Ch. 5 - "Creeds to Live By"
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Author:  Chris OConnor [ Mon Dec 19, 2005 9:20 am ]
Post subject:  Ch. 5 - "Creeds to Live By"

Value & Virtue in a Godless Universe

Ch. 5 - "Creeds to Live By"

Please use this thread for discussing Ch. 5. ::44

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 12/19/05 9:28 am

Author:  MadArchitect [ Tue Dec 27, 2005 4:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 5 - "Creeds to Live By"

Major point
I really only have one initial response to this chapter; I'll let the rest of it stand or fall according to how much it depends upon the arguments of previous chapters. Clearly I don't think it holds up very well.

On page 157, W writes, "my own sense is that naturalism is a creed that some can live by and some cannot." One implication that might arise from this aspect of his naturalistic morality -- we can call it the "intrinsically elitist" aspect -- is that a person who, through dumb luck, finds himself in a situation in which "one is doomed to live a worthless life" -- that is, in which their circumstances prevent them from living by a naturalist creed -- may find it possible to change his circumstances, thereby making it possible for him to live by a naturalist creed, if he plays the sensible knave. That is to say, if the vast lot of humanity is unable, by accidents of birth, to adhere to W's moral scheme, the only way they may be able to aspire to true morality is by first acting immorally such that they can rise above the stations into which they were born.

Author:  riverc0il [ Sun Jan 01, 2006 8:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 5 - "Creeds to Live By"

utilizing graham for this chapter is off the wall. i can understand quoting a critic of humanism, but the choice and quotations don't add anything to the text. graham at one point sites atraucities such as the nazis, mao, castro, khmer rouge, etc. are the result of humanistic attepts to create a better world. these regimns were not humanistic! i utterly despise attempts by idiots who do not understand history and reality in any realistic way to link socialism with athiesm. humanism is not about slaughtering people for any reason. in a matter of fact, most humanists are anti-war to a fault, meaning they would be hard pressed to support a war even if it were 'just' (for the extreme few that likely ever were, are, or will be... but i should hesitate from injecting too much personal belief into my response). suffice to say this quoting of graham was totally inappropriate and did nothing to add to the text what so ever. i would prefer to have heard rebutal from someone offering valid concerns against humanistic morals and values. and why the shift from naturalism to humanism? the author seems to want to use them interchangably in this last chapter, introducing humanism only in the last 20 pages of the text.

it is my belief that the concept of obligatory morals and need for action to help our fellow man was not made in this text. i am not convinced, and i am an athiest, thus by the authors definition a naturalist of sorts as well. i should be the first person to pony up support for a moral structure for my athiestic beliefs. but the words intrinsic, obligatory, etc. kept coming up which i completely disagree with. as i previously noted, the author wants to have his cake and eat it too.

without absolutes (e.g. an all powerful god dictating values and morals), everything becomes relative. beyond that, no one is obligated to do anything and nothing has intrisic value. a value and moral structure should instead be framed around the belief (in my opinion) that we should strive for the greatest good for everyone because we believe it will produce the best results for both ourselves and those around us. also, when those around us are elevated (through altruism for example) we receive positive emotional benefits, so we benefit from helping others indirectly. it is not intrisic, it is not absolute, but given the choice it seems logical for a sane person to conclude that doing something that attempts to improve things rather than make them worse should generally be considered when possible, especially when we ourselves can be put in a better position. 'improve' can not be pinned down but is relative to the social situation, location, culture, and time of the individual. this is at least my view of values and morality and i can live with myself and think i live a fulfilling life in which i improve not only my life but that of those around me when it is possible and i am in a position to do so without extensive undertaking (again, a relative term to my own dispostion).

i feel the description of the text was incredibly misleading. the back of the book introduces that text "Suppose there is not God." but for most of the text, the author assumes just the opposite. as mad indicated, trying to draw parallels between two different outlooks of life instead of identifying a completely different moral and ethical framework independant of religion. while i can not fault the author for not writing the book i wanted to read, i think the book is completely different than the full write up on the back of the book and else where indicated, or perhaps i just read wrong. in either case, the author failed to make a case i am in a position to be a strong supporter of if it was valid.

Author:  JulianTheApostate [ Sat Jan 14, 2006 4:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 5 - "Creeds to Live By"

The last chapter mainly said stuff I'd seen elsewhere.

It started by discussing the violence inspired by religion, a subject that anyone reading this book would be familiar with.

The second half of the chapter rehashes ideas from earlier in the book. He again demonstrates that life can have meaning without God. I agreed with E.W.'s conclusions, but not some of his arguments.

For example, religious believers and atheists can have similar moral beliefs. I was reminded of that when I heard ex-President Jimmy Carter, a Christian, speak yesterday and noticed how much I agreed with his moral stance and actions.

Overall, it was a weak ending to a weak book that seemed so much more promising at first.

As an aside, since E.W. spent so much time rebutting Gordon Graham, who I had never heard of previously, I looked for more information about him. A review of Graham's book Evil and Christian Ethics says the following:
What sets Christian ethics apart from other ethical approaches, he argues, is not what Christians value ("Modern morality consists in a set of values and principles that ... are broadly endorsed by all humankind, Christian and non-Christian") but the meaning that Christians assign to that value. The Christian narrative places human history within the larger context of a cosmic battle between good and evil, where we are assured that evil does not have the last word.
If you'd like to read Graham's own words, this PDF file contains the first 10 pages of his book:

Author:  MadArchitect [ Sat Jan 14, 2006 2:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 5 - "Creeds to Live By"

JulianTheApostate: For example, religious believers and atheists can have similar moral beliefs.

I'd say that's almost inevitable in our particular historical context, but that, given time, a secular morality would eventually show some serious differences from its religious predecessors. The idea of a secular morality is still relatively young, and to some degree I think it's moving with the inertia of religious morality. Look at it this way -- the current standard width of the rail system in most countries seems somewhat arbitrary until you trace it backwards historically, after which it becomes apparant that it's based on the more or less standard width of cart wheels in previous centuries, which was an affect of the average width of two horses yoked side by side. Given an independent development, the width of train rails might have been something very different -- something more amenable to the purposes for which the rails were intended. But the development of the train system was caught up in a historical development that preceded it, a historical development with its own logical inclinations.

At this point in its development, I would say that the attempts at a secular, naturalistic morality has in an analogous situation. They have inherited certain features from the traditional religious morality, and the practitioners of naturalistic morality don't yet have sufficient critical distance -- nor have the sought it beyond some basic differences -- to extricate themselves from the tradition they've repudiated. That an atheist would agree with most of the moral strictures elaborated by Jimmy Carter is unsurprising at this point -- they share a culture that was largely determined by religion. Even something as seemingly innocuous as the holidays -- to tie this to another thread -- serves to ingrain certain values which might not ultimately find expression in a rigorously naturalistic morality.

If you'd like to read Graham's own words...

Maybe we should consider reading Graham's book. Later though -- I would like to get away from the atheist/religion debate for at least a quarter.

Author:  JulianTheApostate [ Sun Jan 15, 2006 2:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 5 - "Creeds to Live By"

My point was that liberal Christians and liberal atheists have similar moral beliefs, while the moral beliefs of conservative Christians are similar to those of conservative atheists.

That pattern suggests that religion doesn't affect people's moral conclusions in a significant way. By contrast, E.W. portrayed distinct Christian and naturalistic systems of moral thought.

However, I agree MadArchitects' claim that Christian concepts have exerted a major impact on society-wide views of morality.

Author:  MadArchitect [ Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 5 - "Creeds to Live By"

JulianTheApostate: My point was that liberal Christians and liberal atheists have similar moral beliefs, while the moral beliefs of conservative Christians are similar to those of conservative atheists.

That's kind of begging the question, though. If they didn't share a particular set of moral beliefs, would we call one group of people liberal, or another conservative?

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