April 9, 2009

"Ivan Karamazov said that if God does not exist everything is permitted..."

"... and traditional legal thinkers are likely to say that if legalism (legal formalism, orthodox legal reasoning, a 'government of laws not men,' the 'rule of law' ... and so forth) does not exist everything is permitted to judges — so watch out!"

Richard Posner in "How Judges Think" (quoted by Jac).

TANGENTIALLY RELATED: Christopher Hitchens and Dr. William Lane Craig debate the question “Does God Exist?” and Craig gives 5 arguments for the existence of God, the third one being:
3. The Moral Argument; If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Rape isn’t just culturally unacceptable, it’s actually wrong.

112 comments:

Original Mike said...

Christ, not another idiot {sigh}.

Original Mike said...

3. The Moral Argument; If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

Bullshit.

Original Mike said...

The goal of people who argue this is transparent. Scare people with threats of chaos if they don't recognize the existance of God.

ricpic said...

It doesn't matter that God exists, the ruling caste (including judges), worldwide, does not believe in Him, therefore everything is permitted and everything will be tried in the name of some cockamamie scheme to secure heaven on earth.

Bissage said...

Ivan Karamazov was a cockeyed optimist.

Xmas said...

3. Only works if you're willing to go traipsing down the "What is God?" path.

I'm sure Prof. Burgess-Jackson will gladly supply several ways of defining Right and Wrong through methods other than the existence of God. (I can think of one of the top of my head, Utilitarianism).

Oligonicella said...

3. Axiomatically incorrect.

rhhardin said...

I'd go to the disjunctive as a bumper sticker: ``Moral values or no God!'' And add a fish to show which side you're on.

John Althouse Cohen said...

If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Rape isn’t just culturally unacceptable, it’s actually wrong.

How did he decide that there are only two possible sources of morality, "God" and "culture"?

pduggie said...

Where did objective moral values come from without a Lawgiver?

Time and chance acting on matter?

Original Mike said...

It's in your own head, pduggie. Look for it and you'll find it there.

Robert Cook said...

What does he mean by "objective" moral standards? Standards that exist outside human existence or judgement? If so, then there are no "objective" moral standards: our moral standards are derived from our existence as humans in various cultural configurations. Moral standards do vary by culture and historical epoch. (For example, we are presently enculturated to view anyone who would engage in sexual congress with an adolescent as a pederast, but even relatively recently in our history there were areas in America where young girls were commonly married and bearing children by their early teens.)

My own view is that moral standards, so-called, are based on a collective agreement--either articulated or not--on what behavior is either inimical or conducive to our collective survival, or as Xmas states above, Utilitiarianism. We proscribe murder because unrestrained killing will swiftly destroy us all; we proscribe incest because, over time, genetic deterioration results, which we know explicitly now and which was somehow perceived even before the science existed to show it; some cultures proscribe the eating of certain foods as "unclean;" (we know it is because, if not cooked properly, some foods may pass along parasites which cause illness or death); we proscribe theft because it destroys the trust which is essential to the survival of a cooperative cohort of people; and so on. In short, we tend to proscribe behavior that either poses actual physical threat to our individual and collective safety and survival, or which threatens the social cohesion necessary to maintain a society, itself necessary for our survival as a species.

One does not need god to explain or to devise social norms of behavior.

Bissage said...

BEHOLD THE GIVER OF OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES!!!

LINK.

ElcubanitoKC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paddy O. said...

"The goal of people who argue this is transparent. Scare people with threats of chaos if they don't recognize the existance of God."

The goal of people who argue this way is also transparent. It is hard to listen to people who use big words and cogent arguments and much easier to fall back on the stock, reductionistic rejection.

Which goes right to what the article noted about Craig winning the argument, but Hitchens winning the debate.

Paddy O. said...

Christianity Today (the flagship magazine of Evangelicalism) posted on this too.

What's curious, as I think about it, is how its the Evangelical side that's steering towards intellectualism while the atheism side steers towards popular, engaging personalities and reductionism. Not across the board, certainly, but it is a curious trend. Yet, the common refrain on this discussion makes it sounds like nothing has changed since the 1920s.

The role of Clarence Darrow is being played by William Lane Craig these days, while Christopher Hitchens is this era's William Jennings Bryan.

The sides switch who plays the intellectual and who plays the popularizer, while both are happily eager to engage the other---a great treat for us all.

John Althouse Cohen said...

My own view is that moral standards, so-called, are based on a collective agreement--either articulated or not--on what behavior is either inimical or conducive to our collective survival, or ... Utilitiarianism.

Well, you're confused here. Utilitarianism is diametrically opposed to relativism, because utilitarianism is an objective standard.

Robert Cook said...

"Utilitarianism is diametrically opposed to relativism, because utilitarianism is an objective standard."

How so?

I admit that I am not versed in the various schools of philosophy, but "Utilitarianism" as a descriptive seems to apply to what I describe. If the actual school of thought of "Utilitarianism" does not apply, then I strike that one remark.

Jeffrey said...

No one could possibly watch that whole debate with a shred of objectivity and have any conclusion other than that Hitchens annihilated them all. William Lane Craig can at least speak with a (minuscule) veneer of rationality but that Strobel guy is just an embarrassment.

Jeffrey said...

Sorry to cause confusion. I was referring to this debate, not the one at Biola:

http://www.tangle.com/view_video.php?viewkey=175ad626166c55fdb819

Also featuring Hitchens and Craig.

Bissage said...

It is important to bear in mind that immorality is subjective but that subjectivity is objective, except in a rational scheme of perception.

While perception is irrational, it implies imminence.

Of course, judgment of any system
of phenomena exists in any rational, metaphysical or epistemological contradiction to an abstracted empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.

And no, my Uncle Sasha will not pick up the check.

Robert Cook said...

I just read a quick summary of "Utilititarianism" on Wikipedia and it seems nothing if not relativist.

pduggie said...

Original Mike: if its in my own head, isn't it subjective?

And if it is in my head AND objective, who put it there? Why should time and chance acting on matter produce an objective moral sense?

Ron said...

Does a dyslexic atheist not believe in Dog either?

Quayle said...

If god does not exist (and, thus, establish objective moral standards) then ipso facto you must agree that the process of setting morality is nothing but a Darwinian power struggle.

This, in turn, means that you'd have to agree that Hitler was perfectly OK in the means of his attempt to change the morality of Europe, because to argue differently you'd have to argue that his immorality was caused by his not totally succeeding in his immorality.

In other words, you'd have to argue that his immorality was a product of his inability to kill everyone that disagreed with his methods.

How exactly would you argue that?

And reliance on utilitarianism to set morality requires that you show why human existence or happiness or peace (or whatever) has any meaning or value.

How exactly would you ground that argument?

(Which shows the gaping hole in the global warming regime. The very science that, because of its rigorous methodology, demands that we respect the effects and pending results of CO2 - that same science is wholly incapable of giving us the reason that we should care if human life is impacted or even continues to exist.)

ricpic said...

You can't fool me with all those fancy words, Bissage, the topic is completely over your head. ;^)

Robert Cook said...

"...reliance on utilitarianism to set morality requires that you show why human existence or happiness or peace (or whatever) has any meaning or value."

It doesn't have any meaning or value...except to us. Our very existence is meaningless and of no consequence to the universe; we matter only to us, and thus our various behaviors matter and can be considered "good" or "bad" only to us and only by our own standards.

The universe will carry on long after we're gone and forgotten, and nothing of us will remain.

garage mahal said...

God sure likes a good chase. For thousands upon thousands of years, just sitting around and watching shit getting chased, and eaten.

ricpic said...

The last sentence of Robert Cook's post explains why the west is imploding. Without the belief that we partake in eternity everything falls apart.

Quayle said...

our various behaviors matter and can be considered "good" or "bad" only to us and only by our own standards

Here's the problem with that argument:

Do you mind if someone comes over and kills you? Because it might not matter that you exist by the killer’s standard, and after you are gone, by your world view, it won't matter by yours either. So "our own" standard isn't really "our", it is really your. The other guy may never agree.

And to alter that, you'd have to convince the other person that his standard should include respecting your standard that you don't want to be killed.

You see where this is going? Fast forward to the end of the argument:

Everyone loves Darwin when it means that they don't have to be accountable to God for whether they lived by the 10 commandments (well, the 7th is really what bothers), but no one loves Darwin when they are the zebra whose leg is being chewed on by a lion. Now suddenly they want the rules in place, and someone to enforce them.

That’s why lately every time I hear people trumpeting science and Darwin over God, I say to myself, “Yeah, weakling Madoff victims; how’s that Darwinism working for you these days.”

Donna B. said...

It's not a belief in God I find so difficult to accept, it's the various notions that human-organized religions have devised and promoted as having been delivered to them by God that I find impossible to believe.

I'm not sure whether I believe in God, but I don't believe in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and the infinite varieties of man-made explanations.

God might be a fine guy, it's just that I've never met anyone who knew him and I don't believe anyone else has either.

If he exists, he's presented himself to us only through his creations and that is what all the debate is about, isn't it?

Our tiny brains have trouble accepting that nothingness is a possibility. Therefore we invent something or someone that has organized that nothingness into something.

Think for a moment how useful mathematics would be without zero. Perhaps I could worship zero. Be a zeroastrian?

Did zero always exist and man merely discover it, or did man invent it? Or did zero reveal itself to man?

Without the nothingness of zero, we can't explain or discover very much, can we?

G Joubert said...

We will all have the question answered soon enough. Perhaps too late for some.

KLDAVIS said...

Platonic ideals, anyone? Why does there need to be a god for their to be a good?

Lawgiver said...

Where did objective moral values come from without a Lawgiver?

The only moral values I delivered were to my children and the Church helped me there, but thanks for the shoutout :)

Robert Cook said...

My existence matters to me and to those who love me, but, objectively, my existence--and yours--matters not a whit to the universe.

Robert Cook said...

"Without the belief that we partake in eternity everything falls apart."

Everything falls apart anyway, our beliefs notwithstanding.

Bissage said...

"Everybody should believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink."

-- W. C. Fields

Brent said...

I was at that debate. Took two unbelieving friends. Interestingly, one thought Hitch won, the other thought Dr. Craig won (he didn't become a beeliever over it however - yet).

I have also met Christopher Hitchens twice (2 years ago), and was able to have conversation with him the second time. My impression then was that he is - as is a given - absolutely brilliant and engaging in talking about anything. However, I could also sense a bit of sadness in him both times I was with him. While I of course could be off base here, I believe that there is something in his background that makes him bitter towards God and/or the idea of God. Somewhat similar to Ted Turner, who prayed fervently for his sister to be healed, then rejected God after she died. After so many years of living I have truly found that most people I have personally met who claim to be atheist (as opposed to agnostic)have some event in their background that deeply harmed their faith.

That said, Christopher Hitchens is highly regarded in the evangelical community because:

1) His cogent defense of the War in Iraq and many of the good things he said about President Bush when highly unpopular to say so. (And yes, there are exceptions in the evangelical community to support of the Iraq war, but trust me, the ones holding those views are not important in influence in the community)

2) His relationship to Andrew Sullivan, whom evangelicals still widely admire for his brilliance, yet detest for his transition to smallness of character. Hitch does have influence with Andrew.

3) There is still hope that both Hitch and Sullivan will come to the believe. It's not over until it's over. The most famous last minute conversion - the thief on the cross - proved that.

Robert Cook said...

"(...there are exceptions in the evangelical community to support of the Iraq war, but trust me, the ones holding those views are not important in influence in the community.)"

How ghastly an admission, that the majority of those purporting to be followers of the Prince of Peace stand largely united in support of a huge empire visiting the awful might of its power on a small nation that was never a threat to us, in the process killing and maiming untold hundreds of thousands (or more), and rendering millions homeless.

MarkW said...

The goal of people who argue this is transparent. Scare people with threats of chaos if they don't recognize the existance of God.

Exactly. Murder isn't wrong because religions forbid it, religions forbid it because it is wrong. And it remains wrong even when religions sanction it (as they sometimes do). The inherent value of human life doesn't depend on the existence of God.

If a supernatural being appeared on earth and called for the killing of all non-believers, it would remain just as wrong to kill as it was before.

chickenlittle said...

Thanks Brent. That was very maundy of you to share that with your fellow commenters.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I admit that I am not versed in the various schools of philosophy, but "Utilitarianism" as a descriptive seems to apply to what I describe.

I just read a quick summary of "Utilititarianism" on Wikipedia and it seems nothing if not relativist.


Nope, it's not relativist. Utiltiarianism says you should act in a way that maximizes utitility. Utility refers to pleasure, pain, happiness, etc. (Oversimplifying because people disagree on how to calculate utility.) It's a matter of fact whether some act I could take will increase or decrease utility. The opinions of individuals or cultural norms have nothing to do with it. Of course, a culture might have a norm that you should act in a utilitarian fashion, but that would be a mere overlap between cultural norms and the theory itself; that doesn't mean that utilitarianism by definition leads to conclusions that are consistent with relativism. Indeed, many cultures have norms that say you should not always act in a utility-maximizing fashion -- e.g., if the culture says you must save the life of someone who's just going to live in agony.

Kylos said...

Platonic ideals, anyone? Why does there need to be a god for their to be a good?

KLDAVIS, at the end of Meno, Plato has Socrates saying, "the result seems to be, if we are at all right in our view, that virtue is neither natural nor acquired, but an instinct given by God to the virtuous." I would say that Plato finds a need for a universal source of goodness. I'd recommend reading Meno, it's not too long, but it covers the subject of the source of virtue quite thoroughly.

traditionalguy said...

The comments seem to focus on not wanting to have a personal organising creative force in a place of authority over us. OK. Then you will serve some other authority. Freedom allows you to throw out the inheritance of an abundant spiritual life already provided for you by Cedarford's terrible Jews and their Messiah. That's not as smart a thing to do as your mind is telling you it is. The Greeks still maintain that it is all foolishness, and the Jews still demand a supernatural sign to authenticate a revelation, but Jesus arose from the dead and rules in the midst of his enemies today. Have a Happy Easter!

Kylos said...

Nope, it's not relativist. Utiltiarianism says you should act in a way that maximizes utitility. Utility refers to pleasure, pain, happiness, etc. (Oversimplifying because people disagree on how to calculate utility.) It's a matter of fact whether some act I could take will increase or decrease utility. The opinions of individuals or cultural norms have nothing to do with it. Of course, a culture might have a norm that you should act in a utilitarian fashion, but that would be a mere overlap between cultural norms and the theory itself; that doesn't mean that utilitarianism by definition leads to conclusions that are consistent with relativism. Indeed, many cultures have norms that say you should not always act in a utility-maximizing fashion -- e.g., if the culture says you must save the life of someone who's just going to live in agony.

John, how is maximum utility best determined? Is that not a value judgment? It's not determined relative to an individual, but most certainly, each society determines on its own what it considers the most utile action. Therefore, such morals are established relative to a particular societies needs and desires. It does not require a universal principle of morality.

Jeremy said...

JAC said "Utilitarianism is diametrically opposed to relativism, because utilitarianism is an objective standard."

Yeah, an objective standard of maximizing subjective ends (goodness or happiness or pleasure or preference).

-The Other Jeremy

Robert Cook said...

If Utilitarianism says one should act in such a way as to maximize pleasure or happiness, I say this is relativist. There is no objective standard as to what constitutes or creates or maximizes pleasure or happiness. One person might consider that sacrificing his own safety or riches to give aid and succor to others is the means to maximize his happiness, while the next person will see no other means to maximize his happiness than to be endlessly acquisitive and hedonistic. One sees whole schools of thought that propose one of these extremes or the other, and all ranges in between. Christianity would tend toward the side of self-abnegation.

In fact, as all abstract thought, belief systems, theology, laws, etc. derive from humans and do not exist outside us, one must accept that all assertions of values are subjective, or relativist.

Kylos said...

John, utility, as you've observed, does not have a simple definition. It's both societally and temporally relativistic unless you have a point of reference. The core principle of relativism is that truth and value are determined individually, (i.e. truth for you, but not for me). It's just punting the question down the road. Unless you have an authoritative reference point, utilitarianism is relative

John Althouse Cohen said...

John, how is maximum utility best determined? Is that not a value judgment? It's not determined relative to an individual, but most certainly, each society determines on its own what it considers the most utile action. Therefore, such morals are established relative to a particular societies needs and desires.

As I said, the question of how to calculate utility is complex. But you're wrong: it need not be relative to the culture. Once you come up with a measure that you believe is correct, you can then proceed to judge anyone's acts worldwide based on how they conform to that measure. If it applies universally, that's incompatible with relativism.

Of course, the measure might be controversial. And of course, utilitarianism itself is controversial. But the fact that people will disagree about these questions doesn't imply relativism. (If you disagree, you're committing the "naturalistic fallacy" -- look it up.) By the same token, people have tons of disagreements about ethical tenets founded in religion, but if each person thinks their belief is the objective/universal truth, that's not relativism.

In fact, not only is utilitarianism not inherently relativist, but I'm not even sure it's possible to coherently, simultaneously be a cultural relativist and a utilitarian. As I said, some (all?) cultures' norms say there are cases where you should refrain from choosing the utility-maximizing path. Another example: we think it's always right to give the criminally accused their full panoply of procedural protections, even if summarily locking them up for life would quell an angry mob that was seeking to track down the accused and kill him.

John Althouse Cohen said...

John, utility, as you've observed, does not have a simple definition. It's both societally and temporally relativistic unless you have a point of reference. The core principle of relativism is that truth and value are determined individually, (i.e. truth for you, but not for me). It's just punting the question down the road. Unless you have an authoritative reference point, utilitarianism is relative

This is all incorrect for the reasons I've stated. If you want further authorities on utilitarianism, they're very easy to come by -- J.S. Mill's Utilitarianism is in the public domain and readily available online. For definitions of any philosophical terms, I recommend plato.stanford.edu or the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Kylos said...

In fact, as all abstract thought, belief systems, theology, laws, etc. derive from humans and do not exist outside us, one must accept that all assertions of values are subjective, or relativist.

Unless you accept the premise of revelation, which I think is fundamental to any concept of God. The subsequent determination of whose revelation is correct is indeed a deep issue, but I don't see how it refutes the concept of God and absolute, universal truth.

William said...

I was raised as a Catholic and for a good part of my youth knew what it was to live in a state of grace. It's a very fine feeling, almost the exact opposite of alienation and anomie. One does not believe in God logically, the way one belives, in say, the Pythagorean theorem. One believes in God psychologically, the way one believes that your children are blessed and destined for happiness. There's an element of wishful thinking in it, but it's no less vital a feeling because of that.....In my own life, over time, the arguments for alienation became overwhelming. For believers, God is a kind of benign conspiracy theory. All the fallen sparrows and children with birth defects are knit by him into some grand, beautiful pattern. This pattern is intuitively sensed, if not seen, by people of faith. That is the truth as they have found it. It is no longer the truth as I see it, but I respect them for their faith in the way I respect people who find a way to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary......My Discovery Channel understanding of the universe is that 95% of it is dark, i.e. unknown and unknowable. God is just as good a way as any other for describing this darkness and our inablity to understand the universe.

TMink said...

Robert Cook wrote: "The universe will carry on long after we're gone and forgotten, and nothing of us will remain."

That post was brilliant and courageous.

I could not disagree with you more, but you have my admiration for your honesty and consistency.

Thanks for putting it so well.

Trey

TMink said...

Quayle wrote: "Everyone loves Darwin when it means that they don't have to be accountable to God for whether they lived by the 10 commandments (well, the 7th is really what bothers), but no one loves Darwin when they are the zebra whose leg is being chewed on by a lion."

Please see my response to what Robert wrote. The same goes for your post. Except for disagreeing with you. 8)

Trey

TMink said...

OK, I do have to disagree with your emphasis on the 7th, I think it is the first.

Without the 1st, the 7th is just words on paper. Well, that is my view.

Trey

TMink said...

JAC wrote: "Once you come up with a measure that you believe is correct,"

It is the "you" and the "believe" that makes it subjective.

Trey

Kylos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kylos said...

John, are you a professor of philosophy? I can't otherwise understand your tone of lecturing. I've read Mills, etc. I've also read some Plato. Your posturing doesn't help your points. Try discussing the actual matter, not simply term-dropping.

Relativism does not imply no standards, but rather a non-absolute perspective. Utilitarianism is different from relativism as a philosophical perspective (i.e. each individual determines right and wrong as it best serves them). However, the word relativism (and its forms relative, relatively, relativistic) also indicate a point of reference that is not absolute. That point of reference may be in scope as small as the individual, but it may also span villages, cities, states, countries, or even the entire world at a specific time. What I am saying is that without an absolute, universal standard of utility, utilitarianism simply becomes relative to time and culture.

Kylos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kylos said...

I'll agree that utilitarianism is not incompatible with universal values, but that it does not need universal values and can function just as well relative to some smaller framework. However, you're conflating universal values and the philosophical belief of maximizing values and calling it utilitarianism. The philosophical belief is utilitarianism. The universal values are from God.

kalmia said...
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Revenant said...

John, how is maximum utility best determined? Is that not a value judgment?

I think you're a bit confused about what relative vs. objective morality means.

The Christian source of morality is God. An action is either Right or Wrong, and God is the arbiter of which bin it falls into. But take, for example, the commandment "thou shalt not murder" (popularly mistranslated as "thou shalt not kill"). What's that mean, exactly? The line between murder and legitimate killing is unclear to us ordinary humans. That means that we humans have to make a... judgment call! But does that mean God's morality is relativist? No. It means that humans can't perfectly figure out his reasoning.

Utilitarianism -- some forms of it, at least -- holds that there is a state of maximum utility. Things which bring us closer to that state are Right, things that move us further away are Wrong. Whether a given action is moving us closer to or further away from that state is something humans have to figure out for themselves. But that doesn't make the moral system relativistic, per se.

I hope that helped.

Kylos said...

Revenant, I mostly agree with your analysis. However, my claim has been that saying that there is a state of maximum utility implies associating relative worths to various actions and circumstances, such that one is more utile than the other. I'm not talking about the inherent ambiguity in determining whether an action will increase utility (or in the case of Christianity, bring one more in alignment with God's will). I'm talking about the very basis of that system. Maximum utility is a nice abstract goal, but if is not to be relative it has to acknowledge some universal basis for determining what is most valuable, or utile. I am maintaining that the term "maximum utility" does not have any inherent meaning and is only an artificial target to which our temporally and societally relative values are pinned.

Revenant said...

Maximum utility is a nice abstract goal, but if is not to be relative it has to acknowledge some universal basis for determining what is most valuable, or utile.

If there has to be a universal basis for determining morality, Christianity is a relativist moral system too. God's not sharing his opinion on whether a given action is right or wrong. In fact, it is hard to think of an apparently evil action that has not, at some point in the Old Testament, been sanctioned by God and thereby transformed from "evil" to "good".

You are correct that utilitarianism requires balancing multiple factors to determine what is right or wrong. But that just makes it more *complicated* than Christian morality, not more relativistic. Relativistic morality is morality which varies from person to person and situation to situation. Utilitarianism doesn't.

For example, a typical utilitarian system would say that killing a man for having sex with another man is wrong, even if society approves of it, because the negative value of the killing isn't cancelled out by the limited benefit the satisfaction of carrying out the killing brings the killers. A relativistic moral system, on the other hand, would say that that kind of behavior is normal for a fundamentalist Islamic culture and we shouldn't condemn it for being wrong -- but if it was done here in America, we SHOULD condemn it. That's relativism.

Jeremy said...

Rev said, "For example, a typical utilitarian system would say that killing a man for having sex with another man is wrong, even if society approves of it, because the negative value of the killing isn't cancelled out by the limited benefit the satisfaction of carrying out the killing brings the killers."

But you can imagine a utitilitarian society in which the net value of the killing is positive and in that society, the killing would be not just justified but a good. The difference is how the society (your word) scores the utility.

Contrast a divine revelation absolutist, it is literally illogical to conceive of another society in which those absolute moral values are different.

Kylos said...

Rev

"...For example, a typical utilitarian system would say that killing a man for having sex with another man is wrong, even if society approves of it, because the negative value of the killing isn't cancelled out by the limited benefit the satisfaction of carrying out the killing brings the killers. A relativistic moral system, on the other hand, would say that that kind of behavior is normal for a fundamentalist Islamic culture and we shouldn't condemn it for being wrong -- but if it was done here in America, we SHOULD condemn it. That's relativism.


My point is: what is utility? How does it get its values? For example (and, big caveat, this is an example, I do not believe the following is moral), what if maximum utility is defined as that which promotes propagation of human existence? Those that do not contribute to ensuring the propagation of the species by procreating should be eliminated because they are a drain on resources. Killing those who exclusively have sex with others of the same gender would eliminate an unfruitful burden and allow those who do propagate the species to have better access to resources. This utilitarian system values propagation above other values such as eliminating violence and poverty. As such, killing has no intrinsic negative value in it, if those killed are thought to decrease the efficacy of society. Therefore, utilitarians may claim a rational basis for moral behavior, but in the end, it still depends on their fundamental values. And that changes with time and culture, which is why I hold that utilitarianism is not objective, but rather changes with what it values. It is a framework by which relative (or absolute) values may be enacted. It is a value-free system. Since it cannot determine moral behavior without underlying values, a utilitarian system is relative to the values of its time and place.

As for Christianity, the Christian belief is not that the Ten Commandments are God's fundamental values, but that they derive from his fundamental values. Christ taught adherence to only two commandments: love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. From these are derived the Judeo-Christian principles which guide a Christian's behavior. To a point, Paul taught that some actions are indeed right or wrong for different individuals (as you noted, a relativistic view, if looking for a legalistic moral code). However, Christianity posits a universal moral value: love for God and pursuit of his nature. Certain actions, such as murder (as you note, killing is not prohibited by the Ten Commandments, and, indeed is justified often in the Old Testament), can be easily determined to be at cross-purposes to his will and nature; other actions not specifically addressed require a deeper understanding of God's nature. In fact, for Christianity, there is a universal principle from which morality action is determined. It is the actions themselves that are relative.

Smilin' Jack said...

Plato Schmato, Mills Schmills. All "reasoning" about morality before Darwin is pretty much worthless and should be discarded. A good introduction to the actual basis of morality can be found in Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal" and Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate."

Revenant said...

My point is: what is utility? How does it get its values?

What is God? How does he get his values?

craig said...

Revenant writes:

"The Christian source of morality is God. An action is either Right or Wrong, and God is the arbiter of which bin it falls into."

This is a misunderstanding of Catholic theology, at least. Things are not right or wrong by divine command, but by their harmony with God's essence. Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech specifically contrasts this view (which is present in Islam) with the Catholic view; please read it.

Actually, your description of maximum utility is analogous to Catholic descriptions of God. "God is love" is not a metaphor but a statement of fact; love is of His essence and one who loves is reflecting the divine energies which he has received from God. Righteousness is harmony with God's essence, while sin is that which moves us toward disharmony with God's essence.

"If there has to be a universal basis for determining morality, Christianity is a relativist moral system too. God's not sharing his opinion on whether a given action is right or wrong."

For a Catholic, this statement is expressly false. Jesus Christ taught the Apostles and founded a Church through them and gave it a divine charism to discern and teach accurately in matters of faith and morals. (Note: this did not and does not include a charism to be free from personal sinfulness, nor a charism to speak with authority on matters other than faith and morals.) But a close look at Catholic history will reveal an astonishing continuity of doctrine over the centuries, more than in any comparable organization from the first century to the present. Read Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

"For example, a typical utilitarian system would say that killing a man for having sex with another man is wrong, even if society approves of it, because the negative value of the killing isn't cancelled out by the limited benefit the satisfaction of carrying out the killing brings the killers."

Whence cometh this negative value? Sez who? This is smuggling in a standard without actually postulating the means by which it gets to be a universal standard. Christians identify God as the originator of the universe, and by that they name how He has the standing to judge.

Robert Cook said...

"What is God? How does he get his values?"

A mythical being. We ascribe our values to him and call him the author of them.

phx said...

MarkW said: "Exactly. Murder isn't wrong because religions forbid it, religions forbid it because it is wrong. And it remains wrong even when religions sanction it (as they sometimes do). The inherent value of human life doesn't depend on the existence of God."

And what is this inherent value of human life? Where does THAT come from?

Revenant said...

This is a misunderstanding of Catholic theology, at least. Things are not right or wrong by divine command, but by their harmony with God's essence.

For purposes of this discussion that's a meaningless distinction, which is why I didn't go into it. God is incapable of contradicting his nature, which means that "God decides what is good" and "Goodness is determined by harmony with God's nature" are identical.

For a Catholic, this statement is expressly false.

If Catholics actually believed that, Catholics would be wrong. But I don't think they do. Even if one accepts that Jesus relayed God's will to humanity, Jesus didn't get into many specifics. This means that we have to infer what Jesus WOULD have said in response to a real-world situation.

But a close look at Catholic history will reveal an astonishing continuity of doctrine over the centuries, more than in any comparable organization from the first century to the present.

Assuming for the sake of argument that that is true, the fact that Catholic doctrine has not been *perfectly* consistent simply proves my point. God, according to Catholics, has not changed his nature over the past 2000 years, while the Catholic conception of whether specific acts are good or evil has changed (an obvious example being the shift from supporting to opposing slavery). This serves as positive proof that God's followers are making moral judgments and getting them wrong at least some of the time.

And of course you might be getting them wrong all of the time. Exactly none of the Bible was written by Jesus. All you have is second and third-hand accounts of his will, and he hasn't come back to inform you of what you've gotten right or wrong. We know that at least some of his followers were imperfect human beings who failed to adhere to his teachings; it could well be that they misinterpreted, omitted, or deliberately altered some of his teachings. For example, it could be that he endorsed slavery and nobody bothered writing it down because the position was -- in that time and place -- so uncontroversial and widely accepted. Or he could have endorsed gay marriage and his followers were too trapped by their own homophobia to record that teaching. Who knows?

That's what I mean when I said God wasn't sharing his opinions with us. All you've got it is a collection of secondhand accounts of what fallible humans from 2000-2500 years ago thought God's opinions were. Plus a lot of commentary on those accounts. What you don't have is any way, short of dying and finding out what happens to your soul, of confirming your understanding of God's nature and/or will. Which is, of course, the same problem utilitarians have; they can't objectively measure utility any more than you can objectively measure proximity to God's nature.

Pogo said...

Atheism cannot escape the inherent subjectivity of its morality, except that which mirrors evolution and the law of club and fang.

Revenant said...

Atheism cannot escape the inherent subjectivity of its morality, except that which mirrors evolution and the law of club and fang.

That's obviously false. An atheist can follow an objective morality via the same means that theists do -- by arbitrarily declaring that some force, thing, or being, known or unknown, is the sole arbiter of right and wrong.

KLDAVIS said...

Kylos said...

at the end of Meno...


Well, I haven't read the Meno since my first year of college (History of Philosophy with Ian Mueller in the fall of 1999 to be exact)...but, from a cursory glance at the portion around what you quoted, I'm pretty sure that Socrates (Plato) is discussing the quality of performing virtuous acts, not the mere conception of virtuosity.

I cannot believe that Plato believed we need to be instilled with a God given ability to even perceive virtue, or that perceiving and performing are entwined. If a criminal cannot even comprehend lawful behavior, how can he possibly act otherwise, and thus how can he justly be punished?

Not having re-read the entire discourse, I could be missing something, but I won't dwell on it. I'm more current on my Nietzsche, as my concentration was post-Enlightenment German philosophy...I think he had more than a few things to say on this topic. Here's one: Man is the 'valuating animal...discuss.

This particular idea of his ties in nicely to the Brook's essay mentioned in an earlier post.

Revenant said...

One other little point I wanted to raise about the Craig's argument:

3. The Moral Argument; If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Rape isn’t just culturally unacceptable, it’s actually wrong.

The problem with this argument, of course, is that a God-based morality can hold that rape is good and opposition to rape is bad. See, e.g., the Shi'ite support for spousal rape in Afghanistan, which was reasoned from God's perceived will.

You could argue that it is against God's will and Shi'a gets it wrong. But that's just it; you can argue about it, but you can't prove it. God's morality might be objective, but human interpretations of it are all subjective -- and it is the interpretation, not the objective reality, which humans rely on in decision-making.

KLDAVIS said...

Here's a good one:

What part of 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' posits the existence of a supreme creator who will judge you for your actions?

Even most Christians believe this to be the basic starting point of ethics...and nothing about it requires anything exist besides two sentient human beings with feelings and emotions.

Revenant said...

Actually, Christians believe (or at least Christ taught) that "love God and love thy neighbor" is the foundation of moral law. The golden rules is just a guideline for staying within the law.

Pogo said...

"An atheist can follow an objective morality..."

Again you state a subjective position, by any truly atheistic measure.


"...nothing about it requires anything exist besides two sentient human beings with feelings and emotions."

You assume however that the two agree. And what when they do not?

Robert Cook said...

"And what is this inherent value of human life? Where does THAT come from?"

We value human life--perhaps have an innate impulse to value human life--because we must, if the species is to survive. It is instinctual, an adaptive trait by which, even though all individuals will die, we strive to preserve the lives of our fellows in order that the species will go on. We see this same impulse in some other animal species.

The impulse to kill is also innate in us, our violence an outgrowth of the natural competition among animals in nature for access to scarce resources, as well as a reflection of our self-defensive and predatory traits, all arising from the necessity in nature to fight or flee when faced with danger.

Revenant said...

Again you state a subjective position, by any truly atheistic measure.

I think the problem here is that you don't know what the words "objective" and "subjective" mean.

If I believe that, for example, humans have a right to the pursuit of happiness which is inherent to the universe itself, that is a belief in an objective moral rule. It is "subjective" only in the sense that Christian morality is subjective -- I believe it to be true but can't prove it. You can't prove God is good or that goodness is derived from him; I can't prove that human happiness is a foundational principle of the universe.

But ineffability is not the same as subjectivity.

dbp said...

IIRC Immanuel Kant derived the moral imperative using only reason. While I am pretty sure he believed in God, he didn't use God as the basis of determining ethical imperatives.

My point, is that if there is such a thing as objective morality, such as "rape is always wrong", then this is true whether or not there exists a supreme being.

If the supreme being is good (rather than evil) he will sometimes inform us of right and wrong, but his pronouncements don't make these things right or wrong.

Okay, gotta go. Kids want to watch Nemo on this computer...

Oligonicella said...

Pogo said...

...nothing about it requires anything exist besides two sentient human beings with feelings and emotions.

"You assume however that the two agree. And what when they do not?"

Actually, neither he nor the saying assumes that. The saying is made concerning a state before any actions are taken. Once something happens, you determine your subsequent course from that.

So, if both people are peaceful and desire calm cooperation, they do right by each other.

If one starts crap the other is in no way obligated to stay in the 'rules' frame because that person is now doing unto in a manner you would not want and so is more or less begging reciprocation.

Pogo said...

Rev, that's a religious view.

craig said...

Blogger Revenant said...

"For purposes of this discussion that's a meaningless distinction, which is why I didn't go into it. God is incapable of contradicting his nature, which means that "God decides what is good" and "Goodness is determined by harmony with God's nature" are identical."

Hey, you brought it up. That God is incapable of contradicting His nature is unknowable except by revelation; that was the point of the Regensburg reference above.

"If Catholics actually believed that, Catholics would be wrong. But I don't think they do."

You sure tell Catholics what they "really" believe like some fundamentalists I've heard. What Jesus taught to the apostles is not wholly contained in the texts that were eventually canonized as Scripture, and was never held to be so until Protestants invented "sola scriptura".

As for the doctrinal consistency argument, my reference to Newman was put there for a reason: it already answered your objection thoroughly.

"...a God-based morality can hold that rape is good and opposition to rape is bad. See, e.g., the Shi'ite support for spousal rape in Afghanistan, which was reasoned from God's perceived will."

Of course mutually contradictory revelations cannot both be true; at least one of them is false. Determining which is true is beyond this discussion, but one must follow experience, intuition, and faith to the best of one's abilities and circumstance. The mind can perceive things that cannot be measured with instruments; we accept this in all other matters of life, and there is no good reason to reject it in matters of religion. But the Church does not condemn those who through no fault of their own are ignorant of the truth.

Revenant said...

Rev, that's a religious view.

Interesting claim. I'd like to see you try to prove it.

But even if it your claim were true (which of course it isn't), one can be both atheistic and religious. Many Unitarian Universalists are atheists, for example.

Revenant said...

That God is incapable of contradicting His nature is unknowable except by revelation

That God is incapable of contradicting his nature is logically obvious. If X can behave in contradiction to Y, then Y cannot be part of X's nature.

You sure tell Catholics what they "really" believe like some fundamentalists I've heard.

I'm not telling you what you believe, I'm saying that I don't think you believe what you claim to believe. If you do, in fact, really believe it then that's fine. That just means you believe something which is objectively false.

As for the doctrinal consistency argument, my reference to Newman was put there for a reason: it already answered your objection thoroughly.

I'm sure you think it did. It is nevertheless a fact that at least one of the following three statements is true:

(1): Catholic doctrine regarding, e.g., slavery, was wrong as of 1500 years ago.
(2): Catholic doctrine regarding, e.g., slavery, is wrong now.
(3): God's nature, and thus the nature of right and wrong, changed during the last 1500 years. In which case God is changeable and thus unable to form the basis of an objective moral system.

So like I pointed out, it is a simple fact that Catholics haven't been consistently in accordance with a divinely-ordained objective moral system for the last two thousand years. The best you can hope to claim is that either you were periodically in accordance with it, or that you were continuously in accordance with a subjective moral system based around a changeable god.

But the Church does not condemn those who through no fault of their own are ignorant of the truth.

... anymore. :)

Pogo said...

"Interesting claim. I'd like to see you try to prove it."

You claim that "humans have a right to the pursuit of happiness" inherent to the universe itself.

They do?
Who says so?
You?
And if that right is violated, so what?
What difference does it make if one becomes a serial killer, for example?

It's "objective" in what way? Because you can type the word?
Phfffft.
Communist and atheist Russia routinely violated your so called human right. So what?
Your 'objective right' has all the force of the power to enforce it, nothing more.

Might makes right.
All else you write is merely belief and hope, indistinguishable from religion.

Pogo said...

It seems that atheists think "objective" means "anything a bunch of people can agree on".

Revenant said...

You claim that "humans have a right to the pursuit of happiness" inherent to the universe itself.

No, I don't. I cited that as an example of an objective moral belief that an atheist could hold. I didn't say I hold that belief.

And if that right is violated, so what?

Why would we need to know the answer to that question? Are you claiming an action can't be moral or immoral unless it has consequences? If so you can add that to the list of unsupported claims you'll need to provide arguments for. You'll also have to prove that there are consequences to violating God's moral laws, of course -- otherwise Christianity can't be an objective moral system either.

It's "objective" in what way? Because you can type the word?

It is objective because it holds that right and wrong are not determined by human beings, but rather by a natural law of the universe. Obviously individual humans have to use their subjective judgment to figure out if they are acting in accordance with that objective standard, just as Christians have to use their subjective judgment to figure out if they are acting in accordance with God's will. You won't know if you decided correctly until you die and either do or don't go to Hell.

Communist and atheist Russia routinely violated your so called human right. So what?

The consequences of them violating that law were the same as the consequences of them violating so many of God's laws. I.e., there weren't any, so far as any of us can tell.

It seems that atheists think "objective" means "anything a bunch of people can agree on".

It means "existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality". Thus, if I believe that moral laws are inherent to the universe itself, I believe in objective morality. Even if I thought up that idea entirely on my own and nobody believes it but me. Even if there are no apparent consequences to the belief. It is an objective moral system because it holds that right and wrong are not dependent on the observer or his or her opinions.

The key feature of an objective moral system is that it is true even if nobody believes in it -- just as Christians believe that God's morality would hold true even if there were no human beings to follow it. You don't need "might" to make "right"; you don't need the good to be rewarded or the evil punished. All you need is for right and wrong to exist outside of the human mind.

I have to wonder what you thought "objective morality" meant. I suspect you followed the formula "objective is good, atheism is bad, ergo atheist morality can't be objective". :)

Joan said...

Rev: it is a simple fact that Catholics haven't been consistently in accordance with a divinely-ordained objective moral system for the last two thousand years. The best you can hope to claim is that either you were periodically in accordance with it, or that you were continuously in accordance with a subjective moral system based around a changeable god.


False dichotomy.

I doubt I will articulate this well, but I thought I'd give it a shot: the problem is not that God's nature has changed over the last 2000 years. What has changed is humanity's ability to perceive God's creation (the universe). With that enhanced perception, our interpretation of natural law has sometimes changed. I don't know enough about the specifics of the slavery issue, but I believe that at the time of Christ, many slaves were peoples who had lost a war, not people of another race who were forced from their homes and shipped across an ocean. Among the Greeks at least, you could be riding high one day and a slave the next if you were unlucky enough to be on the losing side of a battle in the Peloponnesion War. That kind of slavery was bad enough but race-based slavery is an evil that the denies the fundamental humanity of the Other, and as such was never compatible with Christianity. The fact that many, many Christians kept slaves is a testimony to our ability to rationalize, go-along-to-get-along, or simply ignore the uncomfortable, expensive, or difficult. It still wasn't right.

We continue to do the best we can with the tools we're given, and we're getting better all the time. It's silly to blame God for our inability to perceive His universe wholly and correctly.

Revenant said...

False dichotomy.

Um, maybe. But the explanation you give is covered by one of the options I listed: that Catholic doctrine was not always in accord with God's will. Saying that our ability to perceive God's will has improved is just the *explanation* for why past Christians failed.

It's silly to blame God for our inability to perceive His universe wholly and correctly.

I didn't. I was just pointing out that arguing that utilitarianism is relativistic just because humans can't perfectly perceive the right way to maximize utility would result in Christian morality, which has also imperfectly perceived God's will, being classified as "relativist morality" too.

Pogo said...

"You'll also have to prove that there are consequences to violating God's moral laws"
There are.
Hell.
But prove?
Hell, no. It's a faith, as you know. It makes no claim to proof.
There are no consequences in atheism. Hence, no law.

"It is objective because it holds that right and wrong are not determined by human beings, but rather by a natural law of the universe. "
An objective natural law of the universe?
Really?
You mean like Planck's constant? So I can derive it scientifically? I can prove or refute it?
Really?
So where is this objective law?
How did it get there?
Is it embedded in DNA?
Or is it in the stars you see overhead?

"the consequences of them violating that law were the same as the consequences of them violating so many of God's laws. I.e., there weren't any, so far as any of us can tell."
Some natural law.
So, a law, but not like gravity, which causes your head to hurt were you to violate it.
More like a natural suggestion, sounds like.
The consequences of violating God's law occur after death.
After death, atheists claim, we are mere worm food. So they make claim to a natural law which has no consequences and is unenforceable.
But it exists, I guess, like old laws against spitting to which no one pays heed any longer.

"existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality".
So it is unprovable.
A religion.
Not science.
Not based on nature, even, because it cannot be demonstrated.
Not reality, because it cannot be counted or measured or tested.
A religion.

Are you sure you're an atheist?

Robert Cook said...

The discussion has become a tad unclear...is someone here claiming that atheists purport there to be "natural laws," objective morality independent of humanity, but part of the fabric of the universe?

As an atheist, I have never heard any atheist make such claims, and such claims are nonsensical. In the absence of god, morals or ethics or values, are all creations of humanity.

craig said...

Joan is correct about slavery. The Church tends not to pronounce on questions that nobody has yet asked. Roman slavery was generally the result of war, and always preserved the right of the slave to buy his freedom. Because of this, the Church did not call it intrinsically evil at the time. Perpetual chattel slavery from birth until death did not occur until centuries later, and the Church did condemn that. And you cannot point to anything in which the Church called slavery good, while it has always called freeing the slave a good thing.

Christians are sinners; that is not news to us. There is a difference between doctrine and accepted practice, and that difference is the result of human fault.

Pogo said...

"As an atheist, I have never heard any atheist make such claims"

Well, that's what I thought was the case.

Which brings us back to original point, that if God does not exist, everything is permitted.

Joan said...

I've read enough to be familiar with the term "natural law" but I don't know enough to discuss it intelligently. It seems to me that in Catholicism, natural law is the basis for our morality, and natural law derives from the order God imposed when he created the universe. Is that right? I would be interested to learn more if anyone wants to continue the discussion.

If my assumption is true, I don't see how atheists can ascribe to a natural law -- from what authority does it derive?

traditionalguy said...

Joan...The Natural Law claims come from a Roman tradition in the little known Roman book "How to Govern Your Empire of Captured Peoples for Dummies". The idea is that every culture has its own law and mores. The governing Centurions should let them keep them so long as taxes are paid. However, when you see that certain laws are the same everywhere, such as forbidding malice murder, then that one is said also to be a Natural law since it came into all these different men's minds alike. The "Natural (to all Men's Minds) Law" nomenclature means nothing else. You are still left trying to find who put that law into all the different men's minds.The spiritual realm was also well known among all men at that time. But today we Scientist Worshipers start by leave out that key to understanding the origens of The Authority that created and governs the universe.Happy Easter!

George said...

If Craig actually believes -
"Rape isn’t just culturally unacceptable, it’s actually wrong."

how can he be a bible believing christian? Rape is everywhere in the bible - sometimes not only approved by god - but ordered by god.

http://www.evilbible.com/Rape.htm

KLDAVIS said...

" Pogo said...
Which brings us back to original point, that if God does not exist, everything is permitted."

Everything IS permitted. When was the last time god stopped a murder? Isaac?!

We have built a secular set of laws and ethics around what we have determined is best for the health and well being of our people and our country. Just as Moses did the same thing when he was chiseling those tablets he passed off for divine law.

How do we determine what is best? Well, the scientific method, trial and error. We found that when people were allowed to rape and murder with impunity, life was missing a certain relaxed and joyful quality, so we made it illegal.

Is it 'wrong' to murder? I would say yes, but you're bringing millennia of assumptions about the meaning of things like 'right' and 'wrong' when you say we can't say murder is wrong if there is no god.

Pogo said...

"Is it 'wrong' to murder? I would say yes, but..."

But why would you say that? Given the conclusion that -for atheism- there is in fact no "natural law, objective morality independent of humanity but part of the fabric of the universe", then everything is permissible.

And meaning is the key.
Atheism lacks any meaning except by booststraps, whereas Religion claims an ultimate meaning.

The difference could not be more stark.

That God does not punish immediately is to put human constraints on Him, and ignores eternity, wherein all things are tallied.

But for atheists, proscriptions against murder are only as binding as force permits, entirely dependent on the temporal cultural context. It has no ultimate meaning at all.

KLDAVIS said...

"But why would you say that?"

Read the preceding paragraphs. It spells it out pretty clearly. We tried the state of nature, it didn't quite work out.

"And meaning is the key.
Atheism lacks any meaning except by booststraps, whereas Religion claims an ultimate meaning."

Unless you've had personal revelation, you cannot possibly claim some higher purpose. For all you know and can prove, you are living a delusion. That you claim it has a purpose does not make it so. Meanwhile, the rational mind rejects what lacks proof and lives the only existence worth living, an internally consistent, reasoned and contemplative one. The unexamined life is not worth living. By feeling the need to find meaning in a construct, you deny the most powerful ability of the human mind, to evaluate and create meaning for ourself.

Dale said...

That God does not punish immediately is to put human constraints on Him, and ignores eternity, wherein all things are tallied

In other words:

God doesn't pay at the end of every day,
but in the end,
God pays.

craig said...

Blogger George said: "If Craig actually believes - "Rape isn’t just culturally unacceptable, it’s actually wrong." how can he be a bible believing christian? Rape is everywhere in the bible - sometimes not only approved by god - but ordered by god."

(FYI for those following along, that's not me but the Dr. Craig referenced in the original post.)

Your linked (hostile) website completely ignores the context of the Old Testament references. The fact is, the OT is a mix of history, poetry, law, moral instruction, and allegory. It is not to be taken as a naked text without interpretation, because parts of it are normative and others are merely descriptive.

The narrative arc of the OT centers around the gradual revelation of God to the Israelites, who despite this regularly lapse into faithlessness and revert to the pagan customs of their neighbors. So many of the things the Israelites do, whether commanded by kings or judges, are contrary to divine law stated elsewhere in the same OT -- but because the OT is the history of the Jews, these events are recorded too. It is a testimony to the Jews' honesty that they preserved all these histories that accused their ancestors.

Most of the aspects, such as purity laws and sacrifices, that most confuse us moderns are in fact lessons to a primitive culture in valuing life (l'chaim) over death, in sacrificing what one has a right to offer instead of what is not one's own to offer. The sternest declarations were always against the abominable practices of the tribes surrounding the Israelites, human sacrifice in particular (these tribes eventually became the Carthaginians; you can look it up).

Revenant said...

There are. Hell. But prove? Hell, no. It's a faith, as you know. It makes no claim to proof.

So an atheist is obligated to prove to you that his morals have consequences, but you're allowed to insist that we take your word for it that YOUR morals have consequences.

Not much point in discussing morality with you, Pogo. You're interested in scoring points, not reaching an understanding of how other people view the world.

Revenant said...

It seems to me that in Catholicism, natural law is the basis for our morality, and natural law derives from the order God imposed when he created the universe. Is that right? I would be interested to learn more if anyone wants to continue the discussion.

Well, natural law originates from God in those belief systems which hold that God created nature. But there are people (I'm not one of them myself) who hold that there are natural moral laws inherent to existence, even though existence itself had no sentient creator.

Revenant said...

As an atheist, I have never heard any atheist make such claims, and such claims are nonsensical.

I happen to agree that those claims are nonsensical (although no more so than the idea that God exists and provides morality), but there are nevertheless atheists who believe it. Randian Objectivists and atheistic Unitarians are examples of this.

Pogo said...

"So an atheist is obligated to prove to you that his morals have consequences, but you're allowed to insist that we take your word for it that YOUR morals have consequences."
If an atheist is arguing against the idea that "if God does not exist everything is permitted" he is so obligated.

My word matters very little as to whether God exists or not.

"Not much point in discussing morality with you, Pogo."
Well, not much point if you're unwilling to admit that Karamazov was exactly correct.

Revenant said...

If an atheist is arguing against the idea that "if God does not exist everything is permitted" he is so obligated.

First of all, I said before, it is silly to say that atheists are obligated to disprove the claim "if God does not exist everything is permitted" and then say that Christians are under no obligation to disprove the claim "even if God does exist everything is permitted". If you can throw your hands in the air and insist that we accept your claim without proof, intellectual honesty requires you to extend the same courtesy to everyone else.

I would also point out that following a moral law because you fear punishment or anticipate reward isn't "morality"; it is cowardice. A moral person does the right thing even if there is no reward for doing so, and refrains from doing the wrong thing even if he could do so without punishment. A dog can do the right thing if you offer him a piece of bacon or threaten him with a whip. A human being can do the right thing simply because he understands it IS the right thing. That's morality.

There's a term for a "moral" system that depends upon consequences for its validity. It is, amusingly enough, "might makes right". You obey God because if you don't he'll send you to hell, not because you truly believe obeying him is the right thing to do. Or maybe that's not the case; maybe you really do obey him without concern for hell. But if that's the case then the "consequences" of breaking those moral laws don't matter to you, and aren't what is causing you to be moral.

To an atheist who believes in objective morality, the consequences of breaking a moral law are that you are an immoral person. The consequences of obeying moral law are that you are a good person. That should be reason enough for anyone.

Well, not much point if you're unwilling to admit that Karamazov was exactly correct.

I'm open to someone presenting an argument in support of his position. But all you've done is bark out a bunch of two-word sentences and ad hominem attacks, same as usual. Fortunately other religious people here have taken it upon themselves to present the intelligent arguments you're personally incapable of.

KLDAVIS said...

Pogo, stop trying to be pithy and try to clash with some of the arguments here.

Karamazov is right either way. Permitted has no real meaning in that statement otherwise.

George said...

Poster Craig responded to me-
Your linked (hostile) website completely ignores the context of the Old Testament references. The fact is, the OT is a mix of history, poetry, law, moral instruction, and allegory. It is not to be taken as a naked text without interpretation, because parts of it are normative and others are merely descriptive.

I guess we now have to discuss what it means to be a xian. While you may consider that website to be hostile, it quotes from the bible are accurate.

William Lane Craig, like 30% of this country, is an evangelical xian. He believes in biblical inerrancy. He teaches at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.

From Talbot's Commitments -
Biblical Inerrancy
Talbot School of Theology is committed to biblical inerrancy. By biblical inerrancy, we mean that the Bible is without errors of any kind in its original manuscripts. Biblical inerrancy is an essential part of our ministry training and helps define our view of biblical authority.


As you get on with your zombie worship this weekend, please explain to me how Craig can make a blanket statement on rape when Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says -
If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.

Don't talk about narrative and allegory when the person speaking believes that the bible is the inerrant word of god.

craig said...

George, I answered you respectfully before and did not insult your beliefs. If you won't do likewise, then these proceedings are closed.