Wednesday, 17 January 2018

4 Morals and Values - Good and Evil

4 Morals and Values  -  Good and Evil

While looking up something recently on Wikipedia, I discovered lots of comments about myself in discussion with Richard Dawkins.  Many of the comments following on from the discussion are statements like, “How ridiculous to think that morals come from any kind of God”.

Usually, in this kind of debate, there is a tendency to ridicule things that I have said. Well! That’s fine. I guess it goes along with getting involved and not being afraid of what I believe and understand – as well as being sure that it holds water and can stand up to cross examination. If one cannot stand the heat in the kitchen one shouldn’t really be cooking, should one?

I suppose I do get somewhat irritated in debates when people tell me what I believe, and then tell me how ridiculous it is to believe it, followed by an attempt prove how stupid I am.  Yet, all the time I am thinking, “I never believed that in the first place. And you have not given me space to say what I really do believe, or think.”  It’s what I call, “destroying straw men”. One puts up an argument, and then knocks it down. But if it was not an arguement in the first place, what is that? If I did not believe what they think I believe, and then they knock down what they believe I believe, without understanding or knowing or having me say what I believe, what is that?

In TV debates, especially those that are not live, there is the possibility that what was said is left on the cutting room floor.  I remember in one debate with Richard Dawkins, he said to me that he was more moral than me because he did not rape or pillage and neither did he require a God to stop him doing those things - whereas I did.  My reply, which I think must be on the cutting room floor was, “Bully for you. You ought to watch the news more often”.

If you watch the news you can see that there is an awful lot of inhumanity and suffering in the world. I live in one of those areas where young people can be stabbed or shot just because they happened to have strayed into the wrong post code area.  My questions are; “Why are we so awful to each other?  And what has happened to a moral basis?”  I would argue that as we move away from an understanding of a God, who ultimately will judge and question all of our life’s responses, we then become more selfish and less inclined to care for each other, or have any basis for moral decisions. Our moral compass deteriorates.

The humanist argues that our morals come from the fact that we are, “simply human”. They say that any sense of morality developes out of our selfishness and survival needs, or, as Richard Dawkins would argue; “The selfish gene is simply protecting itself by being moral towards others”.

I often ask the question, “Why do we have right and wrong? Where do we get such concepts?”  The arguements on Wikipedia, in answer to what I said about morals, seem to conclude that it’s just because we are human.  I’m sorry, but that just will not do.  If doing wrong gives me an advantage, and I can avoid getting caught, why not go ahead and do it?  Morals like that don’t seem to me to be moral at all.

In a discussion on morality, Richard Dawkins was asked: "If we do not acknowledge some sort of external [standard], what is to prevent us from saying that the Muslim [extremists] aren’t right?”  
Dawkins replied, "What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right?  I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question. But whatever [defines morality], it’s not the Bible. If it was, we’d be stoning people for breaking the Sabbath.”  

The interviewer wrote in response, "I was stupefied.  He had readily conceded that his own philosophical position did not offer a rational basis for moral judgments. His intellectual honesty was refreshing, if somewhat disturbing on this point."

Richard Dawkins' commentary on Adolf Hitler 
 Essay: Richard Dawkins' comment concerning Adolf Hitler  http://conservapedia.com/Richard_Dawkins 
 Richard Dawkins, atheist atrocities, and historical revisionism




Adrian Hawkes
For UCB
W. 724

43 comments:

  1. Ashok Imada
    DID YOU WRITE ANY NEW BOOK OR JUST A BLOG?

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  2. Vierina Kolarovska
    Wow. I wish i was as focused as u... 🙄🤦‍♀️

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  3. Christopher Chessum
    Firstly Adrian, may I say that I very much share your irritation and exasperation about "destroying the straw men." As an atheist, I too have been subjected to a great deal of those types of arguments. "Oh, you're an atheist; so you don't care about this, that and the other…" At least we can both agree to avoid those clichés. So, following on from your article, I would like to ask you about what it is you believe, rather than to assume.

    My question is this. Given that you don't think morality is a human construct; where do you get your morality from? I know that you claim to believe in a higher authority than us mere humans; God. Okay, I understand that. But to quote a phrase from your article; "I'm sorry, but that just will not do." Members of ISIS, Boko Haram and the Lord's Resistance Army also believe in the higher authority of God. Yet, I'm sure your sense of right and wrong is very different from theirs. At least I hope it is.

    So again, this begs the question. Where does your sense of right and wrong come from? Does it come from holy scripture? i.e., the bible? Does it come from divine revelation? Is it perhaps a combination of the two? Does one ever trump the other?

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  4. Adrian
    Hi Chris, Well that is an interesting last statement. Couple of things, yes it does depend on where you are drawing from as a source for your morality, and yes I would say God, and Scripture, however if you look at my blog you will also see what I have to say with regard to conscience. www.adrianhawkes.co.uk The other thing I would add, and I end up in discussions with those who would say they are Christians, and would seek to say that we must know the Bible. To which I then ask, so are they saying we can not know God, or follow Jesus if we are unable to read. My take is that yes we can, because ultimately it is 'word based' but the great thing is as John tells us 'The word has become flesh' i.e. Jesus is the word, so knowing him, i.e relational is what makes us able to know. Scripture tells us that the Holy spirit will lead us then into truth, and yes its great if we can read, but even if we can not then its possible to know him.

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  5. Christopher Chessum
    Well thank you Adrian for an equally interesting reply. With regard to the idea of "the word made flesh…," this is to do with the ancient Greek philosophical concept of the "logos." The logos had nothing to do with a written document as such. In Ancient Greek philosophy, the logos was all to do with the grounds of something, reason, discourse, plea; an idea. Heraclitus (535-475 BCE) began using the term to denote a principle of order and knowledge. The Stoics were the first to identify the term with the divine; a principle pervading the universe. In Hellenistic Judaism; which was the pervasive culture in the Middle East when Jesus was around: the concept was adopted into Jewish philosophy. Hence, the gospel of John identifies the logos as being that through which all things are made. The new testament actually borrows a great deal from ancient Greek philosophy; a factor which Christians are often reluctant to admit. John of course goes further by identifying Jesus as the logos: hence the Christian take on the logos concept.

    I think you are right in that Christianity must certainly have a basis to it that doesn't necessarily involve being able to read. We are not at all certain that Jesus was able to read; although he could quote from scripture which he had probably learnt by word of mouth. 95% of the population in the Middle East could not read or write in Jesus's day and that includes the 12 disciples he had chosen; most of whom were simple fishermen. It's worth noting that what we call the New Testament today, did not even exist for the first 300 years of Christianity's existence. There were various letters and documents of all kinds circulating around, including 50 gospels; only 4 of which eventually made it into the so called canon of scripture, post Nicaea; which has basically given us the Christian bible as we know it today.

    Like everything else, Christianity has evolved over time and so has its moral compass. Things that the Christian church found perfectly acceptable in the middle ages would not be acceptable in the Christian Church today. Christians no longer burn heretics or women deemed to be witches, etc. It is fair to say that the behaviour of the Christian church has improved enormously even over the past 400 years; and it has done so largely as a result of criticisms that were made of it by people who rejected its premises. In no small part, atheists and agnostics have certainly played a role in bringing that about. I have no doubt that there are very many decent Christians in this world trying their best to live a good life in accordance to their faith as they see it. What I do reject, is the idea that Christians, or even mere theistic believers, have some kind of monopoly on morals and ethics by virtue of their faith in a divine being. There is simply no evidence for that proposition.

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  6. Adrian
    That is not my proposition

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  7. Christopher Chessum
    I’m glad about that, because what you said in the sentence below, did give that impression. “I would argue that as we move away from an understanding of a God, who ultimately will judge and question all of our life’s responses, we then become more selfish and less inclined to care for each other, or have any basis for moral decisions. Our moral compass deteriorates.”

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  8. Adrian
    And before I talk a little more about what my proposition is, let me also say... AND of course Paul talking to the people about the unknown god alter which they had, did not quote Bible scripture, not even OT but rather he quotes their own poets. So all you say early does not surprise me. When communicating to people about the God who is there, it is necessary to use language and illustrations that they understand, so when I am speaking in Kenya about say the good Good Samaritan, I would use a tribal name for people that they do not like. When I am in Asia talking with people I would start by pointing out that The God who is there is not in a box, and is not afraid to get dirty, or to be touched.

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  9. Adrian.
    Re reading your comments on one of my Values and morals article, I do hope you are not suffering the malaise which C.S. Lewis defined as chronological snobbery, this sickness he describes as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.” And since Lewis’s death, many intellectuals have only become more convinced of their own perch at the pinnacle of history. These days, we barely even notice the snobbery. It just seems that there is an assumption that we are not aware of some of those ancient beliefs and therefore that discredits the fact that we are able to know and be in relationship with the God who is there.
    In terms of my proposition as to where morals and values come from… First, we need to take account that all are born with a conscience, I have called it that part of God in every human being. We have a human / God light on right and wrong. That said, conscience can then be ‘educated’ by family, the surrounding culture, our education, et., So our Morals and Values can come from all sort of places. My proposition is yes that is true, but the question is are some morals and values of a higher standard than others. You can have a moral value that says I am not sure that Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, or ISIS do anything wrong. Or you could have educated your conscience to a Jesus Value system that says love your enemies, do good to those who badly use you. So my proposition is yes you can get morals an values from all sort of places, but are they all the same quality.

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  10. Christopher Chessum
    An interesting definition of so called "chronological snobbery" from C.S.Lewis: worth repeating. "…the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited." It seems to me that this is exactly what the political left suffers from today, with its political correctness and toxic brand of identity politics. Hence you see those who want to tear down Nelson's column because Nelson had some involvement in the slave trade. Yesterday, leftish millennials stormed a coffee shop themed on Winston Churchill because he was "racist." People who take modern day values and seek to retrospectively apply them to people of another era - those are the chronological snobs. Mao Zedong had a similar idea with his cultural revolution - something which today's alt left seem to have conveniently forgotten. No one was permitted to question way of thinking; hence today you see so called "Safe Spaces" at university where opposing view points are not permitted.

    No Adrian, I don't necessarily think that ideas of our own age are necessarily better than those of the past. Some are of course; but then again, some are not. This leads on to your next point. I agree with you: moral values are not all of the same quality. They are not all equally valid as one another. I'm no moral relativist on this point. However, I think we also need to be cautious of another type of snobbery, that of moral snobbery, or moral imperialism. Relativism and moral imperialism are two opposite sides of the same coin. Both are extreme positions. Many religious people often fall into the moral imperialist camp, assuming that only people of their belief system can ultimately be moral. The "Jesus Value system" being the real, true, educated one. Re-reading your comments above, I hope you are not suffering from this affliction.

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  11. Adrian
    mm lol. Well we agree on some things, I often think its daft to try to go back in History and place current thinking on to our ancestors. I often am aware of just my own life, where I would have done things in the past differently to what I did, because of what I now know - but I realise that that is silly, I can not, I did what was best at the time, and what I understood to be best, so thats is it. But going back to the morals issue, I am glad you are not a relativist, however what I said is where do you morals come from, and maybe I do suffer from the affliction of seeing some source for our moral compass as being superior to others is that not a sensible position?

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  12. Christopher Chessum
    What I have found to be a useful exercise is to look at the history of ideas in their historical, social and cultural context. That way, we can begin to make sense of what gave rise to certain ideas and come to some sort of understanding of how and why they have developed in the way that they have.

    Yes, some moral compasses are better than others. I don't think ISIS, Boko Haram or the Lord's Resistance Army have a very good moral compass - and they are the very people who claim to be acting on behalf of God and adduce their ideas from their respective holy books. So my point is that is doesn't suffice to say that the God believers are invariably the good guys because they get their morality from God, and that consequently non-God believers are always the bad guys, because they don't believe in God and consequently cannot have a moral compass. That is far too crude, simplistic and ultimately untrue because it ignores vast amounts of historical, philosophical and cultural data. I think Adrian you have a tendency to lean towards that kind of simplistic moral dichotomy. Ultimately, morals are human inventions and like all human ideas, some are better than others. They are the product of human experience. Those that work, survive and end up enriching society. Those that don't lead to chaos, unhappiness and destruction.

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  13. Adrian
    Well I will stay simplistic, then it seems to be more sensible - yes morals can come from all sorts of places as I have said, but what morals, and yes I do think that conscious is in all of us and is a God light if you like and yes I do think that the Jesus moral code is superior to anything i have seen or know of, do you have a superior one?

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  14. Chris Chessum
    Well I wouldn’t deny that Christianity does have useful moral ideas. But as with all forms of “revealed religion” which relies on scriptures and holy books of one sort or another, it’s rather limited to its cultural roots. Hence Christianity struggles with issues such as homosexuality for example. Moral codes which are unable to adapt to the complexities that life throws up are ultimately limited in value.

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  15. Christopher Chessum
    To answer your question directly, I’d say humanism is probably a superior moral code but I would acknowledge it’s not perfect; but it’s strength partly lies in that it acknowledges it’s own fallibility. Religions tend to see themselves as infallible: hence they tend not to have the propensity to change and adapt.

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  16. Adrian
    Well I am sorry I will just have to disagree...

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  17. Christopher Chessum
    I’m sure you do. But this doesn’t amount to an argument. The real issue is why?

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  18. Adrian
    Why because such a flexible moral position, is often adjusted to suit a persons localised view, usually to justify something for themselves and to give them 'moral rights' i.e. makes their conscious seem better. In a discussion with a humanist recently (we were all on a think tank to advise government on morals and values in schools) the only one who would always disagree with the majority was the humanist. In the end I said to him, I would worry if I found myself agreeing with you, he asked why would that be, to which I replied, because then it would turn out that I was probably wrong.

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  19. Christopher Chessum
    Again, you throw up another straw man. I haven't said anything about individuals having a flexible moral position. I was talking about moral codes which adapt to the needs of society as a whole. Over the years, as science, education and travel has improved the world has become a more accessible place. We have become aware or other cultures, and we have a better understanding of history and other ideas which we previously may not have considered. Society has changed a great deal within the last few years. We have learnt to be kind to animals; we have learnt to be tolerant of people who are different from ourselves, not to be unkind to people with disabilities, not to discriminate against people from other ethnic backgrounds different from our own; not to discriminate against people of a different sexual orientation, etc. All these things are relatively recent developments in morality: they have changed dramatically even within my lifetime and we don't have religion to thank for any of it.

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  20. Adrian
    Individuals make up the whole. point one. Point two. And I think you are making that Chronological Snobbery again... Kind to animals, I find that was part of a good moral code before Christ was born. Prov 12.10 just for one. Tolerant to people who are different...Lev 19.33-44 No they are not recent developments, that is the applied snobbery of our age. The fact that many did not follow these moral precepts - does not mean that they were not know by our ancestors. That is the grave mistake of our age. And much as I hate the word religion, we do have it to thank for it.

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  21. Keith Lannon
    Ancient Greece and its philosophers had their lengthy and complex say so about the word Logos. But the idea of God being the Word who was a person as well as that which was spoken by God is an Old Testament concept which was being used long before Greece had all its philosophers and unknown gods. He sent His word it says in the Psalms. Yahweh said to Moses that His word was in his angel. It says the Word came and stood with Abraham and spoke. And Abraham responded to the word that came to him by calling Him LORD. The Word of God came to Jeremiah and touched the prophets lips with his hand. So why turn to Greek philosophical usage of their evolved meaning of the word logos when it was there in Abraham's day. And before you say, "But the OT is Hebrew ...I am talking about Greek" - the Jews themselves translated the OT into Greek and the word LOGOS is spattered there more often than cynics like to concede. The word was God as shown in dialogue with Abraham, Jeremiah and Samuel. The word was with God as expressed to Moses. The word was God as i Samuel 3 explains. The Word of God came to Samuel and stood near him. I might not say the Word is synonymous with both the Bible and Christ Himself, but Hebrews talks of the word being sharper than any two edged sword and then refers to that same word as He. Some incredible co-existence and heavenly authority is clearly present concerning Jesus and the scriptures.

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  22. Christopher Chessum
    Yes, soon after I wrote that, I thought you'd probably accuse me of "chronological snobbery." But let's look at this a little more closely.

    In essence what you're saying is that there were always scriptures at hand that would have promoted the various moral behaviours I was talking about, it's just that Christians weren't necessarily putting them into practice. That's true of course, but then one of the problems of relying on holy books as a source of moral guidance for living a good life, is that you can find a verse of scripture to justify pretty much anything. Take the following examples of behaviour and attitudes justified in the bible.

    Homophobia - Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Turning to the new testament, Romans 1:26-27 and many others. There are many more scriptures I could pick on, but why bother? The idea that we could ever thank religion (let alone Christianity) for gay rights is simply preposterous.

    Slavery - For years, slavery was justified on biblical grounds. Let's leave the Old Testament aside for the moment and go straight to the New Testament. Matt 10:24, Matt 24:45-46, Ephesians 6:5-6, Titus 2: 9-10 and 1 Peter 2:18-29. It never ceases to amaze me when I hear the self congratulatory complacency of Christians, proclaiming how William Wilberforce brought an end to slavery (he was by no means the only one to make a stand against slavery by the way - there was humanists who fought against it too), as if that suddenly wipes two millennia of Christian complicity and promotion of slavery.

    This leads on the next vice which again we have the Judo-Christian heritage to thank for in no small measure: that of racism. Black, so called "negro-slavery" was justified on the grounds that Noah had cursed his grandson, Canaan - son of Ham. "Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves he be to his brothers." Gen 9:25. Where did the Apartheid system practiced in South Africa come from? In fact it was invented by the Dutch Reform Church and justified on biblical grounds. Deuteronomy 32:8, Acts 17:26.

    I could go on quoting from the book of Numbers and the book of Judges, etc., where you will find verses of scripture that justify genocide and ethnic cleansing. Yes, I too can quote scriptures at you Adrian. The point is Christians, like Jews and Muslims cherry pick what they want from their respective scriptures. Their sense of right and wrong in the modern age provides them with the conviction to do so. Hence, they ignore the nasty, horrible scriptures and choose to live by the nice ones. I'm not complaining about that; I'm very glad that they do. Christians who lived a thousand years ago would be been putting the nasty scriptures into practice; just like ISIS and Al-Qaeda still do with respect to their holy book.

    All this comes back to the original question you asked, Adrian: where does morality come from? It also comes back to my question, is it divine revelation? Is it holy scripture? Is it a combination of the two - which you said it was; but then you never answered by follow up question; does one ever trump the other? If so which one? Or - as I would maintain, is it none of the above? Is it not the case that morality and moral attitudes change over the years, because they are all human inventions? Religions too are human inventions; hence religions also changes. Christianity itself has changed enormously over two millennia. That's just a simple, sober fact. I'm rather pleased that it has. Aren't you?

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  23. Adrian
    In Answer: First, you would need to go back to my first premise, which is that we are all born with the light of God in us, i.e. Conscience. My further premises’ is that conscience can be listened to or ignored. My third premise is that conscience can be educated, now to me that would mean it could be educated in a right way or a wrong way. Now you will notice so far, no mention of scripture.
    Could I divert and question the fact that you mention black slavery, which is abhorrent, but seem to have left out the slavery that too place by black nations using white Cornish slaves, you have also not mention the awful Irish slavery. My take would be that man is a ‘fallen’ being, and sin, not a popular word is there. The fact that humans do these awful things cannot be justified anywhere by anyone.
    Also, the fact that we do the opposite to a moral code, what does that prove? That the moral code was wrong?
    I would agree in one area that people have used scripture to justify the most awful things, again that just tells me about mankind, we are able to take anything and use it for good or evil, money, speech, sex, the internet, anything. That does not make the article in question wrong or evil because they are put to evil use.
    And to directly answer the question, again, where does morality come from, well in its first essence our conscience, which is then educated, and we need to then ask which educators we are going to use and which one has the best moral code, and for me I would still argue that the Jesus code is of the highest value.

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  24. Christopher Chessum The concept of the logos took on slightly different variations of meaning in Greek philosophy down through the ages. As I said earlier, the Stoics were the first to ascribe divinity to the logos. The logos was also taken on as a concept in Hellenistic Judaism. It was in the Greek Septuagint translation of the old testament bible that the translators chose the word "logos" in various parts of the old testament to best convey the meaning they wanted to convey. The logos has also been used in Sunni Islam where the prophet Muhammed is identified as the manifestation of the logos. I wouldn't be too quick to make the gigantic leap from there that there must "some incredible co-existence and heavenly authority…" at play here.

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  25. Keith Lannon
    You miss my point. My point is that John’s gospel introduction is a fully Hebraic concept and tradition. The “Two Powers” debate was buried by religious leaders for centuries. The “two Yahweh’s” verses was a headache not to be discussed in public. That’s why of all the shouts against the early Christians there is no documentation that even suggest that they believed Christians to be heretics because they believed in “two gods”. The Jews knew that Christians held to “The Lord our god is one”. How was it possible that Priests and Pharisees could be Christians while still holding to monotheism. Why would Moses say “The Lord our God is one”. Why on earth would anybody say such a childishly logical and unnecessary thing if it was not for the fact that there was Yahweh up on the mountain whose face he could not see and there was Yahweh in the camp who spoke to Moses face to face. My point being that John 1 verses 1-3 is utterly and totally a Hebraic Jewish insight and not a Greek etymology.

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  26. Christopher Chessum
    I'm afraid I still don't fully understand what you're getting at. So you're telling me that the Israelites believed in two Gods?

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  27. Keith Lannon
    I am explaining that the concept of the Father and the Son relationship as explained in the first three verses of John’s gospel is consistent with OT revelation and was not invented by means of Greek philosophical verbal sophistry. If you read the OT a bit more you would understand. The Lord our God is One. The mystery of persons within the Godhead was not an invention of Christians. Simples. Surely one needs help to misunderstand.

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  28. Christopher Chessum
    By and large I am in agreement with you about conscience; except you say it comes from God (fair enough - that's your religious opinion); but the fact that we all have a conscience (or most of do at any rate - not sure that psychopaths have a conscience) and that it can be educated and channelled in the right way seems to be fairly uncontroversial. And yes, I'm glad you didn't quote scriptures on this occasion - at least that enables is to have a real conversation.

    But moral standards in society are not simply left to individual conscience. Societies develop by means of some kind of consensus about moral attitudes. That's why in past societies, slavery was deemed acceptable by the majority - today it is not. Slavery still happens today by the way, but at least it's now deemed to be taboo. We have just been celebrating the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote. In the early part of the 20th Century it was considered perfectly normal for women not to have the vote, now we see it as unthinkable and immoral that women should not have the vote. I do wonder to what extent Emily Pankhurst would be thanking the Christian Church for getting the right to vote? Why was the collective conscience so different back then?

    With regard to your objection that I didn't mention other types of slavery - I must say this sounds like a great deal of "whataboutery." Indeed I could have mentioned many other types of slavery. I could have mentioned the Barbary slave trade for example; where North African Muslims were the slave traders and owners and white Christian Europeans were the slaves. Again, much of this was justified back then on scriptural grounds - Qaranic scriptures this time. Alas, holy books getting in the way of progress yet again. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of different types of slavery - forgive me if I didn't list them all for you Adrian. The reason I specifically mentioned black slavery as an example, is because this particular type of slavery was justified by Christians on religious grounds. Hence the scripture I brought to your attention about Canaan. The reason why this example was pertinent was because you made the claim that Christian morality was superior to all other moral codes. Well it doesn't seem very moral in this context, does it? Christians from the early church to the best part of 18th and 19th century thought slavery was not that bad. Today, I think it fair to say, Christian abhor slavery. Doesn't this suggest that the Christian moral code has itself adapted, evolved, matured, improved?

    Now you have been honest enough to admit that people have used scriptures to justify terrible things. But in answer to one of my earlier questions, you said that the scriptures were part of the moral code. So if people use scriptures to justify terrible things; doesn't this beg the question - why are these terrible things in the scriptures in the first place? How is it for example that the bible (which I'm constantly being told by Christians is the inspired word of God) justifies ethnic cleansing? That seems to suggest that the scriptures are seriously morally defective in parts, doesn't it? This invariably leads Christians to cherry pick from the scriptures. So they practice or preach the nice bits and leave out the bad stuff. Now again - I'm not complaining about that: I'm happy and relieved that Christians do that. Their conscience has been educated with moral standards and attitudes that are way above the barbarity of their own holy book - but for some reason, many Christians can't bring themselves to admit that.

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  29. Adrian
    Oh boy, the problem with this post is the fact that it throws up so many other questions rather than the one we have been debating… so for me there would be
    1. What do we mean by inspired by God
    2. What do we understand when we say well its in scripture, yes it’s there, but how do I use that, What do we mean by there, is it there telling us how to live or is it there as a historical record of what happened, or ??? so I can show you in the Bible where it says there is nothing after death which I don’t believe. I can also show you that be Bible tells us that we are like Grass, so we should be carful of cows, sheep and horses shouldn’t we.
    3. Your other presumption is and would need to be challenged, not specifically in this post, but the post reflects it and I know you have said it elsewhere, there is no God. So, my assumption would be from that is that everything we are is accidental? So, to quote the original atheist …“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.” —C.S. Lewis

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  30. Christopher Chessum
    Point 1 is a very good question. When I have asked Christians this question, they invariably start quoting 2 Tim 3:16 at me. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” So if it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, that would indicate it is a manual to tell you how you should live your life. Point 2 is really about to what extent is the bible to be taken literally or metaphorically. Again Christians tend to be all over the place on that one, although greater emphasis is placed on a more literalistic interpretation of scripture amongst the more fundamentalist adherents. Point 3 is a hole mosh-mash of confusion not really part of the ethical debate as such and will need a lot of untangling which I haven’t got the time to do right now as I’m on a short work break. So that will have to wait for another occasion.

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  31. Christopher Chessum
    Point 3. "But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true?" Well of course, our thinking is not always true. As human beings, we don't always think rationally. We make mistakes and bad choices at times. But then hopefully, we learn from them. Some people don't and there are consequences to that. Our brains have given us a propensity as humans to come up with ideas, but those ideas are not always good as you well know. Some of the most irrational and wicked ideas have come about by people who believe in God. So if the creator designed us with a brain, to come up with untrustworthy, bad ideas - that would seem to suggest the design was somehow faulty. So why should we trust a faulty designer?

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  32. Adrian
    I don't think that the design is faulty. That is a bit like saying my car is faulty when actually I miss used it by say not putting oil in it or not adding water to the radiator. Then when it goes wrong I blame the design. Not really a good answer.

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  33. Christopher Chessum
    I don't think your analogy really works because it fails to compare like for like. You're saying God is the designer, right? Moreover, your God is all powerful and all knowing. If humans were going to do evil things; then God knew that from the outset, because God knows everything. So God created humans, perhaps setting them rules and guidelines, knowing that they were going to fail. A more apposite analogy would be to compare this to a group of aircraft engineers designing an aeroplane which they know cannot fly safely from one destination to another because of various weaknesses in the design and then blaming the pilot for not being skilful enough to land the plane safely.

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  34. Adrian
    I don't think your answer works either. However I will admit to the conundrum, that God would have known the failure. There is though a difference of knowing something and it actually happening. My take on it would be that I am not God, and that is one of the questions I will ask, however it would seem to me that He presumably knows that the greater good is worth all.

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  35. Christopher Chessum
    Well that's one way of looking at it. Or perhaps God was never involved in the first place.

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  36. Christopher Chessum
    I say that, only because a number of people who DO believe in God have take the view that God kick started the process with the Big Bang and then allowed things to take their natural course. I must say, I don't buy that argument either.

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  37. Adrian
    First there was Nothing at all, and then it exploded!

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    1. Christopher Chessum
      Or was there nothing?

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  38. Christopher Chessum
    Just saw my typo and bad response to you earlier so I've now deleted it. This is the problem one gets into when quickly replying to something like this in between doing the spring cleaning. When discussing the origins of the universe we are getting into the realm of physics which was never my strongest subject at school. So I'll have to pass on much of it. A great deal has been written about the so called big bang and on the subject as to whether there was nothing or something, ie., matter to start with. I tend to be agnostic on this issue since my knowledge of science is nowhere near good enough to give you a competent answer.

    It does strike me however, that introducing magic into the equation by claiming that some magic man in the sky did it all (i.e., God) is a desperately weak and lazy argument. Moreover, it doesn't actually explain anything - it simply raises the next question which is who then created the designer. Theists rely on the conjecture that God is not a created being, that he has always existed: in which case one could also argue that matter has always existed. To introduce God as a supernatural agent who started the process doesn't actually amount to much of an explanation. As Richard Dawkins once put it; "it's a non-explanation masquerading as an explanation."

    But I've noticed that you've carefully tried to steer the conversation away from the issue of morality, which was the point of your original post. If God is the ultimate creator who kick started the whole process (seems a little strange that you take that position now since you don't actually accept the fact of biological evolution); how is that in any way compatible with a God who is good? How do you explain the existence of a parasitic worm in Africa which burrows its way through eyeballs causing blindness? Moreover, that worm cannot exist except by burrowing through eyeballs. There are plenty of other example of cruelty which exist in the natural world. So if you wish to argue that God kick started the process, the problem you have there, is that this is in no way compatible with a God that is kind, loving or moral.

    Anyway, I'm afraid it's back to the more mundane things of life for me at present - the spring cleaning.

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  39. Adrian
    I don't think I have done any steering...

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