Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Standard For Knowledge and Morality

Note: This post began as a comment to respond to cyber kitten's comment to my last post. Due to the length I am posting it here. Please note that I am addressing the perspective shared as quoted and not suggesting it is representative of all atheists.


Cyber kitten: “I'm not sure if there is such a thing as a representative atheist just as there is no such thing as a representative theist. Personally I'm on the subjective end of the spectrum.”


I can certainly accept that there are differing perspectives within the broader atheists’ category. I try to address the main ones I have encountered. I was hoping to see what Kevin’s response was to your response before responding, but he has not weighed in yet. When I address subjectivism I am not saying that all atheists think this way, but I am addressing those who do. I am not trying to claim that all atheists think the same way. All theists are not the same. I hope everyone can understand that simply because I address a way of thinking that I am not trying to set up a straw man for all who claim to be atheists. Moreover as Quixote pointed out we may mean different things by our word choices and need to look at that before assuming what we mean.


Cyber Kitten: “I think he's right when he says that if you're not a Christian you can't really have Christian values - but of course many of the values claimed as Christian are pretty universal (the Golden rule for example).”


There are ethics that are specific to Christian teaching. I think though what I gathered from what Nietzsche was saying wasn’t simply a certain kind of morality, but the base for morality itself was nonexistent if there is no God. Again I am no authority on Nietzsche, so if anyone reading this is better acquainted with him please correct me if I err. I think he did indeed struggle with the conclusion for he saw that such a world without moral adherence would be unlivable. I think this bothered him greatly. I also see that “new atheists” do not agree with Nietzsche because morality is so widely adhered to regardless of belief in God. (see next paragraph for qualification)


However, I contend that it’s not ones belief in God or lack of belief in God which creates the need to be moral, but that we are designed by God with the moral knowledge irrespective of our environment or culture unless some stimuli robs us of our moral sense. Just the same, due to our fallen nature we often do the things we know we ought not to do even while we understand we “ought not to.” That moral awareness is a God given protection to keep us physically, emotionally, and spiritually from the consequences of living outside our created order and to draw us to Him who can supernaturally enable us to live life to the utmost – the fullest available to us which is beyond our imagination, but can be found in Him.


Cyber Kitten: “I think that largely Secular societies are 'going through the motions' where morality is concerned. Few people have any ethical training and I don't think that most people really give it much thought. Of course this doesn't mean that its either Christianity (or theism) or nothing (or nihilism). There's lots of ethical thinking out there that can be accessed by anyone with an interest in the subject.”


Small children know right from wrong even before they are taught. They will cry out “I had it first.” or “He can’t take it from me.” or “She shouldn’t hit me.” They know from a young age what’s right and wrong. All cultures have a sense of right and wrong even if they disagree on the code of ethics. Yes, much of the world simply goes through the motions. Even Christians in churches are merely trying to follow a moral code because they think they ought to, to earn favor with God. Jesus, however, came to change our nature to ones who live lives of love from a place of knowing Him and pouring out to others selflessly. Not because we follow a code of morality to earn righteousness, but because righteousness was given freely to us by God and it is He who enables us to love in a way that is impossible without being united with Him the way we were created to be. It is through that relationship with Him that we can become people who start to love like God does.


karla said: The only way to be certain is to find a stable eternal foundation for all knowledge/truth. If such a foundation doesn't exist there can be no certainty.

cyber kitten said: That pretty much is my position.


What is the point of knowing anything if it is all unknowable if there is no firm foundation? If all that you know is uncertainly known then it seems pointless to gain more knowledge. How can you trust anything you know even that there is no God? You may say given the lack of evidence it’s the surest place to be in, but if there was evidence you couldn’t trust it without believing He exist and is the eternal stable firm foundation of all truth.


Cyber Kitten said: But nothing is "wrong for all people in all times" is it?


I don’t see right and wrong as being solely culturally determined. Sure cultures create morality at times – certain dress codes or city laws etc. But over all things like child abuse, murder, rape, etc. are wrong for all times in all cultures and in all places. Even if we don’t talk specifics we know that all people (except a few with physiological disorders) have a sense of right and wrong even if the specifics are disagreed about. That knowledge of not living up to a standard of good is in all of us, we all fall short of it, every one of us.




cyber kitten said: I find it difficult to understand how anyone can say that morality is objective. There is nowhere outside of culture that we can stand to say such a thing.


Only if an eternal good God exists do we have a place to stand to know that there is objective morality and at the same time love those who fall short of the standard (which is all of us). If there is no objective standard, there is no wrong doing that means anything beyond the cultural level. Yet we all have this feeling of failure to live as “good” as we feel we ought to and yet we have no foundation to posit an “ought” without an objective standard. Otherwise we have no reason to feel we have missed the mark or to see anything another does as wrong no matter who is harmed. We have no call to claim an “ought:” without the firm foundation of an eternal good God.


If you have a piece of cloth that appears to be white and you place it up next to a piece of paper that is perfectly white you will see that the cloth looks rather dirty in contrast. The only way one could say that cloth isn’t white is in comparison to a greater standard than itself. If we look at ourselves in light of the rest of humanity we can say we are doing pretty well. We haven’t killed anyone or hurt anybody and we try to treat people well. Then we look at ourselves compared to a perfect standard, the living God, who created us and we see we aren’t so clean after all and yet there is hope for He offers to freely clean us from all unrighteousness and to show us how to live in a way that frees us from all bondages of sin. He can show us this because He sent Jesus to live the life of a man stripped of His divinity yet still being God to show us how to live a life rightly related to God. Moreover, He doesn’t ask us to live that life on our own strength, but by His strength which enables us to live like never before. Jesus took upon himself our debt to sin so that we could live a heavenly reality.


I think atheists want a solution to the evil in the world just as much as everyone else. However, if God is denied, not only is the solution denied, but also the problem. For if there is no standard then all the “evil” in the world isn’t really evil for there is no standard to judge between good and evil.


Also I have heard some say that if God exist, He is to blame for the evil because He is all powerful and hasn’t ended it. G.K. Chesterton once responded to an editorial question “What is wrong with the world?” with two words, “I am.” He knew the evil starts in our hearts and minds before it is actualized in the world. If God eradicated evil from the planet, who would be left standing? Is any heart perfectly free from evil? Is any mind perfectly good? Is any person perfectly good? God doesn’t end evil the way we want Him to because He loves us and has a better way of bringing about our redemption. The Bible says that God isn’t slow in keeping his promises as some understand slowness, but he is patient wanting none to perish. He is working in this world through those who have joined Him in Christ and through His Holy Spirit. He doesn’t force us by His omnipotence to come to Him, but He does pursue us with His love.

28 comments:

CyberKitten said...

karla said: There are ethics that are specific to Christian teaching.

Such as?

karla said: I think though what I gathered from what Nietzsche was saying wasn’t simply a certain kind of morality, but the base for morality itself was nonexistent if there is no God.

That's not my understanding of his ideas. As far as I know his ideas of morality revolved around power relations. He certainly explained the origin of morality without reference to God. I think what he means about the decline of Christianity in Europe - and its consequences - is like the result of drinking too much. You basically suffer with a hangover until you are sober again. For Nietzsche nihilism is the hangover we have to suffer through until we are sober enough to move beyond a God based moral structure.

karla said: I think this bothered him greatly.

It did indeed. He saw European culture decaying around him. He was not exactly thrilled by the prospect.

karla said: I also see that “new atheists” do not agree with Nietzsche because morality is so widely adhered to regardless of belief in God.

Why wouldn't morality be adhered to regardless of belief in God? I have never believed in Him and certainly regard myself as a moral being.

karla said: we are designed by God with the moral knowledge irrespective of our environment or culture unless some stimuli robs us of our moral sense.

I don't agree. We *learn* to be moral creatures. There might be a genetic component - though I'm not convinced about that - but the majority is cultural. How else do you explain the different moralities across the world and that ethical codes change with time. If we were all programmed with the same knowledge why is there so much variation in our moral thought?

karla said: Small children know right from wrong even before they are taught.

How would you know that? Children are being socially conditioned from the moment they are born. They don't arrive into a vaccuum - they arrive into a pre-existing culture. They are *taught* to be moral beings by their families and the larger society they are accidentially born into. Why is it that the first word often spoken by a child is "No"? Because they hear it spoken so often - in an attempt to teach them about inappropriate behaviour - that its the word they hear most!

karla said: All cultures have a sense of right and wrong even if they disagree on the code of ethics.

Which means that they have *different* senses of right and wrong.

karla said: What is the point of knowing anything if it is all unknowable if there is no firm foundation? If all that you know is uncertainly known then it seems pointless to gain more knowledge.

Because there are levels of certainty and because we need to live in the word despite the uncertainty it presents us with. Its entirely possible that ultimately we can never really know anything - but at the same time we might be able to learn *enough* about the world to get by. We certainly (OK highly probably) know more about things than we did 100 years ago and we'll probably have a better understanding of things in the future. Just because we can never be *certain* of anything doesn't mean that we should just give up on things.

karla said: How can you trust anything you know even that there is no God?

I have no idea if God exists or not. Its possible that He may indeed exist. But I know of no evidence to support that idea nor have I heard a convincing argument for His existence. Simply stating that He exists or saying that you passionately believe He exists has no impact whatsoever on my skeptical position.

karla said: But over all things like child abuse, murder, rape, etc. are wrong for all times in all cultures and in all places.

No, they are not. Murder - a legal definition rather than a moral one - has been interpreted in vastly different ways from time to time and from place to place. Even rape has been accepted in certain circumstances - particularly in war. The Rape of Nanking is a sigular example of this. Of course we recoil in horror from such events but we are only horrified from our perspective, not from a mythical universal one. That's just our arrogance talking.

karla said: If there is no objective standard, there is no wrong doing that means anything beyond the cultural level.

Correct.

karla said: Yet we all have this feeling of failure to live as “good” as we feel we ought to and yet we have no foundation to posit an “ought” without an objective standard.

Even if such a feeling was universal - which is debatable - the feeling of failing to live up to a standard would be a subjective cultural standard not an agreed upon universal one. Guilt is used by many cultures as a control mechanism so it wouldn't surprise me if it was fairly widespread. But that doesn't mean that people have been feeling guilty about the same things in all cultures for all time.

karla said: I think atheists want a solution to the evil in the world just as much as everyone else.

I think that most people would like the world to be a better place and there are many things that would make life here better for many people. I doubt though if you would get much agreement on what to do or how to do it. Oh and for the record I don't believe in evil - with or without the capital E.

karla said: However, if God is denied, not only is the solution denied, but also the problem. For if there is no standard then all the “evil” in the world isn’t really evil for there is no standard to judge between good and evil.

No *objective* standard no.....

Karla said...

"Why wouldn't morality be adhered to regardless of belief in God? I have never believed in Him and certainly regard myself as a moral being."

I meant regardless of God's existence. I don't think you have to believe in Him to be moral.

Anonymous said...

"But over all things like child abuse, murder, rape, etc. are wrong for all times in all cultures and in all places."

But not wrong when god ordered those things or did those things I presume?

"Only if an eternal good God exists do we have a place to stand to know that there is objective morality and at the same time love those who fall short of the standard (which is all of us)."

Again, this is flatly untrue, as people have pointed out to you multiple times. Why do you persist in making this false statement?

"If God eradicated evil from the planet, who would be left standing?"

It's ironic that someone who has such a rich imagination as to conjure up a god is not able to also imagine anything that god could possibly do outside of the little box that you place him in. Why do you assert that only through destroying us can god eradicate evil? This is in direct opposition to your claim that god can change our hearts! Yet another bad claim from you - you should be more careful.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: I meant regardless of God's existence. I don't think you have to believe in Him to be moral.

So you think that God *must* exist in order that we can be moral creatures - because God designed us that way? You don't think that we can be independently moral without Gods existence?

If I'm reading you right I obviously don't agree. I think that we are indeed fully capable of being moral beings without the necessity of God being there.

Mandy said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately... and of course have not come up with an answer (just as nobody has really come up with an answer ever). I kind of tend to see the whole good/evil thing as more having to do with someone's nature. Of course, just about everyone I know has told me that they think people can't be born 'bad'. And I guess it doesn't make sense, I mean, how can a little baby be 'bad'? But it certainly seems as if, for whatever reason, some people just don't seem to care if they hurt other people, and some people even seem to enjoy it. Not really sure where that comes from. But I do know that I know a lot of 'Christian' people who I would not trust if my life depended on it, and a lot of 'atheist' people who are good and beautiful and true. I think that it has more to do with human nature (which is really kind of a scary thought) than with a belief in God. Although, just to further complicate things, I think that a belief in God has made me a better person. But I guess, when it comes down to it, true morality isn't doing something because of fear of punishment or desire for salvation, but rather doing it for altruistic reasons. Didn't Paul say that God intended us to do good things, although it wasn't neccessary for salvation (Ephesians possibly?). I don't know... thoughts, just floating around in my head.

Thanks for faithfully stopping by my blog, even though I have been absent for some time. :)

Karla said...

Cyber kitten: "So you think that God *must* exist in order that we can be moral creatures - because God designed us that way? You don't think that we can be independently moral without Gods existence?"

I don't think we would know what morality is if God didn't exist. We would be dancing to our DNA as Dawkins suggests. We would be like the animals being instinctively self-preserving. Humans were made in the image of God and given authority over the animals and land. Not to be cruel to the animals and destroy the land as man has often done.

God breathed life into us. We have a spirit that yearns to be connected to His Spirit. We have meaning, destiny, purpose, and rationality. We are so much more than animals because we did not evolve from animals. We were created distinctly as good human beings with freedom to not be good. Yet even in our failure God is faithful to love us and show us the way back to living in relationship with Him as we were designed.

True morality is far more than choosing the right course of action. It is a change of nature, a change of heart that only comes through a gift of righteousness from relationship with our Savior. Holiness starts on the inside and works outward to overflow into all we do because of who we are in Christ.

I can see how it is difficult to see this perspective in light of your own because you live in the real world which does know morality even if the author of that knowledge is denied.

Karla said...

Mandy! Welcome.

Your right that fear need not be a motivation for moral living. As Christians it is not about following rules to appease God. It's about knowing God and acquiring His love within us which compels us to live righteously. We live morally from an internal love given us by our Father and not from a compulsion to do good deeds out of fear or out of earning favor. Yes we will desire to do what is right when we love and know the love of the Father, but it's a love thing and not a works thing. Sure we fail sometimes and God forgives that and we start again loving our neighbor as ourself. Loving even our enemies. Doing good to those who wrong us. Respecting all people. Being kind to everyone. Keeping no record of wrongs. Not being quick to anger. Always trusting, and persevering. We are able to walk the life Jesus walked because He is in us and we are in Him. Not by our strength, but by His power.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: I don't think we would know what morality is if God didn't exist.

I'm afraid that you're starting from your basic belief in God again and using a circular argument. People are moral, morality comes from God, therefore God exists, who made us moral..... As with most theistic arguments it doesn't actually explain anything. It is just a statement of belief.

karla said: We would be dancing to our DNA as Dawkins suggests. We would be like the animals being instinctively self-preserving.

Not true on so many levels. Firstly Dawkins doesn't think that we are slaves to our DNA. We might be *influenced* by our genes but we have big enough brains to 'just say no'. Whilst it is obviously true that we are indeed animals who evolved naturally along with everything else on this planet it is equally obvious that we are not *just* animals. We are first and foremost cultural self-aware creatures and apparently have a significant degree of free will. We are far from mere programmed robots which of course means that we are capable of both great achievements and great atrocities.

karla said: We have meaning, destiny, purpose, and rationality.

I agree with the rationality part - or at least the potential to think & behave rationally. It's not a given though!

karla said: We are so much more than animals because we did not evolve from animals.

Yes we did. Just because you deny basic reality doesn't make it so. The evidence that we are natural creatures who *evolved* here is frankly overwhelming.

karla said: True morality is far more than choosing the right course of action. It is a change of nature, a change of heart that only comes through a gift of righteousness from relationship with our Savior.

You keep making these statements as if they are obviously true - which they are not being neither obvious nor true. You also seem to be contradicting something you said earlier. You have just said that:

a change of heart that only comes through a gift of righteousness from relationship with our Savior.

..and yet earlier you said:

I don't think you have to believe in Him to be moral.

So how can I have a relationship with 'our Saviour' and yet not believe in Him?

karla said: I can see how it is difficult to see this perspective in light of your own because you live in the real world which does know morality even if the author of that knowledge is denied.

I deny God as the 'authour of morality' because it is clearly not the case. Can you justify your assertion in any way? How do you explain the differences in moral thought throughout the world and over time?

Karla said...

"a change of heart that only comes through a gift of righteousness from relationship with our Savior.

..and yet earlier you said:

I don't think you have to believe in Him to be moral.

So how can I have a relationship with 'our Saviour' and yet not believe in Him?"


You can make moral choices without knowing Him or believing in Him. However, you can become a righteous person only by His grace given through relationship with Him. That is the difference. I am speaking of something more than moral actions. I am speaking of who we are not just what we do. I am speaking of a morality that flows not by adhering to rules but naturally or rather supernaturally through becoming a person who is transformed.

________________

Let's not start with God then. Let's start with morality and see where we end up.

There exist right and wrong: a moral law if you will.

We can know the difference between what is right and what is wrong.

How can we know what evil is without reference to good? We would need a standard of good to know something doesn't measure up to that standard. Otherwise there is no moral difference between actions.

You need a standard of good that is outside ourselves to which we can appeal to have objective morality.

However, you deny objective morality, correct?

You would have to deny that if there is no God. Yet other atheists posit an objective morality. I think their view is harder to substantiate. Your view is more consistent with a lack of belief in God. Morality would have to be subjectively to each his own and by cultural agreement.

Though if there is no objective morality it is kind of difficult to have any ground to stand upon to judge anything as wrong. We can't judge the actions of Hitler because we didn't live in his culture. Where does justice come into play in a world with no objective morality? How are the Sudanese women and children who are sold into sex slavery markets and mutilated find any justice in a world of subjective cultural morality. Most would be appalled by this behavior though by what standard do we have a right to judge it? By our own emotional outrage? What if that culture doesn't share that outrage? Whose emotions do we trust? Whose reason do we trust?

CyberKitten said...

karla said: However, you can become a righteous person only by His grace given through relationship with Him.

What do you mean by a 'righteous person'?

karla said: There exist right and wrong: a moral law if you will.

No there doesn't. There is no universal moral law.

karla said: We can know the difference between what is right and what is wrong.

But as I keep saying we differ on what we see as right and wrong because we're from different cultures and have had different life experiences.

karla said: We would need a standard of good to know something doesn't measure up to that standard.

We might have standards - but they're *subjective* standards.

karla said: Otherwise there is no moral difference between actions.

Of course there is - though people from different cultures might disagree on what those differences are!

karla said: You need a standard of good that is outside ourselves to which we can appeal to have objective morality.

No you don't.

karla said: However, you deny objective morality, correct?

Indeed I do.

karla said: Yet other atheists posit an objective morality. I think their view is harder to substantiate.

Much harder. I fail to understand how anyone can justify objective morality. Morality does not exist outside those who create it.

karla said: Though if there is no objective morality it is kind of difficult to have any ground to stand upon to judge anything as wrong.

No it isn't. We judge things from our perspective. That doesn't mean that valid judgements cannot be made.

karla said: We can't judge the actions of Hitler because we didn't live in his culture.

Of course we can! We judged him at the time and continue to do so. Moral relativism doesn't mean that we cannot judge other cultures by our standards.

karla said: Where does justice come into play in a world with no objective morality?

The concept of justice is a culturally created one. Inevitably it means different things to different peoples and its meaning will change over time.

karla said:How are the Sudanese women and children who are sold into sex slavery markets and mutilated find any justice in a world of subjective cultural morality. Most would be appalled by this behavior though by what standard do we have a right to judge it?

By our own - as I keep saying.

karla said: What if that culture doesn't share that outrage?

Then it is none of our business.

karla said: Whose emotions do we trust?

Can we trust our emotions?

karla said: Whose reason do we trust?

Those who have *earned* our trust.

Karla said...

"Moral relativism doesn't mean that we cannot judge other cultures by our standards."

If we judge by "our standard" we presuppose our standard is better than the other. How do we determine it to be better?

Also just because we do judge doesn't mean we "ought" to do so. If there is no objective morality we would be "wrong" to judge another by our standard except that nothing would then be wrong outside of our standard. Whew that gets complicated.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: If we judge by "our standard" we presuppose our standard is better than the other. How do we determine it to be better?

*Some* people might say that our morality is better than their morality but that judgement is itself subjective. As there is no externally objective yardstick to measure them both against it would be an imposible assertion to prove. All that we can say is that from our perspective what they are doing is bad. There is no independent authority to appeal to - no matter that some people believe that there is.

karla said: Also just because we do judge doesn't mean we "ought" to do so.

Correct. There is nothing to say that we *must* judge other people. Most so-called judgements are mere prejudice anyway....

karla said: If there is no objective morality we would be "wrong" to judge another by our standard except that nothing would then be wrong outside of our standard. Whew that gets complicated.

[laughs] It seems to get complicated doesn't it? Of course the idea that it is wrong to judge others by our subjective standards is itself a subjective standard.... [grin]

Karla said...

I guess that is where we differ; a standard. I see a standard in God's goodness. You see no standard for you don't see God as existing. So the next logical step is to posit subjective morality, which I don't see as very livable. As soon as someone has wronged you you would need a standard or else the wrong action had no meaning and wasn't really wrong in the whole scheme of things. Truly the action would be merely something you disliked and nothing more.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: So the next logical step is to posit subjective morality, which I don't see as very livable.

For you maybe. I've been living subjectively for over 40 years....

karla said: As soon as someone has wronged you you would need a standard or else the wrong action had no meaning and wasn't really wrong in the whole scheme of things.

I still think you're not 'getting' it. There *is* no 'whole scheme of things'. But that doesn't mean that there is no wrong or right - just no absolute wrong or right. These are not the same things. You also seem to be implying that no one has ever 'wronged' me. Of course they have! I've been around for a bit and interact with lots of people. Being om the receiving end of 'wrongdoing' as well as giving some of it back is all part of the human condition.

karla said: Truly the action would be merely something you disliked and nothing more.

I'm afraid that you still don't understand. Having acknowledged the existence of subjective morality doesn't mean that my morality is based on my likes and dislikes and nothing more. I have a real sense of right and wrong - its just that I don't believe it comes from God and I certainly don't believe that any one morality covers all people in all situations for all time.

Don't you think that I can distinguish between a good and bad actions to my own satisfaction? Don't you think that I am more than capable of being a moral creature - without reference to what are your beliefs on the subject. I have the morals that I have for very good reasons as do you - they just happen to be different reasons which is why we disagree on the fundamentals. You morality is not and never has been objective morality but is as subjective as mine is. You just happen to *believe* - wrongly in my opinion - that its objective.

Karla said...

If one person believes stealing is wrong and the person who is doing the stealing believes they are justified in stealing making their stealing right in their own eyes who decides if it is wrong, the victim or the victimizer? How is stealing determined to be wrong?

CyberKitten said...

karla said: How is stealing determined to be wrong?

Although individuals have different moral outlooks it is the larger society/culture which defines the boundaries of right and wrong. If A steals from B then it is quite possible that A considers stealing perfectly acceptable where B does not. However, neither person actually decides on the rightness/wrongness of the action - although both have opinions on the matter. It is the larger *culture* they are part of that determines the morality of the act. Subjective morality does not just mean individual opinions.

For example, in the 1950's single parenthood was considered by society to basically be wrong - though it still happened. Some people made decisions which went against the general moral beliefs of the culture and were often vilified for it. Today single parenthood is much more acceptable - indeed fairly common - and is no longer considered to be morally wrong. The act itself has not changed but the cultures attitude to it has. Even so there are still individuals who judge it to be wrong - but that is now an opinion that the larger culture no longer subsribes to.

Am I making myself clear yet?

Karla said...

"Although individuals have different moral outlooks it is the larger society/culture which defines the boundaries of right and wrong."

Why do we have to do what the larger society says? If something isn't inherently wrong then why should anyone obey the rules of the majority. We still are setting forth an "ought". If the opinions of an individual do not determine right and wrong and we appeal to a "higher" standard of the group/society then we are saying we "ought" to adhere to the morality of the society. Is this also because the society says we "ought to?" The society may have power in a cultural context to enforce their morality, but that doesn't really make anything right or wrong. Nor does it address why I ought to do what society declares as right. What if society one day says we all have to euthenize the elderly at the age of 70 or something? It could happen.


"It is the larger *culture* they are part of that determines the morality of the act. Subjective morality does not just mean individual opinions."

No? Then it's collective agreement of individual opinions. Was the Holocaust right then? Were the Nuremberg trials of one culture coming in and putting the Nazi's on trial for their crimes against humanity wrong? The Nazis were fully convinced that they were being ethical even as they gassed millions and kept the rest in hard labor camps. How can we appeal to human subjective morality when we history records such acts of humanity as these?



Regarding single parenting. The culture may be more accepting of it, but it doesn't mean that the children growing up in a single parent home aren't robbed of something necessary. I am not blaming single parents, I grew up in such a home. But there is an imbalance that occurs that is not the best thing for the children. The ideal environment will always be the nuclear family even though we can overcome obstacles of not growing up in such a family and as a Christian I believe in not casting judgment or condemnation on anyone for such things for God is forgiving God and His grace and mercy extend to all who accept it.

The way I see it the entire world could be for euthenizing the elderly and that wouldn't make it acceptable and right for there is a higher standard than humanity. The reason we feel guilt and remorse and unsettled by crime, violence, victims, abuse etc. is because we internally know there is something we are falling short of and that things ought not be this way. That is why we impose morality, that is why we cry for justice. It is because God has placed in us a protection against self destruction to draw us to the truth to pull us out of the mud and into righteousness.

God has shown us a greater way than struggling by our own strength to overcome the injustice in our hearts and in the world. He tells us that if we put our trust in Him, He will transform us into the person we yearn to become and we will be able to win the fight instead of continuing a struggle.





Am I making myself clear yet?

Karla said...

Sorry I didn't answer your last question.

I understand you clearly. I think the philosophy you suggest doesn't work. But I understand what you suggest.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: I think the philosophy you suggest doesn't work.

Why not?

CyberKitten said...

karla said: Why do we have to do what the larger society says?

We don't. But it is by societies standards that people are judged.

karla said: If something isn't inherently wrong then why should anyone obey the rules of the majority.

Most people accept the general rules of a particular society because they have been brought up - socialised - to accept those norms as their own norms. Many of us don't think about moral issues because the answers are 'obvious' because we have (by and large) internalised the generally agreed moral beliefs. Its not just about following rules. Its about believing that certain things are right and other things are wrong. We get these beliefs from growing up in the culture that holds them.

karla said: If the opinions of an individual do not determine right and wrong and we appeal to a "higher" standard of the group/society then we are saying we "ought" to adhere to the morality of the society.

Societies values are not the 'higher' standard. They are the generally agreed standard. This standard changes over time - which is quite frankly obvious - because the people that make up a society change over time. Old traditions also get left behind when a generation dies out and not enough of their beliefs get passed on to the next generation.

karla said: The society may have power in a cultural context to enforce their morality, but that doesn't really make anything right or wrong.

Yes it does. Right & wrong are decided by the culture. There is nothing outside of the culture - except other cultures - to measure morality against. There is no independent moral standard.

karla said: Nor does it address why I ought to do what society declares as right.

That's because you don't have to. A cultures morality isn't a single thing. It's constantly morping and changing. Until fairly recently it was changing so slowly that people hardly noticed it. Now you can virtually *see* moral standards change before your eyes!

karla said: What if society one day says we all have to euthenize the elderly at the age of 70 or something? It could happen.

What of it? There might be a very good reason to do so - and those who opposed it would be considered to be crazy outcasts.....

karla said: Then it's collective agreement of individual opinions.

Its a bit more complex than that but basically yes.

karla said: Was the Holocaust right then?

No.

karla said: Were the Nuremberg trials of one culture coming in and putting the Nazi's on trial for their crimes against humanity wrong?

No. It was a case of the victor imposing its cultural moral belief on the vanquished. If the Germans had won they might very well have put the Allies on trial for *their* actions.

karla said: How can we appeal to human subjective morality when we history records such acts of humanity as these?

Appeal? I don't know what you mean. You mean how can we judge them? As I keep saying - We judge them from our perspective. As they judge us from theirs.

karla said: The ideal environment will always be the nuclear family

I actually think that muli-generational extended families are much better for everyone. The nuclear family is IMO a big mistake which causes a lot of problems.

karla said: The way I see it the entire world could be for euthenizing the elderly and that wouldn't make it acceptable and right for there is a higher standard than humanity.

So you keep saying. I disagree.

karla said: Am I making myself clear yet?

Perfectly. I don't think that I have misunderstood much of what you've been saying. I just that I think you're wrong.

Karla said...

karla said: Am I making myself clear yet?

cyber kitten: Perfectly. I don't think that I have misunderstood much of what you've been saying. I just that I think you're wrong.

Karla: I actually wasn't asking that question it copied over when I was answering yours. Your answer is the same as mine though I understand you, but don't think you are correct.

I will reread your last response and see if I have something to say I haven't already said later when I have more time.

Karla said...

Would you not have to know what right is to determine what wrong is?

What if there is a standard of infinite goodness? And anything that falls short of that standard is what is wrong?

You posit a naturalist answer to morality, however, doing so does not give an answer as to why there can't be a good God that is the standard of righteousness.

You don't know that morality is subjective only that it hasn't to be if there is no God. On that we are agreed, with no God that's the way of it. Other atheist say you can have objective morality and no God. But you take atheism to a logical conclusion of subjective cultural based morality. Since morality itself cannot be denied. We know there is right and wrong, it is how we know that is in question.

We can't start with morality and determine it to be subjective or objective. Both of us start with theism or atheism to delineate subjectivity or objectivity of morality.

A self existing eternal being is necessary for knowledge, truth, morality, and our own rationality. I don't see any way around that.

Anonymous said...

"And anything that falls short of that standard is what is wrong?"

False dichotomy.

Anonymous said...

"A self existing eternal being is necessary for knowledge, truth, morality, and our own rationality. I don't see any way around that."

Begging the question.

Why can't we have knowledge if god doesn't exist? Why can't there be truth? Etc. This claim is often made by apologists, but never actually backed up.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: Would you not have to know what right is to determine what wrong is?

It sounds like you're talking in absolutes again. We *think* that certain things are right - which makes other things wrong. However, things that were wrong 100 years ago are now right and things that were right 300 years ago are now wrong. Where we right to think those things 100 or 500 years ago or are we right now? In 100 years time when things have changed again how can we tell which things are *actually* right? The question is meaningless because there is no eternal objective standard to measure any of this against.

karla said: What if there is a standard of infinite goodness? And anything that falls short of that standard is what is wrong?

That's just Platonic nonsense talking.

karla said: You posit a naturalist answer to morality, however, doing so does not give an answer as to why there can't be a good God that is the standard of righteousness.

No it doesn't. It does however show that we can be moral without any reference to a divine being (of any type). It's just not the kind of morality you believe in.

karla said: But you take atheism to a logical conclusion of subjective cultural based morality.

Actually my atheism and my moral subjectivism were arrived at independently. To me both are frankly obvious. However, you say that belief in God leads to moral objectivism - and yet different religions and different sects within those religions have *different* ideas of what those so-called objective morals are. That is blatently *subjective* because they are all products of the culture that created them. They all subjectively think that they are objective which they clearly are not - and of course they all believe that all of the other religions/sects are wrong to varying degrees - it doesn't get any more subjective than that. The difference between our belief systems is that I *know* mine is subjective.

karla said: We know there is right and wrong, it is how we know that is in question.

Again that sounds like absolutist talk. We *think* we know about right and wrong but in fact we only *believe* we know that. Because there is no objective ruler to measure them against we cannot actually *know* these things. They are cultural products - inventions if you will - that will change... and when they do change people will believe that they still know right from wrong.

karla said: We can't start with morality and determine it to be subjective or objective. Both of us start with theism or atheism to delineate subjectivity or objectivity of morality.

Not true. You might start with theism but I don't need to start with atheism to get to moral subjectivism. All you need to come to that conclusion is a fair knowledge of cultural history - you'll quickly see how ideas of morality change over time and differ between cultures - all of which believe that *they* are moral places populated by moral people.

karla said: A self existing eternal being is necessary for knowledge, truth, morality, and our own rationality. I don't see any way around that.

That is *your* belief. I see no need for any supernatural being to exist for those attributes to exist too. We are quite capable on our own of creating knowledge, truth and morality.

Anonymous said...

If god is the absolute standard of absolute morality, would it be OK to say that god never does anything immoral? Would it be safe to say that god would command his people to be moral in all things?

Then, why does god command genocide? Why does god give the Israelites a sub-standard version of morality compared to today's standards? You could say that god was giving them what they could understand, but this does not work from an absolutist's standpoint. By instructing them to act immorally, god was committing an immoral act himself. Thus, god can not be an absolute standard of morality.

Again, Karla, your own beliefs are self-contradictory.

Karla said...

Anonymous, you would need a standard of morality outside of God to charge God with moral failure. If man is created by God, his morality would come from God and not be greater than God. God would be the source of all morality. So your argument doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

Karla,
It does work, when god goes against his own dictates. IOW, you're positing absolute morality, but you are willing to bend the rules for god, hence non-absolute morality. Since your worldview is inconsistent, it is faulty. I don't have to posit a morality outside of god in order to point out that your system doesn't work according to the rules that you yourself set up. Game, set, match.