Does This Atheist Have a Point? Or Is This a Sycophantic Poe?

William Lane Craig Reasonable FaithI’ve only seen this once before. In 2010, John Steinrucken wrote an article, “Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity.” Like philosopher Antony Flew’s ghost-written appeal to deism a few years earlier, Steinrucken became a short-lived darling within the Christian apologetics community. Finally, they had found an atheist with a little common sense who could appreciate Christianity as the foundation that Western civilization rests on.

I critiqued Steinrucken’s scattered argument here. His most ludicrous line (which makes me wonder if he’s a Poe—in this case, a Christian pretending to be an atheist) is this one:

Has there ever been a more perfect and concise moral code than the one Moses brought down from the mountain?

Compare your reaction to mine if you’d like.

Déjà vu all over again

And now we have another example. In a rambling email titled, “You’ve Ruined My Life, Professor Craig!!” a gushing fanboy named Adam tells William Lane Craig how fabulous he is. Craig ruined Adam’s atheist worldview by presenting such danged good arguments for Christianity.

Kevin Harris, Craig’s podcast sidekick, said,

Many are, in fact, saying (including myself) this is the greatest letter in the question and answer forum on Reasonable Faith.

The greatest letter? That’s something we must investigate.

Problem the first: nihilism

Adam said that he was a happy atheist who loved philosophy until he read a paper of Craig’s, after which everything changed. Craig declared that the atheist worldview “was worthless in every possible way.”

Adam’s reaction:

It completely shattered my worldview….

What you say the atheistic worldview entails is true. There is no escaping the nihilism as an atheist.

Everything has died for me.

You have ruined my life.

It doesn’t sound like Adam was much of an atheist but more on this later. Adam is saying here that life has no ultimate meaning. Well, yeah. So what?

Adam apparently gets anxious at the thought that God, a billion years from now, won’t leaf through his little notebook, see Adam’s name, and think fondly of the good times they had together during Adam’s brief life on earth. Sorry Adam, but out of the billions of people on the earth right now, you’re not that big a deal. You’re even less important when seen with all of history as a backdrop.

As Neil DeGrasse Tyson observed, “If you are depressed after being exposed to the cosmic perspective, you started your day with an unjustifiably large ego.”

Life has plenty of meaning, just not transcendentally grounded meaning. It has the meaning that we assign to it and that we find for it, not that someone else like a religious leader assigns for us. Most of us find that not debilitating but empowering.

Problem the second: moral grounding

Adam had another concern:

There is no foundation for morality outside of God.

Wrong. He begs the question by assuming that morality means a God-grounded morality. It doesn’t—look it up. Morality is simply the set of beliefs about good and bad, right and wrong. I’ve never seen evidence for objective morality (morality that would be true whether humans were here to appreciate it or not). Examples inevitably offered such as torture for fun are instead examples of shared or strongly felt morality. We don’t need God to explain human morality; evolution does the job.

(I discuss morality here and here. I respond to Christian apologists’ weak arguments about morality here, here, and here.)

Who is this guy?

Kevin Harris assures us that Adam’s letter is what it claims to be rather than a hoax. I find that hard to believe given ingratiating flattery like this aimed at Craig:

You are and always have been my favorite living philosopher. I have seen every debate you have ever recorded and put up on the internet. I watch all your lectures and talks…. I think you are the epitome of what a philosopher should be. You’re uber logical, fantastically clear, and “computeresk” with the speed and precision of your responses to objections against your position, particularly the criticisms you respond to in your debates.

I’m imagining William Lane Craig concert posters taped up on the walls in Adam’s room. As for Adam being a well-educated atheist, I’ll let you weigh the evidence.

And I must disagree with Adam’s assessment. Craig is a good debater and puts on a good show on stage, but that’s about all I can find positive to say. I’ve responded to his unscientific approach to reality here and here.

So why isn’t Adam a Christian?

Adam says that he’s bowled over by the fabulousness of Craig’s deist arguments but can’t take that last step to become a Christian. Still, it sounds like he’s tempted:

The deeper I dive into philosophy, the more the theistic worldview seems more plausible. The concepts or “language” of mathematics seems to “cry out” as you put it for an explanation, objective moral values seem to be real (but they can’t be “real”, if atheism is true), the idea of “existence” nauseates me to no end (just the thought of anything, at all, existing, and especially existing without any reason, frightens me), and I could go on and on.

I’ve responded to Craig’s Argument from Mathematics here, and we’ve talked about objective moral values above. As for Adam’s fear of stuff existing without a reason, I have no idea what he’s concerned about. Doesn’t science explain why things exist? And where it doesn’t (yet), can he be saying that God is hiding in those gaps of science’s ignorance?

This admission of fear tips his hand. He’s not much interested in the truth but in finding a respected scholar who can pat him on the head and assure him that he actually is living in Fluffy Bunny Land, just like he’d hoped.

Adam’s concern

Adam hates his “nihilistic-atheistic world” and sees Christian belief as his salvation. If he simply swapped in a new set of beliefs, these unpleasant thoughts would be gone.

Theism is a dream come true. The world would make sense, the existential mysteries that haunt me would be solved, life would be livable. It is atheism, however, which seems to be true, yet I do not want to live like this. I have become depressed to no end. I have been in a nihilistic rut for years now. I have become utterly recluse. Yet, even with all this, I cannot come to believe in God…. You may be my last hope…. I know the “answer” is Christianity, but as I said, I cannot get myself to believe its truth. I am an atheist who hates atheism. I want there to be a God more than anything, yet I cannot get myself to believe in one.

If Adam is this depressed, he needs therapy. But if he desperately wants Christianity to be true and knows that Christianity is the answer, then he’s a Christian.

That was easy. Adam, be sure to contact me if this becomes a problem again. Please pay on the way out.

Craig’s response

Craig does little besides bask in the adoration, though a couple of his points need a response.

You need to escape the cloying bonds of naturalism by catching glimpses of a transcendent reality beyond the material world.

If anything binds us, it’s religion. Look at a map of world religions to see how the Big Questions get different answers based on where they’re asked.

Genesis 1 tells us that God shaped the earth like Play-Doh, while science tells us that a typical galaxy holds 100 billion stars and that your little fingernail held at arm’s length covers a million of them. Oh—and it backs up its claims with evidence.

If any explanation is cloying (or condescending), it’s Christianity’s childish Bronze Age view of reality.

Craig riffed on Adam’s concern about nihilism:

[Atheists who reject nihilism are] inconsistent with [their] worldview. In fact, I argue it is really impossible to live consistently and happily within the framework of an atheistic worldview. So if you want to be happy you are going to do what your friends do, and that is to live inconsistently.

Thanks for the condescension, but I can have happiness and consistency. There is no ultimate meaning or purpose to the universe, humanity, or my own life. Ordinary meaning and purpose—discovered and invented by humans—works just fine, thanks.

Craig assured Adam that God is chasing him (in a way that made me wonder if Adam might need a restraining order):

He is after you and will continue His pursuit until you recognize in Him all that you are longing for.

Tell that to the ex-Christians whose faith waned and who begged God to reveal himself. Didn’t happen. Read more at Rational Doubt, the blog of the Clergy Project, a safe place for clergy who doubt.

We were born of risen apes, not fallen angels.
— Robert Ardrey

Image credit: David Blackwell, flickr, CC

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Fiona DeLaMere

    Christians love their, “I used to be a _________” industry. See Mike Warnke, John Todd, Walid Shoebat, Ergun Kaner, Kamal Saleem, Rebecca Brown, Lauren Stratford, etc.

    • curtcameron

      … Lee Strobel, Kirk Cameron (no relation)…

      • Fiona DeLaMere

        Funny, I didn’t even think of Kirk Cameron. Probably because the idea that someone that far up Ray Comfort’s nether regions as a former atheist is too ridiculous to believe.

        • Fox

          …J Warner Wallace and half of the bloggers at a Bristol. apologetic Alliance.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          J. Warner Wallace is a good example. But what’s that apologetic alliance you mentioned? A conference?

    • TheNuszAbides

      ah, Mike Warnke. not the worst storyteller… other than the fabrication of details that, well, should kinda matter. my aunt eventually got around to something resembling humanitarian work in Sudan, but in the ’80s her activism consisted of sending me a tape of his. from Australia. otherwise i don’t think i’d’ve ever heard of him. only other one on that list i’d even heard of (and only that) is Brown.

      • wtfwjtd

        Oh yes Nuz, you’ve got to admit, ol’ Mike spins a pretty good yarn. Even as a hard-core fundie I knew that most of what he said was horse shit, but I had plenty of fundie friends that just lapped it up like candy.
        As for the rest of that list, if they are as truthful as Mike Warnke, well…that’s a lot of bull shit to wade through! A veritable river of it, I’d say.

        • Fiona DeLaMere

          After the ex-satanist gig fell through, Lauren Stratford found another lucrative career- pretending to be a holocaust survivor. She also played a part in the horror that was the McMartin preschool trial.

        • TheNuszAbides

          … ew.

  • LauraTee

    The guy’s just a little (or a lot) too adoring of Craig to make me think he’s legit, but I know a lot of atheists go through the same thoughts, often when in the process of losing faith. I was 13 when I realized I didn’t really believe in any god, and for a couple months, I frantically tried to grab onto some religion, any religion, something that would say the world is a just place and we’re not gone forever when we die.

    Now, I find the reality far more comforting than the religious view. When my grandmother died last year, my mom (a lifelong atheist) and I talked quite a bit about the relief of finality. The idea that someone you love is continuing to exist in a way that affords you no method of communication, no way to know if they’re okay, no way to help them — it’s horrifying. And that’s especially true when it comes to religions that hold that huge numbers of people spend that existence being tortured for all eternity.

    • MNb

      “when in the process of losing faith”
      Should we call them atheists already? This is a sincere question, not a rhetorical one.

      “I was 13 when I realized I didn’t really believe in any god.”
      I was about the same age (and I was rather an agnost than an atheist), but it didn’t bother me at all. Neither did it make any difference when I decided to call myself an atheist. Perhaps it’s because of this:

      “something that would say the world is a just place and we’re not gone forever when we die.”
      Maybe it’s because I already before my 13th realized that the world is not a just place and was already ok with the thought that we’re gone forever when we die.

      “the relief of finality”
      Exactly.

      • LauraTee

        “Should we call them atheists already? This is a sincere question, not a rhetorical one.”
        And a pretty interesting one, really. I was just using it in a backward-looking sense, as in people who now identify as atheists who describe that experience.

        “I was about the same age (and I was rather an agnost than an atheist), but it didn’t bother me at all. Neither did it make any difference when I decided to call myself an atheist. Maybe it’s because I already before my 13th realized that the world is not a just place and was already ok with the thought that we’re gone forever when we die.”
        For me, this was tied up in a tangled knot of psychological issues that I wouldn’t deal with until my late 20s. From a young age, I suspected that platitudes about “everything happens for a reason” and the idea that God would reward goodness were a load of bull. But I really wanted it to be true. See, I went through a lot of bullying and health problems when I was a kid. The idea that I would suffer for no good reason was very frightening.

        While it might sound paradoxical, the idea of a judgmental god afforded me a strong feeling of control. If bad things happened for a reason, then I must have done something wrong to bring it upon myself. But more importantly, this gave me a fix: all I had to do was figure out what I’d done wrong and stop doing it, and then I would stop being in pain and I could be happy.

        When I realized none of it was true, I got very angry and went through something of a nihilist period. What was the point of trying or doing anything when it had no effect on what happened? It took a lot of therapy years later to come to terms with the idea that bad things happen in life, that loss and suffering are inevitable experiences, and that there’s no possible way to completely avoid those things (and it’s still not easy for me to sit with).

        • MNb

          Very clarifying, thanks.

          “I went through a lot of bullying and health problems when I was a kid. The idea that I would suffer for no good reason was very frightening.”
          I went through quite some bullying as well and at a pretty young age understood the reason: some kids are fuck-ups and enjoy making other kids suffer. Whether that’s a good reason doesn’t matter to me; recognizing this simple fact sufficed.

          “What was the point of trying or doing anything when it had no effect on what happened?”
          Also at a pretty young age I found out (mainly by trial and error; my mother and stepfather weren’t helpful at all here) that what I did had effect on them indeed. My strategy didn’t make the bullying totally go away, but did minimize it. And as a teacher I have told some (very few, fortunately) pupils what my strategy is – in the meantime breaking some strict rules, but I couldn’t care.
          You won’t like the keyword (and neither do I): intimidation.

      • Greg G.

        Should we call them atheists already? This is a sincere question, not a rhetorical one.

        When faith is beginning to crumble, just certain parts are affected but the overall belief is still intact. My religion at the time had inoculated me against being a “salad bar Christian” who picks and chooses which parts of the Bible to take. At first, it is searching for new interpretations as the old interpretations are exposed. Even after Christianity lost all credibility, I was still a kind of Deist but I just didn’t think about it much. I had just lost interest in the question.

        • Pofarmer

          “was still a kind of Deist but I just didn’t think about it much. I had just lost interest in the question.”

          That describes me pretty much all through college and the early 90’s, before my wife drug me back in.

        • wtfwjtd

          Interesting. So, you were more or less a believer growing up, became disinterested, then got married and became a believer again, and then de-converted from Christianity and then became an atheist? It sounds like our time lines are roughly similar, but you’ve been on more of a roller coaster ride.

          BTW, I’m understanding better all the time why you detest religion so much, when it damages your family, friends, and relationships, it’s kinda hard not to take it personal. I must admit, I’m seeing things more and more your way on this aspect of it.

        • Greg G.

          I met and fell in love with a beautiful woman twenty years ago and she loved me. But she was a Fundamentalist and I was an atheist. It was great for a while but her mother got ill and she thought it was God punishing her for dating an atheist. It was probably for the best.

        • Pofarmer

          Consider yourself lucky.

        • wtfwjtd

          If she really believed that, yeah, I’d say the two of you going your separate ways probably wound up being better for both of you. Sometimes, the painful immediate path isn’t the one we necessarily choose to take, but only in looking back after some time has passed can we appreciate that the more difficult road led us to a better place.Life is funny like that sometimes.

        • Pofarmer

          Pretty much, yep. I dated a girl all through college and just after who was an atheist. Coming up on her college graduation, after we’d been dating and/or living together for about 5 years we would up breaking up. I still remember the whole thing fondly. It really was good times and I don’t think either of us really bears much ill will. Religion just never came into it, at all, which makes my situation now even more frustrating. We only had to think about making each other happy, not what it would take to make God happy too. Shit.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, I’m sure that throwing the God factor in there just adds more complications. I mean, you’re already juggling kids, family, employment…life in the real world is tough enough,without adding unnecessary layers.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ve heard of “stages of grief”, are there “stages of disbelief”? I dumped organized religion probably 20-25 years ago, only attending church occasionally, but I still considered myself a Christian. I wasn’t really interested in religion much, or examining it. I finally got around to taking a long, hard look at Christianity itself next, mostly prompted by a family member getting into apologetics in a big way. I then dumped Christianity, but like you was still kind of a deist for a while. This “stage” only lasted a few months though, I came to abandon deism pretty quickly.

        • Greg G.

          I think so. People usually go through an angry atheist stage when they realize how many lies they were told by so many folks they trusted. Unlike grief, when you reach the acceptance stage, you realize you are better off and more comfortable without the cognitive dissonance.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Now, I find the reality far more comforting than the religious view.

      Exactly. Christians are terrified about some vague nihilism (ignoring the fact that no one around them is), and yet ex-Christians quickly find that the new view is refreshingly honest and embraces reality instead of avoiding it.

  • IDogITrust

    Am i the only one whose eyebrow went up at the name “Adam”? How,…appropriate.

    If Adam is an atheist (and not a Poe), he is the kind of atheist that prompts me to say, “there are atheists, and there are atheists.”
    But i still think Adam is a Poe. If not Mr. Craig himself. The letter hits too many of the apologist’s bullet points for Atheism=miserable.

  • Mick

    Adam says: Has there ever been a more perfect and concise moral code than the one Moses brought down from the mountain?

    And what was the first thing Moses did after receiving the commandment that told him not to kill? He said to the Levites:

    This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. (Exodus 32:27-28)

    • Scott_In_OH

      Has there ever been a more perfect and concise moral code than the one Moses brought down from the mountain?

      Well, there’s “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

      • Without Malice

        That’s in the longer version, along with love your enemies. Really, it is. Can’t tell you exactly where but it is in the Torah, so is the basis for the prodigal son story. Almost everything Jesus said or did is taken from the old testament.

        • Scott_In_OH

          I know Jesus didn’t invent what is often called The Golden Rule. I took “Adam’s” reference to “the moral code … Moses brought down from the mountain” to mean what are commonly called The 10 Commandments. Jesus himself (like Rabbi Hillel before him) said those commandments (and the rest of Jewish law, for that matter) could be summed up as “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Actually, Jesus also said, “Love your God with all your heart, etc.,” but that seems unnecessary to me.) That seemed “more perfect and concise” than the 10 Commandments (to say nothing of the entire Torah), so I thought it was silly for “Adam”–who supposedly admires Christianity–to suggest a shorter version didn’t exist.

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      If Christians are to be believed (Jesus=YHWH=Jesus), then the above is an early teaching of Jesus to his followers.

  • Mick

    Adam says: Has there ever been a more perfect and concise moral code than the one Moses brought down from the mountain?

    The ‘perfection’ is hard to find when you consider the biblical penalties for breaking the ten commandments:

    Commandment #1
    Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
    Penalty: DEATH
    Thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God. (Deuteronomy 13:10)

    Commandment #2
    Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. (Exodus 20:4)
    Penalty: CURSES
    Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image. (Deuteronomy 27:15)

    Commandment #3
    Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain. (Exodus 20:7)
    Penalty: DEATH
    He that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 24:16)

    Commandment #4
    Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20: 8)
    Penalty: DEATH
    Whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 31:15)

    Commandment #5
    Honour thy father and thy mother. (Exodus 20:12)
    Penalty: DEATH
    He that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:17)

    Commandment #6
    Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20:13)
    Penalty: DEATH
    He that killeth any man shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 24:17)

    Commandment #7
    Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)
    Penalty: DEATH
    The adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)

    Commandment #8
    Thou shalt not steal. (Exodus 20:15)
    Penalty: COMPENSATION
    If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall
    restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. (Exodus 22:1)

    Commandment #9
    Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. (Exodus 20:16)
    Penalty: UNSPECIFIED
    A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape. (Proverbs 19:5)

    Commandment #10
    Thou shalt not covet. (Exodus 20:17)
    Penalty: NONE MENTIONED
    No penalty mentioned in the Bible.

  • Without Malice

    Geesh. Reading some of Adam’s comments I came away feeling that Adam might be an AKA of W. L Graig

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I haven’t had the pleasure. Who is Mssr. Graig? Or shouldn’t I ask?

      EDIT: Never mind. You’re saying that Adam would be none other than Wm. Lane Craig himself.

      Yes, that occurred to me. I wonder if he’d stoop so low.

      • Without Malice

        Yep. When I read your column I was reminded of the story of how Ty Cobb broke into the big leagues by calling around to different newspaper sports reporters telling them he had just seen the greatest exhibition of baseball he had ever witnessed turned in by a young player named Ty Cobb and that they should check him out. At least that’s the story told to me by Ty Cobb himself. OK, that part’s not true; I was just channeling my inner St. Luke.

        • Lark62

          In a business class they told the story of two young military officers who made a pact to speak highly of the other at every opportunity. They both made admiral (general?) in record time.

        • mobathome

          Google “Make tenure fast!”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Which reminds me of the statistic that 38.5% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

      • Lark62

        One possible answer would be “Yes.”

        I’m not saying he did write it. But if he were to pen a letter from a “real atheist” it would sound exactly like that letter.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What a coincidence! I just got a letter today from a real Christian.

          Dear Bob … or should I say Dr. Bob? I realize you technically don’t have a doctorate, but you should cuz you’re super smart. You’ve got a PhD in my mind!

          I’m a Christian, but I’ve been a devoted follower of your blog and I can’t find a single argument with which I’ve found flaws.

          Why am I still a Christian? I’m afraid it’s just for emotional reasons. If I were brave enough to follow the facts where they pointed, I’d have become an atheist a year ago.

          I’ll stop there. It’s a little embarrassing even if it’s all true. I’m humble that way.

        • Lark62

          That’s amazing. Such a wise christian.

        • wtfwjtd

          What would be amazing, is if you could say,”what an honest Christian.” Those are the ones that’s rare as a snowy day in July.

      • Pofarmer

        Absolutely he would stoop that low.

  • Sophia Sadek

    And here I thought that Jesus was in the business of saving Jews from the nihilism of a fabricated sky god by teaching a smattering of Pagan philosophy to poor fishermen. Someone needs to save Christians from the nihilism of pseudo-salvation. Ian Anderson observed that Jesus himself needs salvation from the gory glory seekers who use his name in death.

  • Lark62

    Adam: You’re wonderful. I cherish everything you say

    WLC: How nice of you to say so

    Adam: Every word you speak is brilliant

    WLC: You clearly have exceptional insight

    Adam: Remember your umbrella, it might rain

    WLC: Yes, Mother

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Brilliant!

      “Adam” is hard to imagine. Sure looks like a joke to me.

      • Lark62

        Adam is so totally a caricature of what christians believe about atheists that it is hard to take it seriously.

  • Rudy R

    I have seen every debate you have ever recorded and put up on the internet…I watch all your lectures and talks…. I think you are the epitome of what a philosopher should be.

    Did this doofus Adam not watch the Carroll-Craig debate? I’ll be the first to admit that Craig is a good debator, but I’m sure by all objective standards, most would agree that Carroll did a slap-down on Craig, and basically made Craig’s points totally impotent. I don’t see how an atheist comes away from watching that debate and still have idol-worship for Craig.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      That was indeed a pleasure to watch. Craig the philosopher steps into the ring to discuss cosmology … with a cosmologist, if you can believe it!

      Got his ass handed to him.

    • Pofarmer

      See, I come away from Craigs debates thinking he’s a pretentious blowhard.

  • MNb

    “just the thought of anything, at all, existing, and especially existing without any reason, frightens me”
    For me that’s a new version of existential fear. Confirmed here:

    “the existential mysteries that haunt me would be solved, life would be livable.”
    You’re right. Adam needs therapy.

    “Doesn’t science explain why things exist?”
    No, not in the way religious folks demand (and Adam indeed already has adopted a religious attitude here). Science explains how comes that things explain.

  • Cognissive Disco Dance

    Many are, in fact, saying (including myself) this is the greatest letter in the question and answer forum on Reasonable Faith.

    Sounds like a group “woah dude totally awesome” moment. Their heads will be back down to earth as soon as the proverbial buzz wears off.

  • JT Rager

    Bob, I’ve seen you post multiple times that you don’t believe in an objective morality. Have you ever responded to Sam Harris’ perspective on objective morality? I believe Matt Dillahunty does an even better job presenting it, but it’s largely based on Harris’ view. Cheers!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I think Daniel Finke here at Patheos atheists is also in that camp.

      No, I don’t believe I have. What do you think of their argument?

      Are you saying that Matt. D. also sees an objective morality?

      • JT Rager

        I think it makes a lot of sense, and I do happen to believe objective morality exists, though I don’t claim that I have perfect knowledge of what the “best” moral path is. I think it’s an interesting debate, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a consensus in the atheist movement. I find the debates interesting since among this community we actually value the truth over ideology, and most conversations seem geared toward the truth.

        Matt D actually debated John Figdor (a Stanford Humanist Chaplain) over whether or not morality is objective, and I think it’s a great debate.

        http://login.dogmadebate.com/podcast/154-atheist-vs-atheist-on-morals/

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks for the debate link. Matt. D. says morality is objective?

          Tell me more about your views. I defined objective morality as “morality that is true whether or not people exist to appreciate it.” Is that your definition?

          I ask because there are other definitions (objectively true = having sufficiently convincing evidence that any thoughtful person would agree such as “my car is yellow”; etc.).

          You touch on an interesting point: those claiming objective morality must also tell us if this morality is reliably accessible by humans. If not, this devolves into an “angels dancing on the head of a pin” kind of issue. Saying that morality is objectively true but that this truth is not reliably accessible is admitting that morality might as well be 100% subjective.

        • JT Rager

          Yes, Matt D. says it’s objective, and most of what he says resonates pretty well with me.

          I’m fairly sure I agree with your definition, but it may lead to confusion regarding the subject. Morality is inherently tied to the behavior of sentient, thinking beings. But even in the absence of sentient beings, there can still be facts about morality, just as there are facts about dinosaurs even though they no longer exist.

          A great analogy that is often made regarding the subject is that morality is a lot like health. Doctors don’t always know exactly what steps to take to treat a patient, but injecting them with 30% hydrochloric acid in any given situation can objectively be shown to be bad for their health. And vaccines are an overwhelmingly good choice for virus prevention, unless you have an allergy to certain components, in which case vaccines may be a bad treatment. The fact that the treatment changes in different cases does not make health subjective, it just makes it situational.

          The same applies for morality. We are often confronted with different decisions that decide the well-being of others. We won’t always know for sure, but health is generally preferable to sickness, pleasure is preferable to pain, etc. Well-being can generally be built upon these principles. Certain moral choices may be uncertain, but you can be certain that giving someone flowers is more moral than torturing them, just as you can be certain that injecting someone with acid is worse than a prescription medication.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This sounds like Sam Harris’s approach. Yes, some things are just objectively (in the sense that all people paying attention will agree) better than others.

          But I think the key issue is something else. Consider any moral truth claim: abortion is bad, capital punishment is bad, euthanasia is bad, or whatever. Are there (1) objectively correct answers to these questions (in the sense of being true whether people exist to appreciate the truth or not) and (2) can we inept humans reliably access these truths?

          That morality is a moving target says to me that either 1 is not the case or 2 is not the case.

        • JT Rager

          I don’t think morality is a moving target, though. Our perspective on moral issues has certainly changed over time, but if we apply the principle of most well-being and least harm to any of these situations we can arrive at a good answer regardless of time (though the situations have changed over time, which is a separate issue). An anti-choicer and a pro-choicer may disagree, but I’d argue that the anti-choicer isn’t applying the same principles that somebody would use to find the most morally correct pathway, and if they are religious they certainly have their moral barometer screwed up because of it. But not only have we improved our moral perspective over time, but we’ve improved our scientific and medical perspective over time. You might as well say that health is a moving target, since we used to cure disease by bloodletting, but now we have evidence-based medicine.

          Of course, this does depend on our definition of morality, which I would define as “behavior that leads to the most well-being and the least harm.” This excludes any sense of perspective. If we don’t agree on this definition, then obviously it’s just up to semantics, which I don’t think is very interesting.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Im some ways health is a moving target. What’s a disease and what is not or even if certain socially-engineered diseases exist depend on the society. I’m not yet through it, but ‘Cambridge Illustrated History: Medicine’ ed. Roy Porter is an interesting read.

        • JT Rager

          I’d agree that in some sense it’s a moving target, but I don’t think the point I’m arguing about is talking about is in same sense that you are. Treatments and diseases change over time due to ecology and environment as well as our known knowledge of what does and doesn’t work. Also, different medical focuses are important in different areas of the world simply due to different geographical prominence of diseases. But in each case there’s an objective way of treating the disease.

          This is not a case of subjective health, it’s a case of situational health. For every medical case there is an objective best path to help treat the condition. In the past, invasive surgery cutting people open would have been objectively harmful due to poor sterilization techniques that often led to infection. Now that proper medical procedures for clean surgery protocols and proper sterilization procedures exist, it’s a better health decision. In both cases, there was an objective “best path” with the tools we had.

        • MNb

          “For every medical case there is an objective best path to help treat the condition.”
          Even this is highly disputable. But even if there is you’re back at BobS’ problem: do we have access to it? Given the fact that American doctors treat all kinds of medical cases differently than their French colleagues and both different from the Dutch ones the answer seems to be no.
          If you want evidence you’ll have to wait a bit, because I’m not at home and don’t have access to my source.
          I’m sorry, but generally you have confirmed that objective morals are a fata morgana.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If you want to imagine an unchanging and unchangeable morality (“objective morality”), that’s fine. One problem is to define what grounds this and why each moral truth would still be true whether humans exist to appreciate, wrestle with, and ignore them or not. The bigger issue IMO is the issue of whether humans can reliably access these truths or not.

          But you’re talking about a different kind of morality—a morality that is objective in the sense that thoughtful people can agree that certain things are good for people in general and other things are bad. I agree that we can find this concord, but that still won’t help us with questions about abortion, SS marriage, euthanasia, etc. It sounds like your response is that the other side has the wrong perspective? Could be, but then I wonder how practical your approach is. We certainly have a big divide in society today.

          BTW, someone observed that questions like “What do you think about abortion?” aren’t asking what they think. They’re asking who they are.

        • JT Rager

          It sounds like your response is that the other side has the wrong perspective? Could be, but then I wonder how practical your approach is. We certainly have a big divide in society today.

          I think this is where we better understand each other, because I would agree that more or less the other side does not hold the right perspective. Even if the religious are holding to the principle of maximizing well-being and minimizing-harm, they are viewing this through a religious perspective, which inherently muddles the picture. You and I can both objectively demonstrate why their source and information are unreliable through numerous methods.

          Conversely, I believe we can show objectively that things that abortion and same sex marriage help maximize well-being and that euthanasia causes overall harm. In the case of same sex marriage there are plenty of economical and emotional benefits. Furthermore in a more general sense, there are numerous ways we can show societies are healthier (wealth, happiness via polling) when everyone has equal rights afforded to them, and gay marriage is an extension of this principle. The measurements are fuzzy, but there are error bars in every field of science anyway. This is just an example, but these are objective ways we can look at them.

          You wonder how practical my approach is due to a wide chasm of disagreement in society, but I find that particular response just as valid as wondering if the scientific method is useful since so many people don’t accept big bang cosmology and evolution. We can show science is helpful through testing, validation, peer review, etc. and we get useful results out of it. This doesn’t become invalid just because a majority of people don’t understand or accept the scientific method. Similarly, we can show through many factors (economical, public health, surveys on disparities) that some societal decisions are more beneficial for everyone than others. The measurements are fuzzier for the latter for the former, but if we could demonstrate its use and convince others, then as a society we could have practical uses for applying this principle.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s a reasonable definition of “objective morality,” though that’s not the one that evangelicals hold.

          I like it, though i don’t think it’s useful for our conversation with Christians. You’ll disagree with them about the big moral issues (abortion, etc.), but you’re then back to square 1–you say one thing and they say the other. You’ll point to the social costs of unwanted children, and they’ll say that society is better for not murdering “people.”

        • JT Rager

          I think it could certainly have uses, but it’s possible it may not be useful for conversations. I do think it’s useful for turning their perspective on its head. After all, they are the ones that claim I don’t have an objective morality, but from my perspective, I have objective morality. From my perspective, their “morality” isn’t even categorically the same as “morality”, much less is it objective. Morality is one of the core reasons people remain believers, and leading someone to re-examine their moral foundations could be an excellent way to lead them away from an unreliable worldview.

          It’s true though, that arguing whether morality is objective or not is probably more of a philosophical exercise than anything else. As per usual, you’ve given me good things to think about.

        • MNb

          “In the case of same sex marriage there are plenty of economical and emotional benefits.”
          Emotions are subjective.
          And economical benefits are not by definition good. Just ask the Greeks. Granted, this is about the method and not about the principle. But that’s a shift you made. I concur that I accept the principle as well. I dispute it’s objective.
          Julius Caesar has committed genocide on a few Belgian tribes. There can’t be doubt that that made many people very unhappy. Thing is that it also contributed to the well-being of many Romans. Good luck determining whether those genocides were ethically justified or not.

        • MNb

          “the principle of most well-being and least harm”
          I refer to my comment above. Determining what contributes to well-being and what constitutes harm and especially the problem of the lesser evil contains a strong subjective element.

        • MNb

          “some things are just objectively (in the sense that all people paying attention will agree) better than others.”
          I have a very hard time to think of any such thing, because there always seem to be exceptions. Killing a child is objectively bad? I have read a crime novel where it was the bigger evil not to do so.
          JTR will respond that it depends on the situation, but I could maintain that our judgment of how ethics apply to the specific situation again is subjective.
          I really haven’t made up my mind yet. But I am happy to point you out that you have found a useful application for philosophy. And you’re not exactly bad at it – certainly better than WLC with his Divine Command Theory.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Because lots of things can be defined within the domain of philosophy, I’m happy to say that philosophy has value. It’s the philosophers that I’m not so sure about.

        • Greg G.

          I have a problem with the word “objective” in this sense because it allows for equivocation. I think Case 1 should be “absolute morality”.

          The “in the sense that all people paying attention will agree” is like a collective subjective morality. All people might agree that dolphin bacon is delicious and healthy but dolphins would consider it immoral. Well, except maybe for orcas.

        • MNb

          “Well-being can generally be built upon these principles.”
          It seems to me there is a serious problem here, that doesn’t apply to health care. What contributes to your well-being doesn’t necessarily contribute to mine. You might highly enjoy working in the garden, but it only makes me feel bad, even if I force myself to (because the consequences of not doing so are even worse).
          The term well-being is inherently subjective. So if well-being is the core element of ethics claiming that such a system can be objective is incoherent.

          “you can be certain that giving someone flowers is more moral than torturing them.”
          No. Not to someone who is and allergic to flowers and enjoys masochism. I’m not ready yet to conclude that objective ethics based on well-being necessarily are incoherent, but your very own example confirms it.

        • JT Rager

          You’re equivocating “subjective” with “situational”. As an engineer, I can tell you that water is a cheap heat transfer media that works in most situations. But if I have to transfer heat at higher than 100 oC, then I have to use something else because the water will become a vapor, which has much poorer thermal conductivity. But either one will be better than a thermally insulative latex fluid. The fact that the situations change here doesn’t mean that engineering is subjective, it just means it’s situational.

          Even in the example of a person allergic to flowers, if I don’t know they are allergic and are giving them to them as a gift, then the worst you can accuse me of is negligence. That may be immoral to a degree, but torture by definition means I’m trying to impose harm upon them. I would say that torturing someone is immoral.

          I’m not going to respond to all your comments.

        • MNb

          “You’re equivocating “subjective” with “situational”.”
          I have addressed that underneath.
          You neglect my point on masochism: it means by definition enjoying getting imposed harm upon. So the point remains that well-being is inherently subjective.

        • JT Rager

          I don’t really think you have, I think you’re confusing the two.

        • MNb

          Hence it’s not necessary to address

          “I could maintain that our judgment of how ethics apply to the specific situation again is subjective.”

          “What contributes to your well-being doesn’t necessarily contribute to mine.”

          and

          “well-being is inherently subjective” ?

          Well, I guess that settles it, then. Or not.

        • JT Rager

          That’s not addressing that, that’s just asserting them, and I’ve addressed some of those points. I really don’t think you’re interested in an honest discussion.

      • Geena Safire

        IIRC, Dillahunty has said that “objective” means the result of many minds, not just one mind. Also, he uses the chess analogy. The ‘rules of chess’ are ‘the way things are’ (e.g.’ We are physical beings in a physical universe and our actions have consequences’, ‘truth is that which comports with reality’). The ‘goal is winning’ is ‘human flourishing’ yet ‘not strict utilitarianism’ and ‘axioms include pleasure is generally preferable to pain and life is generally preferable to death, among others’ (maybe that should be in ‘rules’). He believes in situational ethics but not relative ethics, that is, not rule-based but act-based utilitarianism, and more like Mill than Bentham.

        He says, based on these, for a given situation in life, as for a given situation in chess, there exist ‘objectively better’ actions/moves, and there may be an ‘objectively best’ action/move. And this is true whether or not the people in the situation are aware of it.

        That’s my best attempt at summarizing what Dillahunty has said. At YouTube, you can find his talk on the superiority of secular morality.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s kinda like the debate over “nothing” though because Finke and Dillahunty and Harris don’t mean what theists mean by “objective”.

        • Greg G.

          You beat me to it. What theists tend to mean by “objective morality” is really “absolute morality”. We have our own subjective experience of reality which is about us but we can take an objective perspective that we are just another person. From an absolute perspective of the universe, our life as a person or a society or as a biosphere may be irrelevant. Even if there is a god, it is nothing but an assumption that it would know the correct answer to that.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks.

        • MNb

          “The ‘rules of chess’ are ‘the way things are'”
          That’s quite problematic – as a chess player I would say the rules of chess rather support BobS’ (and mine) subjectivism, because they do change in time. Every couple of years there are amendments. A very radical one was about two decades ago: the introduction of the Fischer clock and the abandonment of adjourned games. It was a necessary change (because of improving chess computers), but it also greatly change the nature of chess as I still have known it.

          “as for a given situation in chess, there exist ‘objectively better’ actions/moves”
          This is quite problematic as well. The ‘objectively better’ moves do not necessarily lead to better results. Chess has a strong subjective element and nobody shows that better than the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
          The thing is that there are just three objective results. Objectively speaking from the initial position on any move that with correct play leads to at least a draw is a good move. Any other approach (ie talking about maximizing winning chances etc. is based on subjectivism. That has been recognized since at least the great Emanuel Lasker.
          Frankly I wonder how much understanding Dillahunty has of chess.

        • Geena Safire

          I’m sure he would love to discuss your issues with that analogy. You can find his email addy. He’s usually got a queue of thousands, so a reply might not be quick.

        • nardo101

          Obviously, all analogies have flaws and limitations, but I think that when Matt and others use the notion of an ‘objectively better move’, they mean that at a given point, one can use objective, rational criteria to say that one move is better than another. I think the success of chess computers demonstrates that rather well. They don’t mean it is guaranteed to achieve an ultimate goal in the same sense that there is no guarantee that a “good’ moral decision will lead to ideal results. (e.g. saving the life of a person who goes on to do harm)

  • Adam Weber

    I’m still waiting for that bleak wave of atheistic despair to hit me, but it hasn’t happened yet. Am I doing this wrong? Should I read more Nietzsche? I read Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and all it did was encourage me to enjoy nature and better myself through hard work and clear goals. Did I miss the chapter about becoming a miserable strawman? I swear I didn’t see that, but I could look again…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      WLC would say that you just don’t get it, that you’re not being consistent. And I continue to not see what he’s worried about. Ditto zillions of other atheists. Since his concern is demonstrably false, I marvel that he continues to make it. And all his other similarly weak arguments.

      • Adam Weber

        “Consistency” means nothing in this context, anyway. Human emotions are human phenomena and have no “reality” outside our minds except as chemical reactions. Why is it more “consistent” in some cases to be sad than to be happy? What makes one emotion “consistent” (or “right”) and one “inconsistent” (“wrong”)? The answer: nothing. Both are subjective qualia in the mind. Emotions aren’t strictly rational or logical. There are no right and wrong emotions. I can be as happy as I want, and WLC can’t say a damn objective thing about it. He can’t convincingly argue, “If you’re a consistent atheist, you will be hopeless,” because that’s a logically meaningless statement. And in the modified words of Mr. Pilate: What is happiness? What is hope?

        I will die. That is a fact. I won’t go to heaven or hell. This is also a fact. My feelings on the matter, however, are not up for debate or factual analysis. They’re only my transient perceptions. You can’t pair certain emotions with certain scenarios and check for “consistency” unless you assume that certain scenarios must *always* cause certain emotions, like certain math equations or certain syllogisms lead to certain answers.

        Since this is not true, I pronounce WLC completely and utterly full of bullshit (as if I needed to tell you that).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Being consistent for WLC in this context means being honest with what your worldview concludes and demands. Picking and choosing obligatory conclusions is not being consistent.

          WLC says that when you’re happy, you’re either too stupid/clueless to understand that your worldview doesn’t entitle you to be so or that you realize the consequences that bind you but simply ignore them.

          I’m happy to be consistent, and nothing bad happens. Seems like we’re on the same page, including your conclusion about WLC’s conclusions.

        • Adam Weber

          And here, again, we see the problems with Craig’s brand of emotional “philosophy.” When your arguments are composed mostly of words like “understand,” “realize,” “demand,” and “worldview,” there is a problem. WLC doesn’t practice philosophy; he just pumps tepid emotional appeals through a philosopher’s lexicon. Someone should tell him he could have skipped the doctorates. He only needed a thesaurus.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I try to give philosophy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there’s some good stuff there that I simply haven’t gotten my head around. But WLC makes it so hard …

        • MNb

          I don’t know anymore who pointed it out, but it was on your blog. WLC is not a philosopher. He looks for arguments that seem to confirm a predetermined conclusion. It shows when he talks about The Holy Spirit as self-validating.
          WLC is an apologist. He apologizes, ie tries to find excuses, no matter how cheap.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’d be interested in a survey of actual philosophers responding to “What do you think of WLC?” I’d imagine the thumbs-up group would have a distinct set of characteristics (religious beliefs, colleges they work at, etc.).

        • MNb

          Chris Hallquist wrote about this, but I’m too lazy to look it up. Maybe you can ask him. I guarantee you he will give you a highly skeptical view, because he dropped out of university because he was disappointed about the content.

        • MNb

          I have been confronted with this several times now and honestly don’t get it. The best explanation I can think of is that those christians need a god to tell them that they are worth something. As for me I need other people – and especially my loved ones – to tell me that I am worth something. It’s them preventing me from going off the rails. And when you look at those christians it works the same way them as well? So what has god to do with anything? Like I said, probably because I have never been a believer, I don’t get it.
          When WLC talks about this I just wonder: what is the guy talking about?! Can’t he recognize that feeling good is more enjoyable than feeling bad? That’s all you need, everything follows logically.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          WLC is big on “grounding.” Yes, we realize that X (morality, mathematics, etc.) exists, but why? What “grounds” that thing? What do we have to thank for X being here?

          The strategic value of this IMO is that the response is often, “Well, gee, I dunno. I never really thought about it much.” And this of course invites WLC to jump in with is favorite little friend as an explanation.

        • MNb

          Who doesn’t have to be grounded of course. OK.

        • Kodie

          Theistic reasons for clinging to theism. They have built up their cult on this proposition that life without living forever and meaning something eternally to the ultimate arbiter is bleak, and so they seek desperate people to join them. How is it that we can even get by without god? Their job is to make atheism seem less attractive than a bullshit story no adult should either need or believe. How does life feel for you if there’s no plan, no reason? Actually, life is terrible for a lot of people, for no good reason. I don’t pretend that life is simple or easy or comfortable or joyous. It’s a lot of hard work for very little payout. Sometimes, I don’t know what you people are even talking about. Of course religion makes up a reason that you should stay alive and it will be worth it. There are no guarantees.

        • Adam Weber

          I agree with you one hundred percent, but I should have been clearer with my first “question.” It was rhetorical. I asked it, reasoned through it, and answered it at the end of my own comment. The answer being: “consistency” means basically nothing in this context. It’s just one small plug in Craig’s Gish Gallop style apologetics. Looks fine at first, but falls apart if examined; a purely emotional argument.

          I’ll edit my original comment. I appreciate the reply, though.

        • Kodie

          I don’t see what the problem is.

        • Adam Weber

          Oh, sorry, I didn’t ask a question [edit: in my first reply to Bob, I mean. There was no question there. This wasn’t a snarky response]. I said: “I’m not sure what ‘consistency’ even means in this context, [in the previously mentioned comment]” and Bob answered that, and it seemed to me that you did too. But I wasn’t uncertain in the way I implied. I just meant that the concept as a whole seemed slippery, and so I was “uncertain” about it.

        • Kodie

          Does it bother you when someone else wants to say something?

        • Adam Weber

          Um, no? What do you mean? I feel like I went wrong somewhere in my comments…

          Edit:

          Oh! Wow. Okay, that last comment did come off as rude. I edited and fixed it.

      • primenumbers

        Not disagreeing with you Bob, but here’s the howler of inconsistency from WLC with his arguments excusing the killing of innocent babies in OT genocides “Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation

        Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites#ixzz3WoVkh4LR“, with his arguments against abortion: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/abortion-and-presidential-politics

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve responded to WLC’s support of OT genocide here. And Greg Koukl’s defense of it here.

    • smrnda

      As an atheist, I’m actually on the side of being a rational hedonist. I attach the ‘rational’ since though I know everybody likes to party, we have to keep civilization from falling apart in the process. If anything, the lack of rules to follow for no reason makes things a bit better. I keep in mind how much fun I can have guilt and shame free.

      • Adam Weber

        That brings to mind what is possibly my favorite Nietzsche quote:

        “Although the most acute judges of the witches and even the witches themselves were convinced of the guilt of witchery, the guilt nevertheless was nonexistent. It is thus with all guilt.”

        Living without Christian guilt is amazing. Now I only feel guilty if I hurt someone. As it should be.

        • Scott_In_OH

          Now I only feel guilty if I hurt someone. As it should be.

          This is perfect. And it thoroughly undermines the haughty theist’s claim that atheists reject God just so they can run rampant through society and feel good about it. We care (at least the empathetic among us) when we hurt someone. I’m getting angry that theists pretend not to understand that.

        • David M

          Atheists are more empathetic than most people because they know inner pain more. I was never hurt by religion in growing up. That only happened by society when I found I couldn’t be heterosexual. Fired a few times for being gay, dodging a beer bottle that almost hit my face for coming out of a gay bar…)

          Those who are hurt the most usually are more empathetic than others. People who are the most caring for others in society? The homeless. They are the only ones who will share the last of their food with you. Out of compassion.

        • wtfwjtd

          I dunno Scott, maybe a bunch of them really don’t understand it, as I see theists intentionally hurt people all the time and not give a shit. In fact, it was this one failing alone that was enough to turn me off of Christianity for good.

        • MNb

          It’s basically the same for shame and regret. Now take the next step and try to avoid doing anything that causes guilt, shame and/or regret (not because society imposes it on you, but because you’ve failed your own moral standards) and you’re well on your way to leading a virtuous life. Also make sure you set these standards higher for yourself than for other people and you will enjoy long periods of time without guilt, shame and/or regret, without getting arrogant.
          And you still can continue partying!

      • MNb

        “though I know ….”
        Actually this is not a dilemma. If civilization falls apart there aren’t much parties left to enjoy either. Every single dystopian movie recognizes this, even the bad ones. So exactly to keep on partying we must maintain civilization.

    • EndOfTheWorld

      Personally, I’d imagine being a deist would come with a lot more despair. Look at all the horror and death in the world. Now imagine it’s all on purpose!

  • Msironen

    I like the tacit admission that even if you recognize what an awesome philosopher Craig is and how superb his arguments are, in the end you’ll probably still need some direct help from God to achieve belief in him.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      It’s all the work of the Holy Spirit so that no man may boast. Or something.

  • MarquisDeMoo

    I fear your Poe may indeed be by a genuine Atheist and wonder if he will be followed by a straw Eve to be likewise swallowed whole next April 1st.

  • Lark62

    Aren’t there software programs that can compare writing samples to determine the likelihood they were written by the same person?

    I read the entire letter and I want my brain cells back. I believe one can find more wisdom coming out of the south end of a cow facing north.

  • Playonwords

    “Has there ever been a more perfect and concise moral code than the one Moses brought down from the mountain?” The answer is “yes, there has,”

    Be excellent to each other – Bill and Ted
    Do as you would be done by and all the other versions of the Golden Rule
    Primum nil nocere (first do no harm)

    Note that none of these relate to a deity.

    • Rare Bat

      Don’t be evil. -Google

      • MarquisDeMoo

        What is evil? The Christians would probably call Atheism evil.

    • josh

      There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” -Vonnegut

    • Ron

      – Share everything.
      – Play fair.
      – Don’t hit people.
      – Put things back where you found them.
      – CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
      – Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
      – Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
      – Wash your hands before you eat.
      – Flush.
      – When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

      —Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

      • Shoebutton

        Ahem. Put the seat down before you flush. Those little drops of water vapor that escape carry miniscule amounts of feces , urine and nasty little viruses.They get deposited all over you, your towel, your toothbrush…

    • EndOfTheWorld

      To paraphrase Louis CK, “Ten commandments and Don’t Rape isn’t one of them. So rape all you want but say God’s name with a shitty attitude and watch out!”

  • Benjamin Bastin

    Adam sounds to me like an old, out of touch guy trying to sound young and hip by using phrases like “you’re uber logical” because that’s how they imagine young people speak. I’m reminded of the fake letters Michael and Debi Pearl publish in their books that Libby Anne often blogs about.

  • Ron

    Dear Penthouse Professor Craig:

    I’m a 24-year-old college student who never thought he’d be writing to Penthouse Forum Reasonable Faith. Though I’ve read and enjoyed the letters in Reasonable Faith’s Q & A section for many years, I always thought they were made up; they just seemed too incredible to be true, real-life questions sent in by actual readers. But a recent experience caused me to put aside my skepticism….

    Name and Address Withheld Upon Request

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Don’t cut me off there! I was just getting into it!

  • Margaret Whitestone

    Smells like bullshit.

  • Esquilax

    The problem with WLC’s “atheism= nihilism” bit, with this whole idea that a worldview without divinely derived meaning is depressing and pointless, is that it’s entirely presumptuous. Essentially it states that because the theist requires those things, therefore the atheist is obligated to require them too, and the conclusion follows on from there. But we’re not required to do anything, and our lack of bleak, existential terror at lacking a sky-daddy is not evidence of an inconsistent position, just one that values fundamentally different things to the christian one.

    Basically, christians don’t get to stamp their feet and demand that we find exactly the same things important that they do. They don’t get to start from a presupposition that what their worldview claims it offers is necessary for all other worldviews, and is the most important thing, and then work their arguments from there. WLC is basically just a stealth presuppositionalist, and in fact is even more blunt about it, behind his slick words, than known clowns like Sye Ten Bruggencate.

    • Playonwords

      Actually WLC and his straw atheist both conflate nihilism (the denial of things like absolute morals or an absolute purpose) with anomie (the despair sometimes felt because of that denial)

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        You have earned your moniker, wise sir or madam.

  • RichardSRussell

    Having just watch the HBO special Going Clear, a documentary film about Scientology, I have no difficulty at all imagining that there is in fact a real-life Adam who really has mortgaged his conscience and and pawned his intellectual integrity to fawn all over his hero, because the movie interviewed half a dozen reasonably competent, apparently intelligent, and certainly articulate people who did exactly that for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and his successor, David Miscavige. And they did it for decades, despite the fact that, for a good portion of that time, Miscavige was literally beating them up.

    So yeah, human mind — funny thing. Rationality remains but a thin veneer atop a million years of evolution based on irrational gut responses.

    • Otto

      In the same vein I wouldn’t be surprised if Adam was a sock puppet either. For someone who claims to be an atheist he doesn’t seem very knowledgeable of the atheist positions on WLC.

      And Adam says WLC is his favorite philosopher? Really? Something stinks right there.

      Then Adam says WLC basically got him to deism but he just couldn’t go any further. I put my money of WLC no posting an argument from deism to Christianity and Adam is so overcome he converts…IT’S A MIRACLE.

      • RichardSRussell

        You raise a good point, Otto. I guess that, unless Craig comes clean about who this “Adam” is (another imaginary “first man”, you think?), there’s no way to verify anything about him. So what do you suppose are percentage chances that either Craig does so or that “Adam” himself steps up to the plate? I’m betting single digits.

        • Otto

          I would put everything on never knowing who this Adam is. I think it is awfully convenient that Adam just regurgitates WLC positions and throws WLC softballs to hit out of the park. If Adam truly understood an atheistic refutation of a WLC argument I would expect him to explain why they do not make sense to him. Instead we hear Adam just re-explaining a WLC argument without any evidence he understands both sides of the debate. Really? There are WLC debates all over the internet and this guy who is a self admitted fanboy yet no idea how atheists refute his arguments? I call BS.

          PS I loved Going Clear.

        • Kodie

          The thing is – atheism is really broad. For people brought up Christian, or sort of like me in a secular household not taught anything about religion or beliefs or critical thinking inside the home, atheism is the definition – disbelief in any gods. You don’t need any good reason, and it can be based on the theistic perception that anyone who is not a Christian, a follower of Christ, denies or is angry with god, etc. I have zero doubt there are some people who came to Christianity from such a position and it’s not just a straw man. We surround and immerse ourselves in these arguments, so we have to remember sometimes that there are people who have not. There must be religion-raised people who notice an absence of a god but cannot or dare not conceive the lack of perception means god is literally absent; or else, they leap straight to that conclusion without going through any logical steps. It’s probably pretty easy to convince them of Christianity later on, and to attract them to listen to some flashy salesman, or even write them a letter praising their arguments. If you still don’t feel god after all those arguments, even if you think, like a Christian, they are sound arguments, you’d have to call yourself an atheist, right? .

        • MNb

          You remind me of CS Lewis.

        • Kodie

          Why?

        • MNb

          “There must be religion-raised people who notice an absence of a god but cannot or dare not conceive the lack of perception means god is literally absent.”
          This seems to me a pretty good description of CS Lewis’ atheist phase.

        • Kodie

          So what I wrote reminded you of CS Lewis. I don’t personally remind you of CS Lewis.

        • Otto

          We surround and immerse ourselves in these arguments, so we have to remember sometimes that there are people who have not.

          I absolutely agree with this in a broad sense Kodie. My problem with this as it relates to “Adam” in particular though is when Adam says

          You are and always have been my favorite living philosopher. I have seen
          every debate you have ever recorded and put up on the internet. I watch
          all your lectures and talks…. I think you are the epitome of what a
          philosopher should be.

          So he is admitting he HAS immersed himself in these arguments, but he shows no recognition of the other side of the debate, he never addresses any refutation of a WLC argument despite admitting he has seen all the debates. I can believe someone could be swayed to WLC’s side. However I have a hard time believing that a person who has been swayed due to a WLC argument would just ignore all of the refutations from the Secular arguments and just straw man the secular/atheistic position so badly. Someone who has “seen every debate” would know better…unless this is a sock puppet just being used to prop up WLC’s apologetics for the benefit of his readers, then it would make sense.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Someone who has “seen every debate” would know better…unless this is a sock puppet just being used to prop up WLC’s apologetics for the benefit of his readers, then it would make sense.”

          Bingo!

          “Dear WLC, why do all those other phony atheists ask you all of those tough questions? Here, have a few softballs from a real atheist like me…”

        • Kodie

          That’s actually not true. For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume the guy is authentic, but I honestly do not think so. This is a guy who is probably an atheist for emotional reasons, and let’s not pretend that can’t happen. We have our own stereotypes of atheists, but really the only atheists we know are interested enough to come on blogs and refute Christianity with arguments. So what if he says he’s seen every debate, it would just seem he knows very little about science and is mesmerized by Craig’s demeanor and probably sharp responses. I have watched zero debates and I never heard of this guy outside of blogs, or most of the other people who are often mentioned, Christian apologists, authors, scholars, or atheists or scientists, either. I would not go looking for them or to them to get a handle on what I think about if there’s a god or not. I’m just saying that if there is a Christian stereotype of an atheist, there has to be self-identifying atheists who fit that description.

          They’ve learned what atheism is from Christians, and they lost their faith, but they are stuck there where they didn’t want to be – miserable, hopeless, meaningless – all the suggestible emotions that Christians appeal to emotionally. Let’s not pretend that atheism is a freedom in itself, and let’s not pretend our arguments are excessively persuasive to any given self-identified atheist who is on the precipice of Christianity. Christians get a little cranky about ex-Christians never being Christians to begin with, not having the holy spirit and only going through the motions in an empty way; they worry about someone being influenced by strong atheist arguments, and yet, we get so many Christians on here, real stupid fucks, and only some of them are so totally brainwashed, but none of them seem to be reached through the thickness of their skulls to a good argument. Likewise, they are used to preying on the emotionally desperate – and usually these people would not identify as an atheist but as someone who is already religious but feels forsaken.

          So here is a guy who does not believe there are any good credible arguments for a god, but has been manipulated by the suggestion that he’s supposed to feel hopeless. Just like you or me, he cannot will himself to believe there is a god. The wishes start – “I wish there were a reason, a purpose, a plan, and I find it difficult to live in a world in which I know there isn’t.” Let’s not pretend that atheism makes everything better, that a real atheist cherishes their one life, or that a real atheist is ok with the pointless chore of staying alive for no reward in the end.

        • Otto

          I am not saying I am 100% correct. I honestly don’t know for sure. Your position is absolutely plausible.

          I have however watched WLC debate atheists like Hitchens, Harris, Kraus, Sean Carroll, Robert Price and others. Some of the best secular minds and I just have a very hard time being convinced that this guy identifies as an atheist and yet straw man’s the atheist position after hearing very intelligent arguments against WLC. Is it possible..?…yes. But I also know enough about WLC to think he is more than capable of deception for his cause of Christianity and this (IMO) stinks of a “Liars for Jesus” scenario.

          It is just too convenient for me to find this credible without better information, but I could be wrong…wouldn’t be the first time.

        • Kodie

          And for their advertisement purposes, if they’re going to make up someone to be an atheist, that’s the only kind of atheist they would. I think the prototype is real, and that’s what I find objectionable in the idea that a real atheist would fit our own stereotype. The letter comes off a little too thick though.

        • http://atheistjourneys.blogspot.com/ Atheist Journeys

          I know exactly how he could watch all of Craig’s debates and still strawman atheist positions: He just doesn’t listen to the atheist side. He listens to the side he wants to listen to, the side he wants to be true. I was kind of like that when I was thirteen, I just wanted to believe the God arguments, because then I wouldn’t go to hell. My eighty-five-year-old grandfather would still do that, only listen to what he wants to hear. This guy could be thirteen or think like he is.

        • Steve Gray

          I suspect that Craig got one of his stooges to write that fawning missive.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The idea does seem plausible …

        • Susan

          I suspect that Craig got one of his stooges to write that fawning missive.

          Over the last few years, I’ve encountered quite a few “I’m an atheist but Craig’s a genius” types. Mostly back at the Richard Dawkins site (when it had much more substance and much less shine).

          They always turned out be christians. WLC wouldn’t have to get one of his stooges to write that ‘fawning missive’. There seem to be quite a few who use that strategy to tell the world that christianity is the most reasonable thing there is, once Craig explains it.

          I don’t think Craig has to be dishonest enough to have one of his sycophants write that letter.

          There are plenty who do it anyway.

          I do think it is dishonest of him to publish it. It sounds like bullshit through and through. No acknowledgement of the arguments against Craig’s, a complete acquiescence to the strawman nihilism that Craig constantly employs.

          It’s not real. Craig doesn’t care.

          It’s embarrassing.

          Pathetic, really.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I didn’t know that there were precedents. Wow.

          I can certainly imagine a Christian proposing a thought experiment concluding with the atheist having no option but to admit defeat in the face of WLC’s overwhelming fabulousness, but that is certainly stooping low.

        • Adam

          Again, maybe this will finally clear things up: my letter was not an argument or a philosophical paper in any way shape or form. It was an informal letter that I wrote in 30 minutes and sent without even proof reading it (it’s riddled with errors). My letter was not meant to discuss both sides or get into a debate with Craig, or anyone for that matter, but my letter has aroused such a ridiculously angry response, that here I am. Now THAT is pathetic. I just wrote a dude a letter who I never thought would even read it.

        • MNb

          Welcome to the absurdity of la condition humaine. Enjoy it, it’s a good remedy against nihilism – better than the christian god.

        • Otto

          And that dude is William Lane Craig who is known for his intellectual dishonesty. You described yourself as a lover of philosophy and then went on to gush about Craig’s philosophical prowess and framed him as ‘uber logical’. You gave emotional reasons for supporting his arguments as being valid (i.e you don’t like nihilism so therefore Craig makes sense). Craig is known for his use of the Kalam Cosmological argument for god which he can’t get the first sentence out of his mouth without it being fallacious, a fallacy he continues to promote as a valid premise despite it being easily refuted every time he debates.

          Of course if you are a lover of philosophy as you say you are, and have seen all of Craig’s debates this should be well known and understood by you. Now Craig is using your letter to validate his position to his Christian audience. You really shouldn’t be surprised you have been soundly criticized here. I am not angry with you and I don’t think anyone else her is either, I just think you are wrong to praise Craig and his positions but it is certainly your right to do so…just as it is our right to criticize your praise.

        • Susan

          Hi Adam,

          my letter was not an argument or a philosophical paper in any way shape or form.

          Not even close. Where did I say it was?

          My letter was not meant to discuss both sides or get into a debate with Craig,

          It certainly wasn’t. It especially wasn’t meant to get into a debate with Craig who was described in that letter as ‘the greatest living philosopher’.

          my letter has aroused such a ridiculously angry response, that here I am.

          For someone so deeply committed to philosophy, you have already wandered into unsupported, editorial terms.
          Most of the comments here weren’t angry. As a philosophy buff, you should realize that you have made an unsupported assertion laden with editorial language.

          A first year could identify that on an exam and score easy marks for it.

          I am not going to defend an entire thread on disqus. As far as I can see, most comments so far, even without charitable redistribution do not fall under the category of ‘ridiculously angry’. Define your terms and make your case if you expect any single individual here to respond to that accusation.

          For now, you’ll have to show me where my response to the letter is ‘ridiculously angry’.

          I made two simple points.

          1) Every ‘atheist’ whom I’ve so far encountered who thinks WLC is a frickin’ genius has turned out to be a christian. This does not mean that there are no black swans.

          2) Anyone who calls themselves a ‘philosopher’ and publishes a letter that says, ‘Your arguments are brilliant’ without showing a philosophi8cal argument is not practicing philosophy but committing a logical fallacy.

          ‘Ridiculously angry’. You don’t sound like anyone who’s had to do philosophy.

          Then, you bring up ‘objective morality’ but won’t defend it in a combox.

          Again, as an avid philosophy enthusiast, you’ve ignored Euthyphro.

          If ‘objective morality’ is your main point, define your terms and support your assertion. .

          If you won’t, (and as no one has ever addressed it adequately in any argument I’ve heard, read or engaged in to this date), then I can just assume you are confused.
          If you have a secret response that you won’t provide, don’t accuse me of ‘misunderstanding’ you.

          You sound like everyone else who wants to leapfrog over Euthyphro and pretend that they care about philosophy.
          In other words, you sound like an apologist.

          I’ll never know if you are one but so far, you have provided no argument and think people are being ‘mean’ when they point that out.

          Feel free to show your work.

          You are not obligated to do so but I am free to ignore you if you don’t.

          There’s nothing mean about that. You should understand that if you are a philosophy fan.

        • Adam

          I have a “small library” dedicated to atheistic literature. I am sorry if my letter did not “give off that vibe”. But I assure you, I know the atheist position very well. I mean, I am an atheist. However, none of this blog, nor almost any of these comments, are relevant to my letter. Unfortunately, I had the same mindset a few years ago, where I just couldn’t even see the other sides points. I feel there are some important issues that philosophers, Christian or not, bring up and need to be dealt with. However, a weird blog that I just found at 11pm is not one of those places for such a discussion.

        • Kodie

          It’s the perfect place for you to clarify your position. It’s not just a “weird blog” you found at 11pm, it’s the only blog you’ve posted on with your disqus account, and going on and on about things you have the power to clarify. How could you say so much nothing if this is just not the place to have a discussion? You sound like someone who just left to go fishing.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So where are you at now? Still an atheist? You sure sounded like a Christian in your letter, despite your claims to the contrary. If not, then you wrote in such a way as to be easily misinterpreted.

          Do you have a reply to WLC’s letter? What did you think of it? Give it in a comment here if you’d like.

          I wonder if you do understand the arguments well. Prompted by your glowing appraisal of WLC’s “The absurdity of life without God,” I wrote a critique of it here. Our conclusions are quite different. I’d be interested in your reaction. (Obviously, WLC won’t deign to respond!)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie raises a good point. This is indeed just a tiny, insignificant corner of the blogosphere, but here you’re at least getting a discussion. Since you sought us out, looks like you’re interested in having one. Craig obviously won’t bother.

        • Rudy R

          Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa…WLC

          Does this sound like someone with an open mind or someone who has an agenda? It’s laudable that you want to see the other side’s point of you, but you also need to distinguish between an argument based on evidence and logic and one based on religious dogma. WLC’s Kalam Cosmological Argument is one such religious dogma that has been soundly refuted by other philosophers, religious and secular alike.

        • MNb

          Could you please be so kind to change your pseudonym a bit? There has been another Adam round on this blog for many months and I’d like to avoid confusion.

          “I feel there are some important issues that philosophers, Christian or not, bring up and need to be dealt with.”
          If you assume that I’m not aware of those points you are simply wrong. That specifically includes WLC. Others are Plantinga, Feser, Haught plus a few Dutch and a Flemish theistic philosophers of religion you likely have never heard off. Rudy R underneath gives one example.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Adam: You just created this Disqus account to chat with us. Have you wrestled with the topic of atheism elsewhere on the internet? I’d be interested to see more of your support for atheism. I still wonder if you’re a Poe.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s key to my argument that no atheist becomes a Christian who was (1) a well-educated atheist who (2) converts for intellectual reasons. Such an atheist would give us loads of innovative arguments showing us that the atheist stopping points in each argument are flawed.

        • Roger

          Bob, I really wish you would stop repeating this argument because it makes you seem really dumb, and I know from reading this blog, that you are far from dumb.

          A Christian could equally say that no well educated Christian has converted to atheism for intellectual reasons because if they had, they would give loads of innovative arguments showing Christians that the stopping points in each argument are flawed.

          Your reply to this would be to say that it is actually the Christian who has flawed understanding and not the arguments themselves. Or to say that the fact that the doesnt accept these arguments is because he is either not well-educated or does not hold his beliefs for intellectual reasons. This is no true Scottsman fallacy 101.

          911 Truthers or Ancient Alien ¨Scientists¨ could use the same logic you are using to validate their beliefs. Just drop it, seriously, it is a terrible argument.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve written a post on this, so if you haven’t seen the complete argument, you should check that out. Let me know if you can’t find it.

          I’ve addressed all these issues. Let me know what you think.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Here’s that post.

        • Adam

          I understand the arguments. I am sorry that you do not think that I do.

        • Otto

          If that is the case then why would you regurgitate WLC’s arguments without ever addressing the refutations that have been provided as a response to Craig’s arguments? You seem to do the same thing Craig is known for… which is continuing to spout the same poor arguments while ignoring any criticism and answers to those arguments.

          If you understand the arguments at least address them. You say there is no foundation for morality outside of God. Really? No foundation has ever been mapped out outside of God? Ever? By anyone?

          Not to mention Craig’s argument for “morality” isn’t a moral system at all…nor is it objective, it is nothing more than obedience. Being obedient is not acting as a moral agent…it is doing what you are told. A Might makes right mentality. Philosophers started addressing that supposed “morality” thousands of years ago and you apparently are pretending they never have…you don’t have to agree with the refutations but you could at a minimum pay them the respect of acknowledging their existence.

        • Rudy R

          The question we all want to know, then, is that if you agree with WLC on the moral issue, then why do you still claim to be an atheist? Do you not understand that WLC argues for the existence of a god? And to agree with this argument is to agree that a god exists? I can claim that I’m Superman, but unless I can leap tall buildings in a single bound, I’m not Superman, no matter how much I claim to be Superman. So no matter how much you claim to be an atheist, unless you believe there is no god, you are not an atheist.

        • Adam

          First, I don’t really care about a label. I will label myself for the sake of clarity because of others wanting to have a discussion about these topics. The “atheist” label just sort of sets the groundwork for the conversation, to me at least.

          Here is why I do not believe in God, even though I find many of the arguments probable (specifically the moral argument which you mention): I am interested in objective morality and how it exists. It seems that if objective moral values existed, they would be unique objects like nothing else that we know of (well, maybe mathematics and God, if you are a realist about math and/or a theist), they would be abstract objects. Abstract objects are non-casual, space-less, timeless, etc. There seem to be two ways of these sorts of objects (moral values) existing- either in some sort of Platonic Forms or a perfect being such as God. The Platonic Forms have problems: first, why and how do they even exist? What does it mean for “justice” or “bravery” to exist, in some sort of abstract realm? It seems almost inconceivable. It seems to me (I know this is going to infuriate so many people on here) that moral values seem to FLOW from a being or person. Of course God, traditionally defined as a “perfect being” would fit the criterion for this (this says nothing about the truth of a religion or a particular religion’s conception of God, let’s get that cleared up right now). Second, how do we come to knowledge of these abstract entities? They are non-casual and seemingly have no effect on us. We don’t experience them through any of our senses. So, how do we discover (not invent them, since that would imply subjectivity) them? Third, even if moral values somehow just exist in this abstract realm, we are then left with the problem of “duties” and why we are supposed to adhere to these abstract moral values. I do not see any reason for moral accountability to abstract objects (this is not a discussion about other humans and sympathy for our “fellow creatures”, etc. Again, let’s clear that up real quick too) Maybe these problems are solvable, but they seem dismal at best. It seems to me, that if you really want to say that something is “Good” or “Bad”, we need an objective criterion for doing so. God seems to fit this picture.

          Now to answer your question, finally (sorry)- This does not prove God’s existence, I may deny the existence of objective moral values and say that nothing REALLY is Good or Bad. But, as Dr. Craig says, this is seemingly unlivable. We all make moral judgements that we want to say mean something MORE than just our OPINION, we want to think we are stating FACTS ABOUT THE WORLD. Well, if we want to move BEYOND human emotion and talk about facts about the world. then we need to either accept some form of Platonic Forms (I listed the problems) or God (there are many problems here too, don’t think I don’t know them and appreciate them). Phew. I never wanted to do this, talk philosophy over the internet, it’s too confusing, but I want people to stop misrepresenting me. I hope this clears things up.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The moral argument is compelling? Tell me more.

          You say that objective morality exists? How is the morality that we feel very strongly not simply shared morality?

          Sure, the criteria for judging good and bad is objective–I think something is bad and (since you’re the same species from the same society) you think it’s bad, too. There is no reason to posit the other sense, though (objectivity refers to things true or false whether there are people here to appreciate that or not).

          I may deny the existence of objective moral values and say that nothing REALLY is Good or Bad. But, as Dr. Craig says, this is seemingly unlivable.

          And Dr. Craig is wrong. Millions of atheists have no problem living with subjective moral values. Look at any organization–from the UN and federal governments to a PTA or home owners association. They all make up the rules that govern them. We all know this and are quite comfortable with it. The rules don’t come from on high; we make them up and change them as necessary. That’s how morality works.

        • Adam

          Damn, “we make them up”. I am sorry to say this, but if what I wrote about “objective morality” did not resonate with you, then I can do no more. Giving up “objectivity” is giving up the game!! It’s over! We are left with playing “pretend” and all SERIOUS justification for morality is lost. THIS is why I have a problem with atheism. Check out J.L. Mackie’s (an atheist) argument from queerness, maybe that will help clarify the “moral problem”. I don’t think I can do anymore.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Giving up “objectivity” is giving up the game!! It’s over! We are left with playing “pretend” and all SERIOUS justification for morality is lost.

          Yes, there is no objective morality. It’s just not an option on the table. We also can’t fly with our arms or use heat vision like Superman. Why do you accept some limitations but freak out about others?

          If this means that we’re just playing “pretend,” OK. What does that entail?

        • Adam

          It entails that morality is a made up game. Say, for instance, you get emotional when you watch a particular movie that brings you to tears. Well, you after your little emotional episode you’ll come back to reality and move on about your life, correct? You won’t go on “mourning” a FICTIONAL situation, would you? Well, if morality is all subjective and MADE UP, not objective and DISCOVERED, then you should feel the same way. But I don’t think you want to say that morality is like a fictitious movie. You want to say there is moral PROGRESS not simply moral CHANGE, correct?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It entails that morality is a made up game.

          By that logic, so is our legal and governance system. No, we didn’t get the American Constitution and all the law since from God’s advice. So what? Do you stay up at night fretting about this, too?

          You won’t go on “mourning” a FICTIONAL situation, would you? Well, if morality is all subjective and MADE UP, not objective and DISCOVERED, then you should feel the same way.

          Fiction in a TV movie vs. modern governance and moral sensibilities. You don’t see the difference? You don’t think that laws and morals are far, far more important than fiction.

          It really is just as bad as you thought it was: the adults have all left, and we’re going to have to figure things out for ourselves. We’re very imperfect, but we stumble along, correcting mistakes as we go. Look around at all that we’ve done—there’s a lot to be proud of, no?

          All you’re saying is that there being no accessible, perfect, external morality would be a shame. OK, it’s a shame. Now what are you going to do about it? Just lament that 2 + 2 doesn’t equal 9 like you’d prefer? There’s no evidence of such an objective morality, and I can’t understand why it’s taking you more than 5 minutes to get past the shock of this rather obvious fact and moving on.

        • Adam

          I am sorry, but everyone on this site needs to study some philosophy before they speak on philosophical matters. Your arguing with me or anyone about anything proves that you think certain things are RIGHT or WRONG. However, under your idea of morality, there is no right or wrong answer or anyway to reconcile moral issues and disagreements. HOW DO YOU NOT SEE THIS? On your view, we are arguing about something that does not have a ANSWER. Why are you even arguing about things then? If it is all subjective, personal taste, etc.? Live and let live, right? You are implicitly making value judgments without even knowing it.

          Jeez, this is too frustrating. Listen, you want to start a blog on philosophical issues, especially those relating to ,morality, and you haven’t even read Mackie? How about Hume or Kant or Plato or Ayer? I mean, I am sorry, this is not some personal attack, it’s just a fact: You don’t understand what you are talking about. You are in way over your head. It’s like a physicist talking to me about a particular theorem she is working on and me CRITICIZING that theorem without any basic knowledge of physics. I am sorry, but you have lost my attention. Say what you want about me, but I suggest reading up on matters that you seem so “passionate” about, so you won’t come off as ignorant as some of the fundamentalist Christians that we both dislike so much.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          everyone on this site needs to study some philosophy before they speak on philosophical matters.

          Sounds like a smokescreen. “Here’s some homework. I win until you can vanquish the authors of these ten books.” I doubt you mean it that way, but that’s how it seems.

          I have a poor attitude about philosophy, but that’s not true for many here. Be careful about opening a can of whoop-ass until you know whose ass will be whooped.

          under your idea of morality, there is no right or wrong answer or anyway to reconcile moral issues and disagreements. HOW DO YOU NOT SEE THIS?

          Since I’ve witnessed and argued for uncountably many moral positions in my life (I’m not talking about here on this blog), I obviously have been striving for what, in my mind, are the right answers. No way to reconcile moral disagreements? You’ve never been in a moral discussion before?

          I don’t think it’s me who’s having a hard time seeing the obvious.

          On your view, we are arguing about something that does not have a ANSWER. Why are you even arguing about things then?

          ?? Take any moral issue—abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia. You don’t have a moral opinion of the correct resolution? You’ve never argued (or seen argued) these issues? I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. Since we obviously do argue for things, change our minds, change others’ minds, etc., what is the problem?

          Or are only smart people like you entitled to wrestle with the big issues?

          Jeez, this is too frustrating.

          You think you’ve got it rough? Look who I’ve got to argue with.

          You don’t understand what you are talking about. You are in way over your head.

          Don’t bother having an opinion about any moral issue without having a BS in philosophy or better—is that it? Must be frustrating that there are so many unwashed out there who don’t take your advice.

          It’s like a physicist talking to me about a particular theorem she is working on and me CRITICIZING that theorem without any basic knowledge of physics.

          Sounds like exactly not what this is like. Yes, there are barriers to entry for physics. Not for discussing moral issues.

        • MR

          They really do need to put disclaimers on philosophy courses… something to the effect of:

          “The vast majority of what you will learn here is sheer bullshit. It is just the process that man went through in his search for knowledge. Do not assume any of it is true.”

          Just because Plato talked about Forms…, c’mon! He also talked about humans being fused two-by-two and rolling around the earth in cartwheels. Is there no end to the nonsense that a philosophy student will believe?

          There is nothing so absurd that it has not been said by some philosopher. –Cicero

          [edit: to add quote]

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Nicely stated, thanks. Philosophy is something of a sacred cow. The issue is so muddled that it’s hard to sift out the nuggets of wisdom.

        • Adam

          Says a guy who hasn’t even studied it. I mean, come on. This is laughable. This whole blog is a joke. I see you as a see the fundamentalists Christians. Pure ignorance.

        • adam

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And here’s where you jump in to make a useful point–reminding us of recent contributions philosophers have made, for example. Or, you could just piss on things if that’s how you roll.

          Notice the difference between substantive input and whining. I’d have thought that that would be child’s play for a philosopher.

        • Pofarmer

          Way back there somewhere Adam talks about a philosophy class where they argued for 2 months about whether the number 2 exists. I would fire that teacher. Sheesh.

        • Rudy R

          For the sake of us simpletons, are there philosophers who have a reasoned argument for subjective moral values? If there are, why isn’t subjective morality not more of a compelling argument than objective morality?

          I can appreciate that you have far more knowledge in philosophy than I do. To be frank, I’m totally ill equipped to argue with someone who has been educated in philosophy. But it would serve you well to know that philosophy isn’t the only discipline that can answer the moral questions. The hard sciences can as well. It’s just that you have chosen philosophy to help you find the answers. Evolutionary biologists can just as easily formulate how moral values came to be and emerged over the course of human evolution. I’ve mentioned Australopithecus in an earlier comment, which seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Did our million year old decedent struggle with all the moral dilemmas we do today? Probably not. With the same brain size as the chimpanzee today, they just went about their lives, doing things that made their tribes flourish and not doing things that harmed their tribes.

        • Kodie

          Wow, are you even from earth? You’re expecting a tool we use to all get along is reconcilable perfectly? Have you recognized that humans are animals? Here’s a daily morality problem. The last banana. Two people go to the store to get a banana, but there is only one left. The first to reach for it puts it in his basket, and the other person personally wishes for him to give it up. If not, the second person practically blames that one person for taking a single banana, and not the dozens of people who ran the store out of bananas earlier in the day. The first person can give up the banana, it seems like a friendly thing to do, but the second has no right to that banana.

          Either way, it’s fine. If the first person chooses to keep and buy that banana, and realizes when he gets home that he doesn’t want a banana today, and doesn’t want it tomorrow, and it eventually gets mushy and black, there’s nothing immoral about it. There would be nothing immoral about thinking ahead, and let the other person take the banana because he’s not going to use it, or knows he’s going to another store tomorrow and won’t eat the banana by then anyway.

          The only immoral thing to do would be for the second person to be shitty about it, and take the banana out of the basket while the first looked away, or to harass the first person about taking the last banana in the store without looking around and asking if anyone else wanted it (like you’d do at dinner). What’s wrong with that? It’s fucking unnecessary and he’s a sore loser. Why? That’s what we came up with. Possession of a banana before purchasing it means it’s yours to buy or put back. Fighting over it if you missed out is bad.

          Circumstances may apply – the second person could say he really needs to come back home with a banana to feed his baby, or his wife is pregnant craving bananas, or it’s the only nutritious food in the store that he can afford to buy with pocket change, and they cost so much more at the gas station. All of those things could be a lie, but is it worth it over a banana if you don’t need it as much as another person? Maybe he is also in the same situation. Sorry your wife has cravings, but I am grocery shopping with nickels; there is other food here for a baby, etc. Maybe they are both lying but the first guy still has rights to the banana to buy or give away. We haven’t even touched on whether they can split the banana, or if the first guy can keep the banana but spend a little extra to give the other guy a bag of groceries to feed him a couple days.

          It’s not reconcilable. There’s no single correct decision. You seem to be perplexed that we humans can create outcomes that are satisfactory without arriving at a singular correct decision about what to do. The bible says if the second guy asks for the banana, just asks, doesn’t have any sad story about why he needs it more, the first guy’s only moral choice is to not only give the second guy the banana but buy everything he already had in his basket for him. Does that sound right to you? It’s certainly not wrong if you want to do that, but living up to that standard is going to be tough when you become known around town as the guy who’ll buy everyone’s groceries just for asking.

        • Pofarmer

          “You are in way over your head. It’s like a physicist talking to me
          about a particular theorem she is working on and me CRITICIZING that
          theorem without any basic knowledge of physics.”

          You are actually pretty close to the mark here, but not in the way you think.

        • adam

          This certainly appears as a POE statement

          empathy
          noun em·pa·thy ˈem-pə-thē

          : the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings

          A fictional character does not have emotions or feelings.

        • Rudy R

          The same could be said about a real, non-fictional situation. Do people mourn in perpetuity when a loved one dies? Most well-adjusted individuals don’t exhibit sadness for very long. They deal with the situation and move on with their lives. And couldn’t moral PROGRESS also apply to subjective morality? Because how could there be a change in an objective moral value when it’s true in the past, present, and will be true in the future. I actually don’t care one iota if morals are objective or subjective. Philosophers are able to provide a compelling argument for both. What we should be more concerned is what maximizes human flourishing and what minimizes human suffering.

        • Adam

          This is so confused it makes me nauseous.
          Subjective morality would not be “real” progress, it would be simple change. The objective morality would not be the one progressing, our ideas about morality would be progressing. Subjective morality would be like running a race where the finish line keeps getting pushed back. Objective morality would seem like a race where you can work towards the finish line and actually cross the line, finish the race, MAKE PROGRESS. You don’t make progress in a race with an ever moving finish line, you just change your place in the race.

          Further, WHY should we be concerned with Human flourishing? Why not just our own? Why even our own? These seem like psychopathic questions, agreed, but unfortunately, philosophers like to ask about the assumptions people are making. You are making an assumption that we should value human life. Why ought we do a thing like that?

        • Rudy R

          Philosophy has really fucked with your mind. Don’t you realize its all a bunch of mental masturbation? For me, there is no scientific evidence that shows a higher probability that a god exists versus not a god existing. With that said, there is a lower probability that morals are god given, and in your case, morals from a higher being. It’s that simple. Evolutionary speaking, if we killed other humans if we felt like it, we wouldn’t be here having this conversation. Go ahead and contemplate what is and what ought to be, but in the real world, cultures flourish when they follow a set of rules that allows its members to flourish and when the rules break down, civilizations die.

        • Kodie

          Evolution says so.

        • Rudy R

          I’m assuming the “Why ought we do a thing like that?” is a rhetorical question, because none of my comments at this point hasn’t registered with you in the slightest. What’s glaringly obvious to most of us is that you are stuck in a philosophical rut that we can’t prove that human well-being should be valued above other qualities. All the while, the rest of us want to learn how the world works by the most consistent and reliable method possible (scientific method) so that we can better control it to our benefit. Rational people can agree on a basic set of goals (morals) that can maximize happiness and minimize discomfort.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And morality is constantly changing. Sounds just like a race where the finish line is moving.

        • MNb

          “Subjective morality would be like running a race where the finish line keeps getting pushed back.:
          Yes, so what? That applies to science as well. The more we learn the more the finish line is pushed back. And science is even objective. If you were consistent you would argue as well that we should stop pursuing scientific knowledge.

          “You don’t make progress in a race with an ever moving finish line, you just change your place in the race.:
          You sound like a spoiled brat who rejects everything just because he can’t get what he wants.

          “You are making an assumption that we should value human life. Why ought we do a thing like that?”
          Why not? As for me – totally subjective – it makes my life more enjoyable. Surprise! You not accepting this makes your life less enjoyable according to your own words. So why not?
          That’s the entire point. By recognizing that my ethics are subjective I can be OK with making the totally subjective (ie depending on me and me alone) existential choice that I want my life to be enjoyable. If you prefer your life to be unenjoyable I can only respect that, besides thinking (totally subjective again) that you’re silly. There is no inconsistency and that’s the best you can get in philosophy. At the other hand WLC’s objective morals lead to a grave inconsistency, which he doesn’t even want to recognize, intellectually dishonest as he is. In my other answer I forgot to mention that I am also confused why you praise him so much in your letter.

        • Kodie

          You do get that religions are fictional, right? When they claim moral objectivity, the only one who counts to please is god, a fictional character. You may think it pleases him to treat your neighbor as yourself, and that’s really displaced morality. What is fictional about yourself or your neighbor? Why does there need to be some 3rd party grading you on your assignment? You seem to need more motivation than just being a decent person to others.

          Anyway, as you say, you don’t believe in god, but you are not very far away from assigning him to grade your so-called non-fictional morality. I mean, if there were objective morality, and you could live up to it, who would care if you could or couldn’t? If there were objective morality and no god, you’re still fucked, my friend. It won’t matter what standards you attempted to live up to, just for the sake of them. What it comes down to, is you don’t think real people matter. You certainly think you matter, as when people judge you by how much WLC jerked off to your letter, you got pretty upset. Tell us in your objective morality standard, why we should care how you took it? If you’re thinking that it’s just easier to let it all go and be an asshole to everyone, see how far that gets you in life. You sort of have an idea like an ideal dress size and if you can’t fit into it, you’re not pretty. Who decided? You still did. You made it up. Or there is some diet god? You insist there isn’t, but you can also decide to be happy with your body and wear another size. You’re like, just because everyone else accepts you for who you are and not what size dress you wear, their opinion doesn’t count. Only the idealized objective perfect dress size counts.

          So, that is what objective morality arguments sound like to me.

        • Pofarmer

          What you fail to realize, is that there is a biological component to morality, and a societal component to morality. All animals are “moral” to some extent. We share an awful lot of our “morality” with all mammals. Some morality is learned and ingrained by society. Morality therefore has some basic tennets, but varies from society to society. This should be obvious, but, apparently it’s not. Look around you at all the other species we share this globe with and it becomes much clearer.

        • Otto

          You may be interested in Dan Finke’s blog “Camels with Hammers” here on the atheist channel. He is a philosopher that argues for a type of objective morality. I don’t claim to completely understand it but someone like yourself should find it interesting.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          good suggestion. Sam Harris also argues for a form of objective morality. He debated with WLC on that subject.

        • MNb

          “Giving up “objectivity” is giving up the game!! It’s over!”
          No, it just begins, like the Stoics did more than 2000 years ago.

          “We are left with playing “pretend””
          No, I don’t need to “pretend” anything to hold up my ethical system. Subjectivism is an integral part of it.

          “and all SERIOUS justification for morality is lost.”
          That “SERIOUS” is as subjective a qualification as such qualifications can be – you only confirmed you’re wrong. Mackie won’t change that either.
          No matter how often you repeat your error – I think the pursuit of happiness (and not in the trivial American meaning of the expression) a totally serious business. And happiness is subjective by definition.

        • MR

          It seems to me that if one presupposes objective morality one presupposes God, which draws into question your claim of being an atheist.

        • Adam

          I explained HOW objective morality COULD exist (Platonic Forms or something like what Plato wrote of). I explained this is why I do not believe in God. God is only one of the options for an objective morality. One can be a moral realist and an atheist…maybe. :)

        • MR

          Hmmm…, I don’t see that you explained how objective morality could exist, I just see that you pre-supposed it does, and then tried to give it street cred by name dropping Plato, et al. Even Plato recognized his forms theory had issues, and Aristotle completely dismissed it. Plotinus and Thomas tried to tie their philosophies to God, but none of them had the knowledge we have today.

          Social evolution explains morality and requires no supernatural woo. Objective morality simply doesn’t exist. You’re confusing the universal morality that humans experience as a species with objective morality. Beyond homo sapiens, morality is meaningless. Morality has importance to us, because we are all of the same species and share the same morality. If a lion kills another lion, is it immoral? Of course, not. The birds steal the cat food around here all the time, annoying as hell, but immoral? No. Morality is tied to humans only. Morality is a human tool that evolved with us. No woo, no God required.

          And objective morality? Phhh… Thou shalt not kill? Except when you kill a killer. Or an enemy. Or a rebellious son. Or when God on a whim commands his followers to commit genocide. Or any number of exceptions.

          Or thou shalt not steal? What about stealing food to save your starving family? Why do we champion the Robin Hoods of the world? When I was a kid, I took one of those little, red and white round mints that had fallen outside of the bin. If objective morality were true, punishment for stealing a piece of candy should be the same as for robbing a bank. No one believes that.

          There simply aren’t objective morals. The moment you start comparing, you lose all argument of objectivity.

          You want to cling to your religio-philosophic woo, but just because some philosopher or prophet came up with something doesn’t mean it’s true. Plato, Plotinus, Thomas, Kant, etc., they were working on limited information. Craig bases his philosophy in the bronze-age religion of a bunch of nomads for Christ’s sake (yes, I’m aware of the irony).

          I’m sorry, but social evolution accounts for morality just fine. Objective morality simply doesn’t exist.

        • Adam

          Right, so my whole point is not to argue that objective morality does exist. You obviously didn’t understand what I wrote. I was not trying to get “street cred” by mentioning Plato’s ideas. I was trying to explain that IF objective morality exits, it SEEMS that it would HAVE to exist in this sort of way. NOT that it does in fact exist in this particular way. Unreal. Yes, our morality may be completely based on evolutionary tendencies. I am interested in the consequences an ethics that is evolutionary based has. That is all. Can no one understand this?

        • MR

          Oh, I understand what you wrote, I just think it’s bullshit.

          You seem to think yourself ever so smart as a philosophy student, but what philosopher would say something like “it SEEMS that it would HAVE to….” Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy philosophical thinking.

          I am interested in the consequences an ethics that is evolutionary based has.

          Ethics ARE evolutionary based. If you want to know what the consequences are, look around you. In fact, the consequences are the exact same as if there were an objective morality, because what is is.

          But that’s not what you’re really saying, is it? What you’re really asking is what the objective consequences of such ethics are, which presupposes objectivity. Yawn.

        • Kodie

          You’re not very articulate.

        • adam

          ” I was trying to explain that IF objective morality exits, it SEEMS that it would HAVE to exist in this sort of way.”

          No, if objective morality exists then it applies to even ‘perfect’ beings and exist outside this ‘perfect’ being.

          ” I am interested in the consequences an ethics that is evolutionary based has. That is all. Can no one understand this?”

          No, because you dont appear to have even approached this subject yet.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And IF you won the lottery jackpot, it SEEMS that you would HAVE to find ways of spending all that lovely money. But most people would worry about that after they’ve won the lottery.

          Ditto objective morality. You’re not arguing that it exists. Please do so to make this conversation meaningful.

        • Kodie

          What is this “game” you’re talking about? We make up rules so we can live and get along in a safer society. We observe what seems to work, and socialize our young to behave accordingly. If that’s not serious enough for you, that means humanity is not serious enough for you. Pardon me, but have you asked yourself if you might be a psychopath?

        • MNb

          “What is this “game” you’re talking about?”
          Developing a system of ethics.
          But the guy doesn’t want to discuss this, because “a blog is not fit for an extensive philosophical discussion”. So he sticks to atheism hence nihilism without explaining how the second logically and necessarily follows from the first. He beginning to use capitals indicates that he can’t.

        • Kodie

          I don’t think it’s a game though. He seems to be torn up that Christianity makes better emotional arguments even if he can’t intellectually believe them. And if atheism has nothing for him to grab onto, he can’t figure out why it’s true. He’s afraid to die and mean nothing. He’s afraid that one day he’ll die and everyone who remembers him will die, and no matter how well or poorly he behaved, it will all be erased. There’s no reason for today, to give to charity. All you are doing is temporarily making someone’s life better who one day will die, so if you let them starve, it won’t make a difference. Why give some small comfort if it’s only temporary? I mean, why go through getting a job you don’t like, having children who drain you of your money and your dreams, if you could just spare everyone the trouble and kill yourself? Why not go over, have a huge mental crisis over it, and take a few other people while you’re at it? Whoever misses their loved ones will get over it one day when they die too. I don’t know why that’s “nothing” to these nutters. Maybe Adam had better find some spooky coincidence and come to Jesus before someone has to get murdered.

        • Adam

          Just for clarification: the “arguments” are not FOR Christianity, at all. They are abstract, philosophical arguments for a specific kind of “reality” that may or may not exist. That’s all. No religion nonsense yet. We’d have a ways to work to get to a specific religion, even after all the philosophical work has been done.

        • Kodie

          Well, just for clarification, you seem to be torn apart that abstract concepts you prefer might not exist in reality. It’s all fine and dandy that humans can imagine something perfect while that thing cannot exist. It’s like, this perfect circle – there are rules about what that circle needs to be in order to be perfect, but that circle does not exist. The best we can do is talk about abstract equations relating to a perfect circle, and drawing a close-enough circle. Christ, even a “circle” isn’t a thing. Things can be circular, but is a circle a thing, like a number isn’t a thing? But you want the concept of morality to be also be objective and even if it’s not real, you want to apply it to reality, like the number 5 is how many pennies equal a nickel, or how many fingers you have on your hand. You want morality to be like counting to 5, 1-2-3-4-5. Same in any language. Always means the same thing.

          Human morality is a much larger equation. Maybe we are getting somewhere with the subjective idea of morality – when murder is not bad, for example. You would not probably think morality has to be such a simple subject. If murdering someone who is trying to murder you is ok, then that’s not subjective either, that can be objective and always true. It’s just a more complicated equation than murder=wrong. Murder+murderer=right. Math is just a language. Every seemingly subjective opinionated decision about what is right or wrong may just be a more complex equation that is always true in itself.

          But why are you so worried about it?

        • MR

          Murder or be murdered is just simple evolution. Social evolution sits on top of that and provides us an advantage as a group through cooperation. But, when that fails, and it’s kill or be killed, our baser instincts kick in. There is no need to evoke objective morality.

        • Kodie

          I don’t really think that I am. With the concept of morality, I mean, I think Adam wants there to be some iconic list of ultimately moral or immoral choices. I don’t see how it will actually solve the problem of none of it mattering after you die. Neither will 5 or circle.

        • Adam

          I am worried about it because it seems that if abstract objects do not exist, then math is fictional. 2+2=4 is as real as “Alice fell down the rabbit hole”. It’s true, within the fictional story of Alice and Wonderland. So, if morality (values) do not exist in this abstract realm either, then “murder is wrong”, does not correspond to any “value”, it is fictionally true within a subjective framework. But, my subjective framework my not line up with yours. We may conflict, run into a moral dilemma. Now what do we do, with no objective criterion to resolve it? I am not sure how much more clear I can be.

          Let me say this…
          MANY, MANY, MANY atheists believe this. This is not my invention. This is not my cry for help. This is not my emotional weakness infecting my rational mind, etc. This idea of: if objective morality does not exist, and we are only left with subjective morality, then nihilism is the necessary conclusion, has been stated by numerous atheistic thinkers for thousands of years.

          I am not saying they are right. That’s why I think about it all the time. That’s why I wrote my original letter to Dr. Craig. I am not trying to convince you that Nihilism is THE RIGHT POSITION. I just think the logical consequences of subjective morality are more severe than anyone on here is realizing. I am not saying there aren’t pragmatic or evolutionary/survival justifications for subjective morality. But I think you have to acknowledge the reality of what subjective morality really is. It is like playing football without a ball. It’s a joke.

        • adam

          ” I just think the logical consequences of subjective morality are more severe than anyone on here is realizing.”

          So where have you demonstrated this?

        • Adam

          Read my posts, if you don’t see this, then I don’t know what else to tell you. Again, these are not my ideas. Many theistic and atheistic thinkers agree with this.

        • adam

          WHERE is your logical consequences?

          I have read your posts about your mental masterbating over philosophy, but where are the practical applications and problems of subjective morality and where is YOUR demonstrate that OBJECTIVE MORALITY is anything but IMAGINARY?

          ” I just think the logical consequences of subjective morality are more severe than anyone on here is realizing.”

          WHAT consequences?

        • Kodie

          You sound like Billie Jean.

        • MR

          It does kind of sound that way, but I would have said a little dimmer. Root beer, anyone?

        • Kodie

          If this isn’t Billie Jean, I will eat the hat of your choice.

        • MR

          Yeah, I think you’re right. I wouldn’t be surprised if he bled over here from Strange Notions. He appeared back when about the time they were all wanking over forms and immaterialism, which, as I recall, was his last obsession.

        • MR

          How about a logical, point-by-point summary.

        • adam

          You owe me…

        • Kodie

          I don’t know why you think abstract concepts would be any less fictional? Why is our subjective framework so offensive to you? Why is nihilism the necessary conclusion? If there is no god, and I still want to believe you are an atheist, at least for argument’s sake, how is an objective morality any better? I mean, if there’s no ultimate judge, who would give a fuck if you made a perfectly moral decision? It’s nihilism either way. I think you have yourself worked up over nothing. I mean, so if there’s nothing you can do about it, it will continue to upset you. Do you really think life has to be so purposeful or meaningful, externally to human life? You really don’t want to admit you’re a theist. You need this all to mean something, to be logged somewhere, to check out mathematically, or else you don’t want to bother. If there’s no god, there’s still no reason to care about morality, according to your overwrought panicked reasoning.

        • adam

          “and I still want to believe you are an atheist”

          I guess I am finding more difficult with each if his posts…

          I call Edgar Allan

        • MR

          But, my subjective framework my not line up with yours. We may conflict, run into a moral dilemma. Now what do we do, with no objective criterion to resolve it?

          Happens all the time. We make laws and try to live together as civilly as we can. It’s called life. You might have noticed it’s not perfect.

          This is not my emotional weakness infecting my rational mind, etc.

          Then, as Kodie said, why are you getting all worked up about it? Nobody else is.

          I am not trying to convince you that Nihilism is THE RIGHT POSITION.

          That statement right there tells me you’re a fraud.

          I just think the logical consequences of subjective morality are more severe than anyone on here is realizing.

          They are exactly what they are and have been for millennia. Big whoop.

          But I think you have to acknowledge the reality of what subjective morality really is. It is like playing football without a ball. It’s a joke.

          That statement right there is a joke. It says exactly nothing. What, pray tell, is the reality of subjective morality besides what we see around us?

        • adam

          “We may “agree” on what is “beneficial” for us, but that is no reason to think that our moral decisions are any more “real” than our subjective tastes in food.”

          Agreed

        • MR

          Since he love him some philosophy so much, he should try Democritus:

          By convention sweet is sweet, bitter is bitter, hot is hot, cold is cold, color is color; but in truth there are only atoms and the void.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This idea of if objective morality does not exist, and we are only left with subjective morality, then nihilism is the necessary conclusion has been stated by numerous atheistic thinkers for thousands of years.

          By nihilism you mean the observation that there is no objective meaning to life? Well, yeah. Does anyone disagree with this?

        • Susan

          I am worried about it because it seems that if abstract objects do not exist, then math is fictional. 2+2=4 is as real as “Alice fell down the rabbit hole”.

          I worry because if a two-dimensional model (a map) of my city does not exist, then my city does not exist. Of course, that should keep us all up at night.

          You should look into ‘nihilism’. There are many models with many implications. Philosophy teaches you that.

          When someone just blurts out ‘nihilism’ as though it’s a specific and agreed upon thing, it’s not philosophy. It’s always apologetics. . The same with ‘infinity’.

          Apologists use the word but take no responsibility for its various definitions and the consequences that emerge from those definitions.

          Which ‘nihilism’?

          Also, the fact that you are using the terms ‘subjective’ vs. ‘objective’ morality makes me think I am not on the trail of a black swan.

          Get me back to me when you are not appealing to a position that has you impaled on one or the other of Euthyphro’s horns.

          Seriously, you can’t skip over that.

        • adam

          “They are abstract, philosophical arguments for a specific kind of “reality” that may or may not exist. ”

          So nothing but Mental Masterbation.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Philosophy is only useful in making deist arguments? It has no value in arguing for Christianity?

          And how do you answer the Smokescreen Problem–the charge that philosophy is used only to harass an attacker, not make an actual evidence-based argument?

        • MR

          He was laying out his plan here…, I can almost see him rubbing his hands together. “First I’ll win them over with objective morality, that will naturally point to a god, then I will slay them with my superior arguments for a Christian God! Then I will have earned a place at the right hand of WLC!”

        • MNb

          No, it’s not exactly the best metaphor ever.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          He’s afraid to die and mean nothing. He’s afraid that one day he’ll die and everyone who remembers him will die, and no matter how well or poorly he behaved, it will all be erased.

          This is the part that baffles me. We die. And a thousand years from now, no one will much care about our lives. Can this surprise anyone? Can this shock anyone?

          Maybe someone can give me insights into how people like Adam think about this.

        • Adam

          No, sorry. I actually laid out what an objective morality would have to be if it existed. I did this below. I am not here to say how we know this morality, I am not here to build up some philosophical moral system, tell you what is “right” or “wrong”, etc. I am just saying *below to RudyR) what I think are the two options for an objective morality could be. I see problems with both. The big problem though, is that subjective morality is only “livable” in a delusional sense. Subjective morality seemingly has no way of resolving moral dilemmas without begging the question. It’s the equivalent to you liking chocolate ice cream and me liking vanilla. You cannot show me that your ” (moral) tastes” are somehow superior to mine. We may “agree” on what is “beneficial” for us, but that is no reason to think that our moral decisions are any more “real” than our subjective tastes in food.

          Trust me, as confused as all of you are about my comments, I am equally confused about how you cannot see my point.

        • Rudy R

          You’re looking for a higher being, not a conventional god, for the source of objective morality. You believe philosophy has a compelling argument for objective morality. Close or still confused?

        • Kodie

          Why are you so confused about this? Why is subjective morality more fictional to you than objective morality?

        • adam

          Could be………..

        • Kodie

          This other guy “Adam” says that lots of atheists agree with him. What I’m trying to figure out is how an atheists objective morality concept leads any less to nihilism than subjective morality would. If my subjective mathematics says 4=5, but objective mathematics always says 4=4, what happens when I apply my math to something vs. obj. math? Maybe my coffee is too strong, maybe the treehouse I built falls apart and some kids died, maybe I leave an hour later to make my flight and just barely make it to boarding and yet, I arrive in sunny California at the same time I would have. What are the ultimate consequences of objective math vs. subjective math? The same. The immediate consequences are slightly to drastically different, but the ultimate consequences are the same.

        • adam

          “but the ultimate consequences are the same.”

          I was having this exact conversation with a couple of very dishonest posters who later identified themselves as IDiots.

          Since they are the same ultimate consequences you MUST give them equal consideration

          Never mind that one is demonstrably Real and the other a philosophical IMAGINING…

          Full Definition of NIHILISM – Merriam Webster

          1a : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless

          b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths

          2 a : a doctrine or belief that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake independent of any
          constructive program or possibility

          ……………………………………………………………………….
          1a. No True Nihlists(TM) exists

          A real nihlist would have no desire to breathe, eat or drink and would die shortly after becoming a nihlist, so it just another philosophical IMAGINING.. One now used by apologetics as a Straw Man against their philosophically IMAGINED character.

          1b. This is where I am at
          Until I see sufficient evidence.

          What’s the problem with my observed social/evolutionary grounding of moral truths?

          It makes me Happy!

          Does it make unhappy a philosophically imagined deity?
          I guess it depends on what kind of deity you are IMAGINING.

        • Kodie

          I take nihilism the first one – if the future doesn’t really matter, then why go through with it. I can see the crisis for other Adam is that he’s taken the bait, without god, the universe eventually collapses or whatever it’s supposed to do, without any point to it. It doesn’t matter how you live your life today or from now on, it doesn’t matter how many people you affect positively or negatively, whatever imprint you leave on them that cascades through the generations will eventually be erased. A new universe may arise, and a new earth may arise, and a new human-ish species may arise, and have to learn everything for themselves all over again. This is not being written down anywhere. There will be no library for them to look up how we did things in the old universe. Their morality will be different. Their music will be different. Their pets will be different. And someday, that will be erased. We’ll never know about them, they’ll never know about us, and there’s so much we’ll never know, no matter how long our species survives and records things and travels to other planets maybe. If there’s no difference if I murder someone today or not, ultimately, what’s the point of picking up a pencil and gushing out my heartfelt admiration for the guy who taught me that there’s no point to living my life according to any rules?

          I would say that there is such a thing as a true nihilist – they either kill themselves, live recklessly, do take the mass-murder option, or panic until they find a raft to float on to take them to fantasy-land. I would say that wanting to stay alive is an evolutionary trait, so realizing that there’s no point to it causes a mental breakdown. How can one wish to stay alive if there’s no point to it? Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!!!!! Realizing suicide is your main available option tends to scare people who don’t otherwise feel suicidal. There’s got to be some point to save my life! I mean, other Adam accused WLC (jokingly?) of ruining his life, of bringing to his attention that, without an ultimate point, nihilism is all that’s left. If this isn’t Billie Jean, it’s WOM, basically repeating, frame for frame, that rude cartoon he posted at his first appearance, the one he defended, thought was cute, where the atheist is smug, gets cut down by some philosopher, and then boozes up in preparation to blow his brains out. Frame. for. frame. I realize this is a popular thought among pseudo-atheist philosophy students dangling perilously close to the edge of religious belief. If I want to stay alive, then my life must have purpose, he convinces himself. If my life has purpose, then there has to be a god whose purpose I serve. WLC and others use these arguments mostly because most people don’t think or dwell on their existence and if he’s the first person to bring it to their attention, he’s persuasive at it. He is trying to ruin lives. He wants to wreck atheism, he wants to lure philosophy students.

          I mean, jeez, when I took one weird intro philosophy course for core credit my first semester at college, I thought about it a lot. I didn’t read any books, I didn’t go ask my professor at office hours, I thought about it myself. I get the opposite idea from nihilism, and most of the work how I arrived at a more permanent grounded atheism – god doesn’t have a purpose. What kind of god? I thought of many different ones, conceived of popular gods and constructed many other gods. I got stuck on god the watchmaker, that seemed most likely if there was a god. Least purposeful god of them all. Create all this with no interest in it? I realize it’s boring, but still. God doesn’t have a purpose for us. We’re not worthy, not in the worshiping, groveling sense, but I don’t see a point to all this for someone to create. I cannot be convinced there is a point, and it bothers me not at all. I am actually comforted by the idea that it will all be gone one day.

        • MR

          I’m going to help root beer boy out here because the truth is he can’t say what he really means without being… indelicate. He’s alluding to the real issue (whether he consciously realizes this or not) and hoping that we grasp what he’s really trying to say. But to actually say it (or perhaps, for him, to even think it) might come across as selfish. And indeed it is. It’s really got to annoy him that we can’t see what he means and that we don’t take his bait.

          When he talks about the “game” and “playing without a ball”, it’s not the game or the ball he’s worried about, or even about winning the game. It all points to one thing: the after party. ‘Cause none of this matters if there’s no after life. See, to him, life ain’t worth living if you don’t get to live forever, and it must blow his little, theist mind that we don’t feel the same.

          No, no, he’ll insist it’s not about that, but as Kodie points out, objective morality doesn’t change a damned thing. It’s not objective morality in and of itself that makes a difference. Nobody gives a fuck about that, because at the end of the day, subjective morality / objective morality, once you blink out of existence, your life means nothing. Even if God existed, and he decided he was done with you and poofed you into oblivion, objectively / subjectively, you’re life doesn’t/didn’t matter.

          Ah, but, if we get to live forever…! Yee-ha! My life must mean something then! But, does it really? Is the universe any better because I lived? What objective meaning do I provide to the universe? What objective meaning do I provide to God? If I never existed, would the universe or God have even noticed?

          See, this whole idea of objective morality…, to the theist it means there must be a reason behind all this, and it’s really just a code word for God. It means there’s a chance that we get to live forever, that we get to live in a perfect world. Oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful! But, even that doesn’t have any objective meaning or purpose. It’s just a selfish desire for immortality. And who the hell am I to insist that I live forever? Or, maybe, it’s just a subconscious fear of death. I’ll give him that.

          Unless he can come up with a reason why objective morality makes any difference, then we should just cut through the bullshit and call his argument what it is: a plea for immortality.

          “Please let there be a God so I can live forever!”

        • Kodie

          Why I think this is definitely Billie Jean, because he would also get irate that none of us could understand what he wasn’t actually saying to us.

        • MR

          You do have an uncanny ability to fingerprint these guys, and a way with words, “what he wasn’t actually saying.” 😀

        • adam

          “We may “agree” on what is “beneficial” for us, but that is no reason to think that our moral decisions are any more “real” than our subjective tastes in food.”

          Subjective morality is REAL, it is exists and we live by it.

          Objective morality is philosophically IMAGINED….

          REAL vs IMAGINED…

          It is not we who are confused….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          subjective morality is only “livable” in a delusional sense.

          Because no person can accept that their life has no objective meaning? I suspect that there are hundreds of people here that have no problem with that.

          Subjective morality seemingly has no way of resolving moral dilemmas without begging the question. It’s the equivalent to you liking chocolate ice cream and me liking vanilla.

          You can say that “I like vanilla!” and “The Holocaust was wrong!” are of equal moral weight if you like. None of the rest of us do.

          You cannot show me that your ” (moral) tastes” are somehow superior to mine.

          Never changed your mind on a moral issue? Ever?

        • MNb

          “subjective morality is only “livable” in a delusional sense.”
          Could you prove that? You just saying so is not nearly enough. In what respect do I delude myself?

          “Subjective morality seemingly has no way of resolving moral dilemmas without begging the question.”
          That’s incorrect. As I wrote underneath another article, when you start building an ethical system, you can only use deduction. The question if something’s ethically right or wrong cannot be decided by means of empiry.
          Since Descartes (and really since Euclides) we know that any deductive system is always build on axioms, presuppositions, basic assumption or whatever you like to call them. Change them and your conclusions (in this case ethical judgments) change. You are not maintaining that Pythagoras’ Theorem is begging the question, is it? It’s a tautology – all math is.
          So you’re not going to tell me, just because math can’t decide which axioms to accept and which ones to reject, that the entire field of math is worthless and should be put in the dustbin, are you? The same with ethics.

          “You cannot show me that your ” (moral) tastes” are somehow superior to mine.”
          So what? I cannot show you either, by means of math alone, that Euclidean Geometry is superior or inferior to Hyperbolic Geometry. Are you a nihilist in math as well? If no then you’re inconsistent.

          “that is no reason to think that our moral decisions are any more “real” than our subjective tastes in food.”
          So Euclidean Geometry and Non-Euclidean Geometries aren’t “real” as well? You make the word “reality” meaningless. My subjective tastes and my subjective ethics are totally part of reality, as I can put them in words, which also part of reality in any sensible meaning of the word. The fact that my ethics are subjective is even part of my ethics.

          “as confused as all of you are about my comments,”
          I’m not confused about anything you wrote in this comment at all, because you’re just repeating what a gazillion christians have argued before, including many on this very blog. What confuses me is that you go to WLC with this issue, for several reasons:

          a) WLC is intellectually dishonest (well documented);
          b) WLC is a bigot (well documented);
          c) WLC’s argument is exactly the same as yours, so you can’t expect any new insights from him;
          d) WLC himself is inconsistent regarding his so called objective morals. On one page of Reasonable Doubt he states (not argues) that genocide is objectively wrong; we just have to accept that without further do. On a next page he argues that genocide is morally right if his god commands it. So according to WLC the question if genocide is morally wrong or right depends on the question if the subject who orders genocide is called God or not. I cannot think of anything more subjective.

          So I’m not arguing that nihilism is wrong. If that’s your pick there is nothing I can say to prove you should change your position. What I’m saying is that “atheism hence nihilism” is a non-sequitur and you have brought up exactly nothing to show it isn’t. What I’m saying is that you have an existential choice.
          You should rather read Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre instead of consulting an ugly philosophical dwarf like WLC. Or, as someone else suggested, seek advise from Daniel Fincke. That’s to say – if you want to get out of your nihilistic rut. Sticking to WLC makes me suspect you don’t want to. And that was what my comment to Kodie was about.

        • Adam

          Yes, I ask myself every day if I am a “sociopath”, but my reasoning seems correct to me, rather than “sociopathic”. And I say this with confidence because I explained the “problems” concerning morality and what it should be above and no one has responded in a way that shows they truly comprehend the difficulties with morality. I am not trying to act like some elitist snob, but I have yet to read anything on this entire page that shows that even one person fully understands the “moral argument”. If I did hear a response about my comments about the issues concerning Moral Ontology, from someone who truly understood the problem, and I still felt the same way, then I may think myself a sociopath.

        • Kodie

          I just don’t think you care about people as much as abstract concepts.

        • adam

          “I just don’t think you care about people as much as abstract concepts.”

          Not just him, but a LOT of believers in ‘objective morality’…

        • adam

          “I explained the “problems” concerning morality and what it should be above and no one has responded in a way that shows they truly comprehend the difficulties with morality.”

          The reason we can’t comprehend is that you havent demonstrated these “problems” clearly.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t recall your summary of the problems atheists have with the moral argument. Could you restate it?

          My guess is that the atheists’ statements weren’t clueless as much as not mirroring your view of things. Is this possible?

        • MR

          I’d just add, Bob, that much of our morality is innate. Social evolution has buried much of our morality in the subconscious. Yes, we can make conscious moral decisions, but that’s not the sole driver. Social evolution, conscious decisions, no objective morality required. In fact, the concept of moral objectivity seems pretty ridiculous to me the moment you start looking at things closely.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, I agree. I imagine that supporters of objective morality will explain the changes in morality through the years by saying that we only dimly perceive this objective morality. how else to explain slavery being OK but now not, genocide being OK but now not, etc.?

          But then their key argument is, “Well torture for fun is really, really wrong–surely you agree!” So now “objective morality” is actually quite easy to see.

          So in trying to make their argument, I only hit walls.

        • MR

          Yeah, except for the little qualifier “for fun.” We start out with “torture is immoral”, and it quickly degenerates into “except when it’s not,” like when the Catholic Church uses it, or when you need to get information to rescue people or…. The moment you start qualifying, the moment things become subjective and you lose the argument for objectivity. Someone who’s torturing for fun likely isn’t doing it “for fun” so much as that person has a mental problem and once again you lose moral objectivity because it then becomes a mental problem. Social evolution has the capacity to explain these things, moral objectivity can’t.

        • MNb

          Are you a dualist?

          “I may deny the existence of objective moral values and say that nothing REALLY is Good or Bad.”
          That “REALLY” is silly. It’s part of our natural reality that humans think something good or bad (no need for capitals). So subjective moral values are as real they can be.

          “as Dr. Craig says, this is seemingly unlivable.”
          Repeating a non-sequitur does nothing to remedy it. I addressed this above.

          “I want people to stop misrepresenting me.”
          Do you accept science? If yes you can stop wanting this. People (specifically including me) are too stupid to represent other people well; a few also are ill-willed.

        • Adam

          Sheesh. Of course subjective morality is real, that’s not the point. Again, the reason I wrote Dr. Craig is because he understands this. I even mention in my original letter to him how “frustrated” he must be, since people just, for whatever reason, do not grasp the “Moral Argument”. I wish I could understand why people don’t get it.

          Well, maybe I can sort of get it. In grad school, I sat in class for three months talking about whether the number 2 existed. I didn’t get it and I wanted to blow my brains out. Now, a few years later, I think about whether the number two exists almost every day, haha!

          I am not a dualist. But I am very, very, very skeptical of “Naturalism”. Forget about got for a second, I find mathematics and morality to be serious issues that “Naturalism” has a hard time accounting for. I know people won’t believe that last statement on this board, but it’s true.

        • adam

          ” I know people won’t believe that last statement on this board, but it’s true.”

          I have no problem that YOU find math and morality to be serious issues that “Naturalism” has a hard time accounting for.

          I am guessing every honest (if there are really any) religious apologists does. Isnt THIS the very CORE of apologetics?

          But no I cannot understand WHY that is the case when mathematics is merely a human description of our reality based on human observation and morals are what allows groups of humans to exist in groups.

          ” It seems to me (I know this is going to infuriate so many people on here) that moral values seem to FLOW from a being or person.”

          Then that by definition leaves out any objectivity.
          The ‘moral values’ are created by this being or person you describe and are subject to that being’s or person’s personal preference.

        • Adam

          Again, just for clarity, this does NOT “leave out objectivity”. We would not be talking about some regular person. We would NOT be talking about some “god” of one of the world’s religions. We would be talking about the greatest conceivable being. A “perfect” (that needs to be unpacked quite a bit) being. This is not the sort of being that just has arbitrary ideas, or thoughts, or whatever you want to call it.

        • adam

          ” This is not the sort of being that just has arbitrary ideas, or thoughts, or whatever you want to call it.”

          If it answers to no other authority, then this beings morals ARE arbitrary and are subjective to this being. NOT objective to it.

        • Adam

          I think this just comes down to the difficulty in comprehending what a perfect being would be. I am not saying this being exists, but IF a perfect being exists, wouldn’t it know what was right and wrong? It’s the “ground of all reality”, it is the cause of everything, it is perfect in nature. Again, not saying this is a reality, just that if it did exist, I could see how objective morality would rely on a being such as this, or rely on perfection.

        • adam

          “but IF a perfect being exists, wouldn’t it know what was right and wrong?”

          Maybe, maybe not…whose to say without demonstrating this ‘objective morality’ is anything but IMAGINARY…

          It’s morality is STILL arbitrary and subjective to that ‘perfect’ being NOT objective to it.

        • Kodie

          You’re not a very convincing atheist.

        • MR

          Yeah, I think you guys have sussed out the Poe.

        • Kodie

          There is no greatest conceivable being.

        • MR

          If there were, the universe would be a very different place because we can all conceive of a being doing a better job than this.

        • Kodie

          I like animals, and the more I know about animals, the more humble I feel. Humans can create machines that mimic processes animals can do, well, I’m not one of those humans, even, but we can’t do them ourselves. Whenever someone thinks humans are better than all the animals, I think, we’re one of the worst. We have our abilities, other animals have their abilities, and each is amazing in some way, so “greatest” is always subjective. There is not really anything in the universe that everyone would agree is the greatest, except for theists – a made-up god they have to keep making up excuses for, who is, all things considered, one of the worst and least capable of all humans. Why people are made frightened to offend this insecure bully puts them lower than the fictional god in many ways. They say he’s the greatest because they’re brainwashed and frightened, and once in a while, they tear up over a newborn baby or wake up early enough to enjoy a slow sunrise, or the store clerk looked in the back room and found that pair of shoes in your size that wasn’t on the shelf, in black like you wanted, not brown. How can there be a greatest conceivable being, when as soon as you could conceive such a being, someone would conceive of a greater one, or fiddle with the dials a bit and change the greatness?

          Is it great because it can destroy everything? Is it great because it has the power to ruin you? Is it great because it decides if you deserve to be ruined? Is that greatness? Is that objective morality? We’re waiting for some greatest conceivable being to write back with an answer to the perplexing moral dilemma, and it turns out our subjective decision was wrong? Why do some people think it’s not their job to make sure everyone in the world has food and clean water? Why doesn’t that weigh on everyone so heavily to do something that we’d all get together and solve that problem? Why are we so weak? If there was an objective moral answer to that question, it looks like the “objective morality” is to take care of yourself and fuck those thirsty starving people. Send a handful of white people with bibles to feel like they’re making a real difference, and get the fulfillment of doing something so charitable that they couldn’t convince everyone in the world to help out, it’s so objectively moral to share Jesus with everyone in the world, apparently that’s what the greatest conceivable being wants. That’s what makes me sick over this dumb fucking “dilemma”. Nihilism is not a thing. I don’t understand why people are so distressed over it, as if there aren’t other problems. They’re like, why bother, it won’t impress anyone famous.

        • adam

          That is because my imaginary being is even GREATER….

        • Rudy R

          You’ve just described the Christian god and Muslim god.

        • MR

          Psst…, don’t tell the others, but I think that’s his goal.

        • adam

          You mean just like WLC?

          HIs FAVORITE philosopher?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Must be hard for you and the good doctor. How do you put up with the stupid masses? You bear your burden well.

          I find mathematics and morality to be serious issues that “Naturalism” has a hard time accounting for.

          Because in a godless world, mathematics and morality would be different? What would it be like?

        • Pofarmer

          “morality to be serious issues that “Naturalism” has a hard time accounting for.”

          Not really. Have you ever read any scientist philosophers like Patricia Churchland? It seems to me that you’ve had way to much philosophy and not nearly enough biology and science. You need the science to ground the philosophy.

        • Rudy R

          Thanks for taking the time to set your position clear on this blog. From what I have read so far, you’re not quite in the Atheist camp yet. The moral issue has still got you clinging. Philosophy is second to none for giving us the tools to employ reason and logic, but it can make subjects confoundedly more confusing and complicated then they need to be. What’s good and bad has changed over the milenia and is geography and culture dependent. Slavery was once morally correct in the US, but we’ve got the 13th Amendment that outlaws the practice and codifies our change in position of this moral value. But slavery is still practiced in other countries. Were we wrong then and the other countries are wrong now? Or are we wrong now? Are the countries who are in the majority right? Whose morality is subjective? Objective?

          Here’s another mind experiment. Do all other animals, besides humans, have moral values? If they don’t, what sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom? Brain size? Would you agree that chimpanzees don’t appear to have a moral code? If yes, then Australopithecus, who was a human descendant a million years ago, probably didn’t have moral values either, because they share the same brain size.

          Since we are exchanging sources, I highly recommend you watch the video by Matt Dillahunty. Suggest you start watching at 13:00. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq2C7fyVTA4

        • Adam

          No problem, Rudy. I am again disappointed though. Even after what I thought was a clear explanation of the “Moral Argument”, I am still reading silly comments that show how completely misunderstood the argument actually is. I will watch this video (even though I don’t really care for this guy), thanks. Oh, and not being rude here, but i could care less about what “camp” I am in. I am just trying to figure this insane thing we call “existence”. I don’t want to be lumped in with either Atheists or Theists, because I think they are all insane. But that’s a whole other topic for another time. :)

        • MR

          [edit: Kodie has convinced me I’m mistaken about this, so please disregard the following speculations.]

          The question we all want to know, then, is that if you agree with WLC on the moral issue, then why do you still claim to be an atheist?

          The question I want to know is, why is an atheist wearing a priest’s collar?

          I clicked on his profile to read the back story, and I’m looking at his picture going, “Wha’?” An atheist in a priest’s collar?

          So, I pass it by my Episcopal priest friend, “Hey, Jim, what denomination is this collar?” He looks at it and says, “Episcopal or Anglican. Sometimes Lutheran will wear those. Protestants don’t usually sport a collar, but sometimes.”

          So my next question is:

          Why would a priest lie and pose as an atheist with philosophical tendencies?

        • Kodie

          What are you looking at? It’s too blurry, but all I can see is he’s semi-groping two ladies, they’re all wearing black, and the lighting/ambience suggests a bar where, if you say he’s wearing some kind of priest collar, there may be a costume party of some kind going on. He only created that account 4 days ago. It’s too blurry and small (even on the larger profile picture) to see what anyone’s wearing in that detail, so how are you seeing this? I see a guy wearing black and he has a beard, so the white part is actually just his neck.

        • MR

          That’s not his neck, he’s not that pasty. I have a lot of clergy friends, believe it or not, and that sure looks like a collar to me, or dog collar, as my friend Jim likes to refer to it—and he sure didn’t hesitate to peg it as a being “his chosen vesture,” as he put it. If anyone would know….

          And you don’t think a priest can’t hang out in a bar? Oh, Kodie, we’re going to have to have you out on the West Coast sometime. I’ll meet Jim out (not his real name, by the way) at a bar or restaurant, and he’s always so funny because he’ll say, “I have to be good, because I might run into some of my parishioners,” and then he’s always the one to end up telling raunchy jokes. Good times.

          [edit:] I think we’re dealing with a seminary student.

        • Kodie

          I can’t see the details of what he’s wearing. I don’t know how you can see a collar at all, much less show someone else and ask them which denomination the particular design goes with. I see a guy holding two blonde ladies he knows very well, he has a beard, they are all wearing black, and they are out somewhere with pink and purple-ish blue lighting. I can’t see his neck collar well enough to know if it’s too white to be skin. I have no idea what you are talking about! Are you on one of those CSI computers?

        • MR

          😉 I can’t admit to that.

          It’s also that collar/vest combo, not just the collar. But don’t worry, I’m not wedded to my theory, but I do have a suspicion. It would also explain the philosophical bent, especially if this is root beer boy, too, with all that forms and immateriality bs. He’s gotta find something to do with that Fuller degree; it’s not like he can use it in the real world.

        • MR

          Oooh, I just re-read the part about the light being pink and purple-ish blue lighting, that could totally skew that color, huh? Like that dress, is it black and blue or is it white and tan?

        • MNb

          Well, after BobS I’d like to be the next one to ask you which WLC arguments you think so good. I addressed the “atheism leads to nihilism” one above.

        • Adam

          I stepped up. He never responded.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Who never responded? Are you saying that you wrote to WLC to encourage him to make your identity public?

          I’m probably missing your point here.

        • Adam

          Not public, I am not looking for “fame”. I wrote a response because I am genuinely concerned about these issues. I didn’t even get a response back from one of his assistants. I know he can’t have a dialogue with an unknown, but some sort of response would have been nice. I mean, my letter did get the most likes out of any letter ever.

        • MNb

          Telling, isn’t it? I had a short exchange of emails with Herman Philipse, a colleague of WLC and an atheist. Perhaps the “objective meaning” stuff is not that relevant after all?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I agree. I think he owes you something given how he used your letter.

        • Adam

          That’s the first nice thing an atheist has said to me about my letter. Congratulations. I know it’s not much, but I will take it! But seriously, thank you.

        • Adam

          Also, I am thinking (or hoping) that my response to RudyR below, concerning why I am an atheist even though I find theistic arguments “plausible” could be of some help.

      • MNb

        No, I don’t think so. See, WLC is very, very smart. He gets that a converting Adam smells worse than rotten fish. No, if Adam converts WLC will spend little attention; if he doesn’t we won’t hear anything anymore. WLC might use him in the future as a prime example of how atheism is 0% rational and 100% emotional.

        • Adam

          Yes, I believe this might be correct, unfortunately. I agree only because I wrote a second letter to him and he never responded.

        • MNb

          I have a similar experience with him.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        That would be amusing–The Further Adventures of Adam in another “email” to WLC as he takes the path WLC would like more atheists to take.

        All we have is WLC’s assurance that this email is what it claims to be. If this guy were real, I would’ve thought WLC might’ve encouraged him to communicate (even if through a pseudonym) on some other forum to validate his statements.

        • Kodie

          Adam might be a troll. If you’re a Christian, what is your reaction to WLC sharing this letter? I really can’t put myself in that place, but he kind of seems full of himself. Would he really write such a praising letter to himself, just so it doesn’t seem like he is bragging – this is an objective opinion of him! But he could be flattered into reading it if it came from someone else, by which I mean an atheist like any one of us on a blog or any blogger, just yanking WLC’s chain – your arguments are so awesome and your style is so sharp and gee, golly, I’ve seen all your work! But I’m still unconvinced. There is literally no substance in any of your arguments that leads one to the belief that god is real.

        • Otto

          If you’re a Christian, what is your reaction to WLC sharing this letter?

          WLC seems to want to validate the intelligent Christians out there that belief in a Supreme Being is reasonable and completely intellectually honest. I think it is an attempt to keep those people who might have doubts in the fold.

          Thinking about it I agree Adam is probably not a product of WLC himself, but I still doubt the person who wrote that has all of the characteristics he claims to have.

        • Adam

          What “characteristics” do I claim to have?

        • Greg G.

          I wonder if “Adam” was capitalized. Did the correspondence have a graphic? Where has adam been lately?

        • adam

          Traveling…

          It wasnt me.

          WLC is a con man

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If this is the case, I would expect “Adam” to unveil himself eventually.

          I did find it hilarious that WLC seemed pleased with the flattery and complimented Adam on his judgment.

        • Adam

          Here I am, Bobby. :)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re the Adam who wrote to WLC?

          Any comments on my post above?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Have you made a case for objective morality? I’ve not seen it. Nor have I seen any case made by any apologist, just handwaving.

          IMO, this defending objective morality is the most direct way to see that it either doesn’t exist or, if it does, we can’t reliably access it.

  • Cognissive Disco Dance

    I wouldn’t rule out spam. I see that William conveniently took the opportunity to spam everyone with links to his books. A little too convenient if you ask me. By the way today I’m celebrating my zillionth spam from people on google+. Not too bad for being there for only like about a couple days or something. I’m exaggerating but not by much lol. Hurry up and die google+.

  • Lausten North

    True or not, it is highly appealing to believers, because I think it is one of their greatest fears. They are fearful of losing their faith if they think about it too much because they have some awareness of the thinness of their arguments, and they are fearful they won’t be able to develop a worldview on their own, at least not one that comforts them.

    I saw this and questioned it for similar reasons. Mainly for how long he says he has felt like this. I think some atheists do go through this kind of doubt about meaning, but not for more than a year or so. Once you start to live with the moral decisions you have already made, and without them being reinforced by your church, you realize it is you generating it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      In comparing atheist vs. Christian attitudes, it’s the atheists who seem to have it together. It’s like being in a cult for a Christian–or North Korea: don’t listen to those atheists because they’re bad.

  • TheNuszAbides

    There is no escaping the nihilism as an atheist.

    oh noes! teh nihilism! all atheisticalismz lead there, y’know.

    http://rationalwiki.org/w/images/2/29/Onozomg.gif

  • Steve Gray

    Craig is a hyperreligious crackpot. He is as addicted to his superstition as a gutter drunk is to booze. He has no objectivity whatever. His moral beliefs are beneath contempt. Christianity is way beyond incoherent. I know what I’m talking about.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You have a history with Christianity? or with WLC?

    • MNb

      And I thought it was impossible to feel more contempt for WLC than I do. My compliment, sir.

  • Bradley Allan Samuels

    Troll alert. Move along.

  • Steve Gray

    My “history” with Craig consists only of reading what he’s written, and a few debates. My “history” with Christianity consists only of reading about it – from both sides.

  • Rob

    The greatest letter? That’s something we must investigate.

    Hilarious! Also terrifying, but not to me; I’m one of the good guys. Mua ha ha ha ha.

  • http://atheistjourneys.blogspot.com/ Atheist Journeys

    This Adam only listens to WLC’s side of the debates. That’s why he still strawmans the atheist arguments. I did that at thirteen, fearing hell, and my grandfather at eighty-five still only listens to what he wants to hear (about his health, etc).

  • https://antiavidanime.wordpress.com/ The Other Weirdo

    You are and always have been my…

    That sounds like a quote from one of the Star Trek movies.

  • Adam

    This is insane. All of you people are saying nothing but mean things about me, yet there is nothing of substance here. Whoever the author of this blog is wrote an entire page about me and my latter, yet I am just a “troll” and I “ramble”, etc., then why put this much effort into my “stupid” letter? Well, the 172 comments on this page, never mind wherever else my letter went on the internet, seems to me to mean that I was saying something “more” than what you’re making me out to say. Really read my letter, don’t make me out to be a “fan boy”. I am not here to try to justify or explain my “atheistic knowledge”, there is no way to show “how much of an atheist I am”. This would be pointless. I just wish people would come with some substance, instead of this nonsense hating. Even with all the bad things that have been said about me, I still will say “thanks” for this acknowledgment of my letter. If it was really as bad as some people on this page say it was, then it never would have gotten this attention. So, again, thanks.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      If you have specific reactions to the post, I’d be interested in hearing them. I’m the author.

      Know that I wrote this response to WLC’s article and your letter (keep in mind that we can’t be sure that you’re who you claim to be–such are the vagaries of the internet) with a poor opinion of WLC. You can search for other posts on this blog to see why.

      • Adam

        Well, I am the one who wrote the letter. I cannot explain everything about me, my views, or what my letter was completely about, inside of this little comment box, I am sorry, I just don’t have the time nor patience to discuss complex philosophical issues over the internet with strangers. I will say that I wrote that letter to Dr. Craig thinking that he would never even read it (I know he has a busy schedule), never mind respond to it and do a podcast about it. So, let me just say from the outset, that me responding to someone else, other than Dr. Craig, about my letter, is strange to me.

        However, I will say that I am EXTREMELY surprised, and utterly disappointed with the atheistic responses to my letter. They have been nothing but hateful, (attempts to be) hurtful, and riddled with misunderstandings about my views. A lot of it seems to stem from my “like” of Dr, Craig. I didn’t realize that by simply “liking” Dr. Craig that I would arouse such an outrage from strangers on the internet. Very strange, indeed.

        I will say that your response is, unfortunately, missing the point of my original letter to Dr. Craig as well. I cannot go into my meta-ethical views regarding the grounds for morality and why I think that you claiming that “evolution does the job” is wrong. My brain just doesn’t have the patience to argue with a stranger over the internet at the moment. I am not meaning to be patronizing, but if you have not read J.L. Mackie’s Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, then I think his argument from “queerness”, regarding morality, is something that you definitely need to either check out or re-visit. This may seem irrelevant to you, but I think it’s an important concept (the queerness of objective moral values, if they actually exist) since you seemingly think that evolution can ground morality. I just figured I would at least bring it up, because like I said before, this is not something I care to discuss with a stranger over the internet. Also, I will touch on your seemingly “subjectivist” view in a tiny bit.

        With that said,instead of getting into a “debate” over my views or attempt to justify what I did “wrong” in my letter to Dr. Craig, I will just try to clarify a few points surrounding all the “controversy” over my letter. I am hoping with a little clarification, people will stop being so mean and hateful.

        So, here goes:

        First, I am an atheist. I have been my entire life, or as long as I can remember. Me being sympathetic to particular theistic arguments does not make me a Christian. There have been many atheistic philosophers who have grappled with particular theistic arguments because of their substance, not because they are some wish-washy, mumbo-jumbo. There is this myth (that is perpetuated mostly by non-philosophers) that theistic arguments are “dead”, they have been disposed of by Hume, Kant, science, etc. and therefore there is no need to give them the slightest credence. I do not agree with this, obviously. However, simply because I think the theistic arguments need to be taken seriously, does not mean that I am a Christian. I do not think that Christianity is true, at all. I cannot wrap my head around that sort of Being. If it is true, I would be as surprised as the next atheist.

        A second quick point regarding the theistic arguments and philosophy in general: I am still working this out in my head, but I do not take (and I am not alone on this, I believe most professional philosophers feel this way) philosophical arguments or philosophy in general to be the same sort of “knowledge” that say something like science produces. This seems like a trivial point, but let me further explain what I mean by this. Philosophy and its arguments are sort of like branches on a tree that you want to climb. Philosophy helps CLARIFY all the LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES of a particular view. So, if you want to climb a big tree and get to a CERTAIN POSITION, you need to be CONSISTENT and follow a certain path of branches in order to get to a certain area of the tree to enable yourself to climb the tree without falling and hurting yourself (falling from the tree would be equivalent to holding incoherent views at the same time). An important point is that if you assume, just for my analogy’s sake (please and thank you), there were some perfect position to be in, on the tree, (this would be equivalent to “knowledge”) I don’t believe philosophy could necessarily lead us to that “perfect” position. It just means that philosophy will show you how to get to all the different positions on the tree. In short, philosophy, for me, seems to be a tool that says: “If you believe THIS, you will also have to believe THAT. And so on…”.

        The point of what I just said is that this is how I see the atheistic and theistic worldviews and the arguments for each position. I think fully understanding what the theistic arguments are trying to say or “prove” is not what most atheists, who are not philosophers, understand them to be saying. There is a disconnect, never mind between atheists and theists, but between atheists and atheists! Proof of this is from your letter and all the other hateful comments that I have received from my letter. But this may bring us into deeper waters than we need to get into right now. I am sure there is some confusion to be had about what I just said, and I apologize, but I hope you understand the underlying point I was attempting to describe.

        Let me also clarify my existential crisis. I CANNOT explain the sort of existential crisis that a person has when they experience the grip of nihilism that I experience. Nietzsche thought nihilism was a sort of neurological disease that could be cured, and maybe he’s right, but I am not here to discuss this. I can only say that I am not alone in having these feelings. Albert Camus, an atheist, said that once you are aware of the absurd, you can never go back. This seems all too true to me. I can be doing any activity of life and that absurd feeling that poisons my mind seeps in, inevitably, telling me that whatever I am doing means NOTHING, in an objective sense. Maybe it stems from the trouble I have with the idea of “intrinsic value”. I am not sure how things are just supposed to be valued and have meaning within themselves, at least contingent, arbitrary beings or things such as ourselves. If we are an accident, then what kind of meaning is there? The distinction between SUBJECTIVE and OBJECTIVE meaning, purpose, value, etc. is crucial here. You seem to think that an objectively meaningless, valueless, purposeless universe/life is great! I, on the other hand, do not think that subjective meaning is “enough”. Dr. Craig wants to go a step further and say that not only is subjective meaning not “enough”, but that subjectivity leads to inconsistencies. This disagreement over subjective and objective meanings, I am sure, is not one we can accord here. We could probably talk for days and never reconcile this.

        I have said too much already. So I will just end by saying that I get frustrated with people who are so far off the mark from what my views are that I mostly ignore the “bad” comments. This page, that you authored, responded to my letter in a way in which I felt like I had to at least attempt to clarify my positions. I cannot say with certainty if I have accomplished this. :) I can post my second letter to Dr. Craig, if you’d like. Just let me know.

        Take care,
        Adam

        • MNb

          “You seem to think that an objectively meaningless, valueless, purposeless universe/life is great!”
          Small, but crucial correction: we can try to make an objectively meaningless, valueless, purposeless life great. Or we can not try. Your pick seems to be the latter, given

          “I, on the other hand, do not think that subjective meaning is “enough”.

          “I can post my second letter to Dr. Craig, if you’d like.”
          I would. I’m a curious guy.

        • Adam

          Professor
          Craig,

          Let me just start out by thanking you for taking time out of your busy schedule in order to respond to my letter. I had no idea my letter was going to invoke the response that it did. I honestly never thought you’d even read it. I have been watching your lectures and debates, reading your writings, and listening to your podcasts for
          years now, and I just can’t tell you how big of a deal this is to me. I must also say, having an entire Reasonable Faith podcast dedicated to a letter that this “philosopher in training” wrote, is almost beyond words. Simply put, it’s one of the coolest things that has
          ever happened to me. These feelings, even with the “rain cloud” of nihilism looming overhead, help me to
          get up in the morning. With that said, there are a few additional concerns that have come up
          since your response to my letter that I wish to address. The first point is an issue of clarification on your comment about what I said towards the end of my letter, with regards to me “knowing that Christianity is the answer”. The second, and most important, issue
          I have is with your response to my concerns about the justification for knowing that the Holy Spirit is actually at work, rather than being non-veridical. Put another way, I have a problem with your distinction between “knowing” and “showing” that Christianity is true, specifically the “knowing” aspect. The final point that I feel I have to shortly address is the horribly negative and
          downright rude responses that I have received from the atheistic side of the discussion.

          This letter is seemingly more related to a testimonial than my last, since I actually have some positive news (don’t get too excited) to report since reading your response to my letter. I wanted to say how satisfying it was to have my thoughts validated, in some sort of minimal sense, in that you seem to truly understand that my “crisis”
          is concerning the existential reality that is God, or the lack there of regarding this reality. You’re possibly right about me not needing any more arguments (although I would love to have some new food for thought!), after many years of thinking about them, they seem pretty
          plausible to me now.

          However, I did want to point out a small misinterpretation of my letter that was made on the recent RF podcast. When I said that I “know” Christianity is the answer,
          all I was saying was something like: “I know that you, Dr. Craig,are going to tell me that the answer to my problems is Christianity.” I was not making some sort of admission to the truth concerning Christianity. I can see how you could have read it like that, maybe, but that interpretation is a bit of a stretch and therefore misleading to someone who is only listening to your podcast and never actually read my letter.

          More importantly, I have some issues with your
          response to my “criticism” about the justification concerning the works of the Holy Spirit. I said
          in my original letter to you that the disagreements that abound surrounding, I guess I will refer to them
          as “religious experiences”, are not sufficient grounds for dismissing all such experiences as false, and you agreed.
          As you say, some Muslims or Mormons may claim, sincerely or not, that they have the “burning in their bosom” for God, and just because their
          experiences conflict with your “Christian experience”, this
          does nothing to undercut the truth of your experience of God, or as you put it, rob you of your “joy”! The same way that you are rational in believing or that you know
          particular sense perceptions are true, no matter what, you
          are rational in believing or you know your religious experience of the Holy Spirit is true, no matter
          what, and therefore other conflicting experiences
          that other people may have do nothing to diminish your belief in the veridical nature of your own experiences.

          This gets us into way too deep of waters concerning Alvin
          Plantinga’s Reformed Epistemology, e.g. properly
          basic beliefs, warrant, proper function, self-authentication,
          defeaters of beliefs, etc. However, you, in your letter to me, as with Plantinga in his outline of his epistemology, do not give a solid criterion as to how one can tell true religious experiences from false religious experiences.
          This means that I do not know how to tell if a
          religious experience is veridical or non-veridical.
          You say that you see no reason as to why both
          veridical and non-veridical experience should be the same sort of experience, and I agree. But
          if they are not the same, then it seems strange to me why, if such experiences were veridical, I am not recognizing
          such experiences.

          The lack of criterion or the lack of my ability to recognize such an experience, which you describe as the grounding of knowledge of God, leads me to believe that
          Reformed Epistemology can’t be true, since it would lead to some absurd consequences. First, Reformed Epistemology would warrant belief in God for so many people (maybe most, according to Plantinga) who believe in God in this sort of properly basic way while
          leaving a person in my epistemic state out
          of the “rational circle”. The absurdity is this: you take a
          person in a similar situation as me, a person who
          wants to believe in God, who ponders His existence everyday, but yet can’t seem to do so “rationally” since this
          person can’t seem to recognize a “religious experience”
          that would warrant taking belief in God as a properly basic belief, yet there are people who haven’t thought about God or maybe even don’t want God to exist, as much as
          this person does, and yet are considered “rational”.
          How could that be true? For instance, I
          think about the “God question” more than anyone that I know, including the people who actually believe
          in God, yet I wouldn’t fall under the category of
          “rational” while so many to be overly nice,
          lay people, would. Does this not seem ludicrous to you? Why or how could God possibly allow something like this? Am I condemned to irrationality, or
          a lack of God’s knowledge, until, if ever, I recognize a religious experience? Why would He deprive me of such a joy, while giving it to countless others, especially
          when I am being so honest and open? This is a big problem. To make sure, this is not a regurgitation of “The Great Pumpkin” critique. I hope that you recognize this.

          From this, it seems that your idea
          of “knowing” and “showing” with regards to God’s reality
          would leave myself, or someone in a similar epistemic situation as me, lacking the double warrant of argument and religious experience. I would be left with the former, since I agree that the arguments are more plausibly true than not, though argumentation is supposedly
          not a sufficient way to ground belief in God (God
          is not the conclusion of a syllogism, right?),
          but at best seems to make Naturalism an extremely implausible position to hold.
          Again, I am seemingly left with an “abstract”, philosopher’s conception of God, not anything
          near classical theism.

          Further, this means that if Reformed Epistemology is correct, I am not only capable of having religious experiences, but seemingly are having these “experiences”, all the time, since God created me in His image with the “mechanism” of experiencing
          the Holy Spirit, but due to some defect within myself, I am not able to recognize or “enjoy” such experiences. Well, this would mean that my previous letter, and all my ideas,
          feelings, and emotions that I tried to encapsulate
          in that letter, are false in some sense, since
          the only response a Reformed Epistemologist could seemingly give in a situation like this
          would be to place the blame on me, or the person in a similar epistemic state as myself, for not recognizing God’s efforts to reveal Himself to me (maybe
          the Reformed Epistemologist could bring in “Satan”, but that’s “white noise” to me).
          And this is a further absurdity! I am sincerely
          telling you that I want these experiences, but to no avail.
          The Holy Spirit cannot be so weak as to where if it wanted me to have an experience that would “bring me to Christ” that I couldn’t notice it. I am not lying about my negative feelings concerning atheism, and I believe that your responding to my letter shows that you believe that I am being sincere. So, the only way out of this difficulty, for
          the Reformed Epistemologist, seems to be to “push”
          the problem back on to me, as if it is some sort of failure on my part in not recognizing the Holy Spirit. As
          you said, “Right; you need to be open to the convicting witness of the Spirit in your life that you need God’s forgiveness and cleansing for your moral failures.” Well,
          sir, I am saying with all sincerity, that I am open! Strangely,you or someone holding to a Reformed
          Epistemology, must claim that I am not being truthful
          with my words, which would make it difficult to understand why you would respond to an
          “insincere” letter in the way that you did. Moreover, if the
          Reformed Epistemologist must force the blame on to me, or a person like me, for not recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit, in order to avoid this type of trouble, then
          to doubt my words, with seemingly no justification for doing so, comes off asdisingenuous at best, and
          evil at worst.

          I know you’re not Alvin Plantinga, but you do defend his epistemology in your book Reasonable Faith,
          and you do say that the Holy Spirit is the real grounds for how both believers and unbelievers alike can know that God exists. Therefore, if we both hold that I am being sincere, then you cannot force the problem back onto me as if it is some failure on my behalf, since this would undermine your letter that you wrote to me, since you only took time to write to me because you believed I was sincere and open, which I am. I see this as a very big problem with regards to specific knowledge
          surrounding theistic belief, such as Christianity. The “abstract” notion of God I may or may not believe in as the consequence of philosophical arguments is
          untouched, but your concept of God and
          the way to “know” this Being, seems greatly damaged, if
          what I say about the consequences from a lack of criterion within Reformed Epistemology and the response to the
          consequences due to the lack of criterion, is true.

          Let me close by stating two quick, separate, points. The first is how disappointed I am with the atheistic community and their response to my letter. I did not receive one nice or positive comment by any atheist concerning my letter. People actually became angry as
          a result of my letter. People thought I was “fake”,
          which I found crazy. I had no idea that what
          I was saying was so controversial. Nihilism as a result of atheism just seems true to me and I thought everyone else grasped this, but I was wrong. It opened my eyes
          to just how emotional this topic is and how little people, who I thought were thinking rationally, were indeed not. On the flip side, it seems that the theistic community was beyond excited and was seemingly using it as a talking point of sorts. I was much surprised at the polarizing
          nature of my letter, since that is not what it was intended for. I was simply looking for answers.

          The second, and last thing I want to say (sorry, again, for another long letter, I have so many questions for you!), is
          another sincere “thank you” for responding to my original letter. You understood my letter, and the recommendations that you gave to me showed that. I am looking for that existential reality, that
          experience, that seemingly so many theists say they have. I want that. Unfortunately, as you could have probably guessed, sadly, it has not hit me yet.

          As for the “good news” that I mentioned before, it may not be what you want to hear, but your response has motivated me to pursue philosophy with the vigor that I once had. I have been “done” with graduate school for over three years now, not knowing what to
          do, feeling depressed and distant from everything and everyone. Receiving a response from you, a philosopher who I respect so much, has lit the flame that was seemingly extinguished a few years back.
          Thank you for this. If nothing else comes from this, the
          motivation that you have instilled in me will
          have been more than I ever could have asked for. So, thank you, sir.

          Your
          biggest atheist fan,

          Adam

          Well, that’s my response to him. I will not explain what I mean by thinking his or other theistic arguments are “plausible”, I have already tried to give a glimpse of what I mean by that on this forum already. I am sure this etter will anger atheists still, but maybe not as much as my first. We’ll see though. Any comments on the second letter are welcome, obviously.

        • MNb

          “you seem to truly understand that my “crisis” is concerning the existential reality that is God, or the lack there of regarding this reality.”
          More manna from heaven for a bigoted philosopher of religion than true understanding, so it seems to me.

          “I was not making some sort of admission to the truth concerning Christianity. I can see how you could have read it like that, maybe, but that interpretation is a bit of a stretch.”
          Well well, I side with WLC here. That interpretation is not a stretch at all; your formulation was quite unfortunate at the least.
          If you are interested in a thorough critique of Reformed Epistemology I recommend Herman Philipse’s God in the Age of Science; he spends a few chapters on debunking it.

          “People thought I was “fake”, which I found crazy.”
          It was not an accusation against you, but an accusation against WLC, who is demonstrably dishonest plus a bigot. Plus the imagination of atheists is limited as well. Also after reading your second letter I think it crazy to pick WLC to send letters like these to.

          “I had no idea that what I was saying was so controversial. Nihilism as a result of atheism just seems true to me.”
          In the first place I repeat this is a non-sequitur. Elsewhere on this page I have described the answer: humanism. Must I conclude that you don’t care about human beings? If no that care is all you need to find meaning.
          Many atheists, including me, think it quite insulting when believers pull this non-sequitur off. And now we have an atheist who is not capable of finding meaning as a consequence of his unbelief?

          “It opened my eyes to just how emotional this topic is and how little people, who I thought were thinking rationally”
          This is a positive outcome. If you accept science as a reliable road to knowledge, like most atheists do, you have to accept that people decide on emotional grounds and rationalize afterwards. Psychological research has clearly shown this. I clearly remember that I was lost for christianity almost 40 years ago due to an emotional reaction related to the atonement doctrine.

          “I was simply looking for answers.”
          And you thought a dishonest and bigoted philosopher of religion would provide any? You are naive, Adam. What you have found with WLC is a sort of consolation and a confirmation, not any answer.

          “I will not explain what …..”
          That’s your full right of course, but it makes it even more weird that you go to a dishonest and bigoted (and this is well documented) philosopher of religion with your questions. Do you really expect to find truth in someone who doesn’t in his practice? Why not reading the collected works of Bertrand Russell instead? WLC can’t hold a candle to him.

        • Adam

          I wrote Dr. Craig because he, unlike many, many philosophers, and apparently you, just don’t simply grasp that the “Moral Argument” is concerning the ONTOLOGY of moral values. I am not sure how you can respond to this after what I wrote below to RudyR.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Worrying about the ontology is like worrying about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

          The interesting question is whether or not we can reliably access these objective moral truths.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Also after reading your second letter I think it crazy to pick WLC to send letters like these to.

          Adam could get a more thorough and useful test drive of his thoughts and concerns here.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          WLC’s not even giving you a “Sorry, but I can’t personally respond for lack of time” kind of response is disappointing. He used you.

          Have you read about Leah Libresco’s path (she blogs here)? She went from atheist to Catholic. IMO, she made the change for non-intellectual reasons, and maybe she’d agree. Her situation sounds like yours.

          Another source: The Rational Doubt blog, also here at Patheos. This is an outgrowth of the Clergy Project, and as much as you think you’ve been pleading with God to throw you a bone, clergy who are losing their faith are often even more desperate.

          It opened my eyes to just how emotional this topic is and how little people, who I thought were thinking rationally, were indeed not.

          I see that this is a very emotional issue for you. I’m missing the emotion on the atheist side. You’ve seen that here?

        • Adam

          I have given up trying to explain myself to others. I can’t get anymore clear with my language and I am still being misunderstood. If you care to talk or anything, then that’s fine.

          I will say a few more things-

          It’s emotional in the sense that it makes me feel crappy, but not in the sense that I am believing something because I feel crappy. That’s why I am not a theist. I would like to be. I have said this and I mean it. I think the consequences of believing in God are massively positive, but that’s not enough for me to live my life like this ultimate reality actually exists.

          I will give one last shot at explanig why I think that “subjective morality” is not enough for me. This is the last and simplest way I can put it (even though I think some of my other posts explain my views thoroughly): I used a “football” analogy before with no luck. But let me modify it a bit and give it one more go.

          It seems that subjective morality is like playing football with always shifting end zones. So, imagine we are playing a game of football, I run down the field with the ball, and reach what I believe is the end zone. I start to celebrate and expect to get my six points. However, you say “no, the end zone is down there”. So, then I keep running and reach that end zone. Again, I think I have scored. But, unfortunately, it seems that one your teammates says “No, that’s not the end zone yet either, it’s further down there…” and so on. Now, subjective morality can keep “shifting” in this manner. So, after a couple of times, I think you would quit playing this game, or any “rule-less” game like the one I am describing, since as you can obviously tell, there isn’t any point in playing a game where there aren’t any OBJECTIVE rules.

          This is how I see “subjective” morality. I am NOT saying subjective morality does not exist (of course it does. I cannot even believe someone pointed that out to me like it was news) or that objective morality does exist (I have explicitly said that I do not know if it does, but if it did exist, it would have to exist in a very strange sort of way). I am simply saying that IF morality is subjective, it is this kind of arbitrary game with ever changing rules. You can’t play a game, coherently, without a set of rules. Subjective morality has no grounding or basis for establishing or preferring, in a non question begging way, one set of rules over another. This is my problem with subjective morality, and why I crave objective morality. Again, I am not saying that objective morality exists. I named a couple of ways of HOW it could possibly exist, but that fell on deaf ears. I am sorry for being redundant, but not one person has truly understood the moral argument or any of the points I have made in its favor.

          Subjectivity, by definition, does not allow for the solving of moral dilemmas in a non arbitrary way. This is pretty much NONCONTROVERSIAL among all philosophers (although I know you don’t value their opinions). The only reason I am still typing is because I cannot believe how not one person realizes this. Just pick up a “intro to metaethics” book (it’s not a waste of time!) and you will realize this.

          That’s all. Thanks for arguing with me. It’s been frustrating, yet fun. :)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I can’t get anymore clear with my language and I am still being misunderstood.

          Very much so. What’s surprising to me is that you’re incredulous that we don’t get it.

          That’s why I am not a theist. I would like to be. I have said this and I mean it.

          Yes, that has come through loud and clear. That’s why I suggested Leah L. Her path seems to have been similar. She’s smart and seems to have converted for non-intellectual reasons.

          I think the consequences of believing in God are massively positive

          Because it resolves your existential crisis, I suppose, but the God of the OT is a Bronze Age bastard. If you want a deity, maybe find another one?

          It seems that subjective morality is like playing football with always shifting end zones.

          That works for me. Morality is changing—obviously. The pulse of society has changed on slavery, genocide, war, homosexuality. Who could think that morality (as our imperfect society—or humans—understand it anyway) is a constant?

          subjective morality can keep “shifting” in this manner. So, after a couple of times, I think you would quit playing this game, or any “rule-less” game like the one I am describing, since as you can obviously tell, there isn’t any point in playing a game where there aren’t any OBJECTIVE rules.

          And you talk to any of the millions of people who reject the idea of objective morality and they agree with you about the futility of this whole endeavor? Of course not. We are slowly making society better—at least we hope we are. You look at what you’ve done with your career after a year or a decade or a career and I would hope that you see a little more good in the world. This isn’t worthless or rule-less or aimless.

          I am NOT saying subjective morality does not exist

          Good. Now show us that objective morality exists. You can handwave about how cool it is, but who cares if it doesn’t exist? Ball’s in your court.

          You can’t play a game, coherently, without a set of rules.

          Jeez—it’s like you’re a shrinking violet who cowers at the sound of loud noises. You’re an adult, right? You can’t man up and accept that life isn’t perfect and make something productive out of a good (though flawed) reality?

          You imagine that one day you’re playing chess and then you wake up the next morning, and it’s backgammon. Or bridge. Or Parcheesi. Morality changes but like a glacier.

          This is my problem with subjective morality, and why I crave objective morality.

          Yeah, it would be nice if we could look in the back of the book for the answers to the problems, but we can’t. The rest of us pick ourselves up after this revelation and get on with life. Why can’t you? Why is this such a huge existential blow?

          Again, I am not saying that objective morality exists.

          Then why all this throat clearing about how things would be if it did? Isn’t there a rather huge preliminary step missing?

          not one person has trul y understood the moral argument or any of the points I have made in its favor.

          I’d like to see this powerful stating of the moral argument.

          Just pick up a “intro to metaethics” book (it’s not a waste of time!) and you will realize this.

          The way you make this point is to demonstrate the powerful things that metaethics does.

        • Adam

          So, why do you get really angry when someone does something “wrong” or “bad” to you? If the end zones are always “shifting”, then you’re getting mad or upset at someone for having a different moral opinion than you. But from what you keep telling me, this is no big deal. So, do you never get angry or have any sense of moral outrage? Because if you do, under your subjective view, it seems that anger, of any sort, would be a completely misguided reaction. Your response would have to be of some sort of “disappointment”, maybe? But even this would be “wrong”, because then you would be judging another person by YOUR moral standards, and you keep telling me that everyone can have their own (end zones are ever shifting), and you agree that there is no way to resolve such differences (at least without assuming some sort of intrinsic value or axiomatic moral principle that will be without justification. By this, I mean something along the lines of “respect all human beings”, which would put a value on human beings, seemingly without any sort of reason for doing so).

          Lastly, you say we are “making society better”. This is the problem: better for who? What’s “better” mean without an objective standard? You’re right, we would need to talk about how it is we “discover” this objective morality, if it existed. But (and this is where meta ethics comes in handy) we first need to talk about what “objective morality” actually means. HOW could it exist, if it did exist. Not lay out a moral code or system, or whatever. And I have attempted to do this several times in my comments. But to say that we are making society “better” is assuming that morality is objective and is progressive, not simple change. Everything you say about morality implies change, not progress. It seems that you want progress (as do I, obviously), but your view of morality does not provide that. THAT is what makes me nauseous. I want to call things wrong, full stop.

          I am done with the arguing, since we seem to be at an impasse. I think you don’t “get it”, and you think I am some sort of “baby” for not liking “reality” as it is. I do not reject objective morality out of hand, as you seem to do, since I believe it is possible for objective values to exists. This does not make me theist or interested in any sort of religion. If this conversation is capable of any progress or to be beneficial for either of us, then maybe we should talk about the first part of this comment, and why you react differently than I do to the consequences of “subjective” morality.

          Here’s where we agree: we both agree that subjective morality exists. However, we disagree about what subjective morality entails. I think it wipes out Morality, with a capital “M” completely, and you seem to agree with me slightly about the consequences of subjective morality, with a just less gloomy take, since you think every thing can just go on business as usual.

          So, why do you think this is? Obviously you don’t think it’s because you don’t grasp the “severity” of “problem, since you don’t think there is a problem. So, do you think I am just an overly sensitive person? I mean, don’t you find it weird that we can’t agree here on this specific issue: we seemingly agree on the consequences, yet you are okay with it and I find it horrifying. Does this come down to simple human psychology? it seems that it can’t, because then we would run into a similar problem that I brought up before about our “moral outrage” being completely misguided, since morality would therefore be grounded in emotions (can emotions be true or false? I am not sure they can) rather than something else, whatever that is, that has the capability of being “true” or “false”.

          I will leave it there for now.
          Bye, bye.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So, why do you get really angry when someone does something “wrong” or “bad” to you?

          Do you think before you type?

          I get mad in such situations because I think those actions were wrong. I mean, whose interpretation of right and wrong would I use but my own?

          If the end zones are always “shifting”

          They’re not always shifting. Glaciers, remember? Slavery was made illegal in this country in the 1860s. We’ve had a long time to get used to it. Jim Crow, same-sex marriage, how divorce works, and other changes are more recent, and they’ve caused friction much more recently. Still, it’s not like morality changes by the second.

          But from you keep telling me, this is no big deal. So, do you never get angry or have any sense of moral outrage?

          You violate my sense of right and wrong, and guess what happens.

          I violate your sense of right and wrong, and I know what will happen.

          Nothing surprising here, is there?

          under your subjective view, it seems that anger, of any sort, would be a completely misguided reaction.

          And yet no one agrees with you. Maybe you need to take your interpretation back to the drawing board.

          you would be judging another person by YOUR moral standards

          Yes indeedy I will.

          you keep telling me that everyone can have their own

          Yes and no. Again, you seem to imagine that people’s moral opinions are all over the map. For new ideas (same-sex marriage), yes. For old standards (is murder wrong?), the fact that we’re all the same species in the same culture means that we’ll feel pretty much the same.

          you agree that there is no way to resolve such differences

          I’ve already addressed this. All the rest of us are quite comfortable with the idea of arguing or debating moral issues with other people. Sometimes we actually change our minds. Yes, there are ways to resolve such differences.

          I mean something along the lines of “respect all human beings”, which would put a value on human beings, seemingly without any sort of reason for doing so

          Evolution gives us moral programming. It just is; there is no inherent rightness or wrongness, just our feeling of such.

          What’s “better” mean without an objective standard?

          “Objective” in the sense of “agreed to by all”? Yes, we can have this. But not in the sense of “grounded outside humanity.”

          You act like you’re an alien unfamiliar with how humans do things. People are delighted to begin arguing about moral issues or whether a policy would be a net positive or negative for society. This is news to you?

          But (and this is where meta ethics comes in handy) we first need to talk about what “objective morality” actually means. HOW could it exist, if it did exist.

          What fun! Nothing I like more than mental masturbation. Intellectual wheel-spinning.

          If this is a roadblock, slap down a tentative definition, let’s agree on it, and then we can move on.

          I do not reject objective morality out of hand, as you seem to do

          I don’t. I simply wait, with thinly veiled impatience, for any reason to believe it doesn’t exist. Sure seems to me that a 5-second analysis shows that it doesn’t, but maybe you have some new insights that will show me otherwise. Or maybe not, since you seem to have no interest in arguing for it (and showing that it’s reliably accessible).

          If this conversation is capable of any progress or to be beneficial for either of us, then maybe we should talk about the first part of this comment, and why you react differently than I do to the consequences of “subjective” morality.

          To me, you are indeed like an alien. I would like to understand where you’re coming from.

          What would make that process quicker is if you would respond to each point or question that I make rather than just a few. We’re building our foundation of mutual understanding far slower than we could.

          you seem to agree with me slightly about the consequences of subjective morality

          You say that our moral actions wouldn’t be in keeping with any sort of supernatural or absolute morality. I agree and find that an obvious and boring observation. I’ve gotten past not having laser eyes. I’ve also gotten past this.

          you don’t think it’s because you don’t grasp the “severity” of “problem, since you don’t think there is a problem.

          There not being objective morality is a problem just like not being able to fly like Icarus is a problem. Each would be nice, but what adult could possibly lose sleep over either one?

          do you think I am just an overly sensitive person?

          Not really. Your position is so weird that I think I may not understand it.

          we seemingly agree on the consequences, yet you are okay with it and I find it horrifying.

          Maybe your anxiety is in the same bin as people who fear death or the lack of an afterlife. I also have no major issue with those (though I get closer to death every day, of course), but I can appreciate that some adults do.

          One key issue is your avoidance of the question of (1) the existence of objective morality and (2) our ability to reliably access it. If 2 is true, which seems obvious given the cacophony of voices on moral issues like abortion and SSM, then 1 is irrelevant. With no reason to imagine that objective morality exists, we can then consider your reaction to this fact.

        • Adam

          I agree, you do not understand the position. Did you read my comment about mathematics somewhere on this board? I know I said I wasn’t going to try and explain myself again, but I feel like I want you to understand me, not necessarily agree with me though.

          Let me try using another topic other than “morality” in order to show that the “problem” we are attempting to discuss, pops up in other areas of philosophy (or if you dislike the word philosophy, then we can say ares of “humanity”). So, there is an atheist philosopher, who died in the past few years, named W.V. Quine. He came to the conclusion, even though he didn’t really care for the idea, that in order for mathematics to be Real or True, numbers had to exist, in some abstract realm, so he decided to start believing in such an abstract realm.

          So, why did he feel that he had to posit this realm of abstract objects? To keep things “simple”, there are really only four views within the philosophy of mathematics that are held with any seriousness : “psychologistic”, “physicalist”, “Platonic” and “Fictionalist”.

          The “psychologistic” view says that numbers are made up in our head. The problem with this view, simply put, is that there are an infinite amount of numbers. They just keep getting bigger and bigger, infinities on top of infinities. The human mind is not infinite, so it seems strange to think that mathematics (these entities we call mathematics) simply exist in our minds. The physicalist view says that you can look into the world and “see” math. You put one rock next to another rock and you have two rocks. However, there does not seem to be any real “science” or indication (I don’t want to get into multiverse type stuff here, I am not a physicist) Even if the universe is big, it doesn’t seem to be that the physical world is infinite. So, there goes that view too. Now, we are left with the “Platonist” and “Fictionalist” views. The “Platonist” view posits an abstract realm where these numbers exist. So, this view allows for there to be Truth, capital “T”, since when we are doing math, the math relates to a particular abstract reality. Now, there are problems (as with objective morality) with this view. For instance, how do we gain knowledge of this abstract realm (which you keep asking me about with regards to morality, and I hope this helps clear up why, while an important question to ask, is not part of my point)? Granted, this is a difficult problem, which I do not have the answer to. However, it is the only view that seems to match what we want to say when actually say that something is “True”. When I say, “the cat is on the mat”, the only way in which THAT sentence is true, is if there ACTUALLY IS A CAT ON THE MAT. So, if there is no abstract realm where mathematics can exist, then there is nothing to validate or make mathematics True, in a similar way. While there are problems with Platonism, as I’ve mentioned, it is seemingly the only view that allows for math to be True, in the sense that we want it to be. Otherwise, like subjective morality, it seems to be true, with a lower case “t”, since it is a fiction (numbers do not exist). This brings us to our fourth view: Fictionalism. This is the view that mathematics is “true”, lower case “t”, in the fictional language of mathematics, but since it does not relate to anything in the world, then is it strictly speaking false, just like subjective morality would be.

          Why did I say all this? Well, if the only view that makes mathematics turn out True, with the capital “T” is Platonism, then maybe, even with all its problems and difficulties (like that of objective morality), might be the best view to adopt with regards to mathematics. And this is exactly what W.V. Quine did. Why did he do this? Because mathematics is embedded into all scientific theories. He liked science. He wanted or thought science to be “True”. But if mathematics is strictly speaking false, because there are no entities that relate to our concepts of mathematics, then as a consequence of math being “false”, then science (which cannot do without math) itself would turn out to be, strictly speaking, false.

          Here’s the thing, as I have been saying, repeatedly, in order for morality to be strictly speaking True, then there would have to be some sort of entities that existed in order to make propositions like “Murder is wrong” true. Therefore, we need to talk about (as much as you don’t like or want to) the ontology of moral values. If they do NOT exist in this way, in a Platonic/abstract realm, then it seems that morality would turn out to be False.

          I do not see how thinking that all our moral discourse is false could not upset you. It’s like arguing about the “facts” of Sherlock Holmes. If I say Hudson was Sherlock’s assistant, and you say Watson was Sherlock’s assistant, then you would be “right” in this fictionalist sense, in the made up story of Sherlock Holmes. But strictly speaking it would still be “false”, because there are no such beings as Sherlock Holmes and Watson that exist in order to make it True.

          This is equivalent to subjective morality. We can talk and have discourse over what we think is right or wrong, but if there is no objectivity, then we are all “wrong”, strictly speaking.

          Does this do anything to help you understand the “problem” I have with subjective morality? Again, if this sort of objective reality does not seem “plausible” or seems “counter-intuitive”, to put it nicely, then you are not alone. I agree with you, it’s completely strange. However, the LOGICAL consequences of this abstract realm not existing, whether for math or ethics, is that both turn out to be strictly speaking false. Again, subjective morality may be all there is, fine. But let’s not sugar coat it and say that everything is “alllllllright”, because it’s not. Our morality has just crumbled, in the same way math, and moreover, science, would crumble, without these abstract entities existing in an abstract realm.

          This is heavy metaphyics, and I know you’re cringing. But I say this in the hopes that you will see that it is not “mental masturbation”, rather it is clarity at it’s finest. It’s talking about what the logical conclusions of each view leads to.

          I look forward to reading a response from you. I hope your response doesn’t frustrate me too much, because I feel a stroke coming on.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I agree, you do not understand the position.

          I hope you’re going to respond to every point I made (that needs responding to) rather than just cherry picking. Otherwise, I need to repeat myself. Boring to both of us.

          Did you read my comment about mathematics somewhere on this board?

          Missed it. Did you read my post responding to WLC’s Argument from Mathematics?

          I want you to understand me, not necessarily agree with me though.

          Understanding would be good.

          For instance, how do we gain knowledge of this abstract [mathematical] realm (which you keep asking me about with regards to morality, and I hope this helps clear up why, while important, is not part of my point)?

          Doesn’t clear it up at all. If you spend much time worrying about something, you really should figure out if that something exists. You say that the problems of the absence of objective morality are causing you huge mental anguish without worrying at all about whether objective morality exists or not?? You’re simply saying that it would suck if it didn’t—how does that help? Why should we respond to this in any way but with laughter?

          Stop worrying about what might happen if it didn’t exist and ask yourself if it does or not. Then, if it doesn’t exist, man up to the consequences.

          If that for some reason terrifies you, think of the millions of us who are cool with it. It’s hard to know what it will be like on the other side, but you can look at those of us who are here, see that we’re happy, and decide that maybe you’re wrong for getting so worked up.

          if there is no abstract realm where mathematics can exist, then there is nothing to validate or make mathematics True, in a similar way.

          You sound like the guy caught up in Zeno’s paradox. “Nope, there’s no way that Achilles can pass the tortoise given a head start” or “Nope, there’s no way for a dropped ball to hit the floor.” The real world can also be a useful place to cogitate, besides philosophy.

          He wanted or thought science to be “True”. But if mathematics is strictly speaking false, because there are no entities that relate to our concepts of mathematics, then as a consequence of math being “false”, then science (which cannot do without math) itself would turn out to be, strictly speaking, false.

          Are you familiar with imaginary and complex numbers? Imaginary numbers are all multiplied by i (i = sqrt(˗1)). Complex numbers are the sum of real and imaginary numbers.

          You can have 5 cows, but you can’t have 5i cows (or, indeed, anything). The weird thing is that the mathematics of electrical current flow (and other real things, I imagine) is done with complex numbers. And yet at the end of the process, when you conclude what the voltmeter should read, the number is just real.

          An imaginary number of volts is ridiculous. And yet there are imaginary values behind the scenes—impedance is the complex form of resistance, for example. And yet mathematics is still reliable for measuring real, nuts and bolts things in the world.

          I don’t know that we need to get too frantic about mathematics not corresponding to the real world.

          BTW, I appreciate your foray into mathematics and philosophy. It doesn’t illuminate the issue of objective morality for me, however.

          Here’s the thing, as I have been saying, repeatedly, in order for morality to be strictly speaking True, then there would have to be some sort of entities that existed in order to make propositions like “Murder is wrong” true.

          And haven’t I been repeatedly agreeing about objective morality? I see no objective, grounded-outside-people morality.

          I do not see how thinking that all our moral discourse is false could not upset you.

          Who says it’s false? I’m happy to say that “murder is wrong” is a true statement. It’s the grounding of this that’s the issue.

          If I say Hudson was Sherlock’s assistant, and you say Watson was Sherlock’s assistant, then you would be “right” in this fictionalist sense, in the made up story of Sherlock Holmes. But strictly speaking it would still be “false”, because there are no such beings as Sherlock Holmes and Watson that exist in order to make it True.

          This is equivalent to subjective morality. We can talk and have discourse over what we think is right or wrong, but if there is no objectivity, then we are all “wrong”, strictly speaking.

          Yeah. And I’ll say again: I see no absolute grounding for human morals. No one is in a tizzy about this but you. Heck, I’m more in a tizzy because of my lack of laser eyes—damn!

          Does this do anything to help you understand the “problem” I have with subjective morality?

          I’ve gained zero insights. If I need an insight, then no, this has done nothing to illuminate the problem. I’m praying to the god that isn’t there that I’ve been agreeing with you since the original post that no objective morality means that no moral claim is True in an absolute sense.

          subjective morality may be all there is, fine. But let’s not sugar coat it and say that everything is “fine”, because it’s not. Our morality has just crumbled

          And now we’re truly back at square 1, with you in an existential sweat and me wondering what the problem is. Our morality is just fine. Look up the word in the dictionary and show me what’s crumbled.

          This is heavy metaphyics, and I know you’re cringing.

          ?? This question of objective vs. subjective morality is very much in my wheelhouse. Thanks for your concern, but I’m quite comfortable talking about it. And I fail to see where we differ except in (1) your nonchalance about wondering whether objective morality actually exists—you’d prefer to just lie awake a nights in terror over hypotheticals—and (2) our reaction to there not being any objective morality.

          If you see other points of disagreement that I’ve missed, point those out.

          I say this in the hopes that you will see that it is not “metal masturbation”, rather it is clarity at it’s finest.

          I admit that I found the four philosophical models to be mental masturbation (though your metal masturbation sounds even more futile).

        • Adam

          I really hope you’re just “show boating” for your internet groupies. I am not really sure what your issue is, maybe you don’t have the intellectual capabilities of understanding the arguments or you simply just don’t want to fully confront the arguments. I feel like it’s the latter, since your repeatedly childish remarks offer no substance. I mean, come on, look at what I wrote, and then look at how you responded. Your quick, little, snardy remarks do nothing to contribute to the conversation or even show that you actually understand what you are discussing.

          Do me a favor, copy and paste our comments, take the conversation, as a whole, to an objective (ha ha) source, and see what they think. I have a feeling that you are so strong in your convictions because you are receiving back up from like minded people on this site. I am not going to say anything bad about the other people, but I think that they are definitely helping to motivate your misguided views.

          I think if you brought our conversation to any philosophy professor, atheist/theist/agnostic/whatever, you would not receive much support. I know this is of no concern for you, since you have such a pessimistic view of philosophy, so I know I am most likely wasting my breath. It’s just strange that you would be so interested in these philosophical topics, yet have no philosophical training and/or have such a negative view of philosophy.

          Anyway, I was hoping we could come to an understanding, or at least you would be able to understand my view or where I was coming from, but you obviously do not. Maybe one day, not to sound patronizing, you will. But until then, there is no need for this conversation to go on any further, at least on my side.

          I will thank you though, sincerely. I have been very busy with life and I have philosophy exams that I haven’t been able to study for and this definitely has been keeping me sharp. So, thanks, even if we didn’t get to any sort of common ground on the issues.

          Take care.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Bye

        • Pofarmer

          Did you ban Adam? If so, I won’t worry about writing out the long thoughtful responses I was planning. Poor guy is so completely confused.

        • Kodie

          Save them in a file, it’s probably going to come up again.

        • Pofarmer

          It just seems like Adam has done the typical thing. He has gotten immersed in his philosophical world, and never bothered to verify if any of the things posited by his philosophy are in any sense real. When you are not bounded by things like reality, then, yeah, you can get way off in the weeds. That’s what science is for. When he makes statements like “Evolution can’t account for morality” that is more a statement on his ignorance than ours.

        • Kodie

          There’s someone “just like him” hanging around.

        • MR

          Well, put, Po. Adam is missing the disconnect that we don’t study philosophy because it’s necessarily true, we study it because it’s important to understand where our ideas and beliefs come from.

          Philosophers got an awful lot wrong, but they often set us on the path to a clearer understanding. Nobody believes Plato’s account of the origins of man, but we do love his Socratic dialectic, don’t we? He influenced Aristotle who had a huge influence in how science developed, but Aristotle didn’t know shit compared to what we know today.

          Someone forgot to tell Adam that just because some philosopher said it, doesn’t make it true. It’ll become clearer when he graduates and starts interacting again with the real world. We’ll see how much respect that philosophy degree gets him on the streets.

        • Pofarmer

          Philosophy alone can’t determine what is real and what’s not. It seems to me that Adam has sent himself down a rabbit hole and now can’t extricate himself. I think we can actually help with that. I’m pretty certain scientists like Sean Carroll or Laurence Krauss or Neil DeGrasse Tyson could.

        • MR

          I think we can actually help with that.

          Ooh…, look at you! Feelin’ confident. I like that!

        • Pofarmer

          Well, I’ve been wrong before, but it seems like Adam is making just a couple very elementary mistakes.

        • MR

          You probably have more confidence in his ability to correct himself than many of us. 😉

          Do you want to elaborate on those his mistakes, or probably we should wait for him to engage again?

        • Pofarmer

          I’ll respond to him directly when I have some more time, probably late this evening sometime. That way, the comments will be there in his disqus account if he wants to engage or not.

        • Adam

          I have not tried to tell anyone what is actually real or not. I have attempted to express what I believe are the logical conclusions of particular beliefs. Again, I have failed to do this, since your comment, again, misunderstands all of my previous comments. This is not to say you are “mean” or “bad”. When I said people were “mean” or “bad” it was because of their flippant responses to my comments. People actually called me derogatory things. That’s silly to me.

        • Pofarmer

          If you are going to discuss beliefs and the consequences if them, it seems like a logical first step to see if they match reality.

        • MNb

          Adam should have realized that long ago, because philosophers contradict each other all the time on about everything.

        • Susan

          It’ll become clearer when he graduates and starts interacting again with the real world.

          Somewhere along the path to a philosophy degree, he will be required to learn that comments that are critical of and skeptical of his position cannot be dismissed as just ‘angry’ and ‘mean’ and that if he wants to make accusations like that, he needs to demonstrate that it is the case.

          That he made that mistake early and repeatedly makes me skeptical that he is studying philosophy.

          Not only did he not retract an accusation for which he made no argument, he continued to make that accusation here and elsewhere.

        • Kodie

          If you don’t agree with me, then you misunderstood. If I repeat it and you still don’t agree with me, then you’re stubborn and mean. Kind of the other way around, he’s so convinced, it doesn’t seem like he’s reading any comments, and all of “them” don’t seem to understand how to hold up their end of a discussion without wailing how unfair it is that they should have to present any facts or evidence.

        • Adam

          No, unfortunately, this is wrong. I have made repeated efforts to explain my thoughts on particular subjects, using many different examples. All I can say now is that I used to believe what most of you are saying. It was philosophy that opened up my eyes to what those beliefs entailed. I am sorry I have failed to express myself clearly enough for that to be understood.

        • MR

          It was philosophy that opened up my eyes to what those beliefs entailed.

          Sounds like a religious experience.

        • Adam

          It’s more like a flashlight that keeps getting brighter.

        • MR

          Sounds like Saul’s religious experience.

        • Susan

          hi adam,

          my computer’s futzed right now. I am unable to shift, which means no capitals and no ability to blockquote, etc.
          I didn’t want’ to be rude by not responding but I don’t think i’ll be able to bear commenting further without proper capitalization and the ability to link comments that disqus will scatter if I don’t block quote a piece of your comment when I respond.

          .you did not respond to my point. your assessment of the responses to your letter is that they are only mean and angry. the evidence does not show this.

          you could make an argument that some comments are harsher than they need to be and that they could take your emotional struggle a little more seriously but most of the comments are not mean but trying to engage you on the very subject you’ve raised. reload the thread, read it through and make a critical assessment. disagreement is not necessarily angry or mean.

          now, back to that gut-dropping sensation you get when you consider the possibility that there is no ultimate ‘meaning’… here is where a zen master would hit you with a stick.

          why should meaning require ‘ultimate’ meaning … I have no access to brackets or question marks… i’ll just use space with q.

          also, what meaning does an agent provide q

          please respond to euthyphro.

        • MNb

          “Evolution can’t account for morality”

          Again ambiguity plagues us. This can mean two things.
          1. Evolution Theory can’t tell us how humans developed morality – which is total nonsense.
          2. Evolution Theory can’t tell us what the content of that morality should be – which by now is rather trivial.
          Adam’s imo rather silly reaction is “OK, then no morals at all”.

        • Pofarmer

          Not only no morals, but he is apparently unable to look around and see how morals differ from society to society. I’m told that in France, for instance, nudity and sexual content won’t get a movie an R rating, while violence will.

        • MR

          Even within Christianity in my lifetime I’ve seen shifts in morality on many things.

        • Pofarmer

          Within Christianity, without Christianity. Wherever. Think about the morality of the Hindu Caste system. Think about the morality of the Duggars Patriarchal structure, etc, etc. It should be plainly OBVIOUS that morality isn’t just some concrete thing.

        • Adam

          Yes, so are we moving towards something better (objective) or are we simply changing our views and will maybe “go back” to our old ways sometime in the future (subjective)?

        • MR

          That’s more sloppy philosophy if you think “better” is an objective term. It’s subjective. Christians might say one thing, I might say another, A Buddhist might think differently. And other Christians might think something else!

          In a broader sense, I don’t need to measure things from some imaginary objective perfection that doesn’t exist. I can measure things from any point on a scale.

          Humans (and animals) are wired to avoid harm and seek benefit. We can be moving toward something better, relative to what we had before, because it either takes us further from harm or adds benefit.

          You want to define things in terms of moving toward some perfection, but in reality we are just trying to minimize harm and maximize benefit. It’s not difficult to imagine more and more benefit and less and less harm to a point that we would call perfect because there would be no harm and all benefit. But that does not mean perfection exists or is even attainable. I don’t need Plato’s Forms to imagine perfection. I can get there with simple math. Add benefit and subtract harm until you achieve all benefit and zero harm. That doesn’t mean it’s attainable.

          Besides, what does perfect look like anyway? How do you know that the love you have experienced in the past is any more lovier than “perfect” love? Plato talks of the perfect form of a dog. What does a perfect dog look like? A Collie? A Schnauzer? Even Plato understood his theory was flawed. (Third Man Factor) If you’ve ever had a really, really good strawberry, how much different is that from a perfect strawberry? If you had a bowl of really good strawberries and the perfect strawberry was in there, would you even know which one it was? You might have already eaten the world’s most perfect strawberry and never even known. But I digress.

          Life is a two-part sliding scale. It is to our advantage to have less harm and more benefit. We may be moving towards something better (subjectively/relatively) in some ways and in the opposite direction in others. I can measure that progress against any point along the scale. I don’t have to measure it against a non-existent perfection. We will always be within some range. There is no steady march to perfection. Sometimes we will steadily march in the opposite direction. The dinosaurs might have thought they were doing pretty well there for a while.

        • Kodie

          I’m trying to think of an example of increased benefit that also increases harm, like the industrial revolution or something. Increasing efficiency, increasing productivity, creating jobs, creating wealth, everyone’s doing ok, the wonder of invention, mechanizing everything. I mean, could we go back and say that wasn’t worth it? If we’re all going to die sooner, should we not have done it?

          I made this comment a while ago, that I would repeat: I know a guy who is in severe denial of global warming, and his arguments superficially sound more educated than someone who just doesn’t believe scientist. His understanding is that the decrease in childbirth rates after the industrial revolution has decreased the number of carbon footprints, so … god damned hard to explain.

          But if we can recover, someone still pays and no one wants to pay. I mean, can we get closer to a world of the conveniences we’re used to without continuing to pollute the earth? Or are we just a sloppy, selfish species who, by right of might, control the earth and all its resources, without considering there might be a better way? We share the planet and don’t consider another species’ right to be here at all, it’s an “objectively moral” oh well until it turns out we needed that animal to be active in the ecosystem for our own survival. People who care about morality being objective seem to care least about people who are different and have a concept that animals are less important because they are less conscious/intelligent. Is arrogance “objectively moral”? We can benefit humans so greatly if we cooperated, but who would lose, and how much should we care? It just seems like people who are attracted to the notion of objective morality are mostly attracted to the idea of a simple rule to follow because they’re not always certain. They want a black-or-white answer for everything, and when we have black-or-white answers to something, it turns out we didn’t consider something. We didn’t consider someone a human, or we didn’t consider the negative effects to our environment. Now, it seems like, at least in the US, morality is just a catchword people use to judge other people by. They don’t examine themselves for moral behavior, they don’t consider any intrusive new information. It’s codified forever, and judge you to ruin if you disagree with me.

        • MR

          It just seems like people who are attracted to the notion of objective morality are mostly attracted to the idea of a simple rule to follow because they’re not always certain. They want a black-or-white answer for everything,

          I see this theme raise up time and time again, and I really think there is a split in how certain minds work. Religious, conservative people tend to want to have a leader, someone to tell them what to do. Less religious, liberal types are much more independent.

          Of course, I’m generalizing, but I think there is some truth there.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The rise of agriculture might be an example of good and bad. It allowed cities (it was a dense source of calories), but the skeletons of hunters were bigger than those of urban dwellers.

        • Kodie

          Are smaller skeletons bad? I’m not understanding. Christ, I wonder if humans had not developed agriculture, maybe we’d be 20 feet tall by now. I thought we were taller than our ancestors, but I don’t understand your point.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Right. For this analysis, smaller is worse.

          Nowadays, we’re at our biggest, I think, but 1000 years ago in Europe (say), they were less well nourished.

        • Greg G.

          Agriculture has added more crops but there were few at first. The diets of the urban people lacked variety. It was enough to survive but not enough to thrive. Hunter-gatherers had a far more varied diet.

          The size of the skeletons is just a clue about their diet. The diets were worse.

        • Kodie

          I appreciate the clarification. The post kind of skipped some stuff for the reader.

        • MR

          I’m trying to think of an example of increased benefit that also increases harm, like the industrial revolution or something.

          Yeah, it just gets into this intricate web of subjectivity, doesn’t it. Increasing benefit in one way can decrease it elsewhere. I almost went into that at an individual level, e.g., smoking and drinking increase sociability which is good…., right?

        • Greg G.

          Many male birds have plumage that makes them more conspicuous which proves to the female that their other survival characteristics are strong.

          Birds have lighter bones for flight which makes them more susceptible to injury.

          Our bigger brains require more food and result in smaller jaws with impacted wisdom teeth.

          Upright posture has benefits but results in back problems.

          Cheetahs are built for speed but that means they are less effective with stronger prey.

          Many features have trade-offs.

        • Adam

          WHY do they differ? And how are you judging which is better than the other?

        • Pofarmer

          Where did I imply a value judgement? Isn’t it enough to note that there are various systems that are equally defended?

        • Adam

          I think you are the only one on the path to understanding my “problems”. Thanks.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Oh no. He’s a weird asset to the conversation. Sorry if that was confusing. It was just that he was so adamant to be done with we crazies that I gave an equally enthusiastic farewell.

          I’m hoping that others (or Adam) can make sense of Adam’s position. I’d like to understand.

        • Pofarmer

          K.

        • MNb

          In addition to Po underneath: it seems that Adam (with capital) has the same desire as many philosophers before him (Plato being a famous example): to know the Absolute, 100% Certain, Never Changing Truth. With capitals. Like Freddy Mercury sang:

          “I want it all I want it all I want it all and I want it now.”

          And if he can’t get it he wants nothing – ie becomes a nihilist.
          For a student philosophy that’s highly remarkable. The criticism Descartes and Hume received (on its own neither deduction nor induction is reliable) didn’t exactly stop science from making progress. But according to Adam it’s not really progress, because the finish line falls back too – the more we know the more questions rise. How can he expect ethics doing any better?

        • Adam

          Yes, there you go. When “progress” gets demoted to simply “change”, this bothers me. When justifications become simply pragmatic, this seems to be a problem for me.

        • Pofarmer

          I think the problem is that Adam can’t currently make sense of Adam’s position. He is off in Alice in Wonderland territory worrying about metaphysical realms that hold Math, fer Pete’s sake.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          His anxiety about morality reminds me of WLC’s concern that 100 trillion years from now there will be now stars.

          For such a compassionate man, I’m surprised WLC doesn’t devote more time to helping something that actually matters, like people.

        • Adam

          This is the crux of it: WHY do people matter? Where are you getting THAT value from and putting it on to humans? Evolutionary means of cooperation have arisen, but I don’t think anyone wants to say morality is simply “cooperation”. Or maybe you do. It seems that you do.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Our programming (thank you, evolution) makes us value people.

        • Adam

          Yes, agreed. So, why is that a “good” thing? Is it simply prudential reasons?

          Since evolution is not a conscience thing guiding our “moral instincts”, if another set of moral instincts arose out of evolution, that contradict the ones we have now, would those be “good” to?

          It comes down to you putting the value “good” on people. And when I ask you why you’re doing this, you’re telling me evolution. I am sorry, but as you can probably guess, I find that to be an empty answer.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          why is that a “good” thing?

          That’s not the question to ask. It should be: why do we feel that valuing people is good? Answer: because that’s what our programming says. Our programming is arbitrary from the standpoint of objective truth. It just is.

          Of course, you can ask why we have the moral programming that we do, and evolution explains that.

        • Adam

          Yes, I agree with everything you said, except that you think my initial question on asking “why something is good” is an ill-formed question. I think it to be a perfectly legitimate question. And your answer to it, that “good” is “arbitrary from the standpoint of objective truth” is one possible answer to it. That very well might be true. But how do you know that? Is it because you don’t “see” objective morality or cannot even conceive of it as being plausible?

          And I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear you say that morality is “arbitrary”. This is my point! I am not saying morality IS arbitrary, but I am trying to convey the point that IF morality is arbitrary, then anything goes. We of course can “follow” the moral instincts that evolution has “handed down” to us, but then my initial question still holds: What if someone does not want to follow these “moral instincts”? If they are “arbitrary”, then why do I have any sort of duties or commitments to something arbitrary? And how do you criticize or judge someone for not following something that is arbitrary?

          This isn’t me with my head in the clouds. All of my questions in this comment are legit questions. I am not sure why you and so many others think I am some “confused pseudo-philosopher” who isn’t thinking straight.

        • MNb

          “I am trying to convey the point that IF morality is arbitrary, then anything goes.”
          This is still a non-sequitur. I never argued that nihilism is impossible. The point of formulating a morality though is making sure that NOT anything goes. You CAN be a nihilist on atheism, but you don’t HAVE to. It doesn’t follow necessarily.

          “What if someone does not want to follow these “moral instincts”?”
          Then there is nothing we can do about but chop the other’s head off, as quite a lot of fans of objective morality have done in history. Now that goes against my ethical system, so for me that option is ruled out too.

          “why do I have any sort of duties or commitments to something arbitrary?”
          I can’t answer that for others, but for me: because I want to. Despite the dark sides of my character I want to be a good person and I especially want to be a good person to my loved ones.

          “And how do you criticize or judge someone for not following something that is arbitrary?”
          In the first place I don’t judge people very quickly in the ethical meaning of the word. My favourite Bible quote is Matth. 7:1. I developed my ethical system in the first place to judge myself, not other people.
          In the second place it’s often not hard to point out inconsistencies in the morals of that someone. I already gave you the example of WLC claiming that genocide is objectively wrong on one page and making that judgment depending on the subject call God on another.
          In the third place I hold them against my standard. Remarkably very few people actually admit “your standard is not mine”.
          But when I meet such a person there is nothing left than agreeing to disagree indeed.

        • MR

          What if someone does not want to follow these “moral instincts”? If they are “arbitrary”, then why do I have any sort of duties or commitments to something arbitrary? And how do you criticize or judge someone for not following something that is arbitrary?

          And, of course, they can (and do), but there are (at least) two things to consider. First, we’re hardwired to be moral because of evolution. While we can to some degree override that, it’s not necessarily that easy. Bucking against it is bucking against your human nature. But it’s not impossible, we also have baser instincts.

          Secondly, you pay a price. You will lose the benefits that society gives you because you will then be ostracized or worse. Society: My house, my rules.

          There may be no objective reason for murder to be wrong, but there is every subjective reason. We don’t want people to go around murdering their neighbors, principally because I don’t want to be murdered either. It’s subjective not objective. Humans prefer to live in a safe environment with people who will not do them harm. Does a lion care if we kill each other? Why don’t we consider it immoral if one lion kills another?

          It’s all subjective.

        • Kodie

          There are social repercussions to opposing the subjective group morality, such as when gay couples want to get married. The group morality calling itself objective does not examine itself, considering itself the highest and most complete law of the universe. They are not hard-wired to be moral, we’re more hard-wired to want to belong to a group and agree with the most persuasive person in the group. The church definitely works like this – is the priest or the pope coming after you personally if you get an abortion? No, they have pawns to judge and berate you. They want you to feel bad for doing something that there’s nothing really wrong with, to discourage you from doing that thing they don’t like by threatening you with expulsion from the group. There is nothing wrong with atheism, after all, but as long as the majority feel righteous in voicing some disgust directly at you, if they feel that without god you have no morals, their “objective morality” is to denigrate you and make sure everyone knows there’s a dissenter among them. Yes, there are just repercussions for breaking with a group’s rules, and whether the group’s morals are actually good is another question. Because they are the group and you are just an individual who disagrees, it’s dangerous to point out how immoral they are.

        • MR

          They are not hard-wired to be moral, we’re more hard-wired to want to belong to a group and agree with the most persuasive person in the group.

          I agree the principal and underlying driver is that group aspect, but I do think that some of it has been internalized and become innate. What we call our conscience. I don’t think that’s something we necessarily rationalize. We can, but don’t necessarily.

          But, I agree the crowd and the leader can have an even greater impact. More so, even than simple knowledge about something. (Climate change, anyone?) That’s what makes things kind of scary. That’s how you get the Hitlers and the Pat Robertsons.

          (Ooo…, I compared Pat Robertson to Hitler. Howl my little pretties, howl!)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I agree with everything you said, except …

          It’s good we have some overlap.

          your answer to it, that “good” is “arbitrary from the standpoint of objective truth” is one possible answer to it. That very well might be true. But how do you know that?

          I don’t, but that’s where the evidence points. Bold claims about the existence of objective morality are common; it’s the evidence behind such claims that’s the problem.

          Take these comments, for example. Dude comes by the other day. Polite guy, and that’s always helpful. Says that objective morality exists, and I ask for evidence. I guess answering that fundamental question (and an easy one, if he’s right) just didn’t seem interesting to him, and he was more interested in speculating about various possibilities depending on whether objective morality existed or not.

          Takes all kinds, huh?

          Is it because you don’t “see” objective morality or cannot even conceive of it as being plausible?

          “Does objective morality exist, and can we reliably access it?” is the obvious question that must be tackled first.

          Sure, I can conceive of it existing. Example: God exists, he has decided the absolute best course of action (or evaluation) in every moral situation. And then he gives us some supernatural sense (like a key) that allows us to reliably access that. But, of course, that’s not at all how life really is. We can test that by just thinking for 5 seconds. The existence of divisive moral questions (abortion to take just one) disproves this hypothesis. Also, the varying nature of morality (slavery was moral; now it’s not).

          And I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear you say that morality is “arbitrary”. This is my point!

          No, your point is that a world with arbitrary morality is somehow hopeless.

          I am trying to convey the point that IF morality is arbitrary, then anything goes.

          Which is obviously ridiculous. And yet you keep saying it.

          I know this first hand. I murdered the guy next door because he whistles too loud. When the cops came, I say, “Oh, it’s OK. I don’t believe in objective moral values.” They put me in jail anyway. How about a Philosophy 101 for police officers, people??

          We of course can “follow” the moral instincts that evolution has “handed down” to us, but then my initial question still holds: What if someone does not want to follow these “moral instincts”?

          And now we’re truly back at good ol’ square 1, with your having changed your story not one whit.

          Here’s the real question: what if there is an objective morality and someone doesn’t want to follow it? Think of it! You’d have murders! Stealing, lying—just imagine! Not at all like the paradise we have now.

          If they are “arbitrary”, then why do I have any sort of duties or commitments to something arbitrary?

          Jesus Christ on a cracker! It’s not arbitrary in a throwing-darts-at-a-list-of-options sort of way. It’s arbitrary in that there is no objective morality. That doesn’t mean there is no morality.

          And how do you criticize or judge someone for not following something that is arbitrary?

          It’s easy. Hang around here and see if I always agree with people on moral issues.

          This isn’t me with my head in the clouds. All of my questions in this comment are legit questions.

          Bullshit. The real issue is that we’ve been hammering on this for days, and your comments are identical to what they were at the beginning. When we correct your errors (like I have in this comment) and you ignore the correction and then keep making the error, some of us will be irked.

        • Adam

          I mean to ask, do you believe in objective truth?

        • MNb

          Not me. I think (believe is a word I preserve for faith) there are objective statements, like F = m*a, but not that we can say they are true. We only can say they haven’t been shown to be false yet.

        • Rudy R

          And to piggy back off of BobS, why do Cheetahs feel that valuing Cheetahs is good? If you agree that evolution easily answers this question for Cheetahs, why would evolution not answer the question for humans? Given that evolution in one way, shape or form helps to guide the instincts of animals, why do humans ought to have different “moral instincts” than the rest of the animal kingdom?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I wouldn’t want to argue against it. 1 + 1 = 2 is objectively true in that it’s true whether there are people here to appreciate it or not. Said another way, on another planet with non-human intelligent beings, 1 + 1 = 2 is also true.

          Objective moral truth is not so likely to exist.

        • Kodie

          I’d say it’s exactly about cooperation and even a little better. Like, everyone has a birthday, why does someone make a cake for your birthday and even if it’s not your birthday, you get a piece of cake too? Everyone gets a reason to get together with their friends, and everyone gets to participate in a celebration. It’s a little weird. We’re all here for one person’s birthday, but that person matters almost least. We all get cake, we all get party, just about equally. Are we doing it for them, and why? It’s a little nicer to do something than nothing, but something is not necessary to have a birthday. To show that person how many friends want to be there for them? Is nice. But if we didn’t get to have a good time too, we wouldn’t.

          People matter because we’re people. We’re an animal who is a person who puts humans ahead of animals. If you have a child and a dog, if you had the dog a lot longer than the child, even, and you could only save one from the burning house, you’d go for the child. Is that objective morality? It’s not like, your child above your mother. Your child against your child’s friend. Your dog against your child’s friend, assuming your mother already rescued your own child. It’s almost like you’re in denial of humans as animals, that we got to where we are from a kind of animal behavior. Do you watch documentaries about animal behaviors? What kind of decision are you making in the fire? Surely if you save your dog instead of your child, society is going to come down in judgment on you, but you don’t think like that. Neither do you think, dogs are basically adults and would retreat from the fire on its own, but dogs make stupid decisions too and hide in the basement or something. You’re not thinking whether your dog or child has a better chance of surviving if you pick up and carry the other one (and I’m assuming both can walk or run), and base your decision that way. You’re thinking at base that you can more easily live without your dog than your child, consciously but immediately ranking person above the animal you’ve considered a family member longer than you have your child. Your genes are in that kid, not the neighbor’s kid. You hope for the best, and suffer the consequences of guilt, as often when you are responsible for the safety of a stranger in your home and failed.

          Humans have behaviors, they have consciousness, they have communication skills, they have the capacity to be rational, none of that is objective. If anything is common, it is common to typical human behavior and human survival. In another culture, an automatic response in such a situation might be different. We can’t discount the human consequences of our choices, either. Why would people hold you in judgment for choosing your dog over your child in a dire situation? You didn’t have a whole lot of time to figure, maybe you could go back, the dog is closer, the child is already too far away to get, and yet, the culture you live in will prefer you to run toward and die with your child than to live with your dog at least. Do you think that’s an objective response?

        • Adam

          I had this same view a while back. I remember asking my Professor “What are we doing here? What the hell are we actually talking about here?” It wasn’t until recently that I grasps what was entailed by believing that “numbers” exist in a particular way. The consequences are seemingly very momentous.

        • Pofarmer

          Obviously how you view the world has consequences. The question is, does this view conform to some reality outside of philosophy? Juse because you view the world a certain way doesn’t make it real.

        • MNb

          “or you simply just don’t want to fully confront the arguments”
          Says the guy who repeated several times that he doesn’t want to argue on these pages ….

        • Adam

          Truth, I did not want to, since I knew it would frustrate me like it has. I am not asking for people to agree with me, but I can’t seem to get anyone to even empathize with me. Very strange. Maybe I find it easier to empathize with you people because I used to be “that sort of atheist” too. I used to think that evolution “explained” the totality of what morality is. I get that mindset. My mindset, after a bit of studying and thinking, has evolved (no pun). Plus, all these “counter-arguments” are good for my brain, they help me clarify my positions on things. So, thanks.

        • MNb

          “I can’t seem to get anyone to even empathize with me.”
          Well, then your nihilism might have clouded your judgment. I do empathize with you; I already told you that I have been in nihilistic ruts myself three times. I just don’t think that a good reason to go soft on you, especially not on internet. I save the soft approach for daily life, where I think it’s far more important.

          “I used to think that evolution “explained” the totality of what morality is.”
          Weird. I have always recognized that as a slightly peculiar is-ought fallacy. Evolution explains how, not why. Isn’t it obvious that ants at one hand and cats at the other would have formulated totally different moralities if they had been capable to do so?

          “So, thanks.”
          You’re welcome. I still suggest you to read Russell and Sartre, especially because they recognized the nihilistic rut and wrote about it. That’s what “L’Enfer, c’est le autres” is about.

        • Adam

          It’s funny that you mention those philosophers, because I am espousing a similar, if not exact view, of theirs. For some reason Bob thinks that I am the only one “throwing a fit” over this nihilism coming out of a subjective ethics. Russell hated that his feelings and beliefs about “loving humanity” was some sort of farce. He understood what subjective morality meant, and he disliked it greatly. He kept pushing on despite this, but even so, it does not diminish how “upset” the idea of arbitrary morality made him. Craig would argue that Russell’s “pushing on” leads to inconsistencies, but that is another topic. The point of all my comments on this page was to express the “problems” with subjective morality and what subjective morality actually means or leads to.

          Speaking of Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship” is definitely worth giving a once over, especially for a few people on this page.

          Here’s a small piece from Russell’s essay:
          Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair (my emphasis), can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.

          Does this sound like a “happy camper”? I think not. I think this is a man who completely understands what is “given up” when objectively is lost. He may want to “push on”, but this does not negate the fact that he thought the loss of objectivity was not something to be embraced with a light heart.

          It’s funny that Bob finds the idea of Dr. Craig’s thoughts on the “heat death of the universe” to be “silly”, when the idea was originally championed by the famous atheist (agnostic) hero Bertrand Russell.

        • Adam

          Really? No one has anything to say to this?

        • Pofarmer

          It aounds like a realist. I don’t sense despair in it, only the recognition of reality.

        • Adam

          “…on the firm foundation of unyielding DESPAIR…”

          Huh?

        • Pofarmer

          Do you have the next paragraph or so?

        • adam

          Why?

          Does that contradict the point he is trying to make?

        • Adam

          No, in the paragraph I posted, it’s Russell description to the “human situation” that is important, not his response to the human condition. I did not cherry pick or misinterpret.

          The reason I didn’t post anything other than that is because it’s irrelevant. I am not trying to say what we “ought to do”, if we accept Russell (and others) diagnosis to the human situation. The entire time on this forum I have been accused of being “strange” and “confused” since I believe something similar, if not exactly the same, as Russell. Russell’s response as to what to do, is therefore irrelevant. The point is that he acknowledges what is given up when objectivity is lost. That is the whole point. Nothing more…yet.

        • adam

          “Russell
          response as to what to do, is therefore irrelevant.”

          If you agree with his premise and his response worked for him and your doesnt appear to work for you, then how it is irrelevant?

        • Adam

          Because I am trying to press the issue that I am not “confused” or “being a baby” for thinking the implications of subjective morality aren’t that appetizing, since Russell, Sartre, Camus, and others have said similar things that I have. Everyone on this forum thinks it’s “no big deal” and they almost happily give up objectivity. I have been trying to point out the “problems” with giving up objectivity. The same problems that Sartre, Russell, and Camus are responding to is the main point that I have been trying to make, and have been being criticized on.

          With that out of the way, Russell’s response “worked” for him. He was still uneasy with the implications of subjective morality, yet decided to “push on”, like many other atheist philosophers. If you want to talk about the responses to nihilism, we can. But I first wanted to make the point that these atheistic philosophers have given responses BECAUSE they see a problem. No one on this site even sees the “problem” yet. They keep thinking this is some sort of “arrogance”, which I don’t even understand, or that it is me “being a baby”. If Camus and Russell are babies, then fine, I am a baby.

          The reason why Russell’s response is not satisfying to me, may be for the same reasons he was “uneasy” about it, is because it leads to inconsistencies, which is WLC’s argument! Anything that leads to inconsistencies seemingly cannot be correct. If certain views lead to a contradiction, then somewhere along in our reasoning, we made a wrong turn. So, if subjective morality leads to polar opposite propositions both being “true”, then we have a contradiction/inconsistency. This is seemingly what subjective morality leads to, since it is seemingly arbitrary (which has been agreed upon on this forum by people who disagree with me) and can therefore justify seemingly any moral belief, specifically ones that are inconsistent with each other. I know people don’t want to think that subjective morality justifies just any moral belief, but it has not been explained to me how an arbitrary standard can be grounds for anything, never mind morality.

          So, Russell and others solutions to the “problem” are relevant, but only after we all agree that there is a “problem” that they are responding to, which is what no one on this forum wants to accept.

          Does this make sense? I will keep explaining if I have to, because it is helping me clarify everything in my brain. So, just let me know.

        • William Davis

          I think it’s important to realize that there is a subjective and situational component to morality, it really is not completely subjective. My proof is history. If a societies moral fiber becomes non-functional, the society falls to one that has a better moral fiber. I’ve always liked the expression “Selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, but altruistic groups beat selfish groups”. This is so true in history, and a study of the moral fiber of a society (like Rome) shows clear links to it’s rise and fall as an empire. Selection works on individuals and groups.

          I like to think of morality as a form of art. Clearly, there is no one true greatest artwork (the arguments over whether Mozart is better than Beethoven can get comical) but obviously some art is better than others. Morality also has a functional component that allows for destruction of really bad versions of this art. Christian morality clearly has some positive attributes for a society, even Thomas Jefferson made that point (like him I’m sort of a Deist/agnostic, I just don’t buy miracles).

          I hope this isn’t too blunt, but I suggest you forget WLC, there are much better Christian philosophers out there. Kant is an obvious great, but I’d suggest Alvin Plantinga is you want someone modern. WLC peddles too much nonsense for me to take seriously, but that’s just me.

          You might also be interested in situational ethics, it’s a valid Christian position

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_ethics

          Reality is what it is, the more you learn about it the more complex and beautiful it get, and I suggest that anyone who thinks they have it all figured out (atheist or theist) is deluding themselves. Besides if there was a hard moral script (legalism) how could we be free? We’d be robots following a program that God wrote…what a lame world that would be.

        • MNb

          “I have been accused of being “strange” and “confused” since I believe something similar, if not exactly the same,”
          No, not for this.

          “Russell response as to what to do, is therefore irrelevant.”
          I think you “strange” and “confused” for writing this. Russell’s response (and Sartre’s as well) is highly relevant. It shows you’re wrong when you postulate the non-sequitur “atheism hence nihilism”. Neither Russell nor Sartre did. And they certainly didn’t send desperate letters to some dishonest bigot of a “philosopher” of religion.

        • Adam

          Ah, again, this misses the point. All those philosophers agree with HOW the world is (purposeless in an objective sense), but they disagree with how to respond to it. So, Russell and Sartre may think nihilism can be defeated, while Craig would argue that the attempt to defeat nihilism leads to inconsistencies and therefore is unlivable.

        • Kodie

          Are you enough of an atheist to figure out that WLC has an agenda to make religion appealing, and atheism utterly disastrous? You have to say what these inconsistencies are. It seems you’re being marketed to by a dishonest person.

        • Adam

          Further, why is everyone so concerned with just my views?

          How come no one has called Bob out on complaining about how Craig whines about the “heat death of the universe”, when Bertrand Russell was the one who originally made that claim? Why aren’t people criticizing Bob for “not getting it”?
          Bob didn’t even know that’s where WLC got that line from.

          Further, Bob has not, admittedly, read J. L. Mackie, one of the most important atheist moral philosophers of the last century. Yet no one has questioned his ability to speak on these matters or even criticized his ideas, in any way. I mean he admittedly told me he has not studied philosophy, nor really cares for it, yet he is engaged in a philosophical discussion!! Talk about confused. We are really shooting ourselves in the foot here, yet everyone gangs up on me.

          I say this not because I can’t “take it”. I am just voicing a frustration at the people who claim to care about Truth, yet are failing to display anything but a concern for “winning” and argument . You criticize WLC for being “bigoted” and not being a “real philosopher” (not that you people hold philosophers in high regard), since he is not concerned with Truth, but has his decisions made up and then just rationalizes his way to the predetermined conclusions. I will just say most people on this forum seem the same way to me, since I have seen no criticisms except against my comments. So, no one, in any of the 400+ comments has said anything “wrong” except me? Ha! Come on!

        • Kodie

          You’re going to have to create some sock puppets to agree with your emotional opinion. That will be annoying and dishonest, but it will even up the sides at least.

        • Adam

          You don’t give up, incredible. So, you’re saying you’re a “sock puppet” for Bob?

        • Kodie

          No, you fool. I’m saying dishonest emotionally immature philosophizers like you don’t tend to complain that nobody has their back, they do something (obvious) about it. Why would anyone have your back if you’re so fucking wrong?

        • Adam

          I have repeatedly said that I am not endorsing or arguing for the truth of any particular ethics, worldview, etc. I am only concerned with what each view entails. What exactly am I “wrong” about?

        • Kodie

          I have repeatedly told you but you prefer to pretend those ideas don’t even exist.

        • Adam

          I still don’t know what “ideas” I have said “don’t exist”.

        • Kodie

          Holy shit, you disingenuous asshole.

        • Adam

          Ha! Honestly, what “ideas” have I claimed “don’t exist?” Can you find a quote from me or, rather, just tell me?

        • Kodie

          You mean you don’t remember purposely ignoring my posts and occasionally mocking me for responding to your posts on a public blog where other people can read them, without addressing any of them? I’m not mad at you for that, just that all your sniveling whining pathetic posts about the meaningless of the universe at you, they keep going on and on and on right past anything people might have said to help you adjust to our fucking planet. Hit the softballs moron, that’s what you like.

        • Adam

          That’s not claiming that certain “ideas don’t exist”. I was ignoring you because I feel like you are just here to argue and not try to learn/discuss the issues honestly. And this is not meant to be rude in anyway, but I just feel that you have contributed nothing of substance. You are an angry, strange girl who is ignorant of how annoying she really is.

          You are the one who keeps reading my comments and responding to them. I am not forcing you to read anything I am writing. If you don’t like it, stop reading it. I have not responded to your points, because I find them irrelevant, and you keep responding. What is your motivation for responding to someone who doesn’t want to talk to you? Just stop, move on.

          Or you can keep being mean, read what I am writing, responding to my posts even though I am not responding back, whatever you want. Maybe take a nap and relax for a bit, you’re too worked up over a strangers comments.

          Take care, now. And thanks for all the kind words. :)

        • Kodie

          Of course you find everything irrelevant if it doesn’t agree with your preconceived notions. You’d rather display how much suffering you endure because the universe doesn’t have anything to do with you, personally, and how nobody understands you, and how nobody else will help you make your pathetic whine even louder and more stupid.

        • Kodie

          Are you aware this blog is public and I don’t have to stop commenting on your posts just because you don’t want to keep up a correspondence?

        • Adam

          Well, yes, Russell and Sartre have “responses” to the nihilistic implications of the loss of objectivity. Can we agree that they hold that there are certain IMPLICATIONS to the loss of objectivity? I feel that we almost got there before. If not, then tell me where Russell is wrong, in the paragraph I posted where I quoted him..

          Now, as to the “responses” to the nihilistic implications- this is where WLC’s essay comes in. He claims that the responses lead to inconsistencies, which mean that the “responses” to nihilism will not or cannot work, and therefore we fall back into nihilism.

          So, WLC claims that subjective morality is a view that diminishes morality since it leads to contradictions that are irresolvable. I have pointed out some of the major problems with subjective morality, so I will not do so again. We do not even have to say anything about objective morality yet. If we agree that subjective morality cannot provide an account for how we resolve moral dilemmas, then we are left with nothing to do but fall back into moral nihilism/skepticism. Maybe people are taking “nihilism” to mean different things, existential, knowledge, moral, etc. I am obviously talking about moral nihilism. But maybe using the word “skeptic” is better, since it means ALMOST the same exact thing.

          So, WLC would claim that subjective morality ultimately leads to moral skepticism because there is no objective grounding.

          No? Am I still not making any sense?

        • adam

          “The point is that he acknowledges what is given up when objectivity is lost.”

          Yes, that life is subjective…

          In lieu of convincing evidence of the existence of objective morality that IS the default position.

          It reminds me of this Mark Twain quote:

        • Pofarmer

          “When,
          without the bitterness of impotent rebellion, we have learnt both to
          resign ourselves to the outward rule of Fate and to recognise that the
          non-human world is unworthy of our worship, it becomes possible at last
          so to transform and refashion the unconscious universe, so to transmute
          it in the crucible of imagination, that a new image of shining gold
          replaces the old idol of clay. In all the multiform facts of the world
          — in the visual shapes of trees and mountains and clouds, in the events
          of the life of man, even in the very omnipotence of Death — the insight
          of creative idealism can find the reflection of a beauty which its own
          thoughts first made. In this way mind asserts its subtle mastery over
          the thoughtless forces of Nature. The more evil the material with which
          it deals, the more thwarting to untrained desire, the greater is its
          achievement in inducing the reluctant rock to yield up its hidden
          treasures, the prouder its victory in compelling the opposing forces to
          swell the pageant of its triumph. Of all the arts, Tragedy is the
          proudest, the most triumphant; for it builds its shining citadel in the
          very centre of the enemy’s country, on the very summit of his highest
          mountain; from its impregnable watchtowers, his camps and arsenals, his
          columns and forts, are all revealed; within its walls the free life
          continues, while the legions of Death and Pain and Despair, and all the
          servile captains of tyrant Fate, afford the burghers of that dauntless
          city new spectacles of beauty. Happy those sacred ramparts, thrice happy
          the dwellers on that all-seeing eminence. Honour to those brave warriors
          who, through countless ages of warfare, have preserved for us the
          priceless heritage of liberty, and have kept undefiled by sacrilegious
          invaders the home of the unsubdued.”

        • Adam

          “Tragedy is the
          proudest, the most triumphant; for it builds its shining citadel in the
          very centre of the enemy’s country…”

          “Death and Pain and Despair, and all the
          servile captains of tyrant Fate, afford the burghers of that dauntless
          city new spectacles of beauty…”

          Again, this is a man who sees the world in a pessimistic way, at best, yet wants to tell man to rise up against it! He is saying, simply put, that you can turn a “bad” situation into a “good” situation.

          There is nothing wrong with saying that (well, WLC would think there are inconsistencies that abound from this sort of view and I am sympathetic to WLC’s criticisms), but this isn’t the point. We aren’t at that part of the conversation yet. We aren’t at: “where do we go from here?” “Here” meaning facing up to the “hollow” world that Russell/Camus/Craig have described. We cannot even agree on this, even with the writings of Russell directly in front of us.

          I have been trying to convey the point that many people feel a similar way as I do with regards to a “Godless” or “purposeless” world. Russell thinks not only that there is “bad” in the world, but that the world just is “bad”, “indifferent”, “purposeless”, in the objective sense.

          A Free Man’s Worship is a an acknowledgment of how “negative” the world truly is (this is the most important point, the one I have been trying to desperately to make) and his “response” to such pessimism. Russell was not creating some caricature for the “masses”, he truly believed this.

          HE WAS NOT WRITING A RESPONSE TO A FICTIONAL SITUATION. He was writing a response to how he thought the world actually is.

          Again, he was writing what he thought was a plausible response to the “negative” world view that espouses from the loss of objectivity.

          I have never argued on this forum for the truth of this view, or any other view for that matter. I have simply tried to lay of what I believe to be the consequences of particular worldviews. I have not tried to defend or justify a particular worldview. This is the reason why I am so surprised that I have taken so much flack and been accused of being “confused” and all that jazz. And it’s the reason I am still here typing. I have no interest in trying to “convert” someone to a particular worldview, I just think it’s profitable to have everyone in the conversation on the same “ground level” to where a meaningful conversation can actually progress, instead of all the “talking past each other” that has been happening.

        • Kodie

          Imagining, creating, and/or believing in a godful or purposeful world is one remedy for this nagging feeling that life ought to be about more than statistics. You want to believe the whole universe knows about you, determines who you become, determines who you’re supposed to be, like you’re the main character in an epic tale. it isn’t true. We do what we can while we’re here. I understand you look around yourself, and you want even your poops to be meaningful. Religion is like a coloring book to distract you while you’re waiting for your dental appointment. Maybe you think, given reality, taking care of your teeth is pointless. How young are you? According to the old man in Prelude to a Kiss, taking care of your teeth is what it’s all about.

          I thought “If I could shine
          like the light of that girl over there,
          I’d never take another drink.”
          “I’d let my liver hang on another decade.”
          “Stay out of the sun, eat right.
          This time I would floss.”
          I remember now.

        • MNb

          “Russell thinks not only that there is “bad” in the world, but that the world just is “bad”, “indifferent”, “purposeless”, in the objective sense.”
          Maybe my memory fails me – I haven’t the time now to reread A Freeman’s Worship and just glanced through it – but I can’t remember Russell writing that the world is just bad. Indifferent, purposeless, sure. But not bad – that would in fact contradict “indifferent”; if the world were objectively bad it would care about us humans and Russell’s point is that it doesn’t.

        • Adam

          “Bad” would be a bad word. I messed up there. But he did say, in the paragraph from his essay that I quoted, that he believes life, once objectivity is lost, is purposeless, indifferent, etc.

        • MNb

          OK

          “he believes life, once objectivity is lost, is purposeless, indifferent.”

          With one important caveat – and you called it irrelevant elsewhere on this page: unless we humans manage to give our lives purpose ourselves, unless we don’t remain indifferent etc. I confirmed this with three quotes from Russell elsewhere.
          Sartre did something similar.
          So the question is: why can’t you? You already gave the answer: because you don’t see any reason to value humanity. They apparently disagreed.

        • Adam

          Yes, of course we are ONLY left with subjective meanings. This is the criticism of WLC. He argues that subjectivity leads to inconsistencies. Which is why his article is relevant. We may disagree with his conclusions, but his criticism need answering. You cannot just simply say “I don’t like WLC, so I won’t listen to his arguments.”

        • adam

          “This is the criticism of WLC. He argues that subjectivity leads to inconsistencies.”

          But not as many inconsistencies that arguing objective morality does, as long as you cant demonstrate that objective morals are REAL and accessible.

          There are now over 42000 denominations of christianity alone, and they all have different views on what they believe are objective morals.

        • Kodie

          Once you have given up the fantasy of objectivity (which I have noted in another thread to another current poster similar to you, has its own downside), obviously what is left is an indifferent universe, and no given purpose for you to fulfill. Whether or not you choose to be depressed about this seems to be the propaganda you choose to consume. WLC makes his living, apparently, as do most if not all apologists, from making atheism seem like a terribly gloomy idea. To put it another way, do you like any particular foods? A lot of people like bacon, so let’s say if you have bacon, it’s good to eat. Should you not eat bacon if you are just going to get hungry again? What is the purpose of bacon, to feed you something you like? Pigs are alive like people are alive, so your objective morality and your purpose would be to make a world in which killing a pig to eat bacon is good. It still doesn’t mean you won’t be hungry in a few hours.

          We’ve made, as a species, across cultures, eating to be a delight. How many times have you sat down to an actual feast, and imagined it would be a long time until you got hungry again? I mean, you know hunger, hunger is real. If there’s any purpose to living, it seems to be to keep refueling regularly, and if possible, to make an occasion of it. No matter how much you eat today, your body is going to remind you how much it likes eating tomorrow. I don’t know about everybody, but this indicates to me that most of our consciousness, our purpose, our drive, is aimed at planning the next meal. I’m not a terrific planner, so I practically have to be starving before I can think what to eat.

        • Pofarmer

          “We cannot even agree on this, even with the writings of Russell directly in front of us.”

          Imagine that people interpreting writings in different ways. I mean, that almost never happens. And we don’t have “Russels writings” in front of us, what we have is you pulling quotes out of context to attempt to buoy your case. This is a tactic quite common with theists and I find it sloppy. If you want to discuss “Free Man’s world” then we can do that, but lets not draw quotes out, let’s discuss the whole work.

        • Adam

          The entire work is not important. The point of this is not his “response” to the “human condition”, it’s that he acknowledges the “human condition”, which was my point. It’s not up for interpretation. It just is what he says it is.

          And you saying this is funny, since I addressed this exact point in the entire comment above. It’s almost like you didn’t even read it. Sort of like the way you didn’t feel any “despair” in his essay, even though he uses the exact word “despair” in his writing. Come on, man. Get with it.

        • Pofarmer

          But gradually, as morality grows bolder, the claim
          of the ideal world begins to be felt; and worship, if it is not to cease,
          must be given to gods of another kind than those created by the savage.
          Some, though they feel the demands of the ideal, will still consciously
          reject them, still urging that naked power is worthy of worship. Such is
          the attitude inculcated in God’s answer to Job out of the whirlwind: the
          divine power and knowledge are paraded, but of the divine goodness there
          is no hint. Such also is the attitude of those who, in our own day, base
          their morality upon the struggle for survival, maintaining that the
          survivors are necessarily the fittest. But others, not content with an
          answer so repugnant to the moral sense, will adopt the position which we
          have become accustomed to regard as specially religious, maintaining that,
          in some hidden manner, the world of fact is really harmonious with the
          world of ideals. Thus Man creates, God, all-powerful and all-good, the
          mystic unity of what is and what should be.

        • Pofarmer

          Ah, finally. The next paragraph.

          “How, in such an alien and inhuman world, can so
          powerless a creature as Man preserve his aspirations untarnished? A
          strange mystery it is that Nature, omnipotent but blind, in the
          revolutions of her secular hurryings through the abysses of space, has
          brought forth at last a child, subject still to her power, but gifted with
          sight, with knowledge of good and evil, with the capacity of judging all
          the works of his unthinking Mother. In spite of death, the mark and seal
          of the parental control, Man is yet free, during his brief years, to
          examine, to criticise, to know, and in imagination to create. To him
          alone, in the world with which he is acquainted, this freedom belongs; and
          in this lies his superiority to the resistless forces that control his
          outward life.”

          See, this isn’t about despair, this
          is about avoiding despair. This is about looking at reality for what it
          is and making of it the best that we can. I dunno man, you seem to be looking for the very most hopeless angle in everything in order to cut those like WLC the most possible slack.

        • MR

          It seems kind of selfish. I’m quite happy to get what I got. As my niece’s 1st grade teacher says, ” You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.”

        • Adam

          So, he’s not “confused”, “silly”, or just a “bad” philosopher, or any of the things that you all accused me of?

        • MR

          He’s simply taking man’s hubris and bringing it back down to earth where it belongs. What’s silly is you wanting something more, whining about it and pretending you’re depressed about it. No one sits around talking about what they’re going to do with the rest of their afterlife, they talk about what they’re going to do before they die. We all know this is it, otherwise we’d welcome death.

        • Adam

          Wow, even after reading that you say this? Strange. He thought life was depressing, yet a person has to “press on”. Russell and I would agree about the consequences of an atheistic worldview, he would just put a more positive spin on atheism, AFTER acknowledging some of the downsides.

        • Kodie

          You sound resentful of the passing of innocent childhood. Remember when you wanted to just eat cake and candy, but someone told you you have to eat your vegetables, do your homework, and get to bed early so you won’t be too tired to make it to the bus on time the next day?

          Life is a fucking drag. I don’t love it, but I don’t go crazy expecting it to adjust to my wishes like you do.

        • MR

          Oh, Kodie, life’s not that bad.

          Yes, I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon.
          I have one life, and it is short
          And unimportant…
          But thanks to recent scientific advances
          I get to live twice as long
          As my great great great great uncleses and auntses.
          Twice as long to live this life of mine
          Twice as long to love this wife of mine
          Twice as many years of friends and wine
          Of sharing curries and getting shitty
          With good-looking hippies
          With fairies on their spines
          And butterflies on their titties.

          —Tim Minchin

        • Kodie

          That’s for rich people.

        • MR

          You don’t think you benefit from modern science? Or you can’t afford curry?

        • Kodie

          Cost-benefit – the chore of staying alive greatly outweighs the enjoyment I can get out of it.

        • MR

          Hmmm…, have you tried chamomile? Epictetus?

        • Kodie

          I don’t think you comprehend.

        • MR

          Perhaps, not. I see life, kind of the way you described one day: this moment right here right now that just slipped away and is replaced by another and another and another.

          And that moment, the one I’m living in in this split, splittiest of a second is in a sense all that my life is. The past is past, the future uncertain. Whatever the past was is unchangeable, the future unknowable. And I have the here and now and with it the power to pass judgement on the here and now whether it is good or bad. Because it is rarely that a thing is in itself good or bad but rather my opinion of it and it’s for me to decide what that opinion should be. Stoicism 101.

        • Kodie

          The future is knowable to a pretty predictable degree.

        • MR

          And to a pretty predictable degree we can and should try to influence it for the best. But, I think, you’d be the first to tell me that there are no guarantees. The key is to do what you can with no expectations that life will turn out the way you want. (And in that sense, it’s almost guaranteed not to be predictable.)

          Adam, for example, has very strong expectations of life and thinks it’s not worth it if he doesn’t get what he wants. And that, not even of this life! Of the chance of some imagined future life that is absolutely unknowable!

          For me, this moment right here and right now is what I have, it’s all that I have for certain. Why would I want to disparage it?

        • Kodie

          I live in the moment far too much and don’t predict predicable events in the future enough. That’s how I know what the future holds. More of the chore of staying alive crowding out the fleeting few mediocre attempts to enjoy it.

        • MR

          I live in the moment far too much and don’t predict predicable events in the future enough.

          Awareness is a good first step.

          Maybe more of your now moments should be spent in planning moments for the future that can be enjoyed. Easy for me to say, I have a similar problem. Not enough planning. Even though I know that small things I can do today can have an enormous impact on my future life, from something simple like meeting a friend for dinner to something with more impact like setting up a 401k. One simple act can change a lot.

          Sometimes it’s about the difference between allowing life to happen and making it happen.

          I joined a skeptics club recently. I don’t know that I’ll stick with them, but they recently had an outing to the local mountain-top observatory. I came that close to saying, “That’s nice,” and forgetting about the whole thing, but I just pushed that one moment into a, “Hell, why not,” and I ended up having a great time. A small decision will give me a high for some time to come.

        • Kodie

          I’m glad someone can enjoy themselves.

        • MR

          I don’t think I’m helping. :S

        • MNb

          Sorry if I misunderstand you, but Russell thought life anything but depressive. Just like MR and me he was aware that he and only he was responsible, that he couldn’t take refugee in some external source.

          “There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.”
          “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.”
          “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”

          Does this sound like an unhappy camper to you?
          He’s rather with MR than with you.

        • MR

          I’ve always found this argument to be incredibly arrogant. Who are you to question? If there were a God and he determined that at the end of your life you blink out into oblivion, are you going to tell him otherwise? If it’s silly to lament your fate to God, how much more to lament to the uncaring universe. Whiner. Do you always base your happiness on wishful thinking? What right do you have to question, or to complain, or to be unhappy? Rejoice in what you have.

          But you never answered my question, if there is some objective meaning, what is it? What is your objective meaning in this universe? What could you possible ‘mean’, what is your possible objective purpose, that the universe couldn’t have done without you? Why do you deserve anything more than this?

        • Kodie

          It sounds like he’s sentimental.

        • MNb

          “Does this sound like a “happy camper”?”
          No. That’s why I recommended it. However Russell has written some more. I don’t know if he hated subjective moralism, but unlike you he managed to deal with it.
          The same for Sartre. That’s why I recommended him too.
          But now I have my doubts if they will be useful for you. If your question is “why should I value humanity?” then I’m not sure if they answered them.
          At the other hand they are good reads.

        • Adam

          Yes, he did “manage” to deal with it. But usually you don’t “manage to deal” with something that is “good” or “pleasing”. That was my point the entire time that everyone thought I was crazy on. I didn’t want to bring out arguments from authority, but I can quote other atheists such as Camus, Sartre, Nietzsche etc. that think the same thing as I do.

        • Kodie

          Most people can imagine something more pleasing than reality, like not having to work for a living, no car breakdowns, no illnesses, etc. Most people can manage to be more moral than the god in the bible (and if you were to believe there was a god, yes, everything bad the universe does to you is his judgment, regardless of bible god).

          SO. WHAT. You’re an animal who is forced to travel through life, scrounging up food, staying warm, and loving whoever is near and dear to you. All that long-lasting meaning you want is an illusion of your imagination. So what if you long for it. Do the best you can, and then die.

        • MNb

          “That was my point the entire time that everyone thought I was crazy on.”
          Sorry, but this specific point only became clear to me after many comments of yours. Not that I blame you – that kind of misunderstanding happens all the time.

          “I can quote other atheists”
          Yeah, but my point is that not nearly all of them remained stuck in their nihilistic ruts. So you don’t have to either. They may think the same way you do – in fact I do as well; my formulation is that life doesn’t have any external meaning and that we have give our lives meaning ourselves – but don’t accept the consequence, ie nihilism like you do. Neither do I.
          I think I used the expression existential choice before. And that’s what Pofarmer’s reaction was about. Russell’s dispair obviously was not yours, given all his post-war activities. The same for Sartre.

        • Adam

          Yes, perfect. NOW we can talk about what we are supposed to do, i.e. is nihilism the end or can we “move forward”? THIS is where WLC’s article is relevant. Thank you for at least acknowledging my point. It seems so trivial, but I have been trying to days, with countless examples, and many criticisms aimed against me. This is the first “progress” that has been made. Phew.

        • MNb

          “NOW we can talk about …..”
          We wanted to talk about that from the very beginning ….

          “This is the first “progress” that has been made. Phew.”
          This is the first “progress” YOU have made. I have made that progress several decades ago.

          “THIS is where WLC’s article is relevant.”
          Given my progress of several decades ago that article is totally irrelevant.
          You are the slow one, my friend. I recommended Russell and Sartre quite a while ago, remember? I did exactly for this reason.

        • Adam

          Just when I thought I had you, you’re gone again. All the atheist philosophers think that nihilism can be “defeated”. WLC’s essay argues for why they are wrong. That’s why it’s relevant.

        • MNb

          It’s the other way round. Just when I thought I had you, you’re the one who is gone.

          “WLC’s essay argues for why they are wrong.”
          No, he doesn’t. He doesn’t argue anything. He just postulates “without objective meaning provided by God nihilism is all that’s left.” And that’s not the case.
          I repeat: nihilism is possible on atheism. It’s not the only option. That’s what I have consistently been telling you.
          And now I’ve got to run – to give my life some meaning and purpose.

        • Adam

          Yes, he does. Craig argues that nihilism is a logical consequence of atheism. Ironic you mention consistency, because that’s what Craig accuses atheist of lacking, consistency. Atheist are inconsistent because they deny objective moral values, for one thing, and then they declare that some sort of subjective value can take the place of, or have the same authority as, objective values. With all my comments on this post, I have attempted to draw out the problems of a subjective ethics. Not my emotions towards a subjective ethics, which is what I have been accused of, but rather what everyone (philosophers) who has seriously considered the matter also believes. According to Craig, the atheist, by denying objective morality, while affirming subjective morality, or attempting to raise subjective morality to the “heights” of objectivity, is accused of saying something along these lines: There is no such thing as Truly Right or Truly Wrong, but THIS (take whatever moral action/proposition you want) is “right” or THAT is “wrong”. It’s the equivalent, according to Craig, as saying “I love apples, I don’t love apples.”

          I think this sort of inconsistency is plausible under a subjective ethics. I actually think it’s necessary with a subjective ethics, although I could be wrong, but I haven’t been convinced of that here, nor in any of all my philosophical readings on the issue. I know that Russell also thought this was a “problem” for subjective morality that had to be handled. Craig has just drawn it out or put a flashlight on the issue.

        • Kodie

          Do you just ignore my comments to you or do you pretend they don’t exist?

        • Kodie

          It seems to be beyond your intellectual grasp that WLC has an agenda, like all apologists, to keep believers intimidated from exploring their options.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I can’t seem to get anyone to even empathize with me. Very strange.

          Have you not taken your thinking for much of a test drive outside of your peeps? I applaud your doing so here, but if this is your first time, it may not be all that surprising that you get some pushback once you put it out there for a proper critique.

        • Kodie

          You’re failing to engage with people who are trying to understand you, and then mocking them, perhaps? You don’t want to be understood, you love to be that misunderstood guy, and all superior to everyone else, maybe? Just like it always is, if someone doesn’t come around to agree with you, then they just don’t get it. People like you seem to think they make more sense than they do.

        • Kodie

          Any honest person would call you a blowhard pseudo-intellectual.

        • Adam

          Honestly, even though it’s not meant to be, I take this as the highest compliment. I believe this is the first time I have responded to you directly, yet you have read all of my comments, letters, etc. and are still responding to them, even without me saying anything back to you. I could call you a name, since that sounds a little “obsessive” in my eyes, but instead, to be called a “blowhard pseudo-intellectual”, from an internet stranger who I have never had a direct conversation with and who seemingly also disagrees with everything I say, surprisingly, makes me happy. So, thanks for the compliment. I appreciate you.

        • Kodie

          That was in response to you suggesting anyone who read your horseshit would take your side against Bob’s. Copy and paste the whole conversation and present it to an objective philosopher, such arrogance in you that you think you’re making any sense or representing a point with any clarity. You’d be laughed at.

        • Adam

          Yes, very strange indeed that I have thought about these questions for years, have received praise from many “top-level” philosophers, have “credentials” in the field of philosophy,and therefore think that my thoughts are clear and/or justified.

          Instead, maybe I should feel like a confused, deluded, sociopath because a strange, obsessive women, who I have never met, nor conversed with, has taken a strange interest in something that I have written, that has nothing to do with her, who is confused over the contents of my comments and writings, and who has, unprovoked (at least not directly, even if you are offended but what I said to Bob), decided to refer to me in derogatory ways.

          Yeah, you’re right. I am going to go with the latter. I wonder why I had any idea that I thought that I knew what I was talking about. Thanks for clearing that all up, stranger.

          As to what I said to Bob, that you seemingly got offended at: I think it’s helpful to get a well-rounded opinion about things, rather than a “cheering crowd” or a bunch of like-minded individuals. While that crowd or individuals may be correct, I have said repeatedly that’s irrelevant. I was just trying to get the different views of morality and their consequences on the table, not try to convince anyone that nihilism is the correct view to hold.

        • Kodie

          What, I got offended? It’s not the crowd, it’s your inability to maturely handle criticism for your lackluster efforts.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          maybe
          I should feel like a confused, deluded, sociopath because a strange, obsessive
          women

          It’s a lot more than Kodie who is unimpressed with the fruits of all those philosophical credentials.

          Hey–maybe you should bring some of your “top-level” philosopher buddies here. Maybe they can make your argument more convincingly.

        • Kodie

          I’m not just unimpressed, but this response is familiar… it’s all, look, why do you keep answering my public posts in a public forum? I’m ignoring you, haven’t you noticed? This “Adam” is obviously someone we’re familiar with, and it would be a huge coincidence if someone like Billie Jean, who this probably is, is the same person who wrote the letter to WLC.

        • MR

          I’ve never even considered that this is the person who wrote the letter and have just assumed it was a sock puppet of someone. Agree, most likely, Billie Jean. Which really makes me wonder about how they square the deception with all this talk about morality. Deception is okay when you’re trying to win over an atheist? Oops, subjective! If objective, then you’re going against your own beliefs and presumably carving out yet another little niche for yourself in hell.

        • Kodie

          Whoever they all are, all they want is softballs and to have their egos stroked. I don’t know where they think they are.

        • Adam

          Haha, funny.

        • MR

          Well, no, not really. Not if you really believe in this stuff.

        • Adam

          Unfortunately this would be of no help. I wish our conversations were more fruitful. I have never really met anyone so closed minded. It’s not like I am even arguing for objective morality. This entire ‘argument” stems from me thinking that the consequences of a lack of objectivity with regards to ethics is not something that ought to be embraced with open arms. But then again, that’s a value judgment…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Unfortunately this would be of no help.

          Because the best minds in the world couldn’t convince any of us of the truth of anything? Or because they couldn’t express it any better than you have?

          I wish our conversations were more fruitful. I have never really met anyone so closed minded.

          Uh huh. I wonder then why you haven’t corrected the errors in simply expressing your position with respect to that of atheists after we’ve pointed out the errors. No chance that it’s you?

          It’s not like I am even arguing for objective morality.

          Yes. This is one of the problems.

          This entire ‘argument” stems from me thinking that the consequences of a lack of objectivity with regards to ethics is not something that ought to be embraced with open arms.

          And my thoughts: we should embrace reality with open arms. Fretting over the consequences of reality doesn’t help us deal with them.

        • MNb

          “I have never really met anyone so closed minded.”
          Do you really mean to say that WLC is less closed minded than BobS?

          “But then again, that’s a value judgment…”
          Again, that’s our point. The lack of objectivity with regards to ethics was something I took seriously. It took me about 15 years before accepting a system of ethics that suited me, ie helped me to become more or less a good person or at least helped me to strive for it. Better information might have accelerated the process, but this was before I entered the internet.
          So I was somewhat amused when you wrote about BobS and his like-minded followers, because his “I rely on my instinct” definitely is not good enough for me. My instinct has failed me a couple of times too often.

        • Pofarmer

          Not unless they bring some science with them.

        • MNb

          “The problem with this view, simply put, is that there are an infinite amount of numbers. They just keep getting bigger and bigger, infinities on top of infinities. The human mind is not infinite, so it seems strange to think that mathematics (these entities we call mathematics) simply exist in our minds.”
          You don’t have to keep all numbers in your head to be able to work with them. That’s what mathematical algorhythms are for. We don’t even need to keep all mathematical algorhythms in our head. We can write them down.
          Sorry, I’m not impressed.

          “in order for morality to be strictly speaking True”
          Yeah. You keep on repeating that we don’t get it, but you are the one who doesn’t. I never claimed that ethics can be true, let alone with a capital. That’s the entire point of subjective ethics.
          Your frustration is of your own doing. You are the one who sets his standards too high; we don’t. For some reason – you never provided it – you long for the Truth, the Absolute, 100% Certain, Everlasting, Never Changing Truth. We don’t. If science can’t provide it, why expect that philosophy can?

        • Greg G.

          Who settle for an ugly truth when you can have beautiful lies described with big words?

        • Pofarmer

          It seems that all too often philosophers outsmart themselves.

        • Adam

          First, of course we can keep numbers in our head, but in order for them to be true, the idea goes, they have to relate to something in reality, i.e. in an abstract realm. So, while we may be able to keep the number “2” in our head, we cannot (and this is the point of the criticism of psychologism) keep infinities in our head. So, you are not impressed with something that the psychologist would agree with you on, haha. I hope you understand that now.

          Second, I am not setting my standards “too high”, I am trying to look and see if there even is a standard. Subjective ethics idea of “standards” are arbitrary and circular in justification. You have to assume the value of something, in order to give it value. Also, people may value different things, and if we want to say that moral propositions are “true”, then there would seemingly have to be a non-arbitrary way to determine which of the contradictory moral propositions are true.

        • Rudy R

          Your reasoning fails when you dismiss the physicalist view out of hand. You added the disclaimer that you are not a physicist, but then make a claim that only a physicist or cosmologist can better answer. And you presuppose no multiverses. Very sloppy.

        • Adam

          The “dismissal” of physicalism was exactly to avoid “sloppiness”. I was simply writing on the main issues in order to get my point across. So, I guess you could say I was being intentionally sloppy. I did not “presuppose” anything, I was just anticipating objections to the “problems” of the physicalist view in order to let him know that I am aware of how someone might respond, and how it is irrelevant to the point I was trying to make. So, instead of intentionally being sloppy, a better way to put it is that where you think I was “sloppy”, I think I was attempting to keep things tidy.

        • Kodie

          Some people’s moral opinions are based on ignorance and listening to wrong facts. Who should be more right? The person with the facts. But is it something to get upset over or not? Some people are not quick to anger, and you wonder if they’re human. Are you human? I mean, it really comes down to that. You seem to not wish to confront or find it terrible or something that we’re animals who don’t always know all the facts. But when we know some of the facts, and another whole group of people is coming to a different moral conclusion because they’re being lied to convincingly, that’s easy to get angry with. It happens all the time. I brought up abortion before because this is pretty simple – if you believe the lies you’re being told, I can agree the only moral conclusion you can come to is anti-abortion. But the facts remain available, it’s just harder to convince people who already believe something else that they’re being lied to by someone they trust. Religions go way back to warn people to ignore naysayers, and other nonsense that interferes with their beliefs, so they are trained to tune out facts; aside from their natural gullibility, and their natural confirmation bias or cognitive dissonance, there is an explicit message using circular reasoning that this religion is correct, don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. They’re prepared to expect an atheist’s arguments and facts with canned nonsense. They’re not listening, they’re not even listening and dissecting what they’re told. They’re under a fucking spell. It’s easy to get angry because they’re not only wrong, they aren’t even using their cognitive faculties to realize what’s wrong with their claims or arguments. Pawns.

          I mean, here’s what you seem like to me – a guy who thinks he thinks for himself, but really doesn’t. You swallow whole arguments from someone else, and I’ve heard WLC is crafty that way, but I’ve never looked at or read any debates by him or anything. I probably should so I know first-hand, that would be the honest thing to do, but he sounds like a cartoon character. No theist has ever really disagreed with anything I would call a characterization of him by an atheist, they just think those arguments are sound and good instead of ridiculous, so I don’t feel like he’s being misrepresented or lied about, if we’re all agreeing that he did say what he said. Your kind of thinking just seems shallow and vulnerable to a bad argument. You said your life was ruined! You can no longer cope in a world without god, you have accepted one theist’s necessary consequences, and here’s the thing. Nihilism isn’t necessary. We’re just animals living as well as we can, and if we are harmed, we have a so-called right to communicate about it. Then we can discuss whether that harm is real or just in your imagination, and how to deal with it that way. Does someone need to make amends to you, or do you need to adjust your reaction to fit the offense?

          It’s not going to change the world. It’s not really going to change your whole life if this isn’t resolved to your satisfaction. I’ve heard letting go of anger is a good thing, even if you are morally justified in being angry. I’ve noticed that the Christian religion, among many, teaches or preaches patience, and letting it go, and not letting things get to you when there’s nothing you can do about. To a rather psychotic degree, most Christians seem able to do this about the really important issues, but cling bitterly to small issues (as long as they belong to a sizable enough group, either in real life or on the internet, to keep barking). I mean, have you seen all the online blogs and articles that can be about anything, and someone always has to start talking about Obama, for no fucking reason? Do you think god is giving them points for being a pest and derailing the internet to troll politics?

        • MNb

          “It’s emotional in the sense that it makes me feel crappy.”
          And that’s the result of your very own existential choice regarding ethics. You should read Sartre iso consulting WLC. And your existential choice is made clear here:

          “reach what I believe is the end zone”
          You’ll only be satisfied when it’s objectively proven to you that you have reached the finish indeed. You can’t accept the insight that you never will, let alone embrace and enjoy it. Well, that’s your pick. It’s your pick to say that the work of garbage men is meaningless, like I asked you in another comment. Mine is to value that they improve the quality of my life. Totally subjective of course – but that’s only consistent.
          Or you can go read some Sartre – a man who unlike WLC produced some excellent philosophy.

        • Kodie

          He just wants to arrive at a moral conclusion that he considers solidly grounded in all reality for all time, and point to it in a book whenever someone raises the issue again with new information. Sorry, these rules have been established. Your needs and rights are considered subjective, and you missed out on the establishment of the objective moral conclusions.

          This is basically what the Christians want with their bible. They can’t go against what it says no matter who wants what. They refer to it instead of adjust themselves, they feel good and moral and decent, and turn the accusations for anyone seeking equality as immoral because what they do goes against this firmly established moral law. What they want is to feel good about being shitty to other people, and feel good about making them feel shitty about who they are and what changes they would make to society. “Adam” and all the Christians and WLC deflect criticisms by claiming superiority of morals that are objective, and complaining that subjective morality is so inferior as to be completely useless waste of time. Nice try! All those laws in the bible are subjective morals, subjective to time and place, subjective to ignorance, and subjective to author’s personal opinion or the cultural rules. Hiding behind a fictional character who allegedly established these laws for all time, objectively, doesn’t win the argument.

          We can go ahead and establish these laws, but they wouldn’t be moral. It’s immoral to ignore new information or relevant arguments that add to your understanding of an issue. Let’s talk about murder and marriage equality. The bible says it’s wrong to murder. Holy cow, it’s still wrong to murder! That book must be onto something. The bible says it’s an abomination for a man to lay with another man as he would a woman. The book was right about murder, so it must be right about that too, right? Is that how sound philosophical arguments are made?

          The bible also says how to treat your slaves, how to use a sort of witchcraft fortune-telling abortion to find out if your wife has cheated on you with another man, and not to eat pork or meat from other animals with cloven hooves. Obviously, the book was from a time of ignorance. Does rejection of the rules (which most Christians ignore what isn’t useful for them, and rightfully interpret these rules as coming from a time and place, not of “ignorance,” but they just did things differently then) established thousands of years ago mean that murder is ok, because it’s in that book? Is that how we go about making sound philosophical arguments again? Oooh, it’s subjective, it’s all subjective, that puts murder back on the table for discussion. “I’m Adam-Billie-Jean, the weak-minded philosophy nut, easily influenced by persuasive magicians like WLC, who think if they just ignore the bible as a completely subjective document, they can weaken trust in subjective morals by calling them inferior and leading directly to suicide.” Nobody wants suicide, right? Is that good philosophy?

        • MR

          Yeah, I don’t even buy that the biblical laws were objective. Apart from being stolen from Hammurabi, the whole thou shalt not kill is really saying:

          If you want to be a part of this society, you shall not kill other members of this society.
          If you want to be a part of this society, you shall not steal from other members of this society.
          Etc.

          Killing or stealing from an enemy wasn’t considered immoral, which is why it was perfectly fine for the Israelites to go in and wipe out the other tribes, take their goods and take their wives as their own.

          Over time, “society” incorporated larger and larger portions of the population.

          It’s all… subjective.

        • William Davis

          Like it or not, the truth is the truth, and morality is subjective…no matter what the Catholic church says (and I have spent a lot of my time showing Catholics just that).

        • Rudy R

          It has been fun. And yes, frustrating too. If I may, what started this debate was that you were accused of being a Poe. Your real transgression was your gushing over WLC in your letter. Since most atheists despise the guy, how could a reasonable atheist display such idol worship? We’ve all studied his arguments, KCA to be specific, and found his reasoning serious lacking and soundly refuted by just about every other secular and religious philosopher. From our standpoint, he’s just another Christian apologist whose shtick is philosophy, which is used for the sole purpose of giving himself a veneer of credibility to his already convinced choir of adherents. You more than any other should value logic and reason, but choose to praise someone who would reject all science, reason and logic for his faith in the Holy Spirit. That’s what we are confounded about, so hopefully you too can be a little less confused about why we are confused about you.

        • Kodie

          Subjective morality has no grounding or basis for establishing or preferring,

          I think it does. Greater good, common goals, etc. We make adjustments, communicate, observe, study, make arguments, etc. when we learn more about the world and each other. And I think some things may have just one best moral answer, meanwhile, ignorance and publicity surrounding an issue can lead a lot of people the wrong way. Ignorance and denial about global warming is going to lead to disaster, so is that right or wrong? Is it just subjective, why should anyone care about the future of the planet and the generations of people who still have to live with this fallout? Can you argue that it is morally right to ignore the warnings?

          When every new technology emerges, people have to adjust to arising moral and ethical problems using it. Sometimes in doing so, we learn about something we used to have no problem and realize it wasn’t that morally clear. Life is just doing the best we can do with what we have and how far we can see. Never mind the past too much, or too far into the future, like AI.

          You just seem like the kind of person who wants there to be one common set of rules everyone can agree to, or you can point to to win an argument, and stop changing all the time. You hate or fear change. “The game” as you keep calling it is not a game. It’s just confusing to you every time an issue is not settled once and forever, and keeps needing to be adjusted or worked over entirely to keep up with human progress. You are very much like those bigoted religious people who just want to go back to simpler times when white people could go somewhere and not see any black people, not have any gay neighbors, women knew their place at home, etc. You don’t like it when we have to keep taking these issues out and thinking hard about them again, and adjusting your point of view. You don’t want to have to fight about letting people have rights. You don’t want to be made aware of sweatshops in China or destruction of the Amazon rainforest, or polar bears stranded at sea. You want the rules to be established, so that no matter what happens, you won’t have to argue that your opinion is righter, you can just point to a list in a book thousands of years old and say, there, that is the objective morally correct answer, and win.

          It’s just that there are consequences to every moral decision. Your “game” is, if it’s subjective, why should you care? Because that’s what the argument is. Should you care about future generations of humans or not? Should you care about the work conditions in factories that make your cheap consumer goods in another country? Should you care if everyone in the US has healthcare or not? Should you care if some lady you don’t know wants to have sex without getting pregnant? Objective morality closes off those questions from further discussion. You hate “the game”. You want your feelings about what is moral to be validated by an external authority, that you can feel good about buying your phone, your sneakers, your dog food, at a price you can afford; that you can feel good about complaining how your taxes are used to help other human beings; that you can feel good about shaming someone else’s behavior. You don’t want to have to pull out good arguments for your shitty morals, you want to win “the game” without having to justify your opinions.

          The only reason I am still typing is because I cannot believe how not one person realizes this. Just pick up a “intro to metaethics” book (it’s not a waste of time!) and you will realize this.

          Billie Jean.

        • William Davis

          I think morality must be subjective for it to be adaptive. Evolution favors adaptability. If God exists, it’s pretty clear he wants morality to be at least somewhat subjective…because that’s just the way things are :) I think Christianity tries to force things to be the way we want them to be; I’m not sure how that helps anything.

        • Adam

          Yes, I agree.

        • Rudy R

          Many people who lose their faith and become atheists struggle with these same issues. But you are making it harder for yourself turning to Christians for the answers. For those Christian philosophers you are turning to, do you think that they came to their beliefs through logic or faith? I’ve already commented that WLC believes in his god no matter what science or reason tells him.
          Just ask yourself this simple question. Would you feel better having someone else decide for you what is meaningful or would you prefer to decide for yourself? For me, I feel very liberated deciding what is meaningful, instead of having someone or something decide for me.

        • Adam

          True, but I wasn’t looking for someone to “decide what is meaningful” for me. I just thought that he may be a person who truly understands the predicament I am in (well, we are all in it), and knowing a decent amount about him, I knew he in fact did know what I was feeling. I was not looking for a “magic pill” of Christianity to shove down my throat for an “easy fix”. The “absurd” as Albert Camus talked about, is as close as I can describe it to someone who has not actually encountered it before. It’s this overwhelming feeling, similar to when you breath in some water and panic like you might drown. Or even the “nausea” that Sartre describes. If you’re not familiar with any existential writings, and you are happy, I recommend not looking into them! Ha! They are depressing and, more importantly, at least to me, for the most part, true.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What did you think of WLC’s response? I didn’t see any new insights there.

        • Adam

          Are you talking about my second letter to him that I just posted?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No–his response that he wrote on his web site about your first letter. Or the critique in the podcast.

        • Adam

          Oh, well, I definitely think he understood where I was coming from, but his suggestions just didn’t “hit home” with me. I can’t sincerely pray to something I don’t know is there or not. I listen to music all the time, get great feelings, but I don’t contribute these feelings to God, etc. The second letter I wrote, that I just posted, talks about my problems with his response though, if you’re curious.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I am EXTREMELY surprised, and utterly disappointed with the atheistic responses to my letter.

          That’s a shame, though I’m surprised that you’re surprised. No need to get into it here—I summarized all that above.

          riddled with misunderstandings about my views

          Doubtless. If we’d had a chance to connect with you immediately, you could’ve addressed those (quite understandable) misunderstandings quickly. Too bad.

          I didn’t realize that by simply “liking” Dr. Craig that I would arouse such an outrage from strangers on the internet. Very strange, indeed.

          That this seems strange makes me question all the more your assurance that you understand the atheist arguments well. As you can see from my rebuttal to Craig’s “Absurdity” article, many atheists find much wrong there. That you didn’t highlights the gulf between us.

          My brain just doesn’t have the patience to argue with a stranger over the internet at the moment.

          Fair enough. You might hang out here a bit, read a few more relevant posts, think about what the commenters say, and then see if you find things to engage with.

          if you have not read J.L. Mackie’s Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, then I think his argument from “queerness”, regarding morality, is something that you definitely need to either check out or re-visit.

          No, I’m not familiar with this book. If you want to summarize it or point us to a summary, that would be helpful.

          evolution can ground morality

          Better: evolution can explain morality.

          Me being sympathetic to particular theistic arguments does not make me a Christian.

          Was that it? It seemed instead that you were convinced by them. (Which is fine, but it makes it hard to be an atheist.)

          simply because I think the theistic arguments need to be taken seriously, does not mean that I am a Christian.

          I do my best to also take seriously whatever Christian argument I might be addressing.

          I do not think that Christianity is true, at all.

          I’m a little surprised, though, that you think that that would make sense to every objective observer. Your letter suggests otherwise. Perhaps your points were made hurriedly (you’ve said they were) or they’re hard to put into words, but this difficulty remains.

          I do not take (and I am not alone on this, I believe most professional philosophers feel this way) philosophical arguments or philosophy in general to be the same sort of “knowledge” that say something like science produces.

          I wonder if the “knowledge” that philosophy produces is then worth anything in our quest to evaluate the truth claims of a worldview.

          philosophy, for me, seems to be a tool that says: “If you believe THIS, you will have to also have to believe THAT”.

          Philosophy has given us important things; I just wonder what new things it will teach us on our quest. I don’t quite see eye to eye with some commenters here in my unimpressed-ness with philosophy. I want to know what philosophers have done for me lately, and I don’t get much.

          Of course, I could just dismiss philosophy as a hobby of other people that affects me not at all. Problem is, philosophy can be used nicely as a smoke screen. Skeptics like me have to wade through all this (not easy) to see if there’s anything here in the pro-Christian philosophical claims. I’ve done it enough and found no there there that I’m a little frustrated with philosophy.

          fully understanding what the theistic arguments are trying to say or “prove” is not what most atheists, who are not philosophers, understand them to be saying. There is a disconnect, never mind between atheists and theists, but between atheists and atheists!

          Yes, I agree that philosophical arguments can be confusing. That’s handy for the Christian who’s shooting blanks and wants a comforting smoke screen to hide behind and handy for someone like me who’s interested in clear and concise arguments for Christianity so that I can see if they hold up.

          I’m sure that sounds like I’ve already tried philosophy and found it guilty. Not so. I’m simply stating my frustration at how often (sure looks like 100% to me) philosophical arguments serve no purpose but sounding impressive or scaring doubters into submission.

          I am sure there is some confusion to be had about what I just said, and I apologize, but I hope you understand the underlying point I was attempting to describe.

          Yes, this has been helpful. Thanks.

          I CANNOT explain the sort of existential crisis that a person has when they experience the grip of nihilism that I experience.

          OK. I might not be able to get it if you tried. But note WLC’s version of it in his “Absurdity” article. He was fretting over the heat death of the universe. See the problem?? The last star will wink out in 100,000,000,000,000 years or so, and he’s losing sleep over this?? Jeez—get a life, bro. Find something actually important to worry about.

          I throw that in there to characterize my position. Not sure if that helps to illustrate yours, and I’m certainly not trying to lampoon it since I don’t understand it.

          I can be doing any activity of life and that absurd feeling that poisons my mind seeps in, inevitably, telling me that whatever I am doing means NOTHING, in an objective sense.

          And it might mean plenty in a non-objective sense! Where’s the problem? That no one will care about your memoirs in a billion years can seriously be a significant worry, can it?

          If we are an accident, then what kind of meaning is there?

          The best kind! You could go whining to WLC, and he could assign meaning to your life. “Go help the poor,” he might say. Or, “Become a doctor and save lives.” But surely you can do a better job yourself, right?

          You seem to think that an objectively meaningless, valueless, purposeless universe/life is great! I, on the other hand, do not think that subjective meaning is “enough”.

          I don’t think any kind of wealth below a billion dollars is enough. And I’m not even close! (Sigh.) I guess I’ll just have to man up and stumble through life as a not-billionaire.

          I’m treating your point flippantly, of course, but just to illustrate more where I’m coming from. When you become an adult and learn about reality, there are lots of things that suck. And we adults deal with it. One being the lack of objective meaning. There simply is no evidence for it, so why imagine that it exists? I’m not getting your concern here at all.

          Dr. Craig wants to go a step further and say that not only is subjective meaning not “enough”, but that subjectivity leads to inconsistencies.

          And, as I posted on his “Absurdities” article, he’s laughably wrong.

          This disagreement over subjective and objective meanings, I am sure, is not one we can accord here. We could probably talk for days and never reconcile this.

          Reconcile what? Where do you think we disagree?

          I get frustrated with people who are so far off the mark from what my views are that I mostly ignore the “bad” comments.

          Fair enough. It’s a shame we couldn’t connect immediately so we’d have your input to clarify your position.

          I can post my second letter to Dr. Craig, if you’d like

          If that would illuminate the conversation, sure.

        • Pofarmer

          “You seem to think that an objectively meaningless, valueless, purposeless universe/life is great!”

          It is what it is. You seem to have overthought things-a lot.

          “since you seemingly think that evolution can ground morality. ”

          Why can’t it? I think philosophers and scientists like Patricia Churchland make a compelling case for exactly that.

        • Adam

          Well, yes, evolutionary ethics can account for a descriptive morality and tell us why we may have particular instincts or moral feelings, being the sort of creatures that we are. But this is missing the deeper question of why we matter at all.

        • Pofarmer

          Inserting theism doesn’t give you an answer, it gives you a pacifier.

        • MNb

          Adam realizes that.

        • Rudy R

          And no one can answer the “why we matter at all” question for you, but you. Not an imaginary god, not BobS, and certainly not WLC.

        • MNb

          That applies to you as well. What’s your answer? I might have one, but I’d like to think it over a bit first. I feel such answers need precise formulation, exactly because they will reflect what I feel.

        • Susan

          this is missing the deeper question of why we matter at all.

          When we ask a question iike this, we have to explain what it means to “matter”. Also, it’s bad form to credit an ill-defined question as “deep” if you can’t demonstrate that it’s “deep” (which would require defining “deep”).

          You seem to assume that there is no meaning without ultimate meaning

          That is the first problem. There is no reason to accept your assumption. You have yet to provide one.

          That you’re upset about it does not mean we have wandered into deepness.

          You identify with WLC’s angst. That does not make him a good philosopher.

          What scenario would alleviate that angst?

          Certainly not a deity.

          In your philosophical studies, you must have encountered The Euthyphro Dilemma

          So, now what?

          I mean this respectfully. If you are sincere, your angst is noted and acknowledged.

          I am desperately trying to understand your point and I’m not confident that you understand it any better than I do.

        • MNb

          His point ultimately is that he doesn’t see any reason to value humans.
          My point is that that doesn’t follow logically and necessarily from atheism.
          My secondary point is that WLC writes exactly nothing about this and hence is irrelevant.

        • Rudy R

          You are conspicuously ignoring all of Susan’s comments. I wonder why?

        • Ignatius Reilly

          If you became a Christian, what sort of things would become good to you? What would give your life meaning?

        • Adam

          Thanks for asking a sincere question. Let me first say that I do not want to become a “Christian.” I find the concept of some sort of “ultimate reality”, as the atheist philosopher J.L. Schellenberg puts it, to be plausible, yet I am still skeptical about it, if that makes any sense.

          Second, it seems difficult to answer this question since it’s so broad in scope. I am not exactly sure how many of my beliefs would change. My beliefs about my family or about the foods I like, wouldn’t change very much, if at all, I don’t think. I can imagine my moral beliefs would stay similar as well. I guess the way I would answer this question, at the current moment, is that my beliefs would feel justified. They would feel “real” to me. Not just my opinion about something, which can and does conflict with other people’s opinions, for which there is seemingly no way to come to an agreement.

          I feel that my life may be “for” something. Maybe the thoughts of nihilism, of “what is this all for?”, would have an answer, and would not be plaguing me like a rainy cloud over my head all the time.

          Let me say that i think Christianity can and does have this type of affect on people’s lives, but I do not find Christianity to be believable. I just don’t find the story convincing.

        • Pofarmer

          “I feel that my life may be “for” something. Maybe the thoughts of nihilism, of “what is this all for?”, would have an answer, and would not be plaguing me like a rainy cloud over my head all the time.”

          It’s what you make it. That is all.,

        • MR

          Kids are such delicate flowers these days.

        • Adam

          :(

        • Adam

          Yes, if subjectivity is all there is, then I don’t feel that’s enough. And many people disagree with you on this. There are people that think there are such objective meanings. I am not one of them, nor do I wish to defend those people, I am just saying there are people as confident as you who are holding a contradictory viewpoint from yours.

        • Pofarmer

          How do you get to objective meaning without injecting theism?

        • Adam

          I am not sure you can.

        • Pofarmer

          You don’t “feel” that’s enough? Really. This is philosophically compelling. You wish things were different than they are? Yeah, millions and billions of other people do to. Like I said, you can’t get there from here without begging theism, and then you get into the knotty problem of evidence.

        • MR

          There are people that think there are such objective meanings…, I am just saying there are people as confident as you who are holding a contradictory viewpoint from yours.

          There is evidence for subjective meanings, none for objective meanings, so: [edit] false equivalence.

        • Adam

          What would count as an “objective meaning” to you?

        • MR

          Er…, that would make it subjective then, wouldn’t it? My point is, there is no objective meaning. If there is, what is it? What is your objective meaning in this universe? What could you possible ‘mean’, what is your possible objective purpose, that the universe couldn’t have done without you?

        • MNb

          Why do you think it a problem to replace “living for god” by “living for my cohumans?”

        • Adam

          Well, I don’t see “God”, if such an entity exists, like what has been being described in these posts. I don’t think of God as being any of the gods of the world’s religions. I see God as a perfect being, creator, an omnipotent mind, etc. This may sound like I am describing what most Christians or Muslims believe God to be, but my conception of God does not include any sort of specific doctrinal beliefs that are specific to any particular religion. I can imagine an abstract sort of God, a deist sort of God existing.

          With that said, a being like this, a perfect being, who created everything, would be something that could ground values in a non-arbitrary way. So, I guess I feel similar to the way a lot of people (although some do) don’t think that we should live for all “living beings” in general (all animals, sentient beings, etc., however you want to label it). I feel the same way about living for “cohumans” as most people don’t even think about living for “all sentient beings”, they are only concerned with humans. And I ask: why care about humans? Simply because I am one? Well, that doesn’t seem like a good reason. I don’t see any reason to value us humans. We are just a weird species of animal that has evolved for no good reason.

          Pessimistic as it sounds, I feel that it is right, in a universe that does not have any sort of objective moral grounding.

        • MNb

          If you have followed psychological research you will be aware that people first take decisions and then rationalize.

          “I don’t see any reason to value us humans.”
          This seems to me the source of your nihilistic rut. If I’m right you won’t get out of it until you have solved this issue.
          Btw. you are setting your standards too high once again. I don’t live for all sentient beings and not even for all human beings. I’m not arrogant enough to think I could pull off a Buddha, Jesus or Mohammed. I do live for a few people though – and the funny thing is that they partly lived for me as well. And if you ask me why – because I prefer to be happy. You may not find that a reason – it’s good enough a reason for me.

        • Adam

          Yes, what you say sounds right. That is the issue that needs to be solved. And, yes, I prefer to be happy too. I feel that if my “existential crisis” is not solved by some sort of “religious experience” or epiphany, then I will have to learn to embrace the subjective as being “enough”.

          I still don’t think I am setting any sort of standard “too high” though. I think the standard that I am describing just is what objective morality would be, if it so happens to exist.

        • MNb

          “I think the standard that I am describing just is what objective morality would be, if it so happens to exist.”
          That’s not what I meant. With standard I mean what you want from philosophy, what you think acceptable.

        • William Davis

          Nihilism is not necessarily permanent, and I’ve been there myself. I’m sort of a deist myself, I don’t see any reason not to be. Whether or not God exists is less important than whether or not the concept is useful for binding and and defining meaning. If believing in a type of God feels natural to you then roll with it, be yourself.

          With regard to meaning, perhaps God thought there were too many possible theories of meaning to put an objective stamp on any one of them, so he left it to us to figure it out. In a way, lack of objective meaning can be considered a great gift that allows us to create our own worlds so to speak. Who knows, maybe God just wants his universe to produce as many stories as possible (though many end up being bad ones, the Christian claim that God is good in any human seems completely unjustifiable). The universe doesn’t need humans to create stories anyway, each galaxy tells it’s own even without life.

          As far as religion, I personally think types of Buddhism have more to offer than Christianity, and Buddhism makes God completely optional. I got a ton out of this book (and others by the author). It’s a short read, and Buddhism/mindfulness can go a long way in helping you trust yourself and your intuition, one of the keys to mental health.

          http://www.amazon.com/Wherever-You-Go-There-Are/dp/1401307787

        • Adam

          Yeah, I am sort of “rolling” with it, right now. I appreciate the advice, my friend.

    • MNb

      “If it was really as bad as some people on this page say it was, then it never would have gotten this attention.”
      That’s a non-sequitur.
      Still thanks for correcting – I won’t assume anymore that you’re a sock-puppet of WLC.

      “I have been in a nihilistic rut for years now.”
      First of all: if this makes you convert I won’t blame you. I’ll think you silly, but so what? I’m possibly silly more often than you. Being silly contributes to the joy of life.
      But I simply don’t get it. I have been an unbeliever for almost 40 years now. I started out as an agnost, became a not too strong atheist 10 years later and only quite recently became hardcore.
      I have been in nihilistic ruts myself (my teenage years were not too enjoyable; after my divorce things didn’t go well either, not to speak of my son emigrating to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean). But it never occurred to me to blame my unbelief; neither did I ever consider to seek refuge in the self-delusion called God. Rather I relied on stuff like

      http://aeon.co/magazine/psychology/do-you-want-a-meaningful-life-or-a-happy-one/

      It begins here.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism

      It’s other humans that give my life meaning. Two simple, related questions.
      Do you think the work of garbage collectors meaningless?
      Do garbage collectors need god to do their work well?

      I have the greatest respect for garbage collectors. My life would be significantly worse without them.
      That’s what humanism is about. And if you just answered the two questions with “no” you reject the view of WLC (if you don’t believe your work becomes totally meaningless and you could as well stop immediately), a view that’s very condescending towards garbage collectors, if you ask me.

      WLC only cares about garbage collectors ‘cuz god. I care about them for what they do, how they contribute to the quality of my life.
      What about you?

    • De Ha

      “The fact that you debunk it means it must be true!” Is insane troll logic and sugests you’ve never even met an Atheist before.

      We debunk bullshit. That’s what we do. You might as well say “all the effort the lion puts into killing the gazel means it must not be hungry”.

      By the way: Grow a pair!

  • De Ha

    “Has there ever been a more perfect and concise moral code than the one Moses brought down from the mountain?”
    “Go forth, and be excellent to each other”
    -Bill and Ted.

    • Greg G.

      I have long thought that B&T is an allegory for Jesus, promoting a similar message that a distant future generation lives by, plus the sequel where they die and come back to life.

  • De Ha

    I hope you don’t mind if i respond to that letter here. It’s really long, i’m afraid. I apologise for any inconvenience.

    Dear Professor Craig,
    My name is Adam. I am an atheist,

    *THORAN*
    You have been accused of being an imposter. But, i shall reserve judgement for now.

    *ADAM*
    and have been one ever since I can remember. I was brought up in the Roman Catholic church,

    *THORAN*
    Huh, me too.

    *ADAM*
    but could never really say that I held any theistic beliefs with any sincerity.

    *THORAN*
    Not like me, although i was born a natural skeptic. Anyway, go on.

    *ADAM*
    For instance, one time, when I was around eight or nine years old, I asked a nun at my church where I “was” before I was born. She responded: “You were with God.” I was still curious, so I asked her how long I was with God, before my being born, and she proclaimed: “For an eternity!” I then asked her why I could not remember “existing with God” for an eternity of time (is an eternity of time even a coherent concept?). She had enough with that question and proceeded to shew me away to play with the other children. Looking back, I am proud of my skeptical disposition.
    Let’s skip ahead a little bit. I found philosophy and I fell in love with it. I transferred schools in order to obtain my BA. Almost all of the papers I wrote as an undergrad were about atheism or God. I was on a mission to be as rational as I could with regards to my atheistic beliefs. Moreover, I was practically an “evangelical” atheist, proclaiming the good word of rationality! My beliefs were strident at best, and intolerant at worst.

    *THORAN*
    Criticising an idea is not “intolerant”. If it is, SHUT UP RIGHT NOW HYPOCRITE!

    *ADAM*
    I thought I had the “God question” all figured out. It was a settled issue for me: God did not exist. The philosophy of religion was my initial and main draw to philosophy, but I soon found myself wanting to explore philosophy in all its glory. Philosophy, as a whole, was too interesting to just “stop”, then move on to some “real job”.

    *THORAN*
    That’s a whole other set of problems right there.

    *ADAM*
    I decided to apply to an MA program in philosophy at CSULA, and got accepted. Philosophy was something that I took very seriously. So much so, that I drove from NY to CA with no job and no place to live in order to continue my studies. I actually wrote a response to your paper The Absurdity of Life Without God

    *THORAN*
    Oh yeah, the one that’s basically non-rhyming emo poetry. The one that accuses any Atheist who doesn’t kill themselves of being “inconsistent in your worldview” I found it really repetitive.

    *ADAM*
    and used it as my writing sample in order to get in to CSULA. I stayed up for months writing and polishing my responses to your claims of the inconsistency of atheism in its response to meaning, value, and purpose in life.

    *THORAN*
    Ah! That would be your mistake. Caring more about philosophy than Science.

    *ADAM*
    I had too. You were telling me my life, as a direct result of my worldview, was worthless in every possible way. Well, as an ambitious philosophy student, I could not simply let you get away this. Your objections to atheism needed answers. And after wrestling with your paper for some time, I actually felt pretty good about the end product and presumed to have “answered” your objections to atheism in a satisfactory way. I could now move on, live my life with the excitement, consistency, and appreciation that I had before reading your essay.
    I was wrong.
    I should have known better too, since the first time I read that paper of yours, I couldn’t sleep for two days.

    *THORAN*
    The wonders of Religion, ladies and gentlemen.

    *ADAM*
    It completely shattered my worldview.

    *THORAN*
    Do any of as ever actually talk like that? I for one am completely opposed to the whole idea of “worldviews” BECAUSE of people like William Lang Craig.

    *ADAM*
    Let me mention here that I was a huge fan of the New Atheists, but I always sensed something was askew with them. Something seemed off about them because whenever they were talking about meaning, value, or purpose, they answered in such ways that only a person ignorant of the objections in your paper could respond.

    *THORAN*
    You’re right. The correct answer is “who the hell cares?”

    *ADAM*
    In short (too late), your paper never left my mind, even years after I wrote a “response” to it. I knew, deep down, that not only did I not, but could not answer your objections to atheism.

    *THORAN*
    That means nothing. If a guy met you on the street and said “If god isn’t real, why is he telling me to kill you right now?” Would you engage in a philosophical discussion, or back away without answering. The Presuppositional objections to logic are hard to answer, not because they’re that good but because they’re so bafflingly stupid it’s hard to even grasp exactly where the failure of their thinking is. They’re arguing against LOGIC!

    *ADAM*
    What you say the atheistic worldview entails is true.

    *THORAN*
    No it isn’t.

    *ADAM*
    There is no escaping the nihilism as an atheist.

    *THORAN*
    I’m a humanist, i’m also a reverse nihilist. If you think the existential dilemma is depressing, I find your suffering funny.

    *ADAM*

    Everything has died for me.

    *THORAN*
    Dude, get a life.

    *ADAM*

    You have ruined my life.
    Before I go any further, let me say that you are and always have been my favorite living philosopher.

    *THORAN*
    What?

    *ADAM*
    I have seen every debate you have ever recorded and put up on the internet. I watch all your lectures and talks (Closer to Truth, youtube, etc.) I think you are the epitome of what a philosopher should be.

    *THORAN*
    I’ve seen him argue against the definition of Atheism by saying “you’re trying to say that Atheism is some kind of… AAA-Theism” that’s not even a different word!

    *ADAM*
    You’re uber logical,

    *THORAN*
    He thinks the scripture counts as a “fact” and that jumping to conclusions at first glance is Scientific.

    *ADAM*
    fantastically clear, and “computeresk” with the speed and precision of your responses to objections against your position, particularly the criticisms you respond to in your debates. For a long time now, I have wanted to be a philosopher as you are a philosopher. I want to have an argument posed against my position, and be able to dissect it in the same manner as you do. I can honestly say that I have learned more from reading what you have wrote and watching you on the internet than maybe all of my years in school, formally studying philosophy. I seem to owe you a lot, with regards to my philosophical development, at least.
    Now, let’s get down to business and why exactly it is that you have ruined my life. After reading your paper on the absurdity of life without God, I soon realized that I had to become a nihilist.

    *THORAN*
    No you don’t.

    *ADAM*
    To act otherwise would inevitably reduce into an inconsistency.

    *THORAN*
    So… “consistency” is more important than not killing yourself? You know that when theists say “consistent” they usually mean “matches my straw-man”, right?

    *ADAM*
    Nihilism is the logical conclusion of an atheistic worldview.

    *THORAN*
    There is no “Atheist Worldview”

    *ADAM*
    Yet, nihilism is unlivable.

    *THORAN*
    Then why are you alive? Also, how can it be inevitable if the result is killing yourself?

    *ADAM*
    Christopher Hitchens used to say that you cannot derive any knowledge of what an atheist believes from the fact that she is an atheist. If someone claims to be an atheist, according to Hitchens, you can only conclude that she believes that “God does not exist” or that she “lacks a belief in God” (don’t get me started with that distinction!!!)

    *THORAN*
    Distinction? Ok, you’re a Theist. Only Theists don’t know what “lack” means.

    *ADAM*
    You cannot “go any further” and know if she is a Marxist or a Capitalist, etc. But your paper shows that Hitchens is patently false about this. Atheism necessarily entails nihilistic conclusions about certain questions,

    *THORAN*
    Didn’t you say you weren’t a Nihilist until AFTER you read Craig’s article?

    *ADAM*
    particularly those you bring up in your paper about meaning, value, and purpose.
    There is a similar misunderstanding that shows how atheists fail to fully comprehend the severity of their own worldview.

    *THORAN*
    This is precisely why I doubt the very existence of an “Atheist worldview”. Ever notice that Theists never back up their “Worldview” accusation with evidence? They always accuse us of being “inconsistent in their worldview”. A lot of them even lament that they’ve never even met an Atheist who was “consistent in their worldview”. In other words, we are unique human beings and for some reason having a mind of your own is a bad thing to creationists.

    *ADAM*
    I feel like I need to say how disappointed I am in the New Atheists, and moreover, the professional philosophers, who do not understand the “moral argument” for God’s existence.

    *THORAN*
    The “moral argument” isn’t an argument for god’s existance, it’s a argument against Atheism that actually says more about the Theist saying it than us. Only sociopaths need threats of hellfire to tell them to be good.

    *ADAM*
    Why can’t they comprehend the ontology of values?

    *THORAN*
    Because ontology is pointless.

    *ADAM*
    Why is this so difficult? It is all too obvious that you are not talking about whether people can act, or know of the, “good” on atheism,

    *THORAN*
    No that’s not clear at all. If Theists are not accusing us of being evil then they’re just wasting our time with pseudo-philosophical bullshit. That pisses me off even more than the sociopaths, actually! At least the rapists are honest.

    *ADAM*
    but rather that there is no foundation for morality outside of God.

    *THORAN*
    So… he is accusing us of being evil. Or he’s a sociopath. Or worse, fucking with us.

    *ADAM*
    Sorry, I just had to rant a little, because it bothers me when philosophers, who should know better, don’t comprehend the moral argument.

    *THORAN*
    One does not argue about the existence of the soul when talking to a human rights advocate who believes black people should be free because black people have souls. One does not say “does anal count?” To someone advocating same sex marriage. One does not say “there’s no morality without God, is there?” To someone fighting against America’s bar against Atheists testifying in court or holding public office. This is NOT a light subject.

    If you expect a civil philosophical discussion and are surprised when you get and angry political debate, just… don’t.

    *ADAM*
    I can only imagine how frustrated you must feel. Further, I hate all the nasty comments you get on YouTube.

    *THORAN*
    Grow a pair, pussy.

    *ADAM*
    People don’t even understand how well thought out your views are. You have the most coherent worldview I have ever heard anyone describe. Sorry, just wanted to say that you have at least one atheist on your side, sir.

    *THORAN*
    I do not believe this was written by Craig himself, only because I can’t imagine anyone sucking his own dick THAT much. Then again, maybe I’m projecting my own lack of completely unbelievable ego or dishonesty. Both sides of these debates tend to project their own way of thinking onto each other. It’s a habit I’m working on.

    *ADAM*

    So, this brings me to the problem (finally, sorry)-
    Philosophically, I agree with almost everything you say. Not in a “follower” sense, but in that I find what you say either convincingly true or I find I come to the same conclusions that you do with regards to particular ideas that I have reasoned through on my own. With that said, I am still an atheist. How is this possible? How could my favorite philosopher be a Christian, I agree with almost everything he says, yet I am an atheist? Well, it seems that you make an extremely strong case for the rationality of an “abstract” notion of God, but I cannot get myself to go the extra step further and believe any of the world religions (not that I believe this abstract God actually exists either, it just seems to be becoming more and more plausible to me).

    *THORAN*
    This isn’t an Atheist. It can’t be. He’s ralking about “belief” like it’s a threshold he has to cross or a herculean talk. Belief and unbelief is WAY simpler than that.

    There is a music video of 3 girls singing. Apparently, all 3 had vibrators inside them while they were singing. I asked a few different girls (since women are better at reading each other than we are) if they thought the video was real. They all said “Yes”. It also looks real to me. I then concluded: most likely real.
    Conversely, I found a topless photo of a celebrity and was curious what movie it was from. So I did a reverse image search, and the earliest instance of the image existing was on a websight full of fake porn. I then concluded that the movie most likely did not exist.

    Look at evidence, think about it, investigate it, find as much information as you can, draw conclusion. THAT is how you believe or disbelieve in things. I think Christians have even simpler ways to believe in things.

    *ADAM*
    I definitely cannot get myself to be a Christian. Christianity just does not seem true to me. However, the deeper I dive into philosophy, the more the theistic worldview seems more plausible. The concepts or “language” of mathematics seems to “cry out” as you put it for an explanation

    *THORAN*
    Oh my satan! You’re worse than a Theist! You’re a presuppositionalist!

    *ADAM*
    , objective moral values seem to be real (but they can’t be “real”, if atheism is true),

    *THORAN*
    No they’re not. Fuck external morality and anyone who needs them. Humanism and Altruism FTW!

    *ADAM*
    the idea of “existence” nauseates me to no end

    *THORAN*
    Really? That… ok you got way bigger problems than religion vs. Atheism.

    *ADAM*
    (just the thought of anything, at all, existing, and especially existing without any reason, frightens me,),

    *THORAN*
    I… that… ok that’s a form of insanity i don’t think there’s a name for. You sound like the Antimonitor, the Villain from Crisis on Infinite Earths who tried to destroy the multiverse. Not the world, not the universe, the multiverse. EVERYTHING. Everything that is, everything that theoretically could be, everything that might have been if some coincidence or decision in the past had been slightly different, he wants to destroy it all. Other world-destroying villains like Brainiac and Darkseid fear the antimonitor. Marvel is also technically part of the same multiverse too, DC has all the lower numbered universes while Marvel universes are all triple digit or more, so Galactus and Ego the Living Planet fear the antimonitor too. Galactus *needs* things to exist. He’ll destroy whole planets but it’s against his interest to destroy an entire galaxy all at once. The ant-minotor would be Galactus’s enemy.

    And you sound like him.

    *ADAM*
    and I could go on and on. You know, all the things you speak about in your YouTube videos.
    However, even when I don’t think about the arguments, and I think about what you and others have said about the “Holy Spirit”, I cannot get myself to believe that this “Holy Spirit” exists and can authenticate my belief in God.

    *THORAN*
    I never even been completely clear on what that was.

    *ADAM*
    As you know, Martin Luther thought the Holy Spirit would guide people in reading the Bible properly, when the Reformation was underway, since there was the concern that without the guidance of the church, people may interpret the bible incorrectly.

    *THORAN*
    “Interpreting” in general is reading something and getting out of it information you made up yourself rather than what was in fact there.

    *ADAM*
    The Holy Spirit’s guiding capabilities seem to be have been proven empirically false though, due to such a wide variety of conflicting beliefs all being derived from the Bible. Now I know that the diversity of beliefs doesn’t necessarily allow for the conclusion that all of the religious beliefs or experiences are false,

    *THORAN*
    Yes it does. They can’t all be right but they can all be wrong.

    *ADAM*
    that there aren’t at least some beliefs or experiences that are true, and therefore the Holy Spirit does not exist. However, this disagreement does cause pause in me, and it makes the situation suspect enough to where I cannot seemingly distinguish between an authentic experience with the Holy Spirit or my being deluded. There does not seem to be anything here to help me out of the nihilistic rut. Lately though, I have been questioning why I even value “rationality”,

    *THORAN*
    Not an Atheist at all.

    *ADAM*
    or what it even means to “value” rationality on an atheistic worldview.

    *THORAN*
    This was written by a Christian. The idea that intelligence should not be sought for the sake of seeking knowledge would only even occur to a Creationist.
    Also, notice he said “on an atheistic worldview” as if “what Atheists think” was something here hadn’t quite figured out yet. Atheists don’t talk like that. Theists talk like that.

    *ADAM*
    That’s another topic though, sorry.
    Let me wrap this ramble up. I am now stuck in a nihilistic-atheistic world that I hate.

    *THORAN*
    Then why the hell do you advocate it?

    *ADAM*
    Agnosticism is not even a coherent position to me,

    *THORAN*
    What??!! Agnosticism is simply uncertainty.

    *ADAM*
    with regards to a Perfect Being, since I believe that the greatest conceivable being could give me knowledge of its existence,

    *THORAN*
    Oh! Oh right right yeah. Not ones that simply say “I dunno” regarding God, but the ones have a philosophical belief that “God is unknowable” and an inexplicable holier-than-thou closed-minded attitude.

    *ADAM*
    if it wanted to. Theism is a dream come true. The world would make sense, the existential mysteries that haunt me would be solved, life would be livable. It is atheism, however, which seems to be true, yet I do not want to live like this. I have become depressed to no end. I have been in a nihilistic rut for years now. I have become utterly recluse. Yet, even with all this, I cannot come to believe in God. What would YOU suggest I do? This letter is as sincere as it gets. You may be my last hope. Since I agree with you on so much, I was hoping you would have the answer to this. I know the “answer” is Christianity,

    *THORAN*
    Theist

    *ADAM*
    but as I said, I cannot get myself to believe its truth. I am an atheist who hates atheism. I want there to be a God more than anything, yet I cannot get myself to believe in one. I cannot seem to give an adequate answer to Camus’s question: “Is life worth living?”

    *THORAN*
    The answer is Rastafarian.

    *ADAM*

    A feel like a philosopher of your caliber is the only person I have left to turn to.

    *THORAN*
    Didn’t he supposedly start all this in the first place?

    *ADAM*
    A psychologist wouldn’t get my concerns, at least I don’t think think they would.

    *THORAN*
    Oh come on!

    *ADAM*
    I need the clarity and reasonableness of a philosopher. Please, help.
    Your biggest atheist fan,
    Adam
    PS- Do me one favor? Even if you never have time to respond. Please, do not debate Lawrence Krauss anymore.

    *THORAN*
    Oh i’m looking up this guy in a minute. $5 says he’s a genious.

    *ADAM*
    As with most people not trained in philosophy, it is not even an argument in any sort of philosophical sense.

    *THORAN*
    Science! I like him already.

    *ADAM*
    He is a shouting bag of hot air with irrelevant criticisms and gross misunderstandings of the arguments. He does not deserve to be the face for atheism,

    *THORAN*
    You’re killing yourself over nihilist bullshit! YOU are a poor representative of Atheism.

    *ADAM*
    we both know this. But maybe this is your plan.

    *THORAN*
    Lol, if this was written by Craig himself, that… lol

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      That’s a lot of nonsense to rebut!

      • De Ha

        You probably remember what was written there before. I actually agree, it was too long, so I deleted all of it but re-typed 2 of the things I found strangest.

        If it wasn’t written by Craig himself, or at least by a Christian, then “Adam” is insane.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I believe that Adam is what he says he is. We could be getting played, but the author came here as a commenter. I don’t remember being enlightened by his comments, though I did appreciate his dropping by.

          (Don’t be confused by “adam”–that’s someone else.)

  • Steven Watson

    deleted