Intelligent Design

Bob Argues With a Saudi About Whether it is Good to Execute Homosexuals

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While Saudi Arabia is in the news, I have a question for our subjectivist friends.  In the United States it is considered morally wrong to execute a person for being a homosexual.  In Saudi Arabia it is considered morally right to execute a person for being a homosexual.

As I understand subjectivist reasoning, morality is subjective and culturally determined.  If you were in Saudi Arabia I assume you would attempt to get them to change their mind about executing homosexuals.  I am curious.  How would you argue for that?  I can imagine a subjectivist (let’s call him “Bob”) making a number of arguments, and a probable response from a Saudi:

  1. Bob: Executing people because they are homosexual is morally reprehensible.

Saudi:  That’s just your opinion Bob.  In my opinion executing people because they are homosexual is morally correct and laudable.  And you yourself tell me that your personal subjective view on the matter is no “better,” in any meaningful sense of that word, than mine.  So why should I care what you think?

  1. Bob: It is not just my opinion.  The people of the United States believe it is immoral to execute a person for being homosexual.  The Saudi people should be more like the American people.

Saudi:  Why?  The analysis does not change when you compare your group to mine.  Your own principles as a subjectivist tell me that the American view on the matter is no better, in any meaningful sense of that word, than the Saudi view.

  1. Bob: Don’t you believe in moral progress?  Every progressive nation believes that executing homosexuals is wrong.  Don’t you want to be progressive?

Saudi:  “Progressive”?  By what standard are you progressive?  Again, it is merely your opinion whether you are progressive.  Your own first principles say there is no objective standard by which progress toward “progressive” goals can be measured.  And I disagree.  We consider your coddling of homosexuals not to be progressive but decadent.

  1. Bob: Do you not care that the Western world rejects your views on this matter.

Saudi:  First, you are wrong.  Some progressive Westerners – the ones that understand their own premises forbid them from judging us – say “who am I to judge the Saudis.”  Second, no, I don’t care what you and your friends think Bob.  What is more, you yourself cannot give me a reason why I should care about what you and your friends think.  Besides, I will turn it back on you:  Don’t you care that the whole Islamic world rejects your views on the matter?

What am I missing?  The one argument that Bob can never logically make is that it is actually objectively wrong (as opposed to wrong in his humble opinion) to execute homosexuals.

272 Replies to “Bob Argues With a Saudi About Whether it is Good to Execute Homosexuals

  1. 1
    jdk says:

    As I understand subjectivist reasoning, morality is subjective and culturally determined. If you were in Saudi Arabia I assume you would attempt to get them to change their mind about executing homosexuals. I am curious. How would you argue for that?

    Simple. I would explain all the reasons why I think it is wrong. I would stand up for my own values. This is a choice I make. I would make it clear that I strongly disagree with them.

    Under some hypothetical situations, I would act to help prevent them killing someone.

    Barry, as human beings we have to make choices about what we believe, and what values we want to live by. Choice – free will – responsibility – you know those ideas?

    Sure, from their point of view they have made choices they believe in. Choices clash – people clash: then we have to interact in whatever way we can to either have an influence with them, or do what we can to mitigate the effects of them acting in ways that we can’t accept.

    This is human life, Barry, not armchair philosophy.

  2. 2
    News says:

    Point of information: The Washington Post tells us:

    Saudi Arabia: Under the country’s interpretation of sharia law, a married man engaging in sodomy or any non-Muslim who commits sodomy with a Muslim can be stoned to death. All sex outside of marriage is illegal. (June 13, 2016)

    However, a complexity is that it is hard to find out what is going on. Plus, other charges are included in death penalty rap sheets. Best to assume it’s true though.

  3. 3
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    Simple. I would explain all the reasons why I think it is wrong.

    I think that’s the question. What is your argument? What are all your reasons? Why should someone accept your viewpoint on this?

  4. 4
    jdk says:

    re 3: SA, those are two sets of questions. The OP is not about why one shouldn’t execute a homosexual (your first two questions), but about how we deal with people who have different views than we do, and feel just as strongly about them as we do about ours.

    That was the question I addressed in 2.

  5. 5
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    Ok, I didn’t read it that way but I see your point.

    It still remains a contradiction. If one’s subjective view is enough to validate the rightness of a moral position, then on what basis would you argue against someone’s morality? They have their subjective reasons, so it must be right for them. True?

  6. 6
    jdk says:

    re 6. That question I addressed in 2, if you’d like to comment on what I said.

  7. 7
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RJS

    The one argument that Bob can never logically make is that it is actually objectively wrong (as opposed to wrong in his humble opinion) to execute homosexuals.

    In a subjectivist view that is true. It cannot logically assert that executing any class of people is objectively wrong. I have heard abortion-advocates use this approach in pointing to the benefits of executing poor people, or handicapped. Some take it farther – Peter Singer, for example – and state that infanticide has a moral benefit and should be permitted.

    I think that’s basically what atheism gives us. Killing homosexuals is good for somebody, it fit someone’s subjective moral norms, so it is morally permissible.

    Simply disagreeing with someone’s subjective morality is not enough to claim that your morals are better than the others’.

  8. 8
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    I don’t think you addressed it.

    When you disagree with the other morality, you’re rejecting the validity (goodness, rightness) of their moral choice. You’re saying that your moral norms are better, more correct, than theirs.

    But that is not possible since your moral norms are just your subjective views – you are not superior to them. They have their own views. Why do you not respect the rightness of the morality that they have?

  9. 9
    R J Sawyer says:

    SA

    In a subjectivist view that is true. It cannot logically assert that executing any class of people is objectively wrong.

    True. But I can give a damn good reason, backed up by logic and rational reason, why in is subjectively wrong. Shouldn’t that be enough?

  10. 10
    jdk says:

    You’re saying that your moral norms are better, more correct, than theirs.

    No, that is not what I am saying. I am saying that, taking into account everything I know, both from within and without me, I have chosen to live by certain values, and it’s a matter of my own integrity to put my beliefs and actions before the world. That’s my freely chosen choice.

    This is not, as I said to Barry, a matter of what I consider somewhat sophomoric armchair philosophy, it is a matter about how a full-fledged human being chooses to live in the world, and interact with other human beings. Saying, “well, you can’t really justify your choices because they are nothing but your choices – they don’t have an objective referent”, is, in my opinion, empty rhetoric that, among things, is wrong because it assumes, without proof, that such objective referents can even exist. They don’t. Therefore, the responsibility lies with each one of us to make choices about our values.

    This is true for all of us: Barry, you, everyone.

    Can I prove that this is the right way to look at things? No. But I can tell you that it is the way I look at things, and you can decide for yourself what to make of it. That’s the way it works.

  11. 11
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RJS

    True. But I can give a damn good reason, backed up by logic and rational reason, why in is subjectively wrong. Shouldn’t that be enough?

    I don’t think logic or rationality are required to show that something is subjectively right or wrong. Subjectively means that the person has their own reason and moral norm – so, it is right for them. They think one thing is good another bad. Whether that is illogical or not is irrelevant.

    Otherwise, we would have to say “all moral norms much be logical”. But that’s an objective norm itself.

    We might say that “it’s illogical to follow the moral norms of a mythical god”. Yes, but in the subjectivist view, it doesn’t matter how one created the morality or what it is based on. Ultimately, it is whatever the person decides.

    Then, once a person say “I subjectively believe this is good or bad” – then there is no way to say the person is wrong.

  12. 12
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    I am saying that, taking into account everything I know, both from within and without me, I have chosen to live by certain values, and it’s a matter of my own integrity to put my beliefs and actions before the world. That’s my freely chosen choice.

    Yes, exactly. The other subjectivist does the same thing you do. So, on that basis – you have to fully accept that the moral norms of the other person are completely correct and good, for that person. You have no grounds to say that person’s moral norms are incorrect or wrong.

  13. 13
    goodusername says:

    Saudi: That’s just your opinion Bob. In my opinion executing people because they are homosexual is morally correct and laudable.

    More likely the Saudi would respond that it’s objectively morally correct to execute homosexuals.

    I don’t know how someone who believes that it’s objective morally wrong to execute homosexuals would respond to the Saudi.

  14. 14
    StephenB says:

    jdk:

    Saying, “well, you can’t really justify your choices because they are nothing but your choices – they don’t have an objective referent”, is, in my opinion, empty rhetoric that, among things, is wrong because it assumes, without proof, that such objective referents can even exist.

    It doesn’t assume that objective referents exist. It assumes only that they are necessary to make the argument (to justify the choice(s)). If objective referents don’t exist, then no moral argument can be justified.

  15. 15
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I don’t know how someone who believes that it’s objective morally wrong to execute homosexuals would respond to the Saudi.

    It’s a theological problem and has to be argued within the context of Islam which has its roots in Catholicism.

    Islamic moral norms are based on divine fiat and therefore the understanding of Allah, Mohammed and the Koran is necessary.

    To argue against moral norms of Islamic countries is to argue against the religion itself, or at least to show that a parallel and better interpretation is available within Islam (that’s what liberal Muslims try to do).

  16. 16
    Barry Arrington says:

    It is amusing to watch subjectivists squirm when the incoherence of their moral views is put in their face.

    They say I would argue thus and so, all the while sticking their head in the sand and avoiding the question raised in the OP. An argument must be based on objective referents, as Stephen points out in 14. To argue means that one points to inter-subjective premises that lead to a logically compelled conclusion.

    “In my opinion you should not execute homosexuals” is not an argument. It is an expression of a personal preference. The point of the OP, which the A-Mats have, unsurprisingly, ignored, is there is no reason in the world that I can think of why the Saudi should care what your personal preferences are.

    Tell me GUN and JDK, why should the Saudi care about your personal preferences on the matter?

    RJ Sawyer has been shown the exist for attempting to derail the discussion with lies (which I have deleted) about me.

  17. 17
    jdk says:

    re 14: Let me complete Stephen’ sentence

    If objective referents don’t exist, then no moral argument can be justified [ by reference to objective referents.]

    That is a tautology.

    If objective referents don’t exist, then what? That is the question I am addressing

    I agree that I can’t prove that you are wrong to be against same-sex marriage, for instance, but I can live my life according to the belief that allowing same-sex marriage is right, not wrong, and do what I can to convince others to adopt that belief also. I choose to have convictions, and to live by my convictions. That’s all I can do: that’s all anybody can do.

  18. 18
    jdk says:

    Barry writes,

    An argument must be based on objective referents.

    Same mistake as Stephen. If there are no objective referents, then that is a meaningless claim.

    Barry writes,

    The point of the OP, which the A-Mats have, unsurprisingly, ignored, is there is no reason in the world that I can think of why the Saudi should care what your personal preferences are.

    Tell me GUN and JDK, why should the Saudi care about your personal preferences on the matter?

    I am not ignoring that. There is no reason why the Saudi’s should care about my beliefs, and I am in no position to have any influence over them. However, if there were a Saudi here in my town that I knew and had these beliefs and yet also had a personal relationship with me, then I might be able to have some influence in their changing their beliefs.

    P.S. I am not an “A-Mat”

  19. 19
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDK: “There is no reason why the Saudi’s should care about my beliefs”

    JDK goes to the head of the class. It is rare and refreshing (if nevertheless tragic) when a subjectivist admits the glaring truth that everyone else sees.

  20. 20
    asauber says:

    I choose to have convictions, and to live by my convictions. That’s all I can do: that’s all anybody can do.

    Hold on there, jdk. It’s not all anybody can do.

    You should be able to, and especially as a science-minded person, be able to give me a compelling reason why I should pay attention at all to anything you think and say, based on your stated position. Your position screams that it’s admittedly no better than anyone else’s. The problem is compounded by the fact that you won’t tell people you don’t really believe your own position is and could never be any better than anyone else’s.

    Andrew

  21. 21
    StephenB says:

    goodusername:

    More likely the Saudi would respond that it’s objectively morally correct to execute homosexuals.

    Most likely.

    I don’t know how someone who believes that it’s objective morally wrong to execute homosexuals would respond to the Saudi.

    He would explain that the Saudi was following the Islamists skewed and incomplete interpretation of objective morality, which recognizes the evil of sodomy but fails to recognize the inherent dignity of all humans. The objective natural moral law, based on reason, recognizes both.

    The subjectivist, on the other hand, who denies objective morality (and reason), must acknowledge that the Saudi’s rationale for arriving at a *personal* morality is no better or worse than his own, both of which are based on the same amoral principle: “It is my decision based on my reasons and is justified on that basis alone.” It follows, therefore, that the subjectivist has no grounds for disagreeing with the Saudi’s skewed perception of morality.

  22. 22
    jdk says:

    Barry writes,

    JDK: “There is no reason why the Saudi’s should care about my beliefs”

    JDK goes to the head of the class. It is rare and refreshing (if nevertheless tragic) when a subjectivist admits the glaring truth that everyone else sees.

    What? How about quoting the rest of what I said:

    However, if there were a Saudi here in my town that I knew and had these beliefs and yet also had a personal relationship with me, then I might be able to have some influence in their changing their beliefs.

    We influence other’s beliefs through human interaction. The Saudi’s know nothing about me our my beliefs, so obviously they don’t care about them. They don’t care about your beliefs, either.

    I think you made something out of my statement that is not there.

  23. 23
    jdk says:

    Stephen writes,

    The subjectivist, on the other hand, who denies objective morality (and reason) …

    The “subjectivist” doesn’t deny reason. Why did you parenthetically throw that in there?

  24. 24
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    However, if there were a Saudi here in my town that I knew and had these beliefs and yet also had a personal relationship with me, then I might be able to have some influence in their changing their beliefs.

    Once again, you miss the point of your own contradiction. The crux of your argument is that *everyone* (including the Saudi) is entitled to construct his or her own moral code and, for that reason, everyone’s personal moral code should be accepted on that basis. You are not accepting his moral code if you are also trying to change it.

  25. 25
    StephenB says:

    jdk: The “subjectivist” doesn’t deny reason.

    Oh, but he does. Reason and the natural moral law are inextricably tied together. To deny one is to deny the other.

    Why did you parenthetically throw that in there?

    Good question. The investigation begins with self-evident truths (it is wrong to torture babies for fun) and develops develops through the use of reason (if it is wrong to torture babies for fun, then it is also wrong to torture adults for fun – and so on). Or again, if individuals have a moral right to defend themselves against aggressors, then so do nations, which are collections of individuals.

  26. 26
    Mimus says:

    “Tell me GUN and JDK, why should the Saudi care about your personal preferences on the matter.”

    Why don’t you tell us why they should care about your personal preference for an objective basis to morality?

  27. 27
    GCS says:

    JDK

    Stephen was correct. Right use of reason is connected with the objective vs the subjective.

    Right use of reason requires an objective foundation of fact outside of the person using the reasoning techniques. Any result derived from a reasoning process is only as strong as its foundation. Having your own opinion is always OK as long as you recognize and admit that it is only an opinion. However, your opinion is no better than another’s opinion, even when you get him to change his mind. I can see two situations where your opinion is dominant to another’s opinions:

    1 – You have power over the person and the person is trying to please you or could be harmed by you.

    2 – You are objectively superior to the person and the person is objectively required to accept that superiority.

    Subjectivity comes from its source – the subject. The question is whether the subjects are equal. If equal, then there is nothing to rate one opinion better than another. If not equal, it seems like we are getting into an hierarchy issue. Seems like it may lead to God!

  28. 28
    jdk says:

    Stephen writes at 24,

    The crux of your argument is that *everyone* (including the Saudi) is entitled to construct his or her own moral code and, for that reason, everyone’s personal moral code should be accepted on that basis.

    Interesting: there are two statements here, written as if the first necessarily implies the second, but that is false.

    I accept that you, Stephen (to make this less abstract) have moral codes that you have constructed for yourself, and you are “entitled” to do so. I have moral codes that are different then yours. I support your right to have your moral codes, but I still can, and will, when the opportunity arises, resist your acting on your moral codes if it impacts situations that I am involved in.

    Among other things, the difference is between beliefs and actions (although of course the two are related). I support your right to have moral beliefs different from mine, but I am not obligated to just take a laissez faire attitude towards your actions. Your actions impact the world of which I am a part: I will act in ways that reflect my beliefs, and you in ways that reflect your beliefs, and we may therefore clash in some way or another.

    The extend to which I respond to such situations depends on both opportunity (there are many situations that are completely out of my sphere of influence), the importance I attach to the issue, and the extent to which your actions may influence the larger communities which I care about.

    For instance, to be more abstract, if one has moral objections to dancing, and that affects how they live their life around others, I really don’t care. If someone is working to make same-sex marriage illegal, for instance, than I will be active in opposing that.

    The world is full of these type of competing interactions, every day. We are all trying to live according to our principles, and we have to struggle sometimes when we run into competing beliefs.

    So I accept that you, and everyone, have your own personally chosen moral codes, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept every action that flows from beliefs that are in conflcit with my own.

    We have to engage with this world, and our principles and values are a major part of what informs that engagement.

  29. 29
    vmahuna says:

    “For a man to lie down with another man is an abomination before God.” Leviticus 20:13

    I’m guessing a lot of the “Christian” responders are pretty selective in which parts of the Bible they actually consider to form the basis of Morality.

    I would also note that in his “Germania”, Tacitus describes the German custom of taking any homosexual they discovered and wrapping him in a wicker basket. The basket was then placed on the edge of a stream, and the WHOLE VILLAGE walked across the basket, pressing it down into the mud, where it was left to rot. Tacitus considered this a CLEAR example of the admirable culture of the otherwise barbaric Germans.

    I think a Scotch judge finally refused to condemn a “witch” to death in the late 1600s. Several witches had been executed in the preceding generation or so. (Suffer ye not a witch to live). And of course for several centuries after Cromwell’s invasion, a man could be executed for simply BEING a Catholic priest, regardless of whether he preached or celebrated the mass.

    Today Moslems regularly execute Christians (hundreds have been executed in Africa in the last month) for Blasphemy because Christians declare that Jesus is God. Christians clearly don’t accept the Moslems’ Morality, and Moslems clearly don’t accept the Christian’s Morality.

    So there ain’t much point in arguing about any CLEAR or PERMANENT point of Morality. Morality is specific to a time and a community, and liable to change in less than a generation.

  30. 30
    Bob O'H says:

    An argument must be based on objective referents, as Stephen points out in 14.

    One thing I’ve never seen is a statement of these objective moral referents, and a demonstration that they are objective. It seems to me that without that this whole discussion is pointless: if we don’t know what these objective referents are, then don’t we have to operate subjectively?

  31. 31
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    So I accept that you, and everyone, have your own personally chosen moral codes, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept every action that flows from beliefs that are in conflcit with my own.

    You have to accept that the other subjective moral code has the same value of goodness or correctness as your own. You have no basis for saying that your opposing view is more correct than theirs. You have to believe that their moral code is good and correct for them.

    But that’s the contradiction. You may not like the effects that their subjective morality has on your life. So, you have to affirm that their moral code is good for them, but at the same time it is a moral code that you oppose.

    That doesn’t make sense. If their moral code is good for them, they have subjective reasons for it just like you – then the affects of that code are good also.

    You refer frequently to a “clash”. Yes, that clash is this contradiction. It’s the clash caused by an irrational worldview. It is not possible to affirm the rightness of contradictory moral codes – which actually oppose each other.

    Killing homosexuals. “It’s your subjective code, so it is good and valid for you. But I have my own subjective code which is good for me and which opposes yours. So, I affirm the goodness and validity of both codes.”

    To merely say that this is a “clash” that is normal in society is not enough. Subjectivism itself causes this clash which is actually the attempt to embrace contradictory and opposed viewpoints.

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    Bob O’H

    One thing I’ve never seen . . .

    Truer words were never spoken. There is none so blind as he who refuses to see. They have been shown to you many times Bob.

  33. 33
    Barry Arrington says:

    vmahuna says, essentially, X does not agree with Y about the nature of objective morality. Therefore, there is no point in arguing.

    Your conclusion does not follow from your premise V. That fact that two people disagrees means either (a) both are wrong; or (b) one is right and the other wrong. In the case of (b), the point of arguing is for the person who is right to persuade the person who is wrong.

  34. 34
    jdk says:

    re 31: But there is no “objective” way to decide which view is “correct”, so competing subjective views is all we’ve got. C’est la vie.

    The continued insistence on a “contradiction” only comes from those who believe objective standards exist: the contradiction comes from, might I say, the irrationality of that belief?

  35. 35
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDK:

    there is no “objective” way to decide which view is “correct”, so competing subjective views is all we’ve got.

    Nonsense. Are you denying the self-evident objective truth that it is wrong to torture babies for fun?

  36. 36
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Bob O’H

    One thing I’ve never seen is a statement of these objective moral referents, and a demonstration that they are objective. It seems to me that without that this whole discussion is pointless: if we don’t know what these objective referents are, then don’t we have to operate subjectively?

    Others can answer this much better than I can, with specifics of the moral referents – but one that I have come up with (I think it’s the only one I’ve got) is:

    “Truth has a different value in goodness than falsehood”.

    I believe that’s an objective moral referent that necessarily transcends and opposes subjectivism.

    Subjectivism would necessarily oppose that statement I made. In subjectivism, truth and falsehood have equal value. In subjectivism, truth does not have a different value in goodness than falsehood.

    From that position, we derive all rational human thought.

    That is realist philosophy as opposed to subjectivism.

    “In the beginning was the Word” – Jesus Christ is the Logos, the principle of rationality. The Truth. That distinction between truth and falsehood, reality and illusion is the foundation of Western thought (idea of Logos introduced by Greeks then adopted by Catholicism later).

    But as for specific objective moral referents other than that I don’t know.

  37. 37
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    The continued insistence on a “contradiction” only comes from those who believe objective standards exist: the contradiction comes from, might I say, the irrationality of that belief?

    But I think you referred to a clash of principles, right?

  38. 38
    jdk says:

    re 37: Yes. There are people who believe there are objective moral truths, and those that don’t. That appears to be what we are discussing.

  39. 39
    jdk says:

    Barry, we agree that tbff is wrong, and most (virtually all) people agree. Human beings have some deep commonalities despite their cultural differences. That doesn’t mean that there are transcendent truths: it just means that in some ways all human beings are alike.

  40. 40
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    That doesn’t mean that there are transcendent truths: it just means that in some ways all human beings are alike.

    Following my reply to Bob O’H, I offer this as a transcendent, objective moral norm:

    “Truth has greater value in goodness than does falsehood”.

    That is objective, not subjective. It is universal, not tied to culture or historical period. It is not merely something common in humanity but an essential norm.

    Every subjectivist embraces that objective moral referent and none oppose it.

  41. 41
    jdk says:

    SA, that sentence just moves the goalposts to the subject of truth: I don’t think it clears anything up at all. I don’t even really know what it means: can you clarify or give an example?

  42. 42
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    Morality is about the rightness or wrongness of human acts.

    An objective moral principle is that truth has a different value of goodness than does falseness.

    So, when faced with any choice, a person cannot conclude that whatever is true is equal to that which is false.

    Truth has a higher value in goodness, so morally we choose what is true. To the extent that we know the truth of things, it is morally better to choose that which is true.

  43. 43
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    The subjectivist view much conclude that what is true has equal value to what is false.

    Subjectively, a person can choose either what is true or what is false – both have equal value.

    You can see how this is impossible and no subjectivist will ever (can ever) do that.

  44. 44
    Silver Asiatic says:

    … why did we lose the editing feature?

    “… must conclude …”

  45. 45
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Theft
    Murder
    Sacrilege
    Ingratitude
    Rape

    Those are objective moral evils.

  46. 46
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDK:

    it just means that in some ways all human beings are alike.

    No, that is wrong. Not only is torturing babies for fun wrong, it is not possible to imagine a circumstance where it would be otherwise in the same way it is not possible to imagine that 2+2=4 could be otherwise.

    Are you saying you can imagine it being otherwise? If so, we can be very sure you are lying, because we know you cannot.

  47. 47
    jdk says:

    I certainly can’t imagine a situation where I would think tbff would be OK. Given what I know about human beings, and this is a fact based on empirical evidence, I can’t imagine a situation where any substantial group would think it was OK. (There are extreme psychological pathologies from which someone might reach this conclusion, but the rest of us would consider those sick people.)

    But not being able to imagine that situation about human beings is a very different kind of thing than not being able to imagine 2 + 2 = 4 could be otherwise.

    One difference is the tbff is on one end of a spectrum of actions that range from virtually universal to those that are highly variable. Tbff for fun is universally condemned, but homosexuality, for instance is not.

    This is not true of math. So I don’t think your analogy is valid.

  48. 48
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDK

    There are extreme psychological pathologies from which someone might reach this conclusion [i.e., that torturing babies for fun is good], but the rest of us would consider those sick people.

    Here is how you know that it is objective. If one of those people told you it was good to torture babies for fun, you would know with absolute certainty he was wrong. It would be just as if he told you that 2+2=3,287.

    You cannot have it both ways Jack. Either you allow that he might be right or you insist you are certain he is wrong. And if the latter, you have objective morality with respect to at least one self-evident moral truth. It does not matter that some moral truths are not self-evident. No one would say that 2+2=4 is not self-evident merely because there are other, more subtle mathematical truths that are not self-evident.

  49. 49
    jdk says:

    No Barry: pointing to a belief universally held by human beings is NOT the same as, or necessary evidence for, the existence of a transcendent truth. It is just evidence that human beings have a common core nature in some respects.

    I don’t get that you don’t get the distinction. I don’t expect you to agree that I am right about this being a common core of humanity rather than a transcendent truth, but I would think that you would understand that it is a possibly true and different view than yours.

  50. 50
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    I accept that you, Stephen (to make this less abstract) have moral codes that you have constructed for yourself, and you are “entitled” to do so.

    You are not addressing the point. Why would you try to persuade the Saudi to change his moral code if you believe that no individualized moral code is superior to any other? For my part, I did not construct a personal moral code for myself. I adopted the objective moral code that came *before* I was born. You constructed a personal code that came *after* you were born.

    I have moral codes that are different than yours. I support your right to have your moral codes, but I still can, and will, when the opportunity arises, resist your acting on your moral codes if it impacts situations that I am involved in.

    Yes, you believe that your moral code is superior to mine and that your actions (based on that code) are superior to mine, otherwise, you wouldn’t bother to resist. At the same time, you say that no one moral code or action is superior to any other. Do you understand the contradiction?

    If someone is working to make same-sex marriage illegal, for instance, than I will be active in opposing that.

    Of course. In theory, you say that no moral code is superior to any other, but in practice you believe that your amorality is *superior* to my objective morality – and that advocates for the latter should be defeated. The only question left to be answered is whether or not you also think they should also be silenced.

    Moral relativists always become tyrants when they get the chance. They will persecute anyone who dares to speak the truth, which is this: All homosexual behavior is disordered and “gay marriage” is a logical contradiction. No rational case can be made for it. That point is clear to anyone who has read the Supreme Court’s irrational approach to the subject.

  51. 51
    john_a_designer says:

    Please notice that those who believe morality is subjective are making a self-refuting argument.
    They are arguing that there are no true and “objective” moral values and obligations. But the premise there are no true and “objective moral values and obligations is a universal truth claim about morality. But how can subjective opinions and beliefs be universal?

  52. 52
    StephenB says:

    No Barry: pointing to a belief universally held by human beings is NOT the same as, or necessary evidence for, the existence of a transcendent truth. It is just evidence that human beings have a common core nature in some respects.

    Barry is right. You miss the distinction between believing and knowing. We don’t simply “believe” that it is wrong to torture babies for fun, we know it as a self evident truth. Self evident truths are not believed, they are understood. Thus, they are not believed because they are universally held, they are universally held because they are known to be true.

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    jdk:

    No Barry: pointing to a belief universally held by human beings is NOT the same as, or necessary evidence for, the existence of a transcendent truth. It is just evidence that human beings have a common core nature in some respects.

    Barry is right. You miss the distinction between believing and knowing. We don’t simply “believe” that it is wrong to torture babies for fun, we know it as a self evident truth. Self evident truths are not believed, they are understood. Thus, they are not believed because they are universally held, they are universally held because they are known to be true.

  54. 54
    jdk says:

    Stephen(and Barry): I understand that you believe that moral codes exist outside of you, and were ther before you were born, and that you are able to know them as self-evident truths.

    I don’t believe that is true. This one argument which Barry always brings up about whether tbff is “self-evident” because it is so strongly held across cultures doesn’t not address the bigger picture, which is the lack of evidence for the existence of an objective, transcendent reality, and the lack of any means for determining these moral truths across varying cultures.

    So we have different beliefs. We will have to, once again, leave it at that, I think.

  55. 55
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    Stephen(and Barry): I understand that you believe that moral codes exist outside of you, and were ther before you were born, and that you are able to know them as self-evident truths.

    Yes, and I dare say that you also *know* that it is wrong to torture babies for fun. It is not the kind of thing you need to take on faith or confirm by societal agreement. As I recall, you have acknowledged the point several times in the past but tried to walk it back when we begin to explain its implications. Are you, once again, walking it back? Are you now claiming that you really don’t know that it is wrong to do this?

    This one argument which Barry always brings up about whether tbff is “self-evident” because it is so strongly held across cultures doesn’t not address the bigger picture, which is the lack of evidence for the existence of an objective, transcendent reality, and the lack of any means for determining these moral truths across varying cultures.

    This statement reflects a serious misunderstanding of the arguments being made. Barry (and I) are not saying that the existence of moral truth is confirmed by the fact that it is strongly held across cultures. We are saying that it is strongly held across cultures because it is universally known to be true.

    Moreover, no amount of evidence could ever confirm the existence of a self evident truth, such as the reality of the objective moral law. You can’t get moral truth from observing human actions, but you can interpret human actions from the perspective of moral truth. That you would even use the word “evidence” in this context suggests that you do not understand the nature of a self-evident truth. If you know that even one human action is wrong (ttbff), then you also know that the objective moral law exists.

    Of course, it is possible for this knowledge to be suppressed through ideological brainwashing or the effects of immoral behavior.

  56. 56
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDK,

    Again, you cannot have it both ways. Either torturing babies for fun is a self-evident, objective moral truth or you will allow for the possibility, however unlikely in your subjective estimate, that somewhere sometime, it is actually a good thing.

    Allowing for that possibility is evil.

    Do you allow for that possibility JDK?

  57. 57
    jdk says:

    JAD writes,

    They are arguing that there are no true and “objective” moral values and obligations. But the premise there are no true and “objective moral values and obligations is a universal truth claim about morality.

    No, I am not claiming that I know with certainty that there are no universal moral truths. I am just saying that I don’t believe there are, based on, as all my beliefs are, an overall weighing of what I see as evidence, both from my internal experience and what I know about the world. Also, I think the arguments and evidence presented for the existence of universal moral truths are not at all convincing or compelling.

    So my belief is that such truths don’t exist, but believing that is different from claiming that I somehow know it to be so.

  58. 58
    jdk says:

    re 55: Stephen writes,

    Yes, and I dare say that you also *know* that it is wrong to torture babies for fun. It is not the kind of thing you need to take on faith or confirm by societal agreement.

    I know for a certainty that I think tbff is wrong, not on faith (I have no idea what that means) nor because it is confirmed by societal agreement.

    You guys don’t seem to have read, or comprehended, what I wrote in 1 and 10. My belief is a choice I have made, based on my own internal understanding of key components of my self, such as empathy, compassion, deep appreciation for the way human beings start from such undeveloped creature, etc. If this is elf-evident in any way it is that it is evident to my self, by understanding my self, not because it is self-evident because it comes from any thing outside of, and transcendent to, my self.

    It is also a fact that almost all human beings think likewise, because, I believe there is a common core of such feelings in all human beings irrespective of culture.

    Also, the following sentence that I wrote is not clear. I wrote, “This one argument which Barry always brings up about whether tbff is “self-evident” because it is so strongly held across cultures doesn’t not address the bigger picture.” I know that Barry doesn’t think this. What I meant to say is that Barry fixates on this one example and doesn’t address the bigger picture that there is a large spectrum of moral variability across cultures.

    You get around this by writing, “If you know that even one human action is wrong (ttbff), then you also know that the objective moral law exists.”

    No, because, as explained numerous times, I think there is a valid reason why tbff is universally considered wrong: transcendent moral truths are not a necessary explanation.

    Stephen writes,

    Of course, it is possible for this knowledge to be suppressed through ideological brainwashing or the effects of immoral behavior.

    Is it true that you are offering these as explanations for my beliefs on this matter?

  59. 59
    jdk says:

    re 56:

    Barry, my chosen belief, as explained in a couple of posts here today, is that tbff is never right, and I can’t imagine any circumstances for which that would be true. I also think, as I have described numerous times, that this belief is tied to such basic core aspects of human nature that virtually all human beings agree about this.

    But this is a statement about the nature of human beings, including my own internal experience of the nature of my self.

    It doesn’t mean, to repeat myself again, that the source of this commonality is some transcendent world of moral truths.

    It is probably time for all of us to quit repeating ourselves.

  60. 60
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDK dodged my question at 56. Unsurprising. It is literally impossible to answer honestly and continue to maintain his argument.

  61. 61
    jdk says:

    I answered your question, Barry. I wrote, “Barry, my chosen belief, as explained in a couple of posts here today, is that tbff is never right, and I can’t imagine any circumstances for which that would be true.”

    I didn’t assent to the dichotomy you proposed, however.

    In what ways did I not answer honestly?

  62. 62
    bornagain77 says:

    jdk you state,

    “my chosen belief”

    And exactly how do Darwinian Atheists, who hold to reductive materialism (which denies the reality of free will), “choose” to believe in anything?

    Darwinian atheists are meat robots with no free will of their own. They have no more control over their actions and beliefs than a leaf blowing in the wind has control over its own fate.

    And that catastrophic epistemological failure inherent to the Darwinian worldview, in their denial of free will, is even before we get into the abject failure of Darwinian atheists to account for their own ‘subjective’ conscious experience in the first place, i.e. qualia.

    In other words, if a Darwinian atheist is going to claim that morality is merely ‘subjective’, might he not also be required to give an account for his ‘subjective’ conscious experience in the first place?

    Or do Darwinian atheists get a free pass on everything when it comes to ever having to provide any scientific evidence whatsoever for any of their grand claims?

    If so, Darwinian atheists are not doing science in the least little bit, but are instead up to their necks soaking in a imaginary religion of their own making!

  63. 63
    jdk says:

    ba, I am not a “Darwinian Atheist [i.e, a materialist]”, I don’t “hold to reductive materialism “, and I believe in “the reality of free will.”

    So if that is all you have to offer in this discussion, I would say don’t bother.

  64. 64
    bornagain77 says:

    I did not say you were a Darwinian atheist. The OP is addressed to Bob, who is a Darwinian atheist, not you.

    That is why I specifically stated “Darwinian Atheist”.

    You do not speak for Bob, and certainly not for the vast majority of Darwinist Atheists in general.

    You speak only for your very own ill defined ‘non-materialistic’ worldview.

    A ill defined worldview which you seem to tailor to whatever argument you are in at the time so as to not be falsified in your argument.

    You certainly are not defending, nor a spokesman for, Darwinian evolution.

  65. 65
    jdk says:

    In 62 you quoted me, ba, so fairly obviously your remarks were addressed to me.

  66. 66
    bornagain77 says:

    Not once did I insinuate that “YOU” yourself were a Darwinian atheist.

    Basically, when you concede the reality of free will, you concede that the Darwinian worldview is self-refuting, yet you disingenuously continue to align yourself with Darwinian atheists when debating on this site.

    Why? This is NOT consistent!

  67. 67
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDK,

    Do you allow for that possibility JDK?

    It is a very straightforward question JDK. You can lie about having answered it if you want. But that is really sad.

  68. 68
    vividbleau says:

    JDK re 57

    “No, I am not claiming that I know with certainty that there are no universal moral truths. I am just saying I don’t believe there are…”

    JDK is your belief either true or false?

    Vivid

  69. 69
    jdk says:

    Barry, read 61. How does that not answer your question?

  70. 70
    jdk says:

    re 68: ??? I’m already explained, I think that, I don’t believe there are any universal moral truths, and my belief is based on taking a number of lines of evidence and thought into consideration. I could be wrong, but at this point I am convinced enough that I am right that I consider this a committed part of my belief system.

  71. 71
    jdk says:

    Barry writes, “You can lie about having answered it if you want. But that is really sad.”

    What I think is sad is your belief that someone who disagrees with you is lying because you are so sure you are right.

  72. 72
    vividbleau says:

    Jdk

    “e 68: ??? I’m already explained, I think that, I don’t believe there are any universal moral truths”

    I got that loud and clear and this was your response to jad in 51 re the self refutation of moral subjectivists. I know you don’t know with certainty whether there are universal moral truths and it is only your belief that there are no universal moral truths, I am asking if your belief that there are no universal moral truths is either true or false regardless of what you believe?

    Vivid

  73. 73
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDK,

    Barry, read 61. How does that not answer your question?

    Of course I have read 61 Jack, and so has everyone else. And they, like I, know that you most certainly dodged the question. It is astonishing that you continue to pretend otherwise.

    I will ask the question one more time, and when you dodge or ignore it this time I will let it drop. Do you believe it is possible that torturing a baby for fun could ever be morally good?

    There are two and only two honest answers Jack: 1. Yes, I believe it is possible that torturing a baby for fun could be morally good. And 2. No, I believe it is not possible that torturing a baby for fun could ever be morally good. Everything else is a dodge. Prediction. Jack will dodge or ignore.

  74. 74
    StephenB says:

    jdk:

    What I meant to say is that Barry fixates on this one example and doesn’t address the bigger picture that there is a large spectrum of moral variability across cultures.

    The purpose of the example is to dramatize the ridiculous nature of denying every phase and level of objective morality. If, for example, you don’t know for sure that torturing babies for fun is wrong, then you are being ridiculous. There is no point in discussing the subtleties of moral variability with you until you acknowledge what is obviously true. That would be like discussing advanced differential equations with someone who doesn’t know for sure that 1 + 1 = 2.

    … I think there is a valid reason why tbff is universally considered wrong: transcendent moral truths are not a necessary explanation.

    I don’t recall any such explanation. What is it again?

    SB: Of course, it is possible for this knowledge (of objective morality) to be suppressed through ideological brainwashing or the effects of immoral behavior.

    jdk

    Is it true that you are offering these as explanations for my beliefs on this matter?

    I am simply pointing out that if a man doesn’t conform his behavior to the objective moral code he will soon find a moral code that conforms to his behavior.

  75. 75
    jdk says:

    To Stephen, re 74 and the explanation you don’t recall: see 39 and 49.

    to Barry: I don’t know what you mean to be saying with the “is possible” part of your “two honest answers”.

    Tbff is not morally good, and I can’t imagine any situation in which it could be good. Some acts that I also consider not morally good, such as killing someone, might have extenuating circumstances, such as self defense, that would justify them, but there are no such circumstances for tbff. That is what I have said.

    You don’t get to decide whether I am being honest or not. Your question/answers are loaded in some ways that I don’t accept, so I am responding on my own terms.

  76. 76
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDK:

    You don’t get to decide whether I am being honest or not.

    The readers will decide Jack. That’s why we are having the debate.

    Here are the options Jack refuses to choose between: 1. Yes, I believe it is possible that torturing a baby for fun could be morally good. And 2. No, I believe it is not possible that torturing a baby for fun could ever be morally good.

    It is a simple question that calls for a straightforward binary, yes/no, response. Either he believes it is possible or he does not. But he cannot bring himself to answer.

    Readers, the reason Jack is squirming is plain for all to see. He is on the horns of a dilemma. If he chooses answer 1, he will look both evil and ridiculous, because everyone knows with absolute certainty that 1 is false.

    If he chooses answer 2, he will have to give up his subjectivism, because he will have admitted that at least one objective moral truth exists.

    And so he dodges and weaves and hopes no one will notice when he lies and says he answered the question a long time ago and lies again when he says he does not know what the word “possible” means. It is sad to watch.

  77. 77
    jdk says:

    This is what I mean by loaded: by including “is possible” in his questions, Barry is trying to liken the situation to 2 + 2 + 4, which it is not, as I explained in a post above.

    Barry is lying about my lying. He thinks only he gets to frame the issue, and then expects me to be confined by that framing. I don’t buy that.

    I have said, “No, tbff is never good.” I have NOT answered “Yes, there are circumstances in which tbff could be good.”

    My answers do NOT imply the existence of a transcendent objective moral truth. That is the part of Barry’s loaded question that I reject.

  78. 78
    john_a_designer says:

    What’s JDK’s argument? “I don’t believe that objective moral values really exist, therefore, they don’t exist” (?)

    That’s pretty thin. Does he understand the use, misuse and limits of logic and reason? Apparently not.

    Now he’s doubling down (again!) on his nonsense. That’s something only a fool would do.

    But maybe it’s not his purpose to make an honest argument. Maybe here is here to obstruct and obfuscate. Unfortunately that implys he’s an intolerant bigot motivated by contempt for his fellow man. I wonder if he is going to argue that having contempt for your fellow man is not really wrong, because he believes right or wrong are just subjective sentiments.

    He doesn’t come out looking good even when we try giving him the benefit of the doubt.

  79. 79
    Silver Asiatic says:

    On this topic I’m sympathetic with jdk’s views and generally agree with his objections.

    The essential challenge for defenders of natural law and objective moral norms is to prove their existence beyond merely a statement of population studies. Speaking about how “everybody does this” actually plays directly into an evolutionary scenario.

    Animals, for example, will not put themselves into a burning fire. It’s avoidance of pain. Can a natural moral law be derived from that? “Do not harm yourself”? I don’t think so. Although, I do believe the avoidance of self-harm is an argument against evolution. Do animals have an objective moral code?

    A baby – example of tenderness, innocence, pure dependency, vulnerability. Does hurting a baby cause us pain the same way putting a hand in the fire does?

    The evolutionary story comes up with all sorts of reasons why we do various things (although it sounds more Lamarkian with the inheritance of learned behaviors) but supposedly there are mutations and gene functions that cause all of these things.

    I fully understand why someone like jdk would resist the argument that “we all know it” as strong-enough proof of the existence of a natural moral law. Exceptions to the population trend (sadists) are explained away as moral degenerates. But that’s a tautology.

    I have been casually studying natural law and objective morality for many years. The biggest confusion on this topic comes from the idea that human beings can understand the natural law without God as its reference point.

    The term ‘natural law’ does not mean there is a moral law in nature – separate from God. This law cannot be found without God, since the worship of and orientation of morality to God is essential to the natural moral law itself.

    Some call it “the divine natural law” – because it is created by God.

    The Catholic Catechism says this (among much else about natural objective moral law):

    1960 The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately. In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known “by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error.”12

    Yes, of course this makes sense to me. In order to even understand objective moral norms “man needs grace and revelation”.

    Without that, there is just confusion.

    So, for me, this is why this conversation with atheists almost always ends in a stalemate. It’s one opinion against another. An appeal to population statistics (“everybody knows this”) does not work for me. I find it easy to refute and it’s not a solid proof – as any statistical study shows, it’s only a probability measure (“a majority of humans believe this”).

    When we appeal to truths hidden inside of someone’s conscience, we end up having to claim they are lying when they don’t agree with what we “know” is inside of their thoughts.

    This again does not work for me.

    I take the Catholic view on this – objective moral norms cannot be known clearly without Faith in God, and even more, without Faith in the revelation of God. In other words, even a Deist cannot know much about the natural moral law.

    It takes the light of grace.

  80. 80
    bornagain77 says:

    Silver Asiatic states:

    The essential challenge for defenders of natural law and objective moral norms is to prove their existence beyond merely a statement of population studies.

    Since when did empirical evidence ever matter to an atheist? Especially to Darwinian atheists?

    I know that you have been around the block more than a few times and that you, therefore, know for a fact that the vast majority of internet atheists do not care one iota what the empirical evidence says.

    That being said, there are a number of lines of empirical evidence that can be brought forth to highlight the reality of a transcendent objective moral standard.

    Before we get into the evidence, ironically many atheists, in one of their main arguments against the existence of God, the argument from evil, unwittingly, concede the reality of objective morality. Specifically, they state “There exist a large number of horrible forms of evil and suffering”

    The Problem of Evil: Still A Strong Argument for Atheism – 2015
    Excerpt:,,, the problem of evil, one of the main arguments against the existence of an all-good and all-knowing God.,,,
    P1. There exist a large number of horrible forms of evil and suffering for which we can see no greater purpose or compensating good.
    P2. If an all-powerful, all-good God existed, then such horrific, apparently purposeless evils would not exist.
    C. Therefore, an all-powerful, all-good God does not exist.
    https://thegodlesstheist.com/2015/10/13/the-problem-of-evil-still-a-strong-argument-for-atheism/

    But this is self defeating position, as David Wood puts it,, By declaring that suffering is evil, atheists have admitted that there is an objective moral standard by which we distinguish good and evil.

    Responding to the Argument From Evil: Three Approaches for the Theist – By David Wood
    Excerpt: Interestingly enough, proponents of AE grant this premise in the course of their argument. By declaring that suffering is evil, atheists have admitted that there is an objective moral standard by which we distinguish good and evil. Amazingly, then, even as atheists make their case against the existence of God, they actually help us prove that God exists!,,,
    https://www.namb.net/apologetics/responding-to-the-argument-from-evil-three-approaches-for-the-theist

    If Good and Evil Exist, God Exists: Peter Kreeft – Prager University – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xliyujhwhNM

    And C.S Lewis, a former atheist who converted to Christianity, put the failure of the argument from evil like this: “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?,,, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

    “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?,,,
    in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless–I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”
    – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. Harper San Francisco, Zondervan Publishing House, 2001, pp. 38-39.

    This is all fine and well as far as it goes, since it exposes the self-defeating nature of the argument from evil that atheists constantly try to use, but since morality is actually claimed to be “objectively” real in the moral argument for God, then there ought to be some way to test this claim scientifically to see if it holds ‘scientific’ water.

    After all to claim something is ‘objective’ is to, in fact, claim that it objectively exists apart from our own subjective mind:

    Definition of objective
    b : of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/objective

    In fact, Immanuel Kant’s requirement for the moral argument to be considered valid was that influences could arise from outside space-time. He considered it a major weakness in the moral argument for God that such influences could not, during his day, be empirically established.
    Dr Suarez explains Immanuel Kant’s empirical requirement for the moral argument to be considered valid in this following video, and shows that Kant’s empirical requirement for the moral argument has now been experimentally met in quantum mechanics:

    God, Immanuel Kant, Richard Dawkins, and the Quantum – Antoine Suarez – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQOwMX4bCqk

    And although, Dr. Suarez certainly makes a compelling case that Kant’s criteria has been met for validating the moral argument for God, the physical reality of objective morality can be even more firmly established with empirical evidence than Dr. Suarez had apparently realized in the video.
    Indeed, we find much empirical evidence to support the Christian’s claim that morality is indeed objectively real.

    For instance, the following studies actually show that our moral intuition itself transcends space and time: Specifically, in the following study, they found that subjects responded strongly to emotional images compared to neutral images, and that the emotional response occurred between a fraction of a second to several seconds BEFORE the image appeared

    Quantum Consciousness – Time Flies Backwards? – Stuart Hameroff MD
    Excerpt: Dean Radin and Dick Bierman have performed a number of experiments of emotional response in human subjects. The subjects view a computer screen on which appear (at randomly varying intervals) a series of images, some of which are emotionally neutral, and some of which are highly emotional (violent, sexual….). In Radin and Bierman’s early studies, skin conductance of a finger was used to measure physiological response They found that subjects responded strongly to emotional images compared to neutral images, and that the emotional response occurred between a fraction of a second to several seconds BEFORE the image appeared! Recently Professor Bierman (University of Amsterdam) repeated these experiments with subjects in an fMRI brain imager and found emotional responses in brain activity up to 4 seconds before the stimuli. Moreover he looked at raw data from other laboratories and found similar emotional responses before stimuli appeared.
    http://www.quantumconsciousnes.....Flies.html

    And in the following meta-analysis of 26 reports published between 1978 and 2010, the researchers found that your body can anticipate morally troubling situations between two and 10 seconds before it happens

    Can Your Body Sense Future Events Without Any External Clue? (meta-analysis of 26 reports published between 1978 and 2010) – (Oct. 22, 2012)
    Excerpt: “A person playing a video game at work while wearing headphones, for example, can’t hear when his or her boss is coming around the corner.
    But our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand,,,
    This phenomenon is sometimes called “presentiment,” as in “sensing the future,” but Mossbridge said she and other researchers are not sure whether people are really sensing the future.
    “I like to call the phenomenon ‘anomalous anticipatory activity,'” she said. “The phenomenon is anomalous, some scientists argue, because we can’t explain it using present-day understanding about how biology works; though explanations related to recent quantum biological findings could potentially make sense. It’s anticipatory because it seems to predict future physiological changes in response to an important event without any known clues, and it’s an activity because it consists of changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin and nervous systems.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....145342.htm

    Thus, Kant’s criteria for accepting the validity of the moral argument has now been met on two levels. First, it has been met by showing that there are indeed influences arising from outside space-time as he had stipulated, and secondly, and more importantly, it has been more specifically met by showing that the human body possesses moral intuitions that transcend space and time.

    Moreover, in the preceding paper one of the researchers remarked that ‘we can’t explain (the anticipatory activity of the body) using present-day understanding about how biology works; though explanations related to recent quantum biological findings could potentially make sense.’… And, exactly as she thought, quantum biological findings do indeed shed light how it might be possible for the body to anticipate morally troubling situations before they happen. In fact, as this following video shows,,

    Darwinian Materialism vs Quantum Biology – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHdD2Am1g5Y

    ,,,findings in quantum biology go much further and gives us strong physical evidence that humans possess a transcendent component to their being on the molecular level that is not reducible to materialistic explanations.

    Looking beyond space and time to cope with quantum theory – 29 October 2012
    Excerpt: “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,”
    http://www.quantumlah.org/high.....uences.php

    That is to say, findings from quantum biology now give us experimental evidence strongly suggesting we do indeed have a transcendent ‘soul’ that is capable of living beyond the death of our material bodies just as Christians have held all along.

  81. 81
    bornagain77 says:

    The following is also of related interest as to providing empirical evidence for the objective reality of morality, since unguided Darwinian processes have never shown the origination of a even a single gene and/or protein, as these following references show,,,

    Stephen Meyer (and Doug Axe) Critique Richard Dawkins’s “Mount Improbable” – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rgainpMXa8

    Yockey and a Calculator Versus Evolutionists – Cornelius Hunter PhD – September 25, 2015
    Excerpt: In a 1977 paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, Hubert Yockey used information theory to evaluate the likelihood of the evolution of a relatively simple protein.,,,
    Yockey found that the probability of evolution finding the cytochrome c protein sequence is about one in 10^64. That is a one followed by 64 zeros—an astronomically large number. He concluded in the peer-reviewed paper that the belief that proteins appeared spontaneously “is based on faith.”
    Indeed, Yockey’s early findings are in line with, though a bit more conservative than, later findings. A 1990 study of a small, simple protein found that 10^63 attempts would be required for evolution to find the protein.
    A 2004 study found that 10^64 to 10^77 attempts are required, and a 2006 study concluded that 10^70 attempts would be required.
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....ersus.html

    ,,, since unguided Darwinian processes have never shown the origination of a even a single gene and/or protein,,, then it is very interesting to note that the gene expression, i.e. gene regulation of entire gene networks, of humans are designed in a very sophisticated way so as to differentiate between hedonic moral happiness and ‘noble’ moral happiness: The following paper states that there are hidden costs of purely hedonic well-being.,, “At the cellular level, our bodies appear to respond better to a different kind of well-being, one based on a sense of connectedness and purpose.”

    Human Cells Respond in Healthy, Unhealthy Ways to Different Kinds of Happiness – July 29, 2013
    Excerpt: Human bodies recognize at the molecular level that not all happiness is created equal, responding in ways that can help or hinder physical health,,,
    The sense of well-being derived from “a noble purpose” may provide cellular health benefits, whereas “simple self-gratification” may have negative effects, despite an overall perceived sense of happiness, researchers found.,,,
    But if all happiness is created equal, and equally opposite to ill-being, then patterns of gene expression should be the same regardless of hedonic or eudaimonic well-being. Not so, found the researchers.
    Eudaimonic well-being was, indeed, associated with a significant decrease in the stress-related CTRA gene expression profile. In contrast, hedonic well-being was associated with a significant increase in the CTRA profile. Their genomics-based analyses, the authors reported, reveal the hidden costs of purely hedonic well-being.,,
    “We can make ourselves happy through simple pleasures, but those ‘empty calories’ don’t help us broaden our awareness or build our capacity in ways that benefit us physically,” she said. “At the cellular level, our bodies appear to respond better to a different kind of well-being, one based on a sense of connectedness and purpose.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....161952.htm

    Moreover, and as would be expected if morality were objectively real as Christians hold, it is now found that atheists suffer physically and mentally as a result of forsaking the objective reality of morality in general and from forsaking God in particular. Professor Andrew Sims former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists states that ‘The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best-kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally.’,,, lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction…

    “I maintain that whatever else faith may be, it cannot be a delusion.
    The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best-kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. If the findings of the huge volume of research on this topic had gone in the opposite direction and it had been found that religion damages your mental health, it would have been front-page news in every newspaper in the land.”
    – Professor Andrew Sims former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists – Is Faith Delusion?: Why religion is good for your health – preface
    “In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.”
    – Professor Andrew Sims former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists – Is Faith Delusion?: Why religion is good for your health – page 100
    https://books.google.com/books?id=PREdCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA100#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Of supplemental note to the atheist’s self-defeating ‘argument from evil’, (which was mentioned at the start of this post), Many times people have a very hard time reconciling an all-powerful, all-good God with the existence of evil. Yet, it is interesting to point out that, unlike other religions, Christianity does not shy away from the problem of evil but instead addresses it head on.
    As Benjamin Wiker observes in the following article, ‘With the Incarnation, the reality of evil is absorbed into the deity, not dissolved into thin air, because God freely tastes the bitterness of the medicine as wounded healer, not distant doctor. Further, given the drastic nature of this solution, we begin to recognize that God takes the problem of evil more seriously than we could ever have taken it ourselves. ,,,’

    The Problem of Evil by Benjamin D. Wiker – April 2009
    Excerpt: We still want to cry, Job-like, to those inscrutable depths, “Who are you to orchestrate everything around us puny and pitiable creatures, leaving us shuddering in the darkness, ignorant, blasted, and buffeted? It‘s all well and good to say, ‘Trust me! It‘ll all be made right in the end,‘ while you float unscathed above it all. Grinding poverty, hunger, thirst, frustration, rejection, toil, death of our loved ones, blood-sweating anxiety, excruciating pain, humiliation, torture, and finally a twisted and miserable annihilation — that‘s the meal we‘re served! You‘d sing a different tune if you were one of us and got a taste of your own medicine.”
    What could we say against these depths if the answer we received was not an argument but an incarnation, a full and free submission by God to the very evils about which we complain? This submission would be a kind of token, a sign that evil is very real indeed, bringing the incarnate God blood-sweating anxiety, excruciating pain, humiliation, torture, and finally a twisted and miserable annihilation on the cross. As real as such evil is, however, the resurrection reveals that it is somehow mysteriously comprehended within the divine plan.
    With the Incarnation, the reality of evil is absorbed into the deity, not dissolved into thin air, because God freely tastes the bitterness of the medicine as wounded healer, not distant doctor. Further, given the drastic nature of this solution, we begin to recognize that God takes the problem of evil more seriously than we could ever have taken it ourselves. ,,,
    http://www.crisismagazine.com/.....em-of-evil

    Moreover, although all religions agree that man is morally imperfect, and all religions therefore have some method for man to try to meet some level of moral perfection, only Christianity realistically addresses the moral dilemma that man finds himself in and plainly states what should be blatantly obvious. That is to say, that no imperfect human, through his own efforts, no matter how valiant his effort may be, will ever reach heaven by his own effort. I.e. Moral perfection must be free gift from God. In other words, we imperfect humans must rely on Jesus Christ to bridge that infinite moral gap between imperfect man and perfect God.

    That is to plainly say, all religions besides Christianity try to bridge the unbridgeable moral gap between God and man with man’s own works. Whereas Christianity is instead based on the grace of God to bridge and/or atone for that gap. In technical terms, this is known as propitiation. Here are a few videos that clearly explain exactly what propitiation means:

    Falling Plates (the grace of propitiation) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGlx11BxF24

    Philosophical Objections to the Atonement (William Lane Craig) 30:55 minute mark – ‘vicarious liability’ is commonplace in our legal system – video
    https://youtu.be/OXlmxJJYask?t=1855

    Tim Keller – The Mountain – The Terrifying and Beckoning God – (the unapproachable God of the old testament vs. the approachable God of the new testament) – sermon
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6tnnU_wUi8

    One final note on the problem of evil, at around the 15:00 – 17:00 minute mark of the following Near Death Experience testimony, Dr. Mary Neal spoke about how she, when in the presence of God during her death, and from being able to see things from that much higher ‘omniscient’ perspective, finally understood why God allows evil in the world (i.e. she finally ‘got it’) and understood how our limited perspective on ‘evil’ severely clouds our judgment and our reactions to ‘evil’ tragedies that may happen in our lives while we are here on this earth.

    Dr. Mary Neal’s Near-Death Experience – (Life review portion starts at the 13:00 minute mark) – video
    https://youtu.be/63wY2fylJD0?t=780

    The take home message from Dr. Neal’s testimony is that we should lean on God’s understanding and not on our own understanding, especially in times of tragic loss.

    Proverbs 3:5-6
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
    in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

  82. 82
    jdk says:

    jad writes,

    What’s JDK’s argument? “I don’t believe that objective moral values really exist, therefore, they don’t exist”

    JAD, this was not what I said. In addition to all your name calling, you are putting words in my mouth that I didn’t say, and don’t accurately represent what I have said here. I can see that discussing with you is probably not very worthwhile.

    I have not been even trying to explain why I don’t think objective moral values don’t exist in this thread, so the sentence I quoted above is just something you made up.

  83. 83
    Barry Arrington says:

    SA:

    I take the Catholic view on this – objective moral norms cannot be known clearly without Faith in God, and even more, without Faith in the revelation of God.

    You are mistaken about the nature of my argument. You are also mistaken about the “Catholic view.” Since at least Aquinas, the Catholic view has been that the moral law is accessible through reason. StephenB has explained this many times in these pages.

  84. 84
    Antonin says:

    …the Catholic view has been that the moral law is accessible through reason.

    Hasn’t the Holy Father recently changed the Catholic view on the death penalty? Is that the new objective view?

  85. 85
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic writes,

    I take the Catholic view on this – objective moral norms cannot be known clearly without Faith in God, and even more, without Faith in the revelation of God. In other words, even a Deist cannot know much about the natural moral law.

    Meaning no disrespect, but this is not the Catholic view. The Catholic Catechism says this:

    “1954 Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie:

    The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted.5

    1955 The “divine and natural” law6 shows man the way to follow so as to practice the good and attain his end. The natural law states the first and essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one’s equal. Its principal precepts are expressed in the Decalogue. This law is called “natural,” not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because reason which decrees it properly belongs to human nature:
    Where then are these rules written, if not in the book of that light we call the truth? In it is written every just law; from it the law passes into the heart of the man who does justice, not that it migrates into it, but that it places its imprint on it, like a seal on a ring that passes onto wax, without leaving the ring.7 The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.8

    1956 The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:
    For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense . . . . To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.9

    1957 Application of the natural law varies greatly; it can demand reflection that takes account of various conditions of life according to places, times, and circumstances. Nevertheless, in the diversity of cultures, the natural law remains as a rule that binds men among themselves and imposes on them, beyond the inevitable differences, common principles.

    1958 The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history;10 it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress. The rules that express it remain substantially valid. Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies:
    Theft is surely punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law that is written in the human heart, the law that iniquity itself does not efface.11

    1959 The natural law, the Creator’s very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature.”

    Paragraph 1960, which you cite provides further context, but it should not be read in *isolation,* (which you have done):

    “The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately. In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known “by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error.”12 The natural law provides revealed law and grace with a foundation prepared by God and in accordance with the work of the Spirit.”

    Notice the words “clearly and immediately.” There are aspects of this law that must be worked out. A good example would be “Just war theory,” which is not at all self-evident. However, revealed truths are not needed to grap it.

    Notice also the words “by everyone with facility.” I pointed out earlier on this thread that there are psychological barriers for some people. That doesn’t change the nature of a self evident truth.

    Yes, most people do require information provided by Divine revelation to gain a *complete* understanding of the natural moral law, but almost everyone can grasp a *partial* understanding. If you have a partial understanding of NML, then you also understand that this same law does exist. Its basic logic.

    The natural law is part of the larger notion that we live in a rational universe made rational by its
    Creator. It is considered evidence for God’s existence right along with all the other rational features of the universe. It is also God who makes us rational beings that can comprehend its rational nature. For Catholics, the human conscience is the faculty by which the natural law is apprehended. No Divine revelation is necessary for the human conscience to operate, though God’s word certainly clarifies and amplifies what we already know.

  86. 86
    StephenB says:

    Hasn’t the Holy Father recently changed the Catholic view on the death penalty? Is that the new objective view?

    Pope Francis does not have the authority to change Catholic morality, though he can contribute to its development. Catholic doctrine can develop (our understanding of the same teaching can deepen), but it cannot evolve (be substantively changed).

    Francis has heen asked to clarify if he meant to say that capital punishment is “intrinsically evil,” which would be against Catholic teaching and a substantive change. (Capital punishment can be conditionally evil but it is not intrinsically evil). As it stands, the pope has refused to clarify many of his statements on the moral law, which means that Catholic must rely on the Church’s traditional teachings.

  87. 87
    jdk says:

    This is very good to have such a complete summary of the Catholic view on natural law and natural reason.

    Looming in the background of the discussions about objective moral truths such as we are having in this thread are metaphysical beliefs such as presented here. Fairly obviously, people who don’t have the same or similar beliefs about this view will not agree about specific details.

  88. 88
    StephenB says:

    jdk:

    To Stephen, re 74 and the explanation you don’t recall: see 39 and 49.

    Thank you for the time saving reference.

    At 39, you write:
    “Human beings have some deep commonalities despite their cultural differences.”

    I completely agree. Those deep commonalities include the human conscience, which is present in all psychologically healthy individuals, which is the means by which they apprehend the natural moral laws.

    At 49, you write, …”human beings have a common core nature in some respects.”

    Again, I totally agree. That common core nature is the same capacity referred to above.

    So this is how I describe the common core nature in this limited context. It is the faculty of the human intellect and its capacity to know the difference between right and wrong, at least at some primitive level. How would you describe this common core nature and what is it doing if not operating the way I describe it?

  89. 89
    john_a_designer says:

    As I have written recently written on another thread when it comes to morality and human rights there is a long natural law tradition in the west that moral obligation and human rights are based on something objective and transcendent. Cicero understood this when he wrote, “Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing today and another tomorrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must for ever reign, eternal and imperishable.”

    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/how-the-warren-debacle-demonstrates-the-insanity-of-the-progressive-war-on-reality/#comment-666474

    Saint Paul and Aquinas also appealed to moral natural law.

    For example, in Romans 2:13-15 Paul writes, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…”

    I couldn’t find a comprehensive Aquinas quote. However I did find a good summary of Aquinas’ thinking by someone who wrote his PhD dissertation on Natural Law.

    I wrote my PhD dissertation on Natural Law (Titled: “Thomas Aquinas on Natural Law and the Twofold End of Humanity), and I hope to publish it in the next few years.

    Until then, here’s the short version in just 5 easy points:

    *God designed natural law so that humans participate in God’s eternal law. As rational creatures we can determine and seek that which is good and avoid that which is evil.

    *According to Thomas Aquinas, the first precept of natural law is “good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.” Every subsequent moral precept is based on this “first precept of natural law.” (By the way, you should memorize the underlined quote and never forget it. It is very useful and it will strengthen your understanding of natural law).

    *The #1 mistake people make about natural law is that they assume that natural law is secular and non-religious. Not true according to Saint Thomas Aquinas. Saint Thomas teaches that the virtue of religion, sacrifice, holidays, and even a natural priesthood pertains to the natural law. Moreover, avoiding idols and worshipping the Creator are derived precepts of the natural law.

    *Natural law is common to all the nations. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist, animist…natural law applies to you. This means that the testimony of natural law leads one to have a true religion. Thomas Aquinas would say that natural law in the heart of man would argue against idolatry, polytheism, atheism, etc. Hence, the idolatry of, say, Hinduism is banned under natural law.

    *Natural law is insufficient for human beatitude and salvation. Thomas Aquinas is really clear about this. He teaches that natural law is not enough. A human person can never erase natural law from his heart, but he can mitigate its force in his life. And even if a human person followed natural law perfectly, he would not attain to Heaven, because sanctifying grace is needed to enter the Beatific Vision (vision of God). So then, God gave “Divine Law” in the form of the Old Testament but perfectly in the New Testament. The New Law of the New Testament is really the Holy Spirit who communicates mercy, grace, and love to our souls and body. Hence, the human person after Adam and Eve needs Divine Law to perfect what natural law cannot do. (The heresy of Pelagianism holds that humans can be saved by perfectly following natural law – a big no-no for Catholics!)

    https://taylormarshall.com/2014/06/thomas-aquinas-natural-law-5-points.html

    In other words, morality and human rights are not something that were invented or made up by human beings. Moral thinking and beliefs are intrinsic to human nature. So somehow it just evolved or human beings were purposely created with a moral nature.

    By the way, the natural law view of morality doesn’t mean there aren’t disagreements about natural law. There have been, there are and there will be disagreements. However, it can’t be argued that the natural law view has not been foundational to western thinking about morality and human rights for the last 2500 years. Its roots go all the way back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

  90. 90
    jdk says:

    Stephen, you posted a very good summary of the Catholic metaphysics that explains how all humans have a core ability to apprehend natural law.

    I don’t believe in that metaphysics. I believe that we have a biologically based nature that includes emotional capabilities and tendencies such as empathy, compassion, affection and love; cognitive abilities that allow us to learn from the world around us, both social and physical, as we grow up; social capabilities and tendencies from which we participate in social groups, and so on. This is an anthropological viewpoint based on empirical studies of common human nature.

    Obviously, human beings have pervasive commonalities in respect to their bodies (we all have two legs, for instance, abnormalities aside); we all have the inevitable ability to learn to speak and understand a language (again, abnormalities aside); and we all have an ability and need to make normative judgments (moral and otherwise). Being kind to babies, and certainly not tbff, is a consequence of these various core components, which makes the moral judgment that tbff is wrong universal.

    I know you won’t accept all that, and you will have questions about how human beings have come to be this way, which is a different and broader subject.

    I’ll note that the prohibition against tbff is probably one of the few moral judgements to range across all cultures, FWIW.

  91. 91
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    No Divine revelation is necessary for the human conscience to operate …

    However, as quoted, revelation is necessary for the natural law to be understood “clearly”.

    And beyond that, the divine natural law cannot be understood without reference to God as creator and law giver.

    JAD’s quotes above from Taylor Marshal are relevant here.

    Sure, one could point to commonly held moral beliefs present in humanity as some kind of argument for the existence of God. I find that argument to be very weak, however, myself – that’s just in practical terms. It’s not a strong argument for the existence of God and, in fact, Aquinas does not use it in one of his 5 proofs. Instead he uses the argument of gradiation of value. It’s what I pointed to with regards to “truth having a greater goodness than falsehood”. To me, that is more of a proof – I find it irrefutable – than the moral argument. But that’s just personal preference.

    Regarding the need for God in discussion of moral law, the 1st Commandment is part of the Natural Moral Law – the acknowledgement and worship of God as creator is a necessary foundation of all morality.

    Trying to prove that atheists, for example, can have a correct moral conscience in terms of natural law is a very difficult task. Yes, it’s possible and every soul will be judged by God based on the light they’ve received.

    I could just repeat the five bulleted points that JAD posted as a better summary of my argument.

    My concern is that often the natural objective moral law is presented as “The #1 Mistake People Make” cited in the third bullet above.

  92. 92
    Antonin says:

    Pope Francis does not have the authority to change Catholic morality

    Hmm! His Holy Father carries on the office first granted to Saint Peter. Has infallibility been suspended? By whom?

    …though he can contribute to its development. Catholic doctrine can develop (our understanding of the same teaching can deepen), but it cannot evolve (be substantively changed).

    This sounds very authoratitive. Are you a representative of the Catholic church?

    Francis has been asked to clarify if he meant to say that capital punishment is “intrinsically evil,” which would be against Catholic teaching and a substantive change. (Capital punishment can be conditionally evil but it is not intrinsically evil).

    When did Catholicism diverge from the teachings of of Our Lord?

    As it stands, the pope has refused to clarify many of his statements on the moral law, which means that Catholic must rely on the Church’s traditional teachings.

    You seem quite critical of the Holy Father. Are you familiar with the Sermon on the Mount?

  93. 93
    Silver Asiatic says:

    JAD

    from Taylor Marshall

    And even if a human person followed natural law perfectly, he would not attain to Heaven, because sanctifying grace is needed to enter the Beatific Vision (vision of God). So then, God gave “Divine Law” in the form of the Old Testament but perfectly in the New Testament. The New Law of the New Testament is really the Holy Spirit who communicates mercy, grace, and love to our souls and body. Hence, the human person after Adam and Eve needs Divine Law to perfect what natural law cannot do. (The heresy of Pelagianism holds that humans can be saved by perfectly following natural law – a big no-no for Catholics!)

    That’s pretty important. I look at the implications just in terms of arguing with atheists. To focus on the natural law alone … as an abstraction, in my opinion is a very flimsy foundation for an argument. Yes, the pre-Christian philosophers used this, but we’ve got 2000 years of Christian thought that they didn’t have.

    Thomas Aquinas would say that natural law in the heart of man would argue against idolatry, polytheism, atheism, etc. Hence, the idolatry of, say, Hinduism is banned under natural law.

    Ok, I cannot imagine arguments here including that point when it comes to natural law. But think about it. We talk about torturing babies, but atheism and Hinduism, for example, are violations of the natural moral law.

  94. 94
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Antonin

    You seem quite critical of the Holy Father.

    Just interjecting, but the Pope is bound by the eternal teachings of the Church just like any rank-and-file believer is. Additionally, when a clarification of teaching is requested it is not a matter of being critical of him, but of seeking understanding and in some cases, pointing to a problem (not everything the Pope says is protected by the Seal).

    St. Paul did that to the first pope when Peter fell into Judiazing tendencies. So, there’s room for respectful criticism.

  95. 95
    Antonin says:

    …the Pope is bound by the eternal teachings of the Church…

    What is the church if not the teachings of Our Lord?

  96. 96
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Aquinas summarizing natural law:

    “good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.”

    The argument I use is just a development from this.

    1. The first steps in assessing what is good is an intellectual process – it occurs in the mind.
    2. Making the choice for good requires Intellectual Virtues.
    3. Intellectual virtues move towards “the good of the mind” – and the good of the mind is “conformity to truth”.

    So, assessing and embracing the truth is a necessary moral virtue that enables the choice of good and evil. Conforming to the truth is an objective moral norm in itself.

    In fact, I would say it is “THE moral norm”.

    Why?

    Because every intellectual act requires an acknowledgement that the truth has a higher value in goodness than falsehood does.

    The acceptance of truth is an objective moral act of the natural law that every human accepts – without exception.

    Proof

    1. If truth was equal with falsehood, it would be possible to posit “completeness” or “fulness” for either value.
    2. To strive to always tell the truth, would be to strive for a “completeness” of truth. By eliminating and reducing lies, dishonesty and falsehood this goal is possible.
    3. To strive to always tell falsehoods would mean that one would have to falsely assert every principle. But the assertion of any principle (e.g. “I am going to always tell a lie”) is an assertion of a Truth – thus making this proposition impossible.

    To achieve “completeness” of truth is a possible goal.
    To acheive “completeness” of falsehood is impossible.

    Since that which can reach completeness or perfection has a greater goodness than that which cannot reach completenes/perfection – then Truth has a greater value of goodness than does falsehood.

    This is a universal, objective moral norm – Necessarily known by every human being. It is impossible to refute this argument.

  97. 97
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Antonin

    What is the church if not the teachings of Our Lord?

    Yes, true but the Divine Revelation of Our Lord was given to the apostles and handed on until today, without substantial change. Yes, as knowledge grows, God reveals new aspects of teachings previously unknown. So yes, the Church reflects that. But a substantial contradiction in divine;y revealed teaching is not possible. It has never happened and cannot happen.

  98. 98
    StephenB says:

    jdk:

    Looming in the background of the discussions about objective moral truths such as we are having in this thread are metaphysical beliefs such as presented here. Fairly obviously, people who don’t have the same or similar beliefs about this view will not agree about specific details.

    There are two things to consider here: First, the metaphysical approach, which proceeds from reality to the perceiver of reality, and second, the epistemological approach, which proceeds from the perceiver of reality to reality.

    So far, those of us who advocate reason and the natural moral law are, for the most part, taking the epistemological approach. We don’t begin by assuming the truth of our world view, we begin by acknowledging self evident truths and then we try to discern what that could mean.

    By contrast, the previous description of Catholicism and the NML relies more heavily on the metaphysical approach but also pays tribute to the epistemological approach. I included that section only to show that God’s natural revelation can be grasped through the use of reason unaided by Divine revelation. It was not meant to show that the natural moral law exists. That is strictly an epistemological exercise guided by unaided reason, but it is also something that is confirmed by religious faith

  99. 99
    Silver Asiatic says:

    BA 80 & 81 — good points, as always. Thanks.

  100. 100
    Antonin says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    Yes, true

    I sense a “but” coming… 🙂

    but the Divine Revelation of Our Lord was given to the apostles and handed on until today, without substantial change.

    And where does Our Lord stand on capital punishment? On wealth? On returning violence with violence? Going that extra mile?

    Yes, as knowledge grows, God reveals new aspects of teachings previously unknown. So yes, the Church reflects that. But a substantial contradiction in divine;y revealed teaching is not possible.

    How do you know this? If Our Lord returned to walk among us again, what might he say?

    It has never happened and cannot happen.

    Are you really a true believer? Have you read the Sermon on the Mount? Has the message changed?

  101. 101
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    Aquinas summarizing natural law:

    “good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.”

    The argument I use is just a development from this.

    1. The first steps in assessing what is good is an intellectual process – it occurs in the mind.
    2. Making the choice for good requires Intellectual Virtues.
    3. Intellectual virtues move towards “the good of the mind” – and the good of the mind is “conformity to truth”.

    That works for me, but I find nothing in that formulation that requires supernatural revelation. I think that the controversy between us stems from your use of the word “clearly.” This one word really does require some unpacking.

    Surely, even the pagan, who knows nothing of the bible, understands “clearly” that he should not murder, but he may not, at the same time, understand with equal clarity (or even at all) the importance of controlling his proclivity for anger, which can lead to murder. However, if he applies reason (or consults the New Testament), his understanding of the NML will deepen. None of this contradicts the idea that some elements of the NML can be understood apart from revelation.

    So, assessing and embracing the truth is a necessary moral virtue that enables the choice of good and evil. Conforming to the truth is an objective moral norm in itself.

    Yes. The point is that nature (and human nature) does provide some moral truths that are also confirmed by and improved on by Divine revelation. Everyone agrees, I gather, that the natural moral law does not contain “saving” information. However, one can be saved if that is all he has access to provided he follows truth as far as he can take it and provided he does not resist higher truths when presented to him.

  102. 102
    StephenB says:

    Antonin

    Yes, as knowledge grows, God reveals new aspects of teachings previously unknown. So yes, the Church reflects that. But a substantial contradiction in divine;y revealed teaching is not possible.

    That is correct. So if anyone, even a pope, tries to change the substance of any Catholic teaching, that teaching cannot be legitimate. It would mean that either the old teaching or the new teaching is in error and papal infallibility would be undermined. So if the Church teaches for 2000 years that the death penalty is not inherently evil, then any pope, including Francis, who says that it is would be out of line. So where is our disagreement?

    This discussion, however, is getting far afield from the subject of the natural moral law.

  103. 103
    StephenB says:

    Apologies for 102. I attributed SA’s comments to Antonin. Please disregard. What happened to our editing option?

  104. 104
    StephenB says:

    Antonin to Silver Asiatic

    How do you know this? If Our Lord returned to walk among us again, what might he say?

    Are you really a true believer? Have you read the Sermon on the Mount? Has the message changed?

    Antonin, everything Silver Asiatic says about unchaning and developing doctrine are true. None of your questions are relevant to those points.

  105. 105
    Antonin says:

    So if the Church teaches for 2000 years that the death penalty is not inherently evil…

    The taking of life not inherently evil? Do you want to rethink that? Are you really Catholic or are you pro-choice?

  106. 106
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Antonin

    And where does Our Lord stand on capital punishment? On wealth? On returning violence with violence? Going that extra mile?

    The Pope and the Church continue to sort that out and make it more clear and refined for each new generation. I think Pope Francis is reacting to the domination of the Anglo-Protestant empire in the world (via USA) and also trying to reconcile some aspects of theological modernism.

    How do you know this? If Our Lord returned to walk among us again, what might he say?

    I know this by Faith in the Church He founded – and in which He speaks and acts. He promised that He will not lie and deceive – His Church will not teach something evil one day and then correct it later. The death penalty, as StephenB pointed out, cannot be classified as intrinsically evil since it is permitted in some cases.

    Are you really a true believer? Have you read the Sermon on the Mount? Has the message changed?

    There’s nothing that Pope Francis can do to overturn truths that were given by Christ to the apostles. I don’t see where the Sermon on the Mount says anything different. In fact, we have the text of that sermon from the very same Church who codified the New Testament and declared it to be divinely revealed.

    “I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church … for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel” – St. Augustine
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1405.htm

  107. 107
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic

    I look at the implications just in terms of arguing with atheists. To focus on the natural law alone … as an abstraction, in my opinion is a very flimsy foundation for an argument. Yes, the pre-Christian philosophers used this, but we’ve got 2000 years of Christian thought that they didn’t have.

    When you approach an atheist with the proposition that Christians believe in natural law (many, perhaps most, by the way, do not) he will respond by saying what jdk says. “Sure you do, its part of your faith commitment. What is that do me.” But when you say that informed pagans (Aristotle, Cicero) also say so, and when they agree that some moral truths are self evident (needing no faith to grasp) that can be very persuasive.

  108. 108
    StephenB says:

    Antonin

    The taking of life not inherently evil?

    Not necessarily. You are permitted to take a life in self defense if there is no other way out. So it is with a soldier in battle. Didn’t you know that?

    Do you want to rethink that? Are you really Catholic or are you pro-choice?

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt just a little bit longer. Abortion is intrinsically evil because it is the deliberate and unecessary taking of an innocent human being. It has nothing to do with self defense. Please try to make the requisite intellectual distinctions.

  109. 109
    Antonin says:

    The Pope and the Church continue to sort that out and make it more clear and refined for each new generation. I think Pope Francis is reacting to the domination of the Anglo-Protestant empire in the world (via USA) and also trying to reconcile some aspects of theological modernism.

    Well, I hear the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ when the Holy Father speaks. Certainly the distortion of the Christian message promulgated by some US TV evangelists needs speaking against.

  110. 110
    Antonin says:

    He promised that He will not lie and deceive – His Church will not teach something evil one day and then correct it later. The death penalty, as StephenB pointed out, cannot be classified as intrinsically evil since it is permitted in some cases.

    You can’t, as a true Catholic, pick and choose. Life is sacred. All life, your own and everyone else’s from conception to natural death.

  111. 111
    Antonin says:

    …an innocent human being…

    Who are you to judge, Stephen?

  112. 112
    Antonin says:

    It has nothing to do with self defense. Please try to make the requisite intellectual distinctions.

    When Our Lord said “turn the other cheek” was He not speaking God’s will?

  113. 113
    Antonin says:

    There’s nothing that Pope Francis can do to overturn truths that were given by Christ to the apostles. I don’t see where the Sermon on the Mount says anything different. In fact, we have the text of that sermon from the very same Church who codified the New Testament and declared it to be divinely revealed.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ, His chosen apostles and the Holy Father speak with one voice, as far as I can see. Francis is trying to bring us back to those truths spoken on the Mount of Olives.

  114. 114
    StephenB says:

    Antonin:

    When Our Lord said “turn the other cheek” was He not speaking God’s will?

    Yes. He meant that we must control our fighting nature. He wasn’t preaching pacifism. Two thousand years of Catholic Teaching confirms that point.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church also makes it plain:

    2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”65

    2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

    If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.66

    2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

  115. 115
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    When you approach an atheist with the proposition that Christians believe in natural law (many, perhaps most, by the way, do not) he will respond by saying what jdk says. “Sure you do, its part of your faith commitment. What is that do me.” But when you say that informed pagans (Aristotle, Cicero) also say so, and when they agree that some moral truths are self evident (needing no faith to grasp) that can be very persuasive.

    I accept your view and experience as being valid for what you’ve seen. As I said, it’s a prudential judgement – basically “what works for me” in an argumentation.
    Yes, if an atheist will be open to Aristotle and other classical philosophers than that is the best way.
    I think an argument from authority like that is useful. We do it all the time – referencing evolutionists and atheistic scientists to argue from their point of view.

    I’m just not sure if today’s atheists really respect Aristotle and Cicero very much though. I think that if they did, they’d be much further along the pathway to theistic belief than they are.

    I wonder if argument from moral law is really any different (more or less effective) than arguing from the laws of logic (or math). The fact that logic gives rightness and wrongness seems to be the same point – that a transcendent collection of laws give order to the universe.

  116. 116
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Antonin

    Francis is trying to bring us back to those truths spoken on the Mount of Olives.

    Ok, but he has been asked to clarify (and justify) certain of his proclamations and he may discover that he was mistaken about some various points.
    At this moment, we do not know.

  117. 117
    StephenB says:

    SB: A baby is an “innocent human being.”

    Antonin:

    Who are you to judge, Stephen?

    I gather you don’t understand the difference between making rational judgments and making a moral judgment on the state of someone’s soul. In the former context, I exercise my judgment every day. You should try exercising yours.

  118. 118
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    I’m just not sure if today’s atheists really respect Aristotle and Cicero very much though. I think that if they did, they’d be much further along the pathway to theistic belief than they are.

    I understand your concern and I agree. To me, the question is this: How do we return to rationality while our culture remains steeped in the anti-intellectualism brought to us courtesy of most modern philosophers, who abandoned reason long ago. There is no way to return to the rational world view without, well – returning. I think the modern chaos is less about disagreeing with Aristotle, Plato, Cicero etc. (and Augustine and Aquinas) and more about ignoring them. Peter Kreeft calls it “chronological snobbery” – the false notion that the latest is always the best.

  119. 119
    Antonin says:

    He meant that we must control our fighting nature.

    Judicial murder is not self-defence. The killing is not “unintended”.

  120. 120
    Antonin says:

    I gather you don’t understand the difference between making rational judgments and making a moral judgment on the state of someone’s soul.

    I think you are playing fast and loose with the word “judgment”. Who are you to judge, Stephen?

    In the former context, I exercise my judgment every day. You should try exercising yours.

    I decide things in the course of my daily life. I don’t judge who should live or die, that’s for God to decide.

  121. 121
    StephenB says:

    Antonin:

    I think you are playing fast and loose with the word “judgment”. Who are you to judge, Stephen?

    I am morally entitled to judge anyone’s behavior, including yours. It is one’s ultimate intentions that I am not permitted to judge.

    Is this your way of ignoring my refutation of your claims about turning the other cheek @114.

  122. 122
    Antonin says:

    StephenB

    Is this your way of ignoring my refutation of your claims about turning the other cheek @114.

    My refutation of your refutation was posted at 119.

  123. 123
    StephenB says:

    Antonin

    Antonin

    My refutation of your refutation was posted at 119.

    Nonsense. You asserted that it is morally impermissible to take a human life for any reason. I refuted that claim.

    Judicial murder is not self-defence.

    No one ever said it was. Anyway, that doesn’t refute my point that a life may be taken in an act of self defense.

  124. 124
    StephenB says:

    Judicial murder is not self-defence.

    No one ever said it was. Anyway, that doesn’t refute my point that a life may be taken in an act of self defense.

  125. 125
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    Yes, most people do require information provided by Divine revelation to gain a *complete* understanding of the natural moral law, but almost everyone can grasp a *partial* understanding. If you have a partial understanding of NML, then you also understand that this same law does exist. Its basic logic.

    The existence of the natural law points to, and requires a law-giver. The lawgiver is God.

    So, if it is understood that the natural law exists, it must be accepted that God exists.

    Beyond this, one of the precepts of the natural law is that God must be worshiped and reverenced as Creator. For Plato this is the virtue of piety.

    If the worship and reverence of God is a natural, objective moral virtue (as Aquinas says), and natural laws are self-evident, then belief in the existence of God also must be self-evident.

    The natural law is self-evident. Of those objective laws, one must reverence the law-maker. Thus, the existence of the law-maker is self-evident.

  126. 126
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    Surely, even the pagan, who knows nothing of the bible, understands “clearly” that he should not murder, but he may not, at the same time, understand with equal clarity (or even at all) the importance of controlling his proclivity for anger, which can lead to murder.

    I think that’s correct, but it’s a different way of phrasing it than we usually see in the discussions here.

    The Catechism gave an example of the natural moral law as something like “theft is wrong”. Similar to as you say above, “we should not murder”.

    To me, that is what the natural law is – a generalized concept as a foundation for human action.

    Where the Catechism speaks of the need for revelation to gain clarity I believe that is for the greater specifics that the natural law alone cannot reveal.

    In any case, I agree with your view that the natural law has been unjustly ignored and we need to return.

  127. 127
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    Where the Catechism speaks of the need for revelation to gain clarity I believe that is for the greater specifics that the natural law alone cannot reveal.

    Yes, I agree once again. We certainly need Divine revelation, for example, to learn that we should love our enemies. We don’t get that kind of information from nature. It appears that we agree after all and that it was primarily the language that required further attention. Good discussion. Thanks.

  128. 128
    Mimus says:

    I’ll admit I haven’t read every post in this very long thread. But has any moral objectivist explained how they’d argue with their fellow objectivists from Saudia Arabia that murdering people because they are gay is wrong?

    How would such an argument weigh up to anything more than “personal preference” in religion?

  129. 129
    jdk says:

    Thanks, Mimus. You asked a question like this in 26, and the real Bob in 30.

    Any answers, moral objectivists?

  130. 130
    StephenB says:

    Mimus, jdk, @128, 129

    I addressed that issue @21.

  131. 131
    jdk says:

    In 21, Stephen, you explained what you would tell the Saudi. The Saudi would you tell you were wrong about the objective standard.

    Then what?

  132. 132
    Mimus says:

    I’m more interested in how this sort of reply is more than, to use Barry’s term, a personal preference for one religious moral code over another.

  133. 133
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mimus,

    As Stephen said, he answered your question very clearly. That you do not understand (or more probably, like) the answer is no one’s problem but your own.

  134. 134
    jdk says:

    Barry, do you think the Saudi would be convinced?

    More generally, how is one to choose which standard is correct, other to choose his own preference?

    The issue is not Stephens’ answer: the issue is that there is no objective way to determine whose “objective” standards are true. Each person is thus left with the subjective judgment that their notions of the objective standards are true.

    Instead of looking at this from your preferred view, step back and look at how the situation looks to someone who is dispassionate about the situation. Is there a way to determine whose notions of what is objective is the correct one?

  135. 135
    Mimus says:

    Perhaps you could explain it in your own words, Barry? When the Saudi says, “actually you have it wrong, it’s objectively right to kill gay people” what reply to you have that adds up to more than your personal preference informed in part by your upbringing and cultural background, for one religion over another?

  136. 136
    StephenB says:

    jdk:

    In 21, Stephen, you explained what you would tell the Saudi. The Saudi would you tell you were wrong about the objective standard.

    Then what?

    I would ask him *why* he thought I was wrong about the objective standard and form a response based on his answer. It hardly makes sense to answer an empty and mindless objection such as “you are wrong.”

  137. 137
    jdk says:

    Most likely the Saudi would invoke his religious documents, such as the Quran and the Hadith.

    But that is really irrelevant to the question to you and Barry.

    Assuming that he was somewhere as close to as committed to his views about his moral standards as you are to yours, neither of you would change the other’s mind. He claims there are objective standards that say the homosexual should be executed, and you say there are objective standards that say he shouldn’t.

    What then? Whose objective standards are right? Do you just accept that he has as much right to live by his objective standards as you do by yours? Or do you declare his are wrong, and if so, on what grounds?

    What attitude do you take about the situation at this point?

  138. 138
    Antonin says:

    StephenB

    Anyway, that doesn’t refute my point that a life may be taken in an act of self defense.

    That is your subjective opinion. I disagree. I am right.

  139. 139
    john_a_designer says:

    Without a transcendent standard for interpersonal moral obligations there is no basis for universal human rights. Nevertheless, the secular progressive left, which has no transcendent basis for morality, ethics or human rights because it is rooted in a mindless naturalistic metaphysic, has illegitimately co-opted the idea of human rights to push its perverted political agenda of so-called social justice. How can someone’s (or anyone’s) subjective opinion of right and wrong become the basis of universal human rights?

    Many of our regular interlocutors here have tried to argue that moral values are in fact subjective. But subjective values do not carry any kind of interpersonal moral obligation. They are your values not mine. They are simply arbitrary personal preferences. Why should I be obligated to even respect your personal opinion? How can one have something like universal human rights based on arbitrary subjective personal preferences? And what good is any kind of moral system if moral obligations are not real and binding?

    The U.S. founding fathers appear to have understood that ideologically motivated groups like the social justice warrior left (so-called factions) would try to subvert the political process. This is one reason why they made it difficult to amend the U.S. Constitution. For example, the first 10 amendments to the constitution, which were passed very quickly, (the so-called Bill of Rights) required a 2/3 vote in each house of congress as well as approval of ¾ of state legislatures. It appears the founders thought this would prevent a small vocal faction from subverting the will of the people. However, apparently they didn’t notice the loophole in article III that allowed Supreme Court judges to appropriate more power than was constitutionally granted to them. That’s the loophole that the SJW left has been able to exploit and is why they have used the courts to push their agenda. You don’t need to convince an overwhelming majority of people you are right– you don’t even need to convince a majority. All you need is to convince are a few sympathetic judges who share your “enlightened” group think. The problem is that is not representative or small-r republican government. That’s an oligarchy. An oligarchy is one of the types of government that takes away rights.

    Moral subjectivism provides no basis to create a broad based consensus which is necessary to protect fundamental human rights.

  140. 140
    jdk says:

    JAD, what are your answers to the questions being asked of Stephen about the Saudi who believes that there are objective moral standards that believe it is morally right to execute a homosexual, even though Stephen believes there are objective moral standards that say that would be wrong.

    How does anyone determine whose objective standards are right? How is it anything more than each person has a subjective preference for their own objective standards?

    What do you say to those points?

  141. 141
    asauber says:

    How does anyone determine whose objective standards are right?

    jdk,

    First you have to accept a thing called Truth, or you can’t begin to answer this question. If there is no Truth to be sought, you should go watch TV because the game is over.

    Andrew

  142. 142
    jdk says:

    Both people in this scenario believe in Truth, and believe they know what the Truth is. Have you read the posts from about 128 onward?

  143. 143
    asauber says:

    both people in this scenario believe in Truth

    jdk,

    You are getting ahead of where you need to start. Step one is recognizing that there is a Truth to be sought. Can we get that far for starters?

    Andrew

  144. 144
    jdk says:

    Both people in the scenario accept that.

  145. 145
    asauber says:

    Both people in the scenario accept that.

    jdk,

    You are being deliberately obtuse. The initial question is one of recognition, not belief or acceptance. Do you, jdk, recognize that there is a Truth to be sought?

    Simple yes or no.

    Andrew

  146. 146
    jdk says:

    This current discussion is not about me: it is about how Stephen and Barry would respond to the hypothetical Saudi in the OP.

  147. 147
    StephenB says:

    jdk:

    Most likely the Saudi would invoke his religious documents, such as the Quran and the Hadith.

    And I would reject it on the grounds that it violates reason and the natural moral law. Recall the main point: religious claims are based on revelation that must be believed, not which are not truths arrived at through reason. Recall my explanation about the difference between the metaphysical approach vs the epistemological approach.

    Assuming that he was somewhere as close to as committed to his views about his moral standards as you are to yours, neither of you would change the other’s mind.

    The difference is that I can provide good reasons for embracing my faith. The Islamist cannot. I am open to being refuted, the Islamist is not. They is why Islamists don’t debate. My philosophy is that no religion should be believed unless it first passes the test of reason. Islamists don’t feel that way.

    He claims there are objective standards that say the homosexual should be executed, and you say there are objective standards that say he shouldn’t.

    As I already noted, no one should submit his intellect and will to a religious world view unless that religion has first passed the test of reason. My religion meets that standard, his does not.

  148. 148
    StephenB says:

    Correction of a typo: I would reject (Islamist claims) on the grounds that they violate reason and the natural moral law. Recall the main point: religious claims are based on revelation that must be *believed*, not those truths that can be *understood* through the use of reason.

  149. 149
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    Both people in this scenario believe in Truth, and believe they know what the Truth is.

    Actually, that is not the case. The Islamist’s notion of truth is limited to a mindless faith commitmeent, while my understanding of truth is based on the integration of faith and reason. So there is no philosophical equivalency here.

  150. 150
    john_a_designer says:

    Here is an argument I have presented before at UD which I think is worth repeating here for some context.

    Only if an eternally existing transcendent moral standard exists is there any basis for universal human rights.

    Metaphysically atheistic naturalism/ materialism does not accept the existence of an eternally existing transcendent moral standard.

    Therefore, atheistic naturalism/ materialism does not have a basis for universal human rights.

    Please notice what I am not arguing:

    (1.) That atheists do not believe in human rights. Many do and do so sincerely if not very strongly. But strongly held beliefs and opinions are not the same as moral obligations. (How am I or anyone obligated to your personal opinions?) Human rights are moral obligations. Atheistic naturalism/materialism has no logical basis for human rights.

    (2.) That atheists do not have human rights. They do. Again the argument is that they have no BASIS for human rights or any kind of objective moral standard.

    (3.) That Christian theism is the only possible basis for universal human rights. Rather the argument is that the standard needs to be an eternally existing transcendent one. Platonic philosophy, for example, at least appears to provide such a standard. Are there others? Apparently so. However, I do believe that Judeo-Christian moral teaching provides a better grounding than Platonic philosophy or any other world view.

    Obviously any kind of antirealist or moral subjectivist view is in even worse shape than an atheistic world view. It’s basically moral nihilism.

  151. 151
    Mimus says:

    My philosophy is that no religion should be believed unless it first passes the test of reason. Islamists don’t feel that way.

    So you have nothing to offer other than a personal preference for one philosophy over another?

  152. 152
    jdk says:

    I am not knowledgeable about how an Islamist would justify their beliefs, and I certainly don’t intend to defend Islam on this issue.

    The key point for me is that Stephen thinks that his use of reason and access to what he considers natural law is right, but that Islam, even if, as is likely, it adds arguments about reason to its invoking of the word of holy works, is false.

    That is a preferred choice of Stephen’s: even within Christianity there are arguments about the relative merits of reason and revelation.

    So my conclusion is the same as before: there is no objective way to judge between competing claims of access to what are believed to be objective moral standards. Everyone makes choices about their preferred beliefs, as Steven has done. His are well thought out and solidly in the tradition of Western philosophy and theology, but ultimately they are a subjective chosen preference.

    (Mimus just said this much more succinctly than I did.)

    Due to some business concerns that have come up in my life, my playtime is over and I’m bowing out of UD for a while. I benefitted from various parts of the discussion, but I need to quit spending time on this recreational activity.

    Either Stephen can let this stand as the last word, or offer again his closing statement.

  153. 153
    StephenB says:

    SB: My philosophy is that no religion should be believed unless it first passes the test of reason. Islamists don’t feel that way.

    Mimus: So you have nothing to offer other than a personal preference for one philosophy over another?

    Bad logic. What you say doesn’t follow from what I said. Try again. Respond to the substance of my statement.

    Do you agree that a moral view should be taken on faith alone or do you agree that such a world view is inferior to one that is grounded in reason? If the former is inferior to the latter, then do you also agree that it is not morally equivalent to it?

  154. 154
    Bob O'H says:

    StephenB @ 147 –

    Recall the main point: religious claims are based on revelation that must be believed, not which are not truths arrived at through reason.

    StephenB also @ 147 –

    My philosophy is that no religion should be believed unless it first passes the test of reason.

    These comments look really contradictory. How do you reconcile them?

  155. 155
    StephenB says:

    jdk:

    I am not knowledgeable about how an Islamist would justify their beliefs, and I certainly don’t intend to defend Islam on this issue.

    You are missing the point. The Islamist cannot justify his belief at all because his world view commands submission even before any type of investigation has been made. Thus, it is inferior to any world view that submits to the test of reason, passes it, and then, and only then, asks for (not demands) acceptance.

    The key point for me is that Stephen thinks that his use of reason and access to what he considers natural law is right, but that Islam, even if, as is likely, it adds arguments about reason to its invoking of the word of holy works, is false.

    It is rather odd that you begin by saying that you know nothing of Islam and follow by telling us what the Islamist would likely do.

    So my conclusion is the same as before: there is no objective way to judge between competing claims of access to what are believed to be objective moral standards. Everyone makes choices about their preferred beliefs, as Steven has done. His are well thought out and solidly in the tradition of Western philosophy and theology, but ultimately they are a subjective chosen preference.

    Obviously, that is not true since you renounce the very nature of reasoned arguments, which depend on objective referents for legitimacy. Subjectivism proceeds from one preference to another without employing logic’s objective standards.

    Indeed, all logical and moral truths that are apprehended begin with self-evident truths. You deny the human capacity to apprehend those self evident truths and even claim that no such thing as objective truth exists. ***If, after all, objective metaphysical truth exists, it follows that objective moral truth must also exist.*** To deny the latter is to deny the former.

    So while it is true for you that personal preferences rule your life, it is not true for me. I would prefer a religion that doesn’t require suffering, but I don’t follow that preference because I value truth more. I would prefer a religion that doesn’t prompt secularists to persecute me, but I value truth more than popularity.

    On the other hand, you have chosen a subjective amoral standard that conveniently conforms to your personal behavior standards and patters, which renders you immune from any moral challenge that would allow you to change for the better or grow morally. It is impossible for a subjectivist to grow morally because he recognizes no objective moral target that is worth aiming for.

  156. 156
    Mimus says:

    Do you agree that a moral view should be taken on faith alone or do you agree that such a world view is inferior to one that is grounded in reason? If the former is inferior to the latter, then do you also agree that it is not morally equivalent to it?

    What I believe is neither hear nor there. Barry’s bluster and general dick-ish-ness in this thread are all based on the idea that subjective morality provides no way to argue against murdering gay people. In his own words, there is only “personal preference” for not murdering people for their sexual orientation.

    Barry has now disappeared from the thread. You are the only person left arguring for moral objectivism, but the only argument you could offer to the saudi amounts to your “personal preference” for one philosophy over another. Perhaps you can make an argument that you think makes your philosophy better than another. But then so can a moral sujectivist. So we are back to choosing a moral system that fits your personal preference. All of Barry’s bluster adds up to nothing.

  157. 157
    john_a_designer says:

    How do we know a moral subjectivist is being honest when he is the one who sets the standards of honesty? It’s one thing if he sets a standard for himself. It’s quite another when he tries to impose his personal standards on everyone else. In other words, if he makes the claim he is being honest in an interpersonal way he can only do so by using a standard beside his own personal standard but that undermines his moral subjectivist claims. This is why I try to avoid getting involved in discussion with moral subjectivists. It would be a total waste of time.

    By the way, we could not have a functioning society without an interpersonal standard of truth and honesty. The courts, criminal justice, government, business and commerce etc. all depend on it.

  158. 158
    StephenB says:

    Bob O’H citing my comments:

    StephenB @ 147 –

    Recall the main point: religious claims are based on revelation that must be believed, not which are not truths arrived at through reason.

    StephenB also @ 147 –

    My philosophy is that no religion should be believed unless it first passes the test of reason.

    These comments look really contradictory. How do you reconcile them?

    The first statement was a typo. I noticed and corrected it @148, which reads”

    Correction of a typo: I would reject (Islamist claims) on the grounds that they violate reason and the natural moral law. Recall the main point: religious claims are based on revelation that must be *believed*, not those truths that can be *understood* through the use of reason.

    This is consistent with my statement “that that no religion should be believed unless it first passes the test of reason.”

  159. 159
    StephenB says:

    Bob O”H asking about two of my comments:

    StephenB @ 147 –

    Recall the main point: religious claims are based on revelation that must be believed, not which are not truths arrived at through reason.

    StephenB also @ 147 –

    My philosophy is that no religion should be believed unless it first passes the test of reason.

    These comments look really contradictory. How do you reconcile them?

    The first statement was a typo. I noticed and corrected it @148, which reads”

    Correction of a typo: I would reject (Islamist claims) on the grounds that they violate reason and the natural moral law. Recall the main point: religious claims are based on revelation that must be *believed*, not those truths that can be *understood* through the use of reason.

    This is consistent with my statement “that that no religion should be believed unless it first passes the test of reason.”

  160. 160
    StephenB says:

    What I believe is neither hear nor there.

    Yes it is. If you cannot answer a simple question, then you are not communicating in good faith. Go back and try again.

    Barry’s bluster and general dick-ish-ness in this thread are all based on the idea that subjective morality provides no way to argue against murdering gay people.

    I love the way subjectivists like yourself refute their own philosophy every time the criticize Barry’s “wrong” behavior.

    In any case, Barry is exactly right. The subjectivist pacifist has no rational grounds for criticizing the subjectivist who chooses to murder. Both are following the subjectivist standard: “My morality is justified on the grounds that it is my morality.” You are the one that cannot defend your position because you cannot answer that point. On what rational grounds do you criticize Barry’s behavior?

    In his own words, there is only “personal preference” for not murdering people for their sexual orientation.

    Barry is right. Without objective moral standards, personal preferences are all that remain.

    Barry has now disappeared from the thread. You are the only person left arguring for moral objectivism, but the only argument you could offer to the saudi amounts to your “personal preference” for one philosophy over another.

    That isn’t true. I made it perfectly clear that the Saudi’s position violates the natural moral law, which forbids murder. Indeed, the Saudi’s morality, insofar as it ignores the inherent dignity of the human person, is really based on subjective preferences, not objective morality.

  161. 161
    Mimus says:

    That isn’t true. I made it perfectly clear that the Saudi’s position violates the natural moral law, which forbids murder.

    Yes, you made it clear that’s your philosophy. In this case the Saudi has another one. For him, the prophets teaching are the word of god and so a direct command from the source of objective moral truth. You prefer natural moral law, he prefers the prophet’s teaching. Now what?

  162. 162
    StephenB says:

    Yes, you made it clear that’s your philosophy.

    No, it is THE moral law, not my moral law. Indeed, you even appeal to that same objective moral law yourself every time you lament the murder of homosexuals, or for that matter, when you criticize Barry’s allegedly bad behavior. You appeal to pure objective morality when your ox is being gored.

    Like jdk, you admit murder “is wrong” when you are pressed, but once the heat is off, you revert back to your subjectivism, hoping that no one will notice the contrast- as if you really believed it, which of course, you don’t.

    Then, like the Saudi, you make it up as you go along, Just as Mohammed made it up as he went along. That is the irony. The religion that you criticize operates by the same principle that you do, i.e., morality is whatever I want it to be – until the next time my ox is gored.

  163. 163
    Mimus says:

    No, it is THE moral law, not my moral law.

    And the Saudi would say the same.

  164. 164
    StephenB says:

    And the Saudi would say the same.

    No, he would not. The Islamist, insofar as he tries to justify the act of murder, does not acknowledge the natural moral law, which forbids it.

  165. 165
    anthropic says:

    According to orthodox Sunni doctrine, Allah is neither rational, loving (at least to infidels), nor moral. He is pure will and power, to which we owe unquestioning & unthinking obedience. Indeed, the very word Muslim means “one who submits.”

    The God of the Bible is different, to put it mildly.

    The only way to be certain of paradise under Islam is for us to die for Allah. By contrast, the only way to be certain of paradise under Christianity was for God to die for us.

  166. 166
    MatSpirit says:

    StephenB: “No, it is THE moral law, not my moral law.”

    Stephen, I think there’s a lot of talking past each other going on here. You speak about THE moral law, which sounds like something we should all know about, but nobody ever tells us what THE moral law actually is. Where can a man find this law? Are you talking about a book, like the Bible or Koran or Book of Mormon? Or maybe church tradition? Teachings of the saints? A sermon? Surely you have something more than just your opinion?

    What would really help this discussion would be for someone like yourself to list the main principles of THE moral law and give us some information on where this moral law comes from and what justifies it. If they then gave us a worked example of how this law is applied to a real life problem, such as “Should we kill this homosexual or not?”, we’d be ready for a productive discussion.

    So far, we’ve just been given conclusions various believers have derived from their version of THE moral law, like “Kill the homosexuals,” if they’re a Muslim or fundamentalist Christian or “Don’t kill the homosexuals” if they’re a liberal Christian or you or Barry, but no one has shown the principles or shown their work applying them.

    On the other hand, the athiests on this blog have also given us their conclusions without showing their work or giving us the slightest clue about what their principles are or how they were applied! Honestly guys, it’s embarassing!

    Speaking as a fellow athiest, I assure you that you DO have a moral system (although you obviously don’t know what it is),and it IS an objective morality (That is, “Not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.”)

    If Stephen will start stating the principles of his morality and showing how they lead to “Don’t kill the homosexuals,” I’ll do the same with objective morality and we’ll all know more than we do now.

  167. 167
    Bob O'H says:

    StephenB @ 158 – thanks for the clarification, but I’m still not understanding it. If “religious claims are based on revelation that must be *believed*, not those truths that can be *understood* through the use of reason”, then the test of reason (“that that no religion should be believed unless it first passes the test of reason.”) doesn’t make sense, as these truths are not arrived at through reason. I’m perplexed.

  168. 168
    Antonin says:

    …nobody ever tells us what THE moral law actually is. Where can a man find this law? Are you talking about a book, like the Bible or Koran or Book of Mormon?

    I stated it above. The truth comes from the teachings of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, most eloquently in the Sermon on the Mount.

    This is the Truth.

  169. 169
    Antonin says:

    If “religious claims are based on revelation that must be *believed*, not those truths that can be *understood* through the use of reason”, then the test of reason (“that that no religion should be believed unless it first passes the test of reason.”) doesn’t make sense, as these truths are not arrived at through reason. I’m perplexed.

    StephenB is wrong. The Sermon on the Mount is absolute Truth and The Moral Law.

  170. 170
    StephenB says:

    There is a great deal of confusion above and the same answer should suffice for everyone. The natural moral law is perceived by everyone (except those who have been psychologically harmed or have harmed themselves through habitual vice). Among other things, this law forbids murder, including the murder of homosexuals.

    This same law has been made explicit and more complete in the Christian religion in the form of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, the latter formulation going deeper forbidding also the hate mentality that would lead to murder. So both laws are true, but each is arrived at in a different way. The natural moral law is apprehended by way of reason and the Biblical moral law it received by faith.

    If the Saudi believes that it is morally permissible to murder homosexuals. then he does so on the grounds that some Supernatural law, – an interpretation of some passage in the Koran – gives him that right. Thus, his false perception of some Divine law is different from the Natural Moral Law, which can be apprehended by reason. But the Divine law is and must be consistent with the natural moral law. Moral truth is moral truth. That is why the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are consistent with the Natural Moral Law.

    The Natural Moral Law, then, which is known, can be used as a partial test for ascertaining the truth of any given religion. If, for example, the Christian religion is consistent with the NML, which it is, and is inconsistent with the Saudi’s religious formulation, which it also is, then we know that the former world view is true to that extent and the latter is false to that extent, which means that Christianity passed the test of reason in that context and the Saudi’s religion did not.

    This test is important because it rescues those who are searching for the truth from the mindless claim that they should “just believe” in a certain religious world view without asking any critical questions about it. No one should ever submit his intellect and will to a false religion. On the other hand, if a religion happens to be true, then it should be believed and embraced.

  171. 171
    StephenB says:

    Correction of the above paragraph, which was written to hastily. (Written primarily for Bob O’J) It should read as follows:

    If, for example, the Christian religion is consistent with the NML, which it is, and the Saudi’s religious formulation is not, then we know that the former world view is true to that extent and the latter is false to that extent, which means that Christianity passed the test of reason in that context and the Saudi’s religion did not.

  172. 172
    john_a_designer says:

    A moral subjectivist believes there are NO OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES. Again that means there are no real interpersonal moral obligations, therefore, there is no basis for universal human rights. That is their perspective not mine. I would argue that they have rights even if they don’t believe that. They’re the one who are arguing that nobody really has any rights. Moral subjectivism is a very irrational self-refuting moral perspective. I have every right to criticize that kind of thinking, even if I doesn’t come across as being nice or “civil.” I am not very patient with people who show up online peddling nothing but nonsense.

    The purpose of my life is to help make a better world. However, you can’t make a better world if there is no moral truth or no real basis for universal human rights. Moral subjectivism is a morally and intellectually bankrupt way of thinking that is based on egocentric self-righteousness that cannot be defended rationally or logically. As I have pointed out early it’s self-refuting.
    Please notice that those who believe morality is subjective are making a self-refuting argument.
    They are arguing that there are no true and “objective” moral values and obligations. But the premise there are no true and “objective moral values and obligations is a universal truth claim about morality. But how can subjective opinions and beliefs be universal?
    This is logic 101. If you fail to posit a self-evidently true premise your argument fails on logical grounds. Logical contradictions can’t be true. Moral subjectivism fails because it is based on a self-refuting, therefore, irrational claims.

    Actually, it’s a “morality” based on egocentric self-righteousness being used to justify immorality, intolerance and contempt for ones fellow man. Furthermore, if it’s subjective why do you feel compelled to try to convince anyone else that it’s true? (Again that is logically self-refuting.) Obviously what is true for you is not necessarily true for anyone else. Moral subjectivism is not based on reason but on rationalization. Your rationalization does not refute that there really is objective moral truth and, therefore, a solid basis for universal human rights. Irrational egocentric moral subjectivism, on the other hand, offers no way to improve the world.

  173. 173
    john_a_designer says:

    The purpose of my life is to help make a better world. However, you can’t make a better world if there is no moral truth or no real basis for universal human rights. Moral subjectivism is a morally and intellectually bankrupt way of thinking that is based on egocentric self-righteousness that cannot be defended rationally or logically. As I have pointed out earlier it’s self-refuting.

    Please notice that those who believe morality is subjective are making a self-refuting argument. They are arguing that there are no true and “objective” moral values and obligations. But the premise there are no true and “objective moral values and obligations is a universal truth claim about morality. But how can subjective opinions and beliefs be universal?

    This is logic 101. If you fail to posit a self-evidently true premise your argument fails on logical grounds. Logical contradictions can’t be true. Moral subjectivism fails because it is based on a self-refuting, therefore, irrational claims.

    Actually, it’s a “morality” based on egocentric self-righteousness being used to justify immorality, intolerance and contempt for ones fellow man. Furthermore, if it’s subjective why do you feel compelled to try to convince anyone else that it’s true? (Again that is logically self-refuting.) Obviously what is true for you is not necessarily true for anyone else. Moral subjectivism is not based on reason but on rationalization. Your rationalization does not refute that there really is objective moral truth and, therefore, a solid basis for universal human rights. Irrational egocentric moral subjectivism, on the other hand, offers no way to improve the world.

  174. 174
    john_a_designer says:

    Moderator: Sorry, I got a warning about a double posting which would not allow me to edit #172, which I have condensed and re-posted as 173. Please delete the original 172

  175. 175
    StephenB says:

    john a designer:

    If you fail to posit a self-evidently true premise your argument fails on logical grounds. Logical contradictions can’t be true. Moral subjectivism fails because it is based on a self-refuting, therefore, irrational claims.

    JAD, you are right, of course. This is a point that subjectivists miss in the most spectacular manner. Without self-evident truths underlying the entire logical/moral enterprise, there can be no reasoning about moral truth or anything else. I suspect that subjectivists don’t understand what the words “true premise” mean or what a “sound arguments” consists of.

  176. 176
    Eugen says:

    There is a lot for layman to learn from this interesting discussion. It would be good to see a formal argument for subjective morality from our philosophically trained or inclined atheist friends. Or at least some argument against natural moral law….so far not much in either department.

  177. 177
    john_a_designer says:

    I said earlier that the natural law view of morality doesn’t mean there aren’t disagreements about natural law. There have been, there are and there will be disagreements. However, it can’t be argued that the natural law view has not been foundational to western thinking about morality and human rights for the last 2500 years. Its roots go all the way back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

    One of the major differences I see between Islamic thinking and western Christian thinking was that Christians accepted NML while Islam did not. Human rights in the west are based on a culturally broad based view of natural moral law that has been heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian thinking and doctrine. The question is, why? Islam scholars, after all, were not disinterested in Greek thought which contain important threads of NML. Much of Greek knowledge about science, mathematics and medicine would have been lost if he hadn’t been preserved by Islamic scholars. Not only did they preserve this knowledge but they made important advance of their own, in optics, alchemy, mathematics and astronomy. For example, the Arabs were the ones who invented algebra and were the first to make accurate calculations of longitude and the solar year, among many other contributions. For some reason they weren’t interested in Plato and Aristotle’s thinking about morality and ethics.

    So even though Islam embraces an objective moral code it does not accept NML, which is the basis for the idea of universal human rights. Morally speaking, if humans do not have value and worth, that’s not a better moral code. However, you can only decide between moral codes if there is some kind of overarching standard. That’s something moral subjectivists don’t have because they reject it a priori.

  178. 178
    MatSpirit says:

    StephenB, I’m a little bit disappointed with your moral system.  The Sermon on the Mount is basically Jesus’ variations and fugue on the Golden Rule.  (Along with some silly bits.  The meek have not noticably inherited the earth, for instance, but then its only been 2000 years so there’s still a chance.)

    This is interesting, because the Golden Rule is the basis of my morality too.  It’s totally secular, it’s perceived directly by just about every one and according to Wikipedia, it’s been known since at least Confucian times, 500 years before Jesus was born.

    “If the Saudi believes that it is morally permissible to murder homosexuals. then he does so on the grounds that some Supernatural law, – an interpretation of some passage in the Koran – gives him that right.”  I dont know much about the Koran, but if that Saudi can’t find his copy, he can borrow a Bible and justify his murders with Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” to justify killing every homosexual he can catch.

    He might find solace in the New Testament, too.  As Paul says in (Romans 1:26,27) “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”  He doesnt quite call for killing them, but “due penalty for their error” sounds pretty ominous.

    “…his false perception of some Divine law is different from the Natural Moral Law, which can be apprehended by reason.”  His FALSE perception of some Divine law?   What about Leviticus 20:13?  That commandment comes directly from the Lord by way of Moses!  I’d be real interested in seeing your reasoning here.

    ” No one should ever submit his intellect and will to a false religion. On the other hand, if a religion happens to be true, then it should be believed and embraced.”  I totally agree, but I hope you’ll show your reasoning here.  How do you justify disobeying a direct order from God, an order given through Moses, no less?  I’m not condeming you here, I think you’re doing the right thing, but I’d like to see how you justify it.

  179. 179
    MatSpirit says:

    Eugen, I don’t think you’ll ever see “… a formal argument for subjective morality from our philosophically trained or inclined atheist friends.” because I’ve never heard of an athiest who espoused subjective morality. That’s just an insult Barry and others throw at people who disagree with them.

    Then they say subjective morality is self refuting and athiests don’t understand what the words “true premise” mean or what a “sound arguments” consists of.

    Saves a lot of tiresome reasoning on their part.

  180. 180
    StephenB says:

    Mat Spirit

    How do you justify disobeying a direct order from God, an order given through Moses, no less? I’m not condeming you here, I think you’re doing the right thing, but I’d like to see how you justify it.

    In several sections of the Old Testament, God commanded the execution of certain groups of people, presumably as a way of directing salvation history in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. In some cases, even children were part of the collateral damage. God is the author of life so it is his prerogative to provide continued existence to or withdraw it from whomever He chooses. It may well be that those who were killed were also saved and would have lost their souls if they had been allowed to live. There are many other reasons why God might choose such actions.

    For humans in this day and age, there is no such right to kill, except in self defense, because humans are not the author of life and, therefore, have no right to take it without a good reason. If God gave someone a direct order, that would change things a great deal, but that doesn’t seem to happen in modern times or even in New Testament times.

    Indeed, while adulterers were also subject to execution in the Old Testament, Jesus responded quite differently in the New Testament on that occasion when the Jews were about to stone to death a woman caught in adultery. He literally shamed her accusers and saved her life in the process. Under the circumstances, I think it is safe to say that he would have done the same thing for the homosexual. He would have said, “go and sin no more.” I think Christians should act the same way. We should not murder homosexuals, but we should warn them that their sin will send them to hell if they do not repent and mend their ways. That is what is means to be charitable. Tell the hard truths to those who need to hear it.

  181. 181
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Eugen

    There is a lot for layman to learn from this interesting discussion. It would be good to see a formal argument for subjective morality from our philosophically trained or inclined atheist friends. Or at least some argument against natural moral law….so far not much in either department.

    I attempted something in #96

  182. 182
    Silver Asiatic says:

    asauber 141

    First you have to accept a thing called Truth, or you can’t begin to answer this question.

    Right. The acceptance that Truth has a greater moral goodness as a value is a universal, objective moral norm. It is impossible to refute this or argue against it. To do so, one would have to deny the truth of their own inner thoughts and their own arguments.
    All humanity affirms the goodness of truth – the necessity of it. Universal – natural law.

    jdk

    Both people in this scenario believe in Truth, and believe they know what the Truth is.

    You’re affirming an objective moral norm. It is not subjective. You cannot subjectively state that the truth has equivalency to falsehood. This is the basis of the intellectual virtues – of integrity.

  183. 183
    Silver Asiatic says:

    As for Saudi’s and murder of gays …

    The universal moral norm is “murder is a moral evil”.

    Islam accepts this.

    However, killing a human being is not always murder.
    There is killing of combatants, killing in self-defense, and just vindication against sin.

    As for whether or not homosexuality is deserving the death penalty — that level of precision is not something the natural moral law (which is generalized norms) can deliberate.

    As the Catholic Catechism states – “revelation” – so teaching from God, is required to sort out details.

    “Murder is evil” – that’s the objective moral norm. All humanity understands and accepts.

    Convincing a Saudi that their views are wrong requires some level of theological discussion, starting with an understanding of the origin of Islam, it’s founder, its meaning, etc.

  184. 184
    MatSpirit says:

    StephenB: “God is the author of life so it is his prerogative to provide continued existence to or withdraw it from whomever He chooses.”

    That’s just ‘Might makes right’ reformulated. It doesn’t measure up to the Golden Rule. Think of it like this: If you breed dogs, you are the author of those dog’s lives. If you hadn’t brought the dog’s parents together, they wouldn’t have mated and their puppies would have never been born.

    But if you think this gives you the right to torture one of those puppies to death, you’re (hopefully) going to get arrested, tried and justifiably punished and the community is going to think of you as that immoral puppy torturer and warn their kids to keep away from you. And that’s just puppies. If you kill people, they’ll lock you up and deservidly so. Same-same God.

    One of the reasons athiests aren’t impressed with Christian morality is because it’s shot through with totally unsupportable illogical exceptions to excuse your God’s nasty, immoral behavior.

    Here’s an example: in 170, you write that Natural Moral Law “has been made explicit and more complete in the Christian religion in the form of the Ten Commandments …”

    Really? Look at Exodus 20:5, right in the middle of the ten commandments:

    “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;”

    Is this really part of the Natural Moral Law? Punishing children for something their great grandfathers did?

    You’ve got a problem here.

  185. 185
    StephenB says:

    Mat SpiritThat’s just ‘Might makes right’ reformulated. It doesn’t measure up to the Golden Rule.

    Incorrect. Might makes right implies that power can justify any action on that basis alone. If God chooses to withdraw life for a good reason, then it His wisdom, not his power, that justifies that act.

    Meanwhile, the Golden rule is a good standard, but it is incomplete. More details are needed.

    Think of it like this: If you breed dogs, you are the author of those dog’s lives.

    No. God, not the breeding, is responsible for all life. The artificial selection process cannot produce life, it can only influence the finished product.

    Here’s an example: in 170, you write that Natural Moral Law “has been made explicit and more complete in the Christian religion in the form of the Ten Commandments …”

    Really?

    Yes, really.

    “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;”

    Is this really part of the Natural Moral Law?

    No. Just because the natural moral law is made explicit in the Bible doesn’t mean that everything in the bible is the natural moral law. That is yet another logical error on your part.

    Punishing children for something their great grandfathers did?

    You’ve got a problem here.

    Not at all. Children always pay for the sins of their fathers and grandfathers. Didn’t you know that? It is called cause and effect.

  186. 186
    StephenB says:

    SB: “God is the author of life so it is his prerogative to provide continued existence to or withdraw it from whomever He chooses.”

    Mat Spirit

    That’s just ‘Might makes right’ reformulated. It doesn’t measure up to the Golden Rule.

    Incorrect. Might makes right implies that power can justify any action on that basis alone. If God chooses to withdraw life for a good reason, then it His wisdom, not his power, that justifies that act.

  187. 187
    OldAndrew says:

    This same law has been made explicit and more complete in the Christian religion in the form of the Ten Commandments…

    This is incoherent. The ten commandments include obeying the Sabbath. God said that it was to serve as a sign between him and the nation of Israel. (That actually was explicit.) Before that it didn’t exist. After the nation of Israel it doesn’t exist.

    It was a commandment with a specific purpose. It was never a “natural moral law.”

    You say, “The natural moral law is perceived by everyone (except those who have been psychologically harmed or have harmed themselves through habitual vice).”

    IOW you’ve said that the need to observe the sabbath is perceived by everyone (except those who have been psychologically harmed or have harmed themselves through habitual vice).

    That makes no sense, not in the context of the actual commandment to observe the sabbath, and not in any other.

    I’m not a “subjectivist.” But I don’t think that anyone should make decisions about what is right or wrong based on reasoning that makes no sense.

  188. 188
    Silver Asiatic says:

    OldAndrew

    The ten commandments include obeying the Sabbath. God said that it was to serve as a sign between him and the nation of Israel. (That actually was explicit.) Before that it didn’t exist. After the nation of Israel it doesn’t exist.

    I explained this in another thread. The natural moral law here is not the specific of the Sabbath (or even more specific, which actual day – Saturday or Sunday). That’s an application of the general law: “It is necessary to worship God”. That the objective moral law. All humanity recognizes it, and it existed before Israel.

    The specifics on “how to worship” – include the Sabbath, as well as ritual offerings. Those are changeable, since, as you rightly point out – they came into existence after a time in human history.

  189. 189
    OldAndrew says:

    SA,

    That’s an application of the general law: “It is necessary to worship God”. That the objective moral law.

    I wholeheartedly agree. To me that hits the nail on the head.

    But it exposes this statement as inaccurate…

    This same law has been made explicit and more complete in the Christian religion in the form of the Ten Commandments…

    …since one can obey that natural moral law without obeying that commandment.

    What does this mean to you, and to me? I think it means that to obey God as we understand him is our law. If we believe that it’s natural that we should obey God, then we can call it a natural moral law. If someone believes that they should observe the sabbath, then one could say that they’re doing so as an extension of that natural law.

    It also means that when we say that ‘the natural law prohibits X’, we’re really expressing conviction that our particular religious beliefs are correct. And we should have that conviction.

    But it makes it a more difficult to argue the specifics to someone who doesn’t share those beliefs. If we say that Muslims executing homosexuals violates the natural law because Christians believe that God doesn’t want us to do that, what we’re really saying is that Christianity is correct and Islam is wrong.

    And that’s fine too. But then if we turn around and say that Islam is wrong because it violates the natural moral law, that’s circular. We’re saying that we’re right, and that it logically proves that someone who believes otherwise is wrong.

    We can be right but use faulty reasoning in an attempt to prove it. That’s what’s happening here, and everyone sees through it. Using the execution of homosexuals creates an emotionally charged false choice. If you agree that Saudis killing homosexuals is wrong then you must agree that Christianity beats Islam. If you don’t agree then you’re a killer. And if you agree that it’s wrong but you don’t agree that it’s because of the moral law of Christianity then you’re a subjectivist, you don’t really believe anything, and you’re no better than a killer.

    It’s a cleverly contrived smokescreen, and everyone sees through it. What I find really repugnant, though, is that some people are just using it as a way to elevate themselves above others, bashing them over and over and telling them how their honest aversion to harming others is meaningless. That’s perverse.

  190. 190
    MatSpirit says:

    StephenB, let me see if I understand you. Natural Moral Law is the key to all morality. The NML is, “made explicit and more complete in the Christian religion in the form of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount”.

    But now we look at the Ten Commandments and see that punishing great grand children for the sins of their great grandfathers is listed as something God does. You (rather lamely, in my opinion) defend that while I test it with the Golden Rule and find it highly immoral.

    This is not looking too good for Christian morality.

    Then you say, “Just because the natural moral law is made explicit in the Bible doesn’t mean that everything in the bible is the natural moral law. That is yet another logical error on your part.”

    I dont think the logical errors are on my end.

    As for the poor puppies, you seem to be saying that God owns them and He can do anything He wants to with them. Well sorry, but puppy torturing definitely fails the Golden Rule test.

    It might help to clarify your thinking if you told us the procedure you use to separate the parts of the Bible that constitute the Natural Moral Law from the rest of the Bible.

  191. 191
    StephenB says:

    Mat Spirit

    StephenB, let me see if I understand you. Natural Moral Law is the key to all morality.

    No, you do not understand me. The natural moral law can be understood through the human conscience and unaided reason, but it makes up only a part of Christian morality.

    Christian morality also contains supernatural truths that must be revealed and accepted on faith. They cannot be arrived at by reason alone. The natural moral law teaches us how to practice natural virtue; the revealed truths help us to know what we must do to be saved.

    But now we look at the Ten Commandments and see that punishing great grand children for the sins of their great grandfathers is listed as something God does.

    Bad logic. The Ten Commandments have nothing to do with the punishment of great grandchildren.

    As for the poor puppies, you seem to be saying that God owns them and He can do anything He wants to with them. Well sorry, but puppy torturing definitely fails the Golden Rule test.

    No, I am not saying that. God does not or would not torture puppies. Indeed, I didn’t say anything at all about puppies. You just made that up. You seem to be arguing against yourself and doing it rather poorly.

  192. 192
    StephenB says:

    Old Andrew:

    Old Andrew

    The ten commandments include obeying the Sabbath. God said that it was to serve as a sign between him and the nation of Israel. (That actually was explicit.) Before that it didn’t exist. After the nation of Israel it doesn’t exist.

    The natural moral law hints at these things and the Bible makes them more explicit and provides more details. The natural moral law leads to natural virtue; the bible leads to supernatural salvation. The two points work very well together.

    It was a commandment with a specific purpose. It was never a “natural moral law.”

    The natural moral law is something that can be understood even by those who have never heard of the bible.

    IOW you’ve said that the need to observe the sabbath is perceived by everyone (except those who have been psychologically harmed or have harmed themselves through habitual vice).

    I didn’t say that at all. The natural moral law provides principles, not details.

    I’m not a “subjectivist.” But I don’t think that anyone should make decisions about what is right or wrong based on reasoning that makes no sense.

    The natural moral law makes perfect sense.

  193. 193
    Seversky says:

    Speaking for myself, I don’t think there is any such thing as objective morality or natural moral law. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there is any morality worth having. I do. But I think it’s something we have to work out for ourselves, something we can work out for ourselves.

    What do I mean by ‘objective’? I mean that which is held to exist regardless of whether it is being conceived or perceived by conscious beings such as ourselves.

    Suppose our planet were hit by a huge asteroid – a “planet-killer”. All life on Earth – not just humanity – would be obliterated, wiped out as if it had never existed. Do you really think that rules about human beings not coveting their neighbor’s ox or making graven images are still somehow imprinted in the fabric of the universe, that they were there for billions of years before we existed and will still be there for billions of years after we’ve gone? Or would our beliefs have gone with us? Isn’t it just hubris or wishful thinking to believe that this vast Universe cares one jot about us or how we behave?

    But we care about how we behave towards one another because it affects us all. I don’t see why I have to keep belaboring this point but the reason why we try to put a stop to psychopaths who want to rape and murder for their own perverted pleasure is because none of us want either ourselves or our loved ones to be a victim of such vile persons and that’s more than sufficient justification for deciding it’s “wrong”.

  194. 194
    Seversky says:

    The question of whether we need some external reference for our moral beliefs is really a question of whether there is some supreme arbiter of what is good or evil, moral or immoral to whom all such questions may be submitted for final judgement and what grounds we have for assuming that referee is offering more than just another subjective opinion

    As most contributors to this blog are Christian, it hardly requires a great leap of imagination to divine that for them this ultimate umpire is actually the Christian God.

    The problem is that, unless they are claiming that He speaks to them directly and personally, the only source of information about His thinking and wishes on questions of morality is the Bible.

    Unfortunately, Biblical narratives are themselves subject to interpretation and have been surrounded by a healthy cottage industry in exegesis almost since the text was compiled.

    Thus we see that when contributors here make lofty and generalized allusions to the need for some objective moral authority or natural moral law,they actually have something much more specific in mind.

    What they really mean is that their version of morality, derived from their interpretation of their primary religious text, as decreed by their concept of God is binding on us all whether we subscribe to their faith or not.

    In effect. It is the ultimate attempt to annex the moral high ground on behalf of their particular brand of Christianity and it is disingenuous, to say the least, to pretend otherwise. Any doubts about that should be dispelled by their reactions when asked whether or not this natural moral law could be based on Islamic or Buddhist or Hindu moral principles.

  195. 195
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Sev

    Speaking for myself, I don’t think there is any such thing as objective morality or natural moral law. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there is any morality worth having. I do. But I think it’s something we have to work out for ourselves, something we can work out for ourselves.

    If you cannot make an absolute commitment to the Truth as a morally good value, then you cannot proceed.

    You cannot take a subjective position on the value of truth. To do so would be to claim that falsehood has equal value to the truth. That telling yourself and others lies and false statements has the same intelletual virtue (moral value) as telling truth.

    You cannot do this – by objective standards.

    To affirm that truth merely has subjective value of goodness, and can be equated with what is false.

    1. You could not trust yourself
    2. Nobody could trust anything you say
    3. You could not affirm a moral system (which could be built on lies)
    4. You could not prove anything, and you would be impervious to rational argument (equating a true proposition with a false one).

    For example, try to explain something to me using entirely false statements.

    It is hard-wired into human nature that the truth is a necessary, objective moral value.

    You cannot take a subjective opinion on this and choose another option.

    How would you prove your moral system by using false statements (even just some of them)?

    It is impossible to affirm that the truth about things only has subjective and not objective value.

    That is the objective, natural law at work – a refutation of subjectivism.

  196. 196
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Sev

    The problem is that, unless they are claiming that He speaks to them directly and personally, the only source of information about His thinking and wishes on questions of morality is the Bible.<

    You are not familiar with Catholicism.

  197. 197
    Silver Asiatic says:

    OldAndrew

    …since one can obey that natural moral law without obeying that commandment.

    Agreed. Non-Jews, for example, obeyed that law through acts of worship even though they didn’t know anything about the Sabbath.

    I think it means that to obey God as we understand him is our law.

    Agreed. That’s the best we can do with the natural moral law alone. But we actually have to go farther than just that minimal law.

    If someone believes that they should observe the sabbath, then one could say that they’re doing so as an extension of that natural law.

    I actually disagreed somewhat with StephenB on this though – I think really the natural moral law only gives the principle “it is necessary to worship God”. Very basic. We can then ask “how should we do it”? But now we have to look at religious teachings. It’s just terminology but I wouldn’t say “extension of the natural law” – because once we get into religious teachings I don’t think it’s the natural law any more.

    It also means that when we say that ‘the natural law prohibits X’, we’re really expressing conviction that our particular religious beliefs are correct. And we should have that conviction.

    Here’s where we differ. The natural law has nothing to do with religious beliefs. “Theft is immoral”. That’s the natural, objective moral law. All humanity accepts it. Atheists accept it.

    But it makes it a more difficult to argue the specifics to someone who doesn’t share those beliefs. If we say that Muslims executing homosexuals violates the natural law because Christians believe that God doesn’t want us to do that, what we’re really saying is that Christianity is correct and Islam is wrong.

    Yes, exactly. That’s why I do not believe that Muslims executing homosexuals is a violation of the natural law. The natural laws at work are “evil must be punished justly (punishment must fit the crime)” and also “killing someone unjustly is evil”. Those are the natural moral laws.

    It can be argued that homosexuality is an evil. Therefore, it needs to be punished. Is the death penalty the correct punishment? It could be – depending.

    And that’s fine too. But then if we turn around and say that Islam is wrong because it violates the natural moral law, that’s circular. We’re saying that we’re right, and that it logically proves that someone who believes otherwise is wrong.

    You got it. Opponents to the natural law will see that it’s circular. The Bible permitted death penalty for homosexuals – was that a violation of the objective moral law? If so, when did the natural law change and make killing gays to be something bad? How could the natural, objective law change?

    It’s a cleverly contrived smokescreen, and everyone sees through it. What I find really repugnant, though, is that some people are just using it as a way to elevate themselves above others, bashing them over and over and telling them how their honest aversion to harming others is meaningless. That’s perverse.

    Great points and I fully agree.

    The proposition of “Saudi’s killing gays” is clever. It has a lot of hidden elements, some traps are set – and in this case, to walk away saying “well, objective natural law is your opinion and I just disagree” has just killed the natural moral law (which is supposed to apply to everyone, non-subjectively).

    To say that the natural moral law is basically the same as Christian morals is just to say that “Christianity is true”.

    As you point out, that doesn’t work.

    The way I view it, the natural, objective moral law is very minimalist. It does not give details. It’s just some key principles. “Theft is evil. Murder is evil. Truth is a moral virtue over lying. Do the good to others as you would want done to you.”

    These kinds of very basic morals, found in every culture, are the natural laws.

    For the specifics “when government taxes you, is that theft? Is it evil to kill soldiers who are invading your country?” – the natural law does not give those details.

  198. 198
    OldAndrew says:

    Here’s where I think it gets a lot simpler:

    Whatever we think we’re supposed to do, we should do it. For example, if we think we should love our enemies because Jesus said so then we should do that.

    What we shouldn’t do is add complexity by trying to figure out what is “natural moral law” and what is just a commandment we should obey. Why? It adds nothing..

    Yes, there are a few verses that talk about conscience, but generally the Bible just says what we should do or not do or gives us principles. What matters, whether we obey or whether we correctly categorize them as part of NML?

    I won’t go as far as saying that the distinction doesn’t exist. But unless it determines whether or not we’re going to obey something (which it doesn’t) then it’s just not that important. If anything it’s just a useless veneer of theological, philosophical nonsense applied over the stuff that matters.

    Wouldn’t most of us agree that going througb one law after another and trying to categorize it as NML or not NML is a huge waste of time, not to mention missing the point?

    There was actually a distinction that mattered (matters) which is that between laws for Jews and those that Christians should still obey. That’s why it’s discussed at length. Why add another?

    The only reason it’s being harped on here is because some people imagine that casting their beliefs as “natursl moral law” is going to persuade atheists. It’s a pointless argument, and I haven’t seen anyone persuaded.

  199. 199
    EricMH says:

    @OldAndrew, natural moral law was convincing to Greeks and Romans. Paul appealed to that sort of concept when reasoning with the Greeks on Mars Hill. John’s concept of Logos is similar. The idea is also the foundation for the US constitution and the Magna Carta. It also forms the foundation for Roman Catholic moral theory and Confucius’ Tao. Falun Gong are currently heavily persecuted in China because they believe in the NML. Doesn’t seem like an entirely useless concept…

  200. 200
    StephenB says:

    It seems to me that most here, especially some Christians, are missing the difference between knowing and believing. We know right from wrong right away, at least in a primitive sense, and understand it more fully with time and thoughtful reflection. I know right away that I should refrain from murder, but it takes a little more time before I realize that I should pay tribute to my Creator. On that basis alone, though, I cannot know that I should attend worship services every Sunday. The details must come from a religious source or revealed truth.

    However, the NML can provide a service that no religion can match. It can lead us in the direction of which religion is the most worthy of belief. From nature and conscience, for example, we learn that humans have inherent dignity. We don’t simply opine about this, it is something that we know. Well, then, since Islam does not acknowledge the inherent dignity of the human person and Christianity does, we know that the latter world view is superior to the former world view, at least in that context. In short, the reasonableness of NML frees of from the tyranny of those who say, “Just believe in my religion and don’t ask questions.” That kind of nonsense causes people to fly airplanes into buildings for all the wrong reasons. The point is that we can test the reasonableness of any religion by comparing its doctrines with NML, in the same way we test the reasonableness of civil laws by that same standard. It is only after a given religion has passed the test of reason that we should allow its doctrines to illuminate our minds with Divine truth claims that would transcend the natural moral law.

    I think many Christians also miss the relationship between God, humans, and the Natural moral law. Yes, the standards of right and wrong are objective, universal, and absolute, but their application can be varied, especially with respect to the ability to know future events and the ultimate consequences of present actions. God can execute humans for a good reason and, for that matter, so can humans. The same natural law that forbids man from killing out of anger allows him to kill in self defense. Much more turns on intentions than is being acknowledged here.
    So when God executes certain groups in the Old Testament, he is not violating the NML against murder because he is not murdering. He is executing this or that population for many possible reasons and, because of His omnipotence and omniscience, he can justify those acts. God knows future events and can discern if a certain perverse trend will stop His plan of salvation and must be ended before it takes root. In many cases, God saves souls by allowing them to die when they are in a state of grace, knowing that if they had lived longer, they would have become apostates and lost their souls. God knows which children of a fallen nation will be left to die a slow death by trying to survive. In the days of old, there was no such thing as adoption services and we certainly would expect the victorious tribe to take on the responsibility of caring for the children of a vanquished nation. That is only the beginning since there are thousands of different combinations and permutations that apply here.

    So I think that both the substance and the usefulness of the NML is being undermined in these discussions. All human cognition begins with self-evident truths, yet it appears that many think that it begins with an act of faith. If that were the case, we could have no knowledge at all. We can do logic because we know (not simply assume or believe) that the law of Identity and the laws of non – contradiction are true. We can do science because we know that the law of cause and effect is true. We can practice and grow in virtue because we know that the natural moral law is true – unless some psychological barrier is present. Anyone who disagrees cannot enter into a rational dialogue of any kind.

  201. 201
    StephenB says:

    correction: …and we certainly would NOT expect the victorious tribe to take on the responsibility of caring for the children of a vanquished nation.

  202. 202
    OldAndrew says:

    EricMH,

    I agree to the extent that the very existence of conscience is circumstantial evidence that could persuade someone.
    Conscience isn’t quite the NML we’re talking about, though.

    Whether or not being the foundation of Confucius’ teachings or Roman Catholic moral theory is a selling point is in the eye of the beholder. To me “moral theory” also sounds a bit theological. If the Bible contains commandments that we obey and principles that wr reason on when there is no commandment then I don’t need a “moral theory.”

  203. 203
    jdk says:

    stephen writes,

    So when God executes certain groups in the Old Testament, he is not violating the NML against murder because he is not murdering. He is executing this or that population for many possible reasons and, because of His omnipotence and omniscience, he can justify those acts.

    This is one of the strong arguments against rejecting the Christian God, in my opinion, or more accurately, rejecting the belief system of those who profess to believe in him. I find this argument appalling.

  204. 204
    jdk says:

    Stephen writes,

    In many cases, God saves souls by allowing them to die when they are in a state of grace, knowing that if they had lived longer, they would have become apostates and lost their souls.

    More appalling theology.

  205. 205
    jdk says:

    Stephen, do you believe those who are apostate (who don’t believe in Jesus Christ) are condemned to hell in some sense – some kind of eternal condition of suffering, or at least lack of peace?

  206. 206
    Silver Asiatic says:

    OldAndrew

    Whatever we think we’re supposed to do, we should do it. For example, if we think we should love our enemies because Jesus said so then we should do that.

    Agreed. That is a sincere following of one’s conscience with whatever knowledge, awareness and understanding one may have. Of course, the obligation of the natural moral law is that we should strive to know what is best. We can’t ignore or block out truths that are available to us, that help us understand and grow in knowledge. But, for the present-day knowledge we have – yes, we should do what we think is right. That is the moral law. If our conscience condemns us, then we have to figure out why.

    What we shouldn’t do is add complexity by trying to figure out what is “natural moral law” and what is just a commandment we should obey. Why? It adds nothing..

    For our personal moral growth, we do not need to know precisely what is a self-evident norm, and what is a religious norm. When we try to explain things to atheists, however, we need to know these things.

    Yes, there are a few verses that talk about conscience, but generally the Bible just says what we should do or not do or gives us principles. What matters, whether we obey or whether we correctly categorize them as part of NML?

    Again, if the Bible actually did provide a consistent moral code (it does not), then yes – correct. A person would just follow the Bible. There would be little need to know the NML except to explain to atheists.

    If anything it’s just a useless veneer of theological, philosophical nonsense applied over the stuff that matters.

    For many reasons (EricH gives some) – no, I disagree. It’s important to know that the NML exists. It applies to everyone.

    Wouldn’t most of us agree that going througb one law after another and trying to categorize it as NML or not NML is a huge waste of time, not to mention missing the point?

    Yes, I would agree. There are two kinds of people encountering the NML. Believers in a religion – who have religious norms to follow also. And atheists. For atheists, they just need to know that the NML exists – thus God exists. After that, they must seek the true religion.

    There was actually a distinction that mattered (matters) which is that between laws for Jews and those that Christians should still obey. That’s why it’s discussed at length. Why add another?

    I don’t agree on this – I don’t think the NML contributed to that discussion on Jewish vs Christian morality. But I will say that this problem, what parts of the Old Testament we must follow, is the reason why the Bible-alone is not a moral code. Protestantism is subjectivism as applied to reilgion. A person reads the Bible and creates a moral code for himself — accepting some moral commands, and rejecting others. Each person decides subjectively. That’s the problem.

    The only reason it’s being harped on here is because some people imagine that casting their beliefs as “natursl moral law” is going to persuade atheists. It’s a pointless argument, and I haven’t seen anyone persuaded.

    This topic has been discussed here many many times over the past 12 years I’ve been active on UD. I’ll say that 100% of the discussions on the NML I’ve seen focus on one thing: Subjectivism. That’s the atheist view. Subjective morals.

    What happens is that, in an attempt to undercut the atheist position, subjective morals is attacked. It’s a very easy target in itself. However, the response always comes back: “What is the alternative”? Even atheists know that subjectivism doesn’t work but they believe there is no coherent alternative.

    So, the NML is proposed as the alternative — the code that atheists already accept. Thus, subjectivism is not only wrong on it’s own principle, but subjectivists already accept the NML.

    Then next phase of the argument moves to examples of the NML. Here’s where everything falls over the cliff.

    Defenders of the NML, as I cited here, will often give a highly specific example (torturing babies for fun), or be forced to defend one (death penalty for gays). This derails the conversation – because the NML does not refer to highly specific norms.

    The NML is generalized moral norms. It’s merely the very primitive, foundational, basic set of moral laws. It’s just the core values, without specifics. “Theft is evil”. That’s it. It does not bring a person very far along the path of moral awareness – although more intelligent people can create a moral system out of it (Aristotle, Plato). But a moral system that requires advanced rational powers cannot be the natural, objective moral law – since the NML must be known by everyone, no matter how intelligent.

  207. 207
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    We know right from wrong right away, at least in a primitive sense, and understand it more fully with time and thoughtful reflection.

    The first part I agree with. The primitive concepts are known by all. That is the natural moral law. Whether we understand morality more fully, merely over time – no, I do not agree. We may understand it less clearly. After the generalized principles of the natural moral law – revealed religion is necessary. We cannot arrive at an accurate understanding of morality just by thinking about it. A rational morality is very weak, subject to many errors.

    The essential aspect of the NML is to indicate that God exists, and therefore knowledge about God must be pursued. We are not living in 4,000 B.C. The NML, purely on its own — is virtually impossible to find and it impossible to live.

    However, the NML can provide a service that no religion can match. It can lead us in the direction of which religion is the most worthy of belief. From nature and conscience, for example, we learn that humans have inherent dignity. We don’t simply opine about this, it is something that we know. Well, then, since Islam does not acknowledge the inherent dignity of the human person and Christianity does, we know that the latter world view is superior to the former world view, at least in that context.

    It’s an interesting view. I think Calvin and Luther’s idea of Total Depravity argues against this.

    The point is that we can test the reasonableness of any religion by comparing its doctrines with NML, in the same way we test the reasonableness of civil laws by that same standard.

    It’s a good point. It does have value in assessing various religious systems.

    God can execute humans for a good reason and, for that matter, so can humans. The same natural law that forbids man from killing out of anger allows him to kill in self defense. Much more turns on intentions than is being acknowledged here.

    Yes, exactly. God commanded that humans execute other humans in the Old Testament for a variety of reasons – necessary for the social conditions of the time. These commands cannot be violations of the natural moral law.

    So when God executes certain groups in the Old Testament, he is not violating the NML against murder because he is not murdering. He is executing this or that population for many possible reasons and, because of His omnipotence and omniscience, he can justify those acts. God knows future events and can discern if a certain perverse trend will stop His plan of salvation and must be ended before it takes root. In many cases, God saves souls by allowing them to die when they are in a state of grace, knowing that if they had lived longer, they would have become apostates and lost their souls. God knows which children of a fallen nation will be left to die a slow death by trying to survive. In the days of old, there was no such thing as adoption services and we certainly would expect the victorious tribe to take on the responsibility of caring for the children of a vanquished nation. That is only the beginning since there are thousands of different combinations and permutations that apply here.

    I agree with all of the above – except that when God commanded humans to do the executions, it wasn’t Him directly. But yes – there were correct and valid reasons for those applications of the NML. The application of the NML can be adapted to different situations and cultural conditions. The actual root-principle of the NML, however, cannot be changed. God cannot change it – since it is part of human nature. Thus, the command to kill homosexuals is not a violation of the NML — it is merely a time-bound application of it.

    With this, you should agree with me that the forbidding of the death-penalty against gays is not a question of the NML. In some instances (as in Old Testament times) that action was permitted as an act of justice, and preservation of the human community (dignity of humanity). So, it cannot be a NML to say that “it is wrong to execute homosexuals”. We believe that today because we apply the NML differently due to different social conditions.

    Discussions on warfare are like this also. As weapons change (Hiroshima), the morality of their use and what happens to innocent populations is an issue that the natural moral law does not speak about directly.

    The magisterium of the Church gives official moral teachings on these sorts of things for a reason – since it is not possible merely to arrive at the correct moral teaching on complex matters (artificial birth control, another example), merely by using reason alone.

    “Thou shalt not kill/murder” — is the natural, objective moral law. That’s it. How that is applied can be quite different under different circumstances, cultural or historical conditions.

  208. 208
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    This is one of the strong arguments against rejecting the Christian God, in my opinion, or more accurately, rejecting the belief system of those who profess to believe in him.

    The principle that is highlighted in this example is “just vindication against evil”.

    In a moral system where evil acts go unpunished, or a system where evil acts are rewarded – those systems would have no justice. There would be no preference for the good.

    When you react against a proposal and are appalled by it, usually you’re saying that it is unjust, unfair – horrible to you on that account.

    So, you respond with a sense of justice – but the case in point is merely an act of justice against evil behavior (homosexuality).

  209. 209
    Silver Asiatic says:

    God cannot murder anyone.

    It’s the same concept as “a person cannot steal property that already belongs to himself”.

    We come from God as our origin.

    We return to God at the end.

    “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

  210. 210
    jdk says:

    But he can kill them? Correct?

  211. 211
    OldAndrew says:

    Protestantism is subjectivism as applied to reilgion. A person reads the Bible and creates a moral code for himself — accepting some moral commands, and rejecting others. Each person decides subjectively. That’s the problem.

    I’m not sure if you’re stating that Catholicism is the standard for adhering to the Bible and that deviating from it means picking and choosing parts to accept. Obviously I would strongly disagree. Many people feel that the “church” was corrupted long before Protestantism, and even that it was expected to happen. Since this isn’t a debate over doctrine and moral practices I’ll say no more about that.

  212. 212
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    Good points all. I will just focus on one point at a time because I think we need to go deeper.

    The first part I agree with. The primitive concepts are known by all. That is the natural moral law. Whether we understand morality more fully, merely over time – no, I do not agree.

    Let’s try this. Reason tells us right away that we should not murder. Obviously, though, that prohibition does not forbid us to defend ourselves, even if we must use lethal means to do it. Is the second point as obvious as the first? Perhaps, but maybe not. So let’s take it further. Does that same natural moral law also tell us that we must not use lethal means unless no other means will suffice, or to make it even more clear, we must use only the minimum force necessary. Yes, it does, but not right away. In this case, the application of the NML requires the use of reason in addition to acknowledging what is self evident.

    From the Cathechism (Para, 1957)

    “Application of the natural law varies greatly; it can demand reflection that takes account of various conditions of life according to places, times, and circumstances. Nevertheless, in the diversity of cultures, the natural law remains as a rule that binds men among themselves and imposes on them, beyond the inevitable differences, common principles.”

    Extending the point, there are many who try to say that Jesus’ teaching that we should “turn the other cheek” calls for pacifism. But as I am sure you know, that isn’t really true because what He is teaching us is that we must control our pugnacious nature. Clearly, the NML would never contradict scripture or vice versa, but this is one case where our immediate understanding of right and wrong will not suffice. We need to think about it before we have an accurate idea about what the moral law is telling us.

    The broader point is that the NML is inseparable from reason. Indeed, we must use our reason not only to make this very difficult calculation (thus far and no farther with the use of force), but also to even know that a calculation must be made. And what can we say about the extension of the wisdom about self defense to the highly complex conditions for a “just war,” which is informed by the NML but is miles away from being self evident.

  213. 213
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic

    With this, you should agree with me that the forbidding of the death-penalty against gays is not a question of the NML. In some instances (as in Old Testament times) that action was permitted as an act of justice, and preservation of the human community (dignity of humanity). So, it cannot be a NML to say that “it is wrong to execute homosexuals”. We believe that today because we apply the NML differently due to different social conditions.

    I think the natural moral law could inform the civil law about such policies but not necessarily define them. I don’t think you can use the NML to say that it is always wrong to execute homosexuals, or that it is always right to do it, because circumstances matter. So we may have a meeting of the minds here.

  214. 214
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    I think the natural moral law could inform the civil law about such policies but not necessarily define them. I don’t think you can use the NML to say that it is always wrong to execute homosexuals, or that it is always right to do it, because circumstances matter. So we may have a meeting of the minds here.

    Yes, we do! Thanks for a good explanation.

  215. 215
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    Extending the point, there are many who try to say that Jesus’ teaching that we should “turn the other cheek” calls for pacifism. But as I am sure you know, that isn’t really true because what He is teaching us is that we must control our pugnacious nature. Clearly, the NML would never contradict scripture or vice versa, but this is one case where our immediate understanding of right and wrong will not suffice. We need to think about it before we have an accurate idea about what the moral law is telling us.

    The broader point is that the NML is inseparable from reason. Indeed, we must use our reason not only to make this very difficult calculation (thus far and no farther with the use of force), but also to even know that a calculation must be made. And what can we say about the extension of the wisdom about self defense to the highly complex conditions for a “just war,” which is informed by the NML but is miles away from being self evident.

    Yes, but I do not think that we can reason-out what the true moral law really is. That is why we have the magisterium of the Church. Jesus’ teachings are in terpreted in truth by divine authority. If it was a matter of rational arguments, there would be no true, authoritative solution to the problem. In fact, using reason alone is an exercise in subjectivism (problems with Sola Scriptura here).

  216. 216
    Silver Asiatic says:

    OldAndrew

    I’m not sure if you’re stating that Catholicism is the standard for adhering to the Bible and that deviating from it means picking and choosing parts to accept. Obviously I would strongly disagree.

    How would you approach the Bible so that you are not picking and choosing parts to accept?

    … and yes, I am stating that Catholicism is the standard, but we don’t have to debate that.

  217. 217
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    Does that same natural moral law also tell us that we must not use lethal means unless no other means will suffice, or to make it even more clear, we must use only the minimum force necessary. Yes, it does, but not right away. In this case, the application of the NML requires the use of reason in addition to acknowledging what is self evident.

    I disagree here. I do not think that moral rule “we must only use the minimum force necessary” is part of the natural, objective, moral law. It is an idea that has been derived, by reasoning, from the natural law.
    But reasoning alone about morality cannot arrive at an absolute truth.

    In this case, “use only minimum force” – it points to the idea that “use of force” must only and always be the minimum. But why? Perhaps we say “use only minimum force necessary”. This is the same as “do only what is necessary”.

    Is that a general, universal moral norm? “In all actions, do only what is necessary”?

    I think we end up with a very big problem here. “Necessary for what”?

    Well, we could say “use only minimum amount of force necessary for keeping peace in the community”. Or “use only necessary amount of force to stop the evil action”.

    Again, there are big problems here for “reason alone” to solve.

    First, can we ever know what is “truly necessary” to stop an evil action? I don’t think so. But more importantly, why would the moral law say that we can only use “minimum force necessary to stop the evil action at that moment in time”? Why not “use necessary force to stop the evil for the forseeable future”? Wouldn’t that be more rational? The atom bombs in Japan were designed to stop the war for the forseeable future. Was this morally correct? It’s debatable.

    The point here – all of this is debatable. When trying to derive moral norms from the universal, it’s uncertain. You and me could debate these sincerely. And in the end, we would not end up with a “universal, natural-law moral norm”.

    All we end up with is “the most reasonable moral norm” – it’s something worked out by human reason. Yes, it can be based on the natural objective law, but the derivation is never fully clear. That is why revelation is required. An official judgement from the Lawgiver is needed to firmly know the truth on debatable issues.

  218. 218
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    Here are some of the concepts and how I’m defining them.

    1. Natural objective moral law (universal moral law, natural moral law). For me, these are self-evident, foundational, general moral concepts known to everyone. They are not the product of reason or argumentation. They are like the rules of logic – they are given to humanity. Like the Law of Non-Contradiction. Not the product of reasoning, but the basis for all reasoning.

    2. Derivations of the natural law. These are moral principles that are worked-out from the first principles of the moral law (derived from the NML). These are changeable and more or less certain. No amount of reasoning can fully determine the truth of these. They’re always proximate. “Is the use of force morally justified in this situation”? These are debatable – they are not principles of the NML.
    In fact, they are actually determined subjectively (use of reason is a subjective method).

    3. Subjectivism. For me, this is morality determined by the individual. The individual makes up his own moral code based on whatever sources or combinations of sources. This can be done entirely from reasoning and rationality. This is the basic understanding of secular morals where people choose whatever they think is right or wrong. The individual makes up the moral system and it does not reference any “object” – no objective source. I believe it actually could be a logical system and still entirely subjective. It’s personal and individual. Sola scriptura moral codes are actually subjective in this understanding.

    4. Conformity or adherence to external moral norm. This is different from subjectivism in my view. You explained it as being subjective because someone else made up the moral code (like Hitler for example) so even though the adherent subscribes to it and didn’t make it up himself, it’s still subjective. But I view this approach as much different from “individual subjectivism” where the person just makes up their own morals. A person who believes that Islam or Judiasm is true, and adheres to the Koran or the Talmud – is embracing “an objective” (not “The Objective”) moral law. It’s not a personal code – it’s something external. It’s written down and can be evaluated (unlike personal subjectivism). It is consistent and follows some first principles (like “the Koran is truly revealed by God”).

    5. Divinely revealed moral system – the true moral code. For me, this is Catholicism. Everything else is false to one degree or another. This system is based on the belief that there is an authoritative, true moral code – transcending human debate and argument. This system is accessible to reason and conforms to reason, but it is not the product of rational arguments.

  219. 219
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    But he can kill them? Correct?

    God cannot kill an immortal being.

    So no, not correct.

  220. 220
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic

    Here are some of the concepts and how I’m defining them.

    1. Natural objective moral law (universal moral law, natural moral law). For me, these are self-evident, foundational, general moral concepts known to everyone. They are not the product of reason or argumentation. They are like the rules of logic – they are given to humanity. Like the Law of Non-Contradiction. Not the product of reasoning, but the basis for all reasoning.
    2. Derivations of the natural law. These are moral principles that are worked-out from the first principles of the moral law (derived from the NML). These are changeable and more or less certain. No amount of reasoning can fully determine the truth of these. They’re always proximate. “Is the use of force morally justified in this situation”? These are debatable – they are not principles of the NML.
    In fact, they are actually determined subjectively (use of reason is a subjective method).

    Good. These are useful definitions and we can do business on that basis. With regard to the last statement, however, I would submit that the reasoning “method” is subjective, (what else could a cognitive exercise be) but it can provide knowledge of an unchanging objective truth that doesn’t require supernatural revelation for its confirmation. (God exists, for example) I don’t think this has anything to do with Sola Scriptura. Indeed, it would seem to be the opposite. I am talking about the metaphysical object of the reasoning process while you seem to be talking about the epistemological task of apprehending it.

    3. Subjectivism. For me, this is morality determined by the individual. The individual makes up his own moral code based on whatever sources or combinations of sources. This can be done entirely from reasoning and rationality. This is the basic understanding of secular morals where people choose whatever they think is right or wrong. The individual makes up the moral system and it does not reference any “object” – no objective source. I believe it actually could be a logical system and still entirely subjective. It’s personal and individual. Sola scriptura moral codes are actually subjective in this understanding.

    Yes. Good.

    4. Conformity or adherence to external moral norm. This is different from subjectivism in my view. You explained it as being subjective because someone else made up the moral code (like Hitler for example) so even though the adherent subscribes to it and didn’t make it up himself, it’s still subjective. But I view this approach as much different from “individual subjectivism” where the person just makes up their own morals. A person who believes that Islam or Judiasm is true, and adheres to the Koran or the Talmud – is embracing “an objective” (not “The Objective”) moral law. It’s not a personal code – it’s something external. It’s written down and can be evaluated (unlike personal subjectivism). It is consistent and follows some first principles (like “the Koran is truly revealed by God”).

    Thank you for that description. For me, any moral code that differs from “the objective, true moral code” (Catholicism in the broad sense, natural moral law in the narrow sense) is, by definition, subjective because someone made it up. I don’t think a subjective code suddenly becomes objective when it is passed on to someone else. If it is objective, it is discovered, real and true; if it is subjective, it is invented, unreal, and false. It either is what it is or it is not.

    On the other hand, I can understand why you would say that a false doctrine can be objective insofar as it is the metaphysical “object” that the thinking subject is embracing. Perhaps we need to say that a doctrine can be subjective or objective in two ways. Again, it seems that I am doing metaphysics and you are doing epistemology. No problem, just an observation. In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter what the label is as long as we know what is going on and how it relates to the truth.

    5. Divinely revealed moral system – the true moral code. For me, this is Catholicism. Everything else is false to one degree or another. This system is based on the belief that there is an authoritative, true moral code – transcending human debate and argument. This system is accessible to reason and conforms to reason, but it is not the product of rational arguments.

    Yes.

    Thanks again. It really helps to understand what you mean when you use these words. I hope I have provided the same service on my end.

  221. 221
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    With regard to the last statement, however, I would submit that the reasoning “method” is subjective, (what else could a cognitive exercise be) but it can provide knowledge of an unchanging objective truth that doesn’t require supernatural revelation for its confirmation.

    My view was incorrect on this – yes, thank you. I was using the term “objective” as the opposite of subjective. So, subjective being internal to the person, and objective being an external reference. But that it not the right understanding of what ‘objective moral law’ means. It is as you describe – so I appreciate the correction here.

    There is a difference between a moral idea that is arrived-at via reasoning versus something that is self-evident. But it may also be true that the natural moral law, while self-evident, always requires reasoning in order to apply it. In that case, it always has a ‘subjective’ aspect but it can arrive at objective moral truths.

    Ok, I definitely confused those matters – thank you.

    (God exists, for example) I don’t think this has anything to do with Sola Scriptura. Indeed, it would seem to be the opposite. I am talking about the metaphysical object of the reasoning process while you seem to be talking about the epistemological task of apprehending it.

    Sola scriptura requires a subjective reasoning process (epistemological method) to attempt to arrive at objective truths. But I don’t think that a text that must be believed, on faith, to be revealed from God can be the correct source for reasoning about the implications of the natural law.

    Thank you for that description. For me, any moral code that differs from “the objective, true moral code” (Catholicism in the broad sense, natural moral law in the narrow sense) is, by definition, subjective because someone made it up. I don’t think a subjective code suddenly becomes objective when it is passed on to someone else. If it is objective, it is discovered, real and true; if it is subjective, it is invented, unreal, and false. It either is what it is or it is not.

    I think it’s simple enough to say that there is one, objective moral code – as you state. It’s also a very good point to wonder how a subjective code could become objective — but as I was corrected on this, I was using the term ‘objective’ in the wrong sense for what is intended by it.

    So yes, you did indeed contribute excellent understanding of these issues and I appreciate it!

  222. 222
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic

    I disagree here. I do not think that moral rule “we must only use the minimum force necessary” is part of the natural, objective, moral law. It is an idea that has been derived, by reasoning, from the natural law.

    I agree that the concept is derived from NML and is not part of it, I should have made that distinction explicit and I am glad that you made it. However, that derivation serves as a reliable guiding moral principle. The word “necessary” provides sure, if not infallible, guidance.
    . .

    But reasoning alone about morality cannot arrive at an absolute truth.

    I don’t think you can make that universal claim. In most cases, it would be true. But in some cases, it is not. A logical deduction based on a true premise is just as certain as a self-evident truth.

    In this case, “use only minimum force” – it points to the idea that “use of force” must only and always be the minimum. But why? Perhaps we say “use only minimum force necessary”. This is the same as “do only what is necessary”.

    I disagree. To use only the necessary force is not the same as doing only what is necessary in the broader sense. It is not, for example, necessary for self defense to bind the aggressors wounds after you stop him or to press charges against him for attacking you. However, you can make a good argument for doing these things.

    I think we end up with a very big problem here. “Necessary for what”?

    Necessary for personal self defense.

    First, can we ever know what is “truly necessary” to stop an evil action? I don’t think so.

    Even without perfect knowledge, the principle serves to provide a moral check on our own potentially aggressive or vengeful behavior, similar to the principle that the punishment should fit the crime. If you don’t know for certain how much force is necessary, you can guess and err on the side of too much aggression. Again, this is reasonable. We are not after logical certainty. We are after what is morally reasonable – as opposed to the chaos of a mindless reaction. Without this principle we may well be tempted to kill those who slaps us in the face. That is the real point of Jesus’ directive to “turn the other cheek.”

    But more importantly, why would the moral law say that we can only use “minimum force necessary to stop the evil action at that moment in time”?

    I am discussing the moral law and its reasonable implications. If we cannot have both, then the former is not of much use. Indeed, it could even be misleading. If my life is being threatened, I am far better off knowing that I may, *if necessary,* kill my aggressor rather than simply understanding the principle “Thou shalt not murder.”

    Why not “use necessary force to stop the evil for the forseeable future”? Wouldn’t that be more rational? The atom bombs in Japan were designed to stop the war for the forseeable future. Was this morally correct? It’s debatable.

    I think you are getting pretty far afield here. With all those added variables, I would agree. However, in the limited context of personal self defense, we need solid principles that provide moral guidance and “thou shalt not kill” does not serve the purpose.

    All we end up with is “the most reasonable moral norm” – it’s something worked out by human reason. Yes, it can be based on the natural objective law, but the derivation is never fully clear.

    It is clear enough to provide reliable guidance in situations that could include hundreds of possible combinations and permutations. What else could one want?

    That is why revelation is required. An official judgement from the Lawgiver is needed to firmly know the truth on debatable issues.fF

    Revealed truth tells us many things that the natural moral law cannot approach, especially on matters of salvation, which is the only thing that really matters. However, we have been left to figure some things for ourselves, and the problem of self defense is one of them. I submit that a reliable answer to that problem is the reasoned calculus, based on natural law, that we should apply only the minimum amount of force necessary to stop an aggressor, allowing us to err on the side of too much force?

  223. 223
    MatSpirit says:

    StephenB: ” Bad logic. The Ten Commandments have nothing to do with the punishment of great grandchildren.”

    What!?  The Ten Commandments outright SAY that God punishes Children for the sins of their great-great-great grandfathers.  What part of,

    “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me,” don’t you understand?

    How can this possibly not have anything to do with punishing great grandchildren because their great grandfathers hated God? 

    We’re talking about God’s deliberate actions here, not cause and effect.  As you put it, “If God chooses to withdraw life for a good reason, then it His wisdom, not his power, that justifies that act.”  Could you please explain God’s reasoning here?  Please don’t offer ‘reasons like, “They might be just as nasty as great grandpaw.”  God doesn’t say anything about the kid’s morals, just their ancestry.

    SB: “God does not or would not torture puppies. Indeed, I didn’t say anything at all about puppies. You just made that up. You seem to be arguing against yourself and doing it rather poorly.”

    If God says He can punish humans for the sins of their long departed  ancestors, no mere puppy is safe.

    SB: “Christian morality also contains supernatural truths that must be revealed and accepted on faith. They cannot be arrived at by reason alone. ”

    That might account for

    Lev 20:13 “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” and

    Exodus 22:18 “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

    Do you even believe in witches?  Are they one of those things we just have to accept on faith?

  224. 224
    StephenB says:

    jdk:

    jdk:

    Stephen, do you believe those who are apostate (who don’t believe in Jesus Christ) are condemned to hell in some sense – some kind of eternal condition of suffering, or at least lack of peace?

    This is a very probing question, so I must make a few observations: By “apostate,” I refer to someone who once believed in the whole of Christian doctrine and then simply walked away from all of it. By “heretic,” I mean someone who continues to accept some parts of doctrine, and reject others for convenience, while falsely maintaining the Christian label. By “non-believer” I refer to one who simply doesn’t believe in the Christian religion. By “pagan,” I refer to someone who has never even heard of Jesus Christ.

    I would say that those in the first group are in the greatest danger of losing their souls, followed by the second group, followed by the third group, followed by the fourth group.

    I do think that a great many people will suffer eternal loss in hell, yes, but if it happens, it will be a product of their voluntary fault. Since the human soul is non-material, it will live forever in some condition or state because there are no material parts vulnerable to decay or destruction. Immortal souls must eventually go somewhere for eternity, so if they refuse heaven, God says to them, “OK, thy will be done.”

  225. 225
    StephenB says:

    StephenB: ” Bad logic. The Ten Commandments have nothing to do with the punishment of great grandchildren.”

    Mat Spirit

    What!? The Ten Commandments outright SAY that God punishes Children for the sins of their great-great-great grandfathers. What part of,

    “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me,” don’t you understand?

    I think I will pass on that one. Have a nice day.

  226. 226
    StephenB says:

    Mat Spirit:

    “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me,” don’t you understand?

    God is saying that He punishes idolators and will continue to punish them if they continue to worship false Gods. However, this is distinct from the Ten Commandments, which are not warnings or threats.

  227. 227
    jdk says:

    re 224: Thanks for the distinctions.

    I would say that those in the first group are in the greatest danger of losing their souls, followed by the second group, followed by the third group, followed by the fourth group.

    I fall in group three: the non-believer.

    Am I not following the natural moral law by not believing in Jesus etc.? That is, does the natural moral law self-evidently conclude that belief in Jesus should be held, just as belief against murder should be held?

    Or is belief in Jesus an addition to following the natural moral law.

    Could I believe in the natural moral law, and follow it well, but not believe in Jesus? Would I still go to hell in this case?

    Can you explain how these two tings are related.

  228. 228
    StephenB says:

    jdk:

    I fall in group three: the non-believer.

    Yes. That makes sense.

    Am I not following the natural moral law by not believing in Jesus etc.? That is, does the natural moral law self-evidently conclude that belief in Jesus should be held, just as belief against murder should be held?

    No. The natural moral law does not provide a direct epistemological pathway to Jesus. However, once one accepts the natural law as an objective fact, it prompts the next logical question: If such a law exists, doesn’t that require a lawgiver? If so, who might that lawmaker be? The obvious candidate would be God (but not necessarily the God/Man Jesus).

    Or is belief in Jesus an addition to following the natural moral law.

    That would be a second order question, or as you say, “an addition.” The first order question, alluded to above, is this: Does the natural law indicate the existence of a law-giver (God). The second order question(s) would be: Granted God exists, did He reveal anything about himself to us? Who, if anyone, speaks for him? What form does He take?

    The natural moral law does not help with these second order questions. This analysis must be done empirically. One example: If God were to manifest himself on earth, we would expect three things: [a] He should be pre-announced, [b] He should prove that He is God through his actions, and [c] he should never say anything contrary to right reason. That is the least he could do.

    So we line up the most prominent claimants. Socrates, Buddha, Mohammed, Dharma, Christ etc.

    All of them, but one, showed up at the last moment and said, “I am here, trust me.” By contrast, the Old Testament prophets told us centuries in advance what Christ would be like what he would do, and where (and when) he would be born.

    All of them, but one, were great teachers, but none claimed to be God. By contrast, Christ claimed to be God, performed countless healing miracles, demonstrated his command of nature, and rose himself (and others) from the dead.

    All of them, but one, established an impressive moral system, but none provided a complete moral perspective that reflected every aspect of human nature and one that provided information about our final destiny. By contrast, Christ explained the purpose of our existence and how to achieve it.

    So, the empirical evidence suggests that if anyone who claims to speak for God should be believed, that person would be Jesus Christ.

    Could I believe in the natural moral law, and follow it well, but not believe in Jesus? Would I still go to hell in this case?

    Except for those in category four above, trying to be good (or at least trying not to be bad) is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being saved. The reason for that is that a finite man, who has sinned, cannot compensate for offending an infinite God. That is why the infinite God/Man, Jesus Christ, took on human flesh to offer an infinite atoning sacrifice to an infinite God in the name of finite men. So being saved involves the act of being associated with that God/Man, who is our savior.

    Can you explain how these two things are related.

    Yes. In the final analysis, the reason people lose their souls is because they refuse to love. (God and their neighbor). The natural moral law, which includes the acquisition of such virtues as humility, prudence, temperance, fairness, courage, compassion, wisdom, persistence, self-control, and other traits, helps us to be more loving people and therefore, more likely to cooperate with God in his attempt to save us. Also, if we work to acquire these virtues from the bottom up by forming the right habits, God provides extra help from the top down in the form of corresponding supernatural virtues.

  229. 229
    MatSpirit says:

    StephanB: “God is saying that He punishes idolators and will continue to punish them if they continue to worship false Gods. However, this is distinct from the Ten Commandments, which are not warnings or threats.”

    Amazing.

  230. 230
    StephenB says:

    Mat Spirit:

    Mat Spirit

    Amazing

    Not really. Let me try to help you out here. The context of our discussion (if that is what it is) centers on relationship between the natural moral law and the Ten Commandments, not the anomalous warnings found in the first commandment alone. Or again, the issue is the relationship between the implicit moral instruction apprehended in natural moral law and the explicit instruction taught in the Ten Commndmenets.

  231. 231
    Silver Asiatic says:

    STephenB @222

    Good points throughout. I accept the distinctions you offered. I was stretching the point to see where it could go, but I believe a good answer is that the NML gives firm principles and that we can reason to the best understanding afterwards.

    It is clear enough to provide reliable guidance in situations that could include hundreds of possible combinations and permutations. What else could one want?

    The most desirable thing would be to know for certain what the morally good thing is. But we do have the challenge of unknown situations, as you rightly said.

    However, we have been left to figure some things for ourselves, and the problem of self defense is one of them. I submit that a reliable answer to that problem is the reasoned calculus, based on natural law, that we should apply only the minimum amount of force necessary to stop an aggressor, allowing us to err on the side of too much force?

    I think God will judge this kind of action based on our knowledge and our response to conscience. As believers, informed by grace, we are not left with reason-alone or with a natural-law alone. We should always try to live in conformity with the Gospel – doing as Christ would do.

    Deciding a complex moral action without prayer – without seeking the light of grace and guidance from God – that would be a problem, as I see it.

    In the end, as you rightly say – we have to figure it out. The magisterium does not define the morality of every possible moral action. But we can also use actions that are so-defined, along with the natural law.

  232. 232
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MatSpirit

    Punishment that is communicated through generations is conditioned on “them who hate me”.

    If hatred of God persists over generations, then the punishments (which are corrections – God’s attempts to restore love to replace the ancestral hatred) will persist.

    Punishments, afflictions, hardships are logical consequences of the hatred of good (of God).

    The desired result of those punishments is a return to goodness – at which moment, the punishments cease and blessings are poured forth.

  233. 233
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    That is, does the natural moral law self-evidently conclude that belief in Jesus should be held, just as belief against murder should be held?

    StephenB explained it well, but just to add …

    The NML is generalized principles.

    “To respect and care for the lives of other humans is good.
    To murder people is bad”.

    “To give help to those in need is morally good. To steal from people in need is morally evil”.

    Things like that. From those principles, others are derived. But belief that Jesus is true God to be worshipped is not a self-evident principle of the NML. It is derived, rationally from the NML.

    Or is belief in Jesus an addition to following the natural moral law.

    It’s a logical or intellectual development of the natural moral law.

    Could I believe in the natural moral law, and follow it well, but not believe in Jesus? Would I still go to hell in this case?

    Great question with good distinction: “follow it well”.

    If you were totally ignorant of all other things, had no access to greater knowledge, sincerely tried your best — yes the NML is the best you would have. Some primitive tribe-person perhaps.

    However, the NML requires continued good-use and growth of our rational nature (our thinking power) to the best we can. So, if you have access to sincerely learning about Christ but refuse to do so … that would very big problem. You couldn’t say that “you’re following the NML well” in that case.

  234. 234
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MatSpirit

    How can this possibly not have anything to do with punishing great grandchildren because their great grandfathers hated God?

    We’re talking about God’s deliberate actions here, not cause and effect. As you put it, “If God chooses to withdraw life for a good reason, then it His wisdom, not his power, that justifies that act.” Could you please explain God’s reasoning here? Please don’t offer ‘reasons like, “They might be just as nasty as great grandpaw.” God doesn’t say anything about the kid’s morals, just their ancestry.

    First, the term ‘punishments’ is synonymous with ‘corrections’ in this case. God does not punish for His own pleasure, or revenge or other bad motives. Punishments are corrections given for the good of His people.

    Evil actions and teachings by parents are inherited by children. If children are taught to hate Jews, for example, that is an evil that persists from parents to children. God corrects, disciplines, punishes bad actions – to create good.

    You’ve seen a spoiled child, certainly.

    A spoiled child is one who has never been disciplined (punished). To correct a child, with deprivations and considerate, loving disciplines – is to build good character in the child.

    Parents who spoil the child by rewarding bad behavior, only make the child’s life difficult and God punishes bad behavior to correct it and make it turn towards good.

    Bad actions and teachings from parents can persist through generations and the consequence of those teachings are punishments and difficulties in life that also persist – until behaviors are ultimately changed.

  235. 235
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Since humans have a rational nature – we have the capability of reasoning, we have “thinking powers” – the natural moral law is merely the moral requirement that we act in accord with our nature.

    To work for “Right reason” is to strive to think correctly and to seek to find the truth through reasoning.

    Living in accord with one’s nature and bringing potential powers to actuality are good actions.

    To “do good and shun evil” is the basis of the natural moral law. Using reason powers correctly and well reveals the derivations of the natural moral law that are necessary for a moral life.

  236. 236
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    It is clear enough to provide reliable guidance in situations that could include hundreds of possible combinations and permutations. What else could one want?

    Following up and adding to this – I’m just pointing to a difference in two things:

    1. Principles of the Natural Moral Law
    2. Moral concepts derived from those principles.

    In the first case, those principles are not merely “clear enough”. They are absolute, universal and objective.

    Those principles are self-evident. They are not the product of reasoning.

    “Murder is evil” – that has clarity in itself.

    However, applying that princple requires reasoning, and in the end as you say it’s “clear enough” to provide reliable guidance.

    Ok, but there’s ambiguity here. In the end, it’s not 100% certain in every case.

  237. 237
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB (w/attention for jdk’s question)

    So, the empirical evidence suggests that if anyone who claims to speak for God should be believed, that person would be Jesus Christ.

    Here’s a good example of why some (not all) derivations from the natural moral law lead to “probably correct” but not 100% certain conclusions.

    It would not be correct to say that “belief that Jesus Christ is God is a conclusion that can be proven with certainty by reason alone”.

    That conclusion can be seen as “the most reasonable one”, given alternatives. But the belief requires faith. There is evidence given, but a leap of faith is still required.

    Otherwise, there would be no faith involved. The Christian religion would be merely a logical construct – like a mathematical formula. There would be no merit in believing in Christ. In the same way there is no merit in accepting the result of a math problem.

    Instead, the natural moral law gives absolute, objective principles – and from those, belief in Christ can be seen as reasonable.

  238. 238
    jdk says:

    re 228: Thanks for all the explanation of your beliefs, Stephen.

    You write,

    The reason people lose their souls is because they refuse to love. (God and their neighbor).

    So if I love my neighbor (but don’t believe in the Christian God), and live a life that all would agree is in accordance with the natural moral law, I will still go to hell: that I gather is the correct conclusion.

    This seems to me to be an unreasonable and unlikely characteristic of a divine entity who has created this whole universe, and one that I would not be willing to accept.

    A corallary question:

    Suppose I do believe in the Christian God, and do in general believe in and try to live in accordance with the natural moral law, but disagree about some specific common conclusion: for instance, I support same -sex marriage. Will I still go to hell? Or is belief in Jesus etc. the deciding fator in whether I do or don’t go to hell? Or do my actions matter, and to what extent?

  239. 239
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic

    The NML is generalized principles.

    “To respect and care for the lives of other humans is good.
    To murder people is bad”.

    “To give help to those in need is morally good. To steal from people in need is morally evil”.

    Things like that.

    Yes.

    From those principles, others are derived. But belief that Jesus is true God to be worshipped is not a self-evident principle of the NML. It is derived, rationally from the NML.

    I don’t think you can get to Jesus from the NML or principles derived from it without adding new information from an outside source, such as history, scripture, or other religious sources?

    (Or is belief in Jesus an addition to following the natural moral law).

    It’s a logical or intellectual development of the natural moral law.

    Can you take me through that process? How is belief in Jesus a logical development of the natural moral law? God yes, but Jesus? I can understand how you can use reason and other kinds of information to get there, but not from NML alone.

  240. 240
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    How is belief in Jesus a logical development of the natural moral law? God yes, but Jesus? I can understand how you can use reason and other kinds of information to get there, but not from NML alone.

    Well, if the NML proves that God exists, then all additional arguments about God follow from that.

    So, the NML provides the first premise in all additional arguments.

    1. Objective morality exists, therefore God exists (proof from NML alone).
    2. Since God exists, then there is one all-powerful being
    3. Only an all-powerful being can raise himself from the dead
    4. Jesus raised himself from the dead
    5. Therefore Jesus is God.

    Yes, historical, testimonial evidence is needed for #3, but that’s true for many derivations of the Moral Law. We will often need additional information to determine moral ideas based on the NML.

    Is an atom bomb moral justified in all cases? We need to know what an atom bomb is, and what it does.

    Was Aristotle’s (and St. Thomas’) view on abortion correct?

    Science informs us more to give a better understanding of what the NML indicates.

    Is homosexuality genetically determined?

    The NML can only give general principles – in that case, about the purpose of marriage and procreation. But derivations of the NML require additional information in order to reason about it.

  241. 241
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Sorry – historical evidence is needed for #4. Life of Jesus.

  242. 242
    jdk says:

    When SA wrote, “It [belief in Jesus] is a logical or intellectual development of the natural moral law”,

    Stephen replied,

    How is belief in Jesus a logical development of the natural moral law? God yes, but Jesus?

    ,

    which I think is a good question. Rather than pursue that (which SA has done), I’d like to ask another question, for Stephen.

    Back at 228, Stephen wrote,

    However, once one accepts the natural law as an objective fact, it prompts the next logical question: If such a law exists, doesn’t that require a lawgiver? If so, who might that lawmaker be? The obvious candidate would be God (but not necessarily the God/Man Jesus).

    So my question is given the natural moral law NML, what is the extent of the logical conclusions one can draw, beyond the conclusion that there must be a lawgiver, God? What attributes of this God (who is not logically necessarily the Christian God) can be considered logically necessary attributes?

    P.S. I am also still interested in the questions I asked in 238.

  243. 243
    OldAndrew says:

    God is saying that He punishes idolators and will continue to punish them if they continue to worship false Gods.

    No, he said that be would punish them if they served an image or even bowed down before one. If he meant worship he could have said that. He said serve or bow.

    This is why Jews did not make statues or idols. For a human created in the image of God to bend before a man-made image was an obscenity. It was the practice of Baal-worshipping pagans. They walked by faith, not sight, and did not need dead images to worship a living God.

    That is also why Christians of the first century did not use images. It wss after the death of the apostles that such pagan practices crept into the congregations.

  244. 244
    StephenB says:

    JDK:

    So my question is given the natural moral law NML, what is the extent of the logical conclusions one can draw, beyond the conclusion that there must be a lawgiver, God? What attributes of this God (who is not logically necessarily the Christian God) can be considered logically necessary attributes?

    God must be First Cause (causeless cause), eternal, personal, one (not many), self-existent, and necessary (not contingent).

    So if I love my neighbor (but don’t believe in the Christian God), and live a life that all would agree is in accordance with the natural moral law, I will still go to hell: that I gather is the correct conclusion.

    Several factors come into play: Are you searching for the truth, or do you scoff at the very idea? Are you favorably disposed to the gift of faith and just haven’t received it, or did you decide in advance that you wanted no part of it. It would be one thing if you investigated the matter thoroughly by analyzing the arguments for God, in general and Christianity, in particular, and found them to be unpersuasive, it would be something else if you refused to open your mind because you chose to be a law unto yourself.

    Normally, it is the latter situation. I have never met an atheist who can explain the case for Christianity and argue against it, which is the same thing as being willfully ignorant. If that is the case, then I think that the soul on that track is on the way to being lost. No one wakes up one morning in hell and asks, “How did that happen?”

    This seems to me to be an unreasonable and unlikely characteristic of a divine entity who has created this whole universe, and one that I would not be willing to accept.

    I can understand why the doctrine of Hell would be a stumbling block. It was for me as well. However, I came to realize that the spiritual soul is not subject to physical death and must, therefore, reside somewhere forever. The decision about where that will be is made by the soul, not the divine entity who created it. We do not live in a morally deterministic universe. People go to hell only through voluntary fault.

    Suppose I do believe in the Christian God, and do in general believe in and try to live in accordance with the natural moral law, but disagree about some specific common conclusion: for instance, I support same – sex marriage. Will I still go to hell? Or is belief in Jesus etc. the deciding fator in whether I do or don’t go to hell? Or do my actions matter, and to what extent?

    Faith without actions cannot save and actions without faith cannot save. However, people sin and make mistakes, so they can be saved by confessing their wrong doing and starting over again – as often as it takes.

    Since gay sex (and obviously same-sex marriage) violates both Christian doctrine and the natural moral law, I think anyone who supports it publicly (or enters into it in practice) would be guilty of serious sin. There is no theological or philosophical justification for taking a pro-gay position.

    Would this single issue affect one’s salvation? Once again, the question of willful ignorance vs excusable ignorance becomes a factor. Does the person who supports same-sex marriage believe, mistakenly, that some people are born gay, even though there is no scientific evidence to support that claim. Such an error would lessen the culpability of the sinner if there was no way to know better. On the other hand, this same person has a moral obligation to rise above ignorance and learn the truth (homosexuality is a product of environment, not biology) and act on it.

    Will the sodomites themselves lose their souls? If they don’t repent and change their behavior before they die, then the answer is yes.

  245. 245
    jdk says:

    re 244: again, thanks. It is very interesting to have all this spelled out so clearly (even though the discussion with Siver Asiatic shows there can be disagreements between people who share some fundamental beliefs)

    In answer to my question about logically necessary attributes of God, given the NML, Stephen answers:

    God must be First Cause (causeless cause), eternal, personal, one (not many), self-existent, and necessary (not contingent).

    This is a reasonable list.

    When I asked if I will go to hell if I don’t believe in the Christian God, Stephen explained,

    Are you searching for the truth, or do you scoff at the very idea?

    That’s sort of a mixed and loaded answer, I think.

    I am searching for truth, although not the Truth, because I don’t believe capital T Truth, if it exists, can be found by human beings, given what I see as our human limitations. Even if you consider my position as really not “searching for the truth”, characterizing the alternative to it as “scoffing at the very idea” is a false and inaccurate dichotomy of possibilities.

    Similarly, Stephen writes,

    Are you favorably disposed to the gift of faith and just haven’t received it, or did you decide in advance that you wanted no part of it.

    And again, a false dichotomy. I have been studying religion and philosophy for over 50 years, both academically and personally. I certainly didn’t “decide in advance” that I wanted no part of faith, either in respect to Christianity or other positions that also requite faith. I have reached my conclusions about these things after long and reasonably careful study and thought.

    And again,

    It would be one thing if you investigated the matter thoroughly by analyzing the arguments for God, in general and Christianity, in particular, and found them to be unpersuasive, it would be something else if you refused to open your mind because you chose to be a law unto yourself.

    And again a false dichotomy. I grew up in a Christian environment, have studied the arguments for Christianity and compared it to other religions and philosophical positions, and found Christianity unpersuasive. For you to offer the alternative to this as merely “refus[ing] to open your mind because you chose to be a law unto yourself” is not only another false and inaccurate dichotomy of possibilities, it denigrates me, and anyone who has been on a similar path as mine.

    It seems to me that you don’t, and maybe can’t, even entertain the possibility that people who are equally as concerned, serious, intelligent, well-educated, etc. as you might reach different conclusions about these matters. To you, it seems, anyone who doesn’t see things as you do “scoffs at truth”, has “decided in advance” they have no interest in entertaining faith, “refuse to open their mind”, etc. Obviously, you have very clear and articulate ideas about your beliefs, but I would think a more generous attitude towards the wide diversity of human beliefs, some of which are quite different then yours, wouldn’t hurt you, and might do you some good.

    You write,

    I have never met an atheist who can explain the case for Christianity and argue against it, which is the same thing as being willfully ignorant. If that is the case, then I think that the soul on that track is on the way to being lost. No one wakes up one morning in hell and asks, “How did that happen?”

    I have considered the case against Christianity, and rejected it for what I consider sound philosophical and empirical reasons. I am fairly sure that discussing that with you would not be profitable for the very reasons listed in my last paragraph.

    You write,

    However, I came to realize that the spiritual soul is not subject to physical death and must, therefore, reside somewhere forever.

    And is this belief in an immortal soul a necessary logical consequence of the NML, or is an addition belief that comes from either further reason or religious faith and revelation?

    It seems to me that if you accept the God you described in the beginning, and yet leave the Christianity out of it, that we could be such that we can apprehend the NML and reason about it, but that part of us which is capable of this only exists in a personified form in a living body.

    For instance, the Buddhist Alan Watts (formerly an Epispcopal priest) explained that the Buddhist view is that when we die, our soul is like a drop of water being thrown back in the ocean, losing its individuality and becoming once again a part on the universal soul.

    It seems that this view fits just as well with the existence of the NML and the logically necessary attributes you mentioned earlier as the Christian view that the soul retains its individuality. From such a view, considerations of an afterlife, and the possibility of heaven or hell, are meaningless.

  246. 246
    StephenB says:

    JDK

    I grew up in a Christian environment, have studied the arguments for Christianity and compared it to other religions and philosophical positions, and found Christianity unpersuasive./blockquote>

    What caused you to abandon the Christian religion?
    I provided three good reasons why Christianity surpasses all other world religions. What did you find unpersuasive about them?

    For you to offer the alternative to this as merely “refus[ing] to open your mind because you chose to be a law unto yourself” is not only another false and inaccurate dichotomy of possibilities, it denigrates me, and anyone who has been on a similar path as mine.

    I was simply asking qualifying questions. You did ask me, in effect, if I thought you were on the way to hell. You seemed pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, so I thought that gave me a license to push the envelope a bit and ask some hard questions about how open your mind really is.

    It seems to me that you don’t, and maybe can’t, even entertain the possibility that people who are equally as concerned, serious, intelligent, well-educated, etc. as you might reach different conclusions about these matters. To you, it seems, anyone who doesn’t see things as you do “scoffs at truth”, has “decided in advance” they have no interest in entertaining faith, “refuse to open their mind”, etc. Obviously, you have very clear and articulate ideas about your beliefs, but I would think a more generous attitude towards the wide diversity of human beliefs, some of which are quite different then yours, wouldn’t hurt you, and might do you some good.

    I am open to any idea that someone might want to express. However, some ideas are better than others. Once I find out that something doesn’t work, I try to remember the reason it doesn’t work and explain why to others. As Chesterton said, “The purpose of opening the mind is to close it on something solid – truth.” You have stated that you don’t even believe in truth (Cap T) and yet you also say that you are searching for truth. Do you not understand why that is one of those ideas that doesn’t work?

    And is this belief in an immortal soul a necessary logical consequence of the NML, or is an addition belief that comes from either further reason or religious faith and revelation?

    That idea comes from Theology, philosophy, logic, and the Natural Moral law. Thoughts are obviously immaterial, which means that the soul that produces them is also immaterial. You can’t get non-matter from matter. If the human soul is immaterial, then it has no parts that can neither decay or be destroyed. Thus, it will live forever in some state, condition, or place. This is high stakes drama.

    For instance, the Buddhist Alan Watts (formerly an Epispcopal priest) explained that the Buddhist view is that when we die, our soul is like a drop of water being thrown back in the ocean, losing its individuality and becoming once again a part on the universal soul.

    Yes, the idea is that you experience a non-personal “merger into being” and lose your identity. Does that appeal to you – losing your identity? Do you find that idea more attractive than remaining who you are and living in a heavenly paradise with loving people who remain who they are and a living God who loves you for who you are?

    It seems that this view fits just as well with the existence of the NML and the logically necessary attributes you mentioned earlier as the Christian view that the soul retains its individuality. From such a view, considerations of an afterlife, and the possibility of heaven or hell, are meaningless.

    The Christian God is transcendent to his creation. He is responsible for creating human nature so he would be more qualified than Buddha to establish a moral law that is consistent with the purpose for which humans were made – heaven. The nml exists for that purpose, as an aid to that journey. As you know, Buddhism does not recognize a transcendent creator and its version of natural law does not recognize a God with even one of the Divine attributes that I listed. In any case, I would rather exist personally with the Christian God than be a an impersonal part of Buddhism’s blob god.

  247. 247
    StephenB says:

    JDK

    I grew up in a Christian environment, have studied the arguments for Christianity and compared it to other religions and philosophical positions, and found Christianity unpersuasive.

    What caused you to abandon the Christian religion?
    I provided three good reasons why Christianity surpasses all other world religions. What did you find unpersuasive about them?

    For you to offer the alternative to this as merely “refus[ing] to open your mind because you chose to be a law unto yourself” is not only another false and inaccurate dichotomy of possibilities, it denigrates me, and anyone who has been on a similar path as mine.

    I was simply asking qualifying questions. You did ask me, in effect, if I thought you were on the way to hell. You seemed pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, so I thought that gave me a license to push the envelope a bit and ask some hard questions about how open your mind really is.

    It seems to me that you don’t, and maybe can’t, even entertain the possibility that people who are equally as concerned, serious, intelligent, well-educated, etc. as you might reach different conclusions about these matters. To you, it seems, anyone who doesn’t see things as you do “scoffs at truth”, has “decided in advance” they have no interest in entertaining faith, “refuse to open their mind”, etc. Obviously, you have very clear and articulate ideas about your beliefs, but I would think a more generous attitude towards the wide diversity of human beliefs, some of which are quite different then yours, wouldn’t hurt you, and might do you some good.

    I am open to any idea that someone might want to express. However, some ideas are better than others. Once I find out that something doesn’t work, I try to remember the reason it doesn’t work and explain why to others. As Chesterton said, “The purpose of opening the mind is to close it on something solid – truth.” You have stated that you don’t even believe in truth (Cap T) and yet you also say that you are searching for truth. Do you not understand why that is one of those ideas that doesn’t work?

    And is this belief in an immortal soul a necessary logical consequence of the NML, or is an addition belief that comes from either further reason or religious faith and revelation?

    That idea comes from Theology, philosophy, logic, and the Natural Moral law. Thoughts are obviously immaterial, which means that the soul that produces them is also immaterial. You can’t get non-matter from matter. If the human soul is immaterial, then it has no parts that can decay or be destroyed. Thus, it will live forever in some state, condition, or place. This is high stakes drama.

    For instance, the Buddhist Alan Watts (formerly an Epispcopal priest) explained that the Buddhist view is that when we die, our soul is like a drop of water being thrown back in the ocean, losing its individuality and becoming once again a part on the universal soul.

    Yes, the idea is that you eventually experience a non-personal “merger into being” and lose your identity. Does that appeal to you – losing your identity? Do you find that idea more attractive than remaining who you are and living in a heavenly paradise with loving people who remain who they are and a living God who loves you for who you are?

    It seems that this view fits just as well with the existence of the NML and the logically necessary attributes you mentioned earlier as the Christian view that the soul retains its individuality. From such a view, considerations of an afterlife, and the possibility of heaven or hell, are meaningless.

    The Christian God is transcendent to his creation. He is responsible for creating human nature so he would be more qualified than Buddha to establish a moral law that is consistent with the purpose for which humans were made – heaven. The NML exists for that purpose, as an aid to that journey. As you know, Buddhism does not recognize a transcendent creator and its version of natural law does not recognize a God with even one of the Divine attributes that I listed. In any case, I would rather exist personally with the Christian God than be a an impersonal part of Buddhism’s blob god.

  248. 248
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    It is very interesting to have all this spelled out so clearly (even though the discussion with Siver Asiatic shows there can be disagreements between people who share some fundamental beliefs).

    Disagreements on the application of the principles does not mean that the universal principles do not exist. Rational and logical arguments that follow from the principles, when applied to real-life situations (is the use of nuclear weapons immoral?) are not self-evident and can be debated.

    The existence of the natural moral law is proof of the existence of a lawmaker – this is the Creator-being we refer to as God.

    From philosophy, we arrive at additional knowledge about the nature and attributes of God.

    At this point, a certain conclusion is that atheism is false. That’s obvious.

    But, the question is: Can you proceed further to gain knowledge about God using a reasoning process?

    Here’s where you can weigh various ideas and determine what is most logical and most reasonable.

    This will not result in absolute certainty, but rather a reliable, logically-consistent understanding.

    Making a commitment to a religious system will require more or less faith. But a logical process can be used to determine that which is most reasonable and most likely true among all options.

  249. 249
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    For instance, the Buddhist Alan Watts (formerly an Epispcopal priest) explained that the Buddhist view is that when we die, our soul is like a drop of water being thrown back in the ocean, losing its individuality and becoming once again a part on the universal soul.

    It seems that this view fits just as well with the existence of the NML and the logically necessary attributes you mentioned earlier as the Christian view that the soul retains its individuality. From such a view, considerations of an afterlife, and the possibility of heaven or hell, are meaningless.

    I don’t think that view fits with the natural moral law. For the NML, we must do good and avoid evil. It is morally good to correct an evil action – that is an act of justice.
    If a sin is committed (theft of someone’s property), to correct the sin we made amends (restore the property with interest).

    However, we are not directly responsible for the sinful acts of other people. We can help, by assisting, and we can incur some guilt for other’s crimes if we encouraged or taught wrongly – but the sins of other people belong directly to them. Their good actions also are credited to them.

    So, the idea that, at the end of life, we are merged into a collective would go against this notion of personal responsibility.

  250. 250
    jdk says:

    re 247:

    Stephen asks,

    What caused you to abandon the Christian religion?

    I never “abandoned” it because because I never adopted it. I remember going to Sunday School before I was ten and thinking “these stories can’t be true.” Church seemed empty and unconvincing about bigger issues. I read a lot of mythology as a child: I thought it was neat but it also seemed to me that the Christian stories, including that of Jesus, were just the currently accepted myths.

    As I got older and considered the bigger picture of original sin, the role of Jesus, the existence of heaven and hell, etc. the whole thing continued to seem made up, not reasonable, and in fact not worthy of respect.

    In high school I started reading some philosophical novels, and in college I studied religion from an anthropological and psychological point of view. I read William James “The Varieties of Religious Experience” and Huston Smith’s “The World’s Great Religion”.

    These and many other books and experiences convinced me that all religion was a cultural invention that existed for important psychological and sociological reasons, but was not true in any ontological sense.

    At the same time, however, I came to the conclusion that I liked the philosophical slant of the Eastern religions more than that of Christianity. The idea of preferring some religious ideas over others without believing in the Truth of any of them was consistent with my general thoughts about the nature of religion.

    That’s a short summary of how I came to never consider Christianity as either True or personally appealing.

    Stephen asks,

    I provided three good reasons why Christianity surpasses all other world religions. What did you find unpersuasive about them?

    I explained in 245 why I don’t think we could have a productive conversation about this.

    You write,

    You have stated that you don’t even believe in truth (Cap T) and yet you also say that you are searching for truth. Do you not understand why that is one of those ideas that doesn’t work?

    No I don’t. Lots of truth is accessible about both the external material world and the nature of human beings – both our external behavior and our internal life. Such truth is never certain, and capable of being refined, but it is the truth that we can know. That is what I am interested in, and have been investigating all my life.

    Stephen writes,

    Yes, the idea is that you eventually experience a non-personal “merger into being” and lose your identity. Does that appeal to you – losing your identity?

    First, surely you know that what “appeals to us” is not a criteria for truth, at least certainly not the kind of Truth that you believe in.

    I have no problem with believing that when I die, that’s it for me, and if there is some immaterial part of me, that it will return to the universal pool. Identity is a phenomena associated with a living physical being, and I have no attachment for nor belief in a differentiated “me” that can or will exist when my physical body is dead. This doesn’t bother me. I can feel now that I will miss being alive, but I also know that when I’m dead it is those still living who will miss me. There will be no “me” to miss me, from my point of view, at that time.

    You write,

    Do you find that idea more attractive than remaining who you are and living in a heavenly paradise with loving people who remain who they are and a living God who loves you for who you are?

    I have no interest in what I consider a made-up story that exists to make people feel good.

    I have read lots of interesting commentary about how the afterlife part of Christian thought gains its strength from the solace it provides to people who are struggling with the sorrow, pain, and difficulty of this life. One powerful example is the sermon given by Dinah Morris, a character in George Elliott’s novel “Adam Bede”. Other examples can be found in lots of gospel music: I’m a particular fan of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

    You conclude,

    In any case, I would rather exist personally with the Christian God than be a an impersonal part of Buddhism’s blob god.

    Yes, I understand that Christianity is your preferred religion, and that you have a strong and well-developed belief system to support that.

    But it is a preference, which has been one of the themes of this thread. We all make subjective choices based on the sum total of what we know and who we are that we can bring on the subject. You prefer Christianity. I don’t find it appealing or the reasons for adopting it convincing.

  251. 251
    EricMH says:

    @jdk, what ideology has a better track record on human rights and promoting human development than Christianity? Certainly not atheism, secularism, nor any of the other major religions. Of all the major players, Christianity seems to be it.

  252. 252
    jdk says:

    sa writes at 240,

    So, the idea that, at the end of life, we are merged into a collective would go against this notion of personal responsibility.

    Why? We are responsible for our actions here, now, because this is where and when we are in fact acting. Why would ceasing to exist as an individual after we die change the responsibilities we had when we were alive?

  253. 253
    StephenB says:

    JDK:

    I never “abandoned” it because because I never adopted it. I remember going to Sunday School before I was ten and thinking “these stories can’t be true.” Church seemed empty and unconvincing about bigger issues. I read a lot of mythology as a child: I thought it was neat but it also seemed to me that the Christian stories, including that of Jesus, were just the currently accepted myths.

    Thanks for telling your story. I appreciate the perspective you present. (Yes, I also read the succeeding paragraphs.)

    SB: I provided three good reasons why Christianity surpasses all other world religions. What did you find unpersuasive about them?

    I explained in 245 why I don’t think we could have a productive conversation about this.

    In effect, you said that I don’t deserve an answer to a substantive question because I had earlier asked a few “loaded” questions. However, I interpreted your language and your structure at that time to mean that I could respond not only to you personally but also to other members of your atheistic group to whom the loaded questions might have applied. All you needed to say was that those alternatives, which were intended as thought stimulators (not accusations), did not apply to you personally.

    SB: Yes, the idea (Alan Watts, Buddhism) is that you eventually experience a non-personal “merger into being” and lose your identity. Does that appeal to you – losing your identity?

    First, surely you know that what “appeals to us” is not a criteria for truth, at least certainly not the kind of Truth that you believe in.

    I agree. Nevertheless, that world view appeals to you even though there is no good reason to believe it. At the same time, I provided evidence (summarized to save time and be easily digested) that there is a world view that is much more likely to be true, and you chose not to respond on the grounds that interacting with me would “not be productive.”

    I have no problem with believing that when I die, that’s it for me, and if there is some immaterial part of me, that it will return to the universal pool. Identity is a phenomena associated with a living physical being, and I have no attachment for nor belief in a differentiated “me” that can or will exist when my physical body is dead. This doesn’t bother me. I can feel now that I will miss being alive, but I also know that when I’m dead it is those still living who will miss me. There will be no “me” to miss me, from my point of view, at that time.

    If Christianity is true, which is much more likely, then the issue is not about merger into being but rather about heaven and hell. I don’t accept that world view because I prefer it to the others. I accept it because reason and the facts in evidence support it.

    I have no interest in what I consider a made-up story that exists to make people feel good.

    Yet when confronted with evidence that it was not made up, and the prospect that there might be still more evidence not yet mentioned, you appear to close your mind.

    I have read lots of interesting commentary about how the afterlife part of Christian thought gains its strength from the solace it provides to people who are struggling with the sorrow, pain, and difficulty of this life. One powerful example is the sermon given by Dinah Morris, a character in George Elliott’s novel “Adam Bede”. Other examples can be found in lots of gospel music: I’m a particular fan of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

    Interesting commentary is not the same as sound commentary. Noticeably absent from your analysis is the preponderance of evidence for the opposite point of view, including the fact that the apostles didn’t make up the idea, said that they didn’t make it up, and even suffered martyrdom for making it public. Do people die for ideas that they know are not true? Again, you appear open to only one side of the story, and a side that is based on preferences, not facts. That is why it is so odd that you say that preferences should not define the issue.

    I don’t find [Christianity] appealing or the reasons for adopting it convincing.

    Perhaps you don’t find those reasons convincing because you really don’t know what they are in spite of your claims to have investigated the matter thoroughly. Indeed, when I presented just a small portion of that evidence (albeit an important portion) you said that you were not interested because I somehow “denigrated you.”

  254. 254
    StephenB says:

    JDK:

    I never “abandoned” it because because I never adopted it. I remember going to Sunday School before I was ten and thinking “these stories can’t be true.” Church seemed empty and unconvincing about bigger issues. I read a lot of mythology as a child: I thought it was neat but it also seemed to me that the Christian stories, including that of Jesus, were just the currently accepted myths.

    Thanks for telling your story. I appreciate the perspective you present. (Yes, I also read the succeeding paragraphs.)

    SB: I provided three good reasons why Christianity surpasses all other world religions. What did you find unpersuasive about them?

    I explained in 245 why I don’t think we could have a productive conversation about this.

    In effect, you said that I don’t deserve an answer to a substantive question because I had earlier asked a few “loaded” questions. However, I interpreted your language and your structure at that time to mean that I could respond not only to you personally but also to other members of your atheistic group to whom the loaded questions might have applied. All you needed to say was that those alternatives, which were designed as thought stimulators (not accusations), did not apply to you personally.

    SB: Yes, the idea is that you eventually experience a non-personal “merger into being” and lose your identity. Does that appeal to you – losing your identity?

    First, surely you know that what “appeals to us” is not a criteria for truth, at least certainly not the kind of Truth that you believe in.

    I agree. Nevertheless, that world view appeals to you even though there is no good reason to believe it. At the same time, I provided evidence (summarized to save time and be easily digested) that there is a world view that is much more likely to be true, and you chose not to respond on the grounds that interacting with me would not be productive.

    I have no problem with believing that when I die, that’s it for me, and if there is some immaterial part of me, that it will return to the universal pool. Identity is a phenomena associated with a living physical being, and I have no attachment for nor belief in a differentiated “me” that can or will exist when my physical body is dead. This doesn’t bother me. I can feel now that I will miss being alive, but I also know that when I’m dead it is those still living who will miss me. There will be no “me” to miss me, from my point of view, at that time./blockquote>

    If Christianity is true, which is much more likely, then the issue is not about merger into being but rather about heaven and hell. I don’t embrace that world view because I prefer it. I embrace it because reason and the facts in evidence support it.

    I have no interest in what I consider a made-up story that exists to make people feel good.

    Yet when confronted with evidence that it was not made up, and the prospect that there might be still more evidence not yet mentioned, you appear to close your mind.

    I have read lots of interesting commentary about how the afterlife part of Christian thought gains its strength from the solace it provides to people who are struggling with the sorrow, pain, and difficulty of this life. One powerful example is the sermon given by Dinah Morris, a character in George Elliott’s novel “Adam Bede”. Other examples can be found in lots of gospel music: I’m a particular fan of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

    Interesting commentary is not the same as sound commentary. Noticeably absent from your analysis is the preponderance of evidence for the opposite point of view, including the fact that the apostles didn’t make up the idea, said that they didn’t make it up, and even suffered martyrdom for making it public. Do people die for ideas that they know are not true? Again, you appear open to only one side of the story, and a side that is based on preferences, not facts. That is why it is so odd that you say that preferences should not define the issue.

    I don’t find [Christianity] appealing or the reasons for adopting it convincing.

    Perhaps you don’t find those reasons convincing because you really don’t know what they are in spite of your claims to have investigated the matter thoroughly. Indeed, when I presented just a small portion of that evidence (albeit an important portion) you decided that you are not interested because I somehow “denigrated you.”

  255. 255
    StephenB says:

    JDK

    JDK

    It is very interesting to have all this spelled out so clearly (even though the discussion with Siver Asiatic shows there can be disagreements between people who share some fundamental beliefs).

    Among the very few disagreements between SA and myself on the application (not meaning) of the Natural Moral Law, virtually all of them have been resolved by a mutual effort to review our definitions of words and the methodologies being employed (Is this a one step or two step process etc.)

    This is the beauty of objective truth. The more deeply you probe into it, the more obvious is the distinction between an apparent disagreement and a real disagreement. By contrast, the promotion of subjectivism produces nothing but confusion. At some level, my truth will always conflict with your truth and THE truth will never get a chance to arbitrate between the two.

  256. 256
    StephenB says:

    JDK

    It is very interesting to have all this spelled out so clearly (even though the discussion with Siver Asiatic shows there can be disagreements between people who share some fundamental beliefs).>/blockquote>

    Among the very few disagreements between SA and myself on the application (not meaning) of the Natural Moral Law, virtually all of them have been resolved by a mutual effort to review our definitions of words and the methodologies being employed (Is this a one step or two step process etc.)

    This is the beauty of objective truth. The more deeply you probe into it, the more obvious is the distinction between an apparent disagreement and a real disagreement. By contrast, the promotion of subjectivism produces nothing but confusion. At some level, my truth will always conflict with your truth and THE truth will never get a chance to arbitrate between the two.

  257. 257
    StephenB says:

    JDKI have no problem with believing that when I die, that’s it for me, and if there is some immaterial part of me, that it will return to the universal pool. Identity is a phenomena associated with a living physical being, and I have no attachment for nor belief in a differentiated “me” that can or will exist when my physical body is dead. This doesn’t bother me. I can feel now that I will miss being alive, but I also know that when I’m dead it is those still living who will miss me. There will be no “me” to miss me, from my point of view, at that time.

    If Christianity is true, which is much more likely, then the issue is not about merger into being but rather about heaven and hell. I don’t accept that world view because I prefer it to the others. I accept it because reason and the facts in evidence support it.

  258. 258
    StephenB says:

    For some reason, either through some technical glitch or because of my own posting errors, I cannot consistently separate my comments from the person I am responding to. So rather than complain about the missing editing option, I am going to stop using the blockquote option and separate comments some other way.

  259. 259
    jdk says:

    No problem. I get confused sometimes, although I have a macro to insert blockquote and /blockquote (with the appropriate less than and greater than signs) so that I find it easier to keep them paired correctly.

  260. 260
    vividbleau says:

    JDK

    You don’t believe in Capital T Truth. If your belief is true your belief is false because the Capital T truth would be that the Truth is there is no Truth which itself is a Truth. If your belief is false your belief is false as well. I just don’t understand how very smart and educated a person as yourself cling to beliefs that are incoherent.

    Perhaps to much reading of Watts and Buddhist philosophy with the one hand clapping nonsense. BTW I think Allan Watts was required reading for all the hippies at least it was for me????

    Vivid

  261. 261
    Silver Asiatic says:

    jdk

    Why? We are responsible for our actions here, now, because this is where and when we are in fact acting. Why would ceasing to exist as an individual after we die change the responsibilities we had when we were alive?

    Personal responsibility means that we have “personal ownership” for our actions.

    There is an objective moral order – thus a lawgiver. The universe is contingent and requires governance (maintenence of existence and order).

    God, who created the laws, also governs activities with perfect fairness and justice.

    By the NML, good should be awarded, evil punished.

    We are either punished for our sins in this like (by repenting, making amends, correcting ourselves) or in the next.

    A principle of the NML is that we should do good and shun evil.

    If all human souls were merged together, then good would be joined with evil – and that is a violation of the NML.

    Instead, at the end – good is separated from evil.

    Those who were committed to good, receive blessing.

    Those who were committed to evil end in hell.

    A merger into an impersonal collective would eliminate final vindication.

    The act of vindication against evil (punishment of persecutors of the good) is a good thing in itself.

  262. 262
    OldAndrew says:

    So many strange premises:
    God can create lives but cannot destroy them?
    So he’s constantly churning out lives like a factory, knowing that most will end up in hell. (Didn’t Jesus say that few find the narrow road, but many find destruction? That’s minority vs. majority.)

    Stranger yet: if we live for 100 years and then go to heaven or hell, then an infinitely larger part of our existence is determined by an infinitely smaller part.

    In a trillion years or a trillion times that, will people sit in hell because they sinned for 50 years?

    If you go with old-fashioned hellfire, that means “aaaaaahhhhh!! I’m on fire!” and then 500 billion years later, “aaaaaaaaahhhhhh!! I’m stiil on fire!”

    Apparently people caught on to how sick that was and so it was toned down to mean separation from God. But it’s still the same thing. If they’re suffering then it’s torture for infinity because you sinned temporarily. If they’re not suffering then it’s not punishment.

    It makes no sense, and that one concept alone steers many to atheism. I don’t think that’s an accident. I think its very purpose is to convince people that God is cruel. Hitler was evil, but he never tortured anyone for more than a few years.

    And yet the Bible says,
    “For the wages of sin is death.”
    “for he who has died is acquitted of (or released from) sin.”

    Death is the price of sin, and one who dies has payed it.

    It’s so simple, and no one gets tortured forever.

  263. 263
    jdk says:

    re 253.

    Thanks, Stephen> for reading the very brief history of my early background experiences on these subject.

    You write,

    In effect, you said that I don’t deserve an answer to a substantive question because I had earlier asked a few “loaded” questions. However, I interpreted your language and your structure at that time to mean that I could respond not only to you personally but also to other members of your atheistic group to whom the loaded questions might have applied. All you needed to say was that those alternatives, which were intended as thought stimulators (not accusations), did not apply to you personally.

    I apologize if I took your answers more personally than you intended. However, I don’t think I said you didn’t deserve answers: I said that I didn’t think we could have a productive conversation. And I certainly don’t see myself as belonging to an “atheistic group”: I don’t have very clear ideas about what other atheists believe on many of these topics, and certainly don’t think that I represent any general consensus. I am just representing myself.

    You wrote,

    [T]hat world view [mine about souls losing the differentiated identity at death] appeals to you even though there is no good reason to believe it. At the same time, I provided evidence (summarized to save time and be easily digested) that there is a world view that is much more likely to be true, and you chose not to respond on the grounds that interacting with me would “not be productive.”

    And I disagree about which worldview is more likely to be true. But, to repeat, I’m not interested, for various reasons, including time, in getting into a full-blown discussion.

    You write,

    Yet when confronted with evidence that it was not made up, and the prospect that there might be still more evidence not yet mentioned, you appear to close your mind.

    How open is your mind? Are you open to considering my views: that we cannot know metaphysical Truth; that all religions are cultural inventions that serve important social and psychological purposes, but are not ontologically true; and that therefore we must make decisions about how to act by bringing all our human nature and skill to bear without having any recourse to any transcendent guidance. Is your mind open to that?

    You wrote,

    … the apostles … even suffered martyrdom for making it public. Do people die for ideas that they know are not true?

    People die for things they think they know are true all the time.

    Anyway, think what you will, I am not interested in having a full-blown discussion about Christianity. I have enjoyed some of this discussion because of the specific questions that have been addressed, and the clear, specific answers about your beliefs (and SA’s) that have been provided, and I have offered some of my thoughts in return. That’s good enough for me.

  264. 264
    jdk says:

    re 260:

    vivid writes,

    You don’t believe in Capital T Truth. If your belief is true your belief is false because the Capital T truth would be that the Truth is there is no Truth which itself is a Truth. If your belief is false your belief is false as well. I just don’t understand how very smart and educated a person as yourself cling to beliefs that are incoherent.

    This is just silly. I don’t believe it is True that there is no Truth: that would be contradictory. But I just believe it is true that there is no Truth that we can know: that is, our knowledge is limited by our experience, and we don’t have access to the metaphysical. That is a provisional belief, not a Certain one, but I think it fits the facts available to me better than the alternative, and I choose to live by it.

  265. 265
    jdk says:

    re 262, to OldAndrew: I appreciate your thoughts about hell. I’ll leave it at that.

  266. 266
    StephenB says:

    Old Andrew:

    And yet the Bible says,
    “For the wages of sin is death.”
    “for he who has died is acquitted of (or released from) sin.”

    No it doesn’t. You just smuggled in Romans 6:23 (For the wages of sin is death) in the place of Romans 6:6 (“knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with,”) which precedes Romans 6:7 (so that we would no longer be slaves to sin,” which obviously precedes Romans 6:7 (for he who has died is freed from sin.

    The passage 6:7 mean that he who dies to sin is freed from sin.

    Romans 6:23 (The wages of sin is death) refers to physical death (separation of soul from body) and spiritual death (Hell). It is a totally different context than Roman’s 6:6.

    It’s so simple, and no one gets tortured forever.

    A lot of things that are simple are also wrong.

  267. 267
    StephenB says:

    Romans 6:6 (“knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin,” –

    Roman’s 6:7 (for he who has died is freed from sin).

    It means that he who has died to sin is freed from sin.

  268. 268
  269. 269
    StephenB says:

    How open is your mind? Are you open to considering my views: that we cannot know metaphysical Truth; that all religions are cultural inventions that serve important social and psychological purposes, but are not ontologically true; and that therefore we must make decisions about how to act by bringing all our human nature and skill to bear without having any recourse to any transcendent guidance. Is your mind open to that?

    There is a lot of information in that paragraph. I will address each one separately:

    [a] I am not open to the proposition that metaphysical truth doesn’t exist, because that proposition is, itself, a metaphysical truth claim. Obviously, it refutes itself. It isn’t rational be open minded about something that is obviously false.

    [b] In the spirit of open-mindedness, I have considered the possibility that all religions are social constructs and even agree that it is true for most of them. However, there is a big gap between “most” and “all.” Some things can be known to be true, once they are understand.

    If we know, for example, that God is both transcendent and immanent, and *why,* then we also know that Islam, which accepts transcendence but rejects immanence, and Buddhism, which accepts immanence but rejects transcendence, both contain serious errors (opposite errors in fact) and are not, therefore, worthy of belief.

    So it is with the world’s philosophies. Most of them are false, but some of them are true. The philosophy of skepticism (we cannot know things as they are), for example, is false. If we can’t know things as they are, (their identity) then we can’t do logic, which is based on identities. (A thing is what it is and nothing else)

    SB:… the apostles … even suffered martyrdom for making it public. Do people die for ideas that they know are not true?

    People die for things they think they know are true all the time.

    I think you might have missed the words, “that they know are – *not* – true.” A lot turns on that. It’s evidence for sincerity. No one in his right mind will be willing to die or be persecuted for something he knows to be a lie.

    Anyway, think what you will, I am not interested in having a full-blown discussion about Christianity.

    Fair enough. I was just responding to your questions, which I appreciated. You are right in implying that a true dialogue is a timely process. Perhaps it may not be worth pursuing at the tail end of a thread.

    I have enjoyed some of this discussion because of the specific questions that have been addressed, and the clear, specific answers about your beliefs (and SA’s) that have been provided, and I have offered some of my thoughts in return. That’s good enough for me.

    I feel the same way. Thanks. For me, the difficulty is deciding when to summarize and when to stretch out, when to be blunt and when to use softer images.

  270. 270
    vividbleau says:

    JDK

    Thanks for clarifying

    Vivid

  271. 271
    Silver Asiatic says:

    OldAndrew

    So he’s constantly churning out lives like a factory, knowing that most will end up in hell. (Didn’t Jesus say that few find the narrow road, but many find destruction? That’s minority vs. majority.)

    You offer a good example of subjectivism. You read the words of Jesus and give your personal interpretation so that those words are meaningless. That’s picking-and-choosing and that’s what happens with private interpretation of the Bible. You can make up your own doctrines – as millions of people do and create your own religious and moral views. Entirely persona, entirely subjective.

    God creates people through love of them – not as a factory. He gives all a choice, in fairness. Many people hate God and choose to serve Satan. That is what they want to do – God honors the choice.

    Hitler was evil, but he never tortured anyone for more than a few years.

    In your view, death is the punishment. So, everyone receives the same punishment that Hitler received. Plus, he committed suicide rather than face justice on earth. In your view, suicide or not, Hitler paid the price of his sins merely by death.

    Death is the price of sin, and one who dies has payed it.

    It’s so simple, and no one gets tortured forever.

    In this view, everyone receives the same punishment. All degrees of evil and good receive the same – merely physical death.

    Beyond this, all people go to heaven to be with God forever. This includes all the people who hate God and want nothing to do with heaven and Jesus.

    But the reality is that when people choose sin and choose to reject God – they do not want to be with God forever. They would rather be in hell forever than to serve God.

    It is tempting for us to wish there is no hell.

    The final judgement is a fearful thought. But it is necessary.

    Jesus died a very painful death – for a reason.

    Salvation means something – salvation from something.

    If there is no hell, then none of it matters. There would be no justice and the natural moral law would be irrational.

    Where there is law, there is justice. Where there is justice there is judgement — good versus evil. Where there is good or evil behavior, there is reward and punishment.

    An unjust system that rewards evil behavior is evil in itself.

    The teaching of hell is the teaching that came from Christ to the apostles. You can find it in the earliest Christian teachings.

    If you reject the teachings of Christ and the apostles on this, then what reason would anyone have to accept your ideas on this?

    Anybody can make up a religion.

    But the term religion means “to be bound”. A religious believer is a follower – a disciple. It is a person who is committed to a belief that comes from God, not from his own imagination.

    To follow one’s own imagination and one’s own moral system is subjectivism. That’s what this thread is about.

  272. 272
    Allen Shepherd says:

    OldAndrew said: Death is the price of sin, and one who dies has payed it.

    There is another view: annihilation, that is that there is a hell to shun, but that those who choose to enter there do not last forever, but are consumed. The wages of sin is death, the second death. Souls are not immortal.

    Jesus said that we should fear him who could destroy both body and soul in hell Mathew 10:28 (God)

    So, souls that sin do die, an eternal death in the end. Saints can die and sleep in the grave until the resurrection, but they ultimately live forever.

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