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Posts Tagged ‘morality’

Facts, Values and a Place for the Profound: A conversation with Sam Harris

Posted by Andy D. on December 16, 2008

This is from The Science Network (TSN) and was a prelude before the Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark conference.  I am glad they added economics and  psychology sections to the usual science and religion topics.  Bookmark the site and take your time with the lectures.  Enjoy.

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Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

More like “guidelines”, really.

Posted by Eye4Cards on November 30, 2008

I found myself rereading a part of Richard Dawkins’ rather succinct book The God Delusion today; specifically, the chapter entitled The ‘Good’ Book and the Moral Zeitgeist, pages 263 and 264.  Dawkins briefly mentions a common list of “New Ten Commandments” he searched for on the internet.  He then goes on to add some personal recommendations for what he would consider an acceptable, revised edition.

I know there have been many sites that have done this before.  Most of them have made some really good lists too.  That is entirely Dawkins’ point in this section.  Your average person is capable of what would be considered ethics and morality whether they are religious or not.  Moreover, they are capable of vastly improving one of the cornerstones of Christianity to bring it up to current ethical standards.

I’ll save you the pain, boredom and irrelevance of the original “Ten Commandments” by just linking to the most popular list here (with the shortened second version later in Exodus 34:14, 17 and 21), and the second set here with another partial version (also with a few that didn’t make the cut) sprinkled in Leviticus 19:1, 3-4, 11-13, and the ‘didn’t quite make the list’ commandments such as Mark12:28-29.  Yes folks, not only do most of your Christians not know all of the commandments, they are unaware there is more than one list and more than ten, depending on what you consider qualifies as a commandment.  It’s a messy affair that ought to be airtight considering the importance Christians give them, but alas, ’tis one example of one-thousand, and yet another reason why religion is more of a sick joke nowadays than a serious belief.

My point here is not to point out the already absurd.  I think I’ll save that specifically for my next post about the Ten Commandments.  I just want to bring to light the obvious:  We all are capable of good and bad.  We all are capable of learning and modifying our own personal codes of conduct. It is evident in the following lists that I found just casually surfing the web.  The only people not capable of learning and maintaining a generally acceptable personal code of conduct are sociopaths and psychopaths; and this is because of different psychological disorders, not lack of morality or god.

This first set is from Dawkins’ book example, the popular ebonmusings.  They did a great job of elaborating on the list on their site as well:

1.  Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.

2.  In all things, strive to cause no harm.

3.  Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.

4.  Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

5.  Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.

6.  Always seek to be learning something new.

7.  Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.

8.  Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.

9.  Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.

10.  Question everything.

Here’s Dawkins’ “own amended Ten Commandments…[he] would also try to find room for”:

  • Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else) and leave others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none of your business.
  • Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race or (as far as possible) species.
  • Do not indoctrinate your children.  Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.
  • Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.

Here’s a decent Ten Commandments from the Ethical Atheist.  I thought atheists weren’t supposed to be ethical, but for some reason many of them keep espousing morality anyways.  Go figure.

Here’s a list from a site calling itself positive atheism.  It is no longer ironic when a stereotype is not only wrong, but the opposite of the truth.  This is in reference to the idea that atheists cannot be moral without god (who had He existed, still knowingly created atheists this way anyway).  Ah, the stuff preachers will put in atheists’ mouths and congregations’ heads.

Indeed, I see no reason why we should be limited to just ten.  In fact, it is obvious that as complicated as we are psychologically and emotionally, we need as many general guidelines as necessary to help keep our societies healthy and happy.  And that’s what they are- guidelines.  There are no hard and fast rules to existence, let alone how to exist.

The Bible fails on many fronts, but this is a big one.  The Ten Commandments are one of the few pillars of Christianity left that haven’t crumbled under the weight of scrutiny of any kind, be it scientific or just plain common sense.  The Ten Commandments still stand because of sheer dedication to a hollow tradition of equating morals with God in an attempt to keep an archaic concept viable in a modern world free of the necessity and burdon of an almighty, vengeful and somehow simultaneously all-loving and merciful god.

Because, really, what else is there to adhere to in Christianity once the jealous, loving Yahweh’s rules are found to be entirely lacking for His creations, let alone His perfection?

Posted in FreeThought, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Are you as moral as god?

Posted by neuralgourmet on November 26, 2008

Oh my gosh! This video is awesome. What a great way to use the power of new media to get your message across in a non-threatening and humorous manner. Thank Dawkins we aren’t all this moral. Hat tip to Pharyngula.

Posted in FreeThought, Humor, Video | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Robert M. Price article mentioned on the Enlightenment Show about moral trends

Posted by Andy D. on August 12, 2008

During The Enlightenment Show round table interview with John W. Loftus and Dr. Robert M. Price, John pointed out the following article that I included below which Robert wrote last year. We were talking about the lack of “family values” of Jesus and the bible. (I will have the shows posted in about a week.) The morality of the religious is really no better or worse than the population as a whole and Price in this article thinks this will slow evangelicalism.

Just today I ran across an article about marriage not necessary being great for health. Like everything, a huge general inference such as being married makes you live longer is very complicated and not clear cut. The family drum has been beaten hard by all the Christian right wing “family institutes” to disguise their religious bigotry in secular terms. For the record, I am not against the family at all and think all marriage contracts should be taken very seriously and divorce should only be used when absolutely necessary. Yes, I am ok with homosexuals forming marriages. I don’t know how those Christian right wingers infer that good stuff from family living won’t apply to homosexuals. I think those families would be stronger due to social pressures against them. Maybe the Christian Right will use this study from the article on machines like us?

I wish Price included the specific stats in his article below, but I think he is right with the trend. I don’t think religious nuttiness and policing will end but they will become less significant.

Here is Robert M . Price’s article:

It used to be the Evangelicals and Fundamentalists would never darken the door of movie theatres, even if Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place was showing (I kid you not!). Now that’s moot, especially in the wake of home theatre technology. They wouldn’t dance, because it was supposedly arousing, essentially mating behavior-which it obviously is! But now they’ve skipped the preliminaries (keep reading).

More significantly, they were very much against divorce and had a low incidence of it. But that, too, has changed. Evangelical churchmen and seminary professors found they just could not thunder against divorce any more once their own grown children were getting divorced. Same with women working outside the home. Economic realities dictated theology just as sure as the Feds’ threats to the Mormon Church miraculously prompted new LDS revelations to abandon, first, polygamy, then racial discrimination in the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Homosexuality is next on the list. More and more educated Evangelicals seem to feel they must find a compromise between the inherited party line and their liberal social conscience. This is especially true with seminarians and young ministers. And such theological accommodations are not hard to find. It doesn’t take as much text-twisting as slave-abolition or feminism, that’s for sure. And it was secular feminism challenging the church that led, more than anything else, to the great inerrancy crisis among Evangelicals in the 1970s. Prayer changes things? Things change prayer.

Recent surveys indicate that more and more Evangelicals are questioning or rejecting the doctrine of an eternal hell as well as the idea that non-Christians will not be saved in the afterlife. You can see where this is headed: they are making their way toward being one more tolerant, live-and-let-live mainstream denomination. Nor am I complaining. I doubt many of us are really that vexed by the particular beliefs any fundamentalist happens to hold. No, what we find obnoxious is the pugnacious and obnoxious attitudes that so often accompany their beliefs. But what if they drop that attitude? Why would they?

It was for the sake of feeling uniquely indwelt and transformed by the Holy Ghost that they have erected attitudinal walls against non-co-religionists. It was a mind game to protect their cherished in-group and their firmly-cemented membership in it. But the more you become like the mainstream, the less separates you from everybody else, well, the more difficult it becomes to feel special, uniquely connected to God and sanctified by Jesus. It’s not like they ever wanted to relegate everybody else to the Lake of Fire. It just seemed necessary in order for them to rejoice in not being relegated there themselves. And now feeling so different is no longer the priority. Attitudes affect doctrines which affect attitudes.

But the thing that will sooner or later bring the Evangelical Wailing Wall down is sex. More and more, Middle School, High School, and College Evangelicals admit to having sex in the same casual way as their “unsaved” contemporaries. That is, pre-marital, recreational sex. Having been so long Apollonian, they are itching to yield to Dionysus. But the gospel teaching of Jesus happens to be far more Apollonian than Dionysian. (Give ’em time, though, to discover the Q Source Jesus of Leif Vaage, Jesus as a “first-century party animal,” and they’ll be boasting of their biblical fidelity again.)

From the standpoint of sect-maintenance, this shift is fatal for two reasons. First, and most obviously, if this fundamental plank of the Evangelical platform rots and snaps, you can find little of similar magnitude to point to as the signal difference between the saved and the unsaved. I admit, there are a few more that would be similarly fatal, such as a casual permissiveness re drugs and alcohol.

Again, I admit that there are matters of graver moral content. A Christian ought to be able to say, e.g., “Jesus saved me from lying, from being insensitive, from being self-centered, cowardly, evasive, materialistic,” etc., and those things might be more important. I’d say they are. But you see, everybody accepts and admires those values. They don’t give Evangelicals special bragging rights like the sexual and other behavioral codes used to do.

Second, relaxing the sexual code is symbolically significant. Any group’s mores concerning food and sex are symbolic of their social boundaries and the shape of their self-identity. A group does not necessarily have both indices. One will do, though usually there are both. Old Testament Israelites were separated from rival cults/cultures by upholding inflexible restrictions on permissible food and on possible intermarriage partners. Sexual fidelity had a lot to do with guaranteeing that one’s true heirs inherited one’s land and name. Jewish Christians were alarmed at Paul being willing to abolish Jewish dietary and other ceremonial scruples to make it easier for Gentiles to join Christianity. They could see instantly that such a move would result in Jews being squeezed to the margins of the new religion-and it did. Jewish identity within Christianity was lost. Similarly, among American Jews today it is not bigotry when Orthodox rabbis discourage mixed marriages with non-Jews. Allow that, and you can say the big goodbye to Judaism in America. It will be only a matter of time before intermarriage with well-meaning and good-hearted non-Jews will completely erode American Judaism. The hybrid “Chrismika” is only a stop along the one-way track. Maybe there will be an Orthodox farm next to the Amish farm.

Well, when the sex barrier falls, the same fate is in store for Evangelical Christianity. (There never was a consistent Evangelical food boundary; even the Reformed drank alcohol.) And when the new generations are none too sure that non-believers are headed for hell, it becomes inevitable that American Evangelicalism will ease into the acid bath of American Pluralism. And it may happen sooner than you think. And then all those mega-churches will be up for sale. Unless of course they find a new product to sell. TV preacher Joel Osteen has done just that. His Evangelical belief is merely vestigial; he has converted to New Thought. It is no coincidence that he fills that stadium. Others may not be so lucky.

This was published by Robert Price in his monthly opinion email, Zarathustra Speaks. See his home page to subscribe. The newsletter notes: Copyright © 2007 Robert M. Price. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce, copy or distribute this newsletter if accompanied with this copyright notice.

Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Affirmations of Secular Humanism – A Series

Posted by mikebftw on June 27, 2008

During the question and answer period following John Loftus’ presentation last month, an astute believer in attendance noted that it’s much easier to critique or tear down than to create or build up. His particular point was that if you eliminate the Bible, what are you offering in its place as a literary work or a moral guide?

Regardless of this gentleman’s ulterior motive to catch John in a “gotcha” moment on grounds that he never sought to occupy, he does make a valid point that we freethinkers should consider, if only as a matter of public image. That is, we’re generally pretty skilled at finding fault in the various religious systems, but shouldn’t we at least try to articulate what we do believe? What guides our objective morality? This is not to say that we need to write a “new” bible. We don’t need a rulebook. However, I believe that the better we’re able to communicate our shared positive beliefs, the more effectively we can engage believers in meaningful discussions on morality.

Luckily, we don’t have to start from scratch when it comes to putting our beliefs into words. While they’re not perfect, and they’re subject to the same scrutiny and skepticism we apply to any and all ideas, the 21 affirmations put forth by Paul Kurtz and the Council for Secular Humanism are a great place to start when considering the values we freethinkers tend to share. These affirmations can be found on the inside cover of every issue of Free Inquiry magazine, or on the Council for Secular Humanism website here.

Today I’m starting a series of posts, one each Friday, considering each of the 21 affirmations of secular humanism. As you read, please bear in mind the following:

  1. The affirmations are not meant as rules, imposed from the top down. Rather, they are articulations of the beliefs upon which most freethinkers tend to agree.
  2. The affirmations are meant to withstand the same skepticism and scrutiny we apply to all ideas.
  3. Ultimately, I speak only for myself in my analysis of the affirmations. The conversation only stands to gain from new perspectives, personal experiences, and other input that may differ from what I have to offer.

Posted in FreeThought, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Oil Prices, Climate Change, Objective Morality, and Evangelicals.

Posted by Andy D. on June 24, 2008

It certainly feels like fate when all of above have woven themselves together in my mind recently. That is how our pattern seeking minds work. I will talk more on personal relationships next week. I want to get these ideas into our zeitgeist while they are fresh.

Let’s start with crazy stuff. I shit you not. This appeared in the Journal Gazette:

Evangelicals question global warming
A coalition of conservative evangelical leaders wants to enlist 1 million Christians to sign a statement questioning whether human-caused global warming is a real threat and arguing that restrictive environmental policies harm poor people.
The “We Get It!” campaign is the latest development in an ongoing disagreement among evangelicals about climate change.The campaign’s materials argue that “recent, slight warming” is an unproven threat that could lead to restrictions in energy use and drive up the cost of energy and food for the world’s poor.

Can someone tell me what evangelicalism has to do with science? If some of those evangelical leaders are scientists or are economists, then they might have something helpful to contribute; clearly, they do not get it! If they have scientists then speak the science and not under the label evangelical and be open for criticism. Reality and evangelicals do not mix considering their hatred of biology, cosmology, geology and other sciences. Ironically, they will even enjoy the benefits of these sciences such as medical care and then credit God afterwards. These people may destroy the planet and it would be a big joke if it were not so common. The driving forces of this movement are the conservative think tanks. 90% of all books against the science of climate change have roots in conservative think tanks. (This reminds me of a bizarro world in which gay scientists isolate the Christian gene).

The topic of this weeks Enlightenment show is about ethics and morality. Ethics are derived from biological anthropology such as reciprocal altruism in animals. The Golden Rule and empathy are selected for and not against in evolution. Plus, we can overcome our urge to reproduce (selfish genes) and seek other pursuits such as learning and love. Stay tuned for more on that subject and watch the website for the show.

Apologists say non-theists have no objective moral code. Where do they pick and choose to follow the good bits of the Bible but ignore the nasty bits? (Is that still objective absolutism? There are Christians that are on both sides of abortion, capital punishment, homosexual marriage, embryonic stem cell research, etc).

Religion completely destroys any sense of objective morality. It gets the whole thing upside down. Look at the climate change mentality above. A naturalistic cosmic worldview sees the planet as an entire complicated ecosystem (Biosphere) and how vulnerable it is for us. (The planet will be fine without us). Religion says the entire universe was built for us. Can they be any more arrogant? Plus, all humans are wicked and sex is ugly. Yet, we are made like God. Come on, who designs a sewage system in the reproductive playground? Religions scapegoat their sins. Is that moral? Don’t get me started on the horrors of lying to kids about dinosaurs being on Noah’s Ark and calling that science and building a museum to ignorance tax-free.

This is exactly what Bill Cooke described about the lack of morality in religion in this very good debate with Wiliam Lane Craig. (Thanks to Debunking Christianity for the link and you will have to go to u-tube for the whole thing).

Back to global burning, I was listening to WOWO because I like to listen to them say silly things around lunchtime. Rush Limbaugh was going on and on about letting us drill on our coastline. I thought for once, we were going to let the market fix our problems like they preach so well. (I am a fan of Adam Smith) Yet, here is the right wing thinking short term by saying let’s just drill here in our coastlines. That is one way to handle it, but only short term. With oil being expensive we will have to change our ways, infrastructure and increase demand from alternative energy sources. That is good for the planet and good for energy independence. Isn’t that the market forces with that supply and demand stuff? This happened before in 1979 and 1983 with our power plants getting away from oil. However, OPEC now has demand from China and India so they do not have to respond to the US. I thought higher energy independence and climate changed were linked. Here is a very good article from The Economist saying that the two are now being separated politically. The right wing wants to reduce foreign dependence but doesn’t pay any attention to climate change. This explains Rush and the we get it campaign from above. Morality and good stewardship is thrown away by not paying attention to the total economic cost including the environment and only the nominal gain.

Let’s embrace this market change for both energy prices and environment. The right wing seems to count out American ingenuity and innovation. Even McCain said we should be thinking nuclear. I agree. (Richard Carrier just wrote a cool blog on McCain’s u-tube problem). Science and Technology are more important than ever and businesses are already thinking green and the trend will continue.

Here is an interesting take on oil prices and it really isn’t so bad. Green that isn’t economical such as biofuels is not the way to go until the scientists figure out a way to make it viable. It is driving up costs for no environmental or economical reasons currently. By the market keeping oil prices up compared to “normal”, we will see more R&D work done on alternatives, and decrease demand. Both are good for the environment and energy independence but apparently we have to fight for this.

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »