Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ongoing Dialogue, Part III

Okay, so we exceeded 200 comment in the last post (please make sure to hit "load more" so that you get those 13 comments that came after 200). So, let's continue in the comment box:




207 comments:

  1. "...humans started living together and realized it is better to cooperate with one another than to fight and kill one another all the time."

    Secular Humanist, help me out. When, exactly, did humans decide it's better to cooperate with each other than fight and kill all the time? You recognize that the 20th century was the most murderous of all, right?

    Please clarify this point, because I see humans fighting and murdering and committing genocide all the time (read the news).

    The tendency to sin (concupiscence) has been a fact of human nature since the Fall, and human nature does not change. It certainly has not "evolved."

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  2. Cooperation with one another goes back to the earliest life forms. By the time we were actually human, we had been following certain codes of conduct without even being aware of them. Acting decent to one another goes way back on the evolution tree.

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  3. Moral laws would have no purpose until humans started living together and realized it is better to cooperate with one another than to fight and kill one another all the time.

    Moral laws are objective, regardless of purpose or communal living.
    Do they, or don’t they exist, objectively?

    Is it a fact that humans don’t operate based on mere response to stimuli or behavioral norms (instinct), but that we have and use reason as a measure itself .
    Right? Reason is the gauge.

    Or what else do you posit as the road to knowing?

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  4. certain codes of conduct without even being aware of them. Acting decent to one another goes way back on the evolution tree.

    So, you're positing nature?

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  5. So. let's use your reasoning there.
    Seems odd that only one species evolved with moral sense, doesn't it? I mean, since you're positing that morals evolved?

    How does nature give rise to morals when it only selects for survival?
    And how does nature give rise to accurate truth-finding?

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  6. It is hard to make the distinction between survival instincts and morality. The first morals came from survival instincts when we found it more beneficial to cooperate with one another. To distinguish a moral principal from a survival instinct, let's assume that we arrived at the conclusion that we not only should be good to one another because it helps us to survive as a family, tribe, race, species, etc. but because it is the right thing to do. It is right to give a starving person or animal some food or water. Then we started finding other things that just made us feel good about ourselves for doing or avoiding. Thus the beginning of human morality. It probably happened when we were still apes.

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  7. But what if a human finds that it feels good to kill another human? How can feelings be an accurate measure of morality? And why exactly would it be right to give food to a starving person? Why exactly shouldn't each individual just be concerned with himself or herself?

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  8. "What would make humans realize that it is "better" to cooperate than to fight and kill? What about survival of the fittest? Could you define what objective criteria humans would have used to come to that realization?"

    Margo,

    You are asking about an evolutionary process that led to family cooperation then tribal and so on up to civilizations. It is all about learning win-win ways of living b

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  9. The first morals came from survival instincts when we found it more beneficial to cooperate with one another.

    Survival instinct is instinct, not reason. It’s a response to stimuli.
    Reason is a completely different capacity and faculty of the mind.
    Behavioral patterns of instinct would in no way give rise to higher reason. We would merely use the instinct that we’ve always had, until we died out.
    And you need to explain how nature gives rise to morality. What mechanism?

    And if you’re positing this, then why don’t animals have evolved moral systems? Why don’t they weight justice and injustice?

    We are not the oldest species. Certainly animals should’ve reached “moral reason” before us, in previous chronological generations of evolution, correct?

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  10. And how can you posit that nature alone gives rises to "truth-finding" or "truth-knowing", when you're saying it all was borne of instinct?

    Instinct would remain instinct because that is what would drive survival of the fittest. Eat, kill, reproduce, respond, but never *reason*. Right or wrong?

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  11. but because it is the right thing to do. It is right to give a starving person or animal some food or water. Then we started finding other things that just made us feel good about ourselves for doing or avoiding. Thus the beginning of human morality.

    I'm sorry, but this is silly. Instinct would benefit *me* better than moral reasoning, would. I could take a starving person's food and survive!
    Instinct would *benefit me*. Reason, asks me to think higher, to share food, to give. Where does that weight of my heart's decision come from??

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  12. For the lurkers- conjecture does not strengthen any position.
    If there truly is a knowable time of evolution where instant morphed into moral reason, then we need to see scientific proof of that. We need to see that line in the sand. Ex: *Here* is where we had instant turning to reason (point to a time or overlays of stats).
    Conjecture doesn't strengthen argument. Facts do.

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    1. *where instinct morphed into moral reason,
      *Here* is where we had instinct turning into reason

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  13. Our survival instincts are for the survival of the species, ourselves being part of that species. Being charitable to others comes naturally to us because we all want humanity to endure. It is not all dog eat dog. Although sometimes it can seem like that.

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  14. Being charitable to others comes naturally to us because we all want humanity to endure. It is not all dog eat dog.

    Oh, I would argue being charitable does *not* at all come naturally. It's a struggle to be kind, isn't it? And there are some evil people, who do *not* infact want "humans to endure". Oh, no. Absolute evil abounds, right? Do you agree that absolute evil acts exist?

    And it would remain an existence of dog eat dog, because instinct would be the driver? The engine of our existence would be eat, kill, reproduce, respond, but then die out. Right?

    Again- why doesn't the overall animal kingdom reason morally? Why don't they have that capacity? Why can't they weigh loftier thoughts of the mind, if they're older than us (evolution)?

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  15. If it's okay, I would like to posit a practical application of Secular Humanist's worldview. You seem to base your morality on the survival of the human species, correct? So, following that basis, a person should not distort the action that enables the continuation of the species (sexual intercourse), but should always use that action to continue the human species, would you agree?

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  16. "a person should not distort the action that enables the continuation of the species (sexual intercourse), but should always use that action to continue the human species,"

    We are smart enough to know that we no longer have to worry about keeping the human race going by making sure that we keep having sex for the purpose of reproduction and not for the enjoyment it brings. I would agree with you if we were in danger of going extinct.

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  17. Well. If there were no more humans produced after today, we'd be extinct within one lifetime. That's basic math and a very flawed idea.

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  18. "Why can't they weigh loftier thoughts of the mind, if they're older than us (evolution)?"

    Huh? We are the most highly evolved and therefore most intelligent beings on the planet. Why would animals who stopped evolving (into other species) sooner be smarter than us?

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  19. Why would they stop evolving?
    Why would they not have reached higher morality or higher reasoning?
    Why are *we* (humans) the only ones via the same method (evolution) to acquire reasoning, both as a capacity and as a measure?

    Hm?

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  20. I am confused, honestly. I want Secular Humanist to answer Nubby's points. Is it instinct or reason? Why would instinct tell us to be "kind"? Sometimes, instinct would tell us to kill and steal food from the starving. One of the most obvious things in the world is selfishness on the part of humans. If you think humans are naturally kind and selfless in order to "get along" and survive, I have to think that you have not raised children? Also, I thought that originally you were saying that humans have evolved morally over time (since the times that humans evolved). If that's what you meant, are you saying that humans are kinder and less murderous and less selfish now in the 21st Century then they were thousands of years back? If so, can you give actual evidence of that? And the point Nubby made about animals being here before us... why didn't they evolve into moral/reasoning beings? Thanks!

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  21. I was surprised and yet not surprised at this very timely letter in our church bulletin after Mass this morning, from our pastor, Fr. Don Kline. Here's the beginning, and it sure is appropriate for what Secular Humanist said earlier:

    "I've noticed something about the secular world in which we Catholics live today. That is, more and more, people who are hostile about faith believe that people who go to church or express their faith in any sort of substantial way are dangerous zealots. We are 'dangerous zealots'?!?!"

    ha ha, anyway, I think God is funny. :)

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  22. Ha - so "dangerous" with all of our giving to the food pantry, donating to orphans and giving our love to a needy neighbor... Terrifying love, uh huh. lol

    If you think humans are naturally kind and selfless in order to "get along" and survive, I have to think that you have not raised children?

    Many Lolz!

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  23. Secular Humanist,

    You wrote: “The danger posed by people like you who are Catholic is simply that they pose a threat to certain personal freedoms when they accuse those freedoms of being "sinful", "objectively disordered", "intrinsically evil", etc. You may not see that as a danger, but it infringes on our liberty.”

    I would like to contend that the “personal freedoms” we Catholics “accuse of” (actually, “correctly identify as”) being sinful, objectively disordered or intrinsically evil aren’t really noble freedoms at all, when freedom is mindfully differentiated from licentiousness. Freedom, properly understood, is the unhindered ability to do whatever one should, whereas licentiousness is carte blanche (blank check) to do whatever one wants. Obviously, a cohesive, flourishing society cannot be built based on the latter. What dependably demarcates the difference between healthy freedom and calamitous licentiousness? Why, precisely absolute moral truths - as opposed to ever fluid/ever evolving subjective/relativistic “truths” that is - arguably - so devastatingly dividing the Western world today. Your repeated references (in your other comments) to man co-operating for mutual benefit are bemusing, when exactly the opposite is occurring on so many planes in our societies today - and precisely because so many of us are insistently devising (subjectively) his/her own truths to live by!

    Now, go ahead and name anything that the Catholic Church condemns or advocates restriction of (note: only advocates, because the Church has no temporal power to actually restrict anything that any man does), which you view as so dangerously and frighteningly undermining your “personal freedom” or “liberty”, and we can analyze whether, in fact, it is simply an anarchic licentiousness that you’re demanding - involving harm/injustice to self and/or others - or whether it is some genuine, justified, liberating freedom. Yes, we can do that analysis, step by careful step, argument by careful argument, reasoning by careful reasoning. The choice of the “freedom” allegedly at stake, which we will analyze, is yours.

    The irony is, whatever you are referring to in this context as your “personal freedom” and “liberty” - being allegedly impinged on by Catholics - is more than likely tantamount to moral anarchy, which enslaves man to selfish/debasing/dissipating passions and indeed, as history has repeatedly shown, ultimately destroys entire empires, while it is cognizance of and deference to truth (yes, those absolute moral boundary-delineating truths) that sets man free, giving him the real freedom he requires to flourish to the max - within the confines of his humble, human realm. If there were no absolute confines, we'd all be gods. But I do suspect that deep down in your heart, like the rest of us, you too realize, albeit with some dismay, that we're not!

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  24. "Is it instinct or reason? Why would instinct tell us to be "kind"? Sometimes, instinct would tell us to kill and steal food from the starving."

    I'm not an expert on instinct v. reason. It seems something we do by instinct we do without much thought. Reason requires more thought. I'll try to answer the rest of your questions when I have time.

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  25. Secular Humanist,
    You’ll have to explain how a moral code arises in the hearts of mankind through nature, which cannot even give testimony to itself.

    In order to intellectually grasp absolute moral law and obey it, one needs to use reason. Not instinct. In fact, our “animal instincts” normally push us in the immoral direction.

    Reason is a capacity which uses cognitive and neural processes (look it up). No matter what, the point remains that natural law is not grounded in nature.
    You have to explain how that would even happen. Even if you consult experts on "instinct" (whatever that actually means), they still wouldn't be able to explain any grounding of natural law.

    Do you believe that absolute evil acts exist? Do you think it's okay or not to toss 10 innocent people to the sharks, for entertainment?
    If not, why not? Based on what reasoning?
    What from nature itself says, "Tossing people to the sharks is a wrong act"? How does nature explain this or weigh degrees of just or unjust acts?

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  26. The earthquake in Nepal is weighing heavily on my heart today. I’ve visited there many times and come to develop a special love for the magnificent Himalayan mountains, the amazing peace and tranquility of the place, and the wonderful simplicity, friendliness and hospitality of the Nepalese people, despite their abject poverty. A Gurkha, once he befriends you, becomes your friend for life – he will gladly lay down his life for you if necessary; such is the loyalty of these people! Please keep them in your prayers today, and if possible, make a donation towards the relief efforts currently underway.

    I was reminded just now of the colorful stupas which adorn the public squares of Nepal’s towns and cities. On all four sides of the stupa are usually painted the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha – looking north, south, east and west for goodness among men. I wonder how he could be doing that if indeed there was no absolute moral code against which to gauge the merit/demerit of any of our actions.

    Stupa

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  27. I'm a bit overwhelmed by what I think are all interesting questions and comments. Instead of answering them all, I will just try to summarize what I see is the difference between Catholicism and Secular Humanism.

    One is theist, the other atheist. One sees meaning and purpose given to us by a diety. The other lets us give our lives their own meaning and purpose.

    One preaches an objective morality given to us by a Creator. The other sees morality as relative, having evolved from our desire to get along with one another so we can all benefit through cooperation as opposed to constant competition and conflict.

    Catholicism has probably the most stringent moral values of any worldview. Secular Humanism has probably the least stringent.

    I admire Catholicism but I think it has been built on a series of falsehoods, the most blatant of which is the incarnation whereby its god was born of a virgin (just like a few other pagan gods), suffered and died for some sort of "Original Sin" where the first humans somehow fell from grace, and rose from the dead (for which there is no evidence other than unsubstantiated written accounts). Because I can't possibly believe those claims, I must choose another worldview. I choose Secular Humanism. Secular in that it is not based on any religion and humanist in that human beings are the highest known intelligence in the universe.

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  28. But, we don't need see the difference. Of course there's difference.
    What we want to do is follow the logical road, right?
    Secular Humanism says, "I make my own moral code because morals are subjective." But you state that objectively. It's self-refuting. There's no paper trail, no logic trail, no path of deduction for the ultimate source, right?

    To boot, secular atheism relies on science alone. The problem there, is that science is only *one method* of gaining knowledge. It always deals strictly with observable data to make positive proclamations. So, to your "stringent" comment, I'd say your view is the most handicapped. Right?

    You can choose another world view, but you should be honest in your assessment to get there. Most or least stringent is irrelevant to True or False.

    It's apparent you don't know the Catholic faith very well, yet you've discarded it. You'll want to fill those gaps with positive data (re: read and study).

    Can you posit how nature expounds on itself?
    Otherwise, don't you think you should abandon that notion and turn to a more solid premise?

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  29. Going back to the "dangerous" comment, obviously Nubby was kidding about the charitable acts being dangerous. I think what comes off as "dangerous" in Catholicism is that we don't just stay in our Catholic bubble, keeping our beliefs and morals to ourselves, the way some other religions do. But, we proclaim our morality and beliefs and posit that they apply to ALL people, not just those who choose to be Catholic. We present morality as absolute, instead of as relative. And let's face it, nobody likes being told that something they enjoy doing is wrong, hence, people resent us Catholics for saying that stuff like contraception is wrong. But, what secularists miss is the reasons for our morality. Do they know why Catholicism seems stringent? Is Catholicism stringent just to be mean and difficult? Or is there something more to it?

    And I really don't see how humans are getting along with each other these days. And who exactly are we supposed to cooperate with? And who defines cooperation and benefit? Why should benefit be mutual? Why shouldn't I be allowed to just care about myself and nobody else?

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  30. "But, we proclaim our morality and beliefs and posit that they apply to ALL people, not just those who choose to be Catholic."

    Yes. That is wrong. Non-Catholics are not subject to Catholic rules and Catholics should not try to influence civil legislation that would impose their rules on the rest of us.

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  31. When's the last time someone wanted to legislate Catholicism as the state religion?

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  32. Is it absolutely wrong that Catholicism does not apply to all people? And why does secularism get to impose their rules on Catholics?

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  33. The irony of your comment is that it's the Catholics who's beliefs are being trodden with mandates that aren't even laws! It's the Catholics who are getting put in moral headlocks to cooperate with laws that force us to act against our beliefs.

    Now who's imposing?

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    1. * that it's the Catholics whose beliefs

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  34. and Catholics should not try to influence civil legislation

    You want to repeal our rights to vote? Um...

    Stay on topic. Prove your argument about nature giving us morals.

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    1. My fault, Nubby. I tried to get a practical application going, so I sidetracked the discussion a little. Sorry bout that!

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    2. Ha, np.
      U don't have to apologize to me ;) Just waiting to see an actual refutation/argument from the non-believers... still

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  35. "Is it absolutely wrong that Catholicism does not apply to all people?"

    Catholic rules are not applicable to anyone who does not choose to be Catholic. You, as a Catholic, choose to let the Church tell you how to live your life. I and many others have not made that choice.

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  36. No kidding. And congratulations on your freedom. It's a shame you don't want us to have the same.

    Nature grounds natural law how again?

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  37. "Freedom, properly understood, is the unhindered ability to do whatever one should, whereas licentiousness is carte blanche (blank check) to do whatever one wants."

    By your definition. Freedom means we do what we want. There are always limits on how much freedom we can have in any given situation. It all depends of how the freedom we enjoy deprives others of their freedom or quality of life.

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  38. NO. Freedom has never meant "we do what we want". What on earth are you talking about?

    Freedom has *always* been about doing the greater good. Always been about supporting the right to do that, even. Now we can't even do that much.

    Read up on your history, economics, and Catholicism. Also, biology, science, and philosophy. You cannot logically posit the stuff you've been spewing and want us to respect that as fact. Nonsense.

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  39. Posit your argument for nature as grounds for moral law. Otherwise, bank off around the turn, maybe, and take a break to think of a rebuttal.

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  40. "Freedom has *always* been about doing the greater good."

    You don't have a full appreciation of freedom. A free person is not restricted to doing only the greater good. It is very noble of a free person to do the greater good but he is also free to do all kinds of other things. Very few of us are totally free. We have responsibilities, duties and obligations that restrict our freedom. But a person can have more freedom by choosing a life with less responsibilities, duties and obligations and also by not choosing an overly restrictive religion or worldview or by living in a country or state with more liberal laws such as Colorado, Washington, Sweden, Netherlands, etc.

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  41. We're not opining on freedom.
    Are you able to posit a rebuttal to argument at hand, which is:
    Nature cannot give rise to morality or moral laws, because nature cannot even give testimony to itself. Therefore, morality comes from God, as every single branch of ethical theory demonstrates logically.

    Lurkers, Have you seen one non-believer posit an actual argument yet? Just where are the atheists who can argue on point?

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  42. Could you answer Nubby's question? How does nature ground the moral law?

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  43. Secular Humanism = subjective morality declared objectively which = self-refutation which = logical fallacy = nonsense.

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  44. "Posit your argument for nature as grounds for moral law."

    "Moral law" means different things to different people. To me, there actually is no moral law other than something that is made up by an institution like the Catholic Church. That is your moral law, not mine. Morality is a concept based on our need for social order. We call a corrupt politician "immoral" for abusing his position of power for his own personal gain. You might call me immoral if I use contraceptives, but that would just be your opinion, which is influenced by your religion. In reality, there is no moral law that prohibits me from using contraceptives. You, being Catholic, might think there is. But that is your own personal belief.

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  45. If you believe in absolute evil acts then you believe in moral law.
    Do you believe in absolute evils? Would it be wrong to throw people to sharks, for laughs?

    You've failed thus far to show me how nature grounds anything, morally speaking. Your premise is faulty.

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  46. "Do you believe in absolute evils?"

    I have opinions like everyone else about what is good, what is evil, what is neither good nor evil, etc. We don't all have to agree on every determination. There are some things that I would call absolute evils and I would be unable to see how anyone could think otherwise. But even that would merely be my opinion.

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  47. I asked you a very direct question.
    Is it wrong to throw people to sharks for entertainment, for laughs?

    Why? Or why not?
    Supply a "yes" or "no" and a road to reason, please. Do justice to your argument.

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  48. If you are asking my opinion, yes, I think it is wrong to throw people to sharks for entertainment. I also think it is wrong to tell people in Africa that it is a sin for them to use condoms and they will be punished if they do so and do not repent. There are a lot of things I find to be wrong, some you would agree on, some you wouldn't. There are definitely some things that you would find to be wrong that I would totally be ok with. So, what is your point.

    I'll answer any other questions you have tomorrow. Good night.

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  49. If you are asking my opinion, yes, I think it is wrong to throw people to sharks for entertainment.

    Say no more.
    Why is this wrong?
    What is the reasoning? What is your reference point for reasoning this?
    I posit this as the reason and you should easily agree, since we've now painted this out:
    The weight of morality is felt on every human heart, especially in terms of recognizing that something is *absolutely* evil. God's law is upon the very heart and *reason* of man. It may not be obvious at first. But it is undeniable.

    God's law is object as the weight of your body on a scale.
    A person's opinion on your body weight, doesn't negate the fact that your real body weight exists and that it can be known.

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    1. * God's law is as objective as the weight of your body is on a scale.

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  50. "I have opinions like everyone else about what is good, what is evil, what is neither good nor evil, etc."

    And I have opinions, Secular Humanist, that are markedly different to yours, on numerous things. So who/what gets to influence the (let's say civil, if not moral) law of the land? Are my opinions, because they're Catholic, to be banned from expression in civic life? What makes your opinions noteworthy and not mine? Indeed, do you know what the bulk of the current civil laws of most free Western democracies have been historically based on/developed from? Yep, those same laws which have spawned the freedoms you enjoy today. Hint: they were not based on instinct, natural inclinations, opinions or some folks' life experiences.

    For the atheist, the universe burped itself into existence.

    Likewise, for the secular humanist, the moral codes we're all obliged to follow (or are we?) bubbled up out of shared, co-operative experiences - to date. Or maybe they were decided by a vote sometime somewhere on opinions or subjective feelings of some representative group of homo sapiens. Let's all just ignore the factual genesis of our laws today or the actual history of civilizations and their transformation by the advent of Christianity.

    Secular Humanist, is there a difference between freedom and licence? Did you really mean to say that doing whatever we want/like is (workable) freedom?

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  51. Every time a citizen votes, he votes for his or her own values or priorities. Secular Humanist, are you really telling us that religious people have no place in the public square?

    And the irony here is that atheist/secular/humanist/leftist beliefs are every bit as zealous, with is as much faith and religious fervor involved, as any other religion. You have a religion, and it's called Secular Humanism. And I reject your religion. But I won't deny you a place at the table. I will vote, however, for my values, just as everyone else does.

    Especially in this nation that was founded upon religious liberty over oppressive government.

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  52. "[atheism] lets us give our lives their own meaning and purpose."

    Secular Humanist, so you cannot criticize a Muslim whose purpose and meaning in life is to kill innocents, right? He can name truth for himself, by your philosophy.

    And can we at least admit that, if atheism were true, then ultimately (please note that word) life has no meaning or purpose? Ultimately, there is nothing. Ultimately, nothing matters. Ultimately, it's all meaningless. Ultimately, there is no purpose for any of it. We all just go "poof". Can you concede that point?

    And I do thank you for hanging in here. It takes some courage to come on a Catholic blog and debate this vigorously.

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  53. "Catholic rules are not applicable to anyone who does not choose to be Catholic."

    Actually, the moral law is universal and applied to everyone. So, things like abortion, marriage as male/female, euthanasia, IVF, sex outside of marriage.... all of these things are issues of natural law. That is why you see Secularists for Life, or why you see no gay "marriage" in atheist regimes, etc. These are not merely religious issues.

    Now, if anyone ever tried to pass a law that made you go to Mass, or partake of the sacraments, or make a profession of faith, or believe in the Trinity, or the Papacy, then you'd have a point! No one is forcing that on you, though.

    Unfortunately, the secularists are now forcing Christians to either commit sin (by participating in a sinful event, or by facilitating sin) or lose their livelihood. That is what is being forced. It's shameful.

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  54. "God's law is upon the very heart and *reason* of man. It may not be obvious at first. But it is undeniable."

    Nubby,

    That is an allegorical way to describe how we can differentiate between those things we call good and those that we call evil. I was taught right from wrong by, among others, parochial school nuns. I was nearly expelled from my Catholic high school for laughing during a mass that was being said by the school principal. I had a good Catholic mother and I have a good Catholic wife from a good Catholic family.

    That being said, and knowing that I have been fed a pack of lies and fairy tales, I am inclined to be repulsed by the authority exerted by the Catholic Church over the true believers and any attempt to exert that authority over the rest of us.

    I'm in a different time zone and I am an early riser. I've read your questions and comments. They are consistent with Church teachings and with the views of the Catholics I've known. I respect everything you've said but I have to disagree with you. We have diametrically opposed outlooks on life. My life has the meaning and purpose that I give to it. I choose to enjoy it while it lasts because this is the only one I'm going to live. Thanks.

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  55. "is there a difference between freedom and licence? Did you really mean to say that doing whatever we want/like is (workable) freedom?"

    Francis, we can approach this your way or my way. Your way is to call the ability to do what we *should* do "freedom" and the ability to do what we want "license". By those definitions, many of us are fortunate to have unlimited freedom. But I call that limited freedom and total freedom to me would include your freedom plus what you call "license".

    So you might like to think that you have unlimited freedom but not license. That's fine. To you, I have redefined freedom just like you would say I have redefined marriage if I choose to marry another man. I call that freedom.

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  56. "And the irony here is that atheist/secular/humanist/leftist beliefs are every bit as zealous, with as much faith and religious fervor involved, as any other religion. You have a religion, and it's called Secular Humanism."

    We each have an ideology. Mine is not a religion but I will go along with you calling it a religion, within this venue. If it were a religion, we wouldn't be able to advocate it in schools, government, etc. So it really isn't a religion. It is a realistic way to look at life.

    At some point, we all need to get real. Religion is not real. We should all be secular regardless of our religion. Religion should not be an issue in public venues. It's fine for a football player to "Tebow" but the coach shouldn't require the players to join in prayer before each game. If religious players want to join together for a prayer before or after the game, they should take it to the side as they do in the NFL. There should be no prayer recited on a PA system before a public high school game. None should be said at a public meeting and religious taboos should not be a factor in laws or court decisions. People should express their religious beliefs in a proper venue.

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  57. "And can we at least admit that, if atheism were true, then ultimately (please note that word) life has no meaning or purpose?"

    Ouch! Yes. It is true. In general, any meaning or purpose you have in your life, I can say "that's your meaning and purpose, not mine". I can even say that to Tom Brady. My meaning and purpose in my life does not have to be to win four superbowls or more, have a supermodel for a wife and live in style. Not that I would refect it if I had those things. Also, my meaning and purpose is not to go to heaven when I die because that is just wishful thinking and an excuse not to live this life my own way.

    It is a blank slate. Give your life any meaning and purpose you want. Just know that there will be others who will make sure yours doesn't infringe upon theirs.

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  58. That is an allegorical way to describe how we can differentiate between those things we call good and those that we call evil.

    I never once drew an analogy to explain the logical of the fact that all ethical theory is tied to God's law, during this whole debate. What I drew was a logical map, showed how God's law is knowable, used the scholarship on the table, and considered the fact that your premise was very weak and you could not rebut the argument, so I concluded with argument as sound. Because it is. And because you failed to logically rebut it.

    I've read your questions and comments. They are consistent with Church teachings and with the views of the Catholics I've known.

    BINGO. They are consistent, but I never started with the Church as my starting point, did I? Makes it seem like the Church is worth a look, huh? I mean, based on the consistency along , right?
    You non-believers owe it to the justice of the argument to be honest in your intellectual approach, otherwise, all you posit are conjecture and feelings.

    I’m not participating to “make anyone Catholic”, that’s not my job, not my concern. I participate because I feel I can show logic behind the reasoning. Or at least, I can show the weakness in the atheist “argument”, if he even has one. That’s not a slight, that’s a fact. Look how long it took for us to arrive at wrapping up the argument? Over 450-some odd comments? I mean, really? Just to flesh out a premise? That’s saying something about the erroneous method, thought process, and lack of reasoning on the part of the one rebutting (non-believers). It says there’s a logical cohesive argument on the side of the believer which cannot even be rebutted. That’s what that says. It doesn’t say anything about my being Catholic. See. That’s honest assessment.

    Anyway, I’ll write quick recap for the readers, as pertains to the conclusion. Hopefully someday you’ll see how illogical your stance is and consider the logic and reasoning as sound, an abandon the self-refuting belief of subject atheism.

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  59. Replies
    1. Hopefully someday you’ll see how illogical your atheistic stance is and consider the logic and reasoning of my argument here as sound, and abandon the self-refuting belief of subject atheism.

      Delete
  60. For the lurkers, if you’re following the argument, you’ll see a couple of things right off the bat:

    1) Non-believers rejected out-right a full body of scholarship on ethical theory, without supplying new evidence to consider.

    2) Non-believers departed intellectually from a cohesive theory, by removing the God-component from their opinion; and left us with more unknowns, more confusion, and more static in the data set.

    3) Non-believers failed to explain how nature gives rise to morality of the human heart, how nature expounds on itself, why animals don’t share in our moral system or moral knowledge, being that evolution itself is the method for bringing that change, and they failed to argue away the fact that morality is a constant and the push/pull of that is always felt on the human heart according to *reason*. It should be across the board obvious, that animals have morals, and that nature can give testimony to all of moral law, too, if that’s the avenue they’re going to walk and the evidence they’re going to point to.

    4) Therefore, because their argument was very weak, intellectually, it stands to reason that my proposition was at least irrefutable if not completely accurate.
    Tips: When you’re arguing with a non-believer, keep the focus on the argument. He needs to bring an actual premise in place of yours. If he fails, he fails right out of the gate. Also, when you’re arguing “theory”, realize you have a full body of scholarship at your disposal. You can keep going to that well to hold forth your points. You merely point to the logic and the evidence and it’s up to the atheist to refute it with other scholarship or concede that his method and process is erroneous. You don’t really need to get side tracked on Catholic doctrine or belief. The argument is sound even without going down that rabbit trail.

    This was fun, Leila. Good idea to host it.

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    1. Nubby

      After reading this debate from the beginning, (um, lurking?) I have to tell you how much I appreciate your style of argumentation. It has been useful and pleasurable. You are clear, straightforward, and focused. These qualities raise the level of discourse and are in no way insulting or disrespectful to any.

      Absolutely refreshing. BTW, do you pronounce your name, "New-Bee" or "Nub-ee"?

      Delete
    2. Ty, that’s v. kind. Glad u found it useful. And a short vowel sound works, but whatever you’d like, ha.

      Delete
  61. I had to comment on this from Secular Humanist:

    "Also, my meaning and purpose is not to go to heaven when I die because that is just wishful thinking and an excuse not to live this life my own way. "

    Made me laugh out loud. No offense intended, it just did. Do we really need or look for am excuse not to live life our own way? My experience is that people make excuses to live life their own way. Why would we need an excuse to not do what we want?

    When I read your posts about your religious experience, it makes me think that you are rejecting the faith you had as a child, without ever experiencing what it means to grow up in the faith--I mean, live an adult Catholic life. I find that many people who leave the faith left during adolescence or young adulthood and have never experienced an adult relationship with God. It's hard to be an adult Catholic! It means constant self-sacrifice. We don't make the sacrifices just because we don't want life to end at death. We make them out of love. I believe as a Catholic that love surrounds us at every moment, that love is our purpose. We were made for love and only love satisfies us. I am praying you will find your way back to the Church to experience the love of God. It is far from wishful thinking.

    Thanks for continuing the debate and sorry if too many things are getting thrown at you at once. I think we all wish more people on the "other side" would participate, but when they don't, those brave few who do can get overwhelmed.

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  62. Nubby,

    I'm sure many will be impressed by your sophism. I wish I could believe the following and adopt your worldview:

    1. The universe was created as described in the Book of Genesis by the Hebrew god, Yaweh who took a personal interest in Abraham and his descendants. That is not how the universe came about and if there is an intelligence behind all this, I doubt that such an intelligence would do any of the things described in the Old Testament. But who am I to say for sure? Right?

    2. The Hebrew god was incarnated by being born to a virgin (just like prior pagan gods) and was named Jesus. Jesus was the Hebrew god AND his only begotten son.

    3. To make restitution for a "sin" committed by the first humans created by the Hebrew god, Jesus suffered, died, and then rose back to life and sent a holy spirit which has protected and inspired the Catholic Church to this day. I don't buy any of that, including the "creation" of the first humans. Evolution shows us otherwise.

    I could go on with Transubstantiation and all the rest, but the bottom line is that I refuse to believe all that and I am absolutely certain that it is not all true.

    Other than that, I do agree that Catholicism is probably the best religion to follow if one must follow any religion out of fear of death or whatever reason one feels a need for religion. Thanks again. That was fun.

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  63. "Do we really need or look for an excuse not to live life our own way?"

    I don't understand the question. Are you saying that you do live your life your own way or that we shouldn't strive to live our lives our own way (but God's way instead).

    I like all that you say about love and mature Christianity.

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  64. That would be logic, not sophism. If anyone's impressed, maybe they'll be impressed with the fact that 'believers' are logical people.

    1) The Bible is not a science book, so why your approach to that text is erroneous.
    2) Any pagan comparison doesn't negate the fact that there are over 24,000 documents (some thousands of full manuscripts) of positive physical data that point to Jesus as *real*, living, dying, rising again, and even appearing to his followers in his glorified body. Why don't you weigh the evidence before you hand-wave it?

    3) You aren't sure of anything, you're exerting your will. That's your choice.
    Have a nice day.

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    Replies
    1. * so your approach to that text is erroneous.

      Delete
  65. "1) The Bible is not a science book, so your approach to that text is erroneous."

    Ok. Then we're good on the creation myth, the flood, etc. It is just all myth. Genesis is a nice story people told a long time ago.

    "2) Any pagan comparison doesn't negate the fact that there are over 24,000 documents (some thousands of full manuscripts) of positive physical data that point to Jesus as *real*, living, dying, rising again, and even appearing to his followers in his glorified body. Why don't you weigh the evidence before you hand-wave it?"

    There might be 24,000 pieces of manuscripts. You make it sound like a whole library of evidence about Jesus. I believe the story about Jesus but I at least am aware of the embellishments, including the Resurrection. And the virgin birth was a popular pagan myth about a number of gods.

    "3) You aren't sure of anything, you're exerting your will. That's your choice."

    No. I am very sure. I wouldn't take the chance of losing my eternal soul if I were wrong. Right?

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  66. Sorry, I know that sentence was kind of confusing. My point is that people look for excuses to do things their own way. We don't generally look for excuses to go against our own will. Why look for an excuse to make our lives harder? Why look for an excuse to do something we don't want to do?

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  67. This is all very interesting commentary, but a lot is just that: I think; you think. Nothing wrong with that, however, I do like more in-depth looks at matters such as "truth," both from my Catholic background and from meta-physics or philosophical perspectives. Books interest me, but so do insightful speakers. If you'd like to hear an in-depth talk on truth, relativism, and our culture today, you could do worse than to listen to Fr. John Riccardo's series of talks on Living In A Post-Christian World, which is available on his parish website at: http://stanastasia.libsyn.com/living_as_christian_in_a_post_christian_world_tot_2

    ReplyDelete
  68. Ha, Sec. Humanist,
    "Myth" doesn't mean what you think it means. K?
    I'm not getting into an internet gibberish-fest to scrutinize words that atheists like to toss around erroneously.

    Bottom line: You failed to refute the logical argument. I am not interested in rabbit trail discussions where your idea of "Catholic" means, "everything I don't want to listen to or believe". That's an act of the will. And I don't argue people when they have "will issues". K? Maybe someone else cares to.

    Again- either define "nature as it gives rise to morality" or just bow out. Right? The rest is your feelings. I've already shown you how self-refuting your line of thinking is. That's all I sign up for. Just. Show. Me. The. Logic.

    Would it be beautiful if you became Catholic? Sure. But I'm not gonna play tug of war with someone's will. That's between you and your Creator. I leave you in His capable hands. It's been real. Bye now.

    ReplyDelete
  69. "My point is that people look for excuses to do things their own way."

    Connie, you are right. We don't need excuses for doing what we know we should do. For that we have reasons. We need excuses to avoid doing what we should do or for doing what we shouldn't do. I get you.

    I think you are right to focus on the love aspect. I've never experienced any love that wasn't rooted in Christianity. Lust perhaps but not love. My universe has been very small.

    ReplyDelete
  70. "either define "nature as it gives rise to morality" or just bow out."

    I'll bow out. My morality came from being raised in a Catholic home and 12 years of Catholic education. I'm not a good one to determine what came from nature and what came from religious indoctrination. I can back it out by seeing which of my morals are stated in the Catechism or by other Catholics. Then I can rule out the ones that serve no purpose or take the enjoyment out of life for no good reason. It's a process.

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  71. (Lurker here!)

    To say that some Catholic morals 'serve no purpose' is to fundamentally misunderstand Catholicism. You are also making an objective statement when you say that they serve no purpose, which your whole relativistic worldview doesn't actually support. What I think you mean is that you don't personally agree with them. That is not academic, or logical, and doesn't convince me at all that you thought about your faith before leaving it. It's such a shame!

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  72. "Give your life any meaning and purpose you want. Just know that there will be others who will make sure yours doesn't infringe upon theirs."

    That last part. How will they make sure? And who are they? I suggest that in any society the "others" are the ones with the power. Might makes right. He with the biggest guns wins. So, morality is determined by who is in power. You can concede that, correct?

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  73. "You are also making an objective statement when you say that they serve no purpose, which your whole relativistic worldview doesn't actually support."

    Good point. I am only talking about an examination of conscience and deciding what to accept as a valid moral teaching. I had to do it for premarital sex, contraception and other personal issues. Strictly an internal process. Not meant to be objective. Thanks.

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  74. So, reason then, with your comment above:

    You admit you cannot "determine what came from nature", yet, you are adamant that nature can give an explanation of where morality came from. Why are you insisting on hanging your hat on this? Talk about blind faith! Evidence is required.

    So give it, if it's that obvious, give it. Otherwise, it just shows you've sunk your willful teeth into wanting something to be true, but you cannot show the logic of it being true. You can’t even point to it, yet you bow to it. I don’t get that.

    Conversely, Catholics can point to reason without the catechism. Shocking, right? I look at the theory in front of me. “Hm, ethical theory is all tied to God’s law. Interesting.”

    I posit that *fact*. I don't need to consult the catechism for that. Look at the line of thinking and the theory, right?

    You've admitted you are operating on half of a theory. And you're okay with this?
    And you're okay with the fact that there's no paper trail, no logic trail that points as a map to your "authority"? Then how do you logically posit that you're right?
    Makes no sense. It's so convoluted in terms of thought process, because it's sheer will against reason. You're making your reason buckle to will. That makes it strictly anti-intellectual. But if you’re okay with that, then I guess, fine.

    But don’t kid yourself that your approach is correct, or that your method of reasoning is on par. It’s not. It’s Blind Faith in something you can’t even point to. Ironic.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Leila, it could be your wife and kids making you adjust your idea of what gives your life meaning and purpose. It could be laws, rules, regulations, your neighbors. You don't just say "this is the meaning and purpose in life, to get high as often as I can" or something like that. It is being a loving husband and father, being good at your job, acquiring wealth or skills, making friends. Yes. You do have to adjust it to conform to societal demands and prohibitions and sometime right makes right. That's the world we live in. Adapt. Improvise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Give your life any meaning and purpose you want. Just know that there will be others who will make sure yours doesn't infringe upon theirs."

      But what you said in your last comment does not seem to be the same flavor of the quote I just posted above. It seemed to me like you were saying something a bit different.

      So, if I lived in Yemen, or in Saudi, or in Afghanistan, I would have to conform, right? Actually, the morality of the powerful would be imposed, right? And you (as an atheist) cannot say they are wrong (because morals are subjective), correct?


      Delete
  76. Nubby,

    You are making this way to complicated.

    Yes, one of the criteria is how it makes me feel about myself. Do I feel like a low life for using someone for sex, money, power, etc. Why would I do that if it does? Will this bring a good result or do I know from experience that no good can come out of this? Would I want someone saying that to me? Maybe I shouldn't say it to them. What was I taught about how I should behave? Should I trust what I was taught? Does it still apply in this case.

    I guess now I am making it complicated. It is all how the brain does all these calculations before making a moral decision. It's complicated😗.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Leila,

    This whole approach to life breaks down in an islamic state. I don't know what I would do if I were in Iran for example. I think I would try to keep a low profile and not outwardly advocate secular humanism. I'd try to adapt and fit in as best I could. What would you do?

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  78. Will this bring a good result or do I know from experience that no good can come out of this? Would I want someone saying that to me? Maybe I shouldn't say it to them. What was I taught about how I should behave?

    These all have to be grounded in something higher, otherwise you've got disembodied thoughts.

    A masochist could very well take delight in harming you or someone else, right? According to you, you cannot begrudge him that because he's operating according to your own theory (feelings).

    But you've admitted that you believe in absolute evils. And that is a good thing. Now you can ponder what that ballast of thought even is. Think about why you believe in absolutes like that. How do you get away from that?

    ReplyDelete
  79. Secular Humanist said:

    "I've never experienced any love that wasn't rooted in Christianity. Lust perhaps but not love."

    Yes, every time I read one of these discussions with nonbelievers, I think, "But the believers--those Catholics really living their faith--that I know are the noblest, most loving, most self-giving people I have ever met. Why would I want to believe that they are the ones who are wrong?"

    Of course, we shouldn't just believe something because it sounds nice or makes us more comfortable, but when the vision of say, the saints, is so high and good and beautiful, it should make us ask, why? Why is it that you haven't experienced true love from people outside of the Church? And does that have anything to do with truth? Bringing this back to the main topic of the post, could love be evidence of truth? Could it be that what we long for most--true, eternal, all-embracing love--is at the heart of reality? That our longing for it is meant to be fulfilled? That it tells us something of our origin and our purpose?

    I sense some sadness in that post of yours. Could it be that the "love without lust" you long for is connected to those moral values that you have discarded and that you say your conscience rejects--things like the beautiful Catholic ideal of marital love? Maybe love without lust is only found by those who embrace all the Church's teachings on love versus lust. Maybe those teachings are not a restriction of your freedom at all, but a key that will unlock the door to true, self-giving love.

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  80. "But you've admitted that you believe in absolute evils."

    I said that I believed that throwing someone to sharks for entertainment is absolutely evil and that I can't see how anyone would not see it that way. If you take that as meaning I believe in absolute evils, I may have misspoke. It is always a matter of opinion that something is evil. Some are so obvious as to approach absolute.

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  81. You just reiterated that you believe in absolute evil acts. There's no misconception on my end.

    It's not a matter of opinion that something is evil because it's *grounded* in an objective reality outside of self. See? You've acknowledged it twice, now. That is a good thing. No sense in denying your own stance, otherwise, you are making no sense.

    And I agree with the assessment that Connie shared. Secular humanists are some of the most unhappy people I've ever encountered.

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  82. "Non-Catholics are not subject to Catholic rules and Catholics should not try to influence civil legislation that would impose their rules on the rest of us."

    Secular Humanist, the OPPOSITE of what you state is true. For example, in the news today, contributors to the Go Fund Me site that raised over $100,000 to pay the fines that were imposed on the bakery who would not supply a cake for a gay wedding were shut down as GoFundMe is deeming the cause as going against their policies. The implication being that the cause is a "hateful" one. Not only has this family of 5's livelihood been destroyed (as their business has been shut down), but now they are being denied help to pay the additional fine that has been laid on them by a state agency. I thought the point was Freedom? Gay couples do have the freedom in certain states to get married. They do have the freedom to go to another bakery to have a cake made. But these Christian bakery owners lost their freedom to practice their closely held Christian beliefs and lost their business! And in addition they're being denied help from others who understand the hypocrisy! How do these thugs make sense of this?! How do these things happen?! I'm sure not all gays agree with this type of bullying. I'm sure it's a minor few squeaky wheels, but they must be called out.

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  83. "That our longing for it is meant to be fulfilled? That it tells us something of our origin and our purpose?"

    "Meant to be" is the big question. Many times we long for something and wonder if our longing is evidence that it exists. I think it is an argument made by C.S. Lewis. It is like when science fiction writers imagine something and then it comes into being much later.

    I think a lot of people can see the wisdom of not having premarital sex even if it seems ok to them at the time. I fall in that category.

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  84. "Secular humanists are some of the most unhappy people I've ever encountered."

    There is not much difference between eternal separation from God and discovering there is no God. The effect is the same.

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  85. "I'm sure not all gays agree with this type of bullying. I'm sure it's a minor few squeaky wheels, but they must be called out."

    I agree. As a secular humanist I can say that's not what we're all about. I know gays say the same. Some may even want to donate.

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  86. Secular Humanist said, "Leila, it could be your wife and kids making you adjust your idea of what gives your life meaning and purpose. It could be laws, rules, regulations, your neighbors..... You do have to adjust it to conform to societal demands and prohibitions and sometime right makes right. That's the world we live in. Adapt. Improvise."

    SH, you have to adjust your Reasons for Living/Your Life's Purpose to conform to societal demands and prohibitions? Did you really mean that?

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  87. "This whole approach to life breaks down in an islamic state. I don't know what I would do if I were in Iran for example. I think I would try to keep a low profile and not outwardly advocate secular humanism. I'd try to adapt and fit in as best I could. What would you do?"

    I would do what Christians everywhere have always done. I pray that I would live my faith even under hostility and threat, and even unto death/martyrdom. That is what Christians are called to do. My dad and his whole family are Christian Arabs, so they were always raised amongst Muslims. It can be hard. But they never wavered from their Faith, and they would have died for it there, had they been called to. They would never denounce their faith. I mean, if there is no God, no Truth, no *ultimate* purpose to our lives, then everyone should just go along to get along. But how sad if that's what life boils down to! And I am guessing you don't teach your kids that way? Where is the honor and nobility in that?

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  88. Connie and Secular Humanist, if you remember Bill S, he is an atheist (fallen-away Catholic) who attempted suicide, is a very unhappy person, and he has said to me that "Catholicism is the best thing that ever happened to this world", even as he rejects it. This sort of thing breaks my heart. Especially as I had a cousin die of cancer days ago, with such peace, and with such HOLINESS (just wait'll you hear about her heavenly visitors), and such LOVE.

    Secular Humanist, is love just chemicals firing? No ultimate truth or meaning behind them? Just chemicals? I did a post on that once, and there were some really nice atheists but they admitted that love is just a bunch of chemicals, with no actual meaning. What a tragedy! I would be in a dark abyss if I lived as an atheist. I thing the the existentialists at least understood the absurdity of it all, unlike the "new atheist" who are so anti-intellectual and try to make atheism seem so "happy" and "good" and "fun". Sigh...

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  89. Emily and Mary Beth, great points and I hope SH will address them. SH, let me ask you like I asked Adam: Is it painful for your wife that you left the Church? As a wife myself, I cannot imagine the suffering she may endure silently. Thank the Lord, my agnostic Jewish husband had a conversion and has been a devout Catholic for 18 years. I don't know what things would be like if I had reverted and he had not converted. So much pain.

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  90. "SH, you have to adjust your Reasons for Living/Your Life's Purpose to conform to societal demands and prohibitions? Did you really mean that?"

    It is like adjusting your dreams to fit reality. Sometimes you have to lower your expectations to adapt to your environment.

    Like many, my meaning and purpose was to live in a state of grace as often and for as long as I could including confession to get back on track and the adoration and reception of the Eucharist to charge the batteries and ultimately to go to heaven.

    When reality set in, new goals and new meaning and purpose were necessary.

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  91. "Secular Humanist, is love just chemicals firing?"

    I sure hope not. That would be a cruel trick by Nature just to replicate genes.

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  92. I agree that you have hit on one of the big questions--does our longing for love say anything about reality? Ask it. Pursue it. Seek the answer. What do you have to lose? You have just said that your life is more or less Hell as a Secular Humanist. There is another way to live, one that makes every moment meaningful.

    You said at one point: "I can back it out by seeing which of my morals are stated in the Catechism or by other Catholics. Then I can rule out the ones that serve no purpose or take the enjoyment out of life for no good reason. It's a process."

    Well, if you are doing that, at least you're starting point is correct. But maybe you should read up on the reasons behind the Church's teachings before you proclaim they are for no good reasons. The Church has been reasoning about these things for 2000 years, and none of Her decisions was made over night, or just to take the joy out of life. I find that the more I conform my life to the Church's teachings--hard as it may be--the more joyful and peace-filled my life is. The Church saves me from being a slave to my limited, 21st-century view of live. From being a slave to my selfishness. The more I live the faith, the more I am able to say, "Wow! This really works!" The more I do what the saints taught, the more I experience God the way they said I would.

    As St. Paul wrote, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). I know what lies at my back, because I have been there. As for what lies ahead? I have the word of the Church and of the saints, which I have always found to be true. Whatever I have to give up now is worth the risk. The only things I have to lose are selfishness and darkness. I think the journey is worth it. I hope you find it so too.

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  93. "Is it painful for your wife that you left the Church?"

    She knows I don't believe but I have agreed to participate with as much as I can and she agrees with me on many of my reasons for not wanting to be Catholic. She is more superstitious than religious. She prays to certain saints for certain things. I found a green scapular under my mattress when I turned it. I say the rosary with her and I pray that somehow I will believe more and more. I can agree that God is love (instead of all those other things said about it).

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  94. Hang it all. I don't get the whole "I'm a good person without religion" argument. I'm a stupid, selfish and insane IDIOT without an external guide to morals and ethics. There is no way I could have gracefully handled 14 years of marriage without some external standard getting into my face and saying "Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not rude." When I'm stuck inside myself during my hard marriage and parenting moments--I think I'm right. I think my point of view is obvious. I think it's unfair that I have to suffer c-sections, and teething, and lost car keys, and relatives that die from cancer. Do Catholics do stupid, stupid sinful stuff and call it "okay." Yes, that is the sin of self-delusion. On the other hand its totally amazing to be in a group where there are so many acts of kindness and generosity written into a daily blueprint of behavior.

    Anyone who walks around saying "I'm a good person on my own!" without a structure of faith just confuses me. Are you really saying your thoughts of peaceful living are equal to the Dali Lama? Even the Buddhist monks work hard at detachment and non-violence!

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  95. "But maybe you should read up on the reasons behind the Church's teachings before you proclaim they are for no good reasons."

    I've done that with Humanae Vitae. My conclusion was that the Church had reasons to condemn birth control that no longer applied in my case once I was married with two kids. I decided I had every right to use condoms and it just showed how wrong the Church could be. I knew better what was right for me than Paul VI did. What did he know? I'm ok with my decision.

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  96. Secular Humanist said "I agree. As a secular humanist I can say that's not what we're all about. I know gays say the same. Some may even want to donate."

    I'm glad you agree, but can you see how "civil legislation is imposing its rules on us (Christians)"? Also, see Hobby Lobby and how government wants to make this Christian business owner provide for abortifacient contraceptives to his employees. Do you think that Christian pro-lifers feel imposed upon when they know that their hard earned taxes are funding abortions at Planned Parenthood?, etc. Who is being imposed upon?

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  97. "Anyone who walks around saying "I'm a good person on my own!" without a structure of faith just confuses me."

    Abigail,

    The secret is that we don't need to obsess about being a good person. We just do the best we can and don't judge ourselves and our actions as if it is all going into some kind of cosmic personal record by which we will someday be judged. When this life is over, that's it. We no longer exist. Doesn't matter how we lived. It's just over.

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  98. "Who is being imposed upon?"

    I guess in some cases Christians/Catholics feel persecuted but it seems that it is when they fall back on their faith to judge others who don't care about that faith. They judge woman having abortions or even using contraceptives, gay marrying, etc. They should keep their judgments to themselves.

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  99. There is not much difference between eternal separation from God and discovering there is no God.

    Oh, so you’ve now *discovered* there is no God? Scientifically?? Wow. Send Dawkins a copy of this info- stat! Now he’ll have proof.

    So you have made observations outside of the world, in order that you can make this negative proclamation that God does not exist, eh?

    You’ve turned over every detail under every pebble out there and compiled supporting data to make this grandiose claim, huh?

    No. You have not. You don’t even have one Excel file of data in hand to posit that.
    What you cannot say is “God does not exist.”
    What you can only say is, “I’ve lost faith.”

    Big difference. You faith is retrievable. And it should be retrieved because we can tell from all kinds of positive data at our busy fingertips that it is very plausible that God existed as Christ, and still does exist right now.

    Or do you not agree that the scientific method isn’t applicable here, for you to make this grand pronouncement as assuredly as you do?

    Leave science alone. It cannot bend and contort to atheists’ whims to shout from the rooftops, “There is no God”. Stop abusing the scientific method.

    Start with Aristotle. He had tons to say about happiness. Great place to begin for someone with your outlook.

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  100. Secular Humanist, You say the rosary and you don't believe in God? Now, I'm really flummoxed. I'm a believer and I have a tough time saying the rosary! I don't even know what to add at this point except perhaps to ask you to read over this dialogue again. Please look up what "moral objectivity", "conjecture", and "instinct" really mean, and if you haven't done it already, give C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity a try. I honestly don't mean to be patronizing as I'm learning a lot from these dialogues myself, but there are an awful lot of inconsistencies in what you say and believe - as if you've been spoon fed refuting information from someone like Richard Dawkins, but you really don't understand why you now believe what you do and perhaps you've never really understood what you now dismiss? God Bless. I always pray for a stronger faith. May God grant both of us that.

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  101. Secular Humanist, I think you are Bill S. Yes?

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  102. "Secular Humanist, You say the rosary and you don't believe in God?"

    Go figure. It's always been a comfort to me. I really do try to figure out how true each mystery could possibly be.

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  103. "What you cannot say is “God does not exist.”
    What you can only say is, “I’ve lost faith.” "

    Have it your way. Thanks again.

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  104. Okay, I don't want to misjudge you or anything, but I want to ask you something. I hope you can be open to considering this. I am looking at these various statements you have made:

    1) You have only found love (versus lust) among Christians.

    2) You sometimes say the Rosary and it comforts you.

    3) You decided you had a "right" to use condoms.

    We'll leave aside for the moment the fact that you cannot properly have a right to anything if objective morality doesn't exist. The most you can have is an allowance (i.e., privilege) from others to do things your way.

    The question I want to ask is: Are you really being honest? Was it really an open-minded studying of the Church's teaching on contraception that made you convinced the Church was being unreasonable, or could it have been that you were not open to the possibility of having more than two kids and you did not see any way to avoid that without contraception? Maybe modern NFP wasn't available when you made this decision. So you rejected the Church's teaching on that, which made you leave the Church, even though it was the place you found real love and you felt drawn to her prayers.

    Can you tell me what about Humanae Vitae you find unreasonable and why? Thanks!

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  105. "Can you tell me what about Humanae Vitae you find unreasonable and why?"

    Yes. I took exception to the notion that a couple that uses artificial means to prevent conception are not fully giving of themselves to each other. I thought then and I still think now "what a crock". Who is an old celebrate Italian man to tell me and my wife that we are not fully giving of ourselves to one another. When we first got married, my wife was prescribed contraceptives to regulate her period. She stopped when we decided to have children. We had two boys and decided that was enough and she went back to work. She so didn't want to get pregnant again that for a time she went back on the pill and I used a condom like a belt and suspenders. I shouldn't bring this up, but I do regret not having any grandchildren yet. One son is gay and the other has not met the right woman yet. I suppose you could point at that and say I'd probably have grandkids had we had one or two more of our own.

    Anyway. It's nice talking to you. I see you have an Italian name. That's a nice. I grew up in East Boston which was the Italian section along with the North End. Ciao.

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  106. Bill. You are not fooling anyone. I put up with you coming here under an assumed name (Secular Humanist) because you hadn't insulted anyone yet. But then you start with the "old celebate Italian man" bit (yawn), and you need to go. How many times do I need to ban you?

    For those who don't know Bill, even our secular readers have grown weary of him and wanted him booted. You may not insult my Popes and still have the privilege of using up my blog space.

    God bless.

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  107. And for the readers: The idea that contraception can be used and that couples could still be "giving fully of themselves" is an impossibility. They are withholding something of themselves, or else they would not need to use contraception, correct? "Fully" means "fully" at least in my universe (just like "nothing" means "nothing").

    It would be like saying that two people who had sheets of cellophane on their lips were "fully" kissing each other. Or that someone who purposely disabled his optic nerve was "fully" looking into his beloved's eyes. Nonsense.

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  108. I am enjoying our conversation too, so I hope you will be back for a little more. The Italian name belongs to my husband. His grandpa was from Tuscany. My maiden name is English, but I am a mutt as far as heritage goes.

    Now, do you realize that you didn't explain your objection to Humanae Vitae in reasonable terms? "What a crock" is not a use of reason. Would you have objected in the same way if Jesus Himself had spoken against contraception? He was celibate too. But since He created human sexuality, He has the authority to say what the correct/moral use of it is. And He promised that His Church would teach the truth as He revealed it. In other words, the Catholic belief is that the Church teaches with authority because She is one with Christ and He protects Her from error. From that perspective, I can't see why it is less reasonable for a celibate man--old or otherwise--to speak about contraception than for anyone else. I think you would have to show that the Church does not really speak for God, or that God has no authority to speak on sexual matters, or that God doesn't exist...

    Being celibate or old does not in itself make someone unable to speak authoritatively about contraception. Perhaps a celibate person could use reason to figure out that contraception is immoral, even without divine aid. So tell me how his argument was unreasonable.

    It seems like your rejection of HV was based on feeling personally affronted, not on reason. I can understand how you would feel that way. You believed (at least you say you did, and I have no reason to doubt you) that you and your wife were fully giving yourselves to one another even while contracepting. Then the pope said you weren't, and you replied, "How dare you say so! What do you know about it?"

    There are lots of cases when contraception is really tempting, when it seems like the obvious thing to do. But there are alternatives. Abstinence, Natural Family Planning, perhaps lifestyle changes. All these things require sacrifice and sacrifice is hard. This goes back to what I said earlier about a mature faith not being easy.

    I would say that if God created sex, it is reasonable to use it as He intended. Your post demonstrates that rejecting contraception is hard, but not that it is unreasonable.

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  109. If God is hidden, then how will you prove Him? Even the things you use to justify His existence are made of this universe ( your mind) and not of Heavenly things. This is silly. There is no proof. Even if a man were to rise from the dead, people would still find reasons to be selfish and crappy to each other. What if you could prove it? Then what? What if God still decides to be subtle, without your permission?

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  110. "It would be like saying that two people who had sheets of cellophane on their lips were "fully" kissing each other. Or that someone who purposely disabled his optic nerve was "fully" looking into his beloved's eyes. Nonsense."

    Are you serious? First about banning me again because I referred to Paul VI as an old celebrate Italian man and second to compare the relationship I have had with my wife of forty years to kissing through cellophane because we practiced contraception.

    You have serious control freak issues.

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    1. FYI, it's celibate, not celebrate. They are two different words with different meanings.

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    2. Bill, you will remain in my prayers. Leila most certainly does not have control issues, but it's clear you aren't living a peaceful life if you feel as though you have to make up a new name to continue to comment on a blog where the host has repeatedly asked you not to comment any longer. Take care and God bless.

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  111. Bill, DO NOT COMMENT AGAIN. It's not banning you "again" --- you were banned and should have stayed gone, if you had an ounce of respect.

    And I stand by my use of the word "fully". It has a meaning. And your "rebuttal" was sheer emotion.

    Enough, Bill.

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  112. Another country heard from. Hello JoAnna. Sorry we can't chat here. I'll catch you on Catholic Stand.

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    1. No Bill, you were banned from there too, after you were egregiously rude and offensive, remember?

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  113. Wasn't Dellentie asked to refrain from commenting, too? It happens so rarely here (maybe three/four people in five years?), but they keep popping up, and it's disrespectful. Therefore, I will shut this thread now, since people cannot behave and follow the rules.

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  114. Oh, well. I hope the lurkers were able to glean something from our conversation anyway. It's Leila's blog, so she sets the rules. Thanks for the conversation, everyone. Now I have to get back to proofing my next book, which is the reason I've been on the computer today!

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  115. I have decided to re-open the comments (I had requests from good people). If either of the banned commenters comments again, please don't respond to them and I or JoAnna will delete their comments as soon as possible. Thanks, and carry on! (I have my daughter and grandbaby in town, so I will pop in when I can!)

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  116. I love your blog, however I have to go through a lot of steps on my computer to be able to read the "small script" font that is used for your entries and subsequent comments. It is really cumbersome and not sure if I will continue to read. Is this something that you may consider modifying to a more readable size and style font?

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    1. Hi Susan! None of the blog is in script; apparently (according to those who are more tech savvy than I), a percentage of readers see script due to an issue with their browsers. If you try switching browsers, it will solve the problem (I think). I am so sorry! I always assure readers that I would never write this blog in script, so it is frustrating to me to hear that some see it that way! I wish I knew of some way to prevent that on my end. :(

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  117. thanks for the hint......I asked the question on Google and found this. In my IE Browser Gear/Settings I tabbed to Internet Options, then General, then Accessibility and selected the ignore fonts and size entries.

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  118. Hi Leila. This is completely off topic, but I've seen folks on your blog (maybe it was your Facebook page, or both?) belittle the dangers of climate change and I thought this was a relevant link for you if it comes up again:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/world/europe/pope-francis-steps-up-campaign-on-climate-change-to-conservatives-alarm.html

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  119. Hi Johanne,
    Actually, the Pope is going to couple issues of the environment side by side with the idea of respecting the nature of the person (male and female). Neat, eh? Did the article site that?

    The encyclical will be out soon, so we can see what he has to say, though I wouldn't hold my breath that it's going to have liberal "hug a tree" weight behind it.

    And it's not so much that Catholics "belittle climate change" as much as it is they see through the propaganda of most of it. Good stewardship of the earth is something we are called to. Believing in all the hype of what causes climate change and the implications that we're completely inept at caring for the planet, is what Catholics don't swallow. We'll see how Pope Francis fleshes this out in a few weeks.

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    1. * Did the article cite that?

      Looks like they're probably going to be discussing new scientific models. That's a good thing. But the moral lesson for Catholics has always been, "take care of the earth", regardless of any push for it. No new moral lesson here, I guess.

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  120. Nubby, yes, exactly. I cannot wait to read the encyclical!

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  121. Just heard a snippet on World Over Live, I think her name is Reggie Littlejohn, was implying that some undercurrents of climate change is to ultimately tie it in with population control. Online searching found an article in 'The Atlantic', with this sub-title :" Studies have shown that improved access to birth control can be a valuable tool in slowing global warming, but many politicians are afraid to broach the subject."

    Furthermore, the Heartland Institute wants to advise the Pope, (from their website):
    "The science is not settled, and global warming is not a crisis. The world’s poor will suffer horribly if reliable energy—the engine of prosperity and a better life—is made more expensive and less reliable by the decree of global planners."

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  122. I shouldn't do this. I know I shouldn't. This thread is a tangle and I know many people will jump on me because they are attached to the argument that has gone on so far.

    I'm a Catholic, so I'm not trying to disprove God by disproving the "moral proof of God" that is being attempted here. I just think it's a bad proof.

    Here's the thing. It was said further up, by someone or other, "Give me any single rule the Catholic Church has, I'll prove that's it's necessary and good for people to follow it. Civilizations have fallen because they didn't follow the moral law."

    So what you're saying is, you can prove without reference to God that the moral law is good for people to follow? Isn't that the same as saying "whatever is good for people, is what is moral?" And if civilizations fell because of not following the moral law ... isn't that natural selection at work?

    Here's the thing. Evolution is not a process that happens only for individuals. It also happens on a group level. Many species interact on a social level; it's their unit of survival. For instance, wolf packs stick together; they know they will perish on their own. Individual wolves will give their lives for the pack. All but the alpha couple foregoes mating altogether so that the pack's resources can all go to the strongest litter. We don't call this "morals" because they are animals, but you could say they are practicing charity and chastity, if you wanted to. In any event the instinct to do these things is selected for: a wolf pack that didn't have it, wouldn't be able to cooperate to take down large prey. And an individual that doesn't have it will be ostracized by the pack and die.

    Humans likewise evolved as social animals; most primates are. One of the things that encourages social behavior (which, as I pointed out, increases the odds of survival for the tribe) is empathy. Our brains will cause us to feel distress when we see other humans harmed. As a result, every single culture has come up with the basic idea that it's good to sacrifice individual benefit for group benefit -- we forego pleasures to bring well-being to others in our tribe, because our instincts will actually make us suffer if we don't. Those instincts are selected for because they help civilizations thrive (or, as someone above put it, empires will fall if they don't follow them).

    In this way some basic standard of morality can be considered "objective," because every culture and almost every individual has it: the notion that we should serve not just individual ends, but the life and happiness of others. After that, we can use our reason to figure it out: rationally, what rules best serve the common good? Will I help this person whom I empathize with more if I give them a hug or give them tough advice? Will it serve the common good more if I give a man a fish, or teach him to fish? Our cultures have come up with very complex scripts for which rules best serve the common good, but we can still rationally say, some are better than others because some better serve the end of the common good.

    Catholic philosophers all agree with this: you can reason to the moral law from nature. That is why non-Catholics still live moral lives. No one actually wants to throw others to the sharks; I am relatively sure no one here would do so as a pastime even if they no longer believed in God and thought they could get away with it. Think for a second, imagine yourself throwing people to the sharks. You FEEL bad about that -- you feel empathy for the person in the shark tank and you feel the urge to pull them out. That's instinct.

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    1. [continued]

      And yes, the altruistic instinct absolutely is selected for by evolution! Heck, strong empathy makes you a better spouse and parent, and since we're all born helpless, the strength of our families equals better survival. This is emphasized all the more when you remember we started out as hunter-gatherers. We really needed large groups of people who weren't constantly fighting, so that we could take down big animals, share out the meat, and build villages we could defend against predators.

      I also think there's been some confusion here, conflating God's goodness with human morality. God is good, because he possesses all perfection -- because he is infinite being. Man is good in that sense to a lesser degree -- he possesses finite being -- but individual humans are good because they are moral. God's behavior doesn't bear much resemblance to human morality -- it's okay for him to kill people, even innocent people, and rules like "you shall not commit adultery" make no sense at all when applied to God. If we want to say he is morally good, it is only because he desires our benefit, just like good humans desire one another's benefit. So I'll agree, God possesses the same thing that's the root of our own morality, but isn't it fair to say that he possesses it because of his nature, but we possess it because it is functional? The laws he gives us, he gives us not because they are written on the sky or exist apart from us, but because he is better able than we are to tell us what is good for us.

      To sum up: Is there an objective moral standard? Yes, "what is best for humans as a whole" is the standard.
      Is there a subjective reason why we should follow this? Yes, because we feel that others are as important as ourselves.
      Is there a reason, besides God, that we feel that way? Yes, we evolved this way because moral individuals help group survival.

      (Yes, you could say very well that God guided our evolution in this way because he wanted us to understand him and an individualist entity could not, but that would only be an explanation, not a proof of God.)

      Maybe try again on the cosmological argument or something? If you have any atheist friends left, that is.

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  123. Whom are you addressing, Sheila?

    I just think it's a bad proof.

    It’s not a proof of God. It’s a coherent argument, that’s all. It’s coherent because it has a strong premise and is supported by scholarship. Nature cannot expound on itself, therefore, it cannot give any type of law. That was the point of the debate. Not proving God. More like proving the objectivity of moral law and the reality of its weight on the human heart.

    We don't call this "morals" because they are animals, but you could say they are practicing charity and chastity, if you wanted to.

    Based on what? What from nature tells us these animals are practicing virtue (charity and chastity)? Apart from an Absolute Standard, virtue is nonexistent.

    Our brains will cause us to feel distress when we see other humans harmed. As a result, every single culture has come up with the basic idea that it's good to sacrifice individual benefit for group benefit

    Via what mechanism does nature give rise to morality? Group-think can easily go the other way, and often does. And, typically, nature will always go the route of nasty over nice. If the mechanism is obvious, you need to point to it. Conjecture does not strengthen argument. You're banking on the hopes that people without belief in God will always act in virtuous ways. There's no way that's sensible.

    Think for a second, imagine yourself throwing people to the sharks. You FEEL bad about that -- you feel empathy for the person in the shark tank and you feel the urge to pull them out. That's instinct.

    That’s not instinct at all. That’s selfless heroism that comes from understanding that a life is in danger, a life that has inherent dignity. No explanation from nature fits at all.

    Instinct is a response to stimuli. That’s it. Most people, when they face dilemma, freeze or flee. That’s as far as that goes. Most people wouldn’t have the guts to pull someone from the sharks unless they knew the weight of heroic love on their heart. Nature would never supply that. That’s a self-sacrificing love that nature cannot explain. And that is the point of the argument.

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  124. If you're talking about the flight or fight response, that wouldn't explain a grounding of natural law, either. See, nature has to make it intelligible and clear how it selects for a nose for truth. It can't. Truth be told, it selects the animal aspects for survival (whether you're fighting or fleeing or giving in to the group). Right? Nature can't give testimony to itself or to natural law. That was the ultimate point of the debate, anyway. And no non-believer gave a good rebuttal, at all. They didn't even supply half of the theoretical equation, because they never truly defined anything.

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  125. There are atheists who are a bit sounder on ethical theory who just don't happen to frequent this blog. ;)

    Here's the thing: if you want to use something as evidence of God, you have to show how there is no natural explanation for it that leaves out God. Right? And there IS a natural explanation for our desire to help each other, not throw each other to the sharks, etc. I spent a lot of time explaining it, and you seem not to be following. There really is a neurological phenomenon where our brains react as if *we* were feeling pain, when we see someone else feeling pain. It's called "mirroring." And there are a number of other purely natural impulses where we feel guilt if we did something selfish, joy when we are able to help someone, etc. Love might not be "just" a chemical/neurological soup -- but it CAN be described in terms of chemicals and brain waves. Fight or flight is one of our more primitive instincts, but we have many more complex instincts than that, and some of them are altruistic. That's simply a scientific fact, and you could study it if you wanted to.

    What is nature's teleology? Survival. I showed that altruistic individuals, both among humans and animals, increase their chance for survival, so no wonder humans have that tendency. Nature doesn't always select for nasty. Symbiosis is one of those neat processes that show nature can sometimes come up with win-win scenarios.

    A materialist would say, just because the strong impulse you have to save someone from a shark *feels* heroic, doesn't mean it isn't a bunch of brainwaves. They would say that your ancestor who had that impulse may have saved somebody from a tiger, and then that person who had been saved from the tiger saved your ancestor from a lion, and as a result the trait of having an urge to save people has been preserved, while non-heroic people didn't survive as well.

    I'm not sure, though, if you're implying that ONLY Catholics would ever save people from sharks. I don't think you could demonstrate that at all; heroic self-sacrifice was epitomized by Jesus, but he didn't invent it. The Romans believed in it, and so did the Greeks. And as far as the basic desire not to throw people in shark tanks in the first place, I would say almost everyone has that. There are a million atheists in this country at least, to say nothing of the many people who are religious in name only, and most of them commit no crimes, love their kids, and are horrified by the idea of throwing people in shark tanks.

    If what you're saying, instead, is that of course they wouldn't do that, but they can't tell you WHY they wouldn't do that, that's true enough of your average atheist. But there have been evolutionary biologists who can give a very good explanation for why they wouldn't do that, without reference to God, so I just don't think the claim works.

    Meanwhile from the Catholic philosopher side, I think you'd be hearing the objection that morality IS possible to figure out by reference to nature; pretty much all Catholic philosophers argue this. We work out what is good for humanity as a whole, and that is the natural law. So if an atheist said, "I think gay sex is okay," we would respond, "We can prove it's not, *because we can prove it's bad for you.*"

    At which point they'd say, "So why do we need God for this conversation? People have been discussing morality since long before Christ, and we all know immoral actions harm ourselves or others. Just say "What is objectively wrong is what harms humans," and you're done."

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  126. I can follow just fine, when the points are clear and the questions answered.
    How does nature explain itself? Have you received an understanding of moral law from nature? Really?

    "Mirroring" doesn't account for a grounding of natural law. See? And not everyone would have that to the same degree. So that's not evidence of nature explaining natural law. Correct or incorrect?

    Further, "guilt" implies an interior understanding that one has violated a higher law, correct? It's a shove of the conscience. That doesn't spring from nature. What does nature care about guilt?

    Discussing nature long before Christ has no bearing here. I'm not sure what your other 25 points have to do with nature explaining the actual grounding and giving of natural law. Looks like we are talking past each other. Have a nice day.

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  127. I'm a historian. I think it's really cool when you find ancient moral philosophers like Socrates asking "What is the good life?" and coming to conclusions that sound very similar to modern Catholic ears.

    I actually just read "The Barefoot Lawyer" about a modern human rights activist in China that came to a strong pro-life, anti-the Chinese One Child policy on totally secular grounds.

    I think it's good to look for allies from other faiths, and secular, even agnostic, backgrounds. I'm all about clean drinking water in my state. We just had a nasty oil spill in our main city last year. I don't care how many "Coexist" bumper stickers someone has on the back of their car. I'll happily call you a friend and fellow "inhabitor of the moral high ground" while we fight for Environmental Justice at a town meeting.

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  128. During an (online) discussion I was part of today, somebody stated that they found many fictional villains unbelievable because real life doesn't have such pure evil people. Although obviously there is a certain amount of truth to this (real people are more complex than fictional ones) I put forward Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot as examples and said that if anything, the problem is that we're often unwilling to admit just how bad people can get.

    Somebody else piped up and told me that "the world isn't so simple as 'good' and 'evil.'" Hitler, they said, donated to charity, and Stalin wrote poetry. (!)

    I know we've been hearing for days over here about how good and evil aren't real and so on, but this exchange really hit me. I can deal with someone who doesn't believe objective morality exists. I can't deal with someone who thinks the facts that Stalin wrote poetry or Hitler gave to charity mean I'm not allowed to use them as examples of evil.

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    1. I think the point is, that even people who do terrible things also do good things sometimes, so it's unrealistic to have a villain who is horrible to orphans AND tortures kittens AND beats his kids, etc. A realistic villain is one who justifies the evil he does and says he's not *really* a bad person because, after all, he's a good husband and father! So the human trafficking he supports his wife and kids with, isn't the "real" him.

      Lots of people do this. It's totally evil. But it helps remind us that we, too, are capable of evil and that when we do evil, we're likely to convince ourselves that that's not "the real us" because we do good things too.

      So I would agree with the person who said that -- so long as he would agree, Hitler writing poetry doesn't make him not *evil,* it just shows that even evil people are human and sometimes do good things on the side.

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  129. Nubby, do you agree with Sheila that Catholic philosophers argue that you can understand morality with reference to nature? And if not, why not? Just curious. I am not learned in Catholic philosophers.

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  130. do you agree with Sheila that Catholic philosophers argue that you can understand morality with reference to nature? And if not, why not? Just curious. I am not learned in Catholic philosophers.

    Not sure on her point, really. If Shelia is referring to natural law on the hearts of man, then yes, I see that route. We can’t deny the weight of morality on our hearts, at the end of the day.

    Where Sheila loses me is when she uses descriptions of behavior as indicators of morality. I hope she’s not positing that morality is genetic, because then she’d have to point us to Moral Gene A to make that claim. And that opens a whole bag of wrong notions, that we’re moral by chance, etc. Then morality doesn’t matter in the end, etc.

    Positing that just because we have evolved with these certain attributes or behaviors doesn’t explain any anchoring of natural law (why we should or should do a certain act). It merely points to a description. Morality isn’t found in mere descriptions or . Morality is found in purpose.

    Why should we do these things? Why should we not do these other things? Those all ride piggy back on the hundreds of “shoulds” until you reach Gods law, right?

    Why should I do this?
    Because of this moral reason, Z.
    And why should I do Z?
    Because of this moral reason, Y.

    So on and so on, back to A which is, “You should do it or you should not do it because God’s law says.” See, there’s that reasoning trail which nature cannot ever -in no way- explain. Nature (evolution) only describes new attributes or behaviors, it cannot touch immaterial “shoulds”.

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  131. Sheila
    Your arguments sound more cogent to me than most others on this thread. Thanks for speaking up.

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  132. * (why we should or should not do a certain act). It merely points to a description. Morality isn’t found in mere descriptions or attributes. Morality is found in purpose.

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  133. How so, Johanne? How does evolution, which is a chemical process to bring a biological change the grounding for morality which is immaterial?

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    1. * which is a chemical process to bring a biological change, act as the grounding for morality which is immaterial?

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  134. I am sorry I am only popping in and out infrequently (daughter and granddaughter here, soaking in the moments till she leaves again!).

    I just want to clarify for readers that Natural Law does not mean "laws of nature". They are not the same. In fact, C.S. Lewis used the word Tao for Natural Law (i.e., the universal moral law). It is not something we "see" in nature. Here is how Lewis describes it:

    “The Tao, which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they posses.”

    ― C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

    Has everyone here read Lord of the Flies? Morality does not come "naturally" in a fallen world. It is not "natural" or "evolved" to be kind and heroic and to sacrifice for others. Anyone who has ever raised children knows this. We fight HARD against the concupiscent nature of man. We wouldn't need parents (or police or courts or jails or prisons, etc.) if people had evolved to "goodness". The Seven Deadly Sins are so ubiquitous that perhaps we don't notice them, like a fish doesn't notice water? I am not getting the "we have evolved to be moral" thing. The only way we can possibly know that it is good to sacrifice and even go against our own self-interest, our own survival, is that something more than the material world exists.

    That is why atheists can also subscribe to a morality such as "we don't kill innocents". It's not because people "naturally" don't kill innocents, is it? Murder is EVERYWHERE.

    Again, read Lord of the Flies. Or raise a bunch of children.

    Am I making any sense?

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    1. That is why atheists can also subscribe to a morality such as "we don't kill innocents".

      Meaning... because they are MORE than material, whether they believe that or not. They have the same fingerprint of God on their souls that we all do.

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  135. "Think for a second, imagine yourself throwing people to the sharks. You FEEL bad about that -- you feel empathy for the person in the shark tank and you feel the urge to pull them out. That's instinct."

    Sheila, are you equating "instinct" with "conscience"?

    Also, I would assert that all humans have a conscience (animals do not). And to the extent that consciences are formed, a human does right.

    But if there is no God (and this is the sticking point for me), it ultimately does not matter one whit to the universe or to a material world that goes *poof* if one feeds people to sharks or not.

    It just doesn't ultimately matter at all.

    But if there is a God, it matters eternally, infinitely, and ultimate justice is served.

    These are HUGE distinctions that determine how we do or don't decide to malform or bypass our consciences.

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  136. Sheila, you are a thoughtful commenter. But let me ask you. It seems like you are almost saying that atheists and Catholics want the same things. We want to be good and kind and sacrificial and we want to do what helps human beings flourish. But honestly, we don't want the same things. For example, secularists may believe that the world will flourish if we have abortion on demand and without apology. To get there, of course, they bypass the conscience that says it's abhorrent to kill our offspring. They adopt a mindset of "ends justify the means", which is not a philosophy that makes humanity flourish, but that, rather, justifies the killing not only of the unborn, but the killing of the elderly, the sick, etc., not to mention the misuse of human sexuality which may not always kill the body, but kills the heart, the family, the dignity of a human being. Not too many people throw people to sharks for fun, but plenty are beheading (radical Muslims) and starving and murdering (secularists like Communists/North Korea/the old Soviet Union) and taking humans as chattel slaves (the whole world, practically, though Christian societies did away with it). So, while dogs and lions and birds seem to go with instinct and "nature" for survival, I don't see that the "instinct" in man has worked the same way. Because we do not act in ways that don't do harm.

    Of course, the answer to why humans act against human flourishing is concupiscence. Animals do not have this. And it has nothing to do with evolution. Human nature does not evolve. It's been the same since the Fall. There are no new sins.

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  137. One last note: I am out and about most of tomorrow, so if I don't respond to a question asked of me, I will try to later in the evening. Thanks! :)

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  138. I movie I really enjoyed that had this same theme that Leila mentions is called "Unbroken." In this true story, three US pilots lose their plane in the South Pacific Ocean during World War II. After 45 DAYS of floating alone in a tiny raft on the ocean--battling sharks and exposure they are picked up as enemy combatants by the Japanese. Their 2 year odyssey as POW inside a culture which sees surrendered soldiers as men without honor was chilling. In a POW camp, the soldiers are treated to severe physical and emotional torture that is worse than the sharks at sea. The point really hit home for me and my kids. There are sinful situations with our broken human community that are WORSE than getting attacked by sharks at sea.

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  139. Yes, Leila, I agree fully with your consistent points.

    I want to do justice to tweeze-out the confusion on evolution and morality, and just give simple reality, for the benefit of the lurkers:

    All of these evolutionary changes are only changes within us. They don’t give rise to a law outside of us- that very same law that even the atheists recognize, on this thread.

    The atheists recognize absolute evil in tossing people to sharks. They acknowledge this act must always be avoided and stamped as “evil”. The only plausible way to reason that is to reference God’s law and God as Lawgiver. There is no other road to reason this, because we peel back the moral reasons as to why we stamp this as such, and we get to the Divine Reason Why.

    Morality is not selected for, because it is not genetic. If you posit this, then you need to point to the gene for this argument. The moral gene. Moral Gene A: you have it, congratulations, you’re moral. Wrong.

    And assigning intent or purpose based on - or directly to - animal behavior is complete projection. Saying certain animals “know injustices” or “feel guilt” within their group is bunk. Why? Because we are only witnessing a snapshot of how that group conducts business. It says nothing of a moral law, at all. The animals bite, they fight, they share food, they subdue others. Fine. That’s how they operate and perform in nature, there’s nothing moral driving this at all. They don’t *reason* to act this way. They just act! Let’s not project because we want to draw morality from performance.

    If they were so moral via evolution, then male lions wouldn’t eat the competing male cubs, correct? And whales wouldn’t try to drown each other, etc. And people wouldn’t kill innocents, etc. Morality has to imply a purpose, a deliberation of an act before an act. It is not always obvious, either. We make it obvious with dilemmas, because we want atheists to see that this divine law is heavy, even if it’s not clear up front.

    To boot, if morality is all chance based on what we inherit through nature, then we can never claim injustices have been done, and, conversely, we can never exalt heroic virtue. See? This idea says, “You get what you get within the parameters of chance, so no vindication or justice or honor for anyone. Saints or sinners, whatever. It’s all evolution, baby.” Wrong.

    All you have with this view are projection and conjecture based on your ideas of animal interactions and the social skills (or lack thereof) within human circles. Moral law is not in any of those illustrations of evolution.
    It’s grounded outside of those illustrations, which is the salient point.

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  140. Thanks, guys, and another thing needs to be made clear before I rush out the door:

    No one is saying that atheists cannot be moral (I get that a lot, "You don't think I have morals?!" -- even though I NEVER said such a thing). We are saying that morality is not "evolved". It cannot "evolve".

    And Nubby is right: We use those extreme situations so that somehow we can all be on the very same page for once. And we can agree that somethings are intrinsically evil (which leads us around again to the point: If something is intrinsically evil, then it is absolutely evil, which Matt never reconciled before he left.... ).

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  141. Can't answer every individual comment because there are too many and I have kids who need me sometimes. ;) But here's a shot:

    Some secular philosophers have said, as someone mentioned, "there is no way to go from is to ought," that is, science is descriptive, but it doesn't tell us what we *should* do.

    What I am saying is that we do, in fact, all have a pretty good sense of what we *should* do. We have an instinct, a feeling, a conscience, that tells us that other people matter and we should care about them, treat them well. Everyone has this -- I think a lot of us here feel that we are only good because we want to be rewarded by God in heaven, but given that there were saints who said they would love God even if there were no heaven, I don't think that's it. I think deep in the human person there is a part of us that cares for others. If you assume God put it there, that still doesn't negate the possibility that he used evolution to put it there. Because conscience is evolutionarily fit! It helps us survive *as groups* rather than as individuals.

    As far as "how does nature communicate itself to us" or "how does nature make us know what we SHOULD do," well, how do you know you should eat? Simple, your brain and body reward you with pleasure when you do, and discomfort when you don't. In the same way the brain rewards us when we do well (that happy feeling when we know we helped someone, or the contentment of knowing our loved ones are well) and makes us suffer when we do badly (compassion for those who suffer, guilt when we know we have caused it). True, from a philosophical standpoint that doesn't *prove* we should be moral -- but this is why most people, religious or not, try to do what they think is moral. They agree that we should, at the very least, endeavor not to hurt one another. And if you can prove a moral law actually serves the good of others, they will likely agree with you that that law should be followed. It's just hard to prove that with a lot of Catholic morality -- again, Aquinas would agree: some law is natural (derivable through reason) and some is divine (revealed directly).

    Do you have any atheist friends at all? Are these people totally cool with ISIS? Are they able to watch videos of beheadings and say, "Good show"? Not generally. They FEEL compassion for those people, just as you do. Your compassion might be strengthened by the thought that the victims are made in God's image, but it has a natural origin too.

    Is it genetic? Well, you can't prove it isn't. ;) If it is, it's a lot more complicated than just one gene. But again, scholastic philosophy states that all human souls are the same, have the same faculties. So any differences in the degree to which people's consciences react -- from the sociopath to the highly conscientious person -- does not come from the spirit. They must come either from genetic differences, or from differences in upbringing (formation of the conscience). Sociopathy, at least, has been shown to be genetic. Seems if the lack of conscience is genetic, so must its presence be, at least in part.

    Of course some disobey this basic moral sense. Just like some people don't eat, even though their bodies tell them to eat, and some people kill themselves, even though the brain makes them fear death. You'd have a much better time arguing the existence of God from the existence of evil than from the existence of good! Free will is something of a mystery, although many materialists will say it's an illusion anyway, so it might not be useful for debate either.

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  142. "If you assume God put it there, that still doesn't negate the possibility that he used evolution to put it there. Because conscience is evolutionarily fit!"

    Where do you see that humanity, as a group or in general, is getting more and more moral? I don't see it. It does not square with the reality of what we see today. Heck, the 20th century was the most murderous on record.

    And as I said in my last comment, no one is saying that atheists cannot be moral. They can, because like it or not, they also have access to the Natural Law (universal moral law), via their reason.

    Yes, I agree that folks should do good simply for the sake of doing good, with no personal reward. But in atheism, wouldn't "doing good" always be for the sake of survival, or something beneficial to the individual or group? Okay, I'm really out of here now, ha ha.... Bye for now.

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    1. Also, your thesis seems to imply that we "feel good" when we do good. I am guessing that Christ did not "feel good" on the cross, and it went against everything his instinct told him. Same with the saints. So, I'm not getting that part, either. As a parent, I can tell you that doing the right thing is often excruciating and does not give me a "good feeling". In fact, sometimes, having our family "be well" means letting them die rather than submit to lies, etc. Even our children. So, where does that fit in with the contentment of knowing that our loved ones are well? There is often not contentment in the thought of doing the right thing. It costs us a lot, our businesses, our livelihoods, our reputations, our friends, our family and even our lives sometimes. The fact is that we are to do good even though it costs us so much, and even everything. Definitely not for the "good feeling" or "contentment". Unless I am misreading you?

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  143. You'd have a much better time arguing the existence of God from the existence of evil than from the existence of good!

    That’s exactly why we bring up dilemmas like people being tossed to sharks. It illustrates the atheist’s inherent understanding of morality on the heart. That’s all that illustrates. It’s not really even a proof of God, so much as it makes the point that the argument is sound (ie., all ethical systems are tied to God’s law. No matter what you’re measuring for, no escaping that).

    I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Must be me. Time for a mint julep and Kentucky Derby picks, lordy.

    Anyway, lurkers, let’s just break down the two concepts to be very clear. Here’s several pairings of comparisons between “Morality” and “Evolution”:

    Morality asks, “Should we?”, “Shouldn’t we?”
    Evolution doesn’t ask, it just gives (biological change)

    Morality is an immaterial law of the immaterial mind
    Evolution can only give biological change through a chemical change, can’t give immaterial anything

    Morality does not = performance
    Evolution always and only = performance

    Morality is not genetic (they’d need to point to positive data to make this claim, a single gene or multiple genes, whatever. Point to it).
    Evolution is only ever genetically driven/given

    Nothing in nature holds up various “shades of evil” and explains them. Nothing in nature expounds on why that particular act is “evil” in description and in inherent definition.

    Nature selects for survival. That’s it. Nature doesn’t care about evil or goodness. It doesn’t select for accurate means of knowing truth, either, which means it could never give a road to reason as to how we came to know moral law and to know truth outside of self. It does not select for anything immaterial pertaining to faculties of the mind, because it cannot. Off to the races.

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  144. Also, your thesis seems to imply that we "feel good" when we do good.

    Leila
    It probably comes down to semantics, but I don't think this statement necessarily negates the point you're making. Sheila isn't talking about "feeling good" as in eating an ice cream cone. There is a deep feeling of quietness that comes from doing the right thing (Thich Naht Hahn, well-known Buddhist teacher says "our actions are our only possessions), even if it puts our lives into choas, or results in tremendous sorrow--this is true for atheists as well, who have no concept of pleasing God, or looking out for their soul. If you can extend the concept of "feeling good" to the internal quietness (you might describe it differently) I think her point holds.


    But if there is no God (and this is the sticking point for me), it ultimately does not matter one whit to the universe or to a material world that goes *poof* if one feeds people to sharks or not.


    I sort of agree with this but there are many atheists to whom it matters deeply how they treat others. The meaning of kind actions has nothing to do with God (to them,)

    It seems like you are almost saying that atheists and Catholics want the same things. We want to be good and kind and sacrificial and we want to do what helps human beings flourish. But honestly, we don't want the same things. For example, secularists may believe that the world will flourish if we have abortion on demand and without apology. To get there, of course, they bypass the conscience that says it's abhorrent to kill our offspring. They adopt a mindset of "ends justify the means", which is not a philosophy that makes humanity flourish, but that, rather, justifies the killing not only of the unborn, but the killing of the elderly, the sick, etc., not to mention the misuse of human sexuality which may not always kill the body, but kills the heart, the family, the dignity of a human being.

    I think this is too broad of a generalization: Catholics vs atheists. There are lots of Catholics who do all manner of evil things (like priests molesting children). And lots of atheists who absolutely want be good and kind and sacrificial and help humanity flourish. Some of them believe in abstinence and many are against abortion. I think it's very unfair and unrealistic to posit otherwise.

    And to say that atheists as a whole believe that the end justifies the means is also not rational (at least to say they adopt that viewpoint exclusively. Every human being on the plant, in one way or another, justifies their behavior at times as a justified means to an end.)

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  145. Doesn't the Catholic Church teach that God's ends justify His means? I saw a video by Fr. Robert Barron in which he compared God to an artist and time and space as His canvas. Fr. Barron described the good and evil that happens in the universe to be like light and shadow a painter uses. This sounds like a justification for allowing evil to happen. Why shouldn't a person emulate God?

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  146. Just wanted to clarify something I saw mentioned in this discussion. There really isn't such thing as an evil person. It's more accurate to say that people choose to commit evil actions.

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  147. Johanne:

    "I sort of agree with this but there are many atheists to whom it matters deeply how they treat others. The meaning of kind actions has nothing to do with God (to them,)"

    Yes, I hope that was clear in what I said. I said that atheists can be moral. They are moral agents, whether they believe it or not. They are human, made by God. The point is, they cannot explain where morality comes from (see Nubby's points which no one has touched. No one has even addressed her questions).

    As far as generalizing, I have never made the claim that Catholics don't sin and sin mortally. So, I am not sure that's germane.

    "And to say that atheists as a whole believe that the end justifies the means is also not rational (at least to say they adopt that viewpoint exclusively. Every human being on the plant, in one way or another, justifies their behavior at times as a justified means to an end.)"

    The difference being that in an atheist worldview, ends-justify-the-means should be, and often is, seen as licit. In the worldview of objective morality, the ends-justify-the-means mentality and approach is completely impermissible.

    Big, huge difference.

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  148. "Doesn't the Catholic Church teach that God's ends justify His means?"

    Night Cruller, nope.

    Not for a second.

    God cannot sin. He is Goodness. He doesn't need to justify a thing, because He is Justice.

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  149. Hi Leila. I'm curious about your thoughts on this:

    "Sheila isn't talking about "feeling good" as in eating an ice cream cone. There is a deep feeling of quietness that comes from doing the right thing (Thich Naht Hahn, well-known Buddhist teacher says "our actions are our only possessions), even if it puts our lives into choas, or results in tremendous sorrow--this is true for atheists as well, who have no concept of pleasing God, or looking out for their soul. If you can extend the concept of "feeling good" to the internal quietness (you might describe it differently) I think her point holds."

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  150. Johanne, I have lots of thoughts on it, for example:

    How do you know that doing the right thing comes with a deep feeling of quietness? And what is the "right thing"? Perhaps the slaveowner, the rapist, the abortionist, and the ISIS warriors go home and kiss their kids and have peace and interior quiet. Perhaps their sin has gone on so long that their conscience is no longer screaming (though it will turn up at some point).

    What is the "right thing" and were does that knowledge come from? Where does the concept of "right" come from?

    I keep thinking of atheist Ted Turner who was interviewed years ago, and his words stuck in my head: "I don't do good thing because the Bible tells me to, I do good things because it makes me feel good!"

    To me, that's a scary way to live. To do good for the feeling you can get from it? Not to mention that he does and promotes a lot that is not good.

    I am still wondering why no one will touch Nubby's questions?

    And Johanne, I am wondering what you think of C.S. Lewis' quote re: Natural Law/tao?

    Thanks!

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  151. @Leila
    If God is justice (which I'm not disputing) how do Christians explain the God described in the Old Testament? He killed every living thing in Sodom and Gomorrah, along with the vegetation, and saved only Lot and his daughters. Lot had offered up his virgin daughters to be gang raped and later impregnated them. How could anything be more vile than that? So how do Christians look to the God in the bible as the personification of justice? How do Christians learn about justice from a God who does this? It's something I cannot understand. Thanks.

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  152. Johanne, it's a common argument against Christianity. I have heard it so many times, and thankfully, it's been discussed often over the millennia. I will link to my Bible scholar friend who answered this on the Bubble earlier (and which I posted earlier):

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/12/why-is-god-of-old-testament-so-mean.html

    But let me ask: Do you think it is unjust for God to take life? If so, why?

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  153. Leila
    I agree with Lewis. It's interesting that he uses a term from ancient Asian philosophy to describe "natural law" (Dharma--the Buddhist term, means the same thing). He is describing exactly my concept of God as a Buddhist. Natural Law is something that can be observed/discovered.

    Nubby has posed innumerable questions. To which ones are you referring?

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  154. Leila
    But I am curious as to what your personal reasoning is. I'm not taking Christianity to task; I just don't get it, How do personally reconcile your belief that God is justice itself with the fact that the one man he chose to save did such awful things?

    And isn't the story of Lot a neon example of the ends justifying the means? How can we know that the ends does NOT justify the means by reading the bible?

    I looked at your link and I couldn't easily understand what your guest blogger was saying. She talked about how being punished by God shows us how much he loves us (!?) because we know that parents punish their children out of love. This isn't relevant to my question because parent's don't kill their children en masse.

    But let me ask: Do you think it is unjust for God to take life? If so, why? That is such a generic question I'm not sure how to answer it. I guess the answer is that it depends.

    Whenever you ask questions you are trying to make a certain point. I'm curious where you're hoping the question leads?

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  155. Nubby enumerated several questions about the fact that morality cannot be grounded in the material, or science. And the question of what grounds morality? Nature? Self? God?

    Also, I still want to know from an atheist how something can be both intrinsically evil and yet not objectively evil. And how "there is no objective morality" is not self-negating?

    As for the what I am getting at with the questions: The point of a Socratic method of questioning is to get to Truth by asking a series of clarifying questions. So we can get to the logical conclusion of the ideas being discussed.

    OT stuff to follow in next comment....

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  156. As far as Lot, the Church does not in any way laud Lot for his offer of his daughters. He was trying to spare his guests (a sacred honor), but in choosing another evil, he was dead wrong. However, I'm supposing that he knew that the men (who were clearly homosexual and not looking for sex with women) were not going to assent to his offer. In fact, some commenters believe he was trying to offend those who were trying to commit sodomy.

    I don't see anywhere that the Bible (or the Catholic Faith) says that the ends justify the means. In fact, we are the ones who hold that the ends DO NOT justify the means. We may never sin. Not even to bring about a great good. The entire Bible testifies to the fact that the reason that the People of God suffered so much because they turned from virtue. They turned from God's law and from faithfulness.

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  157. "I looked at your link and I couldn't easily understand what your guest blogger was saying. She talked about how being punished by God shows us how much he loves us (!?) because we know that parents punish their children out of love. This isn't relevant to my question because parent's don't kill their children en masse."

    And this goes back to the question about whether or not God's taking of life can be considered unjust? Isn't even "dying of natural causes" something that God can stop, and that he allows in the first place? Dying is not the end. Dying is a transition to judgement and then either eternal reward or damnation (which the individual himself determines, by his actions and thoughts, whether good or evil; whether he loved God and others, or himself). So, there is no injustice for God to take a life, since He is the Author of Life, and He will mete out perfect justice. But we as creatures have no authority over life and death of innocent human beings. Not our place.

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    1. And, she said a lot more than that in her piece, too. ;)

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  158. Leila, it's funny you should say that it's selfish for atheists to do good because it makes them feel good. I've heard them say we are selfish because we only do good to get to heaven! Is it *really* unselfish if we're just doing it for a reward? And does it matter, so long as we're doing good?

    I answered Nubby's questions many times, as best as I could, and she just keeps repeating them as if I haven't. So if she will clarify what, exactly, is insufficient about what I said, I can try again. What "grounds" morality of course is a meaningless question when talking with an atheist, but "where does our sense of morality come from," which is how they'd phrase it, is not hard to answer, and that's what I did.

    Johanne, thanks for clarifying what I was saying. As regards God in the Old Testament, I'm not keen on a lot of his actions either, even after reading that post. It's important to remember that "morality" as we know it is not objective in the sense of "applying to everyone, not just humans." All humans know is human morality, and (Aquinas again!) human morality pertains to human nature. What is evil is what is against our nature; what is good is what is the very best thing for our nature. Even if you say we couldn't know what is moral without reference to God, God himself doesn't define it without reference to us. Morality for a bird is just to follow its instincts, we don't think of it as a moral choice, because it doesn't make choices, but it does what is appropriate for its nature all the time. Morality for an angel might include some big differences from our morality (as I pointed out, "adultery" only has meaning when talking about material creatures). And God isn't "moral" in anything like the way we are moral, so talking about morality with God is only by analogy. (Calling God "good" only means that he possesses all perfections -- the way the earth, ice cream, or sunsets are good, not the way Gandhi is good.) Morality for God means acting according to HIS nature, which he does 100% of the time (unlike humans, who are perpetually conflicted). It includes notions like justice and truth, but it does not include a set of rules like "you shall not kill" or "you shall not commit adultery."
    Part of God's nature, as he has revealed it, is to love his creatures. He loves humans in particular, and so we expect his actions to be *loving.* There is no reason to expect them to fit some set of *rules,* however. He clearly seems to take the long view in his love for humans, working on getting us to the point that we can go to heaven with him rather than spending very much energy keeping us from worldly suffering. That is not what I would do, at all. But my nature is different.

    So when Leila says, "God can kill, reward bad people, and so forth, but that isn't *immoral* for him to do it," this seems to give the lie to the idea that morality is objective -- because if it were truly objective God would be bound by all the same rules we are, and we can demonstrate that he is not. Instead what she is trying to say (correct me if I'm wrong) is that when God does those things, it is because he loves us, so they are "okay" in the sense that they don't contradict what we know about God and what we want to be true about God -- that he loves us.

    That said, it seems clear enough that we shouldn't imitate God directly, because it would be bad for us to kill the firstborn of an entire nation, for instance. Instead God came as a man to show us what goodness for humans looked like. So if we want to use the Bible to figure out "what is moral," the New Testament is a better place to look than the Old.

    That's what I think, anyway, and it's a subject to which I've given a lot of thought.

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  159. I answered Nubby's questions many times, as best as I could, and she just keeps repeating them as if I haven't. So if she will clarify what, exactly, is insufficient about what I said, I can try again. What "grounds" morality of course is a meaningless question when talking with an atheist, but "where does our sense of morality come from," which is how they'd phrase it, is not hard to answer, and that's what I did.

    You haven’t answered any question at all, to satisfy any logic of the whole conversation.
    Neither has Johanne, Matt, Bill or Alan. Everyone instead goes all over the map, never pinpointing exact logic. I will probably bow out soon because of it. No use spinning wheels.

    I’m not asking you to post what you’d think an atheist would say. I’m asking someone to do justice to the logic of the theory!
    Are you a logical person? Do you not see how when someone removes God’s law from a whole cohesive, that he needs to supply new data in its place. Otherwise, he’s got a nonsensical rambling of feelings. Who cares about feelings?! I care about showing the logic.

    “Hey, look, you’re missing a very important variable which makes your theory weak. So instead of trumpeting how great and brilliant the atheist subjective way of living is, focus on the fact that you’re theory is nonsensical, illogical, self-refuting, and full of holes. Fill the holes. And understand thru this debate what cohesive thought actually looks and sounds like.”

    An atheist must posit a logical way in which nature (however he/she defines it) begets or generates an immaterial moral law. He/She must posit this because he/she admits to believing in absolute evils.

    And, Sheila, you absolutely have ignored these questions which demand an answer, logically, since you’re very sure of your own theory in this thread. Otherwise, you’re spinning your wheels, too, Sheila. The logic devours itself. It’s seems to a running problem that most people commenting do not see.

    How does evolution (a chemical process that gives biological change) beget an immaterial moral law? An immaterial anything

    Listing group behavior of species does not qualify as anything but a descriptor. Morals are not descriptions and don’t come from human projections. Correct or incorrect?

    There’s a ton more of purely logical questions I’ve tried to weave throughout this whole discussion. No one has answered.

    Maybe we’ll hear from more lurkers. I try to be clear for them.

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    1. * whole cohesive theory

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    2. * it seems to be a running problem that most people commenting do not see.

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  160. *focus on the fact that your theory is nonsensical,

    See, this is a teaching blog, as Leila defines it. So logic is key. Submitting comments of feelings or conjecture doesn't teach anything. Everyone can do that, but it teaches nothing.

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  161. "God cannot sin." Wouldn't that mean He doesn't have free will? Wouldn't that make Him a robot that can't choose evil?

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  162. Lurkers, fyi:

    What "grounds" morality of course is a meaningless question when talking with an atheist,

    This is not a meaningless question at all in the world of logic. She might think it’s meaningless because she wants to take a long route that gets them to a “sense” of law.

    Too much static in the data set at that point. For debate, pin them down for a committed premise, since they’re so sure God is irrelevant. Intellectually pin that. All day long.

    An atheist needs to do justice to the argument with a clear definition of lawgiver, and road to reason; or else he needs to realize that he doesn’t have a legitimate logical argument. And he should abandon it.

    That’s the reality. I find it extremely meaningful, pertinent, relevant, and logical. If no Divine Law, then what? If you take away one, you need to replace it with a substitute. Logic.

    To go the route of “where does our sense of morality come from…” why even? Pin the intellectual angle down. Make them commit, if they’re so sure about their morality being true. Pin it. Execute the logic.

    Even if you went that route of “where does our ‘sense’ of morality come from”… you’d still end up with the truth of God. But that doesn’t make the argument as tidy as it should be, and leaves the door open for conjecture only.
    They need to provide an answer on their own. Otherwise, they need to concede that their angle is incoherent and they should abandon it, to be intellectually honest.

    One more to come… then I’m off.

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  163. Lurkers:

    Every single branch of ethical theory is tied to God’s law.

    I don’t care if you are measuring for how people value morals, how they relate to morals, how they define morals, or even how they argue moral dilemma or reality. It is all underscored by God’s law. That’s the very thing they’re looking at and referencing to make take their measurements in their studies. They’re not looking at Thor’s law or Bambi’s law. Those don’t exist. That’s the point.

    It’s like saying the obvious, “All mathematical theories of lift are based on physical laws (physics).”
    And having someone say, “No, they are not. I don’t believe physical laws exist or even matter, you just want them to matter. You just want to tie them to this theory because you believe in them.”

    See their “argument”? Abhorrent to reason.

    On this thread, they posit nothing. They argue nothing. They have never filled in the gaping intellectual hole they have made. They think this is intelligent, when it’s just sloppy, lazy, and illogical.

    Posit, define, and argue through reasoning. That is simple debate format.

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  164. "God cannot sin." Wouldn't that mean He doesn't have free will? Wouldn't that make Him a robot that can't choose evil?

    Night Cruller, not at all. You are making the mistake of thinking that God is just some "big guy", like humans, but bigger.

    God is divine. It is His nature to be Good. It is against His nature to be or do evil. God cannot act against His very nature.

    It's as if you were to say to me, "Leila, you must not have free will, because you cannot flap your wings and fly." Or, "Leila, you must not have free will, because you cannot live and breathe underwater." We both see that sort of statement as nonsense. I cannot act against my nature.

    To indict God for not acting against His nature is like indicting me for not flapping my wings and flying.

    God's nature is Perfection, Goodness, Truth. He cannot sin, because He is those things. To posit that He could sin is non-sense, in the literal sense of the word. It is nonsense. Non-sense.

    Hope that helps.

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    1. We are approaching 200 comments and then we will have to hit "load more" if we exceed that limit. I will try to catch it and start a new post. I'm off to my godson's First Communion and Confirmation soon. :)

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  165. Why didn't God create man in the same nature as Himself? Then we could say, "It is in man's nature to be good. It is against man's nature to be or do evil. Man cannot act against his very nature."

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  166. Because God is Divine and we are not. That's like saying, "Why can't an artist create a painting that has a human nature like its artist?" We are creatures. Not Creator.

    Just one small point to show the impossibility of what you are asking: God is infinite (no beginning, no end). How could God create something infinite, since "creation" implies a beginning? Answer: Impossible/nonsense

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  167. Okay, Nubby, I think I'm beginning to grasp where the difficulty lies. You are convinced the moral law is immaterial. But to assume this with an atheist is like saying, "I can prove there is a God, based on the existence of angels." They don't believe in angels either! And they do not believe the moral law has any sort of immaterial existence or eternal underpinning.

    What they believe is that, based on the observable facts, humans DO have a preference toward action they consider moral and against actions they consider immoral. In general humans consider moral actions to be those which are good for others, and immoral ones are those which are bad for others. Since the survival of any individual is tied to the survival of the group, evolution preserves a concern for others -- that is why we all have moral feelings.

    But if you're going to take it subjectively, and say "why do you, generic atheist, have such a strong moral feeling that certain actions are wrong," their answer will be simply that those are the feelings they have. Why do they need something stronger than that? They say, "I want to help others, just like I want to eat, and I'm not going to sit here fussing over whether my desire to help others exists in some immaterial way, I'm just going to listen to that feeling!"

    And then the question arises, "What makes your feeling objective? How do you know that if some *other* person, who *doesn't* have your feelings, wants to chop off people's heads, that isn't okay?" The answer is that I don't need to prove that it's not okay according to that other dude's lights, but only according to my own. If *I* think beheading people is on the list of things I should prevent (because I care about people), I will try to prevent it regardless of whether it's wrong for someone else to do it.

    Not following? Say I am a strongly altruistic atheist. I feel that all human life should be defended, and I have made a personal commitment to defending all human life whenever I can.

    On Monday I see a little old lady being attacked by a bear. I don't argue with the bear, because I know I wouldn't be able to convince the bear, so I fight off the bear and save the old lady.

    On Tuesday I see a kid getting attacked by a psychopath. I know the psychopath doesn't care about my moral code, or yours, so I don't argue with him either. I just fight off the psychopath and save the kid. Depending on my specific moral code, I may have an exception to the no-killing rule for aggressors who refuse to stop aggressing, in which case I might kill the psychopath.

    None of this requires reference to an objective moral code that exists outside of me. It doesn't matter whether I'm saving someone from a human threat or a non-human threat, because the morality of the threat isn't the point. Saving the human being is the point, because that's the part that's relevant to my moral feelings and decisions. I *feel* that humans should be saved, I have *decided* that this is what I will do.

    Now communities generally join up together and make rules in common, which provides a basis for argument. In America we have a philosophy about inalienable rights, so when we argue about morality we usually make reference to rights. If I were arguing with you about morality, I'd make reference to encyclicals. If I were arguing with a utilitarian, I'd talk about how the thing I wanted them to do provided the greatest benefit to the greatest number.

    But normally atheists, when they argue about morals, do not refer to an "objective morality" which they insist others agree to. They assume some commonalities, or else they simply ask what the other person's moral code is. So again, asking an atheist, "what is the objective basis for morality?" is like asking "which angel holds up the moon?" The reason you've gotten no answer to that question is because atheists do not believe there is one.

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  168. Sheila, sorry, I just now saw your post from earlier (not the one from just above, which I haven't read and probably won't read with care until I am back from Mass).

    I guess I can agree with much of what you say until you said this:

    "As regards God in the Old Testament, I'm not keen on a lot of his actions either, even after reading that post."

    You agree, then, that your perspective is the problem, not God's actions or decisions, correct? I am actually "keen" on absolutely everything God does, since it's all good and all just.

    And as for "rewarding bad people" or "killing people"... If a person is truly "bad" (i.e., evil) then God does not reward him. God allows him to choose an eternity without God. That is no reward. If you mean that God is good to sinners, then oh yes, He definitely is. And back to the "God kills people".... God has every right to give and take life, and nothing that he does is unjust. If he allows someone to die (he does that for everyone) or actively takes a life (same effect), each soul is still judged on how much he/she loved. So, there is nothing shocking or unjust there, and nothing we can't be "keen" on.

    Okay, off to mass....

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  169. Sheila,

    Thank you for taking over my argument. You are way smarter than these people. Sorry I can't have in on this.

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  170. Sheila,

    Atheists are bound by their own illogical thoughts.
    Their self-refuting philosophy says, “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” That’s completely self-refuting. I have already spoken to that 55 times, about three threads back.
    They declare subjective opinions objectively. Illogical. Nonsense.
    I’m fully aware of how they think, and I see no relevance in your reply.

    Morals did NOT magically appear through evolution. Evolution cannot cause one to feel an immaterial weight of morality on the heart and conscience.
    So you are being intellectually dishonest and inaccurate when you try to sneak that in as fact. People need to stop inserting conjecture about behaviors or patterns in group settings as moral law. Descriptions are NOT the moral law. You cannot keep appealing to an evolutionarily inherited type of morality for this answer, because evolution cannot explain the weight, the burden, because that’s an immaterial sensation and reality . “Should and ought” are never found physically in nature, never even given testimony to!

    I’m neck deep in hard data. Why isn’t anyone else? So ironic. You guys sing to the tune of speculation, conjecture, and opinion when it comes to reality.
    You’re attempting to insert a defense for atheist thinking. Understand, I am fully aware of how they think. It’s exactly what I am calling them out on.

    The atheists need to posit what grounds their "should and should nots”. What’s the foundation? I already told you they need to supply this because they believe that absolute evil exists. Fine, then step #2 is:
    By their own formula, they need to point to a physical answer because they only adhere to physical science. I get that! This is why they trip over themselves. That is no way lost on me.

    And this, “atheists can be moral”. Of course. Super. Fine. That is not the question. The question is: Why should he be? Why today? Why next Friday?

    “Why should I save the old lady?"
    “Should I save her today, but not tomorrow?”
    “Should I always save her?”
    “Should I throw her in front of that car? Why not?”

    Here’s a point for our non-believing friends: If you practice moral choices, you desire what’s fair. If you desire what’s fair, you desire Perfect Justice. You don’t even realize Whom you’re desiring. Perfect Justice is the Just One. Time to ponder Jesus, now, isn’t it? Put down the silly self-refuting arguments already. You cannot win this logically and you can’t answer it scientifically. Yet. You. Feel. It.
    Have a super day. Feed on that, Bill.

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  171. Nubby, I think Sheila is making sense when she says that atheists do not care where morality comes from. Morality is not immaterial according to them. So it really is ships passing in the night. They don't need to put a lovely logical argument in a box and wrap it up for you because they do not agree with your premise - that morality is the immaterial law of the immaterial mind. So apparently what they believe they "should" do and how they "should" live is not morality according to you - it is just their behavior and their feelings. Well . . . they just disagree . . . because they don't believe your premise that morality is immaterial. Doesn't that boil down this dispute to the nub of the issue? (No pun intended?)

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  172. I think that the Catholic Christian logical argument is of course based on getting atheists to concede that absolute evil exists and therefore the only basis for morality is God's law. Perhaps they do not even venture to consider whether absolute evil exists and instead just live their lives by the Golden rule and ignore pondering the question. The atheists I know are exactly like that.

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  173. Leila, what I mean by "not keen" is, "in God's place, I would find those actions morally objectionable." After all, it would be wrong for me to take lives! The solution is that my morality comes from my nature, and God's actions are in line with *his* nature. It is okay *for God* to take lives. It is not okay *for me* because I am a human and it's not my job to decide when someone else's time to die is.

    You see what I mean? Morality is about acting in accordance with one's nature, not about a set of laws engraved in the sky that apply to God or the angels.

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