3 Fatal Flaws Hidden Within the Dogma of Progressive Revelation

3 Fatal Flaws Hidden Within the Dogma of Progressive Revelation February 4, 2019

Progressive revelation is the doctrine that God doled out his message over time. I agree with the problem—the Bible message does change over time. But apologists have traded one problem—the Bible contradicts itself (or a forgetful God can’t keep his story straight)—for another: God gave humanity an imperfect message and is now slowly correcting it.

The natural explanation is sufficient: the Bible is the blog of an ancient people, a fascinating and invaluable historical document but obviously not the perfect message from a perfect god.

Part 1 summarized the problem. This post will conclude with three problems that infect the doctrine of progressive revelation.

Problem 1: Conflict with Old Testament

Christian apologists rarely consider their claims all at once to see if the patch they made over here to cover up one embarrassment conflicts with the band-aid they put somewhere else. The first problem is that the Old Testament doesn’t say that God will dribble out the truth. It doesn’t say that he will contradict himself. Only in the minds of apologists does God reserve the right to change his mind in the future.

(Still, if you’re going to change your mind as the story unfolds, at least that gives you a chance to correct earlier embarrassments. Unfortunately, God’s barbarity isn’t overruled by any new teaching. Jesus does raise the standards on murder, adultery, and others in the Sermon on the Mount, but he doesn’t bother prohibiting slavery, genocide, human sacrifice, and other oldies but goodies from the Old Testament.)

Problem 2: Inconsistent rules

Progressive revelation looks like a makeshift, better-than-nothing rationalization. If Christians can justify Jesus’s message overruling what came before, how can they object to Joseph Smith pulling the same trick with his new ’n improved Mormon version of Christianity? How do they justify that Christians (and only Christians) get a pass?

Problem 3: What does this say about the current Christian message?

Once you’ve let the progressive revelation genie out of the bottle, how do you shove it back in? You can’t show that God’s message won’t change again. If the Jews were wrong that they had the correct message, maybe the Christians are, too. Maybe Christian doctrine has barely begun the process—a thousand years are to the Lord like a day, after all. This is the bed Christians have made for themselves with this argument.

This is theological relativism, but this isn’t an unintended consequence, an unfortunate side effect that’s attached to a larger good. Progressive revelation is theological relativism, deliberately and overtly, and the “perfect message” now changes with time. Accept this doctrine, and no Christian from any time in history can say that they understand God’s truth, regardless of whether they rely on scripture, church tradition, or personal revelation.

Another casualty is objective morality, moral values that are both obligatory for humans (whether or not humans even exist) and reliably accessible by those humans. Modern Christian morality in the West has evolved substantially from biblical morality even though Christians say that God approved of each, and with progressive revelation still in force, who knows what God will dictate next? And without objective morality, the popular Moral Argument collapses.

When Christianity is this flexible and Christians give themselves this much license, it’s no wonder you have 45,000 denominations with the attendant contradictions in doctrine.

Progressive revelation has created an unchanging god with a changing message. It’s not a clever save for Christians to show that they’re right but a declaration that they’re wrong.

[If all that] really WAS God talking,
but the things he said kept changing over the years,
what does that tell us about this form of communication?
If God can only reveal to us at any given point
what our own minds have expanded to be able to handle,
then is it really “revelation” at all?
Maybe that’s just “progress” and not “revelation.”
— Neil Carter, Godless in Dixie blog

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Image from Stephanie Chapman, CC license
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • ephemerol

    Case in point: Is Trumpism the New New Testament? Oh, wait, nevermind, there’s nothing new about Trumpism…

    • Jim Jones

      The bible is strangely like Trump’s demented, contradictory, incoherent ‘thoughts’.

  • epicurus

    Progressive Revelation and Divine Accomodation seem to be two equally frustrating sides of the same coin.

  • skl

    When Christianity is this flexible and Christians give themselves this much license, it’s no wonder you
    have 45,000 denominations with the attendant contradictions in doctrine. Progressive
    revelation has created an unchanging god with a changing message.

    A rational, perhaps even scientific, way to test the truth of this
    would be to look at each of the 45,000 denominations and see which, if
    any, has an un-changing message for the last 2,000 years of
    Christianity.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Once upon a time, we had a Hindu show up to our atheist meetup. He was taken in by a sect called “8-limbed yoga” or some such. When i got home I looked it up. They claim that

      1) Their basic message has gone unchanged for 3000 years
      2) It was always transmitted orally, never written down.

      My obvious first question is: if it was never written down, how do they know it is unchanged?

      • skl

        Not talking here about Hindus.

    • Go for it.

      • skl

        Well, I could at least make a start.

        I searched “founding date of christian denominations” and got this as the top hit:
        http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_den1.htm

        I’d say you can rule out all but the top two on the list, because the others don’t go back 2,000 years.

        • Ah, but they do. Don’t know how trees work? When Protestantism broke off from Christianity, why say that Catholicism is legitimate and Protestantism not? Or vice versa? Each traces its lineage back to the beginning.

        • skl

          Ah, but they do. Don’t know how trees work?

          Sort of. But I look at a tree more scientifically. I think
          every branch of the tree has the same DNA as the tree’s trunk. Similarly, every church (branch) around the world of the
          Christian tree would have the same DNA as the source (trunk) from Jerusalem. For example, an Orthodox church in New York city holding the same beliefs as the church of 2,000 years ago.

          What you are talking about is more like tree grafting, or maybe
          tree hybridization (i.e. creating a new species from two existing species).

        • What fun–skl’s interpretation of doctrine.

          When a Protestant goes back to Luther, what does he put before? They say that they’re beliefs just poofed into existence at that point?

        • skl

          When a Protestant goes back to Luther,
          what does he put before?

          He puts his and Luther’s opinions before (i.e. ahead
          of/above) those of the church they left. Obviously.

        • Fuck me.

          The Protestant goes back to Luther and then traces the roots back to Jesus, 2000 years ago. Just like all the other Christian denominations.

        • skl

          The Protestant goes back to Luther and then traces the roots back to Jesus, 2000 years ago. Just like all the other Christian denominations.

          Well, they trace the name “Jesus Christ” back 2,000 years. After that, all bets are off. They essentially have 45,000 different
          Jesuses.

        • Yeah, pretty much.

        • skl

          Yeah, pretty much there were not 45,000 different Jesuses when Martin Luther started his new Jesus. There was only about one, the same one that only about one denomination still has today.

        • You’re trying so hard, but you’re so out of your depth. Good for you, buddy! I’m cheering for you.

        • skl

          When you actually show I’m out of my depth, I’ll cheer, too.

        • Ah, but that’s impossible, isn’t it? Nothing could compel you to say that.

          And once again, you win! What fun being a slave to Christ.

        • skl

          Ah, but that’s impossible, isn’t it?
          Nothing could compel you to say that.

          Just about anything’s possible.

          Why, it’s even possible that you could be compelled to say that
          you were out of your depth.

        • Jack the Sandwichmaker

          Don’t forget the sects that the faction that became the Roman Catholic Church killed off.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Now, now, now….that’s *heretics*, not ‘sects’….YOU HERETIC!!!

          😉

        • TheNuszAbides

          Pretty hard to remember them, though …

        • Ignorant Amos
        • Ignorant Amos

          Ya dopey feckin’ eejit ya.

        • Jack the Sandwichmaker

          Just like Catholics today put the opinions of today’s Catholic church ahead of the 1200’s Catholic church and ahead of 1st century proto Christianity

        • TheNuszAbides

          Eh … Not so much “ahead of” 1st century proto-X, but that everything else since [“The Greatest Story Ever Told”] is in defiance/denial of that slippery little thing they call apostolic succession, or whatever it is in the Latin they modified for their extra-special purposes …

        • WCB

          Much of Luther and Calvin comes from Augustine. When after his battle with Pelagius, Augustine finally abandoned the idea that we have free will, this, and other ideas became a basis of Luther’s Protestant revolution. Luther and Calvin and others worked to sweep away the RCC’s excesses and additions that had drifted, in their view, from early Christianity.

        • TheNuszAbides

          That’s especially funny since Augustine tried really hard to apply reason – motivated, you might say – and Luther shat all over Reason Itself.

        • eric

          Founding date tells you nothing about whether a sect’s beliefs have changed. The SBC was founded in 1845. Do you think they have the same view of slavery they had then?

          Similarly, the Mormon church was founded in 1830. Have their theological beliefs on polygamy and the status of blacks changed?

          The obvious changes to the RCC that spring to mind are heliocentrism, an old Earth, and now (physical) human evolution. But I’m guessing there have been many more, less obvious, changes to Church doctrine over time.

        • skl

          Founding date tells you nothing about whether a sect’s beliefs have changed.

          It tells you when the sect’s beliefs changed from their predecessor, and when they institutionalized the new beliefs with a new sect’s church.

        • Kevin K

          And, of course, the Catholic Church wasn’t really founded until 325 ACE, at the council of Nicea. Until then, there were heretics galore with hundreds of different “Christian” religions. They were put to the sword (and the stake).

        • Jack the Sandwichmaker

          And you can rule out those because the “circa 30 AD” is a lie.

        • LastManOnEarth

          And so the mask begins to slip…

        • Ignorant Amos

          Begins? You are too generous my friend.

        • LastManOnEarth

          It’s long been obvious that skl is a Christian lamely trying to maintain his “totally-not-a-christian” act, but the Catholicism wasn’t so obvious. Maybe I just missed it.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yeah…that’s defo a fair one.

          He repeatedly claims he isn’t religious and a non-Christian, but he’s not an atheist. He’s just a contrary cunt for the sake of it.

        • Kevin K

          I blocked him when he claimed to be an atheist, but then kept repeating creationist memes. So if he’s now saying something different, that’s an evolution from his earlier self, in which he definitely claimed to be an atheist.

        • Ignorant Amos

          He’s what we Brits call, “Not the full shilling” along with what we Irish call “All over the place like a mad woman’s shite”.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “Not the full shilling”

          Far from it – keeps turning up like a bad farthing.

          “All over the [parish] like a madwoman’s shite”

          Still my favourite of the many things you’ve introduced to me.

    • Herald Newman

      How does an unchanging message of even one denomination tell me that their message is true? I fail to understand the logic of this idea.

      • skl

        How does an unchanging message of even one
        denomination tell me that their message is true? I fail to understand the logic
        of this idea.

        That’s because this thread was not about whether the message was true, but rather about whether the message was unchanging.

      • Ignorant Amos

        It can’t. Even if the words of Paul that we have were accurate…they aren’t…there is a void of circa 20 years where anything could have been changed….that’s if one accepts the story as portrayed, and it all happened in the 30’s CE…which is questionable.

    • Pofarmer

      There isn’t one that I’m aware of.

  • And that’s why I roll my eyes whenever more conservative Christians accuse their liberal counterparts of “cherrypicking”… oh, the irony!

  • RichardSRussell

    Jesus does raise the standards on murder, adultery, and others in the Sermon on the Mount

    I know it’s popular in Christian circles — and seems to have been unquestioningly accepted by almost everyone else — that Jesus and his odd idea of a New Deal represented an improvement over the petty, vindictive, bloodthirsty Yahweh of the Old Testament. I demur.

    Sure, if you did something that pissed off the easily irritated Yahweh, he’d smite you where you stood, plus your family and half the innocent bystanders in the county as collateral damage. But that was it. Dead. Done. Finito. Sayonara. Period. Game Over. It wasn’t until Jesus came along that they invented the concept of “No no no, my friend, we’re gonna fry your sorry butt forever! And not just for the actions you actually performed but for some of those naughty little thots you’ve been having!”

    Think about it. Which of these 2 arrogant, flaming sadists was actually worse?

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Jesus made negative progress in his position on divorce, leading countless people to stay trapped in abusive relationships.

    • Herald Newman

      I’m reminded of Marcion, and his idea that the God of the New Testament couldn’t possibly be the same as the God of Old, given how different they are. I completely disagree with Marcion though, because thought crimes are reprehensible. A God that’s willing to punish me for what I think and believe, rather than what I do, is just as much a monster as the God that orders genocides, and delights in the smell of burnt offerings.

      • One nice benefit of Marcionism is that, by discarding the OT, the Problem of Evil goes away. The cause of evil is the dude who’s in charge of earth, not the father of Jesus. That guy wasn’t responsible for the evil, so he doesn’t take the blame.

        • Jack the Sandwichmaker

          For that you just need to discard the Trinity. Yeah, God is an evil bastard, but his son Jesus came and by having himself killed shocked God in to accepting Jesus’s deal that allowed some people to be saved.

        • You could do that, though you’re still stuck on explaining why God is a bastard but Jesus is a nice guy (even though he’s not always that nice).

        • Jack the Sandwichmaker

          The bad guy having a son who’s a good guy is a common enough trope, though. (And Christians will always hand-wave away any of Jesus’s faults)

        • TheNuszAbides

          Any “‘faults'” are converted into ‘evidence’ that he really truly for-serious took on actual mortality (briefly).

        • Herald Newman

          The problem of evil in this life may go away, but I would hold that the problem of evil in the supposed next life doesn’t. If even one person is sent to hell to be punished (tormented, or whatever) for all eternity, and Jesus has the ability to prevent this, then Jesus is infinitely evil.

          Once Jesus introduced hell Jesus stopped being the kind, gentle, and loving, being that Christians say he is.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Sounds like Marcion took on even more of the Zoroastrian message than post-first-temple Jewry did.

    • Kevin K

      And to contemporary Christians, not merely thoughts you have, but thoughts you don’t have as well. If you don’t believe in Jesus’ rock-hard abs, it’s eternal torture for you. Doesn’t matter if you’ve never looked at a woman with lust or not. No Jeebus, go to hell.

  • Lex Lata

    An episode of the TV version of American Gods comes to mind. The basic premise of the series (based on a great Neil Gaiman book) is that the old gods–Odin, Anubis, etc.–are alive and not-so-well, engaged in a battle for much-needed human worshippers against the new gods–Media, Technical Boy, etc.

    At one point, the protagonist encounters Jesus. Or rather, a multitude of varying Jesuses, reflecting Christianity’s fissile nature and protean history.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=grTH-hf_0rA

    • Jack the Sandwichmaker

      Though that’s not a unique property of Jesus. If I remember the book also has a New World Odin vs an Old World Odin.

      • Lex Lata

        Possibly, although I don’t recall that, just Mr. Wednesday being Odin incognito. But I’m not positive. It’s been about ten years (yikes!) since I read it.

        • Jack the Sandwichmaker

          Well, I wasn’t going to mention that part. Didn’t know how obvious that was in the TV show.

        • Lex Lata

          Oops. Well, the big reveal was some time ago for viewers (although the nerds who know the etymology of “Wednesday” saw it coming from the start). Ian McShane was always a god to me, but his Odinity formally emerged at the end of Season 1.

      • Kuno

        Old World Odin only shows up in the epilogue.

    • Kuno

      I especially liked the Jesus sitting on the water in the swimming pool and then putting down his whisky glas without thinking and watching it sink to the bottom.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    Bob, this is another excellent essay, both parts 1 and 2. I would like to comment on one statement you made: “And without objective morality, the popular Moral Argument collapses.” That seems correct to me, but I also believe that with objective morality, God fails to exist. I’ll try to explain.

    Morality is basically a set of rules governing how people should and should not behave. A moral rule cannot be objective in the sense that a rock is objective, but it can be objective in a different sense. IMO, a moral rule is objective if a group of persons all using the same method of reason reach a consensus on the rule. (We can also say that a description of a phenomenon in nature is objective if a group of persons all using the same method of science reach a consensus on the description.) And so, objective morality is valid.

    Using this new sense of objective morality we can argue this way:
    1. If God did exist, then he would be the all-powerful and perfectly moral Creator of the universe.
    2. If God did exist, then he unnecessarily causes the death of persons through natural disasters.
    3. If objective morality is valid, then it is immoral to unnecessarily cause the death of another person.
    4. Objective morality is valid.
    5. So, it is immoral to unnecessarily cause the death of another person.
    6. If God did exist, then he behaves immorally.
    7. If the assumption that God exists leads to a contradiction, then God does not and cannot exist.
    8. The assumption that God exists leads to a contradiction. See #1 and #6.
    9. Therefore God does not and cannot exist.

    • Michael Neville

      Your argument is valid but only for an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent god. A god that lacks one or more of these attributes, like Zeus or Odin, would not be ruled out by your argument. In Christianity the Calvinist god, who hates his creation, would also not be affected. What you’ve devised and explained most eloquently and elegantly is known as the Problem of Evil and the related Problem of Suffering.

    • Greg G.

      Many Christians go with Divine Command Theory and say that Objective Morality is whatever God says it is. That simply makes it Subjective Morality enforced by might makes right.

      • Gary Whittenberger

        I agree. I don’t think that a morality put forth by one person, i.e. a god, could be objective. Objectivity implies some agreement among persons.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Objectivity implies some agreement among persons.

          Nope. And a philosopher type such as you claim to be, should know that.

          If it’s raining, it wouldn’t matter how many people agreed it wasn’t…it wouldn’t change the fact that it is raining.

          https://www.vocabulary.com/articles/chooseyourwords/objective-subjective/

        • Max Doubt

          “Nope. And a philosopher type such as you claim to be, should know that.”

          Yep. Gary is mostly a whining tone troll who keeps trying, desperately, and failing, to prove a god doesn’t exist. His main shtick is as he presented above. Define a god with a particular set of vulnerabilities, insist that his god is the one other people believe exists, then attack those very vulnerabilities he designed into the god he imagines. Voila. No god.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Right on the button. He blocked me ages ago because of my colourful barrack room language. I don’t reply to him for his benefit.

        • So you didn’t think that he’d rethink his nutty take-no-prisoners attitude toward the North Sentinalese people who killed that missionary and come back here a little more reasonable?

          Me neither.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          The North Sentinalese murdered John Chau. This was unethical. That’s a reasonable conclusion. Sorry you disagree.

        • Greg G.

          It was unethical by your subjective standard. By the laws of some states in the US, they were just standing their ground against a harasser from an advanced society.

        • Pofarmer

          Can he really be this thick?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Oh aye….and when his position is riddled full of holes, he becomes obstinate and blocks…usually citing tone as the excuse. Another apologists tick.

          He didn’t even know all the details of the Chau fiasco, so was arguing from a position of ignorance, but when he was enlightened on the details he was being ignorant about, the fingers went into the ears and the tune began….at that point he was being stupid.

          The family of Chau are not even blaming the natives, but the Christian fuckwits that assisted him on getting there. And Christianity in general.

          His father said…

          “John is gone because the Western ideology overpowered my [Confucian] influence,” he said. He blamed evangelicals’ “extreme Christianity” for pushing his child to a “not unexpected end”, and he referred with particular bitterness to the Great Commission, Jesus’s injunction that Christians spread the gospel to all peoples.

          https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2019/02/04/missionary-john-chaus-father-blames-extreme-christianity-for-his-sons-death/

          GW is being stupid, and demonstrating that there is but one thing linking all atheists.

        • Cynthia

          The extreme tone trolling is annoying, but I’ve been trying to see how long I can go before dropping f-bombs. I’ve been muttering plenty.

          I’ve had practice though, between my mom and my job, in answering back without technically swearing. My mom raises passive-aggressive to an art form. She was a teacher, she took psychology, and her style is to stay perfectly calm while dropping a grade level if she is annoyed. Sure, it can be condescending as hell, same with the fact that she would ask what’s really bothering us if we ever yelled, but it is also really effective since customer service people can’t hang up or toss her out since she stays perfectly in control. As a lawyer, I have to think of how to cross-examine and be forceful and strong without actually violating any rules in court. We just learn more colorful language, so go fuck yourself becomes “kindly govern yourself appropriately”.

          Still, when he was being an asshole after I discussed my miscarriages, I nearly lost it. I didn’t need his fucking condescending sympathy, I didn’t need him to pronounce that I didn’t actually do anything immoral, I needed him to realize that there are perfectly valid reasons that someone who does care about babies and struggled to have them would have perfectly good reasons to fear fetal protection laws.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You had the proverbial patience of a saint in your exchange with him on that.

          As for having to watch ones p’s and q’s, fortunately I’m under no such constraints other than the mod’s. My talent for expletives is well honed, I was in the army at 17 years of age and was there for 14 years. And being Irish it’s in my DNA. Barrack room language is my first language.

        • Cynthia

          I took it as far as it could go, but don’t have much interest in continuing. You can only bang your head against a wall for so long, and I have other things to do.

        • Susan

          The extreme tone trolling is annoying, but I’ve been trying to see how long I can go before dropping f-bombs.

          I took the opposite approach. Despite my latest responses to bman, I’ve sworn very rarely in my commenting history, no matter how much it might have been warranted.

          In Gary’s case, after he had blocked several excellent commenters for tone and been passive-aggressive with me when I responded politely and clearly, in protest, I sent him a comment loaded with intentionally foul language to get him to block me.

          I can’t stand control freaks.

          I’ve been muttering plenty.

          That’s usually my strategy. Mutter plenty, compose myself and try to take the high road. It’s not easy.

          go fuck yourself becomes “kindly govern yourself appropriately”

          Love it. 🙂

        • Cynthia

          The thing is, he claims to be all about civility but isn’t.

          I know Friendly Atheist can sometimes be a tough crowd, but if you actually are an atheist and you still manage to piss off everyone else there, you are doing something wrong.

          Civility isn’t really about just avoiding a list of bad words. Trust me, as a lawyer, I know ways to be totally condescending and nasty while technically following the rules. I just use bigger words.

          Rather, civility is really about treating someone else with respect. Not everyone online deserves it – obvious trolls and hatemongers come to mind – but a lot of people will respond better if you at least try to understand their POV even if you disagree with it. That shows that you care about their views and will listen to them before rushing to judgment. People often respond better if you don’t just repeat yourself with the same words over and over, but actually engage with the conversation. Gary often doesn’t do that. He will hit a wall where it is just the same stuff verbatim. Worse, he acts like someone placed him in charge when he isn’t the owner or mod and he tries to enforce rules that don’t exist. That’s placing yourself above others, which is the opposite of being respectful. Equal adults don’t get to impose rules without consent or dole out “punishments”. His fetish for rules made more sense when we found out he spent decades working in a prison. An authoritarian approach doesn’t work so well when people are actually free to ignore you.

        • Susan

          The thing is, he claims to be all about civility but isn’t

          Civility isn’t really about just avoiding a list of bad words.

          Yes, I’m pretty sure I tried explaining that to him before I had him block me. I imagine many others did before and many have since.

          Worse, he acts like someone placed him in charge when he isn’t the owner or mod and he tries to enforce rules that don’t exist.

          Yes. It’s very strange.

          That’s placing yourself above others

          It’s extremely arrogant.

          His fetish for rules made more sense when we found out he spent decades working in a prison.

          Aahhh…

        • Pofarmer

          Is he the one who was going to turn some of us in to some Internet Civility Police something or other?

        • Ficino

          “Florida Man shoots …” whoops, my bad, wrong location, it was Sentinel Island.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Was it ethical to murder Chau by your subjective standard? If so, explain why.

          We’ve talked about this before, and it is a long discussion, but I believe that it was unethical by Correct Universal Ethics.

          Most stand-your-ground laws in the US are unethical because they permit the actor to kill another human person when it is unnecessary and unjustified.

        • Greg G.

          Correct Universal Ethics

          There is no such thing. That is GW’s Subjective Ethics.

          Most stand-your-ground laws in the US are unethical because they permit the actor to kill another human person when it is unnecessary and unjustified.

          Not really. I recall reading about a case where some teens were taking a foreign exchange student to a Halloween party. The couldn’t find the address so they knocked on someone’s door to ask directions. The owner answered the door with a gun on him. The exchange student didn’t understand that they were at the wrong house and entered with his camera over his head to take pictures of the party. The homeowner shot him dead and got off. Stand your ground laws have been expanded since then.

          Those people on that island did everything they could have done to protect their children from this maniac who refused to take no for an answer. They told him to leave their home in every way they could. They had fired warning shots at him but he kept returning and shouting gibberish to them. He was probably bigger and stronger than any one of them, so trying to subdue him would be difficult and risky. Perhaps they tried that and had to kill him in self-defense.

          If I were on that island and someone who could not communicate or listen to what I said kept insisting on approaching after clear indications that would not be tolerated, I would fight to the death to protect my family from him.

          When the Jehovah Witnesses come to my door, they go away when I say I do not wish to have that conversation. If someone would not leave my door, I would call the police and weaponize something. If I lived in a rural area, I would call the sheriff, but I would expect to use my weapon or improvised weapon as it would take a while for the response. If you live on an island where you are the police force, your options are limited.

          How many children would you let be strangled before you protect them?

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW1: Correct Universal Ethics

          GG2: There is no such thing. That is GW’s Subjective Ethics.

          GW2: There is such a thing. It just hasn’t been compiled yet. It resides in the minds of thousands or millions of human persons. But it does need to be compiled and published.

          GW1: Most stand-your-ground laws in the US are unethical because they permit the actor to kill another human person when it is unnecessary and unjustified.

          GG2: Not really.

          GW2: Yes, really.

          GG2: I recall reading about a case where some teens were taking a foreign exchange student to a Halloween party. The couldn’t find the address so they knocked on someone’s door to ask directions. The owner answered the door with a gun on him. The exchange student didn’t understand that they were at the wrong house and entered with his camera over his head to take pictures of the party. The homeowner shot him dead and got off. Stand your ground laws have been expanded since then.

          GW2: That is a good example of an unethical killing.

          GG2: Those people on that island did everything they could have done to protect their children from this maniac who refused to take no for an answer. They told him to leave their home in every way they could. They had fired warning shots at him but he kept returning and shouting gibberish to them. He was probably bigger and stronger than any one of them, so trying to subdue him would be difficult and risky. Perhaps they tried that and had to kill him in self-defense.

          GW2: So, subduing him would have been a good option. There is no evidence that they tried to do so.

          GG2: If I were on that island and someone who could not communicate or listen to what I said kept insisting on approaching after clear indications that would not be tolerated, I would fight to the death to protect my family from him.

          GW2: From him doing what? He did not act aggressively. He had no weapon. He had helpful motives.

          GG2: When the Jehovah Witnesses come to my door, they go away when I say I do not wish to have that conversation. If someone would not leave my door, I would call the police and weaponize something.

          GW2: But would you kill them for merely trespassing? If you did, then that would be an unethical act.

          GG2: If I lived in a rural area, I would call the sheriff, but I would expect to use my weapon or improvised weapon as it would take a while for the response. If you live on an island where you are the police force, your options are limited.

          GW2: You only need one nonlethal option. It is unethical to kill another person merely for trespassing.

          GG2: How many children would you let be strangled before you protect them?

          GW2: This is just a straw man. Chau was unarmed and unaggressive. He wanted to become friends with the islanders so he could lead them to Jesus. A bias against Christians does not justify murder.

        • Max Doubt

          “There is such a thing. It just hasn’t been compiled yet.”

          You’re a liar, a bald faced liar. Knock it off.

        • Pofarmer

          This is a dumb position. It was perfedtly ethical to the North Sentinalese.

        • Susan

          That’s a reasonable conclusion.

          Saying so does not make it so.

          Sorry you disagree.

          The difference between your position and Bob’s is that Bob S. doesn’t claim that his position is “objectively correct”.

          He can’t because he knows he can’t support that claim.

          Neither can you but that doesn’t stop you from asserting it.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Nope.

          An invader who could destroy one’s civilization and decimate it (or worse), who won’t go away, is committing sucide-by-proxy.

          And the North Sentinelese had MORE than enough evidence that the outside world is dangerous.

          Your armchair projection of your comfortable middle-class assumptions onto a primitive culture are amusing as a pastime, but have NO merit in a serious discussion of the event and the factors leading up to it.

          If you want an example, look to how people during WWII fought back against the Germans, much of it covertly. According to your misguided, benighted hypothesis, they were wrong in resisting the German attack and occupation.

          In fact, now that I think about it that way, you’re expressing authoritarian tendencies and longings.

        • Sample1

          Let’s say they took the guy and enslaved him, considering him to be valid property of their own. Like a coconut or creeping thing or a Volvo.

          When last I looked, owning people as property is explicitly allowed by divine instructions throughout the books of the Bible, never once being condemned as unethical or immoral.

          If beleivers claim an absolute moral or ethical grounding is required for a semblance of coherence when discussing ethics and morality, they are aligning themselves with a tradition that teaches the owning of people as property is ethical and moral.

          And they want others to consider their worldview outside the context of comedy?

          Mike
          Edit: pronouns changed to refer to believers not you.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          S1: Let’s say they took the guy and enslaved him, considering him to be valid property of their own. Like a coconut or creeping thing or a Volvo.

          GW1: If they did exactly what you describe, that would be unethical.

          S1: When last I looked, owning people as property is explicitly allowed by divine instructions throughout the books of the Bible, never once being condemned as unethical or immoral.

          GW1: The Bible is mistaken in many ways.

          S1: If believers claim an absolute moral or ethical grounding is required for a semblance of coherence when discussing ethics and morality, they are aligning themselves with a tradition that teaches the owning of people as property is ethical and moral.

          GW1: You cannot develop a valid morality from a god which doesn’t exist.

          S1: And they want others to consider their worldview outside the context of comedy?

          GW1: Yes they do, but we don’t agree with them and don’t kill them because we disagree with them.

        • Sample1

          It would be unethical for us. The question is, what is the role of knowledge in assessing morality? Let’s say they find no immorality in owning people as property, as in scriptures. And furthermore they don’t have access to knowledge that could pursuade them otherwise. It’s not going to be unethical for them. Morality will be cerebrally defined to exclude slavery from criticism.

          What utility is a definitional understanding of morality without tangible consequences? I think morality isn’t Platonic, it’s dependent on knowledge. And the knowledge comes from evidence. Evidence apart from armchair thinking. Physical evidence.

          At some point, our species correlated negative progress (pick your category) with slavery that outweighed a definitional divine instruction.

          In other words, I don’t think it’s enough to define the tribesmen slavery hypothetical as unethical without a tangible reference. What this means is we could be wrong about slavery being immoral if zero negative consequences could be demonstrated. That’s not a comfortable thing to say, but it’s also dependent on a philosophy of satisfactory ignorance where new evidence is always possible. And that’s very comfortable to say.

          When we arrive at hard-to-vary explanations (axial tilt causes seasons) instead of easy-to-vary explanations (magic causes the seasons) it’s a good time to be human.

          The religious have a foot in both explanatory models. They rely on hard-to-vary explanations for the fruits of technology and easy-to-vary models for the perceived fruits of indoctrination. Talking about these hypotheticals might be a way to get the other foot over to reason.

          Mike
          Edit done.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          S2: It would be unethical for us.

          GW2: It would be unethical for all us – all persons. This is a critical point of difference. With Correct Universal Ethics (CUE), which I espouse, some behaviors are considered unethical regardless of time, place, or culture. You seem to be supporting relativistic or culture-based morality.

          S2: The question is, what is the role of knowledge in assessing morality?

          GW2: Knowledge has an important role, but I probably don’t understand what you mean here.

          S2: Let’s say they find no immorality in owning people as property, as in scriptures. And furthermore they don’t have access to knowledge that could pursuade them otherwise. It’s not going to be unethical for them. Morality will be cerebrally defined to exclude slavery from criticism.

          GW2: Their beliefs are just incorrect. They believe it is just fine to kill a person for trespassing.

          S2: What utility is a definitional understanding of morality without tangible consequences? I think morality isn’t Platonic, it’s dependent on knowledge. And the knowledge comes from evidence. Evidence apart from armchair thinking. Physical evidence.

          GW2: Armchair thinking should always entail the consideration of evidence.

          S2: At some point, our species correlated negative progress (pick your category) with slavery that outweighed a definitional divine instruction.

          GW2: According to CUE, slavery is morally wrong. There has been no divine instruction, ever.

          S2: In other words, I don’t think it’s enough to define the tribesmen slavery hypothetical as unethical without a tangible reference. What this means is we could be wrong about slavery being immoral if zero negative consequences could be demonstrated. That’s not a comfortable thing to say, but it’s also dependent on a philosophy of satisfactory ignorance where new evidence is always possible. And that’s very comfortable to say.

          GW2: If you are the slave, are there negative consequences?

          S2: When we arrive at hard-to-vary explanations (axial tilt causes seasons) instead of easy-to-vary explanations (magic causes the seasons) it’s a good time to be human.

          GW2: That seems to be irrelevant to our topic.

          S2: The religious have a foot in both explanatory models. They rely on hard-to-vary explanations for the fruits of technology and easy-to-vary models for the perceived fruits of indoctrination. Talking about these hypotheticals might be a way to get the other foot over to reason.

          GW2: If you build a model on “God exists” it is going to fall apart.

        • Sample1

          Knowledge, as obtained via the tools reason and evidence in a broadly Enlightenment mode of understanding, is objectively better for deriving reliable facts about existence than other claimed modes of knowledge acquisition such as authority or revelation. Yes, it’s an important role. Because I don’t know you, I cannot assume we agree about that importance unless I investigate.

          Yes, there are negative consequences for both the slave, the master and society. But as a fallibilist, in principle, I will admit that I could be wrong, just as I will admit any compelling findings in science could be wrong. Wrong is a word meant to include a spectrum of error but for brevity, I’m using wrong.

          I’d never heard of CUE so I can only comment based on your words for now. If it’s a metaethics the first thing that comes to my mind is to ask where you claim morality comes from. Is it from human beings or something else? Or is even asking where it is from an incorrect understanding of your position?

          I do not claim to know if there has been “no divine instruction ever” but there is no good reason to accept that there has been, to date. As a fallibilist I admit I might be wrong, however unlikely that seems.

          Hard-to-vary explanations are arguably at any core of understanding reliable facts about existence and by core I do not necessarily mean foundation.

          Models built on the existence of gods are arguably resilient, apparently not falling apart in the inevitable manner you infer. When they fall apart, you may say they will fall apart but not before.

          Mike

        • Gary Whittenberger

          S3: Knowledge, as obtained via the tools reason and evidence in a broadly Enlightenment mode of understanding, is objectively better for deriving reliable facts about existence than other claimed modes of knowledge acquisition such as authority or revelation. Yes, it’s an important role. Because I don’t know you, I cannot assume we agree about that importance unless I investigate.

          GW3: I generally agree with your statement here.

          S3: Yes, there are negative consequences for both the slave, the master and society. But as a fallibilist, in principle, I will admit that I could be wrong, just as I will admit any compelling findings in science could be wrong. Wrong is a word meant to include a spectrum of error but for brevity, I’m using wrong.

          GW3: The terms “right” and “wrong” have some different meanings. In our context here, I think it is better to use the terms “correct” and “incorrect” to apply to propositions, claims, or beliefs.

          S3: I’d never heard of CUE so I can only comment based on your words for now. If it’s a metaethics the first thing that comes to my mind is to ask where you claim morality comes from. Is it from human beings or something else? Or is even asking where it is from an incorrect understanding of your position?

          GW3: CUE comes from the minds of real persons, just like all moralities or ethics do. Where else could it come from? In this context “universal” means “applicable to all persons, regardless of time, place, or culture.” You know what “correct” and “ethics” mean.

          S3: I do not claim to know if there has been “no divine instruction ever” but there is no good reason to accept that there has been, to date. As a fallibilist I admit I might be wrong, however unlikely that seems.

          GW3: Ok, then let’s just agree that divine instruction has probably never been given and that there is no good evidence that it has.

          S3: Hard-to-vary explanations are arguably at any core of understanding reliable facts about existence and by core I do not necessarily mean foundation.

          GW3: I don’t see how this is pertinent.

          S3: Models built on the existence of gods are arguably resilient, apparently not falling apart in the inevitable manner you infer. When they fall apart, you may say they will fall apart but not before.

          GW3: Models built on the existence of gods are still popular even though they are not rational. People continue to believe irrational ideas.

          S3: Mike

          GW3: So, is your first name “Mike”? What is your last name?

        • Sample1

          Nuances can be wrought between the words incorrect and wrong. I chose wrong intentionally. A syllogism may have an incorrect form but we don’t say dropping bombs on innocents is incorrect, where I’m from we call that wrong. But I’ll adjust now that we understand each other a little more.

          I asked where CUE comes from because I don’t know anything about CUE but for your words so far. Some claim morality and ethics comes from divine entities or is discovered as Platonic essences. Still others hold to a theistically “grounded” Natural law for moral insight. People have problems with all of those frameworks.

          The hard-to-vary explanatory philosophy is part of my current worldview. It relates to my comments about knowledge which you agreed was an important tool. But good/correct knowledge acquisition is controversial depending on one’s audience. And so I’ll press a little further, do you think morality/ethics is derived from hard-to-very explanatory model(s) in the Deutschian/Popper/Quine sense?

          Precisely. People do continue to believe irrational ideas and I claim such modes of thinking cross disciplinary boundaries, including religions. It’s resilient and a bit premature, imho, to claim irrational thinking based on god models will fail. Unless you mean fail and resurrect, the story of our species, which is how I’m using resilience.

          I don’t see how my name is pertinent to this discussion.

          Mike

        • Gary Whittenberger

          S4: Nuances can be wrought between the words incorrect and wrong. I chose wrong intentionally. A syllogism may have an incorrect form but we don’t say dropping bombs on innocents is incorrect, where I’m from we call that wrong. But I’ll adjust now that we understand each other a little more.

          GW4: The behavior of dropping bombs on innocents is morally or ethically wrong. The rule “You should drop bombs on innocents” is incorrect. I won’t mind if you use “wrong” if the meaning is clear from context, but please be careful.

          S4: I asked where CUE comes from because I don’t know anything about CUE but for your words so far. Some claim morality and ethics comes from divine entities or is discovered as Platonic essences. Still others hold to a theistically “grounded” Natural law for moral insight. People have problems with all of those frameworks.

          GW4: I do not believe that morality or ethics comes from divine entities, a Platonic realm, or directly from nature. Yes, I have problems with all those views. CUE comes from the minds of persons using reason, especially from experts.

          S4: The hard-to-vary explanatory philosophy is part of my current worldview. It relates to my comments about knowledge which you agreed was an important tool. But good/correct knowledge acquisition is controversial depending on one’s audience. And so I’ll press a little further, do you think morality/ethics is derived from hard-to-very explanatory model(s) in the Deutschian/Popper/Quine sense?

          GW4: I hope I already answered this question above, but if I didn’t, then please rephrase it in layman’s language. I am a little familiar with those philosophers, but not familiar enough.

          S4: Precisely. People do continue to believe irrational ideas and I claim such modes of thinking cross disciplinary boundaries, including religions. It’s resilient and a bit premature, imho, to claim irrational thinking based on god models will fail. Unless you mean fail and resurrect, the story of our species, which is how I’m using resilience.

          GW4: I think the popularity of religious models will go up and down but trend downward. Probably in 500 years 95% of the people will be atheists and only 5% will be theists.

          S4: I don’t see how my name is pertinent to this discussion.

          GW4: You must have thought your name is pertinent because you added “Mike” at the end. Why did you add it? Why not add your last name too? I have found that when people use their correct full name they are much less likely to behave uncivilly in a discussion or debate. Have you also found this to be true?

        • Sample1

          Sounds good, I’m content to say we have cleared up our meanings. I’ll hold off on elaborating on hard-to-vary explantions considering you replied more fully to my question about where morals and ethics likely do not come from. An expository isn’t really needed now, as I understand you better

          There are a few reasons why I sign off the way I do and they are my own. I’m not sure if it is pertinent to our discussion. If you do find discussion uncivil, please inform me.

          I may not meet your expectations for a civil discussion. I notice you blocked Ignorant Amos, a friend who is not a trivial thinker. Should I presume you will meet my standards for a civil discussion despite using a full name?

          Let’s just see where this leads. I’m out of questions for you but if you want to talk about something I’m all ears.

          Mike
          Edit done.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          S5: Sounds good, I’m content to say we have cleared up our meanings. I’ll hold off on elaborating on hard-to-vary explantions considering you replied more fully to my question about where morals and ethics likely do not come from. An expository isn’t really needed now, as I understand you better

          GW5: Good.

          S5: There are a few reasons why I sign off the way I do and they are my own. I’m not sure if it is pertinent to our discussion. If you do find discussion uncivil, please inform me.

          GW5: If I think you have made an uncivil remark, I’ll let you know. I hope you would do the same.

          S5: I may not meet your expectations for a civil discussion. I notice you blocked Ignorant Amos, a friend who is not a trivial thinker.

          GW5: I usually block people only after they make three consecutive uncivil responses, which is what Ignorant Amos did on 11-13-2017. Some people are deep thinkers, but they can’t or won’t be civil in their communications. You haven’t been uncivil so far.

          S5: Should I presume you won’t meet my standards for a civil discussion despite using a full name?

          GW5: I’m just noting a correlation from my experience – people who do not present their correct full names more often act uncivilly in internet discussions, especially when they disagree, than people who present their correct full names. Haven’t you found the same correlation?

          S5: Let’s just see where this leads. I’m out of questions for you but if you want to talk about something I’m all ears.

          GW5: Do you understand now what I mean by Correct Universal Ethics (CUE)? Do you agree with the concept? If not, why not?

        • Sample1

          I don’t know, beyond occasional hearsay, whether full names correlate to less uncivility. Yes, it’s been said anecdotally for sure but I don’t know enough to make an informed comment. I haven’t noticed.

          Now, what does pique my interest is what kind of blocking ratio for real people you do have. If it’s very high, that could mean a number of things. Some might indicate traits in your personality that in anyone else you or I might find lamentable. Blocking should have more detailed choices. Currently, a block still allows that person to peruse one’s comment history, if it is public. I find that unfortunate as stalkers can still stalk easily. But, we get what we pay for. I’m surprised Disqus doesn’t have paid features.

          I only understand a bit what CUE is and a bit more about what it is not. I quickly asked someone elsewhere what his short opinion about CUE was and he said he’s fine with it if it means Natural Law. He’s a metaphysician who has leaned fallen over to Thomist philosophy.

          I’ll look into CUE when I have a bit more time. I’m vaguely recalling CUE but not sure if it’s a real recollection. Certainly nothing to opine about.

          Mike

        • Gary Whittenberger

          S6: I don’t know, beyond occasional hearsay, whether full names correlate to less uncivility. Yes, it’s been said anecdotally for sure but I don’t know enough to make an informed comment. I haven’t noticed.

          GW6: You may notice it now.

          S6: Now, what does pique my interest is what kind of blocking ratio for real people you do have. If it’s very high, that could mean a number of things. Some might indicate traits in your personality that in anyone else you or I might find lamentable. Blocking should have more detailed choices. Currently, a block still allows that person to peruse one’s comment history, if it is public. I find that unfortunate as stalkers can still stalk easily. But, we get what we pay for. I’m surprised Disqus doesn’t have paid features.

          GW6: In addition to blocking, I sometimes ask the moderator to intervene. Incivility is so prevalent today especially on the internet and since Trump became president.

          S6: I only understand a bit what CUE is and a bit more about what it is not. I quickly asked someone elsewhere what his short opinion about CUE was and he said he’s fine with it if it means Natural Law. He’s a metaphysician who has leaned fallen over to Thomist philosophy.

          GW6: CUE is not Natural Law and it is not religiously based.

          S6: I’ll look into CUE when I have a bit more time. I’m vaguely recalling CUE but not sure if it’s a real recollection. Certainly nothing to opine about.

          GW6: You probably won’t be able to find the term “CUE” anywhere on the internet. I invented it! But it refers to a concept which has been proposed or supported by many people. If you wish to learn more about the concept, read the atheists Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Steven Pinker, and even the theist William Lane Craig. WLC gives it a religious source, while the others and I do not.

        • Max Doubt

          “With Correct Universal Ethics (CUE), which I espouse,…”

          You’re making shit up. Your dishonesty might serve you well at a Christian forum, or maybe if you were in politics, but here in a discussion among people that are smart enough to catch you at it, it just makes you a liar.

        • Ignorant Amos

          His views on women’s rights and bodily autonomy are a bit fucked too.

        • Pofarmer

          A bit?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Aye…that’s the problem with subjectivity. //s

        • Cynthia

          It’s an argument that would work to prove a different point. If you wanted to prove that a God meeting a very specific definition couldn’t have a given set of attributes simultaneously, it shows – in a very simplistic way – that.

          Ultimately, though, that just shows the weakness in his definition and set of assumptions.

          Where he and I argued for several weeks was his insistence that his definition was the only legitimate one, not only for Christians but for Jews as well. It was an odd spectacle of an atheist, former conservative Christian who had spoken with all of 10 Jews in his life and clearly knew very little about either Judaism or Jews, insisting that actual Jews were dishonest or delusional if they identified as Jewish without believing in his definition of God or basing their beliefs on just a simple, literal belief in the Pentateuch alone. Along the way, he failed to read links provided or any suggested books, all of which provided clear evidence from reliable sources that he was just wrong about what Judaism was and what most Jews believe, and just repeated his wrong assumptions over and over. He also refused to see that he had likely formed his wrong beliefs as a result of biased and incorrect Christian teachings.

        • Greg G.

          Objectivity implies some agreement among persons.

          That is “intersubjectivity”, not “objectivity”. Objectivity is that which is independent of what any person thinks, whether persons all have different opinions or the same opinion. Orbital mechanics worked the same before Isaac Newton explained it in terms of the same reason apples fall, and the planets still do so. The planets still orbit the same even after Einstein changed the equations, which accounted for a measurable anomaly regarding Mercury.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          “Consensus of experts using the same method” is just another appropriate definition of “objectivity.”

          We draw conclusions about the things we observe. One conclusion is “The Earth orbits the Sun in an elliptical path.” That is an objective conclusion since there is a consensus of experts who have reached the same conclusion when using the same method, i.e. a scientific method. So objectivity, in one sense, is not independent of what any person thinks. In this case it is dependent on what a group of persons thinks.

        • Greg G.

          But morality is observations about how you feel about actions. There is no completely objective standard. You have to inject your subjective standards in at some point.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GG1: But morality is observations about how you feel about actions.

          GW1: I disagree. Morality is a set of rules about how persons should and should not behave.

          GG1: There is no completely objective standard. You have to inject your subjective standards in at some point.

          GW1: I think you set the bar too high. “Highly objective” is good enough. Assemble a randomly selected small group of moral experts from the world. Charge them with developing Correct Universal Ethics, using REASON. Give them a year to hash it out and publish it. That’s about the best humanity can do, don’t you think?

        • Greg G.

          “Highly objective” means “not objective”. They is objective or not objective. Pretending that subjective morals are highly objective morals is still not objective morals. What you are apparently trying to say is “intersubjective morals” which are morals agreed on by a society.

        • Max Doubt

          “What you are apparently trying to say is…”

          What Gary is really trying to say is, “I’ve made a ridiculous claim that I can’t possibly defend, so I’m desperately trying to redefine the words I used to make my claim true.”

    • It’s good to make clear your definition, though I don’t know how many would go with it.

      I’d drop “objective” as unnecessary. “Morality” is how we use it every day. We largely share it (like you alluded to with your definition). The evaluation of God’s morality is done by humans (how else could we conclude “God is moral” unless we evaluated the evidence?). That’s how I’d get to “God is immoral.”

      • Ignorant Amos

        What GW is actually refering to is intersubjective morality.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersubjectivity

        Edit to fix spelling.

        • Helpful, thanks.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I can’t accept any credence…I learnt concept from epeeist. Because he’s clever. and once I understood it…it relates to reality.

        • Greg G.

          intersubjective morTality

          It is difficult to distinguish mortality from immortality until one proves to be mortal.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Aye…just noticed the typo with Bobs motivation. Am lying in bed using a Nexus tablet…bloody predictive text.

        • Greg G.

          I thought I would nag you before the seven days of editing was up.

        • Kevin K

          I really do object to the theistic practice of redefining common words to mean what they want it to mean instead of what it really means.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Redefining words is the stock in trade of apologists. How else could they prove that an imaginary being exists?

      • Gary Whittenberger

        I view high objectivity as a desirable feature of a morality. It means there is a consensus among experts using the same method of derivation.

        When we apply a correct, universal, objective morality to the alleged acts of the alleged God, we can easily see that his acts would be immoral. But this leads to the contradiction — God would moral and immoral at the same time.

        • Max Doubt

          “When we apply a correct, universal, objective morality…”

          LOL! That’s rich, even from you. No, Gary, there is no such thing as “a correct, universal, objective morality”. I’d like to think you’re not stupid enough to believe there is, but I’m at a loss for a better explanation as to why you’d write something that silly.

        • Pofarmer

          I think he really, really wants it to be true.

        • Cynthia

          Because he lost faith in his particular version of God (ie a divine person who would be expected to be perfectly moral in human terms while also being all powerful), but retained some of the same thinking and values that he would have learned as a conservative Christian.

          Part of this is the notion of a correct universal objective morality, existing in a way that is separate from simply being a consensus of human beliefs.

          More concerning from my own POV is that he is also fairly authoritarian and arrogant. He believes that not only does a universal morality exist, but he is uniquely qualified to tell us what it is (although he also sometimes suggests that a group of philosophers could act as experts too) and that this should be enforced by law on everyone on the planet. He is completely resistant to considering that his own POV may be subjective or limited or reflect any biases. He is not willing to consider the POV of others who have different views, shaped by different life experiences. When I have challenged him on some basic assumptions, he doesn’t present any evidence to defend those assumptions but simply repeats them as things that we must accept as obvious truths. Specific examples include:
          – refusing to explain what objective evidence there was that fetal protection laws actually resulted in better outcomes for babies, but simply saying that it was “obvious” that laws work

          – disregarding and dismissing evidence that such laws could actually cause significant harm to pregnant woman or be applied in ways that would be biased on the basis of race or class
          – disregarding the risk that laws could make it harder to get pregnant women with substance abuse issues the treatment that they needed
          – suggesting that the law shouldn’t just ban late term abortions, but also ban any unauthorized induction or c-section(!!!)
          – stating that it was immoral for a pregnant woman with a late term pregnancy to receive chemotherapy even if it was necessary to save her life

          – assuming despite evidence to the contrary that the Indian government should be able to investigate the killing on North Sentinel Island of John Chau, arrest a suspect and conduct a fair trial, despite lots of evidence that it would be dangerous for anyone to approach the island, that there was a significant risk of disease causing harm to an isolated population and that the islanders spoke a language that was completely unknown to outsiders so it would be impossible to conduct a trial.
          – declaring that any Jewish person who didn’t conform to his (mistaken) notion of Jewish belief was an apostate and was therefore dishonest or delusional if they described themselves as a Jew.

          I’m not trying to selectively pull out quotes out of context. These points were debated at length, and he doubled down on all of them.

          [FWIW, my own belief is that an ultimate truth/reality exists (which some could call “God”) and that if there was an ultimate truth and knowledge of all reality across all dimensions and space-time, there could be an objective correct answer to the question of what a correct moral position for a human in a given situation would be. However, I also believe that all human beings are far too limited to possibly have such perfect knowledge and too connected to their own subjective POV. Therefore, we need some humility and to admit that none of us are God and we could be wrong, we could fail to consider important things and we might not understand how other people are affected. In the practical sense, morality therefore needs to be applied by humans, using the best tools we have and considering all perspectives and arguments and potential biases, and being very aware that we might be getting stuff wrong.]

        • Ignorant Amos

          And I was there to witness a few of them.

        • Cynthia

          I do appreciate that some others witnessed it and nobody else thought he was responding in good faith or being rational.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Oh I doubt very much that I was the only one.

          BTW..that myintx was a piece of work, wasn’t she? I’ve blocked very few, but she made the grade.

        • Max Doubt

          “I do appreciate that some others witnessed it and nobody else thought he was responding in good faith or being rational.”

          Gary is willfully ignorant. He won’t even see responses from people who he thinks might rock his little distorted view of reality. I mopped the floor with him on several occasions, pointed out how he failed time and again to support his silly claims. I gave him methods to use to objectively show his claims are false. I did everything but walk him into the lab and write the experiments for him. And the response I got? Cry-baby caterwauling about how everyone is picking on him.

          Then he went right back to lying about others’ responses to him, bitching because people weren’t kowtowing to his juvenile demands about how to conduct a conversation, and redefining words to make his claims true even when those redefinitions were exclusively all his own made up shit. And if you call him out for his persistent lying, he stomps his little feet, cries some more about all us meanies, then blocks the people offering the most reasoned replies. We’re seeing pretty much the same tactics in this conversation.

        • Cynthia

          Ah yes, the redefinitions. Almost forgot to mention that.

        • Greg G.

          I view high objectivity as a desirable feature of a morality.

          Unfortunately, objective morality is imaginary. A universal intersubjective morality would be just as good but if you have to impose it on others, it is not universally intersubjective.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Objective morality is real if a group of experts reach the same conclusions about moral decisions when they use the same method of thinking. This could be demonstrated, but it would take quite a bit of time, effort, and money.

          Universality is a different feature than objectivity, but it is valuable for morality too.

          Correct Universal Morality (CUE) could be “imposed” the same way that moral rules are now made into laws. This would require a democratically elected government.

        • Greg G.

          Objective morality is real if a group of experts reach the same conclusions about moral decisions when they use the same method of thinking.

          Not when they use the same method of thinking. They would have to come to the same conclusion no matter what method of thing was used. It doesn’t matter what you think when you jump from a plane. You objectively fall with the same acceleration.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW1: Objective morality is real if a group of experts reach the same conclusions about moral decisions when they use the same method of thinking.

          GG2: Not when they use the same method of thinking.

          GW2: They won’t reach highly objective conclusions if they don’t use the same method. If you allow them to use any method of thinking at their own discretion, then they are unlikely to come to the same conclusion.

          GG2: They would have to come to the same conclusion no matter what method of thing was used. It doesn’t matter what you think when you jump from a plane. You objectively fall with the same acceleration.

          GW2: But if one person uses imagination and another person uses experiment to reach a conclusion, they are unlikely to come to the same conclusion about acceleration. In morality, as in science, if you want high objectivity, then all persons must use the same method. They should use the Reason Toolkit.

        • Greg G.

          To determine what is objectively true, one has to measure something that is objective. Experts can apply objective methods to determine what the most popular song, movie, or television show is but they will have to do it next week because the thing they are trying to measure is not inherently objective.

          Morality changes the same way but a little more slowly. It would be objectively immoral to define objective morality at this place and time for future generations. According to the population growth rate of a couple of decades ago (I haven’t done the calculations recently but the population has grown significantly since then), the population of humans would outweigh the rest of the universe in a thousand years. Future generations will have to rethink morality about who gets to live, for how long, and who gets to reproduce at some point.

          If objective morality of today cannot be applied then, then it is not objective.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GG3: To determine what is objectively true, one has to measure something that is objective.

          GW3: “True” and “false” apply to descriptive propositions or claims, but they do not apply to prescriptive or normative propositions or claims, as are made in ethics or morality. And so, the term “objective” may have a slightly different meaning in ethics than it has in science or history.

          GG3: Experts can apply objective methods to determine what the most popular song, movie, or television show is but they will have to do it next week because the thing they are trying to measure is not inherently objective.

          GW3: Unfortunately you are using the term “objective” in an equivocal manner by applying it to things and also to descriptive propositions. I claim that it has a different meaning in the realm of ethics.

          GG3: Morality changes the same way but a little more slowly.

          GW3: The moral codes which different people accept and use do change over time, but might there be a moral code which does not change (or change as much) by which those many moral codes of different cultures can be judged? I think so. This is what I call Correct Universal Ethics. So for example, “One person should not enslave another person” would be one rule in CUE. I think that this rule was correct at the advent of human history and will continue to be correct, although people have violated it many times in many places.

          GG3: It would be objectively immoral to define objective morality at this place and time for future generations.

          GW3: I disagree. I think CUE, properly conceived, would be very stable over time. For example, slavery should always remain ethically wrong.

          GG3: According to the population growth rate of a couple of decades ago (I haven’t done the calculations recently but the population has grown significantly since then), the population of humans would outweigh the rest of the universe in a thousand years. Future generations will have to rethink morality about who gets to live, for how long, and who gets to reproduce at some point.

          GW3: Are you familiar with the concept of the Earth’s carrying capacity? I think rules of CUE could be formulated with respect to that concept.

          GG3: If objective morality of today cannot be applied then, then it is not objective.

          GW3: I think it can, if the CUE is written properly. So for example, you could have a rule “If the current population of the world exceeds the carrying capacity by X%, then couples should have no more than three children; if by Y%, then no more than two children; if by Z%, then no more than one child.” Good rules have exceptions and contingencies built in.

        • Greg G.

          GW3: Unfortunately you are using the term “objective” in an equivocal manner by applying it to things and also to descriptive propositions. I claim that it has a different meaning in the realm of ethics.

          I use the term “objective” the way most people use it regarding morality. You are using the term “objective” to trade on how most people use the word but smuggling in a different meaning. You should use the term “intersubjective” instead.

          GW3: The moral codes which different people accept and use do change over time,

          Because it is not objective morality.

          but might there be a moral code which does not change (or change as much) by which those many moral codes of different cultures can be judged?

          Because it is bred into social creatures as a method of cohesion for the group. But we also have our selfish motives bred in as well. If times are good, sharing maintains bonds. When times are a bit tough, sharing is good because it maintains bonds and promotes survival of many. When times are extremely rough, sharing and not sharing doesn’t matter as everybody dies either way. But there is a level of harshness where sharing means everybody dies but selfishness can allow some to survive.

          We can come up with exceptions to any moral attribute.
          Is it moral to steal? What if you are trying to feed a starving child?
          Is it moral to lie? What if you are protecting Jews from Nazis?
          Is it moral to kill? What if the choice is to kill a would-be murderer or allow the killer to murder the intended victims? What if a person represents a threat to your children?

          If morals were objective, we would not have easy to think of exceptions to it.

          GW3: Are you familiar with the concept of the Earth’s carrying capacity?

          Yes. The point is that the human population growth is unsustainable. You are not in a position today to judge what will be moral and necessary to limit population in the future. You should not even pretend to be able to do so. Experts on today’s issues are not experts on what will be issues in a hundred years.

          GW3: I think it can, if the CUE is written properly. So for example, you could have a rule “If the current population of the world exceeds the carrying capacity by X%, then couples should have no more than three children; if by Y%, then no more than two children; if by Z%, then no more than one child.” Good rules have exceptions and contingencies built in.

          You can’t write that kind of rule because you don’t know what values of X, Y, and Z would be appropriate in the future. How do you enforce such a law? If someone accidentally has one too many children, to you kill the oldest, the youngest, or force the parents to decide?

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW3: Unfortunately you are using the term “objective” in an equivocal manner by applying it to things and also to descriptive propositions. I claim that it has a different meaning in the realm of ethics.

          GG4: I use the term “objective” the way most people use it regarding morality. You are using the term “objective” to trade on how most people use the word but smuggling in a different meaning. You should use the term “intersubjective” instead.

          GW4: I noticed that the term “objective” is frequently used in reference to ethics or morality. I concluded that it could not have exactly the same meaning in this realm as it has in science. After all, rules are mental constructs, not tangible objects. The best meaning for “objective” in ethics and morality is the degree of agreement of judges formulating rules by using the same method. If the method they use is reason, then they will reach high agreement. This is not the same, but still similar to, the way “objective” is used in science. For example, if you ask the question “How far is it from the Earth to the Moon?” different persons will come up with different answers if they use different methods. But if they use the same method, their answers will converge.

          GW3: The moral codes which different people accept and use do change over time,

          GG4: Because it is not objective morality.

          GW4: That’s correct! And their moralities are not objective because they did not use the same method in formulating them.

          GW3: but might there be a moral code which does not change (or change as much) by which those many moral codes of different cultures can be judged?

          GG4: Because it is bred into social creatures as a method of cohesion for the group.

          GW4: Please do not split my sentences. That is misleading. Please quote at least a full sentence and respond to it. You can make more than one comment to the same sentence.

          GW4: You imply that a function of a morality is to support the “cohesion for the group.” I think that is probably one function. What is different with CUE is that the group is assumed to be “all persons,” and so a shift in perspective is required.

          GG4: But we also have our selfish motives bred in as well. If times are good, sharing maintains bonds. When times are a bit tough, sharing is good because it maintains bonds and promotes survival of many. When times are extremely rough, sharing and not sharing doesn’t matter as everybody dies either way. But there is a level of harshness where sharing means everybody dies but selfishness can allow some to survive.

          GW4: This describes what often or usually happens, not how persons should behave.

          GG4: We can come up with exceptions to any moral attribute.

          GW4: I am referring to moral or ethical rules, not attributes.

          GG4: Is it moral to steal? What if you are trying to feed a starving child?

          GW4: As I said previously, exceptions and conditionals can be built into the rule. Here is a first draft of a rule for stealing: “Any person X should not steal the property Y belonging to any other person Z unless X has already tried and failed to secure similar property in ethical nonaggressive ways and the acquisition of Y is now necessary to prevent death or serious physical injury to X or another person.”

          GG4: Is it moral to lie? What if you are protecting Jews from Nazis?
          Is it moral to kill? What if the choice is to kill a would-be murderer or allow the killer to murder the intended victims? What if a person represents a threat to your children?

          GW4: Yes, sometimes it is ethically permissible or even obligatory to lie or kill. Properly formulated rules can take the conditions into consideration.

          GG4: If morals were objective, we would not have easy to think of exceptions to it.

          GW4: Moral rules should almost always be written to be relative to situations or circumstances, but this is only indirectly related to objectivity.

          GW3: Are you familiar with the concept of the Earth’s carrying capacity?

          GG4: Yes. The point is that the human population growth is unsustainable. You are not in a position today to judge what will be moral and necessary to limit population in the future. You should not even pretend to be able to do so. Experts on today’s issues are not experts on what will be issues in a hundred years.

          GW4: But we can induce experts to tell us what the carrying capacity of the Earth is right now, and we can plug that number into our ethical rules governing reproduction.

          GW3: I think it can, if the CUE is written properly. So for example, you could have a rule “If the current population of the world exceeds the carrying capacity by X%, then couples should have no more than three children; if by Y%, then no more than two children; if by Z%, then no more than one child.” Good rules have exceptions and contingencies built in.

          GG4: You can’t write that kind of rule because you don’t know what values of X, Y, and Z would be appropriate in the future.

          GW4: X, Y, and Z would be selected based on rates of reproduction in the human population and designed to bring the population down to its carrying capacity. I don’t see a problem.

          GG4: How do you enforce such a law?

          GW4: We aren’t talking about a law yet. We are talking about an ethical rule. The rule may or may not be translated into a law. Maybe we can talk about that later.

          GG4: If someone accidentally has one too many children, to you kill the oldest, the youngest, or force the parents to decide?

          GW4: No. But you are jumping too far ahead in our discussion. I want to make sure that you have a clear understanding of CUE first.

        • What if 100 experts split into 95 vs. 5? What happens to your moral question then?

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Good question. We need to establish a criterion for consensus ahead of time.

          Suppose that the question is “Has human action been the main cause of the recent increase in global temperature?” and that you had 100 experts, i.e. climate scientists, study the question for a year and present their answers. 95 said Yes, and 5 said No. What happens to your scientific question then?

        • Ignorant Amos

          What happens if the 95 say yes, and 5 say no?

          An expert consensus is only useful for laypersons…and even then it should be treated with trepidation.

          Science is provisional. The consensus changes with new data….that’s not how objectivity works.

          Coincidentally, I posted this in a reply in another thread….

          “I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.” ~Michael Crichton

          Along with this…

          https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/5553

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          IQ tests operated by *consensus*…until it was discovered that the tests were biased, consciously or not, to benefit white middle class males or higher in the social scale.

        • Scientific question? That’s not what you’re talking about. You’re talking about moral questions.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          I am using an analogy to illustrate similarities.

        • Phil

          Nope, it would still be biased towards the opinions of the ‘experts’ at the time and context. Therefore, not objective. Objective surely means not subject to opinions.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It does…but Gary has his own definition, and guess what, it fits very nicely with the bullshite he is peddling.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          There is no conclusion that does not come from the mind of a person, and all conclusions occur at a time and place. The conclusion will be in the form of “I believe X” (an opinion) or “I know X” (knowledge).

          Objectivity, in one sense but not all, comes from the high agreement of conclusions among experts who study a question.

          Experts attempt, or should attempt, to minimize bias or prejudice through their methods and attitudes.

        • Phil

          “Experts attempt, or should attempt, to minimize bias or prejudice through their methods and attitudes.” Nothing special about experts. Everyone should aspire to that, including religious folk. All you are describing is consensus including what you think is knowledge. And consensus is not necessarily correct.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          P: Nothing special about experts.

          GW: I totally disagree. An expert is a person who possesses expertise, knowledge, information, or skills in a particular specialized area which are greater than those possessed by persons in the general public. An expert may be identified by one or more of these criteria:
          1. Level of achievement in education or training in the specialized area.
          2. Level of performance in education or training in the area.
          3. Years of experience working in the area.
          4. Level of performance working in the area.
          5. Reputation among peers in the area.
          6. Discoveries, inventions, innovations, or publications in the area.
          7. Demonstrated performance on licensing, certification, or professional exams in the area.

          P: Everyone should aspire to that, including religious folk.

          GW: No person can be an expert in all fields. That might have been possible a thousand years ago, but not now.

          P: All you are describing is consensus including what you think is knowledge. And consensus is not necessarily correct.

          GW: The consensus of experts is the best that we humans can do. What has a better probability of being correct than this?

        • Phil

          I am glad that we agree consensus isn’t objective.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Your feelings, i.e. being glad, are irrelevant to this discussion. Please present different valid definitions of “objective.”

        • Phil

          Why? English not your first language?

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Don’t want to cooperate in a discussion?

        • Phil

          What is there to discuss? You agree consensus is opinion and therefore can’t be objective.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          But we don’t agree. What do you think it means to be “objective”?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Burden shifting much.

          Never mind what Phil thinks it means…it means what it means, and that’s clearly different to what you think it means. So you define what you think it means in the context of YOUR woo-woo nonsense.

          * Just sounding off at the tosser GW’s idiocy…he has me blocked.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Objective morality is real if a group of experts reach the same conclusions about moral decisions when they use the same method of thinking.

          Pure unadulterated fuckwittery. And the thing is, you know it.

          You are describing “intersubjectivity”..not “objectivity”…which has been pointed out to ya making being ignorant as an excuse obsolete, so now you are just being stupid.

          Abortion, SSM, slavery, murder, cannibalism, religious belief, ad infinitum…the might makes right philosophy you are proposing is cretinous.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ffs “… a correct, universal, objective morality…?

          Christians and those other two Abrahamic groups of various flavours can’t even agree on the attributes of God…including morality. You heads up yer hole on this one.

    • Max Doubt

      “9. Therefore God does not and cannot exist.”

      You’re doing that same dishonest thing you’ve been doing for years. You define a god with certain characteristics, you dishonestly attribute those characteristics to the gods other people imagine, you attack those gods on the weaknesses you’ve built into them, and declare victory over your very own strawman. You’re dishonest. And you’re still wrong. Nobody else’s gods cease to exist just because you imagine yours a certain way and slay it with the vulnerabilities you’ve designed into it. I’ve offered you ways to objectively demonstrate that you’ve failed, but you seem to lack the courage and honesty to put your own “proof” to the test.

      • Ignorant Amos

        He is changing the definition of the word “objective” in order to set up his argument. That’s cheating and it’s what we see in Liars for Jesus and Pious Frauds around here all the time.

        And yes, I’ve seen him do it more than once before on other blogs.

  • Ficino

    Not sure how this site is being enhanced by the posts of inveterate trolls.

    • skl

      Maybe if you actually added to the content of this thread by making pro- or con- arguments, you wouldn’t be an “inveterate troll.”

      • Sophotroph

        Ah, an example of the “I know you are, but what am I?” technique!

        Ancient, venerable, a true classic of the trolling world before electricity.

        We eagerly await further lessons in obsolete, ineffective trolling methods from you, honored master of the art.

  • Natureboi

    [If all that] really WAS God talking,
    but the things he said kept changing over the years,
    what does that tell us about this form of communication?

    It tell us that God works on a learning curve just like people.