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Objective morality in 60 seconds or less


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[quote name='wynken vanaril' post='18888' date='Oct 25 2008, 05:21 PM']This one's easy. The only gods that could have possibly facilitated the creation of the universe are those that are not at all bound by any of its laws including time. That eliminates the entire greek pantheon, and you'll find that it really only leaves a small handful (maybe 2) gods that have been recorded throughout our history.[/quote]
That's an oversimplification. I can think of at least seven gods off the top of my head who have been stated, retroactively in most cases, to have this quality.

If you mean the entire Olympian pantheon, sure, I'll give you that one... but Greek mythology goes back further into prehistoric religions. As does the Christian one, really, and it still isn't clear to me when Yahweh the volcano god suddenly became unrestricted by the laws of the universe, nor is it clear when he became conflated with other gods in the same region.

To use your definition or criterion of god, then, I would have to argue that from a historical perspective, such a thing is only as old as human awareness of the laws of the material universe, and that the same retroactive assertions about Yahweh/El Elohim/El Elyon/El Shaddai/Allah could be applied just as easily to nearly any other creator god.

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[quote name='ReDa' post='18817' date='Oct 23 2008, 08:35 PM'][i]:D I like topics like these for I feel it is important to think about.
Everything that is is right and everything that isn't is wrong (note that there is nothing that is and is not at the same time).[/i][/quote]

I Like this type of talk to reminds me of why I wake every morning and continue the cycle! Please do give somewhat an example of this statement or if any else can that would be great....The only reason I ask is that I am having difficulties understanding this? :(:huh::) See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil! Lol

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[quote name='Tarquinus' post='18895' date='Oct 25 2008, 10:09 PM']If you mean the entire Olympian pantheon, sure, I'll give you that one... but Greek mythology goes back further into prehistoric religions.[/quote]
The implication of this is that God put forth the effort to create a universe that would foster intelligent life and then allow those beings to ignore or forget altogether His divine existence. It seems unlikely.

[quote]To use your definition or criterion of god, then, I would have to argue that from a historical perspective, such a thing is only as old as human awareness of the laws of the material universe, and that the same retroactive assertions about Yahweh/El Elohim/El Elyon/El Shaddai/Allah could be applied just as easily to nearly any other creator god.[/quote]
You are going to have to provide some sources for these retroactive assertions because I'm unaware of any record of the Abrahamic God that predates the Torah and Judaism, and I'm also unaware of any Old or New Testament verse that would so limit the Jewish or Christian God (I can't speak for the Islamic religion but I doubt you'll find anything in the Qur'an either). Also, to this point I haven't really stated that the Abrahamic God is the true God, but merely that only those that fulfill a certain criteria (which the Abrahamic God does) could possibly be our creator.

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[quote name='wynken vanaril' post='18917' date='Oct 26 2008, 03:00 PM']The implication of this is that God put forth the effort to create a universe that would foster intelligent life and then allow those beings to ignore or forget altogether His divine existence. It seems unlikely.[/quote]
You're the one who keeps falling back on 'free will' when the absurdity of omnibenevolence is held up for scrutiny. If there were such a being, and if she were to create the laws of Physics as we understand them, then it follows logically that we could come to our own conclusions if she did not go to great pains to establish her own existence beyond reasonable doubt, which she clearly has not done.

The very idea of a supreme being of infinite (or near-infinite, or hyper-infinite) complexity is unlikely in the extreme, given that we have no empirical evidence whatsoever to think such a being exists, and plenty of empirical evidence to suppose that the universe grew in complexity from a simple state according to laws we continue to observe and understand.

[quote]You are going to have to provide some sources for these retroactive assertions because I'm unaware of any record of the Abrahamic God that predates the Torah and Judaism, and I'm also unaware of any Old or New Testament verse that would so limit the Jewish or Christian God (I can't speak for the Islamic religion but I doubt you'll find anything in the Qur'an either).[/quote]
Oh, Wynken. You are better than this. First, whence came Abraham, and what was his profession? Was he the first human being to discover God? Talk about seeming unlikely: human beings have existed for millions of years and have developed numerous sophisticated societies. Logic suggests all of them should have had roughly the same chance of discovering the Greatest Mystery in the Universe, but all of human evolution led to this one Sumerian astrologer? I don't buy it. And then - was his God Yahweh? When is Yahweh first mentioned, and by whom, and who wrote the books, and who edited them, and what was their agenda? What was the cultural difference between Judah and Israel? The hypothetical Deuteronomist and Priestly writers seem to have done their best to expunge all traces of early Jewish/Israelite polytheism, but they failed. No matter how many apologetics-based logical gymnastics I read, the plural [i]elohim[/i] is damning all by itself, and the questions get more embarrassing from there: what was the Nechushtan, precisely, and was Asherah-worship always sinful, and if not, when did things change? I can go on: Psalm 82:1 is problematic, or entertaining, depending on how it is interpreted, but the translations seem to vary according to the translator's intent.

As my questions above imply, I conclude that the textual basis of understanding the Judeo/Christian/Islamic god (they are all the same god, though each earlier tradition repudiates the next) shows a fairly clear evolution of the cultural conception of the gods, who eventually became one god, and later one god specifically, and still later one god who is suddenly proclaimed to be higher than all the gods of all other lands. But the text is suspect, and after a point all we have is archaeology, which does not support a strictly text-based understanding. The combined evidence seems to indicate that the story was told, and re-told, and changed as necessary to suit the questions and cultural beliefs of the day.

As for more recent and famous retroactive assertions, you have but to consider the trial of Galileo. Here's a guy who has empirical evidence that the Earth moves, but the Church can't accept that, and centuries elapse before the idea really takes hold. And then, well, yes, the Earth moves, but it is according to God's plan. And then, well, yes, evolution is beyond serious dispute (except in the benighted regions of my homeland where it isn't), but that is part of God's plan, too, once we grow to understand and accept it. Before human beings had a notion of space/time, how could we have said God was not subject to its laws? It's so very easy to say, "well, God exists beyond the universe as we know it," but that assertion is untestable, makes no predictions, and is demonstrably a modern claim. In Genesis, God walks in the Garden in the cool of the evening. A depressingly large number of people takes that verse literally, but I suspect you aren't among them.

If you want to say, well, the Book says God is ineffable, you aren't making a unique claim - all great religions make the same essential claim: Vishnu, El Elohim, Great Spirit, Huehueteotl, Chaos (the Greek Myth version), or Nammu, take your pick. Even in myth-cycles such as Shinto, in which the creator deities are part of the world, they are Increate and therefore eligible for the same claim to non-limitation by physical laws as we understand them.

[quote]Also, to this point I haven't really stated that the Abrahamic God is the true God, but merely that only those that fulfill a certain criteria (which the Abrahamic God does) could possibly be our creator.[/quote]
[u]Any[/u] creator god fits the criterion you have outlined, especially if its body of myth is interpreted in a poetic way.

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[quote name='Tarquinus' post='18934' date='Oct 26 2008, 06:40 PM']You're the one who keeps falling back on 'free will' when the absurdity of omnibenevolence is held up for scrutiny. If there were such a being, and if she were to create the laws of Physics as we understand them, then it follows logically that we could come to our own conclusions if she did not go to great pains to establish her own existence beyond reasonable doubt, which she clearly has not done.[/quote]
We sure could, but in keeping with free will, influence is not the same as control. It just seems to me that such a being wouldn't even bother if it were to be entirely absent from its creation, so in my mind, an active God is much more credible.

[quote]The very idea of a supreme being of infinite (or near-infinite, or hyper-infinite) complexity is unlikely in the extreme, given that we have no empirical evidence whatsoever to think such a being exists, and plenty of empirical evidence to suppose that the universe grew in complexity from a simple state according to laws we continue to observe and understand.[/quote]
The assumed implication that the universe simply grew is laughable. Grew from what? We have no idea what exists beyond our universe let alone how simple or complex it is. The claim you're trying to assert has as much foundation on faith as any I could make about a creator. Even if everything past the moment of quark confinement suggests complexity from simplicity, it still doesn't prove that such a simple singularity was born of an even more simplistic event.

[quote]Oh, Wynken. You are better than this.[/quote]
I've heard this many times in past debates and it always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. It is impossible to be better than one's self, and I've not studied any of this formally. My knowledge of cosmology, philosophy, and theology was all acquired of my own accord, on my own time, on my own terms, and merely as a hobby. Although I enjoy and even invite debate, it is only to satisfy my own thirst for information and intellectual entertainment, and not to declare mental supremacy or my expertise in a given subject for I claim to posses neither.

[quote]First, whence came Abraham, and what was his profession? Was he the first human being to discover God? Talk about seeming unlikely: human beings have existed for millions of years and have developed numerous sophisticated societies. Logic suggests all of them should have had roughly the same chance of discovering the Greatest Mystery in the Universe, but all of human evolution led to this one Sumerian astrologer? I don't buy it.[/quote]
This would be a logical assumption if it had been a discovery and not a revealing. God [b]chose[/b] to reveal Himself to Abraham and the Israelites for a purpose. There was no discovery and it was not left to random chance. Also, it makes perfect sense to wait until civilization had progressed to the point that both spoken and written language could properly preserve and relay such an important discovery.

[quote]And then - was his God Yahweh? When is Yahweh first mentioned, and by whom, and who wrote the books, and who edited them, and what was their agenda? What was the cultural difference between Judah and Israel?[/quote]
There wasn't a Judah until hundreds of years after there was an Israel or a Torah. As I recall, Yahweh was first mentioned in Exodus when Moses receives the true name of God. He would have authored the book, it would have been ultimately "edited" by the Council of Nicea. Moses would have had nothing to gain through fabrication as he parlayed it only into a long walk through the desert, and if we're going to argue about the Council of Nicea, I'll have to brush up on my knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

[quote]The hypothetical Deuteronomist and Priestly writers seem to have done their best to expunge all traces of early Jewish/Israelite polytheism, but they failed. No matter how many apologetics-based logical gymnastics I read, the plural [i]elohim[/i] is damning all by itself, and the questions get more embarrassing from there:[/quote]
I'm no linguist and really have no interest in a lengthy study of Hebrew, but here's what I learned from a quick wiki search:

[i]Elohim has plural morphological form in Hebrew, but it is used with singular verbs and adjectives in the Hebrew text when the particular meaning of the God of Israel (a singular deity) is traditionally understood. Thus the very first words of the Bible are breshit bara elohim, where bara ברא is a verb inflected as third person singular masculine perfect. If Elohim were an ordinary plural word, then the plural verb form bar'u בראו would have been used in this sentence instead. Such plural grammatical forms are in fact found in cases where Elohim has semantically plural reference (not referring to the God of Israel). There are a few other words in Hebrew that have a plural ending, but refer to a single entity and take singular verbs and adjectives, for example בעלים (be'alim, owner) in Exodus 21:29 and elsewhere. [/i]

[quote]As my questions above imply, I conclude that the textual basis of understanding the Judeo/Christian/Islamic god (they are all the same god, though each earlier tradition repudiates the next) shows a fairly clear evolution of the cultural conception of the gods, who eventually became one god, and later one god specifically, and still later one god who is suddenly proclaimed to be higher than all the gods of all other lands. But the text is suspect, and after a point all we have is archaeology, which does not support a strictly text-based understanding. The combined evidence seems to indicate that the story was told, and re-told, and changed as necessary to suit the questions and cultural beliefs of the day.[/quote]
The Abrahamic God is referred to as the Lord Most High in early portions of Genesis. After the Torah was compiled it would make sense that Jewish tradition would shun the erroneous ways of their past, and before hand they could have obviously not been expected to do so. You'll have to clarify the time line you're referring to.

[quote]As for more recent and famous retroactive assertions, you have but to consider the trial of Galileo. Here's a guy who has empirical evidence that the Earth moves, but the Church can't accept that, and centuries elapse before the idea really takes hold.[/quote]
You're confusing Catholic or even religious tradition in general with actual Biblical truth. The Bible never claims that the Earth is flat, stationary, or the center of the universe. There were no retroactive claims made at that time...just a release of ignorant human tradition.

[quote]And then, well, yes, the Earth moves, but it is according to God's plan. And then, well, yes, evolution is beyond serious dispute (except in the benighted regions of my homeland where it isn't), but that is part of God's plan, too, once we grow to understand and accept it. Before human beings had a notion of space/time, how could we have said God was not subject to its laws? It's so very easy to say, "well, God exists beyond the universe as we know it," but that assertion is untestable, makes no predictions, and is demonstrably a modern claim. In Genesis, God walks in the Garden in the cool of the evening. A depressingly large number of people takes that verse literally, but I suspect you aren't among them.[/quote]
Omnipresence must be a splendid thing. :blink:

Whatever caused the universe necessarily exists outside of it. It's not a convenience it's a logical necessity.

[quote]If you want to say, well, the Book says God is ineffable, you aren't making a unique claim - all great religions make the same essential claim: Vishnu, El Elohim, Great Spirit, Huehueteotl, Chaos (the Greek Myth version), or Nammu, take your pick. Even in myth-cycles such as Shinto, in which the creator deities are part of the world, they are Increate and therefore eligible for the same claim to non-limitation by physical laws as we understand them.[/quote]
Agreed. I did say we may arrive at a handful of eligible Gods, though I don't think you could argue that any creator god fits the criteria, and the only reason I don't push the issue using the examples you've provided is that I'm unaware of the majority of them and I'm feeling too lazy to research them for logical flaws or limitations.

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[quote name='wynken vanaril' post='18952' date='Oct 27 2008, 09:22 AM']We sure could, but in keeping with free will, influence is not the same as control. It just seems to me that such a being wouldn't even bother if it were to be entirely absent from its creation, so in my mind, an active God is much more credible.[/quote]
I don't follow you. There is no evidence for a god.

[quote]The assumed implication that the universe simply grew is laughable. Grew from what? We have no idea what exists beyond our universe let alone how simple or complex it is. The claim you're trying to assert has as much foundation on faith as any I could make about a creator.[/quote]
That is an elementary apologetic argument, and it is easily dismissed. The answer to the question "from what" is, at the moment, "we don't know," but we have some ideas. That's beside the point: as scientists, those who study Physics make no claims to complete understanding. Science requires doubt to be worthwhile. I am not making a single statement of faith, not a one. I am simply saying there is no reason whatsoever to say, "the universe is complex, ergo God."

Can I prove that a simple singularity was born of an even more simplistic event? No. But it gives us a trail of evidence to follow.

[quote]I've heard this many times in past debates and it always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. It is impossible to be better than one's self, and I've not studied any of this formally.[/quote]
Easy there, killer. I apologize - it's a manner of speaking. You have my respect, and you ought to know it. I am expressing my frustration, that's all.

[quote]This would be a logical assumption if it had been a discovery and not a revealing. God [b]chose[/b] to reveal Himself to Abraham and the Israelites for a purpose. There was no discovery and it was not left to random chance. Also, it makes perfect sense to wait until civilization had progressed to the point that both spoken and written language could properly preserve and relay such an important discovery.[/quote]
But this leaves open the possibility that some other people(s) discovered God, and their discovery was lost to time. This ancient, heavily redacted text is not good evidence, even the story of the religion it purports to tell, because of the now-outdated biases of the revisionists and editors.

Clearly the Israelites had names of gods before the Exodus account of Moses receiving the true name of God. Psalm 82 says, "You are all of you sons of El..." I submit to you that this name, which is not exclusive to Judaism, was not selected by accident. I can't prove a thing, but neither can my opponents; all I can do is offer reasonable conclusions and raise doubts. Syncretism gets very thorny, and to our dismay ancient historical texts are notoriously unreliable.

The apocryphal Christian writings are a side-issue; Moses clearly cannot have written all the works ascribed to him, since (as my wife points out) he narrates his own death. And Moses, or his acolytes, or those who wished to use his name in later years to add credence to their accounts (a common phenomenon in ancient writings, much like the apocryphal George Carlin/Jay Leno/David Letterman "quotes" seen in email forwards), had everything to gain by championing their tribal god over the others. The book of laws is Leviticus, not Danicus.

My point is that these books - I mean the Torah/Pentateuch, mind - are almost certainly compendia of oral traditions, with priestly writings added where available. When we speak of events in the millennia BC (or BCE), we have to allow for oral tradition and change over time (the Gospels illustrate this fact very well, as most of them are believed to have been authored decades after the events they describe, and none of the writers could have been an eye-witness or likely even been able to interview one). If the number of catastrophes described is credible, many writings would have been lost, and repeatedly, leaving the survivors to cobble the old texts back together as best they could, leaving their imprimatur whether they meant to or not.

As I said, I am familiar with the linguistic and apologetic arguments regarding the word [i]elohim[/i]. They do not cover every instance of the word-form in the text; furthermore, they offer no conclusive proof of 6th-century BC monotheism, to say nothing of monotheism before that time. Even Amenhotep IV, the famous Akhenaten, was a monolatrist before he decided to become a monotheist. I think the archeological and textual evidence in the Book can be used to build a solid case for monolatry.

So who said ancient ways of the Jews were erroneous, and why? I can build a case that the Levites championed their tribal god over the other tribal gods of Israel, and that thereafter attempted to suppress any evidence there had even been rival cults. In the meantime, I will compile a doctoral thesis and get back to you. :blink:

[quote]You're confusing Catholic or even religious tradition in general with actual Biblical truth. The Bible never claims that the Earth is flat, stationary, or the center of the universe. There were no retroactive claims made at that time...just a release of ignorant human tradition.[/quote]
...which sounds awfully like a release of ignorant religious tradition to me. The structure of the earth as described by Genesis is manifestly "untrue", by which I mean factually inaccurate, yet neither you nor I use it as grounds for dismissing the importance of the myth. I think you need to examine the cosmology of ancient Israel again, for I can't agree with you that the religious perspective has never changed. All available evidence points very strongly to the contrary, from today back to the earliest literary and archeological sources we have.

[quote]Whatever caused the universe necessarily exists outside of it. It's not a convenience it's a logical necessity.[/quote]
You seem to allow for the poetry of Genesis, so why not a poetry of Ameratesu?

[quote]Agreed. I did say we may arrive at a handful of eligible Gods, though I don't think you could argue that any creator god fits the criteria, and the only reason I don't push the issue using the examples you've provided is that I'm unaware of the majority of them and I'm feeling too lazy to research them for logical flaws or limitations.[/quote]
Fair enough. We've no need to resort to simple contradiction.

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[quote name='Tarquinus' post='18960' date='Oct 27 2008, 02:50 PM']Easy there, killer. I apologize - it's a manner of speaking. You have my respect, and you ought to know it. I am expressing my frustration, that's all.[/quote]
I'll respond to the rest of this as soon as I get a chance, but I did want to say that I was also merely doing a bit of venting of my own. I appreciate the respect and you have mine as well. I mostly wanted to take the opportunity to air some of my own intentions. I have been labeled arrogant and pretentious on other forums in the past, and I'd like to avoid such a stigma here while still maintaining an intellectual presence if at all possible.

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[quote name='Tarquinus' post='18960' date='Oct 27 2008, 02:50 PM']I don't follow you. There is no evidence for a god.[/quote]
False. It just isn't empirical.

[quote]That is an elementary apologetic argument, and it is easily dismissed. The answer to the question "from what" is, at the moment, "we don't know," but we have some ideas. That's beside the point: as scientists, those who study Physics make no claims to complete understanding. Science requires doubt to be worthwhile. I am not making a single statement of faith, not a one. I am simply saying there is no reason whatsoever to say, "the universe is complex, ergo God."[/quote]
That wasn't really my argument. I'm not one of those who believe God must be the answer because of the insurmountable statistical hurdles in front of nature.

[quote]But this leaves open the possibility that some other people(s) discovered God, and their discovery was lost to time. This ancient, heavily redacted text is not good evidence, even the story of the religion it purports to tell, because of the now-outdated biases of the revisionists and editors.[/quote]
It's likely that God would have reached out to other nations, even in unison with His contact with Israel. Likewise, there could be life on other planets who have their own Messiah or who have no need because they made better choices than the human race...I don't really see your point, or how it clashes with scripture.

[quote]Clearly the Israelites had names of gods before the Exodus account of Moses receiving the true name of God. Psalm 82 says, "You are all of you sons of El..." I submit to you that this name, which is not exclusive to Judaism, was not selected by accident. I can't prove a thing, but neither can my opponents; all I can do is offer reasonable conclusions and raise doubts. Syncretism gets very thorny, and to our dismay ancient historical texts are notoriously unreliable.[/quote]
I am again unclear as to what it is you're trying to say. In any event, I like the theory about Atenism being the foundation for monotheistic Judaism better than what I believe you're trying to convey. The fact that Moses enacted a monotheistic doctrine after hightailing it out of Egypt adds a great deal of strength to the argument.

[quote]The apocryphal Christian writings are a side-issue; Moses clearly cannot have written all the works ascribed to him, since (as my wife points out) he narrates his own death. And Moses, or his acolytes, or those who wished to use his name in later years to add credence to their accounts (a common phenomenon in ancient writings, much like the apocryphal George Carlin/Jay Leno/David Letterman "quotes" seen in email forwards), had everything to gain by championing their tribal god over the others. The book of laws is Leviticus, not Danicus.[/quote]
I assume your wife was not there to ensure the narration wasn't written in a prophetic fashion...he was after all said to be receiving dictations directly from the Lord to that point.

[quote]...which sounds awfully like a release of ignorant religious tradition to me.[/quote]
The phrases are synonymous. Religion, by and large, is a human tradition.

[quote]The structure of the earth as described by Genesis is manifestly "untrue", by which I mean factually inaccurate, yet neither you nor I use it as grounds for dismissing the importance of the myth. I think you need to examine the cosmology of ancient Israel again, for I can't agree with you that the religious perspective has never changed. All available evidence points very strongly to the contrary, from today back to the earliest literary and archeological sources we have. You seem to allow for the poetry of Genesis, so why not a poetry of Ameratesu?[/quote]
Although I don't consider myself to be a fundamentalist (young Earth) Christian, I do believe the scriptures are literal, merely not always from a perspective we fully understand. In his books, Gerald Schreoder makes mathematical arguments which seek to reconcile the 6 days of creation with the ~13 billion year old universe.

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Ah, yes. Silly me - there is no empirical evidence whatsoever of the existence of any god or any miracle. There is a great deal of hearsay and "eyewitness testimony" of extremely dubious value.

When speaking of the origins of the universe, I prefer to stick to measurable, testable assertions. What is the origin of the universe? I don't know. But the closer astronomers look, the more interesting the story becomes. The answer "I don't know" may not be satisfying, but it is honest.

By contrast, the answer "a being of infinite complexity created it" is a simple, satisfying answer, but it is illogical. I happen to think it is also dishonest. If the origin of the universe is problematic, whence the origin of the creator? S/he is Increate? Not satisfying; it's simply an assertion backed by (at best) second-hand evidence of communication with an infinite being. And if this being was created, we once again encounter the problem of regress, much as did the Greek pantheon's origin as narrated by Hesiod. Sooner or later you have to draw a line, mythologically speaking, beyond which no further questions are permitted and no further thought is possible.

I am a great fan and student of myth, but I contend that presenting it literally does it a grave disservice. Did a man named Midas have the power of transmuting materials to gold by touching them? Almost certainly not, but even to ask the question misses the point of the story.

But some will insist their interpretations of a myth are better than others', and further they will insist that all gods are false but theirs; and even if they can agree on a God, they may disagree on what S/he said or did not say, did or did not do, revealed or did not reveal. Who is right? There is (arguably) more evidence for Mohammed than there is for Yeshua of Nazareth, so why aren't you a Muslim? Mohammed spoke to Gabriel, too... or didn't he? Most likely, you aren't a Muslim because your parents weren't, if we are to be honest about it. I will allow that some people find appeal in religions beyond their own cultures, but they are outliers in the statistical continuum.

My point with reference to God's contact with other cultures is that the probability of such contact impeaches the Judeo/Christian/Islamic continuum's claim to exclusive (or privileged) contact with this being. You like the Aten hypothesis; so did I, when I identified myself as a Christian. But Aten is nowhere countenanced in Exodus or any of the other canonical Jewish writings; and given the probable origin of Moses' name, again presuming we can count on Exodus to be honest, Akhenaten came after Tuthmosis III.* While it is delightful to speculate that Amenhotep IV seized on Judaism and became Akhenaten after the events of Exodus, no serious biblical or Egyptological scholar accepts this hypothesis... to our mutual dismay, perhaps, but I did warn you of the perils of syncretism.

What I am trying to convey, by contrast, is the idea that ancient Israelite polytheism was both widespread and conventionally accepted, and that monolatry, monotheism, and the assertion of Yahweh's supremacy over all other gods were later and in some cases highly political developments. The story of the Pentateuch seems to indicate otherwise, but textual and archeological cues offer some, though not incontrovertible, evidence to support the idea of a polytheistic Israel in ancient times. The fact is that we will probably never know the truth: we can offer faith, or we can continue to probe the very fragmentary surviving evidence with doubt, but that is all. Your faith is an assertion that the biblical narrative is authentic, and there can be no argumentation with faith. You are either right, or you are not, and if you have decided you are right then conversation ends.

The problem of the divine transcription would seem to be that a divine document would be free of error, unless God decided for His ineffable reasons to include intentional falsehoods or contradictions. I let apologists wrestle with such ideas, which are to me simply logical absurdities concocted to justify the authenticity and inerrancy of an ancient, heavily redacted, fragmentary, deeply flawed set of documents.

As much as you like flipping blivets at my wife :yahoo: , she was gracious enough to furnish you with a textual basis for your mathematical reasoning: [url="http://bible.cc/2_peter/3-8.htm"]2 Peter 3:8[/url].

*My rejection of the identification of the pharaoh of Exodus with Rameses II is tangential to say the least, but as is the case with most of my reasoning, it isn't mine.

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In regards to that article, altruism and moral behavior are not necessarily one and the same. You can act both morally and selfishly at the same time. In fact, capitalism and Randian Objectivism are founded on just that ability, and free markets obviously work very well. While I generally oppose utilitarianism on the grounds that the ends don't always justify the means, I don't see any harm in doing good because it's our creator's will and plan for human existence.

[quote name='Tarquinus' post='19111' date='Oct 28 2008, 10:07 PM']By contrast, the answer "a being of infinite complexity created it" is a simple, satisfying answer, but it is illogical. I happen to think it is also dishonest. If the origin of the universe is problematic, whence the origin of the creator? S/he is Increate? Not satisfying; it's simply an assertion backed by (at best) second-hand evidence of communication with an infinite being. And if this being was created, we once again encounter the problem of regress, much as did the Greek pantheon's origin as narrated by Hesiod. Sooner or later you have to draw a line, mythologically speaking, beyond which no further questions are permitted and no further thought is possible.[/quote]
An infinate being by definition has no origin. Also, the First Cause argument is solved by looking deeper at the Cosmological Argument. The physical laws and time as we experience them and test them are finite and began (presumably) at the time of the Big Bang. In keeping with conclusions that are logical and empirical, we can only assume that those laws exist within our universe because we obviously can't test anything outside of it. So...it's preposterous to even imply that anything (let alone a being that actually "claims" infinate existence) beyond its boundaries must have had an origin.

[quote]I am a great fan and student of myth, but I contend that presenting it literally does it a grave disservice. Did a man named Midas have the power of transmuting materials to gold by touching them? Almost certainly not, but even to ask the question misses the point of the story.[/quote]
The beauty of scriptural poetry and parables is that they carry a double blessing of both wisdom and truth :(

[quote]But some will insist their interpretations of a myth are better than others', and further they will insist that all gods are false but theirs; and even if they can agree on a God, they may disagree on what S/he said or did not say, did or did not do, revealed or did not reveal. Who is right? There is (arguably) more evidence for Mohammed than there is for Yeshua of Nazareth, so why aren't you a Muslim? Mohammed spoke to Gabriel, too... or didn't he? Most likely, you aren't a Muslim because your parents weren't, if we are to be honest about it. I will allow that some people find appeal in religions beyond their own cultures, but they are outliers in the statistical continuum.[/quote]
Every human possesses an ego and emotional predisposition. Atheists are no different though most will deny their social construction as it pertains to religious (or non religious) beliefs. When I speak of religion or cosmology I tend to attempt to place everything into the context of absolute truth. Human interpretation is irrelevant because there exists an objective truth regardless of our admission, belief, or knowledge of it.

[quote]My point with reference to God's contact with other cultures is that the probability of such contact impeaches the Judeo/Christian/Islamic continuum's claim to exclusive (or privileged) contact with this being. You like the Aten hypothesis; so did I, when I identified myself as a Christian. But Aten is nowhere countenanced in Exodus or any of the other canonical Jewish writings; and given the probable origin of Moses' name, again presuming we can count on Exodus to be honest, Akhenaten came after Tuthmosis III.* While it is delightful to speculate that Amenhotep IV seized on Judaism and became Akhenaten after the events of Exodus, no serious biblical or Egyptological scholar accepts this hypothesis... to our mutual dismay, perhaps, but I did warn you of the perils of syncretism.[/quote]
I don't necessarily like that theory, I said that I like it better. Also, you'd be hard pressed to find proof that the Bible (again I can't speak to the Qu'ran) supports exclusive or even privileged contact with God.

[quote]What I am trying to convey, by contrast, is the idea that ancient Israelite polytheism was both widespread and conventionally accepted, and that monolatry, monotheism, and the assertion of Yahweh's supremacy over all other gods were later and in some cases highly political developments. The story of the Pentateuch seems to indicate otherwise, but textual and archeological cues offer some, though not incontrovertible, evidence to support the idea of a polytheistic Israel in ancient times. The fact is that we will probably never know the truth: we can offer faith, or we can continue to probe the very fragmentary surviving evidence with doubt, but that is all. Your faith is an assertion that the biblical narrative is authentic, and there can be no argumentation with faith. You are either right, or you are not, and if you have decided you are right then conversation ends.[/quote]
Heh, I never debate with the intention of changing my mind or the minds of others, but yet I still debate. I see it as more of a mental exercise. A way to learn and grow, not to win or lose.

Also, you must recall that there were many many years in which Israel and Judah had regressed or backslidden into polytheism. Read any of the prophets...it makes complete sense to me, and is completely supported Biblically, that there would be archaeological evidence of Israel practicing polytheism.

[quote]As much as you like flipping blivets at my wife :yahoo: , she was gracious enough to furnish you with a textual basis for your mathematical reasoning: [url="http://bible.cc/2_peter/3-8.htm"]2 Peter 3:8[/url].[/quote]
Blivets is a great word... :drinks:

I use that verse often in this situation. It aligns itself perfectly with my assertion that God is outside of time.

When you get the chance, I highly recommend Gerald Schreoder's article on the age of the universe:
[url="http://www.geraldschroeder.com/age.html"]http://www.geraldschroeder.com/age.html[/url]

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[quote name='wynken vanaril' post='19130' date='Oct 29 2008, 08:48 AM']In regards to that article, altruism and moral behavior are not necessarily one and the same. You can act both morally and selfishly at the same time. In fact, capitalism and Randian Objectivism are founded on just that ability, and free markets obviously work very well.[/quote]
It's ironic that you should bring up Objectivism, a philosophy I never tire of running into the dirt. True capitalism does not exist in our society; we don't know if it works, but the consensus seems to be that it does not (though Ron Paul would disagree), given the international financial crisis and the various approaches being used as attempts to redress it.

[quote]In keeping with conclusions that are logical and empirical, we can only assume that those laws exist within our universe because we obviously can't test anything outside of it. So...it's preposterous to even imply that anything (let alone a being that actually "claims" infinate existence) beyond its boundaries must have had an origin.[/quote]
That's not strictly true; we can make educated guesses about things "outside" our universe (such as other universes). I would certainly say it is preposterous to posit the existence of an infinite being on the basis of nothing more than hearsay, however.

[quote]The beauty of scriptural poetry and parables is that they carry a double blessing of both wisdom and truth :([/quote]
So it matters to you that the Samaritan actually existed? Why? You can't prove a single word of truth in the Book, not one*; you can only say that the Book says so and insist it must be true. That's called begging the question, brother. In my view, that demeans the wisdom of the myths.

[quote]Human interpretation is irrelevant because there exists an objective truth regardless of our admission, belief, or knowledge of it.[/quote]
I accept that as axiomatic, but we differ wildly on what constitutes acceptable evidence for truth. I insist that empirical or observable evidence is the only sort worth mentioning, whereas your scriptual basis seems to depend more on faith in hearsay and willful blindness to textual evidence of redaction.

[quote]Also, you'd be hard pressed to find proof that the Bible (again I can't speak to the Qu'ran) supports exclusive or even privileged contact with God.[/quote]
It wouldn't be hard at all. Passages in both testaments make this assertion almost verbatim; when I'm not at work, I'll look up chapter and verse for you.

[quote]...you must recall that there were many many years in which Israel and Judah had regressed or backslidden into polytheism. Read any of the prophets...it makes complete sense to me, and is completely supported Biblically, that there would be archaeological evidence of Israel practicing polytheism.[/quote]
The implication is that they were polytheistic before they were otherwise, and the available evidence (both archeological and textual) seems to support that hypothesis. Your use of the verb "backslide" is significant to me in the extreme. My review of the evidence suggests the Israelites were polytheistic, worshipping probably 12 gods headed by El and Asherah, then they changed to monolatry of Yahweh, who was retroactively asserted by Levite writers to be one and the same as Abraham's El Elohim, but then the Israelites "regressed" for a while, and still later the Priestly writer (I think) made the claim that not only was Yahweh the only God, He is the God over all peoples in all lands. The Book (specifically the hypothetical Priestly writer)'s narrative about when and why that happened is open to assault, to put the matter mildly; archeological evidence suggests that polytheism remained widely practiced in Israel until close to the time of the Nazarene.

[quote]I use that verse often in this situation. It aligns itself perfectly with my assertion that God is outside of time.[/quote]
See also [url="http://bible.cc/psalms/90-4.htm"]Psalms 90:4[/url].

*Believe me, this is the kind of argument over which doctoral dissertations and lengthy, peer-reviewed papers are written. Were any of this provable one way or the other, we would almost certainly not be having this conversation; the fact is that the available evidence leaves [u][b]ample[/b][/u] room for doubt.

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[quote]It's ironic that you should bring up Objectivism, a philosophy I never tire of running into the dirt.[/quote]
I also loath Randian Objectivism. I was just trying to emphasize the point that altruism and morals are not the same.

[quote]So it matters to you that the Samaritan actually existed? Why? You can't prove a single word of truth in the Book, not one*; you can only say that the Book says so and insist it must be true. That's called begging the question, brother. In my view, that demeans the wisdom of the myths.[/quote]
I don't see how a factual account of actual events carries less wisdom than fiction. Also, I'd go so far as to say that 90% of Biblical scripture is historically factual and archeologically verifiable. So on the contrary, I believe the real question has to be, why deny the speculated 10%? :spiteful:

[quote]It wouldn't be hard at all. Passages in both testaments make this assertion almost verbatim; when I'm not at work, I'll look up chapter and verse for you.[/quote]
Allow me to spare you the trouble by presenting my rebuttal first:

Genesis 18:18
Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.

Galatians 3:7-9
7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Psalm 67:1-3
1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah 2 that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. 3 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Matthew 28:18-20
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

[quote]The implication is that they were polytheistic before they were otherwise, and the available evidence (both archeological and textual) seems to support that hypothesis. Your use of the verb "backslide" is significant to me in the extreme.[/quote]
I really don't see your point. The revealing of God would have taken place ex post facto. How can you hold Israel liable for traditions held before God revealed himself to Abraham, and how does Israel's backsliding even after the revelation alter what would be an objective truth? If God exists...He exists weather the Israelites continued to follow faithfully or not. I'll tell you without argument that Israel did practice polytheism in the centuries before Jesus' teachings. I'll even help you make your case.

Jeremiah 2:
19 Your wickedness will punish you;
your backsliding will rebuke you.
Consider then and realize
how evil and bitter it is for you
when you forsake the LORD your God
and have no awe of me,"
declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.

20 "Long ago you broke off your yoke
and tore off your bonds;
you said, 'I will not serve you!'
Indeed, on every high hill
and under every spreading tree
you lay down as a prostitute.

23 "How can you say, 'I am not defiled;
I have not run after the Baals'?
See how you behaved in the valley;
consider what you have done.
You are a swift she-camel
running here and there,

24 a wild donkey accustomed to the desert,
sniffing the wind in her craving—
in her heat who can restrain her?
Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves;
at mating time they will find her.

25 Do not run until your feet are bare
and your throat is dry.
But you said, 'It's no use!
I love foreign gods,
and I must go after them.'

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Wynken, this conversation has grown tedious. Your assertion that the Book does not support privileged or exclusive contact with God for Christians (and before them, Jews) is absurd, and I think any minister or rabbi worth his (or her, if certain texts are glossed over, and that is allowed) salt would tell you so. When a religion claims its god is the only God, the implication is clear: you can only reach this god by observing the practices of that religion. To this day, Christian ministers go around telling people that savages in other lands who have not received the Gospel will go to Hell. You can reconcile, dispute, or apologize for that all you want, but the point stands. Believe Jesus was the Anointed One and was literally resurrected, receive him into your heart, and receive some kind of baptism, or go to Hell. The Gnostics' views on these stories are automatically rejected by the vast majority of modern Christians.

Naturally, many Muslims feel that the reverse is true, and that Christians cannot reach paradise. Muslim theology is just as convoluted as Christian, however, and arguments are still occurring among the faithful about what the Qu'ran really meant in certain passages.

That said, I promised you citations; these are the results of a cursory search, starting with Exodus and ending with John. There are more, many more.

I don't want to argue the validity or provenance of these on a case-by-case basis. I believe I've done more than my fair share of contributing to the discussion of a religion I reject. Surely even you will confess I have not rejected it idly, but after years of study.

Exodus 20:3 (how you can miss the First Commandment is beyond me)
Exodus 22:20

2 Samuel 22:32

1 Chronicles 15:2

2 Chronicles 23:6

Psalm 18:31
Psalm 127:1

Isaiah 45:4-5

Daniel 3:28

Hosea 13:4

Amos 3:7

Matthew 11:27
Matthew 15:24 (this is a big one)
Matthew 24:22

Mark 13:20

Luke 5:21 - the implication about Pharisaic law is obvious
Luke 10:22

John 3:5
John 6:53
John 8:24
John 14:6
John 15:4

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[quote name='wynken vanaril' post='19469' date='Nov 4 2008, 09:37 AM']I also loath Randian Objectivism. I was just trying to emphasize the point that altruism and morals are not the same.[/quote]
What is the use of morality that does not take into account altruism?

[quote]Also, I'd go so far as to say that 90% of Biblical scripture is historically factual and archeologically verifiable.[/quote]
Saying it doesn't make it so. There is no archeological evidence for most of it, man; if you know better, by all means, present your case. As it happens, I am a student of archeology, and I haven't seen any evidence to support any but the most general conclusions... no specifics at all. I cannot be proven that Jeshua of Nazareth ever walked the Earth, though many historians have conceded the point based on the number of textual accounts. But these are texts, not archeology. There is little or no evidence to support the captivity in Egypt, and the disparity between the evidence and the textual account spirals from there.

[quote]Allow me to spare you the trouble by presenting my rebuttal first:[/quote]
All these citations imply the spread of this religion. In no way do they imply that separate religions can come to acknowledge the same God and worship him in their own fashion.

[quote]I really don't see your point. The revealing of God would have taken place ex post facto. How can you hold Israel liable for traditions held before God revealed himself to Abraham, and how does Israel's backsliding even after the revelation alter what would be an objective truth?[/quote]
I don't hold Israel liable; I hold the Deuteronomist and Priestly writers, and you and every other victim of their propaganda, culpable for asserting "Oh, never mind, there was really only one god. Sorry." The evolution of monotheistic practice is almost certainly a cultural rather than an objective phenomenon, and I will continue to argue that the only thing the Book really tells us about this evolution is that the Levites' power-play for control of the priesthood was successful. A great deal of evidence indicates the Book's writings were assembled from older writings that were redacted by later priests to expunge the holes in their narrative.

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I'm sorry. I misunderstood you, and we're arguing semantics. I thought you meant that only Israelites as a race of people could receive God's grace.

Anyway, we've strayed far from the original topic anyway and should probably have had this conversation in the "Religion Thread".

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[quote name='Tarquinus' post='19474' date='Nov 4 2008, 11:56 AM']What is the use of morality that does not take into account altruism?[/quote]
Does any moral system really claim that altruism is the source of moral behavior?

[quote]I don't hold Israel liable; I hold the Deuteronomist and Priestly writers, and you and every other victim of their propaganda, culpable for asserting "Oh, never mind, there was really only one god. Sorry." The evolution of monotheistic practice is almost certainly a cultural rather than an objective phenomenon, and I will continue to argue that the only thing the Book really tells us about this evolution is that the Levites' power-play for control of the priesthood was successful. A great deal of evidence indicates the Book's writings were assembled from older writings that were redacted by later priests to expunge the holes in their narrative.[/quote]
Again they rallied it into nothing. The Levites received the least land and absolutely no wealth or possessions. Your assertion just doesn't make sense logically. Why make a play for power and attain none?

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I don't think altruism is the source of moral behavior - I would call it the most qualifiable expression of moral behavior. As you know, I think its roots are biological.

As for the Levites - uh, they became the priestly class. See [url="http://bible.cc/joshua/13-33.htm"]Joshua 13:33[/url]. Red line to God? Sounds more valuable than material wealth to me, and it did to them, too. Leviticus is so named for a reason. The cynical side of me sneers, "knowledge is power, and money is often merely the means to power"; the more Judeo-Christian-friendly side of me says, "spiritual wealth is more valuable by far." B)

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[quote name='Tarquinus' post='19488' date='Nov 4 2008, 10:01 PM']I don't think altruism is the source of moral behavior - I would call it the most qualifiable expression of moral behavior. As you know, I think its roots are biological.[/quote]
What are your thoughts on morality? I don't know that we've established exactly what you believe other than your disdain for objectivism.

[quote]As for the Levites - uh, they became the priestly class. See [url="http://bible.cc/joshua/13-33.htm"]Joshua 13:33[/url]. Red line to God? Sounds more valuable than material wealth to me, and it did to them, too. Leviticus is so named for a reason. The cynical side of me sneers, "knowledge is power, and money is often merely the means to power"; the more Judeo-Christian-friendly side of me says, "spiritual wealth is more valuable by far." B)[/quote]
What good is spiritual wealth when its proprietors and inheritors are the only who know it to be a sham? As far as power is concerned, not only did the inherit little power which was eventually relinquished entirely with the adoption of a king, but it also seems like a lot of hard work and devotion for so little real authority.

Also, you have to consider the cultural context of the radical laws in Leviticus. The religions in Mesopotamia during that time were very violent and unrestrictive, but Hebrew law established many regulations including foods that couldn't be eaten and restrictions on sex.

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My thoughts on morality are pretty simple, really. I tend to equate selfishness with "evil" and selflessness with "good"; obviously, these are grotesque oversimplifications, but in general they convey my point. We humans are pack-animals, requiring literally a village's worth of people to raise one of us to the age of sexual maturity. Placing the interests of the individual over the pack can sometimes be a very good thing, and this is the 50% of Rand's Philosophy I acknowledge as having a grounding in fact. The emphasis on the individual, however, is not an axiomatic good, nor is it sustainable. Twenty humans with sharp sticks can kill any creature on this planet, and I think we do well when we remember that.

Human pack-morality breaks down at the trans-village level, which is why, despite our biological impulse to help each other, we see so much interhuman violence. The pack acknowledges, whether consciously or not, a duty unto its own, and tends to view other packs as threats to its welfare. As history seems to indicate, it is correct in thinking thus. As I said far above, it is not remarkable that humans kill each other. What is remarkable is that we have the capacity, which most other animals lack, to [i]refrain[/i] from killing, sometimes in situations with no clear survival-related benefit. Survival is the wellspring of moral behavior, in my view, but it very clearly does not govern the entire spectrum of such behavior. What is the survival advantage of porpoises preventing humans from drowning? Why do humans work so hard for the benefit of species that cannot possibly understand or reciprocate our efforts on their behalf? Clearly, the tale of human behavior is far from being told in its entirety.

As for the Levites, you're the Christian. You tell me. A sham? Clearly, they did not believe it to be a sham; I don't know what they believed, other than that they had privileged access to the voice of God. Further, Levite dominance of the priesthood does not seem to have vanished under the kings. To the contrary, the entire Jewish faith bears its imprimatur, and consequently so do the Christian and Muslim faiths. A review of Biblical writings seems to indicate that, if anything, the Levites secured their intellectual, spiritual, and moral dominance over the rest of the tribes forever. When you talk about the radical nature of the Levite-mandated changes, you make my case for me. In later centuries, the Jewish sense of purity, of being a breed apart, would fascinate and inspire people around the Mediterranean basin. The case has been made that such fascination accounts in part for the rapid spread of Christianity.

Saying the Levites "lost out" by inheriting "only" the LORD is a very strange and cynical thing for a self-described Christian to say, you know. But that's not my case, that's yours. My argument says that the Levites represented a particularly zealous and moral faction of the Israelites, one which would forever change the Western understanding of moral conduct. I do not fault them for that. My complaint concerns the redaction, willful ignorance, and intolerance of the religious traditions that came before. The Levites introduced a strong sense of morality to their people, yes, but they also introduced a peculiar and in retrospect very backward and small-minded set of taboos that blossomed into prejudice and bigotry with which the world still wrestles to this day. The writings of Saul of Tarsus in I Corinthians include one of the most beautiful passages in human literature and myth, but it comes almost at the heels of a laundry list of prejudices about who will not enter the kingdom of Heaven. Keep the baby, I say, and toss the bathwater: but in doing so, recognize that the departure from a strict adherence to the writings of the Book has begun.

This is not a subject about which I can be at all brief, so I shall try to summarize by saying that similar cultural/doctrinal revolutions occurred in other faiths and other lands at around the same time. Some see the hand of God in that, but only those who acknowledge that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic continuum has no monopoly on moral truth, or, if you prefer, no monopoly on God. Those who do NOT see the hand of God in this series of revolutions, which Karen Armstrong calls "the Great Transformation," are stuck with having to explain why their particular flavor of religion is preferable to others that reached many of the same conclusions.

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  • 1 month later...

[quote name='booblies' post='18912' date='Oct 26 2008, 09:25 AM']I Like this type of talk to reminds me of why I wake every morning and continue the cycle! Please do give somewhat an example of this statement or if any else can that would be great....The only reason I ask is that I am having difficulties understanding this? :(:huh::mellow: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil! Lol[/quote]

example....it is simple, the idea of right means that it is true (real, existant)....something that is wrong means that it is based on something that is untrue and not real (nonexistant). The easiest one to understand is an outright lie because you don't have to look back upon the action to see where things started based upon the illusion. People believe things that are not real all of the time like...if I do this then he will love me...but then when she does then he doesn't or vice versa. What sin is is simply an action based upon illusion or something not there. Since everyone seems to have their own reality then nobody can really make a point and we all go nowhere.....unless the person really believes that there is ONE law and ONE reality and are looking for the answers, they are not going to find any. Law and reality is what we are bound to. It is that we have the ability to change it according to our desires that we have wars....it is because we all disagree and are all biased.

What makes the discussion so hard is that people can easily point fingers to say that another is living in illusion. Religious people and anti-religious people alike do this. If there is no God then there is no grounds to make such claims because then everything would be based on opinion and there would be no morality but the morality that you make for yourself. If everything is subjective then nobody should even be here discussing this. If there is no free will then there is also no base to be discussing this. If law is up to the individual then why don't we just all get along? It is because we want everyone else to abide by the laws that we, ourselves, make. Hopeless.

There is no way to prove what happened in the beginning because we were not there....all we have is books to tell about past generations. A lot of those can't be proven either though we believe them because we choose to and consider them reasonable according to our standards. I understand the conflict between people because of the offense and all of the time human error is involved. [b]I, speeking for myself, choose to follow what the Bible says and have faith that there is a God just as others have faith that there is none[/b]. I don't want conflict nor do I look upon those who don't think the way I do as worthless or Hellbound because it is not my place. All I can do is follow how I believe and share my findings even if they are opposed, and I expect them to be.......

yay happy hour! sooo tired!! :rofl: :yahoo:

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Ah, a topic that I am interested in. It would seem that everyone has different views about objective morality. this is rather ironic. no one is being truly objecive (though Tarquinus, you're coming close).
the question is whether there is a right and a wrong, and no gray area. Or is there an area, like the "Big Bang" where all of the rules we currently posess break down? let's assume for the moment that there is no gray area, that there can always be a right and a wrong decided, even if it is ex post facto.

based upon this, we can assign truth values, True and False (T and F) to any decision made by anyone or any idea/ideal that may be put forth. Applying this to the idea of equality, we must look at the type of equality. not to oversimplify things, if you look at equality of opportunity, the democratic/partly capitaistic view of things, that would state that every person has the same chance when they are born of being anything that they want to be. this is, of course, false when applied to the larger world. Look at any of the Third World countries. they do not have the same "chance" that others, such as those from First World Countries, do. If one were to apply it just to a single country, such as England or the United States or Spain, it still does not hold true in its most base form. does a beggar on the street have the same opportunities as a person from a rich family? of course not. with hard work and a few lucky breaks that beggar from the street may one day become rich, but did he really have the same chance? to go more into depth, we have to enter the realm of psychology. if we accept that our brains are indeed programmed for survival (which my now should be self-evident), we must then realize that the beggar, unless he has aspirations above and beyond the norm, will do as much as he can to survive and will adapt to his life as a beggar. the person from the rich family needs not worry about their own survival, as they are well taken care of. the beggar will try to find a job (if he chooses to) that will get him the most money he can find. the rich person will try to find a job that they will enjoy. chances are, the rich person's job will make more, thereby widening the gap. Now, it is possible, as in the story of Chris Gardener, for one to overcome such things. but overall the idea of equality of opportunity can be assigned a truth value of F.
Equality of outcome, the Socialistic and Communistic view of equality, is already seen by most as ridiculous. forcing everyone to be equal is a paradox. who does the forcing? someone in the government, who is not so noble as to be equal to the rest (taking this from experience... Russia, China, etc). this person, by not sharing their lot with that of their people, is disproving the idea of equality of outcome.
At this point I digress and turn to one of Tarquinus' comments. equating selfishness with evil. a grotesque oversimplification, as you say, but taking it from the general meaning that you were trying to imply, this arises. there are many exceptions to your rule, few of which are extreme. Tarquinus, by following this code anyone who asks for anything from you should have it. you bind yourself to slavery, with everyone on earth being your master. You yourself have sold yourself into slavery with no way of getting out. placing a few extreme exceptions in there does you no good. a rose by any other name... pardon my harshness, but it bothers me that selfishness is "evil" and selfless "good" in your morality in general, my friend. I need not leave examples, because you already know most of them, but please consider the above statement with due thought. This next statement may sound jaded or disillusioned, but it becomes ridiculously easy for someone to take advantage of you when you leave the statement as that. I happen to know that you are of better character than that, and that your statement was just worded poorly.
rather, objective morality is based upon basic logic. It is not the logic of who needs against who should have. Take the basis of the logic to say that you are alive in the biological sense of the term, and so is the person you are dealing with. Now, and I know you detest objectivism Tarquinus, but bear with me, who is right can be decided upon a set of rules and a lot of thought about them. The rules were presented by an objectivist, but, as the rules are objective, they serve to forward the logical soundness of of the argument. these are the eleven rules known together as "The Wizard's Rules" They require a great deal of thought, but I will do some explaining about them.

1. People are stupid. <...> they will believe a lie either because they want to believe it's true, or because they are afraid it might be
2. The greatest harm can result from the best intentions
3. Passion rules reason
4. there is magic in sincere forgiveness, the magic to heal. in forgiveness you grant, but more so, in forgiveness you recieve
5. mind what people do, not only what they say, for deeds will betray a lie
6. Let reason be your only sovereign
7. life is the future, not the past
8. Deserve Victory
9. A contradiction cannot exist in reality. not in part, nor in whole
10. willfully turning aside from the truth is treason to oneself
11. the wizard's rule unwritten

They are a baic method for providing a logical soundness and a moral objectivity to the argument. who is morally right. these rules are not perfect, but they certainly help. a violation of one of the rules means that you made the incorrect decision, and in consequence most probably violated another two or three rules. They are so interconnected that is difficult to violate just the one. Objectively I realize that I am not really being objective anymore, but oh well.
Think about the rules for a while, then respond.
thought there is something that I should explain. the third and sixth rules.
3. Passion rules Reason.
this rule is explaining the difference between logic and reason. reason is logic ruled by passion. your logic must be sound and the decision made also have basis in passion, which is fueled by faith and emotions. before I get jumped, this is faith, not Faith. faith is whatever you happen to believe in, whether that is god or something else entirely.
6. Let Reason be your only Sovereign
use the definition of reason given above.

also, side note to wynken, Physics has come very close to explaining the beginnings of the universe. right now the models that are being used can predict everything that happens from 10^-5 seconds onwards. and there is even a model that has been proposed by Steven Hawking that suggests that time has no beginning or end, but rather exists independently from space in the areas where space does not exist. it also suggests that time would have no meaning outside of space. therefore, consider this. if time is indeed infinite, and there is actually no need for a singularity (also suggested by Hawkings model), then what is there for God to exist outside of? in trying to answer this question you would have to actually delve into extra dimensions. This is just to provoke thought, so please take no offense.

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