Challenge to Theists: Morality

I challenge theists to present their moral structure in this thread – what principles their moral system is based on (if any), how they come to understand/decide what they “ought” to do; whether or not they are “obligated” to act morally, and if so, to whom/what is that obligation owed, and why anyone should care or act according to their moral system. Or, if their moral system doesn’t follow any of these conventions, then explain their moral system/views.

52 thoughts on “Challenge to Theists: Morality

  1. Perhaps lying accusations of “plagiarism” are just fine in WJM’s world, But they’re not fine in the world of decent people.

    There’s a simple word for what WJM just did: libel.

    How’s that for theistic morality, eh?

  2. It might be. But he does not appear to have been attempting to pass those words off as his own.

  3. There’s neither plagiarism nor libel going on here — apparently my little prank affected some people rather badly. Who knew?

    I leave it to the judgment of the TSZ community: if my copying of Murray’s post is determined to be an abuse of my positing privileges, then if the community thinks it should be deleted, if it is determined that I owe Murray an apology, then I’ll accept the judgment.

    Personally, I thought it was a little bit of harmless fun. But apparently not.

  4. William,

    You should be delighted. This thread is a perfect opportunity for you to show us how handily you would respond to your own challenge.

    You can start by addressing this comment from the ‘stolen concept’ thread:

    William J. Murray:

    IMHO, what we have here are a bunch of atheists that don’t really even understand the concept of making sure one’s beliefs and argued concepts are derivable from their ideological premises.

    Says the guy who cannot derive his own belief…

    We are morally obligated to obey God.

    …from its “ideological premises”:

    1. God exists.
    2. God created us.
    3. God has a purpose for us that he wants us to fulfill.

    Let’s further assume that we know exactly what God wants us to do, though this is clearly a counterfactual.

    Prove me wrong, William. Show your derivation.

    Show us how it’s done, William.

  5. Mung:

    Hi KN, my first question would be, what is moral or what is morality?

    Mung,

    That’s your job. Read the challenge again:

    I challenge theists to present their moral structure in this thread – what principles their moral system is based on (if any), how they come to understand/decide what they “ought” to do; whether or not they are “obligated” to act morally, and if so, to whom/what is that obligation owed, and why anyone should care or act according to their moral system. Or, if their moral system doesn’t follow any of these conventions, then explain their moral system/views.

  6. Nope, not an abuse of ‘positing privileges’ (Heh heh) IMO. The worst place to publish a genuinely plagiarised article would be two centimeters away from the source!

  7. Personally, I thought it was a little bit of harmless fun. But apparently not.

    For what it’s worth, I accepted it in the spirit it was intended.

    I’ve seen you around for a while and I think you’ve always conducted yourself respectably.

    cheers

  8. Speaking of morals and morality… or lack thereof …

    keiths,

    Whenever you’re ready to issue an apology I’m ready to accept it. until then consider yourself on my ignore list. If you already posted one and I missed it please post a link.

  9. Okay, I’ll bite. What are you demanding an apology for, Mung?

    Description and link, please.

  10. keiths:
    Okay, I’ll bite.What are you demanding an apology for, Mung?

    Description and link, please.

    He can’t tell you if he’s ignoring you.

  11. Consistency is not Mung’s strong suit.

    Not to mention the fact that getting off Mung’s ignore list would be a disincentive to apologize even if it were warranted.

  12. KN not only has consensus morality; his consensus morality is subjective to the time, place and group. KN lets the local “group” decide what is moral and what is immoral. and lets the local group decide his/her moral obligations.

    I guess that kind of moral plasticity comes in pretty handy.

  13. Mung:
    I still wonder how atheists define “moral” and “morality.”

    For what it is worth here are my ideas on the meaning of moral language.

  14. Interesting interpretation William has from my POV. I don’t even see KN’s reversal of William’s OP as an issue of morality.

  15. In the case of many of these sectarians (and closet sectarians), it appears that the Dunning-Kruger effect also applies to their self-perception of their own morality relative to the morality of others.

  16. William J. Murray: I guess plagiarism isn’t immoral in KN’s world.

    I had actually assumed this was a joke.

    I guess that kind of moral plasticity comes in pretty handy.

    Honestly, William? Really? Anyway, that’s mighty fine talking from someone who’s god can change at will what is moral or not simply by changing it’s definition of “objective morality” and altering our perceptions accordingly. That’s moral plasticity right there.

  17. I had actrually hoped that WJM would respond to the challenge with at least enough integrity to give me some clue where his morality comes from and how he knows how to apply it in practice. But all I see is a transparently dishonest attempt to falsely accuse others while ignoring the question itself. And that after numerous good-faith efforts to respond to his own question. From which I conclude that good faith is a property of atheists completely incomprehensible to the True Believer.

    What else is new?

  18. Honestly, William? Really? Anyway, that’s mighty fine talking from someone who’s god can change at will what is moral or not simply by changing it’s definition of “objective morality” and altering our perceptions accordingly. That’s moral plasticity right there.

    Who would that be? I don’t believe in a god like that.

  19. William,

    I’m curious to see if you can pass your own test, as stated in the OP.

    You can start by addressing my question.

    You do have an answer, right?

  20. I had actrually hoped that WJM would respond to the challenge with at least enough integrity to give me some clue where his morality comes from and how he knows how to apply it in practice.

    I’ve explicitly detailed my moral system at TSZ several times.

    1. Acknowledgement of the experience of objective, self-evidently true moral statements that are true regardless of consensus, law, personal feelings, culture, etc., such as “it is wrong for anyone, at any time, in any place, to torture children for personal pleasure”.

    2. From those self-evidently true moral statements, necessarily true, conditionally true, and generally true moral statements can be derived through logic.

    3. Since there are self-evidently true moral statements that are true regardless of subjective or cultural considerations, and since “oughts” must be in relationship to a purpose or a goal, then I conclude that since we have objective morality, there must also be objective purpose that these moral truths reflect, which indicates a creator with a purpose in mind.

    4. If humans are supposed serve an objective purpose, at least some part of their minds must have been created in a fashion to be capable of doing so, since they can recognize self-evident moral truths as easily – or more so – as they can recognize fundamental principles of logic, geometry and math.

    5. Having been created (at least in some mental sense) to be capable of serving a purpose, our moral obligation is to that creator in serving that purpose.

    6. This framework offers a rational basis to expect that we have the capacity to recognize and reason through our moral obligations, and it gives us the right and motivation to act on them in defiance of consensus, authority, law, personal feelings and desires even in the face of personal harm. Also, it avoids the necessarily subjective and relative nature of atheistic/materialist moralities, which are ultimately incoherent and non-substantive.

  21. I’m curious to see if you can pass your own test, as stated in the OP.

    There is no test in the O.P. that I can find.

  22. And so William, in spectacular and embarrassingly public fashion, shows that he cannot meet his own challenge.

    He cannot even derive his central belief:

    We are morally obligated to obey God.

    …from its “ideological premises”:

    1. God exists.
    2. God created us.
    3. God has a purpose for us that he wants us to fulfill.

    Let’s further assume that we know exactly what God wants us to do, though this is clearly a counterfactual.

    William,

    I see your #5 above:

    5. Having been created (at least in some mental sense) to be capable of serving a purpose, our moral obligation is to that creator in serving that purpose.

    However, you don’t show how #5 follows from your ‘ideological premises’. Can you show us the derivation?

  23. Now, now. William has been a model of clarity and consistency! William, please use your reality changing powers to help Hotshoe understand, KTHANXBAI.

  24. KN thanks. It looks interesting but I am not sure I will have the time in the near future to give it the attention it deserves. Maybe I will bookmark it for the future.

  25. William J. Murray: Who would that be?I don’t believe in a god like that.

    Then who or what sets “objective morality” to what is is?

    which indicates a creator with a purpose in mind.

    So if you don’t believe in a god that has the power to change what objective morality is then what sort of god is it that you believe in? And why? How have you determined what that god can and cannot do?

    As well as solving the mystery of free will you’ve derived the characteristics of god! You are a busy boy!

  26. William,
    You might not believe in a god that would change objective morality, but do you believe in a god that could change it if it wanted?

    If so, on what basis do you claim that it has not changed?

    Also, do you have a list of other attributes of your chosen deity? I’d suggest “do lots of personal appearances until they invent camera-phones” as a good one.

  27. You might not believe in a god that would change objective morality, but do you believe in a god that could change it if it wanted?

    No.

    Also, do you have a list of other attributes of your chosen deity?

    Omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, all three only insofar as they do not generate logical inconsistencies with each other or interfere with other necessary characteristics or conditions of god or what god creates. Since good is an innate, fundamental characteristic of god, even an omnipotent god cannot change what is good, just as an omnipotent god cannot change the necessary nature of it’s omnipresence and omniscience. Another example: if knowing what will transpire violates free will, then god cannot know what will happen in the sense that it would violate free will.

    God is also the source of free will, and the source of objectively true mental phenomena, what we would call self-evident truths, like “there are no 4-sided triangles”, “1+1=2”, and “it is wrong to torture children for personal pleasure.”

  28. Why? Under what “hotshoe” morality is such behavior necessarily immoral, and why is it binding to other people?

  29. keiths,

    I’ve already explained this. Repeating your challenge over and over as if I have not doesn’t change that fact; it’s just a rhetorical ploy.

    The fact of objective moral obligation is not derived from anything; it is experienced (as per self-evidently true moral statements that are valid regardless of subjective conditions). The question then becomes, what existential premises would allow for there to be such a thing as an objective moral obligations?

    Since “oughts” only exist in relation to purpose, and purpose only exists in the mind of a creator (which creates things for a purpose), then for humans to experience personal moral obligation, the rational conclusion is that they were created for a purpose and instilled with the ability to recognize their obligations in regards to that purpose, an obligation necessarily owed to their creator and the creator of that purpose.

    It is, IMO, reasonable to call such a necessary entity “god” (and in light of other theistic arguments). Moral obligations are not, in this scenario, derived (in sequence) from the concept of god, but rather the necessary existence of god is derived from my experience of objective, self-evident moral obligation.

    In another sense of the term “derived from”, the existence of moral obligation can only be derived from the ideological premise of god, but not because one begins with “god” and then infers moral obligation, but rather because what one actually experiences – objective moral obligation – rationally requires god to exist.

    You are either continually forgetting my actual argument about morality and misunderstanding what “derived from” means and conflating two different senses of the term, or you are deliberately setting up a straw man argument that has nothing in actuality to do with my arguments or premises and how I derive my conclusions.

    Moral obligation is not a conclusion; it is a premise based on experience. The question becomes, what ideological foundation supports (is reconcilable with) such a thing, and when one finds such a foundation, one can say that moral obligation can be successfully derived from (is reconcilable with) that foundation.

  30. When one recognizes that they not only have a moral obligation, but also the right, to intervene and do whatever is necessary to stop certain immoral activities, such as, someone torturing children for their own personal pleasure; regardless of social considerations, relativistic arguments, authority, decree, law, etc.; and that this moral obligation is true and binding for everyone regardless of what they happen to think or believe (that, if they do not intervene, they are also committing an immoral act); then one has the additional intellectual obligation to ask themselves: how can this be so? What worldview premises allow for such a moral state and certainty of right and obligation to exist?

    As far as I can tell, you can either dismiss the self-evident nature and the experience of the moral right and obligation as described in this particular case, or you can accept theism. You can either say “you do not necessarily have a right to act, nor are you necessarily obligated to act, depending on your particular views and beliefs, if you find someone torturing children for personal pleasure” … or you can admit there must be a god, which is the only thing that can rationally justify the existence of objective moral right and obligation.

  31. William J. Murray: What worldview premises allow for such a moral state and certainty of right and obligation to exist?

    A god doesn’t get you there, which is why you avoid making the case.

  32. I never said “a god gets you there”, I said that god is the necessary logical basis for the existence of those things (as argued above). I’m not required to make the case you (or keiths) would have me make; I’m only required to make the cases that I actually assert.

  33. IOW, the existence of objective morality, moral right and obligation is not a necessary inference if one begins with the premise “god exists”; but if one begins with the premise that objective morality, moral right and obligation exist, then an intentional creator with a purpose (god) is a necessary basis for the explanation for the existence of those things.

  34. William,

    Since “oughts” only exist in relation to purpose, and purpose only exists in the mind of a creator (which creates things for a purpose), then for humans to experience personal moral obligation, the rational conclusion is that they were created for a purpose and instilled with the ability to recognize their obligations in regards to that purpose, an obligation necessarily owed to their creator and the creator of that purpose.

    First, purposes are not exclusive to God. Each of us has purposes for the things he or she does, and they may conflict with God’s purposes or the purposes of other people. You haven’t explained why God’s purposes take moral precedence over anyone else’s.

    Second, you haven’t explained how purpose leads to moral obligation in the first place. If I create an artificially intelligent robot for the purpose of fetching me beers from the refrigerator, is it morally obligated to fulfill that purpose? If I create an artificially intelligent bomb for the purpose of destroying Dubuque, is the bomb morally obligated to carry out my nefarious plan?

    There are two questions for you to answer:

    1. How do you get from “X has a purpose” to “X is morally obligated to fulfill her purpose”?

    2. Why do God’s purposes take moral precedence over everyone else’s purposes?

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