Disagreeing with old friends
#51
(05-13-2012, 05:26 PM)JayneK Wrote:
(05-13-2012, 05:19 PM)Grasshopper Wrote: Perhaps I will start something in the Cornfield. Maybe I should have done that to begin with, rather than derailing JayneK's thread -- my apologies to her for that. The thing is, I have friends who are atheists (and I was one myself for many years), and they are good people -- they are no more or less moral than my Catholic friends. So to hear James02 claim, in effect, that atheists have no morals -- well, that set me off. It's an unfair claim. People are not evil or immoral just because they have different beliefs than we do. I probably could have made that point without mentioning the Old Testament, but what's done is done.

Thanks to Vetus and SCG for your understanding and suggestions, and again, my apologies to JayneK for derailing the thread.

I agree with you about atheists' ability to be decent moral people.  I was glad that you made that point.  And I was glad that you had an opportunity to write about what was bothering you and get some support from Vetus and SCG.  It was well worth having my thread derailed if it means that you end up staying and working through your questions.  So there is no need to apologize.

Thank you, Jayne, for your forgiveness and understanding.
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#52
I know atheists who are very good people. My paternal grandfather was an atheist (really more an agnostic) and a very charitable and merciful man. Most I've known were raised in Christian homes, however, and/or were influenced by their culture. You've heard the expression "there are no atheists in foxholes" but I don't think that's true. It is instinctive in humans to cry out for God when they're afraid, in the same way we might cry out for mommy or daddy. I think the Golden Rule to "do unto others" is written in the hearts of all men, though other cultures might call it by a different name.
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#53
Quote: Of course, he's an atheist, so take him with a grain of salt, but he also makes some serious arguments which need to be addressed in order to make the claim you're making. For the moment, I'm on his side
  Sum it up in a few sentences.  I just did that in presenting the Catholic argument.  So what holds back an atheist Mexican drug dealer from killing someone who might get in his way?  If it serves his needs, he does it.  Or he might not like how some one looks, and blow his brains out.  So he got to kill someone ugly.  Made him feel good.  What's ole Neilsen have to say?
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#54
(05-13-2012, 07:49 PM)James02 Wrote:
Quote: Of course, he's an atheist, so take him with a grain of salt, but he also makes some serious arguments which need to be addressed in order to make the claim you're making. For the moment, I'm on his side
  Sum it up in a few sentences.  I just did that in presenting the Catholic argument.  So what holds back an atheist Mexican drug dealer from killing someone who might get in his way?  If it serves his needs, he does it.  Or he might not like how some one looks, and blow his brains out.  So he got to kill someone ugly.  Made him feel good.  What's ole Neilsen have to say?

It's difficult to sum up a 200-page book in a few sentences, but to quote the back-cover blurb, his basic premise is that "morality cannot be based upon religion since it is human beings and not some supernatural entity who determine what is to be worshipped." Along the way, he makes some of the same arguments I have made. What most people mean by morality has to do with the way human beings treat each other, and most cultures figure that out one way or another (or they don't last long). There is very little in the Ten Commandments (and nothing in the last seven of them) that is unique to the Judeo-Christian tradition. However, to do justice to his arguments, you really need to read the book.

As for your hypothetical Mexican drug dealer, sure, he sounds pretty immoral, but you provide no evidence that his immorality has anything to do with his atheism. There have been plenty of highly immoral people (two that immediately come to mind are Hitler and Saddam Hussein) who were not atheists. Drug dealers tend to be immoral. Dictators tend to be immoral. The Old Testament Jews were pretty immoral. One of their greatest kings and prophets (David) arranged to have a man killed so he could steal his wife. That beats any sin that I've ever committed, even when I was an atheist. I have seen no evidence that atheists per se are immoral. They're just people who have different beliefs.
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#55
(05-13-2012, 09:07 PM)Grasshopper Wrote: One of their greatest kings and prophets (David) arranged to have a man killed so he could steal his wife. That beats any sin that I've ever committed, even when I was an atheist. I have seen no evidence that atheists per se are immoral. They're just people who have different beliefs.

Of course, I (along with Thomas Aquinas), would say that unbelief is a greater (or graver) sin than murder.

"Every sin consists formally in aversion from God, as stated above. Hence the more a sin severs man from God, the graver it is. Now man is more than ever separated from God by unbelief, because he has not even true knowledge of God: and by false knowledge of God, man does not approach Him, but is severed from Him."

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3010.htm#article2
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#56
(05-13-2012, 09:07 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:
(05-13-2012, 07:49 PM)James02 Wrote:
Quote: Of course, he's an atheist, so take him with a grain of salt, but he also makes some serious arguments which need to be addressed in order to make the claim you're making. For the moment, I'm on his side
  Sum it up in a few sentences.  I just did that in presenting the Catholic argument.  So what holds back an atheist Mexican drug dealer from killing someone who might get in his way?  If it serves his needs, he does it.  Or he might not like how some one looks, and blow his brains out.  So he got to kill someone ugly.  Made him feel good.  What's ole Neilsen have to say?

It's difficult to sum up a 200-page book in a few sentences, but to quote the back-cover blurb, his basic premise is that "morality cannot be based upon religion since it is human beings and not some supernatural entity who determine what is to be worshipped." Along the way, he makes some of the same arguments I have made. What most people mean by morality has to do with the way human beings treat each other, and most cultures figure that out one way or another (or they don't last long). There is very little in the Ten Commandments (and nothing in the last seven of them) that is unique to the Judeo-Christian tradition. However, to do justice to his arguments, you really need to read the book.

As for your hypothetical Mexican drug dealer, sure, he sounds pretty immoral, but you provide no evidence that his immorality has anything to do with his atheism. There have been plenty of highly immoral people (two that immediately come to mind are Hitler and Saddam Hussein) who were not atheists. Drug dealers tend to be immoral. Dictators tend to be immoral. The Old Testament Jews were pretty immoral. One of their greatest kings and prophets (David) arranged to have a man killed so he could steal his wife. That beats any sin that I've ever committed, even when I was an atheist. I have seen no evidence that atheists per se are immoral. They're just people who have different beliefs.

Morally "nice" people are perfectly capable of going to Hell.  All human morality, whether theist or atheist, is straw.  David was justified by his love of God, not his moral rectitude.  You seem to be placing too much value on morality.  If we were judged by that factor, we'd all be fucked because "there is none righteous."
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#57
(05-13-2012, 09:31 PM)Resurrexi Wrote:
(05-13-2012, 09:07 PM)Grasshopper Wrote: One of their greatest kings and prophets (David) arranged to have a man killed so he could steal his wife. That beats any sin that I've ever committed, even when I was an atheist. I have seen no evidence that atheists per se are immoral. They're just people who have different beliefs.

Of course, I (along with Thomas Aquinas), would say that unbelief is a greater (or graver) sin than murder.

"Every sin consists formally in aversion from God, as stated above. Hence the more a sin severs man from God, the graver it is. Now man is more than ever separated from God by unbelief, because he has not even true knowledge of God: and by false knowledge of God, man does not approach Him, but is severed from Him."

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3010.htm#article2

And I would argue that belief/unbelief is involuntary, and therefore cannot be a sin of any kind. You believe what you've been taught to believe, or you believe what you've been convinced to believe (by your own senses and reasoning, or by the arguments of others). I can't even conceive of willfully deciding to believe in something (or not to believe in something) just for the hell of it. That doesn't even make sense to me.
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#58
Quote: As for your hypothetical Mexican drug dealer, sure, he sounds pretty immoral, but you provide no evidence that his immorality has anything to do with his atheism. There have been plenty of highly immoral people (two that immediately come to mind are Hitler and Saddam Hussein) who were not atheists. Drug dealers tend to be immoral. Dictators tend to be immoral. The Old Testament Jews were pretty immoral. One of their greatest kings and prophets (David) arranged to have a man killed so he could steal his wife. That beats any sin that I've ever committed, even when I was an atheist. I have seen no evidence that atheists per se are immoral. They're just people who have different beliefs.
  David knew he had sinned and confessed it.  In other words, he admitted he was immoral BECAUSE HE KNEW GOD EXISTED.  David is a non-sequitur.  But why do you call the Mexican drug dealer immoral?  He wants more money.  If he bumps someone off, he gets more money.  He doesn't like the looks of someone.  If he kills him, he doesn't have to look at him anymore.  Why is that immoral to an atheist?  Sure, other religions pick up on morality.  I don't have a beef with a moslem prohibition against stealing for instance.  It is a sane conclusion to their beliefs.  But an atheist?  Give me a break, they have nothing to stand on.  Yeah, Neilsen can hitch hike and talk about an "existing" morality, but he just admitted God.  An atheist can not rationally condemn anyone's actions.
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#59
(05-13-2012, 09:49 PM)James02 Wrote: ... But why do you call the Mexican drug dealer immoral?  He wants more money.  If he bumps someone off, he gets more money.  He doesn't like the looks of someone.  If he kills him, he doesn't have to look at him anymore.  Why is that immoral to an atheist?  Sure, other religions pick up on morality.  I don't have a beef with a moslem prohibition against stealing for instance.  It is a sane conclusion to their beliefs.  But an atheist?  Give me a break, they have nothing to stand on.  Yeah, Neilsen can hitch hike and talk about an "existing" morality, but he just admitted God.  An atheist can not rationally condemn anyone's actions.

The drug dealer is immoral by the standards of society. Perhaps not by his own standards. But morality is not something that each individual decides for himself. It has to do with relations between people, and any society that wants to be stable necessarily develops a morality. I see no reason why that has to be related to religious belief. It's related to people wanting to live with each other peacably. It's a social concept, not necessarily a religious concept. However you define it, individuals can be immoral. We call them outlaws. But the basic morality comes from the society, not the individual.

Nielsen definitely does not admit God. He is a dyed-in-the-wool atheist. He devotes a 200-page book to explaining how and why atheists can have something to stand on, and how they can rationally condemn the same kinds of actions that most people condemn -- without basing any of it on God or religion. You are of course free to disagree with him, and he and I are free to disagree with you.
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#60
(05-13-2012, 10:11 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:
(05-13-2012, 09:49 PM)James02 Wrote: ... But why do you call the Mexican drug dealer immoral?  He wants more money.  If he bumps someone off, he gets more money.  He doesn't like the looks of someone.  If he kills him, he doesn't have to look at him anymore.  Why is that immoral to an atheist?  Sure, other religions pick up on morality.  I don't have a beef with a moslem prohibition against stealing for instance.  It is a sane conclusion to their beliefs.  But an atheist?  Give me a break, they have nothing to stand on.  Yeah, Neilsen can hitch hike and talk about an "existing" morality, but he just admitted God.  An atheist can not rationally condemn anyone's actions.

The drug dealer is immoral by the standards of society. Perhaps not by his own standards. But morality is not something that each individual decides for himself. It has to do with relations between people, and any society that wants to be stable necessarily develops a morality. I see no reason why that has to be related to religious belief. It's related to people wanting to live with each other peacably. It's a social concept, not necessarily a religious concept. However you define it, individuals can be immoral. We call them outlaws. But the basic morality comes from the society, not the individual.

Nielsen definitely does not admit God. He is a dyed-in-the-wool atheist. He devotes a 200-page book to explaining how and why atheists can have something to stand on, and how they can rationally condemn the same kinds of actions that most people condemn -- without basing any of it on God or religion. You are of course free to disagree with him, and he and I are free to disagree with you.

Morality is not necessarily social.  Morality was traditionally defined as the "science of happiness," which definitely has a social component, but is fundamentally personal and interior.  An atheist can be a more or less happy, morally upright individual.  I've known several.  There is a baseline problem called "reality," though, and we need to be in right relation to reality, a state called "rational."  There is a God; to say there is not a God is irrational.  It doesn't matter whether you can be a nice person.  If there is a God, there is a God.  Morality is moot.

By admitting that there is an objective moral structure, Nielsen is borrowing from the metaphysical concept of Natural Law, even if he wants to pretend it's just common sense, that means there is a God, or at least a "Prime Mover" who acts as an exemplar. 
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