Saving Time and Frustration – Assessing the Worthiness of Debating

I feel for us free-thinkers, I really do. We usually have the best arguments, and most of us are willing to admit that we’re wrong when we don’t. Then why is it that when arguing with believers, even when they’re faced with more than enough reason and evidence that they should at least start to question their beliefs, they don’t budge at all. Not only have we not convinced them of anything, they may in fact hold onto their beliefs with more certainty than before. It’s frustrating to engage in a debate, particularly online, for pages and pages, only to be met at the end of the conversation with the equivalent of “You have good arguments, but I still don’t believe you”. A typical and greatly simplified conversation may go something like this:

God-Believer (GB): I believe in God.
Free-Thinker (FT): I don’t see any evidence for God.
GB: You’re going to Hell!
FT: How do you know that?
GB: It says so in the Bible.
FT: Well, how do you know it’s true?
GB: It’s inspired by God.
FT: Well, how do you know that? Lots of other books claim to be inspired by God, they can’t all be true.
GB: Well, I know it in my heart to be true!
FT: People of other beliefs say the same thing, why should I listen to your claims of truth over anyone else’s?
GB: You can’t disprove them.
FT: I can’t disprove leprechauns either.
GB: Well, you just have to have faith

Sigh, another debate with no real progress being made. I’m guilty of the same thing , so instead of repeating the same things over and over and expecting different results, we have to change the method of conversation. Each tangent of the conversation can take massive amounts of time and effort to dissect and explain why each of the premises taken by GB are faulty. For what? Why do we go through this mental exercise over and over when we could be doing something better with our time? We could be playing video games, or vacuuming.

There’s a very strong question – some would say “magical”, but not us of course – that we can ask at the very beginning of a conversation or debate. If they answer the question with a “No”, then they won’t be able to use their main arguing points anymore, because they will have agreed in advance that their points aren’t valid. If they answer this question with a “Yes”, then we can give a quick, efficient, two minute maximum explanation of why they can’t answer the question with a yes while still being a true statement. If they disagree with our explanation, then we’ll know that they aren’t worth our time or effort to bother debating them. Ready?

“Will you be putting forth, as a statement of truth, that faith is greater than reason?”

If they say no, great! Now we can get into a conversation and get some work done. We can have a civil debate, and anytime our opponent mentions faith, remind them that they’ve already agreed that reason is greater than faith. If they answer that faith *is* greater than reason, we can explain to them how this must be false, with 100% conviction.

“Faith > Reason” is supposed to be a statement of truth, but we know that it can’t be. Imagine a friend coming up to you and saying out loud “I have no voice”. You ask what they mean by this, and they tell you about how their vocal cords aren’t working, and that they don’t have a voice because of that. No matter what your friend says, they’re clearly wrong, because you can’t talk without using vocal cords.

In the same way, if it’s impossible to defend the position “Faith > Reason” without using some sort of reasoning, the proposition must be false. The only answer someone can defend this proposition with is “just believe me”. That’s faith. Ask them how they know faith is better than reason, and if they don’t answer with “Faith”, you win! They don’t even believe themselves when they defend faith with reason. Of course, if they do answer with “faith”, then we’ll have saved ourselves a chunk of time to use more productively. Kudos to them for being consistent, at least.

This is the only debate that we should be having. A quick debate about the validity of faith, and if they can’t accept this very simple premise, then it’s not a debate worth getting into. It’s not even a debate, really, it’s just an exercise in fiction. This is also good because it allows us to sidestep all of the “Okay, even if we assume that there is a God…” debates. We don’t have to do it. It’s like arguing with the friend who says that their vocal cords aren’t working. Questions like “Well, how am I hearing you”, “Why is your mouth moving?”, “If it’s not your voice, than what voice am I hearing” will all have answers, which will make little no sense. It doesn’t matter how consistent their story is, it’s flawed at the beginning, so everything that follows must also be false.

Realize that pointing this out will probably make the people we’re debating quite angry. Imagine that you’re being told that you can’t use reason, logic or evidence (all of which are greater than faith) to back up your arguments, it’s the same frustration we generally feel when our logic and reason is dismissed, taking a backdoor to faith. But let’s stop humouring our opponents. It’s an argument that we will never win. We’re using logic and reason, and they’re just making things up. Don’t play that game. Let’s free up our minds for more useful conversations.

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Is objective morality even possible if it is God’s will?

I’m always fascinated by people who know about Euthyphro’s dilemma, but still think that God can somehow choose what is moral without it being completely subjective. It’s very simple, if God needs to think about anything while creating a moral, then whatever he had to think about is an outside source. Let’s forgive the fact that he wouldn’t be omniscient if he had to think of anything. If it’s an outside source, then there’s something outside of God that God used to reason and decide, which means that there’s objectivity, but it’s not God’s choice that the moral was good. If it’s not something outside of God, meaning there was no outside reasoning or evidence, then morals are subjective and mere preferences by any definition. When there is a standard that we can judge God with, then objectivity can exist.

There have been a few criticisms that people have run across, but none of them fundamentally change the issue. If God is ingrained with goodness (and again, did God ingrain himself with this, or was this goodness external), then everything God does must be good. Otherwise, there would be no point of God being fused with goodness, if he can just ignore it. “We can’t know God’s reasoning because he is such a superior being”, is what many people say, but this is nothing more than an attempt to deflect further thought. Remember, if God is ingrained with goodness, then everything God does must be good. Any action that God takes is the most good. So when God punishes people for eternity for disobeying his rules, then this is a good thing.

Many people have a hard time with this, because the instant conclusion that most people jump to is that if it’s good to torture people when they disobey your rules, then why does it not apply to humans? Goodness becomes subjective. The common counter to overcome this issue, is that God trying to teach us morality, is like us trying to teach morality to an ant. Again, thinking about this with a few brain cells for more than a few seconds will help us spot a few important differences. We aren’t holding ants morally responsible for their actions, while God is holding us responsible. This is key, because there are only two possibilities. Either we as human beings are morally responsible, or we are not. If we are going to be accountable to morality, then we should have the capacity to learn morality. Otherwise, God is seen as nothing more than a person who punishes ants that have no comprehension of the criteria that they are being judged by. Do we think it’s just to jail and torture an emotionally and mentally retarded person for killing someone, even when we’ve given them the knife and didn’t bother to make sure they knew the consequences of their actions? Of course not, but then again, we’re not as smart as God, so what we consider morality in this situation may not be the case.

One further objection is that God gives us moral rules that are attainable as humans, but that runs into issues as well. Either we’ll be accountable to the morality that God applies to himself, or we’ll be accountable for a version of morality he thinks that we’re capable of handling. The first option doesn’t speak very highly of the goodness that’s fused with God, as mentioned above. But, if God is judging us by an alternate version of morality than ethics that is not universal, we have a few issues, the most important is that the rules are just made up and arbitrary, and again, subjective.

Thoughts?

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you…

… without a dope blog to vent through. Okay, so anyone of the 6 people who read my blog will be pleased to learn that I’m writing in this anonymous space again.I can’t promise I’ll keep doing it, but who knows.

I find myself having more and more discussions about religion for some reason. I mean, it’s always been an interest of mine, but lately it’s at the forefront of many of my cyber-interactions. One of the topics that I’m commonly seeing is about either objective morality, or that without God, there can be no morality. Now, I’m sure this has been touched upon by more eloquent speakers (or typists, in this case) than myself,. Generally I come up with my reasonings when presented with arguments, and then later learn about the originator of the arguments that I use. That is to say, I’m not looking at other people’s reasons for not being a theist. If it were so, then I don’t think I’d be better off than someone who blindly believes.

In any case, I was reading a blog, and read the first comment was about objective morality. The argument is basically that without a God telling us about which things are moral and immoral, morals are subjective, and therefore differ from person to person. The argument, however, pretty much defeats itself. The argument states that we as humans, either on our own or through society, are incapable of knowing the difference between right or wrong. Our ideas of right and wrong come down to either personal preference, or societal preference at best.

But, if this is the case, then how are we able to discern whether or not God is good? I often hear a rebuttal saying that God is the ultimate good, or God is the measuring stick for goodness, but I contend that these reasonings are hog-wash. The only two options we have for determining God’s goodness would be:

  1. To trust God’s word that He is good
  2. To use some sort of reasoning to determine whether he is good.

If a, then what reasoning do we use to trust one being over another. If b, then we find that we in fact must determine morality without God.

This slightly resembles the Euthyphro dilemma in a way, as both arguments have the possible conclusion of bypassing God to get to morality, but the arguments themselves are for different purposes. If anyone can tell me the name of the argument I’ve brought up, please let me know via a comment.

Be Happy, Not Gay

Yes, I write once a month on whatever I please. That seems to be the trend at least. I’m fairly liberal in my views, but I’m somewhat torn on the following issue. Remember, this is all coming from a guy that thinks gay people should have all the rights of straight people, and can’t stand most religion.

Anyone hear about this story? The rundown of the story, is that following a day of silence, a student chose to wear a shirt that read on the front “My Day of Silence – Straight Alliance” and on the back said “Be Happy, Not Gay”. She was told to remove the shirt or go home, and that the reason for that choice was because students were prohibited from wearing messages that upset other students. There’s a bit more to it that I’ll touch on, and if you read the link you can get the full story, but that’s it for my summary.

I don’t get this. If the school bans messages that may upset other students, then clearly the school shouldn’t be encouraging a day of silence, which upon further reading encourages pro-gay buttons and the like, in the first place. You can’t encourage one side of a view while discouraging the other, especially when the reason for discouragement is that you may “upset” other students. If one side of the message might hurt some people, then it’s a fairly simple conclusion that the other side of a message might hurt the other people.

If one person is allowed to express themselves, another person should be able to express the opposite view, it’s only fair. The shirt in itself isn’t even that offensive. It could have read “Be Happy, Not a Faggot”, which could have been considered vulgar and against school rules, and a legitimate reason to not allow the shirt, but it didn’t. It’s not a shirt that incites hate. It might be anti-gay, but that doesn’t automatically insinuate hate. If I wore a shirt that read “Watch Birds, Not TV”, it doesn’t mean I hate TV, it’s just offering a suggestion, at the most.

However, at the beginning of this piece I said that I was at odds in this issue. The reason I’m having difficulty is because I’m not sure where the line should be drawn. If the school were to allow this slogan, it would have to allow practically any slogan that isn’t vulgar. In this next example, I was going to use an arbitrary colour so that I wouldn’t be singling anybody out, but the message becomes much less powerful, so I’ll use a specific colour.

“Be Smart, Not Black”

Should a child be allowed to wear that kind of message on a t-shirt? I say that in most circumstances, the answer is yes. If a school allows a child to wear a message that states one thing, then another child should be able to wear a message declaring the exact opposite, no matter how much I or anyone else disagrees with it. As long as it isn’t hateful, or inciting violence towards someone or a group, then it should be allowed.

The point that people should realize…

Ok I think I’ve used enough tags, and I also have vague title that could be used to describe practically anything. Seriously, what is up with people using way too many (and often inappropriate) tags to describe their post-blog-news.

Is it a vying for attention, a need to have vast amounts of anonymous viewers in the vehicle of their expression? Or is it simply people who visualize their view as such an important piece of information, they must use a vast amount of tags to ensure that their visions reach as many people as possible?

Let me know what you think, and if there’s anything we can do about it?

Bill O’Reilly, why does he keep making himself out to be a tool?

Seriously, he doesn’t have to, it’s like he chooses to or something.

Check out this link on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8x14cLGh5o

and then O’Reilly’s response: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHORbWhqUCo

Got those? Great. First things first, the video featuring the child is an advertisement. The girl isn’t being brainwashed, she’s being payed to read a script. That pretty-much debunks his whole arguement right away.

For fun, let’s assume that the girl isn’t a young actress, and that she is infact a kid sending a message that he disagrees with, that doesn’t constitute emotional abuse. His idea is that parents shouldn’t be allowed to teach their kids what they want.

Wendy Murphy says at the very beginning:

I guarantee you a child that age has no idea what she is saying, that is the ultimate inhumane treatment of a child

Really? So we shouldn’t ever teach kids anything that the general public may disagree with? What about religion, as the girl made reference to. Why is it ok to teach kids about religion, and not teach kids about the harm that religion can, and does, cause.

Something else that gets me is when Bill assumes that everyone agrees with him, using phrases like “There’s no question about that” or “You know that”.

Bill goes on to say

So there’s no legal ramification, there’s nothing you can do legally, because emotional abuse is not a crime … maybe social services could make a case, particularly if they investigated the parents, that these parents are simply not suitable to raise the child, or responsible enough to do it.

Thankfully, most people have enough sense to realize that parents should be able to teach their children values that reflect themselves.

Let’s imagine a scenario, where we take a child claiming to love God (it doesn’t matter which one) and praising the Lord, and saying that belief in this God is the only thing to save you, and if you don’t heed the word, something bad will happen to you. The parents have all the right to teach their child this message. Now imagine O’Reilly got his way, and SS got in the way, claiming the parents were unfit. I don’t want to speak for the man, but I’d imagine that Bill would probably make a statement saying that SS is getting in the way of people teaching decent moral values, never mind the fact that that child would be talking about things that many people would disagree with.