I checked with Reg before posting this, but if any mods feel it's contrary to house rules, I understand if it needs to be deleted.
I've been a member here for more than a year, though I don't post often. I mostly read the "Sunday School" links, but I've appreciated the thoughtful and civil conversation the few times I've jumped into a thread with a Christian perspective. I'm a part-time Christian blogger and podcaster, and I've wanted for some time to do a debate/discussion video series with folks coming from different perspectives. Sort of a "2am at college"-style informal debate where both sides can respectfully discuss disagreements. I finally have time to put something like that together and TA came to mind because of the quality of discussion here.
I want to invite anyone who is interested to join me in a recorded debate/discussion via Skype which I would then post to YouTube. I'd also post the link here for discussion, if anyone wanted. Ideally, the video would include a split-screen webcam view of both of us, since that's more interesting to watch, but it's fine if you would rather stay anonymous.
The format I have in mind is that we pick a general topic and each come up with a couple questions to get the conversation started. We share the questions ahead of time so it's not gotcha stuff. Then we schedule a Skype call and talk about your questions and then mine, or vice versa. Some topics might work better with a different format -- I'm not wedded to that exact approach.
Here's my YouTube channel, though it doesn't have much there at this point. If you are interested in this, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. My blog is at davidvogel.net. (I share it for informational rather than self-promotional purposes, as I'm pretty sure none of you will be interested in becoming regular readers. :-) [Though I do welcome constructive criticism.])
Possible topic ideas:
* Christian vs. atheist understanding of morality
* Evidence for God's existence
* Historicity of the Bible
* Possibility of miracles
* Anything else you want to talk about
"....but if you ever, ever think something like child-marriage or suttee are wrong, then you are relying on a separate moral standard of "what is actually right.""
No, you are relying on your cultural standards. Please enlighten us on exactly where we may find "what is actually right.", this absolute morality and if you mention any holy books, well you have given us about the poorest example of a modern moral code ever presented as such. We have surpassed each and everyone of those holy texts. Were they helpful in their day? Yes, but we have moved on.
Human sacrifice, scapegoating and being forced to love someone you fear (Sadomasochism) are the cornerstones of Christianity. We know now it is just wrong. That is why I ditched it, it is wrong.
Hi Robert, it seems to me that you're jumping ahead of the argument. I'm not arguing that Christianity teaches this universal, "what is right" moral standard. I think it does, but that's irrelevant to the point I'm making. I'm just arguing that such a standard exists. (You don't need to be a Christian to know and rely upon it, though, as I said, I believe Christianity teaches it.)
No, you are relying on your cultural standards.
I'll return to the question I keep asking and which I don't believe(?) has been answered so far in this thread. Can a cultural standard ever be wrong? Would you say that our cultural standards of morality are 100% right about everything? If not, then you are using some other, universal moral standard to make that judgment, even though you say we can only rely on cultural standards.
Its been answered repeatedly.
The standard used, is simply to use our ability to empathize, to gauge an action's impact upon others, and whether that will produce unfair harm or benefit.
If you see the action is unfair, such as killing someone to take their money, or fair, such as killing someone because they are killing others, etc, you will consider the action to be moral or immoral.
You will be right most of the time.
There are no examples of any particular moral in the bible being objective, in that all of them are subject to interpretation...using the above method typically.
Morals such as not killing for example, etc...are context sensitive, as to if we actually consider a cop or soldier to be acting morally when killing the "bad guys", or, killing "good guys/innocent bystanders/non-combatants", and so forth.
You (David) for example, have stated that you believe slavery is moral, because the bible says so.
Others agree with you, and, use the morality in the bible to justify owning other people.
The bible says not to suffer homosexuals to live (Sounds a lot like you're supposed to kill them), so, killing, despite the commandment not to, is moral if the victims are homosexual, or disobedient children, witches, etc.
So, the bible IS a cultural standard, as, it falls into the set of moral standards that are specific to a culture or location.
So, yes, cultural standards of morality can be wrong, when viewed by those outside of that culture.
When an act is considered "normal", such as slavery, rape, revenge murders, burning the wife for having daughters instead of sons, and so forth...those cultures do not consider those acts to be immoral.
So, all of us can apply our empathy and sense of fairness, just as monkeys do, etc, and tell if something is moral...but, all of us filter that through our cultural skein.
This is why for example, about 99% of humans can hear an origin story for all religions except theirs, and KNOW its totally ridiculous, and unsupported by evidence, and reject it as a myth.
For their OWN religion though, they treat the story as true, and, everyone ELSE'S is a myth.
The filter replaces the normal process of analysis for everything labeled internally as "normal".
So, cultural standards sometimes are supplemented, dropped, or, modified...depending upon public sentiment/consensus.
Muslims who were taught that saying anything bad about the religion, is bad...and, those saying it should be killed....consider it moral to kill for their religion.
So, there is no objective morality that we can refer to. Its all subject to the variables real life imposes on situations.
Except for culture/location specific blind spots, such as imposed by biblical teachings, such as slavery being moral, homosexuality is not, etc, most people are fine at using their ability to empathize and tell fair from unfair...because of it.
The bible does not supply a 100% "right" moral code, it is full of immorality presented as morality.
If religion were to be suddenly wiped out, and morals based solely upon religious teachings were to magically disappear, so all the currently arbitrary religion-based rights and wrongs, could instead be based upon our normal ability to tell the difference, huge swaths of violence and inequity would be wiped from the planet.
A morality closer to "correct" would then be able to flourish without religion's blinders and whips.
The location specific "norms" would of course still be a limiting factor, but most of those that are unfair were derived from religious teachings in those regions.
You are stuck on WANTING there to be a way to tell if some thing is moral 100% of the time, correctly...an absolute standard.
The reality of it is that morality is a concept, and, we are the inventors of it.
We are not the inventor of deciding if an act is fair or unfair, many critters did it before us, we are the inventors of the over riding term to describe it.
It can seem, simplistically, that something SHOULD either be right, or, wrong.
The problem is the variables...and, that people can disagree.
I personally think I can be unbiased, and tell right from wrong...on a case by case basis. But, I also know that local laws and mores may be in conflict with my opinion....and that I am likely to also be blind to cultural 'norms" I consider to be givens, etc.
IE: IS a person who goes in public naked, and who's genitals are viewed by a passing child, immoral?
I say not in of itself, as in cultures where every one is naked anyway....so no harm done to the children.
I also say that if the culture views the viewing of genitals by a child to be a horrific event, and consider the child to then be scarred for life, etc...and if the child is raised to believe that if they see genitals its a horrific thing, then the child IS harmed by seeing them, making it immoral to have done so.
And so forth.