An Essay on the Moral Argument
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21-07-2017, 04:51 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(21-07-2017 12:35 PM)Dr H Wrote:  Your claim presents a context.
I want you to provide evidence of an underlying objective moral basis for that claim, independent of context.

It’s all context dependent, but this doesn’t make it subjective it makes it relative. It negates moral absolutism, it doesn’t negate moral objectivism.

SO let’s ask the question. Torturing innocent babies just for fun is harmful. Do you agree that this is objectively true? DO you think this is subjective? If a person said it wasn’t harmful, would they be objectively wrong? Are they factually incorrect?

Quote:My comment was directed to your example: whether or not one likes Justin Bieber is not a moral matter, subjective though it may be. The example was a red herring.

It’s not a moral matter, but it is a subjective matter. Since it’s a question of what it means for something to be subjective, then it’s not a red herring. In fact your entire notion of subjectivity here appears contradictory and incoherent. Apparently morality is subjective, but a special kind of subjective, unusable in any other context.

Quote:Agreed. And if it depends on context, it depends on a subjective decision as regards the amount of harm present in a particular context.
There is no objective scale.

Harm is an objective scale in variety of scenarios. Such as when it comes to health, the harmfulness of smoking, of eatings food high in sugar, etc….. The fact that many situations regarding one’s health, the harmfulness might not be entirely discernible doesn’t make it subjective.

Again, try and stick with the example where the ambiguity is removed. DO you disagree that torturing innocent babies purely for the fun of it, is objectively harmful?

Quote:And what is your objective measure for "degree of harm”?

The level of pain, destructiveness, social erosion, suffering, negative effects, on society and people that produces, etc… in comparison to what ever social benefit it has, and contributes to human flourish. In this example any such benefit is annexed by the context of “purely for the fun of it.

I doubt you disagree that it’s harmful. In fact I’d wager that nearly all of us who acknowledge the harmfulness, judge it as such for similar reasons, and criteria, that we might not able to entirely articulate.

You still have yet to tell me whether you agree, that in my example, you acknowledge it’s objectively harmful.

If you want to suggest it’s subjectively harm, tell me why that is, don’t appeal to context, because as stated that doesn’t make it subjective. Any number of scientific truth, may only be true in a given context, but not in others, yet that doesn’t mean the truth here is subjective The same applies here.

"Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman." ---Homer the aged poet.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
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21-07-2017, 07:02 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(21-07-2017 03:14 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  Yes, I can see where you are coming from. I watched US TV evangelism with disbelief, to be honest. It's like a carnival show compared to the rest of the world.

I can only speak from my own experience and I run a mile whenever I meet a fundamentalist Christian. I think they are completely muddled.
TV evangelism reflects the extreme, it is a particular tradition that I call "sawdust trail" and comes mostly out of the Holiness denominations and their derivatives. My tribe was appalled, thankfully, by Jim and Tammy Faye, Oral Roberts and the like, they thought Billy Graham was about as "out there" as they could take. (Ironically his son, Franklin, has gone way to the right and says some pretty nutty things, though I am dubious that he believes much of it himself). My department of fundamentalism was non-charismatic / non pentecostal, miracles are not for today, and against the prosperity gospel. On the other hand they were also against helping the disadvantaged, which they referred to as the dreaded "social gospel". The core thing though was their inerrantism / literalism / Bibliolatry.

Predictably, I react mostly to those kinds of Christians and it's the kind we mostly get here arguing for their faith. I actually have a lot of common cause with Christians like you, when it comes to it. I don't agree with theism, but as long as theism leaves people alone to sort their own philosophical and metaphysical thinking out, I don't have a huge malfunction with it either.
(21-07-2017 03:14 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I think my point is that the OP simply says it is addressed to "Christians", but that is a very wide church. I was, frankly, relieved to find that there was a very benign form of Christianity in England. Maybe it reflects the culture of the country, rather than the religion. The English are very reserved and would never dream of talking like a TV evangelist and it's very bad manners for in England to talk to anyone about anything other than the weather, and particularly religion. Americans are very forward in comparison.
Unfortunately American fundamentalism has made inroads in desperate, disadvantaged areas, such as many places on the African continent, and the Catholics still manage to hew to some pretty invasive doctrines like being anti-birth control and of course their whole pedophilia problem. Christianity is indeed a "big tent" but unfortunately it includes a lot of harm at times.
(21-07-2017 03:14 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I'm not saying that Christians believe that "God" was swapped over for a new one. But, you have to admit that the characterization of it is "different", and quite radically so.
Definitely. Even in the OT you can see the evolution of monotheism from an earlier polytheism, and a transition to a less strident sort of war-god depicted in the older portions.

I appreciate your perspective. Sometimes due to my background and the sort of Christians that tend to show up here, it's good to be reminded that a lot of Christianity is considerably less strident and irrational.
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22-07-2017, 12:04 AM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(21-07-2017 03:14 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  My approach to Christianity is that one should simply look at the teachings in Matthew, which are the core moral principles of Christianity and don't depend on the existence of God at all. The rest, including Paul's writings, are an embellished narrative of somebody's life and, while interesting from a literary and historical perspective, have very little to do with the moral teachings.

I haven't read Matthew, could you sum it up?
The moral teachings, I mean.

"Throughout history, every mystery, ever solved, has turned out to be; Not magic."
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22-07-2017, 02:15 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(21-07-2017 07:02 PM)mordant Wrote:  
(21-07-2017 03:14 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  Yes, I can see where you are coming from. I watched US TV evangelism with disbelief, to be honest. It's like a carnival show compared to the rest of the world.

I can only speak from my own experience and I run a mile whenever I meet a fundamentalist Christian. I think they are completely muddled.
TV evangelism reflects the extreme, it is a particular tradition that I call "sawdust trail" and comes mostly out of the Holiness denominations and their derivatives. My tribe was appalled, thankfully, by Jim and Tammy Faye, Oral Roberts and the like, they thought Billy Graham was about as "out there" as they could take. (Ironically his son, Franklin, has gone way to the right and says some pretty nutty things, though I am dubious that he believes much of it himself). My department of fundamentalism was non-charismatic / non pentecostal, miracles are not for today, and against the prosperity gospel. On the other hand they were also against helping the disadvantaged, which they referred to as the dreaded "social gospel". The core thing though was their inerrantism / literalism / Bibliolatry.

Predictably, I react mostly to those kinds of Christians and it's the kind we mostly get here arguing for their faith. I actually have a lot of common cause with Christians like you, when it comes to it. I don't agree with theism, but as long as theism leaves people alone to sort their own philosophical and metaphysical thinking out, I don't have a huge malfunction with it either.
(21-07-2017 03:14 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I think my point is that the OP simply says it is addressed to "Christians", but that is a very wide church. I was, frankly, relieved to find that there was a very benign form of Christianity in England. Maybe it reflects the culture of the country, rather than the religion. The English are very reserved and would never dream of talking like a TV evangelist and it's very bad manners for in England to talk to anyone about anything other than the weather, and particularly religion. Americans are very forward in comparison.
Unfortunately American fundamentalism has made inroads in desperate, disadvantaged areas, such as many places on the African continent, and the Catholics still manage to hew to some pretty invasive doctrines like being anti-birth control and of course their whole pedophilia problem. Christianity is indeed a "big tent" but unfortunately it includes a lot of harm at times.
(21-07-2017 03:14 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I'm not saying that Christians believe that "God" was swapped over for a new one. But, you have to admit that the characterization of it is "different", and quite radically so.
Definitely. Even in the OT you can see the evolution of monotheism from an earlier polytheism, and a transition to a less strident sort of war-god depicted in the older portions.

I appreciate your perspective. Sometimes due to my background and the sort of Christians that tend to show up here, it's good to be reminded that a lot of Christianity is considerably less strident and irrational.

First, can I point out that I am not a Christian although I was baptized and went to church. I still go to church on occasion and am a good friend with the local vicar and did play the role of one of the Three Kings at the Christmas sermon last year.

But, that is because my wife goes to church and believes in angels and fairies and whatnot. To me, that is all so much nonsense but I go so as not to upset my wife. I had a conversation with the vicar a few months ago and she told me that it was her second career and that she had concerns about doing the job because it meant believing in God. That is the state, I would say, of Christianity in places like England were a tiny proportion of people go to church and these are mainly the elderly. A lot of churches are now being converted into apartments and houses.

I don't even like describing myself as an "atheist". I see "religion" as an old form of propaganda used in the Old World Order to control populations by inventing ideas and pushing them on people in ways which were designed to subdue them. God has no more reality than any other invented character in any novel. By defining oneself as "theistic" or "atheistic" one accepts that this is a proper and legitimate framework for thinking about reality. If one were to be born into a family which only discussed things in a rational, scientific manner, and never discussed religion at all, then one could not be an "atheist" because one would not know what "theism" was, having never heard of it. I'm a bit like that because my parents never mentioned "God" at all so when I went to Sunday school I could understand stories about Jesus riding a donkey and giving a sermon, but I never thought about God. I recall thinking that he was the guy in paintings with a big beard and flowing white robes up in the sky, but it never really got into my head that God was any different from a character like Santa Claus who I understood to be a fictitious character. I recall my brother explaining to me that Christians thought that the world was only about 4000 years old based on calculations in the bible and that this meant that the whole of this religion was wrong and I accepted his view.

I think it's probably good to get away from American Christianity and to realize that even in Christianity, it is an extreme. I could never get my head around why people fell into believing in all the mystical and magical stuff in the New Testament about Jesus. I never believed, from the moment I heard it, any of the miracles in the New Testament. I considered it to be no different from someone telling me that Santa Claus delivered my Christmas presents. I knew it to be fiction and I knew what parts of the New Testament story were fictional and impossible, like resurrection and virgin birth, and which parts might be true. I never doubted that Jesus was a real person, but I never believed in any of the mystical, magical, supernatural stuff.

I feel that getting into a debate with what you see as a "Christian" involves going down a rabbit hole which I don't want to go down. I have had many chats with fundamentalists and I just find the experience frustrating and annoying. I would style the argument you are wanting to make as being addressed to a "moron" who happens to call himself a Christian, just as other morons style themselves as members of other religious groups. And, it's frustrating and annoying trying to talk sense to morons, so I don't try. lol

I do think, however, that the best way to deal with this topic and to stay sane while considering Christianity, is to break the religion down and to look at it's context. Moving to England helped me see that fundamentalism is an American phenomenon. I suppose I am a few levels removed from your position because I don't accept that Christianity incorporates the OT teachings and I see Christianity as a Roman effort to pacify the Assyrians in the Levant by portraying their own leader, Jesus, as the proponent of what is essentially a Greco-Roman set of moral principles, supplanting what is in the OT (albeit politely by saying Jesus only wants to fulfill the OT).
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22-07-2017, 02:30 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(22-07-2017 12:04 AM)M. Linoge Wrote:  
(21-07-2017 03:14 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  My approach to Christianity is that one should simply look at the teachings in Matthew, which are the core moral principles of Christianity and don't depend on the existence of God at all. The rest, including Paul's writings, are an embellished narrative of somebody's life and, while interesting from a literary and historical perspective, have very little to do with the moral teachings.

I haven't read Matthew, could you sum it up?
The moral teachings, I mean.

I'll have a go.

You start with what are called the two Great Commandments:

Matthew 22:35-40King James Version (KJV)

35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.


One should, however, start somewhere else, with the definition of what "God" is, which is in John 1:1, ie., "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.". The "word" is, in Greek, the "logos" which means something like reason, logic or knowledge. So, the first Great Commandment does not tell you to love a big scary man in the sky, it tells you to love reason.

Then, you have the moral teaching of Jesus in Matthew, which is an exposition of the concept of "love your neighbour":
Matthew 5
"
21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 6
1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seekSmile for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Matthew 7

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
28And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
29For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."


That's it. That is the core of Christian morality. The rest of the NT is a story and parables explaining how to apply this philosophy. If you read what I have posted above you will see that there is no reference a god resembling that in the OT and all this moral philosophy can stand on its own, independently of the existence of any anthropomorphic god figure, particularly a vengeful warrior type god as we see in the OT.
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22-07-2017, 05:29 PM (This post was last modified: 22-07-2017 05:43 PM by Glossophile.)
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
Deltabravo, perhaps I should have been clearer about who my essay was meant for. I was addressing any Christians who hold the especially poisonous belief that any meaningful sense of morality depends on belief in a deity. It is a response to Christians who believe three things:

1) God is the defining standard of morality.
2) The Bible is the inerrant word of God. At least some of it is literally true and all of it is true in some way or other.
3) Universal morality is impossible or at least baseless without a belief in God.

Particularly in defending #1, such believers will often appeal to context and/or metaphor when confronted with ethically dubious passages from either Testament, and the whole point of the first part of my essay was that any attempt to do so is actually and ironically fatal to the defense of #1.

Now, if yours is a brand of Christianity that does not uphold all three of the above propositions, then you're right, my essay is largely irrelevant. What's more, I will commend you on at least following a version of your faith that is much less obnoxious and dangerous than many of the more hard-core evangelical sects. If Christians like you were more numerous and/or more outspoken, I may not have even felt compelled to write anything at all. But the fact is that many of the people who share your religious label do place much greater weight on the OT than you do, and it is them that I am trying to reach with my essay.

Having said that, I should warn you that it would be a mistake to think that your proposed "core of Christian morality" is entirely or even mostly without its pitfalls as a moral guide. Even in your hand-picked verses from Matthew, there are at least a few questionable bits. In Matthew 5:27-28, for instance, we find an example of thought-crime, the very problematic and arguably reprehensible idea that the merest mental impulses are just as sinful as real-world actions. Somehow, in God's eyes, fantasizing about feverish and impassioned sex with an attractive woman I happen to see in passing is somehow the same as actually ripping her clothes off and having my way with her (at least if she's married). If impure thoughts (however readily dismissed they may be) are by themselves grounds for damnation, then Jesus was at best knowingly espousing a standard that no mortal can ever live up to.

I believe it was Albus Dumbledore (ultimately J. K. Rowling) who said, "It is not our abilities that make us who we are. It is our choices." This is already a far wiser statement, and just changing a single word ("thoughts" in place of "abilities") would make it a fitting substitute for Matthew 5:27-28. And that's coming from a guy who believers and non-believers will agree is entirely fictional.

Matthew 5:31-32 is really quite sexist, as it focuses exclusively on what a man may do with his cheating wife and fails to give the same divorcing rights to a woman with an unfaithful husband. Of course, you can argue that I've misinterpreted these parts, but the minute you do so, the main argument from the first part of my essay suddenly becomes at least somewhat relevant.

The only sacred truth in science is that there are no sacred truths. – Carl Sagan
Sōla vēritās sancta in philosophiā nātūrālī est absentia vēritātum sanctārum.
Ἡ μόνη ἱερᾱ̀ ἀληθείᾱ ἐν φυσικῇ φιλοσοφίᾳ ἐστίν ἡ ἱερῶν ἀληθειῶν σπάνις.
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22-07-2017, 07:02 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
Jesus repeatedly tells us to sell all we have and give to the poor. Few Christians do that. Sermon on the mount. Sit around waiting for the end of the world and not worrying about what you will eat or drink or wear. Not a good idea. Mark 4, Luke 8, Matthew 13, teach in parables so many people will not understand and will not be saved. Say what? Do not divorce. Christians still do that. Pray in private.
Today's Christians want every public function to start with prayer.

Not all of the teachings of Jesus in the NT make sense.

And of course, Matthew 25:31-48, feed the hungry, help the poor, the sick, those in prison, are not moral teachings many of our modern Christians and their pet congressmen seem to want to follow. Repeal Obamacare right now and devil take the hindmost.

Yog Sothoth! Yog Sothoth! Come back old ones! Yog Sothoth!

Cheerful Charlie
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22-07-2017, 07:23 PM (This post was last modified: 22-07-2017 07:33 PM by nosferatu323.)
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(22-07-2017 07:02 PM)Cheerful Charlie Wrote:  Jesus repeatedly tells us to sell all we have and give to the poor. Few Christians do that. Sermon on the mount. Sit around waiting for the end of the world and not worrying about what you will eat or drink or wear. Not a good idea. Mark 4, Luke 8, Matthew 13, teach in parables so many people will not understand and will not be saved. Say what? Do not divorce. Christians still do that. Pray in private.
Today's Christians want every public function to start with prayer.

Not all of the teachings of Jesus in the NT make sense.

And of course, Matthew 25:31-48, feed the hungry, help the poor, the sick, those in prison, are not moral teachings many of our modern Christians and their pet congressmen seem to want to follow. Repeal Obamacare right now and devil take the hindmost.

I think "X is right/wrong/good/bad" is a subjective propositions. Because it's not informing us about any aspect of the objective reality. Reality is as it is. There is nothing right or wrong about it.

I think "X is harmful" can be objective or subjective depending on the context.

You define your conception of morality based on the notion of "harm". It's your personal definition, why should anyone accept your definition? There are countless number of definitions and conceptions of morality, the pile seems to be still growing, sometimes these definitions happen to have almost nothing in common. Which definition should be accepted? Is there any objective measure to evaluate which definition of morality should be accepted? If you think you can show that your definition is the one, go ahead, propose your morality to the world and maybe you can end the eternal quest of finding a proper foundation for morality.
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23-07-2017, 12:49 AM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(22-07-2017 05:29 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  Deltabravo, perhaps I should have been clearer about who my essay was meant for. I was addressing any Christians who hold the especially poisonous belief that any meaningful sense of morality depends on belief in a deity. It is a response to Christians who believe three things:

1) God is the defining standard of morality.
2) The Bible is the inerrant word of God. At least some of it is literally true and all of it is true in some way or other.
3) Universal morality is impossible or at least baseless without a belief in God.

Particularly in defending #1, such believers will often appeal to context and/or metaphor when confronted with ethically dubious passages from either Testament, and the whole point of the first part of my essay was that any attempt to do so is actually and ironically fatal to the defense of #1.

Now, if yours is a brand of Christianity that does not uphold all three of the above propositions, then you're right, my essay is largely irrelevant. What's more, I will commend you on at least following a version of your faith that is much less obnoxious and dangerous than many of the more hard-core evangelical sects. If Christians like you were more numerous and/or more outspoken, I may not have even felt compelled to write anything at all. But the fact is that many of the people who share your religious label do place much greater weight on the OT than you do, and it is them that I am trying to reach with my essay.

Having said that, I should warn you that it would be a mistake to think that your proposed "core of Christian morality" is entirely or even mostly without its pitfalls as a moral guide. Even in your hand-picked verses from Matthew, there are at least a few questionable bits. In Matthew 5:27-28, for instance, we find an example of thought-crime, the very problematic and arguably reprehensible idea that the merest mental impulses are just as sinful as real-world actions. Somehow, in God's eyes, fantasizing about feverish and impassioned sex with an attractive woman I happen to see in passing is somehow the same as actually ripping her clothes off and having my way with her (at least if she's married). If impure thoughts (however readily dismissed they may be) are by themselves grounds for damnation, then Jesus was at best knowingly espousing a standard that no mortal can ever live up to.

I believe it was Albus Dumbledore (ultimately J. K. Rowling) who said, "It is not our abilities that make us who we are. It is our choices." This is already a far wiser statement, and just changing a single word ("thoughts" in place of "abilities") would make it a fitting substitute for Matthew 5:27-28. And that's coming from a guy who believers and non-believers will agree is entirely fictional.

Matthew 5:31-32 is really quite sexist, as it focuses exclusively on what a man may do with his cheating wife and fails to give the same divorcing rights to a woman with an unfaithful husband. Of course, you can argue that I've misinterpreted these parts, but the minute you do so, the main argument from the first part of my essay suddenly becomes at least somewhat relevant.


Yes, I understand who you are addressing you essay to. I don't claim that what I am saying is a representation of what Christianity is "about", but the moral core of the religion is contained in those chapters and god is described and defined as the "word".

I am not a "Christian". What I have tried to do is give my own interpretation of what Christianity was designed to do, because I see it as a religion manufactured by the Roman rulers of the day to counter the beliefs of people in that region.

If one takes this view, my argument about some of your points, is that you are entitled to reason for yourself. I don't see the "moral dictates" as being sent by god but since god uses reason, is reason, and we can reason too, then god is essentially superfluous to the moral exercise.

It works for me in demystifying the religion. In my mind, I have separated the moral teachings from the historical discussion of who Jesus might have been and also from the mystical/magical aspects of the NT, which I put down to a need to appeal to the religion which prevailed in lower Assyria at the time.
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23-07-2017, 01:19 AM (This post was last modified: 23-07-2017 01:26 AM by Glossophile.)
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
If that's the case, Deltabravo, then I must confess that I'm not sure how your take on Christianity is really relevant. Even if we assume that your interpretation is correct, my arguments were intended to address what much of Christianity has become, not what it was originally invented to be. If a solid majority of Christians were content to do what you've done (to extricate and distill the best and most important moral recommendations from all the mythological baggage), then we'd have much less of a problem with Christianity. But again, all too few of them are willing to stop there, or at the very least, if such Christians are actually a majority, then they're far too silent relative to the fundamentalist loudmouths.

The only sacred truth in science is that there are no sacred truths. – Carl Sagan
Sōla vēritās sancta in philosophiā nātūrālī est absentia vēritātum sanctārum.
Ἡ μόνη ἱερᾱ̀ ἀληθείᾱ ἐν φυσικῇ φιλοσοφίᾳ ἐστίν ἡ ἱερῶν ἀληθειῶν σπάνις.
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