Note: This was written as you guys were running around concurring with each other. I don't think I violated any of the agreements you made but you may jump my a** if I did.
First of all, we need to have a little discussion about terminology here. In some of the recent discussions, the talk has been about absolute morals. In others, as in this thread, the discussion is about objective morals. We seem to have been using the terms interchangeably here, when we shouldn't be.
An absolute truth is something that is true under any circumstance. And objective truth is something that happens under specific circumstances. The best example I could find is looking at the boiling point of water. To say that water boils as 212 degrees fahrenheit is to make an absolute statement. To say that water boils at 194 degree fahrenheit when heated on a 10,000 foot mountain side is to make an objective statement. So while it is completely correct to say that water boils at 212 degrees, it is only true at sea level. Hence the debate Graybeard started about objective reality is different than one on absolute reality. Just wanted to make that clear.
Early in this thread you stated gave this as an example of an objective truth: 2 + 2 = 4. However, if you ask any serious mathematician if 2 + 2 = 4, he or she will first ask you a series of questions to be sure that they give the right answer. Because 2 + 2 = 4 is a social construct, that is independent of what is being counted. If all you are counting is numbers, it is probably just fine, but if you are counting apples, and two of the apples are very large and two of the apples are very small, the answer of '4' doesn't automatically give you very good information. If you are adding two apples and two oranges, even if they are the same size, you are still not getting four of anything, except in the generic fruit category. Life just isn't that simple.
In the rest of this post, I shall assume objective morals. If you want to make it easier for me, I can drone on about absolute morals too, especially now that I've gone to the trouble of figuring out the difference. Let me know.
Christians appear to want an easy answer as to what is right and wrong. But their only standards for an answer answer is that it be both certain and simple. And once armed with the un-complex and the uncomplicated, they feel that they can address any given situation and parse whether it was right or wrong.
And because you insist on the certain and the simple, you have no way of understanding the secular view which says that morals are indeed complex, and indeed uncertain. To you, if it isn't simple, if it isn't certain, then it can't be real, it can't be useful, it can't guide anyone anywhere.
The theist goal is to get into heaven and to know where they stand with their lord in the meantime. Because their view of right and wrong is as simple as a switch flick. Helping a little old lady across the street = good. Lying to mom when you said "Of course I remembered that today was your birthday!" = bad. And while you have approached the subject of there being things that are worse or better in the bad department, mostly you seem to pay attention as to whether or not you've pissed off god, and in order to be sure you're not guessing, you guys keep it simple.
This of course means that you have to rationalize away variety, because technically that isn't allowed. While you have a commandment that says you shouldn't kill, if you happen to follow a guy who looks suspicious and you confront him and he runs off but then comes back and attacks you and you have to shoot him, then its okay. You have a math game going, where if his sin is worse than yours, than yours isn't a sin any more. You get to plug in any value you want to the first '2', anything you want into the second '2', and pronounce proudly that they add up to '4', so you're in the clear.
You don't evaluate to come to that conclusion, You don't consider any more of the variables than you have to. A quick decision is important. Hence reason and evidence aren't considered. You don't dare compare different outcomes to make sure that your actions were the best. You don't dare get into specifics. You don't dare consider non-religious social realities. You have no interest in biological realities, social hierarchies, cultural differences, evolutionary tendencies.
Giving thought to what morality actually is scares you so much that you have to diss it on sight, and repeat your mantra "without god there can be no morality" over and over and over. Because when your morality is challenged, that is the only response you are capable of. It is as memorized as 2 + 2 = 4, and as incompetently applied.
I am an atheist, who also happens to agree with the theories of evolution. I understand that we evolved from primates. Here is a little story that is true.
Baboons in the wild are a bunch of a**holes. The guys at the top of the heap beat up on anyone and everyone, and the guys just under them beat up on everyone under them, and on down the line, while the females get beat up all the time on general principle. And when measured, the blood pressure and stress hormones in those at the bottom of the heap are dangerously high. The lowest guys on the social ladder in baboon land live shorter lives because things are crappy for them.
A baboon researcher, in the mid 1980's, found out that a baboon troop that he had been researching was suddenly experiencing a major die off. He and others quickly discovered that the baboons had started feeding out of a garbage dump at a tourist resort. And that a bunch of the meat scraps that they had eaten were tainted with tuberculosis.
But since the best and biggest chunks of meat had been eaten by the alpha males, they were the ones dying off. All the big bad daddy's went to the big baboon tree in the sky, leaving behind a whole bunch of no longer hassled males, who turned out to be nice guys, and a whole bunch of females who kind of liked not being hassled. And the whole demeanor of the troop changed. They were no longer a bunch of idiots, but instead they got along well, they no longer tolerated berating behavior, and things simple became more pleasant for everyone. Since, as an atheist, I do not believe a god-defined morality is involved in life. I do think that both genetics and cultural realities are involved. I think that this story demonstrates that.
Different situations created different moral situations. And though as an atheist, one you way I am not qualified to judge what was good or bad because I have no standards available, I'm going to guess that you as a man of god who knows right from wrong will be able to recognize that the morality of the second version of the troop was superior to the first. I figure I have a 50/50 chance of being right. I wish myself luck. Otherwise all that typing was for naught.
We evolved to become social animals. We are generally pretty good at it these days, but we aren't perfect. We tend to assume that, overall, killing each other willy-nilly is either going to get us or our loved ones overly dead, so we decide that maybe we shouldn't kill. We've noticed that we get upset when someone steals from us, and hence we decide that if, like, you know, we refrain from stealing from others they won't get mad at us. Humans are capable of reaching conclusions on their own. They just can't do it using simplistic standards in a thought-free atmosphere.
Anthropologists found some native peoples in Indonesia that were not yet mucked up by civilization. The also found out that neighboring tribes sometimes fought with each other. Looking into it further, they found out that these tribes, far removed from civilization, would get into very ritualized battle formations and start tossing spears at each other. Until someone died. The minute one person was killed, they stopped. For about a year. Then they would arrange another battle, fight with each other again, and stop again the minute another person died.
While morally questionable, how is that that they, without your god, came demonstrably closer to adhering to "thou shalt not kill" than the Christian crusaders, who bragged about killing so many in Jerusalem that the streets were knee deep in blood?
Your moral high ground needs a lot of work. As it should. Because morality is a hard business. Lives are at stake. And the inability to deal with either the nuances or the more blatant variables is not a feature of religion. It is a bug.
You guys can keep your god if you'll just bring your morality into the 21st century and help us figure out how to make things better. Neither your righteousness when you don't kill or your righteousness when you do kill contribute to the world becoming a better place.
You don't have to agree with me. Just agree that it is complicated. Otherwise our great-great grandchildren will be having this same argument.
Edit: fixed a few incomplete sentences and punctuation problems