The Euthyphro Dilemma

     

    Excerpt from “Jesus Is Involved In Politics! Why aren’t You? Why Isn’t Your Church?” Rational Free Press 2010 (c) Neil MammenAvailable on Amazon and at www.JesusIsInvolvedInPolitics.com Socrates (to Euthyphro): “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”

    Plato, The Euthyphro Dilemma

    Christian morality is based on pleasing or satisfying the whimsical capricious God of the Bible, with only secondary importance for “doing unto others as you would yourself” and “loving your neighbor.”

    Council for Secular Humanism1

    Pointy Headed Boss (to Dilbert): “You are not allowed to have internal phone lists on your wall. There are excellent reasons for this policy, and I hope to someday know what they are.”

    Later – Pointy Headed Boss (to Catbert, Evil Director of Human Resource): “They’re getting suspicious about the Random Policy Generator.”

    Dilbert Cartoon

Why The Law Was Given:Is God Capricious? Is God Good?

Did God arbitrarily make up the laws?

My Hindu friend who always argues with me about religion, had a smirk on his face. Now, you must realize that he was only Hindu by name and by culture, not by conviction. He was a functional agnostic. The fact that we were eating at a vegetarian restaurant was because he’d grown up vegetarian and never developed a taste for meat. “Why is god good?” he asked with that smirk. “Is he good because whatever he does is good? If he said killing infidels was good would that make it good?”

When we try to argue that God’s moral values are applicable to everyone and should be used as a basis for legislation, we have to first prove that God is not capricious. What my Hindu friend had been reading was the atheist claim that God arbitrarily decides what is good and what is bad. That, they say, makes Him capricious and His laws unworthy. Let me provide you with a definition of the word capricious.

    Capricious adj.: determined by chance or impulse or whim rather than by necessity or reason; “authoritarian rulers are frequently capricious.”2

The quote at the beginning of this chapter from the Council for Secular Humanism claims God is capricious and whimsical; He randomly decides what is good and what is evil for no good reason. This was Socrates’ question to his student Euthyphro.

Bertrand Russell the avidly avowed atheist formulated the problem this way in his book, Why I Am Not A Christian:

    If you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: Is that difference due to God’s fiat [decree/command] or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God Himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good.

    If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not good independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to[prior to/separate from] God.3

In other words, Russell said that if good is good because God randomly decided what was good, then good is not really good. It is arbitrary. But if good is good because of something separate from God, then God is not sovereign because He’s a slave to this goodness and thus goodness is greater than God. Is Russell right? Of course he is not, and I’ll show you how to refute him completely in the next few pages.

Is whatever we do for God good?

Remember the Gestapo Captain and the liberal Rabbi in the Walter Martin story we described in an earlier chapter. The liberal Rabbi who believes there is no objective right or wrong is asked by the Gestapo Captain, “I’m going to kill you, is there any reason why I shouldn’t?”

The liberal Rabbi can’t say, “Because it’s wrong or because it’s inhumane or because it’s bad.”4

In many ways, the Gestapo Captain was a relativistic thinker just like the liberal Rabbi. The Captain thought that whatever he did for the Nazi party or the German people was automatically good and that morality was something that the Nazis, not the Jews, got to define. In the same way if we were to say blindly that whatever we do for God is automatically good, it could lead to relativistic thinking and the claim of capriciousness. So let’s see how we can refute this claim.

Why God is not capricious

First, we must understand that it’s important that the laws that we are given be non-capricious real laws with real consequences. If God were to give us laws that had no real consequences and merely order us to obey them because it was His whim, then He would indeed be capricious. And those laws would be illogical, unnecessary, random and arbitrary.5 Sadly many Christians don’t seem to realize this. I personally didn’t either until I had to respond to an atheist about it. (This is one of the reasons for my zeal for apologetics).

Take the first point: All the laws that God gave us must be real laws with real and negative consequences to humans (I will prove this with examples later). But that means when we sin, we are effectively committing a double crime – that is, doing two bad things. We are hurting ourselves and others, and we are rebelling against the Almighty G
od who created us. The latter being the more serious crime, but understandably not one that we wish to legislate.

Second, we have to understand that the secular atheistic humanists have phrased the problem based on their limited understanding of God. It’s not that God is capricious or that He is beholden to a higher value. What will refute them and Russell is simply this:

God is good.

And that is our second point.

Huh? You ask.

Let me explain. It’s not that God has arbitrarily determined what good is. Nor it is that He is beholden to a higher value than Himself. It’s just that His very nature is one of goodness. God is good. God is by nature good. Goodness is who He is. God could no more decide tomorrow that torturing babies for fun was good than he could ever stop being God. Yes, God is enslaved but He is enslaved by His own nature. He is enslaved to God. He is enslaved to Himself. It’s that vicious cycle similar to God having to be the center of His own praises. God could no more stop being good than He could stop being God.6 Good is good, and God is good. Their sources are the same.

“Ah but,” my atheist friends complain, “you’ve not defined good, you’ve just said that God is good, so your definition of good is God and your definition of God is good. That’s circular reasoning, and you can’t prove it.”

But as we have already shown it is actually circular reasoning if you try to create a definition of good without a supreme moral giver. You need a standard and you need a standard giver.

Since my atheist friends cannot come to a definition of good without a standard, they are in a similar dilemma. At least our theory has explanatory power and is self-consistent.7 Do note, however, that I do not use this methodology to prove the existence of God. There are enough other ways to do this (all outside the scope of this book, see “Who is Agent X? Proving that Science and Logic show it is more reasonable to think God exists,” Neil Mammen, Rational Free Press, 2009).

Since the source of the definition of good is self evident, and the character of God is good, then it follows that God and the source of good can be the same. So there is no capriciousness in God.

But is it circular reasoning? It isn’t, if I can show that God has to be good to be God. It’s not circular reasoning then because being good inherently is a necessary condition for any god to be the God.

A bad god won’t last long

Let’s look at this. God could not be anything but good. In other words, there could not exist a god, who was bad, or a god who was irrational, or a god who was not loving. Why? Because it would not work. An irrational god would self-destruct and could not last for all eternity. An evil god would never survive. A deficient god who was in any way not self sufficient, or in any way destructive, or in anyway not ‘just,’ or not loving could not last for infinity as his own shortcomings would destroy him.

How can I prove this? Quite simply: Bad cannot exist except as a privation of good, bad is a corruption of good. What I mean by that is that there is nothing such as “bad,” bad only exists if good is corrupted.8 If good ceases to exist, bad will cease to exist as well. A good example is a shadow (note, I don’t mean darkness9). A shadow cannot exist without light. If a shadow were to destroy all light, it would destroy itself. All that would be left is darkness, which is not a shadow, it’s nothing.

That means infinite bad cannot exist, as it will cease to exist as soon as it becomes infinite. Since by necessity God is infinite10, He can never be infinitely or perfectly bad, as He will self-destruct (of course, the concept of God self-destructing doesn’t make sense, and that’s why we see that a bad god is impossible).

People can argue about it any way they want, but if they adhere to logic they’ll end up coming to the same conclusion.

I would theorize that even Satan realized that if he were able to survive without God (remember Satan was merely a created being),11 he would inevitably destroy himself as he became fully evil. A deficient evil being like Satan could not become or maintain himself as a universal eternal being. This is further exacerbated by the fact that evil has no definition if good does not exist; yet good, while not being fully appreciated, would still exist without evil. In all evil situations some good must exist. Even in Hitler’s Germany, those who were Nazi’s did good things. They loved their children. They cared for their elderly parents, (though who knows how long that would have lasted with their euthanasia programs?) It is impossible to imagine how the Nazis could have continued to exist if every Nazi was absolutely evil.12

So, as we can see, good can exist without evil. However, evil will destroy itself without good. Thus to exist, God must be good. Good must be a core characteristic of God. It’s not separate. Bertrand Russell has been refuted.

Note too that “Good” as we see, is a transcendent value. Good existed long before a universe existed. Similarly 1+1= 2 long before any universe was created and it will still be true after all universes have died a heat death. There are no possible universes where 1+1 is not equal to 2. Mathematics is a transcendent art. So are truth, justice, logic, rationality, love, reason and well, set theory among others.13 They are all part of the very intrinsic nature of God. They are transcendent and eternal.

  Addendum

Do note, this blog is not attempting to prove any of the following: 1. That God is indeed actually good. I’ll leave that argument to others. It only concludes that IF He exists he must be good.2. That God exists (for that evidence please refer to the book “Who is Agent X? Proving Science and Logic show it’s more rational to think God exists.” available at www.NoBlindFaith.com)

 

 

End notes:

1. www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=columns&page=news

2. www.thefreedictionary.com/capricious3. Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1957), 12. As quoted by Gregory Koukl in Euthyphro’s Dilemma on the Stand to Reason website.www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5236

4. Yes, yes, I know you are thinking that he could say, “I have information that I can us
e to buy my life…” but let’s assume like most of the Jews who were sadly killed, he doesn’t have anything that the Gestapo Captain needed, that the Captain couldn’t have taken anyway.

5. Someone could argue that the command by God in the Garden of Eden, “Don’t eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” was capricious. But that would be presumptuous. Whenever we are dealing with an intelligent agent like God, presuming you know all the parameters as a human is illogical. We can’t argue from the lack of evidence. In addition as mentioned in an earlier footnote, if God did not give Adam the ability and opportunity to reject Him or disobey Him, He would not have truly given Adam freewill.

6. Remember as we’ve said in a previous footnote, one of the things that we need to be clear about is that God cannot do anything. He cannot stop being God, He cannot sin, He cannot cease to exist, and He cannot be irrational or illogical. He cannot learn. He cannot make a round two- dimensional square. He cannot make 1+1 = 3. All of those actually are derived from “He cannot stop being God.” For a full logical response to “Can God create a stone so big that he cannot move it” see www.JesusIsInvolvedInPolitics.com and do a search for “Stone so big.”

7. William Lane Craig, one of this century’s best debaters and philosophers, has used this argument quite successfully in many debates against atheists. I.e. if objective moral values exist, then God exists. Objective moral values do exist, thus God exists. See www.williamlanecraig.com. I always describe Dr. Craig this way: He’s the guy who, after he’s done debating an atheist, you actually feel sorry for the atheist. In his winsome manner, Craig destroys every single one of their arguments. Most atheists don’t know what hit them.

8. One could try to argue that bad is a corruption of an amoral thing as well. For instance, a knife is amoral, for one can use it to kill instead of cut an apple. But the very existence of that knife is “good.” It is good that the knife exists because it is useful and has purpose. Non-existence would be the only truly amoral thing, but non-existence is not an option if anything at all exists.

9. Darkness would be nothing or amorality in this example, i.e. neutrality- neither good nor evil.

10. This can be proved in one paragraph; science agrees that whatever caused the Universe to begin at the point of the Big Bang was outside of time and space. This can only be an infinite being, since you cannot create time if you are in time. For more on this go to www.NoBlindFaith.com and search for “proving God exists without using the Bible.”

11. I have a trick question that I use now and then. I ask, “Who is the opposite of Satan?” The answer is not God. Satan is a created being not a creator. He is not omnipresent in time and space and all dimensions. He is not omnipotent or omniscient. The closest opposite to Satan may be one of the archangels. If you ask, “Who is the opposite of God?” The answer is “No one” No one can be the equal and opposite of the Almighty Eternal Creator.This also means that Satan must be of such a mind that either he knowing that he can never destroy God wishes to be a thorn in God’s side till he Satan is destroyed or thinking that he can destroy God is willing to destroy himself to do so.

12. This is similar to the concept of Total Depravity. We humans are totally depraved, but we are not absolutely depraved. This means that while we have a depraved sin nature, not everything we do is sinful or destructive.

13. Note that physical, atomic, and chemical laws are not necessarily transcendent because they did not causally (that’s cause-ally not casually) exist before the universe was created and one could feasibly reason than a universe could be created with different laws.

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371 replies
  1. Nathan Barley says:

    “An evil god would never survive.”

    But how are you defining ‘evil’ here?

    “Since my atheist friends cannot come to a definition of good without a standard, they are in a similar dilemma.”

    You are ignoring centuries of moral philosophy doing just that.

    “He cannot make 1+1 = 3”

    So the laws of logic do exist independently of God. Therefore his existence is not necessary for their existence.

    “God could not be anything but good. In other words, there could not exist a god, who was bad, or a god who was irrational, or a god who was not loving.”

    So ‘good’ in this sense means ‘a necessary nature for a God to have’. But why label this good, and why state that this creates moral imperitives for humans?

    “Bad cannot exist except as a privation of good, bad is a corruption of good. What I mean by that is that there is nothing such as “bad,” bad only exists if good is corrupted”

    Excellent. Well, if this is the case, it would be so regardless of whether a God existed or not. Therefore an atheist could make the same argument that you make above for the existence of an objective morality.

    Reply
  2. Neil Mammen says:

    Nathan,
    great questions. I would say evil is defined as that which is a privation of good. If you can show me a different example of evil that is not a privation of good, we can discuss that. Of course you may argue that I’ve stacked the deck by starting with the definition of evil being a privation of good, if so I’d be interested in knowing the alternatives. I could be wrong. Please also read John Ferrer’s discussion here: “Parasitic Evil and Independent Good” http://crossexamined.thehuntercreative.com/?p=158

    You said the laws of logic do exist independently of God. Actually I’m not sure why this follows especially after reading this paper. Perhaps you missed it, the point of this exercise was to show that NOTHING good exists independently of God, since as I mentioned in the essay that the very concept of rationality and logic and good are all intrinsically necessary for a god to be God. They are part of the iff (if and only if) , they are part of the nature of God for him to exist. It is as the essay says: A necessary condition.

    You said: first quoting me “Bad cannot exist except as a privation of good, bad is a corruption of good. What I mean by that is that there is nothing such as “bad,” bad only exists if good is corrupted”
    Followed by: “Excellent. Well, if this is the case, it would be so regardless of whether a God existed or not. Therefore an atheist could make the same argument that you make above for the existence of an objective morality.”

    Yes you are completely correct, but if you recall I clearly stated that this was NOT PROOF that God existed. I referred to my book (Who is Agent X) for that. I believe the (different) argument in the book shows ample evidence that Science and Logic show it’s more rational to think God exists. Remember this paragraph from the essay:

    “Do note, however, that I do not use this methodology to prove the existence of God. There are enough other ways to do this (all outside the scope of this book/essay, see “Who is Agent X? Proving that Science and Logic show it is more reasonable to think God exists,” Neil Mammen, Rational Free Press, 2009).”

    All THIS essay does is show that IF God exists, then Goodness, Rationality, Logic etc being part of the very nature of God and not independent of him is a self consistent and necessary condition. My objective was NOT to prove God existed, but just to prove that this argument does NOT show God cannot exist and is consistent logically.

    I hope that helps.

    Reply
  3. Nathan Barley says:

    “Yes you are completely correct”

    So you disagree with Frank and WL Craig that atheists can’t come up with an objective morality? I don’t think you do, but you appear to concede the point here.

    Reply
  4. Nathan Barley says:

    “I mentioned in the essay that the very concept of rationality and logic and good are all intrinsically necessary for a god to be God.”

    Yes, but that’s not the same as saying that God is intrinsically necessary for rationality, logic and good.

    I’m not that fussed about arguments for God’s NON-existence. I’d never try to argue that God doesn’t exist, or talk a believer out of their belief. Perhaps a God does exist – I don’t know. Though I’ve not seen a decent proof for God’s existence yet.

    Rather I dispute arguments that one MUST believe, and that belief is the only way to a moral system.

    “All the laws that God gave us must be real laws with real and negative consequences to humans”

    This is interesting as it ties God’s morality with a form of utilitarianism. It suggests that all morality can be explained though utilitarian principles. It also points to a common ground between theists and humanists. If you believe that laws should tie in with avoiding negative consequences for humans, does that mean you have no problem with the current set up of laws in the US regarding the ‘Lemon Test’, where every law must have a secular justification?

    I agree with you that William Lane Craig is a phenomenal debater. I don’t agree with his arguments, but that only means I’m more impressed with the way he manages to make them work. It’s interesting that you take more than two and half thousand words to answer a problem that can be summed up in a couple of lines. That takes nothing away from your thorough reply, and I commend you for the effort.

    What it shows though is that in a debate it’s possible to challenge your opposition with a question that takes 20 seconds to phrase, and yet would take ten or so minutes to reply to. I believe Craig is very good at throwing out many such questions in a short space of time, similar to the ‘Gish Gallop’, leaving the unprepared debater unable to respond in a debate setting. I find written debates give both sides a better chance to properly represent their arguments.

    Reply
  5. Neil Mammen says:

    HI Nathan,

    You said: “So you disagree with Frank and WL Craig that atheists can’t come up with an objective morality? *I don’t think you do, * but you appear to concede the point here.”

    You are correct, I do NOT disagree with Craig and Turek, but I do not argue that here. i actually argue that in an earlier chapter of the book that this excerpt was taken from and did not see fit to repeat it. In the book that previous argument is mainly about good and evil. I.e. you can’t have an objective moral standard without a standard giver. I do not spend much time on if you have to have a “logic” giver to have a standard of logic. That may follow though, I’ll have to ponder that.

    Remember though that Christians believe that the laws of morality are fixed like the laws of logic and set theory. We discover them. We believe they are part of the very nature of God. So we think there’s an intrinsic relationship there. God, we say, can’t fail to be logical. Just as he can’t fail to be moral. However, when you violate the laws of logic, things fall apart almost instantly, when you violate the laws of morality it may take a few days or even generations for the damage to be apparent. So it’s harder to convince someone of the similarities of the two.

    You said: “This is interesting as it ties God’s morality with a form of utilitarianism. It suggests that all morality can be explained though utilitarian principles. It also points to a common ground between theists and humanists. If you believe that laws should tie in with avoiding negative consequences for humans, does that mean you have no problem with the current set up of laws in the US regarding the ‘Lemon Test’, where every law must have a secular justification?”

    I agree. In the same book (Jesus Is Involved in Politics), I talk about 3 sources of the moral law:
    1. The revealed moral law (the Bible)
    2. The self evident moral laws (our consciences)
    3. The discovered laws (the school of hard knocks).
    I argue that if we ignore 1. and blunt ourselves to 2, we will eventually run headlong into 3. I show a number of examples in the book.

    Thus eventually we can discover 1 and 2 just by studying 3. The discovered law.

    I then say that we can use our many past experiences with 3 to legislate today. We coudln’t have done so

    As far as the Lemon Test, (I hadn’t heard it called that) but yes, I think it’s a good idea, primarily because we have become a very secular society. However, there are a few exceptions that are based on the Judeo-Christian foundations of our nation and there will be some debates about if not “Honoring God” has negative connotations for humans. (I of course think it does but that’s a discussion for later), I also don’t want to debate if we have a Judeo-Christian foundation for our nation or not in this blog, (I’m sure that has already been done before and it’s really not this topic’s focus). I go into great detail on that in the book.

    As far as short vs. long answers. Yes iive debates are an art and I fear I don’t have that art developed. My preference is to try and honestly answer genuine inquiries and at the same time test to see if my propositions can validly withstand inquiry. After all I could be wrong (and have been before) and I’d rather find out sooner than later.

    But in fairness to Craig, I’ve not see any answers even on the internet that refute his live debates. He is a fair man and when I had lunch with him a few years ago, it seemed like his desire was to discover the answer to genuine questions not merely to “win”.

    Reply
  6. Neil Mammen says:

    By the way, you said that you hadn’t seen decent proof for God’s existence yet. May I vainly suggest my own book: “Who is Agent X? Proving Science and Logic show it’s more reasonable to think God exists.” you can find it on Amazon. I believe it presents a very hard to refute argument that while doesn’t “PROVE” God exists shows it’s more reasonable to think that than to blindly believe that infinite universes exist, which is the only alternative. But I understand if you don’t want to spend money on a Christian argument.

    Reply
  7. Nathan Barley says:

    “As far as the Lemon Test, (I hadn’t heard it called that) but yes, I think it’s a good idea”

    Then you appear to depart from Frank again.

    Thanks for the recommendation Neil, but I already gave Frank’s book a decent crack of the whip and came up dry.

    “I’ve not see any answers even on the internet that refute his live debates.”

    I’ve seen some great answers to him. When I’ve got time I’ll message them to you on Facebook.

    Reply
  8. Nathan Barley says:

    “when you violate the laws of morality it may take a few days or even generations for the damage to be apparent.”

    I agree. And this would be true whether or not there was a God. But I’m pretty sure Craig and Frank both deny this, as they say that without God any talk of morality is meaningless. But I’ve not seen an argument for what makes God moral that couldn’t also be used as the basis to construct a morality without him.

    In other words, you’re still back to the original dilemma of coming up with a non-circular, or non-God explanation for why He is moral – or at least an explanation that doesn’t invalidate the ‘no morality without God’ argument.

    Reply
  9. matthew says:

    @Nathan-

    You may have posted this at some point previously, so forgive the question if you have. Where do you propose the universe or anything in it had it’s start if not from a Creator?

    Reply
  10. Tim D. says:

    You may have posted this at some point previously, so forgive the question if you have. Where do you propose the universe or anything in it had it’s start if not from a Creator?

    I know this question was asked of someone else, but I can’t help jumping in whenever I see it….why, I was just asked the same question at work today by an angry co-worker who had just discovered that I was an atheist (an attempted “gotcha” question, I imagine~). It’s just so much old news by now, I’m surprised people haven’t tired of asking it as a form of persuasive argument — it’s like saying, “What’s 24879293857 + 1089723535? You have 5 seconds to answer….time’s up! What’s that, you don’t know? Well then what I say is right by default.”

    But anyway….

    1) The most common and honest answer is “I don’t know.” Nobody, not even Christians, knows what forces created the universe. Christians (like every other faith) simply make a faith statement about it based on what they believe in a religious sense.

    2) In order for that question to be really accurate, though, you’d have to specify what you mean by “began.” Are you talking about the big bang, or before then? Because there are a number of physical theories which basically say that before the big bang, the universe always existed in some basically unchanging (or possibly infinitely-changing) form, thus there’s no need for a creator.

    Reply
  11. Frank Turek says:

    Good discussion Neil and Nathan. Let me pose a question for you to discuss. Doesn’t utilitarianism– do the greatest good for the greatest number– presuppose what “good” means? In other words, doesn’t it smuggle in a moral law?

    Blessings,

    Frank

    Reply
  12. matthew says:

    @Tim- so the basis of these physical theories you mention are also faith statements, in which the atheist conveys his/her faith that nothing had to create all of which exists. A Christian faith statement would point out that there is no other case in science where anything is spontaneously created out of thin air. Got it.

    Reply
  13. Nathan Barley says:

    Matthew: “there is no other case in science where anything is spontaneously created out of thin air”

    For a start, as I understand it, on a quantum level, particles do indeed disappear and reappear. But that’s not really relevant. One can also say that there is no other case in science where a supernatural explanation has been proved to be the correct one.

    However, your questions are off topic, so I’ll direct you to, Lawrence Krauss, Professor of Physics, who addresses your point directly in a long lecture that is easily findable online. Just google ‘Lawrence Krauss universe from nothing’.

    Frank, I’ll answer your good point as soon as I have the time, hopefully later today.

    Reply
  14. Tim D. says:

    Good discussion Neil and Nathan. Let me pose a question for you to discuss. Doesn’t utilitarianism– do the greatest good for the greatest number– presuppose what “good” means? In other words, doesn’t it smuggle in a moral law?

    Well, when someone says, “do the greatest good,” that is by nature a subjective term; it would literally translate to, “do what we think would be best based on what we know.” Different people are going to think different things are “greatest” or “good,” although there are bound to be some common factors somewhere.

    This “problem” of “smuggling in a moral law” only comes into play if you first presuppose that it’s an objective statement, which does not have to be true — if by “greatest” or “good” you mean “objectively so,” then yes, that would introduce the idea of a moral law or standard. But the definitions of “great” and “good” are not usually objective — from a philosophical standpoint, they basically mean “compliant with a stated premise, desire or standard.”

    @Tim- so the basis of these physical theories you mention are also faith statements, in which the atheist conveys his/her faith that nothing had to create all of which exists.

    1) The “faith” that I supposedly have in the obvious (i.e. simple and observable physics which I see every day in action) is a very different kind of “faith” than the “faith” that you have in the impossible.

    2) As usual, you are wrong (and strawmanning again, you should kick that habit sometime). I never said I believe that *anything* had to “create” anything which exists. But what am I saying, you obviously didn’t even finish what I wrote 🙂

    A Christian faith statement would point out that there is no other case in science where anything is spontaneously created out of thin air. Got it.

    1) Thin air could not exist if there was nothing — air is matter. Or did you mean space? Well, space can’t exist either if there’s nothing, because space is something.

    2) How would you know, one way or the other, any of the following, from ANY scientific standpoint:

    -THAT matter and space were ever created at a finite point in history;
    -HOW they were created, if in fact they were;
    -WHAT existed before then (an oxymoron, really; since matter and space are the medium of existence, then if there’s no space or matter then there is nothing, end of story).

    The honest answer would be, “I can’t know because we have no way of knowing.” Instead, though, I’ll wait for your answer.

    Reply
  15. Tim D. says:

    Good discussion Neil and Nathan. Let me pose a question for you to discuss. Doesn’t utilitarianism– do the greatest good for the greatest number– presuppose what “good” means? In other words, doesn’t it smuggle in a moral law?

    Well, when someone says, “do the greatest good,” that is by nature a subjective term; it would literally translate to, “do what we think would be best based on what we know.” Different people are going to think different things are “greatest” or “good,” although there are bound to be some common factors somewhere.

    This “problem” of “smuggling in a moral law” only comes into play if you first presuppose that it’s an objective statement, which does not have to be true — if by “greatest” or “good” you mean “objectively so,” then yes, that would introduce the idea of a moral law or standard. But the definitions of “great” and “good” are not usually objective — from a philosophical standpoint, they basically mean “compliant with a stated premise, desire or standard.”

    @Tim- so the basis of these physical theories you mention are also faith statements, in which the atheist conveys his/her faith that nothing had to create all of which exists.

    1) The “faith” that I supposedly have in the obvious (i.e. simple and observable physics which I see every day in action) is a very different kind of “faith” than the “faith” that you have in the impossible.

    2) As usual, you are wrong (and strawmanning again, you should kick that habit sometime). I never said I believe that *anything* had to “create” anything which exists. But what am I saying, you obviously didn’t even finish what I wrote 🙂

    A Christian faith statement would point out that there is no other case in science where anything is spontaneously created out of thin air. Got it.

    1) Thin air could not exist if there was nothing — air is matter. Or did you mean space? Well, space can’t exist either if there’s nothing, because space is something.

    2) How would you know, one way or the other, any of the following, from ANY scientific standpoint:

    -THAT matter and space were ever created at a finite point in history;
    -HOW they were created, if in fact they were;
    -WHAT existed before then (which makes no sense, really; since matter and space are the medium of existence, then if there’s no space or matter then there is nothing, end of story).

    The honest answer would be, “I can’t know because we have no way of knowing.” Instead, though, I’ll wait for your answer.

    Reply
  16. Neil Mammen says:

    Hi Nathan/Andrew,
    I’d spent some time composing a response to Lawrence Krauss, but then a fellow CIAer pointed me to this much more articulate response by William Lane Craig:

    It is difficult these days to question the views of a notable scientist without appearing to be guilty of lèse majesté. But someone needs to have the audacity or innocence to exclaim that the emperor is running about buck-naked.

    When physicists yield to the apparently irresistible temptation to begin making philosophical or theological pronouncements which are literally metaphysical (i.e., beyond physics), then they have left their area of expertise. Their opinions then have no more credibility than those of the layman. The silly claims they often make, intoned with authoritative seriousness, is simply testimony to their philosophical and theological naivete.

    Take, for example, the claim that modern astrophysics makes it plausible, in Lawrence Krauss’ words, that “the universe arose spontaneously from nothing at all.” What does the word “nothing” mean in this context? It cannot carry the philosophically correct meaning “non-being,” for then physics could do nothing to explain how being could arise from non-being. Moreover, Mr. Krauss’ claim that “If our universe arose spontaneously from nothing at all, one might predict that its total energy should be zero” would be unintelligible. For if the universe arose spontaneously from non-being, it would be impossible to predict what might arise, since non-being has no properties or constraints.

    Mr. Krauss must be using “nothing” as a metaphor for a quantum physical state like the vacuum. It is the source of the positive and negative energy mentioned by Mr. Krauss. Problem is: the quantum vacuum is not nothing but is a roiling sea of energy having a physical structure and governed by physical laws. Mr. Krauss, of course, knows this. Therefore his representing the primordial quantum vacuum to innocent lay readers as “nothing at all” is a deliberate abuse of science.

    All this still leaves us wondering, why does this quantum physical state exist rather than nothing? Can it be extended infinitely toward the past? Or did it itself have a beginning? If so, what is its cause?

    It is evident that Mr. Krauss has not even begun to address the philosophical question with which he began, “Why is there something rather than nothing

    William Lane Craig

    Andrew, surely as an intellectual you too found this questionable.
    Krauss said: Nothing, i.e. Quantum Fluctuations created the universe? Surely you thought: But, what were those fluctuations fluctuating in? How is it that this nothing that has fluctuations? What sort of nothing can have fluctuations? And of course as I say in my book: The biggest problem is that even nothing is mechanistic which forces one to either a single infinite universe or infinite universes.

    I found it interesting that as Krause made these statements that struck me as rather unscientific, and philosophically and logically faulty the audience started clapping. It reminded me of a blind faith sermon that I’ve seen way too many of. A preacher says something that makes no sense and the audience starts applauding.

    But what I appreciated the most is that Krauss at 1:02:00 or so says something that I’ve had huge arguments with atheists about. I argued that if there are infinite universes we are stuck with the poker game scenario because every single possible event that can occur must occur. Then I mention how unreasonable it is to believe that. I’ve gone hours head to head with atheists trying to describe how even a 1 in 10e40000000 chance must occur infinite times with infinite universes. Now Krauss validates that for me.

    If you recall the poker game scenario goes as follows (this is taken from the book “Who is Agent X? Proving Science and Logic show it’s more rational to think God exists” (c) 2009 Rational Free Press.

    Imagine we are playing poker and for 10 straight deals my hand always comes up Aces, you then turn to me and say, “You are cheating.” I say, “Oh no, we are just in that universe where I always come up Aces.” Would you be so gullible to believe this? Or would you say, “You think I’m an idiot? You are cheating.” So then why are you asking me to believe it when it comes to this? Would you buy that answer? Of course, you wouldn’t. Anyone we know would be an absolute idiot to buy it, a sucker. So why are you buying into this then? An idea that not only can’t be proven. It can’t even be DIS-PROVEN. It could almost be called superstition.

    Reply
  17. Luke says:

    I have watched part of the Krauss lecture, and while I can’t comment on the merit of his conclusions or anything like that, I appreciate the accessible explanations of cosmology he’s presented in what I’ve seen so far.

    Thanks for posting it.

    As far as WLC’s response, I am not sure I buy his logic (but I freely admit, he’s quite a bit smarter than me).

    He says: Krauss’ claim that “If our universe arose spontaneously from nothing at all, one might predict that its total energy should be zero” would be unintelligible. For if the universe arose spontaneously from non-being, it would be impossible to predict what might arise, since non-being has no properties or constraints.

    Craig is contradicting himself to say that non-being has no constraints and no properties — having no constraints would be a a property of non-being, would it not?

    Why is he allowed to assign properties to non-being and Krauss is not?

    (In other words he is saying “you can’t say anything at all about non-being, even though I just said something about it — that you can’t say anything about it” It’s the same problem Dr. Turek loves to point out “there is no truth would itself be a truth”)

    On a more practical level, if we buy Craig’s logic here, then if something arises out of nothing, it may be able to ignore the law of gravity. Why should this be?

    If G-d is constrained by the laws of logic, as most believe, then why should particles be free of the laws of physics?

    If we agree that 2+2=4 or accept the law on non-contradiction whether or not anything exists, then why should we say that the laws of thermodynamics only apply sometimes?

    WLC also talks of “quantum physical state like the vacuum” and fluctuations, etc. I am sorry, but WLC is not a physicist. A smart person once said that when physicists leave “their area of expertise. Their opinions then have no more credibility than those of the layman.” If that’s true, then maybe we shouldn’t take what philosophers say about quantum states very seriously.

    Anyway, I am not trying to argue, but mostly wanted to write to say thanks for posting the presentation.

    Luke

    Reply
  18. matthew says:

    -“The honest answer would be, “I can’t know because we have no way of knowing.” Instead, though, I’ll wait for your answer.”

    Agreed, and that includes atheists as well. My point simply is that a Creator makes much more sense than no Creator.

    -“As usual, you are wrong (and strawmanning again, you should kick that habit sometime). ”

    As usual, your tone is that of a lady with her panties on too tight, and you should look at kicking that habit as well.

    Reply
  19. Nathan Barley says:

    Hmm, I mentioned Krauss’s lecture as a way of quickly replying without taking the thread off topic – so much for that!

    I’m not an expert on cosmology or physics, so it’s probably not much help if I wade in. It’s possible that Craig is knows more about physics than Krauss, I don’t know. It’s perhaps more possible that a professor of physics can make a mistake that Craig can spot. I’m not being facetious – it really is quite possible, especially if Krauss has indeed ventured out of his field.

    But I’d be more willing to give Craig the benefit of the doubt if I’d ever seen him calling out creationists and young earth creationists for their poor arguments in multiple scientific disciplines.

    “I say, “Oh no, we are just in that universe where I always come up Aces.” Would you be so gullible to believe this?”

    Positing extra universes would make no difference to the probability of finding yourself opposite someone drawing those Aces. The chance of being in THAT universe would be the same as the chance of being in THIS universe and drawing those Aces through luck. However, it would make a difference to the possibility of being in a universe where conscious life is possible.

    “My point simply is that a Creator makes much more sense than no Creator.”

    Based on what calculations?

    Reply
  20. Luke says:

    Neil,

    I haven’t read your book, but is the Aces Universe something you’re likening to our universe because of what we perceive as it’s finely tuned properties?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  21. Neil Mammen says:

    I’d say the Aces universe is an universe that is just as likely to occur as any other universe. And with infinite recurrences each one slightly different from the other, it’s inevitable there’s a universe out there where I come up ACES all the time. Forget the Aces universe. Are you seriously postulating that there are infinite yous and me’s out there having this same or slightly different conversation and suggesting that’s a better more reasonable solution than a personal creator. All without the ability to prove it exist or worse without the ability to falsify it. If so then I hope you see why I think the atheistic blind faith is more than blind than my reasoned faith. For I think I can present 5 more compelling arguments for my side on top of that to make my solution at least based on some philosophical and logical conclusions. We may disagree but please understand why I think atheists have to have more faith than me. Not more faith than Christians as many Christians have total blind superstitious faith, (but accidentally fell upon the truth).

    Reply
  22. Neil Mammen says:

    Andrew/Nathan,
    Ignoring all else, what Craig said here is logical is it not: How can nothing have quantum fluctuations? What sort of nothing is it.

    And as I point out, nothing is mechanistic thus we should either have an eternally old universe or infinite universes (which Krauss agrees with). So regardless of what Craig said we are left with infinite you’s and me’s that we can’t prove or a personal Creator which has 5 proofs and some compelling philosophy behind it.

    The question I’d ask is: Surely this is NOT the reason why you are an Atheist. Because both theories if you will, require faith. So there must be another event that leads you to abandon the God conclusion. What was that? A stupid or evil priest? A bad experience? Expecting this “god” to provide something which he didn’t? A loved one dying? A bunch of very stupid ignorant Christians (yes we Christians tend to be both)? I’m very curious to understand these things. Not to lord it over anyone, but to understand.

    Reply
  23. Neil Mammen says:

    Luke, I started it to do so, but I went off on a different thought and ended up not actually addressing what you mentioned.

    Your question was is the ACES universe just as likely to occur as the fine tuned universe. I’d say it’s “less” likely if there was only 1 universe, but JUST as likely if there were infinite universes.

    Reply
  24. Luke says:

    Neil,

    Perhaps I worded my question poorly, but that’s not what I was trying to ask.

    I was asking if your illustration of the Aces Universe serves as an analogy to our finely tuned universe.

    I could have more openly asked what you use the Aces Universe to show in your book?

    (It seemed like a good analogy to say “we just happen to live in a finely tuned universe” is about like saying “we live in a universe where I always draw Aces” given the probablities. We wouldn’t buy the latter, so why buy the former?)

    If that’s not what you were asking and it wasn’t your point, but you like the analogy I just brought up, it is now copyrighted by me and you have to pay me to use it. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  25. Nathan barley says:

    It’s the other way round for me, Neil. I’ll hear a long complicated argument from Craig that requires a degree in philosophy to understand, and I’ll think surely that’s not actually why you believe?!

    Sorry no time for a longer answer now. Am tapping on an iPad.

    Reply
  26. TobyR. says:

    “So there must be another event that leads you to abandon the God conclusion. What was that? A stupid or evil priest? A bad experience? Expecting this “god” to provide something which he didn’t? A loved one dying? A bunch of very stupid ignorant Christians (yes we Christians tend to be both)? I’m very curious to understand these things. Not to lord it over anyone, but to understand.”

    I think this is a common misconception among believers. They tend to believe that someone was wronged by religion therefore rail against it. I think it’s more likely that non-believers see the history of religion, its often sordid doings, and its failure to accurately describe natural phenomenon such as the earth orbiting the sun, explaining the weather, illness, etc. There are plenty of examples of people violated by priests that are still religious. These people would have every right to hate their religion. I just the “wronged by religion” idea is quite overstated and too quickly arrived at.

    Reply
  27. Neil Mammen says:

    But surely there’s the answer: Stupid actions by believers in the past. This would include things like them attributing natural phenomena to God or the Catholic Church coming down on Copernicus etc. Nothing in the Bible says the sun rotates around the earth anymore than a NASA document that says: Sunrise is at 6:34 am does. (when really they mean earthrise).

    Reply
  28. Nathan barley says:

    I would not assume the existence of a God rests in any holy book anyway, or the behaviour of any religion’s followers. If a deity exists he does so regardless of how many bad priests there are. Simple lack of evidence is behind my atheism. My problem with many ‘proofs’ of God is that it seems they would ‘work’ whether there was a God or not. That goes for the logical proofs, anyway.

    Reply
  29. TobyR. says:

    From the abreviated agent x paper:

    “Remember Logic and Reason existed before the universe came into being. They transcend all physical reality and existence. 1+1=2 before the big bang.

    The more rational thought is that logic and rationality have ALWAYS existed and are NOT part of the supernatural universe. For instance. 1+1 is not part of the natural or physical universe. There are no feasible universes where 1+1 = 3. Thus 1+1 is a transcendent truth. And if you believe in the multiverse (as your excuse to avoid believing the freewilled Agent X) then are you suggesting that there are zones in between those universes where 1+1 is not = 2? This is irrational, whoops there’s that word again.”

    I’ve always found this specious. Logic and reason are constructions of our minds, not a mystical transcendent truth. Math has no meaning without a universe. 1 + 1 doesn’t have a meaning if there isn’t a universe. If there isn’t a universe then there isn’t anything to count. If there isn’t a universe then there is no one to do the counting or adding or subtracting. The concept of counting, or any math, is meaningless when there is nothing to count.

    ” are you suggesting that there are zones in between those universes where 1+1 is not = 2?”

    Yeah, I am. In fact it can be in this universe. All it takes is for an individual mind to decide that the words one and two mean something else, to reclassify them. The symbol 1 now equates to three, therefore 1 + 1 doesn’t equal 2 (which is now the symbol for five), it equals 134 (formerly known as six).

    Reply
  30. Neil Mammen says:

    Surely you realize we are not discussing the “tokens” that we use. I.e. the symbol for 1 or 2. I’m not talking about playing the old 1 plus 1 is eleven game. We understand what we mean with the tokens we have.

    And there other problem that I perceive, you are trying to use rationality to prove that irrationality is what governs everything. It seems to be begging the question in some way.

    I would suggest a review of some of the great philosophers. As far as I know most do not see it the way you do including Aristotle and Plato. This would mean that atheism rejects much philosophy, much of science as well as much logic and rationality as overriding principles. Do you see why I think atheism requires a fair amount of irrationality and blind faith. I could be wrong, but how could you use your irrationality to prove you were right. The minute you start you’d disprove yourself. I thought atheist was about finding the most rational answer. But this tact seems contrary to that. Even the concept of two non intersecting universes requires set theory. In fact even the concept of a non-universe that is different from a universe requires set theory and rationality and mathematics for that matter. If the law of non-contradiction is not older than the universe then what exactly are you arguing about?

    But surely you are not seriously implying that rationality is not transcendent? Hmm, I’d be interested in seeing the philosophical argument for that. I’m not sure how it would go frankly.

    But honestly is this the best defense to mount? I’m not saying that you think it is, but I’m not sure where we go from: Well everything must be irrational. It seems a dangerous hill to die on.

    Reply
  31. Tim D. says:

    Surely you realize we are not discussing the “tokens” that we use. I.e. the symbol for 1 or 2. I’m not talking about playing the old 1 plus 1 is eleven game. We understand what we mean with the tokens we have.

    If you’re not referring to “tokens” but to actual amounts, then you’ll have to concede that you’re speaking figuratively — for one, what is an “amount” and where does it exist? Is “five of something” a thing in itself, or is it just a description of something else? Does a property or amount “exist” on its own, or is it simply a “token” used to describe something that does exist?

    If all of these things (amounts, properties) are just “tokens” used for ease of reference, then it stands that they can’t be “objectively transcendent” because they don’t literally exist. They are purely figurative. If you mean to say otherwise, then I’d be glad to see you describe where and how the amount of “1” (not the word or the “token” but the amount itself) exists, and what it looks like.

    Reply
  32. TobyR. says:

    “And there other problem that I perceive, you are trying to use rationality to prove that irrationality is what governs everything. It seems to be begging the question in some way.”

    The problem I perceive is that you assume rationality/reason must be transcendent above and beyond the universe.

    Definition:

    rationality: the quality or state of being agreeable to reason

    reason: the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways

    reason: Reason is a mental faculty found in humans, that is able to generate conclusions from assumptions or premises. In other words, it is amongst other things the means by which rational beings propose (specific) reasons, or explanations of cause and effect.

    Reason is an organized way of thinking. Thinking is an untranscendent phenomenon. Unless you’re of the belief that mind and body are two separate things—which I can imagine that you are given your agent x and all.

    “This would mean that atheism rejects much philosophy, much of science as well as much logic and rationality as overriding principles. “

    I don’t know about atheism, but I don’t revere philosophy as much as you or Frank. I pretty much think early philosophers such as plato et al were more like early psychologists—they studied thinking. In another blog post here Frank went on and on about the law of non-contradiction. I find the “law” to be little more than a statement of definition—something is what it is. It’s almost childish, really. A is A. A is not B. “This is a red apple,George. This is not a green apple!”

    If the law of non-contradiction is not older than the universe then what exactly are you arguing about?”

    why are you assigning mystical, “extra-dimensional” qualities to a human idea, an idea that is essentially a way of classifying and organizing.

    But honestly is this the best defense to mount? I’m not saying that you think it is, but I’m not sure where we go from: Well everything must be irrational. It seems a dangerous hill to die on.

    You make a lot of assumptions. Sure, everything is irrational because it doesn’t conform to your or some crusty, old, long dead thinkers.

    I read your article and commented on this one little piece. I didn’t comment on this because I thought it was some kind of gotcha. Just caught my attention.

    Reply
  33. Nathan Barley says:

    “I would suggest a review of some of the great philosophers. As far as I know most do not see it the way you do including Aristotle and Plato.”

    Neil, when you attempted to tackle Euthyphro’s dilemma, I almost wrote something along the lines of ‘there’s a reason Plato’s argument has stood for thousands of years’, but I didn’t because I figured it sounded a bit too much like an argument from authority. Instead I congratulated you for giving it a go.

    But now you seem to be doing the same yourself! So you think that Plato was right about the Platonic plane, but wrong about Euthyphro?

    As for blind faith in atheism, atheism means only that you reject God claims. It doesn’t even mean that you necessarily claim perfect knowledge and assert there definitely isn’t a God, it just means you don’t believe based on current evidence.

    Back on topic:

    Frank Turek: “Doesn’t utilitarianism– do the greatest good for the greatest number– presuppose what “good” means? In other words, doesn’t it smuggle in a moral law?”

    Only in the same sense that any attempts to ‘solve’ Euthyphro’s Dilemma also ‘smuggle’ in a moral law. Any explanation for why God’s nature is ‘objectively good’ could also be used to created a moral system without a God.

    Reply
  34. Nathan Barley says:

    Hmm, I see the misunderstanding between Neil and Toby above, possibly meaning I’ll have to adjust my above post.

    “All it takes is for an individual mind to decide that the words one and two mean something else, to reclassify them.”

    I believe here that Toby doesn’t mean this would stop 1+1 equalling 2. He just means that the symbols could have different meanings, if you chose to give them different meanings.

    But this wouldn’t stop the mathematical, logical, statement being true that 1+1=2.

    Personally, as no-one argues that God could make 1+1 equal anything else, I don’t see what the issue has to do with any discussion between theists and atheists. Unless, that is, a theist wants to argue that God is somehow NECESSARY to make 1+1 = 2. In other words, argue that the fact that it does equal two somehow provides evidence for a God’s existence, along with other such laws.

    I’d have thought that if the laws of the universe kept changing, THAT would be more evidence for a God than what we actually ‘observe’ – a stable universe where the laws stay the same. Surely the laws CHANGING would suggestion celestial intervention, more than the laws staying the same.

    I will agree with Toby that I don’t see the point of making a big deal of the ‘Law of non-contradiction’. It just seems to be a tautologous result of our definition of ‘is’. If A did not equal A, then we couldn’t call it A in the first place.

    Reply
  35. Nathan Barley says:

    “Nothing in the Bible says the sun rotates around the earth anymore than a NASA document that says: Sunrise is at 6:34 am does. (when really they mean earthrise).”

    As a side question, do you think that nothing in the bible invalidates evolution? My mother certainly doesn’t have a problem being a Christian who accepts modern science (including evolution). And my sister, her husband and several other Christian members of my family are the same.

    But do YOU believe that accepting the evidence for evolution is incompatible with the bible? Do you think there were 30,000 species of spider on the Ark, 2,900 species of snake etc?

    Again, I’ll say that I simply don’t see evidence for a God – separate from the bible or any other holy book. I accepted evolution and took the Ark story with a pinch of salt even when I was a Christian.

    Reply
  36. TobyR. says:

    Speaking of definitions . . . I think I have a reasonable set of definitions that explain a divide in theists and atheists.

    Let’s define ourselves.

    Theism and atheism are belief claims.

    Theism is a statement of belief in deities.
    Atheism is a statement of no belief in deities.

    Gnosticism and agnosticism are knowledge claims.

    Gnosticism is certainty of knowledge.
    Agnosticism is uncertainty of knowledge.

    I would bet that most of the atheists here are agnostic atheists and most theists are agnostic theists. We have no certainty of what we think, but we lean towards one side or another. Being a gnostic on either side would put you in possession of some nifty information for the rest of the class.

    Faith: belief that is not based on proof; belief in a god or in the doctrines or teachings of religion

    The “faith” that Frank and others label atheists with is essentially what Mammen often calls “blind faith” in his agent x missive. Based on the common definitions above all faith is blind. Adding blind to the front of faith is redundant and akin to an emotion provoking, verbal exclamation point. Faith applies more to those that believe in deities, those things which are unprovable, unfalsifyable. Consider the millions of believers that converge in churches every week that never consider any of these arguments for and against religion. These people go because they’ve always been told that it’s what must be done because . . . well, just because. It certainly seems that these people have more faith than any. Or ignorance of why they do what they do every weekend considering that many don’t even read the book they supposedly believe in and base their lives on.

    Belief: a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing

    If we consider science to be what an atheist believes in, then we already establish that there is no faith to be found. Many much believed hypotheses and theories have been booted out the door in science for better testable explanations when they come along. This is were religion suffers and its faith tightens the grip. You see, you already have the answers. You already claim to know how everything was made. Truly the best description of a god today is that it’s a god of the gaps. Here’s how strong faith is: “After reading the book (agent x) or the paper many atheists try to say: Well that’s what the Big Bang Theory says TODAY, but in a few years that may change and we’ll know different. I call that the Science of the Gaps. In other words, I have blind faith that Science will get me out of this fix and contradict itself in a few years. No, you are STUCK with what science says today if you are going to use it to argue scientifically.” You’re so certain you’re right, your FAITH so strong that you don’t care what new advances and discoveries. In fact you’re trying to stultify imagination because you’re so right. THAT is faith.

    An atheist standing on science is an agnostic. To say that we have faith in multiverses or Higgs Bosons or dark energy is wrong. We explore these hypotheses and discuss them and if they turn out to be disproven we take the new information and move on. Atheism isn’t faith. Atheism is a big “I don’t know, but I sure am curious and intrigued at the possibilities.” Theism is set in stone. The only way your arguments will change is if science advances and pushes your god further into smaller gaps.

    Theapathetic – (derived from theo-, meaning god or deity and apathetic derived from apathetic): having little or no interest or concern in deities

    Used in a sentence:

    Most atheists here are probably agnostic theapathetic atheists with a penchant for argument.

    Reply
  37. Luke says:

    Neil,

    I have read this excerpt a few times now. It has left me with many questions, but I don’t want to overwhelm the forum with a long laundry list. I also don’t want to just point out one little thing and sound as if I’m being picky about this point here or there and not seeing the forest for the trees.

    Let me pose 3 or 4 questions/problems that come up as I read the article, and which seem more important.

    Let me also preface by saying that for reason’s I’ve stated here before, I think the idea of Euthyphro Dilemma as somehow problematic to the Abrahamic faiths is not something I personally perceive. (And they are not the reasons you mention here — the whole G-d’s nature thing.)

    You say: [I]t’s important that the laws that we are given be non-capricious real laws with real consequences. If God were to give us laws that had no real consequences and merely order us to obey them because it was His whim, then He would indeed be capricious.

    So if G-d says don’t do x, but doing x has no real consequence, then G-d would be capricious. But if G-d says, don’t do x, but x carries real consequences, then the law is “real” and not capricious.

    The problem with this is that G-d created the universe and everything in it. He created all of its systems. Therefore if there are consequences to something, G-d created them.

    Let’s say for example that G-d says “cracking your knuckles is sin,” but cracking your knuckles doesn’t carry any consequences (doesn’t hurt your joints or make you sick), then G-d is being capricious.

    But if G-d says “cracking your knuckles is sin” and shortens one’s lifespan (we know from Genesis that G-d breathes life into us and His spirit must be with us for us to live) for said knuckle cracking, then the law has consequences and it becomes a real law with real consequences. G-d is no longer being capricious.

    Sorry, but this makes no sense to me.

    If I tell my daughter not to yawn, but don’t punish her for yawning, then am I being capricious? But if I spank her every time she yawns, them my rule is not simply based on my whim and is suddenly real and logical because I assign a consequence?

    Like I said, this makes no sense to me.

    (And to give you a real life example, there are people who use AIDS and HIV in the gay (male) community to show that G-d’s laws are logical and G-d is just trying to protect us. Who designed the genetic code of this virus exactly?)

    II. You say that G-d’s nature is good, but that He is enslaved by it. Let’s go to an example though. Many of G-d’s laws deal with sex. But G-d designed sex. Was there information in G-d’s nature that said “sex within marriage is good, but sex without marriage is bad” even before sex existed? What if G-d had designed it some other way? Did the nature contain the information about sex just in case G-d ended up designing it?

    Doesn’t it make more sense that G-d designed species, reproduction and sex, and therefore also designed the rules which guide it?

    (For example Genesis 2:24 says: for this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. It certainly doesn’t say because G-d nature said so, but seems to reference G-d’s design.)

    III. As I said, if G-d’s nature enslaves his to give us “good” laws, therefore allowing G-d to say “sex within marriage is good, but sex without marriage is bad” but does not allow him to say it the other way around, then this nature contains information.

    Dr. Turek tells us that if we come across information (like “John loves Sally” on the beach), the information must have an author.

    Who is the author of the information in G-d’s nature if it is not G-d?

    Who is the author of this information which, in your words, enslaves G-d?

    IV. You say that bad only exists as a corruption of good. Is this also some law that stands above G-d? Didn’t G-d design all of these systems? Is He not the author of everything?

    Either G-d designed it to be this way, or someone else did.

    You mention a shadow, and I think it’s a good example, but could G-d not create darkness, and when that darkness is blocked by an object, it allows light to be present on the other side?

    I think that G-d could.

    Is G-d not the creator of the relationship between good and evil?

    If He is not, who is? Who is this super-god you pose? (Is it the same one who put information into G-d’s nature in the question above?)

    Either way, you face a different problem. If we accept your logic then you have indeed shown that G-d cannot be 100% evil. Fine. But then you jump to the conclusion that since G-d is not 100% evil, He must be 100% good. Why must this be?

    Why can’t G-d be 70% good and 30% evil?

    You openly admit that satan is not fully evil, so why could G-d not be the same way?

    An answer of G-d is not deficient, therefore He must be fully something doesn’t work in my view. You can’t just use G-d’s omnis a la carte as they suit your needs. If G-d is infinite for example, then He is everything, therefore He is both good and the deprivation of good.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  38. Nathan Barley says:

    Luke, Euthyphro’s dilemma is not so important to you because you don’t subscribe to the ‘no morality but through God’ argument in the first place. Anyone who makes that argument must tackle the dilemma in order to show that the ‘objective morality’ they claim is essential for an ethical system can in fact be reached through theism, and can’t be reached any other way.

    But what I still haven’t had an answer to is how one explains how God is ‘objectively good’ in a way that isn’t either a) circular or b) an argument that atheists could equally use to formulate an ethical system without God. Neil refers to God’s nature being good in terms of ‘good’ being sustainable, in that anything else would lead to His destruction. From this, atheists could make the same argument that what is ‘good’ is that which sustains a healthy population, and from there come up with a more sophisticated utilitarian ethical system. By the way, it’s a fallacy that this would allow for anti-social activities such as rape to be viewed as good. Rape would not lead to a healthy society.

    I don’t see how the ‘no morality except through God’ arguers can maintain their argument. I don’t see why they’d want to either – it seems a divisive strategy, rather that one that seeks points of agreement from which people can agree how to improve the world. I’d still take a divisive strategy if it was based on a good argument. But as I explain above, I don’t think it is.

    Reply
  39. TobyR. says:

    That’s a bad kind of analogy, that shadow thing. A shadow wouldn’t exist without the object that cast the shadow either. The whole analogy of dark and light (I know you specifically say shadows not dark, but the light/dark analogy has been used on this site by Frank himself I believe) is a terrible analogy. There’s no such thing as darkness in this universe. to have real darkness you must have absolute zero. As long as there is heat there is “light” though it may not fall within our idea of the visible spectrum.

    Reply
  40. Neil Mammen says:

    Toby, that’s the perfect analogy I hadn’t thought about it. I’m claiming precisely that bad can’t exist without good and a person with Freewill (the object) to commit that bad.

    Again it’s an analogy. All analogies will fall apart at some point. The point here is to get the concept across with an example that can help people comprehend it, not to find a perfect comparison. We abandon the analogy at the point it stops helping, realizing all along that it’s an aid, not a replacement. Hope that helps.

    Reply
  41. Neil Mammen says:

    Someone argued that I was using Plato as an appeal to authority in one place but rejecting him in another, thus creating an invalid argument.

    I think what I did is valid. So let me see if I can justify my claim.

    First, Plato was reporting what Socrates said. We do not have any summary of what Plato thought. So it would be in one sense acceptable to refute Socrates while in the same sentence appeal to his student Plato (who may not have agreed with his master in all things).

    Secondly, it’s important to notice that I don’t even disagree with Socrates. Note that Plato never says that Socrates then used the question to Euthyphro to refute either the existence of the gods or the existance of what is pious. He leaves it as a dilemma. So I never denited or refuted Socrates claims either. Notice I did not say I refuted Socrates, I said I refuted Russell. Because Russell is the one who went the next step to imply that the dillemma indicated that God does not exist. All I did was provide a solution to the dillemma. A solution that was perhaps not relevant to Socrates.

    Note because Plato and such philosophers are worthy authorities I believe that it was an acceptable appeal to authority. It’s not like I used a movie star as an authority. An appeal to an authority is only a fallacy if the authority has no credibility in that area. I can say that we do think that Plato is credible in the area of such philosophical topics.

    Remember too that since we all know that authorities can be wrong, we are surely welcome to refute authorities if we can show that either their facts were wrong or their logic was wrong while at the same time accepting other parts of their premises. All humans can be wrong in some places and correct in others.

    Reply
  42. Neil Mammen says:

    Luke, you asked a number of great questions. Let me see if I can explain my veiwpoint. If it helps great, if not you may safely ignore it 🙂 .

    1. Objection: Why can’t God be partially good and partially evil?
    I actually discussed this in some detail in the original paper that I wrote under this title. I postulated that if a God existed that was 51% good and 49% evil, over eternity the Good would have destroyed the evil. On the other hand if God was 51% evil and 49% good, the evil would reduce the good to 1% and still be 99% evil (knowing that if the god went all evil he’d destroy himself). This also led to the yin/yang concept 50% good and 50% evil. But the more I thought about all this, the sillier it seemed. In fact one of the teachers as SES said as much. God he said is complete and infinite by definition. A self warring self contradictory schizophrenic god just violates all conceptions of a supreme being. Imagine if I had 1 glass of sewage and 1 glass of pure water. If I take one drop of water from the sewage and put it in the pure water. That water does not become 99% good and 1% bad. It becomes ALL bad. True it’s just an analogy but it may apply here.

    And finally since this was more about Euthyphros dillemma and not about the details of a schizo god, I decided to remove it.

    I’d bet that there are probably other self-evident proofs against the concept too, but have not taken the time to investigate them. If any readers have thoughts on this, I’d be happy to learn from them.

    2. Objection: The decision of good and bad is arbitrary because God designed us a certain way and thus those things are they way we are because he determined them.
    This is also an issue I’ve written about in the past.

    There are two points to consider here:
    a. In my book http://www.JesusIsInvolvedInPolitics.com I discuss the concept of a manufacturer who makes a hair dryer and then lays down the “moral law” about the Hair Dryer. “Thou shalt not use this dryer in the bath tub.”

    But surely you complain one could certainly design a water proof hairdryer.
    Yes indeed, but what purpose would it serve? It would have consequences like being extremely bulky and being extremely expensive. And in truth why design it. Why not give the rules and have the customers observe the rules and everyone is happy. There is NO overriding reason for anyone to need to use the dryer in the bathtub that cannot be easily compensated for with a bit of extra time (wait till you are out to dry your hair). This is not an “arbitrary” decision. It’s a logical decision based on the original purposes of the hairdryer.
    Now is it still morally wrong to use a hair dryer in the bathtub despite the fact that a water proof version could be designed. Yes it is.

    b. The other issue is that there are certain things that are non-negotiatables regardless of any sort of physical universe. For intance regardless of how un-painful rape is, the fact that someone is raping you AGAINST your will is still wrong. The issue here is that we are discussing the freedom of two wills. And if those two freedoms are at cross purposes, then there is no feasible universe that God can create where a violation of somone’s will is NOT a violation of that persons’ will. It’s a law of non-contradiction issue. In otherwords the problem with rape is not sex, it’s a issue of will.

    We can extend this. If God has decided that some things are to be enjoyed by 2 people because it bring great closeness and comfort and tenderness to those 2, surely we can all see that either he does not create this closeness or he dilutes it with the act being a group event. The creation of intimacy of 2 people by definition means that this act can be violated and that intimacy is lost. So when someone bring rape or non-intimacy into the picture that closeness and intimacy is violated. Leaving God as I said with two options.
    i. Never create that wonderful intimacy so it can’t then be violated or
    ii. Create that wonderful intimacy and specify a moral law against rape or non-intimate versions of sex.

    So Luke I would guess that if God created us such that there were no laws that could be violated, there would be in the same universe a loss of some of the greatest joys that exist. Which then brings the question to some version of: Is it better for God to create something that can be destroyed and give guidance for it’s protection or is it better that God creates nothing.

    While this is not meant to be a complete treatise, I’m hoping it gets some of the basic ideas accross.

    Reply
  43. Neil Mammen says:

    Nathan noted that my argument about God and morality does not prove God exists. Yes indeed. As I noted in the last few paragraphs of the original blog, this does not prove that God exists. That was not the purpose of the blog. It was just to show that no contradiction exists with Euthyphro’s dillemma. I rely on the Agent X argument as the first of the 6 proofs to prove that it’s more reasonable to think God exists.

    Reply
  44. Neil Mammen says:

    Someone also commented that if Agent X existed outside of the dimensions then we could postulate that Agent X originated from a creator in another external dimension and so on ad infinitum ad nauseum. My answer is PRECISELY yes, I agree 100%. Remember my conclusion was:
    Either Infinite universes exist or God exists. So yes yes yes I agree. Was this not clear? I will have to make it clearer.

    My personal problem was that the conclusion that infinite universes existed, raised to me what seemed to be some pretty superstitous and irrational consequences, the greatest of which is that there’s no way you can falisfy or prove it, the next being the huge number of duplicates of us somewhere out there playing poker. Leaving the atheist in a more tenous position than the theist who at least has his 6 actual proofs.

    Reply
  45. Toby R. says:

    Analogy police! Please pull over.

    “Imagine if I had 1 glass of sewage and 1 glass of pure water. If I take one drop of water from the sewage and put it in the pure water. That water does not become 99% good and 1% bad. It becomes ALL bad. True it’s just an analogy but it may apply here. ”

    A drop of sewage in a glass of water isn’t ALL BAD! This is subjective and depends upon who or what you are. If you’re a microbe, then that water is good all the live long day (with or without the sewage). If you’re a farmer a drop of merde in water is probably good for your crops. If you’re a person that just wants to drink a glass of water, then you can nuke it or boil it and you’ll be fine. Am I nit picking? Perhaps.

    ” I postulated that if a God existed that was 51% good and 49% evil, over eternity the Good would have destroyed the evil.”

    I don’t understand how you come to this conclusion. Are the abstract concepts of good and evil at war? Why do you assume this abstract form of Darwinism? Survival of the fittest abstract concept.

    “This also led to the yin/yang concept 50% good and 50% evil. But the more I thought about all this, the sillier it seemed. In fact one of the teachers as SES said as much. God he said is complete and infinite by definition. A self warring self contradictory schizophrenic god just violates all conceptions of a supreme being.”

    As far as a deity goes, this 50/50 idea would fit much better with the christian god. It would explain his taste for blood and ripped open wombs and children dashed upon rocks.

    If the christian god is complete and infinite by definition, then why does the christian god claim to be jealous and even have a commandment about not having any other gods before him/her/it? Is this a tacit admission that there are other gods, thus destroying the idea of completeness and infin– . . . infiniteness?

    Reply
  46. Neil Mammen says:

    Yes Toby, but I was directing the analogy at you not at a microbe. 🙂 Again remember the analogy is meant to help explain a concept, NOT to be the concept. Remember an analogy is not a description it’s well…an analogy.

    But the analogy served it purpose, because it’s obvious that you got the purpose of the analogy.

    Are the abstract concepts of good and evil at war? Yes, the good recognizes that the evil is bad and will seek to destroy it. I look at the bad things in my life and seek to remove them. Do you not do this? Are you still the temper tantrum selfish kid that you were when you were 3? I don’t think so. Ah but you say: That wasn’t evil? No but it was bad and as you matured you recognized that and got rid of it and hopefully are daily working to be a better person. If you were God you’d be able to achieve perfection over eternity.

    As far as the blood and ripped open wombs, you are again talking like someone who has no concept of the supernatural. Remember if the Christians are right then death is a transition from the temporary and frail to the permanent and strong. It becomes incoherent to hold God to that requirement. Nathan/Andrew and I have already gone over this. I’ll summarize it here, but I do not wish to really repeat it.

    This is the Christian view.
    1. The universe consists of multiple dimensions.
    2. You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body. You are a multidimensional being.
    3. Death is merely moving from 3D space to multidimensional space (the spiritual).
    4. God never “extinguishes” anyone. Once you are created as a multidimensional being, you will exist forever.
    5. God however can choose to move you from your limited 3D space to multi-D space. He is the creator.
    6. Humans are not allowed to move other humans without the creator’s permission.
    7. God is allowed to use Humans to move other humans to multi-D space. (Execution, war etc).
    8. There is a problem in verifying that one human really has permission from God to move another human out of 3D space, but in the Old Testament these commandments were preceded by supernaturally caused physical evidences that God was indeed speaking. e.g. the Walls of Jericho falling.
    9. Jealousy is wrong because it takes what belongs to God away from him. Same for pride, self praise, envy etc.

    This is just the summary. For the full evidence (and if you want to argue against these points) please first read:

    http://www.noblindfaith.com/sermon/GodQuestions-JustWHOdoesGodThinkHeisText.pdf

    if you’d rather listen on to this on your ipod you can find it here:
    http://www.svccgilroy.com/media.php?pageID=5
    scroll down to 5/23/10 and click on Just Who does God think He is?

    Reply
  47. Nathan Barley says:

    Hi Neil, thanks for your extensive replies.

    “I said I refuted Russell. Because Russell is the one who went the next step to imply that the dillemma indicated that God does not exist.”

    I didn’t see you quoting Russell to make that point, so cannot comment on whether you have genuinely refuted him as you claim.

    “It was just to show that no contradiction exists with Euthyphro’s dillemma.”

    I’ve not heard people claim there’s a contradiction. For me, the whole point of the dilemma is not to disprove God, but to point out the flaw in the ‘no morality but through God’ argument.

    It seems that your answer to the dilemma comes down to the ‘alternative source’ option. God has a particular nature, and you label it ‘good’ due to a logical reckoning that comes from outside of God.

    The reason I pointed out that this would also allow atheists to build ethical systems just as valid as those of Christians was because I wanted to check whether I’d grasped your argument correctly. I thought I might have misunderstood it because your argument appeared to be at odds with the argument/s of Frank and of WL Craig. For them it seems very important that atheists cannot have a valid basis for their ethics.

    That said, by my reckoning, their own answers to the dilemma are not so different from yours, and in fact also offer atheists a ‘way out’.

    “For intance regardless of how un-painful rape is, the fact that someone is raping you AGAINST your will is still wrong. ”

    …and surely would be so irrespective of the existence of a God?

    Regarding all the analogies about good and evil, a simple way to describe the way I see them is that they are concepts based on our reckoning of the harm or benefit an action has. And because we’re a social, group species, the harm or benefit is filtered through a group perspective. Pretty simple really in concept (though of course there are competing values and needs, hence the existence of moral dilemmas).

    Reply
  48. Neil Mammen says:

    Nathan, yes thanks for that clarification for Luke. You said it in much better words that I could have articulated. I appreciate that.

    Nathan you asked:
    “For intance regardless of how un-painful rape is, the fact that someone is raping you AGAINST your will is still wrong. ”

    …and surely would be so irrespective of the existence of a God?

    You are absolutely correct, it’s still wrong. However I would have no moral obligation to care if all there were was an “force” or a standard with nothing else behind it.

    My thoughts on this were in the same book “Jesus Is involved in Politics” as follows (hopefully it will help the discussion).

    (c) 2010 Neil Mammen, Jesus Is Involved In Politics
    But atheists have morals too
    Of course they do! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ever saying that atheists have no morals or are bad people. This is a Straw Man. I know atheists who are far more moral than some hypocritical Christians are. I have atheist friends whom I’d trust with my life and property over Christians I have known. Remember, the Bible clearly says that everyone has a moral compass inside them (recall, this was the second source of the law). They may not always follow it, but God has put the concept of right and wrong in their hearts (remember the “self evident Conscience Laws”). But, my atheist friends cannot logically claim that they are being morally good because, as we have shown, if God does not exist, then the words good and evil have no standard meaning. My atheist friends are unknowingly borrowing Christian philosophical and moral capital from us (and some are doing a better job at it than we are).
    So while we theists can determine that atheists are good people based on our logical understanding and standards of good; at the end of the day the atheist’s own “moral” values are not based on any transcendent, immutable truths. They are illogically moral. I call them “emotionally moral” atheists because there are no objective reasons for their morality. They believe in moral values, and they are still trustworthy with my life, but they have no rational basis for this belief. It is merely a preference or a blind, unsubstantiated belief system. They have blind faith in their moral system.

    Now while we realize that things like rape are wrong because they violate someone’s freewill, the question we must ask is why is violating someone’s freewill wrong if I can get what I want. So let’s go the next step.

    What about claiming that the standard of morals simply come from “The Golden Rule?”

    One could argue that the Golden Rule is the standard for morality, so we don’t need God. After all, it seems to make sense that one should treat others they way he or she would like to be treated. Atheists may claim that they are moral because it is logical to be moral and love your neighbor so that society can live peacefully.
    If you look at this argument carefully, however, it too falls apart – not on the basis of actions, but on motivations. Why should I “prefer” to treat others as I want to be treated? I would only need to do that if I were afraid that one day the tables would be turned. But if I was sure the tables would never be turned, why worry? The Golden Rule falls apart when you realize that it is a reciprocal agreement. For instance, there is no compelling reason for a slave owner to give up slavery or discrimination based on the Golden Rule as long as he maintains control. If slaves are not allowed to revolt, owners will always be in control, and some careful precautions could prevent that. In fact, when you think it through, this would mean that there was no reason for any of the white Americans (even the non-slave owners) in the U.S. to ever care if slavery was abolished. After all, they couldn’t ever conceive of a scenario in which they, the whites, would ever become slaves as long as they remained in power and kept slaves uneducated and unable to congregate. History has precious few examples if any of slaves becoming the masters, so there was no precedence for this either.
    So we see that while it makes sense to observe the Golden Rule, there is no compelling reason for ruling class members, powerful people, sadists and others like that to adhere to it. Hitler, after all, felt that the National Socialists would always be in power, so who cared what happened to the Jews, gypsies, mentally disabled, Christians and homosexuals. He did not apply the Golden Rule to them. He didn’t feel he needed to. He would never need the reciprocity that the Golden Rule awarded him. As far as Hitler was concerned, killing the Jews was the Golden Rule. What say Golden Rulists to that?
    In addition, the Golden Rule is valid only as a truly moral law if it is applicable to the entire human race and everyone has equal rights. In ancient Rome, they believed that women (and slaves) were not as valuable as men and not entitled to the same rights. They felt that it would be unthinkable to treat women the way men were treated and that they would never be at the mercy of women. So they applied the Golden Rule only to male Roman citizens and certain free men. Of course, outside of science fiction novels it is improbable that women could someday revolt and take over the culture and dominate men. So the Romans had no reason to give women rights.
    Thus, we see that merely claiming that the Golden Rule is the source of morality fails in the area of authority and motivation, leaving large gaps to be filled. Even if the Golden Rule is observed, there is no compelling reason to do or uphold what we know is moral today. There is no compelling reason to believe that anyone has any of the inherent rights that are described in the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights.
    If the Golden Rule were all that counted, then anything you did to someone just before you killed them would also be ‘morally’ acceptable. Or anything that you did that nobody ever found out about would also be ‘morally’ valid. Why? Because there is no reciprocity possible and no one is keeping track, it won’t affect anything.

    So where do moral values come from? Who is the standard giver?
    To summarize, we believe there is a standard of good and evil, and it can be given to us only by a Moral Law Giver or Standard Giver who has authority over all mankind. Who is such an authority? Obviously, the only Being who has authority over all mankind would be the Creator of mankind. So logically and rationally, we are arguing that the only possible standard giver is God.

    Why can’t it be our DNA?
    Some atheists like Michael Shermer, have argued that our morality comes from our DNA. It is objective, he claims, because it evolved that way. There are multiple problems with this.
    a. You could then determine that slavery was not immoral when it existed; it only become immoral after we ‘evolved’ that way. Tell that to the descendant of a slave.
    b. Those who didn’t get that particular morality gene are not being immoral when they torture babies for fun.
    c. You can’t be morally obligated to a thing. You can only be morally obligated to a person.
    The first two are self evident, so let me prove the third one to you.

    You can’t be morally obligated to a thing
    Let’s say we are back in high school and one night you invite me over to play scrabble. As we start, you take the box of letters and throw them on the table. Amazingly, they fall making a complete sentence. It spells: Take out the garbage. Are you morally obligated to take out the garbage?
    Of course not! Why should you be obligated to one random event or a million random events?
    But now let’s say we finish playing but don’t put the pieces away. The next morning as you come down for breakfast you notice that your mom has arranged the letters in a sentence. It spells: Take out the garbage.
    Now, are you obligated to take out the garbage? Yes! But what changed? It’s the exact same sentence. Two things changed didn’t they? First, it was a person who asked. Second that person had authority over you. In the same way, if a thing (especially a randomly evolved thing as the atheists think), i.e. our DNA asks us to do something; we are not being immoral by ignoring it. We are not obligated to things. But if a person with authority i.e. God asks us to do something, we are being immoral if we ignore Him.

    Again, I’m eager to see what the weaknesses of my argument is as I’m sure I’ve missed a few points. Or worse may have confused the entire point by accidently creating a circular argument.

    Reply
  49. Nathan barley says:

    But when you explain why God is good, the same explanation could be used in a secular context, surely? I don’t get why it has any greater force if one applies it to a God too. You either think it’s wrong or you don’t. If you stopped believing in God then it would suddenly be ok? I know you do not actually believe that. The victim would still be suffering in the

    I know you weren’t saying atheists can’t be moral. I don’t know of anyone trying to make that argument stick.

    Reply
  50. Nathan barley says:

    Sorry, broken sentence. The victim would still suffer in the same way, so what’s changed? You need a God to exist before you can care about others? Why place that condition on your values and compassion?

    Reply
  51. Nathan barley says:

    By the way, bringing up Hitler is equally a problem for theists. He thought that killing Jews was God’s will. As far as he was concerned it WAS ‘objectively right’. So I do not see how that refutes the Golden Rule any more than it refutes a God-derived morality. Saying he misunderstood’s God’s morality is no different from saying he got the golden rule wrong.

    Reply
  52. Neil Mammen says:

    Andrew, I think I understand your point. It’s that someone still suffers so since that is trancendantly bad why then is that still not bad if God does not exist.

    I’ll attempt an answer, let’s see if it works. I’m obviously working through the thinking process as I write on these edge conditions. So I appreciate your responses.

    OK, let’s postulate that though it’s trancendantly bad, I as a human am under no moral obligation to care. Just like a lion is under no moral obligation not to murder the old pride leader and then “rape” the females in the pride to propagate his genes. Note though I’ve used those terms to show the contrast, we don’t consider either of those acts rape or murder.

    In otherwords if we are all a big random chance and beings without a planned conscience, then the violation of someone’s will does not seem of any concern, it was all a big accident. I don’t owe anybody anything. It seems to be (in my biased view ofcourse) that moral meaning comes only with an trancendant being whose very nature is that morality, to repeat myself, it seams the trancendance of morality only seems to have meaning when a personal authority exists.

    Again I do see the dillemma that it may be circular, i.e. if we add God into the picture it seems to all click together but if we take him out it falls apart, meaning it’s not an argument for the existence of God, but rather an argument that the concept is not inconsistent. Unless as Craig argues, it’s the only viable explanation.

    OK I don’t know if this is just muddying the issue. It’s a great discussion though and I have to spend some more time on it. Frank or some of the other CrossExaminers could probably shed some light here. Thanks again Andrew, this is a great discussion.

    Reply
  53. Neil Mammen says:

    On the Hitler issue, yes, while I can argue that Hitler really was an Atheist/Pagan who dabbled in the Occult based on some reports of what he said and his fascination with Nietszche, you are correct. So in general I don’t use the Hitler Argument.

    I also however don’t accept Hitchen’s argument that the problem with Stalin and Mao was Communism not atheism. My evidence for that is my family history in Communism. I had over 6 uncles who were active communists and thus my family was deeply steeped in Communism in Kerala. 2 uncles even had prices on their head by Nehru, the first Indian Prime Minister as he sought to erradicate communism. However, during that time everyone of my uncles save one, were deep Christians and in that period there was absolutely no violence in the Christian Communism in Kerala, even when they came to power and made Kerala the first communist state in India in 1957 (so this is not a personal anecdote). However in the north where there were atheistic communists, killings and torturings were common place (look up the Naxalites).

    Reply
  54. Luke says:

    Neil,

    No worries. I thought that’s what you meant, but didn’t want to spend time writing to you if you were mad at me or something and didn’t want to hear from me. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  55. Luke says:

    Sorry to intrude on your conversation, but I just wanted to add one little thing.

    Neil said:let’s postulate that though it’s trancendantly bad, I as a human am under no moral obligation to care.

    If you’re going to postulate that it is transcendentally bad, why not just postulate that not caring about it is also bad.

    While it’s not logically required, it seems to flow naturally.

    If for whatever reason suffering is transcendentally bad, for example, then it seems odd that it would be good or neutral not to care.

    If suffering is bad, it seems natural that doing something about it is good.

    Again, it’s not a logical requirement from a philosophical standpoint, but surely it makes sense, does it not?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  56. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek said:Doesn’t utilitarianism– do the greatest good for the greatest number– presuppose what “good” means? In other words, doesn’t it smuggle in a moral law?

    I think this is a good question to discuss.

    It does not necessarily smuggle in a law by necessity, though it could. (That’s my opinion, of course.)

    Let’s say we have 2 people. Both are concerned with doing “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

    One spends time in Africa, raises money for mosquito nets and food, helps build schools and helps farmers become more productive.

    The other is a teacher, (a good teacher who truly cares), volunteers at the local food bank, Habitat for Humanity and the retirement home.

    Could we do a cold calculation and see who helped and saved more lives with their work? Probably? (G-d, with omniscient knowledge surely could.)

    Would that calculation, answering the question of who did the greatest good for the most people actually help us ascertain who was the better person?

    I don’t think so at all. If you do, and disagree with me, please tell me why.

    What I am trying to illustrate, is that having a hard, cold definition of what “good” is, can actually make the question harder, not easier.

    Is it better that these two people live their live and do what they see as “the greatest good for the greatest number” or would it be better if they ignored their own moral intuition and tried to answer the basically unanswerable question (no matter how many times we may read the Bible (or any other holy book) of “which of these two options will actually do the greatest good for the most people?”

    As a side question, I posed this question to John (I think) some time ago. Do you think that given our biology and instincts, that only the existence of G-d allows us to say “it’s good to pee when my bladder is full?”

    (I mean this as a serious question.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  57. Nathan barley says:

    Neil, you are indeed better off not making the Hitler argument. The Pope tried it on his visit to Britain last week. The obvious happened and many atheists pointed out the huge number of quotes from Hitler saying how inspired he was by his faith in God, how he was doing God’s work, how atheism was bad, how he believed species were immutable and unchanging – “a fox remains always a fox” – and how Darwin’s books should all be banned.

    E

    Reply
  58. Nathan barley says:

    Even if you dismiss all that as hogwash – Hitler was a murderer, so why not also a liar, and you always also play ‘no true Scotsman’ regarding his faith, then you are still left with something undeniable. And that’s that the vast majority of Germany under Hitler – the people who did the actual dirty work – were certainly Christian. I myself draw no significance from this. I merely point it out to anyone who wants to play reductium ad Hitlerum.

    Reply
  59. Nathan Barley says:

    “I’m obviously working through the thinking process as I write on these edge conditions. So I appreciate your responses.”

    Fair enough, Neil! But it seems that you have your conclusion, which you believe is necessary to support your view of morality coming only through God, and you are having to work out a justification for it post hoc. Sorry if that is unfair, but that’s how it comes across, though I’m sure you’re honestly trying to explain your thinking to me.

    “if we add God into the picture it seems to all click together but if we take him out it falls apart, meaning it’s not an argument for the existence of God”

    I’m not concerned at all about this being an argument for or against the existence of God. I’m trying to get to the route of this ‘no morality but through God argument’.

    “if we are all a big random chance and beings without a planned conscience, then the violation of someone’s will does not seem of any concern”

    Not of any concern to who? It’s still of concern to the person whose will is being violated, surely? Their experience and pain is exactly the same either way, and surely that is the most significant factor. Neil, why place these caveats and conditions on your compassion for other people?

    Imagine a small child drowning in a lake, and a man is passing who could easily wade in and save her. He is moved by her cries, feels enormous empathy for her suffering. But he says “Sorry, before I can save you, I need to examine some logical proofs of God, so that I can determine whether or not your consciousness was planned or not!”. Absurd, no? Do you really not believe that whether someone’s birth was an ‘accident’ or not should have no bearing on whether you value their lives, and wish to prevent their suffering? You seem like a nice guy, so I’m having trouble squaring this idea with how you come across!

    Finally: “My evidence for that is my family history in Communism”

    Hitchens is an ex-Trotskyist so presumably he has decent personal personal experiences to draw on too. I don’t get the connection between not believing in God and turning to Communism. It’s like if you tried to show me that people who don’t accept astrology are more likely to be fascists – it wouldn’t mean much to me. Ayn Rand was a famous atheist who has become a figurehead for free-market capitalism, the opposite of Communism. So what?

    Reply
  60. Luke says:

    Neil,

    I’m going to try to be very concise in my comments, so please ask any questions you feel are necessary for clarification. My numbering system follows the numbers in your post for clarity.

    1. This was more of an afterthought in my post, but you did not address the biggest problem I raised.
    You say that G-d is by definition infinite. Yet you also say (in slightly different words) that G-d ends where the corruption of good begins. You can’t have it both ways. G-d is either infinite (unbound or without end) or He ends where evil starts.

    2a. The hairdryer analogy is faulty. The hairdryer designer is trying to design a hairdryer within the constraints that are present. G-d is designing the hairdryer and the constraints. This is a big difference, and it makes you analogy inadequate in my opinion.

    My point is that G-d designs the consequences. Your illustration does not address this. Your analogy is about how to best deal with constraints, and that it shows that it’s sometimes better to keep some risk. It addresses design within the limits of already present consequences. It’s a different thing.

    I raised a concrete example of AIDS. It is not as if G-d was responding to the already present “consequence” of AIDS. G-d had to design the specific genetic code — volumes and volumes of information — without which the “consequence” would simply not exist.

    Do you see how designing the consequence is different from responding to the consequence?

    2b. I think you raise a good point here. I would challenge you a bit on this though. Is doing something against someone’s will always wrong?

    I don’t think so.

    A few days ago, I had to take my daughter for some medical tests. It was a fairly painful experience. She did not want to do this. No fiber in her body had it in it’s will to be poked with needles etc. (Everything will be fine, don’t worry.) Her mother and I did this and had it done against her will.

    Was that wrong or evil?

    No, it was not.

    The reason I say this, is that even the area of one’s will is subject to other realities that we are faced with, realities which G-d controls and designs.

    I think your point is a good one, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as simple as that either.

    The idea of a universe without joys is interesting. I will read your reply on this a few more times and give you a better response WHat I can quickly say is that I think it’s misguided to say that G-d could not create a universe with joy and no pain, otherwise heaven could not exist. I think this is vitally important.

    You seem to limit G-d and say “G-d could do this, but not this” and I don’t think this is something you and I are in a position to judge.

    (I even think it’s impossible to say “G-d cannot do things which are illogical” unless we have a perfect understanding of what is logical, and I don’t think we do. For example, ask almost anybody 200 years ago and describe the quantum universe, and they would say “that’s illogical, that can’t exist. Do you see what I mean?)

    Anyway, thanks a lot for your reply. (2b certainly was interesting to read and think about and I will think about it much more.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  61. Luke says:

    Neil said:if we are all a big random chance and beings without a planned conscience, then the violation of someone’s will does not seem of any concern”

    Nathan said:Not of any concern to who?

    This is a good question. If anything, I think it would seem to be of more concern if there is no G-d.

    If there is a G-d who can set things right, and look out for his people, then there is someone who can protect our will from being violated, or mitigate such violations. (Most people do believe that G-d intercedes in our lives.) Maybe He doesn’t step in all the time, but at least we know there is someone there looking out for us.

    If there is no G-d though, then it seems of the utmost importance to create a societal system to protect our will and ourselves. Since there is no one else to do it, we must take full responsibility for it.

    Why would you see it as being the opposite?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  62. Nathan Barley says:

    Luke, this idea is taken to its extreme in Frank’s book ‘I don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist’, where he describes a fellow apologist debating a Jewish atheist, and asking the man how he could justify asserting that the Nazis were wrong to have murdered dozens of his relatives in the holocaust.

    Now I fully understand the point the apologist was making, because I’ve heard it made in simpler, less offensive, ways many times before. You don’t need to explain his point to me again. I get it.

    And I understand that this was seen a big ‘gotcha’ against the Jewish atheist. But to me it poses disturbing questions.

    Firstly, how much do you have to want to win an argument to exploit the holocaust as a tool against a Jew to prove your point? It’s bad taste to say the least.

    Secondly, and more importantly, it suggests the Christian sees condemning the holocaust as being wholly contingent on the existence of a God. In fact, without a God, the Christian would presumably see no problem in pitching in and helping out with the slaughter. The pain it was causing would mean nothing to him, he would feel no compunction to stay his hand, to relieve suffering – any of that. If there’s no God, then the Jews can just go burn and he doesn’t care.

    In fact, the apologist’s rhetoric notwithstanding, I find it hard to believe this he actually believes this. If it IS true, then I can only say thank God the man does believe in God!

    Reply
  63. Luke says:

    Nathan,

    But do you see my point, that with no G-d it would make sense to be more concerned for the will and well-being of others? (Rather than be not concerned at all as Neil seems to suggest.)

    Or am I misguided in my thinking there?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  64. Luke says:

    To clarify, when I said “Why would you see it as being the opposite?” that was addressed to Neil not Nathan.

    Neal, I was questioning your conclusion that there is no need for concern for the will of others if there is no G-d.

    I come to the opposite conclusion (for the reasons I mentioned).

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  65. Nathan Barley says:

    Yes, Luke, I agree with you. Without a benevolent God looking out for us, it would be even more important for us to look out for each other.

    But it seems the apologists are not discussing ethics, but META-ethics, the whole meaning of why we need ethics in the first place.

    Reply
  66. Luke says:

    Nathan, but that’s a problem. Neal’s making the assumption that it would be silly for us to look out for each other if there was no good, and I just don’t agree with that.

    If he can back it up, I will gladly accept it, but to just throw it out there when it’s so counter-intuative doesn’t work for me.

    If we can agree that a starving newborn crying for food is “bad” and feeding it is “good” then we have a place to start. (This sort of goes to Dr. Turek’s question of smuggling in a moral law.)

    If you don’t see a difference between bad and good there, whether G-d is present or not, then I question your humanity, and we have deeper problems than meta-ethics or whatever.

    Luke

    Reply
  67. Nathan barley says:

    Then you question the humanity of Neil, of Frank, of WL Craig, and of all those who make the argument that if you don’t believe in God, all moral considerations are meaningless. Ask them outright – all believe that without God, they’d see no reason not to torture and kill a baby. They believe that in proclaiming this they are making an argument against atheism, and their superior morality. It doesn’t convince me.

    Reply
  68. Luke says:

    Nathan,

    They may say that. But I don’t see Neal turning into a child torturer if someone convinces him G-d doesn’t exist.

    I just don’t.

    I think he would save the drowning girl you mentioned, even if that meant risking his own life.

    He may claim otherwise, but won’t believe it.

    I don’t so much think I am questioning their humanity. I am questioning their sincerity in saying that they’d see no reason not to torture children if G-d wasn’t watching.

    I think they would. They’re human, and they are not sociopaths.

    Luke

    Reply
  69. Nathan barley says:

    I agree. We’ll have to see if Neil or Frank have anything to say on the subject. I’m sure they’d want to clarify it’s not about whether God is watching or not. It’s His very nature or existence that would make the difference. But as we’ve said, you either care for others or you don’t. Why put such a contingency on your compassion.

    Reply
  70. Nathan barley says:

    Oh by the way, last time I brought up the term sociopath to Frank, he just said it was a ‘loaded term’, and one that in fact had no meaning without reference to God. So no advance there on the discussion. Do not expect any more than that stone walling and refusal to engage with your point.

    Reply
  71. Luke says:

    Neal,

    A small change of pace here, but let me ask one more question.

    (I asked this question of John some time ago, but don’t think it was ever answered.)

    You say that even if suffering is just bad, you are not under any obligation to care.

    Well, if G-d says suffering is bad, why should I care?

    In other words, why should I do what a good G-d says I should do?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  72. matthew says:

    In other words, why should I do what a good G-d says I should do?

    I suppose you are looking for an answer other than, “Because He is God and you are not”? 🙂

    Reply
  73. Nathan barley says:

    Well that’s not really an answer, Matthew, is it? It’s more of a non sequitor. It simply begs the question. I’d love to hear an answer from a theist though.

    Reply
  74. matthew says:

    My question was a rhetorical one, and was not an attempt to answer you with anything other than humor. For a follower of Christ, that answer would be more than enough, though I understand why it isn’t for someone who is not Christian.

    Reply
  75. Nathan barley says:

    Luke is a theist. His question is valid. If ‘it just IS’ is a valid answer, then the apologist must allow non-theists to give the same answer.

    Reply
  76. Neil Mammen says:

    Matthew, I think you do disservice to the answer.
    Let me explain. Words have meanings. So when an atheist uses the word God it means this superstitious creature that he does not believe in. When the theist or the Christian uses the word God they mean:

    1. Creator of the universe and all things in it.
    2. Owner of that which he has created.
    3. Authority over that which he has created.
    4. Knowledgeable of every aspect of that which he has created and thus cognizant of what actions are beneficial to those creatures.

    So when you say why should you obey God, and we say “he’s God that’s why” what we mean is:
    1. If you obey God you’ll be healthier, more joyful and less people will suffer.
    2. You will enjoy eternity with God.
    3. You will please the one who created you.
    4. The machinery that he invented will work better than if you put the equivalent of “sugar in the gas tank” of your life.

    So that’s how the theist or Christian is answering the question. You have to unpack it.

    But if you turn to the rational Christian and asked him what YOU thought the question was to YOU: I.e.
    WHY SHOULD I [blindly obey] WHAT A [superstitious wishful non-existent thing] SAYS I SHOULD DO [for no good reason]?

    Guess what. He’ll agree 100% with you.

    So the problem is in the clarification of the question and a clarification of definitions of the question.

    Hope that helps.

    Reply
  77. Neil Mammen says:

    By the way, the apologist would never say: It just is. At least none that I’ve met. OK I could see if they are in a hurry and think you’re not really sincere and they want to move on to other things. But I’ve never done it nor have I seen anyone do so.

    Reply
  78. Nathan barley says:

    Neil, you’re still giving utilitarian justifications that would work just as well to ground morality WITHOUT God. So why persist with the ‘no morality but through God’ argument? You seem to refute it yourself!

    Reply
  79. Nathan barley says:

    Yes an apologist would never say that, I was pointing out to Matthew why. Don’t you see, Neil, that if ‘this action produces the best result for you/ your body/ the species’ is in itself a decent justification, then it should be equally valid when coming from a non-theist. If it is NOT valid to you when coming from an atheist, then you must surely understand why the same atheist would reject you using the same justification. I might want to do good deeds to please my mother – is that any less valid than you wanting to please your God? Believe me, I think your justifications ARE valid, I’m just confused as to why you reject the same reasoning from atheists.

    Reply
  80. Neil Mammen says:

    Nathan/Andrew,
    I’m not sure why you say that with respect to my last comment. My last comment particularly mentioned the Authority that God had. This would not be the case for a utilitarian view. You can’t be morally obligated to a non-authority or a thing.

    Moreover as I argued originally, while the utilitarian view may make sense for the community, it seems to have very limited value for the individual. As an individual why not do immoral things that no one would ever find out that would make your life better, or even in a community why not keep slaves enslaved if they have no inherent rights given to them by an authority. Just ensure they never have an opportunity to overthrow you and you are fine. What was the basis to free the slaves or to give brown people like me equal rights? The kindness of some white people? The fear that I’d overthrow them so they’d better make peace now?

    Perhaps I missed your response as to why any given individual or certain cultures should care about any moral value that has no immediate effect or value to them as individuals.

    If I missed your answer earlier, do feel free to cut and paste it back in again. I want to understand the argument.

    Reply
  81. Nathan barley says:

    Neil, your number one point applies whether there is a God or not. Now either you think being healthier and fewer people suffering is intrinsically good, or you don’t. If you do, then it applies whether there is a God or not. If you don’t, then you have to reject your own point. The authority you cite only comes if you DO accept it.

    Reply
  82. Nathan barley says:

    Regarding, ‘why be moral if no-one would find out if you were immoral’: that’s reducing God to the status of policeman. Doing good for fear of getting caught has nothing to do with morality, no? Is that really what you’re arguing? I don’t think so. Why should anyone care about other individuals? Neil, part one of your response relied on such caring. Is it valid or not?

    Reply
  83. Luke says:

    Neil,

    I agree with Nathan that you seem to accept many justifications for morality which require no supreme being.

    I give you a huge amount of credit though. At least you answer the questions.

    By the way, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying “it just is” or “He just is.” There’s something wrong with criticizing others for it.

    Also, do you see why your hairdryer analogy doesn’t apply to my question?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  84. Luke says:

    Nathan said: And part four is basically appealing to selfish motives!

    So is point two, I think. (I hear heaven is pretty sweet and hell is pretty gnash-one’s-teeth-worthy.)

    The problem with each of these also, is that they don’t really answer the question in the end.

    I mean, for #1, why should I care if people suffer? (I think Neal basically made this critique of some of what you wrote, basically saying, if suffering is bad, why should I care?)

    And so on, for each point.

    Luke

    Reply
  85. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek said:Let me pose a question for you to discuss. Doesn’t utilitarianism– do the greatest good for the greatest number– presuppose what “good” means? In other words, doesn’t it smuggle in a moral law?

    Dr. Turek, I already made some comments answering your question, but let me pose a counter question to you.

    What we commonly know as the golden rule is mentioned a few times by Jesus (and other places in the Bible as well).

    He speaks of it in very strong and drastic terms in Luke (no relation), for example:

    And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

    And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”

    And he answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.

    And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.

    (Bold emphasis mine; capitalization from NASB bible.)

    My question is:

    Doesn’t this smuggle in subjectivity into what many claim is an objective law?

    (That is, how I want to be treated, etc, depends on me

    Reply
  86. Tim D. says:

    If you ask me, positing god to solve moral dilemmas is just adding an extra unnecessary dimension — we already have basic humanistic ideas of “right” and “wrong” that aren’t necessarily grounded in hard philosophical objectivity, and yet they function well enough. Positing god adds another standard (when a Christian moral objectivist says “good,” it actually translates down to “god’s will” or “godly”), which is really unnecessary — if we can show that something is basically “good” or “bad” for commonly-understood humanist reasons, then there’s not much need for further justification. In fact, positing objective justification just makes it worse — let’s say you could prove that something was ‘godly’ or ‘compliant with god’s will.’ How would that make it the same as “good?”

    In order to even make that argument, one has to tautologically define “good” (in humanistic terms) as being “godlike,” which defeats the entire purpose of making the argument in the first place.

    Reply
  87. Neil Mammen says:

    Let’s focus on this for a bit if you don’t mind. Because I want to fully understand the objection and why my answer is not working.

    ” If you obey God you’ll be healthier, more joyful and less people will suffer.”

    If I understand correctly you are saying that if this is true regardless of if God exists but you have this “moral” code then who needs God to begin with.

    The problem is again in the unsaid assumptions (which is why this is a great discussion because you are forcing me to elaborate that which I would normally assume is obvious but is obviously not – pun intended.)

    Yes we agree that if you obey the moral code you and society will be healthier and happier. But I’m assuming that we realize that many individuals in power (even as low as a cop) could choose to game the system & take advantage of others through force without caring about their future generations or the long term effects. E.g. why not take a bribe especially if you are sure no one will find out. Why not find the hole or manipulate the system and take advantage of it if you can. In otherwords if I find that I can be a Idi Amin or a Stalin (who as far as we know never had to atone for his genocide), why not do so.

    So if I can get away with it physically and there is no “eternal/supernatural” justice why should I care if society disproves of something. There’s no God in that scenario to keep tabs. I mean while Stalin did go around thinknig, I’d better be nice to these Generals who keep me in power, I’m sure he didn’t go around thinking, hmm, I better be nice to those whom I’m killing off lest they come to power one day. In fact he was thinking, I’d better get rid of them SO I can stay in power. In which case his actions were justified. It would ensure that he Stalin would stay in power.

    Does this make sense? Or have I missed something obvious.

    Reply
  88. Neil Mammen says:

    There’s another piece, I write it just so it’ll be here for later. But I’d rather focus on the above first.

    In Christianity we say we have 3 sources of the Moral law.
    1. The Revealed Law (the Bible).
    2. The Conscience Law (the self evident truths that the DOI talks about ).
    3. The Discovered Laws of Nature. e.g. if you don’t obey God’s 4000 year old revealed law on washing your hands and anything that touches a dead person you’ll discover why it was revealed when healthy people die.

    So what we say is that
    If you obey the Revealed law first, you’ll avoid all that pain people dying before you discover the discovered law.

    Thus Christians believe that there is value in observing the revealed law. But there’s also a moral duty to obey the authority behind that revealed law.

    Reply
  89. Nathan Barley says:

    “So if I can get away with it physically and there is no “eternal/supernatural” justice why should I care if society disproves of something. There’s no God in that scenario to keep tabs.”

    Neil, this argument is a philosophical dead end. It brings morality down to ‘I don’t want to get caught’.

    The other problem with your argument is that you are trying to use a utilitarian justification for God’s authority, but you also claim that utilitarian arguments are baseless WITHOUT God’s authority. Therefore you can’t use the former to justify the latter.

    Reply
  90. Nathan Barley says:

    Neil: “…which is why this is a great discussion because you are forcing me to elaborate that which I would normally assume is obvious but is obviously not”

    It’s funny you say that, because I think the reason WL Craig and Frank generally do well with this argument is that it forces the non-theist to explain what should be pretty obvious. We all take it as read that torturing babies is wrong, so we’re not well-practiced in explaining to someone why. Ethical discussions usually start at least a few further steps further on from that point.

    Back to you, it’s not that we’re questioning things you say that should be obvious. I accept that they quite possibly ARE obvious. It’s that you’re claiming they suddenly STOP being obvious when non-theists make the same arguments. I’m not saying your arguments are bad, I’m pointing out that they are arguments you yourself have rejected.

    Now that I’m on my Mac (rather than iPod) and can therefore cut and paste, let’s look at your four arguments again:

    “1. If you obey God you’ll be healthier, more joyful and less people will suffer.”

    OK, this appeals first to selfish instincts, and second makes a utilitarian argument, which you previously said is invalid UNTIL one establishes God’s moral authority, and so cannot be used in itself to establish it.

    “2. You will enjoy eternity with God.”

    Again, this is a simple appeal to self-interest.

    “3. You will please the one who created you.”

    But you need to explain why this is good, or you’re just begging the question. Would you ask the atheist to justify further the statement ‘I want to please my parents’? I think you would.

    “4. The machinery that he invented will work better than if you put the equivalent of “sugar in the gas tank” of your life.”

    This is similar to the first part of point one – a further basic appeal to self interest. Either such appeals are valid or they’re not.

    In short, again, you are making the same arguments to justify God’s morality and authority that you reject when used by non-theists. If you say these arguments work when you take God’s goodness and authority as read, then you’re making a circular argument.

    Reply
  91. Neil Mammen says:

    Nathan/Andrew, I think that my later answer covers what you just asked.

    Remember I’m not using this to prove God exists. I think I’ve said that many times.

    At this point I am arguing whether atheists can establish that they have an objective reason to be moral if there is no moral authority.

    Here it is in a nutshell. Under the utilitarian rules, whatever is good for us is what we do. But that just implies that it’s wise to do it. It does not attach a moral standard to it, i.e. good or evil. It maybe bad to torture rape someone because they will catch you. But if you are sure they won’t catch you why then is it bad to rape someone?
    The theist would say because it’s evil and the moral authority establishes that.
    The atheist would say because it’s generally bad for society, but can they really call it evil?

    And if the person will never get caught then how do I place a utilitarian value on it.

    Now you may say: But the theist is also caught because…ah I’ll let you raise the objection.

    Reply
  92. Tim D. says:

    Here it is in a nutshell. Under the utilitarian rules, whatever is good for us is what we do. But that just implies that it’s wise to do it. It does not attach a moral standard to it, i.e. good or evil. It maybe bad to torture rape someone because they will catch you. But if you are sure they won’t catch you why then is it bad to rape someone?

    I don’t see why people want so badly to see god as some kind of moral ‘reign’ to keep them from doing these sorts of things. The problem is, most people are not rapists — they, like myself and many others, simply have no desire to rape someone, see no self-interest in it (perhaps they see sex as enjoyable only when both parties are involved willingly, and they just can’t enjoy something that they know is causing the other person pain). Therefore, this “dilemma” is only even relevant to someone who has an active desire to commit rape; otherwise, this “objection” that you raise would never be bothered with in the first place.

    You can argue that humanistic or “utilitarian” rules say that there’s no way to “objectively prove” that this person is doing a bad thing by desiring to rape somebody (IF we tautologically define “bad” as “objectively bad because god says so”), but that does not in any way invalidate the reasoning of a person who does NOT desire to rape someone else. It doesn’t make them “wrong” for not wanting to rape someone “just because,” or because of the mutual satisfaction thing, and it certainly isn’t grounds to say that their morality is “not grounded in anything.” What your argument here basically boils down to is, their morality is not grounded in anything that can be used to control other people. Which is markedly different from saying that it’s not grounded at all.

    Reply
  93. Tim D. says:

    P.S.

    A humanist, for example, might put it this way:

    You believe that rape is “bad,” right? You believe this not because you “know” it based on observations made in reality, but because you believe in this “revealed knowledge” from a supposed higher power. But beyond that, you don’t know why — the only reason you believe that is because you believe someone told you. You don’t understand why god chose to make rape bad, or what about rape god chose to make bad. It’s just “bad” because that’s the law.

    Well, I believe rape is “bad” for several reasons, among them the aforementioned mutual enjoyment factor; even without these reasons, I would feel no desire to rape someone — no end that could be accomplished by doing so would be “worth” the act of raping someone, no matter how “self-gratifying” that end may be presumed to be by others. I simply would not enjoy it and could not enjoy it because I do not feel that something gained at the cost of willing imposition on another is worth having. Why? I just don’t. It can’t be explained much beyond that. It’s based on observations I’ve had, feelings I’ve manifested, and experiences I’ve lived through. You can tell me that these things are invalid and that my observations lack “grounding,” but the fact is that your statements to that effect have just as “little” grounding. So if that’s your only argument, that humanistic or utilitarian morals do not have “objective grounds,” then I will simply object to that as utterly irrelevant, because it will not stop me from feeling the way I do. I do not need someone with “authority” to tell me what I can and cannot accept of myself. Because I don’t believe such a person exists, I am accountable to myself and I have to behave myself even when nobody is looking, because I couldn’t live with myself if I did something cruel “just because I could.”

    [/rant]

    Reply
  94. Tim D. says:

    P.P.S.

    I guess I would compare it to the biological distaste one feels when in the presence of the bodily excrement of another; I couldn’t lay out the logic behind why I think feces smell “bad” (nor could I explain what about the smell is “objectively bad” based on “revealed law,” nor do I need a “higher authority” to inform me of what I can naturally perceive given the opportunity), but that does not and will not change the fact that it’s the way I react in the presence of feces.

    Reply
  95. Neil Mammen says:

    Tim, I’m not sure why you think “I” have to want rape someone to make that point. Nor is it really relevant that I can see as to weather MOST others want to rape or not.

    The question is how do I judge even a SINGLE person who has raped someone? What is my “moral” authority? Who is my authority derived from?

    What is my standard to hold Stalin to MY moral rules? Stalin killed a lot of people because they were in his way. Stalin never had to worry about those people ever being able to get him back and hurt him. So on the utilitarian basis there is no reason for Stalin not to have done what he did. Not only did the golden rule or even the alternative version of the golden rule bother him, but no rules bothered him. So what basis do I judge a Stalin? Am I forced to say, Stalin was wrong for me, but not wrong for himself? Relativistic morality? Which means there is no objective morality (which is indeed my point). And we end up with TIm’s statement.

    Yes you are correct, this issues is that you end up with a morality that is not grounded in anything that can be used to control other people. In which case why have laws? Are you not allowed to impose laws on people who don’t care about the laws?

    Either way we are stuck with my question:
    If there is no objective morality why was Hitler wrong?
    If there is an objective morality why do YOU get to decide what it is and not Hitler?

    Tim unless I”m confused are you saying that you are leaning towards there being no objective morality and no one has the logic to be able to conclude that Hitler was wrong even for Hitler.

    Andrew I think you were implying a different scenario. Can you clarify?

    Reply
  96. Tim D. says:

    The question is how do I judge even a SINGLE person who has raped someone? What is my “moral” authority? Who is my authority derived from?

    You don’t need an “authority.” It’s just plain ridiculous to think you need someone’s permission to say, “I feel like that’s wrong.” Or that, given that you do feel so, that you need someone’s permission to act on that feeling. You don’t need anyone’s permission to act on the fact that feces smells bad, or that sugar tastes sweet.

    What is my standard to hold Stalin to MY moral rules?

    If you honestly believe that, then you are *completely* missing the point of humanist ethics. I do not do things because I think I will be rewarded in some way for doing them; that is not morality, that is conditional treatment.

    Morality is doing something regardless of who is looking (whether that someone is god or another human); what you are suggesting is not morality but a system of reward and punishment. Will you honestly say to me that you would not still behave the way you do if you didn’t think god would reward you (or punish you for behaving “badly”)?

    Stalin killed a lot of people because they were in his way. Stalin never had to worry about those people ever being able to get him back and hurt him. So on the utilitarian basis there is no reason for Stalin not to have done what he did.

    Why are you so quick to accept Stalin’s justification, but not mine, or that of his victims? You seem to have smuggled in a moral bias towards dictators.

    If there is no objective morality why was Hitler wrong?
    If there is an objective morality why do YOU get to decide what it is and not Hitler?

    This is the same tired fallacy that we’ve been over a million times on this blog….

    1) You’re right, I do not believe that there is such a thing as “objective morality.” That’s like saying that taste in music is “objective;” morality exists as the product of a thinking mind, which is subjective by nature.

    2) However, if you say, “if someone does something you think is immoral, then you have no grounds to stop them or act differently,” then you are giving the other person “objective moral authority” over me. And that is a fallacy; if there is no objective morality, then how can someone else have objective moral authority over me? How can it be that “I have no right” to object if there exist no objective “rights?” Going back to musical taste; what you’re saying here is like saying I have no right to challenge someone else’s opinion that “Bad Religion’s vocabulary is too complex.” That in itself is a subjective judgment, just like someone else’s judgment that my life (or that of my friends or family) has no value. Therefore it can be challenged. I see no issue of “grounding” here.

    You seem to be trying to frame arguments against a world without objective morality, but you’re still using arguments which presuppose the existence of an objective morality. This undermines your conclusion.

    Reply
  97. Neil Mammen says:

    There’s a big difference here. I don’t want to arrest Brittany Spears for having bad taste in music. So I need no moral authority to punish her. BUt I do want to stop a rapist and or punish Stalin if he were alive.
    There is a big difference I think. In one I wish to merely not listen to that music, in the other I wish to take action and impose that morality on others. Does that make sense?

    I am indeed trying to frame arguments against a world without objective morality and I’m saying there IS a moral objectivity. I don’t get your point I guess. If there is no objective morality the my holding Hitler to some standard and punishing him or stopping him is arbitrary. But I thought this whole argument was that Atheists DON’T THINK it’s arbitrary. Are you now saying that morality is arbitrary?

    Reply
  98. Tim D. says:

    There’s a big difference here. I don’t want to arrest Brittany Spears for having bad taste in music

    1) Of course, it was an analogy.

    2) There’s a difference in scale and gravity, not in nature. You may not want to arrest her, but you believe (apparently) that she has bad taste in music and you avoid her and don’t support her because of it.

    So I need no moral authority to punish her.

    Exactly. You don’t need any moral authority to act on that.

    BUt I do want to stop a rapist and or punish Stalin if he were alive.

    So if you need no objective authority to make SMALL decisions, why do you suddenly need an objective authority to make BIG decisions? What’s the difference? Either there’s objectivity or there isn’t.

    There is a big difference I think. In one I wish to merely not listen to that music, in the other I wish to take action and impose that morality on others. Does that make sense?

    But what if someone else says you shouldn’t listen to some band that you like, and he/she tries to get laws passed to say that you can’t buy that kind of music? Then would you take action? Or would you allow their beliefs to trump yours because “it’s all subjective, anyway?”

    I am indeed trying to frame arguments against a world without objective morality and I’m saying there IS a moral objectivity. I don’t get your point I guess.

    My point is, you’re saying, “IF there’s no objectivity, THEN…” and trying to make it out as though “no objectivity” means “no morality whatsoever.” But you’re not considering the actual ramifications of a world without objective morality; when you’re trying to show what you believe are the “consequences” of a world with no objective morality, your “proofs” rely on the existence of objective morality. Which is contradictory to the point you’re making; if you’re going to say, “IF there’s no objective morality, THEN…”, then your following statement is going to have to operate on the assumption that there is NO objective morality. Otherwise it’s tautological.

    If there is no objective morality the my holding Hitler to some standard and punishing him or stopping him is arbitrary.

    Why is his decision to act that way not also arbitrary, in your view? Why is only my view to oppose him considered “arbitrary?”

    But I thought this whole argument was that Atheists DON’T THINK it’s arbitrary. Are you now saying that morality is arbitrary?

    Yes and no. Arbitrary in the sense of “not objective,” yes. Arbitrary in the sense of “not important to me,” then no.

    Reply
  99. Neil Mammen says:

    I understand it was an analogy, no problem.

    You said: “So if you need no objective authority to make SMALL decisions, why do you suddenly need an objective authority to make BIG decisions? What’s the difference? Either there’s objectivity or there isn’t.”

    I don’t see it as big and small decisions. I see it as different actions.
    I hope we can agree that not agreeing to buy someone’s music is different from violating their rights. In one case they are free to do what they want and I am free to do what I want. In the other case I’m going to STOP them.

    You said: My point is, you’re saying, “IF there’s no objectivity, THEN…” and trying to make it out as though “no objectivity” means “no morality whatsoever.” But you’re not considering the actual ramifications of a world without objective morality; when you’re trying to show what you believe are the “consequences” of a world with no objective morality, your “proofs” rely on the existence of objective morality. Which is contradictory to the point you’re making; if you’re going to say, “IF there’s no objective morality, THEN…”, then your following statement is going to have to operate on the assumption that there is NO objective morality. Otherwise it’s tautological.

    That’s a bit hard to parse out. Let me see if I understand, I’ll repeat what I think you are saying:
    “Just because I posit no objective morality does not mean I am justified in saying there is NO morality.

    Is that your statement?

    Or are you saying : If I posit no objective morality then I can’t turn around and say that someone like Hitler was immoral?

    Can you clarify?

    Reply
  100. Nathan barley says:

    Neil, I have to admit with losing patience slightly. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve clarified that this has nothing to do with proofs of God. And we’ve pointed out the Luke is a theist, and still questions your argument. Rather we were saying that the ‘problem’ you claim exists in ‘grounding’ an atheist’s morality does not go away if you introduce a God. How are you ‘grounding’ the God’s morality without using arguments you’ve already said atheists can’t use? I can’t see how much more clearly we can put this. And references to Stalin are a waste of time – there are plenty of theists – Christians even – who’ve managed to kill substantial numbers of people.

    Reply
  101. Neil Mammen says:

    Andrew, I find your stating that you are losing patience to be rather rude. Stick to the facts and please do not be petulant or prima donna-ish. Your patience is not relevant to the argument. I am trying to understand your point. I’ll ask that you be civil and respectful in tone. I clarified that I am not trying to prove that God exists because someone implied that it didn’t help my argument in proving God exists.

    Tim I’m interested in your answers to my questions.
    Are you saying:
    “Just because I posit no objective morality does not mean I am justified in saying there is NO morality.

    Is that your statement?

    Or are you saying : If I posit no objective morality then I can’t turn around and say that someone like Hitler was immoral?

    Can you clarify? If neither, can you simplify your previous statement.

    BTW Andrew I see no relevance to this argument that Luke is a theist. Either an argument is valid or it is not. Who presents it is irrelevant.

    I think you folks are the ones with a grounding problem.
    I’ll try again:. Perhaps you can answer this. Humor me:
    1. Do you think Stalin was wrong even for himself?
    2. On what basis do you make that decision. Is it merely a personal preference like music?
    3. If we had Stalin on trial because we captured him. On what moral basis could YOU condemn him to death as a murderer? On your preferences?
    4. Even if there was an accidental standard that arose out of some evolutionary scenario, what moral authority do you have to hold Stalin to that standard?

    I”m saying the grounding problem does go away if there’s a God whose very nature is one of goodness. Why? Because he’s the creator and has authority over you and this is in stark contrast to the accidental evolutionary moral standard that you are trying to claim exists and has some sort of authority over us. Accidents have no authority over us. Now I realize as I said that atheists have trouble comprehending why someone who created a human and all matter would have authority over that human. But if that’s the issue we should identify it.

    It’s also not relevant if theists are evil or if Stalin is evil. If ANYONE is evil, the question is why is that evil. The fact that you recognize that theists have been evil (in violation of their knowledge of the moral code) indicates that you recognize some sort of moral code. In fact we could even argue that Stalin never violated his own moral code. But you still think Stalin was evil (or don’t you…which is why I asked that question to Tim).

    I’m looking for those answers even if you think they are not relevant (I think they are). If you are reluctant to answer these questions, I’d be curious to know why.

    Reply
  102. Neil Mammen says:

    Some more questions:
    1. Even if an objective moral standard exists; that does not mean anyone is obliged to obey it. Why should someone obey it? So how can you hold someone morally responsible for violating it?

    2. If an objective moral standard exists that is utilitarian but with no authority behind it, when an individual finds themselves in a position where it is not utilitarian to them to observe that standard and violates this “standard”; is that person “wrong” even for themselves when they do that. . (This person could be a hypocritical theist or an atheist.). Could we hold them to account? E.g. Stalin. If so on what basis.

    3. Even if an objective moral standard exists without an authority, why should anyone adhere to it if they don’t care about the standard.

    4. Who has the authority to hold someone to an objective moral standard that arose accidentally?

    Now if you turn and say you don’t think there is an objective moral standard please answer the same questions after replacing “objective moral standard” with “utilitarian moral standard”.

    Reply
  103. Neil Mammen says:

    I said: Stalin killed a lot of people because they were in his way. Stalin never had to worry about those people ever being able to get him back and hurt him. So on the utilitarian basis there is no reason for Stalin not to have done what he did.

    Tim said: Why are you so quick to accept Stalin’s justification, but not mine, or that of his victims? You seem to have smuggled in a moral bias towards dictators.

    Tim I never accepted Stalins’ justification. I’m saying that despite his utilitarian actions he was wrong.

    If there is no objective morality why was Hitler wrong?
    If there is an objective morality why do YOU get to decide what it is and not Hitler?

    This is the same tired fallacy that we’ve been over a million times on this blog….

    This is not a tired fallacy. You have not answered it.

    1) You’re right, I do not believe that there is such a thing as “objective morality.” That’s like saying that taste in music is “objective;” morality exists as the product of a thinking mind, which is subjective by nature.

    Thanks for this answer. So there is no way for you to say that Hitler was wrong for himself. As far as you are concerned Hitler was not objectively wrong.


    2) However, if you say, “if someone does something you think is immoral, then you have no grounds to stop them or act differently,” then you are giving the other person “objective moral authority” over me. And that is a fallacy; if there is no objective morality, then how can someone else have objective moral authority over me?

    I not sure how this follows. Hitler is doing his own thing. He’s not judging you. Why don’t you explain on what moral authority you would stop Hitler from killing those Jews and or holding him responsible and punishing him for his actions after the fact.

    How can it be that “I have no right” to object if there exist no objective “rights?”

    Nobody is saying that. What we are saying is that you cannot LOGICALLY do it. What is your logical basis for holding Hitler responsible? Is it an irrational preference of yours to object? That’s all we are asking?

    Going back to musical taste; what you’re saying here is like saying I have no right to challenge someone else’s opinion that “Bad Religion’s vocabulary is too complex.” That in itself is a subjective judgment, just like someone else’s judgment that my life (or that of my friends or family) has no value. Therefore it can be challenged. I see no issue of “grounding” here.

    You seem to be trying to frame arguments against a world without objective morality, but you’re still using arguments which presuppose the existence of an objective morality. This undermines your conclusion.

    And I think that’s where you have not understood. I’m not saying it’s WRONG for you to judge Hitler. I’m saying it’s ILLOGICAL for you to judge Hitler if you have no moral standard or authority. I’m not making any moral judgments.

    I’m also not saying it’s immoral to be illogical in this case. It’s just illogical.

    Reply
  104. Nathan Barley says:

    “Under the utilitarian rules, whatever is good for us is what we do. But that just implies that it’s wise to do it. It does not attach a moral standard to it”

    Right, so YOU cannot use utilitarian arguments to ground and establish your God’s morality or authority. Do you accept that or not?

    “Andrew I see no relevance to this argument that Luke is a theist. ”

    It shows that our argument about God’s morality has nothing to do with us questioning his existence, because even people who accept the possibility of his existence still don’t think that existence necessarily automatically leads to morality or authority.

    “What is your logical basis for holding Hitler responsible?”

    Until you show how your morality is any more grounded than ours, then you face exactly the same question. Where do you get God’s authority from? So far you’ve offered utilitarian arguments, which you admit yourself are only valid AFTER you’ve established the authority.

    “I”m saying the grounding problem does go away if there’s a God whose very nature is one of goodness.”

    But in attempting to establish that that nature is ‘good’ – and what that is supposed to mean – you face exactly the same problem. So far you’ve offered arguments to support it that you say we are not allowed to use.

    “If we had Stalin on trial because we captured him. On what moral basis could YOU condemn him to death as a murderer?”

    Same question to you, but replacing Stalin with Hitler. Every theological argument you put to him, he puts another theological argument back to you. As far as he is concerned he is doing God’s work, and is therefore ‘objectively moral’. Back to square one.

    If you’re are using the argument that ‘if you can’t establish something is evil, you have no authority to stop it harming you or your friends’, then on what moral authority do you:
    1) Innoculate your child against disease
    2) Shoot a tiger to save your wife
    3) Stop a boulder rolling onto your brother?

    The answer is that you do these things because you value their lives, not because you believe the tiger, disease or boulder are evil.

    “The theist would say because [rape is] evil and the moral authority establishes that.”

    But first the theist would have to establish a) what they mean by evil and b) where that authority comes from. Back to square one.

    Out of interest, what’s your opinion on Numbers 31:18. “Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.”?

    Theists can pretty much justify any act they want (or prohibit it) just by cherry picking the right verses. Even ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ becomes ‘Don’t murder’, with ‘murder’ meaning ‘unjustified killing’, with everyone’s idea of what is justified being different.

    Reply
  105. Nathan Barley says:

    You don’t see a problem with you first saying this:

    “If you obey God you’ll be healthier, more joyful and less people will suffer…. The machinery that he invented will work better than if you put the equivalent of “sugar in the gas tank” of your life.”

    And then admitting this:

    “But that just implies that it’s wise to do it. It does not attach a moral standard to it”

    Can you explain how you haven’t just argued against your own point.

    By the way, I post here as Nathan. Feel free to Facebook me if you want to know why. You don’t need to address me back as ‘Nathan/Andrew’.

    Reply
  106. Luke says:

    Neil, Nathan and Tim,

    Let me try to summarize the argument here; maybe it will help with some clarity. I will try to do so as honestly as possible, so if there is some distortion, it’s not intentional and please correct it.

    Neil states that he is under no obligation to care for a moral standard that has no standard behind it (23/9,14:10).

    He was then asked, well, why is one obligated to care for a standard with G-d behind it. He answered (to paraphrase; 27/9, 14:30):

    a. You will be happier
    b. Everyone will be better off
    c. You will get to go to heaven

    Nathan pointed out that these were rather utilitarian reasons. Except for reason c, they are the same reasons an atheist could give as a reason to care. (Reason c could be replaced in the atheist’s world with ‘you will get to look back on your life when you are on your deathbed and be proud’ though.)

    Neil then seemed to make a point about G-d being able to enforce his rules, whereas for example a society keeping slaves can do so with impunity. (27/9, 15:00)

    Neil then reiterates that the utilitarian argument only works if one gets caught.

    I personally disagree with this. The utilitarian calculation for what is good for society doesn’t change based on this, and ‘its better for everyone’ was the first reason Neil gave for caring about G-d’s morality. That is the argument still works, there is just less reason to not act immorally.

    One may say one cares only because he or she can get caught, but the utilitarian justification does not change, only it’s consequences do.

    So far, it seems that the only difference in the argument, and the only point of disagreement is that Neil says he cares about G-d’s morality should be observed because G-d will catch him, but if no one is there, there is no reason to care. (29/9, 20:28)

    Is this correct so far?

    The only thing I would point out is that Neal seems to consider the point of “yeah, suffering is bad, but why should I care” important.

    The reason that he gives for caring about G-d’s morality (once past the reasons reiterated above) is that he can get caught.

    What this boils Neal’s argument down to is that it’s better for you to follow G-d’s morality, since if you don’t you will be caught and treated appropriately.

    The problem I see with this is that Neal is basically saying “it’s better for you if you do this.”

    But just as he can say, “even if suffering is bad, I am not obligated to care,” one can also say “this may be better for me, but I am not obligated to care.”

    Both, it seems to me are just someone saying “it’s better for you if you if…”

    Essentially, it seems that Nathan and Neil make the same argument for morality, with slightly different reasons as to why it’s better to act morally.

    The difference I can see is that Neil throws in an extra enforcement mechanism.

    Does this sound like a fair summation of what you guys have said?

    Neal has also said several times that he is not using this argument to prove that G-d exists.

    Tim also made the point (which is a point I’ve made before as well) that saying “well, you have no objective grounding for what you say, therefore you can’t tell anyone that they are wrong” is a fallacy because it introduces an enforced moral standard (a standard of: you can’t say “you are evil” if you believe this, into a world which, given the assumptions, has no standards). In other words: there are no objective standards, except one, you cannot act on your personal standards. Either there are objective standards or not. One cannot have it both ways.

    Oh and Neal called Nathan petulant and “prima donn-ish.” And Nathan pointed out that since he identifies himself as Nathan and has signed dozens of entries that way, it is odd that Neal addresses him by something else (something which I also found odd, honestly).

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  107. Neil Mammen says:

    Wow. Where do I start. The good thing is that by forcing you guys to articulate my argument I can see that you have forced your own views on to it.

    First: You said: why is one obligated to care for a standard with G-d behind it. He [Neil] answered (to paraphrase; 27/9, 14:30):

    a. You will be happier
    b. Everyone will be better off
    c. You will get to go to heaven
    [Added by me d. God won’t punish you].

    But this is simply not my view. Perhaps it was not clear. Let me say it yet again. My view is that those are GOOD utilitarian reasons to obey the moral law. Not why we are obliged to it. The ONLY reason I need to be obligated to it as I’ve said at least 5 times is that God is the creator. He created you. Thus he has the authority to command you to obey him. Those other points merely tie it in to the fact that Euthrypho’s dilemma was not really a dilemma for God as Russell said it was.

    And Luke you completely avoided the real question: I said if there were no OBJECTIVE moral standards then there’s no LOGICAL reason to hold Hitler to that standard. In which case you cannot logically say Hitler was wrong for himself.

    What’s so hard about that that you can’t even repeat it correctly?

    Reply
  108. Neil Mammen says:

    Andrew you said:
    You don’t see a problem with you first saying this:

    “If you obey God you’ll be healthier, more joyful and less people will suffer…. The machinery that he invented will work better than if you put the equivalent of “sugar in the gas tank” of your life.”

    And then admitting this:

    “But that just implies that it’s wise to do it. It does not attach a moral standard to it”

    Can you explain how you haven’t just argued against your own point.

    Why have I argued against my own point? I’ve said this quite a few times now. You can’t be obligated to a standard. You can’t be obligated to a thing. You can only be obligated to a person!

    Someone can write a 1000 standards, but that doesn’t obligate me to obey it. Someone can write a 1000 laws but if they have no authority over me I have no obligation to obey any of those laws.

    Why am I obligated to a standard?

    Oh and answer the question here it is expanded since I apparently have to be very very succinct and state the obvious: What is the logical basis for you to condemn Hitler if there is no objective moral standard to judge him by that he is obligated to regardless of if he cares or not?

    Reply
  109. Nathan barley says:

    Neil, what do you mean by ‘illogical to condemn Hitler’. What logical syllogism are you basing this on? What’s illogical about trying to stop someone causing so
    Much suffering? Surely suffering exists whether or not there is a God?
    Secondly, would your God still have authority if he did not reward and punish? If not, when you

    Reply
  110. Luke says:

    Neal also posed some question, which I’ll answer out of fairness.

    1. Do you think Stalin was wrong even for himself?

    I can’t presume to know what was in Stalin’s heart. I would guess (I shall judge him by his fruit) that he was at the very least a terribly cruel and misguided individual.

    What I can say, is that whatever his personal thoughts or motivations were has absolutely no impact of what I think of him or whether I think he should have been stopped or punished.

    Nathan summarized this well speaking of a rolling boulder. One does not need to see the boulder as evil to stop it from rolling over a small child.

    Who would argue otherwise: “only evil boulders can be stopped!”

    ?2. On what basis do you make that decision. Is it merely a personal preference like music?

    The decision about whether Stalin was wrong to himself, or what he thought of himself? As I said, I can’t judge his heart or his motivations and I don’t care to (it won’t change anything or add anything to my life) — his actions against others are all I really care about. (That’s an oversimplification, I think mitigating circumstances can exist at times, but from my study, they don’t exist in this case.)

    Even if I did or could, it would have little consequence to my opinion of him. The fact that he may think he’s doing the right thing has bearing on how I act (think of the boulder example again)
    .
    3. If we had Stalin on trial because we captured him. On what moral basis could YOU condemn him to death as a murderer? On your preferences?

    I am not a big fan of the death penalty for religious reasons, so I suppose I wouldn’t.

    I think you have very good reasons yourself though. You said he could do this because he wouldn’t get caught. If you believed that there would be no authority on which to judge him if he were caught you wouldn’t have introduced that aspect into your argument. So I think you understand this quite well, but if you would like clarification, you can ask. Or you can read some transcripts or books about the Nuremberg trials.

    ?4. Even if there was an accidental standard that arose out of some evolutionary scenario, what moral authority do you have to hold Stalin to that standard?

    The very reasons you mentioned when asked why one should follow a G-d given morality. They were all very practical, utilitarian answers. If those utilitarian answers work within your argument, why do they not work without it?

    Let me restate a question that Nathan raised to this point. If Stalin simply says “well, G-d told me to do this” then what authority do you have to say “G-d was wrong.” Or can you otherwise objectively prove that G-d did not tell him something?

    You then asked a second set of questions:

    1. Even if an objective moral standard exists; that does not mean anyone is obliged to obey it. Why should someone obey it? So how can you hold someone morally responsible for violating it?
    Why should someone obey it?

    Again, the reasons you gave for obeying G-d’s standard work very well, as has been mentioned many times now. The rest of your answers follow from there.

    2. If an objective moral standard exists that is utilitarian but with no authority behind it, when an individual finds themselves in a position where it is not utilitarian to them to observe that standard and violates this “standard”; is that person “wrong” even for themselves when they do that. . (This person could be a hypocritical theist or an atheist.). Could we hold them to account?

    Do you think people have a right of self defense? That would be a basic starting point. It all depends on the crime, etc.

    3. Even if an objective moral standard exists without an authority, why should anyone adhere to it if they don’t care about the standard.
    Again, the precise answers you gave are a good reason they should care. As has been pointed out, those reasons were utilitarian. If they work for you, they work for the atheist, don’t they (you’ll be happier, and everyone will be better off, and the other things you said).

    Again, you already gave the reasons yourself. The only thing that it comes down to, as I stated in my summations above is that you are positing an extra enforcement mechanism.

    So how do you answer the same question in a different way. Why should someone care about G-d standard if they don’t care about G-d (and as you know, many people don’t).

    Let me ask another related question. If you are talking to an atheist who is trying to kill someone and he says “I am already going to hell, so I might as well kill this person. And if I ever get saved, it won’t matter. It doesn’t matter either way to me.”

    What do you say?

    4. Who has the authority to hold someone to an objective moral standard that arose accidentally?

    It seems that we would all face a collective responsibility.

    Reply
  111. Nathan barley says:

    … Refer to ‘authority’, do you basically just mean an enforcer to keep people in line? You appear to be making a ‘might makes right’ argument, if that is the case, which is a poor basis for morality. If not, you’re back to saying his authority comes from his innate goodness, which you then have to explain and justify, and for which you’ve offered utilitarian arguments, backed up by the same ‘authority’ that you’re trying to explain in the first place.
    By the way, how much clearer can we make the name issue?

    Reply
  112. Neil Mammen says:

    By Authority I mean someone who has the right to hold YOU to the moral standard that he imposes on you.

    I’ve stated what I stated very clearly. It’s apparent that you all have a mental block about the single important issue here. Submission to an authority.

    You don’t see any good reason to submit to the creator of mankind.
    Isn’t that the issue at the end of the day? You don’t think that by virtue of being our creator we owe him anything.

    All this other discussion seems to become meaningless in the face of that.

    I can address all the other questions later.

    Reply
  113. Nathan barley says:

    Sorry Neil, that’s just an ‘it is because it is’ answer. I wish you’d said that earlier and cut to the chase. It’s different to all your other answers so far, so I don’t know why you’ve waited so long to offer it up, if that’s what you believe the actual source is. But it’s a non sequitor to me. If my creator – whether God or parent – told me that rape was moral, would that make it moral, just because they created me? I’m trying to get where you’re coming from here, and regardless of what you appear to believe, both Luke and I are making an honest attempt to follow your argument, but it doesn’t seem to add up.

    Reply
  114. Luke says:

    Neil,

    Neal, I said in my post that I was trying to summarize honestly, and asked for any correction which was necessary. I was certainly not trying to force anything on anything else.

    I am sorry if I made a mistake.

    You object to my paraphrasing of your view (and as I said above accuse me of forcing my view), but to quote your response:

    So when you say why should you obey [Him], and we say “he’s [Him] that’s why” what we mean is:
    1. If you obey [Him] you’ll be healthier, more joyful and less people will suffer.
    2. You will enjoy eternity with [Him].
    3. You will please the one who created you.
    4. The machinery that he invented will work better than if you put the equivalent of “sugar in the gas tank” of your life.

    If you feel as though my paraphrase is unfair, please tell me why, because I have obviously misunderstood. (Looking at it again, it seems perfectly fair and fine to me, so I must have misunderstood or as you said, you were not clear (in which case, it’s not polite to accuse me of forcing my view on your argument).

    You said in today’s post: My view is that those are GOOD utilitarian reasons to obey the moral law. Not why we are obliged to it. But you gave them in answer to: “why should you obey G-d?”

    You have said: He created you. Thus he has the authority to command you to obey him.

    I may agree, but what’s the logical syllogism to back this up?

    Let’s say that I create a cure for cancer. It cures all cancers, instantly. It’s a secret formula, only I can make it. Do you think I have the right to destroy it at my whim? After all, I created it, right?

    I asked this basic question above, but you asked before: Even if an objective moral standard exists without an authority, why should anyone adhere to it if they don’t care about the standard.

    If this standard of “creators get to set the rules exists,” why should anyone adhere to it if they don’t care about the standard?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  115. Luke says:

    Luke said:Let me try to summarize the argument here; maybe it will help with some clarity. I will try to do so as honestly as possible, so if there is some distortion, it’s not intentional and please correct it.

    Neal said:What’s so hard about that that you can’t even repeat it correctly?

    I guess I’m an idiot Neal.

    🙂

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  116. Luke says:

    Neal said:And Luke you completely avoided the real question: I said if there were no OBJECTIVE moral standards then there’s no LOGICAL reason to hold Hitler to that standard. In which case you cannot logically say Hitler was wrong for himself. (emphasis mine)

    Sorry I don’t recall ever saying that Hitler was wrong for himself.

    (For that matter, I don’t recall anyone here saying that.)

    You are right though. If the supposition is that (a) doesn’t exist. It would be illogical to say “(x) is wrong according to (a)”

    I think we have full agreement here.

    What does not follow is that it’s necessarily illogical to say (x) is wrong according to anything and everything else as well.

    Let me ask a question. I hope this will help clarify some of your other questions I answered above as well.

    You seem to say (sorry if I misinterpret) and others have said “if there is no objective standard, then you can’t say to a murderer: “you’re wrong!”

    Let’s take a world with no deity, just one which is here by accident. There are two people in this world. One day one attacks the other. Does the one being attacked have a right to defend themselves?

    Why or why not?

    Let’s say there are 3 people. Person A attacks Person B. Does Person C have a right to step in and help person B?

    Why or why not?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  117. Neil Mammen says:

    You have said: He created you. Thus he has the authority to command you to obey him.
    I may agree, but what’s the logical syllogism to back this up?

    And this is the crux of the matter is it not? I guess I think this is self evident to Christians and not self evident to atheists.

    To me it’s one of those transcendent truths. If I create all things and a Universe with people for my good pleasure then I logically think I have the authority to tell them how to interact with the universe I created and own. We may be at loggerheads here.

    I don’t think your example of the cure for a disease is a good analogy. Because in the case for God we are not talking about a cure. A cure can only exist if other things exist (the things that need curing). In the case for God we are talking about nothing existing and him creating it all. So there’s no dependency that would make destroying the “cure” a moral issue. And remember we are not talking about destroying man. We are talking about asking man to obey God’s authority. In your example that would be equivalent to asking the cure to obey the creator’s authority.

    Reply
  118. Luke says:

    Neil said:And this is the crux of the matter is it not? I guess I think this is self evident to Christians and not self evident to atheists.

    I think as you said, this is the crux of the matter.

    Do you understand Nathan’s main problem with this though?

    It basically is an “it just is” answer.

    It doesn’t seem much different logically from when someone say murder “just is” wrong or that suffering “just is” bad.

    It’s self evident. It just is.

    Neil said: We may be at loggerheads here.

    I think you’re likely right, but I would like to hear the answers to some of the question I posed above, and I’ll gladly answer any more you’d like to throw my way.

    Thanks for the dialogue.

    And I am an idiot, I just like to think I hide it well. I have said and done some things which I am convinced only an idiot would say or do. I just hate it when other people find out. 🙂

    Luke

    Reply
  119. Luke says:

    Neal, the question I’d like you to answer, out of intellectual interest.

    1. If this standard of “creators get to set the rules exists,” why should anyone adhere to it if they don’t care about the standard?

    2. Let’s take a world with no deity, just one which is here by accident. There are two people in this world. One day one attacks the other. Does the one being attacked have a right to defend themselves?

    Why or why not?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  120. Nathan Barley says:

    Luke, I was going to ask more or less the same question as number 1 in your post above:

    If we have an obligation (x) – ‘We should obey God’ – that follows logically from a fact (y) – ‘God created us’ – then is this rule one that God created himself, or just something that naturally flows?

    If God created it himself, then it’s purely circular to say that him creating this rule means we should obey all his rules. However, if x just naturally flows from y, ‘self evident’ as Neil puts it, ‘one of those transcendent truths’, then how is that different from a non-theist saying that it’s a ‘self-evident, transcendent truth’ that forcing someone into sex against their will is wrong?

    “If I create all things and a Universe with people for my good pleasure then I logically think I have the authority to tell them how to interact with the universe I created and own”

    Does this hypothetical ‘Neil-God’ have no obligation to his creations? What if torturing them is what gives this Neil-God pleasure? Could this tormentor God ‘create’ a rule that this is ok, or would it be wrong by some rule that transcends even that God? Does a man have the right to produce chidren ‘for his good pleasure’, with no obligations to those children? This seems an odd argument. With great power comes great resonsibility.

    Reply
  121. Tim D. says:

    Let’s take a world with no deity, just one which is here by accident. There are two people in this world. One day one attacks the other. Does the one being attacked have a right to defend themselves?

    Why or why not?

    Let’s say there are 3 people. Person A attacks Person B. Does Person C have a right to step in and help person B?

    That’s pretty much exactly my point. Why does Mr. Neil consider it “okay” for a person to do the attacking (in the absence of objectivity), but it’s somehow “not okay” for a person to do the defending under the same circumstances? That’s inconsistent.

    I’ve stated what I stated very clearly. It’s apparent that you all have a mental block about the single important issue here. Submission to an authority.

    You don’t see any good reason to submit to the creator of mankind.
    Isn’t that the issue at the end of the day? You don’t think that by virtue of being our creator we owe him anything.

    Submission to an authority (of ANY kind, be it man or god or principle) is not a basis for morality. That is not the same thing as morality. That is fear of repercussion.

    Morality is a reason to do something “good” (or not do something “bad”) even if you won’t be punished or rewarded for it.

    If you take a man who fully wants and intends to kill someone, but then decides not to because he might be caught and imprisoned by the authorities if he tries to do that….is that a “moral” decision on his part? Or is it a practical one that serves his “immoral” desires?

    I do not think that’s a moral decision. I think it’s a practical one, and it’s definitely more desirable than choosing to kill the person, but the reasoning behind it is not moral. He is not choosing to avoid the crime for moral reasons, he’s doing it to protect himself, selfishly.

    That is the dilemma you are caught with at the moment.

    To me it’s one of those transcendent truths. If I create all things and a Universe with people for my good pleasure then I logically think I have the authority to tell them how to interact with the universe I created and own. We may be at loggerheads here.

    I don’t really buy that….now yes, of course a god would have the power to do pretty much whatever he/she wanted with his/her creation, basically unopposed. But how does that make it right? I do not understand that. How does the power to do something equal the right to do it? Isn’t that basically the same fallacy you’re accusing atheists of having to abide by (“Stalin and Hitler had the power to do whatever, therefore they had the right.”).

    It seems to me that your only real problem with adherents to humanistic ethical systems is that they don’t believe there is a moderator which exists to override human authority in the case of a person like Hitler/Stalin. Which is interesting because, if god will not personally come down to stop such a person (as he clearly did not), then I don’t see why it matters whether he has the authority or desire to do so. So it’s kind of irrelevant even if he did exist and have that power.

    Reply
  122. Nathan barley says:

    Also, Neil is asking why, logically, humans should enforce a bunch of moral laws if there’s no God. He himself has already said that these laws are self-evidently good in that they better mankind. I’d this is so, then why would man NOT want to enforce them? To say ‘one would only logically enforce them if there’s a celestial back-up to make sure they are kept to’ seems to have it backwards. That is to say, if there’s no celestial back-up to enforce laws Neil says are important, then surely that makes it MORE important for man to enforce them, not less. Unless you don’t actually think they are good, beneficial, justifiable rules after all.

    Reply
  123. Nathan barley says:

    By the way, I’m offering the following out of interest rather than by way of argument. Our old friend Christopher Hitchens was confronted with the ‘aren’t you obligated to obey your creator’s mores’ Argument by Todd Friels a while back. He robustly rejects the notion. Find it by googling ‘wretched radio’ with ‘Christopher Hitchens’. It’s viewable on YouTube in two parts, I think about 10 minutes long. The notable aspect is that the host seems certain that if he can just get Hitch to follow the script that he’ll force him to give up the argument. When that doesn’t work, Friels keeps assuming that Hitch just doesn’t get that the question is hypothetical.

    Reply
  124. Nathan barley says:

    All this talk would baffle everyone I know outside of Christian apologetics. Christians I know all say that rape and murder are obviously bad acts, God or not, and all the atheists I know agree with them. It’s only apologists who claim they would have no problem with such acts in God’s absence. Perhaps all the Christians and atheists I know are missing some great point, but I don’t see that their lives are any the poorer for it. While the apologists offer their divisive doctrine, most people I know, rather than attack each other for ‘not grounding their morality’ instead just try to get along with each other in this life, and most try to help others too. Seems a more worthwhile use of their time.

    Reply
  125. Neil Mammen says:

    Sounds like an ad hominem to me. None on the Christians on this site have said that Atheists are immoral. Just that they have no logical basis for their morality (which is what we are arguing). Presupposing the conclusion is not true to make a point is begging the question.

    Do you want me to start postulating why you guys hold the position you do? Are you sure this adds to the conversation or does it merely show that you’ve had some very bad experiences in the past with some folks?

    Reply
  126. Tim D. says:

    Are you sure this adds to the conversation or does it merely show that you’ve had some very bad experiences in the past with some folks?

    Hmm, did I strike a nerve? :/

    Just that they have no logical basis for their morality (which is what we are arguing).

    Which is demonstrably wrong. Which has been demonstrated.

    It is not illogical for one or more of a person’s primary axioms (from which almost *all* other deductions and suppositions spring forth) to consist of wanting to serve and protect others. It would only be illogical if that axiom were to in some way contradict another axiom held by the same person.

    Saying that morality is not objective does not contradict one’s desire to help others; you say that if there’s no objective morality then I have no basis on which to protect myself or the people I care about if a Hitler- or Stalin-like policy were to be put into effect. This is inconsistent because, even I don’t have the “right” to act in response, that means they don’t have the “right” to act in such a way in the first place.

    Basically what you’re asking is, “on what grounds do you condemn someone else for acting that way?” The answer is, I don’t *have* to “morally condemn” them to respond to them or defend myself. This was demonstrated by someone else better than myself, when he mentioned germs, boulders and other disasters. You don’t have to morally condemn a threat in order to oppose or suppress it.

    I honestly don’t know how to make that any clearer than I and others here have.

    Reply
  127. Toby R. says:

    “All this talk would baffle everyone I know outside of Christian apologetics. . . .”

    That’s because apologetics is philosophy and philosophy is self-important over-thinking.

    Reply
  128. Neil Mammen says:

    Nathan, you keep repeating the same fallacy/ad hominem over and over again. “It’s only apologists who claim they would have no problem with such acts [as rape] in God’s absence. ”

    No apologist is claiming this. That’s an insult. What we are claiming is that YOU have no logical reason to hold Hitler to a standard of morality that does not exist or for which you have no authority to impose on another, nor do you have any logical right to punish him. Please don’t create strawmen. We Christians and apologists obviously think WE DO have a logical reason to hold Hitler to our/God’s standard of Morality. What sort of silliness is it to claim we don’t.

    Someone asked if it’s “right” to hold protect person A from person B.
    But that’s not the question is it. The question here is not if you want to do something you think is right, but what right do you have to punish someone ELSE who already did something that he thought was perfectly moral in his eyes. This is not a question of defense. It’s a question of punishment. Justified defense presupposes innocence so you can’t smuggle that in.

    And no one is talking about whether it’s important or not to enforce laws Tim D.Until you determine that there IS a law, how do you decide to enforce it. Again you are begging the question. I can see that you continue to miss my point in each of your responses. And no you did not strike a nerve, on the contrary I was afraid I had struck one of yours. It’s just that I’ve talked to a number of atheists who are only such because they hate the God they claim does not exist or they had a bad experience with some individual who claimed to believe in that God.

    I think however that we are wasting time at this point. We’ve identified the crux of the matter. Everything else you guys have been bringing up seem to be either ad hominems, straw men or “rabbit trails that are subsequent to the argument.”

    You don’t believe that a creator has the authority to impose his will on his creation. I say it’s self evident. I will spend sometime thinking about how one proves this concept if it is possible. However as Godel says, there maybe somethings that are apparent to us that the Universal Truth Machine does not know.

    This is the point in the argument at which ego gets in the way. I recommend we lay down our egos and agree that at this point we are at logger heads.

    Reply
  129. Tim D. says:

    Someone asked if it’s “right” to hold protect person A from person B.
    But that’s not the question is it. The question here is not if you want to do something you think is right, but what right do you have to punish someone ELSE who already did something that he thought was perfectly moral in his eyes.

    Do you not see how this is a self-contradiction? You are saying that his morals TRUMP my own (that he is justified in acting against me because he thinks he is justified), and yet you are also saying that this is because our morals are “equally valid.” What you fail to address here is that what he thinks is “right” is a “punishment” to me in the first place! Therefore, if he is justified in any way to act that way towards me, then by that same reasoning, I have the right to defend myself (in doing so abiding by my OWN morality), even if that “punishes” him.

    You would see why your argument here makes no sense if you would apply the same logic both ways, and not only restrict one party to the conclusion you’ve drawn. Why am I bound to respect his personal moral conduct (because “it’s all subjective”), when he is not bound to respect mine (because he THINKS it’s objective)? It’s inconsistent.

    In truth, most people don’t have complex logical trains of thought when they act on their moral beliefs. They simply believe, and act. If you asked them in the heat of the moment to explain why, they would probably not be able to answer you right away. Morality is not a matter of pure logic, and so any attempts to simplify it thusly will fail.

    This is not a question of defense. It’s a question of punishment. Justified defense presupposes innocence so you can’t smuggle that in.

    That is all completely moot. Punishment is meant to deter someone and keep others safe, not to exact vengeance. I need no moral justification to exact vengeance or “punishment” in the sense that you speak, because I have no need to exact vengeance or “punishment.” I merely take the measures which are necessary to defend myself, and then take measures to assure that the threat does not have another chance to threaten me. Maybe that “punishes” him indirectly, but that is a by-product of my concern for the safety of myself and others, not some expressed deliberate attempt to exact moral vengeance for breaking some imagined “objective law.” In any case, he’s “punishing” me by acting in a threatening way (whether or not he believes it’s “moral”) in the first place.

    All of this is irrelevant, then, until YOU can answer the question, What gives HIM the “justification” to threaten me in the first place? You seem to be saying that if someone THINKS they have a justification, then that binds others to that decision. This is incorrect.

    And no one is talking about whether it’s important or not to enforce laws Tim D.Until you determine that there IS a law, how do you decide to enforce it.

    That’s a vague statement; what kind of law are you referring to? LEGAL laws are different from “moral” laws. Moral laws do not exist; subjective moral judgments do. Legal laws come from agreements about subjective moral judgments. That is how we decide which laws to enforce.

    Also, metaphysical/physical laws enforce themselves. Moral laws do not enforce themselves. Therefore they cannot be metaphysical/physical laws.

    I mean, we don’t have “physics police” that go around making sure everyone does what’s “physically possible.” It’s either physically possible or it’s not. Notice that the conversation turns to nonsense if we talk about what’s “morally possible” and what’s not?

    You don’t believe that a creator has the authority to impose his will on his creation.

    I don’t believe that creating something inherently gives you the will to do as you please with it. You are correct. That’s not to say that a creator can’t have the right to do as he says, but rather that this right cannot come inherently from the fact that he/she/it created something. That’s a logical non-sequitur.

    Reply
  130. Nathan Barley says:

    Nathan: “It’s only apologists who claim they would have no problem with such acts [as rape] in God’s absence. ”

    Neil: “No apologist is claiming this. That’s an insult”

    So Neil, are you now saying that in God’s absence you WOULD have a problem with acts such as rape? Because you seem to be saying that it would be illogical for you to hold such a position. Can you clarify?

    “I say it’s self evident.”

    Right – ‘it’s self evident’ is a fine argument for you to use, but not fine for anyone else. This is special pleading. If that is self-evident for you, why isn’t ‘rape is bad’ also self-evident unless you posit a God?

    Tim: “This was demonstrated by someone else better than myself, when he mentioned germs, boulders and other disasters.”

    You mean that I demonstrated it better than you, not that I’m a better person than you, right? Just kidding. Anyway, I was quite pleased with my germs, boulders and tigers point. Neil hasn’t answered it.

    Reply
  131. Nathan Barley says:

    Neil: “Nathan, you keep repeating the same fallacy/ad hominem over and over again. “It’s only apologists who claim they would have no problem with such acts [as rape] in God’s absence.”

    “No apologist is claiming this. That’s an insult. What we are claiming is that YOU have no logical reason to hold Hitler to a standard of morality that does not exist or for which you have no authority to impose on another, nor do you have any logical right to punish him. Please don’t create strawmen. We Christians and apologists obviously think WE DO have a logical reason to hold Hitler to our/God’s standard of Morality. What sort of silliness is it to claim we don’t.”

    I’m quoting you in full there, because at the same time as you are accusing me of insulting silliness, you basically appear to confirm what I’m saying.

    I’ll go though it slowly, step by step, and you tell me where the fallacy/strawman/ad hominem creeps in:

    1) Neil’s Claim 1: Atheists have no logical reason to oppose rape
    2) Neil’s Claim 2a: Neil DOES have a logical reason.
    3) Neil’s Claim 2b) Neil’s only logical reason comes from God.
    4) Therefore: Without God, Neil would NOT have a logical reason.
    5) Therefore: In God’s absence, Neil would have no problem with rape.

    We start there with claims from you, and end with my claim, which you dispute. I’m sorry if you find it insulting, but how does my claim not follow on directly from what you’ve told me? Plus, it’s the same claim that you are making about non-theists. It’s not an insult when you direct it at other people, but it is when it’s turned back on you?

    Reply
  132. Nathan Barley says:

    Tim: You would see why your argument here makes no sense if you would apply the same logic both ways, and not only restrict one party to the conclusion you’ve drawn. Why am I bound to respect his personal moral conduct (because “it’s all subjective”), when he is not bound to respect mine (because he THINKS it’s objective)? It’s inconsistent.”

    You’ve explained this several times now, Tim. I got what you meant the first time, and don’t really see how it could be explained any clearer.

    It seems to me that you are being told ‘In a world where morality is meaningless, it would be immoral for you to stop someone hitting you’. Even if one allows the ‘morality is meaningless’ premise, the flaw here is obvious – if morality is meaningless, then how can defending yourself be immoral? And saying it’s merely ‘illogical’ rather than immoral doesn’t help either. How can defending yourself be illogical? As long as you value your own life, then it is logical to defend it.

    Tim: I don’t believe that creating something inherently gives you the will to do as you please with it. You are correct. That’s not to say that a creator can’t have the right to do as he says, but rather that this right cannot come inherently from the fact that he/she/it created something. That’s a logical non-sequitur.

    I agree. Who believes we have no right to prevent dog breeders from abusing puppies?

    Reply
  133. Nathan Barley says:

    Nathan: “I wish you’d said that earlier and cut to the chase. It’s different to all your other answers so far, so I don’t know why you’ve waited so long to offer it up, if that’s what you believe the actual source is.”

    Neil replied: “Waited so long? I’m been saying the same thing in multiple posts. Remember the post on the Scrabble game? That was about a week ago.”

    Neil, as far as I can see, when I said ‘I wish you’d said that before’, you’d only just come out with it for the first time.

    I just looked up the Scrabble post (September 23rd, 2010 at 2:10 pm). Sure, you state the importance of ‘an authority’ there, but that’s not what I said I wished you’d said before. What you do NOT say is that your entire basis for that authority is that God created us, and therefore he automatically has authority. THAT’s what I wish you’d said before, as it’s the crux of your argument.

    And for your argument to work, ‘God has authority because he created us’ has to be an objective truth, rather than a subjective one. If you can call atheists objecting to murder ‘a subjective preference’, then you have to explain why your argument isn’t also a ‘subjective preference’. And remember that ‘authority’ isn’t synonymous with ‘power’ or ‘control’.

    Reply
  134. Dan says:

    Looking back on the origins of morality, you can see that it becomes more and more complex as societies grow and populations increase. The ideas behind what is right and wrong change as different needs present themselves.

    The origins of “basic” morality can be looked at in a scientific light by viewing it as the altering of one’s actions to coincide with the needs of a group. Many animals today and throughout history altered thier behavior so that living in a group is more beneficial than being alone.
    There is an objective ‘right and wrong’ way to act- one way gets you kicked out of the group or in some cases killed, and the other allows you to thrive in the group or even move up in the ranks of the group. A monkey that acts in a ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ way by selfishly not grooming others will not be helped out by the other monkeys when that monkey is in need of food.
    Those individuals are smart enough to understand basic causality, and that knowledge(if I act this way, this will happen) is the enforcent behind what is right and wrong to do.

    When our groups grow in size and intelligence, more structured enforcement is needed to keep individuals from doing whatever they want. If there are thousands of individuals in a group,what does it matter if you make a few people mad when getting what you want?

    That’s where religion comes in. It’s easy to see how “what would your father think of your actions if he were still here?” becomes ancestor worship and “do the right things or we won’t get rain this season” turns into god apeasing and (attmitedly the extreme)human sacrifice as time progresses. This enforcement (“god will punish you”) from an all-seeing being is what can keep an entire empire from anarchy. If god sees all things, then HE will care if you hurt a few people in getting what you want. (side note: I think it’s funny that most deities choose a visually advantageous location to live.eg- in the clouds above, the sun, mountain top, some are even seen as eagles.)

    This is just speculation and thinking out loud: In the modern world, reason can give us ‘trancendant truths’ (neil’s words) like the christian(probably around before christianity) golden rule or the more archaic ‘eye for an eye’ mentality, in that it is wrong to do something to someone that you don’t want to have done to you. This is because we have taken our ability to sympithize along with our understanding of causality and have applied it to right and wrong. This is why hilter and stalin are wrong. This is why religion works. God or not, religion thrives in the world as social enforcment of right and wrong, and probably will be until people can “do unto others” without doing it because they think they will get introuble in the afterlife otherwise.

    Reply
  135. Luke says:

    Neil,

    I thought of something and I wanted to ask another question.

    You said that it’s self evident that we should obey G-d.

    You said: “He created you. Thus he has the authority to command you to obey [H]im… I guess I think this is self evident to Christians.”

    In your article you talk about the fact that it’s important to know that G-d’s laws aren’t capricious, that they have reason. “[T]he laws that we are given be non-capricious real laws with real consequences.

    You then said: If God were to give us laws that had no real consequences and merely order us to obey them because it was His whim, then He would indeed be capricious. And those laws would be illogical, unnecessary, random and arbitrary.

    So my question is: If G-d had indeed made laws which you call “illogical, unnecessary, random and arbitrary” would you still be obligated to follow them based on the self evident principle that “He created you. Thus he has the authority to command you to obey [H]im.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  136. Neil Mammen says:

    OK Nathan, I see your issue. You are correct and I was wrong on that point because I didn’t understand what you were getting at.

    Let me try to clarify:

    If there was no God for sure, then there would be no apologists. We would not be arguing that one should do x or y because it’s the “right” thing to do. Only that it was our CULTURE to not do so. So logical thinkers (since there would be no apologists) would think that rape is culturally wrong but would not see how you could logically condemn a person from another culture who did not consider rape wrong. And trust me there are a few cultures who don’t consider wife rape, child rape, slave rape, rape in the course of war wrong.

    Ah but you say, if an apologist existed and suddenly decided that God did not exist then would he feel no compulsion to think rape was wrong. I would say it would depend on the culture he came from. If there is no God, it’s rather ethnocentric to claim that child rape, wife rape or slave rape is bad for the cultures that do seem to think it’s acceptable. A person who was a logical thinker from a culture that accepted child marriage or slave rape would have no basis to think those things were wrong.

    Let’s change it from rape to slave execution. In Rome if a master was assassinated, ALL his slaves were executed. Nothing to do with any religious practice or belief system. It seems rather ethnocentric to condemn this practice if we have no basis for saying it’s wrong. I think it’s wrong because of my Christian upbringing (Christianity is the reason it was banned there as well), but surely it’s illogical to think that even atheists who grew up in that culture would suddenly say: Hey! This is immoral.

    Hope that Helps.

    BTW the boulder and bacteria example don’t work. Because it’s not a question of someone else thinking that those are good things and doing it on purpose. The problem comes in when you have to logically justify why you are stopping someone from doing what they think is morally acceptable. The boulder doesn’t think it’s morally unacceptable to roll on someone. The boulder is mechanistic.

    Reply
  137. Neil Mammen says:

    Luke asked: So my question is: If G-d had indeed made laws which you call “illogical, unnecessary, random and arbitrary” would you still be obligated to follow them based on the self evident principle that “He created you. Thus he has the authority to command you to obey [H]im.

    Luke I’d say that that was not possible because as I indicated in the blog the requirement for God to exist means he has to be morally good. If He exists, he’s good and can never give you a capricious command.

    You question is like saying: If 1+1 was 3 then….
    well in that case the entire basis has fallen apart and when you start with an illogical basis whatever follows becomes arbitrary and we can’t use logic to postulate what follows logically from an illogical premise.

    Reply
  138. Nathan barley says:

    Dan, for what it’s worth, I agree with your post! Neil why it should a rapist’s self justification make a difference to whether I stop him attacking my sister? I protect her from him for the same reason I protect her from germs, boulders and tigers – because I value her. So I don’t see how the attackers’ motivation makes any difference to that point.

    Reply
  139. Neil Mammen says:

    The problem is that you are making it personal. No one is arguing that you should not protect your own or even your friends whom you care about. The question is do you have any justification to free the slaves in Sudan? Do you have any justification to try to stop child marriage in India or widow immolation? How about the superstitious killing of twins in certain tribes in Africa? Baby abandonment in China for sex selection. Child prostitution in Thailand. All those are acceptable in their culture. Do you have any justification to go to war to free the slaves in Alabama as long as you personally don’t own any slaves and don’t know any slaves personally? (Though we know the war was not started for that reason).

    Reply
  140. Luke says:

    Neal said:The problem is that you are making it personal. No one is arguing that you should not protect your own or even your friends whom you care about.

    So you see a reason to protect your sister or your friends. You basically say to Nathan, yeah, that makes sense. (Right?)

    But then when you get to people who are further away, then you suddenly think he should stop caring about them?

    How does that make any sense, and what are you grounding that in?

    You seem to be insinuating some line must exist, where one says, I care about my sister, but not my 4th cousin, twice removed.

    Where exactly is this line? How have you logically derived it?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  141. Neil Mammen says:

    What is your logic to convince the Alabama Slave Owner that he has no right to own slaves? Why should he not own slaves? How about the Alabama senate?

    What is your logic to tell the Thailand Child Pimp that he has no right to make money off kids?

    Reply
  142. Luke says:

    Neil,

    But when you mention G-d people drop on their knees, change their ways, and apologize profusely?

    Sorry Neil, but you act as if It’s physically impossible for someone to say “it’s none of your business” once G-d is invoked. I just don’t think that’s true.

    (In reality for a long time the Alabama slave owner was likely waving the Bible and G-d in his defense. I think this question is more difficult for you to answer than for Nathan or Tim, honestly.)

    Luke

    Reply
  143. Nathan barley says:

    It IS hard when you’re talking about other people’s cultures – do we have the right to blunder in and force other nation’s to adopt our values. But these are hard questions with or without a God. I don’t think religion makes it easier. In fact in many cases it makes it harder. It’s a lot harder persuading a people to stop cutting their young girls if they believe it is done by the will of their God. And the most fervent supporters of the slave trade were the ones who sincerely believed it was condoned by God. But as for simply condemning them, yes I do. How can they not care for and value their own people, I say. I value all human life. I don’t see why this makes me illogical. I find it sad that anyone should think that

    Reply
  144. Luke says:

    Neal said:Luke asked: So my question is: If G-d had indeed made laws which you call “illogical, unnecessary, random and arbitrary” would you still be obligated to follow them based on the self evident principle that “He created you. Thus he has the authority to command you to obey [H]im.

    Luke I’d say that that was not possible because as I indicated in the blog the requirement for God to exist means he has to be morally good. If He exists, he’s good and can never give you a capricious command.

    Neal. Sorry, but in your article, you said things like:

    An irrational god would self-destruct and could not last for all eternity.

    and

    he would inevitably destroy himself as he became fully evil.

    Maybe I misunderstood, but your article did not say to me: “that was not possible because as I indicated in the blog” or whatever.

    It said: could not exist for very longwhich requires existence.
    It said: would self destructwhich requires existence.

    If you wish to say you were wrong then, just say so and clarify, and I will rephrase and rework my question.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  145. Luke says:

    Neil said:Someone asked if it’s “right” to hold protect person A from person B.

    I asked “that” although what you stated there was actually very different from my question.

    (I have a right to do many things that are not right.)

    Reply
  146. Nathan barley says:

    By the way, to Neil and Luke, I get that there is a distinction in Neil’s argument between a group of atheists arguing over what is moral, and a group of theists arguing. Even if the arguments are the same and the results are the same, in Neil’s eyes then at least with the theists there exists some ‘objective correct answer’, even if some or even ALL of the theists are getting it wrong. But as I said, although I understand this distinction, I do not accept it, as it relies on an assumption that ‘creator = ‘authority” is axiomatic.

    Reply
  147. Tim D. says:

    The problem is that you are making it personal. No one is arguing that you should not protect your own or even your friends whom you care about. The question is do you have any justification to free the slaves in Sudan?

    ….what’s with this notion that I’m not allowed to value human life if I’m not directly connected to it? In what “logical” sense am I forbidden from caring about humans to that extent?

    Remember they’ll say “it’s none of your business”. That is your moral value not theirs. That’s your cultural norms not theirs.

    And what makes you think that I place objective value on other people’s cultural norms? They don’t bind me. Some I respect, some I do not. Sometimes it is practical to intervene and sometimes it is not. We can’t save everyone from pain all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrational to try to do so whenever we can (or to look for opportunities to do so).

    What is your logic to convince the Alabama Slave Owner that he has no right to own slaves? Why should he not own slaves? How about the Alabama senate?

    OH, wait, I see! I finally understand your position.

    Your problem isn’t that we can’t do or say anything in the event of moral dissonance….your problem is that we have no reason to feel morally superior to someone before we act in defense against them!

    Well that’s an easy problem to answer: I have a perfectly reasonable explanation for why I would defend something that I care about from someone who seeks to harm it. There needn’t be any further logical factors to consider here (Ockham’s razor; if it makes sense with the fewest assumptions, then adding unnecessary assumptions can make the statement less accurate). That in itself is plenty good reason to act on such beliefs; you could say these principles are “self-evident” to the person acting on them.

    Given that, what you’re doing here is taking this already-complete picture, and adding a completely unnecessary “moral” dimension (which, in *addition* to the primal moral setting which compels me to defend that which I value, proposes that we need some kind of “moral superiority” or “moral high ground” in order to be able to do anything), and turns it into a statement to the effect that “we have to be able to feel morally superior to someone before we can take action against them.”

    This is not true. I do not have to believe that I am “better” than someone in some way (or that my ideas or better, or that my anything is better) in order to protect what I value. This is an unnecessary condition which YOU have tried (and failed) to impose on me. So as far as I’m concerned, all other questions are completely irrelevant until you can answer this one: Why is it necessary to have grounds on which to feel morally superior to someone in order to protect oneself or others? It’s entirely possible for me to simply not care what they think; if they are so depraved then I will do what I can to stop them. They have no concern for offending my senses (or those of their victims), so I have no need to consider theirs in defending someone whom they have harmed (or intend to harm).

    Reply
  148. Neil Mammen says:

    I have a couple of clarifications that I need in light of your stance. Since there’s no over riding requirement for someone to give equal rights to slaves or non-whites, isn’t there a dilemma that you need to resolve. For instance, when the US decided to grant African Americans and brown people like me equal rights. Were those rights something they already had but they’d immorally been taken away from them? Or was that a new right that they gained at that point?

    Reply
  149. Nathan Barley says:

    Neil: So your morality is a personal preference

    Perhaps you were addressing Tim only there, but I’ll answer too. if you mean ‘personal preference’ in the sense of ‘a capricious whim’, then no, that doesn’t describe how I feel about, say, torture or slavery. If someone stuck your hand over a flame, would you describe your dislike of the sensation as a ‘personal preference’? I wouldn’t. Wanting to prevent other people feeling that same pain isn’t capricious either, or a whim that I might change my mind about tomorrow.

    Your conviction that God’s morality should be obeyed by everyone simply by virtue of Him being the creator – would you describe that idea as a ‘personal preference’? I don’t see why that’s more self-evident than me believing that relieving suffering is a virtue.

    Regarding the right to freedom of black people – they didn’t not have their freedom before emancipation, they did have it afterwards. That’s a simple statement of fact. Do I think they SHOULD have had their freedom before? Of course. Am I revolted by the history of slavery in my home country and in the US? Of course. Is it a ‘capricious whim’ to be revolted by people being treated as animals? I don’t think so. I have no choice but to be revolted, and my opposition to slavery is based on deeply held principles.

    You ask, in effect, how I’d convince the other side to abandon slavery without reference to religion. I take this as a practical question rather than a philosophical one. In response I’ll point out that slavery was carried out by an over-whelmingly Christian nation. When the North got the South to abandon it, was it not at the point of sword and musket? It wasn’t through reasoned theological debate.

    Many 19th century bible scholars sincerely believed that slavery was condoned by God. Look at the speeches of the Reverend Thornton Stringfellow, who strongly argued that the Old Testament was explicitly pro-slavery. If you heard of a man who beat his slave so severely that the man died three days later, how would YOU condemn him, if he quoted Exodus 21:20-21 to you as justification?

    In this respect, as I said before, religion can make it HARDER to talk people out of behaviour that causes suffering, not easier. Of course, William Wilbourforce was also a Christian – I do not deny that. But that there were abolitionists (including Charles Darwin) and anti-abolitionsts of all religious stripes doesn’t affect my point.

    Reply
  150. Tim D. says:

    OK so your morality is a personal preference is that correct?

    Personal? Yes. Preference? More like a policy of action. I act in a way that is in accordance with my policy.

    Since there’s no over riding requirement for someone to give equal rights to slaves or non-whites

    Oh come now! That implication is getting old. There’s no “over-riding requirement” for ANYONE to do ANYTHING by that logic — whether it’s enslave a race or free them. Your logic takes you nowhere here.

    For instance, when the US decided to grant African Americans and brown people like me equal rights. Were those rights something they already had but they’d immorally been taken away from them? Or was that a new right that they gained at that point?

    Blacks lived mostly peacefully on their own in Africa before we (among others) came and took them away by force. So in a sense you could say that they had those rights before. But if you’re attempting to weasel in the concept of “objective rights” yet again, then I will stop you right here. Rights are things, policies, that we believe in and choose to enforce. If you have any questions about that, I will point out to you that by virtue of being a US citizen, I have agreed to take the values of my constitution at face-value, as a basic axiom from at the VERY least a legal standpoint. So no, I *don’t* need a reason to say that people have rights, because I’m part of a community which agrees that people DO have rights, whether or not god told them they do. And that’s how we live.

    When the North got the South to abandon it, was it not at the point of sword and musket? It wasn’t through reasoned theological debate.

    EXACTLY — action is the crux of the matter. Not what we think about it. You don’t need a complex logical sequence to explain every action you take; if you did, nobody would ever take any sort of action because a significant portion of our actions are purely biological or innate, and we do them without really giving thought to them (when someone copulates with their life partner, they probably don’t spend a lot of time imagining the logical premises which allow them to feel the belief and necessity towards doing so — they just do because they feel attracted and know that it’s a practical and basically fun thing to do).

    But that there were abolitionists (including Charles Darwin) and anti-abolitionsts of all religious stripes doesn’t affect my point.

    Of course not, if your point was meant to be that one doesn’t need to be explicitly “Christian” in order to take action for or against something or someone.

    Reply
  151. Nathan Barley says:

    “Of course not, if your point was meant to be that one doesn’t need to be explicitly “Christian” in order to take action for or against something or someone.”

    Kind of. When I mentioned Wilberforce (apologies for spelling) I was trying to head off at the pass someone taking umbrage at me mentioning Christian anti-abolitionists, and wanting to remind me that there were Christian abolitionists too.

    I know that, and wasn’t trying to make a point about ‘Christians who are bad’, or ‘Christianity makes people bad’, or ‘there are no good Christians’. I would hope that was quite clear, but I’ve learned that it’s always best to make things clearer than you think is actually necessary. When we’re posting on different time-zones, misunderstandings can take days to clear up!

    Rather, my point was that in practical terms, saying ‘atheism makes it harder to stamp out slavery’ doesn’t match up to reality.

    “a significant portion of our actions are purely biological or innate”

    I think of our actions as being like breathing. It comes naturally to us, we don’t have to think about it, but any time we want we can take a step back and take over and do it consciously. Most of my moral actions I do without thinking, but sometimes something will happen to make me take a step back to really think through what I believe to be the best course of actions, trying to dismiss personal bias and unconscious desires. It’s amazing how if you’re not careful you can rationalise an action that goes against your deeper principles, fooling yourself, when in reality it’s for a more base, short-term goal.

    Reply
  152. Nathan Barley says:

    Neil: “If there was no God for sure, then there would be no apologists”

    Why assume this? You already believe that apologists exist for the Gods of other people’s religions, which you presumably believe are false.

    “If an apologist existed and suddenly decided that God did not exist then would he feel no compulsion to think rape was wrong. I would say it would depend on the culture he came from”

    So again we come back to my original point – the God is the ONLY reason you can think of not to rape, and if YOU stopped believing in God, the only problem you would have with rape would be that it’s against your own culture, which you would see as just one culture among many. You wouldn’t, for example, have a problem with the pain it causes? I find this a disturbing idea Neil!

    Reply
  153. Neil Mammen says:

    1. You missed the “for sure” part in your haste. I said: ““If there was no God for sure, then there would be no apologists””
    I’m sure no apologists for other religions think God does not exist “for sure”. I think they are wrong, but THEY don’t think they are. If they were sure they were wrong I highly doubt they’d be apologists. I sure wouldn’t be a Christian apologist if I knew that God didn’t exist for sure? What say you on the other side? Would you be an atheist if you knew God existed for sure? Be honest now.

    2. On point 2. Andrew Did you read what I said? It seems like another hasty conclusion. I think it’s important that we communicate and understand what each other really means and not strive to force strawmen into each other’s mouths.

    I said: “If an apologist existed and suddenly decided that God did not exist then would he feel no compulsion to think rape was wrong. I would say it would depend on the culture he came from”

    Did you notice that the first sentence was a repeat of your question. I missed the question mark. Re-read it again (with the question mark).

    “If an apologist existed and suddenly decided that God did not exist then would he feel no compulsion to think rape was wrong?”
    And the answer is: “I would say it would depend on the culture he came from”

    The answer was only the second sentence. I would say it would depend on the culture he came from.

    Are you saying it would not?

    Given that, it seems rather arrogant of you to think that if you grew up in a culture that thought the rape of certain people was acceptable you’d the sole individual amongst all other would be noble enough to recognize that rape was bad. Can you show examples of that in your life so far? If we both grew up in the same and I had no God concept to convince me that rape was evil, then I’d be just like you thinking rape was acceptable. I’m not ethnocentric in that way. I realize that I am influenced by my culture.

    Do forgive me but I’m sensing a attitude of superiority: i.e. We atheists would be wise enough to know what’s “morally good” even though we have no moral objective standards and even if we grew up in evil cultures.

    Sadly history is not on your side to defend that view. No atheists are enshrined as virtues and fighters for human rights anywhere prior to the last 100 years and even those are few and far between. Darwin never raised a finger to help oppressed masses. Yet every day from the beginning of Christianity you can find those who suffered and died to save others. Those who sacrificed their livelihoods and risked their lives to disease and danger to help the most oppressed.

    Look I’m really interested in understanding how you come to your conclusions. I think we’ve agreed that atheists while acting similar to Christians, have no basis for an objective morality except one based on trial and error. They have no basis for treating all mankind as equal except for the kindness of their hearts which after about 10,000 of human history never surfaced until Christians who thought they were following God’s authority made it a priority to fight for equality.
    They have to be ethnocentric in thinking they are morally superior to another culture as they decide to impose their values on others based on their preferences.

    Now I fully agree the actions may look similar to the Christians actions, but the motivations are different. But even as I wrote that I realized that the actions are not similar and have never historically been so.

    At the end of the day atheism does not have a stalwart hall of fame. And it has a greater hall of shame than Christians who were misguided with the massacres of Stalin and Pol Pot and Mengestu and many other Communist atheistic despots. Now you may complain that communism is what killed them, but as I showed earlier, in my state in India we had communism and Christianity and nobody was murdered or assassinated or executed even though they had power. Yet in India in the North they had communism with atheism and it resulted in bloodshed. The only common factor then is Atheism. I’m not focusing on the claim here that atheism leads to slaughter, I’ll let Bill Craig make that claim. I’m saying that atheism sadly has no accolades they can give themselves.

    It was not atheists who freed the slaves, it was not atheists who brought missionary hospitals to me as a kid growing up in Africa, it was not atheists who fed the poor in Biafra, we don’t see hospitals named after atheists greats like Huxley or Madalyn O’Hair, or GB Shaw who wanted to just kill those with no value, (OK there probably is an exception – I bet there are abortion clinics named after Margaret Sanger the racist eugenicist) . But it was not atheists who funded or resulted in the actions of Dr. Livingstone or Amy Carmichal or George Mueller or Lord Ashcroft….

    So while the dialog is of great value to me we must also keep in mind that consequences of atheist morality is not apparent in society in any beneficial way. While on the other hand despite the excesses of various Christian errors, it was Christians who sacrificed greatly to correct those excesses.

    Reply
  154. Nathan barley says:

    Yes, I can think of several examples where I’ve gone against the mores of my peers, but if you want to leap the assumption that I’m arrogant, go ahead. And there are many examples of people standing up against the mores of their time and saying ‘this isn’t right’, otherwise the mores would never change.

    Reply
  155. Nathan barley says:

    Your sentence with ‘for sure’ I read differently to your intention. I read it as ‘for sure, there would be no apologists’. Thanks for the clarification. By the way, you may be interested to look into crime levels in the US and who is committing the crimes. Look at the religion on entrance to prison of convicted criminals. Christians are far more represented than atheists relative to their population. Look to Western Europe – lower religiosity translates to lower crime, lower teen pregnancy, fewer divorces compared to America. In honesty, I see no particular significance in this. But your claims about immoral atheists are, again, not reflected in reality, your anecdotal experiences notwithstanding.

    Reply
  156. Tim D. says:

    In the meantime, while I wait for the above post to be deleted for “rudeness” or whatever reason, I want to add a segment about the importance of freedom in a secular society.

    Christians (like Mr. Mammen here) absolutely love to tout Stalin and Hitler as though they were some kind of necessary result of atheism (never minding Hitler’s adherence to Catholicism and other weird occultism), and so on that basis folks like Mr. Mammen will say that, say, Richard Dawkins is basically just as immoral as Hitler, because he wants to live in a secular society that does not refer to some bronze-age war god to determine what is right or wrong. But there is one VERY, VERY important distinction that these kinds of arguments conveniently ignore, a distinction that can mean the difference between America and Nazi Germany. I’ll quote Hitchens on this one because he said it in far fewer words than I did (emphasis mine):

    “Communism did not so much negate religion, in societies that they well understood were saturated with faith and superstition, as seek to replace it. The solemn elevation of infallible leaders who were a source of endless bounty and blessing; the permanent search for heretics and schismatics; the mummifications of dead leaders as icons and relics; the lurid show trials that elicited incredible confessions by means of torture[…]the ceaseless invocation of a “Radiant Future,” the arrival of which would one day justify all crimes and dissolve all petty doubts. “Extra ecclesiam, nulla salus,” as the older faith used to say; “Within the revolution anything,” as Fidel Castro was fond of remarking, “Outside the revolution—nothing.”

    In a very few cases, such as Albania, Communism tried to extirpate religion completely and to proclaim an entirely atheist state. This only led to even more extreme cults of mediocre human beings, such as the dictator Enver Hoxha, and to secret baptisms and ceremonies that proved the utter alienation of the common people from the regime. There is nothing in modern secular argument that even hints at any ban on religious observance. Sigmund Freud was quite correct to describe the religious impulse, in The Future of an Illusion, as essentially ineradicable until or unless the human species can conquer its fear of death and its tendency to wish-thinking. Neither contingency seems very probable. All that the totalitarians have demonstrated is that the religious impulse—the need to worship—can take even more monstrous forms if it is repressed. This might not necessarily be a compliment to our worshipping tendency.”

    He goes on in the subsequent pages to basically say (this is my paraphrase) that the difference between a SECULAR regime and an ATHEIST regime is that a SECULAR regime says, “You are free to believe (or disbelieve) in whatever god you please,” whereas an ATHEIST regime says, “You must be an atheist or we will cut you down.”

    For extra lols, keep in mind, this is coming from “the most aggressive” of the so-called “New Atheists” (author of “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”). This is the “absolute worst” of the four that Christians have been deriding since these books became bestsellers — this guy, the worst! This guy who (begrudgingly) says we should accept the rights of religions to exist even if we think they’re completely insane. Guess Christians have some weird “objective standards” 😀

    Reply
  157. Neil Mammen says:

    Again you skim over. Recall I said: “Sadly history is not on your side to defend that view. No atheists are enshrined as virtues and fighters for human rights anywhere prior to the last 100 years and even those are few and far between.”

    And you have listed Billionares most of them recent to support your cause. BIllionairs who need nothing of that money that they give. My exampled included and can included millions of those Christians who have sacrificed. Not Billionaires but common everyday folk.

    This is not a reduction to any level of discussoin. Of course I find it funny that you said that then went right into defending it. You obviously see the value of results. But surely this is where the rubber meets the road. All the talk is meaningless if it doesn’t result in action and results. The atheist hall of compassion is sparsely populated.

    As to claimng that religous people commit more crimes, this is a standard atheist talking point, but I ask have you personally done any research on this?

    Actually the truth of matter is that those who attend church every week and pray on a daily basis and read their Bible regularly have a much much lower crime rate.
    I know you realize that not everyone who states Christian on their form that asks for “religion” really is a Christian. In fact it used to be that if you weren’t Muslim or Buddhist or anything else you’d just put down your parent’s religion. So most people put down Christian. But unless you believe Jesus Christ is God and Lord of your life there’s no basis for you to believe that the Bible is God’s revealed Law and Christ has the authority to state the Moral law. Which is precisely what our argument is here isn’t it.

    So to determine if they really are a Christian you have to base it on their prayer life, how often they attend Church (the priority they put on it) and how much they read the Bible.

    When that is the test, your facts fail. Here are some studies that I think you should read before you make that claim again.

    http://www.heritage.org/Research/Commentary/2006/12/The-Power-of-Worship
    http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2006/12/Why-Religion-Matters-Even-More-The-Impact-of-Religious-Practice-on-Social-Stability
    http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/1995/03/BG1026nbsp-The-Real-Root-Causes-of-Violent-Crime

    Not only that but devout Christians get better grades and have lower poverty and drop out of school less and thus are less involved in gangs or dropout and get involved in crime.
    http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF10I09.pdf

    They are even picked up by police a bit less:
    Intergenerational Links to Being Picked Up or Charged by Police: Religious Attendance
    http://www.frc.org/mappingamerica/mapping-america-55-intergenerational-links-to-being-picked-up-or-charged-by-police-religious-attendance-

    Theres even statistical proof that Christians volunteer more than atheists and those who don’t attend Church on a regular basis.
    http://www.frc.org/mappingamerica/mapping-america-43-intergenerational-links-to-volunteering-in-charitable-activities-religious-attendance

    Kids who go to church weekly even are better behaved, so it makes sense they would be less likely to be criminals
    http://www.frc.org/mappingamerica/mapping-america-28-behavior-problems-by-religious-attendance

    Examining data from the National Youth Survey, Byron Johnson of Baylor University and colleagues also found that the higher the religious involvement of black youth, the lower the incidence of “serious crime,” which included felony theft, felony assault, robbery, and illegal services.
    Bryon R. Johnson, et al., “The ‘Invisible Institution’ and Black Youth Crime: The Church as an Agency of Local Social Control,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, vol. 29 (2000): 479-498.

    So I guess I’m not sure where you get your stats. Mine are right there. Do you wish to retract that factless claiim?

    Reply
  158. Tim D. says:

    P.P.S.

    Also, in response to that whole “culture defines objective morality without god” drivel….I just want to point out that somebody had to come up with the cultural ideal, without god, in the first place. So why is it that you permit a cultural ideal to form without god, but not to change without god?

    Reply
  159. Neil Mammen says:

    Tim, I would calm down and reread what I said. Your skimming is hurting your credibility. Being wrong in an impatient manner hurts your cause.

    Reread what I said: I think we’ve agreed that atheists while acting similar to Christians, have no basis for an objective morality except one based on trial and error.

    Do we agree that you have no basis for an objective morality and thus don’t believe in one. I think we do. So please read it carefully. Lighten up Francis.

    I obviously realize that you don’t believe in an objective morality. And have achieved my purpose in that discussion. Once I got you to admit that you don’t believe in an objective morality, I was satisfied and plan a discussion and blog on that issue at some point later. Many atheists refuse to give that up knowing the problems with it.

    Nathan on the other hand has not stated as much. Nathan, can I presume from your silence that you agree with Tim?

    Reply
  160. Tim D. says:

    Tim, I would calm down and reread what I said. Your skimming is hurting your credibility. Being wrong in an impatient manner hurts your cause.

    I’ll keep that in mind in the event that I say something “wrong.”

    Reread what I said: I think we’ve agreed that atheists while acting similar to Christians, have no basis for an objective morality except one based on trial and error.

    Exactly. “have no basis for objective morality except trial and error.” This statement assumes that I do believe in objective morality, and that I strive to reach it based on trial and error. This is incorrect.

    Reply
  161. Tim D. says:

    Again you skim over. Recall I said: “Sadly history is not on your side to defend that view. No atheists are enshrined as virtues and fighters for human rights anywhere prior to the last 100 years and even those are few and far between.”

    And you have listed Billionares most of them recent to support your cause. BIllionairs who need nothing of that money that they give. My exampled included and can included millions of those Christians who have sacrificed. Not Billionaires but common everyday folk.

    This is not a reduction to any level of discussoin. Of course I find it funny that you said that then went right into defending it. You obviously see the value of results. But surely this is where the rubber meets the road. All the talk is meaningless if it doesn’t result in action and results. The atheist hall of compassion is sparsely populated.

    All of this being completely irrelevant. If I could find a list twice as long of “nice atheists,” would that mean that there is no god or no objective morality?

    If everyone on earth believed there was an objective moral law, and if that made everybody all happy and peachy and keen, that would not make that law true, any more than it would make that law false if nobody believed in it. You are confusing humans’ role in this equation with that of your supposed god’s — you seem to think that “whatever enough people believe becomes “objective truth.” Cite studies all you want, even if we accept them at face value, all that proves is that (A) Christians believe in objective morality, and (B) society functions better when people cooperate and help each other out, whether it’s a Christian or an atheist. This says absolutely nothing whatsoever about the existence of objective morality.

    Again: this is not morality. It is like training a dog, no different — sit when you are told, and you will get a treat; poop on the carpet and you will be swatted on the butt with a newspaper. The dog has no concept of morality, he simply follows his master’s orders. He has no moral concept of why these things are “right” or “wrong,” or even what that means. That is what this “morality” you describe is, to me. And that is why it’s perfectly okay to me that my morality is not “grounded” in your system, because your system cannot really be defined as truly “moral.” Morals are what you do when there are no consequences; a moral person would do what was ‘right’ even if he thought he would go to hell for doing it, not because he thinks he won’t.

    This is exactly why I say objective morality cannot/does not exist. Even if it doesn’t, if people still believe it does, then it will be exactly the same as if it were real. Think about it; if Christianity turns out to be false and there is no objective morality, will that change all of the things that the many Humanist Christians have done that have made society better? Will it change any of the things that atheists have done to make society better? Will the fact that their motivations were true or false change the fact that what they did was beneficial to society? No. It won’t. We can’t even truly discuss objective morality, we can only discuss what people think or believe about it.

    Reply
  162. Tim D. says:

    Good grief Tim, how many times must I say that this has nothing to do with proving God exists? I’m not attempting to do that.

    I have no idea what you are talking about. I didn’t say anything about proving whether or not god exists. I’ve been talking about objective morality, and the difference between it and my own view.

    Reply
  163. Neil Mammen says:

    Andrew (posting as Nathan) remember to refute an argument you have to show the facts are wrong or the logic is wrong. I stated that atheists for all your claims of being “moral” people have not shown themselves in History to be so.

    Side note to Tim: For every atheist you painfully discover I’ll show you about 100 Christians. Even the statistics I showed (which I doubt you bothered to look at) PROVE that Christians volunteer MORE than secularists and atheists. Not a great showing for your belief systems or morals is it. In fact in all the history of atheism, why don’t you show me 10 figures who’ve achieved some great human rights goal without being Billionaires. Show me atheists who’ve sacrificed all in some worthy cause (that BOTH you and I think is worthy – because I’m using that standard, i.e. I only mentioned doctors, and slave freedom and child rights not people who taught catechism).

    Tim asked if I couldn’t imagine even one atheist who objected to Hitler’s actions. Yeah, well where were they when the Christians were hiding the Jews and being sent to concentration camps like Corrie Ten Boom and the thousands of other Christians? Where were they when the Quakers and other Christians were running the underground railway? Are you kidding? Did they die to stop the gladiatorial combats? Did they scour the forests of China to save abandoned babies? Did they stop the murder of twin babies? Did they stop widow immolation? Of course this is relevant. Because is shows without an objective morality and a source for an moral standard and an authority to direct that, atheism does not rise very high on human kindness or compassion or protection for humanity. As a source for good, atheism fails woefully.

    This is very relevant to the topic. As if atheists are just as moral then there would be evidence. You have provided me none (you gave me some names of rich men who gave away 5% of their income who could even afford to give away about 99% of their income and not be sacrificing a thing).

    You claimed Christians have more Criminals amongst them. I proved that was completely and utterly false and simply atheist talking points.

    Then you act as though I knew your name was confidential. Why would I imagine that you’d want your name to be confidential. You show up as a virulent atheist on Facebook as well. It’s not as if your email address gets posted here. First you accept my explanation and suddenly schizophrenically recant it mere minutes later.

    Then you petulantly decide you’ll feign some sort of attitude and stop the argument. If that’s the best you can do, I’m fine with it.

    You never did answer: Am I right in saying that you believe that there is no objective morality?

    Remember if you wish to relegate my argument about the actions of atheists being irrelevant you have to show my why my logic is wrong.

    My objective in this exercise was
    a. NOT TO PROVE GOD EXISTS —- TIM. (Even Nathan/Andrew realized that very early on).
    b. But to prove that without an objective standard, an atheist will not be overly concerned about bringing about moral changes. Atheists have not. Christians have.
    c. Show that without an objective standard, you cannot, without being ethnocentric presume that your moral standard is better than others. An atheists did not. So they did not/could not strive to change the world to be more moral. You can’t and won’t strive towards a standard that you don’t think exists.

    In the end Atheist shows itself to be a moral failure. It has never helped solve moral problems, it has never fought for human rights in any significant way and it has done nothing in the last 2000 years to reduce oppression.
    Oh and your entire diatribe about Hitchens and communism has been refuted at least twice by me. Communism + Christianity = no bloodshed. Communism + Atheism = Massacres of over 80M people.

    Reply
  164. Neil Mammen says:

    Tim, I essentially proposed above that if Christianity was a better moral system it would show. I then went on to show how Christians have been the cause of most of the advances in human rights on this planet. All you have shown me is some rich people tossing money around. This does not constitute a great proof. Secondly, you do understand that trying to differentiate between an atheist government and a secular government condemns you? Why? Because one can presume that an atheist government consists of more atheists than a secular government. But lest you forget we do have a great example of a non-communist secular government. Perhaps you forgot about the French Revolution and it’s masses of executions. Nobody thinks Robespierre was forcing atheism on anyone and it wasn’t communistic. Yet we find a similar refrain of bloodletting.

    Reply
  165. Tim D. says:

    Secondly, you do understand that trying to differentiate between an atheist government and a secular government condemns you?

    Supporting your right to believe what you want more than forcing you to believe what I do is “condemning?” I guess I see how you think now….I’m supposed to be as totalitarian as Evangelical Christians? Thanks, I’ll take my atheism.

    Because one can presume that an atheist government consists of more atheists than a secular government.

    Oh, yes, because I’m supposed to be like you — horribly uncomfortable unless completely surrounded by like-minded individuals at all times. God forbid we should have to coexist with people who believe differently….

    :/

    Perhaps you forgot about the French Revolution and it’s masses of executions. Nobody thinks Robespierre was forcing atheism on anyone and it wasn’t communistic. Yet we find a similar refrain of bloodletting.

    Catholics. Germany. South Africa. Uganda. Darfur. We can play this game all day; EVERY moral system ever introduced has in some way, at some point, produced a government that is hostile towards its subjects. If your “case” against secularism had any merit at all, then you would be forced by the same logic to admit that Christianity is morally inferior because it, too, has encouraged (and to this day still DOES encourage) genocides around the world.

    In any case, thanks for making it apparent that your only concern here is to malign atheists. Saves me the trouble of taking you seriously for much longer. I guess my first post (which you deleted) was closer to the truth, after all.

    Reply
  166. Neil Mammen says:

    Oh and nobody is saying atheists’ aren’t good for the right reasons. I’m saying that they aren’t effective compassionately regardless of their being atheists.

    I’m not sure how the atheists in the foxholes plays here? I’m saying there weren’t atheists in the Amazon administrating medicines to the natives at risk for their lives. (The no atheists in a foxhole deals with the fear of death and I’m sure there are atheists in foxhole. I can’t imagine all the Russians and Cambodians and Viet Cong suddenly became theists when they got into battle).

    But let’s be honest. Gates giving away 1B dollars is really equivalent to you giving away $1000 to charity. It won’t affect your standard of living and you won’t have to worry about not buying anything you needed. So the level of sacrifice is very relevant. My claim was that Christians have sacrificed much for those who could never repay them. Your example was of those who sacrificed little to those who could never repay them. It’s the ratio that counts. Moreover if you read Brooks’ book you’d find that Christians give a vast majority of the 300B dollars in charity every year that Americans give to other nations (the US Gov’t by comparison only gives 2B). Citizens from Secular nations and Secular governments give the least. Again not much to say for their compassion.

    If the atheistic system or morals is even equivalent to the Christian system then why don’t the match individual for individual the compassion level. Of course there are far more of us than you, but even compensating for that, your moral philosophy just isn’t working when it comes to compassion. Atheists just don’t average out very highly according to Brooks.

    Now you may claim that I have no right to judge you based on the masses of atheist. But I’m not judging you individually. We are not arguing if YOU are a good person. I’m sure you are. You probably give more than many Christians.

    I’ve never been arguing if you are good person. If you say you are, I believe you are. It makes no sense to feign a sense of self righteousnesses. I’m arguing that your atheistic moral philosophy that you are arguing for here does not result LOGICALLY and thus PRACTICALLY in acts of compassion. Precisely because as I’ve been arguing it fails logically. Without an objective morality and an authority to instruct you to work against your natural selfish human nature I’m saying we will not default to great acts of nobleness and the proof is in the pudding.

    Reply
  167. Tim D. says:

    P.S. All this talk of genocide *is* completely irrelevant. The topic, as you insisted to me, was whether or not it’s possible for atheists to have grounding for their morality. I have shown you that it is, and you have not been able to answer my case. Instead you have changed the subject to show that atheists have killed people before (never minding that so have Christians).

    So in the interest of getting back to the point, which you have yet to address…tell me why, again, it is somehow not possible for me to hold the Humanist belief system that I hold right now?

    :/

    Reply
  168. TobyR. says:

    “Even the statistics I showed (which I doubt you bothered to look at) PROVE that Christians volunteer MORE than secularists and atheists. Not a great showing for your belief systems or morals is it.”

    How many of these people that volunteered more were asked if they did so out of peer pressure? i would contend, though I readily admit to having no idea of there is a study out there on this or not, that a portion do these things out of social pressure. Also, they’re simply organized better because they see each other at least once a week. What? Do you want us atheists to make a church too? Geez, I got into this so I can sleep in on sundays.

    Reply
  169. Neil Mammen says:

    Catholics: Sorry not me.
    Germany: Again Hitler’s hero was Nietzsche not Jesus.
    South Africa: no mass murder there. Nothing compared to Stalin or even Pol Pot.

    Tim, now rather than dealing with the facts I’ve presented, you are resorting to ad hominems and pre-guessing my motives. I stated clearly why my facts are relevant to the case. Atheistic and Secularist philosophies will not result in great moral advances. Tell me why it’s not relevant.

    Christian genocide is few and far between. Add up all the Christian cases (which you note specifically violated the New Testament commands of Christ) and you’ll still end up with perhaps 1% of the genocides cause by secularist and atheistic governments. Again remember you can’t find a communistic Christian government that committed genocide though it existed in India for one.

    I never said it’s not possible for you to hold your humanistic beliefs. Good for you. You are as I said a noble compassionate man. But your belief system has not fared well when extended to the masses when it comes to compassion in history.

    You yourself agreed that you don’t believe in an objective morality. So any morality you come up with will be one of your personal preference. This is also what happened to all those other atheistic and secular societies. Their preference just happened to be different from yours. I don’t blame you for that. I’m just noting the consequences in history.

    Reply
  170. Tim D. says:

    Add up all the Christian cases (which you note specifically violated the New Testament commands of Christ) and you’ll still end up with perhaps 1% of the genocides cause by secularist and atheistic governments.

    Did you know that 99% of statistics are made up on the spot to support an agenda?

    But let’s be honest. Gates giving away 1B dollars is really equivalent to you giving away $1000 to charity.

    You are being anything but honest. You are being malignant and malicious and I have no interest in humoring your hateful assumptions.

    Now you may claim that I have no right to judge you based on the masses of atheist. But I’m not judging you individually. We are not arguing if YOU are a good person. I’m sure you are. You probably give more than many Christians.

    It makes no sense to feign a sense of self righteousnesses. I’m arguing that your atheistic moral philosophy that you are arguing for here does not result LOGICALLY and thus PRACTICALLY in acts of compassion.

    And I am telling you, quite frankly, that you are completely and irreconcilibly wrong.

    I know this is pointless, and it will probably wind up as some distorted story in some future lecture of yours, twisted to serve your agenda, but in the interest of fairness (and in the distant hopes that seeing this process in action will enlighten you, however slightly, to how the brain of a humanist *actually* works, as opposed to how Christians like to SAY it works), I will explain a little bit about myself. The following is an opinion piece and should not be regarded as anything more:

    It was not until I recently rekindled my interest in atheism, agnosticism and humanism that I finally became certain about what I want to do with my life. And it was, ironically, the decision of a local doctor (working at an overtly Christian clinic with a strictly Christian hiring policy) which made me finalize my decision about what career path to take. This man put a large sign on the front of his clinic which said that, if you voted for Obama’s “socialist” healthcare reform, to seek treatment elsewhere, you would not be treated (he was apparently copying another doctor who had done something similar some months ago, who had been targeted by the media). Until that happened I had been toying with the idea of going to medical school and becoming a doctor, but I wasn’t sure if I had the drive and maturity and dedication to do so. I saw that hatefulness, that pettyness, and I thought, “If that’s the best we have down here, then I guess I need to make up my mind.” I feel that I don’t have the time waiting for these emotionally-retarded trained dogs to get over their petty religio-political squabbles and do what really matters — you know, giving people potentially life-saving medical treatment — and so if nobody else is going to help these people just for the sake of helping them (and not with the conditional benefit that they hold the same religious beliefs, or political beliefs, or what-have-you), then I will try my best to do it. It will take a long time but frankly, I have nothing better to do with my life so I will dedicate it to the service of those who need it but do not have the time or money to acquire the knowledge. My ultimate, ideal goal is to become financially stable enough to perform expensive procedures for no cost in countries where the technology is not readily available, to travel to places where people will not go because of religious or political upheavals, and first and foremost to bestow no conditions whatsoever upon patients.

    A wise man once told me that you don’t bring a newborn child into the world with a purpose or a job; I feel the same way about treatment. You don’t give a patient a job or a criteria when he or she comes in the door that decides whether or not you will help them. You find out what’s wrong with them and you try to fix it. THAT is my self-evident truth. And if that is malignant or ill-founded in your view, then frankly you can take your view and shove it, because I have not found a justification like this from Christianity. Christian-ordained medical practice has the condition that my work is to glorify god; my work is not to glorify god, it is to ensure the safety of my patient against all odds, no matter the cost to myself or my time, with no conditions. My views about how to treat others are grounded in this statement and frankly I do not care if they are “objective” or not; they are good enough for me.

    Good day and happy distorting facts 🙂

    Reply
  171. Neil Mammen says:

    ” Also, they’re simply organized better because they see each other at least once a week. What? Do you want us atheists to make a church too? Geez, I got into this so I can sleep in on sundays.”

    And therein is a lot explained. Does it not occur to you that we have been taught that morally our sleep is not as important as encouraging each other and sacrificing for those who are oppressed. Did it not occur to you that our moral authority says we should sacrifice for others and when we “get together’ our moral authority says encourage (you call it peer pressure) each other to be noble, act out of kindness, heal the sick, comfort the dying, visit the prisoners, free the oppressed and to do so even if it requires sacrifice.

    It’s precisely because of these things that Christians have effected so much change in the world. We have a moral authority who says we should love others. And when our own brothers have violated that command we have been told to go and confront them. E..g. slavery, child marriage, bride kidnapping, etc etc. even if it means our death or sacrifice.

    What has your moral philosophy urged you to do in a group setting to effect change and free the oppressed at risk to your comfort? Sleep on Sundays?

    Reply
  172. Tim D. says:

    P.S.

    [diatribe]

    So in a way, you could say it was Christianity which inspired my life’s goal. I was inspired by the ruthlessness and hatred of professional Christians and their self-centered, petty, overwrought and politically objectivist ways to do the exact opposite.

    I guess Christianity is important; we need a shining example of how not to be, so that we can understand how to act in ways that benefit each other instead of the reputation of the invisible sky daddy.

    [/diatribe]

    Reply
  173. Neil Mammen says:

    I’m glad to see that you’ve decided to do this. As I said, I’m sure you are personally a noble person.

    You should however ask the Doctor: If the people who were coming to you had no other option than to use you as a doctor, would you refuse them service. Or if an Obama voter had come to you in critical condition, would you have refused to help him.

    He’d have said no I’m sure.

    As such he was merely exercising his freedoms as an American citizen in a free market. Surely that’s a right worth protecting even if we disagree with the specific action. I can also assure you that for ever one of him there are at least a 10000 doctors who are Christians who did not and would never have thought to put up such a sign. So we see it’s an exception rather than the rule. This is my claim about Atheists like you. This has nothing to do with atheism. In fact Craig and Koukl would argue that you are borrowing Christian capital when you envision that it’s noble to do what you wish to do. But I leave that argument to them.

    Reply
  174. TobyR. says:

    “our moral authority says encourage (you call it peer pressure) each other to be noble, act out of kindness, heal the sick, comfort the dying, visit the prisoners, free the oppressed and to do so even if it requires sacrifice.”

    It’s nice that you encourage (or passively unconsciously pressure) each other. I believe we atheists do the same with each other, but the difference is we’re not motivated by the hellfire beneath our feet. I give to NPR and PBS out of kindness because I think it benefits society with education (especially Word World on PBS and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood reruns). I heal the sick because I’m a clinical laboratory scientist and I’m a part of that process. I’d comfort the dying if I knew of anyone doing that at the moment; if I don’t know them it’s not my place to intrude and try to sell them a happily ever after. I’m a videophile and make videos that have taken me into the Kentucky State Reformatory a number of times where i’ve rubbed elbows with guys in the yard. I don’t know of anyone oppressed at the moment, but I supported the equal rights act, civil rights, gay rights, and the like and I’ve called the cops on men beating on their women when we lived in an apartment with paperthin walls.

    So don’t begrudge me sleeping in on sunday and lounging around in my sunday-worst when I can do all of the above without sacrificing a morning that’s better meant for waffles and catching up on backed up DVDs from Netflix.

    I don’t need a group and I’m surprised that rugged conservatives are offering this social . . . well, social socialism.

    Reply
  175. Neil Mammen says:

    Just to clarify there’s nothing that promises us hell if we don’t act compassionately. As Christians our Theology/Bible says that we are saved by Grace, not by actions. All the rest, witnessing, being an apologist, even engaging with atheists is because we are influenced by the love that Christ has given us. However being human we fail miserably and thus need the encouragement of our brothers and sisters to go out and let the world see it. A Christian who does none of those is still saved.

    Remember we conservatives have no problem with communalism it’s when someone FORCES to do it that we consider it wrong. In other words, charity is wonderful, fascistic (forced at the point of a gun) charity is socialism or communism and is wrong. Jesus said we should sacrifice and give lovingly. He never said I should pass a law to force YOU to give especially not reluctantly.

    May I encourage you to do what you plan. It is a noble goal and a worthy goal (based on my authority’s prescribed moral standards – sorry I had to say that). Come let us now agree to disagree on the other things, we have similar goals when it comes to compassion. It is a good way to end this.

    Reply
  176. Neil Mammen says:

    Luke: Two things. Bill Gates has not YET given that amount. He has pledged to do so but has not done so. I was well aware of his pledge and have written about him in my book. When he does give the money, my example to the next person who asks will change appropriately. Secondly if you look at my example you’ll see that I said that the money he gives will not change his lifestyle nor cause him to have to give up anything he needs. This means he could give away almost 99% of his money and still not be in need. This is not sacrificial giving. This was the crux of my example.

    Andrew did not ask, he said “By the way, I post here as Nathan. Feel free to Facebook me if you want to know why. You don’t need to address me back as ‘Nathan/Andrew’.”

    He said I don’t need to. I know I don’t need to. But as I clearly stated, this is my blog, you guys are guests at my table drinking my beer. Therefore as the administrator, I require that we use people’s real names whenever possible, not some fake alter ego. Had he wished for me to not use his real name, he should have said when he informed me on FB that “my name is Andrew, but for such and such a reason on the blog for confidentiality I’d be appreciative if you call me Nathan.” He did not do this. Frankly I’ve given Nathan/Andrew my personal email, he can always explain his circumstances. I did not violate anything. Please stop being overly dramatic. This subject is over Luke.

    Reply
  177. Tim D. says:

    This means he could give away almost 99% of his money and still not be in need. This is not sacrificial giving. This was the crux of my example.

    So no matter how many people he helps, or how useful his efforts are to people in need or to society at large, it doesn’t matter because he’s not giving enough to incapacitate himself financially?

    What motivation does anyone have to give, given those standards? People would be faced with the dilemma, “if I only give a little of what I have, then that’s not a valuable act of kindness because it’s not *completely* sacrificial. And I can’t afford to give that much because I have a family to take care of So why bother giving at all?”

    But as I clearly stated, this is my blog, you guys are guests at my table drinking my beer. Therefore as the administrator, I require that we use people’s real names whenever possible, not some fake alter ego.

    So basically you were being disrespectful, because you’re the boss and you can. I think that’s really sad, but at the same time I suppose it’s in line with your belief that, if someone has the power and authority to do something, then that makes it “just” for them to do so.

    ….getting back on topic, I’ve just started reading this book called “Good Without God: What A Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe,” and I happened to come across this passage in the first chapter. I felt it was relevant to the discussion of objective values, their nature, and their value to humans:

    “Not only do we not need “objective” values to condemn heinous crimes and uphold ethical standards, we cannot ever be confident that objective values exist. We can postulate them, but there is no way to prove them right or wrong, existent or nonexistent. What proof would suffice? You’d have to have divine revelation — in which case, if it comes, we Humanists are perfectly willing to change our minds. But we’re not holding our breath.
    Meanwhile, there will always be competing systems of proposed “objective” values, meaning that we will be at the mercy of their earthly representatives. If you sign on for the idea that we need objective values, you are signing on for a lifetime of placing great importance on the often petty bickering among ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, swamis, and other gurus, as to which one of them possesses the
    truly objective values and why all the others possess only false words and ill-begotten human inventions. Is this what we want? To submit our psyche — the only brain, the only intelligence we will ever possess — to the mercy of one holy man after another parading various subjective arguments for why we should obey them on the basis of their supposedly objective truth? If this were the only way, maybe we would. If there were no other way to feel that life was worthwhile or that we could be part of a community, maybe we’d sign on for all this despite its flaws. But there is a better way. Humanism (or whatever other word you prefer to use for goodness without God) is that way.”

    Reply
  178. Neil Mammen says:

    As far as sacrificing, you’ve missed the point. My point is that Bill Gates is NOT an example of sacrificial giving like many Christians are. Bill Gates is great. He’s giving money away and doing great things with it. But he’s no Mother Teresa or George Mueller or David Livingstone or Swami Vivekananda. Not everybody can be as rich as Bill Gates, if we all waited till we were that rich the world would be a rotten place. How much did Gates give when he was poor? Christians didn’t wait to be rich. They gave what they had to change the world. Some at the cost of their own lives. This does not mean others should not give. But lets realize that there are greater givers amongst us. Actually I wish he’d give away micro-loans rather than give money away. We all know that that’s the difference between bringing wealth to an area and bringing inflation to an area.

    The rest of your quotation is a repeat of what I”ve already discredited, in light of all the statistics I’ve shown the last few days. Atheists and humanists have failed miserably in the real world when it comes to sacrificially fighting for liberties. They can speak a good talk, and show a few billionaires here and there and give out of their excesses, but their overall game lacks success. The proof is in the pudding. When your humanists with their philosophies win some real human rights battles let me know. Anyone can make great claims. Let’s see some delivery. After the 200th hospital named after a self sacrificing atheist/humanist, let’s talk.

    Reply
  179. Nathan Barley says:

    “Hitler’s hero was Nietzsche not Jesus.”

    His hero was Martin Luther, whose anti-semitism Hitler used as a blueprint for the holocaust. Nice try though. You further use ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacies to disassociate yourself with any other immoral Christians. Pure dishonesty.

    “How much did Gates give when he was poor? ”

    Go on then Neil, you tell us if you’ve got all the answers. Answer? You have no idea how much Gates gave before he got rich, so you go ahead and assume the worst, as you seem to do of everyone who doesn’t share your faith. You keep saying ‘where were the atheists here or there?’. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you’ve worked on charitable projects many times with atheists, but they’ve hidden it from because they’ve quickly spotted your complete bigotry about their worldview.

    I brought up billionaire philanthropists only to answer your question about hospitals named after atheists. There are plenty of philantropic organisations named after atheists – and yes, many older than 100 years, so I gave the obvious answer. Then you move the goalposts – now it’s got to be non-rich philanthopists. Go google ‘atheist charities’. Many theists criticise the whole concept of an atheist charity for ‘making a show of their lack of belief rather than just doing good work’. So they can’t win.

    As for us – are Toby, Tim and myself supposed to start giving you details of the charitable activities or us and our friends? This is a childish way of conducting a discussion. You are completely blind to any evidence that contradicts your bigotry, and nothing we could show you would make any difference.

    Reply
  180. Nathan Barley says:

    A quick google away:

    Fred Hollows, 1929 – 1993, gave vision to more than one million people

    An opthalmologist at a prestigious Sydney hospital, Fred Hollows helped set up the first Aboriginal Medical Service and launched a national programme to combat eye disease in Aboriginal Australians.

    By the 1980s, Fred had extended his campaign for treating avoidable eye disease in some of the world’s poorest countries.

    Today there are more than one million people in the world who can see — because of Fred Hollows

    How many of these do I need to find? 200? I’m guess I could give you 2000 and you’d still have your fingers in your ears. Why don’t you find me an atheist organisation in the past 30 years that has condoned and covered up as many child abuse cases as the Catholic Church has in the past 30 years. Or preached for executing gays. Or spead misinformation about Aids to stop the use of contraceptives. Then we can talk.

    Reply
  181. Nathan Barley says:

    “When your humanists with their philosophies win some real human rights battles let me know”

    Fanny Wright, Elizur Wright and Ernestine Louise Rose?

    “Rose soon began to give lectures on the subjects that most interested her, joining the “Society for Moral Philanthropists” and traveling to different states to espouse her causes of the abolition of slavery, religious tolerance, public education and equality for women.

    Her lectures were met with controversy. When she was in the South to speak out against slavery, one slaveholder told her he would have “tarred and feathered her if she had been a man”. When, in 1855, she was invited to deliver an anti-slavery lecture in Bangor, Maine, a local newspaper called her “a female Atheist… a thousand times below a prostitute.” When Rose responded to the slur in a letter to the competing paper, she sparked off a town feud that created such publicity that, by the time she arrived, everyone in town was eager to hear her.

    Her most ill-received lecture was likely in Charleston, West Virginia, where her lecture on the evils of slavery was met with such vehement opposition and outrage that she was forced to exercise considerable influence to even get out of the city safely.”

    Wonder what religion those threatening slavers were…

    Reply
  182. Nathan Barley says:

    “The term “abolitionist” was often equated with “atheism” due to the fact that they were disobeying a divine edict. The irony is overwhelming. Here’s a direct quote from Thomas Smyth, minister of the Second Presbyterian Church of Charleston given on November 21, 1861:

    “God is introduced to give dignity and emphasis . . . and then He is banished,” said [Thomas Smyth]. It was this very atheistic Declaration which had inspired the “higher law” doctrine of the radical antislavery men. If the mischievous abolitionists had only followed the Bible instead of the godless Declaration, they would have been bound to acknowledge that human bondage was divinely ordained. The mission of southerners was therefore clear; they must defend the word of God against abolitionist infidels.”

    Just to prove that he wasn’t the only one, here’s another example from an 1860 defense of slavery entitled “Cotton is King”, by President E.N. Elliott of Planters’ College:

    “It is here worthy of remark, that most of the early abolition propagandists, many of whom commenced as Christian ministers, have ended in downright infidelity [i.e., atheism]. Let us then hear no more of this charge, that the defenders of slavery have changed their ground; it is the abolitionists who have been compelled to appeal to “a higher law,” not only than the Federal Constitution, but also, than the law of God. This is the inevitable result when men undertake to be “wise above what is written.”

    “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, their wresting the Scriptures from their plain and obvious meaning to compel them to teach abolitionism. Finally, the duty of all Christians: from such withdraw thyself.”

    Reply
  183. Tim D. says:

    No I’m not being disrespectful, you are. You must be a socialist or a liberal. Only a liberal would think, hey when you come into someone’s house, you don’t need to have the courtesy to respect their rules. We are not talking about inalienable rights here. We are talking about something akin to property rights.

    For anyone else paying attention, this is called a “Straw Man Fallacy.” It’s a textbook case, plain and simple, and he’s not even trying to hide it; Mr. Neil made up something and assigned it to me without my consent or admission (“You must be a liberal”), and then he attacked liberals (not me or anything I’ve specifically said) for doing something in hopes that the attack would carry over to me. It is a desperate tactic used by people who feel like they are losing debates.

    You were being facetious about Mr. Nathan’s name, and instead of being a “gracious host” and admitting it and apologizing, you are saying “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” Neverminding the fact that people who cry at parties aren’t much fun…

    You’re right, you are the boss of the forum. But if you have to rely on that fact to promote your arguments (especially petty ones like which name to use when calling someone) then your arguments are pathetic.

    As far as sacrificing, you’ve missed the point. My point is that Bill Gates is NOT an example of sacrificial giving like many Christians are.

    Exactly. You’re complaining that he’s not giving “in the right way,” or for the “right reasons.” Never mind the fact that he is giving PROFUSE amounts of money to positive causes. He’s just not doing it in a “Christian” way. Giving is apparently based on a percentage, and it only “counts” if you give more than you can afford to during a time of social upheaval. I’m sure you know this (which is why I find this criticism so odd), but not everyone can be a martyr all the time. The actions of non-martyrs are important, too, and it’s just plain ridiculous to go around criticizing people for not having the capacity to martyr themselves.

    After the 200th hospital named after a self sacrificing atheist/humanist, let’s talk.

    And here you have it, folks! Kindness is numerical. It doesn’t count until you hit the 200-hospital mark!

    You know what Neil, I did give you too much credit. Your pathetic hatred isn’t worth my time. Delete or ban me or whatever, but don’t worry, I won’t waste our time with this drivel any further.

    (Just thought I’d pre-empt the inevitable, “But I don’t hate you, I love the sinner and hate the sin!” Doesn’t count if you treat people you “love” exactly the same as you’d treat someone you “hate.”)

    Reply
  184. TobyR. says:

    “This means he could give away almost 99% of his money and still not be in need. This is not sacrificial giving. This was the crux of my example.”

    “As far as sacrificing, you’ve missed the point. My point is that Bill Gates is NOT an example of sacrificial giving like many Christians are. Bill Gates is great. He’s giving money away and doing great things with it. But he’s no Mother Teresa or George Mueller or David Livingstone or Swami Vivekananda.”

    Why does one need to stoop to self-immolation for their charity? Would you think differently of mother Teresa or Mueller, or the others if they had money? Would all of a sudden their work mean less if they had a nice home among the poor? With as many resources that are on this planet, natural and man-made, there is no reason for someone to have to sell all of their possessions, give that money to charity, and go off and live in the woods just so that people can look at them and say, “Wow, he really ruined his life! He must be a good guy!”

    This is idea of self-sacrificial charity is ridiculous. It’s stupid notion that the worse a person treats themself the better a person they are, the more giving they are. You can keep that.

    Micro-loans? Where’s the charity in that? “Here’s some money . . . but you have to pay it back to me with interest.” That doesn’t make you a charity, it makes you a bank with low standards. A payday lender. I’d rather him go around to poor neighborhoods and pay off their homeloans or buy the apartments that they live in and give them to the tenents. inflation be damned.

    An aside:

    Here’s a funny thought I had once. I wondered what would happen if Bill Gates started going around to those huge gun shows and buying up every gun and box of ammo in the place, having a huge smelting party and using the metal to make bulletproof steel decorative siding to cover houses so they’d be resistant to gun violence.

    Reply
  185. Nathan barley says:

    “Would you think differently of mother Teresa or Mueller, or the others if they had money?”

    Well she managed to fly first class and get the most expensive medical care, so she can’t gave done that badly. She was a mate of Neil’s so I’m sure he’s an impartial judge of her.

    Reply
  186. Tim D. says:

    Here’s a funny thought I had once. I wondered what would happen if Bill Gates started going around to those huge gun shows and buying up every gun and box of ammo in the place, having a huge smelting party and using the metal to make bulletproof steel decorative siding to cover houses so they’d be resistant to gun violence.

    That would be….interesting 😀 And poetic.

    Reply
  187. Neil Mammen says:

    Hey guys, look, it’s not my intention to be arrogant. If I came across that way, I apologize. I’m really trying to understand your arguments. I’m not trying any stunts.

    Nathan, I only saw your first post on your name issue. I never saw your follow up. On that post you just said you don’t need to address me back as….. I honestly did not see that as a request. I thought you were being gracious. I was not something I spend a lot of thought on. Until your most recent post all I’d read was other people arguing about it. Admittedly once Luke started being overly persistent I did not care to change anything till I understood why you wished me to do so.

    So if it really bothers you that I address you by your real name on this blog, I will gladly address you by your not real name. But I will ask that I don’t wish to interact with false names on future blogs when given the option.

    On the Bill Gates issues. I never brought up philantrophy. I brought up hospitals named after Christians. Like Saint Peter’s, Saint Jude. Not exactly people who’d donate to have hospital named after themselves. So when you brought up Gates, I didn’t see the connection, I saw that as a new topic of Billionaires donating money. Different class than Hospitals started by Christians named after OTHER Christians that they admired. See the problem. One indicates that the hospital was started by a Christian. The other is just a philanthropist and no relationship to Hospitals.

    BTW I do know that Bill Gates did not give money before. I wrote an operating system about 3 years after he did. Only I didn’t get to sell it to IBM (it was a college project), but studying up in the OR/WA area I had friends who went to work for this small SW company in Seattle. (They are all retired now). But we kept close tabs on him and the stories from my colleagues who worked for him. Everyone said he was a tight fisted miser and wouldn’t give anything to anyone. So when I said that it was with full knowledge of the Bill Gates before the Billions.

    Finally when I stated the facts I stated what Gates had given. Not what he will give. As I said, had he ALREADY given it then my comparison would have been different. That was relevant to my comparison.

    As far as finding 200 people, here’s how the thinking goes. Atheists stats say that there are 170Million Atheists in the world. Christians stats say there are about 1B true believers in the world (Catholics and Evangelicals). 1B more who just are born to Christian families so they don’t count as those who’d act on Biblical commands or make sacrifices for God’s commands.

    Thus there only 15% as many atheists. But if Atheism is a moral system that would “naturally” lead to similar or more moral actions as you guys are claiming, then at least 15% of all moral battles, 15% of all civll rights, hospitals, charities should have been fought by atheists for what they believe was true INDEPENDENT of the Christians. If you want to use all 2B Christians, then it would be 7%. Thus I figured I can find 10000’s of Christians who fit that description & 100’s of major battles that Christians have waged without atheists (i.e. generated from Christian principles). Surely it would be easy to point to some major battles that Atheists have waged WITHOUT Christians generated from their value system. 200 seemed like a good compromise.

    Now of course I could be wrong. That’s why the dialog is important. But with you guys getting all upset every time I state a premise, and spouting ad homimens and making a fuss, and acting like I accused some saint of yours of being evil, we aren’t going to get much dialog going.

    So please lighten up. I’m not in this to convert you or demean any of you. I just want to understand your arguments. So when I state something please realize I’m not trying to insult you. If you feel I’ve demeaned you, just ask me to clarify politely and I’ll be happy to try. Ask me nicely if I’m trying to be rude.

    And if you still think I’m trying to insult you, I won’t be able to convince you otherwise, so please please do NOT participate. It’s a free forum but it’s a forum that I want to use for mutual understanding. Not for bashing people who disagree with others.

    Reply
  188. Nathan barley says:

    Tim Davis, you come across as angrier than anyone else who’s posted here. Can you tell us what your religious affiliation is so we know who to blame?

    Neil, if you mean like St Peter, then that’s not much of an argument. You had a go at me for mentioning people from the last 100 years, and you’re offering people from 2000 years ago, for whose existence you have little evidence outside of a single book. Bob Geldoff raises hundreds of millions of pounds for charity – whether anyone named a hospital after him is a moot point. Perhaps in a few hundred years there WILL be hospitals named after him, Gates. But that’s not how I judge their actions.

    Reply
  189. Nathan barley says:

    Atheism isn’t a moral system. No-one ever claimed it was. Humanism is a moral system. But atheism is no more a moral system than ‘not believing in palmistry’ is. Doesn’t mean that non-palmist believers are not moral. Your stats on atheists vs Christians still don’t follow. For a start, the majority of the hospitals you talk about were built hundreds of years ago, when atheist numbers were far smaller, and the ones that did exist were often persecuted for their lack of belief and so didn’t shout about it. If you were an atheist on a committe building a church, I think you’d get outvoted on who to name it after. Plus, Neil, if you want to be consistent you shouldn’t say ‘that’s not my religion’ when people mention Catholic atrocities, but then share in the credit for their hispitals. If wealthy philanthropists who fund hospitals do not count as they haven’t given away a set percentage of their wealth, the hospitals built by wealthy churches are vulnerable to the same criticism. Why hasn’t the pope sold his gold toilet to feed the poor? Finally, who’s to say that an atheist building a hospital should name it after another atheist?
    And you can add Richard Curtis to the list of atheists/humanists who’ve raised hundreds of millions for charity,

    Reply
  190. Tim D. says:

    Tim D, you give Tim Davis too much credit in your long response. If he misunderstood our posts that badly, he’s never going to understand your new one. He’s just a troll. Amusing that he plays the racist card though – I thought it was just us bleeding heart liberals who did that?

    That was for the benefit of people who are “lurking” (i.e. reading without posting). I’ll quote someone from the Friendlyatheist forums to explain (with my name shoopdawooped in for effect):

    [Tim D.] was talking in front of [an unknown number] of people, many of whom may not have heard [Tim Davis’] tattered arguments before. They will hear him say one, they will perk up, and will pay attention to [Tim D’s] rebuttal. If [Tim D.] brushes it off shallowly and with disdain, as he is so good at doing, then he will not be helping them think more carefully. They will only remember what they perceive as his dismissive attitude.

    Reply
  191. Nathan barley says:

    You’re right Tim, I take back my comment, by treating their comments with the respect they lack, we show how we rise above their rudeness and shallow thinking. But I still think it’s fair comment to say other Tim’s accusations of racism are utterly baseless and repugnant.

    Reply
  192. Neil Mammen says:

    Hey Tim, how’s it going. Tim is a Theistic Buddhist and disagrees with me on various forms of that. But I guess now that you mention it, this is one thing we do agree on Tim, and have not ever argued about. Objective Morality.

    But Tim you do bring up an interesting point. Why is his statement of racism not valid? You may think it’s repugnant, but that’s really not relevant.

    And accusing me of being obtuse is really not helping anyone think you guys really want to have fair debate.

    *** Note some posts regarding a different topic about a posters name has been removed since it was not relevant to the blog topic ***

    Reply
  193. Nathan barley says:

    Neil, Mr Davis post just came across as spickle -flecked invective to me. And no, none of us have said anything to justify his accusation. I might as well claim that his post makes him a racist. What part of his post did you consider to be reasonable? Go back to our posts on the slavery question and find where we’re supposed to have mentioned black people having to be grateful to anyone.

    I’ll re-summarise my position on objective morality when I have the chance.

    Reply
  194. Tim D. says:

    Hey Tim, how’s it going. Tim is a Theistic Buddhist and disagrees with me on various forms of that. But I guess now that you mention it, this is one thing we do agree on Tim, and have not ever argued about. Objective Morality.

    …I’m confused, which Tim are you speaking to? I assume the other one ’cause I’m not a theistic buddhist…

    But Tim you do bring up an interesting point. Why is his statement of racism not valid? You may think it’s repugnant, but that’s really not relevant.

    I can only assume this is directed at me? In any case, Mr. Davis’ accusation of racism is invalid because nobody has said anything here that even vaguely qualifies what he said. You (and he) are more than welcome to show me one thing that I have (or anyone else has) said about slavery or slaves that could be interpreted in any way to imply that I thought slaves “owed” anyone anything.

    And accusing me of being obtuse is really not helping anyone think you guys really want to have fair debate.

    Honestly? It doesn’t even matter. It’s irrelevant to the debate. I was defending Nathan’s point because your reasoning made no sense to me and it appeared (and still appears) to me as though you were calling him by his other name deliberately to provoke a reaction. I’ve already made my point there; if you’re not going to apologize or admit any wrongdoing then there’s nothing left for me to say about that issue.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to email my sister the Hamster Dance 🙂

    Reply
  195. Nathan barley says:

    “Do I think they SHOULD have had their freedom before? Of course. Am I revolted by the history of slavery in my home country and in the US? Of course. Is it a ‘capricious whim’ to be revolted by people being treated as animals? I don’t think so. I have no choice but to be revolted, and my opposition to slavery is based on deeply held principles.”

    Could I have made my opposition to slavery much clearer there? Possibly, but not by much. How one could parse racism from that I cannot fathom. I’d say one could make a case for slander from Mr Davis’ post, and I’m astonished that Neil is happy to support it.

    Reply
  196. Nathan barley says:

    “Do I think they SHOULD have had their freedom before? Of course. Am I revolted by the history of slavery in my home country and in the US? Of course. Is it a ‘capricious whim’ to be revolted by people being treated as animals? I don’t think so. I have no choice but to be revolted, and my opposition to slavery is based on deeply held principles.”

    Could I have made my opposition to slavery much clearer there? Possibly, but not by much. How one could parse racism from that I cannot fathom. I’d say one could make a case for slander from Mr Davis’ post, and I’m astonished that Neil is happy to support it.

    Reply
  197. Tim Davis says:

    And what’s worse is they all know I’m right and immediately start to complain…showing that they do believe in an objective morality….they minute they whine and moan they are saying….hey you should be fair. The standard is fairness. But where did they get this damn idea that fairness is the “RIGHT” thing to do? Watch them.

    Reply
  198. Tim Davis says:

    It’s also ridiculosly funny that a bunch of atheists would be so ignorant of Darwin and use him to champion atheism because he was an abolitionist. Get your facts straights worshippers. 3 years before he died, Darwin wrote: I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. – I think that generally … an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” We are to think that he suddenly became an atheist days later and did all his atheistic benevelonce towards abolition in the 3 years before he died. Get a grip. Obviously his abolitionist views were influenced by this theistic days which he very much was when he first published Origin of the Species. Methinks the atheist complaineth too much.

    Reply
  199. Neil Mammen says:

    I won’t speak for Tim, but I’m not giving up on this yet, but I do have to attend to other things so you’ll not see me posting as much. I don’t see this as a debate to be won. I’m sorry that you see it as some sort of competition. Perhaps therein lies the problem. I’m trying to have a dialog and if I make a mistake I hope to understand what my mistake was and accept correction. Sadly I’ve not see any of that on the other side, precisely because now I realize that you think it’s a competition.
    Realistically speaking, besides the 4 of us and a few friends who are tracking, I doubt anybody else will ever read this far.

    I’ll have to go back and reread the “Morality from our DNA” post. I’ve had a lot of things going on since then and didn’t recall that discussion. Apologies if we are rehashing a few things.

    I’m not sure Tim is too happy about being called my sock puppet. He doesn’t exactly agree with me on a lot of things. Funny that because he agrees with me on this small issue you think it’s me.

    But Tim did raise a good point about Darwin, I have learned a lot from him in the past and this is yet a new thing. I always thought Darwin was an atheist. I never realized that he called himself an agnostic. I thought that the very word was coined by Russell years later. I’d be interested in seeing the atheistic answer to that.

    As far as my using the Catholic and the Protestant justification for acts of Charity. You may need to understand the distinction that I’m thinking. As long as people believe and obey the words of Christ in the Bible I see them validating the concept of God’s moral authority. But when the Pope makes declarations or even for that matter Martin Luther says things that are NOT Biblical, I see no reason to “own” them or obey them. When a Catholic priest violates God’s moral authoritative law by abusing a child or turning a blind eye to Hitler’s crimes, that same authority allows me to condemn their actions and condemn the Church if they try to protect those people. So I’m happy to share in the Catholic and Evangelical activities that proceed directly from Christ’s words. I don’t think Luther or any of the Pope are inerrant. I hope that helps.

    I think we still disagree on the fundamentals here. I’m claiming that Atheistic benevolence is not comparable even percentage wise to Christian benevolence. In fact I’d go a step further and suggest that Atheists borrowed from Christian capital. Look I’m willing to stop using this argument if you could show me some sort of leadership in the Atheistic community to resolve injustice long before those concepts of injustice were first promulgated by Christians. Of course this is going to be tough and I’m not sure how exactly you’d prove it.

    On the sacrificial end of things. I do think it’s important that sacrifice be part of the effort to stop injustice, because it’s the only way Christians were able to stop injustice. I’m not as impressed with the Philanthropy of Bill Gates because the Philanthropy of the average American far exceeds anything he can do. Bill Gates could give all 60B or whatever he had away, but the average American gives over 300B every single year put together. So next year Bill Gates won’t have anything to give but the american public will continue to give. Most of that 300B comes from conservatives. That 300B represents a sacrifice to those who are giving. If they did not give sacrificially then only Bill Gates would be giving and that too only once. But perhaps it’s going to be hard to explain this to you guys in this forum. You may see this better explained in your lives.

    I’m hoping we can tone down the discussion a bit and try to be a bit more compassionate and friendly going forward.

    Reply
  200. Nathan barley says:

    You’re welcome to believe theists are more benevolent than non theists. I see no evidence of it. Theists are an enormously diverse group, some kind, some actively campaigning to make the world a worse place. I don’t even blame their faith for that.

    I would engage with Tim’s Darwin point, but I see no point in talking to someone whose opening gambit is to be so pointlessly rude and unpleasant.

    Reply
  201. Neil Mammen says:

    Yes, I will biasedly delete posts that I think are simply insulting. But I always leave a marking that says: Post Deleted, if I think they have a good point and I may mention the point.

    Luke why don’t you repost your comment.

    Reply
  202. Neil Mammen says:

    We seem to spend a lot of time on side issues. I would continue to urge you all to be civil and relevant and also to display a sense of compassion and understanding. I will however allow some rude comments to remain depending on my capricious mood at the time. I am, after all not God. 🙂

    Reply
  203. Neil Mammen says:

    I will let Tim defend his own posts, but I chose not to delete it as I think it had a good point. I am waiting for a response to him as is he I’m sure. He does not have a job that allows him to email at will so we will have to wait till he is off work or takes a break.

    Reply
  204. Nathan barley says:

    Back on topic, Neil, let’s return to the crux of your argument. It all comes down to ‘creator = ‘authority’ and everything else flows from that. Why is this not subject to E’s dilemma itself? Why is this an objective truth rather than you subjective opinion? To avoid being a circular argument, it has to be true independently of God’s authority. It can’t be true BECAUSE of God’s authority. So if it IS objectively true, why is it any more so than an atheist making a similar ‘it just is’ statement, and building on that in the same way you have. Again, the difference cannot be that you have God’s authority, because the whole point of the explanation is to EXPAIN that authority.

    Reply
  205. Nathan barley says:

    Neil, you thought Tim had a good point about Darwin, or a good point about calling us racists, who his black friends would ‘love to speak to’? If the latter, which is what I was questioning, then yes that is something you both need to defend. Such an accusation is not just some side issue, it’s a grave insult. I’m no sooner going to let it slide than an accusation of child abuse. You want to avoid side issues?

    Reply
  206. Neil Mammen says:

    Yes and I fully admit I’m having trouble trying to figure out how to defend that because it seems so self evident to me. So I don’t fault you for not accepting it. I just always figured I was a given. I was going to spend the weekend thinking about that, but we all got distracted. So I pray you let me ponder on it further.

    I would suggest though that I’m not sure this invalidates anything I wrote initially in the blog I.e. that Euthryphro’s dilemma is not really a dilemma.

    All it seems to me is that it merely is cohesive. If you see it as invalidating what I wrote please do itemize your thinking as I’m not seeing that just yet.

    I also have to focus on a few things for the next few days so my emailing will be sparse.

    Reply
  207. Nathan barley says:

    Neil, I understand why that seems self-evident to you. My question is, why is that different from me saying certain things are self-evidently wrong?

    Reply
  208. Neil Mammen says:

    Yes however you may wish to worry that at some point I may just go back and delete all references to this whole calling Andrew Nathan business. As it’s been wasting a lot of time and space and diverts from the main issue.

    If I decide to bother to do so I’ll leave a terse message saying something to the effect, of:
    “All messages relating to Nathan’s real name have been deleted as they do not contribute to the issue of the blog.

    I forewarn you now because at that point I will not take the time to clean out mixed content. If you find this to be unfair then so be it. But I’ll allow any reposting of relevant content that was lost if you wish to do so at that time. Since you all have an email trace of the discussion this should not be difficult.

    In fact starting now, this topic is over. Any and I mean any posts regarding that will be deleted. Stay on topic.

    Reply
  209. Nathan barley says:

    Ok Neil. But as the whole of your argument rests on it, I’d have thought the answer would be obvious or intuitive. If you have to take the time to work out the answer post hoc, what chance for anyone else? How are you different from what you say about us, that we can’t justify our morality? Hey, maybe we’re not so different! But seriously, I’ll await your answer. And more seriously, if you haven’t got an answer to the racism accusation then you should withdraw your support for Mr Davis’ post.

    Reply
  210. Neil Mammen says:

    TIm D I removed two of your posts. I didn’t like your tone and you addressed the issue I clearly asked everyone not to discuss.. Sorry. You had a few good points please feel free to repost those.

    I’m sure people will be unhappy with this, but I will allow valid discussion in polite tones.

    Reply
  211. Tim D. says:

    TIm D I removed two of your posts. I didn’t like your tone and you addressed the issue I clearly asked everyone not to discuss.. Sorry. You had a few good points please feel free to repost those.

    Oh I know. I was just running a little test….got some screenshots. Here is the post sans references to the *incident* in question, of which I am also taking screenshots as a precaution:

    Foreword: for what it’s worth, I could not possibly care less that one (or more, now) of my posts was deleted.

    I’m trying to have a dialog and if I make a mistake I hope to understand what my mistake was and accept correction.

    Forgive me if I don’t entirely believe that. Maybe at first this was so, but after a point you started to become very aggressive and judgmental of other people, even insisting at one point that my own moral system “doesn’t make sense” — not because it’s not founded on a self-evident truth (because it is, just like yours is), but because it’s not based on the idea of objective truth.

    To say that this “isn’t logical” is to beg the entire question — whether it’s possible to have an enforceable moral system based on subjectively-inferred values. I feel that I’ve laid out a more than “logical” system (or at least the basis of one). You may not like it or agree with it, but that doesn’t make it illogical or inconsistent. That just means you prefer your own system (which is of course fine); inside our heads we’re all free to think as we please. Our interactions in the “real world” will discern the effectiveness of our moral beliefs, but the problem with your judgment is that this has yet to play out. You are judging people like myself (and other contemporary atheists) based on the supposed moral systems of atheists from several hundred years ago (few and far who actually publically used that label beyond a hundred or so years ago).

    Atheism as a foundation for a way of life is fairly recent. Humanism, on the other hand, is much older, and has been enforced publicly (albeit by different names) by many people throughout history, both religious and agnostic/atheist/pantheist. So if we judge the “moral codes” of history solely by what vague spiritual term people used to refer to themselves, then we will come up with a very impartial and very flawed view of historical morality.

    I’m not sure Tim is too happy about being called my sock puppet. He doesn’t exactly agree with me on a lot of things. Funny that because he agrees with me on this small issue you think it’s me.

    I’m really interested that you seem to know so much about what “Tim” thinks, and how, despite his earlier shameless introduction, he suddenly no longer feels the need to speak for himself. Interesting.

    But Tim did raise a good point about Darwin, I have learned a lot from him in the past and this is yet a new thing. I always thought Darwin was an atheist. I never realized that he called himself an agnostic. I thought that the very word was coined by Russell years later. I’d be interested in seeing the atheistic answer to that.

    What’s there to “answer?” Whether Darwin was an atheist, an agnostic or even a creationist is completely irrelevant to the theory of evolution, to anyone’s belief in god, or to anything else scientific for that matter. Nobody I’ve ever heard of has based any of their beliefs about the world on whether or not Darwin was an atheist.

    Reply
  212. Tim D. says:

    So if we judge the “moral codes” of history solely by what vague spiritual term people used to refer to themselves, then we will come up with a very impartial and very flawed view of historical morality.

    That should say partial, not impartial. My bad 😮

    Reply
  213. Luke says:

    Neil,

    I am glad we’re back on topic and you’re going to try to address the crux of the problem.

    Since you said you would work on trying to defend the seemingly self-evident argument you made, I wanted to draw your attention back to an exchange we had last week. I think if you think this through, it will help you with the question you’re trying to answer. (It may not, but I think it will be helpful.)

    I asked:So my question is: If G-d had indeed made laws which you call “illogical, unnecessary, random and arbitrary” would you still be obligated to follow them based on the self evident principle that “He created you. Thus he has the authority to command you to obey [H]im.”

    Neil answered: Luke I’d say that that was not possible because as I indicated in the blog the requirement for God to exist means he has to be morally good. If He exists, he’s good and can never give you a capricious command.

    Neal. Sorry, but in your article, you said things like:

    An irrational god would self-destruct and could not last for all eternity.

    and

    he would inevitably destroy himself as he became fully evil.

    Maybe I misunderstood, but your article did not say to me: “that[is] not possible.”

    It said: could not exist for very longwhich requires existence.
    It said: would self destructwhich requires existence.

    (It did say words to the effect of ‘such a thing could not exists,’ but proofs of this statement, as seen above, require existence in the first place. I took it to mean, and I think it could only mean ‘could not exist forever.’)

    Maybe you have changed your thinking on this, but the article is clear. Such a think could exists for at least some period of time. You would have no way of knowing if we are living in a time before this deity’s self-destruction. (You have no way to know, for example, that the world was not just created now by this weird god, with the memories of this conversation intact, so it is certainly possible, if your article is correct.)

    There are other possibilities as well. In the book of Job, G-d allows Satan (or the accuser) to kill Job’s family. It seems perfectly logical (though unlikely) that G-d could give the accuser permission to create and populate a planet or universe for similar purposes. The world would be guided by someone who is mostly evil, but you would still owe your existence to this accuser, and you would have no way of knowing that the real G-d is out there over all this and what His moral requirements might be. (Think of the gnostic demiurge; I mean something along these lines.) Sure, this is unlikely, but not impossible. G-d has His purposes (Job is a good discussion of this), and we may not understand them; it is not inconceivable or illogical that G-d might permit this for some greater good. The point is not how likely any of these things are, it’s that they cannot be logically excluded (unless you change the thinking in your article). My question is valid, even as just a hypothetical exercise.

    I think thinking through it will help you come up with the proof you’re looking for.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  214. Tim Davis says:

    I go away for a few days, and suddenly I’m the bad guy. OK I’ve been asked to tone it down. Here’s the issue said NICELY.
    1. If the slaves dinna have any rights to freedom that were being immorally taken away from them. Where did these nuevo rights come from? Who created those brand spankin’ new rights?
    2. If those new rights were CREATED by some nice WHITE guys, ain”t you saying that they ONLY reason those slaves have those rights now was because some nice white folk decided to give them those rights und not because they always had those rights.

    Reply
  215. Nathan Barley says:

    Research the role of other races in the ending of slavery. Consider men such as David Walker, Henry Highland Garnet and Frederick Douglass. It is a slur to say it was purely down to ‘nice whitey folk’ as you put it, so your ‘grateful to whitey’ question is offensive and revisionist enough in its own right.

    Secondly, before abolition, can you explain in what sense HAVING the right to freedom made any difference to a slave who by law did NOT have the right to freedom? To paraphrase Monty Python, you might as well tell me that I have the RIGHT to bear children, even though I’m a man without a womb. In what practical sense did this right make any difference to a slave? For what exactly should this slave have felt grateful?

    Thirdly, regardless of your religious beliefs and whether you believe all men had rights before the end of slavery, it’s a fact that before abolition those rights were not extended to all men. So the question – should anyone feel grateful to those responsible for ending slavery – still applies whether you posit a God or not.

    For example, if someone tries to take away a right you feel you already have, and another man stops the first one from taking away those rights from you, you may well feel grateful to that man, even though he was just enforcing rights you already deserve. You might conclude yes, you might conclude no, but I don’t see what difference God makes to the question.

    Or to make another example, a fertility doctor who enables a woman to have a child could be argued to be responsible only for facilitating a right that the woman already had. But that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t feel grateful to him.

    Finally, many men and women fought to end slavery. As I said already – not just ‘whitey folks’. Many gave their lives. Perhaps we should ALL feel gratitude to them. But I’m open to your arguments to the contrary. Just try to hold back on the hate, eh? And try to avoid revisionist history that all of those black mates of yours might object to.

    Reply
  216. Tim D. says:

    On atheism/humanism somehow implying that whites are “superior” in any way to blacks: I bring you Debbie Goddard, black humanist/atheist. *Leader* of the Center For Inquiry. Just google the story on NPR “Secular Students Find Their Place On Campus.” There’s an interview conducted by Michel Martin. It’s an interesting interview because it also features Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, and author of the book (which I would recommend to everyone here whose views of humanistic atheism are so very, very distorted by Christianity and religious hate propaganda), “Good Without God: What A Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe.”

    In any case, I find it quite ironic that a worldview that’s supposedly *so very racist* should have a black person as its figurehead.

    And so the issue was settled 🙂

    Reply
  217. Nathan Barley says:

    This comment and related has been deleted as it add nothing to the conversation and does not promote healthy discussion…

    Reply
  218. Neil Mammen says:

    I deleted comments that were not relevant to the discussion.

    It’s very rude and presumptions of posters to assume that other people on this blog have nothing else in life going on that has higher priorities.

    We do have a very very important election season going on right now, not to mention the dozen radio appearances and the fact that it’s tax season for Small Businesses.

    Reply
  219. Neil Mammen says:

    Yeah I think we left that a long time ago. We got to the point of whether it’s obvious that God has the authority to command his creatures to obey him given that his very nature is one of Moral Consistency. At which point I got busy with Tax Season and about 10 radio interviews and a project that is almost done. So the burden is upon me to show that that’s logically obvious.

    Tim Davis (not Tim D) asked if Slaves had inherent rights from God and if they didn’t, isn’t it rather racist of white folks to think that they only reason the slaves got to be free was because some white people chose to give them rights that never belonged to them.

    Tim D (not to be confused with Tim Davis) and Nathan: thinks that’s an insult and that’s where that piece is.

    Reply
  220. Tim D. says:

    How did you guys go from the apparent Euthyphro dilemma to who ended slavery? Have you concluded that there is no dilemma?

    Nah, the dilemma still stands. It goes like this:

    -Neil says there’s no dilemma
    -Someone else offers utilitarian/humanistic reasons why there is simply no need to equate god and goodness/morality, even if it *were* objective
    -Neil says utilitarian arguments don’t count
    -Someone else asks, why not?
    -Neil says because they’re not rooted in god
    -Someone else says, why does it matter if it’s rooted in god or not?
    -Neil offers utilitarian arguments as to why that’s the case
    -Someone points out that this argument is self-defeating because utilitarian arguments, according to Neil, do not matter

    Therefore, there is no discernable reason to accept god as equivalent to any kind of objective moral standard. Although Neil is more than happy to insist otherwise without arguing (and simply deleting any post which points this out).

    Oh, and Mr. Turek, I believe it was “Tim Davis” who brought up the issue of slavery. We were fine discussing the dilemma without that whole mess before that.

    Reply
  221. Tim D. says:

    I’m sorry you see that argument that way. When I get time I’ll refute it.

    I’m still waiting on you to “refute” my other point. You know, the one I made about 3 weeks ago?

    Reply
  222. Nathan barley says:

    I tried to keep it on topic actually. It’s the theists here who keep bringing up slavery, Hitler etc. I’d ignore all that except for, yes, where I come from it’s an insult to call someone racist. And I’ve explained why it’s also incorrect and insulting to suggest that slavery was exclusively ended by White people, rendering the whole ‘grateful to whitey’ question fairly nonsensical.

    All of this seems purely a distraction from the one thing everyone seems to agree on – th

    Reply
  223. Nathan barley says:

    The one thing we all seem to agree on is that the nub of the dilemma is where the moral authority comes from. Every explanation for God’s authority seems equally subjectable to the original ‘fork’ of the dilemma, taking you back to where you started. Eg He’s the boss because he created us.

    But why does that mean he’s good? It’s a non sequitor to say creator must = moral. We’ve been offered utilitarian arguments, only to be told that such arguments are in fact useless unless there’s also ‘the ‘authority”. So again, where does THAT come from?

    We’re also given explanations along the lines of ‘good is what is necessary to ensure God’s continued existence. But like the utilitarian arguments, one can apply it to humans too, without the need for a God. And we’ve already explained this all several times.

    Reply
  224. Luke says:

    Neil,

    Neil said:Tim Davis (not Tim D) asked if Slaves had inherent rights from G-d.

    Since you brought this up, I think you actually asked this on October 1st (before Mr. Davis made his appearance), saying “Were those rights something [slaves] already had but they’d immorally been taken away from them?”

    Tim Davis did not ask about it, but he did answer your question in his first post here.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  225. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek,

    Just to try to make this easier, this is where the argument stands at this point (I found what’s likely the most relevant post in all the mess).

    Neil has said: He created you. Thus he has the authority to command you to obey him.

    [Luke] may agree, but what’s the logical syllogism to back this up?

    Neil answeredAnd this is the crux of the matter is it not? I guess I think this is self evident to Christians and not self evident to atheists.

    To me it’s one of those transcendent truths. If I create all things and a Universe with people for my good pleasure then I logically think I have the authority to tell them how to interact with the universe I created and own. We may be at loggerheads here.

    Neil then said he would work on the logic and a syllogism to prove this and come back. That’s where we seem to be. (Any atheist can say: To me [Insert moral position here] is one of those transcendent truths, so without some sort of logical explanation from Neil, he isn’t much different from such an atheist as far as logical grounding is concerned.)

    How are you by the way, I sent you a long email some time ago, but I understand you’re busy. I hope things are well.

    Luke

    Reply
  226. Luke says:

    Neil,

    I think it’s been answered several times as far as I’ve seen, though I did not answer since I was not involved in that discussion. If you’d like my personal answer, please let me know.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  227. Tim D. says:

    And thus you see why I think it’s a great question. One that nobody seems to be answering.

    It’s been addressed. You simply refuse to acknowledge this.

    First, from my perspective, it’s a nonsensical question. What is a “right” and where does it exist, for one? And second, if I don’t believe that rights objectively exist, then it would be completely nonsensical for me to believe that ANYONE gave ANYONE else ANY “rights.” If I don’t believe it exists objectively, then I not only don’t but can’t believe that the right was “given” to someone, or that they “didn’t have it before but do now.” It’s completely nonsensical.

    Secondly, Mr. Nate addressed it fairly well by pointing out that YOUR question presumes that it was ONLY whites that freed slaves, which is not true at all. Thus the question is void anyway.

    Reply
  228. Neil Mammen says:

    Here’s my current understanding::
    My original blog stated:
    1. There is no Eythypro dilemma because:
    2. It’s not a question of if God loves good or if good is independant of God but that God very nature is Good.
    This is the standard argument given by the ancients like Augusting. Nothing new so far.
    3. However the rebuttal to this has been that this is a circular argument.
    4. The goal of the blog was to show that this is not a circular argument because God can’t exist unless he is good. Thus God must be good for no other reason than that a bad God cannot exist.
    This does not prove that God exists but merely that if God exists he must be good and that’s self consistent, I refer you to “Who is Agent X?” the book to prove God exists.

    This argument stated in 4 was not refuted that I recall.

    What I understand that was raised instead is this: Why do we need to have a God to recognize what good is? So it’s not relevant. The atheist can be good without a God.

    My response was OK that’s a different issue because my only goal was to show that it was not a circular argument. But let’s look at this new issue as it is interesting.

    I suggest that in this new argument, even if you recognized what ‘good’ was (i.e. a utilitarian good), you were not obligated to obey it and would not do so unless you felt it would benefit you in some way vs. if there was a God/Moral Authority who provided a Standard then you would be obligated to obey him.
    I present how Christians recognizing their obligation to God spent much time in bringing about his moral laws into legislative law.

    Someone suggested that by requiring God’s nature to be good I was insisting that God must be utilitarian and so I must be too. Notice that God being Good was NOT my statement but a statement by Augustine et al. My statement was simply that it was not circular as it was a necessary condition.

    I surmise that the atheists on this blog do not believe in an objective morality yet still believe in a utilitarian good and bad (I could be wrong here, but that’s what I surmise).

    I suggested that it was self evident that since God was the creator, He self evidently has authority. The atheists said it was not self evident to them. I’ll answer this. As Frank knows, I’ve actually written this answer up already, I’ve just not had the time to engage with the folks here.

    I insinuated that if rights did not come from God then they must have come from men. Tim Davis took that position to the next level.

    You’ll note that I’ve deleted a few of Tim’s more recent posts because any time you presume someone else’s motives for not answering something on this blog I think it is both rude and wastes time.

    Reply
  229. Tim D. says:

    2. It’s not a question of if God loves good or if good is independent of God but that God very nature is Good.

    That statement is completely meaningless unless “good” and “god” are different things. If good does not exist independently of god as its own concept, then it is meaningless to say that god is good (because that is a tautology; “god is godlike”). We’re still left with the question of, “what is good/godliness?”

    I suggested that it was self evident that since God was the creator, He self evidently has authority. The atheists said it was not self evident to them. I’ll answer this.

    Please, feel free. Until you do, there really isn’t much rational point in complaining that “nobody has answered your argument.”

    Unless by “your” argument you mean Tim Davis’ racism question. Which has been answered.

    I insinuated that if rights did not come from God then they must have come from men. Tim Davis took that position to the next level.

    And in doing so you manufactured a strawman. Nobody has adopted the position that “rights come from men.” That’s something that you assumed. In fact, I’ve blatantly stated to you that I don’t believe that.

    You’ll note that I’ve deleted a few of Tim’s more recent posts because any time you presume someone else’s motives for not answering something on this blog I think it is both rude and wastes time.

    Don’t worry, I saved copies just in case.

    Reply
  230. Tim D. says:

    P.S.

    That statement is completely meaningless unless “good” and “god” are different things. If good does not exist independently of god as its own concept, then it is meaningless to say that god is good (because that is a tautology; “god is godlike”). We’re still left with the question of, “what is good/godliness?”

    I just want to pre-empt anyone who tries to give a utilitarian answer to this question; if you offer utilitarian/humanistic reasons for god’s goodness (i.e. it benefits us, it makes us happy/fulfilled, etc.), then you are defeating your premise from the start — you could make those same utilitarian arguments about “godless” goodness and there would be no need to presume a god existed.

    Reply
  231. Neil Mammen says:

    Tim D, I think I’ll have to repeat for the 3rd time. “Nothing in this blog was intended to try to prove God existed.” All the blog attempts to do is show that there is no Euthryphro dilemma and if God exists he must be good because a non-good God cannot exist.

    If you question is :what is goodness or does God exist has been your argument all along, you’ll not get an answer here. Try room 2A. OK try “Who is Agent X?” the book. It shows the good reasons why God exists.

    Once we determine that it’s more rational to think God exists you can then work backwards to what Good is if you so desire.

    We are arguing at cross purposes. OK I really need to focus on other things.

    Reply
  232. Neil Mammen says:

    I did diverge to try to answer why IF God exists we should obey him and I still intend to do so. I have to go back to designing the Local Dimming HDR Monitor that Hollywood would kill to own, and help decide a property rights case. You do believe in property rights I hope. I mean if someone invents something out of the blue that doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s intellectual property, he should have full rights of ownership, right. Can we agree on that?

    Reply
  233. Tim D. says:

    Tim D, I think I’ll have to repeat for the 3rd time. “Nothing in this blog was intended to try to prove God existed.” All the blog attempts to do is show that there is no Euthryphro dilemma and if God exists he must be good because a non-good God cannot exist.

    …okay, you’ve lost me. Where did I say anything about proving whether or not god exists? The only time I even mentioned it was to show that it was irrelevant if there IS a difference between “god” and “good” (in that it would be possible to find goodness without ever dealing with god one way or the other), and that if there ISN’T a difference then it’s meaningless to say that “god is good” because that just means “god is godlike.” None of that has *anything* to do with proving whether god exists. So I don’t know where you keep pulling that one from.

    I did diverge to try to answer why IF God exists we should obey him and I still intend to do so.

    All you said was that god can do whatever he wants because “he created everything.” That would imply that power = rights. Is that what you’re saying — that, if I have the power to do something, then I should?

    I mean if someone invents something out of the blue that doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s intellectual property, he should have full rights of ownership, right. Can we agree on that?

    I would agree on that. However, that doesn’t make it objectively so.

    Reply
  234. Neil Mammen says:

    And I’m precisely saying that the fact that a God cannot exist unless he’s good indicates that if God exists God must be Godlike so the dilemma does not exist, because one eventually ends up with the conclusion that both are identical in nature. A God cannot exist unless he’s good and you cannot define goodness without God. Goodness is the nature of God.

    Thus Euthyphro’s dilemma doesn’t state a dilemma.

    In fact if the Atheist says that there is nothing that is objectively good Euthryphro’s dilemma ends up being a meaningless statement, because good and bad become their preference (e.g. property rights is your preference but not objectively obvious to you).

    Socrates (to Euthyphro): “Is the [good] loved by [God] because it is [good], or is it [good] because it is loved by [God]?”

    Becomes:
    Socrates (to Euthyphro): “Is the [preference of someone] loved by [the one who made the preference] because it is [his preference], or is it [the preference of him] because it is loved by [him whose preference it is]?”

    And if you DO believe in objective morality this also become a meaningless statement as it becomes:
    Socrates (to Euthyphro): “Is that [which is the nature of God]] loved by [God] because it is [His nature], or is it [the Nature of God] because it is loved by [God]?”

    Reply
  235. Neil Mammen says:

    I’m not arguing that non objective morality is meaningless in that last comment. You Tim believe that morality is not objective

    (TIm D: ‘I do not believe that there is such a thing as “objective morality.” That’s like saying that taste in music is “objective;” morality exists as the product of a thinking mind, which is subjective by nature.’)

    I’m just proceeding from that.

    I’m arguing that the Euthyphro dilemma is meaningless if there is no objective morality. And I’m arguing that IF there IS an objective morality (as I posit) the Euthyphro dilemma is also meaningless iff God exists.

    The only way Socrates and Bertrand Russell could have a point is if an Infinite God who was not Good could exist. Since I showed that is logically not possible, the Euthyphro dilemma ceases to make any sense. Which was the entire purpose of my blog.

    I still owe you the response about Authority though it has nothing to do with the original blog post.

    Reply
  236. Neil Mammen says:

    Then you are arguing something alien to the purpose of the original blog. As I explained I do talk about the existence of objective morality in my book but I chose not to address it here in the blog and generally leave the proof of there being an objective morality to WLC. I brought up the dilemma’s of there not being an objective morality, (the Hitler question), to show the problem but did not attempt to prove it existed because my point has been simply that Socrates’s question has been answered in full.

    Reply
  237. Nathan Barley says:

    You’ve lost me Neil. How has it been answered? I’m afraid I don’t see that it’s been answered at all.

    “I brought up the dilemma’s of there not being an objective morality, (the Hitler question)”

    And we addressed in full why that isn’t a dilemma, both in this blog, and the previous one where you brought up Hitler: http://crossexamined.thehuntercreative.com/?p=52

    Reply
  238. Tim D. says:

    And I’m precisely saying that the fact that a God cannot exist unless he’s good indicates that if God exists God must be Godlike so the dilemma does not exist, because one eventually ends up with the conclusion that both are identical in nature.

    See? That statement makes no sense. Of course god is godlike. But then you have to explain what you mean by “godlike.” And if you just say “good,” well, that’s circular, because “good” in that case would just mean “godlike.” So what does “good” mean, then? Are you going to offer more utilitarian/humanist arguments to show why god is good? If so, then god is unnecessary because we can use utilitarian arguments to find what is good.

    Thus Euthyphro’s dilemma doesn’t state a dilemma.

    Even if “goodness is the nature of god” (whatever that means), if you can’t define goodness apart from god, then it is meaningless to say that ‘god is good.’ It’s a redundant statement. Like the internet phrasing goes, “redundant statement is redundant.”

    In fact if the Atheist says that there is nothing that is objectively good Euthryphro’s dilemma ends up being a meaningless statement, because good and bad become their preference (e.g. property rights is your preference but not objectively obvious to you).

    Well, morality is not some coldly logical process. It’s not like, when I see a gruesome murder in a movie, my brain stops for a minute and I go, “well, logically, I know that murder is wrong, and that human insides are gross-looking as a result, so therefore, I should logically be shocked and grossed-out by this scene.” And then I get uncomfortable as a result. It’s not like that at all; it’s a very innate reaction that I am not entirely aware of. If morality were the coldly logical process you make it out to be, then you might be onto something by *repeatedly* making this objection. But as it stands, a significant portion of moral judgments steeped in “pure logic” tend to be post-hoc justifications. You can argue about whether we *can* determine what is moral through cold, pure logic, but the fact is that our brains aren’t really wired to think that way.

    Becomes:
    Socrates (to Euthyphro): “Is the [preference of someone] loved by [the one who made the preference] because it is [his preference], or is it [the preference of him] because it is loved by [him whose preference it is]?”

    …what? I thought this was about the dilemma for Christians, not for atheists. Why do you keep getting off topic so much?

    Socrates (to Euthyphro): “Is that [which is the nature of God]] loved by [God] because it is [His nature], or is it [the Nature of God] because it is loved by [God]?”

    The question is, are good and good separate things? The original statement was meant to illustrate that. How does god know what’s good? Does he decide himself (which makes it arbitrary), or does he look to a higher standard (which makes it beyond him)? That is the dilemma. And it stands.

    I’m arguing that the Euthyphro dilemma is meaningless if there is no objective morality. And I’m arguing that IF there IS an objective morality (as I posit) the Euthyphro dilemma is also meaningless iff God exists.

    It’s completely irrelevant to the dilemma whether it exists for me, obviously, because I don’t believe in god and so the dilemma is irrelevant anyway. So I think that discussion is a waste of time.

    The only way Socrates and Bertrand Russell could have a point is if an Infinite God who was not Good could exist. Since I showed that is logically not possible, the Euthyphro dilemma ceases to make any sense. Which was the entire purpose of my blog.

    You did not show that was possible. You quite simply pulled some logical precedents out of a hat (“if god was bad then he would self-destruct,” etc.), which honestly I have no reason to accept because the reasoning behind them is not apparent in any way to me, and assuming that these made-up precedents were true, you made the claim that god has to be good to exist. I, for one, am not quite ready to accept such arbitrary declarations.

    To me the dilemma is showing the problem in claims about an objective morality

    On the one hand, I do object to claims of OM because of logical problems (moral values can only exist in relevance to conscious, thinking humans, therefore they cannot possibly transcend us because they only exist when we exist)….however, I do believe there is *significantly* less of a problem with someone saying, “there is an objective morality that exists on its own,” than there is with someone saying, “there is an objective morality, AND god is real, AND god is that objective morality.”

    Simply because conscious minds (even god) have to make moral judgments. And a conscious mind has to apply a standard which already exists. If god is a mind of *any kind,* then as a mind, he has to make moral judgments. Which means he has to apply some standard. If he made up that standard, in the same way he supposedly made physics or whatever, then that means it’s an arbitrary standard, and so the statement that “god can’t exist without being good” becomes meaningless, because god decides what good means. If he didn’t make up that standard, then that means there is a morality even higher than god that humans and (even some philosophically liberal) atheists can abide by without ever having to refer to god.

    Reply
  239. Luke says:

    Neil,

    Thanks for summing up the argument.

    You said:

    My original blog stated:

    1. There is no Eythypro dilemma because:

    2. It’s not a question of if God loves good or if good is independant of God but that God very nature is Good.

    This is the standard argument given by the ancients like Augusting. Nothing new so far.

    3. However the rebuttal to this has been that this is a circular argument.

    4. The goal of the blog was to show that this is not a circular argument because God can’t exist unless he is good. Thus God must be good for no other reason than that a bad God cannot exist.

    This does not prove that God exists but merely that if God exists he must be good and that’s self consistent, I refer you to “Who is Agent X?” the book to prove God exists.

    This argument stated in 4 was not refuted that I recall.
    (emphasis mine)

    Neil, while I wouldn’t use the word refuted, I’ve critiqued your argument several times now. I understand if you’ve just missed it, but I’d like to get your feedback.

    Here is part of an earlier exchange:

    Neil answered: Luke I’d say that that was not possible because as I indicated in the blog the requirement for God to exist means he has to be morally good. If He exists, he’s good and can never give you a capricious command.

    Neal. Sorry, but in your article, you said things like:

    An irrational god would self-destruct and could not last for all eternity.

    and

    he would inevitably destroy himself as he became fully evil.

    Maybe I misunderstood, but your article did not say to me: “that [is] not possible.”

    It said: could not exist for very long — which requires existence.
    It said: would self destruct — which requires existence.

    (It did say words to the effect of ’such a thing could not exists,’ but proofs of this statement, as seen above, require existence in the first place. I took it to mean, and I think it could only mean ‘could not exist forever.’)

    Back to new text:

    You may say “well, G-d must exist outside of time, so He must be eternal to be G-d,” but this would make your case illogical as well.

    How does something that exists outside of time change, or “become” something else (that’s a word you used)?

    How could something which exists outside of time “not last very long?

    (There are also other problems with that section of your article, one of which is mentioned in a post above, others which I have not. I am just excluding them now for simplicity.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  240. Luke says:

    Neil said:I have to go back to designing the Local Dimming HDR Monitor that Hollywood would kill to own

    Goodness Neil, please be very careful.

    (By the way, we need to setup an art forum so you and I can argue about HDR. As a (not very good) artist, it’s something I am not a very big fan of, to say the least. 🙂 )

    Reply
  241. Nathan Barley says:

    My problem is that even if we allow that the nature you propose for God – let’s call it X – is a necessary part of His own survival, you’ve still got to show that X deserves the label ‘good’, and explain what that label actually means.

    Why does ‘necessary for His survival’ automatically translate into ‘worthy’, ‘admirable’, ‘obligatory for humans’, and other traits we associate with the label ‘good’?

    By ‘authority’, do you simply mean ‘has the power to punish for breaking’, or is there some other meaning you are associating with this authority?

    Reply
  242. Luke says:

    Nathan said:My problem is that even if we allow that the nature you propose for God – let’s call it X – is a necessary part of His own survival, you’ve still got to show that X deserves the label ‘good’, and explain what that label actually means.

    I think this is important and interesting as well, but I think Neil’s propositions breaks down even before we get there, as I said.

    I took a look at John Ferrer’s post which Neil directed everyone too. I think part of the problem is the interchangeable use of the word good as both a noun and an adjective, as if they were the same.

    Neil says that evil is “good” which is corrupted. In that sense, both good and evil are nouns. They are things; good is something, which can be corrupted into something else: evil. When one says “G-d is good” this is commonly understood as an adjective, which is something different.

    They are different things. See my comment on John’s post to see what I mean.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  243. Nathan Barley says:

    I don’t want to start posting on two blogs at once. But I’ve never got the whole ‘evil is just the absence of good’ argument.

    “Hence, football injuries require a good concrete material cause in the sport of footbal though football does not itself require any injuries.”

    Anti-slavery campaigners could be said to ‘require’ slavery in order to exist. One could say that ‘anti-slavery’ exists only as a reaction to slavery. But of course one could reframe being anti-slavery as in fact being ‘pro-freedom’. Arguing over which comes first – slavery or anti-slavery – seems to be a semantic argument. Such analogies don’t give any greater insight into what good or evil are.

    Luke, I think you have a good point about good as a noun/verb being used inter-changeably. It reminds me of Dinesh DeSouza interchangeably referring to ‘laws’ in debates, in the same sentence referring to the laws of physics, moral laws, and legal laws, as if all were the same kind of ‘law’.

    I think it would make these arguments a lot easier to understand if the apologists used a different word to describe the nature of their God, and then attempt to explain why the adjective ‘good’ is a useful word to describe that nature.

    Reply
  244. Neil Mammen says:

    Luke as I explain in Agent X, the concept of eternality requires that any eternal being has to at any given moment of analysis be eternal. Thus as I said “IF” a non good God could exist (and by that I obviously meant that one could not) it would have already self destructed eternally ago. By describing the problem you yourself realized it’s just not possible for a partially bad god to exist and that was exactly my point. If that’s not apparently clear I will go back and add it in. Thanks for noticing that. But rather that delve into these concepts here I will just refer you to William Lane Craig’s website (just do a search for eternal) http://www.ReasonableFaith.org.

    I don’t think it’s relevant if something is a noun, if you could show a bad that can exist without it’s relevant good then you will have refuted my argument. Let’s not argue about what tokens we use to describe things.

    Reply
  245. Neil Mammen says:

    Nathan you asked some interesting questions. They are great questions but not part of the intent of this blog. I’ve diverged enough and perhaps we can raise a future blog to address those.

    One comment on Dinesh’s position on “laws” and I only say this to clarify. I don’t have the time to indulge in that discussion more than we’ve already covered. Dinesh believes that the laws of morality are transcendent like the laws of logic and in fact more permanent than the laws of Physics or Chemistry which are only limited to the universe in which they apply.

    Reply
  246. Neil Mammen says:

    As far as bad existing without good. I think the burden of proof is upon those who would wish to prove it IS so.

    Look at it scientifically: No one can show a bad that exists without good, everyone can show good. It’s not just nouns it’s entire concepts (like set theory) that are self consistent. Use different tokens if you want, it makes no difference. So the burden of proof is upon those who claim bad exists indepdentaly.

    Hmmm isn’t that what Atheists often say about God. Nobody can show God exists so the burden of proof is upon those who claim God exists, not on those who claim he does not exist (a charge I happily accept in the Book Agent X).

    Reply
  247. Nathan Barley says:

    Then Dinesh shouldn’t be referring to laws such as ‘Don’t drive faster than 70mph on the freeway’ as if they are the same kind of laws as ‘Thou shalt not kill’.

    “I’ve diverged enough and perhaps we can raise a future blog to address those”

    a) I thought that my points were pretty pertinent to your argument and b) you had until recently on this blog suggested you accepted you still had a case to answer:

    “So the burden is upon me to show that that’s logically obvious.”

    Neil, do you concede on your slavery point and intimation of racism? Or do you still maintain the following:
    1) Black people played no part in their own emancipation;
    2) If ‘Person A’ stops ‘Person B’ from oppressing ‘Person C’, one cannot determine whether C should be grateful to A until one determines that C’s right not to be oppressed by B already existed before A’s intervention.

    Reply
  248. Nathan Barley says:

    “Look at it scientifically: No one can show a bad that exists without good, everyone can show good.”

    This does not appear to be something one can do ‘scientifically’. Where are double-blind tests, the empirical evidence? And how DOES one ‘show good’? Two people can agree that they both consider something to be ‘good’. They can also agree that they both consider something to be ‘bad’.

    “So the burden of proof is upon those who claim bad exists indepdentaly.”

    Then likewise those who claim good exists independently.

    Reply
  249. Luke says:

    Neil said:Thus as I said “IF” a non good God could exist (and by that I obviously meant that one could not) it would have already self destructed eternally ago. By describing the problem you yourself realized it’s just not possible for a partially bad god to exist and that was exactly my point.

    Sorry, Neil. I am confused. You said that “[I myself] realized it’s just not possible…”

    I have realized no such thing. I critiqued the logic you presented in your post. Instead of answering my questions, you presumed to know what I have and have not realized.

    Please answer my questions, as that is what will help me understand. You simply saying that I’ve already realized it when I am not aware of any such thing does not help me understand.

    Neil said:I don’t think it’s relevant if something is a noun, if you could show a bad that can exist without it’s relevant good then you will have refuted my argument.

    First of all, you have thrown together two completely separate and independent ideas into one sentence.

    Second of all, it’s really not relevant if something is a noun or a verb? Are you completely dismissing the idea that different types of words have different functions? If we are using a word in a discussion, it’s not relevant that we know what we mean when that word is used?

    Third of all, my point was not about whether evil is depraved good, rather what shape that takes if it is true. Is it like light? Darkness is the absence of light, not light which is depraved. or is it like meat? Rotten meat can be said to be a deprivation of meat, but it continues in existence once all the good meat is gone. This is relevant to your statement: If good ceases to exist, bad will cease to exist as well.

    It would be true in one case and not the other. I can accept the assumption that evil is a deprivation of good, but your statement is still not logically required. If you want us to accept your statement, you don’t just need to prove the deprivation of good part, but also what that looks like.

    (For what it’s worth, I got the meat example from Dr. Frank Turek, so it’s not something I made up as a strawman.)

    Also, to look at the football example Mr. Ferrer posted. Would you argue that once the football season ended (aka disappeared) that the injury sustained during that season would also disappear?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  250. Neil Mammen says:

    Neil, do you concede on your slavery point and intimation of racism? Or do you still maintain the following:
    1) Black people played no part in their own emancipation;
    2) If ‘Person A’ stops ‘Person B’ from oppressing ‘Person C’, one cannot determine whether C should be grateful to A until one determines that C’s right not to be oppressed by B already existed before A’s intervention.

    I don’t think I raised the racism point, it was Tim Davis. OK maybe there was some implication in my orignal post. But I don’t think that either 1 or 2 is relevant to the issue.

    Imagine if my grandfather willed me a gift, but some evil person tried to keep it from me. I then go to the government and petition them to bring justice and they do. The government is acting in it’s capacity of justice, I am grateful to the government for acting justly but I don’t think the government gave me that gift. I don’t thank the government for the gift. They were just doing what is right.

    Reply
  251. Luke says:

    Neil said:I don’t think it’s relevant if something is a noun.

    Neil, you may not think it’s relevant, but would you mind telling me, because it would really help me understand what you’re saying.

    When you say: G-d’s nature is good.

    Do you mean good as a noun, or an adjective?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  252. Nathan barley says:

    But slavery wasn’t defeated just like the government sending out a letter to some bad guy – many people fought and gave their lives. It’s hardly a reasonable comparison.

    Reply
  253. Nathan barley says:

    “I don’t think I raised the racism point, it was Tim Davis. OK maybe there was some implication in my orignal post. But I don’t think that either 1 or 2 is relevant to the issue.”

    You said he raised a good point. You gave his accusation your tacit support. How can you not see it as relevant that black people fought for emancipation along with whites? It undermines Tim Davies’ whole ‘grateful to whitey’ point

    Reply
  254. Tim D. says:

    Luke as I explain in Agent X, the concept of eternality requires that any eternal being has to at any given moment of analysis be eternal. Thus as I said “IF” a non good God could exist (and by that I obviously meant that one could not) it would have already self destructed eternally ago.

    Fair enough….disregarding your other statements (the proofs you offer which require the being to exist in the first place), I’ll give you that one for now. But then, how do you know that a god that was “evil” would self-destruct or cease to exist at any point?

    Honest question, I’m not even being a smart aleck this time.

    Look at it scientifically: No one can show a bad that exists without good, everyone can show good.

    I’d argue that you can’t show good or bad without the context to show that the other could possibly exist. What meaning does it have to call something “good” if there was no alternative choice? Is it “good” of me to exist right now in spite of the fact that I never had the conscious choice to become alive in the first place? We might say it’s good for a person to not deliberately extinguish his/her own life, but that implies the presence of a choice to the contrary. So no, I don’t believe “goodness” can exist on its own as some intangible principle. As Mr. Nathan said, “goodness” is not an empirical principle.

    Reply
  255. Tim D. says:

    Imagine if my grandfather willed me a gift, but some evil person tried to keep it from me. I then go to the government and petition them to bring justice and they do. The government is acting in it’s capacity of justice, I am grateful to the government for acting justly but I don’t think the government gave me that gift. I don’t thank the government for the gift. They were just doing what is right.

    I think this analogy would be more in line with “Mr. Davis'” accusations if you changed one thing: that you personally assisted in the recovery of your “gift” as well as receiving aid from the government.

    In any case, it’s *still* irrelevant because if someone doesn’t believe rights objectively exist in the first place, then they cannot believe that the rights were “given” by anyone (before OR after the fact), much less than anyone owes anyone for such a “gift.”

    I also find it interesting, in hindsight, that in order for us to even address “Mr. Davis'” accusation, we would first have to accept that whites were somehow solely responsible for the emancipation of black slaves. Isn’t that both (a) racist, and (b) a revisionist view of history, in itself? And this racist claim is being used to stage a claim of racism against someone else? Hmm. Interesting 🙂

    To use Mr. Nathan’s term, why should we assume that “blacks should be grateful to whites,” even if objective rights DO exist?” What did whites do that was so special, that blacks had no part of? The original question itself assumes the racial superiority of whites.

    Reply
  256. Frank Turek says:

    There’s been a lot said on this thread, but it seems to me that it all boils down to one request of the atheists by Neil. It is this one:

    “I’ve given you many examples of good existing independently from bad. You haven’t given me one example of bad existing independently from good.”

    To get closure, will an atheist please respond to this?

    Reply
  257. Nathan Barley says:

    Frank, I’m also fairly sure at least one of us did respond to his question, but Neil deleted so many of our posts that it’s now difficult to keep track.

    Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for Neil to answer the one question which he admits is at the entire root of his argument. I’ve long since given up getting closure on this question!

    Reply
  258. Neil Mammen says:

    Well if you are fairly sure somebody answered it, why don’t you repeat what the answer was? You also have an email trail and of course as Tim D so infamously keeps saying he’s keeping a trail.

    The truth is that nobody ever answered it. Why don’t YOU answer it?

    Here’s the answer to my pending question which I always thought was so simply self evident:

    The question was: Why is it self evident that if God created us, he can logically expect us to obey him and do what he created us for? And if we don’t obey him why does he have the authority to destroy us?

    If you create a computer, out of raw materials that you own or purchased, it’s fully yours. Do you have the authority to destroy it? Yes. Does it belong to you and therefore you can expect it to serve your desires? Yes. When it does not serve your purposes, you then have the authority to destroy it/ Yes.

    When you create a piece of software do you expect it to serve your purposes? If you don’t you have never written any code in your life.
    And if it does not work can you merely delete it?
    Yes.

    Ah but you may argue: That shows the designer is faulty because what he created did not do what he wanted. I’d simply say that’s a separate issue and answered by the phrase “Free Will”.

    Now tell me one good reason why you cannot require something that you have created fully yourself to serve your purposes.

    Reply
  259. Nathan Barley says:

    “why don’t you repeat what the answer was?”

    I’m short of time. And I don’t have access to Tim’s trail. At any rate, I’ve certainly already answered the same question on John’s thread.

    You’ve had weeks to answer YOUR question, and got quite annoyed when we tried to hurry you.

    “When you create a piece of software do you expect it to serve your purposes?”

    Human’s aren’t pieces of software Neil. I might create a baby specifically to provide me with organs to replace my own failing body parts, but that doesn’t mean the child is obligated to give up his kidneys to me.

    “Do you have the authority to destroy it? Yes”

    Are you giving us an argument for abortion?

    Your answer is no more ‘self-evident’, or ‘logical’, and carries no greater weight than me simply asserting that it’s ‘self-evident’ and ‘logical’ that murder is wrong, which you presumably would say is not enough to justify morality. Is not the whole point of your argument that your philosophy provides greater justification than mine for morality?

    Reply
  260. Nathan barley says:

    Regarding your question, I’m still short of time, so I’ll for now say that the question does’t affect how I see the dilemma or religion in general. If someone wants to define bad as good things corrupted then I might well provisionally accept that as a basic definition. So what? I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else came up with a contrary example. But wouldn’t Be worried if they did not.

    Reply
  261. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek said:There’s been a lot said on this thread, but it seems to me that it all boils down to one request of the atheists by Neil

    Neil actually identified something else.

    Neil Mammen said:And this is the crux of the matter is it not? I guess I think this is self evident to Christians and not self evident to atheists.

    To me it’s one of those transcendent truths.

    He has now posted something of a defense of that point.

    I think the real question, though, is why is one obligated to do what G-d says, not what G-d can and cannot expect.

    I don’t think we need a logical defense for what G-d can desire, think or expect. The question is why are we obligated to align to that expectation — this is different from asking why G-d can punish us for refusal for such alignment. (Again, I may agree that we should align ourselves, but can still ask why.)

    Let me ask a question, Neil, to test your logic.

    If I create a cure for a certain type of cancer, I test it to see if it works and it does. Thousands of people die a painful death due to this cancer every year. I created this cure because I like to challenge myself, I don’t have any real interest in curing people or preventing their pain. I just wanted to see if I could do it, and am quite happy that I could.You are in the lab with me as I am about to place the formula and all my test tubes in the incinerator.

    Do you try to stop me? Talk me out of it?

    Or do I have a prefect right to do this and you’d be out of place to try and impinge on that freedom?

    (Have you ever seen the movie Good Will Hunting? It reminds me of the scene in which Will has solved a proof the MIT professors spent years on. After an argument with the professor he says “do you know how easy this is for me?” as he sets the paper on fire. The professor desperately tries to put out the flame and save as much of the proof as he can. Was the professor wrong to violate the will of the creator of the solution? Was there nothing wrong with Will setting back human knowledge of math back by years simply because of a fit of anger?)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  262. Nathan Barley says:

    Frank: “it seems to me that it all boils down to one request of the atheists by Neil”

    Frank, can you explain why you think this is the crux of the argument?

    Neil himself said:

    “We got to the point of whether it’s obvious that God has the authority to command his creatures to obey him given that his very nature is one of Moral Consistency. At which point I got busy with Tax Season and about 10 radio interviews and a project that is almost done. So the burden is upon me to show that that’s logically obvious.”

    Neil himself seems to concede that it is here that the crux lies. So far he’s offered that it’s self-evident, and I think we’re all agreed that ‘It’s self-evident’ would not be an acceptable answer to you from an atheist, no? Neil, do you think you’ve offered any additional answers since your post there to show that it’s ‘logically obvious’?

    Comparing humans to a piece of software, is surely not a convincing argument, for reasons I already explained.

    Reply
  263. Neil Mammen says:

    But that’s not the same is it?

    The question is does the creator of the formula have the right to expect the formula to obey him.

    You’ve added a host of other obligations here. Your question really is, does any man have an obligation to help another man who is in need.

    In the case of God creating man, it’s not like there are other god’s who need mankind to exist.

    Reply
  264. Neil Mammen says:

    That maybe so, but I’d like to see what your answer was because it does occur to me now that you did not accept my answer that bad is a privation of evil but never proved that I was wrong. So it would be very interesting.

    Reply
  265. Neil Mammen says:

    To add to the response to Luke.

    “You’ve added a host of other obligations here. Your question really is, does any man have an obligation to help another man who is in need.”

    It seems to me that this is begging the question. Part of the question is: Is man morally obligated to God to help other men? But in your scenario you already presume this is the case. i.e. that the inventor of such a cure has an obligation to help his fellow man.

    Reply
  266. Tim D. says:

    You also have an email trail and of course as Tim D so infamously keeps saying he’s keeping a trail.

    Yeah, don’t take it too personally. I had a bad experience here awhile back with a guy named Plumb Bob who started email-stalking me (as well as deleting my posts and then making false descriptions of them, so that it seemed as if I had said things that I had not), so I’ve started keeping records of disputes that seem like they could get out of hand.

    There’s been a lot said on this thread, but it seems to me that it all boils down to one request of the atheists by Neil. It is this one:

    “I’ve given you many examples of good existing independently from bad. You haven’t given me one example of bad existing independently from good.”

    To get closure, will an atheist please respond to this?

    I feel I’ve responded to this. I asked Neil if he could come up with an example of good that could exist without the possible alternative of bad existing as well?

    To simplify: What can you do that is “good” that is not simply the opposite of what would be “bad” in the same situation?

    If it is “good” to do something when there is no alternative anyway, then I see no point in calling it “good.” It’s simply “all there is to do.” Before I made an example of suicide — is preserving my own life by not committing suicide “good?” If so, it’s only “good” because there is an alternative that would be “bad.” If I had no choice to commit suicide in the first place, then it would make little sense to say that I’m “good” for not doing so. Likewise, if you said I was “good” because I did not go around killing people, it would not make sense if I did not have the opportunity to do just that and yet pass it up.

    So my argument in response is this: Good cannot exist without bad, bad cannot exist without good. They are two sides of the same coin. Good is meaningless without evil to define it, and likewise.

    Now tell me one good reason why you cannot require something that you have created fully yourself to serve your purposes.

    There is simply no reason why something you’ve created should not be expected to serve its intended purpose; there are no moral issues or qualms with the treatment of nonliving tools. But you cannot expect someone to exist solely for the purpose for which you created them. As Mr. Nathan said, if I create a child for the sole purpose of harvesting its organs, is that okay? According to you, it is.

    And if you say, “that’s not creation, it’s procreation, the use of an existing system to create,” then I will say that if God has always existed, and if goodness is in his nature, then that means his behavior is fixed (i.e. it is a “preexisting system” over which he has no control; i.e. god cannot self-destruct; otherwise, god could choose to be evil and thus the dilemma would be in effect), and therefore, by creating humans, god, too, is applying a pre-existing system to produce something which it was only natural for him to produce. Just like people who procreate and have children, which are only natural for them to produce.

    Reply
  267. Luke says:

    Neil said:The question is does the creator of the formula have the right to expect the formula to obey him.

    Neil, I’ll assume you were talking to me here and answering my question about the cancer formula.

    My question was in response to your statement (sorry if that wasn’t terribly clear):

    Neil:>If you create a computer, out of raw materials that you own or purchased, it’s fully yours. Do you have the authority to destroy it? Yes.

    Neil said:But that’s not the same is it?

    I fail to see how, to be honest. Simply replace the word “computer” with the word “formula” and you have my question. How is it different?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  268. Luke says:

    Neil, not begging the question, simply asking you one. The question is based on any assumptions you hold — I am not begging the question on what those assumption might be or why they exist. I am asking what Neil would do, not what Neil should do.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  269. Luke says:

    On the question of evil and good, I don’t think I have nothing useful to contribute. I’ll gladly listen to any discussion on this point and admit that what I don’t understand greatly outweighs what I do understand. I think Nathan raised a good point while speaking of slavery.

    Abolition is good, but can’t exist except as a force which modifies something evil (slavery), but you could reverse this by talking about freedom instead of slavery.

    I think we can play this game with just about every example. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that almost everything could be fashioned this way.

    Maybe we can take another approach: we can look at Isiah 45 where G-d talks about creating (based on the Hebrew word Bara, not simply transforming something into it,which Yasar would indicate; it is the same word (stem) used in Genesis 1:1). The same Hebrew word — to create from nothingis used for of evil (KJV) or calamity (NASB).

    It seems to me that the Bible answers this question, as well as any atheist could.

    I think I brought up another point which never received any commentary.

    Third of all, my point was not about whether evil is depraved good, rather what shape that takes if it is true. Is it like light? Darkness is the absence of light, not light which is depraved. or is it like meat? Rotten meat can be said to be a deprivation of meat, but it continues in existence once all the good meat is gone. This is relevant to your statement: If good ceases to exist, bad will cease to exist as well.

    It would be true in one case and not the other. I can accept the assumption that evil is a deprivation of good, but your statement is still not logically required. If you want us to accept your statement, you don’t just need to prove the deprivation of good part, but also what that looks like.

    (For what it’s worth, I got the meat example from Dr. Frank Turek, so it’s not something I made up as a strawman.)

    Also, to look at the football example Mr. Ferrer posted. Would you argue that once the football season ended (aka disappeared) that the injury sustained during that season would also disappear?

    What I intend this to illustrate it that to say “bad is a deprivation of good” gives us an incomplete picture of what is really going on. That statement alone can mean different things.

    Perhaps I should ask: Just the season, or would football itself have to be made illegal? Or perhaps would it have to be wiped from everyone’s memory so that no one realized there ever was a “good” called football? Either way, if John is correct and the injury is a deprivation of the good of football, and Neil is correct that once the good disappears, the bad will cease to exist as well, there must be some way in which football can be destroyed which would also make the injury go away. What is that point (And please don’t say the end of the world or something like that. It would be too easy to argue successfully that it was the cessation of the injured person, not the cessation of football which made the injury go away.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  270. Tim D. says:

    I’m not arguing that non objective morality is meaningless in that last comment. You Tim believe that morality is not objective

    I’m just proceeding from that.

    I’m arguing that the Euthyphro dilemma is meaningless if there is no objective morality. And I’m arguing that IF there IS an objective morality (as I posit) the Euthyphro dilemma is also meaningless iff God exists.

    Exactly. And euthyphro’s dilemma can be argued proceeding from the argument that there is an objective morality. Which is what I’m doing; arguing against your case based on what you say you believe.

    Reply
  271. Nathan Barley says:

    “I think we can play this game with just about every example. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that almost everything could be fashioned this way.”

    Quite Luke.

    Neil: “but I’d like to see what your answer was because it does occur to me now that you did not accept my answer that bad is a privation of evil but never proved that I was wrong. So it would be very interesting.”

    I’m agnostic on the issue. As I said at 3pm, “If someone wants to define bad as good things corrupted then I might well provisionally accept that as a basic definition. So what? I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else came up with a contrary example. But wouldn’t be worried if they did not.”

    But as Luke says above: “I think we can play this game with just about every example. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that almost everything could be fashioned this way.”

    We can take lots of examples of bad things being corruptions of good, or good things being the absence of bad. It seems more a way of looking at the world than a metaphysical truth.

    That’s why I was reluctant to accept your assertion that “bad is a privation of evil” [I’m guessing you mean ‘of good’ there. No harm, no foul]. But again, I might be willing to accept it as a rough, provisional definition of ‘bad’. Though it would be a definition like many other adjectives – a term used by a group based on a common understanding to aid communication within that group. When one person says ‘bad’, everyone else knows what he means. Thus one man can warn another man that a third man has harmful intentions.

    If I’ve been dodging this point, it’s because I don’t see it as relevant to the dilemma, and I thought we were trying to stay on topic.

    Returning to your idea that creating somone means they must bend to whatever purpose you created them for – I wouldn’t accept this as an argument to justify one group of humans breeding another group of humans as a ‘slave race’. I wouldn’t expect my daughter to give up her organs for me, just because I deliberately had a child to use as ‘spare parts’.

    And even if I DID accept your point as being ‘logically obvious’, then it wouldn’t be any different to an atheist coming up with ‘logically obvious’ reasons for his own morality.

    The dilemma comes into play once again: either
    1. It’s logically obvious to explain God’s authority for a reason outside of God – in which case atheists can construct similar arguments, or
    2. It’s only logically obvious if you already allow for God’s authority – in which case the argument is circular.

    Reply
  272. Tim D. says:

    What I do absolutely trust in though is Romans 8:28 in that “…all things work together for good…..” I take comfort in this because it causes me to search for deeper meaning within the Scriptures.

    Reminds me of the early days on the Silent Hill forums. We all picked that game apart, trying to figure out what the mystery was. No matter how you looked at that game, there were bits and pieces of the story that made sense alone, but suddenly didn’t make sense anymore when you put them together with the big picture. Some people on the boards had the idea that, if it didn’t seem to make sense, we must not be looking at it right, so they sought deeper meaning in an attempt to find the “one true interpretation” that would tie it all together without incorporating fanon (and they continue to do so to this day). The rest of us realized, “hey, it’s a video game designed by a team of different creative (human) minds with slightly varying ideas of what was going on in the story, so it’s probably impossible to tie it together completely. There are parts of it that just do not make sense.” And we left it at that.

    I am thinking as I read all the questions that through analytical study alone there leaves nothing for the chance of what lies beyond our limited reasoning and resources.

    Exactly. To me, that shows that this system of yours is flawed; to you, it somehow shows further evidence that it’s perfect. To each his own, but I refuse to believe you cannot see why other people would not believe it. You admit it’s inconsistent and illogical, yet you accuse people of “misinterpretation” if they don’t see it as inerrant and flawless.

    I, too, have many questions, but I also have the courage to believe in something I don’t understand.

    That is not courageous.

    If someone told me to murder my best friend, and I said I didn’t want to, and they told me to “trust them,” that it would all work out, I would not do that. Because sometimes, “trusting in something that you don’t understand” is quite simply a bad idea. I resent the idea that blind faith should always be recognized, in itself, as a virtue.

    Faith is reasonable. If you don’t have it, that’s on you.

    To quote Tim Minchin:

    “Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed. Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.”

    Faith (specifically blind faith) is the exact opposite of “reasonable.”

    The Gospel means Good News; you have it at your fingertips, its widely available; you either accept it and strive for perfection or you don’t and live the life you want to live. Jesus never mandated anyone to follow Him, He simply gives us the choice.

    Your reasoning here is masochistic nonsense.

    I have a feeling that you would see things differently if, say, a street thug took a gun to your head and told you to give him your wallet, and then told you that you had a choice to not give him the money of your own free will, and he would respect your choice. But you know, if you get shot as a result of making the “wrong” choice, well, he can’t be blamed for that — that’s just the natural result of using your free will.

    I mean, you make the choices you want to make, you get the result, am I right? So the criminal can’t be blamed for shooting you, he gave you a choice fair and square. You’re the only one to blame for actually using your free will.

    The entire OT and NT are dedicated to stories about how free will is a horrible, horrible thing that should never be exercised unless it’s to “choose” god. I simply cannot accept that; a god who would give such a choice? Perhaps; that god would be immoral and tyrannical, but that in itself doesn’t mean he couldn’t exist. A god who is just but does not force such a one-sided decision? Again, possible. But a god who is both just and offers such a one-sided illusion of “choice?” Impossible. My sense of morality will not allow me to accept that. If such a god existed, he would not be a just god.

    Do you mean to say that I must denounce myself in order to decide that god is just in this situation, that I am somehow “selfish” for allowing my innate sense of morality to dictate whether or not I feel your god would be just if he existed? I could easily use that same reasoning to support any other religion or cause — you see the Nazi movement as unjust? Well, if you’d set aside yourself and accept the judgment of Nazis, then you would see that they are right by their own definition. Therefore you are “selfish” for not being a Nazi.

    [/Godwin’s law]

    Reply
  273. Neil Mammen says:

    Sorry that example doesn’t work unless there is no God. It does work with animals however. You can breed cows to eat. But since a higher authority makes it clear that Humans have value. That also answers your question about abortion.

    It also answers your question about the formula to save lives. You are smuggling a moral law in there that saving lives is a moral duty. That’s precisely what we are arguing about so you can’t presume it to be true without begging the question.

    I also do want to clarify that I went off the track talking about destruction in the example. Because that does not apply, in Christian Theology God does NOT destroy any human being. Once they have been given life that life is never taken away. All that is taken away is their 3D physical body, but they, the person that they are, that is their soul will continue to exist for infinity. In fact as I mention in “Agent X” science postulates the existence of multidimensionality. A physically dead person has merely moved into multidimensional space.

    So a better example is: If you create a computer for your own purposes do you have the right to expect it to do what you wish? And if it does not serve your purposes, do you have the right to banish it from your presence?

    My argument is NOT that my philosophy provides greater justification for morality. I’m saying your argument provides NO basis for morality beyond your personal preferences.

    Reply
  274. Nathan barley says:

    “Sorry that example doesn’t work unless there is no God”

    But you’ve still to show that positing a God makes any difference to the morality question. And you can’t show that it makes a difference with arguments that already assume that difference.

    Reply
  275. Nathan barley says:

    “You are smuggling a moral law in there that saving lives is a moral duty. That’s precisely what we are arguing about so you can’t presume it to be true without begging the question.”

    If we’re smuggling in the law then so are you. That was our point, Neil. Either the ‘obey your creator’ law comes from God, in which it is circular, or you are smuggling it in from somewhere else.

    Reply
  276. Luke says:

    Neil said:It does work with animals however. You can breed cows to eat.

    Since the argument works, I am assuming this means I can breed cows (or other animals) to torture?

    (Honestly, I am a bit lost, so I don’t even know exactly what argument we’re talking about, but it seems to follow.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  277. Nathan barley says:

    “So a better example is: If you create a computer for your own purposes do you have the right to expect it to do what you wish? And if it does not serve your purposes, do you have the right to banish it from your presence?”

    It’s a terrible example. PC’s are not like humans. You can’t enslave a computer. You can’t talk about a computer’s obligations.

    Reply
  278. Luke says:

    Neil, I think the reason I am a bit lost is that I am not sure what you’re referring to when you say “that example.” Many examples of any things have been posted here, would you mind being more specific in future posts.

    … not trying to be a pain, I’m just sincerely confused and don’t know what example the demonstrative pronoun references.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  279. Luke says:

    Neil said:If you create a computer for your own purposes do you have the right to expect it to do what you wish? And if it does not serve your purposes, do you have the right to banish it from your presence?”

    This would make a good cartoon:

    Man: Computer, you are not acting as I wish!

    *next frame*

    Man turns red, looking angrily at computer

    *next frame*

    Man: I banish you computer! YOU ARE BAN-I-SHED!!!

    *next frame*

    Man: Computer, why are you still here? You have been banished!

    *next frame*

    Man waves arms wildly while saying: BANISHED!

    *next frame*

    Man looks exhausted and exasperated. Computer has not moved.

    Reply
  280. Nathan barley says:

    … And it would also be nonsense to talk about a person’s obligations to a computer. Whereas I believe we all agree that we have obligations to the sentient beings we create. You can’t say that different rules would apply to a God, because your whole argument is trying to establish what rules DO apply, and using human analogies to make that point.

    Reply
  281. Luke says:

    Neil said:Luke, it’s called putting it in the garage.

    Neil, it’s called a joke.

    I’ll try to write a serious post for you tomorrow or maybe tonight.

    (Sorry for being silly Neil. I realize this is supposed to be a serious place. I would have been much happier if you responded to the actual serious things which were posted, not a silly joke. Sorry.)

    Reply
  282. Luke says:

    Neil,

    Seriously, it was just a “joke.”

    It was not intended to portray anything. It meant nothing.

    It really was just a joke.

    Luke

    Reply
  283. Neil Mammen says:

    Oh no problems. I did not think you were being malicious. I just wanted to clarify that it was not my argument for anyone who may ever take the time to read all this (which I highly doubt) . 🙂

    Reply
  284. Nathan barley says:

    If your computer suddenly became sentient, would it change how you treated it, your obligations to it? It’s obligations to you? I don’t see how this analogy helps your argument, especially as you seem to say that it only works if you already assume the very God-like authority that you’re trying to establish in the first place.

    Reply
  285. Luke says:

    Neil,

    No worries. I understand, and that makes sense. I just didn’t want you to spend time analyzing that or thinking of arguments against it, since it really was just a joke. It understand that you wouldn’t want your argument to be misunderstood.

    I really was just trying to brighten your day with something silly.

    (By the way, I know of several people who read all this and never chime in.)

    I really am working on a real post in response to you as well. (I also wouldn’t mind some comment on some of the points I made yesterday, such as use the Hebrew stem for create from nothing as applied to darkness and calamity, and the nature of evil as a privation of good — is it like light, or rotten meat (or like a soccer injury)? As I said, this has a big impact on your conclusions.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  286. Frank Turek says:

    Gentlemen,

    Sorry that I haven’t been able to keep up with the conversation. You’ve probably covered everything already. I just noticed in the most recent posts however, that people on both sides of this issue are presupposing some kind of moral law. Neil is and so is Nathan. Nathan just said as much when he wrote: “And it would also be nonsense to talk about a person’s obligations to a computer. Whereas I believe we all agree that we have obligations to the sentient beings we create.”

    1) What grounds these “moral obligations” if atheism is true?

    2) If an atheist says that God, even if He exists, has no necessary moral authority over his creatures, it seems to me that the atheist is citing a moral law (namely, that even if God exists, it would be immoral of Him to tell me what to do). Why? What grounds the moral code that says such behavior by God would be immoral?

    3) All of you are presupposing some kind of moral code in order to make your points. This is one reason why this question Neil’s posed is the crux of the argument: “I’ve given you many examples of good existing independently from bad. You haven’t given me one example of bad existing independently from good.” No one can cite such an example. The problem is that the foundation of all your moral arguments presupposes an unchanging standard of good that requires grounding in something outside yourself, otherwise you are just emoting. In effect, you are borrowing from God in order to argue against Him.

    4) The Euthyphro dilemma is not a dilemma because dilemmas require two choices: A or Non A. There is a third alternative here: God isn’t arbitrary, nor is there a standard beyond God– the third alternative is that God IS the standard. The buck has to stop somewhere. If you say, “well, there is a standard beyond the God of the Bible because I think He’s evil,” then call THAT standard God. You may not be a Christian but you’re not an atheist anymore either.

    I’m out of time. Thanks for your posts so far.

    Blessings,

    Frank

    Reply
  287. Luke says:

    DT,

    1. The question we are discussing is “what grounds [morality] if Christian theism is true?” Nathan’s statement does not require a moral “law.” He’s just stating something on which we all agree. I am sure we could think of something we could all agree which is not some kind of “law.” His statement does not require a moral law to be valid.

    2. Again, no. To say “I don’t see a basis for this authority, can you show it to me?” is different from saying “There is no such authority; such an authority would be immoral!!” I said early on that I agree with Neil on this point, I just can’t back it logically, so your proposition here does not work. I don’t think anyone has said, and I have certainly not said, that authority by G-d over His creation is immoral.

    3. Again, no. The “crux of the argument” as you call it has been answered several times, and is even answered by the Bible. G-d clearly says he creates darkness out of nothing, not out of ruining the good that is light. He talks of creating evil or calamity out of nothing not by soiling a good. I have said clearly several times that there are different ways in which “evil is a privation of good” can be true. No one has told me what exactly they mean by this. You yourself use an illustration for this which has different consequences than Neil’s.

    4. You are technically correct, but this is simply a linguistic issue. We can refer to it as a trilemma from now on, if this helps. 🙂

    We are onto several different topics here. I am not sure of a good way to organize this better, or keep it straight.

    I’m glad you’re busy (I assume this is good). I hope you’ll be able to answer my question about Elana Kegan and on your new Politics post

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  288. Nathan barley says:

    “1) What grounds these “moral obligations” if atheism is true?”

    What grounds if atheism is NOT true? I wasn’t assuming anything, or borrowing anything, Frank – just trying to follow Neil’s argument. And so far it doesn’t add up. Just asserting that positing a God solves the problem… Does not solve the problem.

    Reply
  289. Neil Mammen says:

    Nathan said: Just asserting that positing a God solves the problem… Does not solve the problem.

    That’s simply fallacious. You’ve confused an assertion with an argument. I stated an argument. Each conclusion came with the facts behind it. Don’t reduce yourself to this please.

    Reply
  290. Nathan barley says:

    Go on then, tell me how it solves the problem, in a way that doesn’t beg the question. Explain why creator = authority with an argument that doesn’t already require you to accept that authority.

    Reply
  291. Luke says:

    And Neil,

    I guess you are asserting that property rights exist without G-d?

    Wouldn’t that give us a basis for building morality without G-d? (The rights of my fist stop at your face seem like nothing more than property rights taken to their natural extension.)

    Luke

    Reply
  292. Tim D. says:

    1) What grounds these “moral obligations” if atheism is true?

    With all due respect, why do you keep distracting the discussion away from the topic? Questions like these don’t really deal with the Euthyphro dilemma; what’s being discussed in the nature of that dilemma, which only even exists from within a theistic worldview in the first place. Why is it necessary to drop this topic and suddenly start attacking atheist morality?

    Isn’t there a way someone can make another thread to talk about that in? It’s just confusing and distracting to start up another threat here; it makes it seem like you’re trying to divert from the original question.

    2) If an atheist says that God, even if He exists, has no necessary moral authority over his creatures, it seems to me that the atheist is citing a moral law (namely, that even if God exists, it would be immoral of Him to tell me what to do). Why? What grounds the moral code that says such behavior by God would be immoral?

    Nobody said “it’s a law that god would have no authority.” That’s the same fallacy leveled against a world without objective morality — that it’s somehow an objective law that there is no objective law. That makes no sense — in a world with no laws, how can there be a law that says there is no law? There simply is no law; there’s nobody that declares this.

    So in your example, there would be no law either way — it would make no more sense to call god “objectively moral” in that case than it would to call him “objectively immoral.” All that means is that there is no inherent authority for anyone to assert, even god. By even leveling that criticism against atheism, you are already presuming that objective morality is true, which means that you are no longer criticizing non-objective morality; you’re challenging someone’s idea of objective morality.

    3) All of you are presupposing some kind of moral code in order to make your points.

    No they’re not. You’re equivocating between established moral codes (which are subjective, not objective) and “objective” moral codes (which are determined only by revelation and whose objectivity can never even be ultimately proven).

    MY statements presuppose based on my own moral judgment; that’s the only way for me to answer you, is to base my answer on what I think. I do not have access to thoughts outside of my brain, I only have my perception and the conclusions I draw from it.

    The same is true for you as well, except that you refuse to call your beliefs YOUR beliefs. You insist that you’ve somehow managed to completely set aside your innate humanity and become a vessel for god’s “objective” beliefs, which still makes no sense to me — how can you tell the difference between “the moral law written on your heart” (which is supposedly god speaking against your “evil” human nature) and your natural “evil” human morality?

    “I’ve given you many examples of good existing independently from bad. You haven’t given me one example of bad existing independently from good.” No one can cite such an example.

    And nobody needs to, because good cannot exist without bad either. Give me one example of something good existing without the possibility of something bad as an alternative. Calling something “good” means nothing if you do not have the possibility of “bad” to compare it against. If there’s no alternative, then it’s not “good,” it just is.

    4) The Euthyphro dilemma is not a dilemma because dilemmas require two choices: A or Non A. There is a third alternative here: God isn’t arbitrary, nor is there a standard beyond God– the third alternative is that God IS the standard.

    Maybe you think that solves THIS dilemma, but even if we accept that, it creates many more in its place:

    For one, that means that god is basically a robot. He is “on rails,” running a pre-conceived program that has already been established and cannot be defied (his “good nature”). So god is not “moral” at all, unless we change the definition of morality again — he just “is what he is,” neither good nor evil, probably not even sentient. How can you call god “moral” if he never has the choice to do anything other than good? You cannot say that he’s good because he’s never had the chance to choose between good and evil. How do we know what he would do, IF he ever had that choice genuinely?

    If what you say is true, then we can never know if god would truly be moral, because he will never be able to show us by making a moral decision.

    Also, such a god cannot be “personal” either, because what we say or do to him is meaningless — he cannot truly “care” about what we think or “love” anyone because he has no free will to do those things, he simply does all that he is able to do; there is never an alternative. All of his actions (and reactions to our actions) are already decided. We might even extend the analogy and say that, if such a god exists, then our existence itself is utterly meaningless. We are simply running on rails like a video game scenario.

    To sum it up, let’s use an analogy: If a robot was programmed to “love” you, and could not ever not love you, then would you be able to say that the robot truly “loved” you?

    If you say, “well, there is a standard beyond the God of the Bible because I think He’s evil,” then call THAT standard God. You may not be a Christian but you’re not an atheist anymore either.

    That’s not true. I don’t take that stance, but it’s entirely possible to be an atheist (to reject theism) and yet also believe in an objective moral standard. Theism is no more necessary to believe in OM than it is to understand physics, math, or logic.

    Reply
  293. Neil Mammen says:

    No just that property rights exist. Do you think that logically if you make something you own it and can expect it to perform to your purposes? I wasn’t really talking about someone else taking it.

    The IPAD thing was just a joke and is not really relevant to the discussion. I do want to get one. But I’m going to wait for gen 3.

    Reply
  294. Neil Mammen says:

    Nathan: “So you’re saying humans can be property? Please don’t reduce yourself to such arguments Neil. I’m sure your answer is ‘only if there’s a God’, in which case it’s once again a circular argument. And don’t you think property laws come from God anyway? Circular again…”

    See my above answer. I was not talking about people taking things away. I was talking about the logic that followed that if you make something you can expect it to perform to your requirements.

    Then you said; “So you’re saying humans can be property?”
    Nathan what is your basis for humans NOT being property? Prove to me that in your worldview humans CANNOT be property. The best you can say is that you don’t PREFER them to be property. But if I was an atheist you couldn’t never say: I insist YOU ALSO not treat humans as property.

    Reply
  295. Tim D. says:

    P.S.

    So god is not “moral” at all, unless we change the definition of morality again — he just “is what he is,” neither good nor evil, probably not even sentient.

    The Old Testament (Exodus) seems to support this view. When God speaks to Moses as a burning bush in Exodus 3:13-14, this happens:

    “Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them: the God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ what should I tell them? God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.”

    This passage alone makes a lot of sense if we assume God to be some kind of supernatural automaton; he is only what he is, neither good nor evil.

    Reply
  296. Neil Mammen says:

    Let’s talk atheist to atheist for a while.

    For the argument, let’s say I’m an atheist who does think humans can be property. And your argument that they shouldn’t be is what?

    Reply
  297. Tim D. says:

    Nathan what is your basis for humans NOT being property? Prove to me that in your worldview humans CANNOT be property. The best you can say is that you don’t PREFER them to be property. But if I was an atheist you couldn’t never say: I insist YOU ALSO not treat humans as property.

    It doesn’t matter, Neil. We’re not talking about atheist dilemmas, we’re talking about Euthyphro’s Dilemma and why you think it doesn’t exist. What do atheist beliefs have to do you with your justification of the dilemma?

    Reply
  298. Luke says:

    Neil said:Do you think that logically if you make something you own it and can expect it to perform to your purposes?

    Neil, I can’t answer that question without knowing how you define the word ‘expect’.

    If you asked me on the street and I couldn’t clarify, I would say:

    Not objectively, no. Not in the way I think you mean it.

    If I make an iPad (which doesn’t support flash) for the purpose of surfing the internet and I go to a flash based website, can I ‘expect’ it to work?

    I don’t really think so. I suppose I can ‘expect’ it (what would stop me?), but it would be very unreasonable.

    Let ne give a better example, have you ever seen a child build a tower of blocks? They seem to expect that it can be built to be 6′ tall, an when it falls over they are inevitably disappointed.

    Can they expect to build a 6′ tower?

    Yes and no. They in their mind clearly do expect it, so they obviously can. I think, given what they know, it’s even reasonable. Given what you and I know, it’s unreasonable and “you can’t expect to build it that tall” seems a perfectly normal thing to say (along with an explanation of why this is not a reasonable expectation).

    Do you see what I mean?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  299. Nathan barley says:

    “See my above answer. I was not talking about people taking things away. I was talking about the logic that followed that if you make something you can expect it to perform to your requirements.”

    You already pointed out the problem in this faulty analogy. Humans are sentient beings. Comparing owning a computer with owning a human does not work, even by your own standards, because you admit the argument would not allow someone to use their kids for spare organs.

    Reply
  300. Neil Mammen says:

    But with my atheist hat on I ask you Nathan: Why do you think I should not be allowed to use kids for my own purposes. They are just blobs of protoplasm accidentally evolved into something that can talk.

    Reply
  301. Neil Mammen says:

    I’m taking your argument to it’s logical conclusion. No God = no authority = no moral standard. We each go with our own preferences.

    Why is a sentient being different from an amoeba?

    Reply
  302. Nathan barley says:

    “No God = no authority”

    Again, you have not shown that God = authority! You’re referring to property rights, but if property rights also come from God then it’s just another variant of ‘God is authority because he says he is’.

    Unless you think property laws exist separately from Gid, in which case one dies not require God to construct your morality. In other words, the dilemma again!

    Reply
  303. Neil Mammen says:

    Not at all. This is a comparison of the two world views.

    I’m showing that in the atheistic world view you cannot ask those questions. Why are you presuming humans have value?

    In the theistic world view it makes sense if there’s a God. You can only logically presume humans have value if there is an authority.

    Are you saying that if you create something you personally can not desire it to do what you created it for? Let’s not devolve into a battle about semantics. Is the best that you can do is to parse the words I’ve used?

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  304. Nathan barley says:

    “Why is a sentient being different from an amoeba?”

    Are you saying you see no difference? Because we’re discussing YOUR worldview here. Other people’s viewpoints, hyperthetical or otherwise, are irrelevant to that discussion. If you think that amoeba are the same morally as humans, then why discuss morality in the first place? Creating a wood carving is not the same as creating a baby in your worldview, surely?

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  305. Tim D. says:

    But with my atheist hat on I ask you Nathan: Why do you think I should not be allowed to use kids for my own purposes. They are just blobs of protoplasm accidentally evolved into something that can talk.

    Welcome to the very first stage of development on Kohlberg’s stages of morality! It’s called “Pre-conventional,” and it goes like this:

    Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)

    1. Obedience and punishment orientation (how can I avoid punishment?)

    2. Self-interest orientation (What’s in it for me?)

    It’s not like you become an atheist and suddenly have the moral development of a two-year-old. People develop morally whether they realize it or not, some more or less than others. You’re arguing against the lowest common denominator even among atheists, refusing to acknowledge that a further stage of development even exists. So until you do, nobody’s going to be able to help you here.

    P.S. Going by a non-theistically-justified spectrum of morality, I’d say that OM Christians never evolve past stage 1 because “god’s goodness” (reward) and hell (punishment) are the only determinators in their worldview, ever. It never evolves past that stage. Even if you justify it with other things, to such a Christian it always boils back down to taking god’s reward or punishment for granted.

    I’m taking your argument to it’s logical conclusion. No God = no authority = no moral standard. We each go with our own preferences.

    Are you not arguing your own preference right now? Or do you have some other preference that you are stifling when you refer to god’s?

    I’m showing that in the atheistic world view you cannot ask those questions. Why are you presuming humans have value?

    You very well can ask those questions. It’s called philosophy, and it’s subjective by nature. It would be ponderable even in a world with no objective laws.

    In fact, simply by saying we couldn’t discuss that in an atheist world, you’re assuming that there is an objective law saying that we can’t, Which would not be true in the world you are criticizing, no? For it has no objective laws. What, then, is preventing us from asking that question?

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  306. Nathan barley says:

    “In the theistic world view it makes sense if there’s a God. You can only logically presume humans have value if there is an authority.”

    So you keep saying, but you’ve yet to show it. Why is this ‘logical’? Until you show it, you’ve shown no difference between atheism.

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  307. Tim D. says:

    “In the theistic world view it makes sense if there’s a God. You can only logically presume humans have value if there is an authority.”

    So you keep saying, but you’ve yet to show it. Why is this ‘logical’? Until you show it, you’ve shown no difference between atheism.

    I think what Neil means is, you can logically presume that god says humans have value if there is an authority. What he has yet to show is how “god says” is equal to “it is.”

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  308. Nathan barley says:

    “Are you saying that if you create something you personally can not desire it to do what you created it for? Let’s not devolve into a battle about semantics.”

    Well semantics means meaning, no? Pretty important that we all understand what each other are talking about.

    Sure, if I build something I can desire it to do what I made ut for. But that’s not the same as saying I have a RIGHT to expect it. Again, I can create

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  309. Nathan barley says:

    … A child for the purpose of giving me it’s organs. But that’s a separate issue to you arguing that ‘Desires to do your bidding’ iis the same as ‘has moral authority”, which is what you are claiming is logically obvious.

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  310. Neil Mammen says:

    Sorry guys, I’m off to enjoy the conservatives kicking butt this election cycle…out with the secular progressives…and good riddance…

    I think this blog has served it’s purpose, I’ll have a final comment tomorrow after which I’ll be shutting down the comments for it.

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  311. Nathan barley says:

    Sure Neil, I’ll check in tomorrow to see if you’ve managed to justify the authority. Thanks for the discussion. I’ve learned that the next time a Christian tries to push this argument, I’ll go straight to this question to save time. If any Christian ever DOES manage to offer an argument then I promise to pass it on to you to help you out. Best of luck in your county’s mid-terms, hope it gives you a sense of vicarious victory.

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  312. Neil Mammen says:

    Vicarious? I think not. I have 8 personal friends running this election and I’ve been on radio shows around the nation getting Christians to go out and vote. In addition on a small scale, my personal voting guide has been used by over 300 people to decide how to vote locally. More so this is all setting us up for the 2012 campaign. I have skin in the game.

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  313. Tim D. says:

    P.P.S.

    Last word, I promise….

    I have a feeling you’ll delete this as soon as you read it, Neil, so I’ll address it privately to you. The “accusation” you accused me of? It’s the exact same accusation that you make of atheists. And it’s perfectly grounded. Is the irony of this why it bothered you so much?

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  314. Luke says:

    Neil said:I’ll have a final comment tomorrow after which I’ll be shutting down the comments for it.

    Man, even Bill O’Reilly gives his guests the last word. 🙂

    Anyway, I’ve written most of a response that I will try to post here tomorrow, addressing your computer answer / example.

    I hope you’ll get a chance to address that, but if not, I’d like to please get some clarification on things we’ve discussed here in your final statement.

    You stated long ago that the crux of the issue was the logical underpinning for our obligation to follow G-d’s rules.

    Earlier today, you had an exchange (following on earlier exchanges) with Nathan, which I think sums up the problem fairly well:

    Nathan said:Explain why creator = authority with an argument that doesn’t already require you to accept that authority.

    Neil answered:Sure: Property Rights.

    I see two options here. Either property rights exist independent of G-d, in which case they could be used to fashion morality without G-d or property rights are given by G-d, which means G-d confers them on Himself, which means your argument fails the challenge Nathan presented (it requires you to already accept G-d authority to give Himself this authority).

    Apparently you see a third option. What is it? (G-d’s nature, good or not, cannot grant something, I hope we agree on that.)

    Also, you were rather emphatic about something earlier, and I’ve asked about it at least 3 times now. You said: But if I was an atheist you couldn’t never say: I insist YOU ALSO not treat humans as property.

    (emphasis original)

    What specifically stops him from saying it?

    If Nathan begins to say “You can’t…” specifically when do the words stop to come out and what specifically stops them?

    I am not trying to be difficult; I just really don’t understand.

    I have also asked at least 3 times for you and Dr. Turek to specify the relationship between good and evil. You have said they are like light and darkness, Dr. Turek said they are like good and rotten meat. As I pointed out, these are very different ideas, with different consequences for your article. Can the two of you agree on which it is (or is it something else?)? And how do you know it is this way and not that way? (That is, how do you know it’s like light and not like meat?)

    I also pointed out the way G-d describes the creation of darkness and evil / calamity (He fashions both not out of good things, but out of nothing. How does this fit in?

    Thanks Neil,

    Luke

    Reply