Intelligent Design

Rights. Real Things or Soothing Noises?

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A friend writes on Facebook:

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “with liberty and justice for all” still seem like pretty good concepts to build a country around. Lets start living it. Happy 4th everyone!

To which I responded that I agree wholeheartedly. But I would add that both of the quotations have context that is essential. Where do the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness come from? Men are “endowed by their creator” with those rights. And we are a nation “under God,” with liberty and justice for all.

All politics is downstream from culture. Culture is downstream from shared views about fundamental metaphysical ideas. And ideas about the existence of God are the most fundamental of all. Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist, says: “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

Dawkins is wrong about that. The universe we observe is full of evil. But evil can exist only if good — of which evil is the privation — also exists. And good can exist only if God exists. I have spent decades debating these issues. Today, I am more firmly convinced than ever that our rights are secure only if they rest on a foundation of God’s existence. For if God does not exist, Dawkins is surely right and all of this rights talk amounts to nothing but soothing noises one animal makes to another.

Some might respond: We can have good without God. Of course, that depends on what you mean by “good.” If “good” means only “that which at a given point in time a particular society calls good,” then a 21st century liberal democracy is “good.” But so is a 15th century Aztec society that captured, enslaved, and ritually sacrificed members of other tribes. We can call Aztec human sacrifice evil and the principles of the Declaration good in any meaningful sense of those words only if there is an objective standard of measure by which to judge between the two. And that standard exists only if a God who has endowed His image bearers with certain inalienable rights exists.

And thankfully He does. As Sam said, happy 4th!

95 Replies to “Rights. Real Things or Soothing Noises?

  1. 1
    PaoloV says:

    Barry,

    Agree.

    But it must all be according to the absolute definitions and under the absolute conditions established by God, otherwise it doesn’t work.

    In the Eden humans had life, liberty, the conditions for happiness and justice. The whole package. All given freely. But what did we do with all that unimaginable treasure?

    We trashed it. Miserably dumped it.

    Oh, no! Whats’ wrong with us?

    We preferred Paul Anka’s song “my way” and John Lennon’s “imagine” instead of profound worship hymns that praise our gracious Creator.

    Can”t complain and whine now.

    Let’s repent and fall on our faces at His feet and accept His eternal pardon, graciously offered through the resurrected Christ.

    Praise Adonai!

  2. 2
    jawa says:

    This has been quoted before but I think it’s worth repeating it now.

    Here’s part of the address Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn gave on the occasion of his acceptance, in London on May 10, 1983, of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion:

    More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

    Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval.

    But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/12/aleksandr-solzhenitsyn-men-have-forgotten-god-speech/

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “with liberty and justice for all” still seem like pretty good concepts to build a country around. Lets start living it. Happy 4th everyone!

    I think we can all agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. It’s the living up to that ideal that seems to be the problem.

    Not surprisingly, I agree with Dawkins that good and evil are not properties of the universe as a whole but they do describe how humans behave towards one another, so if we want to minimize evil and maximize good we should look to ourselves. In that, is our position so far from that of Christianity – at least the Christianity in which I was raised – which also enjoins us to take responsibility for the way we treat others?

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    Sev
    “good and evil are not properties of the universe as a whole”
    You don’t seem to understand what Dawkins said.

  5. 5
    jawa says:

    Seversky @3:

    1. What do you mean by “good and evil”? What’s that?

    2. You wrote: “if we want to minimize evil and maximize good we should look to ourselves”
    Can you explain what you mean by that? Can you provide an example for illustration?

    Please, note that it doesn’t make sense to comment on item #2 until the questions at item #1 get answered satisfactorily.

  6. 6
    News says:

    Without a concept of God, one cannot found a concept of good vs. evil. Everything turns out to depend on power vs. powerless instead.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    jawa says:

    News @6:

    Yes, but the comment @3 seems to assume that the concepts of “good and evil” don’t require any concept of God. That’s why I asked those questions @5.

  9. 9
    BobRyan says:

    According to the likes of Dawkins, humans have no free will and incapable of choosing good or evil. You can no more condemn Stalin than Hitler, since they did not act out of moral choice and simply acted as was predetermined for them to act. Only if free will exists, can anyone be held accountable for their actions.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    At 3 Seversky, in response to,

    “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “with liberty and justice for all” still seem like pretty good concepts to build a country around. Lets start living it. Happy 4th everyone!

    states that,

    I think we can all agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. It’s the living up to that ideal that seems to be the problem.

    Really??? ,,, it’s “living up to that ideal that seems to be the problem”???

    You don’t say, Living up to any standard of moral perfection is, in fact, an impossible task for anyone to meet.

    That ‘self evident truth’ is the whole point of Christianity! i.e. We are not perfect but God is and sent his perfect Son as a propitiation for our sins!

    Romans 3:23
    “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

    What Is Propitiation? | Christian Students
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwRUV9T7_KM

    Take for instance the perfect moral standard of “with liberty and justice for all”. In trying to live up to that perfect moral standard, America fought a Civil War in which over a half a million men died. The Civil War was, by far, America’s bloodiest conflict, far surpassing even WWII in terms of lives lost,

    The Civil War was America’s bloodiest conflict. The unprecedented violence of battles such as Shiloh, Antietam, Stones River, and Gettysburg shocked citizens and international observers alike. Nearly as many men died in captivity during the Civil War as were killed in the whole of the Vietnam War. Hundreds of thousands died of disease. Roughly 2% of the population, an estimated 620,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty. Taken as a percentage of today’s population, the toll would have risen as high as 6 million souls.
    The Numbers Illustrated
    The human cost of the Civil War was beyond anybody’s expectations. The young nation experienced bloodshed of a magnitude that has not been equaled since by any other American conflict.
    Military Losses in American Wars – graph
    https://www.battlefields.org/sites/default/files/styles/scale_width_1120/public/thumbnails/image/casualties-by-war_1.jpg?itok=x7I5By7h
    https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-casualties

    And still, even then, after all that bloodshed, that perfect moral standard of equality for all was not completely met. Far from it. It took the violence free movement of Reverend Martin Luther King, based in his deep Christian faith, to enjoin Americans to finally live up the Christian standards of equality that we all held in common as a nation. In fact, Dr King, “felt that it was his duty as a faithful man to make every effort to get the Church on the right path.”

    Dive even briefly into Martin Luther King Jr.’s work as a civil activist, and it’s impossible to deny the importance of his faith in both his personal life and his most famous accomplishments. ,,,
    While MLK clearly held and practiced a strong faith, he wasn’t afraid to call out his fellow Christians when necessary. In fact, he was deeply concerned about the Christian community. He felt that it was his duty as a faithful man to make every effort to get the Church on the right path.
    https://www.geneva.edu/blog/uncategorized/mlk-dream-in-2019

    In fact, although the left often claims that racism is still systemic within American culture, the fact of the matters is that racism, (the outrage over George Floyd’s death being a prime example). is simply not tolerated within America. Multiple laws now protect Blacks from discrimination on all levels of society.

    In fact, so rare is racism nowadays, that the left wing media, more often than not, has had to invent incidents of racism whole clothe to promote its false narrative that America is still inherently racist as a nation. Think Jussie Smollett and Bubba Wallace. I’ve lost count of how many times the left wing media has been caught peddling fake incidents of racism.

    Systemic racism is so rare in America, the media just can’t stop lying about it
    https://thehill.com/opinion/civil-rights/360083-systemic-racism-is-so-rare-in-america-the-media-just-cant-stop-lying

    Claims from fake news not withstanding, racism is simply no longer tolerated within American culture. To claim that racism is systemic, i.e. part and parcel, within American culture is to ignore our long history in dealing with racism, and is also to ignore the current state of American jurisprudence in which racism is ‘systemically’ rooted out and punished on all levels of society.

    Seversky goes on,

    Not surprisingly, I agree with Dawkins that good and evil are not properties of the universe as a whole but they do describe how humans behave towards one another, so if we want to minimize evil and maximize good we should look to ourselves.

    ‘Looking to ourselves’ is the absolute last thing that we should do. It is only by appealing to a perfect moral standard that is outside ourselves, as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. did in his appeal to our common Christian heritage as a nation, that we were finally able to root out systemic racism from American culture. ,,,, So that this point is not lost, over a half a million men dying in the Civil war did not cure systemic racism in America. It was only by Dr. King appealing to an objective moral standard that is outside of ourselves that America was finally able to rid itself of systemic racism. i.e. Where untold violence and bloodshed amongst ourselves failed to effectively deal with systemic racism, on the other hand, a non-violent appeal to an objective morality that is outside of ourselves, i.e. an appeal to our common Christian heritage, succeeded to bringing us much closer to meeting that standard or moral perfection.

    “The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws.”
    – Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Seversky goes on.

    is our (Severky’s and Dawkins’) position so far from that of Christianity – at least the Christianity in which I was raised – which also enjoins us to take responsibility for the way we treat others?

    Sure the bible says that we should ‘take responsibility for the way we treat others’,,,

    Matt.22: 37-40
    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
    This is the first and great commandment.
    And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    ,, but the Bible is also VERY clear that, in regards to living up to a standard of moral perfection, we certainly can’t do it by ourselves. Hitler, Stalin and Mao are all shining examples of how utterly incompetent we are at ‘doing it ourselves’.

    In fact, the bible is abundantly clear that we all desperately need God’s help if we are to live up to any standard of moral perfection, both in our own personal lives as well as in society as a whole.

    Roman 7:24-25
    What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
    So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

    John 15:5-8
    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

    Psalm 33:12
    Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

  11. 11

    From Little Acorns Mighty Oak Trees Grow

    America is like this parable.

    We used to gather in the assembly room of Edgewood Elementary School just around the corner where our three grandchildren grew up. On the walls on both sides of the stage in large size were a couple of songs we often sang, including the one above.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Thomas Jefferson penned these words from the Declaration of Independence in 1776

    At the time these words were written and attested to by 56 English colonialists desiring independence, the phrase was far from true and certainly not self evident to many in the colonies, in England and around the world. Men, women and children within those thirteen colonies and elsewhere around the world were human beings, but also property owned by other human beings.

    Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were slave holders as were others among those 56 men, and they personally and collectively were denying Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness to their human property, and had the “right” to deny life as well.

    So that’s how this nation, the United States of America began …

    But a great irony is that those words – that phrase – was the “little acorn” that has grown into a “Mighty Oak Tree.”

    And like that little acorn, birthed beneath the dirt, alive but not yet an oak tree – liberty and the pursuit of happiness was yet to come.

    But come it did, but not without struggle – too much struggle and too much time. Consider that the time line for this struggle should not be viewed as the time from 1776 to our present day, but rather be measured back to the time of the Exodus of the Hebrews from an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh some 3200 years prior to the little acorn of Jefferson’s words.

    But the acorn was yearning for the sun and the air and the chance to grow into a mighty oak. Likewise, there was a yearning for liberty in the colonies, and especially those enslaved.

    Liberty took root in 1776 with those words of Jefferson. Liberty began to sprout in 1776 with those words of Jefferson. The acorn of American liberty was then watered with the blood of patriots during the 8 years of war against England. At Yorktown, the acorn sprouted as liberty was gained and the yoke of the English throne was cast aside.

    Branches formed from the trunk of liberty as a new independent government was formed. A Continental Congress grew, but was a frail branch with little strength against the challenges of life amongst the vultures of the world. It was soon discarded as a convention was formed to reform the Articles of Confederation. Instead, a strong branch was formed behind the closed doors in Philadelphia in 1787. But that strong branch of a brand new constitution needed further protection, and a Bill of Rights was added giving protection to individual citizens against a federal government that someday might seek to put a boot to the God given rights of individual citizens. This new and unique constitution was ratified and gave life to the 13 states in 1789.

    The oak tree of liberty grew, but liberty remained denied to those who were property of others. The tree was diseased and split, perhaps fatally, with this disease of slavery. A new branch grew from the tree of liberty, a new political party – the Republican Party grew with the intent of stopping the spread of slavery into new territories of the Republic.

    A great storm was brewing, one that would pit ‘free‘ states against ‘slave‘ states. Many in the ‘free‘ states worked tirelessly to abolish this dark sin of slavery – they were called Abolitionists. Ominous clouds formed on the near horizon.

    The Republicans elected Abraham Lincoln as president, a man of humble beginnings in Illinois.

    The diseased ‘slave‘ states, threatened with the destruction of their way of life, rebelled and declared once again their independence from a government they deemed oppressive. They took up arms and violently rebelled and fought for their independence. War was at hand, and the survival of the republic of 1789 was threatened.

    President Lincoln and the Union prevailed and the war was won preserving the 13 states as one nation. But the cost was high – six hundred thousand died in that struggle. But the disease was confronted and defeated.

    Three new branched then grew from that oak tree of liberty. Three amendments to the Constitution of 1789.

    The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

    Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,
    except as a punishment for crime whereof the party
    shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within
    the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

    Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this
    article by appropriate legislation.

    The Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution reads:

    Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the
    United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,
    are citizens of the United States and of the State
    wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce
    any law which shall abridge the privileges or
    immunities of citizens of the United States;
    nor shall any State deprive any person of
    life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
    nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction
    the equal protection of the laws.”

    Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned
    among the several States according to their respective
    numbers, counting the whole number of persons
    in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.
    But when the right to vote at any election for
    the choice of electors for President and Vice President
    of the United States, Representatives in Congress,
    the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the
    members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to
    any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States,
    or in any way abridged, except for participation in
    rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation
    therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the
    number of such male citizens shall bear to the
    whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.”

    Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative
    in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President,
    or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States,
    or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath,
    as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States,
    or as a member of any State legislature, or as
    an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support
    he Constitution of the United States, shall have
    engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same,
    or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.
    But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

    Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States,
    authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of
    pensions and bounties for services in suppressing
    insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
    But neither the United States nor any State shall assume
    or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection
    or rebellion against the United States, or any claim
    for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts,
    obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.”

    Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce,
    by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

    The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

    Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote
    shall not be denied or abridged by the United States
    or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition
    of servitude.

    Section 2. The Congress shall have power to
    enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    That little acorn, the words of Thomas Jefferson written in 1776 finally achieved the intent of 1776, and of 1789 – all men are created equal, and no human could own another human in these United States of America.

    But the disease lingers on in the heats of individuals to this day and threatens the mighty oak tree of liberty.

    Moving forward into the twentieth century we see the mighty oak tree of America spawning branches of liberty in other places around the world, the most vivid examples being World Wat II, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Following the World War I defeat of Germany and the humiliating conditions imposed on Germany, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party came to power and rebuilt a formidable military power with a matching appetite for conquest and revenge. Along with Imperial Japan, the entire world was plunged into war, and countless millions brought into bondage from foreign powers.

    The United States was brought into World War II on December 7,1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor. At that time, the Germans had conquered most of Western Europe and was invading the Soviet Union. The Japanese were in the process of conquering much of the western Pacific including China and South East Asia, and had attacked Australia.

    On June 6, 1944 the Allied forces invaded German occupied France and proceeded to battle German forces through western Europe with the Soviet Red Army pressing Germany from the east. The final defeat of Germany was May 8, 1945.

    In June 1950, Soviet client state North Korea invaded South Korea and came close to capturing the entire Korean peninsula. The United Nations, led by the United States, pushed back the invasion and pushed the North Koreans back to the border of China. It appeared the war would soon be over and the peninsula united as one nation. But China entered that war and the war dragged on to 1953 as a stalemate. But South Korea survived as a nation, and over the years since has emerged as a strong democratic nation and an economic power house. South Korea – another branch grafted into the tree of liberty.

    The final defeat of Germany liberated the western European nations, and other branches were grafted into the oak tree of Liberty. The US sponsored Marshall Plan and the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) solidified these branches and representative constitutional governments were established.

    Later on August 14, 1945 Japan surrendered. American General Douglas MacArthur stayed on in Japan and formed a representative constitutional government which over the years brought liberty to that nation, thus another branch was grafted into the tree of liberty.

    The end of war in Europe brought liberty to the nations of western Europe, but for the nations of eastern Europe, dominated by the Soviet Union, it was a very different story. Communism was forced onto those nations. The brutality of these Soviet Union communist satellite nations is now somewhat well known, but was for the most part hidden behind what Winston Churchill called the Iron Curtain. That changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union as East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania transitioned to the freedom of representative governments. These new branches were grafted into the tree of liberty. The United States under President Ronald Reagan was largely responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent liberation of those eastern European nations. My wife and I have traveled to some of those formerly captive nations and have friends in Germany, Croatia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

    On this July 4, 2020 American Independence Day we must recognize that we no longer live in 1619 when the first slaves arrived on these shores, we no longer live in the days of slavery, we no longer live in the days when there was structural and systemic racism. The little acorn has grown into a Mighty Oak Tree providing liberty and opportunity for all who seek it.

    We must be diligent and hold fast to that little acorn – those words of Thomas Jefferson. We must protect that mighty oak tree of liberty.

    Don Johnson — July 4, 2020
    Original at: https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/from-little-acorns-mighty-oak-trees-grow/

  12. 12
    Seversky says:

    Jawa @ 5

    1. What do you mean by “good and evil”? What’s that?

    In my view, good and evil are, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. They are judgements we form on the behavior of other towards their fellow creatures. To quote my previous example, consider the case of a person killed by a boulder rolling down a hill, if that boulder was pushed by an enemy who intended to kill the victim we would judge that act to be evil, but if the boulder was dislodged by an earthquake, we would regard the death of the victim as a tragedy but not necessarily evil. Very broadly, acts which deliberately or recklessly cause harm to others are evil.

    Goodness, conversely, is behavior which promotes or protects the well-being and legitimate interests of others, most directly of fellow human beings but also of fellow sentient beings.

    2. You wrote: “if we want to minimize evil and maximize good we should look to ourselves”
    Can you explain what you mean by that? Can you provide an example for illustration?

    Racism is a good example, in my view, as most would regard it as evil.

    I see it this way, we make sense of the world by categorizing or classifying it. We differentiate cats from dogs, fish from birds, things we can eat which are nutritious from those which are poisonous and so on. We also do that with our fellow human beings. We differentiate members of our own family, clan, tribe or even nation from those of other families, clans, tribes or nations and there is nothing wrong with that on its face.

    Where we do go wrong is when we judge members of other groups to be inherently worse than – or in some way inferior to – us. As I see it, under the many and varied cultural veneers we are all human beings with the same needs, the same fears and the same hopes and desires. Racism is founded on ignoring or denying that equivalence. Sadly, it seems to be an almost instinctive response, which suggests the seeds of it are in all of us. This means we need to develop the insight to look inside ourselves, understand why we are reacting the way we are and make a conscious effort to moderate it. Unless we do that, racism is going to be endemic in all human societies to varying degrees for the foreseeable future.

  13. 13
    Seversky says:

    News @ 6

    Without a concept of God, one cannot found a concept of good vs. evil.

    If deciding between good and evil is a rational process rather than some arbitrary coin-toss then what is to prevent us doing it for ourselves?

    Everything turns out to depend on power vs. powerless instead.

    It can certainly turn out that way if we are not vigilant and do what we can to stop the unworthy from seizing power

    But what are events from the Old Testament, such as the plagues inflicted on Egypt, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the treatment of the Midianites, Amalekites and Canaanites or the Great Flood other than unwarranted exercises of Divine power?

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    The following are passages from a speech delivered by Frederick Douglass in 1852, titled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

    Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too — great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

    They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

    They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final;” not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times….

    I believe we can all agree with the above but we should never forget that he also said, in the same address:

    What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

    If we are to live up to the standards set by the Founding Fathers, it is no honor to their memory to allow the good to blind us to the bad.

  15. 15
    ET says:

    From Texas- the winning sand sculpture

    An Instant Classic- Facepalm Abe

  16. 16
    MatSpirit says:

    News:
    “Without a concept of God, one cannot found a concept of good vs. evil. Everything turns out to depend on power vs. powerless instead.”

    Talk about building your morals on sand! Those 15th century Aztecs Barry was talking about certainly thought they were highly moral because their god demanded human sacrifices and they sacrificed hundreds of thousands of people to him.

    Of course, your god is much nicer than that. He only killed off the entire human race, sans Noah and his family. But I’m sure there weren’t many people alive back then and every one of them was evil and deserved to drown, especially the children and babies. And the fetuses. They were evil fetuses. Just as nasty as the babes in arms. And we won’t even discuss the children. All evil in God’s sight.

    If you’d like to go on talking about God’s morals, I’d be happy to accomodate you, but I warn you that I have a copy of God’s word and a lot of your readers might be shocked and offended by what’s in it. For instance, how many times did God harden Pharoh’s heart so he’d keep the Israelites in captivity long enough for God to bring another catastrophe on Egypt and, more important, why? The answers are in Exodus and I’d love to lead a Bible study on that and much more for UD readers and abettors.

  17. 17
    john_a_designer says:

    Some time ago I had this exchange with someone here at UD.

    The questioner asked:

    Didn’t Nietzsche say as much and also claim that our Christian-based morality would fall by the wayside because God is dead? I never read his writing, but only commentary on his works.

    I replied, Here is a quote from his short tract or booklet, Twilight of the Idols, which speaks to that.

    When we renounce the Christian faith, we abandon all right to Christian morality… Christianity is a system, a complete outlook upon the world, conceived as a whole. If its leading concept, the belief in God, is wrenched from it, the whole is destroyed; nothing vital remains in our grasp. Christianity presupposes that man does not and cannot know what is good or bad for him: the Christian believes in God who, alone, can know these things. Christian morality is a command, its origin is transcendental. It is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it is true only on condition that God is truth,–it stands or falls with the belief in God.

    But if we reject a morality that is based on some sort higher transcendent good as Nietzcche wanted to do, with what do we replace it? That is a question for which atheistic naturalists/materialists do not appear to have an adequate answer– or if they do it is not forthcoming.

    For our atheist interlocutors: The question in not whether atheists can live conventionally moral lives. I believe many can and do. The question is whether you as an atheist have any kind of sufficient basis for any kind of morality at all. If you do tell us what it is. Showing up here and obfuscating about morality does not accomplish anything. All it does is waste peoples time, which ironically is neither respectful nor ethical.

  18. 18
    Mac McTavish says:

    Sev@14, thank you for the quote from Frederick Douglas. I think they say it all.

  19. 19
    BobRyan says:

    Seversky states:

    “If we are to live up to the standards set by the Founding Fathers, it is no honor to their memory to allow the good to blind us to the bad.”

    On the contrary, the standards they set was that any government can become tyrannical, because power is a corrupting force on man. They new bad elements would impact the government in time, which is the primary reason for restricting it the way they did. Government was viewed as a necessary evil that should be bound tightly by the people.

    Other revolutions did not think of the worst of themselves coming to power, like Robespierre and Stalin, but believed the best of themselves would rise above their nature. Those who want the government to act as it wishes might as well hold up a sign saying liberty be damned. The more powerful a government becomes, the fewer liberties there are as a result.

  20. 20
    john_a_designer says:

    When someone claims, as Seversky has claimed here at UD many time before, there is no moral truth (because morality in his view it is “subjective”) he is making a universal truth claim about moral truth which is obviously self-refuting. By analogy he is making a claim like, “This sentence is false.”

    Morality is useless and meaningless unless it is about interpersonal moral obligation. The golden rule is one such moral principle which meaningless unless there really is interpersonal moral obligation.

    Seversky’s subjective beliefs and opinions carry no such moral obligation. If he claims they do he is contradicting himself. Of course, I suppose he has a right to believe whatever foolish nonsense he wishes to believe, but there is no obligation for me or anyone else to take him seriously.

    Secondly, if his “morality” is completely subjective then he is the one who sets the moral standards for himself. His moral standards don’t apply to anyone else. How could they?

    Finally, to have any type of meaningful discussion about morality, it has to be honest. Honesty requires an objective standard– doesn’t it? But by whose standard? Yours, mine or somebody else’s? Unless there is a non-arbitrary or objective standard of honesty any discussion or debate about morality and ethics is totally meaningless. Why should I trust anyone unless I know he/she is being completely honest? But how can I know that they are being honest unless there is an objective standard of honesty?

    So why does Seversky even bother? Why does he continue argue that something that only he believes must be believed by everyone else? Again that is a self-refuting if not an irrational and absurd position.

  21. 21
    Barry Arrington says:

    MatSpirit,
    Miss the point much? You are doing the very thing your metaphysical premises prevent you from doing. I know you can’t help yourself. But the logical incoherence of judging while denying there is any standard by which to judge is there just the same.

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, here is an anchor-point:

    We can readily identify at least seven inescapable first duties of reason. Inescapable, as they are so antecedent to reasoning that even the objector implicitly appeals to them; i.e. they are self-evident. Duties, to truth, to right reason, to prudence, to sound conscience, to neighbour, so also to fairness and justice etc. Such built in law is not invented by parliaments or courts, nor can these principles and duties be abolished by such. (Cf. Cicero in De Legibus, c. 50 BC.) Indeed, it is on this framework that we can set out to soundly understand and duly balance rights, freedoms and duties; which is justice. The legitimate main task of government, then, is to uphold and defend the civil peace of justice through sound community order reflecting the built in, intelligible law of our nature. Where, as my right implies your duty a true right is a binding moral claim to be respected in life, liberty, honestly aquired property, innocent reputation etc. To so justly claim a right, one must therefore demonstrably be in the right. Thus, too, we may compose sound civil law informed by that built-in law of our responsibly, rationally free morally governed nature; from such, we may identify what is unsound or false thus to be reformed or replaced even though enacted under the colour and solemn ceremonies of law.

    KF

  23. 23

    .

    If we are to live up to the standards set by the Founding Fathers, it is no honor to their memory to allow the good to blind us to the bad.

    Says the guy who’s worldview propels the idea that the only reason black people in America have any right to life and liberty is because white people in America decided to give it to them. To admit to this distortion in reality is sold as being brave.

  24. 24
    Querius says:

    Upright Biped,

    While I think I understand your attempt at justifying the South in the Civil War by mocking the bravery of Union soldiers to set the slaves free, I’d suggest you consider reading Frederick Douglass’s book, Narrative of the Life of an American Slave, especially his addendum about Christianity.

    It’s available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008TVEC4W/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

    Regarding the difference in plantation slavery in the New World, another good book you might consider is The Peculiar Institution by Kenneth Stampp.

    With some education, maybe you’ll be able to recognize the exceptional horror of plantation slavery and the justified fight against it.

    I hope you do this.

    -Q

  25. 25

    .
    Quesrius,

    What in the world are you talking about?

  26. 26

    .
    Querius,

    Let me explain something that you might have missed. Seversky is a man who believes that there are no intrinsic or inherent values in the universe, or anything within the universe. He sees it that any moral standards in any given society come only from an agreement of people in that society, not from any transcendent moral reality. He refers to it by the sciencey-sounding brand ”consensus theory” and sells himself as a brave intellectual prepared to acknowledge the dirty truth. Thus, the only reason blacks in America have any right to life and liberty is because the white people in America agreed to give it to them. I clearly reject that idea (as most people do) and frankly don’t care if you or anyone else has a problem with that rejection. It is not subject to change.

    However, how you go from that to “justifying the south” or “mocking union soldiers” is something I am not entirely sure I could ever grasp. I’d like to believe you simply blew it in reading comprehension in this instance, but I do not know that to be the case. You’ll have to explain it to me.

  27. 27
    Querius says:

    But you still said

    To admit to this distortion in reality is sold as being brave.

    The “distortion” that you project on Seversky, that “white” Union soldiers actually freed African-American slaves and that his distortion is being sold as “being brave,” demonstrates more than your disapproval to Seversky’s narrative.

    Sadly, this is exactly the type of subtle self-justification that I encountered from the few bitterly racist people that I had the misfortune encounter in the South. They call it “The War of Northern Aggression.” No, you’re wrong, Upright Biped. The mostly white Union soldiers were indeed brave in the face of the unprecedented slaughter called the Civil War, and the Union did indeed recognize and forcibly put an end to the inhuman institution called slavery.

    Please read the books I suggested to get a better understanding of why most Americans indeed found slavery intolerable and were willing to fight for the freedom of African-American slaves. Their sacrifice should be honored, not mocked.

    -Q

  28. 28

    .
    Quesrius, that’s pretty poor. Faced with the clear reality that you completely misunderstood my comment (the exact opposite of your assumptions), you simply seek to justify yourself anyway. I am happy to let it stand as it is.

    btw, Frederick Douglass’s profound speech (upthread) I read for the first time 40+ years ago. I read it (among other things from the era) in connection with a book I was reading at the time, the horrific life of a prince from Senegal who had a fluent European education, and was sold into slavery in the south.

  29. 29
    Querius says:

    Upright Biped,

    Then please explain how your statement

    To admit to this distortion in reality is sold as being brave.

    doesn’t mock the bravery of Union soldiers fighting and dying in unprecedented numbers to free African-American slaves. I’m listening.

    Oh, and I wasn’t referring to Frederick Douglass’s speech referenced above. I was referring to his book and his addendum on Christianity. If you care about the injustice done against African Americans, you might consider ordering the book and reading it. It’s not a long book.

    -Q

  30. 30

    .

    Then please explain how your statement

    Sure. It’s just as I already told you: To think that white people gave black people in America their right to life and liberty by an act of agreeing to it is a distortion of the highest order, and materialists like Sev like to promote themselves as being brave intellectuals who acknowledge that gross distortion as reality.

    In other words, it doesn’t have a thing to do with union soldiers or justifying the south. That was all you.

  31. 31
    JVL says:

    Upright BiPed: To think that white people gave black people in America their right to life and liberty by an act of agreeing to it is a distortion of the highest order, and materialists like Sev like to promote themselves as being brave intellectuals who acknowledge that gross distortion as reality.

    Okay, how do you think black folks in America politically gained their right to life and liberty? If it was promised in the US Constitution then why did it take almost 100 years for it to be acknowledged? If it was from another, older source then why did it take more than 100 years to be acknowledged. And, even then, why only men of a certain age?

  32. 32
    Querius says:

    Upright Biped,

    You still haven’t explained why you chose to mock Union soldiers’ bravery–and not just Union soldiers, but the abolitionists in their tireless political campaign. Again, taking what you wrote in context:

    Says the guy who’s worldview propels the idea that the only reason black people in America have any right to life and liberty is because white people in America decided to give it to them. To admit to this distortion in reality is sold as being brave.

    No, Union soldiers bravely fought against the horror of slavery–they died in large numbers to free African Americans and to recognize and restore their God-given rights. They didn’t just “decide” or “agree” to “give” freedom to African Americans.

    If you know anything about this history, you’d know that it was a long and bitter struggle originally started by the British politician, William Wilberforce, who became inspired by his conversion to the Christian faith, and who fought politically the rest of his life to have slavery banned in the British Empire. The abolitionist movement took root in America and many Christians worked hard to free African Americans either individually or through political action.

    Mockery of this epic struggle is completely inappropriate by calling it a distortion and being “sold” as bravery. Please read Frederick Douglass’ book that I recommended. An excellent book about the political struggle is “The Coming Fury” by Bruce Catton. Please read up on this “distortion” as you called it.

    -Q

  33. 33
    groovamos says:

    Seversky:

    I agree with Dawkins that good and evil are not properties of the universe as a whole but they do describe how humans behave towards one another,

    Oh so that means that good and evil have nothing to do with thoughts or intentions irregardless of whether those thoughts are acted upon. How simplistically novel. Supposedly it would also exclude relevance to the possibility of the mental states of disembodied existence of which science has no way of ruling out, beyond being philosophically committed. I’m no philosopher but I think there is plenty of philosophical basis in the literature indicating that questions of good and evil are inescapable for all sentient beings. There is plenty of basis also in consciousness research and this has been discussed by Stanislav Grof. In short, in the research into mental health and mental illness, there is no way around the role of good and evil in the universal scheme of things, which helps explain the utter failure of reductionist science for elucidating the roots of mental suffering. See Realms Of The Human Unconscious by Grof

  34. 34
    Barry Arrington says:

    JVL:

    Okay, how do you think black folks in America politically gained their right to life and liberty?

    It depends on what you mean by “gained.” As a matter of substance, their right to life and liberty was endowed on them by their creator, just as the Declaration said. That the founders failed to live up to their own principles is not a secret. Operationally, their rights were secured by the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of mostly white northerners. This too is widely known.

    If it was promised in the US Constitution then why did it take almost 100 years for it to be acknowledged?

    It is widely known that the 1789 constitution did not provide for the freedom of the slaves, and this is why the 13th Amendment was passed.

    If it was from another, older source then why did it take more than 100 years to be acknowledged.

    Because the founders failed to live up to their own principles.

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    BA,

    I would remark from a somewhat different angle (I guess, using my “privilege” as descendant of slaves and slave holders).

    I find that Jefferson was a man sufficiently committed to truth and to the naturally evident moral creation order, that he was willing to speak truth beyond what he could or did do; and yes, he was hopelessly indebted and trapped in a web of laws. Did so, in a key draft for a pivotal state document, and had considerable support.

    A painful strategic compromise was struck, but the principles were preserved even at expense of opening the founders up to the charge of hypocrisy levelled at the time and ever since.

    Yes, failure to responsibly resolve the matter (even with repeated examples on the table of Emancipation) cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

    But they stuck to their guns: it is self evident that we are created equal and are endowed with built in thus “unalienable” rights, starting with life and liberty.

    In a day where in 40+ years 800+ millions have been slaughtered in the womb under false colour of law and rights, I freely conclude that rhetoric trying to besmirch men better than we are is instantly self refuting by way of absurdity.

    We would do far better to heed their moral courage and examine our own far worse failing: enabling holocaust.

    Then, perhaps, having found out how hard it is to undergo plank removal eye-surgery, we will be better equipped to appreciate men who blazed a trail of reform and opened up self government of a free people.

    KF

  36. 36

    .
    Querius, you can’t really be this dense, can you?

    Listen very closely to these words, don’t get ahead of yourself, just listen to these words:

    You
    have
    totally
    misunderstood
    what
    is
    being
    said.

    Understand?

    Let me say it again:

    You think I am talking about brave union soldiers fighting to free the union of the scourge of slavery, but I am actually talking about materialists who believe black slaves in America received their right to life and liberty only by an act of agreement on the part of the white people who made up the American majority. Have you not paid any attention to the topic of the OP at all? The slaves always had the right to life and liberty; it is an inalienable right (I can’t believe I am having to argue this point with you) of all people. It was being deprived from them by white America, not given to them by white America.

    Is there any chance in hell you understand now? No, I rather think not.

  37. 37
    Querius says:

    Upright Biped,

    Except that in Seversky’s original reply, he didn’t claim that “black slaves in America received their right to life and liberty only by an act of agreement on the part of the white people who made up the American majority.” Thus, I read it as your opinion.

    Maybe Seversky deserves to be pounced on from some of his other posts, but it’s a little more respectful not to immediately criticize what he writes. For example, it’s popular to say something like “If we are to live up to the standards set by the Founding Fathers, it is no honor to their memory to allow the good to blind us to the bad.” Actually, I think Seversky is correct. However it’s also more common nowadays to allow the bad to blind us of the good, especially considering that no one, including the founding fathers were without their faults.

    As to his comments about the often-criticized actions of God in the Old Testament, his opinion is primarily an error of perspective. For example, he assumes that dying is the worst possible and most unfair thing that can happen to anyone. And yet everyone dies. Some sooner, some later. I’m sure that Seversky doesn’t claim that he cannot believe in Nature or that Nature is inherently evil because of all the random tragedies and deaths that Nature is responsible for. Again, Seversky’s objection is due to a flawed perspective of God, life, and why we’re here.

    -Q

  38. 38
    Seversky says:

    John_a_designer @ 17

    But if we reject a morality that is based on some sort higher transcendent good as Nietzcche wanted to do, with what do we replace it? That is a question for which atheistic naturalists/materialists do not appear to have an adequate answer– or if they do it is not forthcoming.

    The answer is always that the apparent function of morality is to regulate human behavior for the benefit of all, to prevent harm being done to the person or interests of each member of a society by other members of that society.

    To that end, is there any good reason why those who are expected to be governed by those moral principles should not contribute to the formulation of those principles? Why should they be imposed from above? Why should anyone want them imposed from above?

    The question is whether you as an atheist have any kind of sufficient basis for any kind of morality at all. If you do tell us what it is.

    Our basis is the protection of interests all human beings have in common. Not only is that sufficient, what better foundation could there be?

    I note that, for all the moral prescriptions decreed by the Christian God, there is no detailed explanation of why they were chosen. Christians believe that they are for the benefit of humanity but evidence from the Old Testament suggests otherwise and as those events have not been disclaimed and purged from the text we have to assume that they remain tenets of the faith.

  39. 39
    Seversky says:

    John_a_designer @ 20

    When someone claims, as Seversky has claimed here at UD many time before, there is no moral truth (because morality in his view it is “subjective”) he is making a universal truth claim about moral truth which is obviously self-refuting. By analogy he is making a claim like, “This sentence is false.”

    No, my claim is that there is no absolute, transcendent morality. What we have are social constructs that evolve within societies based on the principle that it is better to belong to a society that offers protections for your interests than to be outside with no such guarantees.

    There are no moral “truths” if by “true” you mean the extent to which a claim about observable reality corresponds to what it purports to describe or explain – the correspondence theory of truth. In other words, a claim about what is can be determined to be true or false by comparing it with what we observe. By this understanding of truth, a claim about what should be the case cannot be true or false as it is not about the nature of what we observe so cannot be tested.

    Secondly, if his “morality” is completely subjective then he is the one who sets the moral standards for himself. His moral standards don’t apply to anyone else. How could they?

    Yes, my moral beliefs are subjective and so are those of every other individual – including any deity. But if we all have at least some of those beliefs in common because we have interests in common then we have the basis for an intersubjective moral code.

  40. 40
    Seversky says:

    Upright BiPed @ 23

    If we are to live up to the standards set by the Founding Fathers, it is no honor to their memory to allow the good to blind us to the bad

    Says the guy who’s worldview propels the idea that the only reason black people in America have any right to life and liberty is because white people in America decided to give it to them. To admit to this distortion in reality is sold as being brave.

    The rights that were proclaimed by the white society that held power at that time were clearly intended to be universal and were, to that extent, noble ideals. In practice, they were denied to black people and women which was somewhat less noble or ideal.

    The other failing is that moral principles derive their ultimate authority from being the creation of all those who are to be voluntarily subject to them. The views of black people and women were neither sought nor wanted.

  41. 41
    MatSpirit says:

    Barry @ 21:

    “Miss the point much? You are doing the very thing your metaphysical premises prevent you from doing. I know you can’t help yourself. But the logical incoherence of judging while denying there is any standard by which to judge is there just the same.”

    Barry, I know you wrote the OP, but did you read it? If you did, how did you not notice your fine Aztec example of doing evil at the command of God? Why didn’t you notice that they did monstrous evil because they followed divine commands? I would say it’s because like just about everybody else in Conservative Christianity, you started out with your conclusions and set out to justify them with whatever came to hand.

    You don’t have any idea of my “metaphysical premises”. For that matter, you, KF and the rest of the boys don’t have any idea of what morality is, what it’s for or where it comes from, let alone what good, bad and evil really are. As far as you’re concerned, if some long dead human says that God said “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, I have marked that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” (1 Samuel 15:2,3) Kill every man, woman, infant and baby PLUS every ox, sheep, camel and ass for something the forefathers of Amalek supposedly did centuries ago! And that’s what you call Absolute Biblical Morality!

    But evil King Saul did not follow all of God’s orders. “But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly. (1 Sam 15:9)

    But that does lead to one of the best lines in the Bible: “And Samuel came to Saul; and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of Jehovah: I have performed the commandment of Jehovah. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (1 Sam 15:13,14) Can’t you just hear Mel Brooks saying that?

    But Saul suffers greatly for disobeying part of God’s orders. “… Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Sam 15,23)

    So Saul lost his job and his life because he obeyed God’s orders to kill the men, women, children and babies for something the Amalekites supposedly did centuries previously, but he spared the best of their livestock to sacrifice to the Lord. This Absolute Morality stuff is a little hard to understand, sometimes.

  42. 42

    .
    Let me get this straight Querius — you completely and utterly mistook a comment I made about the worldview of a resident materialist (one who has been consistent and unambiguous about his beliefs for years on end) — a worldview that (if accepted as it is continuously presented on these pages) logically entails that blacks in America were given the right to life and liberty only because the whites in American decided to give it to them (i.e. there are no such things as inalienable rights, only the subjective output of the majority in power). My comment was specifically about that worldview.

    And in the first 25 words of your response, you a) give yourself permission to proceed with your wildly mistaken assumptions, b) accuse me of attempting to justify the South during the Civil War, and c) accuse me of mocking the bravery of union soldiers. (!?!)

    And now, having completely ignored every attempt to dissuade you from your gross error, you want to advise me to not jump too quick to criticize?

    You are quite a piece of work Querius.

  43. 43

    .
    Seversky, despite your desire to tuck-in the entailments of your belief system, the fact remains that, under your beliefs, black slaves held in America had no inalienable right to life and liberty. Such things only exist as a transcendent value, which you do not believe in.

  44. 44
    Querius says:

    Seversky @ 40,

    The rights that were proclaimed by the white society that held power at that time were clearly intended to be universal and were, to that extent, noble ideals. In practice, they were denied to black people and women which was somewhat less noble or ideal.

    I think your description is far too much of a broad brush. Wikipedia (yeah, I know) has a pretty comprehensive article on slavery that you might want to review:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_United_States#First_continental_African_slaves

    As you can see, slavery in America was highly contentious right from the beginning, and was the major cause of the Civil War. One also needs to put slavery into context with what was going on in the world. While figures vary depending on the source, there were two major slave trades out of Africa totaling about 22 million African people:

    Islamic slave trade: from the 600s to the 1800s, 11.5 million people were taken from Africa to all over the Middle East. The ratio of males to females was about 1:2.

    American slavery: from the 1500s to the 1800s, 10.5 million people were taken from Africa to South America (6.6 million), the Caribbean (3.5 million), and to the U.S. (0.4 million). The ratio of males to females was 2:1.

    Again, these figures vary depending on the source. The question debated in the U.S. was how to operate in a world filled with slavery. Powerful economic interests behind slavery as a low cost source of labor were pitted against the moral outrage of the majority of U.S. society.

    Lest we feel too smug, I’d point out a relatively recent update (March 2020) listing 83 popular brands from China that employ slave labor in producing goods for sale in the U.S. Can you name one of these brands? I couldn’t either, but I looked them up.

    Here are some relevant links that I found so far:
    https://polarisproject.org/blog/2016/02/eight-decades-later-congress-closes-loophole-that-allowed-slave-made-products-into-the-us/

    https://www.endslaverynow.org/media/4100/slave-free-guide.pdf

    https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ILAB/ListofGoods.pdf

    https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/china-83-major-brands-implicated-in-report-on-forced-labour-of-ethnic-minorities-from-xinjiang-assigned-to-factories-across-provinces-includes-company-responses

    -Q

  45. 45
    Querius says:

    Upright Biped @ 42,

    Yes, that’s exactly how I read your response to Seversky. That your opinion was

    To admit to this distortion in reality is sold as being brave.

    Seversky never said anything like that in his post–you asserted it and I strongly disagreed with your assessment of the distortion and bravery demonstrated by the people of that time.

    -Q

  46. 46
    BobRyan says:

    The American founders were not of one mind and had a great many disagreements. Not all the founders were part of the Constitutional Convention, which wasn’t supposed to happen. Those who worked on the US Constitution were there to solve problems with the confederacy, which is what predated the Republic in America.

    The only thing keeping them together was the belief that a new system was needed. Everyone had to give a little to get it done, including staunch abolitionists. Some people hated and despised others that were there, but set aside their hatred enough to work on the Constitution. The reason the branches all have limited power, particularly the executive, is their concern that someone they hated might come to power. They wanted to limit the worst of themselves, rather than hope the best would come to power.

  47. 47

    .
    Querius, my words were fully clarified for you at the very top of this exchange in comment #26. You might remember it:

    Seversky is a man who believes that there are no intrinsic or inherent values in the universe, or anything within the universe. He sees it that any moral standards in any given society come only from an agreement of people in that society, not from any transcendent moral reality. He refers to it by the sciencey-sounding brand ”consensus theory” and sells himself as a brave intellectual prepared to acknowledge the dirty truth.

    You had no reason to carry out your mistaken perception past that point. You’ve known from the start of this exchange that your initial perception was wrong, but you’ve carried it out anyway, fully aware of your error.

  48. 48
    JVL says:

    The American situation aside . . . since we all agree that all people of both sexes are created equally and if that is a basic tenet of the Christian message . . .

    Why did it take over 1800 years from Christ’s life for slavery to be generally abolished over the planet? For much of that time most educated Europeans were Christian and yet for hundreds of years they made no moves at all to abolish slavery. The Pope was a very powerful figure, both religiously and politically and yet not one of them called for slavery to be abolished. What was holding people back since they all professed the same basic beliefs?

    It took even longer for women to gain the right to vote. Again, if all people are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights why didn’t Christians demand equal rights for women centuries earlier?

  49. 49
    bornagain77 says:

    MatSpirit at 41,

    LOL, nothing like helping yourself to a heaping helping of the Christian’s objective morality before trying to trash God as being beneath your non-existent atheistic moral standards, eh?

    Perhaps you would you like to shoot yourself in your other foot now?

    https://www.shutterstock.com/search/shooting+yourself+in+the+foot
    🙂

  50. 50
    Barry Arrington says:

    MatSpirt concludes that God does not exist because God fails to measure up to a standard that does not exist unless God exists. When the incoherence of this position was pointed out to him, he doubled down. Typical.

  51. 51
    ET says:

    seversky:

    No, my claim is that there is no absolute, transcendent morality.

    And you are wrong.

    What we have are social constructs that evolve within societies based on the principle that it is better to belong to a society that offers protections for your interests than to be outside with no such guarantees.

    This is true. We took the original and absolute transcendent morality and changed it to suit us.

    Yes, my moral beliefs are subjective and so are those of every other individual – including any deity.

    That is your opinion but it is based on your asinine idea that minds arose from then mindless via blind and mindless processes.

  52. 52
    Heartlander says:

    FYI – Atheists Launch No Lives Matter Movement (The Babylon Bee)

  53. 53
    Querius says:

    Upright Biped,
    Help me understand why Seversky’s being a materialist has anything to do with what he originally said. Where exactly did he claim the “bravery” of his position as you claim here?

    To admit to this distortion in reality is sold as being brave.

    Since Seversky never “sold” anything like this in his previous post, nor was he himself selling a distorted position of bravery, it leaves your post open for a different interpretation, one that disparages the intents and courage of those originally involved.

    -Q

  54. 54
    Querius says:

    JVL,
    From history, you’ll learn that many Christians were impoverished, enslaved, and marginalized by the few people with money and power. If you examine the history of slavery, I think you’ll be able to answer your own question when you look for who’s actually benefiting.

    Many Christians were abolitionists during the time when slavery was a major part of the world’s economic engine.

    Unfortunately, slave labor really hasn’t ended yet. Many popular products today, perhaps some you own or wear, were produced by offshore slave labor. A quick search of the internet will give you the links to organizations that are currently fighting against this mostly hidden but persistent problem.

    In addition, many people consider H1B Visas in the US, a modern form of slavery. For example, see
    https://www.quora.com/Will-history-consider-H1B-GC-as-a-modern-slavery

    In my opinion, H1B workers are more like indentured servitude that’s been abused–if they complain, they get deported. Also, prison labor has likewise been abused for profit. You can also look that up.

    Where does this leave us who benefit from modern slavery (which also includes child labor and sex workers)? In general, people are too busy to educate themselves, don’t care, or just don’t know. It’s not in the news and no one is protesting against slavery. Have you ever looked into the pay received by farm workers?

    Here’s a link to one such organization fighting modern day slavery:
    https://www.freedomunited.org/freedom-university/products-of-slavery/

    What appalls me is that it would cost consumers very little more for slavery-free products.

    -Q

  55. 55
    Retired Physicist says:

    Ugh. Here in Florida 56 ICUs are now maxxed out.

    Strokes, lung damage, possibly an induced form of diabetes… Just because you survive this thing doesn’t mean you’re all good.

    I’m glad I know how to cook.

  56. 56
    JVL says:

    Querius: From history, you’ll learn that many Christians were impoverished, enslaved, and marginalized by the few people with money and power. If you examine the history of slavery, I think you’ll be able to answer your own question when you look for who’s actually benefiting.

    Ummm . . . by the year 1000 most European countries were Christian ruled by Christians. In fact The Holy Roman Emperor came before.

    Many Christians were abolitionists during the time when slavery was a major part of the world’s economic engine.

    Some were, some weren’t. Since Christians were a vast majority of the European population why wasn’t there a push for the abolition of slavery until the late 1700s?

    I agree that there are still implicit forms of slavery but my question had to do with the historical record. Why did it take Christian Europe so long to start abolishing slavery?

    Christianity is supposed to provide a objective moral standard. If slavery is against that moral standard then there should have been many, many calls to abolish slavery over the centuries and yet . . .

  57. 57
    ET says:

    Did JVL ever stop and think that these alleged christians were just christian when it was convenient?

  58. 58
    MatSpirit says:

    Barry @ 50:

    Barry, Christians don’t have an absolute transcendent morality. What they have is a material book, called the bible. The Bible was written by mortal men, some of whom claimed that God had dictated or otherwise determined their words. The original words have been edited, sometimes extensively (for example the five books of Moses) and translated many times since. The writing, editing and translation were all done by fallible humans.

    If you read the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, you find that a lot of the people who feature in it and many of the authors who wrote it were nasty people – very nasty. Nasty, as in murdering innocent men, women, children and infants. Nasty as in slaving. Nasty as in, “Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalm 137:9) Hitler quality nasty.

    Nevertheless, Christians and Jews have been trying to use this book of horrors to construct a usable morality for thousands of years with a notable lack of success. However, in the process they have become very good at the various forms of logical fallacies and slagging their moral superiors.

    Non Christians have noted that Christian moralities either ignore “embarrassing” parts of the Bible altogether (when’s the last time you heard Psalm 137:9 in a sermon?) or they come up with something that can’t pass the Golden Rule test, which even Jesus endorsed.

    The whole world is waking up to this fact and turning their back on the Biblical mish-mash of wanton immorality in favor of a moral system based on the Golden Rule. Typically, most conservative Christians see this as evidence that the world is going to Hell in a handbasket. Actually, it’s just rejecting the grossly flawed Christian morality. The world is getting better and better while the Church sinks deeper and deeper into its moral cesspool.

    Richard Dawkins wrote,

    “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    I know that you’ve read it because you’ve repeated it several times. Tell me which charges you think are untrue (vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, misogynistic, homophobic – take your pick from the quote above) and I’ll quote Bible verses backing up every one of them.

    I dare you.

  59. 59
    mike1962 says:

    MatSpirit: Talk about building your morals on sand! Those 15th century Aztecs Barry was talking about certainly thought they were highly moral because their god demanded human sacrifices and they sacrificed hundreds of thousands of people to him. Of course, your god is much nicer than that. He only killed off the entire human race, sans Noah and his family. But I’m sure there weren’t many people alive back then and every one of them was evil and deserved to drown, especially the children and babies. And the fetuses. They were evil fetuses. Just as nasty as the babes in arms. And we won’t even discuss the children. All evil in God’s sight.

    You seem to be arguing as if there is something actually wrong with what those the Aztec and Hebrew gods allegedly did. Are those acts really wrong, or are you just belching another one of those, “there is no objective morality, but this stuff is repulsive to me personally” kinds of statements? I imagine you are outraged when a lion eats a gazelle too. Meh. No need to reply. I just lost interest.

  60. 60
    kairosfocus says:

    MS, you overlook that in said foundational texts there is implicit and explicit endorsement of core built in moral government manifesting laws of morally responsible freedom. You are so used to Fundy bashing that you fail to see inescapable first duties, to truth, to right reason, to prudence, to sound conscience, to neighbour, to fairness and to justice etc. Let me cite one such text as a reference:

    Rom 2:14 When Gentiles, who do not have the [–> written, Mosaic] Law [since it was given only to Jews], do [c]instinctively the things the Law requires [guided only by their conscience], they are a law to themselves, though they do not have the Law. 15 They show that the [d]essential requirements of the Law are written in their hearts; and their conscience [their sense of right and wrong, their moral choices] bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or perhaps defending them [AMP]

    With that (and a lot more like it), your rhetoric collapses.

    And indeed, here is what you need to start from:

    We can readily identify at least seven inescapable first duties of reason. Inescapable, as they are so antecedent to reasoning that even the objector implicitly appeals to them; i.e. they are self-evident. Duties, to truth, to right reason, to prudence, to sound conscience, to neighbour, so also to fairness and justice etc. Such built in law is not invented by parliaments or courts, nor can these principles and duties be abolished by such. (Cf. Cicero in De Legibus, c. 50 BC.) Indeed, it is on this framework that we can set out to soundly understand and duly balance rights, freedoms and duties; which is justice. The legitimate main task of government, then, is to uphold and defend the civil peace of justice through sound community order reflecting the built in, intelligible law of our nature. Where, as my right implies your duty a true right is a binding moral claim to be respected in life, liberty, honestly aquired property, innocent reputation etc. To so justly claim a right, one must therefore demonstrably be in the right. Thus, too, we may compose sound civil law informed by that built-in law of our responsibly, rationally free morally governed nature; from such, we may identify what is unsound or false thus to be reformed or replaced even though enacted under the colour and solemn ceremonies of law.

    Are you willing to re-think?

    Fair warning, once you start on a journey of the seven plus first duties, you will be led to see much that is against the built-in law of our inescapably morally governed nature and will have much to answer for before conscience. That is going to include gradually recognising how cringe-worthy much of the fundy bashing you so glibly indulged above is. Fashionable evils, follies, immorality and perversity posing as righteous, etc remain wrongs regardless of the rhetoric we may whip up. And a sober appreciation for the challenge of regulating societies in which hardness of heart cannot be waved away with a magic wand will be a lesson. Ponder here a formerly much used example of your ilk, due to want of critical mass of support, prohibition failed in the US.

    KF

  61. 61
    Querius says:

    MatSpirit,

    If you ahead and read Psalm 137 in context of its entirety and understand what the Babylonians had just done to the Israelites, you will understand that this lament was actually about the brutality that was committed against the children of Israel and it expresses hope–and correctly predicts–that the same brutalities would in turn be inflicted against the Babylonians, which is what happened when the Medes and the Persians later conquered the Babylon. See Jeremiah 51 concerning what he foresaw and the history books on what actually happened (which is quite interesting).

    But many people do indeed use this portion of Psalm 137 to find fault with the Bible. In truth, the source of their anger is due to something else and they just use it to justify their anger.

    -Q

  62. 62
    JVL says:

    ET: Did JVL ever stop and think that these alleged christians were just christian when it was convenient?

    So, how can you tell who is a true Christian then? Surely there were some over the centuries? Why didn’t they push for an end to slavery before the late 1700s?

  63. 63
    kairosfocus says:

    JVL,

    have you ever read the NT as an adult, recognising that there are people who take it seriously? If you do, you will learn that the true Christian is a disciple — “apprentice” is close — of Jesus [” . . . the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch”], with penitent trust that leads to a transformation of self, thought, word and deed. Further to this, when such disciples form a community, they create a counter culture. The consequence of which is that such a counter culture community becomes an embassy of the Kingdom of God, and historically, that has affected the wider community for the good through heart softening and mind opening.

    Had you seriously read recent contributions here at UD, you would for example have learned much regarding how the ferment of Christian discipleship in the context of invention of printing, resulting publication of the Bible, rise of books, literacy, bills and newspapers as well as chocolate or coffee houses etc created a democratising influence that for the first time since the failure of classical democracies created the cultural buttresses which made a modern representational, high freedom democratic polity a possibility.

    That is the context in which especially the Wesley-Whitefield revivals were directly connected to the rise of dozens of movements of social moderation and upliftment. Wilberforce alone was involved in something like seventy such movements.

    That is a big — and too often unacknowledged — part of why from 1650 – 1790, the first Constitutional Republic of we the people democratic character emerged in the Anglophone world. It is also connected to civil rights and other movements of upliftment from the 1700’s to the 1900’s. And now that there are aggressive de-Christianising movements running increasing riot across our civilisation, those buttresses are being undermined never mind any number of warnings to the contrary. For years, I have used an historically anchored cube framework of government possibilities to draw out dynamics of warning as to predictable consequences: threat of anarchy repelling into vortex of tyranny under autocrats and lawless nihilistic will to power oligarchies. It will again take rivers of blood and tears to climb back out of that vortex.

    But of course the stubborn, ideologised and angry are unlikely to listen to such as the undersigned and have likely never heard of say Plato’s parable of the ship of state. I am afraid, that is no accident, it is a signature of hostile intent towards genuine liberty by power hungry elites in our civilisation.

    We cannot say that we were not given fair warning in good time or that in an Internet age, we did not have access to corrective materials. But of course, that is not the same as narrative dominance.

    For example, I find it utterly telling to pick up even from my family and circles of friends who are not generally engaged in politics or history etc, feedback on the aggressive trashing of Thomas Jefferson and other Founders/Framers of the American Republic. Highly significant, I am not picking up a serious minded, responsible discussion of the crucial second paragraph of the US DoI, much less the Federalist papers etc.

    Smoking gun.

    KF

    PS: Your continued ignorance regarding the history of Christian objection to slavery and other abuses shows that you have not read, not taken seriously recent discussion on the relevant history and dynamics here at UD in recent weeks. That means you have been more interested to make aggressive talking points than in truth, fairness or prudence. Such is enabling behaviour regarding the ongoing undermining of cultural buttresses for genuine liberty. I will simply note that the “I hate Divorce” case and regulating established evils in the face of the hardness of hearts principle — as in, why did liquor prohibition fail in the USA 100 years ago? — show that amelioration of entrenched evils is a first step to changing a critical mass of minds and hearts towards reformation. Where, c 61, chained to a soldier while facing potential capital charges and dealing with a runaway slave and thief, St Paul penned Philemon, the manumission letter that broke the moral dynamic of enslavement through the premise of brotherhood and sisterhood. In antiquity, that decisively undermined slavery and once revival reached critical mass with democratising forces, it again had decisive impact. Had you bothered to look, you would have seen from an infographic I again posted (after several years) that shows how Philemon provided the primary and secondary mottoes of the Antislavery movement. I mentioned the Jamaican Baptist War uprising, the role of William Knibb and how British Emancipation — the pivotal case — came about. And the infographic has in it a citation from a letter penned c 55 AD when Paul was not chained to a Roman Soldier with a potentially capital charge hanging over his head:

    1 Cor 7:21 Were you a slave when you were called? Do not worry about that [since your status as a believer is [j]equal to that of a freeborn believer]; but if you are able to gain your freedom, [k]do that. 22 For he who was a slave when he was called in the Lord is a freedman of the Lord, likewise he who was free when he was called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price [a precious price paid by Christ]; do not become slaves to men [but to Christ]. [AMP]

    That could not be plainer.

    You will therefore understand why I refer you to the hardness of heart principle and extend it by alluding to Eph 4:17 ff where we see that such heart hardness en-darkens the mind also as conscience becomes benumbed and as the soul is ensnared in addictive, escalating evils.

  64. 64
    JVL says:

    Kairosfocus:

    I have read the New Testament and I found much there to appreciate and admire which is why I am even more puzzled that it took so long for Christian nations to figure out that slavery should be abolished. I am not trying to be aggressive or overtly critical of anyone alive today; I think we’ve got it right now.

    What I don’t understand is how a majority of Europeans were going to church frequently, being told what was said in the New Testament and yet there seems to have been little call to end the slave trade. By the 1500s literacy was on the rise and the Bible had been printed in the vernacular but the good world had been proclaimed and repeated in sermon after sermon for centuries! By the time Wilberforce came along Britain was a powerful nation with colonies and businesses all over the planet. People were literate and educated and it STILL took decades for the UK government to call a quit to treating people like cattle. (Arguably there is still a slave trade in the sweat shops of east asian and other places which, again, why do we put up with that?)

    It seems to me you are saying the everyday people, once they had a voice, stood up for what they thought was right. But they knew what was right for centuries! There had been peasant revolts in the past. Was it just because the rulers and the rich were greedy and wanted the money? Was that greed so great that they put aside their own professed Christian morals and went for the gold? And they kept the populace in their own kind of slavery?

    I don’t think there is a good answer but the fact that Europe was far and away a Christian continent for just about a millennium before deciding slavery was evil bothers me greatly. And then it took even longer to recognise women as equal under the law. Something was very, very wrong for a very long time.

  65. 65
    kairosfocus says:

    JVL, it is obvious that you are not truly engaging in a serious discussion as opposed to trying to find hooks to repeat talking points. What major change happened c 1450, them c 1520 then 1579 – 81 then in the 1640’s to 90’s, what major state document of England is dated 1688, and what impacts did it have across the following century? How do these relate to the model on government I have discussed? What did I recently clip from a history of the classical period, and what did it note on slavery and on the death penalty and judges? What does Ep Philemon say in vv 2 and 15 – 17? How did such come into the Antislavery society’s mottoes? What does Mt 19:1 – 7 ff suggest on naturally evident creation order and hardness of hearts esp i/l/o Mal 2:16? In such context, what is the significance of 1 Cor 7 as cited? What happened leading up to prohibition, and what happened as a result? What does that say about limits of law making? Why is there a movement to decriminalise the even more dangerous ganja? I could ask more but I am not satisfied that I am dealing with responsible discussion at this point. KF

  66. 66
    Barry Arrington says:

    MatSprit.

    We get it. God does not exist and he is nasty to boot. You keep saying that. Now, try to get away from your talking points for just one instant (I won’t be holding my breath, of course). A number of comments above say to you words to the effect of: Hey Mat, you keep talking like the items on that list of horribles you keep repeating like a mantra are really bad things. Aren’t you talking like those things are objectively evil while simultaneously denying the existence of any being in which objective good (and thus objective evil) can be grounded? Isn’t that incoherent Mat? You can have your objectively evil list. Or you can have your atheism. But you can’t have both Mat. But you keep talking like you can have both. Are you going to respond to this Mat? No, you would much rather deflect with “God is nasty.” Sad.

  67. 67
    JVL says:

    Kairosfocus: it is obvious that you are not truly engaging in a serious discussion as opposed to trying to find hooks to repeat talking points. What major change happened c 1450, them c 1520 then 1579 – 81 then in the 1640’s to 90’s, what major state document of England is dated 1688, and what impacts did it have across the following century?

    1688 .. . you wouldn’t be referring to the Germantown Quaker petition against slavery since that didn’t happen in England . . . the Declaration of Indulgence issued by James II of England? Oddly enough James II was usurped by William of Orange later that year and fled to France. Seems like James’ policies weren’t universally appreciated. William declared he was coming to England to ‘save Protestantism , no doubt implying he would go back to persecuting Catholics.

    I understand that political and liturgical reforms can take quite a bit of time and certainly the support for protestantism was bolstered by the advent of having the Bible printed in English. Have you ever been to Europe and visited one of the Gothic Cathedrals? Some of those were built by local organisations with little help from the higher ecclesiastical orders. Some of them took centuries to build. Local artisans donated hundreds of hours of their time because they thought it was the right thing to do. They are amazing to this day. And most of them were completed well before the Protestant reformation. The everyday Christians spent that much time and effort building places of worship because of what they were taught (since they mostly could not read) by a preacher teaching them from the Bible. Some of them even went on pilgrimages, remember The Canterbury Tales? They were very pious by today’s standards and probably knew the New Testament very well. They used to put on immense productions depicting the tales in the Bible and the life of Jesus, they were called mystery plays and it would have involved the whole town or city. And lets not forget some of them went on Crusades to the Holy Land. I rather doubt you’d find many Christians today who would be willing to put their faith and their life on the line like that. That too happened before the Reformation. The people of Europe were Christians through and through. The showed it in their words and deeds.

    I guess it’s just me but I just can’t see how it took so long to come around to thinking that buying and selling people was wrong. Unless they didn’t think it was. Maybe they didn’t see the scriptures in the same way that we do. Maybe they heard all the Old Testament stories about the patriarchs having slaves and thought: I guess that’s okay then. I don’t know.

  68. 68
    ET says:

    JVL:

    So, how can you tell who is a true Christian then? Surely there were some over the centuries? Why didn’t they push for an end to slavery before the late 1700s?

    By their actions. Yes, there have been many. And they did push for an end to slavery

  69. 69
    JVL says:

    ET: By their actions. Yes, there have been many. And they did push for an end to slavery

    So, would you say, in your opinion, that those professed Christians who justified slavery by quoting Bible passages were NOT true Christians? Just your opinion. What about those you did not speak out against slavery? Again, in your personal opinion.

  70. 70
    ET says:

    Name those Christians who did that.

  71. 71
    MatSpirit says:

    Mike1962: “You seem to be arguing as if there is something actually wrong with what those the Aztec and Hebrew gods allegedly did. Are those acts really wrong, or are you just belching another one of those, “there is no objective morality, but this stuff is repulsive to me personally” kinds of statements?”

    Did you notice all the times I mentioned the Golden Rule? Do to others as you would have them do to you / don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you? Ok, try this:

    Do you want to be dragged to the top of a pyramid and held down on an altar while a priest cuts your chest open, yanks your living, beating heart out and throws it on a fire?

    I’m betting the answer is no. I’m also betting that 99.9 percent of all people would say no. So the Golden Rule overrides the commands of the Aztec gods and we judge them and their gods to be immoral.

    Next question: Would you want an invading army to kill your mother, father, wife, children, livestock and you? Again, I’m betting you would answer no and the Golden Rule once again judges the ancient Hebrews and their god’s orders to be immoral.

    See how that works? We have a sound foundation for our morality without God! You have the monsterous moral mish-mash that is the Bible.

  72. 72
    MatSpirit says:

    Querious in 61: Are you seriously saying that if you’re treated brutally enough, it gives you the moral right to take your oppressors children and bash them open on a rock? Is this what you mean by Christian morality?

  73. 73
    Retired Physicist says:

    @MatSpirit, there’s an old quote, maybe Jewish proverb, maybe George Bernard Shaw, maybe apocryphal, “if God lived on earth people would break his windows”.

    Personally, I always thought it would be amusing if someday the Intergalactic Bureau of Investigation appeared on Earth and said hey look, we’re in pursuit of this intergalactic criminal who goes by the name of Yahweh. He likes to go to primitive planets and torment the beings there. We have reason to believe he came to your planet, harassed you folks, but split 2000 years ago when a subspace report tipped him off. That whole dash the babies against the rocks thing? He apparently takes pleasure in torturing innocent babies, which is a moral crime in every known space system. You’re not allowed to use High Space Technology to lord over the rural folk and abuse them and he needs to answer for his interplanetary crimes. Any idea about his current whereabouts?

  74. 74
    MatSpirit says:

    No, Barry, you do not get it. A deity is not necessary to define good. You’ve given us an example of the Aztecs who allowed their God to do just that and ended up slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent people. I’ve given you more examples of God endorsed evil from your own Bible which lead to the slaughtering of innocent men, women and children and dreams of smashing babies on a rock.

    I’ve also told you repeatedly that there’s a much better way of discovering whether an action is good or bad: Would you like it if it was done to you? But, being a convicted Christian, your mind is closed to any criticism of your religion and your mind’s filters are set up to ignore or distort beyond recognition any and all such criticism before it even reaches your consciousness.

    We CAN have atheism and an objective morality. In fact, judging by your examples, the Bible’s examples and recent history, that is the ONLY way we will ever live in a moral world.

    I challenged you in Msg 58 to refute any one of the terms in Dawkin’s description of the God of the OT:

    “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    You apparently missed that challenge. Care to try it again?

  75. 75
    MatSpirit says:

    Retired Physicist: Last I heard, he was spotted showing Jim Jones how to make Kool Aide.

  76. 76
    ET says:

    MatSpirit:

    We CAN have atheism and an objective morality.

    No, you CAN’T. Unless by “objective morality” we get to do whatever we want- no responsibility beyond surviving.

    And no one cares what Dawkins says. He wasn’t there and argues from ignorance.

  77. 77
    Retired Physicist says:

    “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    It would make perfect sense if the intergalactic investigative bureau shows up and wants to arraign this criminal.

  78. 78
    mike1962 says:

    Matspirit,

    I’m a lion. You’re a gazelle.

    Did you notice all the times I mentioned the Golden Rule? Do to others as you would have them do to you / don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you?

    Lions don’t know what that means.

    Do you want to be dragged to the top of a pyramid and held down on an altar while a priest cuts your chest open, yanks your living, beating heart out and throws it on a fire?

    My dog wouldn’t like that. And he’s just a dog. But he would eat your face off if he were hungry enough.

    I’m betting the answer is no. I’m also betting that 99.9 percent of all people would say no.

    Only under normal circumstances. Desperate times make eaters desperate.

    So the Golden Rule overrides the commands of the Aztec gods and we judge them and their gods to be immoral.

    Not if I’m hungry enough.

    Next question: Would you want an invading army to kill your mother, father, wife, children, livestock and you?

    No, but I would kill your mother, father, wife, children and livestock if I were hungry enough. Why not?

    Again, I’m betting you would answer no and the Golden Rule once again judges the ancient Hebrews and their god’s orders to be immoral.

    Only up to a point. See above. And you have given me no reason to not be the lion that I am. Especially when I’m hungry.

    See how that works?

    Well, I see how you’re not grounded in your own no-objective-morality position. Not persuasive. Especially when I’m starving.

    We have a sound foundation for our morality without God! You have the monstrous moral mish-mash that is the Bible.

    Said the gazelle to the lion.

  79. 79
    Retired Physicist says:

    Oh heavens, the fifth graph down suggests that the reopening is having dire consequences.

    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

  80. 80
    ET says:

    Is it the reopening or the morons that are causing those ire consequences?

  81. 81
    Querius says:

    MatSpirit,

    Querious in 61: Are you seriously saying that if you’re treated brutally enough, it gives you the moral right to take your oppressors children and bash them open on a rock? Is this what you mean by Christian morality?

    That’s not what I wrote.

    Psalm 137 actually says the opposite–it’s a lament about how the Babylonians treated Israel–a sort of “How would you like it if some other empire did that to your children?” According to history, Media Persia later destroyed the Babylonians for a taste of their own medicine.

    But, I’m sure that you can come up with a better example about how God must be evil based on your instinctive grasp of what’s good. How about, “God must be evil because people die–no human should ever die?” Does that work for you?

    -Q

  82. 82
    Querius says:

    Retired Physicist,

    “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    And yet, God wrapped himself in a human body to be tortured to death to pay the price for all the sin and pain you caused to others, handing you the opportunity for forgiveness.

    But let’s assume that everything you accuse God of is true from your perspective–this is the God who designed and brought everything into existence: spacetime, mass-energy, time, probability, gravity, and who knows what else from Nothing (i.e. non-existence). What would be the most logical and rational conclusion a human who is familiar with frames of reference should reach through logic?

    -Q

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    JVL,

    it is obvious from your response that you have never seriously read what has been pointed out regarding the opening up of opportunity for democratising reforms in a culture that was influenced by gospel ethics. I do admit that 1689 is the usual date but the UK Gov’t archives use 1688 for the Bill of Rights arising from the glorious revolution that set the context for Locke’s treatises on Gov’t and the directly following line of events to 1776 and 1787. I link:

    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/WillandMarSess2/1/2/introduction

    >>Bill of Rights [1688]
    1688 CHAPTER 2 1 Will and Mar Sess 2

    An Act declareing the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Setleing the Succession of the Crowne.

    X1Whereas the Lords Spirituall and Temporall and Comons assembled at Westminster lawfully fully and freely representing all the Estates of the People of this Realme did upon the thirteenth day of February in the yeare of our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty eight present unto their Majesties then called and known by the Names and Stile of William and Mary Prince and Princesse of Orange being present in their proper Persons a certaine Declaration in Writeing made by the said Lords and Comons in the Words following viz . . . >>

    The point is, there has not been any real recognition of or genuine response to what has been put on the table. So, the talking points and questions you have raised have been little more than trollish rhetoric.

    Which, I have not the slightest intent to entertain.

    Enough has been given already, starting with the rise of printing, beginnings of a significantly literate public with enough leisure to begin to form a public with its own sufficiently informed opinions that the ferment of the reformation, the sort of teaching on legitimacy and rights to reformation and if necessary interposition of lower magistrates and revolution if mere remonstrance failed — Vindiciae 1579 and Dutch DoI 1581 as a direct precursor to the American one, then Lex Rex and Civil War, Commonwealth, Restoration, Glorious Revolution, Locke. The meanwhile, a body of growing opinion on liberty, government and accountability as well as answers to the notorious instability of democracies was growing. You have already obviously ignored cultural buttresses that stabilise — no wonder so many now undermine what they should guard! — the issue of regulating evils in absence of critical mass of support for drastic reforms (and it is progressives that used to love to toss up Prohibition!), the matter of heart softening as critical mass forms. And much more.

    Somehow, it has not registered that 1776 was truly revolutionary, that the Declaration was a breakthrough and bound to be controversial (even as 1789 ff would give pause i/l/o Plato’s Ship of State). Nor the moral courage in the draft, the insistence on self evident first truths even after painful compromise and willingness to be open to accusations of hypocrisy which were instantly made. It remains, the Emperor had no clothes and publicly stating the absurdity had impacts as far away as Japan.

    It is obvious that many are trifling with complex matters, issues and dynamics they don’t begin to understand and imagine they could do ever so much better were they only given the helm. Those who mock and trash Jefferson — racist, slave owner, fathering a string of children on a teen aged slave girl [the case would be laughed out of court but serves to distract, titillate and taint very well!], let’s pull down his monuments as a sign of contempt and how much better we are, never mind the ghosts of 800+ million aborted children . . . — are not worthy to unbuckle his shoes.

    Our collective folly is what is patent.

    KF

  84. 84
    Barry Arrington says:

    MatSpirit
    “We CAN have atheism and an objective morality. ”
    You say do unto other as you would have them to unto you. “Bob” says kill anyone who gets in the way of what you want. Now you prefer your rule over Bob’s. Fair enough. But who is to say which of the rules is good and which is evil. You? Bob disagrees. So who is right you or Bob? Maybe you and people who agree with you (i.e., society). Bob and people who agree with him (a different society) disagree. So who is right, your society or Bob’s.

    You argue that the Golden Rule is the basis of objective morality. No, it is not. The Golden Rule is a manifestation of objective morality grounded in the nature of God. It is very simple really. If two people disagree, and there is not an outside arbiter that is greater than either, there is, by definition, no basis on which to resolve their difference. One is not objectively superior than the other.

  85. 85
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: I beg to remind us of Plato’s warning:

    It is not too hard to figure out that our civilisation is in deep trouble and is most likely headed for shipwreck. (And of course, that sort of concern is dismissed as “apocalyptic,” or neurotic pessimism that refuses to pause and smell the roses.)

    Plato’s Socrates spoke to this sort of situation, long since, in the ship of state parable in The Republic, Bk VI:

    >>[Soc.] I perceive, I said, that you are vastly amused at having plunged me into such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the parable, and then you will be still more amused at the meagreness of my imagination: for the manner in which the best men are treated in their own States is so grievous that no single thing on earth is comparable to it; and therefore, if I am to plead their cause, I must have recourse to fiction, and put together a figure made up of many things, like the fabulous unions of goats and stags which are found in pictures.

    Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain [–> often interpreted, ship’s owner] who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better. [= The people own the community and in the mass are overwhelmingly strong, but are ill equipped on the whole to guide, guard and lead it]

    The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the steering – every one is of opinion that he has a right to steer [= selfish ambition to rule and dominate], though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary. They throng about the captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm to them [–> kubernetes, steersman, from which both cybernetics and government come in English]; and if at any time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard [ = ruthless contest for domination of the community], and having first chained up the noble captain’s senses with drink or some narcotic drug [ = manipulation and befuddlement, cf. the parable of the cave], they mutiny and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such a manner as might be expected of them [–> Cf here Luke’s subtle case study in Ac 27].

    Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain’s hands into their own whether by force or persuasion [–> Nihilistic will to power on the premise of might and manipulation making ‘right’ ‘truth’ ‘justice’ ‘rights’ etc], they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing; but that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether other people like or not-the possibility of this union of authority with the steerer’s art has never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling.

    Now in vessels which are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?

    [Ad.] Of course, said Adeimantus.

    [Soc.] Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the interpretation of the figure, which describes the true philosopher in his relation to the State [ –> here we see Plato’s philosoppher-king emerging]; for you understand already.

    [Ad.] Certainly.

    [Soc.] Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman who is surprised at finding that philosophers have no honour in their cities; explain it to him and try to convince him that their having honour would be far more extraordinary.

    [Ad.] I will.

    [Soc.] Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy to be useless to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell him to attribute their uselessness to the fault of those who will not use them, and not to themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg the sailors to be commanded by him –that is not the order of nature; neither are ‘the wise to go to the doors of the rich’ –the ingenious author of this saying told a lie –but the truth is, that, when a man is ill, whether he be rich or poor, to the physician he must go, and he who wants to be governed, to him who is able to govern. [–> the issue of competence and character as qualifications to rule] The ruler who is good for anything ought not to beg his subjects to be ruled by him [ –> down this road lies the modern solution: a sound, well informed people will seek sound leaders, who will not need to manipulate or bribe or worse, and such a ruler will in turn be checked by the soundness of the people, cf. US DoI, 1776]; although the present governors of mankind are of a different stamp; they may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors, and the true helmsmen to those who are called by them good-for-nothings and star-gazers.

    [Ad.] Precisely so, he said.

    [Soc] For these reasons, and among men like these, philosophy, the noblest pursuit of all, is not likely to be much esteemed by those of the opposite faction [–> the sophists, the Demagogues, Alcibiades and co, etc]; not that the greatest and most lasting injury is done to her by her opponents, but by her own professing followers, the same of whom you suppose the accuser to say, that the greater number of them are arrant rogues, and the best are useless; in which opinion I agreed [–> even among the students of the sound state (here, political philosophy and likely history etc.), many are of unsound motivation and intent, so mere education is not enough, character transformation is critical].

    [Ad.] Yes.

    [Soc.] And the reason why the good are useless has now been explained?

    [Ad.] True.

    [Soc.] Then shall we proceed to show that the corruption of the majority is also unavoidable [–> implies a need for a corruption-restraining minority providing proverbial salt and light, cf. Ac 27, as well as justifying a governing structure turning on separation of powers, checks and balances], and that this is not to be laid to the charge of philosophy any more than the other?

    [Ad.] By all means.

    [Soc.] And let us ask and answer in turn, first going back to the description of the gentle and noble nature.[ — > note the character issue] Truth, as you will remember, was his leader, whom he followed always and in all things [ –> The spirit of truth as a marker]; failing in this, he was an impostor, and had no part or lot in true philosophy [–> the spirit of truth is a marker, for good or ill] . . . >>

    (There is more than an echo of this in Acts 27, a real world case study. [Luke, a physician, was an educated Greek with a taste for subtle references.] This blog post, on soundness in policy, will also help)

    The Ship of State and that of a Civilisation ought not to be trifled with without sobering consideration.

  86. 86
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, prezactly. We have mutinous sailors vying for the helm with little understanding, while despising the seemingly useless stargazer muttering to himself. KF

  87. 87
    Barry Arrington says:

    KF, we should give props to MatSpirit for intuitively recognizing the transcending grounding of the Golden Rule by recognizing that is is objective. Still he gets only partial marks, because while recognizing the objectivity of the rule, he denies the only basis by which a rule can be objective. Amazing.

  88. 88
    JVL says:

    Kairosfocus:

    I’ll just drop it then.

    Interesting that the Bill of Rights in England is listed as being from 1688 when history clearly states it was drawn up in 1689 . . . perhaps some ‘date’ it from the day James II fled to the continent.

    Just for the edification of others I shall reproduce some statements about the act:

    May 24 [1689]– The Bill of Rights establishes constitutional monarchy in England, but with Roman Catholics barred from the throne. Parliament also passes the Act of Toleration, protecting Protestants but with Roman Catholics intentionally excluded. This effectively concludes the Glorious Revolution.

    The Glorious Revolution being the move from James II to William and Mary’s reign as monarchs. Notice the exclusion of Catholics; I guess religious tolerance only went so far!

    The Bill of Rights 1689, also known as the Bill of Rights 1688, is a landmark Act in the constitutional law of England that sets out certain basic civil rights and clarifies who would be next to inherit the Crown. It received the Royal Assent on 16 December 1689 and is a restatement in statutory form of the Declaration of Right presented by the Convention Parliament to William III and Mary II in February 1689, inviting them to become joint sovereigns of England. The Bill of Rights lays down limits on the powers of the monarch and sets out the rights of Parliament, including the requirement for regular parliaments, free elections, and freedom of speech in Parliament. It sets out certain rights of individuals including the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and reestablished the right of Protestants to have arms for their defence within the rule of law. It also includes no right of taxation without Parliament’s agreement. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights described and condemned several misdeeds of James II of England.

    These ideas reflected those of the political philosopher John Locke and they quickly became popular in England It also sets out – or, in the view of its drafters, restates – certain constitutional requirements of the Crown to seek the consent of the people, as represented in Parliament.

    In the United Kingdom, the Bill of Rights is further accompanied by Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 and the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 as some of the basic documents of the uncodified British constitution. A separate but similar document, the Claim of Right Act 1689, applies in Scotland. The Bill of Rights 1689 was one of the models for the United States Bill of Rights of 1789, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950

    Along with the Act of Settlement 1701, the Bill of Rights is still in effect in all Commonwealth realms.

    Here’s some of its provisions:

    The pretended power of suspending the laws and dispensing with laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal;

    The commission for ecclesiastical causes is illegal;

    Levying taxes without grant of Parliament is illegal;

    It is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;

    Keeping a standing army in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;

    Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;

    Election of members of Parliament ought to be free;

    The freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;

    Excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;

    Jurors in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders;

    Promises of fines and forfeitures before conviction are illegal and void;

    For redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.

    It’s easy to see that some of this was influential on the American founding fathers.

  89. 89

    .

    That’s not what I wrote.

    Let me ask a question: Are you expecting Matty to accept your clarification and to not come back time and time again with his loaded interpretation?

    Oh, the irony.

  90. 90
    Mung says:

    Some things never change.

  91. 91

    .
    Yo Mung. I hope you are safe and well. 🙂

  92. 92
    MatSpirit says:

    Mike1962 @ 78

    We’re talking about moral duties here, not enforcement of moral codes.

    You bring up an interesting point, though: What are our moral duties to non-human animals. Sensations and emotions are pretty basic. I think we can safely assume that all mammals and birds plus many other animals feel pain, fear death and know fear and terror more or less like we do. So what are our moral responsibilities to other animals?

    Mike: “… I would kill your mother, father, wife, children and livestock if I were hungry enough. Why not?”

    Absolute Christian morality at it’s finest. “Thou shalt not kill!” unless you’re REALLY hungry.

    Mike: “… you have given me no reason to not be the lion that I am. Especially when I’m hungry.”

    We normally don’t think most animals are morally capable of moral judgement. Humans are. Religious humans – well, Absolutely Moral Christians are somewhat questionable here. So what do you think of that old ‘Turn the other cheek’ wheeze?

    Querius @ 81: Psalm 137 is not asking the Babylonians how they’d like it if somebody treated them as badly as they’ve treated the Hebrews, they’re telling the world how happy they would be if they could smash their children on a rock:

    8 O daughter of Babylon, you devastator!
    Happy shall he be who requites you
    with what you have done to us!
    9 Happy shall he be who takes your little ones
    and dashes them against the rock!

    Querius @ 82: And yet, God wrapped himself in a human body to be tortured to death to pay the price for all the sin and pain you caused to others, handing you the opportunity for forgiveness.

    Riiiight! I can almost see God’s thought processes. “Hmm, I condemned Adam and Eve and ALL of their descendants to eternal life in Hell because they disobeyed my distinct order and learned the difference between right and wrong. I feel kind of bad about that now and I’d like to forgive them, but if I changed my mind, I’d no longer be unchanging … wait, I know! I’ll have a son through one of those humans and torture HIM to death, thus freeing me from my vow! I’ll let the theologians work out the details of how and why I did it that way.”

    The whole atonement story was the best explanation the earliest Christians could come up with to explain why their savior had died at the hands of the Romans.

    Barry @ 84: The Golden Rule goes back at least to Confucius c. 500 BC. Confucius claimed it went back to at least 1000 BC or even later. You can use it to judge God, but He doesn’t do so well.

    Barry @ 87: One of the definitions of “objective” is that nearly everybody can agree about some things. Very very few people want their families murdered or their hearts cut out, even if God is allegedly ordering it.

    Upright @ 89: Querious is going to have to tell the truth if he expects me to believe him. See my reply to him above.

  93. 93
    mike1962 says:

    MatSpirit, I never said I was a Christian nor am I arguing from any sort of theistic perspective. I said the opposite. You’re a gazelle and I’m a lion. Now convince me not to kill you when I’m hungry.

    “We normally don’t think most animals are morally capable of moral judgement. Humans are. ”

    We lions laugh at you silly humans who think your “morality” is something we need to bother about.

  94. 94
    Retired Physicist says:

    Matspirit, you really should get a copy of the Manga Bible, I think you would really appreciate the framing of some of the parables in it.

  95. 95
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks,

    and yet, this is still on the table as inescapable:

    We can readily identify at least seven inescapable first duties of reason. Inescapable, as they are so antecedent to reasoning that even the objector implicitly appeals to them; i.e. they are self-evident. Duties, to truth, to right reason, to prudence, to sound conscience, to neighbour, so also to fairness and justice etc. Such built in law is not invented by parliaments or courts, nor can these principles and duties be abolished by such. (Cf. Cicero in De Legibus, c. 50 BC.) Indeed, it is on this framework that we can set out to soundly understand and duly balance rights, freedoms and duties; which is justice. The legitimate main task of government, then, is to uphold and defend the civil peace of justice through sound community order reflecting the built in, intelligible law of our nature. Where, as my right implies your duty a true right is a binding moral claim to be respected in life, liberty, honestly aquired property, innocent reputation etc. To so justly claim a right, one must therefore demonstrably be in the right. Thus, too, we may compose sound civil law informed by that built-in law of our responsibly, rationally free morally governed nature; from such, we may identify what is unsound or false thus to be reformed or replaced even though enacted under the colour and solemn ceremonies of law.

    KF

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