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Passions in Poetry

atheists and values

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beautyincalvary
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0 posted 08-11-2006 02:55 PM       View Profile for beautyincalvary   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for beautyincalvary

A friend that attends a Catholic high school once told me kids in his class were debating on how an atheist could have values and in general be nice.

I, being an atheist, found this ridiculous, but they were having a serious debate. It would be interesting to see what other people thought of this.
Essorant
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1 posted 08-11-2006 03:01 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Do bees need to believe in God to make sweetest honey?
Stephanos
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2 posted 08-12-2006 11:39 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

I don't think it's that ridiculous, if you consider what is really being debated.  The question is not whether atheists can possess moral values, but whether their own world-view is consistent with the fact that they do.  


I have no problem with the fact that they keeping making "honey" as it were, but that their metaphysical belief is quite at odds with that peculiar fact ... Like Bees theorizing that sugar doesn't exist, all the while doing what they do.  


Of course that's an over-simplistic analogy.  Since 1) sugar is of "nature", and 2) such a theory could never actually affect the way Bees make honey.


With the theistic question, morals can be, and are affected by one's personal beliefs about God.


Just remember the debate is about the cogency and explanatory power of world-views, not whether or not people have moral consciences in spite of atheistic beliefs.


Stephen.  
Brad
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3 posted 08-13-2006 02:59 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephen,

Glad you accept the fact that we can have moral values (never doubted that you thought that). But given your world view, is it possible for you to disagree with God based on your moral system?
serenity blaze
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4 posted 08-13-2006 03:20 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

and Karen, just sat up, interested.

Good question.
SEA
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5 posted 08-13-2006 11:12 AM       View Profile for SEA   Email SEA   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for SEA

I think values come from a sense of community, how you were raised by your parents, and a certain accepted social behavior, not so much from religion, or "belief" or the lack there of. I'm not one to debate or get into religion, so I'll leave it at that.
Brian James
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6 posted 08-13-2006 06:04 PM       View Profile for Brian James   Email Brian James   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brian James

Brad,

I think the question is whether or not God agrees with Stephen's moral system.  Stephen might disagree with God on some things, but that would be because he was ignorant of them, since his worldview involves total compliance with God's wishes.

For example, I might think it is terrible if a family member died, and need to console myself with the fact that "God has a plan," a popular dilemma for Christians.  But this is merely one's feelings being inconsistent with one's established worldview, much the same as an atheist relativist might experience feelings of injustice and console himself with the thought that "it's all relative."

So, the question of "worldview" isn't really troubled by the difference between immediate gut reactions and lifelong established belief systems, which tend to come at odds with one another.
Essorant
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7 posted 08-14-2006 05:48 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Remember though, beautyincalvary did say the debate was on "how an atheist could have values and in general be nice.", which questions the means, as if asking "how is it possible for this person since he/she doesn't believe in God?"  

Are the means any more or less for one that doesn't believe in God than for one that does?

The Shadow in Blue
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8 posted 08-14-2006 11:36 PM       View Profile for The Shadow in Blue   Email The Shadow in Blue   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit The Shadow in Blue's Home Page   View IP for The Shadow in Blue

"how an atheist could have values and in general be nice"

I really belief as long as you have belief, be it in god or a natural/realist school of thought, you can have good morals and the ability to be nice. It all depends on the person that they are inside. You can be a Christian, Atheist, Islam...etc... and have bad morals too. It is basically about what you are and how you interpret things,not what you are affiliated with. At least that is my belief.

I have friends that are on both ends of the spectrum (from Christians to Atheists) and it is their charector that defines them, not their religious beliefs. It helps when you have a belief in one (or more) supreme being(s), but if you can be more open minded and see both sides it adds depth. Putting doubt/hope in people just because they are followers of certain churches is a little hyprocritical to me.

Sorry in advance if I didn't interpret this debate correctly.
Stephanos
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9 posted 08-15-2006 01:24 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

brad:
quote:
But given your world view, is it possible for you to disagree with God based on your moral system?


Before I respond, could you rephrase the question so I can be sure I understand what exactly you are asking?  I think I might, but I wish you would expound a bit more so I can know where you might be heading.


Stephen.

icebox
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10 posted 08-15-2006 11:12 AM       View Profile for icebox   Email icebox   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for icebox

.
…and then there was the dyslexic atheist who did not believe in Dog.
.

latearrival
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11 posted 08-16-2006 04:57 AM       View Profile for latearrival   Email latearrival   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for latearrival

Ice box, you add such humor and soften the angst of so many anxious minds. thank you.  martyjo
Brad
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12 posted 08-16-2006 06:15 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
I think the question is whether or not God agrees with Stephen's moral system.  Stephen might disagree with God on some things, but that would be because he was ignorant of them, since his worldview involves total compliance with God's wishes.


I don't think absolute knowledge is required to determine a moral act or not. You need a sense of right and wrong and that's it.

quote:
For example, I might think it is terrible if a family member died, and need to console myself with the fact that "God has a plan," a popular dilemma for Christians.  But this is merely one's feelings being inconsistent with one's established worldview, much the same as an atheist relativist might experience feelings of injustice and console himself with the thought that "it's all relative."


I just wanted to point out that relativism and aetheism ain't the same thing.

quote:
So, the question of "worldview" isn't really troubled by the difference between immediate gut reactions and lifelong established belief systems, which tend to come at odds with one another.


Yes, they do. I'm perfectly comfortable with being an aetheist and calling "There are no aetheists in foxholes" a truism.

But that's not what I was going after. Stephen's point is that an aetheist, insofar as he or she accepts morality, is being inconsistent. In other threads, he's talked about an innate sense of right and wrong. I'm interested in which side of the fence is more important.

Following God's word (via Scripture, a preacher, or voices in your head) or following that innate sense of right and wrong?

  
Stephanos
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13 posted 08-16-2006 11:47 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
given your world view, is it possible for you to disagree with God based on your moral system?



Yes, it is possible.  Indeed it is probable.  But I guess that would be more like a 12 year old music student who is sure that a virtuoso is breaking a "rule" of composition.  That doesn't make rules unnecessary, it makes them limited and provisional.  For example, was God being "just" in punishing his own sinless son for my sins?  The rule of justice was suspended for a higher law of mercy.  And yet on further reflection, the law of justice was not left unsatisfied.      


I think you may be speaking of something that applies to a smaller segment of humanity.  But honestly, I feel that most of our transgression against God comes from less noble motives than those "based on a moral system".  Most of the time we violate our own consciences, or our own "moral system".  According to Paul, that's actually one important function of the moral conscience, to show us our inability to keep it, even when we agree with it ... underscoring the need for forgiveness and divine help.  


So the question of nobly disagreeing with God, lies on a plane where few of us have arrived.  Not that it's impossible.  Actually when you read about the history of the Prophets in the Old Testament, you get a lot of this, and it brings up some interesting questions of theodicy.  The kinds of things I'm thinking of point to an incarnational theology ... and make me think that God gives us oppositional truth, to lead us to even higher truth, even if he has to play the adversary.  


You may have no idea what I'm trying to describe.  But there are many passages of scripture which illustrate what I'm hinting at.


Of course this difference between "noble" and "ignoble" disagreement is a tricky one.  Often times rebellion can be rationalized and cloaked under "ethical" considerations too.


quote:
I don't think absolute knowledge is required to determine a moral act or not. You need a sense of right and wrong and that's it.



I think it depends on whether you mean by "absolute knowledge" an exhaustive omniscience, or a more limited knowledge with an absolute source.


I think God as an absolute source is needful lest egoism erode true morality into an elaborate form of self-serving.


Of course from the Christian perspective morals are not central, though they are important.  If the goal is mere "niceness", then no, God is not required.  But if one's morality is to have any ultimate significance beyond egoism, then God must come into play somewhere.


quote:
Stephen's point is that an aetheist, insofar as he or she accepts morality, is being inconsistent. In other threads, he's talked about an innate sense of right and wrong. I'm interested in which side of the fence is more important.

Following God's word (via Scripture, a preacher, or voices in your head) or following that innate sense of right and wrong?



Well from a Christian perspective, our moral conscience is a God-given, but presently damaged apparatus because of the Fall.  (Don't mean to make that sound so cold).  In other words, it is useful as being generally reliable.  It is also useful to clue us in that there is a real "right/wrong" moral question in life, which is very important.  Even Pagan literature portrays the terrors of conscience upon men who have violated its stronger leadings.  So if that is the case, it can both insightful, and yet need a higher guidance to keep it in check.  That's where scripture (Sola Scriptura), and the Holy Spirit come into play.  And preaching also may be helpful in this matter, though it needs to be scrutinized and tested against apostolic teachings and in a prayerful attitude.  


Excuse me for getting into Christian practicality, though in very simplistic terms that's how it works.  


To try to answer your question about atheistic inconsistency, I would say that question is not so much about the atheist's practice of morals, but his confidence that his "innate sense of right and wrong" is reflective of a morality that is not the result of arbitrariness and subjectivism, in light of his own philosophy.  


The innate sense, I'm sure you would say, functions quite apart from such questions, and so makes them superfluous.  But as the Christian believes that beyond practicality, moral conscience is a faithful clue and initial connection point to the divine, the moral question extends to what one does with well laid gifts, and whether we will desire to know the one who gave them.  


But once again, I would reiterate that morals as mere morals are not central to the Christian, but derived and provisional ... leading ultimately to a personality.


Sorry, if I explained poorly.  


Stephen

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (08-17-2006 12:00 AM).]

Stephanos
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14 posted 08-17-2006 02:57 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,  

I was wondering why you spell it "aetheism".


Is that a very artful form of not believing in God?  A combination of aestheics and infidelity?


Sorry,

I couldn't resist that wise-crack.


Stephen.
Brad
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15 posted 08-19-2006 09:46 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
I was wondering why you spell it "aetheism".


I don't know. Maybe unconsciously I associate it with aesthetics indeed. What's next? You gonna rip on the Brits for "colour"?

While I think this is a very tricky point, I suspect that our reactions to the practice of sati or, say, female circumcision in Africa are quite similar. We don't have to argue rationally about it, we accept that it is wrong.

Could any rational argument convince us otherwise?

Conversely, quite often, I think, Indians or North Africans have been convinced that such acts are wrong through rational means.

And if they aren't convinced, I suspect that they simply aren't engaged in the argument.

To take a different example, Koreans eat dog. They know full well that much of the first world does not approve of this so they hide it (not really, but there have been attempts). My point here being that the immediate gut reaction to eating dog may be, at first glance, similar to the reaction to sati. The difference is that I'm not at all sure that there is a rational argument for eating dog (anybody got any ideas?), but I know there are plenty of good ones that rationalize eating dog.

My point is this:

Our innate sense of right and wrong can sometimes go astray. I think the answer to that is reason. Our sense of reason also goes astray. The answer to that is our innate sense of right and wrong.

It's not foolproof by any means but I keep wondering where does God fit into that process?

My hunch, of course, is that theists and aethests are all in the same boat when it comes to this stuff.

All I've got time for now, but what bothers me is still the same old distinction between the rational and the rationalization.

Stephanos
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16 posted 08-20-2006 01:17 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
What's next? You gonna rip on the Brits for "colour"?



I can't.  Their word was first.  But this aetheism thing is all new to me.  My spell check dumps it every time.  But I'll accept it from a disbelieving poet like yourself.  My spelling is a bit prosey for the likes of you.        


quote:
Our innate sense of right and wrong can sometimes go astray. I think the answer to that is reason. Our sense of reason also goes astray. The answer to that is our innate sense of right and wrong.

It's not foolproof by any means but I keep wondering where does God fit into that process?


Well, I've explained before (though perhaps not adequately) that I find both reason and morals to be tenuous in an atheistic framework.  They are both based upon some idea of authority that supercedes mere statistics.  To me, the most consistently logical atheists, have become sceptics about not just morality, but about human knowledge altogether.  I find that interesting.


So, where God comes in, is as the guarantor of the connection between such things (reason and moral sense) and reality.  Otherwise, I see a real relation between the popularization of the Nietzschean creed and things like scepticism, nihilism, and even the serious practice of solipsism.  


Of course one can try to make "nature" a grand guarantor of such things as well ... at the expense of ignoring her worst, and deifying only certain aspects of nature. (so that the "part" becomes critical of the whole).  I don't have the time or will to go into the extent of arguments right now, but the last bastion of godless morality and reason has to be pragmatism.  But sheer pragmatism doesn't enter the scene without baggage.  Utility to do what, and for whom, and why?  There are so many moral tributaries and rivulets leading into the question of utility, that I don't see how it can be used to be the support for morality.


From a Christian perspective, God has given us information (internal and external) to warn us when we are practically and morally amiss.  (And that doesn't mean that I limit good moral teachings to the Judeo-Christian traditions- as you know I see more unanimity in the ethical aspect of religions than not [Terroristic Jihadism aside])


Of course, you'll probably say that if we have an inherent sense of morality and rationality, then the knowledge of the source is dispensable.  To that I would reply, that those who follow the true path to God, tend to have a clearer transmission in moral truth.  And also, as the practice of pure religion declines in society, so do morals (the conscience being a corruptable thing, not a static thing).  I know that gets sticky to prove since we can point to "bad" Christians as well as "good" Pagans.  The best I can answer to that, is that apostasy isn't the only example among professors (the original text even said the way was 'narrow'), and that "wild" grapes do not contradict the Vineyard or its owner.  


And again, though morality is an especially vivid clue for our need of God, both in our admirations and failures, it is not the main thing from a Christian perspective.  So in many ways, believers and atheists are not at all "in the same boat".  Though, I understand you are speaking from the perspective of ethics alone in keeping with the thread.

              
quote:
what bothers me is still the same old distinction between the rational and the rationalization.


Expand on this.  What exactly bothers you here?


(forgive my rambling, it's late)


Stephen.
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