Thursday, June 19, 2008

Unmuddling Morality

In this post, I am taking apart a comment that Karla over at Answer Bearer wrote to me after I commented on her post entitled "Who is God?". In her post, she made the following statement:
There is no reality outside of Him. That is why a skeptic or an atheist has to borrow from the Christian worldview in order to substantiate their questions for there is no other reality.
I wasn't exactly sure where she was going with this statement, so I left a comment quoting it and asking:
Would you please explain what you mean by that statement, thanks.
Her response was as follows:

I believe that there is one foundational worldview that is truth, namely Biblical Christianity. Truth being that which corresponds to reality. All other worldviews borrow from the truth of Christianity to validate their positions. For instance, if someone claims that the existence of evil means that there is no God. For evil to exist there must be good as well. And for a person to know that there is good and evil there must be a way to distinguish between the two objectively. That way is a moral law which is inherently known by all people on a basic level (we may disagree with specifics but the basics we all maintain). If there is a moral law then there is a Moral Law Giver. So the skeptic or atheist borrows the concept of evil from Christainity to disprove the existence of God and only really finds he can't use that concept at all without first accepting God's existence. That's just one of the many examples of where one must borrow from Christianity to make sense of their questions.
I would like to "fisk" this comment (take it apart piece-by-piece) in hopes that other atheists will find this information helpful if they are ever in a similar situation and to also show Christian apologists that this argument has many flaws.
I believe that there is one foundational worldview that is truth, namely Biblical Christianity. Truth being that which corresponds to reality.
If I were to say that I believe that there is one worldview that is truth, "Pastafarianism" (belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster), on what basis would you say that your belief is the one and only truth and that mine was not?
All other worldviews borrow from the truth of Christianity to validate their positions.
I have a feeling that anyone who holds true to another religion would say that they validate their position based on their particular religion as well. How can you say that your religion, Christianity, is the only true religion? There are people throughout the world that have never even heard of Christianity; do they also borrow from the truth of Christianity to validate their positions?
For instance, if someone claims that the existence of evil means that there is no God. For evil to exist there must be good as well. And for a person to know that there is good and evil there must be a way to distinguish between the two objectively. That way is a moral law which is inherently known by all people on a basic level (we may disagree with specifics but the basics we all maintain).
I agree with you on this point.
If there is a moral law then there is a Moral Law Giver.
This point is just thrown out there, but not really explained. How does the fact that there is a moral law mean that there has to be a law-giver? I have heard this idea before and I find it utterly absurd for a number of reasons. Here are two of them.

First, this thought process assumes that there is one moral law that has been and is followed by all people. That just isn't the case. What we considered morally right and wrong in the past isn't what we consider morally right and wrong now.

One example of this is slavery. In the past, slavery was widely accepted and considered morally right, but according to today's standards slavery is considered morally wrong and rightly so. This can't even be twisted around to say that that Christians found slavery to be wrong in the past because in fact the Bible condones slavery (Exodus 21:2-11, Exodus 21:20-21, Leviticus 25:44-46, Ephesians 6:5, and 1 Timothy 6:1-2).

Even today, there are very different moral standards around the world. In some places it is acceptable to have more than one wife, or to treat women as far less than equal, but here in the US those practices aren't accepted.

Second, the idea of a moral law-giver says that we as humans are only moral to please this giver. It is a very sad thought indeed if everyone is acting morally right just to please some giver so that he rewards us and doesn't punish us. This idea of a giver doesn't take into account that we are mature and want to do what is right. This idea says we do what is right because we are afraid of punishment or want to earn another gold star.If the only reason that Christians act morally right is because they are afraid of punishment or want to reap rewards in heaven then I am sure glad that they are Christians and hope that they never stop caring what God thinks of them because then there could be some serious problems.
So the skeptic or atheist borrows the concept of evil from Christainity to disprove the existence of God and only really finds he can't use that concept at all without first accepting God's existence.
The concept of evil isn't a concept that the Christians own. I hope that through this blog post and the links that I have provided at the end you see that is perfectly clear.
That's just one of the many examples of where one must borrow from Christianity to make sense of their questions.
I would love to hear more examples. I truly love to have discussions and debates with people who are very strong in their beliefs.

In conclusion, I would like to recognize my sources for this blog post.
From Ebon Musings: Mere Christianity, Unmoved Mover, and The Ineffable Carrot and the Infinite Stick. I also would like to thank my wonderful husband Kevin for his input and editing help.

31 comments:

Karla said...

Thank you for your response! I've attempted to answer the first contention on my blogspot regarding my assertion of truth. It's not a comprehensive response on that subject, if you review my other blogs you will see I have addressed it before. I will take the next item on your response and apply it to another blog soon. I too enjoy such discussions because I believe we can learn from each other.

Karla said...

I have written 3 blogs in response to your blog. I posted one today, one will post tomorrow and the third one will post on Monday. I hope they will facilitate further discussion.

Non Sicuro Pensatore said...

For what it's worth, I have posted today on my blog regarding the method of Christian argumentation known as Presuppositional Apologetics. I am not a Christian but ran in circles where this method was popular when I was a Christian.

I think you may find my brief notes helpful.

Karla said...

I was able to post my second blog response for your review.

DB said...

If there is a moral law then there is a Moral Law Giver.

The fundamental problem with the Christian argument as to what is "truth" is that is uses argumentive fallacies to support their claims. Namely, the Appeal to Belief. Just because one believes it, doesn't make it true. Yes, the world is round, but faith of it being round doesn't make it truth. Evidence to support your claim proves it is round, not belief. There is no evidence that Christian truth is, in fact, truth. "Moral Law," as incoherant as it is, does not prove a Christian god, or any god for that matter. There is no way you can prove that, therefore you cannot make a truth claim as such. Morals are not a Christian phenonema. Period.

Godless Woman said...

Non Sicuro Pensatore, Thanks for letting me know. I will be sure to check it out.

Karla, thanks for letting me know. I look forward to reading your posts.

DB, Thanks for the comment. I totally agree with you.

Godless Woman said...

Non Sicuro Pensatore, I tried to find your blog, but because your Blogger profile is not available to the public I can't find your blog. If you could get me the URL to your blog that would be great. Thanks!

Non Sicuro Pensatore said...

Thank you for pointing out the flaw in my profile settings, I'll remedy that issue tomorrow when I am at my computer. This is from my phone.

nonsicuro.blogspot.com

Karla said...

DB, I think I have stated many times that believing something doesn't make it true. (I've not argued from belief) We know and believe the world is round because there is evidence to that fact. I stated that in my blog. It's like gravity, it is real regardless of my belief in it. I can believe all day long that gravity doesn't exist, but I have to live as if it does. That's my point, atheist believe there is no god, but they live in the real world and they live like He exist not in personal allegiance to Him, but in the reality of living. It's like Einstein who said he believed morality to be relative, but if he wanted to live in this world he must live as if it was objective. I think if our philosophy and our real living doesn't add up there is a reason to examine that phenomena.

Michael L. Gooch said...

If you find spiritual beliefs contrary to science, then spiritual beliefs are viewed as measly superstitions and fallacies. This popular view is simply wrong. Science and religion operate under vastly different parameters. In my management book, Wingtips with Spurs: Cowboy Wisdom for Today’s Business Leaders (http://www.amazon.com/Wingtips-Spurs-Michael-L-Gooch/dp/1897326882/) I devote an entire chapter in this ‘business’ book to the connection of business success and aiming for a higher calling. In spite all of the majesty and awe that the scientific world inspires, science is not designed to answer the questions that religion asks. Nor should we use religion to fill in the ‘God of the gaps.’ Religion should embrace science as it improves our ability to explain how God put things together. Indeed, elites of organized religions hate the efforts to seek a scientific context for the appreciation of spiritual phenomena. They seek to control humanity with doctrine and dogma. Science in its intellectual, methodical, peer-reviewed processes can deepen our wonder and amazement at the power of God. Instead of warring factions, the two sides should encourage each other. I saw a newspaper headline recently that read, “Darwin vs. God, Round 2007: Kansas Declares Darwin Winner.” This is wrong on many levels. Splashy headlines are one thing; gross irresponsibility is another. I cannot stress it enough. God and science are not at odds. They never have been. Francis S. Collins, the scientist who lead the Human Genome Project, stated it best when he said, “Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced.” Michael L. Gooch, SPHR Author of Wingtips with Spurs: Cowboy Wisdom for Today’s Business Leaders http://www.michaellgooch.com

Kevin DeGraaf said...

Michael wrote: [I cannot stress it enough. God and science are not at odds. They never have been. Francis S. Collins, the scientist who lead the Human Genome Project, stated it best when he said, “Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced.”]

Ugh -- NOMA rears its ugly head again. I'll see your Collins quote and raise you a Dawkins quote (from Chapter 2 of The God Delusion):

*** Begin Dawkins Quote ***
Gould claimed that science and true religion never come into conflict because they exist in completely separate dimensions of discourse. [...] This sounds terrific, right up until you give it a moment's thought. You then realize that the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science. A universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference. God could clinch the matter in his favour at any moment by staging a spectacular demonstration of his powers, one that would satisfy the exacting standards of science. Even the infamous Templeton Foundation recognized that God is a scientific hypothesis — by funding double-blind trials to test whether remote prayer would speed the recovery of heart patients. It didn't, of course, although a control group who knew they had been prayed for tended to get worse (how about a class action suit against the Templeton Foundation?) Despite such well-financed efforts, no evidence for God's existence has yet appeared.

To see the disingenuous hypocrisy of religious people who embrace NOMA, imagine that forensic archeologists, by some unlikely set of circumstances, discovered DNA evidence demonstrating that Jesus was born of a virgin mother and had no father. If NOMA enthusiasts were sincere, they should dismiss the archeologists' DNA out of hand: "Irrelevant. Scientific evidence has no bearing on theological questions. Wrong magisterium." Does anyone seriously imagine that they would say anything remotely like that? You can bet your boots that not just the fundamentalists but every professor of theology and every bishop in the land would trumpet the archeological evidence to the skies.

Either Jesus had a father or he didn't. The question is a scientific one, and scientific evidence, if any were available, would be used to settle it. The same is true of any miracle — and the deliberate and intentional creation of the universe would have to have been the mother and father of all miracles. Either it happened or it didn't. It is a fact, one way or the other, and in our state of uncertainty we can put a probability on it — an estimate that may change as more information comes in.
*** End Dawkins Quote***

Dave2 said...

Karla, I don't see how atheists are living as if God existed. To me it looks like they're living as if God didn't exist -- after all, that's what atheists think.

So what is it about the way atheists live that draws your attention?

Karla said...

Dave 2, let's use an analogy. I've used it before. If a person who doesn't believe in gravity, yet lives on an earth where gravity exist then regardless of their disbelief they are still living as if there is gravity. For instance, they are still held to the earth by gravity, when they drop and apple it will still fall to the ground just as it will for the person who believes the laws of gravity.

So it is in God's world. Atheist can deny His existence, and not worship God, and not adhere to any thing they think comes from Him. But they still live in the world that he created. Thus, they still desire justice, are cognizant of right and wrong, good and evil, are still able to differeniate between the two, because God designed it this way. They don't have to believe He did to still live as if he did, because it is impossible to live otherwise.

Moreover, I am finding that the God the atheist disbelieve in, is not the same idea of God that I believe in. They have set up a finite deity to disbelieve in, and I think it would be good for the atheist to learn more about this God they don't believe in. Maybe they will find He isn't what they think. Maybe they'll find they have been cheated and not been shown the real God. The religion they have seen or experienced wasn't really who God is and how He was to be communicated to the world.

Summer Squirrel, FCD said...

That's my point, atheist believe there is no god, but they live in the real world and they live like He exist not in personal allegiance to Him, but in the reality of living.

How do you come to this conclusion? As an atheist I see that the universe looks and behaves exactly like it should if there were no god/gods. Not a single scientist has found proof of a supernatural force acting in the physical world. There are no mathematical equations with god constants in them and no scientists who pray for an experiment to go a certain way.

I don't pretend there's no god, I actually live a moral and happy life without a thoughts of him/her/it. I don't pray, I don't think about rewards and punishments in the afterlife, I don't wonder about WWJD, and it doesn't bother me that science still doesn't have all the answers and probably never will. The bible, koran, and all the other holy books are just fictional, mythological, imperfect books written by men. Books that continue to create havoc in the real world.

I would also venture to say that most atheists, who have given some thought to these questions, also don't live like there is an overlord looking out over them. The atheists that I know, myself included, would find that statement amusing. It shows that you haven't and can't think outside the box. But that's OK, it give you comfort and that's what god/gods/goddess/goddesses are all about.

Karla said...

Summer Squirel, you use the word moral lives. Yes you live moral lives, but to desire to do so is because of design. Not because you are weighing eternal consequences or rewards, but because you have a conscience understanding of what good and evil are. You have this inate understanding that was not taught, but discovered because God designed us that way. Evolution simply does not explain the existence of morality. You don't need to have ever heard of the idea of God to know there is good and evil. You know it, however, because He has placed that design into us. There is no other plausible explanation.

Does anyone hear like to read books for various perspectives? I would recommend "End of Reason" by Ravi Zacharias or "The Real Face of Atheism" by Ravi Zacharias. Both tackle philosophical issues with the atheistic worldview.

Dave2 said...

Karla, I don't see any inconsistency between atheism and morality. So if atheists live as if justice and right or wrong are real, that doesn't mean they're living as if God exists.

DB said...

Evolutions purpose has nothing whatsoever to do with morality.

Actually, no matter where one gets their morals, it doesn't mean that there is a god or if they are divinely inspired. In fact, if we are going to keep arguing semantics trying endlessly to prove points, I would say the person who behaves morally without hope of a reward such as an afterlife or Heaven is more sincere their actions than the person who fears Hell or eternal punishment. One person might stay loyal to their spouse because of love and the fear of violating god's law. The most sincere would stay loyal out of love and nothing else. Sincerity needs nothing else.

Summer Squirrel, FCD said...

Evolution simply does not explain the existence of morality. You don't need to have ever heard of the idea of God to know there is good and evil. You know it, however, because He has placed that design into us. There is no other plausible explanation.

Sigh, that old tired show stopper God. Well, since there is no way to prove or disprove that claim it must be true. NOT!

I can see that you are not familiar with evolutionary psychology which includes the study of how humans have come to have morals. It's a shame because it's a fascinating field of study.

Non Sicuro Pensatore said...

Summer Squirrel, you asked a question to Karla earlier which didn't get an answer, "How do you come to this conclusion?"

The reason you thought to ask the question is that Karla and others like her make points which sound rather profound but are not founded on anything within the argument.

This goes back to the point about presuppositional apologetics. The capacity for fruitful conversation is severely stunted because certain non-negotiable and very significant presuppositions are just assumed. And it is suggested that merely by opening your mouth or putting your fingers on your keyboard, you too are unknowingly operating with the same presuppositions (primarily, that God exists). Because, as Karla might say, it is impossible to do anything else. All people everywhere and at all times inevitably think, act, and speak under the ultimate authority of our Creator (the Christian version of course) who gives us all that nagging little tug down deep in our hearts...that void that can only be filled by Him.

But how is this conclusion reached? It is presupposed.

Or wait, it's in the Bible. But how is the legitimacy of the Bible established? Well, some men got together several centuries ago and decided what books should be relied upon as the Bible.

How do we know that those men were guided by God to select the right books? Well, the Bible's overall portrayal of God indicates that He would provide His Holy Spirit to preside over such an endeavor of men.

I must imagine that my tone could be viewed as mocking, but I took a moment to review this comment and I don't perceive any misrepresentations, though as always, I'm happy to be corrected.

Summer Squirrel, FCD said...

To Non Sicuro Pensatore and karla

I belong to a family of people who think the same as you and karla and am quite familiar with the "god is everything and everywhere (and mysterious and can't be proven and we're proud of that) and you can't tell me anything that will EVER change my mind" viewpoint without providing proof of this god who you claim is all powerful. (Long pause to catch breath.) I am so used to this tired old argument that you've already won by only because you posit god, again without providing any proof.

That's too bad because the sciences provide wonderful explanations for things you and karla attribute to this unseen and unproven god.

Perhaps you can tell, but I'm frustrated with this argument. It holds no substance and it relies solely on your belief. Science and evidence be damned.

non sicuro said...

Summer,

I feel quite awkward now, as I hadn't even considered the possibility that my comment might be read in support of Karla's view. I must not have adequately represented myself in that last comment.

I am an agnostic. I was formerly a Christian who embraced some of Karla's views and argumentation.

The intent of my last comment was to support you and to shed further light on the tactics seen in Karla's conversational posture.

My apologies.

Summer Squirrel, FCD said...

non sicuro,

My apologies as well. I wasn't sure but included you in my rant anyway. Thanks for the clarification.

Summer

Godless Woman said...

Sorry I have been MIA the last few days. I have been reading all the comments, but due to some health problems and moving I haven't had the chance to comment.

I would like to thank everyone for this great discussion. I hope that in the future of this blog there will be more discussions like this one.

Karla said...

Non Sicuro Pensatore,

You presuppose there to not be a God as I do that there is a God. So it would appear you wish me to grant you a starting place of no God, while you will not grant me a starting place of God. I grant that neither of us can make that statement blindly and that we both must then produce substantial evidence to support our position. When I write, I am writing from the place of God's existence and from that I am trying to show what life is about in that worldview. In the same way I want to see the atheist/agnostic provide similar dialog about how things look and work based on God not existing. Then I think once that picture of the world is delineated we can then look at them and see which one really answers the big questions of life as a whole picture. In the very least, by this process we have both come to understand what the other believes in it's entirety even if we never adopt it as our own. I do not hide the fact, that I hope that through this you and others will see that the existence of God isn't a far fetched crazy idea and that it does have validity. But at first if we can merely come to an agreed understanding of what each other really believe it would be a great starting place. I sincerely want to know exactly what atheist believe about a lot of things as I would hope if you wish to really show me that God doesn't exist you would take time to understand that the God I say exist is not the same as the one you say you don't believe in. If then you don't wish to believe in the Christian God, that's your choice. But at least know what we really say about Him, before deciding not to hear me.

I did just make two more post on my blogspot still answering Godless Woman's questions of me.

non sicuro pensatore said...

Karla,

1. I do not presuppose that there is no God.
2. I have never denied that I (like every other human) have presuppositions.

My point (and please know that simply because my position opposes yours does not mean that I am attacking you) is that (a) people should not claim to know things which cannot be known, and (b) people should not use presuppositional apologetics without explaining to their correspondent what it is they are doing with such a method.

I am agnostic, which is essentially to say that I do not know that which cannot be known.

In your position as the person claiming to have such certainty about the existence of a particular God (with a very particular definition which you do not want misunderstood), you take upon yourself the burden of proof. Atheists and agnostics do not thrust that burden upon you somehow unfairly; you bear that weight by virtue of your own decisions.

If you are able to prove the existence of God, that may give an atheist some difficulty, but it doesn’t present me with any difficulty until you manage to prove that your God specifically is the one who exists, as opposed to the various other Christian portrayals and the versions from other religions.

As to whether my worldview or yours better answers the “big questions of life,” I must say that you and I are not likely to agree on what those big questions are. I am of the opinion that some people manufacture their big questions simply to make sense of the “Big Answer” that they presuppose.

Karla said...

Non Sicuro Pensatore,

It is more logical to be an agnostic, than an atheist. Also, I don't intend to ever hide anything to win an argument or otherwise, so I'm in agreement about being fully honest. I don't see any part of our conversation or any of these conversations as a personal attack. I think it is awesome to be able to get beyond such mentality and have a real discussion about the real view points and truth claims at hand. If we make it personal we can never get to the truth because offense gets in the way of truth. So I try hard to put aside any personal offense no matter what is said to me to work at really getting at the heart of truth claims and seeing how they measure up with the big picture.

I think the "big questions" of life are on the hearts of all of humanity and thus they need to be answered. Some of the main ones, from general to specific are like these. 1) Who are we? 2) How did we get here 3) Why are we here 4) What is reality 5) Is there a God? 6) Who is God?

Summer Squirrel, FCD said...

Karla's opinion is that it's much more logical to be an agnostic than an atheist. This is a matter of semantics.

Explanation: We all agree that the Christian God (and others for that matter) cannot be proven. In other words, we cannot know for sure that this God exists. Christians will enthusiastically agree that belief in God is a matter of faith and personal revelation. So according to this explanation Karla and I are both agnostic about God.

But I'm an atheist and Karla is a theist. I don't believe in a Christian God (or any other gods or goddesses or spirits) because I am agnostic, I don't know. Furthermore, the claims made by the bible and by Christians have yet to prove the existence of said god so it makes sense not to believe in said god. The definition of an atheist is a person with no belief in god or gods.

God should be easy to prove. The fact that Christians can't speaks volumes about his existence.

Karla said...

I don't just believe God exist. I know He exist. I know He exist just as much as I know that my husband exist. An atheist can't know He does not exist because they can't prove a negative. However, you can know He does exist when you have not only much evidence of the fact but also real experiences of the fact. An agnostic is one who knows they can't say he doesn't exist so they come up one step to they don't know whether he does or he doesn't. However, I think you can know that He does and sometimes we look past the evidence of His existence because for some reason we don't wish to believe He is.

Summer Squirrel, FCD said...

Karla, you still haven't proven the Christian God exists. You've demonstrated only that you believe in this God, nothing more.

Yes, you can't prove a negative. This is why you and I don't believe in Thor or Odin. I've only taken it one step further and included the Christian God on the same nonexistent evidence.

Your post is quite confusing and very inaccurate. An agnostic is a person that admits that he doesn't know God exists. It's the only logical conclusion one can come up with based on the evidence. (See I can claim that too!)

Based on this definition I'm going to say that in her heart of hearts Karla really doesn't "know" that God exists, that she is misinterpreting personal feelings to delude herself that this higher power exists because she needs the comfort in this world that this loving God created just for mankind.

If I want to kid myself about reality then I would look to believing in a sky daddy for comfort. I see no reason to do so and don't. How clear can I get that I am an atheist and don't entertain thoughts of your feel good god? There is no evidence for unicorns and I don't believe in them either. Can't prove a negative....

non sicuro pensatore said...

Karla, perhaps a bit of interaction relating to my most recent post "Theists Need Religion" will help move the conversation forward.

Godless, not to hijack readers and comments from your blog though...if you would prefer to post some thoughts on your blog and host the further interaction, I certainly have no problem with that.

Godless Woman said...

non sicuro pensatore, I don't feel that you are hijacking readers from my site. I am glad that you and others have kept this discussion going as long as you have. I have been on vacation and just got back to read all the comments that have been left. I will be heading over to your site in just a moment to read the post that you referred to.