Monday, March 29, 2010

Lord Patten on the ‘wacky, hardcore and highly illiberal’ British Humanist Association

According to two Humanist representatives to the House of Lords, the Government ‘has repeatedly bowed to pressure from the church while pursuing its legislative programme’.

Well, ‘repeatedly’ must have slipped under Cranmer’s radar.

Speaking during a Lords debate on two key British Humanist Association (BHA) publications, Lord Harrison said: "The Church of England has continued unwarrantedly to enjoy and increase its privileges within the state-in education, in employment practices, law and public broadcasting-as statutory public services continue to be contracted out to religious organisations.”

Unwarranted?

And the vastly disproportionate influence of the BHA is wholly warranted, one presumes.

He continued: "The consequences have been to imperil the take-up of public services and to encourage discrimination against users of such services and against employees who owe allegiance to another religion or to none at all."

"Most egregious has been the discrimination offered to the gay community," he added.

"Religious harassment has had an open goal to shoot at, while the status of religious organisations has been undeservedly advanced under the cover of the public purse," he said.

"In the current Equality Bill, for instance, the government still ponder giving religious organisations the power to discriminate against gays, non-believers and believers of other faiths who apply for lay positions."

He said this was a further example of the government "bowing to church pressure".

"In the Children, Schools and Families Bill, religious groups have seemingly wrested back the control to teach children their versions of sex education. The government's feeble sticking plaster of a 'balanced approach' will hardly dilute the ingrained homophobia and antipathy to sex redolent in the teaching practices of too many of our religious schools."

And he said it now appeared that believing in a religion privileges those who have broken the law.

"A custodial sentence was recently set aside because the prisoner was deemed to have a greater sense of right and wrong, born of his religious belief," he said.

"The fact that three out of four prison inmates declare themselves to be religious undermines that partialist philosophy."

Lord Harrison also criticised the presence of reserved seats in the Lords for Bishops.

"It is undeniable that in its present form, with 26 seats reserved for the Church of England Bishops, the House of Lords presents an odd face to the outside world," he said.

"I believe that in the future reform of the Lords, all privileged places should go.

"If religious groups are to be present, they should be chosen in line with their current strengths, and humanists and atheists should also be acknowledged, given the growing numbers of our tradition-Professor Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough spring to mind-indeed their wider interests would make a valuable contribution to this House."

But Lord Patten said the two BHA publications represented a ‘wacky, hardcore, highly illiberal, campaigning sort of humanism’.

He said: "They point the way towards a society dominated by majoritarianism and not a more tolerant view of society."

And he said it would be wrong to exclude religious bodies from being commissioned to provide public services such as schools:

"It is philosophically bankrupt and inept, for it assumes automatically that, while faith-based projects are not value-neutral, by definition secular projects are inherently value-neutral," he said.

And the Conservative peer said rather than religious groups advancing their influence, the trend was towards the total opposite:

"You cannot wear a crucifix to work, offering to pray for someone gets you suspended and Catholic adoption societies are getting closed down," he observed.

"Rampant secularism is what we face, of the most intolerant and illiberal sort."

Baroness Massey of Darwen said the idea the British Humanist Association represented ‘aggressive secularism’ was nonsense:

"Secularism seeks neutrality from the state as regards different religions and beliefs, including non-belief and non-religious affiliation," she said.

Ah, that old chestnut. The ‘neutrality’ of the state simply seeks to neuter the Christian foundations of the nation, of liberty, of justice, of law-making…

The Baroness said: "Humanism maintains – as I do – that values, ethics and morality are not exclusively in the gift of religion. Individuals can, and do, develop moral codes that are equally valid and have a right to live by non-faith principles. In my view the influence of religion on law-making is very disproportionate."

Well, there’s an observation she would do well to apply to her own group’s influence.

Communities Minister Lord McKenzie of Luton said he agreed with the Humanist Philosophers' Group's aims of creating a society where people were treated fairly without discrimination.

And he pointed to the Equality Bill which he said placed new equality duties on public bodies which will bring together the existing duties on race, disability and gender and extend them to religion or belief, sexual orientation, age and gender reassignment.

"The Government believe that it is important to ensure that members of all faiths, and those of none, enjoy the same life opportunities and feel confident in working with people who have different beliefs, but shared values, to work together towards common goals," he said.

But he said he did not believe this was incompatible with allowing faith groups to deliver public services.

He added: "We believe that what we might call 'the faith sector' is a key part of the third sector.”

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, said: “The separation of religion and politics, of church and state, is an issue that is ever-more pressing. Segregation in our education system through divisive and discriminatory ‘faith schools’ is increasing at a frightening rate and more and more of our public services, including health, social care and welfare services, are set to be handed over to religious organisations – organisations which are exempt from important parts of equality and human rights laws.

“We are also seeing threats to basic freedoms and rights through our lack of church-state separation, such as recent moves influenced by the religious lobby to restrict employment rights for gay people, and to teaching young people attending ‘faith schools’ Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in ways that are not balanced, accurate or that promote equality and diversity.

“This timely debate offered an opportunity for peers to set the context for fresh discussions about these issues that affect us all, in the next Parliament and beyond.”

Cranmer has, of course, dealt with this issue before, but there was a choice quote provided during the debate by the the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton). He said:

"The Government's Faith Communities Capacity Building Fund funded the British Humanist Association to establish and support a network of grass-roots humanists."

So tax-payers have subsidised the establishment of a ‘network’ of ‘grass-roots humanists’.

Why is the Government obliging us to fund the Church of Secular Humanism?

What is ‘neutral’ about that?

96 Comments:

Blogger Jonathan Hunt said...

Well said fat pang

29 March 2010 at 10:24  
Anonymous philip walling said...

Please, please Y. G. with your evident intelligence, work up a killer argument and show up these 'Humanists' for what they are. They are philosophically incoherent and so stridently wrong (under the cloak of egalitarianism - which must be the biggest threat to our liberty of thought and association since - God knows when) that it can't be too difficult to show that what they say is rubbish.
For example, justice, truth and goodness can never arise unsullied out of some humanist's imagination: they are transcendent qualities that cannot be inherent in the human being because a moment's reflection would drive one to the conclusion that the good that we would do we cannot, and the evil that we (say) we do not want to do we find all too easy.
How on earth can some silly strident shallow secularist claim that left to our own devices in a 'value free' existence we develop a system based on goodness? Surely they must be excluding the twentieth century when more people were murdered in the name of godless ideologies than in all the previous centuries put together?

29 March 2010 at 10:38  
Blogger Maturecheese said...

The government's feeble sticking plaster of a 'balanced approach' will hardly dilute the ingrained homophobia and antipathy to sex redolent in the teaching practices of too many of our religious schools."

Am I to read into this that they would prefer teachers to say that "hey when you start to have sex, you can choose to have it with whatever gender you like."

When we have finally been browbeaten into submission over the acceptance of Homosexuality as natural and normal and it seems even desirable, will sex with animals be next? Hey, as long as its not cruel and the animal doesn't suffer, it would be against the practitioners 'uman rights'.

Christian moral guidance has served us well up until now so why ditch it?

29 March 2010 at 10:46  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Why is the Government obliging us to fund the Church of Secular Humanism?

Because Your Grace, the BHA and similar groups, have a legitimate right to express alternative views to living a civic moral life without being hide bound by sectarian ideologies. The key word here, as you say is ‘US’; the vast majority of atheists and agnostics pay taxes as anonymous individuals and rarely show up on the radar as an organised group. The assumption that religions and followers of religions deserve some sort of greater prominence or access to representation above that of a religiously unaffiliated voter is unfair and undemocratic.

I don’t hear similar outrage at the amount of state funding and moral equivalence given to the proliferating Islamic schools, societies and ‘charities’ for the simple reason that you know quite well that to object to them you would automatically condemn resources that are doled out to the churches from the public purse.

You and your congreants have more to fear from the ambitions of the Islamic system that has taken root on our shores than you have of the voices of ‘non-believers’

29 March 2010 at 10:52  
Anonymous philip walling said...

I've just googled 'Lord' Harrison and 'Lady' Massey.
Is it a coincidence that they are both great supporters of 'gay' rights? What is it about these aggressive humanists that they seem (to a man, as it were) to support homosexuality?

And the Baroness Massey was a family planning guru, teacher and opposes freedom for schools from the grip of the state.

I becoming more convinced that there is a cult of death that opposes the life offered by Christ, and these people are part of it.

29 March 2010 at 10:55  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr phillip walling said not that it has anything to do with the OP:-
is it a coincidence that they are both great supporters of 'gay' rights? What is it about these aggressive humanists that they seem (to a man, as it were) to support homosexuality?

As a presumably intelligent chap, he can differentiate between a right for an individual to be protected from discrimination from that of being 'supportive' of somehow choosing to be homosexual as though it is the same a choosing a religion or hair style.

Iran(as example) on occasion publicly hangs men for being homosexual - sounds to me like that Mr W would wish to see such action over here.

29 March 2010 at 11:23  
Anonymous Mikec said...

Humanists think they are scientific and rational, much more so than those of us who believe in a creator.

This is, of course, part of their mythology, but they tend to believe also that this gives them the 'moral high ground' where they can dictate to us 'morons' who cling to religion....

The CofE is the historical arbiter of the English culture (I am Jewish!), and has earned the right to be at the centre of English politics, where humanist associations are 'nouveau' and unproven, especially in the light of the mass murders of the 20th century.

The humanist involvement in the eugenics movement in the thirties indicates to me an ethical relativity which is dangerous to our society. So too does the justification of relationships based on sodomy, if only because of the physical dangers.

I am suspicious when any group or sect takes the moral high ground, Judgement is Mine sayeth YHWH....

29 March 2010 at 11:25  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

Lord Harrison said:

"The fact that three out of four prison inmates declare themselves to be religious undermines that partialist philosophy."

Here is what some newpapers have said about the Alpha course (teaching Christianity) being run in prisons:

“What Alpha offers, and what is attracting thousands of people, is permission, rare in secular culture, to discuss the big questions - life and death and their meaning."

The Guardian, London

“What distinguishes Alpha from other initiatives is the easy-going, relaxed feel of the proceedings - that, and its astonishing success."

The Times, London

“Many claim Alpha has changed their lives and appear genuinely happier for the experience."

Time Magazine

“Alpha is an unqualified triumph."

The Daily Telegraph, London

“Alpha makes Christianity relevant to modern life."
The Express, London

Here is what convicts are saying:

"I have learnt through the Alpha Course to show love, forgiveness, and peace to all my neighbours and my enemies. I have also learned a lot from the Alpha Course through reading, praying and meditating.
I would like to thank Canon Roach for praying for me and also Mr. Curry and the team of the Alpha Course for their dedication and love they have shown us."

Albert, Inmate
HM Prison, Fox Hill

"Gratitude cannot express the way I feel in acknowledging the blessing and privilege given to me by God to have been able to participate in the Alpha Course Initiative. In being a part of the course I now have a new understanding of what God expects from us and how we shoud live as one of his children in Christ."

Liston, Inmate
HM Prison, Fox Hill

How weel it says in the book of Isaiah (49:9):

‘Saying to those who are in chains, Go free; to those who are in the dark, Come out into the light. They will get food by the way wherever they go, and have grass-lands on all the dry mountain-tops.’

29 March 2010 at 11:34  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

It's a healthy battle so let's get to it.

29 March 2010 at 11:49  
Anonymous JPJ2 said...

While I have little interest in the activities of traditional humanists most of whom as far as I am concerned are "deathists" with negative views about the future of humanity, I do find those who have "faith" to be intellectually on a par with children who believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.

My own agnosticism (I can't be CERTAIN there is no personal God) stems from the realisation as a child that there was more evidence for the existence of Santa & the tooth fairy (they appeared to provide gifts) than for a personal God.

29 March 2010 at 12:01  
Blogger Ray said...

Phillip Walling has made the usual erroneous statement that you cannot be compassionate, or a power for good unless you come in a god wrapper. As for the number of people killed in the 20th century compared with the earlier centuries, that's a question of available technology, can you imagine the numbers killed had the crusaders had weapons of mass destruction. Good old Genghis would have ruled the entire world with a few heavy weapons and his determination to kill.

29 March 2010 at 12:03  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr Mikec said:-
Humanists think they are scientific and rational, much more so than those of us who believe in a creator.

This is, of course, part of their mythology
.

Such a silly conflation - reason and mythology?

Humanists ask for evidence - pure and simple. In the mean time we settle for equality in law and government.

29 March 2010 at 12:17  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

The idea of a secular world, sanitised from all spirituality is a really horrible thought. I am not one of these people who believes that morality is not real in people without religion, but it is highly immoral for people of no religion to try and impose their hollow, sanitised and bland existence upon those of us who enjoy our souls. There has to be a compromise somewhere, if not, then we will just have to learn to live with each other and respect what we believe. Unfortunately for them, our law has already been influenced by Christian principles, and I am not sure how this could be reversed, even if it were not such a ridiculous notion.

I will leave the philosophical arguments to the best of you - I always end up saying selfish things, or at least they sound selfish from a humanist perspective. It's a difficult argument to engage in without laying your cards on the table.

I look forward to the ongoing debate.

29 March 2010 at 12:18  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr M is apparently no student of history - if this statement is any thing to go by:-

The CofE is the historical arbiter of the English culture (I am Jewish!), and has earned the right to be at the centre of English politics, where humanist associations... mass murders of the 20th century ...etc

If he assumes that by culture a legacy of picturesque churches maybe, but that don't make a culture. This country for centuries hated Jews, Catholics, Presbyterians, non-conformists - you name it; State sponsored religion has wreaked more suffering on humanity than any other institution.

As for eugenics - name one Humanist who espoused let alone instigated such policies: don forget Hitler was a Catholic and never excomunicated even though the Pope was aware of what he was up to.

29 March 2010 at 12:31  
Blogger The Church Mouse said...

Your Grace

From Mouse's perspective the BHA are far more sensible than the rather nasty National Secular Society.

From Mouse's perspective the Bishops should come out of the Lords, and remove that line of argument. They hardly attend anyway, and have only affected the outcome of two votes in the past decade.

As for the rest, it is a simple case of turning the tables on the argument. The reason the church is arguing for exemptions to new legislation is because it is removing historic rights to freedom of religion which an aggressive atheist state is seeking to impose. The church is in no cases seeking to extend its exemptions, merely preserve some of them (and far from all).

29 March 2010 at 12:32  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr JG How do you arrive at the conclusion that atheists in general are bereft of a spiritual dimension? Rejection of Dietific spirituality is a whole different Diet of Worms. (forgive my little theological pun there friends!)

29 March 2010 at 12:35  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

Lord Harrison said:
"The Church of England has continued unwarrantedly to enjoy and increase its privileges within the state-in education, in employment practices, law and public broadcasting-as statutory public services continue to be contracted out to religious organisations.”

Unwarranted?

Yes!

The majority of the UK population is indifferent to the CofE, most regard themselves as “not religious”. Why should any supernatural belief system be included in the decision making of a modern government, it belongs to an era of ignorance and superstition.

If your belief motivates you to do good things well that’s just fine but don’t expect the rest of us who don’t share it to congratulate you. For the rest of us being good is motivated solely by our concern for our fellow man.

29 March 2010 at 12:53  
Blogger Ray said...

The series showing at the moment on BBC about the solar system in all it's glory, and it's place in an inestimable universe that goes on and on, and has been around for so long, shows how pitiful and parochial our so called religions are. I am totally in acceptance of the extinense of some force,or (for lack of a better description) being that has had some cause in creating what we have and what we are, but to think that somehow we are constantly being monitored and our every deed and action is noted, listed and held against us, or that we can ask this monitoring entity for help, which in 99.999% (allowing some for coincidence)is ignored, always has been and always will be, is completely ridiculous.
As the Universe is as big as it is, and as we are so dreadfully, dreadfully small in it, if there is "something" up there responsible for it, he, she or it doesn't even know we are here, because if they did they would be kicking our arses for the f*****g mess we have made of their perfect creation.

29 March 2010 at 13:03  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Dreadnaught said:
"How do you arrive at the conclusion that atheists in general are bereft of a spiritual dimension?"

What is this spiritual dimension you speak of? It is supernatural, superstitious nonsense more like. Call yourself a rational atheist? You are nothing of the sort. Whatever happened to "Humanists ask for evidence"?

Where is your evidence for a spiritual dimension?

29 March 2010 at 13:08  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Nr IF Stupid said rather aggressively:- What is this spiritual dimension you speak of What is this spiritual dimension you speak of?

I shall ignore the other ignorant assertions and respond to his first point.

I speak only for myself from my own experience as a human being in awe of the infinite beauty and diversity of this living planet. I a frequently stunned by the beauty of a red sun-set or the unfathmable ingenuity of all forms of life upon it. I am constantly impresesd by the capacity of humanity through out the world to behave in the most generous fashion to a stranger.

I am in awe of a mothers love for her children that she will endure the pain of childbirth or that a female octopus will leave her dead remains for the offspring to feed upon.

I am in awe of Nature and the human ingenuity to deliver us the technological advances that permit us to learn more and more about man's p[lace in the natural order.

Spirituality in the religious sense is too narrow and selfish for me to blindly follow. I see it totally as a product of knowledge control for ambitious men to elevate themselves above their fellow men/momen.

29 March 2010 at 13:43  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

VS for Typos.

29 March 2010 at 13:54  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Dreadnaught

None of these things are evidence of a spiritual dimension. They are merely chemical reactions inside your body. You are surely borrowing this notion of a spiritual dimension to describe things that you cannot explain.

However, I would have thought that a mother's love of her children could easily be explained in terms of Evolution? No need for a spiritual dimension at all. I don't know why you should be in awe of it.

Unfortunately, incredulity looks like aggression over the internet. I will endeavour to tone down my disbelief.

29 March 2010 at 13:59  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr IF Stupid
If my explanations do not suffice then please offer me your understanding of the meaning of a spiritual dimension.

29 March 2010 at 14:05  
Anonymous Mikec said...

Mr Dreadnaught

suggest you read 'Hitler : A Study in Tyranny' by Bullock

For Eugenics start with Wikipaedia here:-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics

29 March 2010 at 14:05  
Anonymous Mikec said...

Even if Adolf was baptized a Catholic, he instituted parallel religious events, Nazi Marriage, Nazi funerals, Nazi baptisms. These ceremonies substituted the Nazi Party for YHWH.

But Adolf was one of the smaller players in the 20th Century mass murder stakes, he is just the most popular

29 March 2010 at 14:12  
Anonymous Mikec said...

"The teaching of Christianity is a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest, Taken to its logical extreme , Christianity would mean systematic cultivation of human failure."

Adolf Hitler - Table Talk page 57.

29 March 2010 at 14:26  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr Mikec, I know that the Nazis used a distortion of Darwin's theory to suit his ambitions to eugenically perfect a master race of human based on Aryan mythology.

Darwin suggested that the survival of a species depended on its ability through natural selection of the fittest to survive in a given environment. Unlike Hitler, Darwin was correct in so far as his theory is now widely accepted as scientific fact.

'Distortion' however is the key word. Tarring anyone who declares themselves atheist (with inference of a derogatory nature) with the same corollative brush, is simply facile and uniquely ignorant of the difference between Darwin's theory and Hitler's desire for Aryan supremacy.

29 March 2010 at 14:38  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Dreadnaught
"please offer me your understanding of the meaning of a spiritual dimension"

Of, or pertaining to, the spirit or spirits.

What is your definition, please?

29 March 2010 at 15:00  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

I agree with “its faith, stupid” that what Dreadnought describes as spiritual is something else. Spiritual means not of this world but it is often confused with emotional which is very much of this one. To be in awe of the natural world is an emotional response. Human evolution has resulted in our ability to empathise, the root of our morality along with an intelligence that has enabled us to dominate other species. It has resulted in our ability to imagine and to record our thoughts and feelings and to create art and music.

This gives us something that the religious would say is a “gift from god” but is simply part of our human toolkit. Complex, wonderful, amazing as it seems just like a brilliant computer animation it can be reduced to code but thus does not diminish it one jot.

29 March 2010 at 15:03  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Davis

"Complex, wonderful, amazing as it seems just like a brilliant computer animation it can be reduced to code but thus does not diminish it one jot."

or is that just evolution programming you to think that?

Do we not then just have one "brilliant computer animation" appreciating the complexity and wonder of another "brilliant computer animation".

A kind of Disney love-in?

29 March 2010 at 15:27  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Jared Gaites says, 'I am not one of these people who believes that morality is not real in people without religion...'

I have never met anybody stupid enough to express such a belief, Mr Gaites. I have, however, read arguments by atheists who suggest that that that very charge is made against them. Dawkins, for one, often goes on and on about how he and is fellow atheists are just as moral as anybody else and more so than many 'religious' people.

But Dawkins is missing the point--whether deliberately or not, I am uncertain.

The point is not that atheists can't be moral. It is that they have no ultimate ground for morality. Indeed, as we all know, Dawkinsian Darwinism holds that the only ground for any kind of behaviour (and indeed, the only fact of any behaviour) is rooted in natural selection.

I seem to remember Dawkins claiming that human beings are able to resist the pressures of natural selection (which is rather inconsistent with his claim that all beings are nothing more than vehicles for their genes to continue). But that still doesn't answer the question as to why human beings should resist the pressure of natural selection.

If he, or anybody, says: to make the world a better place, or to show kindness to other people, or to improve general happiness, the question WHY? still remains.

I would therefore contend that the only consistent atheists are nihilists and that the Dawkinsites are trespassing on territory where they do not belong.

It is easy enough to explain why they trespass: partly it is because they are human beings, and the image of God remains imprinted no matter how strenuously they deny it. But also because they haven't got the moral courage to face up to the consequences of their own beliefs. Ultimately they are nothing more than bourgeois, and they need to be confronted with that.

And when they are confronted they will pretend that people are accusing them of being incapable of morality -- but that's just a dodge.

Incidentally, we need to face up to the fact that religious people and so-called Christians and Christian institutions are rightly accused of deep unpleasantness, violence and genocide. In those cases, the Christians are trespassing on ground that doesn't belong to them.

Sorry to go on so long, but these are serious issues, and I think you asked for serious discussion.

29 March 2010 at 15:41  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Spiritual means not of this world...

Probably the point on which we will never agree. I have said that this narrow definition is more of the metaphysical concept than an earthly spirituality to which I attach my colours.

That we all at various times have a different understanding or experience of natural phenomena. Some are blind to what I may regard as 'special' or unique to me as an individual. A cold understanding of what is physically examinable may be common but our interpretation and the value we place on that something calls for more. This is where my spiritual dimension manifests itself.

29 March 2010 at 15:43  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr Anabaptist said:-


This is an outrageous claim founded on the simple premise that because MrA's religion of choice says so it must be so. To me that is pure nonsense. Does he suggest that only Christianity can lay claim to morality?

29 March 2010 at 16:00  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

The missing quote

It is that they have no ultimate ground for morality.

29 March 2010 at 16:02  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Dreadnaught said
"That we all at various times have a different understanding or experience of natural phenomena. Some are blind to what I may regard as 'special' or unique to me as an individual. A cold understanding of what is physically examinable may be common but our interpretation and the value we place on that something calls for more. This is where my spiritual dimension manifests itself.

If I understand you correctly; your spiritual dimension pertains to our individual interpretations of the world around us and to the values that we place on those interpretations.

Is that not just subjectivism? Or is there more to it than that?

29 March 2010 at 16:03  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Dreadnaught wrote:
'This is an outrageous claim founded on the simple premise that because MrA's religion of choice says so it must be so. To me that is pure nonsense. Does he suggest that only Christianity can lay claim to morality?'

Here we go. That's precisely the point I am making: atheists charged with this reply by pretending that I said that only Christians can be moral, or that atheists can't be.

But I didn't say that. I said that atheists have no ultimate ground for morality.

And since you deny that, please tell us what your ground for morality actually is. I am very keen to read your answer.

29 March 2010 at 16:11  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr A.
You are being quite disingenuous, you said:-..."that they have no ultimate ground for morality"... which, if it is to stand means, that you speak as someone who has an ultimate ground on which to base morality.

For me simple reciprocity or the 'golden rule' if you prefer, is my ultimate ground and where all morality is founded. I suggest that this existed long before Christianity.

Mr IF Stupid, since you have not responded to my question on your definition of 'spiritual' I can't really cant engage in anything meaningful with you until you do.

29 March 2010 at 16:42  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Dreadnaught

I refer the honourable gentlemen to my post of 15:00

29 March 2010 at 16:47  
Anonymous P. Burgess said...

Anabaptist,

Thanks for your thoughts on atheists and our relationship with morality.

You said "If he, or anybody, says: to make the world a better place, or to show kindness to other people, or to improve general happiness, the question WHY? still remains."

I have often heard religious people make this point. However, there are lots of reasons why an atheist would want to achieve all of those objectives:
1. We would want to make the world a better place because we live in it, and from a purely selfish point of view we don't want to live in conflict with our neighbours or in fear of global catastrophe/strife.
2. We love our children (a purely selfish gene driven activity) and we want them to enjoy a better world.
3. We have a desire for our imprint on the world to outlive our mortal lives (a byproduct of the selfish gene). We can either choose to be remembered with notoriety or with respect and fondness, and because of the first two points, most choose the latter.

I'm sure that wiser heads than me will come up with more reasons, but these are good enough for me.

I see no reason why atheism and nihilism have to go hand-in-hand. Rather to the contrary, if as an atheist, you embrace the humanist outlook, then you take more not less responsibility for the state of the world. I no longer (I used to be a fervent charismatic, evangelical christian) have the option of "leaving it to God" or blaming the devil.

You say that you don't understand why we would want to resist the pressures of natural selection. I think that's easy to establish. Here's a thought experiment for you to try:

A poor but ambitious atheist sees an opportunity to steal a large amount of cash without being caught. It will unfortunately involve killing the current owner of the cash. At one level the atheist thinks "I could do really well for myself with that cash. I could get on in life and enjoy all the things I've not been able to before".
However, at another level he thinks "hmm, but what kind of world would it be where we all went around stealing and killing for self-gain. Is that the world I want to bring my children up in? I would feel such a hypocrite teaching my kids that the way to a better world isn't to go around killing and stealing. I don't think I could live with myself."

There's no religious element to any of that thinking.

Religious people often talk of the notion of conscience being a sure sign that there is a personal god. I don't see that. For me conscience is merely the dissonance between what we might with to do for purely personal gain, and what we recognise is consistent with the broader development of society.

I hope this is a helpful contribution and goes some way to addressing the issues you raise.

29 March 2010 at 16:52  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Oh, Mr Dread; I am not being disingenuous at all. How can you say such a thing? In fact, I suspect you are being ingenuous.

All that you have done is to tell us what you think moral people should do (the 'golden rule'), and not why they should do it.

My belief is very simple: I believe that people are made in God's image. I believe that they are fallen and corrupted, but still in God's image, though tarnished. I believe that God has given people stewardship of the creation, to care for it and keep it good. I believe that Jesus came to reveal God's true nature and to be the means by which the creation could be restored. (I am not a young-earth 6-day creationist, and that the mechanism God used for creating was probably evolutionary. I don't claim to have all the answers.)

But the beliefs I have stated provide a ground for moral behaviour.

You won;t agree with my beliefs, but I hope you will see that, if true, they constitute a valid base for morality. On that base we can see how the 'golden rule' is right and binding.

So far you have not shown any reason WHY the golden rule is your moral principle, or given any persuasive reason for people to follow it, when they perceive it is to their own detriment to do so.

I've shown you mine. Now show me yours.

29 March 2010 at 16:53  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Mr Burgess, you have answered politely and carefully. Thank you. And you have at least tried to give a reasonable basis for your opinions. Thank you again. This is much better than bluster.

If you will allow, I shall have to take some time to think before responding. You deserve that.

29 March 2010 at 17:01  
Anonymous P. Burgess said...

Dear Dreadnaught,

I would strongly suggest reaching for a word other than 'spiritual' to denote what you describe. You use it in a highly colloquial/fashionable (almost new-agey) sense that just gives rise to confusion about where you stand. I'm sure you know what your views are, but you've just confused me to whom "earthly spirituality" is an oxymoron.

I'm not meaning to offend, just be helpful.

29 March 2010 at 17:01  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr A
My belief is very simple but that just the problem Mr A, there is nothing simple at all about what is moral or on which ultimate ground it is founded. I could ask you why you believe in what you believe, and we would probably still be unconvinced by the others argument: But life will still go on.

You go on to say:- the beliefs I have stated provide a ground for moral behaviour but offer no testable argument to prove the reason for your belief.

So far you have not shown any reason WHY the golden rule is your moral principle Considering that I have only just entered the concept- that is self evident (to me), as is the premise for my moral foundation.

Mr IFS, I refer you back to your 'answer' which was a question' stalemate.

29 March 2010 at 17:20  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr B
Thank you for your imput. Maybe be I am a bit new-agey it makes a pleasant change for some one who is decidedly old-agey.

My views are probably as someone suggested rather subjective but I see no contradiction in that and the concept of spititual in the sense that one takes more than the mere physical from an experience.

Nice to have you here.

29 March 2010 at 17:27  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

It's faith, stupid .
29 March 2010 15:27

Just like the animation we too as simply the result of code, genetic code. But that fact doesn’t diminish anything, we still feel what we feel.

At the heart of this is the “why” that Anabaptist and P, Burgess have been discussing. But for Evolution this a redundant question, there is no “why”. We are the product of the process of natural selection, we are not here for a reason.

29 March 2010 at 17:30  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Davis

I agree. There is no "why" in the theory of evolution. Which makes the question of morals very difficult.

All the atheist/evolutionary biologist can say is: "We do this because it is probably good for the species. We don't do this because it probably is not"

Unfortunately, then people like the Nazis come along and start saying that actually a little bit of genocide could be quite good over all!

29 March 2010 at 17:39  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Mr Dreadnaught tells me: 'You go on to say:- the beliefs I have stated provide a ground for moral behaviour but offer no testable argument to prove the reason for your belief.'

No, of course not. That isn't the issue. I haven't asked you to tell me why you believe there is no god. I have asked you to tell me why, believing there is no god, you should be moral.

So far you have evaded the question. Please try again.

29 March 2010 at 17:45  
Anonymous P. Burgess said...

Hello IFFS,

You raise a really useful example. You said "Unfortunately, then people like the Nazis come along and start saying that actually a little bit of genocide could be quite good over all!".

Leaders (or those who would wish to be leaders), whether religious or not, will forever try and advance their own world view. The responsibility that falls on all of us is to decide whether that world view is helpful or not.

Although Hitler mobilised enough of his countrymen to inflict dreadful suffering, the rest of world responded with revulsion (and, undoubtedly, in no small part, self-defence!) to reject his vision for mankind as an abomination. I would argue that this revulsion does not derive from our religious heritage or because we are made in god's image, but from the principles that I described in my first post.

But for me, the really interesting thing is that I derive completely the opposite view to you, namely that if those Germans who were swayed by Hitler were strong, independent thinkers who did not take authority, convention, religion and tradition at face value but rather wrestled with morals issues in order to determine their stance, then Hitler would never have garnered such strong support. Bear in mind that statistically speaking it's likely that many god-fearing Lutherans must have been persuaded by Hitler.

The interesting (and I admit, provocative) parallel would be the unthinking devotion and submission of large swathes of the planet to the pope. If those people were taught to think for themselves, how many of them would go along with the notion of 'every sperm is sacred'! What utter misery that ludicrous notion causes. The needless poverty, a life of near-permanent pregnancy, children begging their parents not to have more children because they can't feed the ones they have.

So in short, I reject the notion that:

a. religion, let's choose christianity to bring it closer to home, offers a 'true north', i.e. an unequivocal set of morals standards, and,

b. that a set of 'hand-me-down' morals is a good model for the future. I think you could make an argument that it's served us well in the past in a less complex world but now that civilisation has advanced further, we should be teaching people how to think for themselves (which as I said earlier, does not mean ignoring the lessons of history).

29 March 2010 at 18:18  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

Excellent News Your Grace.
The New Humanists are predicting their own demise as fudamentalists of all flavours are deemed to be the inheritors of the Earth. Utter twadle but all very amusing.

Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?

29 March 2010 at 18:26  
Anonymous not a machine said...

Your grace touches upon a long developed strand , Indeed when you pick out other aspects "capacity building" has been tax payer funded indoctrination .When you look at it its far from being ubiased , indeed it progresses the goverments agenda via third way methods .

What is missing of course is any basis for spending tax payer money on these organisations , "by what authority" is a relevant question ,certainly dont seem to have considered if any other view is corect.

29 March 2010 at 19:15  
Anonymous philip walling said...

Who is this P Burgess fellow?

It's hard to know where to start with your wrongheaded notions:

Christianity does not 'offer an unequivocal set of moral standards'; the so-called Christian morality comes not from proscription but from a recognition of the Truth. It has little to do with being or doing good; goodness (or 'moral standards') is impossible for us, because we are flawed human beings ('fallen' if you want to adopt Biblical language).
There is nothing we can do to avoid our own flawed nature - NOTHING - do you understand what I'm saying?

BUT, for some inexplicable reason - and it is a mystery - our Creator has offered us the sacrifice of Christ's death which is a full perfect sacrifice oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.
That's it. You either accept that or you don't.
What you do with it is up to you; but it doesn't make you 'good' or adhere to 'an unequivocal set of moral standards' (whatever that may mean) or any other bourgeois notions.
It is simply true or it is not. I happen to believe (again for some inexplicable reason) that it is true. It's up to you to decide for yourself; you, like much of the secular or religiosity driven world, might think I'm insane, and if you are a 'humanist' (whatever that means) you certainly will think so, but I believe, as a result of my belief, that there are consequences attendant upon my behaviour, and that the world exists for a reason - not of our making - but of God's.

If I did not believe this I do not know whether I would go around treading on necks to get my own way, but it would be perfectly logical and reasonable to do so - unless, of course I truly am made in the image of God and have His goodness imprinted in me, whether I like it or not.

29 March 2010 at 19:46  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Philip Walling said :''There is nothing we can do to avoid our own flawed nature - NOTHING...''

But surely, the entire point is, and I know it isn't exactly the same as you say, but still : we must forever attempt to correct our 'flawed nature' ??? Or have I misunderstood your point?

29 March 2010 at 20:01  
Blogger Lakester91 said...

P Burgess,
Unfortunately, the rest of the world didn't act with revulsion over the eugenics of Nazism. They were already deep in such policies themselves. We took on the Nazis because they were expansive and were taking lands that we felt ought not belong to them, not because we felt that their policies were objectionable. We could easily have stopped Germany in 1938 when they assimilated (essentially invaded) Austria, but we felt that they were a good buffer against the USSR. No objection was ever made against the policies of eugenics until the true horrors of the holocaust came to light.

You also stated that the ambitious atheist thinks that although he could make personal gain from thievery, he decides that if everyone did that, then the world would be worse off. I can't see the reason why he might ponder on this. Society and morality weren't manufactured, they came about through natural moral law. The Prisoners' Dilemma shows that even though greater benefit for all may be gained from co-operation, people will revert to selfishness, because it provides a greater personal gain. The idea of the evolution of society (i.e. people suddenly and quickly evolved to form mutually beneficial groups) is as great a mystery as the evolution of sexual reproduction. The long term benefits may be great, but in the short term, natural selection would weed the first to evolve out very quickly. As we evolved society, the first people to try to co-operate would be taken advantage of by those who were still solely selfish, and would probably starve. An intrinsic moral order (our image of God) would easily allow society to thrive, because it transcends selfishness.

To claim that the Pope has absolute power over the 2 billion Catholics of this world is risible. I've never heard of a Catholic claiming that he does what he does because the Pope says. The only reason science evolved after the collapse of Greece was because Christianity is such an open minded religion. We have always taught people that they ought to have a personal relationship with God/Christ and the sheer volume of theological theory and thought is testament to such. It was thanks to the Church's investment in science and the development of scientific theory that the West ever managed to stay afloat after Rome imploded. To claim that Christianity does not allow people independent thought is naive and a betrayal after everything it has done for our society. Universities, schools, relief for the unemployed, unity in the face of Islam, funding of scientific study, historical recording, the written English language: what has Christianity ever done for us?

29 March 2010 at 21:17  
Anonymous len said...

The trouble with Secular Humanism is that it has a false foundation. Every builder will know that if the foundation is faulty (not true)anything built on it will be faulty and out of alignment.
The assumption Humanists make is (contrary to all the evidence )is that man is basically good.
The Word of God says" The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Jeremiah 17:9-10

Humanists have fallen for the oldest lie of all,That we didn`t need God that we could become gods,that we could decide for ourselves what was good and what was evil.
This leads man to be deceived to his true condition for without the perception of his true spiritual condition he will see no need for redemption and will remain hopelessly lost.
Sin and Death entered through the first Adam,but the last Adam ( Jesus Christ)is a life giving spirit.

29 March 2010 at 21:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrong Lord Patten.

It was Lord John Patten, not Chris.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Patten,_Baron_Patten

I was in the chamber at the time.

Lord J Patten's old seat of Oxford West and Abingdon is now held by BHA Vice-President Evan Harris MP.

29 March 2010 at 21:44  
Blogger Lakester91 said...

I do find the comments of Lord Harrison most enjoyably naive. He seems ignorant of the fact that most, if not all, public services stem from the Church, only to be assimilated into the Government. The humanist will whine over the small proportion of faith school funding provided by the Government (most of it is provided by the parish), but doesn't appreciate that the education of his ancestors was solely paid for by the Church. He will (with more than a whiff of doublethink) complain that Christians are tightening their grip on various matters of employment and public broadcasting whilst we are increasingly pushed into some kind of majority minority group. Somehow I can't see Stephen Fry saying of the Christian martyrs of the Colosseum 'fuck 'em' and it passing by un-noticed 50 years ago, or Jerry Springer the Opera being shown despite its non-constructive offensiveness (and breach of the blasphemy laws). I certainly don't think that even 20 years ago a nurse would be disciplined for wearing a crucifix, or that Christian hoteliers would be sued for disallowing a homosexual couple from sharing a double bed.

Have we really become so Orwellian that such blatant hypocrisy is not challenged?

29 March 2010 at 21:50  
Blogger Gnostic said...

And the reason why we pay this bloke a significant House of Lords stipendiary to spout complete tripe is...?

29 March 2010 at 23:04  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

@Anon 21.44

His Grace is most appreciative, but since this Lord Patten appears not to be distinguishable from the other Lord Patten in Hansard, he is at a loss how he is supposed to know which Lord Patten is which.

Anyway, they are both Roman Catholic, and this one (now pictured) Jesuit educated, so both are essentially good eggs contra the fundamentalist secularists.

29 March 2010 at 23:04  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr Anabaptist asks why I regard myself as moral. He has rattled off his reasons stating from the premise that there is a God, so therefore as I do not believe there is a god I must somehow justify my moral codification in similar terms.

I would refer him to the analogy for the existence of a flying teapot that orbits the earth and is so small that it can't be seen. Of course I will never convince him, but if enough people did believe this to be true, then according to his logic it must be an ultimate truth. The onus is on the proposer of the premise that something exists, to provide proof of its existence.

Would he claim 500,000,000 atheist Buddhists held no legitimate claim to be moral?

Morals are essentially, as I said before, are based in the concept of the golden rule of reciprocity that has been proved to withstand the test of time. That rule is the foundation that legitimises my moral belief. It is borne out by the acceptable norms and standards of the society in which I live.

The bible says for example, do not kill, but we know that we humans do kill but attach a moral qualification to the act. We regard killing as justifiable in certain circumstances. This has a moral foundation based not on religious grounds that would forbid it totally but in the real world where on societal grounds it is sometimes justified. Those objectors of conscience who defied the national call to be prepared to kill or assist in the act of killing an enemy that threatened our society, may well have used the religious argumental code of morality as their justification for acting as they did, but is there a moral equivalence in allowing others to die in protecting their right to live - I think not.

29 March 2010 at 23:11  
Blogger Lakester91 said...

I think that comparing God, for whom there is much evidence (historical, eyewitness, circumstantial) to an invisible flying teapot is a little facile don't you? Christians never claim correctness due to numbers and neither does Anabaptist. However many secularists see such justification for their relativist moral stance. That if everyone says that something is okay then it must be okay.

The onus is indeed on the proposer to prove his theory, but considering that the existence of God is based on his messages and appearances to the Jewish and Christian prophets, the theory comes from empirical evidence. It is therefore up to anyone who disagrees to come up with a better theory and provide evidence for it.

Buddhists may not believe in a deity, but their philosophy has moral absolutes based on karma, which is a form of spirituality. Atheist philosophies may also have moral absolutes, but they are usually man-made, corrupted, or at least malleable.

I think that one of the most dangerous tenets of the secularist philosophy is the attempt to justify their actions. When we try to justify the unjustifiable then we almost invariably lead to ruin.
Murder is wrong, but illegitimate or undesirable infants aren't really people so it's all right.
We should make it so that people don't feel that their life is worthless, but it's okay to end their life if they're insane enough to want it so.
Committing genocidal acts is never right, but if you're under orders then it's war; so it's okay.

Once we allow exceptions to absolute moral law, it eventually becomes a mockery of itself and everything becomes moral or immoral depending on what you want to be right.

30 March 2010 at 00:57  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

He said: "They point the way towards a society dominated by majoritarianism and not a more tolerant view of society."

I have heard democracy called many very bad things, many of which I said myself. However I have never heard it called majoritarianism.

If only it were so. For it is clear that if the majority will ruled we would be living in a far more liberal society then we do today. IMO racism would have become a thing of the distant past, the word sexism would never have been invented, and neither would homophobia.

The majority of British people are by nature liberal as well as fundamentally libertarian in there thinking. They are conservative to preserve all that is good, and radical to destroy all that is evil. Which IMO is as it should be, and could have been.

However we can never know for sure, because we were deliberately divided so that the establishment can carry on ruling over us a very long time ago.

This is now called Identity Politics. When it was young it was known as state sponsored RACISM and/or DISCRIMINATION.

Not a pretty sight at the best of times, as well as cruel, illogical, illiberal, undemocratic, authoritarian, highly suspect, infinitely corruptible, when not also being deliberately counter-productive.

30 March 2010 at 02:17  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

To expand on my point.

Democracy at its best is performed using clear and free debate and carrots rather then sticks.

Identity Politics as well as Political correctness represent neither of these things. this especially when the full force of the law gets in anyway involved in to situation. At this point democracy has not only failed it has stopped trying to win.

Or put more accurately deliberately being shown to be no longer relevant or respected as the proper manner by which a democratic society MUST be run.

We have far more serious racial problems in the UK today then any time during the fifties and sixties. Shown to be so by even the governments own dubious statistics and the more factual rise and rise of The BNP.

30 March 2010 at 02:19  
Anonymous no nonny said...

"Why is the Government obliging us to fund the Church of Secular Humanism?"

Oh, indeed. And why is it obliging us to fund the euSSR and all its other works - including the support of immigrants?

I used to wish I knew what these jargon-talkers want me to understand by "grass-roots." When I asked, they shrugged and waved their hands and repeated the phrase over and over.

Nowadays that's enough to tell me it's part of the gallic/franco-german re-inscription. So I don't want to know what it means any more. Suffice it to say that marxists intend it to render English language useless. That the (Horse) er sorry, humanist society aspires to heady heights as the Humanist Philosophers' Group supports my perception.

Not so long ago, we accepted that 'philosophy' was muddled and illiterate claptrap. When I later had it forced on me as The-Marxist-Theory-That-You-Will-Accept-Or-Else, I sought explanation of their demolition of English. I was told "Superior minds need complex language to express complex thoughts." If I'd used such language, I'd have received an F, for being incapable of complex thought.

Oh - and btw - why do all these 'equality' merchants have to prove their superiority by setting themselves up with titles? And why are all the females sporting the horrible german label - 'baroness'? Nothing could be less British.

But that's the point of it all, isn't it? They deconstruct everything British by superimposing their superior-sounding "ideology" (religion) as if it were 'secular.' And so long as they smother everything of ours with their jargon, their views, their laws ... our grass will gradually die. They will have the bare and desert land and its ignorant inhabitants at their disposal.

How can our commie masters do all this and get away with their claim that they are moral? Ah yes ... they define moral, and they move the goal posts wherever they want them. Our older generations won't be around to argue about it for much longer: they'll soon be gone, with help from 'science.' Then they can install the Great God Marx, and the saints Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, etc. etc.....

30 March 2010 at 07:52  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Dreadnaught

You state that your morals "are based in the concept of the golden rule of reciprocity that has been proved to withstand the test of time.". You then go on to say (in the same post) that within your moral code murder can occasionally be justified. It seems to me that your "golden rule" is as reliable as Gordon Brown's golden rule on public "investment".

30 March 2010 at 08:34  
Blogger ENGLISHMAN said...

Some people believe in a supreme deity,while others are actively engaged in inventing ways to prevent them.There was a time in this country when each man was free to be the arbiter of his own conscience,accept or reject what was most apposite for his own peace of mind,comming to his own conclusions,now however marxist humanism seeks to deny us any right to do so,it is just another strand of the communist conspiracy to deprive us of our humanity,the assassination of the spirit and subjugation to a crude idiology of baseless assumtions and illusions.Surely it is belief that sustains us,can not faith move mountains?Is it not because of doubt that conversations like this take place at all?

30 March 2010 at 09:22  
Anonymous Voyager said...

"are based in the concept of the golden rule of reciprocity that has been proved to withstand the test of time."

Actually that is not Morality but Self-Serving which is why Immanuel Kant had such problems when postulating his Categorical Imperative in Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten - Critique of Practical Reason translated by Paton as The Moral Law.

I suggest you read it. Your over-confident assertion that you have found an unassailable Golden Rule of Morality is one that eluded Kant, so you might be in line for a Philosophical Award for your insights that have caused such anguish to Moral Philosophers for centuries.

30 March 2010 at 09:30  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

Let’s crack this old chestnut once and for all. Morality has nothing to do with religious belief.

Forgive me for repeating an article from the Cambridge Secular Society.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

There is a widely held conviction that being good is linked to religious belief. All religions claim to know the truth because in a variety of ways it was revealed to them by god. This motivates them to claim to have moral authority not just over their own followers but also over the rest of us. So is it possible to be good without God? Surprisingly we humans are hard wired to be good. The evidence is all around us in every family. The key to being good are altruism and empathy. We humans have to devote a huge amount of energy to nurturing our offspring or none of us would have survived infancy. Understanding another’s needs and putting them ahead of our own is the bedrock of moral behaviour.

The human family is the crucible where altruistic behaviour is forged, not out of a desire to please a distant god but out of biological necessity. And the human family is the base unit of human society; its structure is echoed in almost all human organisations, whether social, legal, political, sporting or religious. Within the family is the archetype of all human relationships.

The notion of good (and therefore of bad) has become a cultural meme, it has evolved and spread into all human activity. It has resulted in the concept of fairness and justness and a system of law based on the concept of natural justice, natural because we know it to be true.

So do you need God to be good?

Religion, in most of its theistic invocations, usurps for itself a product of human development that has occurred without any need of divine intervention, it is the ultimate confidence trick, selling us what we already own. Yes we would have been good without god!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

30 March 2010 at 09:49  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Davis

I'm afraid you have missed the point. The question is NOT "do you need God to be good?"

The question is: do you need God to define good?

The answer is yes. Unless, of course good is a purely relative/subjective concept (amorality).

The fact that the concepts of good and bad have spread throughout society does not define them. It merely states that they exist in society.

30 March 2010 at 10:13  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

It's faith, stupid said...

The question is: do you need God to define good?

No!

Good and bad are not absolutes. If I try and kill your child and you are able to stop me by killing me, that is not bad. If you kill me because I have written something that offends you, that is bad.

You call it relativist as if this is a criticism. Why?

You hanker after absolutes but there are none. Everything is conditional, even science would not claim certainty.

30 March 2010 at 10:33  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Seeing as how Mr Voyager advocates the work of Immauel Kant, I leave my last comment on this thread to him

With regard to morality, Kant argued that the source of the good lies not in anything outside the human subject, either in nature or given by God, but rather is only the good will itself. A good will is one that acts from duty in accordance with the universal moral law that the autonomous human being freely gives itself. This law obliges one to treat humanity – understood as rational agency, and represented through oneself as well as others – as an end in itself rather than (merely) as means to other ends the individual might hold

I can live with this.

30 March 2010 at 10:39  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Davis

Your position is logical and amoral. That is not meant as a criticism. Merely a statement.

I would suggest that if good and bad are not absolutes then it is possible to justify anything.

30 March 2010 at 10:48  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Hello P.Burgess

You have said that: "Leaders (or those who would wish to be leaders), whether religious or not, will forever try and advance their own world view. The responsibility that falls on all of us is to decide whether that world view is helpful or not."

I agree with this. However, while the Christian will decide whether the view is helpful or not based on a "Christian moral framework" (which you seem to acknowldege has at least been useful in the past), the atheist/evolutionary biologist will say "is this useful for the species?". They may say "would I like this done to me?" or they may say "I wouldn't like this done to me, but for the overall benefit of the species/society we should do this". The bottom line is that it is all too easy for the atheist/evolutionary biologist to cheapen life for the benefit of the species/society (abortion is a case in point). From there it becomes possible to justify all sorts of horrific practises.

You make some points about religion restricting independent thought. I would say that, since becoming a Christian, I have had to radically rethink my interpretations of the world around me. The Christian life, as I see it, is a journey of thought and experience mediated through a relationship with God, made possible by his Son. Where religion is restricting/binding (which it is quite clearly capable of being) then that is not from God, but from man. Certainly the Bible calls on us to renew our minds and to think!

As John Stott said: "We were not given the Bible to remove from us the problem of thinking" (this is not a direct quote, but a paraphrase from memory, sorry).

30 March 2010 at 11:09  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

It's faith, stupid said...

“Your position is logical and amoral”

Not so, amoral is not caring about or concerned with moral judgements. I do care about them but I explain their existence as an inevitable part of human development rather than the result of supernatural revelation.

If you were able to accept my explanation would this severely undermine your belief in a Christian God? Surely you could argue that God made it so.

The problem I suppose is that this would contradict much Christian teaching.

This is my difficulty with all religions. You have to sign up to a lot of doctrine much of which was formulated in a time of ignorance and superstition and which must seem pretty unconvincing even to you. But once you start to unpick it, the whole edifice falls apart so in order to maintain its invincibility, you never fully subject it to the cold light of reason.

30 March 2010 at 11:35  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

I'm astonished at the ability of some correspondents to miss the point. I refer particularly to Messrs Dreadnaught and Davis.

I will repeat it once more, for their sakes, but with little hope that they will understand. I suspect they are being evasive rather than obtuse, but that's for them to know and me to guess.

The point is not that Christians claim a monopoly on morality.

The point is not that I say that atheists cannot be moral (some of them are very moral and put many believers to shame).

The point is that atheism cannot consistently ever say 'ought'. Please note: consistently.

They can argue only from what is and not from what ought to be.

It is absolutely futile (as I repeat for the second or third time) for them to claim that the basis of morality is 'the golden rule'. That isn't the basis of anything. It may be the fundamental principle of moral action, but it does not in itself explain why anybody should follow it.

And incidentally, I don't agree with IFS, who says 'The question is: do you need God to define good?' The question actually is: Do you need God to have a concept of 'good'?

The only person to have a real go at this is Mr Burgess, who at least attempts an argument on the basis of self-interest.

First, the world will be more comfortable for me if I behave morally. Actually that's not the case. Moral choices are often hard choices, leading to considerable discomfort and sometimes worse.

Second, I am genetically programmed to be moral because of love (whatever that might be) for my children, and a desire for their comfort. Hmmm. I think that argument would lead as much to the seizure of power and property as it would to moral behaviour.

Third, I want to be remembered well (again, genetically programmed). I've never come across that one before, but I think it unfortunately vacuous. Most people in the history of the world have been too preoccupied with survival in this life to be bothered what others might think of them after they are gone. I think it is an argument of desperation.

Nice try Mr B, but no cigar.

30 March 2010 at 11:48  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Davis said
"Not so, amoral is not caring about or concerned with moral judgements"

Surely, in a world where good and bad are relative, there are no moral judgements to be made because morality does not exist. It is an amoral world.

Or are your morals also relative?

30 March 2010 at 11:56  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

It's faith, stupid said...

“Surely, in a world where good and bad are relative, there are no moral judgements to be made because morality does not exist. It is an amoral world.

Morality exists in the same way that friendship exists, both are part of our evolutionary development. Why should the fact that good and bad are relative mean that moral judgements don’t exist? If you mean that they are not constant then yes that is so.

As for an amoral world, yes it is. A bird killing its prey is not subject to moral considerations. We humans are subject to moral considerations only because they have become necessary in our evolutionary development. They do not exist outside us.

Anabaptist: I don’t think you read our posts or you would not say what you say!

30 March 2010 at 12:28  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

I have read your posts very carefully, and they are as I describe them: evasive or unintelligent.

Neither of you has addressed the point as to why consistent atheists should be moral.

All we get -- ad nauseam -- is what moral behaviour consists of, but no hint as to the rationale for its imperatives.

30 March 2010 at 13:05  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

Graham Davis.
"You hanker after absolutes but there are none."
That sounds like an absolute statement to me. Doesn't your rule apply to you?

Jp2j
"My own agnosticism ... stems from the realisation as a child ..."
Quite so.

30 March 2010 at 14:05  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

Anabaptist said...
“I have read your posts very carefully, and they are as I describe them: evasive or unintelligent. Neither of you has addressed the point as to why consistent atheists should be moral”.

So what is it about my post 30 March 2010 09:49 that escapes you?

30 March 2010 at 15:45  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Mr Anabaptist said:-
…I have asked you to tell me why, believing there is no god, you should be moral

This is basically asking what it is to be moral: it also asks by inference that morality requires connection to some higher power other than the person. This must be the position from which he starts his deliberations as he further stated.

I believe that people are made in God's image. I believe that they are fallen and corrupted, but still in God's image, though tarnished. I believe that God has given people stewardship of the creation, to care for it and keep it good. I believe that Jesus came to reveal God's true nature and to be the means by which the creation could be restored. (I am not a young-earth 6-day creationist, and that the mechanism God used for creating was probably evolutionary. I don't claim to have all the answers.)
But the beliefs I have stated provide a ground for moral behaviour


This has been an enjoyable and varied exchange – my response and final tilt at this particular windmill is this:-

It must have an agreed given and that is a definition of the meaning of the word ‘moral/s. It could be something along the lines of:- ‘ something of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character’.

But in effect what MrA is saying, is that he believes that in holding his (2nd italicised) statements to be true, somehow gives the holder justifiable and absolute moral status, yet I hold that it does not, as he similarly accuses me, say why or offer any evidence why, it should be so.

Contrary to what he says, I maintain that I have in several posts in this thread, stated precisely why as an atheist (a person free from religious oppression – my personal expression), I am able quite legitimately able to discern the difference between good and bad and lead a moral life during my time alive. Thinking atheist (as opposed to someone not given to analysis of belief patterns) are morally judged or judged to be of moral worth in this life, by themselves and their peers; and are therefore entitled to hold themselves to be validly moral in intention if not always in practise; there being no canonical work of reference or all encompassing organised group as such individual atheists may disagree.

I hold that an atheist can recognize the mystery of life, and marvel at how everything learned deepens that mystery, pushing "final" causes further into the distance. An atheist can recognise his or her own limitations, and seek to grow, perhaps even by developing contact with "higher powers." This is what I mean by an atheist spirituality.

The difference is that as an atheist I feel no need to pretend to understand the mysteries – nor a need to create gods and religions to explain them. I believe that an atheist can recognize the mystery of life, and marvel at how everything learned deepens that mystery, pushing "final" causes further into the distance. I can recognise my own limitations, and yet seek to grow or expand my knowledgeable understanding of life around me.

I suppose the main difference between myself and people of religious belief is that I feel no need to pretend to understand the mysteries and no need or desire to create gods and religions to explain them..

30 March 2010 at 16:03  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Mr Little Black Sambo and Mr Anabaptist

Brilliant.

30 March 2010 at 17:36  
Anonymous len said...

The difference between the atheist and the Christian is that the atheist may act ethically for certain reasons (e.g. not wanting to go to jail, it disrupts social order, it makes them look good to others, etc.), but he has no ultimate reason for acting ethically because there is no ultimate moral authority that exists over each sphere of his life. Without this ultimate authority, each atheist defines morality on his own terms.

Can an atheist act ethically? Certainly, but he has no ultimate reason to do so and no ultimate authority to look to in order to ensure his line is indeed straight and unbendable.

30 March 2010 at 18:02  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

Oh dear

There is such huge amount of ignorance in many of these posts and len has just added to them. Even a cursory understanding of evolutionary biology, anthropology and psychology will explain the reason for human moral behaviour and yet so many here just keep on repeating the tired old God explanation. Is it really impossible for you to accept that your invisible friend, even if he did exist, has absolutely nothing to do with human morality!

30 March 2010 at 18:22  
Blogger Lakester91 said...

Dreadnaught you keep evading the question and it starts to grate. No one here has claimed that atheists cannot be moral as it is simply untrue. Yet you seem to confuse ability and motive, for you use one to answer the other. You use terms like can and not ought (see Anabaptist's post)

Graham Davis, though you have at least attempted to explain the 'why ought we' question, your answer is fundamentally flawed. Humanity started out selfish as it was the best way to survive. How could we possibly evolve selflessness? It may help society as a whole, but it is detrimental to the individual. If one small group began co-operating, then they'd quickly be taken advantage of by those who were selfish. They would simply die out. In fact, in a society where most people co-operate, one can very easily lead a better life through selfishness. So why co-operate? There is no evolutionary basis for such actions as selfishness is always beneficial. See the 'Prisoners' Dilemma'.

A cursory glance as evolutionary biology, anthropology and psychology will explain human moral behaviour? Then how come you have yet to explain such to us? Are you hiding your great knowledge from us? or are you using the rhetoric of the 'rational intelligent atheist' as a blunt argument to show how you're right without actually explaining in a rational and intelligent manner? I think len's point was just. He claimed that there is no "ultimate" reason for an atheist to act morally and he's right. If he is wrong then you'd at least refer to the part of his argument that is flawed rather than dismissing it as ignorant. You finish off with the typical 'invisible friend' insult. Well done you've certainly convinced me of the veracity of your argument. Insult is a sign of the most desperate of poor arguers.

30 March 2010 at 18:55  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

"The tired old God explanation."

There is no explanation more tired than reductionism: a human being is really so many pints of water, etc. This is merely skinning the onion, defining terms so that anything but a simplistic mechanism is ruled out, then say you have "explained" everything; and within that specially constructed tiny universe you are right, but the onion is gone. (And tired phrases like "invisible friend" [cf "sky fairy"] are a sure sign of a tired explanation.)

30 March 2010 at 18:58  
Anonymous It's faith, stupid said...

Mr Dreadnaught

You speak of "atheist spirituality" and "higher powers". Why don't you get the real deal instead? The Gospel according to Luke is often a good place to start.

30 March 2010 at 19:10  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

30 March 2010 at 19:34  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

Lakestar91 said...

“Humanity started out selfish as it was the best way to survive. How could we possibly evolve selflessness”?

The problem lies with the connotations of the word selfish, mean, uncaring etc. As far as biology is concerned there are no connotations; all organisms are programmed for survival in order to pass on their genes so to this extent they are described as selfish. For humans that evolutionary process has resulted in unselfishness solely because it has proved essential to our survival not because it is morally good.

Some other species follow a similar path, birds for example spend a huge amount of energy on nurturing their young but we wouldn’t apply the term moral to a bird’s behaviour.

Maybe it is because morality is simply a by product of development that offends you and others here? But like it or not there is simply no room in the explanation for a supernatural overseer.

31 March 2010 at 09:45  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

"... there is simply no room in the explanation for a supernatural overseer."

No room in your explanation, by definition.

31 March 2010 at 13:19  
Blogger Lakester91 said...

Graham Davis,
We can all agree that mutual co-operation furthers human society, but you have yet to answer how it evolved. As I said, those who originally attempted to form society would be taken advantage of by those who were still selfish and would die out.

It is like the case with sexual reproduction. It may seem beneficial once evolved, but to evolve such a feature would take energy and chance and it reduces the chance to reproduce. Considering that evolution takes millions of years, our current evolutionary theory cannot answer how it managed to last long enough to become as efficient as it is now. In fact, even now, the benefits of genetic variation are pale in comparison to the extra hassle that sexual reproduction brings. So why does it exist?

This isn't a post to say that God made morality happen magically. Just that it is arrogant to claim that the current scientific consensus is not only absolutely correct, but that is also proves things that it has no relation to.

Besides, wouldn't it be rather wonderful if morality was a natural phenomenon. It just shows how cleverly this complex world was designed.

31 March 2010 at 20:08  
Anonymous TheGlovner said...

"Besides, wouldn't it be rather wonderful if morality was a natural phenomenon. It just shows how cleverly this complex world was designed."

Completely agree but probably not in the same way you use the word design as I would assume (and you can correct me if I am wrong) you would mean this to imply that by design then there must have been a designer.

I think G Davis and Dreadnaught certainly raise some valid points and opinions, but likewise I think Anabaptist does the same (I can't say the same for all others). But all of the points are skewed by their opinions/beliefs. Unfortunately this is a natural problem when explaining your case since it is very hard not to allow emotions to enter into a discussion on something you feel passionate about.

I don't agree that science/evolution completely eradictate the possiblity that there could be a god. But at the same time I understand that this is not the point of science or evolutionary theory.

I appreciate that in times when people understood very little that the concept of god was extremely useful, the problems begin to occur when the concept of god is not kept to one belief structure.

I appreciate that our current moral codes which in general all good natured people adhere at some level, (although all people will follow them at different level due to the subjective nature of moarlity) regardless of their religious persuasion could certainly have been grounded more fully because of religious practices in the past. But as I understand it, the point of organised religious practices was to control the masses and have them act in a way the religion in question deemed to be correct.

I don't accept that any one religion if any at all are responsible for the birth of morality for the simple fact that there are too many religions with differing moral beliefs and none can offer themselves up with any testable criteria to lift their proof above any others.

I would find canibalism an immoral practice but I don't think that canibalistic tribes would agree with me. Because of the subjective nature of morality.

It is the belief of the religious that their brand of morality is correct and true. Just like it is the belief of the religious that their particular brand of religion is correct and true.

I have rambled a bit but my point is this:

Even if religion was responsible for a more general overall acceptance of an overiding moral code at the time, its insistance that its absolute moral code is correct in this day and age has the opposite affect of what I believe it would have originally been intended for.

Because religious morality is based on an unchanging objective moral belief it stifles our ability to learn by denying anything that doesn't agree with it. It creates disharmony between itself and other groups that disagree with it.

In an age where the world was a smaller place and was inhabited by smaller societal groups it would be beneficial to hold the same beliefs in order to create harmony between the members of the group for the overall benefit of the whole. The overall whole in this day and age is the human race and the beliefs of small groups seeking to judge the whole by their standards is not beneficial to the human race.

That's my two cents anyway.

1 April 2010 at 12:52  
Blogger Lakester91 said...

Glovner,

"But as I understand it, the point of organised religious practices was to control the masses and have them act in a way the religion in question deemed to be correct."

Not control. A lot of Old Testament religious law (as opposed to moral law) was designed as a way of life that helped the Jewish society keep together, with health and society. This included various hygiene practises and food proscriptions (mainly health issues) as well as the various eye for an eye punishment laws (designed to limit vengeance, but still deter crime).

Of course by the time of Christ these had become corrupted as their original intention had been lost. This is why, when he fulfilled God's Covenant, he changed some of the legislation. The moral law was stationary. What is moral is always moral and will always be. He did, however, remove the religious law as it was obsolete (methods of preservation made pork and other foods safe to eat/there was no longer a need for the Jewish identity, as the new Covenant was with all of humanity etc.)

The important distinction is between religious and moral law. Christianity has no religious law. We may suggest certain ways of living life that are independent from morality, but there is no punishment for ignoring this advice in this life or the next. Religious law or advice is given as a practical way of dealing with a present matter. If we were advised not to vote Labour in a certain election (because of an anti-Christian bias or corruption or whatever), then it doesn't mean that we ought not vote for them ever again. A moral law is not tailor made for a single situation. It is designed not for a single society or ethnic group, nor for a single nation or even a political system. It is designed by God as the best (perfect) way of ensuring that we all have a happy and fulfilling life.

"Because religious morality is based on an unchanging objective moral belief it stifles our ability to learn by denying anything that doesn't agree with it. It creates disharmony between itself and other groups that disagree with it."

I have to disagree with this point. Absolute morality must be unchanging, otherwise we would have to consider that the previous idea was wrong. I have no problem with refining our knowledge of morality to be more in line with God's intention, but it is not a fluid concept (what is true now is true always). A fluid concept of morality creates far more disharmony than a static one. If everyone has his own morality that is true only to him, then he will claim it as justification for any actions that he wishes to take. Anyone that differs he will disagree with and it will create disharmony between all peoples, and not just different groups.

"I don't accept that any one religion if any at all are responsible for the birth of morality for the simple fact that there are too many religions with differing moral beliefs and none can offer themselves up with any testable criteria to lift their proof above any others."

No religion makes this claim. All morality comes from God, it is up to us to interpret it from scripture. No one has ever claimed a monopoly on morality either. Atheists can be moral, even if they don't believe in absolute morality. The reasoning that "there are too many religions with differing moral beliefs and none can offer themselves up with any testable criteria to lift their proof above any others." is interesting as it brings morality into the realm of the natural sciences. Only natural sciences can gain inductive proof from nature. The other truths of History, Morality and Spirituality are independent and have their own method of proof. I cannot prove absolutely that Christian morality is true without assuming that God exists. I can only say that I have yet to find any flaws with it.

1 April 2010 at 22:53  
Blogger Lakester91 said...

Your final point, is that the majority belief should be the one which is adhered to 'for the benefit of the whole'. Though I disagree with this point (Sodom and Gomorrah, Rome and many other great empires fell because they became complacent and fell to debauchery and hedonism. Such a shared view was very detrimental to their societies), your point would seem to be that we should adhere to Christian morality. After all it is the majority group with more members (just about) in their largest sect than even the second largest religion (Islam). In fact, your last point would seem to indicate that we should not follow the views of the atheist secularist. After all they make up a tiny proportion of the population, even in their strongholds in the West.

1 April 2010 at 22:55  
Anonymous TheGlovner said...

You misunderstand my final point, I'll try and clarify.

My belief is that there is no need for religion to play a part in government so for that you can call me a secluarist.

This leads back to my earlier point that I don't believe a belief in any god is neccesary for a moral framework. I would agree that the moral framework of many varying beliefs overlap so it is possible to provide a moral framework for the whole based on all beliefs. But by providing a secular governement this can accept the morals which all groups hold to be true (don't kill others, don't steal from others etc), whether you believe them to be absolute objective morals or evolutionary subjective shifting morals it doesn't matter in this case.

So a secluar government allows us to add the morals to society which we all agree on without lifting anyones beliefs above anothers as we both know, no religion can offer itself up with testable criteria to prove itself as fact and the non-religious cannot catagorically disprove the beliefs of religion.

My point isn't about proof or lack of it, it is that to force your beliefs and static moral standpoint on others that don't share your belief is unfair when you cannot provide proof for your beliefs. But if we both accept something is wrong then it makes sense in the soceity we inhabit to officially recognise it as wrong and provide the means to a societal agreed punishment against it.

2 April 2010 at 09:25  
Anonymous TheGlovner said...

The atheist seclurist in its true definition is not a belief structure as some may have you believe.

Firstly they are two seperate things that do not have to go together. Although I admit that it is obvious for an atheist to be a secularist a secluarist does not have to be (and indeed isn't always) an atheist.

As an atheist I lack a belief in any gods, not just yours but all gods. The absence of proof along with the absence of proof against something does not say to me that something is therefore true. Because of this I don't activly disbelieve, I simply lack the belief which has a requirement of a leap of faith from those that do believe.

I don't deny you your right to believe what you want but I take offence when your beliefs which I don't agree with impact on my life. If you have beliefs that do agree with mine then we have reached the same belief from different paths and I take no issue with these beliefs.

The atheist is the natural position before any beliefs are imbued in the person.

Secluarism just calls for a seperation of church/religion and state, this is for the benefit of all religious and non-religious groups that make up the society as nobody's unproveable beliefs can be held above anothers.

2 April 2010 at 09:32  
Anonymous len said...

Christianity is an offence to a lot of people.For one thing it offends your pride and self value.
Christianity tells you that you are a sinner and you can do nothing to save yourself.
Christianity tells you that Atheism is self delusion.
You should be offended.
Jesus Christ offended people because he pointed out their hypocrisy and their true spiritual condition and people didn`t like it!

3 April 2010 at 01:00  

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