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Switch to Forum Live View The Problem with delegating moral judgements to a higher authority
5 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2009 - 9:15AM #1
topfengolatsche
Posts: 14
Hi there!

I'm new here, well I've been lurking for some time but this is my first post. Well, lets just jump to the point right away. This is probably going to be rather long anyway.

Recently, in the "miracles happen!" thread on the science and religion board, iamachildofhis posted one of the rather silly and childish stories one hears from time to time that are supposed to prove that miracles actually happen. In this story he told about an university student who passed a test because god showed him the answers in a dream. Some of the atheists were rather amused about this and pointed out how strange it was that the author of all morality should stoop to cheating on a test, while some of the Christians in the thread couldn't see how it was cheating at all. And here is the problem. Of course it is cheating!

If we switch the details of the story around but a little, so that it wasn't god who gave the guy the answers in a dream but maybe a friend who had access to the questions that were about to be asked and let the protagonist of the story have a glimpse, pretty much everybody would surely agree that it was cheating and thus morally wrong. So here is an act that would be judged as immoral under any circumstances except for the one that god committed/approved it. This of course goes much farther than the simple matter of cheating on a test. As has been pointed out again and again, the bible describes numerous atrocities, from rape and murder to the wholesale slaughter of entire cities, genocide and, to top it all off, the drowning of almost all of humankind that could not possibly under any circumstance be described as anything like good, kind, loving or just were it not for the fact that they happened because god willed it.

The reasoning behind this is obviously: We feeble humans cannot decide what's moral, right or wrong for ourselves but god is perfect, he is absolutely good and moral, so whatever he does, whatever conforms with his will, it is good and moral also. Conversely god is not good, kind, loving, moral and just because he does good, kind, loving, moral and just things. Rather are those things by definition good, kind, loving, moral and just because he does them. This is of course a textbook example of circular reasoning. However the really bad thing here is not a little logical inconsistency but that it makes all those words utterly meaningless. Absolutely everything, even the greatest atrocities can suddenly  be called loving, just, whatever as long one claims it is gods will that is done. And history shows that is exactly what happens.

I have to clarify here, it's not Christians or even theists I'm attacking here, it's a way of thinking that I find is very common with theists but far from exclusive. Especially in the 20th century there have been many non-theistic ideologies guilty of the same thing. It doesn't matter what you call your highest moral authority, may it be god, the fuehrer, dear leader or whatever it's all the same thing. I'm willing to bet that at the root of every great atrocity in history you find lots of people who in false humility say "who are we to judge, our dear, great whatever surely knows best".

Still, this is a message board that deals mainly with religion and it seems to me that one has to think this way if one believes in a highest moral authority that is supposedly omniscient, omnipotent and on top of that perfectly just loving and so on.

So I ask the theists: Am I totally wrong here? - if so, why? How do you deal with this problem? What does right or wrong really mean to you? And is it written down in an old book to stand forever or can/should it change in time? Can we make progress in this field?

Answer any or all of these questions or address what I've said however you see fit. I hope for a fruitful debate.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2009 - 3:01PM #2
Tolerant Sis
Posts: 4,201
You're not wrong at all, top.  That's, in a nutshell, the problem many unbelievers have with invisible-sky-daddy belief structures to begin with.

If it is not our jobs to live a moral and healthy life, one that cares for others less fortunate and the society at large, then what is the point of a godling that preaches morality?  If said godling can violate the rules of a moral society at will (as it does in the bible, among other religious texts), is it even justifiable to worship such a creature (assuming one can believe)? 

It's a bit like Nixon's faux pas when he told Frost that "if the president does it, it's not illegal".  Of course it was illegal.  Just like it was unethical to give the Christian student the answers to the test when he couldn't be bothered to study.
First amendment fan since 1793.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2009 - 11:18PM #3
SatanicStalker
Posts: 719
I'd have to agree with Tolerant Sis here. For morality to have any meaning, it can't be something you can get out of or switch around with a high enough rank, even a divine one. One of the reasons I don't follow the God of Abraham is that I believe He is a immoral and unjust in how he is presented in a variety of scriptures and I have a moral obligation to oppose Him for it. And if He's not as He's described in such books, the He can't really claim to be the same God.

~Stalker
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 13, 2009 - 12:37PM #4
topfengolatsche
Posts: 14
Ok, there are two things very wrong with you answer here. First this:

DAH54]The trouble here as I see it is you have not switch details, but rather rewrote the story!

If the protagonist hires a tutor, who gets him to memorize certain facts, by presenting them in a memorial way almost no one would see anything wrong...


You say I rewrote the whole story and then claim the situation was analogous to tutoring? That's chupzah! All I did was to change a single acting person in the story from god to anybody else. Nothing else has been changed in the slightest.

In my time at the university I often worked as a tutor myself. There is nothing wrong with tutoring. But believe me, if I ever had just written down a couple of questions and answers, told the student to memorize them and they turned out to be exactly what was asked at the exam, you can bet there would have been troubles. That is what is described in the story, not the "presentation of certain facts in a memorial way".


The second thing that is wrong is that you don't in any way address the point that I'm actually making. I freely admit that the story about how god helped a guy cheating on a test is not the strongest example possible for the point I'm trying to make here. I chose it because it is easily accessible on this site, rather recent and shows, I think, how people defend something they would normally condemn if they believe, or want to believe, it's gods will.

The point stands however independent of this one example. The bible describes acts such as the slaughter of innocents, or murder out of jealousy, genocide and whatnot. Those acts cannot possibly be described as moral. So if god commits or approves of those acts and is still considered perfectly good, then he is not good because he does good things but the atrocious acts are considered good because he commits them. Nothing one does has a moral value in itself, the question is always only if god wants it done or not. One can justify absolutely everything this w wrote:

The trouble here as I see it is you have not switch details, but rather rewrote the story!

If the protagonist hires a tutor, who gets him to memorize certain facts, by presenting them in a memorial way almost no one would see anything wrong...[/quote]
You say I rewrote the whole story and then claim the situation was analogous to tutoring? That's chupzah! All I did was to change a single acting person in the story from god to anybody else. Nothing else has been changed in the slightest.

In my time at the university I often worked as a tutor myself. There is nothing wrong with tutoring. But believe me, if I ever had just written down a couple of questions and answers, told the student to memorize them and they turned out to be exactly what was asked at the exam, you can bet there would have been troubles. That is what is described in the story, not the "presentation of certain facts in a memorial way".


The second thing that is wrong is that you don't in any way address the point that I'm actually making. I freely admit that the story about how god helped a guy cheating on a test is not the strongest example possible for the point I'm trying to make here. I chose it because it is easily accessible on this site, rather recent and shows, I think, how people defend something they would normally condemn if they believe, or want to believe, it's gods will.

The point stands however independent of this one example. The bible describes acts such as the slaughter of innocents, or murder out of jealousy, genocide and whatnot. Those acts cannot possibly be described as moral. So if god commits or approves of those acts and is still considered perfectly good, then he is not good because he does good things but the atrocious acts are considered good because he commits them. Nothing one does has a moral value in itself, the question is always only if god wants it done or not. One can justify absolutely everything this way, no?

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5 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2009 - 11:30AM #5
DAH54
Posts: 3,318

topfengolatsche wrote:

In this story he told about an university student who passed a test because god showed him the answers in a dream. Some of the atheists were rather amused about this and pointed out how strange it was that the author of all morality should stoop to cheating on a test, while some of the Christians in the thread couldn't see how it was cheating at all. And here is the problem. Of course it is cheating!

If we switch the details of the story around but a little, so that it wasn't god who gave the guy the answers in a dream but maybe a friend who had access to the questions that were about to be asked and let the protagonist of the story have a glimpse, pretty much everybody would surely agree that it was cheating and thus morally wrong.


The trouble here as I see it is you have not switch details, but rather rewrote the story!

If the protagonist hires a tutor, who gets him to memorize certain facts, by presenting them in a memorial way almost no one would see anything wrong...


topfengolatsche wrote:

So I ask the theists: Am I totally wrong here?


Yes

topfengolatsche wrote:

- if so, why?


See above.

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5 years ago  ::  Mar 20, 2009 - 8:15PM #6
mytmouse57
Posts: 9,767

The problem is not with looking toward a higher source for you morality, the problem is in divorcing yourself from any accountability for your own actions.

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5 years ago  ::  Mar 24, 2009 - 8:52AM #7
Wisdomrising
Posts: 1

wow, you're really thinking  *


this is just my suggestion; it could possibly ease your mind a little and offer some "closure" to the more confusing aspects. 


thought:


instead of looking at the relationship as a "circular theology" ; why not just focus on your relationship with God.  In all circumstances do what feels right to you and allow God to worry about the corrections he needs to make in others lives.  You might be looking at the whole concept from an "all knowing" standpoint.  But I don't believe you really feel that you know everything ; you're just standing & viewing things from the wrong angle.  Look at God ; as though he is The Father in your family.  You know as a child that no matter what you say, you are never going to be the final judge in deciding the punishments or lack there of in your siblings.  It's not entirely that simple; but I hope it's a start in a more understanding direction to get to know God.  Keep asking questions ..... really, they can only lead to answers  *


God Bless * 

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5 years ago  ::  Apr 08, 2009 - 10:58AM #8
Sailorlal79
Posts: 1,365

This is really interesting- in my atheist chat, Christians are constantly coming in and demanding to know where I get my morality. And if it isn't from "god", it is therefore subjective and meaningless. I've said several times that the basis for my morality is my choice, and I choose to base it on humanism. But as it remains subjective, Christians cannot accept it.

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5 years ago  ::  May 07, 2009 - 2:34AM #9
Sync
Posts: 41

If faith isn't subjective, nothing is.

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