So what is your point here, Mariano? That because a bad guy in a Hollywood flic is an atheist, that atheism leads to crime? How about some statistics from the real world about who commits crimes?And you say:Individual atheists have certainly concocted various subjective systems of morality but they could not ultimately and absolutely condemn Vincent’s actions. Impotent arguments from outrage are all that atheism has to offer in the face of evil.What does it matter if someone cannot "ultimately and absolutely" condemn actions that lead to unnecessary suffering? What's important is what one does about it, not what one's philosophical or religions justifications are. I contribute to charity, I have spent time in jail after peaceably protesting stupidity, I have done volunteer work for the handicapped. Are those "impotent argument from outrage"? Who are you to judge me?
Objective morality again! this time within the plot from a film I rather enjoy. "His ultimate point here was that we should care in the here and now because that is all we have. However, this is obviously atheism’s consoling delusion about a subjective purpose to life in what is ultimately an objectively purposeless universe."How is it a delusion? (most) Atheists accept that their choosen purpose in life is ultimatly subjective in an indifferent universe. Do we have to go round to objective morality merry-go-round again?Someone could potenially gain advantages in being a hitman by eliminating guilt through embrassing nihilism. I don't understand how this has anything interesting to say about theism/atheism - although it does make for an interesting character in a film. Not unlike American Physco, which I would highly reccomend if you haven't seen it.
Great connection there Mariano. I've seen the movie, and I thought it was pretty good. Although I didn't like the ending as much ... the idea of anyone walking away from a crash like that seemed rather absurd to me. But what do I know? Anyway, this whole "evil" thing has become more interesting to me lately. I was listening to a lecture on it recently, and the speaker brought up the point of how we define evil. The problem with this, of course, is that we must first be able to define good. But coming from purely naturalistic reasoning, it's going to be exceptionally hard to give some absolute definition of either of those. Yet, most atheists admit that evil (and good) exist. In fact, the speaker mentioned that he knew a well-known atheist philosopher who admitted that he could not define evil, so instead would give examples of it. In other words, he may not be able to define it as some set of definite propositions, but he would "know it when he sees it." That mindset is what particularly interests me. Despite not having any absolute definition of good or evil, the atheist still understands that both exist, via experience. And this is really how we understand a lot of things. Even if we don't get it all, we can still function based upon experience. For example, you don't have to know f=ma, or why that's the case, to know that if you run out in front of a speeding vehicle you're going to be severely injured. In fact, the experience itself is what brought forth the equation. This, I think, is a good argument for a purposeful existence. The fact is, we live this life as sentient beings, and we experience significance - each day we have this idea etched in our minds that we are valuable, along with those around us. We may choose to deny it on a cognitive level, but we can't help but experience it, so much so that if we have chosen to disbelieve it, I think we'd be forced to remind ourselves every so often that we disbelieve. Our natural experience is to feel significant. But if we're going to base our acceptance of good and evil off of experience, why not base our acceptance of significance off the same? This may not suddenly tell us what that significance is, anymore than accepting the existence of good and evil off of experience suddenly gives us a definition, but it at least offers a starting place and moves us forward into the reality that we live in.
I'd like to ask you to run a thought experiment, and tell me your results. I'm curious if they're anything like mine, and suspect most of them are.Imagine three planets, called Berth, Serth, and Derth (all of which, of course, translate to 'the world' in the local languages). They are both very Earthlike places, populated with the current gamut of terrestrial species, including humans. Nothing alien going on here. In fact, the only significant difference is in the people. On Derth, people act like Vince from “Collateral”: people are uninterested in any consequences which don’t have a direct impact on themselves in the short run. People are motivated by acquiring and using power over other people. In general, nothing matters to anyone but what they want this week/month/year. Murder, for example, only matters to those who suffer from it, and (in an opposite sense) those who benefit by it, and often the only person who cares (in the ‘wish it did not happen’ sense) is the one who got killed.On Berth, people are very concerned with understanding the scope of consequences of their actions, and generally do a good job of acquiring that understanding. People are motivated by establishing, in a stable manner, the kind of place they would want to be in even if some Mad Scientist mind-swapped them with some random other person. In general, there are three things that matter to Berthians: having such a place, making such a place stable and able to continue indefinitely, and anything which is required for either of the first two goals.On Serth, people might be seen as similar o Max from “Collateral”. Fundamentally, Serthians are like Derthians: people are uninterested in any consequences which don’t have a direct impact on themselves in the short run, and people are motivated by acquiring and using power over other people. There are, however, governments in each nation with far-reaching police (and secret police) run by particularly powerful Vince-like folks, all of which use their extensive power to make various things have direct impacts on people (and their power over others) which wouldn’t normally have such an impact. Specifically, “failing to act like a Berthian” is an act which, in any nation on Serth, is usually punished with loss of power, imprisonment, execution, extended torture, or some combination thereof. So, superficially, Serthians act like Berthians.So, keeping these three places in mind, the thought experiment begins. First imagine that you had to choose one of these planets to live on. Which one would you prefer? Why would you want to live there, instead of one of the other planets?Next, which of these planets would you expect to have the most stable system? If a government collapsed, which system would survive the collapse the best? If a handful of people gained access to weapons of mass coercion, which system would see the least change? Which system would be least likely to die off due to higher death rates than birth rates? Which system would be least likely to die off due to overpopulation or depletion of natural resources?Penultimately, which of the following is closest to how you actually feel about things: A> Nothing matters, so there’s no reason to act is if there are things that do (Derthian), B> I can’t fault the logic that “If there weren’t a greater power to be accountable to, then what is the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges?” (Serthian), C> There are things that, to anyone sane and not short-sighted, will matter, regardless of the presence or absence of enforcing authorities. (Berthian). Finally, how does the way you actually feel about things differ from your closest-choice of A/B/C above?
Is the point of this post to imply that "Vincent" character's view that other human beings are expendable is the logical consequence of a worldview without god?Obviously, atheists don't tend to be homicidal maniacs, for the most part, so we can put that aside, but it's a legitimate question to ask what tools the atheist has to argue that Vincent is wrong.Okay, let's assume that Vincent and I are able to sit down for a reasonable discussion about whether or not it's right for him to kill innocent people just so he can get what he wants.If I were a Christian, I'd tell him that god decreed in the bible that killing is wrong and he will punish those who do not follow his laws by letting them burn in hell for eternity. He replies that due to the many contradictions in the bible, he does not believe it to be the inerrant word of god. Damn. My entire argument is undermined. He's unconvinced and goes on killing.But luckily, I'm not a Christian. I'm an atheist. My arguments don't require him to have a particular faith, or believe in talking snakes and magical trees and stuff. Instead, I appeal to his sense of self-preservation. Assuming that he wants to live, then I point out that game theory leaves us with only two stable strategies, everyone tries to kill everyone or no one tries to kill anyone. Based on his desire not to die, he will choose not to kill.Obviously, this is a simplification, and I'd be happy to get into a more detailed discussion with someone about the finer points of making an argument against murder in a world without god. But my main intention is to demonstrate that it is far from clear that a theist is in a better position than I am to argue to Vincent that killing is wrong. And I hope that we agree that the only reason that we are interested in this question at all is the practical concern of keeping homicidal maniacs like Vincent off the street. Thought experiments and puzzles are fun, but the reason we bother is because we don't want ourselves or others to be murdered. Right? The point that this post is trying to make is that if we become an atheistic society, more people will feel justified in murdering, or at least the rest of us will be left impotent to do anything about it. If that is the concern, then I hope that I've shown why I am unconvinced. And if it's not your concern, then I guess that atheism isn't much to worry about, right?
I think the primary problems with subjective morality are the following:(1) There is no reason to argue over who is right or wrong in a moral context if you are a subjectivists.(2) There is no justification for certain moral actions or condemnations.(3) There is no resolution to conflict other than by superiority.(4) No one acts like a subjectivist.Further, while it can be noted rather easily that person A (a Theist) and person B (an Atheist) can both be psychopaths, the difference between A and B is that A can at least be recognized as doing evil or justifying some sort of principle, whereas B has no justification at all. So if I were A and there was an A person who did something wrong, I could say "that person was wrong" based on my worldview, whereas person B can only go "that makes me feel icky".Now, practically...this makes other things rather difficult. Making laws based on "I feel icky" is not how society works. If your justification for X action or condemnation is "I feel icky" then we may as well accept everything or reject everything based on this petty feeling.As I stated above...no one acts like a subjectivist. If they were truly consistent with subjectivism they wouldn't proclaim certain things right, wrong, or even have justification for their motivations for doing so.
Note, also, that one can be subjective about their objectivity.I can choose to follow what I consider to be "good" based on feelings as well, but there is still a difference between this sort of subjectivity and that of moral subjectivity.Moral subjectivity says that "good" is based on preference, whereas being subjective about following what is good is an entirely different issue. There is a difference between the questions: What is good?&Why should I follow it?Moral objectivism has problems with the second question, but moral subjectivity doesn't regard either. Where I think Atheists tend to get confused over this issue and think it meaningless to talk about is that the world still functions regardless of their interpretations of moral order. They think that people are acting subjectively and still getting by by some sort of agreement or winning over the inferior side. While I tend to agree that superiority, in reality, ultimately wins in the end and establishes the order by which society lives by, there is still a huge difference between what is justifiable and what happens.I still believe that many Atheists do not understand that people do not act like subjectivists...and I can't stress this enough, because if they did there would be no "moral order", much less any motivation for it other than by preference.And if I know anything, preference does not establish societal values...at least preferences are not seen to do this. People think that the rules they set up are absolute: this is the reason people argue and fight over them to begin with.When you take a subjectivists worldview, you can't do anything with it. There is nothing to do. It's like trying to write with an eraser.
Why is it that theists, when trying to make a case that an atheist can’t justify objective morality, so often resort to offering reasons for why an atheist lacks incentives to behave morally? The latter does not prove the former; they’re two completely different things.Generally theists who insist that you can’t have objective morality without theism are running afoul of M’s distinction above, as much as atheists who insist that morality must be subjective in any case:“I can choose to follow what I consider to be "good" based on feelings as well, but there is still a difference between this sort of subjectivity and that of moral subjectivity.”I would only add to this that what one "feels" about something is generally connected to what one, in fact, thinks about the rightness or wrongness of that thing. If I "feel" I shouldn't steal, it's because I think stealing is wrong.
M. Atheos: First, I would prefer to live on Berth. Antepenultimately, I think that the Berthian society is most likely to remain stable. Third, the Berthian society most closely matches my own feelings. Finally, there is no noticeable discrepency between how I feel and my closest choice. As an aside, I would say that christiany and other major religions more closely resemble Serth.M: Decisions on what is good and evil are based on perceptions, but not simply the perception of "that is icky." But you exemplify a sad fact. Christians (in general) cannot understand why someone would seek to be good absent a punisher. There is no way to explain to these people because everything is filtered through "there is no reason to do good if there is no punishment for not doing so." They clearly see that outsiders do good even without a punisher, but see it as irrational because it conflicts with their presupposition.
I think the primary problems with subjective morality are the following:(1) There is no reason to argue over who is right or wrong in a moral context if you are a subjectivists.(2) There is no justification for certain moral actions or condemnations.(3) There is no resolution to conflict other than by superiority.(4) No one acts like a subjectivist.I have to wonder what you mean by "subjectivist." On the one hand, it denotes a philosophical position, to which I happily subscribe (if we mean the same thing by the word). But you also appear to associate a certain behavioral pattern (moral nihilism?) with the term - which, quite naturally, no one will subscribe to. So you have defined a strange position that no one holds. I guess that would be called a straw man argument.Your problem (I would argue that it is you who is confused) is where you equate a scientific understanding with adopting a certain social behavioral pattern. That we understand morality to be a product of nature, a naturally arising quality within a co-evolving biosphere of autonomous agents, in no way obligates us to adopt nature's values as our own. You only need to look to reality, at our justice, political and health care systems, to see that this is true. Which is why also "problems" 1-3 that you listed above are patently false.
m - you seem to be stuck in a rut with this objective morality dealy. You miss the key stage in the loop. You are not in a better position to declare anything wrong because you do not know what is objectively wrong - even if we give you that objective morals even exist. You say: Murder is objectively wrong.Vince says: No it isn't.You say: ?????point (4) is completly moot. People talk and act as if enjoyment is objective - acting as if things are objectively "fun" or "boring". This says nothing, and does not change the fact they are human constructs and subjective.
I would like to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful comments and questions.I think that part of the issue, and part of why we are talking past each other, is that the point is not which worldview leads to crime. Rather, it is that atheists admit that they condemn what they decide to call “evil,” “immoral,” etc., and praise what they decide to call “good,” “moral,” etc., for no reason besides personal preferences.True, we can all be benevolent (or malevolent) without a logical purpose. True, and this is a little window into atheist thought, or lack thereof. The atheist mantra is: it is we who are the logicians, intellectuals, rationalists, scientifically enlightened, etc., etc. However, the view that atheists take on virtually any and every topic, particularly the most important question in life, from why there is something instead of nothing to why life exists is “It just is,” “It just does.” Yes, you can be “moral” without logical reasons but I am not so much dealing with the doing as with the reasons. Not having reasons that go beyond our preferences is why any purpose or meaning is purely subjective and each person, such as a Vincent, makes up their own.Zilch and Greg, No, my point was not what you both asserted but as the post stated, “an atheist…does not have to make excuses for his action such as a theist may make to the likes of ‘God told me to become a hit-man’…He functioned as a bio-organism surviving as the fittest over other bio-organisms…” Atheists do good for no good reason (pardon the pun).Christians, for example, do good for good reasons.Ergo:When Christians do bad they do so in violation of the good reasons.When atheists do bad they do not violate anything since there is no standard to begin with (short of violating personal preference).Zilch, You choose to volunteer helping the handicapped (for which I commend you) and Vincent would have blown the handicapped’s brains out. You appear to consider contributing to charity, protesting stupidity, and volunteering with the handicapped as being somehow good, decent, or moral but why? Incidentally, are you judging me as being judgmental, judging me for being judgmental and also judging judgmental as being immoral?StuartM02, Thanks for the movie recommendation, I have not seen American Psycho but will keep it in mind. You ask “How is it a delusion?” but my point was not that it is a delusion but that it is a “consoling delusion.” Taking upon myself a self-appointed purpose in a purposeless life is a delusion of purpose that consoles me. If I was an atheist I would simply state, “Enough with this theism based stuff about meaning, purpose, morality, yatta, yatta, I don’t need absolutes and ultimates. I don’t need meaning, purpose, morality. I am here today, gone tomorrow and that’s all folks.” So, “Do we have to go round to objective morality merry-go-round again?” Yes, because quite a few atheists, some whom are very outspoken at the moment, earn their living by dishing out moral condemnations, and do so without logical foundations.Leslie, Thank you. Indeed, it appears that atheists understand that both good or evil exist, via experience. This is even though they cannot explain or define good or evil in a manner that goes beyond personal preference and cannot explain why they do have a sense of just knowing, via experience (excluding worldview assertions of natural inborn morality).M. Atheos, Very interesting set up for a thought experiment. The deck is obviously stacked and it would appear that Berth was the ideal, perhaps utopian, place to live (incumbent upon people actually acting according to that which they seek to understand and establish). However, Serth may produce a more stable system, if not more unpleasant at the same time. It gets a bit contrived now since Berthians would presumably not care to “get” nor utilize “weapons of mass coercion.” I think it better for us to see what your wild card is. Ultimately, it seems to me that atheists are simply incapable of imagining an absolutely materialistic universe into which the gods have never, ever encroached. Cannot say that I blame atheists for this, it is virtually impossible to fathom. Thus, atheists borrow meaning/purpose, morality, etc. from theistic systems and, without evidence, consider them naturally occurring. In seeking meaning/purpose, morality, etc. atheists appear to be in what we may term competition with theists. This may be invalid and far reaching but it makes me wonder why atheists are so gung ho about attempting to make sure that everyone knows that they are happy, and fulfilled, and have meaning/purpose, are moral, are even more moral than theists and even holier than theists (see here for examples of these claims).Greg, I did perceive that your comment was, as you termed it, “simplistic.” Max attempted to sit down for a reasonable discussion much as was attempted by Theo Van Gogh when faced with the reality of evil. In the succinct words of Andrew Stuttaford, “[Theo] Van Gogh reportedly pleaded with his attacker: ‘We can,’ he said, ‘still talk about it.’ Talk. Dialog. Reason. In response, savagery. The murderer sawed through Van Gogh's neck and spinal column with a butcher knife, almost severing his head [after shooting him]. And that, Mr. [Garry] Wills, is how Enlightenment dies.” Part of the letter that Theo’s murdered stabbed into his chest with a knife reads, “There is one certainty in the whole of existence; and that is that everything comes to an end.” I suspect that if you were a Christian you would be the brimstone and fire type since in your characterization of yourself in that role you only preached God’s wrath, but where’s the love? God’s love, grace, forgiveness, ability to change a person’s heart, their mind, their motivations, their actions, etc. If he replies that due to the many contradictions in the bible, he does not believe it to be the inerrant word of God you could engage him on that issue. He may very well abuse his free will and go on killing, he may stop, he may end up a changed man only upon being incarcerated. So as an atheist you would preach the gospel of game theory and present two options: “everyone tries to kill everyone or no one tries to kill anyone.” You then imagine that “Based on his desire not to die, he will choose not to kill.” In that case I urge you to head to the Middle East and preach on brother. However, I suspect that Vincent would state, “Greg, you have over looked the middle way: some will kill and some will die” he would then introduce your gray-matter to a projectile and go on his way to earning his living.I am not prepared to state that “if we become an atheistic society, more people will feel justified in murdering, or at least the rest of us will be left impotent to do anything about it.” But that an atheistic society will have to, as they do, borrow morality from theistic systems, namely Judeo-Christianity. JOR, I did not see how anyone argued that “an atheist lacks incentives to behave morally.” There are plenty, as I noted in my post “Only Atheists Have Pure Motives.” It appears that yes, “If I ‘feel’ I shouldn't steal, it's because I think stealing is wrong,” but what if I “feel” that stealing is okay, does that make stealing right? (and I am not here referring to stealing bread to feed your starving kids, etc.). Pvblivs, The Bible offer much fuller orbed reasons for doing good, some of which are because people need good done to them, because of reward, because of punishment, because God places you in situations where you will be able to do good, etc., etc. Ergo, there is not simplistic presupposition that “there is no reason to do good if there is no punishment for not doing so.” The Bible deals with humanity in all of our complex facets. Sorry, but some people function based on “Just because,” some on avoiding punishment, some on seeking reward. If you can do “good” without logical reasons I can likewise not care “why” a person withholds from punching me in the nose.In fact, you are presupposing that “outsiders do good even without a punisher.” In such a case “punisher” can be viewed as being shunned by our peers, parents, society, etc. Atheists may do good based on wanting to look good, or to be called “a good person,” or to feel good about themselves, or just to simply do good, etc., etc. This ol’ only atheists have pure motives fallacy.Adonais, You are not a “subjectivist” (if we mean the same thing by the word). As far as I can tell “subjectivism” is an empty term, the concept is self-refuting. If you believe that subjectivity is true then you are claiming that subjectivity is objectively true and thus, you have abandoned subjectivity for objectivity. It should also be noted that considering “morality to be a product of nature…” is a mere assertion based on a worldview.Interestingly, I have written about the issue of not being obligated to “adopt nature's values as our own” in the “Is and Ought” section of this post.Ultimately, while you offer that we are not obligated to “adopt nature's values as our own,” and I imagine that you state that (quite rightly) because you know exactly where it leads, you are merely making an assertion since you still have no reason “why” we aught to rebel against nature’s values except for personal preference.aDios,Mariano
Mariano wrote:If you believe that subjectivity is true then you are claiming that subjectivity is objectively true and thus, you have abandoned subjectivity for objectivity.Err, equivocation? Oh never mind.. :-) It should also be noted that considering “morality to be a product of nature…” is a mere assertion based on a worldview.Try "based on observations." The worldview follows upon observation. A worldview without observations is like a Dilbert without a cubicle: adrift in a cartoon without an anchor in reality.Ultimately, while you offer that we are not obligated to “adopt nature's values as our own,” and I imagine that you state that (quite rightly) because you know exactly where it leads, you are merely making an assertion since you still have no reason “why” we aught to rebel against nature’s values except for personal preference.Oh dear, so many misunderstandings. First, I stated it based on observations, not some imaginary projection. You only need take a gander at reality (try it some time) to see that it is a true statement.Second, we do rebel against nature, but we do it despite our personal preferences, and we do it without any proximate reason that we need to be conscious of. The ultimate reason we do it is because it has survival value, but we don't need to be aware of that in order to adopt a behavior that is essential to self-preservation.Concerning "personal preferences," what are those, and how "personal" are they really? If I were to follow my innate urges (without a moral code, such would probably be my inclination, or preference), I'd be happy to run around naked on balmy summer days trying to copulate with as many beautiful and fertile females as I could find. What are the reasons that no one actually does this? It's society. We adapt ourselves to the rules and norms of society in order to be able to make living within it, and possessing a moral code helps you greatly to cohere with society. This is a direct consequence of our evolutionary history. It is so silly to hear theists and theorists talk about morality in terms of "personal preferences" as if those could exist in a vacuum; what about other people's preferences, like, e.g., not wanting to copulate with rampaging nudists - do such facts of reality not matter at all in my calculation of how to adjust my moral codes? Of course they matter - in fact they are the only things that matter. Morality only matters when beings interact, and then what you call "personal preferences" aren't personal at all, they have consequences to other people. The whole aspect of society needs to be included in the understanding of morality as well as construction of our individual moral codes. If you go off and live alone on a mountain top and never interact with any other human being ever again, then you may dispense entirely with moral codes and follow your personal preferences to your heart's content. It will be perfectly all right.No one consciously rebels against nature because they feel like it, but because if they didn't, society would let them know that they're on the wrong track, and quite possibly punish them for it. It is sheer self-preservation to want to avoid this. Within modern society, rebelling against nature, refusing to behave like wild animals - possessing a moral code which contains these instructions - is a survival trait, and that's why we have it, and that's why we do it.
[reposting from Assertions - hope that's okay, Mariano.]I interpreted Max's actions as being the opposite of your interpretation; he rejects Vincent's viewpoint (almost mocking it), shows him the logical extension of it (Vincent's own death), and chooses to stop Vincent using the only weapon that he has (his car). That he was prepared to sacrifice his own life in the process of stopping Vincent (which is confirmed by his actions after the crash itself) seems to weigh against your interpretation.Oh, and I'd imagine that Vincent has a dismal world view because he's a violent psychopath, not because he's an atheist.
To what then is he to turn in order to forego malevolence?I'm not sure what to "forego malevolence" means. If somebody is a psychopath, discussions such as this one really are irrelevant, and religion offers no "way out" of psychopathy.In this case, in the end, he met someone who survived as the fittest and simply did away with him—the strongest won.The point of the film - as I read it - is that the fittest clearly did not win. Max is by no means the fittest - he wins largely by luck and movie mojo. Applying ideas of natural selection makes no sense here.Individual atheists have certainly concocted various subjective systems of morality but they could not ultimately and absolutely condemn Vincent’s actions.This is wrong. They can absolutely condemn Vincent's actions, but they have no objective basis for doing so. In practical terms, however, their condemnation is exactly the same as yours in terms of its power over Vincent, i.e. it has none.
Mariano said:atheists admit that they condemn what they decide to call “evil,” “immoral,” etc., and praise what they decide to call “good,” “moral,” etc., for no reason besides personal preferences.atheists admit? all of them? two of them.This vagueness dooms your argument to failure before it even gets rolling.A few thoughts of my own on the subject:Atheists, or anyone for that matter "condemn what they decide to call 'evil,' 'immoral,'" for a wide variety of reasons, is it legal?, is it productive to society?, to themselves?, to their family? etc. If you wish to claim that atheists "prefer" to follow the law or "prefer" to do what is conducive to society, or prefer to do right by their families and friends, and that constitutes "personal preference" you could. But Christians "prefer" to follow what they perceive to be Biblical constants of morality. Christians follow their personal preferences in that context as well.Also some Christians "prefer" to see gambling as "evil" or drinking as "evil" or music in worship as "evil" or long hair on men as "evil" or women leading as "evil" or allowing a witch to live as "evil" and some Christians do not.As a side note those who subscribe to a so called objective morality as defined in the Bible have yet to codify it in today’s terms, say a list of "do" and "dont's" from it, and be in complete agreement. That would be quite useful in clarifying this debate.
Hi all, hey don't post this unless you really want to. I read your earlier post about what's going on with the blog, but, you guys are a bit slow with approving comments. You guys should take off moderation and allow anonymous. Just a suggestion. Maybe it'll get things picked up.
It should also be noted that considering “morality to be a product of nature…” is a mere assertion based on a worldview.Mario, how is the idea that morality is a product of God anything more than a mere assertion based on a world view?You must posit an entirely new realm of existence to answer morality while I do not. Unless you have strong evidence to support this, I fail to see why this is a "necessary" step.Are you saying you have some information that we do not? Because, the moral behavior we observe humans exhibit does not fit the 'account' Christianity provides, nor is this account consistant. For example, if God commanded genocide, then how can God's nature be the very definition of goodness? If humans obeyed, is this not one of many exceptions? And, if whatever God happens to command is good, isn't goodness merely whatever God commands? It's merely a variation on might makes right.You're simply pushing food around on your plate and claiming you've ate it.
Mariano, Whoops, didn't mean to misspell your name. (I occasionally work with a Mario on a consulting basis)
Mariano,“JOR, I did not see how anyone argued that “an atheist lacks incentives to behave morally.”You seemed to be arguing that because atheists believe they won’t be punished for doing wrong, or rewarded for doing evil – that their lives are not significant to the universe (i.e. unconscious matter) – that they have no reason to behave morally. My point in saying that “feelings” are connected to moral opinions (which might be right or wrong or, if positivists/error theorists are correct, meaningless) is to dispute the psychological egoism you’re starting from.Now maybe you want to say you’re trying to argue meta-ethics, to say atheists have no reason to believe anything is, in fact, right or wrong. If so I won’t dispute your motives, but you’re starting from the armchair psychoanalysis, so what you’re doing here is drawing a non sequitur from 1 (atheists have no reason to behave rightly or avoid behaving wrongly), to 2 (atheists have no reason to believe that any kind of behavior is, in fact, right or wrong). If this isn’t what you’re doing then the emphasis on our (physical) insignificance in the universe, the indifference of unconscious matter to our choices and well-being, and the atheist’s disbelief in an eternal enforcer, etc. is a needless distraction.And as I have said, 1 rests on prior ideas about psychology that are wrong in any case.“It appears that yes, “If I ‘feel’ I shouldn't steal, it's because I think stealing is wrong,” but what if I “feel” that stealing is okay, does that make stealing right?”You’re getting the direction of fit mixed up. A more direct reply to me would say that some people might feel good about stealing, which means that they think stealing is admirable or at least okay (maybe they’re even nihilists or somesuch, and they think everything is okay). If what you’re wanting to say is that we can be wrong in thinking that something is moral, or is immoral, then sure, I agree.And, ok, let’s say someone believes in God, and they think (mistakenly) that God wants them to steal, when in fact, God really hates stealing, so this guy is in for a hell of a time come judgment day. So he believes correctly (you would say) that there is in fact an eternal arbiter who can really mess him up if he misbehaves, but he’s wrong about what that judge regards as misbehaving. What then? Isn’t it silly to posit fallibility as a threat to moral theory per se?Furthermore, let’s say someone believes in God, and they think (correctly or incorrectly) that God will send them to hell for stealing. But let’s say this person likes stealing so much that they don’t care if they go to hell – maybe even they like the idea of going to hell. What then? My point here, of course, is that psychology is not ethics.
The problem you have with moral objectivity is that clearly people on Earth DON'T have it. For every horror you can describe, there are those that condone it.While most of the christians on this board and I (an atheist) share the same morality (although obviously not the god related bits) there are people who do not.example. I see the holocaust as wrong. Neo-nazi's do not. neo-nazi's, contrary to popular opinion aren't insane (at least not all of them). They simply believe, based on how they were raised and the ideas that were introduced to them, that Jews are deeply bad. The holocaust to them makes sense.Now to my mind and no doubt yours, this makes neo nazis wrong. But i have no moral objectivity to make this claim, only my subjective claim that genocide is wrong.As christians, you would be in the awkward positions of detesting an action your god has repeatably ordered (ironiccaly, by the jews themselves, such as in Canaan). You claim moral objectivity but it turns out that when you look at it, its subjective, biblical genocide = ok, real world genocide = bad.Another example. baby killing. clearly bad, you think so, i think so. but what if you could travel back in time to meet a baby hitler? would you see killing him as wrong or not. If by killing him you save the lives of millions of jews, gypsies and handicapped people, would you condone it?And as Zilch mentioned. To get some perspective, lets run the statistics. You'll find that most murderers, proportionately, are religious. As are most thieves, rapists and fraudsters. Atheists tend to commit crime at a smaller percentage than do those with a religion. Clearly this "objective" morality isn't doing you religious types any favours.
I just first wish to apologize to everyone for taking so long to respond. I do have a formal response to everyone here, however I must step out of this conversation in order to address other criticisms in previous threads as well as elsewhere.I do not mean to be cowardly, for my intention is simply to say that I've spread myself out too thin and I can't address everyone right now.Rather than have you guys wait for an eternity, I'm just going to reserve my responses for a later period. I hope you all understand and I apologize again for not being responsible enough to concentrate only on a few topics at a time.Thank you.