Where I Cram My Ideas


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A simple argument against the "one true religion" idea

It is relevant to my "disagreement and religious belief" topic. Certainly this argument has been expressed by others, but here is what I see:

The premises:

1. There exists a just God (explanation of "just" to be discussed later)
2. All humans are created equal.
3. There is "one true religion" leading to salvation.

I argue that these three statements cannot all be true at the same time, in light of the fact that there is no equal proportion of followers to non-followers of any religion in the world. Evidence strongly supports the idea that members of any given culture have a strong likelihood of following the religion of their dominant culture.

The first premise:

Justice here refers to the principle that similar cases are to be dealt with similarly. A just judge would not look at two similar cases and give one preferential treatment over another - he would deliver a similar verdict in both cases.

If that is the case, then given a population of humans (all things being equal), each member of that population would be given similar treatment in a trial on the same charge/s.

The second premise:

"All humans are created equal" is an essential premise to the idea of a just God. If there is a way to argue that a just God could create two people and have one "better" or "more valuable" than another, I have yet to hear the argument.

The third premise:

Many - if not most - religious people expressly believe that there is just one "correct" religion, and that those who do not follow it are not favored by God.

Observations:

Assume (1) and (2) are true. If there exists a just God and a population of humans created equal, then we would expect to see a similar ratio of "saved" people worldwide. Since we do not see such a ratio in any religion, we must conclude that there is no "one true religion." (3) is false.

Assume (1) and (3) are true. If there is a just God and there is one true religion, we would expect to see a similar ration of "saved" people to unsaved people worldwide. Since we do not see such a ratio in any religion, we must conclude that some people are privileged over others (either in knowledge or in internal qualities). (2) is therefore false.

Assume (2) and (3) are true. Well, that assumption cannot be made. If all humans are created equal and have an equal chance at salvation, and there is one true religion leading to salvation then we will observe a similar followers to non-followers of that religion worldwide. We do not observe this.

There is no possible situation, given the reality of what we observe, where premises (1), (2) and (3) are all true. Note that this does not suggest ~(1). It is possible for a just God to exist in this argument; that is not compatible with (3), the existence of "one true religion." The argument also does not suggest ~(3), but that if (3) and (2), then ~(1).

15 comments:

Rhology said...

Hey G-man,

I of course question that you have a correct conception of "just" in premise 1, but let's leave that aside for a moment.
Of more interest is this:

1 and 2:
If there exists a just God and a population of humans created equal, then we would expect to see a similar ratio of "saved" people worldwide.

Similar ratio to what?
You mean around 50-50 saved-unsaved?
Why? What is this theoretical salvation based on?


1 and 3:
Since we do not see such a ratio in any religion, we must conclude that some people are privileged over others (either in knowledge or in internal qualities).

Why assume that creation as equal automatically = end destination as equal? What's your argument for that?


Why not believe that God created the world good, that He created man good, that man fell of his own free will and therefore all men deserve death, that God stepped in to save all who would repent and trust Him as Savior despite their sin, and that some DO turn back?

Peace,
Rhology

G-man said...

First of all, I don't know how you have the time to write everything you do :)

Second, I'd be interested in how you disagree with that concept of justice. If we were to envision a 25-meter dash race, for instance, and I won my event and was able to advance to the next round, but when you placed first in your event, the second place runner was selected to move on... would you consider that "fair," all else being equal?

About that ratio:

I just mean that whatever the ratio of followers to not-followers (saved to not-saved), it would be similar around the world. Whether 50-50 or 75-25, there would be no significant difference whether you were in China, Somalia, Saudi Arabia or the United States.

"Saved," in this case meaning "following the one true religion that leads to salvation."

"Why assume that creation as equal automatically = end destination as equal?"

Given the same internal qualities and external revelations - the same opportunities - it would make little sense for there to be any difference in the percentage of people gaining salvation depending on culture.

"Why not believe that..."

Well, that's another story. I could go on and on. However, this argument is simply against the idea that one must follow the "one true religion" to achieve salvation - or at least its incompatibility with the existence of a just God and/or equality among all humans.

Thanks for responding, I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking about these things.

Rhology said...

Hi G-man,

Haha, well, if you think I write a lot, go hang out chez Triablogue and Debunking Christianity. Those people amaze me.
And I type fast, praise God. Makes up for my terrible handwriting, one would hope.
But don't feel obligated to respond to me within a specific time frame. I understand the balance of life vs blogging. Life's gotta win that one.

would you consider that "fair," all else being equal?

No, but I have a way to define "fair", that is, equality based on the fact that God created humans equal, in His image, and He gave laws to govern human behavior.
As an atheist, why couldn't I just redefine "fair" as I like it and trample on your definition if I can? There's nothing to call that morally objectionable beyond an "I don't like that" from you, right?
So if what you're saying is true and the universe is atheistic, there's no reason to accept this argument as compelling.

Given the same internal qualities and external revelations - the same opportunities

Where do you get the idea that equal opportunity exists?
I'm not denying that SOME opportunity exists for every person, but many have much more than others.

it would make little sense for there to be any difference in the percentage of people gaining salvation depending on culture.

The American culture in many ways is closer to the biblical worldview than the stone age New Guinean tribe who eats other people, believes in 1000 turtle gods and carries out constant blood feuds.
Why not think that this would cause a difference?
And what is this theoretical salvation based on?

I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking about these things.

And one thing I appreciate about you is that you usually use a moderated, friendly tone. (I'll give you a pass on this unfair and ludicrous comment.)

Well, that's another story.

I was trying to point out that the biblical worldview resolves all the "problems" you've presented here. I'd add to that the atheistic worldview strips you of any ability to call out these religious systems as morally objectionable beyond what you personally don't like.

Peace,
Rhology

G-man said...

Well, I'll probably have to devote a few posts going into more detail or even having a debate with you about atheistic morality/linguistics.

Speaking of fairness, though... I like the idea of "fair" because not all theists wrap it up in the idea of God. There's an external definition (which you often don't find with a concept like "good") from which to analyze the idea of God.

So we can imagine God the judge at our hypothetical footrace tournament. In one race, he declares the first place contestant the winner, but in the next identical race, the second place contestant is declared winner. In such a case we could say that, no, God isn't fair. Right?

"Fair" is just a word, of course. If two people disagree on what the word refers to, they won't make sense. I'd argue that there is such a concept as "fairness" which the word "fair" describes. If you decide to use the word "yogurt" instead, that's ok - so long as we're describing the same thing.

In this case, that "similar cases be dealt with similarly" under the assumption that humans are equal.

Again, you can call this concept what you want - but since it exists and is generally known by people communicating as "fairness," I'll go with using that word if you don't mind.

"Where do you get the idea that equal opportunity exists?"

Well, that goes back to the idea of fairness, Rhology. Contestants in two different footraces who place first should be given the same opportunity to progress to the next round. If they are not, we may have cause to question the fairness of the judge, all else being equal.

And yes, culture makes all the difference! So I'll use another illustration: Two children are about to be born - John and Zaid. One lives in the United States and one lives in Saudi Arabia. I predict that both will end up following the Christian religion. They are, as you've said, created equal and their progress toward the faith that will lead them to salvation is monitored by a fair and loving (?) God. However, it is FAR more likely that I am wrong about Zaid.

I may need to go into more detail about fairness with you first, but at this stage I'd remind you that [I'm not claiming there's no "one way to salvation," just that there's no one "one true religion"].

"I was trying to point out that the biblical worldview resolves all the "problems" you've presented here."

Does the biblical worldview teach that there is one true religion that one must follow to be saved? I haven't talked with you enough to know your stances on most topics yet.

Thanks for adding that final claim. It's a bit off topic, so I'll try to deal with it later. I think I have some of your questions from this summer I could answer in a new post, perhaps.

Rhology said...

Hi G-man,

I'm glad you "like" the idea of "fair".
What is your argument for why I should accept it?
What is your argument for why I shouldn't impose my definition of "fair" on you by any means, even violent (not that I plan to do so; this is a thought experiment)?

In one race, he declares the first place contestant the winner, but in the next identical race, the second place contestant is declared winner. In such a case we could say that, no, God isn't fair. Right?

God is the definition of justice (which doesn't necessarily equal fairness, being more far-reaching) so the question is unanswerable.
You might as well ask what a square circle tastes like.

If two people disagree on what the word refers to, they won't make sense.

Which is why a fixed point of reference (ie, God) is necessary, wouldn't you agree? If not, why not? And how is it resolved then? Just everyone should agree with YOU?

In this case, that "similar cases be dealt with similarly" under the assumption that humans are equal.

On atheism, I don't see a reason to assume that humans ARE equal. What would be your argument for that?

Contestants in two different footraces who place first should be given the same opportunity to progress to the next round.

Oh, they SHOULD?
Didn't you just tell me that "Atheism carries no moral implications"?
Why the inconsistency here?

And yes, culture makes all the difference!

So it can be not-OK to rape little girls in the US but OK to rape them in some other culture?
If that doesn't follow, why not?
If it does follow, how can you live with yourself, knowing that your worldview leads to such disgusting horror?

Does the biblical worldview teach that there is one true religion that one must follow to be saved

Yes, notably in John 14:6.

It's a bit off topic, so I'll try to deal with it later.

Cool, no problem.

Peace,
Rhology

G-man said...

Could've sworn I posted a response to this... oh well, I'll try again.

You asked why you should accept my definition of "fairness." Since I'm using the race analogy... why should you accept my definition of "footrace?" Nobody's forcing you.

I believe there is an objective entity known as a "footrace" in which two or more people run an equal distance to see who crosses the finish line first. Of course, you can call this "yogurt" if you want. In fact, if you're insistent enough, I'll call it the same - just so we're communicating clearly. The word "footrace" doesn't have any intrinsic qualities connecting it to the phenomena we're describing.

However, I also believe we have such things as "cases," "similar cases" and "dealing with similar cases similarly." Again - you can call this "yogurt." I call it "fairness" because that's what most people mean when they use that word in our language.

If you mean something else by the word "fair" and then use it to describe God, you're deceiving anybody who you don't explain your idea of "fairness" to.

-----

Moving on. I'm not sure what you're getting at when you're talking about imposing your definition of "fair" on me. If you want me to use your definition, I'll probably say "Alright, that's fine - just so long as you remember that there is still such a principle that 'similar cases are to be dealt with similarly,' no matter what you call it."

-----

"God is the definition of justice"

That's just a tautology. I'll need a little bit more.

-----

I'm also not sure what you're getting at with saying God is necessary for people to make sense when the communicate. All they need to do is agree on terms, which is easy enough for civilized people.

-----

"On atheism, I don't see a reason to assume that humans ARE equal. What would be your argument for that?"

Until given a reason to consider them unequal, why NOT assume humans are equal? After all, we all operate on desires and values - as the band Muse would say, "When we bleed we bleed the same."

-----

"Why the inconsistency here?"

There's no inconsistency. When I make "should" or "ought" statements I'm referencing the moral meaning theory I adhere to: desire utilitarianism.

-----

By the way, I meant to refer to culture in light of the original argument - that culture seems to determine religion. If all people are equal AND are given equal opportunity for salvation, the conclusion is essentially racism: that people are in some way "better" or better equipped to follow the "one true religion" if they are a part of certain cultures or from certain parts of the world.

If you disagree with that conclusion, by all means feel free to support your contention.

PS, John 14:6 says nothing about religion, especially not that one religion is necessary for salvation.

Rhology said...

Hi G-man,

Merry Christ-mas!

Could've sworn I posted a response to this

I can relate! :-( Sorry. Blogger has eaten a few of my comments as well.
I just write 'em all out in Notepad anymore and save them so I have a backup.


why should you accept my definition of "footrace?" Nobody's forcing you.

Is it just a matter of force, then?
Surely not! I'm asking for a reasonable justification for accepting that definition. Can you give one or not?


The word "footrace" doesn't have any intrinsic qualities connecting it to the phenomena we're describing.

But we both know instinctively that "fair" DOES have intrinsic qualities.
My worldview can account for why that is the case; I don't know about yours.


I call it "fairness"

It's the OUGHTness of the word "fair" that I'm questioning here.
You're making moral claims that the one true religion SHOULD allow equal opportunity for eternal life to all people.
You don't get to move the goalposts now and run away from your value judgments. Make the case - why is your definition of "fair" as an atheist worth being bound upon anyone else's reason?


there is still such a principle that 'similar cases are to be dealt with similarly,' no matter what you call it."

Nobody's denying that this principle exists. That it IS.
I'm questioning your worldview's ability to say that things OUGHT TO BE this way.


That's just a tautology.

It's not a tautology. I'd grant that it is circular, however, but so are all questions about first principles.
The point is that, since justice is defined as "that which is like God", atheism has no way to conceive of "justice" except by borrowing from theism.
And you can't stand to not use concepts like justice in your daily life and to believe that justice transcends just personal preference. Thus you demonstrate that atheism is unlivable and give more evidence that you really do know that God exists but suppress the truth in wickedness.

All they need to do is agree on terms, which is easy enough for civilized people.

Civilised people are nothing more than apes, according to Darwin.
And apes, of course, descend from single-celled organisms.
And of course, all "thoughts" are just chemical reactions in the brain.
I can set up two cans of soda pop, shake them up, and open them so they fizz. No one will then ask who's winning the debate between them!
Why then ask the same about the chemical reactions on display here?
On biblical presupps, it's b/c we're not just bags of chemicals; we're made in the image of God. But that's not an option available to you since you've foolishly ruled it out.


Until given a reason to consider them unequal, why NOT assume humans are equal

Haha, until given a reason to consider them equal, why NOT assume humans are unequal?
And even if I do assume them to be equal, that's just an IS statement. Whence cometh the OUGHT?
There's no way to answer EITHER QUESTION on atheism. If you know of one, I'd like to see it.


"When we bleed we bleed the same."

Why should I care about that?
That's just a statement about IS, not OUGHT. Yes, we both bleed red, we're both humans. I'd still like to conquer your tribe, add your sister to my harem, and eat your brains. (Take that last statement as a thought experiment, not a statement of true intent.)


When I make "should" or "ought" statements I'm referencing the moral meaning theory I adhere to: desire utilitarianism.

Another IS statement. Justify those OUGHT statements you make, please.


If all people are equal AND are given equal opportunity for salvation, the conclusion is essentially racism: that people are in some way "better" or better equipped to follow the "one true religion" if they are a part of certain cultures or from certain parts of the world.

1) "Racism" does not depend on geographical place of habitation. So you've misapplied that term.
2) Tell me why racism is morally objectionable in your worldview.


John 14:6 says nothing about religion, especially not that one religion is necessary for salvation.

That no one comes to the Father except thru Jesus? That He is the only life? What's unclear about that?

Peace,
Rhology

G-man said...

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I'm going to assume that your far-reaching spread of conversations on the bloggosphere cause you to lose track of some conversations.

You spoke about "accepting definitions" of ideas like fairness. My response was not to say that it is a matter of force. My response, as should be apparent with even a brief read, was that words only have a meaning when it is shared by the people using it. That's why we have figures of speech like "it's Greek to me!"

That phrase means that whatever somebody is saying sounds like gibberish to the person hearing it. However, the concept competent speakers of English are referring to when they use the word "fairness" DOES exist. If you deny that it does, you're denying an aspect of reality.

If you deny that God possesses the characteristic of "fairness" as the English speaker understands it, then you're not communicating that you believe in a "fair" God anymore than you're telling us you believe in a "green" God.

You say:

"But we both know instinctively that 'fair' DOES have intrinsic qualities."

And I think we don't. When you talk about fairness you seem to be speaking about something much different from what I (and most competent English speakers) mean by the word. Can you provide something more specific than "Like God"?



"It's the OUGHTness of the word "fair" that I'm questioning here."

So you want to know why fairness is a good thing? Why we should try to be fair? It's rather simple. We'd prefer our children and family to be able to live in a society that values fairness and hates cheating. If you can't think of any reasons why that might be, I'd be glad to provide you with a few.




"since justice is defined as "that which is like God"

See, I'm not following you here. People all over the world talk about justice, and they do not (and need not) even refer to God. God is not used in the philosophy of the term. God is not involved in the "feelings" related to the term. Justice is a concept that exists independent of God. What can you say to that besides "nuh uh!"?

"Civilised people..."

Your response is entirely non sequitor. All I said was that when people converse, they need to agree to what the words mean before they use them. Simple.

And, for your information, two soda cans fizzing are not sentient beings trying to make meaning between one another. Strange analogy.

A computer is "just" a bundle of elements. So is everything else. Thing is, humans are much more than "just" bags of chemicals. When you put it like that you're intentionally devaluing my side's perspective on humans. With that sort of outlook, who could expect you to ever respect me?



"until given a reason to consider them equal, why NOT assume humans are unequal?"

Well, equality is a value term. Values exist in desires. No evidence seems to suggest any humans have any more/ more important desires than any others. There's a reason to consider them equal. Now... why consider them unequal?

But back to the main topic - do you hold that people who live in some cultures (like the American culture) are in some way better off... favored by God, intrinsically smarter, given more information by God... than people in other cultures?

Rhology said...

hi G-man,

I'm going to assume that your far-reaching spread of conversations on the bloggosphere cause you to lose track of some conversations.

Yup, that definitely happens!
And I am very nearly omnipresent in the blogosphere. ;-) Haha, not really, but I do lose track despite my limited breadth of interaction...

You spoke about "accepting definitions" of ideas like fairness.

Yes, I'd agree with what you say here.
Part of my point is that many people exist who don't accept your idea of fairness. And for others, they accept it but don't act in concert with their beliefs. So how shall we know whose idea of fairness is right? Is there a *right* idea?
On atheism, I don't see any reason to think there is a *right* idea. But atheists act like there is; it's an inconsistency.


However, the concept competent speakers of English are referring to when they use the word "fairness" DOES exist.

But they don't all agree on the CONTENT of fairness. They don't label the same things "fair" and "unfair".

If you deny that God possesses the characteristic of "fairness

I don't deny it; I am saying He is the very definition of it.
So it's impossible to say He is unfair. It's like saying a square circle exists.
And it's being inconsistent with your own position as an atheist, since you have no objective basis for assigning "fair" and "unfair" labels to ANYthing. There's just what you like and what you don't like. And I may like diff things. So what?

And I think we don't.

Could you explain, b/c it seems to me that's EXACTLY what you're saying when you say:
That phrase means that whatever somebody is saying sounds like gibberish to the person hearing it. However, the concept competent speakers of English are referring to when they use the word "fairness" DOES exist. If you deny that it does, you're denying an aspect of reality.


You said:
Can you provide something more specific than "Like God"?

Like the God which is revealed in the Bible.
Does that help? It's really nothing more or less than studying Him and His revealed character.

We'd prefer our children and family to be able to live in a society that values fairness and hates cheating.

OK, but Jim the serial killer doesn't.
Who's right and how do we know?
See, you're begging the question by appealing to your preferences - what IS. I want to know WHY.
It won't do to say "We prefer our preference b/c we prefer our preferences." Which is exactly what you're doing.


People all over the world talk about justice, and they do not (and need not) even refer to God.

I'm asking you to JUSTIFY your usage of the word justice as an atheist.
And the Bible accts for what you said just fine - all men know that God exists (Romans 1) and have eternity set in their hearts by God (Ecclesiastes), have the law written on their hears (Romans 2). These common ideas of fairness correspond to this input from God.

Justice is a concept that exists independent of God. What can you say to that besides "nuh uh!"?

How about: Prove it.

two soda cans fizzing are not sentient beings trying to make meaning between one another. Strange analogy.

On naturalism, two human beings are two monkeys are two bags of biological chemicals and reactions are atoms banging around.
So are soda cans.
What sets humans apart from soda cans? Sentience? So what? There's no moral reason to think there's any diff, that's for sure.


With that sort of outlook, who could expect you to ever respect me?

A better question is, since this is the logical conclusion of atheism, with that sort of outlook, who could expect *you* to ever respect *me*?
Of course, in my worldview, you are made in the image of God and are therefore valuable.
On naturalism, it rained on rocks for billions of yrs and humans are the end result of those completely natural processes. I don't care if I run over a pebble with my car; I drive on asphalt every day. Why should I then care whether I run over a human every day, given atheism?

Now... why consider them unequal?

Maybe I just do, just 'cause.
Maybe as an atheist, my desires are to consider humans UNequal. Maybe it serves my purpose; I'd like to throw 1000s of them in ovens to incinerate them b/c they are not part of the master race. Is there some sort of problem?
This is a serious question, a thought experiment, that I'm helping you to perform given atheism.
Christianity, of course, answers, "No, all humans are made in the image of God. It is objectively morally wrong to murder them, b/c murder is an attack on God's image, He has decreed that murder is sin." Atheism doesn't have that option open to it.
Of course, you could just repent of your sins and trust the Savior, Jesus Christ, and you wouldn't have these crippling logical conclusions to your worldview's tenets any longer. You're always invited with hope and joy.

do you hold that people who live in some cultures (like the American culture) are in some way better off... favored by God, intrinsically smarter, given more information by God... than people in other cultures?

Favored by God - yes.
Smarter - not necessarily; whether one repents of his sin and trusts the Savior is not dependent on mental capacity. Smart people and stupid people are Christians and atheists and pagans alike.
Given more info by God - yes, clearly.

Any favor God bestows is b/c of God's sovereign choice, decidedly NOT b/c of any greater awesomeness on the part of the humans. God chooses to glorify Himself that way, blessing some people more greatly than others, though all are greatly blessed.

Peace,
Rhology

G-man said...

I'm going to capitalize on my propensity to procrastinate.

On the subject of fairness... it's tough when faced with people who have a different concept of what "fair" means. I could imagine a conversation:

"Ok... you said you were being fair, but I feel like what happened was very beneficial to you, but harmful to me. How would you define 'fair?'"

"Well, I consider situations that benefit me to be fair."

"Do you think there's a situation where people can make an exchange or action in which both benefit more or less equally? If 'fair' just means 'good for me,' then why use the term at all? You might as well just say 'good for me.'"

"Fair" seems to be something that exists on a continuum, Rho. If I give you three marbles for your two, that seems more fair (even if not *completely* so) than if I had to give you ten for your two. Unless, of course, I find those two marbles exceptionally valuable. That's really key - but forcing people to trade valuable things for necessary resources (like, "give me your daughters as brides or I'll let you die of thirst outside of my oasis") - well, that might not seem fair, even if it's an even exchange of value. Perhaps the better concept is that it's not nice.

Now, you don't have to believe what I try to convince you is true. What I would ask, however, is that you at least respect how I view things when you talk with me. The thing I have emphasized most in our conversations is that atheism is not a theory of morality. Nor is it a theory about value. As such, atheism is morally neutral (like a pen or pencil). To make comments about value, fairness, goodness etc, please address the actual theories of value in question, not the definitively value-neutral belief that is atheism.

At least try to separate atheism from value/ethics theories in our conversations, please.

Judgments of fairness, at any rate, are very complicated. I don't see how "what God would consider fair" can be worked into the equation at all. It seems in Christianity that nobody can call anything "fair" or "unfair" unless he claims to know what God would think. I imagine you differ, and I'd like to hear your explanation.

I'm also a little confused when people define something as "God." Here for example: "Fair = God." Typically when we define something, we use other terms to make one side of the definition equation equal to the other. "Foot" = "the extremity at the end of the leg." I don't see how "God is fairness" makes any sense. Same goes for "God = goodness," especially when both that and the previous definition are both held to be true. In other words, if God is both the definition of "fair" and "good," are "fair" and "good" the same thing?

Oops, and here we are again at atheists being unable to make moral judgments or being able to legitimately apply value statements to states of affairs. Well, at this point I'll just suggest that you take a closer look at my post on the premises of desire utilitarianism... maybe we can revisit this later.

"Could you explain..."

Sure. You say "fairness = God." I think of fairness as something a little different (pending your analysis of what is implied by saying "fairness = God). So we don't seem to agree on intrinsic qualities of fairness at this point. We both use the term fairness, and we both agree that what I refer to by the word exists. However, you'd seem to disagree that the phenomena and the word should be paired up.

"OK, but Jim the serial killer doesn't."

Yeah he does. Jim the serial killer wants to live in a world where people value fairness and hate cheating. That way he can be confident that he won't be cheated. I'm talking about an objectively better world.

About preferences: I'll let you read up on my post about some premises of desire utilitarianism, and maybe we can revisit the topic later.

"I'm asking you to JUSTIFY your usage of the word justice as an atheist."

While you're at it, ask me to judge a pencil as good or evil. It doesn't make any sense. If you want me to discuss justice in desire utilitarian terms... well, I'd probably want to write a new post.

"On naturalism, two human beings are two monkeys are two bags of biological chemicals and reactions are atoms banging around.
So are soda cans."

So? Chemicals and reactions are very complex interactions between atoms, monkeys interact based on very complex interactions of chemicals, and human beings are not monkeys at all - but also interact based on very complex interactions of chemicals. Your trying to equate soda cans with sentient humans doesn't really make much sense...

Unless you're trying to devalue humans as a strawman for someone else's perspective. This happens all the time: someone who calls God a kid on an ant mound with a magnifying glass is trying to devalue the idea of God in order to make the other side's arguments easier to attack. I don't really like it either way.

"There's no moral reason to think there's any diff, that's for sure."

To someone who accepts desire utilitarianism there sure is :) Soda cans don't have desires; desires are the products of mental states. All value - and, thus, all moral value - stems from desires. So, there's all the difference in the world. It's nonsense to apply moral statements to desire-less entities like soda cans, rocks, and early-stage fetuses, among other things.

"who could expect *you* to ever respect *me*?"

I try to respect people to the degree to which they deserve respect. I try to respect positions and arguments to the degree to which they deserve respect. Some people, including my dad and my best friend, have pretty reasonable justifications for their personal Christian faith. Other people have ridiculous reasons for holding their faith - like "I've always been a Christian, I've never questioned it," or "I think life is unfair, so I don't believe in a higher power."

"Of course, in my worldview, you are made in the image of God and are therefore valuable."

Oh... I'd better not get started on how demeaning *that* sort of value strikes me as.

"Why should I then care whether I run over a human every day, given atheism?"

Let me explain to you why I don't approach a pencil for moral advice. It has nothing to say on the subject. To evaluate a theory in terms of how it approaches value or morality, we must first make sure such a topic is applicable or relevant. The moral conclusions of cloud formation theories or gravity are as meaningless as the moral conclusions of atheism.

Given desire utilitarianism, it's extremely important that you don't run over humans.

"Maybe I just do, just 'cause.
Maybe as an atheist, my desires are to consider humans UNequal."

That doesn't justify considering them unequal. I justified reasons for considering humans equal. So... are we done with this topic?

"Atheism doesn't have that option open to it."

How about "Everybody looks a little like Maurice, so murder is an assault on Maurice's image. Maurice has declared murder a sin." What makes Maurice's opinion any less valid than God's... besides the fact that Maurice can't burn people in Hell.

"you wouldn't have these crippling logical conclusions to your worldview's tenets any longer."

Oh please. My transition from born-again Christianity to atheism has followed the lines of valid logical conclusions from the get-go. You and I differ in our value theories - but the more you understand mine, the more you'll be able to conclude that crippling logical conclusions are absent from my worldview.

Last thing:

About this favoritism of God... it's to God's glory, you're saying, that people are shown favoritism and given more information about God based on which part of the world they were born in? Tough to argue that when any conclusions you come to about God's motives are used to define goodness and justice.

In my experience, this can justify just about anything. Hmm, God commanded that if a non-believer is found in a community, its entirety is to be burnt to a crisp and never rebuilt... well, that's a good thing to do then! God works with moral absolutes, so there's no reason to think a different action would be more appropriate, is there? This is why people blow up abortion clinics and, more recently, cut up, boil and snack on their murdered girlfriends. Hell, if killing thousands of people because their king found disfavor with God is the mark of a good and just being, what's so surprising about the other conclusions people exegete from scripture?

Rhology said...

hi G-man,

I'm a little bumped and bruised from all the mean-spirited insults thrown around at the Atheist Experience. Let me say I appreciate your civil tone. Thank you.

"Well, I consider situations that benefit me to be fair."

That's exactly what I'm getting at!
If there's no super-human fixed standard of reference, we're stuck at that kind of thing. And atheism necessitates a lack of foundation for that fixed point, no matter what may be the ethical theory built on it.

If I give you three marbles for your two, that seems more fair (even if not *completely* so) than if I had to give you ten for your two.

To YOU.
To ME, it's more fair when it benefits ME and screws YOU.
Now, how can you judge between our two POV?

Perhaps the better concept is that it's not nice.

Maybe my moral theory dictates that I *should not* be "nice" to others. I get better marks from my moral theory that way.
Now, how can you judge between our two POV?


What I would ask, however, is that you at least respect how I view things when you talk with me.

Well, I hope you understand that I really am a biblical, Reformed (but I repeat myself) Christian.
All these other things I say are for the purpose of the reductio ad absurdum, pointing out either the internal inconsistency or the unliveability of your arguments.

The thing I have emphasized most in our conversations is that atheism is not a theory of morality.

And I have explained no fewer times that any moral theory built ON atheism lacks the foundation to overcome the critiques I state. I use "atheist morality" as shorthand for any of those.

It seems in Christianity that nobody can call anything "fair" or "unfair" unless he claims to know what God would think.

Exactly right.
Except for the "what God 'would' think". We know to a very great extent what God does think, since He has revealed Himself in the Bible.

I'm also a little confused when people define something as "God." Here for example: "Fair = God."

I can see why. I don't do that.

In other words, if God is both the definition of "fair" and "good," are "fair" and "good" the same thing?

Saying "God is the definition of goodness" and "God=good" don't seem to me to be the same things.
The former is my position; I mean that God is the fixed standard of reference to define what is "good", and the fixedness of the standard and the quality of what constitutes "good" is delimited by His character, which is unchanging.
The latter seems to be making those terms synonymous and limit God. He is not ONLY good, He's also holy, severe, merciful, just, etc.

So we don't seem to agree on intrinsic qualities of fairness at this point.

Among other things, one of us believes it can be traced to an objective standard and the other defines it for himself and has no rational recourse if anyone else has a different idea.
This all comes down to the idea of authority - who can make these moral judgments?

Jim the serial killer wants to live in a world where people value fairness and hate cheating.

That's a bizarre thing to say.
It's a thought experiment.
OK, maybe Jim does, but I don't. Could you please respond to the question?
Who's right and how do we know?
See, you're begging the question by appealing to your preferences - what IS. I want to know WHY.
It won't do to say "We prefer our preference b/c we prefer our preferences." Which is exactly what you're doing.

I'm talking about an objectively better world.

What is "objectively" better?
Let me help you skip ahead - when you answer, just know that I'll respond with a hypothetical person who believes the opposite. Explain why you are right, why the hypothetical person is wrong, and most importantly, how you know.

ask me to judge a pencil as good or evil.

Good enough.
Now ask me to judge raping little girls as good or evil.


So? Chemicals and reactions are very complex interactions between atoms, monkeys interact based on very complex interactions of chemicals, and human beings are not monkeys at all - but also interact based on very complex interactions of chemicals. Your trying to equate soda cans with sentient humans doesn't really make much sense...

The point is fairly obvious; saying "So?" doesn't really get us anywhere.


Unless you're trying to devalue humans as a strawman for someone else's perspective.

This is the result of atheism.
How is it a strawman? It's the very logical conclusion of naturalistic evolution.
If I'm wrong, please explain how.

Soda cans don't have desires; desires are the products of mental states.

I don't choose to give the chemical reactions in my brain the label "mental states". They're just chemical reactions; soda cans fizzing are chemical reactions.
I'm Richard Dawkins (the more self-consistent version). Why am I wrong?

It's nonsense to apply moral statements to desire-less entities like soda cans, rocks, and early-stage fetuses

Side issue, but you brought it up. Isn't the onus on you to demonstrate that early-stage babies don't have desires?

I'd better not get started on how demeaning *that* sort of value strikes me as.

You could, but it would make no rational difference; you can't tell me why demeaning someone is objectively bad.

Let me explain to you why I don't approach a pencil for moral advice.

A pencil is a complex collection of atoms.
A human is a complex collection of atoms.
So what?

My transition from born-again Christianity to atheism has followed the lines of valid logical conclusions from the get-go.

That must be why you can't answer any of these questions nor remain consistent.

Tough to argue that when any conclusions you come to about God's motives are used to define goodness and justice.

When arguing against someone who has no way in the slightest to assign "objectively bad" or "objectively good" to ANYTHING, it works wonderfully.
Of course, it's like a gunfight against a quadriplegic with no arms. Anyone can win.

God commanded that if a non-believer is found in a community, its entirety is to be burnt to a crisp and never rebuilt

Are you referring to something in particular?
If so, doublecheck the facts of the account to make sure it matches your assertion so you don't look silly.
I say this b/c I suspect you're referring to a biblical acct, and there's no such acct.

God works with moral absolutes, so there's no reason to think a different action would be more appropriate, is there? This is why people blow up abortion clinics and, more recently, cut up, boil and snack on their murdered girlfriends.

How is the 2nd sentence not a total non sequitur?
It sounds like you're saying that God commands such, so I'd challenge you to show me where.
Remember, the argument is that the objective moral standard is what God *has* said and that there's a sufficiently clear way to know it, not that it's what people THINK He has said.

if killing thousands of people because their king found disfavor with God is the mark of a good and just being, what's so surprising about the other conclusions people exegete from scripture?

1) The US gov't is the same principle - our representative represent the people. Not perfectly, but in authority and structure, yes.
2) What is internally inconsistent with this action?
3) And don't bother slinging invective from the the DU POV. All you can say is that you don't like it. Well, maybe I do like it. You have no consistent way to decide between us.

Peace,
Rhology

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