Have you ever…

Keep this in mind as you respond, I am asking about desires.  Desires not acted upon, one for which you restrained yourself.

Have you ever had a desire you knew was immoral?  In other words, have you ever had a want for something which, to your conscience, you were fully convinced was wrong to want?

How did you know it was wrong and immoral, by what measure did you know?

Why didn’t you act on it?  Or if you did, how did you bring yourself to do something you had the control to refrain from, but indulged anyway?  Is it something that you could just change the way you feel about it whereby alleviating your moral culpability?

Ideally, I’d like Atheists to weigh in on this post.  I already know the Christian response, and it too would make for good discussion with the skeptics who choose to participate:  “If you believe in a God who requires moral perfection, and you truly believe in Him, how could you consciously violate that moral standard?”  Atheists who might go on the attack, play fair and indulge the topic.  Hopefully this one can remain civil.  For the Atheists who respond, are you truly convinced you felt your desire was immoral due to social convention and engineering?  If so, why not simply change your opinion and condition yourself to believe something else about the desire?

And keep in mind I’m not asking anyone to embarrass themselves or divulge personal information.

Comments

  1. I consider doing things I know are immoral, or at least things I think are immoral. Perhaps it’s just fantasy. Acting on the impulse would satisfy my curiosity and perhaps fulfill whatever desire prompted the fantasy in the first place.

    The reason I don’t act on them is almost always a consideration of what is likely to happen next. Will it hurt me? Will it hurt someone else? If no one ever found out, would I be able to live with the secret?

    I think that what makes an act immoral is the effect it will have, if only to the person acting.

  2. I think that anyone who answers that they have never considered an immoral action is lying. The better part of morality is putting the desires of others on an even plane as (or above) your own.
    I would like to believe that I refrain from immoral behaviour not because I am worried that I will be caught, or that I might be punished- but because I care enough about others that I desire not to cause them harm. I say that I would like to believe that, but self control is subliminal and complicated.
    I don’t particularly like how you framed this discussion, John. I don’t think it is the case that people can “alleviate their moral culpability”. I think people can justify their actions, but this neither makes something moral, amoral, or immoral. It merely makes it potentially excusable based on the soundness of the justification.
    I see this is post as a segue into some religionist rant on Atheist Subjective Morality, which I enjoy chuckling about. So by all means…do go on.

  3. How about pornography? Let’s say that no woman posed for a photo, but the material is only really graphic drawings (so we can deal with whether looking at porn is itself immoral).

  4. John,

    First, anyone who pleads immunity is lying. Nobody is immune from immoral thoughts or desires.

    Second, an act doesn’t suddenly become moral just because people think it’s moral, or because nobody is around to think it immoral.

    Third, if you believe in objective morality, then you cannot reasonably be an atheist.

    • I don’t expect much in the way of meaningful discussion. I suspect people will see it as some sort of gotcha trap as George said. However, if one is fully convinced that their worldview is sufficient to answer moral questions, then there should be no reservations about jumping in on the discussion.

  5. George, asked you this on your website onetime and didn’t get a meaningful answer from you. I’m wondering about where you think morality comes from. Your very first sentence gives away that you think that there is some sort of absolute moral standard that is binding. We can quibble about where that moral standard came from (evolution, revelation, created in God’s image, social convention). But that isn’t what I am interested in. I’m interested in this: Why is such a standard BINDING? Take your first sentence for example. You imply that lying is morally unacceptable. What do you mean by this? Are you simply saying that it is socially unacceptable? Or something more profound?

  6. John,
    You may not have realized this, but I did answer your question. I was waiting for you to proceed to step two, but you seem to be waiting for me to say more……
    What exactly, from my answer, do you need me to expand upon?

  7. Terrence,
    That last sentence is a pretty loaded claim. Why can’t an atheist believe in an objective moral framework? What is it specifically about atheism that makes objectivity impossible?
    I’m quite interested to hear your explanation…….

  8. Tumeyn,
    I’m not sure I really understand your question. You are willing to grant me the proposition that moral standards can be the product of evolution, but then you want to know why they are binding. What, exactly do you mean by binding? That I must follow them? Surely not.
    No one is bound to act morally. Not me, not you, not the Pope. You are perfectly free to act in immoral ways. That doesn’t make what you do moral- nor does claiming something is immoral (or moral) make it so.

    I think you and I are going to quibble over definitions here, so I want you to be as specific as possible. What does it mean for morality to be binding? If you can be clear about this, I’m sure we can have a fruitful conversation.

    Also, I don’t really believe that you are uninterested in where morals come from- so I promise I won’t hold you to that statement you made.*

    * Though I do reserve the right to poke fun at it at a later date

  9. That last sentence is a pretty loaded claim. Why can’t an atheist believe in an objective moral framework? What is it specifically about atheism that makes objectivity impossible? I’m quite interested to hear your explanation…….

    Fine. On what basis is something objectively moral or immoral, if God does not exist. Certainty not human opinion, since, I think you’ll find, genocide is always immoral, regardless if there are people around who think it’s A-okay,

  10. Attributing moral standards to evolution is folly. All would agree, I hope, that rape is always immoral. Can we agree on that, George?

    Can our viewing rape as immoral be a product of evolution? If so, how? Rape would be beneficial to the survival of the species, wouldn’t it? It would allow men who either don’t have a lady or can’t find a willing lady to spread their seed, ensuring the growth and survival of the our species. Is rape therefore moral?

    Similarly, by evolutionary standards, it would be beneficial for humans to prevent those with genetic abnormalities from reproducing. Would it be moral to force castration on these people?

    If our moral foundation is the product of evolution, what prevents it from evolving and changing? Nothing. But if you accept that objective morality exists then you cannot believe morality is a product of evolution, because, by definition, that which is objectively immoral will always be objectively immoral. Evolution allows for change.

    We just know that rape is morally wrong. We just know that genocide is morally wrong. Evolution cannot explain why these things are morally wrong, because evolution often contradicts morality.

    So, I say again: to attribute our moral foundation to evolution is folly.

  11. George, I would consider a morality “binding” if you feel that you can impose that morality on me, even if I disagree.

    So, do you have moral convictions that you think that you can assert upon me? Torturing little animals? Slavery? Lying? Cheating on my spouse? Slavery?

    You can argue that these are bad ideas – and potentially bad for my wellbeing or for the wellbeing of society. But that isn’t what I’m asking. Can you assert that they are universally wrong? (wrong for you, wrong for me, wrong for the Aztecs, wrong for Nazi’s, wrong for someone living in 2400AD)
    I like to phrase it this way: If the Nazi’s had won WWII and brainwashed the citizenry to think that oppression and elimination of the Jewish race was morally right, would it BE morally right? Would I have any grounds for asserting that the Nazi’s were morally corrupt even though virtually the entire population disagrees with me?

  12. Terrence,
    I have a few questions for you. It is interesting that you choose rape and genocide as your examples of things that are morally wrong. Not because they are not (they are), but because the big book that your God inspired seems to downplay the moral culpability of both of them. Genocide, as your God has made perfectly clear, is sometimes morally right. I would argue that it never is, but you cannot make that claim without first explaining why genocide is always wrong except when it’s not. Tell me there are no accounts of genocide in the Bible. Please. Tell me that God condemned them. Please.
    God at least considers rape morally wrong enough to impose a fine on the rapist in certain situations. He at least makes the rapist “come good” and marry his victim, right? So God at least thinks rape is morally equivalent to double parking. Well, except when He tells the Israelites to rape the people who he commands be genocidally murdered. Then, I guess, it’s water under the bridge.
    So how is it, Terrence, that you can say that you need to invoke God to make the case against genocide and rape? The best evidence we have of your God’s will seems to be ambivalent on whether either of those is even usually wrong. As near as I can tell, genocide and rape are always wrong unless God says they are His will. That isn’t ALWAYS wrong- that is generally wrong. Would you agree that genocide is morally right if it is commanded by God, or would you concede that God asked people to do something morally wrong? Is God then immoral?
    It seems that what you are describing is textbook subjective morality. Your morality is dependant upon the will of another being, and if He decides that something is morally permissible- then it is morally permissible. It is only objective if God is always and timelessly consistent, and if you think God is always consistent then you have to agree that genocide and rape are sometimes bad- but not objectively bad. Your thoughts?

  13. George,
    1) Would you agree that if I pulled up a bush from my neighbor’s front yard and burned it that it would be morally wrong?
    2) Would you then also say that pulling up a bush from my own front yard and burning it is morally wrong?

    Of course not. That’s silly. I have authority over my own yard, but not over my neighbors yard. Likewise, we (as Christians) maintain that it is absolutely unacceptable for mankind to arbitrarily take the life of another. But, if there is a God, then it is perfectly reasonable that he could take lives whenever and however he sees fit. (and he does so anyway: the death rate is 100%!)
    Remember that the genocide described in the Old Testament was
    1) Against a culture that routinely practiced child sacrifice.
    2) Specifically ordered (so it seems) by God.

    Plus, also remember, that most of the morally corrupt practices (slavery, polygamy, etc) described in the Old Testament were NOT endorsed by God – but rather were recorded as history. In most cases, these immoral acts resulted in disastrous consequences for the people that practiced them.

  14. George, but more importantly you are dodging the main question that Tarrence and I are asking. You are attacking the morality described by Christians rather than defending you own sense of morality. What makes you so convinced that the genocide described in the OT is morally unacceptable? Where is your moral outrage coming from?

  15. I have a few questions for you. It is interesting that you choose rape and genocide as your examples of things that are morally wrong. Not because they are not (they are), but because the big book that your God inspired seems to downplay the moral culpability of both of them.

    I see you’re a fan of Sam Harris, who, when presented with arguments he cannot counter, goes on some diatribe about the Bible.

    Does the Bible have anything to do with my arguments? No, it does not. I didn’t specify a particular religious belief; I merely stated that, apart from God, objective morality couldn’t exist. And if it can, it certainly cannot owe its existence to evolution, which contradicts it.

    Now, do you have anything of relevance to counter my arguments?

    If not, then you must admit that objective morality does not exist. In which case, you cannot believe that rape and genocide will always be wrong. And you certainly cannot believe this if you accept evolution as the reason for our morality, since, by definition, evolution is “change over time.” That posits the possibility that, one day, rape and evolution may be moral actions.

  16. In the OT there are certain restrains to slavery and polygamy. That means an implicit endorsement of them. Otherwise, there would be statements like “Thou shalt not own slaves” or “Thou shalt not have many wifes”.

  17. *rape and genocide

  18. Isu,

    In Biblical times, “slave” was a term also used to describe people who were working off a debt and would be released after repayment. The slavery we think of is much, much different, and far more brutal.

  19. Regardless, I’m not here to defend the Bible. I’m arguing a philosophical point that can be true with or without the Bible. If I wanted to defend the Bible, I could – rather easily.

  20. TerranceRAH

    I was not so. There was a period of time, not related to returning payment, and this period is only for hebrews, not for others.

    Of course this sort of slavery was more regulated and less brutal than others, but it was still slavery.

  21. tumeyn,
    As I said to you on my blog, I have had these conversations before with Christians and as you can see from my past posts I am not afraid of answering questions. What I learned from those discussions is precisely why I’m framing the conversation before I engage in it. I will not have a conversation that goes around in circles and revolves around definitions and concepts that are ambiguous and fluid.
    I have made no claims and it is not beholden upon me to defend claims I have not made yet. Terrence claims that objective morality is impossible with an atheist worldview, and I asked him to defend that claim. Is this a conversation or an inquisition?
    You really enjoy analogies, and I’ll change yours slightly so that it is more appropriate to the conversation Terrence and I are having:

    1) Would you agree that if I killed my neighbour’s children that it would be morally wrong?
    2) Would you then also say that killing my own children is morally wrong?

    I would answer that in the affirmative. We aren’t talking about shrubbery, we are talking about people. If God wants to smite people, He can bear that responsibility Himself. He can certainly do what He did, which is command His chosen people to kill every last one of them- but that doesn’t make it moral. In point of fact, God chose to commit genocide in the least moral way possible- by first choosing to wipe out an entire civilization and then doubly so by forcing His servants to be culpable in an act He was clearly able to do without them.
    I dismiss your justification for the biblical slaughter of the Canaanites. Your faith tells you that God is sovereign and can do whatever He chooses without question. I’m not going to argue that if God existed that He can do whatever He pleases. Yet if morality is objective than we must admit that what He does is not always moral.

  22. Terrence,
    Let’s discuss this in the abstract if you want to avoid defending the Bible. What is it about objective morality that is dependant on a deity? Surely it cannot be a standard since by definition deities can change their standards, or else they are less powerful than you or I. If a deity is held to objectivity then that deity is certainly limited in scope. So in this case morality would be subjective to the will of a Higher Power.

    So I guess my question is what is it specifically about atheism that precludes objective morality? So far the only thing you have offered is that you cannot think of anything that might be the basis for morality, but have not offered anything that specifically precludes it. That is just an argument from ignorance.

  23. George

    Suppose you find me beside your car full of dents with a hammer in my hand and I tell you that a fairy turned up, hit your car and put the hammer in my hand. If you accused me of hitting your car it would be an argument from ignorance, since you haven’t explained why my tale is impossible.

  24. George,

    Since I didn’t mention the Bible, I’m not worried about having to defend it. You mentioned the Bible, not me.

    What is it about objective morality that is dependant on a deity?

    Since we know that objective morality exists independent of the human mind – in spite of our prejudices, interpretations, opinions, actions, or feelings – then on what basis does it exist? If something is ALWAYS immoral, then it’s always immoral and cannot change, and thus cannot owe its existence to evolution.

    The reason it cannot owe its existence to evolution is because evolution allows for change. Assuming evolution is true, genocide might one day be beneficial to the species and thus be moral. How can we know? We can’t. We don’t know the next step in the evolutionary process, but even we did, do we know the step after that? And the on after that? No, we don’t. So, if evolution is true, you cannot say genocide is objectively immoral, or always immoral.

    Surely it cannot be a standard since by definition deities can change their standards, or else they are less powerful than you or I.

    This is logically incoherent. If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-perfect, then on what basis would he change his mind? Change would indicate imperfection, wouldn’t it? Are you arguing that God is imperfect? Because if so, that’s a separate argument and has nothing to do with this particular discussion.

    You are doing, George, what you always do. You pretend you don’t understand what a person is saying, then set-up straw men to attack, trying to fluster your opponent. It doesn’t work on me.

    You claimed morality owes its existence to evolution. I claimed objective morality owes its existence to God. I explained why God MUST be the foundation on which objective morality exists, since, by definition, it must exist independent of human prejudice and feeling. I then pointed out that’s it’s illogical to attribute objective morality to evolution, to which you’ve not mounted a serious response.

    So either you don’t understand objective morality, or you’re suffering from the delusion that your end-around tactics will eventually prevail…

  25. Isu,

    Could you point out specific examples of the type of slavery you’re talking about?

  26. TerranceRAH

    “Could you point out specific examples of the type of slavery you’re talking about?”

    I mentioned more than one.
    Anyway, I can’t see in your request any relevancy regarding slavery permission in OT .

  27. So I guess my question is what is it specifically about atheism that precludes objective morality?

    Trying to help myself with this, I’ve asked you numerous on what basis could objective morality exist in the atheistic point of view. You claim evolution, which I argued is illogical. Do you have another answer?

    Social Convention, maybe?

    If so, then had the Nazi’s won World War II and exterminated everyone who thought the Holocaust was immoral, then the Holocaust, by social convention, would be objectively moral. Right?

    Whether you realize it or not, I’ve answered the question from my side. If objective morality exists, it must owe its existence to something independent of the human mind. Evolution is illogical. The only answer, it seems to me, is God. If you don’t think so, then explain what? Pick apart my theory, George. Do it right. Explain what could account for objective morality if not God.

    Then explain how someone could get wet without the existence of water.

  28. Isu,

    I don’t think you did. You alluded to them, but you haven’t pointed out specific examples.

  29. This is the problem we are going to continue to have. Terrence and tumeyn are going to continue to assume I’m not arguing in good faith, and I’m going to continue to insist that we be perfectly clear on the terms we are using.
    I’m not avoiding your questions, and I’m not looking for straw men. I’m just a bit more careful than to let you define objective morality any way you please and start from the a priori assertion that morality is God’s will in action. If that is the definition of morality then you might understand why an atheist can’t make ground with your definitions.
    I just want you to define the word “objective” and the word “morality” before we discuss the specifics of it. I don’t understand why you think that is not playing fair.

  30. George,

    You can quibble over terminology and definitions with tumeyn if you please, but as for my part, I’ve been clear. Objective morality refers to a series of moral truths that are universal and exist independent of the human mind. They are moral truths that are universal and unchanging.

    Example: Rape is wrong regardless if there are people around who think it’s wrong.

    If you think rape will ALWAYS be immoral, then you believe in objective morality. If not, then you don’t. Very simple.

    My argument is that objective morality requires a god because without one there would be no basis upon which to claim something moral or immoral, because the morality of an action would be relative, subjective, dependent on the situation.

  31. George, I agree completely with Terrance’s last post. That’s the exact point I would like to see you address. Rather than attack the Bible, I would like to see you defend an objective moral position. Any objective moral position.

  32. By the way, George, I can’t resist disagreeing with your rewording my analogy. I have no ownership claim over my children. I can’t do with them whatever I see fit. But I do have an ownership claim over the bushes in my yard. Likewise, God does have an ownership claim over his creation and can do with it as he pleases. The entire universe began from nothing and He can return it to nothing at any point. Remember, the death rate is 100%. If you are going to fault God for “murdering” his people in the Old Testament, then you must also fault him for “murdering” his people every day from cancer, car accidents, heart attacks, etc. If the God of the Bible exists, then he has every right to take away life (or grant a new life).

  33. And not to mention, tumeyn, that the Bible provides a reason for life’s ephemeral quality.

    So many questions and criticisms from atheists are answered by the Bible itself. You run into this the problem when people quote mine from websites rather than read it themselves.

    Back to the discussion I’m having with George…

    If God does not exist, then to who or what is a person morally accountable? Nobody. And if we’re not morally accountable, then why should someone be selfless rather than self-serving? If this is our only life, our only shot, and there is no moral accountability, then why be moral? Why not live a greedy, self-serving, pleasurable, fun existence? Why not get our money’s worth?

    Without moral accountability, where is the morality? I don’t see how it can exist.

    I reject atheism because it leaves room for nothing but nihilism. There is no right, no wrong, no moral, no immoral. The entire universe, each and every being, ends up exactly the same, no matter how they lived. In the end, living like Mother Teresa is no better than living like Adolf Hitler – morally speaking.

    That is the only logical conclusion one can draw from atheism, so why do so many atheists reject nihilism? Seriously, they do.

    Think about it. How many atheists do you know that think rape and genocide are morally okay, or even morally neutral? I know none. But yet they subscribe to a worldview that, by default, must judge all actions as morally neutral.

    If there is no moral accountability, there is no morality. There is only what we do and what we don’t do.

  34. Terrence,
    Being accountable is what morality is all about, I’ll grant you that. But what you are describing is not accountability, it is fear. What you are asking me is why should someone do something moral if there is no God to judge them. What I’m saying is that if you are doing the right thing solely because you are worried about the judgment of God then you are not being moral- you are being deferential. Being moral isn’t just about doing the right thing, it is about doing it for the right reasons. Doing something because you want to avoid judgment is plainly selfish.

    What you are saying to me is that without God, rape is capable of being morally permissible, or even morally right. I deny that this is the case. I think that there are objective facts that make rape morally wrong that exist even in the absence of God. It is a fact that rape is forceful. It is a fact that it violates the liberty of another person. It is a fact that its sole purpose is for power and gratification. Those things do not change if God is absent- or even if God were capable of thinking rape was the greatest moral good.
    That is the piece of the puzzle that you are missing, Terrence. You are missing the obvious truth that facts exist independent of personal experience. You can change the way you feel about facts, but they still exist and they don’t change.

    So there is your answer of how atheists can be moral objectivists- they acknowledge facts as being facts.

  35. George,

    Being accountable is what morality is all about, I’ll grant you that. But what you are describing is not accountability, it is fear. What you are asking me is why should someone do something moral if there is no God to judge them. What I’m saying is that if you are doing the right thing solely because you are worried about the judgment of God then you are not being moral- you are being deferential. Being moral isn’t just about doing the right thing, it is about doing it for the right reasons. Doing something because you want to avoid judgment is plainly selfish.

    I didn’t say people behave morally because they’re afraid of God’s punishment. I suggest that people behave morally simply because, as God’s unique creations, people understand the difference between moral and immoral. As God’s creations, we plainly know right and wrong. We know it, but of course we are still free to do as we please, and when we make the wrong choice, we are held accountable.

    What you are saying to me is that without God, rape is capable of being morally permissible, or even morally right. I deny that this is the case. I think that there are objective facts that make rape morally wrong that exist even in the absence of God. It is a fact that rape is forceful. It is a fact that it violates the liberty of another person. It is a fact that its sole purpose is for power and gratification. Those things do not change if God is absent- or even if God were capable of thinking rape was the greatest moral good.

    If you’re willing to admit that morality requires accountability, how can you argue that rape could be anything but morally neutral in the atheistic point of view? Without God, to who or what are we accountable?

    Where are you getting this idea that forcefully violating another’s liberty is immoral? Even if most people believe that, isn’t it possible that one day nobody would be left to believe that?

    If Germany had won World War II and exterminated everyone who thought anti-semitism and genocide were morally wrong, would those actions then be morally permissible? ,

    So there is your answer of how atheists can be moral objectivists- they acknowledge facts as being facts.

    That this facts come from the mind of human beings excludes them from being objective moral truths, since objective morality, by definition, exists independent of the human mind. Second, “facts” are that which are indisputable. But that genocide is morally wrong is not indisputable to human beings, is it? Neither is rape. Murder. Child Molestation. Etc…

  36. I think that there are objective facts that make rape morally wrong that exist even in the absence of God. It is a fact that rape is forceful. It is a fact that it violates the liberty of another person. It is a fact that its sole purpose is for power and gratification.

    I’m going to reword George’s statement a bit and see if he still agrees with its logic:

    “I think that there are objective facts that make eating chicken morally wrong that exist even in the absence of God. It is a fact that eating chicken is forceful. It is a fact that it violates the liberty of another life. It is a fact that its sole purpose is for power and gratification.”

    I guess based on George’s logic, we should all be vegetarians. Unless, of course, George can show that human life has superior value to a chicken’s life. But I’ll leave that up to him to prove. Biologically speaking, we are of course remarkably similar to chickens.

    • Is rape evil when animals do it? Forced copulation is found in nature, if its not wrong when animals do it, what makes anyone think it would be wrong for people in the absence of God?

  37. Terrence,
    So are you saying that people don’t need to have a God to be accountable to in order to be moral? That it is your opinion that accountability is there but unnecessary? That seems pretty different from your last assertion.

    If you’re willing to admit that morality requires accountability, how can you argue that rape could be anything but morally neutral in the atheistic point of view? Without God, to who or what are we accountable?

    It is my assertion that we are accountable to facts. It is my assertion that facts exist independent of human beings and our interpretation. Humans are free to consider rape an amoral action- sure. You are welcome to consider homosexuality immoral as well- I’m not in charge of what goes on in your head or the minds of any other person or group. Facts don’t change when we think about them differently. You can call raping, genocide, assault, or whatever else you wish “moral” and it doesn’t make it so.
    You can shit in a cup and call it a sno-cone, but it won’t make it so. You can convince everyone on earth that “shit in a cup” is defined as “a sno-cone”- but that just means that shaved ice with flavouring in a cup has to have some different conventional name than “sno-cone”- and you will excuse me if I order shaved ice with flavouring in a cup. Words have meaning. If you take away their definitional meaning and replace it with some new meaning, it doesn’t mean that the original thing doesn’t exist- it just means that it is waiting for a new word to describe it.

    Facts don’t come from the mind. They exist whether someone perceives and interprets them or not. If I say “Hey Terrence, there is a rock right there” I am either correct or wrong. My mind doesn’t change whether a rock is there or not. Neither does your opinion of whether it is there or not.

  38. tumeyn,

    “I think that there are objective facts that make eating chicken morally wrong that exist even in the absence of God. It is a fact that eating chicken is forceful. It is a fact that it violates the liberty of another life. It is a fact that its sole purpose is for power and gratification.”

    I guess based on George’s logic, we should all be vegetarians. Unless, of course, George can show that human life has superior value to a chicken’s life. But I’ll leave that up to him to prove. Biologically speaking, we are of course remarkably similar to chickens.

    This brings up a good point that you already conceded to me earlier. If something has a moral element (that is, is not amoral), it is not necessarily true that it is perfectly moral or immoral. As in the case of God sending His people to slaughter every man woman and child among the Canaanites, you conceded that there could be a good reason that God had to do something that is, absent of context, objectively immoral. I don’t disagree. I assume that if there was a God, and He chose to smite an entire race off the face of the Earth, that He might have some arguable reason for doing so. His doing it doesn’t make it moral, nor amoral- but certainly He might have done so to avoid a greater moral injustice. In the absence of being omnipotent- and being forced by the rules of biology to be consumers- humans are forced to do things based on incomplete information, finite choices, and occasional selfishness. In the case of eating chicken- I agree that killing another animal is an objective moral wrong. Does that mean that it is immoral? Yep. Does that mean that it is morally equivalent to rape? Nope. Is there a moral good achieved by committing a moral wrong in the case of eating chicken? I believe there is. Are there more moral ways to achieve that same good? I think so- but that, I guess, depends on whether you feel that plants have a right to sovereignty. I am willing to own the immorality associated with biological consumption- and to try and do so in ways that I believe minimize my ethical culpability.

    As to the question of whether a human life has more value than a chicken, that is something where I am willing to admit my perceptual presupposition. It is logically contingent to admit that if life is to exist, some things must die so that others may live. If chickens are capable of higher order thinking, I’m sure they disagree that human lives are paramount to that of their own. There is certainly, at least, good reason to believe that there is an element of species-ism to the value thinking creatures place on their own kind. That said, it is a logical absurdity to claim that all life must be given presuppositional equality- if only because by definition life requires consumption. Consider it, I suppose, a “necessary evil”.
    This also explains why I giggle every time Terrence argues that morality could not be the product of evolution since evolution is rife with immorality. If we assume God exists- and I don’t grant that assumption- then He is incapable of creating and maintaining(or unwilling to create and maintain) a world that is at best morally neutral, yet we are supposed to argue about whether a biological process with no sentience could do a better job? You obviously think quite highly of your preferred deity.

  39. John,
    I won’t argue that forced copulation occurs in nature, or that it wouldn’t still be objectively morally wrong to force yourself on another being. I think that rape is always objectively wrong- regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. Certainly we could argue to what degree species that are less intelligent can be held morally culpable for committing moral wrongs, considering that we do this every day as humans when children misbehave or commit immoral acts. One might even argue that in the case of some species X where consent is impossible that forced copulation is morally wrong but outweighed by the good of perpetuation of the species- but I’m unsure how that is immediately relevant to this discussion.
    There is, in my mind at least, a difference between the objective value of a moral act and the moral culpability of the transgressor- and as generally false as I believe your chosen Holy Book to be, your God seems to be in my corner on this account.

  40. George, I’m not really understanding your comment to Tarrence. You seem to be suggesting that there is some sort of universal moral law. …

    acts don’t change when we think about them differently. You can call raping, genocide, assault, or whatever else you wish “moral” and it doesn’t make it so. … Facts don’t come from the mind. They exist whether someone perceives and interprets them or not.

    I can’t speak for Tarrence, but I agree with you completely. The problem is that a law makes no sense in the absence of intelligence. I can understand how a physicist argues that gravity and other physical laws “just are” – and that there is no need to invoke a god as an explanation. (I don’t agree – but I understand).
    But I can’t understand how you can argue for universal moral laws (against, say, rape, torture, and genocide) in the absence of intelligence. Correct me if I’m wrong, but as an atheist you believe intelligence came to being some 100-200 million years ago. More than likely it will vanish in another 100 million years (or sooner!). Why then is there some sort of timeless, universal law that ONLY APPLIES to intelligent life – when the intelligence wasn’t there in the beginning of time and will not be present at the end of time. Forgive me, but this seems like a HUGE leap of faith. Will this same law apply if intelligence arises spontaneously 3 or 4 billion years from now on the other side of the universe?

  41. I would agree that there are universal moral truths in that in every case where life exists there are circumstances that are going to be objectively good for life and objectively bad for life and other things still that are going to be objectively bad but definitionally necessary, and objectively good but not immediately possible.
    I think that “good” and “bad” are quantifiable enough to have a moral spectrum regardless of whether their are intelligent beings there to perceive those things- I don’t believe that a transgressor can be held morally culpable absent of an understanding of the consequences.
    In short, a life form may be capable of committing an objectively immoral act but not be culpable for that act because it cannot distinguish right from wrong, or has no way of knowing the consequences of its actions.
    Where do you see a leap of faith in that, tumeyn? Is it where I say that there is a spectrum of good and bad- because it seems pretty clear to me that even the most basic living things have goals- even if they are not aware of them themselves.

  42. So are you saying that people don’t need to have a God to be accountable to in order to be moral? That it is your opinion that accountability is there but unnecessary? That seems pretty different from your last assertion.

    The two are one in the same. We know to be moral because we are God’s creations, but when we choose not to be moral, we are held accountable. Don’t extrapolate favorable meanings in order to save your floundering mess of an argument. Have some dignity.

    It is my assertion that we are accountable to facts. It is my assertion that facts exist independent of human beings and our interpretation.

    And where, pray tell, do these facts come from, George? You have no basis upon which to argue that it’s a fact that rape is wrong. You have no basis upon which to argue that it’s a fact that genocide is wrong. That is your opinion, George.

    All throughout history, people have operated off their own set of facts. You may think rape and genocide are wrong, but others didn’t think that way, George. What makes your opinion any better than theirs? Than Hitler’s?

    And again, that these facts come from the mind and experience of human beings excludes them from being moral truths. They’re not examples of objective morality.

  43. So are you saying that people don’t need to have a God to be accountable to in order to be moral? That it is your opinion that accountability is there but unnecessary? That seems pretty different from your last assertion.

    The two are one in the same. We know to be moral because we are God’s creations, but when we choose not to be moral, we are held accountable. Don’t extrapolate favorable meanings in order to save your floundering mess of an argument. Have some dignity.

    It is my assertion that we are accountable to facts. It is my assertion that facts exist independent of human beings and our interpretation.

    And where, pray tell, do these facts come from, George? You have no basis upon which to argue that it’s a fact that rape is wrong. You have no basis upon which to argue that it’s a fact that genocide is wrong. That is your opinion, George.

    All throughout history, people have operated off their own set of facts. You may think rape and genocide are wrong, but others didn’t think that way, George. What makes your opinion any better than theirs? Than Hitler’s?

    And again, that these facts come from the mind and experience of human beings excludes them from being moral truths. They’re not examples of objective morality

  44. George,
    Can these “universal moral facts” of which you speak be verified by the scientific method? If not, how are they any different than a faith? It seems to me that these “moral facts” must be one of 3 things:
    1) A nonmaterial reality (“supernatural”) (sounding suspiciously like “God”)
    2) A material reality that can be measured with the scientific method
    3) A subjective opinion (like beauty) – and not a “fact” at all.

    Am I missing something?

  45. For the sake of not repeating myself over and over (and maybe s-l-o-w-e-r and s-l-o-w-e-r) only to allow Terrence to keep up with the conversation, I’ll just point out that I answered his questions from his last comment several comments ago. If you have trouble finding it you might want to start re-reading the comments and occasionally replace the word “fact” with “not an opinion”.
    On to the person who has at least bothered to read what I have written and seems to genuinely want to have a dialogue- and rest assured that if tumeyn can salvage anything from Terrence’s last confused post and rephrase it in a way that doesn’t sound like my five year old saying “nuh-uh”, I’ll gladly respond to it. (I genuinely cannot find a question in there that was not already asked and answered.)

    tumeyn,
    I’m confident that I can argue for the second option. Is it not a fact that science is able to measure how life responds to stimuli? If Objective Moral Facts (OMF) are based on an a measurable effect( of a real action, or inaction) to a material being- I’m unsure how you could argue that OMF are not a consequence of objective truths about the nature of life that are quantifiable and measurable. Why does this seem unreasonable?

  46. George,

    Are you learning impaired? Your only response seems to be, “Oh, well, facts of course.” But give no indication at all where from those facts originate. Maybe because you know it’s merely a subjective opinion, and therefore not an example of objective morality.

    So, you continue trying to save face, George. That arrogance has done wonders for ya thus far, ‘eh?

  47. Is it not a fact that science is able to measure how life responds to stimuli? If Objective Moral Facts (OMF) are based on an a measurable effect( of a real action, or inaction) to a material being- I’m unsure how you could argue that OMF are not a consequence of objective truths about the nature of life that are quantifiable and measurable. Why does this seem unreasonable?

    And this is the kind of intelligence we get from George. Pity…

    He’s describing nothing more than a possible way of measuring WHAT is immoral. He gives us no way of measuring WHY it’s immoral.

  48. Let’s say by using the scientific method on human beings, you could determine these “moral truths.” Great! But guess what? By definition, objective morality exist totally separate from human beings.

    Without using human beings, could the scientific method verify the existence of objective morality. No.

    Let’s recap.

    My original statement: “Third, if you believe in objective morality, then you cannot reasonably be an atheist.”

    George responded with: “That last sentence is a pretty loaded claim…”

    You’ve done a wonderful job arguing your case so far, Georgie.

  49. So, you continue trying to save face, George. That arrogance has done wonders for ya thus far, ‘eh?

    This conversation started out as a discussion on morality, and Terrence has turned it into a lesson in projection.
    I’ve already answered every single question you have asked. The only answer you have left is to re-ask the question and hope that maybe I’ll change my answer to something you can criticize honestly. Oh, or just get flustered and arrogant. That works, too. You know that Terrence has nothing left when he gets arrogant.

    If I remove all the questions I have answered so far, then your existing argument boils down to:

    1. Have some dignity.
    2. arrogance has done wonders for ya thus far, ‘eh?
    3. this is the kind of intelligence we get from George. Pity…
    4.You’ve done a wonderful job arguing your case so far, Georgie.

    Well gee, Terrence, you sure do make an ironclad case.
    So let me recap this for you:
    -George asserts that facts are independent of human opinion (Terrence continues to disagree)
    -George asserts that facts are a basis for objective measure (Terrence disagrees)
    -George asserts that something being socially or personally acceptable is in no way related to its morality (Terrence thinks that they are one and the same if there is no God)
    -George explains why moral facts exist and that they can be known and measured (Terrence concedes that morality can be known but that doesn’t prove that good=moral)
    -George explains an entire basis for moral understanding that doesn’t include God (Terrence gets angry and starts re-asking questions and hurling veiled insults)
    -George remains confused as to why Terrence and tumeyn have not yet managed to ask the most obviously relevant and difficult question.

    So Terrence, unless you are willing to continue to assert by force of will that facts and opinions are the same thing (which is at least ironically consistent)- you need to come up with a new game plan. Else you need to defend why facts are subjective.

  50. George,

    This discussion started out as a discussion on morality, and George, being the arrogant jackass he is, decided to take issue with a completely valid, innocent statement made by me.

    He has failed to answer every single question put forth. The best he’s been able to muster is contradictions, like: Being accountable is what morality is all about, I’ll grant you that. Then asserts that God is not necessary. If so, then to who or what are we morally accountable? He’s failed to answer this.

    George asserts that facts are independent of human opinion (Terrence continues to disagree)

    But then argues to tumeyn that the scientific method could be used to verify the existence of these “facts.” And how? By testing humans, of course.

    -George asserts that facts are a basis for objective measure (Terrence disagrees)

    Unknowingly, George asserts that his facts are a basis for objective measure.

    -George asserts that something being socially or personally acceptable is in no way related to its morality (Terrence thinks that they are one and the same if there is no God)

    And George believes the same thing, waxing: Being accountable is what morality is all about, I’ll grant you that.

    If there is no accountability, what is the distinction between moral and socially acceptable? Immoral and socially unacceptable? Nothing.

    -George explains why moral facts exist and that they can be known and measured (Terrence concedes that morality can be known but that doesn’t prove that good=moral)

    And this is how we know George failed English Literature. By definition, objective morality is a philosophical concept that exists independent of the human mind. In George’s world, it’s behavioral psychology that can be observed and tested….

    -George explains an entire basis for moral understanding that doesn’t include God (Terrence gets angry and starts re-asking questions and hurling veiled insults)

    George explained no such thing.

    -George remains confused…

    What else is new?

  51. I went back and read the comments, George. You spent the first three replies bashing the Bible and questioning my definition of objective morality. Finally, you made an argument:

    What you are saying to me is that without God, rape is capable of being morally permissible, or even morally right. I deny that this is the case. I think that there are objective facts that make rape morally wrong that exist even in the absence of God. It is a fact that rape is forceful. It is a fact that it violates the liberty of another person. It is a fact that its sole purpose is for power and gratification. Those things do not change if God is absent- or even if God were capable of thinking rape was the greatest moral good.

    I wanted to know where you got the idea that forcefulness (in context) and violation of liberty were universally immoral. I also asked to who or what we were morally accountable. You came back with this:

    It is my assertion that we are accountable to facts. It is my assertion that facts exist independent of human beings and our interpretation. Humans are free to consider rape an amoral action- sure. You are welcome to consider homosexuality immoral as well- I’m not in charge of what goes on in your head or the minds of any other person or group. Facts don’t change when we think about them differently. You can call raping, genocide, assault, or whatever else you wish “moral” and it doesn’t make it so.

    Accountable to facts? What the hell kind of a response is that? For thousands of years, slavery was considered “morally acceptable” by human beings. Where were your facts then? Where are your facts when little girls are getting their genitals mutilated in Egypt and other places around the globe?

    It’s clear that your “facts” are subjective and utterly beholden to the will of a particular group of people to abide by them. That is NOT morality; that is nothing but a theory of social acceptability.

    So why don’t you quit spreading the lie that you’ve answered any of mine or tumeyn’s questions. You haven’t. You’ve offered nothing but your own opinion of right and wrong.

  52. Good question. Here’s my answer:
    Yes, I have wanted to act immorally before. I knew it was an immoral act because morality is all about people’s wellbeing – and the act would have caused people to suffer. I refrained from doing the act because I just don’t like hurting people – plus I was incentivised because there probably would have been negative repercussions for me.

    People are a mish-mash of conflicting desires, but we’re able to regulate our own impulses to action by predicting whether people are going to suffer.

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