Friday, August 03, 2007

Atheistic Morality 5

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


ChooseDoubt,

Much obliged for your patience and a well thought-out post.

I’d first like to point out that you have conceded my original thesis, which was: “That is, the value judgment begins and ends w/ you, and his begins and ends w/ him”, where “you” is CD and “him” is his boss, who fired him for being an atheist.

Your admissions include the following:

-I judge purely according to circumstance and admit freely that there is no absolute right or absolute wrong within it

-You fail to take into account the group dynamic of multiple personal preferences, which renders your fear of personal preference null.

-I agree that without hesitation that I have no objective morality. Nobody does. (from here.)

So we’ve got all that out of the way – my original thesis is established. It is certainly permissible to chalk that one up to us feeling out each others’ positions and understandings, so it’s not a huge deal. You are now moving on to attack the basis of my own morality, claiming that it is not objective either.

Briefly here I'll deal w/ this amazingly short-sighted statement:

-It (religion) does seem to be the fountain from which morality that involves the punishment of victimless "crimes" has poured forth. My morality, although still undefined, appears far superior at this point.

I say "amazing" b/c you seem to have a short memory, or you just don't read some comboxes, like this one for example. You say: Crusades, blowing up abortuaries, Inquisition, Salem witch trials. I respond: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler. It does neither our discussion nor your side any good to go there, so let's not.

You said:

-and even your extensive religious education, does not ensure that you follow the faith based moral code.

1) I expressly admitted that I don’t succeed in following it as much as I'd like (ie, perfectly).

2) Following a moral code that I made up to the letter does not make that code’s basis objective any more than failing to follow an objective moral code renders it subjective.

3) Should we instead just make up a code that fits our deficiencies so that we never fail or fall short?

You have cited several psgs from Leviticus and suggested I pick and choose which to follow. Not I, however, but the New Testament picks and chooses. Some parts of the Old Testament Law deal w/ ceremonial/ritual purity, some deal w/ morality, and some deal w/ civil law and punishments. The book of Hebrews tells the student of the Bible that the ceremonial laws had a function that was fulfilled in Christ – to point to Christ. The book of Romans and 1 Peter teach the student of the Bible how to live in a non-ancient-Hebrew-theocratic society. All the examples you cited relate to punishments prescribed for the Hebrew theocratic society, even though some of the moral violations remain moral violations (ie, adultery). Thus the civil gov’ts in which Christians live make laws which Christians are obligated to follow, except when they command us to do sthg contrary to God. Executing convicted adulterers, however, was a command for the ancient Hebrews only to follow. You criticise me for using an exegetical argument that you’d find “hard to follow” as an atheist; I have no intention of talking down to you. You’re a big boy – if you can’t deal w/ the argument, either learn how or abandon it. But I agree – learning the art and science of biblical exegesis is a bit of a task. To impress anyone, you’ll have to do a lot better than the lame stock objections of a Dawkins or a Hitchens.

Speaking of Hitchens, you quoted him wondering aloud whence a moral code before the Mosaic Law. This is another example of poor biblical understanding from an atheist. It shouldn’t surprise, but it is pitiful, especially from such a literate man as he. The moral code was innate and stated in forms here and there before the Mosaic Law. How did Adam and Eve know they weren’t supposed to eat from the tree? God told them. How did Cain know he wasn’t supposed to murder Abel? Perhaps God told him, perhaps it was an innate knowledge – in either case, he knew. How did God judge the world before Noah “wicked” before the Mosaic Law? How did Abraham know that he should honor his guests w/ food and hospitality? How did Lot know that homosexual assault was wrong? Also, the law of God commanded fair and just treatment of foreigners except in specific cases where God specifically commanded differently (which He did a handful of times over the course of 800 years or so), so his example of the Samaritan is also wrong-headed. Does Hitchens think that Christ just made up the idea that one should care for one’s neighbor off the cuff? Why then would Jesus say that “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” and then go on to explain that the “neighbor” is ANYONE in need, even a despised (by the Jews) Samaritan? Why does the Mosaic Law specifically command the same? This is why I caution you against quoting Hitchens, Harris, or Dawkins in your debates w/ a knowledgeable theist. They have nothing of worth to offer.

Here, for the sake of argument I’ll briefly grant that maybe I do pick and choose what laws of God to follow. What would that prove? Nothing more or less than that I am a stubborn, rebellious lawbreaker. This is not the point at all – an all-good all-powerful God is the only option for an objective, overriding, ultimate moral Lawgiver. If He lays down 25 laws and I choose to try to obey 21 of them and fail to keep 10/21 perfectly, I am a lawbreaker. If I choose to try to obey 25 of them and fail to keep 25/25 perfectly, I am a lawbreaker. How does this affect the existence of the objective moral Law to which I fail to live up?

Now, you have made a highly obtuse statement that I must clarify.

- So your key argument that one cannot be moral without a god can in fact be expanded by your own evidence to no better than one cannot be moral with or without a god.

A hundred times no, that is not and has never been my argument, much less a “key”. It has been implicitly refuted in the 2nd paragraph from the end of my previous entry starting w/ “However, since atheism…” And I made that clear in the combox, so hopefully you will drop that strawman. However, what I did say was that you, in order to act moral, borrow capital from my worldview and import it in order to guide your actions. Objectively speaking, there is no more reason for you to take care of your child than to torture and murder her. God’s law, however, makes it clear that that is wrong, and you have arbitrarily chosen to take care of your child rather than murder her. You have no overriding reason to do so; you just do b/c you prefer to take care of rather than murder her.

“But Rhology,my genetics would not survive and propagate if I murdered my child.”

True, but once again you beg the question. Why place a premium on survival? A few possible responses:

1) B/c I want to survive. Thus demonstrating you have nothing more than personal preference in operation here.

2) B/c we have evolved to want to survive. Thus living and speaking in harmony w/ your ultimate belief that humans are nothing more than biochemical machines, just bags of atoms banging around. So is a stormcloud or a can of Dr. Pepper – no one thinks to ask one of those whether it wants to survive.

3) B/c I would go to jail if I murdered her. Thus demonstrating that the strongest statement you can possibly make is that your morality is based not on personal but societal preference. And society, of course, is just a collection of biochemical bags of atoms banging around.

Finally, what I mean when I say that you borrow capital from my worldview is not based on chronological precedence. No one argues that Jesus or Moses preceded, say, Hammurabi, or Confucius, or whomever, historically. The very fact that they lay out any morality at all shows that they too borrow capital from the God of the Bible (TGOTB). Confucius was not a theist; all my arguments for your position would apply to him. Hammurabi, I don’t know if anyone knows what he believed; probably he was a pagan polytheist, but maybe not. If he were a theist, then OK. If he were a polytheist, he’d have similar problems to yours – which god’s morality to follow, how to know, etc. I have no doubt that you would say unequivocally that torturing 6-year-old girls for fun would be unconscionable for you. Here is a question I’d really like answered for next time:

Is it morally wrong everywhere, for all people, and at all times to torture a 6-year-old girl for fun? Why or why not?

Peace,
Rhology

6 comments:

Lucian said...

!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--

You've, like, totally read my mind, man ... I mean, ... `t'was exactly what I was 'bout to say, man ...

:) :p :D

Rhology said...

[chuckle]

Geno said...

rhology,
The question to ask your debating friend in response to this statement;
“But Rhology,my genetics would not survive and propagate if I murdered my child.”

is this, "If I have 5 kids, can I kill 2 of them?" - my genetics would still survive.

In a materialistic world as your friend advocates it doesn't make sense to reproduce. If I do, I only create more competition for food and sex. Why would my genes evolve to want to compete with themselves?

Doesn't make sense to me!

G-man said...

"I expressly admitted that I don’t succeed in following it as much as I'd like (ie, perfectly)."

_But only God follows the law perfectly! Are you saying... you want to be God? *Gasp!* :)

Rhology said...

Well, it'd be a sweet gig.
I've *already* sinned, so I wouldn't qualify... but if I could do it perfectly from here on out, that'd be nice.

d-mc said...

rhology-
great job in the debate.

side question relating to this post:

I am not convinced of the whole "we still keep the moral aspects without the ceremonial aspects of the OT law" idea.

can you guide me to the passages in the NT that indicate I have to keep the moral aspects of the OT law?

I'm not saying you're wrong. It's just something I don't see.

Thanks in advance!