john w. loftus said...
“Steve, about objective morals, I've written about this many times but you bring it up every single time I say something here as if it refutes everything I say no matter what the topic is.”
I bring it up whenever you make a moralistic claim. In this case, you said that you were entitled to respect. Your worldview fails to warrant that moralistic claim.
“Can you please just once stick to the issue we're dealing with?”
I commented on your other points. You’re the one who’s ducking my counterarguments.
“Here's my most recent attempt at answering you. __But of course, you've refuted me already, right? Okay, I guess. But you cannot say I don't address the issue. Be sure to read the comments, okay?”
There were 75 comments. Since it’s your post and your argument, I only took the time to read your comments. With one exception, your comments did nothing to advance your argument in the post proper, so I’ll confine myself to that (plus one comment):
“Now here’s the rub. With the GENERAL claim you indict all non-Christians everywhere in all eras of human history, Muslims, Jews, Taoists, Shintoists, and Buddhists. You’re claiming that none of these potentially 50 billion people have had an objective moral basis prohibiting them from murdering, and raping, and cheating, and stealing at will without regard for any consequences, and that this applies to them as well as to us skeptics. You’re saying that none of us non-believers have had an ultimate moral basis for being good, period, and so there is no logical reason why we should refrain from committing horrendous evils.”
There are some inaccuracies and ambiguities in this statement:
i) The unbeliever qua unbeliever has no objective basis for morality. His belief-system undercuts rather than underwrites moral absolutes.
ii) Conversely, the unbeliever qua human being does have an objective basis for morality. Due to natural revelation and common grace, the unbeliever has some genuine moral intuitions.
iii) However, (ii) is grounded in the existence of the true God, which the unbeliever denies. Unbelievers often act on their tacit knowledge of right and wrong. But their belief-system is at war with their moral intuitions.
iv) If a (non-Messianic) Jew is getting his morality from OT ethics, then he does have an objective basis for morality.
v) To some extent, Christian heresies like Islam are parasitic on Biblical morality. And, to that extent, they have an objective basis for morality.
vi) Even in the case of (iv)-(v), this is still in tension with their denial of the true God.
vii) It is quite possible for someone who is either immoral or amoral to refrain from committing evil due to the consequences. The evil action may conflict with his self-interest. It isn’t worth the risk.
So he can have a purely pragmatic reason to refrain from rape or robbery or murder. But his reason is not a moral reason.
“There are many people who act morally who are non-believers and they have been doing so since the dawn of time.”
That begs the question of whether these people are acting morally. How does Loftus identify a moral action? How does he distinguish a moral action from an immoral action? He has yet to establish his source and standard of morality. So he’s in no position to invoke instances of virtuous behavior among unbelievers—past and present.
“All someone needs to learn who makes such a claim as yours is a basic history lesson.”
i) This commits the naturalistic fallacy. History is a descriptive discipline. It records the way in which human beings behave. What they did.
But that doesn’t begin to tell us whether they did what they ought to have done. Or did what they ought not to have done.
ii) History records men murdering and refraining from murder, raping and refraining from rape, thieving and refraining from theft.
So Loftus can’t very well derive ethics from history. For all these contrary actions are equally historical.
He is tacitly superimposing a moralistic grid on the historical process, and then cherry-picking the examples which he deems to be virtuous. So he didn’t infer this from history itself. And it continues to beg the question of where he gets his moralistic grid in the first place.
iii) Finally, his appeal to historical knowledge is at odds with his historical scepticism.
When arguing for morality, he appeals to history. When arguing against the Bible, he appeals to “ancient superstition.”
“There have been great Chinese dynasties, the great rule of Mohammed, along with the Greek Golden Age, the Roman Empire, and nearly all Japanese dynasties, NONE OF WHICH HAD ANY DOMINATING INFLUENCE FROM THE CHRISTIAN FAITH to gain their ultimate objective morals from.”
These civilizations were rife with horrendous evils. They are hardly moral exemplars.
“And if you think Christianity is waning in America, then consider the evidence that even in this secular dominated culture our government works well with diversified religious and non-religious groups of people in it, as do all European countries.”
Actually, I think that Sweden, to take an oft-cited case, is a good example of moral freefall once Christian values are withdrawn.
“There should be great mayhem in this world, the likes of which should send the rest of us into the asylum.”
Not at all. God preserves a remnant of common decency among the reprobate for the sake of the elect.
“But if we do just fine without this supposed ultimate objective moral standard then why do we need one at all?”
i) I don’t credit the claim that unbelievers do “just fine” without objective moral norms.
ii) But even if I did, we need that standard if we’re going to say that you *shouldn’t* commit rape, robbery, or murder because it’s *wrong*.
“One last illustration. Karl Popper argues that scientific knowledge progresses by conjectures (or guesses) which are in turn refuted for better conjectures (or guesses). He claims science progresses because we learn from our mistakes. In fact he claims all knowledge progresses in the same way, and I agree. We have learned from our mistakes. That's why our morals have developed into that which makes for a safer, more productive, and less barbaric people than in ancient times, which is reflected in the Bible.”
i) His appeal to moral progress entails a corollary appeal to historical progress. But Loftus is a sceptic about historical knowledge, right?
ii) He’s assuming rather than proving moral progress.
iii) He’s committing the naturalistic fallacy.