Good Move, Sir

Having discussions with Atheists and Humanists about morality can prove to be frustrating, for everyone involved.  On the one hand you have Theists who argue that the skeptics cannot properly ground morality given Naturalism.  Skeptics often understand this to mean ‘Atheists cannot behave morally unless they believe in God’.  But no one here is making that argument.  We all know there are Skeptics who are kind and charitable.  On the other there is the skeptic, who attempts to show how no transcendent standard is necessary i.e., altruism and nurturing helped groups and individuals survive.  Thus behaving ‘morally’ is adequately explained on a naturalistic worldview.  The problem seems to be the words good and bad, and how the skeptic employs them.

The way many — if not most — skeptics use the words good and bad is not the same way a Theist is using those words.  The Theist uses these terms with an understanding of ontological rightness and wrongness.  The skeptic seems to be using these words in a functional or utilitarian sense.  The goodness or badness of something is dependent on the beneficial or disastrous result.  If the act is helpful to someone, or makes them generally feel good or happy is good.  If the act hurts or harms, it is bad.

What makes this confusing is the skeptic will most often have in mind the Theist’s understanding, but ground it and describe it with an evolutionary foundation.  This doesn’t work because of the logical exclusion of morality on the Naturalistic worldview (see: Who Needs Morality?).

The terms good and bad are used equivocally.  In one sense, they are intended to be understood ontologically.  However, they are defended and used functionally.  Like moves in a game in chess, there are good moves and bad moves.  The good moves (moral behavior) achieve the goal, capturing the opponent’s king (flourishment of the human species).  But this isn’t morality.  It’s utility couched in moral language.

This is made clear by asking the question: Why should someone do the morally good thing?  If the answer employs culture or society, that is relativism, which isn’t morality, it’s preference.  If the answer appeals to flourishment, that is a form of utilitarianism, not morality.

Without an unchanging standard that is outside the person — culture and society is nothing more than many individuals — only to preference and functionality can an appeal be made.  Preference holds no real authority.  It describes what most people want.  But what is morally good is not determined by a vote.  Sometimes what the majority of the people want is morally evil i.e., the enslavement of Africans in early America, or the Roman Gladiators fighting to the death for entertainment.  Functionality only tells us what works, like driving directions.  Directions are not morally good or bad, they are useful or unuseful.

Of course, not being able to explain moral goodness and badness doesn’t mean atheism is false.  It merely exposes its inadequacy to account for the way the world is.

Comments

  1. You have two fundamental problems – first is a blind spot for objective morality, and second is a double-standard about the “why” of morality.

    Let’s consider three types of morality. First is ‘absolute’ morality, generally a divinely-provided list of rules that can never be broken. The ‘why’ in this case is irrelevant as that is just the way it is. This sort of legalistic morality, whether issued by a divine or mundane tyrant is fundamentally amoral, meshing with actual morality only by coincidence.
    Then we have relativism, which is the assertion that without ‘absolute’ moral rules to follow or a divinely-provided moral standard upon which to calculate morality (See objectivism below), then moral choices are up to the individual (subjectivism), society (cultural relativism), contemporary wisdom (the general instance of relativism). Moral relativism (along with post-modernism) are generally rejected concepts.
    Now we get to your blind spot: objectivism. This provides for a solid “why” or object(s) of morality, such as human flourishing, personal welfare, and the advancement of society. “Without an unchanging standard that is outside the person — only to preference and functionality can an appeal be made.” I agree with your statement, but you fail to understand that preference and functionality, aka utility, are different. When we have an object outside the person, such as human flourishing, and hold an act up to scrutiny, such as slavery, we can say, without resorting to preference, that slavery is will objectively lead to societal and will reliably inhibit human flourishing.

    Societal values and individual actions can be analyzed, in the general case and specific situations, to determine their moral value, aka ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’. Ethical theory provides utilitarian, consequentialist, deontological, and virtue-based frameworks. These provide for objective, not relativistic moral standards, and are valid for the religious and secular review of morality.

    The fundamental difference is the ‘why’. Your ‘why’ is the ‘love and glorification’ of your god. You have provided a standard by which to judge the utility of any individual action. You refer to the Bible and come up with answers that contradict the answers presented by other Christians with the same faith reading the same Bible. That is a relativistic and unstable approach to morality.

    I would say that diversity of moral opinion among fundamentalist Christians is strong evidence that there is no god and certainly no reliable, understandable divine scripture.

    In the secular case, morality provides for continuing progress over time as we gather information, improve our powers of reason, increase our empathy toward one another, and take advantage of the wisdom of experience. We find progress over time, with an improved progress of societal welfare and understanding over the ages. Atrocities such as slavery, murder, and subjugation of populations as well as mass starvation and illiteracy have decreased per-capita dramatically in recent years. The damage of the Industrial Revolution and Totalitarianism arose and disappeared in just the space of 100 years, showing both the danger of new ideas and humanity’s increased ability progress in a positive manner.

    The religious case provides for an unchanging revealed scripture from a divine being that provides perfect morality. However, history shows anything but unchanging or moral application of scriptural teachings around the world. The spikes in faith-based atrocities as a result of religious rule (the Middle Ages) and religious interface (African missions and Crusades) show the inflexibility and random application of scripture in the area of morality. The current perpetuation of gay hate and improper elevation of fetal rights over the rights of parents and advancement of society are ongoing examples.

    Finally, if glorifying god is the point, isn’t it odd that an all-powerful being would need or want to be glorified? I’m not divine at all, and I don’t need or want ‘glory’. A simple thanks maybe, sometimes, but to make that glorifying an individual the highest ethical value would be itself unethical.

    • I wish this wasnt so long, it makes adequate responses difficult and laborous, so I’ll touch on a few points that I’d like to address — not necessarily in order.

      Now we get to your blind spot: objectivism. This provides for a solid “why” or object(s) of morality, such as human flourishing, personal welfare, and the advancement of society. “Without an unchanging standard that is outside the person — only to preference and functionality can an appeal be made.” I agree with your statement, but you fail to understand that preference and functionality, aka utility, are different. When we have an object outside the person, such as human flourishing, and hold an act up to scrutiny, such as slavery, we can say, without resorting to preference, that slavery is will objectively lead to societal and will reliably inhibit human flourishing

      The problem with using human flourishing is it is completely arbitrary, undefined, and does not give us a “why”. The arbitrariness stems from differing definitions of what constitutes flourishing. For example, a society which simply rapes women to impregnate them will quite efficiently foster flourishing. This brings us to the definitional problem. Which definition do we use and why? If the goal is to make as many humans as possible, mass rape will get the job done, after all, that is the way it is done in the animal kingdom routinely (and without moral outrage I might add, no one decries the forced copulation by the male lion, ‘it’s just nature’) But is flourishing more than population growth? Is there some kind of personal quality of life to take into account? You see this entire comment you left begs the question: what is good and why should I care? Furthermore, why should I care about the flourishing of my neighbors? I could be quite content (hypothetically) having as much sex as I can handle (serial rape), and money I can gather (serial thief). Your flourishing hypothesis doesn’t account for why at all. At the very least, divine command accounts very handily for why, and is not in the least irrelevant, if God exists.

      Societal values and individual actions can be analyzed, in the general case and specific situations, to determine their moral value, aka ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’. Ethical theory provides utilitarian, consequentialist, deontological, and virtue-based frameworks. These provide for objective, not relativistic moral standards, and are valid for the religious and secular review of morality.

      This is simply wrong. What this does is describes the state of affairs we see, not why. Nothing about this is prescriptive. Behavior X gives us result Y. And what do we get from that? This observation doesn’t tell us we should do X, only that there is a consequence of X that we happen to like, so lets do that. That is not morality, that is preference. Morality tells us what we should do whether we achieve a personally beneficial consequence or not. In fact many times that we would act morally, it is personally non-beneficial. Honesty can sometimes cost us our job, friends, money, etc. But it is the right thing to do.

      I would say that diversity of moral opinion among fundamentalist Christians is strong evidence that there is no god and certainly no reliable, understandable divine scripture

      This is obviously false on its face. Take ‘global warming’ for instence. There are many in the climate sciences that disagree as to whether the cause is anthropic or strictly natural swings in climate, or a mixture. This disagreement by no means any indication that there is a truth to the matter. Lack of scientific consensus does not mean a certain phenomenon doesnt exist any more than lack of theological consessus means God doesnt exist or no divine scripture is accurate. it is a complete non-sequiter.

      As for the history of non-moral conformity doesnt tell us there is no objective moral standard. People drive at many different speeds on roads, does that mean there is not an objective speed limit? Even if it is not posted, there is an objective speedlimit. Just because people break the speeding laws, and because some people don’t know the law doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

  2. – flourishing sometimes means multiplying, but I mean flourishing in the sense of prosperity and well-being.
    – I could better hold to ‘divine command’ if the ‘divine’ would be more explicit about the ‘commands’. As it stands, there’s a whole lot more disagreement on what ‘commands’ are ‘divine’ than what the definition of ‘human flourishing’ is. Divine command also leaves us bowing before a tyrant. Morality becomes a proxy for the fiat of the ruler.
    – You are fixated on ‘why’. “why?” Because people are happier, healthy, and more fulfilled in a long-term sense. “Why?” because it helps humanity and life on this planet to flourish. That will always be a better “Why?” than “God said so.”
    – “it’s my preference to enslave Africans therefore that creates human flourishing.” is a statement a person could make, but it will never be true to say “Enslavement of Africans leads to greater human flourishing.” In that sense, slavery is objectively immoral, without respect to selfishness, relativism, preference, or divine will.
    – Global Warming, or more specifically Anthropogenic Climate Change, is a great example of human progress. This is occurring primarily as a result of bad practices in the 20th century. Human action to recognize and mitigate these practices, especially in the latter part of the 20th century show progress. This is a purely technological and environmental discussion until it is compared with an ethical framework such as human flourishing. We’ll wipe ourselves off the planet if we don’t change, and for what – more stuff? The ethical calculus is easy in this sense. What does Divine Command say? Nothing because the problem wasn’t conceived of by the authors or editors of the Bible. Or, in the Christian framework, Jesus is coming back any day now, so why worry? Use everything up and god will make more. No contradiction with divine command.
    – I will add that lack of scientific consensus is entirely different than lack of theological consensus. Science doesn’t claim perfect knowledge. Science praises and encourages skepticism and dissent. Every scientist everywhere yearns for a way to shatter the foundations of science. That’s what Archimedes and Galileo and Newton and Darwin and Einstein and Feynman did, among other greats. Fundamentalist theology waves a Bible or Qu’ran and claims instant, perfect, revealed knowledge. Dissent indicates lack of clarity if not outright contradiction in scripture, which does in fact directly undermine the divinity of the text and the existence of the god the text refers to.
    – The speed limit example is an interesting analogy. If there is no posted speed limit, there may in fact be no governmental or Biblical speed limit. There is however, a speed limit beyond which a driver will reliably suffer a terrible death in a fiery auto accident, depending on the vehicle, road, and weather conditions. We could go one of two ways – set a speed limit in accordance with the general case of vehicle, road, and weather conditions, or we could go with divine command, which would likely attempt to compare rate of the donkey travelling to Bethlehem to modern car performance (if we’re lucky). Neither of these are particularly ‘moral’ arguments, just speed limits, but it would be immoral for a person to change a speed limit sign on curved highway off-ramp from 30 mph to 50 mph, knowing that that higher speed limit would be likely to cause injury or death to anyone attempting such a fast turn. Such an act would be immoral regardless of any divine command.

    • Here is your first problem. Flourishing means many things to many people. I am sure you have an idea in mind, but ‘flourishing’ is quite obviously not objective, and neither is well-beling. Short term well-being and long-term well being can have very different requirements.

      This presumes that the deity could either command good or evil arbitrarily. That He could have just as easily have said eat your neighbor as he did love your neighbor. Christianity does not hold to an arbitrariness to command. The commands are based on the character of God himself. BTW, not to get too far off track, but which commands arent explicit and what disagreement?

      This begs the question, still. The why is important, that is what is central to morality. Just for the sake of flourishing tells me nothing. I need to know why I should care about your flourishing. Why should I care about others. This is easily answered by Christianity.

      It might not have been greater flourishing to the Africans, but it was very flourishing to colonial society. Roads, farms harvested, many people fed and clothed because of the relatively few number of slaves. There was great flourishing, economic, and otherwise.

      Your entire rant on global warming here is what is in dispute. There is no consensus. There is quite a few climatologists who do not thing man is responsible. Especially since the Earth has gone through much worse periods of warming prior to the advent of the SUV. The point is, man is either responsible or he is not. The fact that there is disagreement doesnt mean the world is not warming (presuming it is. There are studies that show it has not gotten warmer since the 90s). Consensus does not make somethig true or false, the actual state of affairs does. Perhaps the clearest example is geocentricism and flat earth beliefs. At one point there was disagreement on these, but the earth was always round, and the sun was always in the middle. Same with God and the Bible. God either exists or he doesn’t, consensus doesnt determine it. The Bible is true or it isnt, consensus doesnt determine it.

      Dont lose track of the point. Every road in America has a speed limit. Even on roads where it is not posted, there is a limit. In CT, if there is no sign posting the limit, the limit is 25 mph. The point is, there is an objective limit. Just because you dont know what it is, or you and every driver on the road decide to disobey it doesnt mean there isnt an objective legal maximum speed. It is not determined by you or your friends in the car, or the majority of the motorists on the road, the State does.

  3. But no one here is making that argument.

    I just addressed this argument here: The Inquisitor.

    People are not making the argument, but they do routinely question why you would be good without a concept of God, the question I answered.

    The skeptic seems to be using these words in a functional or utilitarian sense.

    In order to embrace moral imperatives, you must have a moral Designer, sir.

    The goodness or badness of something is dependent on the beneficial or disastrous result.

    You nailed the point, even as you missed it (from my warped skeptical perspective) of the disagreement. Not only is dependent, but it is the thing.

    Without an unchanging standard that is outside the person — culture and society is nothing more than many individuals – only to preference and functionality can an appeal be made. Preference holds no real authority.

    If humankind invented “God’s” perspective, and then we assume this human creation with its evolutionary transitional perspective is the immutable final answer, we doom ourselves to disaster. We cannot grow passed the learning of our ancestors in that doomsday scenario. If our ancestors said it is OK to slash babies against the rocks to punish their father’s, we cannot challenge it. Morality is a categorical decision of a benighted people. Not good, sir. Not good.

    But what is morally good is not determined by a vote.

    If you say morality is a discovery, not a decision, I can embrace that. However, if you say we must submit to ancient authors who universally committed crimes against humanity that no moral person embraces today, then I must disagree.

    Sometimes what the majority of the people want is morally evil A good example is the majority of people who attempted to follow the letter of the law in the Old Testament. I am sure there are other’s. Christians seem to have no problem with the majority making the decision, so long as they are a Christian majority following 66 books in a collection known as the Bible, written by probably more than 100 authors. That, my friend, is an oligarchy of cavemen.

    Of course, not being able to explain moral goodness and badness doesn’t mean atheism is false. It merely exposes its inadequacy to account for the way the world is.

    Atheism does not explain how the world is, nor does it attempt to. Christianity does not explain how the world is, but it attempts to with obviously absurd reasoning. Choosing an obviously absurd solution in the absence of sensible one defies common sense.

    • What Christians mean when they (what I mean anyway) talk about why do Atheists act morally, is not why they would be. Rather there isnt anything in the worldview that prevents them from doing evil. Survival of the fittest justifies all kinds of what I would call evil. We dont call baby birds that push a sibling to its death a murderer, and we don’t demand the baby bird be locked in a pen? If we are just one more animal, why do we impose these restrictions on our behavior that no other animal does, and why do we not hold any other animal to a moral standard? It is because there is something more to human beings, the Imago Dei.

      I do think morality is discovered, not invented. if it were a mere human invention, then no bad thing could ever be called bad, only unpopular, or against the norm.

      You are mistaken if you thnk Atheism doesn’t attempt to explain the way the world is. It makes claims about history (whether certain events recorded in historical documents could have happened i.e., the resurrection), it makes claims as to human and life origins, it makes claims as to what are and what are not acceptable kind of interpretations of evidence (whether miracles or supernatural intervention is possible), it makes claims as to whether a god or gods exist. It makes lots of attempts to explain the world.

  4. – You’re like a 5 year old that says why, gets an answer, and says why again. I could engage in the same tactics. “Why god?” Because he’s god is a worse answer than you offer.
    – More importantly, we can have an agreeable and objective discussion about what is ‘flourishing’ and what kind of ‘flourishing’ should we seek? Long term flourishing is objectively better than hedonistic short-term flourishing because a short-term focus limits long-term happiness, while long-term planning will reliably increase one’s instances of short-term happiness. That is an example of how we can find come to a better mutual understanding.
    – The same argument applies to “sub-optimization” in any case. Happy in the long term will increase happiness in the short term. Happiness for all peoples will increase happiness for one part of the world. There were millions of slaves in the colonies, so I profoundly object to your statement that there were ‘relatively few’. I also disagree with your suggestion that it increase colonial happiness. Even today, we in the US are putting a greater premium on the suffering we are causing foreign populations and our descendants through our subjugation of their interests to our own. That is a product of advancing morality.
    – You are right that consensus doesn’t determine truth. We can be more certainty that a claim fits with truth when we have “evidence” comprised of empirical observation, theoretical explanation, and a consensus of experts. Don’t marginalize a mountain of evidence and expert consensus as “popular opinion”. This applies to any subject you wish to be honest about.
    – As for Climate Change, check out the wikipedia entry on “sceintified opinion on climate change” and you’ll find no denial of anthropogenic cimate change. You’ll find non-commital statements, but there are no denials.
    – “which commands aren’t explicit and what disagreement” about the Bible? I already covered that – Presbyterian, Pentacostal, Lutheran, Morman, Baptist, Muslim, NAR, Methodist, UU, etc… I have pulled a tiny subset, but all disagree at some level, and some disagree at a fundamental level. If we pull away labels and ask people what they really believe in any given circumstances, the ‘disagreements’ multiply exponentially.
    – Whatever the government-posted speed limit, it does not necessarily have anything to do with the safe travelling speed. One would hope it was posted for the safety of the travelers, not just popped up out of nowhere purely for the amusement and “glory” of the local magistrate.

    • The reason ‘why’ is continually asked is to show that when you ascribe to a form of relativism or naturalistic ecplanation of morality, there is no reason. Society says so, well why should I care what society says? They are just people like me, what gives them the right? The fact that there are many of them? Well what happens when the many say to do something I dont like? Why do they have any authority? It all boils down to ‘it just is that way’.

      The rest has gone as about as far as it can go.

  5. “The reason ‘why’ is continually asked is to show that when you ascribe to a form of relativism or naturalistic explanation of morality, there is no reason.”
    Nonsense. I didn’t mean to call you a child. I just wanted to distinguish between asking “why” as a question and asking why as a rhetorical reflex action. There’s an answer to all your questions, and at least a reasonable discussions. You are refusing to address the black hole of truly unanswered “whys” in the divine command proposition. Chief of which is “Why does everyone get different answers?”

    “Society says so, well why should I care what society says? They are just people like me, what gives them the right? The fact that there are many of them? Well what happens when the many say to do something I dont like? Why do they have any authority? It all boils down to ‘it just is that way’.”
    Again, you are conveniently confuse popular opinion with rational justification. The standard is human flourishing, not popular opinion. You can conveniently fail to understand human flourishing if you want as well, but it’s not a complex concept. The measure is to start with rational induction and deduction and then use our experiences (or make more by trying) to determine whether an action is “good” for people – does it make people happier and more prosperous around the world? That’s a yes or no answer, not a matter of popular opinion.

    And you’re right. I don’t have the easy answer of “God said” but neither do you. For the sake of argument, you and the hundreds of other Christian denominations can wave the same book at each other can talk about how it says different things. That’s a battle of public opinion. Only be using the same combination of reason and experience to determine whether your interpretation of scripture leads to more ‘glorification of god’ can you even measure an action’s quality in your ethical standard. Who’s to say what glorifies god more? God I suppose, but asking that question will lead you to the same dead end, because God never answers questions.

    • But the ‘why’s’ end with the final moral authority, God. Just as you would ask why is the speed limit 25 mph, eventually you arrive at a State legislature who gives its reason. There is no further why with a final agent.

      No, I am not confusing popular opinion with rational justification. In fact a very (presumedly) intelligent person, Peter Singer has developed a “rational justification” to kill children. Luckily he is not in charge of anything at this point. But if enough academics were to make their way to the judiciary, we could end up with some serious evils being protected by some perversion of the Constitution. So it is not just a mere show of hands by the general populace that I am referring to when I say “by a vote”, I mean all you need is enough like-minded people in positions of power and all of a sudden, evil is deemed good and protected.

      There is no standard definition of human flourishing. So there is nothing to misunderstand. Some argue short-term, some argue long-term, some argue happiness, some argue ease of living, some argue population advancement, and some might offer liberty. This is exactly the problem. There is no objective measure to work from, and there is no foundation as to why, I as an individual should care about other humans flourishing if at some point it is at a detriment to myself or my own progeny. This is the black holle to which you refer. At some point it is frustrating to have to answer the whys, but when all you can point to is a subjective standard which is quite literally arbitrary, that is what happens. If you can’t answer why I as an individual should obey and care, maybe I don’t want to. Who are you or the collective ‘they’ to tell me I can’t do what I want to, or feel is the best? Who the hell are you (the generic you) to tell me I should have to act according to your sensabilities? You’re a person just like me, you’re no better, and I don’t recognize your authority. Now what? Who ever is strongest wins? That’s morality? I don’t buy it.

      The only difference between the religious arguing with eachother and Humanists arguing is the religious are seeking to discover a concrete truth and Humanists are trying to invent and comprimise with eachother to form an agreement.

  6. John B,

    Can you address the person to whom you are speaking? It is a little confusing otherwise.

    You are mistaken if you think Atheism doesn’t attempt to explain the way the world is. It makes claims about history (whether certain events recorded in historical documents could have happened i.e., the resurrection)

    Refuting a claim is not making an assertion. It is countering one.

    it makes claims as to human and life origins

    Atheism does not do this, the theory of evolution often does. I do not know the origin of life. There is not enough data to know. I am an atheist. I have argued vehemently that we cannot know the origin of life here: Sound Science (in the comment threads. Just search for John Myste).

    it makes claims as to what are and what are not acceptable kind of interpretations of evidence (whether miracles or supernatural intervention is possible) Atheism does not make these claims. Science does.

    it makes claims as to whether a god or gods exist

    It does not. It claims that if God existed that would be unknowable. Agnosticism labels one who thinks God may exist. Atheism labels one who believes that the God’s defined with contradictory attributes cannot exist, as they are have contradictory concepts in the claim. It does not claim that no divinity exists. You probably claim that Zeus is not God. That claim does not make you an atheist.

    It makes lots of attempts to explain the world.

    It refutes false claims without providing an explanation.

    • John

      yes, refuting a claim is a position and requires justification. One cannot just hurl objections with impugnity and protection from justification.

      The Atheist worldview limits the acceptable filters with which to interpret the world. Is dictates a naturalistic view of origins. It refuses any possible supernatural explanation for anything. Atheism is the umbrella underwhich only naturalistic, materialistic views are acceptable.

      You are wrong about your definitions.

      Refuting a claim without explanation is ridiculous. No one is in the privelaged position to just say “you’re wrong, but I don’t have to tell you why”. That is something you’d expect in a Monty Python sketch.

  7. Jason,

    Do you have a blog?

  8. “But the ‘why’s’ end with the final moral authority, God.”
    – The whys never end with God because God never speaks. The only attachment you have to a divine authority is scripture, and you still refuse to address the vast disparity between even Christian sects.

    “Just as you would ask why is the speed limit 25 mph, eventually you arrive at a State legislature who gives its reason. There is no further why with a final agent.”
    – You’re implying that no speed limit has ever been amended. People go to the legislature, ask for justification, and then, if it’s not valid, it gets changed. This is a proper response to a general increase in the safety of roads and cars at higher speeds. It’s not a totally fiat change, it’s a willingness to apply the same legal standard – to increase driving convenience while maintaining safety. This is loosely applied to ethical standards in that general enjoyment is increased through driving convenience and safety measures protect life.

    “No, I am not confusing popular opinion with rational justification. In fact a very (presumedly) intelligent person, Peter Singer has developed a “rational justification” to kill children. Luckily he is not in charge of anything at this point. But if enough academics were to make their way to the judiciary, we could end up with some serious evils being protected by some perversion of the Constitution. So it is not just a mere show of hands by the general populace that I am referring to when I say “by a vote”, I mean all you need is enough like-minded people in positions of power and all of a sudden, evil is deemed good and protected.”
    – You are right that if evil people are in power then the government can be used to institutionalize evil or immoral practices. It has happened many times in the past. The danger is greater in the case of a theocracy than an academic oligarchy. We can see that greater freedom and has has resulted from a secular government and that theocratic governments of the past led to greater suffering.
    – As for killing children, the Bible has lots of instances of killing children, including direct commandments (Midianites) and acts (plagues) of god. I am proud to say that my ethical system stands firm against killing babies while divine command has not only a loophole but a record of infanticide.
    – Peter Singer is an animal rights advocate and presented an argument ad absurdum saying that it is inconsistent to torture and kill animals because of lack of mental capacity while protecting infants, especially those with developmental disabilities. He was deliberately being controversial in order to defend animal rights.

    “There is no standard definition of human flourishing. So there is nothing to misunderstand. Some argue short-term, some argue long-term, some argue happiness, some argue ease of living, some argue population advancement, and some might offer liberty.”
    – Flourishing is simple enough, and the discussion of what constitutes flourishing and how to best carry that out provide for better and better answers over time. Divine command claims truth but offers only confusion and arbitrary answers. At least there is an objective standard to work toward. Individuals must still refer to that external, non-selfish, non-subjective standard in order to justify the ethical value of any given action.
    – If your god exists, you should still use the standard of human flourishing. Living our lives to glorify god is only relevant if that god wants glorification, and that implies an insecure and obstinately absent god who is then unworthy of worship.

    “The only difference between the religious arguing with eachother and Humanists arguing is the religious are seeking to discover a concrete truth and Humanists are trying to invent and comprimise with eachother to form an agreement”
    – The difference is that the religious are searching blindfolded with their hands behind their back for someone who isn’t there. At best, it’s a nightmare game of Marco Polo where the other entity never says “Polo”.
    – Humanists arguing and searching and discussing better ways to live together as humans, to advance our understanding of the world, to be happier individually and as a society, and to protect our planet… That is what it’s about. We find better goals and better ways to achieve those goals, and that is the best way to ensure we can get there. You’re finally starting to reject the easy and meaningless “God says” ethical red herring so you can roll up your sleeves and start the hard work of making the world a better place.

    • Secular governments such as Mao’s China (and even now — one child, forced abortion???), Stalin and Lenin’s USSR, Kim Jong Il’s North Korea?

      yeah, secular governments have a long history of flourishing the people.

  9. You used up your bad examples. I’ve got plenty of bad religious governments. Every current Middle-Eastern government for 1000 years, every medieval European government, and most of the other governments of history, including the (drum-roll) Gott Mit Uns Nazis!
    And those “secular” governments you mentioned were never about the best interests of the people. They are about the best interests of the ruling totalitarian dictator in charge. Nazi Germany was a fascist dictatorship so maybe we can agree that they were Catholic but run by Catholic approval rather than Catholic rule. I wouldn’t want to have a double standard.
    And yes, secular governments do have a great history, but a short one. Most modern Western nations, including the US, are secular in their governance with the church having, if anything, membership but no power. These same nations are the most advanced in terms of technology, education, and happiness.
    The one-child policy is a good example of a bad secular policy badly implemented. But it isn’t much worse than the lots-of-children unplanned multiplication “go forth and multiply” policy advocated by the Bible.

  10. Jason Torpy, a simple thanks for saying just about everything I would have wanted to comment on this post.

    John Barron Jr, being good is about being good to humans, animals and nature itself, not to some imaginary entities, or even to some alledged divine allpowerfull creators. You know how to do it, even without the old book.

Trackbacks

  1. […]  Heck, I can’t even see how morality itself is even arrived at on Atheism (Who Needs Morality?, Good Move, Sir, From Which Worldview Does Human Equality Naturally Flow?).  But I’m not arguing these here. […]

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