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Edric O

Atheism and morality

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Dragoon Knight, while I found your reply very interesting, it does contain a great number of misconceptions about my argument.

Let's take your statements so far through some logical steps.  We live in a society bound by laws, rules and whatnot, but you claim that this society cannot exist without a morally objective standpoint; a fount of morality from which all laws are derived.

No, I claim that this society will eventually collapse without a morally objective standpoint. It would be absurd to claim that society will suddenly cease to exist at the point when laws cease to be based on objective morality. Rather, I am speaking of a gradual decline.

Scratch that... incomplete circular logic; there's still the why missing.  Why are laws only legitimate if backed by objective morality? I can only assume that what you're trying to say is that the rules must apply to everybody, or they aren't rules. This translates as saying that "only laws that apply to everyone are valid".

In a sense, yes. If there is no objective morality, then you have no reason to obey the laws except fear of being punished. I do not believe that such fear alone can hold society together (not unless the punishments are very severe).

If objective laws are the only ones that are valid, and these laws are only valid because they are backed by a supernatural force, then how is it possible for laws to be made based on the decisions of human beings? I'm pretty certain that a supernatural being is not responsible for the Data Protection Act, for example.  I don't remember seeing a commandment along the lines of "Thou shalt not use thine neighbour's personal information for marketing purposes".

This is a major misunderstanding. I am not saying that the laws themselves must be coming word for word from the mouth of a god or supernatural force. I am saying that the laws must be written (by humans) so as to promote that which is objectively good. For example, if human happiness is objectively good, then we must write laws that promote human happiness.

Of course, there is always the potential for error (the laws we make might not do a good job of promoting happiness), and conditions may change, requiring new laws (once the car is invented, for example, we must decide how to regulate its use in order to best promote happiness). That is why it is necessary to have a flexible legal principle: So we may create closer and closer approximations of the unchanging, objective moral principle.

- The laws we live by today are majoritarily subjective, not objective.

By subjective, I mean created by humans.  By your own logic, objective laws can only be created by a supernatural being, meaning that all other laws (i.e. those created by police, governments, etc.) must all be subjective.  This ties in quite nicely with the differences in laws between countries.  This means - and again, this is by your own logic - that most laws are invalid, and I have trouble accepting that.

See above. The laws themselves need not be ordained by a higher power. Rather, they must be written so as to promote the Good - which IS ordained by a higher power.

- Laws have changed throughout time.

Aside from a few basic rules, laws have changed throughout time to adapt to society.  By your logic, if the rules are absolute, then so, too, should society be.  The very idea of objective morality opposed any sort of changes to the law.  Yet we see them every day; the rules being changed, adapted or even revoked to suit today's society.  What is that if not subjective?

You are confusing deontological objective morality and consequentialist objective morality. Please read An Introduction to Good and Evil.

In brief, objective morality does not have to refer to a set of strict, unchanging laws. It may also consist of a set of values that are objectively good - happiness, love, etc. In that case, the purpose of the laws is to promote those objectively good values. And since conditions change and the laws are imperfect, the laws can and should change.

- Atheists obey the law.

You go on to say in your later arguments that atheism precludes obeying the rules of society.  You reach this conclusion through your Three Logical Steps by saying that if you don't believe in a supernatural being, you don't believe in having set rules.  Please tell me that you don't really believe that all atheists must be anarchists?  I've met people who will argue 'till they're blue in the face that God doesn't exist, but will debate just as fiercely for objective morality.

My answer is simple: Those people are wrong, since they do not provide any convincing arguments.

Any rational atheist must be an anarchist, but, of course, there are many irrational atheists. The main reason for their irrationality is tradition: They live in a society with certain traditional moral norms and they have internalized those norms. But there is evidence all around us that traditional moral norms are falling apart (I'm not saying that is a bad thing, I am only making an observation). I believe many people have very rationally concluded that, if there is no God, they have no reason to obey the norms they do not like.

Again, loving the game of Logical Hopscotch you're playing here.  What would I say to the man who thinks that all Canadians are evil and must be killed?  I would say that he's wrong, because there is evidence to the contrary.

What evidence? Any "evidence" regarding the good or evil nature of Canadians requires a commonly accepted definition of good and evil.

I don't need to resort to morals to say that he's incorrect; he's wrong because his statement is blatantly false.

Because you say so? Of course you need to resort to morals if you want to argue about a moral statement (such as "Canadians are evil").

But assuming that he just wanted to go around killing Canadians for the hell of it.  Maybe he gets a kick out of doing it or something.  In these circumstances, one would certainly resort to the laws of society.  You say that we cannot say that it's against the law, or that it's 'wrong'... but we can.  We do so every day, because most of our laws are subjective.  His subjective laws do not fit in with the subjective laws of society as a whole; but he is in this society, and therefore must adhere to the rules set out and agreed to by every law-abiding member.

Let's turn the tables then: Instead of a genocidal maniac in a peaceful society, let's look at a peaceful man in a genocidal society. Should such a person obey society's laws too? Should the good Aztec capture enemies for ritual sacrifice? Should the good Roman hold slaves? Should the good Nazi kill Jews?

There is no logical proof for the existence of a supernatural being.

An obvious point, I know, but as Dante so eloquently put it, I have trouble believing in an invisible sky wizard.  Your arguments, along with every other one I've seen, have spectacularly failed to convince me of the existence of anything superior to us.

*sigh* This requires BIG BOLD LETTERS:

THE ARGUMENT I PRESENTED IN THIS THREAD WAS IN NO WAY MEANT TO "PROVE" THE EXISTENCE OF GOD OR OBJECTIVE MORALITY. It only states that IF people do not believe in objective morality, THEN society will collapse, and IF you are a consistent atheist, THEN you must be an anarchist.

I felt the need to write that in large bold letters because so many people wanted to refute my argument by giving their reasons to believe that objective morality doesn't exist. But my argument says nothing about the existence or non-existence of objective morality. My argument is about people's belief in objective morality. I said that if people don't believe in some kind of objective morality, society will collapse. It is not necessary for their belief to actually be true. (though, of course, it would be best if it was true)

Regarding proof for the existence of God (which is off-topic), I believe that there is no kind of proof - short of mass mind control by God - that could ever satisfy all the demands made by atheists. God could not even prove His own existence to the determined skeptic. Why? Because any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. If God came down to Earth, how could He prove that He is actually God rather than some powerful alien? How could He prove He was the creator of the universe? And even if He could, this would be something He would need to do every generation, or at least every century (since the determined atheist would disbelieve historical eyewitness accounts). Overall, demanding that God prove Himself to us is an extremely unreasonable request.

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Dante:

Finally picked a topic that I couldn't ignore, hmm? Well, I suppose attacking two of my core 'beliefs' will do that.

What are you talking about? I thought you rejected objective morality and organized society at the same time. :)

The simple error is that objective morality does not depend on any religion, or divine command. Divine Command Theory has it that morality is dictated by some external, supernatural or divine force. But what makes this any different from any other form of objective morality?

There is no other form of objective morality. Divine command is the moral theory which says that the meaning of good and evil is dictated by an intelligent God. Other forms of objective morality do not depend on the existence of an intelligent God, but they still depend on the existence of something supernatural, some kind of moral law inscribed into the fabric of the universe.

But what is religion but a collective believe held by a group of people? There is nothing that makes collective belief A any more or less reasonable than collective belief B, especially reliance upon an invisible sky wizard.

If we have two collective beliefs A and B, and we know that:

1. Objective morality exists.

2. A is a collective belief founded on objective morality.

3. B is a collective belief founded on moral relativism.

Then belief A must be true.

Neither of these two theories depend on 'most people' believing in them, just as Divine Command Theory does not depend on 'most people' believing in it to assert its moral correctness. In fact, most objective moral theories do not depend at all on the number or relative number of people who believe in them, but claim to be Right because they are Right. It's a circular argument that is present in all objective moral theories, including Divine Command Theory. Utilitarianism and Divine Command Theory alike are both self-justifying, refuting rival theories at the same time.

That is precisely what would happen to objective morality if there was no supernatural force. Without the supernatural, objective morality rests on a circular argument. "We are right because we are right". Some atheist philosophers try to get out of the problem by appealing to popular opinion, for example saying that most people want to be happy, therefore happiness is good, therefore we should promote the greatest possible happiness (a common justification for Utilitarianism). But this is a fallacy. Nature does not provide you with anything that is "inherently good". Only the supernatural does that. Only if you believe in the supernatural can you say that happiness is inherently good and thus justify Utilitarianism.

Other forms of objective morality that do not depend upon Divine Command Theory include Utilitarianism, or 'the greatest good for the greatest number of people;' or Kant's Categorical Imperative whereby an action is morally right "if the maxim of your action were to secure through your will a universal law of nature."

You are correct. (didn't I say that myself in the "Introduction to good and evil" topic?) Those other forms of objective morality do not depend upon Divine Command and do not depend on the existence of a God or gods, but they still depend on the existence of something that is supernatural. A "life force", perhaps, or karma, or anything like that.

Without anything supernatural, why should we promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people? Or why should we act as if the maxim of our actions was to secure a universal law of nature?

Any form of objective morality begins with "you should..." If there is nothing supernatural, why should I?

And note one last thing: Whether objective morality or religion is actually true or not is irrelevant to my argument. My argument is that any consistent atheist must be an anarchist. It doesn't matter if atheism is actually right. If atheism is right, then any consistent atheist knows the truth and must be an anarchist. If atheism is wrong, then any consistent atheist does not know the truth and must be an anarchist. Either way, any consistent atheist must be an anarchist.

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Those good god-fearin' folk who settled here 200+ years ago denuded the land of 90% of its forests within a century. There are no wilderness forests in Britain, which has been the case for probably a milennium. I would blame environmental degredation on overpopulation and industrialisation. The trickling abandonment of religion from the 1950's onward coincided with a growing environmental awareness, both of which have grown in parallel since then.

If I ever use the word "evil" its lazy shorthand for things I don't like and said with tongue in cheek. Its my favourite adjective for very smelly farts, which I think are the ultimate evil.

There is no evidence of permanence in the universe except in the extinguishment of consciousness and the indestructibility of energy and matter, so I would regard everything as always being temporary. The term is again, relative.

Natural selection can apply as much to groups of animals as individuals. Refer to the analogy on the life of a city.

It's always the same with christians - desperate to rein in the parameters of thought to restrict intellectual freedom from debunking their confused little world, and shifting goalposts endlessly when confronted by better arguments.

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We've already agreed on the utility of religion as a way on herding the stupid away from your envisaged societal collapse (is that like a gradual explosion?), hence the metaphors of good shepherds and flocks from JC.

Sorry, but I think we're mostly goats here. Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.

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Those good god-fearin' folk who settled here 200+ years ago denuded the land of 90% of its forests within a century.

And the natives who lived there for thousands of years in harmony with nature were atheists? ::)

We've already agreed on the utility of religion as a way on herding the stupid away from your envisaged societal collapse (is that like a gradual explosion?), hence the metaphors of good shepherds and flocks from JC.

It's not the stupid I'm worried about, but the intelligent. Stupid and obedient people will be the very last to give up social norms; we need not worry about them. Intelligent atheists, on the other hand, will discover the implications of their beliefs (or non-beliefs) much faster, and, being more intelligent, will be in a position to do more damage. The utility of religion does not lie in making stupid people follow social norms, but in making intelligent people follow social norms.

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Intelligent people will always follow their own course, regardless of what they believe.

Our natives did plenty of damage too, lighting forest fires to clear land, but on a far smaller scale commensurate with a sustainable hunter-gatherer population, and they hunted many species to extinction. Yes, they believed in spirits, so again the theism theory falls flat.

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Your method of argument is interesting; instead of offering answers, excuses are presented.  Avoiding fire rather than returning it, so to speak.  Despite the fact that you have ignored a good half of my post, I'll return to the task of picking apart your arguments.

This is a major misunderstanding. I am not saying that the laws themselves must be coming word for word from the mouth of a god or supernatural force. I am saying that the laws must be written (by humans) so as to promote that which is objectively good. For example, if human happiness is objectively good, then we must write laws that promote human happiness.

Of course, there is always the potential for error (the laws we make might not do a good job of promoting happiness), and conditions may change, requiring new laws (once the car is invented, for example, we must decide how to regulate its use in order to best promote happiness). That is why it is necessary to have a flexible legal principle: So we may create closer and closer approximations of the unchanging, objective moral principle.

The laws themselves need not be ordained by a higher power. Rather, they must be written so as to promote the Good - which IS ordained by a higher power.

You're still countermanding your own logic, here.  You say that laws don't have to be created by a supernatural being to be objectively moral... that humans can create them.  But surely this means that a bunch of humans simply got together and said "Hey, hands up everyone who thinks that killing people is a bad idea?"  Of course, I'm paraphrasing, but laws and rules were created by humans who came to consentual agreement about something.

Your arguments only work if you can prove that objective morality exists, which is circular argument again.  Your example postulated that human happiness be something that is objectively good... but who says this?  Where did we get this idea?  An enlightened bunch of human individuals got together and thought it would be rather nice if everyone stopped killing eachother (subjective morality) and invented a big beard in the sky to make it seem more official.

Here's the problem with your arguments... you assume that anything which is objectively moral must be somehow superior.  Enlightened, somehow, by superior reasoning.  Unless you can prove that these morals / laws were handed down from on high, then there is nothing to distinguish them from other sets of subjective beliefs.  It all comes down to proving the existence of a higher reasoning power (e.g. God).  Despite your big capital letters, you really have done a very good job of avoiding the questions here.

In brief, objective morality does not have to refer to a set of strict, unchanging laws. It may also consist of a set of values that are objectively good - happiness, love, etc. In that case, the purpose of the laws is to promote those objectively good values. And since conditions change and the laws are imperfect, the laws can and should change.

These objectively good values you refer to are created by humans.  As I've explained already, there's no proof that says we didn't just make up these values one day.  You need to be able to prove (without circular argument) that these "objective" rules / laws aren't simply subjective values expanded over an entire culture.

My answer is simple: Those people are wrong, since they do not provide any convincing arguments.

Any rational atheist must be an anarchist, but, of course, there are many irrational atheists. The main reason for their irrationality is tradition: They live in a society with certain traditional moral norms and they have internalized those norms. But there is evidence all around us that traditional moral norms are falling apart (I'm not saying that is a bad thing, I am only making an observation). I believe many people have very rationally concluded that, if there is no God, they have no reason to obey the norms they do not like.

My answer to you, then, is equally as simple: you're wrong.  For exactly the same reason.

Your argument relies on there being a supernatural power in the first place.  Until you can prove that there is one, you have absolutely no basis on which to say that athiests cannot believe in objective morality.

What evidence? Any "evidence" regarding the good or evil nature of Canadians requires a commonly accepted definition of good and evil.

...

Because you say so? Of course you need to resort to morals if you want to argue about a moral statement (such as "Canadians are evil").

Give me criteria by which you can judge that someone is "evil".  The man who goes around killing Canadians because they are "evil" has the criteria... they just don't make sense to everyone else, who can clearly see that they are not.  The man is part of a society who's collective subjective morals say that murdering is wrong, and entire countries are not "evil".

Your rebuttal misses the point... I don't need to resort to morals to say someone is not evil any more than I need to resort to morals to say that someone is a thief.  You assume that there are such terms as "good" and "evil", here... there aren't.  Once again, you assume that these "objective" terms are simply acceptable.  In today's society, one obtains the tag of "evil" by doing things that are against the grain of our subjective beliefs (e.g. murdering babies).  Morals might come into question, but there's no-one on this forum who would think twice about putting such a man behind bars.

Let's turn the tables then: Instead of a genocidal maniac in a peaceful society, let's look at a peaceful man in a genocidal society. Should such a person obey society's laws too? Should the good Aztec capture enemies for ritual sacrifice? Should the good Roman hold slaves? Should the good Nazi kill Jews?

Again with the "good".  If the person in that society does not obey the subjective laws and morals of that society, then they will be punished / reprimanded in accordance with that societies subjective beliefs.  It's a personal decision that has its own consequences, but no bearing whatsoever to this argument.

*sigh* This requires BIG BOLD LETTERS:

THE ARGUMENT I PRESENTED IN THIS THREAD WAS IN NO WAY MEANT TO "PROVE" THE EXISTENCE OF GOD OR OBJECTIVE MORALITY. It only states that IF people do not believe in objective morality, THEN society will collapse, and IF you are a consistent atheist, THEN you must be an anarchist.

I felt the need to write that in large bold letters because so many people wanted to refute my argument by giving their reasons to believe that objective morality doesn't exist. But my argument says nothing about the existence or non-existence of objective morality. My argument is about people's belief in objective morality. I said that if people don't believe in some kind of objective morality, society will collapse. It is not necessary for their belief to actually be true. (though, of course, it would be best if it was true)

Regarding proof for the existence of God (which is off-topic), I believe that there is no kind of proof - short of mass mind control by God - that could ever satisfy all the demands made by atheists. God could not even prove His own existence to the determined skeptic. Why? Because any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. If God came down to Earth, how could He prove that He is actually God rather than some powerful alien? How could He prove He was the creator of the universe? And even if He could, this would be something He would need to do every generation, or at least every century (since the determined atheist would disbelieve historical eyewitness accounts). Overall, demanding that God prove Himself to us is an extremely unreasonable request.

Unreasonable?  No more unreasonable that wanting someone to back up their arguments with proof.  The point is, Edric, that your entire argument falls apart unless you can prove that "objective" morality even exists.  I give plenty of proof to the contrary, while you simply resort to saying that you can't prove that a supernatural being exists, but he just does, no really, seriously, honestly he does.

You see?  We don't need a supernatural being to create our laws.  Humans make laws based on subjective moral decisions; ones that the vast, overwhelming majority agree to (not killing, etc.) and others that are debated upon (abortion, etc.).  By doing so, we create our own sort of "Subjective Objective Morality", in that the subjective moral beliefs of society as a whole become an objective reference for members to adhere to.  Most importantly, though, is that we can do this without having to resort to a big beard in the sky for guidance.

Laws have always been subjective, and will always be subjective.  Objective morality only exists when subjective morals happen to be popular with the masses, to put it crudely.

You also missed a bit.

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My question is, what does being an atheist have to do with anything? We may not believe in any supernaturality, but we have our own philosophies and personal morals. We're not empty shells of thought simply because we choose not to adhere to a higher being and thus his word. That's like saying a bald person MUST be an animal rights activist (due to shady logic that if he doesn't use hair products, he must like the animals and be an activist). There's no MUST for any atheist. There are many varieties, flavors and types.

I'd like to add that any society will gradually decline. It's inevitable with any society, either they be based on objective or subjective laws. Saying subjective law will bring down a society eventually is like saying this leaf will float on this breeze if I throw it into it. Of course, we might have to dissect what is meant by "decline." Does that mean that the society will change so much as to be completely different than the beginning of the society? Or does that mean that the society will be completely demolished and destroyed?

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What are you talking about? I thought you rejected objective morality and organized society at the same time. :)
I'm a moral relativist and an atheist, and I do believe in organised society. Just not quite the same kind of organisation that most people seem to believe in.
There is no other form of objective morality. Divine command is the moral theory which says that the meaning of good and evil is dictated by an intelligent God. Other forms of objective morality do not depend on the existence of an intelligent God, but they still depend on the existence of something supernatural, some kind of moral law inscribed into the fabric of the universe.
Ah, I see. We're taking the existance of moral good and evil, that is an objective definition of both that is immutable and as real as the Earth or any other natural phenomenon, as existing on the same plane of thought as god. In this I disagree.

Firstly, there are those who believe that morality... just is, it exists in much the same way as gravity or the colour yellow. It does not require faith in order to believe in it, much as they do not. In fact it doesn't even require belief, as these phenomena will exist regardless of who believes in them. Morality is therefore part of the universe, integral and vital and not supernatural in the slightest. Morality is like gravity. I think it's rather well expressed like that.

Secondly, even if morality were some form of supernatual set of laws that existed seperate from physics but still without Divine Command, atheists are quite able to believe in them. Atheists do not believe in god, this does not prevent them from believing in UFOs, bigfoot, objective morality, ghosts, magic, or many other things. The definitation that you gave for atheism is, I think, faulty.

Thirdly, objective moral rules need not have a supernatural source. Most laws of the world make an attempt to be moral and they are all very much of human origin.

In this way it is shown that objective morality need not have a supernatural source, it may be natural or artificial and still have just as much justification (though a natural law similar to gravity would certainly have more than the artificial, which tends to revert back to the 'Right because it's Right' argument). And even if morality were supernatural in origin, that does not preclude the possibility of atheists believing in it. It might preclude some other people, such as cynics or solipsists, from believing in it, but not atheists.

There is potential here to simply take the opening post and replace every instance of the word 'atheist' with 'cynic,' but I don't believe that it would have the same meaning. The purpose seemed to be to show that society requires god in order to continue to function, which is not true, either directly through religion or indirectly through morality.

If we have two collective beliefs A and B, and we know that:

1. Objective morality exists.

2. A is a collective belief founded on objective morality.

3. B is a collective belief founded on moral relativism.

Then belief A must be true.

It's point 1 that I have trouble with, myself. There is no way to prove that, therefore A and B are as valuable (or as worthless) as each other.
That is precisely what would happen to objective morality if there was no supernatural force. Without the supernatural, objective morality rests on a circular argument. "We are right because we are right". Some atheist philosophers try to get out of the problem by appealing to popular opinion, for example saying that most people want to be happy, therefore happiness is good, therefore we should promote the greatest possible happiness (a common justification for Utilitarianism). But this is a fallacy. Nature does not provide you with anything that is "inherently good". Only the supernatural does that. Only if you believe in the supernatural can you say that happiness is inherently good and thus justify Utilitarianism.
It's true, all objective moral theories, utilitarianism and divine command theory included, require a belief in something that cannot be empirically or logically proven. I hesitate to call this thing 'supernatual' in origin. But atheists are not completely devoid of faith, you know. Just because they do not believe in god does not mean that they cannot believe in the evil of suffering or the goodness of justice.

For some it is simply a matter of what is 'obvious.' They cry foul at crimes of rape and cheer loudly when some celebrity donates a large sum to charity. Ask them why they believe what they do, and they will simply say "Well, it's obvious. How could rape not be evil? How could giving to charity ever be a bad act?" This is of course an interesting question if you take into account the possibility of a wrongful accusation or embezzlment from the charity funds, but lets leave that aside for the moment. The point is that for these people, morality comes naturally and is as plain as the colour of the sky.

For others morality is logical. You assess the impacts and weigh up consequences. The answer may not be obvious, but it will come with enough thought.

For still others, morality is emotional. What hurts is bad and what pleases is good. This is particularly dangerous, as I'm sure you can imagine.

These examples are to show that, in the absence of a supernatural command, there is objective morality. It cannot justify itself without resorting to some form of circular argument, but in this respect it is identical to Divine Command theory.

You are correct. (didn't I say that myself in the "Introduction to good and evil" topic?) Those other forms of objective morality do not depend upon Divine Command and do not depend on the existence of a God or gods, but they still depend on the existence of something that is supernatural. A "life force", perhaps, or karma, or anything like that.

Without anything supernatural, why should we promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people? Or why should we act as if the maxim of our actions was to secure a universal law of nature?

Any form of objective morality begins with "you should..." If there is nothing supernatural, why should I?

Because that is what is right.

*chuckle*

And note one last thing: Whether objective morality or religion is actually true or not is irrelevant to my argument. My argument is that any consistent atheist must be an anarchist. It doesn't matter if atheism is actually right. If atheism is right, then any consistent atheist knows the truth and must be an anarchist. If atheism is wrong, then any consistent atheist does not know the truth and must be an anarchist. Either way, any consistent atheist must be an anarchist.
I'm an atheist and a moral relativist, just as I stated at the beginning of this post. Why am I not an anarchist? Because society is convenient. Because if there is no government, there is no power. No, put it a better way, if there is no hierarchy there is no power.

Even accepting that an atheist cannot believe in objective morality, which I don't, that is still no reason for them to be anarchists. A moral relativist may, in the most basic example, simply follow whatever moral path is most expedient. And that is certainly not anarchism. Ironically, the easiest path for a moral relativist to follow is just to mimic all the objective moralists. It's the path of least resistance.

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Dante, we always took the wrong approach with you. If your modus operendi has always been dictated by that which is convenient for you, we should have had you bought off a long time ago. That doesn't have anything to do with the argument at hand, but the last part of your commentary really inspired it.

What I wanted to respond to was the comment that objective morality needed to exist for this experiment in society to work. It does not. In fact, I think Edric's been reading his Republic, I think the purpose here is to show that the forces that order society are themselves irrational beliefs, and not some sort of objective, conscious moral calculus. Because, when we get right down to it, you can't prove to me that objective reality even exists, so forget about morality. My own challenge to everyone in this room will be a topic titled "Prove to Me that You Exist" and the body text of "Go." So, the debate regarding God Himself is pointless, as is the debate regarding the existence of objective morals, abjectly meaningless. Which, I think, the major powers of this debate have already declared.

The real debate, then, is the more perfect method of ordering society. Is a society founded on subjective morals superior to one where a majority of the population believes in an "objective" moral foundation to their society? Personally, I see pro's and con's to both. A society founded on subjective morals gradually ceases to be a society, because, as we've established, moral relativism makes it possible for eventual divisions along the individual scale, thereby undermining and circumventing the responsibility, community and trust that allows society to exist. On the other hand, unless it is the only society in existence, a society founded on an "objective" moral framework will eventually have to integrate the discoveries of new societies into that framework, or ultimately surrender to relativism. Which our history has shown us to be a violent, largely disorderly process. This is unfortunate, as the society founded on an "objective" moral framework can be perfectly consistent with itself until, of course, it enters into contact with other societies that do not share exactly the same framework. Plato himself referred to these frameworks as "foundation myths," and he claimed that they were absolutely necessary to the permanent, long-term existence of a society -- his Republic. He even admitted that these myths were, as the name suggests, utter fabrications. He was aware that the actual truth of the matter was a moot point, as I hope we all are.

Where I think Plato was wrong and where Edric is attempting to reconcile is the modern application of this debate about society. In the modern world, with a grand internet that let's me talk to all you folks, and air travel that guarantees me access to essentially anywhere else in the world within a day, we pretty much live in the same society. Discovery of new societies is... admittedly an increasingly slim possibility. Would it not be better if everyone in the world subscribed to the same set of morals and ideologies that we all assumed were "objectively" true? Would there be as much inherent distrust or suspicion among peoples if, at the very core, we had that internal commonality? I certainly do wonder.

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Hm.

"1. Society cannot exist without some laws or norms of conduct between people."

I do wonder... but I don't have any interest in arguing this.

"2. Laws and norms of conduct are only legitimate if backed by objective morality."

Legitimate in what sense? Without objective morality, there's no definition of illegitimate. Assuming there is none, the only question we're concerned with is "do they work", that is, are the norms upheld (though note that stated norms and actual values may differ). There have been all sorts of societies with all sorts of different ideas about morality that have survived for long enough that we can probably safely say they "worked". I mean, it's perfectly possible for "you should" to be backed up by "else society will punish you", based on a more general understanding that the society is supposed to be working for the greatest benefit to its occupants. 

I also don't think that holding forth the idea of an objective morality is any guarantee of social stability. I don't think there's any society that won't at some time fall apart.

"3. Objective morality can only exist if backed by some supernatural force (not necessarily the Christian God in particular; I am arguing against atheism, not for Christianity)."

I'm rather surprised you're making this argument, Edric; I was under the impression you were all for god doing moral things because they were moral, not morality being some sort of 'follow what god says' situation in which god would e equally praiseworthy if he was encouraging each other to slaughter our neighbours and eat their children without the reccomended daily intake of vegetables. But anyway, to the point.

I simply don't see any reason for objective morality to require some divine creator to make it so, any more than I believe it necessary for mathematics to require a divine being to have laid out the rules (though perhaps you disagree?). Actually, it doesn't much matter what this final objective is, so long as it is sufficiently distant that we don't get too dogmatic/deontological about it in the present. Anything vaguely reasonable that you choose can be generalised out to require us in the present to do whatever is best for the human race as a whole, and it's only when we reach something like an optimally efficient and flexible society that we, as an informed and conscious race, need to decide what to do with it. Personally, I think the only significant acheivement in a material world is knowledge and understanding, something that goes far beyond the paper on which we write our thoughts and the cells in which we form them, but something we can't do without our combined efforts.

DK, you're welcome to make reasoned criticisms of Edric's points here, and of christianity as a whole where it's relevant, but, as always, "discriminating remarks toward other members will not be tolerated".

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Society cannot exist without some laws or norms of conduct between people."

I do wonder... but I don't have any interest in arguing this.

Well...

A technologically advanced civilization cannot exist without a complex tapestry of infrastructures. These infrastructures require a civilization to act as a collection of large organisms made of the masses, inevitably working as a single whole, one grand organism.

This can only be achieved by satisfying the various needs of the masses, as well as a rule of law in order to enforce order.

I believe if we became fully too democratic, then we could not make any sort of cohesive effort in organizing such large civilizations through the world.

I could be wrong though.

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The most interesting thing about this argument that I found to be true was the following.

1)Without objective laws, there will always be room for logical criticism of the law in question.

2)Logical criticism of laws are a breeding ground for active dissidents of the laws in question.

3)Thus without objective laws, man will always be doomed to a fate of chaos and violence.

one valid proceeding conclusion could be this:

1)It is impossible for man to be objective.

2)Thus, any laws created by man will be subjective.

3)Subjective laws are are always open to justified criticism.

4)Justified criticism is a breeding ground for active dissidents of the laws in question.

5)Only God can provide man with objective laws.

6)Man rejects the laws of God.

7)Man will always be doomed to chaos, dissidents, and war.

This makes a lot of assumptions, perhaps, but I found this logic to be interesting.  Any thoughts?

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