Thursday, June 11, 2015

Buying the Morality Pitch - The Failure of the Religiously Indoctrinated to Think Through Morality

I saw an article about Jason Lisle, a doctor of some sorts, speaking with Ben Seewald (husband of Jessa Duggar) claiming atheists really don't exist because, essentially, some book says there is sufficient evidence for the existence of god. Yeah, the book was, of course, the Bible. If the circular reasoning wasn't bad enough, they continued to provide a cliche morality argument as a reason atheists don't exist. The argument is rather simplistic and goes something like the following: "God is necessary for there to be a difference between right and wrong. Atheists believe there is a right and wrong. Therefore, atheists really believe god exists." They do have arguments for why they think a god in necessary, but they're not all that great of arguments.

This all just got me to thinking how often I hear morality used as an assertion for the existence of god...people flat out saying that I'm wrong because of this. (Or people saying that religion is required for morality.) But, really, morality, at a basic level, is actually quite simple...if one would bother to put thought into it. So whenever I hear some Christian bring up morality and making claims such as this, I'm often at a loss for what to say because they essentially lead me to suspect that they've just gobbled up what their pastor has told them at church without giving it a second thought. Is it really worth my time to engage? Because their minds seem rather closed off to the topic.

Also, they seem to be really selective in their examples. By which I mean they select examples that would seem to prove their point while avoiding often numerous examples that don't. Jason Lisle uses an example of baking powder, saying, "What one chemical accident does to another is morally irrelevant. I mean when baking soda and vinegar react and they fizz up...that's just what they do. You don' get mad at the baking soda." The idea here being that without a god and us just being a chemical "accident,"* it doesn't make sense to get mad at an accident.

Except we do. I can quickly think of numerous counter examples: People getting upset at a tornado ripping up their town. People getting upset at a rain storm(s) for causing flooding. People getting upset with tectonic plates for causing earthquakes. Etc, etc, etc. Sure, they're not upset with those things in the same way they'd be upset with people, but that has to do more with the difference in the sentience of the thing they are mad at. The point here is that people do get upset over chemical accidents. (It is also worth pointing out that people speak of "Mother Nature" as though nature were sentient.)

I find it rather obvious why Lisle does not use those examples. He's saying since getting mad at chemical reactions is not rational that a god is necessary to create a moral standard in order for us to be mad at other human beings. Now, here's the question he doesn't want you to ask: "Why would god set up a moral standard in such a way that we'd get mad at inanimate objects?"

Any answer I can think of is not satisfactory. They can't say that this is not part of the moral standard created by their god and is just something that humans do because that would shoot down that premise that it is impossible without the involvement of a god to get mad at a chemical reaction. Another option I could see is to say that this god's moral standard is not perfect. I shouldn't need to state why that answer is problematic.

What I really want to talk about, though (which was only given a very brief mention in the linked video), is how they tend to bring up murder as their key example. The idea seems to be that since virtually every culture has prohibitions against murder that there must be a universal standard.

It always seems a bit silly to me because it should be blatantly obvious that there are numerous issues in which humans do not agree. A few excuses are made for this. For some, they try to claim that there only appears to be a difference, but if you take a closer look, there is no difference at all. One example of this I found in the book I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist was about Hindus not killing cows. It isn't that Hindus have a different morality, see! It's because Hindus believe their grandmothers get reincarnated as cows and they don't believe in killing their grandmothers, just like you and me! I just find that jaw-droppingly stupid. (For one, while I'm not an expert on Hindu religion, I don't believe that's quite how it works. I had always thought the belief in reincarnation also included what they considered "lesser" animals that they have no problem killing.) A second example, also from that book, used the killing of so-called "witches." They excused that claiming that people thought these "witches" had killed people. That would imply they think capital punishment is acceptable. That, then, is problematic because they then need to explain why people disagree on capital punishment.

Getting back to murder, it's just not true that this is universal in quite the way that they claim. Most cultures are absolutely fine with murdering people they deem to be enemies. Oh, but I suppose that goes back to the idea of capital punishment. I'm going to suspect that they don't call that "murder;" that's just "killing." "Murder," you see, is an unjustified killing, but all these other forms are totally justified. Or so they would claim. I'm darn near rolling my eyes just writing this over how weaselly Christians can be about their claims. It's not only that their claims are silly, but they are a bit frightening as well when I think at how easily they can find justifications for killing people...and then turn around making these claims that one needs religion to be moral.

Yet, as I have suggested, figuring out murder isn't all that hard. We can work it out with only just a few premises:
1. I don't have a desire to die anytime soon.
2. The family members of a person who is murdered often wish to seek revenge, often in a form of "an eye for an eye" type of revenge.
From here, we can then figure out that if I were to kill someone, then others would want to kill me. I don't want that happening because I don't want to die anytime soon. So, if I don't want that to happen, what should I not do? Right! I shouldn't murder!!! Pretty frickin simple.

What would probably happen now is the Christian will engage in a tactic called "shifting the goal posts." They'll likely now assert that it is because of their god that I have that desire not to die and/or it is because of their god that people seek revenge. At such a point, I'm most certainly done engaging. If a person comes to me with a claim and I show their claim to be bogus, they don't get to readjust their claim. If that was really their argument, they should have started there in the first place. That they didn't says to me that they are just trying to fit their god into the equation anyway that they can. Much like I said near the beginning of this post, it shows that they are beholden to the idea of a god and are not actually open minded. I'm not interested in carrying on such dishonest discussion.

* I also love how they use loaded terminology to make their points. Go ahead and look up "accident" in a dictionary. While you can probably find some definitions that fit what he's trying to describe, the more common definitions of "accident" refer to an event being unfortunate. That, though, seems to be the point of using such language...get your audience to react with a "I'm not an accident!!!" emotional response as opposed to a rational response.

I also want to bring up another odd argument Christians will sometimes use, which is to compare morality to math. I suppose the idea here is that they would think most people would agree that math is universal. Therefore, if they can make morality seem much like math, then one would have to agree that morality is universal, too. This comes from C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity where he is quoted as follows: "Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five."

In order to be making such a comparison, though, he would need to think that a god is necessary for two plus two to equal four. Seriously? He thought it takes a god for two sets of two objects to produce four objects? That's just mind boggling. What that says to me is that this person is so predisposed to the existence of god that they may be beyond the capability to be reasoned out of that belief. (It also suggests that they think that anything universal must come from a god. Yet, they don't really bother proving that premise, which is largely why such arguments don't phase me. In order to be comparing morality to math to show that morality comes from a god, they also need to demonstrate that math comes from a god.)

On a side note, C. S. Lewis is said to have been an atheist at some point of his life, so one might argue that he wasn't predisposed to the existence of god. I disagree. While I'll accept this claim that he was an atheist, he has also been said to have been "mad at God for not existing." It would seem to me that he was an atheist predisposed to believing in a god, even if he couldn't actually convince himself at the time. In short, one need not actually believe in the thing they are predisposed to believing.

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