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Old Yesterday, 12:15 AM   #41
David Mo
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Originally Posted by Gregoire View Post

However, Prager did concede atheists can be good people and religious people often act horribly. He is really arguing a very narrow claim: atheists are being logically inconsistent if they claim there are objective moral facts. As I said, atheists come down on both sides of whether he is correct.
There are two different problems:
One is the justification of moral beliefs. Why to do X is good?
Other is the moral reasons to act: People do bad things if they don't believe in God?

The first is a properly moral question.
The second is a factual question. It is easier to solve -in theory-. We can see if atheists are more or less respectful with moral rules and we can try to explain why. Do not confound here moral rules with legal laws. Example: A dissident could be a very moral person and doesn't obey the laws of his country. Also note that the second question is absolutment indpendent from the first question. You can act morally by erroneous reasons.

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Old Yesterday, 08:55 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
Because she knew what the religious man ignores: that he doesn’t really know if he is speaking with God. If God exists there is no way to know absolutely what he wants.
As an aside, one religion I know of, Buddhism, makes this statement explicitly. In fact, the Buddha went even further, saying there is no way to know whether or not God exists. Buddhism is a "strong agnostic" religion, which holds that it is impossible to say whether or not God exists, and even if you knew the answer on existence, it would be impossible to know what He wants.

Back to the actual topic, I think that people are responding less to what Prager actually said, and more to the implications that Prager wanted to draw from it. I think the core of his point is that unless there is a God, we cannot say with certainty that a particular action is good or evil. If, on the other hand, there is a God, then we can take a couple of different routes in saying whether an action is good or evil. We can either say that there is absolute truth, and therefore that it is possible for an action to be absolutely evil, or we can simply redefine "good" to be "whatever God wants".

Then we get to the implications of his statement. Even though he says, explicitly, that good people can be atheists and religious people can be bad, you know his heart isn't really in it. You know that he thinks people are more likely to be good if they are religious, and that "Judeo-Christian" religions are the real, top notch, brand of religions.

On that point, I absolutely side with the majority on this board. Not only can Christians be lousy people, there are certain elements of their religion that tends to push them toward being lousy people, in my humble opinion. I'm a lot more sympathetic toward religion, and Christianity in particular, than many on this board, because I do think in some cases it pushes people toward the good, but in the end I cannot defend it with any enthusiasm because, when all is said and done, it's just nonsense.
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Old Yesterday, 05:30 PM   #43
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
So, he is accurately characterizing your position. He says that it is taught that good and evil are matters of opinion, i.e. belief. He is characterizing your position completely accurately. You are stating your position exactly as he stated it, with the exception of you saying "belief" and he says "opinion". Not a hill of beans worth of difference, it would seem to me.
I think there is a pretty big difference between an opinion and a belief.
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Old Yesterday, 08:57 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I think there is a pretty big difference between an opinion and a belief.
In other cases, I have agreed. I try to reserve "opinion" for things about which there can be no true right or wrong answer. (i.e. In my opinion, chocolate ice cream is better than strawberry.) However, the two are used synonymously. (i.e. In my opinion, there is no God. The statement cannot be easily proved, so people call it an opinion, but it is either true or false. It's not really a matter of opinion.)

I agree with an earlier poster who said that calling it "just an opinion" is a way to diminish the claim and suggest that somehow it is arbitrary. However, I have sympathy with calling it "just an opinion".

If I say, "Murder is wrong" and you ask me to justify it, the best I can do is a pragmatic argument about what would happen if we allowed it to occur without punishment. I can't really say that it is absolutely and inherently wrong, and if I cannot do that, what is it other than an opinion?
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Old Yesterday, 09:29 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
If I say, "Murder is wrong" and you ask me to justify it, the best I can do is a pragmatic argument about what would happen if we allowed it to occur without punishment. I can't really say that it is absolutely and inherently wrong, and if I cannot do that, what is it other than an opinion?
If I say, "Murder is wrong" and someone asks me to justify it, I'm not going to let that someone hold my shotgun.
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Old Yesterday, 10:42 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I think there is a pretty big difference between an opinion and a belief.
What difference, please? They are synonym words for many people (myself).
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Old Yesterday, 10:55 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
What difference, please? They are synonym words for many people (myself).
Meadmaker clarified pretty well what he meant. I'm satisfied with his response.
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Old Yesterday, 11:09 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
I think the core of his point is that unless there is a God, we cannot say with certainty that a particular action is good or evil. If, on the other hand, there is a God, then we can take a couple of different routes in saying whether an action is good or evil. We can either say that there is absolute truth, and therefore that it is possible for an action to be absolutely evil, or we can simply redefine "good" to be "whatever God wants".
I don't see any difference. If God exists he doesn't tell pure advices. What he says is unappealable, absolute for the believer.

Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
Then we get to the implications of his statement. Even though he says, explicitly, that good people can be atheists and religious people can be bad, you know his heart isn't really in it. You know that he thinks people are more likely to be good if they are religious, and that "Judeo-Christian" religions are the real, top notch, brand of religions.
First of all, we have to precise what we mean with “to be good”.
Are we speaking of a material criterion to “goodness”? Something like “to be altruist”?
Is it only a formal criterion? Something as “to be coherent with our moral norms”?
This is an important distinction.
Secondly: In any case the problem is factual; this is to say, it is a matter of facts. Then we need some evidence to solve it. What evidence does Prager present? Some studies? Or is it sheer opinion?

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Old Yesterday, 11:27 PM   #49
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Meadmaker clarified pretty well what he meant. I'm satisfied with his response.

I suppose that both of you are reserving "belief" for the subjective state of certainty or similar. Yes?

I see, but Meadmaker's answer is clear with factual sentences, not moral ones.
"Nobody went to the funeral" can be true or false. Some factual sentences can be "more true" or "probably true". No problem.

But ethical sentences are very different. They don't say what is happening or will happen -is the case- but what should be or ought to be. They are not true or false in the same sense. There is not a factual evidence that can provide a correct answer to "You ought to go to the funeral". Although it doesn't seem a mere opinion, a matter of taste. But it doesn't seem neither a matter of facts. What is it? How can a moral advice become unappealable?

NOTE: I set aside the pejorative nuance of "opinion". It may be a rationalist prejudice.

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Old Today, 12:20 AM   #50
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Originally Posted by portlandatheist View Post
And Michael Shermer's response to this video:
What a shocking response by Shermer. For example: "Capital punishment" is murder? "Just war" is murder? (3 mins 30 secs)

The definition of "murder" is unlawful and premeditated killing.

Such a basic mistake. Most of his other points are also weak, if not agreeing with the PragerU video.
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Old Today, 12:24 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
I suppose that both of you are reserving "belief" for the subjective state of certainty or similar. Yes?

I see, but Meadmaker's answer is clear with factual sentences, not moral ones.
"Nobody went to the funeral" can be true or false. Some factual sentences can be "more true" or "probably true". No problem.

But ethical sentences are very different. They don't say what is happening or will happen -is the case- but what should be or ought to be. They are not true or false in the same sense. There is not a factual evidence that can provide a correct answer to "You ought to go to the funeral". Although it doesn't seem a mere opinion, a matter of taste. But it doesn't seem neither a matter of facts. What is it? How can a moral advice become unappealable?

NOTE: I set aside the pejorative nuance of "opinion". It may be a rationalist prejudice.
You could say, "It is morally proper for you to go to the funeral." That puts it back in the is/fact realm.
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Old Today, 12:28 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
There's also the Euthyphro dilemma to consider. Is morality independent of God, in which case God is not omnipotent; or is morality no more or less than that which is commanded by God, in which case there can be no such thing as objective morality? The simple argument that morality stems from following God's commands runs into serious problems with that question.
Why is that? God is defined as omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent.

If God is omnibenevolent (and omniscient), then He understands what is moral. He then commands what is moral. Objective morality would be part of His nature. Why does morality have to be independent of God?

If the point is that omnipotence means God can change an evil into a good, then you would need to show that omnipotence can logically make such a change to morality.
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Old Today, 12:31 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
What a shocking response by Shermer. For example: "Capital punishment" is murder? "Just war" is murder? (3 mins 30 secs)

The definition of "murder" is unlawful and premeditated killing.

Such a basic mistake. Most of his other points are also weak, if not agreeing with the PragerU video.
That's an interesting idea - that moral rights and wrongs are subject to man's laws, which can override any rule about killing God might suggest. Did Hitler ever make it legal to kill Jews wholesale? (Note, I didn't say murder, because murder is wrong.)

I am glad to hear that abortion is not murder, contrary to the signs protestors carry. It is, after all, legal.

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Old Today, 12:40 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
That's an interesting idea - that moral rights and wrongs are subject to man's laws, which can override any rule about killing God might suggest.
It is an interesting idea, just not mine. It's a question of definition, not moral truth.

Shermer: "That said, there are exceptions to the rule that murder is wrong... Murder in self-defence is an example for individuals. Capital punishment murder is an example for states. And 'Just War' murder is an example for nations."

But the definition for "murder" is unlawful and premeditated killing.

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Old Today, 01:04 AM   #55
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
It is an interesting idea, just not mine. It's a question of definition, not moral truth.

Shermer: "That said, there are exceptions to the rule that murder is wrong... Murder in self-defence is an example for individuals. Capital punishment murder is an example for states. And 'Just War' murder is an example for nations."

But the definition for "murder" is unlawful and premeditated killing.
Yes. Capital punishment is murder in Canada and Mexico, what of it? And we in the West often refer to suicide bombings as murders, although the perpetrators would say they are justified killings.

This is why relativist morality works and absolute morality doesn't. In the relativist schema, all these different jurisdictions and laws can be murder or not murder, depending on your point of view.

The absolutist doesn't have this luxury. He cannot say that a killing that happens in Michigan is murder - because it doesn't meet the defensive act rules - but a couple feet over the border in Ohio, it's not murder because the laws are different there.

Prager, who thinks God dispenses absolute morality, cannot be given an escape clause by using the term murder in the legal sense, because laws are written by men and vary across cultures, most of which do not recognize the Bible as the ultimate authority on the subject. If we are to allow him this dodge, he would have it that a man could travel around the world, doing the same act in different jurisdictions, and be a murderer half the time and half not. This is exactly the opposite of what Prager is arguing. If the definition of murder is taken to mean unlawful killing, then murder is indeed a matter of opinion and changes as easily as getting a plane ticket.

His case is predicated on murder being freed from our local definition. The only law that matters to Prager is God's law. And the same must hold true with "just warfare" as well.
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Old Today, 02:11 AM   #56
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
Yes. Capital punishment is murder in Canada and Mexico, what of it?
You are arguing something different to the point Shermer is making. Shermer said that "there are exceptions to the rule that murder is wrong" and "Capital punishment murder is an example for states." Saying that capital punishment is murder in Canada misses Shermer's point, unless you are saying that capital punishment in Canada is an exception to the rule that murder is wrong.

Originally Posted by marplots View Post
Prager, who thinks God dispenses absolute morality, cannot be given an escape clause by using the term murder in the legal sense, because laws are written by men and vary across cultures, most of which do not recognize the Bible as the ultimate authority on the subject. If we are to allow him this dodge, he would have it that a man could travel around the world, doing the same act in different jurisdictions, and be a murderer half the time and half not. This is exactly the opposite of what Prager is arguing. If the definition of murder is taken to mean unlawful killing, then murder is indeed a matter of opinion and changes as easily as getting a plane ticket.
That IS in essense what Prager is arguing, since he is saying that man-made laws are subjective, and laws based on an absolute morality are not. Based on man-made laws, a person might be considered a murderer half the time and half not. Based on an absolute moral law, the results may be different. In theory, anyway.
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Old Today, 02:54 AM   #57
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
That IS in essense what Prager is arguing, since he is saying that man-made laws are subjective, and laws based on an absolute morality are not. Based on man-made laws, a person might be considered a murderer half the time and half not. Based on an absolute moral law, the results may be different. In theory, anyway.
Quite impossible to discover that universal law of morality though. "God said so" isn't much help, since there are many competing gods and views of gods, all with conflicting moral codes.
And even if we agree with Prager that it is his God who is the ultimate arbiter of morality, He seems to believe that murder is more than okay when he orders it, something he does with gusto in the OT, and with a little more restraint in the NT.
So even if there is some kind of God dictating morality, practically it all boils down to people's opinion, just as in the godless alternative.
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Old Today, 03:32 AM   #58
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
You are arguing something different to the point Shermer is making. Shermer said that "there are exceptions to the rule that murder is wrong" and "Capital punishment murder is an example for states." Saying that capital punishment is murder in Canada misses Shermer's point, unless you are saying that capital punishment in Canada is an exception to the rule that murder is wrong.
I am pointing out that applying the descriptor "murder" is a judgement call. It tells you that the speaker believes the killing was morally impermissible. The application of the word will vary, depending on the judgement of the speaker. I see no way to escape this without consulting God Himself in each case.

State sanctioned killings are often labeled "murder" by those who disagree with the laws as written (or the outcomes of trials). We have "murdered by the police," "abortion is murder," and "the murder of civilians" by way of collateral damage. It is not merely a term of legal art and I don't think Prager's "murder isn't wrong" uses it in the strict legal sense. He means it in the "unjustified killing" sense.
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Old Today, 03:55 AM   #59
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Originally Posted by Porpoise of Life View Post
Quite impossible to discover that universal law of morality though. "God said so" isn't much help, since there are many competing gods and views of gods, all with conflicting moral codes.
Yes, I agree. Even if there were one true God, it would still be hard to determine absolute moral laws. But in theory Prager is right: absolute moral laws can be grounded in an existing omnibenevolent, etc, God. Under atheism, moral laws can only be subjective.

Originally Posted by Porpoise of Life View Post
So even if there is some kind of God dictating morality, practically it all boils down to people's opinion, just as in the godless alternative.
And that's the practical issue to me, so that, even though Prager is right in theory, it doesn't help much with reality.
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Old Today, 04:03 AM   #60
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
I am pointing out that applying the descriptor "murder" is a judgement call. It tells you that the speaker believes the killing was morally impermissible. The application of the word will vary, depending on the judgement of the speaker. I see no way to escape this without consulting God Himself in each case.
Of course, that is what Prager is saying. Without God, 'murder' is opinion. But that doesn't touch my criticism of Shermer's oxymoronic phrase 'capital punishment murder'.

Originally Posted by marplots View Post
State sanctioned killings are often labeled "murder" by those who disagree with the laws as written (or the outcomes of trials). We have "murdered by the police," "abortion is murder," and "the murder of civilians" by way of collateral damage. It is not merely a term of legal art and I don't think Prager's "murder isn't wrong" uses it in the strict legal sense. He means it in the "unjustified killing" sense.
He means it in the sense of an absolute morality. Under that, killing that is unlawful -- under "God's Law" -- is 'murder'. "Abortion is murder' is true from the perspective of those who believe there is a higher law that should be upheld.

But I think we are moving away from the point of my criticism of Shermer here, so best to stop there.
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Old Today, 04:21 AM   #61
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Of course, that is what Prager is saying. Without God, 'murder' is opinion. But that doesn't touch my criticism of Shermer's oxymoronic phrase 'capital punishment murder'.
Yeah, I agree it was confusing. Shermer wouldn't be my first choice to rebut Prager's piece.

The interesting thing in the title: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong
and in light of what you pointed out, murder would always be wrong, in any system that used the dictionary meaning of the term - a wrongful killing.

If it weren't wrong, it wouldn't be murder.

I'd also point out that God isn't required for an absolute morality. We might have, for example, some moral genius who could tell us what was absolutely right and wrong. We could even propose a series of such people: Buddha, Jesus, Ghandi. For it would seem that an absolute morality, if discoverable, once discovered could be captured and fixed as firmly as the principles of geometry.

The source of such absolute morality doesn't matter if morality exists outside of our own moral leanings and impulses. We don't need a god to create mathematics or universal gravitation and teach it to us, we only need the wit to discover it for ourselves. Crediting God as author doesn't help one bit.
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Old Today, 12:30 PM   #62
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
Here's where this idiot's argument fails. If God existed, and declared murder OK, it would still be wrong.
I take it you haven't read the Old testament?
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Old Today, 01:31 PM   #63
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Of course, that is what Prager is saying. Without God, 'murder' is opinion. But that doesn't touch my criticism of Shermer's oxymoronic phrase 'capital punishment murder'.
.
Where in the bible does it say that capital punishment is not murder? I know that a lot of apologists claim that the commandment is _really_ "thou shalt not murder" yet no translation actually says that. Apparently, the people who translate the bible can't justify it saying "thou shalt not murder" and that an honest translation is "kill."

Which means we are left to beg the question of what constitutes murder. Where does the bible say that (and not in a place that has been overturned by Jesus - for example, where he says that an eye for an eye is not correct)?

That means that what constitutes "murder" is an opinion.
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Old Today, 01:37 PM   #64
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I have a feeling that the original idea was ' don't go around killing for no good reason '...

After all, if God tells you to disembowel pregnant women, it really isn't murder..
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