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Muslim Women and Virginity
Posted: 03 July 2008 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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CanZen - 29 June 2008 05:45 PM

Jack writes,

I think the vast majority of people believe in God, certainly the people I know, because it just makes sense.  Sure it cannot be proven either way.  But conversly, thinking that the entire cosmos is here by accident and has no purpose at all proves to be a mentally retarding belief that immediately renders even the notion of truth to be nothing more than a consequence of mere perception as opposed to a reflection of some reality, and this results in even more dangerous consequences for human life.  All of this, in effect, is a sign of the falsity of such belief.

Just because you believe in “the notion of truth” as it might come unmitigated by human engagement, there is no need to denigrate atheism by calling it a “mentally retarding belief.”  All of your theistic pronoucements come with the presumption that your version of theistic belief is somehow privileged AND that those who do not believe as you do are somehow mentally retarded.  In addition, you have made open claims that you have special insights that atheists are incapable of comprehending (as if your intellect is superior to those who see no evidence of a god).

Yet, your theism comes across as very generic in thatyou can metaphorically make your “god” the source of everything - this strategy appears to me as making your god entirely meaningless and superfluous.  You refer to this, to that, and to the other thing as evidence for god, but in the end god is just “the universe in action” and therefore only your own sense of importance is fulfilled by your theism.  You have god and you have truth, and these put you in a superior category to those of us who have neither - this is your own particular delusion Jack, and it works for YOU!

Bob

Bob,

I didn’t say atheists are ‘mental retards’, though clearly some of them are.  I said atheism is a mentally retarding belief inasmuch as it makes even the notion of truth a mere cognitive construct with no basis in reality.  There is a difference between saying atheists are ‘mentally retarded’ as the term is commonly used and saying that their belief system is mentally retarding.  Enough on that.

As to your contention, that a ‘generic’ god who is responsible for everything is automatically meaningless, I would appreciate it if you could please elaborate on this, as I don’t understand how the two prepositions follow.

Finally, I have not claimed any superiority for myself.  God is judge, and He alone decides who is better than who.  From what I know given revelation, people are inferior or superior in God’s eyes according to their level of piety, period.  That I believe and you don’t doesn’t make me superior to you either, because tomorrow you could be a believer, and I, God forbid, a disbeliever.

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Posted: 03 July 2008 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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lindajean - 29 June 2008 06:48 PM

Jack Shooter

First of all, natural law is not a body of laws that you can point to and say “this is from natural law.” I don’t know if you understand that given your question “where does natural law say pornography…” What natural law basically suggests that there is a law that is self-evident in nature.

I agree, that natural law suggests what is self-evident in nature, but all it does is make “suggestions.”  We cannot conclude that divine law even exists because we do not know it for a fact.  That which is “self-evident” tends to get distorted when we start having people (through the eyes of their god) decide what is “evident” and what is not;  what is “divine” and what is not.

This becomes very, very subjective when we start saying things like homosexuality goes against natural law because God (the Divine One) says it is wrong. On the other hand,  most (civilized) people will believe certain natural laws are self-evident such as the right to vote, the right to work, the right to live in peace, the right to have basic needs, food, shelter, education, health, etc… Certainly in western society these rights are natural or self-evident and are believed to be basic for all humans on the planet.  There are obviously some cultures or governments that disagree with these rights and abuse these rights and most of us consider them barbaric or despotic for that reason.

So let me put it this way: natural law exists but it is hidden, we need to discover it through our own efforts; divine law is revealed to us or recieved by us from God, but it is one and the same.  To give you an example, I would argue that, like divine law, natural law would have it that pornography, infidelity, and such things are crimes or sin.

That is simply your argument because you don’t prefer it.  In all honesty, Jack, I do not prefer pornography, infidelity or divorce (for my personal lifestyle) but I do not believe it is self-evident that these acts are morally wrong thereby believing people ought to be punished for them.

As to people who don’t think there is a harm in pornography, I would say they need to recover their humanity.  We can talk about the evils of pornography if you want, but I think they are pretty self-evident.


Well, I could say people who kill animals and eat them for food or wear them for clothes or people who stone women to death for adultery or people who start wars and justify them through lies, distortions and manipulations need to regain their humanity as well.  I have a sense of what is “morally right” and you have a sense of what is “morally right” and some of those beliefs are the same and some are not.  This is not going to change.  This is how the world of human constructs works.  And you can cling to a belief in God and then claim your beliefs are “superior” to mine but this is not going to move people forward in any positive direction.


Morality tends to be arbitrary depending on the culture and circumstances. It has been this way since the beginning of time. And while I would like the world to hold the same “moral absolutes” that I hold, I know that by doing so I am being   impractical and delusional.

lindajean,

Certainly, I would agree that moral relativism seems to be the reality of the human condition.  However, does this necessarily mean that there is no such thing as objective morals?  Obviously not.  Furthermore, I would argue that one’s acceptance of morality being relative is a major problem, among other obvious reasons, because it essentially leads to a breach of the golden rule: do unto others as you would have done unto yourself, or as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said it: none of you truly believe until you love for your brother (i.e. others) what you love for yourself.  Now, you said that you don’t ‘prefer’ pornography, infidelity, and divorce for yourself but you recognize that others may.  I presume that you don’t like the said things for yourself, as I do not like them for myself, because we recognize there is something unpleasant about them.  If these things were desirable to us, we would likely engage in them.  Hence, does not your moral relativism towards such things epitomize the essence of selfishness?

Regardless, I believe that moral relativism is a problem because there is no evidence that morals are relative in reality, especially if we believe there is a natural law, and more importantly, because such belief has ugly consequences for society.  Now please don’t understand from this that I take the existence of different religions to be problematic.  I believe all religions concur on basic moral precepts, such that there is only one true religion - Muslims call it Islam.

In thinking about moral relativism, I am reminded here of the hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which says, something to the effect of: “What is permissible is clear and what is prohibited is clear.  But in between them are grey areas, unknown to many people.  So whomsoever has avoided doubtful matters has purged himself and his religion from sin…”

[ Edited: 03 July 2008 04:30 PM by Jack Shooter]
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Posted: 03 July 2008 11:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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I agree that you said that atheism is a mentally retarding belief, not that atheists are mentally retarded.  However, (and I wish I had time to go back through your postings to quote the many times) you have declared that those who do not believe in a god (atheists) are intellectually incapable of understanding certain theological concepts (i.e., are ‘mentally retarded’ by their beliefs - or nonbeliefs). When you make such statements, this amounts to a declaration that people like me are intellectually incapable of comprehending the nature of some particular Muslim precept. This is how I arrived at my observation that you believe that atheists are intellectually (mentally) stunted (retarded) AND that you (being a theist) are superior (in your natural capacity for comprehension of theistic text).

In fact however, we are both just as capable of comprehending the same texts whether we are believers or not.  Where the difference lies Jack is that I find these theistic pronouncements to be absurd, while you find them to be believable.  (Note that I do not find certain concepts to be absurd, like The Golden Rule. In fact I feel that the Confucian version, written 600 years before Christ’s version, to be the true and universal moral principle.)  In the light of the theory of evolution and other comprehensive scientific knowledge, the belief in supernatural beings seems to me to be utterly and thoroughly absurd.  If there is actually such a thing as a “mentally retarding” belief then tbe delusional (and self-gratifying) belief in deities and their prophets qualifies as precisely such a belief.

You appear to feel that believing in the existence of a god takes you to a higher (transcendent) realm of being human. When I grasp this feeling from your writings I can sense that aura of superiority as it invades your words.  Naturally this feeling makes you feel good and somehow more worthy in god’s eyes, but to me this is pure self-deception when you play god to yourself and join the ranks of “his” superb prophets (peace be upon you all).  I actually do understand how those texts would make sense to a person in that delusional state (a believer); but don’t misinterpret your closeness to god as empowering you with superior intellectual capacities Jack.  We see your superiority as well, but in the larger context we can appreciate the delusional nature of your grandeur, and so we accept your declarations as the concrete assertions of truth as perceived by you in your self-satiated euphoria. I don’t wish to deny you your bliss, but you are not living in a higher realm even though it may appear higher when you peek at us lowlier creatures through your god’s eyes.

You also wanted me to clarify how a “god who is everywhere and is everything” could become meaningless in the context of an unfolding universe.  Well, if science is how we manage to reveal the secrets of the universe, then science becomes (in a sense) the modern word of god.  If that is the case and if one takes “the science” seriously, then god becomes merely a historical myth.  In order for “his” secrets to be revealed “god must die” and science has already embalmed his spirit and buried his memory in the past.  Those who cannot accept the findings of modern science cling to the unknown mysteries that they still, erroneously, call god, while the rest of us must wait for those delusions to clear before we can move on to a better world devoid of superiority and supernaturalisms.

Bob

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Posted: 04 July 2008 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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CanZen - 04 July 2008 03:43 AM

You also wanted me to clarify how a “god who is everywhere and is everything” could become meaningless in the context of an unfolding universe.  Well, if science is how we manage to reveal the secrets of the universe, then science becomes (in a sense) the modern word of god.  If that is the case and if one takes “the science” seriously, then god becomes merely a historical myth.  In order for “his” secrets to be revealed “god must die” and science has already embalmed his spirit and buried his memory in the past.  Those who cannot accept the findings of modern science cling to the unknown mysteries that they still, erroneously, call god, while the rest of us must wait for those delusions to clear before we can move on to a better world devoid of superiority and supernaturalisms.
Bob

The first part of this is, it seems to me, a very perceptive comment: science reveals the world to us, to the extent that we are capable of grasping them, and these truths tell us that the old religious beliefs are not true.  So far, so good.  But these myths have different levels, and a factually false story can still convey a valuable moral point.  Further, science has not yet delved deeply into the nature of mind and consciousness and many of the religious myths address these areas of being.  So as I would conclude the story, what has to die off, having served their purpose, are our archaic beliefs; to be replaced by myths that acknowledge our accumulated scientific knowledge and have relevance for today and allow contact with the divine as a human study of ourselves and our highest potentials.

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Posted: 05 July 2008 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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Jack Shooter

Certainly, I would agree that moral relativism seems to be the reality of the human condition.  However, does this necessarily mean that there is no such thing as objective morals?  Obviously not.

I don’t think it is an “obviously not” and moral objectivity is up for debate. There is a thread The Myth of Morality that you might want to check out.

There is also an interesting article by Steven Pinker cited below.  While he discusses certain universal morals, (found virtually everywhere) these morals are categorized, prioritized and followed in various ways depending on culture and tradition. 

 


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?_r=3&oref=slogin&ref=magazine&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

Furthermore, I would argue that one’s acceptance of morality being relative is a major problem, among other obvious reasons, because it essentially leads to a breach of the golden rule: do unto others as you would have done unto yourself, or as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said it: none of you truly believe until you love for your brother (i.e. others) what you love for yourself.

I agree that disregarding the golden rule can lead to problems in morality but that does not make a case for moral absolutism because the golden rule is a general belief about treating others lovingly and does not contend with legal issues of morality concerning homosexuality, divorce, polygamy, environment, etc…

Now, you said that you don’t ‘prefer’ pornography, infidelity, and divorce for yourself but you recognize that others may.  I presume that you don’t like the said things for yourself, as I do not like them for myself, because we recognize there is something unpleasant about them.  If these things were desirable to us, we would likely engage in them.  Hence, does not your moral relativism towards such things epitomize the essence of selfishness?

I only stated that I personally do not engage in them and have no preference for them, but I did not say they were immoral.

Some of the moral “absolutes” that I believe in   no doubt are held by the majority of humans and I would describe them as universal.  And others——this is where the vast majority of differences in “morals” comes to light—are simply personal beliefs that I have, you have, and others have.  For example:  One of my personal morals is that it is wrong to kill or harm sentient beings.  Therefore I do not eat animal flesh (meat).  Others (billions of others) do not agree that it is wrong to kill animals and eat them. I don’t expect others to agree with me on this, and I do accept that I cannot push my own moral beliefs onto them.

Likewise, some people believe premarital sex is immoral. They believe it to the extreme—and if you are Muslim and you are not a virgin—then you must do some trickery and get your hymen surgically replaced. I believe all of this is nonsense.

So people can have different moral beliefs and do.  Are you willing to say my moral belief (against killing and eating animals) is wrong?  Only that it might be wrong for others but not for me.  Moral relativism.


Selfishness is another topic in the Pinker article worth reading.  Pinker suggests we often attribute immorality to that which we find repulsive thereby   rationalizing and justifying our moral beliefs.  There is a certain selfishness in this.  Example: A christian may decide “I find homosexuality unnatural and repulsive (and the Bible tells me it is) and no one should be allowed to practice it .....”

 


Some excerpts from Pinker’s article:

Though wise people have long reflected on how we can be blinded by our own [moral] sanctimony, our public discourse still fails to discount it appropriately. In the worst cases, the thoughtlessness of our brute intuitions can be celebrated as a virtue. In his influential essay “The Wisdom of Repugnance,” Leon Kass, former chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics, argued that we should disregard reason when it comes to cloning and other biomedical technologies and go with our gut: “We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings . . . because we intuit and feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we rightfully hold dear. . . . In this age in which everything is held to be permissible so long as it is freely done . . . repugnance may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the central core of our humanity. Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.”

There are, of course, good reasons to regulate human cloning, but the shudder test is not one of them. People have shuddered at all kinds of morally irrelevant violations of purity in their culture: touching an untouchable, drinking from the same water fountain as a Negro, allowing Jewish blood to mix with Aryan blood, tolerating sodomy between consenting men. And if our ancestors’ repugnance had carried the day, we never would have had autopsies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants and in vitro fertilization, all of which were denounced as immoral when they were new.

We all know what it feels like when the moralization switch flips inside us — the righteous glow, the burning dudgeon, the drive to recruit others to the cause. The psychologist Paul Rozin has studied the toggle switch by comparing two kinds of people who engage in the same behavior but with different switch settings. Health vegetarians avoid meat for practical reasons, like lowering cholesterol and avoiding toxins. Moral vegetarians avoid meat for ethical reasons: to avoid complicity in the suffering of animals. By investigating their feelings about meat-eating, Rozin showed that the moral motive sets off a cascade of opinions. Moral vegetarians are more likely to treat meat as a contaminant — they refuse, for example, to eat a bowl of soup into which a drop of beef broth has fallen. They are more likely to think that other people ought to be vegetarians, and are more likely to imbue their dietary habits with other virtues, like believing that meat avoidance makes people less aggressive and bestial.

Much of our recent social history, including the culture wars between liberals and conservatives, consists of the moralization or amoralization of particular kinds of behavior. Even when people agree that an outcome is desirable, they may disagree on whether it should be treated as a matter of preference and prudence or as a matter of sin and virtue. Rozin notes, for example, that smoking has lately been moralized. Until recently, it was understood that some people didn’t enjoy smoking or avoided it because it was hazardous to their health. But with the discovery of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, smoking is now treated as immoral. Smokers are ostracized; images of people smoking are censored; and entities touched by smoke are felt to be contaminated (so hotels have not only nonsmoking rooms but nonsmoking floors). The desire for retribution has been visited on tobacco companies, who have been slapped with staggering “punitive damages.”

At the same time, many behaviors have been amoralized, switched from moral failings to lifestyle choices. They include divorce, illegitimacy, being a working mother, marijuana use and homosexuality. Many afflictions have been reassigned from payback for bad choices to unlucky misfortunes. There used to be people called “bums” and “tramps”; today they are “homeless.” Drug addiction is a “disease”; syphilis was rebranded from the price of wanton behavior to a “sexually transmitted disease” and more recently a “sexually transmitted infection.”

This wave of amoralization has led the cultural right to lament that morality itself is under assault, as we see in the group that anointed itself the Moral Majority. In fact there seems to be a Law of Conservation of Moralization, so that as old behaviors are taken out of the moralized column, new ones are added to it. Dozens of things that past generations treated as practical matters are now ethical battlegrounds, including disposable diapers, I.Q. tests, poultry farms, Barbie dolls and research on breast cancer. Food alone has become a minefield, with critics sermonizing about the size of sodas, the chemistry of fat, the freedom of chickens, the price of coffee beans, the species of fish and now the distance the food has traveled from farm to plate.

Many of these moralizations, like the assault on smoking, may be understood as practical tactics to reduce some recently identified harm. But whether an activity flips our mental switches to the “moral” setting isn’t just a matter of how much harm it does. We don’t show contempt to the man who fails to change the batteries in his smoke alarms or takes his family on a driving vacation, both of which multiply the risk they will die in an accident. Driving a gas-guzzling Hummer is reprehensible, but driving a gas-guzzling old Volvo is not; eating a Big Mac is unconscionable, but not imported cheese or crème brûlée. The reason for these double standards is obvious: people tend to align their moralization with their own lifestyles.

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Posted: 06 July 2008 09:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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CanZen - 04 July 2008 03:43 AM

I agree that you said that atheism is a mentally retarding belief, not that atheists are mentally retarded.  However, (and I wish I had time to go back through your postings to quote the many times) you have declared that those who do not believe in a god (atheists) are intellectually incapable of understanding certain theological concepts (i.e., are ‘mentally retarded’ by their beliefs - or nonbeliefs). When you make such statements, this amounts to a declaration that people like me are intellectually incapable of comprehending the nature of some particular Muslim precept. This is how I arrived at my observation that you believe that atheists are intellectually (mentally) stunted (retarded) AND that you (being a theist) are superior (in your natural capacity for comprehension of theistic text).

In fact however, we are both just as capable of comprehending the same texts whether we are believers or not.  Where the difference lies Jack is that I find these theistic pronouncements to be absurd, while you find them to be believable.  (Note that I do not find certain concepts to be absurd, like The Golden Rule. In fact I feel that the Confucian version, written 600 years before Christ’s version, to be the true and universal moral principle.)  In the light of the theory of evolution and other comprehensive scientific knowledge, the belief in supernatural beings seems to me to be utterly and thoroughly absurd.  If there is actually such a thing as a “mentally retarding” belief then tbe delusional (and self-gratifying) belief in deities and their prophets qualifies as precisely such a belief.

You appear to feel that believing in the existence of a god takes you to a higher (transcendent) realm of being human. When I grasp this feeling from your writings I can sense that aura of superiority as it invades your words.  Naturally this feeling makes you feel good and somehow more worthy in god’s eyes, but to me this is pure self-deception when you play god to yourself and join the ranks of “his” superb prophets (peace be upon you all).  I actually do understand how those texts would make sense to a person in that delusional state (a believer); but don’t misinterpret your closeness to god as empowering you with superior intellectual capacities Jack.  We see your superiority as well, but in the larger context we can appreciate the delusional nature of your grandeur, and so we accept your declarations as the concrete assertions of truth as perceived by you in your self-satiated euphoria. I don’t wish to deny you your bliss, but you are not living in a higher realm even though it may appear higher when you peek at us lowlier creatures through your god’s eyes.

You also wanted me to clarify how a “god who is everywhere and is everything” could become meaningless in the context of an unfolding universe.  Well, if science is how we manage to reveal the secrets of the universe, then science becomes (in a sense) the modern word of god.  If that is the case and if one takes “the science” seriously, then god becomes merely a historical myth.  In order for “his” secrets to be revealed “god must die” and science has already embalmed his spirit and buried his memory in the past.  Those who cannot accept the findings of modern science cling to the unknown mysteries that they still, erroneously, call god, while the rest of us must wait for those delusions to clear before we can move on to a better world devoid of superiority and supernaturalisms.

Bob

I find it odd that you would first accuse me of having a superiority complex because of my belief system, and then go on to describe my thinking as delusional, and talk about me as though I suffer from a mental illness given my beliefs.  How ironic is that?  Anyway, enough on that.

As to your final paragraph, science has not done anything but shown us how the hand of God works in the universe.  I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but no discovery in science has disproved God by any means, and if you think any has, please, let us all know.

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Posted: 06 July 2008 10:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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Jack Shooter wrote:

I find it odd that you would first accuse me of having a superiority complex because of my belief system, and then go on to describe my thinking as delusional, and talk about me as though I suffer from a mental illness given my beliefs.  How ironic is that?

Maybe it’s ironic for you, Jack? (I mean finding out you may be mentally retarded when you thought you were intellectually superior . . . but in the practice of zen, this is just normal and healthy.)

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but no discovery in science has disproved God by any means

I never said that such a discovery has occurred.  What I said was that scientific knowledge makes the concept of god absurd and unbelievable.  So either you are not an adherent of modern science or you are able to believe in the absurd and the unbelievable (in which case your ability to properly understand the discoveries of science could be severely jeopardized). So it appears that my bubble is still intact. Now, I’m not sure if that’s good or bad?  What do you think?

Bob

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Posted: 06 July 2008 10:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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I wrote previously:

Well, if science is how we manage to reveal the secrets of the universe, then science becomes (in a sense) the modern word of god.  If that is the case and if one takes “the science” seriously, then god becomes merely a historical myth.  In order for “his” secrets to be revealed “god must die” and science has already embalmed his spirit and buried his memory in the past.

. . . to which burt replied:

So as I would conclude the story, what has to die off, having served their purpose, are our archaic beliefs;

Yes, yours is definitely the better story conclusion burt. Of course our archaic beliefs include “god as supernatural being” amongst all the other mythologies. Your next directive is also strangely inticing:

. . . to be replaced by myths that acknowledge our accumulated scientific knowledge and have relevance for today and allow contact with the divine as a human study of ourselves and our highest potentials

This idea of a scientifically inspired “divine” is akin to “knocking on heaven’s door” because although I can feel the immensity of what lies behind that door, I am completely at a loss as to how to intellectually conceive or even approach such a mythological construct.  Any ideas?

(Maybe this should really be in a different thread?)

Bob

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Posted: 07 July 2008 12:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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CanZen - 07 July 2008 02:26 AM

I wrote previously:

Well, if science is how we manage to reveal the secrets of the universe, then science becomes (in a sense) the modern word of god.  If that is the case and if one takes “the science” seriously, then god becomes merely a historical myth.  In order for “his” secrets to be revealed “god must die” and science has already embalmed his spirit and buried his memory in the past.

. . . to which burt replied:

So as I would conclude the story, what has to die off, having served their purpose, are our archaic beliefs;

Yes, yours is definitely the better story conclusion burt. Of course our archaic beliefs include “god as supernatural being” amongst all the other mythologies. Your next directive is also strangely inticing:

. . . to be replaced by myths that acknowledge our accumulated scientific knowledge and have relevance for today and allow contact with the divine as a human study of ourselves and our highest potentials

This idea of a scientifically inspired “divine” is akin to “knocking on heaven’s door” because although I can feel the immensity of what lies behind that door, I am completely at a loss as to how to intellectually conceive or even approach such a mythological construct.  Any ideas?

(Maybe this should really be in a different thread?)

Bob

That is why I think that science is still incomplete and needs to develop further (the analogy is the state of science is about 1600 when it needed to develop experimental protocols and criteria for evaluation of empirical data).  One of the areas where this is currently a problem is in consciousness studies, and I think that the various meditative traditions have something to tell us as well.  A quote from the medieval Islamic sufi Ibn Arabi also seems suggestive to me (a paraphrase): “Angels are the higher powers of the mind.”  But it’s hard to think about without the empirical work we still need.  An example that I like is from the ancient Stoics.  They had three things going for them: their school; a theory (scientific for the time) of the cosmos and the mind; and an ideal of the perfected man (the Stoic Sage), together with a method aimed at producing such individuals.  As it happens, their cosmological theories were wrong, but in their context they were functional in supporting the method. Tibetan Buddhism has a method without (so far as I know) much in the way of a cosmological theory. Today we have much better science, but lack the psychological and spiritual part of the equation.

[ Edited: 07 July 2008 08:28 AM by burt]
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Posted: 08 July 2008 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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lindajean - 05 July 2008 01:58 PM

Jack Shooter

Certainly, I would agree that moral relativism seems to be the reality of the human condition.  However, does this necessarily mean that there is no such thing as objective morals?  Obviously not.

I don’t think it is an “obviously not” and moral objectivity is up for debate. There is a thread The Myth of Morality that you might want to check out.

There is also an interesting article by Steven Pinker cited below.  While he discusses certain universal morals, (found virtually everywhere) these morals are categorized, prioritized and followed in various ways depending on culture and tradition. 

 


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?_r=3&oref=slogin&ref=magazine&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

Furthermore, I would argue that one’s acceptance of morality being relative is a major problem, among other obvious reasons, because it essentially leads to a breach of the golden rule: do unto others as you would have done unto yourself, or as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said it: none of you truly believe until you love for your brother (i.e. others) what you love for yourself.

I agree that disregarding the golden rule can lead to problems in morality but that does not make a case for moral absolutism because the golden rule is a general belief about treating others lovingly and does not contend with legal issues of morality concerning homosexuality, divorce, polygamy, environment, etc…

Now, you said that you don’t ‘prefer’ pornography, infidelity, and divorce for yourself but you recognize that others may.  I presume that you don’t like the said things for yourself, as I do not like them for myself, because we recognize there is something unpleasant about them.  If these things were desirable to us, we would likely engage in them.  Hence, does not your moral relativism towards such things epitomize the essence of selfishness?

I only stated that I personally do not engage in them and have no preference for them, but I did not say they were immoral.

Some of the moral “absolutes” that I believe in   no doubt are held by the majority of humans and I would describe them as universal.  And others——this is where the vast majority of differences in “morals” comes to light—are simply personal beliefs that I have, you have, and others have.  For example:  One of my personal morals is that it is wrong to kill or harm sentient beings.  Therefore I do not eat animal flesh (meat).  Others (billions of others) do not agree that it is wrong to kill animals and eat them. I don’t expect others to agree with me on this, and I do accept that I cannot push my own moral beliefs onto them.

Likewise, some people believe premarital sex is immoral. They believe it to the extreme—and if you are Muslim and you are not a virgin—then you must do some trickery and get your hymen surgically replaced. I believe all of this is nonsense.

So people can have different moral beliefs and do.  Are you willing to say my moral belief (against killing and eating animals) is wrong?  Only that it might be wrong for others but not for me.  Moral relativism.


Selfishness is another topic in the Pinker article worth reading.  Pinker suggests we often attribute immorality to that which we find repulsive thereby   rationalizing and justifying our moral beliefs.  There is a certain selfishness in this.  Example: A christian may decide “I find homosexuality unnatural and repulsive (and the Bible tells me it is) and no one should be allowed to practice it .....”

 


Some excerpts from Pinker’s article:

Though wise people have long reflected on how we can be blinded by our own [moral] sanctimony, our public discourse still fails to discount it appropriately. In the worst cases, the thoughtlessness of our brute intuitions can be celebrated as a virtue. In his influential essay “The Wisdom of Repugnance,” Leon Kass, former chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics, argued that we should disregard reason when it comes to cloning and other biomedical technologies and go with our gut: “We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings . . . because we intuit and feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we rightfully hold dear. . . . In this age in which everything is held to be permissible so long as it is freely done . . . repugnance may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the central core of our humanity. Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.”

There are, of course, good reasons to regulate human cloning, but the shudder test is not one of them. People have shuddered at all kinds of morally irrelevant violations of purity in their culture: touching an untouchable, drinking from the same water fountain as a Negro, allowing Jewish blood to mix with Aryan blood, tolerating sodomy between consenting men. And if our ancestors’ repugnance had carried the day, we never would have had autopsies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants and in vitro fertilization, all of which were denounced as immoral when they were new.

We all know what it feels like when the moralization switch flips inside us — the righteous glow, the burning dudgeon, the drive to recruit others to the cause. The psychologist Paul Rozin has studied the toggle switch by comparing two kinds of people who engage in the same behavior but with different switch settings. Health vegetarians avoid meat for practical reasons, like lowering cholesterol and avoiding toxins. Moral vegetarians avoid meat for ethical reasons: to avoid complicity in the suffering of animals. By investigating their feelings about meat-eating, Rozin showed that the moral motive sets off a cascade of opinions. Moral vegetarians are more likely to treat meat as a contaminant — they refuse, for example, to eat a bowl of soup into which a drop of beef broth has fallen. They are more likely to think that other people ought to be vegetarians, and are more likely to imbue their dietary habits with other virtues, like believing that meat avoidance makes people less aggressive and bestial.

Much of our recent social history, including the culture wars between liberals and conservatives, consists of the moralization or amoralization of particular kinds of behavior. Even when people agree that an outcome is desirable, they may disagree on whether it should be treated as a matter of preference and prudence or as a matter of sin and virtue. Rozin notes, for example, that smoking has lately been moralized. Until recently, it was understood that some people didn’t enjoy smoking or avoided it because it was hazardous to their health. But with the discovery of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, smoking is now treated as immoral. Smokers are ostracized; images of people smoking are censored; and entities touched by smoke are felt to be contaminated (so hotels have not only nonsmoking rooms but nonsmoking floors). The desire for retribution has been visited on tobacco companies, who have been slapped with staggering “punitive damages.”

At the same time, many behaviors have been amoralized, switched from moral failings to lifestyle choices. They include divorce, illegitimacy, being a working mother, marijuana use and homosexuality. Many afflictions have been reassigned from payback for bad choices to unlucky misfortunes. There used to be people called “bums” and “tramps”; today they are “homeless.” Drug addiction is a “disease”; syphilis was rebranded from the price of wanton behavior to a “sexually transmitted disease” and more recently a “sexually transmitted infection.”

This wave of amoralization has led the cultural right to lament that morality itself is under assault, as we see in the group that anointed itself the Moral Majority. In fact there seems to be a Law of Conservation of Moralization, so that as old behaviors are taken out of the moralized column, new ones are added to it. Dozens of things that past generations treated as practical matters are now ethical battlegrounds, including disposable diapers, I.Q. tests, poultry farms, Barbie dolls and research on breast cancer. Food alone has become a minefield, with critics sermonizing about the size of sodas, the chemistry of fat, the freedom of chickens, the price of coffee beans, the species of fish and now the distance the food has traveled from farm to plate.

Many of these moralizations, like the assault on smoking, may be understood as practical tactics to reduce some recently identified harm. But whether an activity flips our mental switches to the “moral” setting isn’t just a matter of how much harm it does. We don’t show contempt to the man who fails to change the batteries in his smoke alarms or takes his family on a driving vacation, both of which multiply the risk they will die in an accident. Driving a gas-guzzling Hummer is reprehensible, but driving a gas-guzzling old Volvo is not; eating a Big Mac is unconscionable, but not imported cheese or crème brûlée. The reason for these double standards is obvious: people tend to align their moralization with their own lifestyles.

lindajean,

Thank you for your post, but Pinker’s comments are obvious enough so as to make them unremarkable.  Like you indicated, all Pinker is saying is that we decide what is moral based on a certain element of selfishness.  That this is what human beings tend to do is, like I said, too obvious.  Nonetheless, I acknowledged this view before you even posted it when I said earlier “Certainly, I would agree that moral relativism seems to be the reality of the human condition.”  Then I asked, “However, does this necessarily mean that there is no such thing as objective morals?  Obviously not.  Pinker’s article does not, nor can it hope to, suggest that absolute morals do not exist.

As to killing animals, it is immoral unless done with a valid reason, such as eating, but not for fun and games such as in hunting, and wearing extravagent clothing, or other such hobbies.

According to Islam, everything is permissible except that which God has made impermissible.  He has made divorce permissible, and even polygamy, but not pornography, sodomy, killing animals needlessly, and other ills that many people think are fine.  Putting aside ‘selfishness and gut reactions’ to the latter group of things, one can deem them to be harmful on purely rational terms.

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Posted: 08 July 2008 07:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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FYI,

The following is taken from an article by Sheikh Nu Ha Mim Keller regarding definitions of believer, and unbeliever:

Things Not Everyone Knows

To deny something of the second category above, tenets of faith that not everyone knows, and that an ordinary Muslim might not know unless it were pointed out to him, is only unbelief (kufr) if he persists in denying it after he understands that it has come to us from Allah or His messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), since before this, it is not within his power to believe or follow it. This is but divine justice, and plain from the implications of the words of Allah

“We do not charge any soul except in its capacity” (Qur’an 6:152),
and attested to by many hadiths, such that related by Abu Dawud with a well-authenticated (hasan) chain of transmission from Jabir (Allah be well pleased with him), who said,

A donkey that had been branded on the face passed before the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and he said, “Is there anyone among you who has not heard that I have cursed whoever brands or strikes an animal’s face?” (Abu Dawud, 4.26–27: 2564. H).

Although branding or striking an animal’s face is a crime and an enormity (kabira) in Islam, the words “Is there anyone among you who has not heard . . .” indicate that whoever does not know it is wrong is not culpable of it, even if he commits it, until he learns it is wrong. And Allah says in another verse,

“Allah only charges a soul according to what has come to it” (Qur’an 65:7).

In matters of belief, the line traditionally drawn between this type of knowledge and the preceding is their accessibility. A Muslim is responsible to believe everything from Allah or His messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) that should be obvious to all Muslims, and that every Muslim may reasonably be expected to know. As for what is beyond that, he is only responsible to believe what he has learned of.

Find complete article here: http://shadhilitariqa.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=37

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Posted: 08 July 2008 08:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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Jackshooter


lindajean,

Thank you for your post, but Pinker’s comments are obvious enough so as to make them unremarkable.  Like you indicated, all Pinker is saying is that we decide what is moral based on a certain element of selfishness.  That this is what human beings tend to do is, like I said, too obvious.  Nonetheless, I acknowledged this view before you even posted it when I said earlier “Certainly, I would agree that moral relativism seems to be the reality of the human condition.” Then I asked, “However, does this necessarily mean that there is no such thing as objective morals?  Obviously not.  Pinker’s article does not, nor can it hope to, suggest that absolute morals do not exist.


I am not sure he is suggesting absolute morals do not exist—I only quoted a small part of a longer article—-because he does discuss universal morals as a foundation of morals,  which seemingly span humanity throughout time and space.  His point being, once we get past this foundation, morals are culturally and individually proscribed.  Most people’s personal feelings and experiences will serve as an outline or template for their morals. This is part of human nature.

You and I are describing “absolute morals"differently. You view them absolute as   laws or rules from a higher being and never change which of course is what makes them absolute. 

I am saying there is a basic foundation that most of humanity accepts as universal but within cultures and throughout the world there are few if any absolutes. I used my own “moral” of not harming animals as an example. It certainly is not an absolute for probably 99% of the population.


As long as we see morals in these two opposing ways, you will hold your belief as correct and I will hold mine.

According to Islam, everything is permissible except that which God has made impermissible.  He has made divorce permissible, and even polygamy, but not pornography, sodomy, killing animals needlessly, and other ills that many people think are fine.

Now we are back to square one which indicates we are going in a circle. One must believe in your God, which I do not, so his absolutism is not really absolute. It is only absolute to those who believe it is absolute, therefore it is really not absolute. We kinda got a subjective thing going on here, Jack.

Do you agree that your god’s absolute morals can only be absolute to those who believe they are absolute?

IOW how can something be absolute if there is not compelling evidence that it is absolute. If your absolute moral says homosexuality is wrong and should not be practiced, how can it be absolute if I don’t believe it to be absolute because I have no evidence that it is wrong? Your Koran is not compelling evidence. I would need to know that homosexuality actually harmed people, with intent,  and caused them great pain and suffering. 


Putting aside ‘selfishness and gut reactions’ to the latter group of things, one can deem them to be harmful on purely rational terms.

Harmful to whom?  Do you not see the arbitrariness of your thoughts?  Why is killing animals for food not harmful but hunting them is?  Why is certain kinds of sex harmful to two consenting adults?  Why do you care what your neighbor and his wife do in the privacy of their home?  Your moral absolutes are absolute because you believe they are absolute. And claiming your moral absolutes are immoral because they are “purely rational”  does not explain the degree or significance of harm it causes and who is responsible for that harm.  We can also say marriage is harmful to people because it causes great emotional suffering when couples argue,  having children is immoral because it causes great emotional suffering in (some) parents, driving cars is immoral because it causes great suffering in people when fatal accidents occur etc….Life is composed of suffering.  What you continuously deny and overlook is some suffering is self-imposed and involves personal responsibility between the two parties and some suffering (immoral acts) are directed intentionally, consciously and often premeditativly at groups of innocent people or individuals (and yes animals)  and is always precipitated by those who are corrupt, arrogant, powerful and sadistic towards people in less powerful/subordinate positions who have no resources or laws to protect them.

You are seemingly unable to understand the difference between the two. And intention is the key to discovery.


Genocide, war, poverty, child abuse, global warming….these are moral issues.

Two guys “doing it” in the privacy of their home is NOT.  Get over it Jack, because I’m gonna start thinking you just get off thinking about it. rolleyes

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Posted: 08 July 2008 09:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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lindajean - 09 July 2008 12:58 AM

Jackshooter


lindajean,

Thank you for your post, but Pinker’s comments are obvious enough so as to make them unremarkable.  Like you indicated, all Pinker is saying is that we decide what is moral based on a certain element of selfishness.  That this is what human beings tend to do is, like I said, too obvious.  Nonetheless, I acknowledged this view before you even posted it when I said earlier “Certainly, I would agree that moral relativism seems to be the reality of the human condition.” Then I asked, “However, does this necessarily mean that there is no such thing as objective morals?  Obviously not.  Pinker’s article does not, nor can it hope to, suggest that absolute morals do not exist.


I am not sure he is suggesting absolute morals do not exist—I only quoted a small part of a longer article—-because he does discuss universal morals as a foundation of morals,  which seemingly span humanity throughout time and space.  His point being, once we get past this foundation, morals are culturally and individually proscribed.  Most people’s personal feelings and experiences will serve as an outline or template for their morals. This is part of human nature.

You and I are describing “absolute morals"differently. You view them absolute as   laws or rules from a higher being and never change which of course is what makes them absolute. 

I am saying there is a basic foundation that most of humanity accepts as universal but within cultures and throughout the world there are few if any absolutes. I used my own “moral” of not harming animals as an example. It certainly is not an absolute for probably 99% of the population.


As long as we see morals in these two opposing ways, you will hold your belief as correct and I will hold mine.

According to Islam, everything is permissible except that which God has made impermissible.  He has made divorce permissible, and even polygamy, but not pornography, sodomy, killing animals needlessly, and other ills that many people think are fine.

Now we are back to square one which indicates we are going in a circle. One must believe in your God, which I do not, so his absolutism is not really absolute. It is only absolute to those who believe it is absolute, therefore it is really not absolute. We kinda got a subjective thing going on here, Jack.

Do you agree that your god’s absolute morals can only be absolute to those who believe they are absolute?

IOW how can something be absolute if there is not compelling evidence that it is absolute. If your absolute moral says homosexuality is wrong and should not be practiced, how can it be absolute if I don’t believe it to be absolute because I have no evidence that it is wrong? Your Koran is not compelling evidence. I would need to know that homosexuality actually harmed people, with intent,  and caused them great pain and suffering. 


Putting aside ‘selfishness and gut reactions’ to the latter group of things, one can deem them to be harmful on purely rational terms.

Harmful to whom?  Do you not see the arbitrariness of your thoughts?  Why is killing animals for food not harmful but hunting them is?  Why is certain kinds of sex harmful to two consenting adults?  Why do you care what your neighbor and his wife do in the privacy of their home?  Your moral absolutes are absolute because you believe they are absolute. And claiming your moral absolutes are immoral because they are “purely rational”  does not explain the degree or significance of harm it causes and who is responsible for that harm.  We can also say marriage is harmful to people because it causes great emotional suffering when couples argue,  having children is immoral because it causes great emotional suffering in (some) parents, driving cars is immoral because it causes great suffering in people when fatal accidents occur etc….Life is composed of suffering.  What you continuously deny and overlook is some suffering is self-imposed and involves personal responsibility between the two parties and some suffering (immoral acts) are directed intentionally, consciously and often premeditativly at groups of innocent people or individuals (and yes animals)  and is always precipitated by those who are corrupt, arrogant, powerful and sadistic towards people in less powerful/subordinate positions who have no resources or laws to protect them.

You are seemingly unable to understand the difference between the two. And intention is the key to discovery.


Genocide, war, poverty, child abuse, global warming….these are moral issues.

Two guys “doing it” in the privacy of their home is NOT.  Get over it Jack, because I’m gonna start thinking you just get off thinking about it. rolleyes

lindajean,

Regrettably, you are making gross errors in confusing various human behaviours with others on the basis of harm.  Remember the saying, “no pain, no gain”?  Well, actually this adage reflects an ancient wisdom or truth that religion often emphasizes (i.e. patience, sacrifice, etc.).  More importantly, this understanding is rightly applied to things such as marriage and child bearing, and even eating animals (i.e. need for certain specific protein).

However, “no pain, no gain” CANNOT be applied to sodomy, and pornography, and other prohibited matters for there is ONLY loss in such things.  Health problems from sodomy are clear (refer to the health reports I posted on this), and the ill consequences of pornography are clear (i.e. objectification/comodification of women (and men, but mostly women), correlation to addiction and increasing need for more and more ‘hardcore’ forms of sex including violent sex acts, and other things, there is ample evidence).

Again, most religions are clear on these matters, but Islam provides the best (i.e. most accurate, complete, and reliable) articulation of these things.

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Posted: 09 July 2008 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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JS


lindajean,

Regrettably, you are making gross errors in confusing various human behaviours with others on the basis of harm.  Remember the saying, “no pain, no gain”?  Well, actually this adage reflects an ancient wisdom or truth that religion often emphasizes (i.e. patience, sacrifice, etc.).  More importantly, this understanding is rightly applied to things such as marriage and child bearing, and even eating animals (i.e. need for certain specific protein).


It is ‘rightly applied” only in your terms because it is what you believe to be true.

Nutritionally you can get all the protein you need in a non-meat diet….....etc…...

However, “no pain, no gain” CANNOT be applied to sodomy, and pornography, and other prohibited matters for there is ONLY loss in such things.  Health problems from sodomy are clear (refer to the health reports I posted on this), and the ill consequences of pornography are clear (i.e. objectification/comodification of women (and men, but mostly women), correlation to addiction and increasing need for more and more ‘hardcore’ forms of sex including violent sex acts, and other things, there is ample evidence).

There is loss in all kinds of human experiences but that is not a precondition for abstaining from them nor is it a moral one.

Again, most religions are clear on these matters, but Islam provides the best (i.e. most accurate, complete, and reliable) articulation of these things.

Again, these are your subjective beliefs that you have an unrelenting desire to bear truth.

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Posted: 18 July 2008 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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Jack:

I suppose I’m making a mountain out of a molehill over virginity and hymen replacement surgery.


Afterall, there are more serious ills to consider:


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/11/iraq.humanrights


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jun/01/iraq


...the beat goes on…pun intended.

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