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When QualiaSoup talks about morality, it’s hard not to pay attention:
The first video in the Morality series was equally terrific.
Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.
I find puzzling that many atheists understand the points qualiasoup is making and yet disagree with Harris’ “The Moral Landscape”. I just don’t see a viable middle position. It is either a rational morality or we abdicate this function to the religious or the ideologues.
Harris goes too far and ignores that while empiricism can determin the best path to our goals it can’t decide those goals for us. Wanting to be a nice species is an emotional preference not a rational one.
The thing is, he admits to this. He then compares it to the concept of health and we dismiss people who think that avoiding blood transfusions at all costs is a good idea of health. That said, the counter-criticism to that is “then you’re not offering that much that is new from ethical debate in philosophy”.
But Harris work is not about goals but about well being and how to maximize it for everyone or come to conclusions when opinions about well being differ.
Harris also got flak for using health as a model when I think it is perfectly appropriate. An ill-defined state that is generally preferred by most.
I have a feeling most human beings would agree what to codify as well being most of the time. It is going to be a pesky few cases that Harris argue we use reason rather than religion.
‘maximising well being’ is the goal of Harris’ morality. But there is no evidence to suggest that maximising well being is the ‘correct’ moral goal.
There doesn’t need to be evidence for that. Well being is what Harris propose should be the correct moral goal. You can disagree with that goal but why would you?
Rape is wrong even if it would somehow increase well-being.
But would you argue that in any circumstance rape would increase well being? We decide what is moral or not and obviously rape is immoral. In what possible circumstance would rape be considered to be increasing well being?
Sorry, time got away from me. I’ll respond in a new comment so its readable.
Every argument for Biblical moral authority eviscerated in just over fourteen minutes.
that was awesome. thanks for the link. i sent this on to a believing friend of mine, and challenged him to answer for it. we’ll see, and i hope stuff like this goes viral, so we- atheists and believers both- can discuss the questions and answers to material like this with compassion, love, and tolerance. i am very glad for this series. for all it’s likely too cerebral for most americans, it’s wonderful to have such a quick, easy to comprehend resourse about why atheists believe what we do. thank you.
Wow. I want the transcript.
Hey, look: the ad on the side of the screen says that I can “Earn the degree [I] always wanted” at Liberty University! Wow! Where can I sign up?
Both videos are fantastic. t is a shame things like this don’t seem to viral.
I really enjoyed the videos by QualiaSoup. Thanks for the link!
Qualiasoup and his brother TheraminTree make great videos!
” it’s hard not to pay attention”
Yawn. I couldn’t pay attention.
Excellent presentation, but I can’t help but wish this chap had read a little more of the Bible. Usually, I’m not one to argue on the internet – I think it’s an awful place for reasonable discussion, but an exception should be made when necessary.
The mistaken assumption behind this video is that we as human beings have rights in the universe. How dare God harden Pharaoh’s heart? How dare he infringe on the Amalekite’s rights?
Human beings abdicate their freedoms and rights when they commit treason against their creator. As criminals have abdicated their freedoms, and are therefore incarcerated, we human beings have abdicated our rights, and we should be punished infinitely for the infinite crime we have committed.
We deserve hell for how we have rejected God. If we receive anything less than that, then God has shown us great mercy.
In a sense, we live in a pre-Copernicus world – we human beings think that our rights are central, and that God revolves around us. This is not the case. God is at the centre of the universe, and we have rejected him.
It is obvious the US Constitution is anti-Christian. It bans ‘corruption of blood’ (i.e., punishing children for the crime of their parents or more remote ancestors) and it defines treason as levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies not as breaking a law.
It also assumes rights. Now rights are a bit artificial; however, the concept seems a reasonable way of ensuring we humans survive in a way that minimizes hurt.
Of course you start with the mistaken assumption that there is a god. Maybe there is, but you have to prove it first
So, that is really the video’s main point: have we really rejected God?
Can we accept the Bible’s definition of “rejecting God”? Is the Christian definition of sin/morality — all the various offenses that are supposedly treasonous against our creator — accurate?
Even people who live their lives giving kindness to others, are said to reject God, and deserve to die horrific deaths, if they failed to pray the right prayer, or if they worked on the Sabbath.
And you may tell me that God makes the rules, or that God has higher reasons for these rules, but these are excuses. And they were addressed in the video.
And the Bible gives contradictory rules (should I honor my parents, or follow Jesus without even saying goodbye to them) so how can God even decide what I did to offend him so much?
You can be a really good soldier – love your family, play with your football team, die for your comrades, but if you’re wearing a swastika as an armband, then all your morality serves the wrong cause.
We, as humanity, are flying under the wrong flag – you can be as kind as you want, pray as much as you like, it doesn’t come close to covering up the sin of refusing God as your creator.
As for the contradiction – I’ll think about it. My immediate reaction is – honour your parents, unless they tell you not to follow Jesus. He comes first?
I’m not going to lie – that’s a pretty hard passage.
Hey, whatever you’re smoking, pass it on mate! You’re a bloody dung drop. No offence to the dungs in the room.
This type of argumentation only works for churches that read the bible literally. For example, when I discussed the ten commandments with a bishop of the church of Sweden he claimed that the traditions of his church, revealed to its leaders over many centuries, are much more important than the exact words of the bible. And the developed church is now much more moral and compassionate than the bible, so there! (I think the reasoning is that god at each age does the best possible with the cultures of the time and it is only natural that in a more developed society like ours the demands for good behaviour is much higher than in biblical times.) Besides, it’s not what you do, it’s your relationship with the deity that matters.
I am frankly getting very tired of this bible-bashing that goes on here all the time. It gives no arguments at all against the religion they tried to teach me at school, because not even the previous archbishop of Sweden believes in impossible things like the virgin birth. Arguing against that type of European religion is indeed much harder than finding objectionable verses in the bible. But please try sometimes Hemant.
The type of cultural religion found in much of Europe is also far more harmless. That doesn’t mean that it deserves respect or even a right to exist and there are some aspects of it that are still harmful, but if the rest of the world were like that, that would already be huge progress.
The video addressed those who argue that the Bible shouldn’t be taken literally, but rather viewed symbolically. It also addressed those who choose to ignore some passages but accept others. Thus, I can’t see how you’re saying that it only works for churches that read the Bible literally.
The Bible is definitely not the source of our morality, however much Christians wish it were the case:
Atheists know that murder’s wrong; rape and slavery too.
Didn’t learn that from the Bible. Hey Christians – nor did you!
Full poem at:
This is perfect, and exactly why I think theists are illogical simpletons. Sorry, that’s not friendly but come on.
Somite, you asked me “But would you argue that in any circumstance rape would increase well being? We decide what is moral or not and obviously rape is immoral. In what possible circumstance would rape be considered to be increasing well being?”
Sadly (well, not really) I can’t think of such a case, although I don’t think its necessary to the argument. That could simply be a failure of imagination on my part. I stand by the statement that if anyone could think of a case in which rape would be increasing well being, it would still be immoral.
Perhaps if we use slavery as an example. It could well be the case, without too much of a stretch in imagination, that slavery could increase well-being if done properly. If the slave holder provides good food, lodgings, safety, and health care, that could increase well-being compared to freeing the slave to a world in which the slave would not have good food, etc. Indeed, such arguments were sometimes made in pre-US Civil War days when arguing against abolitionists. Yet, I would argue that even if slavery “done right” could truly increase the slave’s well-being, or aggregate well-being if you include the slave holder in the equation, that it would still be immoral.
Well-being is part of morality, but it’s not the whole of it. There are other considerations, such as personal autonomy, which must be taken into account as well. I am unclear of the balance that one should aim for in every case, but I am clear that it’s not a one variable math equation.
But we already agree in Western values that “freedom” is a right and that no human can belong to another. My impression is that 90% of value assessment can easily be agreed upon if we don’t try to re-analyze the obvious and only apply scientific principles to problems that appear intractable like gun ownership and others.
Somite, are we talking about the same thing? I was originally responding to you saying :
“There doesn’t need to be evidence for that. Well being is what Harris propose should be the correct moral goal. You can disagree with that goal but why would you?”
This seemed to imply that you agreed with Harris that “well-being” is the only moral goal that we should have, and all moral considerations and questions are but subsets of that. I have given examples of cases where I would disagree that well-being is the only consideration, or even the primary consideration. Now, with this latest comment, you imply that you don’t agree with Harris on the “ought” behind our moral goal(s). So which is it?
It is interesting to see that no one here actually picked up a bible to see if what was put on the video is actually correct. In every case which the video referred to Biblical references, I looked them up, and the conclusion drawn in the video was incorrect, illogical and for the most part dishonest. Rape, cannibalism etc. are not prescribed as human behaviors, they are the result of God turning his back on the Israelites and allowing famine to reduce them from their arrogance and the barbarians to conquer them and abuse them, consequences of their rejection of God and the adoption of sexual immorality and the worship of idols. Rape is a human visitation on another human, which God decided not to prevent, since they no longer believed in him anyway. Cannibalism was the result of starvation due famine which God also decided not to prevent for the same reason.
Is God evil by Atheist standards? Guess what. Atheism provides no standards. So any and all self-righteous uber-moral palpitations by Atheists are based on their own opinions and nothing more. Are Atheist opinions of any real value as “morals”? Of course not.
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