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« What slippery slope? | Main | Haters are gonna hate »

Monday, January 07, 2013

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Tregonsee

As an Evangelical Christian, there is much I agree with, but the lack of great atheist art and music is not one of them. Atheism is a statement that what some others are doing is misguided. There is nothing about that which inspires an emotional response, nor should it. An atheist would be accurate in saying their "art and music" is expressed in things like scientific research, which has its own beauty. As a retired physicist, I am blessed to be able to appreciate both, and to consider the universe is His "art and music."

BroKen

Tregonsee, thanks for the comment. I think you misunderstand me, that is, I think we do agree about atheist art. You seem to be saying that atheism has nothing which would inspire artistic expression. That is my point. Something does inspire artistic expression even among atheists because there are atheist artists. So, what is that something? THAT is what I am asking them to consider. There must be "something like a star."

Mr. Bob

Funny how atheists and theists need to answer / ponder the same questions. I'm thankful that many atheists do not live the implications of atheistic beliefs out for themselves like Pol Pot and Stalin did! Could it be that these leaders were just a out-working of a particular set of beliefs – beliefs that posited the ideal state as an atheistic one?

It is morals that bring freedom, taking away morals brings anarchy , not freedom. The question is which morals to embrace? Who will be the moral law giver? Why are someone else's morals better than mine without a transcendent law giver? whose opinion matters most? Whose voice will be heard? Whose tastes or preferences will be honored? Where shall the standards come from? And if our brains are nothing but the result of time + matter + chance how can we believe anything which comes from it as true?

Bestiality was legalised in Germany in 1969, the same year that gay sex was also removed from the criminal code. After that, sex with animals was only punishable if the animal was severely injured.

Apparently they now are rethinking this because they are worried about the animals.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/world/germany-to-ban-sex-with-animals-report/story-fnddckzi-1226524544281

So the question remains: how do we decide right from wrong?

Judges 21:25
25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.


Genesis 3:4-5
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

In other words will we decide what is good, what is evil, and be like God?


Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future

Alangnixon

"Consider how in the last century alone, overtly atheist regimes have directly and indirectly killed tens of millions of people. Atrocities committed in the name of religion over millennia are amateurish in comparison."

I do think you're wrong on the other statements and that you need to do some more research. However, I only have time to address this one.

For starters, none of these dictators where acting on their atheism when they committed these atrocities, they were acting in the name of communism in most cases, as for others, well another common fallacy revolves around Hitler who was certainly not an Atheist. Communism may be an Atheistic philosophy, but it has it's own set of precepts on how one should act in the world that have very little to do with the Atheism or not of it's leaders. There are examples of religious communism in south America and a deeper look would find more.

The main difference between these regimes and the religious ones of the past was the level of technology available to do the killing. Hitler utilised modern technology mercilessly in his extermination attempts, Pol Pot used social technologies in order to improve things, but ended up in the same positiuon as Hitler, the USSR and China likewise. It was machine guns, tanks, mass farming, purges and social engineering that killed these people, not Atheism. Imagine how much less amateur the religious atrocities would have been with the help of modern technology, imagine The Inquisition with gas chambers, guns and war machines... I shudder to think of it.

BroKen

Thanks Bob. I agree with much of what you say, however my goal in these letters is not to turn atheists into theists. I merely want them to examine rationally their position with regard to beauty, reason, justice, morality, etc. There must be something! You and I call it God, but there are other possibilities. I list some of them in another letter going up here in a couple of days.

BroKen

Alangnixon, thanks for the comment. I really don't want to get into a "your tyrant is worse than my tyrant" back and forth. That isn't really the point the letter makes anyway. Here is the point.

You seem to agree with me that Stalin was wrong. I appreciate that. You do see that it requires a "moral compass" to say that, don't you? What is the "moral compass" of atheism? Stalin would say it is power. Might makes right, or better perhaps is his quip about the Pope, "How many tank divisions does he have?"

But the main question is, "Isn't a system that cannot say 'Stalin was wrong' but only 'From my perspective, I don't approve of what Stalin did.' isn't that system itself morally suspect?"

Alangnixon

I had no intention of getting into a my tyrant is worse than your tyrant argument. I was actually making the point that Atheism has little to do with 20th century atrocities and that technology and population size (billions more than previous times) were the real reasons for mass killings being possible.

Atheists can indeed say that Stalin was wrong. The idea that Atheists do not have a moral compass is a fallacy of the first order. What you are essentially saying is "anybody who does not believe in MY God cannot have a moral compass". If this were true, non-Christian societies would have significantly different morals to your own, but on the whole they do not.

Morality is built into Humans through our evolutionary and social history (empathy and group living), we may ignore it, it can malfunction and our society may override it at times, but these 'morals' are born out of a necessity to live peacefully together (most of the time). Chimpanzees (and other group living animals like elephants) exhibit similar 'moral' behaviours, they understand that hurting, cheating, stealing etc are socially wrong, because they hurt the 'other' and the group (in this case another chimpanzee; see primatologist Franz De Waal for extended descriptions of chimpanzee empathy and sociality).

Morality is socially and genetically constructed, even if you attempt to add God in there somewhere, the morals God arrives at are decidedly human (See the studies on God having the same morals as the particular human individual that is interviewed).

If God is the creator of morals then morality is arbitrarily set by God and is not objective in any real sense as it can change at any time, if God is not the source then the morals can be purely objective but have little to do with God as they must have been set outside of Him. A more subtle view understands that moral behaviour may be autopoetically derived from the interaction of a system with it's environment (including the social environment) over long periods of time. This unfortunately means that they are not objective in the sense you claim, but are essentially objective from a particular point in time-space.

Morality is a complexly derived idea and cannot be encapsulated by saying "God did it".

BroKen

Alangnixon, I think you underestimate the effect that Stalin's brand of atheism had on his conduct, but that is not surprising.

I never said that atheists do not have a moral compass. In fact I repeatedly said that I think you DO have a moral compass. I did quote an atheist/agnostic who said she didn't believe in a moral compass. I did ask where atheists find theirs. Thank you for the attempt to describe where morals come from. You'll forgive me, won't you, if I say it sounds pretty wimpy?

I suspect that Stalin was well aware that he was violating social codes that had developed over time... but he was also convinced that, since he was so much more advanced than chimps, and even the peasants and counter-revolutionaries he was killing, that it was moral to treat them so. After all, he was bringing in a new and even more advanced society which would be much better than this old one we're stuck with. Old morals--old society. New morals--new society! Evolution, progress, ONWARD!

If morality is merely socially and genetically constructed... is there any reason not to fiddle with it? I mean, it is our society, isn't it? They are our genes, aren't they? Why not adjust them (morals, genes, society) to serve us? It just makes sense. And then, where is that compass/pole star?

Your question about the relationship of God and morality, whether it is arbitrary or not, gets ahead of my letters. It really points to monotheism and specifically to the Christian trinity. Your question is an excellent critique of some other views of God.

But, since you bring it up, morality, at least for a Christian, is not arbitrary but it is an expression of God's own nature. Love is not just a good idea but a part of who God is. The Father loves the Son who loves the Spirit who loves the Father, etc, eternally. Honesty isn't a rule God made up, but flows from a relationship of trust and communication of love inside the Three in One.

If morality is a derived idea, then it is derived from God's nature, not His arbitrary decree.

Stick around, Alangnixon. I've got a couple more letters to go. One should be out tonight.

Zoe

Ken, first off,

Hope your holidays were lovely with your family and that you had a special day with your spouse on V day, as well as the children.

You may have misunderstood what I said..I mentioned the idea of a moral compass in regards to the idea of an 'inner' compass. That is not something that I believe in per se. I do feel that genetics plays a part in that, but overall, I see Alans point and concur with the findings.

I also understand how that would sound 'wimpy' as you stated so succinctly, to have these theories without the fairy dust sprinkled on them that you find so endearing. But these findings on Sociological behavior are magical and fascinating because they are real and valid, in our societies as well as those of other social animals.

Highly fascinating. More so than anything that could be imagined in the realm of fantasy.

Meg Shenitch

You've very clearly not bothered to investigate the validity of your own assumptions before putting them forth.

As an atheist, it gets very, very tedious having to educate those who refuse to open a tab on Google and check their beliefs.

Picasso was an atheist. Frank Lloyd Wright was an atheist. Again, if you would have taken two seconds to check, you would have seen there are extensive lists of atheist artists which include many of the most famous names in art, design, and architecture.

Atheism means:

A = without

Theism = belief in gods

It says absolutely nothing about what someone *does* believe. If you don't believe in fairies, you likely don't call yourself an afairyist. But that's because it's not common in the society in which you live for people to believe in fairies. Calling ourselves an atheist is a short way of saying, "I don't believe in gods or the Bible or the others things you do." And that is the *only* thing the term says.

And just as nobody would kill in the name of not believing in fairies, one cannot kill in the name of atheism. People like Stalin worshiped the State. THAT is what they killed for. Communism is a belief system as is any religion, and it replaces a deity with the State. And by the way, I've never met an atheist who was a Communist.

According to a poll conducted by Gallup, atheists make up 6% of the general U.S. population, so atheists should make up 6% of the prison population too. Yet the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics show that atheists are only 0.4% of the prison population. Not even half a percentage point.

Christians make up approx. 75% of the general population, yet they are 87% of the prison population.

Religion does not make anyone moral. On the contrary. It removes your feelings of guilt via prayer, whereas we have to make things right with those we've harmed to feel better, which also leads to learning quickly to never hurt others in the first place.

Believers also confuse sin with morality. Slavery is perfectly OK with the Bible, including the New Testament, and it was Christians who fought to keep slavery legal by basing their arguments on the Bible. Being against slavery is a secular value. Just as one example of many.

What gets me about the faithful, however, is that you expect others to take you seriously. But you do your very best to not follow your faith, which shows you don't take it seriously. How can you expect anyone else to take you and your faith seriously when you don't do so?

Do you eat bacon and shrimp? Do you keep the Sabbath? Would you stone your unruly kid? If not, you're not doing what Jesus said. And if you cared, you would spend your time investigating your own beliefs instead of regurgitating the same tired arguments you people always put forth that have been debunked up one side and down the other.

Read the ENTIRE Bible, Old Testament and New, cover to cover, and learn the history behind how the Bible was written from Biblical Historians, academics who have dedicated their lives to an honest study, and not some lying charlatan out to make a buck by taking advantage of your gullibility and ignorance. I challenge you to do it. That's what made me, and pretty much every nonbeliever I know, an atheist.

BroKen

Zoe, it is likely I misunderstood. I do it all the time. That is why conversation and discussion and clarification are so important.

So, you do believe that there is an external moral compass which involves genetics. Is that it? And Stalin violated that genetic programming and should have felt guilty for doing so, right? Yet he rises to the top of his society, largely because he doesn't feel guilt about his ruthless behavior.

I really think you need the fairy dust!

BroKen

Meg, are you saying that the art of Picasso and Wright express their atheism? I find that a fascinating possibility. Could you explain it in more detail?

You say that religion doesn't make anyone moral. Now, that is just prejudicial nonsense. Sure, there are Christians who commit crimes. All other religions have their criminals. I will even take your stats that there are fewer atheists in prisons. You think that means that if everyone were atheist there would be less crime?

Your statement that being against slavery is a secular value flies in the face of the history of the abolitionist movement in this country and England. Sure, there were Christians who supported slavery and used the Bible to do so. But to say that slavery is "perfectly OK" with the New Testament is an example of ignorance or prejudice, or both.

Meg, you clearly have an ax to grind here. It seems I did touch a nerve with you. I hope you will keep thinking deeply about the issues raised in this post.

God bless.

Zoe

But my original point was not whether the fairy dust was 'harmful' or 'stupid' even.

What I suggested was that it is in fact fairy dust and not real. You yourself validated this when you gave that Narnia analogy. Reality vs Fiction.

I frankly came here to offer a point of view initially, as opposed to 'winning' or 'being right'. I understand that for you that would be a very important thing. For me, it is to understand the other point of view, which I feel that I do.

Zoe

Yes there are underlying genetic factors that predetermine the ideas someone will have.

But overall, the societal group will steer the mores and attitudes of an individual. We are social animals, after all. I think I touched on this before, don't know if you disregarded the information or do not recall it. Having an idea or a proposition is not the same if an individual has it as opposed to a group of like minded folks who can put that individual on their shoulders.

Nonetheless, it is a combination of factors, and yes it isn't exact. Otherwise we would have these types of things pinpointed down to who the next Stalin or Bundy is.

I have to agree with Meg in that the behavior of a person is what needs to be addressed not their beliefs.

Zoe

I hate to seem like I am taking sides, Meg..

But I find myself disagreeing with some of your main points.

First off you approach Ken with the assumption that he is neither informed about his own religion nor has thought about what it means. You know what they say about assuming right? it makes you look both uninformed as well as thoughtless. Something I am sure you would not want to do.

Religiosity may not 'make' people moral, but it serves a cultural norm to at least make the attempt by giving the believer the notion that they are held accountable for their actions from a higher power. And this is done effectively by the members of the group.

No different than kids being scared of promises of a visit by the boogeyman. No one has ever seen a boogeyman, but boy the implied threat is about as bad, if not worse as it lets the imagination wander further into that irrational realm of fear.

That whole bacon and fiber argument is also a tired argument, as the bible itself explains why it is not as important as it once was. All you would need is a study of Peter's baptism of Cornelius to see why that OT vs NT argument is basically a moot point, if you are a Christian.

I would suggest to you, Meg that you seek to understand the opposing viewpoint rather than seek to be understood..you will go a lot farther that way.

And don't allow yourself to be trapped by logical fallacies..

BroKen

Zoe, thank you for your support. I really appreciate it.

Are you so sure that the "fairy dust" we're talking about... Justice, Beauty, Morality, Love, Reason, etc. are not Real? I am of the opinion that they are actually more real than the atoms and forces which science is so fond of.

Zoe

Anytime.

I was not suggesting that love is not 'real'. Love, like any concept (Terrorism, Racism, Nationalism) is real, but it has no body of its own. Nor a mind of its own. We give it that meaning.

Is it more real than the atoms and the forces science is so fond of? It may be more intense and produce more warm feelings for someone like you. But I would venture to say they are both as important. The atoms would come together by the forces of nature to form a being capable of idealizing love to ensure the survival of their species.

Absolutely beautiful and magical..

BroKen

Yes, Love is beautiful and magical. We agree again!

But my atheist friends haven't been able to give me a good answer to the moral question. It goes like this:

If it is true that when I die my consciousness ceases to exist, why should I care about my species or anything else besides the few years of life I have, trying to extend them and make them the best I can for myself? If there is no justice for those who do good, why do good? If those who suffer unjustly are just out of luck, shouldn't I try to make myself as lucky as possible?

What do you think?

Zoe

Well, for starters, making things better for yourself can invariably transcend for others.
If you care little of yourself you might just tend to not care too much for the sake of others.

And regardless of where you end up, there will still be people living on this earth.

We have different opinions of 'why' that is important, not that it is important in itself.

And that is ok. You and I are different people.

BroKen

I guess that is what I'm after. Why do you think human life on earth is important? Is your reason in any way universal or at least persuasive to the mass of humanity? That is, if I decide that the destruction of human life (some of it or maybe all of it) would make me happy, why would you tell me that I'm wrong?

Zoe

My personal take is that human life on Earth is important because we make it important. Some of us may not feel that it is important due to physical illness, depression, self loathing, or for a host of other reasons.

But sometimes even this last category will fight to survive at the very end, more often than not. We see this in lots of species. It is the better alternative to not being alive.

Is this reasoning universal or persuasive to the majority of people, I would think so. I can't speak for the majority of the people in thwe world but from what I see it is.

That last question is an interesting question you ask, about the destruction of other lives making you happy. It may be answered with yet more questions, however.

Why would the death of another cause you to be happy? Would these victims be as happy to die to ensure your happiness as you would be happy that they are dying?

BroKen

"we (humans) make it (human life) important." That, Zoe, is the problem. In the first place, it is circular reasoning. But more practically, if WE make it important, there is no reason why we can't decide that it isn't important. It is just a choice. So when someone makes another choice (like Stalin did) all you can say is that you don't like the fact that he devalued some human lives. If the value of human life is made by humans, then humans can take that value away... and they often do!

"Why would the death of another cause you to be happy? Would these victims be as happy to die to ensure your happiness as you would be happy that they are dying?"

Playing the Devil's advocate here:

Because it is fun. Quite a thrill! (And, oh, it is for the greater good, of course. My good or the good of those I deem worthy of being happy.) The victims are almost certainly not happy and if they were it wouldn't be nearly as much fun, you see. But their sacrifice for my happiness or the happiness of my group is greatly appreciated! (One does kind of feel sorry for them, but you've got to get over that.) They had their lives. I've got mine. My concern has to be for my life (and the life of my group), not theirs. After all, this life is the only one I've got!

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