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Atheists Overreach ... Why do they do that?

Discussion in 'Christian Apologetics' started by 2PhiloVoid, Aug 24, 2019.

  1. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid Pascal said it best: "Fire!" Supporter

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    ... I was just sitting here, mulling over this comment as I'm reviewing some of the various responses that have been made, and it came to my mind that, yes, perhaps an atheist may even look at me and think, "I, and Shermer, and even Christian Smith, are all a bit 'kinder' than this 2PhiloVoid chap ..." And I suppose I'd partially agree with him on that point. ^_^ So, good point, Gaara! All consuming kindness is not my strong suit. I guess along with some of the other Existential philosophers, I have a bit of 'ressentiment' that needs to be addressed (notice, it's not 'resentment' with the usual English spelling, but that of the French ... used and referred to, however diffusely, by the likes of both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, among others [see the brief link below].)

    Ressentiment - Wikipedia

    True, but then there will be Christians who argue that measuring God's morality purely on what we perceive is His expressed level of 'niceness' is rationally misdirected, such as can be seen in D. Stephen Long's (2004) essay, "God Is Not Nice." Long says something sociological in nature which I find interesting and which partly comports with the way I see the world,

    There are two sources of the nice god--one cultural and the other theological. The nice god emerges from the therapeutic culture of late modernity where self-esteem and narcissism rule. The nice god who seeks only my spiritual fulfillment without the judgement of the cross and the wounds of Christ fits well a therapeutic culture intent on making persons whole who have no easily definable disease in the first place ... (p. 45, in D. Brent Laytham, ed.)
    Obviously, Long's first cited source above can prove to be a veritable lightning rod for heated debate, but as if that isn't enough, he goes on to briefly state his second source, and it too is a lightning rod, although one from another direction:

    ...But Christians might have resisted this god more powerfully if not for a fateful turn in theology around the time of the Reformation (the sixteenth century). That turn was the development of the idea that we cannot really know God, but can only know what God does "for us" or "in us." Together, these two historical changes transform God into a form of self-therapy for our perceived psychological needs. (p. 45, in D. Brent Laytham, ed.)
    So, with that, I propose a toast to our mutually acknowledged 'ressentiment' ... not that I agree with everything Long is saying, but he makes some interesting points as to why we're all feeling the way we're feeling these days and, thereby, resorting to the moral decisions that we do and subscribing to the ethical frameworks that we do, in the human, all too human, ways that we also do.

    REFERENCE
    Laytham, D. Brent. God Is Not...: Religious, Nice,"One of Us," An American, A Capitalist. Brazos Press, 2004.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
  2. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    Haha, no. I've seen the full thing now. I'm just talking about the first scene I ever saw, which involved Michael's crazy trolley sketches. ^_^

    Oh, I don't think utilitarianism is particularly useful either, but focusing specifically on atheism seems to just ruffle feathers and set off the subjectivists. If the question is whether consequentialism can allow for universal human rights, then atheism itself is a distraction.
     
  3. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    Has a single atheist in the thread admitted it? I think Gaara is the only one who is flirting with the idea. No one else is willing to admit it. Nothing surprising there, of course.

    To be clear, they will not admit the idea that the loftiest moral systems are not rationally available to atheists.
     
  4. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    I haven't been following this thread closely, but I've defended moral realism around here enough to know that some of our local atheists are quite happy to jettison lofty moral systems entirely. There are definitely people in this thread who have admitted to as much in the past.

    Perhaps I've missed something, but I haven't actually noticed any atheist here really defending a lofty system at all. There's a bit of utilitarianism, and a lot of slipperiness, but until someone tries to defend the Categorical Imperative, we haven't hit loftiness.
     
  5. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    Sure... I mean, the OP says "lofty != atheism." Per usual, the atheists change the subject, claim that the argument is inconsequential, erect strawmen, run around like chickens with their heads cut off, etc. :D None of them has said "lofty = atheism," but neither have any admitted that "lofty != atheism." The problem in this thread, as in so many, is that very few have even managed to contradict (or understand) the OP, but there is a general resistance to the OP. ...and to be fair, Gaara did try to meet the standard of loftiness at least in one example.

    Just sayin' :)
     
  6. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    Alright, I have now watched the first 10 minutes. Or at least the second half of the first 10 minutes, where important things were actually said. (Unsurprisingly, I agree with the Catholic.)

    Now that I know that I'm not completely off-base with my definition of loftiness, I can say that I don't think that @gaara4158 is really defending a standard of loftiness at all. What he succeeds in arguing is that there may be situations where it is rational for someone to sacrifice him- or herself for others. This is true, but it really only ties into Christian Smith's admission that atheists can come up with rational reasons to behave in a moral way.

    What we don't have here is the claim that it is morally good in and of itself to sacrifice oneself for another. Until that type of claim is made, we haven't reached anything I would consider a lofty vision of morality. All we have is consequentialism, which can of course be suspended at will if the ends justify the means.

    If people are content with that, so be it. I wouldn't be, but I'm obviously a bit of a radical humanist.
     
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  7. gaara4158

    gaara4158 I prefer you trust your reason.

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    I think I actually am content with that. Surely self-sacrifice can’t be laudable in any and all situations, right? At some point it just becomes closer to suicide than heroism. I don’t see any way outside of some kind of theism or Platonism to call any specific action moral “in and of itself.” And I don’t see that as any more problematic than a moral system that upholds specific actions without regard for situation and consequences. We run into happiness pumps just as easily as we do with utilitarianism. I don’t believe there is any perfect moral system.

    So, I think I can comfortably admit that I can’t support what you guys are calling “lofty morals.” I just don’t find them to be all that lofty.
     
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  8. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    I wouldn't have used the example of self-sacrifice myself, since actual actions tend to be contextual. If someone gets themselves killed trying to play the hero instead of getting help because they wanted to be in the spotlight, I would not consider that particularly moral. If they cost someone else their life in so doing when a more prudent course of action would have saved them, it would actually be immoral.

    I would question the focus on actions themselves, since this approach ignores both motives and context. This is why I've mentioned the Categorical Imperative, i.e., the prohibition from treating others like means instead of ends, several times. This moral principle doesn't in and of itself declare specific actions moral or immoral, but provides a manner in which we can analyze actions and intentions. For instance, the man who fails to call the fire department and instead heroically runs straight into a fire so that he can end up on television is using the potential victims as a means to his own personal glory. If he dies in the process, his self-sacrifice is still immoral.

    I've never run into any absurdities with the Categorical Imperative, and I don't know how you can get any form of humanism off the ground without it or a similar principle. Now, I am going to do what I do and play the progressive card: let's look at the topic of racial profiling in traffic stops. For the sake of argument, let's say that it is effective in preventing crime and can be done in such a manner that the benefits outweigh the costs in civil unrest. In our make-believe fantasy land, the utilitarian analysis is on the side of racial profiling.

    Does this make it morally good, or is there something intrinsically wrong about reducing people to the color of their skin and judging them accordingly, even in situations where it might be societally beneficial to do so? Because this is the sort of thing that you lose when you reject lofty morality. You can't say that racism or sexism or whatever other sort of prejudice is inherently wrong. All you can say is that society works more smoothly when we do not engage in such behavior, but that there's no intrinsic value in the concept of human dignity in and of itself.

    Even if you're content with utilitarian justifications for treating people like human beings, I'm going to revoke your humanist credentials if you don't think there's something lofty about the idea of intrinsic human dignity. ^_^
     
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  9. Ed1wolf

    Ed1wolf Well-Known Member

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    No, Christian morality is based on God's objectively existing moral character. Almost all churches that accept the infallible authority of the bible agree on the essential moral teachings of the bible. There are not that many denominations that do so. Someone that believes in subjective morality can do good things but people in general only do things based on what they think is objectively real. if large numbers of people start believing that morality is just based on subjective feelings and is not real they begin to ignore it. This has been shown in nations that teach people that morality is just what the government subjectively says it is, like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and most socialist nations.
     
  10. Nithavela

    Nithavela confused

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    So you claim. Non-Christians don't believe that.

    Could you make me a list of all denominations that agree on "that" and what the essential moral teachings are that they agree on?
     
  11. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid Pascal said it best: "Fire!" Supporter

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    It seems there are some atheists and skeptics who think we all should at least try, for goodness sake, to support 'lofty' morality even if it's difficult to justify. On some level, I can appreciate this since I'm seeing a number of skeptics who seem to be running on moral fumes rather than feeling a necessity to support lofty morals regardless.

    I'm wondering something here: Do you think various Skeptics/Atheists/Agnostics actually sit down and hash things out in conversation as to who has the most true or relevant form of Skepticism and/or insight into Moral Reality (such as it may be)?

    I'm just asking because.....well, if most atheists and agnostics could be shown to be at least of Shermer's moral composure, it sure would be encouraging to me. :cool:
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  12. Ed1wolf

    Ed1wolf Well-Known Member

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    Of course, non Christians dont believe that but it can be demonstrated to be most likely true. There are still too many to name. But most orthodox Christian churches agree on the Ten Commandments and the moral teachings of Christ to be the essential moral teachings of Christianity.
     
  13. Nithavela

    Nithavela confused

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    That's still pretty vague. What are the moral teachings of christ?

    If you guys have such objective morals, you should be able to point to a list.

    The 10 commandements are not a good basis for morality.
     
  14. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    This really shouldn't be that difficult for anyone who has read the New Testament. The short answer is the Great Commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

    A longer answer would involve things like the Sermon on the Mount and the parable of the Good Samaritan. The longest answer would entail analyzing the Gospel as a whole--I certainly think the Passion scenes have a lot to say about scapegoating, about getting carried away by crowd mentality, and so forth and so on.

    Christianity is not legalistic, but I'm not sure how anyone could read the Gospel and then claim that there's no standard.
     
  15. gaara4158

    gaara4158 I prefer you trust your reason.

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    I agree with you all the way up until you draw a hard dichotomy between Categorical Imperative-based Humanism and the sort of quasi-utilitarian/consequentialist framework atheists are stuck with. You’re right that we can’t have the deontological basis of Kantian ethics on atheism, and if secular humanists are using “intrinsic value” as a card in their deck, you’re right that they can’t actually justify that. Not only is that not “lofty” on atheism, it’s incoherent. Value for us is intrinsically subjective.

    I think an atheist can still be a Humanist and push for progressive values in politics as long as they can point to the ends to which they’re a means. But if that’s invoking a contradiction in terms, then I’ll cooperate in relinquishing my Humanist credentials. I’m less interested in what I’m labeled and more interested in adhering to a good moral framework.

    If you haven’t seen this already, I think you’ll be very interested and indeed encouraged to listen to exactly that taking place between three precocious college students popular in YouTube’s skeptic community.
     
  16. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid Pascal said it best: "Fire!" Supporter

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    I've seen parts of it already a while ago when it came out, although I haven't yet seen the whole thing. I do like listening to these three in their own Youtube blogs. Was there some portion of it that particularly stands out for you?
     
  17. gaara4158

    gaara4158 I prefer you trust your reason.

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    I’d have to listen to it again, since I, too, listened to it when it first came out, but one thing I can recall is cosmicskeptic saying he’s prepared to accept that moral nihilism is the reality, but that he has good reasons to adopt alternative moral principles. That’s about where I’m at, more or less.
     
  18. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    I would actually challenge this assertion on a number of levels. For one, I suspect that you don't really think the notion of intrinsic value is incoherent, since if you did, you wouldn't know what I was talking about at all, and it's clear that you do. Secondly, it is not the case that value is intrinsically subjective for all atheists. (Ironically, it was actually atheistic philosophers like Philippa Foot and Thomas Nagel who won me over the moral realism. Honorable mention to Albert Camus as well, who was very Kantian with his ethics.) Atheists need not be subjectivists.

    More importantly, I don't think it accurately portrays what goes on in secular progressive circles. People might resort to ad hoc consequentialist explanations to try to justify their convictions, but nobody comes to those convictions in the first place because of a utilitarian analysis. People care about thinks like equality or personal autonomy, not about making use of such concepts to create a better society. (If that weren't the case, there wouldn't be so much push back when conservatives argue that progressive ideals do not actually make for a better society. I'm sure you're familiar with the "do not give the right a platform" approach to leftist politics, which is something that would not exist if there were no sacrosanct underlying ideals at play.)

    I am skeptical that secular humanists can point to ends that do not themselves invoke loftier moral ideals, since even utilitarianism is teleological--you need a goal, and if your goal is something like radical equality, we are back in the stratosphere. I actually think that the conservative goal of social stability is a far better match for a consequentialist analysis than much of the idealism that characterizes progressive politics. We have inherited too much from Marx to be anything but experimental, and I don't see how we could submit something like socialism to a utilitarian analysis at all. What data we have about its effectiveness is conflicting, so I think it's very clear that the driving force behind that is societal fairness writ large, which is a noticeably lofty goal.

    Of course, it gets even worse, because as soon as we drop the notion of intrinsic human dignity and focus only on overarching societal goals, the totalitarianism creeps in. The individual can be sacrificed for the greater good, and perhaps even ought to be sacrificed for the greater good. There actually is a hard dichotomy between the humanism of the Categorical Imperative and the consequentialist framework: it's the difference between progressive societies that actually value people qua people and the Soviet Union. There are a handful of anti-communist writers who've pointed this out over the years, many of whom were atheists who did care about intrinsic human dignity.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  19. keith99

    keith99 sola dosis facit venenum

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    If self sacrifice for its own sake is considered the gold standard of lofty morality then count me out. But you can also count out C.S. Lewis who rejected that when he said that forgoing good things just to do so is not Christian morality (and is in some ways opposed to it). It only becomes a virtue when they are forgone so that others may have them, not for its own sake.
     
  20. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    Has anyone actually said that self-sacrifice for its own sake is the golden standard of lofty morality?
     
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