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Mar 02 2014

Louder than words

Matthew 7 records Jesus as saying, “every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” In context, it’s a reference to how believers are supposed to judge the difference between “true” prophets and false ones. But I thought it might be interesting to apply at a higher level. Instead of judging people sent by God or sent by Satan, what if we applied the same standards to God and Satan themselves?

With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to take a tour through the Bible and compare the actual deeds attributed to God with the actual deeds attributed to Satan, so that we can know which one is indeed “the good tree.”

Genesis: God kills every man, woman, child, baby, and animal on earth except for 8 people and a few thousand pairs of animals on the ark. He also kills every man, woman, child, baby, and animal in the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. Both mass murders (even of the babies) are justified on the grounds that men are evil, in God’s estimation. Also, an unknown number of people die from various famines and plagues, which are presumably controlled by God, for no particular reason. No mention of anyone being killed or harmed by Satan.

Meanwhile, God wants Abraham and his descendants to mutilate the genitals of all their male babies by cutting off the skin at the end, and He wants to be worshipped through taking animals, slitting their throats, cutting up their bodies, and burning them. Satan, on the other hand, is fine with leaving babies and animals unharmed, as far as Genesis tells us.

Exodus: God sends a violent hailstorm to kill every man, woman, child, or beast in Egypt unless they heed Moses’ warning and take shelter indoors. Any plants that survive the hailstorm are subsequently devoured by the locusts God sends after the hail, which is probably going to produce a serious food shortage in the months to come. God then kills all the firstborn of Egypt—man, woman, child, or baby, on the grounds that Pharaoh is being disobedient (after God hardened his heart to prevent him from obeying). Israelites are spared, IF they obey God by killing an innocent lamb and using its blood to mark the doors of their homes. They must also promise to kill animals as an offering to God every time they first give birth, so that God will not kill their firstborn.

Next, God kills Pharaoh and all his armies, for pursuing the Israelites. God then takes the Israelites to Mt. Sinai and instructs them on how to properly worship Him by killing animals, pouring out their blood, cutting up their bodies, burning them, and so on. He also allows them to own each other as slaves who can be sold, separated from their spouses and children, beaten to the point of death (or even to death itself, provided they survive at least 3 days after the initial beating). No record of Satan killing anyone or making any demands on the people.

Leviticus: God kills Aaron’s 2 sons, Nadab and Abihu, for burning incense before His altar in a way that He had not commanded. He also commands the stoning of a boy for cursing. Satan leaves everybody’s kids alone.

Numbers: God kills an unspecified number of Israelites, for complaining. He also sends a plague to kill another unspecified number (presumably large) for asking God to send some meat to eat, so they wouldn’t have to eat manna all the time. (He did send the meat, and then killed them while they were eating it.) A man is caught gathering sticks on Saturday, so God commands that he be stoned to death too, for violating the sabbath. Korah rebels against Moses, and he and hundreds of his followers are killed when God opens up the ground beneath their feet to swallow them up. God sends a plague to kill an additional 14,700 people due to complaints about the killing of Korah.

God then sends poisonous snakes to kill another unspecified number of Israelites, for complaining. The next 24,000 are killed by a plague for participating in Baal worship and sleeping with Moabite women (it would have been more, but Eleazar impressed God by spearing two people to death while they were having sex). God then sends the Israelite army to commit genocide against the Midianites, except the men are allowed to keep virgin Midianite girls for slavery and other “amusements.” All other Midianites are to be killed though. Then He sends Israel into Palestine, with instructions to wipe out the current inhabitants completely, and take possession of their lands. Still no interference from Satan though.

Well, I think I’m sensing a trend here. For all that Satan is supposed to be the bad guy, when it comes to fruits that we would call “evil” (at least if anyone else did them), God is far and away the biggest fruit-bearer. I could keep going, but frankly, the litany of violence and abuse coming from God is both monotonous and horrifying. Yet Satan, somehow, is supposed to be the epitome of evil. You could, I suppose, find some way to blame Satan anyway for all the evil things that God finds Himself “forced” to do, but the Bible, in fact, does not do that. Not until you get to the book of Job do you find Satan acting with any kind of evil intentions towards men, and even then he first asks—and receives—God’s explicit permission. Even when God employs agents for the evil He dispatches against mankind, He is still ultimately responsible.

32 comments

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  1. 1
    Al Dente

    You’re forgetting that Satan made a bet with God that if Job was screwed over hard enough that he’d curse God. Sure, it was God that screwed Job over but Satan put him up to it.

    1. 1.1
      Deacon Duncan

      Ah, but don’t forget, Satan’s bet was prompted by God bragging on Job and how faithful he was. Satan’s reply was that Job just knew which side his bread was buttered on—he worshipped God because God blessed him, but if God were to harm him instead, Job wouldn’t be so faithful. At that point, God suggests to Satan that Satan go out and try hurting Job, anything short of actually killing him. So really, the idea of Satan hurting Job wasn’t something Satan asked for, it’s originally God’s idea. God not only condoned the murder of Job’s family and servants, He suggested it!

  2. 2
    Susannah

    And God tells Job, “Sure, you can do anything you want to my servant Job, just don’t kill him.” Now He’s suddenly having second thoughts?

    1. 2.1
      Sines

      Listen, Yahweh never kills anyone who constantly sings his praises. Well, apart from collateral damage, anyway.

    2. 2.2
      rapiddominance

      Sorry for the late response, Susannah, but when I first read your comment I didn’t “get it”. I can be a little slow sometimes.

      You said,

      And God tells Job, “Sure, you can do anything you want to my servant Job, just don’t kill him.” Now He’s suddenly having second thoughts?

      Think about it for a moment. Wouldn’t it have defeated the whole purpose of the test if Satan killed Job? What would there be to learn about Job’s faithfulness in slaughtering him? “Just don’t kill him” merely puts a leash on Satan’s liberties to be destructive. Perhaps an angry Satan would have been tempted to kill Job after losing the bet.

  3. 3
    rapiddominance

    Deacon, you were a christian for 20+ years.

    Out of curiosity, how would you have defended God’s Old Testament actions during your theistic years? I’m thinking that somebody must have challenged you at least once on the issue.

    I’ve had to face the challenge, at least. You know, I don’t think my responses have EVER measured up to a non’theist’s satisfaction!

    So how did you go about it?

    1. 3.1
      John Morales

      Are you being subtle, rapiddominance?

      This is a corollary to the lesson of this post: There is no need for such a defence, outside of reason — for it’s only within reason that one judges by what someone does, rather than by what they say or how you feel.

      (The alternative is Faith)

      1. rapiddominance

        Subtle about what?

        To be honest with you, John, I’m just making conversation. I have no idea where I’m trying to take the dialogue. I often never do. Bloggers write things to an audience about things that are on their mind. Commenters read and respond.

        Regarding reason, I think there’s more at play than just that. We’re talking about moral judgement when we suggest that God’s actions (or anyone else’s) are evil. At such a point, we’re dealing with feelings.

        Scott

    2. 3.2
      Deacon Duncan

      Unfortunately, as a Christian, I had no choice but to adopt a double moral standard. I had to say that whatever God wanted to do was “good” (even if it was evil) simply because it was God doing it. “Who are you, O Man, who questions God?” (Rom. 9:20). It kinda bothered me, because I think deep down I really knew I was stifling my mind and glossing over some major internal contradictions. But at the time I never seriously considered the fact that I was dealing with inconsistencies in the stories men told about God, rather than dealing directly with an exalted and inscrutable God Himself. I assumed the stories I was being told were all true, despite the contradictions, so I never took the obvious step of verifying whether they could pass a truth test. Double standards, rationalizations, and “flexible” morals were the inevitable result.

      1. rapiddominance

        Double standards, rationalizations, and “flexible” morals were the inevitable result.

        Its the “rationalizations” that I was interested in. You’ve just written a post that consistently presents God as a literary villain. But the evidence you presented isn’t new and christians are challenged frequently on their notion that “God is good”. I was wondering how you used to rationalize God’s goodness in the face of all the blood baths, and slave-holding, etc..

        I guess if things ran according to schedule it should be me, the christian, who comes on the blog and attempts to rationalize God’s “misdeeds”. The problem standing in my way, however, is that you’ve argued in a previous post (in the commentary section) that a good God would have created a far, far better world that would not have required a savior. In fact, you actually mentioned the possibility that God could undo mans’ sins by changing the past rather than having to sacrifice his son.

        My “rationalization” would have centered entirely around getting the savior into an evil world to save it–so the exercise, on my part, would have been pointless.

        As for “double standards” and moral flexibility–I might not know exactly what you mean by this, but my life has been full of these things so I’m definitely not one to judge your past condition.

        Thanks for addressing!

        Scott

      2. Deacon Duncan

        I meant pretty much what I said. The rationalization would most likely have been along the lines of a double standard: claiming that the same actions (murder and genocide, for instance) could be both good (if God did them or commanded them) and evil (if anyone else did them). I might also have thrown in an appeal to ignorance by suggesting that God must have some exalted, inscrutable, but wise and loving reasons for what He did. Of course, if God were capable of such brilliant and subtle strategies, He ought to be capable of some of the nobler and less-perplexing alternatives instead, but I would never have volunteered such a thought, as a believer. The contradictions in the story arise from its origins as the product of human superstition, ignorance, and fantasy, so my goal as a believer was principally to find some way to divert my own attention from its inconsistencies. Really, any rationalization will do, as long as we’re just trying to avoid thinking the implications through.

      3. rapiddominance

        That is, how did you rationalize your views to others who might have challenged you. I DID get the part about how you sort of had to take on a double-think mentality, but did you ever find yourself “defending God” against similar evidence that a nonbeliever presented?

      4. rapiddominance

        You clarified yourself well.

        When you talked about having “double standards”, I thought you MIGHT have meant having one set of standards for yourself (and the church) but another set of standards for others. The reason I thought this possible is because you mentioned having “flexible” morals and I was tying those two together. However, I also thought you MIGHT have meant what you just said.

        Also, I can identify with how speculations can grow wild when one is trying to justify God’s activities. Take, for example, a story in Exodus I recently read where the Hebrews conqured a certain enemy (whom I can’t recall right off hand). They took the women (unmarried, if I’m not mistaken) to be wives, but they slaughtered the enemy’s livestock and the males (children included). I can’t provide any certain motivations for why my God (or Moses–I think it was Moses who gave the oral instructions) orchestrated such an event. Whereas I DO speculate on such motivations, I try to be careful to remember that they’re only speculations.

        As for theistic speculations, I suppose you’ve experienced a certain noticeable and pleasant relief from having to do such things. I know that there is a contingent of theists who think atheists must be absolutely miserable, but I’ve got to be honest with you–I once envied atheists. Not only did I have many biblical issues to rectify, but the nature of my salvation seemed to be cheap and useless. Plus, even though I didn’t like the idea of “staying dead” after my life ends, I wasn’t quiet sure how I would handle eternity.

        Thanks for talking with me.

  4. 4
    Nightshade

    I suppose most Theist would say ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ apply only to humans and not to God,
    God has designed humans to act a certain way.but given them freedom to choose how to act.When they act according to the design they act ‘rightly’ or correctly when they fail to, they act ‘wrongly’ or incorrectly.
    We humans have designed machines that ‘act’ in certain ways.Computers,automobiles,vacuum cleaners,etc. all are designed for specific jobs when they don’t ‘act’ as designed they’re acting ‘wrongly’
    We expect computers to compute,vacuum cleaners to vacuum clean, that’s why they exist.
    Humans,however can choose to compute or not,to clean or not.The designer isn’t limited in the same way as the designed and can’t be judged by the same standard.

    I find it interesting how closely the ‘morality’ Atheist mirrors that of Theism.It doesn’t make sense to me.
    Don’t get me wrong I know an atheist can be a moral person and a theist immoral.
    However if( Darwinian) Evolutionary Naturalism is correct the ONLY objective evaluator of human behavior is natural selection.So WHATEVER behavior enhances survival and reproductive fitness is’right’ any behavior that diminishes them is ‘wrong’.Doing or not doing something because of some arbitrary set of rules without consideration of the behaviors ‘Fitness’ implications is foolish.

    1. 4.1
      John Morales

      Nightshade:

      I suppose most Theist would say ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ apply only to humans and not to God,

      God cannot be right, then.

      I find it interesting how closely the ‘morality’ Atheist mirrors that of Theism.It doesn’t make sense to me.

      Almost as if morality is something that comes from people themselves, eh?

      However if( Darwinian) Evolutionary Naturalism is correct the ONLY objective evaluator of human behavior is natural selection.So WHATEVER behavior enhances survival and reproductive fitness is’right’ any behavior that diminishes them is ‘wrong’.Doing or not doing something because of some arbitrary set of rules without consideration of the behaviors ‘Fitness’ implications is foolish.

      Leaving aside that individuals don’t evolve, but rather populations, you seem to be confusing Darwinian evolution (a scientific concept, normally called “evolutionary biology’) with Social Darwinism (a discredited ideology) — and there is no telos in evolutionary biology.

    2. 4.2
      Nick Gotts

      We expect computers to compute,vacuum cleaners to vacuum clean

      Dang! So that’s where I’ve been going wrong, pushing my laptop round the floor and asking the vacuum cleaner to run my simulations!

  5. 5
    Nightshade

    [email protected] God cannot be right, then.

    I suppose the response to that statement would depend on the exact type of God a particular Theist believed in.
    I personally see no reason to believe that God be moral inn the sense we use those terms when evaluating human behavior.

    [email protected] Almost as if morality is something that comes from people themselves, eh?

    Perhaps;or God implanted knowledge of the moral law in all humans;or all people internalize the ethical beliefs of the society they’re raised in (regardless of whether moral facts exist or not ,what they are or how we know they exist and what they are);or (and this is what I intended )Atheist and evolutionary naturalist or reluctant to accept the ethical implications of their metaphysical beliefs.

    [email protected]: Leaving aside that individuals don’t evolve, but rather populations,…

    I understand that populations, and not individuals, evolve(accepting evolutionary naturalism for the moment)I”m not sure how that paragraph would lead you to believe I don’t.
    Having said that, populations consist of individuals,some of these individuals will be more successful in reproducing. Those traits which they possess which give them a reproductive advantage will probably be passed on to at least some of their offspring.To the extent behavioral traits are genetically determined they to are subject to selection.Which can result in changes in behavior over time.Meaning new norms will arise.Human beliefs about “good ” and “bad” don’t figure in to the process except to the extent thy affect behavior, If they increase fitness they become more common ,diminish it they become less common.In time behaviors we would consider “bad” could become the norm,accompanied by new ethical beliefs and moral judgements.

    I don’t know of any social ideology that isn’t rooted in a Metaphysical viewpoint.Social Darwinism finds fertile soil in Darwinian evolutionary naturalism.
    That of course doesn’t mean Darwin was wrong .

    1. 5.1
      John Morales

      Nightshade,

      I personally see no reason to believe that God be moral inn the sense we use those terms when evaluating human behavior.

      I’m not surprised… The God concept relies on special pleading for its existence.

      (Basically, you’re doing the same two-step where God is uncreated but must have created everything else because things cannot be uncreated, except this time with morality instead of physicality)

      … or (and this is what I intended )Atheist and evolutionary naturalist or reluctant to accept the ethical implications of their metaphysical beliefs.

      You are very, very confused. Evolution is not a metaphysical belief in any sense (which is why it needs

      Again: there is no telos in evolutionary biology; there is no ‘ought’ in that ‘is’.

      Human beliefs about “good ” and “bad” don’t figure in to the process except to the extent thy affect behavior, If they increase fitness they become more common ,diminish it they become less common.

      Fitness is a vector space with a very large number of dimensions, not a scalar — and it’s only meaningful in relation to a particular environment.

      (And society is hardly a natural environment, is it? Consider how being born to very wealthy parents makes someone particularly “fit” in our society, for example)

      [1] I don’t know of any social ideology that isn’t rooted in a Metaphysical viewpoint.[2] Social Darwinism finds fertile soil in Darwinian evolutionary naturalism.

      1. Again: evolutionary biology is not an ideology, so to apply it as such is a category error (the naturalistic fallacy).

      2. No; where it finds fertile soil is in authoritarian and/or racist mindsets.

  6. 6
    Nightshade

    P.S. In time behaviors we would consider “bad” could become the norm,accompanied by new ethical beliefs and moral judgements.

    This means evolutionary naturalist logically should be Moral Relativist.

    1. 6.1
      Nick Gotts

      No, it doesn’t. Evolutionary naturalism has no such obvious implications for one’s metaethical stance.

  7. 7
    Nightshade

    [email protected]: I’m not surprised… The God concept relies on special pleading for its existence.

    (Basically, you’re doing the same two-step where God is uncreated but must have created everything else because things cannot be uncreated, except this time with morality instead of physicality)

    John, I believe you’re correct that this is a case of special pleading.However I don’t believe this is unique to arguments for God’s existence.
    Which ever view we take concerning the cause of the universe,whether we believe it is conscious and call it God, or we believe it to be the quantum vacuum and unconscious ,or we believe the universe came from literally nothing without cause or explanation,we confront something that is or was outside our experience.

  8. 8
    Nightshade

    [email protected]: I’m not surprised… The God concept relies on special pleading for its existence.

    (Basically, you’re doing the same two-step where God is uncreated but must have created everything else because things cannot be uncreated, except this time with morality instead of physicality)

    John, I believe you’re correct that this is a case of special pleading.However I don’t believe this is unique to arguments for God’s existence.
    Which ever view we take concerning the cause of the universe,whether we believe it is conscious and call it God, or we believe it to be the quantum vacuum and unconscious ,or we believe the universe came from literally nothing without cause or explanation,we confront something that is or was outside our experience.
    Even if we argue God or the quantum vacuum, or whatever had a cause we eventually come to SOMETHING which either exist necessarily or while not necessary simply exist non-contingently. The uncaused cause.
    It would be unique to our experience and therefore a special case deserving special pleading.

    John:You are very, very confused. Evolution is not a metaphysical belief in any sense (which is why it needs

    Again: there is no telos in evolutionary biology; there is no ‘ought’ in that ‘is’.

    Evolution is a scientific theory I understand that ,but it was developed by people who accept, usually without question, some metaphysical worldview, some belief about Reality into which the theory fits.
    The theory (and I mean all scientific theories)might be consistent with several worldviews,however some metaphysical worldviews would be necessarily false if the theory is true.

    John: Fitness is a vector space with a very large number of dimensions, not a scalar — and it’s only meaningful relation to a particular environment.

    I agree.My points are 1)Behavior is one of those dimensions and 2) in a Darwinian worldview “good” and “bad” are “only meaningful in relation to a particular environment”. Not universal,necessary truths about human behavior.

    John: (And society is hardly a natural environment, is it? Consider how being born to very wealthy parents makes someone particularly “fit” in our society, for example)

    I think society is a natural environment for humans,we are social animals.
    I think what you mean is that no particular social order is entailed by human nature,and if Darwinism is true ,if there is no designer of human beings then no particular morality is either.
    If morals are created by people then all moral views are equally moral.There being no standard by which to judge them,except maybe how they contribute to Darwinian fitness.
    So a Social Darwinist warfare state is as “good’ as the Liberal Democratic welfare state.
    I don’t see how this conclusion of Moral Relativism can be avoided if as you say, “there is no ‘ought’ in that ‘is’.

    I hope you don’t think I’m defending Social Darwinism here. Because I certainly don’t intend to.

    1. 8.1
      John Morales

      Nightshade:

      I hope you don’t think I’m defending Social Darwinism here. Because I certainly don’t intend to.

      On the contrary, what I think is that you are trying to tar people who accept biological evolution with a predilection to accepting it (“Social Darwinism finds fertile soil in Darwinian evolutionary naturalism.”).

      Here, let me quote a salient bit from the Wikipedia entry: “Creationists have often maintained that social Darwinism—leading to policies designed to make the weak perish—is a logical consequence of “Darwinism” (the theory of natural selection in biology). Biologists and historians have stated that this is a naturalistic fallacy, since the theory of natural selection is merely intended as a description of a biological phenomenon and should not be taken to imply that this phenomenon is good or that it ought to be used as a moral guide in human society.”

      (Which is basically what I wrote)

  9. 9
    Nightshade

    OOPS! Sorry for the partial double comment .Either I’m having problems with my computer or my computer is having problems with its operator! I’m not sure which.

  10. 10
    Nightshade

    John@:8.1 On the contrary, what I think is that you are trying to tar people who accept biological evolution with a predilection to accepting it (“Social Darwinism finds fertile soil in Darwinian evolutionary naturalism.”).

    No,that’s not what I’m trying to do. What i’m trying to do is show that if one accepts Darwinian evolutionary theory one must logically accept moral relativism. Whether one has a predilection towards Social Darwinism or Liberalism,Conservatism,etc will depend on a number of factors not just a persons’ Metaphysical worldview, and I believe that any human social order is compatible with Darwinism.
    What Evolutionary Naturalist cannot do, consistent with their worldview, is to say one type of social order is “better morally” than another.For them that is an expression of preference, not a fact about the world independent of humans.Consequently Social Darwinism can take root in the “soil” provided by Evolutionary Naturalism more easily than in a worldview provided by all the Theistic faiths I know of.
    There is a tendency for all people Theist ,atheist and agnostics to speak in absolute moral terms.To consider themselves and their worldview “good” and their opponents, “bad”.
    This is consistent for Theist as they believe the idea of humans, the template of how humans ought to be, existed in Gods’ mind before humans existed and according to which humans were designed.This template is the standard by which we evaluate human actions.
    There is no such template in Evolutionary Naturalism.Humans weren’t designed or intended but were cobbled together without rhyme or reason ,quite by accident and without purpose by purely fortuitous unconscious forces and processes.
    Attempting to build an ethical code on existing human nature would have to use the normal beliefs,feelings and actions of people as the template.But human nature is contingent and provisional ,subject to change providing no firm foundation for an ethical code as we normally think of them :universally applicable and necessarily true.

    I’m a Metaphysical Phenomenalist with an affinity to Idealism not a Theist per se, nor a Creationist in the sense you are using the term.

    I just desire that Atheist and Evolutionary Naturalist realize that, if their belief is true, when they make moral judgements they are simply expressing an opinion.

    1. 10.1
      John Morales

      Nightshade:

      No,that’s not what I’m trying to do. What i’m trying to do is show that if one accepts Darwinian evolutionary theory one must logically accept moral relativism.

      Fair enough, but what you claimed was indeed a predilection towards Social Darwinism, when the opposite is true.

      Whether one has a predilection towards Social Darwinism or Liberalism,Conservatism,etc will depend on a number of factors not just a persons’ Metaphysical worldview, and I believe that any human social order is compatible with Darwinism.

      You should realise that social species (such as humans) do better by co-operating than by contending; reciprocal altruism is the opposite of Social Darwinism.

      Consequently Social Darwinism can take root in the “soil” provided by Evolutionary Naturalism more easily than in a worldview provided by all the Theistic faiths I know of.

      Your conclusion is entirely at odds with reality, indicating it’s based either on faulty premises or invalid reasoning.

      (“Gott Mit Uns”)

      There is no such template in Evolutionary Naturalism.Humans weren’t designed or intended but were cobbled together without rhyme or reason ,quite by accident and without purpose by purely fortuitous unconscious forces and processes.

      And there are your faulty premises. Humans did not randomly “poof” into existence, they are the culmination of billions of years of evolution — just like every other species on Earth.

      (Are you aware of mirror neurons?)

      I just desire that Atheist and Evolutionary Naturalist realize that, if their belief is true, when they make moral judgements they are simply expressing an opinion.

      But other people aren’t?

      Thing is that, compared to Goddists, atheists are subject to one less source of irrationality when determining their morality.

  11. 11
    Nightshade

    [email protected]: Fair enough, but what you claimed was indeed a predilection towards Social Darwinism, when the opposite is true.

    In terms of purely logical consistency I believe Social Darwinism is more compatible with Evolutionary Naturalism than with Theism.Which if humans were logically consistent would result in more Social Darwinist among Atheist and Evolutionary Naturalist than among Theist.But humans aren’t logically consistent in either thought or action.Which also explains why so much immoral behavior is engaged in by Theist.
    I realize that most Atheist and Evolutionary Naturalist are moral as are most Theist, but most of the former two are in societies that were until recently and perhaps still are overwhelmingly Theist,and whose moral code is derived from Theism.
    Would a society starting from scratch whose metaphysical worldview was Metaphysical Naturalism produce a similar moral code?Or one we would recognize as morally good?

    John: You should realise that social species (such as humans) do better by co-operating than by contending; reciprocal altruism is the opposite of Social Darwinism.

    Saying something has practical benefits (e.g. cooperation) is not the same as saying it is a moral obligation.Historically speaking humans cooperate with-in in-groups who are in competition with out-groups.This is true for all social species. Accepting for a moment the truth of Evolutionary Naturalism,our conspecifics are our competition for the resources we need to survive and reproduce.
    Aggression and selfishness towards our fellow humans are as much a part of the struggle for existence
    as altruism and cooperation and equally “rewarded” by natural selection.
    After all,Genghis Khan left more offspring than his near contemporary St. Tomas Aquinas
    These two men chose different ends to pursue.These ends determined the means they used.
    Reason applied to experience (science, broadly speaking) can tell us what means to use to achieve certain ends,but it can’t select our ends.Nor from a Evolutionary Naturalistic point of view can we pass moral judgements on which ends somebody chooses,only personal opinions of like or dislike.

    John:Your conclusion is entirely at odds with reality, indicating it’s based either on faulty premises or invalid reasoning.
    (“Gott Mit Uns”)

    Yes,Theist have called on God in their struggles with each other and have justified cruelty in God’s name.
    Also their ‘sacred’ scriptures have justified and motivated such violence.
    But these are religious/social uses of the idea of God.We must not confuse religion and specific beliefs (man made I believe) with the idea of God (man made also, you believe).
    The idea of God as held by Theism,a philosophical belief, does not entail any of the historical religions. Nor to my understanding any particular ethical beliefs,but an objectively existing morality is impossible without a Consciousness(God?) which is the cause of humans.

    John: And there are your faulty premises. Humans did not randomly “poof” into existence, they are the culmination of billions of years of evolution — just like every other species on Earth.

    Nothing I said infers anything else as long as we accept Evolutionary Naturalism.
    “Humans did not randomly “poof” into existence, they are the culmination of billions of years of (unconscious,unplanned,accidental non-purposeful forces and processes, working with whatever it had in the most basic way to get something that works,in other words” cobbled”) evolution” — just like every other species on Earth.

    John: But other people aren’t? (simply expressing opinions when they make moral judgements)

    Yes they are too,if Evolutionary Naturalism is true
    .

    John: Thing is that, compared to Goddists, atheists are subject to one less source of irrationality when determining their morality.

    Belief in God(a Mind that exist independently of the universe and is its cause) is no less rational than belief in a quantum vacuum (which exist independently of the universe and is its cause)or of something coming from literally nothing.
    All of these lie outside our experience and require special pleading to justify acceptance of them.

    In my opinion philosophical Theist should try to show that the idea of God is separable from any and all human religions.
    Imagine a group of early humans on the east African savannah. Sitting around a big bonfire,their bellies full.Lions,leopards and hyenas kept at a distance by the flames.
    As they sit, they exchange humorous anecdotes,memories of family and friends that have died and other idle talk.
    Eventually their is a pause in the conversation as they run out of things to talk about without rehearsing much that has all ready been said.
    Finally someone, looking up at the stars and the band of the Milky Way and around at the trees silhouetted against the horizon of the setting sun,ask “How did all this come to be?”.Different explanations would have been offered, “It has always existed.”, or “Water and fire and rock and air all were once separate and came together to form all we see” says an early Metaphysical Naturalist.,”Someone made it all.” says an early Theist.
    The point of this is that a theistic explanation is one of the types of “theories” that would have been considered as an explanation of the world, quite naturally and independently of any religion.
    The idea of God gave birth to religions not vice versa, and its truth does not depend on the truth of any other religious belief.

    John,the last word is yours.

    1. 11.1
      John Morales

      Nightshade:

      John,the last word is yours.

      As you wish.

      In terms of purely logical consistency I believe Social Darwinism is more compatible with Evolutionary Naturalism than with Theism.

      You’ve made your belief very clear, though it’s contrary to reality.

      (Me, I prefer my beliefs to be in accord with reality)

      I’ve already noted how you’re basing your belief on both a misunderstanding of the entailment of evolutionary biology (social species do better by co-operation) and fallacious reasoning (the naturalistic fallacy).

      Which if humans were logically consistent would result in more Social Darwinist among Atheist and Evolutionary Naturalist than among Theist.But humans aren’t logically consistent in either thought or action.Which also explains why so much immoral behavior is engaged in by Theist.

      You realise you here undermine your own contention, right?

      (Since atheists are human, then either atheists can only have a logical predilection towards it if they are not logically inconsistent!)

      Would a society starting from scratch whose metaphysical worldview was Metaphysical Naturalism produce a similar moral code?Or one we would recognize as morally good?

      This is an implausible question: Metaphysical naturalism is not something intuitive to people; our brains are geared to perceiving agency where none exists (this is the cause of superstition). So, either a society starts from scratch, or it starts with counter-intuitive ideas.

      Accepting for a moment the truth of Evolutionary Naturalism,our conspecifics are our competition for the resources we need to survive and reproduce.
      Aggression and selfishness towards our fellow humans are as much a part of the struggle for existence
      as altruism and cooperation and equally “rewarded” by natural selection.

      Natural selection is defined as impersonal, and as the converse of artificial (purposeful) selection. Social Darwinism is an epitome of artificial selection!

      Reason applied to experience (science, broadly speaking) can tell us what means to use to achieve certain ends,but it can’t select our ends.

      What? Of course it can!

      Yes,Theist have called on God in their struggles with each other and have justified cruelty in God’s name.

      And Social Darwinism, too: “It doesn’t dawn on this depraved bourgeois world that this is positively a sin against all reason; that it is criminal lunacy to keep on drilling a born half-ape until people think they have made a lawyer out of him, while millions of members of the highest culture-race must remain in entirely unworthy positions; that it is a sin against the will of the Eternal Creator if His most gifted beings by the hundreds and hundreds of thousands are allowed to degenerate in the present proletarian morass, while Hottentots and Zulu Kaffirs are trained for intellectual professions.” [Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf" Vol. 2 Chapter 2]

      (Fertile ground indeed!)

      Yes they are too [simply expressing opinions when they make moral judgements],if Evolutionary Naturalism is true.

      And even if it weren’t. The belief that there is some set of rules a magical cosmic being has set and communicated and which are an “objective morality” is exactly that.

      Belief in God(a Mind that exist independently of the universe and is its cause) is no less rational than belief in a quantum vacuum (which exist independently of the universe and is its cause)or of something coming from literally nothing.
      All of these lie outside our experience and require special pleading to justify acceptance of them.

      On the contrary, it is otiose, incoherent and counter-evidential and therefore irrational, for the reasons I provided in our previous discussion.

      Imagine a group of early humans on the east African savannah. Sitting around a big bonfire,their bellies full.Lions,leopards and hyenas kept at a distance by the flames.
      As they sit, they exchange humorous anecdotes,memories of family and friends that have died and other idle talk.
      Eventually their is a pause in the conversation as they run out of things to talk about without rehearsing much that has all ready been said.
      Finally someone, looking up at the stars and the band of the Milky Way and around at the trees silhouetted against the horizon of the setting sun,ask “How did all this come to be?”.Different explanations would have been offered, “It has always existed.”, or “Water and fire and rock and air all were once separate and came together to form all we see” says an early Metaphysical Naturalist.,”Someone made it all.” says an early Theist.
      The point of this is that a theistic explanation is one of the types of “theories” that would have been considered as an explanation of the world, quite naturally and independently of any religion.

      Heh.

      The thing that made the things for which there is no known maker.

      The idea of God gave birth to religions not vice versa, and its truth does not depend on the truth of any other religious belief.

      Actually, there’s rather good evidence that the earliest religous beliefs were animistic (magical powers), and over time evolved into beliefs in theism (who had rules), and thence into monotheism (dictator god), and finally into deism (impersonal god).

  12. 12
    Oob

    I’m all for casting god as a tyrant. It’s basically written for us. However, there’s really no benefit to casting Satan as some sort of “secret good guy”. Satan’s role is incredibly downplayed or absent through most of the Bible (a testament to how the existence of Satan wasn’t really as “fixed” a part of Jewish and Christian belief as modern Christians think it was), but when Satan is mentioned, He’s still doing some messed up stuff (here’s something interesting, I learned from some older Christian english teacher that you ARE in fact supposed to capitalize pronouns referring to Satan as well as God and Jesus, which seems very bizarre). Why bother trying to somehow portray Satan as a good guy anyway? Shock value? Nah, if God is the evil tyrant of the book (and I’d say he is) then Satan is the petulant son of the tyrant who, while not as actively cruel, still is far more concerned with proving God wrong than actually making the world a better place. Satan seems to be written as the character who thinks God is wrong but doesn’t care who he has to hurt to prove it, and has the exact same amount of ego.

    Yeah, I’m basically saying Satanists are just as wrong as Christians. They may be rebelling, but they’re still following a sociopath.

    1. 12.1
      Deacon Duncan

      Yeah, that’s pretty much a problem with all these invisible people who are trying to frighten you into doing whatever the preacher says. They exist primarily to manipulate and exploit the gullibility of others.

      1. Oob

        I love this bit Metallocalypse did on Satanism.

        video.adultswim.com/metalocalypse/church-of-satan.html

        In it, the church of Satan is presented as just a black and red version of a normal church. The pastor is a pencil-necked wimpy little guy who starts the service saying “Please throw your trash out in the nearby garbage receptacle. This is a church of Satan, okay? Not a waste paper basket.” and worries about the neighbor “on a real tear” about people parking on his lawn… HAIL SATAN!

        (From a more moral perspective, Satanists hold the believe that desire for revenge is an “animal right” and fully justified. I don’t think many actually LIVE this in their lives (most are content to just pray for their revenge fantasy) but it’s part of the doctrine. Frankly, I’m just shocked that there are real actual satanists in the world. I had always assumed the only satanists that existed were doing it ironically.)

  13. 13
    Mary McReynolds

    Interesting, challenging, confirming as former “beliefs” come under intense scrutiny. It’s doubt and belief in the homestretch and then reason pulls up from the outside. One sees that the Tanakh is a local record of one part of this globular question about who made us and why are we here and that the New Testament, covenant, revelation reveals contradictory constructs (Godstructs) the grasping mind tries to plumb to make sense of certain mortality. It is sobering to realize how different one’s life might have been devoid of “faith.” Powerful the effects on a child. Scriptures do not leave the mind readily, nor myths, nor once held “certainties.” I am indebted to those who share their journey here, much of which mirrors my own.

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