Intelligent Design

WJM States the Obvious

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In a comment to my last post WJM states:

if morality is subjective and there are no necessary consequences, why should I care about it? Why shouldn’t I just consider it an inhibiting evolutionary, emotional artifact (like any other emotion or feeling) and overcome its inhibiting interference with my capacity to act in this world for my own benefit?

I made similar arguments in:

Psychopath as Übermensch or Nietzsche at Columbine

Follow Up on Psychopath as Übermensch

The materialist response was large on howling outrage; small (as in “non-existent”) in logical rebuttal. Your statement is obviously true. Materialists deny it anyway. Add that to the list of truths you have to deny to be a materialist.

48 Replies to “WJM States the Obvious

  1. 1
    mike1962 says:

    As a mostly silent bystander, who is essentially in the same camp as Barry and WJM, let me take a stab at a rejoinder from the other side, as if I were one of them, being as generous as possible, before they comment…

    Yes, Barry, you and WJM correctly assess our view in its essence, however, our subjective views and/or feelings compel us to act as if our subjective morality has the weight on an objective morality. Yes, our views may not have a rational basis, but we cannot help believing our views our subjective, and acting at the same time like they are not. We’re pedaling as fast as we can.

  2. 2
    goodusername says:

    Is the first part of the question relevant?

    What if the question is changed to:

    if morality is objective and there are no necessary consequences, why should I care about it?

    Or how about just:

    if there are no necessary consequences, why should I care about it?

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    goodusername:

    if morality is objective and there are no necessary consequences, why should I care about it?

    The question you pose is like asking if a circle were square how many sides would it have? It is literally meaningless. WJM addresses the issue you raise in depth in the comment linked in the OP.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mike,

    I address the issue you raise in the linked articles.

  5. 5
    bFast says:

    Barry, I think that the key to the materialist’s moral code is right here: “if there are no necessary consequences, why should I care about it?”

    Alas there are a lot of social consequences to not going with the moral code of the day. It just doesn’t fly within our society to say that Hitler had the right to exterminate Jews, for instance.

    On the flip side, the “moral code” that is in vogue right now says that a woman has the right to murder her child, as long as it hasn’t been born yet (or reached some arbitrary state of development.) Hence we find a gazillion materialists, biologists who know that there is very little difference between a born human and a pre-born human, who side with the vogue “moral code”.

    Our challenge, as theists who have a real moral code, is to show this vogue code to be reprehensible. Suddenly, poof, the materialists will be pro-life. It happened with slavery, it happened with racism, it happened with eugenics, and it has happened with divorce, extramarital sex and . homosexual activity (though it shouldn’t have.)

    Materialists are crowd followers when it comes to morality. When they do try to take the lead, like they did with eugenics, they get it all wrong because their foundation is all wrong.

  6. 6
    goodusername says:

    The question you pose is like asking if a circle were square how many sides would it have? It is literally meaningless. WJM addresses the issue you raise in depth in the comment linked in the OP.

    Ok, I read it. He seems to be saying that we can tell that morality is objective because we sense mysterious, apparently indescribable, consequences and harm to ourselves if we do immoral things – something that can’t be brushed aside such as the feelings we have from empathy and our conscience.

    IMO the feelings of harmful consequences he’s talking are from empathy and our conscience.

  7. 7
    Seversky says:

    You’re right. As an a/mat 2.0 I deny that it is either obvious or true.

  8. 8
    Barry Arrington says:

    Seversky, your argument at 7 is devastating. That sound you hear is the entire theistic project collapsing at its very foundation. Oh well, I guess we all have to convert to atheism now. Dang. (sarcasm)

  9. 9
    goodusername says:

    To clarify my post at #6, WJM does believe that the feelings of mysterious harm do come from the conscience whether morality is subjective or objective, but if they are subjective such feelings can (apparently) be ignored, but we shouldn’t ignore them (for some reason) if they are objective. (Not sure what here is supposed to be obvious.)

  10. 10
    Barry Arrington says:

    goodusername

    You say you read WJM’s argument, but then you turn right around knock down a straw man.

    IMO the feelings . . .

    Buzz. WJM did not base his conclusion on feelings. He based it on logic and reasoning. GUN, we can’t help you if you refuse to open your mind to our ideas.

  11. 11
    goodusername says:

    Ah, true, he does only describe it as a feeling if morality is subjective. But if objective than the conscience is a sense detecting an “objective, external world like any other sensory organ”.

    If that’s the case then why don’t we build a machine that can detect morality much better than we can, just as we have with “any other sensory organ” in order to better discern what or moral?
    Morality debates could all be settled (or we’d at least have much better data to work with).

  12. 12
    Barry Arrington says:

    GUN

    why don’t we build a machine

    Because it is objective, external and immaterial.

  13. 13
    goodusername says:

    Because it is objective, external and immaterial.

    Well, that’s inconvenient.

  14. 14
    Barry Arrington says:

    GUN

    Well, that’s inconvenient.

    au contraire, it is very convenient for those who want to ignore the moral code.

  15. 15
    goodusername says:

    au contraire, it is very convenient for those who want to ignore the moral code.

    I think such people are very rare. I think most everyone else would love to have a better way to detect morality. I would have thought that the convenience of such a machine would be something we could agree on.

  16. 16
    Barry Arrington says:

    GUN

    I think such people are very rare.

    Then you are wrong.

  17. 17
    tjguy says:

    bfast @5

    Alas there are a lot of social consequences to not going with the moral code of the day. It just doesn’t fly within our society to say that Hitler had the right to exterminate Jews, for instance.

    Yes, there are social consequences to not going with the moral code of the day, but the “moral code of the day” is not an objective code. It changes over time. If morality is objective, then real right and wrong does not change even if perceived right and wrong does.

    Most people agree that what Hitler did was wrong. It is not the extreme issues of morality that are usually in question – unless we’re dealing with ISIS.

    Let’s take every day down to earth issues like premarital sex, some divorce, cheating on income tax, gossip, not loving our neighbor, etc. These are things that are a part of God’s moral code.

    I doubt there would be too many social consequences for doing any of these, but that does not mean they are not wrong in God’s eyes. It also shows the difficulty of determining what is right and wrong from a Materialist point of view.

    In the Bible, there was a time in history recorded in the Book of Judges where it says “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” This would be the Materialist idea. We determine morality with our own wisdom and opinion. Read the book to see how that worked out. I’ll save you the trouble. It was a disaster. It is so easy to justify sin if we want to do it. And, like the OP suggests, even if society were to frown on some of this stuff, why bother to pay any attention? Even today there is mixed opinion over the morality of so many things. That must put the Materialist in a real moral quandary if he cares about right and wrong. But I don’t think he sweats the small stuff because he knows it really doesn’t matter if he keeps some arbitrary man made moral code or not.

    That is exactly why we need laws and consequences for breaking those laws!

    If humans could really be trusted to do what is right without threat of punishment, then we would need no laws, no keys, no police, no jails, etc. But, if there is a chance for us to do something wrong and we know we will not be caught, what will we do?

    What we do in secret when no one else is looking shows us the real moral condition of our heart. So, what does the Materialist do when it comes to tax time? Should he report the unreported income he has or keep it hidden?

    Should he tell the truth about his children’s ages when entering an amusement park, or lie to get a cheaper price?

    Should he turn in the money he finds in the park to the authorities or keep it for himself?

    Should he pass on rumors about his co-workers or not?

    Should he watch porn secretly or not

    Should he give money to the poor or not?

    And why does it really matter one way or the other if we are not caught? We all struggle with these things. I’m not trying to say I am better than they are. My heart is just as sinful as theirs, but for me, I would really struggle with some of these things if I didn’t have a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong. For me, a clear moral standard is very helpful.

  18. 18
    goodusername says:

    Then you are wrong.

    k

  19. 19
    Daniel King says:

    Then you are wrong.

    I come here for the airtight arguments.

  20. 20
    RDFish says:

    Barry,

    it is very convenient for those who want to ignore the moral code.

    You believe that people who deny theism and moral objectivism do so in order to behave badly (that is, by being selfish, harmful, or dishonest). You think that the only reason to refrain from behaving badly is because there is a god who tells us we shouldn’t, and who will make us suffer in “afterlife” if we do.

    You’re wrong of course.

    In truth, people such as myself who deny theism and moral objectivism and who do not act badly are driven by our desires. We have no desire to behave badly, and conversely we do desire to act helpfully, peacefully, and honestly. We need not be told that some supernatural being doesn’t want us raping women or torturing puppies in order to refrain from doing so; we do not need to be threatened with damnation and hellfire in order to forgo cheating on our taxes or stealing from the collection plate.

    The obvious explanation for your misapprehensions is projection: You are a person who does experience desires to commit hurtful, selfish, or dishonest acts, and the only reason you refrain from them (if in fact you do) is because you are afraid that God will be angry with you and punish you. It is impossible for you to believe that I behave well just because I want to – because you really don’t want to at all.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  21. 21
    Silver Asiatic says:

    There’s a certain moral obligation to teach moral values, especially to one’s children, but also to the community at large where opportunity permits.

    RDFish says “I behave well just because I want to”.

    This does not explain any underlying reasons why one should behave well, except to say “I do what I want to do”.

    As a moral code it is rendered: “Do whatever you want to do”.

    If a person used this method to teach children the importance of moral norms, it would soon become evident that materialism is evil.

  22. 22
    RDFish says:

    Hi SA,

    RDFish says “I behave well just because I want to”.

    This does not explain any underlying reasons why one should behave well, except to say “I do what I want to do”.

    It does not explain the reason why I desire to behave well, that is correct. What it explains is why I behave well. I have no explanation for my desires, just as you have no explanation for your desires.

    Like all complex traits, it is the result of the combination of inherited characteristics and environmental experiences (nature plus nurture). You can raise two children with the very same moral instruction, and one may grow up to behave well and the other may behave badly.

    Do you desire to behave well? In that case, you are like me, and that is the reason we behave well.

    Do you desire to behave badly? In that case, I would say there is something wrong with you, and you will likely behave badly whether or not you believe in a supernatural punisher.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  23. 23
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RDFish

    I can explain my desires.

    But in your view, belief in and worship of God would not only be highly reasonable, but a necessary aspect of human life (for those millions who desire it).

    With that, people desire to believe and think certain things. This, to you, is something that cannot be explained and simply will happen.

    But as with many things you say, you contradict your own views by coming here and arguing to prove something, and often ridiculing things that people say.

    So, you claim to ‘behave well’. Can anyone validate that for you? Do you have some accountability to someone on a day by day basis of your living like a saint?

    You’re defensive about being accused of behaving badly, but if you did (and right now you’re claiming sainthood, so apparently you are without sin), there would be nothing to blame. It would just be “something wrong with you”.

    I never met anyone who did not commit sins in their life and even behave quite poorly at times.

  24. 24
    RDFish says:

    Hi SA,

    But in your view, belief in and worship of God would not only be highly reasonable, but a necessary aspect of human life (for those millions who desire it).

    Certainly not necessary, no. And not necessarily reasonable either, in my view: You do what the sum of your desires lead you to do, but that doesn’t mean your actions should be judged “reasonable”.

    With that, people desire to believe and think certain things. This, to you, is something that cannot be explained and simply will happen.

    It happens, yes. Whether it can be explained depends on what sort of explanation you think would qualify, but in general we can’t explain our desires.

    But as with many things you say, you contradict your own views by coming here and arguing to prove something, and often ridiculing things that people say.

    My policy on ridicule is tit-for-tat. I have certainly not contradicted my views by posting here.

    So, you claim to ‘behave well’. Can anyone validate that for you? Do you have some accountability to someone on a day by day basis of your living like a saint?

    Don’t be ridiculous. If you’d like to claim you behave more morally than me, feel free.

    Answer this: Do you desire to behave well? If so, why do you need God to tell you to behave the way you want to behave in the first place? If not, what sorts of bad behavior would you actually commit if not for God’s prohibitions?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  25. 25
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RDFish

    Certainly not necessary, no. And not necessarily reasonable either, in my view: You do what the sum of your desires lead you to do, but that doesn’t mean your actions should be judged “reasonable”.

    I’m not going to try to analyze your view on the above, but I’ll just say that it’s not clear or consistent as I see it. In contrast, the theistic view is much more coherent. As below.

    Answer this: Do you desire to behave well? If so, why do you need God to tell you to behave the way you want to behave in the first place?

    There are lots of issues here. First, unlike your view, I work to consciously choose much of what I desire. In your view, desire just happens and you are passive towards it. There can be no moral guilt or merit in that view. You just do whatever you do. You don’t think desires can be explained either.

    However, in my view, desires can be explained to the extent that they can be controlled, directed, enhanced or in some cases eliminated as needed. In the theistic view, life has a purpose and therefore is directed towards something. Desires have a purpose therefore also. God helps us direct or discipline our desires so that we fulfill our purpose.

    We need God because God is the purpose and direction of our life and therefore of our desires. Without God, our desires are meaningless ultimately.

    To say that you want to ‘behave well’ puts you on the path to God. The desires I have to behave well came from God. Plus, God helps me fulfill those desires because just because I want to behave well, doesn’t mean I will do it. You have made it seem like merely having desires is enough to behave well. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We have to do the good and not just want to do it.

    If not, what sorts of bad behavior would you actually commit if not for God’s prohibitions?

    God doesn’t merely offer prohibitions but more importantly, God teaches us what to rightly do and desire.

    The first of the ten commandments is the most important moral norm and without God we wouldn’t be able to fulfill that.

    Desires and morality are ultimately about “what you love”.

    Loving things for the wrong reason, loving the wrong things, loving things in the wrong way, or lacking justice in what we love or don’t love … that’s where our sins and moral failings come from.

    The theistic view has deep and coherent explanations for all of this.

  26. 26
    Popperian says:

    WJM:

    If the latter, then our conscience is giving us information about the state of an objective, external world like any other sensory organ. Morality, then, would refer to something analogous to gravity; an unseen force or commodity that is sewn into the fabric of the universe, our lives and our minds.

    GUN:

    If that’s the case then why don’t we build a machine that can detect morality much better than we can, just as we have with “any other sensory organ” in order to better discern what [is] moral? Morality debates could all be settled (or we’d at least have much better data to work with).

    BA:

    Because it is objective, external and immaterial.

    I’m not following you, Barry.

    Because it’s objective? It’s unclear why this excludes us from making such a machine. Care to elaborate?

    Because it’s external? But, we make machines designed to detect external things all the time.

    Because it’s immaterial? However, if we take your claims seriously for the purpose of criticism, our immaterial mind supposedly effects our material brain.

    So, it’s unclear why we could not build such a machine that could detect moral truths better than we can. Let me guess: we cannot because, that’s just not the purpose of objective morality?

  27. 27
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    I work to consciously choose much of what I desire.

    I think a bit of introspection will reveal this to be untrue. Did you consciously choose to desire food, or sex, or health? Of course not – and (assuming you do desire these things) you could not consciously choose not to desire these things.

    What about more abstract desires, such as the desire to help others in need? Did you consciously choose to have that desire? If you say yes, then answer this: Why did you consciously make that choice? Because you desire to be a good person, or do the Lord’s work, or something like that? If so, where did that desire come from?

    Each choice we make is motivated by our desires, so we cannot choose our desires..

    In your view, desire just happens and you are passive towards it. There can be no moral guilt or merit in that view. You just do whatever you do.

    No, this doesn’t follow at all. Of course I can feel moral guilt and merit based upon what I do, because I desire to be a moral human being (and I am not perfect).

    However, in my view, desires can be explained to the extent that they can be controlled, directed, enhanced or in some cases eliminated as needed.

    Your desires cannot be consciously controlled – try it and you shall see. What you mistake for this sort of control is competing desires, which all humans experience. I desire to have sex with lots of beautiful women, but I also desire to treat others as ends and not means, and I also desire to be faithful to my wife, and so I am not a womanizer. I desire to eat a lot of ice cream most nights, but I also desire to be healthy, so I don’t (most nights). That doesn’t mean I can consciously choose not to desire ice cream – I am unable to choose that.

    In the theistic view, life has a purpose and therefore is directed towards something.

    We all choose our purpose – you and me both. You choose to make your life’s purpose what you discern as the intent of a supernatural being, because this is what you desire. I desire to be altruistic, productive, kind, tolerant, generous… and so I choose to act that way.

    (Please don’t give me this nonsense about saintliness – I’m not claiming perfection or anything remotely close to it).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  28. 28
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RDFish

    We all choose our purpose – you and me both. You choose to make your life’s purpose what you discern as the intent of a supernatural being, because this is what you desire. I desire to be altruistic, productive, kind, tolerant, generous… and so I choose to act that way.

    We choose how to act, yes. But you can see the difference between creating one’s own purpose and accepting the purpose of life given by the creator of life.
    In your case, you can create whatever purpose you want. You’ve already said that ultimately there’s no reason for any of it.
    In contrast, I’m convinced that God created human life and communicated His purposes for us. So, my moral actions are referenced against a standard which you can access. I can be judged against that standard also. I profess Christianity so I can be judged by the Christian moral code, and my life can be compared with the best Christians.

    For yourself, your moral universe is entirely within yourself and for yourself. You create the moral code and you judge it for yourself. And ultimately, your moral code is unnecessary. Within your own philosophy, anybody can choose whatever purpose or morals they want – or choose none.

    In the end, whatever purpose you created ends with nothing. So, the path you’re moving along does not go towards fullness and completeness.

    That’s the difference with theism. Moral improvement moves the person closer to God, and that’s the ultimate goal.

    (Please don’t give me this nonsense about saintliness – I’m not claiming perfection or anything remotely close to it).

    I think you could use, for example, Aristotle’s ethics as a standard and move towards a more perfect moral life and gradually overcome imperfections and defects of character — so you could do that without God.

    However, as I mentioned, you’d still be lacking the virtue of piety, for example. That’s giving reverence to what is due reverence — and God being the highest perfection of good requires our highest reverence.

    But beyond that, when one’s moral universe is enclosed within oneself, then the moral defect of pride is almost impossible to overcome. Humility is an important virtue in the classical sense.

    The ways of building that virtue are by (among other things) confessing one’s sins, repenting of them and honoring those who have a higher moral authority than we do.

  29. 29
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    We choose how to act, yes. But you can see the difference between creating one’s own purpose and accepting the purpose of life given by the creator of life.

    Why do you choose to accept the purpose of life given by (what you believe to be) the creator of life? Because you desire to?

    In your case, you can create whatever purpose you want.

    You are free to choose whatever purpose you want, too. The purpose you’ve chosen is to follow what you perceive as the intentions of a supernatural being. If you so desired, you could choose any number of other ultimate goals for your life.

    You’ve already said that ultimately there’s no reason for any of it.

    I did???

    In contrast, I’m convinced that God created human life and communicated His purposes for us. So, my moral actions are referenced against a standard which you can access. I can be judged against that standard also. I profess Christianity so I can be judged by the Christian moral code, and my life can be compared with the best Christians.

    Well, that’s your choice. I have chosen differently. Still, we doubtlessly agree on the vast majority of moral judgements. You would interpret that to mean that I am somehow influenced by theists (or the Christian God) in my moral sense; I would say that we simply have similar moral senses by virtue of being human.

    For yourself, your moral universe is entirely within yourself and for yourself. You create the moral code and you judge it for yourself.

    That is true for you as well. Your choice to follow one particular religious teaching is entirely within yourself – you and only you can make that choice. Others may choose other religions, a non-religious belief systems, or refrain from codifying their moral sense at all. In each case, we judge these options (again, mostly quite similar!) and choose the one we desire to adopt.

    In the end, whatever purpose you created ends with nothing. So, the path you’re moving along does not go towards fullness and completeness.

    Not at all – I feel as though I am living a very full and complete life!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  30. 30
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Hi RDFish

    Why do you choose to accept the purpose of life given by (what you believe to be) the creator of life? Because you desire to?

    Desire is the consequence not the cause of many decisions. When there are conflicting desires, one can’t simply point to desire as the reason for things. It’s “desire for” something. So, it’s “desire plus purpose”. To simply say “I do what I desire” is to say nothing, since we desire contradictory things and resist various desires.

    So to explain moral decisions, desire is not sufficient. When we explain moral decisions, we eventually have to look at the ultimate reasons for things. Otherwise, there’s no point. Hitler desired things. He made up his moral code. He made up his purpose. RDFish desires things. He makes up his moral code. He makes up his purpose.

    There’s no point in having a conversation about it. Nihilism is reductive in that way — there’s nothing to talk about. But instead, you’re discussing this, so that’s a contradiction.

    You are free to choose whatever purpose you want, too.

    In my worldview, no, I’m not free to do that. Because “freedom” for me is bound to justice. I am not free to choose to act in an unjust manner. Justice is built on the choice for The Good. I cannot freely and morally choose evil. To do so would be a violation of freedom itself. I have freedom so that I can choose the good. That’s the purpose of freedom. To choose evil violates freedom. So, I can’t have freedom and also choose evil.

    In your view, however, you’re free to choose good or evil. Freedom has a different meaning and context in your worldview. Freedom is unbridled liberty in your view.

    If you so desired, you could choose any number of other ultimate goals for your life.

    I can’t, at the same time, deny that there are ultimate goals and also choose ultimate goals for my life.
    That is irrational and contradictory.

    In your view, as I understand it, life begins from Nothing, and life ends with Nothing. There can be no ultimate meaning there. “Ultimate” references the beginning and end of life. For you, in the end, there’s no validation, no judgement. Your life is ultimately meaningless. It is unnecessary. It arrived as an accident through an unintelligent, unplanned process that has no goals. There is no ultimate reason for you to live, in that view.

    In contrast, in the theistic view, there is ultimate meaning from God. Life begins from God – created by His love. Life has purpose – growing morally towards God by choosing the Good (God is the perfection of good). Then Life has an ending with God. At that point, there is validation and judgement. So, there is deep meaning and purpose. There is reason for life. The love that is generated on earth among family, friends and humanity itself continues on after life.

    So, that’s radically different. That’s a rational basis for meaning and purpose. To start from nothing and end with nothing via an irrational, meaningless process is an irrational basis in which to establish some kind of meaning for life.

    You would interpret that to mean that I am somehow influenced by theists (or the Christian God) in my moral sense; I would say that we simply have similar moral senses by virtue of being human.

    If we note through history that Christianity shaped the moral sense of the global culture then it’s difficult to see how this was merely a part of being human. But beyond that, as I said, reverence and worship of God is a universal characteristic of being human so the fact that this is one significant moral norm that you reject doesn’t fit your picture here.

    That is true for you as well. Your choice to follow one particular religious teaching is entirely within yourself – you and only you can make that choice.

    But notice that I am following a religious teaching and not creating my own. That’s the distinction. I did not create the moral norms that I follow. I try to adhere to them and conform my behavior to them. I believe I will be judged, ultimately, on my fidelity to them also.

    Additionally, you’re offering two, conflicting motives.
    In one case, you say I make a choice to follow religion. In the other case, you say that I am compelled by biological factors to believe as I do (I’m simply doing whatever I want and that cannot be explained).

    Your explanation conflicts and doesn’t add much.

    For me, I choose religious belief because it is the most reasonable. I choose to follow reason because I am obgligated to use the gift of rationality for the Good.
    I am obligated to the Good due to Justice. As a human, my life is oriented towards the Good, as all things that exist are.

    This is a theistic understanding. It simply doesn’t work in atheism because we have to look at ultimate causes and ultimate ends of life. When those are gone, there’s no rational point for anything at all.

    Not at all – I feel as though I am living a very full and complete life!

    I’ve pointed to many things that are absent in your worldview. But I’ll add another that I mentioned above – an that’s the sense of Justice. From that, we have Gratitude.

    In the theistic view, life is a gift. Within life itself, each day brings many other gifts – the various experiences of life. For the theist, there’s a chance to offer Gratitude for those gifts. We can thank God for life and everything we receive.

    In the atheist view, there is no one to thank for those ultimate gifts. The danger here is a very serious sin of Ingratitude. If God exists, and a person shows no thanks at all for the many gifts received due to no effort of his own — then that’s Ingratitude which is a serious moral defect of character.

    Likewise, that links to Justice. In justice, if life is a gift, then Gratitude is what is due to the creator of life. A failure here is Injustice.

    But it goes beyond this. In the theistic view, repentance gives a chance to restore Justice after a person has had into moral failings. God can restore the damage done by our own imperfections.

    There’s no ultimate justice in the atheistic view. It’s not only making up for sins done, but also people who have been badly hurt by others – perhaps an innocent man unjustly put in jail for his whole life. There is no justice for that man.

    The atheists of earlier times suffered a lot with the recognition that life just ends with nothing. The evils they see and injustices will never been reconciled. Whatever purpose they created for themselves are ultimately unnecessary and meaningless. They could actually be entirely evil.

    For you to say you’re living a complete and full life, you’d have to struggle with all of those things. You profess a doctrine that is nihilistic. What is it that could be ‘complete’ about your life?

    Of course, as I said, you live in a moral universe of one. There is no way you can even communicate what your moral values are, and there’s nobody you can be accountable for them.

    The entire conversation with you as a process of just taking your word for it and not having any reason at all to care. You make up your morals and purpose, you judge yourself and none of this is accessible or meaningful to me or anyone else.

    This is not the case for the religious view. I can share my moral beliefs (precisely in detail) and explain why they have great importance. I also have reason to talk about and share such things with others, whereas you don’t (and actually cannot).

  31. 31
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    This is for you,

    CS Lewis

    Man or Rabbit?

    “Can’t you lead a good life without believing in Christianity?” This is the question on which I have been asked to write, and straight away, before I begin trying to answer it, I have a comment to make. The question sounds as if it were asked by a person who said to himself, “I don’t care whether Christianity is in fact true or not. I’m not interested in finding out whether the real universe is more what like the Christians say than what the Materialists say. All I’m interested in is leading a good life. I’m going to choose beliefs not because I think them true but because I find them helpful.” Now frankly, I find it hard to sympathise with this state of mind. One of the things that distinguishes man from the other animals is that he wants to know things, wants to find out what reality is like, simply for the sake of knowing. When that desire is completely quenched in anyone, I think he has become something less than human. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe any of you have really lost that desire. More probably, foolish preachers, by always telling you how much Christianity will help you and how good it is for society, have actually led you to forget that Christianity is not a patent medicine. Christianity claims to give an account of facts—to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitiveness must make you want to know the answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.

    As soon as we have realised this, we realise something else. If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don’t should be equally well equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a difference to one’s actions. Suppose you found a man on the point of starvation and wanted to do the right thing. If you had no knowledge of medical science, you would probably give him a large solid meal; and as a result your man would die. That is what comes of working in the dark. In the same way a Christian and a non-Christian may both wish to do good to their fellow men. The one believes that men are going to live forever, that they were created by God and so built that they can find their true and lasting happiness only by being united to God, that they have gone badly off the rails, and that obedient faith in Christ is the only way back. The other believes that men are an accidental result of the blind workings of matter, that they started as mere animals and have more or less steadily improved, that they are going to live for about seventy years, that their happiness is fully attainable by good social services and political organisations, and that everything else (e.g., vivisection, birth-control, the judicial system, education) is to be judged to be “good” or “bad” simply in so far as it helps or hinders that kind of “happiness”.

    Now there are quite a lot of things which these two men could agree in doing for their fellow citizens. Both would approve of efficient sewers and hospitals and a healthy diet. But sooner or later the difference of their beliefs would produce differences in their practical proposals. Both, for example, might be very keen about education: but the kinds of education they wanted people to have would obviously be very different. Again, where the Materialist would simply ask about a proposed action “Will it increase the happiness of the majority?”, the Christian might have to say, “Even if it does increase the happiness of the majority, we can’t do it. It is unjust.” And all the time, one great difference would run through their whole policy. To the Materialist things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals, because the individuals live only seventy odd years each and the group may last for centuries. But to the Christian, individuals are more important, for they live eternally; and races, civilizations and the like, are in comparison the creatures of a day.

    The Christian and the Materialist hold different beliefs about the universe. They can’t both be right. The one who is wrong will act in a way which simply doesn’t fit the real universe. Consequently, with the best will in the world, he will be helping his fellow creatures to their destruction.

    With the best will in the world … then it won’t be his fault. Surely God (if there is a God) will not punish a man for honest mistakes? But was that all you were thinking about? Are we ready to run the risk of working in the dark all our lives and doing infinite harm, provided only someone will assure us that our own skins will be safe, that no one will punish us or blame us? I will not believe that the reader is quite on that level. But even if he were, there is something to be said to him.

    The question before each of us is not “Can someone lead a good life without Christianity?” The question is, “Can I?” We all know there have been good men who were not Christians; men like Socrates and Confucius who had never heard of it, or men like J. S. Mill who quite honestly couldn’t believe it. Supposing Christianity to be true, these men were in a state of honest ignorance or honest error. If there intentions were as good as I suppose them to have been (for of course I can’t read their secret hearts) I hope and believe that the skill and mercy of God will remedy the evils which their ignorance, left to itself, would naturally produce both for them and for those whom they influenced. But the man who asks me, “Can’t I lead a good life without believing in Christianity?” is clearly not in the same position. If he hadn’t heard of Christianity he would not be asking this question. If, having heard of it, and having seriously considered it, he had decided that it was untrue, then once more he would not be asking the question. The man who asks this question has heard of Christianity and is by no means certain that it may not be true. He is really asking, “Need I bother about it?” Mayn’t I just evade the issue, just let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with being “good”? Aren’t good intentions enough to keep me safe and blameless without knocking at that dreadful door and making sure whether there is, or isn’t someone inside?”

    To such a man it might be enough to reply that he is really asking to be allowed to get on with being “good” before he has done his best to discover what good means. But that is not the whole story. We need not inquire whether God will punish him for his cowardice and laziness; they will punish themselves. The man is shirking. He is deliberately trying not to know whether Christianity is true or false, because he foresees endless trouble if it should turn out to be true. He is like the man who deliberately “forgets” to look at the notice board because, if he did, he might find his name down for some unpleasant duty. He is like the man who won’t look at his bank account because he’s afraid of what he might find there. He is like the man who won’t go to the doctor when he first feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor might tell him.

    The man who remains an unbeliever for such reasons is not in a state of honest error. He is in a state of dishonest error, and that dishonesty will spread through all his thoughts and actions: a certain shiftiness, a vague worry in the background, a blunting of his whole mental edge, will result. He has lost his intellectual virginity. Honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healed—“Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him.” 1 But to evade the Son of Man, to look the other way, to pretend you haven’t noticed, to become suddenly absorbed in something on the other side of the street, to leave the receiver off the telephone because it might be He who was ringing up, to leave unopened certain letters in a strange handwriting because they might be from Him—this is a different matter. You may not be certain yet whether you ought to be a Christian; but you do know you ought to be a Man, not an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand.

    But still—for intellectual honour has sunk very low in our age—I hear someone whimpering on with his question, “Will it help me? Will it make me happy? Do you really think I’d be better if I became a Christian?” Well, if you must have it, my answer is “Yes.” But I don’t like giving an answer at all at this stage. Here is door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that’s true or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal “sell” on record. Isn’t it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or to exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug? Faced with such an issue, can you really remain wholly absorbed in your own blessed “moral development”?

    All right, Christianity will do you good—a great deal more good than you ever wanted or expected. And the first bit of good it will do you is to hammer into your head (you won’t enjoy that!) the fact that what you have hitherto called “good”—all that about “leading a decent life” and “being kind”—isn’t quite the magnificent and all-important affair you supposed. It will teach you that in fact you can’t be “good” (not for twenty-four hours) on your own moral efforts. And then it will teach you that even if you were, you still wouldn’t have achieved the purpose for which you were created. Mere morality is not the end of life. You were made for something quite different from that. J. S. Mill and Confucius (Socrates was much nearer the reality) simply didn’t know what life is about. The people who keep on asking if they can’t lead a decent life without Christ, don’t know what life is about; if they did they would know that “a decent life” is mere machinery compared with the thing we men are really made for. Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear—the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.

    “When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” 2 The idea of reaching “a good life” without Christ is based on a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up “a good life” as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence. Morality is a mountain which we cannot climb by our own efforts; and if we could we should only perish in the ice and unbreathable air of the summit, lacking those wings with which the rest of the journey has to be accomplished. For it is from there that the real ascent begins. The ropes and axes are “done away” and the rest is a matter of flying.”

  32. 32
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Andre

    in setting up “a good life” as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence. Morality is a mountain which we cannot climb by our own efforts; and if we could we should only perish in the ice and unbreathable air of the summit, lacking those wings with which the rest of the journey has to be accomplished.

    It’s essential to see why what is called “a good life” isn’t really the goodness that is our goal and purpose.

    The real good we achieve are in relationships. The only way we can achieve goodness is to have help from God to do it. Then eventually, as a person gets closer to God, his goodness increases (merely on the basis that God is the fullness of being and goodness).

    Atheism is closed off from that relationship with God. It’s a world where the self has the highest value. The self cannot guide itself.

    If you had no knowledge of medical science, you would probably give him a large solid meal; and as a result your man would die. That is what comes of working in the dark.

    That’s a major problem. If evolution of the species is the goal, then things that frustrate evolution would be evil and things that promote evolution would be good.

  33. 33
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    Desire is the consequence not the cause of many decisions. When there are conflicting desires, one can’t simply point to desire as the reason for things. It’s “desire for” something. So, it’s “desire plus purpose”.

    On the contrary, all of our decisions arise from our desires (and our beliefs). Again, if you would simply introspect for a bit you would see this is true. Do you really think you could consciously choose to desire to do something that you do not desire, and then – presto chango – you would then actually desire it? Try it and see!

    I am sexually attracted to women, and not men, and I while I could consciously choose to change that, my desire would never follow my conscious choice! Likewise my desire to be healthy, my desire to help others, and so on and so on. So be clear here: Do you really believe these desires can be reversed by making conscious choices?

    To simply say “I do what I desire” is to say nothing, since we desire contradictory things and resist various desires.

    I’ve already made this point about multiple and often conflicting desires. Some desires win out over others to be sure, and sometimes we are not happy about our decisions because of the desires they contradict. Again, I desire to maintain a healthy weight, but I also desire apple pie a la mode, and sometimes I wake up after a night of indulgence and am unhappy that I followed the latter desire rather than the former. This may strengthen my desire to skip the pie next time.

    So to explain moral decisions, desire is not sufficient. When we explain moral decisions, we eventually have to look at the ultimate reasons for things. Otherwise, there’s no point.

    How can you tell me there is no point to fulfilling my desires? What a ridiculous thing to say!

    Hitler desired things. He made up his moral code. He made up his purpose. RDFish desires things. He makes up his moral code. He makes up his purpose.

    Silver Asiatic desires things. He makes up his own decision about what moral code to follow. You think you are better than me because you think your moral code is better than mine. You’re wrong.

    RDF: You are free to choose whatever purpose you want, too.
    SA: In my worldview, no, I’m not free to do that.

    That doesn’t alter the fact that you are free to do that – even if you do not wish to be. Like it or not, we are all free to decide whatever we choose, and to act in any way that is available to us. You are, in this sense, free to walk into a movie theatre with automatic weapons and start shooting if you so choose – even though that action will result in your death or imprisonment.

    You are free to adopt a worldview that tells you what to do, but you freely chose that worldview (based on your desires).

    Because “freedom” for me is bound to justice. I am not free to choose to act in an unjust manner.

    Again, of course you are free to choose to act in an unjust manner! You choose not to, based on your desire to be just. I have that same desire, as do most people.

    In your view, however, you’re free to choose good or evil. Freedom has a different meaning and context in your worldview. Freedom is unbridled liberty in your view.

    We are both free to commit violent, selfish, dishonest acts, in the sense that it is within our power to do that. We both refrain from doing those things even though we are free to do so. The reason I refrain from doing those things is because I desire to be just, kind, and altruistic.

    Why do you refrain from doing those things? It isn’t because you couldn’t do them – you are free to do them!!! Rather, it is because just like me you desire to be just, kind, and altruistic! If somehow you discovered one day that there really was no God, do you think you would all of a sudden have desires to kill, rape, steal, and torture puppies? I really hope not!

    If we note through history that Christianity shaped the moral sense of the global culture then it’s difficult to see how this was merely a part of being human.

    On the contrary. Christianity was in turn shaped by preceding cultures and religions. And all religion is shaped by human nature of course.

    But notice that I am following a religious teaching and not creating my own. That’s the distinction. I did not create the moral norms that I follow. I try to adhere to them and conform my behavior to them. I believe I will be judged, ultimately, on my fidelity to them also.

    What in the world do you think is better about that? You could adhere to the moral code of Jim Jones or Adolph Hitler. You would not have made it up yourself, but it certainly would not be superior to one that you did make up!!! No, there is certainly nothing to recommend adopting somebody else’s moral code over what your own moral sense tells you. My moral sense tells me to be kind, honest, peaceful, and productive, and I’m not about to discard it for somebody else’s moral code.

    Additionally, you’re offering two, conflicting motives.
    In one case, you say I make a choice to follow religion. In the other case, you say that I am compelled by biological factors to believe as I do (I’m simply doing whatever I want and that cannot be explained).

    Who said anything about “biological factors”? There is nothing contradictory about what I said. I said our choices are based upon our desires, and that we cannot consciously choose our desires. There is no contradction at all.

    For you to say you’re living a complete and full life, you’d have to struggle with all of those things.

    Actually I do not struggle with existential questions in the least. I am no more worried about not existing after I die than I am worried that I did not exist before I was born. I am incredibly happy to enjoy the mystery of life for whatever time I have here. I do recognize that many (most) other people are much more afraid to admit that life is a mystery, but for whatever reason I think it is wonderful. Nobody has any idea why there is something rather than nothing, and I do understand that this is difficult for most people to accept.

    In my view, accepting that life is wonderful even though we don’t know the answers to the Big Questions is the true path to enlightened living and happiness.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  34. 34
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RDFish

    Do you really think you could consciously choose to desire to do something that you do not desire, and then – presto chango – you would then actually desire it?

    As I said, the term ‘desire’ you’re using here is meaningless. Yes, I do things I don’t desire to do every day. But you’ll say, “no, you really desire them”. The fact is, I don’t desire doing those things. It’s not the desire that drives the action. It’s the reason or purpose that gives meaning to the desire.

    I’ve noticed that you changed your own view on this yourself, as below, and that’s a good thing:

    On the contrary, all of our decisions arise from our desires (and our beliefs).

    The parenthetical has been added, for good reason. Our desires alone are not sufficient to explain our moral choices. We don’t merely do things because that’s what we desire.

    So be clear here: Do you really believe these desires can be reversed by making conscious choices?

    Yes, I believe those desires can be reversed by making conscious choices. That’s how we build virtue, by making conscious decisions to create habits — and counter-act other habits that actually were created by following desires. So, the conscious choice is what enables us to act morally. Fighting against temptation is a good example. In many cases, a person may do what he does not want to do at all — simply based on the faith that it will help build the virtue. Desire leads one way and the will to do good leads against that. So, conscious decision, an act of the will, actually shapes our desires.

    As for love, sex or lust, this can be directed to certain goals also. I don’t want to get side-tracked on gay-therapy controversies but many gay men and women have changed their desires through conscious effort. I know a formerly gay man who has done that and has been happily married to a woman for 20 years now.

    Again, I desire to maintain a healthy weight, but I also desire apple pie a la mode, and sometimes I wake up after a night of indulgence and am unhappy that I followed the latter desire rather than the former.

    Right. There were two desires. To explain your decision to eat pie vs not eating by merely saying “I desired it” doesn’t explain the decision. No matter what you chose it would be desire – so that can’t be the basis of a moral decision. Instead, it would be a reason or (as you said above) your belief that informs your desires. Some desires would lead towards greater good, others towards evil. The desires themselves don’t explain that.

    How can you tell me there is no point to fulfilling my desires? What a ridiculous thing to say!

    I don’t understand your point here.

    Silver Asiatic desires things. He makes up his own decision about what moral code to follow. You think you are better than me because you think your moral code is better than mine.

    I note the difference. I didn’t make up my code like you did. You are the author of your code. So, you consider yourself the highest moral authority. You made up your own code, you’re the only one who knows what it is.

    Here’s the problem. You established yourself as the greatest moral authority. You will not follow another code. I submit to a moral teaching from an exemplar of good living who taught a moral code. I didn’t make up my own because for one thing, I have no authority to make up a moral code like that.

    I’ll continue – and I don’t think you’ll like this, but here’s how I see it …

    My moral sense tells me to be kind, honest, peaceful, and productive, and I’m not about to discard it for somebody else’s moral code.

    Do you think you are the moral superior of Jesus Christ? Do you think you are a greater authority in morality than Christ is?

    Who said anything about “biological factors”? There is nothing contradictory about what I said. I said our choices are based upon our desires, and that we cannot consciously choose our desires. There is no contradction at all.

    Well, you said this …

    Like all complex traits, it is the result of the combination of inherited characteristics and environmental experiences (nature plus nurture).

    Inheritance is a biological factor. But beyond that, I disagree that we cannot consciously choose, change, redirect or even eliminate our desires. We are not enslaved by our desires. Stoicism gives some good teaching on this. By reason and will, we overcome our desires.

    In fact, Buddhism teaches the same thing essentially. Our desires are considered evil. It’s only by eliminating desires, through spiritual practice, that the Buddhist can attain enlightenment. The Stoics believed something similar although they had a clearer belief in God.

    Christian belief was similar to Stoicism and Buddhism except that desires are not considered evil in Christianity. They are not to be totally eliminated — but they are to actually be re-directed and enhanced towards God.

    Ultimately, our desire is for The Good.

    But in our life, every Good we see has some imperfection — it’s limited in some way and finite. This leads us for the Greatest Good – which is God alone.

    So, I agree with you that desires are essential in moral decisions. But I disagree that we are slaves to them. In my view, we have to work to direct ourselves to God and most of the time, we’re changing our desires away from various things. In some cases we have to eliminate the desire completely.

    We are both free to commit violent, selfish, dishonest acts, in the sense that it is within our power to do that.

    I’m using the word “free” to mean “permitted”.

    In your case, your philosophy means you’re free (permitted) to do anything. You don’t get permission or need permission.

    In my case, I am not free to commit evil (violent, selfish) acts like that. I am not permitted by God to act in an evil way. I am free, however, to do charitable acts for people. But even there, I’m not free to take money from those I’m responsible for and give it to the needy for example.

    But that’s because I follow a moral code. I didn’t make up my code, but I chose one based on it’s quality and authority. There are also consequences for not following this code – and that’s a motivation also.

    Why do you refrain from doing those things? It isn’t because you couldn’t do them – you are free to do them!!!

    As above, God does not permit it so I’m not free to do it. My view of freedom is different because it’s based on reason. Every action has a moral value in it. So, I’m only free (permitted) to do good, not evil. To say I’m free to do evil is using a different meaning for the word “free”.

    If somehow you discovered one day that there really was no God, do you think you would all of a sudden have desires to kill, rape, steal, and torture puppies? I really hope not!

    Every day I have some desire to do something immoral, at least to a very small extent.

    Even things like attacking and ridiculing people who I disagree with here on UD is a temptation that I struggle against (not always successfully, unfortunately). I have also prayed quite a lot for help – every day – to improve in many areas morally.

    That’s a important benefit of theism that is overlooked. With prayer, we’re not alone. God helps us with guidance and knowledge. I would say that even punishments or corrections (and I have received many of those) from God are meant to help us.

    But as far as what I would do if there was no God, I can’t answer. It would be like you trying to answer what you would do if there is a God. I don’t think you know how your life would change.

    I think you’ll find that most believers will tell you that God does, actually, change their lives. God is real for many people.

    This is not just an argument about the first cause of the universe or the afterlife. But many people experience God through prayer on a daily basis.

    Actually I do not struggle with existential questions in the least. I am no more worried about not existing after I die than I am worried that I did not exist before I was born.

    I would expect you to have a great deal of certainty that you are simply not going to exist after you die. It’s like Pascal’s Wager. I don’t know how you’ll answer the question above about Jesus Christ, but if you think you have a greater moral character than Jesus Christ does, and that you know more about life itself than he did, I would like to hear that from you.

    It’s rare to find someone actually say that they are a greater person, morally, than Jesus was. So if that’s what you believe I think it’s important for you to say it.

  35. 35
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    As I said, the term ‘desire’ you’re using here is meaningless.

    The term “desire” here means simply the emotion we feel when we want something. We are drawn toward some things and away from others, and we call these attractions/aversions “desires” (or desires to avoid). We all feel desires – I’m sure you do too.

    Yes, I do things I don’t desire to do every day. But you’ll say, “no, you really desire them”.

    No I would not say that of course! I would say you have some other desire that leads you to avoid it. I’ve explained this repeatedly.

    The fact is, I don’t desire doing those things. It’s not the desire that drives the action. It’s the reason or purpose that gives meaning to the desire.

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. When I eat ice cream it is because I desire it, and when I don’t it’s because I desire to be healthy and not fat. For you, it’s something else, but I can’t imagine what.

    I’ve noticed that you changed your own view on this yourself, as below, and that’s a good thing:

    On the contrary, all of our decisions arise from our desires (and our beliefs).

    The parenthetical has been added, for good reason. Our desires alone are not sufficient to explain our moral choices. We don’t merely do things because that’s what we desire.

    Hahahahahaha – it always amuses me when people here attempt to find inconsistencies and reversals in my positions, when there are none. I added beliefs in parentheses because it is obvious that we could not act to satisfy our desires unless we held beliefs about what acts would satsify our desires! If I desire to eat ice cream, I still won’t eat ice cream unless I believe I can find it in the freezer, that I can access it by opening the container, and so on. If I desire to be kind to the hungry I cannot satisfy my desire unless I believe someone is hungry and that giving them food will help them.

    Yes, I believe those desires [desire for health, sexual orientation, etc] can be reversed by making conscious choices.

    Again, we strongly disagree.

    That’s how we build virtue, by making conscious decisions to create habits — and counter-act other habits that actually were created by following desires.

    And how can you do that unless you desire to? Can’t you see this? Why would you make the conscious decision to stop smoking unless you desire to change your habits? It’s always desire that drives these decisions.

    So, the conscious choice is what enables us to act morally. Fighting against temptation is a good example. In many cases, a person may do what he does not want to do at all — simply based on the faith that it will help build the virtue. Desire leads one way and the will to do good leads against that. So, conscious decision, an act of the will, actually shapes our desires.

    And the conscious decision to do good comes from our desire to do good. If we didn’t desire it, we wouldn’t make the change. This isn’t that hard to see if you just think for a moment about it.

    As for love, sex or lust, this can be directed to certain goals also. I don’t want to get side-tracked on gay-therapy controversies but many gay men and women have changed their desires through conscious effort. I know a formerly gay man who has done that and has been happily married to a woman for 20 years now.

    Wow – he must have REALLY DESIRED to be heterosexual in order to have done that!! Now that is a very strong desire indeed! I can’t imagine choosing to be sexually attracted to something besides a woman, but I guess it can be done if you REALLY DESIRE to.

    To explain your decision to eat pie vs not eating by merely saying “I desired it” doesn’t explain the decision. No matter what you chose it would be desire – so that can’t be the basis of a moral decision.

    Yet again: We all have competing desires. When our desire to be moral outweighs desires to act badly, we make bad choices. I hate people whose desires to act immorally lead them to do things that are unjust, and I hold them responsible for their terrible acts.

    RDF: How can you tell me there is no point to fulfilling my desires? What a ridiculous thing to say!
    SA: I don’t understand your point here.

    My point is that I don’t appreciate you telling me that my decisions are pointless unless I adopt your religious views.

    You established yourself as the greatest moral authority.

    That is not true at all. A moral authority is one who knows more about morality that other people, and I do not pretend that is true of me.

    You will not follow another code.

    Well, there are plenty of things in the Bible that I would not do, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t stone people for adultery for example. But most basic moral imperatives are the same across cultures, so I don’t have problems with most other moral codes.

    Do you think you are the moral superior of Jesus Christ? Do you think you are a greater authority in morality than Christ is?

    I didn’t know him of course. There are very eloquent expressions of compassion and love in the New Testament that I really like. I’m not sure he was very clear about various things (turn the other cheek, but an eye for an eye, and all that). There are lots of other books with excellent moral sentiments too.

    RDF: Who said anything about “biological factors”? There is nothing contradictory about what I said. I said our choices are based upon our desires, and that we cannot consciously choose our desires. There is no contradction at all.

    SA: Well, you said this …

    RDF: Like all complex traits, it is the result of the combination of inherited characteristics and environmental experiences (nature plus nurture).

    SA: Inheritance is a biological factor.

    Yes, and environment isn’t. Your point?

    Stoicism gives some good teaching on this. By reason and will, we overcome our desires.

    Again, the point is that you have to have some basis upon which to decide what you will reason and will yourself to do. How are you to decide, if you have no desires at all – not even the desire to believe in God, or to do what’s right, or even to act rationally?

    Ultimately, our desire is for The Good.

    Aha!! We agree!! So I see you’ve completely reversed your position and now you agree that I was right all along – it is our desire for the good that drives us. 🙂

    So, I agree with you that desires are essential in moral decisions.

    Excellent!

    But I disagree that we are slaves to them.

    I would never say any such thing. We are not slaves to our beliefs and our desires – we are our beliefs and our desires (among other things).

    I’m using the word “free” to mean “permitted”.

    What does “permitted” mean? That you get in trouble if you disobey? We are all free to disobey whenever we want to – whether you like it or not.

    In your case, your philosophy means you’re free (permitted) to do anything. You don’t get permission or need permission.

    There are legal prohibitions, social prohibitions, personal/familial prohibitions, religious prohibitions, and so on. Nevertheless, if we do not desire to obey them, we are all free to disobey. Sorry, but the radical freedom of being human is inescapable. To choose to be constrained is still a free choice!

    In my case, I am not free to commit evil (violent, selfish) acts like that.

    Yes, you are. You simply choose not to, because you desire to be good, like me.

    I am not permitted by God to act in an evil way.

    You desire – and thus choose – to believe that this God exists, and that you know what He wants you to do. And then you choose to follow these beliefs, even though you are free to follow some other set of beliefs.

    Every day I have some desire to do something immoral, at least to a very small extent.

    Even things like attacking and ridiculing people who I disagree with here on UD is a temptation that I struggle against (not always successfully, unfortunately).

    Me too. As far as my behavior on UD, I’m proud to say that I consistently adhere to a policy which I think is moral, which is “tit-for-tat”. What this means is that I NEVER attack anyone who has not attacked me first, and that I ALWAYS return to civil discourse the moment my debating opponent ceases attacking me.

    But as far as what I would do if there was no God, I can’t answer.

    Sure you can – but you didn’t. If there was not God, or if you weren’t worried that He would punish you, would you suddenly want to rape, kill, steal, and lie?

    It would be like you trying to answer what you would do if there is a God. I don’t think you know how your life would change.

    Sure I can answer that. But my answer would depend on what sort of god was shown to exist. If the God most folks here seem to believe in was shown to exist, I would definitely do everything He told me to do! I wouldn’t want to spend eternity suffering in Hell! I wouldn’t be very happy about it, though.

    I think you’ll find that most believers will tell you that God does, actually, change their lives. God is real for many people.

    Absolutely, I completely believe this, and I’m genuinely happy for them (and you). Life can be very hard, and anything that helps people to behave kindly, honestly, and altruistically – and gives them a feeling of worth and purpose and happiness – is a great thing! I just wish they’d stop judging me, telling me I’m evil and purposeless and incoherent because I don’t believe in any gods.

    I would expect you to have a great deal of certainty that you are simply not going to exist after you die.

    Yeah it seems pretty likely to me for a couple of reasons. Again, I don’t think I existed before I was born, so why would I exist after I died (and by “I”, I mean my consciousness, personality, and memories). Moreover, I know that “I” disappear completely when I fall into a dreamless sleep, or am adminstered a general anesthetic, or even get a bump on the head. If these things can cause my consciousness to go away, I would suppose that the complete destruction of my entire body would likewise mean my consciousness would be lost.

    It’s like Pascal’s Wager.

    I think Pascal’s Wager is inane. I can’t possibly choose to believe in something that I don’t believe in just because it’s likely to be better for me in the future.

    It’s rare to find someone actually say that they are a greater person, morally, than Jesus was. So if that’s what you believe I think it’s important for you to say it.

    You’ve been moderately good at not putting words into my mouth thus far; let’s not start now.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  36. 36
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RDFish

    The term “desire” here means simply the emotion we feel when we want something. We are drawn toward some things and away from others, and we call these attractions/aversions “desires” (or desires to avoid). We all feel desires – I’m sure you do too.

    To say we make moral decisions “because we desire it” is not an explanation because we desire conflicting things. We make moral decisions because we have rational reasons to choose one thing or another. Our intellect directs and chooses our desires. The desires themselves do not drive the decision.

    To say “I will always do what I desire” is to have no moral standard at all, since you desire conflicting things. To say “I will always choose the good” is an intellectual decision that is independent of emotion.

    We can also discipline our desires: “I will work at never desiring [whatever]”. We can change what we desire by building habits.

    I added beliefs in parentheses because it is obvious that we could not act to satisfy our desires unless we held beliefs about what acts would satsify our desires!

    It’s not obvious. If you only do what you desire, then beliefs would be irrelevant. Instead, however, it’s your belief that drives the decision, not the desire. By your belief or intellectual conviction, you choose certain desires over other.

    “Desire” as the driver of moral acts is like saying “movement” is the reason why you find yourself in certain places.

    Why are you here? I moved here.
    Why are you anywhere? Movement brings me there.

    Obviously, it’s not movement that is the driver. But you could say “In every case, movement was involved”! No, it’s the rational decision that is the driver.

    With moral choices, to say “I always do what I desire” would yeild an inconsistent moral code since desires conflict.

    Why would you make the conscious decision to stop smoking unless you desire to change your habits? It’s always desire that drives these decisions.

    This is why there’s a struggle to stop smoking. It’s not the desire that drives the action. The desire is to smoke. I also do not desire the withdrawal effects. So, the reason to stop is not because some unexplained desire just arrived one day and “I always do what I desire”. No, it’s because, independent of desire or emotion, I intellectually see the good and choose that.

    Wow – he must have REALLY DESIRED to be heterosexual in order to have done that!! Now that is a very strong desire indeed!

    Here you’ve changed it. Now you’re saying it’s the strength of the desire that drives the action. But again, this would mean that we always choose the strongest desire. But that’s not the case. In this situation, the strongest attraction was being gay. It was the intellectual conviction that this was evil that caused the change, not a strong emotional desire.

    The intellectual, rational conviction is independent of desire. I already explained that through spiritual practice we can eliminate desire entirely. Beyond that, decisions are reached without desire all the time.

    2+2=4 compels assent because of it’s truth. I don’t accept the formula because I desire to, but because it compels me to by the logic. It’s the same morally. I improve my moral awareness. I don’t just follow desires. My moral awareness improves by reasoning. When I discover, for example, through ultrasound imagery, that a 2 month old infant in the womb shows indications of feeling pain, this improves my moral awareness of the evil of abortion.

    It’s not that I simply desire something and then do it.

    My beliefs also are informed by reason. My beliefs can change, as my desires can change, through reasoning and rational understanding.

    When our desire to be moral outweighs desires to act badly, we make bad choices.

    You use the term “outweigh” here. Again that would indicate that the strongest desires are always followed. But it’s not the case in addiction, as mentioned. Beyond that, our intellect assigns weight to the desire. We choose desires not because of desire, but because of the intellectual reasoning we use. We give one desire more weight than another. Otherwise, we would always follow the strongest emotion. Anger is a stronger emotion than dispassionate serenity. So, we would always express anger in those cases because that is strongest – but that would not be much of a moral standard.

    My point is that I don’t appreciate you telling me that my decisions are pointless unless I adopt your religious views.

    In your view, life itself is ultimately meaningless. It leads to nothing. Your actions, therefore, ultimately are unnecessary and also lead to nothing. You can’t know if your decisions are good or evil — there’s no judgement, no final evaluation. If you never lived at all, it would make no difference ultimately. Every human life ends with absolutely nothing. This is what I called pointless. You don’t like that terminology but you don’t provide an alternative.

    SA: You established yourself as the greatest moral authority.

    RDF: That is not true at all. A moral authority is one who knows more about morality that other people, and I do not pretend that is true of me.

    You’ve established your own moral code. You won’t follow anyone else’s code. If someone else knows what True Morality is better than you do, why don’t you follow that person’s moral code? To choose your own indicates that you think your morality is superior to any other code. That means you consider yourself to be the greatest of all moral lawmakers. You are the Lawmaker and Judge of the moral code. You won’t submit to anyone else. So, again, you see yourself as the greatest. Otherwise, you would follow another code.

    SA: You will not follow another code.

    RDF: Well, there are plenty of things in the Bible that I would not do, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t stone people for adultery for example. But most basic moral imperatives are the same across cultures, so I don’t have problems with most other moral codes.

    Yes, but in the end, you choose your own personal moral code over any other.

    SA: Do you think you are the moral superior of Jesus Christ? Do you think you are a greater authority in morality than Christ is?

    RDF: I didn’t know him of course. There are very eloquent expressions of compassion and love in the New Testament that I really like. I’m not sure he was very clear about various things (turn the other cheek, but an eye for an eye, and all that). There are lots of other books with excellent moral sentiments too.

    You didn’t answer the question so that was not clear, but it seems like you’ve judged the teaching of Jesus and decided that your own moral code is superior to his. This would make you a greater moral authority than Jesus Christ.

    SA: I’m using the word “free” to mean “permitted”.

    RDF: What does “permitted” mean? That you get in trouble if you disobey? We are all free to disobey whenever we want to – whether you like it or not.

    Permitted means ‘morally justified’. Beyond that, it means rationally and logically coherent. I am not free to contradict self-evident truths. I am not free to equate myself with God. I am actually not free to lie about everything and to deny that I exist.

    In the same way, I am not permitted to love God and at the same time fight against him. You are not free to both be faithful to your wife and commit adultery. When you commit adultery, you are no longer faithful.

    Sorry, but the radical freedom of being human is inescapable. To choose to be constrained is still a free choice!

    I explained above some of the limits of freedom.

    As far as my behavior on UD, I’m proud to say that I consistently adhere to a policy which I think is moral, which is “tit-for-tat”. What this means is that I NEVER attack anyone who has not attacked me first, and that I ALWAYS return to civil discourse the moment my debating opponent ceases attacking me.

    I guess you consider responding: “Hahahahahaha” to my comment to be part of civil discourse.

    SA: But as far as what I would do if there was no God, I can’t answer.

    RDF: Sure you can – but you didn’t. If there was not God, or if you weren’t worried that He would punish you, would you suddenly want to rape, kill, steal, and lie?

    Here you’re telling me to imagine an irrational/insane universe where there is no God, and beyond that claiming that I can do it. No, I can’t imagine Design without a Designer, in the same way I can’t imagine mutations and natural selection as the cause of the development of all the variety on earth’s biosphere.

    So, I don’t know what I would do in an insane fantasy world where there is no God. In any case, it wouldn’t matter what I did. There could be no good or evil.

    This is what you don’t like to accept. There is no evil in a nihilistic universe. Killing and torturing is just something that could happen, caused by beings who have no reason for existence. It’s not good or bad – because there cannot be any good or bad. Things just happen. Human beings do not have special value – they’re the same as rocks and trees and molecules. They are unnecessary. Rape is something that provides pleasure for someone. Again, that’s materialism. There’s no judgement, and no hell.

    If the God most folks here seem to believe in was shown to exist, I would definitely do everything He told me to do! I wouldn’t want to spend eternity suffering in Hell!

    That’s a reasonable thought, but it’s important to consider the positive benefits of God’s existence. Do you know what it would be like to pray to God and have your prayers answered? Do you know what it would be like to have God guiding you, helping you and giving signs of his care for you? It’s not just avoiding Hell — but actually having happiness in knowing God.

  37. 37
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RDFish – continued from previous

    I just wish they’d stop judging me, telling me I’m evil and purposeless and incoherent because I don’t believe in any gods.

    I think you need to reconcile your professed views with the necessary consequences of those views. God is the principle of rationality and order — and the final goal and meaning of life. Without God, that principle of rationality and order does not exist. There is no goal.

    Where there is no goal, how can you say something is closer or farther from the goal? Do you see how that is illogical?

    Yeah it seems pretty likely to me for a couple of reasons. Again, I don’t think I existed before I was born, so why would I exist after I died (and by “I”, I mean my consciousness, personality, and memories).

    Well there are a lot of reasons to think one will live after death.

    I think Pascal’s Wager is inane. I can’t possibly choose to believe in something that I don’t believe in just because it’s likely to be better for me in the future.

    This happens all the time though. Using examples of addiction as above. The smoker doesn’t know what life will be like without cigarettes. But he believes in it, even though he wants to smoke. He believes because it’s likely to be better for him in the future. That’s Pascal’s Wager basically.

    SA: It’s rare to find someone actually say that they are a greater person, morally, than Jesus was. So if that’s what you believe I think it’s important for you to say it.

    RDF: You’ve been moderately good at not putting words into my mouth thus far; let’s not start now.

    Jesus preached a moral code. But you have judged your moral code to be superior to his. Now you seem to be saying, however, that he was a greater person, morally, than you are. But you reject his moral teachings.

    I attempted to summarize your views. I know you created your own morals, you judge them yourself, and you think that God does not exist. Jesus taught and lived differently. You don’t follow Jesus, but you choose your own morals. I assume you think your morals are better than what Jesus taught. As above, this sets you as a greater moral authority than Jesus. It also sets Jesus’ morality as inferior to yours. So, he can’t be greater than you morally on that basis.

  38. 38
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RDFish

    I just wish they’d stop judging me, telling me I’m evil and purposeless and incoherent because I don’t believe in any gods.

    I just want to explain a little more …

    It’s your philosophy that says life is purposeless. As such, you’re saying my life is unnecessary and basically nothing.

    You can’t give value to human life, because you profess that human life ultimately has no purpose. It came from nothing and ends with nothing. That’s what you’re saying about my life and everyone’s life. It’s ultimately useless, pointless, unnecessary and an accident that is meaningless.

    Now you could object “No, I think your life is valuable!”

    That’s ok, but that would mean the value of my life comes from your opinion, and you already admit that you don’t know the origin of things, and that my life came from Nothing and ends with Nothing. So, I don’t get much value from that since you can’t know if my life really has value or not.

    That is opposed to my view of your life. I believe your life starts from Fullness and Goodness – which is God, and has its purpose in the love of God. Since you were created by an All Good, All Loving creator, your life has immense value. Since you are designed to live forever with the love and goodness of God (buy only if you choose to), then your life is sacred and I am morally required to give you reverence on that account.

    I would only say your life is pointless and irrational based on your philosophy. On my philosophy, your life is necessary and irreplaceable – and is deserving of a high degree of respect, since you were created out of love by God, who is the perfection of all goodness.

  39. 39
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    We make moral decisions because we have rational reasons to choose one thing or another. Our intellect directs and chooses our desires. The desires themselves do not drive the decision.

    You are consistently missing my point here, so I will say it just one more time. Unless one has desires, there is nothing for the intellect to base decisions upon regarding how to act. Unless you desire to follow your God’s commands, you will not decide to do so. Unless you desire to act rationally, you will not decide to do so.

    To say “I will always choose the good” is an intellectual decision that is independent of emotion.

    Why would say you will always choose the good? Only because you desire to! How many times must I explain this? Perhaps you will say it is the fear of God’s wrath that compels you? In that case, why do you fear God’s wrath? Because you desire to avoid punishment of course!

    We can change what we desire by building habits.

    Only if we desire to do so.

    This is getting old. Please try to understand this point; from now on I will just say “I’ve already explained this”.

    RDF: I added beliefs in parentheses because it is obvious that we could not act to satisfy our desires unless we held beliefs about what acts would satsify our desires!
    SA: It’s not obvious. If you only do what you desire, then beliefs would be irrelevant.

    You didn’t read what I wrote, obviously. I will explain this only once more also: If I desire to quench my thirst, how can I act unless I have beliefs regarding what one must do to quench thirst (e.g. drink water)? If I desire to reduce hunger in the world, how can I act unless I have beliefs regarding how one can feed more people?

    Obviously, it’s not movement that is the driver. But you could say “In every case, movement was involved”! No, it’s the rational decision that is the driver.

    I’ve already explained this: One must desire to be rational in the first place, and one must desire to be good in order to decide to be good, and one must desire to follow God in order to decide to do that.

    If you had no desire to be good, or to follow God, or to avoid punishment, or to survive – if you had no desires at all – then what possible reason would there be to do anything at all?

    With moral choices, to say “I always do what I desire” would yeild an inconsistent moral code since desires conflict.

    If morality was algorithmic, computers could tell us what acts are moral and what acts are not. It isn’t, and they can’t. There is no moral code that can be used to consistently and unambiguously tell us how to behave in every situation – that is why religious people – even Christians – even Christians of the very same denomination! – often disagree about what the moral course of action is in any situation.

    You are not consistently moral, and neither am I, even though we both desire to be. The reason is because we have conflicting desires. People are moral when they desire to be kind, honest, altruistic, and so on – and that these desires outweigh any other desires they have.

    This is why there’s a struggle to stop smoking. It’s not the desire that drives the action. The desire is to smoke.

    This is obviously false: The desires are both to smoke and to be healthy! If you had no desire for either one, you would have no basis upon which to decide. If your desire to smoke outweighs your desire to be healthy… you smoke!

    RDF: Wow – he must have REALLY DESIRED to be heterosexual in order to have done that!! Now that is a very strong desire indeed!
    SA: Here you’ve changed it. Now you’re saying it’s the strength of the desire that drives the action.

    I haven’t changed a single thing! (You keep wanting to believe I’m changing my argument, but I’ve been making this exact same argument for a great many years). I have said from the start that we all have conflicting desires, and that it is the evaluation of those desires that drives our actions. In the end, if you desire to be heterosexual more than you desire to have sex with men, you can (according to you) even overcome your sexual orientation.

    But again, this would mean that we always choose the strongest desire.

    Yes of course.

    But that’s not the case.

    Of course it is.

    In this situation, the strongest attraction was being gay. It was the intellectual conviction that this was evil that caused the change, not a strong emotional desire.

    Nonsense. Why in the world would anyone come up with an intellectual conviction that one ought to avoid evil unless one desired to not be evil? If I desired to be evil, what intellectual basis would I have to avoid it? You just aren’t making any sense at all.

    My beliefs also are informed by reason. My beliefs can change, as my desires can change, through reasoning and rational understanding.

    Yes, this is true! As I’ve said, one’s beliefs and desires change because of life experiences. One can actually choose one’s circumstances (say, avoiding bad influences) with an eye toward changing one’s desires… but only if one desires to do so!!!!.

    You use the term “outweigh” here. Again that would indicate that the strongest desires are always followed. But it’s not the case in addiction, as mentioned.

    Yes of course it is. Nobody can beat an addiction unless they want to.

    Beyond that, our intellect assigns weight to the desire. We choose desires not because of desire, but because of the intellectual reasoning we use. We give one desire more weight than another. Otherwise, we would always follow the strongest emotion. Anger is a stronger emotion than dispassionate serenity. So, we would always express anger in those cases because that is strongest – but that would not be much of a moral standard.

    Where in the world are you coming up with these “facts”? Who says a desire for anger is stronger than a desire for serenity? Why is serenity “dispassionate”? I strongly desire serenity over anger! You’re just making things up. If I desired to act angrily all the time I would, but I don’t, and I don’t.

    In your view, life itself is ultimately meaningless. It leads to nothing.

    DO NOT QUOTE OUT OF CONTEXT:
    *** How would you like it if I said: Your life is wasted in an ignorant and futile attempt to please an imaginary anthropomorphic parent figure. ***

    How does it feel when somebody attacks your beliefs about religion, SA? Don’t tell me my life is meaningless! My life is brimming with meaning, and I can’t see how picking some particular religious dogma to believe in could make it any more meaningful.

    If you desire to be a moral person, here’s something you need to learn right now: Do not attack peoples’ beliefs about religion. I NEVER attack people’s beliefs about religion (unless of course they’ve attacked mine first, because I believe tit-for-tat is a moral policy). My life is very meaningful, and so is yours. Stop telling me my life doesn’t matter – it is a stupid and mean thing to say.

    You’ve established your own moral code. You won’t follow anyone else’s code.

    If somebody convinces me something I’m doing is immoral I will follow them! If somebody tells me something that I think is moral is actually immoral, I will listen, but not just take their word for it.

    To choose your own indicates that you think your morality is superior to any other code.

    Nonsense. Do you want to stone adulterers because the Bible says to? No, you don’t (I hope). Does that mean you “place yourself above God?”. Of course not.

    I guess you consider responding: “Hahahahahaha” to my comment to be part of civil discourse.

    Sure – it’s just a laugh, SA. You claimed that I’d changed my deeply held beliefs in the course of this little debate with you, and that strikes me as funny. No offense intended.

    This is what you don’t like to accept. There is no evil in a nihilistic universe. Killing and torturing is just something that could happen, caused by beings who have no reason for existence. It’s not good or bad – because there cannot be any good or bad. Things just happen. Human beings do not have special value – they’re the same as rocks and trees and molecules. They are unnecessary. Rape is something that provides pleasure for someone. Again, that’s materialism. There’s no judgement, and no hell.

    I appreciate this description – it is a good insight into the beliefs of some (but not all) religious people. It’s hard to see where to begin – we certainly aren’t going make progress in this forum trying to debate the worldview you’ve just described. I suppose I’ll leave you with a question: If this is true, why do you think that I (not a materialist, not even technically an atheist, but rather a neutral monist and theological non-cognitivist) behave in a way that you would think is generally moral? Here are a few possible answers:

    1) You think I’m lying and I actually do rape and kill and tortue when I can get away with it.
    2) You think that I really do believe in your god and I’m afraid of his retribution
    3) God loves even infidels like me and somehow directs my actions toward goodness despite my lack of faith
    4) There are all kinds of people. Some mainly desire to be kind, productive, peaceful, and altruistic. Others don’t. The difference doesn’t come from their religious beliefs – it comes from within. For you to say that “materialists” are evil is itself a great evil.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  40. 40
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RDFish

    Regarding desires, my point was that looking at desires alone is not enough to explain the moral decision. That’s all I was getting at. You seem to say the same thing here:

    I have said from the start that we all have conflicting desires, and that it is the evaluation of those desires that drives our actions.

    Ok, agreed. It seemed earlier that you were saying desire alone was the driver. But it’s the evalutation plus the desire. In my view, the intellect should direct the desire. It doesn’t always do that. I will say it doesn’t always need to do it either. When a person acts under inspiration – like to create a work of art, they usually can follow desire. Or when falling in love, it’s not something reduced to intellectual decision alone.

    But making a moral choice requires at least some rational thought — choosing the right person for marriage, even if there is romantic desire. Or when doing art, making sure it’s not something evil, etc. So, intellect and desire working together is where the moral action arises.

    DO NOT QUOTE OUT OF CONTEXT:
    *** How would you like it if I said: Your life is wasted in an ignorant and futile attempt to please an imaginary anthropomorphic parent figure. ***

    How does it feel when somebody attacks your beliefs about religion, SA?

    No you’re right – I find that hurtful and damaging, and that wasn’t my intention. I apologize. I agree that’s not a good thing to do to anyone and you have not attacked my religion (that I can ever recall). I was responding on an assumption that you were a standard atheist-materialist of the kind we see frequently, although I know you wisely reject Darwinism, but I didn’t know the additional details. Again, that was my mistake.

    My life is very meaningful, and so is yours. Stop telling me my life doesn’t matter – it is a stupid and mean thing to say.

    Ok – again, I apologize. Attacking you personally is not at all what I meant, and I’m sorry it came across that way. I will say that other anti-IDers often ridicule religious beliefs and I find that as painful and wrong as you do, so I appreciate you pointing it out. I will only add that we have a misunderstanding also, and I can see a chance to clear it up with the following …

    we certainly aren’t going make progress in this forum trying to debate the worldview you’ve just described.

    There are people (not you) on this forum who fully agree with what I said. The only progress we can make is to try to show them that materialism doesn’t work.

    I suppose I’ll leave you with a question: If this is true, why do you think that I (not a materialist, not even technically an atheist, but rather a neutral monist and theological non-cognitivist) behave in a way that you would think is generally moral?

    I didn’t know that about your theological views so it makes a big difference. Again, I assumed you were the standard materialist nihilist that we see frequently.
    To answer your question I’d really like to understand your viewpoint better. Right now, I just have a few guesses based discussions.

    Here are a few possible answers:

    1) You think I’m lying and I actually do rape and kill and tortue when I can get away with it.

    No, I don’t see any indication that you’re lying about your moral beliefs or your interest in trying to follow a morally good life. So, not this one.

    2) You think that I really do believe in your god and I’m afraid of his retribution

    I don’t see that either. Fear can be a good thing – as a sign of respect. We are afraid of insulting or hurting people we care about. So, I think you have healthy fear of harming people or of damaging society, and also a fear of civil punishment. But I don’t think fear of final judgement is part of your moral decision.

    3) God loves even infidels like me and somehow directs my actions toward goodness despite my lack of faith

    This I would modify. Instead of “directs” you towards goodness, I would say “draws” you. In other words, God is not pushing you (although I think that happens at times also). So, yes, I firmly believe that is true. It’s not the only reason why you try to improve, morally. But I see it as an important driver for these reasons:
    1. You choose the good
    2. You’ve recognize some character defects and lack of absolute perfection
    3. You observe improvements as well as failures
    4. You care about others and relationships

    As I see it, this is a trajectory towards a goal. I can’t see how you could have created that kind of scale of value on your own. In my view, God has shaped your vision of goodness and continues to attract and draw you on that path.

    4) There are all kinds of people. Some mainly desire to be kind, productive, peaceful, and altruistic. Others don’t.

    No, as above, I think every human being is sacred and moves towards the good. But because of conflicting desires and a failure to build spiritual insight, people choose apparent goods which are actually evil. They destroy themselves and others because they choose lesser goods, rather than the greater.

    Is “racial purity” a good thing? Well, the desire for it could be good. (Orthodox Jewish community would say so). “Purity” could be desired for the benefit of everyone. If racial purity could preserve something necessary, then it would be good. But to kill people for the sake of racial purity is evil, because respecting others is a higher good than racial purity. So, to choose a lesser good (a racially pure society) actually becomes evil.

    The difference doesn’t come from their religious beliefs – it comes from within. For you to say that “materialists” are evil is itself a great evil.

    First of all, I didn’t say all materialists are evil.

    Materialism is amoral. It is nihilistic. Some courageous materialists have said that openly. Others try to cover up that fact.

    A person who says that human life is meaningless, (not you but many do) is very evil.

    Destroying the value of human reason, which destroys the value of human persons themselves is also evil.

    I think when a person lies to himself and spreads those lies to the public about what materialism is — that is a profound evil which destroys lives and ruins society itself. It breeds despair. Anyone who follows it can easily be led to suicide (as all the early existentialists admitted), and easily to murder (Albert Camus, The Stranger).

    Again, it’s nihilistic and amoral. That’s actually why many people choose to be materialists. So, they “can do whatever they want”. They get rid of God and they think there is no final judgement of their behavior in the end.

    Even just wasting a human life on selfish pleasure is a great evil because it is taking what has very high value (the human life) and reducing it to the level of irrationality.

  41. 41
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response.

    You are correct that desires alone don’t enable anyone to act – morally or otherwise. We reason about what we ought to do, based on our beliefs (some justified, some assumed, some wrong!), but always according our desires. When it appears to you that we “override” our desires with our intellect, it is still the case that we must want to override that desire.

    Our moral reasoning is not formalizable – it is not like math or formal logic – and so it cannot be comprehensively codified. Each of us brings our own reasoning (again, based on our beliefs and desires) to each moral quandary, even those of us who follow the teachings in one particular book. So there is always a subjective aspect to our moral decisions, no matter how hard we try to base our actions unambiguously upon rigorous (or even “self-evident”!) reasoning.

    But beyond that sort of subjectivity, there is the inescapable subjectivity that derives from the fact that we are – each of us – undeniably free to accept or reject any particular moral code (or any part of any moral code), and that goes for both moral codes that we encounter and those we discern ourselves. You can claim that your particular religious dogma represents the single true authentic moral authority for the universe and that everybody who thinks otherwise is wrong. But everybody from every different religious (or irreligious) tradition is going to disagree with you forever, and there will never be consensus. This is very different from scientific investigation, where over the long term observable results tend to produce overwhelming consensus on many scientific questions.

    So what is the best course of action, given these facts? In my view, the best course of action is to try to be good according to each of our best understanding of what that means and be very grateful to and tolerant of anyone else who also appears to be good the way we are, no matter how they came to be that way. I love good Christians and hate bad Christians, and I love good atheists and hate bad ones. You should feel the same way.

    People here worry that if people adhere to their own “moral code” (that is, trust their own moral sentiments) then nothing will prevent them from raping and killing and so on. But it’s clear that it isn’t atheism that makes people do such things and it isn’t theism that keeps people from doing such things.

    Prison statistics confirm no greater representation of atheists in prison than in the general population (and most sources show they are under-represented, probably because of the correlation between education/affluence and atheism combined with the inverse correlation of those traits with crime). And please don’t try to tell me atheists commit suicide more often that religious people – they don’t.

    It is absurd that both atheists and theists try to twist statistics to show these things going one way or another, as though (1) crime+suicidetheism/atheism correlations, even if they existed at some significant level, could actually be shown to be causal, and (2) even if they could, this wouldn’t constitute some sort of argument for whether or not there is actually a god!

    The fact that “materialism” (which is a very confused term) is amoral does not imply that materialists are amoral, or immoral. People who do not profess to derive their moral judgement from their religion have no less moral judgement – they just don’t attribute it to religion.

    Saying things like “Destroying the value of human reason, which destroys the value of human persons themselves is also evil” and that materialism “destroys lives and ruins society itself” is nothing but inflammatory rhetoric. First, stop conflating atheism with “materialism” – it just confuses things. But where in the world do you get off saying such things? Where is your evidence that atheism destroys lives? People destroy other people, whether they are atheists or not. I don’t think ISIS folks are atheists – think they destroy any lives?

    That’s actually why many people choose to be materialists. So, they “can do whatever they want”. They get rid of God and they think there is no final judgement of their behavior in the end.

    Good grief, are you serious? Nobody decides to be an atheist so that they can act badly – that truly is a ridiculous thing to think! If you believe in God, you can’t just say to yourself “Gee, I really want to murder and steal things so I think I’ll become an atheist so I won’t have to worry about it!”

    Finally, let me just reiterate my main point: Instead of getting all riled up and despising these “materialists” who you imagine are running wild in the streets, raping our women, undermining life’s meaning, and choosing to believe there is no God so they can pillage and plunder with immunity, why not just be the best person you can be, acknowledge that other people can be good even if they don’t believe in the same god you do – or any god at all, and stop buying into this hateful bigotry against people who are just as good as you are.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  42. 42
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    I have to ask, if there is no reason for our existence, what exactly is the point of trying to be good in the absence of an objective standard? Can you actually quantify what good is? How on earth are you able to give a reason if there is no reason for anything?

  43. 43
    Andre says:

    RDFISH

    why not just be the best person you can be, acknowledge that other people can be good even if they don’t believe in the same god you do – or any god at all, and stop buying into this hateful bigotry against people who are just as good as you are.

    As already mentioned, nobody can be good on their own efforts and if being good is what you are trying to achieve as your goal in life you miss the point of your very own existence. Lastly where is the hateful bigotry? It is intellectually lazy to call a person a bigot when their views differ from yours. Materialism is the most idiotic idea mankind has ever conjured, if you are shaped for fitness and not for truth how on earth can you trust your own mind? Am I bigot to point out this self evident truth about your position?

  44. 44
    RDFish says:

    Hi Andre,

    I have to ask, if there is no reason for our existence, what exactly is the point of trying to be good in the absence of an objective standard?

    The reason I act morally is because I desire to be good of course – don’t you? Perhaps you desire to be bad, and you only act with generosity, honesty, and peacefulness because you are afraid that if you don’t God will be angry with you?

    Can you actually quantify what good is?

    Good is not something that can be “quantified” (expressed as a quantity) by anyone, including me.

    How on earth are you able to give a reason if there is no reason for anything?

    I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

    As already mentioned, nobody can be good on their own efforts and if being good is what you are trying to achieve as your goal in life you miss the point of your very own existence.

    I have no idea what you are talking about.

    Lastly where is the hateful bigotry? It is intellectually lazy to call a person a bigot when their views differ from yours.

    I would never call a person a bigot simply because their views differ from mine. My comment on hateful bigotry was directed at those who would assume that someone is immoral (and “evil”) simply because they do not adhere to any theistic religious views.

    Materialism is the most idiotic idea mankind has ever conjured, if you are shaped for fitness and not for truth how on earth can you trust your own mind?

    You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

    1) I’m not a materialist
    2) “Shaped for fitness” refers to Darwinian evolution. I do not believe Darwinian evolution is responsible for our mental abilities.
    3) This silly argument from Plantinga doesn’t say what you think it does. If your mind doesn’t recognize truth, then you won’t know if your mind recognizes truth or not. It won’t change anything if you decide to believe in God – either your mind recognizes truth or it doesn’t!

    Am I bigot to point out this self evident truth about your position?

    What you are is a very, very poor and inarticulate debater. Aside from your general incoherence, your “self-evident truth” is neither self-evident nor true, and on top of that, you have mistaken me for a materialist and an “evolutionist”.

    Goodbye,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  45. 45
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    Thank you for your responses;

    Good is not something that can be “quantified” (expressed as a quantity) by anyone, including me.

    Then why are you desiring to be good? In the context that it cannot be quantified why are you even trying? What does it mean being good?

    I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

    Sure you do……. You just won’t acknowledge it to do so would mean contradicting yourself.

    I have no idea what you are talking about.

    Again you do but you’re in denial, I’ll put it another way, when you call this world unjust, what are you comparing it to?

    I would never call a person a bigot simply because their views differ from mine. My comment on hateful bigotry was directed at those who would assume that someone is immoral (and “evil”) simply because they do not adhere to any theistic religious views.

    Who said anything about theistic views?

    You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

    1) I’m not a materialist
    2) “Shaped for fitness” refers to Darwinian evolution. I do not believe Darwinian evolution is responsible for our mental abilities.
    3) This silly argument from Plantinga doesn’t say what you think it does. If your mind doesn’t recognize truth, then you won’t know if your mind recognizes truth or not. It won’t change anything if you decide to believe in God – either your mind recognizes truth or it doesn’t!

    The argument is by no means silly, if it was refute it, I know what it means, you know what it means yet you dismiss it out of hand, wonder why?

    What you are is a very, very poor and inarticulate debater. Aside from your general incoherence, your “self-evident truth” is neither self-evident nor true, and on top of that, you have mistaken me for a materialist and an “evolutionist”.

    Blah Blah Blah….. “I can’t really argue the actual points so let me take a stab at assassinating your character Andre by telling you how bad you are!”

  46. 46
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    Here is Platinga’s “silly argument” in all its glory enjoy it read it, contemplate it, think about it, embrace it!

    http://www.calvin.edu/academic.....feated.pdf

    If for whatever reason you feel it is still silly, then I highly recommend the following book to you…..

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obi.....16-9461647

    You will not be disappointed and who know you might even see the “light”

  47. 47
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Hi RDFish

    I appreciate your willingness to engage in the topic and for a sincere response.

    I think I understand your view and I certainly respect your interest in striving to live morally and improve, etc. I try to do the same, and it’s a daily struggle.

    At the same time, my focus has been on atheism and materialism because I see consequences to those ideas. In the same way, I see consequences to the beliefs that inspire ISIS, even though they are theistic.

    But at this point, I don’t want to go farther with my concerns about the amorality or meaning of materialism.

    I gained a lot from this exchange and I appreciate your taking the time with it. I don’t believe that I’m bigoted against atheists, but if I come across that way I think it’s better for me to just leave what I’ve said so far as my closing thoughts on this thread.

    Best regards and thanks again for a very good conversation.

  48. 48
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    Thanks indeed for a very good exchange. The most important point I hope to leave you with is that people can be good or bad with or without religion, and that if you want more people to behave well, attacking “materialism” is the wrong target. Instead, attack fear, intolerance, greed, and tribalism – the real sources of hatred and violence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

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