The “life of Christ” is life to its fullest

(note that this post is a new thread branching from this comment; on this blog)

Demodocos says:

You asked on what do we base our claims (or at least the particular claims in question here). This is another topic that I wanted to press/explore with you, because it seems that we differ on what gives validity and weight to the things on which we base some of our claims.

To begin, is there “a basis” for a claim that is as nuanced and multitentacled as the good life? To name a paltry handful of things that I consider are a part of “life to its fullest”: my relationships, my health, and my leisure. Life to its fullest is comprised of many different things, and the validity of each of those things is not necessarily based on the same thing. We base good health care on something different than what we base good relationships. Both are valid, but based on different criteria (this way of thinking about what gives things meaning is based on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s work, particularly with regards to his work in the Philosophical Investigations).

Rational proof (scientifically speaking) is the basis for some of the things that make our up notions of the good life, but there are numerous other things that make up the good life that are based on things that are not validated by the scientific method. You could use the language of scientific evidence to base your claims on what makes a marriage “good.” But on what would you base the claim that these aspects of life need to be based on the same claims as science? (I know that was convoluted)

So the short answer is that your question cannot be answered in generalities. To be fair, I’ll try to express what I think makes a relationship good and how my belief in Christ plays into that. I anticipate the response to whatever rationale I give to be, “why do you need a belief in Christ to believe that?” This is a fair question. But why do we need Darwin in order to affirm certain theories of revolution; why do we need Einstein to believe the theory of relativity. We could argue that these things could have been discovered without these men, but why would we want to distance the people from their discoveries? More to my point, if I felt that someone had given me a great gift, what good reason would I have to drive a sharp distinction between the gift and the person that gave me that gift, when in fact they are intimately connected. Similarly (and this only plays a minor part in my rationale), to ask why I would need Christ in order to affirm the all of good things in my life that exist because of him seems to be dishonest.

Christians can say that it is because of Christ that we have friends who are men and who are women; black and who are white; who are heterosexual and who are homosexual. It is because of Christ that we can see the power in loving our enemy, and even accepting death at their hands rather than inflicting it ourselves. It is not only because of Christ that I we empathies with those suffering injustices, but also because of Christ that we see some things as unjust while others may not, like abortion. I could go on to tell of all of the ways in which I have trusted in my faith and that it has only led an abundant life (of course the word “abundant” has a very particular definition within my faith, and it does not refer to monetary things).

I understand that this doesn’t constitute proof. Nor does it prove any other religion as “wrong.” But you asked on what I base my claim, and it is the fact that I have lived out the aforementioned (which is only a small list), and have seen it as “good” not merely for me, but “good” for an entire community.

I feel bad for the long post (that could have been much longer), but I am particularly interested in the conversation of what constitutes a valid basis. As you can probably guess, I’m assuming that we differ on this topic. At any rate, thanks for the conversation thus far.

43 Responses to The “life of Christ” is life to its fullest

  1. The Atheist says:

    Demodocos,

    This is another topic that I wanted to press/explore with you…

    Please do – I think you are right that these types of clarifications are germane to the discussion.

    …is there “a basis” for a claim that is as nuanced and multitentacled as the good life?

    Faith as it relates to the Good Life is a very intriguing idea!

    Maybe we could explore this more to increase the certainty, but I’m guessing that we will both have similar definitions of the Good Life and that we would both evaluate any body of ethics based on how the outcome would affect the Good Life. For example, I agree completely with the examples you offered as components of the Good Life. I would also add to those the ability for my fellows to enjoy their relationships, my fellows’ health, and their ability to enjoy their leisure. I’m guessing you would agree with those additions. If by the validity of the components, you mean the way we measure them, then I agree that the way we must necessarily measure various components differently. On the other hand, if by validity you mean how we judge the importance of the various components’ roles in promoting the Good Life, then I guess that some components can be easily compared while others cannot. For example, which is better: vindaloo sauce or bearnaise sauce? Which is better: vindaloo sauce or sunsets?

    While I think from our conversation thus far that we will likely agree for the most part on what the Good Life is, I’m curious to understand what role you see consideration of the Good Life plays in supporting the claim: “…that the ‘life of Christ’ is life to its fullest, as well as society to its fullest.” My first thought is to ask: why is the life of Christ necessary for the Good Life? And you already guessed that I will follow up with questions about whether those same attributes are not found outside of the life of Christ. My 2nd thought was to ask whether it makes sense at all to make one’s faith contingent on whether holding the faith serves the Good Life. In other words, does it make sense to choose to believe that something is true because the belief makes us more content? Is faith chosen on a utilitarian basis? Is it even possible to choose our beliefs?

    I’m guessing you will have mixed thoughts on this as I do also. On the one hand, we want our beliefs to be as consistent as possible with reality. On the other hand, if it were the case, for example, that we would suffer an excruciating death within the year, we might wish not to know about it so that we can better enjoy the remaining time we have left. Have you seen the movie, The Matrix? One of the characters in the movie, Cypher, wrestles with just that dilemma and choses blissful ignorance over painful reality. The Matrix example is not at all intended as a claim that the life of Christ is delusion! Rather it is only an illustration that may answer one of my questions above: that quite possibly we may indeed want to choose certain beliefs if that is the only way to achieve the Good Life; in certain cases, we may well prefer delusion over knowledge.

    As you astutely point out, science per se is not sufficient for promoting the Good Life. Science can contribute in helping us to evaluate some of the components of the Good Life, and it may create some of those components. Conversely, Science can detract by obscuring some components (watching TV vs. watching sunsets to cite a somewhat trivial example), as it can also detract by creating components that are at odds with the Good Life (nuclear weapons). Personally, I view science as no more but no less than a powerful tool that serves as an extension to human experience and human capability. Through use of this tool, we can see more clearly and can act more powerfully. Whether seeing more clearly promotes the Good Life is I think, related to my question above regarding whether delusion is ever preferred. The additional power science affords humanity simply “ups the ante” for the choices we make: we have the power to do great things, but also power to do horrific things.

    …why do we need Darwin…, Einstein,…

    I don’t think we need them. I think the world is full of talented scientists that, given the same foundational knowledge, can come up with similar discoveries. In fact, that happens to be the case with Darwin and Einstein (to continue with the same examples). David Hilbert published the famous field equations before Einstein did. Einstein derived the famous E = MC2 using the Tayor series developed by Brook Taylor. James Hutton developed the uniformitarian theory (that species change over time) in the 1700’s. Robert Hooke postulated that fossils were actually ancient bones a century earlier. Lord Monboddo’s early concepts of evolution influenced Erasmus Darwin’s (Charles Darwin’s grandfather) early ideas about common decent. We find that human discoveries and inventions typically occur independently among contemporaries. So it seems reasonable to distinguish the scientist from the discovery. Discoveries seem to build on the shoulders of previous discoveries with the aid of better scientific tools.

    You asked why we would want to distinguish between the scientist and the science. I’ve never really considered that; it’s an excellent question. While we want to recognize good work that people do, I think the most important reason for the distinction is the recognition that the accumulation of scientific knowledge depends much less on the fortunate insights of certain individuals than it does on the scientific process in general.

    Can we extend these same ideas about veneration to Christ? If we did would we be saying that the notion of eternal life through a divine sacrifice, for example, was the next logical step in religious thought? I think that if we are to view Christ as a divine being, and not just one of any human candidates that happened to stumble upon the notion first, then we must say that that we cannot justify our veneration of Christ by our reasons for venerating Darwin and Einstein. On the other hand, if we follow the evolution of the concept of “messiah” though the centuries, we see that the concept gradually change from a king-warrior (as Israel was still hopeful of regaining sovereignty) towards that of a spiritual savior (as Israel loses any hope of ever regaining its sovereignty). In this case, we could indeed compare our veneration of Christ, together with his messianic Jewish predecessors and the early Christian writers that followed, with our veneration of scientists.

    This serves as a good segue into our discussion about what Christians often cite as Christian values, because I think there is good reason to believe that they are more broadly understood as human values. For example, we find expressions of the Golden Rule, tolerance, passivism, love, etc. that predate Christian thought. Just as in other cases where thinkers stand on the shoulders of their predecessors, we find that modern thinkers have expounded on these ideas ever further. Just as in our example about scientists, we find that thinkers that thinkers who are isolated by culture and distance tend to come up with similar ideas. I think you made that point a bit earlier in the context of a discussion about universal morality.

    So as you guessed and as I promised, I’ll ask that if those who do not believe in Christ as a divine being, as well as those who do believe in Christ as a divine being share these values and agree that they contribute to the Good Life, then why is “the life of Christ” necessary for the Good Life?

    I understand that this doesn’t constitute proof…

    Many discussions surround religion seem to degenerate into demands for proof, but I don’t think the demand is reasonable. Most things we believe, we accept without proof; we base our beliefs for the most part on reason and evidence. I don’t see any reason to reject religious claims on the basis that they can’t be proven. On the other hand, I don’t see any reason to accept them unless there is reason to. And based on our discussion, I think that you would agree.

    I feel bad for the long post…

    Please don’t feel bad, I appreciate the discussion and you insights! I apologize for taking so long to respond this time; I’ve had an incredibly busy schedule for the past month. But indulging in thoughtful discussions like these is, at least for me, one element of the Good Life that I look forward to, so I hope we will continue! That said, if you don’t mind my long rambles, then I will make no apology either ;)

  2. Bret says:

    Atheist:

    I am sure your aware of the 98% similarity of DNA in between ape and man. Likewise, dogs and horses and man share around 90%.

    When we look at these similarities in these “building blocks”, how can you justify the morality of man that is not exhibited in these animals? For example, its well known apes will kill male offspring to eliminate competition,dogs do not develop and maintain families, studs (male horses) do not pass down their learned behaviors, a sense of fatherhood, or parental responsibilty, etc, to their offspring ( I readily admit, theres alot of humans that dont either, but it goes against the human spirit to not do this, versus an animal whose is to definitively not have these traits).

    How is that man has developed the sense of right from wrong, through a series of “genetic mutations”, yet other species have not. Further, if genetic mutations are what lead us to evolve…basically selection of the fittest, why do we not see genetic mutations occuring right now? Where are these mutated hybrids in the fossil record?

    I was also curious if you have read Lee Strobel, or Josh McDowell..or maybe “Darwinism on Trial” by Philip Johnson?

    Thanks.

  3. Bret says:

    I rather enjoy your conclusion that we determine based on evidence rather than proof….and I concur.

    for some, Christianity, is labelled as a leap of faith or a jump in the dark…after taking Organic, Chem, Bio, Physics, etc, and further studies outside of academia, I consider my faith moe of a step into the light.

    I reject the idea that Christians dont have viable evidence on numerous accounts. First most, would be the bible itself, which has been the most scrutinized piece of literature in HIS story (get it).

    I agree with Ravvi Zacharias, who states that ” In real terms, the NT is easily the best attested ancient writings in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span in between the events and the documents, and the variety of documents to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript to match such textual availablity and integrity”

    For example, Iliad, written in 800 BC; the earliest copy avaiable is 400BC and there were 640 copies. Plato, written in 400 BC has an earliest copy of AD 900, a gap of 1300 years, yet we take it at its word.

    The NT, written AD 50 -100, by eyewitnesses, has fragments found in AD 114, books dated AD 200 and a complete NT dated 325…a gap of 50 to only 225 years. How many copies have been found: 5300

    Can any human or humans, have actually created, and passed down among multiple geerations for thousands of years,a story like the one told in the bible. Think about that……how is it even possible?

    Secondly, you have 11 apostles, plus Paul, who were eyewitnesses (among others) to Jesus. During His trial, torure, death and ressurection, they cowared…fearful for their lives. Yet, upon his ressurection, they witnessed to the truth, unafraid at the peril of all of their lives and subsequent gruesome deaths (Peter) or were exiled to die as old men (John).

    Of course I can go on, but I dont want this too get too long, we can take this one issue at a time, if you would like, wether its the legitiamacy of the scriptures, evolution versus creationism, and one of my favorites: exbiblical references to Jesus from Tacitus, Josephus, Lucian, etc.

  4. The Atheist says:

    Bret,

    Thanks for these thoughtful questions!

    Before talking about the percentages, I think it’s important that we recallibrate our perception of what the percentages represent. First, let’s notice that very different animals often share a surprisingly large percentage of DNA sequences. To add a few more examples to the ones you’ve cited: A horse and duck share about 90% of their DNA sequences; a penguin & snapping turtle share about 92%.

    This only becomes intuitive when we realize that a the major part of the genome is responsible for the basic building blocks of all animal life. The building blocks include the many different structures that make up a higher-level amimals cell (cell membrane, mitocondrion, golgi apparatus, etc), it’s bone, hair, skin, eyes, the miriad of organs that animals have in common, red and white blood cells, fat tissue, nerve tissue, lynph system, etc. – all of which are very similar from species to species.

    But we don’t see the overwhelming similarities when we compare a dog and a horse. Because of that, the few percentage points between say, a horse and a dog, or a human and an ape, seem very significant to us because they control the differences that we typically notice. That is, we typically focus on the difference between the overall appearance and behavior between a dog and horse without the perspective of the overwhelming similarities, and without the broader perspective that a bacterium and a horse have about 64 percent DNA sequences in common!

    In this light, it should be no surprise that even though we share with other apes similar brain physiology and therefore various cognative functions like rudaments of language, reasonging, and empathy, the 2% or so difference in the DNA sequences (some 500 sequences or so that have been identified so far) are responsible for human dominance of these functions that humans and apes already share.

    Also as we might expect, there is not a sudden appearance of morality but rather a gradual progression as we move from simpler animals to more complex ones. We first see the beginnings of empathy in animals who care for their young. These animals developed the ability to interpret the feelings of feer, hunger, pain, etc. in their young which allows them to better respond to the needs of their young, and thus increase their chance for servival. As we look at more complex animals who are capable of interaction in a social group (like a heard for example), we see that emapthy still exists as a tool for caring for young but it develops further as a tool for interacting with the group. Members of the group can recognize feer in one of the members who sites danger, which serves as an early warning sign. Members can regognize anger in a member as his territory is violated, which serves to reduce violence in the group. In even more commplex animals, simple heards are replaced by higher-functioning social groups like tribes. Chimps and bonobos, for example, exhibit many of the moral building blocks that humans do, like concern for fairness, wellness of others, reciprocity for example. While humans, with our dominance of language and reason, create a body of ethics based on these innate morla “building blocks” which are far richer than the raw building blocks could be, the foundational building blocks are still very similar to those or our closest cousins.

    To address your question about mutatations happening right now – they do happen… all the time. We see this as bacteria become immune to antibiotics, and as some humans are born with genetic defects. The fact is, the vast majority of genetic mutations occur in parts of the DNA strand that does not produce proteins (because the majority of the DNA strand does not produce any protein and therefore plays no part whatever in cell function). Of the mutations that belong to sequences that produce proteins, the vast majority of genetic mutations are detrimental to function. Only a miniscule percentage of mutations are beneficial. This is what one would expect if mutations happen randomly. This is also why significant evolution occurs on the scale of hundreds of thousands of years and under special conditions for higher-level life forms. However, we do see evolution “right now” when we look at the simplest life forms.

    Regarding your question about the fossil record – we do see the results of mutation in the fossil record. What types of gaps in the record are you referring to?

    Of the authors you mentioned, I’ve read a few Chapters of The Case for the Real Jesus. I haven’t read Josh McDowell or Philip Johnson. I’m always on the lookout for good challanges to the scientific view. All too often, I am dissappointed by the missrepresentation or the blatant cherry picking of the arguments they choose to refute. If you know of any good apologetics, I would appreciate the recommendation.

    I’m hoping you will press me further on some of my responses above. Also, I’m hoping you will share what you believe about the origins of morality.

    Thanks again for adding your thoughts to this discussion!

  5. The Atheist says:

    Bret,

    I reject the idea that Christians dont have viable evidence on numerous accounts. First most, would be the bible itself, which has been the most scrutinized piece of literature in HIS story (get it).

    I agree that the Bible is evidence, but I fail to find compelling evidence that the Bible is a reliable source of history. Could you clarify to what extent you feel that the Bible is reliable? ( got it! :)) )

    I agree with Ravvi Zacharias, who states that ” In real terms, the NT is easily the best attested ancient writings in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span in between the events and the documents, and the variety of documents to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript to match such textual availablity and integrity”

    The Bible was not originally a catologue of a large number of documents; it has been compiled over time. Whats more, the integrity as a single document is compromised both by internal and external inconsistencies and contradictions. Can the Bible be trusted historically despite these shortcomings?

    For example, Iliad, written in 800 BC; the earliest copy avaiable is 400BC and there were 640 copies. Plato, written in 400 BC has an earliest copy of AD 900, a gap of 1300 years, yet we take it at its word.

    Doesn’t this say more about the scribes who copied the documents than the documents themselves?

    The NT, written AD 50 -100, by eyewitnesses, has fragments found in AD 114, books dated AD 200 and a complete NT dated 325…a gap of 50 to only 225 years. How many copies have been found: 5300

    Can you give me any compelling reasons to accept that the Bible was written by eyewitnesses?

    Can any human or humans, have actually created, and passed down among multiple geerations for thousands of years,a story like the one told in the bible. Think about that……how is it even possible?

    I think that it’s not only possible, I think it’s likely. What feature of the Bible indicates that it would be unlikely?

    Secondly, you have 11 apostles, plus Paul, who were eyewitnesses (among others) to Jesus. During His trial, torure, death and ressurection, they cowared…fearful for their lives. Yet, upon his ressurection, they witnessed to the truth, unafraid at the peril of all of their lives and subsequent gruesome deaths (Peter) or were exiled to die as old men (John).

    I’ll repeat my request for a compelling reason to believe the historicity of the Bible here.

    Of course I can go on, but I dont want this too get too long, we can take this one issue at a time, if you would like, wether its the legitiamacy of the scriptures, evolution versus creationism, and one of my favorites: exbiblical references to Jesus from Tacitus, Josephus, Lucian, etc.

    I don’t mind the length, but do I realize that responding to all of this at once would be quite an onerous task! So just respond to whatever you would like to talk about first. We can always return to the other topics after that.

  6. one_lost_coin says:

    the atheist, your response is nothing more than your opinion of what makes for a good relationship or a good life or anthing else. on what basis do you appeal when someone does not live according to your beliefs?

  7. The Atheist says:

    one_lost_coin,

    Excellent question! First, let me point out that the discussion thus far has been to question the validity of appeal from the view point of Christianity. The discussion arises from the Christian claim that God desires humanity to behave in a certain way. If we presume the existence of God, and also presume that He cares how we behave, and further presume that we can know how He wants us to behave, then the Christian view has an advantage regarding an appeal to others. But to enjoy this advantage, we have first to establish God’s existence, His interest in our behavior, and our ability to know His wishes. I don’t think we have done that.

    If I as an atheist have no basis for appeal, it doesn’t naturally follow that the view from Christianity automatically has a basis. It is possible, for example, that there is no good basis for appeal from any view. But to that, let me also clarify that I do not claim that Christianity is necessarily a false view if it is unable to formulate an appeal that could convince others who do not share its foundational beliefs about God to behave in some particular manor.

    That said, I think naturalism has a basis for appeal. If, as I argued in an earlier thread (https://askanatheist.wordpress.com/2007/10/23/where-do-atheists-derive-their-morality-from/), innate human nature is such that the vast majority of people concur on a basic ethic, and I also argue that we can do no other than to behave according to our own nature, then I claim that the vast majority will correctly establish a moral norm. I equate “good,” “correct,” with “innate,” “natural,” etc. based on the apparent tacit agreement that “good” is defined by fundamental nature, whether fundamental nature is understood to be the Nature of God as reflected in His creation, or the natural universe as reflected in innate human nature.

  8. one_lost_coin says:

    If you think about it ever thing we know we know from the natural. Try to actually concieve a thought that is not based on the natural. You can’t do it. using that reasoning why cant a murderer claim its natural and a basis for their life style because he has actually witnessed it in the natural as we all have even in animal species who kill there own. anyone could justify anything.

  9. The Atheist says:

    one_lost_coin,

    Try to actually concieve a thought that is not based on the natural.

    Some claim to conceive of God based on personal experience.

    why cant a murderer claim its natural and a basis for their life style because he has actually witnessed it in the natural

    For the reason I pointed out just above: appeal to majority based on the observation of overwhelming consensus in human nature.

  10. one_lost_coin says:

    actually that appeal to majority gets you nowhere. societies are as varied as individuals and that is as obvious as the former atheist russia and the Vatican and cannibalistic and vegetarian societies, should I add those who believed themselves the super race even they had a basis for that belief in the natural.

  11. one_lost_coin says:

    as far as citing those who have a personal experience of God well if you want to accept that there is more to the world than a material universe such as a spiritual dimension well you are accepting a whole lot. I never met a real atheist that would go there only agnostics.

  12. The Atheist says:

    one_lost_coin,

    actually that appeal to majority gets you nowhere. societies are as varied as individuals

    Though I agree that societies vary, I am saying that in these diverse societies, the vast majority of people share the same foundational elements of morality (concern for fairness, reciprocity, loyalty, and the like). This holds true even if the shared elements of morality lead to disparate ethics. I agree that in disparate societies, ethics and certain other norms can vary widely (even if other norms seem constant). However, since the question is specifically about the constancy of morality and not the constancy of philosophy, then I’ll have to ask you to explain why you believe that your example of disparate societies illustrates that the rudiments of morality vary.

    as far as citing those who have a personal experience of God well if you want to accept that there is more to the world than a material universe such as a spiritual dimension well you are accepting a whole lot.

    To unpack my statement a bit, I was responding to your claim that it is impossible to conceive of something that is not natural. I was saying that it is indeed possible and I sited people who conceive of the supernatural as an example. It was not a commentary about whether the supernatural exists or not.

  13. Bret says:

    A:

    I agree somewhat with your statements regarding genome funtionality verus DAN (as I look at the book “Genome” on my shelf. However you have not explained why the difference exists between human beings and the mammanls you cite. To protect the young in a herd is an instict ( I have an animal science degree). It is not exhibit love and caring and affection. WHy often do males kill male offspring in the animal kingdon? Do human males do this?

    But I digress. I will be glad to send you books, your accusations of cherry picking are unfounded if you havent read them all….which you admit you have not. Lets not talk in generalizations and innuendo. If you would like to read some, I will foot the bull let me know. Frankly the mediam of the internet and blogging does neither of us justice, I think you would agree.

    We can take on the historical accuracy of the buible later. If you have travelled to, say Belize and I had never been there, and you told me through your observations and studies that you beleive there is such a thing as a purple banana and try to convince me of its existence, but I told you I dont beleive in bananas at all, then we would have to back up a bit in the discussion.

    With that, I propose our starting point be creationsism versus evolution…(if thats what you beleive…if not thats cool too, we can jum to the next topic).

    However, I am asking you to support your thories, not just refute my belief. I can kinda remember Logics class..and if I am right, you can not “win” a debate, simply by attacking the other premises.

    An example would be, if I were to tell you that my beloved Florifa Gators were going to once again whoop the Buckeyes in football. If you were to ask me why, I could simply not defend my position by saying “because Ohio State has not won all year”. That wouldnt be a defense of my belief, only a offense to the Buckeyes. What if the Gators were also winless? What if we were actually worst that OSU. To propoerly defend and promote my idea..I have to spell out why the Gators are better than the Bukeyes.

    In that spirit, let me ask: where did the universe, earth, life come from?

    If you want some reads,,lemme know.

  14. one_lost_coin says:

    oh you misunderstand my question was “your response is nothing more than your opinion of what makes for a good relationship or a good life or anthing else. on what basis do you appeal when someone does not live according to your beliefs?” you say the natural but the natural allows for every possibility of lifestyle. So when the lifestyles clash and they always do who decides what is right and wrong. Shared elements for morality is actually evidence of an objective morality and that is a proof of the existance of God. You must mean something else.

  15. The Atheist says:

    Bret,

    you have not explained why the difference exists between human beings and the mammanls you cite.

    Then maybe I’m misunderstanding your question. I was answering the questions about how the apparently small percentage of the similarity in DNA sequences are still very large and significant and that the small percentages is not a good reason to reject the DNA differences as the cause of the differences among animals. I also gave a brief explanation of the development of morality.

    To protect the young in a herd is an instict ( I have an animal science degree). It is not exhibit love and caring and affection.

    Actually, I think that the protection of young and the heard instinct are both instincts. However, I also think that the same empathy that facilitates the protection of young evolved among heard animals a finer tuned empathy that enabled rudimentary communication as I outlined above.

    It is not exhibit love and caring and affection.

    Outside of your own personal experience, how do you know that humans exhibit love? Researchers wrestle with that question too since until relatively recently, the only way to recognize any emotion, including love, in another being whether human or non-human is by observing it’s behavior. More recently however, researchers can supplement their observations of behavior with comparative brain scans of humans and animal. They can observe animal behavior that is similar to human behavior when the human is expression love, and they can compare the brain scans of the animal and human while the behavior is taking place.

    your accusations of cherry picking are unfounded if you havent read them all

    Please show me where I said that apologetic books which I haven’t read are guilty of cherry-picking and I will be quick to apologize!

    If you would like to read some, I will foot the bull let me know. Frankly the mediam of the internet and blogging does neither of us justice, I think you would agree.

    I would appreciate the recommendations just as much. Thanks for the kind offer!

    I propose our starting point be creationsism versus evolution

    Yes, I believe in evolution so that is a good place to start. I agree that if I claim that evolution is true, then the burden of proof (actually, the burden to present compelling evidence) that evolution is true is on me.

    In that spirit, let me ask: where did the universe, earth, life come from?

    I’ll be happy to try to answer that but before I do, I want to be clear on the topic (I’m confused because you suggested evolution as a starting point but your question is about the origin of the universe). Are we still starting with evolution?

    Also, this looks like a good launch point for a different thread (this one is about the Good Life as a basis for supporting Christianity). Would that be OK?

  16. The Atheist says:

    one_lost_coin,

    you say the natural but the natural allows for every possibility of lifestyle. So when the lifestyles clash and they always do who decides what is right and wrong.

    I actually said that innate human morality is relatively consistent with only slight variation. I’ll refer you to my post that you want to refute – you really should read it! It’s actually pretty good stuff! ;)

    Regarding your question, about who decides which lifestyle is right and which is wrong: it seems to me that the various societies decide for themselves and for the most part, each society tolerates the decisions of the others. Within each society, it seems that either the majority decides or the decision is made based on the traditions and religious beliefs of the land (which is also a majority decision). In some cases, tyrants take power and they decide. The other societies agree that this is wrong but only sometimes act remove the tyrant.

    Shared elements for morality is actually evidence of an objective morality and that is a proof of the existance of God. You must mean something else.

    I actually do mean “shared elements of morality.” Could you explain how this proves God’s existence?

  17. one_lost_coin says:

    I will be glad to explain how this proves God’s existance.
    1) Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.
    2) Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the “religous” one.
    3) But the atheistic one is imcompatible with there bieng moral obligation.
    4) Therefore the religous view is correct.
    We need to be clear about what the first premise is claiming. It does not mean merely that we can find people around who claim to have certain duties. Nor does it mean that there have been many people who thought they were obliged to do certain things and to avoid doing others. The first premise is claiming sonething more: namely, that we human beings really are obligated; that our duties arise from the from the way things really are, and not simply from our desires or subjective dispositions. It is claiming, in other words that moral values or obligations themselves- and not merely the belief in moral values- are objective facts.

  18. The Atheist says:

    one_lost_coin,

    1) Could you explain first what you mean by moral obligation? And if the explanation doesn’t make it self-evident, could you also explain how it is a fact? Your explanatory paragraph following the bullet points helps a great deal toward this by narrowing the field – that is, by saying what moral obligation is not. But it doesn’t go far enough so that I can tell what it is.

    2) By “religious,” do you mean that at least one particular religious view must be correct, or do you mean a “theistic” view, the view that there is a God? If the former, I can show you where this is incorrect. If the latter, then I agree with the statement. Please clarify…

    3 & 4) I’ll be happy to try and respond, but to do that, I need your explanations of points #1 and #2 to know what I’m responding to.

  19. one_lost_coin says:

    that we actually are obligated (to perform moral acts and not perform immoral ones) that our duties arise from the way things really are (objective/religous morality), and not simply from our desires or subjective value(subjective/atheist morality). for instance we all say we should not murder is that because murder is an actually wrong and we are obligated to follow our conscience and avoid the evil of murder and not just because it isnt productive and well we all voted for it but if you want to murder its ok if you move across the street because they voted to murder over there or that group over there thinks its ok to murder our group and thats ok too because they voted on that and that makes it moral for them.

    it is a comparison of the only two possibilities we either are required to do good and avoid evil or we are not. which one fits reality? no matter how you try to slice it up it still boils down to that question. Dostoyevsky spoke the obvious when he said “If God does not exist, everything is permissible.”

    by religous I mean religous in a very broad sense as opposed to the athiest materialist one.

  20. The Atheist says:

    one_lost_coin,

    Thanks for the clarifications. I’m glad I asked you to clarify before responding because I would have most likely responded to ideas other than what you intended to convey! I think I understand what you meant now, so let me add some of my thoughts:

    that we actually are obligated

    If by “we are obligated,” you mean “constrained legally or morally” (from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obligated), then I agree that most people, but not all people, are in fact obligated to be good. It is not a fact that all are legally obligated: dictators for example are immune to their own laws. Not all immoral acts are illegal and not all laws are moral. Neither is it a fact that all people are obligated morally: sociopaths for example feel no moral constraint against harming others. Neither is it a fact that we are obligated by a single morality; the vast majority of us agree on moral fundamentals like murder for example (as I claimed earlier), but we may disagree on the finer points of morality.

    we all say we should not murder is that because murder is an actually wrong and we are obligated to follow our conscience and avoid the evil of murder…

    We feel that murder is “actually wrong”. This is the moral sentiment that I am referring to when I claim that moral sentiments are innate, and it is this sentiment that obligates us to act morally.

    …and not just because it isnt productive and well we all voted for it but if you want to murder its ok

    I don’t think that morality is the product of rational thought and popular vote; I think it is an innate, deep-rooted sentiment. I think ethics is the result of rational thought about morality and I think that popular vote on moral issues echoes our moral sentiments.

    Your point (1): Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.

    I agree that for the most part, we share a common moral sentiment, which also informs our social and legal rules. However, there does not seem to be any fact that would indicate that these moral sentiments are anything but natural as I claimed that they are. On the contrary, there are facts that I have presented earlier which suggest that moral sentiments have a natural origin: the emergence of behaviors in more highly evolved animals which form the basis of morality in humans and other apes for example.

    Your point (2): Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the “religous” [sic] one.

    by religous I mean religous in a very broad sense as opposed to the athiest materialist one.

    Then I agree that either all atheists are correct in their belief that there is no God and all theists are incorrect in their belief that there is a God, or all atheist are incorrect in their belief that there is no God and all theists are correct in their belief that there is a God.

    Your point (3): But the atheistic one is imcompatible [sic] with there bieng [sic] moral obligation.

    I see no basis for claiming that the atheistic view is incompatible with there being moral obligation since there is no basis for presuming that moral obligation must be of divine origin.

    Your point (4): Therefore the religous [sic] view is correct.
    …does not follow from your other three points.

    Dostoyevsky spoke the obvious…

    Sartre’s reference notwithstanding, Dostoyevsky never said “If God does not exist, everything is permissible” in any of his known works ;) The misattributed quote would be a good summary of one of the themes in “The Brothers Karamazov” though.

    More importantly, the quote does not support the argument that you outlined above. Firstly, it already presumes that morality comes from God (which is one of the things that you still have to establish). Secondly, it presumes that, despite its own premise, we would still exist if God did not create us as moral beings, and that this natural human would be such that he would consider anything permissible. However, there does not seem to be any basis for the claim.

    I’m looking forward to more of your thoughts – this has been a very interesting discussion!

  21. one_lost_coin says:

    No, I do not mean “we are obligated” as in we are legally obligated by society. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed our ““Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.” (it may be possible you dont know everything Dostoyevsky ever said”) thats just foolish.
    No I mean we are truly obligated because moral values are obligations themselves.
    Obligated from nature. please I am hardly obligated because a monkey acts a certain way and you call that my moral basis. I only have to pick another animal that acts the way I want to act for my moral basis. surely you can do better than that. if I dont live like the monkey says i should so what if I act contrary to what nature demands me to do, so what. its not wrong its just my choice. we all die the same death and the same empty nothingness awaits us all whether we live by your silly belief or not isnt that the real truth of atheism.

    You are right we do share a common morality that informs society laws Morality is natural, or based on human nature. There is a “Natural (moral) Law”. Morality is discovered, like stars, not invented, like games. It is not man-made, arbitrary, and changeable. Its laws are intrinsic to human nature, as the laws of hygiene are to the nature of the body or the laws of physics are to the nature of matter.
    our conscience testafies to that but how did our conscience become so informed and why does it get to make such demands on our lives an authority admitted even by the moral subjectivist and relativist? There are only four possibilities.

    From something less than me (nature)
    From me (individual)
    From others equal to me (society)
    From something above me (God)
    Let’s consider each of these possibilities in order.

    How can I be absolutely obligated by something less than me—for example, by animal instinct or practical need for material survival?
    How can I obligate myself absolutely? Am I absolute? Do I have the right to demand absolute obedience from anyone, even myself? And if I am the one who locked myself in this prison of obligation, I can also let myself out, thus destroying the absoluteness of the obligation which we admitted as our premise.
    How can society obligate me? What right do my equals have to impose their values on me? Does quantity make quality? Do a million human beings make a relative into an absolute? Is “society” God?
    The only source of absolute moral obligation left is something superior to me. This binds my will, morally, with rightful demands for complete obedience.
    Thus God, or something like God, is the only adequate source and ground for the absolute moral obligation we all feel to obey our conscience. Conscience is thus explainable only as the voice of God in the soul. The Ten Commandments are ten divine footprints in our psychic sand.

  22. The Atheist says:

    (it may be possible you dont know everything Dostoyevsky ever said”) thats just foolish.

    Or, it may just be that yet again, you are refuting something that you haven’t actually read carefully enough. Please show me where I said that I know that Dostoyevsky never said the quote in question. I encourage you to read my comment a bit more closely – it’s really pretty good stuff! ;)

    No, I do not mean “we are obligated” as in we are legally obligated by society. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed our ““Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

    Good, then we both agree with my earlier observation that “it is not a fact that all are legally obligated: dictators for example are immune to their own laws. Not all immoral acts are illegal and not all laws are moral.”

    No I mean we are truly obligated because moral values are obligations themselves.

    Can you explain how a moral value (a judgment) equates to an obligation (a constraint)? Or do you simply mean that a judgment can be the reason for a constraint (in this case, a moral value can be the reason for an obligation)? If you don’t agree that a moral value is a judgment or that an obligation is not a constraint, then please explain what you believe a value and a constraint are.

    Also, you made the claim earlier but I don’t see a basis for the claim. Could you please justify? Do you agree with my my earlier explanation that not all people are obligated morally (sociopaths for example) and we are not all obligated by a single morality? If no, please explain why not.

    please I am hardly obligated because a monkey acts a certain way and you call that my moral basis. I only have to pick another animal that acts the way I want to act for my moral basis.

    True. But I haven’t said that you are obligated because a monkey acts a certain way. In fact, we can both agree that because a monkey acts in a certain way is not the reason you are obligated. ;)

    I have indicated in my posts that the presence of moral behavior in our closest cousins is evidence that morality emerged naturally through evolution.

    surely you can do better than that.

    Not only can I do better, but I have done better. I encourage you to read what I actually said a bit more closely – it’s really pretty good stuff! ;)

    we all die the same death and the same empty nothingness awaits us all whether we live by your silly belief or not isnt that the real truth of atheism.

    You lost me – does this support your argument in some way that moral obligation proves the existence of God?

    Just as an aside, maybe you are intentionally trying to be rude, but you should note that in just your last post, you’ve falsely accused me of making a “foolish” statement and you’ve belittled my beliefs as “silly”.

    You are right we do share a common morality that informs society laws Morality is natural, or based on human nature.

    Do you also agree as I pointed out that although this morality is largely universal, it is not universal?

    There is a “Natural (moral) Law”. Morality is discovered, like stars, not invented, like games. It is not man-made, arbitrary, and changeable. Its laws are intrinsic to human nature, as the laws of hygiene are to the nature of the body or the laws of physics are to the nature of matter.

    Would you then concede that the “law,” that is the observation that humans for the most part share a common morality, is consistent with the claim that it emerged naturally via evolution?

    our conscience testafies to that but how did our conscience become so informed and why does it get to make such demands on our lives an authority admitted even by the moral subjectivist and relativist?

    I suggest that it occurs naturally. So far, I don’t see anything that would preclude natural origins as the reason.

    There are only four possibilities. From something less than me (nature) From me (individual) From others equal to me (society) From something above me (God)

    I consider nature, and society to both be greater than me in the respect that I am a product of nature, and society has more influence over me than I have over society. Can you either show me that my view is incorrect, or alternatively, can you still make the argument based on my assessment?

    How can I be absolutely obligated by something less than me—for example, by animal instinct or practical need for material survival?

    I contend that nature is not less than you but greater. I also contend that instinct is an integral part of you. I further contend that much of your thought and actions are influenced by these instincts. Then in the context of obligation to act a certain way, your instincts are not less than you.

    This would be a good place to ask: how do you define “you?”

    How can I obligate myself absolutely? Am I absolute? Do I have the right to demand absolute obedience from anyone, even myself? And if I am the one who locked myself in this prison of obligation, I can also let myself out, thus destroying the absoluteness of the obligation which we admitted as our premise.

    What do you mean by “obligating yourself absolutely?” Does it imply that you always have a clear moral mandate and that you always follow that mandate?

    The clear answer to your last question is yes – you have the ability to decide that you will no longer act morally. Further, a sociopath can do this without any feeling of guilt.

    How can society obligate me? What right do my equals have to impose their values on me? Does quantity make quality? Do a million human beings make a relative into an absolute? Is “society” God?

    Society can and does obligate you by threatening punishment, or by applying social pressure. We agree that society is greater than you.

    The only source of absolute moral obligation left is something superior to me. This binds my will, morally, with rightful demands for complete obedience. Thus God, or something like God, is the only adequate source and ground for the absolute moral obligation we all feel to obey our conscience.

    I will agree that the only source of absolute moral obligation left is God if:
    1) you can show me that morality is absolute (I’ve shown reasons to conclude that it is not)
    2) and you can show me why I should accept that nature and our own instincts are not greater than ourselves and therefore cannot obligate us to act morally.
    3) you can show me why society should not obligate you to behave in a moral mannor

    Conscience is thus explainable only as the voice of God in the soul.

    I have argued that moral sentiments, or “councience,” is explainable by natural origins.

    The Ten Commandments are ten divine footprints in our psychic sand.

    I contend that moral sentiments were present long before the Ten Commandments were written. Since I also contend that moral sentiments arise through natural causes, then I reasonably conclude that the moral statements in the Ten Commandments are an expression of the morality of its authors. Note that other commandments are not moral statements in the same sense that we have been discussing morality: making engraved images for example, is not a moral statement in the same sense that the prohibition on murder is (that is, it is not a matter of conscience). In fact, many societies routinely make engrave images as part of their religious devotion. Other examples of commandments that are not moral in this sense are keeping the sabbath, and worshiping other gods. Note that I have been referring to the version of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:1-17 because I presume that is the version you mean (vs. the different versions found in Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and Exodus 34).

  23. one_lost_coin says:

    if we all die into the nothingness of total nonexistance as athiesm demands than everything everyone believes is silly and meaningless. it seems you have created a system that tries to have everthing both ways.

    you say morality evolved through nature. from evolution of all things the chance products of motion and matter a motion that is puposless and blind to every human striving. Given this picture what again is the moral good rooted? moral obligation can hardly be rooted in material motion blind to purpose.

    you say “although this morality is largely universal. it is not universal.” it either is or its not. we either are obligated or we are not.

    if the 10 commandments came from man we dont have to do any of them. because who is any man to say what is right or wrong. but if they come from a source outside of ourselves/ outside of materialism, then it is wrong to make and worship idols for everyone using your example. since those are the only possibilities the first set of arguments is a perectly adaquet proof of God.

    because although i didnt pressuppose the existance of God i did pressuppose the existance of objective values with the aim of showing that believing in them is only compatible with one picture of the world. and that it is only compatible with the religous view not the atheistic/materialistic one.

    all you have to do is crunch the numbers. you are just a man and i am no more obligated to listen to you than you are to me with how we should live our lives. just because we both interpreted some system from our observation from the morality of nature is meaningless because any body can come up with and justify anything that way and no other person has to pay any mind to it. but if we are bound by a real morality that we are obligated to perform than there must be a God and that God must be a good and loving God.

  24. one_lost_coin says:

    the rest of your thoughts i would just have you reread the short post on conscience above because the parts that point out the flaws in your thinking you removed in the quotes you decided to respond to. i will repost them here.

    How can I be absolutely obligated by something less than me—for example, by animal instinct or practical need for material survival? (you cant) nature is not more than us. it is bigger but we can think and do other things more so than any other thing in nature. we can contemplate our existance. and contemplate nature but nature does not contemplate us.

    How can I obligate myself absolutely(from websters Absolute as used in Philosophy
    Something regarded as the ultimate basis of all thought and being. I think this will be suitable for understanding this part)? Am I absolute? Do I have the right to demand absolute obedience from anyone, even myself? And if I am the one who locked myself in this prison of obligation, I can also let myself out, thus destroying the absoluteness of the obligation which we admitted as our premise.

    How can society obligate me? What right do my equals have to impose their values on me? Does quantity make quality? Do a million human beings make a relative into an absolute? Is “society” God? (The answer to all of these is No) you are wrong society cant obligate you there are people known as martyrs. society can threaten you (it doesnt work on everyone.)

    The only source of absolute moral obligation left is something superior to me. This binds my will, morally, with rightful demands for complete obedience.

  25. The Atheist says:

    one_list_coin,

    if we all die into the nothingness of total nonexistance as athiesm demands than everything everyone believes is silly and meaningless. it seems you have created a system that tries to have everthing both ways.

    It’s neither silly or meaningless while we are alive. But once we are dead, there will be no one to pronounce it either important nor silly.

    To want “everything” both ways is quite a bold accusation (and not apparent to me how it is relevant to our discussion)! What constitutes “everything” and how does this refute what I have said or support what you have said?

    you say morality evolved through nature. from evolution of all things the chance products of motion and matter a motion that is puposless and blind to every human striving. Given this picture what again is the moral good rooted? moral obligation can hardly be rooted in material motion blind to purpose.

    Ants instinctively cooperate with their fellow ants; each ant’s purpose is to store food in the nest, care for the young, protect the queen, etc. What is the purpose of protecting the queen, etc.? The purpose is to insure the survival of the ant colony. The ants are quite unaware of this purpose and the survival of an ant colony is of no consequence to the universe. Then on what basis do they have a purpose. We humans say they do. Purpose is a human concept: it is a notion that does not exist outside of human thought. Purpose is a recognition that a set of actions tend toward a result. When the actions are performed by agents that we believe have minds (whether the agents actually have minds or not), then we say that the agents have a purpose and that purpose is the end result of their actions.

    The “good” is rooted in our innate sense of morality. Regardless of whether we are the product of a purposeless process, we like other living things have instincts which are motivators to act and which we define as our sense of purpose. It appears that indeed, moral obligation can be rooted in material motion which is blind to purpose.

    you say “although this morality is largely universal. it is not universal.” it either is or its not. we either are obligated or we are not.

    Correct: morality is either universal or it is not. I’ll let you determine if it “is” or it “is not” based on my claim that “morality is largely universal.” ;)

    Also correct: either we are obligated or we are not. Again, I’ll let you determine if “we are” or “we are not” based on my claim the we are for the most part obligated. ;)

    More importantly, I’m interested in arguments you might present based on your determination.

    if the 10 commandments came from man we dont have to do any of them.

    That is not true. We are still obligated to do some of them for reasons already discussed.

    because who is any man to say what is right or wrong.

    If by “man” you mean human society, then society is a coercive force as we already discussed. If by “man” you mean a single individual, then it depends on his role within society (a judge for example).

    but if they come from a source outside of ourselves/ outside of materialism, then it is wrong to make and worship idols for everyone using your example. since those are the only possibilities the first set of arguments is a perectly adaquet proof of God.

    I agree: the first set of arguments is adequate proof if, as you say, morality comes from outside of materialism. I will readily agree with the conclusion of the first set of arguments when you show that morality comes from outside of materialism.

    because although i didnt pressuppose the existance of God i did pressuppose the existance of objective values with the aim of showing that believing in them is only compatible with one picture of the world. and that it is only compatible with the religous view not the atheistic/materialistic one.

    Why should I also presuppose the existence of objective values that are outside of materialism?

    just because we both interpreted some system from our observation from the morality of nature is meaningless because any body can come up with and justify anything that way and no other person has to pay any mind to it.

    I’m not sure what you are getting at by this statement, or how what you are saying pertains to our discussion, or if it is something you would like me to respond to. Please let me know.

    but if we are bound by a real morality that we are obligated to perform than there must be a God and that God must be a good and loving God.

    Can you show why my claim is false; my claim that we are indeed bound (obligated) by a real morality and this morality is a natural product? If not, then I don’t see how you can contend that there must be a God because there is real morality.

  26. The Atheist says:

    nature is not more than us. it is bigger but we can think and do other things more so than any other thing in nature. we can contemplate our existance. and contemplate nature but nature does not contemplate us.

    If we indeed are a part of nature, then when we contemplate our existance, it is a part of nature that contemplates existence.

    How can I obligate myself absolutely(from websters Absolute as used in Philosophy
    Something regarded as the ultimate basis of all thought and being. I think this will be suitable for understanding this part)? Am I absolute? Do I have the right to demand absolute obedience from anyone, even myself? And if I am the one who locked myself in this prison of obligation, I can also let myself out, thus destroying the absoluteness of the obligation which we admitted as our premise.

    I thought I answered this but maybe I didn’t. I’ll try again. When you say “Am I absolute”, and by that you are asking if you are the basis for all thought and being, then you are not. You do not have the right to demand absolute obedience (or even obedience) of others. You have the right to demand whatever you like of yourself, whether you are absolute or not. You can also let yourself out of the prison, but though you let yourself out, the pressures of society will not allow you to go completely free.

    I had asked you for clarification as part of my answer but I don’t think you addressed it yet. My question was regarding your statement about “obligating yourself absolutely” and what you meant by it: “Does it imply that you always have a clear moral mandate and that you always follow that mandate?”

    How can society obligate me? What right do my equals have to impose their values on me? Does quantity make quality? Do a million human beings make a relative into an absolute? Is “society” God? (The answer to all of these is No) you are wrong society cant obligate you there are people known as martyrs. society can threaten you (it doesnt work on everyone.)

    Society can obligate you by power of the multitude. Your equals have the ability to agree on social rules. There is an implicit social contract that says that if you live in a society, then you will abide by the majority’s rules. Quantity is often an indicator of quality, though it does not guarantee it. No number of humans can make a determination on absolute morality. Society can obligate you because oblication is to apply pressure, it is not to control absolutely. Therefore, if you agree that society can apply pressure, then you must agree that society can obligate you.

    The only source of absolute moral obligation left is something superior to me. This binds my will, morally, with rightful demands for complete obedience.

    I am still hoping for your demonstration that absolute (non-matirialistic) morality exists. Also, presuming that you are still defending your original 4-point argument, I’m also hoping for your demonstration that the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligation – not that we’ve already agreed that moral obligation indeed exists.

  27. one_lost_coin says:

    You ask for me to show your claim is false; your claim that we are indeed obligated by a real morality and this morality is a natural product.

    yes, to be obligated to nature is to be obligated to something less than ourselves. it is impossible to be obligated to something less than ourselves. if you try that tired line of how you think nature is more than we are than look in my post above and refute my answer to it.

  28. one_lost_coin says:

    we are the part of nature and that nature contemplates itself through us is silly

  29. one_lost_coin says:

    no, you have yet to refute my reply. no multitude has ever obligated a martyr to violate his own conscience. you see conscience holds one to a higher standard than society can. there are only four possibilities for how ones conscience could be informed and be able to make such a demand on ones life to the point of following ones conscience against society and obey the moral obligation to death and three of them dont make any sense.

  30. one_lost_coin says:

    the four were already posted above.

  31. one_lost_coin says:

    i went in my yard and asked a tree if it knew who i was and i got no answer. i asked the tree if it knew of itself still no answer. i sent it my thoughts of it as a tree but it did not seem to respond. i am beginning to think the tree has not contemplated itself through me. i am not sure the tree knows its a tree. i will ask a rock tomorrow maybe it will have contemplated intself through me :-)

  32. The Atheist says:

    one_lost_coin,

    yes, to be obligated to nature is to be obligated to something less than ourselves. it is impossible to be obligated to something less than ourselves. if you try that tired line of how you think nature is more than we are than look in my post above and refute my answer to it.

    Nature is more than we are. Please indicate specifically which of your comments you would like me to refute ;)

    we are the part of nature and that nature contemplates itself through us is silly

    I would be curious to know why you find it silly. Then I’ll clarify my actual position on nature contemplating itself ;)

    no multitude has ever obligated a martyr to violate his own conscience. you see conscience holds one to a higher standard than society can.

    Obligation does not imply successful control. The fact that martyrs take their own life even if they are obligated by society to do otherwise does not imply that society cannot obligate. There are other cases where people do not do what they believe to be right because of social pressures. In that case, society is the “higher standard” (if indeed that is your standard). Consider the physician who, against his conscience, allows his patient to suffer an agonizing death because he does not want to risk the consequences by performing euthanasia.

    the four were already posted above.

    I’d love to reply, but I have no idea what that meant. Complete sentences are always a big help ;)

    i went in my yard and asked a tree if it knew who i was and i got no answer. i asked the tree if it knew of itself still no answer. i sent it my thoughts of it as a tree but it did not seem to respond. i am beginning to think the tree has not contemplated itself through me. i am not sure the tree knows its a tree. i will ask a rock tomorrow maybe it will have contemplated intself through me :-)

    An entertaining antidote! Does it somehow further our discussion?

    Since you seem to have most of your questions answered, there are a few things I would like to press you on. Let me begin with a few questions: do you believe that there exists an absolute morality? If you do, why do you believe that it is absolute?

  33. doug says:

    testing the holy waters;)

  34. doug says:

    hi yawl,
    all this talk about nature……….boring……….riddle me this oh great atheist mind………how did nature come to be???!!!

  35. doug says:

    dear the atheist,
    is the icon oot by your name a broken heart?
    best wishes & God bless you
    doug

  36. doug says:

    time zone?

    dear the atheist,
    i am curious to know which time zone this blog is originating from.
    across the pond perhaps?
    perhaps there is only four hours difference between western europe/africa and us;)
    it is sunday here in tennessee thus the 27th yet my notations register 28th and 4 hours difference.
    i am curious to know. please inform me.
    best wishes and God bless you,
    doug

  37. doug says:

    p.s.

    one final note.

    i do not know if i will be able to find this site again not being computer savvy [i missed the on ramp to the information super highway] ;) tee hee tee hee (grapes of wrath, john steinbeck; date not remembered).
    i would like to join in on yawls discussion.
    best wishes and God bless you,
    doug

  38. The Atheist says:

    doug,

    I hope you are able to find your way back. If so, then welcome to the discussion!

  39. doug says:

    dear the atheist,

    halleleujah [ ;) ]

    i was remarkably able to find my way back & i am glad i was able to.
    thank you for welcoming me to your discussion.
    i am still curious to know where bouts this blog originates from.
    would you please tell me.
    best wishes and God bless you,
    doug

  40. one_lost_coin says:

    Yes my talking to trees forwards the argument to its conclusion. Humans are more than nature the tree does not know its a tree it does not contemplate itself. It does not even contemplate itself through me. The tree does not love. a rock does not love. a rock cannot do anything right or wrong neither can a tree. neither can a star or a planet. they do not have freewill like a human. nature does not have a conscience like man. a tree cannot do math or laugh. Nature is less than man and it is self evident.
    Refute any of the above.

    consequently the arguments i have provided stand as solid. Lets review.

    Now where did conscience get such an absolute authority—an authority admitted even by the moral subjectivist and relativist? There are only four possibilities.

    From something less than me (nature)
    From me (individual)
    From others equal to me (society)
    From something above me (God)
    Let’s consider each of these possibilities in order.

    you tried nature that wasnt true. you usually skip the individual and go direct to society. but every martyr proves a mans conscience is greater than any pressure society can bring so society isnt correct either. There is only one other choice and it is the only one that makes sense.

  41. The Atheist says:

    one_lost_coin,

    Yes my talking to trees forwards the argument to its conclusion. Humans are more than nature the tree does not know its a tree it does not contemplate itself. It does not even contemplate itself through me. The tree does not love. a rock does not love. a rock cannot do anything right or wrong neither can a tree. neither can a star or a planet. they do not have freewill like a human. nature does not have a conscience like man. a tree cannot do math or laugh. Nature is less than man and it is self evident.
    Refute any of the above.

    Thanks for the explanation I requested regarding why you think the notion of “the universe contemplating itself” silly.

    Since humans are a part of nature, they cannot be more than nature. To begin with an illustration, each human is a mere spec compared with the city in which he lives (think Google Maps). The city is barely a spec with respect to the earth, which is barely a spec with respect to the solar system (despite drawings that you may have in mind which make earth and other planets look substantial with respect to the size of the solar system). The Sun is a mere spec with respect to the Milky, or even the spiral arm in which we find ourselves situated. The Milky Way is but a spec in the known universe. We are but a spec upon a spec upon a spec upon a spec in the known universe. We are unimaginably small and insignificant compared to the Universe.

    Zooming back to Earth to continue the discussion, many animals have many tricks that they perform better than other animals. Bucktoothed rodents are the only animals that are invulnerable to the pain of acid and hot pepper. Starfish are the only animals that can regenerate lost arms. Goldfish are the only animals that can see both ultrviolet and infrared light. Cockroaches are the only animals that can survive its entire lifespan without water. Elephants are the only animals with 4 knees. Alkaliphiles are the only organisms that thrive at pH levels of 9 or above. We don’t know this for a fact but, so far, we think that humans are the only animals that contemplates, or reflects about himself and his environment – a very neat trick among many others in the animal kingdom.

    The point is that none of these abilities of these various sizes of specs, upon a spec, upon a spec, upon a spec is more than the universe because of some particular trick it can perform. No matter how impressive a trick an animal can perform, the animal is something that arose from the universe. As both the origin and the container of all animals, the universe is more than any particular animal.

    As promised, I’ll explain my position on your notion of “nature contemplating itself.” The only part of nature that we know of that contemplates are humans. As far as we know no other part of nature contemplates itself. Nature doesn’t contemplate itself through us because the very act of contemplation requires “mind.” As far as we know, the universe does not have a mind; it produces minds that it contains. As an analogy, consider a pregnant mother who produces a mind in her unborn child that is within her and part of her, yet she no more thinks through that mind than the universe thinks through us. The production of minds is not a purposeful endeavor but rather a mindless natural process. The only way we can say that the universe contemplates at all is by specifying that a minuscule part of the universe, humans, can contemplate.

    consequently the arguments i have provided stand as solid. Lets review.

    Good suggestion.

    you tried nature that wasnt true.

    I argued that morality has a natural cause and I don’t see where you have refuted my argument. Instead, you have proposed counter arguments that could refute my natural argument by virtue of your being mutually exclusive from mine. However, you have not sustained those exclusive arguments:

    To review your argument based upon the premise that you are absolutely obliged to act morally:

    I showed that we are not absolutely morally obligated by pointing out that sociopaths are not obligated at all to act morally. Therefore, obligation is not absolute by virtue of its absolute presence in all humans. I also showed that we are not absolutely morally obligated by pointing out that the sense of morality is not identical from individual to individual (your martyr example illustrates this point well). Therefore, obligation is not absolute by virtue of an absolute standard. Finally, I pointed out that we are able to act against the obligation. Therefore, obligation is not absolute by virtue of absolute control. There seems to be no basis for requiring that moral obligation is absolute. Since the existence of absolute moral obligation seems to be a necessary premise for your “four possibilities” argument, then your argument fails.

    Can you show that absolute moral obligation exits despite these objections? If not, then we can review where are discussion stands for one of your other arguments.

  42. Demodocos says:

    Wow! I turn my head for a minute and then look back and there are over forty posts. It was a bit tedious getting through it all, but I’ll throw my two bits in.

    Athiest,
    To begin, please do not read Lee Strobel, Ravvi Zacharias, Josh McDowell or Philip Johnson. They might be good for some Christians as quaint nighttime readings of someone else’s memoirs, but they do not represent the best of Christian philosophical/theological discourse. I mean no offense to the authors, but they function better as the proverbial preachers to the choir. I am not aware of many well-educated non-Christians who find it engaging, compelling, or relevant to the questions they are asking (but that may just be my opinion man).

    Atheist said:
    Many discussions surround religion seem to degenerate into demands for proof, but I don’t think the demand is reasonable. Most things we believe, we accept without proof; we base our beliefs for the most part on reason and evidence. I don’t see any reason to reject religious claims on the basis that they can’t be proven. On the other hand, I don’t see any reason to accept them unless there is reason to. And based on our discussion, I think that you would agree.

    That is very helpful to keep in mind. I was definitely assuming you were coming at it from a different direction. But what you said in these words represents a section of common ground between us.

    I mentioned in the first post that I was curious to explore what gives validity and weight to the things on which we base some of our claims. It looks like there are a couple of Christians weighing in on this, but unfortunately I have contentions with them. Many of the things that they mentioned might have some weight, but not much. For instance, what gives the bible weight is not the amount documents that have been written over the amount of time it was written. Part of the reason this is absurd is because this rationale would not be operable for the early church. Scripture did have weight, but obviously it could not be for this reason. Furthermore, Atheist is right in asking if it is acceptable to accept the bible based on its historicity. The short answer is that the history of biblical interpretation clearly shows, and I mean clearly shows, that the church read scripture in far more nuanced ways than simply its historical claims. This is not to discard much of our faith that is tied to “historical fact,” but rather to point out that scripture is hardly a history book in the way that we in the 21st century understand history. The emphasis has always been on the way in which the church has used these texts, not on the way in which the text has been proven to match up with historical evidence. Some Christians have to come to terms with the fact that people along the lines of Lee Strobel, Ravvi Zacharias, Josh McDowell and Philip Johnson represent a line of thinking that is relatively new, extremely western thinking, and divergent from way in which the church throughout time and across numerous cultures have talked about what makes the way of Christ valid.

    It seems ironic that an atheist can recognize an aspect of faith that most American Christians can’t see. That is, as Atheist says, “most things we believe, we accept without proof; we base our beliefs for the most part on reason and evidence.” Too often Christians want to use the language of “proof” in order to win an argument. What is attractive about this is that it takes all of the weight off of Christians embodying the “life of Christ” and places it on some “absolute truth.” This is both heretical and unreasonable because the Christian faith is primarily about living life to its fullest, not adhering to some absolute laws that hover above us regardless if we believe they are there or not (plus, there is “evidence” to suggest that notions of “objective truth” are based on faulty assumption, and in addition to that, the Judaeo-Christian faith has operated quite well for thousands of years without needing the category of “objective truth”). The conversation centers around living, not around convincing others about metaphysical truths. Jesus himself did not try to obligate people into following him, he enabled them to live a whole life.

    My primary issue was the identification of things that are “good” and “valuable” that are not scientifically proven. It seems that we (Atheist and me) share the assumption that there are numerous things in our life that we accept without proof. And, that we accept things based on evidence and reasonability. I do not know if I have anything else to say in this forum simply because we are at a point (at least between Atheist and me) that the only way I could sufficiently address the meat of any of your questions would have to be in the context of a shared life. The aspects of the Christian faith that I count as reasonable evidence would be a combination of my personal experiences, experiences of people I know and trust, the ways in which this faith has functioned and played itself out in the life of my community. I would have to show you why I think it is life to its fullest. I would have to offer you life to its fullest, before you were able to see if it was reasonable. I would have to look to you (as someone I believe carries the image of God) to learn aspects of this life in Christ that are unknowable without you (even as an atheist, even more as a Christian). I believe some things can be conveyed in a conversation over the internet, but the reasonableness of God’s existence is not one of them.

    I do thank you for the clarifications from you perspective on numerous things. There are still a couple of things I would like to explore, but this will do for now.

  43. The Atheist says:

    Demodocos,

    Thanks for shlogging through – you are truly fearless! I particularly appreciated your taking the time to indicate where you agreed and disagreed with me and the various other posters on points we’ve discussed. I was encouraged and even a little surprised by how much you and agree. I was less surprised but just as encouraged that you would take issue with biblical literist views, and with the authors who would espouse those views. I also can appreciate the difficulty in sharing personal day-in and day-out experiences using text as a medium, but it may well turn out that our life experiences are more similar than different in ways that are important to the discussion.

    I have been wondering about the relationship you see between faith and the Good Life so this may be a good time to ask. In particular, I was wondering if you see faith in a utilitarian way; by which I mean is faith good because it brings joy, regardless whether our beliefs are true? Or do you see it the other way around – do you see that certain aspects of what is Good can only come through faith and, this serves to demonstrates somehow that the belief is true? Or do you see the relationship between faith and the Good Life in a completely different way?

    Thanks again for your insightful comments to the 40+ posts (!) and for the most excellent discussion. I look forward to your questions as well.

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