Friday, July 03, 2020

Two Kinds of Religious Influence on Morality: General and Specific

Religion can affect morality in a couple different ways. One way is through general religious beliefs, such as the belief in a life after death of some kind where the outcome is calibrated to conduct in this life (heaven and hell, or reincarnation), the idea that a Being who is interested in whether people act rightly or wrongly is in control of the universe, the idea that God created human being in order for those humans to behave in certain ways, etc.
One way to understand the difference this might make for morality is to consider what it is like to deny all these claims. If you say there is no God, no life after death, and perhaps even no free will, the implication is that what whether a person is a serial killer or a great human benefactor, the final outcome of your life is to go out of existence when you die. Hence serial killers and saints end up in the same condition. In addition, on some atheistic views, we are purely physical beings, and hence our actions are all determined by the laws of  physics. Given the prior positions of the physical atoms that make us up and make up the rest of the universe, when we act, we could not have done otherwise from what we did. If that is so, then it seems a little difficult to say that anything that anyone does is really their fault, or is to their credit, since serial killer and public benefactor alike do exactly what nature caused them to do.
This might lead you to think that no nonreligious people have any morals, but the fact is that they are still motivated by two things: 1) natural sympathy for others and 2) the social  usefulness of moral behavior. 
However, there is another kind of religious moral influence, and that is the specific teachings of particular religious groups which they take to be revealed by God. But they differ on how they interpret these. People often think of strictures against homosexuality when they think of these things. (The Bible also says "Thou shalt not murder," but this isn't, for the most part, an issue between religious and nonreligious people). Some religious groups think that homosexual conduct is wrong AND that homosexual orientation is a disorder that they should do everything the can to fix through, for example conversion therapy. The second view is that homosexual conduct is wrong, but homosexual orientation is a condition that doesn't need to be fixed, it just means that God has called that person to a celibate life. (Hence a gay person can come out as gay without being condemned just for having that orientation, so long as you don't engage in any homosexual acts). The third view is that a properly committed gay relationship, along the lines of the traditional  Christian heterosexual marriage can be God's will for some people of homosexual orientation. 

Thursday, July 02, 2020

The Outsider Test for Faith, and News

John Loftus, as we all know, uses an argument which he calls the Outsider Test for Faith. He claims that since people are influenced by where they were born as to what their religious beliefs are, you should believe only what you can prove objectively from the point of view of an outsider (that is, someone who holds no supernatural beliefs whatsoever.)  He thinks that since no supernatural claims meet that standard, you therefore ought to become an atheist.
But other beliefs seem to depend on where you were born. For example, my belief that the United States is good and not evil depends on the fact that I was born in America. If I were born in an Arab country,  I might think of the US as Satan America.
Not only that, but even our belief that there is a physical world is affected by where we were born. In India,  you are more likely to have the belief that our experience of the physical world is Maya, or illusion. Do you believe that there is a real physical world? 
Though I wonder if there couldn't be a case made for the Outsider Test for News. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Trump's disrespect for the disabled

Trump not only mocked a disabled reporter, he got his brother, who suffered from cerebral palsy and died at the age of 42, disinherited, and tried to get take away his grand-nephew's health insurance, who also suffers from cerebral palsy.

My friend Joe Sheffer had cerebral palsy and passed away in 1989, at the age of 36, so this infuriates me even more than most things Trump has done.

And then there's taking braille off the elevators at Trump Tower.

This is about his niece's forthcoming book.

Her antipathy towards her uncle long predates his foray into populist rightwing politics. When Trump’s father, Fred Trump Sr, died, his will distributed his estate among his children and their offspring with the exception of his son Fred Trump Jr. The children of Fred Jr objected that they had been included an earlier will, written before Fred Sr was diagnosed with dementia, and took legal action.
Mary told the New York Daily News that her aunt and uncles “should be ashamed of themselves”. And soon after the lawsuit was filed, Trump changed a health insurance policy so that Fred Jr’s grandson, who had cerebral palsy, lost coverage. Eventually the lawsuit was settled and the child regained health insurance.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Left and Right

If you want a good compendium of what people on the right believe, this is good, from Chad McIntosh. 

On the liberal side, this is Dustin Crummett's  presentation.

If you believe what a conservative believes, should you support Trump. That is the challenging question I am struggling with. I would like to argue that you should not vote for Trump even if you believe everything McIntosh believes. I think I am right, though, concede all of McIntosh's position, you should still prefer Biden to Trump.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Orange Man Great, or Orange Man the Best We Can Do

It seems to me that there are different ways of supporting Trump. One kind of supporter is the real MAGA supporter who really thinks that talking about grabbing the you-know-what was just locker room talk, who thinks that all the self-absorbed twitter posts have a deep and valuable purpose, who think that children in cages was just law and order, who think that his relationship with the Russians wasn't just not a conspiracy, it was wrong to even start counterintelligence investigations into it, who thinks that not only wasn't the call to Zelensky not sufficient grounds for removal from the Presidency, it was a perfect call, who think that Trump's leadership with respect to COVID-19 is really good, (and the virus is all China's fault), who think that when he tweeted about shooting looters he was just affirming our Second Amendment rights. This is the Orange Man Great perspective.

I think this viewpoint is delusional, in much the sense that Dawkins wrongly thinks that belief in God is delusional.

But other people think that even though Trump isn't the Best of All Possible Leaders, he is preferable to anything the Democrats have to offer. This might be due to his anti-abortion activity, or because of his court appointments, or because of his tax cuts, his deregulation policies, etc., he is preferable to the alternative. In addition, he, unlike McCain and Romney, actually won his election, being better at appealing at the emotional level to people than his Republican predecessors. Still, he has plenty of failings, but they will support him and vote for him anyway, holding their nose with respect to some things.

The prevailing defense against the impeachment case was that, yeah, Trump did something wrong in his dealing with the  Ukrainians, but it wasn't sufficient for the drastic step of removing the President from office. But the Trump campaign is doing its best to try to get everyone to forget that.

But those in the second category have to be concerned that Trump will continue to make foolish comments and actions that will throw away the November election, if it has not been thrown away already. Showing as much compassion for COVID victims as George W. Bush would have shown might have been sufficient to given him an edge over Biden, but that is not the leader that we have. Making foolish comments about opening up a cold case against a television commentator for murder is another unforced error. The lead the Biden has over Trump in the polls, both nationally and in the battleground states, is the result of Trump's mistakes. He was taken of Twitter by his campaign in the waning days of the 2016 campaign (the most brilliant move in the history of Presidential campaigns).  The only hope he has of re-election is if the campaign makes the same decision for him NOW. But there is no way they can insist on that at this point, now that he is a sitting President.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

When American Christians were Socialists

Does Christianity have socialist overtones? When I was young, communists were the bad guys, who were atheists, so the idea was that you should be the opposite of that, namely, Christians and supporters of capitalism. But do Christianity and capitalism go together?

This is from a book by Page Smith entitled Rediscovering Christianity

"It is the main purpose of this work to demonstrate what should never have been in question, namely, that Christianity has always been resistant to capitalism, to the "spirit of capitalism," to capitalism in whatever form it presented itself."

This a link to an essay in Sojourners called "When American Christians were Socialists." 

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Trump or Jesus?

"Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer ... Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. ... How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!"--Donald Trump, 1989.
Matthew 5:43-48 New International Version (NIV)
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Let me ask one more time. Who is right, Trump or Jesus? At most, only one of them can be.