Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 2

Nick Peters continues his review:


Now we get into something more entertaining. It’s Krueger’s look at morality. At the start, Krueger says “The view that atheists cannot act according to a legitimate system of ethics is, while erroneous, quite common.” Let me reply with my own position. “The view that the moral argument states that atheists cannot act according to a legitimate system of ethics is, while erroneous, quite common.” Yes, Krueger. You have started off with a straw man. The moral argument is not about if one can be good without God, but if one can have an ontological and epistemological basis for goodness without God.

Krueger says that most theists say that atheism should be abandoned since it cannot account for morals. He contends that theism on the other hand cannot account for morality. If he is right, he believes that theists can no longer raise the charge against atheists. The problem is that theists could very well do that. It would not be the strongest argument and be a tu quoque, but if both views are unsatisfactory, then both are unsatisfactory.

Krueger’s plan is to show that God is not the source of morality and that the Bible is not an adequate basis for morality. The first we will deal with when he presents it. Of course that will be done for the second, but let us state at the start that the Bible teaches morality but it is not to be seen as the source of morality. One can have morality apart from the Bible.

What’s Krueger’s great argument? Why it’s the Euthyphro dilemma!

Because we know in 2,500 years of thinking since then that no theist has addressed this dilemma….

Krueger presents the two horns. Is something good because God wills it? This is a view I do not hold as I agree that it becomes circular. The good is what God wills. That does not tell us anything more about the content of goodness itself and what it means to be good. It is just a tautology.

The same problem applies to saying the good is God’s nature. I agree that God’s nature is good and in fact I agree that what God wills is good, but what I seek to know is what the good itself is. Krueger states that one must then state they have no standard of ethics or that God is not the source.

Or one could go with a more Aristotlean view of Natural Law theory and describe goodness as that at which all things aim and go from there realizing that God is goodness to the full. A good metaphysics based on Thomism could help with that. Krueger embarrassingly says about his argument that, “No theist has ever been able to overcome this strong objection to the view that God is the source of ethics.”

Krueger obviously knows this after going through a round of interviewing Sunday School teachers….

Next, Krueger goes after the Bible. First, he points to a system of rewards and punishments in the Bible stating that this is about self-interest and not ethics.

Unlike modern America where we reward people with bonuses on the job and such for doing good and punish them with jail time for doing evil. Obviously, a truly ethical system says nothing about the consequences of the actions.

Krueger also speaks about the vagueness of the Bible. The commands are too vague. The problem is that Krueger is thinking all of the texts are absolutes in every case and there are no general principles.

Krueger also faults the Bible for not speaking about many issues we have today: Like abortion, contraception, and organ donation. Also pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, right to privacy, etc. Thus, an ancient document is faulted because it doesn’t tell Krueger everything he wants to know. That’s not the role of the Bible, however. It is not meant to teach men how to be good, but to teach them about Christ, and from there, they will want to be good hopefully.

Krueger then lists unethical teachings of the Bible, such as how the Bible says to resist not evil. (See links below for this and other issues noted here.) Also of course, there’s slavery.

There’s also the charge that Jesus was racist since when speaking to the Gentile woman he said it is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs. Never mind that he did heal the woman.'s daughter as asked . Krueger adds that today, compassionate people consider racism immoral. Why? No reason given. They just do.

Next we have the typical rants on genocide with Genesis 7, Deuteronomy 20:16, Joshua 10:40 and 11:20, and 1 Samuel 15. (Sample links below)Then references to God punishing people by forcing them to be cannibals. (See links below again)hen more teaching that since we should obey all authorities, Martin Luther King Jr. could be suffering eternal agony then for standing up to the government and God obviously appointed Hitler and Mao.

Then we get to kidnapping and rape. First on the list is Numbers 31 where Moses supposedly tells the soldiers that they may rape the daughters. (Chapter and verse please Krueger?) There’s also Deuteronomy 21:10-14 as expected. Finally, Judges 21:10-24.

Krueger also says the Bible sanctions killing innocents during war time (Since we all know the Geneva Convention was in place back then) using Isaiah 13 as an example.

Next, we have verses on women. There’s the common headship passages from Scripture. Also, Krueger states that Leviticus 12 has childbirth as a sin and obviously having a girl makes one twice as sinful. Krueger tells us that scholars tell us that the idea of clean or unclean does not refer to hygiene but one’s relationship to the divine. Which scholars? Beats me. He never cites them.

Next is Leviticus 19:20-21 and Deut. 22:23-24 and 28-29. Krueger describes the test for virginity in Deut. 22:13-21 as barbaric. (Obviously) Numbers 5:11-31 reportedly has an agonizing adulteress test. Finally, the Ten Commandments include a wife among one’s possessions.

Once again, Krueger tells us that today, compassionate men and women believe that men and women should be considered equals. Upon what basis? Well, none is given.

Krueger also says the Bible is contradictory on ethics. Can one love one’s enemies and send them to Hell? In essence, yes. God gives people what they want and is for their best good.

Krueger also looks at name-calling such as calling someone a fool which supposedly goes against Colossians 3:8 .

What about lying? We have the hilarious notion that Jesus says in John 18:20 that he always taught in synagogues and the temple, but this is false since he taught a sermon on a mountain. The text also says he said nothing in secret, but obviously he did teach things in secret. Of course, there’s John 7 as well and Luke 23:43 is a source of lying since Acts 2:31 says Jesus descended into Hell. Also mentioned are 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 and 1 Kings 22:20-23. Ezekiel 20:25-26 is used to show that God gave the people bad laws.

Should we honor our parents? According to Krueger, Luke 14:26 says we shouldn’t. His source on what the word miseo means in that verse is Darrel Henschell. (Who??) Most horrific of all however is that in John 2, Jesus refers to his mother as “woman” twice. GASP! THE SCANDAL!

Krueger looks at possible objections. The ideas are modern entirely. I agree that we should not appeal to feelings. I do think however that the atheist needs his own system of ethics, which Krueger will get to now.

What are they? Well there’s Kant. Kant believed in a good will and Krueger says that what is important is one’s motive then. Fair enough. If my motive for torturing children is that it brings me pleasure, is that good? To be sure, motive is a part in ethics, but it is not the only part.

Kant also said that one should only will as a principle what they think should be universalized. So let’s look and see what I could do with this. I will it as a principle that I treat myself as the highest good. I think everyone else should also treat me as the highest good. Krueger could say that I am not treating the principle rightly. I could respond saying I just did the exact same thing he did with the biblical aphorisms. I think there is some truth to Kant’s idea, but there are problems as well as there are with any aphorism.

Then of course there’s Utilitarianism, which is also vague and then has some problems. Consider the case of an island with 51 stranded people. 50 are men and one is a woman. The men decide they will increase the maximum pleasure of themselves by raping the woman regularly. Her unhappiness will not outweigh their happiness. Would this be immoral on Utilitarianism?

The problem with the Utilitarian ethic is that it only looks at consequences. It does not pay attention to the other aspects. Consequences are part of a system, but not the whole. Also, pleasure and pain are quite vague. We all know of pleasures we ought to avoid, and we all know of harms we ought to allow. Wine can be a good pleasure, but too much makes you drunk, a bad outcome. Pain is generally to be avoided, but we all know we’d have a painful but necessary surgery.

Also, in listing all of these, Krueger does not give a criterion for goodness. Note that this was the objection of the Euthyphro dilemma. Krueger himself must answer it. How is he to define good? If he cannot, he is just taking ethical systems and saying that they are good, but upon what basis? What is this goodness? Krueger never tells us. There is no interaction with Natural Law thinking whatsoever. No theistic sources are ever cited.

I conclude that Krueger has not made his case and even granting other ethical systems, they still need a basis for goodness and that is only in theism.

(JPH note: Here's just a sample of links answering Krueger's silly claims. Since I know this is all over his head -- having dealt with him before -- we'll leave it at these, because if he ever sees this, they'll keep him busy for years.)

http://www.tektonics.org/TK-C.html (entry under Cannibalism)

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