"Without God... "
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24-08-2011, 03:05 AM
 
"Without God... "
One of the most irritating arguments I hear are the ones that go "Without God, there would be no basis for morality, there would be no meaning to life, etc." I probably shouldn't call them arguments, since they all boil down to "If God isn't real, then life sucks!" The only purpose they serve is to keep theistic cognitive dissonance from being resolved through de-conversion by creating a fear of abandoning certain beliefs. They also may be good for converting unintelligent, impulsive, and gullible people to whatever brand of theism is being pitched.

Anyway, I really can't stand these. For some reason I find them extremely annoying. So here's my attempt at dissecting one, although they all have the same basic form. The gist of my argument is that by the theist's own reasoning but without special pleading, proposing a God does not suddenly create objective meaning to life, morality, etc.

*Red text may be completely unnecessary, distracting, and/or disorganized. Ignore it unless you want extra reading Tongue

Initial Agreements(i.e. when logic isn't working don't try falling back on one of these):
-Intuition or gut feelings are not considered evidence for moral absolutes. Intuitions are not consistent, and people disagree strongly over certain moral issues.
-Whether or not a certain reality appears bleak, depressing, or as something which you cannot cope with has no bearing on whether or not it's true. Whether or not you can "live out moral relativism," or at least your twisted version of it, does not mean there are or are not moral absolutes.
-The existence of moral absolutes is a positive claim, and therefore the burden of proof is on you. The default position is that they do not exist unless evidence is provided. And again, the fact that the conclusion of moral absolutes conveniently justifies your emotional impulses and lets you avoid thinking about morality in any actual depth is NOT evidence.

So, we'll start with no assumptions about morality. What situations would bring about moral absolutes/objective morals? If there is an omni-whatever perfect deity, and he makes a number of declarations about what is moral, what gives these declarations any weight?

Theophilus said it was because he created us, so therefore he gets to decide what we can and cannot do. To be honest I've never heard that one before, most apologists try to avoid those kinds of de-humanizing arguments. There are two problems with this that I tried to get him to address:
-This simply shifts the question from "Why does being God grant the authority to determine morals?" to "Why does creating something grant the ability to determine its morals?".
-This is a case of special pleading. You've defined "creator" in such a restrictive manner that it's a synonym for God. In other words, you sneaked your conclusion into a premise. And if it isn't just a synonym for God, please provide an example.

Another person might say that God is the only objective entity that can determine morals. He's the only one who can be "objective" about it.
-The way objective is used here implies that there is a correct answer to the question (What is moral?) independent of God, and that he is the only one capable of determining the answer objectively. This leaves an objective morality for atheists as well, so no apologist would accept this interpretation.
-The other way to interpret this is that morality needs to be based on something that is objective if it is to be consistent and meaningful. God is objective, therefore morality comes from God. The problem here is that I can come up with another objective basis for morality which the theist disagrees with. There needs to be more besides God's objectivity.
-This will end up coming down to God decides because he's God, which has the same problems as the previous argument.

Looking at the innumerable arguments for the theist apologist's moral absolutes, a pattern begins to emerge. The theist does two things:
-Claims that God is a valid basis for morality
-Demand a justification for any alternative basis presented, and continues demanding justification for the justification until one cannot be provided or the person gets sick of coming up with justifications

So, I have to ask: What's the justification for God? And for that justification? And so on. Without any basic assumptions, there is no objective basis, some axiom must be assumed for an objective morality, but then that axiom would of course be subjective. This feels almost exactly the same as the Kalam Argument. Any attempt to present the person making it with an alternative basis for morality has no end justification, and there ends up being an "infinite regress" of justifications. Then God is, as usual, used to solve this proposed infinite regress. Demanding a justification for God's moral authority over and over will render it just as poor an excuse as any others that the theist provides.

To put it simply, if we don't exempt God from requiring justification as a basis for moral absolutes, the theist's argument falls apart. This exemption is completely arbitrary and cannot be justified, therefore the theist must abandon this rigorous standard if they wish to assert the existence of moral absolutes.

All this means is that we have two options:
-An objective morality does not have to be based on God
-Morality is subjective whether or not God exists

On second thought, this seems pretty sloppy and I don't feel like trying to make it perfect right now. So hopefully you get the basic idea, my goal is to breach the communications barrier that seems to exist between theists and atheists on this and other points of contention. I know part of the problem is ambiguous language, but I think another big one is the starting assumptions that each side has going into it. Some of these are taken for granted when the other side does not have them.

Most of what I'm saying is a combination of what I've heard from others, I'm just looking for a way to express it that gets through to a theist. It also doesn't feel like I'm saying anything that isn't completely obvious, so... please destroy my argument so that I can build a better one tomorrow Big Grin
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24-08-2011, 04:06 AM
RE: "Without God... "
I usually can't be bothered getting into a prolonged discussion about morality with a Christian, so I cut right to the chase with this question:

If God asked you to kill someone, would you do it?

An atheist can answer that question without hesitation: "Definitely not." But a Christian has to stop and think: If he answers "Yes," then he reveals his allegiance to a moral code that allows him to commit murders on a whim, but if he answers "No," then he admits that according to his own moral code, his God is immoral - so he prevaricates with, "God would never ask me to kill anyone."

That refusal to directly answer the question with a definite "No," tells us more about Christian morality than most Christians would want us to know.

By the way, just for the record, God does ask people to commit murder - see Numbers 15:32-36 for one example - and then marvel at the philosophical back-flips performed by the Christians as they try to explain that the old man really did deserve to be murdered for picking up sticks on the Sabbath.

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24-08-2011, 04:39 AM (This post was last modified: 24-08-2011 05:31 AM by Mark Fulton.)
RE: "Without God... "
(24-08-2011 03:05 AM)Zach Wrote:  One of the most irritating arguments I hear are the ones that go "Without God, there would be no basis for morality, there would be no meaning to life, etc." I probably shouldn't call them arguments, since they all boil down to "If God isn't real, then life sucks!" The only purpose they serve is to keep theistic cognitive dissonance from being resolved through de-conversion by creating a fear of abandoning certain beliefs. They also may be good for converting unintelligent, impulsive, and gullible people to whatever brand of theism is being pitched.

Anyway, I really can't stand these. For some reason I find them extremely annoying. So here's my attempt at dissecting one, although they all have the same basic form. The gist of my argument is that by the theist's own reasoning but without special pleading, proposing a God does not suddenly create objective meaning to life, morality, etc.

*Red text may be completely unnecessary, distracting, and/or disorganized. Ignore it unless you want extra reading Tongue

Initial Agreements(i.e. when logic isn't working don't try falling back on one of these):
-Intuition or gut feelings are not considered evidence for moral absolutes. Intuitions are not consistent, and people disagree strongly over certain moral issues.
-Whether or not a certain reality appears bleak, depressing, or as something which you cannot cope with has no bearing on whether or not it's true. Whether or not you can "live out moral relativism," or at least your twisted version of it, does not mean there are or are not moral absolutes.
-The existence of moral absolutes is a positive claim, and therefore the burden of proof is on you. The default position is that they do not exist unless evidence is provided. And again, the fact that the conclusion of moral absolutes conveniently justifies your emotional impulses and lets you avoid thinking about morality in any actual depth is NOT evidence.

So, we'll start with no assumptions about morality. What situations would bring about moral absolutes/objective morals? If there is an omni-whatever perfect deity, and he makes a number of declarations about what is moral, what gives these declarations any weight?

Theophilus said it was because he created us, so therefore he gets to decide what we can and cannot do. To be honest I've never heard that one before, most apologists try to avoid those kinds of de-humanizing arguments. There are two problems with this that I tried to get him to address:
-This simply shifts the question from "Why does being God grant the authority to determine morals?" to "Why does creating something grant the ability to determine its morals?".
-This is a case of special pleading. You've defined "creator" in such a restrictive manner that it's a synonym for God. In other words, you sneaked your conclusion into a premise. And if it isn't just a synonym for God, please provide an example.

Another person might say that God is the only objective entity that can determine morals. He's the only one who can be "objective" about it.
-The way objective is used here implies that there is a correct answer to the question (What is moral?) independent of God, and that he is the only one capable of determining the answer objectively. This leaves an objective morality for atheists as well, so no apologist would accept this interpretation.
-The other way to interpret this is that morality needs to be based on something that is objective if it is to be consistent and meaningful. God is objective, therefore morality comes from God. The problem here is that I can come up with another objective basis for morality which the theist disagrees with. There needs to be more besides God's objectivity.
-This will end up coming down to God decides because he's God, which has the same problems as the previous argument.

Looking at the innumerable arguments for the theist apologist's moral absolutes, a pattern begins to emerge. The theist does two things:
-Claims that God is a valid basis for morality
-Demand a justification for any alternative basis presented, and continues demanding justification for the justification until one cannot be provided or the person gets sick of coming up with justifications

So, I have to ask: What's the justification for God? And for that justification? And so on. Without any basic assumptions, there is no objective basis, some axiom must be assumed for an objective morality, but then that axiom would of course be subjective. This feels almost exactly the same as the Kalam Argument. Any attempt to present the person making it with an alternative basis for morality has no end justification, and there ends up being an "infinite regress" of justifications. Then God is, as usual, used to solve this proposed infinite regress. Demanding a justification for God's moral authority over and over will render it just as poor an excuse as any others that the theist provides.

To put it simply, if we don't exempt God from requiring justification as a basis for moral absolutes, the theist's argument falls apart. This exemption is completely arbitrary and cannot be justified, therefore the theist must abandon this rigorous standard if they wish to assert the existence of moral absolutes.

All this means is that we have two options:
-An objective morality does not have to be based on God
-Morality is subjective whether or not God exists

On second thought, this seems pretty sloppy and I don't feel like trying to make it perfect right now. So hopefully you get the basic idea, my goal is to breach the communications barrier that seems to exist between theists and atheists on this and other points of contention. I know part of the problem is ambiguous language, but I think another big one is the starting assumptions that each side has going into it. Some of these are taken for granted when the other side does not have them.

Most of what I'm saying is a combination of what I've heard from others, I'm just looking for a way to express it that gets through to a theist. It also doesn't feel like I'm saying anything that isn't completely obvious, so... please destroy my argument so that I can build a better one tomorrow Big Grin

Wow, you got my head spinning! I can contribute a little.

Re "So, we'll start with no assumptions about morality. What situations would bring about moral absolutes/objective morals? If there is an omni-whatever perfect deity, and he makes a number of declarations about what is moral, what gives these declarations any weight? "

Well....the only way, in the real world, anyone ever "talks" to "God" is via the bible, right? They imagine "God" using preconceived notions about "him" from the bible, right? So the question you are basically asking is "what gives the bible any moral authority?" The answer, in my opinion, is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Here is one of my conclusions about the bible after studying the bloody thing for too long...

"The authors of the Bible were the same type of people who currently work in advertising agencies, and their writings share many of the features of a typical modern advertising campaign. The Bible was written to profit certain groups; it contained little of true value and its authors tried to appeal to the emotions and superstitions of the masses. They knew their market at the time was uncritical and uneducated, easily impressed by mythical stories. The Christian Bible was not written by God, or by genuine historians, or by people discussing the truth, or by people who genuinely cared about their readers. It was written by spin-doctors trying to sell their claim to authority. The Bible was written to facilitate control of the more credulous and gullible groups in societies, and it was very good at doing that, which is why it has survived the ravages of time. It is a product of the petty, miserable politics of superstitious people!

Anyone who agrees with me should have a very satisfying, self-empowering realization. The very heart of Christianity, the Bible, has no legitimate authority, so neither does God or Christianity itself."

Not sure if this adds anything...hope it does. I enjoyed your writing, thanks
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24-08-2011, 09:31 AM
 
RE: "Without God... "
(24-08-2011 04:06 AM)Joe Bloe Wrote:  I usually can't be bothered getting into a prolonged discussion about morality with a Christian, so I cut right to the chase with this question:

If God asked you to kill someone, would you do it?

An atheist can answer that question without hesitation: "Definitely not." But a Christian has to stop and think: If he answers "Yes," then he reveals his allegiance to a moral code that allows him to commit murders on a whim, but if he answers "No," then he admits that according to his own moral code, his God is immoral - so he prevaricates with, "God would never ask me to kill anyone."

That refusal to directly answer the question with a definite "No," tells us more about Christian morality than most Christians would want us to know.

By the way, just for the record, God does ask people to commit murder - see Numbers 15:32-36 for one example - and then marvel at the philosophical back-flips performed by the Christians as they try to explain that the old man really did deserve to be murdered for picking up sticks on the Sabbath.

Yeah, that sums it up perfectly. But most Christians or theists of any variety will be far more stubborn. So I'm trying to show them the dead end they don't seem to notice.

Another option, since most seem to be able to rationalize the murder question by appealing to their ignorance of God's motivations and the fact that they'll never have to carry out an order like that, you could ask another question: What if God sent all believers to hell and only admitted monsters like Hitler and Stalin to heaven? I tried getting Theophilus to answer that and he ignored me all three times I repeated it in another thread Big Grin

(24-08-2011 04:39 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  Wow, you got my head spinning! I can contribute a little.

Re "So, we'll start with no assumptions about morality. What situations would bring about moral absolutes/objective morals? If there is an omni-whatever perfect deity, and he makes a number of declarations about what is moral, what gives these declarations any weight? "

Well....the only way, in the real world, anyone ever "talks" to "God" is via the bible, right? They imagine "God" using preconceived notions about "him" from the bible, right? So the question you are basically asking is "what gives the bible any moral authority?" The answer, in my opinion, is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Here is one of my conclusions about the bible after studying the bloody thing for too long...

"The authors of the Bible were the same type of people who currently work in advertising agencies, and their writings share many of the features of a typical modern advertising campaign. The Bible was written to profit certain groups; it contained little of true value and its authors tried to appeal to the emotions and superstitions of the masses. They knew their market at the time was uncritical and uneducated, easily impressed by mythical stories. The Christian Bible was not written by God, or by genuine historians, or by people discussing the truth, or by people who genuinely cared about their readers. It was written by spin-doctors trying to sell their claim to authority. The Bible was written to facilitate control of the more credulous and gullible groups in societies, and it was very good at doing that, which is why it has survived the ravages of time. It is a product of the petty, miserable politics of superstitious people!

Anyone who agrees with me should have a very satisfying, self-empowering realization. The very heart of Christianity, the Bible, has no legitimate authority, so neither does God or Christianity itself."

Not sure if this adds anything...hope it does. I enjoyed your writing, thanks

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed my rambling Smile

The Bible is quite an amazing piece of work. From it you get doctrine that blinds people to disgusting displays of God's "morality" that a small child could pick out with ease if (s)he hasn't been indoctrinated from an early age. I love your comparison with advertising, it fits perfectly! "Everything you do is wrong and you deserve an eternity in hell. But don't worry, God's willing to forgive you as long as you believe he sacrificed himself to himself to save you from himself and accept this free* gift of salvation! Just remember that you DON'T DESERVE IT!"


*However, costs may or may not include self-respect, integrity, human dignity, morals, weekly fees(which may vary with region and denomination), and feelings of guilt triggered by harmless, victimless "sins."
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24-08-2011, 10:53 AM
RE: "Without God... "
(24-08-2011 04:06 AM)Joe Bloe Wrote:  If God asked you to kill someone, would you do it?

An atheist can answer that question without hesitation: "Definitely not." But a Christian has to stop and think: If he answers "Yes," then he reveals his allegiance to a moral code that allows him to commit murders on a whim, but if he answers "No," then he admits that according to his own moral code, his God is immoral - so he prevaricates with, "God would never ask me to kill anyone."
God created us and has an absolute right to do whatever he wants with us, including killing us, so if he kills someone it isn't murder but simply an exercise of his right of ownership. He can also choose any method, including commanding someone else to do the killing. Killing someone at God's command is obedience, not murder.

The information in ancient libraries came from real minds of real people. The far more complex information in cells came from the far more intelligent mind of God.
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24-08-2011, 10:56 AM
RE: "Without God... "
I have tried throwing my opinion in on these debates from an evolutionary perspective and I either get ignored or I get responses that imply that humans are above the examples of other organisms I use. We can evaluate certain basic moral principles in the natural world in an attempt to understand why they exist. Murder? Murder is defined as killing another human, but if we broaden this definition to be that murder is one organism taking the life of another organism of the same species then we can see that other animals also avoid murder. Why? IT IS BAD FOR THE SPECIES!!!!!

Of course there are a lot of theists who also fall under the classification of creationist/intelligent designer and feel the need to place humans outside of the realm of nature. We are animals. We are highly intelligent, socially advanced animals but they refuse to see it that way.

I feel this is one of the first obstacles to try and overcome in the morality argument. It is necessary to show them that humans are not the only organisms that follow a "code" that is in place to protect the species.
(24-08-2011 10:53 AM)theophilus Wrote:  
(24-08-2011 04:06 AM)Joe Bloe Wrote:  If God asked you to kill someone, would you do it?

An atheist can answer that question without hesitation: "Definitely not." But a Christian has to stop and think: If he answers "Yes," then he reveals his allegiance to a moral code that allows him to commit murders on a whim, but if he answers "No," then he admits that according to his own moral code, his God is immoral - so he prevaricates with, "God would never ask me to kill anyone."
God created us and has an absolute right to do whatever he wants with us, including killing us, so if he kills someone it isn't murder but simply an exercise of his right of ownership. He can also choose any method, including commanding someone else to do the killing. Killing someone at God's command is obedience, not murder.

So God has his own set of morals that are superior to ours?

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
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24-08-2011, 11:05 AM
RE: "Without God... "
Simple fact, if morality came from a god then you would have no way of identifying whether said god was good or not. Most religious people will say that god has the right to decide right and wrong because he is all powerful. The believer who posits this is saying in essence that "might makes right" making morality nonexistent because it is simply whatever the biggest bully decides it is.

“There is no sin except stupidity.” Oscar Wilde
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24-08-2011, 11:17 AM
RE: "Without God... "
(24-08-2011 10:56 AM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  So God has his own set of morals that are superior to ours?
God's morality is the same as ours. Part of that morality is that the owner can do what he likes with his property and we are all God's property.

The information in ancient libraries came from real minds of real people. The far more complex information in cells came from the far more intelligent mind of God.
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24-08-2011, 11:29 AM
RE: "Without God... "
(24-08-2011 11:17 AM)theophilus Wrote:  
(24-08-2011 10:56 AM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  So God has his own set of morals that are superior to ours?
God's morality is the same as ours. Part of that morality is that the owner can do what he likes with his property and we are all God's property.

"Thou shalt not murder"

So God can break his own commandments and/or have us break his commandment and it is still moral?

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24-08-2011, 11:47 AM (This post was last modified: 24-08-2011 11:51 AM by Peterkin.)
RE: "Without God... "
(24-08-2011 11:17 AM)theophilus Wrote:  God's morality is the same as ours. Part of that morality is that the owner can do what he likes with his property and we are all God's property.

Oh, not again!
God is very good, because he says so and might makes right. The people he made in his own image - only less perfect - are given a more perfect, more absolute set of moral rules: they are punished if they behave the way god behaves. God requires them to do wrong if God tells them to, but forbids the same act of their own free will.
Which part of this vicious circle do you atheists not understand?

btw - i don't think the bible mentions "murder" as such. Killing, yes, often, and it's judged differently according to the circumstances and the victim's identity.

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