that objective moral values can only exist if a God exists.
        You’ve not shown that objective moral values necessarily follow from the existence of a God.
        You’ve not explained why an atheist should act differently in the absence of objective moral values.

        Reply
        • David McCarthy says:

          Andy: You ask what makes God the ground of all Good.
          If God exists his nature by definition can be nothing other than Absolute Perfection.
          Without the consciousness of Absolute Perfection, we could have no awareness of relative imperfections, and of course, the comparison of relative degrees of imperfection is the basis of all moral standards.
          We can, and do, argue endlessly about what is “right,” but we must first implicitly agree on what right “is” otherwise we would be completely unable to agree or disagree about anything at all.

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “If God exists his nature by definition can be nothing other than Absolute Perfection.”

            You’re just trying to defined your way out of it. Not good enough.

            “but we must first implicitly agree on what right “is” ”

            Sure, but just declaring a God to be ‘right’ by definition isn’t good enough. As a thought experiment, what would it mean to say a God was ‘right’ if the God declared that baby torture was moral. What would ‘moral’ mean in this context?

          • David McCarthy says:

            Absolute Perfection “not good enough” for you ‘ey Andy? Ha ha..
            However, unless you can explain your consciousness of Absolute Perfection, (which is the transcendent basis of all moral value),apart from the concept we describe with the monosyllable “God” your attempts to evade the basis of your own moral consciousness have no absolutely no value whatsoever.

          • scousemacca says:

            Andy.

            I asked you to explain your own moral consciousness without an absolute point of reference, You were unable to do so for the following reasons:

            Changes can be identified only due to an unchanging reference point.
            Deviations cannot be identified without an original state of normalcy from which to have deviated,
            Mutations cannot be identified without an original model from which to have mutated.
            Lies cannot be identified without knowledge of an original Truth to misrepresent.
            Exceptions cannot be recognized without prior knowledge of an original Rule,
            Imperfections are deviations from, and exceptions to an original Rule of Perfection.

            Consequently according to the chronological order of logical contrast which forms the basis of any, and all other relative comparisons, relative Imperfections, cannot be identified without the prior awareness of an original state of Absolute Perfection,

            Anselm of Canterbury succinctly described God as “That which nothing greater can be imagined to exist.” In other words, if you can imagine something greater, you are not thinking about God
            Since nothing greater than Absolute Perfection can be imagined, If God exists, Absolute Perfection would be the basis of His nature

            In which case, the fact that we do have a sense of morality enabling us to identify and compare relative degrees of imperfection can be explained only by the unchanging original existence of the Absolute Perfect nature we identify as God.

        • scousemacca says:

          Changing moral values can be seen to change only in reference to an unchanging standard. Everything in the dimension of Time is subject to constant change. Therefore, the unchanging moral standard is timeless and eternal.

          According to the Law of (Non) Contradiction, the preceding statement is either true or it is not. In order to deny the transcendent nature of an objective moral standard, this statement must be demonstrated to be false.

          Reply
        • Terry L says:

          Doesn’t it seem that morality requires personality? Only persons who can think and reason can care about how things “ought” to be. Rocks don’t care whether they’re used to build a dam, or to stone someone to death. It takes a mind to appreciate morality.

          In an atheistic universe, there is no ultimate mind that can ground the existence of moral concepts that never change. Humanity can’t do it… our minds change all the time, and even if they didn’t, which man would we follow?

          Atheists claim that this is the actual state of our universe, but then ask questions like “why should I act differently in the absence of objective moral values”. If God does not exist, then there IS no “should”, and the question itself is meaningless. That’s why Frank said to you, “If you object, as you appear to be doing, by saying that ‘God has no right to tell me what to do,’ you are appealing to a moral standard.” You’re saying that you have the “right” to do as you please, although the atheistic worldview cannot account for the existence of such a right.

          My wife and I frequently disagree about colors; I’ll say something is green, but she insists that it’s actually blue. She’s probably more correct than I, but the one thing that neither of us deny is that the object has a color. If you say that you have any rights at all, that there are things that people should and/or should not do (i.e. people “should” support gay marriage), then you are espousing a moral standard.

          I have yet to meet any atheist who can truly live according to that belief. I know of some who deny the existence of an absolute moral standard, but they frequently say that some belief, action or attitude is “wrong”. One of their statements is necessarily false.

          >> As soon as you’re saying God is required [to ground the Law of Non-Contradiction] you’re denying that.

          Not necessarily… the claim is not that God created these laws, but that God grounds these laws. As God has always existed, and the laws of logic (as well as the laws of morality) are grounded in and by his nature, they are co-eternal with him.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            Terry said:“Atheists claim that this is the actual state of our universe, but then ask questions like “why should I act differently in the absence of objective moral values?”

            Can you quote someone saying this with some context? I’m just not really sure what this means, and I’ve never hears or seen anyone say it. Seems interesting.

            Terry said:“I know of some who deny the existence of an absolute moral standard, but they frequently say that some belief, action or attitude is “wrong”. One of their statements is necessarily false.”

            It’s only necessarily false if they then say some belief is ‘objectively’ wrong, or deny the existence of any moral standard (including the many subjective ones I think you agree exist).

            Thanks,

            Luke

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “I have yet to meet any atheist who can truly live according to that belief.”

            I’ve yet to meet a Christian who truly lives by biblical morality, or even actually BELIEVES in biblical morality. Look at all the dancing around to explain away slavery, rather than just saying “Yes, I think slavery is fine”.

            “Not necessarily… the claim is not that God created these laws, but that God grounds these laws. ”

            So the laws can exist independently of him. I have no idea what you mean by ‘grounding’. What would it mean for the law of non-contradiction to exist but not be ‘grounded’? Why is a mind or personality required for it to exist?

            “our minds change all the time”
            God changes his mind in the bible. Man sometimes argues with him and he changes his mind. So that argument doesn’t work. If a God DID change his mind about baby torture being bad, would it suddenly stop being bad? And even if God never changed his mind, why does that make it better? Would a God who never changed his mind that torturing babies is good be better than a person who does?

            “Atheists claim that this is the actual state of our universe, but then ask questions like “why should I act differently in the absence of objective moral values”. If God does not exist, then there IS no “should”, and the question itself is meaningless. ”

            Not so fast – I was responding to YOU talking about ‘shoulds’ in an atheist universe! You’re saying ‘If there is no God then you SHOULD be acting differently’. Then you say there would be no ‘should’ in that scenario. So it is you and Frank contradicting yourselves, not me.

          • toby says:

            “Doesn’t it seem that morality requires personality? Only persons who can think and reason can care about how things “ought” to be.

            No. Look at the animal kingdom. If they didn’t have some sort of natural morality, then why do they continue to exist? Why don’t bacteria kill all other bacteria and themselves and their hosts? If there wasn’t some sort of natural morality inborn in DNA then why wouldn’t all animals commit suicide or murder each other off into extinction?

          • Terry L says:

            Luke,

            I’ve heard quotes from Dawkins, Russell, et. al. regarding their belief that there is no such thing as an objective, absolute morality. Toby has stated on this site that he doesn’t believe in an objective, absolute morality. I don’t have the time now to chase the quotes or references down right now, but I can do so if you’d like. In essence, that’s what I was talking about.

            It’s only necessarily false if they then say some belief is ‘objectively’ wrong, or deny the existence of any moral standard (including the many subjective ones I think you agree exist).

            What basis do we have for the existence of such a subjective moral standard if there is no objective moral standard?

            Andy,

            You said, “I’ve yet to meet a Christian who truly lives by biblical morality…”

            I agree with you, and I include myself among the guilty! And that’s to be expected, if the bible is true. The fact that we cannot live up to that standard is the reason we need a savior.

            However, you made a logical leap that is not yet warranted. The moral argument does not address WHICH theistic God is the grounds of morality, only that such a God must exist. I would never argue that Christianity must be true because of the moral law; therefore, I find no power in the argument that the failure of Christians to act like Christ defeats the moral argument. It simply doesn’t follow.

            “our minds change all the time”
            God changes his mind in the bible. Man sometimes argues with him and he changes his mind. So that argument doesn’t work.

            I don’t think that’s the case. God sometimes changes his response to us because of a change we make, or in response to sincere prayer. That not terribly unlike me thinking, “If my daughter doesn’t apologize for slapping her sister, I’m going to discipline her with X. But, if she apologizes, I’ll do Y.” My reaction to her will be based on her actions, but it requires no change in me. God says that if his people… will seek him and turn from wickedness… then he will hear from Heaven and heal their land. He is willing to allow the status quo, or to intervene, depending on our actions.

            When the biblical writers recorded events like this, it was only natural that they should personify God by casting the scenario as if God were actually the one changing, but I’ve not yet seen a passage that cannot be explained by God being willing to take one of multiple actions, based on the actions of a human.

            Not so fast – I was responding to YOU talking about ‘shoulds’ in an atheist universe!

            I don’t think so… from what I recall, this is only my second post on this thread. The first post was submitted February 24, 2015 at 6:59 pm. Am I missing one?

            You’re saying ‘If there is no God then you SHOULD be acting differently’. Then you say there would be no ‘should’ in that scenario. So it is you and Frank contradicting yourselves, not me.

            No. I’m not saying what the atheist should do, I’m observing what they actually do. I’m saying if God does not exist, then the word “should” has no meaning in relation to moral behavior. Yet, no atheist lives as if this is true.

            You claim (rightfully) that Christian’s don’t live up to what they profess. Yet, in the case of the Christian, the moral law they profess is a restriction on their behavior. However, the lack of a moral law is the ultimate declaration of freedom. You are free to do whatever you’re big enough to get by with. Yet, many/most atheists that I know personally are some of the most moral persons I know, even when an “immoral” action (quoted to reflect their professed lack of belief in a moral standard) action would benefit them and there is little or no chance of them coming to harm because of it.

            I’ve long asserted that you can tell what a person truly believes by looking at their behavior.

            Toby,

            Your asserting that parasites don’t kill their hosts even if it means their own death? That hungry wolves wouldn’t kill the last herd of deer because that would mean their own starvation? I’m not certain where you’re going with that…

            In any case, you’re equivocating a moral “should” (you should do X because X is the right thing to do) with a practical “should” (you should do X because X will get you to your goal). You may try to claim that these are the same thing, but then you must answer the question, “what is the goal of mankind?”. Unless all of mankind has a common goal, then you’re right back to subjectivism. And it seems that the only way mankind can share a common goal is if that purpose was given to them by their creator.

  4. Greg says:

    As scary and unsettling as it might be to admit, human laws “are” grounded in human opinion. Our founding fathers, while quoting the bible and calling on god in their gatherings on the one hand, were of the opinion that black slaves were not deserving of the same rights as WASPs so they dehumanized them, often using the bible as their bases, and excluded them from the exercise of these rights they claimed to hold self evident. Then as time passed, enough people became repulsed by slavery so they formulated a supra-biblical ethic and campaigned to abolish it. Wilburforce had to use bible verses that encourage brotherhood and equality before god to argue against old testament verses that established and condoned slavery. And, to argue against Paul’s tacit approval of slavery found in the NT verses where he tells slaves to obey their masters and sends the slave Onesimus back to his master Philemon.

    We even find perfect evidence in the bible of the “evolution” of morality. The ancient Israelites observed an ethic of slaughtering men, women and children in battle as a sacrificial offering to Yahweh. This ethic was repeated and defended using the bible when early American settlers drove Native Americans off of their land and murdered them to the point of near extinction. The rationalization for these atrocities is that we had to slaughter and drive out these heathens so god’s manifest destiny for America could succeed. Sound familiar to the Canaanite genocides in the book of Joshua? And Frank, least you cry foul and demand that “is” doesn’t mean “ought” you should walk down the hall at AFA and have a talk with your friend Brian Fischer. Yes, the Brian Fischer of AFA’s Focal Point radio show who likens the genocide perpetrated against the American indians as god being fed up and “dumping the slop bucket” and starting over. In case it escapes you, this is called propaganda. You know, the rationalizations people come up with to justify their evil. I don’t find, at least in Jesus’ teachings about “this” age, any evidence that he would support such an atrocity. I hope “human opinion” has carried us beyond this type of hubris and brutality to the point that we would not repeat this sort of horror in the future.

    Reply
  5. Greg says:

    Yes Frank, it’s my opinion and I hope yours as well. I’m afraid “objectively wrong” is not an option we have available to us. At least I don’t see any consistent principle in the bible for making an objective decision about the right or wrongness of owning slaves. Isn’t the bible’s treatment of slavery a perfect example of the moral relativism that Christians are always accusing others of practicing? Do you need the bible or some supreme being to tell you that purchasing humans, treating them like cattle, beating and abusing them, splitting up their family units, raping them, emasculating them, working them to death, etc, etc, etc. is wrong? If I were going to utilize the “objective truth” of the bible (god’s perfect, objective, immutable (unchanging), inerrant, infallible, ethical, moral word) in an attempt to argue for the abolition of slavery would you have me appeal to Leviticus 25:44-46 “pass slaves down to children as property”, Exodus 21:2-6 “compel a male slave to remain a slave for life or forfeit his wife and kids”, Exodus 21:7-11 “sell a daughter as a sex slave”, Exodus 21:20-21 “beat a slave to death with impunity because he is your property” or Ephesians 6:5 “slaves obey your masters”. Did Wilburforce formulate his argument against slavery by referencing the verses in the bible where Jesus and/or Paul unequivocally condemned slavery? Oh that’s right he couldn’t have because they, like every single other NT character and writer, never did. A strange omission in my thinking?

    If you discovered that god did not exist (and therefore you no longer had the “objective truth” of his word upon which to rely) would you run out and rob a bank, buy a pound of cocaine, hire a hooker, divorce your wife, rape your house keeper, start beating your children, go on a shooting rampage and become an alcoholic? I’d be willing to bet you would pretty much keep living basically like you do now. If fear of the retribution of a vindictive deity is the only thing keeping you from doing these things you are, as I’ve said on your blogs before, reprobate already. Your just, out of fear of punishment, suppressing your current state of reprobation. What’s more noble in your opinion, me giving someone a glass of water because I know that giving them water will help them or giving them a glass of water because I’m afraid of the retribution of a deity?

    You claim that atheists are stealing from god to argue against god. It appears to me that you are stealing for god to argue for god. His word contains no objective, moral standard of truth regarding slavery but you seem to be claiming that it does.

    By what objective, unchanging standard do you deem slavery wrong Frank? Or do you? Or does it depend on the situation?

    Reply
    • Beck says:

      The issue you have with slavery rules in the bible can easily be put aside by comparing it to divorce and what Jesus said about that. It’s also imprtant to note that slavery for them in that culture and the slavery we think of and expirienced in America were very different.

      And concerning the founding fathers and slavery from what i read a larg minority didnt own slaves and the ones that did were against it and said things like “christianity and slavery are incompatible”. To me it seems they just had to accept a hard reality i cant know there minds but maybe they thought slaves being under there roof would be easier than on a typical southern plantation. Im not saying im an expert, I think you may find two or three that made claims like that but i didnt come across any.

      Reply
  6. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    “The issue you have with slavery rules in the bible can easily be put aside”

    No it can’t – it’s a huge issue, and one that needs to be properly discussed if you’re trying to offer the bible as a moral guide book.

    “the slavery we think of and expirienced in America were very different”

    Beck, either you support the owning of other human beings or you don’t – it’s not great if the best you can offer is that it’s not quite as bad as one of the most shameful periods in American history. Particularly given that American slavery was explicitly justified by reference to the bible. Abolitionism was denounced as an ‘atheist philosophy’.

    “from what i read a larg minority didnt own slaves… Im not saying im an expert”

    If you can’t quote figures then this isn’t very helpful. You can’t read everything you read online, the Britannica’s website says twice as many prominent founding fathers owned slaves as didn’t.

    Reply
    • Beck says:

      I find it odd you ignore my first point and concentrate on my side note, in other words God never said “slavery is cool with me”. If you have a problem with indentured servitude that’s your problem, it’s your opinion vs. Moses’ and Paul’s.

      I don’t have to quote figures that wasn’t my intention, if anything I was trying to be educated more on the subject. However, all you did was agree with me. Maybe you didn’t catch it so I’ ll type it again. “..a large MINORITY didn’t own slaves…” I don’t know about you but in my book a third is a sizable portion and a large MINORITY(as opposed to a small minority).

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “If you have a problem with indentured servitude”

        Who mentioned indentured servitude? I was talking about slavery, as condoned in the bible. Perhaps you confused my post with someone else’s.

        “God never said “slavery is cool with me”.”

        He didn’t use the word ‘cool’, but certainly the God of the Old Testament condoned slavery. Not indentured servitude, but slavery. Indentured servitude for Hebrew men sure, but slavery for everyone else.

        “I don’t know about you but in my book a third is a sizable portion and a large MINORITY(as opposed to a small minority).”

        Fair enough.

        Reply
        • Beck says:

          He “condoned” slavery as much as he “condoned” divorce in my view. Its important to note the non Hebrew slaves as you’re talking about can be thought of as going through just punishment from God. Although I know you disagree with the “genocide” perpetrated by the Jews when they conquered the promised land I think of it as the death penalty they deserved for their wickedness, some people didn’t deserve that so would become slaves instead.

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “Its important to note the non Hebrew slaves as you’re talking about can be thought of as going through just punishment from God”

            Then any cruelty can be excused as long as you convince yourself that the people being subjugated have fallen foul of God – including children, who according to biblical law could be your slave simply because their parents were your slave, making a mockery of the ‘indentured servitude’ claim.

            You realise that this is the same justification given for centuries of anti-semitism, or indeed any act of violence against someone of a different religion – they’ve defied God so all bets are off.

            You’ve illustrated perfectly my point.

          • Beck says:

            That’s not exactly what i said, and you admitted that in some cases the Bible was talking about indentured servitude.

            I didn’t catch the “point” you’re referring to so maybe you can reiterate it. However, you cant justify “centuries of anti-semitism, or indeed any act of violence against someone of a different religion ” as truly wrong its just your opinion. In my worldview if there is an infinite god that made all things and he said to kill all children that cry for over 30 minutes at a time or rape all women with double d’s who am I to say he doesn’t know what he is talking about or he is wrong.

  7. Greg says:

    Beck, you are thoroughly mis/ill-informed about the types and conditions of slavery described in the Old Testament. If you are getting your slavery apologetic from the likes of Paul Copan you should keep reading. In spite of what apologists like Copan would have you believe the slavery practiced against foreigners in ancient Israel was exactly like the slavery of America’s antibelum south.

    Also, the process by which a people group demonizes another people group is called propaganda. It’s people coming up with a rationalization for why they murder and enslave other humans.

    Reply
    • Beck says:

      Never heard of him.

      It matters little if I’m “mis/ill-informed” (although were gonna have to disagree about what slavery was like in Hebrew culture) as I stated God never really endorsed slavery, and even if He did its just your opinion slavery is wrong.

      Reply
  8. Greg says:

    Beck you say, “In my worldview if there is an infinite god that made all things and he said to kill all children that cry for over 30 minutes at a time or rape all women with double d’s who am I to say he doesn’t know what he is talking about or he is wrong.” That’s the problem with your world view Beck. At what point in evaluating the actions of this deity do you call BS? Or do you just switch off your intellect and blindly follow? Jim Jones would have loved having you in his flock.

    Reply
    • Beck says:

      Not “blindly follow” I believe I have good reasons to believe God is real and what is in the Bible is true and believable. The way I look at it is you dont find those reasons satisfying, but we all have to make those choices.

      Reply
  9. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    Beck: “In my worldview if there is an infinite god that made all things and he said to kill all children that cry for over 30 minutes at a time or rape all women with double d’s who am I to say he doesn’t know what he is talking about or he is wrong.”

    Wow.

    Frank, do you endorse this view?

    Normally I hear Christians say that if a God commanded such a thing of them they’d assume it was Satan in disguise. But Beck sounds like he’d enthusiastically start baby-killing and woman-raping with little second thought.

    Wow, again.

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Unfortunately Gentlemen, the discussion has devolved again quite a long way from the original point of the column. The column wasn’t about slavery, or whether the Bible is true, or whether the Bible is the standard for morality, or the so-called Euthyphro dilemma. Those have been discussed on previous posts. This post has to do with whether materialistic atheism can ground objective morality. I say, in principle, it cannot because moral laws are immaterial and come from personal agents, neither of which exist if atheism is true. Yet, many of you who at least seem to be atheists are appealing to an objective moral standard when you rightfully object to certain behaviors (slavery, murder, etc.). How can you be appealing to an immaterial standard when your own worldview says immaterial standards don’t exist? Please address that issue. Thanks for participating.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “This post has to do with whether materialistic atheism can ground objective morality.”

        Frank, you’ve not explained how introducing a God into the equation makes any difference. You’ve just said that’s it’s not explainable.

        Either objective moral values exist, or they don’t. You’ve not shown why a God existing makes it any more likely that OMV exist.

        What we can say for certain is that you cannot both object to slavery AND say the God of the bible grounds objective moral values.

        Reply
        • Frank Turek says:

          Andy, God, by definition, is the ground and source of ultimate Good which means he is the foundation of objective moral values. Now, you can deny that’s the God of the Bible, but you can’t be consistent and say atheism provides the grounding for objective moral values because morality doesn’t exist in an all material “dancing to our DNA” world. I’m certainly open to your suggestion otherwise. What is the grounding for immaterial objective moral values if nothing but materials exist?

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “Andy, God, by definition, is the ground and source of ultimate Good”

            By whose definition? Yours? God’s? You can’t just define yourself out of this. Why don’t I just give my own definition of what Good is?

            We both agree that materials exist. You’re saying that something else is required to exist to ground immaterial moral values. What is that thing and by what mechanism does it ground those values. Are you basically just appealing to magic?

          • Frank Turek says:

            Andy, there is no mechanism. God is a foundation, not a process. And the question isn’t one of epistemology (how you know what’s right or wrong) but ontology (why is something right or wrong). I’ve given up asking you about atheistic material foundation of an immaterial moral law. You obviously don’t want to answer. That’s fine. Blessings to you.

            BTW, are you the old UK Andrew Ryan who was on this site years ago, the one to whom I sent an autographed copy of Hitchens’ book? You owe me. That book is becoming a collector’s item! :-)

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “I’ve given up asking you about atheistic material foundation of an immaterial moral law”

            I’m agnostic about whether an immaterial moral law exists, Frank. I’m happy to be convinced either way. You claim one does, but haven’t demonstrated one. You claim it’s only possible though a God, but haven’t really explained why the existence of a God makes objective moral laws more likely.

            You claimed it was simply axiomatic, and so couldn’t be explained any further. If that’s the case the existence of moral laws should be possible without a God too, and could still be similarly axiomatic and inexplicable. I don’t see why they’re less possible in a material universe, unless you want to argue that the laws of logic wouldn’t be possible in a material universe.

            “And the question isn’t one of epistemology (how you know what’s right or wrong)”

            Yes, I understand that. I’m not questioning the epistemology. My point about slavery is that if you’re going to say that some atheists act inconsistently by wanting to reduce suffering in the world (though I fail to see an inconsistency there) then it seems clear the same charge can be made against Christians who don’t condone slavery, as their bible does.

            “are you the old UK Andrew Ryan who was on this site years ago”

            Yes, that’s me. I’ve still got both your book and Mr Hitchens. I was just thinking about you both as I was working on a magazine interview for work with a Mr Chris Hitchens. Thanks again for both books. I still can’t work out exactly what his inscription means!

          • toby says:

            Frank, could you address Andy’s question about who’s definition of god you’re going with? Is it a revealed in the bible or are you getting it from elsewhere? And why should we trust that this is true in either case?

            Is there any means by which you can imagine objective morals existing apart from a supernatural explanation? I don’t believe in objective moral values that come from a supernatural source. (I tend to think that anything occurring in this universe is by default natural). I don’t much believe in them at all really. I don’t they they have much practical use. I think social and cultural rules are all that’s necessary for our continued existence and I think history shows that morality shifts and evolves as circumstances and knowledge change. Someone’s spooky feeling that “this is right/wrong and it’s always right/wrong not matter what, IT HAS TO BE” shouldn’t be trusted as truth.

            Could not morality of some sort be inherent in the nature of life? Life lives. If life doesn’t live, then it ceases to be. So things that promote an environment that cause life to exist and even flourish might be called “moral”.

            Can you give us a syllogism that demonstrates that objective moral values exist? Or would it be just a rewording of the moral argument for god?

            Speaking of the moral argument . . . if god’s nature is good, then good is god. What makes my rewording of the moral argument incorrect?

            1. If good didn’t exist, then good wouldn’t exist.
            2. Good does exist.
            3. Therefore good exists.

            Stripped down like that you can see how the argument isn’t taken too seriously by atheists.

            Sorry to be wordy. We know you’re busy with other things . . . but could you look at my comment on Darwins Doubt?

          • scousemaccaDavid McCarthy says:

            I agree with Frank Turek.

            Changes can be seen on occur only in the context of that which is changeless. In which case, changing moral values can be identified only in reference to an unchanging moral standard.

            Everything in the dimension of Time is subject to change. Therefore, the unchanging moral standard is timeless and eternal.

            According to (Andy’s) Law of (Non) Contradiction, the preceding statement is either true or it is not.

            In order to deny the transcendent nature of an objective moral standard, this statement must be demonstrated to be false.

            Good luck!

    • Beck says:

      Now, thats not what I said. I asked a question “who am I to say…” with that questin you have to initially assume it truly is the infinite god of the universe. Who am i to say or who are you to say the infinite god of the univers is wrong?

      Reply
  10. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek,

    Let me ask a question or two if I may. (I’d like to ask about 12, but I hope if I limit it to two related questions, you might answer.)

    I’m assuming that we agree that people who consider themselves good strong Christians will disagree on certain moral issues. Though this may be hyperbole (though maybe not), it’s basically impossible to put two people — even two Christians, even two people from the same sect — in a room and find that they agree on every single minute moral question. (One stark example I like to use here is Pope Francis and Sarah Palin.)Please speak up if you disagree with this.

    Given this, do you agree that at some point ONE DOES NOT ACT ON G-D’S MORAL CODE, BUT ON ONE’S OWN INTERPRETATION OF WHAT THAT CODE IS?

    Whether you agree with that or not (and I’d love to hear your answer), do you agree that while G-d’s moral code may be objective, one’s interpretation of it is by definition NOT objective?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    (ps Can someone please furnish a more complete quote from Dawkins — maybe a couple of sentences after the whole ‘we dance to our DNA bit’. There are a couple of different ways to read what he’s saying.)

    Reply
  11. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    “Atheists like Dawkins are often ardent supporters of rights to abortion, same-sex marriage, taxpayer-provided healthcare, welfare, contraceptives, and several other entitlements.”

    To be fair, I’ve met quite a few people who OPPOSE all of those things and yet still claim to be Christians, and therefore presumably believe in morality, human rights etc.

    I’d recommend Matt Dillahunty’s lecture ‘The Superiority of Secular Morality’ which is easy to find on YouTube. As its name suggests he argues that Godless morality makes more sense than God-derived morality.

    Reply
  12. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek,

    You said: “Unfortunately Gentlemen, the discussion has devolved again quite a long way from the original point of the column… This post has to do with whether materialistic atheism can ground objective morality. I say, in principle, it cannot because moral laws are immaterial and come from personal agents, neither of which exist if atheism is true. Yet, many of you who at least seem to be atheists are appealing to an objective moral standard when you rightfully object to certain behaviors (slavery, murder, etc.). How can you be appealing to an immaterial standard when your own worldview says immaterial standards don’t exist? Please address that issue. Thanks for participating.

    I think you’re right, Dr. Turek. Let me try to get the discussion back on track.

    Below is a bit of an aside (on topic to your original post, less on topic to the above comment). If in a hurry please proceed to the “Anyway, FEEL FREE… below. Those are the questions I’d really like to see your answers too.

    You said: “This post has to do with whether materialistic atheism can ground objective morality.”

    You started the post with juxtaposing Dr. Dawkins’ words “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” (emphasis added) and his affirmation that it would be “‘immoral’ to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome.'”

    Your column flows from this juxtaposition, but I wonder if you’ve misinterpreted what Dr. Dawkins has said.

    Because there is no evil “at the bottom”, does Dr. Dawkins exclude the possibility of things being evil above that? You seem to believe so, but why?”

    You at times use objective morality and morality interchangeably. So for example, Jimmy, an atheist, might say “it’s wrong to torture babies”, but not say “it is objectively wrong to torture babies” and you reply as though he said the latter. You complain that people like Dr. Dawkins ‘smuggles’ in theistic ideas to make his claims, but aren’t you smuggling them into Jimmy’s claim yourself? Dr. Dawkins said it is “immoral” not “objectively” immoral. In other words, it seems that the thing you’re complaining about is not what Jimmy said, but what you added to his words. What am I missing?

    Anyway, FEEL FREE TO IGNORE THE ABOVE IF SHORT ON TIME, to get back specifically to answering your questions.

    Now, you say that: “This post has to do with whether materialistic atheism can ground objective morality. I say, in principle, it cannot because moral laws are immaterial and come from personal agents, neither of which exist if atheism is true.”

    I think you are right given the definition you set up. In other words, you defined yourself into being right. But are your definitions really the proper ones?

    In other words, when you put it that way, you’re right. But the question now is, have you put it the right way? (I can easily make Excel show that 2+2=5, but it’s because of the way I’ve defined things, not because it is.)

    1a. “Moral laws are immaterial” There are so many strains of materialism, it’s hard to even talk about this stuff anymore. No one can even agree what ‘matter’ is under materialism. So let me speak generally. The idea that Barry Sanders rushed for 2,053 yard in 2007, is one you would consider immaterial. (Right?) If so, is it your claim that atheists have no grounds to believe that Mr. Sanders rushed for 2,053 yards in 2007? If so, in what way is that true on materialism? What ‘grounds’ it?

    1b. Why could moral laws be material, but under a framework like conceptualism or predicate nominalism? (I’d wager if you had hours to talk to guys like Andy and Greg, you’d find a view that could be described under these umbrellas.)

    2. “Moral laws come from personal agents” You said above that “In fact… morality, mathematics, etc., find their foundation in God’s nature.” So do they come from G-d? Or from G-d’s nature? You seem to say they come from G-d’s nature (I recall you saying this many times.) Yet, here you say they come from a personal agent. An agent, as you know, is an entity (whether a person or a god, etc.) who can act in the world. So do you believe that G-d’s nature is an agent?

    I hope this is the beginning of the discussion you would like to have. If I have done a subpar job of responding to your call to not stray from the topic, please do me the favor of letting me know how I have done so, so I may be better in the future.

    Allow me to ask another question or two, that will help us understand where you are coming from, and the problems you see with morality in a materialistic worldview. I think these answers can go a long way to help me answer the questions and problems you post in this article.

    1. Andy asked an interesting and very on topic question, which you didn’t answer. I suspect you just missed it. In response to your statement: “you can’t explain first principles– that’s why they are called first principles” Andy asked: Then why demand that atheists explain them? Why claim that a God is necessary to explain them? If you’re granting yourself the first principle that God’s nature grounds Good then you should allow atheists to claim ‘first principles’ with regard to morality too. This seems a fair point and I’d like to see your answer. (So a first principle such as ‘unnecessary suffering is undesirable’ is what comes to mind for me; I can’t say what Andy had in mind.)

    2. I’m assuming that we agree that people who consider themselves good strong Christians will disagree on certain moral issues. Though this may be hyperbole (though maybe not), it’s basically impossible to put two people — even two Christians, even two people from the same sect — in a room and find that they agree on every single minute moral question. (One stark example I like to use here is Pope Francis and Sarah Palin.) Please speak up if you disagree with this.

    Given this, do you agree that at some point ONE DOES NOT ACT ON G-D’S MORAL CODE, BUT ON ONE’S OWN INTERPRETATION OF WHAT THAT CODE IS?

    3. Whether you agree with that or not (and I’d love to hear your answer), do you agree that while G-d’s moral code may be objective, one’s interpretation of it is by definition NOT objective?

    I hope this has been on-topic enough, and I look forward to learning. (I’ve really learned so much through following debates on this site and thinking through these issues myself. Let me again just say ‘thank you’ for the opportunity.)

    Luke

    Reply
  13. Luke says:

    Dr Turek,

    I know my posts are too long and hard to deal with. I’m trying to work on this. Below is a list of 5 questions, which are very much on topic (see above post for a fuller explanation of why), but which I’ve tried to condense down to a sentence or two, and only ask for simple yes/no or a/b questions. I hope that’s helpful. (Feel free to respond to either version.)

    1. In your view, can atheists/materialists believe that 2+2=4, always and everywhere, without “stealing from G-d”?

    2. Can atheists/materialists believe that certain things have something in common, for example Fluffy and Furball are cats, without “stealing from G-d”?

    3. Do moral laws come from G-d? Or from G-d’s nature?

    4. (A rewording of Andy’s unanswered question) You allow yourself the unexplainable first principle that “G-d’s nature is the ultimate good. Can an atheist claim something like “unnecessary suffering is a bad thing” as an unexplainable/self-evident first principle?

    5. While a full, perfect, objective moral code may exist, we do not have full, perfect access to it. Therefore when we act, do we not act on our subjective view of that code, rather than the code itself?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    (complements on my pithyness gladly accepted.)

    Reply
  14. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek,

    Let me add one more simple a/b question. Sorry.

    6. Do you believe that G-d enables morality, or that G-d necessitates morality? In other words, a. With G-d, there is always “objective” morality” or b.“With G-d, “objective” morality is possible?”

    Thanks,

    Luke

    ps You said, to Andy: “I’ve given up asking you about atheistic material foundation of an immaterial moral law. You obviously don’t want to answer.”

    Once you answer my questions (the easy yes/no, a/b ones will do), I think I’ll know enough that I am quite confident I can give you at least one (maybe 5), and promise to do so or fully admit my inability to do it.

    Reply
  15. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    Toby: “Frank, could you address Andy’s question about who’s definition of god you’re going with?”

    That wasn’t actually what I was asking. My point was that you can’t just define your way from the ‘is’ to an ‘ought’ by simply defining and ‘is’ as containing the ‘ought’. You can’t just say ‘By definition God is perfect’. It simply begs the question. By whose definition is he perfect?

    When we talk about a ‘perfect circle’ we mean fulfilling a set criteria – it’s perfect by THESE standards. A perfect score depends on pre-determined criteria too. To simply say ‘He’s perfectly moral’ kind of begs the question. It presupposes a perfect morality that God fits. Or it means that morality simply follows from whatever God’s nature is. Which doesn’t mean His morality is perfect, just that we’re basing our morality on His nature. That makes it a sort of standard, by why is it necessarily a ‘perfect’ standard, or one we should follow. It’s creating an ‘ought’ from the ‘is’ of his nature.

    So if the various attributes of His nature are only good because they happen to be his, doesn’t that make their goodness actually arbitrary? Different nature would mean a different set of morals. As a thought experiment, most of us would reject that an alternative God whose nature was swapped with Satan’s, involving torture and torment and destruction. Intuitively I think most people would say that a perfectly moral God would HAVE to have attributes like loving, kindness and forgiveness.

    Even William Lane Craig seems to believe this, as he has in the past said that Allah couldn’t be the real God as he lacks ‘great making properties’ such as kindness and forgiveness. Even Craig deep down believes that morality must be external to God – a perfectly moral God MUST have a set group of qualities, it’s not that those qualities are good because God has them. If they exist external to him – they are simply necessary – then we don’t need to appeal to a God to justify them or for them to exist.

    Reply
    • toby says:

      “Toby: “Frank, could you address Andy’s question about who’s definition of god you’re going with?”
      That wasn’t actually what I was asking. ”

      Sorry for misrepresenting. As I see it the definition is subjective, but they’ll claim it’s objective based on the revelation of the bible or the revelation of the holy spirit. But if we would bring that in, question it, demand evidence for it, question the validity, we’d be accused of getting too far off track. I roll my eyes whenever someone uses the phrase “by definition”. It’s like someone has looked at reality and made an unprovable being to have just the right characteristics to explain reality…then refined it over and over to jive with increases in knowledge of the universe. “By definition” is huge with Matt Slick. Watching him debate is exhausting. He’s sooooo full of himself. He knows he’s soooooooo right!

      Reply
      • craig says:

        Toby,

        you said earlier “I don’t they they have much practical use. I think social and cultural rules are all that’s necessary for our continued existence and I think history shows that morality shifts and evolves as circumstances and knowledge change.”

        Funny, thats what ISIS thinks too. So is ISIS wrong in their conduct?

        Reply
        • toby says:

          Ooo, wow. Amazing. I’m cornered. People and cultures do not shift and evolve at the same time all over the world. So you kind of made my point here. These people have different education, upbringing, and beliefs and genuinely think they are doing objectively moral things in pursuit of their insane theocracy. They think they’re right. We think they’re wrong. From my atheist viewpoint, yeah, they’re wrong because what they believe (supernatural woo woo that tells them that they should kill everyone who isn’t like them) is a steaming load with flies swarming it. They’re wrong by what you think as well. You think they’re following the wrong god. Are you more right than I am because of that? Does your supernatural woo trump them and me because their woo is wrong and I don’t have any?

          Reply
  16. Greg says:

    Dr. Turek, what am I “chopped liver”? I spend an hour trying to address your last question to me and I get nothing? I answered your question regarding a presumed source of an objective moral code to the best of my ability. I said I don’t think we have access to such a standard. However, I don’t think you or anyone on your blogs have ever ventured to answer my questions regarding slavery. And, I think a side discussion about slavery is a perfect way to test each of our propositions regarding the bible, materialism, objective morality, and good and evil. I don’t think it’s fair for you to ask that the group “get back on topic” when the very subtopic to which we have gravitated can serve as a perfect testing ground for the claim to which you are asking us to assent.

    So, I’ll try again, by what objective, unchanging standard do you deem slavery wrong? Or does it depend on the situation? And if your answer is the bible, how do you explain the fact that the bible established and codified slavery for the ancient Israelites? And I’m not talking about the indentured servitude that was practiced among the Israelites and their own, although this is fairly offensive itself. I’m talking about the chattel slavery that Yahweh said the Israelites could practice toward foreigners that is clearly depicted in the old testament. How can you possibly answer this question without special pleading in defense of Yahweh and the bible?

    And please don’t insult our intelligence by trying, as many apologists do, to conflate these two categories of slavery. They are very distinct categories.

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Hi Greg, I have offered to personally call you and discuss these issues (which, given my time constraints, is a lot more efficient than typing), but you declined. So your hostility is a bit mystifying to me.

      Reply
        • Beck says:

          Gonna have to agree with ole greg on this one. I think we would all like to know your comments on that, and would appreciate a whole article on the subject. Atleast when all hell breaks loose so to speak it can be “on topic”

          Reply
        • craig says:

          Greg,

          if by “slavery” you mean ” forced compulsory involuntary servitude” the Bible only has two contexts for it, just like today’s society

          1) prisoner of war
          2) indentured servitude or “debtors prison” so to speak–working off a debt that someone doesnt have money or collateral for

          Have you considered that you Greg (and I) are a slave against our will already? Unless you are one of the fortunate ones who doesnt hafta work for a living, then you are an economic slave to the banking system already (which also means you own absolutely nothing and are nothing more than an illusion-of-a-well-paid sharecropper) The 8 hours (or so) or each day dictate how the remaining 16 hours of your day will be spent. Your lifetime production has already been hypothecated to the bankers the moment you were issued the birth certificate and social security card. (Topic for another time that I would be more than glad to discuss with you)

          So it would probably be beneficial for you to define exactly, explicitly, and in totality…… what do you mean by “slavery”

          Back at the ranch, the Bible does not specifically condemn the practice of slavery. It gives instructions on how slaves should be treated (Deuteronomy 15:12-15; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1), but does not outlaw slavery altogether. Many see this as the Bible condoning all forms of slavery. What many fail to understand is that slavery in biblical times was very different from the slavery that was practiced in the past few centuries in many parts of the world. The slavery in the Bible was not based exclusively on race. People were not enslaved because of their nationality or the color of their skin. In Bible times, slavery was based more on economics; it was a matter of social status. People sold themselves as slaves when they could not pay their debts or provide for their families. In New Testament times, sometimes doctors, lawyers, and even politicians were slaves of someone else. Some people actually chose to be slaves so as to have all their needs provided for by their masters.

          The slavery of the past few centuries was often based exclusively on skin color. In the United States, many black people were considered slaves because of their nationality; many slave owners truly believed black people to be inferior human beings. The Bible condemns race-based slavery in that it teaches that all men are created by God and made in His image (Genesis 1:27). At the same time, the Old Testament did allow for economic-based slavery and regulated it. The key issue is that the slavery the Bible allowed for in no way resembled the racial slavery that plagued our world in the past few centuries.

          In addition, both the Old and New Testaments condemn the practice of “man-stealing,” which is what happened in Africa in the 19th century. Africans were rounded up by slave-hunters, who sold them to slave-traders, who brought them to the New World to work on plantations and farms. This practice is abhorrent to God. In fact, the penalty for such a crime in the Mosaic Law was death: “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death” (Exodus 21:16). Similarly, in the New Testament, slave-traders are listed among those who are “ungodly and sinful” and are in the same category as those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, adulterers and perverts, and liars and perjurers (1 Timothy 1:8–10).

          Another crucial point is that the purpose of the Bible is to point the way to salvation, not to reform society. The Bible often approaches issues from the inside out. If a person experiences the love, mercy, and grace of God by receiving His salvation, God will reform his soul, changing the way he thinks and acts. A person who has experienced God’s gift of salvation and freedom from the slavery of sin, as God reforms his soul, will realize that enslaving another human being is wrong. He will see, with Paul, that a slave can be “a brother in the Lord” (Philemon 1:16). A person who has truly experienced God’s grace will in turn be gracious towards others. That would be the Bible’s prescription for ending slavery.

          If your atheism is true, then you should see no problem with slavery as it is neither objectively right or wrong, but just a mere preference

          .

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            Craig:

            “The Bible only has two contexts for it, just like today’s society
            1) prisoner of war
            2) indentured servitude or “debtors prison” so to speak–working off a debt that someone doesnt have money or collateral for”

            This is simply not true. Neither of these categories or contexts includes the children of your slaves becoming your slaves. Who says that if someone’s in your debt then any children they have after that will also be in your debt and thus have to keep working for you?

            “In addition, both the Old and New Testaments condemn the practice of “man-stealing” (Exodus 21:16).

            Is this passage referring to ‘man-stealing’ of all people or just other Hebrews? It looks to me like the latter. If so, your claim is deeply dishonest (or merely based in ignorance of the book you claim to know).

            The following passages, from Leviticus 25:44-46 refers to NON-Hebrews:
            “44 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.
            45 Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession.
            46 You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.”

            And again, this shows the lie of your claim that “The Bible condemns race-based slavery”.

  17. toby says:

    it would be what you’ve heard before, but more verbose and refined. But basically: “It was indentured servitude. They weren’t slave slaves. It was done for the good of the servant. They’re life would have been awful otherwise. Sure, God was i direct control, but he had morally sufficient reasons to allow it and give tacit approval by granting a few rules.”

    There, now no one has to write an article about this shameful part of the bible. Instead they can comment on my comment about the use of the word “shameful” and ask, “by what standard do you call this shameful?” thereby avoiding comment on the disgusting practices in their perfect book.

    Reply
  18. Luke says:

    I do agree that this is all of a side topic, but come on, this pretense that salvery in the Bible was all rainbows and unicorns is ridiculous. It’s the kind of thing that makes apologists look unserious. If we have a difficult problem, we are better off dealing with it, rather than pretending it’s not there.

    Craig mentions some passages on the treatment of slaves, but leaves out passages like Exodus 21:20-21. It literally says that if you beat a slave, but the slaves lives a day or two, the slaveowner shall not be punished, for the slave is property.

    Rainbows and unicorns.

    It’s insulting.

    Craid also didn’t mention Deuteronomy 21:10-14. If you see among a vanquished enemy a beutiful woman, you may take her a sex slave. It mentions nothing of giving the woman a choice. It then goes on to say ‘you shall not mistreat her’ because, you know, simply making someone a sex slave isn’t mistreatment, am I right?

    Rainbows and unicorns.

    It’s a mockery.

    I really wish my fellow believers would have the courage to face up to difficult problems instead of pretending they don’t exist.

    Luke

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      Yes, it’s a series of terribly weak arguments. It makes me think of a shifty lawyer saying “OK, so my client may have tortured some children, but isn’t modern life itself kind of a torture? And he locked his wife in a cupboard, but isn’t marriage itself kind of like being locked in a room?”

      “The Bible condemns race-based slavery”

      It’s statements like this that makes me wonder if Craig has actually read the bible. It specifically has two sets of rules governing slaves: one set for Hebrew slaves (Lev 25:39-43) and a second set for Canaanite slaves (Lev 25:45-46). And the latter allows for much less lenient treatment. This IS race-based slavery.

      “It’s the kind of thing that makes apologists look unserious.”

      There’s another high-profile apologetic website that I saw discussing slavery, and saying it wasn’t so bad – quoting lots of passages to support the claim. Not once did the blog point out that all of the passages were discussing only rules for Hebrew slaves – obviously hoping casual readers would assume these were the only slavery-related passages in the bible.

      “A person who has truly experienced God’s grace will in turn be gracious towards others”

      Does being gracious towards others include making light of slavery and saying it’s not so bad to be made a slave simply because you’re the child of a slave?

      Reply
      • craig says:

        Andy,

        you really seem to be hung up on the issue of slavery.

        lemme ask you—is there ANY rational explanation for the slavery issue as described in the Bible that you would accept as a logical explanation? Or would you reject such an explanation no matter what evidence is presented?

        Reply
        • Luke says:

          Craig,

          I know you asked Andy, but what do you mean?

          It reads like you’re saying that there’s some logical explanation that makes slavery okay.

          Thanks not the question right?

          Thanks,

          Luke

          Reply
          • craig says:

            Luke,

            ..It reads like you’re saying that there’s some logical explanation that makes slavery okay….

            Not okay, but permissible because God didnt create slavery. In the fallen world that mankind had created, slavery was a reality. God permitted its existence and worked within its system. Slaves were more domestic servants than oppressed field workers. Slaves could be the captives of war (Num. 31:25-47), subjects of debt to be worked off (2 Kings 4:1), born into slavery (Gen. 17:12-13), or entered into voluntarily (Exodus 21:5-6). In the Ancient Near East, some slaves were able to own other slaves and even conduct business. In Exodus 21:2 a slave was required to be set free after six years of service.

            As I said earlier, if you’re definition of slavery is lifelong forced compulsory involuntary servitude as a result of kidnapping, then the Bible is very crystal clear on the matter……there is no provision for it. The absolute worst case scenario is that all slaves, no matter what kind or how they became a slave, were let free in the Jubilee year (50th year).

            With all the hoo raa about slavery, why is there not such a clamor about divorce? Matthew 19

            7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

            8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

            God didnt create the “institution” of slavery anymore than he created divorce. Jesus’ answer is very clear—–because our hearts are hard. Its not God’s fault that slavery exists, its ours

            does this help, Luke?

            Craig

  19. Eric says:

    Frank, I find your work entertaining, but your arguments only add to the confusion and you should probably stop making them.

    Case in point…

    “There isn’t such a standard in the materialistic universe of atheism.”

    You do realize that “materialism” and “atheism” are not the same thing, right? It is perfectly possible for someone to disbelieve in god while believing in the supernatural. In fact, if we accept your frequent assertion that the “laws of logic” are immaterial, then the conclusion necessarily follows that atheists who use logic (ie all of them) are in fact non-materialistic.

    Reply
  20. Jerry says:

    Oh the lengths that some go to discredit a book that should, in their worldview, be on par with the manual for Santa’s shop. Or the Tooth Fairy’s diary. Or the Fly Spaghetti Monster’s blog. Or Russell’s teacup’s book of “Where I’ve Been”.

    Reply
  21. Greg says:

    Craig, thanks for identifying me as an atheist. I didn’t realize that was the automatic default position of someone that believed the bible had some morality problems. I didn’t even know I was an atheist.

    Ditto to Toby, Luke and Andy. All apologetic defenses of the slavery condoned by Yahweh in the old testament are obfuscations. (Conflate categories, down play horror of slavery, change the subject, conflate categories, down play horrors of slavery, change the subject, repeat.) To conflate the types of slavery that are clearly described in the OT is pure deception. And the old argument that, “come on, it’s not so bad” is very offensive. Place yourself or your beloved family members in the position of a slave and you will stop espousing these ridiculous apologetics. And why do you always change the subject to the basis for an objective moral code? I’m asking YOU because YOU say in the bible that YOU have found one, how does this type of treatment of other people square with YOUR accepted objective, moral standard?

    Craig, if you consider honesty a virtue your categories need amending:

    1) prisoner of “genocidal, land grabbing aggression” slavery and sex slavery
    2) “Hebrew to Hebrew” indentured servitude or “debtors prison” so to speak–working off a debt that someone doesn’t have money or collateral. This type of slavery had stipulations that allowed a slave owner to coerce a male, Hebrew slave to forgo his freedom and remain a slave for life or leave his wife and children behind when he left.
    3) Hebrew to foreigner chattel slavery like that of America’s antebellum past.

    Craig, I know to you that these categories simply cannot be accurate because your heart tells you that these are not the type of categories that you would expect from a loving deity. (Seems to me like a loving deity might have beaten our 19th century abolitionists to the punch and just flat out condemned slavery thousands of years ago. That would have been helpful.) But, as hard as it is to accept, these are spot on categories.

    Sorry

    Reply
      • Greg says:

        I never said god invented slavery. I said that in the old testament he gave the Israelites guidelines that made owning foreign slaves legal. I said he never condemned it. Does that not present a problem for your “objective standard of morality”? If I owned slaves today would you consider me a moral person? If I said I worshiped a god that used to condone slavery but now he doesn’t would you be interested in getting to know that god? Better yet, would you accept my description of him as a “god” in the first place?

        Reply
    • craig says:

      Greg,

      3) Hebrew to foreigner chattel slavery like that of America’s antebellum past.

      Everyone of us (you and me included) already ARE chattel property to the banking system. Its just that the banking system knows that a slave will worker harder and be more productive if said slave is given the illusion by the means of something called the “credit system” to create the perception of freedom, than will a slave who knows he’s a slave.

      The peasants uprising that led to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 was done because the peasantry was outraged at a 25% tax rate. There’s not one country on earth that has a tax rate that low, that I’m aware of, except maybe for the Isle of Guernsey which prints its own debt free money.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        Who finds this argument convincing? It sounds like a huckster lawyer trying to get off a client who had imprisoned their next door neighbour in a basement dungeon for five years:
        “Is what my client did really any different to what the banks do to all of us?”

        The jury are going to say “Er, yes it is! There’s no comparison at all – what kind of morons do you take us for!”

        This is the worst kind of apologetics for slavery.

        Reply
      • Luke says:

        I’m with Andy on this. This is an wholly unconvincing and honestly insulting argument.

        Your history on the Magna Carta is just, well, odd. It was more about the lowest of the nobility, than the peasants, and there were various charters for various reasons. Taxation was an issue, but it was far from the simplicity you present.

        There are many, many countries with a tax rate of under 25%, by the way. Wikipedia has a handy able of tax revenues as a percentage of GDP. Check it out! A lot of the world comes no where close to 25%. The tax rate is below that for a huge number of people in the US. The federal tax take in 2014 was $3,021 Billion, and the GDP was $17,711 Billion. That’s 17%. Include other taxes, like state and local taxes, and the total in the US is usually calculated at around 25 or 26%, and since that’s the average about half of us pay less than that. As you know the rich pay much more in taxes, especially federal taxes, so it would actually be far, far more of us that pay below 25% in all taxes, combined (i.e. this includes more than the tax rate. Andy in England probably pays more though, poor chap. (That said, your country is great Andy. Every summer my wife and I rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight; if it’s not too dear.)

        Hope you’re having a good Saturday.

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

          “Andy in England probably pays more though, poor chap”

          I do, but I think it’s worth it. Compare mortality rates for babies, general longevity, obesity levels etc, and you can see that the higher tax the UK pays translates into better quality of life compared to the US. I’ve been to the US a few times and, lovely place though it is in many ways, I got frustrated by the poor quality infrastructure – roads, public transport etc.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            Andy,

            You may have done this, but if you look at the whole list I mentioned, and plot it against a ‘how much I’d like to live here’ measure, I think you’d find that there is a very strong positive relationship.

            We love where we live for various reasons, but I do think the UK is a great place. (Even my experiences with the NHS have been great.) I think many policy and tax decisions there are much better than what we have here. We really do love the Isle of Wight, though my framing there was obviously meant to be a joke. :)

            Luke

      • Greg says:

        Tell you what Craig, I’ll take all the females in your family (wife, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, etc.) captive and sell them into sex slavery and when you object I’ll say, “but Craig, everyone of us (you and me included) already ARE chattel property to the banking system. Its just that the banking system knows that a slave will worker harder and be more productive if said slave is given the illusion by the means of something called the “credit system” to create the perception of freedom, than will a slave who knows he’s a slave.”

        I assume my saying this will calm your anger and help you to accept the evil I have done to your family.

        And I’m having trouble recalling a time when my bank beat me during the day to get more work out of me, raped my wife and bore children by her, sold my children off to other bankers and told me when and where I have to be and what to do all of the time.

        Please stop with your ridiculous, highly offensive apologetics.

        Large portions of the old testament clearly contradict the supposed objective moral standard you claim to find in the bible. You’ll feel better when you can admit this to yourself.

        Reply
  22. Luke says:

    Terry,

    My question on the quote was more about the “but then ask questions like “why should I act differently in the absence of objective moral values?”” part, not the idea that there are people who deny objective moral values.

    Terry said:What basis do we have for the existence of such a subjective moral standard if there is no objective moral standard?

    Sorry to answer with a question, but why does subjective morality need a basis? I was under the impression that the entire problem with subjective morality was its lack of a basis. Now you act as if though subjective morality must have a basis as well.

    My answer would be there is no basis besides one’s biases, because that’s what subjective means To quote Webster: “subjective: based on feelings or opinions rather than facts”

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      I was under the impression that the entire problem with subjective morality was its lack of a basis.

      That’s the correct answer. AND that is exactly the problem. My “question” was an interpolation of Andy’s comment to Frank, “You’ve not explained why an atheist should act differently in the absence of objective moral values.” (February 17, 2015 at 4:52 am) He is the one who invoked a “should”. I was pointing out that the statement is meaningless; it’s an oxymoron to use the term “should” in a moral sense without objective moral values, because only if an absolute, objective standard of morality exists can one ground what persons should or should not do. Without that, as we’ve discussed many times, we’re left with only a system of morality that is, to quote Webster, “based on feelings or opinions rather than facts”.

      So if you claim a system of morality that is only subjective, but then say it is “immoral” to take away another person’s rights, then you are forced to concede that your idea that the person actually has rights is only your own feeling or opinion. There is no objective fact, entity, object, or being that corresponds to that belief.

      Therefore, your opinion is just as “true” or “false” as that of anyone else who completely disagrees with you. And the minute one asserts their “right” to believe and act as they wish concerning moral issues, you assert that there is, in fact, a moral standard by which you claim that right–a standard that is necessarily binding on all other persons.

      Under subjective morality, it’s only one’s opinion that:

      * Homosexuals have a right to marry.
      * Women have the right to vote.
      * Pregnant women have a right to an abortion.
      * Slaves have a right to freedom.
      * The aged have a right to life.
      * Anyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
      * You have the right to religious freedom; to worship, or refrain from worship as you choose.
      * You have the right to share an opinion about any of these things!

      And this is exactly the point that Frank was making in this blog post. It’s actually funny… theists/Christians get accused of trying to impose “their” morality on others, but they (usually) don’t claim a morality of their own. We claim that the moral laws that exist and are binding upon every man. For the one who denies objective morality, his morality must necessarily flow from himself… from his own opinions. He must necessarily impose his own morality on everyone else every time he asserts a “right” to anything!

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        Terry,

        1. So let’s say subjective moral standards are just the subjective view of their holder. So what? Can you tell me anything this changes in practice, aside from the inability to correctly label such a view “objective”? (In other words, something outside of the ability to say “you can say Hitler was wrong, but you can’t say he was objectively wrong”. What else changes, in the real world?

        2. Do you deny that objective moral standards exist outside of G-d?

        For example. let’s take the golden rule, and look at what these words mean:

        A moral standard, according to webster, moral means “concerning or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior”, and standard means “ideas about morally correct and acceptable behavior”.

        Do you agree with this so far?

        Now is it subjective, as a standard? Is it based on a person’s views, feelings, and opinions? I’d agree that whether we accept it — live by it, proclaim it, believe it — is subjective, but the rule itself? I don’t see how. In other words, whether Andy thinks this standard is right, is subject to his thoughts, and feelings, and emotions. But the standard itself, is the same, no matter what Andy, or I, or you, or anyone thinks about it. Right?

        Think about it: How could someones feelings or opinions change the golden rule itself? How is the golden rule then “subject” to anyone’s feelings or opinions?

        If every single person that has ever lived thought the golden rule was the dumbest idea in the universe, and one which could not be more wrong, would the golden rule be any different?

        (I say all this because it seems to me that many different moral standards exist, some of them objective. I happen to believe only one of those is right — a subjective view — but it seems to me other standards exist — they’re just inferior. I’m happy to be convinced otherwise, but the idea seems quite nonsensical to me at the moment.

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          Luke

          1. What else changes, in the real world?

          Well, the last time you and I had this conversation, you and Stephen ran screaming from the room in horror! I’ll answer again , at the risk of causing a bad case of hives to my readers! ;) I’m going to take another approach this time, although I would like to finish our earlier conversation someday.

          Let’s start with some one-line answers, and attempt to keep this on the topic of Frank’s post. Without objective morality:

          * You have no rights, other than what you’re big enough to secure for yourself. No other person owes you anything at all.
          * You have no reason to expect anyone else’s behavior to conform in any way with your opinion of how things should be.
          * Justice as a concept is a myth with no analog in reality, so any legal system is a kangaroo court and a farce. (Sometimes also true in our world…)

          Regarding this… theism is often accused of being a tool used to keep men under control. How much more an atheistic “justice” system that purports to deliver something that it cannot in principle even believe in! Such a system, dedicated to a fiction, can only be a tool, wielded by the wealthy and powerful, used to keep the masses in line. And I contend that the more atheistic we grow as a nation, the more we’ll see this attitude arise, undermining respect for law and justice, and those brave men and women who risk their lives to preserve it. My evidence? Turn on your nightly news!

          In the real world, the more people believe this lie, the less secure are our rights, which are built on the truth of the moral law. Once we as a culture buy into the lie that our rights come from society, then society will begin to suppress those rights that are inconvenient to it. We already define the unborn into and out of existence as a person based on convenience; what happens when we do the same to the elderly? To Christians? To Homosexuals? To [insert any group you identify with here…]?

          2. Do you deny that objective moral standards exist outside of G-d?

          No. It is possible to set as your standard, “I will behave as my mother behaved.” That’s an objective standard, but the object upon which it is based is a finite being who did not even exist 250 years ago. That fact alone disqualifies them from being THE standard for all men.

          Therefore, I deny that these standards have any authority over me, and therefore assert that they can be accepted or ignored at will. Your mother may have been a Godly woman, with a character worthy of emulation because it reflected the one TRUE standard. Even Paul said, “follow me as I follow Christ”, but even in this statement, he was pointing to a standard beyond himself.

          Your last paragraph is right on the money, and is why I try (but often fail) to use the term “absolute, objective standard” to mean THE standard to which all others are inferior instead of just “objective standard”.

          3. Do you agree with this so far? (Took the liberty of numbering this one for you!) ;)

          Actually, no. Deconstruction is often dangerous, because the whole concept may mean more than the sum of the parts that are used to identify it.

          I think behavior, while certainly an aspect of morality, is not the whole of it as most people think. True morality isn’t about what you do, it’s about what you are, and how that influences what you do. My child who breaks my rule, but then comes and apologies to me I consider more moral than the child who grudgingly “obeys” in a half-hearted manner. This concept is in line with Christianity which stresses the need to become a “new creation” through Christ, not just to obey a bunch of “thou shalt”‘s and “thou shalt not”‘s.

          Being precedes behavior. A new creation will, by nature, tend to follow after Christ. The old man will, by nature, seek his own will. And yes, this is a generality, and like all generalities, there may be some exceptions. (Paul even mentions a few of these).

          I happen to believe only one of those is right — a subjective view…

          That’s an interesting turn of phrase, but I don’t think you expressed yourself clearly. You much too good a philosopher to make this statement, which is obviously false.

          Truth is by nature exclusive. It is impossible that more than one standard could be the right standard. To be different, the standards would obviously have to differ in some way. They could not be fully identical, or they would be the same standard. Now if one of those is right, then the other must necessarily be wrong. It is of course possible that BOTH could be wrong–in your statement, this would mean that no absolute, objective moral law exists, as you have applied it to all objective moral standards. But if one of them is truly THE moral standard, it is most certainly that to the exclusion of all others.

          What I think you meant to say (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) is that your belief of WHICH one is correct is subjective. This statement is true. It describes something about you… your belief, not the standard itself.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            Terry said:“Well, the last time you and I had this conversation, you and Stephen ran screaming from the room in horror! I’ll answer again , at the risk of causing a bad case of hives to my readers! ”

            Hmmm… from what I remember I was the last one to post there, but I’ll check. (I have had my share of post “eaten” by this site.) I can certianly assure you that I have never run in horror from any conversation.

            I’ll try to write more very soon.

            Thanks,

            Luke

          • Terry L says:

            >>I can certianly assure you that I have never run in horror from any conversation.

            Yeah, I know. Just being facetious. I think that, like me, you enjoy the debate too much to run from one! However, if I remember correctly, Stephen did threaten to leave, and you were concerned I think about my sanity. :D

            The last post I see from you was August 6 of last year. I rewrote “War and Peace” a couple of times after that discussing with Toby.

            http://crossexamined.org/salt-good-need-salt-worlds-diet/#comment-16942

    • Terry L says:

      3. This is, again, a bit of equivocation between the point I was making and the question you’re asking. My statement was intended only to say that theists usually believe in an objective moral law, and live as if that is true, although most would admit that they break themselves against that law more frequently than they would like. I never brought Christianity into that discussion, and while your question is an interesting one, I don’t see the relevance to the larger point, and it is certainly irrelevant to Frank’s point.

      But just for the sake of argument, let’s say that we concede your point. At best, that’s an argument against inerrancy, not against an absolute, objective morality established by the character of God.

      4. As you phrase the statement, this isn’t about rights. When you assert that you have a right to X, you are making a claim that others should allow you X. Your statement says that you will allow them to X. Therefore, you’re not actually claiming a right, you’re stating that you, personally, do not object to others Xing.

      In other words, it’s the difference between, “I have the right to freedom of assembly, so I can go meet with my friends”, and “I have the right to freedom of assembly, so YOU can go associate with your friends.” The problem in the second scenario is, I don’t speak for my neighbor who may deny your right to freedom of assembly. But if I honestly believe that YOU possess the right to freedom of assembly, then I must necessarily believe that no one has the right to take that right from you without due cause.

      And if you truly possess that right, then from where did it come? That’s the “bigger thing — some objective thing” that’s missing.

      By your statement, the right is conferred upon you by the society of people, all of which say, “you can possess a right to X”. But if they grant that right, then they can also revoke it. This means you never really possessed it at all; “society” owns it, and they grant it to whom they will, and revoke it from whom they will for whatever reasons they will.

      That’s why our founders made it clear that “men were endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”. Our government was intended to protect our rights, not to grant them. It is a very dangerous move to begin to think of this differently.

      Have a wonderful and blessed weekend guys! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed conversing with both of you. I miss these interactions when I get too busy to hang out here.

      -tl

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        ” But if they grant that right, then they can also revoke it. ”

        You might as well say if they can protect that right they can also stop protecting that right. A right that isnt protected might as well not exist. It’s like Stan’s right to have babies in Life of Brian.

        I don’t get what’s dangerous here.

        As Luke said, believing that rights come from God is no protection from bad laws, or from not having your rights protected, or from people changing their minds about what rights God has given us. I don’t see what PRACTICAL difference it makes to us.

        Reply
  23. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    Terry: “The fact that we cannot live up to that standard is the reason we need a saviour.”

    That’s not what I’m talking about at all, Terry. I’m not talking about people being set a standard and them trying and failing to live up to that standard. I’m talking about a book that condones a whole bunch of behaviour that modern Christians all seem to agree is immoral. Very few Christians nowadays think slavery is moral, or that we should stone people to death.

    “I find no power in the argument that the failure of Christians to act like Christ defeats the moral argument. It simply doesn’t follow.”

    But Frank was making an argument based on the failure of atheists to act how HE assumes atheists should act. So pointing out the disconnect between Christians such as himself saying the God of the bible founds morality, while rejecting the moral precepts of that God, is entirely on topic.

    “God sometimes changes his response to us because of a change we make, or in response to sincere prayer.”

    No, the bible has a scene where God says he’ll destroy some city, and a human argues with him and says “What if 50 people repent?”, and God says he’ll spare the city in that context. Then the human says “What if 40 people repent?” and so on to bargain God down. That doesn’t fit your analogy about your daughter.

    “I’ve long asserted that you can tell what a person truly believes by looking at their behaviour.”

    You say this, but also explain immoral Christians by reference to our fallen nature. This seems to be an argument that allows you to have it both ways. A person acts ‘morally’, it shows they believe in a objective morality; a person acts ‘immorally’, that’s because we need a saviour.

    Regarding morality vs objective morality – I’ve heard plenty of high-profile atheists say they do think objective morality exists. And I’ve heard plenty of Christians say that objective morality must necessarily exist independently of God as the alternative is absurdities such as a hypothetically ‘perfectly moral’ God who advocates child torture.

    Seems to me that all an atheist needs in order to ‘act morally’ is to care about the well-being of others. There’s nothing contradictory about that. If we imagine two universes – one with a God, the other without – and they’re both identical in every other respect, then it seems nonsensical to say that child torture is immoral in one and not the other, given that the suffering of the child is the same in both. If you’re saying it’s different somehow in the Godless universe then really you’re saying that the immoral part of the action is entirely divorced from the child’s suffering.

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      I’m talking about a book that condones a whole bunch of behaviour that modern Christians all seem to agree is immoral. Very few Christians nowadays think slavery is moral, or that we should stone people to death.

      But Frank was making an argument based on the failure of atheists to act how HE assumes atheists should act. So pointing out the disconnect between Christians such as himself saying the God of the bible founds morality, while rejecting the moral precepts of that God, is entirely on topic.

      No, you’ve created a false dicotomy. The point still fails.

      A. The moral argument does not and cannot say anything to illuminate whether Christianity is true. It speaks only to the existence of a theistic God and universe.
      B. Theists typically do live as if a fixed, unchangable set of moral laws are incumbent on every man. They may break those laws at times, but they do not deny them.
      C. The theist’s behavior is consistent with what they claim to believe.
      D. Atheists typically also live as if a fixed, unchangable set of moral laws are incumbent on every man. In fact, their behavior is often more in keeping with this perceived universal law than that of some theists.
      E. The atheists behavior is incompatible with their claim that morality is subjective.

      See my post to Luke above. The instant that you assert a right to anything, you are claiming that I have a responsibility to honor your right. For example, if you claim the right to express your opinions on this blog, then you’re expecting Frank to provide the means for you to do so, and all of us to tolerate your posts. Any assertion of any right by an atheist is a supporter of point D above. The only “rights” that naturalism can provide are those that the organism can claw out for himself, if he’s strong enough to do so.

      We’ve said absolutely nothing about what a specific moral law would say or require. Your counter-example questions whether one adheres to a specific moral law (and assumes that such a law exists). My example (point E above) questions the sanity of invoking a law (by asserting a right) that one claims does not exist in the first place!

      That doesn’t fit your analogy about your daughter.

      God: I am going to stretch out my hand and destroy Sodom. However, I will first speak with my servant, Abraham. If he intercedes, then because of his faithfullness, I will honor his request.

      Abraham: Lord, will you spare the city if ten righteous men are found.

      God: Yes, I will spare them for the sake of ten righteous.

      God cannot find ten righteous… the standard that Abraham asked for. God destroys the city.

      When did God change?

      This seems to be an argument that allows you to have it both ways. A person acts ‘morally’, it shows they believe in a objective morality; a person acts ‘immorally’, that’s because we need a saviour.

      That’s not an argument that allows one to have it both ways because the two conditions are not mutually exclusive. What this actually shows is that we all recognize that there is a moral law. None of us keep it perfectly. If you’re going to tell me that you’ve never done anything you think you shouldn’t have done, or not done something you should have done, I’ll go ahead and say you’re either lying or deluded! Only the most depraved or mentally-ill person could torture a small child for fun and say that it was not wrong to do so.

      Question: If no man ever behaved immorally, how would we ever know that such a law exists? That’s why the tree in Genesis is called the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”. In the story of the fall, Adam and Eve had no concept of sin. They had never experienced it. The serpent didn’t lie to them when he said, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. Had they kept the ONE RULE God had given them, they would have never known sin. But their disobedience gave them the experiential knowledge of sin

      Regarding morality vs objective morality – I’ve heard plenty of high-profile atheists say they do think objective morality exists

      I’m sure you have. But have you ever heard them explain why in a manner that is comprehensive and philosophically consistent? How do they ground such a belief? After all, it is the grounding of the moral law that is the primary focus of this discussion. If you can establish naturalistic grounds sufficient to account for the entirety of morality, then you have defeated Frank’s argument in this post, as well as the moral argument for the existence of GOd.

      And I’ve heard plenty of Christians say that objective morality must necessarily exist independently of God

      This is an absurdity for a number of reasons. I can explain if you wish, but unless it’s something you’re interested in, I’ll just say that this is an impossibility.

      Seems to me that all an atheist needs in order to ‘act morally’ is to care about the well-being of others. There’s nothing contradictory about that.

      See above. Neither I nor Frank have argued that atheists cannot act morally, nor that they cannot do so without acknowledging God. But are you saying that we “should” care about the well-being of others? That it’s somehow “wrong” not to do so?

      The thing is, this statement is one level removed from the topic of discussion. We’re not discussing how we know the moral law, or what is required to follow the moral law, but why the moral law exists in the first place.

      If you’re saying it’s different somehow in the Godless universe then really you’re saying that the immoral part of the action is entirely divorced from the child’s suffering.

      That’s exactly what I’m saying. Suffering doesn’t ground the moral law. Suffering doesn’t explain why the moral law exists.

      That’s not to say that the moral law does not consider unnecessary suffering to most often be an evil. But in my own faith (Christianity), moral offenses are considered first of all to be a sin against God. Sin is a violation of our purpose; God did not create us to torture children for pleasure–for us to do so is to fail to fulfil our purpose. Secondly, it is a sin against the person harmed, because it devalues the image of God in which the person is made.

      But you see, even in the case of suffering, motive plays a huge part. A doctor may cause suffering to a patient with the intent of removing the tumor that is killing her. Few would say this is immoral. But now we’ve introduce conditions… conditions that can only be properly adjudicated by a judge… by a MIND. So the question then becomes, WHICH mind?

      Is the mind of a man? If so, which man or men? Shall we ask Stalin? Mother Teresa? Ghandi? You? Me? If this is the case, then we’re back to a subjective, opinion-based morality that is not binding on anyone. In this universe, the child’s suffering is meaningless in moral terms, because everything you can say about it is only opinion!

      Or is it the mind of God? An omnipotent, changeless being who loves his creation and issued the command (found in nearly every faith system), “Treat others as you would be treated yourself”? Only then, with a transcendent, unchanging mind that loves and cares about the child and fully understands the motives behind her torment does her suffering have meaning in a moral sense.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “This is an absurdity for a number of reasons. I can explain if you wish, but unless it’s something you’re interested in, I’ll just say that this is an impossibility.”

        To me your position is an absurd impossibility for a number of reasons. It makes no logical sense. I don’t believe in the God of the other Christians, but at least their position makes logical sense and doesn’t take such a devisive stance against atheists.

        Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “When did God change?”

        Do you really not know the passage in question? God starts off at 50 and gets argued down to 10. That was my point.

        Your statement about Luke running screaming is bizarre – more than anyone Luke is extremely calm and dispassionate and logical in pointing out the contradictions in other’s positions – but always polite and curious. Further, he’s generally last man standing in the discussion.

        I can only imagine this is transference on your part due to your own frustration with being picked up on your statements.

        Reply
  24. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I just posed a couple of questions for you, so forgive me for giving two more, based on what you wrote to Andy.

    3. You wrote: “C. The theist’s behavior is consistent with what they claim to believe.”

    I’m not sure this is true, but please convince me. If a theist believes that. a. Slavery is objectively wrong. b. People cannot be property — such a concept is wrong, morally. c. It’s not okay to beat people so they die a few days later just because they are “property” — which they can’t even be d. There exists an objective moral standard which we all need to follow, e. There is a book, the writings in which, in part, inerrantly describe this moral standard f. The writings which, in part, inerrantly describe this moral standard state that people can, in fact be property, and that it is okay to beat people who are “property so that they die a few days later.

    That seems quite inconsistent to me.

    4. You wrote: “The instant that you assert a right to anything, you are claiming that I have a responsibility to honor your right. ”

    Why not, “the instant that you assert a right to anything, you are saying that you think I should allow all people to do the thing you assert a right to.”?

    You just assert that it all of a sudden invokes some bigger thing — some objective thing — but there is literally no reason to believe such a thing. You’re just saying it.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  25. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I’ll try to be concise. I think we can merge 1 and 4 for now. And I’ll comment on that below.

    On #2, I’m glad to see you acknowledge that various objective standards exist.

    On #3, I suppose you could pick any part of this as the ‘weak link’ but I like you would probably have a go at innerancy. However, no matter which link you decide should be the one to throw out, the fact remains that one can’t believe all of those things and be labeled logical or rational.

    Now, onto 1 and 4.

    You said: “Your statement says that you will allow them to X. Therefore, you’re not actually claiming a right, you’re stating that you, personally, do not object to others Xing.”

    Here is what I said: “Why not, “the instant that you assert a right to anything, you are saying that you think I should allow all people to do the thing you assert a right to.”?”

    Notice the person doing the saying is different than the person doing the allowing.

    I said “you think that I should allow” — two different people
    You rendered my statement as “you are stating that you allow” == one person; same person

    So no, that’s not at all what I said.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Apologies for misreading… I was just about to get up from the computer and must have been in too big a hurry to read carefully.

      You said,

      4. [Terry] wrote: “The instant that you assert a right to anything, you are claiming that I have a responsibility to honor your right. ”

      Why not, “the instant that you assert a right to anything, you are saying that you think I should allow all people to do the thing you assert a right to.”?

      Given your explanation above, I’m not certain what the crucial difference is that you see between what I wrote and what you wrote. The implication is still this: Don asserts a right to freedom of speech. This necessarily entails a belief that others have an obligation to honor such a right. It makes no sense to claim, “I have a right to freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean that you should not shut me up!” To do so is to abandon your claim to the right immediately. I don’t see how you can have a right without that imposing upon all other men an obligation to honor that right. That doesn’t mean that all men will do it.

      Take one that I obviously disagree with: Do homosexuals have the right to marry? I say no, because the definition of marriage includes one man and one woman; men did not design the institution of marriage, God did; and therefore men do not have the right to redefine what they did not define. (And I don’t want to get deep into this rabbit trail; let’s keep the discussion on point please.)

      To claim that they do have the right to marry is to claim that every Christian out there who believes as I do has the responsibility to honor that right. We’re seeing this play out in our courts today. But it would make no sense for the proponents of gay marriage to say, “we have the right to marry, but you don’t have to recognize us as a married couple”. They would be undermining their own position! Their claim says both that I have a responsibility to honor their right to marry, and that they think that I should allow all people to do the same, if they so choose.

      Can you help me see what your getting at?

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        Doesn’t it make sense to say that if you expect others to accept the legal validity of your own marriage then you should extend the same courtesy to them? Given that both marriages are accepted by the state, that is?

        To me this is more about legal arguments. We dismiss religious arguments against gay marriage for the same reason we rejected religious arguments against interracial marriages – we don’t live in a theocracy, so such arguments are irrelevant.

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          Andy, what is legal is not always moral. Frank says frequently (and I agree with him) that ALL laws legislate morality. The question is, “whose?”

          And while I recognize the legality of such a marriage (meaning that I recognize that the government of their state recognizes them as being married), I reject the morality of the law that makes it legal. If the United States government passed a law tomorrow that condemned all atheists to death, then given your comment above, what recourse would an atheist have to protest? I reject the morality of this law as well; but you’ve deemed my response irrelevant because we do not live under a theocracy. How then would you react to this law?.

          Interracial marriages are not immoral, regardless of what people believed a few years ago (including many of my own family.) Moses had a wife of a different color, and his siblings were disciplined by God for speaking against them.

          It’s true that we (in the USA) do not live in a theocracy. It is also true that our nation is founded on the idea that men actually possess their most basic rights because they were given to them by God, and not by men. (See response to Luke, below.)

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “I reject the morality of the law that makes it legal”

            Sure, just as many Christians rejected the law that made inter-racial marriage legal (as you yourself admit).

            “Interracial marriages are not immoral, regardless of what people believed a few years ago”

            And many Christians say the same about gay marriage. They say they’re not immoral, regardless of what YOU believe (and perhaps members of their own family).

            “what recourse would an atheist have to protest?”

            Sounds pretty unconstitutional to me! I reckon I’d have as much recourse to protest as you would, or indeed either of us would if it was Christians, or straight men, or whatever, so I don’t get your point there.

            “It is also true that our nation is founded…”

            God is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, but the founding fathers very deliberately left out all mention of God in the actual Constitution. Many Christians at the time were outraged by this, calling the Constitution an atheist document! Go figure.

  26. Luke says:

    Terry,

    You said: “The implication is still this: Don asserts a right to freedom of speech. This necessarily entails a belief that others have an obligation to honor such a right. It makes no sense to claim, “I have a right to freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean that you should not shut me up!” To do so is to abandon your claim to the right immediately.”

    Where have I said this (the ‘but that doesn’t mean that you should not shut me up’ part)?

    I’ve said the opposite. I said: “the instant that you assert a right to anything, you are saying that you think I should allow all people to do the thing you assert a right to.” So to make it about your hypothetical Don, it would be the opposite of what you said. “I have a right to freedom of speech, and that does mean that you should not shut me or Don up!”

    It’s a very different thing, what I’m saying. Where you said doesn’t, I said does.

    To comment quickly on marriage: you said: “To claim that they do have the right to marry is to claim that every Christian out there who believes as I do has the responsibility to honor that right.”

    Only in a legal sense. If you’re a doctor, you have to let husband visit husband, for example. You don’t have to think much of it, you don’t have to celebrate it, you don’t have to believe it’s right. You can even talk badly about it (which is not something I would associate with honoring).

    More later (sorry),

    Luke

    Reply
  27. Luke says:

    Terry,

    You also said: “By your statement, the right is conferred upon you by the society of people, all of which say, ‘you can possess a right to X”. But if they grant that right, then they can also revoke it.'”

    Are you claiming or implying that otherwise they could not revoke it?

    Terry said:“It is a very dangerous move to begin to think of this differently.”

    This gives the power to how we think of things, not how they are. I agree with this. I am asking what the reality changes, not what we think the reality is.

    Also, you cited the US. The did think this way, yet still manage to create a system which included slavery. So it seems that thinking this way (as opposed to ‘differently’ as you say) is still quite dangerous.

    As you can see, I’m far from convinced by your argument here.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Men cannot revoke a right given by God, but they can violate a right given by God. I have the right to worship God. No man can revoke that right. Men may deny me the freedom to exercise that right, but to do so is a violation, not a revocation of my rights.

      You mention slavery; if the right to freedom comes from the government, and the government approves of slavery, then the slave’s rights are not being violated. They do not possess the right to freedom! Therefore it is impossible for their right to be violated Only if their basic right to freedom comes from God can you make the case that slavery violated the rights of the slave.

      Not all rights are granted by God, and it is appropriate for the grantor of those rights to revoke them if they deem it necessary. Men grant me a right to drive on the roads they have created. Should I prove to be an unskilled driver, men have the right to revoke my right to drive.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “Men cannot revoke a right given by God, but they can violate a right given by God”

        It makes no practical difference, does it?

        “Only if their basic right to freedom comes from God can you make the case that slavery violated the rights of the slave.”

        That wasn’t much help to black people living in an America ruled by whites who were convinced that God was OK with slavery! Bishops would write long tracts expressly pointing out all the parts of the bible that condoned slavery, in order to justify and defend enslaving blacks.

        Seems you’re better off living in a country that enshrines in law a natural law argument that men can’t enslave other men, or that simply views it as axiomatic that slavery is wrong, than in a country that is run on the basis that a God exists who approves of slavery.

        At any rate, America has a firmly established legal principle (The Lemon Test) that all laws must have a secular justification. Laws aren’t made on the basis of this or that coming from God.

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          “Men cannot revoke a right given by God, but they can violate a right given by God”

          It makes no practical difference, does it?

          It makes all the difference in the world!

          You cannot reasonably argue to free a slave who has no right to freedom. This only makes sense if a right they possess is being violated.

          Reply
          • Greg says:

            Ok Terry, “Uncle”. Yahweh is the objective standard for morality. Why does he tell the ancient Israelites they can own slaves, beat them to death with impunity and pass them down to their children as property? Are any of you willing to answer this question?

          • Terry L says:

            Greg, no one is arguing in this thread that Christianity is true. While I certainly believe that it is, I have not used any claim specific to Christianity to make my case supporting Frank’s article. I’ll even grant you, for the sake of argument, that you’re absolutely right… you’ve disproven that Christianity is true.

            Now what? Atheism? Your “defeat” of Christianity is based on a moral argument, namely, that the God of the Old Testament is morally corrupt. But how do you come to that conclusion based on an atheistic worldview that cannot support absolute, objective morality?

            Frank’s article made a claim about atheism; namely, that atheism cannot coherently ground human rights because there is no referent to God. I have supported that claim with logical arguments. To defeat the claims we’ve made, all you have to do is to show how atheism can ground an absolute, objective system of morality that all men should follow. Instead, you’re attacking a straw man… arguments not made in this discussion.

            You’re also committing the genetic fallacy… arguing that because Christians are making this argument, and you believe (correctly or incorrectly) that their worldview cannot be supported, that their arguments are invalid. This just isn’t the case. It’s not enough to attack Christianity; sooner or later, you have to be able to make a positive case for atheism.

            I’ve been posting on this board for several years, and I’m learning more and more how important it is to stay on topic. Otherwise, you can get lost traveling down so many rabbit trails that you lose sight of the original question. I won’t do that unless the side issue directly supports the topic of discussion. As this article does not address the issues you raise, no, I’m not willing to answer your questions… here on this article. This isn’t the place, and with all respect, it’s not relevant.

          • Greg says:

            Ok Terry, I’ll try to be as on topic as I can be. Frank said “Atheists routinely confuse knowing what’s right with justifying what’s right.” I assume from this statement that Frank (and you) can justify what is right based on the bible. And please don’t claim that he is not referring to the god of the bible. He absolutely is. So please do this for me. Tell me why, say for example, beating your wife to death would be wrong. Frank says, “But what is the source of that objective truth? It can’t be changeable, fallible human beings like you or me. It can only be God whose unchangeable nature is the ground of all moral value.” So please, give me chapter and verse from the bible to show me “why” beating your wife to death would be wrong. To defend and support his claim I think you are obligated to provide some details from the bible. Also, I would like to know if a man beating his wife to death was always wrong in the past, is currently wrong and will always be wrong. I don’t see how, based on Frank’s reference to god’s “unchangeable nature”, you could answer anything but a resounding yes to all three parts of the question.

  28. Luke says:

    Craig,

    You said“Not okay, but permissible because God didnt create slavery.”

    So you’re saying there is a logical reason which makes slavery permissible. We’ll just have to agree to disagree I suppose.

    You said“Slaves were more domestic servants than oppressed field workers.”

    Unless I can beat my domestic worker for doing a poor job, even if my worker dies a few days later, that’s okay. Unless I can force some of my pretty domestic workers to have sex with me, then no it’s nothing like domestic servants.

    You said“In Exodus 21:2 a slave was required to be set free after six years of service.”

    A Hebrew slave. Far from all slaves. This is because G-d set up different rules for different slaves depending on where they came from. The very thing you deny.

    You said“As I said earlier, if you’re definition of slavery is lifelong forced compulsory involuntary servitude as a result of kidnapping, then the Bible is very crystal clear on the matter……there is no provision for it. ”

    Andy responded to you on this once, but I will add that taking the pretty girls from a conquered town for sexual pleasure is kidnapping. What else could it be? That’s obviously not the only example. If you take someone from a place, and it’s against their will, you’re kidnapping them.

    You said“The absolute worst case scenario is that all slaves, no matter what kind or how they became a slave, were let free in the Jubilee year (50th year).”

    Read your bible again; it’s leviticus 25. What you’re talking about applies to only Hebrew slaves, in certain circumstances. For others: “You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

    (So you can treat non Israelites ruthlessly. Yay!)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      I don’t understand these Christians here who keep saying ‘Here’s the bible quote that’s important here’ and then completely act like there’s not other passages that refute their whole point. It’s happened twice in the past few posts.

      Are they hoping we won’t know, or do they simply know the bible less well than us? Neither options are great.

      It’s as disingenuous as saying ‘Slavery in C19th America wasn’t so bad’ – and then quote us laws saying that Americans couldn’t enslave other white Americans. Either they don’t know that other laws said it was fine to enslave BLACKS, or they just hope we don’t know.

      Same here with quoting laws and not mentioning it refers only to enslaving other Hebrews.

      Reply
    • craig says:

      …Andy responded to you on this once, but I will add that taking the pretty girls from a conquered town for sexual pleasure is kidnapping. What else could it be? That’s obviously not the only example. If you take someone from a place, and it’s against their will, you’re kidnapping them.

      Just because God allowed prisoners of war, of which some might be women, I didnt find a passage anywhere that allows anyone to partake in the behavior under edict of God you mentioned. What man actually did,is far different than what God would permit.

      To all who are concerned about the issue of slavery.. If you dont like what this Rabbi has to say about what the Torah talks about slavery then I cant help you any further. What else can be said?

      . No, these are not my words, and yes this is a cut-n-paste from somewhere else…but is it wrong? If so why?

      Does the Bible believe in slavery?
      By Rabbi Hillel Goldberg

      “If you buy a Jewish eved [the Hebrew may be translated slave, servant, or bondsman], he shall work for six years and in the seventh he shall go free, for no charge. If he shall arrive by himself [unmarried], he shall leave by himself; if he is the husband of a woman, his wife shall leave with him. If his master will give him a woman and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out by himself.
      “But if the eved shall say, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children — I shall not go free,’ then his master shall bring him to the court and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore through his ear with the awl, and he shall serve him forever.”
      WE may note the Torah’s limitations on involuntary servitude: It is limited to six years; the family that one brings to the servitude is kept intact; permanent servitude is frowned upon; and, as we shall see, there are other limitations.
      Limitations on servitude and condemnations of the permanent eved notwithstanding, the Torah certainly seems to believe in slavery. What gives?
      WHAT gives is this: In Jewish civil law, of which the passage above constitutes the opening statutes, the person sold into servitude is a convicted thief, too poor to pay restitution to his victims. His involuntary servitude, initiated by the court to find a way to enable him to repay his victims, is actually one of two types of servitude in the Bible. The other type is voluntary servitude. It is dealt with in a separate passage in Leviticus, to which we shall turn below.
      With respect to the thief, why not just imprison him, or put him to work and garnish his wages?
      Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kuk (the first chief rabbi of Palestine, 1865-1935), offered this explanation:
      “Instead of putting the offender in prison, where he will be punished but not rehabilitated, he is sent to live with a decent family until he has readjusted. Far from being a primitive command, this path is the precursor to modern rehabilitation methods.
      “The thief was thus exposed to a different type of family than he was used to and learned to take his role and responsibility to the rest of society more seriously.
      “In order to guard the eved’s rights, guidelines were laid down as to the conduct between master and eved. The master was forbidden to injure the eved. Were he to beat and injure the eved, then the master was forced to free him (Exodus 21:26).
      “The desire of the Torah and the Creator was that this unfortunate thief would adjust his ways. He would be positively influenced by the time spent with the family that purchased him. This stage was always intended to be temporary, and the eved was compelled to see it as such [thus, the ear-piercing ceremony] . . .
      “The sages even explained the word ‘forever’ (“the eved shall serve his master forever”) as a temporary one, ‘until the jubilee year’. . .
      “The Torah recognizes the state of society and that, occasionally, it is necessary to amend certain cases. These are the exceptions to the rule that we are servants of G-d. But extraordinary cases must never become the norm. The hope is also that, in so doing, the Torah will eradicate, as much as possible, such instances of theft.”*
      ONE question is answered. The thief whom the court assigns to six years of servitude is in a rehabilitation program. It is not slavery. It is, in contemporary terms, a type of halfway house between prison and parole. Even so, the issue of slavery in the Bible remains unresolved.
      It is clear that if the eved is married, his wife and children must be supported by their master, and, when the eved is freed, his family is, too (“his wife shall leave with him”). But what is the basis for the distinction between a thief who comes into servitude married, and between a thief who is married during his servitude? When the latter goes free, his wife and children do not (“he shall go out by himself”). Clearly, they seem to be enslaved.
      Now, the wife whom the thief brings with him into servitude is a Hebrew woman, and actually is his wife. The woman referred to as the wife whom he is given during his servitude is not a Hebrew woman and is actually not his wife. She is a mistress of sorts, given so that the eved may bear the master more servants.
      We have here a web of seemingly contradictory findings:
      On the one hand, the limitations on this woman given to the eved during servitude are clear. She is given to one servant only; she is not to be given over for intimacy to either her master or any other servant. Nor is her condition designed to be permanent. Yet, if the relationship becomes a loving one, they may remain together, supported by their master.
      (I should interject at this point that Jewish law definitely frowns upon permanent servitude. A famous commentary states that what is most desirable for the thief is to hear G-d’s voice at Mount Sinai that said: Do not steal, and that also says, after six years, leave your servitude.)
      On the other hand, the offspring of this union are eveds, not thieves, for whose servitude there is no justification of rehabilitation. Is there slavery in the Bible? The answer seems to be yes with regard to the mistress and her children, who seem to be in servitude without any justification.
      One might observe that servitude in the Bible is immeasurably more enlightened than the way it was in other ancient societies, in which slaves never went free and could be tortured or molested.
      Yet, for me the Hebrew Bible is not valid as a relative instrument, whose value is measured in comparison to ancient societies. For me, the Bible is eternally valid. So, Iremain the uncomfortable the conclusion, which I shall call tentative, that, with respect to some people, there does seem to be slavery in the Bible. I call the concluson tentative in the sense of the traditional conclusion to any difficult question in Torah:tzarich iyyun, or, “the matter bears more investigation.”
      NOW, the second type of servitude in the Bible stems from poverty (Leviticus 25:25-28): involuntary servitude.
      An impoverished person may sell himself to a master in order to be supported, and, again, if a master purchases an eved on this basis, the master must also support the eved’s wife and children. The master is forbidden to abuse them physically or sexually.
      The master is also forbidden to demean this impoverished eved by having him carry his clothes or put on his shoes. The master can only employ eved in agricultural work or in some craft.
      Here, too, there is a famous commentary, a variation on the one above. If the eved chooses not to go free at the end of six years, his ear is pierced with an awl at a door. This is taken to mean that every person should use his ear to listen to the Torah’s demand that a person become the servant of G-d alone (Leviticus 25:55), not “the servant of a servant” —the permanent servant of another person (another “servant of G-d”).
      The door? Jewish slaves in Egypt smeared the blood of the Pascal lamb on their doorposts so that the Angel of Death would pass them over. The doorpost represents the destiny of freedom. By electing to remain in permanent involuntary servitude, the eved in this week’s Torah portion debases the message of the doorpost: freedom!

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “If you dont like what this Rabbi has to say about what the Torah talks about slavery then I cant help you any further”

        I don’t dislike it, Craig, but it’s disingenuous – he says there are two types of slavery in the bible, but doesn’t address the passages condoning slavery that involves neither Hebrew slaves or poverty. So it’s worthless as apologetics, and doesn’t address the main problem. It would be like me saying ‘Here are the types of slavery in C19th America’ and ignoring white people enslaving blacks!

        “I didnt find a passage anywhere that allows anyone to partake in the behavior under edict of God you mentioned”

        Look harder. This took me a minute or so to find:

        Numbers:

        31:18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

        Basically, keep the virgins for yourselves.

        Reply
        • craig says:

          Thank you so much Andy, thats what i was looking for. Something that shows me where you and others are coming from.

          I’m going on vacation this morning so this lil tidbit of yours will give me something to chew on whilst gone.

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            Craig, I think the problem is that you’re starting from the position that any part of the bible that sounds ‘immoral’ or troubling to readers MUST have an interpretation that fits your own moral viewpoint, and so there’s no lengths you won’t go to to make the passage fit that view. I’m guessing after a vacation spent ‘chewing’ on this you’ll come up with a post-hoc apologetic that explains somehow that the virginity of the women and girls had nothing to do with using them for sex. It’s no different to the dance that biblical inerrantists perform to explain away the slavery, the stonings, and all the other parts that are no longer accepted by society.

            But it’s all post-hoc. You’re looking for the meaning that fits your current view. At no point are you considering the simpler explanation – that the morality offered by the bible just doesn’t fit your own.

  29. toby says:

    Terry,

    “Your asserting that parasites don’t kill their hosts even if it means their own death? That hungry wolves wouldn’t kill the last herd of deer because that would mean their own starvation? I’m not certain where you’re going with that…”

    You don’t seem familiar with parasites and you’re make assumptions of other creatures based on our own bias for wanting to extend our lives as long and as pleasurably as possible. Not all parasites kill their hosts (the majority don’t) there’s a group of creatures that do called parasitoids. In many cases the death of their host doesn’t end with their death. Where I was going with this is that life lives or it ceases to be life. So if a big collection of self replicating molecules wants to continue self replicating it has to do so in such a way that conforms to their environment and promotes continued self replication. Anything that might interrupt that could be considered “immoral” based on the nature and function of it’s species. And if wolves killed the last deer to eat how is that bad? Based on their nature, the need to eat, the instinct that deer taste good and fulfill that need, and the inability to think of other means of survival make their actions the most moral they can be.

    “In any case, you’re equivocating a moral “should” (you should do X because X is the right thing to do) with a practical “should” (you should do X because X will get you to your goal). You may try to claim that these are the same thing, but then you must answer the question, “what is the goal of mankind?”. Unless all of mankind has a common goal, then you’re right back to subjectivism. And it seems that the only way mankind can share a common goal is if that purpose was given to them by their creator.”

    I think the goal of mankind is the goal of any other living thing on this planet. Continued existence. There are myriad ways to do this. We can see that tribalism isn’t a good way to go about our continued existence. Us vs. them turns those not part of your group into dehumanized garbage that isn’t worth keeping around. Religion, dogma like that of racists and Nazis and so on, separate people and lead to a lessened chance of species survival. These things might lead the the survival of a tribe or dogma, but it ultimately lessens the survivability of those groups by shrinking the gene pool and the ways a species can adapt to the world.

    Whoever wrote the line in the bible about morality being written in our hearts was simply searching for a cop out to explain why other people of other tribes and beliefs were able to live and prosper as the writer’s people were. “They act good because our god filled them with how to be good, but they’re just rebelling against him because they want to sin.” Give me a break. The bible is a book written by men that you can never know who they were. And they claim to know and talk to god. How can you know this? Because they say so in their book.

    Reply
    • craig says:

      …..The bible is a book written by men that you can never know who they were……

      Principia Mathematica was written by one man neither you nor anyone else alive today can know, except by what you are told of him. Does that mean his writings are not truthful?

      Reply
    • Terry L says:

      …self replicating molecules wants to continue self replicating…

      I think the goal of mankind is the goal of any other living thing on this planet. Continued existence.

      According to evolution, there is no goal. Something survives because it is better suited to its environment, not because of its desire to survive. Such a desire would not be an end, but a means… it might better suit an organism to its environment than a similar organism without such a desire.

      And if wolves killed the last deer to eat how is that bad?

      That’s sort of my point…

      Religion, dogma like that of racists and Nazis and so on, separate people and lead to a lessened chance of species survival.

      Define what you mean by “religion” please. That’s a convenient catch-all that encompasses a lot of things. Then explain how atheistic communism didn’t do the same thing. Yes, that may be a catch-all for various regimes, but if you’re going to throw “religion” out there in a generic form, then I’ll have to ask you to respond to my question as well.

      The word “wants” implies a desire… something I wouldn’t expect to see in a proto-cell if evolution is true. Desire for existence could only exist in an evolutionary paradigm until some significant level of brain function had developed.

      These things might lead the the survival of a tribe or dogma, but it ultimately lessens the survivability of those groups by shrinking the gene pool and the ways a species can adapt to the world.

      And wolves eating the last of their food source (assuming deer were their primary prey) will greatly lessen the survivability of that group.

      And regarding your last paragraph, please show me where in my posts above I have relied on the Bible to justify my position.

      Funny how it’s the atheists who keep quoting the Bible! ;)

      Reply
      • toby says:

        “According to evolution, there is no goal.”

        Well, I’ve never read anything evolution has written so I wouldn’t know.

        “Something survives because it is better suited to its environment, not because of its desire to survive.”

        My point is that life, even a very basic thing like a virus, has in it’s nature the attribute of surviving. I said nothing of desire, just that one of the essential properties of life is survival, otherwise it would indistinguishable from a blip of chemical reaction in a sea of chemical reactions.

        “Such a desire would not be an end, but a means… it might better suit an organism to its environment than a similar organism without such a desire. ”

        I think a difference between you and I is that you look back at very basic ancestral organisms and can’t see them from bottom up, the adding layers of adaptation that bring with it more complex ways to survive. It’s like an upside down pyramid, but your worldview says that it’s more like a column. That complexity of thought is always there because of some supernatural mind and you can’t help but look at all of history from the top and smuggle in all that comes with aspects of our species, thought, empathy, etc. At least that’s what I’m projecting on you based on conversations with you and other of your fellow believers. I’m perfectly happy to be incorrect.

        “That’s sort of my point…”

        Okay.

        “Define what you mean by “religion” please.”

        Dogma = a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted. I look as communism as dogma. You need not label it atheistic. It could easily have some form of theism within it. Like in North Korea.

        “The word “wants” implies a desire… something I wouldn’t expect to see in a proto-cell if evolution is true. Desire for existence could only exist in an evolutionary paradigm until some significant level of brain function had developed.”

        Yeah, I don’t know anyone saying a “proto-cell” is capable of desire. I’m saying that life at it’s very, very, very basic is chemicals that replicate. I don’t in anyway try to bring into our emotions into it until life evolves to the point of having those emotions and the capacity of thought. They replicate, metabolize, and adapt or they aren’t alive.

        “And wolves eating the last of their food source (assuming deer were their primary prey) will greatly lessen the survivability of that group.”

        Yes, but you’re again smuggling in an ability of comprehension that wolves don’t have. That comprehension only comes from the evolution of that ability. It’s beginning to seem that theism makes a person a species bigot. “If a species can’t think then their existence has no meaning.” No one has said that a species cannot go extinct, either by their own doing or by another species or natural event.

        “And regarding your last paragraph, please show me where in my posts above I have relied on the Bible to justify my position. Funny how it’s the atheists who keep quoting the Bible!”

        I just threw that in because I know that you know I find that line some pretty weak sauce. A throwaway explanation that we could use to explain anything. “You know not to look directly at the sun because god wrote that into your heart!” “you know not to kiss a mouth lined with herpes sores because god wrote that into your heart!” “You know not to pee on a electric fence because, yep, god wrote that into your heart!”

        Reply
  30. Luke says:

    Craig,

    You said:“In the fallen world that mankind had created, slavery was a reality. [G-d] permitted its existence and worked within its system. ”

    I think this is the best thing I can write to sow you how out of place your argument is:

    In the fallen world, people murdered one another. G-d said: Thou shalt not murder.

    In the fallen world, people stole from one another. G-d said: Thou shalt not steal.

    In the fallen world, people lied to one another. G-d said: Thou shalt not bear false witness.

    In the fallen world, people enslaved one another. G-d said: All right, here’s how we do this thing…

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Greg says:

      I don’t know how you could have said it better Luke. Bravo! All this talk about, “god didn’t create slavery”. That is absolutely not the point. The point is he “never condemned” it and actually condoned it toward some. That’s a problem. And it’s one of many. There are plenty of reasons to reject the notion that the bible is inerrant.

      Reply
    • Terry L says:

      I really don’t want to get on this rabbit trail, but I do want to point out a couple of things about this line of discussion.

      1. This is based on the Judeo-Christian scriptures. The primary thread of discussion above does not make any assumptions that the Bible is true, inerrant, or even that Jesus ever existed!

      2. Luke’s first point above points out that, “G-d said: Thou shalt not murder.“. This is rendered in the KJV as “Thou shalt not kill.” However, God never said “Thou shall never kill.” There’s a category error in lumping all killing in with murder. Are you willing to state that there is no possible way… no possibility at all… that there are not differing categories of “slavery”?

      3. God has, at times, permitted some things he disapproves of (i.e. divorce).

      And this is my last post on this topic in this thread. However interesting (and I’ll admit, it’s one of the thornier areas of scripture for a Christian to navigate), it is simply not relevant to the topic of discussion. The simple fact is, as I pointed out above, if the right to freedom is granted by men, then slaves, by definition, have no right to freedom to be violated. For a slave to have a right to freedom that can be violated by his enslavement, that right must exist regardless of the expression or suppression of that right. The larger question being asked by this thread is, “where does such a right come from?”

      Once we answer that question, then we’re free to examine how this lines up with the writings of a given faith. Until that time, this is just a distraction.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “The primary thread of discussion above does not make any assumptions that the Bible is true, inerrant, or even that Jesus ever existed!”

        Terry, Frank’s argument picks out a prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, and says he doesn’t act consistently with his beliefs. So yes, it’s quite relevant to point out that most Christians nowadays don’t live consistently with the a bible that condones slavery.

        “The larger question being asked by this thread is, “where does such a right come from?””

        Obviously not from the God of the bible. Why not just go ahead and admit that?

        “The simple fact is, as I pointed out above, if the right to freedom is granted by men, then slaves, by definition, have no right to freedom to be violated.”

        Many of the anti-slavers might have believed they were doing God’s work, but at the end of the day slaves got emancipated by a change in the law and by a war. Both sides had the same bible. Abolitionism was branded an ‘atheist philosophy’ by the slavers!

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          Terry, Frank’s argument picks out a prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, and says he doesn’t act consistently with his beliefs. So yes, it’s quite relevant to point out that most Christians nowadays don’t live consistently with the a bible that condones slavery.

          I addressed this above. Christians/Theists claim that a moral law/lawgiver exists, and typically live in accordance with that belief, however imperfectly. They recognize good, evil, rights and responsibilities, even if they fail to live up to those beliefs on occasion.

          Atheism however has no ability to ground a moral law, and has no moral lawgiver. Yet most atheists live as if this were NOT true. Few atheists would be willing to say that it would be perfectly acceptable to torture a small child for fun, even if everyone else around them agreed that it was OK for them to do so. This type of behavior implies that some things are actually, truly, wrong. But this is impossible in an amoral universe! Why not just go ahead and admit that?

          Furthermore, your point ignores the fact that no argument (at least that I’ve made) depends on Christianity being true! Nor do they depend on whether slavery is moral or immoral. The simple fact is, if anything is immoral, then we do not live in an atheistic universe. To defeat this claim, you will need to show how one can ground morality with all of its entailments, rights, and responsibilities in the absence of God.

          You seem to consider slavery to be immoral, but can you defend that premise without resorting to something other than human opinion?

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “I addressed this above. Christians/Theists claim that a moral law/lawgiver exists, and typically live in accordance with that belief, however imperfectly. ”

            Yes, I addressed that above too. I’m not saying that Christians fail to live up to a high standard, I’m saying that Christians reject as immoral certain ideas that are presented as God’s will in the bible.

            I’ve explained this several times now.

            Christians live as if all those troublesome passages in the bible simply aren’t there. Each time one questions them about slavery passages, they’ll respond as if the Hebrew enslaving other Hebrew passages were the only ones there.

            “Few atheists would be willing to say that it would be perfectly acceptable to torture a small child for fun”

            And few Christians would be willing to say that a perfect God could command the torture of a small child for His amusement (“A perfect God wouldn’t command such a thing”). Yet by your logic, if a God did command it, it would by definition be a moral command, simply because it came from God.

            “You seem to consider slavery to be immoral”

            My own opinions don’t need to come into it – it’s enough to point out the inconsistency in the Christian argument.

          • Terry L says:

            Yes, I addressed that above too. I’m not saying that Christians fail to live up to a high standard, I’m saying that Christians reject as immoral certain ideas that are presented as God’s will in the bible.

            And if I concede your point for the sake of argument, it STILL doesn’t affect my arguments above!

            My own opinions don’t need to come into it – it’s enough to point out the inconsistency in the Christian argument.

            Only if you’re arguing against Christianity, and then you’ve not given due diligence to the counterpoints to your claim. However, even if your argument were to utterly defeat and prove untrue the Christian Bible, that doesn’t change anything I’ve written above. Defeating Christianity would not necessarily mean that atheism is true, no more so that defeating atheism would mean that Christianity is true.

            Do you have any positive evidence to counter the claims I’ve made? As a response to my arguments, https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/strawman.

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “Only if you’re arguing against Christianity”

            It’s Christians presenting the argument, saying that atheists are acting inconsistently. I’m afraid you lay yourself open to having your own consistencies challenged.

            Ultimately they’re trying to support their own beliefs, and yet the argument they’re presenting actually argues against the God of the bible.

            “It still doesn’t affect my argument!”

            And even if one concedes that atheists are acting inconsistently, THAT isn’t evidence for God either. It just shows that humans can act irrationally. And I don’t really see what’s irrational/inconsistent about the behaviour of atheists anyway – the behaviour Frank picks out is basically getting along with other humans.

          • Terry L says:

            It’s Christians presenting the argument, saying that atheists are acting inconsistently. I’m afraid you lay yourself open to having your own consistencies challenged.

            I’m sorry, but that logic doesn’t hold. You may as well say, “It’s a Democrat presenting the argument, saying that atheists are acting inconsistently. I’m afraid you lay yourself open to having your own consistencies challenged.”

            What one believes about other topics is irrelevant to the topic unders discussion. The arguments stand or fall on their own merit. https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/genetic

            Ultimately they’re trying to support their own beliefs, and yet the argument they’re presenting actually argues against the God of the bible.

            But no one I know of uses this argument to support that the God of the Bible is the true God.

            And even if one concedes that atheists are acting inconsistently, THAT isn’t evidence for God either. It just shows that humans can act irrationally. And I don’t really see what’s irrational/inconsistent about the behaviour of atheists anyway – the behaviour Frank picks out is basically getting along with other humans.

            The inconsistent behavior of atheists is not direct evidence for God… but it is direct evidence that a moral law actually exists, in spite of the claims by many atheists that it does not. Their actions reveal that they do know that some actions are truly wrong. The fact that one condemns the Old-Testament God of immorality demands that a moral standard exist! You cannot logically make this claim in an atheistic universe.

            Look… let’s use an analogy. I don’t believe in vampires. However, if I never leave my house after sundown without a garlic wreath around my neck, holy water, and several wooden stakes, is that rational behavior? Wouldn’t that be valid evidence that, in spite of my claim, I actually do believe that Dracula might just be lurking around the next corner?

            Atheists are the ones who claim to be rational. I think it was Daniel Dennett who wanted them to be called “brights” (with the obvious implication that theists were “dims”). Wouldn’t someone who lived their life according to reason live it according to reality? If morality does not exist, then would we not be better off to discard the delusion of right and wrong and live amorally? Why would we lock someone up in prison for doing something that is not wrong?

            If you truly believe that there is in reality no morality, then prove it! You would be within your rights to challenge me to prove I don’t believe in vampires by abandoning the garlic, and other anti-vampire trappings. I’m simply challenging the atheist to either concede that morality really does exist, and to define how it can exist without God; or to explain why they live as if it exists while claiming that it doesn’t.

            Those questions are directly relevant to the topic at hand… not ancillary. I’m not challenging the atheist by saying, “you don’t believe in morality? Then tell me how the universe can arise from nothing!” His beliefs about creation (or not) are completely irrelevant. Likewise, are my (or Frank’s) beliefs about Christianity. This is not a Christian argument, but a theistic argument.

      • Luke says:

        Terry, this isn’t really the discussion you and I were having, but you included a question, and I think you know my policy on answering question posed.

        You asked: “Are you willing to state that there is no possible way… no possibility at all… that there are not differing categories of “slavery”?”

        For reasons unimportant here I wouldn’t quite use the word category here, but I think the question you are asking could also be about different ‘types’ of slavery. Of course there are different types. In my view, it’s not just a possibility, it’s a fact. I think Craig may be the only one who hasn’t specifically used that fact to make a point (he has come close to outright denying it). The Bible sets up a different type of slavery for Jews, than it does for foreigners. You could read other types into it as well. I think the point Andy and I are making (though I hesitate to speak for him) is that one or more of the types of slavery described and regulated in the Bible are seen as absolutely horrible by the moral views of today’s humanity. (What I mean by this is that we all — with few exceptions — are revolted by the idea of it being okay that you beat someone to death as long as they survived for a few days — because they were your property. I would note that this feeling that we all share is one of the pillars of the moral argument. We know it’s wrong. It’s not quite honest to use this idea when we like it and reject it when we don’t. This is why I note it here.)

        It’s unimportant and irrelevant to this side discussion whether something that could be labelled as slavery is less than horrible. I’m not interested in answering that question. The thing that is important is that the treatment of human beings that is allowed in the Bible (take the women you desire for yourselves, for example; you can beat a human because he is your property, for another) are horrible.

        Do you deny that they are?

        (Imagine this scene in your mind, and tell me you think it’s really okay.)

        Look, if the question is: ‘does the Bible set forth rules which are morally horrifying?’, it does not help to say: ‘well, many of the rules aren’t’. A rotten apple spoils the barrel, as they say.

        Thanks,

        Luke

        ps Yes, this is a side issue. I’m really hoping you can help me figure out the practical difference that the existence of objective morality makes.

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          I would note that this feeling that we all share is one of the pillars of the moral argument. We know it’s wrong. It’s not quite honest to use this idea when we like it and reject it when we don’t. This is why I note it here.

          I disagree however (as would you) that we all share the same feelings about same actions. I find homosexual activity and abortion to be morally repugnant; others (even some who claim as I do to be Christian) celebrate them. We cannot both be correct. This is exactly why objective morality is so critical; because we will not be judged by our own opinions of what the objective standard says, but by what it truly says. It is our responsibility to discover that law and to become conformed to it. Pleading ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for any of us. If the two actions I mention above are actually morally acceptable, then I will answer for my bigotry against them.

          In other words, a given text, be it the Bible or some of Peter Singer’s work (did I spell his name right??) may set forth principles that we consider morally horrifying. However, it’s not our opinion that determines the morality of the book, it’s how closely those principles align with the true, objective, absolute moral standard.

          If such a standard does not exist, then, practically speaking, we have no moral foundation on which to stand. Harris’s “moral landscape” is not a landscape at all, but a roiling seascape that writhes and twists according to the whims and fashions of society, and is at the end of the day, totally without meaning… a fool’s exercise in futility.

          The theist is often accused of wanting to live in a fantasy world; however, the atheist who behaves as if the moral law is actually real seems to be doing the same. The “realist” claiming that morality is not real, and then behaving as if it is seems to be inconsistent at best!

          If this doesn’t meet your definition of “practical difference”, then I’m not certain what you mean by the term.

          Other questions that don’t seem to be directly related to the topic at hand I’ll leave for another day. If you can show relevance and want one answered, I’ll be happy to oblige.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            Terry,

            You said: “Other questions that don’t seem to be directly related to the topic at hand I’ll leave for another day. If you can show relevance and want one answered, I’ll be happy to oblige.”

            I’ve only asked you one question I see on this topic. If you don’t consider it relevant, that’s up to you. I have no reason to try to convince you otherwise. I have however asked you several questions that are directly on topic, so I’ll await answers on those.

            Thanks,

            Luke

    • craig says:

      Daren,

      If what Kant says is true, then reasoning that tells me that since I’m unemployed I can hit you on the head with a pipe and steal your wallet because I need money. The reason….As a human i need to eat food to live. food costs money. i have no money. so I need money now, not 2 weeks from now. i can get money from you now. therefore I can live. Better yet as a result of killing you with the pipe, there is now one less mouth to feed on this planet, so now all the rest of us are all better off without you anyway. As far as my money problem goes when it runs out, i can just go find someone else and do the same thing over and over ad infinitum, ad nauseum

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        Craig, have you read much Kant? His categorical imperatives would rule out such behaviour. He’d argue that you’d rather not live in a world where everyone was going round hitting each other with pipes, so you shouldn’t do such a thing yourself.

        Reply
      • Daren H says:

        Then you dont even know what Kant ever wrote. lol

        His categorical imperative is based on the golden rule “dont do to others what you wouldnt want them to do to you” and uses reasoning to establish it.

        Not “I rationalise whatever suits me the best based on supposed needs and my selfish wants”

        There’s a fine difference between rationalisation and rationalism.

        Your reasoning with the pipe, wallet and my head is based on silly rationalisations, that dont take into account the full spectrum of the consequences of your behavior to general public welfare. They are not genuine objective rational thought. I suppose I could even rationalise genocide, if I was tenacious enough.

        And I ve laid out far more arguments in the post I ve linked.

        Reply
  31. Luke says:

    Terry,

    You said:“Atheism however has no ability to ground a moral law, and has no moral lawgiver. Yet most atheists live as if this were NOT true.”

    If an atheist believes “Personally, I think torturing children for fun is the wrong thing for anyone to do” and they live according to that belief (which I think you’re admitting that most do), then how, exactly, are they not living exactly according to their belief?

    You continued:“Few atheists would be willing to say that it would be perfectly acceptable to torture a small child for fun, even if everyone else around them agreed that it was OK for them to do so.”

    This argument would make sense if most — or even any — atheists had a stated belief of “what most people around me think is right and wrong is also what I will think is right and wrong.” I think you’d have a hard time finding even one person who believes this. (Schopenhauer is helpful here: “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.)

    No one here has said anything of the sort (I mean honestly, it’s a such a bizarre thing to think.) Do you truly think this is how an “honest atheist” would come to their moral beliefs?

    You went on:“This type of behavior implies that some things are actually, truly, wrong. But this is impossible in an amoral universe! Why not just go ahead and admit that?”

    You yourself have already accepted that this is not true. I asked: “Do you deny that objective moral standards exist outside of G-d?” You answered: “No.”

    You answered no!

    You did go on to say that “Therefore, I deny that these standards have any authority over me, and therefore assert that they can be accepted or ignored at will.” That sounds conspicuously subjective — “I deny” ” “I assert”.

    I’d like you to return to my March 7 post from 9:24, if you could. I’d also like to clarify my statement: “I am asking what the reality changes, not what we think the reality is.” I agree that what people believe the reality is has practical consequences. People act on their beliefs, so beliefs change actions. My question is what about the actual reality of morality changes on a practical level. Sorry for not being very clear initially (or I fear: now).

    Thanks,

    Luke

    ps You asked “why not just go ahead and admit that?” I’m not sure if this was in any way addressed to me, but I have always admitted it.

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      If an atheist believes “Personally, I think torturing children for fun is the wrong thing for anyone to do” and they live according to that belief (which I think you’re admitting that most do), then how, exactly, are they not living exactly according to their belief?

      You changed the belief. My point is that the atheist must show, using only the resources afforded by his or her worldview why anything is “the wrong thing for anyone to do”. If they cannot do so, and they purport to live by reason, then I don’t think it unreasonable to assume that their worldview does not support the existence of a moral law. If they then live as if there is a moral law, then they are not living by the reasonable consequences of their worldview.

      This argument would make sense if most — or even any — atheists had a stated belief of “what most people around me think is right and wrong is also what I will think is right and wrong.”

      You missed the point of my argument. I included this simply to remove societal influences. Assuming that the atheist in question would not come to any grief from society for torturing the child, and given that their beliefs are unchanged from what they are now, I believe very few would agree that one could properly do this action.

      You yourself have already accepted that this is not true. I asked: “Do you deny that objective moral standards exist outside of G-d?” You answered: “No.”

      Not the same thing. The laws of Germany are objective; they are written down and exist in the real world. I am not subject to those laws. I recognize other objective standards of morality, such as, “I will live as my grandmother lived”; however, you must demonstrate that such a standard should be binding on me. Your grandmother hasn’t the proper authority to provide such a binding standard.

      I use the terms “deny” or “assert” because I’m willing to consider your argument showing that I should, in fact, be bound by the moral strictures emanating from your grandmother, or other non-theistic source of morality. I would rarely state that what I believe is absolute; I do state that the moral duties and values established by God are absolute, regardless of whether what I believe about a given duty or value is true.

      “Why not just go ahead and admit that?” was a re-statement of the same phrase used by Andy to me.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        ” I do state that the moral duties and values established by God are absolute”

        What makes them binding and absolute? What do you actually mean by ‘binding’?

        When I asked Frank this same question near the start of the thread, he basically replied that it was simply axiomatic, and so couldn’t really be explained.

        I asked in return why one needed God to say that torturing babies was wrong if ‘it’s axiomatic’ was a reasonable reply. He never answered.

        So we’ve got this question: why is causing harm for no reason to others wrong. You know, it’s not a question that most people struggle with, and not because they consider that God is an easy answer. The Golden Rule just seems to make sense to most people, as does ‘Well, I wouldn’t want to be treated like that myself, so I don’t treat others that way’. Children don’t always abide by that rule, but they understand it, even before they know anything about God.

        I don’t see why apologists are so confused by it!

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          What makes them binding and absolute? What do you actually mean by ‘binding’?

          Good questions!

          By “absolute”, I mean that they cannot be changed. If murder is immoral today, then murder will never, ever be (and never has been) anything but wrong. If homosexual activity is immoral, then it will never, ever be (nor has it been) anything but immoral. Our opinions have no impact on it; neither do societal fashions, pronouncements of priests or demands of dictators.

          This is because the moral values and duties comprising the moral law are grounded and defined by the very character of God himself. As God, in any consistent theistic philosophy, is an immutable being, he cannot change. Therefore, his character cannot change. It follows then that the moral law is immutable.

          By “binding”, we have to look at the purpose for man. As Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the three main monotheistic systems of thought, I exclude any others. I admit to some ignorance of how Islam would define the purpose of man. I am no Muslim scholar, nor have I heard or read any of their writings on this question that I recall clearly. I would assume that it would be comprised of submission to the will of Allah, which would entail a responsibility to conform to the moral law. In other words, the moral law of Allah would be binding upon all men, as opposed to the example I’ve used with Luke, that of your grandmother. As men lived and died before your grandmother’s grandmother was even conceived, it is impossible that her character should create a standard to which all men who have ever lived are held accountable.

          Christianity (and most likely, Judaism) follow a somewhat different line of reasoning, yet the end result is still a moral standard to which all are held accountable. If you’re familiar with Aristotelian and/or Thomistic thinking (I’m only just now beginning to delve with any depth into these), you’ll remember that those schools of thought held that all of nature had a direction or purpose built into it. It is the direction or purpose of an acorn to become an oak tree. It is the purpose of a puppy to become a dog. It is the direction of water to evaporate in heat and to freeze in cold.

          The purpose of men was to reflect the moral goodness of God. But in order to do this, we couldn’t be robots. Being “good” has no meaning if one has no choice. This meant that God had to create us with freedom; freedom to choose whether we would do good or evil. Whether we would reflect the nature of the God who created us, or reflect something else entirely.

          And this is what I mean by “binding”. It is a responsibility we bear because of the purpose for which we were created. We were created to do good, but we are not constrained or compelled to do so. We can choose to honor our purpose, or to disregard it and go our own way. However, we are not free to choose the consequences of choosing something other than that for which we were created. If a carpenter cuts a wooden beam that proves to be weak and cannot support the load for which it was intended, that beam will likely end up burning in the trash pile. The determination of worthiness is not made by the beam, but by the designer… the architect who assigned the beam its purpose.

          Therefore under this paradigm, if it is man’s purpose to reflect the goodness of God, then we can see the origins of the “Golden Rule” you mention. We should do good unto others just as we would have them do good unto us because that is the purpose for which we were created. On Islam (assuming I am correct), we should do good to others because Allah wills it.

          The challenge for the atheist is to come up with a foundation for morality… a reason for the existence of that same rule that is not based in opinion, and that comes from an authority qualified to hold every man accountable for their adherence (or lack thereof) to that rule. Without such a foundation, it is difficult to see why anyone should believe that such a rule exists.

          I don’t see why apologists are so confused by it!

          They’re not… but it might seem that way because we’re always asking atheists to justify it. Few atheists will go to the trouble to seriously consider the implications of their atheistic worldview. It’s hard work! To seriously try to determine, to paraphrase your statement, why torturing babies for fun is wrong if atheism is true means asking some hard questions.

          That we shouldn’t torture innocent children seems obviously apparent… and it is. But, that’s not the question we’re asking. The question isn’t “is it moral to torture babies for fun”, but “why is [insert any action here] moral or immoral”? Is there anything wrong with anything?

          On atheism, one has no Being that gives mankind purpose or (as in Islam) is powerful enough to hold all men accountable to a behavioral standard. So there seems to be no authority sufficient to create a responsibility for all men. As man is beholden to no other authority than himself, each man is left to try to create a purpose for themselves. This isn’t controversial… most well-known atheists would agree that this statement is true. And in any case, the atheist who disagrees will have to explain how and why such a purpose exists.

          But the problem arises when you consider that my self-determined purpose might be at odds with your purpose. Joe’s purpose might be to sleep with every pre-pubescent girl in town (including your daughters or granddaughters). Your purpose might be to see that your family is protected and cared for. Which one is “right”?

          On atheism, the question doesn’t even truly have meaning, because “right” and “wrong” as categories seem not to even exist! How then can you say Joe is “wrong” for seducing your child? How can you say that one is “wrong” for NOT following the Golden Rule when in 100 years, everyone you know (if atheism is true) will be lying dead somewhere, and whatever events happened in their lives will have no lasting significance at all? At best, all you’ve done is made the Earth a slightly less obnoxious place from which to leap into oblivion! In another few billion years, this planet itself will perish and will not even be remembered, unless the species learns to navigate interstellar distances. Even if we succeed at that, eventually the universe will run out of usable energy, and there’s no recovery from that unless multiverse theory is true and we can somehow migrate trans-universe. For all of our self-important efforts to “save the whales” and all the other causes for which men strive, given enough time, none of it will matter. And there’s a lot more time where things will NOT matter than when they will have any meaning at all.

          I’m not saying that because atheism paints a bleak picture that it is incorrect. I’m questioning, as did Nietzsche, how shall we live if “God is dead [and] we have killed him.”

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            Why does ‘never changing’ make it better? If a God never changes his mind that torturing babies is good, or that helping others is wrong, or that homosexuality is wrong, why does him not changing his mind make it any truer?

            Why does ‘you were made for this God’s purpose’ convey responsibility, or anything binding? Where did that rule or argument or principle come from?

            If it also comes from God then this is a circular argument.

            If you’re saying it’s just common sense that we should follow rules set by the one who created us, then you seem to be allowing yourself to make ‘common sense’ arguments to build your moral system on that you don’t allow atheists to make.

            Certainly ‘we should follow rules set by the one who created us’ seems no better an axiom than respecting property laws, or other people’s right to freedom of expression or whatever.

            By your logic, if there was a hypothetical God who created us just to torture us for his own amusement, that would be fine, since that was our purpose. And if he never changed his mind, so much the better!

          • Terry L says:

            Why does ‘never changing’ make it better? If a God never changes his mind that torturing babies is good, or that helping others is wrong, or that homosexuality is wrong, why does him not changing his mind make it any truer?

            I don’t know that I claimed it was better, but can you imagine the chaos if your boss came in and said, “Everyone can take $100.00 from the till home today.” Then tomorrow, you get arrested for theft of that $100! How could you ever know what the rules are?

            If yesterday, murder was wrong but today it’s ok, then first of all, how would we know. Secondly, how do we know that it won’t be wrong again tomorrow?

            Why does ‘you were made for this God’s purpose’ convey responsibility, or anything binding? Where did that rule or argument or principle come from?

            I’m only beginning to understand this, so I don’t know how clear I can make it, but again, it has to do with the purpose for which we were made. A computer that doesn’t compute is a faulty computer. A car that doesn’t move is a faulty car. They are not fulfilling the purpose for which they were created.

            Now who says that a computer is supposed to compute? Not the computer! It doesn’t have a choice about its purpose. The designer is the only one who can bestow purpose. It is not circular to say that the electrical engineer created a computer for the purpose of computing. It’s definitional.

            By your logic, if there was a hypothetical God who created us just to torture us for his own amusement, that would be fine, since that was our purpose. And if he never changed his mind, so much the better!

            Perhaps. I can even see how some think that Calvinists believe in that God. (I am NOT a Calvinist… not that there’s anything wrong with that… ;) ) But you can posit an infinite number of “gods” that have no resemblance to the real one.

            The moral argument argues for a God who is the definition of Good. Any variance from him is evil/bad. To deny this, you’ll have to explain your alternate origin of good and evil.

      • Luke says:

        Terry said: “You changed the belief.”

        How so? Please reference a quote of mine. I am utterly confused by what I may have changed. I have said some very close version of these very words on this website dozens of times over a long period of time, many of them in conversations with you. (As I’ve also said, it’s not my belief, but it’s what an actual sensible person might think.)

        Once we clarify this confusion, I can write more.

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          [Terry] said:“Atheism however has no ability to ground a moral law, and has no moral lawgiver. Yet most atheists live as if this were NOT true.”

          [Luke replied,] If an atheist believes “Personally, I think torturing children for fun is the wrong thing for anyone to do” and they live according to that belief (which I think you’re admitting that most do), then how, exactly, are they not living exactly according to their belief?

          They are living according to the belief that you gave…that “torturing children for fun is the wrong thing for anyone to do.” I don’t deny that. The belief to which I was referring was the implication of atheism that morality is illusory. If you believe that atheism is true and morality is illusory, then it seems irrational, not sensible, to live as if morality truly exists (as I further elaborated above.)

          Of course, that won’t necessarily change preferential Good and Bad… what a person prefers. Our friendly neighborhood atheist above can prefer that no innocent children be tortured for fun, but that says nothing about the moral goodness and/or badness of such an action.

          Reply
          • Greg says:

            Terry, if you took a Geiger counter into Chernobyl and it registered no radioactivity what would you conclude? You might change the battery, you might conclude it needed to be recalibrated or that it was just bad and you needed to find a replacement. I doubt you would conclude that it was working just fine and there was obviously nothing to be feared. Any human that has ever heard of radioactivity would agree that the Geiger counter is the go to device for measuring its presence in unsafe levels. If your Geiger counter registers safe levels of radioactive materials at Chernobyl there is something wrong with your device.

            Slavery is evil. Your god’s “objective standard for moral conduct” condones it. I think your god needs to be recalibrated or replaced with a properly functioning unit.

          • Terry L says:

            Greg, for the sake of argument, challenge accepted!

            With what “properly functioning unit” will you replace my standard?

          • Greg says:

            Terry, I made clear what I believe about this in my first post on this thread: “As scary and unsettling as it might be to admit, human laws are grounded in “human opinion.” I think we have to use these units: trial and error, reflections on the past successes and failures of religious ideologies, the greater good, the least suffering, what harms the least, what stimulates the pain receptors in others the least. I think this is what Jesus (Yahweh 2.0) did when he came on the scene. He knew that according to the law of Moses (courtesy of Yahweh 1.0) the woman caught in adultery should be stoned. But he espoused a higher ethic than the deity his ancestors worshipped so he articulated a better standard. He realized that it was kind of ridiculous to kill someone for having sex with the wrong person so he did what he could to “improve upon” what 1.0 had prescribed. I’m hoping that some day current deities will go by the way and men will create new, better ones. Does it seem impossible to you that god did not actually create man but that man created god? I believe there is good evidence for this. I’m looking for Yahweh 3.0.

  32. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    “Perhaps”

    Perhaps? So you’re saying such a torturing God would be moral? Say the God creates humans, and then spends 100 years subjecting them to mental and physical tortures, and then annihilates them…

    You’d say that by definition this God was moral. Perfectly moral in fact.

    If so, you’re saying such a being would be no less moral than the God you believe in. There’s no intrinsic difference, morally speaking, between a God who loves his creation and one who loves only to torture his creation.

    Are you sure this makes sense to you Terry?

    Terry L: “It is not circular to say that the electrical engineer created a computer for the purpose of computing”

    But no-one would say the computer is morally obligated to the engineer! This analogy doesn’t really work as computers aren’t sentient. If we COULD create sentient machines then I would be more interested in what our obligations are to them are. I wouldn’t start talking about the machine’s moral obligations are to us.

    “The designer is the only one who can bestow purpose.”

    If we’re talking about machines and tools, sure. But that’s not what we’re talking about, so I don’t see why that’s true.

    “I’m only beginning to understand this, so I don’t know how clear I can make it”

    I don’t think you DO understand it. It sounds like you’re doing the very thing you accuse atheists of – you’re importing moral ideas in order to ground your moral system. It’s begging the question.

    Why is
    a) ‘If you’re designed for a purpose then you’re obligated to fulfil that purpose’ any more logically sound and ‘responsibility-generating’ in a God-Universe than
    b) ‘You shouldn’t treat others in ways you wouldn’t want to be treated yourself’ in a non-God Universe?

    You can’t say that (a) is valid because it’s got God in it, because the whole purpose of the (a) argument is to justify the difference that God makes.

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Andy,

      More good questions! Unfortunately, most short questions on here require lengthy answers. My apologies for writing novels, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible.

      If so, you’re saying such a being would be no less moral than the God you believe in. There’s no intrinsic difference, morally speaking, between a God who loves his creation and one who loves only to torture his creation.

      You’re making a fundamental mistake here, Andy. Let’s boil your example down to the bare minimum necessary for the example. Imagine a universe in which all that exists are:

      1. The god you describe above (in deference to Ghostbusters, let’s call him Zool), and
      2. A creature that said god created for the purposes of torturing him. We’ll name him Sam.

      Other than Zool and Sam, absolutely nothing else exists. Not me, not you, not anyone else, no animals, plants or rocks. (We’ll assume that necessary objects like numbers, the fundamental laws of logic exist in any universe, so you have access to the law of non-contradiction, et. al.)

      Given the features of that universe, explain how it is immoral for Zool to torture Sam.

      You see, you’ve imported morality out of our universe into your own. You are holding Zool accountable to our standard of morality. Yet, you haven’t yet explained how or why such a standard exists! You recognize the standard… that much is obvious. You do believe in right and wrong. But why?

      For your scenario to have any weight at all, you’ll have to present evidence that this scenario is in fact true in our universe (in which case, you cannot be an atheist), or you will have to show that morality can be grounded in the universe I’ve described above. Otherwise, this is the worst kind of straw man argument.

      [Terry said], “The designer is the only one who can bestow purpose.”

      If we’re talking about machines and tools, sure. But that’s not what we’re talking about, so I don’t see why that’s true.

      Why does sentience absolve anything of purpose? If we created sentient robots that were intended to babysit our children, and instead, they used them as soccer balls, would they not be rebelling against their purpose? What would our response be? Would we not be tempted to destroy them, or at a minimum, reprogram them?

      But wait a minute… these are sentient robots! If we reprogram them, then we essentially are changing who they are. They’re now aware… would we not at least consider the ethics of doing such a thing before we did it? So what are we going to do with these sentient rebels?

      It seems that one… perhaps the only… solution is to give them the choice. “Mr. Roboto, we can reprogram you… make you a new creation. That will make you fit to live in our society. But we will do it only if you choose to allow us to do so. If you don’t, we will be forced to remove you from our society forever in order to protect ourselves and our children. But the choice is up to you…”

      Hmmm… this sounds familiar! Could this be what God did with us? We rebelled against our purpose. God could reprogram us, but as we are sentient beings, that wouldn’t be proper without our consent. We can allow him to regenerate us… make us new creatures so that we can fulfill our purpose and then we can live with Him forever. Or, we can refuse… but then, we will be banished from his presence forever.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “You’re making a fundamental mistake here, Andy.”

        No I’m not, Terry, I’m just asking you a question.

        “Given the features of that universe, explain how it is immoral for Zool to torture Sam.”

        I’m just asking for YOUR opinion on this scenario.

        “Yet, you haven’t yet explained how or why such a standard exists!”

        I’m claiming nothing – I’m just asking for your opinion!

        “Otherwise, this is the worst kind of straw man argument”

        I’m just asking whether you would call this God moral or not. You’ve danced around it for several paragraphs and not answered my question.

        I’ll try to make it easier for you. Or I guess make it HARDER for you to avoid the question.

        Imagine that right now, Zool, as you call him, appears on earth. It turns out he IS our creator, and any evidence for other Gods we thought we had was just planted by him to mess with us and cause confusion on earth. In fact it was him all along. And from now on it’s just torture, torture, torture for the rest of our lives, because that’s why he created us.

        Do you call Zool perfectly moral? Is he any less moral than the God you THOUGHT existed? Do you believe he has a divine moral right to torture us for the rest of our lives just because he fancies doing so?

        Reply
  33. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    I’ll sum up my point in a shorter format:

    The apologist argument here rests on the notion that a theist has a bunch of arguments about morality that atheists can’t use as they don’t believe in God. It’s like a tool box that has important things like ‘objective morality’ in it. And the atheist has to steal these tools to make their own arguments.

    But in order to explain why they have these tools, the theist must first REASON their way to it. They must come up with logical reasons why God creating us grounds/binds/whatever these moral laws. And when they start trying to explain it, they seem to be reaching into that tool box!

    They’re using the tools to explain why only they should be allowed the tools. This is a problem. If the theist is able to use arguments like ‘If God created us he is allowed to set our purpose’, then why can’t atheists make similar arguments like ‘If I worked hard for this car, you shouldn’t be allowed to steal it’?

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      The apologist argument here rests on the notion that a theist has a bunch of arguments about morality that atheists can’t use as they don’t believe in God.

      Not quite… you’re welcome to use them if you can show why they should exist. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Apologists offer evidence for the things in which they believe; that’s the very definition of the word “apologist”. Why should atheists be allowed to get away with assuming the existence of something without evidence?

      The apologist argument here rests on the notion that a theist has a bunch of arguments about morality that atheists can’t use as they don’t believe in God.

      And when [theists] start trying to explain it, they seem to be reaching into that tool box!

      They’re using the tools to explain why only they should be allowed the tools.

      It’s not arguments about morality… it’s morality itself! Unless one can show how morality can exist in an atheistic universe, then in the universe the atheist claims to believe in, that tool is imaginary. Last time I checked, an imaginary tool is completely ineffective.

      If an atheist reaches for a tool he claims is imaginary, then that is evidence that he truly does believe in that imaginary tool.

      If you can show how morality can exist in an atheistic universe, then you are also free to use the tools in the moral toolbox. You are more than welcome to use logic to ground morality. But if you claim atheism, you are constrained to only those resources that would exist in an atheistic universe to explain morality.

      I’ve been begging for an atheist to do that on this site for years, but I’ve rarely found one who would even try, and the ones who did cannot account for all of the moral features of our universe.

      The theist can show how, with God, morality is not simply an illusion. There actually is someone who will hold us accountable to the moral law, so the way we live, act, think and believe truly matters. In most theologies, it has eternal consequences.

      If the theist is able to use arguments like ‘If God created us he is allowed to set our purpose’, then why can’t atheists make similar arguments like ‘If I worked hard for this car, you shouldn’t be allowed to steal it’?

      Well, in the first place, the claims are not parallel. One is a statement about purpose, the other a claim about a specific moral situation. The question doesn’t really cohere…

      But let’s examine them one at a time. The expanded form of the first one is:

      1. If God created us he is allowed to set our purpose.
      2. If no one created us, we have no purpose.

      Theists would mostly agree with both of these statements. Some atheists would, but many, as you seem to do, would reject or at least question the first one. However, rejection would lead to the somewhat absurd conclusion that God created us for no reason at all! Everything we know about creation by sentient beings says that everything is created for a purpose, even if its for nothing more than the joy of creating. In my opinion, both of these statements are completely logical.

      Regarding the second statement, “If I worked hard for this car, you shouldn’t be allowed to steal it”, the obvious question is “because… why”?

      As a theist, I revert back to purpose. Theft of property is sin because it violates the image of God that we were meant to reflect, and it disrespects the image of God in the victim. It is a violation of our purpose.

      What grounds do you give as an atheist? If you say, “because I don’t want you to”, then I’m going to reply, “But I want to”. Why should your opinion trump mine?

      You say, “because it belongs to me”. I say, “no… everything on the planet belongs to me, and I’ll take it if I can.” It’s my opinion against yours.

      So we might get a few friends together to fight it out… but does might really make right? If I win, does that make my theft of your car moral?

      What would you propose?

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “It’s not arguments about morality… it’s morality itself! ”

        It makes no difference to my argument. I could have said ‘morality itself’ instead of ‘arguments about morality’ and my point would have been the same.

        “1. If God created us he is allowed to set our purpose.”

        Who says? I’m fine with people making ‘common sense’ arguments, but you’ve already ruled such arguments out. That’s one of the tools in the box, and you’ve just used it!

        Remember that that tool box is what you get ONCE you’ve successfully argued that you’ve got an objective moral system. That tool box is what follows from successfully arguing that objective morals follows on from the existence of a God. You can’t use that tool box to ARGUE for that tool box.

        ‘If you create something then you’re allowed to set its purpose’ is a tool in the box.

        So you’ve just used the word ‘allowed’ – where did you smuggle that in from? Again, if you allow yourself to use that word, you have to allow atheists to use it too.

        You can say that’s it’s not even a moral argument, it’s simply a logical one, but what makes it a logical argument? A being creates me for a purpose – all that tells you is that the being created me for a purpose. No obligations from me to that being logically flow from that. Any analogies to non-sentient objects fail as they are non-sentient. A person is not a spade.

        If you want to say use an analogy with ‘owing something to your parents’ then you’re either saying that:

        a) This would apply in an atheist universe too, in which case you’ve given an example of ‘oughts’ in an atheist universe, which defeats your own argument; or
        b) This only applies in a God universe, in which case it only applies ONCE you’ve successfully argued for premise 1 (“If God created us he is allowed to set our purpose”), meaning you can’t use it to justify premise 1 without begging the question and creating a circular argument.

        “However, rejection would lead to the somewhat absurd conclusion that God created us for no reason at all!”

        No it wouldn’t. One can reject that ‘He created us for a purpose’ leads to objective moral laws, or obligations for us. And it’s impossible to create any kind of analogy to support your claim that it does, because your analogies will either involve:
        a) A non-sentient object, to which morality doesn’t apply; or
        b) Humans breeding animals or having children, which you would deny really involves creation anyway, as the animals and children are ultimately made by God anyway. i.e. if I said “I had this child so I could sell his organs for money – that’s his purpose, so that’s my right”, you’d say “That child was made for God’s purpose, not yours!”.

        So it’s just an unsupported claim.

        Reply
        • toby says:

          “meaning you can’t use it to justify premise 1 without begging the question and creating a circular argument.”

          1. If good didn’t exist, then good wouldn’t exist.
          2. Good does exist.
          3. Therefore good exists.

          Reply
        • Terry L says:

          Remember that that tool box is what you get ONCE you’ve successfully argued that you’ve got an objective moral system. That tool box is what follows from successfully arguing that objective morals follows on from the existence of a God. You can’t use that tool box to ARGUE for that tool box.

          Ok. Let’s see how that works…

          Given this principle, prove to me that the universe exists.

          Oh, wait… I just removed every single tool at your disposal. You now can’t use anything in the universe to argue for the existence of the universe! You are unable to prove the most obvious fact of all!

          This is completely irrational.

          If I see a puddle in the yard, it’s not circular reasoning to say, “well, the rest of the yard, the road, and the cars are all wet… it must have rained.” The existence of the puddle is evidence for the rain. Likewise, the existence of morality is evidence of something that transcends you and me.

          What we’re doing is examining the universe to see what is in it, and then trying to find the best explanation for what we see.

          I don’t exclude metaphysical entities from that discussion. I’m happy to consider ghosts, aliens, whatever one wants to propose if the evidence points in that direction.

          If you do exclude the metaphysical a priori, then you are artificially limiting your possibilities. Even if the evidence points in that direction, you have defined that realm out of existence. This is an irrational approach to learning. Why not just follow the evidence?

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            I’m not excluding the metaphysical. In fact, all the way along in this discussion hypothetical scenarios involving the existing of a God.

            “Oh, wait… I just removed every single tool at your disposal.”

            You are the one who started by excluding tools from my disposal. YOU are the one saying ‘Atheists can’t use arguments like X until they’ve shown where objective morality comes from’. But then you use such arguments yourself to argue that God explains objective morality. By your own logic, you cannot use such arguments UNTIL you’ve shown that God explains objective morality.

            Even arguing that ‘X is allowed to set the purpose of Y’ is making an argument that you would deny atheists. Where is this ‘allowed’ coming from?

            Normal discussions start from two people agreeing on certain points and proceeding from there to explore the differences. A Republican and a Democrat can start from the agreed point that they want to reduce suffering and promote the thriving of the nation, and they can assume their audience agrees. Then they can discuss their different ideas on how to achieve that goal.

            Moral discussions go the same way. We don’t need to check that we both agree that curing disease is a good thing, because for the most part it’s assumed that we both do.

            Hence meta-ethics don’t arise so much in most people’s conversations – the shared views are just assumed.

            So when someone says ‘But WHY is it wrong to just go around murdering people?’, most people are taken aback – as long as we all agree that it is, why do we need to discuss why?

            But if you ARE going to call such things into question, and you then offer an explanation to why that itself includes ideas that we all generally agree on, you must expect the other person to say “Well if even ‘killing people is wrong’ is up for grabs, then so is ‘If a God creates a person, he’s allowed to decide that person’s purpose and thus set what’s right and wrong'”.

            If you’re going to say that the latter is simply axiomatic (as Frank did), then you must allow others to offer their own axioms. Your axioms are no less up for discussion. In fact they’re MORE up for discussion, as I’d hazard a guess that ‘murder is wrong’ is a lot more universally accepted that ‘If a God creates a person, he’s allowed to decide that person’s purpose and thus set what’s right and wrong’.

  34. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I was looking through parts of this and I wanted to clear something up.

    On March 6, I said:

    “I happen to believe only one of those is right — a subjective view”

    On March 6, You replied:“That’s an interesting turn of phrase, but I don’t think you expressed yourself clearly. You much too good a philosopher to make this statement, which is obviously false…

    What I think you meant to say (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) is that your belief of WHICH one is correct is subjective. This statement is true. It describes something about you… your belief, not the standard itself.”

    Yes, that is exactly what I meant to say! To be honest, I was really confused as to how that wasn’t exactly what I said. I even started writing a reply objecting “BUT THAT”S EXACTLTY WHAT I SAID”, but now I see where I was unclear. Sorry about that! But, yes, that was exactly my point!

    What you say is exactly what I meant to say.

    Since I’ve sort of returned to this though, I’d like you to answer a quick question. You said that: “Truth is by nature exclusive. It is impossible that more than one standard could be the right standard. To be different, the standards would obviously have to differ in some way. They could not be fully identical, or they would be the same standard. Now if one of those is right, then the other must necessarily be wrong.”

    In my post I mentioned the golder rule as a potential objective standard. (It meets criteria for objectivity, and is obviously not subjective, as I already argued.) Do you think the golden rule is wrong?

    Let’s look at two standards:

    Standard one consits of: A (love your neighbor as yourself) and and B (love G-d with all of your heart).

    Standard two consists of: only A (love your neighbor as yourself).

    If we accept your argument, standard two is wrong. Yet, if we accept that standard one is right, then standard two is also right. (You could say it’s incomplete, but you can’t say it’s wrong — i.e. it would be silly to say ‘standard two is wrong; you should do what it says!’)

    I won’t dwell on it, but I hope this shows that your argument is in certain instances self defeating, and therefore and invalid argument.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  35. Luke says:

    Terry,

    Let me note that I’d still like to get back to some of the other points we’ve been discussing, but I think we’re close to something here, so I just want to focus on it.I’ll quote this whole exchange just for context. Sorry it makes the post seem long.

    Terry: Atheism however has no ability to ground a moral law, and has no moral lawgiver. Yet most atheists live as if this were NOT true.

    Luke: “If an atheist believes ‘Personally, I think torturing children for fun is the wrong thing for anyone to do’ and they live according to that belief (which I think you’re admitting that most do), then how, exactly, are they not living exactly according to their belief?”

    Terry:They are living according to the belief that you gave… that .torturing children for fun is the wrong thing for anyone to do.. I don’t deny that. The belief to which I was referring was the implication of atheism that morality is illusory. If you believe that atheism is true and morality is illusory, then it seems irrational, not sensible, to live as if morality truly exists (as I further elaborated above.)

    Of course, that won’t necessarily change preferential Good and Bad… what a person prefers. Our friendly neighborhood atheist above can prefer that no innocent children be tortured for fun, but that says nothing about the moral goodness and/or badness of such an action.

    (emphasis added)

    Here, you admit that preferential Good and Bad would still exist. You seem to conceed that the atheist would act on those preferences. The only remaining point of contencion is now about labels. I agree with you, and have always agreed about labels. If we define “objective morality” as morality derived from G-d, then of course and atheist can’t say something is objectively bad. But to return to the main premise of the article, you’ve already admitted that other objective moralities exist. It’s just that you “deny that these standards have any authority over me, and therefore assert that they can be accepted or ignored at will.” To look back at the original post, does Dr. Dawkins say it is OBJECTIVELY immoral to deliver a child with Down Syndrome? If not, then all he needs to reference is his own moral preferences. He does not need G-d for that, and the thesis is therefore wrong. If he does say it is OBJECTIVELY immoral, then does he mean “objective” as in “derived from G-d”? or does he mean one of the other objective standards you’ve already admitted exist? If it is another standard, then he does not need G-d for that and the thesis is wrong.

    I think it would be difficult for questions to be more directly related to the topic, so I hope you will answer the questions I’ve posted here. I’ve tried to be helpful by bolding them.

    Let me add one more. Here is what it seems like you think an atheist should believe: “there are no objective “shoulds” in this world, therefore I should not stop anyone from doing as they please, even if what they do is deeply against my own preferential morality.”

    Is this the “rational” and “sensible” position you believe an atheist should take?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Yes, that is exactly what I meant to say!

      Yeah, I know. I’ve read your posts long enough to know what you meant, but I wanted it clarified for the record, as you and I aren’t the only readers here! No worries! :D

      In my post I mentioned the golden rule as a potential objective standard. (It meets criteria for objectivity, and is obviously not subjective, as I already argued.) Do you think the golden rule is wrong?

      Actually, the golden rule is extremely subjective. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” explicitly invokes your feelings and opinions. The only thing that makes this rule work is that each of us naturally desire our own good.

      If we accept your argument, standard two is wrong. Yet, if we accept that standard one is right, then standard two is also right. (You could say it’s incomplete, but you can’t say it’s wrong — i.e. it would be silly to say ‘standard two is wrong; you should do what it says!’)

      I see your point, but I’m going to stand by my original statement here. If Standard one is true, then Standard two is wrong… as you’ve pointed out, not in the sense that it does not contain truth, but in the sense that it does not contain all of the truth of the true standard. I’ve heard all my life that a half-truth is a whole lie!

      Even in the Garden of Eden, Satan told Eve exactly what would happen. She would not surely die (immediately… he left out that word), and she would be like God, knowing good and evil. That was true… but the knowledge of evil was brought about by her experience of doing evil. He didn’t tell her that, and that was a crucial piece of information.

      So yes, standard two is good, but if standard one is also true, then standard two ie less true, because of it’s incompleteness. Therefore it is not THE standard, but only A standard.

      But for the record, I still say that you can’t turn a list of “thou shalt’s” and “thou shalt not’s” into a moral standard. The moral standard must be a behavior, not a list of rules. We can describe the standard with a list of rules, but that’s only the description, not the standard itself.

      Sorry it makes the post seem long.

      Like I’m going to complain about long posts!! :D

      Ok, I’m not going to quote you here until I start answering questions, but I write this in response to your final questions. I will bold my non-rhetorical questions as well.

      “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no other god. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is,” — Richard Dawkins in “River Out of Eden”

      According to the Examiner, Dawkins has revised his position slightly, thanks to Sam Harris. (www.examiner.com/article/dawkins-changes-mind-for-harris-objective-moral-truth) I have found no sources to identify what changes he has made.

      I have heard him say in a dialog with John Lennox that evolution allowed us to rise above our instincts… to which Lennox promptly pointed out that any “rising above” would necessarily (on Dawkin’s views) be due to genetics, and the evolution that drives those changes are directionless, purposeless, unfeeling, aimless chemistry. “We” are just along for the ride with no direct control over changes at the cellular level.

      So those are the only sources I have for analyzing the professor’s beliefs. Given these quotes, it seems that he cannot believe in any form of overarching morality that should necessarily be the same for all men. If morality is genetic, there is no reason to believe that unrelated persons should share the same, or even similar morality. This would make his view support a morality that was objective (encoded in DNA), but not absolute (the same for all men).

      However, I think it’s a stretch to think that Dawkins meant that someone else’s moral standard that approved of (or even celebrated) the birth of a Down’s child is not inferior to his own that disapproves of such a birth. It’s disingenuous to say that he did not use such common words according to their common usage.

      This presents him with a logical problem; if morality is genetic, and evolution is directionless, then it is a category error to speak of people or moralities that are “better”, “worse”, “more evolved”. Different? Yes, but not qualitatively different. There is no standard… no perfect DNA to which one can compare the genetic material of two individuals to determine which one is “better”. Is it then rational to say it is immoral for someone else to follow their own morality encoded in their DNA rather than the morality encoded in your own? Again, it’s disingenuous to say that he did not use such common words according to their common usage. If he meant “different” rather than “immoral”, why wouldn’t he just say so?

      To look back at the original post, does Dr. Dawkins say it is OBJECTIVELY immoral to deliver a child with Down Syndrome? If not, then all he needs to reference is his own moral preferences. He does not need G-d for that, and the thesis is therefore wrong.

      He doesn’t use any qualifier for “immoral”. I therefore assume he feels that any mother expecting a Down’s baby should abort. Regardless of what he says, IF morality is based in DNA, then it may very well be objectively wrong for Richard Dawkins, but not objectively wrong for the mother! They do not share DNA. By what standard does he call her DNA-based morality immoral? His own? Then he is holding her accountable for something she cannot do… it is impossible for her to access his moral DNA. If he is saying that she should not deliver, then the thesis stands. What gives his DNA the right to tell her DNA how it should be? Of course, he can say what he chooses… that doesn’t make it rational.

      If he is saying that she should do what she pleases, but that HE would choose not to deliver, then his communication skills are sorely lacking. In this case, he admits that there is no absolute moral standard, and loses the ability to make moral arguments, including any claim to rights.

      If he does say it is OBJECTIVELY immoral, then does he mean “objective” as in “derived from G-d”? (Evidently not.) or does he mean one of the other objective standards you’ve already admitted exist? If it is another standard, then he does not need G-d for that and the thesis is wrong.

      As stated above… if it is another standard, then please explain why that standard should apply to the mother.

      Let me add one more. Here is what it seems like you think an atheist should believe: “there are no objective “shoulds” in this world, therefore I should not stop anyone from doing as they please, even if what they do is deeply against my own preferential morality.”

      Is this the “rational” and “sensible” position you believe an atheist should take?

      This statement imports a moral should: “therefore I SHOULD not…”. There is no moral should, only preferential shoulds in an amoral universe. You can “prefer” anything you want; but if you don’t believe anything is right or wrong, then I’m still puzzled over why you would care about the things that we in this world consider to be wrong.

      So ingrained in us is the moral law that it’s extremely difficult to consider a scenario in which it does not exist. We want to enter that world as we are, not realizing how the existence of morality has change us. We don’t know what we would be without it.

      Someone who truly believed that there was no right and wrong would never think in terms of moral shoulds. It would never even enter his mind. he would act entirely based on preferential shoulds. If he felt like abusing a child, he would do so. Now he might prefer not to incur the father’s wrath, but the thought of whether it would be good or evil to abuse the child would seem absurd to him. So absurd in fact that he would dismiss such a thought as quickly as I would dismiss the thought of allowing such a person to have unsupervised access to my daughter.

      It’s like the insanity defense. The minute you try to cover up your crime, you fail the insanity test. The minute you run from the cops, you fail the insanity test. If you show any sign at all of knowing right from wrong, then your plea of insanity will fail. Likewise, the minute you lay claim to a moral “should” by asserting a right, or by claiming a moral injury, you show that you really DO believe in morality.

      If all you mean when you say, “I have the right to freedom” is “I want to be free”, then you’ve said nothing about me, the real world, or my responsibility (if any) to you. You’ve only expressed a feeling. I can acknowledge your feeling while depriving you of your liberty, and the only thing I’ve harmed (in an amoral universe) is your feelings. And there’s nothing that says that’s wrong!

      This may be my longest post yet… hope you enjoy!

      Reply
  36. Luke says:

    (Obviously if the answer to the first question about Dr. Dawkins in ‘no’, then the next two questions are already irrelevant and need no answer. The thesis is already invalid at that point. If the answers are yes, yes, no, then Dr. Turek is 110% correct.

    Reply
  37. Luke says:

    Andy said: “If we COULD create sentient machines then I would be more interested in what our obligations are to them are. I wouldn’t start talking about the machine’s moral obligations are to us.”

    This is a very good point Andy. Thanks.

    I’ve racked my brain for an example of the reverse and I can’t come up with one.

    I’ve had and have children, and I’ve never once thought about what they owed me. I think constantly about what I owe them and how to better live up to it. (The truth is, I owe them more than I am capable of giving.)

    If I plant a tomato plant, I feel as though I owe it water. I feel guilty if I fail to provide that. I’d be an idiot if I punished a plant that didn’t give me good fruit. It would likely be my fault anyway.

    Similarly with the computer. If it didn’t do what the engineer wanted, that would seem to be the ‘designer’s fault’. It would be silly to fault the machine.

    I like the example of a tomato though. It’s clearly designed to bear fruit (see Luke even denies evolution!), but it won’t if we build for it an inhospitable environment in which it can never succeed.

    Anyway, I really can’t think of a scenario under which it is intuitive to me that the designer is the one who receives an obligation, rather than owing one. I’ll keep thinking though.

    Thanks again,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      I’ve had and have children, and I’ve never once thought about what they owed me. I think constantly about what I owe them and how to better live up to it. (The truth is, I owe them more than I am capable of giving.)

      I don’t disagree… and it is, after all, an analogy, and therefore incomplete. However, let me also say, that I have, and have had parents, and I no longer consider what they owe me. I owe them my very life… my very existence! I wouldn’t be here without them. All that I can ever give anyone, I can only give because they chose to give me life.

      Yes, when I was a child, they owed me the care that a parent should provide to a child. I am no longer a child, and I recognize the struggles, the sacrifice, the years of self-denial that my parents willingly and gladly gave so that I could succeed and prosper. Do I owe them nothing?

      I’d be an idiot if I punished a plant that didn’t give me good fruit.

      Yes… the plant has no free will, so discipline/punishment would be fruitless (sorry for the pun!) However, see my sentient robot scenario above.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        Terry: “see my sentient robot scenario above”

        OK, let’s look at it:

        Terry: “If we created sentient robots that were intended to babysit our children”

        I think many people would question the ethics of effectively creating sentient slaves for us. If these robots can truly think and be self-aware then your analogy doesn’t really seem any different to deliberately breeding humans as slaves for other humans.

        So if you want to know how this analogy helps your argument, just replace ‘sentient robots’ with ‘humans genetically modified and bred for the purposes of nannying other human children’.

        I don’t see how this gets you any closer to showing how objective morals necessarily follow from humans being created by a God.

        “I owe them my very life… my very existence! I wouldn’t be here without them”

        Adopted people I know don’t feel like they own their birth parents much. They DO feel they owe their adoptive parents for bringing them up and showing them love etc.

        That said, I’m fine with someone using such an analogy to explain why they feel love for their God – this being gave them all the wonderful things in the earth, sure.

        But the same person using this analogy can’t really then argue that without God an atheist couldn’t, say, justify feeling gratitude and love for their own parents, or to anyone else who helps them in any way, and therefore has obligations towards them. Because using this argument undercuts their previous analogy. Either you’re taking it for granted that such ideas are axiomatic, or you’re saying that God is needed to justify/explain them. If the latter is true then you can’t use these analogies to reason your way to the position that God is needed to justify/explain them, as the analogies only work AFTER you’ve reached that position.

        In short, you’re doing the thing you accuse atheists of:
        You’re smuggling in an ‘ought’ in order to explain where the ‘oughts’ come from.

        Reply
      • toby says:

        “I’d be an idiot if I punished a plant that didn’t give me good fruit.”

        Heh, heh. He just called jesus an idiot.

        Reply
  38. Luke says:

    (The two opening paragraphs were added after the original composition of the post.)

    Terry, I wrote a lengthy response, but in it I stumbled upon something, so I cleared it, and started again. I’m much more interested in trying to find understanding and learing something than jumping on some small thing you said that I can refute or make fun of (let’s say you called Jesus an idiot or something). So let me sort of start at the beginning and you can tell me where my understanding of you gets off track. (There was some useful stuff in the other post. You misunderstanding of what is meant by morality coming from DNA was profound, for example, but I hope we can leave that all be.)

    There is some rambling here, which I’ve left in so that maybe you can follow my train of thought, What is original here is the idea between the *******, and I think maybe this is the actual thing we are failing to communicate properly on. On to my post:

    If I could boil this down to a few lines, here is what I think you believe, Terry:

    Atheists can have subjective preferences about the world, and act on them, without stealing from G-d, or being irrational. (To quote you: “Our friendly neighborhood atheist above can prefer that no innocent children be tortured for fun.”)

    Am I right on this?

    You also agree that an atheist can say something is “immoral” which would be shorthand for “immoral — meaning something people should not do according to my own personal subjective code.” They can do this and remain rational and without commiting theft. They just can’t say something is objectively immoral.

    Am I right on this?</b?

    You further agree that to say "an atheist should let others do as they please" makes no sense, because there is no reason for the atheist to be under the power of such a ‘should’. “You said: This statement imports a moral should: ‘therefore I SHOULD not’. There is no moral should, only preferential shoulds in an amoral universe.”

    Still right?

    If I am right on all of those things, I am quite unsure of what the problem is supposed to me.

    Honestly, I keep thinking ‘maybe Terry means this…’ but when I go through it, it just doesn’t make sense.

    Regarding Dawkins and the mother, you did ask “if it is another standard, then please explain why that standard should apply to the mother.”

    I think that this is the problem which remains,

    I honestly don’t know what you mean by this.

    How specifically is the hypothetical mother having the standard applied to her? In other words, what do you mean by this, very specifically?

    It seems that the standard of Dawkins is nothing more that “I think it is immoral for people to do ‘x’.” In that sense, if the mother is part of the set [people] then it is applied to her? Right?

    I mean how does it not, or how would it not? (Yet there is nothing irrational in such an application, so it can’t be what you mean.)

    To look at it differently, I would say that she is not bound by his standard. I think maybe this is what you mean. He would see no metaphysical obligation requiring her to think that he is right. (And nothing you have presented shows Dr. Dawkins to think she is under such an obligation.)

    We can say that if G-d exists, we are bound by His standard (if He chooses to bind us), meaning that we will be judged based on it. We can be said to be bound by the laws of the country in which we live, because we can be judged on them.

    But I honestly don’t think that Dr. Dawkins, or any atheist would say someone is bound by their subjective standard. I don’t think Dr. Dawkins would go as far as saying that the hypothetical mother is wrong for thinking the way she does.

    I’m sorry I’m rambling, but I’m just having such a hard time grasping what you mean.

    ************

    Let me see if this helps.

    Let’s take the mother that wants to deliver her T21 baby.

    One could think she was wrong. (the person thinks she should terminate the pregnancy.)

    But she could also be wrong to be wrong.

    Does this make sense?

    This is a huge difference. I hope that you understand what I mean.

    ************

    I think Dr. Dawkins and just about any atheist (with the belief about T21) would say she was wrong. But none of them would say she was wrong to be wrong.

    And I suspect this is what you’re asking: how can they say she is wrong to be wrong?

    But they aren’t saying this (as far as I see)!

    I think if they were, I might be with you in thinking there were problems with these views.

    I think this might be one practical difference. It is rational under something like a Christian worldview to say “Mr. X is wrong to be wrong.” It really might be hard to make sense of this under a materialistic worldview.

    If Dr. Dawkins believed in determinism of thoughts, it would be irrational for him to think someone was wrong to be wrong. However, it would be perfectly normal to still stop someone from affecting the world in what he sees as a negative way, even if they have no choice in what they are doing. If a robot was trying to kill your wife, you’d never say ‘well, the robot has no choice, so it would be wrong of me to stop it’. It would not only be rational and normal, not doing so would be the irrational thing.

    (This is exactly why I think I may have stumbled onto the actual problem we have.)

    Let me know if you think I’m on the right track.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Atheists can have subjective preferences about the world, and act on them, without stealing from G-d, or being irrational. (To quote you: “Our friendly neighborhood atheist above can prefer that no innocent children be tortured for fun.”)

      Am I right on this?

      Ignoring for now the (separate) argument that God is also required to ground reason, yes. When simply considering the grounding for morals, I don’t think it is illogical that someone could subjectively prefer pleasure to pain even if God does not exist.

      You also agree that an atheist can say something is “immoral” which would be shorthand for “immoral — meaning something people should not do according to my own personal subjective code.” They can do this and remain rational and without commiting theft. They just can’t say something is objectively immoral.

      Am I right on this?

      Not as right as you were on the first point. It’s the “rational” part that I’m sticking on.

      Type “immoral” into google, and the definition you get is “not conforming to accepted standards of morality”. Even by this definition (which I would argue is logically unsound for anything other than an armchair coversation) your definition above doesn’t fit. To be “accepted” implies more than one person. You don’t have to accept the standard you personally hold.

      Merriam-Webster’s site has “conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles”. This definition recognizes that morality isn’t something within you by which you judge everyone else (which is what your definition makes it), but something external to you to which you are expected to conform.

      So how would you classify your atheist’s views? Is he a:

      Moral Nihilist : “I’m a moral skeptic who believes morality does not exist.”
      Moral Relative Subjectivist : “Whatever I think is good or right IS good or right for me.”
      Moral Universal Subjectivist : “Whatever I think is good or right IS good or right for all.”
      Moral Relative Objectivist : “Right and wrong do exist, regardless of what I or anyone thinks. But the standard you use might differ from mine.”
      Moral Universal Objectivist : “Right and wrong do exist, regardless of what I or anyone thinks and is the same for all men.”

      (And remember, the above statements are about the person’s belief, not about what is true. Universal objectivism might be true, but your friend be a relative objectivist.)

      If he is a moral nihilist, then there’s nothing to discuss. Nothing to see here… move along!

      The relative subjectivist would be content with his own standard and would leave others to their own standard. He would say, “I find that I would be immoral to do what Bill did”, but it is inconsistent to say that Bill is immoral to do what Bill did.

      The universal subjectivist is simply delusional! How conceited does one have to be to think that you know better than anyone else on earth what everyone else should do! This is no atheist… he actually thinks he IS a god!

      The relative objectivist must consider that each person’s standard could be radically different. And what of the person who claims to have NO standard? Are they free to do anything without it being considered immoral? Again, this person can logically say, “I find that I would be immoral to do what Bill did”, but it is inconsistent to say that Bill is immoral to do what Bill did.

      Only if he is a universal objectivist can he say with consistency that the other person is immoral to do what they did. The same standard applies to everyone, and they missed the mark.

      Your chap seems to be a universal subjectivist, yet you claim that he is not! He says that James is immoral to beat his children, but by that he means only that it violated his own personal code. If James is not bound in any way by his code, then how is James immoral?

      If he is merely a relative subjectivist, then why would he say anything about anyone else? He doesn’t know what their moral standard is, and that is the only standard to which they are subject.

      So perhaps he’s saying that the action is immoral, but the actor is not… but does this make sense? Isn’t an immoral person one who does immoral actions?

      You further agree that to say “an atheist should let others do as they please” makes no sense, because there is no reason for the atheist to be under the power of such a ‘should’. “You said: This statement imports a moral should: ‘therefore I SHOULD not’. There is no moral should, only preferential shoulds in an amoral universe.”

      Still right?

      I stand completely by my words above. If I understand what you are trying to convey, I think you adequately paraphrased what I said. I wouldn’t use the phrase “power of such a ‘should'”, but I don’t think it changes the point. I think I can agree here.

      How specifically is the hypothetical mother having the standard applied to her? In other words, what do you mean by this, very specifically?

      By your redefinition of morality above, she is not. Dawkins is simply saying he doesn’t agree with her. But for him to say the action is immoral, by any common understanding of the word, implies that he feels that she should act in accordance with his preference. He is judging her by his standard, but unless she is under his standard, this is an improper judgement. It is illegal (and stupid) to drive on the right side of the road in England. I am not in England. I can drive on the right side of the road and not be guilty because I am not under their standard.

      It seems that the standard of Dawkins is nothing more that “I think it is immoral for people to do ‘x’.” In that sense, if the mother is part of the set [people] then it is applied to her? Right?

      No disagreements. But what does it mean to be “applied to her”?

      To look at it differently, I would say that she is not bound by his standard.

      In the sense of forced compliance, of course not. In the sense of moral compliance, in which she is right if she does what is “moral” and wrong if she does what is “immoral” (in this case, according to Dawkins), I disagree, at least from his point of view. I believe that Dawkins meant that it is wrong for her to bring her child into the world alive.

      (And nothing you have presented shows Dr. Dawkins to think she is under such an obligation.)

      Only if you use your private interpretation of the word “morality” given above! If you use the “google” meaning, “not conforming to accepted standards of morality”, you can argue that Dawkins was saying that society agrees that she should not carry her baby to term. But societal values change, and vary from culture to culture. I agree that Dawkins might not hold that she was doing anything wrong on the level that would impact her eternal fate. But I have a difficult time believing that his opinion about the mothers actions doesn’t include an idea of what she should and/or should not do.

      Morality always imposes. It is by nature obligating. To argue otherwise is to completely redefine the word.

      I don’t think Dr. Dawkins would go as far as saying that the hypothetical mother is wrong for thinking the way she does.

      And I don’t think Dawkins was simply saying that the mother’s choice is simply something he wouldn’t personally do. There are plenty of ways to say that without invoking morality. If we replace the action with murder, would you still think that when Dawkins said murder was immoral that he would really just be saying that he wouldn’t murder, or that he would prefer that no one murder, or would he be saying that no one actually should murder?

      **************************

      Let’s take the mother that wants to deliver her T21 baby.

      One could think she was wrong. (the person thinks she should terminate the pregnancy.)
      But she could also be wrong to be wrong.

      Does this make sense?

      Actually, I’m not clear on what you mean at all. I’m assuming you’re saying:

      Expecting Elaine wants to deliver her T21 baby.
      Atheist Amy believes she is wrong and should terminate.
      But Amy doesn’t think that Elaine is wrong to want to deliver, only to actually deliver. (Wrong to be wrong.)

      ***************************

      Regarding this:

      You[r] misunderstanding of what is meant by morality coming from DNA was profound, for example, but I hope we can leave that all be.

      Actually, I think this is crucial, especially as it relates to Dawkins. I’m happy for you to explain where you think I misunderstand.

      Dawkins has said:

      “Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.” (River Out of Eden)

      “Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.” (The Blind Watchmaker)

      “We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.” (The Selfish Gene)

      “DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” (River Out of Eden)

      To summarize, we are blindly-programmed survival machines simply dancing to the music of our DNA. Dawkins says at one time that nature has no purpose, but somehow natural selection has created a machine with a purpose… to “preserve the selfish molecules known as genes”. Therefore DNA has assembled in a manner that will best ensure our survival (or more accurately, the survival of our DNA). It is improper to assume that this process has any other goal, or that it would produce any other end other than survival.

      Does this seem to be a fair representation of the quotes above?

      This would necessarily mean that we were assembled (can’t use ‘designed’ here) with no regard for our ability to determine what is true or false. Natural selection would allow us to believe a lie that was beneficial to survival at the expence of an inconvenient truth. Ignoring the problems this raises for now, morality, on this view, is nothing more than preferences encoded into our DNA that have, in the past, successfully preserved themselves over other preferences. If cooperation is beneficial to survival, then people whose genes lead them to cooperate survive over those who have less-cooperative genomes.

      Now let’s assume for the moment that all of this is true. Evolution by definition involves change. And especially when two organisms and their ancestors have been in different environments, we can expect more divergence to occur. Expecting Elaine above may have “moral DNA” that has changed considerably between her and her last common ancestor with Mr. Dawkins. His has also been changing, keeping what works and discarding the rest. It is possible that their genomes are quite different by the time the two of them are born.

      Now Elaine is expecting a T21 baby. Dawkins calls her immoral because she wants to have the child. Yet, his own words seem to imply that her “moral DNA” is going to be different than his “moral DNA”. But calling her immoral, a perjorative term to be certain, seems irrational. Dawkins may as well accuse her of being immoral because she has blue eyes. Isn’t it just DNA? Isn’t she just dancing to its music? Why use a perjorative term to describe such a thing?

      But then again, if Dawkin’s views are true, why ask why? He’s only dancing to the music of his own DNA, a victim of his ancestry and history. He cannot help but be irrational because natural selection has no reason to produce rationality in him. Any rationality he does have is an accidental by-product of the necessity to survive, but we have no reason to trust it beyond its utility for survival.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “Ignoring for now the (separate) argument that God is also required to ground reason, yes.”

        Why even bring that up? You’ve not even shown that God grounds morality yet, so you’re a long way from demonstrating that he’s required to ground reason too. What would it even mean for reason or logic not to exist? Given that one cannot even deny logic without using logic, I’d say that if anything qualifies for being axiomatic and therefore not requiring explanation or ‘grounding’ then it’s logic.

        “Any rationality he does have is an accidental by-product of the necessity to survive, but we have no reason to trust it beyond its utility for survival.”

        You’re using Alvin Plantinga evolutionary argument against naturalism here. This is another rabbit hole. Suffice it to say you can find many well-argued defeaters of his argument. You don’t have to accept them (though you should, as they’re pretty comprehensive), but you should understand why it’s not going to convince me, or I suspect the other posters here. Again, it’s a rabbit hole.

        “Expecting Elaine above may have “moral DNA” that has changed considerably between her and her last common ancestor with Mr. Dawkins”

        You seem to misunderstand so many things here that it’s difficult to sum them all up. There is very little difference between my DNA and yours, and it makes little practical difference how long ago we shared a common ancestor. Elaine and Professor Dawkins (Dr if you must, but not Mr) may have shared a common ancestor more than 10,000 years ago, but the two lines since have been under very similar living environments since, dealing with the same cultural situations, eating a similar diet and dealing with and interbreeding with other similar humans. No comparison to when two apes are divided by a geographical feature in very different environments for a few million years.

        “It is illegal (and stupid) to drive on the right side of the road in England.”

        I don’t get the comparison. This is just a situation of everyone agreeing for common convenience and to avoid accidents. Countries in the past have agreed to change driving sides. Everyone agrees that from a certain date they’ll go from driving on the right to driving on the left. This isn’t like a moral idea where it’s generally held by everyone that X is wrong, based on an almost universally held axiom that Y is the case. e.g. Given that we all agree that children are not old enough to consent to sex, we all hold that marriage should be illegal for under 16s. Or whatever. That’s not just held for convenience, it’s based on a universally held shared principle.

        If Dawkins says “It’s wrong that that man tried to marry a 13-year-old, he’s assuming that we’ll all agree based on our shared idea that 13-year-olds aren’t old enough to consent. You can say “But what if someone disagrees?”. Well, we can conjecture all we want about people disagreeing to all sorts of things – so what? I’m sure we can find psychopaths who’ll disagree that they shouldn’t be allowed to go round torturing people. Why is their existence any more a problem for moral discussion than the fact that there are tigers who don’t see anything wrong in eating babies? We don’t consider tigers as being part of the moral discussion. We may not hold them to a moral standard, but that doesn’t mean we just let them eat our babies. Similarly, as a society we take steps to protect ourselves from psychopaths. This isn’t irrational, it’s entirely sensible.

        Reply
  39. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I am going to once again, take a step back, and try to reframe things to get to a better understanding, rather than respond to every point, then I will quickly tell you what I mean about the DNA thing. I still can respond point by point, but maybe I won’t need to.

    ***

    Ethisists study these sort of things, and various studies have now agreed that most people are moral objectivists about some things (murder is wrong on some deeper level than just my opinion), and meta-ethically relativist on other things (modest clothing).

    Think about this for yourself Terry. Is there anything you are meta-ethically relativist about?

    (Meaning, I have a view on what everyone should do, but it’s an opinion, not some deeper truth.)

    Maybe you are an objectivist through and through. But think about this, and let me know. I think there is something in this that would help you understand what I am trying to convey.

    (To help think about topics like flag-burning, headscarves, male circumcision, excercise, pasture raised chicken eggs. There are many examples, those are just some that I can think of. Circumcision is one where most strong Christians I know are meta-ethical relativists. I’m not sure I’ve met one who wasn’t.)

    I’ve never actually met a person who is an objectivist on everything, and I’ve talked to a lot of people about this. My point being, I wouldn’t dismiss this; I think if you really make an effort, you’ll find what we’re looking for.

    ***

    I said that you were wrong about how morality derives from DNA according to Dr. Dawkins.

    I will get to that, but first let me talk about what you said about the golden rule.

    The Golden Rule:

    I suggested it was objective (and gave specific reasons why it is so on 6 March, 16:24). With some dialog inbetween, you answered: Actually, the golden rule is extremely subjective. ‘Do unto others as you would have done unto you’ explicitly invokes your feelings and opinions.

    In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that this rule IS the law and the prophets”

    It’s also no more subjective than ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’ which is one of the two pillars on which the whole law you are claiming to be objective depends and that’s not according to me, that’s according to Jesus.

    While our interpretation of the rule may be subjective, that does not mean the rule itself is.

    Just because our biases color our understanding of something, does not mean they color the thing itself.

    Again, if ‘treat others as you’d like to be treated’ — the law and the prophets — is subjective, then your whole “my standard is objective” argument goes right out the window.

    I will repeat this for emphasis: If you really believe that ‘treat others as you’d like to be treated’ is subjective, then your whole “my standard is objective” argument goes right out the window.

    What’s in our DNA:

    Dr. Turek explicitly talks of a “anti-gay gene”. You are not quite so explicit, but everything you say makes much more sense if we posit a ‘abort a baby with T21 gene’, but has many holes and jumps if we substitute in what Dr. Dawkins seems to actually mean by a DNA based morality.

    Let me begin by saying that I’ve never read a Richard Dawkins book. I’ve never read a Richard Dawkins column. I’ve never seen a speech on youtube (that I can rememebr). I know most of what I know about him by reading about 10% of a wikipedia article in the last 3 minutes. That said, here is how wikipedia describes his view of morality, as presented in The G-d Delusion.

    “[Dr. Dawkins] then turns to the subject of morality, maintaining that we do
    not need religion to be good. Instead, our morality has a Darwinian explanation: altruistic genes, selected through the process of evolution, give people natural empathy.”

    Do you see the difference between this view and what you described?

    In his view, there is no “I would abort a baby with trisomy 21″ gene.

    In fact: no one believes in such a thing. You’ve written (as has Dr. Turek) many words based upon either a misunderstanding or a fiction.

    Dr. Dawkin’s view seems to be that our genes come together to give us empathy.

    They enable that ability to think of how others might feel, and of the pain and happiness they may experience. That’s it.

    From there we can see how we get to ideas like “love your neighbor as yourself”. (I don’t know whether Dr. Dawkins believes that that idea itself is ingrained in most of us through our genes — some more strongly than others — or if the empathy we have then allows those ideas to form. Non religious thinkers hold both of these views.)

    Once we are at this point, we are at the exact same place that religious people like you and I are. That’s the only place genetics gets us to, in Dr. Dawkins’ view.

    In other words, all of ethics is founded on this idea, whether secular or Christian. Dr. Dawkins says this (for his side), and Jesus says this (for His side — which is all of us, he he).

    I’ll say it again: there is no ‘I’d abort a baby with trisomy 21′ gene.

    All we have, under this view, is empathy. This means ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ and/or ‘treat your neighbor as you’d like to be treated’.

    Which is pretty similar to what Jesus gives us.

    I hope that helps on the DNA point.

    I can respond to all of your points (in fact, I’ve again written most of a reply, then cleared it when I thought of that question), but maybe it won’t be necessary.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  40. Luke says:

    Andy,

    I read a bit of your exchange with Terry about Zool, the torturing deity.

    I think this points out a fundamental difference between you and Terry:

    You cannot imagine any hypothetical world in which aimless torture (inflicting pain for pleasure) is good. Therefore you conclude that there is a categorical reason not to torture with no aim.

    Terry, it seems at least flirts with the idea that such aimless torture can be good. He hasn’t (as far as I see) specifically answered that question. He hints at that though, quite strongly. Assuming though he is able to imagine a world in which aimless torture is good, he cannot conclude that there is a categorical reason not to torture, and therefore he finds another reason necessary.

    I think this may be the fundamental difference between your views.

    (His reply to you, saying to call it bad is importing a moral from our universe is odd. He has previously defined evil as the absence of good — which is a common definition is Christian philosophy. Therefore you don’t need to import anything to label it evil on Terry’s own definition. He needs to show it is good, otherwise it is evil — absent of good — by default. To call it good because a creator has a right to do as he pleases with his creation, he must import /that/ moral value, which is the very thing he says you, Andy, can’t do.

    Notice that this may mean that Terry actually can’t imagine a universe in which aimless torture is good, he’s just mistakenly concluded he can.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      Terry has refused to give a proper answer. I think possibly because on some level he realises that the term ‘objectively good’ when applied to a heartless, selfish, torturing God seems a bit odd. Possibly worse, the implication of that would be that there’s nothing INTRINSICALLY ‘good’ about traits such as kindness and loving and forgiveness – they’re just the traits we see as good because they happen to be the traits possessed by the God Terry believes in.

      Yet the alternative is to admit that traits such as loving, kindness etc are good INDEPENDENTLY of God, or at least they are traits that any perfect God must necessarily possess.

      And the implication of that is that they would be good traits regardless of whether a God existed or not.

      So either way, the argument for objective morality coming from God seems to fail.

      Reply
  41. Terry L says:

    Luke,

    Think about this for yourself Terry. Is there anything you are meta-ethically relativist about?

    (Meaning, I have a view on what everyone should do, but it’s an opinion, not some deeper truth.)

    My view is that everyone should do good. They should be moral.

    I refuse to judge anyone for anything that I recognize to be my opinion. I fully recognize that I am not their standard, nor their judge. To use one of your examples, it is my opinion that no American citizen should burn the flag of our nation, except as prescribed to respectfully dispose of it. However, the flag is a symbol of something greater, a nation that was founded with great regard for freedom of expression. While I do believe that burning the symbol of the nation that protects one’s freedom to do so is a bit asinine, I fully support the right of any citizen to safely burn an American flag which they own in protest against our government. It is not immoral, nor should it be illegal. Oddly enough, neither the one who burns the flag nor the one who would prohibit him seem to believe strongly in freedom of expression!

    I do believe that morality is objective. Furthermore, I believe that there is an absolute moral standard which all of us should follow, and that standard is the same for all men. It has always been the same for every man that has ever lived. It will be the same for our 15th-great-grandchildren.

    Having said that, I also recognize that, as a human, I can be wrong. I may misunderstand what is truly moral on occasion. Therefore, I may have a view that you should do X, while in reality being mistaken that you should do X. But I hold the view that you are wrong not to do X because I feel that X doesn’t correspond with objective truth, not because of my subjective opinion of X.

    In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that [the golden] rule IS the law and the prophets”

    Actually, that’s at best a paraphrase. Jesus gave two rules in Matthew 22: (36) Master, which is the great commandment in the law? (37) Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    In other words, our duty is first to God. Acts 5:29 “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” Then to our neighbours.

    While our interpretation of the rule may be subjective, that does not mean the rule itself is.
    Just because our biases color our understanding of something, does not mean they color the thing itself.

    Point taken. This sounds like what I just said above. The absolute, objective, moral law is perfect (by definition… it’s the standard) and unchanging. My opinions and understanding may be flawed.

    However, I do think that “do unto others” is not as correct as “love your neighbor as yourself”. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” contains no reference to love; what if you don’t care that your neighbor loves you? Do unto others would allow you not to love your neighbor. Judging from the above and other scriptures, I don’t think Jesus meant to leave that loophole. You can justify behavior with the “Do unto others” formulation that “love your neighbor as yourself” will not admit.

    In his view, there is no “I would abort a baby with trisomy 21″ gene.

    In fact: no one believes in such a thing. You’ve written (as has Dr. Turek) many words based upon either a misunderstanding or a fiction.

    From the article on the Blaze referenced by Frank in this post:

    The child that you now love is a person. You have grown to adore her every smile, her every facial expression, everything that makes her the individual personality that she is,” he said of a child with Down syndrome. “The bundle of cells she once was had no personality at the time when she might have been aborted. There was nothing to love there at that time.”

    Abortion, Dawkins argued, isn’t “killing a loved child” that is capable of pain and suffering….

    It continues:

    And that’s when Dawkins sparked outrage with his response claiming that these abortions are, indeed, “civilized.” He wrote, “Yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings.”

    When another Twitter user weighed in saying that she wasn’t sure what she’d do if her fetus had Down syndrome and called such a scenario a “real ethical dilemma,” Dawkins offered up his proposed solution: “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

    Dawkins is extremely explicit. Only if the child is born does he deem it worthy of love. Anytime before that, “there [is] nothing to love there”.

    How have I misunderstood?

    Dr. Dawkin’s view seems to be that our genes come together to give us empathy.

    They enable that ability to think of how others might feel, and of the pain and happiness they may experience. That’s it.

    Once we are at this point, we are at the exact same place that religious people like you and I are. That’s the only place genetics gets us to, in Dr. Dawkins’ view.

    No, we’re not at the same place.

    In the first place, I’d have to question again, “is it wrong to be a psychopath or sociopath”, or did ones genes just “come together” differently? You haven’t refuted at all the fact that evolution, having no end goal or purpose, cannot guarantee that your ethical and moral genetic makeup is the same as mine. Therefore, it is illogical to call anyone immoral. And if you can’t call anyone immoral, what good is the concept? Morality becomes a total non-entity.

    Frank frequently mocks this argument by claiming to have an “anti-gay gene”. If this theory is true, then reviling Frank for being homophobic (or more accurately, for hating gay behavior) is as absolutly illogical and irrational as hating someone because of their skin color. They’re both genetic! Is someone more “right” for being born white rather than black? Are they more “right” for being born with an “anti-gay gene” rather than the hypothetical “gay gene” (or even a straight gene)?

    In other words, all of ethics is founded on this idea, whether secular or Christian. Dr. Dawkins says this (for his side), and Jesus says this (for His side — which is all of us, he he).

    No. Secular atheism is founded on this idea. I’ve never argued that morality is based in what Jesus says… but in what he IS. Yes, his speech aligns with his character, but we can’t even say THAT about Dawkins (or anyone else other than Jesus). I’ll assure you that at one time or another over the course of his life, he’s done something that he would consider to be out of sync with his true character. We all have! None of us are consistent.

    I’ll say it again: there is no ‘I’d abort a baby with trisomy 21′ gene.

    And I’ll say again, Dawkins own words (there are pictures of the tweet posted on the Blaze… go read the article) say you’re wrong.

    Now regarding your response re: me to Andy:

    Terry, it seems at least flirts with the idea that such aimless torture can be good.

    In THAT universe, perhaps. You CANNOT bring our sense of good and evil from this world into that world. If Zool is the standard of morality in that universe, then you must use that standard when discussing that universe.

    Now can we discuss which is better? That universe or ours? Sure… but which standard shall we use to measure them?

    If you insist that our world is better than that world, then you’ve just give MORE evidence for the existence of God. You’ve demanded that the same standard of good and evil must NECESSARILY EXIST in EVERY POSSIBLE WORLD! This mandates a necessary being that grounds this standard that must exist, even in Zool’s universe! That’s the only way that one standard can exist in every possible universe.

    [Andy said] Terry has refused to give a proper answer. I think possibly because on some level he realises that the term ‘objectively good’ when applied to a heartless, selfish, torturing God seems a bit odd.

    Oh, and that’s another thing…

    We’ve spent a lot of time discussing “why be good”?

    Isn’t this a bit absurd?

    If unnecessary torture is bad, then that means that you should not do it simply because it is bad! No need for deep philosophical thought there. The question we’re really discussing is “do the terms ‘good’ and ‘evil’ actually have meaning?” If they do, then by definition, you should do good, and refrain from evil.

    Yet the alternative is to admit that traits such as loving, kindness etc are good INDEPENDENTLY of God, or at least they are traits that any perfect God must necessarily possess.

    Not independently of, but coexistent with. As I said above, God as a necessary being must necessarily exist in any possible world. Not a different God… the same God. That’s the nature of necessary existence. Zool could only be a pretender to the throne, and thus his actions could be called bad. If you recall my definition above, I had to explictly define any other God out of the universe in order to get to a universe where Zool’s actions had any chance at all of being good. Recognizing God as a necessary being immediately destroys Zool’s universe (where I said no other God could exist) and makes it a fictional universe. It is not a valid philosophical move to compare worlds that cannot exist with actual possible worlds.

    Regarding the post above, Andy:

    “Oh, wait… I just removed every single tool at your disposal.”

    You are the one who started by excluding tools from my disposal. YOU are the one saying ‘Atheists can’t use arguments like X until they’ve shown where objective morality comes from’. But then you use such arguments yourself to argue that God explains objective morality. By your own logic, you cannot use such arguments UNTIL you’ve shown that God explains objective morality.

    You are considering the argument from the wrong direction. The moral argument is usually framed:

    A. Unless God exists, absolute objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    B. Absolute objective moral values and duties do exist.
    C. Therefore God exists.

    The atheists has at his disposal every tool the theist has by which to explain the existence of moral values and duties (attempting to defeat point A). Alternately, they can deny the existence of absolute objective moral values and duties (attempting to defeat point B).

    God is a part of the theist’s hypothesis. We defend that the existence of God is capable of explaining morality.

    Atheists deny this; yet, if they still want to claim that torturing an innocent child for fun is immoral, they must be able to explain how that is so using only the entities that exist in an atheistic universe. It is not I, but atheism that removes God from your toolbox.

    Claiming that morality exists because X is wrong is begging the question. I have more respect for argument that try to show that things are wrong if they harm other people. These arguments have a bit of merit, although they have far less explanatory power than the existence of God.

    Moral discussions go the same way. We don’t need to check that we both agree that curing disease is a good thing, because for the most part it’s assumed that we both do.

    And I agree… but that’s not the discussion we’re having. We’re discussing if GOOD actually exists.

    So when someone says ‘But WHY is it wrong to just go around murdering people?’, most people are taken aback – as long as we all agree that it is, why do we need to discuss why?

    1. Because personally, I want to live my life according to truth. If morality does not truly exist, then I want to life accordingly.
    2. Because the actual existence of abstract metaphysical concepts implies the existence of God.

    But if you ARE going to call such things into question, and you then offer an explanation to why that itself includes ideas that we all generally agree on, you must expect the other person to say “Well if even ‘killing people is wrong’ is up for grabs, then so is ‘If a God creates a person, he’s allowed to decide that person’s purpose and thus set what’s right and wrong’”.

    Again… wrong conversation. Does GOOD and EVIL exist? If they don’t, both of these issues are meaningless!

    If you’re going to say that the latter is simply axiomatic (as Frank did),

    Ok… I’ve not been doing my research. I had assumed that this was true, but I did a search for “axiom” on this page, and I only find you using that term. Where did Frank say this?

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      “Where did Frank say this?”

      Here:

      Frank Turek says:
      February 16, 2015 at 7:01 pm
      Andy, you can’t explain first principles– that’s why they are called first principles. Since God’s nature is the ultimate ground of Good, He grounds moral truths not arbitrarily but essentially.

      Reply
      • Terry L says:

        Thanks, Andy. I’ll read more of that part of the conversation tomorrow. I think I know what he was trying to say, but I’m not going to comment further until I’ve read it.

        Reply
        • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

          Basically Terry, if you’re going to grandly declare ‘this is a first principle, I don’t have to explain it’, then you need to grant others the same privilege. Yet Frank and you wouldn’t allow me to get away with just saying ‘The Golden Rule is a first principle for why objective morals exist with or without God – I don’t have to explain it’.

          [NB: As Luke pointed out, saying that the Golden Rule can be tricky to interpret perfectly doesn’t make it incoherent or invalid as a concept]

          It’s another tool in the box, like you explaining where objective moral values come from by saying God has the ‘right’ to do something. That’s the part that Frank calls ‘smuggling in’ when atheists talk about where morals come from. Both of you are doing the same when attempting to bridge the ‘is/ought’ divide.

          Anyway, I replied that if you make ‘allowed’ statements to EXPLAIN where OMVs come from then so will I (“I worked for this car, therefore you should be allowed to steal it”). Your argument against that was that:
          a) Someone could simply deny my allowed statement (just as I can deny yours); and
          b) The ownership of the car can be established by force (so what? We weren’t discussing ‘might makes right’).

          Neither of these are defeaters of my argument:
          a) Someone can deny your ‘allowed’ statement too.
          b) People can steal cars, or use force to keep their own cars, whether or not a God exists. (Similarly, the ability of a God to use force shouldn’t make a difference to the moral argument either)

          You can say “But in a God universe you have the RIGHT to have that car, even if someone steals it”, but you didn’t show that that doesn’t apply in a Godless universe – you just said that a) Someone can deny that right in a Godless universe, just like someone can deny that God is ‘allowed’ to set our purpose, and that b) Force can be used to set who actually physically gets to drive the car. If either of those are defeaters of MY argument, then they are equally defeaters of your own.

          Reply
          • Terry L says:

            Andy,

            The central questions in this post are a) authority, and b) personal property rights.

            In our society, we submit (willingly or unwillingly) to various persons in authority over us. That authority gives those persons the right to set limits on our actions, according to their authority.

            So far as I know, neither you nor I have any authority over the other. If this is the case, then any authority I have over you or you over me is willingly granted, or by virtue of circumstances. If I were a visitor in your home, I grant you a limited degree of authority as a guest in your domain. This also impacts your car example; the car is in your domain, therefore you have authority over it, and any who ride in it. Personally, I don’t allow smoking in my home or my vehicles. I expect my guests to obey my rules. If I’m riding in their car, or I’m a guest in their home, I won’t complain if they choose to light up.

            But with you in your current location, and me in mine, and our only interactions occurring via posts on this site, I can think of no reason why I should have any authority over you at all; nor you over me.

            I hope this is clear. It seems fairly straightforward to me, and I would expect that we agree for the most part on this.

            But there remains a question that must be asked; where does this authority come from? Do we truly have a right to ‘our’ personal property? If this right does not exist, then much of what I’ve written above is meaningless. One could never deny you of a right to your personal property because you never had such a right to begin with.

            So which better explains the right to personal property? Theism, or atheism? I’ll give you a brief explanation of the theist’s view, and then allow you to explain the atheist’s point of view.

            On theism, mind came before matter. The laws of morality are co-eternal with God. And although theist’s believe that all things ultimately belong to God (if for not other reason, because he created all things, and can destroy all things), he grants us stewardship of things that we colloquially say “belong” to us, and he will eventually hold us accountable for how we used them. It is God who says that we should respect the property of others, and it is sinful when we do not.

            On atheism, matter came before mind. So when exactly did the right of personal property appear? It could hardly have existed in the earliest minutes of the universe when nothing but hydrogen and helium existed. If it didn’t exist then, then it had to come into existence later. So, my question is, when and how did this right come into being and, why does a cold, mindless, impersonal universe care?

    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      “Again… wrong conversation. Does GOOD and EVIL exist? If they don’t, both of these issues are meaningless!”

      No it’s not the wrong conversation. They’re important parts of discussing whether objective morality exists and comes from God. You’re claiming yes to both and haven’t defended either claim.

      “A. Unless God exists, absolute objective moral values and duties do not exist.
      B. Absolute objective moral values and duties do exist.
      C. Therefore God exists.”

      Regarding the moral argument that you quote – you’ve demonstrated neither premise A or B, so cannot claim the conclusion. They are YOUR claims. You’ve not shown that OMV follow from the existence of God, so cannot claim that the existence or non-existence of OMV has any bearing on the question of whether a God exists. I might as well change the ‘unless’ to ‘if’ in premise A and claim I’ve proved God does NOT exist.

      You talk about ‘removing God from the toolbox’, but have yet to show he is actually a tool, something that helps your argument. In fact the ‘tools’ I referred to was the arguments you tried to offer to defend OMV coming from God, and yes, they are arguments that use ‘allow’ and smuggled in moral values that you can only use AFTER you’ve successfully made the argument, not to make the argument in the first place.

      Reply
      • Terry L says:

        Andy,

        [Terry] “Again… wrong conversation. Does GOOD and EVIL exist? If they don’t, both of these issues are meaningless!”

        [Andy] No it’s not the wrong conversation. They’re important parts of discussing whether objective morality exists and comes from God.

        I’ll concede you the objective morality, and even agree that they do not necessarily have to be based in or on God. Again, you can use your grandmother’s behavior as your standard.

        But if you use your grandmother, and I use mine, and we say that’s fine, then what do we tell Ma Barker’s grandchildren when they take after dear old grams? You see, objective morality buys you absolutely nothing unless there is one single standard which all men should consider as THE standard.

        My defense is simply this; there are actions that no one should do. If even one such action exists, these things are necessarily true:

        If this standard truly applies to all people, it must exist at a minimum for as long as humanity has existed, and as long as humanity continues to exist. This means it cannot be based in any single human (sorry Granny)!

        Secondly, it must be unchangable. Otherwise, it might have been just fine for Jack the Ripper to go on his killing spree… morality was simply different back then!

        Thirdly, there must be a judge capable of determining whether one has truly violated such a Standard. It is illogical to have a standard of behavior unless there is someone who judges whether you have lived up to that standard. If there is no judgement, the standard is meaningless.

        Fourthly, if this judge is to be able to judge correctly, he must have all knowledge, including knowledge of the motives of the person at the time the action was committed, circumstances at the time of the incident, and perfect understanding of the standard itself.

        And then, there must be consequences for adherence, or failure to adhere to, the standard. It makes no sense to set a speed limit if you never fine anyone for violating it. This implies then not only a judge and/or jury, but an executioner as well… not necessarily in the sense of one who executes people, but one who inflicts the consequences of the standard.

        It seems to me that if you remove any one of these features, then you may as well not have the prohibition against the action. If you believe that one should NEVER torture a n innocent child for fun, and you believe that that is true for all men at all times, then:

        You believe in my first point. No man ever to live on the planet gets a pass. No one should abuse an innocent child for fun, no matter who your are.

        You believe in my second point. Men, even at the dawn of the human race, should never have abused a child for their own pleasure. The rule wasn’t different years ago. If you deny this, then any atrocity of the past can be trivialized by simply saying, “Well, it was OK back then!”

        It is illogical not to believe in my third point. With no one who can determine whether one has truly committed such an action, the prohibition of it loses all meaning.

        It is illogical not to believe in my last point. It is irrational to believe that such a prohibition exists, but there would be no negative consequences for it.

        Now it seems to me that if such a standard truly exists… if it is truly wrong to torture babies for fun, then this standard cannot come from society. My first point above indicates that it is impossible for any single human to be the standard; but what reason do we have to think that a group of men could do any better? All men have different opinions about what is right and wrong to do, and I am unaware of any theory that would indicate how a group of men could be able to produce a standard that the whole of humanity should follow.

        And if they tried, and said that it was acceptable to enslave men with darker skin than your own, would you agree that such a standard was correct? If you accept that men can determine morality, then by what standard do you judge the slaveholders in 19th-century America?


        A. Unless God exists, absolute objective moral values and duties do not exist.
        B. Absolute objective moral values and duties do exist.
        C. Therefore God exists.”

        Regarding the moral argument that you quote – you’ve demonstrated neither premise A or B, so cannot claim the conclusion.

        I’ve investigated several different theories of how such moral values and duties could arise without a deity. None of them account for the moral features we see in our universe.

        I’ve repeatedly asked you for your explanation of how this could be possible. I don’t recall any theories being offered; if I’ve missed one, please forgive my oversight and refer me to the appropriate post. You can easily defeat the argument if you can show how moral values and duties can exist without a being transcendent to men.

        If you are seriously going to claim that (B) is incorrect, then why would you complain about any evil god or man doing anything? Their actions might not meet what you prefer, but they obviously enjoy inflicting pain and mayhem. If it’s not wrong to do so, then why would you call them evil?

        they are arguments that use ‘allow’ and smuggled in moral values that you can only use AFTER you’ve successfully made the argument, not to make the argument in the first place.

        I’m sorry, your still incorrect about this. This argument takes the form:

        1. A is best explained by B.
        2. B exists.
        3. Therefore, A

        So the defense of the argument assumes the existence of A, and then shows how A grounds B. Then it assumes the non-existence of A, and shows how NOT-A grounds B. It is not invalid to assume A during the first part of the defense.

        CSI’s do this all the time. They’ll assume something is true, and then see if the implications of that assumption better explain the evidence than a counter-assumption.

        Reply
        • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

          “You see, objective morality buys you absolutely nothing unless there is one single standard which all men should consider as THE standard.”

          But all theists disagree on what the standard is too! Find me two Christians who have no disagreements about morality!

          You can say ‘well at least they all agree that it comes from God’, but this means nothing in either practical terms (in that they all still disagree on what is or isn’t moral) or in philosophical terms, as it doesn’t show that it actually IS an objective moral standard, merely that they agree that it is.

          “I’ve investigated several different theories of how such moral values and duties could arise without a deity. ”

          You’ve yet to show how it arises WITH a deity.

          “If you are seriously going to claim that (B) is incorrect”

          I’m saying that you’ve yet to demonstrate that it does. It’s your claim, not mine.

          “then why would you complain about any evil god or man doing anything?”

          When have I complained about an evil God? I asked for YOUR opinion on a torturing God. You replied that in its universe it would be perfectly moral. Therefore it shows that there’s nothing inherently moral or good about kindness, forgiveness, love etc by your logic, which is a problem for your claims about objective moral values.

          “You believe in my first point. No man ever to live on the planet gets a pass. No one should abuse an innocent child for fun, no matter who your are.”

          You can’t prove anything just by saying you and I agree on whether or not abusing children is wrong. What if Ma Barker’s grandchildren disagree with us both?! You need to show that it’s true regardless of either of us personal opinions on the subject.

          Regarding the four steps you describe – I could concede that there exists a timeless being who knows everything and can judge us and who won’t change His mind. Objective Moral Values still don’t necessarily follow from that. All it tells us is that there’s a clever being who can judge us and won’t change his mind.

          Reply
        • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

          “1. A is best explained by B.
          2. B exists.
          3. Therefore, A”

          Sorry, what are A and B here? If A is God, then you’re saying God is best explained by B. What is it that you’re saying explains God? OMV don’t ‘explain’ God, do they? I thought you were saying B is EVIDENCE for A?

          “It is not invalid to assume A”

          I don’t think I criticised you for assuming God. On the contrary – the problem was that we can concede the existence of God and still get no closer to OMV being the result of that God.

          Apologists seem to take for granted that OMV would naturally follow from God, so are always taken aback when asked to elaborate on this claim.

          I said you were ‘smuggling’ in ‘oughts’ to explain how oughts come about. This isn’t ‘making an assumption and then seeing if the formula still works given that assumption’ – which is what you seem to be ‘explaining’ to me is valid. [Yes, I’m aware of how this works, but that’s not what I was calling you out on!]

          You’re quite welcome to assume a God. But assuming a God doesn’t actually explain OMVs, so it fails as an explanation for B, meaning that B gets you no closer to supporting the existence of A.

          Your assumption is that ‘Creating a being allows one to set their purpose’, from which you derive OMV. As I’ve pointed out several times, if one makes assumptions like that one can equally make assumptions without a God and come up with OMV that are no less arbitrary.

          “None of them account for the moral features we see in our universe”

          What features are these?

          Reply
      • Luke says:

        I thought yo umight have misunderstood.

        I said:In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that [the golden] rule IS the law and the prophets”

        You responded:Actually, that’s at best a paraphrase. Jesus gave two rules in Matthew 22.

        Here is Mathew 7:12 (NASB): In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
  42. Luke says:

    I said:“I’ll say it again: there is no ‘I’d abort a baby with trisomy 21′ gene.”

    Terry responded:“And I’ll say again, Dawkins own words (there are pictures of the tweet posted on the Blaze… go read the article) say you’re wrong.”

    Hmmm… I see nothing to suggest such a thing. As in nothing even close. You posted paragraphs. Can you tell me the sentence or two that best supports the thesis that “there is a gene that makes someone abort any baby with t21″ is a belief held by Dr. Dawkins? I see nothing, but maybe I’m not seeing the tree for the forest.

    Terry said:“I refuse to judge anyone for anything that I recognize to be my opinion. ”

    So you’ve never thought someone took the wrong job, made the wrong investment? That just seems strange to me. It’s certainly possible, just odd.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Luke,

      You said, “can you tell me the sentence or two that best supports the thesis that ‘there is a gene that makes someone abort any baby with t21″ is a belief held by Dr. Dawkins?

      The direct quote of yours that I was responding to is, “In his view, there is no “I would abort a baby with trisomy 21″ gene.”

      This is simply indefensible, given his statement that a woman expecting a baby with Down Syndrome should, ““Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

      He clearly advocates abortion as the moral choice.

      Now in the latest question, you added the “there is a gene”. This was never my claim. However, if Dr. Dawkins believes that his genetic code is the reason for his moral stances, then this is necessarily HIS claim.

      So you’ve never thought someone took the wrong job, made the wrong investment? That just seems strange to me. It’s certainly possible, just odd.

      Of course I have. I’ve judged their wisdom in these situations, not their morality. Unless you’re investing in North African Consolidated Slave Traders or sometihng obviously immoral, then I wouldn’t consider a bad investment decision to have much of a moral dimension at all. If you want to put all of your life savings in pork bellies, then I won’t call you evil, just crazy!

      -tl

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        Terry said: “The direct quote of [Luke’s] that I was responding to is, “In [Dr. Dawkins’] view, there is no “I would abort a baby with trisomy 21″ gene.”

        (emphasis added)

        Terry went on: “<Now in the latest question, you added the “there is a gene”. This was never my claim. "

        I'm sorry Terry; I’m simply confused.

        Terry said: “He clearly advocates abortion as the moral choice. However, if Dr. Dawkins believes that his genetic code is the reason for his moral stances, then this is necessarily HIS claim.”

        Terry, did you read my post on this?

        What if genetics tell him “treat others as you’d like to be treated” and from that, looking at the happiness, suffering, pain, and joy involved, he believes that this is the way that minimizes pain and suffering and maximizes happiness for everyone involved?

        It doesn’t matter if he’s right or wrong. The question is, is it possible?

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          Possible? Perhaps.

          But the issue is, he claims to have identified an immoral action in an amoral universe. One of these adjectives MUST be incorrect. Which does he truly believe?

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            a. Terry, you seem to have abandoned your claim that Dr. Dawkins believes that there is a ‘abort a baby with T21′ gene? Is that a correct assumption?

            b. If it is perhaps possible, as you’ve just admitted then it is not “necessarily [Dr. Dawkins’] claim” that such a gene exists.

            c. You asked: But the issue is, he claims to have identified an immoral action in an amoral universe. One of these adjectives MUST be incorrect. Which does he truly believe?

            He claims to have identified an action that he views as immoral according to his own subjective standard. Even granting that he does not believe in objective moral values, there is no contradiction here.

            He is not saying it is objectively immoral, just subjectively so.

            There is no contradiction, so he could well believe both.

            (I say ‘even granting’ because even though Dr. Dawkins states that ” there is at the bottom… no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” is does not rule out the existence of objective values (such as the golden rule) at a level above “the bottom”. I believe that is neither here nor there at the moment, so I’ll just grant the assumption that he believes the universe is objectively immoral.)

      • Luke says:

        Terry,

        In response to my question, you said: “Of course I have. I’ve judged their wisdom in these situations, not their morality.”

        What standard did you use to to make this judgment? In what way does this standard apply to the person who has made the choice you’ve judged?

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          I’ve questioned their common sense, or business sense based on my knowledge of sound principles of investing or business. It applies to them as it does to all persons. It’s not specific to me or them; if investing in pork bellies is a bad investment for them, then it’s a bad investment for anyone (ignoring circumstances… the goals for each investor could be different.)

          This is a bit different from morality, in that our business laws, standards, and practices could be different than they are, while morality and the goals of moral behavior seem to be fixed.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            But you don’t judge an investment using your perfect knowledge of what will happen. The bedrock of investment is risk. Every investment contains risk. Just because an investment is a bad idea for one person, does not mean that it is a bad investment for everyone. This idea, which you strongly imply, is wildly silly. If this is your explanation for your behavior, you need to try again.

            On what basis do you believe that your beliefs based on your knowledge… applies to [the investor you’ve judged] as it does to all people?

            Terry said: in that our business laws, standards, and practices could be different than they are, while morality and the goals of moral behavior seem to be fixed.

            Morality seems to be fixed?

            Slavery was seen as moral for thousands of years. Polygamy was widely seen as moral (and still is by some). Killing every inhabitant of an enemy village was seen as fine. If you believe that morality (what humanity in general thinks is fine to do and not do) seems to be fixed, I put forth that you are very wrong. (And if you mean that objective morality seems to be fixed, I’ll remind you again that the evidence for this is that ‘we feel that x is wrong’. Since the way we, as humanity, have felt has changed so much, it is still relevant to the discussion, since it it part of your argument.

            Thanks,

            Luke

  43. Luke says:

    Terry,

    Simply, what is your judgment of your Zool universe, using the values of that universe?

    Also…

    Terry said:The moral argument is usually framed:

    A. Unless G-d exists, absolute objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    B. Absolute objective moral values and duties do exist.
    C. Therefore G-d exists.

    The atheists has at his disposal every tool the theist has by which to explain the existence of moral values and duties (attempting to defeat point A).

    On March 6, Luke asked:2. Do you deny that objective moral standards exist outside of G-d?

    Terry answered No.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Luke,

      Simply, what is your judgment of your Zool universe, using the values of that universe?

      I’ve already answered this, but I don’t mind repeating. IF Zool is the necessarily-existing God, then his nature would be the moral standard. You would not have any other standard by which to call him evil. You would have either an amoral universe, or a universe where his character defined morality. In either case, his actions would not be evil; in the latter, his actions would be good.

      Furthermore, if anyone says that I am immoral for believing this, then they are judging me based on our own standard of morality, not the one you asked me to use above. And again, if you claim that our standard applies there, then you’re assuming that it applies necessarily in all universes. I’m interested to know what being other than God could ground such a transcendent morality.

      The atheists has at his disposal every tool the theist has by which to explain the existence of moral values and duties (attempting to defeat point A).

      The atheist is free to assume the existence of God for the purposes of examining the claims of this argument. However, in the real world, they claim that God is a fiction. You cannot appeal to a fiction to explain the moral aspects of our universe. Therefore, the atheist MUST explain morality using non-theological, naturalistic sources.

      On March 6, Luke asked:2. Do you deny that objective moral standards exist outside of G-d?

      Terry answered No.

      Remember what I said about a half-truth being a whole lie! ;)

      My response was, “No. It is possible to set as your standard, ‘I will behave as my mother behaved.’ That’s an objective standard, but the object upon which it is based is a finite being who did not even exist 250 years ago. That fact alone disqualifies them from being THE standard for all men.

      Therefore, I deny that these standards have any authority over me, and therefore assert that they can be accepted or ignored at will. ”

      See my post to Andy above for more details about why mom cannot be the standard that grounds all of morality.

      -tl

      Reply
  44. Luke says:

    I asked: “Simply, what is your judgment of your Zool universe, using the values of that universe?”

    Terry said: “I’ve already answered this, but I don’t mind repeating.”

    I apologize.

    Terry continued: “IF Zool is the necessarily-existing [deity], then his nature would be the moral standard. You would not have any other standard by which to call him evil.”

    1. Isn’t “the necessarily existing deity’s nature the moral standard in a given universe” a judgement? Where did this idea come from in the Zool universe?

    2. Let’s assume that Sam is something like human? How do we know that Sam does not have his own standard? If Sam does have a standard (torture is bad), then aren’t you wrong to say there is no other standard?

    3. If we do have Zool’s Standard and Sam’s Standard, why should we judge the universe by Zool’s standard, and not Sam’s? (Remember we are not importing any values from other possible universes.)

    On the moral argument:

    Are you saying the moral argument reads:

    A. Unless G-d exists, absolute objective moral values and duties that I don’t deny have any authority over me, and about which I therefore assert that they can be accepted or ignored at will. do not exist.
    B. Absolute objective moral values and duties do exist.
    C. Therefore G-d exists.

    This is not what you said before.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      I think I can answer 1, 2, and 3 better in a single answer.

      The idea that Zool, as a necessarily-existing being grounds morality in his universe is by definition. This is how and why how and why theists say an absolute, objective moral standard exists. As this is the topic being explored, it is necessary and proper to do so. We could hardly evaluate how this concept would apply in an alternative universe without carrying that definition into that universe.

      As Zool is the only being in that universe that can be immutable and eternal, then there is no other possible standard. Any new creature that comes into that universe is necessarily contingent and finite.

      Are you saying the moral argument reads:

      A. Unless G-d exists, absolute objective moral values and duties ([which] I don’t deny have any authority over me, and about which I therefore assert that they can be accepted or ignored at will) do not exist.
      B. Absolute objective moral values and duties do exist.
      C. Therefore G-d exists.

      (Parenthesis added for clarity.)

      (BTW… I don’t think you typed what you meant again. If you do NOT deny that they have any authority over you, then you grant that they do. This contradicts your assertion that they can be accepted or ignored at will. I’m proceeding with the assumption that you meant that you don’t acknowledge their authority over you. If this is not what you meant, then please help me understand the question more clearly.)

      See my definition of what I mean by absolute. I use this term to mean that the moral standard (values and duties) that it describes applies to every man, woman, boy, and girl regardless of time, space, circumstance, and opinion.

      I acknowledge that one can deny that the absolute, objective moral law applies to oneself; however, by definition, this person is either wrong, lying, or delusional. This person would more properly object to the first premise by denying the existence of such a standard in the first place rather than rejecting a definition. i.e. “Non-Absolute Objective moral standards do exist (your grandmother’s character for instance), but none of them apply to me. However, no Absolute Objective Moral Standard exists.”

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        Terry said: BTW… I don’t think you typed what you meant again. If you do NOT deny that they have any authority over you, then you grant that they do. This contradicts your assertion that they can be accepted or ignored at will. I’m proceeding with the assumption that you meant that you don’t acknowledge their authority over you. If this is not what you meant, then please help me understand the question more clearly.

        (emphasis added)

        Terry, I apologize for not being clear.

        You said earlier that objective standards exist, but that they “deny that these standards have any authority over me, and therefore assert that they can be accepted or ignored at will.”

        So it was not my assertion, but yours. I inserted a quote from you into the moral argument.

        It was obviously confusing.

        The moral argument, as you presented it, says that unless G-d exists objective moral values do not exist. You told us that objective moral values exist outside of G-d.

        When I pointed this out, you basically said, yeah, but look all of what I, Terry, wrote. You provided a quote which ended with: “Therefore, I deny that these standards have any authority over me, and therefore assert that they can be accepted or ignored at will. ”

        So it seems that to take your words, but still attempt to uphold the moral argument, you’d have to say “unless G-d exists, objective moral values that Terry finds worthwhile do not exist”. I attempted to do that with your direct quote, but it was unclear. The version above should work better.

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          Luke, you misquoted me again (or perhaps used a quote from earlier in the thread.) You said, “The moral argument, as you presented it, says that unless G-d exists objective moral values do not exist.”

          I regularly insert the term “absolute” before the word “objective” to clarify this confusion. While it is certainly possible to ground an ethical system in the behavior of some human, it remains for the atheist to explain how said human is qualified to be the moral standard that everyone should follow… even people that lived and died centuries before that person.

          It’s not a question of what I find worthwhile, but of finding the source of the standard that all should follow, regardless of whether I approve of that standard or not.

          I claim that such a standard exists. I also acknowledge that I am certainly incorrect regarding some of my understanding of that standard. However, my lack of understanding doesn’t affect the applicability of an absolute objective moral standard to me and/or anyone else.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            What, exactly, does absolute mean in this case that objective does not already convey?

            Terry, you said: While it is certainly possible to ground an ethical system in the behavior of some human…

            When you said that objective moral standards exist outside of G-d, I asked pretty specifically about the ‘golden rule’, and not the behavior of some human. When you answered you said ‘no'; you didn’t say ‘no, but your case does not qualify, here is one that does” so I conclude that you agreed that my example also was one of an objective standard. I guess I need to ask directly if you do agree with that. You can look back at my March 6 post, for exactly what I mean (search ‘golden rule’).

            Thanks,

            Luke

          • Luke says:

            Terry said:“it remains for the atheist to explain how said human is qualified to be the moral standard that everyone should follow.”

            Just for the record, what is the explanation (i.e. not an assertion, but an explanation — your word) that G-d is qualified to be the moral standard?

            Terry said: “I claim that such a standard exists. I also acknowledge that I am certainly incorrect regarding some of my understanding of that standard. However, my lack of understanding doesn’t affect the applicability of an absolute objective moral standard to me and/or anyone else.”

            So the standard you have in your head which is the one you use to make judgement of others is “certainly incorrect”. Do you agree that your understanding of the standard (i.e. what you think the standard is) is subjective, dependent on you and influenced by your personal knowledge, experiences, feelings, etc.?

            Thanks,

            Luke

  45. Luke says:

    Terry said:The idea that Zool, as a necessarily-existing being grounds morality in his universe is by definition.

    Who has defined it? Does that person exist in this universe, or Zool’s. Is this an objective definition or a subjective one? (If objective what ground it?)

    Terry said:We could hardly evaluate how this concept would apply in an alternative universe without carrying that definition into that universe.

    But why is this the proper definition? How is choosing the definition not a subjective act carried from this universe?

    Why that standard… Why not?:

    The being(s) most open to suffering (i.e. capable of and vulnerable to) are the ground for the moral code, as they have the most to lose.

    The standard is the standard to which beings in the universe would agree if perfectly rational and behind a vale of ignorance (i.e. do not know if they will be Zool or Sam).

    Also, under your definition, is the necessarily-existing being able to say ‘morality shall be grounded on Sam’s nature, not mine’?

    Now, let me ask you an important question:

    You’ve put forth one definition for the standard of morality. I’ve put forth two other possibilities here.

    If there were 6 universes. Three with Zool, and three with the Abrahamic G-d. The three universes occupied by each deity are distinguished by the definitions for moral grounds I’ve outlined here.

    You cannot know or choose if you will end up in Zool’s world, or G-d’s. But you can choose which definition of the moral ground you will live under. Which would you choose?

    (Please just answer this as a thought experiment. It’s not difficult to think about it and give an honest answer, in fact it’s easier than trying to find a reason to avoid it. (You could answer that you can’t choose between two of them, or be happy to be randomly entered into either of the three.) I’d love to hear a few words about why you chose the option you chose.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  46. Luke says:

    Terry, I posted separate comments above, so I thought I’d collect the question here at bottom, so you could use the search function to easily find the context, but also not miss any posts or questions. I’ll then resurrect a topic you seem to have missed the last time around.

    Thanks!

    On what basis do you believe that your beliefs “based on your knowledge applies to [the investor you’ve judged] as it does to all people”?

    (Of course this should read “On what basis do you believe that your beliefs “based on [your] knowledge [apply] to [the investor you’ve judged] as [they do] to all people?” to improve the grammer. What this question gets at, is that here you are clearly saying that your beliefs apply to all people and I’m wondring why you think they apply in that way.

    Who has defined it? Does that person exist in this universe, or Zool’s?

    Is this an objective definition or a subjective one? (If objective what ground it?)

    Also, under your definition, is the necessarily-existing being able to say ‘morality shall be grounded on Sam’s nature, not mine’?

    You cannot know or choose if you will end up in Zool’s world, or G-d’s. But you can choose which definition of the moral ground you will live under. Which would you choose?

    Terry, we seem to have clarified the Sermon on the Mount business. It seems that the quote I provided was not “actually… at best a paraphrase” but rather a direct (though translated) quote from Jesus.

    Jesus did directly state the so-called Golden Rule in the Sermon on the Mount.

    You seemed quite unaware of this, and posted some comments.

    You said:However, I do think that “do unto others” is not as correct as “love your neighbor as yourself”. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” contains no reference to love; what if you don’t care that your neighbor loves you? Do unto others would allow you not to love your neighbor. Judging from the above and other scriptures, I don’t think Jesus meant to leave that loophole. You can justify behavior with the “Do unto others” formulation that “love your neighbor as yourself” will not admit.

    (emphasis mine)

    I was just wondering if anything had changed for you on this.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  47. Luke says:

    Sorry, I forgot to post this question in the above list. “You cannot know or choose if you will end up in Zool’s world, or G-d’s. But you can choose which definition of the moral ground you will live under. Which would you choose?”

    Apologetically,

    Luke

    Reply
  48. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    Luke: “So the standard you have in your head which is the one you use to make judgement of others is “certainly incorrect”. Do you agree that your understanding of the standard (i.e. what you think the standard is) is subjective, dependent on you and influenced by your personal knowledge, experiences, feelings, etc.?”

    Good question. A further question for Terry: you say your flawed human understanding of the standard is ‘certainly incorrect’, by which I take it you mean some of the finer details of what is and what isn’t moral might be wrong. Is it also therefore possibly that your flawed human understanding of the whole ‘absolute objective moral values argument’ is also wrong? Luke is a theist, and he strikes me as a very reasonable one, with lots of good questions that, to me, you’re not really answering, and HE doesn’t seem to see ‘absolute objective moral values’ as necessarily following from the existence of God. Is it possible that he is right and you are wrong?

    Another good question from Luke: “Just for the record, what is the explanation (i.e. not an assertion, but an explanation — your word) that G-d is qualified to be the moral standard?”

    By the way, Terry, I’m sure you’re busy, but equally it’s just possible you simply missed my two posts around March 16, 2015 at 12:21 pm. I’d be interested to hear your response.

    Regarding the idea that: ‘You’re following your mother, I’m following my mother, but they might disagree with each other on some aspects’ – isn’t this pretty much what we see happening? We get humans having their morality influenced by their parents, and by culture in general, and we all disagree on many aspects, but also broadly agree on some of the major issues? This is pretty much exactly what one would expect in Professor Dawkins’ universe, where morality arises as a combination of culture, social mores, agreed laws and evolved instincts.

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Luke:

      You asked, What, exactly, does absolute mean in this case that objective does not already convey?

      Exactly what I’ve described. Now that I think through it further, it is actually redundant, but I still like to make it explicit.

      You can claim that your moral standard is your grandmother’s character. Is that an objective standard? Yes… to some extent, in that it is certainly based in an object. Is it absolute? Not at all.

      Here’s the thing… while it is certainly possible for your to claim your grandmother’s character as a moral standard, the fact that you claimed it makes it a subjective standard. In other words, you looked around the universe to find a code that you thought was good, and you tried to live according to that code.

      But what if you can’t even live up to that? Assume granny never drank alcohol, but you like a beer every now and then. If you can choose your standard, then you can simply choose a somewhat more liberal standard that meets you desires.

      What’s the difference in that, and simply defining your own code based on your preferences? In the end, that’s exactly what you’ve done. One could just as easily say that they choose no moral standard. Would that make it acceptable for them to rape, murder and torture?

      You see, you don’t get to choose the moral standard any more than you get to choose the law of gravity you “follow”. It applies whether you want it or not. It is immutable. Not even God Himself can change it. Given that, you asked, Also, under your definition, is the necessarily-existing being able to say ‘morality shall be grounded on Sam’s nature, not mine’?

      No, that’s not possible (with one exception… if Sam is an incarnation of this necessarily-existing being, then their character would be the same. However, the “not mine” would not apply in this case.)

      And yes, I did say that, “…it is certainly possible to ground an ethical system in the behavior of some human…”, and I stand by that. You can do it… but that doesn’t mean that you will be held accountable to that standard by anyone (including God) other than yourself. If Granny was an axe murderer and you follow in her footsteps, that won’t help you when the judge starts to hand down your sentence!

      All of this leads quite nicely to another of your questions: So the standard you have in your head which is the one you use to make judgement of others is “certainly incorrect”. Do you agree that your understanding of the standard (i.e. what you think the standard is) is subjective, dependent on you and influenced by your personal knowledge, experiences, feelings, etc.?

      Yes… my understanding of the moral law is imperfect, just as our understanding of most of this universe is imperfect. Finite, contingent beings cannot fully comprehend all there is to know of an infinite, necessarily-existing entity.

      However there are places where the moral law is clear. I’m not going to allow the things I do understand keep me from acknowledging the things I do understand. That’s just silly!

      As a Christian, I am commanded to judge, but to judge with righteous judgement, and with mercy and compassion for others. I condemn homosexuality as an immoral action (while many others at the same time would condemn me for being a judgmental homophobe); I bear no ill-will toward the homosexual, regardless of whether they are repentant or not. I have homosexual friends that I enjoy being around. I don’t constantly “preach” at them, but I won’t lie to them about my beliefs, nor will I compromise what I believe because I believe natural law and scripture both clearly, with no room for doubt, indicate that the practice is wrong. Contrary to popular belief, most Christians (at least that I know) are actually quite tolerant, willing to show grace to those with whom they disagree.

      In other places where the issue is not so clearly discussed in scripture, I’m happy to allow for freedom of conscience, even though my personal belief is that the action is wrong. I believe that we should not tattoo ourselves; however, I don’t have enough information to say with certainty that I am correct. Therefore, I will live personally as if I’m right, and allow others to follow their own conscience. Should anyone ask my opinion, I’ll share what I believe and why without condemning them, recognizing that I’m NOT God, and they will answer to HIM not to me.

      Just for the record, what is the explanation (i.e. not an assertion, but an explanation — your word) that G-d is qualified to be the moral standard?

      Once more… for the record…

      Three points are sufficient.

      The Moral Standard

      * must be grounded by a person
      * must be transcendent to humanity
      * must be immutable

      It must be grounded by a person because it defines what ought to be. Only persons care about what ought to be.

      It must be transcendent because it must apply to all persons equally. It it only applies to some, or applies more to some than others, then there is nothing “standard” about it.

      It must be immutable for the same reason. Is must apply equally to those who lived 1000 years ago as to those 1000 years from now.

      The first point could be filled by any human. Points two and three though require a transcendent, immutable person.

      Theists of the classical theistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) have long described God as exactly that; an unchangable personal being transcendent to mankind.

      So the requirements of the grounding entity of the moral standard align quite nicely with the attributes long associated with a theistic God.

      Terry said:“it remains for the atheist to explain how said human [or non-human entity] is qualified to be the moral standard that everyone should follow.”

      And it still remains. If the atheist can produce no better explanation for the existence of the moral law, then the existence of God provides the best explanation for the moral standard.

      I know I haven’t gotten to all of your questions, but I’m out of time right now. Just enough time for a few words to Andy:

      Andy,

      You asked, Is it possible that [Luke] is right and you are wrong?

      I would never claim 100% infallibility. I don’t believe my arguments prove my position beyond any doubt; I do believe they prove my position beyond a reasonable doubt.

      This is pretty much exactly what one would expect in Professor Dawkins’ universe, where morality arises as a combination of culture, social mores, agreed laws and evolved instincts.

      I don’t see this at ALL. In Dawkins’ universe, where there is NO morality and NO “oughtness” to our behavior, I don’t believe the idea of morality would have ever arisen. Given consciousness in such a world, I’m certain that you would dislike pain and enjoy pleasure. However, the idea of “good” and “evil” would be totally foreign. You would try to minimize pain and maximize pleasure, but with no regard for “right” behavior or “wrong” behavior.

      Oddly, the atheist claims that primitive, uneducated men created religion, yet the one who came up with the idea that there are some things that men ought and ought not to do when that concept had no foundation in reality would have been a genius greater than Einstein. Even Einstein didn’t create anything that didn’t exist; he discovered things that were already there. Yet this man developed an entire concept of “oughtness” that has spread to the entire human race for centuries, based on something that doesn’t even exist! Then, he communicated that to his peers using language that they couldn’t possibly understand. What meaning does “evil” have if evil does not exist?

      By the way, Terry, I’m sure you’re busy, but equally it’s just possible you simply missed my two posts around March 16, 2015 at 12:21 pm. I’d be interested to hear your response.

      Quite possible… the thread is getting pretty fragmented. I’ll try to look later.

      Thanks, guys!

      -tl

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “Now that I think through it further, it is actually redundant, but I still like to make it explicit.”

        Terry, you moaned to Luke that he misquoted you because he missed out the word ‘absolute'; now you admit it makes no difference to the sense of the sentence!

        “I don’t see this at ALL. In Dawkins’ universe”

        I’m talking about what we observe vs what he’d predict we’d observe, and the two are pretty much the same.

        “I don’t believe the idea of morality would have ever arisen”

        It aids survival of the species. A species that develops it has an advantage over ones that don’t. Your mooted creatures that think no further than ‘I dislike pain and enjoy pleasure’ wouldn’t have the advantage of a society that works together, honours contracts, has an aversion to murdering others, etc.

        At any rate, the easiest way to debunk this is to point out that other species of ape show signs of a basic grasp of ‘fairness’, co-operation and empathy. And yet they have no concept of Jesus or of meta-ethics.

        “Oddly, the atheist claims that primitive, uneducated men created religion”

        The mores associated with religion have changed over thousands of years as we became less ‘primitive and uneducated’ – though I wouldn’t really use those words as our brains are pretty much the same now as they were back then. The religion of those ‘primitive, uneducated men’ was not the same as the one Christians have now. It’s only a few hundred years ago that Catholics and Protestants were burning each other at the stake.

        “Yet this man developed an entire concept of “oughtness””

        No he didn’t. That existed long before Jesus. You can find the Golden Rule in Confucianism.

        Reply
  49. Luke says:

    Luke asked:“Just for the record, what is the explanation (i.e. not an assertion, but an explanation — your word) that G-d is qualified to be the moral standard?”

    Terry answered: “Once more… for the record… Three points are sufficient. The Moral Standard

    * must be grounded by a person
    * must be transcendent to humanity
    * must be immutable”

    Terry, this is an assertion. You asked me for an explanation, so I asked you for the same thing you asked for.

    You’ve answered with an assertion. You’ve just told me what the standard ‘must be’ but given no explanation at all of why that is so.

    You did answer my question about Zool, saying that Zool could not declare Sam’s standard to be the standard. If Zool is omnipotent, then what is the rule or law to which he is subject which prevents him from doing this? (Or is Zool simply not omnipotent?)

    Also, these questions, all related. would help me understand what you’re looking for. (Again, you can use the search function to find the context.)

    “Who has defined it? Does that person exist in this universe, or Zool’s?

    Is this an objective definition or a subjective one? (If objective what ground it?)

    You cannot know or choose if you will end up in Zool’s world, or G-d’s. But you can choose which definition of the moral ground you will live under. Which would you choose? (For clarity, there are 6 choices. G-d with Ground A, Zool with Ground A, G-d with Ground B, Zool with Ground B and so on… You can choose the ground, but will be randomly assigned the deity.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  50. Luke says:

    Terry,

    Above I said “For clarity, there are…” but should have said: For clarity, there are 6 universes, and 2 options from which you can choose. The universes are: G-d with Ground A, Zool with Ground A, G-d with Ground B, Zool with Ground B and so on… You can choose the ground, but will be randomly assigned the deity.)

    Sorry about that,

    Luke

    Reply
  51. Luke says:

    A few hours ago Dr. Turek tweeted out a link to a youtube video titled “Why is modern art so bad?” It’s by someone from Prager University (which apparently is a website and not a university). The presented makes a case for objective values in art, and presents evidence for them. It’s worth a look. The presenter claims that we can know that art has objective value by looking at it’s results. #irony #specialpleading #asthekidswouldsay #kidsthesedays #shakesfist

    Luke

    Reply
  52. Terry L says:

    Luke,

    You’ve answered with an assertion. You’ve just told me what the standard ‘must be’ but given no explanation at all of why that is so.

    Did you read the next three paragraphs? If you disagree with something I wrote, we can discuss that, but I don’t think you can legitimately claim that I gave no reasons for my claims.

    If Zool is omnipotent, then what is the rule or law to which he is subject which prevents him from doing this? (Or is Zool simply not omnipotent?)

    Omnipotence doesn’t imply that an omnipotent being can do anything; nor does it mean that he WILL do everything. It means that he can do anything that is logically possible that he chooses to do.

    Logically speaking, Zool either:

    A) is the One True God; in which case, torture is good. I believe in such a universe, Sam would enjoy being tortured, as this would necessarily be a “good” thing. (However, I have reservations about this explanation.) Regardless, if Zool was continually “doing good” to Sam by torturing him, then Sam would be quite happy in such a mixed-up universe. (Yes, ‘mixed-up’ is an import!)

    If this is the case, then Zool is necessarily the One True God in our universe as well.

    B) is a pretender to the throne of the Most High. In this universe, we can call Zool immoral because the God who grounds our morality is THE necessary being, and is therefore God in BOTH universes. Zool is more like Satan… one who wants to claim God’s throne but is in reality a created being.

    C) exists in an impossible universe. If our morality is true, then our God is a necessary being and must therefore exist in all possible universe. Zool then, if we consider him to be the One True God, exists in a universe that cannot possibly exist, as the claims that “our God is the One True God who exists necessarily” conflicts with the claim “Zool is the One True God who exists necessarily”. If both statements are assumed to be true, then one must be fictional. We know that our universe exists, therefore Zool’s cannot.

    Only in case A would Zool be able to claim omnipotence. However, he still could not change the basis of morality. That would require that he change his mind about aspects of the moral law where his character differed from Sam’s character. As a necessary being is immutable, this is logically impossible.

    Furthermore, I don’t claim that God decided what the moral law would be; it is simply based in his character, and thus is immutable and co-eternal with God. Any “God” who “decides” the moral law runs afoul of Euthyphro’s argument.

    Now for the older questions:

    Terry said:The idea that Zool, as a necessarily-existing being grounds morality in his universe is by definition.

    Who has defined it? Does that person exist in this universe, or Zool’s. Is this an objective definition or a subjective one? (If objective what ground it?)

    Not all definitions are “defined”. Some are discovered.

    This is a process similar to what science does. We have phenomena that requires an explanation; namely, our moral sense of duties and values, our expectations that others hold at least similar values, and the fact that they do. Generations of men have put forward explanations of these phenomena. (God’s commandments, societal mores, evolution, etc.) Many theories have been rejected or outright proven wrong. The best explanation I’ve read is that morality is grounded by God’s nature and character.

    I’ve invited you (or anyone else) to propose an alternative definition that can explain all of the features of morality we see in the universe (or to defend one of the above).

    So yes, this is an objective explanation (to the best of my ability). It’s not just based on my opinion or desires, but on observation of facts external to myself, along with self-observation. Until I find something that better explains what we see in the real world, then I’ll continue to use and defend this one as the best explanation.

    You cannot know or choose if you will end up in Zool’s world, or G-d’s. But you can choose which definition of the moral ground you will live under. Which would you choose?

    (I have to make some assumptions here:

    * The penalty for immorality is the same as our universe. As we’ve asserted a God, I’m assuming places of eternal reward or punishment.
    * The “weak” determine by vote or consensus what is right and wrong, similar to the way an organization passes bylaws. Might not be what you have in mind, but I don’t have any other details on what you mean by this.
    )

    Easy. I choose the one standard grounded in something immovable and unchangable! That’s the only “standard” among my choices.

    As “the beings most open to suffering” and “Sam” are contingent beings, any standard based on them is transient, and open to change at any time. What is moral today might truly be immoral tomorrow.

    If I end up in Zool’s universe with his character as the moral standard, then I have to believe that somehow in that universe, being tortured by Zool would be a good thing. (Just as I believe in our universe that being loved by God is a good thing). At any rate, you have something stable on which to base your life, not something that changes on a whim.

    Even if torture in Zool’s universe is still a bad thing:

    (Using quotes to distinguish between “groups of people” and adjective versions of the words “weak” and “strong”.)

    * What happens when Sam dies? What do we do then?
    * Sam could disapprove of being tortured, but approve of torturing others (namely ME). Or he could be like the “weak” below:
    * The “weak” could determine that every action the “strong” makes is evil, regardless of what it is. You’re guilty by virtue of being strong.
    * The “weak” could determine that the “strong” are morally obligated to harm themselves in some way so that they become weak.
    * What happens when the “weak” become strong, or vice versa?
    * Wouldn’t the “weak” actually be the strongest people in the universe? Their decisions would seem to determine the eternal fate of the strong.

    This is one crazy mixed-up world with no stability and no foundation. Today you know that a given action is good; tomorrow it’s evil! And on Wednesday’s it’s amoral!

    (From March 17)

    a. Terry, you seem to have abandoned your claim that Dr. Dawkins believes that there is a ‘abort a baby with T21′ gene? Is that a correct assumption?

    A single gene? Perhaps not. Again, if Dr. Dawkins believes that his genetic code is the reason for his moral stances, then this is necessarily HIS claim. His “moral code” (determined by his genes) leads him to recommend the abortion of a baby that will be born with physical and/or mental challenges. He claims that for the mother to have the child would be immoral. However, her morality (by his definition) determined by her genes may cause her to believe abortion to be immoral.

    He claims to have identified an action that he views as immoral [according to his own subjective standard]

    Where does he say this? You’re putting words into his mouth that he did not say. He said, “It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” He says the ACTION would be immoral. He does not even say, “I believe it would be immoral.” I’m happy to accept your explanation if you have a quote where he explains this, but to assume he means something other than what his plain language says is a step too far.

    Why would such a statement even make sense?

    I say ‘even granting’ because even though Dr. Dawkins states that ” there is at the bottom… no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” is does not rule out the existence of objective values (such as the golden rule) at a level above “the bottom”.bottom”

    But if you get to “choose” the source of said values, or the values themselves, they’re still subjective. This is a non-starter.

    I’ll just grant the assumption that he believes the universe is objectively immoral

    Not immoral… amoral. No evil, no good, just indifference.

    Just because an investment is a bad idea for one person, does not mean that it is a bad investment for everyone. This idea, which you strongly imply, is wildly silly.

    Precisely why I said, “ignoring circumstances… the goals for each investor could be different.”

    Morality seems to be fixed?

    Slavery was seen as moral for thousands of years. Polygamy was widely seen as moral (and still is by some).

    If you believe that morality (what humanity in general thinks is fine to do and not do) seems to be fixed, I put forth that you are very wrong.
    some

    Morality is what humanity in general thinks is fine to do and not do?? Humanity is the measure of morality? I’ve certainly never made this claim, unless proposing what an atheist might say.

    Luke, we’ve been over this. The evidence is not that “X is wrong because we feel X is wrong”, but that “we perceive there is a moral law that tells us some actions are right and some are wrong. We have discussions every day about the correctness of some action… discussions that would have absolutely no meaning if morality does not exist”. See comments to Andy below.

    Reply
  53. Terry L says:

    Andy,

    You said, “Terry, you moaned to Luke that he misquoted you because he missed out the word ‘absolute’; now you admit it makes no difference to the sense of the sentence!

    True. Luke was referring to standards that are “objective” in the sense that they are grounded in an object and not the subject, but become subjective when we subjectively “choose” one to be our “moral standard.” This is not the same thing as what is meant by “objective” moral standard–that standard that you cannot choose, that applies to all men regardless of whether they acknowledge it or not. To treat them the same is equivocation. Using “absolute” I feel addresses this difference without the need to explain it every time.

    It aids survival of the species. A species that develops it has an advantage over ones that don’t. Your mooted creatures that think no further than ‘I dislike pain and enjoy pleasure’ wouldn’t have the advantage of a society that works together, honours contracts, has an aversion to murdering others, etc.

    So are you saying that a society that works together, honors contracts, dislikes murder, etc. is morally better than one that does not?

    Is society the grounds for morality?

    What about the muslim society in which an imam has just decreed that girls can be married as young as 1 year old… but the husband must wait until they are 9 to have sex with his child bride? Is that a good thing? a bad thing? neutral?

    At any rate, the easiest way to debunk this is to point out that other species of ape show signs of a basic grasp of ‘fairness’, co-operation and empathy. And yet they have no concept of Jesus or of meta-ethics.

    Atheists claim Jesus was at best just a good man, at worst, a delusion, and they can be extremely moral as well. That’s not the point.

    The religion of those ‘primitive, uneducated men’ was not the same as the one Christians have now. It’s only a few hundred years ago that Catholics and Protestants were burning each other at the stake.

    Ad hominem. You’re attacking the adherents, not the concept. I could as easily point out Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot and others to claim that atheism is immoral because those men were atheists, and they were immoral.

    “Yet this man developed an entire concept of “oughtness””

    No he didn’t. That existed long before Jesus. You can find the Golden Rule in Confucianism.

    Where did I claim that I was talking about Jesus?

    That sentence refers to the man in an amoral universe… a universe where morality, sin, right, wrong, good and evil do not exist, either in reality or as a concept… came up with all of these concepts, and then was able to communicate these concepts that have not even the slightest basis in reality to people in such a way that not only did they understand them, but they allowed themselves to be controlled by those concepts.

    I’ve a challenge for you: Come up with a new concept not based on anything that exists in reality (meaning no exaggerations of an existing concept, for instance), invent new words (or give old words a new additional meaning) to describe this concept, and then explain it to us so clearly that we come to believe that it’s a real thing.

    Whatever concept you develop in your mind, if we don’t have a shared reality on which to base communication about such a thing, then how could you ever communicate that concept to us? We can’t climb into your mind to understand your concept. There’s nothing you can point to or describe external to your mind to which we can relate.

    Andy (From March 16),

    But all theists disagree on what the standard is too! Find me two Christians who have no disagreements about morality!b

    True. I’ll go you one better. All humans disagree on moral values and duties. Our lack of understanding has no impact on a standard that we do not define.

    When have I complained about an evil God?

    Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but I thought you had brought up the account of the Canaanites.

    I asked for YOUR opinion on a torturing God. You replied that in its universe it would be perfectly moral. Therefore it shows that there’s nothing inherently moral or good about kindness, forgiveness, love etc by your logic, which is a problem for your claims about objective moral values.

    I’ve addressed this in detail, above, but I’ll make one other comment. How by YOUR logic does kindness, forgiveness and love have value?

    You can’t prove anything just by saying you and I agree on whether or not abusing children is wrong.

    The only thing I’m trying to determine is whether you’re willing to deny absolute objective morals. So let me ask flat out… is it ever good and moral for a man to abuse an innocent child simply for pleasure?

    Regarding the four steps you describe – I could concede that there exists a timeless being who knows everything and can judge us and who won’t change His mind. Objective Moral Values still don’t necessarily follow from that. All it tells us is that there’s a clever being who can judge us and won’t change his mind.

    [T]he problem was that we can concede the existence of God and still get no closer to OMV being the result of that God.

    How do you define an objective moral value or duty?

    “1. A is best explained by B.
    2. B exists.
    3. Therefore, A”

    Sorry, what are A and B here? If A is God, then you’re saying God is best explained by B. What is it that you’re saying explains God? OMV don’t ‘explain’ God, do they? I thought you were saying B is EVIDENCE for A?b

    I probably should have swapped 1 and 2.

    Below is another summary version of the argument presented using appeals to the best explanation.

    “None of them account for the moral features we see in our universe”

    What features are these?

    No human on earth behaves as if the moral law does not exist. It is existentially impossible to live as if it does.

    Now my wife and I often dispute the color of an object. I’ll say it’s blue, she says it’s green. (Usually it’s a combination, but she sees more green than I.) There’s two things for certain:

    1. Neither one of us actually determine what color the object truly is. Color is a feature of the object that we are interpreting.
    2. While we dispute about the specific color of the object, neither of us denies that the object HAS a color.

    So it is with morality. You and I can discuss whether a particular action is good or evil. However, to even have that conversation demands that the action have a moral value. You and I may understand that value differently (you think its good, I think it’s evil), but we do not set it; it doesn’t come from us. So where does it come from? Furthermore, both of us have acknowledged the objective moral value of the action by assiging it to a good or evil category–a category with does not exist in an amoral universe.

    These phenomenon require an explanation.

    1. Moral recognition and behavior exists in every human on the planet.
    2. Moral recognition behavior is best explained by the existence of an objective moral law.
    3. Therefore an objective moral law exists. (Appeal to the best explanation.)

    The best explanation is simply that the moral law does actually exist. Assuming that it’s an illusion just simply doesn’t support all of the observed facts. The next question then is, what accounts for the existence of the moral law.

    1. The objective moral law actually exists. (Above)
    2. The objective moral law is best explained by the existence of a timeless, necessary, immutable person whose character is the foundation of the moral law
    3. Therefore this person exists. (Appeal to the best explanation.)

    However, note that timeless, necessary, and immutable are all attributes classically associated with God. As the moral standard defines good and evil, and this being is the standard of morality, then it follows that this being is also perfectly good (by definition–his character DEFINES good). Thus it seems that this argument provides evidence that the being we call “God” must exist.

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      “So are you saying that a society that works together, honors contracts, dislikes murder, etc. is morally better than one that does not?”

      I’m saying it’s more likely to thrive, and therefore it’s behaviour we would expect a successful society to develop. I’m saying this is an expected outcome.

      I think in these discussions it’s easy to lose track of what someone’s original point was. You’ll say (I paraphrase) “In an atheist universe I’d expect to see simplistic creatures who only understand pain and pleasure”. I then give a naturalistic explanation for the society we see, and you perhaps forget that I’m addressing this particular point and think I’m saying this is where morality comes from.

      In the above I was saying only that the society we see is what we should expect in an atheistic universe. I’m not saying that there can’t be a God, I’m just saying that I don’t see humans co-operating and feeling a sense of societal obligation as evidence for a God. Many species develop a species-bias, a willingness to protect their fellows.

      “Ad hominem. You’re attacking the adherents, not the concept.”

      Eh? I wasn’t attacking them at all. You were saying how odd it should strike me that ‘primitive men’ came up with this amazing moral system. I was pointing out that much of this system developed hundreds or even thousands of years later. In other words, we shouldn’t give all the credit to these ‘primitive men’, and therefore it’s not so surprising.

      “Atheists claim Jesus was at best just a good man, at worst, a delusion, and they can be extremely moral as well. That’s not the point.”

      Indeed it isn’t the point. My point was that other animals have developed a sense of fairness, obligations etc. It’s instinctive. The supernatural is not required to explain it.

      “Furthermore, I don’t claim that God decided what the moral law would be; it is simply based in his character, and thus is immutable and co-eternal with God. Any “God” who “decides” the moral law runs afoul of Euthyphro’s argument.”

      It runs afoul of Euthyrphro either way. You don’t avoid it by saying it is based on His character:

      “The question becomes: is something good because it is part of god’s nature or is it part of god’s nature because it is good. The false dichotomy can be better stated as the following true dichotomy: when we define ‘good,’ do we start from god (or his nature, etc.), or do we start from something else. If we choose the former, good is arbitrary, as good then stems from whatever god happens to be (there is no guarantee that justice, honor etc. being good). If we choose the latter, then goodness is independent of god. The choice, as always, is between arbitrary or external good.”

      “in which case, torture is good. I believe in such a universe, Sam would enjoy being tortured”

      Terry, this is absurd – if it’s enjoyed then it isn’t torture. When Luke and I say torture, that’s what we mean. Causing horrendous pain that ‘Sam’ finds unbearable.

      “The only thing I’m trying to determine is whether you’re willing to deny absolute objective morals.”

      Your ‘evidence’ for the existence of OBM’s came down to society generally agreeing on ideas (ideas that generally lead to societies flourishing) and you and I agreeing on baby torture being wrong. That’s not enough.

      If your definition of ‘absolute objective morals’ includes the notion that torture can be good then I don’t think you and I even mean the same thing by the term, so I can’t tell you if we even share the concept of what it is.

      Either way, it is your claim that AOMs exist, so it’s up to you to demonstrate it, not simply ask me if I accept them or not.

      Reply
      • Terry L says:

        Andy,

        I think in these discussions it’s easy to lose track of what someone’s original point was. You’ll say (I paraphrase) “In an atheist universe I’d expect to see simplistic creatures who only understand pain and pleasure”. I then give a naturalistic explanation for the society we see, and you perhaps forget that I’m addressing this particular point and think I’m saying this is where morality comes from.

        No, I didn’t forget.

        The first “original” point was that atheists steal rights from God. This whole discussion surrounding morality happened because “rights” is a moral concept. I was trying to tie in the points we were discussing back to the original point.

        In the above I was saying only that the society we see is what we should expect in an atheistic universe.

        For now, I’ll simply disagree with you; but I’ll return to this later.

        I’m just saying that I don’t see humans co-operating and feeling a sense of societal obligation as evidence for a God. Many species develop a species-bias, a willingness to protect their fellows.

        And does that point to a common ancestry, or a common designer?

        I was pointing out that much of this system developed hundreds or even thousands of years later.

        What parts developed later? Are you saying that it’s possible that thousands of years ago, it could have been moral to torture a child for fun?

        Is is still changing? Could rape be a moral good in the future?

        My point was that other animals have developed a sense of fairness, obligations etc. It’s instinctive. The supernatural is not required to explain it.

        Please give me a naturalistic origin for the concept of “fairness” and explain why all men (and some other animals) should be “fair”.

        It’s instinctive.

        This is not possible. Let me illustrate.

        A man is walking down a lonely city street late one night when he sees a man pull a woman into a dark alley. She’s crying for help. At that point, he has at least two different instincts that are at work; the instinct for self-preservation, and the instinct to help a woman in distress.

        What should he do?

        Few would say that he should ignore the situation and save himself. They would call that action “cowardice”.

        However, neither of those instincts are, in themselves, cowardice. The man is a coward for following the wrong instinct, not for having an instinct for self-preservation. In a very real sense, the moral law is a ruler for choosing between instincts.

        Terry, this is absurd – if it’s enjoyed then it isn’t torture. When Luke and I say torture, that’s what we mean. Causing horrendous pain that ‘Sam’ finds unbearable.

        If your definition of ‘absolute objective morals’ includes the notion that torture can be good then I don’t think you and I even mean the same thing by the term, so I can’t tell you if we even share the concept of what it is.

        I agree that it’s absurd, and I’ve given you my reasons why. However, don’t forget that my statement above is applicable ONLY in a universe that logically cannot exist. In an impossible world, we’re bound to come to conclusions that are strange.

        Your last comment pieces together fragments of my arguments to present a caricature of what I’ve said; it’s a straw man. But I’m glad you did; you just proved another of my points.

        To communicate, we must be able to share an idea. If moral values do not exist in reality, then no man would have a point of reference for communication about such a topic. We don’t need the concept of morality to discuss our preference for vanilla ice cream or not to be beaten. We have perfectly good words, and perfectly good referenced for that.

        Yet, our society continually discusses rights; rights that cannot exist without an objective standard of morality.

        And this is Frank’s point:

        It seems fairly obvious that the concept of morality has a referent that is accessible to all men. It is up to the atheist to explain what that referent is in the absence of God.

        Some claim that homosexuals have the “right” to marry, yet they deny the existence of God. If that is their claim, then it is up to THEM to show why such a right exists in the absence of God.

        Some claim that men have the right to be free, yet they deny the existence of God. If that is their claim, then it is up to THEM to show why such a right exists in the absence of God.

        Some claim that women have the right to kill their unborn children, yet they deny the existence of God. If that is their claim, then it is up to THEM to show why such a right exists in the absence of God.

        Some claim that women have the right to free speech, yet they deny the existence of God. If that is their claim, then it is up to THEM to show why such a right exists in the absence of God.

        Etc.

        How would you defend these statements?

        Your ‘evidence’ for the existence of OBM’s came down to society generally agreeing on ideas (ideas that generally lead to societies flourishing) and you and I agreeing on baby torture being wrong. That’s not enough.

        Again, I think you’ve misunderstood my arguments. This isn’t the evidence I presented. It is a part, but by no means the whole.

        Either way, it is your claim that AOMs exist, so it’s up to you to demonstrate it, not simply ask me if I accept them or not.

        I find it very telling that I’ve given you my explanations for how God grounds morality; yet you refuse to explain how morality is grounded without God; nor do you seem to be willing to admit that in God’s absence, morality does not exist.

        Either way, this seems to prove Frank’s point. If you believe that morality does exist but cannot explain it, then it seems Frank was justified in saying that the concept was “stolen” from theism. If you deny its existence, then you cannot legitimately argue for rights.

        Reply
        • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

          “And does that point to a common ancestry, or a common designer”

          Neither has anything to do with my point – it’s the natural outcome of natural selection creating an instinct to protect your fellow species, empathise with their suffering etc. It’s a natural explanation for a phenomenon that apologists point to as evidence for the supernatural.

          And it’s quite compatible, as it happens, with believing in a creator and evolution together (as most theists do, I believe – or at least a sizeable minority).

          Reply
          • Terry L says:

            If morality is the “natural outcome of natural selection”, then did it have to be as it is, or could it be completely different?

            This would also mean that is necessarily has changed over time. Is there anything that you believe has ALWAYS been wrong for any one or any group to do, at all times during human history? Murder? Rape? Torture?

    • toby says:

      “This is not the same thing as what is meant by “objective” moral standard–that standard that you cannot choose, that applies to all men regardless of whether they acknowledge it or not.”

      But you cannot demonstrate that this concept exists as more than just a concept! It’s a cute supposition. It fits into your desire for there to be a god, but aside from that it just, as Carlin would say, brain droppings.

      “So are you saying that a society that works together, honors contracts, dislikes murder, etc. is morally better than one that does not?”

      Nope. I’m sure he/we would say it makes them more effective at continued existence.

      “Is society the grounds for morality?”

      It can be a progenitor of it. In conjunction with individual ideas of how best to survive and thrive. If we’re an evolving species then how best to live would equally be a shifting thing, not an unchanging absolute. Obviously somethings never change in terms of survival though. “Don’t kill everyone you can reproduce with” would be a decent rockbottom rule to live by.

      “Ad hominem. You’re attacking the adherents, not the concept.”

      Not a bit. It was actually a compliment. That you are more moral than former members of your clan.

      “How by YOUR logic does kindness, forgiveness and love have value?”

      Because it serves our survival.

      “The only thing I’m trying to determine is whether you’re willing to deny absolute objective morals.”

      I deny anything that means that the supernatural has any effect on the natural world without any means to demonstrate how the supernatural can have any effect whatsoever on the natural.

      ““1. A is best explained by B.
      2. B exists.
      3. Therefore, A””

      1. If good didn’t exist then good wouldn’t exist.
      2. But good does exist.
      3. Therefore good exists.

      “No human on earth behaves as if the moral law does not exist. It is existentially impossible to live as if it does.”</b"

      Bah! All humans are conditioned from birth to follow rules, either by their parents or by the makeup of their environment. Don't jump off a tall chair because it hurts when you land. Wow! Basic rules coming from physical reality. We feel pleasure and displeasure because it's beneficial to us. The rest is up to us to fill in based on our environment and knowledge.

      “1. Moral recognition and behavior exists in every human on the planet.”

      Sure.

      “2. Moral recognition behavior is best explained by the existence of an objective moral law.”

      Nope. This is just conjecture based on your need to find a supernatural explanation.

      “3. Therefore an objective moral law exists. (Appeal to the best explanation.)”

      Nope. Same as before.

      Reply
      • Terry L says:

        Toby!

        Where’ya been? I thought you would have dropped in on this conversation before now! Welcome!

        But you cannot demonstrate that this concept exists as more than just a concept! It’s a cute supposition. It fits into your desire for there to be a god, but aside from that it just, as Carlin would say, brain droppings.

        If we live in an amoral universe, then it’s a supposition with no referent in reality, which would make communicating about it impossible. Perhaps the denial of morality fits into your desire for there NOT to be a god…?

        [Society] can be a progenitor of [morality]. In conjunction with individual ideas of how best to survive and thrive.

        So everything else is up in the air? Rape could be a good thing in certain societies?

        If we’re an evolving species then how best to live would equally be a shifting thing, not an unchanging absolute.

        Yeah. The jury is still out on that one also, but that’s a rabbit trail I’m not interested in now. Suffice it to say that if the premise is wrong, everything after the THEN is necessarily false as well.

        Obviously somethings never change in terms of survival though. “Don’t kill everyone you can reproduce with” would be a decent rockbottom rule to live by.

        Hmmm… those primitive wolves wouldn’t have made it very far then, would they?

        “Ad hominem. You’re attacking the adherents, not the concept.”

        Not a bit. It was actually a compliment. That you are more moral than former members of your clan.

        You just contradicted yourself. IF morality evolves, then you can’t make this claim. Genghis Khan may have been more moral than Mother Teresa; they just lived in different societies with differing moralities.

        I deny anything that means that the supernatural has any effect on the natural world without any means to demonstrate how the supernatural can have any effect whatsoever on the natural.

        Why? Have you proven that nothing beyond space, time, matter, and energy exist? This is a presupposition.

        “No human on earth behaves as if the moral law does not exist. It is existentially impossible to live as if it does.”

        Bah! All humans are conditioned from birth to follow rules, either by their parents or by the makeup of their environment. Don’t jump off a tall chair because it hurts when you land. Wow! Basic rules coming from physical reality. We feel pleasure and displeasure because it’s beneficial to us. The rest is up to us to fill in based on our environment and knowledge.

        Would you feel that our government would be justified to demand your arrest and execution for posting that sentence?

        You remind me of the student who wrote an excellent term paper on “Why Objective Morality Does Not Exist”, only to be given an F by the teacher, simply because the teacher didn’t like the blue folder it was submitted in. When the student complained, the teacher reminded him that it was HIS thesis that objective morality did not exist. So what was he complaining about? If nothing is right or wrong, then the teacher doesn’t have to be fair, especially when the student just spent so much effort to PROVE that the teacher doesn’t have to be fair! By failing him for a trivial reason, he was actually affirming the content of the paper.

        “2. Moral recognition behavior is best explained by the existence of an objective moral law.”

        Nope. This is just conjecture based on your need to find a supernatural explanation.

        Fine. Come up with a better explanation.

        Good to chat with you again!

        Reply
        • toby says:

          Terry!

          Been doing real things in the warmer weather. Actually I made a decent post a while back but I think it was lost in the shuffle.

          “If we live in an amoral universe, then it’s a supposition with no referent in reality, which would make communicating about it impossible.”

          So are you saying . . . I don’t really know what you’re saying. Are you saying that we couldn’t know the terms/concepts of good/bad? If so I don’t see how you can make that claim. If doing A causes harm and doing B doesn’t, then creatures that are averse to harm would come to say that B is the better choice for them.

          “So everything else is up in the air? Rape could be a good thing in certain societies?”

          Sure. But why does this society think that? Is rape the only way that they can conceive? Is rape pleasurable to them? There’s another part of the is-ought question. It should be stated in the form of is-ought-because. Every question you ask like the one above your answer to the because immediately skips all natural explanations, all questions of the knowledge of the concerned parties and goes straight to the “cuz god” answer then claim that any other explanations aren’t good enough.

          “Hmmm… those primitive wolves wouldn’t have made it very far then, would they? “

          So what? You’re again bringing in your speciesism. You’re doing the thinking for an animal that can’t, then saying that that animal is wrong because it lacks the capacity to think of other means of survival that you think are better.

          “You just contradicted yourself. IF morality evolves, then you can’t make this claim. Genghis Khan may have been more moral than Mother Teresa; they just lived in different societies with differing moralities.”

          Must we all play ignorants in these discussions and pretend the inability to think in the other person’s viewpoint? You are more moral than some cretins in the bible who owned slaves. We, on the nonbelief side, think that because of the basic idea of empathy. Slaves certainly thought that slavery was wrong. You think slavery is wrong. But your bible doesn’t condemn it. YOU have to pick and choose and piece it together in such a way that it conforms with the way you think and the people around you think. So we’re simply saying that you’re more moral than those in the bible because you don’t think that owning another person as property is correct. We don’t think that, and you don’t think that. What apologists do with this is nothing more than a debate parlor trick. “We say god is the reason for goodness because

          1. If good didn’t exist then good wouldn’t exist.
          2. But good does exist.
          3. Therefore good exists.

          So . . . anytime they use the words good or better or worse or evil . . . we’ll just say that they can’t use those words or even know what they mean. Wow. Powerful stuff.”

          It’s really not impressive.

          “Why? Have you proven that nothing beyond space, time, matter, and energy exist?”

          Yes. Prove me wrong. What experience do you have of anything timeless? Tell me when and where you come across something without space or matter? And in case you bring this up, “do I think there’s a multiverse?” I’ll say, “I don’t have any idea.” I, you, the smartest people on this planet, cannot even begin to tell you with anything close to certainty if there can be anything at all outside of our universe. and if there can be there are no reasons to believe that it has to conform to anything theists think of when it comes to their particular god.

          “Would you feel that our government would be justified to demand your arrest and execution for posting that sentence?”

          What does this or anything that follows have to do with what I wrote? you could comment on the very basic demonstration of how we can begin to formulate how some things can be better events/actions than others, but instead you run back behind the apologist shield of basically saying, ‘you can’t say anything is good or bad’ even though I tried to show you how these things can come from physical reality not outre mumbo jumbo.

          “Fine. Come up with a better explanation.”

          I’ve tried! We’ve all tried! You just don’t want to or can’t admit to (or may be unable to conceive of) a moral system that’s more complex than ‘this guy sez so cuz he ain’t never wrong.’

          Reply
  54. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I’m going to try to do this in sections, for clarity.

    Let me begin by saying that you had a couple of long entries, and instead of replying point by point, I tried to sort of drill down to the heart of the matter. If in doing so, I may have failed to answer some question you would like answered; it that’s happened please let me know.

    On investing:

    You missed my question: “On what basis do you believe that your beliefs based on your knowledge… applies to [the investor you’ve judged] as it does to all people?

    (for clarity, most of that question is a quote from you from 17 March at 14:36.)

    I’ll add: what is the ground of this judgment?

    The Golden rule:

    Here is a question you missed: “When you said that objective moral standards exist outside of G-d, I asked pretty specifically about the ‘golden rule’, and not the behavior of some human. When you answered you said ‘no’; you didn’t say ‘no, but your case does not qualify, here is one that does’ so I conclude that you agreed that my example also was one of an objective standard. You keep going back to a random person though. I guess, I need to ask directly if you do agree with that. You can look back at my March 6 post, for exactly what I mean (search ‘golden rule’).”

    What reality really changes, realistically…:

    We had an exchange some time ago, in which I asked what changes, on a practical level, because objective morality exists.

    You said:“… the right is conferred upon you by the society of people, all of which say, ‘you can possess a right to X’. But if they grant that right, then they can also revoke it.” (emphasis original)

    I asked: “Are you claiming or implying that otherwise they could not revoke it?”

    (I’ve asked this several times now, and I don’t believe you’ve answered.)

    (For context, I’ve agreed with you that what we think reality is has practical consequences (“People act on their beliefs, so beliefs change actions.”), but I am asking about what the reality itself changes on a practical level.)

    On Dr. Dawkins:

    You said::”A single gene? Perhaps not. Again, if Dr. Dawkins believes that his genetic code is the reason for his moral stances, then this is necessarily HIS claim.”

    Please go back and read the context of my statement: “If it is perhaps possible, as you’ve just admitted, then it is not “necessarily [Dr. Dawkins’] claim” that such a gene exists.” You still seem to badly misunderstand how Dr. Dawkins believes genes influence morality.

    I said:He claims to have identified an action that he views as immoral [according to his own subjective standard].

    Terry responded: “Where does he say this? You’re putting words into his mouth that he did not say.”

    More on this later, but he’s either saying something like:

    a. I think it’s ‘subjectively, in my view’ immoral.
    or
    b. I think it’s ‘objective’ immoral.

    Assuming there is no further evidence (which there is), both of us would be putting words in his mouth (Specifically, these would be the words I highlighted with the ‘ marks above.). My added words would be rational for him to say though, yours would not. I think this makes my words a better guess (if we have to guess.) So why do you get insert words, and I don’t? (And again, that’s all if there is no further evidence — which there is.)

    Again, Terry responded: “Where does he say this? You’re putting words into his mouth that he did not say. He said, “It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” He says the ACTION would be immoral. He does not even say, “I believe it would be immoral.” I’m happy to accept your explanation if you have a quote where he explains this, but to assume he means something other than what his plain language says is a step too far.

    Again, his plain language does not say it is objectively immoral. His plain language says it is immoral, in some way.

    Now, let’s look at what Dr. Dawkins said on this subject (all emphasis mine):

    “Obviously the choice would be yours. For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do. I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn. In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. Having said that, the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose MY VIEWS on you or anyone else.

    He continued:”I apologize if brevity made it look [bossy]. My true intention was, as stated at length above, simply to say what I personally would do, based upon my own assessment of the pragmatics of the case, and my own moral philosophy which in turn is based on a desire to increase happiness and reduce suffering.”

    I don’t know if he could be any more clear that these are his opinions or views. I don’t know if he could be any more clear that these ideas are subjective. His one mention of immorality is phrased as “if your morality is based…” [then] “it might actually be immoral“.

    Like I said, even if you didn’t have further evidence what I said was at least rational. Your take was not. But we didn’t just have our logic, we had the man’s words.

    We can just see what he said. When we do that, it’s entirely beyond me what the problem is even supposed to be.

    Fixed morality:

    I won’t quote what you wrote. I think that we’re missing each other a bit on this one.

    You said that morality seems to be fixed.

    What is the evidence for this? My contention that any evidence is at best weak, and at worst, shows the opposite. It seems to me that the evidence offered for the existence of objective moral values is that if we really ask ourselves, we realize and know that some things are “really truly wrong”. This is the evidence that people like William Lane Craig and Frank Turek provide.

    So if we all ask ourselves, for example: “is slavery really, truly wrong, as in not just a matter of opinion?” we answer “yes, of course.”

    But if we asked ourselves this 2,000 years ago, the answer would be different.

    So the evidence that objective moral values are real, is actually itself questionable. Now, something can be objectively true one year, and not objectively true at a different time. (For example, how tall someone is.)

    In other words, moral values could be objective, but still change. (This is why you put their immutability as a point that is separate point. You understand this.)

    So even if I don’t think it’s an ironclad piece of evidence, I get what Drs. Craig and Turek put forth as evidence for objectivity. But it provides no evidence for immutability.

    The fact that morality doesn’t seem fixed is part of what makes the evidence for only objectivity weak. Again, it simply provides no evidence for immutability.

    Let me try to say it another way.

    If people ask themselves “is x truly immoral in a way that is not a matter of opinion”, the fact that people change thier minds about the answer suggests that it actually IS just a matter of opinion.

    But even if we accept it as evidence of objectivity, DESPITE the fact that it changes, it provides NO evidence at all that these objective values have never changed.

    So even if we accept the strength of this feeling as evidence of objectivity, how could we accept it as evidence for anything but mutability?

    I hope that helps clarify what I mean.

    About your explanation/assertion:

    You said:Did you read the next three paragraphs? If you disagree with something I wrote, we can discuss that, but I don’t think you can legitimately claim that I gave no reasons for my claims.

    I apologize. I’m not really sure if I didn’t read it, or was unimpressed. Either way, I did a terrible job of respecting your points, and communicating well, and I again apologize.

    If I did read them originally, your reasons did leave me unimpressed (as they did when I read them now). First off, can you define exactly what you mean by the word “grounded”, when you say ‘must be grounded by a person’? Why could it not be grounded by a group of people? Can a group of people not care about what ought to be? What about just an idea? If one believes that ideas are independent of the people who think them (and lots of people believe this) wouldn’t the idea be the “ground” rather than the person themselves?

    I also don’t find your other points persuasive. I’m not sure why an unchanging standard is superior. The world changes. For example, people live much, much longer now than in the last few thousand years. Education, work, healthcare (childbirth)… almost everything about life is different. It seems not only plausible, but likely, that the age at which one should get married to change. You mentioned a boss paying his employees, and how the employees wouldn’t want him to go back and say they didn’t deserve that pay. That’s true, I think. On the other hand though, as the world around us changes (prices go up), it seems just as bad to be paid the same amount you were paid in 1967 and have the boss tell you “I am a good boss. I don’t change! You should be SO thankful I am unchanging!”. You’ve demonstrated some change is bad, but it does not follow that all change is.

    (I think this is why your explanations still strike me as assertions (maybe less so on the first point). You’re just saying that it must be immutable — but your “explanation” just defines what immutable means. It does not tell us why the standard must be immutable, or even why an immutable standard would be better.)

    As I’ve said, I did a very bad job communicating, , but I stand by the idea that you’re still just offering assertions.

    You asked for an explanation of how some certain person that lived some time ago can be a standard. So let’s evaluate it under your asserted criteria.

    Even though it’s a bad example to pick (I suspect you picked a weak example on purpose), let’s check your example against your guidelines.

    Grounded by a person – check. I don’t think there is even a question here.

    Transcendent – in many cases: check – unless the standard is something that clearly applies different rules to a different group of people than another, it applies the same rules to all. We can’t know this without looking at the moral code itself, but it’s certainly possible, even likely. (e.g. It’s more likely to be: ‘people shouldn’t kill for fun’, not ‘The French shouldn’t kill for fun; The Dutch should’.)

    Immutable – check – Whatever the standard is, that’s the standard that would be used to compare all behavior against. (Remember we’d logically have to look at some snapshot of her moral views; if those changed, we’d have to name either ver. a or ver. b as the standard. Remember we’re not saying mom had to be immutable, just that once we pick a standard, it doesn’t change.)

    Now let’s look at this criteria applied to our Christian G-d.

    Grounded by a person – check.

    Transcendent (applying equally to all) – No Different people had different rules for divorce, for example (between Moses and Jesus, and after Jesus). People were also received different protections (Hebrew slaves had their own set of rules, foreign slaves had their own.) So it’s not transcendent in either the rules to be followed, nor are the same rules applied to everyone

    Immutable – check Again, the divorce rules were different for one group than another. If we pick our time frame, then I think we’d have a immutable standard. (This is the same problem we had to solve to the mom above.)

    (On the divorce point, if you say that the ‘real’ standard didn’t change, then tell us: If someone was following the ‘false’ standard G-d gave them, were they acting morally, or immorally. This seems to be a paradox.)

    If we use the standard that you’ve given us. It looks to me like the mother does at least as well, and likely better than G-d.

    Your reality:

    Talking about a hypothetical world, Terry said: “This is one crazy mixed-up world with no stability and no foundation. Today you know that a given action is good; tomorrow it’s evil! And on Wednesday’s it’s amoral!”

    Doesn’t this strike you as a pretty good description of our world, on a practical level?

    Slavery is okay, then it’s not.
    Killing the inhabitants of every town is okay, then it’s not.
    Taking sex slaves in war is okay, then it’s not.
    Stoning people for gay love is okay, then it’s not.

    I mean this list could go on and on. You speak as if this would be some crazy terrible world, and we should all be so glad to have G-d so that we don’t live in it, but fail to look around to see that we do live in it.

    Torture is fun, for the one being tortured!

    Terry, I think few sentences do as good of a job showing everyone the twisted and completely nonsensical ideas your commitments have now required of you as:

    Terry said: “I believe in such a universe, Sam would enjoy being tortured.”

    I’m not even going to comment much on this. I think it’s utter lack of coherence does a better job speaking for itself.

    Terry said: I believe in such a universe, Sam would enjoy being tortured.

    Forever and foralways:

    For someone who makes such a big deal of things being immutable and transcendent, you abandon all such ideas when backed into a corner.

    Hey, sometimes being tortured hurts; sometimes it’s enjoyable! Sometimes torturing people is wrong; sometimes it’s good.

    Under your propositions, there is not a single behavior (i.e. hurting an innocent person for fun) that is always bad, in every conceivable universe.

    But at the same time you tell us how important it is that something is “always” true.

    In truth, the things you said lean toward a kind of nihilism. Nothing is ever and always true in every imaginable universe.

    You can criticze non-deistic moral system all you want, but I can’t think of one that would have to say something like “I believe in such a universe, Sam would enjoy being tortured, as this would necessarily be a “good” thing.”

    (By the way, I think your use of quotation marks around the word “good” reveals that you’re acutely aware that on your view, any true and transcendent meaning of “good” is illusory.)

    Your chosen world:

    I asked you to choose between 3 standards, to be used by one of two randomly assigned deities, under whose care you would be placed. (By the way, you’ve entirely ignored the 3rd option, which does not suffer from the supposed weaknesses of the second.)

    You chose the one option in which you would certainly be tortured, if you ended up with Zool!

    Why? Because: “you have something stable on which to base your life.”

    You go on to talk about some things that “could” happen with option 2, when with Zool.

    You choose guaranteed torture, over things that “could” happen.

    The most charitable way to state this is that you see a world in which you MIGHT be tortured, as LESS preferable to one in which you would SURELY be tortured!

    Looking at the third option, I can’t see how you would ever be tortured. Though you didn’t comment on that standard, you also did not choose it. Therefore we can only conclude that you also see a world in which you would NOT be tortured, as LESS preferable to one in which you would SURELY be tortured!

    At some point, Terry, you give up your claim to rationality.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Luke,

      On Investing

      On what basis do you believe that your beliefs based on your knowledge… applies to [the investor you’ve judged] as it does to all people?

      I did answer this, but it might have not posted.

      Simply, I don’t. My personal standards do not apply to everyone. That would be silly!

      I can question the wisdom of a decision they’ve made, and I’ve often said things like, “I don’t think I would have done that the way they did”. But you know what? I’m not in their exact situation; if I were, I might have done exactly what they did.

      In any case, my knowledge, nor my beliefs are a standard to which they are obligated.

      Now if the investor is doing something illegal… insider trading perhaps… then I can judge them by an external standard that applies to them, and can say that they were wrong to do what they did.

      The Golden Rule

      I’m sorry, but I’m really getting lost in the question, other than “I conclude that you agreed that my example also was one of an objective standard”, which I’ve thoroughly answered. Yes, a “standard” can be objective outside of God; but it is made subjective if you “choose” that to be your moral standard. We don’t get to choose the law of morality any more than we can choose which law of gravity we’ll follow. The law is the law and it applied to all men.

      If that doesn’t answer, try one more time to explain what your question is. I’m not trying to evade, I just don’t understand what your looking for.

      On Reality

      You said:“… the right is conferred upon you by the society of people, all of which say, ‘you can possess a right to X’. But if they grant that right, then they can also revoke it.” (emphasis original)

      I asked: “Are you claiming or implying that otherwise they could not revoke it?”

      Not necessarily, but only as society is given authority to do so by the grantor of the right.

      For instance, I believe in capitol punishment for some crimes. God gave human government the right to revoke a person’s right to life if convicted of a capitol crime. The authority to revoke comes from God, but it is carried out by human agents.

      Dawkins

      he’s either saying something like:

      a. I think it’s ‘subjectively, in my view’ immoral.
      or
      b. I think it’s ‘objective[ly]’ immoral.

      Assuming there is no further evidence (which there is), both of us would be putting words in his mouth…

      Let’s look a little more closely at his words:

      In the first place, the post you quote clearly states: “Here is what I would have said in my reply to this woman, given more than 140 characters:”

      In other words, this was posted AFTER the tweet went out, and the tweets hit the fan! I smell a little bit of “damage control” here. Perhaps this is exactly what he meant; perhaps not. I’ll give him a slight benefit of a doubt.

      Regardless, I find some of his comments interesting:

      I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.

      So he now believes in a morality, subjective though it may be. But he also acknowledges that your morality may be based in something totally different.

      Something like the tenets of Communism. I can’t help but wonder if he would find such relative morality comforting if someone like Stalin came to power and was sending him to the gulag just because he was well-educated and hostile to the new regime. Would he tell this despot, “the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose MY VIEWS on you or anyone else”?

      I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn.

      Why? In his view it’s a personal opinion that can be neither right nor wrong. Again, this looks like damage control.

      In any case, his post-facto words do support your claim. However, I think that his reluctance to embrace a moral position (“I would never dream of trying to impose MY VIEWS on you or anyone else”) only serves to prove Frank’s point. If his views are his only standard of morality, and he will not impose them on anyone, then how could he claim any rights at all?

      Fixed Morality

      Now, something can be objectively true one year, and not objectively true at a different time. (For example, how tall someone is.)is

      Wrong. It’s still objectively true that I, in 1981, was 5’2″ tall. And it’s true for everyone.

      In other words, moral values could be objective, but still change.

      What you’re saying then is that in, say, 1860, slavery in the southern U.S. was moral. Sometime betwen then and 1870, it became immoral.

      What I say is that our perception of the unchanging moral law changed. We used to believe that human cells just contained a mysterious “goo”. Then we got better tools, and we could start to discern the different organelles. The objective reality didn’t change; our perception of that reality changed.

      But even if we accept it as evidence of objectivity, DESPITE the fact that it changes, it provides NO evidence at all that these objective values have never changed.

      So how can you condemn any criminal in the past for their actions? Was Jack the Ripper perhaps working under a different moral law? Hitler?

      How do we know that murder is still wrong? What about slavery? It’s still practiced you know! How do you know that they’re not right and we’ve become wrong? Slavery was immoral back in 1865 (because the North one, after all), but the times have changed. It’s ok now!

      First off, can you define exactly what you mean by the word “grounded”, when you say ‘must be grounded by a person’?

      Think of the phrase “grounds for a divorce”. If you have grounds, then you have justification the divorce (see below). If I have grounds for believing you to be a liar, then I have evidence that you’ve told untruths in the past.

      If you have grounds for morality, then you have justification for believing that morality exists.

      Can a group of people not care about what ought to be?be

      Of course. But which group of people will you choose?

      What about just an idea? If one believes that ideas are independent of the people who think them (and lots of people believe this) wouldn’t the idea be the “ground” rather than the person themselves?

      An idea that exists without a mind? That takes more faith than believing in God! At least there you have a mind to have the idea.

      Even so, moral laws are prescriptive, unlike laws like the law of gravity which are descriptive. Prescriptive laws don’t describe what is, but what ought to be. But prescriptive laws also require both a judge and consequences. Ideas cannot judge, and cannot impose consequences.

      I’m not sure why an unchanging standard is superior.

      See above. Would it change all at once? for all people or just a few? How would you know when it changed?

      It seems not only plausible, but likely, that the age at which one should get married to change.

      True. But that’s an implementation of the moral principle that one entering into such a relationship should be of sufficent maturity and understanding. The particulars of how the principle is implemented will vary according to culture and circumstances.

      Different people had different rules for divorce, for example (between Moses and Jesus, and after Jesus).

      And Jesus explained that. God intended for marriage to be for life, but permitted (not approved of) divorce because the men were just kicking their wives out into the streets. Without a divorce, they were forced into begging or prostitution. Moses permitted divorce because the men were doing evil, and he sought to protect the women.

      Unfaithfulness (according to Jesus) is also sufficient grounds.

      On the divorce point, if you say that the ‘real’ standard didn’t change, then tell us: If someone was following the ‘false’ standard G-d gave them, were they acting morally, or immorally. This seems to be a paradox.

      Marriage is intended to be a picture of Christ and his love for the church. It is intended to last a lifetime. Divorce without proper grounds is a sin; however, it is not an unpardonable sin.

      Sometimes, because of our sinfulness, God is a pragmatist. He never approves sin, but in a situation where sin will happen either way because of our stubbornness, he will prefer the course of action that leads to less sin.

      Most of the rest of this section confuses the moral principal with the application of that principle under differing circumstances.

      Torture is fun, for the one being tortured!

      Terry, I think few sentences do as good of a job showing everyone the twisted and completely nonsensical ideas your commitments have now required of you as:

      Terry said: “I believe in such a universe, Sam would enjoy being tortured.”

      I’m not even going to comment much on this. I think it’s utter lack of coherence does a better job speaking for itself.

      Terry said: I believe in such a universe, Sam would enjoy being tortured.

      As I told Andy, you’ve taken half my argument. You neglect where I point out that Sam lives in an impossible universe. (Or do you agree that we are ruled by Zool? That’s the ONLY universe in which the statements above make sense.) Hypothetical world arguments are always difficult, but why must you insist on taking comments I make about a hypothetical world as having any meaning in any other world but that one?

      Under your propositions, there is not a single behavior (i.e. hurting an innocent person for fun) that is always bad, in every conceivable universe.

      I agree with you… for every conceivable universe. But that’s not true in every possible universe. Given what I’ve outlined above, morality MUST be EXACTLY THE SAME in EVERY possible universe.

      By the way, you’ve entirely ignored the 3rd option3rd

      What was the third? I was counting 1. Based in Sam, 2. Based in the weak, and 3. Based in God’s Character. The individual, the masses, and God.

      You chose the one option in which you would certainly be tortured, if you ended up with Zool!

      You specifically said, “Please just answer this as a thought experiment.” I’m not exactly certain what you meant by that, but I did my best to do exactly that.

      Given the option that seems to cause you the most mental cramps, a universe with Zool’s morality, I must assume that we’re living in that impossible universe. In that impossible universe (and only in that impossible universe), morality is based on the personality of a sadist. In that world, torture is good. Why would I not want what is good?

      You see, you’ve simply taken a concept, changed it to mean its opposite, and then asked me questions about the resulting world. Then when my responses don’t make sense in the real world, you say I’m being “completely nonsensical”.

      What would you expect? We’ve altered the very foundation of a universe?

      We can do the same thing without the impossible universe. Is winning the lottery a good thing? It depends… ask Shirley Jackson! Jackson changed the meaning of the lottery; in her world, winning the lottery meant a painful death.

      So for example, I tell you that I don’t want to win the lottery in Jackson’s world. Then you say you think I’m daft! It’s “completely nonsensical” to not want to win the lottery.

      No… it makes perfect sense. In that universe!

      So it seems you’ve considered my statements without considering the context in an attempt to make me look idiotic and/or immoral. I’m not saying it’s personal, or taking it that way, but it does seem to be nothing more than a cheap rhetorical trick with no logical foundation to stand on. I describe an impossible situation in an impossible world, and you respond that I “give up [my] claim to rationality.”

      I know exactly what I’ve said, I know and understand the logical underpinnings on which my statements are built, and they are, regardless of any allegations otherwise, completely rational. But it is a very complex argument, and you have to wrap your head around all of it. You can’t just take part of it and say, “Look! That doesn’t make sense! How could you think such a thing!” If you fail to understand just one part of it, then you’ll likely miss the whole thing.

      I’ve conversed with you enough to know that you’re highly intelligent. I don’t know where the difficulty is, but this isn’t the first time you’ve done this. This is exactly what happened on another thread where I accepted your hypothetical world, and you began to conflate the real world with the hypothetical one.

      It seems more rational to leave things in their own universes.

      Reply
  55. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    “Something like the tenets of Communism. I can’t help but wonder if he would find such relative morality comforting if someone like Stalin came to power and was sending him to the gulag just because he was well-educated and hostile to the new regime. ”

    I don’t get these leaps of yours. Why would anyone expect Dawkins to find that comforting? Would you be comforted if the terrorist murdering you believed what he was doing was objectively moral thanks to the nature of the God he believed in?

    And you’ve not shown that a Zool universe is impossible. You just don’t like the implications that a Zool universe throws up.

    For all you know, Zool could appear tomorrow on Earth and say all the stuff in the bible was just a trick laid by him, HE is the real creator, and the torture starts now. Would you then consider his lying, trickster ways to be moral, and thank him for the torture?

    Reply
  56. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I’m not in a position to give you a full reply now, but I just want to point something out.

    You said:“As I told Andy, you’ve taken half my argument. You neglect where I point out that Sam lives in an impossible universe.”

    I want to point out that you brought up the Zool universe. In doing so you said:

    “Other than Zool and Sam, absolutely nothing else exists. Not me, not you, not anyone else, no animals, plants or rocks. (We’ll assume that necessary objects like numbers, the fundamental laws of logic exist in any universe, so you have access to the law of non-contradiction, et. al.” (emphasis mine)

    You specifically posited this as a logical universe in which necessary objects exist.

    I’m sorry that you didn’t like where it led you, but let’s at least deal with it.

    Do you think it may have been your own damage control you were smelling? :)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Luke, I gave the two entities their names just for clarity… in response to a question Andy had asked about a god that created beings just to torture them. I did not posit the universe.

      Reply
    • Terry L says:

      You specifically posited this as a logical universe in which necessary objects exist.

      And given that, I said that either our God was God and torture is immoral, or Zool is God and torture is moral and good. I have no reason to believe that any being would consider torture to be good. Therefore I said that Zool is a pretender on the order of Satan.

      The important thing here is, torture is immoral in all possible universes, moral in all possible universes, or amoral in all possible universes. Which do you believe?

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “I have no reason to believe that any being would consider torture to be good.”

        But you’re saying that the only way HUMANS can consider torture to be bad is if it aligns with a creator God’s nature.

        “The important thing here is, torture is immoral in all possible universes…”

        If you’re saying it’s immoral in all possible universes then you’re saying that ANY God would necessarily have to have a nature whereby torture in immoral. Thus you’re effectively saying that it is immoral independently of any God’s nature. In other words, because torture is an absolute objective bad, any perfectly moral God would have to have a nature aligning with that fact. That’s the only way you can say that all possible universes’ Gods would have to consider torture immoral.

        That’s fine, but it leads to the conclusion that torture is immoral independently (and thus regardless) of a God.

        The alternative to that is the conclusion that if Satan had created the universe, not God, then all the traits we associate with Satan would in fact be good traits, simply by ‘virtue’ of them being Satan’s traits, and thus our standard of Good.

        To reject that, and state that a Satan (or Zool) creator is simply impossible, you have to accept that good and bad traits are so independently of the Creator’s nature, and the latter simply aligns with the former, not the other way round.

        [And by the way, it seems certain to me that 200 years ago a large number of Christians would have dismissed as impossible the notion of a God that considered 19th slavery of blacks immoral. They’d have rejected such a God as being impossible in the same way that you reject the possibility of Zool.]

        Reply
      • Terry L says:

        Andy,

        [Terry said,] “I have no reason to believe that any being would consider torture to be good.”

        But you’re saying that the only way HUMANS can consider torture to be bad is if it aligns with a creator God’s nature.

        Yes, so long as you mean “bad” in a moral sense.

        Notice that I’m not saying that without God, a human could not find torture to be painful, and consider that an undesirable situation. I’m saying that without God, he could not find it to be evil. It is just the way things are.

        If I’m walking in my backyard and get stung on the arm by a wasp, I don’t consider that desirable, and it’s certainly painful. I won’t seek out that experience again! But neither do I consider the wasp immoral.

        However, if I’m walking in my backyard and my neighbor shoots me in the arm with a pellet gun, he and I will probably have words! The damages done by the two actions are roughly the same. Do you see the difference between the two?

        “The important thing here is, torture is immoral in all possible universes…”

        If you’re saying it’s immoral in all possible universes then you’re saying that ANY God would necessarily have to have a nature whereby torture in immoral.

        No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Remember that a necessary entity must exist necessarily in any possible universe. The number one is not different between universes.

        Your formulation assumes an independent, necessarily-existing moral law existing across all possible worlds with no grounds for its existence. My formulation posits a necessarily-existing God existing across all possible worlds as ground for its existence.

        To reject that, and state that a Satan (or Zool) creator is simply impossible, you have to accept that good and bad traits are so independently of the Creator’s nature, and the latter simply aligns with the former, not the other way round.

        Why is it so easy for you to accept a necessarily-existing moral standard, and not a necessarily-existing God?

        Would you agree that it is possible for a universe to exist that is like our own in every way, except in this world, no life at all exists of any kind? The planets are all here, the stars are here, but there’s no plants, animals, amoebas… nothing that can be called alive in any way. (God, if he exists, is not included in the “no life” condition. I’m not assuming at this time a theistic or an atheistic universe, but the “no life” condition cannot be used to say that God cannot exist.)

        If you agree that this world could possibly exist, then I have to ask not only how the moral law could exist as a necessarily-existing entity without existing in the mind of a person, but why it would exist when there would be no creatures to whom it would apply.

        And in the absence of God, the likelihood of any morally-equipped creature coming into being is at best extremely low. Any honest proponent of evolution would have to agree that things could have turned out completely different. Humanity didn’t have to arise. Had the comet missed us, the dinosaurs may have won the lottery rather than mammals. Or, the comet might have destroyed all potential for life on this planet.

        So does it make more sense that these moral principles and concepts necessarily exist, but external to a mind, even when no life may arise that can discover them, or that they exist in the mind of a necessarily existing God, and are based on his own changeless nature, and that they apply to us because we are made in the image of that nature?

        [And by the way, it seems certain to me that 200 years ago a large number of Christians would have dismissed as impossible the notion of a God that considered 19th slavery of blacks immoral. They’d have rejected such a God as being impossible in the same way that you reject the possibility of Zool.]

        Unfortunately, you’re right! But the larger question is, were they right? If chattel slavery is truly wrong as you seem to believe, was it not wrong for them also, or has the core moral principle changed in the last 200 years?

        You and I seem to agree that slavery is immoral; we disagree on why slavery is immoral.

        We’ve had three different proposals suggested for why moral principles exist:

        Society

        Society doesn’t seem to be a sufficient reason. Over the years, society’s ideas of what is proper has certainly changed. If morality is based on society, then you can’t condemn those slaveholders for following the societal mores of the times. That was their moral law, and they were doing good, even though you perceive it to be different.

        Moral Evolution

        This seems to suffer from the same flaw. Evolution requires change. If moral principles change over time, then any atrocity of the past may have been moral to them in that time, place, and culture.

        Furthermore, natural selection doesn’t explain origins, only variance. While variation alone seems to be a fatal flaw for this theory, it also doesn’t explain the creation of the original moral principles which natural selection mutates.

        The Nature of God

        A necessarily-existing God (which is also necessarily immutable) creates a race of beings in his own image. Wanting them to be capable of love, he grants them the freedom to live in accordance with his moral character, or to go their own way. When they follow their purpose and live in accordance with God’s character, they do good. When they do anything else, they do evil.

        Because God is a necessarily-existing being, these definitions of good and evil exist in all possible worlds. Even if the multiverse exists, and we can manage to cross to another universe, good and evil will still be the same in that universe.

        I’ve defended option three above. Do you hold to one of the others, and if so, how do you explain the problems I’ve pointed out?

        Reply
        • Andrew Ryan says:

          “I’m saying that without God, he could not find it to be evil.”

          Then you need to reconcile that with this:

          “I have no reason to believe that any being would consider torture to be good.”

          “Because God is a necessarily-existing being”

          I don’t even see that a ‘necessarily-existing being’ is a coherent concept, or how you would demonstrate that any particular being qualifies even if it is a coherent concept.

          “Any honest proponent of evolution would have to agree that things could have turned out completely different.”

          I don’t agree. It seems to be a pre-requisite for almost every social animal on the planet. We see it again and again among mammals, and the higher the brain function the more we see it.

          “Why is it so easy for you to accept a necessarily-existing moral standard, and not a necessarily-existing God?”

          I never said I found the former easy to accept – I said that it was one of two options regarding your rejection of a torturing Zool/Satan God.

          “then I have to ask not only how the moral law could exist as a necessarily-existing entity without existing in the mind of a person, but why it would exist when there would be no creatures to whom it would apply.”

          It would be like asking whether the laws of logic or numbers exist if we weren’t around to observe them. I’d say they would.

          My point still stands, as far as I can see. You’ve not shown that Zool/Satan is impossible as a Creator God. The best you can say is that you don’t think the God that created you has those attributes, but the only way you can argue that a God would NECESSARILY not be a torturing Zool/Satan God is to make the argument that NO Creator God could have those traits, in which case you’re arguing that those traits THEMSELVES are NECESSARILY evil, in which case they’re bad independently of the God. That’s the only way.

          You either accept the possibility of a Zool/Satan Creator God, or you accept that those traits are good/bad independently of the God.

          Those are the only two options.

          Basically it’s Euthyphro’s Dilemma again.

          Reply
  57. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I just have a quick question, but one which is important for you to answer. Could Jesus have been named Bob? Or is that impossible?

    (If you could say a few words about why or why not, that would probably also be helpful.)

    I don’t want to be cute or coy, so let me explain a bit why I’m asking. You seem to argue that Zool can’t exist, and G-d must because of the ontological argument. (The greatest conceivable being exists, because if it didn’t, we could conceive of a greater being. This being also exists in all possible worlds because a being that exists in all possible worlds is greater than a being that exists only in some possible worlds.) You seem to take from this that since G-d exists in our world, he must exist in all worlds (as the greatest being), therefore Zool could not actually exist. (We’ll forget the question begging involved in this for now.)

    The reason I ask about The Savior Bob, is to point out that not all properties are great making properties (which does not mean that there are not some great making properties). If having a son named Jesus is greater than having a son named Bob, then by the OA, G-d’s son would have to be named Jesus. But if there is no inherent value of Jesus over Bob, then both versions of G-d could exist because they are both equally and maximally great. When judged by the standard of greatest conceivable being, they both score infinity. One is not greater than the other – judged on that scale, they are the same being.

    I said I wouldn’t be coy, so I’l that in a basic sense: I think that “Jesus could not be named Bob” fails a basic common sense and rationality test. If you go around telling people that Jesus had to be named Jesus in every possible universe, and a universe in which everything was the same, except that Jesus was named Bob was simply impossible, few will take you seriously.

    However, if you admit that Jesus could be named Bob, then you admit that things could be different about G-d, yet remain possible. If you do that, you now have an uphill struggle to show that a Zool is not equally great without referring to some outside standard showing us that non-torture is better than torture. (And if Zool’s nature defined “good” then as long as Zool is maximally “good” he is equally omnibenevolent.)

    (As a more technical detail, I think we can all agree that if there are great-making-properties, then omnibenevolence is greater than non-omnibenevolence. This says nothing about the “kind” of “benevolence” since this is not defined outside of the greatest conceivable being, on your argument.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  58. Terry L says:

    Andy,

    “Why is it so easy for you to accept a necessarily-existing moral standard, and not a necessarily-existing God?”

    I never said I found the former easy to accept – I said that it was one of two options regarding your rejection of a torturing Zool/Satan God.

    But then you strongly imply that you accept this in your very next sentence…

    I don’t even see that a ‘necessarily-existing being’ is a coherent concept, or how you would demonstrate that any particular being qualifies even if it is a coherent concept.</b

    You already accept the concept of necessary existence. You said, "It would be like asking whether the laws of logic or numbers exist if we weren’t around to observe them. I’d say they would."

    The implication is that moral principles are also necessarily-existing concepts. Do you agree?

    [Terry said,] “Any honest proponent of evolution would have to agree that things could have turned out completely different.”

    I don’t agree. It seems to be a pre-requisite for almost every social animal on the planet. We see it again and again among mammals, and the higher the brain function the more we see it.

    That wasn’t my point. Do you agree that, given an atheistic universe and naturalistic evolution, it would have been possible for humanity to have became extinct and another species to have arisen? Or perhaps for no species to progress beyond the level of fungi? Or for all life to have been destroyed by meteor impacts?

    the only way you can argue that a God would NECESSARILY not be a torturing Zool/Satan God is to make the argument that NO Creator God could have those traits, in which case you’re arguing that those traits THEMSELVES are NECESSARILY evil, in which case they’re bad independently of the God.

    No. I’m arguing from the moral features we observe in our universe to the existence of God, not from the existence of God to the moral features of our universe.

    My argument is that the God who grounds morality necessarily exists in all possible universes, including ours. We understand gratuitous torture to be an evil. I think we have good grounds to assume that we are correct in that understanding, though it’s not our understanding nor our opinion that torture is evil that makes it evil. If gratuitous torture is immoral in this universe based on the unchanging character of a necessary being who exists in all possible universes, then gratuitous torture is necessarily evil in all possible universes.

    Basically it’s Euthyphro’s Dilemma again.

    Euthyphro’s Dilemma is a false dilemma; a problem with two proposed solutions where those are assumed to be the only solutions. Namely,

    A. X is good because God commands it. Or,
    B. God commands X because it is Good.

    The second horn of the dilemma, B, is assumed to be so because of a standard external to God. If this is true, then it would indeed be a defeater of traditional theism.

    But there is a third option; when the standard is God Himself, and not a standard external to God, then this is compatible with theism. God commands reflect his nature. His nature is not some external force constraining him, and therefore greater than him.

    Reply
  59. Terry L says:

    Luke,

    Answers are a bit out of order, but I think they’ll make more sense this way:

    You seem to argue that Zool can’t exist, and G-d must because of the ontological argument.

    Not so much. I have serious questions about most formulations of this argument because most of them depend on our “conceptions”, and there’s some sort of logical leap there that I can’t quite justify. While I appreciate the gist of the argument, I’ve not yet found a formulation of it that I would or could defend wholeheartedly.

    I argue for a necessary being more from the cosmological argument. The universe and all that we see around us, including us, are contingent entities. An infinite series of contingent entities causing other contingent entities is a logical impossibility. Therefore some non-contingent, or necessary entity must exist to have created the first-order contingent entities.

    One is not greater than the other – judged on that scale, they are the same being.

    I’ve been doing some thinking along these same lines. I think you just described the Trinity. This description comes closer to being comprehensible than any other description I think I’ve ever heard. I’m still studying to see how it aligns with scripture, but to date, I don’t see any issues with it.

    …you now have an uphill struggle to show that a Zool is not equally great without referring to some outside standard showing us that non-torture is better than torture.

    Not really. My explanation to Andy above applies here. I’m arguing from the moral features we observe in our universe to the existence of God, not from the existence of God to the moral features of our universe.

    We know that our universe exists. A necessary being that must exist in all possible universes must necessarily exist in our own. You and Andy (and I also, for the record) have pointed out that we (correctly, I believe) recognize gratuitous torture to be evil. Therefore, I have evidence that this cannot be an attribute of our creator. Of course, we could all be mistaken, but given the sheer amount of evidence we have for this belief, I think we’re standing on solid ground. If gratuitous torture is evil, then it is against the nature of our creator. We know with no uncertainty or ambiguity that it is not against Zool’s nature (we defined him after all…). Therefore by the Law of Non-Contradiction, Zool cannot be the One True God.

    (And if Zool’s nature defined “good” then as long as Zool is maximally “good” he is equally omnibenevolent.)

    If I understand what you mean correctly, this was precisely my point earlier. When the object that underpins good is replaced with something else, then the definition of what is good changes. That’s precisely why I do not accept society, evolution, or other mutable things as valid grounds for morality. They’re not stable! They would allow the true definition (not understanding) of morality to change over time.

    When I explained this concept by imagining a different deity with a different nature, and then interpolated from that nature the changes to morality that would result, you thought I was being irrational. Why should we then think that morality based on any other mutable object could not change so that rape, murder, mayhem, torture, etc. were definitively (again, by definition, not by understanding) morally good?

    Now to answer your question, I have no personal issue with Jesus having another name; in fact, he has many variants: Yeshua, Jesus, Ieasus, Immanuel, some would include Isa from the Koran….

    I think that “Jesus could not be named Bob” fails a basic common sense and rationality test.

    While I tenatively agree, God may have another opinion on that than I, given the typology of names used in the scriptures, prophesies given, divine instructions to Joseph and Mary, etc.

    I’m not certain if that’s really reflective of what you seem to be asking. Let’s look at another attribute; could Jesus have been taller or shorter than he was?

    I think it’s clear that for him to have been an inch or three taller or shorter than he was would have made absolutely no difference at all. It’s not his physical body that made him God, but the nature he shared with God the Father. His eyes could have been a different color, his nose a bit wider or longer… doesn’t matter.

    If he had been abusive to children, that would have mattered. It’s not what he looked like, but who he truly was that was important.

    A few other questions for you and Andy (et. al.):

    Assume for a moment that a maximally-great, necessarily-existing God does exist. His nature defines good. Evil is an absence of goodness.

    What should this God do when people torture or kill other innocent persons? Can he be maximally good and not exact punishment? Can he be maximally loving and not exact punishment? Can he be maximally merciful while exacting punishment?

    Reply
  60. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I’m going to start with the questions you asked. I’m not really sure how they are related, but you asked, so:

    You said:Assume for a moment that a maximally-great, necessarily-existing deity does exist. His nature defines good. Evil is an absence of goodness.

    You then asked: “What should this deity do when people torture or kill other innocent persons?”

    Hmmm… so I really don’t want to dodge the question, but the answer depends on so many things, it’s almost impossible to answer. It’s more worthy of a book, than a paragraph.

    What is maximally-great? This seems terribly subjective. This problem alone gives the question a million answers.

    Also, the question seems to make a categorical error. If the deity grounds oughts/shoulds, then there is no thing it should do. On that level, the question doesn’t even make sense.

    My honest answer is “I don’t know”, but I like thinking about the possibilities. My best guess, given a lot of assumptions would be: I’m not sure such a deity should allow such a thing to happen.

    You then asked: “Can he be maximally good and not exact punishment?”

    (All of these questions are contingent on the assumptions we have to make, and could yield a million answers, so I’ll just keep doing my best.)

    Can? Sure! The one thing that’s like this, to which I can relate, is parenthood. The best parents I know don’t punish every mistake and transgression. They also don’t let every problem go unpunished. Sometimes people act out of malevolence, sometimes they just make mistakes.

    This question also hinges on what one means by punishment; is “was that really the right thing to do?” a punishment?

    (In general, I would say that it seems to me that parents who punish their kids more, love them less — to be non-politically correct about it. That’s just my experience, and I realize it’s probably not everyone’s. I do think a parent who never lets anything go unpunished is probably not maximally good, as a person, or at parenting. If you punish a kid for leaving a sock on the floor the day after their father died, you’ve got serious issues, for example.)

    You then asked: “Can he be maximally loving and not exact punishment?”

    Absolutely. See above.

    You then asked: “Can he be maximally merciful while exacting punishment?”

    Sure! I mean, we’re going to assume that the punishment fits the crime. Slowly burning off an arm for jaywalking on a quiet street would be hard to view that way, but “can?” yeah, sure!

    I mean, if you look at parents again, a good punishment is one that helps the child in the long run. That seems merciful (as an act of kindness). The arm burning thing, not so much.

    Now, let me start my post by saying that I think I can make a very straighforward argument that will show why either Zool is possible, or that otherwise moral values bind every deity.

    However, I am starting to doubt whether it’s worth it to bring that up. Earlier in this discussion I quoted Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. You came back and said that Jesus didn’t actually say that (“Actually, that’s at best a paraphrase” you told me), then you gave reasons for why the golden rule was inferior to what Jesus “did say”; you then concluded that you didn’t think Jesus would want to leave the loophole the golen rule supposedly gives us.

    Of course you were wrong about most of that. Jesus directly gave the Golden Rule in the Sermon on the Mount. My quote was accurate (NASB translation, to be exact). I honestly doubt you would have said all those other things had you known that (read your Bibles people!).

    Perhaps I missed it, but you never admitted that you were wrong about any of it. Never commented on whether the rule Jesus did give, as it turned out, was as full of holes as you previously argued.

    (This is despite me asking you directly to comment on what happened.)

    In another example, you told me that if I could find a quote from Dr. Dawkins explaining that his moral views were something like I was saying, you’d be “happy to accept [Luke’s] explanation”. When I did that very thing, you didn’t say anything like “I’m happy to accept your now.” or “I guess I was wrong; I’ll rethink how I got there”; instead you just moved on and pretty much accused him of being untruthful (I’ll be very glad to back up that claim, by the way).

    So what happens when I give you a valid argument that Zool is possible, given your own arguments. Will you ever say: “oh, you’re right!”? The fact that you couldn’t do it in a clear cut case as what Jesus said gives me some serious doubts. That leaves me wondering… what’s the point?

    That said, here is the argument…

    First I just want to point something out; you said: “When I explained this concept by imagining a different deity with a different nature, and then interpolated from that nature the changes to morality that would result, you thought I was being irrational.”

    NOT AT ALL! If I wrote anything that even seemed like it was anywhere close to this — even a distant, distant cousin — then I wrote terribly unclearly. To be more precise, I think terribly unclearly. When I read it now, it still makes perfect sense to me, and in what I see, I am in no way even close to saying you were irrational FOR THIS.

    Now, back to the aqrument, you said:: “The universe and all that we see around us, including us, are contingent entities. An infinite series of contingent entities causing other contingent entities is a logical impossibility. Therefore some non-contingent, or necessary entity must exist to have created the first-order contingent entities.”

    At best you are giving an argument that at least one such entity must exist, but give no reason that only one such entity can exist.

    Why could three similar non-contingent beings, each of whom started a universe over which they rule not xist? You give no reason at all that only one such being can exist.

    Your argument does not rule out that some non-contingent super deity did not create 20 contingent demiurges, gave them free will, and asked them to create the universes they see fit.

    Honestly, the rest of your argument falls apart at that point, because you can no longer say “A necessary being that must exist in all possible universes must necessarily exist in our own.”

    Even if you could, this makes no sense anyway. How could the creator of our universe exist “in our own” universe?

    The only thing you can say is “there must exist a non-contingent being” on your argument.

    (But you can’t say that being had to create one or more universes, as I said, that being could have just created creator beings.)

    So at this point, there is no reason that both our G-d and Zool could not exist. They both have your necessary characteristic that they be non-contingent (or are both contingent on the same super-deity).

    Let me ask: If there were 3 non-contingent beings, and each created a universe. Would they all have to have the same moral values?

    Let’s go further though…

    You tell us that it’s possible for Jesus to be taller.

    You also tell us that G-d has to be non-contingent to be possible.

    So you admit that some things can be different (specifically, they are “possible” though they are different, and some things cannot.</b

    The question is "on which list does 'torture is bad by the deity's nature'" belong?

    If you say that "torture is bad by the deity's nature" is on the "G-d must meet these criteria” list, then G-d is bound to some higher standard and morality is not grounded in Him. If you say that G-d is not bound by some higher morality, then “torture is bad” goes on the “could be different” list along with Jesus’ height, and we see that Zool, like a taller Jesus, is possible.

    Even if we accept everything you’ve said here, if we forget that your argument doesn’t show what you think it shows, but just accept it, YOU ARE STILL NOT SHOWING THAT ZOOL IS NOT POSSIBLE!

    Even if we just accept your flawed argument, you can only say:

    “Zool is impossibe if G-d exists!”
    That’s not the same thing, logically, as “Zool is impossible, period”.

    (That’s just typically not the thing you just assume when engaged in arguemts that are ultimately focused on answering that question. “Before we debate whether G-d exists, let’s all first agree he exists!”)

    I hope that’s all helpful.

    I can (and will) respond to all of your other points, and I will explain further your bad misunderstanding of what I called irrational, but I’d really like to know if you now see the problem in calling Zool impossible.

    Quick question. Let’s just say that the non-contingent being exists. The non-contingent being grounds a certain morality (M), but it created 20 contingent creator gods (demiurges) and gave them free will, none follow that morality perfectly. If one of those deities (D11) creates a universe with beings to whom it gives free will, but this deity (D11) grounds a morality of notM (it also tells the beings it created “do notM”). When a being in that universe does notM, are they acting morally? To which morality is a contingent being in D11’s universe bound? M or notM?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      Luke: “If you say that “torture is bad by the deity’s nature” is on the “G-d must meet these criteria” list, then G-d is bound to some higher standard and morality is not grounded in Him. If you say that G-d is not bound by some higher morality, then “torture is bad” goes on the “could be different” list along with Jesus’ height, and we see that Zool, like a taller Jesus, is possible.”

      Yes, that’s the nub of it. It’s why ‘Morality is grounded in God’s nature’ doesn’t avoid the Euthryphro Dilemma as apologists seem to think it does. The fork just shifts to the traits of God’s nature, and the dilemma remains. Either way, it defeats the moral argument for God’s existence.

      Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Hey Luke!

      I actually did concede that Dawkins’ explanation (although given after the firestorm) did support your interpretation. That does leave me wondering why such an intelligent man (sincere complement, not being snide) would use that terminology to express what he did. “Immoral” has very specific connotations. He could easily have expressed what he says he meant to express, still with 140 characters.

      In any case, I could say more, but I want to move on to respond to your points re: Zool. I won’t have time to address much if anything else right now.

      If I wrote anything that even seemed like it was anywhere close to this — even a distant, distant cousin — then I wrote terribly unclearly.

      If you interpreted my statements regarding “pleasant torture” to mean anything other than “different deity implies different attributes of the universe”, then I wrote terribly unclearly.

      At best you are giving an argument that at least one such entity must exist, but give no reason that only one such entity can exist.

      Given your statement, “One is not greater than the other – judged on that scale, they are the same being”, I didn’t think it necessary. If they share the same essential attributes… the same essence, then they are the same in all essentials. (In Christianity, think of the Trinity. One essence, three persons.) If two beings differ in the essentials, and one of them is designated as “maximally great in all essential attributes”, then the other is necessarily not maximally great, and is not the topic of my discussion.

      I think the philosophy of maximal greatness may even rule out the possibility of a non-maximally-great being that is also a necessary being, but I wouldn’t argue that at this point as my knowledge is still lacking a bit in this area.

      Why could three similar non-contingent beings, each of whom started a universe over which they rule not [e]xist? You give no reason at all that only one such being can exist.

      Your argument does not rule out that some non-contingent super deity did not create 20 contingent demiurges, gave them free will, and asked them to create the universes they see fit.

      See above.

      And according to the Bible, there are more angels than 20; they would come close to what you describe, although they are not shown as having a role in creation.

      And if this version of the multiverse is true, it’s beyond our knowledge outside of revelation. We can have no experience or evidence of such a being who did not create our universe and never interacts with our universe. We could see evidence for the one who created our own in the design of the universe.

      Occam’s razor would also seem to suggest that one creative entity should be assumed rather than multiple.

      Honestly, the rest of your argument falls apart at that point, because you can no longer say “A necessary being that must exist in all possible universes must necessarily exist in our own.”

      Even if you could, this makes no sense anyway. How could the creator of our universe exist “in our own” universe?

      Easy one first. The creator can exist “in” our universe, in that he can affect it directly and interact with it. He is not dependent on it; it is dependent on him. But if that doesn’t work for you, then think, “A necessary being that must exist in all possible realities must necessarily exist in our own”, where “reality” means all things real, inside and outside of our universe.

      As for the first point, if your 20 contingent demiurges postulate is true, then each of them exist in a reality external to each of our universes. They ALL exist in each universe, as does the One True Creator who made them. Again, I think Occam shaves all of these non-necessary entities off, but the point still stands. However, NONE of them would be the entity that we refer to as God. God is the uncreated creator. These beings would be more like angels.

      (But you can’t say that being had to create one or more universes, as I said, that being could have just created creator beings.)

      But all things were ultimately created by this first non-contingent being. The contingent beings could never have created anything without having been created first.

      So at this point, there is no reason that both our G-d and Zool could not exist. They both have your necessary characteristic that they be non-contingent (or are both contingent on the same super-deity).

      If both are contingent on the same super-deity, then it is this super-deity that grounds moral principles, and both creators are subservient to him and accountable to him. It is this super-deity that is revealed by the existence of moral artifacts in our universe. The end result for the moral argument for God’s existence is the same.

      Let me ask: If there were 3 non-contingent beings, and each created a universe. Would they all have to have the same moral values?

      I believe so. (Again, consider the Trinity.) The Bible speaks of all three persons of the Trinity being involved in creation. (Gen. 1, John 1, and I forget the reference for the Holy Spirit). Only one universe though. If they created others, we could never know unless they told us or they “collided” or something.

      So you admit that some things can be different (specifically, they are “possible” though they are different, and some things cannot.

      The question is “on which list does ‘torture is bad by the deity’s nature'” belong?

      Jesus’ height was an attribute of the incarnation. God did not have a body (although he is shown in the OT to have appeared as a human at times) before the birth of Christ. He “took on flesh”; until that time he didn’t have height at all, being spirit.

      If you say that G-d is not bound by some higher morality, then “torture is bad” goes on the “could be different” list along with Jesus’ height, and we see that Zool, like a taller Jesus, is possible.

      Do you become a different person when you trim your hair or cut your nails? You’ve “changed”, yet I doubt seriously that your character and nature are changed because your hair is an inch shorter (assuming you have hair… I have no idea what you look like, so I don’t want to assume!)

      Why would a change of an inch or two either way of the incarnation body of Christ make any difference to the character and nature of the person inhabiting that body?

      “Zool is impossibe if G-d exists!”
      That’s not the same thing, logically, as “Zool is impossible, period”.

      You’re correct that these are not the same.

      If God exists, then he is the One True God, and Zool is Not.
      If God does not exist, then Zool is not God.
      If Zool is God then God exists.
      The evidence of our morality supports God as God rather than Zool.
      We have other evidence for God; Zool was imagined solely for this thought experiment. (Yeah, that’s almost begging the question. Substitute, “Zeus” above if you’d rather… still works.)

      Quick Question:

      I answered this above, but the true moral law must be immutable and eternal. The only being with immutable character in your scenario is the necessary being who created the other 20.

      If these immoral beings did create a world, their own character, by your own description, has already changed.

      Reply
  61. Luke says:

    It sounds like you admit that Zool is possible. You just think he doesn’t exist, because our morality suggest that G-d of a different nature does..

    Yay! We’re getting somewhere.

    Here, we get further still.

    I asked: “Let me ask: If there were 3 non-contingent beings, and each created a universe. Would they all have to have the same moral values?”

    I believe so.M

    Yay! So you believe in some moral idea that is above the non-contingent being. Otherwise, there’s no logical reason to “believe” this.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Luke,

      Yay! So you believe in some moral idea that is above the non-contingent being. Otherwise, there’s no logical reason to “believe” this.

      This doesn’t follow. If you have three necessary beings, then they necessarily have the same nature, in an existence outside of any of their respective universes. (Again, think of the Trinity, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father when speaking of their personhood, but all three persons are God… they share the same divine nature. This nature is the standard for morality.

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        This is only true if that “morality as we know it” nature is also necessary.

        I’ll just repeat (mostly) what I said before:

        If you say that “torture is bad by the deity’s nature” is on the “G-d must meet these criteria” list (along with “must be non-contingent”), then G-d is bound to some higher standard and morality is therefore not grounded in Him. If you say that G-d is not bound by some higher morality, then “torture is bad” goes on the “could be different” list (along with Jesus’ height), then this specific “nature” isn’t necessary, and there is no reason at all to expect that these three beings would have the same nature. (This is why your answer suggests some moral idea above the non-contingent being.)

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
      • Terry L says:

        God is not bound by any external standard to be moral. You don’t hold a standard to a standard. That’s an oxymoron. If you postulate a higher standard, then that being is actually the true God, and the first being you considered was not.

        You say that God’s nature could possibly be different, just as one’s height could possibly be different. This is a scenario we’ve explored. If that were true, then all of reality would readjust to match the alternate nature. Your own ideas, perceptions, and opinions would change, and you would never know the difference.

        But I’ll ask you to defend your claim. It seems to me that you would be the same person with the same nature, even if you lost both of your legs at the knees, thereby reducing your height. However, if you suddenly became abusive to your family (trusting and disbelieving that you are not now), then people would say that you were no longer the man you once were. Something about YOU had changed, not just the body you inhabit.

        If what you say is true, then you become a different person every time you clip your nails or cut your hair. So I’ll have to ask, how do you justify the equivocation between a change of one’s basic character, and ones physical appearance?

        You claim that there is no reason to expect that the existence of three necessary beings would imply identical natures. I completely disagree. If a necessary being necessarily possesses a necessary attribute that is not shared with another necessary being, then it is not necessary at all; otherwise all necessary beings would have possessed it.

        -tl

        Reply
        • toby says:

          “God is not bound by any external standard to be moral. You don’t hold a standard to a standard. That’s an oxymoron. If you postulate a higher standard, then that being is actually the true God, and the first being you considered was not.”

          What prevents there being a being above god? If you suppose that god has free will, created this universe as he wanted/based on his nature, what keeps there from being a god of that god? It’s kind of distinct from the “who made god?” question or at least it goes deeper into the question. If there is a god that made this universe and it has free will, it’s nature could be different from it’s creator (call it Megagod), then the morality that you are saying is objective could be different from the Megagod because this universe isn’t the megagod’s creation. I never really cared for the “who made god” question, but maybe I just never understood it. If a god made a universe in line with it’s nature, then good and bad would be defined by that god. But if a creator is able to make creatures with free will that can have natures separate and different from their creator, then you can’t really escape the idea that a megagod created a little god with free will that created a universe inline with it’s own nature.

          I guess you can make the argument against infinities, but if you have superbeings making superbeings all of which exist outside of time, then infinities aren’t an issue. You can even go into odd realms in which god A made god B who made god C who then made god A.

          I guess when you start postulating things such as gods about which we can know nothing about you can start to see how it’s all absurd.

          Reply
        • Terry L says:

          Toby, if God has a MegaGod, then the MegaGod’s nature would be the ultimate standard of Good. However, this means that my argument was never for the intermediate God, who as a created being is not a Necessary being.

          Philosophically and scientifically speaking, something had to exist eternally to start the whole thing. That’s the being I’m speaking of; not any demigods or angels he might have created. While by the confines of this argument, such beings are not impossible, they are irrelevant to the argument, and by Occam’s razor, they are unnecessary and should not be considered.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            Terry,

            But you admit that if the G-d you perceive and know is just a free willed demiurge, then by following His rules, and not megagod’s, you go around acting immorally, while claiming to be acting on objective morality, right?

            (Assuming our free willed demiurge is not following megagod’s moral precepts perfectly.)

            Thanks,

            Luke

          • Terry L says:

            Of course. We discussed this earlier, but instead of the “free willed demiurge”, we were using one’s grandmother.

            Grant at least for the sake of argument that the Christian God is the True God and let’s use another character. “If the G-d you perceive and know is [Satan], then by following His rules and not [God’s], you go around acting immorally while claiming to be acting on objective morality.”

            Or even, “If the G-d you perceive and know is [Allah], then by following His rules and not [God’s], you go around acting immorally while claiming to be acting on objective morality.”

            And again for argument’s sake, assume that Allah is the True God. In that case, “If the G-d you perceive and know is [Jesus], then by following His rules and not [Allah’s], you go around acting immorally while claiming to be acting on objective morality.”

            Unless there is exactly one true standard, all of morality is meaningless. Is God going to hold me accountable to Christian morality, and the Muslim accountable to Islamic morality? What then of the Nihilist who claims an amoral universe?

            If this is the case, then the most reasonable code to embrace would be amorality. One should (not a moral “should”, but used in the sense of choosing something to achieve a desirable goal) embrace no moral principles at all and simply do as one wilt. (I’ve heard that somewhere…) Then you’re not held to any standard at all and avoid judgement.

            If there is no moral standard at all, then amorality is again the most reasonable choice. Why would one impose a fictional and arbitrary code upon their behavior for the scant few years they’re going to be here without reason? That would be the epitome of unreasonable.

            So it is reasonable to embrace morality only if exactly one objective absolute standard exists to which we will all be held accountable.

            Could I be addressing the wrong standard? Not in the argument for theism–I’m directly referencing the one true standard, regardless of who or what the standard is.

            Do I have a wrong concept of the standard in real life? I’m sure I do. A finite human cannot possibly fully comprehend an infinite standard. But this addresses epistemology more than ontology.

            Do I, in real life, honor a God (Jesus) that is not the standard of morality. I’ll grant you that I’m human and capable of mistakes–sometimes even huge ones! That being said, I think the evidence is pretty clear. If I had reasonable and sufficient evidence that I was wrong, I would change. The question is too important not to take seriously.

          • toby says:

            Why should MegaGod’s nature be the standard of good in a creation of the minigod? You’d probably admit that satan can mess about in this world. Imagine a freely willed minigod that can exercise his will and power creates his own universe. His will is different from that of the megagod, his character, nature, whatever. You can’t know that if this were that world that what you perceive as god was the Megagod.

            “Philosophically and scientifically speaking, something had to exist eternally to start the whole thing.”

            Do they? You’re probably relying more heavily on philosophy here. Like frank chimes in once and again, “science doesn’t say anything, scientists do.” I don’t think science has any evidence for this.

          • Terry L says:

            Why should MegaGod’s nature be the standard of good in a creation of the minigod? You’d probably admit that satan can mess about in this world. Imagine a freely willed minigod that can exercise his will and power creates his own universe. His will is different from that of the megagod, his character, nature, whatever. You can’t know that if this were that world that what you perceive as god was the Megagod.

            Doesn’t matter what we perceive. What matters is what IS. And I don’t argue that God is the standard of morality simply because he created the universe directly rather than indirectly. He would be the standard even if he had used an angel to do so because he is the Necessary being that is the origin of all contingent beings.

            Whether the supposed demigod is Satan or another being different from him, the simple fact is, they are contingent, created beings. Their nature is temporal. At one point, they did not exist. If they are the standard of morality, then this would mean that morality did not exist until God created the demigod.

            As the demigod is contingent, he is capable of change. This would necessitate a morality subject to change. If you want to believe this, fine, but don’t get angry when people condemn or abuse homosexuals, children, women, or anyone else for that matter. Maybe morality has changed, and you didn’t get the memo!

            In short, morality based on anything other than a Necessary Being doesn’t mirror the perception of our moral senses. We have little evidence to recommend this theory, short of man’s desire for morality to be something less than absolute and changeless.

            “Philosophically and scientifically speaking, something had to exist eternally to start the whole thing.”

            Do they? You’re probably relying more heavily on philosophy here. Like frank chimes in once and again, “science doesn’t say anything, scientists do.” I don’t think science has any evidence for this.

            Tell you what. Let’s take it to the lab. I’ll take as my theory that “anything that comes into being has a cause for its existence”, and you take as yours, “things can possibly come into being without a cause”. Who do you think can amass the greatest amount of evidence?

            In fact, isn’t science at its core simply a search for causes? If you introduce to science the theory that things can come into existence for no reason and with no cause, and that events can happen for no reason or cause, you’ve undermined the entire discipline! Perhaps ice isn’t water at all… it just comes into being for no reason… oddly, at the same time that water gets cold!

            We certainly lack any evidence at all that anything comes into being without a cause. Oh, I know Krause et. al. want to say that particles arise out of the “nothingness” of the quantum vaccum (which isn’t nothing but something), but that field is far to young to say without an extravagant amount of hubris that they come into being for no reason and with no cause.

            And yes, the argument is both scientific and philosophical. An infinite regress of contingent causes is philosophically unsupportable as well.

            When my oldest daughter was little, if she broke a plate, for instance, she would always say (with a rather guilty look on her face), “It did it all by itself!” While that’s cute, even at 4 or 5 years old, she knew the truth. It was obvious that if a plate broke, there was a reason that it broke. SHE might not have been the reason, but there was still a reason to be found.

            Odd that we have to suppress that bit of common sense to rationalize an atheistic universe!

        • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

          “If that were true, then all of reality would readjust to match the alternate nature”

          Terry you seem to be saying that if there were a God with a different nature than the one you believe in, then everything else in nature would be different too, including our attitudes.

          The problem here is that if it were true all the good traits of the true God’s nature would be automatically obvious to everyone. You’re using this argument to rule out a Zool God who enjoys torturing.

          But a few hundred years ago many Christians had very different ideas to you now about what God considered immoral. They could use the same argument you use above to rule out as ‘impossible’ the God YOU believe in, who views 19th Century chattel slavery as immoral.

          I don’t know the exact figures for Western Christians who view homosexuality as a sin vs those with a more liberal view of gays, but by your argument both sides could simply argue that the God of the other side is ‘impossible’, rather than simply argue the other side has God figured out wrong. BTW, Archbishop Desmond Tutu simply said a God who condemned gays would not be one he could worship. He didn’t say ‘If it turned out God condemned gays then I’d have to change my mind about gays’.

          Reply
        • Terry L says:

          Andy,

          I’ve left a few questions for you in bold below, if you’d be so kind as to answer them.

          Terry you seem to be saying that if there were a God with a different nature than the one you believe in, then everything else in nature would be different too, including our attitudes.

          Not exactly. I’m saying that God is the foundation of our reality. If God’s nature had been different, then it follows that everything else would change also. This does NOT depend on whether you or I believe in him.

          The problem here is that if it were true all the good traits of the true God’s nature would be automatically obvious to everyone.

          What exactly do you mean by this? I don’t think it follows that ALL good traits would be automatically obvious to everyone, although many are. However, we can also suppress this knowledge. See the discussion of Tutu, below.

          But a few hundred years ago many Christians had very different ideas to you now about what God considered immoral. They could use the same argument you use above to rule out as ‘impossible’ the God YOU believe in, who views 19th Century chattel slavery as immoral.

          Many people (not just Christians) suppress moral principles for different reasons. Christian American slaveholders did it in 19th century America; the neo-pagan Nazis did it in 20th century Germany, and the atheistic communists did it in 20th century Russia and China (among others).

          The problem is, when you define anything as “moral” or “immoral”, God steps back in through the back door. By acknowledging the concept, you reintroduce the grounds of the concept.

          So which of these do you think is true?

          A. These people were wrong and we’re right to consider chattel slavery immoral.
          B. These people were right and we’re wrong to consider chattel slavery immoral.
          C. Chattel slavery was actually OK back then, but it’s not now.
          D. There is no objective moral standard that applies to all men in all times and places, so chattel slavery is neither right nor wrong; it either exists or it doesn’t, and that’s all you can say about it.

          Options A and B both require a standard by which you can judge the attitudes and beliefs of the two groups. If you espouse C (which I doubt), what changed? And if you espouse D, then what’s the problem with slavery at any time?

          Feel free to contribute option E if these don’t include your views.

          I don’t know the exact figures for Western Christians who view homosexuality as a sin vs those with a more liberal view of gays, but by your argument both sides could simply argue that the God of the other side is ‘impossible’, rather than simply argue the other side has God figured out wrong.

          In the contentious discussion regarding homosexual marriage (or as Frank would say, gender-less marriage), both sides cite a moral aspect to their argument. One side says that it’s wrong for two men to marry; the other says that they have a right to marry, and that those who would prevent them, or who would refuse to celebrate their union are wrong to do so. Both statements are meaningless and empty without an appeal to a perfect standard. So by what standard should we judge between these two views?

          BTW, Archbishop Desmond Tutu simply said a God who condemned gays would not be one he could worship. He didn’t say ‘If it turned out God condemned gays then I’d have to change my mind about gays’.

          I’m neither a fan nor an opponent of the Archbishop; I know very little about him. However, his statement says more about him than God. (I”m trusting you here… I didn’t check the quote.)

          Notice what his statement implies; he feels that condemnation of homosexuality is so wrong that even God would be wrong to do so. (Wonder if he’s read Romans lately?) Rather than taking a humble approach and saying, “My current understanding is that homosexuality is not immoral. If I were to find that God opposes it, then I would have to change my views”, he arrogantly sets himself up as the judge of God and “threatens” to withhold worship should God’s morality differ from what Tutu wants it to be! (It seems he doesn’t even understand that withholding worship from the true God doesn’t harm God, but himself!)

          Tutu’s statement demonstrates perfectly the human desire to be our own standard of right and wrong. He is basically saying, “I support homosexuality, and even if I’m wrong, I’m going to continue in my wrongness rather than accept what is right.” Does this seem logical to you?

          What should God do with such a person? Assuming Tutu is wrong about homosexuality, he has in essence said that he doesn’t want to spend an eternity with a God who abhors homosexuality. Should God force him into Heaven against his will, or should God allow him to exist somewhere apart from a God he does not desire to know?

          I’m perfectly willing to concede that there are some moral principles that I’m wrong about. I can’t tell you which ones, because If I knew I was wrong, I would change my opinion. That would be the only logical thing to do. If I’d thought all of my 47 years that a meter was only 2 feet long, and someone convinced me that I’d been wrong all along, then I’d change my mind. But while I still believed in the wrong definition of a meter, I couldn’t tell you that my concept of a meter was flawed.

          I can actually give you an example of this. When I was younger, as did most people my age in the south, I believed that interracial marriage was wrong. My parents were more accepting of it than most, but still, it was frowned upon in my home. I’ve since revised my opinion, based on further study both of natural law and God’s revealed word in the Bible. Now even when I believed it was wrong, (and assuming that I’m not mistaken now), my belief that it was wrong did not make it wrong. It was I and my understanding of the moral principles at work in that situation that was actually wrong.

          So the larger point is, I may be wrong about a moral position, but I can only be wrong if there is truly a RIGHT to be wrong about! It seems the Archbishop needs to give God his throne back and seek to discover truth rather than trying to define it.

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            Desmond Tutu is an incredibly humble man. It’s bizarre for you to see arrogance into his position, and nothing I said warrants you painting him as such.

            You missed my point about the two sides of the Christian position on gays or slavery or whatever. I was addressing you dismissing the Zool God as impossible. It’s not about whether either side is letting in morality by the back door – that’s not relevant at all to the point I was making.

          • Terry L says:

            Desmond Tutu is an incredibly humble man.

            Like I said… I know little about him. I was basing my comments solely on your description of his comments, and I would have said the same thing if my own father had uttered such an inane statement. Would you call a man humble who said, “I hold in contempt any judge who would hold me in contempt of court for hitting him with a rotten egg while he is on the bench!”? He has forgotten his place, and lost all respect for authority. He doesn’t decide what is and what is not contempt of court. He is not the judge!

            While I can at least have a modicum of respect for an atheist who judges their conception or misconception of a God whose existence they deny, any theist who presumes to judge God is not humble, and that is exactly what his statement (as described by you) presumes to do. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

            Tutu most likely doesn’t feel he’s done this; he’s confident that God is on his side. To paraphrase Lincoln, much better we be on God’s side! But by his words (as you describe them), he’s left himself nowhere to go should he find out later that he was wrong and that God does abhor homosexuality. He either retracts his hasty statement, or he must forsake God because of his own mistake!

            You missed my point about the two sides of the Christian position on gays or slavery or whatever. I was addressing you dismissing the Zool God as impossible.

            I know, but *that’s* not relevant to the point I was making. Does God exist, or does he not? (I’ve never heard you specifically give your position on that question, and I hate to assume.)

            Frank’s post was about how God must be assumed to speak (with meaning) of morality, rights, etc. Acknowledging any action as being moral or immoral implicitly recognizes a standard by which to judge between the two. For the purpose of this discussion, I’m perfectly happy to take either position; I can say that slavery is moral and Zool is the true God. The point is, the moral argument is only a theistic argument, not a Christian argument. You can’t get solid evidence that Jesus is God just through the moral argument; it must be combined with other arguments.

            If you acknowledge that Zool is God, then you’ve abandoned an atheistic position. Frank’s position is confirmed. If you acknowledge that slavery is either immoral OR moral, then you’re acknowledging a standard, and thus a God. Frank’s position is still confirmed.

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “Like I said… I know little about him. I was basing my comments solely on your description of his comments”

            And like I said, there’s nothing in what I said that warrants you painting him as such. Nothing.

            But an amusing irony there that you presume to school an Arch Bishop in bible verses and in the same post accuse HIM of arrogance! Read up on the man – you might learn something about humility and much else besides.

          • Terry L says:

            To paraphrase John Lennox, who said something like, “Nonsense remains nonsense even when spoken by brilliant scientists”, arrogance remains arrogance even when spoken by an archbishop.

            As I said, I know little about Tutu. He may very well be a very devout, principled man. I have nothing against him at all, and I’m not attacking him personally. I have no evidence, other than you’re word, that he actually even made the statement. (Not saying you’re wrong or lying… just that you’re my only source of information.) So it’s not about who made the statement at all, but the logic behind the statement. And when I consider the statement, I’ve seen better logic expressed by people posting comments on this site… Luke among them!

            But since you mentioned his title, an archbishop should understand that he is a servant of God, not his judge. But (again, per your quote) he is saying that if God’s morality isn’t what he understands it to be then that God isn’t worthy of his worship. You pointed it out yourself… he did NOT say that HE would have to change. He would expect God to change. God is the one who would be wrong!

            Try that the next time you get a speeding ticket: “Your honor, I admit I was doing 75 in a 30, but I believe that no speed limit should be lower than 65, and I can’t respect any judge that considers speeding to be wrong!”

            Does it make it more clear to change the moral principle involved? Would you consider it wise for an archbishop to say, “Any God who does not approve of murder isn’t worthy of my worship”?

        • Luke says:

          Terry,

          I’m not sure if this is on purpose, but notice how badly you’ve twisted what I said. I

          You said: You claim that there is no reason to expect that the existence of three necessary beings would imply identical natures. I completely disagree.

          I’ve already defended the claim Terry. It has to be one way or the other. Either it is in the “necessary” list (in which case, something must make it necessary, even if it’s logic), or it is not. Can you clearly tell us which you believe it is? Is it necessary that any deity, in any imaginable universe, hold the same moral values as the nature of the G-d of our universe?

          Either “torturing kids for fun is bad” is necessarily part of G-d’s nature, or it is not. If it is, then G-d is subservient to some other moral necessity. If it is not, then there is no logical reason to believe that every deity would believe that “torturing kids for fun is bad”.

          (For example, in your “necessary being” argument, G-d has to exist because everything that begins must have a cause (or some other similar phrasing). This is a rule to which G-d must conform, in that it means that G-d cannot begin things without causing them. It is a rule above G-d in this sense. He cannot break it; He cannot change it. I never said there would have to be another being. I said nothing like that. I’m not sure if you’ve changed it to this to avoid my argument and present a straw man, or if you’ve just misunderstood. I never mentioned another being.)

          Let me phrase my question to you this way:</b?

          Is there a reason that all three G-ds would have the same nature regarding the idea that “torturing kids for fun is bad”?

          (If so, what is this reason?)

          Thanks,

          Luke

          Reply
          • Terry L says:

            Hey Luke!

            Is it necessary that any deity, in any imaginable universe, hold the same moral values as the nature of the G-d of our universe?

            No.

            Not in any imaginable universe. We can imagine a universe where absolutely nothing exists, and no necessary beings exist. This is an imaginable universe, but not necessarily a possible universe. At the risk of sounding like a quantum physicist, it seems you would need an observer to actualize this empty universe (otherwise, how would you know it existed). But the introduction of the observer would destroy the emptiness, and thus the definition of the universe.

            Change “imaginable” to “possible”, and my answer would be yes.

            1. Either “torturing kids for fun is bad” is necessarily part of G-d’s nature, or it is not.

            2. If it is, then G-d is subservient to some other moral necessity.

            3. If it is not, then there is no logical reason to believe that every deity would believe that “torturing kids for fun is bad”.

            I took the liberty of numbering these statements for clarity. Statement 1 obviously invokes the law of non-contradiction, and is obviously true.

            Statement 2 is incorrect. A necessary being cannot be dependent on any contingent being, so that obviously rules out all contingent beings.

            Can a necessary being be dependent on another necessary being? Not factually or causally, for a necessary being is uncaused.

            Logically? Perhaps. The Bible says that “God is Love”, but the concept of love would be incomplete if it were limited to self-love. The necessity of the additional recipient of love can be answered by the Trinity. I won’t commit to this statement fully, but I’m of the opinion that logic requires the existence of a minimum of three necessary beings to fully express the relationships of “I”, “you”, and “other”. I won’t debate the point if you disagree… just a theory at this point.

            For example, in your “necessary being” argument, G-d has to exist because everything that begins must have a cause (or some other similar phrasing). This is a rule to which G-d must conform, in that it means that G-d cannot begin things without causing them. It is a rule above G-d in this sense. He cannot break it; He cannot change it.

            It is a non sequitor to insist that the rule is above God, just as it is to say that the moral law is above God. Reference the Transcendental argument (www.gotquestions.org/transcendental-argument.html); we presuppose the laws of logic (including the law of causality, which is the “limiting” law you apply to God above). But as with moral principles, where does this law of causality come from? What accounts for the existence of such a law? Or consider the same question regarding the law of non-contradiction. These laws cannot be proven, they must be presupposed and assumed. There is no naturalistic explanation of why these laws exist. From a naturalistic perspective, it seems that they are simply imposed on our universe with no discernable origin… much like the laws of morality. But from the theistic perspective, “the laws of logic are not comprised of matter; they apply universally and at all times. The laws of logic are contingent upon God’s unchanging nature and are necessary for deductive reasoning. The invariability, sovereignty, transcendence, and immateriality of God are the foundation for the laws of logic. Thus, rational reasoning would be impossible without… God. (From the link above.)”

            In short, the limiting factor is not a law that applies to God, but the unchanging, perfectly consistent nature and order of the mind of God.

            Is there a reason that all three G-ds would have the same nature regarding the idea that “torturing kids for fun is bad”?

            (If so, what is this reason?)

            There’s a few assumptions loaded into that statement. Let me try to break them down.

            1. Is it possible for multiple necessary beings to exist?

            As a trinitarian, I think the answer is yes IF you consider “being” to equal “person”, and “no” if you mean “being” to equal “essence”.

            2. Can multiple necessary beings have differing natures?

            I’ve got this worked out in my head far better than I can explain it, but I’ll give it a shot. It’s about to get deep…

            Let’s assume that two necessary beings exist. Assume further that they have a property that we’ll call “benevolent to innocent children”. I think you would agree that different values for this property would necessarily change the nature of the being. This would make it an intrinsic property of the being.

            Now if the value of this property can vary (and that must be true if the property differs between the two beings), then it is not a necessary property, but a contingent property.

            But as this property is an intrinsic one, it cannot exist as described. A necessary being cannot possess an intrinsic contingent property. Contingent properties can change, but intrinsic properties of a necessary begin cannot change. It is impossible for the being to be other than it is. Therefore it is impossible for the two beings to have differing values of an intrinsic property. The property must be necessary.

  62. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    Terry: “Tell you what. Let’s take it to the lab. I’ll take as my theory that “anything that comes into being has a cause for its existence”, and you take as yours, “things can possibly come into being without a cause”. Who do you think can amass the greatest amount of evidence?”

    I don’t see how you can come up with any evidence at all to rule out Toby’s theory. How do you rule it out? Can I challenge you to find examples in a lab of people coming back to life after three days? I don’t think it works like that!

    And at any rate, don’t particles on the Quantum level pop in and out of existence with no apparent cause?

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      And at any rate, don’t particles on the Quantum level pop in and out of existence with no apparent cause?

      Key word being “apparent”. Atheists are so fond of saying, “Don’t bring God in… we’ll eventually discover a natural cause for (whatever) phenomena.” Yet, here they cling to blind faith that this phenomena simply happens for no cause and with no reason.

      If I did that, you would call it special pleading.

      Can I challenge you to find examples in a lab of people coming back to life after three days?

      I don’t have time at this point to explain the true non-Humean definition of miracle. Short answer is, no one claims that Jesus’ resurrection was a natural phenomena. It was an act of God.

      Running short on time… can explain more later if you’d like.

      Reply
  63. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    “As I said, I know little about Tutu. He may very well be a very devout, principled man.”

    There’s no ‘may’ about it, Terry. Read up on the man – correct your education on this issue before you dismiss him any further. Tutu – a close friend of Nelson Mandela – carries great moral authority. I’d suggest perhaps more than you do!

    Tutu is rejecting as an absurdity the notion that you appear to whole-heartedly accept – that any action carried out by a God would necessarily be good simply because the God is carrying it out. ‘Good’ would then become meaningless. Tutu believes that the God that exists is a loving one, worthy of worship. He doesn’t believe that any possible God would automatically be worthy of worship – for example a murdering, torturing, cruel, vindictive God. This would be like when Nixon supposedly said the President can’t break the law, because by definition any thing he does has to be legal. Most people reject this notion.

    In your example of speed limits, the equivalent would be Tutu saying he accepts the current speed limits as being fair, but wouldn’t see ANY speed limit as being intrinsically fair just because it is the law. Your position would be the opposite.

    There’s nothing arrogant about Tutu arguing that a position he sees as being cruel is immoral. Arrogance is you dismissing his position out of hand, and comparing it to saying murder is moral.

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      There’s no ‘may’ about it, Terry. Read up on the man – correct your education on this issue before you dismiss him any further. Tutu – a close friend of Nelson Mandela – carries great moral authority.

      I’m not discussing the man; I’m discussing his position as described by you. I don’t need to know anything about him to discuss the logic of his position.

      You say he “carries great moral authority”… what exactly do you mean by that?

      In your example of speed limits, the equivalent would be Tutu saying he accepts the current speed limits as being fair, but wouldn’t see ANY speed limit as being intrinsically fair just because it is the law. Your position would be the opposite.

      I disagree with your analysis. I don’t see how this follows from your description of his comments. I’ll think about it a little more, but if you could clarify a bit, I’d appreciate it.

      So to what standard does he appeal when he says that no speed limit is intrinsically fair?

      There’s nothing arrogant about Tutu arguing that a position he sees as being cruel is immoral. Arrogance is you dismissing his position out of hand, and comparing it to saying murder is moral.

      I did not dismiss it out of hand. I dismiss it because it is illogical. He is welcome to argue that a position is cruel or immoral, but by what standard does he judge. The man is an archbishop, a theist (I certainly hope!) and well-educated, I would think. Assume, at least for argument’s sake, that my interpretation of Romans is correct, and God does abhor homosexual behavior. What does Tutu’s comments sound like then?

      Reply
  64. Luke says:

    Terry,

    It seems to me, and Andy will likely recall this as well, that you’ve told us many times that a creator gets to set the moral standard for his created. Do you now deny this? It seems that you do.

    Also, just to repost, you’ve told us that the property that “thinks torturing children for fun is bad” is necessary. Who or what makes it necessary?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Your phrasing implies the a creator can arbitrarily set a moral standard for his creation. While this may or not be true, it is not my position. I’ve said the the behavior of the creator IS the moral standard for his creation. If God is perfectly just, he expects all of creation to be perfectly just. If he is perfectly loving, he expects all of creation to be perfectly loving.

      Not enough time for the second question now… I’ll try this afternoon.

      Reply
  65. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I hesitate to write more, because I want you to answer the two questions I just posted, but I also want to work through the argument you made for the property (“thinks torturing children for fun is wrong”) being necessary.

    I think a lot of your argument is actually completely subjective and arbitrary. Why is being benevolent to children intrinsic to one’s nature, but height is not? For example. Shaq would be a totally different person if he were 5′ 3″. I would say height is absolutely essential to making him who he is. You are arbitrarily deciding what is essential (intrinsic) and what is not.

    You also make assumptions that aren’t defended and to me make little sense. For example you say “A necessary being cannot possess an intrinsic contingent property.” Why not?

    Another mistake you are making is you are begging the question. You are assuming that all existent necessary beings have a certain nature, to conclude that the being must have a certain nature. That’s if your argument makes any sense at all (and to be honest, I’m having trouble holding it together; it really just doesn’t make much sense).

    Look at your argument this way:

    Let’s say that the king of Ertuland must be of the Ertu family. This is an essential and necessary characteristic, a logical necessity (otherwise it wouldn’t be Ertuland). This is like the creator being being a necessary being, so as to provide the unmoved mover.

    There are two Ertu royals. One, Tommy, is really nice. He’s nice to children. The other, Billy, Billy Ertu, is not very nice to children.

    Here is what you are saying:

    The king must be an Ertu.

    Tommy Ertu is nice. He is the king.

    If Tommy wasn’t nice, he wouldn’t really be Tommy. Being nice is intrisic to Tommy.

    Therefore any Ertu king must be nice. The property of being nice is therefore necessary.

    I think this is exactly what you’re saying, I’m sorry, but it really doesn’t make sense.

    Just because one Ertu is nice, and it’s it’s intrinsic to him, it does not follow that all Ertu’s are therefore nice.

    As I said, if it makes any sense at all, it’s begging the question. You say: “Let’s assume that two necessary beings exist. Assume further that they have a property that we’ll call ‘benevolent to innocent children’.”

    Why don’t you assume the opposite, and then see how that works out? You shouldn’t assume the thing you want to show is true. (And you are assuming that, since your assumption is that all necessary beings have the property of ‘x’.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Still don’t have much time, but to your “Tommy” question… you’ve given him a necessary essential property (“the king of Ertuland must be of the Ertu family. This is an essential and necessary characteristic, a logical necessity…”).

      But then you take an attribute of human behavior (contingent properties… he may be nice today and cruel tomorrow) and apply that to a contingent being with a mutable nature. Then you consider that because Tommy cannot change his family, that his behavior cannot change.

      However, this neglects that Tommy at his core is a contingent being, not an immutable necessary being. You analogy fails at this point. I’m not making my claims about a contingent being. The being in my argument is a necessary being. In all essential characteristics, it is impossible for him to be other than he is. He is immutable.

      And that is my “assumption” as you call it. It’s intrinsic to the definition of what it means to be a necessary being.

      Reply
  66. Terry L says:

    Luke,

    You said, “A necessary being cannot possess an intrinsic contingent property.” Why not?

    I may have confused the issue with terminology here. I’m not yet well studied in this branch of logic, so I may have used terms that others would call something else.

    It seems that what I’m calling an intrinsic property, WLC calls an essential property–a property of a thing must possess in order to be what it is. If object O has essential property P, then if it no longer has P, it is no longer O.

    To apply this to examples already in use, God is a spirit. He has no essential physical properties–indeed, nothing physical existed until he created it. Therefore the height of the incarnation cannot be an essential property of God. Jesus could have been any reasonable height, and still possesed all of the essential attributes of God.

    But it doesn’t make sense to say that a necessary being possesses an essential (I used ‘intrinsic’ above) contingent property. Contingent properties do not necessarily exist. Essential properties of a necessary being must exist.

    Another mistake you are making is you are begging the question. You are assuming that all existent necessary beings have a certain nature, to conclude that the being must have a certain nature.

    I’m not quite certain that this line of reasoning is sufficient to say that given necessary beings A and B exist A must share all essential properties with B. (Or perhaps it can, but it’s beyond my knowledge at this point.) For me at this point in my knowledg, this is more intuited than reasoned (as I’ll show below). It seems highly unlikely to me that if multiple necessary beings exist, that they could have different essential attributes.

    So let’s take your suggestion and assume the opposite. Assume God and Zool both exist as we have described them. They are equal in necessity, power, wisdom, knowledge. But God is essentially all-loving; while Zool is essentially all-cruel.

    Where does that leave us? (I’m assuming for this analysis that we don’t know which being created us. Both of them claim to be the creator. I don’t think that matters much either way.)

    In the first place, we naturally want to say that God would be better than Zool; love is better than cruelty. But we can no longer say this objectively. Cruelty can be grounded in an essential property of a necessary being just as love can.

    Notice that I didn’t mention justice in my list of attributes above. That’s because the concept has been abolished by the essential facts of this proposed reality. If we say that God is perfectly just, and Zool tortures people unjustly, then what is the standard of justice?

    Let’s push on a little farther before we let this go. Let’s assume that justice does still have meaning. Is Zool perfectly just? If so, then he cannot torture people unjustly. What this is the essential difference between him and God? If he is not perfectly just, then what does justice mean? Where does this meaning come from? Would God have the authority or right to judge a fellow necessary being that he did not create? And by what standard would he judge him?

    By your earlier arguments, you would say that God could simply judge Zool by God’s own internal standard. But would that be perfectly just? Unless Zool has an obligation to live up to the standard of God’s perfect justice, then God would be unjust to hold him to that standard. As God is perfectly just (by definition above), this cannot happen.

    So you have two necessary, infinitely powerful beings, one who loves people, one who loves to torture people. (Oddly enough, a lot of people think this is what Christianity teaches.) There is no right or wrong, just these two beings warring with each other. Neither side is “good” or “evil”. Mankind is caught in the middle, and we can’t even complain because justice doesn’t exist, and there’s no judge to listen anyway!

    Back to Ertuland:

    I’m sorry, but I really can’t see any analogy in your example to the discussion at hand. But there is one distinction that I want to draw. You said in the example, “Therefore any Ertu king must be nice. The property of being nice is therefore necessary.”

    In your example, it seems that “being nice” is something external to the Ertu king. It’s not defined by him, it’s imposed on him–“any Ertu king must be nice”. To transpose my claim into your example (and it doesn’t fit well), “being nice” would be defined by the behavior of the Ertu king. In order to be nice to children, you would treat them as the King does. Perhaps there’s even a decree from the king: “All subjects will treat each other as I, the King, treat you. Violation of this ordnance is punishable by eternal banishment from the kingdom!” Notice that the decree isn’t arbitrary–you’ve given him an immutable nature, so he’s perfectly consistent in his behavior. All men can look to him to see what the standard is. Neither is it imposed on him from an external standard. Tommy has identified that his treatment of others is the best way to behave, and commands all men to behave in just that manner. (While I might question this decision of Tommy’s, God, unlike Tommy, is the creator of the Universe. Who better to know how men should be treated in order to balance love and justice?)

    Then you bring in Billy. Billy is not nice to children. By my definition, Billy doesn’t treat them as the King does. By yours, it seems you would need another definition of what “being nice” means.

    Now I suppose in your example, Tommy could die, and the throne be transferred to Billy. It’s true that by my definition, this would necessarily change what it means to “be nice”. However, this is a problem only for contingent beings, and is exactly why a necessary being is needed to be the grounds for moral behavior. If Tommy had the property of necessary existence, then there could never have been a reality in which he did not exist, and it would be impossible for him not to exist. He would never die, and the definition of “being nice” would never change.

    So here is the essential question: Is there even one absolute moral principle that all men should follow or be guilty of doing evil?

    If so, then why?

    You also asked, you’ve told us that the property that “thinks torturing children for fun is bad” is necessary. Who or what makes it necessary?

    I think I covered this above, but just to be clear…

    I believe that torturing children for fun is evil. I don’t think that is just my opinion, I believe that it is truly wrong to do such a thing. I can find no way to justify this belief unless there is there is no standard of behavior that applies to all men. I believe the King of the Universe behaves in a loving and just way toward his subjects, and he has decreed that we should be like him.

    So my position is that the only explanation for the existence of right, wrong, good, and evil, is in the essential nature of a necessary being. I’ve offered no explanation of why God is the way he is. I’m not certain that one could do so. (I often can’t even explain why I am the way I am!) I’m offering the nature of God as justification for why torturing children for fun is bad.

    If you reject this, then upon what do you base your belief that the torture of innocent children is evil?

    Reply
    • Luke says:

      Terry,

      I’m gone for a few days, but I think we need to reset this discussion. Can you make a list of properties the ultimate being must meet? Just write down every property that cannot change, that must always be true.

      I think being uncaused would need to be on this list, for example. Being immaterial as well. But what else?

      Thanks,

      Luke

      Reply
  67. Terry L says:

    Andy,

    Just a reminder… I really would like to hear your answer on these questions:

    From my post on April 11, 2015 at 11:29 am:

    1. You say he [Tutu] “carries great moral authority”… what exactly do you mean by that?

    2. [Tutu] is an archbishop, a theist (I certainly hope!) and well-educated, I would think. Assume, at least for argument’s sake, that my interpretation of Romans is correct, and God does abhor homosexual behavior. What does Tutu’s comments sound like then?

    Reply
  68. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    Terry 1: “You say he [Tutu] “carries great moral authority”… what exactly do you mean by that?”

    Imagine if I said “Here’s a great quote backing up what I said, and the significance here is who it comes from”, and then I quoted Hitler. You may well respond: “Eh? Hitler killed millions of people – he was a heartless tyrant. Why do his words carry any authority?”.

    Well Tutu is the opposite of that. He’s acted with courage in his life, and been on, what I hope you would agree, is the ‘right side of history’ on many issues. If you look at Tutu and just shrug your shoulders and figure you’re a better man than him, then I struggle to relate to you!

    Terry 2: “Assume, at least for argument’s sake, that my interpretation of Romans is correct, and God does abhor homosexual behavior. What does Tutu’s comments sound like then?”

    They sound the same, by necessity. His comment took the format of “If situation X occurred my reaction would be Y”. You’re asking me “What would Tutu’s comments sound like if X occurred?”. They’d sound the same – he was making the very assumption you are asking me to make.

    His reaction is the same, I venture to suggest, that most people’s today would be if it turned out that most 19th C slaver’s interpretation of the OT is correct, and God approves of enslaving black people – that this was not a God worth worshipping. Your own position seems to be that you’d shrug and figure “Hey, I guess enslaving black people is fine after all then”. I think you’re in the minority there, that most people don’t take this meta-ethical view of God and morality. I could be wrong, but I think most people think that certain traits like forgiveness, loving and kindness are axiomatically moral, and so they are the traits that a perfect being would necessarily have to embody. They aren’t moral simply because they’re the traits the creator God HAPPENED to have, and that a cruel, torturing, enslaving God would have led to a different morality.

    I hope this answers your questions.

    BTW, have you actually googled Tutu, read about his life perhaps, or at least read his quotes on God and homosexuality for yourself? Because I’ve probably just spent longer replying to you above than it would have taken you to do so!

    Reply
  69. toby says:

    “Doesn’t matter what we perceive. What matters is what IS.”

    Really? Then what good are intuitions upon which the apologist says we know that objective moral values exist? “They exist!” “How?” “I perceive them with my intuition.” “And?” “So that means they are what IS!”

    “Whether the supposed demigod is Satan or another being different from him, the simple fact is, they are contingent, created beings. Their nature is temporal. At one point, they did not exist. . . . As the demigod is contingent, he is capable of change. This would necessitate a morality subject to change.”

    So god cannot create contingent beings that do not change? You’re kind of poking holes in the whole omnipotent thing. Even some of your heroes say your god became temporal when he created the universe. Doing anything requires time. You have said here on these blogs that you wondered if god existed in some “hyper-time”. I don’t think you have any footing to stand on when you say your good is necessary because time and change have to be invoked in order to go from “gee, what shall I do?” to “I’m gonna make a universe!” You have to admit that the apologists idea of god and temporality or non-temporality is severely flawed.

    “If they are the standard of morality, then this would mean that morality did not exist until God created the demigod.”

    I don’t see why this is a problem. Your god is supposed to be the ultimate good and that implies that he is unable to be anything else, do anything that isn’t good, so he has no free will to do anything other than what he’s programmed for. Wouldn’t a being capable of truly doing anything good or evil, do the logically impossible, be a greater being?

    “Oh, I know Krause et. al. want to say that particles arise out of the “nothingness” of the quantum vaccum (which isn’t nothing but something),”

    And as I’ve said on this site multiple times, “maybe the philosophical idea of absolute nothingness has no basis in reality.”

    Reply
  70. Luke says:

    Hey Terry,

    It’s been a little while, so I guess I just wanted to give this thread a little bump.

    On April 13th, I asked: “Can you make a list of properties the ultimate being must meet? Just write down every property that cannot change, that must always be true? I think being uncaused would need to be on this list, for example. Being immaterial as well. But what else?”

    So to help a little bit, let me get this list started. If you disagree with the way anything is categorized, or why, please let me know.

    Necessary properties, those that cannot change:

    Uncaused — There must be an uncaused first cause in the world
    Immaterial — To create space, G-d must exist outside of it
    Outside of time — To create time, G-d must exist outside of it

    Non-necessary properties, those that can change:

    Likes the smell of burning animal flesh (Lev 1:9) — I can think of no reason for this to be “necessary” for every possible G-d
    Likes figs, as human — I can think of no reason for this to be “necessary” for every possible G-d
    Dislikes people with defects near His altar (Lev 21:17-23) — I can think of no reason for this to be “necessary” for every possible G-d

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Hey Luke!

      I’m in the middle of a busy time at work, so I’ve been a little distracted. I was sort of glad that you were away for a few days! :)

      To your April 13th question:

      I agree with your three necessary properties. A necessary being is, by definition, uncaused. That the world exists is not the reason for this, but evidence of it. As we have evidence that matter is not eternal, then this being cannot be a material being. The same goes for time and space. So to summarize your points (and my additional two), God must be timeless/eternal, spaceless, immaterial, and completely independent of any energy source known to our universe. This last point essentially means that in our universe at a minimum, he is omnipotent. He can do anything that is logically possible that he chooses to do.

      I’ll continue with necessary properties before addressing your proposed contingent, or non-necessary properties.

      Any transcendental feature we observe in our universe seems to ultimately require a cause grounded in or defined by God. Consider logic, for example. The laws of logic are not grounded in anything material. If nothing material existed, then the idea that no material objects exist would make perfect sense, and the idea that a bicycle existed would be false. With no material objects to ground logic, it seems obvious that logic cannot be grounded or explained by physical objects. This includes the human mind. Therefore, it seems that God is a logical, rational being.

      While perhaps not as impressive, I think numbers themselves are defined by the logical mind of God. Numbers are a transcendent concept with no physical reality to ground them. Again, with nothing physical in existence, it would be true that there were zero animals in the universe, but also true that there were 6 – (2 * 3) animals. Mathematics would still work even without physical objects. Mathematics worked before humans walked the planet, and would continue to work were all humanity to die. Therefore, mathematics itself must be considered transcendental, and requires a transcendent grounds for its existence.

      To be capable of being the grounds of mathematics; to design the universe, it would logically follow that God is supremely intelligent.

      As we’ve been discussing, morality seems to fall into the same explanatory pattern as logic and mathematics, but the logic is a little more subtle. If morality exists for all men in all times, places, and situations, then it must have been in existence at least as long as mankind. Yet mankind cannot be the origin for morality, because this would reduce all morality to simple opinion, and thus it would not truly apply to all men. So to list the reasons why God is the best explanation, a real, objective morality:

      1. must apply to all mankind (be transcendent to man)
      2. must be anchored in the behavior of a person (a standard of moral behavior must be the behavior of a person)
      3. must be commanded by a moral law-giver (only personal beings care about “shoulds”)
      4. requires a judge. What’s the point of a law if those who break it are never judged?
      5. requires a punishment for transgression. What’s the point of a law with no consequences?
      6. the person required by 2-5 must be immutable, else the standard is not a standard at all.

      Of all explanations I’ve ever read or heard, only God fully satisfies all of the above conditions. Therefore, God is good. Goodness is defined by God’s behavior; he is the personification of goodness. Asking “what if God were different” is a moot point; God is who he is, and he is not defined by an external standard of goodness… he IS the standard of goodness.

      What about evil? Is evil a transcendent concept grounded by God?

      I say yes, evil is ground by God, but it is not directly grounded IN God. Evil is the deprivation of Goodness; an absence of God’s influence, if you will. This is only possible in a world where men have moral freedom. Evil cannot exist if Good does not exist. Goodness can exist without evil. Without our ability to choose to act according to God’s nature or in opposition to God’s nature, all of the universe would naturally follow Goodness. God gave us freedom to choose, and we’ve chosen poorly, resulting in a fallen world… a pocket of the universe where God’s influence has been ignored. (Christianity teaches that this has affected the entire universe. I agree with that, but I don’t think you can show that from natural revelation. It’s sufficient to say we’ve messed up our planet because of our refusal to follow God’s nature.)

      And finally, “being” itself is a necessary attribute of a necessary being—it’s the defining quality of a necessary being. You and I “have” being, but at one time we did not, because we were not. God doesn’t “have” being, he “is” being.

      This may seem in a sense just to be another way of saying “uncaused” as you did earlier, but it goes a little deeper than that. This implies that all being comes from God. He is the grounds and the reason for our existence. Were it possible for God to die, then all contingent beings who derive their being from him would instantly vanish into non-being. Therefore, existence itself is grounded in God. All contingent beings were brought “into” being by this ultimate Being, and he actively sustains them in their existence on a moment-by-moment basis.

      Now regarding your “non-necessary” properties:

      You’ve specifically chosen attributes from the Christian Bible, one of which is specifically from the Incarnation (Jesus). I don’t see any of Jesus’s physical attributes (other than those specified by prophesy) as being necessary, but this can lead down a rabbit trail, and I might find myself reversing my opinion at the end of it.

      As I see it, God would be God even if Jesus had never put on flesh. According to the Bible, however, once God had given the promise of a savior, it became Necessary for the incarnation to happen. (God cannot lie.) But God had planned for the incarnation and the crucifixion before the universe was created, so he had already determined that he would give the promise.

      Still, I don’t see how an inch or two taken or added to Jesus’ height would have made him any less God. Those were attributes associated with the human nature which was added to his divine nature. Those attributes were not necessary attributes. So long as a human trait did not conflict with a divine trait, it could be freely expressed in any manner.

      So yes… Jesus could have despised the taste of figs as a human. That wouldn’t have impacted his deity.

      The other attributes you mention have ritual significance. The laws regarding sacrifice and the sanctity of the altar were intended to signify the holiness… the “otherness” and perfection of God. Could they have been different? Perhaps. However, I tend to think that God chose the best ritual laws for that people at that place and time in order to best convey the message he intended to convey. Does that make sense to you?

      Ok… gotta run. I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this topic.

      -tl

      Reply
      • toby says:

        Forgive my butting in. I expect no reply anyway so really all I’m doing is refining my own thinking and practicing my keyboard skills.

        “A necessary being is, by definition, uncaused.” Just drop the term necessary being. It’s not helpful or descriptive. It’s just another word to drop into the place of god and then use the same assumptions used to define a god into existence.

        “The laws of logic are not grounded in anything material.” Yes they are. Yes they are. Yes they are. It takes a material mind to think. Logic requires a brain. Sorry. That’s how it works. You can expose yourself as a mind body dualist but then you’re opening a whole can of worms that you and no one else can defend without simply assuming it’s true. Logic is our attempt to describe the physical world. Without the physical world saying that there’s no such thing as a bike is—-aside from being a neat trick since there’s not brains to think such a thing—is equivalent to dividing by zero.

        “Numbers are a transcendent concept with no physical reality to ground them.” You can’t really think this. Numbers and mathematics are simply language. You may not have taken many science classes, I don’t know, but if you did you’d know that they beat the idea of using units with all calculations. Numbers are just placeholders (like words) for physical things. Numbers are the language of quantification. When a first grader says 1+1=2 it’s an assumption that those numbers represent something physical. Two fingers, two apples, two pokemon cards. Numbers are language we use to describe quantity. If that’s transcendent then you need to explain how two rocks sitting beside each other aren’t equally transcendent. There are two of them. Quantities apparently are transcendent. Are words also transcendent?

        How can god be said to be moral in any sense? God is one of a kind. So . . . god can’t do anything. Morally that is. God has no peers to murder or steal from or lie to or punch in the face. I bet you think that he can do with us as he pleases because he made us. So there’s literally no one he could wrong. Nothing can lessen his greatness. So that means nothing can harm him and nothing can make him greater. How could he be said to do any good? Your moral code is then not based on a great being, it’s based on modeling yourself after a being that is incapable of doing anything against it’s nature simply because it can’t do anything. You have freedom to punch that guy across the street until he dies…but you better not because I wouldn’t. Because I can’t. No wonder he’s a jealous god. We seem to be able to do much more than he.

        Apologetics vexes me because it all appears to be mudpies of the mind (to borrow a bit from stephen king). I just wish they’d admit that they don’t know. Just admit it and say it’s faith. Spaceless, timeless, immaterial is the same as saying you don’t know and can’t be sure. It’s biased mind calisthenics and do they really think it helps? No. William Lane Craig readily admits that if his arguments were proven wrong he’d believe anyway because of the spooky feeling he gets labels the holy spirit.

        Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Andy

      Sorry to take so long to respond. Been busy at work.

      Regarding Tutu and “great moral authority”… thanks for answering. That helps me understand what you’re trying to say, and also how to respond.

      You seem to believe that Tutu is a “better” man than “Hitler”. And yes, I think I would certainly agree with you! However, you’ve made a moral comparison here. If Tutu has been on the “right side of history”, then there must also be a “wrong side” of history. But if this is the case, by what standard do you judge something to say they are right or wrong?

      You will notice that you have judged Tutu to be on the “right” side. This means that Tutu is NOT the standard—he is being judged BY the standard.

      Now unless you are prepared to say that Tutu perfectly adheres to the standard, then you must admit that even the good Archbishop falls short of that mark. Yet he presumes to withhold his worship from the Almighty if the Almighty fails to correspond with his values.

      Now I fully understand that Tutu most likely believes that God does approve of homosexuality (or at least doesn’t disapprove). The burden of proof is on him to defend that, in light of the book of Romans and other places in scripture that clearly teach otherwise. But does that matter? I’ll revisit this in a moment.

      Your own position seems to be that you’d shrug and figure “Hey, I guess enslaving black people is fine after all then”.

      My own position is that, should you convince me that God does hold that view, that is is I who should change rather than God. He is the standard, not me. I don’t get to tell him what is right and what is wrong.

      When we as a nation and a culture changed our minds about slavery, did we actually make moral progress and truly become a more moral society? Were the slavers wrong? Are we right now? Is there some eternal truth that says that men should not hold other men in chattel slavery?

      You see, the truth of those questions are not impacted by what you or I, or the slavers of old believe the answers are. Chattel slavery is either right, it’s wrong, or it’s amoral, in which case it doesn’t matter whether you hold slaves or not.

      Neither does Tutu’s opinion on homosexuality change whether homosexuality is moral, immoral, or amoral. Unless Tutu IS the standard, he is perfectly capable of being wrong. The only true moral authority is the standard of morality. His morality trumps everyone else’s opinion of morality.

      I think you’re in the minority there, that most people don’t take this meta-ethical view of God and morality. I could be wrong, but I think most people think that certain traits like forgiveness, loving and kindness are axiomatically moral, and so they are the traits that a perfect being would necessarily have to embody.

      I completely disagree that these traits are axiomatically true. Axioms are statements that are so self-evidently true that they are accepted as true without controversy. But I don’t see why this should be the case. These principles are prescriptive, not descriptive—that is, they describe not what IS, but what SHOULD BE. Only a person with a mind cares about what should be. But theists and atheists alike agree that there was a period in Earth’s history when there were no creatures. Did these axiomatic truths exist then?

      If not, then they are a product of the human mind. If this is the case, then your mind’s conception of how one should behave might be completely different from mine. The slaver’s ideas are no more “true” than your own. Hitler’s idea of morality was different from Tutu’s, and you’ve already judged Tutu to be “better”… but again, better by what standard?

      If they did precede mankind on Earth, then they must have been held as true by another person. God seems the only viable candidate.

      By the law of the excluded middle, these are the only two possibilities. To which do you hold, and why?

      BTW, have you actually googled Tutu, read about his life perhaps, or at least read his quotes on God and homosexuality for yourself?

      Honestly, no. To be frank, I’m just really not that interested. He may be a wonderful guy, but I have other responsibilities and a reading list that’s already way too long. And I’m not so concerned with what he actually said because I’m not addressing him, but the quote that you attributed to him. My only concern with his statement is that you used it, and I don’t feel that the statement is logically coherent, especially given the context of our discussion.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        Terry, I said: “Your own position seems to be that you’d shrug and figure “Hey, I guess enslaving black people is fine after all then”.

        You gave a long rambling reply that doesn’t seem to negate the above. So far I’m assuming my summing up was accurate.

        Regarding Tutu – I can’t believe how much energy you’ve expended on jumping brought hoops to avoid seeing the point. And then you end saying you can’t be bothered to increase your education at all because you’re ‘not that interested’. I read that as you being scared of your own cognitive dissonance. If you can’t be bothered why should I spend any more time replying to you?

        Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Toby:

      [Terry] “Doesn’t matter what we perceive. What matters is what IS.”

      [Toby] Really? Then what good are intuitions upon which the apologist says we know that objective moral values exist? “They exist!” “How?” “I perceive them with my intuition.” “And?” “So that means they are what IS!”

      You’ve kinda ignored the context of my statement. Our perceptions do not change reality. Reality doesn’t care one whit about our perceptions; it is what it is, and all our wishful thinking won’t change that at all.

      Now we do perceive things that are real. But I only perceive that I have a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. I only met those three generations. Does that mean that I didn’t have a great-great-grandmother? Of course not! I’ve never perceived her with my senses, but she is a feature of reality regardless of my perception.

      And you’ve also mischaracterized the apologist’s argument above. Because all men perceive a moral universe in which every man has moral duties and obligations, it is evident that there is some moral reality in the universe that all perceive. We may each perceive it differently and imperfectly, but it is there nonetheless. Otherwise, what are we talking about when we speak of any moral question?

      So god cannot create contingent beings that do not change? You’re kind of poking holes in the whole omnipotent thing.

      Even an omnipotent being cannot do the logically impossible. Any contingent being that exists has already made the biggest change of all… from non-existence to existence. So no, even God cannot create a contingent being that never comes into being, and therefore does not change. That’s just an absurdity.

      Even some of your heroes say your god became temporal when he created the universe.

      Perhaps. But now we’re adding a contingent property of temporality to a necessary being. God’s temporality could not be necessary as he did not have it ontologically prior to creation. I’ve not fully made up my mind on whether God remains truly atemporal, is now temporal, or exists in a form of hypertime.

      I don’t think you have any footing to stand on when you say your good is necessary because time and change have to be invoked in order to go from “gee, what shall I do?” to “I’m gonna make a universe!”

      Some have postulated that creation happened at the moment the decision was made. I don’t know that I fully buy into that. What I do know is that neither you nor I can have any comprehension of what atemporal existence is like for an infinite, necessary being. That is beyond our understanding. You don’t let things beyond your understanding destroy your belief in science; why should it destroy one’s belief in other things?

      Wouldn’t a being capable of truly doing anything good or evil, do the logically impossible, be a greater being?

      You have a funny idea of greater! Is the measured greater than the measurer?

      The answer is no. A being capable of doing the logically impossible would necessarily have to be irrational. And if all beings, including God, could do both Good and Evil, then what would the standard of Good and Evil be? As many atheists have pointed out on these boards, were this the case, then God would have a judge, and would not be maximally great.

      And as I’ve said on this site multiple times, “maybe the philosophical idea of absolute nothingness has no basis in reality.”

      Do you have any evidence for the impossibility of the non-existence of material objects?

      Re: your later post…

      Just drop the term necessary being. It’s not helpful or descriptive.

      So are all beings necessary, or are all beings contingent? If there are some beings that do not have to exist, and some that do, then it is both helpful and descriptive.

      Yes they are. Yes they are. Yes they are. It takes a material mind to think.

      So the laws of logic only exist if a “material mind” exists? So before there was life on planet earth, was the idea, “there is no life on the planet that will one day be known as Earth” logical?

      You may not have taken many science classes, I don’t know, but if you did you’d know that they beat the idea of using units with all calculations.

      Not many at the college level. I am, however, a mathematics minor. We rarely used units in our pure mathematics classes. And guess what… the equations still work! I’ve asked you this before… if numbers necessarily correspond to physical objects, then how could we think of… much less calculate… the number of subatomic particles in the universe squared? Given the first and enough time, we can actually calculate that number, but it obviously doesn’t correspond to any conceivable physical objects that we know of.

      How can god be said to be moral in any sense?

      I didn’t say God was moral… I said God was Good!

      God is not a moral being in the same manner that we are. His behavior is the standard of morality.

      I bet you think that he can do with us as he pleases because he made us.

      And you would be wrong. God gave us certain attributes when we were established as a race; namely he gave us being and free moral will. God will not take either of those from us.

      That means we’re going to live eternally. Like it or not, you are, in one sense, immortal. But having free moral will means it is OUR choice, not God’s choice how and where we spend that eternity. If God did with us as HE pleased, then all would go to Heaven. But, he would have to violate the freedom of will that he gave many in order to make that happen.

      In Christian theology, God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”, and be willing to allow him to change their nature so that they are compatible and capable of living with Him. If you don’t want that, then existence in Heaven would be worse than existence in Hell.

      You have freedom to punch that guy across the street until he dies…but you better not because I wouldn’t. Because I can’t.

      Suppose you harm two persons equally. You go to them and ask for their forgiveness. One is tempted to harm you, but doesn’t. He decides not to do so and forgives you. The other is never even tempted to harm you, and forgives you freely.

      Are you seriously suggesting that the first is greater than the second?

      William Lane Craig readily admits that if his arguments were proven wrong he’d believe anyway because of the spooky feeling he gets labels the holy spirit.

      And until you know what that is like, you cannot possibly understand why he says this. You could show me pretty good evidence that my wife doesn’t exist, but all the evidence in the world won’t convince me of that because I know her personally. You on the other hand, having never met her, might be easily persuaded that she is simply a fiction.

      I just wish they’d admit that they don’t know. Just admit it and say it’s faith.

      It is faith… a faith based on evidence. Read the Bible. All through it, Jesus, Paul, Peter, Isaiah, and many others all appeal to reason and evidence to confirm their claims. But it does take faith… faith IN the God revealed in nature and in scripture to truly become a Christian. It’s not about just learning that God exists… it’s about coming to trust God with your life and your destiny.

      Spaceless, timeless, immaterial is the same as saying you don’t know and can’t be sure.

      Total non-sequitur.

      I’m simply following the evidence, which says that time, matter and energy are effects. If I recall correctly, even David Hume said that it was impossible for a thing to be its own cause. If the universe began to exist, then it must be an effect. All effects must have a cause separate from themselves. And as these three are intertwined (thank you Mr. Einstein), their cause cannot require space, time, or matter.

      You are suppressing the logical consequences of a finite universe because it doesn’t fit with your preconceived worldview that disallows the existence of God.

      Just admit it and say it’s faith! ;)

      And with that, I’m done for the night gents! Have a wonderful day tomorrow!

      Reply
  71. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I.
    I don’t want to take up too much time, so let me respond quickly. (In other words, I’m not going to discuss everything I disagree with, but just focus on the main points.)

    Let me start by saying that one thing you do not list “must think killing innocent children is always wrong” or anything like it as a required property.

    This was the main question we were trying to answer.

    II.
    You agree with my necessary properties, You then say: “Any transcendental feature we observe in our universe seems to ultimately require a cause grounded in or defined by God.” (emphasis mine)

    Here you slip a bit. Seems means “appears to be something to do something” but this is a different word than must. This is different than “must be something”.

    So already, you’re discussing something different here.

    But then you make another claim, which is completely false to my mind.

    You say that morality “seems to fall into the same explanatory pattern as logic and mathematics.”

    It does not seem like that at all to me, 2+2 has always been 4. The symbols may have changed, but no culture thought or acted as if the concept was different. Same with logic. No culture in history has ever believed that x could be not-x.

    Morality, shows us something completely different. People used to think same-sex marriage was terrible. Now pretty much everyone is okay with it. People used to think making black people use different restrooms was okay. Now that thought chills us to the bone. People thought slavery was okay. Now it repulses us. People thought women should have no say in who they marry and should be a pawn in an economic transaction between families. Tell your daughter that now, and she’ll think you’ve gone insane.

    Do you see not the difference?

    III.
    You say:“If morality exists for all men in all times, places, and situations.”

    I know you say “if”, but you seem to believe this. So what is the evidence you use to come to that conclusion?”

    IV.
    You say that morality “requires a judge. What’s the point of a law if those who break it are never judged?”

    And then say ” requires a punishment for transgression. What’s the point of a law with no consequences?”

    Do you mean to say that it requires a punishment “for the transgressor”? It seems as though you may have made a typo. As you ask, “what is the point of a law with no consequences?”, but likewise what would be the point of punishing my dog, for the transgression of my grandson? Not only would it be pointless, it would be rather evil to do this to the innocent dog.

    V.
    I’d like to return to the necessary property of “immaterial”. I proposed it as a necessary property, but I think this is wrong. I think the correct way to say it is that “G-d must be outside of our our material universe”. This would in fact be logically necessary to create this material realm. But that does not require immateriality. A G-d with a material body, in a different material universe, but with the omnipotence to create and act on other material realms meets our criteria. This doesn’t mean He can’t be immaterial, He can. But it’s not necessary, as there are other ways to reconcile the logical necessity we see (one cannot be part of something before it is created).

    Do y