Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Atheistic Morality 3

Hi ChooseDoubt,

Thanks for your rebuttal. This length of post seems to be good and I'll try to stay in that range myself.

I'll address your rebuttal in two sections, the minor point 1st and the major 2nd.
1) My Morality

You are right that my morality is based on the teachings of the Bible, b/c I believe it is the Word of God, breathed out by God. You have suggested that I incompletely follow the Bible's directives b/c they do not fit my preference. My contention is that I do indeed do so but it is against my desire; rather, I *desire* to follow all of God's directives but I am a sinner and so fail. It is your responsibility, however, to prove that I intentionally refuse to hold to applicable directives.
You cited Leviticus 20:10 and 15:19-24 and assumed I do not follow them. The only way your charge against me will stick, however, is if you demonstrate proper exegesis of the biblical text. This is a task that you, as an atheist, will probably be hard-pressed to perform. We can wait and see, but already you've gone far astray and failed to inspire much confidence up front.
Levitical law was specifically directed towards the ancient Hebrews, who lived in a theocratic society governed directly by God. They were to worship God in the Temple/tabernacle, ritually pure, thru a sacrificial system. The sacrificial system, as the book of Hebrews tells us, was a shadow of Christ, was to point to Christ's sacrifice. Ritual purity/impurity was never a matter of simple outward performance but was always a matter of the heart. Now, after Christ's coming, the outward performance of ritual purity is done away with; purity resides in the heart and spirit (Hebrews, Romans 14, 1 Cor 8, Mark 7:14-23).
Moreover, as theocratic society, they had their own juridical laws (ie, the OT Law), judicial system, social laws, etc. Church and st were not separate.
Many instances in the New Testament, however, indicate that Christians are to submit themselves to the law of the land in which they live except where the law violates God's commands (Rom 13, 1 Peter, Matt 22:20-22). Ancient Hebrew gov't policy would have been to execute Abhishek and Savdeep; current US law is not to. So I don't.

2) Your Morality

Yet, in an atheist universe, so what if I did go out w/ weapon in hand to wreak God's punishment on Abhishek and Savdeep?
In your pie example, you seem to be telling us that humans discover morality in a very similar way that they taste pie. That has been my point all along, in fact, and it is gratifying that we agree on that. In fact, I'd say that my thesis has been established given your admission. But I might be misreading you.

Let's say that I am let into the room to taste the pie. The 2nd man preferred the strawberry. I preferred the chocolate. We disagree now, based on our personal preferences.
In an atheist universe, we need to know on what basis one could know right from wrong in order to live personally and in society. Your answer is to taste the pie. Very well; you like strawberry pie. I like torturing 6-yr-old girls for fun. You like sex w/ hyena carcasses, I like my pie à la mode.
Now, you said:

Instead we can use real world, case specific information to make such choices.

Which we do every day, whether it's tasting pie, judging whether the bus is going to run over us, or figuring whether it would be preferable to torture that 6-yr-old girl for the heck of it or not to. The problem is the faculty we'd use to MAKE the decision, not the supporting info.
And this brings me to the final point. You said:

in claiming God is necessary for morality would you then be of the opinion that without your belief in a god you would begin raping, murdering and stealing with no personal capacity to differentiate what you currently consider to be right from wrong?

I have no idea what kind of person I'd be if I didn't believe in God. My guess is I'd be a fairly decent citizen b/c that's how I was brought up. I'd also probably be addicted to science fiction novels and games, into porn and incredibly depressed. I'm not certain, but that's where my pre-Jesus life was heading.
However, since atheism offers NO moral guidance beyond personal (or, at best, societal) preference, the fact that neither you nor I would probably be inclined to believe that torturing 6-yr-old girls for fun is morally acceptable and would try to stop it if we observed it is due to your borrowing capital from my worldview. You have no way at all to make any objective morality judgment, so, either wittingly or unwittingly, you are reaching over to Christianity, snatching most of our moral framework, importing it back to your own, and then acting like it IS your own and continuing your attacks on Christianity. But when I ask to see the serial number on the gun, I see that it came from my own shop. You ask,

I think you would need to define what properties of this god make it uniquely valid as an external validator of "preference" above any other external validator?
The God of the Bible (TGOTB) created the universe, the spiritual realms, and all spiritual and physical beings. He holds them all together at every moment. He gave laws to mankind that flow out from His nature. Ie, He is loving; He commands humans to love. He is just; He commands humans to be just and fair. He is holy; He commands humans to be holy. Etc.
I know you don't buy that, but that's the Christian worldview. And given that you have to borrow from it to make your own moral standards, it's hard to take seriously any claim beyond personal preference for an atheistic morality.



d-mc said...

great job. i wrote on this in one chapter of my forty book. rough draft here:

Lucian said...

I think there's a chance You might be interested in reading this also:


G-man said...

Hello, I left a comment or two on CD's side of the matter. I think more needs to be said, but if CD's view really is as you've described it (that moral decisions are up to preference), then I agree with you in criticizing that viewpoint.

You see, I'd say that whatever 'feels' right or wrong to the individual is just that - personal preference. I believe that there is another set of phenomena out there which is better described by the term 'morality.'

On the same token, I must criticize as well.

"However, since atheism offers NO moral guidance..."
_Atheism is not a moral belief system. It does not imply a moral belief system. Atheists simply fall under one or another subset. For instance, some may be utilitarians; others subjective relativists; others cultural relativists.

"And given that you have to borrow from it to make your own moral standards..."
_This claim is just flat-out wrong. Atheists don't borrow their morality from Christians. For one thing, such ideas as the Golden Rule and most of the (actually ethical) Old Testament laws can be found in earlier codes of morality. If you really want to know who did the borrowing...

For another thing, I'm a little confused that you'd say 'atheism offers NO moral guidance beyond personal (or, at best, societal) preference,' and then contend that atheists borrow their morality from Christians. What part of atheist morality, may I ask, do you think is borrowed?

Rhology said...

hi G-man,

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

I too agree that more needs to be said. CD will be getting a post up in the next couple of days as he has informed me privately. Whatever pace each of us can handle is fine w/ me and I think fine w/ him too. We're in no hurry. He talks big talk about how evil faith is and all that, but underneath I think he's a big soft teddy bear. ;-)

I believe that there is another set of phenomena out there which is better described by the term 'morality.'

That's probably sthg that could stand to be fleshed out significantly more. If you have time and inclination, could you elucidate?

Atheism is not a moral belief system.

I agree, it carries no ingrained moral system. By definition, then, any holder-to of atheism makes up his own moral stances, whether on an a priori basis or as he goes along. That's why I think this question is hardly even debatable.

some may be utilitarians; others subjective relativists; others cultural relativists.

Relativists, all. Utilitarianism = situationally-based relativism.

Atheists don't borrow their morality from Christians.

Conventional history would put these moral codes (like Hammurabi's) before the Mosaic Law, for example. OK, I can grant that.
But Hammurabi borrowed from Christianity's morality, too, in my worldview, b/c God created mankind and put in mankind an implicit knowledge of His existence, some of His attributes, His Law, and a sense of condemnation under that Law. Hamm, like modern atheists, reach over to the Christian worldview and grab what they like (though I'm sure in many cases it's more complex than a simple, one-time decision), b/c w/o God the Lawmaker, there is no law at all. If an objective law exists, the Lawmaker gave it.

What part of atheist morality, may I ask, do you think is borrowed?

As you said, it depends on the atheist individual or the atheist system.
Examples are:
-Torturing 6-yr-old girls for personal amusement is morally wrong.
-Rape is wrong (though atheists like Dan Barker have publicly stated a situation in which rape would be morally acceptable).
-Sex w/ hyena carcasses is wrong
-Deviation from atheism (and the Communist Party) is wrong and punishable by death and/or gulag
-Dogfighting is wrong
-Questioning a woman's "right" to "choose" is wrong and punishable by public humiliation and political destruction


This is all a question of alternatives. Atheism can provide NO statement on any of those questions and so, to be able to say "___ is wrong", it needs to borrow from a worldview that is able to say that consistently. Atheism has emerged out of Western (read: Christian) culture and aims most of its attacks at Christianity, which strikes me as myopic in the extreme, but oh well.

If atheism doesn't borrow from Christianity (or at the bare minimum, theism) for any moral question, whence could it possibly get its answers to questions of morality?

G-man said...

You're very welcome, it's always a pleasure to be greeted so cordially.

"If you have time and inclination, could you elucidate?"
_I'd love to, but I'm not sure this is the time or place to do so... barging in on your conversation with CD is hardly my intention (except to criticize you both :)

"I agree, it carries no ingrained moral system. By definition, then, any holder-to of atheism makes up his own moral stances, whether on an a priori basis or as he goes along."
_I have to disagree, I'm afraid. Atheism is the specific belief that no god exists - or the belief that not enough evidence exists to suggest even the remotest probability of one. Which specific god or gods is in question depends on further elaboration...

If it can be successfully argued that 'morality = what is best for the individual,' then that's not something made up - there's an objective truth to the matter. If, on the other hand, it can be successfully argued that 'morality = God's will,' then that's the truth to the matter. The dilemma between ethics depending on 'belief in God' or 'something made up' is a false one.

"But Hammurabi borrowed from Christianity's morality, too"
_Well, that's just great. Now you can say that everything you like/ everything that appeals to our culture as 'good' is derived from God, and the rest is not. I think that's a dangerous way to approach the topic.

Imagine that I claimed that there is a secret Christian organization that controls all the major governments and powers in the world. There is no way to disprove the existence of this organization, obviously. Now, if I want, my (the rival) group can say that everything bad that has happened is because of Christians, and everything good that has happened has been thanks to my group.

Is somebody who buys into that way of thinking exhibiting a responsible way of looking at the issue?

Out of curiosity, though, on what Biblical basis is dogfighting wrong? What about public defecation? Public nudity? Public fornication? Threats and blackmail?

"If atheism doesn't borrow from Christianity... for any moral question, whence could it possibly get its answers to questions of morality?"

_Good question. As I think you and CD have discussed, a person's actions depend more on his/her upbringing than on his/her beliefs in God.

An atheist borrowing from 'Christian behavior' would be one acting according to his upbringing, which was in accordance with the social norms Christians now attribute to Christianity. (As I'm sure you're well aware, Christians can, and have, attributed what their culture considers 'good' to God, regardless of what it is).

An atheist borrowing from 'Christian moral understanding' would be saying that morality is derived from God. That's a little counter-intuitive.

So I'm not really sure how to answer your question. An atheist can't borrow moral understanding from Christianity, and doesn't 'act like a Christian,' so much as act as he's been raised.

Hopefully, the answer is "Reason."