What’s Your Basis for ‘Reason’ and ‘Morality?’

 

A Catholic cathedral in France taken by my nephew Luke Renoe. This visual art hangs in our home, a marker of transcendence.

I was transported back to the 1980s and ’90s on my drive to university this morning listening to a podcast. I could hear myself making the same arguments to my high school students then. Kate Cohen in a Washington Post article was pushing back on “religious exemptions” used by some to exclude themselves from the mandate of law. Ms. Cohen then suggested as someone who is “not a believer” she would like exemptions from “religious laws.” Cohen’s basis for her belief? It is “in contravention of reason and morality.”

Now those who follow me on social media, my websites, and teaching videos know that I have deep respect for other points of view. But everyone who knows me also realizes that my first response will always be to ask straightforward questions. So here are the questions I would ask Kate Cohen.

“How do you define ‘reason’ and ‘morality?’” “What is the source or origin of those concepts, ‘reason’ and ‘morality’?’” And most important of all “Who gets to answer these questions, then, apply them?” Again, those who know me know that these are questions I ask everyone all the time, whether in high school, undergraduate, Ph.D. studies, or casual conversation.

And my answer will always be the same: the standard for ‘reason’ and ‘morality’ must have a transcendent source. If there is no outside, supernatural origin for decision-making about right and wrong, then we are left with human definitions, sources, and decision-makers. And if we are left solely with humans at the helm we are left with a haunting question, “Who will decide which humans decide and how will those decisions be made?”

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  1. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    How do you analyze those parts of the Hebrew Bible where God commands the Israelites to kill infants and children?

    Do you think there are situations where the moral thing to do is to disobey God’s command? Or would the moral thing to do be to kill infants and children, thinking that God, being more knowledgeable than human beings, has some mysterious reasons for wanting us to kill infants and children?

    I would ask if one is disturbed by the killing of infants how does Planned Parenthood, or anyone else in the medical profession justify the the killing of infants. Over 60 million abortions have been performed in the United States alone since Roe v. Wade. The Bible is not the sole source of truth, but it’s critics treat it as such. I could make the argument that a secular society that depends upon revenue is suicidal by killing potential earners, and justify their actions by the euphemism that it is a fetus.

    I assume you are repulsed by the activities of Planned Parenthood because the engage in the killing of children. 

    So, if someone from Planned Parenthood defended the actions of that organization by explaining that in the Hebrew Bible, God commanded the Israelites to kill infants and children, you would reject this line of moral reasoning.  

    That’s a pretty good estimation of your views on morality, isn’t it?

    • #61
  2. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    How do you analyze those parts of the Hebrew Bible where God commands the Israelites to kill infants and children?

    Do you think there are situations where the moral thing to do is to disobey God’s command? Or would the moral thing to do be to kill infants and children, thinking that God, being more knowledgeable than human beings, has some mysterious reasons for wanting us to kill infants and children?

    I would ask if one is disturbed by the killing of infants how does Planned Parenthood, or anyone else in the medical profession justify the the killing of infants. Over 60 million abortions have been performed in the United States alone since Roe v. Wade. The Bible is not the sole source of truth, but it’s critics treat it as such. I could make the argument that a secular society that depends upon revenue is suicidal by killing potential earners, and justify their actions by the euphemism that it is a fetus.

    I assume you are repulsed by the activities of Planned Parenthood because the engage in the killing of children.

    So, if someone from Planned Parenthood defended the actions of that organization by explaining that in the Hebrew Bible, God commanded the Israelites to kill infants and children, you would reject this line of moral reasoning.

    That’s a pretty good estimation of your views on morality, isn’t it?

    No it isn’t.

     

    • #62
  3. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Think of the scripture, Proverbs 3:5 (NRSV)

    Trust in the Lord with all of your heart

    and do not rely on your own insight

    That’s an awful idea. If you don’t rely on your own insight you are vulnerable to being manipulated by people to assert that they are the communicators of God’s word.

    Good grief. Where in Proverbs 3 did you find the advice to listen to every rando who says he’s giving G-d’s Word? You know what the Bible actually says about that? “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything.”

    But in order to test anything one must rely, to some extent, on one’s own insight.  Right?

    • #63
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    In the Hebrew Bible we read about God commending the Israelites to kill infants and children. In such a situation, wouldn’t the good thing be to disobey God’s command rather than to go ahead and do what God commands?

    If you want to learn an informed response, let me know. I know a great. But you would have to spend more than an hour entertaining ideas you don’t agree with for it to be any good.

    Does it really take more than an hour to figure out whether one should obey a command by God to kill infants and children?

    This doesn’t seem like one of those “edge cases” in morality.

    Whose morality are you worried about violating? Yours? How quaint. So you’ve never changed your views on whether a course of action is moral or not based on circumstances? Because there’s a lot of that going around. Good people can spend a lot of time struggling with just such situations, even if they don’t involve killing children.

    How do you feel about abortion, by the way?

    • #64
  5. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    How do you analyze those parts of the Hebrew Bible where God commands the Israelites to kill infants and children?

    Do you think there are situations where the moral thing to do is to disobey God’s command? Or would the moral thing to do be to kill infants and children, thinking that God, being more knowledgeable than human beings, has some mysterious reasons for wanting us to kill infants and children?

    I would ask if one is disturbed by the killing of infants how does Planned Parenthood, or anyone else in the medical profession justify the the killing of infants. Over 60 million abortions have been performed in the United States alone since Roe v. Wade. The Bible is not the sole source of truth, but it’s critics treat it as such. I could make the argument that a secular society that depends upon revenue is suicidal by killing potential earners, and justify their actions by the euphemism that it is a fetus.

    I assume you are repulsed by the activities of Planned Parenthood because the engage in the killing of children.

    So, if someone from Planned Parenthood defended the actions of that organization by explaining that in the Hebrew Bible, God commanded the Israelites to kill infants and children, you would reject this line of moral reasoning.

    That’s a pretty good estimation of your views on morality, isn’t it?

    No it isn’t.

    So, you would agree with the moral reasoning of a person from Planned Parenthood who used the passages of the Hebrew Bible where God commands the Israelites to kill infants and children?  

    Somehow I don’t think you are honestly expressing your views on the matter.  Do you think killing infants and children is wrong, right or morally neutral? 

     

    • #65
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    In the Hebrew Bible we read about God commending the Israelites to kill infants and children. In such a situation, wouldn’t the good thing be to disobey God’s command rather than to go ahead and do what God commands?

    If you want to learn an informed response, let me know. I know a great. But you would have to spend more than an hour entertaining ideas you don’t agree with for it to be any good.

    Does it really take more than an hour to figure out whether one should obey a command by God to kill infants and children?

    This doesn’t seem like one of those “edge cases” in morality.

    It’s not simple, and it’s not an edge case. You are oversimplifying what you do not understand.

    Biased generalization. Boy, my logic prof would have loved all this.

    • #66
  7. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Percival (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Does it really take more than an hour to figure out whether one should obey a command by God to kill infants and children?

    This doesn’t seem like one of those “edge cases” in morality.

    Whose morality are you worried about violating? Yours? How quaint.

    I have my own ideas about what is moral and what is immoral.  But I acknowledge that I am fallible and, thus, many of my ideas regarding morality could be fallacious.  

    So, I think it’s good for me to discuss morality with other people so that any deficiencies in my moral reasoning and intuitions can be exposed and then I can correct these deficiencies.  

    So you’ve never changed your views on whether a course of action is moral or not based on circumstances?

    I think I have changed my views on the morality of various courses of action.  

    Because there’s a lot of that going around. Good people can spend a lot of time struggling with just such situations, even if they don’t involve killing children.

    How do you feel about abortion, by the way?

    I think abortion is immoral.  What do you think?

     

    • #67
  8. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    If these questions haven’t been solved in 6K years and counting, they won’t be answered/solved here. I think I’ll unfollow. Be well. 

    • #68
  9. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Percival (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    In the Hebrew Bible we read about God commending the Israelites to kill infants and children. In such a situation, wouldn’t the good thing be to disobey God’s command rather than to go ahead and do what God commands?

    If you want to learn an informed response, let me know. I know a great. But you would have to spend more than an hour entertaining ideas you don’t agree with for it to be any good.

    Does it really take more than an hour to figure out whether one should obey a command by God to kill infants and children?

    This doesn’t seem like one of those “edge cases” in morality.

    It’s not simple, and it’s not an edge case. You are oversimplifying what you do not understand.

    Biased generalization. Boy, my logic prof would have loved all this.

    Is it really that hard to say that if God were to issue a command to you to kill infants and children, as God is depicted as doing in the Hebrew Bible, that you would reject that command?  

    Isn’t this sort of a softball question?  If it’s not, it’s a hanging curveball right over the plate in the strike zone.

    • #69
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    In the Hebrew Bible we read about God commending the Israelites to kill infants and children. In such a situation, wouldn’t the good thing be to disobey God’s command rather than to go ahead and do what God commands?

    If you want to learn an informed response, let me know. I know a great. But you would have to spend more than an hour entertaining ideas you don’t agree with for it to be any good.

    Does it really take more than an hour to figure out whether one should obey a command by God to kill infants and children?

    This doesn’t seem like one of those “edge cases” in morality.

    It’s not simple, and it’s not an edge case. You are oversimplifying what you do not understand.

    Biased generalization. Boy, my logic prof would have loved all this.

    Is it really that hard to say that if God were to issue a command to you to kill infants and children, as God is depicted as doing in the Hebrew Bible, that you would reject that command?

    Isn’t this sort of a softball question? If it’s not, it’s a hanging curveball right over the plate in the strike zone.

    That’s it. Admit no fault. The argument stinks on ice, but keep making it. Maybe it’ll improve over time.

    • #70
  11. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Percival (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Biased generalization. Boy, my logic prof would have loved all this.

    Is it really that hard to say that if God were to issue a command to you to kill infants and children, as God is depicted as doing in the Hebrew Bible, that you would reject that command?

    Isn’t this sort of a softball question? If it’s not, it’s a hanging curveball right over the plate in the strike zone.

    That’s it. Admit no fault. The argument stinks on ice, but keep making it. Maybe it’ll improve over time.

    So, you think this question of whether to kill infants and children is a question too complex to answer?  

    • #71
  12. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Django (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):

    . . .

    “… so much straw” is pretty close in my mind for worthless.

    How well does your mind know 1 and 2 Corinthians, for a start?

    Not at all since I’ve never read them.

    Then what it is close to in your mind is not important, your mind being uninformed.

    Nonsense. They are not the only source of information. You have convinced me there is no reason to read them. They haven’t done much for you.

    Stop changing the subject.   You were talking about what Aquinas means when he says something referencing Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. If you don’t even have familiarity with the letters, you are in no position to understand Aquinas.  That is all.

    • #72
  13. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Think of the scripture, Proverbs 3:5 (NRSV)

    Trust in the Lord with all of your heart

    and do not rely on your own insight

    That’s an awful idea. If you don’t rely on your own insight you are vulnerable to being manipulated by people to assert that they are the communicators of God’s word.

    Good grief. Where in Proverbs 3 did you find the advice to listen to every rando who says he’s giving G-d’s Word? You know what the Bible actually says about that? “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything.”

    But in order to test anything one must rely, to some extent, on one’s own insight. Right?

    Sure.

    • #73
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Biased generalization. Boy, my logic prof would have loved all this.

    Is it really that hard to say that if God were to issue a command to you to kill infants and children, as God is depicted as doing in the Hebrew Bible, that you would reject that command?

    Isn’t this sort of a softball question? If it’s not, it’s a hanging curveball right over the plate in the strike zone.

    That’s it. Admit no fault. The argument stinks on ice, but keep making it. Maybe it’ll improve over time.

    So, you think this question of whether to kill infants and children is a question too complex to answer?

    No, I consider it a question to stupid to dignify with an answer. Go read City of God. A word of warning, though. It’s tougher sledding than anything Richard Dawkins ever wrote. Or ever read either, come to that.

    • #74
  15. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    So, you think this question of whether to kill infants and children is a question too complex to answer?  

    Do you care at all about whether the biblical view you’re disagreeing with is actually in the Bible?

    If you do care, start with this question, which really should be a softball one:

    Is it ok to kill some babies in Dresden if bombing Dresden is the right way to stop the Nazis?

    If you can answer that without going off on a screed about something else, we may have a chance at having a useful conversation.

    • #75
  16. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Percival (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    So, you think this question of whether to kill infants and children is a question too complex to answer?

    No, I consider it a question to stupid to dignify with an answer. Go read City of God. A word of warning, though. It’s tougher sledding than anything Richard Dawkins ever wrote. Or ever read either, come to that.

    Was God stupid when he commended the Israelites to kill infants in children?  

    • #76
  17. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    So, you think this question of whether to kill infants and children is a question too complex to answer?

    Do you care at all about whether the biblical view you’re disagreeing with is actually in the Bible?

    We don’t have to focus on the Bible, if that makes the discussion easier.  

    Let’s say that the Koran has God commanding Mohammed to kill infants and children.  We could use that hypothetical as a thought experiment.  If I put myself in the shoes of Mohammed receiving this command from God, I would disobey the command.

    If you do care, start with this question, which really should be a softball one:

    Is it ok to kill some babies in Dresden if bombing Dresden is the right way to stop the Nazis?

    If there is no other way to defeat the Nazis, I would support the bombing of Dresden even if some babies were to get killed in the bombing.  

    If you can answer that without going off on a screed about something else, we may have a chance at having a useful conversation.

    I have even defended Truman’s decision to bomb Japan, with conventional bombs and atomic bombs, for the purpose of forcing Japan to surrender and putting an end to the Pacific War.

    It’s 10:15 PM in Indiana.  I’m going to sleep.

    • #77
  18. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    I’ve got to add this.  Forget about whether you would kill or not if God told you to (and God did tell Abraham to, and he was ready and willing to do it) God (or God’s prophet speaking on behalf of God) told a man to strike him.  He had a purpose in demanding this.  But the man didn’t strike him and was killed by a lion for his disobedience.  The prophet told a second man to strike him, and the man did so, and went away safely.  One moral of this story is that when God tells you to do something, do it.  See 1 Kings 20:35-37.

    Of course, we don’t have prophets today, but we may encounter situations when killing is justified.

    • #78
  19. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    You do realize Christians have written about the hard sayings in the Bible. In fact, Catholic apologist Trent Horn’s book is so named:

    https://www.amazon.com/Hard-Sayings-Catholic-Answering-Difficulties/dp/1941663745

    How about letting the Church speak for herself instead of telling us what you think the Bible means in these passages?

    • #79
  20. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    So, you think this question of whether to kill infants and children is a question too complex to answer?

    No, I consider it a question to stupid to dignify with an answer. Go read City of God. A word of warning, though. It’s tougher sledding than anything Richard Dawkins ever wrote. Or ever read either, come to that.

    Was God stupid when he commended the Israelites to kill infants in children?

    And again, with the same tired sally.

    • #80
  21. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    HW, you should read God in the Dock, by CS Lewis.  It’s just a short essay.

    • #81
  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    We don’t have to focus on the Bible, if that makes the discussion easier.  

    I don’t know what discussion you were having, but apparently it’s not any I’m interested in.

    It’s 10:15 PM in Indiana.  I’m going to sleep.

    10:39 AM in Hong Hong. Good morning; sleep well.

    • #82
  23. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    You do realize Christians have written about the hard sayings in the Bible. In fact, Catholic apologist Trent Horn’s book is so named:

    https://www.amazon.com/Hard-Sayings-Catholic-Answering-Difficulties/dp/1941663745

    How about letting the Church speak for herself instead of telling us what you think the Bible means in these passages?

    We don’t have to use a passage from the Bible as part of this thought experiment.  We could just dream up a scenario where you understand God is commanding you to do something that you think is absolutely, positively immoral.

    So, one reaches a fork in the moral road.

    To obey what one perceives as God’s command and disregard ones own moral instincts or to stick with ones own moral instincts and disregard what one perceives as God’s command.

    I am not so much interested in this or that interpretation of a specific Bible passage.  I am more interested in the question of whether there are any instances where one would question or even disregard God’s moral instructions.

    • #83
  24. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    I am not smart enough to dive deeply into this discussion, though I have always loved that God says in Isaiah, “Let us reason together.”

    I know that my education was massively lacking when it comes to this particular topic, but I have never found any way to get to objective truths without God, and relativism always leads to “might is right” totalitarianism… even if I look to “natural law” as my guide.

    Here I am more concerned about the soundness of my own thinking, i.e. am I “getting” what has been said “right”?

    We can say ‘natural law” is a guide to morality, but Hobbes defined the essential natural right via natural law as a right to life, which includes a right to sustain one’s own life at any cost.  But it’s pretty unclear to me that this right creates a basis for morality?

    Hobbes did not depend on a Creator like Aquinas to build this worldview and disliked religion.  He relied instead on an instinct to live in a state of nature.  (Aquinas saw this, too, but justified the “value” of life per being part of God’s creation.)

    “Good” in Hobbe’s world was/is what a man likes.  “Evil” was/is what a man dislikes.

    All are in a war against all, so one gives up liberty to a sovereign who determines “rules” by which we don’t kill each other.

    That doesn’t seem like a great guide to ethics to me?

    It does make me think of Judges in the Bible, which I view as much as a great chronicle of human nature as any think else.    (If one does not take this as sacred text, one could read it like one would read Shakespeare.  It highlights a lot of the same things.)

    “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25.

    And this did not turn out well.

    In my world, God is sovereign.  Otherwise, I guess I’d have to look to… Joe Biden????

    • #84
  25. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    I am not smart enough to dive deeply into this discussion, though I have always loved that God says in Isaiah, “Let us reason together.”

    I know that my education was massively lacking when it comes to this particular topic, but I have never found any way to get to objective truths without God, and relativism always leads to “might is right” totalitarianism… even if I look to “natural law” as my guide.

    Usually people think of God as the supreme being who is always morally right and who holds all moral knowledge.  Given that premise, it’s understandable that one might think that without God it’s just one person’s opinion compared to someone else’s opinion.  

    That’s why I see the value in the thought experiment of God commanding me to do something that I instinctively think is terribly immoral. 

    It seems like I have at least 2 choices. 

    I can disregard my moral instincts that inform me that boiling babies in boiling water is immoral and obey God’s command.  I can disobey God’s command and refuse to place babies in boiling water.  Or I can think that God didn’t ask me to literally place babies in boiling water but was just using that language as a metaphor for something else.  

    We don’t like to think of God as commanding anyone to place babies in boiling water because we tend to think that God would never issue an immoral command.  If that is the case, there exist moral facts that are just as binding on God as they are on the rest of us.  

    This presents God as being in perfect understanding of the moral facts and perfectly molding his behavior in line with those moral facts.  Still, the moral facts are of primary importance.  

    • #85
  26. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    We don’t have to use a passage from the Bible as part of this thought experiment.  We could just dream up a scenario where you understand God is commanding you to do something that you think is absolutely, positively immoral.  

    I reject the premise. It’s not about a particular passage of the Bible (that’s been your approach so far — asking the question, “What about when God commanded the ban?). It’s about developing some understanding of who God Is, and then making a decision using your free will to trust Him (faith), or not.

    I would not make a comparison between the firebombing of Dresden or the nuking of Nagasaki, where children were undoubtedly killed, to God commanding the Israelites to put the ban on a people, even though it might be a way to tease your moral sensibilities. The former is the will of men with their limited knowledge of what might happen (continuation of war with even greater casualties) and the latter is God’s divine will with complete foreknowledge. I know this will be shocking, but using reason and logic, God’s commanding the ban was (by definition) Justice.

    No one is getting out of here alive. Babies die naturally every day. God knew just how wicked the peoples the Israelites were interacting with were and what the consequences of their intermarrying, for example, would be. He had the divine authority to exercise both Justice and Mercy upon those who died. He was asking for obedience, and the Israelites failed again and again, as do we all. But, He was forming a people up this way in order to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.

    One of the reasons I love being Catholic (besides the faith being true) is that the Church’s interpretive authority has lead to an understanding of the sweep of salvation history, connecting the Old Testament to the New in profound ways that I’m still learning. You often confuse (understandably) God’s Sovereign will with His permissive will, and private revelation with public revelation, which was completed and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. You’re not alone in this. There are whole sects that get this wrong. There are also many layers of interpretation that assist in understanding: “According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses” (CCC 115)” But, you have to be willing to submit to the authority delegated to the First Church of Christ, which, btw, teaches that Faith and Reason go together (see Aquinas, Thomas).

    • #86
  27. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    I am not smart enough to dive deeply into this discussion, though I have always loved that God says in Isaiah, “Let us reason together.”

    I know that my education was massively lacking when it comes to this particular topic, but I have never found any way to get to objective truths without God, and relativism always leads to “might is right” totalitarianism… even if I look to “natural law” as my guide.

    Usually people think of God as the supreme being who is always morally right and who holds all moral knowledge. Given that premise, it’s understandable that one might think that without God it’s just one person’s opinion compared to someone else’s opinion.

    That’s why I see the value in the thought experiment of God commanding me to do something that I instinctively think is terribly immoral.

    It seems like I have at least 2 choices.

    I can disregard my moral instincts that inform me that boiling babies in boiling water is immoral and obey God’s command. I can disobey God’s command and refuse to place babies in boiling water. Or I can think that God didn’t ask me to literally place babies in boiling water but was just using that language as a metaphor for something else.

    We don’t like to think of God as commanding anyone to place babies in boiling water because we tend to think that God would never issue an immoral command. If that is the case, there exist moral facts that are just as binding on God as they are on the rest of us.

    This presents God as being in perfect understanding of the moral facts and perfectly molding his behavior in line with those moral facts. Still, the moral facts are of primary importance.

    But God does not advocate the boiling of babies in water.

    I am no theologian, but the Old Testament reveals brutal societies that used child sacrifice to appeal to false gods created for social control.

    (I know, I know.  Your response is probably “But how were they known to be ‘false gods’?” and I would kinda shrug and ask, “And how do we know boiling babies in water is wrong?  Peter Singer, an ethicist currently working who isn’t looking to monotheism to prompt his ethics, says that children are not really human until they experience full consciousness… So per that 21st century secular standard, if you’re gonna boil a human, a newborn would be ideal?”)

    Again and again and again child sacrifice is shown in the Bible to be an abomination.  There are, of course, difficult books, and Kierkegaard’s struggle with the Isaac story is infamously mighty and hard but… He concluded it ultimately leads to… God.

    I don’t think these things are easy.  Nope!!!  Far from.

    “As for me and my house” though… well… I hope you know the rest.  ;)

    • #87
  28. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    We don’t have to use a passage from the Bible as part of this thought experiment. We could just dream up a scenario where you understand God is commanding you to do something that you think is absolutely, positively immoral.

    I reject the premise. It’s not about a particular passage of the Bible (that’s been your approach so far — asking the question, “What about when God commanded the ban?). It’s about developing some understanding of who God Is, and then making a decision using your free will to trust Him (faith), or not.

    If God commanded me to kill infants and children I would use my free will to disobey God.  I would probably later realize that the voice in my head that I thought was God telling me to kill infants and children was actually just me suffering from a brain injury.

    In fact, whoever wrote that passage in the Bible where God commanded the Israelites to kill infants and children was probably someone who didn’t have sufficient moral scruples to realize that what he was depicting was immoral.

    I would not make a comparison between the firebombing of Dresden or the nuking of Nagasaki, where children were undoubtedly killed, to God commanding the Israelites to put the ban on a people, even though it might be a way to tease your moral sensibilities. The former is the will of men with their limited knowledge of what might happen (continuation of war with even greater casualties) and the latter is God’s divine will with complete foreknowledge. I know this will be shocking, but using reason and logic, God’s commanding the ban was (by definition) Justice.

    If God really is the moral monster that is presented to us in various passages of the Bible, the moral thing to do is to disobey his immoral commands.

    Sort of like those 9-11 hijackers.  Sure, maybe their did think that God was telling them to fly those planes into the twin towers.  But the moral thing to do would have been to tell God to buzz off.

    • #88
  29. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Reason and morality were key to our Founders creating a Constitution, and Bill of Rights, the only country with a basis for freedom that has stood the test of time (so far). They didn’t pull these ideas out of thin air – they all acknowledge the Creator as the basis for our Foundation. They also wrestled to make sure the wording included all, and  not a specific religion, which is what they escaped. So non-believers and anyone else have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. This also included freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which is being challenged today and cannot be allowed to continue through Big Tech and others who don’t understand The Constitution.  We are not Europe.

    We’re approaching a trans-human, fourth industrial revolution that doesn’t recognize how and why our founders and the documents thy created work. They don’t see the human being as created in God’s image, but as a collection of cells that can be wired up and controlled by artificial means. They don’t recognize gender – you are whatever whim you choose today.  

    • #89
  30. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    One of the reasons I love being Catholic (besides the faith being true) is that the Church’s interpretive authority has lead to an understanding of the sweep of salvation history, connecting the Old Testament to the New in profound ways that I’m still learning.

    Me, too!  Me, too!!!!  And I think you’re wayyyyyyy further down the road than I am, but I often learn something new and say, “Wow!”

    That said, way back in this thread someone assumed someone else was Mormon.  I do not agree with the Mormon interpretation of Christianity, which is probably one of the reasons that it’s so easy to say, “How do we know which church is right?”  (That’s a totally reasonable question, actually.)

    But I have never met a Mormon who wasn’t… well… super nice.  Even without coffee, which is a miracle.  :)

    If someone thought I was a Mormon, I would take that as a compliment of sorts.  They’ve got some good fruit.

    • #90
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