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Your Beliefs are a Threat to the State Itself

Christianity has always been considered a threat to governments, because it maintains that individuals answer first and foremost to God–and by ‘individuals’ we also mean those running the governments.

Rome led things off, even going so far as to accuse Christians of being atheists, for not being willing to give sacrifices to the gods.  Just one problem:  one of those gods was the emperor himself.  Despite being the best possible citizens one could have, Christians were deemed a threat to the integrity of the state itself.  I document and discuss this thoroughly in this long treatment I wrote awhile back.

Religionists would be deemed a threat to the state in the French Revolution, and would be slaughtered by the bushels in the name of the ‘age of reason.’  The “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” explicitly distills all authority into the state:

3.  The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

The ‘limits’ of ‘Natural rights’ can be ‘determined by law.’  (Art. 4).  Put it all together:  our rights come from the state.  The enlightened french did allow people to have their religious views, “provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.”  How nice of them!  It is not hard to see how such a view would not comport very well with religious views that puts sovereignty first and foremost with God, who then delegates some of that authority to humans;  Christianity posed a threat to the French nation.

Compare and contrast with the American system, which said that our rights came from God, not the state, and one of these rights was freedom of religious expression (ie, not just possession of religious views).

The communists saw, and still see, Christianity as a threat to the nation for the same reasons.  Christianity believes that God created the world, created us male and female, will hold us accountable for our disobedience, and has bought us all for a price–thus establishing that we each have a value that transcends whatever the state might decide we have. Religious expression under the Soviet and Chinese communist systems was highly restricted and viewed as tantamount to treason if not done according to the ‘public order established by law.’  They just had a different vision of ‘public order’ than the Enlightened French did, you see.  China may have lightened up somewhat, but I would not suggest being a Christian in North Korea.

The Nazis of course fully embraced this perspective.  Point 24 of the Nazi party platform of 1920 reads:

24. We demand freedom for all religious denominations in the State, provided they do not threaten its existence not offend the moral feelings of the German race.

The Party, as such, stands for positive Christianity, but does not commit itself to any particular denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and without us, and is convinced that our nation can achieve permanent health only from within on the basis of the principle: The common interest before self-interest.  [emphasis in original, I believe]

And we know how that worked out.

In today’s news, we read that five Christians in Iran have been arrested for the highly treasonous act of praying together in a house:

“There has been a noticeable increase in the harassment, arrests, trials and imprisonments of converts to Christianity, particularly since the beginning of 2012,” Kankhwende said. “Any movement that differs from or offers an alternative to orthodox Shia Islam, and any persons who chooses to follow an alternative belief system, are interpreted as a challenge to the very state itself.”

In Islam, like with Rome, like with the Communists, like with the French in the late 1700s, the state is identifiable with the highest levels of authority.  I am literally in an email correspondence right now with a Muslim who insists that Islam is friendly with Christians, “giving them their freedom.”  You see it, right?  On his view, rights and freedoms flow from the state.  (In his case, an Islamic state, or eventual world Caliphate) Any view that suggests there is anything higher than the state is dangerous view.

This is no theoretical philosophizing.  The systems described above produced outcomes that can be measured by how high the stacks of bodies got.  It is simply a fact of history that the most dangerous entity is a state that believes it is the end all and be all, the final reservoir of all rights, and the ultimate dispenser of those rights.  Check out Rummel’s democide site, and see how many exceptions you can find, and measure the deaths in those exceptional cases against the ones that fit my description.

With this kind of history behind us, we should be not merely be wary, we should be positively troubled by Obama’s constant statements that America’s constitution gives us a ‘freedom of worship.’  He equivocates, identifying ‘freedom of expression’ with ‘freedom of worship’ and/or, ‘freedom of religious views.’  This is why he has no problem trampling on the religious freedoms of millions of Americans.  He is a Progressive;  he views the state as the ultimate reservoir of all rights, and the ultimate dispenser of those rights.  When religion gets in the way of the ‘public order as established by law’ then the common good must take precedence.  Here is a very good article discussing Obama’s contorted notion of ‘religious freedom.’  It is recent, but many commentators have been making this point for some time.

America is a country of checks and balances, and it is precisely for this reason that it has been so successful.  What many people don’t realize is that the framers of the Constitution envisioned other checks and balances besides having three branches of the government.  The right to bear arms was one such check.  The right to religious freedom of expression is another, because it has allowed American’s citizens the right to criticize its own country and hold it to a standard that transcends the country itself.  Get rid of either of these two checks, and watch what happens.  And it is happening, piece by piece.

Even if you do not believe in Christianity, if you do not work to protect the ironclad right to express one’s religion, not merely have religious viewpoints, I don’t think you will be pleased with how things come home to roost.  Moreover, if you are in the camp that believes the state is the be all and end all, watch out!  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

To see how America might have turned out, check out my recent short story where I contemplate what might have happened if Hitler had been killed in the early 1920s.  It’s called Mordecai’s DilemmaCheck it out.

 

92 Responses to Your Beliefs are a Threat to the State Itself

  1. Gott mit uns.

  2. A couple of problems here.

    1
    Your example of Islam is waaaaaay off. You don’t seriously believe that the imams and sheiks running Iran think that ‘any view that suggests there is anything higher than the state is a dangerous view’, do you?

    2
    Speaking of Islam, I’m glad you mentioned it, because it’s a perfect example of why we absolutely should *not* look to religion for our rights.

    You assume we get our rights from god. You also assume you’ve picked the right one.

    3
    If you’re going to raise all these examples of what happens when we all assume the state is the be all and end all, you really need to look at what happens when the be all and end all is god instead.

    Be warned though… It doesn’t do your point any favours.

  3. 4
    You fail to distinguish between the religious views of the government and those of its citizens. Even if we concede that National Socialism didn’t have some kind of divine providence at its heart (a massive concession) you’re still left with the inescapable truth that the vast majority of the deaths you mention came at the hands of god fearing Christians.

  4. 1. You are completely in error here on your understanding of Islam. Keywords: caliphate, sharia, sharia law. You appear to be unaware that Muslims seek, as a matter of faith, Islamic rule over the whole world. Jesus said ‘my kingdom is not of this world.’ Big difference.

    You atheists only have one argument here, and I know it well: religion is dangerous and bad blah blah blah now let me tell you about how the MUSLIMS blow up cafeterias, cut off heads, chop off arms, fly planes into buildings, oh, and while I’m talking about the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, if not millions, that have died at the hands of Muslims this last century, don’t forget that one time a Christian killed an abortionist.

    Even Dawkins and the late Hitchens woke up to the fact that just calling something ‘religion’ doesn’t properly take into account the radical differences between Christianity and Islam–and how, categorically, the LATTER is dangerous and increasingly dangerous, and the former much, much innocent.

    2. This point is worth talking about further. First of all, your statement does not reflect what I said. I did NOT say that we got our rights from religion. Getting them from God and getting them from religion are not the same thing. While my argument does assume that Christianity is true, this is not necessary for the point to still stand.

    3. You make this comment as though I didn’t already anticipate it in the OP, but I did. Feel free to make your case. I expect a repeat of an exchange I once saw between Dan Barker and Francis Manion about ten years ago, when Barker made the same kind of statement and Manion said, “I’m prepared to compare the piles of bodies done by Christians and in the name of Christianity against the stacks of bodies done by philosophical materialists in the 20th century, right now.”

    Barker was silent. He knows that the case can’t be made. It only works as a ‘drive by’ argument against people who don’t have a clue about the real history of the 20th century.

    4. I don’t understand what you’re getting at here. Governments don’t ‘have religious views’ because governments are not persons. They are composed of persons. What is your definition of a ‘god fearing Christian’? I think at minimum it is a person who actually believes that Christianity is true. 1920s-1930s Germany was the heyday of liberal bible critics who believed that very little of the Bible or Christianity was actually true. Keywords: Rudolf Bultmann, Adolf von Harnack, and Paul Tillich.

    While I would concede that there were probably a lot of ‘god fearing Christians’ in the regular army, I think you will be hard pressed to provide many examples within the Nazi government, the SS, the Gestapo, and so on and so forth.

    Sometimes I think you forget that Hitler was a liar.

    Anyway, I will have you note that one of the worst periods of abuse by Christians was at the hands of the Roman Catholics and the papacy. This era also saw the conflation of world rule with the ‘kingdom of God.’ They were obviously wrong to do this; the texts do not support that at all, whereas the Koran does. But even so, if you added up all those killed during the crusades and the inquisitions, they still would pale in comparison to all but a few of the ‘quiet’ years in the 20th century.

    Another example of this conflation is the Church of England. It was precisely because of those kinds of abuses that the United States took on the character it did.

    5.

    You didn’t say a 5., but I would invite you to present you superior approach. If God is not the ‘end all and be all’ what is your alternative?

  5. Relating to 5, I would invite you to expand on 2 Timmy. Do you believe rights come from the State? If so, how do you square away the often seen liberal tactics of getting the State to change policies by claiming something to be a ‘fundamental right’ like we see in the case of ‘same-sex marriage’?

    Liberals often say rights come from the State, but when the State does not grant a right that liberals feel it should, they suddenly appeal to a higher standard above the State in order to effect change.

    Is this not a glaring contradiction? Where then does this ‘higher standard’ come from? And how does the atheistic view that there is no greater authority than Mankind (as DB so eloquently put it once – “It’s just us down here.”) jibe with appealing to an authority that apparently transcends Mankind and it’s created State?

  6. EB – who or what is the authority we appeal to that “transcends Mankind and it’s [sic] created State”?

  7. Tony,

    1
    I really don’t think I am in error here at all. I fully admit that one of the stated aims of mainstream Islam is the creation of a global Islamic state (a view not held by all Muslims, mind… but a majority at least). But I thought we were discussing the source of our rights, not the earthly entities that allow or deny them?

    Muslims, like you and EB, believe their duty to Islamify the world comes from god. You both insist there is something higher than the state.

    And, for the record, the argument is not “religion is dangerous”, the argument is “religion can be dangerous”. I have no problem with Jains, for example.

    2
    Apologies – I often use ‘religion’ and ‘god’ interchangeably, and have been picked up on this before. It’s an easy slip to make, since religion is just one individuals’s interpretation of god and his wishes.

    And, I must apologise again, for your assumption is absolutely necessary for your point to stand. It’s all very well to say “Our rights are imbued by god”, until you get to the point of asking yourself, “Which god?”. That is, of course, where religion comes in, and if you want to ignore religion (and I don’t think you can), your point seems to be a very technical one with not many conclusions worth discussing.

    That is, there is a very big difference between saying our rights come from Yahweh, and our rights from Allah.

    3
    First of all, I think the whole “body count” argument to be irrelevant. I only make the point now to counter your own use of it.

    The issues are around motivation, world population, and technology. Even if I admit Hitler and Stalin were atheists, you need to demonstrate that they did what they did because they were atheists. And the consensus seems to be that they did what they did simply because they were megalomaniacal wankers. Also, it shouldn’t need stating that a large part of the reason the body counts from those regimes are are bigger is simply because the world’s population was bigger, and we had invented a great many more ways to kill each other.

    Would happen if the Crusades happened today? Or the Inquisition?

    4
    If governments don’t have religious views, then why do they need to tell us we get our rights from god? And before you say that religion and god are not the same thing, admitting there is a god, and forming an opinion as to what rights he or hasn’t given us, is a religious view.

    I like your point that the texts don’t support any of the tyranny of the Catholic Church. I honestly would love to see a modern biblical scholar such as yourself debate a 10th century theologian on whether or not the Crusades were a good idea. The bible being what it is, you would find it impossible to win.

    5
    As I say above, the technical point around where our rights come from seems, to me at least, to be rather useless. The fact remains that the power to allow or deny any divinely imbued rights rests with us.

  8. Uh…that’s exactly what I’m asking you, Timmy.

    Liberals/Atheists claim rights come from the State. Then when they try to impose a policy that isn’t currently granted by the State they claim said policy is a ‘fundamental right’ that the State should adhere. Obviously this a problem (for liberals). You can’t say rights come from the State, then say something is a right BEFORE the State grants it.

    Thus Liberals/atheists are faced with a problem: where does this ‘fundemantal right’ (which apparently transcends the State) come from under the liberal/atheistic world view?

  9. Uh… no, you didn’t. You said:

    Liberals often say rights come from the State, but when the State does not grant a right that liberals feel it should, they suddenly appeal to a higher standard above the State in order to effect change.

    …with no mention of what this ‘higher standard’ is, and then you ask:

    Where then does this ‘higher standard’ come from?

    …with, once again, no mention of what it actually is.

    Where something comes from, and what something is, are two very different questions. I can’t answer the former, until you answer the latter.

  10. “Muslims, like you and EB, believe their duty to Islamify the world comes from god. You both insist there is something higher than the state.”

    I don’t recall SJ ever saying he had a duty to Islamify the world, and I sure as heck don’t.

    “And, for the record, the argument is not “religion is dangerous”, the argument is “religion can be dangerous”. I have no problem with Jains, for example.”

    No,the arguement is defintiely “religion is dangerous.” It may not be the one you personally make, but other Liberals have, while simultaneously asserting ‘A-theism’ doesn’t fall under the religious banner.

    “It’s an easy slip to make, since religion is just one individuals’s interpretation of god and his wishes.”

    This shows how you have a very limited and innaccurate understanding of what ‘religion’ actually is. Obviously you have a lack of experience with Buddhsim or other similar beliefs that don’t profess the existence of an ominpotent God or ‘prime mover’ in the same sense Christianity/Judaism/Islam does.

    “Also, it shouldn’t need stating that a large part of the reason the body counts from those regimes are are bigger is simply because the world’s population was bigger, and we had invented a great many more ways to kill each other.”

    I too have often seen this argument. Of course it fails when we consider that Christianity is still around with this bigger population, and more advanced ways to kill each other…yet the only major comparison atheists can come up with is still way back when the average citizen didn’t have the easy access to a Bible we have today. But here we still are with the ‘State is the be all, end all’ attitude (note Timmy, SJ never said “atheism” but it’s interesting how you made the connection all on your own) after 100 years and the bodies are still piling up.

    Of course under that logic, it just means the body count would be even BIGGER, with more people and even more advanced technology under such a view… and you’d still only be able to point back in the past for a comparison with Christianity.

    “As I say above, the technical point around where our rights come from seems, to me at least, to be rather useless. The fact remains that the power to allow or deny any divinely imbued rights rests with us.”

    Well as useless as it may ‘seem’ to you, it really isn’t. After all, why should anyone obey any government if all laws just amount to being ‘just this schmuk’s opinion’? Obedience to traffic laws? Meh, it’s just the invention of some guy I never met. Theft is a crime? Says who, and why should I care? Murder is bad? I’ve got my own opinion.

    6 billion people and each one with their own personal opinions, Timmy. So yeah, I’d say hammering down where rights come from is a VERY important matter to address. It’s what determines why anyone should honor and obey them.

  11. “Where something comes from, and what something is, are two very different questions. I can’t answer the former, until you answer the latter.”

    I’m confused on what you are talking about here. The ‘higher standard’ is the ‘higher standard’. It’s what liberals inherently and implicitly appeal to whenever they talk about ‘funadmental rights’ like they feel ‘same-sex marriage’ and abortion and such that the State must grant even BEFORE The State grants it.

    I really don’t know why I need to clarify what ‘higher standard’ is, when ‘higher standard’ speaks for itself. Thus you must answer: where does this higher standard come from under an atheistic worldview?

  12. I don’t recall SJ ever saying he had a duty to Islamify the world, and I sure as heck don’t.

    HAHAA… oh EB… still boxing at shadows, I see. Thanks for the laugh though, however unintended.

    This shows how you have a very limited and innaccurate understanding of what ‘religion’ actually is. Obviously you have a lack of experience with Buddhsim or other similar beliefs that don’t profess the existence of an ominpotent God or ‘prime mover’ in the same sense Christianity/Judaism/Islam does.

    HAHAAA… ah man, you’re on fire today! I don’t call Buddhism a religion.

  13. Actually, Tim, I think you should say, “I can’t answer the former, because I have no answer.” 😉

    On to your comments to me. First of all, I accept you many apologies.

    1.

    “I fully admit that one of the stated aims of mainstream Islam is the creation of a global Islamic state”

    Well, that’s my whole point, so we’re golden.

    “But I thought we were discussing the source of our rights, not the earthly entities that allow or deny them”

    Now we are, but in the original OP, that wasn’t the case. The point is to what degree is the state identical with the highest ideals/frame of reference, and how that has turned out in history.

    “You both insist there is something higher than the state.”

    Your confusion is that in Islam, the something ‘higher’ is essentially attainable via successfully creating the Islamic state. Christianity has no such warrant. There are a very tiny few groups that have a different view. It is not common, because it is hard to square up with Jesus’ remark that his kingdom is not of this world.

    2
    “Apologies – I often use ‘religion’ and ‘god’ interchangeably, and have been picked up on this before. It’s an easy slip to make, since religion is just one individuals’s interpretation of god and his wishes.”

    Oh, good! So you admit then that communism and nazism do not constitute a religion?

    “And, I must apologise again, for your assumption is absolutely necessary for your point to stand.”

    My view is that unless we posit that our rights do not come from the always-so-generous dispensation of the state, then we are forever at the mercy whatever any particular state decides to give us. You call this religious, but I’m pretty sure that there have been people who have my view who are not religious. Thomas Paine leaps to mind. But let’s say you’re right–if you are right, then you are saying that it is only through religion that we have rights at all. You insist we take religion out of it and all that seems to leave–on your view– is might makes right. All else is religious, and ‘dangerous.’

    “That is, there is a very big difference between saying our rights come from Yahweh, and our rights from Allah”

    There is, but in either case, taken simply as you stated, the rights come from something other than the state. The Muslim insistence on world domination is a separate doctrine, independent than the existence of God. But its true, whatever benefit may have been conveyed by chalking up our rights to Allah is blotted out by their other doctrines.

    I thank you for conceding that there is a very big difference between Yahweh and Allah. :)

    3

    “Even if I admit Hitler and Stalin were atheists,”

    I am not making the argument that Hitler and Stalin were atheists. You’re acting as though that’s the point, when I’ve been pretty clear that that IS NOT the point. Why would I include Muslims if that was the point? The POINT is that both Hitler and Stalin had views that identified the state as the highest end to attain and aspire to. It is this particular plank in their respective worldviews I’m highlighting.

    “Would happen if the Crusades happened today? Or the Inquisition?”

    You know as well as I do that it just ain’t going to happen. It is Jihad you have to worry about, not a Crusade. Let’s be practical.

    4
    “If governments don’t have religious views, then why do they need to tell us we get our rights from god? And before you say that religion and god are not the same thing, admitting there is a god, and forming an opinion as to what rights he or hasn’t given us, is a religious view.”

    I honestly do not understand what you’re saying here. Sorry.

    “I like your point that the texts don’t support any of the tyranny of the Catholic Church. I honestly would love to see a modern biblical scholar such as yourself debate a 10th century theologian on whether or not the Crusades were a good idea. The bible being what it is, you would find it impossible to win.”

    Of course, the Crusades were spread out over hundreds of years. But you fail to take into account something that Dannyboy also fails to take into account, and that is how little people at the time were literate at all. The reason why the Catholic Church no longer has the power it had is because every Christian, Catholics included, can open up their Bibles and analyze whatever claim is being put before them. If it were really the case that the Bible could be made to support such things, then you really would see calls for crusades and inquisitions, wouldn’t you? Alas, you don’t, and you won’t. Because bottom line, the texts do not support such things. Good for the world, bad for you, cuz it means your argument fails. 😉

    5
    “The fact remains that the power to allow or deny any divinely imbued rights rests with us.”

    So, in other words, we don’t have rights. Correct?

  14. “Thanks for the laugh though, however unintended.”

    It was very much intended, and I’m glad it worked.

    “I don’t call Buddhism a religion.”

    …that kind of begs the question on what you do call it, exactly. And why it qualifies in being in it’s own seperate catagory.

  15. EB, you are making approximately zero sense.

  16. I doubt that. I suspect you’re just trying to wriggle your way out of giving an answer to my question because as SJ put it – you have no answer. But I’ll give it one last shot.

    Liberals say ‘Rights come from the State.’

    The State doesn’t acknowledge ‘same-sex marriage.’

    Liberals come and say ‘same-sex marriage’ is a ‘fundamental right’ and should acknowledge it as such.

    The State acknowledges it as such, because it recognizes it as a ‘right’ that transcends the State and would be guilty of violating if not acknoweldged*.

    Here we see the State bowing to a standard higher than itself and thus conceding it has authority over the State. This requires the at minimum concession that the ‘higher standard of authority’ does indeed exist.

    Where then does this ‘higher standard of authority’ come from under the liberal/atheist world view?

    *Note that “acknowledging” is fundamentally different from “granting” which is what would be the case if ‘rights’ ultimately did only come from the State.

  17. makes sense to me, EB.

  18. That’s a concern, Tony. :-)

    EB – I know the answer to both the question you think you’re asking, and the question you should be asking.

    Not asking the right question shows you lack the understanding to be discussing this subject at all.

  19. Uh-huh. And when you’re so transparently stalling to any question put to you whatsoever it shows a lack of discussion even exists.

  20. EB, how have you managed to make even less sense than you were before? A lack of discussion even exists…? What on earth does that mean?

    Since it appears you won’t clue in any time soon, I will do you a solid.

    This mysterious “higher power” you say we appeal to (which is an appalling name for it), is reason. And when combined with utilitarianism, we have the only sensible method for framing laws which must be applied to a citizenry comprised of a diverse range of beliefs, fears, and hopes.

    Now, does that answer your question? Or were you asking where reason comes from?

  21. “This mysterious “higher power” you say we appeal to (which is an appalling name for it), is reason.”

    ROFL, spoken like a true French Revolutionary.

    I can’t think of a funnier thing I’ve read in a long time. Thanks Tim, I needed that.

  22. Haha, no problem… Always happy to help.

    But, of course, I can just say that some of the actions of the French revolutionaries weren’t supported by reason, can’t I?

  23. You can say that, but it would just be your opinion.

  24. Finally! Something that resembles an answer, however disjointed and not really explained!

    “This mysterious “higher power” you say we appeal to (which is an appalling name for it), is reason. And when combined with utilitarianism, we have the only sensible method for framing laws which must be applied to a citizenry comprised of a diverse range of beliefs, fears, and hopes.”

    Is this your 5? And you might find it less “appalling” if you use the words I actually say – ‘higher standard (of authority).’ Not “higher power.”

    So your contention is that the ‘higher standard’ liberals/atheists invoke when talking about ‘fundamental rights’ is “reason.” What on earth does that even mean? How do rights like freedom of speech or the press or supposedly ‘same-sex marriage’ come from the ‘power of the mind’ (I assume this is the definition you’re going with; correct me if I’m wrong)? Isn’t that just saying ‘rights’ are a product of our imagination?

    And how is that suppose to be any kind of determinator in debates like ‘same-sex marriage’? There’s “reason” in granting it as a ‘right.’ There’s “reason” in not acknowledging it as a ‘right.’ We’re just suppose to go with the ‘majority’s happiness’ (which is where I guess the utilitarianism comes in)? Why? And how exactly does that work for liberals appealing for the ‘rights’ of minorities? Ask DB, he doesn’t give a flip what the majority thinks on such matters.

    You’re throwing noodles at the fridge and seeing what sticks, Timmy. You need to do some more hammering out on the finner details of your own beliefs before you come back to this discussion.

  25. Exactly.

    Just like your statement that the Inquisition and Crusades weren’t supported by scripture.

  26. Well, you can say that if you want, but it doesn’t help you. All you’ve done is lower ‘reason’ to ‘religion.’ So, on your view, religion is all “all just one’s opinion” and so is “reason.” On your view, we’re back to “Might makes right” and you bending over backwards not to acknowledge it.

  27. No, we’re back to ‘Just because someone says they’re doing something in the name of reason, doesn’t mean it’s reasonable’. And given some of the examples you’re tossing up to defend your point, that’s a fairly important observation.

  28. The problem is that in order for your position to be sensible in the slightest, it requires that there exists a standard apart and beyond humans, which is precisely what you deny. I assure you, on my worldview, it is definitely the case that not everything done in the name of reason really is reasonable, but that’s because my worldview is compatible with reason. Yours is not. You are borrowing from a ‘non-materialistic’ bank account to pay a debt that materialism cannot in principle ever pay.

    For your statement to be construed as anything beyond mumbo jumbo, we must suppose that if (for example) there were only 10 people in the world, and all 10 of them declared that 2+2=5, and were quite convinced of it, they would still be wrong. In other words, the truly reasonable must transcend the reasoners, or else it is all arbitrary and capricious.

    Or, to put it yet one more way, for your comment to mean anything, it is necessary that if no person existed, past, present, or future, the law of identity, the law of noncontradiction, 2+2=4, etc, all, still exist as real things; but if they exist, they are immaterial and transcendental. And if they are immaterial and transcendental, your materialism cannot possibly be true. But if they are material and exist only on the plane of the human reasoners, then it follows actually that anything a person does in the name of reason, is reasonable.

    To put it one final way: your statement only makes sense and is true if Christianity is true (or some other system that posits the existence of transcendental realities). If atheism is true, your statement is incoherent.

    And if you disagree, too bad, it’s my opinion, and its as valid as yours. 😉

  29. EB, your “gotcha” argument around our “higher authority” is one of the silliest I’ve ever heard. You’re essentially saying we can never change our mind on anything, and, if that was the case, women would still be waiting for their chance to vote, and Obama wouldn’t be president, he’d be picking cotton for your grandpappy. Universal suffrage and the end to slavery were both fiercly opposed by a significant number of Christians and Christian authorities – and unlike the commoners who Tony seems to think caused the Crusades and the Inquisition, they all had access to the bible.

    So yes, it’s perfectly sensible for us to sit up and say “Hang on, the reasons why we only allow men and women to marry are pretty arbitrary, and many of them no longer apply, and same-sex atracted / intersex / transgender / transsexual people want to marry each other, and it will make them happy without affecting anyone else, so I think we should allow it”. The only appeal is to common sense, which isn’t really a “higher authority”. Well, for most of us, anyway.

    It is far, far more ridiculous to sit their with your fingers in your ears yelling “WAAAAAAAH the Bible says it’s wrong WAAAAAAAAH”.

  30. Tony,

    Firstly, let me say that, after re-reading everything, I think I agree with you. If the state is the highest authority there is, it generally ends badly. I don’t agree with some of your examples, and some of the underlying justifications, but I think your broad conclusion is fairly sensible.

    However…

    The higher authority is not god, but us. The state should, and must, answer to its citizens, not a randomly selected deity.

    Thus, the argument essentially devolves into the merits or otherwise of secularism. And if you’ve been reading my blog, which I know you do… er… religiously, you’ll know why I believe secularism is the only way to go.

  31. “If the state is the highest authority there is, it generally ends badly.”

    :)

    “I don’t agree with some of your examples”

    I’m not sure what there is to disagree with. In each of the examples provided, the perpetrators of the ‘bad things’ believed that the state was the highest authority. I gave some some documentation for some them. Not exhaustive, I know, but I did back up my claims. There is ample material to continue doing so.

    “The higher authority is not god, but us. The state should, and must, answer to its citizens, not a randomly selected deity.”

    I don’t think you really advance this conversation by contrasting things against ‘a randomly selected deity.’ You don’t like my conclusions, that’s fine, but your own answers should be able to stand on their own merits, without reference to the things you don’t like. Is your argument ‘positive’ in nature, or purely ‘negative’? You should set against my ‘positive’ argument your own positive argument.

    In this sentence, you advanced something ‘positive,’ by contrasting against ‘the state being the highest authority’ the notion that the ‘the state’s citizens are the highest authority.’ I think we will advance the conversation if we work with that.

    So….
    1. If the ‘state’ is an abstract construct describing a collection of individuals, on your view, what is the difference between the ‘state’ and ‘the individuals in the state’?
    2. You say the state ‘should, and must answer to its citizens.’ Is this a moral imperative? Something else?
    3. What is the basis for this moral imperative? Why should anyone agree with you? Isn’t this the kind of thing that the powerless citizen would say? Wouldn’t the powerful king/ruler say something else? What standard would you direct them to that they SHOULD conform to, and where does that standard come from?
    4. How is your view distinguishable from ‘might makes right’?
    5. If one set of citizens in one state believes they should burn their resident Jews in ovens, what business is it of the citizens in another state to object? On what basis could an objection be raised, provided that that particular state’s citizens fully endorse frying them up?

    Sorry, haven’t read your blog lately. :( But I think I have the basic gist of the argument, anyway. :)

    Thus, the argument essentially devolves into the merits or otherwise of secularism. And if you’ve been reading my blog, which I know you do… er… religiously, you’ll know why I believe secularism is the only way to go.

  32. By ‘positive’ argument I made, I don’t mean just this OP, but the many, many on this blog, which I believe you are largely aware of.

  33. “You’re essentially saying we can never change our mind on anything, and, if that was the case, women would still be waiting for their chance to vote, and Obama wouldn’t be president, he’d be picking cotton for your grandpappy.”

    I’m not saying you can’t change your mind. I’m saying that’s all it is under your views – arbitarary opinion to be changed on a whim. As such, women not voting or blacks being slaves isn’t a ‘violation of fundamental rights’ and thus you can’t really object to it on those grounds. Which is SJ’s point – when such an ideal becomes the foundation of people’s attitude towards governing don’t be surprised when things don’t turn out the way you want them. Because there are a lot of progressives and liberals working in the State with opinions more extreme than yours.

    “Universal suffrage and the end to slavery were both fiercly opposed by a significant number of Christians and Christian authorities – and unlike the commoners who Tony seems to think caused the Crusades and the Inquisition, they all had access to the bible.”

    *shrug* There were also a lot of significant Christians and Christian authorities that were fierce advocates against slavery and such. And they could do so rationally thanks to having a standard of authority that transcends the ever ‘changing minds’ of the State.

    Of course, it’s the fact such institutions don’t exist today, that lends a hint to where the Bible actually stands on such matters. Thus why you don’t see a major movement to return to such policies within the Christian community, just like you don’t see a major movement for world domination and ‘killing of infidels’ for that exact same reason.

    Especially now that the very secular reasons regarding cultural perogatives and economic concerns have been removed.

    “So yes, it’s perfectly sensible for us to sit up and say “Hang on, the reasons why we only allow men and women to marry are pretty arbitrary, and many of them no longer apply…”

    Given this is a total ignoral of the basic biological realities of reproduction and rearing children, no I’d say it’s as far removed from ‘sensible’ as possible.

    “…and same-sex atracted / intersex / transgender / transsexual people want to marry each other, and it will make them happy without affecting anyone else, so I think we should allow it”.

    Also an ignoral of the reality that changing culture affects everyone, and actually makes a fair number of people ‘unhappy.’ If not a majority of people.

    “The only appeal is to common sense, which isn’t really a “higher authority”. Well, for most of us, anyway.”

    Wrong about the ‘sense,’ but for liberals that is indeed quite ‘common.’ 😉

    “It is far, far more ridiculous to sit their with your fingers in your ears yelling “WAAAAAAAH the Bible says it’s wrong WAAAAAAAAH”.”

    And as you’ve proven the only thing you have to counter that is yelling “WAAAAAAH I say it’s right WAAAAAAH.” And seems to be no more valid.

  34. Ignoral?

    Seriously?

  35. Would you prefer ‘cuckoo-crazy’ more?

  36. 1. I would prefer words that actually exist.

    2. Does “Given this is a total cuckoo-crazy of the basic biological realities of reproduction and rearing children” make sense to you?

  37. 1. I’d prefer you actually address what’s being discussed.

    2. Does ‘dodging the point’ make sense to you?

  38. Fair enough, EB. My sincerest apologies.

    I’m saying that’s all it is under your views – arbitarary [sic] opinion to be changed on a whim. As such, women not voting or blacks being slaves isn’t a ‘violation of fundamental rights’ and thus you can’t really object to it on those grounds.

    But that’s the thingliest, EB. It’s not my opinionationing. It’s not anyone’s opinionationing. There is no evidencest to suggestingly that blacks are unferious to whitesliest, or that allowing womenisms to voting is dangerousness.

    And, ounce againing, marriagest equalitating is a perfectingly axampla. There is plentifuling of evidencish that the peopling that will be directingly unfected by the chonge wantifying the chonge. There is zerole evidencish that the chonge will impactify anyone else nogatively. Zerole.

    You say that it ignorifies biomological realitism, and will have deleteriousnessly cooltural impactifies, but you seem to forgettingish that these were the mayne argluements againsting booth the examplesh previouslism sighted. Blackishness were dumbly, and uncivilisedment, and womenlies were unmotional, and would vote for whoeverment was promisifying the cheaping clotheslinesing. You’re just trottliting out the sum old tiredishness clichesisms, unbacked by any evidencesh whatsowhomever.

    Your the won with the opinionationings.

    Your the won with a positionly basing entiriting on faithishness. And what is faithishness, if not opinionationing?

  39. Sorry, had my “EB translator” on. Let me try again.

    But that’s the thing, EB. It’s not my opinion. It’s not anyone’s opinion. There is no evidence to suggest that blacks are inferior to whites, or that allowing women to vote is dangerous.

    And, once again, marriage equality is a perfect example. There is plenty of evidence that the people that will be directly affected by the change want the change. There is zero evidence that the change will impact anyone else negatively. Zero.

    You say that it ignores biological reality, and will have deleterious cultural impacts, but you seem to forget that these were the main arguments against both the examples previously cited. Blacks were dumb, and uncivilised, and women were emotional, and would vote for whoever promised the cheapest clotheslines. You’re just trotting out the same old tired cliches, unbacked by any evidence whatsoever.

    You’re the one with the opinion.

    You’re the one with a position based entirely on faith. And what is faith, if not opinion?
    ____

    Bit easier to read, eh? Well now you know how I feel.

  40. “But that’s the thingliest, EB. It’s not my opinionationing. It’s not anyone’s opinionationing. There is no evidencest to suggestingly that blacks are unferious to whitesliest, or that allowing womenisms to voting is dangerousness.”

    Of course it’s just opinion. It’s about as much opinion as saying ‘chocolate is better than strawberry.’ At least under atheism/philosophical materialism’s world view. Remember: “The higher authority is not god, but us.” And if “us” (which would include anyone working in the State) says blacks are inferior, and women can’t vote, then that’s totally consistent and acceptible under such a worldview.

    For your statement to make a lick of sense you would have to put forth that there exists a standard of authority that transcends mankind, establish where it comes from and how ‘rights’ flow from it, and showing that it indicated some revelatory knowledge about treating people fairly wouldn’t hurt either. But since I’ve been asking you to address this basic issue from the beginning, I’m not holding my breath.

    “And, ounce againing, marriagest equalitating is a perfectingly axampla. There is plentifuling of evidencish that the peopling that will be directingly unfected by the chonge wantifying the chonge. There is zerole evidencish that the chonge will impactify anyone else nogatively. Zerole.”

    I really don’t concede that, but even if I did the obvious response is – So what? Why should anyone care what others want, whether it affects anyone else or not? “Us” is the highest authority according to you. Me and SJ and people who look dimly on ‘same-sex marriage’ are ostensibly a part of “us.” Thus ‘we’ deciding ‘same-sex marriage’ shouldn’t be granted is perfectly valid, no matter what kind of “evidence” is presented.

    Not like there exists some transcendant authority over the “highest authority,” right Timmy? 😉

    “You say that it ignorifies biomological realitism, and will have deleteriousnessly cooltural impactifies, but you seem to forgettingish that these were the mayne argluements againsting booth the examplesh previouslism sighted.”

    Oh, so you’re saying there IS evidence that both are not “equal” and that it WILL have an impact on everyone rather than just the party under discussion. Even though you asserted there wasn’t directly before.

    “Blackishness were dumbly, and uncivilisedment, and womenlies were unmotional, and would vote for whoeverment was promisifying the cheaping clotheslinesing. You’re just trottliting out the sum old tiredishness clichesisms, unbacked by any evidencesh whatsowhomever.”

    I’d hardly equate the reality of biological reproduction and child rearing with these over-simplifications.

    “Your the won with the opinionationings.”

    Yeah, I have an opinion ‘strawberry is better.’ And under your worldview that’s just as valid as your opinion that ‘all flavours are the same.’

    “Your the won with a positionly basing entiriting on faithishness. And what is faithishness, if not opinionationing?”

    Even if that were true, it’d still be better than an opinion based entirely on ignorance.

    “Sorry, had my “EB translator” on. Let me try again”

    What are you talking about Timmy? Your former post makes about as much sense as your arguments usually do. 😉

    Though I am endlessly amused by the complaints about the linguistic accuracies of an internet forum from a guy who can’t seem to quote accurately.

  41. Oh, so you’re saying there IS evidence that both are not “equal” and that it WILL have an impact on everyone rather than just the party under discussion. Even though you asserted there wasn’t directly before.

    Thank you, EB, for reminding me what I’m up against. Every now and then I forget how pointless these discussions with you are.

    That is the exact opposite of what I said.

    I’m saying that all of your current bleatings about biological differences and cultural impacts were used in the exact same way by the bigots of yesteryear. They were stupid arguments then, and they’re stupid arguments now.

    The fact that you can read what I wrote, and come up with the conclusion you did, is almost as astonishing as the depth of your bigotry.

    As for the “strawberry is better” analogy… wow. That is clever. Equating an automatic biological response with the assessment of a factual statement really helps your case.

    Now, I know you might read that and think it means I’m saying that a strawberry shot Kennedy, so let me explain it a little further.

    If you like strawberry, it’s only because your taste buds happen to send “Strawberries are good” to your brain. You haven’t sat down to assess the proposition that “Strawberries are better” with all the available evidence, and then reached a conclusion based on your analysis of that evidence. You just like strawberries because you like strawberries.

    Oh no, hang on, liking things is a choice, isn’t it? Sorry… just like gay people choose to be attracted to the same sex, anyone who likes a strawberry chooses to.

    Sorry, EB. I take it all back. Your example rocks!

  42. Both of you are missing two crucial points.

    1
    We both agree that reason exists. I am therefore able to use reason as much as I like. That we disagree on where it comes from, or, if you prefer, I don’t know where it comes from, is irrelevant.

    2
    All of your positions are based on faith. EB seems to have ignored the point, but faith is opinion.

    Do you really think it is sensible to simply decide that something is fact?

    And if so, why can’t I do the same? Can I just write “Marriage equality is tops” on a bit of paper, decide it’s true, and then wave that bit of paper in everyone’s face as hard evidence?

  43. I’m a little surprised that I haven’ that I haven’t had a reply to my last comment here until this:

    “if you prefer, I don’t know where it comes from, is irrelevant.”

    It absolutely is relevant. Just because there is shared overlap between our worldviews (“reason exists”) doesn’t mean they rest on the same basis. And when you appeal to ‘reason’ as your standard, especially as something superior to something else (ie, to ‘faith’, as you do in #2, below), then you don’t get to simply declare it and walk away, as though you answered anything.

    Essentially this makes your argument: “Reason, just because.”

    Color me unimpressed.

    “All of your positions are based on faith.”

    I think that simply positing that ‘reason exists’, and then explicitly refusing to explain why, on your view, we should consider it trustworthy, is about as close to something being ‘based on faith’ as we’re going to see.

    Since you passed on replying to my previous points, answer me just this one:

    On your view, if the citizens in one society agree to wipe out all of the Jews that live among them, on what basis can another society condemn that other society?

    I can understand if YOUR particular society chooses not to exterminate an entire race, but on what grounds will you condemn, and even intervene, in the affairs of another society?

    Wait. I know your answer: Reason.

    And why reason?

    Just because.

    Do I have it about right?

  44. Sorry for not answering your earlier questions, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to write like he does.

    1. If the ‘state’ is an abstract construct describing a collection of individuals, on your view, what is the difference between the ‘state’ and ‘the individuals in the state’?

    The ‘state’ can refer to the collection of individuals, but usually it refers to the entity that governs them. If we talk about how mean and nasty the state of North Korea is, we’re talking about the tyrannical government, not the citizens they subjugate.

    2. You say the state ‘should, and must answer to its citizens.’ Is this a moral imperative? Something else?

    It’s a logical imperative, as the best way to ensure the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

    3. What is the basis for this moral imperative? Why should anyone agree with you? Isn’t this the kind of thing that the powerless citizen would say? Wouldn’t the powerful king/ruler say something else? What standard would you direct them to that they SHOULD conform to, and where does that standard come from?

    Yes, it is exactly the thing that a powerless citizen would say, and yes, in past times the king would more often than not say something else. I’m not sure where that gets you, though.

    I would direct them to utilitarianism, and I would say that it is the logical conclusion of two assumptions: (1) that happiness is something is to be sought, and (2) that suffering is something to be avoided.

    Which they are, by definition.

    4. How is your view distinguishable from ‘might makes right’?

    It’s distinguishable because it is nothing like “might makes right”. In what way do you think it’s the same?

    5. If one set of citizens in one state believes they should burn their resident Jews in ovens, what business is it of the citizens in another state to object? On what basis could an objection be raised, provided that that particular state’s citizens fully endorse frying them up?

    This has been answered above. But happy to expand on it if you wish.

  45. It absolutely is relevant. Just because there is shared overlap between our worldviews (“reason exists”) doesn’t mean they rest on the same basis.

    Well of course not. Who’s suggesting they rest on the same basis? The question is why the basis should matter.

    And when you appeal to ‘reason’ as your standard, especially as something superior to something else (ie, to ‘faith’, as you do in #2, below), then you don’t get to simply declare it and walk away, as though you answered anything.

    Firstly, it is superior, and clearly so. Secondly, why are Christians allowed to declare the bible to be true, and then walk away?

    Essentially this makes your argument: “Reason, just because.”

    BA BOWWWWWW.

    No, the argument is “Reason, because it works.”

    I think that simply positing that ‘reason exists’, and then explicitly refusing to explain why, on your view, we should consider it trustworthy, is about as close to something being ‘based on faith’ as we’re going to see.

    I haven’t read through the whole thread again, but I don’t remember explicitly refusing to explain that at all. Where did I do that?

    And isn’t it obvious? As I said above, we can trust it, because it works.

    The alternative (faith) is just a licence to claim your personal view as truth.

    Me: “How do you know the bible is true?”
    EB: “I justingly doables.”

    What if I have faith that it’s wrong? If your faith is valid, then so is mine.

  46. You seem to be saying that I’m not allowed to trust reason, because I don’t acknowledge that it comes from a creator being.

    But tell me, Tony. How did you come to believe the bible? How did you assess it’s claims as valid, and accept that god not only exists, but is Christian?

    Did you use a bit of reason? Did you trust your reasoning skills to help you assess that reason exists, and is trustworthy?

  47. “I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to write like he does.”

    Yes, I did happen to notice you being unproductive. 😉

    “The ‘state’ can refer to the collection of individuals, but usually it refers to the entity that governs them.”

    Ok, so far as normal usage goes. However, I think some more precision is needed. A review of the usage of the term by EB and myself suggests that he and I are referring to the ‘collection of individuals.’ For ‘the entity that governs them’ I, at least, have been using ‘government.’

    But the government consists of people, not rocks and plants or cows, so they too have input on this question; importantly, they also have the guns.

    “It’s a logical imperative,”

    There is nothing LOGICAL about it, except that it is put forward as an assumption. Why should anyone accept it? Indeed, on an evolutionary perspective, where death is the very mechanism by which life has emerged on this earth, we could say that it is not only illogical, but it is unscientific, too.

    “Yes, it is exactly the thing that a powerless citizen would say, and yes, in past times the king would more often than not say something else. I’m not sure where that gets you, though.”

    Well, it means that there is no particular reason why a king or anyone else in the power should accept it. And if they don’t, to prison or the grave with you, and what are you going to say? “You’re supposed to be accountable to us! Waaaah waaah! Boo hoo!”

    “I would direct them to utilitarianism, and I would say that it is the logical conclusion of two assumptions: (1) that happiness is something is to be sought, and (2) that suffering is something to be avoided.”

    Utilitarianism logically follows from the two assumptions, but the two assumptions are just that: assumptions. There is not particular reason why they should accept them. They are perfectly in their rights to accept only that their OWN happiness is to be sought and their OWN suffering is to be avoided. This is certainly more compatible with evolution.

    “It’s distinguishable because it is nothing like “might makes right”. In what way do you think it’s the same?”

    This is where you are dead wrong. As I said before, in a comment you pretty much ignored, your comments at this point are essentially meaningless. And by meaningless, I mean they have no meaning. They are gibberish. They are mumbo jumbo. They are non-sensical. They are the equivalent of this sentence: “adkfjd ad kdfasdkj sd fkjsdlfj sdf dsf fdf!”

    As you admitted, the Man in Power has historically cared little for the Person in the Street. The MiP, or the government, has no particular reason to care about its citizens, because on your view, there is no reason you can point to. At best right now, you’ve asked them to adopt two assumptions, but given no particular reason to do so. So, you say the state/government “should, and must answer to its citizens” but since they have all the power, I wonder why on earth the state/government should accept this dictum–since you claim there is nothing that transcends the whims of individual citizens within society.

    The only thing that can actually make the government ‘answer to its citizens’ is if the people in the gov accept the version I offered, of, “I should maximize MY happiness and minimize MY suffering.” That is, only if the self-interest of the government folks is in view, can they be made to ‘answer’ to the citizens. In short: only if the citizens have more might can they demand the government do what’s ‘right.’ Only if the citizens have the power to depose–by physical, violent, fatal force–the MiP, does your statement MEAN ANYTHING AT ALL.

    For your entire argument to NOT be incoherent, you MUST take the view that ‘might makes right.’

    For, if the citizens cannot by might, dictate their will to the ‘state’, the state can, by might, dictate their will on the citizens. In either case, whatever ‘arguments’ either side puts forward is a smokescreen; the bottom line in either case imposing their will is one side maximizing its OWN happiness and attempting to minimize its OWN suffering, and the mightier group will prevail.

    You know, just like natural selection and survival of the fittest.

    If not this, the only appeal is to some kind of standard that you have some reason to believe applies as much to them as it does to you. This you flatly refuse to acknowledge. Instead, you are trying to smuggle in moral absolutes in the back door while giving them the boot out the front door, and hoping no one will notice.

    “This has been answered above. But happy to expand on it if you wish.”

    You haven’t answered it at all. One could just reason–as the Germans reasoned–the elimination of the inferior races served the greater good. They literally made this argument, and you seem to be completely ignorant of that fact. It was LITERALLY their argument that “the best way to ensure the greatest happiness for the greatest number” was to get rid of biological defectives. Rudolf Hess said that “National Socialism is applied biology.” The Nazis earnestly and sincerely believed that they were working in the interests of the ‘common good.’

    Who are you to say they are wrong? You can’t. You don’t believe there is a ‘wrong.’

  48. “The question is why the basis should matter.”

    The basis matters because on my view, reason can be trusted, but on your view, it can’t.

    “Firstly, it is superior, and clearly so.”

    Says the one invoking blind faith in reason.

    “Secondly, why are Christians allowed to declare the bible to be true, and then walk away?”

    Christians don’t. I certainly have not, and I have a blog going back many years of doing the opposite of this. In my experience, it is only the atheists that walk away. Ask them where life came from and they say “evolutiondiddit.” Ask them why reason can be trusted, they say, “cuz it can.”

    ‘No, the argument is “Reason, because it works.””

    Obviously not, if we just had a century run by the most reasonable people on the planet create the biggest pile of dead bodies the world has ever seen. Incidentally, every one of those folks insisted they were acting based on principles reason.

    Did you forget already that you admitted that everyone has their own opinion? Remember how you tried to answer my charge that everyone has their own opinion about what is reasonable by saying that everyone has their own opinion about the Bible? In order for that “I know you are, what am I” argument to work, you had to admit that your view was no better than mine. Now you’re trying to re-assert that your view is better again, but that again assumes the very thing you’re trying to deny: that something exists that transcends us all.

    “I haven’t read through the whole thread again, but I don’t remember explicitly refusing to explain that at all. Where did I do that?”

    That we disagree on where it comes from, or, if you prefer, I don’t know where it comes from, is irrelevant.

    “You seem to be saying that I’m not allowed to trust reason, because I don’t acknowledge that it comes from a creator being.”

    No, I’m saying that you’re not allowed to simply throw ‘reason’ out there and then walk away. Once again, you had to stoop to a contrast against ‘religion.’ Can your view stand on its own two feet, or not? I’m beginning to think your worldview is a mere parasite, incomprehensible on its own terms, and only coherent at all by contrast.

    “Did you use a bit of reason? Did you trust your reasoning skills to help you assess that reason exists, and is trustworthy?”

    As I already said, my worldview has plenty of room for reason and its validity. My worldview can explain why ‘reason works.’ There is no particular reason why it should, you know. There certainly is no reason why we should put much confidence in it on your view.

    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html

    You think that just because we have to use reason in order to reason about reason that we don’t need to have an explanation for it.

    We do need an explanation for it, and at minimum, that explanation cannot in itself undermine reason (Sntjohnny’s Golden Rule of Epistemology). Your perspective would be like a sentient computer refusing to acknowledge that it was created by humans simply because it successfully ran programs. “Didn’t you use programs to assess if your programs were written by other entities? The programs just ‘work’, how is it relevant where they came from?”

    Absurd.

    And insanely dangerous, if the sentient computer wishes to then argue that it can set up a system of governance based solely on the fact that their ‘programs work’ (as if it would know any differently!). And who decides if the conclusions of the programming are correct, if they come up with different conclusion? You are aware that people have different conclusions about what is reasonable and what is not, right? RIGHT?

  49. “I’m saying that all of your current bleatings about biological differences and cultural impacts were used in the exact same way by the bigots of yesteryear. They were stupid arguments then, and they’re stupid arguments now.”

    Would that attitude extend to the abortion debate?

    As far as the biological differences and cultural impacts being “stupid” goes, that’s as about as compelling as saying ‘chocolate is disgusting.’ That’s just your opinion. MY opinion is that anyone who thinks arbitrary physical characteristics is an equivalent comparison to the fundamental reality of reproduction needs their heads examined.

    And you have presented nothing that gives me reaston to abandon my opinion over yours. Gee, if only you had some kind of transcendant standard that I could recognize as being under to compell me to cooperate. 😉

    Regardless, that wasn’t really my point. You compared ‘same-sex marriage’ to descrimination of blacks and women, while holding that ‘same-sex marriage’ exists in some little bubble that has no consequences to the world around it. I’m just pointing out that the ending of slavery and allowing women to vote DID indeed have consequences to more people than just blacks and women.

    So what makes you so darn certain the same isn’t true for ‘same-sex marriage’? And please, try to give a better answer than ‘just because.’

    “If you like strawberry, it’s only because your taste buds happen to send “Strawberries are good” to your brain. You haven’t sat down to assess the proposition that “Strawberries are better” with all the available evidence, and then reached a conclusion based on your analysis of that evidence. You just like strawberries because you like strawberries.”

    Wow, it’s like the thought of being able to try other flavours with those same taste buds and STILL thinking ‘Strawberries is better’ than all of them doesn’t even cross your mind.

    It seems your arguments are as SJ have been saying – there just mumbo jumbo. You believe no “higher authority” exists other than “us,” while asserting that ‘reason’ is a “higher power” (ie transcendant standard) over “us.” But when questioned on where this ‘transcendant standard’ comes from all your left is the basis of “us” as being the only source. “Us”=”reason” under your world view.

    Yet you stoutly refuse to acknowledge that all your belief means is that ANYTHING a person does is automaticly ‘reasonable’ by definition and thus when two people with differing opinions clash the only determinator left is the one with the most ‘power.’

    And then you wonder how all the corpses keep piling up when people with the same beliefs (just substitute “us” with “State”) gain power.

  50. EB,

    I don’t think that Timaahy is saying that gay people being legally allowed to marry would have no external consequences (increased revenues for heterosexual-owned registry offices and other marriage-related businesses spring immediately to mind), but I’m a little confused about why you think that is an point against the liberal/progressive position in this matter. You helpfully mentioned the emancipation of women and the ending of slavery as examples of pertinent civil rights advances which certainly had consequences for people other than those who were thereby liberated and freed, but what of it? Such consequences, examples of which include the relative impoverishment of the South once deprived of exploitable free labour, can be very reasonably laid at the door of the original offence of institutionally elevating people of one gender or skin colour (or, one might add, sexuality) over others, the dismantling of which was always going to be painful (especially for those who had benefitted from the original injustice), but which hardly constitute a valid reason not to seek equality of opportunity for all.

    Or do you seriously think that the social and economic fallout from emancipation is a reasonable argument for the neo-confederate position that it should never have taken place? It would be consistently anti-progressive of you, but somehow I doubt that you are willing to go that far.

  51. Gee, if only you had some kind of transcendant [sic] standard that I could recognize as being under to compell [sic] me to cooperate.

    But that’s the thing, EB… I do! His name is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and he touched me with his noodly appendage, which gives me exclusive insights into all the awesome stuff written down in that book that I assumed he wrote, like “Same-sex marriage is tops”.

    You compared ‘same-sex marriage’ to descrimination [sic] of [sic] blacks and women, while holding that ‘same-sex marriage’ exists in some little bubble that has no consequences to the world around it

    Tell me, EB… what do you do for a living? Judging by your statement above, I know it’s not reading… but gimme a hint. I’m going to guess… umm… paper weight. It’s paper weight, isn’t it?

    What I actually said was “there is zero evidence that the change will impact anyone else negatively.”

    Can you see the difference between what I said and what your mind managed to mangle it into? Can you? THINK McFLY, THINK.

    You’re still struggling, aren’t you?

    OK, I really don’t think I can say it any more simply, but I’ll have one last try.

    “Simple biology tells me that black people are clearly inferior and if we free them they’ll pollute our race and I’ll have to pick cotton myself.”

    But there’s no evidence for that.

    “Simple biology tells me that women don’t understand politics and they just sit around and gossip all day and if we give them the vote then they’ll disband the army and try and takes me guns away and paint all our cars pink and one day monkeys will want to vote too.”

    But there’s no evidence for that, either.

    “Simple biology tells me that same-sex couples can’t reproduce, so we should stop them marrying even though we let a whole bunch of other people marry who can’t reproduce like old people or women who have had hysterectomies and all marriage does legally is convey property, custody and power of attorney rights and we don’t force married people to have children and we don’t unmarry people who find out they’re infertile after they marry and if we let them marry then everyone will turn gay and I don’t want to be gay but I guess being gay is a choice so I’ll just choose not to be gay cos gays are gross.”

    Really? Fucking prove it.

    Do you get it now, EB? I sure hope so, because dumbing things down for you is tiring.

    You believe no “higher authority” exists other than “us”. . .

    Correct.

    … while asserting that ‘reason’ is a “higher power” over “us”.

    Incorrect.

    But when questioned on where this ‘transcendant [sic] standard’ comes from all your [sic] left [with] is the basis of “us” as being the only source

    Incorrect.

    “Us”=”reason” under your world view.

    Reeeeeally incorrect.

    you stoutly refuse to acknowledge that all your belief means is that ANYTHING a person does is automaticly [sic] ‘reasonable’ by definition

    Why on earth would I acknowledge that? I am not in the habit of acknowledging patently ridiculous assertions. And check my comment from March 13, 2013 at 9:04 pm. I believe that’s now three times you’ve ascribed a view that is completely the opposite of what I actually said.

    Is it intentional?

    Actually, don’t bother answering that, I don’t care.

    Just answer me this. Why are you allowed to use faith to arrive at a truth claim, and we’re not? Why does your arbitrarily chosen religion have all the answers, but I can’t arbitrarily invent my own religion to defend the opposing view?

  52. Yes, exactly DB.

  53. The basis matters because on my view, reason can be trusted, but on your view, it can’t.

    Says the one invoking blind faith in reason.

    We just had a century run by the most reasonable people on the planet create the biggest pile of dead bodies the world has ever seen. Incidentally, every one of those folks insisted they were acting based on principles [of] reason.

    Did you forget already that you admitted that everyone has their own opinion?

    None of these statements come even close to describing my position. I’ve said several times we can trust reason because it works. I’ve also said that just because someone says they’re acting reasonably doesn’t mean that they are.

    In order for that “I know you are, what am I” argument to work, you had to admit that your view was no better than mine.

    Again, no.

    I have very good reasons for the views I hold. I am simply pointing out the hypocrisy of your criticisms of those views.

    You say, “Oh look at all those people doing nasty things in the name of reason.”

    I say, “Well look at the Inquisition”

    Now, for some reason you’re allowed to say, “Oh they weren’t reeeeally acting according to the Bible”, but I’m not allowed to say “Well they weren’t really acting reasonably”.

    Likewise, you seem to be allowed to simply decide you know where reason comes from (through faith), but I can’t point to its efficacy to justify its existence.

    You’re criticising the atheist worldview, but you’re doing exactly the same things you’re accusing us of.

    But – and this is important – pointing that out doesn’t mean that we’re actually doing those things.

    That we disagree on where it comes from, or, if you prefer, I don’t know where it comes from, is irrelevant.

    Saying something is irrelevant is very clearly not the same thing as explicitly refusing to explain it.

    You think that just because we have to use reason in order to reason about reason that we don’t need to have an explanation for it.

    No, I’m saying that if you’re telling me I need a source for it before I can use it, you do too. You’ve used reason to justify your use of reason. How is that not circular?

    Absurd.

    Ask them where life came from and they say “evolutiondiddit.”

    Who says that?

  54. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to wrap this up.

    “I’ve said several times we can trust reason because it works.
    I’ve also said that just because someone says they’re acting reasonably doesn’t mean that they are.”

    You need to go back and read what you wrote here, veeeeerrrrry slowly.

    You are contradicting yourself and undermining your own argument, which, incidentally, is illustrating mine.

    Reason does not work. If it did, all chess matches would end in a draw; this would be a simple and humorous proof of my point if not for the fact that the last two centuries of ‘reason’ didn’t end so bloodily.

    For whatever reason, you also seem to be ignoring the critical point, that for your second statement to be coherent, you must be positing the existence of a standard that transcends all of the reasoners involved. You are trying to do two mutually contradictory things at once: setting up reason higher than the reasoners, while insisting that there is nothing higher than the reasoners.

    So, you will forgive me if I put very little weight on your touting of reason. 😉

    In order for that “I know you are, what am I” argument to work, you had to admit that your view was no better than mine.
    Again, no.”

    Uh, yea. That’s exactly what you did.

    “I have very good reasons for the views I hold. I am simply pointing out the hypocrisy of your criticisms of those views.”

    If you have very good reasons, you have yet to share them. So far, all we have is the notion that “reason works” and citations of hypocrisy, and appeals to the FSM, and so on.

    “Now, for some reason you’re allowed to say, “Oh they weren’t reeeeally acting according to the Bible”, but I’m not allowed to say “Well they weren’t really acting reasonably”.”

    Asked and answered; go back and read what I wrote veeeeeeery slowly. My statement is coherent because I allow that there exists actual right or wrong interpretations that are not contingent on the existence of interpreters. Your view is that reason is bound up completely with the reasoners. Admit that 2+2=4 whether or not there are any reasoners in existence to have it in their mind, and I’d be happy to concede your point; but of course, this is the end of your strict atheistic materialism, as the existence of anything transcendental is not compatible with it.

    “Saying something is irrelevant is very clearly not the same thing as explicitly refusing to explain it.”

    A distinction without a difference, if you never actually explain it. 😉 But its too late now. I’m going to have to be off to other projects.

    “No, I’m saying that if you’re telling me I need a source for it before I can use it, you do too.”

    This is a literacy problem. I didn’t say you needed a source for it.

    “Ask them where life came from and they say “evolutiondiddit.”
    Who says that?”

    They don’t use that word, of course, because then they couldn’t look down their noses at the rest of us, but I have heard it hundreds of times. Can YOU tell me where life came from? 😉

  55. Let me revisit the chess analogy for my final flourish.

    Imagine one of the players moving his knight horizontally seven spaces. The other play protests that the move is illegal. (ie, not reasonable.) In order for the protest to be even meaningful, there has to exist a set of rules for the game of chess that transcends the two players. The simple act of appealing to the rule book necessarily implies ‘standards of reasons.’

    But now imagine that one of the players is a theist, and another an atheist. The atheist would point out that the game of chess is wholly the creation of humans, and our game is proceeding because of an agreement to accept the rules, but we could, if we wanted, play by different rules. The theist would remind the atheist that all analogies, have limits, but even so, the concept of an ‘illegal move’ would still only be coherent if the agreed rules existed ‘above’ the two players; otherwise, there is no sense in appealing even to these new rules. Moreover, certain principles, such as the law of noncontradiction and identity, are going to hold: “You just moved 7 spaces with your knight!” “7 is the same as 3.” “That’s madness.”

    But let us allow that there are only 2 people left in the world. One is Hitler and the other is Stalin, and they are playing ‘chess.’ They take your view, that the rules of chess are mere convention that exist only insofar as humans agree to entertain them, and that even the rules of logic such as the law of identity do not exist outside the human brain. “You just moved 7 spaces with your knight!” Hitler protests. “That is a legal move,” says Stalin. “No it isn’t. Not on my rules.” “You can’t just change the rules!” “Why not?” “Then it wouldn’t be chess.” “I’m willing to live with that…” Stalin gets up, puts a gun to Hitler’s head… “Now, is it a legal move or not?” Hitler: “I reckon you’re right.”

    And on your view, so long as reason, logic, and morality exists only insofar as there are humans to ‘play’ with them, there is no way to say anyone is right or wrong about anything. Those words reflect arbitrary constructs that merely follow from certain assumptions–and there is no particular reason why anyone should accept those assumptions. Someone could change those assumptions midstream–as powerful people have been known to do–and it would be ‘legal.’

    Hitler’s only recourse here would be to draw his own weapon and insist they play according to rules more favorable to him: but this is ‘might makes right.’

    Now, your answer to this, apparently, is that I am demanding to know the ‘source’ of the rules of chess. Uh, no, I am not. Where the rules came from is not the important part. According to the argument that I am making, the important part is that they transcend the players or they are pointless. The reason it may sound otherwise, is because you are insisting that there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ chess moves, because the ‘rules work.’ I’m pointing out that on your view, no matter how far back you push the analogy, you ultimately end up with the whole kit and kaboodle–reason and all–being contingent on humans. And since chess pieces don’t just get up and move on their own, but are moved around by agents, some of whom are nasty, it seems reasonable for me to wonder just why someone, accepting your views, should feel compelled to retain them, if they thought it in their interest to dispense with them.

    Chew on that, but I must move along. You get the last word.

  56. I also meant to say, EB, just in case you wish to quibble over the inclusion of the gay rights movement in the civil rights category (because although you seem to concede it with your chosen examples, I have noticed that conservatives tend not to want to do so) it does fulfil at least one of the key requirements differentiating it from mere shallow special interest groups, in that just as the original civil rights movement improved the moral attitudes of white people towards black people, and the feminist movement improved the attitudes of men towards women, the gay rights movement has had such a dramatic effect on the attitudes of straight people towards their gay brothers and sisters that apart from white male evangelicals, the only two demographic groups who can be counted upon to join with you in large numbers in opposing gay marriage legislation are the elderly and the uneducated. And it strikes me that these are exactly the same demographic groups most likely to think that desegregation was a bad idea and that those uppity feminists ought to get out of the boardroom and back into the kitchen. It’s a coalition with neither a strong moral pedigree nor an impressive political success rate, in other words.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/opposition-to-same-sex-marriage-narrow-and-concentrated-study-finds/2013/03/06/99bfc3cc-8688-11e2-9d71-f0feafdd1394_story.html

    So, I fully agree with the comparisons you drew between the various civil rights movements in question, although am still somewhat surprised that you did so given that it appears to fatally undermine your argument. Still, while it would be unethical to claim credit for the wound inflicted when your opponent in a duel accidentally stabs himself in the foot, one is under no obligation to pretend that it didn’t happen either.

  57. Oh, DB, you are far too generous.

    EB didn’t cite those examples… I did.

  58. DB:

    “I don’t think that Timaahy is saying that gay people being legally allowed to marry would have no external consequences (increased revenues for heterosexual-owned registry offices and other marriage-related businesses spring immediately to mind), but I’m a little confused about why you think that is an point against the liberal/progressive position in this matter.”

    That’s probably because I wasn’t using it as a point against the liberal/progressive position. I was just calling Timmy’s attention to the fact people and social policies don’t exist in a vaccuum, and thus everyone will be affected whether positively, negatively, or any mixture of both.

    “Such consequences, examples of which include the relative impoverishment of the South once deprived of exploitable free labour, can be very reasonably laid at the door of the original offence of institutionally elevating people of one gender or skin colour (or, one might add, sexuality) over others, the dismantling of which was always going to be painful (especially for those who had benefitted from the original injustice), but which hardly constitute a valid reason not to seek equality of opportunity for all.”

    And if you’ve been paying attention to the discussion, you’d realize there’s no reason under the liberal/progressive position of the “State” being the highest authority that compells one to seek equality of opportunity for all to begin with.

    “Or do you seriously think that the social and economic fallout from emancipation is a reasonable argument for the neo-confederate position that it should never have taken place? It would be consistently anti-progressive of you, but somehow I doubt that you are willing to go that far.”

    Again if you’d been paying attention, you’d know “reasonable” is a fickle term under the materialistic atheist worldview. On the contrary, one would be hard pressed to find a truly valid reason to give up that free labour and invite impoverishment if the goal was truly for the “greatest good” for the State as a whole.

    Which is why such changes weren’t brought about under such ideals in the first place. 😉

    “….the gay rights movement has had such a dramatic effect on the attitudes of straight people towards their gay brothers and sisters that apart from white male evangelicals, the only two demographic groups who can be counted upon to join with you in large numbers in opposing gay marriage legislation are the elderly and the uneducated.”

    You calling SJ old and dumb?

    And no, I’d say attitudes haven’t really changed so much since on average conservatives have been fairly civil and tolerant on the matter. I believe general outlooks have stayed the same, and it’s only thanks to the ‘gay rights movements’ and general liberal media’s propensity to scream bigot!, homophobe!, etc. that have caused people to simply keep silent. So way to go, I guess.

    “And it strikes me that these are exactly the same demographic groups most likely to think that desegregation was a bad idea and that those uppity feminists ought to get out of the boardroom and back into the kitchen. It’s a coalition with neither a strong moral pedigree nor an impressive political success rate, in other words.”

    And as this thread has noted, it’s the same liberal demographic groups most likely to initiate mass arrests and executions in the name of the “State” and “greater good.” Nothing to write home about either.

  59. Reason does work. It’s why we are able to even have this conversation, sitting here on an electric-powered train on my way into Sydney to work in a 40 storey building. On my journey I will cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge, pass through tunnels, and write this response on a computer that will transmit a signal to my mobile phone, and then out onto the interwebs.

    We’ve put humans on the moon, sent robots to Mars, and cured once-devastating diseases. All of those advances are due to our discovery, and application, of reason.

    The difference between the so-called reasonable examples you keep citing and the ones above are the assumptions that underpin them. Take your citation of the Nazis, for example. That massive pile of bodies you keep referring to was predicated an a few key assumptions, one of which was that the ultimate racial ideal was Aryan, and Jews were an inferior race, and part of some big international conspiracy to steal our money and use Christian blood in their weird rituals.

    There is no evidence whatsoever for any of those claims, and plenty of evidence against them.

    So what does that make their position? Why, it makes it faith-based, of course. How interesting.

    Contrast that with the advances I mentioned previously. When it comes down to it, all of those discoveries are backed by a few assumptions of logical rules and axioms and mathematical axioms. Yes, axioms. Truths about the world without an explanation. They just exist. And they work. If they didn’t, none of the subsequent advances would have been possible.

    A large reason why they work, of course, is our understanding of mathematics. Which makes me very glad you said this:

    Admit that 2+2=4 whether or not there are any reasoners in existence to have it in their mind, and I’d be happy to concede your point

    That is exactly what I admit, so I guess I just made you happy.

    Firstly, that is not a mathematical or logical rule. It’s a simple fact. Things exist, and there can be one of a particular thing, or more than one of a particular thing.

    Here are two instances of a thing:
    * *

    And here are another two of the same thing:
    * *

    And if you put them together it looks like this:
    * * * *

    And then we have four instances of that thing.

    At this point you might protest that counting and “two” and “four” are constructs of the human mind, but it should be fairly obvious that they are not. Atoms and matter rely on counting, too. To wit, the difference between a hydrogen atom, and one of carbon.

    So, 2+2=4 obviously “exists” independently of human minds (insomuch as a fact can be said to exist). And if you still don’t believe me, consider that chimpanzees and other animals are perfectly able to understand counting, and its consequences. Heck, even EB knows how to count, probably.

    You may also protest that I haven’t proved that 2+2=4, in a pure, mathematical sense. And that’s fine, you can say that if you like. But I will just fall back on “But it works”. Even if we concede that there is no proof, the simple fact remains that if you take that as an assumption and run with it, wonderful, otherwise impossible, things have become possible.

    Of course, once we turn our reasonable minds to social issues, it all gets a little more complicated. For example, it’s also not possible to “prove” that same-sex marriage will turn the whole planet gay and result in our own extinction, at least not in the mathematical sense. We could set up 1,000 identical societies, each with some proportion of gay and hetero people, and then allow same-sex marriage in half of them, and then count up all the ones that went pear-shaped, and if the extinction rate was worse in the same-sex marriage societies than in the hetero-sexual marriage societies, we might be able to conclude that, statistically speaking, same-sex marriage is more likely to lead to our extinction than not. But who’s got the time?

    Well it turns out we don’t need to, anyway. Because every “reason” put forward against same-sex marriage is based on assumptions that either don’t stack up, or are based on faith. From slippery slopes to EB’s much-vaunted “biological realities”, none of it is defensible.

    Two final things.

    I have heard it hundreds of times. Can YOU tell me where life came from?

    Well then you have been listening to people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Evolution describes the process by which diversity of life developed after life started. You are confusing evolution with abiogenesis.

    And no, I can’t tell you where life came from. But of course, that doesn’t mean we will never know the answer, and it doesn’t mean we should say “God did it” in the meantime.

    Reason does not work. If it did, all chess matches would end in a draw

    Not if there is an advantage in going first (which there is).

  60. timmy:

    “What I actually said was “there is zero evidence that the change will impact anyone else negatively.”

    Can you see the difference between what I said and what your mind managed to mangle it into? Can you? THINK McFLY, THINK.”

    I’ve got a book you can read – a history book.

    If you’d actually read one and studied those past movements you’d come to realize neither of them was without negative consequences. To white slave owners who lost their labour, to blacks as their attempts to exercise that freedom led them to often violent conflicts, and to everyone living in the individual States as they had to go through the upheavel brought about by such change.

    Heck, it took over 100 years for the entire nation just to reach a point where blacks could be treated in something approaching equality. Though whether or not America as a whole is still largely discriminatory depends on whether DB is touting the virtues of progressivism, or decrying the establishment. 😉

    Regardless Timmy, negative consequences did indeed occur with such movements, to someone some where. So I ask what on earth makes you think ‘same-sex marriage’ is so darn special as to be any different?

    “But there’s no evidence for that.”

    hehehehe. I think along with that history book you need to read some of the evolutionary texts of the early 20th century along with it. Many evolutionists did indeed point to biological “evidence” to argue why other races were ‘closer to the ape’ than they were. Darwin himself often noted how the “civilised races” would exterminate and replace the “savage races”. It was his answer to the issue of the ‘missing link’ problem.

    [insert inaccurate quote of argument even after throwing a tantrum about one’s own exact wording]

    You miss the point by a mile, Timmy. The reality about where babies come from, is indeed proof that the heterosexual union is wholely seperate and unique from a homosexual one. And no amount of whinning is going to change that fact. This is indeed reason enough to give special recognition to this unique union (in which we have labeled “marriage” for the sake of brevity), especially as it aides in the survival of the State by producing the next generation.

    Fact is there is no compelling reason to why the State should recognize ‘same-sex marriage.’ Especially when there is no REAL negative consequences upon anyone for not doing so.

    But even if there was, you still have yet to establish why the State should care. Particularly if the ‘greatest good for the most people’ would seem to necessitate siding with the majority that produces ‘more people.’ 😉

    “”… while asserting that ‘reason’ is a “higher power” over “us”.”

    Incorrect.”

    Uh, your own words – “This mysterious “higher power” you say we appeal to (which is an appalling name for it), is reason. And when combined with utilitarianism, we have the only sensible method for framing laws which must be applied to a citizenry comprised of a diverse range of beliefs, fears, and hopes.”

    Are you saying you were “incorrect” there?

    “”But when questioned on where this ‘transcendant [sic] standard’ comes from all your [sic] left [with] is the basis of “us” as being the only source”

    Incorrect.”

    What other source is there then?

    “Why on earth would I acknowledge that? I am not in the habit of acknowledging patently ridiculous assertions.”

    You sure do love making them though.

    “Why are you allowed to use faith to arrive at a truth claim, and we’re not?”

    I challange you to quote any where I’ve ever indicated that. As far as I can see the only one crying ‘Faith!’ in this entire discussion has been you. And ironicly too, given your blind faith in ‘reason.’

    “Why does your arbitrarily chosen religion have all the answers, but I can’t arbitrarily invent my own religion to defend the opposing view?”

    So your view is an arbitrarily invented religion, is it?

  61. Timaahy,

    Ah, I didn’t realise that. My fault for not reading the whole debate before posting.

    You’re right of course, that reason, while not perfect (the succinct answer to SJ’s chess game challenge) is self-correcting and does indeed work in terms of producing the many medical, philosophical and technological advances which we benefit from and which ultimately make this conversation possible. The debate over the origins of reason is secondary.

    EB,

    “You calling SJ old and dumb?”

    Tempting,… but no. He is a white male evangelical, however, and although I know much less about you than I do about him, i feel pretty confident in my assumption that you also tick all three of those demographic boxes. How predictable of you both to oppose gay marriage – why not be a rebel and surprise, rather than just depress your opponents. :-)

    “I believe general outlooks have stayed the same, and it’s only thanks to the ‘gay rights movements’ and general liberal media’s propensity to scream bigot!, homophobe!, etc. that have caused people to simply keep silent.”

    Including when filling in confidential surveys for pollsters? The gay conspiracy must be of near illuminati-like proportions to inspire such obedience. Or maybe you’re just rationalising away unwelcome information. Not to worry, in 50 years time, if I am still alive, I confidently expect to be hearing from a contemporary Glenn Beck all about how late-20th and early21st Century conservatives were most definitely always supportive of gay rights and are fully entitled now to claim the mantle of THIS struggle as well as all the other civil rights advances which they actually opposed to the bitter end and then later tried to cynically coopt for their own purposes.

    And the fact that you would see no reason to work towards a more egalitarian society, to help your fellow human beings, or even to restrain yourself from committing orgies of rape and murder if you didn’t believe that there was a heavenly dictatorship which mandated at least some of those things (interpretations differ) on pain of everlasting torture doesn’t seem to me like good evidence for the superiority of your personal morality over those of us who in the main do not need to be coerced into behaving ethically.

  62. Thought it might be a good idea to move the marriage equality discussion here:
    http://swordoftruth.us/shoot-the-bull/marriage-equality-the-thread-to-end-all-threads/

  63. Tempting,… but no. He is a white male evangelical, however…”

    He’s a ‘white apologist.’ Though to you “evangelical” probably means any Christian that actually believes in what the Bible says and isn’t afraid to speak up.

    “…and although I know much less about you than I do about him, i feel pretty confident in my assumption that you also tick all three of those demographic boxes. How predictable of you both to oppose gay marriage – why not be a rebel and surprise, rather than just depress your opponents.”

    How predictable that a liberal would make sweeping generalized statements, as I’ve talked with plenty of men and women of black and hispanic lineage who equally oppose ‘same-sex marriage.’

    “Including when filling in confidential surveys for pollsters?”

    We’ve already had a long discussion on the limited reliability of polls. While they can be a hint at a general outlook, they aren’t absolute. Besides, I’m not saying your view hasn’t gained support, I’m saying it’s likely not as overwhelming as you seem to believe.

    “Not to worry, in 50 years time, if I am still alive, I confidently expect to be hearing from a contemporary Glenn Beck all about how late-20th and early21st Century conservatives were most definitely always supportive of gay rights and are fully entitled now to claim the mantle of THIS struggle as well as all the other civil rights advances which they actually opposed to the bitter end and then later tried to cynically coopt for their own purposes.”

    And I’m sure in 50 years time I can confidently expect hearing from the administration how the Founding Fathers (who apparently were always abortion and gay supporting, religion bashing secularists) originally intended for the Consititution to be entirely edited into something that only superficially resembles it’s current incarnation. That and how England has been rechristened into ‘Englandastan.’

    “And the fact that you would see no reason to work towards a more egalitarian society, to help your fellow human beings,….”

    Translation (in the voice of a 13-year old girl): “Waaaahh! If you really loved me you’d let me stay up late, borrow the car whenever I want, and support my choice to hang out at bars with college guys! Waaaah!”

    “…even to restrain yourself from committing orgies of rape and murder if you didn’t believe that there was a heavenly dictatorship which mandated at least some of those things (interpretations differ) on pain of everlasting torture doesn’t seem to me like good evidence for the superiority of your personal morality over those of us who in the main do not need to be coerced into behaving ethically.”

    My morality is just fine. It’s my predisposition that you need to worry about, and is what is being held in check by my morality as established by my beliefs.

    And of course what is “ethical” being whatever you decide it is, convieniantly. While forgetting the fact those Romans, French Revolutionaries, Nazis, etc. had just as much input of what was “ethical” as you do, and are just as equally valid under your worldview.

    Timmy:

    This ‘marriage equality’ debate is just a tangent that has gotten a little far from the main point. The fact is your arguments are just a mess of self-contradictions only being held together by pure assertions. The fact that you seem to be rejecting even your own words, is sign of how incoherent your views are and how further conversation is a waste of time.

  64. This ‘marriage equality’ debate is just a tangent that has gotten a little far from the main point.

    No shit, Sherlock. Why do you think I moved it to the discussion forum?

    The fact that you seem to be rejecting even your own words…

    Sorry, where do I do that?

    …further conversation is a waste of time

    Well of course you would say that. You’re losing.

    Tony has more important things to write about (which is fine, because I do, too), so why don’t you take up his mantle, and answer my last response to him?

  65. “Why do you think I moved it to the discussion forum?”

    What makes you think I’m interested in continuing it? It was initially brought up to point out the inherent contradiction when liberals claim rights come from the State, and simultaneously maintaining it’s a fundamental right independant from the State. You’ve just been sticking your fingers in your ear and saying ‘There’s good reason why to make it a right, and no reason not to do so, lalalala!’

    “Sorry, where do I do that?”

    Where I pointed out your own words being ‘reason is the “highest power”‘ and your response is to say it’s “incorrect.”

    Can you even recall what you say in previous posts, or is it that your own arguments are so incoherent you yourself can’t keep up?

    “Well of course you would say that. You’re losing.”

    *snort* Yeah, because arguments like ‘reason works just because,’ ‘not everyone who says they’re acting reasonably actually are, but I am becasue I say so,’ and ‘my views are superior so there’ are sooooo insurmountable.

    “Tony has more important things to write about (which is fine, because I do, too), so why don’t you take up his mantle, and answer my last response to him?”

    He’s already previously addressed pretty much everything you’ve said. Frankly you’ve failed to really answer almost any question he’s raised with you; simply going back and repeating yourself with the same assertions and contradictions for a while now. It’s little wonder SJ decided he’s spent enough time on this.

  66. Tony has more important things to write about”

    That’s not how I would characterize it. But I do have other responsibilities and obligations I have to tend to, and I have to draw a line somewhere.

    But briefly;

    “Reason does work. It’s why we are able to even have this conversation, sitting here on an electric-powered train on my way into Sydney to work in a 40 storey building.”

    This is one of the worst cases of equivocation that I’ve ever seen, merging ‘reason’ in with the (genuine) scientific method. For centuries, science was conducted primarily by philosophizing, and it didn’t get very far–despite the high powered reasoning applied to it. It was precisely because reason was inadequate on its own that it would take centuries to see the kind of technological advances we enjoy today. Remember Galileo’s famous thought experiment about gravity? It overturned a thousand years of Aristotlian thought. Spontaneous generation was presumed to be easy and simple, and besides, it was observed all the time–until Pasteur disproved it by a careful experiment.

    I learned about the distinction between reason and the scientific method in high school SCIENCE class. These examples have stuck with me, and since then I’ve observed a thousand more. We were also taught to distinguish between technology and knowledge/intelligence. Just because we were able to put a man on the moon in 1969 and the ancient Greeks could not doesn’t mean that we’re smarter than them. For all we know, the Greeks would have already put a man on Mars if they had the same level of technology. Beware the fallacy of the ‘collective we.’

    The SM has value specifically because reason does not ‘work.’ It is a test and check against reason, which historically has let us down so many times, and will let us down forever into the future, too.

    “That massive pile of bodies you keep referring to was predicated an a few key assumptions,”

    Assumptions=Reason; but anyway, they believed they were backed up by science, not reason. This is one of the important things you learn when you dispense with your own preconceived notions and check them against reality (ie, in a ‘scientifically’ methodical way). If you read them in their own words, it is clear that they did not think these were assumptions at all, but rather provable biological facts.

    That is a fact.

    “There is no evidence whatsoever for any of those claims, and plenty of evidence against them.”

    You’re wrong on both counts, as I have shown numerous times on this blog re: the culture of death. See, for example, Julian Savulescu.

    “So what does that make their position? Why, it makes it faith-based, of course. How interesting.”

    This is a good illustration why reason does not work; people lie to themselves. “National Socialism is applied biology.”

    You can’t read the writings of late 19th and early 20th century liberals, atheists, progressives, and secular humanists–and nazis, communists, and fascists–without tripping over appeals to the scientific fact of their positions.

    I know I’m wasting my time with this. I can give example after example and it is positively useless, as I’ve seen with Dannyboy. But to support my case to the lurker, consider this one example:

    Eugenics. When people marry there are certain things that the individual as well as the race should demand. The most important of these is freedom from germ diseases which might be handed down to the offspring. Tuberculosis, syphilis, that dread disease which cripples and kills hundreds of thousands of innocent children, epilepsy, and feeble-mindedness are handicaps which it is not only unfair but criminal to hand down to posterity. The science of being well born is called eugenics.

    […]

    If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried success fully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country.

    This was from a c. 1915 era SCIENCE TEXT BOOK that was widely used IN AMERICA. It was also the one that was at the heart of the Scopes Monkey Trial; I guess W. Bryan was on to something.

    These are people who earnestly believe that they are acting on the basis of scientific truths. You are merely being self-serving in trying to characterize these folks as acting on ‘faith.’ It is only because you reject their viewpoints that you say they are acting on ‘faith.’ Convenient. And false.

    “Firstly, that is not a mathematical or logical rule. It’s a simple fact. Things exist, and there can be one of a particular thing, or more than one of a particular thing.”

    But an abstraction isn’t a thing. 😉

    You are not admitting that a THING exists. You are admitting that an immaterial reality exists.

    Are you going to now concede that you are not strictly a materialist?

    THAT would make me really happy. :)

    “You may also protest that I haven’t proved that 2+2=4, in a pure, mathematical sense. And that’s fine, you can say that if you like. But I will just fall back on “But it works”.”

    I linked to a mathematician who is smarter than both of us who acknowledged that ‘but it works’ is very unsatisfying. If you commented on it, I missed it.

    The problem is that 2 rocks plus 2 rocks does equal 4 rocks, but the conceptual logical part is an immaterial abstraction. “It only works” because you are smuggling in something transcendental, while in your arguments assuring us that there is nothing beyond human minds in the structuring of our societies. In short, to prove one point, you adopt a theistic point of view, but to prove another, you adopt an atheistic one.

    A point that I’ve already said 3 or 4 times which you have failed to even recognize. And I admit, that is definitely part of the reason why I felt it was time for me to move on from the conversation.

    “Of course, once we turn our reasonable minds to social issues,”

    Understatement of the year award. 😉 Within this little clause is a full concession of my entire argument. Thank you. :)

    “Well then you have been listening to people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Evolution describes the process by which diversity of life developed after life started. You are confusing evolution with abiogenesis.”

    Exactly. You just did it. “Evolutiondidit.”

    There is no particular reason why the beginning of life should be divorced from its later morphology, except that evolutionists have NO FLIPPING IDEA where life came from. 😉 So, they carve out this one little thing and insist we regard it separately. One problem with this arbitrary and capricious, and purely academic distinction: even if we granted it, it can’t get you very far. Unless you are positing that the first ‘life’ existed for an interminable period of time without replicating–and most people would actually define life as including replication–the very minute the little bugger begins to reproduce, you are in the realm of ‘evolution.’

    How long do viruses, etc, actually live? A few minutes. Perhaps a few days. When we talk about them ‘living’ we really usually refer to continually growing populations of the entity. Individual, specific ones, do not live very long at all.

    In short, the practical amount of time between ‘abiogenesis’ and ‘evolution’ is fairly short; the instant it replicates, which would need to be pretty quickly, it is evolution we’re talking about.

    But for all that, let’s just concede that this is a real and important distinction that is not just more self-serving tap dancing by philosophical materialists and move on to:

    “And no, I can’t tell you where life came from. But of course, that doesn’t mean we will never know the answer, and it doesn’t mean we should say “God did it” in the meantime.”

    But does it mean that we should say ‘unguidednaturalforcesdidit?’ Care to explain how “that doesn’t mean we will never know the answer” is distinguishable from faith?

    Getting the idea I’ve had this conversation a thousand times? 😉

    “Not if there is an advantage in going first (which there is).”

    If you insist; I’ll rephrase: if reason worked, everyone who went first in chess would win. Now will you admit the point? 😉

  67. Hmmm. that wasn’t brief.

    I need to go to bed, and never return to this discussion. heh

  68. Oh, and the split between ‘evolution’ and ‘abiogenesis’ occurred fairly late in the game, highlighting the fact that it is nothing more than an orderly retreat by the philosophical naturalists. For decades the general presumption was that it was all a single piece. It was only as it became abundantly clear that even the ‘simplest’ living forms were incredibly complex and sophisticated did they realize that it would be tactically unwise to keep them together.

    This is one of the insights of Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box” and why we have conversations about things like irreducible complexity.

    Remember, even Crick and Watson, when they ‘discovered’ the double helix, actually developed only a model to account for the kinds of things they were ‘seeing.’ They could not actually SEE the double helix. In fact, we can’t even SEE DNA today:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/occams-corner/2012/dec/01/1

    While I understand why atheists have developed the talking point that tries to divide evolution from abiogenesis, it doesn’t really change the fact that on either view, there are loads of things they don’t know anything about, but they are quite confident that ‘naturalismdidit.’ Just like you did above, by admitting we didn’t know where life came from, but rushing to point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean God did it… but, interestingly enough, failing to acknowledge that on the same basis, it doesn’t necessarily mean that NATURALISM did it, either.

    That’s because without saying so, you essentially invoked ‘naturalismdidit.’

    Ok, I’m going to bed.

  69. EB,

    “…to you “evangelical” probably means any Christian that actually believes in what the Bible says and isn’t afraid to speak up.”

    How about you look up the definition of evangelical and then tell me if I’m wrong.  About either of you.

    “…I’ve talked with plenty of men and women of black and hispanic lineage who equally oppose ‘same-sex marriage.’”

    Good for you, I suppose.  Not that this revelation makes even the slightest dent in my point about the various demographic majorities who support same sex marriage – but still, congratulations on mingling with acceptably conservative minorities.  Have a cookie.

    “My morality is just fine.”

    Doesn’t appear that way from the outside.  You’re on the record as being a craven apologist for murder, infanticide and slavery (sexual and otherwise) when it is committed by the Chosen Tribe (TM) on the alleged orders of an omni-benevolent deity/bloodthirsty war god with good PR.  You also presumably admire, as all monotheists are supposed to, the willingness of Abraham to butcher his own son on the say-so of the voices in his head.  Contrary to the popular cliche, it appears to actually be the case that if you believe that there IS a god then anything, no matter how horrifying, is permitted.

    ……

    SJ,

    “We were also taught to distinguish between technology and knowledge/intelligence. Just because we were able to put a man on the moon in 1969 and the ancient Greeks could not doesn’t mean that we’re smarter than them.”

    So why are you apparently unable to distinguish between technology and morality?  Just because the Nazis were able to kill millions of Jews in the 1940s doesn’t mean that they were more wicked than medieval Christians who only managed to exterminate hundreds of thousands.

    Heheh

  70. Get the facts:

    http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/DBG.CHAP3.HTM

    Thank you DB for providing yet another illustration of why ‘reason’ must be checked against the facts. 😉 One might think that what you said is true and provides a sufficient explanation, but the reality is different.

    Take one example:

    So in revenge for an arrow from Nishapur’s walls that killed Jinghiz Khan’s son-in-law in 1221, when the city was finally captured the Mongol Tolui massacred its unarmed inhabitants.3 So this ancient capital of Khorassan in Persia was then a “scene of a carnival of blood scarcely surpassed even in Mongol annals. . . . Separate piles of heads of men, women, and children were built into pyramids; and even cats and dogs were killed in the streets.”4 So an utterly fantastic 1,747,000 human beings reportedly were slaughtered, a number exceeding the contemporary population of Hawaii, Rhode Island, or New Hampshire; a number that is around a third of the total Jews murdered by Hitler.

    Emphasis.

    On this page, top right, he has a little chart that puts the lie to that as well: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/MURDER.HTM

    Bullets are deadly, but they still require people to pull the trigger, and in the real world (ie, not in Obama’s world), even in warfare, one does not typically just hold down the trigger and unload 50 rounds in a second. One has to take aim and fire singly at single targets. The more important factor is one of logistics: you have to have the manpower to get the people you want to kill all within range. Actually ‘testing’ your assertion reveals that it is not the technology that is the critical difference, but the available man power, and of course the number of people being targeted. A hundred thousand men with swords and bows and arrow will be able to accomplish as much bloodshed as if they had been armed with rifles.

    It seems highly implausible, and even counter-intuitive–as counter-intuitive as the fact that feathers DO fall as fast as rocks do—but such is the testimony of the real history of our planet.

    😉

  71. “How about you look up the definition of evangelical and then tell me if I’m wrong. About either of you.”

    In this context, one wonders why you don’t simply say “Christian” as it’s pretty much synonymous. Not that I haven’t heard atheists using it more as a derogatory like ‘fundamentalist.’

    “Good for you, I suppose. Not that this revelation makes even the slightest dent in my point about the various demographic majorities who support same sex marriage”

    Yeah, because proving your offhanded generalization doesn’t show your ‘point’ to be an offhanded generalization. *rolls eyes*

    “Doesn’t appear that way from the outside.”

    And like Timmy’s ‘reason’ this just goes to the very flaw of the atheistic/materialistic worldview. Without a transcendant standard independant of human existence/perception what is ‘moral’ just becomes a matter of personal opinion with any and all being equally valid.

    “You’re on the record as being a craven apologist for murder, infanticide and slavery (sexual and otherwise) when it is committed by the Chosen Tribe (TM) on the alleged orders of an omni-benevolent deity/bloodthirsty war god with good PR.”

    Not really, and that you characterize it as such is just proof you were never listening to anything I said in those debates.

    But regardless, as is continually noted, under atheism there is really no inherent ground in your worldview to condemn such acts, let alone intervene, beyond ‘I personally don’t like it.’ Even less so if the State is all for it. You agree the Hebrew nation was a ‘State’ composed by “us,” right?

    “You also presumably admire, as all monotheists are supposed to, the willingness of Abraham to butcher his own son on the say-so of the voices in his head. Contrary to the popular cliche, it appears to actually be the case that if you believe that there IS a god then anything, no matter how horrifying, is permitted.”

    Must be why anything is permitted under atheism. It advocates a ‘god’ does indeed exist – “us.”

    And no, my belief is: If there truly is an ‘Ultimate Authority over All Life’ then it is perfectly logical and moral for that Being to act like the ‘Ultimate Authority over All Life.’ Big distinction there.

    But let us not forget that absolutely nothing described in the Bible (whether in actuality or in your distorted biased interpretation) compares with the millons upon millions persecuted and condemend when it was advocated that the ‘State’ decided who had value/rights and who didn’t. When one contrasts that with the Bible’s teachings of ‘all being guilty, but all having value’ then it becomes easier to see why the so-called “horrifying” incidents in the Bible all occured in isolated incidents under specific circumstances in the past while secular-acting State’s keep on turning out mounds of corpses to this very day.

  72. Not really, and that you characterize it as such is just proof you were never listening to anything I said in those debates.

    You did, however, say that “If I were an atheist you’d find a lot of the things I’d be inclined to do… disturbing.”

    So you’re clearly a real stand-up guy.

    Without a transcendant standard independant of human existence/perception what is ‘moral’ just becomes a matter of personal opinion with any and all being equally valid.

    This, right here, goes to the heart of why you and Tony have this so very, very wrong.

    What makes you think your transcendent standard is the right one?

    You’ve just stuck a flag in the island of truth and claimed it as your own, not once considering that the island is covered with the flags of thousands of mutually exclusive belief systems that all claim to be true, too.

    I assume you think polygamy is against the wishes of this transcendent power (despite it being sanctioned in the bible, of course)? But Joseph Smith had a revelation saying it was OK, so… of course it must be. And Mohammad had a revelation that Jesus was most definitely not the son of god, something the Jews have been saying since the beginning.

    The whole thing is just a great big theological Choose Your Own Adventure story. And not a very interesting one, at that.

    So, EB, it is actually under your er… special way of looking at the world that morality is decided on personal opinion, because it all comes down to faith.

    And I’m glad DB mentioned the Abraham / Isaac story. Abraham was apparently a stand-up guy, too. What a fine example of religious faith.

    Tell me, EB. If god told you to kill your child, would you?

  73. “…but such is the testimony of the real history of our planet.”

    I particularly noted the mention of the Greek text ‘How to Recognize a Newborn That Is Worth Rearing.’ A nearly 2,000 year old mannual for infanticide, and it’s almost like it came from a medical journal today.

    “Progress” indeed.

  74. You mean infanticide, like what Abraham was going to do?

  75. “You did, however, say that “If I were an atheist you’d find a lot of the things I’d be inclined to do… disturbing.”

    So you’re clearly a real stand-up guy.”

    Well since I’ve managed to check my all too human impulses and not give in to temptation, I guess I am. 😉

    “This, right here, goes to the heart of why you and Tony have this so very, very wrong.

    What makes you think your transcendent standard is the right one?”

    And this shows why you never understood SJ’s point about swinging back and forth between appealing to a theistic view one moment and an atheistic view in another.

    The “right” transcendant standard is a seperate matter from the issue that one DOES exist. And if at bare minnimum one does indeed exist, then pure materialism goes out the window.

    “You’ve just stuck a flag in the island of truth and claimed it as your own, not once considering that the island is covered with the flags of thousands of mutually exclusive belief systems that all claim to be true, too.”

    Baby steps Timmy. Proving which singular “flag” is valid requires a bit more work to flesh out. If you’d actually been paying attention you’d notice neither I nor SJ has actually advocated ‘Christianity’ all by itself even once in this discussion. We’ve simply been trying to get you to toss the atheism/materialsim ‘flag’ in the ocean.

    “So, EB, it is actually under your er… special way of looking at the world that morality is decided on personal opinion, because it all comes down to faith.”

    Do you mean the ‘faith’ you seem to want to use to arrive to a truth claim?

    “And I’m glad DB mentioned the Abraham / Isaac story. Abraham was apparently a stand-up guy, too. What a fine example of religious faith.”

    I just love how atheists seem to gloss over the rather important fact Isaac wasn’t killed, and became one of the primary forefathers of the Jewish race. Says something about their reading and comprehension skills when they miss or outright ignore such an essential point.

  76. EB, if god told you to kill your child, would you?

  77. Before I anser that I need foy to clarify something.

    Do you concede, at least for the sake of this hypothetical scenerio, that it has been firmly established that the Being telling me to act is truly the ‘Author of All Life’ rather than just some ‘voices in one’s head’ as DB so dishonestly characterized, and thus I am indeed recieving instructions from the legitimate Authority over ALL creation?

  78. An interesting qualification. How would you know? Everyone who hears the voice of god thinks they are actually hearing the voice of god, but some of them clearly are not.

    But sure, I will concede that.

  79. I’ll hold you to that concession, when you predictibly object with indignation.

    Very well, if your question is if the genuine ‘Author of All Life’ told me to be willing to sacrifice my child to show my devotion to ‘Him’ came before any other desire (as it was with Abraham), then yes, I’d do it. Not happily, or eagerly, but I’d do it.

    Though probably with the suspicion that a last-minute reversal would be ordered, since obviously the whole scenerio’s been done before.

  80. Thank you, EB, for answering the question.

    1
    Would your answer change if the Abraham / Isaac incident hadn’t happened?

    2
    Do you think Abraham actually believed God was going to let him kill his son? Or do you think he suspected, like you, that He would stay his hand at the last moment?

    3
    What do you think we should do with people who kill their children, and believe they did so on God’s orders?

    4
    How could you tell if you were actually hearing God’s voice, or merely hallucinating?

  81. I hate to bust in on someone’s party, but didn’t you just concede for the sake of the question that it was known 100% that it was God? That seems to rule #4 out of order, and perhaps #3 as well.

    But I will answer #3 for myself: the person who kill their own children, believing they did so on God’s orders, should still be executed. They should only be granted mercy if the judge/jury is assured by God, with 100% certainty, that the person acted under God’s command. 😉

    Following God’s commands does not necessarily make someone immune from the consequences that follow.

  82. 1 It’s irrelevant as my answer isn’t determined by the incedent happening or not. Only my suspicion of the inevitable outcome.

    2 I don’t know what went on in Abraham’s mind other than what is revealed by Scripture, but obviously he was willing to go all the way (which likely had some influence to God sparing Isaac in the end).

    3 Investigate, obviously.

    4 A number of verses in the NT deal with testing claims from spirits, false prophets, etc. 1John 5 immediately springs to mind. Not that it matters in this particular discussion, because you concede it IS actually God I’m dealing with in this hypothetical scenerio (I told you I’d hold you to it). Obviously if I wasn’t certain that the identity was valid I wouldn’t go along with the command, and I’d be more inherently suspicious since I know the situation in the post-Christ world today is fundamentally different from Abraham’s pre-Christ time.

  83. Yeah, #3 and #4 were a very transparent attempt to weasel out of his concession. #4 was more direct. As for #3, if he was trying to get me to say we should give a free pass to anyone who says ‘God told me so’ he’d be disappointed.

    Even if it was 100% established to be God, I’d still submit to the authorities. Just as the first disciples went to jail, beaten, tortured, and executed for being guilty of nothing more than spreading the news of events they witnessed and knew to be true. Just as many blacks did for being guilty of nothing more than sitting down at the ‘wrong’ table.

    Doing the right thing doesn’t mean there aren’t personal negative consequences.

    Is THAT what you’re really asking for Timmy?

  84. In Tim’s defense, even though those two statements may have been ‘off’, I think his tone was genuine. I don’t think he was trying to needle or weasel this time. I think. We can (maybe) give him the benefit of the doubt.

    PS, Tim, I posted on sword of truth.

  85. I will have to respond a bit later, but no, I wasn’t trying to weasel out of anything.

    Contrary to what you might think, I do try and conduct these debates in good faith (although I know I drift into sarcasm more often than I’d like).

    And thanks Tony, I’ll check it out.

  86. SJ,

    I think you’re identifying the one element of a very complex equation which supports your point and then acting like it’s the only salient one.  There are so many factors that determine which army wins a particular battle or inflicts the greatest body count.  Manpower is one, but motivation, tactical leadership, environmental conditions, logistical issues, and technology are all in the mix as well, and the examples of small armies with better technology, tactics or motivation triumphing over much larger ones seems to make a case against your claim that manpower is the most important factor.  Whether that “greater technology” is the horse, the longbow or the assault rifle.

    “A hundred thousand men with swords and bows and arrow will be able to accomplish as much bloodshed as if they had been armed with rifles.”

    That assertion is not supported by even minimal observation of the real world (the one you are so outspokenly committed to).  If there was truly no difference in outcomes then the fixation of all modern military commanders that I am aware of on marksmanship rather than archery and swordsmanship would be a very mysterious fact.

    ….

    EB,

    “Yeah, because proving your offhanded generalization doesn’t show your ‘point’ to be an offhanded generalization.”

    It’s not a generalisation to say that the only demographic groups, according to recent polling data, who express MAJORITY opposition to same sex marriage in the US are white evangelicals, the over-65s and people who didn’t go to college.  That was what the article I directed your attention to said.  Your alleged rebuttal, to the effect that you have met Black and Latino People who oppose same sex marriage, was entirely fatuous and irrelevant, rather like if I attempted to “disprove” the suggestion that Christians are mostly moral and law-abiding people by saying that I once knew a Christian who stole old people’s life-savings.

    “Without a transcendant standard independant of human existence/perception…”

    I’m going to ignore the incongruity of being lectured about the lack of foundation for atheistic morality by someone who essentially takes the position that the rules for you and I are strict and unarguable, but that The Boss can do anything he likes and still be worshipped for his “goodness”.

    And again we find repeated the stupid canard that atheism turns human beings into gods, at least in our own minds.  Your inability to think outside of the box of your own belief system is painfully apparent.

    “If there truly is an ‘Ultimate Authority over All Life’ then it is perfectly logical and moral for that Being to act like the ‘Ultimate Authority over All Life.’”

    Like I said, you have become little more than an apologist for the Great Leader (or is it the Dear Leader?).  None of his atrocities can be counted against him, because he has the authority to behave however he wants towards us.  For such a harsh critic of totalitarian and statist societies you sure do a good impression of a loyal comrade.

    “I just love how atheists seem to gloss over the rather important fact Isaac wasn’t killed, and became one of the primary forefathers of the Jewish race.”

    So what, willingness to murder your own children is ok so long as you are unexpectedly prevented from following through with it?  I guess that “Shoe Bomber” guy shouldn’t have been prosecuted, since everyone survived his attempt at mass murder, right?

    “Do you concede, at least for the sake of this hypothetical scenerio, that it has been firmly established that the Being telling me to act is truly the ‘Author of All Life’ rather than just some ‘voices in one’s head’ as DB so dishonestly characterized, and thus I am indeed recieving instructions from the legitimate Authority over ALL creation?”

    Where’s the dishonesty?  Do you think that when god talks to you to give direct instructions – which is sure to happen sooner or later given your special relationship – that you will not experience it as a “voice in your head”?  Or are you expecting an e.mail,… or just a general feeling?  That last, I think, would be the most dangerous assumption, because hearing internal voices is not an especially common experience, but we get ambiguous and hard-to-interpret impulses all the time.  If you presume god to be communicating with you through these then you will rarely be without divine commandments, but may end up acting on the promptings of the worst elements of your own psyche.

    So you tell me EB, what is it like when God talks to you, if it is not like “voices in your head”?  Just let me know exactly how potentially dangerous you really are.

    “Very well, if your question is if the genuine ‘Author of All Life’ told me to be willing to sacrifice my child to show my devotion to ‘Him’ came before any other desire (as it was with Abraham), then yes, I’d do it. Not happily, or eagerly, but I’d do it.”

    Asked and answered.  If the God who supposedly knows your mind to begin with asked you to kill an innocent child in order to perform the strangely redundant task of “proving” your devotion to him, you. would. do it.

    The grimly hilarious part is that you still criticise people like myself and Tim as “moral relativists”.  And yet there is literally nothing that you would not do – and call moral while you were doing it – if you believed that God had ordered you to.  How about if God ordered you to kill a lot of people?  Rape, kill and torture.  Is there an uncrossable line anywhere in sight?

  87. “It’s not a generalisation to say that the only demographic groups, according to recent polling data, who express MAJORITY opposition to same sex marriage in the US are white evangelicals, the over-65s and people who didn’t go to college.”

    True, ‘according to recent polling data’ I would expect the majority of a particualr ideology and those who haven’t grown up having to swallow liberal indoctrination at every turn to have an opposing view. I don’t need a poll to tell me that, it just stands to reason.

    All I’m saying is ‘recent polling data’ is just a generalized outlook, since as we discussed, it’s not inherently reliable and depends on many factors: wording of the question, perception of the one asking, number of people agreeing to answer, etc.

    “I’m going to ignore the incongruity of being lectured about the lack of foundation for atheistic morality by someone who essentially takes the position that the rules for you and I are strict and unarguable, but that The Boss can do anything he likes and still be worshipped for his “goodness”.”

    You can, but you’d miss the essential point that being the “Boss,” or as I like to say the ‘Author of All Life,’ that inherently provides an authority that you and I lack, and thus undermines your entire objection.

    “Your inability to think outside of the box of your own belief system is painfully apparent.”

    So is your apparent inability to argue with anything more than ‘nuh-uh!’ Like Timmy’s ‘just because’ arguement, it’s not at all persuasive.

    “None of his atrocities can be counted against him, because he has the authority to behave however he wants towards us. For such a harsh critic of totalitarian and statist societies you sure do a good impression of a loyal comrade.”

    Mostly because those totalitarian and statist societies are run by all-too flawed humans at the helm. An inherent fact put forth in the same book that describes those same “atrocities” which you continue to blithely ignore.

    “So what, willingness to murder your own children is ok so long as you are unexpectedly prevented from following through with it? I guess that “Shoe Bomber” guy shouldn’t have been prosecuted, since everyone survived his attempt at mass murder, right?”

    Given my and SJ’s recent posts on what we think society should do, irrespective of the ultimate morality of the act, I’d say this is as ‘off’ as Timmy’s #4.

    “Where’s the dishonesty?”

    “You also presumably admire, as all monotheists are supposed to, the willingness of Abraham to butcher his own son on the say-so of the voices in his head.”

    Again, the same book that informs you of this incident for you to nash your teeth over, also describes the cricumstances to be entirely more than just mere ‘voices in his head’ as you put it. Which does reveal your characterization to not be based on the facts of the book as presented and thus entirely false.

    Since I presume you to be smarter than Stathei, I can also presume this falsehood is not due to a case of ignorance of the facts, but an inherent bias, which makes the falsehood an entirely willful one.

    And I must say DB, you seem to react with a staggering amount of emotional investment over a story you believe to be fictitious. I rather think you wouldn’t make the same falsehoods if we were discussing Star Wars, or Harry Potter, would you?

    “Do you think that when god talks to you to give direct instructions – which is sure to happen sooner or later given your special relationship – that you will not experience it as a “voice in your head”?”

    Not really. Actually many of the communications between man and God as described in the Bible have been entirely external. From a burning bush to Moses, from ‘three men’ that appeared to Abraham to give the promise of Isaac’s birth, from an ‘Angel of the Lord’ multiple times. Seems to be a consistent pattern of being entirely in the external world of communication during such times of explicit command.

    But in this context, I don’t believe for a second that you meant anything other than mere hallucination, which again, is an entirely dishonest characterization of the tail. Whether you believe it to be true or not.

    “The grimly hilarious part is that you still criticise people like myself and Tim as “moral relativists”.”

    This just shows how you don’t seem to have a firm understanding between moral “relativism” and “objectivism.” And specificly how the circumstance of killing under God’s command (a legitimate authority, or rather THE legitimate authority), is no more an atrocity than an executioner killing the properly convicted under the legitimate authority of the State.

    Of course, once again we see your inherent bias coloring your judgement as you refuse to acknowledge that not one human being of any age is truly ‘innocent.’ At least for the sake of argument in how that self-same book describes the circumstances Mankind is under.

    “And yet there is literally nothing that you would not do – and call moral while you were doing it – if you believed that God had ordered you to.”

    Including love your neighbour, ‘give the State what belongs to the State,’ don’t covet anyone’s wife, etc. Things that goes against our nature, and as a whole may be more difficult than killing if history is any indication.

    “How about if God ordered you to kill a lot of people? Rape, kill and torture. Is there an uncrossable line anywhere in sight?”

    I don’t really expect God to give certain commands like rape, or ‘conquer the world,’ or ‘worship this idol’ as they would be contradicting to the entire message of the Bible, and thus would raise a flag. ‘Killing’ isn’t inherently “murder” under some circumstances (God giving the order being one of them), thus would be consistent, if highly irregular in this post-Christ time. And as I told Timmy, my assent to such an order would hinge on the fact it was 100% established to being from the ‘Author of All Life.’

  88. Right. Chess.

    Firstly, apologies for the delay. I have not been avoiding your point, merely delaying it until I had a decent amount of time with which to respond.

    I have a rather lengthy response almost ready to go, but something occurred to me, and I hope it may forestall the necessity of this entire conversation.

    What do you think of this?

    1. If basketball skills existed, all basketball games would end in a draw.
    2. All basketball games do not end in a draw.
    3. Therefore, basketball skills do not exist.

  89. I would say that that syllogism doesn’t match my representation of your view on reason.

    You would have to amend it to reflect that the players did not merely have skills, but that each player’s skills were perfect, and they were both perfectly matched.

    You were unequivocal: “Reason works.”

    You did not say, “Reason works some of the time.” Or, “It is difficult to act reasonably 100% of the time, but it is enough to generally keep us from getting killed.”

    So far, I take your position to be, “Atheism is warranted and justified, provided we assume that ‘reason works,’; please don’t ask me to explain where ‘reason’ came from or how it came to be reliable in the first place!”

    That seem about right? 😉

  90. You did not say, “Reason works some of the time.” Or, “It is difficult to act reasonably 100% of the time, but it is enough to generally keep us from getting killed.”

    Isn’t that a bit pedantic? Did you really think that “Reason works” was an admission that everyone has equal capacity for it?

  91. Well, I thought it was really self-evident that not everyone had equal capacity on it, but it took until this example for you to come close to admitting it, and I note that even now you still just skirt it.

    So lets assume that you are in fact admitting that not everyone has equal capacity for it. That brings us back to the question of how then exactly we can be sure our ‘reason works’ in such a way that you can be quite certain that when a dictator acts unjustly, its not him acting ‘unreasonably,’ but YOU?

    Moreover, isn’t ‘justice’ only a concept that we have invented? You may say that it is ‘unjust’ to take 95% of your belongings, but of course the definition of ‘justice’ has changed over time, and if the dictator wants to instead define ‘justice’ as “that which gives me 95% of the wealth of the country, since I am that much more important than everyone else”, who is to say he’s wrong?

    For that matter, isn’t even the term ‘reason’ something that is a human convention? Can it not change over time, depending on different societal norms and conventions?

    Before you answer, consider carefully your own argument: http://swordoftruth.us/shoot-the-bull/marriage-equality-the-thread-to-end-all-threads/msg48762/?topicseen#msg48762

    I find myself decidedly not comforted by your assurance that we need not fear being brutally put down by tyrants because “Reason works… but not everyone has equal capacity for it.”

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