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Saturday, July 19, 2008

What is your basis for morality?

There are many times that someone suggests that something is wrong. I have made a wrong post, one of my links leads to something wrong, somebody lied, someone is hiding something...

I thought I would ask a pertinent question...

WHAT IS YOUR BASIS FOR MORALITY?

What is your touchstone? What is the reason for the things you do. How do you know something is right or wrong in general? How do you know what is right or wrong for you personally? How do you determine that what someone else has done is wrong. In fact, is there a "right" and a "wrong?"

I can answer that question pretty easily. I am believer in God and I believe that he has the answers and the basis for moral behavior within the pages of the Bible. Once, when the Nation of Israel were a nomadic people, God established strict laws for them, laws too difficult to keep. They would then need to sacrifice animals and make offerings to symbolize the seriousness of sin and the need to find a means of atonement to God. Jesus Christ came to live and die and live again, freeing us from those specific laws concerning diet and sacrifices and so on and yet establishing the original ten commandments. Jesus also told us to treat others as we would have ourselves treated and many, many other admonitions. In short, I have absolutes. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Words directly from the Creator of the Universe to me. I didn't make them up and I follow in the footsteps of millions before me who adhere to the Biblical standard as the means of establishing what is right and what is wrong.

My question is, if you are not a believer and do not accept the Bible, do you have any absolutes? Do you have some means of establishing what is good and bad, right and wrong? What would that be?

I am especially curious as to what an atheist would answer?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is thou shall not kill really an absolute? I can think of tons of exceptions to that I would consider justified (though, it would still be hard to take another's life).

~lava

Anonymous said...

1. This post is a complete non sequitur. When someone suggest that something is wrong, they usually do so in the sense that something is factually wrong, not morally wrong. So in that regard, this deflection is simply a not entirely ingenious attempt to once again deflect away from some mistake of yours, the same way you previously ran away from your assertion re. Christian prison populations or when you were faced with factual problems re. your stance on ice cores.

When someone says you're wrong on a factual basis, the response is to examine the facts. If the facts agree with your claims, good for you, and if not, simply admit you were wrong and move on. That is the dignified thing to do. Skulking away and changing the subject and then later making claims that the other side was wrong is not.

2. The second part of your post has been discussed ad nauseam in previous posts:

http://radaractive.blogspot.com/2006/03/god-who-sees.html

http://radaractive.blogspot.com/2006/05/is-christianity-on-wane.html

http://radaractive.blogspot.com/2007/06/biblical-law-question-and-answer.html

The questions you pose here were pretty much answered in those discussions. One of the reasons I've been commenting less here is because you have a tendency to run away from arguments that become uncomfortable for you, but then resurface with them a year or two later and act as if those discussions never happened.

The divine command theory (http://dailyduck.blogspot.com/2005/09/story-of-moral.html), for example, is still a big problem as regards this whole question from a Christian perspective.

3. What is the Christian position on lying, and - hypothetically speaking - what do you, as a Christian, think you should do if you were ever caught in a lie?

-- creeper

radar said...

Lava,

That is from the Ten Commandments as given in Exodus 20:13.

The word "kill" in the Hebrew has a specific meaning. Hebrew was written with the consonants only and not the vowels, so the word transliterated is "xcr", which means to "murder." This precludes premeditated and vengeance murders and it also has the secondary meaning of accidental killing, although accidental killing was dealt with specifically later in the Law. For all practical purposes the word would have best have been written from the begining as "murder." The Children of Israel certainly understood this, but the English translators failed to make the distinction when they translated the text.

If I told you it was raining and someone translated that into Russian as precipitation, the translation would be accurate but not specific enough to tell the hearer whether that precipitation was snow, rain, hail and so on. In Russian, you would add the word "Sneg" for snow and "Doshd" for rain(these are an attempt to relate the sounds of the words, as I don't have cyrillic lettering on my computer). In other words, the first English translators correctly translated the word in a general sense, but not in the specific.

radar said...

Ah, Creeper, nice segue away from the point. You may fool some of the people, but I will illustrate this so you cannot avoid it.

You use the word, "wrong." I don't care whether you modify the word with factually or morally, on what basis do you judge that something is wrong? How can you tell me with any authority that anything is right or wrong if you are a naturalistic materialistic atheist? Don't you believe that all things just happened to have happened with no underlying purpose? If not, what is the purpose and who has determined that purpose?

You have never answered this. I kind of doubt you can and so I expect you to try to sidestep it. Yes, I have brought the subject up before and am doing so yet again because I am still waiting for someone on your side to come up with something worth reading.

It is all well and good to say, and I quote you, "Believing we are human and have a debt to our fellow man is valid and without arrogance." But who says you have a debt? Who or what determines what that debt is, or when you have succeeded in paying it? Who or what validates that belief?

radar said...

"the same way you previously ran away from your assertion re. Christian prison populations or when you were faced with factual problems re. your stance on ice cores.'

First, I completely and totally covered the prison population question question and spent a great deal of time on it, in no way skulking away.

You and I posted battling opinions on various aspects of ice cores. I haven't accused you of skulking away because you decided you were right and dropped the subject. That was your decision.

If a Christian lies? My belief system says that he is wrong. The best thing to do would be to undo, if possible, any damage done by the lie, admit the lie, do his best to avoid doing it in the future.

Let's hear what your basis is for whether lying is good or bad let alone whether you should or shouldn't do it.

Anonymous said...

You use the word, "wrong." I don't care whether you modify the word with factually or morally, on what basis do you judge that something is wrong? How can you tell me with any authority that anything is right or wrong if you are a naturalistic materialistic atheist? Don't you believe that all things just happened to have happened with no underlying purpose? If not, what is the purpose and who has determined that purpose?

Do you not get the difference between factual and moral right and wrong? There is a pretty huge difference.

2+2=5. I think we can all agree that this is factually wrong. Even the naturalist materialistic darwinist atheists.

Tim bombed a house, killing 10 inhabitants, one of whom was a terrorist who was set to kill tens of thousands the next day. I think people can disagree on the moral rightness or wrongness of this action.

This all stems from Harnett's integral, right?

~lava

IAMB said...

To answer the original question, I've always been a fan of Kant's method for weighing moral rights and wrongs. The basic gist is that you examine an action or decision by imagining what kind of world you'd be living in if said action/decision were essentially a law of the universe in that everyone in the situation in question would always act the same without exception i.e. you imagine the act as if it were a universal law. If it turns out that the world would still be a decent place, you're pretty safe to say that the decision is morally decent as well.

Taxandrian said...

Radar, you claim that you have absolutes. Let's elaborate on that for a minute.

1- You state that 'Thou shalt not kill' is an absolute. Does that mean that killing is wrong, always, in every case. If not, in which cases is killing allowed. And if there are exceptions, how can 'Thou shalt not kill' still be considered an absolute?

2- You claim that you get your morality from the Bible. Using only the Bible, can you show us if cannibalism is right or wrong?

3- What's your moral position on genocide/mass murder? Is it wrong or right? Is it always wrong or always right? Please explain.

Thanks in advance,
Tax

Anonymous said...

”Ah, Creeper, nice segue away from the point. You may fool some of the people, but I will illustrate this so you cannot avoid it.”

How can it be a segue away from the point when I actually posted links to previous discussions about that very point? If you’d like to illustrate how I’m supposedly fooling “some of the people” (whoever that may be), have at it.

”You use the word, "wrong." I don't care whether you modify the word with factually or morally, on what basis do you judge that something is wrong? How can you tell me with any authority that anything is right or wrong if you are a naturalistic materialistic atheist? Don't you believe that all things just happened to have happened with no underlying purpose? If not, what is the purpose and who has determined that purpose?”

1. I was pointing out the confused way in which you used the word “wrong”, and there is a clear and highly significant difference between “morally wrong” and “factually wrong”. Lava has already responded by pointing out that blindingly obvious difference very clearly. If you disagree or are confused about this in any way, please specify how and why.

2. As for morally right or wrong, the argument that I have made through the previous threads I linked to was that morality is the sum of the rules dealing with how we humans can live together, based on past collective experience.

The notion of an absolute “law-giver” is complicated, of course, if the law-giver changes his mind, as was also discussed previously – the Euthryphro dilemma. Is it okay to stone your child? To subject prisoners of war to mass murder? What if God says it's okay? What if God says it's mandatory?

“You have never answered this. I kind of doubt you can and so I expect you to try to sidestep it. Yes, I have brought the subject up before and am doing so yet again because I am still waiting for someone on your side to come up with something worth reading.”

Not only have you brought the subject up before, but we have in fact discussed this before, and I feel no reason to avoid the argument. That’s actually why I pointed you to the previous discussion in the first place. As for “coming up with something worth reading”, that’s a pretty limp way to evade the argument, don't you think?

”It is all well and good to say, and I quote you, "Believing we are human and have a debt to our fellow man is valid and without arrogance." But who says you have a debt? Who or what determines what that debt is, or when you have succeeded in paying it? Who or what validates that belief?”

Could you provide me with a link to where I am supposed to have made that argument so that I can look into the context? All I can find is a quote in a response to something cranky old fart said.

”"the same way you previously ran away from your assertion re. Christian prison populations or when you were faced with factual problems re. your stance on ice cores.'

First, I completely and totally covered the prison population question question and spent a great deal of time on it, in no way skulking away.”


Far from it, Radar, as you are well aware, or at least should be. You asserted that 11% of the prison population were Christians and claimed that your numbers showed this, but subsequently could only show numbers that showed such data for the general population, not the prison population. It’s clearly a nonsensical stance that is factually wrong: having data that show that something applies to x% of a group does not allow you to conclude that the same thing applies to x% of an arbitrary subset of that group. For example, if you know that 10% of the population of Timbuktu wear fake moustaches, you can simply not conclude from that that 10% of a village somewhere in Timbuktu wear fake moustaches. It is possible that anywhere from zero to 100% of the inhabitants of that village wear fake moustaches.

These facts were pointed out to you. See http://radaractive.blogspot.com/2007/07/creeper-versus-radar-movie.html, about 3 comments from the end. Note that this is the last comment on the subject, to which you did not respond – and so you did actually skulk away without being able to back up your claim.

”You and I posted battling opinions on various aspects of ice cores. I haven't accused you of skulking away because you decided you were right and dropped the subject. That was your decision.”

How was it “my decision” for you not to respond to my most recent comment on the subject? The reason you haven’t accused me of skulking away (because I supposedly decided I was right and dropped the subject) was because you were the one who skulked away and dropped the subject. Again, demonstrably so: here, as far as I can tell, is my last comment on the subject – see at the very end of this discussion: http://radaractive.blogspot.com/2007/06/why-did-ice-core-man-get-iced.html - with plenty of discussion here as well: http://radaractive.blogspot.com/2007/06/why-i-almost-quit-doing-this.html

I can’t find any response from you to this comment and the arguments therein. If you made one, I’ll be happy to apologize, but until then, you’re the one who skulked away from the argument and dropped the subject. And the argument is kind of a crucial one for someone who believes in a Young Earth. Even more so for someone who actually thinks that science can back up YEC.

Your problem with ice cores was two-fold: one, you want to make use of dating methods to support arguments you make against global warming, even though you think those very dating methods are flawed by orders of magnitude when you argue in the context of YEC, and two, if you want to claim that ice core data that according to mainstream data go back 800,000 years in your view only go back 6,000 years, then you'd have to conclude that an event that according to mainstream interpretations of ice core data took place 1,000 years ago took place a mere 7.5 years ago. Not only that, but you'd have to be able to demonstrate today that 133 ice core layers are deposited every year.

But again, you dropped this subject because it became inconvenient to you. And for good reason: how the heck could you explain away ice cores being formed roughly every 3 days, when we can actually verify that they are formed every year?

“If a Christian lies? My belief system says that he is wrong. The best thing to do would be to undo, if possible, any damage done by the lie, admit the lie, do his best to avoid doing it in the future.”

Sounds good to me. Hope you manage to live by it.

“Let's hear what your basis is for whether lying is good or bad let alone whether you should or shouldn't do it.”

My basis for whether lying is good or bad? Depends on the context, I suppose. There are situations when lying is actually the right thing to do, IMO, and we do this all the time: to protect people’s feelings, for example. In a logical argument, of course, honesty is key, and there is no room for “white lies”. And I agree with you that if a lie has caused damage, one should apologize and strive to undo the damage.

But you were asking about the basis, and that is IMO as I’ve said before: it is based on what, collectively, is the best way to live together. Far as I can tell that’s a better yardstick than a divine command, which can change somewhat arbitrarily. For example, take a look at taxandrian’s question 3 above.

-- creeper

radar said...

Now that I am back I will bring your comments up along with my original premise and make another blog post for further discussion, thanks very much!

Anonymous said...

Hi Radar,

"Now that I am back I will bring your comments up along with my original premise and make another blog post for further discussion, thanks very much!"

Looking forward to it. There are older unresolved questions as well, though I'll gladly deal with dendrochronology, ice core samples and your logical contortions re. the Christian prison population (a simple concession given the facts on hand would do the trick) first.

For future discussion, perhaps you'd consider Christian perspectives to torture, the death penalty etc. I've heard right-wing justifications, but somehow find it difficult to spot a Christian one among them. Perhaps you'll surprise me.

-- creeper