Author Topic: Is there an absolute moral law?  (Read 3680 times)

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Offline The Wannabe

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Is there an absolute moral law?
« on: January 02, 2012, 06:09:34 AM »
I've recently been mulling this question over ever since i've been debating the existence of absolute morality with a Christian friend. 

First off, I tend to lean towards the idea that morality is innate in human beings and has evolved to it's current form to promote the ongoing survival of human society.  My friend believes that morality exists only because an all powerful, transcendent being imposes an unalterable and consistent set of moral laws upon humanity.  He assumes that since human morality is similar in most cultures, God is the author and authority behind morality.   He even seems to think that if evolution alone was the cause of morality, you'd see half of the world publicly condoning acts such as murder, lying or thievery due to the lack of any absolute (i.e. Godlike) authority.

I tried telling him that morality hasn't been all that consistent throughout recorded history and gave him examples such as the Inquisition and the Holocaust, but he just chalked that up to humans abusing their free will.  Hitler knew deep down that genocide was horribly and unequivocally wrong, he just merely decided to ignore his "Gad" given conscience.

So in a nutshell, are there moral absolutes?  And if so are these moral absolutes the result of human evolution, or the will of an omnipotent and transcendent deity?
"I would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance."  -Friedrich Nietzsche

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2012, 06:19:10 AM »
No. Morality is purely subjective.
Furthermore, if there were moral absolutes given to us by an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent being, NOBODY could ignore them. It just wouldn't be possible.
Assuming that your friend does not believe this (it seems to be what most theists do), tell him that if people can abuse their free will to cause harm, then they are evil. They were also created by his god. Therefore his god created evil and is also evil.
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Offline The Wannabe

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2012, 06:37:45 AM »
No. Morality is purely subjective.
Furthermore, if there were moral absolutes given to us by an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent being, NOBODY could ignore them. It just wouldn't be possible.
Assuming that your friend does not believe this (it seems to be what most theists do), tell him that if people can abuse their free will to cause harm, then they are evil. They were also created by his god. Therefore his god created evil and is also evil.

Exactly.  And even if a person could ignore these theocratic laws, a truly benevolent deity would HAVE to prevent evil from even existing to stay consistent with his very nature.  I tried to tell my friend something like what you said about the his god being evil, or at the very least not being benevolent, but he wouldn't hear it.  Christians somehow believe that their god is not responsible for the creation of pain, suffering, and death.  I have yet to hear a good explanation for why that is.
"I would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance."  -Friedrich Nietzsche

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2012, 06:41:32 AM »
Christians somehow believe that their god is not responsible for the creation of pain, suffering, and death.  I have yet to hear a good explanation for why that is.

Quote from: Isaiah 45:7 KJV version
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

Because they ignore their Bibles and create their own religion with all the SPAG they can.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
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Offline Add Homonym

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2012, 08:34:34 AM »
Now that I've thought about this topic in previous threads:

Imagine no morality; you'd get up and eat your children. Doesn't work, does it?

The second problem with an idea of an absolute morality, is not to be found in reductio absurdum arguments, but in observing that cross cultural morality is not all that constant. By this, I don't mean you should you should look for highland tribes that think cannibalism is OK, but observe that Islam thinks it's OK to have 10 wives and get divorced. Judaism allows for divorce, but Christianity abwhores it.

The 3rd problem is that Christians who think this, also think that the laws of God ARE morality. This means that all the stupid laws of God constitute morality. So, their argument is that having a sabbath on the 7th day, punishable by death is cross cultural??? Paying 10% of your income to Levites is cross cultural? Not worshiping idols is cross cultural? Jews have a big taboo against nakedness. You are supposed to sacrifice or redeem your first-born. Taboo against homosexuality, and eating pork, usury.

Read Leviticus, and try to find ANYTHING cross cultural.

The only moral that humans consistently adhere to is against killing, but they are fine with that, as soon as they see a national enemy, or want to dispose of an adulterer. It's cross cultural to murder and torture enemies. No doubt about that. It's cross cultural to rape women as a spoil of war. It's cross cultural to rip off your employer. Christianity even cites it in Luke.

4th problem is that Christianity contradicts Jewish laws. Modern Christians would forgive an adulterer, but Jews would stone them. Is it moral to love or kill homosexuals?

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« Last Edit: January 02, 2012, 09:11:21 AM by Add Homonym »
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Offline Gill

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2012, 11:16:34 AM »
I don't think morals are imposed on people or obviously there'd be no murder etc.  But I do think there possibly are moral truths that people discover through practice.   Just like there are laws of physics people discover through investigation, practice, people discover the moral truths over time.

I just listed to something interesting the other day, a professor who did a book on violence in the world currently, and discovered that violence overall has gone down significantly in the past decades, and of course centuries.   So people overall seem to be heading towards a less violent path.   This to me is not just some coincidence of everyone deciding at the same time to do this, but seems more like a sense which most people have of some underlying moral truths that we head towards.

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2012, 06:31:26 AM »
.....violence overall has gone down significantly in the past decades, and of course centuries.   So people overall seem to be heading towards a less violent path.   

Yep.  Roughly parallelling the decline of organised religion and its influence on society.  So the world is getting less violent (more moral?) the more it turns away from the Christian god....?
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2012, 06:32:52 AM »
My friend believes that morality exists only because an all powerful, transcendent being imposes an unalterable and consistent set of moral laws upon humanity

There's the problem with anything claimed as an absolute moral law - his assertion that god imposes the law on someone else, while being capable of transgressing it himself.

For example: "thou shalt not kill" is touted as an absolute law - but it is a law that was broken by Yahweh.  So either:

1) Yahweh breaks absolute moral laws, and is evil and should be punished.
2) Yahweh is allowed to break the laws he gave to mankind....in which case they are NOT absolute.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Gill

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2012, 10:34:24 AM »
.....violence overall has gone down significantly in the past decades, and of course centuries.   So people overall seem to be heading towards a less violent path.   

Yep.  Roughly parallelling the decline of organised religion and its influence on society.  So the world is getting less violent (more moral?) the more it turns away from the Christian god....?

IDK, the interview I heard didn't mention organised religion, so that sounds pretty speculative...

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2012, 10:37:19 AM »
IDK, the interview I heard didn't mention organised religion, so that sounds pretty speculative...

I hate history, and even I know that organized religion has been declining. That's why we have democracies instead of theocracies.
If you had payed even the slightest bit of attention in history class, you'd notice that every major war was started because of religion, not to mention the Inquisition and such that killed millions.
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Offline Gill

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2012, 10:41:47 AM »
IDK, the interview I heard didn't mention organised religion, so that sounds pretty speculative...

I hate history, and even I know that organized religion has been declining. That's why we have democracies instead of theocracies.
If you had payed even the slightest bit of attention in history class, you'd notice that every major war was started because of religion, not to mention the Inquisition and such that killed millions.

I don't believe that.   I think many wars are fought over because of power, and leaders may often use religion as a way to persuade some citizens...

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2012, 10:45:26 AM »
I don't believe that.   I think many wars are fought over because of power, and leaders may often use religion as a way to persuade some citizens...

Religion wasn't the only cause, obviously, but most (if not all) major wars were started by people who claimed to be doing the work of God.

Still, religion's hold on mankind started declining almost at the same time as people started "heading towards a less violent path". Don't believe me? Google it or pay attention in history class.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
We choose our own gods.

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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2012, 10:48:53 AM »
As I was about to say before being so rudely interrupted by the site being down:

Brain researchers keep finding little bits and pieces of morality in brains themselves, which would indicate to me that a good portion of what we call morality is built into us. Babies recognize stealing long before they are old enough to talk, let alone define what stealing is. But I would assume that all genetically induced morals can be overridden by social demands, pressures and memes. The one child policy of mainland China isn't the same as eating your babies, but it's pretty damned close. And a consistently large portion of nearly every society isn't the least bit concerned about stealing being wrong, because those people do it all the time. So I tend to suspect that we have morality built in via evolution that works a lot of the time but not all the time.

AddHomonym certainly had it right in his post about cross-cultural moralities. For every instance you can find or cross-cultural similarities, there are, by definition, many instances where they are different. That's one of the reasons there are multiple cultures. If we all did things the same, we would all be one culture. And to think a group that never even heard of the christian god is being influenced by that one thing (morality) while that same god spent millennia making sure they hadn't heard of him otherwise is insane. An actual loving and caring god, after getting over the Babel thing, would have been nice enough to make sure his story was told in all of those languages. Those that think the post-Babel migration to all corners of the earth explains the different cultures seem to ignore the fact that none of those cultures far away from the area where christianity was born had heard a thing about it, nor did any of them have a story about being descended from a group whose language was suddenly changed. Cultures of old with story-telling traditions don't forget that much.

Most of us born with moral tendencies and successfully inculcated into society do adhere to a generally consistent list of moral standards. If we were all born sinners, as the christians claim, the world would be a much worse place. Every time someone was born again and started shouting "I'm saved" someone else would be running by with a club and bop them over the head. Something I have been tempted to do, but I'm too moral for that, even as an atheist.

Anthropologists have described some tribes found living deep in the Indonesian jungles who would fight each other in battles that consisted mostly of taunting, until one side or the other threw a spear and killed one of their opponents. Once one person died, the battle was over, and each side withdrew, one to celebrate, the other to plot revenge. The next year there would be another battle, and again, it would end when one person died, regardless of which side killed. This would go on for decades, with one annual death being enough to stop every battle.

In one battle, in one day, the British lost 16,000 men during World War I.  I don't know how many Germans died that day, but I'm guessing it was more than one. Yet we call ourselves more civilized. And more moral.

I don't think so.

But whatever the source of our morality, we also have sources of immorality (money, sex, power) and apparently a percentage of every population falls into such traps. Societies seem always to have vacuums that can be filled by organized crime, and other vacuums to be filled by individual wrongdoers. Illegal drugs create a vacuum. The front door of a bank creates a vacuum. Bad guys fill them. But most of us are not tempted by such things, and that's good. Appreciate it.
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2012, 10:51:19 AM »
.....violence overall has gone down significantly in the past decades, and of course centuries.   So people overall seem to be heading towards a less violent path.   

Yep.  Roughly parallelling the decline of organised religion and its influence on society.  So the world is getting less violent (more moral?) the more it turns away from the Christian god....?

IDK, the interview I heard didn't mention organised religion, so that sounds pretty speculative...

Doesn't matter if he mentioned it or not.  The decline in organised religion is a well documented fact.  So if you are saying that it is fact that violence is in decline, then we can definitely say that as religion declines, so does violence.

Of course, there is nothing to say that there is a causal link between the two.  It could just be coincidece.  But it still requires you to answer the point as to WHY "the world is getting less violent (more moral?) the more it turns away from the Christian god" if you are touting the Christian god as the cause of morality.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Gill

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2012, 10:51:29 AM »
Well there does seem to be less of organised religion.  But, most of those religions didn't teach people to go to war with other people.  It's certain extremists, or power-hungry people who use religion to justify the war,  it's not the religion itself telling people to do so in most cases.

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2012, 10:53:16 AM »
But, most of those religions didn't teach people to go to war with other people.

Wrong. The religions that don't teach people to go to war with other people are a very small minority.

EDIT: Also, if you look into statistics, you'll see that countries that are less religious are more moral.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
We choose our own gods.

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Offline Gill

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2012, 10:55:34 AM »
But, most of those religions didn't teach people to go to war with other people.

Wrong. The religions that don't teach people to go to war with other people are a very small minority.

EDIT: Also, if you look into statistics, you'll see that countries that are less religious are more moral.

Really?  So you think when all these people visit church on sundays, they are being told to start wars with people?   It's my understanding, that most major religions, such as Christianity, tell people to love and respect others, unless I'm missing something here.....

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2012, 10:57:08 AM »
Really?  So you think when all these people visit church on sundays, they are being told to start wars with people?   It's my understanding, that most major religions, such as Christianity, tell people to love and respect others, unless I'm missing something here.....

Read the Bible (the basis for christianity) and stop ignoring the fact that the less religious a region is, the more moral it is.
Like I said on another post in another thread: Admitting you were wrong and retracting your statement shows a very small amount of intellectual honesty.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2012, 10:59:35 AM »
But it still requires you to answer the point as to WHY "the world is getting less violent (more moral?) the more it turns away from the Christian god" if you are touting the Christian god as the cause of morality.

Re-posted as you haven't answered the question.  Why does the world get less violent the less organised religion we have?

So you think when all these people visit church on sundays.....
Fewer and fewer people. Gill.  Church attendance is in decline.

It's my understanding, that most major religions, such as Christianity, tell people to love and respect others, unless I'm missing something here.....
And the statistics show that fewer and fewer people are being given that message by their religion.  So why IS the world getting less violent, if fewer and fewer people believe in this "peaceful" god?
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Gill

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2012, 11:00:06 AM »
Really?  So you think when all these people visit church on sundays, they are being told to start wars with people?   It's my understanding, that most major religions, such as Christianity, tell people to love and respect others, unless I'm missing something here.....

Read the Bible (the basis for christianity) and stop ignoring the fact that the less religious a region is, the more moral it is.
Like I said on another post in another thread: Admitting you were wrong and retracting your statement shows a very small amount of intellectual honesty.

A fact?  heh, you can't measure morality in some factual way,  that sounds like a pretty loose generalization to me..

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2012, 11:02:56 AM »
A fact?  heh, you can't measure morality in some factual way,  that sounds like a pretty loose generalization to me..

It's quite pathetic that you can't even admit you were wrong without resorting to dodging. Don't worry though, your dodging proves that you know you're wrong. It's not intellectual honesty, but it's a start.

You know exactly what I meant when I said "more moral". You mentioned "less violent" as if it were a positive thing (better morality), and so I said "more moral" for the same purposes.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
We choose our own gods.

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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2012, 11:04:53 AM »
A fact?  heh, you can't measure morality in some factual way,  that sounds like a pretty loose generalization to me..

Can't you?  I thought you did, just a few posts back.....

......violence overall has gone down significantly in the past decades,.... This to me is not just some coincidence of everyone deciding at the same time to do this, but seems more like a sense which most people have of some underlying moral truths that we head towards.

Sounds like you were quite clearly saying that you could use incidence of violence as an indicator of morality.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Gill

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #22 on: January 03, 2012, 11:08:24 AM »
But it still requires you to answer the point as to WHY "the world is getting less violent (more moral?) the more it turns away from the Christian god" if you are touting the Christian god as the cause of morality.

Re-posted as you haven't answered the question.  Why does the world get less violent the less organised religion we have?



As I said, people probably have some innate moral sense, or head towards finding one.   I never said a person needs a religion to be moral.  I've never visited church or read the bible, yet think I have some morals. 

And I don't necessarily see some direct correlation with a decrease in violence and organised religion, seems pretty loose if any.  It could be that more countries are modern now,  therefore there's no need to start wars over petty law differences as it would have been hundreds of years ago.

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #23 on: January 03, 2012, 11:10:28 AM »
So in a nutshell, are there moral absolutes?  And if so are these moral absolutes the result of human evolution, or the will of an omnipotent and transcendent deity?

No, it would be the equivalent of suggesting an absolute aesthetic 'beauty'.  Morality/ethics are innately abstract and an attempt to rationalize them as absolute is not rational, regardless if a god exists or not.
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Offline Gill

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #24 on: January 03, 2012, 11:11:01 AM »
A fact?  heh, you can't measure morality in some factual way,  that sounds like a pretty loose generalization to me..

It's quite pathetic that you can't even admit you were wrong without resorting to dodging. Don't worry though, your dodging proves that you know you're wrong. It's not intellectual honesty, but it's a start.

You know exactly what I meant when I said "more moral". You mentioned "less violent" as if it were a positive thing (better morality), and so I said "more moral" for the same purposes.

Nope, I'm not wrong,  you're trying to state a direct correlation between less organized religion and less violence.   That's not a fact that one directly correlates with another.  It's a hypothesis you've stated, and that's fine, but to say it's a fact is inaccurate.

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #25 on: January 03, 2012, 11:14:16 AM »
And I don't necessarily see some direct correlation with a decrease in violence and organised religion, seems pretty loose if any.

Religion has all the power[1]. People kill each other a lot.
Religion starts to lose its power[2]. People still kill each other, but not as much.
Religion has no power[3]. Murder rates go way down.
Incredibly loose correlation.

It could be that more countries are modern now,  therefore there's no need to start wars over petty law differences as it would have been hundreds of years ago.

These differences also occur nowadays. Even within the same country, areas with lower religiosity have better education, health, lower divorce rates, et cetera.
 1. Theocracies.
 2. Other types of government where people are still very religious, like the USA.
 3. Countries where atheists are a majority, like Norway.
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Offline Gill

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #26 on: January 03, 2012, 11:15:17 AM »
A fact?  heh, you can't measure morality in some factual way,  that sounds like a pretty loose generalization to me..

Can't you?  I thought you did, just a few posts back.....

......violence overall has gone down significantly in the past decades,.... This to me is not just some coincidence of everyone deciding at the same time to do this, but seems more like a sense which most people have of some underlying moral truths that we head towards.

Sounds like you were quite clearly saying that you could use incidence of violence as an indicator of morality.

Yes, but I never said my interpretation was a fact.  It's my opinion based on the statistics.

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #27 on: January 03, 2012, 11:16:19 AM »
Yes, but I never said my interpretation was a fact.  It's my opinion based on the statistics lies I believe in because I never actually research what I'm talking about.

Fixed.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
We choose our own gods.

A.K.A.: Blaziken_rjcf/Lucifer/All In One.

Offline Gill

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Re: Is there an absolute moral law?
« Reply #28 on: January 03, 2012, 11:20:12 AM »
Yes, but I never said my interpretation was a fact.  It's my opinion based on the statistics lies I believe in because I never actually research what I'm talking about.

Fixed.

No, I never did research this.  But if you read my initial post, I said I listed to a professor's interview who did research violence.  He did a book analyzing all the violence statistics and came to the conclusion that it went down in the past centuries/decades, that is a fact.