Saturday, October 25, 2008

Beyond Frustrating

In the final installment on this topic I want to quickly address the logical end to which the relativistic morality I've been discussing leads.

Most who claim such a view are seriously confused in their ability to follow these arguments through and realize their faults. They are either parroting someone they've heard or read, or they have never really tried to consider their view in depth.

Another common tendency of people who think like this to get very angry and offended if they believe you are saying they can't be moral. I don't blame them for getting upset if they think we are saying they "can't be moral." I actually believe that atheists can be just as moral as any theist could ever be -- maybe more so, I don't know. The problem is that they cannot defend the "oughtness" of their morality based on their own view. Their view doesn't allow for such a thing. So when they do claim to know objective truth or morality, they are actually stealing from the theistic worldview they claim to reject!

So, to reiterate from the first post, I am not saying they can't be moral. I am saying they can't ground their morality. And that leads to some pretty scary stuff. Some of these folks are not confused. These are the ones that go beyond frustrating to scary and sad. Because they do realize that calling things wrong or immoral under their worldview is incoherent, they will go to great lengths to refuse to do so. What happens when you push them to that end is pretty extreme.

In this case I contended that that we don’t need a written standard to know certain things are wrong -- things like murder, slavery or torturing babies for fun. The truth is that only a sociopath would require an explanation for the immorality of these actions — or someone who is just deliberately trying to be belligerent. Here's what I got back:
SLAVERY: How have you determined slavery wrong? I’ll keep repeating myself. WRONG FOR WHO!? In what way wrong? To what degree wrong? WHY WRONG!?

BABIES: Where does the bible say that torturing babies is wrong? Why is it wrong?

MURDER: What is murder? Is capital punishment murder? Why not? It is premeditated ‘retribution’. Is that murder? Is all killing murder? Clearly you would say No. Is all murder wrong? Well, you’re going to have to describe every instance. If a suicide bomber is shot by a sniper saving the lives of 100s, is the sniper a murderer? What if I accidentally kill someone? What if I aimed to shoot a person with a gun, missed and the bullet went into barn, caused the animals to stampede, trample and kill the person I was trying to shoot in the first place? Is that murder? It was an accident and completely not my intention ... What makes it malicious? What is innocent human life? I thought we’re all guilty of sin. None of us are innocent, so what are you talking about?
There you have it. It is my contention, in saying that objective truth and morality are really "out there" as part of the fabric of the universe, that you don’t need a Bible or me to explain to you why these things are wrong or true. Notice that the writer keeps insisting that I am basing these things on the Bible. I am not. I am saying that even those who have never even seen, let alone read, the Bible would know that these things are wrong. They are inescapable.

Yet he insists that I must defend the idea that slavery, torturing babies for fun and murder are wrong. Anyone who really believed that such a thing requires explanation would be a sociopath -- someone who has no moral conscience -- someone who really did not know right from wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think the commenter is really a sociopath. I think he knows full well that to admit these things are objectively wrong is to undermine his entire view of the world. None of us would go down easy on such a challenge. I only hope he considers the consequences of holding to it.

And I think he does. Why? Because this was his final response:
So I’m a sociopath for asking you to explain yourself? Very nice Bob. As they say, put up, or shut up. Put up some evidence as to absolute objective morality standards.
This response tells me that his indignant response to the suggestion that he is a sociopath is an admission that there are objective standards of right and wrong he thinks I have violated. He thinks I'm wrong to call him such a thing and he wants evidence to support my claim.

Never mind that I have just spent several days offering evidence. The fact that he claims to want to base his view on actual evidence is encouraging. The fact that he still recognizes objective reality (even if he claims not to) is too.

One can only hope.

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