Wednesday, October 05, 2016

An argument against religious morality

Some would make this argument. The parts of morality that are productive for society are those parts that religious and nonreligious people agree with (murder, theft, etc.). The parts of morality that religious people accept and nonreligious people reject are the parts of morality that are really harmful (such as opposition to homosexuality). Therefore whenever religion adds anything, it adds something counterproductive.


How would you respond to this argument?

94 comments:

Ilíon said...

"How would you respond to this argument?"

That I see no argument to respond to.

Ilíon said...

What's more, even if -- against all experience -- this hypothetical 'atheist' *did* actually present an actual argument to support this bare assertion, the only "morality" atheism can support is "might makes right" (*). So, even if he actually presented an actual argument to support this bare assertion AND even if it were a sound and valid argument, by his own "morality" religious people can sinply say, "So what? There are more of you than of you"


(*) Which also happens to be exactly what we see in Real Life *everytime* God-deniers get their hands on the levers of State violence, whether we're talking about the old Soviet Union or today's EUSSR or USSA.

Gyan said...

There is no agreement on murder as well. Atheists have no hard line against abortion and euthanasia.

unkleE said...

I would take a completely different line. I would agree that religion, including many forms of christianity, don't add much to societal ethics. But Jesus certainly did (the sermon on the mount and the parable of sheep and goats, as you have recently pointed out). Fortunately, it is possible to follow Jesus and not be tied to those unhelpful forms of religion.

John Moore said...

It's not that opposition to homosexuality is necessarily harmful. That's not the root of the difference between religion and atheism. Instead, I suggest framing the argument like this:

a) Religious morality tends to promote conformity.
b) Atheist morality is more likely to embrace diversity.

So then the question is how much conformity is good for a stable healthy society, and how much diversity is needed to ensure a dynamic, creative and economically vibrant society.

Ilíon said...

"There is no agreement on murder as well. Atheists have no hard line against abortion and euthanasia."

Nor infanticide. Some of them, some quite prominent in "ethics", are now arguing that since the murder of a child before it is born is morally equivalent to its murder after it is born -- that is, what we have always said and what they have habitually denied -- and since abortion is legal, that, ergo, infanticide up to some age ought also to be legal.

Ilíon said...

John Moore,
You still haven't framed an argument.

SteveK said...

I agree with Ilion. All you have done here is attach word labels to behaviors. Which is the morally good behavior? You'll need an argument for that.

SteveK said...

Also, you'll need a *moral reality* that objectively applies to me and every human being on the planet in order for the argument to have any force. Good luck, atheists.

B. Prokop said...

Steve,

I believe John would disagree with your requirement for a morality that "objectively applies to me and every human being on the planet". His claim that "atheist morality" embraces diversity implies that morality could be one thing for you and another for me, and still another thing for, say, Ilion.

SteveK said...

Bob,
I agree with that. The result is that I am excluded from every conclusion of every argument they can possibly make.

JaredMithrandir said...

Actually Homophobia is entirety born from Secular Greek Platonic Philosophy.

John Moore said...

Actually B. Prokop has it wrong because I think there really is one moral reality that objectively applies to everyone. When I say atheist morality is more likely to embrace diversity, I simply mean atheists don't tell other people which path they must follow toward our common goal. Just one goal but many paths. Nobody knows the one true path, or even if there is one. But we know there's just one goal.

B. Prokop said...

Whoa! I never knew atheists were such New Agers!!

John, are you into crystals too? Maybe pyramids? Please don't tell me you listen to Yanni!!

John Moore said...

You could keep guessing, if you don't mind being wrong all the time. Or you could look back over my comment history. Or I'd be glad to explain again about goal-oriented ethics, evolutionary consequentialism, and all that. If you wanted to have a real discussion about ideas, we could do that.

bmiller said...

What's wrong with Yanni? :-)

bmiller said...

@John Moore,

But we know there's just one goal.

I'm sure that you don't hold that all atheists share the same moral goal right? If you do, then I'd be interested in why you think that.

Do you think that the atheist "common moral goal" conflicts with the Christian view of morality? Or can Christian morality be a different path to that goal?

BTW, what is that goal?

Ilíon said...

"Whoa! I never knew atheists were such New Agers!!"

When you think about it, it's a very pragmatic, "whatever it takes [to hide from God]"

"But we know there's just one goal."

Death/Annihilation.

John Moore said...

Clearly there's a difference between having a goal and knowing your true goal. You can say you want something, but it turns out you didn't really want it at all.

Goals form a hierarchy, where one goal is only worthwhile because it leads to the next higher goal, etc. People might be wrong in their assumption that one goal leads to the higher goal. For example, money might not bring happiness.

The hierarchy of goals does not go on forever, but there is indeed one highest goal that everyone strives for. Suppose for the moment that we call it "happiness." No one asks why we should have happiness, or what good happiness is, or what higher goal happiness serves. Happiness is the highest possible goal. (The problem, of course, is to explain what true happiness is.)

So anyway, the hierarchy of goals is like a mountain peak. There are many paths up the mountain but only one peak.

When people say their goal is one thing or another, are they talking about the ultimate goal or just an intermediate goal? Are they just talking about different paths up the mountain, or are they really talking about the peak?

I think everyone, all atheists and Christians and everyone, is pursuing the same ultimate goal. Christians may take one path and atheists another. The paths may diverge, but they might both lead to the same summit.

Getting back to the idea of conformity versus diversity, I think Christians want people to all stay on the same path, whereas atheists are more open to the idea that different paths can all lead to the same summit.

B. Prokop said...

"What's wrong with Yanni?"

Where to start? Where to start?...

B. Prokop said...

"So anyway, the hierarchy of goals is like a mountain peak. There are many paths up the mountain but only one peak."

John, you really need to read Prothero's God is Not One. He blows that idea out of the water. (He actually starts with the precise same analogy, and then destroys it.)

John Moore said...

It looks like Prothero is just talking about paths, not the peak.

Do you think there are many heavens, or only one? Do you think there are different types of ultimate happiness, or is ultimate happiness just one kind of thing for everyone?

bmiller said...

@John Moore,

Do you think there are different types of ultimate happiness, or is ultimate happiness just one kind of thing for everyone?

What is your answer? That is one of the big questions no?

bmiller said...

@John Moore,

Hint: Don't say listening to Yanni :-)

John Moore said...

I already said I think there's just one goal for everyone. The hard part is describing in detail what that goal is. There are many descriptions of heaven, but they're all talking about the same heaven, right?

Maybe you agree there is just one heaven. There's just one God, after all, right? So maybe you think atheists simply aren't headed for heaven. Atheists are following the wrong path! It's certainly possible for people to follow the wrong path. Not all paths lead to the peak. Some paths just lead in circles, and other paths lead down the mountain instead of up.

By the way, who is Yanni?

John Moore said...

Prothero is arguing against the idea that all the various religions actually worship the same God. That's not my idea, though.

Prothero warns us that some religions are actually worshiping false gods and going astray and failing to see the one true God. I agree with him.

I say some paths don't lead to the peak of the mountain. Some paths lead you in circles or actually take you down the mountain instead of up.

bmiller said...

@John Moore,

Is this another way to express what you're saying?

We all desire to find the way to happiness, the truth that is there, and the life that we live when we find it?

You'll have to google Yanni. May or may not help you on your journey :-)

John Moore said...

We all desire to find happiness, of course. And happiness is a particular thing that we can describe in pretty good detail. It isn't mystical or vague or esoteric, but it's actually a scientific concept you can see and test. It comes from evolution.


Chris said...

Having a life long interest in comparative religion and philosophy has given me something of a Perennialist point of view. Nevertheless, I think Prothero's book was important and a necessary corrective to a more theosophical interpretation of Perennialism a la Aldous Huxley and the like. Although I am not prepared to endorse the notion of a " Perennial Philosophy" full stop (even the more conservative-traditionalist interpretations of it), I am willing to admit something of a "universal grammar" as we move deeper into the esoteric/experiential domain of a given Tradition. With regards to John's talk of happiness, I think he is on to something. After all, it was Saint Augustine who said, " Man has no reason to philosophize, except with a view to happiness."

Joe Hinman said...

Dividing up ethics as though first secular society said do not kill do not steam then religion came and added don't fornicate ect,we have good reasons to suspect that do not kill and do not steal began as religious ethics, all ethics was religious ethical just as all attempts at explaining things were religious exclamations.


It is not the case that all christian deny gay rights euthanasia and pro choice. I know some of yiu think that also not the case that Christians must be republicans,

Joe Hinman said...

John Moore said...
We all desire to find happiness, of course. And happiness is a particular thing that we can describe in pretty good detail. It isn't mystical or vague or esoteric, but it's actually a scientific concept you can see and test. It comes from evolution.

ethics is not being happy per se. Christian ethics is not veg or mystical. come to taht mystical stuff is not veg,

Joe Hinman said...

I already said I think there's just one goal for everyone. The hard part is describing in detail what that goal is. There are many descriptions of heaven, but they're all talking about the same heaven, right?

Maybe you agree there is just one heaven. There's just one God, after all, right? So maybe you think atheists simply aren't headed for heaven. Atheists are following the wrong path! It's certainly possible for people to follow the wrong path. Not all paths lead to the peak. Some paths just lead in circles, and other paths lead down the mountain instead of up.


sorry to sound cornball and candy ass but itg all boils down to love,

bmiller said...

@John Moore,


We all desire to find happiness, of course. And happiness is a particular thing that we can describe in pretty good detail. It isn't mystical or vague or esoteric, but it's actually a scientific concept you can see and test. It comes from evolution.

Can you point me to something to read so I can get a better understanding of where you're coming from?
Or can you explain in the combox how you "see and test" happiness, and how it "comes from evolution".

Aron Zavaro said...

It begs the question against certain religious beliefs

John Moore said...

A good thing to read is Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape. The main problem with that book is just that Harris didn't explain very well what human flourishing is or what "well being" means. On the other hand, Harris argues that there surely is such as thing as human flourishing even if it's hard for us to pin down its definition.

I think human flourishing is evolutionary success, which means survival indefinitely into the future via your offspring. The odd thing here is just that your offspring end up different from you. We might evolve into an entirely different species, and that would still count as evolutionary success. So we need to expand our concept of selfhood in order for this to make sense.

Lots of people dismiss scientific morality by saying "You can't get an ought from an is" or insisting there is a strict distinction between facts and values. I think this is no problem - it's a fact that all human beings value a particular thing. What you ultimately value isn't something you can decide for yourself or change at whim. It's universal and unchangeable.

grodrigues said...

"I think human flourishing is evolutionary success, which means survival indefinitely into the future via your offspring."

Then it is impossible to know what is human flourishing since we do not and cannot know (barring having a functioning crystal ball) what our evolutionary future will be.

SteveK said...

"it's a fact that all human beings value a particular thing."

This has nothing to do with morality, John.

grodrigues said...

In response to the above, one might object that while we cannot know our distant evolutionary future, we can know our immediate future, and could simply say, for each particular individual, that improving his chances of having offspring is what determines evolutionary success, and therefore human flourishing.

The problem then is then that anything that improves the chances of having offspring constitutes human flourishing, from sending flowers to that pretty redhead to outright murdering the sexual competition and rape.

Welcome to the wonderful moral valley of John Moore.

Stardusty Psyche said...

"John Moore said...
It's not that opposition to homosexuality is necessarily harmful. That's not the root of the difference between religion and atheism. Instead, I suggest framing the argument like this:

a) Religious morality tends to promote conformity.
b) Atheist morality is more likely to embrace diversity."
What is "atheist morality"? Christian morality is the morality of Christ as represented in the NT. Jewish morality is the morality of Yahweh, as represented int the OT. Islamic morality is the Morality of Allah, as recited in the Qur'an and given by example in the Hadith.

There are no such reference books in atheism. Once one rejects any particular written moral code one is free to follow one's own intrinsic sense of ought, which is a personal experience formed by physiology and socialization.

There is no such thing as "atheist morality" as a positive assertion, only the denial of the validity of a the proposed divine moralities.

bmiller said...

@John Moore,

OK, I understand your definition of happiness. I guess Genghis Khan was the happiest guy ever since 1 in 200 people alive today are his descendants.

But would you rate him the most moral guy ever?

B. Prokop said...

The best ever refutation of John's "atheist morality" was penned by C.S. Lewis in Chapter 20 of his novel Out of the Silent Planet, in Weston's dialog with Oyarsa in Meldilorn. If you have not read this, then what the heck are you doing on this website? It is, after all, a site about C.S. Lewis (and chess, and a few other unimportant things).

bmiller said...

@B. Prokop,

Wow! Didn't know there was going to be quiz. :-(

steve said...

Two problems with the argument:

i) It fails to distinguish between moral behavior and what, if anything, justifies moral behavior. Even if believers and unbelievers agree that some things are wrong, that doesn't mean unbelievers have a basis for moral realism.

ii) Believers and unbelievers may agree on the concept of murder, but disagree on who is covered by that concept. Take debates over abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. Likewise, many traditional cultures treat the out-group very differently than the in-group.

John Moore said...

Just a few more responses:

@grodrigues - Murder is unlikely to be a good strategy for transmitting your genes to future generations. The best strategy seems to be working cooperatively in your community. Don't be too short-sighted. The goal isn't just to have a bunch of kids, but to have grand-kids and great-grand-kids and on and on.

@bmiller - Yes, it looks like Genghis Khan was one of the most moral guys ever. He was a lucky individual whose special genius matched the times he lived in. On the other hand, I don't think we can draw any lessons from Genghis Khan's life. Trying to imitate him probably wouldn't work, especially in these modern times.

@B.Prokop - I'm not sure how Oyarsa refutes Weston's program. Is it because all life will eventually die in the distant future? Is it because there's no rational or logical reason why we should want to live? Or is it because Weston's program will likely fail after all? Is it because Weston favors his own kind while hurting other beings? I'd be glad to hear a bit more explanation.

@Stardusty - Yes, atheists have no holy book of official dogma. Therefore, atheists would seem to be "free to follow one's own intrinsic sense of ought," but I'm arguing that the "intrinsic sense of ought" is actually the same for all living things, and there's no escaping it. People can perhaps choose their path up the mountain, but they have no choice but to climb in search of the one peak.

grodrigues said...

@John Moore:

"Don't be too short-sighted. The goal isn't just to have a bunch of kids, but to have grand-kids and great-grand-kids and on and on."

I drew a *logical* consequence of what you said, you know those little buggers called "arguments"? Your only response is an injunction to not be "too short-sighted". But of course, you can only have "great-grand-kids" if you have "grand-kids", and you can only have "grand-kids" if you have "kids". Furthermore, you *admit* that I am correct by, in the very *next* paragraph, conceding to bmiller that Gengis Khan was "was one of the most moral guys ever" on the very same grounds that I pointed out.

There are lots more problems; at any rate, ladies and gents, welcome to the wonderful imoral valley of John Moore where Genghis Khan is the paragon of virtue.

I would be laughing if this were not a grim commentary on the state of modern society.

B. Prokop said...

"I'm not sure how Oyarsa refutes Weston's program. ... I'd be glad to hear a bit more explanation."

John,

An excellent conversation-starter. I started typing out a response, but then thought better about dashing off the first things that came to mind. I'm going to ponder this for a few hours (or even days), and give a proper answer. Be patient.

Stardusty Psyche said...

"I'm arguing that the "intrinsic sense of ought" is actually the same for all living things, and there's no escaping it. People can perhaps choose their path up the mountain, but they have no choice but to climb in search of the one peak."
Your assertion is easily falsified in the case of the sociopath, and that is just a most extreme example that is medically recognized.

"the "intrinsic sense of ought" is actually the same for all living things" is clearly a false statement. On what basis do you assert that all living things, much less all human beings, have the same sense of what they "should" do, or "ought" to do?

There is some broad consensus in our nation on certain basics under certain circumstances but that is hardly a justification for your strong claim. The more egregious outliers get locked up, but a great deal of antisocial, abusive, and dishonest behavior never results in criminal punishment. So, there are uncountable counter examples to your claim.



Ilíon said...

"Two problems with the argument:"

Wait! When did an argument get presented?

B. Prokop said...

RE: Weston's speech to Oyarsa at Meldilorn

I have much to say on this topic, but today I will stick to linguistics.

This scene is one of my favorite in the entire novel, primarily because of Ransom's translation of Weston's noble-sounding terms and phrases into basic Malacandrian. An entire debate could easily center around whether Ransom was being fair in his choice of wording, but I believe Lewis is making a really important point here. All too often we disguise the true significance of an action with obfuscating language, such as calling civilian casualties Collateral Damage, or torture Enhanced Interrogation. In WWII, many atrocities were given the "special" treatment. The gassing of Jews was termed Special Handling. Japanese suicide attacks were labeled Special Attack Operations. The assassination of Admiral Yamamoto was made possible by the use of Special Intelligence.

I recall with a smile how once at a morning commander's briefing at Field Station Augsburg, an officer described the explosion of a gas cylinder on site by saying it had "energetically disassociated itself" - and not one person raised an eyebrow at such language!

And so Dr. Weston opens his speech with the following words:

‘To you I may seem a vulgar robber, but I bear on my shoulders the destiny of the human race. Your tribal life with its stone-age weapons and beehive huts, its primitive coracles and elementary social structure, has nothing to compare with our civilization — with our science, medicine and law, our armies, our architecture, our commerce, and our transport system which is rapidly annihilating space and time. Our right to supersede you is the right of the higher over the lower.’

And Ransom translates that as:

‘Among us, Oyarsa, there is a kind of hnau [intelligent life] who will take other hnaus’ food and — and things, when they are not looking. He says he is not an ordinary one of that kind. He says what he does now will make very different things happen to those of our people who are not yet born. He says that, among you, hnau of one kindred all live together and the hrossa [a Martian race] have spears like those we used a very long time go and your huts are small and round and your boats small and light and like our old ones, and you have one ruler. He says it is different with us. He says we know much. There is a thing happens in our world when the body of a living creature feels pains and becomes weak, and he says we sometimes know how to stop it. He says we have many bent people and we kill them or shut them in huts and that we have people for settling quarrels between the bent hnau about their huts and mates and things. He says we have many ways for the hnau of one land to kill those of another and some are trained to do it. He says we build very big and strong huts of stones and other things — like the pfifltriggi [another Martian race]. And he says we exchange many things among ourselves and can carry heavy weights very quickly a long way. Because of all this, he says it would not be the act of a bent hnau if our people killed all your people.’

So.. was Ransom's translation fair to what Weston said?

B. Prokop said...

By the way, for those of you who may not have yet read Out of the Silent Planet, you can do so on line here.

bmiller said...

@John Moore,

Aside from wondering who will win the "2016 Gengis Khan Humanitarian Award" I wonder if you think that Jesus was then one of the least moral guys ever.

His moral message was:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Not "ensure your progeny reproduce indefinitely".

Stardusty Psyche said...

" B. Prokop said...
The best ever refutation of John's "atheist morality" was penned by C.S. Lewis in Chapter 20 of his novel Out of the Silent Planet"
Somewhere buried in a goofy fiction about tribes and "going native" is a refutation, not just of any morality, but "atheist morality". No, despite your apparent infatuation with this story, it is just another example of Lewis's meandering and pointless prattle.

But OK, let's just say I am a block headed atheist with near zero literature reading skills. Would you be kind enough to give me the CliffsNotes version of what this supposed "atheist morality" is and how Lewis supposedly provided "the best ever refutation" of it somehow tangled up in this goofy little story?

B. Prokop said...

Stardusty,

If you don't understand how much wisdom can be gleaned from reading popular literature, you ought to check out my blog Celestial Pilgrimage, in which for the past 20 postings I have been discussing E.E. Smith's 1928 "Super-Science" epic, The Skylark of Space, and how it validates what Homer wrote about some two and a half millennia ago.

(I linked above to the first posting in the current series. If interested, after reading it just click on where it says "Newer Post" at the bottom left of the page, and keep going until you get to the last one. If not interested, well.. I can't help you.)

Stardusty Psyche said...

"If you don't understand how much wisdom can be gleaned from reading popular literature, you ought to check out my blog Celestial Pilgrimage,"
Visiting your blog I understand you are a classic science fiction enthusiast. Ok, I suppose you can "glean" a few bits of insight from any body of fiction. But that is hardly a coherent delineation of an "atheist morality" or a refutation of it.

B. Prokop said...

Well, we may get scrolled off the page by the time I answer John's question (since I am uber busy right now - not much time to post), but I hope to make at least some headway toward answering him.

Ilíon said...

Stardusty Psyche: "But OK, let's just say I am a block headed atheist with near zero literature reading skills."

I suppose that one way to put it

SteveK said...

Stardusty: the Walter Mitty atheist

Stardusty Psyche said...

SteveK said...
"Stardusty: the Walter Mitty atheist"
Telling somebody they are too stupid to know how stupid they are is a particularly weak response. You may as well have said "oh yeah?" or "sez you!"

Stardusty Psyche said...

Ilíon said...
Stardusty Psyche: "But OK, let's just say I am a block headed atheist with near zero literature reading skills."

"I suppose that one way to put it"

Very well then, but I noticed an absence in your comment as to what this supposed "atheist morality" is and how Lewis supposedly provided "the best ever refutation" of it.

Apparently you also suffer from near zero literature reading skills, what a pity, the blind leading the blind.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche:

Looks like the accusation is "Might makes right."...to me.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...
@Stardusty Psyche:
"Looks like the accusation is "Might makes right."...to me."

Ok, so, I think you are saying that according to the story
"atheist morality" = "Might makes right"

Yahweh/Christ/Allah practice might makes right, so the stories go. They have the ultimate might and what they do is by definition right. When Yahweh says "kill all the X" (fill in X with all the various examples from the OT)it is by definition right. When Jesus says "go to hell for eternal torture" that is a right might. Allah, not to be outdone, does not love the unbelievers, and also exercises right might in torturing them for all eternity.

How does rejecting these mythologies somehow equate to considering power as the determiner of moral good? That is simply a non-sequitur.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty,

Do you believe that morality is dependent upon the context of a particular culture? Or do you believe that all opinions on morality are equally valid, in an objective sense?

SteveK said...

Stardusty
I'm referring to the name you earned at the other blog. Sez me

Stardusty Psyche said...

SteveK said...
"Stardusty
I'm referring to the name you earned at the other blog. Sez me"
The word "earned" is incorrectly used by you, at least according to Oxford
"Gain deservedly in return for one's behaviour or achievements."

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...
Stardusty,
"Do you believe that morality is dependent upon the context of a particular culture? Or do you believe that all opinions on morality are equally valid, in an objective sense?"
Morality is relative and at base axiomatic. I have never heard any objective moral truth in the sense of an absolute moral fact.

That does not oblige me to consider all moral opinions to be equally valid. It is possible to find self contradictions in a set of moral opinions. I don't think a moral system that capriciously or malevolently denies individual rights to life and self determination is valid.

I have found most people cannot or will not accept those propositions at the same time. Nearly all people, it seems, either think there is a source of absolute moral truth, or they feel the need to assert equal validity. I make distinctions and decisions absent absolute knowledge not because I like it, but because that is all life offers.

B. Prokop said...

Let's continue with an analysis of Lewis's refutation of "atheist morality":

From where we left off, in Chapter 20 of Out of the Silent Planet:

[Weston speaking] ‘Life is greater than any system of morality; her claims are absolute. It is not by tribal taboos and copy-book maxims that she has pursued her relentless march from the amoeba to man and from man to civilization.’

‘He says,’ began Ransom, ‘that living creatures are stronger than the question whether an act is bent or good — no, that cannot be right — he says it is better to be alive and bent than to be dead — no — he says, he says — I cannot say what he says, Oyarsa, in your language. But he goes on to say that the only good thing is that there should be very many creatures alive. He says there were many other animals before the first men and the later ones were better than the earlier ones; but he says the animals were not born because of what is said to the young about bent and good action by their elders. And he says these animals did not feel any pity.’

Here once again, we have Ransom translating Weston's noble-sounding verbiage into a harshly-stripped-of-all-literary-device plain language. (So far, no one here on Dangerous Idea has answered my query as to whether they feel such translation is fair or not.) But the point being made here is that "atheist morality" in a Darwinian context is fundamentally the right of the strong over the weak, "and the devil take the hindmost".

Much more to follow, of course...

Legion of Logic said...

"I don't think a moral system that capriciously or malevolently denies individual rights to life and self determination is valid."

Why not? Or is this a definitional thing in which "moral" cannot include a harmful act not committed in defense?

B. Prokop said...

Skipping a bit here for conciseness's sake, Dr. Weston closes his speech to Oyarsa with the following:

"What lies in that future, beyond our present ken, passes imagination to conceive: it is enough for me that there is a Beyond."

And Ransom translates:

"He is saying," Ransom translated, "that ... though he doesn’t know what will happen to the creatures sprung from us, he wants it to happen very much."

BINGO! And here we have the atheist conundrum in a nutshell. H.G. Wells worded the sentiment in his movie (quite worth watching, by the way) Things to Come, "The Universe, or Nothing!" Sounds noble and worthy and all that, until you examine the premises behind it, as Oyarsa proceeds to do:

‘Yet you know that these creatures would have to be made quite unlike you before they lived on other worlds.’
‘Yes, yes. All new. No one know yet. Strange Big!’
‘Then it is not the shape of body that you love?’
‘No. Me no care how they shaped.’
‘One would think, then, that it is for the mind you care. But that cannot be, or you would love hnau [intelligent life] wherever you met it.’
‘No care for hnau. Care for man.’
‘But if it is neither man’s mind, which is as the mind of all other hnau — is not Maleldil [God] maker of them all? — nor his body, which will change — if you care for neither of these, what do you mean by man?’
This had to be translated to Weston. When he understood, he replied:
‘Me care for man — care for our race — what man begets—’ He had to ask Ransom the words for race and beget.
‘Strange!’ said Oyarsa. ‘You do not love any one of your race — you would have let me kill Ransom. You do not love the mind of your race, nor the body. Any kind of creature will please you if only it is begotten by your kind as they now are. It seems to me, Thick One, that what you really love is no completed creature but the very seed itself: for that is all that is left.’

And this continues until Oyarsa has demonstrated that Weston's ambitions are doomed to futility in the ultimate heat death of the universe. Weston has no answer to this other than bluster and threats of violence. (Hmm.. this just occurred to me, while typing this. Perhaps the universal tendency of atheist regimes to turn to mass terror and industrial scale murder is this knowledge that "All is vanity."??? I'll have to ponder this.)

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...
" SP I don't think a moral system that capriciously or malevolently denies individual rights to life and self determination is valid."
"Why not? Or is this a definitional thing in which "moral" cannot include a harmful act not committed in defense?"
Indeed, why not? Or why? What makes a thing morally good or bad?

I know of no absolute standard for morality, only our own individual sensibilities, our innate sense of ought, which clearly varies from person to person, making, in my view, the prospects of ever arriving at a universally agreed upon moral code virtually nil.

That is why I said "I think". If, hypothetically, you think harmful acts not committed in self defense are ok for you then I cannot absolutely prove you are wrong. However, I can communicate with my fellow citizens and come to a consensus you are wrong, hire individuals from among us to hunt you down, arrest you, and cage you. On what absolute basis? None. On the basis of our consensus sensibilities, or as you put it "definitional thing".

Stardusty Psyche said...

"that "atheist morality" in a Darwinian context is fundamentally the right of the strong over the weak,"
Non-sequitur. One may not believe the mythologies of god and also have strong altruistic and social sensibilities.

Nor does a Darwinian context dictate strong over the weak. Altruism is an evolved trait of a social species.

Stardusty Psyche said...

"Perhaps the universal tendency of atheist regimes to turn to mass terror and industrial scale murder"
Gott Mitt Uns
http://i.imgur.com/i0AZz.jpg

Mass terror you say? Have you heard of the Islamic State?

Industrial scale murder? How about 99.9% of humanity murdered? If you like that idea Yahweh's kingdom is your regime of choice.

Legion of Logic said...

"However, I can communicate with my fellow citizens and come to a consensus you are wrong, hire individuals from among us to hunt you down, arrest you, and cage you."

Might makes right then?

B. Prokop said...

"I know of no absolute standard for morality, only our own individual sensibilities, our innate sense of ought, which clearly varies from person to person, making, in my view, the prospects of ever arriving at a universally agreed upon moral code virtually nil."

That's actually a quite good description of "atheist morality" and we ought to thank Stardusty for being so honest. Objective morality and atheism simply cannot coexist. Without God, there is no objective standard by which to judge - all is either personal opinion or an enforced conformity backed by state power. (" I ... with my fellow citizens [can] hunt you down, arrest you, and cage you.")

Some weeks ago, I brought up the baseball analogy. Without an umpire who is himself not on either of the teams playing the game, there can be no objective calls at the plate. The pitcher could well think the last pitch was a strike while the batter insists it was a ball, and there would be no one to authoritatively call the pitch. In like manner, without a Creator God who is Himself not part of His creation, morality is unhinged from any possibility of objectivity.

(Another analogy would be a judge deciding a case. If there is a conflict of interest, the judge muse recuse himself to maintain objectivity.)

Bottom line: No Creator, no objective morality. Exactly as Stardusty wrote.

Ilíon said...

".. and we ought to thank Stardusty for being so honest."

I had noticed the novelty of some honesty in his first post in this thread ... I had put it down to a glitch in the software.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...
***However, I can communicate with my fellow citizens and come to a consensus you are wrong, hire individuals from among us to hunt you down, arrest you, and cage you.***

"Might makes right then?"
No, consensus makes action.

Certain rights are claimed to be unalienable and naturally ours. We form a government to secure those rights.

Stardusty Psyche said...

B. Prokop said...
"That's actually a quite good description of "atheist morality""

There is no particular "atheist morality" for the very reason that objective (in the sense of absolute) morality is rationally incompatible with atheism.

Absent any particular objective morality how can one attribute a particular morality to atheism? Hence, there is no such thing as "atheist morality" and all references to it in the sense of an attributed moral code are specious.

However, it can reasonably be said that for each individual atheist, whatever his or her morality, whatever he or she thinks is good and bad, ought or ought not, such a code is necessarily relative and subjective and personal, adopted axiomatically, and without foundation in any objective (in the sense of absolute) moral reference source.

B. Prokop said...

"However, it can reasonably be said that for each individual atheist, whatever his or her morality, whatever he or she thinks is good and bad, ought or ought not, such a code is necessarily relative and subjective and personal, adopted axiomatically, and without foundation in any objective (in the sense of absolute) moral reference source."

As I said, "That's actually a quite good description of "atheist morality."

Are we in violent agreement here?

Going off line until next Tuesday - I'll be traveling (and thus away from my computer). Signing off... now!

Legion of Logic said...

""Might makes right then?"
No, consensus makes action."

The difference being...what, you avoiding using the word "right"?

SteveK said...

"Certain rights are claimed to be unalienable and naturally ours."

These rights are as real as unicorns in the atheist worldview.

Stardusty Psyche said...

B. Prokop said..

"As I said, "That's actually a quite good description of "atheist morality."

Are we in violent agreement here?"

"Atheist morality" asserts an imagined particular set of moral propositions of good and evil, right and wrong, that atheism would require or imply. As such, Atheist morality does not exist.

The morality of an atheist is not an atheist morality, it is an individual morality.

Going back to the analysis of Lewis a particular moral proposition is being asserted as an atheist morality. That is a mistake because there are no moral propositions of right and wrong that necessarily derive from atheism.

There are properties of origin that necessarily follow from atheism.

Atheism necessarily leads to certain answers to "how" but not to "what".

Lewis attributes a "what" answer to atheism, which is a mistake.

Stardusty Psyche said...

"Legion of Logic said...

""Might makes right then?"
SP - No, consensus makes action."

The difference being...what, you avoiding using the word "right"? "
It is one difference, but not the sole difference.

There is nothing in the rejection of the god speculation that necessarily leads to the moral proposition that "might" is morally "right". Thus, asserting that "atheist morality" means "might makes right" is a mistake.

"Consensus makes action" is also not an example of "atheist morality", rather, a mere observation that our system of laws is based on this process, which I referred to in describing how we as a society have instituted government that takes actions against criminals based on consensus.

Stardusty Psyche said...

SteveK said...

"SP - Certain rights are claimed to be unalienable and naturally ours."

"These rights are as real as unicorns in the atheist worldview."
They are as real as any personal experience such as love, anger, beauty, solidarity, friendship, ought, and ought not.

These exist as processes of a real thing, the human brain. Unlike unicorns they are inherent to the physiology, biological evolution, and cultural evolution of the human species.

SteveK said...

Human rights are an experience brought about by processes in the human brain??

LOLz

Stardusty Psyche said...

SteveK said...

"SP Human rights are an experience brought about by processes in the human brain??"
"LOLz"


Is my statement somehow controversial? It thought it was rather bland.

Do you suppose human rights exist out there someplace in the universe as objects of some sort?

Do you suppose any non-human thing living or otherwise has any notion of human rights?

Each of us has a personal sense of our rights. Being an evolved social species we extend that concept to a shared sense of rights.

Here in the USA the Declaration of Independence, 9th, and 10th amendments make clear that government does not give us rights, rather, they are intrinsic to each of us.

Not everybody agrees on what those rights are, sometimes resulting in violent disagreement or denial or violation of what others consider to be their rights.

So, what else but a brain process would account for the sense of having human rights?

SteveK said...

Not bland, but nonsensical. It's comical from where I sit because you think it makes sense. Your unalienable rights are, in fact, very alienable. In other words, you have NO rights. The fact that you have some personal sense about it doesn't change the facts.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Well, SteveK, where did I say that we in fact had the rights, in some absolute or realistic sense, that most of us perceive ourselves to have?

You are laughing at a position I did not express.

My actual statements are eminently sensible. Your "analysis" of them is shallow and disjointed.

Human rights are an experience, which like all experiences is a brain process. The notion of human rights is an aspect of morality, which is also an experience, a sensibility, a personal sense of ought, a brain process, and thus not a realized external object or an objectively demonstrable truth.

SteveK said...

SP
"...where did I say that we in fact had the rights, in some absolute or realistic sense, that most of us perceive ourselves to have?"
Where??

SP: "Certain rights are claimed to be unalienable and naturally ours"

Right there. The word 'unalienable' means IMPOSSIBLE to take away. Absolutely not possible. I know, I know... don't tell me, let me guess....you really didn't mean unalienable in an absolute sense. But that's what I said, and you disagreed.

As to your comments about a realistic sense, you told us about that too:

SP: "They are as real as any personal experience such as love, anger, beauty, solidarity, friendship, ought, and ought not."

SteveK said...

"Human rights are an experience, which like all experiences is a brain process."

Category error. It's like saying blue is the direction my car is facing. Saying, "Well, that's how I experience it" bastardizes the English language to the point of meaninglessness.

Stardusty Psyche said...

SP: "Certain rights are claimed to be unalienable and naturally ours"
First, I said rights "are claimed", in other words, there is no absolute source for rights, no objective or provable demonstration of them, only a claim to them.

Rights are a moral concept of what each of us ought to be able to do or avoid having done to us. A violation of that sense of ought does not eliminate that sense of ought, rather, it violates it. I have a legal right to the money in my wallet. If somebody robs me they violate that right, but I did not lose that right. If the wallet is recovered I have a right to get my money back. It was always rightly mine, even while in possession of the person who robbed me.

"SP: "They are as real as any personal experience such as love, anger, beauty, solidarity, friendship, ought, and ought not.""
Right, "as real as".
Are love, anger, beauty etc real? As outside realized objects, no. As objectively provable absolutes, no. They are real processes of a real object, the brain.

SteveK said...

SP
"First, I said rights "are claimed", in other words, there is no absolute source for rights, no objective or provable demonstration of them, only a claim to them."

You did say that and I refuted the claim by pointing out what "unalienable" means. You objected to what I said.

"Rights are a moral concept of what each of us ought to be able to do or avoid having done to us."

Nope. You said rights are human brain processes that produce human experiences. I reminded you of the category error.

bmiller said...

@ Stardusty Psyche

"First, I said rights "are claimed", in other words, there is no absolute source for rights, no objective or provable demonstration of them, only a claim to them.

Rights are a moral concept of what each of us ought to be able to do or avoid having done to us. A violation of that sense of ought does not eliminate that sense of ought, rather, it violates it. I have a legal right to the money in my wallet. If somebody robs me they violate that right, but I did not lose that right. If the wallet is recovered I have a right to get my money back. It was always rightly mine, even while in possession of the person who robbed me."

Can you help me understand your position on rights?
Do you think people have rights that others should respect or not?

If my brain process indicates that I should take what's in your wallet, is that OK? Why should I care what your brain process indicates?

Stardusty Psyche said...

"SP Rights are a moral concept of what each of us ought to be able to do or avoid having done to us."

"Nope. You said rights are human brain processes that produce human experiences."
Yes, a moral concept is a human brain process.

"I reminded you of the category error."
No such error exists in my statements. Brain function accounts for our sense of ought, our morality, of which our sense of rights is one sort.

Stardusty Psyche said...

"Can you help me understand your position on rights?
Do you think people have rights that others should respect or not?"
I think I have rights and by extension it seems reasonable that others will think they have rights so by mutual agreement I am willing to join the majority in mutually respecting them.

I do not think rights are objectively provable, rather, they are a personal sensibility that most of us have mutually agreed to abide by.


"If my brain process indicates that I should take what's in your wallet, is that OK?"
Not with me or with just about everybody else. But it is manifestly OK with a minority of people.

"Why should I care what your brain process indicates?"
There is no absolute force dictating that you care what I think at all. We are a social species. It is in our evolved nature to care about each other. Our sense of empathy is an evolved mechanism to drive social behavior in our species.

SteveK said...

SP
The key point is this: the claim about there being unalienable human rights is false because it's possible to deny them.

Currently, my brain function accounts for my sense that you have no human rights, SP. Check back later as that may change after I have coffee.