Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Objective Morality, Revisited

Because there was some confusion over one of my previous posts, I'd like to clarify what my views are on morality. I do think that morality is definitely objective if we agree on what the definition is. Religions have tried to squeeze their god(s) into the picture, but at its core, we pretty much all agree that "wrong" is something that increases suffering or needlessly decreases happiness while "right" is something that increases happiness or decreases suffering. If anyone doesn't agree that this definition encompasses at least 90% of their moral system, they have a poor concept of right and wrong.

The part that religions seem to add would be something like "wrong is doing whatever my god doesn't like" or "right is doing what my god commands." However, these are terrible methods by which to determine right and wrong. Like I've pointed out, if we base our standard on some being that "decides" morality, it could say that torture and genocide are good and commendable acts or that feeding your children is a despicable act of evil. Obviously, this would be absurd. However, as is evident in books like the bible, gods are often fond of commanding evil acts when it benefits them (or, more accurately, the ones speaking for them) in some way. Some examples in Christianity/Judaism would be Yahweh commanding the Israelites to wipe out entire towns and people groups because they occupied the "promised land." Before I hear any objections voice, realize there's a difference between wars fought between soldiers and an army killing all men, women, children, and babies in an area. There's just no excuse for that. Obviously, if any nation today told their military to kill every living person in a certain country, we would condemn them without question. And we wouldn't care if they said their god told them to do it. I think it's pretty obvious that "god told me to do X" is not a sufficient reason for any action. We don't give women who drown their children in bathtubs passes because Jesus told them to do it, and I wouldn't give the Israelites passes because Moses said that it was Yahweh's will. (Not that I'm implying that the Israelites actually did these things historically, but rather that the actions themselves would have been immoral.)

I'm not saying that all moral issues are black and white - obviously they're not, or we would have so many disagreements about things like socialized healthcare. Both sides of the issue, I think, want the best for the general public - they just disagree how best to implement it. Is it immoral to take money from citizens to pay for the care of others? Is it immoral to let people suffer because some people are unwilling to give money to support others' needs? I'm not sure, but do know that it is moral to attempt to lessen the suffering no matter the means by which it is achieved.

A relevant example of how "religious morality" is harming our nation is the vehement anti-gay marriage attitude espoused by many Christians, especially in the south. Analyzing this by my "objective morality" definition, I realize it is a good thing to allow homosexual marriage because it increases the happiness of the couples without increasing suffering of the protesters. I really wish everyone could see this issue as clearly as I believe I do, but some people would rather appeal to an archaic book than use their brain to analyze a position. I think it's a much more honorable thing to do to give gay couples what they should have had many years ago than to try to please a homophobic god whose existence hasn't been demonstrated to any legitimate extent.

26 Comments:

Matthew said...

changing 4-500 years of societal norm to please a minority that just starting showing up in large numbers around 40-50 years ago isn't the smartest thing...

also, using the courts is the worst possible way to do it... if there's a majority of voters who think the way you do, fine, elect representatives who believe it and are willing to expend the political capital to change the law... having one (possibly in the closet gay) judge overrule the majority view of an entire state is not justice...

back to the morality issue... if it becomes more the norm rather than the fringe, sure then we as a secular society have to accept the new norm... you have to at least admit that this issue is merely a current cause celeb.

Drew said...

Statistics show, however, that it's not a minority. A large percentage of the world (compared to what people might think) is gay or bisexual and even if not, we still need to respect the rights of minorities. I think the courts are a fine way to do things - I'd say the same for if the general public thought, for example, that Mexicans shouldn't be allowed to drive cars.

As for the norm, less than 3 percent of marriages are interracial. Does that mean that we were incorrect in allowing such marriages? I realize I may be repeating myself from what I've said on Facebook, but I think the crux of the matter is rights.

Should homosexuals have the right to marry if allowing it doesn't infringe on the rights of others? Yes. Are there any other reasons besides religious that most people use to justify disallowing the union? Not that I've seen. Considering the fact that our government must remain secular, it's almost a no-brainer that this is the best thing to do, law-wise.

You may think it's immoral according to your religion, but you have to realize that even so, you're not actively partaking in the practice. You're just allowing others to have their peaceful way.

Drew said...

Actually I think a more correct number on interracial marriage is somewhere under 10%, but the statistics I've seen have varied (and rates were much lower in the few years following the law change). Anyway, I think my point still stands.

Eric said...

Because there was some confusion over one of my previous posts, I'd like to clarify what my views are on morality. I do think that morality is definitely objective if we agree on what the definition is. Religions have tried to squeeze their god(s) into the picture, but at its core, we pretty much all agree that "wrong" is something that increases suffering or needlessly decreases happiness while "right" is something that increases happiness or decreases suffering. If anyone doesn't agree that this definition encompasses at least 90% of their moral system, they have a poor concept of right and wrong.

Interesting statement. That's very debatable since there are many "wrong" acts that increases happiness for those that are committing them. Someone who loves to murder will find great happiness in doing so; so wouldn't that make it right? Right and wrong can't always be determined by that standard. Right and wrong has to have an absolute foundation of truth or it can't be called right or wrong. And our reactions to it still don't determine right or wrong. For instance, my young son may lie and it may cause no harm to himself or anyone else and I may not even punish him, but it's still wrong to be dishonest because it deviates from the truth. Or there may be a tough decision in life where you're forced or compelled to do one wrong or another and you choose one because you deem it a lesser offence or actually more beneficial to others, yet it is still wrong. Why is it wrong? Because truth is absolute and so is right or wrong. This is where the existence of the God of the Bible can be seen. The Bible declares Him to be All-knowing, All-powerful, and the creator and director of all truth and morality; He sets the standard, which is absolute, and our decisions and viewpoints don't determine whether it's right or wrong; He does. If He doesn't; then my question is; Who decides right and wrong? Who is the author of right and wrong? Who is the author of all truth? Who decides truth? Without an infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing God, then you need to come up with an answer to those questions. Thanks for reading. -Eric

Drew said...

Sure, murder or theft or rape may increase happiness for those committing the acts, but that does not make it morally OK for them to do so. Morality is not concerned with the self but rather its effects on others, though you have to take into account rights as well, as although it may cause unhappiness for someone (a Christian fundamentalist, perhaps) to see homosexual marriage legalized, that marriage should be a right regardless of the onlookers' feelings.

Murder is wrong because of its effect on the victim (it does not matter what the murderer feels about it). The same goes for cruelly ruling over your country or telling people they are worthless. I think it's a pretty simple concept, but that's not to say there won't be difficult decisions when the effects of an action aren't immediately obvious.

As I've asked before, what good is an "absolute standard" if it's a terrible one? Any standard that allows for slavery and genocide and human sacrifice and subjugation of woman is inferior to my standard. It's easier to defer to a standard written in a book, sure, but at the point where I find its code immoral is where I stop caring what it says.

About truth, no one "decides" truth. Truth corresponds to reality which is independent of what any of us need or want to believe. As far as morality is concerned, I don't know if there is one objective system that works for all decisions everywhere, but we can try to work out the best solution by analyzing our options and choosing the one that best helps society. I hope this answered your question.

Drew said...

If you don't mind me asking, do I know you Eric?

Eric said...

Hello. No, Drew, I don't think I know you unless we've met before and I didn't know it. Being a college student I assume you're in your twenties while I am twice your age and definitely don't have your IQ since I barely got out of high school with average grades. Thanks for the response to my questions, yet I found them lacking in a specific answer. The reason I gave murder as an example of being right to the murderer who gets increased happiness from it because you gave that criteria as the definition of right and wrong; so I was going along with your definition unless I misunderstood what you wrote. You say morality is not concerned with self but the effects on others and then go further to explain murder is wrong because of its effect on the victim. Well, what is the effect on the victim? The victim loses their life on this Earth as we know it and no longer exists on this physical plane (as you can see, I do believe in a Spiritual life, but that's not the point here). My question is, why is this effect of the victim losing his life wrong? That may sound like a morbid question, but it's a simple inquiry; why is it wrong? Just because it effects the person involves never stop individuals from legally pulling the plug on people or late term abortions (though I know the arguement there is whether the baby is a life or not, which I know it is). These life ending procedures are against the person's will and takes their life and it definitely has an effect on them; yet it is legal to do. Yet it is still wrong, but why?

I also would like to comment on this statement you wrote; About truth, no one "decides" truth. Truth corresponds to reality which is independent of what any of us need or want to believe. So if I understand correctly, truth matches up with reality and what we need or want to believe has nothing to do with it. Yet you make a truth statement when you say murder is wrong because it is either true it is wrong or false that it isn't; it can't be both because it violates the law of non contradiction. The reality of murder is someone takes a life and someone loses it. The truth of murder is someone takes a life and someone loses it. They match up. Murder is wrong is based on what reality? The effect on the victim? Again, why is it wrong? Why is that true? This truth would have to depend on an absolute standard we can measure the statement murder is wrong by. If this standard is not absolute, then murder can't always be wrong. This absolute standard is a moral standard because murder is wrong is a moral truth. Again, who is the author of this truth?

Interestingly, you say what good is an "absolute standard" if it's a terrible one. Questioning this "absolute standard's" goodness and deeming it terrible is making an abosolute truth claim based on a moral standard-your own. You said, Any standard that allows for slavery and genocide and human sacrifice and subjugation of woman is inferior to my standard. And you said you found its code immoral. So you're making a truth claim based on your own morality. Yet you say truth is independent of what we need or want to believe. You see, the reality of slavery, genocide, human sacrifice, etc. is that people are held in bondage against their will, people die, etc., but again, why is that wrong? You can state the facts of slavery, human sacrifice, etc., but by which standard do you deem it immoral? If you don't think there is one objective system that works for all decisions everywhere, then why would these things be wrong? It can't be because you think so because your standard is not absolute.

Again, I reask the question because you didn't answer it. Who is the author of truth? Who is the author of right and wrong? Thanks for reading, Eric.

Eric said...

Drew, I just read your profile; you said you held nothing against the church or Christianity, yet you make accusations against God's morality. It sounds like you do have something against Christianity. You see, in my Christian faith God is the author of truth and morality because all things began with Him, an infinite being. There was no life, no creation, and no information until he created it, which makes Him the author of all truth and morality. Because humans were created by God but disobeyed God's standard, a sin nature is inherited to all human beings. Romans 3:23 says "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." This means there is nothing we can do to be righteous in God's eyes because He is perfect and the author of all truth. This is why Christians share the good news of Jesus Christ with others because God became a man to take the punishment of sin from mankind so when we believe in Him we are granted eternal life and fellowship with Him. Sin simply means we break God's laws, commandments, or standards in everything we think, say, or do and as lawbreakers God must righteously judge us when we meet Him after death on this earth. Yet God doesn't force anyone to believe, that has to be a response by the individual hearing the truth. Now rejecting this truth or claiming it's not real would mean God is not the author of truth or right and wrong, so again, if He is not, who is? Because if there is no God or God is immoral, then who is the author of it? Without God there needs to be an answer to that question. Again, thanks for reading. Eric.

Drew said...

You say morality is not concerned with self but the effects on others and then go further to explain murder is wrong because of its effect on the victim. Well, what is the effect on the victim? ... My question is, why is this effect of the victim losing his life wrong?
Do you want someone to kill you? As sentient beings, we have the right to decide when we die (if such a thing isn't decided by nature). Surely you can see that the "golden rule" applies in a big way. - you don't want someone to kill you, so you can't go around killing people. But it doesn't have to be murder - it can really be anything that infringes on the rights or property of others. I find it baffling that people feel the need to invoke a god on something as simple as morality. Morality makes more sense when we base it on logic and not the commands of some being.

These life ending procedures are against the person's will and takes their life and it definitely has an effect on them; yet it is legal to do. Yet it is still wrong, but why?
I'm not saying I'm for or against abortions, but there is definitely a difference between a fetus whose brain isn't developed and a fully-functional human being. And of course, there's the rights of the woman to be taken into consideration as well, as she may not want another being leeching off her body without consent.

So if I understand correctly, truth matches up with reality and what we need or want to believe has nothing to do with it. Yet you make a truth statement when you say murder is wrong because it is either true it is wrong or false that it isn't; it can't be both because it violates the law of non contradiction.
I say murder is wrong under the context of my moral code. Under my definition of morality (that I assume corresponds to most other people's), it is a true statement that murder is wrong.

This absolute standard is a moral standard because murder is wrong is a moral truth. Again, who is the author of this truth?
The "author" (as I think that is a loaded word) would be humanity. But we have defined good and bad in terms such that we can say that it is "bad" to kill and steal and rape and "good" to help others and be more productive. Again, not sure where the confusion is here. Do you need a god to tell you that murder is wrong?

You can state the facts of slavery, human sacrifice, etc., but by which standard do you deem it immoral? If you don't think there is one objective system that works for all decisions everywhere, then why would these things be wrong? It can't be because you think so because your standard is not absolute.
I deem it immoral by the definition of morality I have put forth. Do you have a problem with my definition? If so, tell me where. If not, then my standard is "absolute," so to speak. And the majority of humans on this earth agree. People who largely disagree are also people who cause much pain and suffering. Which is exactly what we're trying to avoid.

Who is the author of truth? Who is the author of right and wrong?
My answer is the same - there is no author of "truth." And right and wrong are not necessarily authored (as theists believe) but are rather determined logically, using the framework I outlined.

you said you held nothing against the church or Christianity, yet you make accusations against God's morality. It sounds like you do have something against Christianity.
Perhaps I should have been more specific. I do not hold anger towards Christians or Christianity in general. I do, however, have large disagreements and think that Christianity can be as large of a bad thing as it can be good.

Drew said...

Now let me ask you some questions. Do you think it was morally right for the Christian God to condone slavery, command genocide, and require animal and human sacrifice in the Bible? If so, I find you to be immoral, and if not, you can agree as well as I do that we are more moral than God. Do you think that if no gods existed, we would be justified in doing whatever we wanted without fear of repercussions? Do you think there would be no point in pursuing some form of non-theistic morality that allows us to live peacefully together?

Finally, why does it matter what any god says about morality? Why should I care what the bible says about what Yahweh thinks about morality? What is it about him that allows him to dictate morality? The fact that he created humans?

I hope I was more clear this time around and was able to answer your questions. (And you might find the Euthyphro dilemma interesting if you've never heard of it.)

Eric said...

Hello; sorry to take so long getting back to you with a reply; been busy with work, my wife and kids (who I love doting on), and just spending time with the Lord. If you don't mind; I would like to respond to your questions before I make any comments on your replies. To answer your questions I must share with you the attributes of God given to us in the Bible. There are too many to mention, but I think these ten will help answer your questions. God is eternal (Deuteronomy 33:27), righteous (Romans 3:21-26, Psalm 119:137, Ezra 9:15), self-existent (Exodus 3:13-14), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12), omniscience (Psalm 147:5, Hebrews 4:13, Proverbs 15:3), Creator (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, Colossians 1:16), Omnipotent (Revelation 19:6), Sovereign (Romans 9:2-29, Isaiah 46:9-11, Psalm 135:6), Lawgiver (Exodus 20:1-17), and Judge (Ecclesiastes 3:17, Revelation 20:12, 2Thessalonians 1:5-9). Keeping these facts in mind; these are the answers based on God's attributes.

Do you think it was morally right for the Christian God to condone slavery, command genocide, and require animal and human sacrifice in the Bible? The examples stated here are commands God gave to His chosen OT people the Jews because they were set apart for Him to serve, honor, and obey Him in love for the rest of the world to see that He is God. Because the land God gave the Jews was His to give as Creator and the other cultures around or originally in that land broke God's law as lawgiver, He has every right to command anything because He is sovereign, He is eternal and self-existent so He answers to no one and being all-powerful, all knowing, and seeing all; He absolutely knows their guilt and has the power and right to judge them. In that dispensation, God dealt with His people and non-believers by His righteous law because He was setting up His kingdom with the Jews here on earth, yet the Jews disobeyed, so God let those the Jews were to judge and execute be vexed by those very people which is why the Jewish people still face anti-semetism now, yet God is gracious and is not done with the Jewish people in respect to their coming to know their Messiah, Jesus. The next two questions I can't answer because without God, there is no fear of repercussions, and there is no such thing as non-theistic morality since God is the creator of morality. Let me continue on another post.

Eric said...

To continue; let me answer the next set of questions. Finally, why does it matter what any god says about morality? Well, it matters because all humans have broken God's moral law which is sin. This sin seperates us from God and when we die in the flesh, we will stand before God and be judged for being lawbreakers. Since the law broken is against the Supreme Being, the punishment is severe; eternity in hell.

Why should I care what the bible says about what Yahweh thinks about morality? God will personally judge you and will have every right to do so as the Sovereign, righteous lawgiver and judge. You can't break laws here on Earth and expect not to be judged and punished; well, God's standards are just, perfect, and righteous, so again, the punishment is much more severe based on who the offense is against.

What is it about him that allows him to dictate morality? The fact that he created humans? Because God is the Creator, and yes, since He created us, the Earth, the universe, all information and morality, He has every right to judge us. In fact, since God is self-existent and eternal and made all things, who does God answer to? To the ones who created? That's imposssible since our very judgment based on morality comes from Him.

Just out of curiousity; didn't you ask all of these questions being brought up in a Christian home? Didn't you ask your family or Pastor? Were the answers not clear or insufficient in your mind? Because the answers are important to your eternal salvation. Drew, God is also patient and a God of love (John 3:16, 1John 4:7-10). He doesn't want to judge you for your crimes, but He has to because it is part of His nature. But His loving nature also means He gave you and all of mankind a pardon through Jesus (where God became a man as the Son of God) who died on the cross for your sins and everyone elses. If you confess your sins and just believe He died for you; He grants you a pardon, eternal life, and fellowship with Him. This is my prayer for you and my hope. As for the other comments, I will return later when my netbook is recharged plus it's late and me and the family have church tomorrow. Thanks for reading and I appreciate your comments.

Drew said...

"The examples stated here are commands God gave to His chosen OT people the Jews because they were set apart for Him to serve, honor, and obey Him in love for the rest of the world to see that He is God. Because the land God gave the Jews was His to give as Creator and the other cultures around or originally in that land broke God's law as lawgiver, He has every right to command anything because He is sovereign, He is eternal and self-existent so He answers to no one and being all-powerful, all knowing, and seeing all; He absolutely knows their guilt and has the power and right to judge them."
I disagree. You're simply asserting that, in God's case, might makes right. You think that he created that land, so he has the right to it and can take it from whatever people own it in whatever way he likes. That's a very primitive view, in my opinion. If I assemble a computer, leave it somewhere without any identification, and someone else comes and finds it after many years, does that mean that I can take it back after killing them and I am justified in doing so? I certainly hope you would not agree.

"The next two questions I can't answer because without God, there is no fear of repercussions, and there is no such thing as non-theistic morality since God is the creator of morality."
You really think that if no god exists, there are no repercussions for wrongs? What about guilt or government or reputation? You think none of those things change when you start committing evil acts? I think you should really think about the answers to these questions because I don't think you're looking at the issue clearly enough yet. These questions do have answers - though answers that Christians don't like to hear because it softens their views on God and his role, once again, in the natural world.

"Well, it matters because all humans have broken God's moral law which is sin."
Like Matt in the video I posted says, I don't care what your god think because I have demonstrably better morals than he does.

Drew said...

"Since the law broken is against the Supreme Being, the punishment is severe; eternity in hell."
No, there is nothing immoral that we can do on earth that harms God if he is truly omnipotent. God may not like it if I steal from my brother and he might even have a right to punish me if we elected him as some sort of judge, but the act itself would be committed against my brother, not God. And I don't feel like I should start a rant on how immoral the concept of hell is, though I may certainly make a blog post about it soon enough.

"God will personally judge you and will have every right to do so as the Sovereign, righteous lawgiver and judge. You can't break laws here on Earth and expect not to be judged and punished; well, God's standards are just, perfect, and righteous, so again, the punishment is much more severe based on who the offense is against."
God does not have any right to judge me even if he is omnipotent, omniscient, etc, unless we as sentient humans give him that right. And I certainly wouldn't do that, as I know exactly how unjust his punishments are (namely, hell).

"In fact, since God is self-existent and eternal and made all things, who does God answer to? To the ones who created? That's imposssible since our very judgment based on morality comes from Him."
Yes, he would answer to us if he existed and if he were doing things he had no right to do. You are trying to make the argument that morals come from him, so you can't assert it as both a premise and conclusion. My morality doesn't come from him, it comes from my sense of empathy and realization that humans have rights. My morals are not the way they are simply because someone once wrote in a book that "God likes this but not this, etc."

"Just out of curiousity; didn't you ask all of these questions being brought up in a Christian home?"
Not necessarily. And the ones I did, I simply accepted the answers that were similar to the ones you gave me. I now find those answers to be incorrect because my understanding of morality has matured beyond "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." And of course, I was trained not to question the Bible, and under that mindset, honest inquiry can only get you so far.

"If you confess your sins and just believe He died for you; He grants you a pardon, eternal life, and fellowship with Him. This is my prayer for you and my hope."
I am well aware of what I must do to be a Christian in the modern Protestant's eyes. However, I owe no god any confessions. If I have wronged someone, I owe that person and only that person an apology. If a god exists and he is offended by my actions, that is too bad. If I have wronged anyone, it would be more appropriate for him to remind me and convince me to make it right with that person instead of waiting for me to die so he can send me (and possibly that other person) to hell.

Eric said...

Drew, you've made so many comments, it makes me dizzy to read them. I see a theme, though. I take it you feel God is immoral, if in your view one existed, and your morality (which, by your own definition doesn't come from God because it's just there)would be superior to God. That's illogical based on God's attributes. You can't wish God away because you don't believe in Him. And if there is no God (which you truly can't say since it would be an absolute truth which you don't believe in) then wouldn't it be a waste of time ranting on Him, hell, or any other subject the Bible talks about? If it's all just fairy tales and Christians believe a lie, then just let them believe it because their view of morality is just as valid as yours, isn't it? Of course, if it's not, then that would make your view the truth. And if this is so, then shouldn't your answers to my simple questions about morality and right and wrong have a more concrete answer than " My answer is the same - there is no author of "truth." And right and wrong are not necessarily authored (as theists believe) but are rather determined logically, using the framework I outlined." I mean, how can you determine anything logically unless you have a framework or a guideline? A decision about morality or right and wrong can only be made by a standard and a standard must be set by someone. Unless, of course, you believe morality or right and wrong is self-existent. If so, then it doesn't match what I believe your view of life is, naturalistic. You see, believing in a All-powerful God also means I believe in the supernatural. I would have to because I can't explain how God is self-existent or eternal. On the other hand, you can't explain how morality is self-existent either. Yet you are at a disadvantage because to believe that means you have to believe in the supernatural as well since you can't explain to me how morality naturally just exists. I'm glad you want to right a wrong to another person, but you logically have no reason to do so. And any assertions I have about God are based on His Word, not my own views. If left to my own way (which I had for forty years) I would think just like you, but I thank God that He opened my eyes to the truth. And I am sad that you were told never to question the Bible or God because God doesn't mind being questioned if you are seeking answers. Drew, on one final note, please don't think you have any new thoughts or ideas on this subject. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says "there is no new thing under the sun." Every bit of knowledge, every viewpoint, in fact, even your name is all information from outside yourself. Even the DNA that makes up every fiber of your being was already in your parents before you were born or created. You are finite and any absolute knowledge you have about God or anything means you've been everywhere at all times with all people in all situations and you know that's not true. Your view on God is based on ignorance and lack of information and unless you get it from a source of absolute truth, you'll only get it from other finite men and women who you've borrowed or agree with that have the same problem you have-you were created and you will die: so your information is worthless unless it lines up with the author of that information. In a strange way, your battle against God is God's way of reaching out to bring you to Him, but first, you have to lose your self-righteousness, pride, and grudge against the God who is gracious enough to love you while you reject Him. I appreciate your comments and if you were gracious enough to read these comments, I thank you for your time.

Drew said...

"you feel God is immoral, if in your view one existed, and your morality...would be superior to God. That's illogical based on God's attributes." No, what is illogical is calling God "good" after everything he is reported to have done will do in the future. It doesn't matter what that some people wrote that he was good in a book. We judge others by their actions, not beliefs about right and wrong.

"if there is no God...then wouldn't it be a waste of time ranting on Him, hell, or any other subject the Bible talks about?"
Perhaps, if it weren't the case that those in our society who do not believe are often ostracized for their nonbelief. And for some reason, Christians like to believe their religion has a special place in our government and our schools and try to use the public's tax money to further their cause. For that, and general honesty, I enjoy writing about these topic because I think they have meaning in our world today.

"you truly can't say since it would be an absolute truth which you don't believe in"
I never said I don't believe in absolute truth. I said I don't believe in objective morality. The two are far from the same.

"I mean, how can you determine anything logically unless you have a framework or a guideline? A decision about morality or right and wrong can only be made by a standard and a standard must be set by someone."
The standard is set by me. By us. We, as humans, understand how we would like to be treated and should try to treat others the same. I don't understand how this is difficult to comprehend.

"Unless, of course, you believe morality or right and wrong is self-existent."
Its existence is based solely on humans. No humans, no morality.

"I'm glad you want to right a wrong to another person, but you logically have no reason to do so.
Because I empathize with them? Because I would hope that if the roles were reversed, they'd do the same for me? Because I'm a decent person?

"God doesn't mind being questioned if you are seeking answers."
Right, as long as you don't ever conclude that what's in the bible is wrong.

"please don't think you have any new thoughts or ideas on this subject"
Strangely, you aren't the first person to tell me that. Who cares if nothing I say is new? Does an oft-repeated truth become a lie or vice versa?

"Your view on God is based on ignorance and lack of information"
So is yours, even if he exists. The bible was written, compiled, translated, preached, and interpreted by ignorant, fallible men, as Christians would say.

"your information is worthless unless it lines up with the author of that information"
No, it is worthless if it is not true. It is meaningful if it is. Authorship is irrelevant.

"you have to lose your self-righteousness, pride, and grudge against the God"
I don't consider myself righteous, I don't think that pride is a bad thing, and I don't hold a grudge against I god I don't think exists. I just think he's a despicable character. I think what you're looking for is "you need to learn to admit you can be wrong." And I have learned that - as noted by the fact that I used to be a Christian and am no longer. I would tell you the same. That, and don't rely on faith to get you through. Logic is a much more accurate and trustworthy way to determine truth than trusting people who wrote a couple of books a few thousand years ago.

Eric said...

Drew, once again you have so much to say that it would take some time to comment on it all. However, I would like to comment on your last statement because it is the most relevant. You said you used to be a Christian but you are no longer one. This is incorrect. Christianity is not set by the world or individuals, but by Christ (who was God in the flesh)and the Bible, which you abhor. Jesus said in John chapter 3 that you must be born again by the Spirit. Romans 10:9-10 says you must confess that Jesus is Lord and was raised from the dead for your salvation. You can only be saved and become a Christian if you know you're a sinner (a person who breaks God's moral laws in thought, word, and deed) and that Jesus Christ died for those sins. It must be more than head knowledge or something you recite or repeat because your family members are Christians, it's a personal relationship with a God who you know and trust as All powerful, All knowing, infinite, self-existent, and absolute truth. From your own admission, you don't believe any of these things and it seems like you never did; which wouldn't make you a Christian. Redefining who a Christian is has been going on for ages; Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, etc. all do it. The world does it. However, the definition of a Christian is based on Christ and the word of God. As for logic, my faith in God is completely logical. One definition for logic is "a particular method of reasoning" according to my Webster's Desk Dictionary. Trust me, I am not a person who just buys anything without thinking it through or questioning it. The objections to God, Christianity, and the Bible are sincere; can you trust the validity of the Bible? Did those supernatural events occur? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is God a merciless killer (based on the Old Testament accounts)? There's nothing wrong with asking these questions, but even you must admit you have a biased towards the answers because you find God despicable and any answer that is reasonable based on God's attributes, the nature of man's sin, and just the way the world is will be totally rejected by you despite the reasonableness of the answer. In addition, relying on God to get me through is very reasonable because God shows me how the world is, how people are, and how to react to those situations. Logic devoid of God didn't help my marriage, be a better father to my children, help me love those that hate me or not be afraid when health problems and job losses occured; it was the truth of God's word-not just believing in it, but acting on it. That's true faith. Even answewring your comments is an answered prayer because I get to share God's Gospel of grace with you and even if you hate it or reject it, at least I can share it. And why wouldn't I? If I believe what I believe, wouldn't I be a hypocrite if I didn't share it? After all, I'm going to have eternal life with the Lord, why wouldn't I want to share it with you? God loves you, too, that's why He died on the cross. As for the other comments; I'll address those at another time because your eternal salvation is more important than trying to debate every point, but I don't mind because the Bible tells us to have an answer for the hope that we have. (1Peter 3:15) Thanks for reading. eric

Drew said...

"You said you used to be a Christian but you are no longer one. This is incorrect. ... From your own admission, you don't believe any of these things and it seems like you never did; which wouldn't make you a Christian.
I did believe these things but no longer do. Had you come up to me a year ago and told me everything you just wrote, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with you. Thus I was a Christian but am no longer. For some reason, Christians can't accept that someone could have ever been a "true" Christian and deconverted later.

"As for logic, my faith in God is completely logical."
I've never seen a logical reason to believe... Only faith.

"There's nothing wrong with asking these questions, but even you must admit you have a biased towards the answers because you find God despicable and any answer that is reasonable based on God's attributes, the nature of man's sin, and just the way the world is will be totally rejected by you despite the reasonableness of the answer."
To clarify, I asked these questions before I lost my faith, so I had a pro-Christian bias going in. I find the character of the Christian god as described by the bible to be a despicable character because I read the bible. And I find God's attributes to be highly illogical - omniscience and omnipotence are contradictory by nature.

"it was the truth of God's word-not just believing in it, but acting on it."
You may have found inspiration for your actions from the bible, but by no means is it necessary to rely on a book to be a good father or good neighbor. I think you were trying to use your success as evidence of God's existence so that's what I'm responding to.

Thanks for reading.

Eric said...

Hello, Drew: again, I must disagree based on the Bible. You say you had a pro-Christian bias going in until you read the Bible and found God despicable. You can't convert to Christianity until you know that God is Holy, righteous, and completely justified in punishing you for your sin (defined as breaking God's absolute moral law). You must also know you're a sinner because your very thoughts are contrary to God's law and will condemn you. Based on some of your own comments, you didn't believe any of this truly or you wouldn't be offended by God. It seems like you weren't given a full meaning of God's attributes or you didn't truly understand them to be so disgusted by them later. This would not be a true conversion because God opens your eyes to this truth and to deny the truth of God and your own sin afterwards means you never believed in the first place. But for the sake of giving you the benefit of the doubt, if the Bible is wrong and there is no God and all things are just man, nature, and what you see, what difference does it make if anyone wants to believe this "fairy tale?" And just stating that God's attributes are illogical doesn't make it so by saying so; you have to make a logical case against it, and, no offense, you really don't do that. Think about my original questions about morality. Again, you say it's always been there and you even said you determine morality. This is illogical because morality is non-tangible and you're saying it's self-existent. You can't explain this in a materialistic way; you'd have to believe in the supernatural, which you deny. On the other hand, all information comes from a source, and if truth is absolute, which you say you believe, then it has to come from an absolute source-which makes God's attributes logical and very necessary. Will continue in a moment.

Drew said...

"You say you had a pro-Christian bias going in until you read the Bible and found God despicable. You can't convert to Christianity until you know that God is Holy, righteous, and completely justified in punishing you for your sin"
I think you mis-understand, I was a Christian up until early this year, so it's not like I hadn't read the Bible in 20 years. I was saved at the age of 7 and had no doubts until just recently.

"Based on some of your own comments, you didn't believe any of this truly or you wouldn't be offended by God."
My strong faith allowed me to make excuses for the terrible things God did in the Bible. Excuses you likely make as well, such as "they must have deserved it," "we can't know everything," or "God is always just." They can't be argued to any rational person, but they can be enough to make the discomfort and cognitive dissonance go away if you try really hard and don't think about it too much.

"what difference does it make if anyone wants to believe this "fairy tale?""
These fairy-tale believers are often times political activists trying to turn their faiths into law, whether it is in the science classroom or in the arena of marriage or any number of other ways it can affect my life. If I attempted to put "In the Flying Spaghetti Monster We Trust" on our money, you'd probably complain.

"just stating that God's attributes are illogical doesn't make it so by saying so; you have to make a logical case against it, and, no offense, you really don't do that."
Nor have I attempted to, though we can go down that road if you wish. However, the response I expect would be "you can't question God, for he is beyond our understanding" no matter how valid a point I make.

"Again, you say it's always been there and you even said you determine morality."
I determine which actions I think are moral, yes. But that doesn't mean morality is simply whatever I want it to be. There is a proper common definition.

"You can't explain this in a materialistic way; you'd have to believe in the supernatural
Eric, you aren't listening when I've been talking. I keep explaining how morality works from a materialistic, humanistic standpoint and you've all but ignored what I've said. Morality is a framework we can largely agree on that tells us which actions are more and less preferable to society and individuals. You don't need a god as a moral standard to tell you how to be good any more than you need a unicorn as a mathematical standard to tell you how to count. Saying "God is good by definition" is like saying "the unicorn is mathematical by definition." Irrelevant and not helpful.

"On the other hand, all information comes from a source, and if truth is absolute, which you say you believe, then it has to come from an absolute source-which makes God's attributes logical and very necessary."
I don't follow. Information is gathered from the world around us and its source can be direct or indirect. If I see one car hit another, I have direct information about a crash. If I hear about one on the news, I have indirect information about it. How is a god any more relevant in this discussion than a unicorn, again?

Eric said...

Hello, Drew, I'll try to briefly touch on some of your answers to my previous comments. You said, I was saved at the age of 7 and had no doubts until just recently.

Those doubts would have to be more than recent for you to turn from Christ so radically. That comes from a long period of inward questions about the nature of God and salvation itself that every Christian has but seeks God for the answer. You heard an answer, didn't like it, and turned, but this reaction is contrary to what God's word says about walking out your salvation; so I respectfully disagree based on God's word.

You said, These fairy-tale believers are often times political activists trying to turn their faiths into law, whether it is in the science classroom or in the arena of marriage or any number of other ways it can affect my life.

While this may be true in some cases, this is also true of any belief system. Atheists, agnostics, whoever, bring their worldview into politics, the classroom, etc. to affect everyone's life. I have every right to do the same as a Christian if I run for office, talk to someone at my job, etc. You may disagree, but I disagree as well, so it goes back to the question of who is morally right? By the way, you say your faith was strong, yet you no longer have it, so it must have been weak or non-existent based on your own views and statements.

You said, However, the response I expect would be "you can't question God, for he is beyond our understanding" no matter how valid a point I make.

I guess you've heard that answer so many times it insulted you; I'm sorry about that. Questioning God is not unusual and it's Biblical, but your motives are important. If you're questioning God's morals, the only answer God can give you is who He is, but you reject that answer, so what is God supposed to do? Lie? Change His ways? Then He wouldn't be God. Understanding God's attributes is important because if you truly think about it you'll see it not only makes sense, but it's logical. In addition, the sinful acts of mankind causes most deaths, heartaches, and strife, but God gets most of the blame.

You said, Eric, you aren't listening when I've been talking. I keep explaining how morality works from a materialistic, humanistic standpoint and you've all but ignored what I've said. Morality is a framework we can largely agree on that tells us which actions are more and less preferable to society and individuals.

I have been listening. Your last sentence is not an explanation, but a statement. I'd like you to explain how morality is a framework, how we largely agree on it, and how it tells us which actions are more and less preferable to society and individuals. You haven't explained to me at all how morality is a framework in a materialistic way.

You said, I don't follow.

Let me try to explain. You can gather info directly or indirectly, but how do you know that it's info. You can't know something is a crash unless it's been deemed a crash based on the circumstances, language, and an absolute standard that everyone can agree on that a crash is a crash. God is relevant because without Him, you'd have no information to refer to in order to know anything. Without God, tell me where information comes from because it is not material. Your statement that said, Information is gathered from the world around us and its source can be direct or indirect is not an answer to where it originates but how it is used. Thanks for reading.

Drew said...

"Those doubts would have to be more than recent for you to turn from Christ so radically. ... so I respectfully disagree based on God's word."
Am I correctly inferring that you are saying I was never a "true" Christian? If so, I must respectfully tell you that you are wrong. I wouldn't call my change radical, as though it happened overnight. I spent a lot of time thinking, praying, and reading as I was fighting my way through ever-increasing doubts and even when I was pretty sure I didn't believe the Christian doctrine anymore, I was afraid to say so. It's pretty difficult for some Christians to grasp that people who really believed could ever fall away from the faith because that experience is self is evidence against that religion's validity. That's not what I'm advocating though - I believe my original point was just that I used to think the same way you did but I can now see where I was wrong.

"Atheists, agnostics, whoever, bring their worldview into politics, the classroom, etc. to affect everyone's life. I have every right to do the same as a Christian if I run for office, talk to someone at my job, etc."
I'm well aware of that. I'm saying there's a legitimate reason to care if other people are believing in fairy tales that affect my life. And despite the fact that I would bring my atheist "worldview" into politics (if I held some position), I would not assume my beliefs should necessarily be put into law as many religious politicians do. For example, I could personally hold that homosexual activity is disgusting and embarassing. However, analyzing it from a strictly social point of view, I would have to concede that allowing gay marriage would increase the happiness of homosexuals without infringing upon the rights of heterosexuals. I'm willing to put personal opinions aside when addressing matters of public good. People committed to religious doctrine, on the other hand, typically aren't.

"By the way, you say your faith was strong, yet you no longer have it, so it must have been weak or non-existent based on your own views and statements."
I'd be willing to say it was quite strong, actually. Just not strong enough to withstand the tidal wave of evidence against my beliefs when I actually started searching. Which leads me to the question, should a believer's faith be so strong that absolutely nothing could topple it? If so, what is the use for evidence anyway? And why is that kind of faith good? You wouldn't want a Muslim to have that kind of faith - you could never convert them. Anyone with that kind of faith could never be convinced to believe anything they already don't because it doesn't matter what's actually true - just that they have faith in something.

Drew said...

" If you're questioning God's morals, the only answer God can give you is who He is, but you reject that answer"
And for good reason. I judge others not by what they say they are but by their actions. Joe down the street can tell me he's very loving, kind, merciful, and graceful, but I'm not going to take his word for it. And I certainly won't think he's any of those things if I see him killing his neighbors because he thinks that their property is his promised land, or him selling his friends into slavery because he can get a good price for them, or stoning his children because they didn't say "Yes sir." Why should I treat this character of God any differently?

"You haven't explained to me at all how morality is a framework in a materialistic way."
Morality is all about making sure that humans can live together peacefully and tells us what we should and should not do. We realize that pleasure is preferable to pain, life is preferable to death, and happiness is preferable to despair. A system of morality is a guide to ensuring that we seek what is preferred. It tells us not to murder because others value their lives just as much as I value mine. I prefer life to death, just like others do. If I respect someone else, I will realize that I should not kill them just because I feel like it. I should be nice to people because I appreciate it when others are nice to me. I don't need a god to tell me how to treat others because most often, I can and have figured it out by myself.

The thing most religious people don't realize is that they understand it in the exact same way. The Bible condones slavery and yet most Christians today would find that repulsive. That's morality in spite of a god's moral code and it works because we understand the injustice of slavery. Modern Christians don't really rely on the Bible as a source of morality because if they did, we'd probably still be burning witches and stoning adulterers. They simply claim God as their source while their actions speak differently.

"God is relevant because without Him, you'd have no information to refer to in order to know anything."
Sorry, that statement still doesn't make sense. Information comes from reality. Our input sensors perceive the world around us and send representations of that data to our brain which converts it to some format we can recognize and understand as sight, sound, etc. Information is a sequence of symbols that maps to a meaning within the system of reality. Both the form the data takes as it's en route to be processed and as a chemical state within the brain is the information. Its origin is the physical world, its pathway is through your sensors, and it is stored in your brain. How is a god necessary for any of this?

Eric said...

Drew, faith doesn't mean you don't have doubts, but you bring those doubts to the source of your faith. I can see by many of your comments that God's handling of people in the Old Testament bothers you because you directly or indirectly bring it up as a reason to reject God's absolute authority as Creator. Unfortunately, that's just an excuse for your sin nature. Denying the existence of anyone because you disagree with them is foolishness. And if what I believe are actually fairy tales, then what I believe must be false, which means you have the truth. If this is true, then again, where does information come from? Your answer didn't explain its origin at all; all you did was explain how we process it. You also give the same answers about the origin of morality; you explain how it works or how we perceive it, yet you refuse to tell me the author of it. Information and morality are non-materialistic and you can't explain it away without telling me who created both things for us to interpret in the first place. Telling me the physical world or reality as an answer for its origin only opens the door for other questions-like who or how was the physical world or reality created? And if you have the truth, then give me specifics, not some theory that can't be observed or tested. In closing, I don't doubt for a moment you have a moral code of your own, but where did that info come from? Drew, if you have the truth, then tell me what happens when I die and tell me how you know? My "fairy tale" answers those questions logically, yet you say you have the truth (and you must or you couldn't absolutely tell me there is no God) and you haven't explained the origin of these things. You see, your faith wasn't real Drew because it's God's Holy Spirit that dwells in you as a believer to lead you and guide you to the truth. James 1:5 says "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and unbraideth not; and it shall be given him." But if you don't ask God in faith like you would a parent you trust, then anything God reveals to you you will naturally reject. I had many of the same doubts you had, but I trusted God and He revealed many answers. He has provided answers for you, too, yet you mock the very ministries that try to answer your questions. So, yes, Drew, I stand by my statement, you either were never truly born again by the Spirit or you were and God is using everything you're against to bring you back. I pray it's the latter because God is still a God of love who wants a deep relationship with you. God gets no pleasure in judging the wickedness of mankind, but He must just like any human judge will righteously judge, but you have to know you're a sinner and with a repentant heart believe that Jesus died for your sins to give you new, abundant life. That will always be my prayer for you. Thanks for reading and I truly hope you have a happy thanksgiving.

Drew said...

"Drew, faith doesn't mean you don't have doubts, but you bring those doubts to the source of your faith."
I don't need faith to believe in something that has been adequately shown to be true. If there was something I wanted to be true that didn't have the evidence behind it, I would have to claim faith if I said I believed it anyway. Again, I don't think this is a good thing and it sounds like just what you are describing.

"I can see by many of your comments that God's handling of people in the Old Testament bothers you because you directly or indirectly bring it up as a reason to reject God's absolute authority as Creator. Unfortunately, that's just an excuse for your sin nature. Denying the existence of anyone because you disagree with them is foolishness."
I've never said God doesn't exist because he's immoral. The character he portrays is immoral whether or not he exists and just because one has power does not make him an authority.

"And if what I believe are actually fairy tales, then what I believe must be false, which means you have the truth."
Not necessarily. Do I need to understand the inner workings of a car to reject someone's claim that pixies are under the hood, powering it by magic?

"where does information come from?"
Information is what we call things that we understand from nature. The word is inherently subjective. In a sense, anything can be information when applied to something else. I've already explained where information comes from...

"You also give the same answers about the origin of morality; you explain how it works or how we perceive it, yet you refuse to tell me the author of it."
We are the authors of morality. Each of us individually and as a culture (with each drawing from the other). Perhaps you should look up "the evolution of morality"?

"Information and morality are non-materialistic and you can't explain it away without telling me who created both things for us to interpret in the first place."
Actually, at its most basic information actually is materialistic - it's a physical state in the brain when you process and store it.

"Telling me the physical world or reality as an answer for its origin only opens the door for other questions-like who or how was the physical world or reality created?"
That's what science is for. It uses evidence and reason to come to its conclusions by methods that can be confirmed by anyone else with an understanding of the field. That's a much better way of gaining knowledge about our universe than reading a book written by ignorant nomads thousands of years ago. But with respect to your question, you are aware of the big bang theory, correct?

"I don't doubt for a moment you have a moral code of your own, but where did that info come from?"
I literally just answered that question in my post above.

"tell me what happens when I die and tell me how you know?"
When you die, your mind ceases to exist because your synapses stop firing and the electricity that powers your brain ceases to exist. There is no reason to think that I should continue to exist in any meaningful way after death, purely based on what we know about our bodies.

Drew said...

"My "fairy tale" answers those questions logically"
Do you really think so? Do you really think there's an all-loving God who wants the best for you and would like nothing more than for you to be happy but is somehow forced to send you to an eternal torture simply because you didn't believe the right things or never heard about a particular magic tale out of any of the other thousands that exist in the history of human civilization? Is it logical to think that an all-knowing god would make a set of rules and then change those rules later on by finding a loophole such that not everyone would be condemned? I certainly don't think so.

"you say you have the truth (and you must or you couldn't absolutely tell me there is no God)"
I've never once said there's absolutely no god. That has never been my position. I lack belief in any gods that have thus far been proposed due to a lack of evidence.

"your faith wasn't real Drew because it's God's Holy Spirit that dwells in you as a believer to lead you and guide you to the truth"
Christians are all about not judging until they have to deal with something that could be posited as evidence against their beliefs. All of a sudden, it's obvious I was never a Christian. If someone is a practicing believer and claims to have god in their life, it's "evidence" for Christianity. If someone claims to have had real faith but has since recanted, they were never "true Christians" to begin with. What a win-win situation for faith! This is called trying to make the evidence fit the theory and it's a copout for dealing with cognitive dissonance. What I've said sounds harsh, but to those who don't see things from your point of view, it's painfully obvious.

"if you don't ask God in faith like you would a parent you trust, then anything God reveals to you you will naturally reject"
Taking your parents at their word may be advantageous when you are young and not able to understand what they are saying, but at some point you have to become your own person and find out what is true for yourself. This doesn't mean that trust is always misplaced, just that you shouldn't believe everything everyone has to say even if it comes from people you know who have good intentions.

"you mock the very ministries that try to answer your questions"
A famous person once said something to the effect of "sometimes statements are so dumb that the only correct response is mockery." And I try to follow that idea when applicable.

Eric, you keep asking the same questions over and over again, such as where does information/morality come from and continually state that because god is powerful, whatever he says goes. I've responded to these but I don't feel like you are comprehending what I am saying. I don't think any of what I have said is too complex for you to grasp, but you aren't willing to look at things except through your bible lenses. I recommend looking at the details of what I have said and coming up with specific questions about my answers if you want to continue the conversation. Because at this point I feel like we're just swimming in circles.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

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