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March 15, 2011

Comments

Can evil really be applied to a natural disaster though? I noticed that you mention "natural evil"...perhaps tragedy is a more apt description? I assume that the words good and evil are only applicable in the moral sense...do you disagree?

"...for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:45

I fail to see why the atheist cannot make sense of things being good and bad. Why couldn’t the atheist think that some things are just by nature good (like flourishing) while other things are by nature bad (like languishing)? The theist, after all, when asked “But what explains the fact that God is good” will retort with “It is just God’s nature to be good; that’s the kind of thing God is.” Why, then, couldn’t the atheist (or the theist for that matter!) explain the fact that flourishing is good by simply stating that it is the nature of flourishing to be good? That’s just the kind of thing flourishing is. What else is there to say? In some ways asking what explains the fact that flourishing is good is similar to asking what explains the fact that 2 is a number. It’s just the nature of 2 to be a number. What else could you possibly want as a response?
I’m also unclear as to whether or not Brett thinks that it is evidence against the truth of a view that the view is not ultimately comforting. Brett seems to think that Christianity offers “hope and redemption to a world corrupted by both moral and natural evil.” But doesn’t Brett think that most of humanity will languish for eternity in hell? Is that his hopeful alternative to the naturalistic worldview? Or does he disagree with Greg’s view that God sovereignly consigns most of humanity to hopeless ruin? And what existential resources does Brett offer us to deal with the fact that most of our brothers and sisters will inherit a future of torment and gnashing of teeth?

Don, evil can be applied to nature depending upon the definition.

Malebranche, the atheist can certainly make sense of something being good or bad as a pleasant or unpleasant thing or a productive or non-productive thing, just NOT as an ethical or moral absolute. In other words the good or bad for the atheist is based on the existential preference or opinion.

Boiled down, I'm reading this as argument from wishful thinking: atheism is not comforting in the face of tragedy, therefore God must exist.

When you eliminate the premise of an 'all good supreme God', there is no problem of evil. Stuff happens. The problem of 'why did this happen?' is explained by plate tectonics and the frailty of the human body. While that may not necessarily be a 'comforting' explanation, it doesn't mean it's not true.

When you introduce the idea of God, the problem is not only 'why did this happen?' but also 'why would He allow this to happen?'. Without God, an earthquake is tragic. With God, an earthquake becomes 'evil', as we now have to find some way to reconcile the will of a supreme (and supposedly good) being with the tragedy.

This response to the problem of evil (be it natural evil or not) is the most common one Greg gives on the program. It doesn't matter one little bit if the Atheist, Buddhist, Muslim or whatever can provide an answer or not. The question being asked is whether the Christian can. It doesn't matter who is asking the question.

Answering an objection by completely dodging the question is no answer at all.

Joe, you're correct in that the moral argument does not prove the existence of God, and at it's worst is merely a practical argument for God. It does however eliminate objective good or evil from the atheist's vocabulary for obvious reasons.

Malebranche, do you think that Love is the ultimate, or highest Ethic? If so, on what grounds? If not, then what is?

Oh, Malebranche I added a thought to our other conversation on the other blog topic....if you're bored.... (sorry, couldn't resist)

Hmmm...not too comforting

So? I'm supposed to accept your claims because you think they're comforting?

Todd,

What do you mean by 'objective good and evil'?


RonH

Natural disasters are considered so because of Man's proximity to them. For example, the Sylmar or Northridge quake 200 years ago would have killed no one, because there were no structures to fall on people. If no people were living near the shore where the tsunami hit, say, hundreds of years ago, it would have been awesome but no tragedy. So, I say evil has nothing to do with it.

I really loathe when Christians rush in to "explain" why these things happen, or make the moronic connection that it's "God's judgement." The Earth is alive, and it moves a lot. Stuff just happens. It's terribly unfortunate that people die when these things happen, but there is no escaping them and it has nothing to do with whether the people living there are "good" or "evil."

A very pertinent interview by NPR with John Piper on the 2005 Tsunami. Quite a powerful interview on tragedy and God's relationship to it. Very relevant. Hope folks find it useful:

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/interviews/the-npr-tsunami-interview

Doesn't this just feed into atheistic explanations of religion as coping mechanisms? Opiate of the people and all that. I hear echoes of Freud and Marx.

In a sense, I have to go with Perry.

Most Christians I know have a strange view of the relationship between providence and prayer. If the 'answer to prayer' feels good, it was God's will, if not, it wasn't. They confuse what God allows with His will.

- That's as secular (and 'Schopenhauerian') as you can get.
So, as jasonL points out, it does play into the hands of atheism, but partly because it's so simplistic, being based in 'blind faith'.

Greg doesn't believe 'in blind faith', and most theological dictionaries don't see faith in that sense either. But, that said, an incredible number of Christians live their life by it.

Without any Magisterial authority, Christianity is simply whatever Christians do, and that gives rich pickings to the atheists in situations such as this.

Ron, Objective....as in not Subjective...For the last 30 years the New Atheists have conceded the point that outside of an Objective Ontic Refererent morality comes down to homosapiens whim, and at best Pragmatism...the greatest good for the greatest number, and other forms of guidence. Yet still entirely subjective and subject to Might Makes Right at the end of the day. Which is fine as far as it goes. But they are intellectually honest and do not claim, as I think you are (or not?) that Objective Morality outside of and beyond homosapiens fickle whim does not exist. That is the only point about objective and subjective....it does not prove God exists. It merely means our inner sense, or our existentially felt reality of "ought not" or "ought" or "things should have been otherwise" are, for the atheist, at best, wish fulfillment or autohypnosis, or, at worst, delusion. But the New Atheists for 30 years (Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, others etc....) has conceded the point and embraced Pragmatism. Which is fine as far as it goes....until another with more Might decides some other framework is Right...and on it goes as we evolve in and out of this or that notion of morality. That is the only point about Objective and Subjective, not that it proves God exists, but that it moves the Atheist to jeteson his existentially felt reaity at the sight of genocide or rape or whatever which cry "Ought Not!", and offer that, at best, those felt realities are wish fulfillment or autohypnosis, or, at worst, if he really believes those inner notions are statements of Objective Truth beyond mere whim, delusion. Pragmatism is the New Morality, not Objective Ought outside of and beyond Homosapiens fickle whim towards which he is obliged to move.....it is not a proof of God, it is a means to see if the Athesit is willing to be intellectually honest. If he is not then.....well...a true and open dialogue about the pains and fears and hopes and valid intellectual insights which drive many of us to be athesits, or theists, or agnostics, or whatever, cannot proceed openly, honestly. I have many strong, and painful, experiences which kept me inside of atheism, and I suppose agnosticism, for some time, and my journey into theism has been a very personal, and at times painful, journey. Intellectually speaking, I appreciate the concerns of both...and I have read many of the New Atheist's writings....and I suppose we all have to start with whatever the Reality in which we wake to find ourselves presents us with to ferrit out what we feel is in some sense an accurate description of The Real. It's a long process, and a very personal one, with each side full of Nobel Prize winners, PhD's, thoughful philosophers, and on "down?" the line, to the freaks and rejects and unwanted and the Weak and the Least....all of us find outselves presented with a host of felt realities which hit us in the face, and we start there I guess. Life, Pain, Love, Insight, Nuance, and all the rest. But these conversations are hard, and personal,and why open up if one's partner in the dialague is not being as open, as intellectually honest? I think it was Hitchens (I could be wrong) who was asked if man's notion of "rape is wrong" has evolved within him as arbitrarily as the fact that he has evolved with five fingers instead of six, to which he replied, "Well, yes." That is the only point of a Subjective, rather than Objective stance; it does not prove God. It merely brings out a better sense of what the New Atheist is openly saying about what "evil" "is". But I can't help but respect Hitchens (I think that was his quote...maybe not) as he is intellectualy honest. And I feel you and all of us, and myself... we all bring a host of experiences and insights and felt realities and sense of reason which, for all of us, move us to see things this way or that way or some way in between....and it's all okay. We all have the same realities hitting us, impacting us, moving us, shapping us.....somewhere along the line the odd notion of love has crept in to my own experience as a sort of ought...and over time I have moved into theism...but that's me. Not others. I can only be honest and open about my own sense of things. I appreciate Hitchens as he is doing the same; giving me the same respect.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WHY DOES THIS ALWAYS HAPPEN? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Christians constantly confuse "the problem of evil" and "the problem of pain"

When Nazi's come to your house and kill your family, that's the problem of evil.

When a meteor hits your house and kills your family, that's the problem of pain.

These are TWO very different problems!

The answer to the first problem is: "cuz god gives nazis freewill"

The answer to the second problem is much more theologically challenging to Christianity.

Malebranche,

>> "Why couldn’t the atheist think that some things are just by nature good (like flourishing) while other things are by nature bad (like languishing)?"

Because "flourishing" and "languishing" are entirely subjective in our atheist worldview.

If you see a picture of a termite ridden wooden sculpture, you can say:

"That poor sculpture. It is languishing with rot and infested with insects."

OR, you could say:

"Wow that termite colony sure has quite a flourishing feast on their hands. This must be a great time to be a termite!"

>> "Doesn't this just feed into atheistic explanations of religion as coping mechanisms?"

Yes it does.

This video shows WHY RELIGION EXISTS

@Todd >> "It does however eliminate objective good or evil from the atheist's vocabulary for obvious reasons."

As it should; I don't think anyone following the Word of God can claim their concepts of 'good' and 'evil' come from unchanging, objective moral standards set out in the Bible, otherwise we'd be perfectly OK with slavery, killing nonbelievers and animal sacrifice. This is perfectly acceptable behaviour in the Old Testament, and if good and evil were objective, then they'd still be perfectly acceptable today.

Maybe God sent this disaster on the Japanese because of the high percentage of nonbelievers. If we take the Bible as providing objective moral values, then this is OK. (This is good! Of course God smote the Japanese, it's what the Law says to do! It's not evil, it's God saving us from the scourge of sin and disbelief. Praise God's judgement! Who are we to question his infinite wisdom?)

But I think most of us are not OK accepting that as an explanation. It doesn't jive with what we see as 'a good thing'. And if a 'good thing' now is not the same as a 'good thing' in the Old Testament, then it's not an objective standard.

LHRM,

I don’t really know what you’re getting at with that question. My original intention was simply to point out the following:

(1) No good reasons have been given in this post for thinking that atheists cannot make sense of objective morality. That has simply been asserted.

(2) No good reasons have been given in this post for thinking that Christianity has more resources to deal with the existential problem of evil. If Brett is anything like the rest of the crew at STR, he believes that in virtue of sovereign divine design most of humanity will languish in unending hopeless horror in hell. That’s what they think sensible, mature, rational Christianity teaches (right?). What hope does he offer the child whose Hindu grandmother was just murdered? I suspect Brett has no resources at all to deal with the existential crisis that most of our loved ones have been abandoned by God to eternal sorrow. Probably a failure to engage the issue, a swift change of the subject, or a pathetic, “Well, there’s still hope for you, little one, so cheer up!” is about all you could give the child while remaining true to those terrible convictions.

Tony,

Well it certainly is not true that all of those who failed to believe in the triple-O God thought that languishing and flourishing were subjective. Aristotle, for instance, certainly did not. In any event no one has given an argument thus far that subjectivism about flourishing deductively follows from atheism, though this has been asserted in a variety of ways.

>> no one has given an argument thus far that subjectivism about flourishing deductively follows from atheism

well it quite obviously follows from materialism.

Properly understood, for Christians there is no problem of evil. We struggle with it because our faith is yet weak - our knowledge is limited. We hold that God is sovereign and that evil exists. Both are biblical truths. For the faithful it is enough to say, "I trust God although I do not fully understand evil." God has given us enough information where we can trust what we do understand of God to trust Him also where we do not understand. If an eternal Creator is not beyond our comprehension in some ways then He is merely a cognitive fabrication for what can we imagine that is outside of our understanding? But God has purposed to reveal significant aspects of His nature to us as is evidenced by the presence of the scriptures and presupposed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

For those who have no faith in the sovereign God, evil by any definition is a problem, because in a purely mechanistic universe any definition of evil is an arbitrary construct. It's a problem because on some level the unfaithful recognize evil for what it is and must explain it without reference to eternal truth. Otherwise, there is nothing but physical processes.

Tony,

Well that's no argument. And of course materialism does not follow from atheism.

Hey Malebranche, the question was not to get at anything, it was just a question about what you yourself feel is the Ultimate Ethic, if there even is such a thing. If love, then why and etc....It's a question of you, by me, not of general philosophy, by a dis-interested third party. Do you think the highest ethic is love? If so, why? If not, then what is? (or maybe there is no such thing as an ultimate ethic.....etc). It's not about athesim, subjectivism, objectivism, or theism. It's about your sense of things personaly.

Regarding: "No good reasons have been given in this post for thinking that atheists cannot make sense of objective morality. That has simply been asserted."


I disagree with the New Atheist Hitchen's as in my above comment, when he was asked if he felt that our inner notion of "rape is wrong" evolved as arbitrarily as the fact that we've evolved with five fingers instead of six, to which he replied, "Well, yes". I think there are several strong defenses for his view; but the overall balance of discussions on that topic seem to sway in favor (in my mind) of him being somehow off center. But that's just me. Although, I do respect him for his intellectual honesty. He, along with Harris, Hawkins, and others for the last 20 or 30 years give very strong reasons why the New Atheists now concede the point that Atheism allows for no good explanation of objective morality, and in fact they have all together stopped defending that notion and simply offer Pragmatic goals, and, as Hitchens (I think it was him) eludeds to, "rape is wrong" could very well evolve into "rape fosters DNA perpetuation" and so out-survive other packets of Information and end up the norm. That is the New Atheists in their own words. We need not add to them: they concede the point. For about 25 years now. They have entire books on why this is the case and why we should not be bothered by this reality. Atheists, at least the most widely published for the last two decades, do NOT make sense out of Objective Morality: in fact they deny it outright. "Rape is wrong" is not good or bad or wrong or right. "DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music".

But that's a whole other discussion which I didn't ask you about; I'm more curious about Malebranche, and if he/she feels, personaly, that the Highest Ethic is Love?

">> "Doesn't this just feed into atheistic explanations of religion as coping mechanisms?"

Yes it does.

This video shows WHY RELIGION EXISTS"<<

Maybe - but if religion was merely a evolutionary construct to help us humans cope, you would think it would do a better job coming up with more comforting answers. I wouldn't call the concept of hell and judgment of God a great comforter. Maybe it makes us feel a little better about the eschaton of truly evil people, the Japanese - not so much.

Malebranche,

oh so in an atheists world view, there necessarily exists a platonic definition of the word "Flourishing Garden"?

how might you go about proving this to be the case?

jasonL,

>> I wouldn't call the concept of hell and judgment of God a great comforter.

Well it is - because you can take comfort in knowing that people who hurt you will ultimately be forever cursed to burn in agony in a great sea of fire.

I think in the Pleistocene, believing that people in your group who did bad things (or people in other groups who did bad things to you) will burn, has some obvious utility.

Religion also acts as an aid to discourage rape (the propagation of the genomes of unfit males) and theft, And it encourages 'fair trade' and teamwork.

Tony,

The folks at Stand to Reason routinely act like atheism entails subjectivism about ethics. It sounds like you think that too. I’ve asked for a reason to believe that, and no reason has been given. You asserted (without argument) that materialism entails subjectivism about ethics, but that does not show that atheism does, since atheism does not entail materialism. If you’d like a reason to believe that, I give you the following argument:

(1) Atheism and metaphysical idealism are logically consistent.
(2) Metaphysical idealism entails that materialism is false.
(3) For any propositions P, Q, and R, if P is logically consistent with Q and Q entails that ~R, then P is logically consistent with ~R.
(4)Therefore, atheism is logically consistent with the falsity of materialism.
(5) For any propositions P and Q, if P is logically consistent with ~Q, then P does not entail Q.
(6) Therefore, atheism does not entail materialism.

I chose metaphysical idealism to make my point, but I could have chosen a host of other views that would make the point just as well (polytheism, the view that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, morally imperfect person who created the universe, etc.).

So, atheism does not entail materialism. Furthermore, even if it did, you’ve given no argument that materialism entails subjectivism about ethics. Whether I can prove that materialism can make sense of Platonism about goodness is irrelevant. You and the folks at Stand to Reason have made a claim, namely that atheism entails subjectivism. In light of that claim it is perfectly legitimate to ask for reasons in support of that claim. Perhaps you have really good arguments that you just haven’t shared yet. If so, I’d be interested to see them.

Tony,

The link you posted would be a great comforter ... so called revealed religion is a bit of a mixed bag don't you think? I've seen Christians anguish over their morally upright children who "left the faith". Most fundamentalist have a very negative world view where all of the human race will go down the broad way to destruction. As Dante would have it ... even the best pagans (Virgil) would languish in hell.

Religion as an evolutionary construct is a bit like someone sprouting fins with no water to swim in. It seems to me real Opiates work much better.

Well when i said:

"Because "flourishing" and "languishing" are entirely subjective in our atheist worldview."

I was referring to the shape of atoms in the universe.

e.g. "material"

When atheists refer to other properties, however, e.g. the laws of logic, physics, mathematics, then thats a different story.

If you wanna talk about ethics, i side with Will craig on this one. I think its ridiculously obvious that objective moral laws don't exist in an atheist world view.

And i'm basically an atheist.

But I might be wrong.

How would you go about illustrating to me that objective moral laws exist?

Tony,

Thanks for the remarks.

Again, however, it should be noted that I am not the one that claimed that atheism entails subjectivism about ethics. And still no argument for this has been given. It seems that you take it as obvious, but it is at least not obvious to me. I don’t see, for instance, what is incoherent about the following remarks:

God does not exist, but properties do exist, and they exist necessarily (even though they may not be instantiated necessarily). The property of being a prime number, for instance, is a genuine, objective property that is instantiated by the number 2. The property of being self-identical is instantiated by Socrates and everything else that exists. In addition to the property of being self-identical and being prime, there is also the property of being good. This property, like all other properties, exists in every possible world, although it is not instantiated in every possible world. Just like the property of being rational, the property of being good has some nature or essence. In other words, there is some necessarily true biconditional of the form For all x, x is good if and only if x is/has such and such that expresses the nature of goodness. Perhaps we will never ourselves be able to correctly complete this biconditional, but that is no reason to think that there is no such property. It is very difficult, for instance, to express the nature of rationality, but that is no reason to suspect that there is no such property as being rational! Some things instantiate the property of goodness, while others do not. Living a life of human flourishing, for instance, instantiates this property. If asked, “What explains the fact that human flourishing instantiates this property?” then the answer is just that human flourishing is just by nature good. In other words, if we could correctly get at the nature of human flourishing and the nature of the property of goodness, we would see that human flourishing cannot fail but to be good. We would see that human flourishing consists in such and such features and that those features are precisely the features necessary and sufficient for instantiating the property of goodness. At present we may not be able to explain in any enlightening way why human flourishing instantiates this property, but we can plainly see that it does. Human flourishing is obviously good, while human languishing is obviously bad.

What reasons have William Lane Craig or Stand to Reason given for thinking that this kind of non-theistic Platonism is incoherent?

Well you claimed objective morals exist so it's your burden to prove they do.

Quote a lot of gobbledygook in that quote.

Who wrote it?

The whole paragraph basically comes down to a couple opinions:

"The property of being a prime number, for instance, is a genuine, objective property" (ok i follow you there)

Then merely asserts: "there is also the property of being good. This property, like all other properties, exists in every possible world"

er...ok...

where's the argument?

I already know that you think there "goodness" objectively exists.

You told me so.

But why do you believe such?

It then goes on to say:

"human flourishing is just by nature good."

"Human flourishing is obviously good"

"human languishing is obviously bad"

Well ok...

Don't follow it a bit.

Don't see one argument.

Tony,

My claim is not that objective morals exist. My QUESTION in response to STR’s (and your) claim is why we should believe that atheism entails that there are no objective morals. I am simply requesting a deductively valid argument with all true premises that has the following as its conclusion:

If there is no God, then there is no objective morality.

Whether there are good arguments that objective morality exists is another issue entirely and is irrelevant to the logical relationship that atheism bears to the existence of objective morality. The ‘gobbledygook’ I wrote was not me asserting that there is objective morality. It was me asserting that I can’t see why someone would think that view is incoherent. If it is coherent, then there is at least one coherent view according to which (i) God does not exist and (ii) objective morality exists. In that case, however, atheism does not entail subjectivism about ethics. I’m not here to argue that the view is coherent. I’m simply asking why so many folks are so supremely confident that it is incoherent.

>> "I am simply requesting a deductively valid argument that has the conclusion:
'If there is no God, then there is no objective morality.'"

oh i see.

Well logically speaking, I don't know if this can be shown.

For example, I do not think that there exists an objective moral code for the rules with which humans are supposed to engage in the playing of Womens Beach Volleyball.

Logically speaking, however, I can't prove that the rules for Womens Beach Volleyball do not exist as a property of the cosmos.

Indeed, there may exist a platonic Womens Beach Volleybal rulebook that contains everything from the set of all legal volleyball serves, to the criteria for proper bikini size.

Sure, those rules *may* be up there.

But if you want to assert they are, that would be your burden to reveal.

Well put, ToNy.

Sorry, I hope that doesn't ruin your day. :)

huh?

Having me agree with you.

Is Atheism compatible with Objective Morality?

I've enjoyed reading the writings of the most widely published New Atheists of the last 20 years. Physics, Biochemistry, Biology, Philosophy, and all the rest brought in by those well read and well schooled writers. Very enjoyable. And a huge collection of tens of thousands of pages, by these New Atheists, demonstrating the obsurdity of any notion of Objective Morality; and then going on to demonstrate the reasons why we shouldn't be bothered by this. For those who want the sharpest intellectual defense of why Atheism is wholly unable to account for Objective Morality, I refer you to these collections. It's in their own words. It's old news. At least according to the millions of copies sold by the New Atheists over the last two decades. Brilliant stuff by the way....

All those guys do is study and pontificate on such issues, and it was interesting to see the transition from trying to say Objective Morality is consistent with Atheism (from about 40 years ago) into the last two decades in which the New Atheists have wholly abandoned that arguement, having seen the futility of it etc....and now moving into various forms of Partial-Determinisms and things of that sort......But the transition has long since past....and the volumes of writing, by Atheists, abandoning Objective Morality and moving instead toward the Bold and Stoic declarations wholly discounting Good and Evil is there for all to read....We don't need to show how Atheism is void of any innate objective morality: the atheists have already shown us the way.

I disagree with the New Atheist Hitchen's (I think it was him) as in my above comment, when he was asked if he felt that our inner notion of "rape is wrong" evolved as arbitrarily as the fact that we've evolved with five fingers instead of six, to which he replied, "Well, yes". I think there are several strong defenses for his view; but the overall balance of discussions on that topic seem to sway in favor (in my mind) of him being somehow off center. But that's just me. Although, I do respect him for his intellectual honesty. He, along with Harris, Hawkin/s, and others for the last 20 or 30 years give very strong reasons why the New Atheists now concede the point that Atheism allows for no good explanation of objective morality, and in fact they have all together stopped defending that notion and simply offer Pragmatic goals, and, as Hitchens (I think it was him) eludeds to, "rape is wrong" could very well evolve into "rape fosters DNA perpetuation" and so out-survive other packets of Information and end up the norm.

That is the New Atheists in their own words. We need not add to them: they concede the point. For about 25 years now. They have entire books on why this is the case and why we should not be bothered by this reality.

Atheists, at least the most widely published for the last two decades, do NOT make sense out of Objective Morality: in fact they deny it outright. "Rape is wrong" is not good or bad or wrong or right. "DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music".

Brilliant stuff......

>> "Atheists, at least the most widely published for the last two decades, do NOT make sense out of Objective Morality: in fact they deny it outright."

That ain't what i've seen

a lot of them still insist its compatible.

A soft determinism is the most I've seen. Beyond that requires two things, which they gave up trying to shed light on. Namely, something harder than a partial determinism requiers a hard law to which homosapien must bend his knee, and, secondly, this must be an unchanging, or non-evolving Ought which is un-altered by time,space, and matter, otherwise it is in the same category as homosapien (an evolving consciousness etc). I haven't seen anything harder than that for a long time. We've been liberated from all those out of date Unchanging, Absolute Laws. Finally, I guess. Absolute Law is that Eternal Ought which Martin Luther King referred to when speaking of the wrongness of slavery, ".....man eventually runs into that eternal ought....." If such an Unchanging, Absolute Moral Law to which homosapien must bend his knee exists, I have not heard the New Atheist's insisting it can be found in their framework. And the reason is clear: if they were to make that claim they would have to go back in time 30 years or so and try to answer ToNy's challenge all over again:

"Sure, those rules *may* be up there.

But if you want to assert they are, that would be your burden to reveal."


Having been unable to do so, they have advanced to the more intellectually honest: "DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music."

But not being able to show it does not mean it "could not be" I agree. The trouble they had is that all things in THIS universe must be traced back to the Big Bang, and this entails an evolving consciousness at most. I'm not sure you feel there are Absolute Moral Laws, and such. I think I do. I think Martin Luther King was right in appealing to an Absolute Moral Law to ground his arguement of the "wrongness of slavery" in. His notion, and I guess mine as well, is that such things just reak of "ought not" somehow. That inner felt notion is an echo of either Biological Whim (evolving consciousness), or Autohypnosis, or Wish Fulfillment, or Absolute Truth.

I suppose an Absolute Moral Law that enslaving one another is an absolute moral wrong can originate from the Big Bang, given enough time to evolve. But there lies the rub. It evolves, like homosapien. At least in this universe. Multiple Universes are proposed by some.

Many Universes almost gets us there though so it merrits a look. And look we did. I suppose, given the Big Bang, all things in "this" universe have at some time evolved from that initial speck of All-Energy-Whatsoever. But, if we bring in an eternal, unchanging, unevolving, absolute moral law from Another Universe/Reality, to which homosapien is obliged in this Reality/Universe, I suppose I can accept that. Because that is precisely the claim the theists make. I can accept that. An unchanging, unevolving, absolute moral law from another reality easily accounts for this universe's Ought, given this universe cleary began with the Big Bang when its Entire-Energy-Matter was a speck, which brings in the Brief History Of Time (great book?) where all things in this universe are in flux. Actually, I have read one New Atheist go there for his defense of Ought.....Brilliant stuff.....

A Un-evolving Moral Law from another reality weighs into this reality and homosapien finds himself obligated to it, despite his wishes. I guess on that account you are right. The New Atheists do find a way to incorporate Ought into their framework. The alarming, and comical, similararities to theism not withstanding.

PS: RonH, I addressed you up above a few discussions ago on this page as Ron.... sorry about that typo....


LoveHimselfRescuedMe,

So without your god, there is no morality based on your god .

Well we knew that. Didn't we? If your god doesn't exist, then he can't torture anybody from heaven, now can he?

What is all this about 'whim'? Seems a bit of a stretch, doesn't it, to say everything that's not tonic, referetic, or whatever, is a whim?

Does it look like whim to you? Really?

RonH

http://tinyurl.com/4hygcec

if you want "new atheists" heres a url of sam harris tryin to offer his argument for the existence of right and wrong.

its pretty bad...

RohH and ToNy:

That link to Sam Harris boils down to Pragmatism it seems; the greatest good for the greatest number, and the least pain for the least number etc. Pragmatism is where Atheism subtely seems to sort itself out....nice read though. I think a very good defense of Atheism is in this quote by CS Lewis, on his defense of why he was an atheist for so long:


"Look at the universe we live in. By far the greatest part of it consists of empty space, completely black and unimaginably cold. The bodies which move in this space are so few and so small in comparison with the space itself that even if every one of them were known to be crowded as full as it could hold with perfectly happy creatures, it is still difficult to believe that life and "happiness" are more than a mere by-product to this universes forces. As it is, however, the scientists think it likely that very few of the suns of space....perhaps none except our own... have any planets; and in our own system it is improbable that any planet except the Earth sustains life. And Earth herself existed without life for millions of years and may exist for millions more when life has left her. And what is it like while it lasts? It is so arranged that all the forms of it can live only by preying upon one another. In the lower forms this process entails only death, but in the higher there appears a new quality called consciousness which enables it to be attended with pain. The creatures cause pain by being born, and live by inflicting pain, and in pain they mostly die. In the most complex of all creatures, Man, yet another quality appears, which we call reason, whereby he is enabled to forsee his own pain which henceforth is preceded with acute mental suffering, and to forsee his own death while keenly desiring permanence. It also enalbles men by a hundred inggenious contrivances to inflict a great deal more pain than they otherwise could have done to one another and the irrational creatures. This power they have exploited to the full. Their history is largely a record of crime, war, disease, and terror, with just sufficient happiness interposed to give them, while it lasts, an agonised apprehension of loosing it, and, when it is lost, the poignant misery of remembering. Every now and then they improve their condition a little and what we call a civilization appears. But all civilizations pass away and, even while they remain, inflict peculiar sufferings of their own probably sufficient to outweigh what alleviations they may have brought to the normal pains of man. All this leads me to see one of three things. Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit."


I think that is one of the best explanations of why someone would be an atheist.

RonH: sorry you didn't enjoy my comments...those were/are my notions of things.... I do find many well thought out discussions of things which support your side too....we all have to make this journey following what seems to be somehow true or at least partly true to us I guess. And I guess our concepts continue to morph our whole life long...or at least I find mine morphing over time.

Are there "answers"? I've been offered by my peers only two. On the one hand, I'm told that it is a sense of an inherent wrong in senseless suffering and in humanity's testimony of inhumanness which leads some to suggest that "Something" more erudite than Homosapien is the only solution. On the other hand, I'm assured by others that any sort of overarching intellectual sophistication beyond the imagination of Homosapien simply can't exist, and if it does, it is best cruel.

Those who sense that "something larger than us is at work here" tell me that they feel as if there is an unimaginable abyss yet to be learned and our little piece of the puzzle and our Now are but a fragment of the Whole Picture. Alternatively, those who feel reality ends at quarks and electrons, as I recall from my Physics lessons, feel we have weighed every corner of reality and measured the entire universe to the nearest milligram and found it to be [1 X 10] raised to the 54th power in Kilograms. I think that was the number.

Some of the most brilliant physicists and geneticists I've spoken with on both sides of the question amaze me in their rich exploration of questions of that sort. The intelligence on both sides of that question leaves me invariably impressed at the depth of thought the human mind is capable of. I've spoken with PhD's, Physicists, Biochemists, and Geneticists and there is no lack of thoughtful contemplation, intelligence, and genuine life experience in those I've spoken with; from either side. I've left conversations with atheists fully appreciative of the validity of their particular interpretation of experience and life. I've left conversations with those who have a sense of the Something-Larger fully appreciative of the validity of their exploration of reality.

On the surface the questions seem purely a question of raw data, yet the Human element is rich as people describe their various reasons for believing in one versus the other.

RonH, have you ever sat and just listened regardless of the answer? It's liberating; allowing the person across the table from you to simply weave his life's journey and his mind's expeditions into a reflection of his own unique experience.

But to do that we must be silent, and allow another life, which we feel is incorrect, to simply exist in front of us and receive from us an open door; rather than a door slammed tight. Being patient with intellectual error? Embracing someone who is clearly wrong? Mercy to the guilty? Loving the ugly? Well, at the risk of offending.... Absolutely. I've spoken with PhD's, Waitresses, MD's, Truck Drivers, Geneticists, Prisoners, Biochemists, Crack Addicts, Freaks, our world's Rejects, Losers, Who-evers and What-evers and across the board I find in them an inherent worth, someone worth hearing. Inherent Worth. A controversial personality states that when it comes to ranking one another there is no such thing as Rich or Poor, Female or Male, Black or White, Prostitute or Saint. In all our various journeys.....I'm sorry my comments bring out, "Well we knew that. Didn't we? If your god doesn't exist, then he can't torture anybody from heaven, now can he?" I think CS Lewis' defense of atheism above would correspond to your that approach on things...mabye...perhaps not...but God being, at best, cruel, is a felt reality I can certainly identify with. I've felt it often.....

LoveHimselfRescuedMe,

http://tinyurl.com/p8rram

You beat me to it ToNy

Naturalism CAN have the metaphysical foundations for objective goods and evils. However, this form of naturalism must believe in teleology, a la Aristotle or the Stoics. It is only the rejection of natural law that creates the moral argument for theism (either there is a transcendent God and objective goods or it is completely arbitrary). A Stoic answer to the problem of evil is very simple.

"Disaster is virtue's opportunity." -Seneca

The best men in history (men such as Socrates, Leonidas, and Cato the Younger) were heroes precisely because of their beautiful deaths. God's love for good men is a Roman father's (or a Spartan mother's). Live and die with honor. Endure what comes with nobility. Be as excellent as possible. Think nothing of pain.

LoveHimselfRescuedMe,

Actually I did read what you wrote. (Perhaps I'm not as smart as ToNy. I wanted to know if you answered me. If your answer is in there I couldn't find it in the noise. You rambled.

I could not tell if you noticed my actual question. I did notice that you lectured me about listening.

Never mind all that: Does it really seem to you that moral talk and thought is either based on Christianity or based on whim?

RonH

Hey RonH, this is for the question you put up March 17 at 5:25....Christianiyt or whim etc. You guys are fast at posting; sorry for my delay, I'm either too busy or too slow, or both. Be patient as there is an answer here.....I was smiling a bit when I read your last post as I think the reason you didn’t find an answer in my “rambling” is that I didn’t answer it. On purpose….. the reason being that, in that post what was a priority was not an answer of this or that by me, but rather the notion of derision. The “rambling” addressed “that”, not your question. “That” has a way of taking dialogue and morphing it into monologue…..When a man asks you to invite him into your home, and share your most personal and scarce rations with him…..and you then oblige, well….one assumes such things as subtle derisions ‘ought’ to be left at the front door. I think that post was on my own take on the difference between Objective and Subjective sources of Ought.... I think it’s fun having these discussions, and in the tiny circles I move in they occur in little rooms with people of various views challenging one another etc. But the interesting thing is that when a person is sitting there, and you’re looking at him or her eye to eye, it becomes, or we seem to find it, hard to simply belittle the other. The Jew, sitting there with his wife, speaking with the Muslim, sided by his (the Muslim’s) brother, is an odd site. “Well we knew that didn’t we? If your god doesn’t exist then he can’t torture……” or perhaps with a few thoughts about this or that personal take on things, to have the Muslim tell the Jew his experience is a mere “rambling” doesn’t seem to occur….the obvious reason of course being actual people easily seem more relevant than words laying on a blog page. I think RonH and so many others on that page have incredible insights……the kind of insights that demand hard and careful thinking to reply to. I assure you that is not a depth of thought that is common. In those little rooms it becomes apparent that the plurality of interpretations on how each defines this world and their experience in it are not the real problem; in fact they’re not a “problem” at all (the myriad of views that is). There is no magical thread that, if we were to unravel it fast enough, would bridge every gap, change every mind, and in a concrete, crystal clear way settle every difference. We know going in we’re not going to change any minds. And we know going in the one sitting across from us doesn’t think our own take on things is an accurate description of reality. That’s a given. We accept that. It’s an enjoyable process to be asked an honest question and to offer your own set of thoughts and then to be offered, by the person who asked for you to take the time in the first place to offer your own particular take on things, not challenged, but offered a subtle dash of derision……Not that Blogs aren’t for that. They certainly can be…..and probably often are meant to be…...it just isn’t what people are. I mean by that people are not words on a blog page etc……I wish more people would really THINK about their beliefs the way you and others on this site do. So many could do so much, or offer so much, to one another’s experience and sight-line. The Jew and the Muslim and the Atheist could bring each other so much further into a nearly empathetic insight into the other’s line of sight; if only they’d stop killing each other, as it were. I suppose I could offer an answer to your question…..but do you really want to hear it? Or smash it as soon as it leaves my lips (fingertips)? But you’ve asked me to invite you into my home, and share with you rather personal, and scarce, rations, and so I will. I am sorry if the following views expressed make me worthy of Vilification, or are nothing more than the “rambling” of a pointless life. I think you are asking two questions here…. First is “is it Christianity or nothing” as far as Whim goes…. In other words I think you mean if a moral statement is grounded in something other than Christianity, it is at best blind whim. And the answer is of course not, because any particular faith is of no consequence to the issue at hand. The issue at hand is Atheism and Theism (of any kind) as one may or may not be able to account for Objective Morality. In my last post I gave a quote by CS Lewis in defense of why he was an Atheist for so long to show that that take on things has real legitimacy, for if there is a God, as he stated, much of the available evidence would seem to make him either void of good and evil, or indifferent to good and evil, or simply cruel…..and then from there show how, for me, there are other notions which also weigh in, for me that is. Something “indifferent to good and evil” but which “just is” is a point we will touch on later when we speak of Blind Forces void of Personhood. What this comes down to is if Moral Ought is an Objective Entity outside of and external to and beyond the flux of photons in homosapien’s brainstem (Objective), or does it originate within homosapien (Subjective). The post by Sam Harris given above (I think by ToNy) is a good example of a flavor of Pragmatism, as it does not end with an External, Unchanging, Un-evolving, Absolute Moral Ought. In the other post I described how the New Atheists have all but giving up even arguing the point, because at the end of the day all things in a universe such as ours somehow, on some level, “evolve” and so are not Eternal and Unchanging: and therefore not Absolute because they very well may change-out-of-existence, like so many extinct species thus far. Anything that evolves can evolve out of existence. “Rape is Wrong” is ether Eternal and Un-Evolving, and thus Absolute, or it, as a member of this particular universe, finds itself in-flux along with every other thing in this universe. (Things like Gravity may not be evolving…..we’ll get to that in a bit). This universe must account for a “Rape is wrong” that changes not, evolves not, and is therein Absolute, and not only that, but such a Thing must then be proven to have the animal we call homosapien beholden to it. But some, not all, would go even further: this Thing must not be guilty of the crime of CS Lewis’ God: Being Indifferent to Good and Evil: it must Differentiate, or Judge, and even Care. It is not any particular faith…. It is Atheism and Theism, the former being, for reasons above and yet to come in a just a bit, unable to account for an Eternal, Unchanging, Un-Evolving, and thus Absolute, Moral Ought.

Then there was the bit about some bringing in Multiple Universes to explain things; and with that notion I actually agreed, because it essentially states that since this finite, always in-flux, always evolving universe cannot account for an Eternal and Absolute Moral Ought, then there are parallel realities (this is the offering not of me but of a New Atheist Physicist) which can account for a “Net” or “Some Total” of Unchanging, Un-evolving, Eternal, Absolute Moral Ought. And if we want to say, “An Eternal Reality, that is unchanging, comes into our Finite Universe, from another Reality, and injects Moral Ought into this Reality of ours, and homosapien finds himself obliged to concede to it, despite his own wishes to the contrary” ….well then….the comical similarities of that to Theism not withstanding, I can accept it.

But there is a point at which even this too may fail. And it is because the other question of sorts (by me here and I think by you as well) is as to whether or not I feel Objective Morality, and our own inner notions of Ought, even requires an Un-evolving, Un-changing, Eternal, Absolute Reality to be valid; and the answer is of course not; because that could just as easily describe Gravity. Gravity leads, at most from what I’ve read, to Determinism at best because it is blind force, which values not, knows not, cares not. Loves not. It just is. And we dance to its music. It is indifferent to Good and Evil: It Judges not. Gravity has all the qualifications of an Eternal, Absolute, Un-evolving Force which shapes homosapien’s reality, and it has something similar to our DNA, for “DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music”. And like the God in CS Lewis’s defense of Atheism, it is wholly Indifferent to Good and Evil: It judges not. It loves not, cares not, knows not. No. That won’t do. I mean for me. And even worse, we are told by physicists that such Laws may not even exist in this particular form if this universe had been birthed along a line of another sort…..and etc. No. That won’t do at all: for me. There is no Value there. In fact, if we dissect it away to its thinnest layers, there is not even an Ought there. Just an eternal, unchanging, un-evolving, blind force which (which and not who) knows not, cares not, values not, chooses not, loves not. It just is. And we dance to its music. It is blind; without Intent. It doesn’t care. It is Indifferent to Good and Evil: it Judges not. It doesn’t know. It doesn’t do anything, think anything, feel anything, judge anything, love anything. It simply rolls on through forever, rewarding, or crushing, everything it touches. It neither knows nor cares. It just is. And we dance to its music. For me, perhaps not for your or some others (I don’t know you), what is required is an eternal, un-evolving, un-changing, absolute Knowing or know-er, Caring or care-er, Valuing or value-er, Oughting or ought-er, Differentiating/Not-Indifferent/Judging, Loving or Love-er, as it where. DNA, or Gravity, or any other Un-evolving, Un-changing, Absolute Law/Force which neither knows, nor cares, nor loves, nor differentiates-judges, but just is, falls short, even should we dance to its music in the most beautiful of ballets. I looked hard into Atheism for something of this sort; but the Highest I could find were things such as Gravity, the “Laws” of physics and chemistry as it were; and even Consciousness itself ended up subject to these laws, as there is no Supra-Natural, and even an “Over-Arching Collective Consciousness” ended up, at the end of the day, the same sort of Flux/Force. And then when I began to realize that I saw even the New Atheists falling back to a mere Greatest Good for the Greatest Number as an “Ought” and giving as their Source for the Ought blind forces which do not Know, nor Care, nor Love, nor differentiate/judge but simply Are, and we find ourselves dancing to them in various forms of Soft-Determinism, I began to reconsider…….. And so I slowly made my transition over into Theism.

Sir that is about it I guess...... And all of this I just gave to you is my own particular notion; it is not a proof of any kind. I am not entirely clear on it myself. It gives no good reason for you to reconsider. It is not designed to smash your particular view, which I am sure is not only different, but different for very valid reasons. But I can only offer you what I have……and all I have is my own journey to recant for you. It is a trivial tale told by an inconsequential player; and probably not of much help…..or even interesting. And I wouldn’t burden you with such a recanting: had you not asked me to. But ask you did. When a man asks you to invite him into your home, and share your most personal and scarce rations with him……..well……I feel I really ‘Ought’ to respond with ‘Kindness’ and do so. And so I have.

Hi LHRM,
I appreciate how your last comment started out. I see things in a similar light but tend to limit my concern to myself and to those with whom I sympathize. This is why I react as I do to certain characters on blogs and am not motivated by others. I get a sense of people walking in here, to their host's home, sampling his rations, and then flinging mud on his walls for his daring to invite them in.
It irks me.
And I react in too-human and unChristlike a manner. Thin skin, I guess.
Thanks for your posts.

Hey Daron,

Yeah we all have thin skins to some degree I think. And we pound away on our keyboard with a hint of frustration or anger or disdain or whatever…..and I think that’s fairly baseline….but growing in love then becomes more in focus. Losing Self, and loving Other, is hard (usually for me anyway). Marriage is great place to exercise that….. "You and not I". Love Himself opens His arms wide, and dies. That’s the pattern. Outside of Love, outside of that eternal loss of self, is the land of the Toughest Survive, as it were. Failure in Love is a pretty common occurrence for me, and I often swing between the extremes of love-less-ness on the one hand, or, a kind of notion that I’m just a bit smarter than the other guy, with a sort of forgetfulness of my own lack, in the other extreme.

For the first extreme, this helps a bit sometimes: “If man is really fashioned, more than anything else, in the image of God, then clearly it follows that there is nothing on earth so near to God as a human being. The conclusion is inescapable, that to be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity in the world is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset.” M. Mason.

For the other extreme, this sometimes helps: "The relentless tenderness of Jesus challenges us to give up our false faces, our petty conceits, our irritating vanities, our preposterous pretending and become card carrying members of the messy human community." Manning.

A compilation of a few different quotes from different writers reads nice here: Love sees the guilt, the smallness, the needs, the hurts, and the incompleteness of others and says of them, "The other is me. I am the other." No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. Show me any path you wish, but I will show you a far more excellent way: Love. If I speak with the greatest human eloquence but do not love you, I'm nothing............The Living Word of God made into human form is Love. Love is the only reality; all else is illusion, misconception, falsehood. Of one thing I am certain: Love is the name by which The Other and Outer and Inner has revealed Himself to me, and my own identity becomes ambiguous, tentative and confused whenever I allow anything but the relentless Love of the God who is Love to dictate my perception of reality -- be it self-righteous anger, defensiveness, the desire to win, the pressing need to change others, carping criticism, a gnawing hunger for vindication, frustration at the blindness of others, whatever. The relentless Love of this Lamb challenges us, compels us, to become more like the God who is Love. His relentless tenderness challenges us to give up our false faces, our petty conceits, our irritating vanities, our preposterous pretending and become card carrying members of our messy human community. Love sees the guilt, the sins, the smallness, the needs, the hurts, and the incompleteness of others and says of them, "The other is me. I am the other." Our reality has its destiny and will have its consummation in Love. All things will come to an end, but one thing will outlast all others: Love. Love never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end. As for Prophecy, it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for Languages, they will be destroyed and cease; as for Knowledge, it will pass away and it will lose its value and be superseded by Truth. For our current Knowledge is fragmentary, incomplete, and imperfect; and our Prophecy and our Teaching are fragmentary, incomplete, and imperfect. But when the Complete and Perfect and Total comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away and become antiquated, void, and will be superseded. All that will remain, is love.

LoveHimselfRescuedMe,

its longer than that "friday" songggggggg

lol

if you would just start using paragraph breaks and keep it below 200 words i would have read it

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