Thursday, February 01, 2007

Nuts to you!

ANONYMOUS SAID:

“You Christian theists are in such a funny position. You claim moral superiority, but when we look at your book, we atheists see a morality typical of the time that spawned it, steeped in superstition.”

And if Abraham were looking at your books, he’d see a morality typical of your time, steeped in secular groupthink.

“Would you really defend Leviticus when God (supposedly) says: ‘[Ye shall keep my statutes] neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee’."

Yes, I’d defend it with a view to original intent.

“It doesn't matter who God supposedly told this to, it's just plain nuts! NUTS! ... the law would never make any sense under any circumstances-- let alone your claim that from God comes ‘intrinsic morality’. ‘Thou shalt not eat green jelly beans.’ is just as morally applicable in the REAL WORLD.”

Several problems here:

1.You’d make a lousy anthropologist. Every culture has its symbolic associations. You’re a fool if you think you’re automatically in a position, based on your 21C American point of reference, to declare another culture’s custom “just plain nuts! This would never make any sense under any circumstances!”

Suppose a native from an undiscovered tribe in S. America were brought to the United States. What would he think of those funny colored lights we have at every major intersection? “It’s just plain nuts! Those funny colored lights would never make any sense under any circumstances!”

2.The fact that we believe in moral absolutes doesn’t mean that every law in Scripture is a moral absolute. That was never the claim.

3.And you’ve done nothing to salvage Loftus’ argument from evil, which was the original point of reference.

4.Lev 19:19 is part of the ceremonial law. It deals with ritual purity and impurity. To some extent, categories of ritual purity and impurity are admittedly arbitrary.

That’s no objection to the ceremonial law, for we were never claiming otherwise.

5.However, not everything that’s arbitrary is unreasonable.

Libraries catalogue books according to a somewhat arbitrary classification scheme.

It would be a lot simpler to file books on a shelf without all that effort to order them according to a complicated numerical code.

But while that would greatly simplify the shelving process, it would greatly complicate the retrieval process.

There’s nothing intrinsically evil about mixing books on different subjects, but that would also be extremely inefficient if you were looking for a particular book on a particular subject.

Even a somewhat arbitrary way of arranging books by topic is preferable to randomized shelving.

6.The Bible has a doctrine of natural kinds. God created a variety of things. Things of a kind.

This is important to ontology, epistemology, and morality.

Some things naturally go together, while other things don’t.

7.The ceremonial law has its basis in the moral law. To some extent it parallels the natural order, but it goes beyond the natural order to illustrate ethical distinctions and typological truths by symbolic rites and rituals.

Like any cultural code language, it makes perfect sense if you know the code, and perfect nonsense if you don’t know the code.

“Morality isn't fixed; it's not intrinsic, that's the whole point. We as human beings have to evaluate a given moral position based on real outcomes and evidence as much as it is possible.”

Thanks for that insight. Suppose I lobby for the passage of a law according to which every atheist whose last name begins with “M” will be executed.

Before passing that law, I conduct a feasibility study on the most cost-effective method of executing every atheist whose last name begins with “M.”

Does that satisfy your criterion of outcome-based morality?

“How do we evaluate this evidence? Simple. Based upon the "state of being human" -- a just law is created at an attempt to alleviate human suffering.”

But since, according to you, the alleviation of human suffering is not a fixed value, why should we evaluate the evidence or pass a law with that outcome in mind?

If there’s no intrinsic morality, there’s no intrinsic justice. So much for “just” laws.

“In point of fact, it is you theists who claim there are moral absolutes, so YOU must defend the moral edicts of the Bible which now seem horribly out of date and cruel.”

i) I defend them on a regular basis.

ii) Since, according to you, there is no fixed or intrinsic morally, you may find the edicts of Scripture cruel, but they can’t be intrinsically cruel, now can they?

“We atheists don't need to explain why we don't believe in fixed morality. You do.”

May I quote you on that in case an atheist whose last name begins with “M” complains about the new law we’ve passed?

“We have a perfectly reasonable explanation for why certain laws in the Bible are silly. They were written a long time ago and humanity has moved on... please join us.”

But since, according to you, there is no fixed, intrinsically morality, then the fact that humanity has supposedly moved on since Bible times doesn’t mark a moral advance. So why should we join you?

If morality is extrinsic and fluid, then your humanistic laws are just as “silly” as the laws of Scripture.

14 comments:

  1. Listen up Steve, You decide what is good in the "Good Book." Admit it. You "cherry pick" what you like out of that which you don't like. That best explains how Christians have interpreted morality down through the ages, especially with slavery.

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  2. Listen up John. You decide what's evil in the "Good Book." Admit it. You "cherry pick" what you don't like out of that which you like. That best explains how atheists have misinterpreted the Bible down through the ages.

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  3. CrazyManAndy2/02/2007 12:19 AM

    LOL...that was funny anon. I can always come here for a good laugh and a little knowledge.

    CMA

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  4. hostus twinkius2/02/2007 12:53 AM

    John,

    Upon what grounds do you say that slavery is bad in light of the fact you deny moral absolutes? Just your opinion? You're always plunking that harp string because you think your morality is superior to that revealed in the Bible. But look beneath your feet, there's no ground underneath you. Kind of like Wile E. Coyote just before gravity takes over as he stands about 20ft from the cliff's edge.

    As far as "cherry picking", I don't think Steve has been ducking any moral issues, especially the difficult ones. You must have a short memory as I know you read this blog religiously...

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  5. Upon what grounds do you say that slavery is bad...

    Slavery is bad from the modern Christian mindset, of course. The question is why Christians have not always thought that way if the Bible spoke consistently about slavery.

    Just think how YOU would feel if you were born and died as a slave in the South and some modern Christian claimed the Christians in the South misinterpreted the Bible? What would YOU think then?

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  6. Loftus again resorts to hypotheticals in lieu of offering something like...oh, I don't know, an ARGUMENT maybe?

    Loftus, how would YOU feel if you were a bag of plasma? How would YOU feel if you were born as a bacteria cell?

    I'm thinking not much different...

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  7. John W. Loftus said:

    "The question is why Christians have not always thought that way if the Bible spoke consistently about slavery."

    Because some of them had a vested interest in the economic benefits of free mass labor.

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  8. The Almighty Cheung has deigned to reply, and has now started a series on how 'irreverent' his detractors are - even though he can't be bothered to read their criticisms.

    You couldn't make it up.

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  9. Loftis: Are you posting here because you got a good whippin' from Paul Manata and can't deal with the shame?

    Embarrassing for you and the entire atheist community.

    I love it, Autonomy exposed, The mind of Christ demonstrated.

    For those who missed Loftis vs. Manata and need to meet "the Discomfiter" it is worth the investment in Gene Cook's ministry and net broadcast: www.unchainedradio.com,... search the archives to understand why Loftis wears a hat that is smaller than the circumference of his forehead.

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  10. I understand that Christians Can not have any type of doubt no matter what and if they do, at that very second they stop being Christians and God totally rejects them. What do we do if we do have questions what should we do?
    Of course the world is only 10 thousand years old and anyone who thinks different. Not that it has any meaning what so ever. What are we to do?

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  11. Anonymous said:
    "I understand that Christians Can not have any type of doubt no matter what and if they do, at that very second they stop being Christians and God totally rejects them. What do we do if we do have questions what should we do?"

    What is your source of information? This is not an accurate statement of the relationship between uncertainty and saving faith.

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  12. On the subject of slavery and the consistency of Christian thought regarding it: In the seventh century the Pope outlawed slavery in Europe and for the next several hundred years it was not practiced in Christian nations. The practice had been in decline for hundreds of years prior to this because Christian doctrine was the first moral line of thought that showed slavery to be wrong. Christian theology and doctrine logically leads to the equality of all men (God created all of us and we're all sinners) and as a result has led to democracy and the end of all slavery. When European explorers landed in Africa and South America the practice of slavery did appear again and some Christians did try to find ways to justify it by misconstruing Biblical passages. That being said the abolition movements in Great Britain and the US were led by Christians. To say that historically Christians have held inconsistent views on slavery is quite ignorant when for the vast majority of time since the beginning of Christianity it has been condemned by all Christians. Just because for a relative short amount of time it was allowed and practiced by some Christians (who would stand to make obvious economic gains) does not mean that there has not been an overwhelming consensus on where the Bible stands on slavery by Christians. In other words the Christian view has consistently denounced the practice of slavery for thousands of years. To claim otherwise is foolishness.

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  13. Well then, may I refer you to just one book of many? See chapter one of Willard M. Swartley's book, Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women (Herald Press, 1983).

    Read the pro-slavery arguments there based upon a literal view of the Bible. I dare say if you lived in the South you would agree with their interpretations of slavery. The only reason you don't is because of the progression of history. Still, why didn't God explicitly condemn slavery in these words: "Thou shalt not own, buy, sell, or trade slaves," and say it as often as necessary? Why didn't he? Why didn't God create us as one race of people and keep us that way?

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  14. John W. Loftus said:

    "Read the pro-slavery arguments there based upon a literal view of the Bible."

    No, they were not based on a literal view of the Bible. Rather, they were based on an argument from analogy.

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