Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Atheist Forum Conversations 5

Here are excerpts from some of my conversations on a forum called Happy Atheist. It's really hard to edit a forum conversation to include all the relevant discussion without also including a lot of off topic banter. So there may be a line or two in reference to something not included. But I think I got the just of it here.

From Thread: If God does exist… in the Philosophy section of HappyAthiest

-User192021-

Ok, obviously this is a complete hypothetical so I ask that you simply play along.

Let's pretend for just a moment that God exists and there is, indeed, a heaven and a hell (or something of that sort). If an atheist lives his whole life by a relatively strict moral code, generally treating others as he would wish to be treated, would God care if that person believed in him or not?

As a fairly new atheist, this is something I've contemplated while going through the "what if I'm wrong" phase. I find it to be somewhat unreasonable that God would punish people for doubting his existence based on the (lack of) evidence HE gave us using the critical, inquisitive minds HE gave us. Why would God punish people for using the same logical thinking processes which have enabled the human race to survive. In fact, I think God would prefer to have people who used their minds in a rational manner during their time on earth in his presence rather than people who simply followed the flock and never bothered to challenge themselves and the belief system they happen to have been born into.

I suppose it doesn't matter since I have absolutely no earthly reason to believe any such place exists...but it's something I would imagine most of us have at least considered. Thoughts?



-Me (Scrybe)-

I can only comment on the Christian God since I'm not a professor of comparative religion.

Let's pretend for just a moment that God exists and there is, indeed, a heaven and hell.

Let's pretend that God desired a family.

Let's pretend He created a universe bound by time and matter, with little sentient beings.

Let's pretend He is omniscient, so He knows exactly what will happen to each of these being. Every particle that exploded into existence went exactly where He planned it to go due to His brilliant laws of physics. Every being's intellect, will, and emotional makeup determined through the brilliant laws of D.N.A mixed with environmental factors in a chemical and psychological concoction only God could have foreordained.

Let's pretend these beings have a spiritual component that exists in a different dimension and is thus imperceivable to the beings themselves, save for the nagging questions it puts in their heads about why they exist and where they came from, and where they are going.

Let's pretend the world they live on is full of beauty and crap. And God doesn't appear to every person to prove Himself to them.

Let's pretend He wanted to show us an actual physical example of how He wants us to love each other, so He incarnates Himself, lives a life dedicated to loving other's and correcting wrong teaching about Him, then is executed as a result, demonstrating the fullest extent of love.

Let's pretend that there are reasons for the suffering these beings are going though. One part this:

Willravel wrote:

It is the bad in life that gives the good things meaning. Perfection is meaningless.



Another part: purification. The final result: perfection.

Let's pretend some people took the manuscripts that were written about Him, put them together in a book, and started worshiping the book more than the God that the book was about.

Let's pretend they mistranslated a word that means age-lasting into eternal so they could keep their Hellenistic views of eternal torment to use as a whip to keep people in line, threatening them with the worst thing imaginable.

Let's pretend some people were influenced by their D.N.A./environment in such a way that made them decide God must not exist. (Let's keep in mind He planned all this out.) Let's pretend the poor example that the religious folks set caused a bitter backlash from these people, so they discarded the book-worshiping, revenge-doctrine priests as what they really were- vipers.

Let's pretend the atheist (who was made that way by God) and the viper/priest (who was made that way by God) die and are judged according to their deeds.

Let's pretend the atheist says, "Wow. Who would have thunk it?" Sorry I didn't believe in you. I tried to be kind to people and stuff."

Let's say the viper/priest says, "YES! Now I shall get my giant crown to replace the giant hat that I had on earth. Now I shall be eternally happy while I watch those sick bastards who were foolish enough to doubt God writhe in agony while I laugh and laugh!"

Which one do you think is going to get the reprimand, "Depart from Me. I never knew you."?

Which one gets to spend an 'age' learning to love instead of hate?

-SteveS-

Scrybe, it occurs to me that your above argument is really an argument from "humanist morality", for lack for a more educated term. I think behind it is a fact that we can both agree on, which is that morals exist separately from religious belief and practice.

Also, one question if you don't mind,

Scrybe wrote:

(Let's keep in mind He planned all this out.)


If this is so, and the atheists don't believe because god made them that way, then aren't the priests (the vipers that worship the book more than the god) also just behaving the way god built them? If so, why should they be punished by god for doing what he programmed them to do (or, more mildly, for acting out their part in his plan)? I ask because I'm curious how someone of faith feels about this. I consider all this hypothetical, obviously because I don't believe any gods made anyone.

-Johndigger-

Because even though God is all-knowing and knows exactly what we're going to do - we still have free will - we have a rational human soul.

Sounds like a paradox?

Let's have an example:

I have a vision of the future, I see my friend getting run over by a bus the next day.

I run home, I grab my phone and I ring this guy up telling him to be careful and not to go outside tommorow.

So, this guy stays inside and doesn't get run over by the bus - but if he doesn't get run over by the bus, then I haven't seen the future at all.


God had to create us for him to be Omniscient, didn't he? Because if he saw that we were going to sin, then he didn't create us - then he wouldn't be Omniscent because we wouldn't have sinned.

JD,
at least, that's the way I think of it

-laetusatheos-

Johndigger wrote:

Because even though God is all-knowing and knows exactly what we're going to do - we still have free will - we have a rational human soul.

Sounds like a paradox?

Let's have an example:

I have a vision of the future, I see my friend getting run over by a bus the next day.

I run home, I grab my phone and I ring this guy up telling him to be careful and not to go outside tommorow.

So, this guy stays inside and doesn't get run over by the bus - but if he doesn't get run over by the bus, then I haven't seen the future at all.


God had to create us for him to be Omniscient, didn't he? Because if he saw that we were going to sin, then he didn't create us - then he wouldn't be Omniscent because we wouldn't have sinned.

JD,
at least, that's the way I think of it



If god is all knowing that wouldn't necessarily mean he would have to create just because his knowledge of what would happen if he created had to be fulfilled to maintain his all knowing nature...it would just mean that he would know the possible outcome of any event that occurs. In fact if he had to create due to his knowledge it woud take away his being all powerful.

Another way to look at it which makes more sense, imo;

For instance: God could know that given the events leading up to a certain point Billy will either go to class on 7:20a on friday (B) or choose to skip and go to the movies with friends (-B). Up untill the point Billy makes that decision God's knowlege of the future would include B and -B thus allowing him to be all knowing by knowing all possible events.

However, this view places god inside of time rather than the popular view of god being outside of time. I think this view also protects free will and the outside of time version doesn't. If god knows exactly what will happen to creation before creating it then we were all created to do exactly what he knew we would do and wanted us to do since he created anyway....no free will, like robots. An omnimax creator outside of time would have the knowledge of all possible creations prior to creating and chose one based on this knowledge...those who are created when he made that choice are just fulfilling a plan and cant truly have free will; just the illusion of it. He would know before creating anything that I would become an atheist and create this forum...he would know that all those who don't believe are hell bound from the start of creation. The only way for us to have free will with this type of God is to change his knowledge of events...which would take away his omniscents.

-Me (Scrybe)-

SteveS wrote:

Scrybe, it occurs to me that your above argument is really an argument from "humanist morality", for lack for a more educated term. I think behind it is a fact that we can both agree on, which is that morals exist separately from religious belief and practice.




I wouldn't define it as "humanist morality". But I agree that morality can be separated from religion provided a fair amount of societal conditions exist. Morality comes from answering one of the big questions: "How ought we act towards each other." There are religious answers to that question, as well as utilitarian aspects. Hence the state, and societal mores.

Just keep in mind that humanists don't have a better track record when it comes to humanitarianism. Certainly, governments established on humanist pretense lack "morality" in their dealings with their populations. (This is in no way a plea for theocracy, as it ends in much the same way.) But the reason you and I answer this particular 'big question' the way we do has much to do with our upbringing and societal expectations and ideals. I think most of us agree that we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves, (with the possible exception of the guy here who overuses the word hominid.) but this is not the natural human disposition. A brief survey of history or anthropological study of native civilizations can easily show that to be true. How we got from the ideal of "kill your neighbor and take his wife" to "love your neighbor" is an incredible (and incredibly complex) story. One that I think would be impossible to tell without the religious components and influences. The necessity of these influences can be debated, but to simply ignore them and pretend that you and I are as altruistic as we are simply by our own good grace is, I think, presumptuous and ungrateful. Human civilization has had to go through a lot of crap to get us to the point where we were raised with these values.

Yes, you can uncouple morality from religion at this point, but don't pretend that religion wasn't necessary to get us to the place we are now. And don't be surprised if our newly unchained morality peters out after not too long, as it seems to do in highly secularized political experiments like the U.S.S.R. and China.

SteveS wrote:

Scrybe wrote:

(Let's keep in mind He planned all this out.)


If this is so, and the atheists don't believe because god made them that way, then aren't the priests (the vipers that worship the book more than the god) also just behaving the way god built them?



Yes. I noted this in my post.

SteveS wrote:


If so, why should they be punished by god for doing what he programmed them to do (or, more mildly, for acting out their part in his plan)?



You are interpreting Hell® in the same way the majority of Christians do. As punitive punishment that serves no other purpose. But a study of the use of fire in Jewish and early Christian writing can make a convincing argument that fire is primarily used as a purging mechanism. Fire is used to describe persecution, suffering, and other 'good' experiences that God uses to bring maturity and humility. (An interesting side note is the fact that sulfur is an ancient cleansing and purifying element used for both practical and religious purposes.)

So I think your question does not apply to my beliefs since I (And I believe "the" Bible) don't view Hell® as punitive, but as purging and reconciliatory. Though part of the implicit question you raise is "How can this be a fair system?" If God creates many of us to be ass-clowns, we shouldn't be the ones to pay the price for His decision. This would be true if suffering were pointless. However, if suffering is as "the" Bible describes it: as prescriptive for maturation, bringing us into a state where we can be a part of God's final family, well then, we will all be very grateful for every bit of suffering we go through once we reach our destination. (Just as a child hates school, but once an adult, can appreciate the necessary struggles to bring him/her to the point they are at.) Once we see how every moment of pain caused us to progress, in some manner, towards heaven. This can either be accomplished in this life, or in a metaphorical lake of purifying fire and sulfur. I don't know whether one is preferable to the other.

laetusatheos wrote:


An omnimax creator outside of time would have the knowledge of all possible creations prior to creating and chose one based on this knowledge...those who are created when he made that choice are just fulfilling a plan and cant truly have free will; just the illusion of it. He would know before creating anything that I would become an atheist and create this forum...he would know that all those who don't believe are hell bound from the start of creation. The only way for us to have free will with this type of God is to change his knowledge of events...which would take away his omniscents.



I have come to this same conclusion. I don't understand the Christians who say that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet insist that people can thwart God's will with their choices. It's simply a matter of description. If free-will exists, then God can not , by definition, be omniscient. End of story.


Switch to full edit form



-SteveS-

Again, Scrybe, thanks for the answer. I certainly accept that the way you present your definition of hell this is not, in fact, a contradiction. Apologies if you addressed this in the original post and I was too obtuse (or drunk) to pull it out.

My only reason for invoking "humanist" was that you didn't think the priests were good because they had a god belief, or that the atheist were bad because they did not. In fact, your definition of why the priests were behaving amorally, namely,

Scrybe wrote:

Let's pretend they mistranslated a word that means age-lasting into eternal so they could keep their Hellenistic views of eternal torment to use as a whip to keep people in line, threatening them with the worst thing imaginable.


is something I would agree with entirely. So, I preceived a lack of absolutist morals, and more of consequentialist scheme here. I could have read far too much into this.

Scrybe wrote:

to simply ignore them and pretend that you and I are as altruistic as we are simply by our own good grace is, I think, presumptuous and ungrateful. Human civilization has had to go through a lot of crap to get us to the point where we were raised with these values.


I certainly agree with this, 100%. We are all a product of our environment and our times. To judge our virtues and vices otherwise would be far less than honest.

I don't know if religion was required to get us to where we are now, but I don't pretend that actual instances of it haven't been helpful. Historically, there were large parts of human education, discovery, and contemplation that were driven by religious people for what appeared to be religious purpose. Was it required that they did so from religious grounds? Maybe not, but historically they certainly did, I certainly acknowledge this.

About the failure of secular governments, well, if you'd like to stand together and throw stones at the establishment, then I'm your man. Personally, it is my political feeling that a secular government is essential for humanist justice in a society. I think governments fail morally because their officers, even in a government built on humanistic terms, are not themselves humanists. I'm try to say, politicians suck, and the reasons they have become politicians are not good reasons. So I'm not certain that it is the "tenets" of the goverments that fail us as much as the practioners that do so. This is a political opinion, and a personal speculation, and I'm not really prepared to offer any evidence in support of this feeling of mine outside of casual observation of political events primarily in my own nation, so take all this with a large grain of salt (somewhat bitter, no Wink).

I've heard the school analogy with suffering before,

Scrybe wrote:

(Just as a child hates school, but once an adult, can appreciate the necessary struggles to bring him/her to the point they are at.)


and I think it's fun to present my atheist view point. Working with this analogy, for me then graduation is death. Final death, no afterlife. So, you can understand why I would want to ditch class (avoid suffering), and wouldn't be too concerned about flunking exams along the way because I was out late drinking.

-Me (Scrybe)-

SteveS wrote:

I preceived a lack of absolutist morals, and more of consequentialist scheme here. I could have read far too much into this.



How do you define consequentialist? In order to maintain consistency in a view of a sovereign God, it is necessary to make a distinction between what is prescriptive morality, and what is necessary for God's good plan to come about. In other words: shit happens because God made this world as a refiners fire for us. But He does not tell us to throw shit at each other. In fact, He specifically forbids it. (In varying degrees and various times) This is not double-talk. God doesn't tell us to be good while hoping we will be bad. He made us to be bad, but gives us examples of what good is, through the impartation of moral laws. It seems to me that one of the major purposes for this refining furnace we are in is to teach us the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, beauty and ugliness, etc.

So I don't think you could say that I am not an absolutist. I believe there are transcendent absolutes that have been communicated to us by an absolute, transcendent God. I merely acknowledge the fact that we are all actors in His story, and we are all villains to some degree. God has graced some of us with more desire to be loving and selfless than others. Thankfully, He didn't limit the allotment to only a small group of "His people", but gave that gift to many, even those who deny His existence.

SteveS wrote:


I don't know if religion was required to get us to where we are now,... Was it required that they did so from religious grounds?



I think it was. Because there has to be a certain foundation before rational scientific explorations can begin. That foundation starts in the philosophical, but quickly veers into the religious. I think that certain questions have to be answered certain ways. Like: "Is there a law of causality, or is every event random and chaotic?" Different religions will answer this differently based on the personality of the deities. Many deities are chaotic and malevolent. In that sort of system there is not much point in researching, because the answers would always be changing. But in a religious climate where a good god ordered reality, then you have a stable platform to start working on. A religious climate that promotes meaning in people's lives, and especially equality will produce more motivation, opportunities, and inspiration that lead to innovation.

Of course these are all theories. But my point is that as you said, "large parts of human education, discovery, and contemplation were driven by religious people for what appeared to be religious purposes" That contemplation process can not evade religious questions and proposals.



SteveS wrote:


Personally, it is my political feeling that a secular government is essential for humanist justice in a society.



You could be right about that. Though I don't believe any true justice can be achieved on this earth for the reasons listed above. (The stuff about free will and our inability to account for all the reasons that actions occur.) But we should still strive for it as an ideal. But I don't believe it makes a difference whether a government is religious or not. It really comes down to the character of those in charge. And if, as you say, all or most politicians are not in it for the right reasons, it really doesn't matter what their take on religion is; they will use their power to their own gain.

SteveS wrote:


So I'm not certain that it is the "tenets" of the goverments that fail us as much as the practioners that do so.



I agree to an extent. But I would add that governing systems that understand and take human nature into account the best, fair better than those that rely on ideals that do not exist. I think capitalism is the best system we have come up with so far, even though it has glaring holes in it that promote materialism and other very non-Christian ideals. So yes, my political examples failed because of their leadership. But I think that even with paragons of virtue at the helm, they would still have a tough go at it. I mean, I'd love it if communism worked. It's as close to the Christian ideal as we've concocted for a nation-wide government. But there are just too many selfish bastards out there for it to work. Crying or Very sad



SteveS wrote:


I've heard the school analogy with suffering before, and I think it's fun to present my atheist view point. Working with this analogy, for me then graduation is death. Final death, no afterlife. So, you can understand why I would want to ditch class (avoid suffering), and wouldn't be too concerned about flunking exams along the way because I was out late drinking.



Haha! Good counter analogy. Here I thought that I came up with the school analogy by myself. Doubtless one of those billion inputs that got filed away and regurgitated when called on. Actually, my first analogy was going to be foul-tasting medicine. But really, I like "the" bible's analogy the most: refining metal.

Anyway, your counter argument works for you because I'm assuming you are a man of high moral character. Imagine those words coming from a drug-addicted hoodlum with a gun and you can see how dangerous that philosophy can become.
Shock

-SteveS-

Scrybe wrote:

How do you define consequentialist?


I think I can do this fairly well. Is lying wrong? Depends. Is killing wrong? Depends. Is theft wrong? Depends. I could crack out some examples, but I think you get where I'm coming from. Absolute in my opinion would be "killing is always wrong". Or, "you must never blaspheme". Make sense?

It seems clear that "I read too much into it". I think I understand your position better after your explanation.

Scrybe wrote:

He made us to be bad, but gives us examples of what good is, through the impartation of moral laws.


I understand how your conclusions follow from this. Just, understand that I can't agree with this premise. I can't find a reasonable physical cause for believing that god imparted moral laws directly into our beings. I believe morality evolved right along with our physical forms. It's social instinct to me. I take courage in the fact that we can improve it through rational consideration.

Scrybe wrote:

But I would add that governing systems that understand and take human nature into account the best, fair better than those that rely on ideals that do not exist.


Lol, I agree completely, just in the mirror image. In other words, I believe that a naturalistic approach is a better understanding of human nature, and that it is divine morals that are the non-existent ideals. I have no remedy for this other than to "agree to disagree".

Scrybe wrote:

(The stuff about free will and our inability to account for all the reasons that actions occur.)


To keep from muddling this discussion up, I'll post something more over on the free will thread.

Just a quick wrap on the government thing. I think opening up the government to secular ideals presents a more fair base on which the politicians must practice. This is my opinion. I believe they have an easier time justifying mistreatment of individuals when operating on religious grounds. If you are talking about your own personal religious views, I understand that this may not be the kind of issue that it is for more fundamental regimes, like the Taliban for instance. The practical side of ideal government systems is something that appears very, very difficult to me, and I don't claim to have any answers, other than to be very aware of the risks and as good citizens to keep our government honest to the best of our ability.

Scrybe wrote:

But I think that even with paragons of virtue at the helm, they would still have a tough go at it.


Couldn't agree more strongly. I think in your intro you mentioned LOTR as a favorite. Remember in the movie version when Gandalf explains how even he would be corrupted by the ring? I think the government problem is something like this.

Scrybe wrote:

Anyway, your counter argument works for you because I'm assuming you are a man of high moral character. Imagine those words coming from a drug-addicted hoodlum with a gun and you can see how dangerous that philosophy can become.


Of course, but every system faces this danger. Imagine a Taliban leader patiently explaining that god created us and gave us moral laws. That they are absolute and just and come from a higher power that no man can argue with. That some particular woman was aware of the laws and yet had an extramarital affair anyway and must therefore be beheaded according to god's will. We can see the same dangerous philosophy arising from absolute religious morals.



-Johndigger-

SteveS wrote:

I think I can do this fairly well. Is lying wrong? Depends. Is killing wrong? Depends. Is theft wrong? Depends. I could crack out some examples, but I think you get where I'm coming from. Absolute in my opinion would be "killing is always wrong". Or, "you must never blaspheme". Make sense?




Well, this is quite interesting, but it's in a very general sense. If we take some specifics perhaps we can derive some kind of absolute morals.


Such as "Is killing an innocent person for no reason always wrong?"

"Is theft simply for your own greed always wrong?"

I would say that, yes, there are absolute moral answers to these questions. To apply absolutes in a general sense doesn't really work.

In fact, it's usually called stereotyping. Wink

But when we delve into specific situations, I believe in some kind of absolute morality.

-SteveS-

Johndigger, of course, but consider what you are doing:

Johndigger wrote:

Such as "Is killing an innocent person for no reason always wrong?"


Compare this with the statement,
Is killing an innocent person always wrong? (i.e. take out the "for no reason" part)

I believe you could make an argument that killing an innocent person is permissible under certain circumstances. For instance, when doing so prevents the deaths of a larger number of innocent people that will surely die if the other, solitary, innocent is not killed. This is contrived, but you understand what I'm getting at. It is the consequence of an act that defines whether or not it is moral, not the act itself.

When you add "for no reason" into it, you are adding the part that I consider the "consequential". Effectively, what you are saying in this case is that "the reason" dictates the morality of the act, not the act itself (a point on which I would agree).

I'm sorry if you feel I'm being pedantic about this, but I was trying to argue this from the perspective of moral philosophy (a subject in which I admit I'm no expert, but I think I'm using my terms correctly).

Johndigger wrote:

In fact, it's usually called stereotyping.


What I did do was consider "absolute" morals as "deontological" morals. While I don't think this is stereotyping, I will admit that deontology was perhaps not what Scrybe had in mind when he was postulating "absolute" morals. It sure sounded like it to me, but I'm frequently wrong, and if I am in this case I'll offer apologies in advance.

Here's a Wiki Link to an article that describes the terms I'm using (see the part on Deontology for the comparison). If I've guessed correctly that some of you do favor deontology, you may particularly enjoy the section of the article that lists criticisms of consequentialism Wink

-Johndigger-

I asked that particular question for a reason - there's no point changing it to fit Moral Philosophy. Wink


The question I'm asking if is there really is "no reason" can an act be justified? This is obviously a rare case - but I think we can draw some kind of moral absolute from this.

JD,
though I appreciate your point, of course, but you didn't really answer my question - you more changed the question to suit you and then answered it.



-Me (Scrybe)-

SteveS wrote:


What I did do was consider "absolute" morals as "deontological" morals.



Yes… this is a fascinating issue concerning a possible line between theists and atheists. I absolutely would fall more on the side of deontology than consequentialism. And I think the reason goes back to those ultimate questions I was referring to. In the mind of a theist, there are two layers of meaning in every act and two layers of repercussions. My opinion is that God has us acting out these things for the purpose of teaching and changing us. Because of this, motive truly is the most important element of any act. But if, as an atheist, you do not believe in that second layer of meaning and consequence, there really is no reason to consider motive, only the outcome.

This brings to mind the movie, Gosford Park. >>SPOILER WARNING<<>

So if I were put in a situation where I had to kill one innocent person to keep the whole world from being killed… sorry. You'd be dead. But if it makes you feel better, if I was in a situation where I had to kill myself to save the world, I would gladly do it.

-Johndigger-

[Derail]

Sorry to derail a bit, Scrybe, from your posting I understand that you are some sort of Christian. One of your beliefs (I think) was that there is no hell and that they mistranslated it.

It was sort of like what I would call (as a Catholic) "Purgatory" where you are purified by fire and everyone goes to Heaven in the end.

But, what about the Unforgivable Sin of Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?


This isn't to bash or to poke holes in your beliefs, but this question sprang immediately into my mind so I had to ask. Smile

Feel free to correct me on what you believe - this is simply my own (extremely limited) interpretation of your posts.

JD

[/Derail]

-SteveS-

Hi guys, I'm trying to keep up, and I've addressed both of your (Johndigger and Scrybe)'s followups below. I think we're truly getting somewhere, BTW.

Johndigger, I'm not trying to change your question. What I'm trying to do is draw a distinction between an absolute answer and an absolute method.

To avoid any appearance of dodging the question, I can unequivocally agree that "killing an innocent person for no reason" is absolutely wrong. My reasoning is that I can think of no possible situation in which killing an innocent person, for no reason, can ever lead to a beneficial consequence, nor can the intended consequence ever appear to be beneficial.

The best way I can illustrate my point of view further is through my own simple minded "example laced blue collar" philosophy. For illustration, let me choose a slightly different question:

"Is commiting a violent act on an innocent person allowable?".

I'm going to add on more specific variants of this question, and I'm going to explore how I, as a consequentialist, and a Pacifist, as a more absolutist, answer all these questions.

Responder = SteveS (consequentialist)

Q1: Is commiting a violent act on an innocent person allowable?
A1: Yes and No, it depends on the consequences.

Q2: Is commiting a violent act on an innocent person for no reason allowabe?
A2: No, because "no reason" is not a beneficial consequence.

Q3: Is commiting a violent act on an innocent person for a bad reason allowable?
A3: No, because a "bad reason" implies that the net consequences are not beneficial.

Q4: Is commiting a violent act on an innocent person for a good reason allowable?
A4: Yes, because a "good reason" implies that the net consequences are beneficial.

Now for part two.
Responder = Pacifist (absolutist)

Q1: Is commiting a violent act on an innocent person allowable?
A1: No, because violent acts are always wrong by their nature.

Q2: Is commiting a violent act on an innocent person for no reason allowabe?
A2: No, because violent acts are always wrong by their nature.

Q3: Is commiting a violent act on an innocent person for a bad reason allowable?
A3: No, because violent acts are always wrong by their nature.

Q4: Is commiting a violent act on an innocent person for a good reason allowable?
A4: No, because violent acts are always wrong by their nature.

The pacifist feels that violence is always wrong, the consequences bedamned. Another way to say this is that we have a duty (a categorical or moral imperative) to avoid violence.

Hopefully I've made it clear that it's the "absoluteness" of the method, versus the "absoluteness" of the answer, that is my distinction. In both cases, our individual yes and no answers are absolute. But how we arrived at them was not.

To me, you've provided an example of how religious thought seems absolutist to me with the following statement:

Johndigger wrote:

But, what about the Unforgivable Sin of Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?


It appears that to you blasphemy against the holy spirit is wrong. It is always wrong. There is never any case in which the consequences might cause an act of blasphemy against the holy spirit to be okay. This is a moral absolute, a duty to God, a moral imperative.

Consider the linkages to our above circumstance.
The act: above this is "commiting a violent act", here it is "blasphemy".
The target: above this is "an innocent person", here it is "the Holy Spirit".
The consequences: I need consequences to judge this act. You do not.

I'm not trying to be adversarial, nor am I claiming that your above reasoning about blasphemy is wrong. I am claiming that my motivations appear to be different then yours. This difference is philosophical to me, and there is no objective way to resolve it. We could be wrong or right in any combination, I don't even know how to tell.

Also, to claim that as individuals we are always deontological or always consequential is probably not very true. I suspect that in truth we are all some sort of blend of these two ideas. I would, however, suspect that what Scrybe said,

Scrybe wrote:

Yes… this is a fascinating issue concerning a possible line between theists and atheists.


is probably true, generically speaking. Some very famous atheists seem, to me, to be leaning toward the consequential, and in my experience religious people tend to lean toward the deontological. Also,

Scrybe wrote:

But because a theist believes in more than the physical, there is a broader spectrum with which to judge an act as moral or immoral. See?


I do see. And I basically agree with you that this is a prime suspect for the difference in motivation. One thing I feel I have to clarify,

Scrybe wrote:

Because of this, motive truly is the most important element of any act.


I think judging an act based on motive is common to both our philosophies. I can't actually know ahead of time what the actual consequences of my actions are going to turn out to be, so I have to act on"intended consequences". This motivation is important to me in judging an act, and I would agree that stabbing a person, with the intent to murder them, only not actually doing so because they were already dead and you didn't know, nonetheless qualifies the action as amoral because the intended consequences were amoral. It's just that the "actor" got lucky because no negative consequences actually followed. Our legal system draws a distinction between intended an actual consequences by treating "attempted murder" differently than actual murder.

To me, this plays directly into what Scrybe said above. If I feel the endpoint of my act is defined in physically reality, than I feel that there really was no harm done and the difference in "attempted" and "actual" murder is justified. If I feel my act carries ramifications beyond this existence into an afterlife, then I can't actually claim that no harm was done.

Of course this entire area is totally grey, in my humble and confused opinion, and I believe I lack seriously in the education required to distinguish some nuances and pull apart whether certain of my moral proclivities are consequentialist "rules of thumb" or instead are actually more like absolutist "moral imperatives". (shrugs).

But thanks for the feedback, I find this topic makes for enjoyable conversation, and I hope I've cleared up my view.

-Me (Scrybe)-

SteveS wrote:



Also, to claim that as individuals we are always deontological or always consequential is probably not very true. I suspect that in truth we are all some sort of blend of these two ideas.



This is surely more true than any of us deontologists would like to admit!

SteveS wrote:

I hope I've cleared up my view.



Yes, you did very well. This has been a very good and infomative thread for me. Thank you.


Switch to full edit form



Johndigger wrote:

[Derail]

Sorry to derail a bit, Scrybe, from your posting I understand that you are some sort of Christian. One of your beliefs (I think) was that there is no hell and that they mistranslated it.

It was sort of like what I would call (as a Catholic) "Purgatory" where you are purified by fire and everyone goes to Heaven in the end.

But, what about the Unforgivable Sin of Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? [/Derail]



Well, it's really not much of a derailing considering the topic of the thread. Yes, I am some kind of Christian. Universalist would be the closest box if you wanted to put me in one. (Not to be confused with the Unitarians!)

I did not say there is NO Hell®, I said our definition of it has been corrupted by several factors including a mistranslated word, other religions, and some very creative writing on the part of Dante and Milton.

As to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, I won't get into that on this forum, since this is not an appropriate place for interdenominational exegesis comparisons. But here is a link with a short article about the subject if you are really interested.

http://www.tentmaker.org/Dew/Dew1/D1-BibleThreatenings.html

And here is a longer one:

http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/savior-of-the-world/unpardonable-sin.htm

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home