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Old 12-28-2004, 11:37 PM   #361
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Originally posted by NotAnEasyThing


Indra, can I just say I really appreciate the way that you take the time to post thoughtfully. I've seen the way you've posted in many different threads and you usually do so with good will and a healthy degree of wit. While we might have a very different approach to life I value the opportunity to interact in this way.

The example I was giving regarding (as you've named him) Jimmy Bob was to reveal one flaw, as I saw it, in your basis for ethics. Namely that it can't really work on a community scale because of the differences in what one person may consider to be empathic as compared to another. The reason it matters is because we have to live together.

Now you have suggested that a biblical approach to ethics will run in to the same problem. While I agree that people can certainly reach different conclusions as to biblical interpretation, the difference in my model and yours is that there is ultimate truth. Sure I may not have a mortgage on it all (in fact I am quite sure I don't), but it doesn't change the fact that there are moral absolutes and acountability. What the bible does provide is a point of reference with which to at least draw some boudaries. For instance it is not a difficult thing to build a case for the value of life.

In the "empathy" model the goal posts can be moved constantly.

Now I see the posts about not believing in absolutes, and while I thought that's the only conclusion one could come to atheisticly, I guess I was kind of hoping there would be some basis. Because to my mind that seems the more terrifying option. With no absolutes, you can't really say that something is wrong, just that it is not benificial or that you don't like it. Jimmy Bob then isn't a sociopath, just has a different view.
Thanks for your comments in the first paragraph. I enjoy the discussions...that's why I come here.

I don't really see much difference in my empathy model and your Bible based one for providing a moral framework. Both are individual. As I noted in an earlier post (at least I think I did), each person can interpret the Bible differently, just as everyone can have a slightly different idea about what constitutes "I wouldn't like it to happen to me or someone I care about." You say the Bible provides an "ultimate truth." Maybe it does, but if not everyone agrees on what that ultimate truth is, how is it any better than my "empathy plan"? Do you see what I mean?

I feel that most people who use the Bible as their framework will arrive at a pretty similar set of rights and wrongs. I also feel that most people who use the "empathy plan" will also come to similar conclusions. And I think that, for the most part, both sets will be far more similar than different. But in both situations Jimmy Bob would be an aberration as his views are so far outside the norm of either group. So I don't see how a community with rules based on either the Bible or the "empathy plan" is really all that much different. Also I wonder, what do you do in a "mixed community?" Could you and I not be able to live in the same area because we have different touchstones?

And I do think absolutes change over time as the body of human knowledge becomes larger. I don't think it happens quickly, but as our knowledge grows, some things will become more acceptable and some things will become less acceptable. Perhaps those things should have been acceptable/unacceptable all along, but we didn't know it yet. So it's entirely possible that the actual absolutes don't change, but our understanding does.
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Old 12-29-2004, 02:00 AM   #362
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Originally posted by NotAnEasyThing
I didn't actually explain my own ethical framework- instead because this is "the atheist thread" I was just asking how an atheist might work these things out. But I guess sinsce you bought it up...

To me the universe is created by an ethcial creator. As such we are made in that creator's image. This is why I believe we are able to percieve things such as empathy like you've mentioned. It is not so much that God arbitrarily decides "X" is wrong, therefore it is wrong. Rather morality is an expression of his nature. There are absolutes in this model.

What are the absolutes in your empathy model? What I mean is what if person A decides that child abuse is ok for his loved ones or even himself, does this make it ok for them to abuse person B. I'm sure you would probably say not. So this is in essence what I'm asking. What is the underlying framework that you can tie your system of ethics to. And it does not have to be a god. I'm just curious to know.

Please don't take offence, I don't for a moment want to suggest that atheism is somehow synonomous with unethical. But I am interested to know how you might sought out these issues in your own mind.


Interesting point you make their about ethics being modelled by a creator.

Yet indeed, whilst a human can possess empathy, why can't other animals.

Cats are extremely selfish and find it OK to go out and kill a smaller creature such as an innocent mouse or a bird. Indeed this is part of the cat's natural hunting instinct, yet if a human performed such an action it might be deemed as unethical.

How is it ethical for a cat to go out and kill something small and innocent and unethical for a human to go out and kill a smaller innocent creature, be it a human or a different animal.

Ethical models collide amongst species. Personally I can only concieve of ethics being modelled on my "pleasure and pain" theory
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Old 12-29-2004, 02:28 AM   #363
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Thanks for your thoughts Indra & intedomine.

Indra, my suggestion regarding ultimate truth was not that everyone has to agree on what it is, but that it exists. When it comes down to it, I guess for a society to function well, it doesn't need everyone to come from the same basis for their ethical system, but they do have to arrive at similar conclusions.

My only trouble with basing ethics on empathy was that, as you have rightly pointed out, it can change over time depending on what a majority of people feel. To you that may actually be a positive thing, but to me that has unnerving possibilities. In Hitler's Germany, a shift in the value placed on certain members of society resulted in catastrophic circumstances.

To me the concept of unchanging principles in regard to ethics is a comforting thought. I'm not talking about superficial things on the edges of ethics but the core stuff like the value of life, justice, compassion, basic human rights. I really believe these are unchanging, and I suppose the bible at least provides some external measure or point of reference.

As to the differences in species intedomine, to me it really shows the uniqueness of humans. I can't hold cats to the same standard I would hold myself. If I understand your "Pleasure and pain" theory, I reckon it has it's limitations too, similar to what I was saying about using empathy as a guide.

But in terms of a working model on a micro scale I can see how both "empathy" and "pleasure & pain" can work. I'm just left though with this question;
"What motivation do you have to continue in it"? Like what happens when you don't feel empathic? What happens when your pleasure seems more important than anothers pain?
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Old 12-29-2004, 10:02 AM   #364
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Quote:
Originally posted by NotAnEasyThing
I guess the line of discussion would start off with the issue of life and taking life. If there is no god, and life is just a result of chance, then why is it wrong to take another's away? Wouldn't a darwinian approach be to suggest that the stongest should survive while the weak die out?
The darwinian approach would be that those behaviors that are most likely to maintain the stability of the society. Those behaviors that are "sociopathic" are unlikely to produce offspring, and are therefore selected against.
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Old 12-29-2004, 05:04 PM   #365
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Quote:
Originally posted by intedomine


Cats are extremely selfish and find it OK to go out and kill a smaller creature such as an innocent mouse or a bird. Indeed this is part of the cat's natural hunting instinct, yet if a human performed such an action it might be deemed as unethical.

How is it ethical for a cat to go out and kill something small and innocent and unethical for a human to go out and kill a smaller innocent creature, be it a human or a different animal.

Are you a vegan, intedomine? Because if you eat meat someone had to kill it (and even with egg and dairy production, there are large numbers of animals slaughtered when their productive days are over). We as a society don't find that unethical, and that cow which gave it's life for that roast or burger didn't do anything to harm the consumer (or the killer either, for that matter). So how is that really any different than what the cat did?
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Old 12-29-2004, 05:27 PM   #366
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mongpoovian


The darwinian approach would be that those behaviors that are most likely to maintain the stability of the society. Those behaviors that are "sociopathic" are unlikely to produce offspring, and are therefore selected against.
Not necessarily. The "sociopathic" can still reproduce.
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Old 12-29-2004, 10:55 PM   #367
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Yes, the sociopath can still reproduce, but the opportunities for them to do so are severely reduced. The reason sociopaths are relatively uncommon is the same reason that people with their hearts on the outside of their bodies are relatively uncommon. If you compared a sociopathic's "reproductive fitness" with that of a "normal" person's, I bet you would find a value corresponding to the relative rarity of the sociopath.

Anthropologically, the only taboo that is universal is incest. Every society, every group and every culture with a suitably recorded history has had some form of incest taboo.

Seems to make sense, in an evolutionary sense...
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Old 12-30-2004, 03:57 PM   #368
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mongpoovian
Yes, the sociopath can still reproduce, but the opportunities for them to do so are severely reduced. The reason sociopaths are relatively uncommon is the same reason that people with their hearts on the outside of their bodies are relatively uncommon. If you compared a sociopathic's "reproductive fitness" with that of a "normal" person's, I bet you would find a value corresponding to the relative rarity of the sociopath.
There is nothing to suggest that a sociopath is any less able to reproduce. For all we know they might be better breeders than the rest of us.
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Old 12-30-2004, 06:53 PM   #369
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Reproductive fitness is not determined by biology alone. Several species of birds woo mates by collecting rocks or shiny objects. Good collecting behavior (a social attribute) can determine reproductive fitness better than breeding ability (a genetic attribute).
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Old 12-31-2004, 12:42 AM   #370
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Quote:
Originally posted by NotAnEasyThing
Indra, my suggestion regarding ultimate truth was not that everyone has to agree on what it is, but that it exists. When it comes down to it, I guess for a society to function well, it doesn't need everyone to come from the same basis for their ethical system, but they do have to arrive at similar conclusions.

My only trouble with basing ethics on empathy was that, as you have rightly pointed out, it can change over time depending on what a majority of people feel. To you that may actually be a positive thing, but to me that has unnerving possibilities. In Hitler's Germany, a shift in the value placed on certain members of society resulted in catastrophic circumstances.

Do you really think that in Hitler's Germany that the people didn't know that what they were doing was wrong? I think they did know that it was wrong -- I don't think right and wrong were switched for approx. 25 years and then abruptly switched back. I think they knew it was wrong, but since quite frankly many people in many countries had similar feelings toward the peoples which were targeted, they felt they could get away with it.

Sadly, I don't think the value that was placed on the lives of the targeted peoples changed (anti-Semitism, for example, has raged for centuries). I just think there was the belief that no one would give a shit and they would succeed. And they hadn't made expansionist forays into so many other countries, they may well have been right.
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Old 12-31-2004, 06:23 AM   #371
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Yeah I think I agree with you indra. The majority of people must have been aware that something wasn't right (get's back to my point about underlying absolutes). Mind you I think people's conscience is a maluable thing. The longer you behave in way contrary to your consicence, the less it bothers you- eventually it is numbed. Also the more that society around you acts in such a way the more it becomes an acceptable thing in your own conscience.

Quote:
Sadly, I don't think the value that was placed on the lives of the targeted peoples changed (anti-Semitism, for example, has raged for centuries). I just think there was the belief that no one would give a shit and they would succeed. And they hadn't made expansionist forays into so many other countries, they may well have been right.
True
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Old 01-01-2005, 12:57 AM   #372
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I'm an attorney, so I tend to believe that the law is our religion: it's the one set of beliefs, customs and principles that everyone HAS to follow.

"Love is a temple / Love the higher law"
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Old 01-02-2005, 08:08 AM   #373
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I certainly can't pretend to philosophize as well as the rest of you, but I thought I'd add myself to the list...

Well, actually more of an agnostic as I do believe all things that are made have some sort of creator (ie, something didn't come from nothing!). But I don't believe in any all-Powerful God, Devil, Heaven or other afterlife, Hell, or Messiah.

I'm a teenager so when I tell people I don't have a faith they always insist I'll find faith later in life...well all I have to say about that is this: People find faith at the end of their life because they know they are going to die soon. Sorry.

So how many people is that?
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Old 01-02-2005, 03:34 PM   #374
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Originally posted by VertigoGal
I certainly can't pretend to philosophize as well as the rest of you, but I thought I'd add myself to the list...

Well, actually more of an agnostic as I do believe all things that are made have some sort of creator (ie, something didn't come from nothing!). But I don't believe in any all-Powerful God, Devil, Heaven or other afterlife, Hell, or Messiah.

I'm a teenager so when I tell people I don't have a faith they always insist I'll find faith later in life...well all I have to say about that is this: People find faith at the end of their life because they know they are going to die soon. Sorry.

So how many people is that?
Don't worry, stick around and you'll soon learn to bullshit with the rest of us!

I know I never really felt any strong...aw heck, any period...belief/faith, even when surrounded by it as a child/teenager. I just think that some people don't. It's just not in me to believe, even as I realize that if I don't know enough to believe, I also don't know enough to completely deny the esistance of a god or gods. But I'm always irritated when people tell me what I believe, so I can understand what you feel.
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Old 01-03-2005, 08:17 PM   #375
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hehe, thanks Indra! yeah, I'm pretty good at bullshitting politics, so I'm sure I'll catch on...

The more I think about it, the more I just don't know. I mean, I 'm raised Jewish, not that I believe it any more than any other particular religion. But today I was having a good laugh with my "Christian" friend, and he and I were joking about the supposed second comings of Jesus and all, esp as depicted in those "Left Behind" books. And we were joking about all the horrible things that will happen to me since I'm a Jew...flesh-eating maggots, and little pits of fire and some guy poking me with a pitchfork he just took off the coals since he's got nothing better to do than torment me. And it all just seems so ...ridiculous and made up.

I've tried, but I really just can't accept it. And it's people like this, who forward me things like this, who bother me (sorry it's long):



Read only if you have time for God
Let me tell you, make sure you read all the way to the bottom. I almost deleted this email but I was blessed when I got to the end.

Subject: READ ONLY IF YOU HAVE TIME FOR God

God, when I received this e-mail, I thought...

I don't have time for this... And, this is really inappropriate during work.

Then, I realized that this kind of thinking is... Exactly, what has caused lot of the problems in our world today.

We try to keep God in church on Sunday morning...

Maybe, Sunday night...

And, the unlikely event of a midweek service.

We do like to have Him around during sickness...

And, of course, at funerals.

However, we don't have time, or room, for Him during work or play...

Because... That's the part of our lives we think... We can, and should, handle on our own.

May God forgive me for ever thinking...

That... there is a time or place where..

HE is not to be FIRST in my life.

We should always have time to remember all HE has done for us.

If, You aren't ashamed to do this...

Please follow the directions.

Jesus said, "If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father."

Not ashamed?

Pass this on ONLY IF YOU MEAN IT!!
Yes, I do Love God.

HE is my source of existence and Savior.

He keeps me functioning each and every day. Without Him, I will be nothing. But, with Christ, HE strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

If You Love God... And, are not ashamed of all the marvelous things HE has done for you...

Send this to ten people

Do You love Him?

THE POEM

I knelt to pray but not for long, I had too much to do. I had to hurry and get to work For bills would soon be due. So I knelt and said a hurried prayer,

And jumped up off my knees.

My Christian duty was now done

My soul could rest at ease.

All day long I had no time

To spread a word of cheer. No time to speak of Christ to friends,

They'd laugh at me I'd fear.

No time, no time, too much to do,

That was my constant cry,

No time to give to souls in need

But at last the time, the time to die.

I went before the Lord, I came, I stood with downcast eyes. For in his hands God held a book; It was the book of life.

God looked into his book and said

"Your name I cannot find.

I once was going to write it down...

But never found the time"

Make sure that you scroll through to the end.




Just remember-God is watching you. Prayer Wheel-Let's see the devil stop this one!

Here's what the wheel is all about. When you receive this, say a prayer for the person that sent it to you.... That all you have to do....

There is nothing attached....

This is so powerful....

Do not stop the wheel, please....


Of all the free gifts we may receive, Prayer is the very best one....

There are no costs, but wonderful rewards... GOD BLESS!

May God keep you and bless you. If this doesn't give you chills, nothing will...this message is very true. Hope you are all as blessed as I was from this story. I wonder how many people will delete this without reading it because of the title on it?





There once was a man named George Thomas, pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak..."I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad an d asked, "What you got there, son?" "Just some old birds," came the reply.

"What are you gonna do with them?" I asked.

"Take 'em home and have fun with 'em," he answered. "I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time." "But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do?"

"Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds. I'll take 'em to them." The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"

"Huh?? !!! Why, you don't want them birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing. They ain't even pretty!"

"How much?" the pastor asked again.

The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "$10?"

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.

The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story.

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got 'em all!"

"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.

Satan replied, "Oh, I'm gonna have fun! I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'm gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really gonna have fun!"

"And what will you do when you get done with them?" Jesus asked. "Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly. "How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, you don't want those people. They ain't no good. Why, you'll take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don't want those people!!"

"How much?" He asked again.

Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your blood, tears and your life."

Jesus said, "DONE!"

Then He paid the price.

The pastor picked up the cage he opened the door and he walked from the pulpit.

Notes: Isn't it funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.

Isn't it funny how someone can say "I believe in God" but still follow Satan (who, by the way, also "believes" in God).

Isn't it funny how you can send a thousand jokes through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing?

Isn't it funny how when you go to forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it to them.

Isn't it funny how I can be more worried about what other people think of me than what God thinks of me.

I pray, for everyone who sends this to their entire address book, they will be blessed by God in a way special for them.
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