Monday, September 19, 2005

Reply to Christian Theist : Matter Matters

Christian Theist, you've set me up by demanding an “absolute immutable standard”. Yet neither of us can possibly have such a standard. Even if you believe that God is an “absolute immutable standard”, you still rely on your own values to decide whether or not to follow what you think is “the word of God”. And our values are not absolutes nor immutable. You have decided to take the path of moral irresponsibility by choosing moral submission, and I haven’t. That’s the only difference.

Your own religion has no "absolute, immutable standard" for the treatment of others. The "divine commands" in your bible show that your God's standards are subjective, as I have shown in my post. God commands the slaughter of many individuals in the bible, some cruel and needless.

Either way, there are no “absolute, universal, invariant laws of morality” in your worldview, so why do you demand them of mine? When we grow up, we observe the things around us, and amongst these things are people around us that we recognize as individuals with their own values and feelings, and from all this we naturally come to value ourselves, our survival, our flourishing, other people around us, people we love, things we love, and ultimately the society that is necessary for the expression of those values.

This is something that we all acquire as we grow up. If you can’t decide why to treat people well, other than to be told to do it, then what kind of a person are you? Obviously you don’t love or care for people, otherwise you wouldn’t need divine diktat to treat them well. You would obviously see the benefit of treating them well for the pursuit of your values (love, caring, friendship, whatever). If you do, then you are either lying, or simply borrowing from my worldview and not recognizing it.

Matter matters. It doesn’t make sense to say that things don’t matter because they are made of matter. Meaning and value are substrate-invariant. The proposition “1+1=2”, for example, is true and means the same thing whether it is written on paper, engraved in stone, written in clouds, or planted in flower arrangements. Whether a person you love is made of atoms or soul-puffs does not make the person less valuable to you. The moral value I put on that person is substrate-invariant.

Even in cases where it does seem that the substance is relevant, it really isn’t. For example, we value gold more than most other metals. But we value gold because it is rare compared to these other metals – because of a relative property. If we were made of soul-stuff, or whatever you believe things are made of, then other substrates would be rarer, and we would value those more highly.

Materialism is not just an ontological side-issue. It is a crucial issue. Within materialism, material agents such as human beings can look at reality and hold fast to values which correspond to the functioning of their world. I know the Sun will rise tomorrow, I know that being rational is my only means to know, I know that to fulfill my values I must be rational, honest, benevolent, non-coercive. These are all facts that I grasp because I am part of the causal systems within which they exist.

If materialism is wrong, if there is a god or demons or whatever supernaturalism you want to come up with, our choices are meaningless and our principles are subjective. We lose the solid ground of uniformity and fall into subjective anxiety. Christians “backslide”, scientists don’t “backslide”. Religion is cultural-dependent, science is not cultural-dependent.

As I said before, you still rely on your own values to decide how to put your will into submission. Ultimately you made the autonomous decision that your worldview is divine, and not demonic, or self-inspired. And that’s a decision that you have no basis to make. All that we both have is our personal values and the material facts of reality. Because of your education, feelings, brainwashing, whatever, you chose fantasy instead of reality. That’s your problem – not mine. But don’t make moral issues dependent on your belief in an immutable fantasy.

Nothing is immutable. It is a common saying that “change is the only constant”. Christianity also changes and changes. The idea that Christianity presents an immutable moral system is laughable, and anyone with any understanding of history would tell you that you’re ignorant of the facts. Christians throughout the ages have tempered their moral beliefs, simply because Christianity is part of the memetic evolution that takes place every day in society. Simply expressed, any belief system that becomes intolerable to a given society becomes less and less popular, until it disappears. To survive, Christianity has had to revise its moral beliefs many times, from the days of flagellation and Inquisition all the way to admitting women pastors.


The Necklace Lady said...

Your responses are poetry and the images with your posts are imaginative and/or clever. Well done.

Hellbound Alleee said...

Thank you. I do have to thank Francois for helping me out with that. I think it sums everything up nicely. Now I hope nobody had to ask me why atheists don`t just go out and murder people, but I fear that this is not the last.

You would think people would be able to figure that one out for themselves. I am tempted to stop answerign these christian challenges altogether. Why can't they find out for themselves?

This is why: if people can get along with each other without a god (Canada is doing very well), then God isn't necessary. If we cannot make moral choices on our own, such as chooing to follow a religion, then the doctrine of free will is false.

For the christian, this sort of reflecting of dangerous. I wish more of them would take that risk.

Hellbound Alleee said...

What is this "reflecting of dangerous?" I don't get it. atheists must be illiterate. Typical atheist.


Aaron Kinney said...

Not only women pastors, but the Church needs to start admitting male NUNS! LOL

breakerslion said...

To paraphrase what a great lady once said of herself, when you're good, you're very good, and when you're bad, you're better!

Excellent post.

As to why atheists don't go around murdering people, it's not in our best interest to do so. Why would I need more reason than that? To put it another way, a little reason goes a long way and I wish more people would try it.

There is also the matter of empathy, which a certain gorilla did also show in great measure for a cat. One cannot argue that this stems from any belief in a higher power. If I understand you to be a living, experiencing creature, then why would I not vicariously experience any harm that I might do to you?

It takes more than atheism to make a psychopath, it takes the shutting down or the non-existence of certain neural pathways in the brain. Call it instinct, or race memory, or whatever, we are born to be pack/tribal animals. We have built-in psychological "mechanisms" to foster cooperation.

As a matter of fact, the fastest path from "near normal" to psycho that I have seen is the megalomania that often occurs when "gifted" preachers realize the hypnotic power they have over their "flock".