Author Topic: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?  (Read 7620 times)

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Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #29 on: December 09, 2011, 03:54:39 PM »
was telling the Nazis lies about the whereabouts of Anne Frank an "evil" act.

yes. it was an evil act that brought about good. i have a lot of difficulties with that question. "the jew in the closet" is the toughest moral question i think is possible to try to understand, and i've wrestled with it for years.

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Can you define evil?

you know, velkyn, i've never asked myself that question. it's a very, very good one. i'd like to think about it a bit, and i'll have some sort of answer.

not trying to run away. i don't have the answers to the origin or application of morality.

Offline velkyn

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #30 on: December 09, 2011, 03:56:41 PM »
was telling the Nazis lies about the whereabouts of Anne Frank an "evil" act.

yes. it was an evil act that brought about good. i have a lot of difficulties with that question. "the jew in the closet" is the toughest moral question i think is possible to try to understand, and i've wrestled with it for years.
So, I guess you are of the idea that evil can bring about good.   I wonder how genocide works out in that milieu. 

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Can you define evil?

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you know, velkyn, i've never asked myself that question. it's a very, very good one. i'd like to think about it a bit, and i'll have some sort of answer.

not trying to run away. i don't have the answers to the origin or application of morality.

but supposedly as a Christian, you should have an easy answer becaue of the magic tree.   ;D  I'll wait, no hurry.
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Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #31 on: December 09, 2011, 04:00:00 PM »
How do you seperate your faith from gibbering tribal primitives that believe in some volcano God; how do you know you are right and they are wrong?

was this to me, hatter?

i don't think that everybody else is completely wrong, including gibbering tribal primitives. i'm not sure that what i believe now is completely right, either. my understanding of god has changed over the years, and the more i think about it, the more it tends to evolve.

whether i'm getting closer to a real answer or just wandering in a fog isn't something that i'm always sure about.

Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #32 on: December 09, 2011, 04:02:20 PM »

but supposedly as a Christian, you should have an easy answer becaue of the magic tree.   ;D  I'll wait, no hurry.

there's lots of different christians, velkyn. i'm a quaker, and the believers in the magic tree mythology used to string my people up for heresy:



you won't see me defending a lot of that stuff.

Offline Truth OT

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #33 on: December 09, 2011, 04:04:24 PM »
Why didn't Jesus' 2nd coming in the lifetimes of those to whom he promised it happen?
Why isn't Hell taught in the Old Testament?
Why do Christians believe there will be an end of time Anti-Christ?

Offline velkyn

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #34 on: December 09, 2011, 04:04:36 PM »

but supposedly as a Christian, you should have an easy answer becaue of the magic tree.   ;D  I'll wait, no hurry.

there's lots of different christians, velkyn. i'm a quaker, and the believers in the magic tree mythology used to string my people up for heresy:

you won't see me defending a lot of that stuff.

yep, rather difficult when Christians start doing that to each other.  And it's in Genesis, so you don't think that is literal? :)

there's a Quaker meeting house here in harrisburg. I go past it every work day.  I think they're giving some help to the 99% folks. at least a place to pitch their tents. I'll have to go refresh my memory about Quakers so I'm not stumbling around too much.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2011, 04:07:08 PM by velkyn »
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #35 on: December 09, 2011, 04:07:14 PM »
that's a difficult question to deal with, because it requires re-defining something that christian theology generally regards as foundational to be subject to an another foundation itself. to say that goodness stems from a source other than god is to either push the question back to a point earlier than or superior to god, or to reject the idea that god is the source of morality.

I was not suggesting another souce of objective morality, but the lack of any such source.

i don't have an answer to that, but the interpretation that i use is the logically unavoidable one of measuring god by myself-- i don't have any other tool to apply to the question. if god has instilled a knowledge of good and evil in me, then i can't suspend that system of values simply because he asserts it to be only locally true. that's bullshit, in my opinion, and requires me to simultaneously believe and not believe in the same thing. i reject the paradox, and therefore have to assert that i have the right to judge god.

Ahh, but whose authority is it to determine whether you have the right to judge god? :)

If it is your god's authority, then by the same reasoning, my authority declares that you cannot judge me.  Every person can just assert their self-authority in that way.  You are forced to find out just how your god gains the authority to declare itself beyond judgment, in such a way that people cannot do the same.

On the other hand, if it is your authority[1], then you've contradicted yourself.  Because if you have the authority to determine whether or not you have the right to judge your god, then you also have the authority to determine the opposite.  It's a matter of your own choice, rather than a matter of rights.
 1. Which, per your wording, it seems to be.
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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #36 on: December 09, 2011, 04:14:51 PM »
there's lots of different christians, velkyn. i'm a quaker, and the believers in the magic tree mythology used to string my people up for heresy

<pic snipped>

you won't see me defending a lot of that stuff.

This explains a lot (about why you tend to make sense). As far as christianity goes, quakers are high up on my "good guys" list. :) I didn't know much about it until I found out that a lesbian couple I know went to meeting. Very accepting group of people. No preaching. Just sitting and anyone who wants to talk does. Not at all what I think of when I think about christianity. My friends joined partly because they were pacifists and wanted some "official" protection for their sons. And partly because one of the couple was a christian and it was one of the few groups she could find that would accept their family. +1 on ya. :)
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Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #37 on: December 09, 2011, 06:13:56 PM »

yep, rather difficult when Christians start doing that to each other.  And it's in Genesis, so you don't think that is literal? :)


no, i consider christian scripture a mixture of truth, metaphor, allegory, and self-serving fiction. i decide what is probably true and what is probably not just like anybody else, using a mixture of faith, reason, and skepticism. some parts are probably true, such as aspects of the roman colonization of judea. some parts are probably false, such as the holy nature of the conquest of canaan. some parts i have no information on, and no basis to make any decision about. i don't base my religion primarily on written scripture, so i'm not troubled by the usual criticisms that inerrancy is critical to christianity. i don't think it is, personally.

Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #38 on: December 09, 2011, 06:34:34 PM »

I was not suggesting another souce of objective morality, but the lack of any such source.

if morality has no objective source, then morality is arbitrary, i would think, and whatever each person decides is moral has no application beyond the reach of his own influence. if my morality says that it's okay for me to kill your children and eat them, and i can get away with it, then a third party has no moral authority to intervene. seems a bit anarchic, if i understand you correctly.

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On the other hand, if it is your authority[1], then you've contradicted yourself.  Because if you have the authority to determine whether or not you have the right to judge your god, then you also have the authority to determine the opposite.  It's a matter of your own choice, rather than a matter of rights.
 1. Which, per your wording, it seems to be.

i'm not sure i'm following you here. i'm not saying that i have the authority to judge god, so much as i am saying that i have no other means of determining right and wrong in any case. if necessity restricts me to one path, then i think i have to take it, in the same way that i have to use my five senses as a pathway to perceive the world. whether i have a right to use my senses to perceive the world is a moot point-- i have no other means to do so, and perception in involuntary. in the same way, using my moral sense of what is right and wrong inevitably requires me to use it to measure god, whether i acknowledge god to be the source of both morality and a moral sense or not.

does this address your point? my natures as a moral creature requires me to make judgements, and also requires me not to restrict the object of the judgements, else the morality is situational.

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #39 on: December 09, 2011, 06:35:07 PM »
Why won't God heal amputees is the perfect question in my opinion.  Someone already mentioned it earlier, and I have to agree that it is a show stopper for Christians.  It cannot be answered unless one admits that "God" doesn't heal amputees, which is beyond demonstrable. 

Offline kcrady

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #40 on: December 09, 2011, 06:36:18 PM »
If Heaven is so amazingly perfect and wonderful, why would angels defect from Heaven so they could settle down and marry Earth women (Genesis chapter 6)?  They stayed and raised children.  Does that not indicate that they preferred their new situation?  If angels, who had lived in Heaven could prefer Earth, how do you know that you will prefer Heaven, when it's just something you read about in a book?

Aside: If you happen to be an Earth woman, you can take some pride in knowing that you're more awesome than Heaven.

Aside #2: The angelic defection of Genesis 6 is not the first angelic rebellion.  According to conventional Christian theology, Lucifer and about a third of the angelic population rebelled earlier.  So, at least two mass angelic breakouts from Heaven, basically right off the bat.  If a supposed shining Utopia has masses of refugees jumping over the wall, odds are it's not nearly as great as its propaganda ministers make it out to be.
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Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #41 on: December 09, 2011, 06:45:02 PM »
This explains a lot (about why you tend to make sense). As far as christianity goes, quakers are high up on my "good guys" list. :) I didn't know much about it until I found out that a lesbian couple I know went to meeting. Very accepting group of people. No preaching. Just sitting and anyone who wants to talk does. Not at all what I think of when I think about christianity. My friends joined partly because they were pacifists and wanted some "official" protection for their sons. And partly because one of the couple was a christian and it was one of the few groups she could find that would accept their family. +1 on ya. :)

hey traveler

quakers are weird. we mostly agree on what we think we percieve, but we're all over the map in how we interpret it. we're not all christian--we started that way but there are quaker atheists, agnostics, universalists, christians, buddhists, jews, pagans, and so on. you have to ask the quaker what sort of quaker he or she is, and if you get static in reply, be cautious about making generalizations.

my own group is the most radically reactionary of most all of them, and we're wrestling with the homosexual issue right now. there are homosexuals in my own meeting, which is the most radically progressive of the radical reactionaries, if you can see that. there have been tremendous changes in the last two years, and it's about time.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #42 on: December 09, 2011, 08:47:07 PM »
if morality has no objective source, then morality is arbitrary, i would think, and whatever each person decides is moral has no application beyond the reach of his own influence.

Which is precisely what is observed in practice.  A deity has no impact on such a situation:  The assignment of that deity to the role of a moral authority would be as subjective a preference as anything else.

if my morality says that it's okay for me to kill your children and eat them, and i can get away with it, then a third party has no moral authority to intervene. seems a bit anarchic, if i understand you correctly.

Ahh, but they do have the moral authority to intervene.  They have their own authority, combined with the authority of all whose morality objects to such an action, including mine.  That ends up being lot of authority.

If you truly believed that, though, then what argument could I make to convince you otherwise?  I could appeal to other competing values you hold, in the hope that they might outweigh your eating-my-child-is-right values.  But failing that, deity or not, and regardless of the qualities of that deity if it exists - what can I possibly say to convince you that your baby-eating values are morally wrong?

i'm not sure i'm following you here. i'm not saying that i have the authority to judge god, so much as i am saying that i have no other means of determining right and wrong in any case.

Actually you did imply that you have the authority to judge god.  You implied it when you said that you'd decided on your own that you had no right to.  If you have the authority to decide that you don't have the right to do X, then you also have the authority to decide that you do have the right to do X.  But this may be an artefact of the particular words you used, rather than something you actually thought.

if necessity restricts me to one path, then i think i have to take it, in the same way that i have to use my five senses as a pathway to perceive the world. whether i have a right to use my senses to perceive the world is a moot point-- i have no other means to do so, and perception in involuntary. in the same way, using my moral sense of what is right and wrong inevitably requires me to use it to measure god, whether i acknowledge god to be the source of both morality and a moral sense or not.

I get what you're saying, but one can still be forced into doing something that - according to whoever's standards - one has no right to do, in all sorts of contexts.

You've shed light on another issue, though.  If the your god-given morals and your god's morals are not both assumed to be in sync, then we have an issue of two things being conflated:  God being the source of morality, and god's morals being objectively true.[1]

A god being the source of morality, in the sense of being the one who imprints it on our minds, can itself be either moral or not, according to its own standards or ours.  Its own behaviour, beliefs, values, etc., are entirely open to judgment, and there is no reason to assume that they are "good" in any sense.  This part also brings up the question of why different people are being handed down different god-given morals.  Is it the god's intention that we have irreconcilable moral disagreements with each other?  Does the god engage in prescience to examine the minds of parents and peers throughout someone's future, so as to give them morals that will mimic those they would have gotten from social/cultural inculation, and then give those morals to that person?[2]

A god's morals being the "right" ones does not entail that god also being the source of our moral intuitions, at all.  And this idea has the problem of (in)coherence, as it stands.  What does it mean that the god's morals are the right ones?  How can we tell?  What would an evil god's morals look like, and against whose standard of "evil"?  We can't automatically look to the god's own moral standards, because their priviledged position is exactly what's in question from the outset.  It would be circular reasoning, and the same could be done with anyone else's morals, not just the god's.  I've been down this path of reasoning/debate with theists, and it always ends up being their decision - on their own authority - to assign their god the role of being "absolutely right".  Curious, no?

does this address your point? my natures as a moral creature requires me to make judgements, and also requires me not to restrict the object of the judgements, else the morality is situational.

Yes, that addressed my point.  Thanks. :)  It did bring up another can of worms, however - I hope we keep talking about those worms!
 1. Whatever that means, anyway.  I've found the concept to lack coherence when examined in detail.
 2. In other words, does it go to great lengths to make its morality-giving resemble that which would happen if no god was giving morals in the first place?  If so, then why bother?
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Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #43 on: December 09, 2011, 09:08:54 PM »
Can you define evil?

i've been thinking.

i believe that evil-- and good-- must be defined together, because one is the absence of the other.

it's not enough to say that evil is simply something that violates a given system of moral values, because there are all sorts of different systems of moral values, and those people who assert that moral values are relative will usually deny that good or evil have an objective existence. therefore for them the qualities do not exist in a sense that can be applied to others, there being only my good, or your good, i having no right to apply my beliefs to you.

tentatively, i would define 'good' as that quality of action or attitude that purposely encourages love and mercy, and 'evil' as that quality of action or attitude that purposely encourages its opposite: hate and cruelty. forgiveness and revenge are closely related opposites in this system as well.

those things that descend from love and mercy are good. those things that descend from hate and cruelty are evil. things that are neither one nor the other are neither good nor evil.

a problem with this definition is that the same act might be good or evil depending upon the immediate motivation of the agent. for instance, if i kill you out of mercy to end your suffering, you're just as dead as if i kill you out of hate to end your life. so if good or evil are to be extended to include more than just my motivations for an action, to classify the action itself, then it seems that i must have an objective standard larger than me or you to classify it with. this means that no action is any more right or wrong than any other action, unless a non-relative standard obtains. this would be the case whether we're talking about stealing your candy, or slaughtering millions of jews.

still thinking.

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #44 on: December 09, 2011, 10:04:06 PM »
Kevinagain, you're asking good questions and giving some serious thought to the issue, but I think you are making a mistake by calling it "good" and "evil". The "good" is fine, but instead of saying "evil", why not just say "bad". To many, "evil" implies an external force that causes bad things to happen, and it confuses the issue. Or it is at least something pretty darned terrible, when not all wrongdoing is that bad.

Certainly there have been people who we can easily label evil. Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot, for instance. But to lump all things not "good" as evil overblows many a wrong doers actions. A kid stealing from the cookie jar is not evil. Just tempted by a memory of how good chocolate chip cookies are. And bad.

I think you are also leaving out most of the social element that helps decide what is good or bad. Social groups are the ones that come up with norms, not a bunch of independent individuals. I see nothing wrong at all with jaywalking as long as I'm careful, but I also know that if I do it when children are around, I might teach them the wrong lesson. I don't think I'm evil as a jaywalker, but I'd be a sap if I taught a kid the wrong lesson and he carelessly crossed the street and got hurt because of my bad example.

These are just observations, not criticisms. They may or may not be of any use, but I thought I'd toss them out.


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Offline learnin

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #45 on: December 10, 2011, 02:07:19 AM »
Here's a question that came to me recently with the publicity surrounding the Penn State child abuse scandal.  Actually, there is a question that leads to the question I have been asking believers:

What would you think of me, believer, if I saw a man raping his daughter and did nothing to stop it?

Why, then, does God get off the hook?

This very day, hundreds of little girls will get sexually abused by their own father and no one will know except the man, the little girl and (if it exists) God.
The man will go on abusing and warping the little girl until she grows up or he is found out by another human being and that human being decides to take measures to stop the abuse.   God, if it exists, will remain totally silent and look the other way while the little girl gets abused.  Believers would demand that a human being be fired, ridiculed, etc. for doing nothing to stop a child from sexual abuse but, a believer makes excuses for God.    "God must respect free will." 
"God will bring good from this."    If this is the case, though, why should any man be expected to not respect free will?  And why shouldn't we allow evil to go unpunished if God can bring good from it?


Offline jetson

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #46 on: December 10, 2011, 08:01:06 AM »
learnin - that scenario is identical to the miracle that God executes everyday!  Remember, when a bus full of people rolls off of a cliff, and rescuers find a survivor, it is God's miracle.  And the rest of those killed are called to Heaven (at this point, all of those on the bus are considered Christians, I suppose).  Of course, we all know that there were probably thousands of non-Christians in the World Trade Center when it was destroyed, so those people most likely accepted Jesus in their last moments.

To a Christian, everything that happens is according to God's will, and only humans can break God's will by exercising their own free will, which means that God will not interfere, except to send them to eternal Hell. 

I'm not really sure why it is so hard for non-believers to understand these concepts?   ;D

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #47 on: December 10, 2011, 08:30:33 AM »
This week a Pastor and his wife were killed in a head on collision with a drunk driver. The drunk driver survived.

The associate pastor in an attempt to console the community, told the TV reporter that the pastor had always said that he couldn't bare the thought of losing his wife. "God providentially made sure that they both died instantly."
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Offline Traveler

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #48 on: December 10, 2011, 09:27:12 AM »
hey traveler

quakers are weird. we mostly agree on what we think we percieve, but we're all over the map in how we interpret it. we're not all christian--we started that way but there are quaker atheists, agnostics, universalists, christians, buddhists, jews, pagans, and so on. you have to ask the quaker what sort of quaker he or she is, and if you get static in reply, be cautious about making generalizations.

my own group is the most radically reactionary of most all of them, and we're wrestling with the homosexual issue right now. there are homosexuals in my own meeting, which is the most radically progressive of the radical reactionaries, if you can see that. there have been tremendous changes in the last two years, and it's about time.

Thanks for that extra info, that helps explain some things. The other woman of the pair was not christian, and she didn't usually go to meeting. I don't know if she was a member just in support of her family or if the meeting supported her non belief (or maybe she was still pagan, I'm not clear on that). Quite frankly, you're begining to remind me of Unitarian Universalists, who seem also to be all over the map. One of the local Unitarian ministers is at least agnostic, and perhaps agnostic/weak atheist.
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Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #49 on: December 10, 2011, 10:26:35 AM »
if my morality says that it's okay for me to kill your children and eat them, and i can get away with it, then a third party has no moral authority to intervene. seems a bit anarchic, if i understand you correctly.
Ahh, but they do have the moral authority to intervene.  They have their own authority, combined with the authority of all whose morality objects to such an action, including mine.  That ends up being lot of authority.

no, not moral authority, i would suggest, rather, power. they have the power to impose their morality upon me, and the power to state that it is moral, but not the authority to establish that moral code as genuine. unless, of course, all morality is relative, then it makes no difference.

If you truly believed that, though, then what argument could I make to convince you otherwise? . . . what can I possibly say to convince you that your baby-eating values are morally wrong?

if you can truly establish moral authority by means of power (morality being relative), then there is nothing you can say that can convince me that i am wrong to eat your children, because your reasoning would be the same as mine—moral authority is relative, and determined by power. if i can get away with eating your children, then i am morally correct to do so, just as you are morally correct to try to stop me.

on the other hand, if i believed that moral authority has some source that genuinely makes it apply to both you and to me (rejecting the idea that having moral authority is the same as having the power to impose a system of belief), then i would be forced to adopt your system if you could convince me that your system was real and mine was false. that is, if i was truly guided by morality, and wasn't just hungry for your kids. it boils down to a question of relative morality versus absolute, and my own integrity in changing my mind if proven wrong.

Quote
. . .
A god's morals being the "right" ones does not entail that god also being the source of our moral intuitions, at all.  And this idea has the problem of (in)coherence, as it stands.  What does it mean that the god's morals are the right ones?  How can we tell?  What would an evil god's morals look like, and against whose standard of "evil"?  We can't automatically look to the god's own moral standards, because their priviledged position is exactly what's in question from the outset.  It would be circular reasoning, and the same could be done with anyone else's morals, not just the god's.  I've been down this path of reasoning/debate with theists, and it always ends up being their decision - on their own authority - to assign their god the role of being "absolutely right".  Curious, no?
 


gah.

read job lately? that's a very troubling book to me, because it pictures god presenting the same argument from force in favor of his morality that i reject when asserted by human beings. in job, god says that moral values as percieved by human beings are NOT the same as the moral values followed by god, and that he cannot be judged by them. maybe he is evil, mabe he is indifferent. certainly the argument from inscrutability is presented there pretty clearly. god says to shut up, because as created beings we have no right to question him. i reject that.

and this is where i end up. i believe that my morality descends from god as a created entity. if god has some other system of morality that he declares is superior, then i acknowledge it to be possible, but i reject it as a valid argument for why i should accept what seems to me to be moral injustice. in other words, if god has created a ballpark and has set me in it with a set of rules to follow, then within that ballpark, those rules apply, and if god violates them, then i have no choice but to condemn his actions as wrong. i may be wrong—in god's higher system, wherever that is—but i have no way to tell, no viewpoint high enough to percieve it, and i therefore reject it as a valid argument.

i realize that this is partially the endpoint that you have predicted—that i am deciding on my own whether god is right or wrong—but what other option does anyone have, really? the difference here is that i hold god accountable to the system of morality that he has imposed on me. if it is an incomplete system, then i refuse to be held accountable to it, because i can do no better than be faithful to the measure that i have been given. if i haven't been given the ability to understand, i reject the idea that my understanding is required.

how would you address the situation in which a moral source requires you to obey a code that your believe to be wrong? the nurmberg defense isn't generally accepted these days, that you are absolved if you are just "following orders." in that scenario, individuals were held responsible for wrongs that they were commanded to perform by a higher power. is it valid to apply it here?

sorry this is so long. i hate long posts.

Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #50 on: December 10, 2011, 10:37:03 AM »
Kevinagain, you're asking good questions and giving some serious thought to the issue, but I think you are making a mistake by calling it "good" and "evil". The "good" is fine, but instead of saying "evil", why not just say "bad". To many, "evil" implies an external force that causes bad things to happen, and it confuses the issue. Or it is at least something pretty darned terrible, when not all wrongdoing is that bad.

Certainly there have been people who we can easily label evil. Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot, for instance. But to lump all things not "good" as evil overblows many a wrong doers actions. A kid stealing from the cookie jar is not evil. Just tempted by a memory of how good chocolate chip cookies are. And bad.

I think you are also leaving out most of the social element that helps decide what is good or bad. Social groups are the ones that come up with norms, not a bunch of independent individuals. I see nothing wrong at all with jaywalking as long as I'm careful, but I also know that if I do it when children are around, I might teach them the wrong lesson. I don't think I'm evil as a jaywalker, but I'd be a sap if I taught a kid the wrong lesson and he carelessly crossed the street and got hurt because of my bad example.


yes, i'm using "good" and "evil" specifically to run the question out to the endpoint, where things like "bad planning," "misadventure," and "mischief" don't apply. jaywalking isn't wrong in any sense that i can think of, but it's not smart to do it everywhere. also, i wouldn't apply "evil" to anybody who performaed an act without a knowledge of right or wrong. a kid stealing cookies is not even wrong-- i didn't have any well developed moral sense until i was a teenager, and i was a horrific vandal-- light posts, fences, other people's cars, woo i was a menace, and thought nothing of it. but i should have been stopped.

it's interesting, though, that in the 19th century there were apparently judges that didn't make that decision, and stealing a loaf of bread because you were hungry was considered as morally wrong as murder. there's an unverifiable story of some ten year old boy who was hanged for petty theft in britain. don't know whether it was true.

Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #51 on: December 10, 2011, 10:48:27 AM »
. . .  Quite frankly, you're begining to remind me of Unitarian Universalists, who seem also to be all over the map. One of the local Unitarian ministers is at least agnostic, and perhaps agnostic/weak atheist.

the difference is in who the quakers are, traveler. quakerism-- and christianity as well, IMO-- is essentially universalist at its core, but my branch of the society of friends has remained fiercely christian, and is most similar to the first members of the society. again, IMO.

the society schismed 200 years ago in the americas, and split the christians from the future non-christians, now called "liberal." the liberals contain most of the variation within the society. i'm a member of the "conservatives," (NOT the same as "conservative christian") and we're way out on the tail of the distribution in ways that the unitarians wouldn't generally follow:




Offline Brakeman

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #52 on: December 10, 2011, 11:07:35 AM »
I would ask why did god put the "suffer a with to live" phrase in the bible when he knew it would encourage and justify this:
http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=173_1311437458
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #53 on: December 10, 2011, 11:42:52 AM »

I was not suggesting another source of objective morality, but the lack of any such source.

if morality has no objective source, then morality is arbitrary, i would think, and whatever each person decides is moral has no application beyond the reach of his own influence.
I see this claim a lot in Christians; the thought that somehow, devoid of any human contact, someone would grow up with a perfect set of morals. Obviously this is false.

Morality cannot have the attribute arbitrary. Morals are the general feelings of what is right and proper that are held by a society (human or animal) at any one time. They are very flexible. Like language, they cannot be set in stone for they change and the Bronze Age peasants who starred in the Bible had one set (burn witches, stone gays and adulterers, hang murderers, beat children, punish thieves, etc.) of which only “punish thieves” remains.

Morality consists of the laws and rules that society imposes on itself so that particular society can survive. I well remember back in 1971, speaking to an Afghan tribesman who told me he had just returned from shooting a man. I asked why. He replied, “He said the well was his, it isn’t.” This was, for him, an entirely moral act (in fact, I could see sense in this and nodded sagely.) The usurper was threatening his wealth and his family’s welfare. No one in the village would complain; they all understood.

Animals have morals, e.g. a pack of wild dogs will have an alpha male who may mate with any available female. Lesser males will try immoral mating, if they are caught, they are punished severely.

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if my morality says that it's okay for me to kill your children and eat them, and i can get away with it, then a third party has no moral authority to intervene. seems a bit anarchic, if i understand you correctly
No, it is not anarchic at all. You misunderstand “Anarchic”. It indicates “without rules”; in the society you propose, there is a rule, “Eating children is fine.” – it is therefore moral because society’s rules = morals:  society has said this is OK.

Imagine a society of 100 people on an inaccessible island. There are 10 laws – the commandments.
We now ask each person, on a scale of 1-10, how important they think each law is. We add up each person’s total and come to a figure that represents how much he agrees with the commandments as a whole.

Nobody is going to get 1000/1000 but everyone might agree that “You won’t steal” is nearly 100% fair, whilst, perhaps, the feeling of only 20 people is that you “do not you work on a Sunday”

So, the immorality of working on a Sunday looks to be dying out, but if a problem with having sexual relations with a 14 year old starts being a problem, it will become immoral for anyone to do that act.

Morals are the combined and averaged level of approval/disapproval of society. We get them from ourselves en masse.

I hope that you now see that God is not related to morals.

If you wish, I will show how morality changed from the OT to the new. This will present the problem of a consistent god.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2011, 11:47:31 AM by Graybeard »
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Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #54 on: December 10, 2011, 12:48:30 PM »
if morality has no objective source, then morality is arbitrary, i would think, and whatever each person decides is moral has no application beyond the reach of his own influence.
I see this claim a lot in Christians; the thought that somehow, devoid of any human contact, someone would grow up with a perfect set of morals. Obviously this is false.

well, you didn't see it from me.  :)

devoid of human contact, i'm not sure how anybody or anything could develop a set of social behaviors at all, much less a perfect one.

Quote

. . .

Morals are the combined and averaged level of approval/disapproval of society. We get them from ourselves en masse.

I hope that you now see that God is not related to morals.


well, graybeard, you've asserted that morals are an expression of group approval or disapproval, but doesn't the proof that you've presented reduce to saying "acceptable social behavior differs between cultures at different times and places?" that's a valid observation, and if one decides that morality and average social behavior are synonymous, then your point about morality is valid, too. if i shared that definition of morality, then i would say that you're perfectly correct.

but i would differ, in that i would apply my beliefs to people who disagree with them. for instance, if i were kidnapped by pirates and forced to work the rest of my life as a galley slave against my will, i would consider that an immoral imposition on my freedom. whether the pirates considered it to be a moral action is immaterial to me-- i would consider it wrong for the pirates or myself, both, to behave in that way.

by your definition of "moral," the pirates would be behaving morally. by my definition, they would not. so the key seems to be whether it's possible to define "morality" in a larger context than local culture.

If you wish, I will show how morality changed from the OT to the new. This will present the problem of a consistent god.

does it present the problem of a consistent god, or of a consistent bible? for your statement to be true, the bible needs to be true also. are you willing to grant that assumption?

Offline dloubet

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #55 on: December 10, 2011, 02:05:23 PM »
Quote
i believe that my morality descends from god as a created entity.

Are you saying this morality is imposed upon you as your starting condition? If so, what does that imply when faced with the fact that other people are burdened with different starting conditions? Why are psychopaths forced to have psychopathic starting conditions?

To me this would imply that one's starting conditions are divinely random. That a random nature is imposed upon you, and you can only act in accordance with that nature. Is this how you view it?

Oddly enough, I agree, just not about any of the god-stuff. I conclude our natures are imposed by circumstance with no gods involved.
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #56 on: December 10, 2011, 02:11:36 PM »
well, graybeard, you've asserted that morals are an expression of group approval or disapproval,
I rather think they are not “an expression of”, they are group approval or disapproval.

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but doesn't the proof that you've presented reduce to saying "acceptable social behavior differs between cultures at different times and places?" that's a valid observation, and if one decides that morality and average social behavior are synonymous, then your point about morality is valid, too.
So, what do you think morals are?

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if i shared that definition of morality, then i would say that you're perfectly correct.
That’s a strange thing to say. What you have said is, “If I thought you were correct, you would be correct.”

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but i would differ, in that i would apply my beliefs to people who disagree with them. for instance, if i were kidnapped by pirates and forced to work the rest of my life as a galley slave against my will, i would consider that an immoral imposition on my freedom. whether the pirates considered it to be a moral action is immaterial to me-- i would consider it wrong for the pirates or myself, both, to behave in that way.
I don’t see your point. Kidnap is fine with pirate culture but not with yours. Look above for “morals are an expression of group approval or disapproval,” Pirates approve, you disapprove.

Quote
by your definition of "moral," the pirates would be behaving morally. by my definition, they would not. so the key seems to be whether it's possible to define "morality" in a larger context than local culture.
It’s not a problem at all. There is no absolute morality and whilst there are still 2 people on earth, there will not be.

Quote
If you wish, I will show how morality changed from the OT to the new. This will present the problem of a consistent god.
does it present the problem of a consistent god, or of a consistent bible? for your statement to be true, the bible needs to be true also. are you willing to grant that assumption?

It wasn’t a statement, it is a proposition. I could equally well do that for the earlier and later Harry Potter novels and the character of Snape. The "truth" of Harry Potter is irrelevant.
RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. Ambrose Bierce

Offline Azdgari

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #57 on: December 10, 2011, 06:11:26 PM »
no, not moral authority, i would suggest, rather, power. they have the power to impose their morality upon me, and the power to state that it is moral, but not the authority to establish that moral code as genuine. unless, of course, all morality is relative, then it makes no difference.

Power has absolutely nothing to do with it.  Authority can exist without power, and power can exist without authority.  Moral authority is purely social.  Other forms of power have no impact on it, except insofar as they can affect social opinions.

if you can truly establish moral authority by means of power (morality being relative), then there is nothing you can say that can convince me that i am wrong to eat your children, because your reasoning would be the same as mine—moral authority is relative, and determined by power. if i can get away with eating your children, then i am morally correct to do so, just as you are morally correct to try to stop me.

I wasn't asking from my own paradigm.  I was asking from any.  Let's say you in the existence of your Christian god, and disagree with its supposed morality, instead believing in the rightness of eating my kids, or something.  What moral argument could I possibly make to you?

on the other hand, if i believed that moral authority has some source that genuinely makes it apply to both you and to me (rejecting the idea that having moral authority is the same as having the power to impose a system of belief), then i would be forced to adopt your system if you could convince me that your system was real and mine was false. that is, if i was truly guided by morality, and wasn't just hungry for your kids. it boils down to a question of relative morality versus absolute, and my own integrity in changing my mind if proven wrong.

...yeah, this is what I get for answering a post in segments as I read it, instead of reading the whole thing first and then answering.  Anyway, this is the sticking point I was trying to get at.  Let's say you think your morality is the One True Moralitytm.  And I think the same about mine.  This is what I was asking about in my last post:  What moral argument can you or I possibly make to settle that question?

For the sake of argument, let's assume that you're not a raging-lunatic baby-eater, but more of a calm, Hannibal Lecter baby-eater, one with whom I can have a reasoned discussion about the subject before you go and decide to eat my kids (or not).  And let's assume that I view my morality, which objects to such an act, as an objective truth of the universe.  You think the same of yours.  What standard do we have to appeal to, in order to settle the matter and get on with the (lack of) baby-eating?  And if that standard is someone's opinion, then what does that tell you?

read job lately? that's a very troubling book to me, because it pictures god presenting the same argument from force in favor of his morality that i reject when asserted by human beings. in job, god says that moral values as percieved by human beings are NOT the same as the moral values followed by god, and that he cannot be judged by them. maybe he is evil, mabe he is indifferent. certainly the argument from inscrutability is presented there pretty clearly. god says to shut up, because as created beings we have no right to question him. i reject that.

I have not read Job lately, but I'm familiar with the story.  I also consider the matter we're discussing to transcend any details that might be in a particular holy-book, though.

...
how would you address the situation in which a moral source requires you to obey a code that your believe to be wrong? the nurmberg defense isn't generally accepted these days, that you are absolved if you are just "following orders." in that scenario, individuals were held responsible for wrongs that they were commanded to perform by a higher power. is it valid to apply it here?

You aren't just following orders.  You genuinely agree with the orders.  That's what it means to take the given rules as your own in the first place.  If you don't agree with the rules, yet follow them anyway, then they are not moral to you.  You have disagreed with them, asserted your own moral authority in their place.

Let's say a god gives someone a moral intuition that says it's fair, moral and just to kidnap babies, kill them, and eat them.  This is different from its own morality, and different from the morality that it gives to you.  Is that not the very definition of subjective, relative morals?  That they are arbitrarily selected and imprinted by your god, without any objective standard to adhere to?

sorry this is so long. i hate long posts.

Hey, it had to be.  This isn't a light issue.
The highest moral human authority is copied by our Gandhi neurons through observation.