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ABSTRACT. A continuation of my last post dealing with not the second half of Ravi Zacharias’s The End of Reason, but the second half of what my stomach could stand. Here, the Argument from Morality, the stereotypical “evil atheist” argument, among other bric-a-brac and detritus, are discussed.

What apologetic sophistry would be complete without the Argument from Morality? As Zacharias formulates it,

  • Objective moral values exist only if God exists.
  • Objective moral values do exist [a point Harris concedes in his letter].
  • Therefore God exists. [pg. 56]
  • There are two problems here. First, the assumption that objective moral values exist is only God exists is unjustified. The best that one can do is say that since humans attach moral values to actions that are very similar (but not necessarily identical) across our species we have a common source for our ability to make moral judgements. That’s it. Attaching a source for this common ability is not valid without further justification, and amounts to a circular presumption of the argument’s conclusion. Zacharias tries to get around this by asserting that

    …in a world in which matter alone exists there can be no intrinsic worth. [pg. 56]

    In other words, because Zacharias can’t imagine how morality could come about through natural processes, it must be of supernatural origin. Again, I ask- “Why?” This is the logic fallacy known as the “false dichotomy”. He has not shown that this assertion is true. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t even bothered to see if there is an answer to this before arbitrarily leaping to God as an explanation.

    Fortunately, there are others (like Marc Hauser and Franz deWaal) who do look for answers. Morality came about as an inevitable result of a social survival strategy. Evolution shaped our brains by rewarding those who treat other members within a group in a co-operative fashion and ostracizing those that do not. Zacharias finds Bertrand Russell’s answer to Fr. Frederick Copleston’s question about how Russell judges between good and bad actions-

    By my feelings.

    insufficient. But Russell was ahead of his time. Even though he could not have known the evolutionary source of morality, he was exactly right. We do not judge actions as good or bad as if they are inherent properties of an action, but by how we feel about them. That is evolution’s way of getting us to act in particular ways. We feel good when doing something we think of as good not because there is something inherently good, but because it gives us a nice feeling. Good feelings are what get us to do good things, but there is nothing inherently good or bad in any action. Why we feel good in an evolutionary sense is that good feelings result from actions which tend to promote the survival of the group. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about group selection here. What helps the group survive (act co-operatively, enable trust between group members, distribute workloads, etc.) helps the individual survive. And we have a good deal of data from anthropology, primatology and biology which demonstrates this.

    Second, when Harris is talking about an objective moral framework, it is not the same thing as what Zacharias thinks it is. Zacharias’s view (and that of most Christians) is that objective morality is absolute and unchanging. But this is demonstrably false. Objective moral values are are determined by culture. Many will view this as being relativist, but that is simply not so. Moral values can not be willy nilly. You can’t simply go against millions of years of evolution honing intragroup behavior in a matter of a few centuries of millennia. The Golden Rule, for instance, isn’t easily erased. But there is still room for variance, and it is not reasonable to claim that it does not change with time and culture. When the commandment not to murder was written it did not mean “don’t kill anybody”. Rather, it meant “don’t kill a fellow Jew“. We gentiles were fair game. Jared Diamond describes this first hand in his The Third Chimpanzee. In the South Pacific, when two strangers meet the first thing they do is try to see if there is a common bond. If none is found, they try to kill one another, a demonstration of the difference between in-group and out-group social dynamics. Our modern interpretation of the prohibition on murder changes the definition of “in-group”. I don’t want to belabor the point, as I have written on this elsewhere. The point is, morals are objective not because there is some absolute scale set by a god (which has its own problems in the Euryphro Dilemma) or because actions have some inherent quality which makes them good or bad (as mass is an inherent property of matter), but is a judgement process based on our evolutionary and social history, and is in constant flux. We now pronounce slavery in any form to be immoral, but if you could tell the authors of the books of the Bible (Old and New Testaments) this, they would think you utterly deranged.

    Zacharias goes on to try to frame atheism as a source of the Holocaust.

    Has Harris read about Hitler’s own spiritual journey? Has he read anything about Hitler’s dabbling in the occult? Is he aware that Hitler personally presented the writings of Nietzsche to Stalin and Mussolini? Is he ignoring the fact that others who were not Jewish were also slaughtered by Hitler? Did he read Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann’s last words that refused repentance and denied belief in God? Does he know how many Russians were killed by the Nazi machine? Does he recall Hitler’s words inscribed over one of the gas ovens in Auschwitz – “I want to raise a generation of young people devoid of a conscience, imperious, relentless and cruel”? Does he know that Hitler’s point was that the destruction of the weak is a good thing for the survival of the strong and that “nature intended it that way,” as is taught by atheistic evolution’s tenet of natural selection….? [pg. 52]

    Two can play that game. Does Zacharias know that Hitler grew up a Catholic? That Hitler’s dabbling in the occult has nothing to do with atheism? That the writings of Nietzsche are irrelevant to the discussion? That the SS guards who lead their victims to the gas chambers had “Gott mit uns” inscribed on their belt buckles? That artificial selection as Zacharias describes is totally irrelevant to natural selection? That Hitler’s Final Solution was already laid out in Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies? That in Mein Kampf there is not one mention of Darwin, evolution or natural selection? That books on evolution were banned as being seditious, so that the eugenics programs weren’t even based on evolution at all? Hitler was inspired by the writings of Lanz von Liebenfels, a defrocked monk? That Mein Kampf never mentions Darwin or even evolution, but God, the Almight and Creator are named dozens of times?

    Zacharias gets upset that

    When it is Stalin or Pol Pot who does the slaughtering, it is because they are deranged or irrational ideologues; their atheism has nothing to do with their actions. But when a Holocaust is engendered by an ideologue, it is the culmination of four hundred years of Christian intolerance for the Jew. [pg. 52]

    Not much of a history buff is Zacharias. Stalin had the full support of the Russian Orthodox Church throughout his reign of power. And Pol Pot was indeed an ideologue born of his own culture. To ignore their cultural history and then claim that their atheism caused their actions is spurious and utter nonsense. In fact, it is dogmatic thinking – whether secular or religious – which produces such attrocities. Religion can be viewed as just another ideology, one that happens to have a deity involved. Atheism certainly can’t induce any behavior- it is nothing more than disbelief. Ideologies have to be added to atheism to get anywhere. Communism, fascism, whatever- there is no way to synthesize these ideas from atheism. But there is little difference between religion and other ideologies. And let’s face it. “Christian intolerance for the Jew” is very real. Just ask Mel Gibson.

    Nor does Harris ever claim that religion is the source of bad and irrational behavior; rather, it provides the excuses to perform such acts. It serves to bypass the normal moral boundaries to perform acts of unspeakable horror as witnessed in the former Yugloslavia after its break up. You can not get to any ideology from atheism. It must be atheism plus the ideology. However, it is inconceivable that the Holocaust could possibly have occurred in the absence of anti-Semitism, a Christian construct (at least in Europe). It wasn’t till recently that the doctrine of anti-Semetism was removed from Catholic teaching. If Christianity is so tolerant, as Zacharias claims elsewhere in this book, why is that? And what of those who lead their victims? Were they all atheist? I highly doubt it. Where was their righteous indignation and refusal to carry out their orders if Christianity leads to such a strong set of moral values?

    But then, “the human heart is bent toward evil”. Isn’t that a horrid thing to say? Doesn’t that show a complete lack of faith in humanity rampant in religions? Isn’t it terrible to think that when he meets someone on the street, his first thought is that they must be a terrible person if they don’t share his delusion? His religion teaches us that we are but worms. We have a disease and only his religion, conveniently, can cure you. That’s a powerful tool, shame. The good news is that you don’t have to buy into it. Nor should you. We as humans don’t always act with others in mind. But nor do we always act solely in our self-interest, either. Accept our humanity, I say. Admit that we have our failings and our victories. Examine our own lives and work to better ourselves and our society in real, measurable ways. But Zacharias’s religion would have us view the world in black-and-white, a completely skewed view indeed. There is simply no evidence to suggest that religion makes a person better for it, and often excuses bad behavior.

    Then we get to atheism removing “hope”. But hope for what? That this life is awful, but if you tow the line the next one will be better? People like Zacharias accuse us atheists of devaluing life, but this belief that there is another life after this completely devalues the only one we know about! And there is no evidence that there is any life other than this one, Zacharias citing cases of “near death experiences” aside. All the evidence for near death experiences points to the brain producing these illusions (very similar to out-of-body experiences which I have previously written about). So, if anyone is doing the devaluing of life, it is Zacharias.

    And what does this “hope” have to do with the truth value of Christianity? Well, nothing. This says much more about Zacharias, not about the truth of his religion. It’s just another example of the Argument from Consequences. But Zacharias’s wishful thinking is completely irrelevant to the discussion, even if he somehow thinks it is. Further, it is one thing to provide hope to someone when there is some reason to believe that what is hoped for may come about. It is quite another to supply what is indistinguishable from false hope. This is one of the most insidious things I find about Christianity. How is this “hope” in any way differentiable from purely wishful thinking? It isn’t. Seeing the truth of this may hurt, but I only have interest in the truth value of a claim. How I feel about it isn’t relevant. It is immoral and downright mean to give such false hope. Zacharias thinks, “Who are atheists to take away hope?” I say to Zacharias, “Who are you to supply false hope?” The damage was done by the frauds in frocks first, not by atheists trying to get people to see that there is no reason to believe that there is anything to this “hope”.

    Then there is the completely bizarre claim that we atheists “jettison love” in our unbelief. No, we don’t. I make no bones about love existing. But does this mean that a god must exist to supply it? Hardly. Again, we can point to the evolutionary tree to see how love arose. Mammals need to invest a lot of time in the rearing of offspring. Again, evolutionary shaping of our brain causes us to bond with our children and partners, which helps ensure our genes get passed on because we take an active interest in their well being. Again, it’s a reward system. We feel good when we do something with our kids. Sex with our partner is very important for maintaining a bond. We are rewarded for performing intercourse and very powerful agents like oxytocin are produced which affects those areas of the brain involved in the emotion called love.

    I’m not going to tell you know that we understand everything about “love”, or even consciousness. But we do know more than enough to understand that emotions and consciousness have a purely evolutionary origin. But does this make our experience of love any less wonderful? Not to me, it doesn’t.

    I’m now skimming the book. I can stand no more. Detailed reading makes me nauseous. I’ll just pick a few interesting points from his section titles. The first is “Is Christianity to Blame for Slavery”? Well, no. Of course not. Slavery existed long prior to Judaism, let alone Christianity. The Old Testament certainly condones slavery. Nowhere does is it condemned, and rules on the treatment and punishment of slaves (they can be beaten to the point where they do not die within a day or two) shows that the question of it being right or wrong wasn’t even considered.

    Is the attitude in the New Testament different? According to Zacharias, it is. Paul (in his epistle to Philemon) writes of when he sent a runaway slave back to his owner pleading with him not to punish the slave harshly, but treat the runaway as a brother. Zacharias labels this egalitarian, and asks, “What more would Sam Harris like him to say?” [pg. 98]

    How about “Nothing”, because the right thing to do would be to ensure the slave’s freedom? Paul was either totally heartless or incredibly gullable. Note that in verse 8 Paul says he could be bold and order him to do what he “ought to do”, but doesn’t. Why? It can’t be because Paul wants the slave owner to do this out of goodness of his heart. If the slave owner thought that slavery was morally wrong, he wouldn’t have had slaves to begin with. So why endanger the runaway slave on the off chance that his owner would do the right thing? Does Paul condemn slavery at all here? My reading of it is “no”; he’s just trying to reduce the punishment for the slave. Nowhere in the epistle is it clear that Paul is trying to convince the slave owner to release the slave.

    Well, I can read no more. I can’t stand it. The book streams overflowing with logic fallacies and sophistry. There is nothing in it which would convince anyone other than those seeking to confirm their bias. At times, Zacharias makes no sense at all. If he ever was an atheist as he claims, he had to be one of the flakiest. There isn’t a shred of evidence presented in the book that supports his belief system. All he supplies are Arguments from Consequence, false dichotomies and several fictitious stories. Even a Burden of Proof fallacy. He writes [pg. 55], “But this moral lawgiver is precisely who atheists are trying to disprove.” No, Ravi. We are not trying to disprove any god. That is not our job. It is, in fact, your job to provide the justification for me to believe in your god’s existence. Epic fail.

    I read this book because I wanted to see how the other side thinks. I discovered that they do not do it well. And that’s the source of my nausea.

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    7 Comments

    1. So… did you like it? 😛

    2. A Clockwork Orange reference FTW! 🙂

    3. Hey Shameless,
      Interesting post. I have not read Zacharias’s book, but I am familiar with the argument. If you’ll permit me, I would phrase it another way, with a few questions.

      I’ll assume for a moment that your assertation that evolution provides an adequate explanation for the common “morality” that we see all over the world. I’ll also grant Russel’s claim that, when it really is all boiled down, morality is simply “feeling”. Given those two premises, my question is, “Why should I care about morality at all?” Our species has now progressed so far as to be able to see and understand our own evolution, unlike any other species in the history of the earth. We understand this evolutionary drive towards certain “good” behavior. However, now that we understand this, do we have any obligation to continue to act in accordance with these evolutionary impulses? If you say yes, I would simply ask, “Why?”

      To put the question another way, “Now that we know that all morality is really just an evolutionary impulse to preserve the species, why should we continue to seek that goal?”. What if I think that the human species is a blight on the world and should be eradicated, and set out on a mission to exterminate as many people as possible, what will you say to me? You certainly can’t say that what I am doing is objectively wrong. Rather, the most that you could say would be that what I am doing is not helpful for the survival of our species and does not line up with your own personal, subjective preferences.

      But that is a far cry from what most people mean when they something is “wrong”.

      It seems to me that the evolutionary explanation, at best, can explain why humans have done things in the past, but gives us not reason as to why we should continue to do those things in the future. You answer, “For the survival of the species.” But I then ask, “Why should we survive?”

      • Thank you for commenting.

        There’s a problem in your argument contained in the second half of the second paragraph. Just because we understand how morality came into being does not mean we can turn it off like a light switch. If that is the case, then try this experiment at home- cease urination. We understand quite a bit about renal function and the process of excretion (I would wager more than we do about morality). Something tells me that you won’t be able to hold out long.

        Why should you care about morality? Evolution also came up with another neat trick related to the machinery required for moral calculus and that is empathy. Whether we should or should not feel for another is irrelevant. We do and that’s it. For basic social mores, no desire to be moral is required.

        But we’ve gone beyond this. Many opponents of evolution reject it on the basis of the Argument from Consequences. If evolution is true, they claim, we should all be acting only in our self-interests. I contend that we do. The mistake in this line of reasoning is that cooperative behavior and selfish behavior are not at odds at all. Why couldn’t cooperative behavior itself improve the well being of the individual? And the fact of the matter is that it does. Distribution of labor increases resources, aiding others in the expectation that it will be returned when the need arises, and so forth. I have often seen this misunderstanding when someone ignorantly (I do not mean this in the pejorative) asks the question “How does evolution explain love?” This is an incredibly easy question to answer from an evolutionary point of view.

        “Now that we know that all morality is really just an evolutionary impulse to preserve the species, why should we continue to seek that goal?”

        Let me say first that evolution is not goal oriented. How morality came to be is that living in groups increased the chances of survival so that individuals displaying this behavior tended to pass on those genes which shape behavior. This ends up in a feedback loop leading to greater and greater ability in this regard. But it is not a goal.

        To answer the question, though, increasing the well being of everyone means that the well being of the self is also increased. Why would we not want that? Again, even though it looks as if we are not acting in our self-interest we actually are. It might not be an immediate reward (though it typically is- do you not feel good when you do something that benefits others? That’s how evolution shaped a motivation to act in this manner…), but the overall benefits override this.

        You certainly can’t say that what I am doing is objectively wrong. Rather, the most that you could say would be that what I am doing is not helpful for the survival of our species and does not line up with your own personal, subjective preferences.

        Sure I can. That which is beneficial to others is “good”. That which is detrimental to others “bad”. We can argue over what is beneficial or detrimental, but in general we do not. That is as close to objective that morality gets. If by “objective” you mean “absolute morality”, I contend this does not exist. As evidence of this, even those sharing the core beliefs of Christianity argue over such details.

        But that does not mean there there is then no reason to act in ways we would call moral. This is simply a false dichotomy and not a worthy argument. We have ample reason to act in a moral fashion – improving the well being of others improves our own well being with the added benefit (and motivation) that we feel good doing so. Is that not enough?

        None of us acts morally because it is “good for the species”. You are confusing biological imperative with personal desires. No one goes around thinking “What is my biological imperative today?” We act morally because it is rewarding. Indeed, acting in cooperative fashion increases activity in those regions of the brain involved in reward. We feel good when we act in this way.

        You answer, “For the survival of the species.” But I then ask, “Why should we survive?”

        Well first, no. I wouldn’t say “For the survival of the species.” That’s a biological imperative and I agree that this is not a good answer. Having sex is a biological imperative, too, but not too many of us would cry out “Biological imperative fulfilled!” at orgasm. We do it because it feels good, it increases ties with our partners and is the means to fulfill our lives in having children. That’s how we are motivated to perform the act which fulfills the biological imperative. Have you ever asked the question “Why should we have sex?” The logic is the same.

        The question of “why we should survive?” implies that life has no intrinsic value. I categorically reject this viewpoint. Why would you demean living that way? Why would the nonexistence of a deity dimish its value? I see no good reason. I love my life. And because I value life, I value the lives of others. Not just through empathy, but because their existence and interaction with my life greatly enhance it. My life is enriched by the lives of others. Your question implies that there is no value to lives other than our own, or even our own. I again categorically reject this as prima facie absurd. If you think this way, try living on a deserted island for a few years. People really do start to go insane as Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway began to do.

        But I’m repeating myself. I answered all these points in the blog entry and your reformulation of the question does nothing to change any of the points I made. Zacharias’ book is filled with absurdities that indicate a complete lack of understanding of the issues he purported to have knowledge of. The whole book was filled with logic fallacies. For instance, the moral argument that if there is no objective morality then we have no reason to be moral. It is so absurd on the face of it that I can’t understand why people actually use it. It is a blatant false dichotomy. There are ample reasons to act morally. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to base my world view on logic fallacies. I care about whether my beliefs are true and can be shown to be valid. Zacharias does not. For him, sophistry, not evidence, is his justification. He never challenges his own shaky beliefs but asserts that they are true even in the face of obvious shortcomings. I can’t respect that.

    4. Thanks for your response. I will just comment a few of the things you said.

      “Whether we should or should not feel for another is irrelevant. We do and that’s it.”

      But here’s the thing – not everyone feels this way. Just think of all the murderers, the sociopaths, the Hitlers and Stalins, the genocides taking place all over Africa, the massacres of the Native Americans, etc. I could go on forever. My point is simply that your argument that we are moral because we all “feel” it is simply not supported by the weight of history. There have been many people who have not felt that desire and have done terrible things. So my question still stands: What are you going to do with them, or a man who believes that humans are a blight on the earth, a man who doesn’t share your values, desires, etc. All you can say is that he is different, not bad (unless you arbitrarily define “bad” as “that which is ultimately detrimental for the survival species”).

      Check these guys out: http://www.vhemt.org/

      “To answer the question, though, increasing the well being of everyone means that the well being of the self is also increased.”

      This is only true some of the time. Consider the countless thousands of elderly people confined to nursing homes and/or bedridden. They are contributing very little to the betterment of society at this point. Rather, they are simply using up valuable (and often scarce) resources. They are consuming but not producing. So, how is keeping them alive helping the species? Why not mass euthanasia? That would enable us to pour huge amounts of resources into people and things that actually have something to offer society.

      Now please don’t misunderstand me – I am not for murdering all old people just because they are not able to “contribute” to the species. I think that type of thinking is absolutely abhorrent. But I base this thinking on the fact that I believe that all humans were created in the image of God, and thus are inherently valuable. God has invest value in each and every person, and therefore we have a moral obligation toward all people (not that we successfully fulfill this obligation all the time).

      “The question of “why we should survive?” implies that life has no intrinsic value. I categorically reject this viewpoint. Why would you demean living that way?”

      My question is where are you getting this idea that life has “intrinsic value”? You say it is intrinsic, but then you cite your own personal, subjective experience, which would not be an intrinsic value. You say you love your life and you love how other lives add to your own. But consider the countless millions who would not say that. Consider the starving children of Africa, or the destitute sex-slaves of Asia, etc. My point is simply that this “intrinsic value” that you say all life has is really just your own subjective feelings about life that really have no bearing on anyone else’s feelings. There are many people who would flat out disagree with you. Hence the question, “Why should we survive?” As I have already mentioned, there are people who would argue that we should seek the extinction of our species.

    5. But here’s the thing – not everyone feels this way. Just think of all the murderers, the sociopaths, the Hitlers and Stalins, the genocides taking place all over Africa, the massacres of the Native Americans, etc. I could go on forever. My point is simply that your argument that we are moral because we all “feel” it is simply not supported by the weight of history.

      You are still not getting it. And in fact, you are proving MY point. (By the way it is you that said we are moral because we “feel” it, not me. Our species has the ability to go beyond this…). There will always be those that will take self-interest over co-operative behavior. This is predicted when applying game theory to evolutionary behavior. But look at how society deals with those that do this. We remove them from society. Do I have a basis for pronouncing what is “good” and “bad” independent of the need for a deity? Of course I do. And I stated it. Actions that benefit not just the self, but others are “good” while those that are detrimental are “bad”. Not for the species. For people.

      You keep confusing biological imperatives with human nature. This is really obvious and I’m getting tired of repeating myself. Evolution is the source of the machinery by which moral calculus can be made, and it provided us with some basic behaviors, such as reciprocity of action. But it is not morality itself. Asking the same question over and over again will only result in my giving you the same response over and over again.

      By the way, I find it impossible to believe that the Holocaust could have happened in the absence of anti-Semitism, a completely Christian construct (in Europe). Hitler most certainly believed in a god and that did nothing to stop him from having millions killed. Stalin and Mao acted on personal ambitions, adherence to dogmatic ideologies and created cults of personality, which share many traits with religions. But I digress.

      This is only true some of the time. Consider the countless thousands of elderly people confined to nursing homes and/or bedridden. They are contributing very little to the betterment of society at this point.

      Do you really think that? Did you hate your grandparents that much? Did you think that just because they no longer hold a job that they are no longer valuable? Oh, whatever.

      Do you love them because they were made in God’s image, or do love them because they had a beneficial affect on your life? I think the former reason is abominable. They are valuable because no matter how old they are they still touch the lives of others to their benefit.

      Shutting the elderly away is, I think, a thankless action and again wrong because they do not benefit from that. Indeed, it is detrimental – not to the species (though it might be – there’s evidence that grandparents do have an evolutionary effect), but to them as people. Please stop saying that the best I can do is say it is detrimental to the species because that’s just so much steer manure. If one can not say whether an action is or isn’t beneficial to others, there is something seriously wrong with that person. I most certainly can and DO judge actions in this manner. Again, you prove my point since you obviously feel this same way and for the same reasons, yet you simply won’t admit it. Where is God in that calculation?

      You say it is intrinsic, but then you cite your own personal, subjective experience, which would not be an intrinsic value.

      Non sequitur. Of course my life has intrinsic value to me because I find living it wonderful. I enjoy it. Subjective? Sure. Do I care? No. Remember, I am the one valuing MY life and because of that, I value those whose lives add value to it. Others value my life because they value theirs as well. Would my life be better off if I were on a deserted island than having caring people around me to whom I reciprocate the feeling? You can’t be so wilfully obtuse as to suggest that it would be. I mean, you just can’t. Again, I’m repeating myself while you are not adding anything substantial to your original questions.

      Yes, there are those that don’t find their own lives valuable, such people being susceptible to suicide. And I feel for such people. But because I find not only my own life valuable, I believe there’s is too and would do whatever I could to help such people see that.

      But I base this thinking on the fact that I believe that all humans were created in the image of God, and thus are inherently valuable.

      You can believe this all you want, but I do reserve the right to demand evidence for the claim. I don’t believe in a god, yet I still believe that life is inherently valuable. Yours is no more a reason to find intrinsic value than mine is with the added snag that it is obviously unnecessary to believe in a god to value lives. I am strong evidence of that. Why should being “created in the image of God” matter? I don’t believe in a god yet still do value life. That’s a problem from you viewpoint, not mine. I benefit from the lives that touch upon mine. Did I tell you that I’m getting more and more tired of repeating myself when I really shouldn’t have to?

      (And, by the way, the God of Abraham demonstrated over and over how little it valued human life. (Please do not read in here that I believe one word of it. It is simply necessary that I argue within your frame of reference for the moment.) The slaughter of the Canaanites comes immediately to mind. So why should you value, say, a nonbelievers life equally with that of fellow Christians when the God of Abraham doesn’t? Saying we are all created in God’s image doesn’t cut it….)

      Consider the consequences of ceasing to care about the welfare of others. Suddenly, you lose your job. All relationships fail. You are shunned by society, placed in prison because you thought nothing of stealing or worse acting solely on your own impulses for instant gratification. Are you going to tell me that ceasing to care about those around you has no DETRIMENTAL consequences for not just the self but to those around you? Come on! I can’t spell it out for you any more clearly than this. The question isn’t “why should I be moral if it’s all just evolutionary impulses?”, but why would you not when not only are the consequences detrimental, but that there is so much benefit even though we may take it for granted at times??? Seriously, to argue this is just being obtuse.

      My point is simply that this “intrinsic value” that you say all life has is really just your own subjective feelings about life that really have no bearing on anyone else’s feelings. There are many people who would flat out disagree with you.

      Yes! And for me that is all that matters! But you’ve completely ignored my point which throws your whole argument out- that is, we are also empathic creatures. We evolved this behavior. Why do you and I feel that providing aid to starving children is good? That ending the trafficking of sex slaves is good? Because you empathize with them and would want to be helped if you were in their position. Again, this is well-understood in terms of reciprocation and empathy.

      I – the godless one – feel that way too. No gods required. I learn from other people. How can I not value their lives as a consequence? I build a life with my wife. How can I not value her life as a consequence? My life is enhanced by those around me. It is to my own benefit to care about their welfare. How do you explain that from within you world view that belief in a god is necessary to this end? Frankly, I don’t think you can justify how I can and do do this. And yet I do.

      As I have already mentioned, there are people who would argue that we should seek the extinction of our species.

      You’re examples are simply flat-out wrong. Who seeks to exterminate the species? Murderers? Nope. Not even Hitler tried to do that. Exterminating the species would necessarily require exterminating the self. Megalomaniacs like Hitler would never do either. They are acting in their self-interest and not out to exterminate our species. Even those that committed the worst atrocities were not trying to exterminate the species, but segments of it based on phantom differences between groups.

      The question “Why should we survive?” is a silly one. We evolved to survive or else we would be extinct and unable to ask the question. There is no “why”. And let’s not overlook the fact that a belief in a god does nothing to stop the religious from mass murder, either.

      Basing morality on intent, reciprocation, empathy and consequences of action – that is, whether actions are detrimental or beneficial to others – is completely objective. Not just to our species (a point of view that I never think from when considering consequences of action, yet you keep bringing it up), but to people. By the way, how is it more valid to say that the best I can do is say an action benefits the species and not that an action benefits people? That makes no sense.

      It’s getting boring repeating myself, but for some reason you have a mental block in understanding these concepts. Clearly, I do have a basis for making moral judgements of actions sans a god. If you don’t understand it, well, too bad. I simply can’t spell this out for you any more clearly and nothing you’ve written so far has even come close to refuting it. Indeed, must of what you’ve written is a misunderstanding of many concepts.

      How do you make moral pronouncements? Do you invoke “God”? I posit you do it exactly the same way I do (in general, this has been verified experimentally). You judge an action to be moral or immoral on the basis of intent and consequences of action, reciprocation and empathy. Invoking “God” is ad hoc, a rationalization to explain how the moral calculus was done. (Again, this tendency has been experimentally verified.)


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