A conversation on FB with two Christian friends on a video I posted


I shortened the two other guys names to just their first initial.

Sorry this is a bit long but I am curious as to your thoughts on what was said.

B:

By posting this video, you are affirming that rape, incest, slavery, murder, genocide, etc. are absolute evils in which of course I agree. However, how can you make a case that Good and Evil can be determined and are even real in the first place?

Can a case be made for objective moral absolutes without the transcendent? Either true goodness, like love or beauty, are transcendent realities in the same way that governing laws of the universe are natural realities (such as gravity) or they are completely illusory; inventions of the mind to cope with life that has no objective meaning or truth. In the same way that the theist is perceived to use God as a crutch so too the atheist who holds on to objective moral truth is only grasping for straws. This does not of course prove the existence of God, but it paves the way to understand the possibilities of the transcendent or the metaphysical (that which lies beyond the known physical universe) and of our innate human instinct to either interact with or invent such a reality.

I like this video because it forces Bible believers to face the terrible texts of their own tradition and to realize the Bible or any other “sacred” scriptures do not give them a license to think and act without responsibility. But it is also a thinly veiled attempt to use outrage over the abuse of religion to make an argument against absolute, objective truth and its source. In other words it’s poor philosophy.

Keith A Szilagyi:

I do not in anyway affirm that there are any absolute evils, nor does this video. Do I personally find rape, incest, slavery, murder, genocide, homophobia, and other things to be abhorrent? Absolutely! Do any of these personally held beliefs come from a transcendent source? Absolutely not! Morals come from a combination of society and the zeitgeist of the age. What is the moral standard now was not the moral standard in the 50's, nor will it be the moral standard in fifty years plus. This point is largely demonstrated by the equal rights movement. ie. The attitude of the majority and what they saw as "right," is completely different as to what the majority sees as right today.

The point of this video (in my personal opinion) was not to outrage over the abuse of religion or make an argument against absolute objective truth. The point was to say that the Bible doesn't set the standard for what is moral because, if it did, then the aforementioned "evils" would be the standard of what is right and wrong.

PS I really love this kind of discussion.

PPS I KNOW WHAT METAPHYSICAL MEANS! ;)

B:

The byline of the video says, "How can anyone moral believe in God?" That is what I was arguing against. And of course you already know my opinion about the Bible…

It is true that the standards of morality change, but the principle: man’s desire to know and live what is good and what is true is the same. Consider beauty. You might think a rose is beautiful and I might say, no a weed is beautiful. However we are both expressing the same principle experienced through a different way. Either beauty exists even without our knowledge of its existence or it is completely illusory. This is already true with mathematics, physics, etc. What we believe to be the proper expression of morality may change but the principle does not. Otherwise your objection to rape is no different than my preference to chocolate over vanilla (truth be told I enjoy both, but you get the idea). All things become our meaningless preference and nihilism the only "true" religion.

And I know you know what metaphysics are; it was in consideration of anyone else tuning into our conversation.

Peace,
Britton

Keith A Szilagyi:

Your example of what is beautiful only stands to prove my point about morals being relative to those who hold them. You might think that telling a lie is absolutely wrong whereas I might think that it's okay.

Morals, like beauty, don't exist outside of people. If there is no conscious brain to look at the rose then it is neither ugly or beautiful. It is utilitarian. If there is no conscious brain to consider weather an act is good or evil it is just an action. This is second principle is demonstrated in nature all the time. Males, in the animal kingdom, rape females all the time. There is no indignation for this because the animal is incapable (so far as we know) of having a moral standard. Thus he isn't held to societal norms.

My objection to rape is different from your preference of chocolate over vanilla in two regards.

1.) I have empathy for the person who is raped.
2.) It is socially normative to believe that rape is wrong.

J:

Good ol Dick Dawkins - what a guy. I've never seen someone so smart erode his very own foundation with his own argument. I'm not talking about you Keith...i'm talking about Dawkins.

Morality can not exist without authority. Morality and Authority go hand in hand. You cannot have a moral code if you do not have authority to enforce it. You can't determine what is right or wrong unless you have the authority to execute a decision based on that determination.

But for the sake of discussion....I'm not going to make a case against the argument that morals are just a societal invention and not from God.....even though I think the premise is inherently flawed..... I'm simply going to take the assertion at face value.

If morals are derived simply from the mass appeal of a society, then how can anyone say that anything is good or evil? Take the Holocaust. Was the Holocaust wrong? From our society looking at the 3rd Reich... it was wrong, but from within the 3rd Reich they were right.

"But we KNOW it was wrong!? We can feel it!"

How was it wrong? Why was it wrong? Is there an implication that certain morals outweigh others? If that is true....then aren't we really saying that there are certain societies that outweigh others? And if we are saying that...then aren't we saying that only certain ones have true moral authority? Who decides? Is it Dawkins....is he the great arbiter?

The ironic twist with Dick's assertion is that if morality is either inherent or derived simply from social conventions.....then the whole video rant against the things in the Old Testament is irrelevant because there is no uniform moral standard from which we can judge the Bible.

Taking the video's premise at face value....those things that we see in the Bible as being IMMORAL are actually MORAL. After all...morality is defined by society's acceptance. The Society in the Bible accepted these standards and therefore they were moral. To stand in our society (in the present day) and judge the Bible is irrelevant. The video's argument should be: "The Bible IS morally correct because the Bible was part of a different time and culture" But somehow i don't think that is what the video is saying.

Moral relativity is at the antithesis of Moral authority. You can not stand in a position and point the finger at the morality of the Old Testament without the Moral Authority to say you are right.

I'm not a Christian because it makes sense. I don't believe in God's authority simply because I'm ignoring the blatant paradoxes of the Bible. I believe in His authority because i have felt it rule and reign in my life and the fruits of abiding in that authority speak for themselves. I am whole, free, more alive and more fulfilled because i know Him. I can't explain it....but then again....that's not the point.

Keith A Szilagyi:

Are you saying I'm not smart?! (First paragr..... never mind.)

If morals come from authority, then which authority do you choose? Is it to be the Jewish authority? Perhaps muslim law suits you better? Buddhism seems to be mighty popular? Maybe government should set the standard?

Addressing Christianity (I am assuming my audience's preference): Which rules do you follow? Are we to go strictly by what the ancient text says or are we going to smear the lines a little? Are we going with a certain translation? Or maybe we should all study Hebrew. Not just modern Hebrew but ancient as well. Should we obey all the laws of Leviticus or certain ones? Does the New Testament free us from the law or are we still beholden to it? Was "god" being literal or figurative in that last passage? Every Christian has to make judgements on these questions and many more. They either do this consciously or by default.

I postulate that these are either moral decisions or relate directly to them. Every individual person has to make these decisions.

The reason I posted the video and wrote in my description that I'm tired of the moral argument from theist is because of the general attitude that their moral compass is from a higher power. The video highlights that there is a major hypocrisy when making those claims because of what is written in the "holy" text. The things stated in the video (all taken directly from the Bible) conflict with what (most) modern Christians hold to be morally upstanding.

I still hold that we, each and everyone of us, decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. Are there social pressures? Absolutely. Are there historical factors? Yes. Does a personality play into it? Yep. Is what we decide always logical? NO!

Are morals easy to define? Again, I say no. They are relative to the people that hold them to be true.

Can I stand here and say, "My morals are better then yours." while at the same time holding to my thought system that morals are relative? Yes I can because it is part of the human condition. I can see my perspective completely, I know why I think the way I think and I know what personal experiences have brought me to this place. I can never fully demonstrate to you all of these thoughts because of the limitations of language. You also can't be completely demonstrative of your thoughts.

I wrote more then I had intended in this reply.

Thanks for making me think. That goes for both of you guys.

B:

The simple answer? We live by the law of love and struggle with what is the truest way to express it in our day (an absolute principle applied in a subjective, thoughtful, responsibly manner). Too bad most Christians don't really believe this anymore... often times, myself included.

As a quick note, we actually agree concerning the objects of our interpretation of beauty, morals, etc. being in sense neutral, but the experience itself found beyond the objects is the same even if it is imaginary. We might not agree entirely on what expresses good and evil, but we agree as to definition what good and evil are.

It is interesting that you point out that other animals do not make moral choices. To you this is because ethics is a construct of our intelligence while to me this is because we are “unique” from other known life with the burden of our moral decisions and their consequences. I love how we both can come to radically different conclusions based on our starting block: atheism and theism. ...

To be fair, you are right to say that without an intentional source for existence (God) beauty, love, morality etc. are all coping mechanisms to find subjective meaning in an objectively meaningless universe. Most people who have God issues are not well thought out enough to embrace this conclusion and to that you have my credit.

I’m glad to have had this conversation; really thought provoking stuff. And somehow we have dragged Josh into this as well! Haha

Talk to you later.

J:

definitely didn't mean to impune your intelligence. Sorry about that. Your questions are valid and I don't have the answers. But i'm comfortable living with unanswered questions....so long as i'm seeing the fruits of something bigger than me. If i wasn't seeing a change in my life and was able to hear his voice and see it prove itself time and time again...I would not be a Christian because I would be in a dead tradition. That is why I think there is such power in what Jesus said, "It is better that I go so that you may have the Holy Spirit."

Does everything in the bible make sense? No. Do i have issues with the stories describing the "God of the Old Testament"? Yes. But this doesn't solve the stalemate of belief vs. unbelief. And that is my point. You can poke holes at the moral authority of the Bible, but it doesn't change the fact that God exists and he loves us.

I believe wholeheartedly that you can tell by the fruit that is in someones life as to whether or not they are living the truth or a lie (either consciously or by default). It isn't rocket science. My personal testimony is proof that God exists to me and that he loves me and wants me to be fully alive. I sometimes have no concept of what that means to be fully alive....but i know its impact on my life and I love it. I can't get enough of it and it is changing the very fabric of who i am.....against even my own reason. And yet....at the same time......i feel my reason perfectly enlightened. I only believe in the moral authority of God because i've experienced it's affects in my life. If i hadn't....i wouldn't be saying these things.

Hopefully in the time that we've known each other....you've seen that i'm not a dogmatic person. I am on a journey towards life and i'm willing and eager to admit when i'm wrong or i don't know. But i can't lie to the testimony of God's impact on my own life. That is why i feel so strongly in what Jesus said "it is better that i go so that you can have the Holy Spirit." The impact of the living spirit of God has completely captured everything that i am......it wasn't the Bible that did that. The bible is an amazing road map as to the character of God.....but i still don't understand it. But it does help give context to this extremely personal relationship that my God has with me.

Keith A Szilagyi:

J-

Four Things:

1.) I was really trying to be tongue and cheek about the "slight" on my intelligence. I knew that you were referring to Mr. Dawkins. No need to apologize.

2.) I most certainly do not see you as a dogmatic person. Nor have I ever. I simply disagree with your premise.

3.) I am also on a journey towards the end of my life.

4.) I also strive to admit when I am wrong or that others have made a valid point. Some times my arrogance gets in the way of this effort but it is a goal which I chase.

Hope that I haven't offended you in any way.

-Keith

Views: 14

Tags: Debate, Morals

Comment by Scott on April 2, 2010 at 7:14pm
I stopped reading when J said "Morality can not exist without authority. Morality and Authority go hand in hand."

That authority is the individual.

Also, anytime anyone uses the word "God", even atheists, I feel the urge to ask "Which God?" It's rather presumptuous to take the conversation to any extent without establishing that first.
Comment by Scott on April 2, 2010 at 7:20pm
I'd also like to add that his argument was ruined when he began referring to Richard Dawkins as "Dick". That's like a right winger referring to Obama by his middle name in an attempt to draw negative connotations. Their reply is always "What, that's his name!", but we all know why they do that.
Comment by Charlotte on April 2, 2010 at 7:30pm
I guess it's a good thing he believes. Otherwise he'd be raping & killing people all over the place since he'd have no morals. Whew.

The "Dick" reference was unnecessary & arrogant.
Comment by Gaytor on April 3, 2010 at 4:21am
In general, that's a pretty good conversation. Thoughts on what was said...

I would correct the Good and Evil assertions. These are mystical assertions that should be replaced with right and wrong. Good or Evil, for me, denotes a source. Right and Wrong can be experienced, or as you noted through empathy. Right and wrong are determined by societies. The authority that he was looking for is society. Note, not law, society. Law is the daily governance, society is the judge of right and wrong, even if it is inconsistent. Examples...

Germany invades the Czech Republic on a 500 year old claim to the land. The German citizens believed the claim and found it just. The international community says it's wrong but doesn't have the will to do anything but negotiate a treaty. Soon thereafter the Germans invade Poland and society sets out to correct them. No law, no authority other than society's judgement that it was wrong.

Israel is taking over Jerusalem for Jews based on a 2000 year old claim. It's legal and moral, and Biblically supportable, but society is saying it's wrong. The will isn't there to stop it, but everyone knows that it's wrong. The authority derived from the largess of society is making the determination that it's wrong.

Islamic countries are changing, if ever so slowly, contrary to Sharia Law and the teachings of Muhammed due to societal pressures. I don't know if it's law yet, but the marriage of women under 17 is about end in Saudi. The Koran says you can marry a woman of any age and have intercourse with the woman after her first period. So give me an example of the authority and I'll show you where it does not stand against the pressures of the greater society.

When taking on the morality of the Bible, it's a good idea to avoid Mosaic law and stick with the ridiculous nature of the New Testament. Even better, stick with Jesus. "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." There are plenty of these available and you escape the excuse of the Old Testament. Paul tells you to be eunuchs if you can take it. It's pretty hard to discount Paul and Jesus and call yourself a Christian.

Nicely done with conversation. Sorry that I babble on and on. But those are my thoughts since you asked.
Comment by Keith A. Szilagyi on April 3, 2010 at 8:27am
Gaytor-

You babble? Hahahaha... I can't hardly blame you for doing so after I posted this (It's five pages long).

Thanks for your thoughts. I will keep in mind the advice about Jesus' teachings. I also really thought this was a good conversation. All three parties listened to arguments and responded to them in kind. The only bit I didn't care for was the argument J put forth, basically, I know because I know. Bleah!

Charlotte and Scott-

To be fair, the video points out to them the folly of their belief system and "Dick" is a nick name for Richard. I didn't see a need to get offended for Dawkins, seeing as I'm not him and it didn't do anything to further the debate.

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