On Christian morality

I have a couple things I’d like to say about the oft-rehearsed claim that modern morality, and indeed all morality, comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition and/or its God. We often hear this claim voiced as a rejection of atheism, as though we would have no basis for our moral judgments without faith in God. I and others have frequently (and easily) refuted this claim by citing sources of morality that Christian apologists are simply ignoring. But today I’d like to go a step further and point out that Christians don’t even get their own morality from Jewish/Christian sources, nor would it be a good thing if they did. Modern believers like to attribute modern virtues to their traditional morality, but if we examine it thoughtfully, it turns out to have a foundation that is irretrievably flawed and corrupt.

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TIA Tuesday: The chainsaw runs out of gas

I’ve been looking forward to the end of this chapter of TIA: low-hanging fruit is supposed to be easy to pick, but when it hangs so low that you have to squat down to reach it, it gets tiresome. At least “Occam’s Chainsaw” sputters to a halt on a fairly light note as he tries to address what he calls the “three rational atheisms.” And lo and behold! Vox falls prey to the Gypsy Curse!

There are three variants of atheism that can be considered at least partly rational: these can be described as Somerset atheism, Nietzschean atheism, and Post-Nietzschean atheism.

Somerset atheism is the common practice of moral parasitism described in the previous section. It is a partially rational atheism that functions perfectly well on an individual level but cannot function on a societal level because it depends entirely on the existence of an external morality to support it.

Christianity, of course, borrows its morals (such as they are) from the surrounding cultures, which is why the only real moral innovation in Christianity is the impractical and rarely-practiced notion of loving your enemies and doing good to those who hate you. In his haste to do evil to his enemies, Vox accuses them of a flaw that is actually a Christian failing, thus fulfilling the Curse and repeating the stumble that has brought him down so often in TIA. But we still have two more atheisms to go…

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, The Gypsy Curse, TIA, Unapologetics. 3 Comments »

TIA Tuesday: The Disingenuous Vox Day

Vox Day has assembled Chapter 14 of TIA out of a long series of  inadequate and poorly-reasoned drive-by pot shots at atheists, under the rubric of “Occam’s Chainsaw.” Their sole redeeming feature thus far has been that at least they were short. Today, however, we get to a section that is substantially longer, but without (alas) contributing anything of substance. It’s a rehash of the same tired rant Vox has been using all along: that because he (Vox) does not understand the material and secular basis of morality, it therefore does not exist, and atheists have no rational reason to behave morally. Hence the section title: “The Irrationality of Atheism.”

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TIA Tuesday: An exercise in rationalization

We’ve got a special treat for this week’s installment of TIA Tuesday: a textbook example of manufacturing an argument whose sole virtue is that it gives Vox a pretext for calling the other guys wrong. He calls it his response to “the argument from superior morals.”

There are many atheists who live lives that are morally exemplary according to religious standards. This causes some atheists to claim that this exemplary behavior is evidence of atheist moral superiority, because the atheist is behaving in a moral manner of his own volition, not due to any fear of being eternally damned or zapped by a lightning bolt hurled by an offended sky deity. However, this is a logical error, because while motivation plays a role in how we judge immoral actions, there are no similar gradations of that which is morally correct. There are many evils, there is only one Good.

Only one Good? Is this perhaps a reflection of Jesus’ remarks that only God is good? No, it’s not even that sophisticated. There is only one Good because Vox needs an excuse to deny the existence of the Better, and thus make it impossible, by definition, for atheists to be better than believers.

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“Fan” mail

From time to time I see references to this blog in the comments people submit to other blogs. They’re especially interesting when they come from Vox Day supporters, like this one does. I’m particularly fascinated when Vox’s supporters find fault with my arguments at the precise points where I agree with Vox.

For example, in referring to last Tuesday’s TIA post, “Mike T” writes:

It is a very weak argument, that fails to even understand the point that Vox was making that the Golden Rule is simply not a moral statement at all because it provides no inherent, objective guidance on what we should do. If a psychopath or a sociopath were to follow the golden rule as the foundation of their moral code, it could lead to some extremely *ahem* “interesting” situations. Hence why Vox said that the Golden Rule only makes sense as a means of applying a pre-existing, objective moral system to your actions.

Mind you, Vox didn’t actually say that the Golden Rule makes sense as a means of applying a pre-existing, objective moral system (at least not in Chapter 14 of TIA), but he did say that it was not a perfect basis for determining morality, and I did agree that “Yes, the Golden Rule is not a perfect and infallible guide to morality.” But if agreeing with Vox makes my argument weaker, then perhaps I ought to revisit the topic.

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TIA Tuesday: Not the Golden Rule

One thing I’ve been noticing in Chapter 14 of TIA is that the longer Vox rambles on with his “Occam’s Chainsaw” arguments against atheism, the less and less his atheistic arguments resemble anything atheists actually say. Case in point, the so-called Argument from the Golden Rule.

It is often asserted that Christian morality is no different than other ethical systems that are based on the Golden Rule. And it is true that one can find pre-Christian examples of the same concept in the Analects of Confucius, in the Mahabharata, the Dhammapada, the Udanavarga, and even the histories of Herodotus. Still, there are two errors in this argument because Christian morality is not based on the Golden Rule, and because the Golden Rule, which states that a man should not do to others what he would not have them do to him, cannot provide a basis for a functional moral system.

Vox is partly right: Jesus didn’t base his religion on the Golden Rule, and more’s the pity because it would have produced a better moral system if he had. But the standard atheistic argument is more an observation that the best parts of Christianity, the parts worth keeping, are not original with Jesus, but were absorbed into Judaism and Christianity from the moral systems of the surrounding cultures. Vox, once again, is merely fencing with a straw man.

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TIA Tuesday: Getting low on gas

Believe it or not, Vox is still trying to chew his way through what he calls Occam’s Chainsaw, but the teeth on that old saw are just getting duller and duller, and the engine is starting to sputter like it was low on gas. Here’s his rendition of what he calls “The Argument from God’s Character.”

This is another superficial argument popular with Low Church atheists, although it pops up from time to time among the more militant High Church breed. It states that even if God exists, the morality He dictates is so abhorrent to the atheist and inferior to the atheist’s own moral sensibilities that the atheist cannot believe in Him. And in the unlikely event that the atheist is ever confronted by God, he will refuse to acknowledge His divine status let alone His right to rule over Mankind.

One is tempted to think that Vox expects most thoughtful and rational readers to have abandoned his book before now, leaving him free to say whatever he likes without worrying too much about whether or not he can get away with it. Surely by this point only his fans are still tuned in, and they’re not going to worry too much about whether he’s really addressing substantial arguments against God or merely breaking rhetorical wind, so long as he talks like he’s refuting the Bad Guys.

But we’re still here, Vox.

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Killing for God

According to an Associated Press report, a 28-year-old man who killed 6 and wounded 4 on a shooting rampage testified that “I kill for God. I listen to God.” Now, obviously it would not be fair to blame Christianity for this man’s mental illness, nor can we fairly hold God responsible for his actions (any more than it would be Darwin’s fault if the man had said “I kill for Darwin”). This case does, however, point out an interesting question, which is how do we know he’s not telling the truth?

A popular Christian claim is that God is the source of all morality. In other words, things like shooting rampages are not wrong in and of themselves, they’re only wrong because God forbids them. Or, as Vox Day puts it, “God’s game, God’s rules.” There’s no power greater than God that can force some external moral standard on the Almighty, therefore God is free to define morality however He sees fit. Who is to say, then, that God cannot make a special set of rules, for this one deranged shooter, that commands him to go on a shooting spree and kill people? Sure, he’s insane, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not telling the truth about God. So how do we know?

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TIA Tuesday: Morality for game designers

There are many ways in which a career in video game programming fails to prepare you for the larger issues of real life, and Vox Day has a good example of one of them:

Theists have a perfectly logical and objective basis for the application of their god-based moralities that even the most die-hard rational atheist cannot reject, given the theistic postulate that God actually exists and created the universe. In short, God’s game, God’s rules. If you’re in the game, then the rules apply to you regardless of what you think of the game designer, your opinion about certain aspects of the rulebook, or the state of your relationship with the zebras.

Vox’s goal is to show that his idea of morality has a solid foundation, and Daniel Dennett’s doesn’t. But not only is Dennett’s system far stronger than Vox seems to realize, the “God’s Game, God’s Rules” morality he espouses has so many flaws that it’s hard to know where to start.

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A thoughtful post

Via the “Incoming Links” section of my blog stats, I see there’s a post about Evangelical Realism up at thinktoomuch.net. Not only does he say nice things about the blog, he also takes a thoughtful look at how meaning and purpose can come from a God like Alethea, who is actually just a personification for Reality itself.

Recommended Reading.

 
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Posted in Atheistic Morality, Recommended Reading. 8 Comments »