(Deprecated Post) Evidence for God: Atheism vs. Humanness (Humanness & Moral Knowledge Part 2)

comments form first comment

Part of the extended series Evidence for the Faith

Update April 8: I left out some important context when I wrote this post, which you may find by jumping down to comments 136, 137, and 142. My apologies for the error and the confusion that resulted. I’m deprecating this post because of the errors, and asking you to read here instead.

I don’t know why anyone calls it humanism: atheism denies humanness. “‘Humanity is dead, and we are its murderers,’ says the Madman.”

Not Knowing the Obvious

We see it again in the current discussions on morality here, where Shane, like many atheists before him, makes himself the arbiter of right and wrong:

I can understand that the Nazis thought they were doing the right thing. I can also think that their actions were wrong because they are not things I would do. I do this from the comfort of the future, in a different country of course, and who knows what things would have been like if I was a German soldier during World War II.

Had he been a Nazi soldier during World War II, he would have perhaps thought he was doing nothing wrong. If so, then who could have told him otherwise? What does it mean to be wrong, if the standard is one man’s opinion? By making himself his own standard, he undercuts the whole idea of a standard. Or maybe (it’s unclear to me) he’s making future human opinion the standard.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen this here. An earlier commenter named Paul agreed that as an atheist, “I give up the right to say that in their times and places, slavery, suttee, and child sacrifice were wrong.” (I cannot link to it because when Paul wrote this I was on a pre-Wordpress version of this blog, using a third-party comment system called Haloscan, which has since gone the way of all e-flesh.)

Denying the Obvious

I’ve shared that quote with conference and seminar audiences in North and South Carolina, adding this to make sure it was clear: “What Paul was saying in this comment was that here in Charlotte [or Greenville …] in 1840 slavery was not wrong.” The reaction is always intense. Heads snap. Mouths drop open. Jaws tighten, brows furrow, shoulders become noticeably tense, and I know I must move quickly to re-emphasize that Paul’s view is not my view. I disagree with him completely, except for this: if Paul’s atheistic metaphysics were true, then his amoral conclusions would be, too.

If there is no transcendent moral standard, there is no moral knowledge, because there is nothing to be known. There is no right or wrong, except for each person’s opinion; and each person’s opinion in that case is indistinguishable from “I favor that kind of action” or “I don’t think highly of that other kind of action.” This is not morality, it’s aesthetics. If it is a culture-wide view rather than an individual’s view, then it is “we” rather than “I,” but the same still holds: it’s still aesthetics.

Or, possibly, right and wrong become shorthand for, “Do more of that,” vs. “Stop doing that.” That, too is not morality. It’s the exercise of power, or at least the attempt to do so.

Aesthetics is not morality. The practice of power is not morality. The language of morality may be there but the reality is stripped away. And if there is no morality, how could there can be moral knowledge?

So the “humanist” no longer knows that it’s wrong to speak of Lebensunwertes Leben; that it’s wrong to run gross scientific experiments on humans without consent; that it’s wrong to gas human beings and use their hair as raw material for soldiers’ apparel. The humanist cannot say that he knows this is wrong.

Elevating Humanity by Making Humans Stupid
I suppose he could still call it inhuman, but in what sense? Inhuman in that humans don’t do it? I’m sorry, but we know that some humans have done it. Inhuman in the sense that humans shouldn’t do it? But should is a moral term—although only if moral terms mean anything; otherwise it’s another term of aesthetics or the application of power.

Atheism admits of no transcendent standard, so it makes humans the standard. It appears to elevate humans: we are the ultimate, the captains of our fate, the definers of our own being. It does so, however, by making us stupid. We no longer know that Hitler was wrong. We no longer know that child sacrifice was wrong. We can only say things like, “from the comfort of the future,” we can “think they are wrong because they are things I wouldn’t do.”

Yet every child knows there’s such a thing as right and wrong. You and I knew it as early as six months old. It takes “growing up” into atheism to discover that we can’t know right from wrong after all.

Here’s my bold and yet very convinced theory. I believe that every person, atheists and humanists included, still knows that some things are more right than others, and other things are more wrong. I believe every person still has moral knowledge. It’s part of the very essence of humanness. Some atheists deny it, but they do so not because they’ve forgotten what they know about it. They do it to save their theory, their metaphysics.

They think they’ve put God in the grave. The reality is, they’re shoveling earth in on their own humanness.

Evidence for the Faith

< — Previous Article  —— Next Article — >

top of page comments form

253 Responses to “ (Deprecated Post) Evidence for God: Atheism vs. Humanness (Humanness & Moral Knowledge Part 2) ”

  1. The humanist cannot say that he knows this is wrong… Atheism admits of no transcendent standard, so it makes humans the standard.

    Well, generally you do pretty good noting that some atheists deny morality. But far from all do. You didn’t include such qualifications this time, though.

  2. Well, generally you do pretty good noting that some atheists deny morality. But far from all do.

    All atheists may not deny morality but those that do not are, as we have seen here, unable to satisfactorily explain why.

  3. BillT, SteveK: Obviously, I disagree. I don’t think the explanation has been ‘tried and found wanting’, I think people haven’t seriously wanted to ‘try it’.
    [Edit: corrected link.]

  4. Ray, whether some atheists deny morality is not the question. I met a geocentrist last night: anyone can claim or deny anything. The question is whether atheism denies morality, and whether atheists can coherently make a claim to know morality.

  5. This probably relates more back to the previous post, but for clarity, in regards to this discussion (i.e. right and wrong, moral standard etc), how would you define “transcendent”? Thanks.

  6. I’ve tried it. Humans have goals, you say in that link. One of mine is to treat my children well, bring them up with strong character, healthy bodies, wisdom, a basis for good relationships, spiritual life, etc. Another goal of mine is to get to church on time to get one of the good donuts before someone else gets it.

    “Given a goal,” you say. Thank you for that important phrase. Who or what gave each of these goals? Is one better than the other? Who says?

    “The universe has laws and constraints,” you go on to say. Actually, it has chance and necessity, on atheism. “Laws” is anthropomorphizing.

    Going on: “If there’s a sufficient commonality of human goals… and the laws really don’t change, then strategies would arise naturally.” Of course. Strategies have arisen naturally in every species with enough mobility to have something like a strategy. So?

    “I’d contend that those strategies look a whole lot like the basic morals that human societies have worked out over the past hundred thousand years or so.” Again: so? I said in the OP here that morals amount to individual or group aesthetics and/or power plays. I can’t see anything in this previous comment of yours to cause me to assess it any differently.

    Oh, and BTW: millions of people have wanted to try it. I’ve tried it, in the sense of giving a serious logical review. I’ve found it wanting.

  7. I think we look back at the past and think Christians have always been the paper tiger. Take any war in history and there have been Chrisitans who believe its right to take a life for God and/or country. Christian behave no differently and act within the same societal norms as the rest of the world. Whether you believe you morals are derived from a cosmic deity or from the evolution of our speicies, the results are them.

  8. Morality does not develop in a vacuum, it is not absolute and it is developing all of the time. For example, for some groups gay marriage is morally acceptable, for others it is not. Gay marriage has only recently become generally acceptable. The reason for this is that morality is a consensus between peers and this is subject to change as all consensuses are. People live and die and circumstances change. Knowledge of morality is a mixture of personal feelings modified by knowledge of the prevailing consensus.

    This will be difficult for some people to accept because it results in the idea that the Bible reflects the prevailing consensus of morality subscribed to by the peer group that wrote it. This consensus may not be relevant to as many people today as it once was.

  9. Thank you for commenting, R. Matthews.

    I note that your first paragraph would be perfectly coherent and understandable if you had used “customary behavior” instead of “morality:”

    Customary behavior does not develop in a vacuum, it is not absolute and it is developing all of the time. For example, for some groups gay marriage is customarily acceptable, for others it is not. Gay marriage has only recently become generally acceptable. The reason for this is that customary behavior is a consensus between peers and this is subject to change as all consensuses are. People live and die and circumstances change. Knowledge of customary behavior is a mixture of personal feelings modified by knowledge of the prevailing consensus.

    Do you know of anything to distinguish morality from customary behavior?

  10. Noah, I could contest your sociological opinions (Christians, on average, do act differently from the rest of society, on average) but I’ll leave that aside for this: is there any such thing as moral knowledge, on your view? Is it any different from personal or societal preference? Your comment leaves me not knowing what you would say about the main point of the post.

  11. Alex, Wikipedia’s first definition of “transcendent” is close to what I have in mind here:

    The first meaning, as part of the concept pair transcendence/immanence, is used primarily with reference to God’s relation to the world and is particularly important in theology. Here transcendent means that God is completely outside of and beyond the world, as contrasted with the notion that God is manifested in the world. This meaning originates both in the Aristotelian view of God as the prime mover, a non-material self-consciousness that is outside of the world.

    More specifically, I’m thinking here of the source of morality being outside of and beyond humankind.

  12. Tom, why does it matter to you that morality does not equal societal preference? If morality does equal societal preference, and we all act as we do now, why would morality trump societal preference? In other words, if we do what’s “right” because what’s “right” is something that society has determined is preferable over a hundred thousand years of trial and error, and the outcome is positive, how is that less valuable than if there is an objective morality determined by a deity?

  13. Tom,
    You seem to want to own “morality” as if it is something belonging only to christians. This is not something you can dictate.

  14. R. Matthews, do you or do you not know that some actions are more right than others?

    (I most assuredly do not believe that morality, with or without scare quotes, is something belonging only to Christians!)

  15. R. Matthews, RE: #9

    In this comment you say this: “This will be difficult for some people to accept because it results in the idea that the Bible reflects the prevailing consensus of morality subscribed to by the peer group that wrote it.”

    I do not know of any Jew or Christian who thinks that the Bible reflects a “prevailing consensus of morality” of “the peer group” who wrote the Bible (Torah). Please go back and read it again. The Law of Moses was not a “consensus” among the ancient Hebrews. They believed, as we modern Jews and Christians also do, that the Laws are God’s laws, whether they “agree(d) with them” or not.” They also believed, and we Christians believe that God’s Law is made for humankind’s benefit because it is a/the Law of love. Jesus summarizes the Law in this statement:
    Matthew 22:36-40
    “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    The “relevance” of the Law of love hasn’t changed one whit from the time of the giving of the Law to the Hebrews until today because it is God’s law.

    If the law is merely “personal feelings” mixed with a social “consensus” then how do you reason that whatever the dominant society or majority “feels” about any particular minority-rights issue and reach a consensus about should not be the law of the land? On what basis can you argue that a majority consensus enacted into civil law is ever unjust?

  16. The question, I think, is not whether I “know” but how I know. I think I know through a hundred thousand years of trial and error. You think I know through God. Why does it matter which way we know it?

  17. “Trial and error” is meaningless unless “error” has meaning. What does “error” mean on this view, OS? What did people get wrong? Was it right vs. wrong, or was it something else? (What is the “it” at the end of your last sentence?)

  18. Also, Tom, how would you account for individual changes in moral knowledge? If a person grew up “knowing” that gay marriage (or slavery, or female inequality) was “right,” but now many decades later knows that gay marriage (or slavery, or female inequality) is “wrong,” what do you think causes that change?

  19. Considering the horrific genocide recorded in 1 Samuel 15 where God tells them to kill them all, Kill the woman, Kill the children, even the ox and sheep, how are your words relating to the horrors of WWII not applicable in the same way?

    Had he been a[n israelite] during [the time of King Saul], he would have perhaps thought he was doing nothing wrong. If so, then who could have told him otherwise?

    Was it moral for them to slaughter the Amalekites? Do we as a global society allow such behavior in the name of God? If you say it was somehow different and these events described in these verses was dependent upon the culture and time how is this not a subjective view of morality? Or is it simply a matter of God said so…

    If there is no transcendent moral standard, there is no moral knowledge, because there is nothing to be known. There is no right or wrong, except for each person’s opinion.

    So if it’s opinion you’re attempting to avoid where is the “objective” standard for the proper interpretation of this “transcendent moral standard” you’re claiming exists? How can we know your diatribe is not simply your own opinion? Can you please show me the objective standard which you use to judge all morality?

  20. ordinary seeker, RE: #18

    What matters very much is our paradigm for moral reasoning, how we reason through a moral dilemma or conflict. It is what C.S. Lewis frames as how we determine “crooked” unless we know what is “straight.” IOW, what is our moral standard? For Christians, our standard is God’s Law, which is a law of love. Love often requires sacrifice (as in Jesus’ death on the cross). We Christians are very puzzled as to what paradigm of/for moral reasoning atheists espouse since a “lack of belief in God” suggests no paradigm of/for moral reasoning, no way to determining “crooked” because there atheism has no concept of “straight.”

  21. So off the top of your head, then, error in Nazi Germany was failing to stop the invasion of Normandy so they could continue the Holocaust.

    The question of changes in moral knowledge is a good one, and probably much harder for you to answer than me. I would say that people can move from being wrong about morality to being right, or vice-versa. The cause of the change in beliefs regarding gay sex is probably attributable to prior changes in beliefs regarding sex in general, going back to the mid-1960s, and a hugely successful PR campaign on the part of gay-rights activists. Neither of those causes changed what was true about anything except for people’s opinions.

  22. Tom, in 23 you answered my question as to gay sex, but not to slavery or female inequality. How would you answer as to those issues?

  23. My answer in 23 was intended to illustrate how moral attitudes change. This is not a post about slavery, women’s rights, or gay rights. It’s about moral knowledge in general.

    Do you know, or do you not know, that some things are more right than others?

  24. Tom, in 24, I would say that ultimately what was happening in Nazi Germany did not work for the group, and that’s why it didn’t continue. I don’t pretend to have a complete answer to this, but I think that a lot depends on what the group is, who it includes. Once other countries became aware and involved in what was happening, Nazi Germany couldn’t continue.

  25. Tom, I posed a good question about how our morality changes over our lifetimes. You didn’t answer it except in regard to one issue that you had a ready answer for. I’d really like to know how you answer it in regard to other issues.

  26. My answer to what I “know” to be wrong has changed over my lifetime, that is one reason I’m asking the question.

  27. You see, ordinary seeker and Daniel, the first question in this context is not, “what is moral?” but “is there any moral knowledge at all, distinct from taste or the exercise of power?” The next question is, “if there is any moral knowledge at all, could atheism be true?”

    I can add your other questions to the “answering objections” section here, although I think I’ve already written what I need to write on Daniel’s.

  28. Tom a growing understanding of what is “more right” does not equal a “transcendent moral standard”

  29. In my first paragraph you could substitute “morality” with “the concept of what is or isn’t mortal” but it would spoil the flow. Substitution with “customary behaviour” changes the meaning. This makes it your comment not mine.

  30. I fail to see how my question is not relevant to the discussion if your premise is that we innately know what is moral, and my question is about how what we know is moral changes over our lifetimes.

    But, it’s your site. I’ll respect your refusal to take it on.

  31. R Matthews, when I changed the wording of the comment I changed the meaning if there is anything to distinguish “morality” from “customary behavior.” As you know from the OP, I think there is something to distinguish the meaning of the two terms, so on my worldview, I very definitely did change the meaning of your comment. If you think that way, too, then I’d like to know about it, and how it fits in your worldview. That’s why I asked, “Do you know of anything to distinguish morality from customary behavior?”

  32. Tom a growing understanding of what is “more right” does not equal a “transcendent moral standard”

    Daniel, I supplied an argument for my position, and you supplied a bald denial. If you want to rebut my position you’ll have to do more than stand up and say you think it’s wrong.

  33. OS, my position is not that we have an innately perfect and infallible sense of what is moral. My position (or the portion of it that’s relevant here) is that we know some things are more right than others.

  34. R Matthews, RE: #34 Your response to Tom

    If you don’t like the term “customary behavior” I suggest that you try “cultural mores” or “social mores” or simply “customs”. Or you can try making a distinction between secular or civil laws versus what we Christians speak of as God’s law since this is a distinction that Jesus himself makes.

    Mathew 22:21 And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.

  35. Tom – It’s not like I haven’t addressed those questions before. Heck, I can answer your questions just by quoting myself from one single comment from that discussion.

    Who or what gave each of these goals? Is one better than the other? Who says?

    “Some goals are more fundamental than others. I love my children, so want them to be healthy. So when one throws up, I clean up the vomit so it won’t get anyone else sick. A whole lot of morality in practice is sorting through goals and means, identifying which goals are more fundamental, and which means don’t contradict fundamental goals. For example, gluttony is a short-term pleasure but a long-term problem. So’s sloth. Both, in a way, are particular variants of greed – which is misdirected or out-of-control desire, which ultimately thwarts fundamental goals.”

    “Note, though, that the range of human goals is not infinite, assuming it means something to call someone ‘human’. If there is a human nature, then there might be a commonality of goals, particularly the fundamental ones. Not absolute unanimity – tastes do differ – but common enough for common strategies to obtain.”

    “Laws” is anthropomorphizing.

    “Do the regularities that we describe with the terms ‘physical law’ obtain or not?”

    I said in the OP here that morals amount to individual or group aesthetics and/or power plays. I can’t see anything in this previous comment of yours to cause me to assess it any differently.

    It doesn’t seem to me that you’ve ever looked. The results of game theory are not “group aesthetics and/or power plays”.

  36. R Matthews, I just thought of a clearer answer, more to the point, than the one I gave in #36.

    You say that the change of wording changed the meaning of your paragraph. Here’s what I didn’t explain when I did that, and which certainly would have helped if I had thought to do so at the time. (My bad.):

    Given that something has changed in the meaning there, what exactly is it that has changed? What is the distinction between morality and customary behavior, in that context?

  37. Daniel, I supplied an argument for my position, and you supplied a bald denial. If you want to rebut my position you’ll have to do more than stand up and say you think it’s wrong.

    It’s not a “bald denial” Tom… simply asking you to justify your claims. You asked me…

    “Do you know, or do you not know, that some things are more right than others?

    I’m giving you my recognition that sure, yes, there are some things more right than others… but knowing something is “more right” doesn’t justify your claim of “transcendent moral standard.” Are you no longer making that claim?

  38. Ray, in this context the results of game theory are a set of decisions regarding what most effectively accomplishes a certain complex result (CCR, not to be confused with a southern-influenced 60s band I happen to like). You’re equating morality with whatever promotes or supports that CCR.

    You’ve defined that CCR in terms of human nature, which is problematic on atheism for two reasons, one of which is that evolution doesn’t produce “natures” it produces ephemeral populations; the other of which is that evolution doesn’t pronounce the current population or its values “good.” And if evolution doesn’t do that, there isn’t (on atheism) any other force, system, person, or anything at all available to do it instead.

    So there’s actually nothing intrinsically good in any CCR you might propose. It’s a matter of human preference, as far as I can see: we prefer to be the ones to survive, rather than, say, the cockroaches. But that’s a trivial example. The Aryans preferred to be the ones to thrive and survive, rather than the Jews. The Whites in South Africa preferred to be the ones to survive and thrive, rather than the Blacks. The Muslims in Sudan prefer to be the ones to survive and thrive, rather than the Christians….

    These groups have taken up their own version of a desired CCR, and I can’t imagine any way you could explain coherently to them that theirs is inferior to yours—not without appealing to something transcending Aryans and Jews, Whites and Blacks, Muslims and Christians.

    I expect you will say that “All Humanity” is that which transcends these groups. I’ll be interested to see if that’s how you’ll respond; and if so, how you develop that into a coherent theory. I’ll let you do that rather than try to anticipate what you might say.

  39. Daniel,

    I’m giving you my recognition that sure, yes, there are some things more right than others… but knowing something is “more right” doesn’t justify your claim of “transcendent moral standard.” Are you no longer making that claim?

    I am still making that claim, and you are still contradicting it without offering any reasons. (You are familiar with Monty Python’s Argument Clinic, I hope?)

  40. Tom,
    In response to your 36 and 41, I am not sure that I can explain unambiguously in words that mean the same to you as they do to me, and I am not just talking about british v american english. My world view is different to yours and because I have read some of your work I may have more insight into yours than perhaps you do in to mine. I am not sure if I can change this.

    I find myself regularly at odds with some of the things you write because of preconceptions that appear to populate your ideas. Each one would take an essay to explain, and in the end we would not agree that they are preconceptions. There may not be any point in taking this any further. so I will wish you well.

  41. Daniel,

    The relevant claim is this: that you are simply gainsaying me. Your contrary opinion is duly noted. If you have reasons for disagreeing, I’d be interested to know what they are. If you don’t have reasons, that would be interesting to know, too.

  42. If you want to rebut my position you’ll have to do more than stand up and say you think it’s wrong.

    Him: No, I don’t
    You: Yes, you do.
    Him: No, I don’t.

    That will be $1 please. Pay at the window.

  43. Your contrary opinion is duly noted. If you have reasons for disagreeing, I’d be interested to know what they are.

    Is it “more right” for me to walk an old lady across the street or for you to shove her into on coming traffic?

    How does the more rightness involved in my act of “humanism” in walking her across the street support your presuppositional claims of a “transcendent moral standard?”

    If you have justification for the claim I’d be interested to know what they are. If you don’t that’s fine too… it’s your blog. 😉

  44. Daniel,

    You are begging the question. You can and should answer your own question about the elderly lady at the street corner ready to cross. Please do so, and note what paradigm of moral reasoning you use to arrive at a judgment about “more right” or even “wrong” in terms of your treatment of the lady. On what basis do you make such judgments? Do you feel any duty or obligation to do what is “more right” than simply what is “right”? Or do you find anything compelling you to refrain from doing “wrong”?

    The point here is that atheism proposes no standard or criteria for making any moral judgments and defaults to “majority opinion” or “subjective morality” in which either the individual or the society sets the standard, with no way for the atheist to claim (based on his/her atheism) that one society’s opinion of right vs. wrong has no more validity or truth than any other society’s, which means that individuals within such societies live at their whim, with no way to hold the society accountable because there is no morality that transcends whatever humans living at the time, most especially those who hold power within the society.

  45. ordinary seeker @#28:

    Tom, in 24, I would say that ultimately what was happening in Nazi Germany did not work for the group, and that’s why it didn’t continue.

    I would say it’s because they lost the war. The real question is what would we think of as moral (and why) if they had not only won the war but had conquered the world and had imposed their beliefs on everyone else? In other words, is morality just a form of “super group think” or is it something else?

  46. Billy “more right” was a term that Tom used in his question to me…

    “Do you know, or do you not know, that some things are more right than others?

    Now, I admit I’m making an assumption we’re on the same page here with a definition… but for me it would simply means “less harm.”

    If you or his majesty Tom (wink wink) have a differing “opinion” on what “more right” actually means, I’m open for reconsideration. 😉

  47. The point here is that atheism proposes no standard or criteria for making any moral judgments..

    Actually on that point you’re right Jenna… because in spite of the slanderous presentation of atheism in the OP atheism isn’t a world view or moral system, it’s simply a rejection of belief in a God. You are an atheist in regard to the God Thor for example, but yet that does not define your morality does it?

    In regard to the rest of your comments… it’s been answered #8

  48. If you or his majesty Tom (wink wink) have a differing “opinion” on what “more right” actually means, I’m open for reconsideration

    Given that Tom has been discussing objective morality then I would think that this is where you should be looking to find his meaning.

  49. Billy… Okay just realized your quote was actually from #54 but you seemed to ignore the rest of my answer to Jenna so please read the rest of it.

    “atheism isn’t a world view or moral system, it’s simply a rejection of belief in a God. You are an atheist in regard to the God Thor for example, but yet that does not define your morality does it?”

    and again look up Godwin’s law

  50. Daniel,

    I did not ignore the rest of your answer. It simply was not interesting enough to comment on it nor did I think that it was relevant to my question.

    I’ll state that same question again. Where is the slanderous presentation of atheism in the OP?

    Also, I’m aware of Goswin’s Law – as is just about everyone else who regularly engages in internet discussions. Given that Tom mentioned the Nazis in the first lines in the OP I hardly think it is relevant. Did you have a point?

  51. Daniel,

    I see in comment #54 your stealth attempt to equate monotheism to atheism because monotheism rejects polytheism. Nice try but no cigar. I also see your evasion of the need for atheists to construct a paradigm for moral reasoning based on their atheism by defining atheism as not a world view of belief system.

    Okay. I’ll play alone with this definition, but I have to wonder what you think it gains you (as an atheist), since it reaffirms for Christians our reasons for seeing atheists as morally untrustworthy since you have no foundation upon which to conduct any moral reasoning whatsoever. Of course, this includes your endless critiques of the alleged morality of the God of the Hebrew Bible and/of the moral conduct of the ancient Hebrews. It also reaffirms the theory that many of us entertain that atheism is just a quest for moral autonomy through a rejection and dismissal of any and all notions of moral accountability beyond that of any humans as individuals or their/our societies and cultures. All of this renders it impossible to argue for the superiority of atheism as a means of achieving peace, harmony, justice and equality in the world, the true “paper tiger” among paradigms of moral reasoning.

  52. Daniel,

    I take full responsibility for the alleged violation (or confirmation) of “Godwin’s law” because I initiated the conversation about Nazism as an example of what happens in a society that rejects God and believes in no moral absolutes. See my comment #25 from April 6 on this blog:

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/03/evidence-for-god-humanness-and-moral-knowledge-part-1/#comments

    If you wish to present a counter-example where we must clearly and unequivocally give the credit to atheism (a lack of belief in God) for leading to peace, harmony, justice and equality in a society, please feel free to do so.

  53. Anthropologists meandering through the world’s moral systems find an amazing array of threads interconnecting all of them. Differences in mere letter just do not untie those threads of robust principles and archetypes. The atheist must focus on that surface of letters lest the threads below untie his own poorly stitched argument.

  54. Jenna, you can’t say

    Okay. I’ll play alone with this definition…”

    (meaning you acknowledge atheism is not a world view of belief system) and then contradict yourself when you say

    All of this renders it impossible to argue for the superiority of atheism as a means of achieving peace, harmony, justice and equality in the world.

    Atheism is not a world view, it’s simply a rejection of the claims regarding the existence of your God. And as I pointed out it doesn’t even have to be your God. It’s the Mormon God which I’m sure you also reject. It’s the Muslim God, it’s the Hindu God’s… atheism is simply a rejection of those claims.

    For you and Billy both… the American Humanist Association defines Humanism as this….

    “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”

    Other than the obvious “without theism and or supernatural beliefs” part of it… what aspects of that statement do you disagree with? Do you disagree that we as a society should not seek to live responsibly and ethical lives? Do you disagree that we should not aspire for the greater good of ALL humanity regardless of race or religion?

    If you agree that these things are “more right” (to use a phrase that’s been used in this thread) then you and I really don’t disagree on much… other than the God issue, and I’m personally fine with that and don’t see why it should hinder any of our shared goals as listed in that above statement. I truly wish my rejection of your faith claims wasn’t so disconcerting for you.

  55. Jenna, I will also add considering you’ve acknowledged your initiation of the Nazi reference… this link for you to consider.

    “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, was the result of the experience of the Second World War. With the end of that war, and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed never again to allow atrocities like those of that conflict happen again… ”

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

  56. Daniel,

    You seem to be making the claim that atheism and humanism are one and the same, while simultaneously claiming that atheism is simple the lack of a belief in God. Please clarify, since I’m certain that all atheists do not call themselves humanists. Yes, I think that we can accurately call humanism a philosophy but is it a paradigm for moral reasoning? Or does it just co-opt other ethical/ moral systems without having or being one in its own right? Merely stating that the goal of humanism is “the greater good of all humanity” does not make humanism a paradigm for moral reasoning.

    What I find most noteworthy in this discussion of morality using Nazism as an example is the atheist discussants reluctance to declare Nazism as evil based on an acceptance of moral absolutes. It appears to me that atheists find themselves compelled to reject the existence of moral absolutes because to do so “lets God get a foot in the door” and causes them great fear of entry of the entire God “corpus” into the moral consciousness of all humanity (an analogy borrowed from David Berlinski). But, as Tom Gilson argues, to argue that Nazism is absolutely and not mere contingently evil is to deny our humanness. I have had this conversation in several contexts with several atheists over the last few days and weeks, with the same disappointing and IMO, rather shocking result.

    Your “rejection of my faith” is not in the least disconcerting for me. It is you who has come onto this Thinking Christian blog to post your comments. Why is it important for or interesting to you to explain or defend your atheism to me?

  57. Tom,

    As I mentioned once before, I think it would clarify much if you gave us your definitions of the words “moral,” “right/wrong” and “good/bad.”

    Thank you

  58. Out of curiosity, can someone explain – from an atheist perspective – why one nation putting another to the sword is a moral horror, while killing thousands of unborn infants every year (and perhaps using them as incinerator fuel) is not? Or are they both moral horrors? Or neither?

    Critically, what metric would an atheist use in making such distinctions that is not merely “majority vote”, “aesthetic preference”, or “biologically inherited survival trait”? Is there a broad, universal principal to appeal to? Can it be justified in a world where humans are nothing more than animals that each live for a century or less?

  59. Atheists do believe in moral progress.

    That’s why morality – on atheism – took a step “up” in Hitler. “Up” just is “Down” – on atheism – as all itches slide about atop a smooth and level surface. We find no Hills, no Nadirs. And thus the atheist’s worldview refusing him the epistemology he seeks, he simply borrows such language from a foreign worldview, one not his own, which houses those ontological Hills and Vallies he seeks. It’s easy to – thereby – hold up the Theist’s ontology and shout, “See, who needs God?”.

    His incoherent argument unable to support itself, the atheist then moves to point out differences in law codes as a “proof” of sorts. As noted, anthropologists meandering through the world’s moral systems find an amazing array of threads interconnecting all of them. Differences in mere letter just do not untie those threads of robust principle and archetype. The atheist must focus on that surface of letters lest the threads below untie his own poorly stitched argument.

  60. You seem to be making the claim that atheism and humanism are one and the same

    No…they are not one and the same.

    Please clarify, since I’m certain that all atheists do not call themselves humanists.

    You’re absolutely right all atheists do NOT call themselves humanists, and is one of the points I was making about the OP being a total misrepresentation of atheism and humanism. I’m hoping you perhaps finally see that.

    Why is it important for or interesting to you to explain or defend your atheism to me?

    It is not… I do not hold to any need for deconverting souls to atheism and I ask your forgiveness for misunderstanding this blog as being a place for dialog. If it is indeed simply a place of Christian indoctrination then I will gladly make my exit and wish you peace.

    And you seem stuck on the Nazi thing… yes it was evil, see the link I provided you to “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

  61. Andrew W. @ 68

    As a recently converted agnostic, I’ll take a quick crack at the abortion issue you bring up, in the shortest version I can:

    As a non-religious person, I believe words like “good” and “bad” only make sense in the terms of the suffering of sentient creatures. That ability to suffer lies in the brain. Those qualities of the brain arise in the fetus somewhere between 22 and 26 weeks of development (at the earliest).

    The vast majority of abortions are performed before this time. Those that are done later are rare exceptions usually out medical necessity. Any exceptions to this would not be morally acceptable. Placing restrictions on others (i.e. causing harm) to defend the lives of single cells is immoral.

  62. Andrew,

    Daniel’s copy of a declaration of human rights is on epistemological par with Hitler’s declaration of war. That is, if he weren’t borrowing from theistic epistemology.

    The “universal” you ask about is just that: all moral declarations are on ontological par.

    Daniel is afraid to employ his own worldview’s epistemology and so he steals another’s. But – on his view – all views are equal (that ‘universal’) and so he sees no foul in such (dishonest) swaps.

  63. scbrownlhrm @72

    It’s not Daniel’s copy of declaration of human rights it was a document compiled by this little organization called the United Nations.. perhaps you’ve heard of it?

  64. Bill,

    (1) So if I execute someone without causing pain, it’s not “bad”? Alternatively, both they and I will be dead and gone within a century anyway, so what difference does a bit of pain now make?

    (2) Why choose pain as your metric anyway, without it being subjective? (pun intended) All you seem to have done is move the metric from “killing” to “pain”, but without adding any justification.

    (Feel free to ignore #1 if you like – the real issue is #2. You’ve repainted the goalposts, but we’re no closer to figuring out how to get there, or even a metric for knowing if they are the right goalposts.)

  65. Andrew W. @ 68

    A completely different topic than the OP… as Tom himself pointed out when he refused to engage in the topics of slavery and women’s rights.

    But suffice it to say that Billy L #71 is on target, the question comes down to “when does life begin”

  66. Daniel, I’ve been away from the blog for a while.

    In number 42 you agreed that you know that some things are more right than others. Thank you for that. We got into a bit of confusion, perhaps, over the “bald assertion” question. Maybe I wasn’t clear about what I was saying to you then. You had said in #33,

    Tom a growing understanding of what is “more right” does not equal a “transcendent moral standard”

    Maybe you meant to say instead, “Tom I don’t understand how you can assert that knowing what is ‘more right’ leads to a case for a ‘transcendent moral standard.'” I think that’s what you were saying in #42. It wasn’t what you said in #33, but I’ll take your point in #42 as a clarification of what you really intended. I didn’t catch that when I replied to you in 47, but I see it now.

    Now, your question in #47 is a good one, and it gets to the heart of the matter. I wrote in the original post,

    If there is no transcendent moral standard, there is no moral knowledge, because there is nothing to be known. There is no right or wrong, except for each person’s opinion; and each person’s opinion in that case is indistinguishable from “I favor that kind of action” or “I don’t think highly of that other kind of action.” This is not morality, it’s aesthetics. If it is a culture-wide view rather than an individual’s view, then it is “we” rather than “I,” but the same still holds: it’s still aesthetics.

    That’s my brief answer to the question you raised. I am not unaware of objections that have been made to it, by which different thinkers have proposed ways in which there could be real moral knowledge based in human experience alone. I’d like to put the question back to you, though, and make this a dialogue. You asked me a question in #47, I have answered it (again) now, and I’m wondering what you would say in response to this answer. (I’m hoping for something more substantive than what you gave in #33.)

  67. Andrew W,

    Hope you caught where I said “the shortest version I could.” Obviously I left out most of the detail.

    (1) So if I execute someone without causing pain, it’s not “bad”? Alternatively, both they and I will be dead and gone within a century anyway, so what difference does a bit of pain now make?

    Do you like pain? How do you think other people feel about it? Do you want to live? How do you think others feel about it? See how this goes?

    (2) Why choose pain as your metric anyway, without it being subjective? (pun intended) All you seem to have done is move the metric from “killing” to “pain”, but without adding any justification.

    Note carefully, I used the word “suffering” not “pain.” If we are talking about morality and issues of good/bad, we need to understand what they mean and why it should matter to anyone. Can you think of anything that would be more important to a world of sentient creatures if there is no God? (Perhaps even if there is one).

    (Feel free to ignore #1 if you like – the real issue is #2. You’ve repainted the goalposts, but we’re no closer to figuring out how to get there, or even a metric for knowing if they are the right goalposts.)

    Think over what I just wrote back to you can see if it helps clear it up.

  68. Tom,

    Aside from my question in #67, I want to ask about this:

    If there is no transcendent moral standard, there is no moral knowledge, because there is nothing to be known.

    Do you think there is anything to be known about how to play good chess?

  69. Meanwhile, Daniel, I’m not sure what was slanderous about my presentation on atheism in the OP. You say that atheism is a rejection of belief in a God. Could you point to something I said about atheism that wasn’t either identical to that, or something that follows from it? For example, “Atheism admits of no transcendent standard.” What’s not true about that?

    I quoted an atheist, Paul, who denied that slavery and other things were wrong “in their times and places.” I stated reasons why I think that follows from the lack of a transcendent standard. What was slanderous about that?

    Note on Godwin’s law: it’s not a law. Hitler and the Nazis get brought into these discussions because they stand as a widely-known and widely-acknowledged example of doing wrong. Godwin was making an impish remark that has no force in real reasoning.

  70. Bill L: thank you for that reminder to define “right/wrong” and “good/bad.” I said was going to do that when I got to this post. I can do it to an extent. The rest, as they say, is up to you, and I think rightly so.

    What I have emphasized in this post, you see, is that I am quite sure that everyone knows what right and wrong are. They refer to actions (including thoughts, intentions) that are morally praiseworthy or blameworthy; actions that are in or out of accord with persons’ moral duties; and so on.

    That opens the question, “what does moral mean?” Atheist evolutionary philosopher Richard Joyce covers that ground quite thoroughly in his description of moral judgments:

    – Moral judgments (as public utterances) are often ways of expressing conative attitudess, such as approval, contempt, or more generally, subscription to standards; moral judgments nevertheless also express beliefs; i.e., they are assertions.
    – Moral judgments pertaining to action purport to be deliberative considerations irrespective of the interests/ends of those to whom they are directed; thus they are not pieces of prudential advice.
    – Moral judgments purport to be inescapable; there is no “opting out.”
    – Moral judgments purport to transccend human conventions.
    – Moral judgments centrally govern interpersonal relations; they seem designed to combat rampant individualism in particular.
    – Moral judgments imply notions of “desert” and “justice” (a system of “punishments and rewards”).
    – For creatures like us, the emotion of guilt (or “a moral conscience”) is an important mechanism for regulating one’s moral conduct.

    I think you can see how my terms “praiseworthy” and “blameworthy” intersect with his language of moral judgments.

    Now, it’s not my position that everyone knows right from wrong reliably, without error, and without disagreement. This is why we invoke Hitler, though. There are difficult questions and there are gray areas, but Hitler is not regarded to be in a gray area. We establish the general principle by way of easy and non-controversial instances. If we agree that humans can know that what Hitler did was wrong, then we have agreement that at least some actions can be known to be wrong. That’s enough, for purposes of my argument here.

    Or in short (and to use another commonly employed pair of instances): if we agree that we know that it is morally more right to nurture, love, and care for babies than it is to torture them for fun, then we agree that we know some things about morality; we have moral knowledge. That’s all this discussion requires to move forward.

  71. Also, Daniel, although atheists often try to get away with a baggage-free claim on beliefs, the rejection of all gods does seem to entail certain positive beliefs, including the belief that the universe is fundamentally impersonal, that humans are not accountable to any higher being, that humans are the highest form of intelligence and wisdom we could possibly know of at this stage in our history, that no form of religion is authoritative, that therefore morality (if it exists at all) must come from some other source, and more.

    All these are positive beliefs that seem to be entailed by atheism, that are relevant to this discussion.

  72. That’s my brief answer to the question you raised. I am not unaware of objections that have been made to it, by which different thinkers have proposed ways in which there could be real moral knowledge based in human experience alone. I’d like to put the question back to you, though, and make this a dialogue. You asked me a question in #47, I have answered it (again) now, and I’m wondering what you would say in response to this answer. (I’m hoping for something more substantive than what you gave in #33.)

    Then I’m sure this will disappoint you Tom when I say that it really boils down to whether or not your premises are true. You are simply making an assertion when you say “If there is no transcendent moral standard, there is no moral knowledge” and so I’m left with simply echoing what R Matthews says in #45 “I find myself regularly at odds with some of the things you write because of preconceptions that appear to populate your ideas. Each one would take an essay to explain, and in the end we would not agree that they are preconceptions.”… and honestly no disrespect intended but I don’t get the sense that a proper understanding of the basis of morality from a secular view point is your real goal here. If I’m mistaken with that assumption of your motives and a true dialog and understanding is your goal then I would refer you to Sam Harris ‘The Moral Landscape’ who does a much better job at presenting the case than I would. If you tell me that you’ve read his book and still consider your OP as being a fair and valid representation of that view… then there’s really no point in us us continuing this conversation. But I would add if it is indeed the case that you sincerely feel your presentation is sound, then perhaps you should submit your work to the Public Challenge that Harris has put up regarding anyone who believes that his case for a scientific understanding of morality is not valid – http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-moral-landscape-challenge1

  73. Daniel,

    What does that change – if no god?

    Nothing.

    It’s on par with Hitler’s declaration of war. That was moral “progress” after all.

    On atheism.

  74. Tom,

    How would one distinguish feelings that evolved for social cohesion (such as empathy and guilt) from what I take is your idea of the recognition of the transcendental?

  75. Harris’ moral landscape…..yes …happy psychopaths populating “peaks” is wholly coherent – akin to insect sex slaves perpetuating “flourishing”. Craig has some troubling admissions by Harris in his analysis of that book. Perhaps tomorrow…..

  76. Daniel, bearing in mind what I have already responded to, could you please specify what I misrepresented about atheism and humanism in the OP?

  77. I have read Harris. I have read critiques of Harris. Chapter 5 of True Reason is my analysis of Harris’s bumbling, unreasoning response to a reasoned critique that he faced in debate. I say that with all the respect that I think is due him for the response he made.

    His scientific basis for morality is based in circular reasoning: “To do moral good is to do that which promotes human flourishing. We know that because promoting human flourishing is morally good.”

    He promotes morality as a form of human responsibility, which he denies when he insists there is no human free will.

    Those are two of the errors in his reasoning that come immediately to mind. There are others. But you’re probably right: this is not the place to recapitulate all that.

  78. Bill

    Science helps us distinguish. It tells us that there is no part of nature that is – at bottom – free of nature and thus free of deterministic indifference.

    Mankind’s pan-world (pan-mind) brutally repeatable experience of volitionality is thus…..is thus what?

    The “distinguishing” is a choice one must make.

    Science is telling you that you – and everyone else – are psychotic.

    If you deny mankind’s wide array of painfully repeatable experiences as delusion’s psychosis than that choice is the verb of distinguishing.

  79. Bill L,

    Tom,

    How would one distinguish feelings that evolved for social cohesion (such as empathy and guilt) from what I take is your idea of the recognition of the transcendental?

    Bill, was the Holocaust wrong in reality, or do you simply have bad feelings about it? If you have bad feelings about it, and if Himmler had good feelings about it, whose feelings are more in line with what is morally true?

    If you can’t answer those questions, then I take it that (a) I have no answer to your question, and (b) you have lost some of the very humanness of which I spoke in the OP, and I am sorry for you.

  80. Tom, RE: #82

    I completely agree with you. Atheists don’t “get off the hook” by simply declaring that atheism is merely the rejection of theism, including both monotheism and polytheism. This declaration is usually followed by a list of “your god” versus “their god” that we and they both supposedly reject, which displays a considerable misunderstanding of what monotheism is. Yes, there are profound “positive beliefs” entailed in/by atheism, not the least of which is the claim that there is no evidentiary basis for monotheism, a very bold and sweeping claim that no atheist can defend because it flies in the face of the evidence.

    At issue here is the rejection of theistic moral reasoning or IOW, a paradigm for moral reasoning based on belief in a just and loving God. This is why I often cite the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Despite many requests, I have yet to hear an atheist’s moral argument for unalienable rights to replace the theistic argument put forth, convincingly, by the Framers of the DOI. I won’t hold my breath.

  81. Daniel,

    Tom states this premise, which if I understand correctly, you claim to be false: “If there is no transcendent moral standard, there is no moral knowledge, because there is nothing to be known.”

    Could you explain why you think this premise is false? Above, in comment #83, you question Tom’s motives but do not address or refute his reasoning.

  82. A better version of #89:

    The question was asked, “How would one distinguish feelings that evolved for social cohesion (such as empathy and guilt) from what I take is your idea of the recognition of the transcendental?”

    Science helps us distinguish because it brings us to that same Y in the road which Tom described in #90 but from another direction.

    Science helps us distinguish because science tells us that there is no physical system that is free of “mother nature” as every physical system, every last one of them, is unyieldingly attached to some other tentacle of nature. This is why Sam Harris insists that despite the fact that every mind experiences volitionality, volition is sheer delusion, and thus “ought” is as well. He tells us criminals had no choice in the matter. Volition (and hence ought with it) is a Con being played on Man by “deterministic indifference”, by nature.

    If atheism: that is true because, as we briefly saw, there is no part of nature (no physical system) that is – at bottom – free of nature and thus free of deterministic indifference. Every part of Nature is a slave. There is no volitionality (if atheism).

    However:

    All that is Mankind shares in the brutally, even painfully repeatable experience of volition, in the brutally repeatable moral experience of ought.

    They are undeniable.

    But Atheists are telling us to deny them. I once went around and around with an Atheist who questioned his own brutally repeatable experience of existing (he wouldn’t commit to any “really real”).

    The “distinguishing” between God / Materialism is now, at this juncture, a choice one must make.

    Science is simply telling us about physical systems. It cannot tell us more. Materialism however tells us that we – all of us – are as Sam Harris has said we are: delusional, that is to say, simply, we are psychotic in that we believe there is a pink elephant in the room, but there is none in the room, and in fact there is no such thing as a pink elephant (the pink elephant being ‘volition’ and ‘ought’ and so on).

    We have to ask those asking the question of “how to distinguish” to answer that question themselves. Materialism tells us we are delusional/psychotic. God tells us we are being informed – in part – of other actualities that exist.

    Well?

    If we choose to deny the reality of – the existence of – mankind’s (our own) wide array of brutally, even painfully repeatable experiences and thus choose to tell ourselves that all such information is delusion’s psychosis then that choice is the verb of distinguish-ing.

  83. Bill,

    “Do you like pain? How do you think other people feel about it? Do you want to live? How do you think others feel about it? See how this goes?”

    I maintain this response still begs the question, twice. (The quotes below are paraphrases, so please correct me if I have mis-paraphrased)

    #1: “inflicting suffering is (in general) wrong” – you’ve assumed this. It’s an assumption I happen to agree with, but (AFAIK) one topic under discussion is how one could move from the “is” of “people are biological things that exist for a little while” to “people shouldn’t suffer” (as distinct from “people dislike suffering”).

    #2: “wrong” – how do we come to a meaningful definition of “wrong” (or “right”) that has greater weight than simply “dislike” / “like”?

    At the risk of stereotyping, the charge is:
    (1) Most atheists value human life, in general.
    (2) Atheism itself provides no coherent reason why #1 is more than a historical / biological accident.
    (3) Thus, atheists’ subjective experiences of human value are undermined by their philosophy.

    Tangent:

    Incidentally, there is a Christian version of this fallacy, namely: human life is the highest good. A quick and honest read of the Scriptures will quickly disclose that God has plans and purposes that weigh more heavily than human life.

    Yet there are both Christians and atheists who will claim that human life is the highest good. The former are in conflict with their own philosophy, while the latter should find their philosophy wholly inadequate to sustain their claim.

  84. Tom,

    In regards to post 11

    Forgive me but you could explain what you mean by moral knowledge?

    I am not sure you are correct to say that Christians on average have different societal behaviors. If you look places in this country which
    are less religious than those of the places which are more religious, you can observe the same type of behaviors and people following the same social norms. This is true for societies which have no history of Christianity. For example, the behavior of the Japanese or even Chinese is not entirely different from our own western social norms and behaviors despite the fact in those countries there are few Christians and their nations developed without the Christian influence which was had by Europeans and North Americans.

    In my view I tend to agree that social norms, values and our sense of morality has been derived collectively from the ebb of flow of the social norms or desired behavior which has lead us were we are today.

    I think that the outcome of our behavior is the same whether or not we are religious or not.

    I know there are some differences in how we see different moral issues but I think the overall we are not so different. Overall I think the morals Christians follow and the morals that others follow in the US are not so different.

    I think there are some issues which my secular outlook allows me to hold a different view of some moral issues. For example, I think one should not mutilate the genitalia of infants while many Christians and Jews think it is perfectly OK.

  85. I’m neither an atheist nor a Humanist. Both of which seems to have as much to do with our discussion as your reference to Godwin’s law. That is to say, no obvious relevance. So, again, do you have any answer to my simple question, Daniel? You have made a claim, please justify it.

    (I’m getting a bizarre sense of Deja vu here. Dan DeMura made a claim about Tom based on a post he had written and then in similar fashion refused to elaborate. See #13 onwards – https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/04/p-s-concerning-daniel-fincke/. Is this a new trend?)

  86. Tom @ 80 (sorry, I didn’t see it earlier),

    I’m having a hard time envisioning a transcendent good chess playing standard. Rather it seems that we have a goal (to win the game) and we develop better strategies to get there.

    I’ve often mentioned that humans have vague goals, both biological (maximize offspring) and mental (be happy).

    So there are things we recognize as good generals in chess (don’t loose your Queen) but they don’t always hold true under all circumstances (sometimes it is the right thing to loose a queen).

    It seems that both biologically and socially evolved generals are the things you are describing as the knowledge of what is moral.

  87. Tom @ 90,

    Bill, was the Holocaust wrong in reality, or do you simply have bad feelings about it? If you have bad feelings about it, and if Himmler had good feelings about it, whose feelings are more in line with what is morally true?

    Words like wrong make no sense to me outside of the values of sentient creatures. I agree, these manifest in me (and you) as very bad feelings. The word morality makes little sense to me outside of the context of social cohesion (Is anything immoral taking place on the surface of Mars right now? I don’t think so). So in that line, Himmler was about as immoral as one could become. I just don’t know how else to think about this. That’s why I asked you for definitions, and yours seem to agree.

    I feel a moral revulsion to some things. I would feel it if my cat died of old age and my wife decided to cook and eat him. Yet this action really doesn’t really harm the cat (he’s already dead). So I am asking you how we can distinguish this kind of disgust that we feel from our other moral intuitions.

  88. Andrew W @ 98,

    What I have been saying is that values must come from the desires of sentient creatures (you seem to agree – you seem to maintain the the only values that matter are from the ultimate sentient creature. That is consistent in your world view – I agree.

    If words like “right” and “wrong” or “ought” mean anything, they must come from values. If I am the only person on an island, I know it’s wrong for me to smash my own hand with a rock. Why? I value not experiencing pain.

    If you look at Tom’s definition of morality (it deals with the interactions of more than one person), the moment you put another person on the island, it becomes wrong for me to smash his hand with a rock.

  89. Noah @100,

    What I mean by moral knowledge is simply the knowledge that some things are more nearly right than others, in the moral sphere as defined in #81. Also in #81 I explained that this need only be a certain minimal level of knowledge to qualify for inclusion in this argument: if there is any true moral knowledge at all, then there is moral knowledge—even if it is nowhere near comprehensive.

    My comment on Christian social behaviors was parenthetical, so I’ll leave it at that.

  90. Bill L @102,

    Exactly. “Good” in chess is not the same as “good” in the sphere of morality. One is contingent on whether one wants to play chess. There are other games. There are other things one could do with a chess set. There’s no requirement to play with a chess set at all.

    The other has at least some facets that do not seem to be contingent on anything at all. The Holocaust was wrong, period, and we know it was wrong, irrespective of any other possible information that could be brought into the matter. This holds, as you put it, under all conceivable circumstances.

    I’m not saying all moral knowledge is that way, but that there are some things we know to be true in the realm of morality. That’s enough for me, at this point in the discussion, which by the way has one more step to go, to tie it back in with part one in this series.

    As to your question in #103, it seems to me you yourself made the distinction you were asking me to make. You can distinguish the revulsion of disgust from moral revulsion, at least in some circumstances even if not in all circumstances.

  91. Bill L,

    You misspeak here: “So in that line, Himmler was about as immoral as one could become”

    Because, in Himmler’s line his line is straight and yours crooked.

    We have two equal lines here, each one of you employing a theistic epistemology in order to grant meaning (non-equality) to both lines.

    But in your worldview there are no such differences, no such hills or valleys. All is flat. All lines are irrationally conditioned itches bubbling up into preference.

    You’ve not shown us otherwise.

    But we don’t expect you to.

    What we do expect is for you to see the incoherence of “My line is better than your line”.

    Better?

    Do you mean something which promotes the genome? Sex slavery promotes the genome. All sorts of “lines” do just that.

    Do you mean the preference which bubbled up in you via those irrationally conditioned neuronal reflexes in your brain?

    What do you mean by “better”?

    All I see is a flat, smooth plane void of Hills, void of Nadirs. Stealing the Theistic epistemology which your own ontology cannot give to you is not an argument. It’s just stealing and borrowing something you know is true but which you just do not have.

  92. Daniel,

    You’ve not shown me any reason to believe that the post you put up on a declaration of human rights is not on ontological par with Hitler’s declaration of war.

    If that confuses you, see #108

  93. Bill L & Daniel,

    I’m curious, on your painfully repeatable experience of volitionality, do you see that incoming information as informing you of reality, or do agree with Materialism’s (Harris, others) assertion that all such information, which every mind perceives, is absolute misinformation?

  94. @109 scbrownlhrm

    No… no confusion, you’ve made it clear you feel your epistemology is superior to the rest of the world.

  95. @ Daniel, No. Not a selective memory. Though I will admit that you are correct to pull me up on my post. It would have been more accurate for me to have said in #100 that Dan “refused to elaborate [for some time]”. I also think that it would have been polite of me to say “thanks” to Dan after I read his response. However, at the time of reading I didn’t get the chance to respond and I quickly forgot about it. I simply didn’t think his eventual response – one that was so painfully difficult to tease out – demanded a reply. It was hyper-sensitive hyperbolic nonsense that pretty much took the least charitable reading possible. There is nothing to argue with there.

    Now, leaving aside dodges like Godwin’s Law, your atheism and Humanism and claims of hero worship, will you please answer the question?

    If you were bothered enough to make the claim in the first place I don’t see why you are so damn reticent to expand on it when asked. I’m not attacking you, Daniel, but you made a claim and have become oddly defensive, mildly abusive and suspiciously tight mouthed when you got some push back.

  96. Tom,

    It seems then we can have certain feelings both about playing chess and about morality. But it does not make any of those things transcendent. We can recognize that the goal of chess is to win the game, but there are no standards of how to do this from above except for the rules of the game that we devise. If someone says he wants to play chess and then proceeds to physically knock all of his opponent’s pawns off the board (a la The Holocaust) then we recognize this person is not really playing chess. Similarly, if we recognize that the goals in life are to live a happy life, and that morality is about how to do that when there is more than one person on the island, then certain guidelines will follow.

    That feeling of disgust that we get at the thought of eating a deceased pet or person is an evolved trait that allows for both personal protection and societal cohesion. You probably know that the areas of the brain that govern both disgust and morality are the same. They are nearly impossible to distinguish. We simply say that when these feelings of disgust are involved in societal cohesion that is what we call the moral feelings. If we can’t distinguish these other than that, then I don’t see that we have evidence for either the transcendent or God. But we do have good reasons to want there to be a God.

  97. Daniel,

    You assert that there some real difference between those two moral declarations.

    I agree, only, I have a logical, seamless ontology which, being void of blind axiom’s circularity, does not die that death of circularity.

    As for you and your worldview, you’ve not shown me any reason to believe that the post you put up on a declaration of human rights is not on ontological par with Hitler’s declaration of war.

    What do you mean by “better”?

    Genome perpetuation?

    Preference bubbling up out of irrationally conditioned neuronal serotonin fluxes?

    You’ve not shown me any reason to believe that your ontology can grant you intellectual ownership of the epistemology you are (unjustifiably) employing.

  98. scbrownlhrm @ 108,

    I have tried to make it clear that “better” in this sense is that which promotes happiness for both the individual and the group. “Morality,” “good and bad” make no sense to me without that connection.

  99. scbrownlhrm @ 110,

    To be clear here, what do you mean by “volitionality?”

    I believe you’ve mischaracterized Harris, but that is another matter.

  100. Bill L,

    You note: “If someone says he wants to play chess and then proceeds to physically knock all of his opponent’s pawns off the board (a la The Holocaust) then we recognize this person is not really playing chess. Similarly, if we recognize that the goals in life are to live a happy life, and that morality is about how to do that when there is more than one person on the island, then certain guidelines will follow.”

    Sam Harris attempted this identity claim in his “Moral Landscape”. Happy flourishing of sentient beings [equals] morality. Of course it ended up that such was a false identity claim. And still is.

    But what he did and what you are doing are the same in that each of you keep wanting there to be an actual validity to that notion of “better“. Only, you can’t find it in your worldview, and so you pit “line” against “line” and come up with various nuance-filled explanations as to why A is “better” than B.

    But, there we are again at that word “better”.

    There are all sorts of ways to promote the genome, and shout Check Mate.

    None is better than the other, because Check Mate wins the game.

    Better?

    A: Do you mean something which promotes the genome? Sex slavery promotes the genome. All sorts of “lines” do just that.

    B: Do you mean the preference which bubbled up in you (an every other “line”) via those irrationally conditioned neuronal reflexes in your brain?

    “Chess” is played quite robustly in both A and B and you’ve not shown us how A or B fail to win the game.

  101. Bill L,

    Harris tells us we have no choice. The neuroscience of physical systems (the brain) just is the science of physics and such agrees with him. Criminals had no choice in acting as they did (Harris is brave enough there to be intellectually honest…. how refreshing it is to get rid of the endless semantic equivocations….)

    Volition is non-entity. We’re delusional.

    The only alternative is to prove that there are physical systems that are – at bottom – free of Nature and act independently from her and are thus free of deterministic indifference.

    Every mind perceives the reality of volition.

    Every mind is either being informed of reality or every mind is infused with delusion’s psychosis.

    If physical systems end the regress: our brutally and painfully repeatable moral experiences are, void of volition / ought, infusions of delusion’s psychosis.

    If a necessarily interpersonal and transcendent Entity ends the regress: we are simply, seamlessly, being informed – in part – of actualities which exist.

  102. Bill L,

    On #115,

    It is nothing more than Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape.

    “Happiness” is what lost the Chess Match for him in that false identity claim.

    He, like you, wanted there to be a better, only, it turned out that all sorts of (ugly) states can populate those “peaks”.

  103. scbrownlhrm,

    To answer 110, I see no evidence for contra-causal free will – neither does Harris. And it seems you do not either. If God is putting knowledge or thoughts in your mind, where was the choice in that?

  104. scbrownlhrm @ 119,

    We both agree that ugly states can populate those peaks. They will not be the highest ones.

  105. @ 112

    Billy Squibs… the entire foundation of the ‘apologetic’ in this post is dependent upon the complete denigration of atheism and humanism by comparing it to the very worst of humanity via Hitler and Eugenics… I hardly consider that hyper-sensitive hyperbolic nonsense.

    Let’s cut to the chase shall we? Christianity makes up less than 30% of the worlds population. Depending upon how you define “Christian” it can bring that number closer to 20% but the point is that your Moral argument is dependent upon the other 70-80% people in the world being so completely depraved, that they have no ability to know that it’s wrong to speak of Lebensunwertes Leben because they don’t worship your God. You may disagree with me… but I don’t think I’ve been too unclear that I find such a position rather arrogant.

    You are of course free to present and defend your beliefs however you like but I challenge you to ask yourself, who is this type of vitriolic argument really for? Those you’re supposedly attempting to reach with the “love of Christ” or is it simply preaching to the choir about how pathetic those nasty non-believers are?

  106. Bill L,

    At #120,

    If God were injecting my thoughts then you’d have a point.

    I thought we were talking about the Christian God, in Whose Image Man is made.

    Freedom of motion amid/among the Triune’s interior milieu of “Self-Other-Us” is an ontological end of regress. It’s nature is a different nature than your materialistic/physical nature. It’s odd that you seemed to have missed that. That ontological end-point within the Christian God makes sense given our brutally repeatable experience of volition and given those pesky interpersonal dynamics embedded therein.

    Again, Sam Harris notes that the criminal had no choice in acting as he did.

    How refreshing it is to get rid of semantic dances of equivocation.

  107. Bill L,

    At #121

    “Highest”?

    Changing terms doesn’t change your argument.

    Better, Higher, Lower…..

  108. #122

    Firstly, when I mentioned “hyper-sensitive hyperbolic nonsense” I was not referring to this thread. You have misunderstood who I attributed these words to. Please go back an reread my post.

    Secondly, is the first paragraph your answer to my question? It’s not clear to me where atheism or Humanism is compared the “very worst of humanity via Hitler and Eugenics”.

    Thirdly, can we attempt to stay on topic, please? I don’t mind talking about salvation, damnation, the love of Christ or whatever but it makes conversation very difficult when you keep on multiplying your objections before we get to actually discussing anything. Put the shotgun filled with objections down and let’s focus on one thing. I suggest that this would be your claim about what Tom has done with regards to comparing your beliefs to the worst of humanity.

  109. Bill L @ 102:

    I feel a moral revulsion to some things. I would feel it if my cat died of old age and my wife decided to cook and eat him. Yet this action really doesn’t really harm the cat (he’s already dead). So I am asking you how we can distinguish this kind of disgust that we feel from our other moral intuitions.

    Under a naturalistic evolutionary account of morality the interpretation would be that our moral intuitions are illusory so there could be no way of distinguishing real intuitions from from illusory ones, because there is no real distinction and no reality to moral values. Presuppositions are very important here. If theism is true then there is a real foundation for morality; if it isn’t, then there is not.

  110. @125

    Billy Squibs – what part of my statement ” Moral argument is dependent upon the other 70-80% people in the world being so completely depraved, that they have no ability to know that it’s wrong to speak of Lebensunwertes Leben because they don’t worship your God.” did you not understand?

    If you do not understand Lebensunwertes Leben it was a Nazi designation for the segments of the population which they felt had no right to live.

    From the OP

    So the “humanist” no longer knows that it’s wrong to speak of Lebensunwertes Leben; that it’s wrong to run gross scientific experiments on humans without consent; that it’s wrong to gas human beings and use their hair as raw material for soldiers’ apparel. The humanist cannot say that he knows this is wrong.

  111. Daniel,

    At #122

    No, the rest of the world is not depraved.

    That’s the point. We all have moral knowledge.

    That is what Theism posits.

    It is the atheists who keep trying to tell us we are all so radically different that such moral knowledge is not the fact of the matter. Any anthropologists meandering through the world’s moral systems will find an amazing array of threads interconnecting all of them. Differences in mere letter codes just do not untie those threads of robust principle and archetype embedded beneath, within, and among. But of course the atheist must focus on that surface of letters lest the threads below untie his own poorly stitched argument.

  112. Tom – I really can reply to your comments just by quoting my own. For example:

    You’ve defined that CCR in terms of human nature, which is problematic on atheism for two reasons, one of which is that evolution doesn’t produce “natures” it produces ephemeral populations;

    The traits of a population can change over time; the population can even split and take on different collections of traits – which is what happens in speciation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look at the members of a population now and characterize them. Even more, that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize patterns and characterize them rather precisely.

    What, exactly, is imprecise about “sapient, relatively-hairless fully-bipedal tailless, forward-facing-eyes, grasping-paws, live-young-bearing hair-possessing milk-giving amniote-possessing tetrapodal jawed vertebrate notochord-possessing multicellular non-chloroplast mitochondrial eukaryotes”? (SRHFBTFFEGPLYBHPMGAPTJVNPMNCME for short.) Sure, there’s still a lot of room in that range, just as many frequencies fit into the range ‘red’. And sure, there’s at least potential for fuzzy border cases. But some things still fit into that range unambiguously. Everyone we call human today, in fact. In fact, there have been people that solidly fit into that range for over two hundred thousand years.

    Red light – pretty much any light in the 630–740 nm range – is good for illuminating dark areas without compromising night vision. I don’t have to identify the Platonic Essence Of Red to notice that and make use of it (as is done in the military on night ops, for example). Nor do I have to identify the Platonic Essence Of Humanity to be able to state some general conclusions that apply to anything that fits into the range of SRHFBTFFEGPLYBHPMGAPTJVNPMNCME.

    the other of which is that evolution doesn’t pronounce the current population or its values “good.”

    I’m okay with a morality that only applies to the general class of sapient, relatively hairless, fully bipedal, tailless, forward-facing-eyes, grasping-paws, live-young-bearing hair-possessing milk-giving amniote-possessing tetrapodal jawed vertebrate notochord-possessing multicellular non-chloroplast mitochondrial eukaryotes. That covers all of humanity and anything humanity might develop into for at least the next half a million years or so.

    And: But it can still be objectively true that some things are good to and for humans. Sure, that’s only from a human perspective… but hey, I’m human. In fact, I accuse you of being human too.

    I can’t imagine any way you could explain coherently to them that theirs is inferior to yours—not without appealing to something transcending Aryans and Jews, Whites and Blacks, Muslims and Christians.

    We have a lot of data (and over a hundred thousand years of experimentation of varying levels of rigor) about what actually makes humans happy and satisfied. Humans haven’t changed much biologically in that time, but we’ve learned quite a bit about how to best conduct ourselves around each other.

    Slavery, for example. That was an improvement over the old “kill everyone in the tribes you conquer” but slave societies turn out to be inherently stagnant. They have to devote huge amounts of their resources to controlling the slaves, and innovation is discouraged because unrest is so dangerous. C.f. Sparta, the American Old South, etc.

    Engineering has advanced a lot over the last hundred thousand years, too, in a similar way, and for similar reasons. We keep finding better ways to do things.

  113. scbrownlhrm @ 124

    “Better,” “happy” and other such terms only make sense to me in terms of the feelings of sentient creatures. Another person on this blog (Melissa) rightly pointed out that Harris smuggled in that value. I don’t see how it makes sense to leave it out.

    Let me ask you the same question I have been trying to ask Tom:
    How would we distinguish intuitive feelings from the knowledge of the transcendent?

  114. JAD @ 126,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head… this whole thread is a presupposition. Not actual evidence for God.

  115. scbrownlhrm @128

    Key word “know”… you can’t flip flop back and forth between Moral Epistemology and Moral Ontology however you like in your argument. The “Differences in mere leter codes” as you put it shred your threads of interconnection in regard to epistemology because Religions can’t all be true in regard to moral knowledge. Is your argument simply that it doesn’t matter which theism a person holds to as long as it’s some form of God or God’s then it’s okay they will have a proper moral knowledge? What about deism does that count? Or how about the 350 million Buddhists in the world who don’t believe in a God… do you place them in the atheist camp?

    But no worries scbrownlhrm you’ve already made it abundantly clear that your epistemology is superior to the rest of the world, so we’re cool.

  116. Ray,

    At #129

    You seem to be asserting that “Flourishing of happy sentient beings” [equals] “Moral”.

    I’m glad you were honest enough to have called slavery a step up in morality, rather than a step down, based on that equation.

    Actually it is a step within brokenness and fragmentation, void of E Pluribus Unum, per Christianity, thus I disagree with you that slavery was/is a step up in any situation. Of course, if it increases happiness, then I guess it must have been moral progress, per your equation, per your main premise which seems to be that of Harris’ Moral Landscape.

    I’ll leave that landscape alone here…….as incoherent as it was.

  117. Daniel @#123,

    This post was not based on denigrating atheism. That was a conclusion I drew, not a premise I began from.

    Granted, the post began with a statement of my conclusion. That’s not the usual way to begin an argument, I understand. I chose that as my opening so that it would be clear what the topic was. I could have done better with it, I see now. I think if I were to re-write it I would have opened it this way instead.

    I don’t know why anyone calls it humanism: atheism denies humanness. “‘Humanity is dead, and we are its murderers,’ says the Madman.” I understand that this is a bold and controversial statement, but through the rest of this post I intend to show why I believe it is true.

    That would have been a better opening: it would have shown that this was a conclusion that I intended to demonstrate if possible.

    So then, what did I base that conclusion on? Was it a comparison with Hitler and eugenics, as you say? No, not in any proper sense of the word “comparison.” I never said that atheists were like Hitler or eugenicists. Instead I raised a series of questions, to begin with, concerning what atheism has to say about Hitler and the Nazis. I illustrated what I was asking about by including a pair of quotes from atheists.

    Then I proceeded to explore the logical outworkings of atheism, agreeing with previous commenter Paul that if his atheistic metaphysics were true, then his amoral conclusions would be, too, and explaining why I believed this was so. This is not comparison, this is discussion of premises and what follows from them.

    Your second paragraph in #112 draws a wrong conclusion. No knowledgeable Christian says that moral knowledge comes only by way of believing in Christ. That’s completely opposite to what I wrote in the OP!

    I believe that every person, atheists and humanists included, still knows that some things are more right than others, and other things are more wrong. I believe every person still has moral knowledge. It’s part of the very essence of humanness.

    In the post just prior to this one, very clearly linked at the top of this page, I wrote,

    Do you know whether it’s right or wrong for parents to nurture their children? Do you know whether it’s right or wrong for parents to torture their children for fun? Do you know whether it’s right or wrong for a power plant to practice green environmental methods? Do you know whether it is right or wrong for a chemical plant to dump its waste products into the nearest river?

    I believe you know these things. This knowledge is rooted in our humanness, and it leads to the knowledge that there is a God.

    If you’re going to draw conclusions from what I’ve written, you might just as well draw your conclusions from what I’ve written.

    So when you say, “I find such a position rather arrogant,” I agree, and if you ever found a person who held the position you describe, I would want to explain to them that they were very mixed up, wrong, and yes, arrogant.

    The problem with atheism is not that atheists have no moral knowledge. The problem with atheism is that it denies the God who gave us all that moral knowledge. That’s a different problem. You might still consider it a problem, but let’s deal with real problems (if problems they are), not with distorted ones.

  118. I disagree with JAD here in #127:

    Presuppositions are very important here. If theism is true then there is a real foundation for morality; if it isn’t, then there is not.

    Or at least I disagree with the way Bill L understood JAD, when he wrote in #132:

    JAD @ 126,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head… this whole thread is a presupposition. Not actual evidence for God.

    Actually, no; this whole thread is not a presupposition. JAD wrote something in #127 that’s coming from a completely different direction than what I have been trying to say. He seems to have been saying there,

    1. If theism is true, there is a real foundation for morality.
    2. Theism is true (presupposition).
    3. Therefore there is a real foundation for morality.

    Now, I happen to agree with that completely, but it isn’t what I’ve been saying here. (I’m not sure it’s what JAD intended, either, but it seems to come out that way.)

    To explain what I’ve been trying to say, maybe I need to back up a bit, and remind us all that this is Part 2 of 2 posts on this topic so far. In Part 1 I wrote,

    AB1. We cannot know whether any action really is right or wrong unless right and wrong are real.
    AB2. We know that some actions really are right and others are wrong.
    AB3. Therefore right and wrong are real.
    AB4. If there is no God, then right and wrong cannot be real.
    AB5. Therefore (AB3 and AB4) there is a God.

    I see now, again, that I could have improved the OP, this time by including AB1 to AB5 as a reminder of where this post fits in to the discussion. I apologize for all the conclusion that omission caused.

    Anyway, there is no presupposition of God in there, nor is there any in what I wrote in this post. There is an argument from common human knowledge, leading to a conclusion that there is a God. I covered some of that argument (AB1 and AB4) in Part 1. Here in Part 2 I’ve been trying to get us to recognize AB2: we really do know that some actions are really right and others are really wrong.

    Now, if you think that’s a presupposition, I disagree with that, too. I think it’s a matter of common human knowledge instead. That’s a disagreement we can explore, and I don’t mind doing that. I just don’t want my position misunderstood or misrepresented by saying that this post is built on a presupposition that God is real. It isn’t. I hope that’s more clear now.

  119. So when you say, “I find such a position rather arrogant,” I agree, and if you ever found a person who held the position you describe, I would want to explain to them that they were very mixed up, wrong, and yes, arrogant.

    I do appreciate you saying that Tom.. but I must say I do find it hard to fathom how you exactly would draw such a “conclusion” in regard to Humanism? I see it as the equivalent of someone presenting a case against Christianity because Christians have burned witches and heretics and then calling it a conclusion not a premise… especially considering accurate information regarding Humanism is readily available online as I posted from AHA.

    “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”

    But I will echo once again what I said in #64 – If you agree that these things are “more right” (to use a phrase that’s been used in this thread) then you and I really don’t disagree on much… other than the God issue, and I’m personally fine with that and don’t see why it should hinder any of our shared goals as listed in that above statement. I truly wish my rejection of your faith claims wasn’t so disconcerting for you.

  120. JAD, @134

    In what sense would they be “objective?” What if they are like the kind of experience in which we sense disgust at the thought of eating a pet dog after it has died?

  121. Thanks Tom for trying to clear things up, but I still see a fundamental problem to your thesis (scbrownlhrm seems to share it). If your assertion that this knowledge of the transcendental is just undeniable yet can not distinguish how we would recognize the difference between it and something like feelings (or knowledge) of disgust, then it does not really seem we have good reason to believe it is transcendental. Again however, we do have good reasons to want there to be a God.

  122. Bill @142: I do not think that knowledge of the transcendental is undeniable. I think one can deny it. I think one does so by unlearning what one knows, however. That is, as we discussed earlier, I believe you know that some things are morally right. I believe you can distinguish moral revulsion from other forms of disgust, at least in some circumstances. That’s all the “transcendental” I’m asking you to recognize that you know.

  123. Daniel,

    On #132:

    You seem to not understand the employment of the term “epistemology” and that of “ontology”. It’s tedious but I guess I’ll try to give you a rough sketch.

    We each assert, via our language, our terms, which is our epistemology, that there is a Better of the sort that, in all possible situations, sex slavery houses an ought-not. Liberty is better than enslavement. We’ve each agreed with one another. And this is based on an actual value “housed within” all that we define as The Self (any Self, any Person).

    There comes a point when this value of all that is Self can, (as C.S. Lewis notes) if it is swollen into madness by isolation, by privation, become a tyranny. There is no tyrant or war thereof which does not house this (good) value of The Self, of the Person.

    So far we’ve only touched on the value of The Person, only on all that is The Self.

    Our epistemology has (up to this point) valued liberty, person, imprisonment, tyranny, and the war of the tyrant. There is no letter code which, even if ugly, does not appeal to this archetype of our pan-world moral knowledge of the value of The Self.

    Every anthropologist who looks at all of the world’s moral systems will find, interconnecting all of them, a vast array of just these sorts of archetypes and principles. And they are all interpersonal in nature, and they are all composed of only three threads as all definitions are necessarily traced back to the value of all that is The Self, and/or, to all that is the value of all that is The Other, and/or, to all that is the value of all that is the Us / Collective We.

    So far we’ve just engaged in blind axiom’s circularity. We just assert (without justification) that despite what anyone says in any culture there is a known value housed within the Self / Person. And this knowledge is found in all moral codes in all the fields of carnage across mankind’s painful history.

    We’ve not even begun to look at the value of the Other, the Non-Self. Nor have we even begun to look at the value of the collective Us, the singular-We. The permutations and combinations of all moral codes across all cultures will, as any anthropologist will tell you, house exactly those very archetypes and principles laced throughout that surface of letters codes.

    And we’ve not even begun to begin to justify all of this knowledge ontologically. Atheism cannot differentiate anything here, as all moral declarations are on ontological par, thus your refusal to give me an ontological end point which coherently (without blind axiom’s circularity) tells us otherwise.

    In the Christian God we come to that ontological end of regress which just is those volitional motions among and amid the Trinity’s interior milieu of the fully singular, fully triune Self-Other-Us wherein the end of all regress just is E Pluribus Unum.

    Now, when we take “that Whole” (E Pluribus Unum, necessarily housing Self, Other, Us) and begin to rip it apart and take its fragmentations and isolate them we begin to see the madness of the letters atop the surface of man’s various letter codes and we begin to see those immutable archetypes inter-connecting every last one of them and we begin to see all the world’s moral systems utterly, necessarily (ontologically) indebted to that Whole for any and all ontological reality.

    Epistemology: “It really is true that sacrificing this child is good”. Subjectively we have real whims and real cultures which feel such is the case. So that is “real” epistemology. If Atheism is true, that epistemological statement is neither true nor false, it just “is”, ontologically speaking. That is to say, ontologically the end of regress in materialism is deterministic indifference. And thus we see that while the language and epistemological commitment to a truth-statement is there, it is not ontologically justified.

    However: If the Triune God is the end of regress, the fully singular, fully triune “Self-Other-Us” of the Christian God’s immutable E Pluribus Unum just does become the Whole by which all lesser “fragments” find the very thing we call “definition”, and so that very same epistemological statement becomes, “really and actually” false despite what any culture or man states.

    C.S. Lewis references his “Tao” which is the Triune God, that is to say, that which is moral love’s E Pluribus Unum, there at the end of regress, and says all of this another way:

    “The Tao…… is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess……… the human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of planting a new sun in the sky or a new primary color in the spectrum…..”

  124. Bill L @141: Ask yourself whether you know the difference between that kind of disgust and your knowledge that the Holocaust was wrong. I know you can do it: you can tell the difference. The very way you’re speaking of it here implies you can tell the difference.

    If you can’t, then this argument will have no force for you. I recognize that. I know that my whole case here depends on your acknowledging the reality of moral knowledge, and I know that my case goes nowhere with people who won’t own up to that.

    Except for this: to fail to recognize moral knowledge as knowledge is to chop off part of your own real humanness. That’s also something I want to say with this post. I don’t know why anyone would sacrifice humanness on the altar of atheistic humanism. It’s giving up way too much: see the “Madman” article linked from the top of the OP.

  125. I don’t know why anyone would sacrifice humanness on the altar of atheistic humanism

    How is it that you are still not clear on Humanism?

  126. Let me just recall for you what I wrote, and then if you still have a question, you can feel free to ask it, this time with some substance and with context in mind, please:

    I know that my whole case here depends on your acknowledging the reality of moral knowledge, and I know that my case goes nowhere with people who won’t own up to that.

    Except for this: to fail to recognize moral knowledge as knowledge is to chop off part of your own real humanness. That’s also something I want to say with this post. I don’t know why anyone would sacrifice humanness on the altar of atheistic humanism. It’s giving up way too much: see the “Madman” article linked from the top of the OP.

    (That wasn’t written all that long ago, you know.)

  127. Bill L

    If your assertion that this knowledge of the transcendental is just undeniable yet can not distinguish how we would recognize the difference between it and something like feelings (or knowledge) of disgust, then it does not really seem we have good reason to believe it is transcendental.

    I will echo what Tom said in #146, that you probably know the difference yourself. The evidence of that is you use different language/terms when you talk about morality vs. when you talk about feelings. You answer your own question every time you speak about these things.

  128. @ 148 So humble of you to delete “a veiled insult” part of you initial retort… but the question still stands… I’ve explained Humanism to you and even provided links to AHA.. there is no “sacrifice of humanness” involved with the philosophy of Humanism or atheism for that matter so why do you keep asserting it as a required presupposition for your argument?

  129. scbrownlhrm –

    You seem to be asserting that “Flourishing of happy sentient beings” [equals] “Moral”.

    Nope.

    What I’m actually claiming is that morality is akin to engineering. Engineering is, fundamentally, the application of knowledge to solve problems in the real world. We engineer machines, systems, processes… and things like legal and moral codes.

    “Slavery” was a step up, yes… from genocide. It would be a step down from the Geneva Conventions. In the same way as steam power was a step up from animal power, but would be a step down from the power systems of today (electrical, chemical, etc.). Tom’s willing to grant that slavery was “progress for the time”.

    New knowledge and experience affects engineering – the ‘state of the art’ is continually improving. It’s the same way with morality. I’d say morality is that branch of engineering that deals with creating systems and processes for how humans relate to one another.

    Engineers solve problems related to “human flourishing and happiness” – and that has material and relational components.

  130. Bill L, Daniel,

    On #141 and #143

    I find it odd that you would question every mind’s experience of, say, having a head.

    That is what you are saying.

    Look at your line of reasoning,

    “The argument that having a head is undeniable is not an argument that we have heads. You need to show how we would distinguish between a real head and just the “perception of a head””.

    Really?

    That is the pesky stubbornness with something that every mind perceives. I know you don’t like that. You want us to differentiate between a head and the perception of a head. But every head we point to, or put in your hands, or drop, or whatever, will be the perception thereof.

    Mind-Dependence, anyone?

    You are the one claiming that every mind is mistaken.
    I’m afraid that assertion will demand a bit of evidence.

    You say it is subjective, and yet our (your) painfully repeatable experiences are worlds away from what Materialism tells us our experience should “look like”.

    The force by which we know volitionality and other such things such as, “I have a head”, are reality as we know it to be, perceive it to be. I have a head. I have volition. We all perceive this. Ought’s painfully repeatable experience comes in as well.

    Now, if materialism were true, our experience should be be one of compulsion.

    But we don’t experience that. The Atheist is the one asserting that our experience “should look like one of compulsion “because that’s really real.

    But that means he has to give us some evidence that every mind’s experience is mistaken. But there is nothing in our present experience which is out of place if it is all informing us of objective reality. So what, exactly, if all is objectively real, would be different than our present experience of volition, of ought’s pains (of having a head)? Nothing.

    But if materialism were true, our experience wouldn’t look like it does for it would look like one of compulsion, one void of ought’s pains. What would be different? We can point to all kinds of things that would look different. Yet you just foist without justification that it is subjective, and yet our (your) painfully repeatable experiences are worlds away from what Materialism tells us our experience should “look like”.

    Given the chasm of difference between our actual, perceived experience and what Materialism tells us is real, the burden of proof is on the outlier, which is your assertion of delusion’s psychosis .

    Until you can show us a proof of some sort, you’ve not satisfied that burden. The gap between what our experience is telling us and what materialism is telling us unforgivingly puts this burden on the one telling us that all of our perceiving is completely delusional. We say ‘completely’ because “illusion” would imply some real “it” out there, and so it falls below even that, into the depths of some kind of meaningless psychic phosphorescence. But, Pan-World, every mind is perceiving a brutally repeatable reality which is light years away from that.

    Given that chasm, until you can show us a proof of delusion’s psychosis, or until you can prove to us what part of our experience wouldn’t exist or couldn’t exist if ought/volitionality there in morality were in fact objective, you’ve simply presented us with no valid reason at all to disbelieve such brutally, even painfully repeatable reality and thus, without such explanations from you, we present a justified, evidence based conclusion that all those things speak of objective reality.

  131. Ray,

    On #152

    Yes, I know. “Value” is “Rape” because the genome is perpetuated.

    Rape exists today.

    As does sex slavery.

    Now, since you are willing to embrace those as valued by selection I will have to disagree with your definitions of “value”.

    God hates divorce. Yet he “regulates divorce” inside of what Scripture defines as the Ministry of Death: the Law of Moses. Moral “progress” in that context is non-entity, so if you think Moral Excellence values slavery or calls it good, you are mistaken. We call it better, but Scripture does not, for in Scripture there is only the “Inside of Immutable Love” and the Dark “Outside of Immutable Love” (Love being God, of course). The Protoevangelium of Genesis 3 tells us where Moral Excellence will come from. And it’s not the Ministry of Death (the Law of Moses). The ontological wherewithall to so define our reality as fragmentations of love’s whole thus grants the Christian a unique set of justified epistemological truth-statements. Sex slavery, while valued by selection’s, your, value system, is hated by Immutable Love, and in all possible worlds.

  132. I’ll jump over to the new post later. I just have a few last thoughts for now (then back to my chemistry work).

    I do recognize moral knowledge as a kind of knowledge. But I also recognize disgust as a kind of knowledge. I get a little bit of revulsion from people wearing their shoes in the house (I live in Asia for a while where this disgust became ingrained in my psyche) but I back that up with my rationalizations (there’s s**t all over the ground in Nepal). So I have a feeling that I connect with my rationalization and call it knowledge – shoes are dirty!

    Many people feel a bit of revulsion at the sight of two women passionately kissing. It seems a little yucky to them. So they think it’s immoral. Notice how much more revulsion even more people feel at the sight of two men kissing – more yucky (honestly, even I feel this one a bit, but I try to ignore it and tell myself it’s just not something I’m attracted to. Yet many people try to limit the behavior of others based on their revulsion and try to justify it by saying it’s immoral. [Tom, here is one answer to your question why we should be very careful about our moral sentiments].

    Our feelings get more complicated… I feel attachment to my cat. I would be saddened at his death. I feel revulsion towards eating animals. If my cat were killed and eaten by a neighbor, I would be morally horrified. As our thoughts and feelings become more rationalized, we call this morality. It seems to be a difference of degree and complexity – not of kind. Note how much more moral revulsion we feel when a family member is murdered vs someone we barely know. We’ve learned to reason that murder is wrong (for all people) from the personal experiences of the ones whom which we feel kinship.

  133. Bill L,
    Quick comment here… wouldn’t you agree that even in the case of your cat, that the language is still very clear and distinct? You have language that describes your feelings (the way the world is) and you have language that describes the way the world ought to be.

    You’re saying “I’m sad” (feeling language) and “I ought not be sad” or “My cat ought not be eaten by my neighbor” (moral language). This is a very real difference in kind.

  134. Bill L,

    On #155

    If there is knowledge, then look to what the Whole would of necessity be comprised of. Differences in awareness of X only means one must look further, not that one needs to stop looking. If there is X, then there is X.

    The shared archetypes of all moral systems are touched on in #145, and those supposed “differences” or “complexities” are simply – at bottom – fragmentations of the Larger Whole, which I also touched on in # 145 to Daniel.

  135. Bill L,

    On #156,

    See #157

    And even worse for you: Volition is the same in everyone. It’s immune to taste. Its real. And since it’s real, materialism cannot be true.

  136. scbrownlhrm @158

    those supposed “differences” or “complexities” are simply – at bottom – fragmentations of the Larger Whole, which I also touched on in # 145 to Daniel.

    And I’m sure your view is indeed the superior and “Larger Whole” of which you speak… no?

  137. Daniel,

    On #160,

    The Whole is E Pluribus Unum.

    Love.

    As in:

    Atheism:

    Brute Fact:

    A = Indifference/Deterministic, or, ID
    Z = Indifference/Deterministic, or, ID

    [Actuality] = [A – (Effervescing Fragments of ID just is Psychic Phosphorescence) – Z]

    Or,

    Ultimate Actuality (God) is Love:

    Brute Fact:

    A = Love’s fully singular, fully triune [Self-Other-Us], Who is the Triune God, Who is One, Who is Love’s E Pluribus Unum.

    Z = Love’s fully singular, fully triune [Self-Other-Us], Who is the Triune God, Who is One, Who is Love’s E Pluribus Unum.

    [Actuality] = [A – (Fragmentations / Privations of the Self, of Other, of Us) – Z]

    Any anthropology run across the world will bear these archetypes out and at least justify the Christian’s odd, and unique, description of “the whole”, as described (as briefly as possible) in #145.

    Based on that evidence we must conclude: Love actually is the Highest Ethic in all possible worlds. I thus conclude that God is, and that God is Love.

  138. Tom – Take a look at scbrownlhrm’s comment #154.

    Note where he says things like “you are willing to embrace [rape and sex slavery] as valued by selection”, and “Sex slavery, [is] valued by selection’s, your, value system”.

    Do you think that’s “safe for humans”?

    Do you agree with me that there’s a difference between saying something like, ‘I don’t see how your value system would forbid rape or sex slavery’, and “you are willing to embrace [rape and sex slavery] as valued by selection”?

    If scbrownlhrm intended to anger me, he succeeded. I’m not going to converse with him further until and unless he’s willing to rephrase his comments.

  139. scbrownlhrm @161

    I didn’t understand any of your esoteric nonsense but I’ll take it as a “yes” to my question.

  140. Ray,

    On #162,

    Don’t be angry, just look at the argument.

    You are describing natural selection.

    Fine.

    If you don’t value what it values, then that tells us something.

    Of course you don’t value such things.

    But your “engineering selective process” does.

    Well?

    What are you going to do with that disagreement?

    Or do you mean natural selection’s favor is not the reason “rape” came to be passed along in our genome? I think that is exactly where it comes from.

    If you have a moral value system that does not value what natural selection values, we have some evidence that your moral knowledge is in disagreement with what naturalism can give you.

  141. Daniel,

    On #163,

    I take it that God is, and, that He is Love.

    E Pluribus Unum “means something” there, Daniel. Love is not a monolithic “it”. I think you understand exactly what love is in its singular sense (E Pluribus Unum) and in its triune sense (Me and You and Us). Everybody knows that but it is helpful to draw it out in words. I mean, we’re “describing reality”, right?

  142. Ray,

    Again on #162,

    You said, ““you are willing to embrace [rape and sex slavery] as valued by selection”? That is a better way to say it, yes. I looked at your post for a place where you would distance yourself from “morality is akin to engineering”. Now, that you did not distance your values from ontology’s values does not make me think that you value evil. I said it was “your value system” meaning your express line that “morality is akin to engineering” (not your personal system). And the engineering process of selection values what it values.

    You do have my apology for not wording that more carefully.

    Now, if you disagree with the values that naturalism can give you, that’s a good piece of information for you to employ.

  143. scbrownlhrm –

    You are describing natural selection.

    Is that the only form of engineering you know of? Is that the only kind of engineering humans do?

    But your “engineering selective process” does.

    Just a couple days ago, Tom got angry with me when I accidentally gave him the impression I was putting words in his mouth.. I note that you put double-quotes around a phrase that I never wrote or said. Don’t do that.

    The fact that you have to make up quotes to portray my position the way you intend is strong evidence that you aren’t engaging with what I’ve actually written.

    “rape” came to be passed along in our genome

    Before I address that, I ask you to defend your assertion that rape is, in fact, “passed along in our [human] genome”. Let’s see some evidence. (But before you do, you might want to read this.)

    Put simply, you don’t have any understanding of my “ontology’s values” and until you do, you would be much better off asking questions rather than making assertions.

  144. Billy Squibs – what part of my statement ” Moral argument is dependent upon the other 70-80% people in the world being so completely depraved, that they have no ability to know that it’s wrong to speak of Lebensunwertes Leben because they don’t worship your God.” did you not understand?

    Eh, 70-80% of the world’s population is neither Humanist nor simply atheist, Daniel. And that’s the part that I didn’t understand. Why? Because your invented statistics are irrelevant to the question I was asking about the claim you originally made.

    So the “humanist” no longer knows that it’s wrong to speak of Lebensunwertes Leben; that it’s wrong to run gross scientific experiments on humans without consent; that it’s wrong to gas human beings and use their hair as raw material for soldiers’ apparel. The humanist cannot say that he knows this is wrong.

    Finally – we get to the bone of contention. Was it really that hard? You could have saved both of us a lot of trouble by not kicking against my request and gone straight to the point instead.

    On the face of it I can see why your nose would be put out of joint. I can see how somebody reading this quote could reach the conclusion that the message here was simply that atheists are a morally desolate and degenerate lot. (As if the mere belief in God made you a moral person.) However, I also suspect that Tom intended to speak about the non-existence of objective morality on atheism, which is not a particularly controversial claim as you know. It seems obvious to me that this was the point being made rather then any comment on the individual depravity (your word) of individuals who identify as atheists and Humanists – my beloved wife being one of them.

  145. Ray,

    On #167

    I’m not sure I know what you mean. Your ontological values are not those of natural selection: you were right to clarify that and I did and do again apologize to you for not being careful to draw that distinction earlier.

    I think (the way I understand natural selection) that on natural selection there is no part of our makeup, whether emotional or physical or mental (intellectual) and so on which is not grounded in our genome (physicality). Penetrance and expression just all comes from there. So as the gamate mutates (genomic mutation, etc.) things “develop” in us….. emotional things, physical things, mental things.

    Every inclination we have and every itch we scratch, and so on, is just some small part of all of “that”. I just don’t see that that is a misrepresentation of natural selection as the sole source of all that we are, though, I could be wrong.

    I think the selective process has to be the sole source of all that we are given that God is excluded (on materialism etc.). Once God comes into the picture we are no longer automatons and so choice / volition come in and everything changes as “will” becomes the end of regress rather than genome.

    But again, that ontological end of regress is materialism’s end of regress.

    It’s not yours. Or mine.

    Because we (rightly) see beyond those ends to Other Ends.

    I think you disagree with the indifference of naturalism. I may be wrong, and so I will ask you:

    Do you?

    I think if you do (IMO you seem to) you can say that that (right/good) description of evil as evil came also from that selective process. The good parts do come from there. But I think the bad stuff does too. And the process itself just does not care about good/evil. It just perpetuates the genome. At any cost. So I think that is where evil things are also attributed to the indifference of naturalism’s ontological end. It truly is “indifferent”.

  146. Tom,

    Thanks so much for the clarification that you have provided here. You are correct in that this conversation has never been about comparing atheists to Nazis or disparaging the morals of atheists. IMO, atheists often cry foul when a discussion of Nazism is underway for two reasons:
    1) Some of them have a hard time distinguishing between the “ism” and the people who are followers of the “ism” (or “ity” in the case of Christianity). This is important to our core argument here, because our capacity to discuss the morality of an “ism” is, in and of itself, evidence of the existence of an objective transcendent moral standard.
    2) Atheists seem reluctant to examine the real, tangible, historical, verifiable consequences of a moral, ideological, social system based on a lack of moral accountability to God, i.e., any moral standard above and beyond its own decisions and actions on its own behalf, that we have evidenced in the Nazi regime in Germany. This is the reason why, IMO, we get the red herring arguments such as the (as you say) “baggage-free definition” of atheism or the protests that atheism and/or atheists are being “slandered.” If as atheists claim, atheism is merely a lack of belief in God, a rejection of claims of God’s existence and a rejection of theistic moral reasoning, then it is not only fair but vitally important to examine and discuss the very real consequences of a lack of belief in God and what moral reasoning in the absence of accountability to the Transcendent actually looks like.

  147. scbrownlhrm –

    I did and do again apologize to you for not being careful to draw that distinction earlier.

    I appreciate that. Thank you.

    I think (the way I understand natural selection) that on natural selection there is no part of our makeup, whether emotional or physical or mental (intellectual) and so on which is not grounded in our genome (physicality).

    I’m afraid that understanding is incorrect and woefully simplistic. It’s hard to tackle such a fundamental misunderstanding in a combox, but here’s a quick point: the ‘genome’ isn’t an omnipotent, precise set of digital blueprints. It’s far more like a recipe. Do you have any experience in a kitchen?

    My wife runs a bakery. I’m a computer programmer and engineer. You can give us both exactly the same cake recipe and ingredients and tools and oven, and I guarantee you’ll still be able to tell who made which final product. And that’s leaving aside things like the weather that day; pressure and humidity and such can have a dramatic effect on how baked goods turn out.

    No, not everything is in the ‘genome’. Even staunch ‘evolutionists’ dismiss that idea. For a much clearer idea of what evolution is and how it works, see David Sloan Wilson’s “Evolution For Everyone”. It’s a good intro, written well and clearly, and covers just those kind of misconceptions.

  148. Ray,

    I still don’t see that we can let Nature off the hook for anything.

    If you think that I am asserting that the genome is “magically some part of nature that is free of nature” you are mistaken.

    Naturalism doesn’t make that distinction nor do I.

    “Nature” is all blind, deterministic indifference.

    There is nothing but nature, Ray.

    You have not told me otherwise.

    The mere subtlety of a breeze here vs. a heavy storm there makes no difference. It’s all blind and indifferent nature.

    You seem to be reaching for a nature that is outside of nature, as if some other “something” is at work other than blind indifference.

    But why would any naturalist so much as imply such a thing?

    Did you really think I thought the genome is the only part of nature that is blind and indifferent?

    No.

    Every last bit of nature is blind, indifferent, and makes no distinction between “good” or “evil”. Whatever makes babies lives on, carries on. That is the Ends. The Means don’t matter, and never have.

    And because there is no part of nature that is free of her forces, nothing inside of nature is free. Everything is – at bottom – enslaved.

  149. Jenna @170

    If as atheists claim, atheism is merely a lack of belief in God, a rejection of claims of God’s existence and a rejection of theistic moral reasoning, then it is not only fair but vitally important to examine and discuss the very real consequences of a lack of belief in God and what moral reasoning in the absence of accountability to the Transcendent actually looks like.

    I absolutely agree… so how about we look at the Morality of Buddhism? If you’re not aware there is no God in Buddhism… Or perhaps Hinduism where Brahaman is more of an essence and is not a personal God in the same sense as your Christian God?

    So forget about the cry baby atheists/humanists such as myself who you obviously have no respect for… but consider these other two world views I’ve just given you that includes literally millions upon millions of people world wide who seem to be doing just fine without your God.

    The Dalai lama said “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” and really, that’s enough for me… I wish you well.

  150. Daniel,

    On #173,

    The letter codes on the surface don’t magically get rid of the inter-connecting archetypes beneath.

    As per #145.

    You need to make up your mind.

    Are we all so “radically different” that there can be no common regress of Archetypes found in all systems? But surely you don’t mean to label all the non-atheists as monsters?

    But if there is no billion-group-membership in the monster club then there is commonality.

    But if there is commonality then the letter codes have been proven (again) to be the icing on the surface, fragmentations of a larger whole, while those pan-system archetypes of the Whole remain intact beneath the surface (as discussed in #145).

    And those pan-system archetypes are intact.

    Perhaps you can make up your mind if they are or not and then commit. I’m not sure you can succeed in having it both ways. Atheists do this equivocation a lot. “There are such radical differences…” and then, “Are you saying half the human population are monsters?”

    I am committed to the evidence: there is commonality.

    As in: Anthropology and #145.

  151. Daniel at 152. I keep asserting and explaining what I’m asserting. You keep contradicting. If you want an answer to the why question you keep asking, just read the answers I’ve been providing over and over again. If you disagree, then explain why.

    More specifically:

    You say that humanists say, “there is no ‘sacrifice of humanness’ involved with the philosophy of Humanism or atheism for that matter.” Then you add, “so why do you keep asserting it as a required presupposition for your argument?”

    Two answers: One, I think the humanists are wrong. I keep explaining why I think the humanists are wrong. No one has given me any good reason to change my mind about this, so I keep asserting it.

    Two: I do not assert it as a required presupposition for my argument. I keep asserting it as a conclusion of an argument. There’s a difference.

    Again, if you disagree with the conclusion, please explain why. Linking to people who disagree with me is no help; I already knew not everyone agreed, believe it or not.

    Finally, forget the psychologizing, okay? Your thinly veiled insult, “so humble of you to delete ‘a veiled insult’ part of you initial retort,” was off the mark. I corrected it because it was, on further thought, inaccurate. I didn’t think it was a good choice of words. This time it is: you have offered a thinly veiled insult, and an inaccurate one at that.

    When you can read my mind and heart, and discern things I haven’t actually said here, you can feel free to transcribe that in a blog comment. Until then you might want to give up pretending omniscience.

  152. Daniel,

    My elder son is an ordained Buddhist priest. He and I have wonderful deep insightful and inspiring conversations about Buddhism and Christianity. He has a personal as well as intellectual understanding of Christianity because he was raised as a Christian (Episcopalian, to be precise). He has made it clear that although Buddhism is not a theistic religion, Buddhism is not atheism and only some Buddhists self-identify as atheists. What do I think of the moral system? I see nothing in the moral reasoning of Buddhism, most especially their focus on the causes and remedies of/for suffering, that conflicts with Christian moral reasoning. One of the sayings of Buddhism that my son has given me I especially like: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” He says that this saying embodies a fundamental principle of Buddhism: that meditation and spirituality’s purpose is prepare and empower us for service to humanity. This is what Jesus Christ teaches as well.

    I do respect atheists because they are humans. If I treat any atheist disrespectfully, I am in error. I also respect religious diversity as an artifact of human linguistic, geographic and cultural diversity. I disagree with you that any human being is “doing just fine without [your] God” because “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45 People around the world simply have different (diverse) understandings of/about God and different worship traditions. Pointing out religious diversity as an argument against God is akin to arguing that linguistic diversity is evidence that language doesn’t exist.

  153. Ray, as for “safe for humans,” that’s a judgment call. Remember, I never promised this blog would be a safe place for bad ideas, and I think he was saying that these are bad values that are, unfortunately, all too comfortably at home in your set of bad ideas. If you think otherwise, I suggest you take it up with him. If you think I’ve misinterpreted him, then I admit scblhrm is often quite hard to interpret. You can ask him for a clarification.

  154. scbrownlhrm @ 174

    Whatever “archetypes” you wanna believe you are free to do so… but I hardly consider your esoteric ramblings as representative of evangelical Christianity.

    “However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?” ― Gautama Buddha

    Words of wisdom from man who did not believe in your God.

  155. Daniel,

    On #178

    Are you saying, then, that we are all radically different without commonality? I disagree.

    But if you do think that there is no commonality (you say there are no archetypes intact across systems), then:

    Who are the monsters, and, who decides?

    C.S. Lewis’ description of the “Tao” is fairly common / core Christianity. The Triune God fits very well into that descriptive of inter-personal necessity as moral love just does consist of “Self-Other-Us” which just does end the regress inside of the Trinity.

    E Pluribus Unum, Daniel. That’s what God looks like. That is what love looks like. And, He’s made Man to be in His Image. Painful fragmentations of such exist. #145 is only a rough sketch as this is not the forum for a ten page essay.

  156. scbrownlhrm @179

    you keep saying “God is Love” then I encourage you to live it…. if you do that then sincerely, we’re cool.

  157. Tom,

    I offered Ray a very deserved apology. I was careless with both word and nuance to his (undeserved) detriment.

  158. Jenna @176

    He has made it clear that although Buddhism is not a theistic religion, Buddhism is not atheism

    I never said Buddhists were atheists in the same sense as Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens… but as you’ve recognized Buddhism is not a theistic religion and there is no God in Buddhism, that was my point.

    I would most likely enjoy a conversation with your son…. I wish you well.

  159. Daniel,

    On #181,

    God is Love? That may be ambiguous for some. So, instead, we say this: Ultimate Actuality is Love.

    We both know that that truth-statement about reality is actually true or it is pure fantasy.

    Given the evidence from a wide array of vectors, both internal and external to myself, I’ve concluded that it is the fact of the matter.

  160. @Tom

    Daniel, are you impressed with the morality of Hinduism? I’m not.
    Buddhism? No, not that, either.

    Buddhism… absolutely.

    Hinduism, I think Ghandi who was Hindu said it best when asked:

    “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is it that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”

    Gandhi replied:

    “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.”

  161. “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.”

    And the Hindus are any better at it?

  162. BillT @186

    And the Hindus are any better at it?

    Probably not… but at least they supposedly have an excuse. 😉

  163. Daniel @180: You continue your practice of tossing quick jabs with no substance. Would you like to explain what you mean by humility in this context, and how I’ve failed to live up to it?

    I have a low regard for sloganeering, whether by Christians or others.

  164. I will at least take your silence toward most of what I wrote in #175 to indicate that I won’t need to explain all that again, Daniel.

  165. Tom @189

    Daniel, you cannot know anything about India’s caste system and maintain any high regard for Hindu ethics.

    Read carefully. I answered your question in regard to Buddhism and Hinduism by saying “Buddhism.. absolutely” in fact it was Buddhism that was the first religion to confront the caste system of India. But aside from that how is the caste system of India any different than the feudal state of Medieval Europe in which Christianity flourished?

    But I don’t suspect you really intended to go down that rabbit trail so I answer… no, I don’t respect the caste system of India and neither did the Buddha.

  166. ?? How does that answer the questions in 188 and 190? ??

    Okay then…Please keep in mind I am fully aware that words on a screen do not convey proper tone nor do they reflect the full character of the person on the other side of the screen. So I do try to keep that in mind because I want to believe you’re a decent guy as well I ask that my words in answer to you here be considered with the same grace… but at times you come across as bit controlling and arrogant and I wonder if I’m genuinely the first person to tell you this?

    Feel free to do with that as you like… I wish you well.

  167. Daniel,

    You see a problem or a need for blame in the sins of Christians?

    But why?

    You need to be careful about blame. It implies Ought-Not-Have. Guilt and Grace are odd things, neither of which finds any coherence in atheism’s paradigm of indifference.

    So, you must instead mean something like this:

    You mean to say, “They believe X so for them doing non-x is/was bad, but, if I were to do non-x it would be okay”.

    Is that where you are reasoning justified blame comes from?

  168. Controlling? No one has to comment here, but for those who do, the level of control I wish to exert is very clearly laid out in the discussion policy. Basically I want it to be a high-quality discussion, and without apology, I take enough control to ensure that it is.

    Arrogant? There’s no good way for a person to respond to that charge without walking right into it, so I won’t try. I’m certainly willing to hear specifics; I don’t learn much from generalities such as “you come across a bit … arrogant.”

    If you want to know whether I’ve been called arrogant before on this blog, I could search and display the instances for you.

  169. Daniel,

    I think you like the idea of love, but I also think that you’ve lost sight of the fact that your opinion that love should be first just is not binding on reality, especially other people who disagree with you. And I think you’ve lost sight of the fact that inside of atheism’s paradigm which has indifference at the end of every sentence, you’ve no justification for such assertions of blame or love.

    If you find in others that which merits blame, and, if you find in yourself that which merits blame, then you need to take it seriously, or, you need to just forget it because wish-fulfillment / autohypnosis is not healthy.

    “However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?” ― Gautama Buddha

    Buddha’s paradigm and Atheism’s paradigm just house no reason at all to believe in anything but competing whims as the true nature of what is going on in what is in fact a purely subjective reality.

    Buddha tells us to listen to truth. You are perceiving the truth of the need for the ontological room for realities like blame and forgiveness and Ought-Not and Grace but you just ignore them.

    Yet you post quotes of Buddha telling us to listen to truth.

    Well, if the truth is that there is no objective moral truth, then I guess you should (whatever that word means) ignore all that incoming information.

  170. I respect Tom because through his writings and his interactions with people on this blog he has earned it. But this is a far cry from hero worship, Daniel.

    But the intended insult doesn’t bother me. Indeed, I believe that it is evidence that you feel the need to deflect the course of the conversation and that mild insults, as well as your inability to stay on topic, are your weapons of choice.

    Meh…

  171. Thank you for granting me that permission, Daniel.

    Since you have felt the freedom to describe my character as you see it, I will exercise the freedom to make an observation about your behavior here. You have been practicing a tactic of zap-and-retreat. You raised a question in #22 which I answered in #26, which you ignored after that.

    You offered a substance free zap (SFZ, which I’m defining here as any statement, complaint, or criticism that comes with no supporting reasons or explanation) in #33, to which I responded in #37, which you answered in #42 by repeating essentially the same SFZ (see #44). That was a retreat rather than a response.

    Comment #46 was another SFZ. I answered it in #47. Your answer in #49 contained some substance, but only by changing the subject. Not quite a retreat, but very similar in effect.

    You accused me of a “slanderous presentation of atheism,” which Billy Squibs asked you to elaborate in #56. You responded by recursively mentioning the same thing he had asked you to elaborate and by reference to Godwin’s law. When I explained the appropriate use of Godwin’s law in #79 you ignored it: another zap-and-retreat.

    Your comment #83 was an extended one, and quite substantive; but when I answered you in #88 you ignored it. Another retreat.

    I asked you in #87 to specify what you thought I had misrepresented in the OP–see #70, which was of course, an SFZ in that it came with no backing of reason or substance. You didn’t answer. Another zap-and-retreat.

    Along about that time Billy noted (#100) that this pattern was in evidence. You answered with respect to the other post he had mentioned, but then you SFZed him with a gratuitous charge of “hero worship.

    In #109 scbrownlhrm pointed out that you hadn’t demonstrated a point with respect to the UNUDHR and Hitler. You SFZed back and retreated simultaneously in #111. scbrownlhrm tried to engage you on the actual point in #114, which you did not answer. Another retreat.

    Twice, in #122 and #125, you charged us with believing,

    the other 70-80% people in the world being so completely depraved, that they have no ability to know that it’s wrong to speak of Lebensunwertes Leben because they don’t worship your God.

    scbrownlhm answered that in #128. You ignored that answer. I responded in #136. You ignored that answer. Another zap-and-retreat.

    In #147 you SFZed me with “how is it you are still not clear on humanism.” I requested clarification in #149, referencing the same passage you had quoted from (out of context) in #147. In #151 you essentially repeated your SFZ, this time with links, to which I responded again in #175. You ignored that answer completely: another retreat.

    In #180, you SFZed me. I requested clarification in #188. You ignored that request. Another zap-and-retreat.

    In #192 you SFZed me. I requested clarification in #193. You answered this time (#194), but you did so in such a way that it raised further questions for me, which I asked in #198. (Meanwhile you SFZed Billy in #196.) You ignored my questions of #198: another retreat.

    *****

    That’s about a dozen SFZs and an equal number of retreats that I’ve identified, Dan, in your forty or so comments here so far. There were others: I could have lifted out further instances in your interchanges with scbrownlhm, but I didn’t want to re-read the whole thread closely enough to detail them.

    *****

    Here’s my conclusion to all of this.

    I don’t have any problem taking criticism, but when someone presents a substance-free jab at me, and I ask them to explain it, and they refuse to answer, that’s unhelpful to me, it’s annoying, and it doesn’t display much integrity or courage on the part of the person doing the jabbing.

    So I’m going to ask you to be prepared to be held accountable for any SFZs you try on us in the future. They don’t do you any good, and they annoy us.

    *****

    P.S. I’ve just refreshed the page, prior to posting this comment, and I see Billy has used the word “deflect” to describe your tactics here. It’s pretty much the same thing as what I’ve detailed here.

  172. scbrownlhrm @197 & 199

    So, you must instead mean something like this:
    You mean to say, “They believe X so for them doing non-x is/was bad, but, if I were to do non-x it would be okay”.

    For the first time I think I can actually decipher one of your equations… lol.

    And actually No that’s not what I’m saying… what I’m saying is “They believe X so for them to doing non-x is/was bad just as if I were to do non-x they would call it bad and I too would consider it bad.” It’s the principle of empathy and reciprocity…do not act toward others in a way which you would not want them to act towards you. (I do believe even Jesus said something about that)

    In the case of this argument it plays out like this:

    A representation of atheism / humanism is made.

    Reading this claim I step in saying essentially – “I am an athiest and humanist and your representation of atheism is wrong and the claims you’re making in regard to humanism are wrong also, here’s why” and I provide links.

    The Christian response? Too bad “I think the humanists are wrong… No one has given me any good reason to change my mind about this, so I keep asserting it.” as well this representation of atheism/humanism is a “conclusion” not a presupposition “if you disagree with the conclusion, please explain why. Linking to people who disagree with me is no help.”

    So likewise if I repeatedly asserted Christian are evil because they burned witches and would continue to do so if the law did not prevent them because it’s commanded of them to burn witches in the Bible Exodus 22:18

    Based upon the empathy & reciprocity on display at this blog I would be justified to continue my assertions even if a Christian here here were to tell me otherwise because “I think Christians are wrong” “No one has given me any good reason to change my mind about this” and “Linking to people who disagree with me is no help.”

    You see it’s a conclusion not a presupposition.

    and scbrownlhrm @199

    And I think you’ve lost sight of the fact that inside of atheism’s paradigm which has indifference at the end of every sentence, you’ve no justification for such assertions of blame or love.

    One more time.. there is no paradigm within atheism. Do Christians accept the title Theists in the since that they are equal and accountable for every Theistic system and world view that is Theistic? Is it appropriate for me to assert that the Christian paradigm denigrates women because they force them to wear the burqa? Anyone with simple common sense should be able to recognize the answer is no, that’s not Christianity that’s Islam.

    The same applies to atheism… it is the same type of moniker that “theism” is… can you not see that? “A” theism… atheism. To assert that “atheists” this or “atheists” that is simply ridiculous. I’m telling you as an atheist there are different world views and “paradigms” within atheism. And as it’s already been discussed with Jenna not all atheists are humanists.

    And so the justification for ‘love’ in my world view is not from atheism it is from Humanism… and we can simply agree to disagree on whether or not Humanism or Buddhism houses any “reason at all to believe in anything” because I see that it does, no God necessary.

    Namaste

  173. Especially when the only external links you’ve actually provided here were to the UN UDHR, which is of doubtful relevance to any major claim we’ve made here, and which scbrownlhrm answered anyway; and to Sam Harris’s moral challenge, which was parenthetical.

    (I’ve searched for other links three times using three methods. Did I miss some?)

  174. You say, “One more time.. there is no paradigm within atheism.” Did you really mean to ignore (retreat from) #82?

    (I missed that particular retreat in my earlier long list.)

  175. Tom @202

    In the spirit of reasoned debate, the one place where you actually quote my supposed SFZ

    Twice, in #122 and #125, you charged us with believing,

    the other 70-80% people in the world being so completely depraved, that they have no ability to know that it’s wrong to speak of Lebensunwertes Leben because they don’t worship your God.

    This was Not answered by the (I’ll use Billy’s word too) deflection you give me in #136 because the key word in what I said there is “know”… your own words from the OP “The humanist cannot say that he knows this is wrong.” with the implication that because the atheist/humanist hasn’t accepted your view of God they can’t truly “know” morality in the same way that you know morality. So how is it not reasonable to say that the rest of the world who also doesn’t recognize the Christian God likewise would not “know” morality in the same way that you do?

    As for the rest of it… see #203

    You’ve still not convinced me of humility… but I wish you the best.

  176. Tom @ 206

    Did you really mean to ignore (retreat from) #82?

    Which part of that would you like me to address? Specifically what part of that do you really feel justifies your denigration of Humanism? If you’re asking for a line by line.. give me a minute.

  177. Daniel @#207, I think you missed the common rhetorical technique I used when I said, “The humanist cannot say…” This is a method employed over and over again in philosophical discussions and arguments. It is shorthand for, “The humanist qua humanist cannot say… ” or, “The humanist speaking strictly from the vantage point of, or on the basis of, humanist premises, cannot say …”

    This is the position that I defended (not deflected, but defended) in the OP and again in #136.

    But if you want to focus on this as an error on my part, that’s fine with me. It’s a great way for you to deflect attention from the other dozen or so SFZs and retreats that I referred to.

  178. A website is not a counterargument

    A website is a resource that you should use for research before you draw your “conclusions” regarding world views you wish to attack.

  179. Daniel, I would love a line-by-line substantive response to #82! Especially if it was well-reasoned! What makes you doubt that we would want that?

  180. Daniel @212: thank you for that advice. Now, did you have any counter-arguments to what we wrote, or do you simply want to remind us that there are people who disagree with us about what atheism and humanism entail? We already knew that. I have already studied humanism at some considerable length.

    I presented an argument for my position, with reasons supporting it. Unless I’m presented with reasoning that undercuts my argument, I don’t see any reason to change my position. The existence of a humanist website certainly isn’t a reason. Now, if there were counter-arguments to my position on that website, that might be interesting. Why don’t you go there and see if there are any? Let us know what you find. I’ll be glad to engage with those arguments if you bring them here.

  181. Daniel,

    On what ontological end point do you justify Humanism granting inherent Ought / Ought Not across Mankind?

    You said we agree to disagree and so I assume you have something with necessary ontological ties rather than blind axiom’s epistemology.

  182. Tom @ 206 & 213

    Did you really mean to ignore (retreat from) #82?

    First off again for the purpose of the OP atheism is akin to theism in that the word theism does not define Christianity… Christians are different that Muslims but they are both Theists… therefore the word atheism does not define every person who holds to the rejection of all gods. There are atheists who would consider themselves Humanists and atheists who would not. But I will attempt to answer this “list” in the view of an atheist or in a general way as person who has rejected all gods.

    1) including the belief that the universe is fundamentally impersonal The universe and whether it is or is not impersonal has no baring on how we treat each other as human beings. Does what is going on right now in Sydney Australia affect the way you treat your family and friends who are right there with you? Also the point is not exclusive to atheism because there are religious systems that don’t believe in the same type of personal God that Christians do.

    2) that humans are not accountable to any higher being Morality does not necessitate that humans be accountable to any higher being. See Buddhism that while I’m not claiming is atheism does not hold to any type of personal God or higher being…and which is by the way a much more peaceful religious system than Christianity.

    3) That humans are the highest form of intelligence and wisdom we could possibly know at this stage in history. What does that have to do with your assertions regarding Morality? Again atheism has nothing to do with biology… but If a person has rejected all gods and holds this view they could very likely be a Humanist which is a celebration of the fact we are the highest form of intelligence and wisdom at this stage in history in a positive way saying this is why you should respect and love your fellow man. Also I would add this question.. how is it that you sincerely don’t recognize that we are the most intelligent and wise right now as we’ve been as a species throughout our history? You’re sitting in front of a computer screen having a conversation with me via data bytes instead of in your cave eating Mammoth… if your assertion is in relation to “evolution” you should keep in mind there are Christians who accept science and reality of evolution.

    4) that no form of religion is authoritative Not sure how to respond to this one.. there are times when I honestly wish I could step outside of existence and literally let all religions have their Armageddon and kill each other off. No religion counts any other religion as authoritative so this is simply a ridiculous, and arrogant claim of Christianity being the ONE True (with a capital T) religion that feels they should have authority over the entire world…. if you don’t like this answer see #2

    5) that therefore morality (if it exists at all) must come from some other source yes….that is the argument isn’t it?… not sure how you feel this mystery denigrates atheism or humanism though? Hypothetically speaking what if (again this is a what if) but what if humans were planted here by an alien race, or perhaps if we are truly plugged into the matrix or simply brains in a vat. Those answers are a different source for morality that doesn’t include your God… in reality you don’t “know” the source of morality, you simply assert that you do. So how does this mystery of whatever the source of morality actually is justify your denigration of atheism or humanism? You may disagree with Sam Harris’ the Moral Landscape and other books on Morality from a secular perspective but atheists have given reasoned answers for Morality… you’re free to disagree but vitriolic “conclusions” aren’t justified.- Do unto others.

    6) and more… That was the last one… really not many Nazi worthy bomb shells in your list Tom.

    I obviously disagree and do not respect your continued justification for your “conclusions” of Humanism or atheism but I wish you well my friend.

  183. We could probably use some clarification on this, Daniel:

    there are times when I honestly wish I could step outside of existence and literally let all religions have their Armageddon and kill each other off…. but I wish you well my friend.

  184. Tom @ 218

    We could probably use some clarification on this, Daniel

    Forgive me that was one line of my own vitriolic frustration in this conversation that I allowed to slip in… it was simply in answer to the fact every religion considers itself the ultimate authority over mankind.

  185. Otherwise,

    Your response to 1 fails the test of logic. You say that it matters not whether the universe is personal at its core. As long as it remains logically possible, however, that the universe has a personal foundation, it is also logically possible that the Person at its foundation has a moral nature and would hold humans accountable. So logically speaking, it does at least potentially make a difference whether the universe is personal at its core.

    More specifically, your answer to that question also entails that it makes no difference whether the God of Christianity is real. This is not a trivial doesn’t-make-any-difference kind of issue, as I’m sure you would have to agree.

    Your responses to 2 and 3 miss the point. You had said that atheism is a lack of belief. Points 2 and 3 undercut that claim, whether they have moral implications or not. Point 2 certainly does, however, and Point 3 at least possibly does.

    Also, you ask, “how is it that you sincerely don’t recognize that we are the most intelligent and wise right now as we’ve been as a species throughout our history?” I do recognize that (at least with respect to science and technology; I’m not so sure about art and ethics). I also recognize that God is infinitely more intelligent and wise than we are.

    Your response to 4, besides being incredibly violent (while holding up Buddhism as a model of peacefulness!) draws a false conclusion. Yes, people have different and contradictory beliefs about the fundamental nature of reality. That includes every atheist. The fact that people disagree does not entail that every person is wrong. It is entirely possible for one belief system to be essentially on track with reality, even if every other system disagrees with it. As for arrogance, that’s a tangent to the current discussion, but if you want a balancing perspective I can offer you one.

    In number 5 you have SFZed me again with “vitriolic conclusions are not justified.” Would you care to specify where you see vitriol? When you find it, please compare it with your own language in point 4 here. Also here, here,or here (another SFZ I missed earlier).

  186. However, Daniel,…

    I understand that humility is a specifically Christian virtue. It’s not a virtue prescribed by atheism. I get that. Still, you’ve been pushing me pretty hard on the humility issue, and it seems important to you somehow.

    The usual humble response, when one is faced with an enumerated list of identifiable errors, would be to say something like, “Oh, no, I’m so sorry,” or, “Oh, no, I had no idea that’s what I was actually doing,” or “Oh, do you really think that’s true? I’ll at least have to give it some thought.”

    I look in vain for that kind of response from you, following number 202.

    In fact, what I see is a new deflection.

    What do you have to say about the pattern I have identified there? Is it fair? Is it accurate? Does it reflect something about your character? These are questions I hope you’re at least asking yourself. I won’t press you to answer them here, since that would be too pushy of me–but again, I do hope you’re asking them of yourself.

  187. I appreciate your acknowledgment of vitriolic frustration

    yeah.. it’s called humility, you should try it some time.

  188. Tom @222

    I understand that humility is a specifically Christian virtue. It’s not a virtue prescribed by atheism. I get that. Still, you’ve been pushing me pretty hard on the humility issue, and it seems important to you somehow.

    Again Tom… asserting to me of things “prescribed by atheism” is the same as if I continued to insult you by ascribing the tenets of Islam to your “theism” Why do you force your women to wear Burqa’s?… how many times have I said this now?

    As for Humility, yes it is important to me as a Humanist based upon empathy and reciprocity… Do unto others (which by the way did not originate from Jesus)

    The usual humble response, when one is faced with an enumerated list of identifiable errors, would be to say something like, “Oh, no, I’m so sorry,” or, “Oh, no, I had no idea that’s what I was actually doing,” or “Oh, do you really think that’s true? I’ll at least have to give it some thought.” I look in vain for that kind of response from you, following number 202. In fact, what I see is a new deflection.

    I sincerely hope you’re not serious… I have humbly taken the time to give you a line by line break down of what you felt was an import list #82 this comment of yours in #202 is essentially your version of this entire argument and includes your very own vitriolic creation of what you obviously consider a witty acronym.

    My version of the atmosphere of this blog which lead to your #202 is spelled out in my #203 (notice the timing of your post and mine 7:14 and 7:16)

    From my #203

    In the case of this argument it plays out like this:

    A representation of atheism / humanism is made.

    Reading this claim I step in saying essentially – “I am an athiest and humanist and your representation of atheism is wrong and the claims you’re making in regard to humanism are wrong also, here’s why” and I provide links.

    The Christian response? Too bad “I think the humanists are wrong… No one has given me any good reason to change my mind about this, so I keep asserting it.” as well this representation of atheism/humanism is a “conclusion” not a presupposition “if you disagree with the conclusion, please explain why. Linking to people who disagree with me is no help.”

    So likewise if I repeatedly asserted Christian are evil because they burned witches and would continue to do so if the law did not prevent them because it’s commanded of them to burn witches in the Bible Exodus 22:18

    Based upon the empathy & reciprocity on display at this blog I would be justified to continue my assertions even if a Christian here here were to tell me otherwise because “I think Christians are wrong” “No one has given me any good reason to change my mind about this” and “Linking to people who disagree with me is no help.”

    You see it’s a conclusion not a presupposition.

    So did I miss your example of a humble reply to this Tom? As you just said regarding #202 why can I not likewise say of my #203 “I look in vain for that kind of response from you, following number [203]. In fact, what I see is a new deflection.”

    I feel it’s important to keep in mind that the words on a screen do not convey proper tone nor do they reflect the full character of the person on the other side of the screen, and that there is in fact an actual breathing human person on the other side of this screen… perhaps that’s the humanist in me.

    So in spite of your refusal to admit any wrong in your OP or in the proceeding “conversation”… I will say again as I’ve said twice now in this thread #64 & 139 – If you agree that [affirming our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. – which is Humanism] is “more right” then you and I really don’t disagree on much… other than the God issue, and I’m personally fine with that and don’t see why it should hinder any of our shared goals as listed in that above statement.

    Any miscommunication on my part that is scattered in my comments throughout the heated stretch of this “conversation”… I do apologize. (particularly to Billy Squibs)

    My presence here on your blog was by accident because I followed a link from another atheist friends Facebook… In my initial remarks concerning the misrepresentation of Humanism I was reading (riddled with I’ve told you are offensive associations with Nazism) I admit I was hoping for the display of what you proclaim as a “Christian virtue” … humility… I have yet to witness it. What does that say about this as blog as a “ministry” or is it really just a sharing station for those who already believe as you do?

    So considering as an atheist I do not have grounds for humility but you assert that you do… I leave you with your own words. “Does it reflect something about your character? These are questions I hope you’re at least asking yourself. I won’t press you to answer them here, since that would be too pushy of me–but again, I do hope you’re asking them of yourself.”

  189. Daniel,

    1 of 2 posts for you:

    On what ontological end point do you justify Humanism granting inherent (ontologically necessary) Ought across Mankind?

    You said we agree to disagree. Now, I take that to mean this:

    We both agree that everything you are offering is, in the end, a contest of opinions, and so we agree that it is obvious that indifference ends every sentence in any paradigm that is void of transcendent love granting moral love binding (ontologically necessary) in all possible worlds and thus all that is left is the engineering process of selection wherein the same processes which foster empathy also value, favor, select for, and maintain the summation of inclinations and irrationally conditioned neuronal reflexes which in sum bubble up into the manifestation of what we call sex slavery.

    But you said we disagree. So I take that to mean you actually feel Humanism (somehow) grants moral love as ontologically binding (ontologically necessary) across Mankind even though selective processes disagree and even though whim disagrees.

    Thus: I assume you have something with necessary ontological ties rather than blind axiom’s epistemology to justify that claim.

    I haven’t seen you justify anything of that sort. I’ve only heard you offer subjectivity and, in blind axiom’s death of circularity, inexplicably tie it to some sort of inherent Ought which inexplicably transcends selection, whim, and ontological indifference.

    So, on what ontological end point do you justify your claim that Humanism grants inherent (inherent, i.e. ontologically necessary) Ought-Love across Mankind yesterday, today, and tomorrow?

  190. Daniel,

    The 2nd (of 2) posts for you:

    I ended the first with this:

    “I’ve only heard you offer subjectivity and, in blind axiom’s death of circularity, inexplicably tie it to some sort of inherent Ought which inexplicably transcends selection, whim, and ontological indifference. So, on what ontological end point do you justify your claim that Humanism grants inherent (inherent, i.e. ontologically necessary) Ought-Love across Mankind yesterday, today, and tomorrow?”

    I’ll read your reply, but, if you are careful to look at what “ontological necessity” entails, that is the burden you’ll have to meet.

    I know you will fail to find an ontologically necessary love anywhere inside of your paradigm of necessarily deterministic indifference.

    Immutable Love is offered here simply for contrast / comparison:

    Source and effect as it relates to a moral first cause brings us to a regress into love’s inherent inter-personal dynamics.

    On Atheism / Naturalism the final source of all ought is cultural/individual whim and is thus “personal” in blind axiom’s circularity. But that kind of “personal” must embrace all sorts of ugly interpersonal outcomes on pain of circularity. If we refuse such blind circularity we see that if X regresses into Y as the first-cause, X is contingent where Y is not.

    A good example may be our bodies, which are contingent. They are not immutable nor are they transcendent. They are real, they are really contingent, and they are really ever-changing. So in that sense the word “real” is what it is and no more. Child Sacrifice housing “ought-do-this” is wholly “real” in that sense of the word “real”. They “really believed” that that was/is “really” Good, and so it really was good. That is the problem with morality being contingent on anything less than Immutable Love.

    Contingency becomes a real problem when we look at the word “transcendence” and the word “ought” and the word “real”.

    Once we grant contingent ends to morality all bets are off, as in naturalism’s favoring of, valuing of, selection for, and maintenance of sex slavery in the human construct.

    Once we grant an end of regress which falls short of transcendence, nothing is binding in any way at all, not “really”, that is, nothing is ontologically necessary other than nature’s paradigm of deterministic indifference.

    Once we grant an ontological regress which ends in any place that is on necessity void of interpersonal relations, an uninterpretable epistemology is necessarily born out of such an impersonal ontology.

    As in:

    Sam Harris wholly eliminates intention / volition from reality and he is intellectually honest for doing so. His refusal to employ semantic equivocation there is refreshing. Harris scoffs at the sort of thinking that thinks the criminal actually had any choice in the matter. “Man” just dances to the music played by genomic / nature’s blind, pitiless indifference. A Moral First Cause that is impersonal, void of volition, deterministic, mutable, and nonbinding (non-transcendent) can be said to be “real” but if that is what morality “really is” then we have that and that alone. We do not magically have more than that. Harris attempted to posit that (A) “flourishing of happy sentient beings” [equals] (B) “ontologically real morality” and ended up with an unavoidably false identity claim at the end of his Moral Landscape. Epistemology so divorced from ontology is a “real epistemology” which grants an entirely arbitrary morality.

    The Trinity and ontologically necessary interpersonal dynamics within love:

    An example of interpersonal necessity just is housed within the Trinity Who is unique here and provides ontological necessity where no other can. An end of regress which lands amid the Christian God’s “interior milieu” of that fully singular, fully triune interior composition of “Self-Other-Us” beautifully rings true to what we intuit in love as such an end point satisfies the necessary interpersonal moral first cause of Personhood’s ontological bedrock within morality’s / love’s E Pluribus Unum. Moral love just ends up being triune at bottom even as moral love just ends up being singular at bottom. In all possible worlds we find such a One at the end of every conceivable sentence.

  191. Daniel, you say, after quoting me first,

    I appreciate your acknowledgment of vitriolic frustration

    yeah.. it’s called humility, you should try it some time.

    Thank you for that. See this at the top of this very page:

    Update April 8: I left out some important context when I wrote this post, which you may find by jumping down to comment #138. My apologies for the error and the confusion that resulted. I’m deprecating this post because of the errors, and asking you to read here instead.

    In comment #136:

    Granted, the post began with a statement of my conclusion. That’s not the usual way to begin an argument, I understand. I chose that as my opening so that it would be clear what the topic was. I could have done better with it, I see now. I think if I were to re-write it I would have opened it this way instead.

    In comment #137:

    I see now, again, that I could have improved the OP, this time by including AB1 to AB5 as a reminder of where this post fits in to the discussion. I apologize for all the conclusion that omission caused.

    Comment #142:

    Tom Gilson says:
    April 8, 2014 at 10:29 am (Edit)
    I’ve just “deprecated” this post because of all the confusion generated by errors in context when I wrote it. You’re welcome to continue the discussion here, or you can move on over to the new version.

    I’m a little surprised, then, that you think I “should try it.” (More on that question at the end of this comment.)

    You say, “this comment of yours in #202 is essentially your version of this entire argument.” I have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s my set of observations concerning your zap-and-retreat style of interaction.

    I understand you don’t find the atmosphere here congenial to you (#203 and other locations). I don’t know why I should take a warm, welcoming attitude toward the kinds of substance-free zingers you’ve kept delivering, and I don’t know why we shouldn’t expect you to stand up for what you’ve said, after you’ve said it. If you were to cease that particular style of zap-and-retreat commenting, I think you’d find this a whole lot more enjoyable interaction.

    My reply to #203 was in #204, #205, and #206. I couldn’t understand what you were getting at in your paragraphs beginning, “So likewise … ” and “Based upon …” so I skipped over them. I can see now I could have handled that better, and I apologize for that.

    If you agree that [affirming our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. – which is Humanism] is “more right” then you and I really don’t disagree on much… other than the God issue, and I’m personally fine with that and don’t see why it should hinder any of our shared goals as listed in that above statement.

    I think it’s more right, I agree that you hold it as being more right, but I don’t think any version of atheistic humanism has a coherent basis upon which to say that it’s more right. I’m not attacking your ethics at all when I say that; I’m attacking a philosophical position. And the only attack I’m bringing there is the charge of logical incoherence.

    I think it’s interesting you continue to find the associations with Nazism, which have “riddled the discussion,” to paraphrase you, to be offensive. It came up once in the OP, where I was quoting an atheist. Later in the discussion it came up in the form of questions about how atheism and humanism could coherently provide a moral response to Nazism. It surprises me that you find those kinds of questions offensive. If someone asked me how Christianity would respond to Nazism, I would (a) tell them what I know about how Christianity as a social system responded to it, both the good and the bad (there was both), and (b) tell them what I think the ethical system of Christianity would have to say about it. That’s not offensive to me.

    I don’t know exactly what humility means to you, but in Christian terms, humility and strength go together. G. K. Chesterton put it best:

    What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert–himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.

    So int that light I will continue to press forward with my convictions. I will present Christianity in all its truth and glory without reserve, and myself as a very imperfect follower of Christ. That latter part doesn’t come up that often in threads like this one, because I’m talking about belief systems, not about myself. It does, however, show up when I make mistakes, which I am committed to acknowledging and correcting, just as I have done more than once on this post, and many times in previous discussions.

    I will keep my mouth shut when I don’t know what I’m talking about, except I will ask questions, to grow in understanding. I will give people room to respond, I will often specifically invite them to respond, and I will often ask them to correct my impressions if I have misunderstood them.

    I will listen when they respond, and to the best of my ability based on schedule and other factors, I will respond back to them in turn; I will not ignore or retreat.

    I will do all of this quite imperfectly, in spite of my best efforts.

    I think that’s consistent with Christian humility, as demonstrated by Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles. If you have a different idea of what humility means, I’d be interested to hear it.

  192. Moving the conversation along slightly, the BHA (British Humanist Association) have recently released a series of videos promoting Secular Humanism. Of the four or so that they have released there is one video in particular that is relevant to our discussion. Both the video and a critique of it can be found here.

  193. I don’t know exactly what humility means to you, but in Christian terms… (quote from G. K. Chesterton)… I think that’s consistent with Christian humility. If you have a different idea of what humility means, I’d be interested to hear it.

    Again.. Humility is based upon empathy and reciprocity – Do unto others. Would it not be “in Christian terms” to use Jesus’ words “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

    Exampled and explained in the “So likewise…” and “Based upon…” statements where you simply “skipped over them”

    As another example which you seem to feel completely comfortable continuing even in your reply to me here is your jabbing and insult laden acronym. Should I be grateful and consider it a display of humility that you’re now spelling it out instead of using SFZ ? (substance-free zingers) Would it be appropriate if I created one for my opinion of you in regard to this entire conversation? That from my perspective your entire argument is Misrepresentation-Assertion and Denial… (MAD) Would it be humble of me to use such a tactic and repeatedly use it as I address you conversation?

    I’ve provided you links to the American Humanist Association website and your response in your MAD (Misrepresentation-Assertion-Denial) fashion was simply

    The existence of a humanist website certainly isn’t a reason. Now, if there were counter-arguments to my position on that website, that might be interesting. Why don’t you go there and see if there are any? Let us know what you find.

    Which fits with your previous MAD defense of

    I think the humanists are wrong… No one has given me any good reason to change my mind about this, so I keep asserting it.

    Your deprecating of this post doesn’t change the fact that you still feel it’s appropriate to misrepresent atheism and Humanism as being a “denial of humanness” for the purposes of building your case of Christian superiority as the exclusive source for knowing morality.

    I truly regret attempting to engage you in conversation and have wasted way too much time on your blog… you are free to consider my response to you here as yet another SFZ if you wish, but I’m done.

    I will leave you to “present Christianity in all its truth and glory without reserve” to your faithful blog readers.

    I wish you well.

  194. Daniel,

    Atheists and Humanists affirm our humanness and moral ought.

    Atheism and Humanism cannot. They lack the ontological wherewithal.

    As per my challenge to you in my last post to you (2 part post).

    It’s nothing more than that……

  195. Daniel,

    In other words, Atheists and Humanists know truths (moral ought) which their respective “isms” cannot coherently ground without resorting to blind axiom.

  196. scbrownlhrm –

    “Nature” is all blind, deterministic indifference.

    Humans are part of nature, and they aren’t blind or indifferent. QED.

    Every last bit of nature is blind, indifferent, and makes no distinction between “good” or “evil”. Whatever makes babies lives on, carries on.

    Ah, but you missed at least two things. There are lots of different ways to ‘make babies’, and some work better than others. Cooperation is a viable option, and life isn’t a zero-sum game. And also, as I’ve been trying to explain to you, not everything humans do is dictated by evolution, even from a naturalistic perspective.

    Seriously, at least try to familiarize yourself better with these concepts before attacking them.

  197. Ray,

    After you’ve told me what part of you isn’t from nature, tell me what part of you is at bottom free of her.

  198. Ray,

    Finally, since you disagree with the neuroscientist Sam Harris, explain those physical systems inside your skull that are free of nature’s deterministic, indifferent, and blind reverberations.

  199. Do you think Daniel really doesn’t get the distinction between his substance-free zingers (that being the lack of substance in them) and what he accuses Tom of doing. And his huffy exit after what can only be considered a conciliatory post by Tom. Or is he just trying to cover his tracks.

  200. This is Humanism…warmth of the human heart

    I link to a video series run by the BHA and instead of commenting on it (even to say it’s fantastic) you link to an ad for life assurance. Okaaay!

    If Humanism is simply just being a good egg then fine, I’ve no problem with it. (Let’s ignore the critique of the BHA’s videos for now.) However, the point of this blog post wasn’t about Humanists helping old ladies across the road and generally being top blokes. It was about the very foundation of morality and why we consider any action to be good or bad in the first place. The is/ought problem is still very much a problem for us all. Nothing you’ve said here – or at least nothing I’ve seen you say – has, to my mind, addressed that satisfactorily. Similarly, the BHA doesn’t address it either in their video.

    Tell me, Daniel, can you say that ” Dachau was wrong” is a factually correct statement in and of itself? Please feel free to expand on your answer.

  201. Billy Squibs @241

    I try to leave… but you drag me back in… I guess I like you Billy 😉

    In answer to your post about the BHA. I did watch and I did like it… didn’t remark about it because 1) you seemed to agree with the critique, so not much point of me saying anything… and 2) I was intending to leave (as mentioned above)

    “Dachau was wrong?” … answering that question would drag me back into this so called debate which in all honesty has no relevance on daily life as exampled in the video that I shared with you… for me the compassion, the love, the humanity expressed in that video that’s what matters… yes it was a commercial but that’s irrelevant. If this isn’t what matters in life then I have absolutely no interest in your supposed Supreme Christian Morality.

    Here’s the funny thing about atheists though… a whole lot of us are former Christians. We just no longer see the arrogance of Christianity as being a good thing.

    If you absolutely must know why the answer to your question is yes it was morally wrong from a secular perspective I refer you as I’ve done before to Sam Harris the Moral Landscape… if you say you’ve read the book and disagree with it then there is really nothing that I would be able to say to convince you that Morality doesn’t require “magic” now is there? So why would you or I want to waste the time?

    I wish you well Billy… and if you didn’t see it in my comment to Tom, I apologize specifically to you for being flippant in some of my remarks to you.

  202. Daniel, you ask,

    Would it not be “in Christian terms” to use Jesus’ words “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

    Yes. I have been doing to you what I would have you and others do to me: hold me accountable to good reasoning.

    Your deprecating of this post doesn’t change the fact that you still feel it’s appropriate to misrepresent atheism and Humanism as being a “denial of humanness” for the purposes of building your case of Christian superiority as the exclusive source for knowing morality.

    Actually, Daniel, I have represented atheism and humanism that way because I have reasons to believe that their metaphysical commitments lead to a denial of humanness. I have repeatedly said that I don’t see atheists and humanists that way; rather, I see their systems leading ineluctably to that conclusion. They (you) do not follow their systems to that conclusion because they (you) are human, and ultimately cannot deny their (your) essential humanness, even if a fully consistent working-out of atheism/humanism would entail doing that.

    So in truth I have two reasons, not just one, for posting this. One is to show that there is a kind of evidence for God here, in the denial of atheism. The other is to raise a flag warning about what atheism leads toward.

    If you doubt that it leads in those directions, read Skinner, read Nietzsche, read Rosenberg, read Coyne and Harris on free will, read Dennett on consciousness, read Pinker on infanticide and the status of humans wrt animals. Read people who have thought about what their beliefs really mean.

  203. Daniel,

    The question whether Dachau was wrong, which you chose not to answer, is at the very heart of this blog post. It has huge practical implications. If you don’t think Dachau was wrong, what will you tell the next dictator who sets up the next Dachau? “Stop! I don’t like this!” or, “Stop! You’re violating cultural norms!”

    If Dachau wasn’t wrong, it wasn’t wrong.

    If Dachau wasn’t wrong, then the man who rapes and murders your daughter isn’t doing wrong.

    Was Dachau wrong?

    (Forgive the insensitivity of the last assertion here—but I have some place to say it. I’ve had two first cousins die by murder. I am convinced their murderers did wrong.)

  204. Tom @244

    You seem to have a problem with “skipping over” things

    If you absolutely must know why the answer to your question is yes it was morally wrong from a secular perspective I refer you as I’ve done before to Sam Harris the Moral Landscape

    I’m sorry to hear about your cousins… and yes murder is wrong… unless you’re God and the nation of Israel in the OT of course.

  205. I have responded to you regarding Sam Harris.

    I’m glad to know that you believe murder is wrong. That’s moral knowledge. We’re making progress. Now, do you mean really wrong, or our culture doesn’t agree with it wrong?

    Regarding God and Israel in the OT, I consider that another substance-free zap. You delivered it once before, and you retreated from the answer I gave then. Zap-and-retreat.

    If you don’t like the SFZ acronym, quit zapping us with substance-free one-liners here. You’ll be held accountable for each one. I am treating them with all the respect they deserve in reasoned conversation, I assure you.

  206. Tom @246

    Regarding God and Israel in the OT, I consider that another substance-free zap. You delivered it once before, and you retreated from the answer I gave then.(link) Zap-and-retreat.

    I’m sorry #204 “providing links is not providing a counter-argument.”

    Besides #136 “That was a conclusion I drew, not a premise I began from” I’ve studied the OT and I find it totally Morally corrupt. #175 “No one has given me any good reason to change my mind about this, so I keep asserting it.”

    Do unto Others Tom…

    Now if you will excuse me I’ve grown weary of Christian Humility.

  207. You’re right: it wasn’t a counter-argument. It was an answer to a question you had asked in #22.

    I think I’ve already explained that I have been treating you as I would prefer to be treated. Now I’m treating you in the manner you have requested, in a sense, and which your commenting here calls for anyway; for the Golden Rule does not preclude unwanted consequences for unsociable behavior.

    You’re weary of “Christian Humility,” with capital letters to boot (you forgot the ™ symbol). I’m weary of yet another SFZ. You are (as you requested) excused from this dialogue. Your future comments will go to moderation and will probably not be passed through, except I’ll probably allow your next comment to go through, so you can have a final word.

    (I’ll be away from the computer for a while, so I might not pass it through moderation right away for that reason.)

  208. Daniel must be one of the, if not the, most thin-skinned posters in TC history. It’s hard to even imagine just what about the replies to his posts got him in such a huff. And this from a guy who consistently posted condescending and substance free barbs as a standard answer. I’ve seen some people who “were good at dishing it out, but not so good at taking it” but he certainly sets a new standard.

  209. That comment, Daniel, does not pass through.

    Do you really think I’m surprised Tom? But I know you read it… and I know you know it’s true.

    Religion is tailor made for men like you. Men who are their own God.

    You and your ‘followers’ are now free to slander and ridicule the big bad atheist upon your alter that is your blog as you celebrate the Superior “humanness” of Christianity.

    I genuinely feel sorry for you.