First, Some Biblical Morality

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination." Lev 18:22
- This is the famous one gay bashers use

"Thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed: neither shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together." Lev 19:19
- Apparently this has as much weight as the one above

"A woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whosoever doeth these things is an abomination unto Jehovah thy God." Deut 22:5
- No cross-dressing either (this dude thought of everything!)

"Put every man his sword on his side, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion and every man his neighbor." Ex 32:27
- Mind you, they were killing unbelievers, so it's OK

"Now go, attack the Amakelites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them: put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camel and donkeys." - 1 Sam 15:3
- Killing your heathen neighbours is OK too

Numbers 31 is a horrific account of the slaughter of the Midianites, directly ordered by Jehovah. The Israelites were ordered to kill every person except the young girls who were virgins. These were to be kept alive for sexual slavery.
(after killing all the adult males) "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women-children, that have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." Num 31:17

Numbers 5 contains a rather long explanation of how to handle male jealousy. If a man suspects his wife of infidelity, he may bring her to the priest, who performs a trial by ordeal by administering a poison meal to her. If she falls ill, she is guilty. If not, she is innocent. "And when he hath made her drink the water, if she be defiled, and have committed a trespass against her husband, and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her and become bitter, and her body shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall be a curse among her people. And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed." Num 5:27-28

"If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, that is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; of the gods of the peoples that are around you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: but thou shalt surely kill him; thy hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him to death with stones." Deut 13:6-10
- Now you know what to do with those annoying JW's at the door...

"Then he [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road some youths mocked him, and said to him, 'go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!' So he turned around and looked at them and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the Lord. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths" - II Kings 2:23-24


Now, some Articles


stix@BAAWA.com.au (Stix) writes [among other good stuff]:
>bhoffman@discover.net posted the following to alt.atheism:
>> and because I PREFER a universe in which words like
>>right/wrong, justice/injustice have meaning.
>
>Handed down in a sealed crate by a Magic Space Pixie, ne'er to be
>questioned nor challenged, right? Thus magically requiring no exertion
>of thought on your behalf, and effectively rationalizing your aversion
>to responsibility and accountability for your own actions.

>"God will take care of it."

>Peachy. 

>Actually it's a load of wishful, mystic, twaddle, indicative of a lazy
>mind still mired in the stagnant mindset of seeking authority figures.

It is also false, by simple observation.

Is it right or wrong to clone donor organs from cell cultures
originating from tissue obtained from an aborted fetus?

Don't answer that, just look at it.

Where do the answers to questions like that come from?
When a new moral issue like that appears, what exactly
happens?

As in the case of the issue I quote above, there is a debate.
Scientists, ethicists, politicians, commentators and even
clergymen get stuck in, thrash the issue out in journals,
letters pages and ordinary conversations. Eventually it
is time for a law to be enacted, of guidelines adopted, and
some kind of practical consensus is reached. A new moral
issue has been dealt with, but God did *not* take care of it,
people took care of it.

If we look into history, we can see striking instances where
the consensus morality has changed, perhaps the most interesting
being the issue of slavery. Slavery is today a moral anathema,
in the very worst category of crime, yet in the Bible slavery is
condoned by Jesus, and even commanded by Yahweh in the old testament.

At the time that slavery was outlawed and eventually stamped
out in the Western world, the same process of debate occurred
as if the issue was new, but it was not. The consensus on the
morality of slavery changed, was changed by *people* through
the same social and political means we see settling moral
issues today, up to and including war, despite the fact
that "God" as represented by the Bible didn't change at all.

It seems to me that moral issues like murder, theft and
perjury must be among the first to be agreed in any social
group which is to survive. Others which will follow within
a few generations must include family/tribe organization
and an incest taboo.

The fact that these issues were dealt with long ago and passed
into tradition, law and even myth does not mean any magic was
involved, the processes we see working today and throughout
recorded history are quite capable of producing the morals
we see in places like the Bible.

It also seems to me that when the consensus on an issue agrees
or resonates with something from the Bible, there are people
who are quick to claim the consensus requires the Bible as
a basis. When as with slavery, racism or sexism the consensus
changes so that the Bible is irrelevant or even immoral, this
is quietly ignored.

In short, we can see how morals are agreed upon by watching
how they are formed around new moral issues, for instance those
raised by technological developement. We can see times in history
where morals around established issues changed without divine
revelations or revisions of religious documents. There is therefore
no reason to suppose divine intervention was ever necessary to give
moral guidance, even if we were to grant the possibility.
-- 
Niall #36 [real address ends in se, not es]





From: ajm@wam.umd.edu (Abner Mintz)
Newsgroups: alt.atheism,talk.atheism
Subject: Re: Do Good/Evil Exist?
Date: 12 Jul 1998 11:06:03 -0400

Michael R. Anderson  wrote:
> I think most of us can agree that human behavior ranges between the
> noble and compassionate to the sick and obscene - but why? I see people
> choosing between good and evil and wonder what the atheists see. 

"Varies with the atheist, of course.  People grouped by a lack of a
 trait, rather than by a trait, tend to vary highly in their views."

> What is the atheist perspective on whether good and evil exist?  How do
> atheists explain why human behavior varies across a spectrum of, for
> lack of better terms, "good" and "evil"?

"There is no one atheist perspective.  Here, however, is the perspective
 of one atheist: me."  :)

"I define good and evil as follows:  'Good' is helping another person
 with their permission.  'Evil' is harming another person against their
 will.  Everything varies between those two extremes.  For instance,
 helping someone without their knowledge is less good than helping
 them with their permission, since you can't be sure that what you
 consider help they might not consider harm.  Obtaining their 
 (uncoerced) permission would eliminate this problem.  Helping another
 person against their will is morally doubtful, since the person
 almost certainly sees it as being harmful; I'd say the only
 case where this is really morally permissable is children, who
 are not mature enough to be responsible for their own views of
 what is helpful or what is harmful yet.  The same sort of spectrum
 applies to evil."

"This view was the result of many years of thinking over this issue,
 and talking about it with others, trying to pin down just what good
 and evil are.  I think it sums up the issue well.  Isn't helping
 someone else with their permission, as in with Habitat for Humanity
 or other altruistic acts, the height of good behavior?  Isn't
 harming someone else against their will, as with slavery, rape, and
 murder, the true depth of evil?"

"Note that throughout here I have been dealing with intentions.
 If the people at Habitat for Humanity build a house for someone
 with their permission, and that person moves in, only to step on
 a loose nail, get tetanus, and die, the people at Habitat for
 Humanity still did good, not evil.  No one can foresee all
 effects of an action.  If you save the life of a homeless person,
 not knowing that person was homicidal, and two days later that
 homeless person kills someone, you are not morally responsible for
 that murder."

"Does that summary give you what you needed, or do you want more?
 If so, ask, and I shall answer."







From: "Jim Collier" 
Newsgroups: alt.atheism
Subject: Re: Prove God's existence (Good Deeds and Pi)
Date: 12 Jan 1997 22:46:15 GMT

Should I even bother with this one?  Shit.  I really don't have the time.
I've had enough of this.  I can't just sit this out.  I'll start and
someone else continue, OK?

> > To an atheist this altruistic act could be a meaningful moral act
> > but what does a meaningful moral act mean. It reminds me of a person
who
> > wants to keep part of his Sunday School training yet throw out God.
> > Why be moral at all if you are an atheist? Is it because it gives you
an
> > emotional high?


What does a moral act mean to YOU?  Would you truly do it to HELP another
HUMAN BEING?  Or are you just scoring brownie points with the man in the
sky?  Or is it just scared of hell.  Would you feed and clothe a drunken
homeless man because you felt a profoundly deep sense of empathy for him,
you *really* with every ounce of your heart wanted to help this human being
be able to look himself in the mirror, stand tall, and say "I am a man.  I
am proud."?  Or would you do it because god told you to.

What a patheticly pompous, uneducated, ignorant, naive thing that you've
said.

So.  You want to know what makes atheists behave, obey laws (usually), and
most importantly, perform altruistic acts, etc.?

This *AGE* old argument (refuted probably millions of time accross history)
is *reducto absurdium* in motion.  Why not just ask why "we" even bother
getting up and going to work?  Why do we bother provide for our children if
not for some god watching over us threatening fire and molten lava?  Why do
we bother to reproduce?  Why do we bother with marriage?  Colledge funds? 
Why don't we just fuck anything that's not nailed down (including YOUR
wives and girlfriends [if you've ever even gotten any])?  Why don't we just
run amok and murder to get whatever we goddamned please?

Well, actually we would, being the sin loving atheists that we are, except
for that LITTLE nagging problem that nags the holy rollers just as much,
and it's called CONSEQUENSES.  Kind of echoes when you say it, doesn't it? 
Damn I hate those pesky things.  That means if I run out the door butt
naked, beat the mailman to a bloody pulp and piss on him, then grab my
neighbor's wife as she's mowing the lawn and fuck her until I'm damn well
satisfied, well it turns out that pesky CONSEQUENSES have several options
in store for me, and only a few of them involve living to see the next day.
 GOD DAMN those FREAKIN' consequences!  If it wasn't for them, there'd be
2,000,000 more kids on this planet, and you know what?  They'd look 
**JUST**  **LIKE**  **ME**!!!

But actually, now that I think about it, I really don't WANT to run out
naked and fuck my neighbor's wife.  ...Actually I wouldn't mind making
slow, strong & gentle, passionate love to her ALL NIGHT LONG and we'd GRIND
and we PULSE and we'd THROB and pant and sweat and shudder and have orgasm
upon orgasm upon orgasm (me being the charitable guy I am), until she
HOWLED at the TOP of her lungs for JESUS...***!GOD!***...Almighty to save
her... ... ... ...but nah, just like you would have a moment's lust over
this hot babe but then ask god for forgiveness and repent, I'd have second
thoughts too.  Why?  F_R_E_A_K_I_N' CONSEQUENCES!  Jesus Christ I wish
they'd ease up with those things already.

You see, when one runs out and fucks one's neighbor, one is pretty much
guaranteeing that whatever posessed him to run out and fuck his neighbor
DOES NOT get passed on to any children, as dead men don't generally
reproduce--right Grandpa?  Right.  So.  I'm dead.  But the neighbor Sammy,
however, is un uncharitable guy.  He hates to give.  When his neighbor's
house (on the other side) burned down, he just sat and watched Monday Night
caveball.  Then a few weeks later, old friend Bobby had a heart attack
while they were dunkin rum shots...and Sammy just laughed while Bobby
cluthed for his last gasps of air.  Well!  Guess what happened!  Yup, ol'
Sammy's house caught on fire one day.  Would anybody help him?  Are you
kidding?  So how does the story end?  Did he make it?  Nope.  He died in
the fire.  So did his hot wife, and every one of their 27 adorable
children.  On Christmas day, no less.  

Well, it turns out that crusty uncharitable gene or learned behavioral
upbringing just wiped out all the progress it had previously made, and
simply #winked# out of existence.  In a big fireball.  The neighbors, being
charitable (but species-"profit"-minded) folks they are (and likely to
succesfully multiply by helping each other in the brutal world) kindly held
a brief memorial, cursed god, and buried thier remains.

Natural selection at work: ain't it a bitch?

Now, at the present time, if you take all the dry land on the planet
(including Antarctica), and devide that by the 6 billion people on that dry
land, we come up with...WOAH, *65 square FEET* PER person.  And that
doesn't count space occupied by inhospitable mountains, deserts, bogs,
extreme cold, and major footbal stadium parking lots.  That's a walk in
closet, folks.  (Obviously some areas are more densely packed than others.)
 So, god boys, tell me man's natural instincts to rape, plunder, pilliage,
murder, steal, and burn (sounds like a nice little Christian conflict,
doesn't it?) can simultaneously coexist with such a density.  Something has
got to give, either our species or those "born" tendencies.  Or of course
we could all worship the little bearded man in the sky who created us all
from dirt and then SPITS IN OUR GODDAMNED FACES every chance he gets.  WELL
FUCK YOU.

That's right.  I'd rather CHARBROIL IN HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY than KISS ASS
TO some CONCEITED, FUCKED UP, TWISTED "GOD" who derives so much glee over
all the pain and suffering in the world, who DROWNS his failed experiments,
who sends his minions to plunder the known world and PLUNGE it into A DARK
AGE TO END ALL DARK AGES, who sends out "missionaries" to destroy entire
"primitive" cultures, to rape and torture for days young pubescent girls
accused of "wichcraft" only to kill them, and for making you god boys such
FUCKED UP NARROW-MINDED ANAL-MYOPIC **DEADBEATS**  What in god's name
almighty are YOU doing to make this a better world?  Huh?  COME ON, lets
hear it you MORON!  Taught sunday school!  Helped the church repaint the
STEEPLE?  I could give you a list ONE AND A HALF PAGES of my devoted TIME,
MONEY, EFFORT, SWEAT, TEARS, BLOOD, HEARTACHE, EMOTIONAL LOSS, and just
plain ENERGY I've devoted to making this a better planet for ME, for YOU,
and especially for OUR future generations...

So, the god boys do charitable deeds to avoid Hell.  How sweet and
pathetically selfish.  For an "atheist" to perform a charitable act from
the bottom of his heart, to reach out and honestly give everything he can
muster, every emotion, every fiber of physical pain, with NOTHING, not even
HEAVEN in return, well boys I honestly think that is the most touching,
poetic, MEANINGFUL human exchange that is possible to take place, and far
outshines your pathetic god with a natural warmth that you will never know
(actually that's probably not true...that sounds like on of your pathetic
"priveledged" arguments).  If I was down I wouldn't accept the help of a
goddamned Christian hedging his way into heaven if I lost my liver and you
had one there in your hand.  I'd spit on you.

That's right, I AM PISSED.  I am so goddamned sick of you pompous fucks
sitting in your chairs passing judgement over those in god's homogenous
little kingdom.  Fuck the other 4 billion that are going to hell.  Worse,
you don't have a FUCKING CLUE!  You are all so generally NAIVE!  Not just
about religion, but about everything.  You have the fucking nerve to sit
there at your little PCs, totally, blissfully IGNORANT of the scientific
breakthroughs, one after another, over the past three thousand years (or
more), that slow chugging of that beautifully self-correcting scientific
process--sometimes backstroking, sometimes butterflying--that grants you
LIFE when you hit the telephone pole and the airbag deploys.  It grants you
LIFE when the "Jaws of Life" cut your pathetic limp bodies from the heap. 
It grants you LIFE as the synthetic blood replaces the vital amount you
lost.  It grants you LIFE when your heart fibrilates.  It grants you LIFE
as you recover from the coma due to the Magnetic Resonant Imaging system
that revealed a potentially fatal bubble in your brain.  It illuminates
your wretched little HOMES, you pukes so you can even see yourselves THINK.
 And you have the BALLS to say that science is meaningless shit?  God I
would love to send you back to the stone age.  Who IS god?  We are God, you
ignorant fester.  It's almost like God stuck a corkscrew in your skulss and
scrambled well before you were hatched.

I've been sitting by idly wathing to DEADBEATS spout your meaningless
tripe.  I've offered my logical input.  I'm sorry, I just can't take it
anymore.  

How 'bout a WAR?  Yeah, Christians LOVE a good WAR, RIGHT?  So lets go. 
Anyone, just come on down to Plano, Texas and lets go.  Screw war, we'll do
it bareknuckles.  I'm mad, I'm godless, I'm moraless, and I'd just as soon
throw you in a meat grinder as give you the time of day.

-- 
Jim Collier
jcollier@why.net


From: Del 
Newsgroups: alt.atheism
Subject: Re: God damn hard being an Atheist.
Date: Mon, 04 Nov 1996 07:33:52 -0800

Dw wrote:
> 
> >Christians say they love all people, yet if you have belief system
> >based
> >on another god or idol, you will burn eternally in a pit of lava and
> >inferno.  To me, their "god" seems about a million times worse than
> >Hitler and a thousand times less believable than Aliens.
> 
> Well, let me explain to you one thing.  You, as an atheist, have choosen
> to deny the exostence of God.  With this, you have also choosed to not
> accept the moral code prescribed by him.

Why don't you articulate this moral code you talk about? You
 know, the one that all believers believe in and accept? 

> 
> Your statement reveals a "moral " dilema.  Placing a value on one thing
> and compairing it to another.
> 
> As an atheist, you can have no "Universal" moral code.  Why?  Because a
> moral code is dependent on some type of authorizing agent.  You may want
> to argue that moral code is innate.  But how do you logically support
> this?  through your own perceptions?    In that case the
> "Perceptiveness" is in the eyes of the beholder.
> 
> Atheism cannot allow for a universal moral code.  From one atheist to
> another, it is no more immoral to kill, than to be philanthropic.  It
> becomes a matter of choice only for how the atheist chooses to live
> his/her life.

Oh ok. So if there is nothing prohibiting atheists from being
 immoral that must mean there is nothing that prohibits theist
 from being moral. If there is nothing that prohibits theists
 from being moral why have so many been, and continue to be,
 unscrupulous swine? Maybe because they believe that  - no
 matter what they do, however horrendous, they can get off
 the hook with God by being really really sorry.  God will
 forgive them? Think maybe that's it? 

Let's test your "universal moral code," ok? If God told you
 to kill would you do it? Would it be moral? Wouldn't it be
 immoral to refuse? Don't bother saying he wouldn't ask you
 to - the Bible is chock full of such demands by your God of
 love. As I have pointed out here many times, we read in
Deuteronomy 7:12-16 that the Promised Land is for the  Israelites
, and not for the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, 
the  Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, or the Jebusites. 
God says these  people are to be exterminated without mercy: 

"and you shall destroy all the peoples that the Lord your God
 will give over to you, your eye shall not pity them." 

The Israelites proceed to do just that.

They kill (Numbers 21:25, Deuteronomy 2:34) the Amorites of 
Heshbon, (Numbers 21:34,35) the followers of Og, (Joshua 6)
 practically all the people of Jericho, (Joshua 10:28-40) all
 the people of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Gezer, Eglon, Hebron,
 and the surrounding landscape, (Judges 1:18-19) the people 
of Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron, (Judges 3:29) 10,000 Moabites,
 (Judges 1:4) 10,000 Perizzites and Canaanites, (Judges 4:16)
 "all the hosts of Sisera", (Judges 8:10) 120,000 Midianites,
 (1 Samuel 14:12,13,20) the Philistines, (1 Samuel 11:11) the
Ammonites, (1 Samuel 15:3,7) the Amalekites, etc. etc. etc.

Fact is, you as a believer would kill if you thought your God
 made the demand. (Do you deny it?) How moral of you! 

When you believe you God defines morality then anything he
does or commands must be moral.  You  must rationalize, as
moral, all of your Old Testament God's atrocious behavior. 
That includes  killing babies and other innocent people.

This is the "morality" of your religion in practice. Human
 beings should not commit murder, theft or rape, - unless
 your God orders it. Then genocide (as in the above) theft
 (Num 21:34-35) and rape (Num 31:18) all become "moral." 

After all: 

"Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood." 
- Jeremiah 48:10 

Well guess what? A morality that allows for this is NO morality
 at all. 

Furthermore, your god created evil: "I create evil [ra]" 
- Isaiah 45:7. The word "ra"  means "evil" in a moral sense
- Isaiah 7:14-16 - and 13:11 where God says "I will punish
the world for their  evil [ra]." And in Genesis God refers
to the tree of knowledge of good and evil [ra] - Genesis 2:17

If the God of the Bible is the basis for your moral beliefs 
then you can't have a problem with slavery. Your God condoned
it, and even set down rules for it's practice (Ex. 21).

Racism can't be bad either since your God is an unabashed racist,
selecting one race above all others to be his chosen people. And
look who was God's favorite:  King David - a murderer and adulterer!

So much for your "universal moral code."

> Bearing all this in mind, Your statement has no validity as an atheist,
> therefore your argument is nil, unless you can supoort a universal moral
> code.
> 
> Until then, this is the world an atheist must acccept unconditionally.

The only problem is that you define the "moral" in your alleged
 "universal moral code" as being any damn thing your god does 
or orders you to do. And yes, by that definition, you have a
 "universal moral code." But only the criminally insane or a
 fundy would call it "moral."

From: stix@ozemail.com.au (Stix)
Subject: Re: And you think there is no God?
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 03:01:38 GMT

F. Clements posted the following to alt.atheism,


>As to the age old question of:


>Why does suffering happen to good/innocent people - here are a few
>answers I have heard:


>1. We cannot know all the facts about someone elses life. Who are we
>to judge whether that person deserves what he gets or doesn't get.

Easy. Justice must always be seen to be done relative to the victim. A baby who lives in pain for a few weeks then dies, or a child who gets splattered by a truck has done *nothing* to deserve such treatment. Even the most mischevious child doesn't deserve death or physical torment, and you bleaters *cannot* honestly justify it.


>2. Suffering in this world can relieve worse punishment in this world
>and the next.

Memento Mori. (remember death) This world and life is the only one we will ever know. Trying to tack the "better life in the next life," excuse is a typical bleater copout.


>3. If a higher being was to step in all the time and save everyone,
>life would be meaningless. We would all be robots - without free
>choice. The point of life is the struggle, the tests, the faith......

No, we would all have free choice, just no accidental suffering and no innocent victims. How can you even attempt to claim that saving a child from rape and murder would make the rest of our lives meaningless?? That sucks. It may be the free will of the rapist/murderer that your monster-god wants to test, but what of the suffering of the child?? "Oh god is testing the faith of the child-victims parents." BUT WHAT OF THE SUFFERING OF THE CHILD?? "Oh he's in heaven now, he'll be rewarded for his suffering." Yeah right. That's free will?? Did the child *choose* to suffer?


>4. Man perpetuates (unfortunately) alot of cruelty. For the very
>reason he has NO BELIEF in a higher being - he is out for himself, no
>higher authority.

<flame>

You pathetic bleaters make me sick. The tyranical actions of the monster-god you mindlessly worship have no justification, yet you shove the lack of belief in this fairy-tale figurehead at us as if it's *our* fault he creates cruelty. It's your stupid fault if you want to give yourself to some higher authority, but higher authority doesn't fucking exist. There is no higher authority than the authority of one's own mind you pathetic, deluded little fuck, and I'll thank you kindly to keep your infantile fantasies inside your own pointed head. How dare you blame those of us who don't share your unsubstantiated, puerile beliefs for perpetuating the cruelty on this world? Most of us are more benevolent toward our fellow man than you bleaters will ever be. At least we understand the value of life and conscious existence, you wasted fucks want to give it all away.

</flame>


>F. Clements
>"Ask yourself - where did morals come from?"

From human empathy. Next question?


Stix
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
"..And his eyes have all the seeming,
Of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming,
Throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow
That lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted ~ Nevermore."
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


From: perry@dsinc.com (Jim Perry)
Newsgroups: alt.atheism.moderated
Subject: Re: The Problem of Evil for atheists
Date: 6 Sep 1996 17:20:20 -0400

In article , Sean Armster wrote:

A lot of things that seem to me to bring the argument in this thread back around full circle, for instance:


> Hmm. It's not true that God will not allow "evil", because
> He created people with a limited free will (i.e., in His image).
> God "allows" people to do what they like with themselves. He
> requires that they do not do evil, as a function of His own
> moral will. This does not mean that people will not choose to
> do evil.

A lot of the emphasis in this thread has been on *natural* evil: suffering that results from cause completely separate from human moral decisions, and therefore not subject to the free will defense, flawed as that is.

I heard another instance of an all-too-familiar event this morning. I live in Charlotte, NC, and as many probably know, until the last minute predictions were that Hurricane Fran was going to barrel into the SC coast and follow the track of the devastating Hugo a few years back. Of course, it did veer off to the north, taking out a different area. But this morning, predictably, as I listened to a Christian radio station (call me a masochist), the fellow doing the bottom-of-the-hour prayers thanked God for sparing us. As an apparent afterthought he added something to the effect "and as for those who were stricken, well, we don't know God's ways, but His ways are above ours". A fairly typical response given the axioms of 3-omni deity. God is axiomatically all-powerful, capable of sparing us from natural evil, so we thank him when things go our way. Since God is axiomatically good, we assume that there's some higher plan behind the evil we do experience, but of course we can't know God's mind:

> Why ask here ? Why not ask Him ? None of us know the secrets of
>the mind of God. We only know what He allows us to know. This is why
>things aren't as evil as they could be. And yes, there is quite a bit
>more evil in the world than there seems that should be.

One example from last night's events, which I heard only briefly on the radio news: of the double-handful of people killed by the storm, 2 were apparently part of a group of Marines on duty (I assume) on the islands; they were crossing a bridge or causeway in a vehicle, and would up in deeper water than they expected. Leaving the vehicle, they formed a human chain to try to reach safety, but two of the Marines were washed away to their doom. Now the irony here is the element of teamwork and heroism, and the closeness of the thing. A minor intervention at the right point could have not only saved the dead but made an inspiring story. A human observer with a sufficiently anchored rope, or a larger vehicle, would be morally responsible to have helped; can a supposed omnipotent being be let off more lightly? Nobody's "free will" need have been violated, and quite apart from the dead, consider the feelings of their families, their wives and children, if any; what of the survivors, who must live with having almost saved their comrades but failed? Ah, well.

> If God is a placebo, then why do the teachings of Christ often
>help to heal people of mental illness, teach people to be more
>responsible to themselves and to others, and produce compassion and
>love in those that believe ?
>
> You're right, I'd be suspicious of a
>brand of fertilizer that simply "claims" to make my tomatoes
>bigger. And we can check out a brand's effectiveness by checking
>the fruit that it grows.

We can, but you'd be surprised how few people *do*. They buy the stuff, put it on their tomatoes, find the tomatoes turn out fine, and so repeat the process next year. They don't do do A/B tests by putting some on only some of their tomatoes. Of course some people have had bad luck in the past, but that could have been the weather, now, couldn't it? Or if they use the fertilizer next year and the crop is poor, well, *that* could be the weather and, they reason, the crop could have been even worse than it was if the fertilizer had been skipped.

In simple words, placebos are interesting because they *do* sometimes work to a degree because people expect them to. If people think the most powerful force in the universe loves them and cares for them specially, of course they're going to feel good about that, even if it's all just imaginary. People are healed of illnesses, are responsible and compassionate and loving to themselves and others without the teachings of Christ as well, and I'm quite confident that you won't be able to show that Christians exhibit those properties in any way statistically different from the rest of us.

On the "free will" issue (I use the scare quotes because I think it's a meaningless phrase):

I do not have free will in the sense used here. I am simply incapable of choosing to gun someone down at random. I am physically capable of the actions, but my moral sense won't allow me to, any more than I can in any real sense choose to cut off my hand. Some people do things like that, mutilating themselves or going on killing sprees, but I see that as flaws in their moral or rational processes. I certainly don't envy them the "freedom" to choose those evils which I, robot-like am not free to choose, because of the "mechanistic" programming of my rational mind. Of course, maybe that's just me and all those Christians lauding their "free will" really are just one twinkie away from heading out on a rampage, and find the sensation ecstatic in a way that I just can't understand. I seem happy enough, though. I for one would be willing to live in a world of "robots" like myself if it meant an end to war and crime and suffering.

Jim Perry perry@dsinc.com


From: mam@mouse.infinet.com (Mike McAngus)
Newsgroups: alt.atheism.moderated
Subject: Re: Secular Ethics (Was: Good and Evil)
Date: Sun, 25 Aug 96 22:19:32 EST

On Thu, 15 Aug 1996 00:48:40 -0700 armster@rigel.oac.uci.edu (Sean Armster) wrote in article << Pine.SOL.3.91.960815004546.16889D-100000@rige
>
> (concerning the synthesis of ethics from empathy and common sense)
>
> And, this empathy, what is it based upon ? Where did it come from ?

And this language, what is it based upon? Where did it come from?

I expect that both empathy and language are part innate and part learned.


> If it was based on a long-lost suspicion of "what it would be like to
> suffer X " , then it is in part based upon fear.

a) Why do you characterize our empathy as being based on "a long-lost suspicion"? Why don't you think that atheists have enough imagination to consider how they would feel if they were in someone else's circumstances right now?

b) Even if empathy is based on contemplating "what it would be like to suffer X", why do you equate this with fear? Why don't you consider that, within reason, we don't want to do harm to others because we don't want harm done to us. I'm not talking here about fear of retribution, but about according the same respect to others that we want accorded to us.

Certainly, I don't commit murder because I don't want to spend my life in prison, but I also don't commit murder because I don't want to be murdered myself and this world would not be nearly so pleasant if murder was a common, and commonly accepted, practice.

I do help stranded motorists, pedestrians who have been injured in some manner and are lying on the ground; friends, neighbors and co-workers who need help to accomplish some task that they can't accomplish alone. I am also honest when cashiers give me too much change, or try to charge too little. I do all these things because I have an ethical principle that has nothing to do with fear; I want to live in a world where people are kind and helpful to each other. To that end, I try to set an example of a person who is kind and helpful to others.

As I sit here and contemplate it, I can think of only four guides for my ethical behavior: empathy (your "what it would be like to suffer X"), universality (what if everyone felt justified in doing X), reciprocity (what will happen to you if you do X and are caught), and self-defense (what will happen to you if you allow X to be done to you).

Self-defense can easily be extended, via universality, to a society protecting itself from its sociopathic members, as well as a country protecting itself from its aggressive neighbors.

Are there other, non-theistic, guides to moral behavior? The above four are what I can come up with just sitting here.

Cheers,
Mike McAngus
mam@mouse.infinet.com
Always to look for a sneaking, creeping, furtive lurking God 
behind the scenes strikes me as not only irrational, but in
extremely poor taste.
        - John Kress (Kressja) on alt.atheism

From: psu09166@odin.cc.pdx.edu (Thomas J. Duncan)
Newsgroups: alt.atheism.moderated
Subject: Evil Necessary?
Date: Sun, 18 Aug 1996 23:13:27 GMT

Hello Friends,

I have never been one to subscribe to the notion that evil is necessary in this world. Although some theists frustrated with the problem of evil set forth by Epicurius and Hume have proposed this idea, I denounce it. A person would have to be believe in perversity and sadism to support such an idea. Likewise, I suppose that it takes these attributes to believe in the Christian God as well.

The general argument by some of our Christian friends is that there is a greater good from evil both natural and unnatural. Perhaps, God has some better plan for the people who die in airplane crashes or in mass murders. This idea is quite disgusting, and anyone who proposes such absurdity needs to perform a morality check. Human life is so precious, and for a deity to create people to endure evil is quite defeating. Hence, the argument starts to read as a book of fiction like Star Wars or the C.S. Lewis fantasy series. These works of fiction are only reflections of society and not the reverse.

Then, some theists propose that we must suffer evil in order to make it to the kingdom of heaven. This is a very peculiar idea. A believer must lose a child to a terrible accident or be mugged to get to heaven. All this unspeakable evil must be accepted to gain righteousness from a so-called loving God. Was there another choice? Of course, the most terrible evil, eternal damnation into the bowels of hell fire. In hell, the fire is never quenched and the soul never dies.

My overall conclusion is that evil is not necessary. Furthermore, reality and fantasy are two distinct ideas. When we read works of fiction, we should not assume that reality is based on them. However, it is safe to say that some works of fiction are based on attributes of reality. Also, what someone perceives to be true is not necessarily the case.

Thomas


From: Hugh Murray <100653.1225@CompuServe.COM>
Newsgroups: alt.atheism.moderated
Subject: Re: Good and Evil
Date: 21 Aug 1996 13:43:31 GMT

I particularly welcomed your article 10993 and enjoyed reading it.

I used to be an active member of the Methodist Church, a Church Steward and a lay preacher.

As I gradually came to the conviction that there was no God I was particularly frightened of one conclusion. It seemed to me, rather as your post suggests, that if there was no God, there could be no morality. My fear was that if I let go of my faith, I would degenerate into a savage. "Why should I not" I asked myself, "simply kill my neighbour and ravage his wife if that is what I want to do? Why not simply steal all I need?"

Rather like the Jehovah's witness, who finds to his/her surprise that the world has still not ended, I discovered that my morality was not affected by my growing out (as I see it) of religion. I still know the differerence between right and wrong. In fact, I feel more moral because I now believe something to be right for its own sake and not because it might impress God. The slogan of the British Humanist Association, which is 100 years old this year, is "Good without God for 100 years". This sums up my view.

What has changed is not morality, but my view on the source of morality. I now understand that morality is inherent in human beings - not external to them.

Hugh Murray Ely, England


Path: news.bctel.net!noc.van.hookup.net!eloi.vir.com!rcogate.rco.qc.ca!n1ott.istar!ott.istar!istar.net!winternet.com!nntp.primenet.com!news.asu.edu!ennfs.eas.asu.edu!cs.utexas.edu!howland.erols.net!vixen.cso.uiuc.edu!newsfeed.internetmci.com!in2.uu.net!news.nevada.edu!news.tamu.edu!atheist.tamu.edu!aam
From: Hugh Murray <100653.1225@CompuServe.COM>
Newsgroups: alt.atheism.moderated
Subject: Re: Good and Evil
Date: 21 Aug 1996 13:45:22 GMT

>>There is a problem. I think that all things in the universe are relative to MY self interest, not yours. Obviously, we can't both be right. Where shall we find a middle ground? Surely there is a standard of good and evil we can agree on?<<

There is an excellent rebuttal of this argument at the website of the American Humanist Association. This states that it may be in my personal interest to shoot a red light. However, it is not in my interest that everyone else shoots red lights because chaos results. So we all agree to respect red lights because the greater good is served thereby. There is absolutely no religious basis for observing red lights. Humans working from their own sense of right and wrong have developed this morality. And it works.

Hugh Murray Ely, England


From: Larry Loen 
Newsgroups: alt.atheism.moderated
Subject: Re: Difference between theists and atheist
Date: Sun, 30 Jun 1996 15:35:37 -0500 (CDT)

David Manley wrote: 
|>Niall McAuley wrote: 
|>  
|> > Do you mean you would do things you know to be immoral ? 
|>  
|> That is exactly what I do *not* mean. How many times do I have to say  
|> it? I'm not even venturing anywhere near positing a morality which  
|> theists and atheists could share and judge each other on. I am saying  
|> that my life would be totally different. If I live in a Kingdom I pay  
|> homage to a King and work for the Kingdom. If I am the King I pay homage 
|> to no one and work for whomever I want to. In my case it would be  
|> myself. Are you trying to tell me that ultimate truths have no possible  
|> bearing on your life? That if you knew the highest purpose of Man you  
|> would not lift a finger to reach it? Talk about being set in one's ways. 

David, I think you are very confused about one's interior thinking and one's external behavior. Their interaction is not as straightforward as you suppose, especially if one does some third party observations.

What Niall is observing, quite prosaically, is that if we watch someone, without knowledge of what their religion is in some neutral setting (say, the workplace or a used car dealership), it is very hard to see, in most cases, that _actual behavior_ is very much different. Moreover, the average Christian, at least, spends no more than 2 hours on Sunday morning and (at most) about one hour a week doing overtly religious things at church. Thus, the ability to be overtly different, moment by moment, is much less in this century that it was in centuries past.

Some do more "church", but in my experience of it, I'd say 3 hours per week is a lot for the average Christian. A lot more show up a couple times a month and refuse to do any nonSunday service work of any kind, or at least live this way for years at a time (indeed, a wise minister will "rest" the most active parishioners to prevent burnout, and even many devout Christians choose the vacation home over summer church services).

Therefore, if one looks at the externals of what people do, day in and day out, there doesn't seem to be a lot of difference. We eat, have sex with our spouses in private, sleep, and work.

Moreover, as you well know, Christians _do_ sin a lot; despite all the praying and Bible reading and what not, human behavior remains imperfect. Internally, I would concede that most Christians (at least in their better moments) don't wish to behave this way. But, it is an observed fact that they sin. Even David did some reprehensible stuff and both Jews and Christians hold him up as a pretty good model overall.

The question of interest, then, is to what extent the _interior_ belief system motivates external behavior. You claim "a lot", but I find it hard to substantiate this. Moreover, I think the Bible itself suggests very strongly that this simply isn't so. Martin Luther didn't think avoiding sin was easy. Augustine found chastity a challenge. And, these are _giants_; what about the average working stiff in the pews? The fruits of faith are largely internal; it may be that in _some_ instances, it permits people to resist bad behavior, but it certainly does not do so uniformly. In fact, it may not do so very often.

Moreover, it is also an empirical fact that atheists, on average, are not notably more hedonistic or anarchic than the average Christian. It may be the _interior_ reasons are different, but it is true that the behavior isn't much different. An atheist might not cheat on his wife, but it might be because she would be tremendously hurt and she might also divorce him. Now, a Christian might not cheat because "God said so". Yet, I wonder if many male Christians don't discover (especially in a tens of years long marriage) that they don't want to hurt their wives' feelings and so don't cheat on them. I wonder which is the stronger motivator. Thus, it is hard to be sure that even the interior reasons are, in the end, different.

Moreover, it seems quite evident that many Christians commit adultery and so do many atheists. It is seldom done in the "open" (experiments in things like "open marriage" do get tried, but have not lasted long), which suggests that the salient factor in succumbing to temptation rests largely in the likelihood of discovery by one's spouse and not one's interior mental architecture, unless the latter somehow makes one more fearful of discovery. Since God forgives the worst sins and since God does _not_ routinely reveal secrets of this kind, I find no serious difference in terms of the atheist's dilemma and the Christian's dilemma when the temptation to adultery beckons. Unsurprisingly, then, the behavior is about the same.

One reason I think too many Christians overrate their interior state in terms of their behavior, is that there are still too many cartoon-level tales of atheist conversions.

Recently, the tornado warning went off and the only station we could get in the basement was one of those Christian stations. While waiting for the "all clear", I had to listen to a story. The story was the usual pap -- an "atheist" who was totally clueless about everything and drifted into hedonism (mostly drugs) and meaninglessness. He couldn't hold a job. He despaired a lot. In short, he is probably the only sort of atheist that ever _does_ convert. If you set your assumptions about how the interior model of the world (God/Yahweh versus none) from _that_ model, however unconsciously, you will, of course, think that it matters a great deal. And why not? Beyond this cartoon, sermons constantly claim that this interior faith makes huge differences in behavior.

But, most atheists are not like that; they hold jobs, they don't cheat on their spouses or rob banks in any greater amounts than theists. Thus, while it makes good drama, the idea that we are behaviorially different in a radical way simply doesn't hold up.

What is interesting is whether one's internal worldview really matters as much as either of us think. For one thing, push it only a little, and each of us, theist and atheist alike, are a philsophical minority of one. Yet, behaviorally, we are reasonably uniform, varying around a social norm which suggests that in spite of the complexity at the intellectual level, moral choices are in the end largely made by a kind of social instinct and rationalized after the fact. Indeed, our detail level inconsistency coupled with our general avoidance of the "great" sins, suggests an evolutionary model of so-called moral behavior is the best way to explain both the general uniformity and the individual variance from the uniformity. This then strongly implies that one's internal belief system matters far less than expected.

Larry Loen


From: hayward@ux7.cso.uiuc.edu (hayward bryan p)
Newsgroups: alt.atheism.moderated
Subject: Re: AMORAL LOGIC:  Have Atheists ever adopted a Comprehensive Moral Code?
Date: 17 Jun 1996 19:38:03 GMT

OK, Here is my contribution.

Code of Morals.

Definitions: Needless - (denotation) unnecessary, (connotation) without very strong and urgent justification.

Suffering - (denotation) the endurance or experience of pain, harm, or loss, (connotation) experience of an event that the subject and observer both agree is painful or harmful, emotionally and/or physically.

{note this connotative definition is specifically designed to exclude "suffering" because one cannot inflict one's will on another}

Article 1 - It is recognized that needless suffering is the worst form of immorality.

Article 1a - In recognition of Article 1, one should make every attempt to avoid inflicting needless suffering.

Article 1b - In recognition of Article 1, one should make every effort to alleviate needless suffering.

Article 2 - It is recognized that personal liberty, where it does not conflict with Article 1, is vital to humans and human interaction.

Article 2a - In recognition of Article 2, it is immoral to deprive a person of liberty.

Article 2b - In recognition of Article 2, one should make every effort to accomodate the liberty of others and oneself so as to minimize infringement of all.

Article 3 - It is recognized that humans are a social animal and should be considered as such where it does not conflict with Articles 1 or 2.

Article 3a - In recognition of Article 3, it is moral to give love and emotional support to other humans.

Article 3b - In recognition of Article 3, it is moral to cooperate with other humans toward a common goal.

Article 3c - In recognition of Article 3, it is immoral to impede a cooperative effort unless the results are reasonably expected to conflict with Articles 1, 2, or 3a.

Pretty good, off the cuff, eh?

Regards, Bryan Hayward


From: Ezekiel Johnston-Halperin 
Newsgroups: alt.atheism.moderated
Subject: Re: Moral Compass in the absence of religion
Date: Tue, 07 May 1996 11:33:02 -0700

My thoughts on morality revolve principally around one idea, humans are excellent rationalists. What I mean by that is that given enough time your average person can come up with a darn good reason to do just about anything. To take a simple example; I walk by an ice cream store and either go in and buy a cone or don't. If I buy the cone I could claim that I was indulging myself in a harmless treat because I'm a swell guy and I deserve some ice cream now and then. If I don't I could with equal validity argue that ice cream is full of sugar and fat and that if I want to live past forty five (which as a swell guy I deserve to do) then I should curb my sweet tooth.

I am not claiming that all moral decisions are that simple or easy to make, but in my experience with myself and observing those around me the complexity of the explanation can easily keep pace with the complexity of the situation. Therefore, in the absence of a reliable rational compass to direct my actions I fall back on introspection. I simply try to look inside myself and see what I really _want_ to do. That said let me qualify. First, implicit in the previous statement is the assumption that I am a decent person, which is as good a place to start as any since in my experience self loathing doesn't get you anywhere. Second, the above decision process is recomended for moral questions only. If there is a train coming and you're in its way, you have money to invest, or a car to design the previously mentioned (and maligned) rationality works wonders.

Further, at the risk of offending people, I would maintain that everyone behaves in that manner. While within a given religion or belief structure there are sometimes strict rules governing behavior I believe the above explanation answers the more fundamental question of, "Why that belief structure and not this one?" The answer, in my opinion, is that people choose the religion/philosophy/whatever that most closely aligns with their inner desires. Here again I need to qualify; this assumes that an individual is free to pick their moral code, which is clearly not always true but also clearly a whole other can of worms that I don't want to get into right now.

That is why I don't have a particular problem with theists, so long as they refrain from crusades and teaching creationism in a science class. So long as they are not hurting anybody, who am I to discount their specific rationalization for following their heart? I know some of my reasons can get pretty silly too. So in answer to any theists who ask me why I am not out axe murdering puppy dogs since I have no higher power to hold me in check I say, "The same reason you don't."

----------------------------------------------------------
Ezekiel Johnston-Halperin
Physics 
Case Western Reserve University
exj6@po.cwru.edu

From: nantko@xs4all.nl (Nantko Schanssema)
Newsgroups: alt.atheism.moderated
Subject: Moral Compass in the absence of religion
Date: Mon, 06 May 1996 21:36:25 GMT

You wrote:

>I would like to hear some atheists help me explain the moral
>compass of atheism to others. Maybe you could post your own?

Well, I don't seem to have a real moral compass, in the sense you use it. However, the basis of my moral judgement is quite simple, though not very revolutionary:

1. Treat others the way you want yourself to be treated,
2. Don't waste.

The first rule works out into several, most of them pretty normal moral imperatives. Since I don't like having my possesions stolen, I don't steal. More derivations I leave as an excercise to the student. The second rule is more a ecologic thing. I think future generations deserve a world worth living in, so we shouldn't destroy it.

As you see, no god in sight, still a small and workable set of rules. These rules are not specific western or otherwise. Elements of it can be found in almost all human cultures, though. Essentially the ten commandments fit nicely, and Tao thinking comes to much the same conclusion.

I hope this contribution helps.

Regards, Nantko


Newsgroups: alt.atheism.moderated
Subject: Re: Moral Compass in the absence of religion
Date: 9 May 1996 19:23:00 GMT

On May 07, 1996 11:33:02 in article <Re: Moral Compass in the absence of religion>, 'Ezekiel Johnston-Halperin <exj6@po.cwru.edu>' wrote:

>       That is why I don't have a particular problem with theists, so  
>long as they refrain from crusades and teaching creationism in a science  
>class. So long as they are not hurting anybody, who am I to discount  
>their specific rationalization for following their heart? I know some of  
>my reasons can get pretty silly too. So in answer to any theists who ask  
>me why I am not out axe murdering puppy dogs since I have no higher power 
>to hold me in check I say, "The same reason you don't." 

I've heard theists use these arguments, and the rather scary idea I come away with is that the only reason theists have for not running around killing people is because God tells them not to. That's very scary, because God could very easily change his mind, and they'll blindly do whatever he tells them. (See Bible or newspaper for examples.)

For me this ends the argument, because if a belief in God is the only thing keeping you from killing people, hell, believe in it! I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise! It may not be a "true" morality - in the sense that you've actually thought it out and believe it because it makes sense - but it's close enough, if it keeps you out of trouble.

Maybe that's why religions were made up in the first place.

David Hodges