Friday, December 3, 2010

The Colbert Report and the war on the war on Christmas or something like that

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John said...

Jacob, I was reading your posts for the first time. This question has to do with your posts generally rather than this particular one. How is morality invoked by the atheist? I'm not asking to be sarcastic; just curious. It is clear that you care for people greatly, and that is a good thing. But morality by definition must have a standard to compare actions to, and if there is no God, then the standard is only one's self. Now, your own standard is a good as anyone else's, but it does not allow you to criticize another's. Nietzsche's famous line about "No heaven to be gained, no hell to be feared" expresses that idea... There was only the superman to determine his own right and wrong. So, in summary, where do you derive your morality, and how may you cricize even the most conservative thinker? John Lyon Laurel, MS

Jacob said...

Dear John Lyon Laurel, MS,

I am not disposed to argue with such as yourself. You may believe whatever you wish to believe, it makes no difference to me.

What I will do is refer you to Sam Harris' latest book, "The Moral Landscape," with which I am in general agreement.

Harris states that science can show us how to live moral lives. Where you go wrong is in your statement that "if there is no God, then the standard is only one's self."

That's not even close to true, as Harris demonstrates. Morality, says Harris, has to do with "human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a 'moral landscape.' Because there are definite facts to be known about where we fall on this landscape, Harris foresees a time when science will ... in principle, ... be able to tell us what we "ought" to do to live the best lives possible."

But, you need to read the book.

Finally, please don't tell me I can't criticize the beliefs of others. I reject such a statement, utterly. I can criticize anyone I wish, especially so-called "conservatives" who show us every day their morality just plains reeks to high heaven!

What is really pitiful is for someone like yourself to conclude that you need God to live an immoral life. If history has shown us anything it is that the people who claim to "know" God and what God "wants" are the most dangerous people when it comes to human and animal well-being.

Jacob, BA, MDiv, MS.

Jacob said...


Typo: The following sentence should read thusly: "What is really pitiful is for someone like yourself to conclude that you need God to live a 'moral' life."

John said...

Thanks for the reply - I will get the book and give it an honest read. I do want you to know that I truly want good intellectual discussion. I am not trying to be ignorantly dogmatic. I do not question your moral right to criticize anyone you want - just your "logical right" to do so. I agree that people have done horrible things in the name of God before - the list is endless - but the belief that death, torture, etc. is "horrible" need justification. I get my idea of that from the Bible. You get yours from science (I want to read the book to understand you better). It just seems to me on the surface that a murderer may logically argue that it is morally fine to murder. Evolution is based upon survival of organisms that are best able to adapt to their surroundings - their "moral worth" has nothing to do with their form or function. Species come and go because of asteroid impacts, climate change, etc. If humans are a product of this, and our intellect allows us to commit "horrible things", isn't that simply a product of evolution? How can one dissociate humans from everything else in nature and place moral boundaries on us, but not on lions, insects, or birds? If our brains allow us to murder, plunder, torture - that is not "wrong", it is just that evolutionary consequence of larger brains allowing more inventive ways to do those things. Anyway, thanks for replying, and I'll read the book and give you my opinion :-) Take care. John Lyon

Jacob said...

Hi John...Just a quick comment: Every evil cause on the face of the earth has been justified on the basis of the Bible. The God of the Bible could not be more evil than as he is presented in the books of the Pentateuch. Stoning your children to death because they failed to observe the Sabbath? Please? What kind of morality is that?

Jesus refusing to heal in a snit or cursing a fig tree when the tree wasn't even in season? What kind of morality is that?

And I think you're notion that we want to "dissociate humans from everything else in nature and place moral boundaries on us" but not animals, etc., is misplaced. Who said we want to do this. Much of the animal kingdom (other than humans) appear to have a higher moral system than humans!

It seems to me you are really serious about some of this. I don't know your background, but I'm guessing fundamentalist Christianity. At any rate, other books what might be especially helpful to you are:

1) God The Failed Hypothesis (How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist) by Victor J. Stenger.

2) The New Atheism - also by Victor Stenger

3) Godless - Dan Barker

4) Society Without God - Phil Zuckerman

5) God and His Demons - Michael Parenti

6) Lost Scriptures and all of Bart Ehrman's other books.

7) The Jesus Puzzle - Earl Doherty

8) Why I Am Not A Christian - Bertrand Russell

9) Bertrand Russell on God and Religioin

10) Why I Became an Atheist - John W. Loftus

11) The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins

12) God is not Great - Christopher Hitchens

13) The End of Faith - Sam Harris

14) Losing My Religion - William Lobdell

That's probably enough for now...Good reading to you. I'll look forward to your response.
Good reading!

cieldequimper said...

Ahum... Like I just said, my atheist morality is far higher than that of a great many believers... 'Forgive me father for I have sinned...'

As an European, I am A-MA-ZED that this Christmas thing can even be an issue.

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