Dear Moral Borrowing Atheist,

Do you believe in the higher value of humans over non-human animals? If so, you are borrowing some of your morality from Theistic philosophy. Evolution provides no foundation for this higher value. The philosophy that has its foundation in evolution equates man with animals. In this view, man does not deserve a higher value than animals. This morality is based on one’s ability to suffer.

Is it more moral to kill a pig that can feel pain or a fetus that can’t feel pain? Atheists would save the pig. Is it less moral to eat bacon, seeing as how the pig can suffer and humans killed it, or practice cannibalism as long as the human died accidentally and the relatives say it’s OK? Atheists would enjoy a good batch of John Smith stew. Is it more moral to kill a deformed or mentally retarded infant so they won’t have to suffer all of their lives, or let them live (although this “suffering” is debatable)? Atheists choose to end the suffering. Some atheists would still let the child and the fetus live and also eat bacon, but if they do they betray the fact that their philosophy does not totally align itself with atheistic philosophy. They borrow from Theistic philosophy.

Would you be more disgusted at a picture of a dead fetus? Your answer will tell you what philosophy you live by.

22 thoughts on “Dear Moral Borrowing Atheist,

  1. I think you should learn more about atheists before you write posts about them. Posting what is clearly untrue will only gather the support of people who believe the same lies.

  2. Peter Singer does not say, “atheists support cannibalism.” What he does is give animals the same rights and value as humans. With this equal value comes an equal set of reasons to eat both types of meat if you can avoid any suffering of the person you are eating and manage not to offend the person, his friends, or his relatives. He thinks it’s just as bad or good, depending on how you do it, to eat ham as it is to eat human meat.

    The cannibalism talk starts around the 18:55 mark. But you really should hear the reasoning starting from the beginning.

    1. No he doesn’t. Neither of these well-known atheists give animals the “same rights and freedoms.” What Singer says is that to live ethically, one must first put one’s self in the position of others (including this notion of other animals) to understand why acting only in self interest is wrong. This notion of the golden rule long predates any biblical reference. Your assertion that either Dawkins of Singer assigns equal value to animals as to humans is absolutely incorrect. Both quite forcefully talk about suffering and that there is quantitatively less for pigs and chickens and lettuce (regarding the ethics of eating them) when one uses a continuum of higher cognitive capacities that takes into account the ability to appreciate concepts like before and after, understand more fully what loss means in regards to potential, and so on.

      Singer talks about different historical cultural practices and how this can affect one’s ethical stance on the idea of cannibalism. You grossly misrepresent this exploration of moral roots affected by cultural practices as a couple of atheists mutually agreeing that to eat a slice of grandma is the same as a slice from Porky. That’s unmitigated rubbish. And yet you go further by writing “Atheists would enjoy a good batch of John Smith stew,” which – if we are going to be honest here – is bearing false witness. I have never come across any single atheist who suggests as much, but for you to group all atheists as agreeing with such an absurd proposition – as greengeekgirl quite legitimately writes – posting what is clearly untrue. These two are discussing the roots of morality and ethical behaviours and how they can be subject to change over time.

      Good grief, Daniel: how can you be so antithetical and astoundingly disrespectful to other human beings who simply do not share your belief in the supernatural to accuse all of them of being quite capable of enjoying the eating of other people?

  3. Right. If we all come from the same combination of proteins and such when the spark of life occurred, how can we claim more value than any of our predecessors? Without them, we wouldn’t be here. Should we not treat them with the same respect? I’m not an atheist, but I can see the connection.

    If we assess ourselves as higher because we use a “continuum of higher cognitive capacities”, then we should rank all things in the proper order, and retarded people should have a lower value than normal people. If we use the measurement of potential, then less care and opportunity should be given to the drug user than the Ivy League graduate. (although they may be users too). It may make sense to do so, but it would not make sense if we were created equal. Hitler used potential and cognitive capacity as reasons for committing genocide. He erased the frail, weak, old, sick, and deformed from his OWN society all in the name of superiority. His race was the only superior one in his eyes. In Hitler’s context (a skewed perspective to say the least) these reasons are used to heighten only one race of people. In my opinion, when you make things equal that should not be equal, morality pays the price. Morality also pays the price when you make things unequal that should have stayed equal. There is a “balance of superiority of value” that shouldn’t be violated. Thankfully this “balance” is normally a part of human thought and existence.

    (I’ve changed this comment a few times because I’m not satisfied with it.)

    1. You have a very strange notion about what ‘atheistic’ philosophy is when it is as simple as this: non belief. That non belief is the only commonality among atheists. Yet from this you deduce all kinds of very strange notions… especially about morality.

      The brute fact is that medical decisions based on quality of life are made every day in the hospital nearest to you. You just don’t hear about them because the public debate about life and death decisions become so polarizing with side bar issues heavily reliant on religious sensibilities and claims about god-sanctioned morality that no discussion can be done without instigating violence… specifically legitimate threats against health care providers. So it’s done quietly because it still HAS to be done. What’s lost in the meantime is the fact that such decisions are a medical issue first and foremost. Religion has no legitimate place at the ethical table about medical issues because religion has no more moral expertise than the members from the local plumber’s union, and we don’t grant plumbers any special moral status about medical issues because of the work they do.

      That being said, atheists generally tend to hold human rights and dignity of personhood in the highest regards. Religious believers tend to place god’s wishes above their neighbour’s rights and freedoms, creating a constant and unnecessary friction between people. It certainly doesn’t help support human rights and dignity to read those bloggers who distribute all kinds of lies and intentional misrepresentations about atheists and their general lack of a moral character while claiming all the while to have by virtue of their religious beliefs in supernatural agencies a ‘higher’ moral position. The irony is profound.

  4. Tildeb,

    I gave consideration to what you said, that I may be spreading lies about atheists. I don’t want to do that, so I watched the video again and tried to think like they think as they talked. I listened carefully to their words to figure out if I misrepresented them.

    I have to say, as I’ve watched the video the second time, my post “Dear Moral Borrowing Atheist” does not misrepresent their teachings or ideas at all. I challenge you to listen to it from beginning to end.

    The following paragraph sums the video up:

    Animals have as much right to live and enjoy their lives as we do to live and enjoy our lives. Animals should be treated equal to humans. It is just as unreasonable to eat humans as it is to eat animals. Therefore, if one decides to eat animals, they can use the same reasonings to eat humans, because animals have equal rights as humans. The only difference is a continuum of capacity to feel pain. Suffering is the main factor in determining whether to end any being’s life. Other factors include whether the being consents to being killed or eaten, whether the relatives agree, a respect for the mourning of the relatives, the potential of the being to plan its future life, and whether or not more suffering will take place if the being continues to live as opposed to ending life early to avoid pain. These factors do not in any way attribute a greater value to the being for whom these factors must be considered. These are just considerations for the morality of how to treat a being or end their life with or without their consent. These factors, according to Peter Singer, should be considered when eating meat of any kind or ending any beings life, regardless of whether they are human.

    This is totally consistent with my post.

    You said, ” for you to group all atheists as agreeing with such is an absurd proposition.”

    I’m not saying that all atheists believe this, I’m saying that if you follow your philosophy to its end, this is what you get. You simply do not believe your own philosophy to its fullest extent.

  5. No, it’s not, Daniel. This is not what you get. What you get as far as a general atheist ‘philosophy’ is like the Star Trek version of the United Federation of Planets, where critical reasoning and respect for the equality of others – especially shared rights and freedoms – is a necessary and fundamental plank based on mutually accepted rule of law where these secular values are codified.

    There are ethics* involved in all human activity and are judged according to various rubrics. Medical ethics, for example, is different than plumbing ethics and actions taken under various banners are judged accordingly. For example, for plumbers to suddenly insert concern for the Great Obstructionist who magically designs blockages to occur adds nothing to the understanding or the rubric of how plumbers should ethically behave. Inserting concern for the Intelligent Designer who magically designs human bodies with biological functioning issues adds nothing to the understanding or the rubric how medical practitioners should ethically behave.

    Belief in these kinds of supernatural agencies have no meaningful role to play in coming to understand ethical behaviour because they add nothing meaningful to the discussion… other than a layer of unnecessary and often contrary concerns to muddy the ethical waters. But if these supernatural agencies have nothing meaningful to add, then on what basis can we create ethical rubrics?

    In Genesis we are told that god gives man dominion over other animals. On this supposed sanction from a supernatural agency, many have assumed we are given permission to do as we will over things we have been granted dominion and actions carried out under this assertion will therefore be ethical. This makes a very juvenile kind of argument – Dad told me I could, he gave me permission – that has the benefit of making some sense… if you really think there is a pyramid of derived ethics with god at the top. And this makes it very compelling to keep pointing out that there is no good reason to think that this assertion is actually true. If it’s not true, then no god, no pyramid. No pyramid, no hierarchy of dominion. No hierarchy of dominion, no underpinning of some kind of god-sanctioned juvenile ethics. We are left figuring it out ourselves, which is what we do anyway when two humans compete over the same dominion – ‘ownership’ in other words – of a resource like the eating of a critter.

    What Singer does is raise the issue about ‘ownership’ itself and return the ethical concern back to the object: is there any actual ethical difference between eating this and eating that? On the one hand, we have good evidence that people from some cultures eat bits of people for symbolic reasons. That we are able to eat people is not an ethical basis for eating people, any more than eating a cow is ethical because we can eat a cow. The inherent value of a person on this basis is no greater nor less than the inherent value any other animal like cow. Something more needs to inform our ethics. That’s why Dawkins talks about suffering, about the continuum of higher cognitive functioning. These abilities matter in an ethical discussion. This is the point you are missing: that this “something more” is not simple, nor clear, nor concise but debatable for a variety of excellent reasons… not least of which is cultural influence… including consideration for religious beliefs! The point Singer is making is that an ethical framework emerges and changes over time depending on increased knowledge and further important considerations. An ethical framework is not simply derived from any one ultimate source.

    * I am using the word ‘ethics’ as actions that are judged to lie somewhere on the continuum of what is considered good and what is considered bad. By contrast, morality is about determining the difference between right from wrong. So when we are talking about eating people and/or cows, we are talking about an action that falls in my usage into the sphere of ethics. Morality and ethics obviously overlap but I think of ethics as morality in action.

  6. You got to the heart of the issue when you brought up ownership. If we are our own property then we can do with ourselves what we want. If we are not our own property then we can’t so with ourselves what we want. Either we put faith in our flawed selves or we put faith in something outside of ourselves. The difference is a “self” philosophy, or a “leave self behind” philosophy. The philosophy of self starts from the ground up, the other starts from the top down. One tries to fit the pieces together to make a complete picture, the other starts with the complete picture and fits the pieces according to the model. These two philosophical foundations make all the difference when it comes to deciding appropriate moral behavior, and affect issues that range all over the spectrum.

    1. Come on, Daniel. You know perfectly well that the morality you claim to hold does not come from ‘the top down.’ The morality you claim comes from god has to come to us in some concrete form, say, the bible. You simply and honestly do not adhere to all the various commands attributed to god. You pick and choose those that already agree with your moral sense. Not once, I’ll bet, have you seriously considered slavery to be admissible. Not once have you seriously considered selling or giving a daughter to a guest or purchasing a concubine. Not once have you seriously considered stoning a neighbour to death for cutting the grass on a Sunday. Not once have you considered it justifiable to kill a child who has been disrespectful. Not once have you considered a squared beard cause for killing. And the list just goes on and on. In every case, your prior sense of what is right and wrong has excused these commandments as belonging to the times, written in ignorance, carried out by moral bigots and idiots. Yet you would have us believe that your own morality came from exactly the same source prior to your dismissal of these brutal rules of moral behaviour.

      I don’t believe you.

      What you are today has not been refined by your belief from some external supernatural force. You have been the responsible agent, probably learning as much from cartoons as from religious tracts. Your philosophical foundation is the compilation of your experiences and learning, discarding what you think is not good from that which you think is good. And it is this filter through which you have interpreted scripture to… wait for it… mesh with what you already believe is good. That’s how you discern morality you think of as good from the bible.

      So I think you are not being honest with yourself about how you know slavery and human bondage is not morally good. If you could suspend this filter before reading the bible, I think you be completely flummoxed by how many christians reject slavery outright when it’s obviously fully sanctioned by both the old and new testaments and yet claim that very morality is ‘taught’ by the bible!.

  7. On the one hand, yet here you are, Daniel, somehow able to think eating another human and a pig is qualitatively different even though you have followed what I call your ‘actual’ (lower) rather than your supposed religious philosophy to its logical conclusion. How did you manage that?

    On the other hand, yet here you are, fully endorsing that not every son should be killed for the sins of the father following this supposedly ‘higher’ moral code. How did you manage that?

    In both cases, your moral character has imposed itself on the ‘lower’ as well as the ‘higher’ to make a value judgment. What is honest is that you have built this morality – it has emerged from your experiences and learning.

  8. Tildeb, I think what you are saying is that we use the same process that stems from “self” to discern right from wrong whether we believe in God or not. And just as I say that you don’t follow your philosophy to its fullest extent, you say that I don’t either when I reject slavery and such. You also think that I derive my right and wrong from society just like everyone else, and that’s why I reject the Old Testament laws.

    First, I haven’t actually brought up the Bible, so I find it rather interesting that you did. Many people like to throw these Old Testament laws in believer’s faces. Why do you judge my estimation of right and wrong on only a few passages in the Bible? Your judgment of Christians should be based on the entire Bible and not just a part. That’s like judging plays in a ball game by only a few sentences in the rule book. If you would honestly seek to understand the Bible you might find the reasons why we do not follow the old laws yourself, and the reasons have nothing to do with society.

    You also ignored the other sentences I wrote in that paragraph. Each sentience is complimentary to the other sentences. You, again, isolate only one idea and bend it so that it no longer resembles what I said. What I mean when I say “top down” is that people who trust in God, also trust in his authority to tell them true reality, why we are the way we are, how we got here, and where we are going. We trust in his answers rather than starting from a flawed perspective (because we are flawed beings) and only possessing a few pieces of the puzzle with which to build a theory of everything. Having a flawed perspective and holding a few pieces of the puzzle is what I call the “from the ground up” philosophy. This type of reasoning will always lead to a more skewed perspective and catch only glimpses of true reality. Like it or not, humanity has needs. We need to be instructed in true reality, or we will never get it right. The nature of men will make sure of that.

    You said, “Your philosophical foundation is the compilation of your experiences and learning, discarding what you think is not good from that which you think is good. And it is this filter through which you have interpreted scripture to… wait for it… mesh with what you already believe is good. That’s how you discern morality you think of as good from the bible.”

    I derive my right and wrong from the character of God, not from laws, not from myself, and not from society. Societies come and go, and so do the varying moralities. My thoughts change constantly. Laws can be redefined so that they mean the opposite. God’s character remains the same. Only his interaction with us change. As such, I deem slavery to be wrong because it is not in line with his character: “love your neighbor as yourself.”

    You said, “So I think you are not being honest with yourself about how you know slavery and human bondage is not morally good. If you could suspend this filter before reading the bible, I think you be completely flummoxed by how many christians reject slavery outright when it’s obviously fully sanctioned by both the old and new testaments and yet claim that very morality is ‘taught’ by the bible!.”

    Let’s examine what the the WHOLE Bible says:

    Property in foreign slaves was a patriarchal custom Gen_17:12. Such slaves might be captives taken in war (Num_31:6 following; Deu_20:14), or those consigned to slavery for their crimes, or those purchased of foreign slave-dealers. However, it was the object of Moses, not at once to do away with slavery, but to discourage and to mitigate it. The Law would not suffer it to be forgotten that the slave was a man, and protected him in every way that was possible at the time against the injustice or cruelty of his master. For example:

    Killing a slave merited punishment.1 (Ex 21:20) Permanently injured slaves had to be set free (Ex 21:26-27) Slaves who ran away from oppressive masters were effectively freed (Dt 23:15-16) The law also gave slaves a day of rest every week (Ex 20:10, Dt 5:14). When one Hebrew owned another Hebrew as a slave, the law commanded lenient treatment: Slaves were to be treated as hired workers, not slaves (Lev 25:39-43) All slaves were to be freed after six years (Ex 21:2, Dt 15:12) Freed slaves were to be liberally supplied with grain, wine and livestock (Dt 15:12-15) Every fiftieth year (the year of jubilee), all Hebrew slaves were to be freed, even those owned by foreigners (Lev 25:10, 47-54) In special cases, slaves could choose to remain with their masters if they felt it was in their best interests (Dt 15:16-17). If a Hebrew sold himself as a slave to a foreigner, he reserved the right to buy his freedom (Lev 25:47-49) and was still to be treated as a hired man (Lev 25:53).

    Laws like this made it hard to hold on to slaves. This example of slavery is not at all like we think of slavery today. And it was eventually done away with which was the real goal. And doing away with it is consistent with the idea that we are God’s property and not our own. This brought the Jews to the morality they should have had, and a view of reality that is more in line with actual reality.

    If you’re concerned about “changing laws” in the Bible, anyone with children can explain why God says “yes” at one time and “no” at another. You tell the child not to cross the street when they’re young and let them do it on their own when they’re older. It was a law in the beginning and you punished them for not following it. You had your reasons. As they matured, the law was no longer necessary. You forget, God is a person. Laws can change as does our interaction with him. In the Old Testament God used outward signs and laws to indicate the inward change his people should have. In the New Testament, he changes his people from the inside out and makes them a new creature. Now we do good not to be with God, but we do good because we are already with God. Owning or not owning slaves adds nothing to do our status with him.

    Tildeb, how can you not see that people who trust in self or trust in God will have two very different philosophies and contrasting moralities? This is why we have pro-life versus pro-choice, equality of outcome versus equality of opportunity, higher value of humans versus equality of man and animals, acceptance of sexual deviance versus the sacredness of sex confined in marriage, tolerance versus rejecting lies, and the list goes on.

    Now, I recognize that some believers support abortion, promiscuity, and the rest. However, I would wager that they simply do not follow their own philosophy to its fullest extent and borrow some things from the philosophy of “self” because it is convenient.

    1. Let’s be a little more careful here defining what what is at issue before diving into other moral concerns.

      You suggest in the opening post that atheists have no basis except self-interest for their morality and conclude that this aimless moralistic relativity is exemplified by Singer and Dawkins talking about eating other people. This self-interest develops what you call an atheist morality “from the bottom up,” which supposedly informs what you think of as the atheist philosophy. This philosophy you say is qualitatively different from the god believer who gains morality from the “top down,” establishing clearly from anchored moral absolutes what is right and what is wrong, including a hierarchy of beings which you claim explains why eating other people is wrong but eating other critters is not, and that without this “top down” god-sanctioned moral instruction we have no similar moral code between believers and atheists.

      What we’re dealing with here are a lot of terms like morality, ethics, philosophy, god, and bandying them about as if we shared an understanding of what each means. I have tried to define what I mean by ethical behaviour and how this reflects by our actions our sense of what is right and wrong. No god is involved. I have tried to show that we share this same approach even concerning what you call religious ‘top down’ moral instruction.

      We both filter our sense of right and wrong through many layers of concerns starting with our similar biology and wending our way through our experiences and learning and culture and we follow this similar path whether we are atheist or believer. What we are talking about here is how we inform our sense of right and wrong.

      I claim we do it the same way. You claim that we do it differently. I have pointed out that this shared moral sense of right and wrong precedes any instruction that you claim comes from the “top down.” I have used the example of a moral precept that it is wrong to own another human being and that we know this before we gain any kind of “top down” moral instruction through religion specifically about slavery.

      I ask at this point for you to think back and see if you can determine whether or not you actually had no moral position before reading the WHOLE bible about owning another human being. Did you actually think it was as likely to be moral as immoral to own another human being before you received this “top down” biblical instruction? Do you want us to accept that you actually thought it might be moral to do so and were unsure so you turned to god to clarify the issue for you through the bible? Honestly?

      And yet when I point out that slavery is never condemned outright in the bible, never clearly labeled as morally repugnant, never called a sin, never defined in terms of an action that is immoral in the eyes of god, you utterly fail to account for how your “top down” moral position occurred concerning slavery; instead, you create this picture that slavery was not really all that bad in biblical times!

      But hang on: you accuse atheists of being moral relativists because apparently they have no other source for their morality except self-interest. How is it then that atheists can call slavery morally wrong outright but it is the devout, those that claim a higher moral ground sanctioned by god, who are the ones less able to justify the same moral conclusion? Slavery is an abomination of the human spirit for both owner and slave and I think and I need no instruction from god to justify that moral claim. How is it, then, that you cannot?

  9. Since I was a child, I was taught that slavery was wrong. My parents got it from the Bible (Love your neighbor as yourself). When I made my own decision on the subject, I consulted the Bible as well. I suspect also, that since our current culture abhors slavery that I would have agreed with the assessment. Most likely, I would not have needed the Bible to assess slavery as wrong since society feels the same way. But, I approve society’s evaluation on the issue inasmuch as it agrees with God. However, when morality changes with the culture, so does right and wrong. If I had grown up before the Civil War, and my parents had owned slaves, I would have grown up thinking that it was OK. But, if I had looked in the Bible for direction on the issue, I would have had to reject slavery as wrong. Now, I could speculate that if we treated them with the proper value and respect, gave them the option to leave and educated them (something they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else), I would have no problem with the practice because their rights would not have been violated. The “slave” then would be more like a hired man. The moral effort here is to erase the corruption out of the good relationships with other humans. As we see though, our sense of right and wrong is not informed consistently with culture.

    I will make mention of the fact that God does not micromanage our sense of right and wrong either. Some decisions are left up to us. Some decisions can still be made using the spirit of the law (not the letter) and applying it to the issue at hand. But, this does not work all the time and consequently we divide into sides based on our decisions. We cannot definitively call the other man’s choice right or wrong just based on our own view on the issue. Again, the moral effort is to eliminate the corruption from the good action or intention. This requires a more perfect knowledge of good, although, I would not recommend that you look to society or self to find it.

    1. Daniel, you can’t foist off the moral guidance you attribute to god via the bible to your parents without shifting the issue to how was it that they were god’s recipients of this moral knowledge. If they learned that slavery was morally wrong according to the bible from their parents, and those parents from their’s, and so on, then surely we end up back to the time when slavery was widely considered sanctioned by god by good god-fearing christians. Indeed, we find exactly this reason for slavery widely advertised as sanctioned by god based on other biblical references.

      So once again, we find ourselves in a conundrum; when did slavery switch from being morally acceptable to god according to people who were biblically literate christians as well as slave owners to becoming morally unacceptable? The source of the apparent morality remains the same bible for both you and them, but something else must have been inserted into this moral equation in the intervening time, something more than what you refer to as moral direction from god, otherwise nothing would have changed.

      How is it that you (and your parents) have been able to correctly interpret the same bible once commonly used to justify slavery? Don’t you find this remarkable considering your position that morality about the wrongness of slavery derives from the bible? More importantly, how do we know that your interpretation today is actually the correct one? (I think it is, but I have other much better reasons for thinking so, but you have already categorized these other reasons I have as faulty because admittedly they don’t derive from god but man, reason, and society.)

      Do you see the problem with your assertion about morality that is dependent on correct interpretation? Is it god or you who is determining the bible’s moral directions? If it’s god, then why the historical confusion? On the one hand, are you that much more able to correctly determine god’s moral directions from your reading of the WHOLE bible better than so many of your predecessors? On the other hand, if it’s you doing the actual moralizing, then aren’t you using god’s name in vain to justify your own morality that powers your interpretive moral skills?

      Either way, your position about morality is inherently weak if not fatally flawed. If god establishes moral guidance, then at the very least you must agree that he has done a terrible job of it when he can’t even clarify so as to remove all necessity for interpretation whether or not slavery is morally wrong. I mean, really; would it have been all that difficult to say to Moses, “Thou shall not own other people.” Isn’t that slightly more important as a moral directive than, say, “Thou shall not take my name in vain?” Which leaves me to the conclusion that if I can figure out a better way to make this moral knowledge more widely available to a population that supposedly has no other means but corrupt ones to arrive at the correct interpretation that god actually intended, then surely one should reasonably expect god to do much, much better than this pitifully inadequate effort… unless he truly doesn’t care about the morality of slavery and the suffering that infuse it. But that’s a whole new problem.

  10. “More importantly, how do we know that your interpretation today is actually the correct one?”

    When people use the Bible to justify slavery, they are interpreting the Bible through their experiences and culture. The correct process is to interpret their experiences and culture through the Bible. The Bible should be the lens through which you look at your experiences, not the other way around. This is called walking by faith.

    “Do you see the problem with your assertion about morality that is dependent on correct interpretation?”

    You see, it’s not that I have a correct interpretation. It’s that I leave pretense behind. I expect my notions to be wrong when diving into the truth of God. I’m not unique in this respect. All followers of true Christianity do this. The principle is: The reality you operate in affects the reality you live in.

    ‘I mean, really; would it have been all that difficult to say to Moses, “Thou shall not own other people.”’

    I tend to think the same way. Why didn’t he do that? I really don’t know, and it’s really not for me to explain the infinite ways of the infinite mind. The only explanation I can come up with is this:

    When God isn’t clear on something, it means you should dig further, not give up. Hidden truth is waiting for you to find it, and it’s usually that kind that lets you know a little bit more about God. I mean, really, would we be talking about God’s character, laws, and his word as deeply; and would we be finding more about the reality of God in this way if he had just given a simple command? I think he wanted you and I to have this discussion.

    1. When people use the Bible to justify slavery, they are interpreting the Bible through their experiences and culture. The correct process is to interpret their experiences and culture through the Bible.

      And you know this is different… how?

      This is just a word game. If one is to interpret experiences and culture through the bible, then what are you on about regarding deriving morality from the bible? What… go live first and then interpret whether or not you have acted morally? This makes no sense to your argument.

    1. And, oh by the way, please check out what atheist morality looks like in the comment section and tell me again how it is based on self interest.

  11. We are way off topic now, but I will oblige.

    There are extremes for the religious and non-religious man which can never be reached. For the religious man it is complete adherence to the goodness and laws of God. He will always fall short. For the non-religious man it is individual liberty. He will always find himself constrained by what, to each individual, constitutes harm. Other people have quite different ideas about what part of your specific behavior concerns them or harms them. On one hand, society could define harm like Anthony Comstock and squelch even the most private immorality perceived to take place. The moral police would always be looking over your shoulders. On the other hand, if only physical or material injury counts as harm there could be no law against prostitution, public drunkenness, obscenity, indecent exposure, and so on. If expanding the sphere of liberty was always a “net gain”, so to speak, it would lead to the elimination of all law and restraints imposed by social disapproval, which is an unrealistic goal of individual liberty.

    Now, what constitutes harm to this particular government, in this case, does not constitute harm to you, or the commenters on this post. However, without an absolute, or at the very least, a unending universal standard by which to judge these actions as immoral, how can you impose your concept of harm on another person’s or government’s concept of harm. There is no reason why their opinions on that subject are not as valid as, or entitled to more weight than yours. Your assessment of their actions are still based on your own notions and opinions of right and wrong. This is where you draw the line. OK. Great. They draw the line at another place. If there is no absolute standard, then your definition of harm is just as valid as their definition of harm. What’s the difference if it’s all based on every individual’s or society’s line? By the way, making an unending universal standard leads to Communism, and that’s never been a successful government. Communism hinders individual liberty as well. The only real answer is one that exists outside of humanity. We need a mediator who knows what’s best of each of us. If he doesn’t exist, your proclamation of injustice can always be hindered by another man’s equally valid idea of justice.

    1. Once again, Daniel, you make my point for me but utterly fail to realize it.

      I introduce a case of religious law in action where a woman after receiving 99 lashes for adultery is further punished by a sentence of death by stoning. I and other atheists find this barbaric, cruel, brutal, and immoral.

      Religious law derived from holy texts is immoral for what I think are excellent reasons that we have not explored in much detail. We haven’t gone there because you argue that without morality derived from your god as revealed by your holy text and your correct interpretation, atheists cannot ascertain whether or not any action like stoning a woman to death is or is not moral because they have no stable moral ‘benchmark’ against which to measure. You simply deny any morality as the kind I hold has any validity at all because it is not the same as yours! Yet here we are with you and your relationship with your god quite possibly at the moral polar opposite than this islamic cleric and his relationship with his god. Both of you claim to correctly interpret god’s moral law but have reached different conclusions. How odd. The point you keep making for me is that we have no way to determine which of you – if either – is correct, leading us right back to the position you claim belongs only to atheists – relative morality. The only difference as far as I can see is that I take full responsibility for my enlightened morality whereas you pass your moral responsibility on to god as if it that’s where your morality came from… even though we both know that’s not true from our previous discussion (or, at least, you’ve been unable to explain how without any prior morality you were able to correctly interpret scripture to derive god’s).

      But we don’t honestly know, do we… other than both of you assure everyone that it is so. All I know for sure is that one of you is wrong.

      Furthermore, atheists by way of non belief in god do NOT ascribe to one kind of relative morality; many ascribe to different kinds of moral rubrics (some of which are relative) more fully explained and in detail by various philosophies. You mention one here as if it were the ONLY one, namely the harm principle. There are, in fact, many. But by ANY standard that assumes some basis of respect for human rights, freedoms, and dignity of personhood, this barbarous act of stoning a woman to death is morally repugnant and indefensible. It becomes acceptable only if we assume god would wish it to be so. That’s why Haldane is widely quoted as saying that it takes religion to make good people do truly terrible things. My example of a religious law in action is the sentence of a justice system so far removed from any human understanding of right and wrong based on reason and philosophically justifiable ethics that it can be justified only by claims to brutally serve a supernatural misogynistic sky father. And there is a holy text to back it up! That means (again) there is no qualitative difference between the morality you prescribe to god and the morality this islamic cleric prescribes to god other than a variance in which holy book you use as a reference, and no objective way to determine which – if either – is correct. None.

      At the very least, this discrepancy between holy texts reveals that claims of god-sanctioned morality are as relative as any complaint you have of the morality of atheists. But the important difference is that at least atheists claim responsibility for their moral rubric and generally support human rights, freedoms, and dignity of personhood as a good starting position upon which to build an enlightened morality, which is light years more advanced in ethical terms than the religious reliance on a various nomadic moralities brought into being during the Iron age.

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