Is God necessary for absolute morality?

316


Discussion by: David W

Christians and other religious people often argue that God is required for absolute morality. The agument usually goes something like this:

1.If there is no God then there is no absolute morality
2.If there is no absolute morality then morality must be relative
3.If morality is relative then evil is only a stance and thus does not really exist

Does anyone have any good counter arguments?

316 COMMENTS

  1. God making rules doesn’t provide more absolutism than me making rules. Consider the Euthyphro dilemma. If things are good because He says so, that’s arbitrary (because He had no prior obligations to make certain choices, so there’s nothing to respect about them objectively); if He says things are good because they are, He relies on an external standard to which we can appeal in principle. Don’t fool for the “being good is his nature” response, either. Is X good because it’s in God’s nature, or vice versa? It just moves the problem along one notch!

  2. If that’s all that is offered, one may simply ask them to both explain what they mean by the premises, and defend them. Otherwise that, why would one need a counterargument?

    If you’re thinking of a specific argument (in the sense of ‘arguing a case’, not in the sense of a formal argument) someone makes in support of the premises you present, the reply would depend on the argument in question.

  3. I’ve thought about this question quite a bit. First off, you need to define what morality is in order to proceed with the discussion. When dealing with morality, there are no absolutes. Therefore, I would disagree with their initial premise because I can demonstrate that morality is innately relative whether there is a god or not. Murder may be wrong, but what if we’re talking about someone who has committed unspeakable crimes, (i.e. murdered millions of people) many people would agree that it is somehow justified. It is difficult to define, but to me morality is the rational assessment of unique circumstances that is designed to achieve a state of harmony, happiness and progress for all of those involved. Even that definition is somewhat lacking. Secondly, an absolute declaration from a supreme dictator (God) of what is and is not wrong doesn’t even remotely fit my description of what morality is. If you’re basing your actions off of what someone else is telling you to do whether you agree or disagree, you’re not exercising your own discretion. You’re simply following orders or rules. That’s not morality. It’s mindless obedience.

    Fortunately, the human race has an intuitive sense of what is and is not moral. There may be discrepancies, but we can all eventually reach a consensus on what fairness and justice are. It is imperative that we cooperate. It is necessary for our continued survival.

    Here is your counter argument:

    1. Ask them to define the terms “good” and “evil” without using a synonym of either word.
    2. Present them with a scenario in which a “man murders another man.” Ask them if they think that action is “good” or “evil.” If they respond with either, they have already committed a fallacy. Based on that, they couldn’t possibly have enough information to evaluate whether or not it was moral. What if the man committing the murder was mentally ill or suffered from a mental disability? What if he was being coerced? What if the man he murdered was attempting to hurt someone else who was defenseless? etc. This clearly demonstrates that morality is based on unique circumstances, not absolutes.
    3. Ask them to think of a moral action that a religious person can carry out that an atheist cannot. Likewise, ask them to think of an immoral action that a religious person can carry out that an atheist cannot. The latter is effortlessly accomplished.
    4. Present them with an absurd moral dilemma in which they have received a gruesome, horrific mandate from their god. For example: ask them if they would slaughter their entire family (including the extended portion) and children by slitting their throats with kitchen scissors and then proceeding to dine on their entrails on live national public television if their god told them to do so. If they decline, (which I really hope that they do) then they concede that morality is not absolute because they have just employed their own judgement.

    Plus, who really gives a shit if it morality is absolute or not? It exists. It’s not perfect, but it works.
    Good luck!

    • In reply to #4 by petermead1:

      I’ve thought about this question quite a bit. First off, you need to define what morality is in order to proceed with the discussion. When dealing with morality, there are no absolutes. Therefore, I would disagree with their initial premise because I can demonstrate that morality is innately relativ…

      Thanks for your thoughts, they make a lot of sense.

      • In reply to #5 by David W:

        I would recommend not to deny that there is absolute morality, but rather ask them to clarify if needed.
        That murder is immoral is tautologically true if we understand ‘murder’ in the moral sense. Whether killing a person is immoral (for another person) is another matter. It depends on the case. But that does not suggest that there is no absolute morality, in any usual sense of the term. It only means that the category ‘A person kills a person’ is too broad, and that not all possible (or even actual) behaviors in that category are immoral.
        Now, if you consider the category ‘A person tortures another person exclusively for fun’, then you won’t find any exceptions. So, that’s always immoral.
        But none of the above is a problem for absolute morality, at least in any usual sense of the term.

        • In reply to #6 by Angra:

          In reply to #5 by David W:

          I would recommend not to deny that there is absolute morality, but rather ask them to clarify if needed.
          That murder is immoral is tautologically true if we understand ‘murder’ in the moral sense. Whether killing a person is immoral (for another person) is another matter….

          I guess another question that could be asked is if there is a god, how do we know what he/she considers to be moral? Christians may answer “it’s in the Bible”, but anyone who has read the Bible knows it’s full of highly questionable morality. And it often contradicts itself.

  4. I refer to Kohlberg’s theory of moral development which contains 6 stages of moral development.
    The first stage is Heteronomous morality, in other words, morality is linked to punishment.
    The reason I mention this theory is because the base end of the theory (stage 1 Heteronomous morality) is akin to fear and punishment, people behave morally because they are afraid of being punished or shunned by others. This level of morality is reflective of the morality practiced by many religions. Behave the way god wants you to, otherwise you will be punished. The higher end of the Kohlberg’s morality scale is stage 6 universal ethical principles – moral standards are based on universal human rights.
    Religious morality does not bear any resemblance to stage 6 principles, in fact it appears to oppose them if you take into account it’s views on homosexuality. It does however bear resemblance to stage 1, therefore it is fair to say that religion is at the base end of morality.

    • In reply to #8 by bellap:

      I refer to Kohlberg’s theory of moral development which contains 6 stages of moral development.
      The first stage is Heteronomous morality, in other words, morality is linked to punishment.
      The reason I mention this theory is because the base end of the theory (stage 1 Heteronomous morality) is akin t…

      Thanks, that sounds interesting, I will look into it some more.

  5. Don’t argue on their terms. Look them square in the eye and tell them morality is relative. If they don’t want to believe it, point them to the international news and have them look at how people behave in different cultures. If they still don’t believe it, hand them a history book.

    Studies have been done that demonstrate how sometimes cooperation can be more beneficial than competition, which would be a naturalistic explanation of morality. But it’s still relative: sometimes selfishness works for you. We’re social because, statistically (and therefore evolutionarily) it worked out better for us to cooperate.

    But tell that to a Lord murdering a few of his peasants to get their land, or their daughters, or whatever. Or going on the customary cattle raid and killing the owners of the cattle who try to stop them. Cannibals who eat their enemies (yes, cannibals exist). Fathers who enlist their sons and cousins to murder their daughters who they feel have shamed the family. They’ll probably say that they are perfectly moral.

    For me, the question of whether or not morality is relative came under my consideration of the simple question, “Did Hitler think he was moral?” The only answer that I could ever come up with was, “Yes.”

    If they ask why don’t you go around killing people if you think that way, tell them because that’s how you were raised.

    There is certainly a “nature” aspect to morality. But I don’t think we yet know the line between nature and nurture when it comes to morality. So debates about absolute morality boil down to the God of the Gaps argument.

  6. 1.If there is no God then there is no absolute morality

    Agree. In the words of red from shawshank, it’s just a made up word

    2.If there is no absolute morality then morality must be relative

    Agree. Morality has changed through out the years of human civilisation.

    3.If morality is relative then evil is only a stance and thus does not really exist.

    Totally Agree. I don’t believe in evil.

    Morality to me is about being fair and just , it’s a construct devised ,

    so that we can all get along , it supports a cohesive society ,

    so that we can recognise our common humanity in each other ,

    so we treat other people the way we wish to be treated.

    so that we fulfil that innate desire to do the right thing. It’s existential as well…

  7. Well, evil doesn’t exist on a cosmological or even geological scale. No matter how much we torture each other or kill people with drones or in showers, the universe is not going to miss us. The Earth isn’t going to miss us much. Such heinous deeds are our shame, and ours alone. Even Dawkins points out the horrific fate that wasps consign to caterpillars they use as hosts for their broods, a process on which we depend lest the caterpillars devour all our crops.

    Evil exists on the social scale. There are some acts which are regarded as wrong by all cultures and all peoples, and that is about as absolute as it gets. So yeah, outside of humanity, morality is relative. But I wager that the religious folk justify their lack of concern for the mice who inhabit the walls of their home, or the limited welfare that we offer to our livestock. Even religious morality is relative, and favors humankind over other creatures.

    The fallacy in their argument is the notion of true absolutism. Our relative morality extends to all human peoples — that is, those mores that are truly global, such as reciprocity and protection of the meek. (The sexual frigidity of biblical faiths are pretty unique to them.) — But that is because these mores are instinctive, and not just to us, but mammals that also pack or herd. No god is needed to tell us these basic rules.

    I find the notion of divine-administrated justice to be especially distressing due to the fantasy that God corrects for those injustices we fail to remediate. When rich murderers walk and poor gamers get incarcerated for sarcasm on Facebook, that’s up to us to fix, or endure the shame that evil people walked free while benign people were imprisoned. This is one of the ways that religion serves as a narcotic to deter necessary change.

    • Here’s what wikipedia has to say

      “Evil is profound immorality.[1] In certain religious contexts evil has been described as a supernatural force.[1] Definitions of evil vary, as does the analysis of its root motives and causes.[2] However elements that are commonly associated with evil involve unbalanced behavior involving expediency, selfishness, ignorance, or neglect.[3]”

      Evil exists on the social scale

      So inexact is the term , it’s not worth using. It’s not a meaningful term and open to wild speculation.

      In reply to #12 by Uriel-238:

      Well, evil doesn’t exist on a cosmological or even geological scale. No matter how much we torture each other or kill people with drones or in showers, the universe is not going to miss us. The Earth isn’t going to miss us much. Such heinous deeds are our shame, and ours alone. Even Dawkins points o…

  8. I couldn’t agree more with Uriel-238! Many people believe that without religion, the planet would descend into immoral chaos. The reality is that the majority of heinous crimes committed against people on this planet across all of recorded history had their roots on religious beliefs, but the ability to distinguish right from wrong does not require any religious beliefs. In addition, animals who are incapable of understanding our human concept of religion show clear evidence of understanding moral behavior and distinguishing between right and wrong. The explanation of morality does not require any supernatural source, or belief in the divinity of a man born of a virgin. Our morals are based on reality. Rational or good actions increase prosperity, happiness, and psychuous pleasures. Irrational or bad actions undermine those values. While each individual’s life and values are unique, certain basic actions never change in terms of good or bad actions. The rightness or wrongness of those basic actions do not vary according to opinion, or from person to person, or from generation to generation, or from culture to culture, or from solar system to solar system. Universally good or bad actions are objectively based on the biological nature of human beings and are definable in absolute terms. But other actions are amoral and cannot be judged in terms of good or bad because they are a matter of personal preference determined by individual differences.

    Universal morals are objective. They are not based on opinions of the author or anyone else. Universal morals are not created or determined by anyone. No one can deem what is moral and what is not moral. The same moral standards exist for each and every human being throughout all locations, cultures, and ages. Those standards are independent of anyone’s opinions or proclamations. Moreover, two and only two black-and-white moral standards exist. Those two moral standards are:

    Any chosen action that purposely benefits the human organism or society is morally good
    and right.

    Any chosen action that purposely harms the human organism or society is morally bad
    and wrong.

    Feelings and emotions, on the other hand, cannot be considered as standards, absolutes, or morals. A person’s life-style, desires, needs, and preferences can vary greatly without altering that person’s character or without making that person morally right or wrong. Still, moral absolutes do exist. And following or violating moral absolutes determines a person’s character and self-esteem. The two moral absolutes essential for prosperity and happiness are:

    Integrated honesty for knowing reality
    Integrated efforts for increasing productivity

    Habitually violating either of those two moral absolutes precludes genuine prosperity and happiness. Related to those absolutes are the following moral issues:

    Honesty,
    Self-esteem,
    Individual rights


    Sacrifice,
    Use of force,
    Ends justifying the means

    Objective morals are based on reality, reason, logic. Subjective “morals”, on the other hand, are based on unreal, arbitrary feelings or wishes. All such unreal “morals” require force, deception, or coercion to impose them on others. Subjectivism, mysticism, existentialism, and “do your own thing” are all attempts to deny objective morals by implying that no standards exist and everything is of equal value (thus denying objective morals and values). That’s the very essence of Religion, it tries to apply its own moral principles to the rest of humanity, not for humanities benefits but rather to subjugate and control it.

  9. No, unfortunately absolutism is also possible without God and many relativists are also theists. Neither absolutism nor relativism can ever be truly moral, real morality is based on science.

    • In reply to #15 by Peter Grant:

      No, unfortunately absolutism is also possible without God and many relativists are also theists. Neither absolutism nor relativism can ever be truly moral, real morality is based on science.

      Agreed with the first sentence. The latter raises some questions for me.

      Absolutism may in practice never be moral (Hitler concluded: “Gas the gypsies.” Allah says: “Stone adulterous wives.” etc.) but in theory it’s results could be. What if Hitler was a moral genius who used his authority to design and implement a legal system that maximises happiness and health for all involved*, irrespective of time and place?

      The same with relativism. I believe that by adhering to overarching principles of fairness and maximising happiness, but taking into account specific circumstances, it is in principle possible to find the most moral judgement in any given case. Granted, we’re not perfect and will therefore most likely fail in this endeavour, but relativism is not to blame for that.

      Which brings me to my final point, which is science’s role in all of this. I fail to imagine how science could form the basis of moral principles. It is, however, the most perfectly suited tool we have to help us determine exactly how to reach a certain goal, such as achieving a maximum amount of happiness, or how to fulfil ‘good Hitler’s’ perfect laws.

      *provided this is what you mean with “truly moral”.

      • In reply to #18 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

        Agreed with the first sentence.

        Cool.

        The latter raises some questions for me.

        Then I shall try to answer them.

        Absolutism may in practice never be moral (Hitler concluded: “Gas the gypsies.” Allah says: “Stone adulterous wives.” etc.) but in theory it’s results could be. What if Hitler was a moral genius who used his authority to design and implement a legal system that maximises happiness and health for all involved*, irrespective of time and place?

        Highly improbable.

        The same with relativism. I believe that by adhering to overarching principles of fairness and maximising happiness, but taking into account specific circumstances, it is in principle possible to find the most moral judgement in any given case. Granted, we’re not perfect and will therefore most likely fail in this endeavour, but relativism is not to blame for that.

        It’s a solipsistic ideology. I’m only a moral relativist where space aliens are concerned.

        Which brings me to my final point, which is science’s role in all of this. I fail to imagine how science could form the basis of moral principles. It is, however, the most perfectly suited tool we have to help us determine exactly how to reach a certain goal, such as achieving a maximum amount of happiness, or how to fulfil ‘good Hitler’s’ perfect laws.

        Science, unlike ideology, is based on reality. It is therefore the best tool we have at our disposal for understanding subjective experience, which is what happiness is all about.

        *provided this is what you mean with “truly moral”.

        My conception of truth is rational, non-absolutist and evidence based. Logic is useful, but only “true” in the most trivial sense.

      • In reply to #18 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

        I fail to imagine how science could form the basis of moral principles. It is, however, the most perfectly suited tool we have to help us determine exactly how to reach a certain goal, such as achieving a maximum amount of happiness, or how to [fulfill] ‘good Hitler’s’ perfect laws.

        For one thing, organized teams easily beat out disorganized mobs, and the core element of organization is reciprocity. When we flock or herd or school or gather in packs (whether to hunt or share kill), we so increase our survivability that it’s a set of instincts that we attained early on in the evolutionary cycle. So the ethic of reciprocity (aka the golden rule) has strong scientific backing.

        Similarly, for mammals at least, our protection of our young, which is so fierce that we have difficulty writing the death of children into fiction (when we do, it’s usually to make a specific point). Given the delicacy of infants, an instinct to be overly protective of them seems to follow would help to ensure their survival.

        So yeah, there are rational, and ergo scientifically provable reasons we have such mores.

  10. My response to this claim to exclusive moral rights is to advise the person to consider the billion or so godless Buddhists. In their two and a half thousand years their godlessness did not cause them to dissolve into a miasma of beastiality and barbarianism. On the contrary, many of their societies appear to have been much higher on the morality and fairness chart than most European societies of the same era.

  11. Christians and other religious people often argue that God is required for absolute morality.

    There’s so much nonsense in this position.

    When religious people argue that God is required for “absolute morality”, what they mean is that morality is just a list of arbitrary rules dictated by a leader, that everyone must follow.

    The question is, why should anyone CARE about following such rules? An arbitrary set of rules has no meaning.

    The reason why we care about morality is that we understand what morality means. It’s about how the actions of intelligent beings affect the world around them for the wellbeing of others and themselves. That’s why we care. And religious people know this deep down, which is why they challenge people on this issue.

    If “absolute morality” means anything, it is the pathway to the best possible state of wellbeing. As Sam Harris argues in The Moral Landscape, there may be many such pathways (many “peaks” on the moral landscape) and while they may exist in principle, it may not be easy in practice to determine what they may be.

    In any case, it’s always worth reminding any religious person that there is no voice booming instructions down from the sky. Every single moral instruction that allegedly comes from God actually comes from people who claim to be speaking on God’s behalf, so there is no way of proving that any instructions attributed to God are for real.

  12. I want to try and answer your question because I think its a really interesting one but first I want to say why I think the whole argument is flawed from the start (not knocking you but a general flaw I see in theists who make these kinds of arguments all the time)

    Its a type of argument that goes “If X isn’t true” (usually X is “God exists” but I’ve seen other examples) then Y will be true about the world and Y is an unpleasant fact to live with.

    I hope putting it in those terms makes the flaw obvious: there are lots unpleasant facts about the world! So just saying something might be true if God doesn’t exist is no argument at all that She does exist. Its a rather bizarre (to me) mind set that exists even in many western intellectuals that frankly I’ve found totally baffling ever since I was first exposed to William James in college.

  13. Here is my answer: All morality requires one or more fundamental axioms. I mean that in the same way a logician uses the term. Any moral system requires one or more foundational truths that you don’t justify. This is what Hume first described in a way that is now called the Is Ought problem. To jump that divide from Ought to Is you need one or more foundational truths about morality.

    Examples: “the goal of morality is to maximize human well being” (Harris) Or “the goal of morality is to do God’s will” (most religions) or “the goal of morality is to ensure fairness” (Rawls) or “the goal of morality is the categorical imperative, treat others the way you would want to be treated” (Kant)

    Once you have a foundational moral axiom you can make all sorts of inferences about how to maximize well being, ensure fairness, or do God’s will. However, as the small excerpt above shows there are all sorts of candidates for foundational moral truths and doing God’s will is just one of them. And as we consider the question of which foundational truth works best it seems a reasonable thing to ask is how sensible is the foundation itself. And if the moral foundation is based on a concept (God) that we now have overwhelming evidence is nothing but a holdover from our pre scientific worldview and doesn’t exist its not much of a foundation.

      • In reply to #22 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #21 by Red Dog:

        The difference lies in whether your axioms form part of an ideology or a method. Methodologies evolve, ideologies stagnate.

        It is also the informational deficit of ideologies that confound their utility. Moral choices are often between “evils”, not between an “evil” and a “not-evil”. The RCC perpetrates more evil by offering a no-bid solution, mandating inaction rather than taking the lesser evil choice. It lacks any moral look-up table to decide the issue and certainly wouldn’t dream of allowing a moral calculus to minimise harm (or God’s wrath or whatever.)

        (The RCC gets to win every time here. Catholics decently do their best more often than not, choose a lesser evil rather than the [in my view] greater evil of doing nothing at all and thereby compound their guilt and dependency on the Church.)

        The only decent religious ideology I know is that of the Quakers, who make the moral focus the individual’s (God given) conscience (or Inner Light) that should be used at every available opportunity. Well as an ideology it sure looks like a method to me. Its only improvement might be that it would be used better if it/we were better informed about the experiences of others and the consequences of our actions.

  14. There s no god and not absolute morality, it s just eviddence. For. Exemple, death penality is moral in saoudian araby, not in France, homosexuality is immoral in many religion, but have allways exist in community of men (ptiest is in many relgion only men, what about our sexuality), in many country have gun is not morality security. If some absolute morality exist (i dont think), it s must be thinking for better aliving, scientist education and progress and thinking about limit of morality.
    Fabien M, french athee.

    1. If there is a god, it needs to effectively communicate what humans must do to stay moral.
    2. Since this god thing has not ever once put forth even a shred of communication or even evidence that it exists…..
    3. Then, determine morality on your own and live according to what you intellectually deem appropriate.

    It works without god. In fact, it works better without god because the morality that is generated is sincere and not simply an arbitrary code of conduct to adhere to because “sky police” are watching. If you are nice to your little brother because Santa is watching, then you are not REALLY being nice. It is the difference between intrinsic morals and extrinsic morals. I vote for intrinsic.

  15. Civil law is fine-tuned over time so it stays relevant, introducing new rules and dropping old ones. Religious law has no way of changing. It becomes progressively sillier and more irrelevant. In contrast, civil law changes to accommodate the moral standards of the current mix of the population. It is certainly imperfect, but it rarely gets as out-of-sync with reality as a religion does. It is absolute in that judges impose it a more or less uniform way. With religion, 99.9% of the rules are ignored, and the remainder are interpreted by individual believers in a way that excuses their own bad behaviour and magnifies the bad behaviour of others.

    The Christian religion adds all manner of nonsense to basic morality which actually discourages moral behaviour: e.g. from Deuteronomy 5:7

    • “jealous god” intolerance of other religions
    • no statues/images/junky Jesus jewelry. (the commandment is vague and ignored)
    • no Sunday shopping (hardly a fundamental).
    • requirement for burnt offerings. Just a waste of meat.
    • no yeast in your bread (a major sin).
    • no cooking a kid in its mother’s milk. (hardly one of my big temptations)

    Religion is mostly just irrelevant superstition, nothing whatsoever to do with morality.

    Usually religions give lip service to non-violence, honest and generosity, but when you read the fine print, they command genocide, theft of land and spreading the lies of the religion.

    Believing the only reason to behave is an ogre will torture you after you die is building your morality on sand. When you eventually lose your fear of the imaginary bogey man, you will become a monster yourself, morally broken by a life in service to an imaginary ogre.

    For how to develop a rational morality, see the work of Lawrence Kohlberg

    • In reply to #26 by Roedy:

      no cooking a kid in its mother’s milk. (hardly one of my big temptations)

      Interestingly, Jewish tradition typically interprets this to mean all meat and dairy need to be separated. But the boiling of a kid (or a calf) in the milk of its mother is a conspicuously specific recipe.

      That’s because this is the traditional stock of the feast of a wedding in the name of Asherah, Yahweh’s consort. When they were Mesopotamian deities, Asherah was the ambitious one and (according to the narrative) withheld sex to motivate Yahweh to sponsor a new chosen tribe. But Asherah got too popular and all her followers were wiped out in a long-knives-style purge, hence the proscription against mixing meat and dairy.

      (The whole story explains much of the intrinsic misogyny in the Abrahamic dogma, actually.)

      So yeah, whenever you have a cheeseburger, it’s not because it’s somehow unclean or because one taints the other, but because a cheeseburger is a sandwich for Asherah.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asherah

  16. My apologies if someone has said this already…Your god is needed only to ENFORCE your (church’s) idea of morality.

    Before there were laws that governed a people, to get fairly savage human beings to behave one had to invoke an all seeing all powerful being who would punish you for all eternity if you didn’t behave. After all, I can’t keep an eye on you 24/7 and you may try to have sex with my 13 year old daughter when I’m not looking (thus spoiling my chance to auction her off at a good price), and now we’re back to the money. It always come down to the money with the church.

  17. Most Christians don’t believe their god provides absolute morality as most Christians cherry pick which parts of the bible are good and should be taken literally, and which parts have been superseded or should be taken metaphorically.

    How many Christians do you know who gather up their neighbours to stone to death people not observing the Sabbath? How many Christians are beating their slaves? How many Christians are executing their children if they talk back?

    The Christian god said, promoted, commanded, and did many things that are obviously evil. If you are looking for absolute morality you can’t find it in the bible.

  18. Why would one want absolute morality? In my opinion there is nothing more dangerous than a person who knows the one and only TRUTH as they can now justify any action.

    Morality isn’t objective the same way the theory of gravity is objective. Morality can be objective once you define it to mean something that can be observed and measured, for example morality means promoting the well being of humans, or morality means never directly harming humans. The morality we have is due to many factors, including the fact humans are social animals, the state of our technology and knowledge of science, the state of our political structures and culture.

    If you can agree on a few “moral axioms” then you can work towards an objective, but not absolute, morality. Unusual situations do require applying common sense to morality. It is wrong to kill, but I would kill a person who was about to kill an innocent. On the other hand I don’t believe that evil acts can be excused by “it’s part of my culture”. A culture that routinely subjugates and abuses women is a culture that needs improvement.

  19. Qualia Soup’s educational video

    Qualia Soup makes great videos and I can’t explain this any better than he does in 13 minutes. If you need more to chew on, he has also made parts two and three for the video. At 6:55 in the video I linked to is explained why we should not follow an absolute authority, but I strongly recommend that you watch the whole video.

  20. Qualia Soup’s educational video

    Qualia Soup makes great videos and I can’t explain this any better than he does in 13 minutes. If you need more to chew on, he has also made parts two and three for the video. At 6:55 in the video I linked to is explained why we should not follow an absolute authority, but I strongly recommend that you watch the whole video.

  21. My answer would be of course it’s relative. Ask them which God they chose to get their morals from. Then ask them which rules they chose to adhere to and which ones were ignored. Their subjective choices show morality is relative to one who’s doing the choosing.

  22. 1.If there is no God then there is no absolute morality…

    This is merely a standpoint derived from the brain which is associative by nature and the details one prescribes to a moral existence conform to the already existing formation of the brain, defined by the DNA makeup of the individual as it is the person that is or isn’t moral not a book or god they believe in, these are merely details of thought. Thus morality is form of anthropomorphism and has it’s source in the observer not the observed or dare i say it the human not the god.

    Points 2 and 3 are derivatives of a fallacy.

    For what its worth my perception of morality is that if it harms no-one do what you will. so Rock On fellow human :)

  23. In a nutshell, all the points made by petermead1 in comment 4 pretty much sums up my viewpoint on the initial question, but what the idea also infers (and wants the person being asked to essentially agree to) is that good and evil are something other than human constructs. Which is in and of itself a fallacy.

    If a predator kills a prey in the wild it’s not pleasant, but its not evil. The predator is using the result of countless years of evolved behavior to survive. It’s part of the reason it’s here for us to discuss. So, animals don’t require a sense of good and evil, they have an evolved sense or self preservation and instinct.

    So the only creatures that bother to ask these questions, the only animals to ponder its own nature are humans. We create whole cloth stories about how things came to be over our 100 or more thousand year stay on this planet in every part of the world and in the course of civilizing have to make moral choices about how to coexist.

    That’s what this is all about. The notion that ‘things being morally relative is bad’ is a big part of the problem. We constantly demonstrate our sense of relative moral value. We’ve done it millions of times over the long haul as society and people in general have evolved in our separate cultures. The separate cultures themselves provide you a key to how the moral relative idea actually works. Examine how things are permissible in one culture but forbidden in others. Examine the parts of the world where slavery, child marriage and prostitution, misogyny and countless other horrors are not only allowed but encouraged and you have a perfect window as to how relative morality truly is.

    Here’s what bothers me most: we presume a perfect state of something where it cannot exist. When you assume something is abosulte you assume that thing is perfect in that state (the assumption in this case of god representing an absolute and therefore perfect good). The problem is there is no perfect tribe, no perfect culture, no perfect people to derive our virtues from. There is no ancient culture where all things were perfect and they and nature were perfectly harmonious. And there is of course no perfect book from which to derive such things. It is at best a disturbing fiction.

    Absolute morality is a myth. And absolute morality, if it could exist, could only be enforced by one who possesses absolute authority. Which for many theists I think better represents what they may actually be seeking. Claiming absolute authority to impose the will of whoever wants control in the name of an unknowable and impossible ideal.

  24. A good example of the changing nature of what constitutes moral behaviour (on a small scale), is our attitude to smoking and racism. A couple smoking in a car with children or worse,a baby, would be unconscionable. The sight of a heavily pregnant woman openly drinking alcohol would also elicit cries of condemnation. So too, would an openly racist remark especially if it’s made by someone in the media or a public figure. Ten years ago these misdemeanors would have passed unnoticed.

    In parts of the world blasphemy is punishable by death! The extreme differences in our moral sensibilities is obvious at a glance.

  25. 1.If there is no God then there is no absolute morality

    There is no absolute morality. There is only a delusion of absolute morality in the mind of the dogmatist!

    2.If there is no absolute morality then morality must be relative

    That is correct. The moral philosophy is in deciding relative to what! (The golden rule, avoiding suffering and using science to inform predicted outcomes would be good starters.)

    3.If morality is relative then evil is only a stance and thus does not really exist

    Evil is often an undefined term, but used by theists usually means going against their gods or the interests of their religious organisation. Quite often it is used without any moral consideration other than “US” (our tribe/clique) “good” – the opposing population “evil”.

    (Hence it is possible to have two opposing armies committing atrocities, but with both behaving “morally” – having “god on their side”!)

    evil is only a stance and thus does not really exist

    This is just an arrogant repeat assertion, that there can be no morality without their (version of) god, so they deny that all other moral philosophies are moral philosophies. –
    That is the delusion of dogmatic “absolute morality”. (There are only two views on this: “Ours [as spoon fed to us for unthinking acceptance,] and the evil wrong one”.)

  26. As a side bar: A few posts here leave the impression that a “good start” for morality is something like the Golden Rule, or maximize happiness a la Harris. It’s worth pointing out that these are just as relative as any other basis for morality, and are a reflection of our times and culture today.

    • In reply to #38 by downshifter:

      As a side bar: A few posts here leave the impression that a “good start” for morality is something like the Golden Rule, or maximize happiness a la Harris. It’s worth pointing out that these are just as relative as any other basis for morality, and are a reflection of our times and culture today.

      And even Harris admits as much.

  27. It does not really make sense to speak of absolute morality. Something is absolutely true if it is true regardless of any qualifications or conditions – that is the meaning of ‘absolute’ in this context, the meaning it has for philosophers and grammarians (and is not to be confused with the political meaning of the word). In discussions of morality one may speak of absolute good or evil, but by that one would be referring to something that is good or evil without qualification. For example, one might argue, as Immanuel Kant does, that lying is evil absolutely, that is to say it is evil without possible exception and regardless of any conditions or qualifications. This does not mean that it would never be right to lie, for situations arise in which a choice has to be made between two or more evil options and the relative evils of the options have to weighed to determine which option would be the least evil. So, even if one accepts moral absolutes in this philosophical sense, one still has to deal with relative moral values to sort out how best to act in certain situations. I mentioned the political sense of the term ‘absolute’, because that does taint some people’s thinking in moral discussions, especially where religion may be lurking in the background. When one speaks of “absolute morality”, one has to make one’s meaning clear, because we are, I am sure, all familiar with the traditional Judaeo-Christian (and no doubt Mohammedan) notion of morality as a divinely revealed code of behavior to be followed by humans in order to find favor with God and attain to happiness by God’s grace after death. There is nothing absolute about this kind of religious moral code in the philosophical sense, but it is an instance of an imaginary political absolutism, of a law supposedly laid down by a ruler of absolute power and authority to be obeyed by his subjects, however incidental and even inconsistent its contents may be.

  28. Here’s a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: “Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent.” But if God is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows from his nature, that solves the dilemma.

    • In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

      Here’s a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: “Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent.” But if God is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows from his nature, that solves the dilemma.

      No, it doesn’t. Firstly, by what criterion do you determine that a god is even slightly good, never mind “infinitely” and “perfectly” good? Much less how does the logic of what looks to me like your word salad offering even add up? It’s like arguing objectively efficient medicine exists because it follows naturally from an infinite and perfect healthiness. In other words, a non-sequitur.

    • In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

      Here’s a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma:
      “Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent.” But if God is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows from his nature, that solves the dilemma.

      A little analysis shows the assumed assertions and circularity of this argument.

      • “Does my subconscious ego say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because my subconscious ego says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems * subconscious ego_-independent.” But if my subconscious ego is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows from _my subconscious ego’s* nature, that solves the dilemma.

      This simply claims that whatever the brain’s god-spots say is “good”, is “good” because the individual’s brain’s god-spots are “infinitely and perfectly good”, by nature. (Whatever that vague unevidenced claim is supposed to mean!!)

      Basically it says, “Morality is whatever my brain subjectively comes up with!” – without defining “good” or any sort of moral philosophy.

      that solves the dilemma.

      Err no! It just hides the unaddressed issues in circular verbosity.

    • In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

      Here’s a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: “Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent.”

      So one can arbitrarily establish this without proving that such an entity exist and demonstrating which variety of god we are referring to? Something can actually be god dependent without proving god?

      But if God is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows from his nature, that solves the dilemma.

      There’s a lot of if here, and a lot of question begging. If god is anything depends solely on a god existing, and as has been mentioned on numerous occasions at this site, even agreeing on any concept of god is impossible to reach a consensus for. So proving is impossible, as the qualities assigned to said deity are impossible.

      It is also interesting to note that the same god definition issues also have problems because under most circumstances he is supposed to embody basically everything. Put an omni prefix in front of a given term and someone has associated it with the definition of god (omnibenevolence, omnipotence, omniscience, etc). The very ideas themselves contradict each other.

      And finally, how can the very entity that by all accounts created ‘evil’ be exempt from it?

      You make the solution sound simple when in fact there is nothing simple about this dilemma, except that it is simply wrong.

      • Some important points may be new to you. One, Plato was a pagan who wrote about the Euthyphro dilemma in an Early Socratic Dialogue. Maybe he was even the first to discover that dilemma. Two, J.L. Mackie was an atheistic philosopher of religion who found a way to go through the horns of that dilemma when he wrote his book “The Miracle of Theism.” Since Mackie was an atheist, he must have thought the dilemma was still worth reflecting on, even if atheism is true. Three, I have no idea what you mean when you say that God supposedly embodies everything. Four, evil is the absence of a good that should be present. That suggests that in some respects, evil isn’t something. It’s the lack of one or more things. Five, it’s one thing to say that God creates evil. It’s another to say that He has a morally adequate reason to allow evil. I need to reread part of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Compendium of Theology, where he argues that if God exists, He can be be only the Holy Trinity.

        Oh, and what do you mean by “question begging?” Are you talking about the informal fallacy called “begging the question,” or are you telling us that I’ve made points that raise questions?. In reply to #45 by achromat666:

        In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

        Here’s a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: “Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent.”

        So one can arbitrarily establish this without prov…

        • In reply to #49 by Pascendi:

          Fascinating that of all the retorts to your post mine was the only one you thought to answer. Anyway….

          Some important points may be new to you. One, Plato was a pagan who wrote about the Euthyphro dilemma in an Early Socratic Dialogue. Maybe he was even the first to discover that dilemma.

          Except that it isn’t a dilemma. I think that’s what everyone responding to you is trying to tell you. It’s only a dilemma if you accept the notion of absolute morality as having any truth to it whatsoever, even when all the evidence is to the contrary.

          Two, J.L. Mackie was an atheistic philosopher of religion who found a way to go through the horns of that dilemma when he wrote his book “The Miracle of Theism.” Since Mackie was an atheist, he must have thought the dilemma was still worth reflecting on, even if atheism is true.

          And just because he had an opinion on it and was an atheist in no way means all atheist must either agree or accept it. Atheists are quite individual you’ll find, and one person’s view doesn’t speak to all atheist as if there was some dogma to adhere to. Atheism is simply a lack of religious belief. That’s where the common ground begins and ends for many.

          Three, I have no idea what you mean when you say that God supposedly embodies everything.

          Hmm, where to start.

          1. At this point I’m making the assumption you refer to the Christian God, as your original post never made that clear. God is said to be among other things, omniscient and omnipresent as well as omnibenevolent.

          2. Omnipresence by itself covers him being everywhere and a part of everything, but omniscience pretty much expresses he’s suppose to be aware of everything as well. And since he’s supposed to have created everything, including the very angel that fell and started the trouble in Eden to begin with, he also created evil.

          3. Therefore omnibenevolence is bunk and something that is all present and all knowing has to by its own nature be as much all evil as he is all good. None of which by the way is possible in any conceivable way.

          Four, evil is the absence of a good that should be present.

          No, evil is an invention of man to quantify the horrible things we do to each other. Any assumption that good or evil exists outside of our own comprehension of our actions is completely unprovable. The universe itself does not perform acts of good or evil. Animals do not perform acts of good or evil. Humans are the only beasts that make the assumption that good or evil is a thing.

          That suggests that in some respects, evil isn’t something. It’s the lack of one or more things. Last, it’s one thing to say that God creates evil. It’s another to say that He has a morally adequate reason to allow evil. I need to reread part of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Compendium of Theology, where he argues that if God exists, He can be only the Holy Trinity.

          Evil isn’t anything. Humans assign the characteristics they believe to be evil to things they find to be negative in their culture. And regardless of your readings of Aquinas, to assume that one religion in a vast myriad of faiths that have and do exist manage to get those notions perfect (when nothing in the bible suggest that it has. The OT is riddled with a tyrannical and capricious god being as much evil as anything) is the greatest fallacy of all. Especially if you assume that it was one of the Abrahamic faith, whose ‘virtuous’ book endorses slavery, misogyny, torture, prejudice and pogroms of multiple varieties. Actions that are in their own nature clearly not ethical or moral.

          Theistic apologists and circular reasoning will not change that morality is a human construct, and something we’re still trying (and failing on many levels) to get right.

        • In reply to #49 by Pascendi:

          Oh, and what do you mean by “question begging?” Are you talking about the informal fallacy called “begging the question,”

          You are making assumptions which beg a whole list of questions.

          Four, evil is the absence of a good that should be present. That suggests that in some respects, evil isn’t something. It’s the lack of one or more things.

          Black is an absence of white, – that offers no definition of either black or white. Without definitions words are meaningless or at least very ambiguous.

          Five, it’s one thing to say that God creates evil.

          This begs the question as if a god exists and if so which god? – More assumptions. List of deities

          It’s another to say that He has a morally adequate reason to allow evil.

          First you need evidence of the existence of such a god, that it is personified and can reason, and then you need evidence he/she/it can interact with the material world. – many have tried and failed in such ventures.

          I need to reread part of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Compendium of Theology, where he argues that if God exists, He can be be only the Holy Trinity.

          I seem to recall a book called Genesis where there was a trinity of gods; Yahweh (El), Baal and Asherah!

          I think evidence is rather more than the personal argument or opinion of a particular believer from history.
          Every god has opinions from followers about its supposed properties and capabilities. The absence of material evidence is to a considerable extent, evidence of absence.

        • In reply to #49 by Pascendi:

          Some important points may be new to you.

          Okay

          One, Plato was a pagan

          a) No he wasn’t. Paganism is a fairly specific collection of nature based beliefs originating from certain Gemanic tribes several centuries after the time of Plato. Only Christian hubris lumps all pre-Christian, non-Judaic thought into one big “Pagan” pile.

          b) I thought you said these would be important points. What does the religion of an author have to do with whether or not his/her points can withstand scrutiny? This is Ad Hominem.

          Two, J.L. Mackie was an atheistic philosopher of religion […]

          Again, non-sequiteur and Ad Hominem.

          […] who found a way to go through the horns of that dilemma […]

          Did he? What was it? I hope it’s not the one you offered in your previous post, because that “solution” fails.

          Since Mackie was an atheist, he must have thought the dilemma was still worth reflecting on, even if atheism is true.

          So do I, whether or not “atheism is true” (a construction which miinterprets what “atheism” means.) The fact that I am an atheist has nothing to do with whether I find the Eutyphro worthy of reflection or whether I find Mackie’s interpretations correct. Let the arguments stand for themselves and forget about the authors.

          Four, evil is the absence of a good that should be present. That suggests that in some respects, evil isn’t something. It’s the lack of one or more things.

          Says you. What basis do you have for this definition of “evil” and why should I accept it? Also if God is “infinitely good” there should be no such thing as the “absence of a good that should be present.”

          Five, it’s one thing to say that God creates evil. It’s another to say that He has a morally adequate reason to allow evil.

          a) Either god created everything or he did not. You can’t have it both ways. If there exists something (or even “an absence of something”) which God did not create, then creation is NOT dependent on God.

          b) What basis is there to judge whether God’s reasons are “morally adequate”? Uh oh! I suspect were about to board the circular reasoning merry-go-round again!

          I need to reread part of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Compendium of Theology, where he argues that if God exists, He can be be only the Holy Trinity.

          a) Another non-sequiteur. So much for “important” points, at least in the context of this discussion.

          b)Haven’t read this work so I can’t judge whether Aquinas successfully demonstrates what you assert here. But even if he does, it is all irrelevant if God does not in fact exist. Without first demonstrating the existence of God (which Aquinas failed to do…as has every other “rational” theologian) all mention of “God” in moral reasoning (or any reasoning) is a silly distraction (a.k.a. Theology.)

          • In reply to #63 by BanJoIvie:

            No [Plato] wasn’t [pagan]. Paganism is a fairly specific collection of nature based beliefs originating from certain Gemanic tribes several centuries after the time of Plato. Only Christian hubris lumps all pre-Christian, non-Judaic thought into one big “Pagan” pile.

            Um, last I checked if the term pagan is used to refer to a specific religious narrative, it would be the Hellenic one, not the Wotanic. One might still argue Plato was not a pagan in that he was guided by Socrates who also doubted the Hellenic tradition (and died for it), but the term pagan aptly describes the religion of which he specifically wasn’t (as opposed to all the other countless heathens of the classical era).

            These days, the terms Pagan (from Pagus meaning farm) and Heathen (of the heath) are used as universal catch alls by the Augustinian (Roman Catholic) Church as in those sources from which missionaries would fish for converts. They never really referred to any given specific oral tradition, but pagan is Greek, heathen is Middle English.

          • In reply to #64 by Uriel-238:

            Um, last I checked if the term pagan is used to refer to a specific religious narrative, it would be the Hellenic one, not the Wotanic.

            Thanks for the correction. I have learned alot from the wikipedia entry on Paganism. However, I think my error was not to associate “pagan” with Germanic over Hellenistic, but to accept that it can ever really be properly used to identify a single religious tradition at all. Pagan (like atheist) really only makes sense as a descriptor of what someone is not. According to Wikipedia:

            Owing to the history of its nomenclature, paganism traditionally encompass the collective pre- and non-Christian cultures in and around the classical world; including those of the Greco-Roman, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic tribes. However, modern parlance of folklorists and contemporary Pagans in particular has extended the original four millennia scope used by early Christians to include similar religious traditions stretching far into prehistory.

            Basically, there is no such thing as a “Pagan” per se, except perhaps in it’s most modern sense of the various current belief systems labeled “pagan” by their practitioners. The entire concept is dependent upon acceptance of a Christian P.O.V. from which to categorize belief systems.

            These days, the terms Pagan (from Pagus meaning farm) and Heathen (of the heath) are used as universal catch alls by the Augustinian (Roman Catholic) Church as in those sources from which missionaries would fish for converts. They never really referred to any given specific oral tradition, but pagan is Greek, heathen is Middle English.

            Yeah, it’s this “everybody who isn’t us” usage that I meant to criticize with my original point. And you’re right, “pagan” never really had a specific content of its own.

            For what it’s worth, Wikipedia doesn’t agree with you about the derivation of terms. Not really important, but I found it fascinating anyway. According to the wiki, it appears that “pagan” derives from the latin “paganus” meaning “region delimited by markers,” which in turn derives from “pagus” (“district or province.”) “Paganus” did later aquire specifc association with the rural countryside, but this seems to have been in the 15th century, after “pagan” had already been coined in its religious sense. “Pagan” is now thought to have derived from Roman military slang usage of “paganus” for a civilian, a non-combatand, or an unskilled soldier (i.e. someone “outside the bounds” of unit cohesion.) Apparently early Christian communities adopted many ideas from military culture using the motif of an army for the body of the church, and “pagan” for everyone not in the corps.

            As for “heathen”:

            Heathen comes from Old English hæðen (“not Christian or Jewish”); cf. Old Norse heiðinn. This meaning for the term originated from Gothic haiþno (“gentile woman”) being used to translate “Hellene” (cf. Mark 7:26) in Wulfila’s Bible, the first translation of the Bible into a Germanic language. This may have influenced by the Greek and Latin terminology of the time used for pagans. If so, it may be derived from Gothic haiþi (“dwelling on the heath”). However, this is not attested. It may even be a borrowing of Greek ἔθνος (ethnos) via Armenian hethanos.

            At any rate,despite my error in detail, I would still object to classifying Plato as a “pagan” since the concept did not even exist until centuries after his death.

    • In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

      Here’s a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: “Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent.”

      I don’t understand this: if it is right because God says so, then what do you mean by such a standard being independent of God?

    • In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

      Here’s a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: “Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so?

      I’m with you so far…

      Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent.”

      Um…no. The second option is completely God-dependent.

      But if God is infinitely and perfectly good,

      This makes a host of assumptions. To begin with, it assumes that such a thing as “perfect” goodness can even exist in the real universe. (This assumption, like Platonic ideals in geometry, is probably false.) It further asserts that this “God” character is “infinitely” good which is disproven by the existence of anything that is not perfectly good, anywhere in the universe. A single exception establishes a limit to the scope of this assumed “goodness”. Finally, even if an infinite and perfect “goodness” were possible, how would we know it? What standard would we use to judge whether this thing is actually good at all?

      and if the moral standard follows from his nature,

      …aaaaaaaaand THERE is the tautology. How do we know whether God is good? By judging him against the standard….God.

      Here is your argument in a nutshell:

      Q: “What is goodness?”
      A: “Whatever God says is good.”
      Q: “And does God make it good by saying so (i.e. goodness is arbitrary and subject to the whim of God) or does he only say that which is inherently good?” (i.e. goodness exists prior to and independent of God. – a.k.a. the Euthyphro Dillema.)
      A: Neither! See God IS good. And so by his very nature he can only say good things. And he knows that the things he says are good, by judging them against the moral standard, which is himself. And he knows he is the moral standard, because he said so, and by his very nature he can only say good things. And he knows that the things he says are good, by judging them against the moral standard, which is himself. And he knows that he is the moral standard, because he said so…”

      And on and on around the circular reasoning we go in an infinite loop.

      that solves the dilemma.

      No, it does not. You have not articulated a third way out of the dillema, you have chosen answer B) “[An action is] right because He says so.”

      You then try to avoid the inevitable conclusion that arises from this choice (i.e. that morality is therefore arbitrary and subject to God’s whim) by simply asserting – BY FIAT – that God’s whim is always good, so it doesn’t matter that morality by dictatorship is arbitrary.

      If I used the exact same rationale and substituted “Hitler” for “God” you would instantly see the logical flaw. Why do you get to declare that God is definitionally “good” and then to judge the truth of that definition using itself as a standard, if I am not allowed to pull the same trick for any other dictator?

      You haven’t “solved” anything, because the Euthyphro “dillema” is not a puzzle. It is a demonstration of the fact that inserting “God” into your moral reasoning accomplishes precisely zero work. God based moral systems are every bit as “relative” as any other moral systems, they simply use “god” as the fixed point from which to judge all goodness…relatively. That is no different from using “human well being” or “social stability” or “maximum happiness” or “minimum suffering” or “the will of the Dear Leader” for your basis. ALL MORAL SYSTEMS ARE RELATIVE. That is the simple fact. “God” does not create an exception.

  29. In reply to #41 by Pascendi:

    Here’s a way to put the Euthyphro dilemma: “Does God say that an action is right because it is right, or is it right because He says so? Either way, the standard to use to tell right from wrong seems God-independent.” But if God is infinitely and perfectly good, and if the moral standard follows f…

    Hi Bill. I see you’re venturing further afield! Good on you. I also see that your concept of god is a he, and has a personality ( or nature). Of course I don’t hold your views, but I’m pleased to see you branching out and stating your case.

  30. Morality does not require a God. Personally, I do not believe in eatinng animals or wearing Leather. I do not believe in Slavery but I do believe in the statement that everyone is Equal in Law. I believe in treating animals and fellow humans as kindly as you would want it done to you. I would like to know where in the Bible those beliefs come from. Thinking about it, why should I worship the Sky daddy of the Bible when this “God” murdered millions in the OT. What moral code is he Preaching when he doesn’t set an example of his kindness ! The only evil one in the Bible was “God”.

  31. absolute morality is a red herring so I suspect you do need a concept of god.

    I’ve no counter argument to the 3 points because I agree; morality is relative. it’s immoral to go charging down the road and bowling a defenceless blind man to the ground, fracturing bones, causing extensive bruising not to mention frightening his dog but relitively speaking, it’s immoral not to when he’s about to get run over

    the notion of absolute morality is the end of morality. if there is a law based on “absolute morality”that says you must/must not… and you believe there are exceptional circumstances that would be for the greater good, then the the greater good is immoral.

    of course it’s relative, the bible has loads of laws. apparently thats where morality comes from? yet most of the laws in it are ignored by even the most ardent fundamentalist. they pick and choose the ones that fit their own, personal belief in morality

    evil doesn’t exist.

    selfishness exists
    fear exists
    mental illness exists
    misguided loyalty exists

    evil is just a word used when someone does something we don’t like.

    absolute morality is a concept used to stiffle true humane morality

  32. I watched the US TV show “60 Minutes” last evening and one of the stories centered on Yale University’s “Baby Lab”. In a nutshell, preverbal infants, even kids so young that they can’t really move (like 3 months old) have a sort of “pre-programmed” morality.

    In one series of experiments, they showed kids a puppet show of a helpful stuffed bunny and a harmful stuffed bunny. Kids, at a rate of 80% or higher choose to play with the helpful bunny. HOWEVER, if the child is first presented with a choice of cheerios or corn flakes, then shown the two stuffed animals and one of the stuffed animals chooses the same cereal as the child, THEN, the child will side with the stuffed animal that chose the same cereal, no matter if the stuffed animal was nasty or not.

    There’s much more behind it, but just to illustrate the point, if morality is hard wired, and god is NOT….. then…….

  33. Absolute morality is not a desirable thing at all, in fact it is the idea of absolute morality as promoted by religion which is the cause of the majority of conflicts and evil doing in the world.
    The best any of us can do as far as morality goes is to think about what we do in relation to others and use the best, most up to date knowledge we have available to us to enable us to do the right and moral thing.
    Knowledge has a habit of evolving and changing as new information comes to light over time, so any moral code worth having will also evolve and change.
    If a person or groups moral code is fixed on one text or idea handed down the ages, whether that idea is a religious one or not, it will eventually become corrupted over time, out dated as the knowledge base of the time becomes obsolete, and will result in massive unnecessary injustices and conflict, especially if efforts are made to encourage people to override their own internal moral compass in the name of adhering to the outdated ideas of morality.

    • In reply to #51 by magsmagenta:

      Absolute morality is not a desirable thing at all, in fact it is the idea of absolute morality as promoted by religion which is the cause of the majority of conflicts and evil doing in the world.
      The best any of us can do as far as morality goes is to think about what we do in relation to others and…
      Magsmagenta, what do you mean by “absolute morality?” You can can make an absolute statement about morality by saying that morality should never be absolute. That kind of statement reminds me of a time when an acquaintance of mine told me that, since every truth is relative to some context or other, there’s absolute truth. The trouble is that, since here opinion was about every context, it refuted itself. In one sense of the word “absolute,” it implied that it’s an absolute truth that there’s no absolute truth.

      The word “absolute” has more than one meaning when we talk about absolute truth, absolute morality or both. Let’s talk about absolute truth for now because I’ve just told you what my acquaintance told me.

      A truth is absolute when it’s still true whether anyone believes it or not. A truth is also absolute when it’s true always an everywhere. Logically necessary truths are true always and everywhere. For example, necessarily, every object is self-identical, i.e., identical with itself. Another example: Every positive integer is greater than zero.

      Even if you doubt that that my iMac is on my desk, that it’s there is still true in every actual place. But it might be false. It might fall off my desk, I might move it to another room, I might send it to my friend Tim. Whatever I do or don’t do with the computer, the truth or falsehood of what I’m telling you depends on the computer and on me, not on whether you believe what I’m telling you.

      But what about the first sense of the phrase “absolute truth?” A belief is true if and only if it conforms to reality. What is true depends on the way things are. If there’s a God, atheists are mistaken and theists are right. If there’s no God, then atheists are right, and theists are mistaken. Theism’s truth or else its falsehood depends on whether there’s a God, not on whether anyone believes that theism is true.

      Moral relativism and relativism about truth are unclear notions. So if we’re going to talk about either kind of relativism, we need to define our terms.

      There’s another issue here that we haven’t mentioned, the difference between whether an action is immoral and whether someone deserves blame for doing it. Murder consists of deliberately and knowingly killing a legally innocent human being, and it’s always immoral. But if I commit it because a huge brain tumor forces me to do that, I’ve still committed an immoral action for which I may or may not deserve blame. Don’t conflate the nature of an action with conditions where someone does it. Here, I say “may or may not” partly because in this example, I may be blameworthy because I refused to, say, have brain surgery that could have prevented the crime.

      • In reply to #59 by Pascendi:

        In one sense of the word “absolute,” it implied that it’s an absolute truth that there’s no absolute truth.

        No, one can be agnostic about absolute truth or simply lack any belief in absolute truth.

        Logically necessary truths are true always and everywhere.

        In a universe with any degree of indeterminacy the best we can really hope for is that A=A most of the time.

      • In reply to #59 by Pascendi:

        The word “absolute” has more than one meaning […]

        That may be so (I’m not sure I agree, but I won’t rule it out.) However, you have not really articulated more than one meaning here. “True in all places and at all times” is really just a special case of “true independent of belief.” In all the examples you cite there is really only one consistent meaning of “absolute truth” and it is basically the common sense one, “true regardless of what anyone thinks about it.”

        There’s another issue here that we haven’t mentioned, the difference between whether an action is immoral and whether someone deserves blame for doing it.

        You are simply asserting that a difference exists between “immoral” and “blameworthy.” I do not accept your assertion. (I would accept a distinction between “blameworthy” and “worthy of legal sanction and/or punishment”, but I’ll leave that aside for now.)

        Murder consists of deliberately and knowingly killing a legally innocent human being […]

        For the sake of argument, let’s accept your definition. (Though I find the term “legally” problematic here. Laws are changable, but you are positing an act that is “always immoral” independent of circumstances. That’s a contradiction.)

        […]and it’s always immoral.

        Says you. Based upon what criteria do you declare murder – as defined – as “immoral?” (Beware of tautology.)

        The assertion that an act is always moral or immoral, in and of itself, is called categorical moral reasoning. I reject it in favor of consequentialist reasoning, which posits that actions are rendered moral or immoral by the effects they cause.

        Using consequentiallist reasoning I could imagine circumstances where “murder” could be moral (depending on the types of “consequences ” your particular system values.) If a moral system values the minimization of suffering, then someone could morally “murder” to spare the victim enormous pain (here the concept of “consent” would come into play.) If you value preservation of life, then “murder” could be justified if it is necessary to save even more lives. etc.

        But if I commit it because a huge brain tumor forces me to do that, I’ve still committed an immoral action for which I may or may not deserve blame.

        Ah…but if we are all the products of our brain chemistry, then what difference does it make whether there is a tumor or not? Cannot anyone say that they were compelled by their brain to act? “Normal” or “abnormal” function is irrelevant to the question of “blame” unless you can demonstrate the existence of a “self” that is independent of neurology. Good luck.

        “Blame” or “credit” for one’s actions arise entirely from a notion of “free will” which is another long discussion. In any case, the assumption that I have free will without a tumor, but lack it when one grows is problematic to say the least. This may be a useful idea in the legal realm, but that doesn’t make it logically consistent.

        Don’t conflate the nature of an action with conditions where someone does it.

        Who’s to say that conflation is the error. I say you are positing a separation where none exists.

        What could it mean to say that an “action” has a “nature” separate from it’s conditions? How can an “action” even exist in the abstract?

        This notion of judging everything against an abstract notion of “perfection” is hard to justify from from even a single observation, and I am very skeptical of any line of reasoning which can’t ground itself with evidence from the real world.

  34. Oh, and what do you mean by “question begging?” Are you talking about the informal fallacy called “begging the question,” or are you telling us that I’ve made points that raise questions?

    The former.

  35. This is why science and philosophy do not mix. Philosophically, there has to be an absolute morality (I’ll let you pick the source of it). To state otherwise you would have to identify situations where:
    1. sexual assault is not condemned
    2. spousal abuse is accepted
    3. theft/ robbery is seen as right
    4. murder, the taking of innocent life (wait, they would all be innocent because there is no right or wrong) is acceptable
    5. child abuse is tolerated
    *** I deliberately selected the most extreme situations as examples.***
    In our society we accept that there are certain activities (moral absolutes) that are always identified as wrong (evil if you want). The previous examples act as illustrations to this point. Now you say that “absolute morality is not a desirable thing at all” but I would bet the farm that you are glad the society you live in disagrees (at least where the treatment of your wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, children are concerned).
    We can debate the source of that an “absolute morality” (an honest debate) but we live our lives comforted by its reality.

    In reply to #51 by magsmagenta:

    Absolute morality is not a desirable thing at all, in fact it is the idea of absolute morality as promoted by religion which is the cause of the majority of conflicts and evil doing in the world.
    The best any of us can do as far as morality goes is to think about what we do in relation to others and…

    • I think the discussion of absolute morality centers around whether or not there exist universal, timeless morals. (It’s an interesting question, I think, whether or not those conditions are required in order to be “absolute”.) I don’t see that philosophy requires absolute morals. To give specific examples of the contrary to the specific morals you suggest, which are still considered moral in certain circumstances:

      1. sexual assault is not condemned
        We can read in the newspapers today where village elders have meted out sexual assaults on women as a form of punishment for acts that they didn’t even commit. Rare, but nonetheless happens as a form of justice in the eyes of its practitioners.

      2. spousal abuse is accepted
        Heck, this is fairly common in some parts of the world, and is perfectly acceptable in the practicing communities.

      3. theft/ robbery is seen as right
        Going back historically, there are things like cattle raids, which were a global phenomenon.

      4. murder, the taking of innocent life (wait, they would all be innocent because there is no right or wrong) is acceptable
        Perhaps the Thuggees of India. Suicide bombers of today.

      5. child abuse is tolerated
        Depends on what specific acts constitute “abuse”, which therefore demonstrates its relativity.

      In reply to #54 by walking monkey:

      This is why science and philosophy do not mix. Philosophically, there has to be an absolute morality (I’ll let you pick the source of it). To state otherwise you would have to identify situations where:
      1. sexual assault is not condemned
      2. spousal abuse is accepted
      3. theft/ robbery is seen as righ…

    • In reply to #54 by walking monkey:

      This is why science and philosophy do not mix. Philosophically, there has to be an absolute morality

      That is simply not true. Many systems of moral philosophy do not rely on “absolutes.”

      To state otherwise you would have to identify situations where:
      1. sexual assault is not condemned 2. spousal abuse is accepted 3. theft/ robbery is seen as right 4. murder, the taking of innocent life (wait, they would all be innocent because there is no right or wrong) is acceptable 5. child abuse is tolerated I deliberately selected the most extreme situations as examples.

      And even for these extreme examples, there exist potential philosophical justifications. Setting aside the word “abuse” (which definitionally would only be used for a morally condemned act, but could shift with regard to the types of actions it entails) each action you cite could be – and in fact has been, and sometimes still is – judged morally right under some circumstances or in certain cultures. That is what relative means.

      In our society we accept that there are certain activities (moral absolutes) that are always identified as wrong (evil if you want).

      I do not agree. If by “In our society” you mean the legal realm, I need only cite terms like “justifiable homicide” or “mitigating circumstances” to disprove your thesis. If you mean societal mores in a more general sense, I still disagree that these are either universal or unchanging. The zeitgeist is both diverse and shifting.

      Now you say that “absolute morality is not a desirable thing at all” but I would bet the farm that you are glad the society you live in disagrees

      You would lose, since I don’t even grant your premise, let alone feel “glad” about it.

      You are making the same error as the “religious people” cited by David W in the OP. It is not necessary for morality to be absolute for it to be meaningful and useful. Relative morality is messy and difficult, but it can still work. In fact, I argue that it is preferable to “absolute” moral concepts which are inflexible and would rule out moral progress. Lucky for us, relative morality is the only option. Absolute morality is a nonsensical concept. Any absolute is only absolute within a given framework, which is kinda the definition of relative. A simple glance at history shows that even the most rigid moral concepts actually change over time.

  36. I was just discussing this. When you break a moral/ethical code you feel natural, human guilt. You may not be punished for your sin/crime but the feeling of guilt will be there unless you’re a socio-path. Guilt is a feeling I do not like, therefore I learn from it.

    Many Atheists consider themselves Humanists, which means one cares for humans and does not want to inflict harm.

  37. When people speak of “absolute” morality, they are talking about morality that exists at a level transcending human thought and culture, something that would have existed even in the absence of humanity. Does morality exist in the absence of humanity? I’m not inclined to think so. I do not argue that there is a god, but I do think that as we invented our gods we invented our morals. In that sense, morality is relative. Just about any behaviour you can identify can be justified within the context of some culture or belief system, in some circumstances. But where I hesitate is making the jump from #2 to #3. Is it correct to say that because morality is relative then it is meaningless (i.e. it does not really exist). If the speed of light is relative, does that mean it does not exist? Good and evil exist because human beings have said that they do, and while we may define them differently that does not mean that there is no basis underlying these definitions. It does mean that we are never going to scientifically discover the absolute boundaries of good and evil. I’m sorry, but I reject the notion that moral truth is an objective reality. As with so many other aspects of human reality, our solutions to this problem will depend on messy debate, compromise and consensus, not scientific observation. Having said that, I will say that once we agree upon the principles around which to base our moral framework (no easy feat in itself), it may become possible to use observation and measurement to determine how best to achieve our desired ends.

      • Right you are :) Which of course is what I meant, but I need to make a habit of reviewing posts after I write them since my thoughts get ahead of my language.

        But you get my point.

        In reply to #67 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #66 by nodogma:

        If the speed of light is relative, does that mean it does not exist?

        The speed of light is one the few things which is not relative. It’s time and space which are.

        • Actually, if I had written what I was really meaning, it would have been along the lines of “If spacetime is relative, does that mean it does not exist”? But on further reflection that is precisely what some physicists today are arguing…that space and time do not exist, at least not in the sense that we conceive of them… but all of that is just circling the point. The point is that just because something does not exist in absolute terms does not mean it cannot be defined or understood. That is why we have dictionaries and law books – to define concepts which have no absolute meaning on their own.

          In reply to #76 by nodogma:

          Right you are :) Which of course is what I meant, but I need to make a habit of reviewing posts after I write them since my thoughts get ahead of my language.

          But you get my point.

          In reply to #67 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #66 by nodogma:

          If the speed of light is relative, does that mean it d…

  38. I’d forget about the philosophy of the question (I think the religious are allowing themsleves to be bamboosaled by gramma) and ask them to look at what belief in God’s abosiulte morality askes them to accept on faith. Keeping slaves, forcing women to marry their rapists, human sacrifice, killing babies for the sins of their parents and so on. I simply answer that if that is Absoulte morality, it doesn’t measure up to our failable, relative morality. If they consider evil is not real then ask them how they would feel about having their loved ones murdered? Again real enough the rocks and stars don’t need to know its evil for it to cause us to care.

    • In reply to #71 by Pascendi:

      I’m too tired to write much now, but I need to tell you that “God-independent” meant “external to God” when I wrote about the Euthyphro dilemma.

      That doesn’t change the fact that “right because He says so” would be god dependent, unless you mean to argue that God’s pronouncements are “external to God.” I suppose you might mean that, but I will take some convincing…

      Plus, what could “external to God” even mean if the God in question is defined as “omnipresent?”

  39. I was a little surprised by your answer. The implication of your answer is that because a behavior exists (is accepted somewhere in the world) it is morally right. Here is the question, “does the presence of these behavior patterns make them correct?” you might answer yes to this question but our actions tell another story.
    You only have to read through this thread to realize that the acceptance of a belief or behavior does not make it right. Theist/creationists are constantly put down for their beliefs (even though they are widely held across a variety of cultures). If you truly believed what you stated you would be willing to encourage and welcome theist view points.

    In reply to #55 by downshifter:

    I think the discussion of absolute morality centers around whether or not there exist universal, timeless morals. (It’s an interesting question, I think, whether or not those conditions are required in order to be “absolute”.) I don’t see that philosophy requires absolute morals. To give specific…

    • You sort of got what I was saying, but there’s more to it than that. Let me try to encapsulate it as: “Any behavior that exists can be moral, within and according to the standards of some group of individuals.” Which is to say: morality is relative. The same behavior can be viewed as moral by one group, and immoral by another. It is therefore both moral and immoral. Honor killings are, in my opinion, a vivid example of this.

      “You only have to read through this thread to realize that the acceptance of a belief or behavior does not make it right.” I think that the whole thrust of this thread is discussing whether or not that statement is true.

      In reply to #73 by walking monkey:

      I was a little surprised by your answer. The implication of your answer is that because a behavior exists (is accepted somewhere in the world) it is morally right. Here is the question, “does the presence of these behavior patterns make them correct?” you might answer yes to this question but our ac…

  40. Are you serious, morality lessons from god? That’s the last place I’d look for any sort of morals. I suggest you read the ‘good book’ if you want some twisted morals. I wont bother quoting Sir Richard here. Read The God Delusion. Case closed!

  41. God is relevant to morality. I’m trying to make two points. One, since the truths about morality follow from God’s nature, He doesn’t need to consult anyone else or anything else to tell whether any action is morally right. Two, since God is unchanging and unchangeable, He never acts on a whim. I’m sorry about the unclear prose. I’m still trying to understand the dogma about divine simplicity.

    • In reply to #83 by Pascendi:

      God is relevant to morality. I’m trying to make two points. One, since the truths about morality follow from God’s nature, He doesn’t need to consult anyone else or anything else to tell whether any action is morally right.

      And since you can’t establish any deity of any sort as being real you’re contradicting your own premise. The order this should be taking place is:

      1. Prove the deity in question exists, which will require you to establish any evidence or need for said deity to exist, that the deity in question is the one you worship and that you’re capable of reliably interpreting his will. Saying it’s in the bible is not in any way sufficient. Lot’s of holy books make such claims.

      2. Establishing that morality is in fact absolute, and exists outside of man’s own struggles.

      3. Reconcile all the attributes (all knowing all present, all good, all powerful, etc) of this deity in order to make any statement regarding his perfection, much less his moral state.

      But all of this is dependent on you actually proving the existence of your god in order to make any claims of him at all.

      Two, since God is unchanging and unchangeable, He never acts on a whim. I’m sorry about the unclear prose. I’m still trying to understand the dogma about divine simplicity.

      Then how does an all loving god become jealous, angry and genocidal? How does an all loving, all knowing and all powerful become unable to solve a problem without bloodshed? How does an all knowing and all loving god allow evil and the original fall of man take place to begin with?

      You can’t just pick and choose an attribute and claim he is unchanging if his behavior in the bible is constantly changing. Was Job’s torture and losses necessary for God to prove he was all the things the bible claims of him anyway? Was the flood necessary to alleviate the ‘sin’ of the world? Was scapegoating his ‘son’ the only way to ‘save’ mankind? Was he incapable of actually forgiving and helping in no other way? Doesn’t strike me as either all powerful, all knowing or all loving. He in fact seems to act on a whim on a routine basis.

      Prove god’s existence and reconcile his character before assigning this idea of absolute morality and god as being so obvious, because it is anything but.

    • In reply to #83 by Pascendi:

      You seem to be unable to understand or answer any of the points I have put to you!

      God is relevant to morality.

      This is a baseless assertion!

      I’m trying to make two points. One, since the truths about morality follow from God’s nature,

      As would any of the followers of a multitude of religions where assorted dogmatic moral codes conflict with each other!

      He doesn’t need to consult anyone else or anything else to tell whether any action is morally right.

      You have yet to establish that your chosen god or indeed any such deity exists, or that there are any forms of communication which would provide you with such details.

      Two, since God is unchanging and unchangeable, He never acts on a whim.

      How could you possibly know this, given the absence of evidence for even the existence of such a god.
      There is no evidence that he/she/it exists or acts at all. Absence of Evidence Is Evidence of Absence

      I’m sorry about the unclear prose.

      Your prose is clear. It is simply fallacious, unconvincing and circular in its arguments, – with some self contradictions. – It assumes its conclusions as prerequisites, and hence begs the question at each stage!

      I’m still trying to understand the dogma about divine simplicity.

      Best of luck with that! Accepting the illogicality of simplistic complexity is a property of cognitive dissonance and semantic gymnastics. Scientific investigations lead to truths, Dogmas merely lead to originating dogmatist scribes.

      • In reply to #85 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #83 by Pascendi:

        You seem to be unable to understand or answer any of the points I have put to you!
        Alan, the “Best of luck” part of your post is clearly sarcastic. So from now on, don’t expect me to answer it. I’ll decide whether I answer any post that anyone here writes me. Thanks.
        God is relevant to morality.

        This is a baseless assertion!

        I’m trying to make two points. One, since the truths about morality follow from God’s nature,

        As would any of the followers…

    • In reply to #83 by Pascendi:

      I’m still trying to understand the dogma about divine simplicity.

      Your error lies in assuming that there actually is anything to understand. With dogma you’re just supposed to believe! 😀

      • Krauss expects you to believe that no thing is some thing, and you think I’m crazy? :)

        Tx: X is a thing. Put on your logician’s hat, then tell me how much sense this makes. :)
        (x) is the universal quantifier.
        The tilde means “not.”

        (x) (~Tx -> Tx)
        In reply to #86 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #83 by Pascendi:

        I’m still trying to understand the dogma about divine simplicity.

        Your error lies in assuming that there actually is anything to understand. With dogma you’re just supposed to believe! 😀

        • In reply to #87 by Pascendi:

          Krauss expects you to believe that no thing is some thing, and you think I’m crazy? :)

          Is chaos a thing? Deterministically it’s a no thing.

          Put on your logician’s hat

          That hat is always on. Part of the reason why I’m so disdainful of logic is because I have always found it so intuitive.

          • If chaos were not anything, you probably wouldn’t have needed to use the word “deterministically” to describe it.
            In reply to #89 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #87 by Pascendi:

            Krauss expects you to believe that no thing is some thing, and you think I’m crazy? :)

            Is chaos a thing? Deterministically it’s a no thing.

        • In reply to #87 by Pascendi:

          Krauss expects you to believe that no thing is some thing, and you think I’m crazy? :)

          From that remark I know you haven’t read his book on the subject. And if you have watched his presentation on the subject, you have patently not understood it. So while you may not be crazy, you really shouldn’t be making yourself look like you might be.

  42. In reply to #90 by Pascendi:

    If chaos were not anything, you probably wouldn’t have needed to use the word “deterministically” to describe it.

    Determinism does not describe chaos, that’s the point. It’s like an “uncaused cause”, sound familiar?

  43. Peter, to me, your comment about chaos seems imprecise when you say that “Deterministically it’s a no thing.” What do you mean by it? Are you implying that, although chaos is something, it’s that thing in a nondeterministic way? Does chaos imply a negation of some kind? Can chaos change nondeterministically into something else? If you thought it weren’t anything, you probably wouldn’t have asked me whether it was a thing.
    In reply to #89 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #87 by Pascendi:

    Krauss expects you to believe that no thing is some thing, and you think I’m crazy? :)

    Is chaos a thing? Deterministically it’s a no thing.

    • In reply to #92 by Pascendi:

      Peter, to me, your comment about chaos seems imprecise when you say that “Deterministically it’s a no thing.” What do you mean by it?

      Nothing is self-caused.

      Are you implying that, although chaos is something, it’s that thing in a nondeterministic way?

      No, chaos is not a thing, but it does seem to cause things.

      Does chaos imply a negation of some kind? Can chaos change nondeterministically into something else? If you thought it weren’t anything, you probably wouldn’t have asked me whether it was a thing.

      I don’t necessarily believe that chaos exists, but the evidence does suggest at least some degree of indeterminacy

  44. Alan mentioned that various religions teach mutually inconsistent doctrines. True enough. That’s partly why Catholics rely on more than the Bible. I’m a Catholic partly because writings by the Early Church’s Fathers support Catholicism, not Protestantism. Since Christ’s followers do disagree doctrinally with one another, it helps to know what it is that those Fathers thought. St. Polycarp, say, knew St. John personally. Who’s more likely to understand a Bible passage: St. Polycarp or some 21st-century fundamentalist who ignores the Bible’s literary genres, ancient history, ancient Israelite culture and other details that help Bible readers interpret their holy book?

    When Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hichins and others have criticized Christian theism, how man ancient extrabiblical sources did the study before they argued against it? From what those scholars say, it’s easy to believe that Protestant fundamentalism is the only kind of Christianity they’ve studied. Dawkins left the Anglican religion when he was about 17, right? Did he know much theology then? How about philosophy?

    I tried to start a thread about empirical evidence about Transubstantiation, a thread that didn’t get posted. Maybe the moderators thought it didn’t belong here. If they censored it, that’s all right because I’m happy to obey the message board’s rules. Whatever happened to that thread, I mention it and other sources of extrabiblical information because Catholics do have evidence for Catholicism. Much of that evidence is historical, theological, philosophical rather than the kind of evidence you study in a lab. But it’s still evidence. If scientific knowledge is the only kind of knowledge mankind could have, then before man invented science, he didn’t know anything.

    • In reply to #94 by Pascendi:

      If scientific knowledge is the only kind of knowledge mankind could have, then before man invented science, he didn’t know anything.

      The scientific method can be traced back to the ancient Greeks (not Plato!), probably further.

    • In reply to #94 by Pascendi:

      Alan mentioned that various religions teach mutually inconsistent doctrines. True enough. That’s partly why Catholics rely on more than the Bible.

      Such as….? And how does it validate your faith over others exactly?

      I’m a Catholic partly because writings by the Early Church’s Fathers support Catholicism, not Protestantism. Since Christ’s followers do disagree doctrinally with one another, it helps to know what it is that those Fathers thought. St. Polycarp, say, knew St. John personally.

      Evidence? And the fact that the other books in the NT disagree doesn’t strike you as off at all?

      Who’s more likely to understand a Bible passage: St. Polycarp or some 21st-century fundamentalist who ignores the Bible’s literary genres, ancient history, ancient Israelite culture and other details that help Bible readers interpret their holy book?

      And not a single remark here gives us any more reason to accept these views as factual, there is nothing in the bible by any translation to give it any more validity than any other religion past or present. Does the Catholic understanding explain the issues I mentioned in my previous posts? Does it reconcile the vengeful yet somehow all loving god? Does it explain how not a single one of the miracles have been even remotely proven to have happened?

      There hasn’t been a translation yet that makes the bible true. At all. Any claims that Catholicism has a monopoly on religious truth require evidence. You’ve not provided even a sliver of that.

      When Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hichins and others have criticized Christian theism, how man ancient extrabiblical sources did the study before they argued against it? From what those scholars say, it’s easy to believe that Protestant fundamentalism is the only kind of Christianity they’ve studied. Dawkins left the Anglican religion when he was about 17, right? Did he know much theology then? How about philosophy?

      Please establish how the understanding you follow makes any more sense of the mess that is the bible. Please actually try to address any of the concerns I and others put forth before throwing out yet more accusations on how other people see what you believe.

      I tried to start a thread about empirical evidence about Transubstantiation, a thread that didn’t get posted. Maybe the moderators thought it didn’t belong here. If they censored it, that’s all right because I’m happy to obey the message board’s rules. Whatever happened to that thread, I mention it and other sources of extrabiblical information because Catholics do have evidence for Catholicism. Much of that evidence is historical, theological, philosophical rather than the kind of evidence you study in a lab. But it’s still evidence. If scientific knowledge is the only kind of knowledge mankind could have, then before man invented science, he didn’t know anything.

      How precisely do you think theological or philosophical anything will stand as evidence of something as unsubstantiated as god or any of the claims of the bible, much less transubstantiation? And how exactly can you prove it historically?

      Every assumption you’ve made so far comes directly from the circular thinking school of theistic reasoning: posit my god as being real first, then move forward assuming everyone will jump on board. The bible proves nothing. You cannot use it to prove god or the miracles that it mentions. Proof requires the ability to test, get results, replicate the results and peer review said results. If you want any of this to be taken seriously you will have to provide a reason beyond your belief, because that’s all you’ve given us so far.

    • In reply to #94 by Pascendi:

      Dawkins left the Anglican religion when he was about 17, right? Did he know much theology then? How about philosophy?

      Ah! the Courtier’s Reply. Thanks Pascendi, it’s been a long time since I heard that one trotted out.

      Catholics do have evidence for Catholicism.

      Well, the type of “evidence” you cite here, even assuming it was valid and proved what you think it does, (a HUGE assumption) might qualify as evidence for Catholocism over protestantism. What possible good would such evidence be in a discussion with atheists? Why would you even raise the issue of Catholic vs. Protestant? You must realize that an atheist would find such distinctions about as meaningful as an argument over which film adaptation is authoratitive in presenting the real historical Superman.

      Much of that evidence is historical, theological, philosophical

      I’ll grant you “historical” and even “philosophical” in some cases, but “theological evidence” is pretty much a contradiction in terms.

      All valid evidence is scientifically valid evidence. That would include evidence from any field. History, and valid phillosophy fall under the umbrella of science. Theology does not, and it is not a valid field of study. Witness the leaps of logic you have presented in this thread. You are clearly a smart person, yet you are willing to accept tautology and outrageous twists of reasoning, so long as they support “God.” The entire field of theology amounts to special pleading, and it has no “evidence” to offer.

      rather than the kind of evidence you study in a lab.

      Science is more than what goes on in formal laboratory settings, and you know it.

      But it’s still evidence.

      Forgive me if I don’t take your word for it. I’ve heard such claims of valid evidence for theistic claims many times, but never seen a scrap of it. If it is really evidence, it will stand up to scrutiny, and it will be convincing to a skeptic rather than requiring one to accept the premise in question before finding the evidence convincing.

      If scientific knowledge is the only kind of knowledge mankind could have, then before man invented science, he didn’t know anything.

      A single observation of nature is scientific knowledge. This was true before anybody ever codified the scientific method. In this sense scientific knowledge is older than the human race. Of course prescientific man had knowledge…and a lot of false ideas. Science provides the only valid way we have to separate objective truth from delusion. Every time scientific discovery has contradicted “knowledge” from other sources, it is science that has proven to be correct. Every. Single. Time. And this includes scientific disproof of historical Catholic teachings.

    • In reply to #94 by Pascendi:

      Pascendi @ 87 – Krauss expects you to believe that no thing is some thing, and you think I’m crazy?

      Your comment is simply a statement that you do not understand the physics. “Nothing”, simply does not exist in the physical universe! (It also side-steps the issue about “divine simplicity”)

      There is another discussion on the topic of “nothing” on which I posted this comment:- http://www.richarddawkins.net/discussions/5222#comment-box-17 which explains it.

      Alan mentioned that various religions teach mutually inconsistent doctrines. True enough. That’s partly why Catholics rely on more than the Bible.

      I mention it and other sources of extrabiblical information because Catholics do have evidence for Catholicism.

      It is only stuff which they call “evidence”, but is usually just a consensus of opinions from people who also had no evidence. There is evidence that the precursor sects before Catholicism existed, but that does nothing to support their claims.

      Much of that evidence is historical,

      There is not even verifiable contemporary evidence that anyone called Jesus existed. There are just myths written decades or centuries (Nicaea 325?) after claimed events. There is not one eyewitness account in the NT.

      theological, philosophical rather than the kind of evidence you study in a lab.

      which is just speculation unless documents cross-check with independent records or are carbon dated to establish dates.

      But it’s still evidence.

      Opinions of people hundreds of years after events are not evidence.

      If scientific knowledge is the only kind of knowledge mankind could have, then before man invented science, he didn’t know anything.

      This claim is just silly! Objective observation and recording of events, pre-date the formal definition of science. Detailed Roman records can easily be distinguished from the rambling tales of Xtian folklaw.

      Scientific methodology with independent repeat testing, gives us the most reliable information available.

    • In reply to #94 by Pascendi:

      Alan mentioned that various religions teach mutually inconsistent doctrines. True enough. That’s partly why Catholics rely on more than the Bible. I’m a Catholic partly because writings by the Early Church’s Fathers support Catholicism, not Protestantism. Since Christ’s followers do disagree doc…

      Of course the early church appears to support Catholicism as opposed to Protestantism, until the reformation (C16) it was the only game in town! These extra thoughts were the works of human beings who invented them. The reformers endeavored to go back to the source, as flawed as it is , for their certainties. Christianity, as with all religions, is a human construct. It’s pointless to try to elevate one lot of fiction above another lot of fiction. It’s all fiction.

  45. Nitya, if you read the two part article that the moderators have refused to post, you might be a little less sure that Christianity is manmade. If what the article says is true, the article, including photos, is strong scientific evidence for Catholicism.

    Bill

    • In reply to #100 by Pascendi:

      Nitya, if you read the two part article that the moderators have refused to post, you might be a little less sure that Christianity is manmade. If what the article says is true, the article, including photos, is strong scientific evidence for Catholicism.

      1) I see that your account is only 5 days old. I assume you submitted this discussion topic at least that recently. you should know that the moderators here dole out discussion topics rather slowly, and long delays are not uncommon. were you explicitly told that it would not be posted? It may still turn up.

      2) This is an extraordinary claim! It would require extraordinary evidence. This would have to be quite an article to live up to your claim. Is it peer reviewed? You’ll understand if I don’t take your word for it. I’s love to see this article. Can you link to it? Tell us where to find it? The mods will tell us if we strayed too far from topic.

      3) wouldn’t scientific evidence for transubstantiation count as evidence against Catholic teaching? I’ve been told by more than one Catholic that the host does not change in substance, and therefore cannot be tested scientifically. Why doesn’t your article show that Catholic teachings are wrong?

    • In reply to #100 by Pascendi:

      Nitya, if you read the two part article that the moderators have refused to post, you might be a little less sure that Christianity is manmade. If what the article says is true, the article, including photos, is strong scientific evidence for Catholicism.

      Bill

      Let me see if I have this right….

      An article just happens to be out there that the moderators won’t let us see (with photos no doubt!) would not only be strong evidence against a man made Christianity, but a triumph for Catholicism in particular?

      So you couldn’t say anything about what the article consist of or the implications in particular that would possibly irrefutably make the case for the RCC? And I assume this evidence potentially (you did say IF true after all) will hold up to rigorous scrutiny and be demonstrative in its factual nature?

      All of the circular reasoning you’ve posted and this is the best you can offer?

      Unless your evidence actually offers proof of god himself you’re pretty much just sidestepping questions again.

    • In reply to #100 by Pascendi:

      Nitya, if you read the two part article that the moderators have refused to post, you might be a little less sure that Christianity is manmade. If what the article says is true, the article, including photos, is strong scientific evidence for Catholicism.

      You posted it yesterday. I haven’t even looked at it yet because there are 400 submissions to discussions, I do one a day, and I rotate between topics. Hardly a refusal. Have a nice day. =)

  46. I would just like to point out that any organism that solves a problem follows the scientific method.

    Let’s tease a monkey! we will hang a banana into it’s cage. If the monkey never sees the banana, it never initiates the first step of the method…. 1. Observe a problem.

    The monkey notices the banana and tries to get it. The monkey walks over and gathers info (the 2nd step). It makes a hypothesis (3rd step — If I jump then I get the banana). He/she does the experiment — dammit — jumping does not work. (this is a conclusion). Back to the drawing board — new hypothesis, dragging over a chair and jumping from it will afford me the height needed to get the banana. (a new hypothesis)…. What does it do? An experiment. It performs the experiment and reaches the banana — problem solved. It followed the scientific method to solve the observed problem.

    Pity some humans can’t seem to do the same.

  47. Nitya,

    My browser just searched five pages full of discussions, but it didn’t find the title of my thread about a Eucharistic miracle. If you know where the thread, please show me it.

    Bill

    • In reply to #105 by Pascendi:

      Nitya,

      My browser just searched five pages full of discussions, but it didn’t find the title of my thread about a Eucharistic miracle. If you know where the thread, please show me it.

      Bill

      Bill, I was going to suggest that because your discussion was not automatically posted, it doesn’t mean that it was rejected outright I see that this message has been sent to you already. . I can’t comment on a set of evidence that I haven’t read, but I do suspect that as it hasn’t appeared in peer reviewed journals to my knowledge, it’s probably flawed. There are many catholic scientists, even scientists who are members of the clergy, so I think they would leap to defense of any evidence that appeared to validate their faith.

      Can I take a guess that as you mentioned Eucharistic miracle, you can provide evidence of the bread and wine actually turning into molecules of blood and flesh? This would be an amazing finding, and I think it would not be hidden on the back page of the Catholic Weekly. I think it would hit the headlines around the globe.

      I suppose I should have qualified my comment that bible and writings of biblical scholars are works of fiction…in my opinion. This was an oversight on my part.

  48. I was an altar boy for one single mass. The priest held up the host and recited “this is Jesus”… my partner leaned in to me and said “boy is he small.” I laughed that contagious unstoppable laugh and was afterwards forbidden from “serving” mass. Later in my church life I was singled out by the priest for being late (I was selling papers out front for charity). This jerk said, from the pulpit “if you do not find a seat, phone calls will be made.”

    I recited my phone number aloud and walked out. Two years later, my devout grandmother was stricken and unable to attend daily mass and contribute (that is how they know you have attended). On her deathbed, her chosen priest denied her extreme unction because her envelopes were not up to date.

    Goodbye. Goodnight. Still think Catholicism is about something other than profit? Something for nothing… a true free lunch. Step up and offer something substantial. I can fucking prove that oranges exist; where is god?

  49. Of course morality is relative. Natural selection is relative, after all. With NS, if A works better than B, then A has a better chance.

    With morality we are the active participants, typically choosing between any number of options. The goal is to decide which would work better all around.

  50. Crookedshoes, you’re an atheist because you thought that if God existed, He didn’t help you or your mother when a priest mistreated you both? Since the priest wouldn’t give her Extreme Unction, you concluded that the Catholic Church was only a moneymaker’s racket? I know of Catholic priests who did terrible things to boys, and I live in a corrupt diocese. But I always try to remember the difference between the Catholic Church and what some some depraved Catholics have done. I also do my best not to generalize hastily. I don’t say that since some Catholic priests did some awful things, the whole Catholic Church is corrupt.

    In 1991 when I was suicidal, I wanted to poison myself because I thought death would annihilate my emotional agony and me. I felt angry, maybe even enraged, because my imaginary(?) God wouldn’t cure my Cerebral Palsy. But I’m now grateful for everything I went through because God helped me know why He allowed it. I’d go through all the pain again, too, if I knew that God would use it to help even one other person.

    Will God help you? I’m sure He will, but only He knows when and how He’ll do that.

    I can’t imagine the awful pain you must have felt when the priest mistreated you and your mom. I can’t put myself in your crooked shoes. But I do know that even suffering can be a disguised blessing when I cope patiently with it. Is there a God? Maybe, maybe not. Still, too many seemingly providential things have happened to me for my pain to convince me to be an atheist.

    • In reply to #113 by Pascendi:

      Crookedshoes, you’re an atheist because you thought that if God existed, He didn’t help you or your mother when a priest mistreated you both?

      Pascendi, do you imagine apostates (from any religion) are capable of abandoning their faith due to a single fall from grace? Do you imagine us, whether converts or active atheists or the irreligious to be that simple? Children who scrape our knees and thus fear the pavement?

      In the face of compelling evidence of evolution, of heliocentrism, of an old universe, people still pronounce biblical infallibility and literalism, despite examples of genocide, of slavery, of encultured xenophobia. They do this not because they have evidence of a young Earth or of God, but out of blind loyalty to their traditions: they’d rather protect their culture than be scientifically or morally correct.

      It takes effort to think critically, to consider possibilities outside your own polarized attitude. And that’s effort we’ve taken, not because of a bad priest, and not even because time and again the church has failed to live up to its own moral standards. We choose to base our perception of reality on logic and evidence rather than faith since neither religious authorities, nor human-scribed doctrine, nor even personal inspiration have proven to be trustworthy.

      And that said (getting back to the original topic) we still have no indicator that if there was a source of absolute morality that it would be any of the popular religions, or any religion at all. The Egyptian, Roman and Aztec empires were able to thrive without biblical morality, and they lasted long enough to assuage any notion that they were contrary to divine will.

    • I respect the conclusion you have arrived at. I respect it as “correct” for you. I did not become atheistic because of a god that turned his back. I arrived at the atheistic conclusion far before I left the church. There is simply no evidence for god. None, zero, zilch.

      The anecdotes I shared were what opened my eyes about the church and the fact that the leaders of the church do not believe in god either. They certainly do not abide by any of the rules in the book they wield. It is a for profit pyramid scheme and nothing more.

      The two realizations are independent of one another, they do, however, shape me much the same way your refusal to look directly at the shameful behavior on exhibit right in front of you has helped to shape you. The church, especially the Catholic church, is a horror.

      I sincerely hope you never get back to the state you describe in your post and I am glad you found solace and if the true choice was to lose your life or to turn to religion, well then, religion trumps.

      I once heard that it is very dangerous to actually meet your heroes because they seldom are what you think they are.

      In reply to #113 by Pascendi:

      Crookedshoes, you’re an atheist because you thought that if God existed, He didn’t help you or your mother when a priest mistreated you both? Since the priest wouldn’t give her Extreme Unction, you concluded that the Catholic Church was only a moneymaker’s racket? I know of Catholic priests who di…

    • In reply to #114 by Pascendi:

      Since some here think I’ve sidestepped some questions, here’s an article about divine simplicity, which I’ve wondered how to explain. I can explain it, but I for now, the words elude me.

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/divine-simplicity/

      According to the classical theism of Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas and their adherents, God is radically unlike creatures in that he is devoid of any complexity or composition, whether physical or metaphysical. Besides lacking spatial and temporal parts, God is free of matter/form composition, potency/act composition, and existence/essence composition.

      It is basically a heap of whimsical word-salad made up by various historical figures trying to appear profound.

      “Devoid of physical complexity and composition”, essentially means “non-existent” and therefore incapable of interacting with the physical universe. Any material interactions would be detectable by scientific methods. Matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. (Thermodynamics) No supernatural activity has ever been confirmed.

      @link – What could motivate such a strange and seemingly incoherent doctrine?

      The obvious answer, is obfuscating muddled thinking being presented to confuse those who look for meaning in undefined verbiage where there is none.

      One central consideration derives from the Anselmian definition of God as maximally perfect, as that than which no greater can be conceived. A God who was less than maximally perfect would not be an absolute reality and appropriate object of worship.

      Adding adjectives and superlatives to undefined terms such as “god” adds nothing to evidence of their existence, but is merely a diversion into complexity. Negative definitions of what a god is NOT, also add nothing to clarity. ( Negative definition – My table is not a cabbage.)

    • http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/divine-simplicity/

      Bill, this only makes any sense at all if you accept the fundamental premise that there is a god. If not, no amount of attributes accredited to this being will be of any value at all. These are just words and ideas that members of the faithful have summoned up to flesh out their own concept. It doesn’t matter when the descriptions were written, and respect for the authors doesn’t add one bit to their credibility.

  51. Crookedshoes, you’re an atheist because you thought that if God existed, He didn’t help you or your mother when a priest mistreated you both? Since the priest wouldn’t give her Extreme Unction, you concluded that the Catholic Church was only a moneymaker’s racket? I know of Catholic priests who did terrible things to boys, and I live in a corrupt diocese. But I always try to remember the difference between the Catholic Church and what some some depraved Catholics have done. I also do my best not to generalize hastily. I don’t say that since some Catholic priests did some awful things, the whole Catholic Church is corrupt.

    Whether the actions of the priest do or do not reflect the actions of the church, the church is responsible for that person holding authority. The flawed institution whether you still believe it is good or not needs to be held accountable for what the bad apples do if they do little or nothing about it.

    In 1991 when I was suicidal, I wanted to poison myself because I thought death would annihilate my emotional agony and me. I felt angry, maybe even enraged, because my imaginary(?) God wouldn’t cure my Cerebral Palsy. But I’m now grateful for everything I went through because God helped me know why He allowed it. I’d go through all the pain again, too, if I knew that God would use it to help even one other person.

    Will God help you? I’m sure He will, but only He knows when and how He’ll do that.

    Your example goes right back to what I mentioned earlier about the contradictory nature of god. Let me try to put it a different way using an appropriate quote:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?

    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?

    — Epicurus, philosopher (c. 341-270 BCE)

    You regard him as being all loving but are unwilling to see the contradictory nature of what he allows to happen to you and others as being the opposite of that very notion. That could only make sense if you were raised in or accepted teachings that promoted dangerous ideas like original sin, salvation from said sin and an unknowable god that somehow moves in mysterious ways.

    I can’t imagine the awful pain you must have felt when the priest mistreated you and your mom. I can’t put myself in your crooked shoes. But I do know that even suffering can be a disguised blessing when I cope patiently with it. Is there a God? Maybe, maybe not. Still, too many seemingly providential things have happened to me for my pain to convince me to be an atheist.

    This is the cognitive dissonance that acts as a barrier between you and everyone else responding to you: Your beliefs blind you from the contradictions in your own reasoning. Why does an all loving, all powerful, all knowing and all present (remember the contradictory nature I mentioned before) god allow ‘sin’ or ‘evil’ to thrive? If the answers to the question boil down to god’s mysterious ways, then what you and other theists are saying is that you can’t actually know his will and are pretty much just guessing. This at least would be more honest.

  52. Pascendi,

    From your link:

    According to the classical theism of Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas and their adherents, God is radically unlike creatures in that he is devoid of any complexity or composition, whether physical or metaphysical.

    As Alan4Discussion has pointed out, this only describes something that doesn’t exists. Something that is devoid of any complexity or composition, whether physical or metaphysical also cannot be said to be able to affect the actions of a material universe. The definition shoots itself in the foot right out of the gate.

    Besides lacking spatial and temporal parts, God is free of matter/form composition, potency/act composition, and existence/essence composition. There is also no real distinction between God as subject of his attributes and his attributes. God is thus in a sense requiring clarification identical to each of his attributes, which implies that each attribute is identical to every other one.

    If god is free of any matter form, he can’t be part of the material universe, and claiming that there is no distinction between him and his attributes literally explains nothing if by this definition’s own admission he doesn’t exist.

    God is omniscient, then, not in virtue of instantiating or exemplifying omniscience — which would imply a real distinction between God and the property of omniscience — but by being omniscience. And the same holds for each of the divine omni-attributes: God is what he has. As identical to each of his attributes, God is identical to his nature. And since his nature or essence is identical to his existence, God is identical to his existence.

    This explains nothing, and doesn’t clarify the contradictions in being omni-everything that I’ve posted several times on this thread. God is identical to his nature? You’ve already established that he’s non existent, so you can’t assign all these attributes to something that isn’t there.

    And by the by, if he has no attributes and doesn’t exist in this universe, there’s no way for you or anyone else to know him. This is little more than a futile tautological exercise that doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny outside of blind faith. Blind faith in nothing I should mention.

    This is the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS). It is represented not only in classical Christian theology, but also in Jewish, Greek, and Islamic thought. It is to be understood as an affirmation of God’s absolute transcendence of creatures. God is not only radically non-anthropomorphic, but radically non-creaturomorphic, not only in respect of the properties he possesses, but in his manner of possessing them. God, we could say, differs in his very ontology from any and all created beings.

    If he differs from all created things then the bible contradicts itself right from genesis, when it reflects man being created in god’s image.

    This isn’t an explanation of anything in the most literal sense. It is absolute escapism, an attempt to posit a deity so far from accountability that he escapes existence itself.

    • In reply to #119 by achromat666:

      Pascendi,

      From your link:

      According to the classical theism of Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas and their adherents, God is radically unlike creatures in that he is devoid of any complexity or composition, whether physical or metaphysical.

      It is interesting to analyse the tortuous diversionary language:

      One central consideration derives from the Anselmian definition of God as maximally perfect, as that than which no greater can be conceived.

      Perfection is 100% compliance with a preconceived requirement! (eg. a shoe perfectly fits my foot.) Perfection does not come in gradations – maximally, minimally or average. This is just word-salad posing as profundity and diversionary distraction from the non-sequitur.

      A God who was less than maximally perfect would not be an absolute reality and appropriate object of worship.

      So as neither gods nor maximal perfection exist as independent entities, “absolute realities” do not come into it.
      The fact that it is asserted that a god * less than maximally perfect would not be an absolute reality*, in no way implies that the converse of a god claimed to be “maximally perfect” would exist in reality (absolute or otherwise). [It is the old double negative, and negative definition game.]

      This is just a mixture of vacuous assertions and illogical nonsense, dressed up in semantic gymnastics, aimed at confusing those with limited literacy, by using inappropriate or superfluous adjectives.

      A challenge would almost inevitably distract the discussion on to the (absence of) coherent definitions of the words used.

  53. In reply to Pascendi #123

    Bill, your frantic words continue to fascinate me. Such exquisite exemplars of apophanous perception are truly delightful and although your arguments are poor, some of what you say resemble ideas.

    You intimated you were acquainted with priests who have sexually abused children. Before you forget you need to report any relevant knowledge you have to the police, immediately. Whether or not these “terrible things” occurred recently or not, it is essential you advise the police without alerting anyone else in your parish.

    Tempus fugit Bill.

    This is an Absolute Moral Imperative. When you’ve done that I’ll explain why I think your special talent for words would be eroded if you studied science or philosophy.

  54. Len,

    I said “know of.” I did not say “know personally.” I didn’t say whether the ones I knew of were already getting punished for their crimes. If I needed to report any sexual abuse to the police, I would do that, whether the abuser was a priest, a bishop, a pope or anyone else.

    Thank you for your kind thoughts, but I won’t be a theologian because I don’t want to be one. I want my prose to be absolutely clear to anyone who can understand it. I don’t want to write with the ambiguity you find in books by Modernist heretics.

    • In reply to #122 by Pascendi:

      I won’t be a theologian because I don’t want to be one. I want my prose to be absolutely clear to anyone who can understand it.

      I congratulate you on this ambition. This site promotes clear thinking.

      I don’t want to write with the ambiguity you find in books by Modernist heretics.

      You may have noticed that some of us are well versed in the deconstruction of wilfully ambiguous and obfuscating texts.

      If you wish to familiarise yourself with the fallacious and meaningless posturing of postmodernist writing, you may find this link interesting in the way it debunks their texts. – Be sure to read the section at the bottom of the page.

      http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/

      • Thank you, Alan. I’ll visit that site. Thank God I went to graduate school in a philosophy department where most professors were against postmodernism. I’m an analytic Thomist who pays language anal-retentive attention partly because my professors taught me to reason the way analytic philosophers do.

        A friend of mine, an analytic philosopher at Baylor University, says that I write with “analytic clarity,” and I know a mathematician who thinks I’d be a brilliant one. “Brilliant” sounds hyperbolic to me, though, but since I’ve known him for almost 30 years, to me, his honesty is obvious. So I need to take him seriously when he assures me that writing is what I do best.

        Since I think I’ve written more than enough posts, I plan to stop posting here to devote more time to reading and to studying. Besides, I’m thoroughly out of place here, and I never enjoy message board discussions anywhere.

        You and the others may hear from me again. But I hope not.
        In reply to #123 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #122 by Pascendi:

        I won’t be a theologian because I don’t want to be one. I want my prose to be absolutely clear to anyone who can understand it.

        I congratulate you on this ambition. This site promotes clear thinking.

        I don’t want to write with the ambiguity you find in books by Mode…

        • In reply to #124 by Pascendi:

          A friend of mine, an analytic philosopher at Baylor University, says that I write with “analytic clarity,”

          What is an “analytic philosopher”? How is it different than a regular philosopher?

        • In reply to #124 by Pascendi:

          Thank God I went to graduate school in a philosophy department where most professors were against postmodernism.

          Probably for the wrong reasons, I’m willing to bet.

          I’m an analytic Thomist who pays language anal-retentive attention partly because my professors taught me to reason the way analytic philosophers do.

          Yes, you do seem to lack natural flair.

          A friend of mine, an analytic philosopher at Baylor University, says that I write with “analytic clarity,” and I know a mathematician who thinks I’d be a brilliant one.

          You might very well be. All it really takes is hard work and dedication, but I think it will be left to others to apply anything you do to the real world.

  55. In the faith vs. logic discussion someone mentioned that logic prevails when you break logic into the component cognitive tools that we use (induction, deduction, reduction and so on). We might be able to use a reductive method to address this as well:

    We have very specific mores that serve towards the retention and advancement of civilization, such as the ethic of reciprocity, protection of the meek from harm, care for the invalid, and so on, many of which are clearly present in other species, or are clearly present in long lasting, expansive empires.

    Perhaps if we could address specific mores and determine whether or not they are universal or relative, and then whether or not unconditional obedience to them actually serves civilization or not. For example: Honor Thy Parents does not serve when (as is frequently the case) the parents do not have the children’s best interests at heart. Abusive parents need to be escaped from, not honored. The right to property (Do not steal) only extends as far as another’s right to necessity (a dying man who cannot afford his medication justified in stealing it to live.)

    Are there any mores which are non-instinctive, divinely revealed and unnuanced so that they always serve to be right no matter the circumstances?

    I’ll admit I’ve not taken this approach before, so the properties that contrast a universal more from a relative more may not be the ones I’m specifying. But regardless, I’d suspect there are no specific mores that can be determined to be universal.

  56. You are not out of place here from my perspective. I have enjoyed our discourse and look forward to the likelihood (albeit small) that you will vist us again in the future.

    You are smart and you seek the truth. You fit here just fine.

    In reply to #130 by Pascendi:

    Crookedshoes, thank you for your kind thoughts. I’m still very sorry about what happened to you, and I’m thankful for your empathy.

    You’re right: What happens to us does affect the way we see the world. I don’t know anyone who is or can be sure that he always sees things as they are. Unfortunate…

  57. The reality is there is no counter argument that wins against someone who has formulated their conceptualization of a concept based on faith, especially when it is faith in the belief of a supernatural being, entity, or event, because, no matter what you say, no matter how strong your argument, they will counter with they have a belied based on their faith which overrides any factual evidence. That is why it is always the believer stating their belief, that everyone else needs to believe, with the conviction that all else need to explain why they are right because the belief trumps all – and why, because God said, or the Bible says, or their pastor said, etc..

    • In reply to #134 by TheHardonCollider:

      Sam Harris speaks pretty convincingly of an objective morality without god.

      As I said in my comment a while ago for me the question of an objective morality comes down to how you breach that is ought divide. What principle(s) do you have that you either take as a given (or claim is intuitively obvious, or deductively true, etc.) that form the basis of all your subsequent moral (ought) statements. For religious people that foundation is God for Harris its the idea of maximizing human well being.

      Although I have never been convinced by Harris’s defense of how he gets to well being. He essentially says “its intuitively obvious and its what most rational people would agree to”. If you want to be scientific about the question that doesn’t seem to me to be very convincing at all. There are all kinds of common sense notions and things that appear intuitively true that turn out not to be once we start understanding the science.

  58. In reply to Pascendi #124

    Bill, naturally I endorse your (inevitable) decision. As I have only just said, science would be corrosive to your novel use of words.

    An important facet of your twilight zone philosophy is the way you use your words. As an analytic theologian your natural language appears stained-glass/crystal clear to me.

    I’m not too good with words Bill but Verbigeration (I conclude professionally) seems the most appropriate word to accurately describe yours. The patient, knowledgeable, eloquent atheists who have so successfully parsed your hebephrenic theology, are all analytic theologians too. They just haven’t bothered to formalize their skills in expert analysis of theology like I’ve done, with all the trappings…ordained, bespooked, purified, divinely simplified, Doctor of Divinity (Analysis Dept). No real need for them to really.

  59. In reply to #130 by Pascendi:

    Crookedshoes, thank you for your kind thoughts. I’m still very sorry about what happened to you, and I’m thankful for your empathy.

    You’re right: What happens to us does affect the way we see the world. I don’t know anyone who is or can be sure that he always sees things as they are. Unfortunate…

    Hi Bill. I’d like to endorse the sentiments expressed by crookedshoes #131. You are obviously a sensitive soul ( a compliment to my mind) and this is a really tough site. I think that, and I’m on the same side as 99% of the users!I think it takes a lot of courage to be at odds with the majority opinion.

    My brother-in-law is a barrister (ie lawyer) and like you, a committed catholic. We enjoy spirited debates about religion and both like the verbal cut and thrust of expressing our views and scoring the odd point. Your views have stimulated much discussion. I think the thread would have died out after 30 comments or so without your input.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is , don’t get dispirited, and don’t think that you have no place here.

  60. In reply to #135 by Red Dog:

    Although I have never been convinced by Harris’s defense of how he gets to well being. He essentially says “its intuitively obvious and its what most rational people would agree to”. If you want to be scientific about the question that doesn’t seem to me to be very convincing at all. There are all kinds of common sense notions and things that appear intuitively true that turn out not to be once we start understanding the science.

    I agree. I think Harris was going for some kind of all-encompassing humanistic value when he proposed “well-being”, but then it peters out before he really develops it in any way. Since then, I’ve wondered if he was going for sentient experiences, which can be obviously painful and obviously pleasant or some combination of the two, but it doesn’t come across clearly, if at all, in The Moral Landscape if that was the case, though I think he did briefly mention something resembling ethical hedonism.

    Also, I think the “is-ought” problem can simply be collapsed into the distinction between “good, bad, and neutral” or “moral, immoral, and amoral”, on the grounds that an “ought” is basically a hypothetical alternative world or future that is regarded as better in some way than its alternatives (e.g. we ought to be truthful because a world in which people told the truth would be better than one in which they didn’t). The notions of good, bad, etc. could then be tied in to the issue of sentient experiences past, present, and future, or “well-being”, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

  61. In reply to #139 by Pascendi:

    I’m very grateful for the empathy from you and from crookedshoes.

    Many here have a great deal of empathy for their fellow human beings. That is in the nature of humanism. It is the damaging dogmas and closed minded promotion of confused thinking which is regularly attacked because of its deleterious effects on people and communities.

    Frankly, were I prone to stereotyping other people, that empathy would have astounded me at a site full of Dawkins fans.

    There are some “Dawkins fans”, here, but most active atheists are free thinkers who come to their own conclusions. It is a common reverse projection and misconception of theists, to think that atheists follow some sort of dogma.

    But of all the atheists I’ve met online, the ones most hostile to Catholicism have been nonscientists who believed scientism.

    “Scientism is a Catholic invented mental contortion attempting to give credibility the the Vatican I, anti-science – anti-reason, position that “faith” over-rides scientific evidence and logical reasoning. It is a pretence that there are areas where scientific methods of investigation and reasoning cannot be applied or used to criticise unevidenced or dubious claims.
    I pointed this out earlier @98 on a link to another discussion. http://www.richarddawkins.net/discussions/5222#comment-box-17
    Vatican I is the cause of many theological confused and fallacious thinking processes, not to mention the hundreds of years it took them to catch up with Gallileo as a result of earlier versions of that thinking. They are still trying to fudge an acceptance of evolution, with a pseudo-science “theistic version”.

    have been nonscientists who believed scientism.

    It has been my experience in discussions, that it was qualified scientists who were accused of “Scientism” by people with negligible knowledge of science but exercising theist agendas, where science has debunked their views. If Catholicism disputes science or makes unevidenced assertions, scientists will demolish their mistaken notions.

    In science and engineering, examples of “faith thinking” over-riding science, are usually explained in accident investigation reports.

  62. I think it may be important to note that in the course of discussion, we may all disagree at one point or another. This site is chock filled with examples of atheists and other non religious tearing into each other over points, whether they agree on the basics of non belief or not. Some may just enjoy debating, some may honestly not understand the other viewpoint and some may simply not be articluating their point well enough to be fully understood.

    I’ve argued with people here whose views I completely respect over things I thought they got wrong and people have done the same to me. Sometimes those sorts of knock down, drag out verbal fights are what it takes to get to the heart of the matter. So when an entirely alternate view comes in any everything is taken personally (and it can be taken personally given the personal nature of many beliefs) it can be difficult to distinguish what is the breaking down of why an idea is wrong and what people see as a personal attack.

    I certainly don’t go out of my way to attack people, but I do doggedly break down ideas that I think are without merit and are dangerous, as many here do. It takes a tough skinned crew to navigate this place with any regularity and being on opposite ends of viewpoints don’t automatically make people enemies.

    Just something I thought I’d say considering the direction of the comments of late. It certainly has been a spirited debate.

  63. It is a common reverse projection and misconception of theists, to think that atheists follow some sort of dogma.

    I used to believe that was true until I came to this site. IMO there are lots of people who comment regularly here who are dogmatic in the same way theists are. They directly say or imply the following things (these are all real examples from conversations I’ve had here) “religion is a mental illness”, “its a good thing to destroy or desecrate books if they are free religious books left in public places”, “religion is the source of all evil”, “nothing good ever came from religion”, “all theists are evil”, “all theists are stupid”

    Not to mention if I start debating people on such statements I’m usually the one that gets dinged for being “off topic” but any fool can make a stupid joke about religion on any topic. Its a given that any article about finding a new planet will include suggestions to send all the theists there. There was a person recently who essentially mocked an 11 year old rape victim because she was a Muslim “what did she expect its what Mohommad did” was the gist of the comment and to my knowledge that offensive disgusting comment is still there even after I flagged it.

    So sorry, there are dogmatic atheists and a lot of them live right here.

    • In reply to #143 by Red Dog:

      It is a common reverse projection and misconception of theists, to think that atheists follow some sort of dogma.

      I used to believe that was true until I came to this site. IMO there are lots of people who comment regularly here who are dogmatic in the same way theists are.

      I agree there are some such atheists.

      So sorry, there are dogmatic atheists and a lot of them live right here.

      …But the point of my comment was that the theist misconception is that atheists have some common “agreed atheist dogma”, in the same way religious groups have doctrines – and that is simply wrong.

    • In reply to #143 by Red Dog:

      …Its a given that any article about finding a new planet will include suggestions to send all the theists there. There was a person recently who essentially mocked an 11 year old rape victim because she was a Muslim “what did she expect its what Mohommad did”…

      There is a phenomenon here that proves similar to what I’ve encountered in the gay rights community. Much as gays are commonly regarded as intrinsically rapists and child molesters, atheists are accused of having no moral foundation ergo prone to violence and sexual perversion.

      (They might have a point regarding sexual perversion, simply because we don’t recognize cause to not engage in kink when between consenting adults, but chastity is a virtue particular to the biblical narrative.)

      But the that these presumptions are not statistically true does not make atheists (or gays) morally superior either. There are antisocial or even criminal atheists just as there are antisocial or criminal Christians, and so it is with most cultures and subcultures. People in the mainstream have no advantage in this regard, but no disadvantage either, when contrasted to people on the fringe.

      We are all savage beasts with better angels, and it’s up to us which will govern us at any given time.

    • The first flaw in the OP is that it assumes a god is necessarily linked with absolute morality, such that atheism immediately implies non-absolute morality. In fact, the two are unrelated, and the burden is on the believer to justify roping the two together at all. So premise one is moonshine.

      The second flaw is that it’s not obvious a “relative” morality is automatically non-absolute. Absolute morality is morality that admits of no exceptions, so for instance an absolute anti-killing rule states that it is always immoral to kill, regardless of circumstances. Relative morality is practically any alternative that allows for exceptions, such as deeming killing acceptable for self-defence or in cases of euthanasia. However, a relative morality on the face of it could be based on absolute yet complicated principles, possibly arranged hierarchically or based on specific non-negotiable conditions, such as that norms can be suspended in life-or-death situations. This means premise two is questionable. Also, “relative” morality can still be lawful, which brings me to the the next point.

      Lastly, the third flaw is that it confuses “absolute and relative” with “lawful and arbitrary”. However, an absolute law can still be utterly arbitrary. “Never eat pork”, for instance, is absolute because it admits of no exceptions, but there’s hardly any point asking about the reasons behind it because it is utterly arbitrary to single out pork in this way. Conversely, the relative “killing is acceptable under certain conditions” position can be based on a lawful principle (for instance, that the cost of taking a life is offset by the need to protect oneself and possibly others too). The main reason for the confusion is probably because of the more extreme relativistic positions that treat exceptions as evidence of arbitrariness. So premise three is also moonshine.

      In reply to #143 by Red Dog:

      It is a common reverse projection and misconception of theists, to think that atheists follow some sort of dogma.

      I used to believe that was true until I came to this site. IMO there are lots of people who comment regularly here who are dogmatic in the same way theists are. They directly say or imp…

      Technically, that behaviour is anti-theistic or anti-religious, not atheistic. Not all atheists are against god belief or religion, and not all anti-theists or anti-religionists are atheists. This confusion – despite being easily clarified – is one of the biggest reasons “atheism” gets unnecessary flak.

      • In reply to #150 by Zeuglodon:

        Relative morality is practically any alternative that allows for exceptions, such as deeming killing acceptable for self-defence or in cases of euthanasia.

        No, that’s consequentialism. Moral relativism is: it’s OK for me to kill you, but it would be wrong for you to kill me. We have “cultural differences”.

        • In reply to #151 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #150 by Zeuglodon:

          Relative morality is practically any alternative that allows for exceptions, such as deeming killing acceptable for self-defence or in cases of euthanasia.

          No, that’s consequentialism. Moral relativism is: it’s OK for me to kill you, but it would be wrong for you to kill me. We have “cultural differences”.

          OK, I just checked it on Wiki. It depends on which kind of relativism we’re talking about, but I’ll admit I confused consequentialism with relativism, so mea culpa there. The details are below:

          Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral; meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong; and normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.

          Not all descriptive relativists adopt meta-ethical relativism, and moreover, not all meta-ethical relativists adopt normative relativism. Richard Rorty, for example, argued that relativist philosophers believe “that the grounds for choosing between such opinions is less algorithmic than had been thought”, but not that any belief is equally as valid as any other.[1]

          I’ll amend paragraphs 2 and 3 to the following flaws:

          1. False Dichotomy: Absolutism and relativism aren’t the only two positions in ethics. Particularism, Nihilism, Universalism, Consequentialism, Egoism, Virtue Ethics, Realism, etc. are available alternatives. Therefore, two is moonshine.

          2. The general if unstated assumption that Absolutism is the only “good” moral stance, and all others are “bad”, such that this argument needs rebutting. Just because a rule does not admit of exceptions, does not make it a good rule. See pork example previously.

          I guess I garbled it in my memory at some point. I’m sure I read somewhere about that relativism description I previously used, but now I think I misremembered it.

          I won’t deny that’s most of Post 150 now in the bin, but at least this new one should now be an improvement. I owe you that much, at least.

  64. In reply to Pascendi #138, “you seem to tell me that I write crystal clear prose.”

    No Bill.

    The way you assemble those words you choose to use, a language of sorts, is recognizable to an analytic theologian.

    I’ve genuinely enjoyed following your derailed thoughts. I couldn’t have deconstructed them as well as others here have done however. In any case you’re a fine, intelligent, inquisitive and respectful person from what I can see. Just well beyond your depth.

    I’ve learned that our perceptions are constructive, being built upon our prior experiences and current expectations. They vary too, episodically and among people. Your special use of words, their profusion, so much of what you’ve provided suggested verbigeration from the top of my head. No insult or deeper insinuation was intended from my attempted precision to describe your use of words.

    Perception is a fascinating faculty.

  65. Morality is a subjective description that humans use to define the boundaries of acceptable behaviour within their peer group. As such, absolute morality is a null concept that does not exist outside of one’s own perspective and can be compared to the quest for perfection.
    I would challenge those theists who claim god is required for absolute morality by getting them to demonstrate the morality behind the atrocities that are regularly committed in the name of their gods. If god exists and as such, absolute morality exists, then we should be a peaceful society that has no need for human laws.

  66. As an atheist I do not believe there is an absolute morality. There is no God, no law giver. Morality developed in all of us as we lived in communities and learned that cooperation usually promotes the benefits of all. Of course evil things happen. Evil does not exist as an anti-god type devil. It is a behaviour where individuals see an advantage for themselves.

    • In reply to #147 by AlanCarter1859:

      As an atheist I do not believe there is an absolute morality. There is no God, no law giver. Morality developed in all of us as we lived in communities and learned that cooperation usually promotes the benefits of all. Of course evil things happen. Evil does not exist as an anti-god type devil. It i…

      Could I add, advantage to themselves at the expense of others?

  67. I was watching a special on the History Channel titled ‘The Brain’ about a month ago. One of the segments claimed that recent research identified a portion of the brain that controlled empathy. Apparently, this portion the brain is absent in about 1% of the population (sociopaths). In anycase, it shouldn’t be to hard to see hom empathy could have been selected for. People with empathy should have a leg up in the romance department, for one thing.

    If this is true about the brain, then a large portion of our morality has been shaped by biological evolution. Though I believe culture shapes morality as well, of course.

    Thinking it through, if this empathy is a normal sub-conscious reaction that is shared by 99% of the population I can kind of see how people would come to the conclusion that there is some external guide to ‘morality’, or ‘absolute’ morality.

    • In reply to #153 by The Jersey Devil:

      If this is true about the brain, then a large portion of our morality has been shaped by biological evolution. Though I believe culture shapes morality as well, of course.

      I’d argue that culture is a part of evolution as Homo Sapiens has had a major impact not only in our own genepool, but also in the development of other species. Hunting, destruction of habitat, medicinal advances….etc etc.

  68. The two-part article from (http://www.TheRealPresence.org) describes a miracle(?) that happened hundreds of years ago at a Mass in Lanciano, Italy. The host changed into bloody tissue from a human heart, and you can still see that tissue in a church there. The article includes photos of the transubstantiated host and results of lab tests.

    OK, among the many things wrong here (aside from the fantastical claims from hundreds of years ago) define photos of the transubstantiated host.If they are not photos of the supposed event (and claims of miracles are all sorts of common in catholicism) then pictures of part of a human heart aside from being a bit morbid does nothing to substantiate a claim. It only further indicates one has been made.

    The two part article, regardless of the lab tests and such only establishes that there’s human bits at this church. Have they established the age of said bits? Have they identified the former owner? Is there evidence the human bits were once something else, or are we relying on the claims of the faithful? Any scientist that would be there to merely examine the fantastic claim this article is posing would not be doing their job as a scientist. Every possibility would have to be examined and in order for any remote credibility here the conclusion would have to be that the most plausible explanation for bits of a human being in a church is that it was once a bit of something else.

    To quote (paraphrase really) Christopher Hitchens: “What is more likely, that the laws of physics have been suspended in your favor, or that you have made a mistake?”

    Please give a list of things you think would make a credible scientist accept your view of this event as being not only credible, but even remotely likely. Because I can think of none.

  69. Also, this bit:

    The dogma about transubstantiation says that when the priest consecrates bread and wine, Christ’s essence replaces their essences, though the accidents stay after the new essence comes. A consecrated host still looks like bread, still tastes like it, etc. The consecrated contents of the chalice still looks, tastes, smells and feels like wine. It can even make you tipsy, too. But the essence of wine has vanished.

    Aside from the absolute lack of sense that makes (I could just as simply persists in claims that an elf that no one else can see on my head makes it rain and my beliefs in his magic sustains his actions and have it just as credible as this) It seems fairly contradictory to what is being described in these ‘miracles’.

    To start, since nothing physically discernible is happening that is in any way different than people eating bread and wine, please explain the reason for the events in question if the idea itself is that it happens in such a way that no one visibly notices (which obviously relies on faith). I don’t recall such a transformation of the flesh in the story of the last supper (and subsequent cannibalism) and many tend to see that as a metaphor as opposed to literal.

    EDIT: Went through the important bits of the link and subsequent Wiki page. The last test was supposedly done was in ’81 and the 2 most dodgy (and vital) bit are the claims that it’s a match for the Shroud of Turin (which already rings a million bells) and that the bits of organ are pretty much unchanged from the time of it’s discovery in 700. Also, this earth shattering conclusion was drawn by catholic officials and a couple scientists and apparently not peer reviewed and tested outside the most recent findings in the 80’s (which were themselves not peer reviewed and corroborated).

    So, unaging human tissue wouldn’t be an earth shattering revelation for the world to be made aware of? It just happens to be sitting with the RCC and no one has examined it since or corroborated the findings?

    This is seeming less miraculous and more disturbing all the time.

    EDIT: Actually the implication is even worse if Christ as part of the Trinity is also supposed to be Omni everything, he would technically be everything and everywhere anyway and this whole idea seems less plausible even in doctrine. Why would something that is already ever present need to change other than the subtle way that he’s already supposed to be as previously described? Seems more and more like a grab at fooling believers than a ‘miracle’.

  70. Sorry Mods, I wouldn’t be sidetracking the thread this much if not for these claims. I realize this is not directly related to the OP but seems more rooted in trying to establish credibility for the existence of God, lacking a philosophical recourse.

  71. In reply to #155 by Pascendi:

    First, in Thomistic jargon, “substance” means “essence,” and an essence is incorporeal.

    Substances are not “incorporeal” (whatever that is supposed to mean), they are material atoms and energy. This is just playing with shifting meanings of words and assertions.

    A property is essential when something would stop existing if forfeited it. Water consists of H20. So if you remove one or more atoms from a water molecule, you’ll destroy it.

    Actually you simply dismantle it.
    The atomic and molecular content of biscuits is well known to science. Atoms are not removed or added by incantations.

    Those atoms may re-bond to rebuild that molecule or to make another one with the same atoms. But necessarily, every H20 molecule is a water molecule. Only H20 is water, and only water is H2O. That’s why you contradict yourself when you deny that water consists of it

    The identification of atoms and molecules is VERY basic chemistry. Chemical bonds are unaffected by mystical claims.

    Thomas’s word for “property,” “quality” or “attribute” is “accident,” and an accident is an attribute that someone or something might or might not have. Accidents include feeling-like-bread, smelling-like-bread, looking-like-bread, being-green, being-an-inch-thick . . .

    Heaps of words have absolutely no effect on the underlying physics of the universe. They are only notions in minds. – Confusing ones, in the absence of unambiguous clear definitions.

    What do all breads have in common? Being-bread. They have the property or properties that cause them to be bread rather than, say, ping pong balls.

    This is just labelling by people.

    Wheat-less bread is still bread. A loaf of bread may or may not have any rye in it. If you take the crust off your slice of white Wonder Bread, you’ll have a crustless piece of bread. Bread’s crunchiness, its sweetness, its dimensions, its calorie-count and so forth are accidents.

    Not really! They are the results of the recipe and the cooking process. Commercial bakeries go to a great deal of trouble to regulate processes and turn out standard products.

    They’re inessential properties. Containing-rye may be an essential property that rye bread has. But it’s not a property that bread, as such, has.

    This is just playing with words used for labelling.

    The dogma about transubstantiation says that when the priest consecrates bread and wine, Christ’s essence replaces their essences, though the accidents stay after the new essence comes.

    It is well known, but there is no evidence whatever that such “immaterial essence” actually exists. The physical and chemical properties of bread are easily identifiable and no traces of the supernatural mythical “essences” have ever been found. They are just stories believed by those who uncritically believe what they are told by priests.

    A consecrated host still looks like bread, still tastes like it, etc. The consecrated contents of the chalice still looks, tastes, smells and feels like wine. It can even make you tipsy, too. But the essence of wine has vanished.

    That is not what chemical analysis says no matter how many times the tests are repeated.

    Here’s an analogy. Say you’ve invented what you call the Presto Change-oh machine. On the left end of the conveyor belt, you put a stick of butter. Then, molecule by molecule, the machine changes it into a stick of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. The resulting margarine looks, smells, tastes, and feels like butter, it still contains nutrients you find in butter, but it’s not butter. Why not? Because the substance of margarine, the essence of it, replaced the essence of butter. Since it did that, the stick of butter no longer exists. The machine destroyed it.

    Analogies make interesting stories – but this is pure fiction. Analogies can explain ideas (right or wrong) , but they prove nothing.

    Science has equipment to analyse energies, atomic and sub atomic particles. There are no “mystical essences” in these which act at the level of chemical reactions between atoms and molecules. These are just fairy stories of the historical “god-of-gaps” type, which are indoctrinated into Catholics from an early age, and which are added to the long list of theist claims now debunked by science.

    • In reply to #152 by Zeuglodon:

      OK, I just checked it on Wiki. It depends on which kind of relativism we’re talking about, but I’ll admit I confused consequentialism with relativism, so mea culpa there.

      Thank you, your attitude is scientific and extremely refreshing!

      I guess I garbled it in my memory at some point. I’m sure I read somewhere about that relativism description I previously used, but now I think I misremembered it.

      I’m guessing you understand Einstein’s relativity and naturally assumed that this philosophy was logically entailed by it, instead of being a complete misunderstanding of it. People generally, and philosophers in particular, are often a lot stupider than one would imagine.

      In reply to #162 by Alan4discussion:

      In reply to #155 by Pascendi:

      First, in Thomistic jargon, “substance” means “essence,” and an essence is incorporeal.

      Substances are not “incorporeal” (whatever that is supposed to mean), they are material atoms and energy. This is just playing with words and assertions.

      Yeah, bloody essentialism again! Conflating ideas in the mind with the real objects they represent leads the unavoidable conclusion the the only thing which really exists is thought itself. Obvious rubbish.

  72. Maybe someone needs to date the blood and the heart tissue because if they’re much younger than the article says they are, the people at the church should be honest enough to admit.

    Agreed, the whole issue of miraculous claims in general is the lack of verification to said claims. If the items regardless of what they are have not been thoroughly and repeatedly tested any results would be suspect.

    Sure, it’s statistically unlikely that eighth-century sample of both blood and heart tissue have survived for centuries. But paleontologists have found soft tissue in dinosaur bones that are much older than the church’s potentially miraculous relic. (http://www.ncsu.edu/news/pressreleases/0503/075.htm). Besides, maybe the church keeps eighth-century handwritten eyewitness accounts of the miracle(?).

    Which is why you would need to be completely certain that the sample is exactly what it claims to be before running off and claiming a miracle. The sort of closed door testing typical of these claims cannot possibly cut it. No scientist worth his salt would be taken seriously if his stuff was only backed by religious sources and based entirely on test results that weren’t peer reviewed. If indeed there was a grain of truth to the claims, why would the church keep all the ‘evidence’ under lock and key and not let them be completely verified so that there was no doubt? Because it’s designed for the believer to accept, not the skeptic.

    Also, exactly how reliable would 8th century eye witness accounts be? We don’t arbitrarily accept such accounts when say, Joseph Smith claims to have chatted with an angel and translated a golden tablet. This is why verifiable and repeated testing outside of the church is vital to assert any truth or falsehood to any such claims.

    As for soft tissue found in dinosaurs I imagine the circumstances under which they’re found have quite a bit to do with that. But of course, if it could be found then it ceases to be miraculous and just becomes mildly unique. In any case no faith claims are being made of dinosaur bones.

  73. God said in the Holy Quran:
    “In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

    1. Say, “He is God, the One.

    2. God, the Absolute.

    3. He begets not, nor was He begotten.

    4. And there is nothing comparable to Him.””

    • In reply to #165 by AhmadJamil:

      God said in the Holy Quran:
      “In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

      Say, “He is God, the One.
      God, the Absolute.
      He begets not, nor was He begotten.
      And there is nothing comparable to Him.””

      And this demonstrates what exactly? That one of millions of deities (or rather their followers) claims both superiority and impossible qualities of itself?

      This for future reference constitutes preaching. don’t be surprised if it gets deleted. Make a case for your position, don’t proselytize.

  74. In reply to #167 by Pascendi:

    Acromat, what do you mean by “completely sure” when you tell us that we need to be completely sure that a sample is what we think it is? What do we need to do to get complete certainty, use induction? No, because inductive arguments are always inconclusive when they support their conclusions. You can’t even use inductive arguments to show that induction is reliable, because those arguments would beg the question. Scientists assume that induction is reliable. They don’t do tests to prove its reliability. They’ll think they know its reliable because it’s a great tool to predict with. But even if you find a billion unique white swans, a nonwhite one would show that not all swans are white.

    Very simple. In this case it would be certainty that:

    -The bit of human heart is in fact as old as it is claimed

    -The properties being associated with it (lack of traditional aging) are in fact present and unexplainable

    -That in order for any transubstantive claim to have merit that it was demonstrably transformed from one thing to another.

    And to go from any of this to the human bits belonging to a mythical Jesus would be impossible to establish.

    And even if your conclusions regarding induction are accurate, how exactly does that make their miracle claims any less false?

    Eyewitness can be unreliable. So maybe it was unreliable if eighth-century eyewitnesses may have written about the supposed miracle if they watched it happen. Five-hundred years from now, scientists may say that about the eyewitness testimony that 21st-century scientists wrote while they experimented. And today’s scientists may test something that won’t exist 500 years from now. if it won’t exist then, 26th-century scientists will be unable to repeat the tests that today’s scientists do on it.

    Scientist don’t rely solely on eyewitness testimony. Future scientist would have the advantage of all the technologies of this era to draw upon as well as all the research and other pertinent information regarding what they’re looking for. So your comparison fails on many levels.

    The methods of recording and sharing information were far more limited in the time this event was said to take place than we have now. So a scientist hundreds of years in the future would not have all the obstacles that we do uncovering information from our time as we do from 700 AD comparatively speaking. Nothing about this comparison holds up.

  75. In reply to #169 by Pascendi:

    Alan, in post 162, you imply that a substance is a material thing. In one sense of the word “substance,” you’re right. But I’ve already told you that St. Thomas means “essence” when he says “substance.”

    Substances are proved to be matter or energy. That can be proved.
    If someone claims there is some “essence” in addition, the onus is on them to prove it. Energy/matter can neither be created nor destroyed according to the laws of thermodynamics.
    There is simply no evidence whatever of some additional “essence”, regardless of who makes such claims, or who chooses to believe them. It simply illustrates their lack of understanding of the science.

    You’re hardly proving him wrong when you change the senses of his words while you criticize his beliefs.

    Swapping words around is not proof of anything. He makes no case for me to refute. It is simply an assertion without evidence or substance, couched in semantic shuffling, which contradicts well established and well proven scientific laws. It is an abstract notion with no connection to the material world.

    For example, you seem to assume that even in the context of our discussion is something that happens unintentionally. You have an accident when your car skids into a guardrail during a snowstorm. The trouble is that we’re talking about another kind of accident, an accident that’s a property rather than an event.

    @155 – Thomas’s word for “property,” “quality” or “attribute” is “accident,” and an accident is an attribute that someone or something might or might not have.

    This is just inventing ambiguities and confusion by making-up strange non-dictionary interpretations of words. Properties are features of material objects.

    Sure, bakeries try hard to to be consistent when they bake their products. Chefs try to be consistent, too. The chef at the Italian restaurant near my house wants his sauce to taste the same each time he makes it. Customers expect it to do that. But that consistency and the nature of sauce are different from each other. Sauce may be a human invention.

    That is the point you missed in my earlier comment. The nature of a particular bread is determined by the strain of cereal(s) used, the nature of the season in the locality in which the crop was grown, the analysis of the % of protein, carbohydrate etc, in the grain, the milling process, the inclusion or subtraction of parts of the grain (eg bran), any additions to the flour, the mixing process, the moisture content and the cooking process. Certain recipes are defined by people as “bread”, others as cake etc. There is no “essence of bread”. There is just the human classification of properties to which the name “bread” is attached.

    Water, say, is a natural chemical, not a human invention. Something is water if and only if it’s H20. Water already consisted of H2O, even before people lived on earth. essence.

    Water is water because of its chemical atomic structure and its physical state at its present temperature and pressure. It is nothing to do with “magic essences”. The scientific details are very specific and well known to those educated in science.

    Tell me, can bread still be rye bread when there’s no rye in it?

    This is simply a pointless self contradiction?

    An incorporeal thing is something that has no body.

    That is something which cannot exist independently of matter or energy.

    A mathematical set is incorporeal.

    But without being a set of material objects, or a simulation of material objects in some material mechanism, it does not exist. Without a physical brain, it does not even exist in the imagination.

    You can’t touch it, taste it, hold it feel it, hear it, smell it, etc.

    That is because detection by touch, sensation, and smell require the sensing of material atoms and molecules. (A set of cheeses can easily be detected by smell)

    Sound energy requires material atoms to transmit waves and physical ears to be heard.

    Non-existent things are not detectable. They have no molecules and give off or absorb, no energy.

  76. In reply to #171 by Pascendi:

    Achromat, I didn’t ask you whether you were completely certain that something was, say, a bit of heart tissue. I asked you what you meant by “complete certainty.” You’ve just made the kind of mistake that many of Socrates’s friends make in the Early Socratic Dialogues. Socrates asks General Laches what bravery is. So he replies that a soldier is brave when he fights the enemy. Socrates answers him with something like this, “Laches, my dear friend, you’re right: Brave soldiers do fight the enemy. But I didn’t ask you for an example of something that a brave person would do. I asked you what bravery consists of. Please try again.”

    No.

    I’ve been very kind with my time trying to explain why that miracle could not even have a whiff of reality about it, and rather than address the overwhelming evidence you would need for any of the claims to even be close to true we’re playing semantics? That’s where we’re going?

    Completely certain. In this case beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt (and in this case there would be many) that the only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence is that a 1st century figure we don’t even know ever lived not only changed bread to his own heart (hundreds of years after his own death, no less) but that the heart itself is his beyond any doubt and that it apparently never ages.

    Do I honestly have to make that clear, as that has been the position I’ve been speaking from the whole time? And do you understand how impossible to prove that position is?

  77. Pascendi I’m pretty certain I don’t know what you’re getting at, but maybe I can help.

    In this era, we’ve gotten pretty far down to the substance of things. If transubstantiation occurred at the atomic level, we could detect it. If it occurred at the chemical level, we could detect it easily with contemporary technologies. And…

    We have established that differences between things is indicated by detectable, material change. The difference between a hydrogen and oxygen mix, and water is a substantial amount of energy, and as the Hindenburg disaster demonstrated, h2 and o2 really want to become water if they have the option (requiring only a spark to set off a spectacular chain reaction). The energy is released in an exothermic reaction, and is quantified by the bond energy of HO-H. These are very familiar processes.

    I would assert that a Transubstantiated biscuit would have detectable material differences than an untransubstantiated one, if it is a real thing. Otherwise, it is no less ephemeral than a pencil transformed into a rocketship by a bored game of let’s pretend.

    Getting back to the original topic, though, even if we successfully established transubstantiation as a thing (a detectable change) we we would still have a long way to go to demonstrate that such a change is necessarily related to the body of Christ (as opposed to, say, a reaction to whatever perfumed holy water with which the biscuits were anointed), and even then, we would have yet another long journey ahead of us to demonstrate that biblical god is a valid source of absolute morality. (One, I might add that runs contrary to contemporary notions of right and wrong, and that runs contrary to observations that guide our modern notions of government, such as the endorsement of feudalism and the divine right of kings.)

    I would submit also that our world is bettered by the presumption that there is no such absolute source: the Geneva convention chapters on the treatment of POWs and refugees provides a far more humane charter on how people should treat one another than any revealed religion, or any moral system at all based on unquestioned authority (such as Confucius’ laws). In absence of a clear source, and an obvious need, civilization has already gone far to derive and develop a code.

  78. In reply to #174 by Pascendi:

    It assumes metaphysical naturalism when God may have done a Eucharistic miracle partly because He wanted to disprove that naturalism.

    Pascendi, is it your opinion that a single 8th-century miracle, for which there is no evidence except for written witness accounts, should be sufficient to convince those of us that are skeptical?

    It would follow, then Perseus, born of Zeus (who rained down golden sunlight… showers… something) impregnated the imprisoned Danaë with the hero Perseus who, in turn would, as a favor to Polydectes, slay the gorgon Medusa (avoiding her petrifying gaze) the dripping blood of whom would bring about the winged horse Pegasus, who Mohammad would later ride to heaven and split the moon.

    All these events are verified by written witness accounts. Are you saying they are all true? How is one more valid than the others?

    If not, perhaps skepticism has a place in our philosophy after all.

    My point (in my last post) was that we can debate miracles all we want, but they’re not going to bring us much closer to resolving the absolute morality issue.

  79. One “good counter argument” might be the following: To tell one member of our species they are without morals until they subscribe to ancient pseudophilosophy, is disgraceful.
    The notion of God has no supporting evidence. The 200,000 year history of our species shows we did fine at being successful Earthly animals, then 2000 years ago, our larger minds were informed by desert-dwelling goat herders from Shitsville-Palestine, there MUST be an answer to everything. And we DROPPED all memory of the prior 198,000 years of story telling regarding morality and decency.

    Dawkins chaired a Harris talk entitled “Who says science has nothing to say about morality”. The notion of morality is the focus of several scientific fields. Why not start with Harris and neuroscience?

    As for something being a ‘stance’ equating to it not existing, that’d be one bizarre element the OP’s 3rd question asks us to think upon.

  80. At least one science subject should be mandatory as part of a degree in philosophy, in my opinion. It wouldn’t really matter what branch of science was studied, any field would equip the young philosopher with the tools in assessing evidence and coming to valid conclusions. In real life, as opposed to Internet life, I have debates with philosophers fairly regularly. I doubt whether they would concede that I win any points because they don’t feel the need for any proof in a physical sense. They seem to think its okay to just say stuff. I’m usually left tearing my hair out in frustration.

    • In reply to #177 by Nitya:

      At least one science subject should be mandatory as part of a degree in philosophy, in my opinion. It wouldn’t really matter what branch of science was studied, any field would equip the young philosopher with the tools in assessing evidence and coming to valid conclusions.

      Historically, Natural Philosophy was science, before modern science was defined in the 1800s.

      Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature (from Latin philosophia naturalis) was the philosophical study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science. It is considered to be the precursor of natural sciences such as physics.

      Natural science historically developed out of philosophy or, more specifically, natural philosophy. At older universities, long-established Chairs of Natural Philosophy are nowadays occupied mainly by physics professors. Modern meanings of the terms science and scientists date only to the 19th century. The naturalist-theologian William Whewell was the one who coined the term “scientist”. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the origin of the word to 1834.

      The problem with many modern philosophy courses, is that now that the science, mathematics and logical reasoning, have been hived off as separate subjects, that has left many courses with the muddled rump-end of antiquated thinking, theology, and postmodernism etc.

      In real life, as opposed to Internet life, I have debates with philosophers fairly regularly. I doubt whether they would concede that I win any points because they don’t feel the need for any proof in a physical sense. They seem to think its okay to just say stuff. I’m usually left tearing my hair out in frustration.

      There is in some, a general failing to connect “castles in the air” with material reality. Some take a delusional wilful delight in pretending no such connection is necessary – often claiming shuffled shifting semantics can lead to material conclusions without reference to experimental evidence.

      • In reply to #179 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #177 by Nitya:

        At least one science subject should be mandatory as part of a degree in philosophy, in my opinion. It wouldn’t really matter what branch of science was studied, any field would equip the young philosopher with the tools in assessing evidence and coming to valid conclusion…

        This is what I have found. The conversation/debate usually ends by my opponent stating that it could all be an illusion anyway, and then they go on to cite the example of the native Americans failing to see the English ships entering the harbour as they had never seen ships before and so had no frame of reference.

        Another ploy, in my experience, is to bring up the dreaded “q” word, ie “quantum”. Unfortunately it has become the word to use when all else fails. Generally I try not to use this word myself as I’ve found that it has acquired an aura of mysticism when used by the layman.

  81. In reply to #174 by Pascendi:

    Hmm, I’m beginning to wonder whether some people are reasoning circularly about the potential Eucharistic miracle we’re discussing.

    Guess who?? God performs miracles because you assume there is a god and assume that your chosen god from the thousands is the “real one” ( if there can be any such thing.) and it performs miracles to test your belief. Very circular!!

    Someone here said something like, “Incantations can’t change bread into flesh and blood.”

    That would be me. – A view based on the empirical evidence that whenever anyone has been asked to demonstrate this, they have failed to show any change in the chemistry, but have pretended that the unchanged molecules have changed in some mysterious way.

    But we’re talking about whether bread can become flesh, and the comment about incantations assumes that it can’t do that.

    Assumption is not involved. It is an issue of repeated objective observation.

    It assumes metaphysical naturalism when God *may have done a Eucharistic miracle partly because He wanted to disprove that naturalism.

    First you would need to establish the existence of such a god, then you would have to demonstrate it has properties which can interact with material physics. Then you would have to show that crackers turn into flesh. Nobody has succeed in producing evidence for these claims. All they have is wishful thinking and talk about magic “essences” for which there is no evidence and which are contradicted by the laws of science. Denial of scientific laws by people who do not understand them, does not count as evidence. Many claimed miracle workers have been exposed as frauds, and many “miracles” as fake or claims based on wishful ignorance.

    Atheists and other non-theists keep repeating that there’s no evidence that there’s a God.

    As I pointed out and linked earlier, that is not quite correct. Gods are a delusion/illusion in the believer’s brain. Whilst not yet conclusive there is strong evidence supporting this on the links I gave earlier. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1160904/Research-brains-God-spot-reveals-areas-brain-involved-religious-belief.html

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091223.htm

    I see you have made no attempt to discuss the neuro-psychological nature of gods!

    No-one has ever been able to produce anything credible in support of external physical existence of gods, although there are thousands of claims for the miraculous activities of thousands of gods.

    Then, when someone gives them possible empirical evidence for it,

    Mythological stories which cannot be repeated on test are just wishful thinking and self delusion. They are not “empirical evidence”. Other more obvious explanations are usually unknown at the time or are simply ignored by biased or ignorant observers. “Unexplained” does not = miracle!

    they dismiss that possible evidence because they assume metaphysical naturalism.

    Scientific naturalism is not an assumption. It is constantly tested and reaffirmed in the workings of the technical world, and by objective observations of nature. Scientific methodology has been consistently proved to supply the most reliable source of information we have.

    metaphysical naturalism.
    Metaphysical naturalism is a philosophy which maintains that nature encompasses all that exists throughout space and time. Nature (the universe or cosmos) consists only of natural elements, that is, of spatiotemporal physical substance—mass–energy. For example, astronomer Carl Sagan, an agnostic, described the cosmos as “all that is or ever was or ever will be.”[1] Non-physical or quasi-physical substance, such as information, ideas, values, logic, mathematics, intellect, and other emergent phenomena, either supervene upon the physical or can be reduced to a physical account.

    The supernatural does not exist, which is to say, only nature is real.

    This is in contrast to supernatural claims of magical activities, for which only mental gymnastics and semantic contortions are offered as evidence. Such claims consistently fail on test.

    As I said in an earlier comment, – When “faith-thinking” over-rides scientific knowledge in applications of science or engineering, this is usually explained in the consequential accident investigation report.

  82. Hmm, I’m beginning to wonder whether some people are reasoning circularly about the potential Eucharistic miracle we’re discussing. Someone here said something like, “Incantations can’t change bread into flesh and blood.” But we’re talking about whether bread can become flesh, and the comment about incantations assumes that it can’t do that. It assumes metaphysical naturalism when God may have done a Eucharistic miracle partly because He wanted to disprove that naturalism. Atheists and other non-theists keep repeating that there’s no evidence that there’s a God. Then, when someone gives them possible empirical evidence for it, they dismiss that possible evidence because they assume metaphysical naturalism.

    Let us start at the top: you haven’t given any empirical evidence. You haven’t even given us any possible empirical evidence. You’ve given us a report that has not been reliably tested and peer reviewed. This is a claim that is backed mainly by other Catholics. A claim that could only be taken seriously if it was examined by others and verified beyond any reasonable doubt. I’ve explained why this is not possible but you refuse to acknowledge those responses in favor of theistic and philosophical antics that explain nothing.

    The very moment you start a sentence with ‘God may have..’ you are revealing a very telling problem: you have no idea. You are guessing. No one has conceded any of your links as being credible (because they aren’t) so when you start trying to explain away your version of a deity’s actions you’re telling us you have no idea what they are. This is classic theistic apologizing, and it no more proves your point than sidetracking the thread with miracle claims.

    You don’t have proof, you have a claim you obviously accept as being possible and you seem to want to be true. This is not the same as proof, and never will be.

  83. In reply to #182 by Pascendi:

    You think I and other Catholics are delusional, eh? Then I suggest you listen to a radio interview where Fr. Malachi Martin talked about exorcisms he has done. Before Catholic exorcists decide whether to exorcise someone, they get psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals to look for purely natural causes of the seeming possession.

    I think the Vatican is first and foremost a political institution. The child-abuse scandals surely made it evident that the Church’s policy is to lie to the laity if doing so is decided to be in the best interests of the Church. So yeah, I would presume from that that they would say lots of things — anything, in fact, if that would keep the Church in business. And yes, I think it is naive of you or any other Catholic who thinks otherwise, just as much as I think it’s naive of you or any other Catholic to believe Pope Benedict when he said using condoms could increase the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

    Disinformation is just a part of Church policy, and with that in mind I would require extraordinary evidence from a neutral source (e.g. a scientific journal) to point out specific cases in which psychiatric treatment failed, yet Catholic exorcism succeeded to produce a recovery. That said, I’d expect not one or two cases, but incidents to rule out spontaneous remission. I also would expect longitudinal studies, given that even placebos tend to work in the short term.

    Having read articles about the booming business of exorcisms in Italy, including women who’ve been exorcised 15+ times, you’ll have to forgive if I’m more than a little skeptical.

  84. In reply to #185 by Pascendi:

    …That’s partly why I’m glad atheistic doctors study potentially miraculous cures at the shrine in Lourdes, France.

    Last I checked (albeit it’s been a few years) the number of miraculous cures at the Lourdes shrine is actually less than the population’s average for spontaneous remissions. That shrine’s been suggested to me before, and I looked it up.

    But you’re right Pascendi, in order for absolute morality to mean something, we need to define it. And we can certainly suppose (i.e. as per a Socratic question) that we mean morality as defined by the bible, or morality as defined by the church is absolute. With such a supposition, though, follows some unfortunate implications.

  85. In reply to #185 by Pascendi:

    I don’t believe that a potential miracle should be enough to convince a skeptic. That’s partly why I’m glad atheistic doctors study potentially miraculous cures at the shrine in Lourdes, France.

    ..and that would be why many claims have been debunked, as misdiagnosis, natural recoveries, and wishful thinking. Unexplained recoveries do not translate as “miracles”, except in the minds preconditioned to believe this.

    Miracle claims still exist today. What is notable about them is the determination of believers to believe in miracles even in the face of conclusive evidence. – To suppress the evidence and harass the people exposing their false claims.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/23/india-blasphemy-jesus-tears

    Sanal Edamaruku faces jail for revealing ‘tears’ trickling down a Mumbai church statue came from clogged drainage pipes

    When water started trickling down a statue of Jesus Christ at a Catholic church in Mumbai earlier this year, locals were quick to declare a miracle. Some began collecting the holy water and the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni began to promote it as a site of pilgrimage.

    So when Sanal Edamaruku arrived and established that this was not holy water so much as holey plumbing, the backlash was severe. The renowned rationalist was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, had to seek exile in Finland.

    The relic and pilgrimage industry is a good money spinner, with crowds of gullible believers exercising their cognitive biases.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/sanal-edamaruku-indian-rationalist-weeping-christ-miracle-hoax-faces-jail

    **Sanal Edamaruku, Indian Rationalist, Proves ‘Weeping Christ’ Miracle A Hoax, Now Faces Years In Jail **

    What started with a mysterious trickle, ended in death threats, charges of blasphemy and pleas for asylum from Sanal Edamaruku. The noted Indian rationalist argued that a “miraculous” dripping crucifix in Mumbai was caused by faulty plumbing and not divine intervention.

    That material science just keeps on debunking supernatural wishful thinking!

    @182 Pascendi: – I hope some scientists will discover the ages of both the blood and the heart tissue. If the samples are too young to have been eighth century ones,

    Whatever the dating shows, there is still the obvious possibility that the relics were faked, as so many have been.

    You think I and other Catholics are delusional, eh? Then I suggest you listen to a radio interview where Fr. Malachi Martin talked about exorcisms he has done.

    I think in the 21st century anyone who believes in demons and exorcism is delusional!

    Before Catholic exorcists decide whether to exorcise someone, they get psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals to look for purely natural causes of the seeming possession.

    ..And a failed diagnosis proves what exactly? “Don’t know” does not default to ” it must be supernatural magic”! This is the well known “god-of-gaps” argument.

    During the interview, Fr. Martin even said that he preferred to work with atheistic psychiatrists because they weren’t biased for belief in demonic possession.

    I am supposed to take the word of a believer in demons, that demons exist? ? Exorcism could well have a psychological impact on the psychiatric patients, but that does nothing to support the primitive notion of demons.

    I see you have still not commented on my links on the neuro-psycholgy of gods in the brain.

  86. In reply to #185 by Pascendi:

    We probably should define “God,” too because skeptics here ask what god we’re talking about, the Muslim one, the Jewish one, Zoroaster, some Hindu god, a deistic one . . .

    I dealt with this @53:-

    Alan @53 – This begs the question as if a god exists and if so which god? – More assumptions. List of deities

    @185 – I think there are good reasons to believe that if there’s a God, only the Holy Trinity can qualify for the title.

    This is a totally unsupported assumption! I also dealt with the history of this god @53:-

    I need to reread part of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Compendium of Theology, where he argues that if God exists, He can be be only the Holy Trinity.

    Alan@53 – I seem to recall a book called Genesis where there was a trinity of gods; Yahweh (El), Baal and Asherah!

    I hope you are not going to quote some supposed saint as an authority for this NT up-date of an old story! The writings of Catholic theologians are not evidence of anything, except their personal belief in the supernatural (assuming that the texts are the genuine work of claimed authors – many of them – such as most of the NT – are not).

  87. You think I and other Catholics are delusional, eh? Then I suggest you listen to a radio interview where Fr. Malachi Martin talked about exorcisms he has done. Before Catholic exorcists decide whether to exorcise someone, they get psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals to look for purely natural causes of the seeming possession. During the interview, Fr. Martin even said that he preferred to work with atheistic psychiatrists because they weren’t biased for belief in demonic possession. Since he trusted those doctors, I would think he also doubted that they were biased against it. After I look up the link to the interview, I’ll paste that link into this post.

    First Eucahrist ‘miracles’ and now possessions? Please.

    Epilepsy before people knew what it was was mistaken as possession, as was numerous other disorders. We’re not treading new ground and all of this ignores the tactic you’re employing.

    This literally puts the cart before the horse. We have a thread questioning the nature of absolute morality, and rather than demonstrate any evidence of your deity you sidetrack the thread. Even if a single one of your miraculous events had a grain of truth (and that’s granting quite a bit) it would be what truth exactly? Understand that an unexplained event doesn’t equal god. It equals proper research to find an explanation. You can’t go from ‘hey I don’t know how this happened’ to ‘only my deity in particular could have done this’ and expect to be even remotely taken seriously without demonstrating it. Posting a link here of any sort doesn’t even come close to cutting it,

    Actually even worse, much like the very ridiculous idea of an omni god putting all of eggs in the abrahamic middle east basket, if a deity such as you suppose wished to wow the world with impossible acts that only he could perform why would he only choose the most delusional and devoted? If he created and is part of everything and is all loving the plight of the whole world would logically be his concern. What would be the point of god performing a magic trick and only letting the believers see it? This boils down to argument from ignorance and since you’re fond of links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

    You can’t do this the other way around, by attempting to prove god by hearing about some ‘miracles’ and concluding that it has to be him (it). An event doesn’t prove an impossible being, no matter how fantastic (especially if it’s never proven). I find it amusing that an omni god needs to have his reps on earth to the hard work if he want people to know he’s around. Seems a lot more like the same old racket the RCC and others have been pushing forever.

  88. Maybe achromat didn’t know why I mentioned exorcisms. Although I didn’t tell you why I did that, I thought my note would have hinted clearly at the reason. Fr. Martin said that he preferred to work with atheistic psychiatrists when he and they were looking for natural causes of at least seeming possessions.

    All entirely non sequitor. The fact that they worked with atheist psychiatrists proves nothing. I believe Alan’s response covered this:

    ..And a failed diagnosis proves what exactly? “Don’t know” does not default to ” it must be supernatural magic”! This is the well known “god-of-gaps” argument.

    A doctor of any variety can analyze the person after the fact, but they can’t necessarily convince a believer they didn’t suffer a possession. Once again: repeated testing, peer review and drawing the most logical conclusion from a given set of circumstances. Which in this case also does not prove God.

    The doctors examined the patients and then told Fr. Martin and the local bishop whether he, the psychiatrist, found any medical/psychological explanation for the patient’s symptoms. Do you think Fr. Martin, the local bishop, and others would trust the psychiatrist’s judgment if the doctor assumed they were delusional?

    And you’re making the mistake of assuming that I would believe an atheist that said the devil possessed a person, or that anyone else should. What matters is the facts, which at best say no one involved has an explanation. That doesn’t mean a rational one doesn’t exists.

    If Fr. Martin assumed that the patient needed exorcism, would Martin have preferred an atheistic doctor to, say, a Catholic one who was already predisposed to believe the patient needed it?

    It doesn’t matter what flavor the doctor in question is, You are once again missing the points I’ve laid out several times here:

    –Suspension of physical laws in any way would need to be observed, verified and peer reviewed. Would any leading scientist be taken seriously if they saw something they couldn’t explain and cried ‘it must be possessed’? Evidence is the key. Not speculation, not spooky happenings. Raw hard evidence.

    –Each of your examples read like this: This odd thing occurred according to the religion I follow, therefore the god of my religion is clearly responsible. Nothing is clear about this, it’s still making the claim backwards. You’re starting from an event and jumping to wholly unprovable conclusions that have no proof whatsoever.

    Or, to put it another way: unexplained events of any sort don’t prove god. They indicate something has happened (or may not have, hoaxes are quite common under these conditions) that requires investigating. That’s all. You precondition to this set of beliefs is what convinces you despite being entirely unable to prove the existence of God. This is no different than your previous links to ‘miracles’ and has no more credibility.

    What about Uriel’s comment about Lourdes? I’d expect miracles to happen rarely, even at that shrine. In fact,, I’d love to read shrinr statistics to see about how many cures the doctors couldn’t explain.

    You really don’t understand that a lack of explanation does not equal miracles or God. I don’t know how many different ways I can say this. You are putting the cart before the horse. Someone’s cancer going in remission does not square every other item I’ve mentioned earlier in this thread. Nor does it mean a god cured it. It means it went into remission. That’s all.

  89. In reply to #190 by Pascendi:

    Sure, there’s plenty of politics at the Vatican. But if you’re talking about the sexual-abuse scandal in the U.S., I think some points are worth remembering. First, the abusers compose only about 2% of the this country’s Catholic priests, which means that about 98% of them probably aren’t abusers….

    Spoken like a true lawyer, but avoiding the matter of the problem. Actually sexual abuses have demonstrated to be prevalent worldwide. They’re only most recently showing up in Los Angeles, but the pedo-priest issue has also plagued all of Europe, and that’s not getting into the other rampant abuses such as the Magdalene Laundries.

    But what I was getting at was not the abuses themselves, but the Vatican’s efforts to cover them up. This failed to contain the problem. This failed to bring justice to the victims. This failed to rehabilitate (or at least contain) the aggressors. To the contrary they were returned to service elsewhere in the world, and many of them took that opportunity to recidivize.

    Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Church is a unilateral theocratic organization. What the Vatican does serves as example to everyone else is the entire Church. The Vatican has also ordered the church to take measures to keep aggressors and victims alike silent. So when we cannot trust the Pope to administer fair justice, neither can we trust archbishops, bishops or priests. Much the way that the presence of the FISC makes it impossible to trust the assurance of privacy by American web services.

    Anything that the Church officially says, therefore, is questionable by default until it is confirmed by sources not allied with the Church. Anything you say, as one of the laity, is questionable by default until it is confirmed by sources not allied with the Church. That is the consequences of allying yourself with such a duplicitous beast.

    But your response is, regardless, unfortunate. Whether a diversionary tactic or because you didn’t understand me, it implies your interest in defending your Church from criticism outweighs your interest in the discovery of truth. We can continue this dialog if you wish, but I don’t expect you to be capable of adjusting your polarized beliefs. You will probably not be able to convince me, not because I am committed to atheism, but because I have found the scripture and behavior of the Roman Catholic Church so odious that I disagree with their policies, and I would never want to be like them.

    If I recall correctly, Jesus was pretty big unto leading by example. But then I don’t agree with his cursing the fig tree, so there you go.

    EDIT: for clarity. And bad grammar.

  90. Is God necessary for absolute morality?

    You let them get away with murder if you don’t challenge that question! How about, can a person be moral with their God? I’m sure you can think of plenty of reasons why the answer to that is no.

    Mike

  91. In reply to #196 by Pascendi:

    Even with Uriel’s excellent points to reflect on, I still can’t blame the Catholic Church as such for that terrible crisis when I remember how wonderfully holy life can be in Catholic countries, Salazar’s Portugal, say. I can’t blame the Church as such when I read life stories of saints or look at St. Bernedette Soubiroux’s incorrupt corpse that’s as stunningly gorgeous as it was the day she died in the 18th century. I don’t conflate the Catholic Church and some Catholic clergy.

    Sorry to but in, but have you never considered that there might be some fundamentally dysfunctional doctrine influencing the clergy?

  92. I believe most people are basically moral and that religions contribute not one jot to an individual’s moral behavior. If the religious institution goes off the morality rails, its adherants need not go along: that’s what led to the witchcraft trials; the inquisition; the bloody battles between protestants & catholics in christianity & the muslim mistreatment of women. come to think of it, the witchcraft trials were primarily aimed at women, although some men also fell victim to the madness & were murdered as “witches.”

  93. In reply to #201 by Pascendi:

    Are we born basically good, as Rousseau seems to think we are? If we are born that way, what causes our goodness? To me, the second question seems very much about our topic.

    We never did get around to defining things. What is good then? Rousseau appears to believe that personal property is certainly not good, though most societies hold ownership as a very dear value.

    I would assert that reciprocity (the golden rule, if you would), whether or not it is good on a cosmological scale, it’s certainly instinctive to humankind and probably to all our mammalian cousins, because whether we herd together or hunt together, organized teams are better at survival than disorganized mobs. A common regard of equal treatment of each other is the basic link of organization. E.g. I trust you to not attack me, and I won’t attack you. All cultures tend to agree that reciprocity is good, at very least when regarding a group of like folk (e.g. Sunni Somalian males). (We do have a problem regarding strangers, but our xenophobia stems from a different survival instinct)

    So are all instincts good? Not so much. Instinctively we only like small groups, hence in densely populated areas we can’t just settle for American but must identify ourselves with race, social class, subcultures, religions, favorite sports teams and so on (and yes, were religion not an issue, we’d still war on each other on account of these other delineations.) But large pluralistic civilizations tend to outgrow, out develop, out produce and eventually conquer smaller ones, and we’ve had to use social tricks to encourage opposing cultures to cooperate within a political system. So while our instincts worked well for the hunter-gatherer age (and served to contain plagues), they don’t for the imperial age when other kings were a greater threat. They certainly don’t in the national age when we’ve found scientific inroads to plague containment.

    I’d assert there is no such thing as universal good or evil, nor is there any such thing as universal mores. There is what works to hold a large pluralist civilization together and what doesn’t. The former is going to prevail, either by conquest of arms, or by pervasion of culture, out compete, disband and assimilate the others. Oh, it’s more sophisticated than that. Suppressive governments and lack of resources can curb the developments of otherwise populous civilizations, and human governments do tend to decay from seizing too much power — so is the lesson for the next age.

    • In reply to #202 by Uriel-238:
      >

      We never did get around to defining things. What is good then?

      That is the problem with theological discussions. Numerous words and hundreds of comments, are used with vague or no definitions, leading to circularity in arguments arising from assumptions behind the missing definitions. (God is “good”, and “good” is complying with the dogmas of god) – Undefined or persistently ambiguous shifting meanings or words like, “god”, “good”, and “morality”, and strange unusual redefinitions of words to create the ambiguity and obfuscation or semantic shufflings detached from material reality. The heaps of words then just go around in the closed loop of quotes and opinions from the believers in the particular unevidenced dogmas of particular organisations.

      • In reply to #205 by Alan4discussion:

        That is the problem with theological discussions. Numerous words and hundreds of comments, are used with vague or no definitions, leading to circularity in arguments arising from assumptions behind the missing definitions.

        I think that was exactly what I was leading at. Once you make a Socratic supposition, defining good as something specific, then it usually quickly follows that one can derive from that something that doesn’t make sense, or is at least disagreeable to accepted notions of what is regarded as good within our common cultural values. This tactic is the classic reductio ad absurdum

        I think one of the problems is that absolute morality (even if absolute is restricted to applying to human society) requires deontological morality yet we tend to rely on consequentialism when we have the foresight to determine a preferred outcome, ergo it is moral to lie to agents of tyranny when the lives of harbored refugees depends on doing so. (I say I think because I know of no counterexamples.)

        • In reply to #207 by Uriel-238:

          In reply to #205 by Alan4discussion:

          I think that was exactly what I was leading at. Once you make a Socratic supposition, defining good as something specific, then it usually quickly follows that one can derive from that something that doesn’t make sense, or is at least disagreeable to accepted notions of what is regarded as good within our common cultural values. This tactic is the classic reductio ad absurdum.

          But the reductio ad absurdum relies on the contradiction being caused by a pre-established statement that contradicts the one you ended up with. A person can sidestep it if they dispute the contradiction as being the result of their premise being wrong. The issue about defining goodness is that most of the definitions, given or assumed, rely on abstractions that can’t easily be pinned down, let alone contested, so there’s no reason to assume just from this that a contradiction is necessarily the result of a faulty premise of yours coming up against a better one.

          For instance, an absolutist could dispute your counter by pointing out that lying is still bad, but not as bad as giving up innocent lives to be killed, so since you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, you might at least go for the lesser of two evils. While it is always wrong to lie, it’s also always wrong to give people up and let them die. It’s just that the latter is a greater evil than the former, which enables the poor sap caught up in this mess to at least reduce the damage caused. On this argument, absolutism doesn’t have to go out the window.

          Of course, this requires a hierarchical component to be added to an absolutism mindset, and it might be the case that absolutism doesn’t work as I think it does…

          • In reply to #208 by Zeuglodon:

            The issue about defining goodness is that most of the definitions, given or assumed, rely on abstractions that can’t easily be pinned down…

            Why do we rely on abstract definitions of an abstraction? That’s as bad as a tautology. If we were to rely on this, then we could discuss good and evil all we wanted, but without it being pinned down, the end result is meaningless.

            Similarly, God, whether you choose a prime mover or an archetypal redeemer, until you nail down the properties of God, it’s impossible to argue whether or not It exists or has any relevant meaning. Were I to define God = The Universe, for example, then God exists most certainly; but then intelligence may not be one of Its properties.

            Ergo, good, evil, god et. al. are all meaningless until they are pinned down.

          • In reply to #209 by Uriel-238:

            What? I’m not saying any definition goes. That wasn’t my point at all. Nor was I saying we should make no attempt to define it. Instead, I was pointing out that one reason notions like “good” and “evil” are hard to pin down is because they are abstractions, so without set concrete examples, one can point to examples of “good” and “evil” that not everybody can agree upon. The same issue plagues definitions of words such as “life”, “healthiness”, and “nothingness”. We all have an intuitive grasp of what each of these words can mean, but we still quarrel over certain cases (for instance, whether a virus or DNA molecule is an example of “life”, or whether a vacuum counts as nothing because it still contains space-time).

            Within ethics itself, there are many competing ideas on how to define and to capture the notion of “goodness”, none of which seems to be without flaws. Consequentialism and utilitarianism are criticized for producing results that go against most people’s moral intuitions (and for being impractical); deontology and absolutism are criticized for reducing morality to arbitrary rules that aren’t themselves justified; egoism is criticized for failing to capture the altruistic nature of morality; and virtue ethics is criticized for its implied obsession with personal character and using others to that end. There’s also evidence from the work of Haidt, Schweder, and Fiske that people don’t use a single ethical framework to evaluate and judge moral decisions, but can switch between multiple models, with different kinds of logic, different constellations of behaviour and cultural manifestation, and different mental frameworks.

            The odds are most people are relying on the “I know it when I see it” principle when it comes to notions of good and evil, but any scientific attempt at a definition has to be mindful not just of the usual demands for precision and workability, but also of the obstacles mentioned above and of the potential political, religious, and moral agenda of others who have a social stake in the enterprise. On top of that, it has to get around the limitations inherent in any social science. Add on top of that the problem that people generally assume that their audience knows what they mean with certain words until it causes obvious confusion, and it shouldn’t be surprising that debates on morality and ethics continue.

            Of course I’m not saying we should give up any attempt at defining “good” and “evil”, just that there are so many difficulties in trying that we shouldn’t be surprised if we get debates that are tangled and confused. Nor am I saying that it’s wrong to proceed with a provisional definition until we find something more robust. With the exception of pantheism and the esoteric inventions of theologians, nearly all conceptions of deities are united by being humanlike intelligences with extreme powers and some key role to play in the cosmos, so you’re not likely to stray far off with this definition. By contrast, people can provide examples of good and bad things and still dispute what unites them under their respective categories. However, the cases can at least give us enough to pinpoint where roughly one should stick the pin for more rigorous investigation. For instance, one might pick ethical hedonism and consider pleasures and pains a viable place to look for a helpful way to come up with a definition for good and evil.

            In summary, pinning down the definition of good and evil (and not some arbitrary facsimile, but the genuine article) is not a way of avoiding the issue, as it might be in a debate with theologians on the definition of “god”. It is a key part of ethical debate to begin with, just as much as pinning down the definition of life and of consciousness is a key part of debates about the status of living things and of the mind respectively.

            Am I making a bit more sense now?

          • In reply to #210 by Zeuglodon:

            The odds are most people are relying on the “I know it when I see it” principle when it comes to notions of good and evil, but any scientific attempt at a definition has to be mindful not just of the usual demands for precision and workability, but also of the obstacles mentioned above and of the potential political, religious, and moral agenda of others who have a social stake in the enterprise.

            I don’t think you’re going to be able to get everyone or even a given large group to agree on logical parameters for an abstract notion. Yes people usually have their own idea, and as we saw (arguably) with Pascendi their devotion to their predefined ideological outlook is greater than their willingness to pursue the truth.

            Therefore we can only suppose a given definition of good. My own include (for example) the ethic of reciprocity expanded to be inclusive of all of humankind from which very much can be derived and that’s not too oblique from good being that which yields the most rapid advancement of human civilization (of course that one requires a more sophisticated economist than I to compute accurately, but I would assert this is what bests assures the survival of our species.) These are, however, my opinions no matter how well considered they are. And everyone else has to reason for themselves what their opinions are, and how we got to them. I suspect that Gödel would tell us there is no limit to the number of conflicting definitions of good that can be derived via logic and observation.

            This is why I suggested that we can go as far as supposing (for the sake of the discussion) that good means a given thing, and seeing what the outcome is, and if we find that palatable, very much as we often suppose for the sake of our theistic rivals that God is a very specific given deity, rather than a general archetypal prime mover. The latter is much more difficult to argue against than the former (once again, relying on what properties we can or cannot ascertain.)

            It occurs that the sun is perhaps the best example of a deity in our sphere, given it is responsible for all life on Earth (and thus all life we have witnessed) and continues to be responsible for life’s continued sustenance (until we develop a geothermic empire, at least). And through we think of consistency as an indicator of natural forces, theists seem to believe consistency indicates benevolence. (Never a miscommunication.)

          • In reply to #212 by Uriel-238:

            Yes people usually have their own idea, and as we saw . ..their devotion to their predefined ideological outlook is greater than their willingness to pursue the truth.

            It must come as a shock, having been reassured on a theology/philosophy course, that you have been equipped to master debate, only to discover just how far out of your depth you really are in a forum like this one.

            It happens so often here, with those confidently steeped in theology to the exclusion of a wider education.

          • Excuse me for my brief hypocrisy. I just couldn’t resist the urge to answer post 214. Alan, if you’re alluding to me when you write about shocked philosophical/theological posters who discover that they’re their depth here, please remember that I haven’t said much about my scientific background. No, I’m not a scientist. But in college, I took biology, geology, paleontology, marine biology and microbiology, and plenty of computer science. I’m learning botany, too, because I raise carnivorous plants.

            Before I joined this message board, I already knew that I would be far out of my depth. So that problem didn’t shock me. What astounds me, though, is that someone as philosophically undereducated as Dawkins would believe he already knows enough philosophy to debunk arguments for God’s existence that philosophers and theologians have studied for hundreds of years. Anyone who would ask, “If everything has a cause, what caused God?” to criticize a first-cause argument for theism doesn’t understand that argument. Maybe Dawkins asked that question. Maybe not. I don’t know.

            I do know that anyone who would ask “Which God Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, Apollo, Baal, Zoroaster . . ?” still needs to learn some metaphysics to know realize that, if there’s a God, the Holy Trinity is the only one He could be. Theistic arguments from contingency imply that, if God exists, His nonexistence is logically impossible and that, if He doesn’t exist, it’s logically impossible. That’s hardly true about Zeus, Apollo, Zoroaster, Shiva or Baal, or anyone else.

            By the way, Uriel, I wrote a post to defend part of what you wrote about goodness as something to preserve a large pluralistic society. Maybe my ideology hampers my search for truth less than you might think it does.
            In reply to #214 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #212 by Uriel-238:

            Yes people usually have their own idea, and as we saw . ..their devotion to their predefined ideological outlook is greater than their willingness to pursue the truth.

            It must come as a shock, having been reassured on a theology/philosophy course, that you have been…

          • In reply to #215 by Pascendi:

            to criticize a first-cause argument for theism doesn’t understand that argument.

            You mean the one that starts, “Everything that begins to exist had a cause?” Many of us regular RDF members just left, en masse, a newish Catholic/atheist experiment that failed to live up to its promises. The Cosmological Argument was one of the featured articles there. Would you like to know how to demolish it?

            http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/2013/08/understanding-forcing-arguments.html

            Mike

          • Mike,

            More later. Meanwhile, you might read or reread the first post I wrote foe this message board, a post where I implicitly criticized the argument I found in the blog post you’ve just suggested. To whet your appetite for what I’m planning to say in another post, let me ask you to reflect on the difference between falsifiability in principle and falsifiability in practice. I’d like to do that because although falsifiability in practice implies falsifiability in principle, falsifiability in principle doesn’t imply falsifiability in practice. Here’s another point to consider: A logically contingent object, one that might or might not exist, can still have a cause, even if that object always has existed and always will exist.
            In reply to #217 by Sample:

            In reply to #215 by Pascendi:

            to criticize a first-cause argument for theism doesn’t understand that argument.

            You mean the one that starts, “Everything that begins to exist had a cause?” Many of us regular RDF members just left, en masse, a newish Catholic/atheist experiment that failed to live u…

          • In reply to #218 by Pascendi:

            A logically contingent object, one that might or might not exist, can still have a cause, even if that object always has existed and always will exist.

            What evidence are you using to give your “object” the attribute of contingency? I know I could have asked many different questions about your post, but there it is. Forgive me for jumping ahead a step or two.

            Mike

          • Mike, I don’t need to give any contingent object its contingency. It already has it. Logically contingent objects are all around you. You’re even one of them. You exist now. Before your parents conceived you, you didn’t exist. After you die, you won’t exist again until Christ resurrects your body and re-ensouls it. You’re not your soul. It’s part of you.

            The universe is a contingent object. It changes and so do parts of it. The begin to exist, grow shrink, change color, stop existing . . . Don’t cosmologists tell us that the universe, time and space began to exist during the Big Bang? If they did begin to exist then, there was a “time,” figuratively speaking, when it didn’t exist. Even if it has always existed, someone or something could destroy it. In fact, I seem to remember that cosmologists and physicists say that someday it won’t exist anymore.
            Even if the
            In reply to #243 by Sample:

            In reply to #218 by Pascendi:

            A logically contingent object, one that might or might not exist, can still have a cause, even if that object always has existed and always will exist.

            What evidence are you using to give your “object” the attribute of contingency? I know I could have asked many diffe…

          • In reply to #246 by Pascendi:

            Don’t cosmologists tell us that the universe, time and space began to exist during the Big Bang? If they did begin to exist then, there was a “time,” figuratively speaking, when it didn’t exist.

            Correct. Time did not exist before the big bang, rendering the idea of a ‘before’ the big bang meaningless. It also renders logic, physics, and the law causality meaningless outside of this universe. Most people will not state that they KNOW anything prior to the big bang, except the huge number of religious people who seem allergic to admitting their own ignorance. The ‘first cause’ argument is meaningless, because there could be no time or cause before the big bang. Also, ‘GOD’ does NOT solve this problem, it would multiply it. It tells us nothing about how the big bang was caused, the state of anything prior to the big bang, or explain itself or anything else in any way. It’s explanatory power and predictive capabilities are nil, making it the antithesis of knowledge.

          • Theism may not give us naturalistic explantations. But if God exists, maybe His existence explains why there’s anything at all besides Him. People here seem to assume that for the universe to have been created, it needs to have begun to exist. But even St. Thomas Aquinas admits that no philosophical argument can prove that the universe began to exist. Even if it always has existed, God can still be its creator, because it could still depends on Him to keep it in existence. God creates out of nothing by willing things into existence. If He’s everlasting, it could be everlasting, too. He could will its existence everlastingly.
            In reply to #250 by Tlhedglin:

            In reply to #246 by Pascendi:

            Don’t cosmologists tell us that the universe, time and space began to exist during the Big Bang? If they did begin to exist then, there was a “time,” figuratively speaking, when it didn’t exist.

            Correct. Time did not exist before the big bang, rendering the idea of a…

          • In reply to #258 by Pascendi:

            Theism may not give us naturalistic explantations.

            It gives us NO practical, useful explanations.

            But if God exists, maybe His existence explains why there’s anything at all besides Him.

            Not unless you consider ‘sooper god magik’ an explanation, science and logic surely does not.

            People here seem to assume that for the universe to have been created, it needs to have begun to exist.

            Indeed, for something to be ‘created’, in first needs to be finite. However, I see no one arguing that the universe is eternal, only that time did not exist until the universe did. Those are very different claims.

            But even St. Thomas Aquinas admits that no philosophical argument can prove that the universe began to exist.

            The scientific evidence, however, certainly indicates that it did have a beginning.

            Even if it always has existed, God can still be its creator, because it could still depends on Him to keep it in existence.

            Maintenance is not creation, and I am uncertain how you can propose a handyman god, when you can’t even show good reason for a creator god.

            God creates out of nothing by willing things into existence.

            How? Also, this seems to be a claim you cannot even begin to justify using any evidence or good reason, is it?

            If He’s everlasting, it could be everlasting, too.

            It isn’t. In a closed, flat, universe; we know thermodynamic entropic heat death will occur.

            He could will its existence everlastingly.

            Does eternity now have a beginning? When did this happen?

          • In reply to #258 by Pascendi:

            …But if God exists, maybe His existence explains why there’s anything at all besides Him…

            This still doesn’t address a number of questions, namely:

            • Why the biblical god, as opposed to Chronos or Azathoth? El wasn’t even an all-creator before the Hebrews, but a small time secondary god of the Sumers.
            • Why a “He”? In all life forms the basic form is female, ergo God would be female or genderless, unless you are assuming there are also female deities (such as, maybe, Asherah.)
            • Exactly how did God create the universe? (Chronos mixed aether and chaos to weave the egg of creation.) Unless there is a process by which the big bang was formed, crediting a being to causing it to exist doesn’t actually inform the cosmological model.
            • How did God come into being? Was God formed by earlier beings? Pascendi you derided those who’d ask such a question before. Perhaps now you can elaborate.
          • In reply to #246 by Pascendi:

            Mike, I don’t need to give any contingent object its contingency.

            I’m still not following you so let’s look at your original claim to me again, please:

            A logically contingent object, one that might or might not exist, can still have a cause, even if that object always has existed and always will exist.

            Are you sure you’ve got the wording of this claim exactly how you want it? If so, because you said “might not exist,” then I am going to need an example of a non-existing contingent object that has always existed and always will exist or I’m calling gibberish.

            Mike

          • In reply to #215 by Pascendi:

            I don’t think I need to wrestle with the old arguments for God’s existence because I’ve read philosophers who have countered those arguments to my satisfaction. The arguments are well known and TGD doesn’t get anything -to my knowledge- horribly wrong about them. Yet a lot of people seem upset by what Richard wrote. I don’t see how they could have been surprised by any of it though. I bet most philosophers would be more surprised that some in their field still want to claim to be able to demonstrate the existence of God using them. I really do bet that’s the case.

            Still, I don’t hate the arguments and I’m happy to think about them sometimes. But they aren’t convincing, and I’m also happy to share more recent thinking about why the arguments fail without worrying that I haven’t dedicated my life to it first. That’s such a bizarre requirement there anyway really, don’t you think?

          • Sean, the arguments don’t convince you, and that’s all right. Long, long ago, I discovered that in philosophy, there’s hardly an absolute certainty. You’ll even find some logicians, Graham Priest, say, who believe that some self-contradictions can be true. I disagree with him. But I won’t bore you with my arguments against his belief. I wouldn’t expect you to commit your life to old arguments for God’s existence. If someone has convinced you that those arguments are unsound, I’m sure you’re open-minded enough to consider new evidence you might get. I have committed my life to Christ, Catholicism and Thomism, but II know that I might be wrong about any of them. Like you, I’m honest enough to change my mind when someone or something convinces me that I’m mistaken about something or someone.

            But many philosophers may be surprised to know that there’s plenty of new philosophical interest in Thomism. Edward Feser is a brilliant philosopher of mind and a former atheist who reverted to Catholicism because he studied St. Thomas’s writings in depth. To me, his book called “Aquinas for Beginners” is the best introduction to Thomism in print.

            Some philosophers are fare from pleased with what Professor Dawkins and the other New Atheists write about theism. Michael Ruse, for example, says that Dawkins makes him feel ashamed to be an atheist, and that the New Atheists don’t even try to understand the theistic arguments the criticize. So Ruse supports my opinion about those scholars. I’ll post a link to his article in a moment.

            http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/nov/02/atheism-dawkins-ruse

            In reply to #222 by Sean_W:

            In reply to #215 by Pascendi:

            I don’t think I need to wrestle with the old arguments for God’s existence because I’ve read philosophers who have countered those arguments to my satisfaction. The arguments are well known and TGD doesn’t get anything -to my knowledge- horribly wrong about them. Yet…

          • In reply to #226 by Pascendi:

            I have committed my life to Christ, Catholicism and Thomism, but II know that I might be wrong about any of them.

            There’s the problem right there…”committed”…that translates to too much of an investment in the nonsense to walk away easily. You might not be aware of this, but a lot of the folk you are engaging with here were once religious…some were even fervent Catholics. As to you “might” be wrong, I’ve news for ya Bill and it’s all bad.

            Like you, I’m honest enough to change my mind when someone or something convinces me that I’m mistaken about something or someone.

            But while the compartmentalization mechanism exists in your brain, you will be safe enough in the comfort of knowing you won’t have to be honest with yourself that where religion is concerned, you cannot be mistaken. On a high note though, even dyed-in-the-wool-clerics have broken those shackles…even if they have found it difficult to admit openly…see “The Clergy Project”…so there is hope yet for nearly everyone.

            But many philosophers may be surprised to know that there’s plenty of new philosophical interest in Thomism.

            Why?…not why the renewed interest, why would philosophers be surprised? Because you are?

            Edward Feser is a brilliant philosopher of mind and a former atheist who reverted to Catholicism because he studied St. Thomas’s writings in depth.

            I’m seeing a trend here. All these “former atheists” being trotted out like you think it adds authourity to your position by what they have to say, is erroneous. Unlike a former theist apologist, who believed in some god or other, on the face of it, the most one can say is it is like comparing a the skills of a non-footballer with that of a footballer. Now the footballer may not be all that skillful when it comes to kicking a ball, but at least one knows to a certain degree that his skills extend to kicking that ball,. No such claim can be extended to the non-footballer..so give it up already.

            But anyway, Feser’s brilliance is debatable and is a subjective opinion. Here is at least one blogger who thinks that Feser isn’t all that brilliant…Jason Rosenhouse. For what it’s worth, I don’t think he is all that brilliant either, furthermore, I’m aware of quite a number of others that think along similar lines. ** Chris Hallquist ** or Eric MacDonald via Jerry Coyne don’t think much of his arguments either.

            But you can join fellow Catholic sycophants of Feser over at Strange Notions where a number of familiar monikers from this site recently took his OP to task.

            In short…Feser is a feckin’ egotistical fruitcake full of his own self importance. He believes, like you, that the majority of people are too stupid to understand the detail in those sophisticated theological philosophies.

            To me, his book called “Aquinas for Beginners” is the best introduction to Thomism in print.

            What is it with religio’s that they need an “idiot’s guide” to explain and interpret all the books of their best arguments?

            Some philosophers are fare from pleased with what Professor Dawkins and the other New Atheists write about theism.

            Who cares if some philosophers are far from pleased about what Professor Dawkins and the other New Atheists write about theism. Some philosophers are far from pleased about what some other philosophers write about theism. Some philosophers are far from pleased about what some other philosophers write about atheism. And your point is?

            Here’s what a sophisticated philosopher of religion has wrote about theism…

            “God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit. How long they live and when they die is up to Him.”

            …he goes on to state…

            “So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives. The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them. Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder? No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.”

            Now even though the Canaanite Genocide is a made up lot of pish in an iron age story book is besides the point, the principle that any philosopher and religious apologist can come to such a conclusion makes him a piece of shit in my opinion.

            So, whether some philosophers are pleased about someones writing is academic and can be taken with a pinch of salt. It brings nothing to your argument.

            Michael Ruse, for example, says that Dawkins makes him feel ashamed to be an atheist, and that the New Atheists don’t even try to understand the theistic arguments the criticize.

            Michael Ruse is not an atheist, he is an agnostic and also a gobshite. There, how do you like them apples?

            We mashed Michael Ruse on here 4 years ago at “Why I Think the New Atheists are a Disaster”…next!!!

            So Ruse supports my opinion about those scholars.

            Yes, your opinion about those scholars…which is based on someone else’s opinion. You have already been told that the only definitive thing that atheists have in common is their non-belief in deities. Even that varies to some extent among non-believers. So can you please stop appealing to the authourity of some atheist or former atheist like it supports your opinion, even if that authourity is an accommodationist agnostic, it doesn’t, and no one here even gives a flying feck anyway.

          • In reply to #215 by Pascendi:

            Excuse me for my brief hypocrisy. I just couldn’t resist the urge to answer post 214. Alan, if you’re alluding to me when you write about shocked philosophical/theological posters who discover that they’re their depth here, please remember that I haven’t said much about my scientific background. No, I’m not a scientist. But in college, I took biology, geology, paleontology, marine biology and microbiology, and plenty of computer science. I’m learning botany, too, because I raise carnivorous plants.

            You do not show an understanding of evidence and reason based scientific methodology, and have had ample opportunity to follow up on points relevant to these subjects with people who have an in-depth knowledge of them. Your denial of these fundamentals in favour of mystical magic confirms this lack of understanding.

            Before I joined this message board, I already knew that I would be far out of my depth. So that problem didn’t shock me. What astounds me, though, is that someone as philosophically undereducated as Dawkins would believe he already knows enough philosophy

            You seem to have missed the point in my earlier post that scientific reasoning incorporates the functional parts of philosophy, The parts where you are out of your depth (having concentrated on the irrational features of contorted theological thinking), is in the fundamentals and rationality of Natural Philosophy itself. – an area where professors of science subjects are very well versed.

            to debunk arguments for God’s existence that philosophers and theologians have studied for hundreds of years.

            They have not studied “god’s existence”. They have studied STORIES about god’s existence, and it seems in your case only one of the gods’ existences to the exclusion of the others.

            Anyone who would ask, “If everything has a cause,

            You can ask this question, but the honest answers are:-

            • We do not know if everything has a cause. It may have.

            • If there is an unknown cause beyond the Big-Bang, there is no evidence for assuming it is a god rather than something else. The complexity of a god with these capabilities, makes this possibility very unlikely.

            what caused God?”

            This is the paradox of personified gods of creation!

            Who was the creator of the creator, of the creator , of the creator … of the creator . . .. an infinite regression … ad infinitum … .

            to criticize a first-cause argument for theism doesn’t understand that argument.

            Actually as I have explained, it does mean they understand the argument, and they understand what evidence is available or not available to support a view of the subject. The failure to agree with your unevidenced assumptions is not a sign of a lack of understanding on the part of others, but rather your lack of a wider in-depth view.

            Maybe Dawkins asked that question. Maybe not. I don’t know.

            He has comprehensively covered the subject in various books.

            I do know that anyone who would ask “Which God Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, Apollo, Baal, Zoroaster . . ?” still needs to learn some metaphysics to know realize that, if there’s a God, the Holy Trinity is the only one He could be.

            This is purely wishful thinking based on cognitive biases, – usually wrapped up in semantic contortions and fallacies.

            The psychology of those, who without study “know” answers without knowing the questions, or looking at evidence, is well understood by science.
            Dunning–Kruger effect

            Thousands of faithful believers in other gods past and present would disagree. Only those steeped in uncritical Xtian indoctrination would have minds sufficiently closed to the equal (lack of) credibility of other beliefs.

            Theistic arguments from contingency imply that, if God exists, His nonexistence is logically impossible

            Thus:- Demonstrating the illogical fallacy of presenting circular thinking from prerequisite conclusions as evidence.

            and that, if He doesn’t exist, it’s logically impossible.

            In the minds of those who have copied fallacious thinking and cannot follow evidenced logic!

            That’s hardly true about Zeus, Apollo, Zoroaster, Shiva or Baal, or anyone else.

            Some of these gods had considerable numbers followers long before Xtianity existed. Baal was even a precursor god to Judaism.

            They existed in the imagination of their followers just as the numerous versions of the Abrahamic god do today.

          • In reply to #215 by Pascendi:

            Anyone who would ask, “If everything has a cause, what caused God?” to criticize a first-cause argument for theism doesn’t understand that argument.

            It’s called “The Cosmological Argument”…and the particular rebuttal you refer to is the problem of “infinite regress”…which is valid unless you are special pleading that the first cause is a deity that does not require a cause…we’ll forget that you are extra-special pleading for a specific Catholic flavoured god.

            Maybe Dawkins asked that question. Maybe not. I don’t know.

            Well there’s arrogance…should you not do even a cursory bit of research before you build ad hom straw men? I’m intrigued how you might know what someone else’s level of knowledge of a subject might be given you haven’t bothered to read them and are not even sure what they did or did not say. Amateur apologists are like that from my experience.

          • In reply to #276 by Ignorant Amos:

            In reply to #215 by Pascendi:

            Anyone who would ask, “If everything has a cause, what caused God?” to criticize a first-cause argument for theism doesn’t understand that argument.

            It’s called “The Cosmological Argument”…and the particular rebuttal you refer to is the problem of “infinite regress”…

            Ah but not only is this unresearched, but ignored when explicitly pointed out @228 and again @264! (Like so many other rebuttals)

            Alan @228 – This is the paradox of personified gods of creation!

            Who was the creator of the creator, of the creator , of the creator … of the creator . . .. an infinite regression … ad infinitum …

            Maybe Dawkins asked that question. Maybe not. I don’t know.

            @228 – He has comprehensively covered the subject in various books.

            Mistakes are not acknowledged or corrected. 3rd time lucky on “The Cosmological Argument” ???

            I thought this was a gem of Dunning-Kruger wish-thinking from someone who has failed to produce evidenced arguments, or credible responses, to the vast majority of rebuttals and explanations! !

            Pascendi – Even if all my arguments will be deductively sound, that won’t guarantee that they’ll convince anyone. Some may not understand the premises. Others may be biased against them, the conclusion or both. Some people may even be too stupid to understand the argument. In fact, its premises can be true and entail their conclusion, even when the argument’s readers have no evidence for any premise of it. If I posted a paper that proved its point, I suspect that bias would prevent many, maybe even most, posters here from agreeing with me.

            All these intellectuals who cannot follow or “understand” the advanced “deductively sound”, circular “reasoning” of the preconceived conclusions of wish-thinking!

            The failure to convince could perhaps have something to do with the quality of the arguments and the earlier decisive rebuttals??

          • In reply to #277 by Alan4discussion:

            Ah but not only is this unresearched, but ignored when explicitly pointed out @228 and again @264! (Like so many other rebuttals)

            Apologies Al…I’m using a Nexus 7 in a WiFi hotspot on the Costa Blanca, so I’m having to cherry pick pages…comment 122 onward until the last page refuses to load…it’s a feckin’ pain in the hole…I shouldn’t really have gotten involved under the circumstances, but ya know me…resistance was futile. Apologies again to one and all.

  94. In reply to #201 by Pascendi:

    Ms. Necker,

    Are we born basically good, as Rousseau seems to think we are? If we are born that way, what causes our goodness?

    Hi Pascendi,

    I think that humans generally are born basically ‘good’, depending on their unique genetic inheritance, as well as their in utero circumstances. This inherent ‘goodness’ is inherited from our gene pool, which has evolved to give reproductive benefits to gene vehicles that show traits such as altruism, cooperation, support and kindness, especially to kin within traditional small family groups.

    I also think that humans are born without any concept of gods or religion, although there are ancient psychological tendencies which are exploited by religions through indoctrination, threats and punishment at a vulnerable age when pliable infant minds are very open to parental & group-elder leadership.

    My opinions on this were assembled from much free-thinking education over my 63 years, and are supported by scientific research in all different areas. I’m fortunate that my born-once non-theism was not stunted by only believing one book, hence leaving me open to new evidence, based on the scientific method and rational investigation, particularly knowledge that has been discovered in the last 100 years though methodologies unavailable to massively ignorant minds up to 2000 years back in our history.

    I recommend many mind-expanding books, including the 17 books by Prof Richard Dawkins, The God Virus by Dr Darrel Ray, and the 25 books on Christian History by Prof Bart Ehrman.

    The God Virus is very illuminating about religious indoctrination, clearly explaining how & why people are infected with faith, and are psychologically damaged by unsupported, contradictory, immoral assertions using fact filters, evidence blinkers and life-stunting delusions.

    So, just how open-minded to actual evidence and reality are you, sir? Mac.

    • In reply to #203 by CdnMacAtheist:

      I don’t have any strong objection to your post, I must say, since I largely get where you’re coming from. On the other hand, I think that first paragraph needed fleshing out and challenging because it could easily give the wrong impression about evolution’s contribution to our understanding of ethics.

      In reply to #201 by Pascendi:

      I think that humans generally are born basically ‘good’, depending on their unique genetic inheritance, as well as their in utero circumstances.

      A more accurate picture would be to regard people as generally amoral (i.e. they’re not actually engaged in ethics most of the time). When in ethical situations, though, it would probably be wiser to predict a tendency towards being mostly grey. Moreover, I don’t think it would be stable, potentially darkening or lightening over time, back and forth, depending on such things as immediate circumstances, past experiences, and personal idiosyncrasies.

      To be frank, though, people vary as much on their ethical abilities as they do on personality traits and preferences. Asking whether people are good or bad is like asking whether the world is black or white: it’s totally unrealistic and simplistic to even make the assumptions behind the question. Especially in the open-ended and multi-layered field of behaviour, it is worth shooting down categorical, black-and-white discontinuous thinking from the get-go, replacing it with probabilistic, statistical, and continuous ways of thinking about it.

      This inherent ‘goodness’ is inherited from our gene pool, which has evolved to give reproductive benefits to gene vehicles that show traits such as altruism, cooperation, support and kindness, especially to kin within traditional small family groups.

      I get the point you’re making here about how our ethical instincts arose. However, it feels incomplete, and also a bit one-sided, without acknowledging that evolution just as easily picks vehicles that are self-centred, competitive, deceitful, and cruel. Since evolution by itself doesn’t – indeed, can’t – care about ethics at all, you have to tread carefully when suggesting that evolution is the source of ethics. After all, it merely uses real-world principles as tools for genetic propagation, and there’s a risk of making the naturalistic fallacy here and ending up being accused of saying ethics is solely about pumping out as many kids as possible.

      In fact, I think it would be more accurate to say that the game theoretic models behind altruistic actions are what evolution is following, and therefore they are what should be referred to in questions about where morality comes from. Just as evolution exploits real-world optics without actually “caring” about them or being the source of the principles behind them (though obviously evolution is responsible for bringing eyes into existence), it also exploits real-world facts about cost-benefit analyses, zerosum and nonzerosum game logic, and the nervous systems it’s already created (along with sentience) without caring about them or being the source of the principles behind them.

      Evolution isn’t the source of ethics in and of itself, though it is responsible for making ethics possible.

      • In reply to #206 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #203 by CdnMacAtheist:

        I don’t have any strong objection to your post, I must say, since I largely get where you’re coming from. On the other hand, I think that first paragraph needed fleshing out and challenging because it could easily give the wrong impression about evolution’s contribution…

        Hi Zeuglodon.

        I appreciate your – as always – thoughtful response, and generally agree with your points.

        Please note that I’m not a scientist or a philosopher, just a Scots-Cdn guy who has self-learned a wee bit since leaving high school for an engineering apprenticeship and career. My objective in my Comment was to undermine Pascendi’s insinuation that we are BORN programmed by supernatural skyhooks, rather than supported – and influenced – by multiple evolutionary cranes.

        I was trying to be careful when I said ‘good’ – with single quotation marks – since the definition of goodness is debatable, as we see on this thread…. I was also, per Pascendi’s question, referring to “born basically good” and added “generally” and “depending on….” since it’s certainly not an absolute, just as ethics and morals aren’t.

        I’ve seen studies – probably in RDFRS News links – where very young babies have shown fairness and altruism, which indicates that some of our ‘goodness’ is genetically inherited, although subsequent cultural influences have much effect as we grow to adulthood, as you pointed out.

        I may have worded my Comment such that it could be misunderstood, but I was aiming at a basic rebuttal of the thinking that ‘goodness’ is given by a god, which Pascendi seems to imply. I didn’t want to make a thesis of my point – since I’m not competent to do that – just to explain what an a/non/anti-theist may think of his faith-based thinking, as demonstrated in his previous comments…. Mac…. 😎

  95. In reply to #195 by Pascendi:

    Skeptics should work at the hospital in Lourdes to show that some cures(?) only seem miraculous.

    All cures seem miraculous to those who do not understand healing precesses, biology or medicine. I have made recoveries from various accidents and illnesses with the help of modern medicine and surgery. In fact I and recovering from surgery following and accident last month. There is no doubt, that the attitude of the patient has a great impact on the healing process. It is unfortunate that some because of their indoctrination into dependency on servile attitudes, think they can only positively promote their own healing with props from preachers.

    Years ago, I listened a an interview that Prof. Russell Hittinger gave Fr. Vincent Micelli to talk about faith healers. Dr. Hittinger described a Kathryn Kuhlman miracle service where Miss Kuhlman invited a woman to join her onstage because she thought God had cured her. The woman did join her there, threw off her back brace, ran back and forth on the stage, and collapsed because her spine split. A few days later, she died.

    All “faith healers” are self-deluded or charlatans. There are numerous accounts of supposed miracle-cures being rigged to impress a gullible and trusting audience. (Such as people getting out of wheel-chairs and walking short distances – when they could do so anyway before they came in.) As you point out trusting people relying on faith-healers (as with other quack cures) can be very dangerous. The problem is the psychological one of of relying on the (non-)intervention of gods to effect cures, when modern medicine and health promoting activities would be much more effective.

    There will be occasional mis-diganoses or spontaneous remissions, for which the healers will try to take the credit, but where these are examined their incidence is no more frequent than other natural remissions.

    Wish-thinking simply cherry-picks a few exceptional examples which appear to support its view. Science independently repeat-tests and critically examines claims, rejecting those which do not check out. That is how the evidenced and verified scientific knowledge which runs the modern world, has been built up over the ages. It is why we can cure numerous illnesses and land roving vehicles precisely on Mars.

  96. Thank you, everyone, and goodbye. I should have left long ago, but maybe the OCD is acting up again. My time here has been memorable, though I can’t say honestly that I enjoyed much of it. I can say that I regret that I hijacked this thread and that I joined this board. Enjoy your conversations.

  97. I like Sam Harris’s definition of the good and think it is pretty much universally applicable:

    The well being of conscious creatures.

    No matter what moral concerns one has they always relate to subjective experience in some way.

  98. You know Pascendi, I was perfectly willing to simply let you make your response and then have your exit (the one you’ve been promising but continually refusing to do). So either you wish to actually debate, in which case you will have to bring far more than philosophical rhetoric, or you just want to continue pushing your ideas as if they’re the only ones worth discussing.

    Now, to the comments…

    Before I joined this message board, I already knew that I would be far out of my depth. So that problem didn’t shock me. What astounds me, though, is that someone as philosophically undereducated as Dawkins would believe he already knows enough philosophy to debunk arguments for God’s existence that philosophers and theologians have studied for hundreds of years.

    And yet not one philosopher or theologian has proven god. I should also mention that you haven’t either. This is the point: you keep insisting on trying new ways to attack the same argument, everything from miracles to exorcisms to now your attacks on Dawkins lack of knowledge of philosophical nuance. You still haven’t proven anything. Not one thing. Just circular argument after strawman after non sequitor or general things you believe but cannot prove.

    Philosophers have wondered many things over the years. Doesn’t mean they’re asking the right questions, or most certainly that we don’t have a much better understanding of the way things work. Your assumptions indicate that despite our far improved understanding of things down to the molecular level in modern times that your philosophers from hundreds of years ago can still use ‘essences’ and ‘substances’ in their works at a time when our understanding was limited and somehow it still stands up. That the claims are still valid.

    Stop quoting them and make your case. If what they’ve said is so blatantly obvious and true you should have no problem with this.

    Anyone who would ask, “If everything has a cause, what caused God?” to criticize a first-cause argument for theism doesn’t understand that argument. Maybe Dawkins asked that question. Maybe not. I don’t know.

    And your response for that is what what? That he’s uncreated? That he exists out of time and space? In another universe perhaps? Do you have a whiff of evidence, or more philosophical fluff?

    I do know that anyone who would ask “Which God Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, Apollo, Baal, Zoroaster . . ?” still needs to learn some metaphysics to know realize that, if there’s a God, the Holy Trinity is the only one He could be. Theistic arguments from contingency imply that, if God exists, His nonexistence is logically impossible and that, if He doesn’t exist, it’s logically impossible. That’s hardly true about Zeus, Apollo, Zoroaster, Shiva or Baal, or anyone else.

    You have no evidence of this, because you have no evidence that any of the deities in question (including your own) exist. You have an opinion more informed by your belief than the facts. The facts are this: There is no evidence for god. None.

    And how precisely is a 3 in 1 God more plausible than the one impossible god? Or perhaps we can try this on for size:

    1. Demonstrate any evidence of a creation deity, much less one that still actively works in his ‘design’.
    2. Demonstrate that this deity is in fact the one that you worship
    3. Then demonstrate you can divine his wishes.

    Saying that the universe needs a creator is not proof. It’s an opinion. No philosopher, theologian or anyone has even been able to demonstrate the first point. You keep pushing your Trinity without proving it, or directly addressing most of the issues brought up in this thread.

    Don’t maintain you feel out of your element or out of your depth if you’re not even willing to admit that you might be wrong. It’s disingenuous. You keep pushing back without evidence of your miracle and exorcism claims but somehow think that the trinity is more valid than any other fictional deity? For one that comes off so curious and humble you carry this unprovable idea with a lot of pride.

    • In reply to #216 by achromat666:

      You know Pascendi, I was perfectly willing to simply let you make your response and then have your exit (the one you’ve been promising but continually refusing to do). So either you wish to actually debate, in which case you will have to bring far more than philosophical rhetoric, or you just want t…
      Acromat, no, I haven’t proved that God exists. I haven’t even tried to prove that He does.

      Do I seem arrogant because I’m telling you what I think arguments from contingency imply? I’m sorry to seem that way because I don’t mean to seem that way, and I don’t want to be that way. I’m perfectly willing to admit, that even if I’m not arrogant, pride is my still my worst fault.

      Remember, I said that, if God exists, his nonexistence is metaphysically impossible and that if there’s no God, His existence is metaphysically impossible. In the post I’m alluding to, I said “logically impossible” when I should have said “metaphysically impossible” instead. But whatever kind of possibility or impossibility applies, I already know about the semantics of if-then sentences. When I tell you that if it’s raining, I’ll wear a raincoat, I’m not asserting either part of the conditional. I’m saying that the first part implies the second part. In the example, I’m saying that raining implies that I’ll wear a raincoat. In fact, since I’ve agreed that, if there’s no God, His existence is metaphysically impossible, I’ve already implied that He might not exist. Don’t assume that, since I’m telling you that both those conditionals are true, I’m insisting that either or both are true. I’m not even insisting that either part of either conditional is true.

      Evidence, evidence, evidence. People here keep asking evidence, but what would they count as evidence? On the one hand, they believe at least methodological naturalism. Then, on the other hand, they hint that they want empirical evidence for God’s existence when methodological naturalism tells me that science suspends judgment about supernaturalism. It seems to me that, if methodological naturalists want empirical evidence for God’s existence, they may need to suspend that naturalism or to admit that science might help us answer theological questions. But if they admit that science can help us answer theological questions, they imply that we at least sometimes don’t need to be methodological naturalists when we do science.

      Did I say “goodbye?” Yes, I did. Do I want to post here? No. Did I promise to leave? No, I said “goodbye” because I intended to leave. Then I decided to stay if only briefly. But I never promised to leave.

  99. In reply to #213 by Peter Grant:

    I like Sam Harris’s definition of the good and think it is pretty much universally applicable:
    The well being of conscious creatures.

    An interesting definition in this age in which the bleeding edge of robotics and AI has already passed the Turing Test (which is to say, scored higher than the human average). It’s not going to be long before computers are as conscious (by whatever interpretation of that term we accept) as human beings.

    Not saying your definition is bad or wrong. Only that it would create some interesting controversies in the near future.

    In reply to #215 by Pascendi:

    No, I’m not a scientist. But in college, I took biology, geology, paleontology, marine biology and microbiology, and plenty of computer science. I’m learning botany, too, because I raise carnivorous plants.

    Credentials are not going to mean much around here. Those of us who like and listen to Dawkins (for example) don’t do so because because he’s a distinguished career professor with a doctorate in evolutionary biology, its because specific things he says make sense to us. I sometimes disagree with Professor Dawkins but not often. Contrast to John Lennox, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, who, as an evangelical apologist very often seems to only speak in tongues.

    I, for one, won’t care if you’re a Nobel laureate, my interest is in what you have to say, firstly if it makes sense to me, and secondly if I agree with it.

    This is something that has been an issue of annoyance to me from religious clergy (and it’s come from all sorts whether RCC Bishops or Baptist elders or Rabbis) this assumption that just because someone has a fancy title and a tall hat, we’re expected to believe him or her. I’m not sure if such people think the laity fools, or merely obedient enough to march off a pier (or as some cases have proven, massacre a population). Dawkins very comically presented this notion in his militant atheism lecture in 2003:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxGMqKCcN6A&feature=player_detailpage&t=635

    I will read and consider whatever you write here, Pascendi, but none of us are inexperienced, unschooled children, and many of us are (I am, at least) skeptical about any facts you present that don’t sound plausible. If you’re going to rely on something as extraordinary as miracles to show that your deity is real, you’re going to need extraordinary evidence. You’ll need something that is as plain to us as the sun in the sky (that we can walk out at daytime and see with our own eyes).

    I should mention I have nowhere near the credentials you do, being a self-taught college dropout that merely likes to read and think a lot. Hopefully you, as someone who seems to regard scholastic credit as important, don’t hold my lack of academic esteem against me, or at least against my positions.

    Maybe my ideology hampers my search for truth less than you might think it does.

    I may speculate a lot of things, but I don’t imagine to know the truth. My background is in psychology, and my experience has been that those who have strong motivations to believe in a thing will happily exist in a state of cognitive dissonance. This is how (for example) pro-lifers can get an abortion and still believe that all abortions (their own being a singular exception) are amoral. (33% of abortions in the US are accounted for by this phenomenon.) You are invested in the Catholic God, and yes, I expect that will govern your thought more than any amount of rational consideration.

    As a point of disclosure, I am invested in the biblical god not existing: He is a total, jealous, arbitrary jackass, and ours would be a sorry, sorry world if He was who the Church and the bible says he is. More likely, Yahweh (or El) was a hero that was deified in Sumer before He became the god of the Hebrews, so I’m not really too worried.

    Anyone who would ask, “If everything has a cause, what caused God?” to criticize a first-cause argument for theism doesn’t understand that argument.

    Be careful not to poison the well. Why would we not ask if God was caused, and by what? Why would we assume that the universe was? Even if there was a first cause, what evidence that we have this prime mover was an intelligent thing, rather than, as everything within the universe, a natural phenomenon? And how did it happen without time?

    Again, you’ll need extraordinary evidence, and something beyond rumors of miracles in exotic locales.

    • Uriel,

      I think Harris’s definition of the good is false because it’s too specific. Think about animal rights activists, animal rescuers or both. From what they tell you, it’s pretty easy to see they believe that animals and animal-wellbeing are more than instrumentally good. One minute, they’ll say that since we and nonhuman animals exist because of evolution by natural selection, we’re on an ontological par with those animals. Then those people do things that suggest that those animals are ontologically superior to people. For example, although some will release lab animals illegally from their cages to save their lives, the same activists support even late-term abortion. If they do believe that we’re on an ontological par with animals, why don’t they demand equal protection for animals and people? Why can’t they think, “Since this eight-month-old fetus is much like us, maybe we better not abort?”

      Thank you for your kind openness about your educational and social science backgrounds. Although I took a psychology course in college, I’m sure you know more psychology than I know. Most of my experience with psychological topics has been in group therapy, individual counseling, and psychiatric care. No, I’m not a doctor or a counselor. I have clinical depression and OCD. And the OCD may help explain why I’m still here, even when I’d rather ignore this board. I’m not asking for pity, and I’m not making excuses for why I’m still here. I’m being open with you because you were kind enough to be open with us.

      Thank you for your kind attention and for reflecting on what I write. I understand what you believe about the Bible’s God, because I’ve read some pretty violent parts of the Old Testament. But again, I think it’s important to read the Bible in its cultural and historical contexts because it’s an ancient book that many seem to interpret as a 21st-century one when they read 21st-century ideas into it or interpret a figurative passage literally. A great example is the one that says, “If your eye offends you, pluck it out.” From what I can tell, that’s a way to say, “Do all you can to avoid temptation and sin.” In my opinion, Christ isn’t asking us to remove our eyes.

      I’m not trying to impress anyone with my credentials. In fact, think they’re modest at best. I mention the science courses because although you and the others know much more about science than I ever will, I do have a little scientific knowledge. As you may have noticed before I mentioned the courses, I still haven’t taken physics. I’m not even sure I could pass a course about it.

      In this relativistic, postmodern era, maybe you and the others here would try to do me a little favor: Please try to remember the difference between being arrogant and writing frankly about strong convictions. I have strong convictions, and hope I’m not arrogant. But there are two things I’ll always reject: moral relativism and relativism about truth. If my convictions and my stand on those kinds of relativism convince anyone that I’m arrogant, he’s welcome to his opinion, and I hope it’s false. Fortunately or not, I’m still discovering more flaws in me, and my posts may have revealed some that I still need to find in me. But if I had no courage to stand up for my convictions, I probably would be a coward, and cowardice is another flaw.
      In reply to #221 by Uriel-238:

      In reply to #213 by Peter Grant:

      I like Sam Harris’s definition of the good and think it is pretty much universally applicable:
      The well being of conscious creatures.

      An interesting definition in this age in which the bleeding edge of robotics and AI has already passed the Turing Test (which is to…

      • In reply to #223 by Pascendi:

        The case you laid out with the animal rights activists isn’t a strong rebuttal, and that’s because it relies on the notion of ad hominem, that some personal behaviour of the activists is a rebuttal to their arguments. At most, it can expose their hypocrisy. It can’t be used as evidence that their position is wrong. More broadly, the fact that people don’t behave like moral exemplars isn’t evidence that their moral beliefs are wrong. People are products of evolution, and therefore just as likely to behave in ways that contradict their express moral beliefs when opportunity arises. Even if they do fall into an instinctive mode of behaving and thinking in the name of morality (such as to think in terms of moral hierarchies), that doesn’t mean they’d necessarily agree with it if it was brought to their attention.

        Also, that’s probably the first time I’ve seen Sam Harris criticized for excess specificity. His “well-being” argument has more often been criticized for being too vague.

        In reply to #212 by Uriel-238:

        I don’t think you’re going to be able to get everyone or even a given large group to agree on logical parameters for an abstract notion. Yes people usually have their own idea, and as we saw (arguably) with Pascendi their devotion to their predefined ideological outlook is greater than their willingness to pursue the truth.

        Yet the same issue in science isn’t a cause for relativism; it just means that we’re unlikely to get correct results from those people. And the aim isn’t to get everyone to agree, but to get it accurately nailed down. Scientific knowledge is not about popular acceptance except when this is accepted as a provisional means of establishing truth (for instance, if most geologists will tell you how the Grand Canyon formed, it’s generally good to accept their explanation, since they’ll likely know better than you).

        Therefore we can only suppose a given definition of good… These are, however, my opinions no matter how well considered they are. And everyone else has to reason for themselves what their opinions are, and how we got to them. I suspect that Gödel would tell us there is no limit to the number of conflicting definitions of good that can be derived via logic and observation.

        Firstly, the “therefore” is unwarranted. It doesn’t follow from the lack of agreement on the subject that the subject has no right and wrong answers, even if both facts are true. Secondly, opinions are often personal guesses at what is true. An opinion on how morality works is effectively a statement attempting to capture a fact about it. I would also question how one is capable of reasoning their way towards something if it is not, at some level, a fact or candidate for a fact. Admittedly, this excepts cases where “I think X is great/rubbish”, but this is an expression of how one feels about something. An opinion expressing one’s response to something is different from an opinion on how something works.

        Thirdly, you can’t just assume that “there is no limit to the number” because that suggests you think any arbitrary definition would suffice. But we did not invent the word “good” and then look for something to attach it to; we had a set of specific things we wanted to capture and then came up with the word “good” to encompass them, just as we did when thinking of “life” and “consciousness” or “sentience”. I also think you’re confusing “what acts should be categorized as good” with “what is goodness itself”. Lastly, as the work of the aforementioned Haidt, Fiske, and Schweder has shown, morality has a few conceptual models, not an infinite scope. Unless you mean this in the same sense that any redefinition can be allowed for any word in existence, then I think you’re not paying attention to how limited use of the word generally is.

        This is why I suggested that we can go as far as supposing (for the sake of the discussion) that good means a given thing, and seeing what the outcome is, and if we find that palatable, very much as we often suppose for the sake of our theistic rivals that God is a very specific given deity, rather than a general archetypal prime mover. The latter is much more difficult to argue against than the former (once again, relying on what properties we can or cannot ascertain.)

        If your point is that the word “good” comes in several variations that can be confused, then I would agree, up to a point. But while I can agree with descriptive moral relativism, (i.e. the observation that people disagree over what is right or wrong), I’m getting more the impression of meta-ethical moral relativism from your points, rather than the impression of you simply asking about what a particular person means by the word. In any case, there’s no advantage in getting so caught up in the polysemy of a word that you forget its most conspicuous concepts attached to it (for instance, the relevance of killing, pain, and other people’s feelings, and so on). A general argument against a deity is usually more helpful than a specific argument against one deity in practice.

        For what it’s worth, the evidence from moral psychology and evolutionary biology indicate that our moral intuitions have roots in kin altruism, dominance hierarchies, and reciprocal altruism, as well as straightforward mutualism, but also incorporate a collection of behaviours relevant for each kind that manifest in cultural mores and myths/beliefs. Pinker details the work in The Better Angels of Our Nature in the penultimate chapter on the moral sense, and I recommend giving it a read.

        Lastly, I get a distinct sense of arguing at cross-purposes. My original post was about a potential flaw in relying on the reductio ad absurdum when it comes to defining good. Now I feel I’m having to argue that there is any definition of good at all that could be considered correct. I’d like to take the opportunity to confirm that we are on the same wavelength here?

        • In reply to #225 by Zeuglodon:

          My original post was about a potential flaw in relying on the reductio ad absurdum when it comes to defining good. Now I feel I’m having to argue that there is any definition of good at all that could be considered correct.

          I think the problem is that we’d never be able to come across a universal definition of good (nor any of the other moral absolutes, e.g. evil, right, wrong, justice, truth et. al.) Granted there are some very popular concepts that are regarded as morally good (e.g. the ethic of reciprocity) but they don’t express the extent of good (they’re not comprehensive in their definition) and there are often controversies regarding particulars (Treat others as you would be treated : others = ??? All of humanity? Only your immediate friends? Including pets? Excluding enemies of the state? People from a different state / ideology / race / culture?)

          We can attempt to define good, at risk of the implied absurdities. And we can say, for the sake of an argument that good = something specific (meaning that the argument comes to question if we redefine good as something else).

          This is what I was saying. And it serves to ground debates in reality. Even if we supposed that Yahweh existed, Satan would fail to serve as an incarnation of evil because evil is debatable. (During the early 20th century much of the industrialized world regarded Jews as evil, not just the Germans. Similarly, these days people compare others to Adolph Hitler to indicate evil though Hitler himself was just a man who had both favorable and unfavorable qualities.) Even Darth Vader, Lucas’s embodiment of evil is really just an obedient agent that doesn’t shy away from dirty work.

          Anyway, that is what I was saying.

          • In reply to #283 by Uriel-238:

            In reply to #225 by Zeuglodon:

            I think the problem is that we’d never be able to come across a universal definition of good (nor any of the other moral absolutes, e.g. evil, right, wrong, justice, truth et. al.)

            Universal and absolute are two different things. Evolution by natural selection is universal in the sense that it permeates all life, but it isn’t absolute because it doesn’t capture everything about life (it neglects, for instance, genetic drift, environmental disasters like meteor strikes, and day-to-day actions of living things). In any case, a grand unified theory of morality may never be achieved, but that doesn’t mean we’d never agree on a few basic ideas. Killing, torture, and malice are still going to be strongly associated with the notion of “evil” or “badness”, and moral psychology is shedding some light on the universal rules governing the moral sense.

            Granted there are some very popular concepts that are regarded as morally good (e.g. the ethic of reciprocity) but they don’t express the extent of good (they’re not comprehensive in their definition) and there are often controversies regarding particulars (Treat others as you would be treated : others = ??? All of humanity? Only your immediate friends? Including pets? Excluding enemies of the state? People from a different state / ideology / race / culture?)

            The problem is that the mere existence of controversy over particulars proves nothing. Evolutionary biology contains several controversies, such as to what extent allopatric evolution is necessary (versus sympatric evolution) and how the Cambrian Explosion can inform our knowledge of multicellular life, but no one would get far trying to imply that evolution itself is too shaky to get behind. And long before Linnaeus came up with his scheme for categorizing life, case-by-case examples were (indeed, still are) an acceptable way of dealing with the nebulous notion of “life”. The work of Fiske, Schweder, and Haidt have gone some way to finding the underlying frameworks behind moral judgements, as can be found in summarized form in Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, narrowing down the notions considerably.

            We can attempt to define good, at risk of the implied absurdities. And we can say, for the sake of an argument that good = something specific (meaning that the argument comes to question if we redefine good as something else).

            This is what I was saying. And it serves to ground debates in reality. Even if we supposed that Yahweh existed, Satan would fail to serve as an incarnation of evil because evil is debatable. (During the early 20th century much of the industrialized world regarded Jews as evil, not just the Germans. Similarly, these days people compare others to Adolph Hitler to indicate evil though Hitler himself was just a man who had both favorable and unfavorable qualities.) Even Darth Vader, Lucas’s embodiment of evil is really just an obedient agent that doesn’t shy away from dirty work.

            I strongly disagree with this because it makes too much of the differences between cultures on the subject of ethics. For a start, it is remarkably incurious as to why evil is debatable. Is it because people made up the word and then began looking for things to attach it to? Is it because people have a stake in looking moral, or in telling people what to do? Is it because the genes can program life forms to regard things as moral when they’re solely evolutionarily undesirable (for instance, most of the moralization surrounding sexual relationships has obvious genetic benefits without necessarily being good for the individuals involved)? If evil genuinely is debatable, then why do the same things (killing, torturing, stigmatizing, etc.) fall into the basket of “evil” and other things (being kind, generous, friendly, etc.) fall into the basket of “good”? Any account of ethics has to accommodate these questions, and that will entail discussion, disagreement, and debate, but far from being the end of ethics, this is merely the beginning, way too early to be claiming we’d never get a “universal” answer.

            Again, the work of Fiske, Schweder, and Haidt has shown the commonalities across cultures, and Pinker offers a case for their evolutionary and biological bases in The Stuff of Thought. And again, controversy and disagreement do not prove by themselves that there are no right or wrong answers.

            Of course there are difficulties in determining the exact answers to questions on ethics, but to be frank, we don’t have a universal definition of life, and biology has done extremely well regardless of this “weakness”.

  100. In reply to #223 by Pascendi:

    I think it’s important to read the Bible in its cultural and historical contexts because it’s an ancient book that many seem to interpret as a 21st-century one when they read 21st-century ideas into it or interpret a figurative passage literally.

    Part of the problem is determining which passages are proverbial and which are literal. Much of the cause of the the schism into ~40,000 denominations of Christianity is disagreement to that effect. There is no indication why, for example, the anti-gay abominations are still regarded as hard law today by the RCC and yet the other abominations (wearing cloth of mixed fiber, eating shellfish, eating pork and so on) are given a free pass.

    As there are no indicators what is parable and what isn’t, and given that the RCC’s positions don’t reflect a modern outlook but one more informed by justified bigotry (most recently and predominantly against gays and women) we have no reason as outsiders not to take passages literally, especially since some denominations eagerly do believe in talking snakes and big gay orgies.

    Why is encouraging the persecution of gays (as per Russia and Uganda) and the subjugation of women both higher priorities than the Church’s efforts against famine and poverty? They sent the CDF after the LCWR about this very thing: essentially the women of the LCWR doesn’t hate gays enough and were taking too many feminine liberties (such as encouraging the use of birth control). What gives?

    • Uriel, you’re right: It’s hard to tell what Bible passages are figurative and ones are literal. Heaven knows I’m not a Bible scholar. Yes, there are about 40,000 denominations. Why? Partly because most Protestants ignore the historical/cultural information that I and many others try to remember when we read the Bible. For example, during an online conversation with a Protestant acquaintance of mine, I quoted St. Justin Martyr to show that some ancient Christians believed that our souls stay conscious after our deaths. He replied with something like, “That doesn’t matter. We have the Bible.” I think it did matter because St. Paul implies mind-body dualism when he compares his body to a tent. My acquaintance would have ignored first or second-century thoughts from St. Polycarp, even now when scholars know that he knew St. John the Apostle personally. Which Bible interpretation probably will be more accurate: the one by my acquaintance who ignores extrabiblical sources or one by someone who talked with St. John? I think that question is easy, don’t you? Besides, they insist that the Bible is the only rule of faith, though even they know that it never says that.

      I agree with with the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality. I also remember the difference between judging people and judging what they do. Like the Catholic Church, I believe that homosexual acts are always immoral. But I can’t tell whether God blames any particular person for doing them. He knows whether they’re blameworthy for them. I don’t know that. Two very dear male friends of mine think they’re married to each other. So I’m sure they’re physically intimate sometimes. Do I hate them? No. I admire them partly because before their civil marriage, they lived celibately together for about 30 years. That shows plenty of self-contol and suggests that like the Catholic Church, they believe that non-marital sex is immoral. By Catholic sacramental standards, same-sex “marriage” isn’t marriage at all. Anyhow that’s another issue.

      Try to see the “gay” issues from a Catholic perspective. If homosexual acts are mortal sins when blameworthy die impenitently, they can go to hell for them. What’s worse: warning people with same-sex attractions that homosexual acts aren’t okay or not loving those people enough to express my concern? I don’t yell, “Turn or burn” when I’m with my two friends who feel same-sex attractions. We hardly ever talk about homosexuality. But they know that I agree with the Catholic about homosexuality and homosexual acts. They should know, too, that my conscience would forbid me to celebrate their wedding anniversary, say.

      In a few minutes, I’ll post a link to a Catholic video that expresses some of my opinions about some people with those attractions. If you think it implies bigotry, I’ll be very surprised.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0sILSapUUc

      In reply to #224 by Uriel-238:

      In reply to #223 by Pascendi:

      I think it’s important to read the Bible in its cultural and historical contexts because it’s an ancient book that many seem to interpret as a 21st-century one when they read 21st-century ideas into it or interpret a figurative passage literally.

      Part of the problem i…

      • Pascendi I’m going to try to break things in to chunks given the walls of text we’re now creating.

        In reply to #235 by Pascendi:

        Try to see the “gay” issues from a Catholic perspective. If homosexual acts are mortal sins when blameworthy die impenitently, they can go to hell for them. What’s worse: warning people with same-sex attractions that homosexual acts aren’t okay or not loving those people enough to express my concern?

        Hellfire is an unacceptable issue in and of itself. If Hell truly is an eternity of torture (and according to the monastic consultants I asked, it is.), than allowing one creature into Hell is arguably a greater attrocity than the Jewish holocaust. And any one Holy See could have fixed this by lifting extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. Were the threat of hellfire true, it would be the humanitarian duty of a Pope to grant salvation to the world, and we’ve seen not one bull, not one statement, not even recognition that this would be the right thing to do.

        You have yet to justify the Catholic perspective. (Otherwise it’s just an appeal to common practice.) Why are homosexual acts regarded by the church as mortal sins? The Vatican can change that too. The Vatican hasn’t been bound by the bible before when cultural tides pressured the Church to chainge their attiudes, and their atiquated attitudes make them look…antiquated. If the Church is still trying to stay relevant, (and regards the bible as a historical document in which some notions are outdated) why doesn’t the Vatican keep up with the times?

        There are natural mechanisms which cause a fetus to be gay (or more along the Kinsey scale towards gay), ironically related to large families. It’s inappropriate to condemn them to a life of forced abstinence when doing so is unnecessary.

        I wasn’t questioning your personal judgment (though given your love the sinner, hate the sin policy, I do now. Exactly what harm does a loving same-sex relationship do?) rather I question the judgement of the Church with which you ally yourself.

        Since we’re sharing videos, I’ll direct you to John Corvino’s discussion on love the sinner, hate the sin.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cdb8UC9_fMw

      • In reply to #235 by Pascendi:

        Yes, there are about 40,000 denominations. Why? Partly because most Protestants ignore the historical/cultural information that I and many others try to remember when we read the Bible.

        Ahh..the “No True Scotsman Fallacy”

        For example, during an online conversation with a Protestant acquaintance of mine, I quoted St. Justin Martyr to show that some ancient Christians believed that our souls stay conscious after our deaths. He replied with something like, “That doesn’t matter. We have the Bible.”

        Nonsense is nonsense is nonsense. Is Catholic nonsense any less nonsense than Protestant nonsense, as an atheist I don’t think so, but a Protestant might have something to say about that.

        I think it did matter because St. Paul implies mind-body dualism when he compares his body to a tent.

        And Paul knew this how? That’s right, he didn’t, he made it up or got it from someone else who made it up.

        My acquaintance would have ignored first or second-century thoughts from St. Polycarp,…

        Why? Polycarp is recognised by Protestants too…mind you, Protestant is far too general a descriptor…Protestant ranges from the sublime to the absolutely ridiculous.

        …even now when scholars know that he knew St. John the Apostle personally.

        Do they? Who says?

        Which Bible interpretation probably will be more accurate: the one by my acquaintance who ignores extrabiblical sources or one by someone who talked with St. John?

        The gospel according to John was written anonymously, probably by more than one author, so even if Polycarp did know John personally, it has no relevance to which interpretation of the bible you use…which incidentally, isn’t the Catholic interpretation in any case. There is no original witnesses of the John gospel. The earliest fragment is 8.9 by 6 cm at its widest and known as “Rylands Library Papyrus P52″ and dated 117 CE and 138 CE…possibly as late as 150 CE. It was written in Greek and discovered in Egypt. A complete manuscript of the John gospel comes much later.

        I think that question is easy, don’t you?

        You are right, you are not a bible scholar. You don’t even have a grasp on the basics.

        Besides, they insist that the Bible is the only rule of faith, though even they know that it never says that.

        They only say what all Christians said at sometime in the past 1700 years…but not all Protestants even say that…it depends which flavour one happens to be. The funny and ironic thing is among the last words of the New Testament…do ya know them?

        “18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; 19 if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

        Even more ironically, from the “New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition”…whose interpretation was that you read again?

        Like the Catholic Church, I believe that homosexual acts are always immoral.

        Why? Based on what?

        But I can’t tell whether God blames any particular person for doing them. He knows whether they’re blameworthy for them. I don’t know that.

        Of course ya can’t tell, no mere mortal can tell the mind of God….but yet many religious airheads spend a lot of time and effort trying to enforce the point that they can tell what their god wants…for all of us…the arrogant pricks.

        Two very dear male friends of mine think they’re married to each other.

        They “think” they are married? Is this more of your ignorant Catholic interpretation to what the institute of marriage should mean? Catholicism doesn’t get to define words for everyone…arrogant pricks.

        • In reply to #291 by Ignorant Amos:

          In reply to #235 by Pascendi:

          Yes, there are about 40,000 denominations. Why? Partly because most Protestants ignore the historical/cultural information that I and many others try to remember when we read the Bible.

          Ahh..the “No True Scotsman Fallacy”

          Hello again IA,

          It’s great to have you back Paul, after you – and some others – were off on a busman’s holiday at a potentially interesting place in need of a bit of a tidy-up, but which turned into another crappy destination inhabited by weirdos….

          As usual, you say it like it is, skating close to the edge of civility, as I tend to do when strange folk irritate my sense of reality, so I hope we aren’t ‘Sent to Coventry’ for our down-to-earth refutations of a few other (typically temporary) members expressing their tedious delusional mythtakes…. Mac…. 😎

  101. Remember, I said that, if God exists, his nonexistence is metaphysically impossible and that if there’s no God, His existence is metaphysically impossible. In the post I’m alluding to, I said “logically impossible” when I should have said “metaphysically impossible” instead. But whatever kind of possibility or impossibility applies, I already know about the semantics of if-then sentences.

    And simply making the statement doesn’t make it accurate, nor does it back up the claim that only the catholic god would qualify. Or that any deity fits this bill. Hence the demand of proof. I’ve laid out several times what you would have to do to prove your case, what anyone would have to do. A philosophical phrase doesn’t suddenly fill in the gap your lack of science creates to make your case.

    When I tell you that if it’s raining, I’ll wear a raincoat, I’m not asserting either part of the conditional. I’m saying that the first part implies the second part. In the example, I’m saying that raining implies that I’ll wear a raincoat. In fact, since I’ve agreed that, if there’s no God, His existence is metaphysically impossible, I’ve already implied that He might not exist. Don’t assume that, since I’m telling you that both those conditionals are true, I’m insisting that either or both are true. I’m not even insisting that either part of either conditional is true.

    Which makes which part of your statement about the trinity being the only god that could exist accurate exactly? Which makes the point of your posting the articles on miracles, exorcisms and the like what precisely? It infers a need to provide evidence where it doesn’t exist. You clearly believe he exists and have contested people when they don’t accept the proofs you’ve put into play.

    If this were a simple question of you saying, “look I believe these things, but I know I can’t prove to you that these things are true” then I doubt this thread would be running as long as it has. But you’ve made a theistic position, tried to prove your position and it’s been contested and still continues to be.

    Evidence, evidence, evidence. People here keep asking evidence, but what would they count as evidence? On the one hand, they believe at least methodological naturalism. Then, on the other hand, they hint that they want empirical evidence for God’s existence when methodological naturalism tells me that science suspends judgment about supernaturalism. It seems to me that, if methodological naturalists want empirical evidence for God’s existence, they may need to suspend that naturalism or to admit that science might help us answer theological questions. But if they admit that science can help us answer theological questions, they imply that we at least sometimes don’t need to be methodological naturalists when we do science.

    Here’s the trick: when science doesn’t know something it doesn’t claim that something else must be true instead of what it doesn’t know. The same cannot be said for the religious who have their ‘answers’ often wrapped in a mythical bow from childhood, filled with contradictions and a sea of claims they couldn’t possibly back up.

    So empirical evidence, the same evidence science demands for anything is what any reasonable skeptic would demand. A holy book isn’t going to hold the answers to how something happened that science couldn’t explain. It will only hold a notion of how a given people saw the world at the time it was written.

    By that same token, philosophy will not suddenly make a god appear. It will perhaps give insights on what his nature might be (which is at best esoteric as such queries don’t qualify as proof), but that is also limited to the understanding of the philosopher and the time they lived in. But it’s not going to prove something that would require empirical evidence.

    Did I say “goodbye?” Yes, I did. Do I want to post here? No. Did I promise to leave? No, I said “goodbye” because I intended to leave. Then I decided to stay if only briefly. But I never promised to leave.

    Whether you leave or not, as long as you post theist ideas you can’t prove they will be contested. As I said earlier in the thread, everyone here has had issues with something the other person has said, regardless of their belief or non belief. You are welcome to stay or go as you will, promise or not, but if you stay and maintain these ideas, they will be argued. If you want to do that? As long as you follow the site’s rules you’re welcome to. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t go, I’m not in charge.

    And for the record, many here are not experts in a scientific field. I’m an artist and musician, and there are lots of different people of different depths of knowledge. So I guess what I’m saying is being out of your depth or feeling that way is relative. If you’re not enjoying it then I wish you well, we will clearly agree to disagree. But obviously it’s your call.

  102. This has been a long, interesting and at times frustrating Thread, with a tangent to the site that Sample mentioned and linked to – I saw some familiar names there, writing great Comments against some of the philosophical word salads being tossed around….

    What it boils down to for me, having read and seen many rational and logical explanations by expert scientists, is that due to the lack of any real evidence for any flavour of deity, and the massive amounts of explanatory evidence for ‘Life, the Universe, and Everything’, I don’t see any area where any god is necessary for any thing – including morality – so the Arguments that Thomists like Pascendi underpin their lives with are as relevant as fashion commentary about the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    All the deeply nuanced philosophical discussions about assertions made by Aquinas 750 years ago, to support unhistorical and often revised myths from 2000 years ago, are based on non-existent and unnecessary premises….

    Before embarking on lifetimes of arguing about the supposed attributes and dictates of any god, let’s see some need or evidence for the god first, and we could save so much time, anguish, suffering, and many lives…. Mac.

  103. @ Pascendi: – Evidence, evidence, evidence. People here keep asking evidence, but what would they count as evidence?

    Some repeatedly confirmed examples of a god’s activity in the material world independently witnessed by people who are not cognitively biased towards a particular god delusion. (“This is not explained therefore god-did-it”, or “The witnesses were too ignorant to understand what was happening”, therefore god-did-it-by-magic, is not evidence)

    On the one hand, they believe at least methodological naturalism. Then, on the other hand, they hint that they want empirical evidence for God’s existence when methodological naturalism tells me that science suspends judgment about supernaturalism.

    Science does not “suspend judgement”. It notes the lack of evidence for the activity of gods. Absence of Evidence Is Evidence of Absence –
    Victor Stenger

    It seems to me that, if methodological naturalists want empirical evidence for God’s existence, they may need to suspend that naturalism

    That is a very poor argument – Abandoning objective observation and believing in magic will confirm the validity of belief in magic! – A tad circular!!!

    or to admit that science might help us answer theological questions.

    Science has already answered a long list of theological questions by refuting claims. (The Earth is not the centre of the universe, Man is not the centre of the universe, There is no heaven in the clouds etc.)

    But if they admit that science can help us answer theological questions, they imply that we at least sometimes don’t need to be methodological naturalists when we do science.

    This is an illogical nonsensical assertion. What you are claiming is that in order to confirm theistic claims evidenced rational thinking and objective observation needs to be abandoned.

    We already know that! That is why such claims have been refuted, but theists produce contorted semantic substitutes for logic, and try to substitute other theist opinions, and contrived wish-thinking for observed evidence.

    • What? I’m implying that to support theistic claims, we need to support objective observation? That’s a little hard to believe when even Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI, wrote a book where he answered the question “Creation or evolution?” with the word “both.” I’m sure you reject Intelligent Design theory. Maybe you even think it’s a creationist theory. But since Dr. Michael Behe is an acquaintance of mine, I know that he’s not a creationist.

      What about geocentrism? Well, although I’m not a geocentrist, I think you may want to debate Dr. Robert Sungenis, a professional Catholic apologist with a physics degree. You might even read his book “Galileo Was Wong.” Years ago, he posted his Geocentrism Challenge at his apostolate’s website to offer $1,000 to anyone who could empirically disprove geocentrism. Maybe he’s still doing that at (http://www.catholicintl.com).
      In reply to #232 by Alan4discussion:

      @ Pascendi: – Evidence, evidence, evidence. People here keep asking evidence, but what would they count as evidence?

      Some repeatedly confirmed examples of a god’s activity in the material world independently witnessed by people who are not cognitively biased towards a particular god delusion. (“Thi…

      • In reply to #236 by Pascendi:

        What? I’m implying that to support theistic claims, we need to support objective observation?

        Except of course objective observations refute rather than support theist claims of miracles etc.

        That’s a little hard to believe when even Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI, wrote a book where he answered the question “Creation or evolution?” with the word “both.”

        Yes – A very good example of semantic contortions and misleading re-interpretations of words. Redefining the “scientific theory of evolution”, as the pseudo-scientific “Theistic evolution” allows the false claim that (Theistic) evolution includes (god-fiddled with-it) creationism. It is the old word-swapping games to create ambiguous misunderstandings among the gullible believers. Theistic evolution is not a scientific theory,

        I’m sure you reject Intelligent Design theory. Maybe you even think it’s a creationist theory.

        Intelligent design is not even a theory, let alone any form of science. It is a deception by creationists pretending their “god-did-it” is not religion based.

        Even the Vatican astronomer denounces them!

        In addition, while he was the Vatican’s chief astronomer, Fr. George Coyne, issued a statement on 18 November 2005 saying that “Intelligent design isn’t science even though it pretends to be”.

        But since Dr. Michael Behe is an acquaintance of mine, I know that he’s not a creationist.

        You really love comically wrong claims don’t you!! Next you will be telling us the “Discovery Institute” is not a creationist pseudo-science organisation!!

        Michael J. Behe, Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

        Behe served as an expert witness for the defense in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. Under cross examination, he was obliged to admit:

        • That no peer-reviewed scientific journal has published research supportive of intelligent design’s claims.
        • That Behe’s own book was not, as he had claimed, peer reviewed.
        • That the definition of “theory” supplied by the US National Academy of Sciences[5] did not encompass ID, and that his broader definition would allow astrology to be included as a scientific theory.

        That’s the thing about “faith-thinking” and deciding what you like to believe without research or evidence. It lets you believe all sorts of incorrect rubbish, such as lies from the likes of Behe about fictitious peer-reviews and pretending his nonsense is a scientific theory!

        What about geocentrism? Well, although I’m not a geocentrist, I think you may want to debate Dr. Robert Sungenis, a professional Catholic apologist with a physics degree. You might even read his book “Galileo Was Wong.”

        I don’t even need to look, to know it will be a “castles in the air” hypothetical reconfiguration of the geometry of the Solar System – which looks credible, but only if you omit gravity.

        You really are searching for red herrings!

        • In reply to #238 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #236 by Pascendi:

          What? I’m implying that to support theistic claims, we need to support objective observation?

          Except of course objective observations refute rather than support theist claims of miracles etc.

          That’s a little hard to believe when even Cardinal Ratzinger, who became … . ..

          I note the continued lack of evidenced or rational responses to my refutations of your various mistaken assertions, and an absence of any attempt to correct or clarify those misconceptions!

          @228

          what caused God?”

          Alan @228 – This is the paradox of personified gods of creation!

          Who was the creator of the creator, of the creator , of the creator … of the creator . . .. an infinite regression … ad infinitum … .

          So many words posted, yet nothing to say about this????? It seems the hard questions are outside the mental RCC dogma recycling box!

          @*Uriel-238, Nitya, Tlhedglin, Ryan1306, Sample, Zeuglodon, CdnMacAtheist, Jumped Up Chimpanzee, achromat666, Sean_W, and others:- *

          You might find this link useful for analysis: Straight and Crooked Thinking

          • In reply to #264 by Alan4discussion:

            You might find this link useful for analysis: Straight and Crooked Thinking

            I well understand the problems with epistemological model he is trying to use. One would have to accept anything that axiomatically and presuppositionally appears internally consistent, despite the fact it has NO credible evidence, simply for the fact that it is unfalsifiable. I consider it teapot epistemology, after the Russel variety, geared to assume truths without reason.

          • In reply to #274 by Tlhedglin:

            In reply to #264 by Alan4discussion:

            You might find this link useful for analysis: Straight and Crooked Thinking

            I well understand the problems with epistemological model he is trying to use. One would have to accept anything that axiomatically and presuppositionally appears internally consistent,…

            I call it supernatural reasoning. If one accepts supernatural reasoning then this follows that etc. the trouble being , that we don’t accept supernatural reasoning from the outset. Therein lies the conflict.

      • In reply to #236 by Pascendi:

        What about geocentrism? Well, although I’m not a geocentrist, I think you may want to debate Dr. Robert Sungenis, a professional Catholic apologist with a physics degree. You might even read his book “Galileo Was Wong.” Years ago, he posted his Geocentrism Challenge at his apostolate’s website to offer $1,000 to anyone who could empirically disprove geocentrism.

        Are you crazy?…A “professional Catholic apologist” that you don’t agree with but I should read his book anyway?…It doesn’t get any better than this. Shooting fish in a barrel is harder.

        Here…some more education for ya…“Bad Astronomy”…I bet you are glad ya came here for the free education?

  104. On the one hand, they believe at least methodological naturalism. Then, on the other hand, they hint that they want empirical evidence for God’s existence when methodological naturalism tells me that science suspends judgment about supernaturalism.

    Science does not “suspend judgement”. It notes the lack of evidence for the activity of gods. Absence of Evidence Is Evidence of Absence – Victor Stenger

    Where do people get this idea that science can’t deal with the supernatural? Do they really think that, if psychic powers, astrology, ghosts, and prayer were shown to be real, science would simply keel over dead instead of expanding to include it and reconcile it with existing knowledge? Nothing in science excludes supernatural entities from investigation or theory, so long as the ideas themselves are not deliberately set up to make testing impossible (for instance, by positing a non-interventionist deistic god with zilch evidence in its favour – calling into question how anyone can favour that particular hypothesis in the first place). Anyone who’s read Paranormality by Richard Wiseman can cite examples.

  105. I didn’t intend to commit the ad hominem fallacy, but I see why you’d think I committed it. Maybe I committed it unknowingly.

    I do know that I made mistake when I criticized Harris’s definition of the good. I should have remembered that like people, animals are conscious. His definition still seems to specific, though. In an interview called “Do Plants Think” or “Can Plants Think,” Dr. Daniel says that, although he doubts that plants can think, they are aware of what happens around them. I think he’s probably anthropomorphizing them a little with his book title “What a Plant Knows.” But plants do lean toward light, and I’ve read that they can even identify their relatives because plants send chemical messages with their roots. Even if plants aren’t conscious, I still think it would be wrong to, say, burn a patch of self-pollinating sundews that lived where there were no animals. Sure, it’s highly, highly unlikely that wild sundews would live there. But I would agree with environmentalists who believe it’s immoral to senselessly harm the environment or any part of it and non-conscious(?) plants. The pint is that, even if plants aren’t conscious, the good may still include their wellbeing and the wellbeing of non-conscious parts of the environment. I might even feel sad for days if someone killed my favorite Venus Flytrap.

    • In reply to #237 by Pascendi:

      I’ve been following this thread with particular interest after you started to contribute. I’ve seen your arguments countered with beautifully expressed rebuttals. Your arguments have been painstakingly pulled apart and addressed point by point (with links). I’m trying not to paraphrase previous comments especially #231, as we are all trying to say the same thing.

      Your argument is based on a false premise. You KNOW that god exists. How do you know what we don’t? It’s a gut feeling! You feel it in your heart of hearts! The authorities to which you constantly refer also knew this. But these feelings are not a sound basis for knowledge. You’re presenting an emotional response as if it were empirical evidence and you’re citing the emotional response of people in the past to support your claims.

      • I’ve never told anyone here that I knew that God existed. I believe that he exists. Why? Partly because St. Thomas’a first-cause argument convinces me. But as I’ve already admitted, I may be wrong.

        You probably think you know that, say, that the theory of evolution is true. You also realize that there’s good reason to believe that inductive arguments are always inconclusive when they support their conclusions. I’ve even heard some scientists say, “Science isn’t about absolute truth. It’s about evidence.” They don’t say what they mean by “absolute.” They’ll even say that scientific knowledge is always provisional. How provisional is it, and what standards do the use to tell the difference between knowledge and merely justified belief that may or may not be knowledge? They haven’t answered that question that I know of. Maybe they leave it to philosophers. Maybe they don’t even know whether they’ve gained any scientific knowledge.
        In reply to #242 by Nitya:

        In reply to #237 by Pascendi:

        I’ve been following this thread with particular interest after you started to contribute. I’ve seen your arguments countered with beautifully expressed rebuttals. Your arguments have been painstakingly pulled apart and addressed point by point (with links). I’m trying…

        • In reply to #247 by Pascendi:

          I’ve never told anyone here that I knew that God existed. I believe that he exists. Why? Partly because St. Thomas’a first-cause argument convinces me. But as I’ve already admitted, I may be wrong.

          You probably think you know that, say, that the theory of evolution is true. You also realize th…

          As you continually base all your arguments on things you “believe” I think it’s fair comment to say that “believe” is a synonym for “know” in your reasoning. You believe in things because you believe St Thomas Aquinas and the things he believes. To what authority does St Thomas Aquinas refer, for his “beliefs”. Somewhere in the line someone is claiming to “know” something they don’t know.

          Regarding my respect for Charles Darwin and the process of evolution as by far the best explanation of what we observe in the animal world, I’m not claiming he is the ultimate authority in all things.

          • I never use “believe” and “know” as synonyms of each other. But too many people say “feel” when they should say “think” or “believe.”
            In reply to #260 by Nitya:

            In reply to #247 by Pascendi:

            I’ve never told anyone here that I knew that God existed. I believe that he exists. Why? Partly because St. Thomas’a first-cause argument convinces me. But as I’ve already admitted, I may be wrong.

            You probably think you know that, say, that the theory of evolutio…

          • In reply to #265 by Pascendi:

            I never use “believe” and “know” as synonyms of each other. But too many people say “feel” when they should say “think” or “believe.”

            Really????

            Pascendi – But since Dr. Michael Behe is an acquaintance of mine, I know that he’s not a creationist.

            Alan @238 – You really love comically wrong claims don’t you!! Next you will be telling us the “Discovery Institute” is not a creationist pseudo-science organisation!!

            Michael J. Behe, Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

            Still no correction, withdrawal of the false claim, or response to 238. – Must be “faith-thinking” and the “ignore the evidence re-set feature of the “faith virus””!

          • In reply to #260 by Nitya:

            Regarding my respect for Charles Darwin and the process of evolution as by far the best explanation of what we observe in the animal world, I’m not claiming he is the ultimate authority in all things.

            There are of course over a 150 years of thousands of peer-reviewed independent biological studies confirming evolutionary processes. Evidence much more substantial than some theological opinion which has since been pronounced (in the unevidenced opinions other theologians) to be “authoritative”.

  106. The author says that certain people argue that God is required for absolute morality and then shows their supposed proof. The proof in question is not correct under the usual rules in logic because statement 1. “If there is no God then there is no absolute morality” is logically equivalent to that which they are attempting to prove, that “God is required for absolute morality”.

  107. Number one also implies that if there is no absolute morality, there probably is no god. However, we KNOW morality is NOT absolute, it does not exist outside of the social constructs of a single species. In order for it to truly be absolute, it would have to apply to all societies(even ancient ones) and all species. This, quite obviously, is not the case.

    Number two implies that the objectivity of a concept or object is somehow dependent on absolute authority. We all know that this is not the case. Objective morals are possible in a society, just as objective evidence can be gathered, no divine authority needed. In between Sociology, the ideals of individual rights, and ethics we have a vast and well-established framework for the foundation of a morality independent of personal opinion and bias. The use of the word ‘relative’ in this sentence, carries the idea of utterly and individually subjective, and that is a false equivocation. Morality ONLY exists in relation to our societies, in our species, making it relative strictly to humanity. I doubt even they would have an earnest conversation about the morality of canine societies.

    Number three implies not only that morality is subjective to an individual, which things like prisons and law should utterly destroy as a claim, but that evil is an objective standard independent of humanity. We KNOW that is utterly vapid, as when we look around nature, we see absolutely no absolute standard for either ‘good’ or ‘evil’. We define evil, and good, as a species and society. Are cats evil for eating mice? I and the cat would likely argue that they are not, but I doubt mice would be of the same opinion on the matter. The very concepts of good and evil are completely relative to our species, and are entirely conditional and contextual. Killing other people is WRONG… Unless it is in the defense of others, or done by a society protecting itself from an invasion or subjugation, etc, etc, etc…

    There are more exceptions to the rules, than rules themselves. Morality is relative, objective, and not contingent upon absolute authority.

  108. Number two implies that the objectivity of a concept or object is somehow dependent on absolute authority. We all know that this is not the case.

    Could someone explain to me how an objective moral and an absolute moral differ from a deontological moral? I know that deontological morals are ones that govern behavior independent of circumstances (such as classical knightly oaths against telling falsehood or doing harm to a fellow human being). Modern morality allows for a balance between utilitarian (consequentialist) and deontological mores, usually relying on deontology when we are unsure of consequences, and then relying on consequentialism when we have an idea of the outcome we want (in most cases, both approaches will yield a common result).

    This isn’t necessarily so clear:

    • Moral Objectivity is related to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.
    • Moral absolutism is an ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong according to Wikipedia, making it synonymous with deontology.
    • **Moral universalism ** (also called Moral Objectivism, not to be confused with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, above) is (according to Wikipedia) the position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies for “all similarly situated individuals”. The article does not define the scope of similarly situated, such as all human beings, or White northern-Californian protestants with an income between $50K and $100K.

    Still. I’m better informed.

    • In reply to #244 by Uriel-238:

      Could someone explain to me how an objective moral and an absolute moral differ from a deontological moral?

      Because something does not have to be absolute, or unconditional, to be objective. As long as consequentialist view is based on social ideals, rather than individual ones, the ideals can still be objective.

  109. Pascendi @ 246

    Mike, I don’t need to give any contingent object its contingency. It already has it.

    Um, using the philosophical definition of contingency (according to Wikipedia) your use doesn’t parse or make sense. Can you please rephrase or define it? Mike’s existence is contingent on what? Objects are contingent on what?

    After you die, you won’t exist again until Christ resurrects your body and re-ensouls it. You’re not your soul. It’s part of you.

    Souls are tricky. They have no detectable mass, no electromagnetic signature, no indication that they persist after life, which means either they don’t exist at all, or are so ephemeral that they likely would not survive the elements of nature to reach another host, whether another body or Heaven, or Hell. Unless you want to suggest that there is a whole nother quantum interaction field that continues to elude our physicists where souls have a robust and undetectable presence.

    Aside: The other possibility is the notion that our reality is simulated, which I’ve posited elsewhere, in which case there can be whole physical infrastructures that do not have detectible effects. Usually it is the notion that all of reality is immaterial which is repugnant to humans, including theists, but that does not make it less likely. In fact we have no means to detect the probability of reality being a simulation.

    • In reply to #248 by Uriel-238:

      The other possibility is the notion that our reality is simulated…

      I prefer assuming that at least some of my senses are accurate some of the time, otherwise we can’t claim to ‘know’ anything at all, ever. Plus, solipsism does not give as a useful framework to base judgements or knowledge.The fact that the knife being thrust at us may not absolutely exist, does not mean we should not avoid it, one must consider that it can still seem to hurt or kill us in this perceived ‘reality’. Wouldn’t you agree?

      • In reply to #251 by Tlhedglin:

        I prefer assuming that at least some of my senses are accurate some of the time, otherwise we can’t claim to ‘know’ anything at all, ever. Plus, solipsism does not give as a useful framework to base judgements or knowledge…

        All that you have said is true, and yes, it serves us well to treat our world as regardless: whether or the sources of pain are dreamed they certainly hurt.

        Regarding the senses, though, my conjecture really is all or nothing. If we’re programs in the construct (rather than brains in jars being fed The Matrix) then we may have no actual senses to speak of, and so they are as real to us as the simulation is.

        But my intent was only descriptive of a possibility. I’d rather the world be real as well (though instinctively, I still fear death and crave immortality). I wasn’t saying that the world should be a simulation, only that it could be, and that such a possibility would be necessary for the notions of souls or afterlife to be possible.

        • In reply to #282 by Uriel-238:

          All that you have said is true, and yes, it serves us well to treat our world as regardless: whether or the sources of pain are dreamed they certainly hurt.

          Indeed. Even IF what we perceive is a dream or elaborate delusion, it would be unreasonable to ignore it, because even in that dream or delusion there would be illusory consequences which would seem real enough.

          Regarding the senses, though, my conjecture really is all or nothing. If we’re programs in the construct (rather than brains in jars being fed The Matrix) then we may have no actual senses to speak of, and so they are as real to us as the simulation is.

          The simulation would be real, for all intents and purposes.

          But my intent was only descriptive of a possibility. I’d rather the world be real as well (though instinctively, I still fear death and crave immortality). I wasn’t saying that the world should be a simulation, only that it could be, and that such a possibility would be necessary for the notions of souls or afterlife to be possible.

          Ah, gotcha. One has to assume another plane of existence, in order to assert another plane of existence. I just don’t see myself ever buying or drinking that flavor of KoolAid.

  110. Uriel,

    I seem to remember that you said you thought there were no absolute truths about morality. If there aren’t any absolute truths about it anywhere, including God’s “neighborhood,” you need to admit that it’s hardly absolutely true that God should keep anyone out of hell.

  111. What about homosexual love, Uriel? Nobody is denying that they should get it. Some think or maybe even know that a same-sex-attracted person’s longing for same-sex romantic love is unhealthy and that some homosexual acts are dangerous. For example, sodomy can cause can cause the recipient’s colon to leak. Sodomy, whether homosexual or heterosexual, increases the recipients chances of catching colon cancer. Life expectancies of homosexuals tend to be years shorter than life expectancies of heterosexuals. In a few minutes, I’ll post medical evidence for what I’m saying. Meanwhile, if homosexuality were genetic, you’d expect every homosexual’s identical twin to be homosexual, too. But some homosexual identical twins have opposite sexual orientations.

    • In reply to #252 by Pascendi:

      A. Is it anymore dangerous than smoking, bad diet, or even driving?

      B. I doubt it is simply genetic, it is likely psychological in the same sense that attraction is. People have all sort of strange fetishes, some of which are somewhat dangerous, like BDSM. I would not consider them to be immoral activities, as long as there is appropriate consent between the parties engaging in these activities, would you?

    • In reply to #252 by Pascendi:

      Some think or maybe even know that a same-sex-attracted person’s longing for same-sex romantic love is unhealthy and that some homosexual acts are dangerous. For example, sodomy can cause can cause the recipient’s colon to leak. Sodomy, whether homosexual or heterosexual, increases the recipients chances of catching colon cancer. Life expectancies of homosexuals tend to be years shorter than life expectancies of heterosexuals.

      If god’s so concerned with gay people’s well being why does it send them to hell to be tortured for all eternity? That sounds even worse then a leaky colon.

  112. Pascendi @ 247

    You probably think you know that, say, that the theory of evolution is true.

    Clarification: I know that evolution is the model that most accurately describes our body of facts, and most often predicts what we will discover next. The theory of evolution describes a whole series of processes by which creatures change over generations to better suit their environment. I don’t know evolution is true, and would rather say with some certainty some of its elementary notions are imprecise, and new information will reveal these inaccuracies and bring about new notions which will ultimately be added to the theory. This is the way science works. This is how science is provisional.

    This is also to say that evolution is much more true than biblical creationism, or than Hellenic creationism, but who knows: maybe Poseidon did invent the horse for Athens by selectively breeding quadrupeds.

    They don’t say what they mean by “absolute.”

    Actually they do. In mathematics, we have the notion of proof beyond doubt. You can challenge the axioms (such as applying Euclidean geometry to other manifolds such as a sphere or a cone) but otherwise a proof is certain. This is the advantage of an abstract field of study. Interestingly, this doesn’t mean mathematics is immune to paradox.

    In material sciences, you cannot measure anything perfectly. You cannot define a thing perfectly without a margin of error, therefore everything will be inexact. But certainly exact enough to build skyscrapers and send men to the moon and back.

  113. It’s fair to say that in my reasoning, “believe” is a synonym for “know?” What a strange thing to say. Knowing implies believing, but believing doesn’t imply knowing. You know something only if you believe it but not if and only if you believe it. If believing always implied knowing, nobody could be mistaken about anything. Besides, I might be merely supposing everything I say here about God. I might be entertaining theological ideas to see what they imply.

    I’m going to answer Mike’s newest post. Then I’m going to begin research for my paper that will show that, if there’s a God, the Trinity is the ONLY one He can be. I may post it here. Maybe not. But I’m going to try to get it published. Nitya, you’ve convinced me to try to write it. I felt dispirited before I returned to this board. But you gave me a new sense of purpose and a great reason to ignore the board.
    In reply to #260 by Nitya:

    In reply to #247 by Pascendi:

    I’ve never told anyone here that I knew that God existed. I believe that he exists. Why? Partly because St. Thomas’a first-cause argument convinces me. But as I’ve already admitted, I may be wrong.

    You probably think you know that, say, that the theory of evolutio…

  114. Pascendi regarding the (broken) link you sent to me regarding diseases caused by the homosexual lifestyle (post #253), inevitably is a strong word, and not true. Granted, the act of anal sex has a greater risk than coitus when it comes to the transmission of some STDs, but not all gay couples engage in anal sex, and many heterosexual couples do. The sexual activities available to lesbian couples are actually lower risk than those normally engaged in by het couples (again, coitus) so…no.

    I would argue the matter of monogamy, that most gay couples are in committed, monogamous relationships, which means the chances of getting an STD is zero, but there’s actually a bigger issue:

    What is particularly notable failing of the disease = wrath of God argument is that STDs are really no more deadly to us than diseases communicable by other means (e.g. influenzas, measles, The bubonic plague and so on). Would you or your Church condemn the lifestyles of those who suffered and died in the plagues? Or the Spanish influenza pandemic? Or the poliomyelitis pandemic? Are you or your church going to suggest that interacting with people, say in a market, or being in close proximity on a subway or in an elevator is an abomination and elevator-riders should be put to death? No, because the this line of logic is obviously dubious (but correct me if you think otherwise!)

    No, HIV was allowed to spread to pandemic levels, because in the 80s our governments couldn’t be bothered with a plague that was affecting mostly (closeted) gays and druggies. And then it spread into the main populace. These days, it’s less that HIV is associated with gays, but that it’s associated with poor black Africans that makes HIV research a low priority in industrialized nations. But go ahead and tell us you agree with Ratzinger that condoms are a greater threat than HIV to African people.

    If we treated STDs with the same vigilance that we treat other pandemics, then the disease argument against promiscuity (let alone gay sex) would be laughable. But instead, thanks to a culture that was forced upon Western civilization by your Church, our conservative, religiously biased governments withhold the funding to these efforts that they are due.

    252: homosexual acts are dangerous. For example, sodomy can cause can cause the recipient’s colon to leak. Sodomy, whether homosexual or heterosexual, increases the recipients chances of catching colon cancer. Life expectancies of homosexuals tend to be years shorter than life expectancies of heterosexuals.

    If the church were interested in alleviating danger, Pascendi, it would allow for abortions (or fund efforts towards ectogenesis) since abortions are, by far, less risky to a woman than having a child. In fact, the dangers of pregnancy are far greater than the risks of (rough, frequent) anal sex.

    But that’s what it’s all about, yes, Pascendi? You are squicked by anal sex? Or are you squicked by any sex at all that isn’t reproductive?

    In fact, recreational (non-reproductive) sex tends to improve health and extend lifespans significantly more than the risks caused by having sex, but, Pascendi, you wouldn’t know that considering the sources of data you choose. Sexually active people, including those with multiple partners, are happier, healthier and live longer.

    if homosexuality were genetic, you’d expect every homosexual’s identical twin to be homosexual, too. But some homosexual identical twins have opposite sexual orientations.

    According to the video below, when one of a pair of male twins was gay, the other would also be gay about 70% of the time (which is how we figured out some of what we know). Birth order in a string of male siblings increases the likelihood of the next son being gay. (Twins are determined separately from each other, but each has about the same chance.)

    This also doesn’t address lesbians or bisexuals somewhere in the middle of the Kinsey scale, the latter of which are probably far more frequent than gays (maybe so hets). Religious groups including the RCC tend to want to regard sexuality based on behavior (except when they’re choosing priests) while health organizations associate homosexuality with orientation of the libido (desire). So there’s a lot of linguistic confusion. And there’s a lot of social pressure for gays and bis to stay closeted, so those that can pass for straight often choose to do so. Again, much thanks to the pressures of your Church.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9WKW6fw7I4

    249 I seem to remember that you said you thought there were no absolute truths about morality. If there aren’t any absolute truths about it anywhere, including God’s “neighborhood,” you need to admit that it’s hardly absolutely true that God should keep anyone out of hell.

    Pascendi, I suspect (I don’t know) that there aren’t any gods, and if there were godlike beings in this universe, that the biblical god would not be among them. The vastness of the universe, and the non-central position we have in it certainly indicates we are incidental, merely moss suspended in a film on the surface of a mote orbiting a spark, and that if we want to become anything more than that we will have to become spacefaring. Any godlike creature that so favors us insects would also be bound to this speck, and incidental to the greater cosmos.

    Are you suggesting that you believe the Catholic god does not represent Himself to be the pinnacle and source of all morality? Certainly His own actions (commanding genocide, torturing Job, nuking cities, flooding the Earth and banishing souls by the billions to eternal torture and suffering) define him by human moral standards as possibly the worst monster in fiction, even surpassing the horrors of which H.P. Lovecraft dreamed and wrote about in his stories. And I would think less of you for knowingly supporting and standing at the side of such a grotesque demiurge. (So yeah, I hope for the love of all humankind that the bible is pure fiction.)

    (Instead, granted, I think of you as indoctrinated, Pascendi. I suspect you were brainwashed, probably at a young age, which is still pretty pathetic, but rather commonplace. You probably believe the Church’s doctrine, believe it means well and believe that your dogma makes sense. You’ve probably been taught to favor obedience over thinking for yourself, and whether the Church needs a cog in one of its machines, a soldier for its front lines or a martyr for one of its countless sacrificial altars, you’ll be a good one.)

    I confess that your naivete about gays and about human sexuality has angered and disappointed me Pascendi. I thought your studies would be more rounded, and better informed than they turned out to be. I thought you were an inquisitive sort, and your curiosity would have led you to look things up from neutral sources (such as Wikipedia and its cites sources), especially when considering a topic around which there is much controversy and much disinformation. I thought that you’d be more cosmopolitan and culturally aware enough to understand there is a world outside of the picture the Church paints for you. I regret that in my letdown my words may have been sharper than I would have liked.

  115. I’ve been watching the responses to your posts with great interest Pascendi, and honestly while I could take great issue with a lot of the new things you’ve thrown into the discussion (homosexuality in particular) let me jump back in with this….

    I’m going to answer Mike’s newest post.

    But you’re not going to respond to the numerous rebuttals to your posts from others? Do you lack the evidence to do so?

    Then I’m going to begin research for my paper that will show that, if there’s a God, the Trinity is the ONLY one He can be.

    Have fun with that, but understand that if you can’t directly answer the questions I and others have asked about both that very assertion and what validates your flavor of deity outside of your belief I doubt it will be of much service to you on this thread, or anywhere that would require actual evidence and not theistic and philosophical meanderings. Philosophy and belief are not evidence. Conjecture is not evidence. I gave you 3 specific things you would have to produce to even further a chat about any god much less yours, and you have repeatedly ignored it. To say nothing of the contradictory (and impossible) notions of a god that is omni everything.

    I may post it here. Maybe not. But I’m going to try to get it published. Nitya, you’ve convinced me to try to write it. I felt dispirited before I returned to this board. But you gave me a new sense of purpose and a great reason to ignore the board

    A great reason to ignore the board? You mean you haven’t just ignored the questions you couldn’t answer already, or sidetracked the thread with unprovable assertions and links that only made your case worse? You’ve done nothing but ignore most of what’s been said to you, including the most important bit about empirical evidence for a single one of your claims and you providing it.

    No one has ignored your posts, everyone has responded and offered logical and thorough rebuttals for all of your points. You haven’t responded with anything that even comes close to verifiable evidence to back a single claim. Ignoring this board won’t change a bit of that.

    • I don’t have the stamina to read whole threads because my eyes tire too fast for me to do that. The best was to communicate with me are in person, by phone or with Skype because I learn best by hearing.

      No, my paper won’t be useful to me here, but that’s all right. Even if all my arguments will be deductively sound, that won’t guarantee that they’ll convince anyone. Some may not understand the premises. Others may be biased against them, the conclusion or both. Some people may even be too stupid to understand the argument. In fact, its premises can be true and entail their conclusion, even when the argument’s readers have no evidence for any premise of it. If I posted a paper that proved its point, I suspect that bias would prevent many, maybe even most, posters here from agreeing with me. I have my biased, too. But I still would hate to dismiss anything out of hand.
      In reply to #268 by achromat666:

      I’ve been watching the responses to your posts with great interest Pascendi, and honestly while I could take great issue with a lot of the new things you’ve thrown into the discussion (homosexuality in particular) let me jump back in with this….

      I’m going to answer Mike’s newest post.

      But you’re…

      • In reply to #271 by Pascendi:

        Some people may even be too stupid to understand the argument.

        That’ll be it…daft atheists too stupid to understand the minutiae of the arguments premise. Those arseholes at Strange Notions tried to pull that one with the Fesser cosmological bollocks too…then when the atheists tore them a new one…atheists were culled and comments were shoved down the memoryhole.

        Why not try something new….broaden your reading horizons….http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theism/cosmological.html

  116. @Pascendi – Then I’m going to begin research for my paper that will show that, if there’s a God, the Trinity is the ONLY one He can be.

    That is the difference between scientific research into reality and theist “research” into delusional preconceptions!

    Science investigates using proven techniques and follows the evidence to a conclusion, correcting any mistakes as it goes along.

    Theist supposed “research” starts with a pre-assumed conclusion, and tries to cobble together a plausible rationalisation to support it, from cherry-picked scraps of information, simply closing the mind to,_ and ignoring_, anything which is contra-evidence to the chosen whimsicality!

    I felt dispirited before I returned to this board. But you gave me a new sense of purpose and a great reason to ignore the board

    Yep! That’s how the delusional preservation of misconceptions works!

    Denominational group delusions facilitate the passing around of speculative opinions and agreeing to label them as doctrinal “facts”, with each religion having its own invented set of pseudo-“facts”!

  117. I don’t have the stamina to read whole threads because my eyes tire too fast for me to do that. The best was to communicate with me are in person, by phone or with Skype because I learn best by hearing.

    No, my paper won’t be useful to me here, but that’s all right. Even if all my arguments will be deductively sound, that won’t guarantee that they’ll convince anyone. Some may not understand the premises. Others may be biased against them, the conclusion or both. Some people may even be too stupid to understand the argument. In fact, its premises can be true and entail their conclusion, even when the argument’s readers have no evidence for any premise of it. If I posted a paper that proved its point, I suspect that bias would prevent many, maybe even most, posters here from agreeing with me. I have my biased, too. But I still would hate to dismiss anything out of hand.

    In order for something to be established in fact, one has to do more than please an internet thread. This is not a misunderstanding of the premise nor is it a simple biased out of hand dismissal.

    You came to the site with a bunch of unprovable positions, philosophically mired theories and zero evidence. You gave us links to sites that perpetuate your biased opinions on unprovable claims and basically towed the line of your faith.

    You’ve received a number of replies you never bothered to address. Yes, there are a lot of people addressing your claims but you’re at a site frequented by skeptics.

    And the best part of all? Science doesn’t operate with bias. It wouldn’t matter if you convinced me or anyone else here. If you could provide hard science for a single one of your claims this whole discussion would have traveled in an entirely different direction, as would the nature of our scientific understanding.

    But you didn’t. You gave us semantics, philosophy, unprovable claims and your own biases based on your religious belief. Regardless of what you think of me or anyone else here, people come to this site all the time making theistic claims they cannot prove. This has been no different.

    You have a strong opinion, but not proof.

  118. In reply to #275 by Nitya:

    I call it supernatural reasoning. If one accepts supernatural reasoning then this follows that etc. the trouble being , that we don’t accept supernatural reasoning from the outset. Therein lies the conflict.

    It applies to more than simply SUPERNATURAL things. It can be used to justify belief in anything, at anytime, anywhere, for no good reason.

  119. The question itself is preposterous, especially if we are talking about the Abrahamic god. As I discuss at length in my book “The Ethics of the Faith”, Yahweh is not only not necessary for morality but is one of the most violent, tyrannical, capricious, unjust, and immoral characters that humans have ever created.

  120. For any Faith Slaves still here attempting to stabilize your God’s rotting crutches ..errr.. churches, maybe you’ve noticed that you’re surrounded by Reason & Science, which have a well built, heavily buttressed, and rapidly growing Foundation.

    It’s so ironic that he accused some of us of “being too ignorant to understand the arguments”, when he doesn’t even have a real container to hold together his ingredients.

    Mine are 2 of many comments that Pascendi ignored while spouting his oh-so-familiar assertions caused by his metastasized faith-virus infection, but, from previous experiences here, I didn’t expect a response anyway…. 😎 …. Mac.

  121. Moderators’ message

    The majority of this thread has been a great example of disagreement argued forcefully but expressed civilly. May we ask all users to keep it that way, please.

    Thank you.

    The mods

  122. Morality is a concept and does not exist.
    Evil is a concept and does not exist.
    What exists is matter, feeling, perception, volition and consciousness.
    The last three are unique to each individual and contain a mass of contradictory beliefs and impulses.
    Concepts of right and wrong will figure amongst those beliefs and will affect the behaviour of the organism.
    Often of course the behaviour will be at odds with the concepts held and this will cause psychological pain which may again affect the behaviour of the organism.
    It’s all a bunch of concepts; right, wrong, god, atheist, france, spain, race, sexuality – it’s all ideas.
    Ideas are fine as long as we know that’s all they are.

  123. Why not try to change ‘God’ to something else for a different (wrong) argument which follows the same logic structure?

    What’s the point of this argument? Are these people trying to insinuate that there can’t be any ‘evil/bad things in the world if there isn’t God? Therefore evil proves God exists? Or we’ll all just morally disintegrate when nothing is considered ‘evil’, or something?

    If their religion was true God would have created Evil in the first place anyway. What a ‘loving’ God. Just so he could have a superiority complex by deeming God=Good, NOTGod= Evil or something. I’m not sure why we’d want ‘absolute morality’ anyway. Clearly things go on a debatable spectrum eventually into things that are clearly worse than others (as agreed by any sane humans).

  124. The first two points could be dismantled as follows.

    Definition: “absolute” morality means the morality is the same at any time and
    any place.

    Let’s assume God exists and thus there is an “absolute” morality.
    We can observe that morality today is not the same in every place but it is cultural
    dependent: in some countries is commonly accepted to kill a cheating wife, while in the
    vast majority of countries is not.
    If we fix the place and move along the time axis, we can also observe that
    morality as changed over time also: slavery was commonly accepted for several
    centuries so that it was regulated by proper laws. Today there are virtually no
    countries that accept salvery.
    We can conclude that morality is not “absolute” even if God exists.
    Does it proves that God does not exists? Unfortunately, it does not.
    The postulated relation “God exists –> there is absolute morality” is a simple
    implication relation and not a two ways implication, so the second part can be
    false while the first being true.

    The third point is too ill posed to be given an aswer. We can not say if a fact
    is good or bad if we do not define the boundaries of the inspection.
    The same fact can be bad for one person and good for another: a low
    calories food is good for a person who wants get slim and bad for a person who
    is underweight and wants get fatter.
    The same fact can be bad at the moment and good later: missing a flight is bad
    at the moment but turns good when you learn the plane had an accident.
    The same fact can be bad by itself but have good consequencies: a rape is bad but
    if a beloved child borns, the consequence is good for the raped woman also.

  125. Let me come at it from a Vedantic point of view.

    Simply put, there is no ‘Evil’ nor ‘Good’. These in reality do not exist like laws of physics do.

    Morality, good, evil, etc are all an illusion, created by necessity of our own existence.

    • In reply to #297 by Jagan:
      I don’t know anything about Vedantic points of view. But Jagan’s point seems self-refuting because the illusion would deceive us. It would be evil because it would prevent us from seeing some things the way the are.

      • Maybe I made a mistake because I ignored the difference between moral and natural evil when I answered Jagan’s post. Optical illusions can fool us because our sense of sight works imperfectly. Some optical illusions would be natural evils, too, because they’re deceptive, though no one would even want to punish the sense of sight for the deception. If there’s moral evil, then we can use that sense for immoral purposes. But it’s hardly a moral agent, and only a moral agent can deserve blame.
        In reply to #298 by WMcEnaney:

        In reply to #297 by Jagan:
        I don’t know anything about Vedantic points of view. But Jagan’s point seems self-refuting because the illusion would deceive us. It would be evil because it would prevent us from seeing some things the way the are.

  126. If objective morality exists, then we lose the ability to tell the difference between good and evil.

    The Old Testament contains numerous examples of divinely mandated genocide which are considered to be good by apologists because they were ordered by god (or at least the priesthood claimed they were).

    Well Hitler claimed he was a good Catholic and was “doing the Lord’s work” when he launched the Holocaust.

    No one reasonable disputes Hitler was one of the most evil men who ever lived, and apologists claim he couldn’t possibly have been a Christian because of the evil nature of his acts.

    Just because a person claims their actions are inspired by a god should in no way excuse those actions from scrutiny (either at the time, or historically). And if historically we redefine an action such as the Biblical genocides from being moral to being immoral based on the example of a modern attempted genocide like the Holocaust (which even the people doing it, when they were doing it knew had to be kept secret from the ordinary German people), then haven’t we proved objective morality doesn’t exist

    • In reply to #301 by N_Ellis:

      Just because a person claims their actions are inspired by a god should in no way excuse those actions from scrutiny (either at the time, or historically). And if historically we redefine an action such as the Biblical genocides from being moral to being immoral based on the example of a modern attempted genocide like the Holocaust (which even the people doing it, when they were doing it knew had to be kept secret from the ordinary German people), then haven’t we proved objective morality doesn’t exist?

      No, because the redefinition isn’t arbitrary, but based upon a reclassification of the elements involved based on what we now understand about humanity and the defensibility of particular moral positions (most obviously, that there’s no basis for thinking a god even exists, much less that whatever it says goes). What your argument effectively boils down to is: disagreement over how to classify a concept proves that any answer is acceptable. This is like arguing that controversy in science proves postmodernism.

    • N_Ellis, please tell us what you mean by “objective morality.” First, you say that, if objective morality exists, we lose the ability to tell the difference between good and evil. Then you talk about the nature of an obviously evil act. If an act is innately evil, that innateness tells me that the act still evil, even when nobody knows whether it’s evil. It’s not evil because I think it’s evil. I think it’s evil because it is evil. When I believe the act is evil, its evilness makes my belief true.
      In reply to #301 by N_Ellis:

      If objective morality exists, then we lose the ability to tell the difference between good and evil.

      The Old Testament contains numerous examples of divinely mandated genocide which are considered to be good by apologists because they were ordered by god (or at least the priesthood claimed they wer…

      • In reply to #309 by Tlhedglin:

        In reply to #303 by Oldschoolsaint:
        There is no argument at all, morality is relative, only humans have it.

        You don’t think chimpanzees have morality? Or bonobos? Or wolves? How do they coexist with the rest of their group?

        • In reply to #313 by Uriel-238:

          In reply to #309 by Tlhedglin:

          In reply to #303 by Oldschoolsaint:
          There is no argument at all, morality is relative, only humans have it.

          You don’t think chimpanzees have morality? Or bonobos? Or wolves? How do they coexist with the rest of their group?

          I would not consider their behaviors to be clear-cut examples of moral agency, which is necessary for morality. We have concepts such as “human rights”, we have concepts of right and wrong, I don’t see how you intend to draw a parallel…

          • In reply to #315 by Tlhedglin:

            I would not consider their behaviors to be clear-cut examples of moral agency, which is necessary for morality. We have concepts such as “human rights”, we have concepts of right and wrong, I don’t see how you intend to draw a parallel…

            Evidently you’ve not read the rest of the thread.

            What would you consider a clear-cut example of moral agency that you would accept?

            Can you elaborate as to what you mean by concepts such as “human rights” and concepts of right and wrong?

            I infer from your dismissal of other creatures that you do not believe the ethic of reciprocity (the golden rule) to be a clear-cut example of moral agency, given that many animals including most (if not all) mammals clearly have a sense of it, at least as far as their own tribe. So yes, please be specific as to what you believe qualifies as moral agency.

          • In reply to #316 by Uriel-238:

            Evidently you’ve not read the rest of the thread.

            Really? This right off the bat? I, for some reason, expected better from you…

            What would you consider a clear-cut example of moral agency that you would accept?

            An individual, making behavioral choices, based on a perceived notion of right and wrong.

            Can you elaborate as to what you mean by concepts such as “human rights” and concepts of right and wrong?

            I am fairly sure you know what the concept of human rights entails. Concepts of natural and legal rights exist in the human mind. I also don’t feel we really need to have a long debate over what is socially acceptable, and what isn’t.

            I infer from your dismissal of other creatures that you do not believe the ethic of reciprocity (the golden rule) to be a clear-cut example of moral agency, given that many animals including most (if not all) mammals clearly have a sense of it, at least as far as their own tribe.

            Moral agency implies certain capabilities, like reason and the ability to form moral judgement based on a social contract, so it is not as simple as being nice to something that is nice to you. If that were the case, it would also be reciprocally moral to personally rape or kill someone, who raped or killed your family member. Reciprocity often seems moral when it is positive, but as soon as you pull back the curtain and view the negative side, it looses all veneer of morality.

            So yes, please be specific as to what you believe qualifies as moral agency.

            Making moral judgements based on socially accepted principles, despite the other party. Empathy and compassion are fine and dandy, but more is necessary and has to be taught, for a person to be “moral”. Children often lack what we consider morality, despite having empathy and a sense of reciprocity, until they are taught by role models. Unless you would like to argue that morality is innate, and morality isn’t taught at all, but universally understood; do you?

          • In reply to #317 by Tlhedglin:

            Really? This right off the bat? I, for some reason, expected better from you…

            You’re right. I checked. You’ve been here all along. But that makes your suggestion, that [animal] behaviors [are not] clear-cut examples of moral agency, which is necessary for morality even more surprising to me. We’ve already covered this extensively.

            U238: What would you consider a clear-cut example of moral agency that you would accept?

            An individual, making behavioral choices, based on a perceived notion of right and wrong.

            And yet you appear to be making the presumption that other animals do not have a notion of right and wrong. Why would you suppose that humans are the only species who can conceive of judicial right, and then behave based on those notions? That implies that you know what other animals think or are capable of thinking.

            U238: Can you elaborate as to what you mean by concepts such as “human rights” and concepts of right and wrong?

            I am fairly sure you know what the concept of human rights entails. Concepts of natural and legal rights exist in the human mind. I also don’t feel we really need to have a long debate over what is socially acceptable, and what isn’t.

            We have documented evidence of crime and punishment amongst other primates. (A band of Chimpanzees will unilaterally drown a member for attacking an elder female, for example.) We have evidence of animals regarding some recognized creatures differently than those they don’t recognize. I would regard these as recognition of the rights of others, or of the notion of right and wrong.

            Hence the reason I felt the need to ask. To metaphorize another observation, animals may not be able to craft an iPod, but that doesn’t mean they cannot use tools.

            U238: …you do not believe the ethic of reciprocity (the golden rule) to be a clear-cut example of moral agency, given that many animals including most (if not all) mammals clearly have a sense of it, at least as far as their own tribe.

            Moral agency implies certain capabilities, like reason and the ability to form moral judgement based on a social contract, so it is not as simple as being nice to something that is nice to you. If that were the case, it would also be reciprocally moral to personally rape or kill someone…

            Here we’re getting somewhere. In fact, the notion of reprisal (killing someone who has wronged your family, such as in cases of rape) has been considered correct and honorable for far longer than it has not, as has killing for your lord / king / flag. Only in the twentieth century have these notions come under review, probably due to our technological ability to wage war (mostly thanks to mechanization and strategic bombing… nukes came later and upped the stakes to terrifying levels).

            I think by your standard, most of humankind and all religions would be outside the spectrum of acceptable morality. I would even say that the bullyish nature of my own nation (the US — specifically its leaders who allegedly represent its people) proves that we won’t adhere to agreed-upon charters when we can somehow justify not doing so, ergo the Bush administration’s waterboarding is not torture policy or the Obama administration’s collecting data is not an illegal search if we don’t look at it without secret oversight policy.

            We’ve determined these things (don’t torture, respect the privacy of others, et. al. at length) not from a sense of morality but a) recognizing that we need loftier goals than raiding the neighboring village and stealing its nubile women, since bigger, inclusive civilizations advance far more quickly than smaller ones (and eat the smaller ones, either through cultural assimilation or conquest) and b) because these things have been a problem before, and we know from historical experience that not doing them weakens civilization. (Mother England wasn’t so keen on privacy, and that made the people — in Britannia and the colonies — really rather cross.)

            When we forget the lessons that history taught us, or somehow rationalize that this time is different, we end up repeating the same mistakes over and over again. So our sense of right and wrong outside our instincts…not so strong, really.

            Children often lack what we consider morality, despite having empathy and a sense of reciprocity, until they are taught by role models. Unless you would like to argue that morality is innate, and morality isn’t taught at all, but universally understood; do you?

            Morality is partially innate. There is some nature and some nurture, and in most of our cultures, the mores that we learn are protocols by which to enact the natural ones (saying please and thank you). In all fairness, we can derive a lot from reciprocity (essentially all the good notions in the bible and then some), and failures of reciprocity tend to be a failure of empathy or failure to realize how it’s unfair. Once established, though, people generally realize that yes, doing that was wrong and I should feel bad.

            Children figure out on their own fair and unfair, e.g. what is cheating in a game. (In fact, our capacity for logic increases vastly when coached in judicial examples. “Sally doesn’t get dessert unless she eats her vegetables. Sally did not eat dessert tonight. Can we assume that she did not eat her vegetables?”)

            Children know to protect their kin and care for those who have come to harm. Children know that people in authority (parents, teachers, police, adults…) are to be obeyed without question. But children also know that it’s more important to be loyal to their immediate friends than to report rule breaches to authorities. (Hence snitching… or whistleblowing… are stigmatized).

            Children also know that strange people (those who are unfamiliar, or have unfamiliar traits) are to be shunned and avoided, or if they’re small enough, beaten or pelted with rocks. (10,000 years ago, this was a good way to keep strange infections from wiping out your tribe. Evolution hasn’t accounted for vaccines and centralized disease control). We have to teach them that our society is big enough that there are a lot of people, and that all of them, even those we don’t know very well, are part of us and we don’t throw rocks at them.

            Many, possibly most adults don’t get this one, hence why atheists are not well treated, even by law.

            In conclusion (or TL:DR) I think our charters that highlight our moral ideals (The Geneva Convention, Humanist doctrine and so on) are assembled by the best and brightest angels of our nature. But when it comes to human society, we are far from achieving those lofty ideals, and right now are downright pathetic at it. Most humans don’t move past their own instinctive moral values to embrace those that would better serve society. Ergo I don’t think we contrast from other animals very much at all.

          • In reply to #318 by Uriel-238:

            In reply to #317 by Tlhedglin:

            Really? This right off the bat? I, for some reason, expected better from you…

            You’re right. I checked. You’ve been here all along. But that makes your suggestion, that [animal] behaviors [are not] clear-cut examples of moral agency, which is necessary for morality…

            Oh, my, this will take a while. I don’t have time for it right now, I will have to come back to it when I have the time.

          • In reply to #319 by Tlhedglin:

            Oh, my, this will take a while. I don’t have time for it right now, I will have to come back to it when I have the time.

            Take your time. I obviously got carried away a bit.

  127. Certainly not, because most humanist gods are actually highly immoral.

    The Christian god, for instance, urges followers to kill brides who are not virgins, to kill homosexuals, and to kill you parents and siblings if they change their religion. Nice religion.

    Meanwhile, the Islamic god urges followers to oppress, torture and kill people of all other religions, and also urges parents to kill their children if they are disobedient or change their religion. Nice religion.

    We are never going to learn absolute morality from the immoral teachings of these vile religions.

    .

  128. This site should think about posting survey results where people could actively vote and make suggestions for a survey topic.(Kind of like submitting a discussion). The answers would be fixed something like a)Agree , b)Somewhat Agree , c) somewhat disagree and d)disagree

    Its just like where discussions continue on over many comments (as this one has) , I would like to see a quick view on how people feel about the subject. It could be percentage based.

  129. Just to make another point on morality.

    Morality is also articulated through trial and error , helped along by the scientific method. Failed hypothesis are thrown out , revised etc. And so we keep moving until we have a better understanding of what it is to be moral.

    You don’t need God for morality

    trial and error can get us a long way with respect to this morality question.

    • Kinkong, I’m pro-life. For me, that implies that I need to be against abortion, euthanasia and suicide. That’s partly why I hope you’ll tell us what you mean by “pro-life” and what you do to reconcile being pro-life with being for same-sex “marriage” when homosexual sex is innately nonprocreative.

      • In reply to #311 by WMcEnaney:

        Kinkong, I’m pro-life. For me, that implies that I need to be against abortion, euthanasia and suicide. That’s partly why I hope you’ll tell us what you mean by “pro-life” and what you do to reconcile being pro-life with being for same-sex “marriage” when homosexual sex is innately nonprocreative.

        The vast majority of human intercourse is for pleasure, not procreation. Are you really willing to argue that only sex that may lead to reproduction is moral?

        • Some kinds of non-procreative sex can be moral. For example, it’s okay for a man to have vaginal sex with his wife after her surgeon takes out her cancerous womb, after menopause, and when either spouse is unintentionally sterile. . . I replied to Kingkong because I don’t know of any way for people to be fully pro-life when they support a naturally, innately un-procreative kind of sex.

          • In reply to #320 by WMcEnaney:

            I replied to Kingkong because I don’t know of any way for people to be fully pro-life when they support a naturally, innately un-procreative kind of sex.

            But that is because those who spout dogma about pro-life, have no proper definition of life or pro-life, and have no idea what they are talking about. Most are biologically illiterate!

          • In reply to #320 by WMcEnaney:

            Some kinds of non-procreative sex can be moral. For example, it’s okay for a man to have vaginal sex with his wife after her surgeon takes out her cancerous womb, after menopause, and when either spouse is unintentionally sterile. . .I replied to Kingkong because I don’t know of any way for people to be fully pro-life when they support a naturally, innately un-procreative kind of sex.

            Are you saying that using the rhythm method, or having sex during menstruation, or early withdrawal, or having a partner bring you to orgasm manually or orally, or using the pill, or using a condom, or sex when you have had your tubes tied, is immoral?

            Can you explain what type of morality that represents, and what kind of rational thinking and social consensus justifies imposing it?

          • In reply to #320 by WMcEnaney:

            Some kinds of non-procreative sex can be moral. For example, it’s okay for a man to have vaginal sex with his wife after her surgeon takes out her cancerous womb, after menopause, and when either spouse is unintentionally sterile.

            Why is that then? Who told ya? Surely the same god that caused those things is the same god that made non-procrative sex immoral, no? Perhaps it is gods way of making sex with these types of people permanently off limits…I think its a lot of bollocks and don’t believe it for a moment, but how does a believer know it isn’t?

  130. Re: Pro-life

    I suspect that pro-life as with (for instance) pro-choice, feminist, conservative, et. al. does not represent a singular comprehensive position or platform, but a multitude of positions that have some similarities.

    Here in the US, pro-life hardly precludes capital punishment, for example, though the Vatican’s position on pro-life does. Similarly, the Vatican includes pacifism and excludes birth control in its position yet in the (mostly Baptist) pro-life doesn’t necessarily have a specific stand against birth control, and shares a large demographic with pro-war.

    Myself, I find the pro-life position unpalatable, seeing that it implies also pro-rape, anti-women’s-equality and anti-nonreproductive-sex. But maybe the atheist version of pro-life is more rationally based than to define personhood at conception (rather than a more reasonable point in gestation, such as the beginning of higher order brain functions).

    (Not, incidentally, that the bible has anything to say about personhood that anti-abortion advocates would want to hear).

    EDIT: clarity

  131. people’s morality change with time and what was accepted a thousand years ago is refused today, that means people’s morality is not absolute and it changes frequently, so why should we apply the absolute morality system of a religion that is two thousand years old or so, if we naturally change our own morality with time? this make religious morality inconvenient for our societies of today and tomorrow.

  132. I now follow God on Twitter, and he delivers HILARIOUS one-liners daily. A good portion of them tackling “morality”. He now has almost 1 million Followers. Understandable: he won 12 Emmys under his David Javerbaum incarnation. If you want the best Tweets so far, go here

  133. Some kinds of non-procreative sex can be moral.

    Aaaaaaaaand stop. No, not true, certainly not in the way you’re inferring. Sex is more than just a method of reproduction, and trying to make any kind of case of when it is or isn’t appropriate is not dependent on whether or not the people performing the act are good Catholics (or whichever branch of religion happens to have a problem with what people do in private).

    Moral decisions regarding sex include the people in question doing it consensually, being mature enough to understand the act itself and not doing harm in the process. None of the following examples fit this particular bill.

    For example, it’s okay for a man to have vaginal sex with his wife after her surgeon takes out her cancerous womb, after menopause, and when either spouse is unintentionally sterile. . . I replied to Kingkong because I don’t know of any way for people to be fully pro-life when they support a naturally, innately un-procreative kind of sex.

    It’s funny that when people throw out words like pro life they sound awfully anti person. On what basis are you making the case that people should only have sex if they are trying to reproduce? Religious? We can dissect that numerous different ways and describe in detail the flaws in that idea. Biological? Sex is a healthy aspect of life. People with active sex lives have been shown to be happier and healthier in numerous ways, the dark and sinister leanings pro lifers (and religious people in general, not sure if you are both) want to give sex are extremely unhealthy and restrictive on something no one has a right to restrict.

    And let’s be clear here: We’re talking about sex between consenting individuals. When people start developing the urges to have sex, they aren’t doing it to have kids. They’re learning about themselves and developing the sexual habits that will make them happy. The decision for what people have sex for is not yours to make.

    Sex is an act people do as much for pleasure as they do for anything else, possible (likely) more. This is not morally wrong, it’s based on the very attractions that draw people together to be intimate in the first place. This is entirely natural. How people respond to it, such as this post, would be unnatural and for the people enjoying their personal lives doing harm to no one entirely unwanted.

  134. Can morality of any kind be scientifically tested? And if there is no such thing as Free Will then there is no such thing as good and evil, right and wrong. Hitler simply did what he was programmed to do given the environment he was in. Since we are basically robots, therefore no more intrinsically valuable than a stone (or have more free will than a stone) how can anything be considered good or bad? Can a computer do evil? Or a paper clip? Or a dog? Monkey? Human? And when you take a step back and view the intrinsic meaninglessness of the universe, then who cares? Why all this talk by atheists about how we can keep morality but get rid of God? Why not get rid of them both? Of course a Christian will say that God has written the moral law on mans heart (which supposes free will since we are free to ignore it). In which case, if its true, it would explain why we all believe in certain morals whether or not we even believe in God: And why we want to hold on to them so tightly. Most atheists would not dare say Hitler didnt do anything wrong. If he did do wrong (by not treating others the way he wanted to be treated or whatever) then what gives them the right to decide what is right and wrong for someone else? Why should YOUR morals dictate what I can and cannot do? Why should society determine what I can and cannot do? Where does it get that right? Some claim God decides, others that society decides. Either way something else is my dictator, right?

    • “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

      In reply to #330 by Donny10000:

      Can morality of any kind be scientifically tested? And if there is no such thing as Free Will then there is no such thing as good and evil, right and wrong. Hitler simply did what he was programmed to do given the environment he was in. Since we are basically robots, therefore no more intrinsically…

    • In reply to #330 by Donny10000:

      Can morality of any kind be scientifically tested?

      That’s a great question!

      Morality, right and wrong are simply social norms. Good and evil are from a given perspective. In the dark ages, plagues were regarded as instruments of the devil, but now that we know they were the result of germs, are they evil? Is a hurricane evil? Is a wasp that dooms a caterpillar to being eaten alive by wasp larvae evil? How about the caterpillar itself which, when it multiplies freely will wipe out continents of vegetation?

      These are events in nature. Outside the context of society, events are neither good nor evil, though they can be spectacular and devastating. The explosion of the Sun in millions of years will be terrible, but not evil at all.

      But what makes a more right or wrong? We have natural mores, ones so ingrained that they are instinctive. Some still work for our huge nations (reciprocity, protection of young) some cause problems (blind obedience to authority and tradition, resistance to progress, xenophobia, small tribal size). Evolution did not have time to account for centralized disease control or democracy or global trade, all of which make for big powerful tribes that wipe out little xenophobic ones. If you define the value of a more based on which ones create strong societies, then yes they can be scientifically tested, based on what mores help one society survive and compete against other societies.

  135. Can morality of any kind be scientifically tested? And if there is no such thing as Free Will then there is no such thing as good and evil, right and wrong. Hitler simply did what he was programmed to do given the environment he was in. Since we are basically robots, therefore no more intrinsically valuable than a stone (or have more free will than a stone) how can anything be considered good or bad? Can a computer do evil? Or a paper clip? Or a dog? Monkey? Human? And when you take a step back and view the intrinsic meaninglessness of the universe, then who cares? Why all this talk by atheists about how we can keep morality but get rid of God? Why not get rid of them both? Of course a Christian will say that God has written the moral law on mans heart (which supposes free will since we are free to ignore it). In which case, if its true, it would explain why we all believe in certain morals whether or not we even believe in God: And why we want to hold on to them so tightly. Most atheists would not dare say Hitler didnt do anything wrong. If he did do wrong (by not treating others the way he wanted to be treated or whatever) then what gives them the right to decide what is right and wrong for someone else? Why should YOUR morals dictate what I can and cannot do? Why should society determine what I can and cannot do? Where does it get that right? Some claim God decides, others that society decides. Either way something else is my dictator, right?

    Your questions are still dependent on the idea that morals are divine and not man made. One doesn’t need to choose between God and atheism to make any assumptions about what is verifiable about morality. You’re forcing a false choice.

    Morality isn’t about divine hearts or assuming that humans are robots simply obeying their programmed whims: They are intrinsic of a system humans create to coexists with each other which is in a constant state of growth everywhere. What is permissible in one country is forbidden in another, and the attitudes on many of the moral and ethical issues have changed drastically over the long haul.

    You seem to equate not having divine morals with a fatalistic and empty existence when the opposite is true: Being guided by a fixed set of rules written in some ancient texts that demonstrates a vast ignorance about how both humans and the world has grown since it’s writing is fatalistic. It invites us to live by a code that never grows and never allows for people to move forward. If theists didn’t simply ignore the parts of the bible they didn’t like slavery, stoning women and homosexuals, wearing certain fabrics, eating certain foods and all kinds of claims based solely on the culture of one people would be the norm for Christians everywhere. And still be just as reprehensible.

    So no there is no dictator, unless you choose to believe in one. There is man trying to figure out the best way to be moral and ethical to each other, which is the way it has always been. And as with anything it will always be a work in progress.

  136. In reply to #330 by Donny10000:

    …If there is no such thing as Free Will then there is no such thing as good and evil, right and wrong. Hitler simply did what he was programmed to do given the environment he was in.

    Well, programmed implies that Hitler was acted upon by outside forces. I guess he was, given the Hitler genes and the events in his life that forged his personality. It also helps that Germany was really shit upon by Europe after WWI and was in really desperate straits, so the whole country was ripe for someone like Hitler. If he wasn’t interested in politics (say he became an architect after all) then perhaps Röm or Göring would have been in his place. (In fact, Hitler first regarded himself as Röm’s drummer boy until the right chap showed his face.) Antisemitism was still rampant throughout Europe and America, as was anti-sovietism (note: lower case), both of which were the foundations of the National Socialist Party platform. Without Hitler, the Nuremberg laws would still have been passed. The final solution would probably still have been enacted, and Godwinism would be about comparing people we despised to some other leader guy.

    It is, on the other hand, a topic amongst armchair historians when would be the best time to interfere with the Third Reich to prevent the rise of National Socialism. There are no clear answers of course, because we didn’t do that. But given that after WWI Europe took a big shit on Germany, they had one big raging chip on their shoulder. Killing Hitler may have made the power less unilateral, with a coke addict ragaholic with Parkinsons as the unquestioned leader. That might have allowed the German leadership to stay focused long enough to secure an impenetrable territory.

    So was Hitler evil? He was just a man in a perfect storm of circumstances.

  137. In reply to #330 by Donny10000:

    Since we are basically robots, therefore no more intrinsically valuable than a stone (or have more free will than a stone) how can anything be considered good or bad? Can a computer do evil? Or a paper clip? Or a dog? Monkey? Human?

    From where do you get the association between value and free will? If only things with free will could assign value then perhaps yes, nothing has value, but obviously we assign value to many things, including objects that do not have free will (like robots!).

    But the value of people is a different and sophisticated discussion that is way (way, way) out of the scope of this topic.

    The answer is that yes, we’re eliminating the notion of free will from two separate approaches. From the psychiatric sector, in which, more and more, we reduce human nature to component mechanisms, and Robotics in which, with better and better accuracy, we emulate human behavior until it is indestingishable from actual humans.

    The old AI notion of something achieving sentience or self awareness is a fictional idea. While we are, by far, more sophisticated than a toaster, we don’t have some magical thing that makes us different. A smart toaster can be as brilliant as we are, or more so. And unlike Hollywood suggests, it won’t be befuddled by logic and it won’t automatically turn evil.

    One wonders when we engineer smart life if we will automatically give it rights, or will the responsible corporation be able to turn her into chum whenever it likes?

    And when we prove that no-one has free will, that we are all the product of a complicated sum of circumstances, how will that make things different at all?

    For one, we can stop using revenge-based justice, maybe.

  138. In reply to #330 by Donny10000:

    And when you take a step back and view the intrinsic meaninglessness of the universe, then who cares?

    Again, does the meaningless of the universe mean that our lives have no meaning? And what is this meaning stuff in the first place?

    One of the troubles of the notion of a meaning of life is that we only suppose it exists. No-one knows what it is, or if it is unique to each person or there’s a general purpose. Without knowing the meaning, there may as well be no meaning at all.

    How does that change things, if there’s no meaning to life? How does that change the way we live and breathe?

    I suspect it doesn’t. I suspect our desire for meaning, to have a place in the universe is identical to our desire to have a place in the community.

    So even if we are mold suspended in the film on the surface of a mote orbiting a spark in a universe inconceivably huge (I means seriously, we cannot actually grasp how big it is.)… Even if we are incidental to the universe, we still have a place in our neighborhood. We still belong here.

    And so we do care. With or without God, we still care about our community and our place in it.

    EDIT: Finished a thought.

  139. There are two lines of thought in ethics: absolutist and relativist. Absolutism is kind of a strong word, because really nothing actually IS absolute. BUT! When it comes to morality, think about this: did someone teach you that rape was wrong? Did god tell you rape was wrong and that you shouldn’t do it, or did you already know that? What about murder? Is god once again to be held accountable for telling you murder is wrong? Or did you ALREADY know murder is wrong.

    Investigate the writings of Immanual Kant and his Categorical Imperative: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become law.”

    Couldn’t this truly be said? Do we not act to the maxim (standard) that we will to be law at the same time? Of course, this is debatable even with philosophy, so I’m sure that many would disagree (especially all ye’ cultural relativists).

    Secondly, investigate the stability of that argument. It is invalid. Plug in something else for morality, and let’s reformulate the argument:
    1) If there is no God then there is no absolute morality.
    2) If there is no absolute morality then morality must be relative.
    3) God is necessary for absolute morality. (“If morality is relative then evil is only a stance…” this is irrelevant. It’s implied by the argument in premise 2)

    Sequenced in a new way,you will see how the premises (the first 2 notions) and the conclusion to do not match:

    1) If there is no God, there is no absolute science
    2) If there is no absolute science, then the study of science must be relative
    3) God is necessary for absolute science.

    See how this makes no sense? If the premises and the conclusion do not match, such as in this case, then you are using an invalid argument. Which bodes really bad for them when you point it out. Many fallacious moves are ahead when you breed this type of argument…it’s not well thought out and it just makes assumptions. You can’t just make assumptions.

    If you want something simple, just ask the previous questions: Do you need God to tell you that ____ is wrong or right? Then there must be SOME absolute truths in morality! Therefore morality does not come from God, but from us.

    Enjoi.

  140. I never really understood this line of argumentation, yet it comes up so often…

    First i think it is clear that, at least, we have no idea – in any practicle, uselfull sense – of what this absolute would be. As pointed out earlier, as an observer i can only see a relative morality (nicely explained by a natural evolving world.)

    Second i do not understand why one might suggest we need an absolute in order to be able to compare anything. If one wants to measure: you define a unite. Does setting an abstract absolute do anything? (If the absolute greatest weight is 10, then does my pear weigh more then my apple? and by how much?)
    The closest anything comes to an absolute is the speed of light. And this only exsists as a constant within our material universe (in theory you can imagen or calculate with somthing faster). The effect of this discovery, was making even all our defined units relative..

    Wouldn’t the argument only start to make sense if it had a couple of specific -demonstrably objective- statements on morality, and a definition of a sort of scaling technique? Wouldn’t then adding an absolute max just make the scaling relative?

    The given statements seem to me as just some empty assumption (that were nicely undermined in the comments below :)

Leave a Reply