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The Euthyphro Dilemma Revisted with its Simple Solution

Some time ago I ventured to tease those who raise the ‘Euthyphro Dilemma‘ against Christian theism by pointing out that those who raise the objection don’t really obtain much by it.   Those who employ it against theism usually do so quite smugly, behaving as though the dilemma in itself proves that there is no God.  I argued that if you dispense with God, and believe the dilemma proves there is no God, then it becomes:  “Is what is morally good that which is decided by people because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is decided by people?”

If the Euthyphro Dilemma is unanswerable and means that there is no God, then when it lands on the shoulders of individuals humans, it must certainly mean that there are no humans.  Oh, wait

But at the time, I did not provide my answer.  I only pointed out that the problem doesn’t go away when God is tossed out of the equation.  If anything, in my estimation, the problem becomes more pressing, because it is some kind of hubris to seriously consider the possibility that we humans that are the final arbiters of right and wrong.


An article I read today highlighted this with irony and unintended humor:

Western atheism has evolved into a forward-looking movement that has the wind at its back, is behind the success of the best run societies yet seen in human history, and is challenging religion as the better basis of morality. [emphasis mine]

If you cannot throw your head back and laugh until your eyes pop out of your head, you are utterly ignorant about human history and need to go back to school- or try some independent learning, because your schooling let you down really badly- or you have absolutely no concept that your beliefs should somehow inform your real world actions.  The idea that atheism can provide a ‘better basis of morality’ is laughable on its face, as anyone who has really grappled with the actual logical necessary implications of atheism (sometimes reluctantly) admits.

Atheist philosopher Joel Marks is a case in point, arguing, “The long and the short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality.”

That little essay highlights the fact that Christian apologists aren’t interested in the question “Would you be moral if there wasn’t a God?” but profoundly interested in the question “So you say there are no morals, but you find that God and religion are immoral, and you say that atheism is ‘a better basis of morality,’ insisting that you are moral.  Do you remember 15 words ago when you said that there are no morals?  Hello, McFly?  Anybody home?”

[Hence my own personal emphasis that atheism doesn’t necessarily lead to great evils, per se, but leads to pretty much whatever any given atheist wants;  Christians, however, are bounded by what they can promote as ‘good.’]

So what then?  Is something moral because God says it is good, akin to the ‘divine command theory‘?  Or is it good already, and therefore God is compelled to adhere to that standard, thus implying that there exists something above and beyond even God?  (On the view of Christian monotheism, the latter is a logical absurdity, like asking someone to produce a round square).

That’s the dilemma, but it is very easily resolved.  Just as Aristotle argued that an actual infinite regress of cause and effect was just plumb impossible, necessitating the existence of a causeless cause, so too is a never-ending chain of moral ‘causation’ … necessitating the existence of a … You know what belongs here.  😉

In order for the term ‘moral’ to have any meaning at all- and even the amoral atheists behave as though it does- we must come to a point where we must allow that there is an entity which makes moral pronouncements because those pronouncements are good in themselves AND the grounding of the goodness of those pronouncements resides entirely within that entity.  That entity, we call ‘God.’

In sum, what God says is good because God says it and what God says is good because goodness itself demands it.  It is no different, really, than the reasoning that led to Aristotle’s rejection of the ‘infinite regression’ and the converse conclusion that there must be a ’causeless cause.’

Hence, to imagine that there is any meaning whatsoever in any moral assessment is to assume that there exists a God.   If you have determined that you yourself are not that God, then you are compelled to search for other alternatives.  This is the great problem that atheists such as Marks have to deal with:  they are moral, yet their worldview logically entails amorality.  (Not immorality, you buffoon.  Amorality.)  Something has got to give.  May I propose that the self-evident fact that they are moral, in great contradiction to their worldview, means that their worldview is… wrong?  Not very profound, I know, but not to be faulted simply because a fourth grader could comprehend it.

Determining that there is an entity that represents the ‘final regress’ in moral reality is not the end of the story.  Just as Aristotle was able to deduce very little about the nature of the ’causeless cause’ than that, we do not learn a great deal about this omnimoral entity beyond that he must exist for our own moral statements to have more value than a pile of spit.   Ultimately, we are confronted with the reality that if we are to know anything interesting at all about him this entity itself will have to reveal it.

Maybe the beginning of wisdom comes simply from concluding, “There is a God, and I’m not him.”

 

 

 

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    • Alex on September 24, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Thank you for the interesting link to “divine command theory” – it’s not a phrase I had come across, and I learned something today, for which I am grateful.

    I am not persuaded by arguments over the “causeless cause”. Is there any particular reason, other than people’s discomfort with the notion, why the chain of causation cannot regress infinitely? If it’s just a matter of discomfort, then aren’t we back to the proposition that “there is a God because I find the notion of there being a God more comfortable than the notion of there not being one”?

    One may, and one indeed inevitably does, choose to act in ways that presume that human beings have significance and worth in themselves. Atheists sometimes point to the vastness of the universe as a way of indicating that nothing we do or do not do has any cosmic significance; but atheism does not require people to think or behave cosmically, any more than it requires them to think or behave supernaturally.

    A morality that presumes the worth and significance of human beings is self-consistent without having to additionally presume the existence of a God. You can argue that people holding this humanist morality have no way of knowing that the proposition is true that human beings have worth in any sense beyond their value to one another, and of course you’d be right; but one will only think that matters in the slightest if one is a theist anyway.

    • Anthony on September 24, 2011 at 6:31 pm
      Author

    “Is there any particular reason, other than people’s discomfort with the notion, why the chain of causation cannot regress infinitely?”

    Great tomes have been written on the matter. Aristotle and Aquinas after him concluded it was a logical impossibility. Comfort has nothing to do with it. The logic has of course been disputed; it is commended to your private study to draw your own conclusions. It would be really best if you proceeded in that fashion.

    “and of course you’d be right;”

    Yes, of course I am. 🙂

    “but one will only think that matters in the slightest if one is a theist anyway”

    Oh, I don’t know. Most of the atheists I encounter will bend over backwards insisting that I’m wrong. It would seem that they and I feel that my ‘rightness’ has some important implications. If they didn’t feel as such, I don’t think they would challenge my assessment with such vigor. They are right to do so, for I am right: if we admit that there really is an objective morality, and moral statements do have value (and we all behave as though they do), then strict materialism is on the ropes- if not defeated altogether.

    It doesn’t ‘prove’ Christian theism out of hand, of course. But notables like CS Lewis and Francis Collins arrived at Christianity with this realization being a fundamental reason why. Some atheists, then, thought it mattered a bit more than ‘slightly.’ It was enough to cause an overthrow in their worldview. That is no small matter.

    • Alex on September 25, 2011 at 8:53 am

    As you know, I have no issue with the existence of absolute morality, only with whether we can know it with certainty. There is a vast and varied gap between strict materialism and your particular species of Protestant orthodoxy.

    It was always the weakest part of Lewis’s account of how he came to accept Christianity that he was unable to explain how to move from the proposition “there is a God” to the proposition “Christianity is the one true religion.”

    Since you have read more deeply in this matter than me, what was the reasoning that led Aristotle to conclude that an infinite regress of cause and effect was logically impossible?

    • Anthony on September 25, 2011 at 10:53 am
      Author

    “As you know, I have no issue with the existence of absolute morality, only with whether we can know it with certainty.”

    You’ll note that I alluded to this issue in the last full paragraph of the post.

    Re: the infinite regress issue, I really think that you’ll just have to grapple with it yourself. The two people I mentioned wrote hordes of stuff on it and I believe William Lane Craig has taken it up under the topic “is an actual infinite possible?” If you want me to give you a start, you could ask yourself two simple questions:

    Can there be an effect without a cause? Can one jump out of a bottomless pit?

    • Alex on September 26, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Anthony,

    If your objection is that there can be no effect without a cause, and that such a thing is flat-out logically impossible, then the notion of an uncaused God is also flat-out logically impossible. You can’t carve out an exception for the only uncaused entity that you happen to believe in.

    You’re right that you alluded to such an entity having to reveal his nature in order for us to know it with certainty; but it appears to be clear that such a revelation has not occurred. If it had occurred with the Christian revelation, then we would have been spared all of the centuries of debate within Christianity about God’s nature, attributes, will, &c, because all parties to the debate would already, by direct connection with God, know the answer.

    Infinity is clearly a conceptual possibility within mathematics; indeed, pure mathematicians use at least two different forms of infinity (discrete and continuous).

    • Anthony on September 26, 2011 at 10:21 am
      Author

    “You can’t carve out an exception for the only uncaused entity that you happen to believe in.”

    I’m not going to argue with you about it. It’s clear from your comment that you don’t understand the argument behind the ‘prime mover’ conclusion. I’ve already said as much as I’m going to say to you about it. Greater minds than mine have already laid it out in great detail and I’m not going to hash it out with you in the comments of a blog post. I am not leaving you in the lurch. I gave you three names to start with for research sake: Aristotle, Acquinas, and William Lane Craig. It is for you to follow up on and explore, if you wish.

    “You’re right”

    I hear that sort of thing so rarely that I have to thank you for saying it again. 🙂

    “that you alluded to such an entity having to reveal his nature in order for us to know it with certainty; but it appears to be clear that such a revelation has not occurred.”

    Appears to be clear to you. Others have concluded differently. Obviously.

    “If it had occurred with the Christian revelation,”

    You’ve once again made the blunder I raised in a post that I am invincibly certain you are aware of. You may wish to revisit it, because I wasn’t joking the first time I posted on that topic. 😉

    “by direct connection with God, know the answer.”

    Who said anything about anyone having a ‘direct connection with God’? I know of precious few Christians that would say that. I certainly don’t.

    “Infinity is [].”

    Again. See others, such as WCL who addresses such issues.

    • Alex on September 26, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Thank you for the references. I will certainly try to read more deeply on this. I also appreciate the leavening of your posts with humor; it always makes a discussion go more smoothly.

    As far as I understand what you’re trying to do by referring me back to your previous article, you’re suggesting that non-Christians are as apt to confuse what they think they know with being the absolute and incontrovertible truth, as Christians are. To that extent, I agree with you. We all want to believe that our particular combination of beliefs is the best-reasoned and most coherent one going and the closest to the real nature of things. That’s very human.

    What I do is intended to break out of this cycle, by declaring that all knowledge voiced to me directly by humans, is human knowledge, and that all knowledge voiced to me directly by God, is divine knowledge. The things Christians argued over in the early Church, such as whether God had one will or many, were things that each party thought they could find in Scripture; but the mere fact of their difference shows that they were not having a debate inspired by God (unless He tells different people different things because he gets a kick out of religious warfare, but hey, I’m postulating that God isn’t a gigantic jerk here too).

    • Alex on September 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

    It seems to me like you’re wanting to have your cake and eat it a little. You want to be able to claim that Christianity offers believers enough of a direct connection with God that they can be invincibly certain of what God’s will is; but you also want to deny that the connection is offers is so direct that observers should consider any individual Christian to have a direct connection with God.

    I find it hard to see how you can claim the certainty without the direct connection – they depend crucially on one another. If you deny the direct connection, you are also denying the certainty, and we would then in fact be in agreement.

    • Anthony on September 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm
      Author

    “you’re suggesting that non-Christians are as apt to confuse what they think they know with being the absolute and incontrovertible truth, as Christians are.”

    No, actually that’s not the point of that other essay nor the reason why I sent you back to it. You threw out the term ‘Christian revelation’ as though the term might mean the same for both of us.

    You think by ‘revelation’ I mean the Christian Bible and so you completely miss the point I actually am making re: ‘r’evalation. The irony of that is that I wrote a whole post about that, you commented on it, but you still aren’t following me.

    “What I do is intended to break out of this cycle, by declaring that all knowledge voiced to me directly by humans, is human knowledge,”

    Ie, revelation. Small ‘r.’ Revelation as a general epistemological method common to all of us.

    “and that all knowledge voiced to me directly by God, is divine knowledge.”

    Ie, Revelation. Big ‘r.’ As in, God’s specific and particular revelation to you personally.

    When I say that the prime mover or prime moral agent must reveal itself to us, you are thinking of Big R and think that I am thinking likewise. I’m not. I’m thinking of small ‘r.’

    To make the point plainer, if I tell you that my favorite ice cream flavor is one called ‘cherry cordial’ that is actually an instance of Revelation, big R. It is a specific and particular revelation to you personally. It is a subset of the general epistemological method that is a common method for all of us.

    “You want to be able to claim that Christianity offers believers enough of a direct connection with God”

    But I haven’t claimed that. If anything, I have claimed precisely the opposite. See previously linked post as well as the post linked off of that post re: epistemological bottlenecks.

    “that they can be invincibly certain of what God’s will is;”

    I’m also not saying that and would never dream of saying anything of the sort. You’re arguing with what you think my positions are.

    “I find it hard to see how you can claim the certainty”

    The only ‘certainty’ I’m arguing in these posts is that there must exist a ‘prime moral agent’ or else moral statements are meaningless and have no value and represent only statements about our subjective feelings; the idea of X sickens me, and I call it ‘wrong,’ but that’s just my feeling, like public speaking might sicken me. Some people actually like public speaking. They may like X, too.

    Same sort of thing, except with X we like to pretend we’re saying something meaningful about the world. We want people to take us seriously. We want others to agree with us, as if we were arguing about the real nature of reality. All well and good if there exists a ‘prime moral agent.’ A bunch of self-deluding hot air if not. That’s my argument.

    “you are also denying the certainty, and we would then in fact be in agreement.”

    If only we are talking about certainty, which I’m not. 😉 You may wish to consult one more post I have written. It seems especially apropos right now: “Uncertainty the Only Certain Moral Virtue” 😉

    • Alex (Patron Saint of the Confused) on September 28, 2011 at 8:18 am

    I like your posting on epistemological bottlenecks. I even think I understand it. From a historical perspective, it is indeed a strength of the Bible that it presents so many events as having been witnessed by many people rather than few people, and I deeply respect it as a source of history.

    The problem comes with the largest of the claims made by books in the Bible – that Jesus is God, and that God is guiding human history. Even if a billion people all together say these things, their testimony still is not evidence, because you can find billions more that say that Jesus is not God, and a further billion that say that there is no God anyway. Testimony and evidence are not the same thing when dealing with claims inherently unsusceptible to proof.

    You are partially right that without a “prime moral agent”, we are left with is the proposition that “X sickens me”; but what we are also left with is the proposition “X’s effects on the human world are such that it would be better if people in general did not do X” (this is a plain way of putting Kant’s Categorical Imperative). We can evaluate human actions morally with reference only to the human world, and we can mobilize to take action against, say, female genital mutilation (which is part of my own work), without making any unprovable assertions about what God feels about the matter. It’s enough that it causes documentable medical trauma to women.

    With regard to your last link, I warmly agree with it. It may well be that some things are, in an absolute sense, absolute. But the nature of the evidence provided in the Bible is not such that it persuades me that Biblically-based conceptions of the Christian God are where absolute morality is to be found. The Bible is large and varied enough that one can find justification in it for supporting or opposing almost any moral action human beings can take. Consequently, our difference lies not in whether one can ever be certain of anything, but in whether Christianity is something trustable enough that we can be certain of Christianity in particular.

    • Anthony on September 28, 2011 at 8:47 am
      Author

    “I even think I understand it.”

    Thanks! Maybe we got it right… you’re the patron saint of the confused, and I’m the patron saint for the confused. 🙂 Just kidding.

    “Testimony and evidence are not the same thing when dealing with claims inherently unsusceptible to proof.”

    But sometimes testimony is evidence. Sometimes testimony is the only evidence offered to us. This is the point made in my (R)evelation post. Most of what you think you know comes to you only on evidence of someone’s testimony. Based on that testimony, and that testimony alone, you integrate their claims into your worldview. The fact that THEY directly observed something, or directly performed an experiment, does not change the fact that YOU received it by testimony. YOU did not directly make the observation or perform the experiment. This is the “Fallacy of the Collective ‘We'” I referred you to a long time ago. I guess I really need to write that post. 🙂

    Anyway, my contention is twofold: 1., Let us apply the same standards of evaluation to all testimony that comes to us, not picking and choosing which will be more stringent based on the whims of the wind and 2., dear God, actually have standards!

    Most of our evaluation of testimony happens without any thoughtful reflection on our part as to how we ought to test it. If someone does not have #2 sorted out, whatever they claim re #1 must be regarded as having only as much substance as jelly.

    ““X’s effects on the human world are such that it would be better if people in general did not do X””

    Note the bolded word. That is where you slipped in the assumption of a standard, objective morality. In the first place, you have assumed that 1., IF something is ‘better’ we ‘ought’ to do it. But ‘why’ is that the case? No decent human denies that it is, but that fact itself requires an explanation. In explaining it, it cannot undermine it, or we are back to animal instincts. 2., you have assumed that YOU somehow KNOW what things are BETTER. But this again requires a standard as well…

    “say, female genital mutilation (which is part of my own work),”

    And yet obviously there must be SOME people who KNOW that female circumcision is in fact BETTER. You can’t both be right at the same time. It’s like if I said, “That length is too long to be a foot!” and you said “That length is too short to be a foot!” This is a meaningless assessment. It can only have any meaning whatsoever if there is a particular length that is specified and it is set against some kind of standard- the 12 inch foot.

    “That is 13 inches, and the ruler is 12 inches, so it is too long!” is meaningful… but the atheist wants to say “That is 11 inches, so it is too short to be a foot!” and when pressed on whether or not he has accepted a standard, insists on following up with “Humans set the standard for what a ‘foot’ is!”

    Which is all fine and dandy, if only they could stick with it consistently. But when I say, “Well then, I say that this 13 length is a foot. I’m a human, and you say humans set the standard, so that’s what I’m going to say a foot is” suddenly they cry foul, just as you did with female genital mutilation.

    “without making any unprovable assertions about what God feels about the matter.”

    We are a long way in this discussion from any talk about determining what God feels about a particular matter. Remember, this blog targets mainly the atheist who rejects God completely. They want a reason to believe in God. I’m telling them that their own assurance that their moral statements are not mere turnings of their innards is ‘proof’ that there is a God. Their hypocrisy on this point is intensely ironic, for they want us to take their moral statements seriously while denying the existence of the only thing that could make their statements meaningful.

    I am a LONG way from THAT to Christianity.

    • Alex (Patron Saint of the Confused) on September 28, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Fair points. There are indeed people who KNOW that female genital mutilation is BETTER, and I knew when I used the word “better” that you’d call me on it.

    People have worked pretty hard on developing ways of setting and enforcing international human rights standards without invoking outside, divine authorities. It’s not an easy process, but it’s not impossible either. An international treaty is useful even if it does not invoke a God; it’s useful precisely to the extent that countries choose to sign up to it or not.

    It’s this process of argument and of community formation that defines what “morality” is. Were it not for the vast advances in communication and transportation over the last two centuries, we would not only not be able legitimately to criticize the practices of self-contained societies across the globe, but we would not even be aware of what their practices are. It is only with contact that one can even begin to talk about morality.

    It’s like with a feral child. Mowgli lives in the jungle, and lives off what he can hunt or grow. So long as he’s off by himself, what would it mean to judge Mowgli as being moral or immoral, and what meaning would his judgement of my lifestyle have for me? But bring Mowgli in from the jungle, put him in contact with other human beings, or go and pay him a visit, and then you have to generate enough common ground with him to make interaction possible.

    With your example of a “foot”, different societies used to define the length of a foot differently than they do today. Your atheist is right that the only reason “foot” has meaning as a measure of length is because people have set up among themselves a common definition of the length of a foot, for convenience’s sake. There’s no outside authority declaring a foot to be some specific length, or to be composed of a specific number of inches; there is only a social convention created by human beings. Even the efforts of the French to create the metric (SI) system are contingent on agreeing to use a certain percentage of the diameter of the Earth as a measurement; why not use a certain other percentage? or another planet?

    We agree that any standard international authorities set up will be human-based; what we differ on is whether Christianity’s standard is demonstrably any less human-based, or any less based on the “turning of humans’ innards”. We simply don’t have a choice between human-based moral systems and non-human-based moral systems; all we have is a choice between ones that acknowledge their human-based status and others that declare the “turning” of many people’s innards to be a stand-in for God’s views.

    For Jesus’s divinity, what testimony could we possibly have that would serve as evidence? For every Christian who believes to have experienced his non-deity, there is a Muslim who has experienced his single, undivided Allah. One cannot systematically accept only one certain kind of testimony that matches our prior assumptions; and if one values each person’s testimony equally, it would seem that there is no clear consensus at all as to whether Jesus is God. What is it, then, about the testimonies in favor of Jesus’s divinity that means that I should accept them over against the testimonies against Jesus’s divinity?

    • Anthony on September 28, 2011 at 10:55 am
      Author

    “People have worked pretty hard on developing ways of setting and enforcing international human rights standards without invoking outside, divine authorities.”

    But you misunderstand the Christian argument about this. You are behaving as though morality is a buffet and every religion brings their own dish to the table and every culture has fondness for some dishes over against other dishes, and Christianity is just one more religion putting food out on the table.

    The Christian argument is not only interested in what choices we have to eat, but the fact that we have to eat at all. Moreover, the Christian notes that despite the diversity of what is offered on the table and what people prefer to eat, people DO EAT and only some things are edible. Underneath the great diversity there is in fact a great unity. One group prefers wheat and another rice but they are both grains… and not chunks of concrete.

    An ‘international’ body could certainly come up with health standards without openly admitting that it is a true fact that we have got to eat, hence the need for the food safety standards, and they could certainly do this without taking into account the existence of a Chef, or chefs, that produced the food.

    They are certainly welcome to do so, but it is not an argument of any worth against Christianity that they can do so, for it only supports the Christian observation that we all do eat and that prepared food implies a chef somewhere. The two things are entirely different matters.

    To put this in more theological terms, the Christian contention is that we are all made in God’s image. As such, we are all created to exhibit certain preferences. It is not at all the point that Christians have a particular ‘moral code’ to put up for consideration. It is the Christian’s point that we are moral at all and if our moral statements are to have more meaning than “I prefer my potatoes mashed”, morality cannot reduce to humans.

    The fact that humans have ever been able to agree on certain moral principles, at least in broad terms, is an argument in our favor. It is not an argument against.

    • Anthony on September 28, 2011 at 10:56 am
      Author

    “For Jesus’s divinity, what testimony could we possibly have that would serve as evidence?”

    I think this question is better put this way: “For Jesus’s divinity, what evidence could we possibly have that we would consider credible?”

    Until this is thought through, you can go no where.

    • Anthony on September 28, 2011 at 11:11 am
      Author

    “With your example of a “foot”, different societies used to define the length of a foot differently than they do today. Your atheist is right that the only reason “foot” has meaning as a measure of length is because people have set up among themselves a common definition of the length of a foot, for convenience’s sake.”

    I almost forgot to respond to this. You’re right that the atheist is right about that, but you missed my follow up to that:

    “Which is all fine and dandy, if only they could stick with it consistently. But when I say, “Well then, I say that this 13 length is a foot. I’m a human, and you say humans set the standard, so that’s what I’m going to say a foot is” suddenly they cry foul,”

    I have as much right to declare that a foot is 13 inches rather than 12, since it is no more than a human convention. If no one goes along with it or honors it, that’s irrelevant. Certainly no one could say that I was wrong to do that. If the atheist would extend the analogy consistently to moral issues, I’d obviously think they are wrong, but I would at least commend them for their consistency.

    But they are unwilling to do that in regards to morality. There are hordes of people out there that believe all sorts of things are right and wrong that they detest and don’t think their detestation is just a turn of their stomach. At least, they don’t act that way. They want their moral statements to be taken seriously while at the same time arguing that morality is relative.

    They do that because they know that the implications of an objective morality powerfully suggest the existence of God. So, they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to make moral statements, be taken seriously, but say that this isn’t because there is an actual standard to be measured against.

    I am not interested in discussing particular points of morality that we may have in common or that Christians may offer somewhat uniquely. At least, not until we are on the same page: our moral statements can be taken seriously AND there is a moral standard to measure those statements against. Otherwise, it’s like arguing about how long a ‘foot’ is when you insist that ‘foot’ can can change depending on convenience and convention. I would never engage in that debate. 🙂 But atheists would very much like me to.

    • Alex (Patron Saint of the Confused) on September 28, 2011 at 11:57 am

    You would not be wrong to declare a thirteen-inch length a foot, Anthony. It would simply be a definition that, being entirely private to you, would be useless in terms of communicating the length of something to another person.

    I do want my moral statements to be taken seriously (that’s why I have moral arguments with people). But I’m aware that I am just one voice and one conscience among many. Whether people listen or not is wholly up to them.

    I agree that in order to have a moral discussion, it helps greatly if you and I happen to share definitions. Both of us were brought up as Christians, so I suspect that a great deal of our moral definitions are shared. The God about whom I am somewhat skeptical is, after all, the Christian God; had I been brought up a Sikh, I would instead be being skeptical about a Sikh conception of God.

    However, if you do argue that before having to defend the truth or otherwise of Christianity, you and your interlocutor have to agree that “there is a moral standard to measure those statements against”, then there is a sense in which you are requiring that your opponent concede before the apologetics can begin; you’re effectively saying that against people who don’t share the notion of there being a moral standard we can measure against, apologetics is inherently futile.

    “For Jesus’s divinity, what evidence could we possibly have that we would consider credible?”

    On a matter such as this, a direct road-to-Emmaus revelation would be very helpful to me, I can tell ya! If it’s really important to God to have me Believe, he’s both welcome and able to reveal himself to me.

    In lieu of that, the kind of evidence I might appreciate would be evidence from unexpected places, such as: reports from usually reliable sources of people brought up without contact with Christians having visions of Christ, or medically verified miracles shown to result from invoking the name of Christ.

    What convinces you?

    You are behaving as though morality is a buffet and every religion brings their own dish to the table and every culture has fondness for some dishes over against other dishes, and Christianity is just one more religion putting food out on the table.

    Yup. That’s exactly what I am doing, because I have no reason to suppose anything different. I can’t fairly start from the notion that there is anything special about Christianity’s offering; it’s up to the apologist to show that there is, not up to me to prove that there isn’t.

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