Re: [asa] Expelled

From: <>
Date: Mon Apr 28 2008 - 16:18:00 EDT

Bundled response (briefly to Greg for a later post, then to Pim)

Greg, relax! I may not have followed most of your heated exchanges with the
others, but if I understood the drift, you have a burr in your saddle that the
social sciences aren't given their fair place at the table with science. I'm
with you on that! ---I just haven't been crusading about it in this forum. For
that matter, I would gladly see all the humanities take up again their
independent mantles of authority and respect without feeling compelled to try to
make themselves look like the so-called "hard-sciences" as if those were the
gate-keepers for all truth. And if I misunderstand you, then I'll gladly read
your corrections. You can even write them condescendingly and include some
name-calling if it makes you feel better. I probably deserve it. But having
been a Jr. High & high school teacher for a few years now, you probably won't
succeed getting my dander up too much. I'll be glad to skim your posts for the
thoughtful parts.

To Pim,

Quoting PvM <>:

> I see, the argument is evolving to include that Christians have been
> given some insight into a standard of morality through the Bible, even
> though the information is fragmentary, contradictory and open to a
> variety of interpretations.
> While some may see this as an advantage to Christianity as they have
> some evidence as to what morality should be, it comes with a great
> cost that Christians may believe that a particular morality is
> 'revealed' to them by the Bible and that they are justified in
> pursuing it with approval of their God. Thus we see how some
> Christians are excited about the prospects of invading Iran, setting
> in motion a possible second coming at the expense of much misery but
> heck, it's all ok, God has revealed it to us. While atheists do not
> have the 'luxury' of believing that there is an ultimate source of
> morality, Christians claim that such a source of morality exists (the
> existence of such morality however is far from self evident) and that
> they have been revealed parts of God's wishes.

Pim, I actually (as a Christian) agree with you wholeheartedly on the dangers of
 we religious people thinking we have a corner on revealed morality (or our
'special exemptions' from it that we like to claim for those special cases), but
 there is something else valuable that we (Christians) have that atheists do
not. And that is we have the common ground to challenge each other (Christians
challenging other Christians) when this grab for authority is abused. I happen
to resonate with you on the Iraq war for instance (no big surprise --I'm a
Mennonite --one of the three so-called peace churches.) And I agree that when
my Christian brothers and sisters begin to feel that they can do as they will in
certain situations because 'God told them so', (and this curiously always
involves exempting one from normal rules, and they get to personally enjoy the
benefits) then other Christians at least have the tool handy to show them the
error of their ways. Now how often we do this & how often it is listened too
may be a matter of grim all-too-rare success. But at least the tool is there.

But the atheist on the other hand has no such recourse. If some fellow atheists
thought their comrades were getting a bit "out of line" (whatever that would
mean) in, let's say, the French Revolution, then how would you have corrected
them? You could exhort them about the follies of killing off all the educated
aristocracy, but if the societal mores of that place and time were that heads
must roll, then why should they listen? (And you would be arguing with
self-appointed intellectuals, no less -- so convincing them that doing such
things is a bad idea would probably be fruitless, since they thought it was a
good idea.) The Christian, at least, has a common agreement with all who claim
that label that his positions need to be defensible from Scriptures. You are
right that that still obviously does not settle all disputes. But the common
ground is still there. Imagine a court room in which there is no wide-spread
agreement that the judge or jury have any authority and each party in the room
must decide who to throw in with. In short order, there would be no "court".

It is precisely as a restraint from what one would normally do that morality as
a concept comes into its own. If my only reason for not cheating on a test is
because I don't feel like it at the moment, or because I'm afraid what society
might do to me if I got caught, --that isn't morality. Morality is when I
abstain, even though I am absolutely convinced I could have gotten away with it
and would have enjoyed the results.


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Received on Mon Apr 28 16:19:04 2008

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