Sunday, October 12, 2014

If I stopped believing in God tomorrow.....

I would certainly NOT become a humanist. 

I think I'd probably agree with Albert Camus, when he said 


There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer. And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example, you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the definitive act. These are facts the heart can feel; yet they call for careful study before they become clear to the intellect.

49 comments:

B. Prokop said...

You know, I read that paragraph about six times - the last time v-e-r-y slowly. One sentence at a time. I even diagrammed a couple of them to make sure I had correctly grasped their meaning. But...

I am still far from certain that I understand what Camus is trying to get across. I think he's trying to say that if he concludes that life has no meaning, then he would commit "the definitive act", which I take to be (in this case) suicide.

Am I close? And if so, what does that have to do with humanism?

Victor Reppert said...

To expand on his idea, he thinks that there is no given meaning in life. One can become become evil to benefit from the triumph of evil, one can commit suicide, or one can fight against evil. But while he prefers the final choice, he thinks that one cannot rationally choose amongst them. These are all existential choices which a person might make, once one gives up not only on God, but also on the myth of secular human progress.

Crude said...

I've long thought that the proper response to the Cult of Gnu in particular, and to some degree secular irreligiosity in general, should be to simply emphasize these points rather than pretending to find common ground in some faint hope of encouraging an imitation of goodness in their discourse.

B. Prokop said...

Crude,

As a Good Christian, you ought to know that atheists, even gnus, are still compelled by nature itself to distinguish between good and evil, and to acknowledge that it is preferable to choose the good. As Saint Paul wrote, "what the law requires [i.e., what it takes to be good] is written on all people's hearts, while their conscience also bears witness."

Atheists have no choice in this - it is engrained by God Himself within their inmost being, regardless of whether they believe in Him or not.

Now as to whether they will actually choose the good is another story entirely.

Saints and Sceptics said...

1) Human beings are made of crooked timber. So how can we put humanity on a pedestal?
2) I can't see how humanists coherently speak of human nature and agree with scientific materialism that there is no such thing as human nature.
3) In any case, it seems to be personhood rather than humanity which humanists value.

GV

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

So, you don't see yourself as a humanist, Victor. I would have thought humanism was the very essence of the human condition. Seems rather odd that you should deny your human character. One who denies their humanism denies their humanity. Belief in [putative] live non-human supernatural entities is the alienation of humanity; the human character, our humanity [and the best of part of human] attributed to the non-human.



You declare, "If I stopped believing in God tomorrow....I would certainly NOT become a humanist." Then what would you become?



It is very interesting how the religiose can become so volitionally amnesic about history should it not reconcile with, or suit their current fashionable cultic ideology founded as it is on a modern rehash of supernatural superstition.
 The historical account of the first ' Humanist Manifesto was issued by a conference held at the University of Chicago in 1933.[9] Signatories included the philosopher John Dewey, but the majority were ministers (chiefly Unitarian) and theologians. They identified humanism as an ideology that espouses reason, ethics, and social and economic justice, and they called for science to replace dogma and the supernatural as the basis of morality and decision-making.[10][11]" Wiki



With regard to your concession towards Camus, I do think you partially understand what it is to be a naturalist. ”The French writer, Albert Camus (1913-1960) speaks eloquently for Sober Naturalism when he freely confesses his own appetite for ultimate meaning and eternal life. It is dishonest, he says, to deny that we each have a longing for immortality and infinite happiness. However, Camus goes on to say that we have to admit that the natural world, no matter how expansive and lovely it may be, can never satisfy our longing for the eternal. If death is the decisive end of life, and mindlessness the ultimate destiny of nature’s adventure in consciousness, then reality makes no sense in the final analysis. The idea that lovers of life find themselves in a death-dealing universe is the very definition of what Camus calls the “Absurd”. “ John F Haught, “Science and Faith: A New Introduction” Paulist Press, 2012.
However, the context is all important, and Camus has some very insightful and erudite observations about 'the meaning of life, about suicide, even about the false hope of "hope" peddled by religion. Anyone genuinely wishing to appreciate Camus' take would do well to read this piece.
Of course Camus was not of the Sunny Naturalist disposition, that is, ”... those who find sufficient spiritual fulfillment here and now in the enjoyment of nature’s beauty, human inquiry, and creativity. For them nature is enough to fill a person’s life with meaning.” Haught. I personally subscribe to this sunny side of naturalism, Victor, and the choice of sober or sunny naturalism is simply a matter of one's proclivity for melancholia.


toddes said...

"It is very interesting how the religiose can become so volitionally amnesic about history should it not reconcile with, or suit their current fashionable cultic ideology..."

Yet PL, somehow, there is no cognitive dissonance for you when the humanist does the same.

The first Humanist Manifesto was all about religious humanism. (As was the second.) The term "religious humanism' is repeated through the document.

Unfortunately for the religiose humanist, they found themselves bound by the same Establishment Clause that applied to the traditional religions.

So the third iteration of the Manifesto did away with the religious emphasis and pretended that the previous manifestos never existed.

By the way...can you please point out the many theologians who signed the first Manifesto? Seems to be mostly Unitarians and philosophers not theologians.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, We live in a world of uncertainty. Apparently you don't even want to think about all the uncertainties. To you it's either Jesus or suicide. No grey areas or persistent questions.

Even in a world WITH God you have to choose your actions based on more than "God said," because there is the matter of interpretation of the "laws of Moses" for society's use, and a matter of cultural differences since the Bible was written, and the fact that human beings wrote those words that supposedly "God said," and may have written some of them down based on considerations other than simply "God said."

Even in a world WITH God there are no guarantees that bad things will not happen, even horrendous things done by one Christian to another Christian, or by one Christian to their own children, natural events that cause pain or even lifelong trauma, both physical and psychological, and death is still inevitable.

As for Christian theology, you get to die three times. There's the spiritual death in Eden, the physical death in the world, and the "second" death after the resurrection (or is the "second death" really the third death when you count the spiritual death in Eden?).

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, If you want "suicide" quotations that are a bit more interesting and controversial try E. M. Cioran:

"Life inspires more dread than death—it is life which is the great unknown." [reminds me of Bertrand Russell's line, "We all have a tendency to think that the world must conform to our prejudices. The opposite view involves some effort of thought, and most people would die sooner than think – in fact they do so."]

“Only optimists commit suicide, optimists who no longer succeed at being optimists. The others, having no reason to live, why would they have any to die?”

“It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.”

"The obsession with suicide is characteristic of the man who can neither live nor die, and whose attention never swerves from this double impossibility."

MORE Emil M. Cioran quotations (did he out-Nietzsche Nietzsche?)

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/08/emil-m-cioran-quotations-did-he-out.html

Edward T. Babinski said...

Interesting quotation about the meaning of life for an atheist, contra the way William Lane Craig attempts to depict atheism.


Craig's example of the stranded astronaut . . . admits of a similar reply. Contemplating the predicament of a man who has nothing but a rock to sit on and must endure his solitude for all eternity does indeed come close to contemplating something meaningless. But this is simply the result of the fact that, by completely isolating the man, the example surreptitiously removes the vast majority of human goods from his life. Let the man be on the Earth, not on an asteroid lost in space. Instead of being alone, let him be surrounded by family, friends, and opportunities for growth and understanding. Let him live a human life with access to the full range of human goods. Suddenly, it is no longer obvious that his life would be meaningless. If it were a finite life, it would still contain many important goods capable of carving a niche for meaningfulness in the face of any suffering the man may endure along the way. And if he inadvertently drank the potion for immortality, as in the example Craig cites, the man would not sink into despair as long as, for example, the people who are important to him drank the potion too, and they could all reasonably expect to continue to enjoy the moral and intellectual goods that are available to them now. An infinitely extended human life endowed with goods of the moral sort is in fact the model for theistic conceptions of the afterlife. So, with the appropriate modifications, the example of the man inadvertently drinking the potion for immortality does not lead to the conclusion that life, even if infinite, is meaningless without God. Rather, the modified example reveals that worthwhile relationships, understanding, and love are the ultimate sources of meaning for a human life. By themselves, without any need for a God to exist, they give our lives their significance and value, so much so that even theists craft their idea of eternal beatitude from the idea of a life where the supply of these goods never ends.

-Di Muzio, Gianluca. "Theism and the Meaning of Life", Ars Disputandi 6:1 (2006), pp. 138-139.

Edward T. Babinski said...

THE MEANING OF LIFE FOR A NON-THEIST

Do we hunger for meaning? Or is the analytical part of our brain stuck in overdrive, trying to translate into language something that's non-language but pure experience?

We lay waves of interpretations on everything, making it difficult to get back to what simply is, and acknowledge that we are the meaning makers. As Van the Man sang: "It ain't why? why? why? why? It just is." We can't bump our foot without translating that into: "I'm an idiot" OR "glad I wasn't barefoot." OR "God is getting my attention." Or, "damn couch!" (and strike out at the couch, kicking it with our good foot).

"...we, and I mean humans, are meaning makers. We do not discover the meanings of mysterious things, we invent them. We make meanings because meaninglessness terrifies us above all things. More than snakes, even. More than falling, or the dark. We trick ourselves into seeing meanings in things, when in fact all we are doing is grafting our meanings onto the universe to comfort ourselves. We gild the chaos of the universe with our symbols. To admit that something is meaningless is just like falling backward into darkness."
― Benjamin Hale, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

Ernest Becker said that we create meaning as a defense mechanism against death and annihilation. We are all terrified of oblivion, as well we should be. Repression of that terror is a necessary tool toward the continuance of life. Hence we are all busy building "immortality projects," hoping to leave something behind, either in the way of offspring, our work, our creations, or leaping the religion bandwagon and having our faith boosted by being around others who believe with us that the road goes on forever and the party never ends.

"The real world is simply too terrible to admit. It tells man that he is a small trembling animal who will someday decay and die. Culture changes all of this,makes man seem important,vital to the universe. Immortal in some ways."
― Ernest Becker

Personally, I like to think there's something more to life, I prefer to think that way. I don't like the idea of suffering and dying, sleeping eternally. But then, cockroaches don't like to be crushed, all living things will swim, run and fly their damnedest to escape death.

Edward T. Babinski said...

HOW DO HUMAN BEING "FIT INTO" THE COSMOS? some interesting perspectives

One provocative idea is Richard Tarnas' in Passion of the Western Mind. He posits that the universe, via human beings is becoming conscious of itself. Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, and Robert Anton Wilson held a similar view:

J.C. : We are children of this planet... we have come forth from it. We are its eyes and mind, its seeing and its thinking. And the earth, together with its sun... came forth from a nebula; and that nebula, in turn, from space. No wonder then, if its laws and ours are the same.

A.W. : You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself... We do not 'come into' this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean 'waves,' the universe 'peoples.' Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe...

It's like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it's dense, isn't it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see? So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting. But so we define ourselves as being only that... as one very complicated little curlique, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time. But billions of years ago, you were a big bang, and now you're a complicated human being. We don't feel that we're still the big bang. But you are... You're not just something that's a result of the big bang. You're not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are also still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as--Mr so-and- so, Ms so-and-so, Mrs so-and-so--I see every one as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I'm that, too. But we've learned to define ourselves as separate from it.

R.A.W. : I suspect that this world shows signs of 'intelligent design,' and I suspect that such intelligence acts via feedback from all parts to all parts and without centralized sovereignty, like Internet; and that it does not function hierarchically, in the style an Oriental despotism, an American corporation or Christian theology. I somewhat suspect that Theism and Atheism both fail to account for such decentralized intelligence, rich in circular-causal feedback.
_____________________________

We have this need to feel we are center stage in the universe. (Christians claim it is because of our sin nature.) But any self-aware being feels in some sense that it is the center of the universe simply by virtue of being a self-aware being, not a universally aware being.
_____________________________

Apologists for Christianity and/or the Bible all remind me of the same thing. The literature of a Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, Christian Scientist and an Evangelical strike me as the same, people desperately seeking to prove to others that they themselves are not crazy to believe that they alone know the true interpretation of a collection of ancient writings, and that they alone know that they truly are the ones going to inherit eternal life.

Victor Reppert said...

I didn't say Jesus or suicide. But I do think that there are lots of people out there who don't commit suicide for religious reasons who may do so if they rejected their beliefs. Not all of us are as fortunate as we are.

im-skeptical said...

Camus asked the question. But as a humanist, his answer was NO.

B. Prokop said...

All I know is, were I an atheist, the question would be meaningless. Whether I took my life tomorrow, or waited until I died a natural death, one millisecond after after my demise it would make no difference whatsoever. In fact nothing would make any difference.

The question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" would at last be answered - there would be nothing.

im-skeptical said...

The typical Christian way of looking at life's meaning: "What's in it for me?"

Dan Gillson said...

"Camus asked the question. But as a humanist, his answer was NO." ... Uh, bro. Camus was an anti-humanist. But, why be bothered with knowing what you're talking about.

B. Prokop said...

"But, why be bothered with knowing what you're talking about."

Dan, this is nothing new for Skep. Some months ago, im-impenetrable made the slanderous accusation that the Early Church "modified scripture to comply with doctrine." Asked (repeatedly) to back up his charge, he came up with nothing. In fact, his inability to do so is probably what caused him to flee discourse over on this site and set up his own. (I am waiting with anticipation his righteous denial of this.)

Well, in a lame attempt to try to save face, he hilariously posted about the late First Century work The Shepherd of Hermas (which has absolutely nothing to do with his false accusation). When I pointed this out to him, what was his response? This: "All I'm doing is presenting information that I have found." Translation: "When I made my accusation, I actually had no idea what I was talking about. But now I'll play catch up football, and try to find something, anything, that might muddy the waters and confuse the subject. Maybe nobody will notice that I'm just winging this, because in reality I don't have a freakin' clue."

Dan Gillson said...

I saw that Bob. Aren't we all just glad that Skep isn't a real historian? He can play one all he wants on the internet.

im-skeptical said...

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/plague/section9.rhtml
http://www.iep.utm.edu/camus/
http://www.egs.edu/library/albert-camus/biography/
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/davidsimon434766.html

You're right. I'm not a historian or a philosopher. That's why I bother to research and check my facts. It's preferable to being a pretentious jackass who thinks he knows everything.

Dan Gillson said...

"That's why I bother to research and check my facts. It's preferable to being a pretentious jackass who thinks he knows everything." ... Dude, bro. We all know you don't research anything, so you can cut the crap. And you are a pretentious jackass. You're just really bad at it.

Papalinton said...

"Dan, this is nothing new for Skep. Some months ago, im-impenetrable made the slanderous accusation that the Early Church "modified scripture to comply with doctrine."

There is little doubt on that score. "Ehrman concludes that various early scribes altered the New Testament texts in order to deemphasize the role of women in the early church, to unify and harmonize the different portrayals of Jesus in the four gospels, and to oppose certain heresies (such as Adoptionism). Ehrman contends that certain widely held Christian beliefs, such about the divinity of Jesus, are associated not with the original words of scripture but with these later alterations. Wiki

Damning evidence in his book "Misquoting Jesus". More and more, apologetical excuses and interpretations are becoming thinner and thinner on the ground.

B. Prokop said...

Ehrman? You cite Ehrman???

Ha, ha, ha, ha, HA , HA !!!

im-skeptical said...

Likewise, our testosterone-driven young friend might want to check the sources I provided. He might come to realize that he really doesn't understand Camus as well as he thinks.

Papalinton said...

Each time Ed Babinski adds to the discussion at this blog, Dr Reppert is being schooled, and which invariably [well, almost] ends with a qualifier: "I didn't say Jesus or suicide. But I do think that there are lots of people out there who don't commit suicide for religious reasons who may do so if they rejected their beliefs. Not all of us are as fortunate as we are." In other words, "No, that's not what I mean. This is what I meant."

Quite refreshing really.

im-skeptical said...

"Ha, ha, ha, ha, HA , HA !!!"

Bob, I know you're all about evidence. So tell me please, what facts has Ehrman got wrong, and how do you know that?

B. Prokop said...

What I was laughing at was how any rational person could ever take Ehrman seriously about anything.

Even funnier, is your assuming that Ehrman could possibly be considered an authority on Scripture by any Orthodox Christian. That's like asking an astronomer to take seriously the opinion of a flat-Earther, or imagining that a biologist might respect what Ken Ham has to say about evolution.

So I repeat, "Ha!"

B. Prokop said...

And now I'm off to observe Uranus and Neptune. Signing off until tomorrow.

Papalinton said...

Bob, you should read "Misquoting Jesus". It is truly a work of a genuine, real-life, investigative historian. He has forensically inspected the texts and unlike apologists that pretend to be historians, he does not airbrush out the inconsistencies, contradictions, mismatches, variations, differences, dissimilarities; disparities, contrasts, nor discrepancies. Indeed it is because of the presence of these that we know of the shenanigans of the early church fathers and scribes. They inform a history so very different from the cobbled narrative of apologetics that we have swallowed for centuries.
The rise and rise of genuine, bona fide academic biblical research is now supplanting the pseudo-history of apologetics at institutes of higher learning. Who would have thought the possibility of humanist and secular chaplains a few decades ago? The apologetical edifice of history is slowly dismantling. This is a result of the works of the great many secular biblical scholars who are not clouded by a personal investment in the belief. They are historians first foremost. They are not apologists masquerading as historians.

im-skeptical said...

"Even funnier, is your assuming that Ehrman could possibly be considered an authority on Scripture by any Orthodox Christian." That's like claiming Victor Stenger knows something about physics. So much for evidence, right Bob?

Dan Gillson said...

"Likewise, our testosterone-driven young friend might want to check the sources I provided. He might come to realize that he really doesn't understand Camus as well as he thinks." ... And Skep proves that he knows nothing of early 20th century French philosophy. He can start by reading Stefanos Geroulanos's book, An Atheism that Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought. However, such a weighty book may prove to be too "elitist" for our simpleminded friend.

B. Prokop said...

"he does not airbrush out the inconsistencies, contradictions, mismatches, variations, differences, dissimilarities; disparities, contrasts, nor discrepancies. Indeed it is because of the presence of these that we know of the shenanigans of the early church fathers and scribes."

Actually, it's excellent evidence for the exact opposite. If there had actually been any such "shenanigans", such things would have been the first things to go. The fact that the four Gospels do not line up word for word is the best evidence that they have not been tampered with, but have been faithfully transmitted precisely as written.

"The rise and rise of genuine, bona fide academic biblical research is now supplanting the pseudo-history of apologetics at institutes of higher learning."

You're a bit behind the times there, Linton. Self-styled "bona fide biblical research" has long since jumped the shark, and the reaction has set in with a vengeance. Genuinely objective works such as Pope Benedict's three volume Jesus of Nazareth have blown the previous generation of narcissistic excess clean out of the water. C'mon, Linton. You fancy yourself a Man of the Times - you need to keep up here. You're living in the past!

Legion of Logic said...

An atheist who is correct about his atheism (almost certainly doesn't exist but bear with me), an endangered ape, a fly, a bacteria, and a beautiful rock are all wiped out in an intentional act of violence. Questions:

Which of the five targets is objectively the greatest loss? Why?
Which was objectively the most immoral to destroy? Why?
Which objective standard do we judge these things by?

The utter inability of atheists to answer a question like this without invoking their opinions of morality (which is self-defeating) or the standards of society (self-defeating) or appealing to biological impulses (self-defeating) makes it beyond incredible to me that they actually want others to become atheists and share in these delusions of meaning that are refuted by their own beliefs. Even if theism was wrong, at least it doesn't refute itself like naturalism does.

Dan Gillson said...

LoL,

I don't see how a theist is in a better position to answer your questions, unless of course he begs the question.

Papalinton said...

Legion lives in a strange and concocted mindscape where atheists simply self-destruct, or self-immolate by virtue of their belief, for in his weird and surreal fantasy there is no such thing as atheism.

Legion, you're a legend.

Legion of Logic said...

Dan, a theist will generally assume that theism is correct and subsequently base decisions on that foundation. In the case of Christianity, it would be simple to answer those questions I threw out based on what is considered by Christians to be objective truth - moral truth comes from God and humans reflect it (very imperfectly). A Christian can justify in his own mind saying something is evil or good because of this.

If an atheist assumes atheism to be true, how can they answer the questions without invoking things that are incredibly non binding? Their opinion? Mass opinion? Genetics? How does an atheist objectively answer my question within his own mind? Does he call people evil for holding a different opinion than himself?

Papa, I have no idea what you are referring to, since it would be hard for me to speak of atheists if I did not believe there were atheists (do you seriously think that?). And I'm fully aware that atheists tend to dig their heads in the sand and ignore the ultimate implications of their beliefs, so no I don't expect them to implode or whatever other colorful and inaccurate descriptions you wish to present.

B. Prokop said...

Legion,

It is solely by God's mercy that atheists do not self destruct. It is not required that they acknowledge this. After all, their very continued existence from moment to moment is dependent upon the active Will of the Creator to maintain them in existence. (We greatly misunderstand creation when we think of it as a one-time event somewhere in the past. No, God Upholds the Universe at each present moment.) Even Linton Wilson is uniquely and purposefully maintained as a physical and sentient being by the Creator, whether he will it or no.

Yes, yes, and once again yes - atheism is at rock bottom the ultimate absurdity, a mass of self-contradiction that, quite ironically, can only be in the first place because its adherents do not, dare not, can not reject the very imprint of His image upon their inmost being. They are moment to moment maintained in existence solely due to His mercy.

Dan Gillson said...

LoL,

"[A] theist will generally assume that theism is correct and subsequently base decisions on that foundation." ... This doesn't make any sense. How does theism being correct lay the foundation for answering such questions as, "Which of the five targets is objectively the greatest loss? Why?" If I say, "the rock," how does "because theism is correct," lay the foundation for my answer?

"If an atheist assumes atheism to be true, how can they answer the questions without invoking things that are incredibly non binding? Their opinion? Mass opinion? Genetics? How does an atheist objectively answer my question within his own mind? Does he call people evil for holding a different opinion than himself?" ... The question you asked has no objective answer, in the sense which you're looking for. There are better and worse answers, not "objective" ones.

Legion of Logic said...

Dan, I think I must have poorly worded my thought, so I will try again.

To simplify my questions for this purpose, I'll change it to "Is it objectively less moral to murder a child than it is to eat a banana?" So here is what I mean by the foundations.

A Christian believes that A) there is a creator God, with all the implications of purpose that this entails, and B) the characteristics of this deity are described in part in the Bible. There is a primary and secondary layer of moral pressure within the Christian worldview: Our inner thoughts and feelings, which atheists and many Christians would agree are largely encoded in our genes (Paul describes this in Romans as "written in our heart") is the secondary, and the moral truth that flows from God is the primary. Most people would agree that any urge to murder should be resisted because it is wrong, which is the secondary moral imperative. But a Christian will also believe that murder is wrong based upon God's will for believers.

So basically, when asked which is objectively more immoral between murdering a child and eating a banana, a Christian can say, "Murdering a child is worse, because not only is the natural revulsion to such an act the result of our inner morality reflecting the divine nature of God, but God himself said that murder is wrong."

According to you, Dan, murdering a child is not objectively worse than eating a banana. As absolutely horrifying as it is to me that atheists actually want to SPREAD this insanity, but it also brings up huge glaring inconsistencies. For example, most atheists decry opposition to gay rights as evil and immoral. Since we know that evil and immorality do not actually exist, according to atheists, then by what standard are Christians immoral when they oppose gay rights, and why is this standard better than a different one?

B. Prokop said...

"we know that evil and immorality do not actually exist, according to atheists"

Well, not according to all of them. But those who do admit to their existence cannot logically explain why they do so.

Dan Gillson said...

LoL,

1. Considered in itself, eating a banana has no moral value. Comparing it to killing a child is, to say the least, odd, and by odd I mean not instructive.

2.According to me, murdering a child is much, much worse than eating a banana. Thanks for asking.

3. A case for you to consider: If murder is objectively wrong because God himself says it is, then was God commanding the Israelites to do something objectively wrong when he commanded them to kill the Amalekite Children?

4. The question isn't whether evil and immorality exist, it's how they exist. I.e., do evil and morality exist apart from human forms of life? My answer is no, evil and morality are intrinsically, undeniably, metaphysically human. Here's a favorite quote of mine about the nature of evil:

"Fear is of danger; terror is of violence, of the violence I might do or that might be done to me. I can be terrified by thunder, but not horrified by it. And isn't it the case that not the human horrifies me, but the inhuman, the monstrous. Very well. But only what is human can be inhuman--Can only the human be monstrous? If something is monstrous, and we do not believe there are monsters, then only the human is a candidate for the monstrous"

Dan Gillson said...

The quote is from The Claim of Reason by Stanley Cavell.

Legion of Logic said...

Considered in itself, eating a banana has no moral value. Comparing it to killing a child is, to say the least, odd, and by odd I mean not instructive.

It's actually highly instructive, one of the few cases where going to completely absurd extremes is helpful to highlight a problem. Who are you to say that eating a banana has no moral value? Plants are alive, too, which objectively makes the killing of a plant as moral or immoral as the killing of a human. I would imagine the plant would rather the human get killed if it were given the option, don't you?

According to me, murdering a child is much, much worse than eating a banana.

That's excellent. Now explain how you feel justified in condemning the morality of another who doesn't agree with you, and why your opinion is superior to theirs.

A case for you to consider: If murder is objectively wrong because God himself says it is, then was God commanding the Israelites to do something objectively wrong when he commanded them to kill the Amalekite Children?

Couple things. One, I'm not exactly happy about the killing of children in the Old Testament. Two, murder is not final to God like it is to us. Those kids are guaranteed eternal life due to being too young to know right from wrong, so for someone like God who can reach beyond mortal death, it's not even close to the same moral weight as it is from a human perspective. And even if the act of murder was not immoral per se, Christians were commanded not to do it, so that would make it objectively wrong to a Christian anyway.

The question isn't whether evil and immorality exist, it's how they exist. I.e., do evil and morality exist apart from human forms of life? My answer is no, evil and morality are intrinsically, undeniably, metaphysically human.

Let's take it for granted for a moment that you are correct. In that case, we would agree that there isn't an external morality beyond human convention. The problem is, ALL moral systems are human conventions. Just because you view the killing of a child as more immoral than the eating of a banana does not mean that it IS, nor does it mean you have any justification for condemning someone whose opinion differs from yours. He could condemn you with equal fervor. So you can't use personal opinion as justification.

We view slavery as monstrous today based on our notions of human rights and "greatest good for the greatest number" to alleviate suffering, but that has not always been the case. Slavery was perfectly acceptable in numerous societies in the past. And by every standard that you would judge them to be wrong, they could justify themselves as being right. Same goes for Nazi Germany killing minorities, or any other society we consider hideous. They viewed it as okay. So we can't use majority opinion or societal standards as justification.

There is no "negative" impulse that humans feel - the desire to kill, steal, rape, etc - that is not equally as natural and equally as valid as the virtuous behaviors we uphold. Every serial killer has a moral system that is as natural and binding as your own, or my own. So I really wouldn't want to use biological urges as a justification.

So, what are you left with? You can explain how moral systems exist (humans invented them) but you sure can't explain why people who deviate from your ideas of morality are in fact wrong to do so. Morals are nothing but opinions based on impulses and enforced by a majority, after all.

B. Prokop said...

"Conscience implies a relation between the soul and a something exterior, and that, moreover, exterior to itself; a relation to an excellence which it does not possess, and to a tribunal over which it has no power."

(John Henry Newman, from a sermon preached before the University of Oxford, April 13, 1830.)

Says it all, I think.

Dan Gillson said...

LoL,

"It's actually highly instructive, one of the few cases where going to completely absurd extremes is helpful to highlight a problem." ... Actually, it's not instructive at all because it's a false analogy. (It's actually a question-begging analogy, but it would take me too long to explain why, so I'll be satisfied with the genus.)

"Who are you to say that eating a banana has no moral value? ... A man who appreciates the caloric value of a banana.

"Plants are alive, too, which objectively makes the killing of a plant as moral or immoral as the killing of a human." ... "And the LORD God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden ... '" Genesis 2:16

"I would imagine the plant would rather the human get killed if it were given the option, don't you?" ... No, I don't think that the plant would put human interests ahead of its own. Would you choose to die for the interests of a superior alien species? I know I wouldn't.

"Now explain how you feel justified in condemning the morality of another who doesn't agree with you, and why your opinion is superior to theirs." ... I can't, but like Aristotle I can't concern myself with people who knowingly choose immorality.

"Couple things. One, I'm not exactly happy about the killing of children in the Old Testament. Two, murder is not final to God like it is to us." ... I wouldn't trust a God who wasn't bound to his own rules.

"Those kids are guaranteed eternal life due to being too young to know right from wrong, so for someone like God who can reach beyond mortal death, it's not even close to the same moral weight as it is from a human perspective. ... That's a stretch of the theological imagination. I would think that the murdered children would be counted as "the slain who lie in their grave, whom [God] remember[s] no more, who are cut off from [God's] care." (Psalm 88:5). And anyways, you're trying to dodge the question: did God command the Israelites to do something objectively wrong.

"Let's take it for granted for a moment that you are correct. In that case, we would agree that there isn't an external morality beyond human convention" ... I almost agree with you. However, I have trouble with the word "convention." I prefer Wittgenstein's expression, "Form of Life." (Conventions aren't Forms of Life.)

"Just because you view the killing of a child as more immoral than the eating of a banana does not mean that it IS" ... You're right. Opinions got nothin' to do with it. Killing a child is wrong. Eating a banana isn't.

"He could condemn you with equal fervor. So you can't use personal opinion as justification." ... He could, but whether or not his opinion holds up in the logical space of reasons is another matter altogether. I don't think that someone who honestly wishes to make the case that eating a banana is better than killing a child would have much luck.

Dan Gillson said...

" Slavery was perfectly acceptable in numerous societies in the past. And by every standard that you would judge them to be wrong, they could justify themselves as being right. Same goes for Nazi Germany killing minorities, or any other society we consider hideous. They viewed it as okay. So we can't use majority opinion or societal standards as justification." ... The trouble is, the premises used to justify slavery (i.e., either inherent inferiority of races, or commodification of persons), or the murder of minorities by Nazis (i.e. inherent inferiority of races) are just false. Majority opinion ain't got nothin' to do with it.

"There is no "negative" impulse that humans feel - the desire to kill, steal, rape, etc - that is not equally as natural and equally as valid as the virtuous behaviors we uphold." ... That is true. Nobility and monstrosity wear a human face.

"Every serial killer has a moral system that is as natural and binding as your own, or my own. So I really wouldn't want to use biological urges as a justification." ... A serial killer may be principled, but that is different from being moral. A good example of this is Anton Sigur from No Country for Old Men.

Dan Gillson said...

"You can explain how moral systems exist (humans invented them) but you sure can't explain why people who deviate from your ideas of morality are in fact wrong to do so. Morals are nothing but opinions based on impulses and enforced by a majority, after all." ... It's not about my ideas of morality, it's about certain forms of life being brought to bear in the logical space of reasons. Forms of life that have no rational basis (e.g., killing children and saving bananas) should be eschewed for forms of life that make sense (e.g., sparing children and eating bananas). Morals aren't just mere opinions or conventions. They are expressions of something more ... fundamental than that.

Dan Gillson said...

Uh ...

"I don't think that someone who honestly wishes to make the case that eating a banana is better than killing a child would have much luck." ... I meant to say worse ... eating a banana is much, much better than killing a child. We should all eat bananas and not kill children.