Friday, January 13, 2006

Can you close that vent?

I must admit, I am not real sure what to do with a blog. I don’t see my writing insightful comments that the world can hardly contain its excitement until the next witty installment. Frankly, I prefer the interaction within forums. The debate, the exchange, the ability to interact with people from anywhere in the world, with about any belief in the world.

Or the intimate e-mails and private messages in which we can share quiet moments, laughs, and “let down our hair” so to speak. I feel as if, in writing a blog, it must be clever, or cute, or compelling. That seems like too much pressure.

However, I was raised in a home that instilled proper decorum. We were quiet in Church, sorrowful at funerals, laughed at parties, and at weddings told the bride she is pretty. Regardless. So, if in a blog, one is inclined to vent, I will vent.

Bam. Problems already. I really don’t have much to vent about. My life is quiet good. I have health enough, wealth enough, and am glad for each day that comes my way, as well as the people within it.

Sometimes people think I am venting, because I am impassioned about debating (both on-line and in life) throwing my entire effort into the endeavor, but that is simply intensity. I have a bad tendency to throw out every feasible argument and beat it into the ground. Still and all, I find myself chuckling at either myself or my opponent for how ludicrous the arguing can become.

To the poor sod that ever wanders into this sap, I will strive to increase my angst and write vicious blogs of miserableness, or deep perceptions of human nature or whatever it is that draws people into reading.

Thanks for your patience.

15 comments:

  1. Would you be willing to share a little about your religious/metaphysical position?

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  2. I prefer the Lotus position, but my body somehow cannot contort into it. Age, I fear.

    Seriously - Religious position is a deconverted five point Calvinist to strong atheist. There are no gods.

    Metaphysical naturalist. Probably says it all, but ask if not enough.

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  3. Yes, that helps. Are you a moral relativist then? An epistemological relativist as well? Perhaps also a determinist?

    Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Paul, I don’t generally use long fancy words. That last comment of mine was the exception. There are two reasons for this:

    1) I normally talk to regular people, so I like to use easy-to-understand words
    2) If I say I am a “moral relativist” the next thing I know some joker is telling me that I hold the position, “There are no absolutes” when I never said such a thing.

    But in the spirit of what you are asking, the historical evidence is compelling that humans have modified the laws governing society as that society deems necessary. Over time, due to the development of technology, and greater interaction with other societies, those laws have changed. We continue to modify our laws up to and including today as we gain more knowledge.

    As far as a determinist, again the evidence is overwhelming that, as humans, we are limited in some areas, and have the ability to choose in others. I cannot fly. But I can choose to ride a plane or walk to St. Louis.

    I had to look up “epistemological relativist.” :) Nope, not one of those either. (For anyone else who may have to look it up, it is someone that denies anything at all can be known.) We can observe phenomena about us, make conclusions, and use those conclusions to learn more knowledge. If, it turns out our conclusions were incorrect, or incomplete, we have the lovely ability to modify the conclusions, rather than dogmatically adhere to a position in spite of the evidence.

    Help?

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  5. Thanks again. I ask these things because it seems to me that atheism demands certain philosophical positions which are either counter-intuitive, unlivable, or just downright repugnant. I have determined that for me to surrender Christianity would be for me to dump logic and consistency and simply think, speak, and live however I felt like on any give day or issue. I'm just trying to probe how complete and consistent your worldview is.

    I'm not sure that you fully understand what I mean by moral relativism and determinism based on your comments. It seems that atheism demands that I must say that (sorry to be cliché) the Nazi extermination was not "wrong" or "evil" in any objective sense; it was simply not on par with my taste. And that my thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors are ultimately a product of a highly complex interplay of matter and my environment; freewill is merely an illusion.

    Are these concessions of your, or do you have some novel escape from these conclusions?

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  6. Paul: have determined that for me to surrender Christianity would be for me to dump logic and consistency and simply think, speak, and live however I felt like on any give day or issue. Then for the safety of my family and myself, please, please, please do NOT surrender Christianity. If the laws of the society in which you live, if common human decency, if the recognition that when you hurt others you hurt yourself, if the realization that society breaks down if we fail to surrender some rights, would not prevent you from living however you like, if the only thing keeping you in check from harming me is this belief, Hold onto with every grip you have.

    I always thought this argument speaks more for the Christian than the atheist. We don’t seem to have a problem living and conforming in society. Apparently the Christians feel horribly suppressed in conforming to their God’s requirements, and if let free, would become raving lunatics.

    I hope you know I don’t actually believe it. I have found of the dozens of deconverts that I have talked to, that they don’t immediately become rapists and murderers. Believe it or not, Paul you are a better person than your theism says you are. You are not cursed with original sin. You are actually choosing to be moral, non-moral or immoral all on your own with no help from a God, or temptation from a devil. But somehow I don’t think you are ready to believe that. :)

    Paul: It seems that atheism demands… Atheism only “demands” (if such a word can be used) that you lack the belief in gods. That’s it. Not lack of belief in supernatural. Not loss of absolute morals. Not loss of objectivity. While those often follow, it is not necessary. Important to keep in mind.

    Paul: …the Nazi extermination was not "wrong" or "evil" in any objective sense… What is the difference between wrong or evil in an objective sense and wrong or evil in a subjective sense? Aren’t they both “wrong” or “evil”? I recognize (objectively, subjectively, take your pick) that genocide harms society, and eventually the entire world by eliminating individuals that could further the human race.

    And, obviously, to turn this question on you—can you explain what made the Canaanite genocide, ordered by God objectively good or moral? By what method do we determine which genocides are objectively good and objectively evil?

    Paul: Are these concessions of your, or do you have some novel escape from these conclusions? ???? That you cannot conceptualize living as a metaphysical naturalist? No, having lived in your shoes for plenty of years, I can easily see why you cannot fathom it. Couldn’t myself, frankly. Wouldn’t expect you to.

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  7. You say that atheism does not demand that someone abandon the supernatural...so I have to ask how you are using the term metaphysical naturalist. Are you equating that to a methodological naturalist? Or are you using it to mean a more strict form of naturalism?

    On to the difference between objectively immoral versus subjectively immoral. I'm sure you know what we mean by the distinction...you are intelligent and were well-versed in Christian theology (therefore know what we mean by objective morality).

    So I don't understand why you press this point so often.
    Let me ask this question: Was it immoral for America to practice slavery? If you say yes, then you are violating the concept of subjective morality (ie. morality is defined either by the individual or the society).

    It seems your view, if applied consistently, would say that it was fine...it was legal at the time. But then, somehow it became immoral at the moment law was enacted against it.

    This type of reasoning means by definition that Martin Luther King was immoral at the time he was trying to reform society.

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  8. Jeff – atheism is the lack of a belief in a deity. One can believe in spirits, ghosts, psychic powers, even magic, but it doesn’t mean there is a god. Yes, most atheists are methodological and metaphysical naturalists (use natural means to determine truths without utilizing supernatural means) but not all. Just as I use “theists” rather than Christians, I try and recognize that there are such a variety of differing beliefs that to make a claim, such as “all atheists are metaphysical naturalists” I would exclude some.

    No, Jeff, I do NOT know the difference between “subjective” and “objective” immorality. As a Christian, I thought I did, but when pressed to give a difference, I found it not an easy task. Primarily, as I am pointing out, because God’s morality is undeterminative, and therefore, we have no gauge by which to claim it is “objective” or “subjective.”

    Why is “objective” immorality superior to “subjective” immorality? What is wrong with “subjective” immorality. Remember, they are BOTH making determination as to what is immoral. Why is one superior than the other? And saying, “objective immorality is obviously better” is neither true, nor informative. Don’t just assert, proof it out.

    Was it immoral for America to practice slavery? Sure it was immoral. Doesn’t mean it was illegal. subjective morality (ie. morality is defined either by the individual or the society). And I, as well as numerous other societies at the time, define it as immoral. This is kinda funny. You want an objective definition of subjective morality. Thus making subjective morality objective. Gotta get out of that mindset and stretch a little.

    Subjective morality is NOT defined as “what the majority of the people think is immoral at that particular moment.” For the simple reason that we can not determine what a “majority” is. Majority of the city? The State? The Region? The country? The World? At what point do we have a majority?

    You are caught in a paradigm that says at any given moment, in any given time, this particular action is immoral for every single person. Absolute (not necessarily objective) immorality. Subjective morality (to me, and if I am using the term philosophically incorrectly, you can start to see why I HATE labels!) means that particular action could be moral for one, and immoral for another, and later could become immoral for the one, and moral for the other. (Psst. Paul agrees with me. 1 Cor. 10, Rom. 14)

    Most of which is pretty pointless, because societies, despite morals, institute laws which regulate our behaviors regardless.

    You used slavery, let me try a few, to see how “objective” this morality is. Eating bacon. Noahic – yes, Mosaic – No, Christ – maybe, Peter – yes, Heaven – unknown. Long hair on guys. Noahic – yes Mosaic, sometimes, but mostly no. Christ – unknown. Paul – no, Heaven, unknown. Polygamy. Noahic – yes. Mosaic – yes. Christ – unknown. Paul – no. Heaven – no. Wearing Gold. Noahic – yes. Mosaic – yes. Christ- yes. Paul – no. Heaven – unknown. Slavery – Noahic – yes. Mosaic – yes. Christ – yes. Paul – yes. Heaven – yes.

    There you got me. The one objective morality that I see consistent in the Bible is that slavery is moral. Funny how my subjective morality finds slavery appalling and your objective morality finds it acceptable.

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  9. Dag: for the safety of my family and myself, please, please, please do NOT surrender Christianity. If the laws of the society in which you live, if common human decency, if the recognition that when you hurt others you hurt yourself, if the realization that society breaks down if we fail to surrender some rights, would not prevent you from living however you like, if the only thing keeping you in check from harming me is this belief, Hold onto with every grip you have.

    Here is a point that never fails to be misunderstood by every atheist I encounter, although I have seen many atheist philosophers concede it. I am not saying that atheists are "immoral" people and that for me to become an atheist would mean that I would immediately go out on a killing spree. What I mean is that atheism has no grounding for an objective morality (among other things). What is ethically in vogue in one generation may be passé the next, and there is no saying we were wrong then and we are better now. All is preference. You may prefer to be polite to your neighbor and give up some of your rights for a peaceful society, but someone else may prefer otherwise. Your way may be seen as more preferable to the majority, but you have no grounds for saying that an anarchist is "evil" or "wrong." And all you can do is exert superior force to keep such dissenters in check.

    For this reason, as an atheist, I would have to give up my intuitions about right and wrong and simply look to pragmatic solutions to navigating my way through an amoral society. I'm sure I could get along well enough since there are, interestingly enough, numerous common ethical principles by which I can feel my way through relationships. Yet, even so, I would be released to behave any way that my urges might compel me, knowing full well that even if such desires ran counter to social conventions I have nothing to fear beyond what the law permits and my preferred social circle is aware of or tolerates. I would never violate anything higher than my own conventions. On this accounting, the Nazis were not "bad," just the "losers." But my every instinct screams out "evil" at such atrocities.

    Dag: Believe it or not, Paul you are a better person than your theism says you are. You are not cursed with original sin. You are actually choosing to be moral, non-moral or immoral all on your own with no help from a God

    See, "better" and "immoral" must ultimately be meaningless terms. They are merely metrics which are comparative to social conventions or personal goals for ourselves, like "thinner," "blonder," or "richer." And one of the problems is that I "choose" (want) to be a certain way in some areas, but I cannot. I intuitively know that certain things are better for me to do (even things that go against my social indoctrination), and are within my power, yet I continually fall short. I know you will have a just-so story for me on this problem, but it is at least a point of data that the Christian worldview fits well with what I find to be true about myself.

    Dag: Atheism only “demands” (if such a word can be used) that you lack the belief in gods. That’s it. Not lack of belief in supernatural. Not loss of absolute morals. Not loss of objectivity. While those often follow, it is not necessary. Important to keep in mind.

    But of course, if there is nothing higher than "self" you can do and believe anything you want. Certain things clearly seem to follow from the atheistic position, though, as so many atheistic philosophers have demonstrated. Of course, even the objectivity of logic is suspect in the atheist's "closed box" universe, and there is no compunction to adhere to the demands of logic anyways, so you may make of atheism anything you want. And many have — horrible things, in fact. But if you want to be "rational," which I have an odd compulsion to be, then certain things seem to be intellectually "demanded" if I were to embrace atheism. Unless, of course, I choose to give up logical coherence in my worldview.

    Dag: What is the difference between wrong or evil in an objective sense and wrong or evil in a subjective sense? Aren’t they both “wrong” or “evil”? I recognize (objectively, subjectively, take your pick) that genocide harms society, and eventually the entire world by eliminating individuals that could further the human race.

    One (the subjective sense) makes it a label that you may put on anything you wish. For example, you don't like genocide because you think it harms the human race in some way and you care about the maintenance of other humans for your particular emotional or pragmatic reasons. The other (the objective sense) makes something like arbitrary genocide wrong because of some external principle, outside of our humanity — something outside of, and prior to the very existence of humanity. For example, the objective principle may be that other humans are not ours to simply do with as we please — to eliminate or subjugate at our own whims. We may call the same act "evil" under either of our moral systems, but one would be "evil" (a mere word) only because you have named it so and could just as easily have named it "good."

    Dag: What made the Canaanite genocide, ordered by God objectively good or moral? By what method do we determine which genocides are objectively good and objectively evil?

    To answer you simply, those "genocides" that are instigated to suit my own purposes, i.e., for subjective reasons, rather than for the purpose of meeting some overarching moral objective (however, the term "genocide" is loaded with presuppositions that I would dispute in some applications). For a more intuitive example, you might ask how we know when "killing" is evil. If I kill my neighbor to get his wife, that would be a pretty obvious example of "evil." But if I kill him to protect my wife it becomes a bit more difficult to call that "evil."

    It becomes even more complicated if there are moral laws and transcendent purposes that are not directly known to me, or if my neighbor is involved in things of which I have limited knowledge. Perhaps there is a case where it is warranted for me to kill my neighbor even though I am not privy to all of the reasons why. Say I am an agent for the government who is told to run my neighbor out of his house and kill him if he resists. Even though that may seem a confounding and distasteful thing to do, it may still be "good"; for if I only knew it, this fellow had been kidnapping women and was just about to kill them all when I received my orders to mobilize. Of course, onlookers may think that I am dangerous or criminal, especially if they don't know or believe in my employer and they know nothing of my neighbor's crimes.

    Dag: having lived in your shoes for plenty of years, I can easily see why you cannot fathom [living as a metaphysical naturalist].

    Well, we have opposite stories; and I wonder which of us lost his way vs. found the light. I was a liberal or non-Christian for most of my life. I know full well what it is like to run around with a pocket full of mismatched worldview puzzle pieces. Not a very rationally fulfilling existence.

    Well, shoot, I see there's been more dialog here since I began writing this response. I'll get in on that action in a separate post. Let me end here by saying that I appreciate this dialog. It is a cut above the average fair (at least in presentation), and you have a rather unique background which intrigues me as much as any fool's hope I might have of offering you any new food for thought.

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  10. Dag: God’s morality is undeterminative, and therefore, we have no gauge by which to claim it is “objective” or “subjective.”

    Not sure what this means. Maybe you mean that we can't figure out what God ultimately wants or what drives God's morality (i.e., His nature, His decrees, or something above Himself). But this does not mean that morality is not objective, only that you cannot put your finger on what that morality entails.

    Dag: Why is “objective” immorality superior to “subjective” immorality? What is wrong with “subjective” immorality. Remember, they are BOTH making determination as to what is immoral. Why is one superior than the other?

    It is not a matter of "superior," as though they are both objective entities whose virtues we are comparing (and I didn't hear Jeff claiming "superiority"). It is that subjective "morality" is not morality at all; it is something more like preference or social convention. Moral relativism takes the concept of good and evil right off the table. But people are incapable of operating without these concepts, and they prefer not to use language like, "I don't like murder because it makes me feel all yucky inside," so they must pour new meaning into the outmoded words like "right" and "wrong," "good" and "evil."

    You seem to be implying that simply because we can both make use of these words, then there is no fundamental difference between our understandings of them. If the moon is destroyed, but then we place a bright satellite in orbit around the earth, we could call it the "moon," but it would not be the same thing and there must be some sense in which I can make the statement that "the moon is no more." I am claiming that under relativism (and, I believe, the umbrella of atheism), the concept of morality is no more. At least not as it has been understood for the better part of human history, since moral relativism is something of a historical novelty (though we could have a very interesting discussion regarding Epicurus and his influences down through the ages to our present-day postmodern culture).

    Jeff asks: Was it immoral for America to practice slavery?

    Dag: Sure it was immoral. Doesn’t mean it was illegal. And I, as well as numerous other societies at the time, define it as immoral.

    Why do you believe it is immoral? Do you believe it to be immoral in a way that would make it immoral in the past when it was legal, or do you simply think it is immoral now for our culture and time? It seems to me that it is either a preference claim on your part (and since you didn't exist in the past your moral position didn't "apply" either) or it is an objective sort of claim that you are trying to advance — one that stands outside of time and culture and might depend on some other transcendent, objective concept like "rights."

    Dag: Subjective morality is NOT defined as “what the majority of the people think is immoral at that particular moment.” For the simple reason that we can not determine what a “majority” is.

    You're right that this is a problem, but it is not our problem. Moral relativism ("subjective morality") basically means that you get to define morality however you like. Jeff was simply describing (and refuting) one way that this is often defined: by cultural conventions (sometimes known as "normative ethical relativism"). It still remains to be determined how you establish your moral positions.

    Dag: You are caught in a paradigm that says at any given moment, in any given time, this particular action is immoral for every single person. Absolute (not necessarily objective) immorality. Subjective morality...means that a particular action could be moral for one, and immoral for another, and later could become immoral for the one, and moral for the other.

    I think you've made the common mistake of misreading the claim of the moral realist (objectivist). The view that all morality is defined by what is right and wrong for all people at all times under all circumstances is more along the lines of "absolutism" (at least I shall call it that). If you have rejected this, then you have not rejected Christian theism.

    As you have seen yourself, and as our own intuitions suggest, there are times and places where certain ethical rules seem to apply differently. For example (and let's assume I am correct in these for the sake of argument), it is not good to have sex with a girl as a child; it is not good to have sex with her when she is grown unless she is your wife; it good to have sex with her as your wife; it is not good to have sex with her if she is recovering from surgery. The "absolutist" could not follow me here; they would say that sex is either "good" or "bad," period, but few people are actually absolutists once you point out the situational nature of their own moral positions.

    However, I suppose we could take objectivism to a kind of absolutist level if we get all our variables straight, i.e., if we define an act in its complete moral context. For example, we might say that it is wrong to have sex with another man's wife, which helps to contextualize it. Of course, you might ask, "what if terrorists forced you to do so or they would kill your children." Well, that just further contextualizes the situation by bringing in factors of motive and coercion. We may have difficulties determining what is the "right" thing to do in such a situation, but it does not negate the fact that there might actually be a right and wrong choice. Further, it may be that we can say that it is absolutely wrong to have sex with someone who is not your wife, but that it is a greater evil to let your children die. It would then be "good" to choose the lesser evil.

    The point is that in the world of the moral realist, these kinds of issues are meaningful to attempt to unpack, but in the world of the relativist, they are just games which you are always free to brush aside in favor of your feelings on the matter.

    Dag: let me try a few, to see how “objective” this morality is...

    First, I'd take exception with some of your "yes'es" and "no's" on the moral injunctions, but that is an aside. I would begin here by reiterating what I said above about the context of an ethical position. You seem to be willing to accept that there could be variables that should influence how an act is perceived at any given place and time. Must God be temporally and socially constrained in His decrees and behavior?

    We also have the added complexity that God is working a particular plan in the history of mankind, only some of which we are privy to. A particular war may be a "good" thing, but during this war the commander may give various orders that seem at times contradictory. He may say, "don't advance your front on this day," or "destroy this village" on another day, or "let this enemy sneak by you" at this point. If God is indeed doing something in history we should expect a certain amount of adaptation over time. For example, He might say, prior to Christ, that we must sacrifice sheep for the atonement of our sins. But then when the substance of that ritual arrives it would be reasonable for Him to discontinue, even condemn, the practice.

    Also, there is a difference between rules that are grounded in moral principles, like taking an innocent human's life, and rules that are mere conventions. Traffic lights are an example of a convention. There is no transcendent moral principle regarding red lights and motion; it is just a convention we follow to serve a greater purpose. The greater purpose is what qualifies as the objective moral principle. These kinds of rules are free to change (blue for red) if needed, or to be removed entirely (if we invent teleportation booths), without violating the higher principles (perhaps order and safety).

    But some things are clearly non-negotiable in Scripture — things where no intermediary exists between principle and application. For instance, it is never good to worship another god or creature, and such things are pretty uniform across Scripture.

    Even many Christians do not grasp the differences in the various categories of moral injunctions, which causes the warranted accusation of inconsistency. They seem to be merely picking and choosing their verses, sometimes embracing what has lost its context and discarding what still has application. A proper understanding of the role of the Messiah in systematic theology, and an eye for principle over local application can clear up a great many misunderstandings.

    I'm sure that we could exegete Scripture on various issues to determine what principle and context applied in any given situation, but I suspect it would ultimately come down to you accusing God of being unjust or evil at certain points. The problem is that your accusations would be polluted by my inadequacy to give you all the variables and your own presuppositions about how God should act in any given situation. But worse yet, you cannot even judge God rightly or wrongly unless there is an objective standard by which you hope to be accurate in your assessment. And a transcended standard of that order (apparently even above God if you hope to judge Him by it) is not something you can appeal to as a metaphysical naturalist. You have to affirm the transcendent to judge the transcendent; otherwise you're simply stuck with not "liking" the God portrayed in Scripture.

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  11. Paul, you write as much as I do. Hope I can keep up. :) Some basic groundwork. Remember what moral and immoral are at their very base—words. Words that, as English-speaking humans, we created so that you and I can talk in logical constructs. Words so that you and I can understand each other.

    Like your traffic signal example, we use “red” and “green” for common understanding. If I started talking about blue lights on a traffic signal, our communication will break down.

    Subjective or objective, we each understand the concept of moral and immoral. To claim that subjective morals are no morals at all seems---well, a bit silly. It is still a moral system. Ironically, the one you employ. (And of course you are saying objective morality is superior. That’s O.K. No harm. You aren’t saying it is as effective and forceful as objective morality, correct? Otherwise, you wouldn’t care about subjective morality and push for objective morality.

    Shall we dig in? Euthyphro dilemma. You know it, I am sure. Is it good because God does it, or does God do it because it is good? If the former, then good becomes arbitrary. We have no basis by which to determine whether God is following his own nature. I will ask you the same question I have been asking Jeff. What can God do that would be unjust? What could God do that would violate his nature? How could we tell if he does?

    You have taken the concept of “subjectivity” and simply moved it back a step. I say sometimes it is wrong to eat chocolate. Subjective determination. You say to be objective, we make a standard outside of ourselves to make this determination. If the wind blows to the north, it is immoral, to the south it is moral. While you have created an “objective” way to determine morality, the standard is still “subjective.”

    Plug it into God. You say our “objective” determination of morality is God. But if God is subjective and arbitray, then morality is still subjective, correct? The only question remaining is whether God is arbitrary. He certainly has the capability, true? Since the created has the capability, he must as well. How can we determine whether he is arbitrary? Since communication and, even as you point out, objective determination is impossible, the only thing we have is to review his actions. And those, in reading the Bible, as I pointed out earlier, demonstrate arbitrary. You cannot explain why it is solely limited to worship. Is slavery part of God’s morality? Why not?

    There’s more. If you follow the second horn of Euthyphro, that God does it because it is good, that makes something EXTERIOR to God that is determining good. In other words, you have lost God as the objective standard, and it is the “thing” outside God that is forcing Him to be good. But what IS that? It is (surprise, surprise) what we as humans have determined.

    Think of this question: Can God do an immoral act? See, to even have the logical discussion of “immoral” there must be something OUTSIDE of God that makes that determination. Otherwise, the question makes no sense. And who is making that determination? Why—US! The same group that is making subjective determination of morals all the time.

    The first horn of Euthyphro puts morals as arbitrary at God’s whim. The second horn places morality outside of God, and God no longer becomes necessary for our determination of morality.

    A few quotes of yours I will cherry-pick:

    The other (the objective sense) makes something like arbitrary genocide wrong because of some external principle, outside of our humanity — something outside of, and prior to the very existence of humanity. For example, the objective principle may be that other humans are not ours to simply do with as we please — to eliminate or subjugate at our own whims Paul—no genocide is arbitrary. They are all planned, and eventually become deliberate. I found it interesting that you then tried to justify God’s actions in Canaan, like being ordered by the government to kill your neighbor. You tried to say there was some objective moral right to kill someone. What objective right do you gain from God to kill someone and when?

    Paul, God ordered the killing of babies, just because of where they lived. He ordered the Jews to clear out the land, to give them a place to live. In His words, to live in houses they didn’t build, and eat from fields they didn’t plant. Your “objective” standard says that this was moral. That you can’t explain why. That you don’t know why. That, absent God saying it, you would say it is immoral.

    My measly subjective moral standard says genocide is always wrong. Even when God does it. It harms the human race. But your God doesn’t care about the human race, does he? That is not his primary motivation. It is his Glory. True? So if a few humans are wiped out, babies and all, but His glory is maintained, that is objectively morally acceptable to you.

    Frankly, you can see why atheists reach the point of saying, “if that is objective morality, you can have it.”

    It becomes even more complicated if there are moral laws and transcendent purposes that are not directly known to me, or if my neighbor is involved in things of which I have limited knowledge. Right. It becomes totally subjective. Since you CAN’T determine it, you take the best shot you can. Just like me. Told ya.

    For this reason, as an atheist, I would have to give up my intuitions about right and wrong and simply look to pragmatic solutions to navigating my way through an amoral society I never said atheism was easier. In fact, in many aspects, it is harder. Much easier to say, “If the Bible says yes, I can, No, I can’t, nothing, I can.” Harder to find ones own way in a world that allows all types of morality, and convince others that harming other humans is not helpful, has bad consequences, and is immoral. In fact, as an atheist you DON’T have to give up your intuitions at all. You get to swim free and use them. I would hope one of your intuitions is that slavery is immoral. Your Bible doesn’t say so. It allows it. Your intuition is contrary to the Bible. I get to use mine and say “Slavery is immoral.” Can you use yours?

    But this does not mean that morality is not objective, only that you cannot put your finger on what that morality entails. LOL. This one really made me laugh. “There is objective morality, we just don’t know what it is.” So we take our best shot. Which results in a subjective morality as we make our guess.

    Bottom line, Paul. You claim an objective morality. But (because of the limitations of this God) you can’t state what it is. How is that more helpful than a subjective morality? Because pragmatically, you and I end up attempting to do the best we can with what we have.

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  12. Oh, Paul. This is one of those times that I get to chuckle at myself. I lost the forest for the trees. I enjoy the discussion of subjective vs. objective morality with Christians, because of how their objective morality shifts out to be subjective, but that is not really the point, is it?

    The very first thing you would need to establish is there even IS such a thing as objective morality. You presume it, because you presume a God. But this is presuming your conclusion, and then finding it, true? You seem to be saying metaphysical naturalism necessitates subjective morality. Subjective morality is incorrect, because we have objective morality. Therefore metaphysical naturalism must be incorrect. But it is that italicized part, specifically that there exists objective morality, that you need to prove.

    The only basis you have stated is your intuition. That you “feel” objective morality is correct. But this isn’t a proof, is it? If I stated I “felt” subjective morality is correct, and intuit so, would that be compelling? Are we on equal standing?

    For the moment, even if I grant you that objective morality is preferable, that doesn’t make it real. Preferable does not equally reality. I would prefer that my gift-giving in December is supplemented by free gifts from a fat man in red, who either provides presents, or gives notice of bad behavior. That doesn’t make Santa real. You (I would hope) would prefer that all humans are granted heaven, but if you believe in a heave and a hell, that does not make it a reality.

    What we “prefer” is a horrible basis to determine truth, don’t you think? In fact, that puts us on heightened notice to more closely examine the prospect, so as to eliminate bias. Where is it written that there must be such a thing as objective morality? And, taking it a step further, where is it written that your God must be bound by objective morality?

    That’s my point—its not. You and I do come at this from two different angles, I think. What I see is no rationale or reasonable way in which to determine an “objective” morality, and therefore I work with what I have, being a non-objective morality. Its like being faced with getting from New York to London. You either have flying or boating. Riding a bicycle is simply not an option. If, in the future, someone presents a way to determine objective morality that compels me to do so, I certainly could modify my belief. Like building a tunnel from New York to London—now you can bicycle.

    On the other had, believing in a God, you have a ready-made recipe for objective morality—God Himself. The problem being, is that you don’t know what or why God does what He does. Which leaves you with the hope, but not the certainty, of objective morality.

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  13. I'll let Paul elaborate here. But my guess is he'll concur.

    The argument is this:

    There is either an objective basis for morality or there isn't. That's an either/or proposition so there is no 3rd option.

    Objective morality can be proven by showing the impossibility of the contrary.

    Philosophers have repeatedly shown how the concept of subjective morality is irrational.

    It may be that you don't grasp what we mean by those terms though so more discussion on the matter may be necessary.

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  14. Jeff: There is either an objective basis for morality or there isn't. That's an either/or proposition so there is no 3rd option. I have to tell you. Whenever I see claims of dichotomies, all my red flags go up. There are too many variables in life. For fun and profit, I just skimmed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objective_morality and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism Certainly not exhaustive works by any stretch, but even they pointed out the varying positions under each view. It would appear that simply saying “objective morality” does not mean the same thing to each person. (I knew that, of course.) The humorous part, obviously, were the objections at the end. Some of the same things I have been saying.

    Philosophers have repeatedly shown how the concept of subjective morality is irrational. Sure. And philosophers have repeatedly shown how the concept of objective morality is impossible. Which ones are you going to buy?

    If you have read these philosophers, you should easily be able to address the questions I raise elsewhere. I’m not so interested in them, Jeff. I am interested in you. Don’t wave me off in some direction, stating, “Someone somewhere has asserted you are wrong.” Proof it out yourself. Explain it yourself.

    This is what I mean by my post on jurors. Talking with Christian friends, and saying, “Some philosophers agree with us” may make them oohh and ahhh. But discussing with those that do not inherently agree with your position is a difficult prospect. I may not know philosophy, but I sure know how to look things up. Things on BOTH sides of the proposition. And I know how to think some of this out myself. That is why I wasn’t real surprised to see that some of the objections to “objective morality” were some of the same that I raised.

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  15. Jeff and Paul. http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=150294 and http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=148315 are two current debates on this issue.

    I will freely admit I am not well-versed in philosophy. But after reading through these threads, I can see where it is not a cut-and-dried issue as to "objective" vs "subjective" morality.

    I would say, for me, ethically I live by the Golden rule. Morally, I see societies as determining right and wrong, even though personally, I disagree with society's distinctions. It is not prescriptive, in that it is an attempt to force someone to do right or wrong, but descriptive.

    Don't know if that helps or hurts, but there it is.

    (and I would further note that even atheists can be objective moralists. They fight about it. So that doesn't really prove a god or not.)

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