Archive for the ‘morality’ Category

The masses blink and say: “We are all equal.–Man is but man, before God–we are all equal.” Before God! But now this God has died

December 16, 2009

The masses blink and say: “We are all equal.–Man is but man, before God–we are all equal.” Before God! But now this God has died.

Friedrich Nietzsche

If God is dead so is His Law.

Rights cannot be created, they must be discovered or they are of no value

December 16, 2009

If human rights are created by majorities, of what use are they? Their value lies in that they can be used to insist that majorities honor the dignity of minorities and individuals despite their conception of the ‘greater good.’ Rights cannot be created, they must be discovered or they are of no value… if we want to defend individuals rights, we must try to discover something beyond utility that argues for these rights.

Source: Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism (Hodder & Stoughton, 2008), p. 151.

We cannot decide, as a society, to grant human rights to anyone or to all. There must be something inherently worth protecting in the weak. If morality is a majority decision, then a regime change will make the vulnerable victims again. To protect the weak some higher law must be appealed to, an ‘ought’ that is not grounded in the fickle decisions of the populace.

If there is no God, then there is no way to say any one action is “moral” and another “immoral” but only “I like this.”  If that is the case, who gets the right to put their subjective, arbitrary moral feelings into law?  You may say “the majority has the right to make the law;” but do you mean that then the majority has the right to vote to exterminate a minority?  If you say “No, that is wrong,” then you are back to square one.  ”Who sez” that the majority has a moral obligation not to kill the minority?  Why should your moral convictions be obligatory for those in opposition?  Why should your view prevail over the will of the majority?  The fact is, says Leff, if there is no God, then all moral statements are arbitrary, all moral valuations are subjective and internal, and there can be no external moral standard by which a person’s feelings and values are judged.

ibid., p.153-154.

November 23, 2009

(Having come under conviction of sin, Bunyan ‘cleaned up’ his life and ‘got religion’. Realising he had broken it, he was now trying to keep God’s Law. His neighbours were impressed – but he was still a child of the devil; now whitewashed but yet a tomb)

…my neighbours were amazed at this my great conversion, from prodigious profaneness, to something like a moral life; and, truly, so they well might; for this my conversion was as great, as for Tom of Bedlam to become a sober man. Now, therefore, they began to praise, to commend, and to speak well of me, both to my face, and behind my back. Now, I was, as they said, become godly; now, I was become a right honest man. But, oh! When I understood that these were their words and opinions of men, it pleased me mighty well. For though, as yet, I was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite, yet I loved to be talked of as one that was truly godly. I was proud of my godliness, and, indeed, I did all I did, either to be seen of, or to be well spoken of, by man. And thus I continued for about a twelvemonth or more.’

Faith Cook, Fearless Pilgrim: The Life and Times of John Bunyan, Evangelical Press 2008, p.75

There can be no source for …moral judgments except the scientist himself

October 11, 2009

The scientist can now play God in his role as wonder-worker, but can he – and should he – also play God as moral arbiter?…F. In traditional religion, morality was held to derive from God, but God was only credited with the authority to establish and enforce moral laws because He was also credited with supernatural powers of creation and destruction. Those powers have now been usurped by man, and he must take on the moral responsibility that goes with them.

Edmund Leach, “We Scientists Have the Right to Play God,” The Saturday Evening Post, November 16, 1968, p. 16

I have no answer

September 10, 2009

When I ask myself why I have always behaved honourably, ready to spare others and to be kind whenever possible, and why I did not give up doing so when I observed that in that way one harms oneself and becomes an anvil because other people are brutal and untrustworthy, then, it is true, I have no answer.

Sigmund Freud, writing to James Putnam, neurologist

To say, ‘I have no answer’ to the question, ‘Why should I be good?’ is hardly a small matter. It leaves the sort of vacuum that coercion or anarchy (or both) will fill – as we see.

Atheism and the Loss of Morality

July 25, 2009

The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain type of secular moralism which seeks to suppress God at the least possible expense. Towards 1880, when the French professors endeavoured to formulate a secular morality, they said something like this: God is a useless and costly hypothesis, so we will do without it. However, if we are to have morality, a society and a law-abiding world, it is essential that certain values should be taken seriously; they must have an a priori existence ascribed to them. It must be considered obligatory a priori to be honest, not to lie, not to beat one’s wife, to bring up children and so forth; so we are going to do a little work on this subject, which will enable us to show that these values exist all the same, inscribed in an intelligible heaven although, of course, there is no God. In other words – and this is, I believe, the purport of all that we in France call radicalism – nothing will be changed if God does not exist; we shall rediscover the same norms of honesty, progress and humanity, and we shall have disposed of God as an out-of-date hypothesis which will die away quietly of itself. The existentialist, on the contrary, finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that “the good” exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote: “If God did not exist, everything would be permitted”; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. He discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse. For if indeed existence precedes essence, one will never be able to explain one’s action by reference to a given and specific human nature; in other words, there is no determinism – man is free, man is freedom. Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimise our behaviour. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse. – We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Existentialism and Humanism, 1946

George Eliot’s Deconversion

July 25, 2009

In 1838, aged 19, George Eliot wrote to her evangelical governess about her hero Wilberforce and prayed: “Oh that I might be made as useful in my lowly and obscure station as he was in the exalted one assigned to him.”

In another letter she confessed that she would not be sorry if the only music she ever heard again was the music of church worship.

Three years later she rejected Christianity in a conversion which was almost as cataclymic as those which had brought others to vital religion…Her overriding objection to it was that by emphasising the will and acts of an omnipotent deity, it extinguished the possibilities of human love and service…(she went on) ‘trying to lead a selfless and moral life without divine assistance.

Ian Bradley, The Call to Seriousness, p.19