Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Switch Hitter

Since exiting Christianity, I have been forced to reassess many things, including particular ethical issues. And as the Bible was written, compiled and translated by the Church, I now consider it to be a questionable source for ethical formulation. All of which is a long preface to this statement:

Without a Biblical mandate, I am at a loss to see how homosexual activity is inherently immoral.

89 comments:

Divers and Sundry said...

I don't think there is a "Biblical mandate", and, even accepting the Bible as Christianity's sacred text as I do, I don't think think there are conclusive Biblical arguments against homosexual behavior.

But I eat shellfish, so I may be doomed anyway.

(and I enjoyed your take on the new ST movie. I liked the film, but I enjoyed your post.)

dogearedpreacher said...

Actually, I would say that the Bible is a poor source for historical and scientific information, but its strength is in presenting ethical patterns for living. Granted, there is not one single ethical theme of scripture, but several that are not completely consistent with each other.

The Bible isn't one book, but many books. My perspective is that they were written by human beings inspired by God, but not all to the same degree. It takes God's gift of a brain to unravel the threads, which means that different people will come to different conclusions.

Where sexual acts between two people of the same sex are mentioned in the Bible, they are always condemned. Scripture, however, knows nothing of the idea that a person could have an inherited orientation toward homosexuality. The authors had no clue that was possible. They could only look on the sexual act with disgust.

I choose to believe, despite what those ancient authors of the Bible said about sexual acts between two people of the same sex, that God loves homosexual people truly and fully, and does not want them to "change." God does ask the same forms of ethical behavior within those homosexual relationships that are expected of heterosexuals.

JD said...

Go ahead and stoke the fires, John, stoke the fires. You know good and well, from a biblical stance, the answer to that. You have debated it regularly.

From a biological stance, depends on what you consider sex to be. If sex's main function is procreation, then homosexual activity is the exact opposite of that. There will never, ever be life coming form that action. Yea, sex feels good, but that gives us a desire to procreate. If sex was stinky, hurtful, and all around painful, would we, as higher beings do it (normal folks, not S&M)?

Simple, basic, and that is that. I wish I had a wonderful logical answer for you, but I don't. I just have my faith and common sense (2 pieces fitting together like a puzzle).

PAX
JD

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

"I choose to believe, despite what those ancient authors of the Bible said about sexual acts between two people of the same sex, that God loves homosexual people truly and fully, and does not want them to 'change.' God does ask the same forms of ethical behavior within those homosexual relationships that are expected of heterosexuals."

Actually, God loves the sinners, but abhors the sin. There are way too many references in scripture that contradict dogearedpreacher's comments. He hates all sexual immorality: beastiality, swinging, fornication, etc. He does not approve of any of it. But that is not what this post is about, so I will be quiet and let things fly.

Keith said...

And as the Bible was written, compiled and translated by the Church....

John,

You keep saying this, but it just isn't true.

You go tell the Jews that the Hebrew Bible was written, compiled, and translated by the Church and let me know how that works out for you.

John said...

JD wrote:

You know good and well, from a biblical stance, the answer to that.


Quite. But from a non-biblical stance....

From a biological stance, depends on what you consider sex to be. If sex's main function is procreation, then homosexual activity is the exact opposite of that. There will never, ever be life coming form that action. Yea, sex feels good, but that gives us a desire to procreate. If sex was stinky, hurtful, and all around painful, would we, as higher beings do it (normal folks, not S&M)?


So are you saying that non-procreative sexual activities are sinful?

John said...

Keith wrote:

You go tell the Jews that the Hebrew Bible was written, compiled, and translated by the Church and let me know how that works out for you.


Well, you have something of a point. But Christians did decide that the "Aprocrypha" was not canonical (depending upon what Christian group you're talking about), as well as compose, compile, and translate the entire New Testament.

John said...

Let me rephrase my first question to JD:

So are you saying that non-procreative sexual activities are unethical?

Tom said...

Hi John,
I am glad to see that you are still using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (right now it might be a triangle) to come to your decisions. You might remember my view point from CPE when it comes to this subject (I do not believe it is a sin).

Just like dogearedpreacher said, the Bible needs to put be placed in its proper historical context. Doing this helps us to weigh which leg of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral gets more weight.

As the UCC (United Church of Christ) states, "Listen, God is still speaking."

wrf3 said...

Either we are designed for a purpose; or we are the product of chance. Since you've exited Christianity, you have to hold to the latter. Since there is, therefore, no purpose other than individual preference, anything (you can get away with) goes.

Divers and Sundry said...

"And as the Bible was written, compiled and translated by the Church..."

"You go tell the Jews that the Hebrew Bible was written, compiled, and translated by the Church and let me know how that works out for you."

I'm not sure what you meant by "the Hebrew Bible," but the _Christian_ Bible (and I assumed that was what the original post referred to) _was_ written, compiled and translated by the Church. We just used some of the Hebrew scriptures in doing it.

John said...

Hi, Tom! Boy, it's been forever since CPE.

Someday we'll have to have that beer you offered me.

[Tom is a Lutheran, and drinking beer is a critical stage of the theological formulation process.]

John said...

wrf3 wrote:

Either we are designed for a purpose; or we are the product of chance. Since you've exited Christianity, you have to hold to the latter.


This would seem to me to be an enormous leap of logic, but I'm not going to dismiss it as possibly true.

Since there is, therefore, no purpose other than individual preference, anything (you can get away with) goes.


How about "don't harm others" and "honor your commitments" as ethical principles?

wrf3 said...

This would seem to me to be an enormous leap of logic, but I'm not going to dismiss it as possibly true.

Design or chance. What other choices are there?

How about "don't harm others" and "honor your commitments" as ethical principles?

How about them? All morality is based on personal preference. Christianity just asserts that the personal preference of God is the universal reference point. If you're going to exit Christianity, then really exit it. Stop pretending that there are some universal moral stances -- there are not. There cannot be. And based on this comment that you left on my blog, I think you agree: "I never found the moral sense argument compelling. For starters, the determinations of right and wrong vary so widely from person to person and culture to culture that it would negate the notion of a transcendent right and wrong.".

Divers and Sundry said...

"Design or chance. What other choices are there?"

There's evolution. That's the one I favor.

wrf3 said...

Divrers and Sundry wrote: There's evolution. That's the one I favor.

Theistic evolution (design) or naturalistic evolution (chance)?

Divers and Sundry said...

I see these statements as saying different things:

1) the only choices are theistic evolution or naturalistic evolution;
2) "Design or chance. What other choices are there?"

I don't agree with either statement. I know folks who don't buy into any form of evolution as an explanation for how people came to be, and evolution is _not_ chance.

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry wrote:

I don't agree with either statement.
Point one has to be taken in the context of your prior statement, "I favor evolution" (paraphrased).
I know folks who don't buy into any form of evolution as an explanation for how people came to be,
But that's not you.

and evolution is _not_ chance.
It's chance plus selection which is non-telelogical.

Divers and Sundry said...

"Point one has to be taken in the context of your prior statement, "I favor evolution" (paraphrased)."

That statement was an offer of a distinct 3rd option, neither design nor chance. I admit your renaming of design as theistic evolution and renaming of chance as naturalistic evolution surprised me.

"I know folks who don't buy into any form of evolution as an explanation for how people came to be,
But that's not you."

Whether it's me or not is irrelevant. You equated "design" and "theistic evolution". They are not the same. I seem to recall intelligent design advocates going to great lengths in the past to insist that "design" is not a religious concept but a scientific one.

evolution is "chance plus selection"

I'm not buying that as a definition of evolution, either, but, at any rate, you can't equate chance and evolution. They are not the same. And you seem here to agree.

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry said: evolution is _not_ chance.

Just to drive the point home, do this thought experiment. Go back in time to when the first self-replicating molecule formed. Fast forward billions of years. Would life be exactly like we know it now?

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry wrote: That statement was an offer of a distinct 3rd option, neither design nor chance.
And my response was (an attempt) to show that it isn't a third option; that it reduces to one or the other.
I admit your renaming of design as theistic evolution and renaming of chance as naturalistic evolution surprised me.
I don't see why. Nature is either telelogical or not.

Whether it's me or not is irrelevant. You equated "design" and "theistic evolution". They are not the same.
When discussing teleology they are. Both are guided by God.

I seem to recall intelligent design advocates going to great lengths in the past to insist that "design" is not a religious concept but a scientific one.
They aren't mutually exclusive, unless nature is non-teleological. The interesting question is how one might go about deciding that.

I'm not buying that [evolution is chance plus selection], either, but, at any rate, you can't equate chance and evolution. They are not the same. And you seem here to agree.
Because when it comes to teleology, chance is the important component.

Either we are designed for a purpose, or we're not. The chance component of naturalistic evolution holds that we're not.

BruceA said...

wrf3 -

Either we are designed for a purpose; or we are the product of chance. Since you've exited Christianity, you have to hold to the latter. Since there is, therefore, no purpose other than individual preference, anything (you can get away with) goes.

This is very sloppy logic. There are a number of religious groups (Deists, Buddhists, Taoists, Confucians, to name a few) who say that we are not designed for a purpose, but who also deny that there is no purpose other than individual preference.

I know some Christian apologists claim there are only two options, but I cannot see how that could possibly be a useful statement when it is so manifestly untrue.

John said...

wrf3 wrote:

Design or chance. What other choices are there?


That's not what you said. You left two options: design and Christianity.

How about them? All morality is based on personal preference. Christianity just asserts that the personal preference of God is the universal reference point. If you're going to exit Christianity, then really exit it. Stop pretending that there are some universal moral stances -- there are not. There cannot be.


Again, you're assuming a Christianity/not-Christianity dichotomy.

How about humanism as an option? respect humans as valuable, therefore I do not harm them and respect their self-ownership.

And based on this comment that you left on my blog, I think you agree: "I never found the moral sense argument compelling. For starters, the determinations of right and wrong vary so widely from person to person and culture to culture that it would negate the notion of a transcendent right and wrong.".


Well, I'm trying to remember this from a philosophy of religion class I took about three years ago. The argument, as I was taught through a C.S. Lewis essay, was that the Christian God must exist because people have a sense of the good, and that this can only come from some ontologically highest good, which is God.

I found this unconvincing at the time (and still do) because (1) as with all ontological arguments, it assumes that because something can exist, it must and (2) if the Christian God is the ultimate good, then it should be impossible to find an action of God immoral.

wrf3 said...

BruceA wrote: This is very sloppy logic. There are a number of religious groups (Deists, Buddhists, Taoists, Confucians, to name a few) who say that we are not designed for a purpose, but who also deny that there is no purpose other than individual preference.

I know what they say. At issue is the basis on which they say it. Their claims don't stand up to scrutiny.

I know some Christian apologists claim there are only two options, but I cannot see how that could possibly be a useful statement when it is so manifestly untrue.

Really? I've made the claim that the only two options for our origins is design or chance. Give me a third one.

wrf3 said...

John wrote: That's not what you said. You left two options: design and Christianity.
I'm looking at what I wrote. At 9:11 I said, "Either we are designed for a purpose; or we are the product of chance." That's not "design and Christianity".

Again, you're assuming a Christianity/not-Christianity dichotomy.
I'm asserting a Theist/Atheist dichotomy.

How about humanism as an option?
If that's your preference. But don't expect others to share it. And don't be surprised if they don't.

The problem you have is that you want to say "moral system A is better than moral system B, therefore A should be followed." The problem is that the comparison of A with B requires an agreed upon moral system - which you don't have.

As to your class on Lewis, your memory serves you well. I will argue that ontological arguments are inane, both logically and biblically.

Your final statement is germane to your argument for humanism: if the Christian God is the ultimate good, then it should be impossible to find an action of God immoral. Logically, that's absolutely correct. But we do. Therein lies the clue why your attempt to offer humanism as an option is doomed to fail.

John said...

wrf3 wrote:

I'm looking at what I wrote. At 9:11 I said, "Either we are designed for a purpose; or we are the product of chance." That's not "design and Christianity".


I'm referring to this statement:

Either we are designed for a purpose; or we are the product of chance. Since you've exited Christianity, you have to hold to the latter.


Now, moving on:

I'm asserting a Theist/Atheist dichotomy.


What about (not that I'm claiming it as my own) deism?

If that's your preference. But don't expect others to share it. And don't be surprised if they don't.


I certainly don't.

The problem you have is that you want to say "moral system A is better than moral system B, therefore A should be followed." The problem is that the comparison of A with B requires an agreed upon moral system - which you don't have.


I don't follow. Please explain.

Your final statement is germane to your argument for humanism: "if the Christian God is the ultimate good, then it should be impossible to find an action of God immoral." Logically, that's absolutely correct. But we do. Therein lies the clue why your attempt to offer humanism as an option is doomed to fail.


What? How would the failure of the moral argument for the existence of God undermine a humanistic approach to ethics? I don't understand.

Divers and Sundry said...

"Divers and Sundry wrote: That statement was an offer of a distinct 3rd option, neither design nor chance.
And my response was (an attempt) to show that it isn't a third option; that it reduces to one or the other."

Maybe I'm just confused over your use of the terms. Evolution is _not_ the same thing as design or chance. That's clear. It's easy enough to look up definitions of the terms. Evolution (whether guided by God or not) is not the same thing as either of your choices.

"When discussing teleology they ["design" and "theistic evolution"] are [the same]. Both are guided by God."

Saying that you believe both are guided by God doesn't make the terms _mean_ the same thing. And even if the processes _are_ both guided by God (which is arguable), the terms just don't mean the same thing.

"Nature is either telelogical or not."

Well, that's as may be... But that doesn't have anything to do with how words are defined, and it is a matter of definition that "design" and "theistic evolution" do not have the same meaning. Neither do "evolution" and "chance".

You said to someone else: "I've made the claim that the only two options for our origins is design or chance. Give me a third one."

Surely you mean to say a 4th one ;) , as I've already given evolution as a 3rd, which is neither design nor chance by definition.

wrf3 said...

John wrote: What about (not that I'm claiming it as my own) deism?
Deism is certainly an option, but it fails from it's own internal contradictions. It's for people who want to be "spiritual" (whatever that means) without logical rigor.

Deism runs afoul of Hume's guillotine. Without revelation (with the Deist god, by definition, does not provide), there is no way to know how God wants man to live. Deism is just atheism in sheep's clothing.

I don't follow. Please explain.
Your moral system is based on your personal preferences. But no man is an island. How are a group of people to live? Why should anyone choose your humanism over any of the other myriad choices? Personally, I find humanism to be despicable -- both ethically and logically. Like deism, it runs afoul of Hume. You can't get from "is" (the human condition) to "ought".

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry wrote: Surely you mean to say a 4th one ;) , as I've already given evolution as a 3rd, which is neither design nor chance by definition.

How is evolution not based on chance? What drives mutations? Do you really mean to say that if we rewind the evolutionary tape back to the beginning and start it all over again that life would be exactly like we know it today?

Divers and Sundry said...

I'm not saying that there's no such thing as chance, just that chance and evolution are not the same thing. Neither are design and evolution. Your dichotomy ("Design or chance"/"Theistic evolution (design) or naturalistic evolution (chance)") is a false one.

John said...

Deism is certainly an option, but it fails from it's own internal contradictions. It's for people who want to be "spiritual" (whatever that means) without logical rigor.

Deism runs afoul of Hume's guillotine. Without revelation (with the Deist god, by definition, does not provide), there is no way to know how God wants man to live. Deism is just atheism in sheep's clothing.



However illogical (but more than theism) it remains a third option, thus breaking your theism/atheism dichotomy.

Your moral system is based on your personal preferences. But no man is an island. How are a group of people to live?


If one were accept principles of "no harm" and "honor agreements", this would seem to me to create a functional system of ethics for a society.

Why should anyone choose your humanism over any of the other myriad choices? Personally, I find humanism to be despicable -- both ethically and logically. Like deism, it runs afoul of Hume. You can't get from "is" (the human condition) to "ought".


The deistic humanism espouses in the Declaration of Independence seems to have functioned rather well, so far.

How is humanism despicable?

I've never read Hume, so I don't understand your references to him.

Divers and Sundry said...

"Without revelation ... there is no way to know how God wants man to live."

It looks to me like even _with_ revelation Christians can't agree on how God wants "man" to live. Or women, either, for that matter.

Shall we discuss Christian views on abortion, the death penalty, women preachers.... ?

wrf3 said...

John wrote: However illogical (but more than theism) it remains a third option, thus breaking your theism/atheism dichotomy.

I don't consider illogical systems as options. But that's just me. If we want to be illogical then anything goes.

If one were accept principles of "no harm" and "honor agreements", this would seem to me to create a functional system of ethics for a society.

Remember the issue with choosing between moral system A and B needing a moral system C? You've just illustrated this: you are using "functional" as a moral basis for choosing between two systems. That is, you're basing your moral system on what you think is pragmatic. But your only basis for doing so is personal preference. What makes your personal preference the standard by which anyone else must live their life? Why is pragmatism the standard by which we must live? Because it's easier on us?

The deistic humanism espouses in the Declaration of Independence seems to have functioned rather well, so far.
Chinese and Indian societies have been around a lot longer than American and they don't function according to those principles.

How is humanism despicable?
First, it's illogical. Second, it's based on "enlightened self-interest", which is just word salad for "selfishness". Selfishness is the opposite of love, hence it is despicable.

I've never read Hume, so I don't understand your references to him.

Hume's Guillotine

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry observed: It looks to me like even _with_ revelation Christians can't agree on how God wants "man" to live. Or women, either, for that matter.

Your point? Revelation requires that a) people actually listen and b) subject their personal desires to what God has revealed.

All you've done is bring up something that is inherent in any moral system, regardless of the source. We think our personal preference are the basis by which others should live their lives. As Genesis 3 said, "we have become as gods".

John said...

I don't consider illogical systems as options. But that's just me. If we want to be illogical then anything goes.


For whatever faults it may have, deism is a whole lot more logical than theism, since it is at least based on syllogistic reasoning, unlike theism, which is based on revelation.

Remember the issue with choosing between moral system A and B needing a moral system C? You've just illustrated this: you are using "functional" as a moral basis for choosing between two systems. That is, you're basing your moral system on what you think is pragmatic. But your only basis for doing so is personal preference. What makes your personal preference the standard by which anyone else must live their life? Why is pragmatism the standard by which we must live? Because it's easier on us?


These are interesting questions about fundamental presuppositions.

Hmmm.

Well, I suppose my most fundamental presupposition is personal freedom (e.g. life, liberty, property). Impairments of personal freedom are bad, so harming another person or extension of that person (i.e. property) is bad.

A contract is a consensual abrogation of freedom that does no harm (because it is consensual), so as long as it is completed, so completion of contracts is a necessity for personal freedom.

How's that? First time I've though it through.

Chinese and Indian societies have been around a lot longer than American and they don't function according to those principles.


Indian society is not Christian, and Chinese is, arguably, not theistic, so this is actually evidence in favor my position, not yours.

First, it's illogical.


How so?

Second, it's based on "enlightened self-interest", which is just word salad for "selfishness". Selfishness is the opposite of love, hence it is despicable.


I dispute that humanism is merely enlightened self-interest. I see it as the valuation of the individual human being. Which is less despicable than a system which devalues human life and freedom.

Humanism is not only seeing onself has having value, but other people has having value. This creates limitations on harm (e.g. "This is a human life, therefore I should not kill it") and provides a rationale for charity (e.g. "This is a human life, therefore I should try to save it").

wrf3 said...

John wrote: For whatever faults it may have, deism is a whole lot more logical than theism, since it is at least based on syllogistic reasoning, unlike theism, which is based on revelation.
Reasoning has to have fundamental things to reason with; revelation is one source of those things. So that's somewhat of an apples-oranges comparison.

One problem with deism is its assertion that God wants man to live a certain way. Absent revelation, this runs afoul of the "is-ought" problem.

How's that? First time I've though it through.
Your personal appreciation of freedom is just that. It makes no obligation on anyone else. Most societies don't value freedom the way you do. Should they live like you? Should you live like them? Do the needs of society to be stable outweigh the needs of the individual to be free?

Indian society is not Christian, and Chinese is, arguably, not theistic, so this is actually evidence in favor my position, not yours.
First, the point was that China and India don't subscribe to the notions in the Declaration of Independence. So you have to find some other basis for arguing that they are how people ought to live. Second, China doesn't subscribe to your notion of freedom. When the USA becomes slaves to the Chinese due to our overwhelming debt, what will happen to your notions of freedom when they start calling the shots?

Humanism is not only seeing onself has having value, but other people has having value.
Why do people have value? Some in the green movement want the world's population reduced to no more than 2 billion people. Many societies practice slavery (there's more slavery now that back in the 1800's); infant females are routinely aborted or left to die. What is the basis for your claim, other than wishful thinking and/or the desire to not being maltreated/discarded?

Divers and Sundry said...

"Your point? Revelation requires that a) people actually listen and b) subject their personal desires to what God has revealed."

My point? Well, my point was that your statement -"Without revelation ... there is no way to know how God wants man to live"- is pointless if _with_ revelation we _still_ don't know how God wants us to live.

People who a) listen for revelation and are b) willing to subject their own desires to God's will _still_ can't agree on how God wants us to live. I offer any of the issues that Christians are currently arguing over as evidence: war, abortion, the death penalty...

John said...

Reasoning has to have fundamental things to reason with; revelation is one source of those things. So that's somewhat of an apples-oranges comparison.


So when you're saying that various things are illogical (e.g. humanism), then you're not saying that this is a bad thing, right? If reason is unimportant, then by your own standard, to attack humanism as illogical is not an effective critique.

One problem with deism is its assertion that God wants man to live a certain way. Absent revelation, this runs afoul of the "is-ought" problem.


Sure, I'll agree with this criticism.

Your personal appreciation of freedom is just that. It makes no obligation on anyone else. Most societies don't value freedom the way you do. Should they live like you? Should you live like them? Do the needs of society to be stable outweigh the needs of the individual to be free?


Okay I can accept that freedom is not self-evidently a good thing. Or, for that matter, that any designated good is good. I concede that 'good' is an unprovable preference.

First, the point was that China and India don't subscribe to the notions in the Declaration of Independence.


I wasn't trying to prove that they live according to the humanistic deism of the Declaration of Independence. I was demonstrating that there are options other than your theism/atheism dichotomy.

So you have to find some other basis for arguing that they are how people ought to live. Second, China doesn't subscribe to your notion of freedom.


Non sequitur. Because there are those who reject my valuation of personal freedom does not mean that they should not. I'm not saying that there are only two options -- you are.

When the USA becomes slaves to the Chinese due to our overwhelming debt, what will happen to your notions of freedom when they start calling the shots?


The loss of freedom does not make freedom bad, unless you're taking the view that whatever is dominant must be good. Are you?

Why do people have value? Some in the green movement want the world's population reduced to no more than 2 billion people. Many societies practice slavery (there's more slavery now that back in the 1800's); infant females are routinely aborted or left to die. What is the basis for your claim, other than wishful thinking and/or the desire to not being maltreated/discarded?

An unproven assumption.

John Wilks said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
wrf3 said...

John asked: So when you're saying that various things are illogical (e.g. humanism), then you're not saying that this is a bad thing, right?
I am saying that it is a bad thing.

If reason is unimportant, then by your own standard, to attack humanism as illogical is not an effective critique.
I didn't say that reason is unimportant. What I said was that reason requires data upon which to operate. Revelation is one source of data, just as unproven axioms are.

Okay I can accept that freedom is not self-evidently a good thing. Or, for that matter, that any designated good is good. I concede that 'good' is an unprovable preference.

So the next question is, "why should anyone agree with your preferences?" What's the "privileged" (for lack of a better term) moral position?

I wasn't trying to prove that they live according to the humanistic deism of the Declaration of Independence. I was demonstrating that there are options other than your theism/atheism dichotomy.
My point still stands. Absent theism, "... there is, therefore, no purpose other than individual preference, anything (you can get away with) goes." That's a true statement.

Non sequitur. Because there are those who reject my valuation of personal freedom does not mean that they should not.
Why should they? What moral framework must they use to evaluate your personal preference?

I'm not saying that there are only two options -- you are.
The Chinese are following personal preference just as much as you are. How does that contradict what I've written?

The loss of freedom does not make freedom bad, unless you're taking the view that whatever is dominant must be good. Are you?
"It was for freedom that Christ has set us free." But the issue is your position. When the tryant comes to impose tyranny on you, do you think he's going to care about your particular preferences?

I asked, "Why do people have value? ... What is the basis for your claim, other than wishful thinking and/or the desire to not being maltreated/discarded?"

An unproven assumption.

A question is not an assumption. Why do you think people have value? It's obviously something you prefer. Why do you have this preference, since you agreed that "'good' is an unprovable preference"?

If you just say, "because" then that's wishful thinking especially since freedom hasn't been the historical norm. If you say, "because I prefer the kind of life that freedom allows", then that's selfish. I gave you a chance for other options.

John said...

I didn't say that reason is unimportant. What I said was that reason requires data upon which to operate. Revelation is one source of data, just as unproven axioms are.


Okay, I'll buy that.

So the next question is, "why should anyone agree with your preferences?" What's the "privileged" (for lack of a better term) moral position?


Well, I'll come back around to pragmatism, then. Personal freedom, or at least that which maybe espoused in a humanistic framework, does the least harm (arguably none) to members in such a society. A person in a society in which individual worth is respected is less likely to come to harm than a person in a society where it is not respected.

My point still stands. Absent theism, "... there is, therefore, no purpose other than individual preference, anything (you can get away with) goes." That's a true statement.


Okay, I think that I can agree to this. Still, theism also just a preference in that one chooses one revelation among a variety of options, or to accept a revelation at all.

So I guess that the next step is to determine which preference is better.

Why should they? What moral framework must they use to evaluate your personal preference?


When your back is turned, I won't club you over the head and take your stuff, even if a revelation says that it's okay. Because I respect your worth as a human being, you're safe from attack by me.

The Chinese are following personal preference just as much as you are. How does that contradict what I've written?


Because they did not arrive at their preferences through atheism, and you've written that atheism and theism are the only two options.

"It was for freedom that Christ has set us free." But the issue is your position. When the tryant comes to impose tyranny on you, do you think he's going to care about your particular preferences?


No, but I'll be far better able to resist tyranny if I think that I have value as a human being, and far less likely to cooperate with his tyrannical activities if I think that other people have value, too.

I asked, "Why do people have value? ... What is the basis for your claim, other than wishful thinking and/or the desire to not being maltreated/discarded?"

"An unproven assumption."

A question is not an assumption. Why do you think people have value? It's obviously something you prefer. Why do you have this preference, since you agreed that "'good' is an unprovable preference"?

If you just say, "because" then that's wishful thinking especially since freedom hasn't been the historical norm. If you say, "because I prefer the kind of life that freedom allows", then that's selfish. I gave you a chance for other options.


Hold on, now. You've said that humanism is despicable because it's selfish, and therefore the opposite of love. But you've also admitted that this humanism places value upon human beings. Isn't that, you know, love? Isn't selfishness devaluing human life, rather than valuing it?

If humanism values the lives of other humans, then it can't be selfish, because the selfish person would only value his own life. But if humanism values other human life (including the self), the it is actually loving.

wrf3 said...

John wrote: Well, I'll come back around to pragmatism, then.

So why should pragmatism be the basis for any moral system? Why not "enlightened self-interest"? Why not love? Or any of the myriad other bases that are used?

Remember, Kodos was pragmatic. It was only hindsight that caused him problems.

Personal freedom, or at least that which maybe espoused in a humanistic framework, does the least harm (arguably none) to members in such a society.
So what? Again, you are making a moral judgement about the value of harm.

Still, theism also just a preference in that one chooses one revelation among a variety of options, or to accept a revelation at all.
That's only true if you've concluded that truth either does not exist or cannot be found. If we were talking about the statement "2+2=4" you wouldn't say such a thing. Personally, I didn't prefer to choose Christianity. I wanted nothing to do with it. The problem is that it happens to be true.

When your back is turned, I won't club you over the head and take your stuff, even if a revelation says that it's okay. Because I respect your worth as a human being, you're safe from attack by me.
There are multiple problems with this. Suppose revelation does say it's ok (and by revelation we mean "what God really says, not things we make up and attribute to God"). Then you've set yourself up as God's judge. You've put your notions of good and evil above His. Sound familiar? Genesis 3. Second, you haven't considered the boundary conditions. Suppose you and I are alone on an island with limited resources. Only one of us will survive. Now, who is worth more? You or me? Why?

Hold on, now. You've said that humanism is despicable because it's selfish, and therefore the opposite of love. But you've also admitted that this humanism places value upon human beings. Isn't that, you know, love?
Not necessarily. Corporations value humans because they are consumers. The military-political complex values humans because they are cannon fodder. What value does humanism say human beings have?

John said...

So why should pragmatism be the basis for any moral system? Why not "enlightened self-interest"? Why not love? Or any of the myriad other bases that are used?


Personal preferences. I'll go with that. It's the same as with theism: one either prefers to accept revelation as a basis for morality, or rejects it, or chooses from a variety of revelations.

Remember, Kodos was pragmatic. It was only hindsight that caused him problems.


Who? Are you talking about Kodos from The Simpsons?

So what? Again, you are making a moral judgement about the value of harm.


I sure am.

That's only true if you've concluded that truth either does not exist or cannot be found. If we were talking about the statement "2+2=4" you wouldn't say such a thing. Personally, I didn't prefer to choose Christianity. I wanted nothing to do with it. The problem is that it happens to be true.


How do you know it to be true other than preferring to accept it rather than reject it?

There are multiple problems with this. Suppose revelation does say it's ok (and by revelation we mean "what God really says, not things we make up and attribute to God").


How would you distinguish between the two?

Then you've set yourself up as God's judge.


Alternatively, it shows that I'm willing to think things through myself, rather than simply going with whatever I think to be revelation tells me. You're assuming that thinking is bad.

You've put your notions of good and evil above His.


Is this a bad thing to do? Shouldn't a self-proclaimed god, like Jim Jones or Sun Yung Moon, be morally questioned?

Second, you haven't considered the boundary conditions. Suppose you and I are alone on an island with limited resources. Only one of us will survive. Now, who is worth more? You or me? Why?


Neither. Strike a bargain like a coin toss, if necessary.

Not necessarily. Corporations value humans because they are consumers. The military-political complex values humans because they are cannon fodder. What value does humanism say human beings have?


Humanism (as I use the term) sees human beings as having self-ownership and personal sovereignty. They are free to define themselves, and other humans must respect the life, liberty, and property of them, which constitute the parameters of these self-definitions.

This is a profoundly loving and unselfish doctrine, because it respects the sovereignty of other individuals. Theism, on the other hand, opens up all sorts of possible unloving and selfish activities by providing moral cover ("God told me that it was okay..." "God commanded me to...") to selfish and unloving activities.

wrf3 said...

John wrote: Personal preferences. I'll go with that.
We've agreed on that. The next step is to answer the question of whose morality to use when resolving differences in personal preferences. Which man, or group of men, control morality?

It's the same as with theism: one either prefers to accept revelation as a basis for morality, or rejects it, or chooses from a variety of revelations.
No, it's not the same. In humanism there is no preferred/privileged morality for resolving differences in personal preferences. In theism, there is.

[I wrote: Remember, Kodos was pragmatic. It was only hindsight that caused him problems.]

Who? Are you talking about Kodos from The Simpsons?

Sorry. I'm not up on my Simpsonology; I suspect they borrowed from the original Star Trek episode "The Conscience of the King". Kodos was governor of Tarsus IV when a famine swept the colony. The relief ships were not due to arrive for some time, so he had 4,000 (?) people executed so that the remainder would live. His pragmatism proved unfortunate when the relief ships arrived early.

How do you know [Christianity] to be true other than preferring to accept it rather than reject it?
From the evidence.

[I wrote: There are multiple problems with this. Suppose revelation does say it's ok (and by revelation we mean "what God really says, not things we make up and attribute to God").]

How would you distinguish between the two?
That's a separate issue. For this thought experiment, we set up the initial conditions. And, given those initial conditions, you have said that you would sit in judgement of God. That's not rational.

[I wrote: Then you've set yourself up as God's judge.]

Alternatively, it shows that I'm willing to think things through myself, rather than simply going with whatever I think to be revelation tells me. You're assuming that thinking is bad.
If I thought thinking was bad we wouldn't be having this discussion. Once you come to the point where you agree "God has said", whatever that happens to be, you either respond "Thy will be done" or "My will be done". Like all humanists, you've put yourself squarely in the second camp.

[I wrote: You've put your notions of good and evil above His.]

Is this a bad thing to do?
Yes. It's the ultimate evil.

Shouldn't a self-proclaimed god, like Jim Jones or Sun Yung Moon, be morally questioned?
We aren't talking about those kinds of "gods".

[I wrote: Second, you haven't considered the boundary conditions. Suppose you and I are alone on an island with limited resources. Only one of us will survive. Now, who is worth more? You or me? Why?]

Neither. Strike a bargain like a coin toss, if necessary.
I refuse to go along with such a bargain. Now what? You have to make the decision: you, or me? That's the test of your humanism.


Humanism (as I use the term) sees human beings as having self-ownership and personal sovereignty. They are free to define themselves, and other humans must respect the life, liberty, and property of them, which constitute the parameters of these self-definitions.
Do you see the inherent contradiction in what you just wrote? "You have personal sovereignty" ... "except when you don't". It's these kinds of contradictions that make (this expression of) humanism mere word salad.

Divers and Sundry said...

"Which man, or group of men, control morality?"

Or woman or group of women. Just sayin'.

I'm enjoying the conversation and hate to interrupt, but, goodness, must you see _everything_ as either/or, black/white, one or the other?

"Suppose you and I are alone on an island with limited resources. Only one of us will survive. Now, who is worth more? You or me?"

How about this: We divide the available resources, make them last as long as possible ('cause the relief ship might come early, after all) and die together if the resources don't last.

Everything is not limited to a choice between only 2 options, but it's how I see you frame things.

John said...

We've agreed on that. The next step is to answer the question of whose morality to use when resolving differences in personal preferences. Which man, or group of men, control morality?


This is an interesting question, and one that deserves a lot of thought. I'm not sure, but I'm not willing to yield my system of morality to another person or group. If, for example, a tyrant began depriving me or others of life, liberty, or property, I would feel no moral compunction about using force to resist such activity. Practical reasons, maybe. But not moral.

No, it's not the same. In humanism there is no preferred/privileged morality for resolving differences in personal preferences. In theism, there is.


In theism, you're preferring to accept the morality of a god as authoritative, insteading of telling that god to sod off. Also, you're preferring to accept one revelation over others.

Sorry. I'm not up on my Simpsonology; I suspect they borrowed from the original Star Trek episode "The Conscience of the King". Kodos was governor of Tarsus IV when a famine swept the colony. The relief ships were not due to arrive for some time, so he had 4,000 (?) people executed so that the remainder would live. His pragmatism proved unfortunate when the relief ships arrived early.


Oh, that Kodos. Okay, now I remember (I haven't watched much of TOS in a long time). So how does this apply to what I have written?

From the evidence.

Unless the evidence is absolute -- in such a way that faith is unnecessary -- then you're still making a preference based upon an unprovable assumption. One as unprovable as that humans have value.

If I thought thinking was bad we wouldn't be having this discussion. Once you come to the point where you agree "God has said", whatever that happens to be, you either respond "Thy will be done" or "My will be done". Like all humanists, you've put yourself squarely in the second camp.


Sure, if we can know "God has said" and know what and which god we're talking about, then our two choices are "I'm following that" and "No, I'm not". But knowing what God has said and what god we're talking about is a huge obstacle.

Yes. It's the ultimate evil.

Why? Also, you can't know that something is evil anymore than I can know that humans have value, right?

We aren't talking about those kinds of "gods".


Then you're preferring certain gods to others, and not explaining how you can distinguish between them, and why one god is authoritative, and another is not.

I refuse to go along with such a bargain. Now what? You have to make the decision: you, or me? That's the test of your humanism.


Well, if you were to try to deprive me of my life, liberty, and property, I'd use force against you. Lethal, if necessary. Your humanity does not confer upon you the right to deprive me of my life, liberty, and property, and I may use force to protect mine. And vice versa.

That's why humanism is an unselfish and loving doctrine, contrary to the amoral potential of theism. I may not slay you for my own benefit in humanism, even if a god tells you that I may -- or even requires that I do so.

Although theism need not be violent, savage, and evil, it has the potential to do so because, absent doubt and a willingness to disobey the commands of a god, it provides moral justification for all sorts of evil. As Voltaire said "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

Do you see the inherent contradiction in what you just wrote? "You have personal sovereignty" ... "except when you don't". It's these kinds of contradictions that make (this expression of) humanism mere word salad.


I don't see a contradiction, because I didn't write "except when you don't".

John said...

We've agreed on that. The next step is to answer the question of whose morality to use when resolving differences in personal preferences. Which man, or group of men, control morality?


Further question in response to this passage that you wrote:

In theism, whose morality should people use then their various gods give contradictory moral instructions?

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry wrote: Or woman or group of women. Just sayin'.
Sure. English usage allows "man/men" to refer to "a human being(s) of either sex; a person". Now, how about answering the question?

I'm enjoying the conversation and hate to interrupt, but, goodness, must you see _everything_ as either/or, black/white, one or the other?
I'm an engineer and, as such, I know that things are typically weakest at their boundaries. Applying engineering discipline to philosophical boundaries usually helps show where philosophies are likely to break.

[I asked: "Suppose you and I are alone on an island with limited resources. Only one of us will survive. Now, who is worth more? You or me?"]
How about this: We divide the available resources, make them last as long as possible ('cause the relief ship might come early, after all) and die together if the resources don't last.
That gives everyone a nice warm and fuzzy but it doesn't push the boundary. It's a simple question to answer, why not deal with it directly?

Everything is not limited to a choice between only 2 options, but it's how I see you frame things.
Life is not limited to easy "feel good" choices, either. Jesus said "You can't straddle the fence forever." (I'm paraphrasing).

wrf3 said...

John asked In theism, whose morality should people use then their various gods give contradictory moral instructions?

I'm a monotheist, so there is only one God. So I'm going to take your question as "What should an individual do when he claims to have heard God say 'A', when others claim to have heard God say 'B'"?

The Christian answer is "from faith to faith the just shall live by faith." That is, we have to do what we believe God has told us to do and trust Him to sort everything out. We have to trust Him to get the message through to us, trust Him to ensure that we heard it correctly, and trust Him with the consequences. This doesn't mean that we don't wrestle with Him and question Him, but it does mean that all of that is part of the process of trusting Him.

wrf3 said...

John wrote: This is an interesting question, and one that deserves a lot of thought. I'm not sure, but I'm not willing to yield my system of morality to another person or group. If, for example, a tyrant began depriving me or others of life, liberty, or property, I would feel no moral compunction about using force to resist such activity. Practical reasons, maybe. But not moral.
Ok, now look what happens. When it comes to your morality vs. someone else's, yours trumps. This means that your morality is of more value than someone elses. This means that when it comes to human value, you are more valuable than someone else. Now do you see why I said that humanism, for all of its lofty sounding words, is selfish at its core?

In theism, you're preferring to accept the morality of a god as authoritative,
It's a preference based upon reason, just as I prefer "2+2=4" to "2+2=5". But the proof is a bit longer than I think I have room for.

instead of telling that god to sod off.
Since we agreed that morality is simply an expression of personal preference, look at what you're saying: "my personal preference is better than that of the transcendent, self-existent, eternal Creator". Do you really think that's reasonable?

Also, you're preferring to accept one revelation over others.
I think your observation is the result of a category error. Revelation exists in the realm of "is"; morality exists in the realm of "ought". "2 + 2 is 4" is a different type of statement from "2 + 2 ought to be 4". Which revelation to choose is just as much the result of evidence and reason as "2 + 2 = 4".

Oh, that Kodos. Okay, now I remember (I haven't watched much of TOS in a long time). So how does this apply to what I have written?
You offered pragmatism as a moral basis. I used a counterexample to show that pragmatism isn't a good choice.

[end part 1. continued in part 2]

wrf3 said...

[part 2]
Unless the evidence is absolute -- in such a way that faith is unnecessary -- then you're still making a preference based upon an unprovable assumption.
Let me quote Bertrand Russell, from "Problems of Philosophy":

"All knowledge, we find, must be built up upon our instictive beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left. (pg. 25)"

"Philosophy should show us our hierarchy of instictive beliefs, beginning with those we hold most strongly, and presenting each as much isolated and as free from irrelevant additions as possible. It should take care to show that, in the form in which they are finally set forth, our instinctive beliefs do not clash, but form a harmonious system. There can never be any reason for rejecting one instinctive belief except that it clashes with others; thus, if they are found to harmonize, the whole system becomes worthy of acceptance. (pg. 25)"

What this means is that faith is necessary for all knowledge. So you need to revise your objection.

One as unprovable as that humans have value.
"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows."

Sure, if we can know "God has said" and know what and which god we're talking about, then our two choices are "I'm following that" and "No, I'm not". But knowing what God has said and what god we're talking about is a huge obstacle.
Huge is not the same as insurmountable.

[I wote: "Yes. [Putting your notions of good and evil above God's is] the ultimate evil."]

Why?
Because your personal preferences are not better than God's. The short answer is that because He is self-existent, He defines good.

Also, you can't know that something is evil anymore than I can know that humans have value, right?
Wrong. God is not silent.

Then you're preferring certain gods to others, and not explaining how you can distinguish between them, and why one god is authoritative, and another is not.
I agree. How much of your blog do you want me to take up writing on the evidence for Christianity?


[I asked: "I refuse to go along with such a bargain. Now what? You have to make the decision: you, or me? That's the test of your humanism."]

Well, if you were to try to deprive me of my life, liberty, and property, I'd use force against you. Lethal, if necessary. Your humanity does not confer upon you the right to deprive me of my life, liberty, and property, and I may use force to protect mine. And vice versa.
Remember when you objected when I wrote that humanism was essentially selfish? Look at the situation: two people, only one can live.

"Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us."

You didn't consider voluntarily giving up your life for someone else. Love was not an option you thought about.

That's why humanism is an unselfish and loving doctrine,
I hope I've made a satisfactory case as to why I don't believe this.

contrary to the amoral potential of theism. I may not slay you for my own benefit in humanism, even if a god tells you that I may -- or even requires that I do so.
But you just said that you would slay me -- you would use lethal force to ensure that you survived.

[I asked: "Do you see the inherent contradiction in what you just wrote? 'You have personal sovereignty' ... 'except when you don't'. It's these kinds of contradictions that make (this expression of) humanism mere word salad.]

I don't see a contradiction, because I didn't write "except when you don't".
Sure you did, when you limited the right of individuals to self-ownership and personal sovereignty.

Divers and Sundry said...

"English usage allows "man/men" to refer to "a human being(s) of either sex; a person"."

Past are the days when this kind of sexist language usage is generally acceptable and goes unquestioned.

"Now, how about answering the question?"

Is the question "Which [person], or group of [people], control morality?"? My answer is nobody "controls" morality for everyone else, but I'm not even sure what you mean by someone being able to "control morality".

"That gives everyone a nice warm and fuzzy..."

No. It gives everyone an alternative to your "you or me" choice. There's not just a choice between you and me. There's the possibility of both. Or neither. You seem to insist on these one-or-the-other false dichotomies.

"It's a simple question to answer, why not deal with it directly?"

Why insist that every choice is one between only 2?

John said...

I'm a monotheist, so there is only one God. So I'm going to take your question as "What should an individual do when he claims to have heard God say 'A', when others claim to have heard God say 'B'"?


Ah, so we are coming up with more precise terms. When you are creating an atheism/theism dichotomy, what you really mean is atheism/montheism, right? Which variety of monotheism?

The Christian answer is "from faith to faith the just shall live by faith."


And now even more precise terms. Not just monotheism, but Christianity.

You should provide for a means of proving monotheism over other varieties of theism, or Christianity over other varieties of monotheism. Otherwise, how shall we just one authoritative and the others not? Other than personal preferences, of course.

Ok, now look what happens. When it comes to your morality vs. someone else's, yours trumps. This means that your morality is of more value than someone elses. This means that when it comes to human value, you are more valuable than someone else. Now do you see why I said that humanism, for all of its lofty sounding words, is selfish at its core?


Well, only selfish in the sense that choosing any position is intrinsically selfish because it rejects others. Theism, or monotheism, or Christianity, is equally selfish if the adherent believes that his or her morality is superior to others, and acts accordingly.

Since we agreed that morality is simply an expression of personal preference, look at what you're saying: "my personal preference is better than that of the transcendent, self-existent, eternal Creator". Do you really think that's reasonable?


By using the term 'god', I'm not necessarily referring to something that is self-existent, transcendent, or being an external Creator (capital or lower-case C), but a being of supernatural power beyond that of full human comprehension or duplication. But even if we use those characteristics, then yes, I think that it's completely reasonable the immoral commands of a god.

If, for example, I felt a supernatural presence -- a god -- tell me to take up a gun and slaughter my family, friends, and co-workers, I'd say "no, I won't".

Which is why humanism is a morally superior approach. It does not yield to a god the authority to commit wickedness. Whereas theism is capable of justifying all manner of evil, so as long as it is done in the name of said god. Or even the Christian God, hence my example from Deuteronomy.

I think your observation is the result of a category error. Revelation exists in the realm of "is"; morality exists in the realm of "ought". "2 + 2 is 4" is a different type of statement from "2 + 2 ought to be 4". Which revelation to choose is just as much the result of evidence and reason as "2 + 2 = 4".


But if you're yielding the authority to make moral decisions to a god, then you're not choosing a revelation; you're letting a revelation dictate to you. if the god later says "Now, go and slaughter the Canaanites", you'd have to obey in order to be consistent with your approach to moral formulation.

But perhaps I don't understand your point. What sort of evidence and reason would you use to distinguish between authoriative and non-authoritative revelations?

You offered pragmatism as a moral basis. I used a counterexample to show that pragmatism isn't a good choice.


Not a perfect choice, but superior to the crapshoot that is theism. Kodos could just as easily have said and acted upon "God has told me to kill off the planet's population." As a good theist, regardless of anything else he had done, he'd be required to do precisely that. With a more humanistic and pragmatic approach, he'd say "No, God, I'm not going to do that."

John said...

What this means is that faith is necessary for all knowledge. So you need to revise your objection.


As I've said, I agree that the notion that human life has value is an unproven assumption. It requires faith. So does any revelation.

The difference is that in humanism, the responsibility for moral action rests on the individual. He may not offer a Nuremberg defense that "I was just following orders from my god." As theism does.

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows."


I do not regard this text as authoritative, so what argument are you making here?

Huge is not the same as insurmountable.


But as you say, you're an engineer, and trained to test ideas at their weak points. This is a very sound principle for philosophy. And the apparent inability to rate one revelation over another is an enormous weak point.

[I wote: "Yes. [Putting your notions of good and evil above God's is] the ultimate evil."]

Why?
Because your personal preferences are not better than God's. The short answer is that because He is self-existent, He defines good.



Again, which god? And assuming the Christian God, was it then morally okay for the Israelites invading Canaan to slaughter the entire population of conquered cities, including children, the elderly, and women?

Would you define the Israelite warriors who carried out these orders as acting righteously in this activity?

Wrong. God is not silent.


I've found that what we may think of as God is often just the voice of men. Example: Crusades. Here's Pope Urban II proclaiming it:

Therefore I say to you that God, who implanted is in your breasts, has drawn it forth from you. Let that then be your war cry in combats, because it is given to you by God. When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, this one cry be raised by all the soldiers of God: 'It is the will of God! It is the will of God!'


And great slaughters of innocents were committed at the command of God.

I agree. How much of your blog do you want me to take up writing on the evidence for Christianity?


Keep it to under 2,000 words. Otherwise, go for it.

Remember when you objected when I wrote that humanism was essentially selfish? Look at the situation: two people, only one can live.

"Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us."

You didn't consider voluntarily giving up your life for someone else. Love was not an option you thought about.



Look at it from a theistic point of view: two people, only one lives -- and all because one person felt that a god had given him authority to kill the other.

Now you may provide an example of love expressed in revelation, but you haven't addressed the possibility of evil commanded in revelation. If you want to test philosophical perspectives at their weak point, then address head-on how theism can allow gods to authorize evil.

I hope I've made a satisfactory case as to why I don't believe this.


No, you've pointed out one Christian expression and loving and justified its validity by theism, but haven't defended theism as a reliable source of love.

John said...

But you just said that you would slay me -- you would use lethal force to ensure that you survived.


Humanism permits self-defense. Theism allows for aggression, as in the Deuteronomy example. There's a moral difference between the two.

Sure you did, when you limited the right of individuals to self-ownership and personal sovereignty.


The value of a human being ends only at the border of the value of another human being. My right to swing my fist ends at the other fellow's nose. This is not a limitation, it is it simply maintains all boundaries. Unlike theism, in which a god may say "Go and kill those Canaanites, for I have given their land to you and decided to purge them from the earth." Humanism not only does not give such authority -- it doesn't provide for even the possibility of such authority. Unlike theism.

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry asked: Why insist that every choice is one between only 2?

Because by forcing the choice it will show what you really value.

wrf3 said...

John wrote: Ah, so we are coming up with more precise terms. When you are creating an atheism/theism dichotomy, what you really mean is atheism/montheism, right?
No, I mean atheism/theism. I could answer the question from a polytheistic perspective (or even a deistic perspective -- both of which are subsets of theism) but I didn't for a couple of reasons. First, it requires laying more groundwork and I really don't want to monopolize your blog. It's something I have filed away and hope to address on my own blog some day. Second, since you've exited Christianity for humanism, it seems that focusing on this would keep the discussion more interesting. I don't want to put Divers and Sundry to sleep. ;-)

[I wrote: The Christian answer is "from faith to faith the just shall live by faith."]

You should provide for a means of proving monotheism over other varieties of theism, or Christianity over other varieties of monotheism.
I had hoped that you would at least find it interesting that what the Bible asserts by revelation, Russell declared by reason. A consistent epistemology is one indication of truth.

[I wrote: "Ok, now look what happens. When it comes to your morality vs. someone else's, yours trumps. This means that your morality is of more value than someone elses. This means that when it comes to human value, you are more valuable than someone else. Now do you see why I said that humanism, for all of its lofty sounding words, is selfish at its core?"]

Well, only selfish in the sense that choosing any position is intrinsically selfish because it rejects others.
Discrimination isn't necessarily selfish, and you are confusing the two. Your position is selfish because you value yourself over another.

Theism, or monotheism, or Christianity, is equally selfish if the adherent believes that his or her morality is superior to others, and acts accordingly.
Only if there isn't a "reference" / "privileged"/ "preferred" morality. In humanism there isn't. In monotheism there is.

[I wrote: "Since we agreed that morality is simply an expression of personal preference, look at what you're saying: 'my personal preference is better than that of the transcendent, self-existent, eternal Creator'. Do you really think that's reasonable?]

... If we use those characteristics, then yes, I think that it's completely reasonable the immoral commands of a god.
Notice what you're doing. By saying "the immoral commands of a god" you are making your personal preference the standard by which a transcendent, self-existent, eternal God is judged. On what basis do you think that's reasonable (i.e. setting your personal preferences above such a God)?

But if you're yielding the authority to make moral decisions to a god, then you're not choosing a revelation; you're letting a revelation dictate to you.
I'm doing both.

if the god later says "Now, go and slaughter the Canaanites", you'd have to obey in order to be consistent with your approach to moral formulation.
Indeed I would. I'm aware of the consequences of my position.

Kodos could just as easily have said and acted upon "God has told me to kill off the planet's population." As a good theist, regardless of anything else he had done, he'd be required to do precisely that.
Or, as a good Christian, he might offer the example of Christ and voluntarily sacrifice himself for the welfare of the people. He would opt for the non-selfish choice.

With a more humanistic and pragmatic approach, he'd say "No, God, I'm not going to do that."
Remember, Kodos took the humanistic and pragmatic choice. He determined which humans had more value than others and executed the least valuable so that the more valuable would live.

Divers and Sundry said...

"Divers and Sundry asked: Why insist that every choice is one between only 2?

Because by forcing the choice it will show what you really value."

No, it doesn't. It's a _false_ dichotomy, leaving out other choices. You are offering a choice limited to "you or me" when both and neither are perfectly legitimate options.

Divers and Sundry said...

"I don't want to put Divers and Sundry to sleep. ;-)"

lol Never fear. If I start to doze I have my coffee pot close at hand.

Feel free to branch out into polytheism to your heart's content. I'm enjoying the ride.

wrf3 said...

John wrote: As I've said, I agree that the notion that human life has value is an unproven assumption.
But we have to take the next step. Orwell's animal farm showed that in a humanistic framework, "some animals are more equal than others." So we have to explore just what you mean by value.

The difference is that in humanism, the responsibility for moral action rests on the individual. He may not offer a Nuremberg defense that "I was just following orders from my god." As theism does.
You are confusing a tribunal made of men to a court in which God is judge. What do you think God will do given the plea "I followed your orders?"


But as you say, you're an engineer, and trained to test ideas at their weak points. This is a very sound principle for philosophy. And the apparent inability to rate one revelation over another is an enormous weak point.
Your inability is not my inability.

[I wote: "Yes. [Putting your notions of good and evil above God's is] the ultimate evil."]

Why?
Because your personal preferences are not better than God's. The short answer is that because He is self-existent, He defines good.

Again, which god?
For the sake of the argument, use a transcendent, self-existent Creator.

And assuming the Christian God, was it then morally okay for the Israelites invading Canaan to slaughter the entire population of conquered cities, including children, the elderly, and women?
Yes.

[I observed, "Wrong. God is not silent."]

I've found that what we may think of as God is often just the voice of men.
And I'd agree with you. But that doesn't mean that God doesn't exist, or that He cannot be heard correctly.

Now you may provide an example of love expressed in revelation, but you haven't addressed the possibility of evil commanded in revelation.
Yes, I have. If God commands it, it isn't evil. But because you consistently elevate your personal preferences over God's, you have trouble understanding the point.

[I wrote: "I hope I've made a satisfactory case as to why I don't believe this."]

No, you've pointed out one Christian expression and loving and justified its validity by theism...
I did more than that. I showed that your version of humanism is selfish and, therefore, is not loving as you've claimed that it is.

but haven't defended theism as a reliable source of love.
While an interesting topic in itself, that wasn't my goal. You made claims about humanism that I've shown to be false.

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry wrote: Feel free to branch out into polytheism to your heart's content. I'm enjoying the ride.

It isn't hard to figure out. If all morality is an expression of personal preference, in the presence of more than one moral being, who gets the final say, and why?

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry observed: No, it doesn't. It's a _false_ dichotomy, leaving out other choices. You are offering a choice limited to "you or me" when both and neither are perfectly legitimate options.
They're legitimate only if the other person on the island agrees with you. Suppose you find out that the other person was planning on killing you while you slept and taking all of the food?

wrf3 said...

John wrote: Humanism permits self-defense.
Permits is not "requires". I'm trying to get you to see that you value yourself more than others; even God (since you are willing to put your personal preferences above His). That's an ethic based on selfishness, not love.

Humanism not only does not give such authority -- it doesn't provide for even the possibility of such authority.
But you said it does. My very existence on the island threatens yours, since there isn't enough food for two. You then claimed the right to preserve your own life at the expense of mine.

Divers and Sundry said...

Divers and Sundry observed: "You are offering a choice limited to "you or me" when both and neither are perfectly legitimate options."

You responded: "They're legitimate only if the other person on the island agrees with you."

But legitimate they are, so your 2 choices are not the only 2. Under the circumstances I'll explore those other 2 possibilities.

John said...

Divers and Sundry asked: Why insist that every choice is one between only 2?

Because by forcing the choice it will show what you really value.



In the same sense that saying "What would you rather do, kill your wife or your child?" forces a choice. It's a choice with no basis in reality, and therefor irrelevent.

John said...

John wrote: Ah, so we are coming up with more precise terms. When you are creating an atheism/theism dichotomy, what you really mean is atheism/montheism, right?
No, I mean atheism/theism. I could answer the question from a polytheistic perspective (or even a deistic perspective -- both of which are subsets of theism) but I didn't for a couple of reasons. First, it requires laying more groundwork and I really don't want to monopolize your blog. It's something I have filed away and hope to address on my own blog some day. Second, since you've exited Christianity for humanism, it seems that focusing on this would keep the discussion more interesting. I don't want to put Divers and Sundry to sleep. ;-)



No, by all means, lay out the groundwork. I'm really enjoying the discussion. It's making me think about things that I haven't thought about before.

John: You should provide for a means of proving monotheism over other varieties of theism, or Christianity over other varieties of monotheism.
wrf3: I had hoped that you would at least find it interesting that what the Bible asserts by revelation, Russell declared by reason. A consistent epistemology is one indication of truth.



Interesting, but not argumentative. You're advocating a Christian ethical perspective based on theism, when theism is far more than Christianity.

[I wrote: "Ok, now look what happens. When it comes to your morality vs. someone else's, yours trumps. This means that your morality is of more value than someone elses. This means that when it comes to human value, you are more valuable than someone else. Now do you see why I said that humanism, for all of its lofty sounding words, is selfish at its core?"]

John: Well, only selfish in the sense that choosing any position is intrinsically selfish because it rejects others.
wrf3: Discrimination isn't necessarily selfish, and you are confusing the two. Your position is selfish because you value yourself over another.


But you're morality does the exact same thing. You've phrased it well, so I'll just quote you as my own argument:

"When it comes to your morality vs. someone else's, yours trumps. This means that your morality is of more value than someone elses. This means that when it comes to human value, you are more valuable than someone else."

Your morality rejects the morality of others when it conflicts, and therefore sets itself above that of others. Your morality insists on having its own way when it is in conflict with contradictory systems, and is therefore equally selfish.

John said...

John: Theism, or monotheism, or Christianity, is equally selfish if the adherent believes that his or her morality is superior to others, and acts accordingly.
wrf3: Only if there isn't a "reference" / "privileged"/ "preferred" morality. In humanism there isn't. In monotheism there is.


I'm not really sure what you're saying here. It sounds like you're now arguing for humanism not being based upon personal preferences, and theism being just a preference.

[I wrote: "Since we agreed that morality is simply an expression of personal preference, look at what you're saying: 'my personal preference is better than that of the transcendent, self-existent, eternal Creator'. Do you really think that's reasonable?]

John: ... If we use those characteristics, then yes, I think that it's completely reasonable the immoral commands of a god.
wrf3: Notice what you're doing. By saying "the immoral commands of a god" you are making your personal preference the standard by which a transcendent, self-existent, eternal God is judged. On what basis do you think that's reasonable (i.e. setting your personal preferences above such a God)?



Well, that would depend upon what the god was telling me to do. If he was telling me to take an assault rifle to the mall and go on a killing spree, I'd say 'no'.

Why is it reasonable to make one's own moral judgments? A better question is why is it unreasonable?

If a god told you to pick up an assault rifle, go the mall, and kill as many people as you could, would you? Why or why not?

John: But if you're yielding the authority to make moral decisions to a god, then you're not choosing a revelation; you're letting a revelation dictate to you.
wrf3: I'm doing both.


So then which revelation you choose to follow is really just a personal preference, right?

John said...

John: if the god later says "Now, go and slaughter the Canaanites", you'd have to obey in order to be consistent with your approach to moral formulation.
wrf3: Indeed I would. I'm aware of the consequences of my position.



Scary, but consistent! The god who tells me to commit murder will not be obeyed.

John: Kodos could just as easily have said and acted upon "God has told me to kill off the planet's population." As a good theist, regardless of anything else he had done, he'd be required to do precisely that.
wrf3: Or, as a good Christian, he might offer the example of Christ and voluntarily sacrifice himself for the welfare of the people. He would opt for the non-selfish choice.



Assuming that he's a good Christian. All we know is that he's a theist, and whatever a god tells him to do, he does.

John: With a more humanistic and pragmatic approach, he'd say "No, God, I'm not going to do that."
wrf3: Remember, Kodos took the humanistic and pragmatic choice. He determined which humans had more value than others and executed the least valuable so that the more valuable would live.



No, it wasn't at all humanistic, because humanism claims that humans are of equal value, not more or less. Unlike theism.

John wrote: As I've said, I agree that the notion that human life has value is an unproven assumption.
wrf3: But we have to take the next step. Orwell's animal farm showed that in a humanistic framework, "some animals are more equal than others." So we have to explore just what you mean by value.



Why is that a necessary step for humanism to immediately contradict its central principle?

John: The difference is that in humanism, the responsibility for moral action rests on the individual. He may not offer a Nuremberg defense that "I was just following orders from my god." As theism does.
wrf3: You are confusing a tribunal made of men to a court in which God is judge. What do you think God will do given the plea "I followed your orders?"


Like a good pragmatist, I'm more concerned with the impact of philsophical perspectives when actually carried out. So a Kodos-figure who says "God told me to do this" might well be praised by his god. I don't really care. He's still evil, even if his god tells him otherwise.

John: But as you say, you're an engineer, and trained to test ideas at their weak points. This is a very sound principle for philosophy. And the apparent inability to rate one revelation over another is an enormous weak point.
wrf3: Your inability is not my inability.



Then enlighten me as to how you were able to overcome this major design flaw.

John said...

[I wote: "Yes. [Putting your notions of good and evil above God's is] the ultimate evil."]

John: Why?
wrf3: Because your personal preferences are not better than God's. The short answer is that because He is self-existent, He defines good.



So then it's wrong to question the actions of God, such as ordering genocide in the OT?

John: Again, which god?
wrf3: For the sake of the argument, use a transcendent, self-existent Creator.



You mean Allah, the transcendent, self-existent Creator mentioned in the Koran?

John: And assuming the Christian God, was it then morally okay for the Israelites invading Canaan to slaughter the entire population of conquered cities, including children, the elderly, and women?
wrf3: Yes.



I salute your willingness to address this hard question directly. We will never agree.

John: No, you've pointed out one Christian expression and loving and justified its validity by theism...
wrf3: I did more than that. I showed that your version of humanism is selfish and, therefore, is not loving as you've claimed that it is.



Humanism begins with the notion that human beings have value, and that these values only end at the equal boundaries of other humans. If you accept that you, as an individual, are of less value than someone else, then you've broken this principle, and opened up the possibility that individuals may decide that other individuals are of less value. Humanism has moral guadrails against this idea. Theism doesn't.

And since Christianity says that it's okay to slaughter Canaanites who are in your way, I'd say that Christianity isn't loving or unselfish either.

In fact, by your own standard of love (self-sacrifice rather than other-sacrifice), then the Christian god is unloving.

Which means that you're setting own standard of morality above that of the Christian God.

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry wrote: But legitimate they are, so your 2 choices are not the only 2. Under the circumstances I'll explore those other 2 possibilities.

No, they aren't legitimate choices. This isn't the Kobayashi Maru where you can reprogram the computer to change the outcome. This is a moral geometry test where the initial conditions are fixed and where not answering earns an F in the course.

Given the initial conditions, by not choosing, you've condemned both people to death.

wrf3 said...

John wrote: In the same sense that saying "What would you rather do, kill your wife or your child?" forces a choice. It's a choice with no basis in reality, and therefor irrelevent.

It happens all the time, John. Burning buildings, labor and delivery, drownings... One of the most powerful episodes ever on "ER" was "Love's Labor Lost". If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

In any case, thought experiments are important because the are able to get to the heart of a matter. I suspect that the resistance to this particular one by both you and D&S is because it reveals something you'd rather not face.

wrf3 said...

{this is somewhat out of order}

John wrote: No, it wasn't at all humanistic, because humanism claims that humans are of equal value, not more or less. Unlike theism.

The thought experiment, which seems to be a real stumbling block, shows that this isn't necessarily so.

The thought experiment only gives you three choices:
1) you live and the other dies,
2) you die and the other lives, or
3) both die.

(In defense of D&S, he's right about the 3rd choice. It's something that's so alien to me that I omitted it.)

If you really believe that both people on the island are of equal value, you would have opted for #3. But you didn't. You either left the choice to chance (a coin toss) or invoked self-defense to preserve your life.

When push comes to shove, humanism says "I am of more value than you." It has to, since personal sovereignty is so tightly held. Christian theism says, "You are of more value than me."

wrf3 said...

John wrote: And since Christianity says that it's okay to slaughter Canaanites who are in your way, I'd say that Christianity isn't loving or unselfish either.
Christianity only says it if God says it. The question then becomes, was this a limited command or a general command? That's yet another long involved discussion dealing with Israel under Law and the Kingdom of God under Grace. The short answer is that the parable of the Wheat and the Tares is instructive.

In fact, by your own standard of love (self-sacrifice rather than other-sacrifice), then the Christian god is unloving.
This is the central tenet of Christianity: that one person of the Godhead sacrificed Himself on the cross for mankind. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotton son..."

Which means that you're setting own standard of morality above that of the Christian God.
Just curious, but what, exactly, did you believe when you were a Christian?

wrf3 said...

John wrote: But you're morality does the exact same thing. You've phrased it well, so I'll just quote you as my own argument:

"When it comes to your morality vs. someone else's, yours trumps. This means that your morality is of more value than someone elses. This means that when it comes to human value, you are more valuable than someone else."

Your morality rejects the morality of others when it conflicts, and therefore sets itself above that of others. Your morality insists on having its own way when it is in conflict with contradictory systems, and is therefore equally selfish.

On the one hand, I'm a Christian, so there is one, and only one, correct morality and that is God's.

But on the other hand, look at what the Christian God says to do: "turn the other cheek", "love your enemies", "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves." {Phil 2:3}, "We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves." {Rom 15:1}.

So, upholding the idea that God is the standard by which all other moral systems is judged isn't selfish, any more than proclaiming "2+2=4" is selfish. Furthermore, Christian morality is rooted in love, which entails self-sacrifice, and so is not selfish.

wrf3 said...

John wrote: You mean Allah, the transcendent, self-existent Creator mentioned in the Koran?

For this thought experiment, it doesn't matter. On what basis will you put your personal preference over that of the transcendent self-existent Creator?

You've said that you will judge God. How? And what do you think will happen?

wrf3 said...

John asked: If a god told you to pick up an assault rifle, go the mall, and kill as many people as you could, would you? Why or why not?

"A god"? Certainly not. But let me address the question as it should be asked of a Christian: "Suppose the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ told you to pick up an assault rifle ..."

I only have two choices. Either I do it, and face the consequences from the earthly authorities; or I fall on my knees before Him and admit to my weakness and face the consequences of my disobedience. On a smaller scale, this happened to Ezekiel (4:1-15). Since Ezekiel is one of my favorite characters, I suspect I would do the latter. In the grand scheme of things, being disobedient to that command is the least of the things I've done wrong.

But in no case would I set my morality above God's. He is right and good and I am not.

I think that's enough for now. I'm trying to avoid some of the repeating side arguments to focus on the main issue. If I haven't answered something that I should, please let me know. It isn't my intention to duck relevant questions.

Divers and Sundry said...

"Given the initial conditions, by not choosing, you've condemned both people to death."

But that's a 3rd option, so at least you're admitting now that it's not just a choice between you or me. You're admitting _3_ choices now: you or me or neither.

I still say that given those same circumstances a 4th possibility exists where you divide up the resources and use them as sparingly as possible hoping both can survive until help arrives. After all, if one person can live long enough to survive, both might conceivably manage to hang on if relief comes sooner than expected. If you deny that possibility, you're making the same mistake Kodos did.

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry wrote: But that's a 3rd option, so at least you're admitting now that it's not just a choice between you or me. You're admitting _3_ choices now: you or me or neither.

Well, in my post @ 1:37 I did say: "(In defense of D&S, he's right about the 3rd choice. It's something that's so alien to me that I omitted it.)" I'm happy to admit my mistakes.

I still say that given those same circumstances a 4th possibility exists where you divide up the resources...
This is a thought experiment. That possibility is explicitly ruled out by the design of the test. So, what's your choice?

Divers and Sundry said...

I said, "I still say that given those same circumstances a 4th possibility exists where you divide up the resources..."

You responded, "This is a thought experiment. That possibility is explicitly ruled out by the design of the test. So, what's your choice?"

Your original question was, "Suppose you and I are alone on an island with limited resources. Only one of us will survive. Now, who is worth more? You or me? Why?"

I claim it's a false dichotomy since it leaves out 2 legitimate options: both and neither, _requiring_ that "Only one of us will survive." If you are willing to accept the 3rd option ("neither"), which is also "ruled out by the design of the test," on what grounds do you reject the 4th ("both")?

Assuming you're determined to pick one and only one person to survive, why assume the choice will be made based "who is worth more"?

jockeystreet said...

I've been following this and not commenting, it's not my discussion. But now that you're winding down, wrf3, I have a question.

You said, of God, in one of those last comments:

"He is right and good and I am not."

What, given what you've been saying here, does "good" mean in this sentence? And, bigger picture, what does anyone ever mean when they say that "God is good?" Is that a completely meaningless sentence? Is it purely sentimental nonsense to refer to God's goodness?

Because it seems you've been arguing very passionately that there is no rational, compelling, real morality outside of that which God wills. You've argued that goodness and morality are only and can only ever be personal preference. You've caught on to the toughest question in typical ethical philosophy, one that I've struggled with in the past... namely that you run out of answers if someone asks "why" long enough. Without God, there's no final, irrefutable argument that has... I don't know the word I'm looking for. That has force, authority.

So morality without a theistic base can be hard to defend when you go far enough.

But...

But it seems to me that in the arguments you present, you take away the very possibility of God's "goodness," you rid the notion of God's goodness of any real meaning. If moral goodness can have no meaning other than that which is desired by God, then saying "God is good" is saying nothing at all. What does that even mean? It says nothing about God. The word "good" becomes something other than what we understand that word to be.

So, when you say "He is right and good and I am not," what are you talking about? Are you just saying "God desires what God desires and I do not?" And if you're saying more than that, how do you justify it?

As a second question, you said a while back "which revelation to choose is just as much the product of reason and evidence as '2+2=4'" (forgive me if my wording is off... I scrolled through the 80 comments, found it, lost it again).

I may be reading into that something that you didn't mean. I'd love for you to clarify. Because the way you put it reads to me like a massive overstep. I mean, the mere fact that you are presenting that in a philosophical/theological argument indicates that, no, which revelation to choose is not as self evident and incontrovertible as 2+2=4. Nobody argues about 2+2. There's wide agreement on that stuff.

John has offered you 2000 words or so to show that reason and evidence, and I'd be curious to see at least a little of it.

Okay, thanks for putting up with my brief intrusion. I will quietly read along from the sidelines again.

jockeystreet said...

Ack... one more thing.

You've said that D&S introducing more options is sort of outside the rules of the experiment here (not your exact wording, but the gist I think). You are saying that "only one can survive," D&S is looking for ways not to make that true.

I am with D&S here, and consider this experiment flawed, in part because of those rules. Are you suggesting a sort of omniscience on the part of the two people stranded on the island? In reality, there is never a way to know the conditions of the game, to know every rule. The experiment isn't ever so neat. And so, while there may only be enough resources for one to live, it's perfectly realistic and legitimate to say that both will try, both will hope, both will work together, both will fail to accept that reality, and will look for ways to beat this. You're asking what choices people would make, not what outcomes would be made available to them. So D&S is right, there are four choices. At least. And probably more. These thought experiments are nice, but they are always limited. Like John said, who would you kill first, your child or your wife? We can play with that question for hours and hours, but in the end it won't really teach us anything about ourselves.

wrf3 said...

Divers and Sundry and Jockystreet

D&S wrote: I claim it's a false dichotomy since it leaves out 2 legitimate options: both and neither, _requiring_ that "Only one of us will survive." If you are willing to accept the 3rd option ("neither"), which is also "ruled out by the design of the test," on what grounds do you reject the 4th ("both")?

By the design of the test. It doesn't matter if two people stuck on an island, or are on the moon with limited oxygen; rescue will not arrive in time. There are only enough resources to sustain one of the two people.

I admit that I goofed when I didn't include the "or neither" option with I asked "one or the other". But "both" is explicitly ruled out in order to gauge what the test taker will do if faced with such a life and death situation. It reveals a great deal about their value system.

Assuming you're determined to pick one and only one person to survive, why assume the choice will be made based "who is worth more"?
You tell me. Make the choice and then tell us why.

Jockystreet asked: Are you suggesting a sort of omniscience on the part of the two people stranded on the island?
Not at all. Just an assessment of available resources, which both parties agree isn't enough; and knowledge of when rescue will arrive; which isn't soon enough for both.

So D&S is right, there are four choices.
Not really. There aren't enough resources, so if both try to overcome this limitation, both will die. So that reduces the available choices back to three: person 1 dies, person 2 dies, or both die.

We can play with that question for hours and hours, but in the end it won't really teach us anything about ourselves.
Oh, but it will. Try it and see.

wrf3 said...

Jockystreet asked: What, given what you've been saying here, does "good" mean in this sentence? And, bigger picture, what does anyone ever mean when they say that "God is good?" Is that a completely meaningless sentence? Is it purely sentimental nonsense to refer to God's goodness?

I'm going to blogwhore, if John permits, since I've dealt with this on my blog. Part 1a, in particular, answers your question. I recommend you read 1, 1a, then 1b since they are all related.

BTW, I want to make it very clear that I agree with John when he wrote "Without a Biblical mandate, I am at a loss to see how homosexual activity is inherently immoral." This discussion has partly been about why this is so.

I mean, the mere fact that you are presenting that in a philosophical/theological argument indicates that, no, which revelation to choose is not as self evident and incontrovertible as 2+2=4. Nobody argues about 2+2. There's wide agreement on that stuff.
2+2 isn't as simple as we think it is. IIRC, it took Russell and Whitehead over three hundred pages in Principia Mathematica to show that 1+1 is 2.

John has offered you 2000 words or so to show that reason and evidence, and I'd be curious to see at least a little of it.
I'm not sure 2,000 words can do it justice. When I finally get around to writing it, I think I will divide the evidence into: 1) the historicity of the Resurrection (which requires an excursion into epistemology and evidence); 2) the congruence between Christianity and philosophy regarding epistemology; 3) the radical nature of Christianity (it really is unlike any other religion); and 4) God is not silent.

Divers and Sundry said...

You wrote, "...available resources, which both parties agree isn't enough; and knowledge of when rescue will arrive; which isn't soon enough for both."

So it seems to me you _are_ assuming omniscience, as jockeystreet suggests. You're assuming that, because they agree there aren't enough resources and that relief will not arrive in time, they are right. You're assuming that they cannot have misjudged the conditions, that they know exactly how much resources are needed and exactly how much will be available between now and when relief will come and exactly when relief will come, that they are right that relief cannot possibly arrive in time to save both at minimum rations but will arrive in time to save one, that they have rightly judged how much of the resources it will take to survive until relief will come....

I wrote: "Assuming you're determined to pick one and only one person to survive, why assume the choice will be made based "who is worth more"?"

You responded: "You tell me. Make the choice and then tell us why."

No, you don't understand my question. Your initial "test" _assumes_ the decision will be based on "who is worth more". My question to you is this: "why assume the choice will be made based "who is worth more"?"

John said...

wrf3,

When you write your 2,000 word exposition on the proof of Christianity, let me know. I'll link to it on your blog. Or, if you like, you can e-mail it to me and I'll leave it posted on the top of my blog for a week.

Now we've both created two artificial scenarios. You: Two people on the island, food only for one. Me: God tells you to be a mall spree killer.

Both of these artificial scenarios assume profoundly controlled experiments, and so are useful for testing the outmost edges of an ideological perspective.

Any ideology has weakpoints. I know this because I'm a libertarian, but when people start torturing animals for personal amusement, I can get rather statist. At certain points, ideological paradigms break down in effectiveness, or the willingness of adherents to blindly force them onto reality, like forcing Jockeystreet into a size 2 sequin backless evening gown. The results aren't pretty.

Humanism breaks down in the island scenario in which neither is willing to sacrifice himself, nor kill the other to live. If there's only enough food for one, both die. (Kodos simply was not a humanist by the definition that I provided. Maybe by someone else's, but not my humanism).

Theism breaks down when God tells you to do crazy things, like go on a shooting spree at the mall. In which case, even you will disobey him and become, by your own definition, evil. Unlike the adherent who says "Yes, God. I hear and obey." And off he goes to murder and righteousness.

You've presented not one Christian ethic, but two contradictory perspectives:

1. Whatever is good is what God says it is.

2. Whatever is good is what is loving. And by loving, I mean self-sacrificial.

If the Israelites had disobeyed God and loved their Canaanite neighbors, they would have fulfilled the command to love, but not been good because they disobeyed God.

If the Israelites had obeyed God, they would have disobeyed the command to love. They would have therefore been both good and unloving.

How do you reconcile this contradiction?

John said...

John wrote: You mean Allah, the transcendent, self-existent Creator mentioned in the Koran?

wrf3: For this thought experiment, it doesn't matter. On what basis will you put your personal preference over that of the transcendent self-existent Creator?

You've said that you will judge God. How? And what do you think will happen?



How? Simply by doing it. What is to prevent me?

What will happen? He'll probably kick my ass. Or more likely send me to Hell. So what? That he is powerful won't make him right when he is wrong.

Now, how do you deal with the moral contradictions between the God of the Koran and the God of the Bible. If they both represent the superlative god (pre-existing, etc), then how do you distinguish one revelation from another, if revelation is your only standard for moral formulation?

These are my two comments for this round. If I haven't addressed something that you want me to write on specifically, let me know. It was getting hard to keep track of the conversation.

John said...

Oh, one more thing. I would like for you to reconcile the slaughter that God commanded the Crusaders to go on (see the Pope Urban II) quote with the loving statements in the New Testament.

jockeystreet said...

Thanks for steering me toward your posts. They're good posts... but I don't know that they make the case.

First, I don't see exactly how they answer my question. Yes, you do make an interesting point in the suggestion that only God is as he "ought" to be, hence only God is good. But I'm not connecting this to what you've stated here about good being good because God wills it. But maybe I need to reread some of what you've stated here, I have been known to misinterpret a point here and there. But it seems to me, on an intial read, that while you're on this site putting God prior to goodness, in your post you are putting goodness prior to God, or at least independent of God.

But that stuff can be hard to follow, so I should look again.

More significantly, though, don't you just push the difficult definition over to another word? Having trouble defining and explaining the whole notion of "good," you settle on the idea that "good" is "ought."

Now we can struggle to define "ought." What is ought? Where does ought come from? Why should anyone be compelled to think that there is an "ought?" If "ought" is somehow self-evident, how is it any more or less self-evident than "good?"

So the issue stays the same, with a slightly different set of terms.

But... I'll have to read it again, maybe print it out and look at when I'm not drying herbs, eating dinner, and keeping my two year old from climbing on the table...