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Re: on discussing god and religion

PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2019 5:33 pm
by iambiguous
"Morality requires a god, whether you’re religious or not"
Gerald K Harrison from The Conversation website

I have no religious convictions. I am, or try to be, a man of reason, not of faith. Nevertheless, I believe a few simple arguments demonstrate that morality requires a god.

This is interesting. Someone who has no religious convictions but has managed to think himself into believing that among mere mortals God is an essential component of morality.

That's my own conclusion in turn. Well, "here and now". No transcending font seems necessarily to suggest that there is no one or no thing mere mortals can turn to when two or more sides pertaining to any particular set of conflicting goods set out to prescribe and proscribe behaviors in any particular community.

Take moral commands. It is trivially true that a moral command is a command. A command is a command, right? It is also true that commands (real ones, rather than apparent or metaphorical ones) are always the commands of an agent, a mind with beliefs and desires. My chair cannot command me to sit in it. And commands cannot issue themselves. It follows that moral commands are the commands of an agent or agents.

Which, of course, most call God. And while others call it something else -- reason, ideology, nature etc. -- they are all over the moral and political map in regard to what actual behaviors ought to be either rewarded or punished.

And this seems reasonable because no mere mortal in the secular realm appear able to demonstrate that their own moral font is either omniscient or omnipotent.

And that is important to assure that no one who breaks the rules can get away with it. That, in other words, they will ever and always be known to have broken the rules. And thus will ever and always be punished for doing so.

Only God fits the bill here.

Many philosophers maintain that moral commands are commands of reason. They are right, I think. But the point still stands. Reason’s commands are commands. Therefore, reason’s commands are the commands of an agent or agents. So if moral commands are a subset of the commands of reason – and they surely are – they must still be commands of an agent or agents.

So, it comes down then to comparing and contrasting a mere mortal as the agent of moral commands with God.


Re: on discussing god and religion

PostPosted: Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:18 pm
by iambiguous
"Morality requires a god, whether you’re religious or not"
Gerald K Harrison from The Conversation website

We are agents. Could moral commands be our commands? That does not seem plausible. For one thing, it would mean we could make anything morally right just by commanding ourselves to do it. That doesn’t appear to work – and we can test that easily enough. Command yourself to do something that has hitherto seemed obviously wrong to you – physically assaulting someone, say – and see if it suddenly starts to seem morally right to assault someone now. I bet it won’t.

What we become in my view are agents that, with respect to moral commands, are the embodiment of dasein. It's not that some are in fact actually able to command themselves to assault someone, but in grasping all of the existential variables in their lives that predisposed them to command something of themselves that most others do not.

Which always brings me back to those who are able to think themselves into believing that without God's command the choices they make can have nothing to do with commands at at all. They have merely become inclined [for whatever reasons embedded in their accumulated experiences] to prefer certain things which fulfill and satisfy them in a way that is beyond actually grasping fully and comprehensively.

Maybe it is rooted in their genes, maybe in their childhood indoctrination, maybe in a particularly profound experience that changed their life forevermore. Who is really able to peel the onion that is "I" back to something that explains everything they think and feel and do?

If moral commands appeared to us to be our own commands it would strike us as silly to wonder whether an act is right or wrong, or think anyone else could provide us with moral insight into the matter. We know better than anyone else what we are commanding ourselves to do at any given point, so it would be obvious to us that we could establish the morality of any deed by introspection.

No, it strikes some -- in fact most -- as silly because they refuse to construe "I" as anything other than the "real me" in sync with "the right thing to do". That's the part that "here and now" seems lost to me. The idea of "moral commands" is instead just another existential contraption rooted in whatever the actual interaction or genes and memes happened to configure into to fabricate "I" out in this particular world at this particular time.

Re: on discussing god and religion

PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:56 pm
by iambiguous
"Morality requires a god, whether you’re religious or not"
Gerald K Harrison from The Conversation website

It’s no good suggesting that moral commands are commands of our communities. Communities are not agents, so cannot actually command anything. And it seems clear physical assault will not suddenly appear right to us just because a majority of agents decide to command us to assault someone.

This merely assumes that those who do follow the commands of those able to command in any particular community are not acting morally because there are may well be others in the community able to command conflicting behaviors. Only an existing God is able to command behaviors that all in the community are obligated to choose.

Except in the world that we actually live in factions within a community may well be able to command behaviors that "for all practical purposes" are embraced as moral commandments by those who merely believe that this is true.

Sure, bring forth this God able to demonstrate the commands emanating from within the community are false commands and case closed. But: No God brought forth speaks volumes regarding what anyone "suggests" about moral commands in the community.

Thus precipitating assumptions of this sort:

Another basic truth about moral commands (and the commands of reason more generally) is that they have a single source across all of us. This can be demonstrated by the fact that “Tim is morally commanded to X” and “Tim is morally commanded not to X” are clearly contradictory statements. They cannot both be true.

Clearly, if one faction of the community is morally commanding Tim to do "X" while another faction is morally commanding him not to do "X", the only solution is that transcending font which most call God.

But where is this God? Why should the community as a whole follow only His moral commands? Because one or another scripture claims it is their God?

For others though that's where the "philosopher-kings" come in. No God? Then it must be Reason that commands a mere mortal morally. Either that or Nature.

Re: on discussing god and religion

PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2019 8:01 pm
by iambiguous
John 3:16,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. .

Do we actually believe that this "perish" is suppose to mean that people believed that they would not die a physical death if they believed in Christ? Is this what John was teaching?

You come across this in discussions of God and religion all the time. The part where Scripture is quoted and folks go back and forth regarding what it really means.

Indeed, my point on this thread has always been that with so much at stake, why would any Scripture not be definitive regarding what is expected of the faithful on this side of the grave in order to attain immortality and salvation on the other side of it?

You read of these ultra-orthodox denominations that are very, very explicit regarding hundreds and hundreds of behaviors that are either obligatory or prohibited. And this makes sense to me precisely because so much is at stake. In fact, the closer you get to more ecumenical approaches to God and religion the less serious it seems you can take them. After all, if you can just pick and choose behaviors that suit you in your own personal relationship with God then practically anything can be justified.


One thing that seems rather clear to me is how very few believers are willing to explore the relationship between the right thing to do here and now and the right place to be there and then. At least on this thread.

As soon as you take your religious values out into the world of actual human interaction, you bump into others [even of your own denomination] that you are in conflict with. Then [for me] it's back to what is at stake in getting the values right.

Re: on discussing god and religion

PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 7:59 pm
by iambiguous
Would you choose a God who is perfect by your perception (namely, not allow evil to exist), in other words, a puppeteer ~~ or a God who is imperfect and allows humans free will?

On the other hand, someone might prefer a God allowing humans free will that is not omniscient. After all, if He is all-knowing, how can that be realistically reconciled with human autonomy? If He knows everything then He knows everything that we will do. And if He already knows that, how could we not but choose behaviors He is already cognizant of?

And then the part about natural disasters, extinction events, deadly diseases, crippling biological disorders, etc. Having free will doesn't make calamities of this sort go away.

What then can the source of evil here be if not God?

Then [of course] it is back to God working in mysterious ways.

Re: on discussing god and religion

PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:23 pm
by iambiguous
The Good, The Bad and Theodicy
John Holroyd on the pitfalls of academic debates about God and evil.

In the classic spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, three gunslingers co-operate and compete with each other in search of a cache of gold. None of them trusts either of the others, and in the final shoot-out ‘The Good’ character (played by Clint Eastwood) kills ‘The Bad’, leaving the third in the trio tied up on top of his share of the loot.

In debates about whether or not a benevolent, omnipotent, all-knowing God would allow evil and suffering in the world, both more and less is at stake than for the characters in the film The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. On both sides there is the honour of ‘winning’ or the indignity of ‘losing’ a public debate. But for many of the disputants who are religious these arguments are about matters of eternal significance for every person, whether they appreciate that or not. For some atheists, too, the issues have seemed imperative. Why waste one’s life on a delusion, they ask, especially when this God delusion can be made abundantly clear? Each party to this debate is engaged to some degree in a life commitment, pursued with passion and conviction.

First, of course, there has never been an atheist around able to demonstrate beyond all doubt that God is just a delusion.

Or, rather, none that I have ever come across.

So, sure, there may well be a "benevolent, omnipotent, all-knowing God" able to reconcile the good the bad and the ugly down here in a way that is simply beyond the reach of mere mortals.

There's just no getting around that. Atheists may fulminate against such "ignorance" but they are in the same boat we are all in: the one that traverses the gap between "I" and "all there is".

And, after all, God is one possible explanation for, well, everything.

Even among the religionists, narratives are able to be forged in which the emphasis is placed either on God sanctioning winning down here or winning up there. In fact, some are able to insist that the more you win down here the more that indicates God's blessing. And not all of them are shyster TV evangelists.

The bottom line: one person's wasted life is still another person's road to salvation. At least as long as morality on this side of the grave and immortality on the other side is relevant to the "human condition".

Re: on discussing god and religion

PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2019 9:00 pm
by iambiguous
The Good, The Bad and Theodicy
John Holroyd on the pitfalls of academic debates about God and evil.

In this article I will not seek to rehearse the arguments for or against the view that the existence of evil and suffering proves that there is no God. Instead, I want to stand back a little from such debates, observe them from a variety of perspectives and consider their ethical character.
So let’s be clear at the outset what is at stake. Epicurus gave us an early formulation of the ‘problem of evil’, a logical problem to do with believing in God. He wrote:
“God either wishes to take away evils and is unable; or he is able and unwilling; or he is neither willing nor able; or he is both willing and able. If he is willing and unable, he is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God, if he is able and unwilling, he is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if he is neither willing nor able he is both feeble and envious, and therefore not God, if he is both willing and able, which alone is suitable for God, from what source then are evils? Or why does he not remove them?”

Of course reducing this profoundly problematic, existential relationship down to a "logical problem" is to presume that it can be.

The difficulty philosophers have here revolves precisely around the limitations of philosophy [and the tools at its disposal] when grappling with this relationship.

After all...

Is it logical that God should exist? And, if that is so, is it logical that He be your God? And, if that is so, is it logical that mere mortals might grasp the mind of God?

The "will of God" may well by far, far, far beyond the assumptions that Epicurus [and others] make when considering the relationship between I and Thou and ethics.

Until the existence a God, the God, my God is actually established, speculating about how one should think about Him as philosophers on this tiny little rock circling around this hum drum star in this rather typical galaxy in the vastness of all there is, seems to be little more than just one more thought experiment.

Re: on discussing god and religion

PostPosted: Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:16 pm
by iambiguous
The Good, The Bad and Theodicy
John Holroyd on the pitfalls of academic debates about God and evil.

In more recent times Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) coined the term ‘theodicy’ to refer to systematic attempts to defend belief in God in the face of evil and suffering, such as the arguments offered by St Augustine. In the last twenty years the New Atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, have brought such debates about theodicy to the fore, excoriating the God of the Bible and the God of the Qur’an for their alleged misdeeds. We might think of these writers, alongside sceptical philosophical heavyweights such as David Hume and John Stuart Mill, as anti-theodicists.

My own reaction to theodicy focuses in on the extent to which it is often irrelevant regarding any particular individual's faith in God. Any number of men and women in any number of contexts are able to push it aside in recognizing that in the absence of God there is no transcendental foundation for morality on this of the grave or hope for immortality on the other side of.

After all, No God and the part about evil, the part about human pain and suffering embedded throughout the course of human history, doesn't go away. And then you die and tumble over into the abyss that is oblivion.

Besides, any number of very, very intelligent men and women have been able to concoct arguments that resurrect God time and again "in their heads". And if you believe something there how does that not make it true for you?

So, consciously, subconsciously and/or unconsciously, their faith revolves around rationalizations. The most common perhaps being that the mind [and the will] of God works in mysterious ways. Thus the gap between His understanding of everything and our own understanding of almost nothing at all, need be as far as the multitudes go.

The rest is history. And, however the future unfolds, the points I raise here are not likely to go away.

Re: on discussing god and religion

PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 10:06 pm
by iambiguous
The Good, The Bad and Theodicy
John Holroyd on the pitfalls of academic debates about God and evil.

The first point here is to do with evil and suffering being transformed from something one experiences into a third person phenomenon. Awful physical or psychological realities for real people are distanced from us as they become objects of rational observation and analysis.

The ‘phenomenological distance’ between the torture chamber and Auschwitz on the one hand, and the philosophy seminar on the other, needs much greater recognition if we are to be true to what is at issue.

You see this over and over again here as the "serious philosophers" encompass "good" and "evil" in one or another world of words. Values as ontological assessments of deontological critiques of utilitarian constructs in which the only consequences revolve around fierce attacks on each other's definitions.

Imagine the "phenomenological distance" being closed if a college course aimed at examining Kant's moral philosophy was being conducted in and around a Planned Parenthood clinic. Abortions are being performed inside, protests are unfolding outside and flesh and blood human beings are everywhere with their own individual stories to tell.

Some religious, some not. Some pro-life, some pro-choice.

Imagine then the exchange back and forth between the scholars intent on pinning down the technical meaning of Kant's deontological assessment of human morality and the folks in and out of the clinic asking how these dense and disciplined definitions are applicable to this abortion or that abortion.

Acknowledging this involves accepting that academic debate all too easily encourages some severe limitations of perspective and understanding. If the nature of debate about the problem of evil obscures the nature of evil itself, then that is self-defeating.

Of course this obscurity simply vanishes into thin air if all one need do is to believe "in their head" that, given an understanding of God's will, evil is merely a word invented by mere mortals to express the gap between them and God's will.

And, in some respect, it works the same way with the "academic" approach to evil. The greater the distance between the analyses, the assessments and the arguments concocted in the hallowed halls and the actual existential labyrinths that revolve around conflicting points of view describing conflicting goods embedded out in the real world, the bigger the gap between theory and practice.

After all, out in one or another real world where very real consequences lead to particular behaviors being either prescribed or proscribed in actual communities, boasting of having pinned down the optimal technical definitions of all the words being exchanged back and forth will only take you so far.