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I’m debating in Georgia – Nov. 17th

The debate will be live-streamed at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/humanist

Here’s part of the press release:

GOOD WITHOUT GOD? LIVE DEBATE.

Matt Dillahunty from The Atheist Experience
To debate
Mark Allison from Covenant Connections Church

The South is full of people who believe that to be good you must have God. The

Gainesville State College Secular Student Alliance disagrees with that statement.

The Secular Student Alliance has arranged a debate between Matt Dillahunty,

atheist, and Mark Allison, Christian, on the topic of Good Without God. There

will be 5 questions presented by the moderator then time for questions from the

audience. The debate will be held on Thursday November 17th at 7:00PM. The

debate will be held on the Gainesville State College Campus in the Academic IV

building, on the 3rd floor in the multi-purpose room.

Comments

  1. fullyladenswallow says

    Looking forward to this. Best of luck to you, though I don’t think you’ll need any. Go Matt!

  2. craigmarshall says

    I’ve looked up Mark Allison, and I can’t find anything about him. Am I missing something? Is he someone that matters?

    Or is one of the best atheist thinkers out there, who has weekly discussed/debated religion on television for years, going up against some guy that goes to church?

    Either way, I’ll listen.

  3. Raymond says

    I look forward to watching the debate. Good luck!

    Such a topic reminds me of Steven Weinberg’s quote, “With or without [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

  4. says

    Would it be possible to post the time zone of the event or better yet, at what time GMT the event will take place?

    That would make it a bit easier for us international viewers.

  5. hanchman says

    Georgia is in the Eastern Time Zone. (UST -5:00), and by that time, we will not be in Daylight Savings Time.

  6. Kevin says

    “There will be 5 questions presented by the moderator then time for questions from the audience.”

    Any more specifics about the format?

  7. Paul W. says

    Make sure you get a written agreement that the tape of the debate will be made available. (I’m assuming you’ve been following the Coyne/Haught thing; I never got a tape of my afterlife debate with that theology guy from St. Ed’s years ago…)

    Many congratulations, BTW!

  8. Jdog says

    I poked around on the church website and all I could find is that he’s the director of the church’s ministry school.

    http://www.covenantlifesm.org/page3/index.html

    He may be the presenter in the audio lectures available on that site; the presenter doesn’t sound like the other guy listed on that page (the church’s lead pastor).

    The church is one of those non-denominational megachurches with a suspiciously well-to-do pastor. They appear to promote Biblical literalism, glossolalia, and personal revelation.

  9. Nathan Godwin says

    This is good to hear, Matt, I’m looking forward to seeing it. Just remember to keep saying to yourself “there is no HOLD button here… there is no HOLD button here…”

    I remember at your last debate’s Q&A, before you bounced the loudmouth like Pat Swayze, I could have sworn I saw you istinctively poking at the tabletop trying to shut him up. :D

    I found myself trying to “Go Back” in real-life conversations when I first got my DVR at home – technology’s a bitch sometimes.

    Have fun and make us proud!

  10. Milpa says

    Glad to see that these debates are going on. Maybe you should think about debating Tim Tebow. You will get more exposure and I am sure he does not know much about his religion except to quote a few passages from the Bable.

  11. Ed says

    If it’s open to the public I will be there.

    Matt,
    Stay the weekend and let’s go to William Lane Craig’s Sunday School class in Marietta. You will have to pass it on the way to the Airport.

  12. says

    How much do you want to bet that it’ll go down like the previous one? Maybe this time the opponent won’t be off in his/her own world during the debate.

  13. Jackson says

    Any info on if it’s open to the public? I’d love to drag my Christian dad up to the debate if it is.

    I hear William Lane Craig is doing something in my hometown around that date, care to stay around for that?

  14. Rod says

    Matt,

    My night has just been made!! I’m a Gainesville resident and baring anything catotrophic, I’ll be at the debate. If there’s a victory party afterwards, let’s plan a meetup!!

  15. says

    Greetings! I’m Mark Allison, the guy who gets to present the theistic perspective in Gainesville next week. I’m not a talk show host and have never participated in a debate, so this should be interesting :-)

  16. says

    I rarely look at these things in the context of “who wins” – but I’m looking forward to meeting you and I’m hoping we have a great discussion/debate. Partying afterward is contingent (that’s sort of an inside joke, as my last debate opponent said he’d happily go have a beer with me, was pleasant through the whole debate and then used his closing remarks to start invoking Nazi/eugenics/gulag nonsense that unfortunately removed him from my ‘will-drink-with’ list.) :)

    I’ll see you next Thursday!

  17. says

    As long as you don’t use the “Hitler was a Christian” argument, I’ll stay away from the whole holocaust thing. Seriously though, I was just responding jokingly to one of the prior posts about “winning.” Just hoping to clearly articulate the Christian/theistic POV. Looking forward to meeting you!

  18. says

    In public and private, Hitler self-identified as a Catholic. His theological ideas are a considerable mess, though, and it’s hard to say what he was – though there’s no justification for labeling him an atheist (not that you did…but it happens). Plenty of people (both atheists and theists) have done good things and bad things. Some have done so in the name of their religious views. Some have been consistent with the tenets of their religion, others have perverted beliefs to their purposes. I don’t really see how Hitler is relevant to the subject…and I’m rarely the first person to mention him. ;)

  19. Gaelen says

    Dues paying ACA Member in Georgia, here! I’m afraid my house is 90 minutes away, so I can’t offer that as a party venue, but I’d very much like to hang with people after the debate. We should all go out for dinner or drinks after.

  20. says

    Now this would be great. I think a party would be fun; I hate not ever being able to participate in “after show meetings” at… is it El oRoyos–anyway you get the picture.

  21. says

    According to the event posting on the GSC Secular Student Alliance facebook page, its free and says nothing about restrictions to who can come.

    Most events that occur here are free for the public.
    Here is a link to the event page.
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=170006163094212

    I know its free and is in:

    Academic Building IV (next to the Physical Education Building)
    3rd Floor Multi Purpose Room
    Donations requested to support the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Kasese, Uganda

  22. Alan says

    Check out sermonaudio.com – http://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?currPage=2&keyword=Dr.%5EMark%5EAllison&SpeakerOnly=true&currSection=sermonsspeaker&AudioOnly=false&SortBy=oldest

    I don’t really see the purpose behind these debates, it’s as if you are lending credence to Christian claims by acknowledging that there is a debate to be had in the first place.

    What I’d like to see is, after the introductions and the Christian sermon/monologue, the atheist opens up his bible and reads from a piece of paper inserted in the bible saying “so-and-so (the other debater) is a lying sack of excrement who should not under any circumstances be believed”. Then you can use all their own arguments about what is in the bible against the objections that they raise about your quote. “Well, I found it _in_ the bible!!! What more do you need?”.

  23. Mark Allison says

    Ouch! I hope what I’ll present will have a little more substance than the circular reasoning you’re describing. Oh, and I’m definitely not the “Mark Allison” from the audio sermons you’ve linked to :-)

  24. says

    Debates aren’t usaully about convinceing the other debater. Its about convincing the audience.

    Debates played a huge role in my deconversion. Had they not been there I would probably be diest or even worst an “Agnostic.”

  25. says

    I’m pretty sure you just demonstrated why I’m doing this debate and you aren’t. I could point out all the ways you’re wrong, but since you don’t see the purpose…I just won’t bother.

  26. says

    I think the real question should be, “How can someone have morals if you follow a religion which has a moral code which has not changed in the last 2000 years?” I think that this is going to be an absolute push over for Matt, I would say good luck but I really don’t think he needs it.

  27. says

    I am VERY excited to be in Georgia and I really don’t get to say that very often. :) Looking forward to seeing someone whose blog I enjoy debate in public!

  28. Tracy says

    Woo hoo! So glad this is being streamed – I’ll be watching from Toronto, Canada :) Best of luck to you both.

  29. fingerspointed says

    I have a great idea, lets all start off on a fair playing field, lets go back say 3 billion years ago and visit planet earth. Hmmm wait a minute, theres absolutely nothing going on, ok 2 billion years, still nothing, 1 billion, still nothing, hmmmm where’s God? is he messing around with the Mars people??? OK lets go back a few hundred million years ago, hmmmm I see nothing but Dinosaurs walking around, and not one of them is praying!!!! When will this God get working on that human species?
    Ok lets go back 25,000 years ago, now I see some human looking things kinda walking and limping around, there making some type of uggghrrr sounds, but still I see no praying or churches anywhere. Oh well I guess we will have to go back 2,000 years ago and go with that story! LOL

    Jack Moore

  30. Jdog says

    The evolution vs creation debate has recently reached a point where the arguments are a bit more advanced than positing the existence of a time machine and “creationism is LOL”. While I’m sure most of us here largely agree with the second argument, it might do you some good to research the topic before trying to contribute further on the matter.

    Also, the topic of the debate scheduled for tomorrow doesn’t have anything to do with evolution vs creation; the topic is “Good Without God”. Got any thoughts on that which don’t end in “LOL”?

  31. John says

    Wonder how it will compare with Tuesday night’s “World Without Religion” debate between Grayling/Chapman & D’Souza/Wolpe? I enjoyed it even though I imagine some people thought it was pointless or not much of debate.

    Will there be a vote taken of the audience before & after to see if anyone changed their minds?

    Will the audience get to ask questions?

    Will there be any discussion about “objective moral values or truths” or “moral relativism” or “problem of evil” or “foundationalism”?

    John

  32. Derrick Germaime says

    Matt and Mark you both did good job in debate. Now having said that, not to be very combative to you Matt although it will come across that way, I just dont see that anyone in the room is atheist, first it seems maybe you are agnostic and others too but “atheist” that is pushing it a little. It is my personal opinion Matt you are a very serious , sincere guys who really does want truth, I am a little taken back and surprised you posture such a life and defense against God when clearly you still believe in and are really acting out frustration and hurt from the “lack of experience” or encounter you wanted to have with God. I mean “man” you act as thought you life is over and it was a one time pursuit to either get that experience or die. You know and I know life is being lived in one experience to another, and we desire to know truth and you had truth all a long in your walk for 25 years as a christian and yet you after a deep deep desire to know him, and get answers which I can only assume never came the time you wanted them or as quick as you needed them or it didn’t happen the way you wanted, makes me scratch my head and say “man” you give up to easy and why do you think you have to have all the answers to life? I am a Christian, a disciple of Christ, always learning and yes even being challenged in life and being transformed. I don’t think after 25 years as a christian it is fair to say you morals haven’t already been shaped and and part of your character formed by what you did know in Christ. I think it is awesome you seek and look for truth and yes the bible and God can stand the test. Man honestly you give up to easy in pursuit of him. I am a seeker too but have not been disappointed in my quest to know him and if any failure or weakness or shortcoming is my part not God’s. I could go on and on but I love you and bless you and God bless you Mark

  33. Chelsi Germaine says

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpHNal57ix0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIhGxEdez98

    These videos explain it better than I could.. Please watch!

    God isn’t my religion…God doesn’t even like religion… it’s about a relationship with my creator and my savior who loves me. It grieves my heart to watch so many people deny God because a true relationship with Him is indescribable, and I can’t understand why someone would give up and not spend their entire life seeking a relationship with God. Think about it.. when we hear a story of a person who has never talked to their father or has a bad relationship with the dad it saddens us because we know how important that is and personally I would grieve for that person because I know what it is like to have a blessed relationship with my dad. That is paralleled with our heavenly father, and it saddens me to see all these people who never talk or even have a relationship with God. Honestly, it surprises me how people who believe there is no God try to out smart God, but you can’t so stop spending your entire life trying. Everything around you including your physical body screams there is a God, so stop trying to deny it and open your eyes. My challenge to you is to go sit in the woods or outside during a sunrise or sunset, and take in the beautiful environment God has created for you to see everyday.. take a deep breath, and if you say there is no God then please tell me how something so amazing came to this Earth. Lastly, I just wanted to say that I am 20 years old and a nursing major in college, and if learning about the complexity of the human body doesn’t prove there is a God then I don’t know what else could. Just wanted to share my thoughts and let you know that wether you believe it or not God loves you and I love you. Oh and to Matt last night when you said that if God reveled himself to you that you would change your mind.. well i will never forget that and I will pray for you everyday that God drastically transforms your life and that you can truly have a relationship with Him and not the religion about Him. Good job to Mark and Matt last night you both did a good job.

    Isaac Newton: “The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”

    Albert Einstein: “I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.”

  34. says

    I don’t have time to address this now….but try to understand what you’re talking about. Your comment sounds trollish, especially given the number of times I’ve explained the agnostic/atheist thing. Your comments are almost nonsensical…” I don’t think after 25 years as a christian it is fair to say you morals haven’t already been shaped and and part of your character formed by what you did know in Christ”

    When did I say this? Do you have any clue what you’re talking about? I’ve never claimed that I haven’t been influenced by this.

    Unlike most people, I’ve actually re-thought my moral positions. My moral positions now, are not in any way dependent on Christianity. Some views changed, some didn’t, but all have been reconsidered and are based on reason – not religion. There’s so much wrong in your short paragraph that I’d need to do an entire show just to correct it. I just got home, so I won’t be doing that tonight…

  35. Ed N says

    What rose colored glasses. Mark and you exhibit the new age Christian “Lite”.  

    What saddens me is the “God” that lurks in the hearts of so many Christians divides family and creates so much violence in the world. Divisions like Gay, Straight, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, stem NOT from the religion but from a belief in a god. At a theist’s core they believe in a God first, then work the religion into their life, picking what they like from colum A or B. That is what you and Mark have done, Chelsi. 

    Remove the God, the religion disappears, and with it the division and the strife. Keep the God, you keep the baggage cause God always brings something.

    Mark talked about how he believed in miracles and witnessed one when an ointment was applied to his child. The description of his child’s distressed seem to be one atypical to any young child. In his mind God reached down and cured the child of this relatively minor illness. What an ego he must have to believe the creator of the universe healed his child while ignoring the good Christian prayers of parents faced with children battling cancer and other life threatening illness.

    Overall, it seemed like a waste of God’s talents.

    My last concern is that someone who studies nursing would have so little scientific understanding of the creation around them. From the big bang to the wonderful story of the evolution of wolves to dogs, the science and understanding of those processes is far more compelling than some iron age myths. If you don’t understand where the complexity has come from then you need to put your nursing studies on hold and commit yourself to understanding evolution. These questions have been answered. Your ignorance of the answers should not be satisfied with “God did it”.

    I for one would much prefer a nurse who had complete grasp of the science of the human body, rather than one who is just “amazed” by God’s handiwork.

  36. Jdog says

    The complexity of the human body convinces you there’s a god? If we were designed, whoever did it did a horrible job. A few examples: our eyes are a mess and can’t pick up portions of the light spectrum that are extremely important to our survival, we use the same hole in our neck for breathing, consumption, and communication, and the whole combined urinary tract and sex organs thing causes no end of problems.

  37. Jdog says

    It’s an incredibly disrespectful and insulting act of hubris to claim that you know what a person believes or doesn’t believe better than they do.

    For example, I propose that you (Derrick) do not believe in God and are merely asserting that you do in order to keep from feeling like a fool for wasting so much of your life on It.

    Or, we could acknowledge that accusing the other person of holding a dishonest position is a claim that cannot be demonstrated and is therefore worthless, so we should stick to discussing things that can be proven or disproven in order to have a meaningful discussion.

  38. Ed N says

    Excellent point JDog.

    What about God’s amazing design in the transmission of River Blindness?

    …The parasite is transmitted to humans through the bite of a black fly of the genus Simulium. The larval nematodes spread throughout the body. When the worms die, their Wolbachia symbionts are released, triggering a host immune system response that can cause severe itching, and can destroy optical tissue in the eye….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onchocerciasis

    God sure is amazing! I never would have thought of doing that way!

  39. John says

    Thought it came down to the fact that this was Mark’s first debate and just wasn’t adequate against Matt who’s experienced and a former theist. I certainly understand how difficult it is to arrange these debates as well as agreeing on the format, topic, questions, and so forth.

    Also think pastors and preachers are just too used to “preaching to the choir” and providing positive support to those in need and not really involved with answering the difficult theological, moral, or ethical questions that intellectuals (be they religious or not) have.

    I actually believe a lot of Christians and religious folk are really “closet agnostics” and live in fear of not having any “absolutes” to go by or find themselves in a “crisis of faith”. They’re just not going to get the personal support or confidence (uplifting emotions) they need from atheists (or themselves) like they can from the majority religious establishments.

  40. Nick says

    I first want to address the fact that people seem to be continually, and mistakenly, addressing the espistemological issue of morality as opposed to the ontological one, but then again, that always seems to be a problem. I was also incredibly unimpressed that the Christian proponent did not call Mr. Dillahunty on this point.

    The question is never “Can an atheist do good deeds without a belief in God.” You would have to be theologically narrow to suggest such a thing.

    The question is “Can there be SUCH A THING as good without God?”

    Analogy:
    Could you read if you did not believe in writers? Of course you could, but if there were no writers you would have nothing to read. This should be fairly evident.

    Atheists are able to apprehend moral truths without a belief in God, but the problem is: Without God, there are no REAL/OBJECTIVE moral truths to be apprehended without a transcendent grounding (God).

    You are left with moral relativism, which is simply untenable.

    Oh, and William Craig probably does not debate people that do not have a doctoral degree because it would seem that even those with doctorates (e.g. Sam Harris) are unable to remain on the ontological issue.

  41. says

    If morals are grounded in God, they are not “objective,” as they are dependent upon God’s deciding that they are morals in the first place.

    Plato noticed the conundrum centuries ago. Is a thing moral because God says it is? Or is God simply acknowledging what is moral through an understanding of the consequences of actions? If the first, then anything at all could be moral simply because God declares it is. The question then becomes, why this set of morals and not another? Did God have a reason to command “thou shalt not kill” as opposed to “thou shalt kill”? (I am, for the sake of discussion, ignoring the countless commands by God to kill — as well as other moral atrocities attributed to him — that are all throughout the scriptures.) If there are reasons, then those reasons exist independently of God, and thus he cannot be the author of them. They would, you might say, be “objective”…but God would have nothing to do with that.

    But what of the ontological approach as it regards God? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says:

    An ancient view still popular today is that moral knowledge must ultimately be based on the will or commandments of the Creator. This view faces two major problems. First, there is the obvious difficulty that skepticism about God’s existence is at least as difficult to lay to rest as skepticism about moral knowledge… Second, there is the further difficulty that even if we are confident about God’s existence, it is not clear how we can interpret the will or commandments of God without first having moral knowledge, thus making this reply to the skeptic question-begging.

    In short, when God says “thou shalt not kill,” how do we know he’s giving us a good and correct rule? If it’s because we comprehend killing as a moral evil that causes harm to society, then we already knew that. We’d have to, in order to comprehend the rightness of the commandment. But let’s say we didn’t know that. Let’s say that we’re so useless and stupid that we cannot judge the consequences of our actions without a God coaching us at every step. What would make us follow God’s rule then? Why would we care what God instructed us to do or not to do? Would it be only the fear of punishment? Then we’re looking at a truly bleak and misanthropic view of people, if so, a view that dictates we are nothing more than unreasoning animals motivated only by self-interest. Is that really the direction Christian apologetics wants to go?

    I’ve never heard a moral argument for God that’s the least bit coherent, and I’ve heard plenty that crumble under their internal contradictions. I’m personally always surprised Christians think such arguments can continue to be made. In any event, I’ve never understood why apologists are so hung up on this idea that morals must be “objective” to be valid. For one thing, because morals are an emergent social phenomenon, and cannot be divorced from a social context, to claim there is an “objective” morality independent of any human application seems baseless. I suppose, if an apologist could list an example of a moral precept that was objectively good, that no human being currently alive believed was good, then there might be something to the argument. But how to discover anything like that?

    As long as morals work for the betterment of human society and species success, then whether they’re “objective” or not seems a complete red herring.

    Finally, I’ve found that many Christians hung up on the idea of “objective” morality also hold the belief that salvation is purely by faith, and not works. So if absolutely no good deed you do can get you into heaven, morality is utterly irrelevant to Christianity, and the moral arguments for its God go up in a puff of smoke.

  42. says

    Also:

    Could you read if you did not believe in writers? Of course you could, but if there were no writers you would have nothing to read. This should be fairly evident.

    Analogy fail: We know writers exist, and write things for us to read. We do not know a God exists, nor that one somehow “authored” our morals. Something that has not been shown to exist cannot be considered an “evident” cause of anything.

  43. Nick says

    1) You are alluding to Euthyphro’s dilemma, which I figured was a non-issue given it’s status of being a false dilemma.

    2)Atrocities? Operating within the context of God existing, is God unjust for creating and taking life at will? I think not, especially given that the people He did command to be wiped out were themselves committing moral atrocities (baby sacrifice). On the one hand you say God allows evil and on the other you are outraged when evil is punished. Interesting.

    3) Morality is irrelevant to Christianity? That seems a far cry from the context it should stay.

    4) Analogy success: The analogy holds, unless of course you are claiming that you do not apprehend moral truth…..at which point I will be sure to stop by your house and kindly “borrow” your lawn mower.

  44. codemonkey says

    is God unjust for creating and taking life at will?

    To this point alone, hell yes you asshole. Parents can’t kill their kids because they feel like it, and god if it existed couldn’t kill us just because it felt like it.

    Beyond that, the conversation is moot, because the christian god does not exist. The evidence contradicts a young earth, and if you’re willing to throw out as “metaphorical” all the bits of the bible that the evidence contradicts, then you’re not left with much.

  45. says

    1) How is Euthyphro a false dilemma? Assertions carry more weight if backed up by explanations.

    2) So let’s say there were people making baby sacrifices. I wouldn’t have thought slaughtering children was something God had much of a problem with, considering how much of it he does himself. But let’s say he draws some random line, because that’s what any good architect of morality would do, at other people sacrificing babies. Maybe they’re doing it to the wrong god, and this sets him on one of his legendary jealous rages.

    This justifies the extermination of the entire human race in what way, especially from a deity hailed for his supposed omnibenevolence? It makes sense to hold individuals who have committed evil deeds responsible, but God sure does love all that collateral damage when he strikes back. Why is it that Christians insist their God must be the architect of morality, and yet never hold him to any moral standards? And what is moral about blind obedience to a bloodthirsty tyrant?

    3) That depends. Do you believe salvation is by faith alone, or do works count? If works do not count, then what is the use of morality in Christian salvation? According to many Christians of my acquaintance, a man who’s spent his whole life immersed in sin and depravity can experience a deathbed conversion, and walk into heaven through the front door, while a lifelong philanthropist who simply never acknowledges God or Jesus is doomed to hell. If the one and only requirement to get into heaven is joining the official Jesus Fan Club, where does morality come in? It has no role.

    4) This response makes no sense. Your analogy likened the authors of books, which are beings we know to exist, to God, whom we do not to exist, as the supposed author of human morals. Before you can credit God with authorship of human morals, you must first show that this God exists at all, then you must explain how this God arrives at the moral precepts he does, and for what reasons. How successfully you do this will determine whether it’s sensible at all to insist morals require a divine source.

  46. says

    Of course a parent can kill their own child if they feel like it. Thing is, we call them evil criminals when they do so, and throw them in prison (unless they’re Casey Anthony). The difference is that when God kills his creations, what you’re supposed to do is trot out a litany of excuses and justifications, because — as George H. Smith pointed out in his book Atheism: The Case Against God — there is nothing a Christian will accept as examples of evil deeds on the part of his God. 36,000 Midianite women subjected to mass rape by Moses’s armies? All their children slaughtered? Hey, if they hadn’t stood up against Moses and Team Yahweh, they wouldn’t have had it coming. 42 children torn to pieces by bears? Hey, they made fun of Elisha’s bald head! What was God supposed to do, just tell them to knock it off?

    We can’t know right from wrong without God’s rules, apparently, but his rules don’t apply to him. They function on a “Do as I say, not as I do” level.

  47. codemonkey says

    Atheists are able to apprehend moral truths without a belief in God, but the problem is: Without God, there are no REAL/OBJECTIVE moral truths to be apprehended without a transcendent grounding (God).

    You are left with moral relativism, which is simply untenable.

    Unsubstantiated claim. Word salad. False dichotomy.

    What is a “real/objective moral truth”? Can I measure it with a yardstick? Describe to me an experiment or observation that would show you are incorrect, please. Your claim looks like a claim about our shared reality, a scientific claim, but it is not falsifiable. For a claim about our shared reality to be cognitively meaningful, you need to be able to give predictions of future observations that are likely and future observations which are unlikely. You cannot do that. You cannot give any predictions whatsoever. Thus your sentence which purports to be a claim about our shared reality is actually word salad. The grammar is correct, but the meaning is absent. “The square root of a pork chop is jealousy.”

    Moral relativity is usually defined along the lines of “if the consensus of the culture is that rape is ok, then one should not act against that consensus”. There are cultures today where they consider rape to be ok, and I am for the preemptive use of (appropriate) violence to prevent those rapes. That is, I decry moral relativism, and I do so while claiming that “real/objective moral truth” is word salad, meaningless drivel. Thus the false dichotomy.

  48. Nick says

    To your first point, I ask: Can you prove to me that your sensory faculties truly represent what exists? Prove to me that you are not in the matrix. You cannot. In fact, in the same way that you grasp physical truths, you also (although with a different faculty) grasp moral truths. To question one is to question the other.

    There is no false dichotomy; Something is either objective or subjective, and the law of excluded middle most certainly applies here. Either you affirm an objective moral truth when you go to stop that rapist you spoke of, or you are simply forcing him to accept your subjective moral claim, your cup of tea.

    As to this “codemonkey,” I hardly think it is necessary for you to throw vulgarities into the conversation. This is obviously a discussion to separate truth from error. I did not come to this website to “piss you off,” I simply wanted to initiate or take part in intelligent dialogue. Unfortunately, your attitude is reflected in many people, on both sides (theist versus atheist), and it is simply not reasonable.

  49. Nick says

    Euthyprho’s dilemma seems to be false, as the horns can be avoided when you ground morality in God’s character. It is therefore, not arbitrary and does not question His sovereignty.

    What if God wanted to end existence all together, would that be wrong for him to do so? It would not involve pain for any of His creatures, but He simply became tired of the project. Would you say this is unjust? Why?

    As for this faith versus works topic:
    The Bible is very clear, salvation is not achieved through works. That being the case, morality does apply to Christianity. God is, as you stated, omni-benevolent because He does afford mercy to those who would accept it. For those that do not accept mercy, there will be a judgement for those that do commit moral atrocities. Does this not seem reasonable? I mean, I see where your line of thinking originates, being that it seems like criminals can just repent and be saved, but in the end we are not the Judge, and therefore cannot be the ones to say who deserves what. Mercy is dispersed as He so chooses.

    Sounds fair to me. And as much as I like discussing these things, I would ask that we keep this dialogue respectful, for I am not sure why this codemonkey fool feels it necessary to name-call. This is not the 5th grade.

    Thank you.

  50. Kazim says

    Euthyprho’s dilemma seems to be false, as the horns can be avoided when you ground morality in God’s character. It is therefore, not arbitrary and does not question His sovereignty.

    That doesn’t avoid the dilemma at all, it just changes the names of the actors. Now, instead of “God” being the author of morality, this other entity named “God’s character” is the (still arbitrary) author of morality.

    Is murder wrong because God’s character makes it wrong, or is God’s character shaped that way because murder is inherently wrong, regardless of that character? Could the initial conditions of God’s character have been different in such a way that murder could have been right?

    Nothing about the dilemma changes by foisting God’s behavior off on his character; it simply raises identical questions about where his character came from.

  51. codemonkey says

    To your first point, I ask: Can you prove to me that your sensory faculties truly represent what exists? Prove to me that you are not in the matrix. You cannot. In fact, in the same way that you grasp physical truths, you also (although with a different faculty) grasp moral truths. To question one is to question the other.

    It is irrelevant whether I am in the Matrix. It is an untestable claim, and thus word salad. “It is not only not right – it is not even wrong!” – Wolfgang Pauli. I see no need to prove it false, because I don’t even understand what it means. I do not understand what it means precisely because it offers no useful predictions. It is indistinguishable and irrelevant until I can differentiate between the scientific model of The Matrix and the conventional scientific model, e.g. someone offers me a red pill. Whether or not I am in The Matrix, I will still be hungry tomorrow, and I will still need to go to work to get money to buy food. It is a useless proposition.

    Finally, if you are going to doubt that science is an effective means of discovering truth, then the conversation is over. I don’t have time for such insanity. “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, getting the same result each time, and expecting a different result the next time.” “Science: Doing the same thing over and over again, getting the same result each time, and expecting the same result the next time.”

    There is no false dichotomy; Something is either objective or subjective, and the law of excluded middle most certainly applies here.

    Just because you say so doesn’t make it true. The proposition could also be ill-formed and cognitively meaningless. “The square root of a pork chop is jealousy.” By your argument, that proposition is necessarily true or false. I think it’s neither. I think that “it’s not only not right – it is not even wrong”. – Wolfgang Pauli.

    Furthermore, it again remains to be demonstrated that everything must be objective or subjective. I would first need some clear definitions of these terms before I could even discuss it, but chances are I disagree with you somewhere.

    tl;dr I can reject “objective morality” as cognitively meaningless, and I can reject the notion that rape is ok even if the consensus of a culture says so, aka I can reject “moral relativity”. Thus the false dichotomy.

    vulgarity is bad, mkay?

    That’s nice.

  52. codemonkey says

    Double post, sorry. I realized the best way I can put it is:

    Person 1- (“Objective morality”:) I’m going to act to prevent rape, even in cultures where the consensus is rape is ok. I do this because there is some thing in our shared reality which issues commands, or has commands, or something, by which it is “objectively wrong” to not follow those commands. (Whatever that means.)

    Person 2- (Me:) I’m going to act to prevent rape, even in cultures where the consensus is rape is ok. I do this because “rape is bad” is (near-)axiomatic in my belief system.

    Person 3- (Moral relativism:) I’m not going to act to prevent rape in cultures where the consensus is rape is ok.

    I hope you can agree those are three distinct positions, and that on the face of it all are internally consistent. Again, hence your false dichotomy. The law of excluded middle does not apply because “objective” and “subjective” are not a complete listing of all of the possible positions on this issue.

    I bet there’s an equivocation, a Dan Dennett deepity, in there somewhere. Maybe: If you define subjective as the opposite of objective, then it’s true, and trivial. If you define “subjective morality” as “moral relativism”, then it’s non-trivial, would be amazing if true, and it’s simply false.

    I can see what you have coming. I can see that you’re going to complain that my (near-)axiom of “rape is bad” is unjustified and ungrounded. My counter is: that’s what axiom means. We all have moral axioms. You just deny that you have some under this guise of “objective morality”. It’s nonsensical. “Objective morality” is meaningless.

    I understand what it means for someone to suggest someone else do something, to order someone to do something, for someone to claim that they ought to do something. They’re all imperatives of one form or another. I don’t understand what it means for one set of commands to be privileged or special and warrant the “objective” word. Let’s break down what you’re trying to say. You say that objectively wrong to not follow a certain set of privileged commands. What does that mean? I can only understand it as “you ought to follow this certain set of privileged commands”, at which point it becomes indistinguishable from any other command. I don’t understand “it is wrong” in any other way, and I don’t understand what “objective” adds to it. Either way, it’s a naked fiat claim that is untestable, aka axiom, which seems to make your position equivalent to mine. We both have axioms. I’m just open about it.

  53. codemonkey says

    Why is rape bad? (you suggested that it is axiomatic in your belief system, why?)

    I suggested (near-)axiomatic, aka a weasel position where it’s either axiomatic, or directly derived from other axioms.

    For the purpose of this paragraph, let’s say it’s axiomatic. You ask, “Why?”. My answer is “You don’t know what ‘axiom’ means.”

    In practice, I care about the self determination and happiness of people. A combination of Mill’s Harm Principle and basic empathy. Throw on some underspecified rules for how to resolve conflicts between these principles. These are my basic moral fiats, my basic moral axioms. I offer no justification.

    All belief systems are axiomatic, circular, or have endless regresses of reasons. All sane belief systems are axiomatic.

  54. Kazim says

    If I may clarify: “Rape is bad” is not your axiom and shouldn’t be described as such. “Rape is bad” is a conclusion that stems from the other rules you described. In more lay terms, they can be simplified to stuff like “the suffering of sentient beings is bad” and “all else being equal, the imposition of one sentient being’s will should not override another sentient being’s autonomy.” You can back that up further to acknowledge preconditions like “Sentient beings exist” and “Suffering exists” and “The desires of sentient beings matters.” Somewhere in that neighborhood is where you’ll find your axioms.

    I’d like to ask a follow-up question of Nick: If you sincerely believed that God was ordering you to rape somebody, would you do it?

  55. Nick says

    codemonkey: You make a lot of wild assertions that are simply unacceptable. I think I am starting to understand your word salad remark there more I dialogue with you.

    Kazim: You ask an interesting question.

    “Nick: If you sincerely believed that God was ordering you to rape somebody, would you do it?”

    I think I need you to be more specific. You add an interesting clause “If you sincerely believe.” Is He, or isn’t He?

    If something/someone told me to rape someone I would know that it was most certainly not God. Wouldn’t that be contradictory? You might has well have asked “What if God stopped being God, and started being the Devil?”

  56. Nick says

    I hate to double post, but I simply cannot let this one go.

    Codemonkey, the thing that annoys me the most is when both theists and atheists cannot keep it civil.

    I am well aware of what an axiom is, but the question still stands. I asked a simple question, and yet you could not just answer it.

    Either way, I will leave the conversation at this:

    When it comes to morality, it is either objective, or subjective. The law of excluded middle does come into play here. Either morality is grounded in something outside of humanity, something we all (for the most part) apprehend as truth, or it is subjective, in which case it becomes relative (to the subject).

    There is no other option, the “codemonkey axiom,” as I shall from now on call it. I think what I have offered is fairly reasonable, and if you still disagree, perhaps a basic course in philosophy – ethics would be a good start.

  57. codemonkey says

    @Nick

    codemonkey: You make a lot of wild assertions that are simply unacceptable.

    Can you be more specific?

    Either morality is grounded in something outside of humanity,

    I don’t know what this means. What does it mean for morality to be “grounded” in something? Can you try to explain this please? What would the universe look like if it were true, and what would the universe look like if it were false? Is there any distinguishing observable testable criteria? In other words, how can I tell if the universe does have objective morality vs subjective morality? What tests or observations or evidence might apply? Surely it’s not merely a matter of “because I say so”?

    I am well aware of what an axiom is, but the question still stands. I asked a simple question, and yet you could not just answer it.

    Sorry that I have to repeat myself. Evidently you do not understand what an axiom is, if you ask the question “why?”. Why should I care about the self determination and happiness of my fellow human beings? Well it’s sure not because god tells me to. I would do it in spite of a possible god possibly telling me not to. It is axiomatic. I have no justification. That’s what “axiom” means!

    And if you are going to disagree with this basic premise that we should act to further the self determination and happiness of other people, then we cannot have any moral conversation whatsoever, because I will label you as evil and worthy of destruction. I don’t think you’re disagreeing. I think you’re just being contrarian in order to make a point.

  58. Kazim says

    I think I need you to be more specific. You add an interesting clause “If you sincerely believe.” Is He, or isn’t He?

    Unless you’re omniscient yourself, it seems to me that you can only act based on what you believe. And in the absence of any external standards regarding WHY God might order you to do one thing or another, it seems like you can’t rule out the fact that it’s God talking to you.

    So for the sake of argument, if you “know” to the best of your possible understanding that God has directly ordered this rape, will you carry it out?

    If something/someone told me to rape someone I would know that it was most certainly not God. Wouldn’t that be contradictory? You might has well have asked “What if God stopped being God, and started being the Devil?”

    A fair question. What if the god you think is God has actually been the devil all along? How would you know the difference, with your finite mind, if you’ve been playing for the wrong team your entire life?

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