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Old 06-14-2005, 10:55 AM   #31
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Originally posted by cardosino
But you did it anyway. I guess it's ok to do so if it buttresses an opinion or theory you happen to support ?
That's because it's well known that the Founding Fathers were, at best, agnostic. They were products of the French Enlightenment and its rather unorthodox approach to religion.

Modern evangelical Christianity did not exist until the second "Great Awakening" of 1835 onwards--after our Founding Fathers were dead. It's a matter of simple American history and logic. It's well known that evangelical Christianity often distorted history to encourage evangelization. That is, by creating the fallacy that our Founding Fathers were Bible-thumping devout Christians, they were able to recruit non-believers. It worked; no other country virtually worships their founders like we do, it seems.

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I'd still like to know then which humans exactly you'd want to be "setting our moral compass"
Why should anyone be setting our "moral compass"? It looks like Bush is doing it all his own, based on a myopic interpretation of Christianity that I've never shared. Period. I'm sure you wouldn't like it if someone was dictating a moral compass that you disagreed with, now would you? We should be given the freedom to set our own moral compass, while creating laws that allow for maximum freedom. Just because gay marriage would be legal, for instance, doesn't mean you have to take part, if you're morally opposed to it. But for those whose morality is in favor of it, they should be given maximum freedom to take part.

If you think that "God" has been setting our "moral compass" all along, it's difficult to come to that conclusion when we've never been able to decide what "God" is. Imperial Europe set the moral compass for nearly 2000 years, and look at all the death and destruction as a result?

The biggest problem with Christianity nowadays is that it's grossly arrogant. It deserves to be a minority again, because maybe it would rediscover such things as "modesty" and "empathy" that it had while it was a persecuted religion under the Roman Empire.

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Old 06-14-2005, 10:58 AM   #32
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Yeah, a lot of the founding fathers were Deists, not Theists. There's a big difference.
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Old 06-14-2005, 11:40 AM   #33
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most, if not all, of the founding fathers believed in god to some extent...at least to my knowledge. but as financeguy and melon have pointed out - they were mostly deists and agnostics. so yes, while they believed in god, they did not believe in traditional religion per se. as far as i know the only word of god they believed in was nature, reason, and logic...not books. thomas paine, for instance, detested christianity and the bible. jefferson rewrote/edited the new testament!
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Old 06-14-2005, 12:44 PM   #34
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Which was based on Zoroastrianism / Mithraism that supplanted tribal Judaism, which was based off of the worship of a Sumerian sun god. Zoroastrianism, itself, was a splinter of early Vedic Hinduism.
Not everyone agrees with this, melon.

from http://www.sullivan-county.com/z/zor4.htm

Did Zoroastrianism Influence Christianity?
James Patrick Holding

"Note: Mr. Holding does a good job of debunking Acharya S. who makes a career out of trashing the Chistian religion. But he himself is a devout Christian which will make him biased. I present him with no further comment to give the Christian side of the Zoroastrianism debate"-Lewis Loflin

Of all of the Christ-myth, pagan-copycat sources I refute, only Acharya S deigns to include and make much of Zoroaster on her list. She puts together about a dozen similarities after her usual fashion:

Zoroaster was born of a virgin and "immaculate conception by a ray of divine reason."
He was baptized in a river.
In his youth he astounded wise men with his wisdom.
He was tempted in the wilderness by the devil.
He began his ministry at age 30.
Zoroaster baptized with water, fire, and "holy wind."
He cast out demons and restored the sight to a blind man.
He taught about heaven and hell, and revealed mysteries, including resurrection, judgment, salvation and the apocalypse.
He had a sacred cup or grail.
He was slain.
His religion had a eucharist.
He was the "Word made flesh."
Zoroaster's followers expect a "second coming" in the virgin-born Saoshyant or Savior, who is to come in 2341 CE and begin his ministry at age 30, ushering in a golden age.
I have chosen the title "close but no cigar" for this essay because of all the figures chosen by mythicists so far that I have looked at, old Zoro comes in closest to fitting their bill. Some of the things listed above are actually true and confirmed by scholarly literature -- and a couple of them come from sources that Zoroastrian scholars suggest go back to a source predating Christianity. But that's the mythicists getting 10 out of 100 on a test where before they got zeroes, or claiming a "100% increase" in a salary that went from one dollar a year to two dollars. Some of these I find no confirmation at all for; others come from sources that are way, way too late -- even as late as the 10th century! Our main source for details on Zoro is the Avesta, a collection of sacred texts which was put in writing between 346-360 AD [Herz.ZW, 774] and of which we have manuscript copies only as early as the 13th century [Wat.Z, 56 -- and note to conscpiracy theorists: blame Alexander the Great and the Muslims for the destruction of Zoroastrian literature]. Some of the material probably comes from a time before the Christian era, but most of this is reckoned to be hymns and some basic information [Rose.IZ, 17] that was part of the oral tradition. The rest seems likely to have been added later, and for good reason, as Rose notes [ibid., 27]:

The incorporation of certain motifs into the Zoroastrian tradition in the ninth century CE could indicate the conscious attempt of the priesthood to exalt their prophet in the eyes of the faithful who may have been tempted to turn to other religions.
In other words, if we see a "Jesus-like" story in these texts, especially this late, we have a right to suspect borrowing -- but in exactly the opposite way that Acharya supposes!

I usually start these by saying a little about the subjects themselves. A key issue seems to be, "When did Zoroaster actually live?" Interestingly enough there has even been a few "Zoroaster-mythers" who said (as Bultmann said of Jesus!) "nothing can be said" of the historical Zoroaster [Rose.IZ, 15]. J. M. Robertson, who also stumped for a mythical Jesus and a mythical Buddha, took up the Zoroaster-myth (to which a Zoroastrian scholar responded, "I have myself indeed divined and published the argument by which Mr. Robertson's successors fifty years hence will irrefutably prove him a myth") [Wat.Z, 11]. One Zoroastrian scholar did go along with the idea eventually, but died before he could justify his position. At any rate, most of the sources I consulted prefer a date around 600 B.C., though one scholar has suggested a date as early as 1700 BC [Yam.PB, 414].

Does Persia have anything to do with Jerusalem? Zoro's faith had an idea that sounds like, and probably is, bodily resurrection, though it is most clear only in AD-dated Z texts. Did the Jews "steal" this idea while under the thumb of the Persians? There is no direct evidence either way; the Persians may have got the ideas from the Jews, and from Ezekiel or Daniel. We'll see some other general ideas they have in common as well. But in terms of borrowing, no evidence exists -- one way or the other, and a determination depends on the interpretations and datings of Zoroastrian texts. Zoroastrian scholars offer no consensus on the subject [Yam.PB, 461]: Yamauchi cites one Z scholar who believes that the Jews borrowed, another that says there is no way to tell who borrowed, and yet another who says that the borrowing was the other way. There is also a great difference in approach: The Jews buried their dead, while the Zoros exposed their dead.

Others argue that the Jewish idea of Satan is borrowed from Zoroastrianism. But Satan appears in Job, a very early book, and is nothing like the evil Zoro god Ahriman, who is a dualistic equal to Ohrmazd the good god, rather than a subordinate. Finally, it is significant that while the OT used plenty of Persian loanwords for governmental matters, they did not use any for religion [Yam.PB, 463].

And so, right to the list, shall we go?

Zoroaster was born of a virgin and "immaculate conception by a ray of divine reason." It's hard to quantify this one -- the Avesta (note again, a late source, later than Christianity) refers to a "kingly glory" that was handed onward from one ruler to the next; this glory resided in Zoro's mother for about 15 years, including during the time she was married to Zoro's dad, Pourushaspa. It seems that a human father was still needed for Zoro [Jack.ZP, 18, 24] and that this "ray" was merely for the infusion of Zoro's spirit, not his body.
He was baptized in a river. I can find no reference to this at all. There is a story of Zoro receiving a revelation from an archangel while on the banks of a river, which Zoro later crosses [Jack.ZP, 41], but that is as close as I have found.
In his youth he astounded wise men with his wisdom. Here's what I have on this: At age 7, Zoro was placed under the care of a wise man; as he was raised he had disputations with the magi -- the practitioners of occult and magic, necromancy, and sorcery. These were "put to confusion" by him [Jack.ZP, 29, 31]. Later he also made sport of the wise men of King Vishtapsa, who became one of his major converts [Jack.ZP, 61-2], and these wise men plotted against him, accusing him of being a necromancer. Zoro was imprisoned, but got out when he helped heal the king's favorite horse by making its legs grow back. Zoro was clearly a prodigy, but in quite a different area than Jesus.
He was tempted in the wilderness by the devil. This one is true, sort of -- after 10 years (not 40 days!) of visionary experiences, a sub-demon named J. Buiti was sent by Ahriman (the functional devil-equivalent in this context -- he didn't come himself) "to deceive and overthrow the holy messenger." [Jack.ZP, 51] This temptation involved an attempt to persuade Zoro to renounce the "good religion" of Mazdeism and worship evil spirits -- no bread to stones, no leaps from towers, just talking back and forth with Zoro quoting Persian scriptures. Jackson and Waterhose indicate no location for this; it could have been the wilderness, but it might have been MacDonald's in Tehran. The story has some roots to the 2nd century BC [Wat.Z, 54] but it bears at best a superficial similarity to the temptation of Jesus.
He began his ministry at age 30. This one is absolutely right [Jack.ZP, 16], but rendered meaningless in this context by two things. First, it comes from the Pahlavi literature, which is post-Christian by several centuries, and second, thirty is the age at which Iranian men come to Wisdom. [WL, 54] The ancients gave as much regard to the "big three-oh" as we did -- there is no copycatting here.
Zoroaster baptized with water, fire, and "holy wind." This is kind of odd, because this would equate with a "John the Baptist myth," not a Christ myth! Even so, I find no evidence of any of these at all. Zoro did have an association with sacred fires [Jack.ZP, 98] that were part of the fire-cults in three partricular temples, and seemed to have taken a part in preserving the fire-cult (which liked to keep the fires going, sort of like our eternal flame at Arlington Cemetery) but he did not "baptize" with and of these things.
He cast out demons and restored the sight to a blind man. "Cast out" is a little vague for a decsription here -- Zoro apparently didn't like demons, but I find no record saying he cast them out of people as Jesus did: This was one of several abilities Zoro had, including driving out pestilence, witches, and sorcerors. There is a record of Zoro healing a blind man, but this comes from a document dated to the tenth century AD -- and he did it by dropping juice from a plant into the blind man's eyes. [Jack.ZP, 94]
He taught about heaven and hell, and revealed mysteries, including resurrection, judgment, salvation and the apocalypse. As this goes, it is true, but not all of these terms have the same meaning in Zoroastrianism that they do in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Only "resurrection" is a good match here -- Zoro's faith taught that after judgment, the "dead will rise up" and men will become "not-aging, not-dying, not-decaying, not-rotting" [Herz.ZW, 299]. It's resurrection, it sounds like, though described by negatives. In terms of the other stuff, there aren't a lot of similarities [Wat.Z, 95, 96, 98, 102]. Salvation was by works alone; there was "practically no place for repentance or pardon:" and "no doctrine of atonement." There is some issue about the fate of the wicked; one account says they will be tormented three days, then return to do good deeds; another source says they will be annihilated. There is an essential equivalent to Heaven and Hell, but it wouldn't be too hard to create such a concept independently one way or the other based on the simple assumption that people will get what they deserve. Judgment would be made by committee: the Persian Mithra and two other gods are on the panel. If you aren't sure where you might go, word is that Zoro himself will come and plead for you. A concept of purgatory appears in a Zoroastrian work of the 5th-6th century, and later Zoroastrianism did develop rites of repentance and expiation, contrary to Zoroaster's recorded teachings. There's an apocalypse planned to be sure: a flood of molten metal to burn off the wicked. Zoro eschatology comes for the most part, however, from those late AD sources [Yam.PB, 465].
A reader also sent us this note:

"The case for a judeo-christian dependence on Zoroastrianism in its purely eschatological thinking is quite different. And not at all convincing, for apart from a few hints in the Gathas which we shall shortly be considering and a short passage in Yasht 19.80-90 in which a deathless existence in body and soul at the end of time is affirmed, we have no evidence as to what eschatological ideas the Zoroastrians had in the last four centuries before Christ. The eschatologies of the Pahlavi books, though agreeing in their broad outlines, differ very considerably in detail and emphasis; they do not correspond at all closely to the eschatological writings of the intertestimentary period nor to those of St. Paul and the apocalypse of St. John. They do, however, agree that there will be a general resurrection of the body as well as soul, but this idea would be the natural corollary to the survival of the soul as a moral entity, once that had been accepted, since both Jew and Zoroastrian regarded soul and body as being two aspects, ultimately inseperable, of the one human personality." -- R.C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism. G.P. Putnam's Sons. New York. 1961. Pg. 57
Note especially the implication that an idea of resurrection could have come up independently in the Zoros because they shared the Jewish perception of totality of body and spirit.

He had a sacred cup or grail. If he did, the Zoroastrian scholars don't know about it. Not that it matters -- the idea of Jesus having a sacred cup or grail is a product of medieval legend, not the Bible!
He was slain. Zoro was indeed said to be slain, but his death isn't vested with any significance. There are a couple of stories about his death. A late story has him struck by lightning, but that is from a post-Christian source. An account that is generally accepted has Zoro killed at age 77 by a wizard/priest. There are no details on this death, other than that it occurred in a temple. A nice story from the 17th century has Zoro whipping out rosary beads and throwing them at his assassin as he dies. [Jack.ZP, 124-9] Either way, Zoro's murder has neither the invested significance nor the surrounding similarities of the death of Jesus. There is also a third account that has him killed in battle as a king! However, none of this may matter as Herzfeld, after analysis of the data, concludes that the "murder of Zoroaster is entirely unhistorical" for the stories of it are all in late sources as much as 1400 years after his time, and had he truly been murdered, it would "resound loudly and persistently in history" before that [Herz.ZW, 241, 845].
His religion had a eucharist. Not that the Zoroastrian scholars are aware of, though I would not doubt that the Z people had communal meals like every religious and political group in ancient times. And since there is no atonement in Zoroastrianism, how can there be a Eucharist? The closest I can find to this is the fact that in later Zoroastriaism, there is a rite involving the intoxicating haoma plant, which may or may not have been known of and/or endorsed by Zoroaster [Yam.PB, 418] and involves a daily rite of consumption with no "eucharistic" significance (i.e., it is not Zoro's body or blood, etc.). There is also a ceremony calls the yasna or veneraion, which does involve the use of bread (topped with clarified butter) and a drink made from ephedra, pomegranate twigs, and milk (strained through a filter made from the hairs of a white bull), but evidence indicates that this ritual was established as part of liturgical reform in Zoroastrianism in the post-Christian era [Yam.PB, 449-50].
He was the "Word made flesh." Not that the Z scholars know about it, either.
Zoroaster's followers expect a "second coming" in the virgin-born Saoshyant or Savior, who is to come in 2341 CE and begin his ministry at age 30, ushering in a golden age. I have been able to confirm that this is true to some extent: a return is expected in 2341 CE, to start a golden age; the details on age 30 I have found nowhere. Whether this future Deliverer would indeed be Z himself again is indeed something that has been interpreted, but later Zoroastrian texts think that the person will be of the line of Zoro, not Zoro himself. [Wat.Z, 94-5] A vague doctrine of a future redeemer does appear in Z texts dated as early as the 400s BC, but only later (9th cent. AD) texts go into detail, reporting three world saviors -- "virgin born" in a sense: It seems that some of Zoro's sperm is being preserved in a lake in Iran, and that three virgins bathing in the lake over the next few thousand years are going to get a big surprise as a result. Virgin born, perhaps, but not virgin conceived. The last of these three guys will eradicate all disease and death and usher in the final victory of good over evil.
And that, folks, is about the size of it -- there are more convincing parallels to Jesus in Dragonball Z than there are to the big Persian Z. It looks to me like Acharya is mostly full of ringers again -- but if she wants to try and document some of these claims from pre-Christian texts, we'll wait to hear from her.
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Old 06-14-2005, 01:17 PM   #35
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This talk about the Founding Fathers reminds me of an article I just read in The Sun. The person being interviewed was talking about how the Founding Fathers were Unitarian (if you wanted to label them) in their beliefs and that they were very opposed to any religious group being a part of government. The reason given was that they were sick of the witch burnings and the tyranny of the Puritans. Apparently the Christian Right has taken to making up quotes by the Founding Fathers "out of whole cloth" in an attempt to hide this fact.
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Old 06-14-2005, 01:30 PM   #36
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Not everyone agrees with this, melon.
I'm aware of that site. He's actually a very opinionated Deist, who is bothered by how "Christianity" has ruined Tennessee. I can respect strong opinions, really.

Anyway, that article is less about Zoroastrian influence on Judeo-Christianity and more about rejecting comparisons between Jesus and Zoroaster, which I would agree with, for lack of evidence. The Avesta was mostly lost after the Islamic conquest of Persia, and the parts of the Avesta that included non-mythical biographical accounts of Zoroaster are lost. What do remain are the mythical accounts of Zoroaster from the 9th century A.D., which I would agree are not reliable on any account. They very well could have pilfered from Christian accounts of Jesus.

But besides that, it's very obvious that Zoroastrianism has influenced Judaism and that Mithraism, a Zoroastrian cult, influenced Christianity. It's all over the place (the "Magi," for Christ's sake? They're Mithraist priests!), and I don't have to look at the Avesta to find that. It's all over the Old Testament and the New Testament.

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Old 06-14-2005, 01:59 PM   #37
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A common phrase throughout this thread is "morality is personal".

What if someone's personal morality believes homosexuality to be wrong? If we oppose this individual are we attacking their personal morality? Is their morality wrong? Should we attempt to change their moral stance? Who makes the decision to determine whether their personal moral stance on this issue is right or wrong?

The 19 hijackers believed that flying planes into buildings and killing 3000 people was a good thing based on their own personal sense of morality.

George Bush believes that invading Iraq was a good thing based on his personal sense of morality.
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Old 06-14-2005, 02:27 PM   #38
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Originally posted by MaxFisher
A common phrase throughout this thread is "morality is personal".

What if someone's personal morality believes homosexuality to be wrong? If we oppose this individual are we attacking their personal morality? Is their morality wrong? Should we attempt to change their moral stance? Who makes the decision to determine whether their personal moral stance on this issue is right or wrong?

The 19 hijackers believed that flying planes into buildings and killing 3000 people was a good thing based on their own personal sense of morality.

George Bush believes that invading Iraq was a good thing based on his personal sense of morality.
If people dislike homosexuality, then they don't have to partake in it. It does not hurt anyone who disagrees with it if homosexuality is legal, whereas bigotry makes my life difficult on a regular basis. In short, "who do the fuck do they think they are?"

I hate fundamentalist Christianity. I think it's a dangerous cult that perverts the original intent of Christianity. Now should I exercise my right to ban it, because I merely hate it? No, the fundies would bitch and moan that I would infringe on their rights. And they'd be correct. I don't think it should be banned for that reason, and, as such, I can exercise my right to ignore it.

In terms of terrorism, their "right" to murder 3000 people would infringe on the right of those 3000 people to live. That's why terrorism is illegal and why homosexuality should be legal.

Besides, Bush determined that it was morally correct to blow up Iraq and Afghanistan and murder thousands of more civilians (even if unintentionally) than were killed on 9/11. Humanity, clearly, determines what is "moral" and "immoral" on a regular basis.

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Old 06-14-2005, 02:52 PM   #39
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Who says the terrorists didn't have the right to infringe on the rights of 3000 people's rights to live?

Maybe infringing on someone else's rights is part of their personal morality.

"Personal morality" just takes us in circles and creates a chaotic environment.

I strongly believe that morality must come from a higher power. If it doesn't, than we are all fools for conforming to societal norms and other people's ideas of what is right or wrong.

C.S. Lewis addresses this issue very eloquently in the first few chapters of his book, "Mere Christianity".
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Old 06-14-2005, 02:57 PM   #40
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Quote:
Originally posted by MaxFisher
Who says the terrorists didn't have the right to infringe on the rights of 3000 people's rights to live?

Maybe infringing on someone else's rights is part of their personal morality.

"Personal morality" just takes us in circles and creates a chaotic environment.

I strongly believe that morality must come from a higher power. If it doesn't, than we are all fools for conforming to societal norms and other people's ideas of what is right or wrong.

C.S. Lewis addresses this issue very eloquently in the first few chapters of his book, "Mere Christianity".


this is why we are governed by law, not morals.

what is right and what is wrong is determined on a societal level by courts, and on a personal level by whatever belief system one chooses.

when the two conflict, law always wins. we conform both for the good of society, and to prevent ourselves from having to pay the consequences of breaking the laws of the societies in which we are a part.
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Old 06-14-2005, 03:02 PM   #41
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Quote:
Originally posted by MaxFisher
Who says the terrorists didn't have the right to infringe on the rights of 3000 people's rights to live?

Maybe infringing on someone else's rights is part of their personal morality.

"Personal morality" just takes us in circles and creates a chaotic environment.
Then that doesn't adhere to secular humanism. It's about maximum freedom, but not when it infringes on others' right to life, liberty, and happiness.

Quote:
I strongly believe that morality must come from a higher power. If it doesn't, than we are all fools for conforming to societal norms and other people's ideas of what is right or wrong.

C.S. Lewis addresses this issue very eloquently in the first few chapters of his book, "Mere Christianity".
All morality and what we attribute to "God" are human inventions. Even assuming the Bible was 100% true, how people have interpreted the Bible have changed dozens, if not hundreds of times over the past 2000 years. A "fundamentalist" of 2005 would probably get a firey condemnation from a "fundamentalist" of 1855.

And creating laws that supposedly emanate from a "higher power"...well, that's when you get...

1) Old ladies getting their ankles broken for showing too much ankle in the Taliban's Afghanistan.

2) Christians getting arrested in Saudi Arabia for being infidels.

3) Lower castes getting acid thrown on them by the upper castes for making too much money in India.

But I know how it goes. "Your religion" is always the right one, correct? Well, as they all see it, their "higher power" is going to see you in hell someday. That's no way to run a civilization at all.

Melon
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Old 06-14-2005, 03:19 PM   #42
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Irvine- There is no law against sleeping with my friends wife. And no court of law would ever punish me for doing so. My decision to not sleep with her is based on the fact that I believe it is wrong to do so. Isn't that a moral decision?

Melon- Lewis would argue that a sense of right and wrong does not come from the Bible, Koran, or any other religous book but that we are born with it already programed into our souls. If I slept with an atheists wife, his reasons for being angry with me would have nothing to with any biblical verse or passage. His sense of outrage over my actions would originate from an inborn sense that he had been wronged. Lewis would say that this internal sense of right and wrong validates a Higher Power's moral programing of the human race.
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Old 06-14-2005, 03:21 PM   #43
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So who gets to decide what is moral and what isn't ?
Morals by the individual. Laws by the community.
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Old 06-14-2005, 03:28 PM   #44
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Perhaps the people who feel they get their morals from god/gods can do that. And the people that feel they get their morals from their own self can do that. Honestly, how hard is that?
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Old 06-14-2005, 03:32 PM   #45
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Quote:
Originally posted by MaxFisher
A common phrase throughout this thread is "morality is personal".

What if someone's personal morality believes homosexuality to be wrong? If we oppose this individual are we attacking their personal morality? Is their morality wrong? Should we attempt to change their moral stance? Who makes the decision to determine whether their personal moral stance on this issue is right or wrong?

The 19 hijackers believed that flying planes into buildings and killing 3000 people was a good thing based on their own personal sense of morality.

George Bush believes that invading Iraq was a good thing based on his personal sense of morality.
That's where laws/community rules come in. You can believe whatever the fuck you want, it's when you act on it to someone else's detriment that it becomes societies concern.

Just because you think something is immoral does not give you the right to attack the person or people doing that thing.
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