Sunday, May 10, 2009

Meh, atheism

When we talk about beliefs, worldviews, epistemological positions, etc, we are not only discussing what is. We are human beings, not robots. In most or all of us human beings, there is a sense, an instinct, telling us that we should find the truth and that we should put our trust in it, live in accordance with it, and if necessary occasionally push back against alternatives that we deem to be not true, especially if we deem the consequences of following such an alternative view to be highly detrimental to our living in accordance with what we believe to be true. Such a desire often becomes mangled, lost, forgotten and/or neglected in the course of our lifetimes so that we become more interested in satisfying our lusts and desires, whether they be for power, sex, good feelings, etc, but in general I don't think it starts out like that.
Even if that is not the case for most or all humans, let me say here that it has always been the case for me (and I attribute that to God's grace alone), and I believe such is true of most of my friends, so that makes at least a few. And I believe it is true of many or even most of the interlocutors on this blog, whether atheist, agnostic, liberal, Romanist, whatever - there is something in us that wants to know what is true. And there is an ineffable, existential instinct (for lack of a better term) that drives us, tells us we should stick with it, and even that we should move our lives toward further verification of that truth we hold to. And if we find it to be wrong upon closer examination, we should drop-kick it, perhaps with regret, perhaps without, and change our position to hold to the new discovery.

We have seen time and again on this blog that the atheist worldview has no objective, overarching grounds for any moral position. Sure, atheism has room for a personal code of morality, it allows for a societal morality to evolve, it has room even perhaps for a categorical imperative or something similar. But ask enough "why?"s and we discover not that the emperor has no clothes, but that the chariot is in fact empty. Everyone is their own emperor and therefore there is no emperor at all.

What implications does that have for the aforementioned motivation for our believing this or that worldview? Implied in "I believe in ____" is the statement "And I recommend it to you b/c I believe it to be true", whether or not the person making the statement wants to admit it. It boils down to "I think you also should believe this". On atheism, however, whence comes the power of this should statement? Out of thin air! Out of the chemical processes, brain gas, firings of neurons and axons, of the brain, and everyone's brain fires just a little bit differently. There is no should, there merely IS. So why should I believe in atheism? I neither should nor shouldn't. Why shouldn't I believe in Jesus Christ as the only way, truth, and life, the only way to reach eternal life and bliss? I neither should nor shouldn't. Why should I reject something if it has no evidence in its favor, as atheism says is true of Christianity? I neither should nor shouldn't.
So, since it's all the same one way or the other, I'll go with what you think is a grand illusion. And if atheism is true, the moral value of such a blindfolded position is the exact same as the "enlightened, empirical, rational" position - that of atheism. Think it makes a difference, to a bunch of people who will be dead in less than 100 years, whose identity, children, accomplishments, and "nice" deeds will be forgotten in the ultimate fondue pot of the Earth when the Sun goes into red-giant stage, to say nothing of the heat death of the universe? Think again.

Related links:
There probably are no duties. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life!
Many Atheists are Hypocrites about Morality

45 comments:

Paul C said...

Do I really have to explain to you again the distinction between a moral "should" and the many other applications of the word "should"? I know we shouldn't expect you to have a firm grasp of history, science, politics or other common disciplines, but it seems a basic requirement for discourse that you understand the English language.

Seth said...

I had no idea that 'should' was so misleading. Oh, wait... I thought athiests wouldn't distinguish that a 'moral' motivation (being merely a brain-chemical thing) is no different than any other 'should' motivator. So, I guess you'd better explain it again.

Rhology said...

Be sure to explain, when you do, why anyone else should agree with you in your explanation. If your answer is "b/c my explanation is true", please explain why anyone should follow what is true.

Paul C said...

I thought athiests wouldn't distinguish that a 'moral' motivation (being merely a brain-chemical thing) is no different than any other 'should' motivator.This point is irrelevant to the fact that there is more than one use of the word "should".

Be sure to explain, when you do, why anyone else should agree with you in your explanation. If your answer is "b/c my explanation is true", please explain why anyone should follow what is true.Thus you confirm my suspicion that yes, once again I'll have to make it as simple as possible.

Paul: "We should get out of the way of that bus."
Rhology: "On atheism, why should I believe your explanation?"
Paul: "Because it's true."
Rhology: "On atheism, why should I follow what is true?"
Paul: "It's your call."
Rhology: "Splat."

Seth said...

more than one use of the word "should"You should believe...
You should dodge the bus...
You should explain the difference...

Sarcasm noted. Otherwise, still waiting.

Paul C said...

Seth: It seems your lack of English comprehension extends to not understanding what constitutes sarcasm. I was simply providing an example of the use of "should" that a) is not related to morality and b) contains a fairly obvious reason why you should follow it.

Still you fail to grasp it, but I can't make it any simpler. I just can't. Your point is still irrelevant, my original point still stands, and I have absolutely no idea what you're waiting for.

Pchem said...

I just had a conversation with a lawyer the other day about the use of shall. She said that shall is always used to denote obligation. Should is the past tense of shall. Harbrace's college handbook describes should as a modal auxiliary verb. It also points out that should is used for obligation. The only place I could find where should is used conditionally or hypothetically is if the sentence is written in the subjunctive mood, but that should be obvious from the particular sentence structure used.

Paul C, please stop lecturing about how smart you are of the English language and explain how should/shall expresses anything other than obligation. Simply stating that there are multiple uses of should and then giving an example, which clearly indicates a use of should with an obligatory sense, doesn't cut it.

Paul C said...

Paul C, please stop lecturing about how smart you are of the English language and explain how should/shall expresses anything other than obligation. Simply stating that there are multiple uses of should and then giving an example, which clearly indicates a use of should with an obligatory sense, doesn't cut it.The example given was used to show two distinct uses of the word "should", neither of which has any moral connotations. The first usage - "we should get out of the way of that bus" - is a recommendation that obviously holds no obligation. Rhology's response naturally mistakes the recommendation for an obligation - "why should I believe?" - but even if it is an obligation, it still does not necessarily contain any moral content, unless you think that getting out of the way of a bus is a moral issue.

Given the tone and content of your first paragraph, I can only assume that your exhortation that I stop "lecturing" was meant to be ironic. Oh, and your lawyer friend was wrong - although why you expect a lawyer to be an authority on grammar, I have no idea - and even if she's right, an obligation is not necessarily a moral obligation.

Which is to say: Rhology continues to be wrong.

Seth said...

an authority on grammar....

Agreed, then we should all come to Paul C for grammar questions (and history, science, politics, and common knowledge). Forget Oprah, would you be my life coach?

Should means should. It is the weight of consequence that differs. That seems to be the point of the original post.

Paul C said...

Should means should. It is the weight of consequence that differs. That seems to be the point of the original post.You and the commentators here apparently believe that "should" has only one meaning. I am happy to have been able to demonstrate to you that it has a range of meanings in common usage. What you do with that information is up to you, but if Rhology persists in his attempts to force his definitions of words onto everybody else, I hope you'll join me in calling him out.

The original post is barely coherent, as you can see. At the start, Rhology says:

In most or all of us human beings, there is a sense, an instinct, telling us that we should find the truth and that we should put our trust in it, live in accordance with itYet when challenged, he retorts:

why anyone else should agree with you in your explanation. If your answer is "b/c my explanation is true", please explain why anyone should follow what is true.So Rhology believes that he has an instinct telling him that he should live in accordance with the truth, yet at the same time he requires an explanation as to why he should follow what is true. Apparently the law of non-contradiction operates everywhere except in Rhology's mind.

Rhology said...

And I *should* follow my instincts because...

Paul C said...

And I *should* follow my instincts because...By definition, instincts do not require anybody to tell you why you should follow them. If somebody throws a punch at your face, you don't ask for a reason why you should follow your instinct to evade their fist.

Your question is of course an attempt to evade the plain fact that I have exposed your argument as incoherent. Rather than admit to this, you prefer to hide behind the sort of questioning usually favoured by ten-year-olds - But why? But why? But why? But why?

Rhology said...

What's funny is that, in most any other scenario, you'd be up front asking "but why?" especially when it comes to a claim of obligation from God. You're all about why? when it doesn't make you uncomfy.

So I like to know why. Sue me (and answer the question).

Paul C said...

You've lost me. What question? It can't be why you should follow your instincts, because I answered that one in my previous comment.

You can keep trying to shift the discussion on to me, but that won't change the fact that I've exposed your argument as incoherent.

Lucian said...

Everyone is their own emperor and therefore there is no emperor at all.



Pretty much like in Protestantism..

justfinethanks said...

Pretty much like in Protestantism.

Oh, snap! Papal pwnage!

Rhology said...

Ironically, Lucian has no Pope - he's Eastern Orthodox.

He's displaying the typical EOx category error; many or even most are incapable of distinguishing between "you are responsible for interpreting the Scr correctly for what it says, b/c what it says has authority over you" and "you are free to make Scr mean whatever you want it to mean". A classic blunder, that his own church authority structure doesn't solve, unfortunately for him.

mortalquestions said...

Paul C...

I am not sure that your quibbles over the word "should" mean much in this context. Atheism divests the world of meaning, and hence there is no reason that I "should"(i.e. I have no obligation) get out of the way of the bus, or believe in atheism; there is only the fact that I may either "want to" or "not want to". That is it, in this case maybe you should not use "should", but "you may want to get out of the way of that bus", or "you may want to believe in atheism."

Rho's over all point is correct. Our lives mean absolutely nothing in any global sense of the term. Of course we may have "local" meanings but that doesn't really "matter" in the big scheme of things. We go to work, go home, eat, go to bed, maybe have sex, wake up and do it all over again. Like big rats on a wheel. In this context "truth" (assuming it is not some illusion of folk pyschology) doesn't really matter, and I see no reason why I
"should" (want to) believe in atheism if it is "true".

Paul C said...

I am not sure that your quibbles over the word "should" mean much in this context. Atheism divests the world of meaning, and hence there is no reason that I "should"(i.e. I have no obligation) get out of the way of the bus, or believe in atheism; there is only the fact that I may either "want to" or "not want to". That is it, in this case maybe you should not use "should", but "you may want to get out of the way of that bus", or "you may want to believe in atheism."I have already explained that one of the usages of the word "should" is as a recommendation rather than an obligation. While I'm grateful to you for restating my point, I'm not sure that it contributes much to the discussion. I'll try to simplify again, although if I go much further along that path I'll be limited to using only the present tense and words of one syllable.

My point is twofold: that there are multiple usages of the word "should", and that Rhology conflates these different meanings, presumably through ignorance. So when that magical atheist, who magically says all the things that Rhology imagines atheists say, says "you should XYZ" to Rhology, it may be no more than a recommendation. If so, then accusing it of having "no force" is basically nonsensical.

Rho's over all point is correct. Our lives mean absolutely nothing in any global sense of the term. Of course we may have "local" meanings but that doesn't really "matter" in the big scheme of things. In this context "truth" (assuming it is not some illusion of folk pyschology) doesn't really matter, and I see no reason why I "should" (want to) believe in atheism if it is "true".You have not demonstrated that our lives mean "absolutely nothing", or explained what you mean by "any global sense of the term". You have not demonstrated that "local" meanings don't matter in the "big scheme of things", or explained what that "big scheme of things" is. You have not demonstrated that, if our lives mean nothing, then truth doesn't matter, or explained what you mean by "matter". So I can't really engage you in anything resembling an intelligent discussion.

As I've pointed out, Rhology's post is incoherent from start to finish. My favourite part comes at the end, where he asks "why should I believe in atheism?" He should believe in it because it exists, in exactly the same way as I believe in Christianity because it exists. But of course he "believes in atheism", otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion, would we?

Rhology said...

The point remains whether it's "believe IN atheism" or "believe atheism", since any should statement, on atheism, has no force.
But for someone who's been calling for understanding the English language, you were a little sloppy in failing to discern that I meant "believe that atheism is true".

Paul C said...

The point remains whether it's "believe IN atheism" or "believe atheism", since any should statement, on atheism, has no force.No, the point doesn't remain. You continue to conflate obligation and recommnendation, and you've not demonstrated that "should" statements have no force in atheism. The statement "you should get out of the way of that bus" has exactly the same force under atheism or Christianity, and unless you can demonstrate otherwise, your point is refuted.

But for someone who's been calling for understanding the English language, you were a little sloppy in failing to discern that I meant "believe that atheism is true".No, it was easy to discern, I was only reinforcing the point thatyour inability to use the English language correctly renders your entire post incoherent, of which this is just one example.

NAL said...

Rho:
"you are responsible for interpreting the Scr correctly for what it says,...

And where does this interpretation come from? Out of the chemical processes, brain gas, firings of neurons and axons, of the brain, and everyone's brain fires just a little bit differently. Therefore, everyone's interpretation is a little bit different. There is no should, there merely IS. So why should I believe in Christianity?

Rhology said...

NAL,

Not on Christianity, that's not true at all, no. You're made in the image of God on Christianity; our thoughts are not simply neuron firings like they are on atheism.

You should believe in Christianity b/c
1) it is the right thing to do, objectively.
2) you need Jesus.
3) it is wrong to sin, which is what you're doing.
4) your end will be very unpleasant if you don't.

NAL said...

Either everyone's interpretation of Scr is identical or it's different. Why should anyone else's, different, interpretation of Scr have authority over me?

1) it is the right thing to do, objectively. Not based on my interpretation of Scr.

2) you need Jesus.I need Jessica Alba, more.

3) it is wrong to sin, which is what you're doing.But, according to you, everyone's a sinner, and always will be.

4) your end will be very unpleasant if you don't.If it's always unpleasant, then I won't be able to notice, since there's no pleasant to differentiate against.

Seth said...

Paul C:

The statement "you should get out of the way of that bus" has exactly the same force under atheism or Christianity, and unless you can demonstrate otherwise, your point is refuted..

Thus my point that "should" doesn't change in meaning but in weight of consequence.

For the Christian, whether one "should" avoid the bus highly depends on if they are prepared to meet their Maker. While I'm not planning to go yet, I'm ultimately not worried about the passing - so long as it isn't long and drawn out!

I can only speculate on whether the sentiment is the same were I to believe my consciousness were going to wink out of existence permanently.

Dr Funkenstein said...

what I'm curious to know is, were you to accept atheism, why

a. you'd expect recommendations relating to what life choices you should or should not make from other atheists - after all, only you can make your own decisions. Anyone could obviously tell you what their preferred course of action might be, but whether you choose to follow it is solely up to you eg ff you still wanted to follow Christianity even if it weren't true, that's entirely your call.

and

b. in the event atheism didn't provide you with a universe that ran to your tastes (presumably providing some sort of grand meaning to your life and the choices you make with it being the main concern), what exactly you expect anyone to be able do about it? it's like complaining you can breathe underwater because you don't have gills - if you don't like that fact, there's not a whole lot anyone can do to change it, much like if atheism is true, there's not anything anyone can do to make that more palatable for any given individual either.

Dr Funkenstein said...

that last part should obviously read

"...it's like complaining you can't breathe underwater because you don't have gills..."-

Paul C said...

Thus my point that "should" doesn't change in meaning but in weight of consequence.No. Thus my point that "should" carries a number of different usages. If the phone is ringing and your friend says "you should get that", it clearly means something categorically different to if you're stabbing your a child and they say "you shouldn't be doing that". One is a recommendation with no moral implications, one is an obviously moral obligation, and the "weight of consequences" has nothing to do with the meaning of the word. Oh, and there's a third usage, as well - if I leave now, I should be at the airport within an hour.

Can you genuinely not see the difference in usage between these three? I would find that astonishing, yet it seems you want to hold on to this as tightly as possible - why? To defend somebody else's argument, an argument that wouldn't make any sense even if this point were granted? Baffling.

While I'm not planning to go yet, I'm ultimately not worried about the passing - so long as it isn't long and drawn out!As an aside, why do you care if it's long and drawn out? You believe you're going to spend eternity in heaven with God, so any finite amount of time in pain here on earth is completely inconsequential.

I can only speculate on whether the sentiment is the same were I to believe my consciousness were going to wink out of existence permanently.My sentiment is exactly the same - no fear of death at all - so apparently religion confers no benefit in that sense.

Phinehas said...

1) The phone is ringing and your friend says "You should get that."Or what? ...whoever's calling might get mad / it will keep ringing / it might be the answer to the important interview you had the other day / it could be an emergency / the whole world will 'asplode.

In other words, consequences.

2) If you're stabbing your child and they say "you shouldn't be doing that".Or what? He/she will die / you will go to jail / it will hurt them / it will cause you inner turmoil / the whole world will 'asplode.

Once again, consequences. This time the consequences are weightier, but they are still just that. These uses of should are essentially the same.

The issue is that in the end, the atheistic outlook is that no matter the weight of the consequence, it is simply our instincts and chemical patterns that are making us feel any obligation to react to situations/consequences. There is no deeper level (ie, a soul or higher plane of morality) that can dictate whether or not we actually should do something. For atheism, trying to survive to live the best possible life is the only motivator (or at least the most prominent one) - and there's nothing one can say or do to make a world like that moralistic. It is merely an exercise in semantics when an atheist talks of morality.

Thus, their "should" is ultimately meaningless, or they are borrowing from a separate morality, whether they acknowledge it or not.

You are right about your third example for "should", though, which could also be said "as expected". It does not have the same sense as the other use of it (written above).

Seth said...

As an aside, why do you care if it's long and drawn out? finite...pain... inconsequential...

Sure, but its not pleasant.

hold on to this as tightly as possible - why?.

The semantics are just a nuance to get to the bigger issue. As a Christian, I'm willing to assign a "moral value" to things that aren't life-or-death, like "stabbing a child." This is me conscientiously trying to adopt and live by a "biblical world view" -whatever that means. Everyone wouldn't agree on the details [see Alan's new post]. So be it.

An example of some things I hold to be moral issues:

(a)Making a vow that I am unable to keep.
(b)If I get in a fight with a guy, being held liable for accidently punching a pregnant woman and causing her to give birth
(c)Obeying/respecting the government authorities
(d)Honoring the Sabbath day
(e)Making reparations when my ox (or dog, or car, or detached axe-head) accidently destroys someone else's property
(f)Not eating an animal that was strangled to death
(g) yada... yada...

Stacey said...

Hi Rhology :) Don't have much time, so I didn't read all the comments, but I wanted to say I think you have some very good points in this post. Atheism is without a moral absolute, even if there is individual morality. So there really is no "should" or "ought" (I prefer "ought" because I think it implies more of an outside sourced right and wrong). So there is no reason anyone "ought" to believe the truth. Neither good nor bad. Just "is".

Paul C said...

If you seriously think that somebody saying "you should get the phone" is using the word in exactly the same way as somebody who says "you should stop stabbing that child in the eye", then either you are being deliberately obtuse, or you're a cretin. I don't think you're a cretin, so that leaves the question of why you're being deliberately obtuse. We press on regardless.

It has nothing to do with the "weight of consequences". If you challenge the person as to why you should stop stabbing the child is wrong, they're considerably more likely to give a reason involving their sense that stabbing a child in the eye is morally wrong, but if you challenge them as to why you should get the phone, they're unlikely to reply "because that is the right moral action". Which was of course my point in the first place - that there are different usages of the word "should", and not all of them are moral.

The issue is that in the end, the atheistic outlook is that no matter the weight of the consequence, it is simply our instincts and chemical patterns that are making us feel any obligation to react to situations/consequences.No. You're thinking of naturalistic materialism. Atheism != naturalistic materialism.

For atheism, trying to survive to live the best possible life is the only motivator (or at least the most prominent one) - and there's nothing one can say or do to make a world like that moralistic."Living the best possible life" is exactly the same motivator that you have, it's merely that your reason for living the best possible life differs from an atheists.

It is merely an exercise in semantics when an atheist talks of morality.No, it isn't. It's an exercise in semantics when you try to redefine the use of the word "should" to suit your argument.

Paul C said...

As a Christian, I'm willing to assign a "moral value" to things that aren't life-or-death, like "stabbing a child."So you think stabbing a child isn't a life or death issue? The biblical world view is genuinely interesting.

This is me conscientiously trying to adopt and live by a "biblical world view" -whatever that means.Yet strangely many people who don't have a biblical world view also don't stab children, which suggests that it has nothing to do with a biblical world view.

Seth said...

So you think stabbing a child isn't a life or death issue?

Seriously? Then rewrite: "aren't life-or-death, like 'stabbing a child' happens to be." Oy.

Yet strangely many people who don't have a biblical world view also don't stab children, which suggests that it has nothing to do with a biblical world view.

Superb demonstration of logic.

Paul C said...

Seth - literally no idea what you're trying to say in your last post. Could you rewrite it?

Also, can you explain why "Not eating an animal that was strangled to death" is moral, as opposed to a) eating an animal that was strangled to death, or b) not eating an animal that was stabbed to death?

Seth said...

Paul C:

no idea what you're trying to say...

Apologies. (1) Re: rewrite. A few posts back was intended to be read as you corrected: stabbing a child is a life-death issue. (2)Re: logic. Ex: Seth says, "the rules of rugby are clear that jerseys are to be worn." Paul C replied, "many sports wear jerseys 'which suggests that it has nothing to do with' playing rugby." I'd call that SAT-style faulty logic.

Seth said...

Also, can you explain why "Not eating an animal that was strangled to death" is moral, as opposed to a) eating an animal that was strangled to death, or b) not eating an animal that was stabbed to death?

Sure, I interpret for (a):
(1)Life has intrinsic value.
(2)Consumption of flesh reflects a parodox that another's death is sustaining my life.
(3)It is likely that a strangled animal was either killed maliciously or tragically.
(4)It is immoral for me to intentionally seek benefit from malice or tragedy.

Regarding your (b):
(1)For stabbing an animal to death, see above. Also,
(1a)If "stabs" means shot with spears or arrows as in the process of a hunt, then the argument does not apply as there is no malice intended, nor tragedy reaped. Following the 'hunt' (1b) should be followed as much as is possible.
(1b)If "stabs" means slitting with a knife, then:
(1b-i)The animal should be slain calmly and peacefully, so as not to cause it too much agitation.
(1b-ii)The neck should be cut cleanly and swiftly, and the blood efficiently drained. Thus, the animal will not choke to death on its own blood. Thus, the blood can be disposed of in respectful manner, honoring the life of the animal that was shed.

Paul C said...

Seth says, "the rules of rugby are clear that jerseys are to be worn." Paul C replied, "many sports wear jerseys 'which suggests that it has nothing to do with' playing rugby." I'd call that SAT-style faulty logic.No, but now it's my turn to apologise for imprecise language, although your example here could be better chosen, since rugby can of course be played without jerseys. Perhaps there's a point in there somewhere about Catholic versus Protestant theology?

I'll clarify my point- you said:

I'm willing to assign a "moral value" to things that aren't life-or-death... this is me conscientiously trying to adopt and live by a "biblical world view" -whatever that means.My point is that assigning a moral value to things that aren't life-or-death is not the exclusive purview of a "biblical world view", so I'm not sure why you raised it. It also doesn't seem to bear on the question at hand, which is that the word "should" has different common usages, and that Rhology deliberately conflates and abuses these usages in attempts to conceal the weaknesses in his arguments.

I'm still interested in the question regarding animal slaughter (which is also a life-and-death issue, of course).

Paul C said...

(3)It is likely that a strangled animal was either killed maliciously or tragically.Why is strangling an animal any more malicious than any other type of slaughter? (I'm not sure what you mean by "tragically" in this case.)

(4)It is immoral for me to intentionally seek benefit from malice or tragedy.Why?

(1a)If "stabs" means shot with spears or arrows as in the process of a hunt, then the argument does not apply as there is no malice intended, nor tragedy reaped.This is demonstrably false, since you could quite easily go hunting with malice intended.

(1b-i)The animal should be slain calmly and peacefully, so as not to cause it too much agitation.Why does the agitation of the animal matter?

I'm also interested by the fact that all of your examples appear to be drawn from pre-industrial society, when you very clearly don't live in a pre-industrial society. What do you have to say about the actual way that animals are raised, hunted and killed today, rather than 2000 years ago? If your metric for maliciousness is the suffering caused to the animal, then how do you justify killing animals at all?

Seth said...

...tragically...
Neck caught in a fence, for instance.

...immoral...benefit...why?
By definition.

(1a)...demonstrably false...
Yes, you are correct in the case of hunting with malicious intent.

(1b-i)...Why does the agitation of the animal matter?
Life has intrinsic value, and as much as is possible, we ought to have compassion for all life. The principal is clear, but clearly the application is quite subjective...

What do you have to say about the actual way that animals are raised, hunted and killed today, rather than 2000 years ago? If your metric for maliciousness is the suffering caused to the animal, then how do you justify killing animals at all?

Actually, this is really relevant to me. My wife and I have looked into purchasing meat from Kosher butchers, but that is cost prohibitive where we live. For a long time I boycotted KFC for their chicken killing practices. Now that they've gone to Tyson chicken, I feel a bit better. I have a close friend (and a Christian) who is mostly vegetarian, for the reasons you state. I don't have a final answer, but I guess I'll let you know more when if I figure it out!

Paul C said...

I think your distinction between the ways animals die isn't very meaningful, to be honest. A dead animal is a dead animal, and there's no way to do that without causing suffering. You can minimize suffering, certainly, but if life does have that intrinsic value, then the only viable position is surely vegetarianism? Since you've gotten this far, I'd recommend becoming vegetarian immediately and then doing your figuring out from that position, rather than vice versa.

Phinehas said...

@ Paul C,

Thanks for not thinking I'm a cretin! But I also hope there's another option besides "Obtuse", b/c I really don't think that's me.

After reading over your last post it's clear to me that I was reaching out more toward the grammatical sense of the word "should". Ultimately, the word is an indicator for the weight of consequence as its function for the English language - but what I failed to stress was on the heart of the argument re:morality.

Let me put it this way as simple as I can (not because I think you're stupid, but b/c I want to keep it to the point):

No one, as an atheist, has the right to call something "moral" or "immoral". Ultimately, in that worldview, it just "is".

Your thoughts?

This is what I was trying to say with the "weight of consequences" talk - whether not answering the phone or stabbing a child, it's all on the same plane morally - which is really no plane at all, because true morality does not exist with atheism. You may feel bad about something, but you can relax, b/c that's only an instinctual response

2 other minor things (I'd rather hear what you have to say about the above than the below, personally):

1) My mantra is "To glorify God." Which, yes, is "living the best possible life" - but that "best possible life" may also be to suffer and die for Him, or live my years hidden away in underground churches with fear of being caught. At the very least, it certainly puts me at odds with a lot of things in this world. Something which I don't think an Atheist or what-have-you deals with.

2) Am I wrong in saying, then, that all atheists are naturalistic materialists? Are those things mutually exclusive? Does being an atheist preclude one is a NatMat? If not, what's an example otherwise?

Seth said...

I think your distinction between the ways animals die isn't very meaningful, to be honest.
I'm fine with you thinking that.

Since you've gotten this far, I'd recommend becoming vegetarian immediately and then doing your figuring out from that position, rather than vice versa.
For fun, I'll naively choose to believe this recommendation roots from concern for the state of my conscience... Do you personally practice a form of vegetarianism?

Paul C said...

@Phineas:

No one, as an atheist, has the right to call something "moral" or "immoral". Ultimately, in that worldview, it just "is".I'm a form of moral skeptic, and this argument is trivially true from my perspective since I believe that all moral language is descriptive not normative. However I recognise that for anybody who is not a moral skeptic - both theist and atheist - this argument would not be seen to be true. An atheist could quite comfortably be an idealist and believe that transcendant moral reality exists, or that morality can be universalized from the categorical imperative, or that morality can be calculated on a purely utilitarian basis, or simply that moral facts are a brute reality.

Now I would disagree with all of those positions, just as I disagree with yours, but I have no grounds for denying them the "right" to call something immoral, nor would I mischaracterise those positions as being unable to differentiate between answering the phone and stabbing a child. This brings us back to the question of why you mischaracterise those positions - either you aren't aware of them, don't understand them or are lying, although I emphasise that I don't intend this as a personal attack. However until you demonstrate a) that you understand those positions and b) have convincing arguments against them, then your assertion that atheists have no right to call anything moral or immoral has no weight.

1) My mantra is "To glorify God." Which, yes, is "living the best possible life" - but that "best possible life" may also be to suffer and die for Him, or live my years hidden away in underground churches with fear of being caught. At the very least, it certainly puts me at odds with a lot of things in this world. Something which I don't think an Atheist or what-have-you deals with.Yes, but none of that counters my argument that "living the best possible life" is a motivator shared by nearly everybody, and that it's only the definition of what constitutes the best possible life that differs. Atheists may also put their lives in danger for what they believe, and here I'll offer myself as an example, although I personally know many others.

2) Am I wrong in saying, then, that all atheists are naturalistic materialists? Are those things mutually exclusive? Does being an atheist preclude one is a NatMat? If not, what's an example otherwise?You're wrong in saying that all atheists are naturalistic materialists, although you wouldn't be wrong in saying that all naturalistic materialists are atheists.

@Seth:

For fun, I'll naively choose to believe this recommendation roots from concern for the state of my conscience... Do you personally practice a form of vegetarianism?Your conscience is your own business ;) - I'm vegan at home, ovo-lacto vegetarian outside.

Rhology said...

On this note, the Barefoot Bum, with whom I've had the dubious pleasure of discussing morality on atheistic presuppositions, has given up. It's strangely fitting. Yet more meh.

He's done this before, though, so I don't know if this is really permanent like he says. Just for yuks, I took screenshots: One | Two