The moral high ground

morality

 

It is becoming more and more common for atheists and secular types to claim the moral high ground. So the prevalence of the type of graphic we see above is increasing somewhat. On the one hand I find it amusingly hypocritical of them. On the other I find it a concerning trend.

It is amusingly hypocritical because they are always asking for evidence of God. Well here I will ask of them where is your evidence, your rationale for establishing that any action in this uncaring unthinking universe is right while another action is wrong? What are morals? How do you measure them? What evidence do you have for them even existing? Do they only exist because you say they exist? If they are indeed only a human construct, then by what basis can you say that at some time in some society their actions were immoral when at that time they were not considered so? I am not saying of course that the atheist is somehow immoral or even a-moral. I am just questioning the basis for claiming the moral high ground.

My concern is that there are a lot of people out there who will simply uncritically adopt this type of mantra. And when one group is so obviously morally superior to another and has the power to do something about it, then generally they will.

Stupid arguments

Some traditionalists seem to think that a purpose of the game of football (soccer) is to score goals. Is this not hurtful to all those players who have participated in goalless games? Are these traditionalist saying that goalless games are not actually games of football? Furthermore, you do not even have to play a game of football to score goals. There are other types of sport in which you can score a goal. No, football is not about goal scoring, it is about the commitment the teams have to the game.

Flowchart atheism

ReligionFlowchart

This image is a little more obtuse than I was hoping for.

In many of the enlightening discussions I have had and witnessed, there are a lot of self professing atheists out there who seem to subscribe to some sort of flow chart methodology for discussing (despatching) religion. One of the common components on many of these flowcharts appears to be a decision point which holds religion and science to be mutually exclusive. To partake in religion, it seems, is to deny science.

Science is a methodological approach created by people in order to understand and verify factual knowledge. There are other branches of knowledge that a scientific approach does not deal with very well such as knowledge of hate, deceit and discontent … yet it can measure the entropic effect that results from such knowledge. Furthermore science does not help us to have knowledge of love, forgiveness and grace. All this unscientific knowledge is what makes us human. I believe that love, forgiveness and grace are the most desirable forms of knowledge and they are fully embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.

Science can tell us if something is alive or dead, but it is ambivalent on the topic as to which option is more preferable. Science can establish a can be done but is silent on whether it ought to be done. Finally science might inform us of facts, yet it can never make a request or any demand of us. We should neither deny nor affirm science. To do so would be strange. Science is not meant to be affirmed, or believed in. It is meant to be applied.

To take science further than that is to almost be saying that science has some sort of sentient attributes. This is precisely what atheists refuse to attribute to God. While science cannot be affirmed or denied, God can, because he makes a claim over you, as he is your creator. He requires a response to the love he has shown to you, the forgiveness he offers you through his immeasurable grace in Jesus Christ.

Marriage Part 2: Marriage is described not defined

When I hear some people speak of marriage, it is as if some committee sat down many years ago and decided to set up an institution that discriminated against certain people or as a legal entity for the benefit of men. This is not the case, of course, it has evolved or developed over time. (Or as I believe, was created by God.)

Some other people like to see marriage as a “cultural construct.” This implies that people (within their culture) have created marriage. If marriage is indeed a “cultural construct” then it would follow that we can indeed reconstruct it in some way that is acceptable to the dominant culture. The problem of course for such marriage “constructivists” is that marriage (at least until recent reconstructions) has miraculously constructed itself the such similar ways* across every single culture**.

Marriage exists as a result of a biological and psychological reality. We can use words to describe it, we can construct rules and traditions around it, but to think that we change its basic nature is to show that we don’t actually have a grasp of the reality of what marriage is.

* Many cultures of course accept polygamy as a form of marriage. It should be noted a man with two wives (as an example) typically is involved in two separate but concurrent marriages. This in no way detracts from my argument that marriage exists as a result of a biological and psychological reality.
** I note that in discussion threads on various forums that some people note that some cultures in older times other forms of relationships have been established and even recognised in a way that is similar to marriage. We need to be careful when including these in current debates around marriage as some of them are miniscule exceptions to the overwhelming norm, while others are simply not acceptable forms of relationship by any current standard.

Marriage Part 1: Yes I am informed by God on marriage

It would be a bit misleading if I didn’t come straight out and state that I am informed by God on marriage. Apologies straight up … I am no great theologian … what is below is just my simple understanding.

Marriage is the first human to human relationship described in the bible. Now I do not personally believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but I do read truth from Genesis in that God created us to be in a relationship with him and each other and that a man will leave his mother and father and become joined to his wife and the two will become “one flesh.”  This implies a sexual relationship and it implies reproduction. It also implies that the man completes the woman just as the woman completes the man. The relationship is complimentary not symmetrical. It is not implied that sex in marriage must only be for the purposes on procreation.

This theme continues throughout the bible and I think that being a Christian, there are some extras that I need to include in my marriage which those of you who are not Christian need not worry too much about. Needless to say the extras are probably not politically correct in this day and age, being that imply different roles for men and women.

Of course all this will lead to some to ask “why should my opinion be forced on others?” especially considering my opinion is based so heavily in religion. I will make two contentions:

  1. My contentions on marriage in particular could be arrived at through “secular thinking”. My religion describes marriage it does not define it. I would argue that God defines marriage, an atheist could argue a similar concept of marriage and say that it has evolved the way it has.
  2. The other question I will ask is, if a religious persons opinion should be discarded, under what rational basis does one do so? What logical argument has ever been posited that proves that an irreligiously informed opinion by default supersedes a religiously formed opinion?

What is marriage?

Is is apparent that marriage is very much up for grabs at the moment. Or at least how we want it to be enshrined in law at any rate.

Part of me wants to go with the flow on this one … this affects people close to me … but another part of me is saying “Whoa! Think carefully and critically about this … this is no small thing that we do.”

Someone much more thoughtful than me has framed this question. I think it will (with intended bias) help answer the question.

I can think of no culture throughout history that has not had some sort of form of marriage. If humans were asexual (meaning that an individual can reproduce) do you think that any of these cultures would have developed this thing we call marriage?

What do you think? What is marriage?

De-constructing a one sentence defence of “Pro-choice”

Here is some back-story – Senator John Madigan wants to put abortion on the political agenda and has done so by putting forward a funding bill. I think he is going about it the wrong way. I think he should be upfront about it and I think he should start by ensuring that the government collect accurate statistic about abortion so that we can have an informed debate about it.

I actually find this encouraging considering it came from the SMH

I actually find this encouraging considering it came from the SMH

Here is the article I want to comment on though … primarily because it represents the typical response in the media towards discussion around abortion ….. and that is to try to shut down the discussion without engaging in it. This article in the SMH started in brilliant fashion.

“Every once in a while they pop up, these old white men who feel they have a God-given right to meddle with women’s bodies.”

Wow …. Stephaine you could have stopped there …. You won the argument without even trying … or without even putting up an actual argument ….actually I just re-read the article … you didn’t really put up any argument or add anything new to the debate in the remainder of the article. So let us just look at this first sentence ….
Argument Strategy Part 1: “Establish annoyance.” Pop-ups are so annoying – always they are trying to sell you something you don’t want. Google the term “pop-up” and you also get references to telemarketers and Jehovah’s Witnesses. A great way to shut down a conversation in almost any setting is to say “It is so annoying that you keep bringing up ….”.
Problem: Just because one person (or a group of people) finds a topic of controversy annoying to discuss does not mean it all of a sudden becomes off limits to discuss it. This is an attempt to shut down further conversation, after all I don’t want people considering me one of those annoying pop-ups. It is what I call silencing by negative association.

Argument Strategy Part 2: “Beware the ruling class” – I mean the arrogance of those “old white men”. They have had it so good for so long that they have lost the right to hold an opinion. I wonder if the opinion came from an “old black man” would could we perhaps have been a little softer. Does skin colour, gender and age affect the quality of the opinion that much?
Problem: While the area of concern does primarily affect women (although I would argue that a significant number doing the dying are male). Any opinion on the matter should be discussed on its merits and not on the gender, age or skin colour of the individual. This would be akin to saying that a female inner city politician’s view on the high rate suicide amongst rural males should be ignored regardless of the quality of her thinking on the matter.

Argument Strategy Part 3: “Thou shalt allow religious view to be peddled” – The “God-given right” part here is trying to establish a link to Australian’s general dislike of having religious views thrust upon them or even discussing religion at all.
Problem: Firstly The Senator doesn’t openly present his point of view from a religious framework. None of his language as quoted in the media is framed this way. Yes he is a catholic, but he is rather quiet about it. Secondly, this is not a specifically religious issue. I have met atheists who would think along the lines that this senator does.

Argument Strategy Part 4: “Appeal to rights”. Of course this is an old chestnut – it’s my body, it’s my right. This comes out in so many permutations. Framing abortion as a women’s rights issue is a master stroke. We are the generation of self – it appeals to us. It also frames those who are against us as oppressors!
Problem: It assumes that the human life inside of its mother has no right to exist unless that right is conferred onto the child by the mother. In other words – my right to live was given to me by my mother. Of course you can get around this if you think of the foetus as being a “potential human” in other words they are a lesser type of human and we can of course choose whether or not to confer such rights on them. This is sort of like how people in Australia in the past thought of the aboriginal people, as human, but not quite on the same level as us whites, less evolved perhaps … and look how that turned out. No, human rights are “God-given rights” …. “it’s my body, it’s my right.” Doesn’t really work because there are two bodies involved here. I think that my right to life trumps your right to a career, your right to convenience, your right to emotional well-being, your right to be financially stable. I think that your right to life trumps those things for me as well. I think that every human has this right to life. I think that a child in-utero is a human and by logical extension they have a right to life.

Offending the offenders

Stephen Conroy asked YouTube to take this down. NSW MLC, Shaoquett Moselmane wants to introduce religious anti vilification laws. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah insisted that whole world should enforce-ably respect his prophet. What should we do?

There are many things I could say, movies I could make, ideas I could propose that would even today cause an uproar. People would perhaps get angry, protest, call me names, try to discredit what I have said … and that is OK with me.

Historically speaking this has not always been the case. People have not always been free to speak their mind. They have been detained, “re-programmed”, threatened, beaten and even killed. There are places in the world were this is still the case.

Throughout history, many people have worked, argued, protested, used violent means and even died in order to move towards the freedoms we have in Australia today. Our culture has changed in line with this movement. There are things I could say today that fifty years ago would have caused great angst, which today people cheer. Even more so, when it does come to someone saying something offensive, it is generally met with little more aggression than a verballing.

This is why the violence over the weekend shocks us, but it probably shouldn’t. We should always be willing to accept that from time to time our freedom will be challenged and this challenge may in fact be violent. Some of us might even die. I am not saying this is a good thing, just a realistic thing to anticipate.

We should constantly work to mitigate this violence. We should work hard to prevent it from happening again. However, if we do this by protecting the offenders from being offended, we are deceiving ourselves. If we put the group that used violence against us beyond any form of scrutiny that may offend them, then we have weakened ourselves and we in no way honour the victims that lay on the bloody path that led us to the freedoms we do have.

A FEW ASIDES:

  • I do not like it very much when people say offensive things about Jesus. Sometimes I even speak out in his defence, there may even be anger in my voice, but never would I react in a violent way. Perhaps if Muslims around the world reacted in the same way this storm would still be in the tea-cup it belongs in.
  • I watched the film in question. Apart from  it being offensive in production quality, I can also accept that it is offensive toward the prophet Mohammed. If the person(s) who made it did so for the express purpose of offending then they are immoral and should themselves consider the withdrawal of the video clip from YouTube. If they are claiming that it is an attempt at depicting some sort of  historical truth then it is up to Islamic apologists to  rebut the video in a rational manner.
  • Even if the sole purpose of the video was to offend, then the maker of the video is still in no way responsible for the violent and deadly reaction against unrelated third-parties.

I’m intolerant of “intolerance of intolerance”

I have been accused of being intolerant on a few occasions. I’ll have to admit that it is true. It is good to be intolerant at times. There are things in this world that I don’t agree with and do not believe should be allowed to happen. There are also things that others may be ok with, that I personally do not tolerate in my own life.

In engineering terms, that which sits within the range of tolerance is that which is allowable and conducive to the integrity of the system. Any value outside of the range of tolerance is thus because it could be (or is) destructive to the system. Within the tolerance range is often an ideal or optimum subset which means that the system will perform at its peak.

As a member of the human race each of us needs be tolerant and intolerant. There is a time and a place for both. Whether you should be tolerant or intolerant on any point and how you express the choice you make is up to you, but it is an important one because it will affect the way in which you relate to others. The important difference between human tolerance and engineering tolerance is that the things we like, our ideals, we do not need to tolerate them. I don’t tolerate my first coffee every morning, I love it. I tolerate the traffic on the way to work and if I miss that first cup of coffee at home I tolerate the poor excuse for coffee that the machine spits out at work.

The problem is that some people in the community have adopted tolerance as some sort of virtue. It is as if being able to tick the “I am a tolerant person” box makes you a better person. It follows that if tolerance is good, then intolerance must be bad …. Ok let’s face it, it is downright immoral. Which means that if I am to be tolerant then I cannot abide with intolerance which means that I have to add an exception two the “intolerance is bad rule” which leads people like Catherine Deveny to say something  like “I’m intolerant of intolerance” on Q&A.

This is a bit difficult for me because I have a preference for being rational – but let us follow this a bit further now…..

I am personally intolerant of nuts, I just don’t like them. I have however tolerated nuts for the sake of others, like when they made something for me without knowing I don’t like them and they put nuts in it. I am tolerant of others eating nuts in my presence or extolling the virtues of nuts, except in my own house for the sake of my anaphylactic daughter.

You see tolerance in and of itself is neither a good nor bad thing. Yet for some it seems, it is acceptable to hijack the word “intolerant” and turn it into an negative association, an ad hominem for others that they are in fact intolerant of.

That is why I am calling for everyone to be intolerant of “intolerance of intolerance”.

UPDATE:

I did originally link this post directly to Catherine Deveny’s website. I have removed that link due to my intolerance! It is not so much her further comments against Peter Jensen referring to him as a “creepy ‘gentleman with manners'”, it is the public insinuations and degrading comments she makes about her own son that really get me.

All wars lead to religion?

This lie has been repeated so often it has become “truth”

I have often heard from atheists and other likeminded individuals that religion is the cause of so much violence and oppression and even the claim that most wars have been caused by relgion – I mean, just look at the crusades, the inquisition and the witch burnings across Europe.

Before I continue I will concede that some people have done and will do terrible things in the name of religion. This is definitely a blight on religion, but let us put these claims under a little scrutiny. After all, many who make such claims also like to claim a superior evidence based approach to life.

While the crusades, the inquisition, the witch hunts lead to the deaths of perhaps as many as 3.2 million people (based on highest estimates), World War 1 lead to the death of 35 million people. When you consider the fact that the crusades, the inquisition and the witch-hunts happened over a 600 year period compared to a four year period for WW1. That is the macabre statistic of 15 religious motivated deaths per day compared with 23,000 non-religious (dare I say secular) deaths per day.

I am not disregarding the religious element to these atrocities; I am questioning their significance in the grand scheme of all atrocities. I am not questioning that some wars have religious motivation; I am questioning that most or even a significant percentage have a religious motivation.

There is no basis in fact or evidence for linking most of the violence and oppression in this world to religion. But there is a reason. The reason for linking religion to war is to create a negative association. It is simply a way of trying to convince people to not be religious. It is untruthful. It is a hypocritical argument for anyone who denies religion due to lack of evidence.

I wonder if John 8:1-11 was read out before each witch trial would the number of deaths be so high? I wonder if those who marched off to the crusades on the basis of earning a pardon for their sins would have gone if they had read Ephesians 2:8 – 9? I wonder as a Christian, does my religion allow me to be motivated to commit such atrocities? Should my religion be judged unworthy by its malpractice?