At Least I Have a Napkin to Go With Those Plastic Spoons

In my recent post ,  I proposed a question to any atheists who cared to respond.

“Can you tell me what is intrinsically wrong with herding human beings into camps then systematically ending their lives?  What is objectively wrong about it?

Do not tell me how it makes you feel or that everyone just knows.

Do not tell me what’s illegal about it. Tell me why it’s negative. Please explain how it is wrong in an absolute way.”

Given several days to ponder and discuss, they offered several.

One answer: morality is something societies slowly discover. Society gradually grows into an ever-progressing moral value system. We are more moral now than we were in the past.

I challenged:  1. Not intrinsic, not objective, not absolute. 2. Do you mean that there is an objective standard set apart from us that we are discovering? Then what is that and where did it come from? 3. Are we more moral than ever before? That’s hard to support.

Other answers cited: it’s illegal, it’s repugnant, everyone just knows…things ruled out in the question.

One blogger’s answer: Evolution. When asked to elaborate upon precisely what that might mean, he absolutely refused to explain just what species of evolution to which he referred, or to explain how that works. He doesn’t have to explain; for himself, he’s satisfied with that one word answer. He will not explain how a blind, mindless, impersonal process is able to impose an unchanging, objective set of morals upon sentient, conscience-bound persons, nor how we could be accountable to such a system. Nor any of the other questions which quickly come to mind.

My challenge came from this post, where I opined that my atheist friends may have been offended, and frankly confused, by my suggestion that  death camps and abortion mills are morally equivalent because they don’t really know what’s wrong with the death camps. So I asked them to explain how they (as atheists) know the Holocaust was wrong.

I believe it’s fair to sum up their answer:  No, we cannot. Even if you give us several days to think about it. None were able to explain why the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis was wrong. I am forced to conclude that they do not know.

To be fair, I understand that they do know it was wrong. It’s just that they cannot explain why it’s wrong while maintaining the integrity of their own worldviews.

Why is this important? Why is it important that human beings who live in societies filled with other human beings believe that some things are simply wrong, and other things are simply right? Why is it necessary for people to exercise self-control and to respect the limits of personal behavior? Why must there be a separate, objective measure of right and good which people deeply respect and honor?

On to the significance of behavior.

I did have a more thoughtful atheist commenter or two conversing more or less politely. Some made the effort to visit my place and reasonably discuss the question when they might have had better things to do. But these particular guys ought to think about what their worst representatives are perpetrating upon their brand, what kind of face the mocker gives to atheism.

Give this kind of atheist an anonymous avatar and access to social media, ask him a question he finds challenging, and he demonstrates that he has no reason not to act like an abusive ass, a sexist, a raging ten-year-old. There are no limits to his personal behavior, there are no consequences of which he is aware. It seems even the most basic of social skills are lost when one sincerely believes that there is ultimately no moral authority one is compelled to respect.

He becomes living proof that a person who recognizes no higher authority than himself…or even than a consensus of society composed of persons with no more ultimate authority than himself…has no compelling reason to police himself. Not only in a big sense, but even in the mundane interactions of everyday life with no undue pressure upon him.

However, a person who believes that there is a separate, objective, immutable source of morality, right and wrong, good and evil has a compelling reason for self-control and righteous behavior. Though any person may violate that motivator, he at least has such a motivator to rebel against.

One commenter calls Christianity the “Napkin Religion- See? It’s true because it’s written down on this napkin here!”

At  least I have a napkin. What do you have?

 

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46 thoughts on “At Least I Have a Napkin to Go With Those Plastic Spoons

  1. Pingback: ”I kill you!” …. or not. | A Tale Unfolds

  2. john zande

    At least I have a napkin. What do you have?

    3.8 billion years of evolutionary history demonstrating, quite clearly, the steady emergence of complex empathetic/socially-aware thought with burgeoning neurological complexity.

    And your napkin is wrong, unless you support, for example, slavery. While your old and new napkin promotes slavery, we see that the first formal abolition of the practice was enacted in India, by Ashoka, emperor of the Maurya Dynasty, who abolished it in the 3rd Century BCE. Thankfully, he never saw your napkin, and neither did the Qin Dynasty (China) who eliminated slaves in the late 200’s BCE.

    Can you, however, show me a single moral instruction unique to the bible and not expressed anywhere else?

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  3. colonialist

    The point atheists and evolutionists seem to miss completely is that religion has provided the basis of the moral compass they ascribe to ‘evolution’. They did not know this instinctively, no matter how much they think they did. Their evolution has been shaped by religion and the values it sets out. Many of these values are archaic, their basis inaccurate, and they are just plain wrong; This does not devalue the ones that are acceptable in the light of all modern knowledge.

    When all is said and done, evolution remains rooted in the survival of the fittest. If the fittest are the most brutal and self-centred, that is where pure evolution would take the human race.

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    1. madblog Post author

      Well said! When I found time to reply to Mr. Zande, I was going to say a similar thing. All western and many non-western cultures, while rarely overtly Christian, have been by now shaped by the consensus culture which was built on Christian values. It’s the water we all swim in, like it or not. We could hardly imagine a completely non-religious context, so it’s just about impossible to step outside of it and identify values that came from elsewhere.
      Atheists are usually not up to speed on the origin of concepts like the intrinsic value of all persons, true equality, and the responsibility of every person to think freely and make his own judgments. These were alien to an awful lot of cultures not too long ago, and the degree to which cultures accepted these ideas were directly correspondent to how much they were drinking in Christian influence.

      Yeah, evolution as the source of any moral system at all, let alone a just one…still scratching my head over that one.

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      1. colonialist

        Atheists indulge in circular arguments on this one. If they really believe there is no afterlife or purpose in living, sheer logic would bring them to live solely for pleasure. What sense would ethics make? Hubris? Wanting some fame after death – ‘what a nice guy he was’ – ? No, nurture and not nature has furnished the higher ideas of right and wrong, and those ideas have all been instilled by religions over the ages.
        The atheist says, ‘Because it is the right thing to do’, but gets a bit feeble on responses to, ‘Why?’

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    2. john zande

      When all is said and done, evolution remains rooted in the survival of the fittest. If the fittest are the most brutal and self-centred, that is where pure evolution would take the human race.

      Evolution is natural selection, not survival of the fittest, and the mechanisms of natural selection are genetic drift, gene flow, and mutation. You seem to also be ignoring that natural selection favours in many cases cooperation and social cohesion. That behaviour enhances survival.

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      1. madblog Post author

        How does natural selection impart an objective, unchanging standard for moral behavior to which sentient, conscience-bound persons are accountable?
        How does a mindless process call us to account for our behavior?
        The alternative is a relative consensus, which may be discarded when preference works against it.

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        1. madblog Post author

          Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

          Liked by 1 person

        2. john zande

          The first is not an “objective, unchanging standard for moral behavior,” and the second is 1) far, far, far from being original, and 2) is easily explained in evolutionary terms via the benefits of social cohesion and cooperative behaviour. The so-named Golden Rule dates back to the Egyptian Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BCE) “Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you.” It also emerged in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (1780 BCE), as well as in the Mahabharata (8th Century BCE) “The knowing person is minded to treat all beings as himself,” in Homer’s Odyssey (6th century BCE), “I will be as careful for you as I will be for myself in the same need,” 6th century BCE Taoism, “Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss,” in 5th century BCE Confucianism, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself,” in 4th century BCE Mohism, “For one would do for others as one would do for oneself,” and was articulated by the Greek, Pittacus (640–568 BCE), who said: “Do not do to your neighbour what you would take ill from him.”

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        3. madblog Post author

          There’s no censorship, John. I sleep at my invalid mother’s house this night every week and I do not have but a laptop which I leave at home. You are one of two who complain loudest when your comments don’t get immediate attention. I assure you it was across the board.

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        4. madblog Post author

          I didn’t have access to my computer John. I was busy doing something better. Please try to exercise a little patience and consideration.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. colonialist

        A very fine distinction. Surely natural selection arises out of the fittest surviving? How else are genetic drift and flow, and mutation, influenced? I do grant that many species like ants and herd animals find social structures and cooperation to be the most effective means of survival, but nowhere near to any sort of altruism. Even the complex web of interdependence also arises out of competition.
        There are good examples in history of brutal and self-centred peoples on the rampage and achieving amazing success.

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        1. john zande

          I suggest you look into contemporary research into primate behaviour. The correlation between neurological processing power and emergent complex behaviours (including a sense of fair play and altruism) is unignorable.

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        2. colonialist

          It does seem speculative, to a degree. However, it could well be argued that if the conclusions are accurate, the next step would be development of a religion to process these inclinations..

          Liked by 2 people

        3. john zande

          In time, possibly. Don’t forget, we’re light years ahead in basic neurological capacity. That meaty brain enables massive capacity at predictive thought, and this leads to our ability to find agency in nature. Evolutionary speaking, that was highly beneficial. Still, the point being, we have a clear correlation between processing power and emergent (empathy-based) behaviour that may be called “moral.”

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        4. colonialist

          That does seem inarguable. The only question which then arises is whether a religion is a necessary step towards development of the behaviour. It does seem so. The religion could, of course, range from basic deity-worship to abstracts like the Herrenvolk.
          Cultural evolution does, invariably, seem to lead towards moral thinking being contained in correlation with concepts of a god. Whether moving from that phase towards atheistic thought is deviation or development is an open question.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. john zande

          There’s a lot of social utility in belief, plus it’s a marvelous pacifier regarding death. The promise of cosmic justice is also tremendously powerful.

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  4. john zande

    Madblog… why are you not allowing my comment? I answered your question. Why won’t you permit it to be shown?

    You are aware, aren’t you, that censorship (like what you’re doing here) is merely a sign that you have no faith at all in your position.

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        1. john zande

          I’m not bothered. It’s you who won’t allow comments to appear when written. The person who censors (you) is the one with the problem.

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        2. madblog Post author

          Wow. You cannot understand that I am not welded to my device and have a life to live? I do actually have things in my life which supersede answering internet comments.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. john zande

          I’m not asking you that. Just change your comments settings. Make it so the first comment needs approval, then after that conversation is free and unhindered.

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  5. madblog Post author

    Your response demonstrates not only that you don’t understand the implications of the Biblical command itself, but your whole atheist predicament. Your answer was predictable.

    “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”…This is indeed an objective, immutable standard for human behavior; it is THE standard. It is, and was meant to be, a summation of all the Law and the Prophets. If one is a thoughtful reader of the voluminous law of the OT, one is compelled to conclude that it is not a rigid totalitarian code but the codification of a selfless loving relationship of the Creator to his beloved creations in which the parameters of a personal relationship is spelled out. One in which the freedom of the individual is respected, btw.

    I know what you’ll make of that, so you needn’t bother. I note that you found no equivalent for this one in other sources. Once established, an honest relationship with this God entails “loving with ALL the heart, soul, and mind.” We spend our whole lives slowly learning what that means.

    In order to understand this law of laws, you must also understand who this Lord is, what is His nature, who you are establishing a relationship with. This command was given by God, echoing what God had commanded his people thousands of years before. Before the Law was given, God had made Himself known to various people and his attributes were understood. Ancient pagan cultures knew this God and sometimes respected, sometimes feared Him. And before the Law was given, God had created the world with His law imprinted everywhere. All this to say, the sources you cite, though a shallow echo, borrowed their content from the source of true law.

    “Do unto others” is a shallow, simplistic imitation of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Loving our neighbor entails not “I’ll do for you what I hope you do for me.” It means LOVING your neighbor, honestly seeking his good, serving him when you expect nothing in return. Jesus went on to explain that, not only must we love our friends, but our enemies. That is unique and counterintuitive because it is not natural for human beings. We would never have invented it.

    Jesus summed up the Law given by God this way. It is quite different than the quotes you cite.

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    1. john zande

      “I note that you found no equivalent for this one in other sources.”

      Why bother, it’s not a moral driver. It has the same value as me telling you “Love scrabble with all your heart.”

      “Loving our neighbor entails not “I’ll do for you what I hope you do for me.” It means LOVING your neighbor, honestly seeking his good, serving him when you expect nothing in return.”

      Yes, and I showed you where this same idea was articulated by many, many, many different people in many, many, many different cultures long, long, long before Jesus plagiarized it.

      “Jesus went on to explain that, not only must we love our friends, but our enemies. That is unique…”

      No, it’s not. Not by a long shot.

      Lao Tzu, amongst many, many others, said the same thing hundreds of years before Jesus

      >I treat those who are good with goodness,
      And I also treat those who are not good with goodness.
      Thus goodness is attained.
      I am honest with those who are honest,
      And I am also honest with those who are dishonest.
      Thus honesty is attained.
      >

      In Jainism (Vitaragastava 14.5) it’s expressed this way: My Lord! Others have fallen back in showing compassion to their benefactors as you have shown compassion even to your malefactors. All this is unparalleled.

      In Tosefta, Baba Metzia 2.26 we find this: Aid an enemy before you aid a friend, to subdue hatred.

      In Hinduism (Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda 115) it’s expressed this way: A superior being does not render evil for evil; this is a maxim one should observe; the ornament of virtuous persons is their conduct. One should never harm the wicked or the good or even criminals meriting death. A noble soul will ever exercise compassion even towards those who enjoy injuring others or those of cruel deeds when they are actually committing them–for who is without fault?

      In Buddhism. (Dhammapada 3-5) it’s expressed this way: Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law.

      Also, in Buddhism (Dhammapada 223) Conquer anger by love. Conquer evil by good. Conquer the stingy by giving. Conquer the liar by truth.

      In Taoism (Tao Te Ching 63) it’s said this way: Do good to him who has done you an injury.

      And in Confucianism (Analects 14.36) it’s expressed this way: Someone said, “What do you say concerning the principle that injury should be recompensed with kindness?” The Master said, “With what will you then recompense kindness? Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.”

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      1. madblog Post author

        I note that the Buddhist calls his version “an eternal law.” How is it eternal? Where did it come from? An eternal law which human beings gradually constructed? Doesn’t an eternal law derive from an eternal source? Why are you citing stuff you don’t believe yourself?

        But I explained that it IS a moral driver. It is THE moral driver. Which brings me to my point.

        In the cultures which were informed by these moral laws, do you see in their histories that they embraced that law? Do you see those peoples living out the law to love your neighbor as yourself? Or do you see systematic abrogation of those laws? That’s the human response to law.

        You see the same in the aggregate in cultures informed by Christianity. But you also see a very clear history of unnaturally altruistic cultures and counterintuitive selfless behavior there to a systematic degree that you do not find in the same way in other cultures. I know you’re going to disregard any of my evidence for this, as your chosen perspective has already explained it away, so let’s not waste our time.

        The reason that high moral laws are created then disregarded is that we are a rebellious and self-seeking sort. Short-sighted too. We destroy our own hopes for happiness.
        Only by obtaining the power to overcome our natural preferences can we consistently live out the unnatural law. And this power comes from the Law-Giver. Without a commitment to a Person with whom we have a relationship, who expects us to rise above our destructive desires, and who will happily empower us to do so, we cannot consistently live out that law.

        To be sure, people are the same everywhere. There are people who are naturally more loving and selfless in all cultures, who accomplish great good, and who obey the spirit of the best laws of their own cultures. But read if you will a book by Vishal Mangalwadi titled The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization for the influence of the Bible on every facet of western civilization. It’s not a tract, I assure you, but a history.

        I might also mention that even these high moral pronouncements are not quite the same as the one I cited. Most of them exhort good behavior so that good behavior may prevail, or so that you might receive good behavior in return, more or less. Practical.
        God’s law is an expression of a relationship. We are to love Him because he is worthy of love. We are to love others as bearers of His image. We are to love because we honor him and He asks us to.

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        1. john zande

          Buddhists are atheists.

          ”I might also mention that even these high moral pronouncements are not quite the same as the one I cited.”

          They are exactly the same, and in most cases, said much, much better. Your claim that it (love your neighbour) is unique to Christianity is false. Cultures everywhere arrived at the same idea long, long before Jesus, and it’s really not difficult to explain how or why.

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        2. madblog Post author

          Especially because I already did explain that in my earlier comment.
          God had already given that to the world eons before.
          If Buddhists are atheists, how can they cite an eternal moral law? If there is moral law built into the universe, where did it originate but in a personal intelligent mind?

          Liked by 2 people

        3. john zande

          If Buddhists are atheists, how can they cite an eternal moral law?

          Why can’t they? We have all evolved to the same degree of complexity, we share common ideas, as I have so clearly demonstrated. There is nothing unique to your religion. Your claim that there is is false.

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  6. madblog Post author

    OK, so John Z: let’s say we’ve established that many societies have a moral system which promotes just and selfless behavior and punishes unjust and selfish , based on some sort of established moral code to which all members are expected to adhere.

    What do you have and where does it come from?

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