Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Welcome to the pond

It would appear that I am scum, and all of my hundreds, nay tens of thousands of unthinking, unflinching disciples (and more than a few automata) have been warned against drinking the Kool-Aid I'm serving up. Why? Because I hold (unhesitatingly and without apology, BTW) to the biblical standard of morality.
Such are big, judgmental words. I'm sure Jason Streitfeld can back up his assertion with arguments, especially arguments that respond to my own, laid out in my last post. I mean, surely someone in our enlightened, tolerant, politically-correct age would have nothing but the best reasons to label someone with such a nasty epithet as "scum", especially on account of his personal convictions! Let's see how well he did, first in his "warning" article:

Rhology thinks my "moral system" is very similar to the Judeo-Christian one. And, he says, this can be explained by the fact that I have been "created in God's image."
This suggests that a person who adheres to a different moral system--Muslim, perhaps--was not created in God's image.

1) A Muslim believes, he thinks, in the God revealed by Moses, Abraham, Jesus and the other biblical prophets. It stands to reason that we'd have virtually identical moral systems. Indeed, we do, with the exception of that whole blow-yourself-up-along-with-Jewish-women-and-children-in-Allah's-service. Of course, that's a relatively small group, and the causes are more than just religious.
2) If Jason knows anything about Christianity (which is certainly a debatable point), he would know that God created EVERY human in His image.
3) I'm giving Jason the benefit of the doubt that he doesn't think that it's OK to murder people indiscriminately, that the rule of law of gov't is generally a good thing, that stealing and rape are wrong, that we shouldn't torture children for fun, etc. But as an atheist, as we've seen, he has no reason to accept these precepts. There is no reason not to accept the opposites of these values, rationally speaking, outside of the consequences of a societal backlash. But fearing a backlash is not reasonable; it's visceral, related to one's desires.
Let me recommend, on this point, this quote from Michael Ruse, who seems to know sthg that Jason doesn't.
Let me also recommend a little study and thought on the so-called "Hume's Law", referring to David Hume, the famous skeptic and philosopher. Hume understood the is/ought distinction that Jason doesn't. In case Jason is tempted by the genetic fallacy in not listening to a fundy Bible-thumper like me, maybe he'll listen to one of his own on this issue, and thus stop making his silly statements that what is can communicate to us about what ought to be. They are two very different magisteria. What IS can only speak to what OUGHT to be if, as Hume himself says, we inject "sentiment" into the equation. "I want a stable society, and studies tell me that the best way to get there is, among other things, to outlaw and proscribe the torture of little children for fun. Therefore, torturing little children for fun is not OK."
Of course, what if we don't care about a stable society? Is torturing little children for fun then OK for that person?

When we refer to an objective basis for morality, we refer to a morality that is true independent of whether anyone believes it, and which can make moral statements that are true for all people, at all times and places, in all situations. It is blatantly obvious that Jason's hypothesis can't fulfill that. Christianity can.

This would mean that, as far as human rights go, Muslims are no more deserving than chimpanzees.

On the biblical worldview, that is of course hogwash. Muslims are human beings, right? There are differing commandments for humans vs chimps.
On atheism, what difference is there? We are both animals. I eat animals, had part of one just this morning. So what? We are both at equal stages of evolution - today. But of course, to argue that more advanced stage of evolution = moral permission to overpower and dominate is to argue that might makes right.
And of course, to argue that might makes right is itself a might-makes-right assertion. Who says that might makes right? (Certainly not God! There is no God, after all.)

the only reason he gives us for believing that Christianity is true is his inability to understand morality without Christianity.

I've argued for this assertion many, many times in my archives. Jason apparently thinks that I came into existence 5 minutes before I commented on his blog.
What I've been doing is drawing the distinction between our two moral systems.
On atheism, there is no objective basis for morality.
Yet Jason seems to think one exists.
On Christianity, there is one.
We can see the image of God, though suppressed, yet popping up here and there in Jason's own worldview and statements. He can't escape it, can't fully suppress it. He'll need to be way more consistent with his atheism to do so. I wonder how far he's willing to go?

Rhology thinks that morality amounts to doing whatever God has instructed in the Bible. "

Pretty much, yes. Since God is the very definition of good, therefore what He commands is good.

It has nothing to do with what is good for humanity, or what is good according to reason and common sense.

1) God created humanity, so doing what God says is by definition good for humanity.
God is the Creator, the Maker. Doing what He says is the equivalent of operating one's computer according to the user manual. Straying from it is the equivalent of trying to operate one's computer by plugging it into the wall with a kite string and pouring water into the CDROM drive and expecting it to pour forth butterflies and gold bullion.
2) Reason cannot inform what ought to be, as we've seen and as Jason has not rebutted, but only mocked.

This kind of thinking is fascist.

Oh NO! If "true" is fascist, fine, I'm a fascist.
I'd like to ask Jason to define just why being a fascist is morally objectionable, on atheism.

morality is a process whereby people justify their actions to one another

Notice the lack of argument. Jason hath spoken, apparently that is to be enough.

it is based in physiology.

How does the shape of my limbs inform how I ought to treat others? Whether I should cheat on my taxes? Whether I should eat that tasty-looking human over yonder?

Morality is a process of deciding what is best for humanity and civilization

Where does Jason defend his question-begging assertion of "what is best"?
How can we know that? What is the pre-existing framework by which he judges that? Why won't be honest, come clean and tell us this? I invite him to do so.
On what basis would anyone "justify" their actions to another? This is a patently circular, self-referential, empty claim. Tells us a whole lot of nothing.

Rhology is rejecting the very need to justify his views. He thinks he's above morality.

Pheh. Let the reader judge whether either of those are true, whether I've ever said anythg that would lead a reasonable person to think that I think I'm above morality, above God's definitions and commands.

Rhology would like to live in a dictatorship

1) I look forward to that day more than you know.
2) Whether Jason or anyone likes it or not, we live in God's world, God's universe. Refuse to admit it if you want - it matters not at all to reality.

where all possible judgments about life are constricted to those written down ages ago,

1) As opposed to a world where no objective judgments are even possible? Yeah, I'll take the former.
2) And of course, a sufficient revelation has been given to us by God, and yes, it was long ago. The applications of said revelation to the various situations I face in my daily life, however, are pretty widespread. They keep my small brain occupied, at least.

where anyone who disagrees with those ancient dictates is condemned

But not by me, by King Jesus Himself.

Moving on to the scum article:

I wouldn’t dream of arguing that somebody should be executed for adultery, or for following any non-Judeo-Christian religion.

1) Execution for adultery was good, back in the historical context in which that command was to be followed.
2) Jason needs to provide us with a way by which we can know that ANY action is morally objectionable before we can take his moralising seriously.
3) Didn't he just finish telling us that "morality is a process whereby people justify their actions to one another"? Everyone in Old Testament Israel were to follow this. Sounds like it follows his definition of morality just fine.

Do you agree with the Bible on all of these points?

I agree with the Bible on all points. Indeed, it is the primary and foundational shaper of my worldview, b/c it is God speaking. Just FYI.

because you say TGOTB is the final word—nay, the only word—on such questions

The final word. Not the only word - there is plenty of clamor from inferior, competing voices. Like Jason's.

you have two choices here: First, distance yourself from some of the teachings of the Bible, and thereby give up your assertion that the Bible is the only word on moral questions. Second, admit that you are scum.

Apparently I am scum b/c I follow a morality of which Jason disapproves. But what reason has he given to join him in his disapproval?

you think people who cheat on their spouses should be executed.

Read my article on the topic, and we can talk.
They should HAVE BEEN executed, back in the day. As for today, there is more than one factor. That's a discussion for another day.

You think Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus should be killed for their abandonment of the Judeo-Christian God.

??? Now Jason merely demonstrates his gross ignorance of the Bible. Nowhere is anything remotely like this expressed.
My best guess is that he refers to God's commands to OT Israel to wipe out certain civilisations. Certainly God did that, and it was good, morally upright, to do so and morally wrong to refuse. Jason may object. Fine. On what basis? Again, this fits his own stated definition of morality, that "morality is a process whereby people justify their actions to one another". Why the inconsistency now? Maybe he hasn't thought it all the way thru.

You actually think that you have the moral higher ground. You think that anybody who disagrees with your Bible is scummier than you are.

Jason apparently doesn't see just how that refers to himself as well, in his passing moral judgments on ME as scum.

I’ve been trying to explain this to you, but your mind has been so infiltrated by scum that you can’t see beyond the scum. You are trapped in a mental web of scum. It’s sad, because I think there is an intelligent and well-meaning person underneath all those layers of scum. But maybe I’m wrong, and you’re just scum to the bone.

See what I mean?
But this kind of thing is just fine when it's atheist targeting Christian. But let ME start flinging feces at him in the same manner, and I bet I get vilified as yet scummier.

on what grounds do you embrace your Bible, and not Mein Kampf?

Stay tuned, I'll get to that in a week or 2 probably.
Where does Mein Kampf, to be specific, make any claims that it defines morality for all people at all times, and is the word of the Creator of the universe?

your allegiance to the Bible is wholly arbitrary.

Jason doesn't bother to define what he means here.

morality is a process whereby justifications are established. It is an ongoing process, and it requires discourse

Apparently not when it doesn't suit Jason's preconceived ideas, such as in OT Israel or Nazi Germany.
So what's really driving his morality? Why, his personal tastes, of course! He's his own little god, as I've already observed.

You seem to think that, without a book to tell us exactly what is right and wrong, we would all be lost.

Not "a book". God's revelation.

You wish to end all negotiations and condemn those who do not adopt the views written in your very old book.

Apparently the idea of "you must adopt the views written in the Bible" is not even admissible as part of the negotiation. Jason is a hypocrite.

it is a dictatorial, fascist way to approach the process, because it denies the very possibility of negotiation.

Jason has made so many double-edged statements in these two posts that it is almost comical.

Anyway, I fully expect this to be my last substantive post before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend runs its course. Just FYI to all.

1 comment:

Jason Streitfeld said...


Consider these three points.

Point number 1:

"God created EVERY human in His image."

We're all fallible, right? So, when we're trying to identify "God's image," we might make mistakes. Isn't that right, according to your principles, Rhology?

Now, how do we know for sure, one hundred percent, that we've identified one of those created in "God's image"?

Can we go by DNA?

Of course, humans don't all have the exact same DNA. And, as I noted, chimps are darn close to what currently passes for human DNA.

You know, the Nazis thought Jewish DNA wasn't close enough to pass mustard. Do you think chimp DNA is close enough?

Really, what is one to do with this notion of "God's image?"

Should we go by DNA? If not DNA, then what?

Are your judgments about "God's image" based on how people act? But that would mean that humanity is a matter of what one does. Didn't you argue against this position earlier?

Point number two:

What is truly bizarre, Rhology, is that you keep accusing me of failing to recognize the is/ought distinction. You nicely quote Hume, whose statement actually mirrors quite nicely a point I made earlier:

"What IS can only speak to what OUGHT to be if, as Hume himself says, we inject "sentiment" into the equation."

Maybe you don't remember where I explicitly exlained how reason does inform our moral decision-making processes and that reason is informed by our emotions.

Thus, as much as I appreciate the Hume quotation, it cannot be held against me.

Point number 3:

Now, Rhology, you keep going back to the whole "what if nothing really matters" routine. You ask, "what if we don't care about a stable society? Is torturing little children for fun then OK for that person?"

Of course, we do care about lots of things. We wouldn't have survived natural selection if we didn't. And the fact that we don't always agree only indicates that it takes work to live together. That's what morality is about--working together and getting along.

Now, I will try to more clearly explain to you how morality works.

You said: "When we refer to an objective basis for morality, we refer to a morality that is true independent of whether anyone believes it, and which can make moral statements that are true for all people, at all times and places, in all situations. It is blatantly obvious that Jason's hypothesis can't fulfill that. Christianity can."

I've explained at length why your assertion that "Christianity can" is, at best, unfounded, and at worst, a threat to the very well being of humanity.

I've also explained at length how my understanding of morality does, in fact, allow for objective moral judgments.

As I said, you can approach morality in one of two ways: rationally or irrationally. The irrational approach negates the very possibility of discourse, and so it is antagonistic to morality.

Thus, we can say absolutely and without equivocation that an irrational approach to morality is immoral. This is true regardless of whether or not you believe it, Rhology.

And I can say, objectively, for rational agents at all times and places, that an approach to morality which rejects the possibility of negotiating values is immoral.

And I can say objectively and universally that the most moral position available to a person is the most rational position available to them.

This is an objective foundation for morality, and it does not rest on any incoherent notions. The same cannot be said for Christianity.