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Author Topic: Christian Literalist Question
MrSquicky
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quote:
Why does that matter? As you've pointed out, there's no way for us to tell the difference. If what we have is what we have, does it matter whether it's "actual" creativity or "fake" creativity?
It matters to me. I choose to believe it and that's the meaning that I have constructed. The world that I live in is completely different if I construct one way or the other.

Does it matter to you?

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TomDavidson
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Depends on what you mean by "me," I suspect. If you mean "does it actually make a difference to your perception of reality if it's true," the answer is no. If you mean "are your conscious appraisals of your perceptions interpreted differently if you believe it's true," then yes.

But here's the trick: if you're doing the latter, Squick, you are definitely making the conscious choice to "believe in belief." And that's not actually belief, as has been previously observed. If you think, "I choose to believe that some non-material element of 'soul' or 'will' exists to enable non-deterministic behavior, which is the only thing that permits me to consciously appreciate this individual's attempt to create art as anything more than the rote expression of pre-programmed circumstances," you've left actual belief a ways behind you.

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MrSquicky
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Yeah, I believe in believing. I also believe. So what?
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TomDavidson
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I don't think it's possible to both believe in believing and believe; the former undermines the latter. After all, you don't believe that belief is useful because it makes someone a better person, or because it somehow ensures them an afterlife, or because it provides any sort of actual intrinsic benefit; you believe that the act of believing can be used to construct personal meaning, regardless of the subject of the belief. There is, I submit, absolutely no way that this can help but make the actual subject of belief appear incidental.
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MrSquicky
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That's a really awful summary of what I believe. You've consistently done a really bad job of actually telling me what I believe. I'm telling you, you're not going to get it if all you're trying to do is tear it down.
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Aris Katsaris
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Free will is a trivially easy problem to solve. We do have free will: Mechanics don't constrain our choices, we *are* our mechanics, and therefore it's we who determine our choices, and thusly our choices aren't constrained by something external to us, and therefore we do have free will.

People who get confused about this arrive to their confusion by somehow imagining the brain's mechanics as something "external" to the 'true self' that constrains the self.

Self-awareness is a rather trickier and much more interesting problem than free will.

quote:
Yeah, I believe in believing. I also believe. So what?
Which do you value more, knowledge of truth, or belief?

E.g. do you prefer to know there's no actual Santa Claus in the North Pole, or would you prefer it if you still believed in him?

The Santa Clause example is the best way to understand how atheists feel about belief in gods.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
That's a really awful summary of what I believe.
Go ahead and provide a better one, if you'd like.
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0Megabyte
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" I don't "blame" the lightning (or the machine's vulnerability to it); I prevent the machine from doing further damage, then work to either find a way to reduce the incidence of lightning strikes or build machines that are not vulnerable to lightning."

To be fair, I might blame the lightning. At least, I'd probably yell out obscenities about it if it fried my car or something. "@#$% lighting! What the @#$%?!" etc.

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Geoffrey Card
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Tom, your machine analogy illustrates my point. I think it's legally and morally problematic to treat humans as though they are machines with varying degrees of brokenness. It's hard to explain the problem without getting circular (eg, "Don't treat humans like machines, because it's dehumanizing!") But it just seems like, if you treat people as machines, you absolve them of responsibility for their actions, and rob them of any sense of pride or investment in their decisions.

It is helpful to consider the source of a human choice to be something different and a step removed from mechanical causality, so that the human can be treated as something more than a machine when it comes to assigning responsibility, and expecting things of people. ("Blame" has a lot of negative connotations, and I'm talking about responsibility for both good and bad decisions.)

Luckily, whether they literally believe it or not, humans seem to be predisposed to consider each other to be entities very much like what I described. We DO blame and congratulate each other for our choices, even when we don't necessarily think there is anything more than a causality machine involved in events transpiring as they do. To do otherwise feels wrong and insulting. Treating a human as a machine feels like the kind of mental process you would go through to tolerate atrocities like slavery and genocide.

Basically, I guess I was saying that I like my model because the model you described sounds like a terrible and unhelpful way to think about a human being. I have a bad reaction when modern folk replace the words "right and wrong" or "good and bad" with "healthy and unhealthy" (a close analogy to "broken and unbroken") because eliminating the superficial buzzwords of traditional morality doesn't actually do anything to remove subjectivity and prejudice from the process of judging others' behavior, but it DOES add in a dehumanizing factor that makes it easier to treat people you disagree with or disapprove of as "broken things" whose perspectives do not need to be given any weight. Someone making a "wrong" choice, in the opinion of the speaker, needs to be opposed, argued with, engaged. Someone who is doing "unhealthy, broken" things merely needs to be treated, fixed ... infantilized, dismissed.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
But it just seems like, if you treat people as machines, you absolve them of responsibility for their actions, and rob them of any sense of pride or investment in their decisions.
I understand why most people feel this way. So I don't usually emphasize free will or lack thereof when I'm arguing with people. But the above statement just doesn't have to be true.

I believe people are essentially machines. I do not believe a murderer should be blamed, in an absolute sense, for murdering. Maybe they had a (insert bad childhood here). Maybe they (insert random chemical imbalance here). Or maybe, for mysterious reasons that we simply can't figure out, they just are the sort of person who murders people.

Nor do I think that someone who goes around helping people is an inherently, better person. They may have lucked into good parents. They may have some genes that naturally incline them to altruism. Or they may, for mysterious reasons, simply be the sort of person who helps people.

So I don't punish or reward people because, on an absolute cosmic justice scale, they deserve to be.

BUT.

People still need to be punished or rewarded. They still have feelings. They still have trials and tribulations and encouraging them with love and pride is vital. There is no rule that says that all mechanical things must be treated with the passion you award your toaster. Whether something is mechanical and scientifically understandable is completely irrelevant to whether something is a person that we should care about.

If you view people as machines, and then conclude that they are not people, you are a bad mechanic. If people did NOT treat people with love and respect, the world would be an unhappy place. When all is said and done, after all your manipulations, the only thing that can actually "fix" a "broken person" is that person. They may need help. They may be misguided about how to fix themselves. But eventually they must make the effort to change themselves. If you didn't hold people as responsible for their own actions, nothing would get done.

Whether you call that "free will" or not is largely irrelevant. For a while I was particular fixated on free will being illusion. Eventually I read an article that made me care less about that, and clarified what it actually meant.

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scifibum
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I think that Aris touched on this, but I think it's a mistake to leap from a belief that human behavior is deterministic, to the conclusion that individual perception and experience of choice is meaningless.

This seems to happen most often from the outside. e.g. (response to determinism) "well then we cannot hold people responsible for their actions", "you are saying people are like machines, but they aren't - they are human."

This is an unnecessary and incorrect inference. The distinction (between "free will" and the alternatives) is fairly academic, since either way we all FEEL we are making choices.

I'm sympathetic to the concern that softening or changing the language from "right vs. wrong" to "healthy vs. unhealthy" might correlate to a diminished valuation of responsibility, but I don't think that inheres to the belief that behavior is deterministic. We can all appreciate the way choices feel, and the levers available to influence them, whether we choose a belief in free will or not.

Someone who believes that human behavior is deterministic and also believes that the conscious experience of choice is pretty crucial to modeling our ethical and moral systems has to wonder, though, what we're going to do when machines start indicating to us that they are having similar experiences.

Edited to add:
Just read Raymond's post. I actually do think there are better and worse people. I don't think my belief that free will is an illusion means I can't also evaluate and judge the rightness and wrongness of actions, or the relative virtue of other machines like myself. [Smile] After all, such judgments influence my machinery; they seem to be effective inputs to the algorithm.

But I agree with Raymond on most of his points.

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Geoffrey Card
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I understand that it's possible to consider humans to be machines and not invalidate the need for punishment and congratulations, and other vital aspects of human interaction.

However, thinking that way about people is very similar, for me anyway, to thinking of other naturally counterintuitive things like the implications of relativity, or the wave/particle nature of light. I can do it, and I can accept it as a possible explanation of the world I can even have fun stretching my mind that way but it sort of "feels wrong" the whole time [Smile]

I attribute it to the fact that a person who thinks of other people as machines is called a sociopath, and human empathy is deeply rooted in the idea that I and the people around me are unique actors with individual value, who are responsible for their choices. Forcing myself to think a different way is possible, but if it felt natural, I would be missing a core part of what makes me human.

So while I don't think that the pleasantness or naturalness of an idea is necessarily a good reason to believe it, it does make me enjoy my religious views more to find that they offer a way to look at human decisions as being rooted in something beyond mechanical cause and effect [Smile]

That article was pretty cool, by the way, Raymond. Like I said, I do enjoy exploring different ways to think around inherent assumptions in the human brain, and the article brings in some interesting perspectives.

A lot of this comes down, for me, to the temptation some have to say, "It's not my fault that I am the way I am!" as an argument against punishment. If the entity who will experience the punishment could not have done anything different to avoid the punishment, then how sadistic do you have to be to inflict that punishment on them?

It's a universal appeal to diminished capacity. We don't punish people who clearly don't know better than to commit their crimes because of unusual circumstances ... but if everyone's actions are deterministic, then shouldn't everyone get a pass on punishment for the same reason?

(I guess one could argue that the act of treating someone like a broken machine, and thus dehumanizing them to a certain degree, is a punishment for whatever they did. Though for those who want to be infantilized, it seems a bit like throwing them in the briar patch.)

Anyway. I don't have a defined agenda, here. I'm just sort of exploring. The question, I guess, is, who is a person talking about when they say "me"? The "me" who made a choice, and the "me" who experiences the fallout for the choice ... are they the same? Is there an irreducible entity at the heart of each person that is responsible for both? Is there another definition of "me" that fairly encompasses all uses of the term? Or is there some difference between these two that creates injustice?

If the "me" who makes choices includes all of the determining factors in my past that I cannot control, but the "me" who experiences fallout is only my isolated consciousness (ie, the part of me that observes and processes the world), then it seems somewhat legitimate for my consciousness to rebel and say that bearing the responsibility for its own choices is unfair if its choices are determined by something outside itself that predates it, and that cannot be changed.

(I don't personally make this argument, as I do see myself as being sufficiently in command of my decisions that I bear responsibility for them.)

Incidentally, from my perspective, these questions seem to be less of an issue for areligious skeptics than they are for traditional Christians. One of my biggest concerns with other Christian philosophies is the belief that each soul was created individually by God ... which really does seem to rob people of choice.

If all of my choices are determined by that God-created soul, then ultimately, they were predetermined by God at the time of creation, which seems particularly unfair, given that He is also the meter out of punishments. It feels wrong to punish someone for an act that you personally predetermined, and that you could have prevented by creating that person differently.

[ January 14, 2011, 09:31 PM: Message edited by: Geoffrey Card ]

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Paul Goldner
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"If the entity who will experience the punishment could not have done anything different to avoid the punishment, then how sadistic do you have to be to inflict that punishment on them?"

Of course, if we are deterministic, than there's no sadism associated with inflicting someone with punishment for misbehaving... that behavior is built into the machine.

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Geoffrey Card
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Haha [Smile] Yeah, I decided not to pursue that spiral of madness ...
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TomDavidson
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quote:
If the entity who will experience the punishment could not have done anything different to avoid the punishment, then how sadistic do you have to be to inflict that punishment on them?
It depends why we're inflicting the punishment, doesn't it? If the goal is to repair the machine, or to isolate it from situations in which it could do further harm, then there's no sadism at all involved.

And I submit this as an argument: that if we are as a society inflicting punishment for any other reason, we're behaving sadistically whether or not we think free will exists.

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Geoffrey Card
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Well, that I agree with. Still, something in me feels like there is probably a situation where fairness requires that punishment or reward be meted out equally to people who performed the same action with different long-term mechanical processes leading up to each individual's choice. The person with the most mitigating background could argue that his circumstances make him less deserving of punishment, but as long as the IMMEDIATE circumstances of the choice are the same, it's very hard to say that the person with one upbringing is more deserving of a particular punishment than the person with another. Even if we're talking about a punishment that was devised specifically to match the criteria you outlined.
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Raymond Arnold
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As far as "society" is concerned, there may be value to saying "this is what the punishment is for this crime, no matter what," because it's necessary to create an adequate deterrent. But that's different than saying, in an absolute sense, that the two crimes are identical. And oftentimes it IS beneficial to show that the system understands individual circumstance. Showing mercy to the repentan woman who stole to take care of her family, but not for the woman who stole purely for herself, helps to establish that society as a whole is compassionate. People are more likely to respect the rules of an institution that seems fair.

I still don't think that in an absolute sense than one person is better than the other. The second woman is who she is, for a number of reasons. She may be "broken", and it is in our collective interest to either try to fix her or at least encourage other people not to become like her.

(Note: I'm actually undergoing some serious pondering of the above statement and all that it implies and I intend to start a new post about it soon, but I don't have time to explain it in detail here).

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Geoffrey Card
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There is "better" as in "more intrinsically valuable", "better" as in "more admirable", "better" as in "more beneficial to others" ... plus a bunch of other possible uses. How are you using the word "better" here?
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TomDavidson
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quote:
it's very hard to say that the person with one upbringing is more deserving of a particular punishment than the person with another
Again, what is the point of "punishment?" Are we intending to repair the problematic criminal, to isolate the criminal from opportunities for further wrongdoing, or to repair some harm done to the victim?

It seems to me that whether or not someone "deserves" a punishment -- unless we're punishing someone to, again, be sadistic -- has less to do with how evil they are than it does how well the punishment achieves one of the three goals above. If we don't think the person can be repaired, and think there's a high chance that he or she will do harm again, we should "punish" them in such a way that they are deprived of the opportunity to repeat the act. If we think there's a chance the offending individual can be taught to function more appropriately -- either through negative or positive pressure -- we should apply such pressure as necessary. And if we think the victim will be harmed further by being denied the opportunity for revenge (or reparation), we provide that opportunity (hopefully in a way that does not damage the criminal and inspire further malfunctions.)

None of this requires that we worry about whether the criminal "deserves" punishment.

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Ron Lambert
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What is lacking is a standard of judgment. How do you MEASURE good vs. evil, right vs. wrong?

A person may be "broken" if he has a chemical imbalance in his brain that causes objectionable behavior, so that he is physically incapable of recognizing reality. If someone is bipolar, we can administer certain medicines, to help keep him on a more even keel, so he does not sink into dangerous depths of depression. But in most cases, a serial killer is not a bad person because anything in him is broken. He made wrong choices. There comes a point were determined, consistent wrong choices produce behavior that must be called evil. We punish people like the Unibomber because they committed acts of horrendous, undeniable evil--and not because they are merely "broken."

I believe in a divine standard of right and wrong. The only other alternative I am aware of is using human beings as the standard of right. But anthropocentric morality requires some way of determining what is right behavior for a human--do we take an average, or a democratic vote, or go by the prevailing customs of society at the moment? I don't know any humans--as individuals or as whole societies--who are themselves reliable standards for judging what is right and wrong, good and evil.

Some people talk about conscience. But conscience must be educated. Again, we are really back to finding a standard for judging. Unless you accept the divine standard for morality, ultimately we are left with the arbitrary tyranny of human perversity, which is constantly changeable.

I would like to know how professed atheists are capable of having conscientious objections to murder and theft, aside from the question of society's laws and threatened punishment if you are caught. I think most atheists will probably admit that there is something that educates their conscience, and it is not just civil law and what they can get away with. Perhaps some of them will admit it at least somewhat has to do with how they were raised. And was that upraising given them by their parents influenced in any way by a knowledge of God, and the standards He has set?

Today's youths are being raised--at least in public schools--on a philosophy of morality that denies any absolutes, denies any certainty about God, or right or wrong; good, or evil. And as a result, we have generations of young people who clearly do not value human life. They will kill someone for their shoes. This truly is a case of chickens coming home to roost, or of reaping the whirlwind.

[ January 15, 2011, 07:43 PM: Message edited by: Ron Lambert ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
But in most cases, a serial killer is not a bad person because anything in him is broken. He made wrong choices.
A brain that makes wrong choices, insofar as those choices can be identified as empirically wrong, is broken.

quote:
I would like to know how professed atheists are capable of having conscientious objections to murder and theft, aside from the question of society's laws and threatened punishment if you are caught.
I've answered this question for you before. Do you remember?
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Samprimary
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I think there's been a marked decline in the percentages of people who are going to kill others for their shoes, and that it trends in the opposite direction relative to the rise of atheism in secular countries than would be needed to assert that it is a result of atheism.

At any rate it seems to have far, far more to do with affluence, and the most affluent countries have the highest percentage of atheists (uh oh!)

sooooo

nope.

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Ron Lambert
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What world are you living in? Sam, you report things that are exactly opposite of the way they really are. Kids killing kids for shoes and jackets, etc., happens most commonly in schools in poor, gang-infested neighborhoods. And the manifest disregard for the sanctity of human life is increasing on all levels of society, not decreasing. Maybe we might wish it were not true. But don't confuse what you wish were true with what is really true.
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Teshi
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quote:
And the manifest disregard for the sanctity of human life is increasing on all levels of society, not decreasing.
You think that we kill people less than people killed people in the Medieval Ages? Or under the Romans? Where's your proof?

quote:
I would like to know how professed atheists are capable of having conscientious objections to murder and theft, aside from the question of society's laws and threatened punishment if you are caught. I think most atheists will probably admit that there is something that educates their conscience, and it is not just civil law and what they can get away with. Perhaps some of them will admit it at least somewhat has to do with how they were raised. And was that upraising given them by their parents influenced in any way by a knowledge of God, and the standards He has set?
No.

Both my parents were atheists. We were raised with the knowledge of religion as a story. I don't think my parents ever gave us moral instruction. They never said, "Thou shalt not kill."

What an empty instruction I find that to be. Clearly, killing is not always wrong. We laud most soldiers as heroes and their job usually involves some kind of death-- often other people's. If killing was universally wrong as Moses was told, no Abrahamic religion would ever have gone to war and yet so many people have died for one reason or another, justifying in their minds-- sometimes rightly-- the death of another to save someone or something who, they think, deserves it.

Growing up with an understanding of morality from the life I and the people around me have lived, has given me an understanding of morality that does not seat itself on flat, uncompromising statements.

This allows me to understand the reality of the situation-- that death, although always a tragedy, has clearly occaisionally been an inevitable side-effect of something we as a society have regarded as necessary.

I teach religious studies and when we study Moses, the kids always ask me, "But Miss, Moses has already broken that commandment."

You could and do argue that he hadn't got the commandments yet (that's my response). But there are plenty of Biblical gentlemen following Moses who go to war and are considered to be roughly in the right. Nowadays of course, going to war is still fine, provided you consider it worthwhile.

Why assert an absolute to a youth that can clearly see that absolute is never followed?

Better to raise them in a kind and caring environment that clearly and emphatically values life.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
What an empty instruction I find that to be. Clearly, killing is not always wrong. We laud most soldiers as heroes and their job usually involves some kind of death-- often other people's. If killing was universally wrong as Moses was told, no Abrahamic religion would ever have gone to war and yet so many people have died for one reason or another, justifying in their minds-- sometimes rightly-- the death of another to save someone or something who, they think, deserves it.
Teshi, Your analysis is based on a poor translation of the original Hebrew. If you had looked at virtually any English Bible other than the King James version, you would see the word translated "murder" rather than "kill". You do not need to be an expert in Hebrew to confirm that the word "murder" is a much more accurate translation of the original Hebrew "ratsakh". The Bible does not contradict itself when it justifies killing in wars, self defense, as punishment for crimes, and so on. This is consistent with the actual Hebrew text of the commandment. I'm kind of shocked that a religious studies teacher would not be aware of this.

[ January 16, 2011, 09:20 AM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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The Rabbit
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quote:
I teach religious studies and when we study Moses, the kids always ask me, "But Miss, Moses has already broken that commandment."

You could and do argue that he hadn't got the commandments yet (that's my response).

While it is correct that one could make this argument, as a religious studies teacher you should at least be aware that it is technically incorrect. Murder was forbidden long before Moses, the commandment forbidding murder is clearly articulated at the time of Noah and at least implied at the time when Cain killed Abel.

While there are a few Christian sects, like the Quakers, that do interpret this commandment to literally forbid killing any human for any reason, I'm sure you are aware that these sects are a tiny minority. The vast majority of Christians and Jews, even those who adhere to the King James translation, have always understood the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" to refer specifically to murder and not all types of killing. This isn't even a post hoc rationalization, its justified by the original Hebrew text.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Sam, you report things that are exactly opposite of the way they really are. Kids killing kids for shoes and jackets, etc., happens most commonly in schools in poor, gang-infested neighborhoods. And the manifest disregard for the sanctity of human life is increasing on all levels of society, not decreasing.
1) You misunderstand Sam's point, which was that random murder more closely correlates (negatively) to affluence instead of religious belief, and in fact affluence tends to correlate to a lack of religious belief. In other words, you get more murders in religious, poor countries.

2) I'm not sure what metric you're using to measure respect for life, but the murder rate has been steadily declining for some time.

[ January 16, 2011, 10:41 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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The Rabbit
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quote:
1) You misunderstand Sam's point, which was that random murder more closely correlates to affluence instead of religious belief, and in fact affluence tends to correlate to a lack of religious belief. In other words, you get more murders in religious, poor countries.
In order for this point to represent anything more than a rush to judgement against religiosity, we would need data that controlled for poverty and intelligence. With in poor communities, are those who actively participate in religion more or less likely to be involved in crime. Within affluent communities, are those who actively participate in religion more or less likely to be involved in crime. I haven't been able to find an answer to that question. In the absence of properly controlled studies, its rational to withhold judgement. The hypothesis that dire circumstances promote religiosity is at least as reasonable as the hypothesis that religiosity promotes poverty and violence.
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MattP
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quote:
The hypothesis that dire circumstances promote religiosity is at least as reasonable as the hypothesis that religiosity promotes poverty and violence.
Neither Samp nor Tom indicated a causal link. They just pointed out that the correlative data didn't support Ron's claim.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
The hypothesis that dire circumstances promote religiosity is at least as reasonable as the hypothesis that religiosity promotes poverty and violence.
Neither Samp nor Tom indicated a causal link. They just pointed out that the correlative data didn't support Ron's claim.
If there is no causal link, what relevance does it have to Ron's claim?
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Mucus
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I'm intrigued by this implicit rise of atheism in gang-ridden poor communities in the US.
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Paul Goldner
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"If there is no causal link, what relevance does it have to Ron's claim?"

Ron's claim has neither correlative nor causative support. Pointing that out would seem to have fairly significant relevance to his claim.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
I'm intrigued by this implicit rise of atheism in gang-ridden poor communities in the US.

[Confused]
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MattP
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quote:
If there is no causal link, What relevance does it have to Ron's claim?
I'm surprised you ask this. While correlation doesn't prove causation, a lack of correlation is a strong argument against a claim of causation. Pointing out to Ron the lack of correlative data for his claim - indeed, the existence an inverse correlation - seems the most persuasive response.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
I'm intrigued by this implicit rise of atheism in gang-ridden poor communities in the US.

[Confused]
I thought it was pretty obvious as Ron elaborated.

quote:
Originally posted by Ron Lambert:
And as a result, we have generations of young people who clearly do not value human life. They will kill someone for their shoes.
...
Kids killing kids for shoes and jackets, etc., happens most commonly in schools in poor, gang-infested neighborhoods.

The implicit assumption seems to me is that these kids are being raised in increasing numbers to be atheist, which explains the increasing crime rate. Well, *are* these communities experiencing a surge of atheists?

Because the alternative implicit assumption is that the kids are killing people as a result of other people in other communities in the US being less religious, which I first thought would be insane, but who knows on second thought.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Paul Goldner:
"If there is no causal link, what relevance does it have to Ron's claim?"

Ron's claim has neither correlative nor causative support. On the other hand, the claim that religion and violence are connected at least has correlative support.

Correlated does not imply connected.

Examples:

  • Over the past 100 years, there has been an increase in global average temperatures and an increase in the number of people who describe themselves as atheists.
  • There is a correlation between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the global spread of HIV/AIDS.
  • There is a strong correlation between latitude and per capita GDP
  • The populations of the planet is strongly correlated to the rise in scientific understanding of genetics.

Correlation does not imply any connection, causal or otherwise. Not in any way. In the absence of proper controls, even a lack of correlation does not necessarily disprove a causal relationship.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
The implicit assumption seems to me is that these kids are being raised in increasing numbers to be atheist, which explains the increasing crime rate. Well, *are* these communities experiencing a surge of atheists?
Not necessarily. There are many other possibilities for example

  • Rising atheism has lead to a decrease in moral teaching in the public schools which in turn has contributed to rising violence and delinquency among the youth
  • A rise in atheism has lead to lower standards for moral behavior in the popular media, which in turn has lead to the increase in violence among poor youth.
  • A rising in atheism among the wealthy has contributed to the increasing gap between rich and poor, which in turn has lead to violence

Please note, I'm not suggesting that any of the above hypotheses are correct, I'm simply pointing out that there are many alternatives to the single interpretation you presented.

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Ron Lambert
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:

  • Rising atheism has lead to a decrease in moral teaching in the public schools which in turn has contributed to rising violence and delinquency among the youth
  • A rise in atheism has lead to lower standards for moral behavior in the popular media, which in turn has lead to the increase in violence among poor youth.
  • A rising in atheism among the wealthy has contributed to the increasing gap between rich and poor, which in turn has lead to violence

These points are exactly what I had in mind. It may not be atheism itself directly which causes an increasing loss of respect for human life; but atheism impacts what public schools are allowed to teach concerning morality. In place of the Biblical instruction all schoolkids used to receive, now they get all kinds of mysticism and Castenadas type philosophy, which is pretty much a morality based on a sliding scale of relativism--I saw this in my sister's textbook years ago when she was going to highschool.

How do you determine the value of a human life? If humans are just animals, and there is no God to judge us in the end, then why should humans have any real value? Only if you believe that humans were created by God and that He will hold us all accountable in the end for how we treat each other, can you really have the innate sense of the great value of human life, sufficient to instruct your conscience.

If it were not for the inhibiting effect of a vast majority of still religious people who still believe in a divine Creator, then the small minority of atheists would have no conscience at all about killing humans with impunity, whenever it is convenent, with no fear of judgment in the end.

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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
Both my parents were atheists. We were raised with the knowledge of religion as a story. I don't think my parents ever gave us moral instruction. They never said, "Thou shalt not kill."
Just to comment here, as an atheist parent, I don't think it's possible to raise children without giving your child some sort of moral instruction. Whether you choose to use the bible as a standard of morality, it's pretty hard to avoid teaching your children that killing is immoral.

quote:
If you had looked at virtually any English Bible other than the King James version, you would see the word translated "murder" rather than "kill".
"virtually any English Bible"? Nope. My Standard Revised version says "You shall not kill," and the current "murder was mistranslated as 'kill'" meme is only about 10 or 20 years old. So anything published before then probably said not to "kill," as opposed to "murder."

And for that matter, I argue that "thou shalt not murder" is not a commandment, it's a guideline. "Kill" is black and white, but "murder" is left open to interpretation. The whole point is to instill a sense that the morality is externally defined, so you can't just rationalize your decision and go ahead and kill anyway. The author may have been fully aware that killings are justified in certain circumstances, but the wording must have been intended to cause serious internal struggle when making that decision, so I'll stick with "thou shalt not kill," thank you.

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Mucus
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The Rabbit + Ron:
I must say I find your reasoning very difficult to follow. How do you square this ...
quote:
Originally posted by Ron Lambert:
These points are exactly what I had in mind. It may not be atheism itself directly which causes an increasing loss of respect for human life.

... with this ...
quote:
If it were not for the inhibiting effect of a vast majority of still religious people who still believe in a divine Creator, then the small minority of atheists would have no conscience at all about killing humans with impunity, whenever it is convenent, with no fear of judgment in the end.
So inner-city children aren't in fact increasingly becoming atheists, but they are taught in public schools, systems of morality that cause them to kill people for shoes. They're corrupted religious people for lack of a better description.

However, the actual atheists are held in check from killing by some aura that religious people have around them while the shoe-killing kids aren't.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
"virtually any English Bible"? Nope. My Standard Revised version says "You shall not kill," and the current "murder was mistranslated as 'kill'" meme is only about 10 or 20 years old. So anything published before then probably said not to "kill," as opposed to "murder."
http://www.biblegateway.com/ gives 23 English translations of the Bible, 20 of which translate the word as "murder" rather than "kill". This is not a new meme. It goes back at least to the publication of the Talmud.

I am by no means a Hebrew scholar so I can only refer to what I have read from those who are. They all indicate the word used in the Hebrew Torah is more accurately translated as murder, and should not be interpreted as an injunction against war, self defense, or capital punishment. This is consistent with the way the commandment has been interpreted by the vast majority of Christians and Jews for centuries.

I'd be interested to hear from those on this board who do know Hebrew, but until I do I will presume that the comments I've read from Hebrew scholars are accurate.

I should also add that my personal bias is toward an overall injunction against killing. I lean toward total pacifism and would be pleased to argue this scripture demanded we end capital punishment and oppose all wars. It is however my understanding that the it does not and that reading it as such would be twisting it to fit my personal philosophy and unjustified from the text itself.

[ January 16, 2011, 01:02 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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just_me
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quote:
Originally posted by Ron Lambert:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:

  • Rising atheism has lead to a decrease in moral teaching in the public schools which in turn has contributed to rising violence and delinquency among the youth
  • A rise in atheism has lead to lower standards for moral behavior in the popular media, which in turn has lead to the increase in violence among poor youth.
  • A rising in atheism among the wealthy has contributed to the increasing gap between rich and poor, which in turn has lead to violence

These points are exactly what I had in mind. It may not be atheism itself directly which causes an increasing loss of respect for human life; but atheism impacts what public schools are allowed to teach concerning morality. In place of the Biblical instruction all schoolkids used to receive, now they get all kinds of mysticism and Castenadas type philosophy, which is pretty much a morality based on a sliding scale of relativism--I saw this in my sister's textbook years ago when she was going to highschool.

How do you determine the value of a human life? If humans are just animals, and there is no God to judge us in the end, then why should humans have any real value? Only if you believe that humans were created by God and that He will hold us all accountable in the end for how we treat each other, can you really have the innate sense of the great value of human life, sufficient to instruct your conscience.

If it were not for the inhibiting effect of a vast majority of still religious people who still believe in a divine Creator, then the small minority of atheists would have no conscience at all about killing humans with impunity, whenever it is convenent, with no fear of judgment in the end.

Man, you really don't read carefully and try to understand what anyone else says, do you? You just pivot back to whatever you want to "prove"...

Did you miss the point where Rabbit said Please note, I'm not suggesting that any of the above hypotheses are correct? Basically she made some statements and then basically said "these aren't true", and you said "good point".

[Wall Bash] [Wall Bash] [Wall Bash]

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The Rabbit
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Mucus, Please do not confuse my reasoning with Ron's. I am not supporting Ron's arguments.

My only point is that in the absence of proper controls, data showing a correlation between religiosity and crime in various communities are not evidence either for or against Ron's claims. I believe I have made that abundantly clear.

If you attempt to misconstrue my arguments to mean anything more than this, you are behaving as irrationally as Ron.

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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
The implicit assumption seems to me is that these kids are being raised in increasing numbers to be atheist, which explains the increasing crime rate.
You mean the perceived increasing crime rate. The crime rate has been pretty steadily declining for about 100 years or so. In large part, the decline of the crime rate is in fact because society percieves the crime rate to be "worse than it used to be" because we are less tolerant, and have a higher regard for human life than we used to have.

quote:
Well, *are* these communities experiencing a surge of atheists?
I should certainly hope so, but atheism generally gains ground among the more highly educated, so I doubt the demographics would show the rise among the "gang ridden poor" as being a core population of atheistic growth.

quote:
If humans are just animals, and there is no God to judge us in the end, then why should humans have any real value?
False premise. Belief in God has been used to define humans as having greater value than animals, whereas lack of belief in God forces us to recognize that animals' lives are as intrinsically valuable as humans. We have an innate understanding that human life has value, based on the survival instinct. Thus the "animal rights" movement.

Society in recent years has been placing a greater value on human life. For example, look at how we react to millions slaughtered in WWII, Tens of Thousands in Vietnam, and just thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also see how society holds business responsible for industrial accidents, and the expense we go to to prevent automobile deaths.

As to how atheists value human life, please realize that we aren't able to justify death with an afterlife. "Kill them and let God sort them out" is meaningless to us. Each human being gets exactly one life, so we value that life quite highly.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Mucus, Please do not confuse my reasoning with Ron's. I am not supporting Ron's arguments.

*shrug* Your points are "exactly" what Ron has in mind. I just figured you would have insight into his mind [Smile]

quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
My only point is that in the absence of proper controls, data showing a correlation between religiosity and crime in various communities are not evidence either for or against Ron's claims.

And why is this addressed to me? I haven't presented any data yet, with controls or without. I'm merely trying to understand what on Earth Ron is trying to say.

If you think I've presented data, you're acting just as irrationally as Ron [Wink]

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TomDavidson
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Rabbit: check yo'self before you wreck yo'self, 'k? [Smile]
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
This is not a new meme. It goes back at least to the publication of the Talmud.
I can certainly remember when people started presenting this idea as a "new" (and novel) idea, and I'm willing to bet that if you go back to English language Bibles published 30 years ago, you will be hard pressed to find many that use a word other than "kill."

Christianity hasn't historically paid a lot of attention to Jewish viewpoints on religion, so while this idea may have been prevalent in Jewish teachings since the writing of the Talmud, it only became a meme within Christian bible publishers recently.

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TomDavidson
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I think you're arguing two different points, here:

1) Does the original Bible say "kill" or "murder?"
2) Did most Christian versions of the Bible say "kill" or "murder" until very recently?

I would argue that #1) is answered unambiguously by "murder." And I'd agree that my impression is that #2 can be answered "kill;" certainly the understanding that the Bible permits righteous killing is something that I've personally seen popularized in the Christian media over the last few years, and three of my four copies of the Christian Bible (all published prior to 1992) say "kill."

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Glenn Arnold
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Actually Tom, although I'm arguing that Christian bibles said "kill" until recently, I'm more interested in promoting the idea that "murder" is an imprecise term, which gives people the opportunity to impose their own personal morality, rather than an absolute rule. "Kill" provides no such ambiguity, so I think it should be the preferred term.
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Orincoro
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Why? Has the ambiguity of the terminology, or lack thereof, ever stopped anyone from interpreting the bible in the ways they have chosen to? It's the thing about literalism anyway- it's not even internally consistent, because the "literal" reading is also based on a subjective translation, and the further subjective layering of cultural morass on top of that.

So, the idea that murder is subjective and kill isn't seems kind of mute anyway, at least to me. Your personal morality is going to be the deciding factor in anything that you do- it's going to govern your actions, as well as your stated justifications (biblical or otherwise) for those actions. I don't see why people actually believe that the bible defines any sort of morality, when even in order to read and understand the bible, a person has to be trained in all of the words and concepts by other people- from whom all their interpretations inevitably come in the more basic forms. By the time anyone can read a bible, the morality it supposedly teaches is already something they are very familiar with. And, shocker, its the morality of their parents and society, and not what the bible actually says (which is easy to see since the bible has no internal consistency at all, and can be interpreted in so many ways). And while lessons may be based on or revolve around biblical teachings, those chapters were written to compliment concepts already firmly in place before it was ever written, much less translated, annotated, and revised hundreds of times.

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