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  1. #1 Morality Without God?Dialoguing with a Dartmouth Professor Who Says There Is 
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    Confirmation of biblical wisdom came earlier this fall from an unlikely source: an Ivy League savant who says it's wrong to depend on the Bible. The prestigious Oxford University Press sent me the new book Morality Without God by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, a Dartmouth professor.

    (I'm going to quote him a lot, so I'll use his initials.) WSA begins by complaining that his students quote to him Dostoevsky's favorite line, "If God is dead, everything is permitted."

    WSA then argues that we don't need God: We all should simply agree not to harm others—cause death, pain, or disability—unless there is "adequate...


    http://www.worldmag.com/articles/16098
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    I would like to know more about this guy's book. Certainly we see an "everything is permitted" worldview among a lot of people. Even leaving aside the big issues, we see it in the smaller things like cheating on tests or in publication, lying during divorce or on job interviews, repetitive drunken behavior to nerve women for random sex (after college, I mean).

    All these things were done by people who did have a religious ethical framework, of course, but they generally believed the behavior was wrong even if they kept repeating it. Now, it's only wrong if you get caught. Even then, it's not your fault - it's......whatever.
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    Power CUer FlaGator's Avatar
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    His argument is based upon the assumption of inherent goodness of man. This, as a whole, is a fiction more along the lines of wishful thinking. Once you accept the reality which is man isn't as good as he likes to think he is, the whole premise of the book comes crashing down.

    I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
    C. S. Lewis
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlaGator View Post
    His argument is based upon the assumption of inherent goodness of man. This, as a whole, is a fiction more along the lines of wishful thinking. Once you accept the reality which is man isn't as good as he likes to think he is, the whole premise of the book comes crashing down.
    Anybody who has spent a few hours in a room full of toddlers would dismiss that notion. :p
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlaGator View Post
    His argument is based upon the assumption of inherent goodness of man. This, as a whole, is a fiction more along the lines of wishful thinking. Once you accept the reality which is man isn't as good as he likes to think he is, the whole premise of the book comes crashing down.
    Is it? Have you read the book? Do you know his argument? Something to cite?

    Non-theistic ethical systems often don't assume this all. They often do argue that the behaviour that we usually classify as good, is advantageous, and not at all against our own self-interest. Therefore, it would not only be rational to encourage and engage in such behaviour, but that one has objective justification for the belief that one ought to act in such ways.

    How humanity currently behaves as a whole at the present time, generally doesn't really factor into theories about how we ought to act.
    Last edited by wilbur; 12-14-2009 at 12:21 PM.
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    Power CUer noonwitch's Avatar
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    Morality without God is possible. There are plenty of atheists who are good, moral people out there-some even make an extra effort to prove it's possible. There are plenty of christians who pretend to be moral, but are not in their words or deeds.


    Ginger's comments about toddlers are dead-on. 2 year olds have no conscience, they develop it over the next few years, if they have good parents. Luckily, they don't have the ability to do much harm, since they aren't very big.
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    Quote Originally Posted by noonwitch View Post
    Morality without God is possible.
    An undeniable fact.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldwater View Post
    An undeniable fact.
    That anyone has the potential to be a good person is pretty uncontroversial, accept among a few uneducated and unread Christians, or non-theist philosophers.

    A typical Christian response to this fact is to claim that, yes, God gives everyone the capacity to be moral, regardless of belief. Its "etched in our hearts", so to speak. What they often deny, is that there is any rational or objective justification for morality apart from God.

    Of course many non-theist philosophers who advocate some form of secular ethical theory, argue just the opposite, that its theism which cannot provide any objective moral foundation, and instead gives us little more than sets of arbitrary, amoral divine commands. In my estimation, that is correct.
    Last edited by wilbur; 12-14-2009 at 12:55 PM.
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    Power CUer FlaGator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wilbur View Post
    Is it? Have you read the book? Do you know his argument? Something to cite?

    Non-theistic ethical systems often don't assume this all. They often do argue that the behaviour that we usually classify as good, is advantageous, and not at all against our own self-interest. Therefore, it would not only be rational to encourage and engage in such behaviour, but that one has objective justification for the belief that one ought to act in such ways.

    How humanity currently behaves as a whole at the present time, generally doesn't really factor into theories about how we ought to act.
    I am familiar with his works and I am familiar with the argument, it is not a new one. This is an variation of the argument that all humans want to do good and be good when in fact the basis of all human behavior is to survive and live comfortably at any cost.

    Why would a society create a set of ethics and morals that it is basically incapable of living up to? It may create a set of rules that it feels will preserve the society but it will not, by nature, apply those same set of rules to different societies and the rules of social behavior would probably be different between groups. Man is basically bad. I'm not speaking of individuals here but of mankind as a whole. The history of man is a history of war. It's a history of wanting something that some one else has and a willingness to do anything to get it.

    Is there is on example of a non-theistic ethical system that has ever worked. Also why is the need for a deity common to just about all cultures? I've read some of that crap about needing to control nature and nature worship being the precursor of to day's theologies but worship of those gods still doesn't explain how things like 'love that neighbor as yourself' and 'remember the sabbath and keep it holy' came in to being
    Last edited by FlaGator; 12-14-2009 at 01:01 PM.

    I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
    C. S. Lewis
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    Quote Originally Posted by noonwitch View Post
    Morality without God is possible. There are plenty of atheists who are good, moral people out there-some even make an extra effort to prove it's possible. There are plenty of christians who pretend to be moral, but are not in their words or deeds.


    Ginger's comments about toddlers are dead-on. 2 year olds have no conscience, they develop it over the next few years, if they have good parents. Luckily, they don't have the ability to do much harm, since they aren't very big.
    The book in question is not dealing with individuals but with societies and mankind in general. I am in no way saying that there aren't good atheists, or pagans or agnostics and I 'm not saying that there aren't evil people who are christians. The question here, as I interpret things, can a moral structure for be derived if there is no God and that death is all we have to look foward to.

    I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
    C. S. Lewis
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