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Introduction - a discussion 
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Post Re: Secularism and secular values
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Does secular in that sense not still imply distinct from religious institutions or thought?


As it applies to government, but as Jacoby presents, there were religious leaders at the time that also saw the need and desire to have a secular government. I think there is a semantic block here...secular does warrant a departure from religious institution, but not necessarily an abolition of religion...just as it applies to government.


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For starters, Lewis Mumford traces the development of the mechanical clock back to the organizational needs of medieval monastaries, and discusses how the clock itself was instrumental in precipitating the modern scientific era. Religion was also instrumental in the development of ball and bat sports, theater, certain forms of agriculture


No, you seem to not be grasping what I am saying. PEOPLE developed these things, under the umbrella of the dominant paradigm of their respective times. If I happened to be the supreme ruler of civilization from beginning to now, I could claim that it was ME that developed every instance of innovative discovery, but it really was not me. If one has a monopoly over an organization, then that one controlling entity can claim credit for everything. I wonder how many people, past and present, who avowed fealty to a religious institution, were indeed just conforming to the majority in order to not be persecuted. This is of course pure conjecture and can not really find any answer...but I do wonder.


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Because morality must ultimately stand on a foundation of values, and the practical validity of any moral or ethical claim will ultimately require the substantiation of those values by reference to something absolute or near absolute.


That is the accepted cop-out. I reject this for myself. I do not need to trick myself into being a responsible, caring person. Religion may have been the vehicle, among our primitive ancestors, that effectuated these impulses, but it is time to move on and grasp the bigger picture...at least for me and a majority of this (booktalk) community.




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It may be that a purely secular society could have no morality of its own -- this is a concept with no contrivable practical test, as there have been no historically documented secular societies that did not inherit a great deal


This is the same type of conjecture as I presented above that has no real answer...yet. And this kinda underlines my point that religion has claimed successes by it's default position in the past. Thanks for the assist.


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If we can devise a means of deriving the sort of foundational values necessary for a secular morality from some source other than religion, my objection would, of course, be moot.


We are mooting this point now! There have been ideas presented by many for a secular, or humanist, basis for ethics. If those of religious faith would stop trying to belittle the efforts of those that do, or stop trying to deconstruct them and assimilate them into a religious framework, maybe we can get on with it already! Do you honestly think that there would not be a fight from institutionalized religion against any moral system that bypasses religion, whether it is justified or not? It all reverts to politics.

And, as I have said a few times already, even if we admit that religion has been the basis for some of the moral code to which we subscribe, that is no reason to continue it by default. Just imagine if we stayed with the abacus instead of accepting the superiority of later inventions. We progress. It is what we do.


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Religion is a functional source of shared values because it makes an appeal to an ontology that aspires to or claims absolute relevance. It avoids the problem of the apparant arbitrariness of secular foundations by asserting a foundation that is external or supernatural.


It anesthetizes people into accepting myth as reality. It stifles a search for real truth, on the whole. It is a tool of the most extreme self-deception and inane self-assurance.


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What we may have uncovered by mistake is that some forms of human thought (for example, morality) depend on a religious framework.


You keep saying this...and I keep rejecting this. Where do we go from here?

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

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Sun Jul 03, 2005 10:00 am
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Post Re: Secularism and secular values
Ken:
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Is it good because God wills it, or does God will it because it is good.

If they choose the first horn of the dilemma, it seems that they are just submitting themselves to raw power - which is nothing like morality.

If they choose the second, it seems clear that morality has a source which is independent of God.


Good points. Either way I would reject such choices...#1 because reject a claim to absolute power and a deity that would have the audacity to impose such on it's created fan base. #2 because it would show that the deity is a creation of the created...or so limited as to not, to coin Mad's argument, be an absolute basis for a faith based moral system.


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The real questions, to me, are:

What sort of an activity is it to make a moral judgement?

How is it like and how unlike making a factual judgement?


Now these are great questions that will have me thinking!


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What is enough to establish the validity of a moral judgement?


Quite simply, IMO: What is good for the survival of the group and to gain reciprocation for sacrificing something of yourself for the good of the group. We are a social species, and someone who is destructive to the group is not tolerated. This is not to say that one must forsake any decision that may benefit oneself, but to balance that decision with the good of the society you want to live in.



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Or is that impossible in principle? (Example: Is it really the case that we cannot "really" say that someone who delights in the sexual torture and humiliation of young children - and takes special pleasure in seeing how his actions destroy their lives - is doing anything wrong.

i.e. is Chris right when he says that such judgements are only valid within a society and we can have nothing to say to someone from a society in which such behaviour is applauded?)


Is this like my argument that morals and ethics are subjective? I agree. I do not condone the example you present of course...but that is not the question here.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Sun Jul 03, 2005 10:12 am
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Post Re: Introduction - a discussion
MAD:

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misterpessimistic: Religion, and thus morality based on religion or faith, may very well be an evolutionary construct. So in the end, morals come from the nature of things, and not some supreme being!

I don't see how that's a twister, particularly if the religious tradition to which you present this question presupposes that the supreme being is responsible for determining the nature of things in the first place. In such a case, the evolutionary development of both religion and morality remain a result of divine will.


If. If. If the god of the major religions, or any omnipotent and caring god was the originator of our universe, why does the old texts of these religions not allude to evolutionary mechanisms? Why is it that religion always must catch up to science? And why it is necessary for religious institutions to then accept what they had originally rejected, and then try to make it seem like it was always accepted through apologetics? There is the twist!

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Careful now, or we're likely to get back into that argument about whether or not myths support all belief structures, religious or atheist. As I recall, the last time we had that discussion (circa: "The Battle for God";) , no one could refute the claim.


Now, now...the way I remember it, you stated the myth thesis and I rejected it. I do not remember you proving the claim, so we are still at that standstill. There is no way I equate existence to a myth. I have skimmed through that Veyne book and has not been compelled enough to read it through yet. Sounds like a good story, but that is all. It really cheapens existence, as it pertains to the human species at least, to chalk up all our history as some kind of myth. It also seems strives to validate blind faith and dogma by reducing reality to a myth, IMO.

Maybe you are buying the myth that everything is based on myth?


Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Sun Jul 03, 2005 10:23 am
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Post Re: Introduction - a discussion
misterpessimistic: As it applies to government, but as Jacoby presents, there were religious leaders at the time that also saw the need and desire to have a secular government.

That's still the case, and I didn't mean to imply by my questions that secularist and religious attitudes could not coexist within a single person's frame of reference. But the fact should remain that, so long as they are advocating a secular agenda, a person is no longer advocating a religious stance. That's the same as saying, along with Paul Veyne, that people work within different programs of thought in different contexts, and the transition is often so fluid as to be invisible.

PEOPLE developed these things, under the umbrella of the dominant paradigm of their respective times.

I think it would probably take a great deal of work to let you in on the full implications of what I'm saying. These are ideas that I've only been able to refine by fairly constant research -- to give a list of resources would take several pages, and I doubt most people would be able to sustain the interest to trace my line of thought through all of those books. To make it absolutely clear, I am NOT saying that sports, architecture, theater, philosophy and so on were created merely during eras where religious institutions were the predominant forms of social unity. Rather, I am saying that social institutions make social and cultural forms possible, and that the majority of social and cultural forms that we find to be consistent throughout the better part of written history, including those which still play a major part in modern life and many which have only recently done so (like the chronometer or clock) have developed because of social institutions that were explicitly religious. Religion doesn't get to claim the development of theater de facto; a thorough study of the development of Western theater will demonstrate that it has explicitly ritual, religious origins. Not only the clock, but also the mentality that allowed Western civilization to conform to clock time, developed, according to Mumford's argument, out of the needs for a discipline and routine in Benedictine monastaries that was distinct from the phenomenological forms of time-keeping embodied in the sundial and other pre-clockwork methods. I would not, of course, argue that every major social and cultural implement arose as a direct consequence of religion, but the evidence that I've run across indicates to me that religious forms are all but inextricable at present from the predominant social order.

That is the accepted cop-out. I reject this for myself. I do not need to trick myself into being a responsible, caring person.

Don't you see the catch-22 there? How, in a secular stance, do you substantiate the need to be a responsible, caring person? How do you even determine what it means to be so? Can you premise moral responsibility on a secular groundwork that is not clearly and grotesquely arbitrary?

I won't say that it isn't possible, but I haven't seen a convincing argument yet. But then, again, Murdoch's "Metaphysics as a Groundwork for Morality" is still on my short list of things to read.

And this kinda underlines my point that religion has claimed successes by it's default position in the past. Thanks for the assist.

It's less of an assist than you think. The question that must arise when you look at the relative, almost absolute, dirth of historically secular societies is, why? Why have nearly all previous societies been predominantly religious in character? Why have their been so few (if any) totally secular societies? My suggestion has been that many of the forms that we take for granted are substantiated in sometimes unclear ways by a substratum of "religious" belief -- whether or not that meaning of religious conforms to the way in which you usually use the word is up to you.

There have been ideas presented by many for a secular, or humanist, basis for ethics.

Then let's get a list of those and read through them. This is a topic that's going to continue to recur in our discussions unless we can put it to rest. I've suggested readings along this line in the past, readings that might plausibly contradict my own thesis, but I'm the only person that has shown any interest. To say vaguely that there are "ideas" for a secular basis for ethics is no better than someone saying that there are ideas for a invertebrate basis for ethics -- until we examine them we cannot say with any confidence whether or not they might achieve what they claim to achieve. I'm not content to object to such theories on the basis that they're secular; I don't see why you should be content to argue their case without subjecting them to examination.

And, as I have said a few times already, even if we admit that religion has been the basis for some of the moral code to which we subscribe, that is no reason to continue it by default.

I'm not arguing that we continue it by default. You have yet to address my actual argument, which is that religion can substantiate its morality by appeal to transcendent values, whereas secular institutions cannot. That alone creates an incommensurable qualitative difference in the kinds of ethical systems to which each might give rise.

It anesthetizes people into accepting myth as reality. It stifles a search for real truth, on the whole.

If applied to the wrong domains, yes, I might agree. But point to a ethical truth; substantiate it according to scientific method. Religion is not encroaching on the ethical domains of scientific progress.

You keep saying this...and I keep rejecting this. Where do we go from here?

Presumably to a preponderance of the evidence at hand, only that, I keep presenting arguments and references, and you keep ignoring them.

Quite simply, IMO: What is good for the survival of the group and to gain reciprocation for sacrificing something of yourself for the good of the group.

I think that's likely to lead you into some type of behavior that are not so palatable as forms of morality. It might, for example, be best for the survival of the group to have a less strict moral reprobation of rape, cannibalism or infanticide. To a less extreme degree, it might also mean more severe punishments to those who impoversh the group in more subtle ways, for example, social censure of those who waste resources or even speak against the group. If you're willing to accept those as secular ethical stances, then more power to you, but I think that you'll find that many of the values that you currently uphold are built on a framework that values the individual's liberty over the well-being of the social body at large.

If. If. If the god of the major religions, or any omnipotent and caring god was the originator of our universe, why does the old texts of these religions not allude to evolutionary mechanisms?

Do you want my answer of the answer of the person defending those texts as Truth? Their defense would likely be that it was not part of God's plan to reveal evolution to man, but rather that man would find it by his own industry; either that, or that evolution isn't true. My answer is that religions very much ARE human constructs, reflective of the state of human knowledge at any given time, but that they are nonetheless viable as instruments in the search for truth.

For that matter, science is a human construct, although one geared towards the search for a different sort of truth.

It really cheapens existence, as it pertains to the human species at least, to chalk up all our history as some kind of myth.

The very fact that you could talk of cheapening existence suggests that you attach to it ideas that are not strictly literal but rooted in value.

Maybe you are buying the myth that everything is based on myth?

Not everything, but myth is, so far as I can tell, the basic tool in the fabrication and elaboration of all human institutions, and those institutions become the lens through which we view the world.




Tue Jul 05, 2005 1:47 pm
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Post Re: Introduction - a discussion
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But the fact should remain that, so long as they are advocating a secular agenda, a person is no longer advocating a religious stance.


It is not either/or. We are talking about how secular thought shaped the goverment. Religion was never meant to be abolished from what I have read...just kept separate from government, since there is no way one religion can speak for the diversity of this country. So now I am not sure what we are trying to explain here.

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These are ideas that I've only been able to refine by fairly constant research


Yes...but much religious 'research' I have seen is preposterous. It merely pats the faith of choice on the back.

So you think that ONLY a religious social system would have produced the innovations you list? Theatre could very well have stemmed from pre-language hominids using charades to communicate. Many of the tenets of religion and faith are borne from the early development of our species, no? Religion is a man made system, so the creation of the social system of religion can be accredited back to humans. In the end, it is humans that are to be given credit. I still place my trust in the capacity of our enlarged brain-power and size. There will be smart people and not so smart people, no matter what social institution is the norm. Since we only have a linear conception of time, and religious institutions have dominated that time, it is easy to find 'research' to back the necessity of religious institutions.

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Don't you see the catch-22 there? How, in a secular stance, do you substantiate the need to be a responsible, caring person?


No...sorry. I am responsible and caring because I want that myself. Empathy rules my actions. I feel for my fellows because I know what they are going through and what would make life better. I do it for reciprocation to an extent, but many times that I am giving, I get screwed...but that does not stop me from trying to be the best I can.

You honestly find no reason to be good to others aside from whatever god you believe in? Ok...if you want MY ultimate source to base my morality on....it is ME. I do it to know that I understood the plight of my fellow man and did what I could to foster a world without war or strife.

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Can you premise moral responsibility on a secular groundwork that is not clearly and grotesquely arbitrary?


Mad, RELIGION is clearly and grotesquely arbitrary!! Look at all the different flavors!

What scares me are people that NEED some imginary father figure in order to behave...because absent of that, they are lost...heck, even WITH that, many religious people I know act immorally. So why are they so right in the basis for their systems? Because they TALK a good game? Come on Mad, look at history...has religion helped us all that much to be moral?

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why? Why have nearly all previous societies been predominantly religious in character?


Um...because of the iron fisted control that religious institutions have had, because of the lack of education the majority of the population had in which to combat the crap they were spoon-fed and because of the natural progress of a developing species, which is very young and naieve by universal standards? I think that may have something to do with it.

The time was right in the 16-18 centuries for this to change...and guess what...it kinda did! Those that found themselves in America also found a new opportunity to make a drastic change in the way things had been done. Are you saying this is not the case? That it was some mistake of a side-track that produced this world we now live in?

Do you say that the scientific discoveries of the 17 & 1800's are just a side-track and we should have stayed with Alchemy and Prayer, since those dominated our history prior to said discoveries? Are you against growth for our speices? Should we cling to those things we figured out with primitive minds and not attempt to move past them? Do you cling to your first and second grade education, looking for nothing past that to make yourself grow?

Religion is a crutch that many people are taught that they need. And once that crippling idea is implanted, it is hard to overcome. It is like calling a child stupid...it may well effect the rest of that child's life. There is so much fear and guilt in religion that it impresses it's validity into the minds of those who, absent this indoctrination, may have realized another, if not a better, way of searching for meaning. It is all about spreading the disease, not knowing the truth.

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Then let's get a list of those and read through them.


The real point for me is I do not need a list to tell me how to behave and treat others. I feel sorry for those that do. But you find a list if you like. I would be interested to see how you refute it...because as much as you accuse me of turning off oppositional views, you tend to do the same.

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You have yet to address my actual argument, which is that religion can substantiate its morality by appeal to transcendent values, whereas secular institutions cannot.


Because I do not find your argument compelling enough to explore. I do not care if religion can substantiate anything. You can substantiate a theory with words and it can work, in other words a logical argument can be valid, but untrue, but all I care about is practice.

I am not religious, yet I have acted more to the moral code of certain religions than those who follow those religions, those that I know personally that is...and many more I read about.

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Religion is not encroaching on the ethical domains of scientific progress.


Not much anymore. The more people are educated, the less this will be so.

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I keep presenting arguments and references, and you keep ignoring them.


No, I do not have the time you have to pour over book upon book...so, rather than ignoring your references, I reject them...and I since I am not trying to change your mind, I cannot waste my time on those things I do not feel worthy of discussion. I really cannot talk about faith, because my mind does not relate to it or consider it valid in anyway to my life.

I came to booktalk to get away from having to debate those of faith...for they say nothing, over and over again.

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It might, for example, be best for the survival of the group to have a less strict moral reprobation of rape, cannibalism or infanticide.


Really? You scare me sometimes. Seems like someone recently posted something about an exorcism...was not the woman suffering from schizophrenia? And this happened right in the warm and fuzzy folds of religious orthodoxy. Yeah, faith is a great basis for morality.

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My answer is that religions very much ARE human constructs, reflective of the state of human knowledge at any given time, but that they are nonetheless viable as instruments in the search for truth.

For that matter, science is a human construct, although one geared towards the search for a different sort of truth.



And thus, they should be kept separate. I add government to you separate searches...for government is another means to find a common truth...that of how to manage a diverse group of interests. So long as religion is kept out of others spheres, I have no problem. Why can't those of religion reciprocate? You leave me alone, I leave you alone. but this will never happen with those of faith (with the exception of some few), because they feel they are required to proselytize in the name of their made up god.

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The very fact that you could talk of cheapening existence suggests that you attach to it ideas that are not strictly literal but rooted in value.


See...wow...a secularist who places value on life! Hard to wrap around? What's your point now Mad?

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Not everything, but myth is, so far as I can tell, the basic tool in the fabrication and elaboration of all human institutions, and those institutions become the lens through which we view the world.


Such a small point against such a grand existence. I still do not see it this way. This can be a very telling reason why you believe in the need for faith and I do not.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Tue Jul 05, 2005 3:39 pm
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Post Re: Introduction - a discussion
misterpessimistic: So now I am not sure what we are trying to explain here.

I was only trying to get a handle on what "secular" meant in this discussion, since your initial post made it seem to me that Jacoby was talking about something apart from the normal use of that word.

Yes...but much religious 'research' I have seen is preposterous. It merely pats the faith of choice on the back.

And at the same time, you refuse to look at the sources I'm citing. You don't consider the evidence presented at all because you've already presented a generalized rejection. And it hardly seems to matter to you that most of the research I've alluded to is not theology but anthropology, nor that my preference is for comparative religion rather than dogmatics.

So you think that ONLY a religious social system would have produced the innovations you list?

I think that they would only have achieved their present form under the auspices of religion. I won't argue that the clock never would have been invented if not for Benedictine monastic life, nor that theater would have never developed had it not been for the ritual demands of Grecian pagan religion. Obviously no cultural institution is physically supported by the systems of thought that gave it birth, and it's clear enough in our own society that social institutions quickly spiral off in their own directions.

However, whether or not "Theatre could very well have stemmed from pre-language hominids using charades to communicate," I think that there are good arguments for why it would not have developed in such a fashion -- namely that the innovation of language would ultimately make that sort of communication superfluous. The continued existence, and more importantly, development of theater can be best explained by its applicability to problems that are not solved by language. My suggestion is not only that religion gave rise to institutions like Greek theater, but that religious concerns have continued for some time to shape those institutions. This is not to say that secular concerns have not also played a part in the development of those institutions, but I'm not at all sure that a purely secular concern could continue to support institutions like those found in the arts. And again, my reasons for thinking so are fairly involved, so unless you're truly interested I'll spare you the details.

Many of the tenets of religion and faith are borne from the early development of our species, no?

That depends entirely on what you mean. Is there a strictly biological basis for religion? I'd say, no -- that in order for there to arise a system of religion, there must also arise certain social or cultural prerequisites. Now, naturally, all culture rests on the prior achievement of biological development, but it seems clear to me that the contribution of noetic development is more central to the development of social and cultural institutions like religion.

In the end, it is humans that are to be given credit.

I'm not arguing for revealed religion, so I don't really see why you lay such stress on that point. I'm of a mind to follow the suggestion of Giambattista Vico out to its fullest -- that all religion is manufactured. That puts is roughly on a level with mathematics, logic and the sciences.

Since we only have a linear conception of time, and religious institutions have dominated that time, it is easy to find 'research' to back the necessity of religious institutions.

I think you may still be misinterpreting my point, and I'm not at all sure that I could give you the necessary framework without directing you to the work of other authors. Start here: the conceptual constructs available to any given person may be considered unlimited, but in practice the available constructs are largely determined by the social environment in which an individual is brought up. A room-full of typist monkeys might eventually produce the Gettysberg Address, but it's highly implausible that Abraham Lincoln would have had he not be subjected to certain forms of socialization: training in English is an obvious example; familiarity with certain political thought is another. Religion is, among other things, a particular sort of social and cultural environment, one that is capable of certain kinds of constructs that are either improbable or even impossible within other environments. Secular humanism would likely never produce something like "The Iliad" on its own; for that matter, without the prior influence of religion, it's unlikely that secular humanism would produce something like "The Lord of the Rings". And until you've had some practice attempting to view the world from the perspective of an ancient, it's difficult to realize precisely how improbably some modes of thought are without the proper intellectual environment. For the agrarian medieval, for example, trained by both his social indoctrination and raw experiences to view time according to the change of seasons and the amount of light available, it's difficult to conceive of a pattern of time that is distinct from the changing pattern of weather and season. Benedictine monks were more capable of conceiving that view of time because their minds were bent towards tasks that had to be organized to a scheme distinct from the phenomenological progression of time. That, as a primer.

I am responsible and caring because I want that myself. Empathy rules my actions.

But again, why? What substantiates the assumption that we should extend to others what we want ourselves? (We might even add that the "Golden Rule", as that principle is generally called, was initially a quasi-religious principle.) Reason alone does not support the notion that you ought to do anything, unless it can make reference to some underlying value.

You honestly find no reason to be good to others aside from whatever god you believe in?

Not because of what God I believe in (and indeed, if that were true, I'd have a problem: recall our discussion about what characteristics I felt comfortable attributing to God), but rather because I premise my ethical decisions on certain values that are ultimately unsubstantiated by reason.

Mad, RELIGION is clearly and grotesquely arbitrary!!

If you want to suggest that religion and secularism are equally grotesque and arbitrary, I'd give that tacit acceptance. What bothers me is the presumption that secular thought is clearly superior to religious thought, regardless of context, and without substantiation for that claim.

The time was right in the 16-18 centuries for this to change...and guess what...it kinda did! Those that found themselves in America also found a new opportunity to make a drastic change in the way things had been done. Are you saying this is not the case? That it was some mistake of a side-track that produced this world we now live in?

I think that's a question worth asking. I'm not more ready to accept the notion that secularism is the natural and right progression of human thought than I am to accept the contrary notion that secularism is nothing but an aberration. The starting point for me is a question that stems from your phrase "the time was right": what about the time made it right? A possibility that bears consideration, I think, is that the time was right because many institutional notions had become so stratified from their religious origins that those origins had become obscured. You may feel inclined to reject that notion out of hand, but consider this caution: if you hope to see secularism continue to progress, it is important that it no relapse into primitive religious thought. In order to ensure that, it is important that the structure of thought which supports secularism neither collapse nor unconsciously revert to older forms. And in order to prevent against that, it is important that those working in support of secularism understand its historical development, on the principle that those who do not know are likely (if not doomed) to repeat history.

Do you say that the scientific discoveries of the 17 & 1800's are just a side-track and we should have stayed with Alchemy and Prayer, since those dominated our history prior to said discoveries?

Of course not, although it's an obvious mistake to characterize the period prior to the 18th century as one of no progress. Alchemy itself was subject to progress (and again, I can provide you with a fascinating source on that).

Are you against growth for our species?

Not at all, and I would suggest that religion has and can feasibly continue to promote the growth of our society. (Neither religion nor science have hepled our species grow, I hasten to add; both may have helped it survive.)

The real point for me is I do not need a list to tell me how to behave and treat others. I feel sorry for those that do.

And my point is that a lot of the assumptions that go into your morality, your culture, your entire way of life may have roots of which you are unaware. You seem to have reduced this to an argument of religion v. secular. I'm not arguing for religion to the exclusion of secularism. My point is that, even if you don't care to adopt a religion, anyone so staunchly secular owes it to their own point of view to understand religion better, if for no other reason than to know where the lines are drawn. Most people in secular society have blinded themselves to religion and are thus more intimately tied to it than they realize.

because as much as you accuse me of turning off oppositional views, you tend to do the same.

Point me to some examples so I can correct my behavior. My intention has been to address oppositional views, accept them where they are correct and reject them where their reasoning fails. I like to know when I haven't met that goal, so by all means, rub my nose in it.

No, I do not have the time you have to pour over book upon book...so, rather than ignoring your references, I reject them...

I would think that a Socratic profession of ignorance would be more in line with a freethinker's view of the world than a rejection on principle alone.

I came to booktalk to get away from having to debate those of faith...for they say nothing, over and over again.

If that's what you think I'm doing, then you're free to ignore me (again).

And thus, they should be kept separate.

That looks to me like a non sequitar conclusion, despite the fact that I agree. I thought that I had made it clear in the past that I'm not arguing for theodicy, that I support the American seperation of church and state.

for government is another means to find a common truth...

I should hope not. I had thought that government was a means of ensuring social order, not any sort of implement in the search for truth. That the government is a means to finding truth seems to me like a horribly dangerous idea.

See...wow...a secularist who places value on life! Hard to wrap around?

The same point I had before: that moral and social decisions point back to underlying values, but that secularism itself is incapable of substantiating those values. I have no doubt that the vast majority of secularists value life, but I think that value has its roots in something other than secularism.

This can be a very telling reason why you believe in the need for faith and I do not.

I believe in faith because it is apparant to me that logic is only possible given a set of premises, and that while some premises can be substantiated by reductive and retrogressive logical exercises, they must ultimately lead back to premises which are accepted as a priori truths. That acceptance can either be entirely conjectural -- in which case, your entire view of reality is conjectural -- or premised on faith. I've never met a person who was able to maintain a purely conjectural view of reality without lapsing into madness, so it seems clear to me that every sane person relies in an essential way on faith.




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Post RE: Introduction
I offer the fact our founding fathers had the benefit of John Locke's essay "A letter concerning toleration." That essay, to me, is the defining discussion of the topic of citizens' beliefs and State Power. Politics being Politics, then just as now, they simply did not know how to design a working political system to accomplish the goal of not having a State sponsored religion.

Probably the reason we have gotten along as far as we have, as well as we have, is what De Tocqueville found.

As I understand the irraducible minimum of Alex de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" he said the American experiment wouldn't work if there wasn't this "fantazamagora" undefined, unspecified, and for the most part unspoken commonality called, for better or for worse, Christian morality.

Folks may react neuroticly toward the concept but for me that is the reality. Lawrenceindestin




Mon Jul 18, 2005 2:02 pm
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Post Morality
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What we may have uncovered by mistake is that some forms of human thought (for example, morality) depend on a religious framework.

Morals may have originated that way in the ancient times, but a religious framework is certainly not required to develop and maintain a system of morality.

Consider that religious morals change over time. In the Old Testament, female adulterers were to be stoned to death and the male left alone. Jesus abolished that form of capital punishment.

Consider that many religious morals are in conflict. It is acceptable for Muslims to have multiple wives, but not Christians; it is acceptable for Christians to drink alchohol, but not Muslims.

Consider that modern societies reject many religious morals. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all condone slavery, but no modern open societies do so. The U.S. Constitution explicitly rejects the First Commandment within the First Amendment.




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Post Re: Morality
LanDroid. My thread is incomplete. I've not gotten the gist of speaking succintly and clearly. I had trouble finding Ms. Jacoby's thesis statement. I concluded the last paragraph of the introduction was her thesis statement. If that is true, then she places the thrust of her argument on her "belief" that there is some magical ether out there named human reason and logic that is so beautiful and accurate she is astounded that clear thinking people could not see its wisdom except they are blinded by the dogma of organized religion. All she's done is made her belief better than someone elses belief.
Whether you define morality as following the will of the majority, or following the perceived will of a god, neither definition proves that one or the other can get everyone going in the same direction at the same time, trying to accomplish the same purpose which is what government does.
I believe it is unsupportable that secularist thinkers will do a better job of leading the people than those of any other belief. Hitler, Mao, and Stalin were secularists and there aren't many who believe they went in the right direction.
My answer to you LanDroid is the issue is not about morality, it is about government. And government is nothing more than very human frail people with limited knowledge and prejudices.

Edited by: lawrenceindestin at: 7/29/05 2:53 pm



Fri Jul 29, 2005 1:42 pm
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Post Re: Morality
Hitler's Christianity

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Post Re: Morality
LanDroid: Consider that religious morals change over time....
Consider that many religious morals are in conflict...
Consider that modern societies reject many religious morals....


I don't see how any of those three points serve to undermine my suggestion that a religious framework may be necessary in the creation of morals. Until someone can demonstrate the development of moral systems apart from the conceptual premises provided by religion, it remains an open question. I would not, as yet, argue that a secular society is incapable of asserting standard codes of behavior, but it seems to me that those are likely to stand only as the writ of law, which differs in a number of key respects from morality.

lawrenceindestin: If that is true, then she places the thrust of her argument on her "belief" that there is some magical ether out there named human reason and logic that is so beautiful and accurate she is astounded that clear thinking people could not see its wisdom except they are blinded by the dogma of organized religion.

Interesting point. While I'm not reading the Jacoby book, I have been reading a great deal lately about the development of the Enlightenment attitude concerning reason, and it has become clear to me that Reason came to mean something during that period which it had not meant in previous eras. Our society is still tracing a trajectory more or less congruent to that charted by the Enlightenment redefinition of Reason.




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Post Morals
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I don't see how any of those three points serve to undermine my suggestion that a religious framework may be necessary in the creation of morals.

That's OK, I really didn't expect you to see it... ::171

Quote:
Until someone can demonstrate the development of moral systems apart from the conceptual premises provided by religion, it remains an open question.

The U.S. has done so. As I mentioned before, we have moved beyond religious morality such as The First Commandment or slavery. A secular Gov't is necessary to prohibit the genocide required to enforce "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me." Outlawing slavery went against the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These principles have held over a long period of time.

Quote:
I would not, as yet, argue that a secular society is incapable of asserting standard codes of behavior, but it seems to me that those are likely to stand only as the writ of law, which differs in a number of key respects from morality.

As I mentioned before, religious morality changes over time also. Later in the book, you'll read the following.
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The conventional local eulogy of the dead Free Thinker, Macdonald explained, states that "his religion was the Golden Rule". When the obituary notice contains those words, it is known that the deceased was an Infidel.
P267 in softcover edition


Consider the Golden Rule is a secular moral, it makes no appeal to supernatural authority. People base morals on how they want themselves or how their families to be treated.




Sun Jul 31, 2005 12:39 am
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Post Re: Morals
LanDroid: That's OK, I really didn't expect you to see it...

I'm a pretty dense guy. Maybe you should explain.


Me: Until someone can demonstrate the development of moral systems apart from the conceptual premises provided by religion, it remains an open question.
LD: The U.S. has done so.

Not hardly. U.S. legality, which is, again, a thing apart from morality, is still based on the framework of moral and legal codes that were in place long before the European discovery of the New World and which were widely considered, at the time of the Declaration of Independence, universal or innate. Since that time the notion of innate or universal standards for human concept has been so decayed as to remain untenable. What has arisen in its place is a recognition that the morality of most modern cultures stands on a foundation established by the cultures from which it has developed -- in a broad sense, from the whole development of Western civilization, including the religious influences throughout. Until there is an attempt to refound the moral concepts that lay at root in any modern cultural unit on a thoroughly secular foundation, the suspicion that those moral concepts are actually dependent on latent, possibly forgotten, religious trains of thought ought to remain firm. I can understand why that notion would meet with a hostile reaction among atheists, but to my mind it's simply a matter of historical development.

To frame the concept along different lines, imagine a mathematical argument founded on the supposition that D=c+e. The argument develops from there into increasing levels of sophistication, until it eventually arrives at an interesting and useful conclusion. Later examination, however, reveals that the foundational supposition, D=c+e, is unusable for one reason or another -- either because the mathematicians have the strong suspicion that it is not true or because use of that particular formula makes possible certain perceived "misuses" of the argument. Once we've excluded D=c+e, we find that our entire argument is left simply floating in mid-air, as it were; it has no foundation, and while we may still make some use of the conclusions at the far end, we have no justification for asserting their truth because the argument is missing some crucial steps. It's necessary either to find a new basis on which to settle the more advanced portions of the argument -- which may also lead necessarily to a revision of the upward portions of the argument -- or to lapse into a kind of mysticism that says, even though we cannot link the conclusion to the premises, we affirm the truth of our argument as a matter of sheer will.

That appears to me to be more or less the case with so-called secular morality. It essentially takes whichever conclusions of a religious-based morality it deems good and upholds them. In doing so, it has largely ignored the need for a new understructure, nor has it considered the likelihood that even the "good" that guided the decision of which morals to retain is founded on a latent religious conception of the world.

A secular Gov't is necessary to prohibit the genocide required to enforce "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me."

How does that commandment require genocide in its enforcement? Even historically, that's not so, as Jews have lived in any number of other religious contexts and have allowed persons of other faith to live within their own. There are, of course, examples in the Hebrew scripture of war and genocide against other nations and faiths, but those were typically fitted to the commandment after the fact -- I'm not aware of any instances of Israelite-committed genocide that extended directly from obedience to the First Commandment. (Plug: check out the Bible thread in the Additional Book Discussions forum; we're getting started soon.)

For that matter, why do you think that it's exclusion from the U.S. legal code means that it's no longer a part of the majority morality in America? The latest statistic that I've seen has roughly 84% of Americans polled claiming to be Christian. Morality may be reflected in part in the legal sanctions of a nation, but never in whole.

As I mentioned before, religious morality changes over time also. Later in the book, you'll read the following.

Again, I don't understand what the mutability of morality has to do with my argument. I've argued all along that morality is the product of social forces and individual consideration. That naturally makes it subject to change. My argument has nothing to do with the supposed universality or eternal nature of morality asserted by some. My point is that morality stands on the foundation of concepts that developed in religious thought, even if the connections between the two is sometimes obscured by further developments in thought. And it's unlikely that I'll read more about anything further along in the book -- I'm not reading it.

Consider the Golden Rule is a secular moral, it makes no appeal to supernatural authority.

It also makes no explicit reference to its underpinnings. When faced with a question -- why? -- the Golden Rule immediately becomes problematic as a moral precept. Its historical antecedents were founded in religious thought, and it strikes me as highly likely that the Golden Rule is susceptible to the criticism that I logged before: that it was adopted by secular culture with little consideration as to its relation to its religious underpinnings, nor as to how it should be substantiated by secular thought only. The easiest way to substantiate it from a secular point of view is to take it as merely irreducible, that is, as reasonable, without any appeal to reason -- in other words, without really substantiating it. When that's the case, it becomes difficult to provide any argument for why we should take the Golden Rule as a moral superior to any other "morality" you might posit as from a wholly secular viewpoint -- from the social Darwinian maxim that we ought to act in the interest of our competing genes, for instance.




Mon Aug 01, 2005 12:37 pm
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Post Secular morals
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Until there is an attempt to refound the moral concepts that lay at root in any modern cultural unit on a thoroughly secular foundation, the suspicion that those moral concepts are actually dependent on latent, possibly forgotten, religious trains of thought ought to remain firm.

I don't think it's possible to do that in a multi-cultural society therefore your statement doesn't have much credibility. However, the U.S. has made large strides in setting up secular morals - a constitution, banning slavery, reversing the First Commandment by forbidding heresy trials and oaths of faith to obtain political office, women's rights, etc. Rejecting certain religious morals indicates a religious framework is not necessary to set up or maintain morality. These morals did not originate in religious thought and some are opposed by religious authorities, therefore they are not maintained by a religious framework.
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Again, I don't understand what the mutability of morality has to do with my argument.

You stated that secular morals are like laws that can be overturned on a whim. The mutability of religious morals weakens your complaint about secular morals.

To your point, if religious authorities obtained political power, certain secular morals could be reversed such as prohibitions against teaching about Jesus in public schools. But it's interesting to consider that on the other hand, certain secular morals are so well established that it's highly unlikely they'll ever be reversed: both the New and Old Testaments condone slavery.
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...(The Golden Rule) was adopted by secular culture with little consideration as to its relation to its religious underpinnings, nor as to how it should be substantiated by secular thought only.

The Golden Rule may have originated in religious thought, but it's also entirely possible religion merely co-opted ancient common sense. It obtains no power from supernatural authority. ::51 Moral men don't rape women because they don't want their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters to be raped. That's a mighty powerful force that doesn't require enforcement from a Gawd.




Thu Aug 04, 2005 7:11 pm
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Post Re: Secular morals
Ah...please do come around more often LanDroid!!!!

I will add my feeble thoughts to your at another time...

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