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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Great comment of the day: Moral relativism double standard

As atheists we are sometimes accused of moral relativism like it's a bad thing. I don't believe it is. Standards of right and wrong change with time and culture as they should. Many Christians, however, look at moral relativism as being something truly reprehensible. Tripmaster Monkey has shown AFU that Christians, if they believe that their God can do anything with complete impunity, are also guilty of the very moral relativism that they claim is so loathing: (the comment was very long and I focused on this one section. For the complete comment click on the above link)

And Bossmanham sez:

Murder:
Guess what the wages of sin is? Death. These people were unrepentant. If you read the previous chapter you see the abominations these people were committing. Death was warranted.

You're seriously going to sit there and tell me that the murder of LITTLE CHILDREN is "warranted"?

It's amusing, how Christians can accuse atheists of "moral relativism", when they themselves are guilty of the worst kind of moral relativism: anything goes if God says it's OK.

No, not "amusing"...that other word...


NAUSEATING.





I think my neighbors may have heard me when I screamed 'HELL YES!!!' at the top of my lungs after reading that.

44 comments:

  1. MFT,

    Do you really need an explanation? I mean seriously?

    G.E.

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  2. MFT,

    Definition of moral relativism from YourDictionary.com:

    rela·tiv·ism (-iz′əm)

    noun
    Philos. any theory of ethics or knowledge based on the idea that all values or judgments are relative, differing according to circumstances, persons, cultures, etc.

    It is moral relativism in this way: if a supposed deity does something then it is perfectly ok, if anyone else does it, it's not.

    "Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, 'Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin your task right here at the Temple.' So they began by killing the seventy leaders. 'Defile the Temple!' the LORD commanded. 'Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill! Go!' So they went throughout the city and did as they were told." (Ezekiel 9:5-7)

    God wiping out people --'Hey it's ok! He's God!'

    People doing the same -- 'You filthy murderer!! How could you be so evil??!!'

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  3. GE,

    I thought the exact same thing, but apparently ....

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  4. "In philosophy moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, "
    Anything god commanded would be objectively morally right. It wouldn't be anything like relativism

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  5. MFT,

    You said: "Anything god commanded would be objectively morally right."

    Why?

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  6. Anything god commanded would be objectively morally right. It wouldn't be anything like relativism

    Being dependent on the ruler (your god), it is, by definition, relative.

    Also note:

    "In philosophy moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, "

    If the "moral truths" were objective and/or universal, even your god would not change them.

    G.E.

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  8. @ Free

    You wrote "Anything god commanded would be objectively morally right. It wouldn't be anything like relativism"

    My reply: You are correct sir.

    But pay close attention to the implication of what you wrote.

    What you are saying is God always does the right thing because everything God does is defined as right.

    Sort of makes all those verses in the bible that declare that 'God is righteous' meaningless.

    Is that really what you want to assert Free?

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  10. @ G.E.

    You wrote "If the "moral truths" were objective and/or universal, even your god would not change them."

    Objective morality would be a morality which is not dependant upon opinion. BUT such an objective standard need not have existed in the past & need not exist in the future nor on any other planet.

    If objective morality exists all we could know is that something is wrong on this planet & at this time.

    Morality would have to be universal, not just objective, for the morality to apply in all times & places.

    Therefore it is only universal morality that God could not alter without acting immorally.

    [Long winded rant ends].

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  11. Oh & Free

    The conception that 'everything God does is defined as moral' might not be relative but it does make God's morality arbitrary.

    For example God may well decide that murder is good today. Tomorrow He might change His mind. Since everything God does is defined as moral both actions [killing & not killing] must both be moral - arbitrary but moral].

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  12. I'm still waiting for the answer to my simple 'Why?'.

    Also, who is deleting posts and whose posts are they deleting? Just curious.

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  13. MFT,

    Never mind on the answer as to 'Why?', Chris already covered pretty much every spot of road I was going to go down.

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  14. @ nonmagic

    That would be me deleting my posts.

    Sorry.

    I wasn't satisfied that the conclusion followed the premise & was rephrasing.

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  15. Chris,

    Oh that's fine. I just didn't want any censoring going on. Thanks for the clarification.

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  16. Sorry Chris, but "relative" opposes "absolute," not "objective."

    One definition of relative:
    1. Considered in relation or in proportion to something else.

    So, if it is dependent on his god, it is relative. Since his god can change it, it is relative.

    As of Objective:
    1 (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

    Since it is influenced by his god's personal feelings, it is not objective either. But rather subjective to this god's mood of the day (as clearly shown throughout the bible).

    G.E.

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  17. MFT,

    Not to get off topic, but if you see this will you please go back to this thread long enough to explain why you think that offering up your daughter and mistress to be horribly raped and abused is 'hospitality'?

    If that's hospitality, I guess I've been doing it wrong all these years.

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  18. @ G.E

    I beg to differ sir.

    Moral relativism, according to the oxford dictionary of philosophy, is 'the permanently tempting doctrine that, morality itself is relative to the standpoint of the judging subject."

    BUT

    If everything God does is automatically defined as morally correct then no judgement is required. Therefore since God [by this definition] is NOT a judging subject He cannot be using relativism.

    Mindlessness yes but NOT relativism.

    I apologise for my lack of clarity before.

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  19. Wow...I'm the subject a Raytractors post. I'm honored. Seriously.


    I just need to say one thing to mrfreethinker (and others) before I skip off to bask in the glory of my newfound stardom: you do realize that saying God is always righteous because anything God does is by definition "righteous" is a tautology, and therefore meaningless, right?

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  20. @ Tripmaster Monkey

    I couldn't agree with you more.

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  24. Sorry Chris, but I think you are taking every word in that definition too much at heart. Using a dictionary of philosophy does not change the meaning of the word "relative."

    Moral relativism is moral relativism. Even if people state that whatever god does is right, it is relative to that deity. Even if a philosophy dictionary seems to define it from the point of view of a judge, it is still relative. Cannot be objective. Come on. Now look for moral objectivism, if it exists.

    Will we keep refuting each other on something that seems so clear?

    G.E.

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  25. @ G.E.

    I think what we have here is a failure to communicate :D [5 points if you can identify the movie]

    You wrote "Even if people state that whatever god does is right, it is relative to that deity."

    My reply: I totally agree. I am arguing that God is not relative in His actions according to the definition given. You are arguing [& I agree with you] that fundie christians would be engaged in relativism by following such a God.

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  26. Sorry

    That should read "You are arguing that fundie christians would be engaged in relativism by defining each arbitrary action of such a God as good."

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  27. @ W.E.M

    Hey :D

    You are personally invited to jump in anytime. :D

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  28. It's a tough conversation to nail down, which is why I'm tempted to sit on the fence for a while.

    The Christian fundamentalists this group is fond of mocking would be entirely self-consistent in asserting that moral relativism is limited only to humanity.

    In defining what's acceptable and what is not, God could change his mind tomorrow and tell us Give me your weak, your tired, your first-born. Rawrr! and it would be perfectly moral and absolute.

    When they argue for absolutes, what they're really saying is "Whatever this God dude says is absolute".

    That's it. There's no subtle undercurrent of hypocrisy or inconsistency.

    Don't y'all get it? The fundies strive to create a system in which they can justify anything by claiming that the Bible says so. This waffling on morale relativism is nothing more than evidence of that very same thing.

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  29. @ W.E.M

    I see your point.

    Although God's actions could be defined by this as entirely arbitrary [the equivalent of God deciding what to do by rolling a dice] the Ray fundie christians ARE being entirely consistent.

    They follow God's arbitrary orders no matter what.

    Hmmm this bares some thinking.

    Good point W.E.M. Thank you.

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  31. @ froggie

    And we have a winner. :D

    Well done!

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  32. Chris,
    It is my opinion that the movie in discussion has more real moral lessons than most of the bible.

    As does Moby Dick, The Gulag Archepelaago, War and Peace, On the Slopes of Mt Kilamenjaro, etc, &et.

    The bible is kindergarden shit compared to the literary genius that has been produced since.

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  33. They follow God's arbitrary orders no matter what.

    No only this, but anything they parse from reading the Bible constitutes "God's orders".

    So, they could justify killing kittens today if Leviticus says so, but puppies tomorrow if they come to a more enlightened understanding.

    Focus the criticism on the inconsistency of Christian thought/understanding, rather than pointing out the embarassing behavior displayed by individual Christians.

    IMHO

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  34. And here I thought that moral relativism was when people from Alabama think it's OK to do your your 1st cousin.

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  35. @ froggie

    I couldn't agree more.

    @ W.E.M.

    Christian thought doesn't HAVE to be inconsistent. For example Aquinas [a Catholic philosopher] argued that faith must ALWAYS be understood through the use of reason.

    In fact he actually went further. Aquinas argued that expressions of faith had the potential to arouse such emotions that unless such emotions [and the faith from which they had come] were guided & controlled by reason it lead inevitably to insanity or atrocity.

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  36. Chris, I agree that Aquinas could/should be a powerful force for sanity within Christianity. I've enjoyed reading some of his stuff and even quote him to rebuke contemporary Christian thought.

    Sadly, this book that's supposed to be the inerrant word of God seems to be inerrantly interpretted by different people who come to different conclusions about what it means.

    I think Mr. Aquinas would sympathize with my (and your?) dismay at this.

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  37. By the way, BenF, I scared the crap outta the cat by laughing out loud at that :)

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  38. Whateverman said:

    "No only this, but anything they parse from reading the Bible constitutes "God's orders"."


    And this is the real, tangible danger of fundamentalist thought.

    It is dangerous because, whether God exists or not, the bible can be mined for information that supports ANY action, from the most glorious to the utterly depraved.

    The nest of contradictions within the Bible, let alone the masses upon masses of arcane commentary revising and interpreting the scriptures can be used to carry out any action and justify it as the righteous will of God.

    The very doctrine of Christianity says that repentance is more important than being free of sin.

    My horror really starts when I think about the fact that there IS no God so therefore the Bible, rather than being inerrant and yet misunderstood, is in fact the mere creation of ignorant and flawed men from an ignorant and insular culture. Men who probably had an agenda that was malign to a great part of the population at the time.

    What a great basis to build a moral foundation on.

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  39. @ W.E.M

    You wrote "I think Mr. Aquinas would sympathize with my (and your?) dismay at this."

    I completely share your dismay.

    @ Benjamin

    I'll second W.E.M's reaction.

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  40. While Aquinas had some nasty things to say about heretics, he was internally consistent.
    He would be shocked to know that today everyone can have a Bible in his own language to interpret at leisure.
    I must say that having an authoritarian monopoly church that tells the people what is right and wrong with full authority over scriptural interpretation isn't such a bad idea regarding certain people's mindsets. Some people are just too instable, deluded and gullible to form sane opinions based on their personal faith and personal revelations.
    Sadly this is diametrically opposed to human rights and freedom of expression.
    If something like a classification of mindsets could be done, without harming people, and allowing them to independently form a world-view or faith only after they have proven themselves to be capable, that would be ideal. But for all we know, such a system would be much too vulnerable to abuse by control-freaks, fascists et al.

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