Observations

Claiming that one can ‘be good without God’ as atheists so often
do is akin to claiming that one can be ‘law-abiding without laws’.

It may be true, but how would you know?

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40 Responses to Observations

  1. Cyndi says:

    Good is different than God. It would be more accurate to say that one can ‘be godly without God’ is akin to claiming that one can be ‘law-abiding without laws’.

    How do you define being good?

  2. kenetiks says:

    Haven’t we been over this several times.

    It’s worth pointing out again. Simply asserting that you cannot be good without god, doesn’t simply make it true. Nor does asserting that one cannot be good without the threat of punishment or promise of reward, make the person a moral one.

    Your assertions nor your belief systems can adequately explain why I am an ethical person.

  3. jackhudson says:

    Good is different than God. It would be more accurate to say that one can ‘be godly without God’ is akin to claiming that one can be ‘law-abiding without laws’.

    How do you define being good?

    I define being good as being Godly.

  4. jackhudson says:

    It’s worth pointing out again. Simply asserting that you cannot be good without god, doesn’t simply make it true. Nor does asserting that one cannot be good without the threat of punishment or promise of reward, make the person a moral one.

    I didn’t say you couldn’t be good without God. I don’t know that I ever have. In fact that was part of my point.

    Your assertions nor your belief systems can adequately explain why I am an ethical person.

    Can you adequately explain it?

  5. kenetiks says:

    I define being good as being Godly.

    Then you’re already setting a goal that anyone who doesn’t agree with cannot possibly meet.

    I wish I could convey how completely devoid of any value this statement is for an honest, continuing discourse between the religious and secularists.

  6. kenetiks says:

    I didn’t say you couldn’t be good without God. I don’t know that I ever have. In fact that was part of my point.

    hmmmm

    I define being good as being Godly.

    ooops.

  7. jackhudson says:

    Then you’re already setting a goal that anyone who doesn’t agree with cannot possibly meet.
    I wish I could convey how completely devoid of any value this statement is for an honest, continuing discourse between the religious and secularists.

    I am not sure why this answer surprises you – I am a Christian, and as such I believe what is ‘good’ is rooted in and conforms to the nature of God. This is a source which is immutable, external and eternal – which means there is an objective measure to goodness.

    It would be much the same as if I said I believe what is legal conforms to the body of the code of law – why would such a definition alienate anyone? It would seem the most objective way to start a conversation!

    And by the way I noticed you avoided answering your own question, so I will see if you can meet your own challenge – can your belief systems adequately explain why someone is an ethical person?

    I didn’t say you couldn’t be good without God. I don’t know that I ever have. In fact that was part of my point.

    hmmmm

    I define being good as being Godly.

    ooops.

    This might seem contradictory to you kinetics until you consider the post above – can some obey the law without knowing it?

  8. justin says:

    Look at Washington DC, perhaps the most godless place on the planet these days. Almost nothing but evil comes from that place. It’s the epitome of people who set themselves up as false gods. No, we cannot be good if we forsake God. And as Jack said, good is being Godly, surely a standard we can never meet with our flaws, which is why we should be thankful for His grace.

    Without God, there is no good or evil, objectively speaking, so it’s logically impossible to be good without God. You can only be good relative to your own set of internal morals without God, and subjective morality is no morality.

  9. kenetiks says:

    I am not sure why this answer surprises you – I am a Christian, and as such I believe what is ‘good’ is rooted in and conforms to the nature of God. This is a source which is immutable, external and eternal – which means there is an objective measure to goodness.

    It would be much the same as if I said I believe what is legal conforms to the body of the code of law – why would such a definition alienate anyone? It would seem the most objective way to start a conversation!

    Not quite. It ends the conversation. It does not begin it.

    And by the way I noticed you avoided answering your own question, so I will see if you can meet your own challenge – can your belief systems adequately explain why someone is an ethical person?

    Why should I answer my own challenge?

  10. jackhudson says:

    Not quite. It ends the conversation. It does not begin it.

    So a clear statement of where we derive our morality ends a conversation about morality? I guess I’m not getting it how you think such things should be discussed.

    Why should I answer my own challenge?

    Good enough.

    Well as a Christian I would evaluate ethical behavior in terms of whether it conforms to the standard of behavior described in Scripture which I think is best encapsulated in the Ten Commandments on the prohibitive side, and in Galatians 5:22-23 when considering the desirable characteristics of an ethical or moral person.

    Concerning whether I could “adequately explain why you are an ethical person.” I can only say that I obviously don’t know you other than our conversations here, but whether or not your behavior is ethical depends on whether it conforms to the aforementioned descriptions provided.

    If you are a normal human, in all likelihood some of your behavior is ethical, and some of it isn’t. Certainly as a Christian I believe that we all fall short of these standards.

    So then, how do you adequately explain why someone is an ethical person?

  11. Cyndi says:

    Can an ethical person be ethical because they choose to be? I know little kids (the ones who don’t understand the concept of God yet) choose to do good things or bad things. However, it is human beings who define what constitutes what good or bad means. It is also human beings who decide what is considered ethical; and it is human beings who wrote the bible.

    Good and evil are subjective, not objective. They are man-made ideas which existed long before christianity. Christianity is one of the youngest religions out there and much of it is a spin off of pagan religions.

    You already made up your mind as to what goodness is and you have chosen to hide behind christianity because you cannot reason for yourself. It is okay. It is probably your parents’ fault for not allowing you to think creatively or freely as a child. Most fundamentalists come from families like that.

    Carry on.

  12. jackhudson says:

    Can an ethical person be ethical because they choose to be? I know little kids (the ones who don’t understand the concept of God yet) choose to do good things or bad things. However, it is human beings who define what constitutes what good or bad means. It is also human beings who decide what is considered ethical; and it is human beings who wrote the bible.

    Well sure, kids can act ethically and (as one who has raised four of them) very unethically. The problem isn’t what humans are capable of doing; the problem is when one says, “it is human beings who define what constitutes what good or bad means.” If that is so, then ‘good and bad’ loses all objective meaning.

    For example, how can one say, “I know little kids choose to do good things or bad things” if in fact humans choose for themselves what good and bad means, wouldn’t whatever the kids choose to do be good, since they are choosing to do it? If one child wants to share a toy, and one wants to a steal a toy, how could we impose on them a set of behaviors that we happen to think is the right one?

    Good and evil are subjective, not objective. They are man-made ideas which existed long before christianity. Christianity is one of the youngest religions out there and much of it is a spin off of pagan religions.

    I never said Christianity defined what is good or bad, nor do I think good or bad didn’t exist before Christianity existed – no Christian does. In fact I would go so far as to say the problem really has nothing to do with our knowledge of good and evil, but rather with our inclination to do good when we know it.

    I would disagree however that is a ‘spin-off’ of pagan religions – particularly as the people who began it were very Jewish.

    You already made up your mind as to what goodness is and you have chosen to hide behind christianity because you cannot reason for yourself. It is okay. It is probably your parents’ fault for not allowing you to think creatively or freely as a child. Most fundamentalists come from families like that.

    Actually, my father was a free thinker and my mother was mildly religious. I was an agnostic until was 20 – and my moral life until then would probably make most atheists blush. I do however appreciate the condescension and the presumption implied by the idea that you know anything about me after two anonymous posts on the internet.

    Do you treat every person according to these stereotypes? Do you think that behavior is ethical?

  13. Cyndi says:

    Good and evil has no objective meaning, because it is subjective. Good and evil are two sides of the same coin, a perk of living in a dual-natured world.

    I treat people with honest reactions. Is honesty ethical? I’d say so.

    Are you presuming that my reaction to your fundamentalist attitude is a personal attack on you? It wasn’t and I apologize if you misinterpreted what I said. Miscommunication is more common online than in person due to the lack of intonation and body language.

    All anyone on this little blue-green rock floating around the sun has is their perspective. I don’t think anyone is right or wrong, good or evil. They only have beliefs, opinions, expectations, and so on based on one’s personal experience.

    “Thou shall not kill.” You should be familiar with that one. That is a law of many religions, and yet religion has been a major cause of wars.

    “You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” Yet there are images of Jesus, usually the mutilated dying version of Jesus on the cross, in many churches and in many books.

    “You shall not steal.” Governments and businesses steal from their citizens and from each other every day. People take what isn’t their’s to take. Often times, these people claim to be Christians.

    I guess my main issue with the fundamentalist attitude is that everything is just accepted without question. It is also concerning to me that the same people who speak of the love of Christ and God are the same people who tend to spew hatred toward homosexuals, rape victims who get abortions, and anyone who doesn’t believe in their God of love.

    I tend to live my life with a “cause the least amount of harm” and always be genuine, kind of attitude. I seek an understanding of why you believe in the things you do, not a personal challenge.

    I don’t practice ethics or morals because I am supposed to. I try to be mindful and “good” because it feels right. If a person needs a book to tell them not to murder someone, then maybe that person needs to evaluate what is going on in their heart and mind.

  14. kenetiks says:

    I suppose the only real point to be made is that no one derives their own “goodness” from any religious text of the three great monotheisms. Senses of morality are innate in our species, as many studies on the subject attest.

    The main difference is and always will be that, the religious will use bits and pieces of his or her religious texts to reaffirm their sense of right and wrong. The religious will never take the morality of thier religious texts as a whole at face value. How could they? It would be utterly disastrous for societal harmony. They simply crutch on the parts they agree with and explain away the parts they don’t as “metaphor”.

    And how does one even decide which of gods commandments are to be followed? What of two conflicting orders? Should we simply live by gods example? Apparently that’s never happened since there are people still living.

  15. jackhudson says:

    I suppose the only real point to be made is that no one derives their own “goodness” from any religious text of the three great monotheisms. Senses of morality are innate in our species, as many studies on the subject attest.

    I think the problem I have with this, and I consider it to be one of the greatest blind spots in atheism (in fact I believe Peter Hitchens, Christopher Hitchens Christian brother noted the same) is that if moral behavior is ‘innate’ then there really is no need for morality or ethics at all. I think that would go for laws as well. Morality would be equal to what we call behavior in animals; and as we know animals act neither ‘morally’ nor ‘immorally’ they just act. In all recorded human history however we have always had a set of external codes to govern our behavior – if we are innately moral, this would seem completely unnecessary.

    The main difference is and always will be that, the religious will use bits and pieces of his or her religious texts to reaffirm their sense of right and wrong. The religious will never take the morality of thier religious texts as a whole at face value. How could they? It would be utterly disastrous for societal harmony. They simply crutch on the parts they agree with and explain away the parts they don’t as “metaphor”.

    I can’t imagine how, if taken as a whole, the teachings of Christ and the apostles would be disastrous for a society. It would seem to me that society would benefit greatly from charity and forgiveness and honesty and faithfulness to duty, etc.

    And how does one even decide which of gods commandments are to be followed? What of two conflicting orders? Should we simply live by gods example? Apparently that’s never happened since there are people still living.

    Not quite sure I understand this paragraph. If one takes for example the corpus of the Ten Commandments which seem to contain the totality of universally applicable moral behaviors, and the list of character qualities found in Galatians 5:22-23, one has a very comprehensive and consistent view of human morality. It is certainly more consistent than simply having everyone choose for themselves what they think is moral.

    Now this is not the ultimate point of Christianity – the ultimate point is that we can’t meet these standards on our own, and thus require forgiveness, redemption, and re-creation.

    One more thought. Christian thought on these subjects is like all worthwhile knowledge – understanding comes from reading and studying and debating and discussing choices. It is a myth certain folks have that Christians blindly follow dictates – it has been my experience as both a skeptical agnostic and believing Christian that devout Christians are more likely to reject conventional behavior and thoughtfully go against mindless norms imposed by society than their secular counterparts. To be a Christian is to have to think everyday about one’s moral choices – the easier path is to just go along to get along.
    Also, the purpose of the moral principles in Scripture isn’t to dictate to individuals every choice they should make – it’s to describe Godly character and to lead people to the understanding that such character is not achievable through one’s own power. That is why you are partly right when you say ‘apparently that’s never happened’ – growth towards what the Bible calls ‘perfection’ or ‘completion’ is a life long pursuit that entails much more than following a list of rules. But it can’t happen at all if there is no objective source of morality to strive towards.

    Hope this is helpful.

  16. jackhudson says:

    Good and evil has no objective meaning, because it is subjective. Good and evil are two sides of the same coin, a perk of living in a dual-natured world.

    Not to be persnickety, but you seem to be employing circular reasoning here. Something subjective by definition has no objective meaning – so when you say, “Good and evil has no objective meaning, because it is subjective. “Good and evil has no objective meaning, because it is subjective.” you are saying good and evil are subjective because they are subjective. It doesn’t really tel us much.

    I treat people with honest reactions. Is honesty ethical? I’d say so.

    I am glad you think honesty is ethical, but if someone thinks one can be dishonest and still ethical and ethics are subjective, they would be correct as well. In which case you have the contradictory belief that dishonesty can be both ethical and unethical.

    Are you presuming that my reaction to your fundamentalist attitude is a personal attack on you? It wasn’t and I apologize if you misinterpreted what I said. Miscommunication is more common online than in person due to the lack of intonation and body language.

    Apology accepted.

    All anyone on this little blue-green rock floating around the sun has is their perspective. I don’t think anyone is right or wrong, good or evil. They only have beliefs, opinions, expectations, and so on based on one’s personal experience.

    Well I would say we have more than that – we have our powers of reasoning, evidence, logic, and as a Christian, revelation.

    “Thou shall not kill.” You should be familiar with that one. That is a law of many religions, and yet religion has been a major cause of wars.

    “You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” Yet there are images of Jesus, usually the mutilated dying version of Jesus on the cross, in many churches and in many books.

    “You shall not steal.” Governments and businesses steal from their citizens and from each other every day. People take what isn’t their’s to take. Often times, these people claim to be Christians.

    Sure – but those commandments haven’t been the cause of wars, or idolatry, or stealing. I already agree, people by and large don’t follow commandments given by God – if they did, Christianity would be all together unnecessary. And if ethics are subjective, then being hypocritical could also be ethical – though I don’t think it is.

    I guess my main issue with the fundamentalist attitude is that everything is just accepted without question. It is also concerning to me that the same people who speak of the love of Christ and God are the same people who tend to spew hatred toward homosexuals, rape victims who get abortions, and anyone who doesn’t believe in their God of love.

    I’m sorry this has been your experience. I can say as a Christian of some 20+ years that I have seen countless acts of compassion towards some of those very same people in the name of Christ.

    I tend to live my life with a “cause the least amount of harm” and always be genuine, kind of attitude. I seek an understanding of why you believe in the things you do, not a personal challenge.

    I appreciate that, though such conversations tend to go better if neither of us assumes the other is a mindless person who believes what they do without thought.

    I don’t practice ethics or morals because I am supposed to. I try to be mindful and “good” because it feels right. If a person needs a book to tell them not to murder someone, then maybe that person needs to evaluate what is going on in their heart and mind.

    I imagine if someone who is inclined to murder someone, or thinks it is right to do so, chances are they don’t tend to have a habit of self-evaluation. Of course, expecting them to assumes what they are doing is objectively wrong, which would seem to contradict the idea that notions of right and wrong are subjective.

  17. Cyndi says:

    What I meant by that first statement is that what is considered good and evil are subjective. Meaning, what one person may consider good may be considered evil by someone else. It’s about perspective.

    Ethics are essentially social norms that have been imposed because someone has done something harmful to others–like the injustice seen in the Tuskagee experiment and the distress caused by some authority-type experiments left many scientists and laypeople in awe at how we could treat people in such a way. So a group of people got together and discussed ethics and agreed upon certain principles.

    The ten commandments are also agreed upon by a lot of people and imposed on others.

    Not everyone has self-awareness. If everyone was self-aware there would be no need for commandments, ethics, or laws. Sadly, whether it is due to parenting or genetics, some people are just sociopathic and have no qualms when it comes to exploiting or harming others.

    If we were in tune with nature, we wouldn’t think twice about these things. People would behave a certain way and others would react, but as humans, we have a sense of what is right or wrong and for some reason try to impose it on others. We try to bring order to chaos, which simply creates more chaos.

    I don’t think it is right to murder someone, but that is my personal opinion, which is subjective. If it was objective, then people would not be so easily manipulated into joining militaries and murdering other people.

  18. Tristan Vick says:

    @Jack

    As others have pointed out, you have offered a false dichotomy, a classic either-or fallacy.

    Goodness and God are not the same, nor are they mutual, because that would entail goodness has all the properties of God–which is doesn’t. So you can’t compare them in the context you give.

    Also, laws are man-made, as are moral codes of ethics, but I think you might be referring to something like a metaphysical moral sense, in which case the analogy doesn’t follow that man-made laws are like ontologically existing moral ones.

    You need to rephrase your language to something like:

    Claiming that one can ‘be good without God’, as atheists so often
    do, is akin to claiming that one can be ‘law-abiding without God’.

    Although, such a statement is just common sense, so would not need to be pointed out. People can be good without God just as surely as they can practice law without God.

    So you it seems you need to come up with a better analogy. One without a fallacy at the core, and which makes better sense.

    Good luck!

  19. jackhudson says:

    Goodness and God are not the same, nor are they mutual, because that would entail goodness has all the properties of God–which is doesn’t. So you can’t compare them in the context you give.

    I didn’t say goodness and God were the same, I said to be good is to be Godly. To be Godly is to reflect God with our choices and behaviors – this doesn’t make us God, but to the degree temporal finite being can, we reflect the infinite nature of God. Moral laws derive from the nature of God in terms of their intersection with human behavior, they aren’t meant to denote all the properties of God.

    Also, laws are man-made, as are moral codes of ethics, but I think you might be referring to something like a metaphysical moral sense, in which case the analogy doesn’t follow that man-made laws are like ontologically existing moral ones.

    The level of comparison has to do with how we define ourselves with regard to set of codes, regardless of their source. Thus a person whose behavior conforms to legal codes is ‘law-abiding’, a person who conforms to codes of ethics is ‘ethical’ and a person whose behavior conforms to moral law is ‘good’ or ‘moral’. This is true whether or not such codes derive from a society, a legislature, or God.

    So then, understanding this, we can it would be as odd for an atheist to say he can be ‘good’ without God (the source of moral law) as it would be for one to say he can be law-abiding without laws.

    Claiming that one can ‘be good without God’, as atheists so often
    do, is akin to claiming that one can be ‘law-abiding without God’.
    Although, such a statement is just common sense, so would not need to be pointed out. People can be good without God just as surely as they can practice law without God.

    You seemed to have talked yourself into some confusion here Tristan.

    To be ‘law-abiding’ is not the same as ‘practicing law’. One can be law-abiding and no nothing about the law. If I am inclined to drive 30mph, and the speed limit on the road I am on is 30mph, than I am law-abiding in this regard even if I have no idea what the speed limit is. If someone asks, “Are you driving the speed limit?” I would have to say (if I am honest), “I have no idea.”

    Additionally, if I am driving in a country where there are no speed limits, the question “Are you driving the speed limit?” would be nonsensical. It would also be nonsensical to claim I am law-abiding in this regard. So then to claim to be law-abiding requires both the existence of a law, knowledge of the law, and choosing to abide by the law one knows.

    The same can be said for claiming to be ‘good’. To claim to be good is to claim one’s behavior conforms to a standard of goodness. To claim no such standard exists or that one cannot be known is to undermine one’s own claim to be good. Thus an atheist could be good, but cannot claim to know he is good in the same way our driver could be law-abiding and yet not know he was law abiding either through ignorance or absence of a legal standard. The most honest answer an atheist can give to to the question ‘Are you good?’ then is ‘I have no idea’.

    Hope this is clear.

  20. justin says:

    Good and evil are subjective, not objective. They are man-made ideas which existed long before christianity. Christianity is one of the youngest religions out there and much of it is a spin off of pagan religions.

    (side note: stop reading so many Dan Brown novels)
    and this:

    You already made up your mind as to what goodness is and you have chosen to hide behind christianity because you cannot reason for yourself. It is okay.

    Okay, first, you claim that morality is subjective. Then you claim that it is possible to arrive at what right or wrong is via “reason”? Did you stop to “reason” that if morality is truly subjective, then your second point is ridiculous? Your own post shows a rather comical lack of reasoning itself. Another self-contradicting position from the atheist crowd.

    Atheism might be attractive were it logically coherent, but as Cyndi proves, most “free thinkers” aren’t all that rational.

  21. justin says:

    Your assertions nor your belief systems can adequately explain why I am an ethical person.

    Atheism most certainly does not explain why anyone would be ethical when it profits them not to be. It seems you criticize Christianity, when your own belief system is far less suited to explain morality at all, especially when one profits from being immoral.

  22. Tristan Vick says:

    At the risk of sounding like I’m making an Ad Hominem Tu Quoque, I just thought I would correct some wrong assumptions.

    Jack said: “I didn’t say goodness and God were the same, I said to be good is to be Godly.”

    Actually, you didn’t say that. You’re saying it now, but prior to this, you claimed:

    “Claiming that one can ‘be good without God’ as atheists so often do is akin to claiming that one can be law-abiding without laws.”

    Good is to law-abiding, as God is to Law, is not implying that being good is to be Godly. The comparison here being: Good/law-abiding conferred with God/Law. The analogy is between goodness and God and lawfulness and Law.

    Don’t blame the messenger. I was just pointing out the technical error–so that you could fix it.

    ***

    Jack said: “The level of comparison has to do with how we define ourselves with regard to set of codes, regardless of their source.”

    Then you’d be talking about ‘values’; as in placing value on any given set of code–which is actually a different topic entirely. I understand that’s what you are working toward, but you have to show it, you can’t just assume it ad hoc.

    ***

    Jack said:”To be ‘law-abiding’ is not the same as ‘practicing law’. One can be law-abiding and [k]no[w] nothing about the law.”

    Of course I know that. Talking down to me by saying I have talked my way into some confusion isn’t going to help your case any.

    Saying people can practice law, means to be lawful, as in observing the law (hence the word practice); and not the way you seemingly have taken it, i.e. that everyone on the planet practices the Law (hence are all Lawyers). Which, given the context, would be a weird thing for me to say.

    Maybe I should have said lawfulness or observance of the law instead, but the confusion rests with you, based on my selective (perhaps even confusing) word usage. But it should have been obvious–from the context–that I wasn’t implying that everyone on the planet are lawyers. Because then your claim that I am confused would be accurate.

    Obviously, I’m not confused in the way you claim, which makes me wonder why your shifting the topic in this direction instead of addressing the initial false dichotomy.

    ***

    I don’t know where you intend to go with this, because you bounce back and forth between defining law and talking about moral obedience, which I was following you on, but didn’t seem to go anywhere. Although the clarification helps to enlighten your readers on what you are thinking, by walking us through the process, it doesn’t solve for the original objection, which was about the Problem of Composition.

    At any rate, your analogy of the speed limit is well stated, and I feel it would be a good example to use in an essay about what you’re trying to detail here, but as it is, I was just pointing out the weaknesses so you could address them.

    If you think I’m still confused, then fine, I’ll stop trying to help and we can just leave it at that. I just thought you should be aware that the comparison was invalid and so, unintentionally, actually made your point irrelevant–even as I understand the relevancy of what you were trying to say–it would be better understood if you took the time to expand on your claim from the beginning, instead of just hoping people will jump on board (which would technically be just a bandwagon appeal).

  23. Tristan Vick says:

    @Jack

    I noticed another thing, which may or may not clarify where the initial confusion is coming from–and where you might want to focus your attention in any further clarifications.

    Related to the Problem of Composition, you are substituting God for a moral source without actually showing it. That’s what makes the analogy invalid.

    You’re assuming your readers will just do this too, because you have, or perhaps because you suspect they may already predict your religious biases because they know you are a theist. But even if they all agree with you, and you felt you had won the debate, the only problem is you would be mistaken–because the thing you were hoping to prove was not proved–just assumed.

    Thus, you have a Problem of Composition..

    I know it’s not much of an issue now, but it might help to pay attention to in the future.

    Good luck.

  24. Tristan Vick says:

    @Justin

    Stop saying Atheism is a belief system. It’s not.

    Also, I don’t think it’s fair to deliberately confuse Atheism for what atheists commonly or individually believe, and then blame it on their atheism.

    What atheists believe may or may not be related to their worldview. However, it’s a too big of an assumption to make to assume that just because an atheist does (or doesn’t) believe in something–that it’s because of their atheism.

    It would be like saying that the only reason you believe in the Freedom of Speech or the Freedom of Expression is because of your Christianity–but the two are not mutual or co-dependent.

    Some Christians, as you may well know, don’t believe in the freedom of expression or the freedom of speech, but would rather censor things they feel are “from the devil.” On the other hand, there are many Christians who adamantly support the Freedom of Speech and Expression.

    In other words, what I am trying to say is: What does my atheism have to do with the price of tea in China?

    ***
    Also, usually I find your comments informative, but here they just seem mean spirited.Resorting to ridicule here seems a little unfair to me.

    You [Justin] said: “Atheism might be attractive were it logically coherent, but as Cyndi proves, most “free thinkers” aren’t all that rational.”

    It seems to me Cyndi was just voicing his/her opinion that good and evil are interpreted, or understood, subjectively by humans–and that this subjectivity supports the naturalistic world view held by many atheists.

    Besides, it seems Ethical Naturalism would be a better reason to assuming there is a subjective limitation to our understanding of good or evil, but at the same time, there are atheists that believe in objective morality apart from God as well. These atheists are Moral Realists.

    Yet whether one frames their worldview according to one moral perspective or another isn’t dependent on their atheism–at least not in the same way as one’s moral worldview is dependent on their religion (e.g., in this case Christianity). Which means, Cyndi wasn’t at all wrong to point out that many believers use their religions as a way to not have to deal with the issues directly–because they take the subject of morality for granted–so they can just continue relying on their religion to inform them as to the prescribed moral values they should adhere to.

    It seems mean spirited to attack on atheist, and call them less than rational, especially when it’s not a gone conclusion, especially with something as complex as morality. Instead of insulting Cyndi, you could have just as easily pointed out the contradiction in terms, and allow them to rethink things before slamming them.

    At least, I think that’s what Jesus would do. ;p~

  25. kenetiks says:

    Atheism most certainly does not explain why anyone would be ethical when it profits them not to be. It seems you criticize Christianity, when your own belief system is far less suited to explain morality at all, especially when one profits from being immoral.

    You’re making a rather silly assumption that I or any other atheist would profit from being unethical.

    Being unethical in an ethical society has no benefit or “profit”.

  26. justin says:

    Kenetiks:

    You’re making a rather silly assumption that I or any other atheist would profit from being unethical.

    I wasn’t referring to atheists only. Lots of people profit from being unethical. What I am saying, which you misunderstood, is that atheism is not adequate as a basis for a moral philosophy whatsoever, and therefore, criticisms of Christian morality are hypoocritical and, well, comical.

    Tristan:
    Atheism is in fact a belief system. It’s just that not many “free thinkers” take the time or mental effort to follow such a belief to all of it’s logical ramifications.

    And it’s quite unlike saying that I only believe in freedom of speech because of my Christianity. You missed the point completely. Atheism simply does not provide any logical basis for morality. Ergo, most “freethinkers” state in no uncertain terms that morality is subjective….

    right before they proceed to tell you how superior their morality is to Christian morals because it’s based on reason. This is self-contradictory, and it is, in fact, quite laughable.

    Her post was indeed self-contradicotry, Tristan. Go back and read it again. Subjective isn’t subjective?

  27. jackhudson says:

    Being unethical in an ethical society has no benefit or “profit”.

    You have obviously never worked at a law firm. 🙂

  28. jackhudson says:

    Related to the Problem of Composition, you are substituting God for a moral source without actually showing it. That’s what makes the analogy invalid.

    You’re assuming your readers will just do this too, because you have, or perhaps because you suspect they may already predict your religious biases because they know you are a theist. But even if they all agree with you, and you felt you had won the debate, the only problem is you would be mistaken–because the thing you were hoping to prove was not proved–just assumed.

    Well, I consider my ‘Observations’ to be conversation starters, not full blown logical proofs (see they work 🙂 ); but my thinking behind this really comes down to something like the moral proof for God; that is, if a standard for morals (or goodness, which I consider equal) objectively exists, than something like God exists. Just as if laws actually exist, then something like a law-giver exists. That is why I find the claim to ‘goodness without God’ to be somewhat nonsensical – the term ‘good’ can’t really have an objective meaning if there is no God, though an atheist could be good without God – by an objective definition of good offered by a theist.

    Hopes that clarifies a bit.

  29. Cyndi says:

    Justin, you get caught up a lot with semantics. I won’t insult you though, because although I cannot prove or disprove if Jesus or God exists, I do believe in compassion.

    I don’t label myself an atheist or base my beliefs on atheism. That would be ridiculous. I, like many humans, base my view / beliefs on observations and experience–not stories.

    There is emprical evidence that shows our brains fill in a lot of gaps in perception, based on a schema we develop through experience. This doesn’t mean any particular point of view is more correct or incorrect than another, only that their brain puts the pieces together.

    Instead of focusing on a semantic error and clinging only on to negativity, perhaps you could re-read some of my posts and see that I am trying to understand what what this goodness is Godliness meant to the poster.

    I went to a private Christian school from 1st through 6th grade and I have read the entire bible. The main thing that sticks out in my mind about Jesus was that he was not argumentative or insulting, but rather, he should the greatest act of love: listening and helping people come to their own conclusions.

    Maybe you could demonstrate that Christianity isn’t hypocracy by being more like Jesus. I hope you find inner peace.

    Some of the reactions here just seem very emotionally charged, forum-troll-style. As I stated before, I’m not looking for an argument, just an understanding. This will be my last post on this blog.

    God / Allah / Pan / Diane / Vishnu / Zeus / + the thousands of other man-made or interpreted dieties bless you. 😉

  30. Cyndi says:

    *he showed the greatest act of love. My apologies for that typo and any other ones. I mistype a lot because of dyslexia. Last post, promise. Bye!

  31. @Justin

    What ramafications would one run into if they followed the so-called atheism “belief” to its logical conclusion?

    Personally, I can only see it leading to the rejection of God/gods and the supernatural via the rejection of theism. This is Strong (Positive) atheism. But their is also Weak (Negative) atheism to consider, where people just haven’t ever hreard of or learned about the God you believe in so they lack any belief in it in thne first place.

    I know many Japanese free thinkers who are Weak atheists in this regard… they just haven’t heard of the Christian God, etc., and so do not believe in it. And since they already reject their own cultures superstitions, adding a few more probably wouldn’t im pact their nonbelief. It may seek only to shift their atheism toward Strong atheism.

    On the other hand, if you meant that atheism has the power to affect a person’s worldview/beliefs, then this is true. But it doesn’t makeit a belief system in and of itslef. It is merely an influence on pre-existing philosophies. After which, if you want to couch the se ramified beliefs in atheistic terms,that would seem fair, but it doesn’t make atheism the philosophical underpinning to one’s worldview/belief. Rather atheism merely helps to frame them-even as they do not stem from atheism proper.

    I hope that clarifies why atheism is not a belief system, even as it can influence and affect our beliefs.

  32. Jack, I understand this wasn’t meant to be a logical proof… but it seems you have a lot of interesting things to say on the issue. I would be interested in reading an essay by you which collected all your thoughts on the matter… assuming that is something you would be interested in doing.

    Peace!

  33. @Justin

    For the record, I was agreeing with you that Cyndi had a contradiction in terms, but contradictions in terms don’t always equate to being wrong.

    Consider the fo/llowing example:

    Gray is not black or white, but it is both black and white.

    A seeming contradiction in terms, but it is true none-the-less, because that is the properties by which we define grayness apart from black and white.

    In thinking about the topic of morality, it probably helps to consider such examples, as there may be a lot of gray areas like this, pardon the pun, where things are not simply black and white.

    As such, I wouldn’t claim moral subjectivity and moral objectivity are contradictions. In fact, human thinking requires subjectivity in order to get objective values in the first place. So one can see right and wrong as subjective and cultural dependent… but still believe in framingan objective morality, because of they way in which we assign value.

    ***

    A good book which talks about this is Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain by Antonio Damasio, with several good chapters which explain how we use subjectivity to assigns objective values to things.

    In the end, I think Sam Harris hit the nail on the head when he described how an entire moral landscape can lead us to an objective morality. When we define human flourishing and well-being as the highest good, then objective morality will automatically form from our success in working towrd that end.

    Now why would well-being be the objective end of our moral underpinnings? Actually,Sam failes to adequately address this in his book, which is why I recommend Damasio’s work instead.

    Damasio observes that all living cells contain an innate program to thrive and survive. It is a matter of biology. As such, Damasio points out that this tendency to thrive causes these cells to clump together… and in some cases, where there is enough of the right type of cellular clumping, neurons form.

    Our brains thus come with this innate program running in the background, and based off this objective fact, human flourishing and well-being frame what it means to determine an objective moral good. Meanwhile, good and evil on the moral landscape become objectively testable.

  34. kenetiks says:

    I wasn’t referring to atheists only. Lots of people profit from being unethical. What I am saying, which you misunderstood, is that atheism is not adequate as a basis for a moral philosophy whatsoever, and therefore, criticisms of Christian morality are hypoocritical and, well, comical.

    That’s because atheism isn’t a moral philosophy nor is it the basis for one.

    Atheism has absolutely nothing to say on the subject of morality or ethics, at all. And yet you insist on continuing and promoting this deceptive line of reasoning. I’d say this isn’t the first time this has been pointed out to you and I dare say it won’t be the last.

  35. jackhudson says:

    Atheism has absolutely nothing to say on the subject of morality or ethics, at all. And yet you insist on continuing and promoting this deceptive line of reasoning. I’d say this isn’t the first time this has been pointed out to you and I dare say it won’t be the last.

    I have heard this often, and I understand why atheists say it, but what I don’t understand is if it is true why atheists often seem to have so many problems Christian morality?

  36. jackhudson says:

    Consider the following example:
    Gray is not black or white, but it is both black and white.
    A seeming contradiction in terms, but it is true none-the-less, because that is the properties by which we define grayness apart from black and white.
    In thinking about the topic of morality, it probably helps to consider such examples, as there may be a lot of gray areas like this, pardon the pun, where things are not simply black and white.

    But we understand what ‘grey’ is because we have an objective notion of what black and white are, and can make comparisons.. We agree that black is objectively differentfrom both white and grey whether or not they are opposite. In other words, you can’t say something is neither black nor white unless you have some concept of what black and white are in the first place. Even being subjective requires a notion of objective standards to understand it!

    As such, I wouldn’t claim moral subjectivity and moral objectivity are contradictions. In fact, human thinking requires subjectivity in order to get objective values in the first place. So one can see right and wrong as subjective and cultural dependent… but still believe in framing an objective morality, because of they way in which we assign value.

    I disagree – there are things that we agree are objective considerations (for example, adding numbers) and things we agree are subjective (like color preferences). We don’t derive the objectivity of mathematics from subjective considerations (as if we agree 2+2=4 as a societal preference) and we there is no basis for making color preference an objective consideration. Things are either objective or subjective because certain rules govern the considerations – if agree there are no rules, then there is just preference. I prefer to be generous, others prefer to be selfless. I prefer to preserve life, other prefer to take it, much as one prefers either green or blue.

    A good book which talks about this is Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain by Antonio Damasio, with several good chapters which explain how we use subjectivity to assigns objective values to things.
    In the end, I think Sam Harris hit the nail on the head when he described how an entire moral landscape can lead us to an objective morality. When we define human flourishing and well-being as the highest good, then objective morality will automatically form from our success in working towrd that end.
    Now why would well-being be the objective end of our moral underpinnings? Actually, Sam failes to adequately address this in his book, which is why I recommend Damasio’s work instead.
    Damasio observes that all living cells contain an innate program to thrive and survive. It is a matter of biology. As such, Damasio points out that this tendency to thrive causes these cells to clump together… and in some cases, where there is enough of the right type of cellular clumping, neurons form.
    Our brains thus come with this innate program running in the background, and based off this objective fact, human flourishing and well-being frame what it means to determine an objective moral good. Meanwhile, good and evil on the moral landscape become objectively testable.

    Well the problem with trying to derive morality from evolutionary development (and it’s always a problem; I have never seen a single person deal with the objection) is that if humans are merely the product of evolution, then every behavior is the product of the, “innate program running in the background”. Nature gave us our altruism and our selfishness, our honesty and our tendency to deceive, our faithfulness and our promiscuity, as well as our nurturing love and murderous hatred. We have all these tendencies, and if we are merely a product of nature, then nature gave us all things innate qualities to reproduce and survive.

    Thus the according to the ‘morality’ we express it would be no more or less good to love our neighbor as it would be to kill him and take his wife as one’s own. In short, there are no preferred moral rules – and no actually morality to begin with.

  37. justin says:

    Cyndi wrote:

    Justin, you get caught up a lot with semantics. I won’t insult you though, because although I cannot prove or disprove if Jesus or God exists, I do believe in compassion.

    That’s not merely semantics. It’s logic. If morality is truly subjective, then there can be no moral superiority, period. Because in order for you to claim that your morality is superior to mine, for example, there would have to be an objective standard by which to judge the two moral systems. I believe in compassion as well, and that’s why I don’t throw the term “free thinker” around, implying that Christians are group thinking idiots, as you implied, and as atheists a thousand times over have implied. In fact, I’ve seen claims just like yours several thousand times in the past 3 years – that Christians don’t use reason and that they don’t think for themselves. That’s insulting. It’s also so common among atheists that I have to wonder who really doesn’t think for themselves. But I digress.

    I don’t label myself an atheist or base my beliefs on atheism. That would be ridiculous. I, like many humans, base my view / beliefs on observations and experience–not stories. There is emprical evidence that shows our brains fill in a lot of gaps in perception, based on a schema we develop through experience. This doesn’t mean any particular point of view is more correct or incorrect than another, only that their brain puts the pieces together.

    Not sure where you are going with this at all. Sounds remotely like the start of yet another genetic fallacy.

    Instead of focusing on a semantic error and clinging only on to negativity, perhaps you could re-read some of my posts and see that I am trying to understand what what this goodness is Godliness meant to the poster.

    Semantic error? I did not accuse you of making a semantic error. But if you’re admitting to one, are you saying now that morality is objective? Or that you agree, your morals, under your belief system, cannot logically be arrived at by reason? Now, please think about “negativity” when you accuse those who believe differently than you of coming to their beliefs “without reason” as you charged.

    I went to a private Christian school from 1st through 6th grade and I have read the entire bible. The main thing that sticks out in my mind about Jesus was that he was not argumentative or insulting, but rather, he should the greatest act of love: listening and helping people come to their own conclusions.

    I did listen. I listened more carefully to your own words than you did.

    Maybe you could demonstrate that Christianity isn’t hypocracy by being more like Jesus. I hope you find inner peace.

    What have I been a hypocrite about? I merely pointed out that your two positions earlier are self-contradictory. This is a discussion.

    Some of the reactions here just seem very emotionally charged, forum-troll-style. As I stated before, I’m not looking for an argument, just an understanding. This will be my last post on this blog.

    I’m trying to understand you. For me to do so, you will have to have a position that is not logically confusing.

  38. justin says:

    @Justin What ramafications would one run into if they followed the so-called atheism “belief” to its logical conclusion?

    Moral nihilism for one. In no way can I see how an atheist could come to the conclusion that morality was objective (even after reading Ayn Rand). There’s really no way to support logically a moral system from an atheistic viewpoint. Believe me, I’ve tried and have seen it tried. There is always a loophole or smuggled, ungrounded assumption hiding in the atheist arguments. To be logically consistent, and a few honest atheists have been, nihilism is the logical outworking.

    Personally, I can only see it leading to the rejection of God/gods and the supernatural via the rejection of theism. This is Strong (Positive) atheism. But their is also Weak (Negative) atheism to consider, where people just haven’t ever hreard of or learned about the God you believe in so they lack any belief in it in thne first place.

    Any form of atheism where there is a denial of any higher power can only arrive at nihilism as the self-consistent outcome of such a view.

    I know many Japanese free thinkers who are Weak atheists in this regard… they just haven’t heard of the Christian God, etc., and so do not believe in it. And since they already reject their own cultures superstitions, adding a few more probably wouldn’t im pact their nonbelief. It may seek only to shift their atheism toward Strong atheism.

    They, too, would have to arrive at nihilism if being logically consistent were important to them. And the term “free thinkers” is quite hilarious, since to a tee, atheists as a group claim to be “free thinkers”. Too funny.

    On the other hand, if you meant that atheism has the power to affect a person’s worldview/beliefs, then this is true. But it doesn’t makeit a belief system in and of itslef. It is merely an influence on pre-existing philosophies. After which, if you want to couch the se ramified beliefs in atheistic terms,that would seem fair, but it doesn’t make atheism the philosophical underpinning to one’s worldview/belief. Rather atheism merely helps to frame them-even as they do not stem from atheism proper.

    No, it’s perfectly common for people to have a worldview that is internally inconsistent. There’s no law against it.

    I hope that clarifies why atheism is not a belief system, even as it can influence and affect our beliefs.

    No, actually, it doesn’t.

    For the record, I was agreeing with you that Cyndi had a contradiction in terms, but contradictions in terms don’t always equate to being wrong. Consider the fo/llowing example: Gray is not black or white, but it is both black and white. A seeming contradiction in terms, but it is true none-the-less, because that is the properties by which we define grayness apart from black and white.

    It’s an apparent contradiction, but does not violate the law of noncontradiction because they are not meant in precisely the same way. However, Cyndi’s statements are logically mutually exclusive, not shades of grey.

    In thinking about the topic of morality, it probably helps to consider such examples, as there may be a lot of gray areas like this, pardon the pun, where things are not simply black and white.

    We’re not talking about moral epistemology here. We’re talking about moral ontology. Two separate things that are often confused. It’s a simple question – can man make factual statements regarding moral judgments, or are moral judgments merely opinion? It cannot be both. If one wants to put forth that they have a “better” moral system, and argue that point, then they have to have in mind an objective set of criteria by which to compare two competing moral systems. It’s that simple. If the set of criteria by which you judge two moral systems is simply your own subjective criteria, then there can be no moral superiority argument, as Cyndi attempted to claim. It’s like two people arguing over whether Italian or Mexican food is objectively better. Your criteria would be your own, and you’d not think less of someone who had different criteria.

    As such, I wouldn’t claim moral subjectivity and moral objectivity are contradictions. In fact, human thinking requires subjectivity in order to get objective values in the first place. So one can see right and wrong as subjective and cultural dependent… but still believe in framingan objective morality, because of they way in which we assign value.

    Assigning value does not an objective system make. Not even close.

  39. justin says:

    I need to work on my blockquoting….

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