The Raving Theist

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Stark Raving Me (Updated)

September 29, 2005 | 86 Comments

Looks like I blew another menage a trois. Jill of Feministe responds to yesterday’s post at her own blog:

Stark Raving Atheist

Looks like someone’s got a little crush on the Feministe ladies [linking to my posts to their blog] . And, apparently, we (or at least I) are/am tools of the religious right (who knew?), intent on making gays and lesbians hate themselves by way of discovering Jesus. You learn something new every day.

I would just keep arguing this out on RA’s site, but I’m tired — and since he doesn’t leave trackbacks here,* I’m bringin’ it home. I probably won’t argue my point much further here, because I think I was pretty clear in the first place, but here’s my take on religion: I consider my own beliefs to be private. I don’t think they’re any better or worse than yours, and I don’t like arguing about them in a public forum, because to me, they’re deeply personal, and between me and my God. If the fact that I believe in God makes me an idiot, fine. I don’t promote my own religion as the best one; I don’t think you’re going to hell if you don’t follow my line of belief. I recognize my religious and spiritual beliefs are often inconsistent. When it comes to the religious beliefs of others, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone and they’re not being pushed onto me, I’m cool with it. I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone that they’re stupid or wrong for believing what they do; I don’t think hostility towards religion in general is at all productive.

Interestingly, the Raving Atheist also posts on Dawn Eden’s blog — although you wouldn’t even know they were the same person by the tone of the posts. I wonder how Dawn feels about being told her religion is a joke and she’s “retarded” (not my word choice) for believing in God at all?

She also wants to know “[w]hen are you gonna tell Dawn Eden that she’s a self-hating fruitcake whose entire belief system is a crock?”

Alas, unrequited love. With nothing to lose, I might as well be candid this time.

There are, to date, forty-four posts under the category religion, many of them Jill’s. They spell out precisely what she believes God’s nature and will to be. Indeed, she declares a significant tenet of her belief in the very language quoted above: God doesn’t send people who disagree with His (and Jill’s) moral laws to Hell (murderers and rapists rejoice!) So the notion that her views are “personal” and “private” is quite absurd. She argues about them publicly all the time.

And she quite obviously believes her religious beliefs are better than the beliefs of others. Not two days ago labeled fundamentalist creationists as “wingnuts.” Every word she’s ever written about religion argues why people are “stupid or wrong” for believing differently from her, and presumably she does so because she thinks that “hostility towards religion” (or at least some religions) is productive. Indeed, the two posts of hers I critiqued here were devoted to exposing the stupid wrongness of the Catholic Church and other religions in their treatment of non-heterosexuals.

Religion is simply another form of politics. And it’s bad politics, because it’s false and based on principles which, as Jill admits, are “often inconsistent.” And insane. There’s absolutely no sound argument for bestowing immunity to people who dress up their politics in religious garb; to the contrary, the religious component is often precisely what makes their political arguments stupid and wrong and therefore fully deserving of attack. I suppose people’s feelings get hurt when you attack their religion, but so what? People who take their politics seriously cry just as hard.

Jill also believes, despite her protestations, in “pushing” her views on others. I am sure she would support criminalization of the Aztec practice of child sacrifice, much as I support the criminalization of the killing of unborn humans post-conception. She might even support the criminalization of the killing of an eight month old fetus for purely economic reasons, even though that might represent the “pushing” onto others of a certain brand of Protestantism. As I have argued in the comments at Feministe, the purpose of the criminal law and much of the civil law is the “pushing” of beliefs on otherwise unwilling citizens.

I agree with Jill that the “pushing” should not involve “hurting.” Unfortunately, the question of what “hurts” becomes quite confused once religion is introduced into the argument. It doesn’t necessarily “hurt” anyone to be murdered if they are immediately transported to a celestial Disneyland, and it doesn’t “hurt” anyone to murder if, as Jill insists, no one goes to hell. I measure hurt solely by the pain in this life, or by the irreversible deprivation of life itself.

As to Ms. Eden, I have candidly discussed my view of her views. I have criticized her again and again. She’s perfectly aware of my views and has candidly discussed the perils of permitting a creature such as me post on her blog, something that her own readers have advised her against. And in a recent column, she cited to this post of mine in which, referring to my friend Annie Banno, I noted that

I have told her flat out that I believe that religion is superstition. She has perused my blog enough to know that it is often viciously, cruelly and screechingly anti-religious, and that many of my diatribes have been directed at her beloved Catholic Church. She knows that I reject her views on homosexuality and gay rights and that I have condemned people who hold such views in stronger terms that any of you have. And that I will continue to do so.

Even with respect to abortion, an issue on which we agree, I have made it quite clear that I believe that the religious rationales for opposing the practice are by far weaker than the secular ones.

Ms. Eden has read all this and yet still lets me post on her blog. She defends her views as passionately as I do mine. But neither of us pretends that we’re not discussing religion, or that the truth of our views is somehow irrelevant to the debate. That would be retarded.

*I was under the impression that Moveable Type generates trackbacks automatically (as it has with other sites); I have asked my webmistress to look into the problem.

UPDATE: Jill responds here and elsewhere in the comments to Feministe. She notes, among other things, that religion is “not a particularly large part” of her life, and finds it “confusing as to how I turned into some spokesperson for Christianity here.”

Piny the evangelical agnostic also makes a number of points that he’s of course not insisting are true, and that are naturally open to any number of conflicting interpretations by reasonable people. One of them is that Leviticus is not necessarily anti-gay (although reasonable people could disagree as to the necessity of interpreting it one way or another). He’s also not necessarily disagreeing with me, insofar as my views (as interpreted by reasonable people), are not necessarily atheistic, pro-gay or or pro-life (although reasonable people might disagree as to their ambiguity).

Comments

86 Responses to “Stark Raving Me (Updated)”

  1. Tanooki Joe
    September 29th, 2005 @ 1:57 am

    This isn’t going to become a series, is it?

  2. Mijae
    September 29th, 2005 @ 2:45 am

    When someone assumes that they’re one of the open-minded tolerant ones, always admitting they could be wrong, it can be very hard to get through to them when you’ve actually found a spot where they are wrong. It’s quite embarrassing to have the mind-opening and error-checking done partly for you instead of all discovered by yourself. I speak from experience.

  3. Anonymous
    September 29th, 2005 @ 7:19 am

    Jill seems to have said:
    “I consider my own beliefs to be private. I don

  4. Kate B.
    September 29th, 2005 @ 9:09 am

    RA–

    Thank you for pointing out the connection between law and belief-pushing. It’s a tough point to make, and it comes up a lot in debates over the legality of abortion or homosexual marriage (and a lot of other issues). You are right: there is a system in place for legislating and normalizing ethics even for those who might not agree.

    Another point: the morality of “do no harm” gets fuzzy not, I think, when you add an afterlife into the mix (I’m not aware of any legal system wherein the supposed eternal destiny of the defendant or victim was used as a criterion for judging a case). It gets fuzzy when you deal with supposedly “victimless” crimes. I realize “do no harm” can be a fairly nuanced system, but it has its gray areas. I think Tom Delay is a current example. It’s easy to imagine someone defending him by saying “No one got hurt.” How far do we track the consequences of an action before the statute of limitations, so to speak, kicks in? How far do we check to see if an act really has done no harm? Just pondering…

  5. The Raving Atheist
    September 29th, 2005 @ 10:30 am

    Kate,

    You’re correct that the afterlife is not employed directly as a criterion for judging cases in the American legal system (although I’m not so sure that it isn’t in certain super-orthodox theocracies). But homosexual conduct was punishable by imprisonment in some states up until 2003, I believe that the Biblical proscriptions, including what afterlife punishments God held in store for gays and their sympathizers, motivated the passage of many of the anti-sodomy laws.

    I agree that “do no harm” can be fuzzy. But I don’t think it’s that fuzzy with respect to homosexual conduct, which I view as victimless no matter how far back you trace the consequences. And tt’s not fuzzy with respect to abortion, either, where the act itself constitutes the harm.

    I haven’t educated myself to the nuances of the Delay situation, but I’ll presume it’s one of those situations where the alleged harm is some kind of procedural damage to the “system” and the argument is that “disrespect” for the law would increase generally if everyone did whatever Delay is alleged to have done. Quite frankly, I find that kind of argument to be garbage 99% of the time — especially where the underlying “moral” issue is something like campaign finance. It’s just worthless “gotcha” politics no matter which side is doing the indicting (I felt the same way about the Clinton “perjury” rap), nonsense which is brought up to distract from real moral issues.

  6. The Raving Atheist
    September 29th, 2005 @ 10:42 am

    Mijae,

    It’s quite embarrassing to have the mind-opening and error-checking done partly for you instead of all discovered by yourself. I speak from experience.

    Don’t be cheap again . . . let’s have all the juicy details. Or are they posted on some grocery store bulletin board?

  7. Sportin' Life
    September 29th, 2005 @ 11:54 am

    I think Tom Delay is a current example. It’s easy to imagine someone defending him by saying “No one got hurt.”

    I don’t see it this way at all. The “victims” are all of us who believe in an honest and responsible democratic process–one in which legislation and legislators are not bought and sold. The charges have to do with illegally funding corporate money (i.e. bribes, by any reasonable standard, in exchange for laws that bring a significant ROI) to candidates who are then beholden to the paymasters.

    So what are you talking about?

  8. Sportin' Life
    September 29th, 2005 @ 11:54 am

    I think Tom Delay is a current example. It’s easy to imagine someone defending him by saying “No one got hurt.”

    I don’t see it this way at all. The “victims” are all of us who believe in an honest and responsible democratic process–one in which legislation and legislators are not bought and sold. The charges have to do with illegally funding corporate money (i.e. bribes, by any reasonable standard, in exchange for laws that bring a significant ROI) to candidates who are then beholden to the paymasters.

    So what are you talking about?

  9. Sportin' Life
    September 29th, 2005 @ 11:54 am

    I think Tom Delay is a current example. It’s easy to imagine someone defending him by saying “No one got hurt.”

    I don’t see it this way at all. The “victims” are all of us who believe in an honest and responsible democratic process–one in which legislation and legislators are not bought and sold. The charges have to do with illegally funding corporate money (i.e. bribes, by any reasonable standard, in exchange for laws that bring a significant ROI) to candidates who are then beholden to the paymasters.

    So what are you talking about?

  10. Sportin' Life
    September 29th, 2005 @ 11:54 am

    I think Tom Delay is a current example. It’s easy to imagine someone defending him by saying “No one got hurt.”

    I don’t see it this way at all. The “victims” are all of us who believe in an honest and responsible democratic process–one in which legislation and legislators are not bought and sold. The charges have to do with illegally funding corporate money (i.e. bribes, by any reasonable standard, in exchange for laws that bring a significant ROI) to candidates who are then beholden to the paymasters.

    So what are you talking about?

  11. Kate B.
    September 29th, 2005 @ 12:07 pm

    I’m not trying to say that what Delay did is a victimless crime; I’m just citing it as an example where the victim isn’t obvious (as opposed to, say, rape or murder), and thinking on screen about the need for nuance and far sight when “do no harm” is the sole basis of the moral code.

    That’s all.

    Oh, and I’m not trying to say that homosexuality is somehow a “victimful” crime, either. Like I said, just thinking on screen.

  12. Kate B.
    September 29th, 2005 @ 12:08 pm

    On reading that, it appears I had better make clear that I’m also not saying that homosexuality is a crime of any kind.

  13. Steve G.
    September 29th, 2005 @ 12:23 pm

    RA:
    I have seen you make the point several times that you think that the belief in the afterlife somehow guts the theist

  14. Steve G.
    September 29th, 2005 @ 12:29 pm

    Kate B: Great to see you here! It’s been pretty lonely here for a while with just me and lurker, but damn if it isn’t fun!

  15. hermesten
    September 29th, 2005 @ 3:16 pm

    “I’m just citing it as an example where the victim isn’t obvious (as opposed to, say, rape or murder)”

    So, basically, rob one person and it’s a crime, rob one million and it’s a statistic? A rather Stalinist philosophy isn’t it? Should someone go to prison for stealing a penny from me? DeLay steals $1 million from an individual and it’s a crime, but if he steals a penny from a hundred million people he’s just a victim of a vast left-wing conspiracy? It’s amazing how morally relativistic the “family values” people become when their lives are the ones under scrutiny. Ah well, the new Republican philosophy: from each of the powerless, to each of the powerful. Ah, the glories of the new collectivism.

  16. Kate B.
    September 29th, 2005 @ 3:29 pm

    How is saying that the victim isn’t obvious the same as saying there is no victim? I’m just trying to sound out the nuances of “do no harm” in cases where no blood has been spilled. Yes, if Delay is guilty as charged, there are a million victims. But no one’s bleeding–how does a morality of “I can do what I want if no one gets hurt” either deal with that kind of situation or regulate against it?

  17. hermesten
    September 29th, 2005 @ 3:56 pm

    “It’s just worthless “gotcha” politics no matter which side is doing the indicting (I felt the same way about the Clinton “perjury” rap), nonsense which is brought up to distract from real moral issues.”

    What are the “real” moral issues? Abortion, homosexuality, Janet Jackson’s nipples, and naked Jews on their way to the Nazi ovens in prime time? I wonder, since you explicitly mention abortion and homosexuaity, but seem rather unconcerend about corruption, fraud, lies that serve powerful interests, and mass slaughter. Oh yeah, DeLay just made a “procedural” error, Bush didn’t lie about WMD’s –he’s just stupid, Frist sold the stock in his “blind” trust out of altruism, Halliburton keeps getting all those no-bid cost-plus contracts in Iraq in-spite of Cheny being vice-president, and we’re fighting the Saudi terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 in Iraq.

    Well fellow atheists, you shouldn’t be surprised that Kate has friends in the ‘Bama Senate. If we’d just let people like her into our bedrooms to make sure we weren’t enagaging in unauthorized sexual acitivity, and her Christian friends could just tell us what we can read and watch –for our own good mind you– then God will bless Amerika again, and we’ll all be eating that rainbow stew. I suggest everyone start standing in front of the mirror every morning and practicing their Zeig Heils.

    Here’s what they’re bragging about over at the WorldNut —er, WolrdNetDaily:

    “New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness,” wrote Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, in a column, according to the Birmingham News. “It is the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God.”

    “Erwin said the catastrophic storms are part of a pattern evident in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, claiming God has removed an umbrella of protection from America due to an increase in abortion, pornography and prostitution.”

    So, it turns out all our problems are due to lust, selfish women, “dirty” pictures, and Heidi Fleiss (Note: “dirty” pictures are those which depict the uncovered human form we’re told was created by God, and people engaged in sexual acitivity and love-making, they do not include the depiction of decapitations, heads and faces blown-off by high explosives, women burned by napalm, children with their legs blown off by landmines, the effects of .50 caliber machine gun bullets and 20mm cannon rounds on the human body, charred corpses, military activity, or war-making).

  18. hermesten
    September 29th, 2005 @ 4:14 pm

    “How is saying that the victim isn’t obvious the same as saying there is no victim?”

    Who said you said there is no victim? I was just commending your collectivist spirit. What I was actually contesting was your implication that DeLay didn’t do anything wrong because the consequences of his criminality are distributed by small measure among many victims. I would contend that DeLay, by vitue of his post, his knowledge of the law, and the position of trust he holds as a leader in the US Congress (I know….don’t laugh), should be held to an even higher standard than the typical corporate crook. I don’t support the Al Queda standard, where we consider ourselves morally superior so long as we kill fewer innocent people, and torture them less, than the terrorsts do; I’m more of a Captain-of-the-Ship kinda guy, where the people in charge are supposed to set the example and take responsiblity for their actions, and if need be, go down with the ship.

  19. jahrta
    September 29th, 2005 @ 4:30 pm

    Herm,

    At this point can you actually claim with a straight face that you’re shocked by the criminal actions of a member of the Republican party? Expressing anger or dismay with them at having abused our trust or somehow wronged us – theist and atheist alike – is akin to yelling at a toddler for finger painting with the contents of his diaper: what the fuck did you really expect? if anything, the only true surprise comes to us in the form of being alerted to the illegal activity in the first place. It’s the one true sign that we’re not quite living in a dictatorship just yet.

    big brother is robbing you

  20. jahrta
    September 29th, 2005 @ 5:02 pm

    Herm

    check out this guy on eBay. If any part of it is true, it’s some really scary shit

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Sin-City-2005-DVD-loose-change-dvd_W0QQitemZ6433956248QQcategoryZ617QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    hopefully you’ll be able to pull up the link. if not, look for a user named scooterpiehoneybuns

  21. hermesten
    September 29th, 2005 @ 5:12 pm

    My only surprise is the indictment. Normally these pepople operate with complete impunity. In fact, I no longer even think it’s true that DeLay represents an unethical “minority” in our government. I think quite the opposite is true: our government is now so corrupt than an honest official must keep his mouth shut and look the other way or be driven out of office by the corrupt majority –charged with the malfeasance of which his accusers are actually guilty (I’m talking about politicians and the cronies they appoint, like Brown the FEMA clown, not career civil servants).

    Also, this country is now so corrupt from top to bottom that I don’t believe we can use “legal” and “illegal” as any kind of ethical pointers. Most of the acitivies of the corpopolitical criminal class of which DeLay is a part have actually been made legal by the very criminals to which they would apply. By contrast, anyone who tries to do the right thing is punished. For example, the Army captain exposing the abuse of prisoners in Iraq will have his career destroyed, while Gonzales, one of the criminals who made this conduct possible, got promoted to Attorney General.

  22. Kate B.
    September 29th, 2005 @ 5:19 pm

    Okay, so we do have it that corruption and fund-gunning are not, in fact, victimless crimes–no one said they were. But the victims are down the pipeline, several steps removed from the perpetrators–in this case, Delay. And the crimes, down the pipeline, becomes very bloody. Thus, there’s plenty of reason for regulating–for making illegal–behavior that at first may appear to cause no harm. Glad the “do no harm” system is capable of working out the fuzzy parts. So, if there were evidence that private drug use, pornography, or other supposed victimless crimes created victims down the line, we’d be justified in legislating against them? Just like we rightly legislate against corruption and abuse of power and prosecute against when we find it, as is rightly being done to Delay?

  23. hermesten
    September 29th, 2005 @ 5:41 pm

    jahrta,

    1. I don’t subscribe to the notion that some part of the US government carried out the 9/11 attack, even though there is a documented historical precedent for such an action (see Project Northwoods), and this administration, and some of the people in government doing their bidding, are morally capable of such an act.

    2. There are parts of the government that conduct “Black Ops.” There are also groups within the government who might conduct an operation that is not supported by US policy, or would not be approved by those who have the authority. I don’t believe all the conspiratorial stuff about missles and remote controlled planes. If one of these groups or agencies wanted to carry out a terrorist act like 9/11, what they would most likely do is provide the means, motive, and wherewithall for actual terrorists to carry it out, via the intelligence service of some country like Pakistan. Though I don’t believe that was what happened on 9/11, I would not be at all surprised to learn that the Bush administration could have stopped what happened and chose not to in order to increase their power and facilitate their agenda.

    3. That said, there is reams of evidence about government infiltration of political groups, the use of government provocateurs to instigate or commit acts to create a pretext for government action (can you say CONINTELPRO), the use of police provocateurs to instigate violence during protest demonstrations, and the comission of terrorist acts, such as car bombing, in foreign countries. Though it has been downplayed by the MSM, it looks like the Brits may have been caught in Iraq before they staged just such a “terrorist” act. Two British SAS soldiers were disguised to look like members of a particular Iraqi militia group, shot at Iraqi police, were said to be caught with an arsenal of weapons (including a rocket launcher), explosives, and a remote control detonator. Within hours the Brits demolished the entire jail (in the “soverign” country of Iraq) and killed five Iraqi civilians to get these guys out. Not once did I hear our “informative” media remind us of the Geneva Convention –you know, how it says soldiers in disguise are “spies” and can be executed– as they did during the invasion whenever any Iraqi was out of uniform. Personally, I think we got a brief glimpse of what is behind the curtain.

  24. Mijae
    September 29th, 2005 @ 6:01 pm

    Don’t be cheap again . . . let’s have all the juicy details. Or are they posted on some grocery store bulletin board?

    Well I’ll try. It’s too far back to find any good message board links (grocery store or otherwise) – I was just recalling the days of when my husband and I first met. I used to think I had to play nice and respect religious beliefs for no reason too, until he gave me pretty much the same arguments as yours. He had to make them for a fairly long time until I realized I was being open-minded to everybody except him.

    It all had a happy ending, though. ; )

  25. hermesten
    September 29th, 2005 @ 6:15 pm

    Sorry Kate, you’re the one with the fuzzy notions. “Legality” is the refuge of today’s moral relativists, like the Bush administration. The crooks legalize their crimes and then say they haven’t done anything “illegal.” To paraphrase Jefferson: pornography neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg. You’re the one speaking about hypothetical injuries. Whether or not DeLay broke any legs, he’s still a pickpocket. The question isn’t whether or not DeLay did anything wrong, but whether he and his buddies have yet managed to corrupt the law enough for him to get away with it.

    But thanks for validating my supposition that your real concerns about “morality” have far more to do with regulating the behavior of other people who don’t subsribe to your nonsense that any conern with actual injury to other people. It’s OK for the State to kick down my door in the middle of the night on the suspicion that I might have some marijuana, and kill me or some family member, or take my property without even charging me with a “crime,” just as long as no one can watch a movie that depcits people having sex.

    You know what? To apply your fuzzy moral concept, Christianity isn’t a “victimless crime” either. It’s victims are legion and the damage it does to individuals and communities is often direct and measurable. People who think like you do are dangeous to my health and a threat to the health and well being of my children. So, by your own logic, if us atheists ever get any power, we’d be perfectly justified in legislating against religion and religionists. Isn’t that what it all boils down to in your philosophy: power? Isn’t the motto of the new Christianized Republican Party “might makes right, and the ends justify the means?”

    I just read of a study correlating religion with high divorce rates, adultery, and even murder, at greater rates than it occurs in less religious societies. So, be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

  26. Mijae
    September 29th, 2005 @ 6:18 pm

    Hm, guess I should add something else, as I just remembered one other bit that would be good to share. During my blind-tolerance-and-respect phase, even though I could acknowledge that I disagreed with people making religious arguments, and in fact disagreed that they had any good reason to make those arguments, I was trying to find a way that we could still agree overall. A way to rationalize it so both sides could be satisfied.

    But I was looking not because I genuinely thought that we all agreed deep down, and everyone could respect each other… but because I was subconsciously realizing how much hell it would be if I really WAS going to disagree with that much of the world, and claim that all these people are wrong. I’d be up against not just the theists, but the other atheists in my old position who thought they had to kowtow to the majority by using “respect”. It was too scary. But when that subconscious reasoning became more conscious, I was finally shamed out of it.

    Too bad this doesn’t seem to have much to do with the comments’ current discussion by now…

  27. hermesten
    September 29th, 2005 @ 6:29 pm

    “But I was looking not because I genuinely thought that we all agreed deep down, and everyone could respect each other… but because I was subconsciously realizing how much hell it would be if I really WAS going to disagree with that much of the world, and claim that all these people are wrong.”

    I played at being a deist, and then an agnostic for this very reason. We have to stop kissing the ass of people like Kate if we’re going to prevent them from turning out the lights. I could probably live with religion if Christians were mostly like Frank. But most of them in Amerika are much closer to Kate, and this means that religion is not just a threat to those of us in countries like the US and Afghanistan (their mullahs do dress a little differently than ours), but to the entire human species. For Christ’s sake, we all can’t live in France, can we? (Oh those French, if nothing else, during their revolution, they certainly knew how to treat a man of the cloth).

  28. Lurker
    September 29th, 2005 @ 7:20 pm

    This debate cuts both ways I think. I’m still waiting for a response from the atheists that proves morality doesn’t boil down to anything more than cultural preference – like prefering bowling over biking.

    If you can’t prove it using the same standard you demand of theists to prove god exists, then tell my why should I believe in your morality any more than you should believe in my god?

  29. Lurker
    September 29th, 2005 @ 11:09 pm

    Bueller?
    Bueller?

    :: crickets chirping ::

    Bueller?

  30. Paul
    September 30th, 2005 @ 6:38 am

    OK, lurker, here goes.

    One possibility for morality is that certain essentials of human experience (death, natural selection, etc.) tend to produce moralities that will help the group or tribe survive, even if an individual doesn’t. I recall a book several years ago from a primatologist that detailed many instances of altruistic behavior in animals (can’t remember the title, if you really want I’ll scan my library’s stacks and I’ll hopefully run across it).

    Furthermore, because morality is instilled in us from an early age, we, as individuals, cannot merely choose which moral code anymore than, after a certain age, most of us can’t choose which language we will be fluent in.

    This makes morality much more than choosing vanilla over chocolate.

  31. Paul
    September 30th, 2005 @ 6:40 am

    Oh, lurker, at least for myself, I’m not demanding that you believe in my morality, as I’m not sure that morality is something we choose (like vanilla over chocolate).

  32. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 7:04 am

    It’s no cultural preference to desire continued breathing.

  33. Steve G.
    September 30th, 2005 @ 8:07 am

    Paul:
    That’s not morality. That’s a simple statement of a possible biological fact that may exist. You even tacitly admit that it’s not a real moral statement by saying it ‘tends’ to produce, meaning it doesn’t universally do so, meaning it’s subjective to the individual, meaning it’s nothing more than personal preference (like choosing vanilla over chocolate).
    ————————-

    Anon:
    Maybe not cultural, but it’s certianly a personal preference. And some people apparently do not desire to continue breathing; therefore, we have suicides.

  34. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 8:26 am

    Steve G.,
    Of course, I did not state that breathing wasn’t a personal preference. It is, however, inarguable that it is not cultural to breathe. Humans prefer to breathe until they are able to make a conscious choice otherwise. They are not trained by those who come before them in how or why to breathe. It is also an inaccurate representation to claim that choosing to breathe or not to breathe is a matter of preference comparable to bowling and biking, of which humans would have no knowledge unless trained.

  35. Steve G.
    September 30th, 2005 @ 9:50 am

    I am using (and assumed you were too) ‘breathe’ as a metaphor for living/existing. At the point prior to the human being able to conciously make that choice, they aren’t rational enough to make moral choices either (age of reason an all at’). Once that age is reached, both moral choices and choice to continue living are solely personal preference under the paradigm Paul laid out.

  36. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 10:24 am

    No no, I am talking specifically about the act of breathing. Not hunting skills, not hanging oneself, not using a gun. These things seem to be culture, but breathing specifically is not a preference. You can’t stop breathing (only not breathing, not active suicide through some method) on purpose for long. Is breathing subjective or objective?

    Lurker said:
    “I’m still waiting for a response from the atheists that proves morality doesn’t boil down to anything more than cultural preference – like prefering bowling over biking.

    If you can’t prove it using the same standard you demand of theists to prove god exists, then tell my why should I believe in your morality any more than you should believe in my god?”

    This is pretty easy, and I’ve stated it before. My personal preferences don’t interfere with yours. Your unprovable beliefs allow others’ unprovable beliefs, and their unprovable beliefs harm me through faith-based legislation.

    There’s another argument as well: I exist, therefore my preferences take precedence over your non-existent god’s preferences, the very preferences you call objective morality. Or is your objective morality different from god’s objective morality?

  37. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 10:25 am

    No no, I am talking specifically about the act of breathing. Not hunting skills, not hanging oneself, not using a gun. These things seem to be culture, but breathing specifically is not a preference. You can’t stop breathing (only not breathing, not active suicide through some method) on purpose for long. Is breathing subjective or objective?

    Lurker said:
    “I’m still waiting for a response from the atheists that proves morality doesn’t boil down to anything more than cultural preference – like prefering bowling over biking.

    If you can’t prove it using the same standard you demand of theists to prove god exists, then tell my why should I believe in your morality any more than you should believe in my god?”

    This is pretty easy, and I’ve stated it before. My personal preferences don’t interfere with yours. Your unprovable beliefs allow others’ unprovable beliefs, and their unprovable beliefs harm me through faith-based legislation.

    There’s another argument as well: I exist, therefore my preferences take precedence over your non-existent god’s preferences, the very preferences you call objective morality. Or is your objective morality different from god’s objective morality?

  38. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 10:26 am

    Sorry for the double (now triple) post. Server error it said.

  39. Lurker
    September 30th, 2005 @ 11:46 am

    This is pretty easy, and I’ve stated it before. My personal preferences don’t interfere with yours. Your unprovable beliefs allow others’ unprovable beliefs, and their unprovable beliefs harm me through faith-based legislation.

    It’s not that easy. Who cares if my preferences interfere with yours? Your preferences interfere with mine, does that count for anything? Your unprovable/irrational belief that your preference should trump mine is hogwash.

    There’s another argument as well: I exist, therefore my preferences take precedence over your non-existent god’s preferences, the very preferences you call objective morality. Or is your objective morality different from god’s objective morality?

    We’re talking about your irrational belief in a morality that doesn

  40. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 12:30 pm

    “Hypothetically speaking, what if my purpose is to destroy you? Just because you believe in some magical/mystical concept that I should do no harm to you is of no concern to me unless you can prove you are correct.”

    If your preference comes into conflict with mine, then that’s of subjective concern to me. I don’t need to prove my subjective opinion. Theists believe their morality comes from a higher power, it’s not their own. They’re claiming their preference is objective. They’re the ones who can’t back it up.

  41. Paul
    September 30th, 2005 @ 12:43 pm

    Steve G., my dictionary says “morality: . . . rightness or wrongness of an action; . . . being in accord with the principles or standards of right conduct.” It says nothing about being unviersal.

    Please tell me your definition of morality, and then we can continue.

  42. Kate B.
    September 30th, 2005 @ 12:43 pm

    Hermesten–

    Maybe I’m not being clear, but you and I agree on certain points. For one thing, we agree that Delay is a criminal (granted, he has yet to be convicted, but I think it’s a fair bet–he’s a Republican from Texas, after all). And Deley is a criminal with a large number of victims, as I have said before:

    “Yes, if Delay is guilty as charged, there are a million victims.”

    And we both agree that crimes that may seem, on the surface, to be harmless, are actually quite horrific once the ripple effect has done its job. As I’ve (again) said before:

    “And the crimes, down the pipeline, becomes very bloody. Thus, there’s plenty of reason for regulating–for making illegal–behavior that at first may appear to cause no harm.”

    And I think, based on the above and on some of your comments, that you and I agree that the law ought not to be abused to make legal the crimes of the powerful. It should not be corrupted. No politician should be able to change the law so that s/he is able to get away with murder.

    So far, so good. We’re on the same side of the fence, here.

    The question that comes next, I think, is if other actions are proven to have the same disastrous effects as politicians lining their pockets–I cited pornography and drug use as two, but you could make the same argument about buying SUVs, funding big pharma, supporting soccer hooligans, etc, etc–if any of those actions could be empirically proven to cause harm down the line, would we not be justified, on the basis of doing no harm, in legislating against them? Since we agree that the purpose of legislation is not to make might right, I think this is a fair question.

    I would say “yes” in answer–and I have no problem with the idea of outlawing SUVs. What would you say?

  43. Steve G.
    September 30th, 2005 @ 1:17 pm

    Steve G., my dictionary says “morality: . . . rightness or wrongness of an action; . . . being in accord with the principles or standards of right conduct.” It says nothing about being unviersal.

    Please tell me your definition of morality, and then we can continue.

    Paul,
    This is the problem (we’ve been through this in some detail with others in a recent discussion), see here…

    [url]http://ravingatheist.com/mt/mt-com.cgi?entry_id=1133[/url]

    (start around post #93)

    Your definition simply kicks the can down the road. You are appealing to the ‘rightness or wrongness of an action… in accord with a principle or standard.’ But that assumes a standard from which one can deviate actually exists. The very definition implies an objective standard.

    By definition atheism rejects objective standards, but the individual atheist can not create a moral system without assuming that one/some exists. Can you make a moral claim for any ethic you hold without referring it to some other moral value judgement you make upon which it rests?

  44. Lurker
    September 30th, 2005 @ 1:30 pm

    If your preference comes into conflict with mine, then that’s of subjective concern to me. I don’t need to prove my subjective opinion. Theists believe their morality comes from a higher power, it’s not their own. They’re claiming their preference is objective. They’re the ones who can’t back it up.

    You’re arguing for your position so YES you are trying to prove your subjective opinion. And that’s the whole point of this discussion.

    I believe in a god and you believe in a particular morality – your morality. You admit it’s totally subjective, just a made up concept, yet you expect me to take it seriously. Why? It’s like you’re asking me to believe in Santa Claus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Why take a non-existent concept seriously without any evidence to back it up?

    “Isn’t it ironic” – Alanis Morissete

  45. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 1:32 pm

    “By definition atheism rejects objective standards, but the individual atheist can not create a moral system without assuming that one/some exists.”

    Incorrect. An atheist may believe that subjective standards, when agreed upon by the majority, are acceptable as common principles. No god needed.

  46. Lurker
    September 30th, 2005 @ 1:45 pm

    Incorrect. An atheist may believe that subjective standards, when agreed upon by the majority, are acceptable as common principles. No god needed.

    Why is belief in the manmade concept of morality any different than the manmade concept of god? Atheists only challenge the concept of god and give the concept of morality a pass. Why? Your morality may seem more reasonable than my god, but you still haven’t proven anything. It’s still just a bunch of faith-based junk.

  47. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 1:46 pm

    “You’re arguing for your position so YES you are trying to prove your subjective opinion. And that’s the whole point of this discussion.”

    hhhheeehhhhh. (tired sigh, strong with implied ennui)

    I don’t have to prove my subjective opinion because, since I create it, it’s mine to know the truth about. If you believe I’m lying about my opinion I’m not sure how I could possibly prove my opinion to you.

    “You admit it’s totally subjective, just a made up concept, yet you expect me to take it seriously..”

    Everything we can perceive is subjective. Of course I have to take your subjective (which you pretend is objective) opinion seriously. As I stated, faith-based legislation hurts me personally. Don’t you take the beliefs of the people making the laws seriously?

    Your argument may apply to some atheists who believe in objective morality (but probably not all), but it certainly doesn’t apply to me. Your generalization is false.

  48. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 1:50 pm

    “It’s still just a bunch of faith-based junk”

    My subjective opinion isn’t faith based. But if you’re right, everything else, including whatever religion you may subscribe to, IS faith-based junk. If you don’t believe that’s true then you are using an argument you don’t really believe, and of course you know that’s sophistry.

  49. Steve G.
    September 30th, 2005 @ 2:00 pm

    Incorrect. An atheist may believe that subjective standards, when agreed upon by the majority, are acceptable as common principles. No god needed.

    It’s still just a subjective preference as it does not apply to everyone. Consensus does not equal objective/universal. To the 1% of people who would like to be pedophiles, you are imposing on them. Again, the can gets kicked down the road. You’ve valued consensus as somehow a valid means of making such determinations. You’ve determined that consensus is ‘good’. Upon what does that value judgement rest? I think you’ve already admitted this previously though, so I assume you are playing a bit of the devil’s advocate.

  50. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 2:12 pm

    “By definition atheism rejects objective standards, but the individual atheist can not create a moral system without assuming that one/some exists.”

    It’s still a standard even if it isn’t universal. Also, again I seem to have been quoted as saying a word I did not say. A standard need not be good to qualify as a standard, and if the majority adopts the standard then it is a standard. Standards do impose on others, but I was not implying that they are good or bad. Someone had made a claim that a standard requires objective morality.

    I am actually on record here many times as stating that Good and Evil are all in your mind.

    Oh, and Steve, given the diligence of my respected friend and troll over the months I’ve been here (you know the one I mean), I doubt my doppelganger has truly retired. Shame too, it was a cool name.

  51. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 2:27 pm

    I’m looking at “standard” in the on-line dictionary and goddamn if the word good fails to appear anywhere on the page.

  52. Lurker
    September 30th, 2005 @ 2:29 pm

    I am actually on record here many times as stating that Good and Evil are all in your mind.

    This gets at the core of the whole debate. You want laws passed to match your moral beliefs and the beliefs of people who think like you. You want theists to stop doing certain things because of your adherance to this belief. You live your life according to this belief – it affects nearly every aspect of your life – yet you admit it’s all made up just like Santa Claus. How is this any less crazy than believing in a god?

  53. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 4:50 pm

    Lurker you’ve finally defeated your own argument. If all of our beliefs are subjective, and there’s no objective morality, then your belief is, as you put it “a bunch of faith-based junk”.
    Or you must admit that you believe there is an objective morality. If that’s true, and you believe that your objective morality somehow trumps my subjective preferences, then you are admitting that your beliefs take precedence over mine.

    And I don’t actually make objective morality judgments, especially ones that appeal to any higher power. Your argument about any intent to impose my non-existent morality on you is spurious. Please quote me if I have made a morality call in this forum.
    Perhaps you can find another atheist to try and support your theory that all atheists make objective morality judgments, but since I am one that doesn’t, your theory seems a little shaky at the moment.

  54. hermesten
    September 30th, 2005 @ 5:31 pm

    “The question that comes next, I think, is if other actions are proven to have the same disastrous effects as politicians lining their pockets–I cited pornography and drug use as two, but you could make the same argument about buying SUVs, funding big pharma, supporting soccer hooligans, etc, etc–if any of those actions could be empirically proven to cause harm down the line, would we not be justified, on the basis of doing no harm, in legislating against them?”

    In general, my answer is no. My reason is illustrated by Jefferson’s statement about other people’s religion: it neither breaks my leg or picks my pocket. For one thing, one man’s hell can be another man’s heaven. For another, there is no human behavior that can’t be described as “causing harm.” But there is harm, and there is “harm.” Breaking my leg with a baseball bat is one kind of harm, hurting my feelings with an insensitive remark is another: the first is objective –at least to some degree– and can be easily distinguished and quantified; the second is entirely subjective, cannot be quantified, and differs in affect and consequence from person to person.

    I don’t think the examples you give are even equivalent. For instance, I don’t know what you mean by “supporting soccer hooligans,” but such a prohibition scares the hell out of me. Are you suggesting we fine or imprison the fans of Manchester United? How does one “support” a soccer hooligan? We could say that the mere existence of soccer supports soccer hooligans. Would you ban soccer? There are already laws against vandalism, theft, and assault, so what do we need another law for? What problem are you trying to solve? In any case, though the State may act to dminish extreme fan enthusiasm, it will NEVER attempt to legislate away enthusiastic fans. Sports teams expolit and reinforce the human inclination for tribal identification, and they teach, and help to condition people to, conformity and subordination. Sports fans are one of the State’s most valuable assets.

    Also, I don’t know what you mean by “funding” big pharma. Are you talking about State subsidies? If so there should be no public funding of big pharma, or any other private enterprise. Here the transgression against the individual is direct: the State uses force to take his money and then gives it to someone else to use for a private purpose. Here I am less concerned than above, because the State is already taking my money anyway, and all we’re really talking about is how what they take is going to be distributed. The impact on my liberty in this case is primarily philosophical; to the extent that the existing burden is redistributed there is little or no impact in practice.

    Now, if I sit at home and smoke some marijuana it has no impact on you whatsoever, in any meaningful sense of the word. If your argument is about how my money is spent, and where it goes, then I can make the same argument about anything you like to do, from going to movies to reading a book (and btw, the only non-prescription drug I consume is alcohol). The possibilities to show harm in this context are endless, so the result of taking this path is government by whim. If your argument has more to do with me getting in a car and injuring someone by driving under the influence then the problem can be more appropriately addressed with serve penatlies for driving under the influence of marijuana.

    Finally, pornography. What is it? Joyce defined it best by saying that it was representation that causes the viewer to desire the object being depicted. All advertising aspires to be pornography. But I suspect your concern is only about the depiction of sexual activity. Again though, what is it? Ulysses was banned as pornography at one time, and of course, under current US law, only obscenity is illegal (legally, “obscenity” is really little more than a flexible word used to describe the pornography status quo when the court decision was rendered).

    I see two fundamental problems with legislating against pornography. First, my consumption of pornography does not injure you. If you don’t like pornography, don’t get any. Second, someone has to decide what is and what is not pornography and this kind of decision always descends to the lowest common intellectual denominator. People who don’t like, can’t appreciate, and don’t understand Ulysses are not fit to judge it as being pornographic, and yet these are always the kind of people that make these kinds of decisions for everyone else. As a body of purportedly educated people, legislators, especially in the US where there is no true historical sense of aristocracy, are short-sighted, incurious, culturally remote and clueless, creatively tone-deaf, and technologically incompetent. These are not people who are fit to tell other people what is appropriate for them them to read, hear, and see.

  55. Lurker
    September 30th, 2005 @ 5:54 pm

    Anonymous:
    I think you miss the point of this whole exercise. I understand you don’t believe in objective morality – I get it. In fact, most atheists don’t believe in objective morality so you’re not alone.

    However….

    You all believe your subjective morality is something worthwhile and valuable enough to live by. Look at the TRA website for example. It’s purpose is to show “How Religious Devotion Trivializes American Law and Politics”. Now as you readily admit, this statement by TRA is just made up nonsense. Yet most atheists are here dogmatically proclaiming this made up concept to be true! Can’t atheists control themselves enough to act in accordance with what they believe to be true? Can you see outright sillyness of that behavior?

    It’s belief. It’s all belief. Atheists are people living their lives according to a bunch of made up ideas/concepts/rules. From the atheist’s perspecitve this should be no different than the “Godidiot” deciding to live their life according to what god wants. Atheists mock one belief yet happily pretend their own belief is real in the sense that it

  56. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2005 @ 6:12 pm

    Your generalization also gets a chuckle, as does your mis-characterization of my argument. I’m afraid it’s become all too typical for you Lurker. There are other fallacious arguments to pick from, you needn’t beat the straw man theme to death.
    Weird, you seem loathe to reveal your truth. Don’t be afraid, put it out there.

  57. Kate B.
    October 1st, 2005 @ 3:40 pm

    Hermesten–

    The smoking of pot, the purchase of pornography, the idolization of the GOP and the SUV, and the turning of pharmaceutical companies into big business (and away from actual searches for cures) create or fuel systems that lead to destruction down the line. If we’re willing to legislate in the case of the GOP that might does not equal right and that the system itself needs to be kept from causing destruction, then why aren’t we willing to do so in other cases? Granted, it’d be a tough call in any case–how to legislate without infringing on freedoms and rights. But if my buying mass-produced, non-organic, non-fair-trade food, while it causes neither myself nor my next neighbor any harm, causes great harm and destruction further down the line, a case can be made for banning it. The question is with a do-no-harm morality is, how far are you willing to go? How little harm do you really want to cause? To say that Delay’s a crook, but that anyone else just spending their money to fuel a corrupt system is simply free, seems like a contradiction. I say Delay’s a crook; I also say that funding corrupt systems is harmful. And I’m not going to bother putting harm in quotations marks; I don’t think it’s merely so-to-speak harm; it’s real.

    By the way, liking James Joyce is hardly a standard for being able to judge either pornography or harm. Quite a number of professionals in the field of literature who are capable of undersatnding Joyce consider him vastly overrated.

  58. Paul
    October 1st, 2005 @ 4:58 pm

    Steve G, sorry for the long wait for a reply, but here it is:

    Moral standards do not have to be either objective or subjective. Here’s an analogy how that is possible: would you say that you speak English because (1) you’ve objectively determined that it is the “best” language, or (2) you speak English merely on a subjective whim? Of course, it’s neither. You speak English because that is how you were raised by your culture, and people in general hold the moral codes that they do not because they are objective standards, nor because people choose to do so on a whim, but because that is how they were raised by their culture, and so those moral codes are ingrained and instilled.

  59. Paul
    October 1st, 2005 @ 5:00 pm

    Steve G., here’s another way to look at it: instead of god being necessary to provide the foundation for a moral code, one’s upbringing does much the same; imperfectly, of course.

  60. Paul
    October 1st, 2005 @ 5:03 pm

    Luker wrote: “Why is belief in the manmade concept of morality any different than the manmade concept of god? Atheists only challenge the concept of god and give the concept of morality a pass. Why?”

    Disregarding the “concept” idea, atheists see no good evidence for the existence of god, whereas the existence of moral codes in society has very good evidence for it. Or did you mean something different?

  61. Mark D. Fulwiler
    October 2nd, 2005 @ 1:15 pm

    RA:

    What civil penalties would you support for women who have abortions and/or doctors or others who perform abortions?

  62. hermesten
    October 2nd, 2005 @ 8:14 pm

    “By the way, liking James Joyce is hardly a standard for being able to judge either pornography or harm. Quite a number of professionals in the field of literature who are capable of undersatnding Joyce consider him vastly overrated.”

    Wow, three logical fallacies in two short sentences: two strawmen (1 – that I said Joyce was a “standard” for judging pornography when I actually said, twice, that there is no standard; and 2 –an argument from authority: something is true because an authority says it’s true). I’m sorry you must rely on the opinions of others instead of your own. You remind me the Diane Keaton character in Woody Allen’s “Manhatten.”

    “If we’re willing to legislate in the case of the GOP that might does not equal right and that the system itself needs to be kept from causing destruction, then why aren’t we willing to do so in other cases?”

    Answered above, before you asked this question.

  63. Steve G.
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 9:53 am

    Moral standards do not have to be either objective or subjective. Here’s an analogy how that is possible: would you say that you speak English because (1) you’ve objectively determined that it is the “best” language, or (2) you speak English merely on a subjective whim? Of course, it’s neither. You speak English because that is how you were raised by your culture, and people in general hold the moral codes that they do not because they are objective standards, nor because people choose to do so on a whim, but because that is how they were raised by their culture, and so those moral codes are ingrained and instilled.

    But you haven’t at all addressed the issue with this, you’ve simply described the process by which it might arise. And despite saddling it with some baggage that tries to provide legitimacy, both are after all at heart quite whimsicial according to your own premises. I might not speak English on a whim, but why the first English speakers chose the word pop to mean one thing, and pup to mean another was truly nothing more than whimsey that happened to catch on. Likewise with the foundations of the entire language, and the proof is that whimsey changes it all the time.

    And according to your own parrallel, morality is of the same form. And the only reason that murder is ‘bad’ is because that whimsical idea happened to catch on as well. And according to your premise, if modern society decided on a whimsey to swap the meaning of pup and pop, or swap the value of murder with good instead of bad, that would have to be valid, as long as the consensus was that this was the whimsey we’d now like to adopt.

    How can a system rejecting an objective definition of murder stand agains such a reversal of whimsey. The answer is that it can’t. Your own example shows that at a foundational level (and that’s what we are talking about here), indeed morality under the atheistic paradigm is wholly subjective.

    here’s another way to look at it: instead of god being necessary to provide the foundation for a moral code, one’s upbringing does much the same; imperfectly, of course.

    I haven’t said yet the God is necessary. Regardless of the answer to that issue, a lack of objective morality leaves the atheist ulimately foundering as to how they can argue for ANY particular morality as ‘better’.

  64. Viole
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

    I’ve been ignoring this whole subjective morals issue for some time, as it seems particularly inane to me. As has been pointed out, it doesn’t really matter where our morals come from; it is clear, though, that we no longer follow the ‘objective’ morals of the bible. Our society has yet to fall apart, though theists like Falwell and Robertson might suggest the collapse is in progress.

    It seems clear to me that Steve is just playing obtuse, because this is pretty obvious stuff. Most people don’t like getting hurt. Pain must, then, be ‘bad’. If you like getting hurt, come to a special arrangement; don’t expect me to enjoy it. The same is true for most issues. If you want to be killed and eaten, that’s fine by me. Come to an arrangement. Don’t expect me want the same(either to eat or be eaten).

    It isn’t an objective morality at all. It’s based on each person’s preferences, and if we make it illegal to kill people it’s because most people don’t want to be killed. That’s based on some pretty objective evidence, by the way.

  65. Steve G.
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 1:58 pm

    ahh, so since you can’t envision that these preferences can be reversed, you are content to pretend it’s obtuse because the current whim is to your fancy.

    So, let me ask if you were a Jew in Nazi Germany, if you would have been equally willing to go along with the redefined defintion of murder to not include those sub humans? The only one being obtuse here is the person who ignores the very real possibility that this whim can change in a society, and not always to ones liking.

    To assume that murder and pain are somehow a good litmus test that ignores that even that claim takes for granted that we can objectively define what constitutes murder. History tells us this is manifestly not so.

    As always, the claim for what’s moral coming from the atheist continues to kick the can down the road by assuming underlying objective value judgements that have no firm foundation.

    Sorry if I don’t rush to sign up for this silly game of move the goalpost.

  66. Steve G.
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 2:00 pm

    that 3rd paragraph is a mess…

    To assume that murder and pain are somehow a good litmus test that ignores that even that claim takes for granted that we can objectively define what constitutes murder. History tells us this is manifestly not so.

    should read something like….

    To assume that murder and pain are somehow a good litmus test, ignores that even that claim takes for granted an underlying objectively definition of what constitutes murder.

  67. Minority of the Monorities
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 3:18 pm

    “I might not speak English on a whim, but why the first English speakers chose the word pop to mean one thing, and pup to mean another was truly nothing more than whimsey that happened to catch on. Likewise with the foundations of the entire language, and the proof is that whimsey changes it all the time. ”
    I see that speaking the English language is used as an example in this situation which opens it up to being applicable to many other situations. I’m a young Black Atheist and I represent an extremely small percentage but I think my views should be expressed also. Bare with me as I try to get a better understanding of what Stevie is saying openly and subliminally. My question is, if “whimsey” changed the English language all the time, Why can’t you accept that a “Whimsey” changed all types RELIGON from what it was when founded to something totally different. I don’t want to put words in your mouth but is it fair to say that this quote could also be
    I might not believe in god on a whim, but why the first Xtians believers chose what I know to be a coincedence to mean one thing, and an “Act of god” to mean another was truly nothing more than a whimsey that happened to catch on. Likewise with the foundations of all Religion, and the proof is that whimsey (money, power, GOVERNMENT) changes it all the time…….Or is it really an act of god…..

    Shouldn’t the guy that wrote the 100 minute bible be getting written in to all the bibles. Last times

  68. Steve G.
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 3:43 pm

    M of the M:
    I don’t accept the analogy of morality and language being on equal footing. That was a parallel offered by Paul. He was offering it as an example of how something might be neither subjective nor objective. I just ran both sides of the parallel to their logical conclusion to show how absurd the claim was.

  69. Paul
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 3:47 pm

    Steve G:

    Nope, evolution provides something other than whim. It is hypothesized that, evolutionarily, it behooves the transmission of DNA to the next generation that a group of social animals have a code that partially determines their behavior. Even altruistic behavior that might ruin an individual’s DNA (in the case of sacrificing one’s life) can be seen to be in the service of the larger group.

  70. Steve G.
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 4:00 pm

    We are talking about morality and how societies set moral preferences up. What you’ve described is nothing more than an observation. This can not be applied to particular acts to judge them right or wrong in anything other than a subjective sense. Even this new system you are trying to lay out is built on an underlying objective assumption. That assumption is that survival is ‘good’, or preferable to non-existence. In an atheistic paradigm where we are nothing more than an extremely complex sack of chemicals, even that value judgment is without foundation. You simply moved the goalpost once again.

    Right here

  71. Paul
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 9:05 pm

    Wha? You dismiss my thought because it is an observation? As if observations weren’t evidence? If that’s the case, we can’t discuss anything. I’m must be ashamed to admit that I based my conclusions on evidence and observations. Sorry. [sarcasm mode off]

    You are hung up on thinking that moral judgments must either be absolute, for all time, or completely whimsical. I’m trying to tell you that there is another way, outside of the dialectic that you are trapped in. Right and wrong only have meaning within the moral system in which they occur. This is not necessarily whimsical, because societies ingrain in us our moral sense.

    Lastly, my system is does not rely on anything objective. My point is exactly the opposite; there is no objective, absolute moral code; morality is merely what one’s society has grilled into you since your were born, day after day, so that you can barely imagine or tolerate anything else. Evolutionary survival doesn’t have to be good, it merely has to work. No goalposts are moving.

  72. Viole
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 9:58 pm

    Obtuse, yes. Paul is right, you’re trapped in a dialectic. Morals are simply a product of society. The bible tells us a reasonable way for superstitious goat-herders to behave, and I’m sure it worked reasonably well for them. So much has changed since then. We eat pork and shellfish, and isn’t that Absolutely Wrong? Or did YHVH just say that for the fun of it?

    As for moving goal posts… I’d argue the Catholic church has moved the goal a great deal over the last fifteen hundred years. I will point out again, as I obviously must, that there is no goal post. This, like Christianity, makes it possible to label people as sub-human, and proceed to enslave or slaughter them. If this is Absolutely Wrong, I with YHVH had been more clear on that point, and less concerned about our dietary habits. I consider it wrong because it deprives people of life; you consider it wrong because your god promoted slavery and committed genocide. Yes, yes, I know. He doesn’t do that anymore.

    I’m afraid that I’m still finding it difficult to comprehend the fact that you actually don’t understand all this, though. It really is terribly easy, but our conversation seems to be going something like this;

    Atheist: There is no objective morality, but a good place to start is causing harm. Something that causes undue harm is wrong.

    Steve: How can you say that? Without god, beating people with baseball bats is just fine. In fact, in might even be downright fun. See, you can’t prove that’s objectively wrong.

    Atheist: Well, no. I’m not trying to. I’m trying to show you how one can build a reasonable moral code without resorting to a two thousand year old fairy tale. Just don’t hurt people. Would you like it if I beat you with a baseball bat?

    Steve: I would if I were a masochist. See, they like pain, so under your system they have to be allowed to hit people with baseball bats.

    Atheist: No! It’s quite simple. Most people don’t like getting beating up; they avoid pain. Masochists can find someone to hurt them if they want, I’ve no intention of stopping them, but they can’t expect everyone to share their hobbies.

    Steve: You don’t have any basis for that because some lunatic once killed people. Ha!

  73. Steve G.
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 11:27 pm

    I’m afraid that I’m still finding it difficult to comprehend the fact that you actually don’t understand all this, though. It really is terribly easy, but our conversation seems to be going something like this;

    Since you appear to lack basic reading comprehension skills, I

  74. Steve G.
    October 3rd, 2005 @ 11:31 pm

    …And the reference to the nazi’s was but one example that if we don’t have a firm definition of what a person is (note: I didn’t say where that came from yet), that is the result that you get. People using your subjective premise just redefine harm and person to suit themselves. It was intended as an illustration, not a refutation in answer to the imaginary Q&A you put in my mouth (or rather typewriter).

  75. Steve G.
    October 4th, 2005 @ 12:43 am

    You are hung up on thinking that moral judgments must either be absolute, for all time, or completely whimsical.

    Actually I am not. You brought the term whim[sical] into the discussion in post 55 with a comparison of morality to language. I don

  76. Viole
    October 4th, 2005 @ 12:44 am

    You’re doing the same thing, Steve. I really don’t have the time to enumerate my opinions on everything. One cannot explain much with a single sentence. Yes, you can redefine what a person is. You can redefine harm. So what? You can ‘interpret’ your absolute morality to indicate that Jewish people need to be exterminated, or that homosexuals need to be put to death. No one here has claimed the issue is a simple one. What we’re trying to do is show how a morality might be constructed without resorting to an archaic book.

    There are issues that aren’t clear. I never disputed that. However, the rule is still applicable; do no harm. People disagree on what harm is in specific cases. Duh. I believe the starting point here is that morality is subjective? I don’t think that I, as a homosexual, harm society in the least. Certain lunatic groups, which are all too mainstream, interpret your absolute morality to say we’re causing YHVH to destroy whole cities. I’m sure you think homosexuality is ‘wrong’, regardless of any consequences before death.

    I could break down nearly every issue in the same manner. I see euthanasia as acceptable when requested by a terminally ill patient, or that person’s representative in the even of their incapacitation. Other people will say that there’s always hope of recovery, and that it shouldn’t be allowed. Again, people disagree; it’s a subjective morality, enforced mostly through law.

    Now, let me ask you a question: if you don’t think causing pain is a good way to decide if something is wrong, how should we do it? Read the bible? Who gets to interpret it, you or Jerry Falwell?

  77. Steve G.
    October 4th, 2005 @ 1:28 am

    Now, let me ask you a question: if you don’t think causing pain is a good way to decide if something is wrong, how should we do it? Read the bible? Who gets to interpret it, you or Jerry Falwell?

    There is not really quick answer, and it’s difficult to frame any answer because we dont share fundamental premises.

    The short answer is neither. I am fully aware of the flaws in the Protestant notion of ‘the bible and me’. This is akin to the founding fathers sending a constitution out to each citizen and saying ‘figure it out’. That boils down to Christian relativism. As a Catholic, and accepting the premises that a)God exists b)Jesus was who we say he was c) that he established a church to guide us in those areas and d) the institution is protected from teaching error (note: protected from ‘teaching error’, not from committing sin). The Church is the ‘supreme court’ as it were with the bible as the constitution. But a living institution needs to interpret the constitution as it can’t intepret itself.

    But for the person that doesn’t accept the premises, it’s obviously not sensible. It is however coherent and consistent system given the premises.

  78. Steve G.
    October 4th, 2005 @ 1:57 am

    Viole:
    Again, people disagree; it’s a subjective morality, enforced mostly through law.

    OK, you

  79. Eclectic Guru
    October 4th, 2005 @ 5:00 am

    Morality is determined by nature.

  80. Viole
    October 4th, 2005 @ 9:54 am

    But for the person that doesn’t accept the premises, it’s obviously not sensible. It is however coherent and consistent system given the premises.

    It’s more sensible than the protestant system, I’ll give you that. Except for the part where you claim Jesus founded the Catholic church.

    OK, you

  81. Steve G.
    October 4th, 2005 @ 10:22 am

    It’s more sensible than the protestant system, I’ll give you that. Except for the part where you claim Jesus founded the Catholic church.

    That

  82. Viole
    October 4th, 2005 @ 1:20 pm

    “It’s more sensible than the protestant system, I’ll give you that. Except for the part where you claim Jesus founded the Catholic church.” That

  83. Steve G.
    October 4th, 2005 @ 1:53 pm

    I dunno how to contend with that
    [i]I happen to be a part of the crowd that isn’t convinced Jesus even existed.[/i]

    One will believe what one wants I suppose. But I’ve read a variety of non-Christian scholars, and never had a one make a serious case that Jesus didn’t exist. This little snippet from Wikipedia seems to capture the impression that I’ve gotten fo the issue from the time I was a non-believer until today….

    F.F. Bruce, Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, has said: “Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth,’ but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar.”

    …hey, think I’ll post this in the other thread for Jim too. :-D

  84. Eclectic Guru
    October 4th, 2005 @ 3:46 pm

    A theologian is to a historian as a schizophrenic is to a psychologist.

  85. JCLOVE
    October 4th, 2005 @ 4:40 pm

    Steve G is right. I just looked in the forums (curious) and it was truly disgusting. The language is mostly filth, there is blasphemy in almost every post and there is porn all over th eplace. I honestly do not see what a graphic picture of two men having sex, or a woman with semen all over her face and a label saying “the second coming of christ” have to do with rational debate. I feel sick after looking at this stuff.
    The people who post there should be ashamed of themselves.

  86. Paul
    October 4th, 2005 @ 8:55 pm

    Steve G:

    Let

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