Intelligent Design Philosophy Religion Science

Mass slaughter: Can well-intentioned humanism replace values thought to be rooted in reality?

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Frank Turek.jpg Ken Francis, hat tipped below, writes to inform us of this vid featuring Frank Turek, of I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist fame, debating non-theist anthropologist Dennis Nørmark last year:

Nørmark:

In his role as a critic of literature, and formerly also of television, for both the newspaper, ‘Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten’, and from 2015 also, ‘Politiken’, he has to this day been an incisive critic of societal and political issues in a direct and unapologetic fashion.

Turek remarks:

Denis Normark fails to give a good argument as to why in his worldview if Stalin decided that the meaning of his life is to kill whoever gets in his way it would not be wrong.

What do you think? Traditionally, people have believed that God or the gods opposed mass slaughters like that of Stalin or Pol Pot. They were considered to be against the very order of things. If all we have to go on, to oppose them, is “incisive” criticism, “”direct and unapologetic,” why should we assume that our values are any better than theirs?

Hat tip: Ken Francis

See also: Frank Turek: Why does the Bible not talk about dinosaurs?

Vid: Frank Turek on Darwinism’s effect on morality, reason, and the ever-elusive God of the Gaps

and

Video: Frank Turek and David Silverman Face Off On The Existence of God, With Themes Relating to Intelligent Design

25 Replies to “Mass slaughter: Can well-intentioned humanism replace values thought to be rooted in reality?

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    If all we have to go on, to oppose them, is “incisive” criticism, “”direct and unapologetic,” why should we assume that our values are any better than theirs?

    It’s perhaps not an easy question to solve just philosophically. As mentioned, in former cultures, these moral norms were governed by religion and belief in God’s purposes.

    In a secular view, it’s based on consensus. So, Stalin’s killings would be perfectly justified. Stalin had a purpose and intention – was aiming at goals. He had a consensus support. So, he killed his enemies.

    Some will say that the USA did the same thing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Without any reference to God, and without a sincere effort to reflect belief in God’s moral order – then no set of values is better than another. They’re all created by human beings for the benefit of some.

    Even measuring moral goodness of society by counting the number of deaths that the government causes just leads to dead-ends and contradictions. Again, the USA likes to think of itself as the moral standard for the world, but America causes a lot of death in wars in the Mideast, for example.

    Taking a complicated problem farther – even with God … why would Muslim terrorists be morally wrong to wage war in the name of their religion, in the sincere belief that they are doing good according to God’s will?

    Because of a perceived conflict of religions, secular humanism stepped in and became the peace-maker and moral-arbitrator. From that, secularism (atheism) became the moral lawgiver and religion has to fight to be heard or recognized.

    Might (popularity, consensus) does make right – even though, weirdly, the power-brokers can give unequal rights and privileges to preferred minorities. But it is still the Might, of those in power that create that moral order.

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Mass slaughter: Can well-intentioned humanism replace values thought to be rooted in reality?

    What values rooted in reality? The is/ought gap, remember?

    Turek remarks:

    Denis Normark fails to give a good argument as to why in his worldview if Stalin decided that the meaning of his life is to kill whoever gets in his way it would not be wrong.

    How about: I think it is wrong for Stalin to kill people without adequate cause and I’m pretty all his potential victims would think it was a bad idea as well? Now, what’s the solution to this problem?

    What do you think? Traditionally, people have believed that God or the gods opposed mass slaughters like that of Stalin or Pol Pot.

    Really? Need I mention Sodom and Gomorrah or the Great Flood?

  3. 3
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Sev

    Need I mention Sodom and Gomorrah or the Great Flood?

    Can you recognize some significant differences between God and a human being?

  4. 4
    EDTA says:

    SA @ 1,

    >Some will say that the USA did the same thing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Not me. When the Japanese surrendered, we did not round them all up and begin systematically slaughtering them just to be rid of them. Yes, a lot of them had to die to end the war, but when it ended, we stopped. We couldn’t say that they (or the Germans or the Russians) had a point at which they were going to stop killing. (For the Germans, it wasn’t just getting rid of the Jews…it was getting rid of anyone that opposed them.)

  5. 5
    Silver Asiatic says:

    EDTA

    I guess so. But when you say that a lot had to die to end the war – that means, as long as we won the war. We would have kept killing until we won.

    The Germans stopped killing. So did the Russians.

    We’re presently killing a lot of people in the Mideast who really have little to do with America. We just believe they oppose us.

    It’s not exactly the same as Stalin, true. But I don’t see it being radically different.

    I was just reading where one of the American Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, praised the activities of the French Revolution where leaders were rounding up and systematically killing anyone they thought were enemies.

    For Jefferson, that was just the price of revolution and freedom.

    Of course, as Americans we think we have a higher moral standard than anywhere else in the world, but I find that hard to justify. I don’t think most Americans can refer to a single moral standard.

  6. 6
    EDTA says:

    SA @ 5,

    You are certainly correct that we don’t have a single moral standard. I can’t find one today. In the past, I think we had far greater moral agreement. (Although that is a hard thing to measure, I will grant.)

  7. 7
    Seversky says:

    Silver Asiatic @ 3

    Need I mention Sodom and Gomorrah or the Great Flood?

    Can you recognize some significant differences between God and a human being?

    Yes, that we should hold an all-knowing, all powerful God to at least the same standard of morality as we bind ourselves and, further that God, being all powerful and all-knowing, should be holding Himself to the highest possible standard. In fact, could He do otherwise and be the God you believe Him to be?

  8. 8
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    Yes, that we should hold an all-knowing, all powerful God to at least the same standard of morality as we bind ourselves and, further that God, being all powerful and all-knowing, should be holding Himself to the highest possible standard.

    That would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

  9. 9
    Silver Asiatic says:

    EDTA – agreed. Relativism or subjectivism are very common in society today, so each person feels free to create a moral code. In the past, it was more common for people to adhere to moral standards that were given by church or other leaders.

    In some ways it is still similar today because even though people do not admit it, and they think they’re making up their own morals, many of them just go with whatever is most popular.
    It’s strange because America promotes “freedom” as one of the moral standards, but then people just want to fit into society so they follow what they think everybody else is doing.

    This is a big reason why people are afraid to criticize Darwinism. They want to be accepted by society. So, being independent and having freedom really doesn’t mean much – people just choose the popular opinion and conform to that.

    But ultimately, America does not really have much of a single moral standard. Freedom, equality, being nice, sexual liberation, prosperity, opposition to violence, making charitable donations, fairness, honoring contracts, responsibility to be educated – these are some of the basics.

    But they’re not really consistent and there’s no real guide to them. There’s very little explanation as to why we believe such. Most of the reasons have been lost to history.

    People will think that the value of freedom is a moral standard. Anything that inhibits freedom is a sin against the person. The moral guide for them would be the American Constitution.

  10. 10
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Sev

    Yes, that we should hold an all-knowing, all powerful God to at least the same standard of morality as we bind ourselves and, further that God, being all powerful and all-knowing, should be holding Himself to the highest possible standard. In fact, could He do otherwise and be the God you believe Him to be?

    What I meant was – the relationship between God and human beings is not peer-to-peer. God is the creator of life. Human beings are the creatures, who received life as gift.

    Moral standards are established by God for a reason – because life itself has a reason, purpose and direction.

    What do you think the reason and purpose of moral standards are? Why do you think God created them? Why do you think God created human life?

    When you consider the difference between God, the creator, and humans, the created — is it possible for us to “hold God to a standard”? Do we have the necessary knowledge and understanding to judge God?

    God is the standard of moral excellence.

    Would you say “God killed people in the flood, therefore I can murder entire populations myself”? Do you have the same kind of ownership for those populations of people?

    We do not know what effects our actions today will have on people living 100 years from now. But as you said, God is all-knowing, so He knows the effects of all actions.

    Whatever wisdom we have, whatever judgement … where did we get it, ultimately? Where did we get a mind and soul that understand moral goodness?

    Obviously, it comes from the same God. The goodness and desire for moral excellence that is inside of all of us — that comes from God. Our ability and desire to judge – that also comes from the same source.

  11. 11
    Bob O'H says:

    Silver Asiatic @ 10 –

    Would you say “God killed people in the flood, therefore I can murder entire populations myself”? Do you have the same kind of ownership for those populations of people?

    Are you saying that God owns us? Are we all his slaves, or his pets?

    I own several birds. But would you consider it OK if I were to kill them because they don’t obey me (or my wife) by leaving their droppings all over the place?

  12. 12
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Bob O

    Are you saying that God owns us? Are we all his slaves, or his pets?

    Does a creator own his creation? No, we are not slaves or pets. In the Christian view we call God “The Father”. Does a Father have some rights and privileges that children do not have? Are the standards of behavior the same for father and the 6 year old child? If not, are you outraged about that inequality? If parents do not have ownership of children, can children be taken away by other people?

    Because that’s the point. Parents can discipline their own children. But I cannot discipline your children without your permission. In the same way, I cannot murder people who I did not create.

    I own several birds. But would you consider it OK if I were to kill them because they don’t obey me (or my wife) by leaving their droppings all over the place?

    If you’re going to argue about God, it’s necessary to understand what God actually created. In the Christian view, death is not the end of life. God created beings that will live forever. Many people pray and ask God to take them from this life – so they can have the fullness of life in heaven? This life is temporary for everyone.

    Do you understand how that works?

    Atheists wrongly believe that this is the only life they have, on earth. So they get upset with the idea that God takes this life away.

    As father to a child, I give certain gifts for the beginning of life. Later, I take those gifts away so that the child can mature. You seem to be saying that if a father takes away any gifts (a temporary existence on earth) this is an injustice.

    Regarding your birds, you applied a motive. You killed them because they are messy.

    Why do you think it is wrong for God to punish people who commit sin?

  13. 13
    Bob O'H says:

    Silver Asiatic – But a father doesn’t own their children.

    Because that’s the point. Parents can discipline their own children. But I cannot discipline your children without your permission.

    In the cases of genocide (e.g. the flood, the plagues sent to Egypt), I doubt that everyone who killed or suffered was guilty. So God did not just punish the guilty (over and above the punishments in the afterlife), he also punished a lot of other people. For humans, at least, collective punishment is usually seen as morally wrong.

    Regarding your birds, you applied a motive. You killed them because they are messy.

    Indeed, but please note that I haven’t killed any, and I would actually argue that to do so for this reason is immoral. The birds are just being birds.

    Why do you think it is wrong for God to punish people who commit sin?

    I don’t necessarily think it is wrong. But why do you think it is OK for God to punish people because someone else committed a sin?

  14. 14
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Bob

    In the cases of genocide (e.g. the flood, the plagues sent to Egypt), I doubt that everyone who killed or suffered was guilty. So God did not just punish the guilty (over and above the punishments in the afterlife),

    Well, you mention two punishments here. One, the abrupt end to this temporary life on earth. The other is in the afterlife. Obviously, those who died in the flood who were not guilty are not punished in the afterlife – in fact, what they gain is a blessing far beyond what they lost in the flood. They would never want to return to earth. Death is going to come to all. But it comes suddenly at times to keep us alert, so we won’t be caught guilty at that time.

    For humans, at least, collective punishment is usually seen as morally wrong.

    Right, because we do not know to what extent people are morally guilty or not. But God does know – and God administers justice and mercy to a perfect degree. God is not punishing ‘a collective’ since He intimately knows the inner life of each person, and He created them.
    We cannot do this, obviously, so our judgements and punishments are flawed. We do not know what a perfect punishment or reward is. We punish the innocent and reward the guilty very often. That is why our standards cannot be the measure for God.

    Indeed, but please note that I haven’t killed any, and I would actually argue that to do so for this reason is immoral. The birds are just being birds.

    I would agree that your inner motive for killing the birds affects the morality of the action. As above, that’s another reason why we have a different moral standard than God does. God knows the motives.

    I don’t necessarily think it is wrong. But why do you think it is OK for God to punish people because someone else committed a sin?

    Yes, as with Jesus. He took on punishments that were not deserved – He was innocent.
    Why is this OK for God to allow it?
    When a person accepts punishment when he is not guilty – he has a chance to show the highest form of love.

    So, God gives us the chance to endure evil to prove that we love something other than ourself. The history of martyrs always shows this. Again, that’s what Jesus showed.

  15. 15
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Bob

    Following up …

    I don’t necessarily think it is wrong. But why do you think it is OK for God to punish people because someone else committed a sin?

    There’s something more here, and you’re pointing to the idea on Original Sin. An initial sin meant the punishment of all ancestors. Yes.

    But there are two kinds of punishment- one is the direct result from an action. A thief is caught, sentenced and punished for his theft.

    But the other is a punishment of ‘condition’ or ‘circumstances’. It’s like saying “my parents punished me because my Dad didn’t have the money I wanted”.
    Well, it’s not a punishment – it’s the circumstances that deprived you of things.

    You buy a house, it’s old. Things break down. The previous owners are not punishing you. It’s just the result of what was handed down.

    So, we think that sins of the parents are handed down. But it’s not a direct punishment.

    One thing we can guess, however, is that our actions will affect future generations. Your good actions, for good effects. Your bad actions … what impact will they have on people 100 years from now? Could those people look back to you and say “I’m being punished for Bob O’H’s sins.” ?

  16. 16
    mike1962 says:

    Silver Asiatic: “But it comes suddenly at times to keep us alert, so we won’t be caught guilty at that time.”

    What, like musical chairs?

    I’m not an atheist, but this sounds like a game show. 🙂

  17. 17
    ET says:

    Bob O’H:

    In the cases of genocide (e.g. the flood, the plagues sent to Egypt), I doubt that everyone who killed or suffered was guilty.

    I am sure God will give your doubts due consideration. 😛

    But it’s easy to talk when one doesn’t have any idea on what was going on and why things happened the way they did.

    But why do you think it is OK for God to punish people because someone else committed a sin?

    You don’t know that happened.

  18. 18
    Silver Asiatic says:

    mike1962

    What, like musical chairs?

    Well, Jesus said:

    keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour …

    We’re told to be ready – be watchful. Because things can happen suddenly.

    You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night …

    It doesn’t sound like a game show to me.

  19. 19
    GCS says:

    Main point in the discussion.

    God by definition is greater than you.

    God always has greater knowledge.

    Therefore, the only honest answer is that “I don’t understand”.

  20. 20
    mike1962 says:

    Silver Asiatic: Well, Jesus said: keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour

    Meh, too much depends on human abilities, for this black and white kind of thinking to be what’s really going on here on planet earth. Karma makes more sense. But that’s just me.

  21. 21
    Seversky says:

    Silver Asiatic @ 10

    What I meant was – the relationship between God and human beings is not peer-to-peer. God is the creator of life. Human beings are the creatures, who received life as gift.

    Does being a creator entitle such a being to be immoral or amoral?

    Moral standards are established by God for a reason – because life itself has a reason, purpose and direction.

    How do you know life has a purpose and how did God arrive at his moral standards? I don’t recall him explaining his moral dispositions at all. Doesn’t that seem odd to you? Good parents usually try to explain to children why various behaviors are allowed or forbidden so that they understand the rules are not arbitrary and possibly unfair.

    What do you think the reason and purpose of moral standards are? Why do you think God created them? Why do you think God created human life?

    I don’t believe human life was created by God and, as I wrote above, He didn’t see fit to give reasons for his moral standards. Two more questions: God is supposed to be eternal so He must have existed for an infinite time before He allegedly created this Universe and He will presumably exist for an infinite amount of time afterward it has gone, so why create this Universe and the life within it at the time He did, in fact, why create it at all?

    When you consider the difference between God, the creator, and humans, the created — is it possible for us to “hold God to a standard”? Do we have the necessary knowledge and understanding to judge God?

    We can judge Him by our moral standards, at least some of which He gave to us. The Great Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah, to name but two, were fairly blatant violations of the Sixth Commandment, I would say.

    God is the standard of moral excellence.

    Do as I say, not as I do is not moral excellence.

    Would you say “God killed people in the flood, therefore I can murder entire populations myself”? Do you have the same kind of ownership for those populations of people?

    Human beings are not the property of anyone. We did away with that notion when we got rid of slavery.

    We do not know what effects our actions today will have on people living 100 years from now. But as you said, God is all-knowing, so He knows the effects of all actions.

    Yes, He would, so what is the purpose of it all? And if He wants us to change our ways, why not just explain it to us?

    Whatever wisdom we have, whatever judgement … where did we get it, ultimately? Where did we get a mind and soul that understand moral goodness?

    Such wisdom as we have, we have gathered for ourselves, slowly and often painfully. As for the origins of everything, I have no idea>

    Obviously, it comes from the same God. The goodness and desire for moral excellence that is inside of all of us — that comes from God. Our ability and desire to judge – that also comes from the same source.

    That’s a possibility but it raises the question of where He got it all.

  22. 22
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Seversky @21

    I appreciate your thoughts – it’s a profound topic that demands a good response and I just try to give that. The questions you’re asking challenge believers, and in my view, it takes a lifetime to discover answers, little by little.
    In fact, that last clause there is part of the answer to “what is the purpose”? It’s learning and discovery for us. But why create human beings, in a world with evil and suffering, just for some learning and discovery? What good does that do for God?

    Does being a creator entitle such a being to be immoral or amoral?

    No, it doesn’t. A creator has to have integrity. If whatever was created, was created because of love – then the creator must show love as well as moral goodness towards creation. Did this happen with Sodom and Gommorah and the Flood?

    Integrity means, in part, that one’s word is true. That what we say, we intend. Moral goodness means that we will do what we said we will do.

    “If you commit these sins, something very bad will happen. In fact, nature itself will hurt you.”

    That’s a statement. If we then commit sins, and nothing happens – or even goodness happens, do we see integrity and keeping one’s word here? Obviously not.

    So, fulfilling the consequences of behavior is part of moral goodness. Acts carried out in justice is also the same.

    How could God’s pure justice – purely karmic “eye for an eye”, giving rewards and punishments — good for good, evil for evil — how could that co-exist with Mercy? Where sinners are forgiven?

    How do you know life has a purpose and how did God arrive at his moral standards? I don’t recall him explaining his moral dispositions at all. Doesn’t that seem odd to you? Good parents usually try to explain to children why various behaviors are allowed or forbidden so that they understand the rules are not arbitrary and possibly unfair.

    I can’t disagree with your last statement – that is what good parents try to do, yes. At the same time, children go through stages of understanding. Even the best parents cannot explain all things to a 2 year old. In fact, the rules governing a 2 year old are different than those governing a 14 year old. Is that fair? Parents struggle with this – there are no fixed norms for each age of a child, some children mature more quickly and can understand more. Others, parents must discipline them longer in certain behaviors (potty training, etc).
    Why can’t God do the same thing with humanity? Certain disciplinary norms are appropriate when human culture is young and immature, and then these norms change as more knowledge is gained.

    How do I know that life has purpose? Well this is linked to my belief in the existence of God.

  23. 23
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    The Great Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah, to name but two, were fairly blatant violations of the Sixth Commandment, I would say.

    That is your ignorance-based opinion, anyway.

    How do we know that life has a purpose? Evidence- the evidence of all the factors required just to have a livable place in the universe.

  24. 24
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Seversky @21

    I don’t believe human life was created by God and, as I wrote above, He didn’t see fit to give reasons for his moral standards.

    There are certain behaviors, then punishments or rewards. There are moral virtues and also a standard of perfection. There is also the important recognition that the creature is not equal to the creator. The virtue of reverence or respect. We see it with children towards parents.

    Two more questions: God is supposed to be eternal so He must have existed for an infinite time before He allegedly created this Universe and He will presumably exist for an infinite amount of time afterward it has gone, so why create this Universe and the life within it at the time He did, in fact, why create it at all?

    This universe is finite, but the creatures in it are eternal – they will live forever. So, why a finite universe – temporary? The classic understanding is that life on earth is a time of testing, learning, trial, growth. It is not meant as paradise – not meant as the eternal fulfillment.

    Because we see and experience good things here, we desire more. If everything was handed to us, we would appreciate it less. Instead, we can work for it and appreciate the value more. We have freedom to choose and freedom to make mistakes.

    We can judge Him by our moral standards, at least some of which He gave to us. The Great Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah, to name but two, were fairly blatant violations of the Sixth Commandment, I would say.

    Do you think that every flood where people die is an act where God is violating the commandments?
    Also, can God kill a person who is immortal?

    Do as I say, not as I do is not moral excellence.

    You’re assuming that it is possible for you to do as God does. You can’t create a universe and populate it with rational beings. You do not have that sovereignty. But as a parent, you can establish rules for a child that you yourself will violate as an adult. Are you immoral in so doing?

    Human beings are not the property of anyone. We did away with that notion when we got rid of slavery.

    There are degrees of ownership. Of course, parents have a very high degree of ownership over their baby, at least in a Christian context. In some communist theories, all children are property of the state.

    Here, parents (who are citizens) have rights of a level of ownership over their own children, that others do not have. Your child is your property to a large extent. Otherwise, I’d be free to take your child away.

    So, we do have a high degree of ownership. We can punish our children for violating our rules. We can deprive our children of things. Other people are not permitted to punish our own children without our permission. So, there is privilege for parents.

    God has this privilege over the immoral beings he created. God can deprive His creatures of certain things for their own good. There is nothing immoral about that.

    Yes, He would, so what is the purpose of it all? And if He wants us to change our ways, why not just explain it to us?

    As above – we have a greater appreciation for that which we have struggled for. So, all of the answers are not just handed to us. We can discover the meaning and purpose.

    What is it? In general terms, it’s the struggle to develop ourselves morally, in virtues. That takes a lifetime. It’s the golden mean between excess and deficiency. It’s our struggle between Order and Chaos. It’s not one or the other, but the perfect balance. It’s the struggle for us between Freedom and Restriction. Both are needed. Freedom and discipline.

    It’s a cliche but life is an adventure, a journey – we’re moving towards something. There is a reason why we are searching.

    For me, one of the best arguments for God is that of the hierarchy of values – the scale to perfection.

    We see our own lives, with much good. We desire to be better. We work at it, and it takes our best effort and even at the end, we can still improve. This points to a moral perfection – a standard. The perfection of goodness, happiness, love, beauty. That is what we desire and that is the purpose that we reach for.

    Why create people who want such things? The classic answer is that God wanted to share His goodness, beauty, wisdom and perfection with creatures who would love to have such things.

  25. 25
    Silver Asiatic says:

    mike1962

    Meh, too much depends on human abilities, for this black and white kind of thinking to be what’s really going on here on planet earth. Karma makes more sense. But that’s just me.

    Well, I think karma can be pretty black and white also. But I think it’s similar. We don’t do evil because evil can return to us. We could see the flood as the reaction of nature against evil actions. When we disturb the balance of life with immoral behavior, things go out of whack.

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