Craig Hick’s Militant Atheist Meme

Here is one of the atheist memes posted on Craig Hicks site:

It is unfortunate for Hicks, the New Atheist who murdered three Muslim students, to have such a militant meme on his FaceBook page. But that’s not the point I want to focus on. I am struck by the honesty of this meme.

The meme indicates I have been right in maintaining the New Atheist demands for “evidence” are mostly a smokescreen. For New Atheism, at its core, is not atheism. It’s anti-theism and anti-religion. Even Jerry Coyne recently confessed, “Yes, Reza Aslan, I’m an anti-theist.”

But how does an anti-theist fight against an omnipotent being?

One way is to fight against religious people, who are supposed to be the representatives of the omnipotent being. This would mean that every “argument” against religion and religious people is not some intellectual inquiry into the truth. Instead, it’s part of the battle plan. It’s the “attack.” And that would explain why the New Atheists can never admit being wrong nor can they admit when their “argument” is weak. In battle, there is only one objective – victory. At all costs.

Another way to fight is to deny the existence of God. That would seem to be the ultimate attack on the omnipotent being. Even if God’s existence could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the New Atheist would continue to deny God’s existence. This explains the closed-minded nature of the gnu. They cannot admit there is any evidence of God’s existence because that weakens their ultimate weapon.

What’s more, since the anti-theist has convinced himself that God, if He existed, is evil, that further entrenches the closed mind. For I am not sure the human mind can retain its sanity if it has to believe a) an omnipotent being created our reality and b) this omnipotent being is deeply evil. Rather than go down that road, it’s better to closed-mindedly deny the existence of God.

Once you begin to realize the New Atheists are anti-theists more so than they are atheists, much of their beliefs and behavior starts to make sense. Even if God existed, they would still be fighting the same fight. In their minds, God and religion are evil and harmful and must be opposed.

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38 Responses to Craig Hick’s Militant Atheist Meme

  1. “The meme indicates I have been right in maintaining the New Atheist demands for “evidence” are mostly a smokescreen.”

    How?

    The meme is expressing an opinion that, while related to atheism, isn’t atheism. It’s merely saying that if given evidence that doesn’t mean I would instantly want to love or worship the god in question.

    That’s true for me too. If given evidence I’d certainly believe that god existed, and I’d definitely not be an atheist any more. But that doesn’t mean I’d necessarily love or worship or even like the god.

  2. Linuxgal says:

    You said: “Even if God’s existence could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the New Atheist would continue to deny God’s existence.”

    Did you even read what the meme says? It says even if you proved the existence of God beyond all doubt, some people would oppose him for how he is described in the scriptures. When you wrote that, it cast serious doubt in my own mind whether you have the ability to understand what you read in the scriptures. With all due respect.

  3. Bilbo says:

    I wonder if it would help if we made a distinction between the God of the Bible (or any other major religion) and an Anselmian God. An Anselmian God is a being a greater than which cannot be conceived. Such a being would be morally perfect, and therefore could not be sadistic, misogynistic, or homophobic. If Hicks came to believe that such a God existed, would he still fight against this Anelmian God? Or would he make a distinction between the Anelmian God, in whom he believes and tries to worship, and the God of the Bible (or other major religions), whom he does not believe in?

    Now Christians believe that the God of the Bible is the Anselmian God. I for one, occasionally have trouble defending that belief, especially when it comes to some of the things that the God of the Bible supposedly commanded or did in the Old Testament. So I can understand why Hicks or others wouldn’t believe that the God of the Bible could be the Anelmian God. And I can understand why they wouldn’t want to worship the God of the Bible, even if they were willing to worship the Anselmian God. The challenge for us Christians is to explain how it is possible that our God of the Bible really is the being, a greater than which cannot be conceived.

  4. Allallt says:

    “Even if God’s existence could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the New Atheist would continue to deny God’s existence.”
    Where did you get this from?

    “the anti-theist has convinced himself that God, if He existed, is evil”
    Where did you get this from?

    In the latter case you’re working backwards. The nature of God, demonstrated through a religious text or through a study of nature, is not a pleasant one.
    On the former issue, you’re just making that up.

  5. Allallt says:

    Bilbo – there are serious problems with declaring Anselm’s God morally perfect. You would have to find a way to define morality without calling on God. To call on God would be circular. To not call on God has implications too (depending on the defence you choose).

  6. Bilbo says:

    Hi Allallt, let’s make a distinction between the philosophical problems with declaring Anelm’s God morally perfect, and Craig Hick’s defiance of a God who is sadistic, mysogistic, and homophobic. Unless you want to claim that an Anselmian God could have those characteristics. Do you?

  7. John says:

    -Allallt:

    ”The nature of God, demonstrated through a religious text or through a study of nature, is not a pleasant one.”

    Are you talking about the verses which atheists constantly talk about to prove God is evil?The most used one I can think of is the one with the tribes around Israel.

    Well first of all,the verses where he commands attacking other tribes:

    Most of the tribes around Israel were evil.They performed infant sacrifice,beastiality,homosexuality and other sins.

    The tribes around Israel knew what God did to Egypt,yet they did not care.

    These tribes were parasitic and liked to destroy anyone they thought was weaker then them.

    Israel only had 2 options:Either let the tribes destroy your entire culture and exterminate you or fight back and defend yourself.

    The only option was to defend yourself.

  8. Billy Squibs says:

    Bilbo – there are serious problems with declaring Anselm’s God morally perfect. You would have to find a way to define morality without calling on God. To call on God would be circular. To not call on God has implications too (depending on the defence you choose).

    I have a some questions for you, Allallt.

    You mention serious problems but only outline one. What are the others?
    Why should we have to “define morality without calling on God”?

    My understanding of Anselm here, and I suppose of classical Christianity in general, is that God is not beholden to anything nor anyone. If God is the highest conceivable being then morality is an inseparable facet of his nature, rather than something external that he has to consult. I suppose that while you might call that a circular argument, others would call it an argument from first principles or from definition.

    Please provide an argument as to why the highest conceivable being can not be said to be morally perfect by nature. Anselm’s argument seem to me to be reasonable in a prima facie sort of way. Whilst declaring that we must define an aspect of God’s nature – moral perfection in this case – by first looking outside of him seems to be both be unreasonable and to miss the point of the argument.

    For the record, I’m share Bilbo’s occasional troubles WRT defending all of God’s actions.

  9. Michael says:

    Linuxgal and Allalt both quote me:

    “Even if God’s existence could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the New Atheist would continue to deny God’s existence.”

    and ask:

    Did you even read what the meme says? It says even if you proved the existence of God beyond all doubt, some people would oppose him for how he is described in the scriptures.

    and

    Where did you get this from?

    Read the blog entry. Let me compress it:

    But how does an anti-theist fight against an omnipotent being? One way is to fight against religious people, who are supposed to be the representatives of the omnipotent being…..Another way to fight is to deny the existence of God.

    How did you guys think anti-theists were supposed to fight against God? With Super Giant Flamethrowers?

  10. Michael says:

    I wrote: “The meme indicates I have been right in maintaining the New Atheist demands for “evidence” are mostly a smokescreen.”

    NotAScientist asked, “How?”

    In the past, I have showed the demand for evidence is not rooted in principle and is a rhetorical trick. This popular meme illustrates the vacuous core to the demand for evidence. The New Atheists movement, a movement defined as anti-theistic and anti-religious, would still be anti-theistic and anti-religious if God’s existence could be proved.

  11. Syllabus says:

    There are serious problems with declaring Anselm’s God morally perfect. You would have to find a way to define morality without calling on God. To call on God would be circular. To not call on God has implications too (depending on the defence you choose).

    “There is one thing of which one can say neither that it is one metre long, nor that it is not one metre long, and that is the standard metre in Paris.—But this is, of course, not to ascribe any extraordinary property to it, but only to mark its peculiar role in the language-game of measuring with a metre-rule.—Let us imagine samples of colour being preserved in Paris like the standard metre. We define: “sepia” means the colour of the standard sepia which is there kept hermetically
    sealed. Then it will make no sense to say of this sample either that it is of this colour or that it is not.”

    — Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §50

  12. Allallt says:

    Bilbo – The way Anselm describes God/morality makes the claims of morality completely content free. Neither of us have the material, using Anselm’s Ontological Argument, to make any claims about what morality might be. Anselm’s God could very well be “sadistic, mysogistic, and homophobic”. There’s no content given to the definition of morality.
    (If you use an external definition of morality you have a strength: it would be meaningful to say God’s moral because the definition can have content. But it also leaves you vulnerable to a weakness: God might be shown to fail to meet the external metric.)
    Billy – There are many potential problems. I need to hear the argument used before I can explain what the problem might be. The Being of which none better can be imagined could be maximally moral, or maximally evil. I’m arguing that the argument makes morality content free… given that the argument doesn’t allow us to distinguish between morality and evil, it doesn’t necessarily mean God is either.
    Michael – there is a difference between belief and worship. I agree with Hicks here: convince me of a God and I’ll still think It evil. Neither the meme nor I claim that evidence beyond reasonable doubt would fail to convince us. The judgement on a moral standing–especially since the Anselm argument doesn’t help–has nothing to do with the claim of existence. Equivocating the two is dishonest.

  13. TFBW says:

    Allallt,

    It sounds like you are reserving judgement to yourself as to what is and is not moral. That is, you won’t entertain a thought experiment in which a being (the Anselmian God) is granted the status of “perfectly good” unless you can also judge the behaviour of that being on the basis of certain particulars — an attitude which amounts to a rejection of the hypothetical in the first place. You want to know whether the God engages in behaviour which you consider “sadistic”, “homophobic”, or “misogynistic” (whatever those words entail in your understanding of them), because a God that exhibits these traits is, ipso facto, not good. You describe morality as “content free” in this situation precisely because it consists of a universal (“the Anselmian God is perfectly good”) without the particulars by which you can judge the truth of the universal.

    This raises a number of intriguing philosophical questions on your model of morality. Most prominent among these is the question of this independent and impersonal moral reality against which all beings — including any God — are judged. You will not grant that God can be that moral reality in the way that a slug of platinum alloy in Paris can be the kilogram — not even, apparently, for the sake of argument. What is the nature of this impersonal reality? How do you know it? Why does it matter whether our actions follow this standard or not?

    The questions are many, but I would be hijacking the thread if I were to demand answers. Instead, let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Anselmian God comports perfectly with this impersonal moral reality. This is, I take it, the only condition under which you would grant anyone the status of “perfectly good”. My formulation is just as devoid of particulars as any previously offered, but the universal is offered in a manner that is intended to accommodate all your particulars. By this formulation, the Anselmain God has exactly the right attitude towards sadism, homophobia, and misogyny to qualify as “maximally good” — whatever that attitude may be.

    With that pile of caveats out of the way, let us revisit Bilbo’s question. If Hicks (or you) came to believe that such a God existed, would he (or you) still fight against this Anselmian God?

  14. Allallt says:

    TFBW – You’re misinterpreting my point. If God is perfectly moral simply because God defines perfect morality (which appears to be the implication here) then I must agree that God is perfectly moral: it’s a tautology. But, that means that if God were a misogynistic, homophobic sadist, that we must then accept those things as moral. The argument tells us nothing of either God’s behaviour nor of morality. And that part of the discussion only functions on the assumption that it is more sensible to refer to God as “maximally moral” instead of “maximally evil”. Unless we have an understanding of these two words exclusive to God we are not equipped to know which one is best suited to describe It.
    My second point does not specify an external moral arbiter or system. That is discussion yet to be had. I simply argued that having one will actually provide content to the discussion of both morality and God.
    Without an external arbiter, and simply using God as the platinum alloy slug of morality, we may be faced with the “truth” that sadism, homophobia and misogyny are “maximally moral”. You’d have no way of knowing, but, more importantly, you also wouldn’t know if it were really “moral” or “evil”.
    It was actually Michael that questioned how and whether one might fight against a God, if proven. I would hope we all would, even if we are doomed to failure. If the God Hicks described is the one that met you at the pearly gates, I would hope everyone would rail against such tyranny. (Even if sophistry can make such tyranny be called “moral”.) Yes, we are doomed to failure. But at least we defend what we believe in.

  15. Allallt says:

    The thing is, Michael, that you haven’t demonstrated the atheist’s request to evidence to be rhetoric instead of principle here or anywhere else. You have merely repeatedly asserted that you have demonstrated it.
    This meme doesn’t support your case, either. This meme says an atheist (or anti-theist) can be swayed by evidence as to the believe in a God, but points out that this doesn’t necessarily lead to worship, love or adoration. It could lead to ambivalence, disdain, distrust, hatred, Stockholm syndrome, indifference…
    I think I’ve said this already, but your equivocation on these issue is dishonest. The distinction is not ambiguous or complex.

  16. TFBW says:

    Allallt, that’s an extremely convoluted way of not answering my question. I’m going to have one more go at getting an answer out of you. I’ll keep the question as simple as possible. Here goes. If God were perfectly good, and you were able to recognise his goodness as perfectly good without hesitation or qualification, would you still be opposed to him?

  17. Michael says:

    there is a difference between belief and worship.

    True. But since I never brought up worship, you’re arguing against a straw man.

    I agree with Hicks here: convince me of a God and I’ll still think It evil.

    Hick’s meme had a follow up point. It’s not merely that he would think God evil, it’s that he would fight against God.

    Neither the meme nor I claim that evidence beyond reasonable doubt would fail to convince us. The judgement on a moral standing–especially since the Anselm argument doesn’t help–has nothing to do with the claim of existence. Equivocating the two is dishonest.

    There is no equivocation. Pay attention.

    1. For the sake of argument, we say God exists.
    2. For atheists like Hicks, that means they would fight against God.
    3. How does someone fight against an omnipotent being?

  18. Michael says:

    The thing is, Michael, that you haven’t demonstrated the atheist’s request to evidence to be rhetoric instead of principle here or anywhere else. You have merely repeatedly asserted that you have demonstrated it.

    Hmmm. Let’s see. Why, just a couple of weeks we saw this. If the New Atheist demand was rooted in principle, Dawkins would not have made his video/truth claim about “hate mail.” If the atheist demand was rooted in principle, atheists everywhere would have asked for evidence instead of cheer-lead. BTW, did the Dawkins Foundation ever reply to you?

    This meme doesn’t support your case, either. This meme says an atheist (or anti-theist) can be swayed by evidence as to the believe in a God, but points out that this doesn’t necessarily lead to worship, love or adoration. It could lead to ambivalence, disdain, distrust, hatred, Stockholm syndrome, indifference…

    You are ignoring the words of the meme. Being swayed by the evidence leads to a fight – fighting against the omnipotent bastard. So how does the atheist plan to carry out such a battle?

    I think I’ve said this already, but your equivocation on these issue is dishonest. The distinction is not ambiguous or complex.

    There is nothing dishonest about asking how it is that atheists would fight against God.

  19. Allallt says:

    Is that it? The entire point of your post is to question how one would fight against God? Because it doesn’t seem like it is. It seems that the point of your post is to assume atheist arguments are necessarily based in emotion and that demands for evidence are merely rhetoric.

  20. Michael says:

    Is that it? The entire point of your post is to question how one would fight against God?

    I don’t think you bothered to read the blog entry. The point was to raise the question (in response to the meme) and then answer the question.

    It seems that the point of your post is to assume atheist arguments are necessarily based in emotion and that demands for evidence are merely rhetoric.

    I have no idea how you got this impression. If you had read the blog entry, you’d see it is not about “atheists.”

    Try it this way.

    1. Read the blog entry. Don’t worry, unlike Richard Carrier or Sam Harris, I don’t try to overwhelm the reader with word blizzards.
    2. Find the section that makes you think I am assuming “atheist arguments are necessarily based in emotion.”
    3. Quote that section and raise your concern.

  21. Allallt says:

    I have read the post. Several times.

    “The meme indicates I have been right in maintaining the New Atheist demands for “evidence” are mostly a smokescreen”
    Wrong. This meme clearly states that the author of the post would submit to belief if the evidence were presented. Nothing here suggests the “demands” for evidence aren’t sincere. But, even so, a smokescreen for what? What are the calls for evidence and rational thinking a smokescreen for?
    “Even if God’s existence could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the New Atheist would continue to deny God’s existence.”
    This is completely contrary to what the meme says.

    “They cannot admit there is any evidence of God’s existence because that weakens their ultimate weapon”
    This is made up. It’s only related to the meme in the more peripheral sense of the word and is not congruent with with meme. There is nothing in the meme about denial of evidence.

  22. Michael says:

    “The meme indicates I have been right in maintaining the New Atheist demands for “evidence” are mostly a smokescreen”

    Wrong.

    No, it’s not wrong. As I noted at the end, “Once you begin to realize the New Atheists are anti-theists more so than they are atheists, much of their beliefs and behavior starts to make sense. Even if God existed, they would still be fighting the same fight. In their minds, God and religion are evil and harmful and must be opposed.”

    Evidence is largely irrelevant to the New Atheist agenda.

    This meme clearly states that the author of the post would submit to belief if the evidence were presented.

    The message is the meme is this – Even if God existed, I would fight against him. It emphasizes the secondary role of evidence.

    Nothing here suggests the “demands” for evidence aren’t sincere.

    It suggests they are irrelevant.

    But, even so, a smokescreen for what? What are the calls for evidence and rational thinking a smokescreen for?

    It’s how a closed-minded, anti-religious, anti-theistic movement can try to create the illusion that are merely open minded atheists committed to reason.

    “Even if God’s existence could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the New Atheist would continue to deny God’s existence.”

    This is completely contrary to what the meme says.

    You are quote-mining. Consider it in context:

    But how does an anti-theist fight against an omnipotent being?…..Another way to fight is to deny the existence of God. That would seem to be the ultimate attack on the omnipotent being. Even if God’s existence could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the New Atheist would continue to deny God’s existence.

    My point follows from the meme’s call to fight against the bastard God. One way to fight is to deny the Cosmic Bastard’s existence and get others to do likewise. Atheism thus becomes a weapon of the anti-theists. How else did you think the anti-theists would fight an omnipotent being? With their super duper-sized flamethrower?

    “They cannot admit there is any evidence of God’s existence because that weakens their ultimate weapon”

    This is made up.

    Yet it makes sense. An anti-theist would have very little to fight against God with and a spreading atheism would be among their most powerful of weapons. In fact, why would the anti-theist admit there was evidence for God?

    It’s only related to the meme in the more peripheral sense of the word and is not congruent with with meme. There is nothing in the meme about denial of evidence.

    The meme is about fighting against God. And denying evidence of God’s existence would indeed be one way for an anti-theist to fight against God. Getting others to deny God’s existence would be even better.

  23. Allallt says:

    Of course not. If God were good in some meaningful way (other than ‘I am what I am’) I wouldn’t object.
    But that doesn’t address my point of the vacuous definition of “good” in the original context.

  24. Allallt says:

    So, to approach this differently:
    Would you say New Atheists’ dissatisfaction with the moral description of God necessarily results in the suppression of evidence and belief in that God?
    Would you also say that using this suppression as a battle-plan is explicitly mentioned in this meme?

    Are you willing to consider that your answers here are speculative or false?

  25. Allallt says:

    Of course not. If God were good in some meaningful way (other than ‘I am what I am’) I wouldn’t object.
    But that doesn’t address my point of the vacuous definition of “good” in the original context.
    Why is the Anselmian God maximally moral and not maximally evil? What does the Anselm ontological argument tell us about the content of morality? Would you be comfortable calling homophobia, misogyny and sadism moral, just because that is the implication of the Anselm’s sophistry and rhetoric?

  26. GM says:

    Allallt, the big problem here is, we disagree with the charges that God is actually sadistic, misogynistic or “homophobic.” (having a sexual ethic does not necessitate fear. You can disagree with the ethic, but you’ll need a different word.)

    I would be vaguely interested in talking about why we disagree, based on scripture, but you’ve decided that you know more about the Bible than us, so, what exactly would the point of that be?

  27. TFBW says:

    Allallt said:

    Of course not. If God were good in some meaningful way (other than ‘I am what I am’) I wouldn’t object.

    Excellent. That would have been a conversation-killer had it been otherwise. So if God were both real and good, there would be no cause to be anti-theistic. This is, I hope, something we can agree on. I don’t take it for granted that I would get the same answer from, say, Jerry Coyne. He might not disagree, explicitly, but he could well refuse to answer the question.

    But that doesn’t address my point of the vacuous definition of “good” in the original context.

    Well then, perhaps we can focus on that problem. I’m not sure what you require in order to make a definition of “good” non-vacuous. It seems to me that you want a definition which conforms to a certain set of absolute truths. That is, there are certain things which can not be good, even if God does them. Sadism, for example, can not be good, even if God is sadistic. Conversely, God can not be good if he is sadistic, because sadism can not be good. That is, no moral framework can be sound if it allows sadism to be classified as “good”: the evilness of sadism is absolute.

    Am I on the right track here, or am I misunderstanding?

  28. Allallt says:

    TFBW – That is certainly on the right track. Although, the discussion of moral philosophy isn’t an easy one. I’d be interested to see where you go with this. You’d need to define morality in such a way as to not make it circularly rely on God–‘God is moral because morality is defined by God’–and have actual content that allows us to say something is immoral.

    GM – I am not claiming to know more about the Bible than you. I am claiming to not accept the Anselmian definition of morality* because it is circular and to honestly evaluate what I do know from the BIble. By implication, I am suggesting that you happily accept a circular and content-free definition of morality–‘God is moral because morality is defined by God’–and as a result are not willing to honestly evaluate what you do know of the Bible.
    *It’s not really the Anselmian definition of morality, it is the definition that the Bible states: “You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:68)

  29. TFBW says:

    Allallt said:

    That is certainly on the right track. Although, the discussion of moral philosophy isn’t an easy one. I’d be interested to see where you go with this.

    Well, if we need to judge God’s behaviour (or any other claims as to what is moral) against a background of moral absolutes, then I’m wondering what sort of thing this absolute moral frame of reference is, and how we can know it. How is it that you know that sadism is necessarily evil, for example? Is this empirical knowledge, like the observation that the sky is blue, or is it more along the lines of analytical knowledge, such as a conclusion which follows necessarily from premises? Or is it, perhaps, some other kind of knowledge entirely?

  30. GM says:

    I was going to ask the same thing: how would an appeal to some other absolute be any less “circular” than appealing to God?

    Mind you, we appeal to God as the basis of morality because He is the source and basis of goods. As in, He is love and the source of love, He is life and the source of the life. “I am that I Am” is not circular in this case because that is specifically referring to God’s “source-ness.” Without the state of being the basis of everything else’s potentiality, there would be no existence of goods to manifest in the first place. The only way God can truly be ruled evil is if you think non-existence is better than existence.

  31. GM says:

    Also, to clarify, Anselm’s argument DOES necessitate some independent assertions of value judgements: the argument only states that God has whatever attributes that are better to have than to lack, but it doesn’t in of itself say what those attributes are. In its most raw state, you could feed almost any “attribute” into the ontological argument and have its maximized form attributed to God, depending on the positive value judgement of that attribute. The argument would “work” if you could fit something that you thought was good as long as it didn’t contradict other attributes. And because of that, I do have some caveats with some of Anselm’s conclusions about the nature of God.

    But, for the sake of this discussion, the ontological argument can still function: it is better to be maximally moral than not, and God being the highest being, He is thus maximally moral. The key is that the “betterness” of maximally moral is just a brute fact. If it isn’t show why not.

  32. GM says:

    The question then becomes “What happens when God does something that I think is immoral?” and to be sure, it’s a salient question, but comes with a lot of baggage.

    This is where I find Anselm’s argument to be of very specific and limited use. It is merely tempering, in so far as it says “You are not maximally moral, God is maximally moral, His judgement ontologically outweighs yours by virtue of the possibility that you are simply mistaken as where God cannot be mistaken.” But that only sets the stage and it would be easy to assume then that God has no interest in your concerns. He does, but also and only among His other concerns.

    But thankfully I don’t need to appeal to Anselm indefinitely. The witness of scripture can be confusing, but it’s only confusing as far as we unwittingly underestimate our own cultural presumptions of appropriate METHOD. I can say without a doubt that God does not hate women, or consider them less than men, based on agreed-upon paradigms within scripture. I can know God is not a sadist for the same reasons. The original created order was one of men and women being equal, working and creating without toil and with shared pleasure. That is also the eschatological vision of both the OT and NT.

    The confusion comes in with the WAYS that God operates in His project to work with mankind in the interim between the fall and the restoration of creation. The problem is, critics tend to ask us to justify certain things in scripture INTO other paradigms that had no bearing on the decisions God was making at the time. Throw in very myopic and modern concepts of “power,” and a refusal to actually deal with historical realities within the scope of God’s project, along with what God considers to be necessary aspects of God’s project, and the conversation devolves into a screaming match.

  33. Michael says:

    So, to approach this differently:

    Would you say New Atheists’ dissatisfaction with the moral description of God necessarily results in the suppression of evidence and belief in that God?

    No. There is no necessary relationship between the two.

    Would you also say that using this suppression as a battle-plan is explicitly mentioned in this meme?

    No. But the meme explicitly raises the issue of anti-theists fighting against God. And question that naturally follows from it is, “How do you plan to fight against an omnipotent being?” That is what I focused on.

    Are you willing to consider that your answers here are speculative or false?

    Sure. But the speculation is reasonable and I don’t see any good reason to think there could never exist anti-theists who would use atheism as part of their fight strategy. You would have to make that case.

  34. Allallt says:

    GM – why is morality better than evil? If you can’t answer that, then the Ontological argument could argue for maximal evil instead of maximal morality. If it can argue for two things that are the negation of each other, then it doesn’t work as an argument.
    To argue that God is moral instead of evil, other people I have spoken to rely on their conception that morality is better than evil (‘Do you really think evil could be better than morality?’). But, in this context, that is a subjective call. You take a different approach and simply say that being moral is better than being evil, and call that a brute fact (and then say it remains true unless I can demonstrate its falsehood–I’m sure you’re aware of the philosophical bankruptcy of that approach). Well, at least you’re being original.

    TFBW – As I said, morality is a complex subject. I don’t necessarily know what the frames of references could be. What I do know, however, is that is does not have to be absolute to be objective. I’ve written about it on my blog and other places. Maybe try this (http://atheistenquiry.org/2013/11/10/allallt-believes-in-objective-morality/) for now

  35. TFBW says:

    Allallt said:

    As I said, morality is a complex subject. I don’t necessarily know what the frames of references could be. What I do know, however, is that is does not have to be absolute to be objective.

    I’m happy to acknowledge a distinction between “objective” (vs “subjective”) and “absolute” (vs “relative”). However, if you’re working from a position of objective relativism (rather than objective absolutism), then knowledge of the frames of reference becomes even more important, because moral statements only have a truth value given a frame of reference. If you don’t even know what the frames of reference could be, then you’d be necessarily agnostic about the truth of any particular moral claim, since you wouldn’t have any frame of reference in which to evaluate it.

    I deduce that you are not only a moral objectivist, but also an absolutist, because you’ve made numerous moral claims, and fully expect me to accept them as objectively true in some way, without a frame of reference. The essay to which you refer also seems to be absolutely rather than relatively phrased. If I’m completely wrong about this, then please voice your objections, but it seems to me that you have a much easier position to defend if you declare an absolute rather than relative morality.

    Going further, I am led to understand (by your essay) that the absolute moral framework which you apply is that of “wellbeing”. Goodness is synonymous with the promotion of wellbeing. This appears to be a consequentialist morality, although it may not be. A question which might clarify the issue is, “if I intend harm but actually promote wellbeing, have I done good or evil relative to someone who intended to promote wellbeing but actually caused harm?” If you don’t have a definite answer to that, it’s not a problem at this time, since nothing bears directly on it yet.

    I could challenge you directly on your claim that goodness is synonymous with the promotion of wellbeing, but that way lies moral scepticism, and I don’t see that as a productive direction. Instead, I’ll restrain my challenges to two lines of questioning: given your formulation of morality, (1) is God (even the Biblical God) actually evil, and (2) are there things which you consider evil, even though they meet your criteria for good? I trust that these seem like fair challenges.

    Before going any further, however, I have an important clarifying question with regards to “wellbeing”. I’ll ignore the deeper problems with the concept for now, and be satisfied that I have the gist of what you mean, but even given that, the calculus of wellbeing is not intuitively obvious to me. For example, a quick and painless death doesn’t cause suffering to the victim, and (on materialism, at least) prevents all possible future pleasure and suffering. What combination of actions maximises wellbeing in relation to a balance of pleasure, displeasure, and an end to both? Clearly it is bad to kill a person with a net pleasurable existence, or even an unhappy person with the prospect of a better future, but when prospects are looking dim, when does it become a good thing to put the person out of their misery?

    Bear in mind that I’m asking this in order to better seek challenges of type (1) and (2), mentioned above. I don’t want it to be a trick question.

  36. GM says:

    Uhhh. I mean, both Anselm and Aquinas took a prima facie approach to some things being better than others. They freely admit this. Of course it’s subjective, but it’s not a wild and hyper-personalized view. Utilitarians do it all the time. “Happiness is just obviously better than suffering.” BOOM! You have a school of ethical philosophy. Your entire essay on objective morality is based on this very subjective assumption that life and existence is better than death and nonexistence.

    If someone tried to say “WELL WHY NOT SAY EVIL IS BETTER THAN GOOD HURR DURR?!” Anselm would/should say “You’re being an idiot.” Just because Anselm expects a certain modicum of intelligence and a healthy mind to engage with the argument doesn’t mean the argument falls apart because someone tries to pull a fast one, or is, in fact, a moron or psychopath. You yourself in this thread pointed out that trying to say evil was better than good could only be a product of sophistry. So don’t go and appeal to that very sophistry as a serious problem for me, and call me philosophically bankrupt for taking the exact same position as you. That’s obnoxious.

    The religious project is about connecting to the objective BASIS (or The Object) of our subjective experience. It doesn’t mean trading in all subjective conclusions for attempting to view everything objectively, because that’s impossible.

    I also didn’t say being maximally moral is better than being EVIL. I said being maximally moral is better than not being maximally moral. As in, it’s better than being kind of moral, or mostly moral. It’s compared to all other states pertaining to morality.

    I take that as a brute fact. I think it just is. I can assume that from my couch and then go out in the world and see that being immoral ranges everywhere from being annoying to being catastrophic, and being morally good ranges from warm-and-fuzzy results to awe-inspiring. I have absolutely zero reason to consider the inverse as true precisely because the justification of the position is affirmed every moment of every day.

  37. GM says:

    The more I think about this, the more the question of “Why is moral excellence better than moral badness?” reveals itself to be word games: The question defeats the definitions of the words. You could say “I don’t think this thing considered good is actually good, I think it’s bad.” or “I don’t care about good, I prefer bad because I like the way something bad makes me feel.” or “There is no good and there is no bad.” To say “Bad is ontologically better than good.” is meaningless.

  38. Isaac says:

    As much as this hurts the ability of certain people to muddy the waters and obfuscate endlessly…morality really isn’t complicated. It’s just not.

    It’s so uncomplicated that ancient cultures have independently and separately figured out the Golden Rule in some form. Not as if it were someone’s bright idea…but as if it were a plain truth, waiting to be discovered by anyone who sits and thinks about morality for longer than it takes to tie their shoes.

    “But there are GREY AREAS!” Yes, and grey areas create specific tricky moral situations. But the existence of grey areas in the middle does not negate the existence of black or white at both ends. In fact you wouldn’t identify the former without understanding the latter. Objection overruled.

    “But you can’t scientifically observe morality!” Sure, and you can’t scientifically observe laws of logic. And yet without laws of logic, you don’t have science. The physical universe is governed by laws (of immaterial or at least unknown origin.) Logic is governed by immaterial laws. There is zero reason to doubt that morality is governed by immaterial laws. The fact that those laws are not agreed upon by everyone means nothing, since we aren’t the authors of said laws. Objection overruled.

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