11 Nov 2012

Jesus Conquers Facebook Too

Religious 103 Comments

A silly title but you’ll see where I’m going with this…

As I get older and observe more of human society, I realize just how clueless I was as a teenager, on all sorts of things. At the same time, since I became a born-again Christian and attend weekly church services in that tradition, I am learning that the “Christian worldview” actually solves the problems that would have throttled my younger (atheist) self. I’ll give you three quick examples, which are fresh in my mind because of the wretched hive of scum and villainy of my Facebook News Feed.

==> I have a few Facebook Friends who are over-the-top misogynist pigs, and actually have developed a comprehensive philosophy to this effect. They will make intentionally outrageous posts and then will bat away the objections of both women and men who find their views reprehensible. However, the funny thing is, I actually think they are usually right in what they are saying, it’s just that their conclusions would lead to immoral behavior. Yet the people who try to beat them on secular grounds, basically arguing that when it comes to dating, girls and guys are exactly the same blah blah blah, are simply fools. They get crushed in the debate, and everybody deep down knows it.

Yet the Bible-believing Christian wouldn’t be ruffled by this at all. He (or she!) can say, “Yes, the Bible establishes the man as the head of the household, and in that sense I agree that a family will be stable if the wife submits to her husband. However, this doesn’t give him license to do whatever he pleases, the way you clowns live your life. The husband must love his wife as Christ loved the church (i.e. be willing to die for her), and must view himself as a servant, nay a slave, to Christ.”

==> People are simply terrible. It is astonishing how much betrayal and cruelty occurs, and I’m not talking about genocide, I’m talking about people you know who are dating/married and then cheat etc. I totally understand how many great comedians–who really get people and that’s why they’re so funny–can move toward utter misanthropy during their careers. I can’t even imagine how cynical and disgusted with humanity I would be by the time I’m 70, except for the fact that there was one Man who was so good that He made up for the rest of us. Not only that, but He told us we were worthy of His love, and that we should likewise bestow it on each other. So even though I am prepared to throw in the towel on humanity, I defer to the superior wisdom of Jesus. If He could continue trying to help us even as we murdered Him, I can suck it up when I get a comment on Facebook from a “fan” that makes me bristle.

==> Finally, I’ve seen a lot of debates among libertarian types on Facebook about the existence of natural rights. Lots of the “tough guys” boast about “might makes right” and how rights don’t exist, etc. “Hey, unless I go get me a gun and shoot those NATO soldiers, I don’t own my house!” That type of stuff. The thing is, the atheist libertarians who try to reason with them, don’t have much of a leg to stand on. If you’re faced with someone who actually sees no difference between the law of the jungle and human society, and who is demanding that you “rationally” explain why he should refrain from exploiting a weaker person if it benefits him, then there’s nothing you can quote from Ayn Rand that will prove him wrong. In this context, then, it would certainly be worth bringing up the possibility that there exists an omnipotent Being who has serious issues about immorality, and who spelled out quite specifically what He thought the rules are.

In closing, one (futile) plea: If you are an atheist/agnostic reading this, please do NOT say to me, “Oh I get it, Bob believes in his magic man in the sky because it helps him deal with his emotional weakness. I don’t need that kind of crutch.” This is NOT what I’m saying. The case for the existence of God obviously doesn’t depend on whether it would be convenient in these other disputes. All I’m saying is, since I came to believe in the God of the Christian Bible for other reasons, as a happy offshoot I can easily dispose of the problems above–problems that are quite thorny for the atheist libertarian who believes in rights and thinks girls should be placed on a pedestal.

103 Responses to “Jesus Conquers Facebook Too”

  1. Daniel Kuehn says:

    First, I totally understand it’s not a crutch. I’ve got lots of religious family members, I used to be religious. That’s not where I’m coming from. I respect the important of that so much that I’m not even “out of the closet” with my brother, which is why I rarely talk about religion on my blog (thought he certainly has suspicions). So I do respect the power of that. But I do have thoughts.

    Your final one is fascinating to me. Basically you are conflating “might makes right” into a religion and then saying the atheist has no leg to stand on when combating it? Or maybe that’s your point – that when combating might makes right types you need the biggest, toughest guy on the block behind you? Or are you missing the irony that invoking God who has “serious issues about immorality” is the ultimate might makes right argument which has been employed by all sorts of might-makes-righters throughout history (not exclusive… atheists are bad too – I know).

    Working backwards, I think the second one is unnecessary. Yes humanity can be depressing, but in a lot of ways I think you have to think about where we came from. We’re just primates. Just animals. So of course we’re going to act like utter animals. And we do! All the time! But when you realize that with animals this kind of depravity is so normal we don’t even think about it as “depraved”, it’s breath-taking how morally advanced the human species is. Sure we’re awful a lot of times, but we have learned to think through our actions, empathize with others, create bonds with people we haven’t even met, and build a community that purges the depravity that makes life less livable out. It’s not perfect. But I think the depravity is actually a lot less depressing if you think about where we’ve been and especially where we’re going. We’re getting more moral – not less. And we’re doing that without a God, without objective truth, without any of those useful fictions we used to use to appreciate our own moral potential. By definition it is hard for a Christian to say that, I know – my point is more that that’s my way of thinking about it even without Christianity.

    I have to say I’m intrigued by the first point and what exactly you think wives submitting ought to entail. I am not so naive to reject differences between men and women. And they aren’t random – they conform to a lot of the gender roles that piss people off. And I feel a certain obligation to provide for Kate and feel no expectation that she would provide for me. So I am comfortable with gender roles as a fact of life to a certain extent – but not as a constraint (Kate has a career and I think that’s great and as long as she wants one we’ll find a way to make it work with kids, etc.). So all that and the “men different from women” and stuff I get totally without citing Scripture. I’m not a particularly radical feminist in that sense.

    But I cannot comprehend how Kate should ever “submit” to me. What sort of situation are you thinking of? Like if we have an argument I get the final word? I really can’t wrap my head around this. If Kate ever became “submissive” to me I wouldn’t drop her for it, obviously – but it certainly wouldn’t be the woman I married or wanted to marry. That seems very demeaning. But you use it vaguely so I’m not sure what you have in mind. I just can’t think of any use of the word that I would find acceptable.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      DK wrote:

      Your final one is fascinating to me. Basically you are conflating “might makes right” into a religion and then saying the atheist has no leg to stand on when combating it?… are you missing the irony that invoking God who has “serious issues about immorality” is the ultimate might makes right argument…?

      Working backwards, I think the second one is unnecessary. Yes humanity can be depressing, but in a lot of ways I think you have to think about where we came from. We’re just primates. Just animals. So of course we’re going to act like utter animals. And we do! All the time!

      Does anyone else find this funny?

      • Egoist says:

        A little, but I think DK brought up a good point.

        Isn’t God the ultimate might makes right argument? Do as I say or else you will suffer in torture and pain for eternity from a power you will not be able to ever overcome?

        I also think you brought up a good point. The atheist libertarian who doesn’t believe in might makes right really doesn’t have a leg to stand on when faced with an Earthly might makes right egoist.

        ….they have a gun.

        They don’t require an intellectual justification to stop a might makes right egoist. Thoughts cannot stop bullets.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          “Isn’t God the ultimate might makes right argument?”

          Depends on how it is brought up. Is what God says right because God says it, or is it just that it *is* right, and God’s perfection causes him to recognize that?

          “Do as I say or else you will suffer in torture and pain for eternity from a power you will not be able to ever overcome?”

          This is a common atheistic straw man. That’s a very, very crude understanding here. It’s really more of a “Do what I say, and you can come in My house – if you don’t it will be very uncomfortable outside” kind of thing. Although my personal belief is that the idea of Hell as a “burning lake of fire and brimstone” is actually a separate punishment for the devil and his actual followers – those that recognize the existence of God, and basically give him the finger and try to take over.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            Matt -
            I think you’re letting theists off far too easily. Yes, God says “do as I say and you can come into my house”, and that’s not especially “might makes right”.

            But more importantly he defines standards of morality, and no matter whether you think what he says sounds immoral (flip through the Bible – you”re bound to find a few!) or if you have different impulses or a different nature, it doesn’t matter. His might makes his law right. Forget hell and heaven. The point is God is not a pluralist. He does not say “we all have different understandings of what is right, the only real rule is that you let others pursue their moral vision”.

          • Egoist says:

            Matt:

            Depends on how it is brought up. Is what God says right because God says it, or is it just that it *is* right, and God’s perfection causes him to recognize that?

            If the good is independent of God, then the whole theist argument of “atheists have no moral leg to stand on” collapses.

            “Do as I say or else you will suffer in torture and pain for eternity from a power you will not be able to ever overcome?”

            This is a common atheistic straw man. That’s a very, very crude understanding here. It’s really more of a “Do what I say, and you can come in My house – if you don’t it will be very uncomfortable outside” kind of thing.

            That sounds awfully like a distinction without a difference, Matt.

            If one MUST be forced into either the house, or a place not in the house, then what’s the difference between that and the “crude understanding”?

          • Bob Roddis says:

            Hey LK, why don’t you lecture us about the gross immorality of using a pseudonym for posting on the internet?

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        I don’t see why it’s funny… are you saying that by observing that “we’re just animals” I’m invoking the law of the jungle or something?

        That’s a pretty elementary is/ought mistake if that’s what you think is funny.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      DK the “submissive wives” always made me uncomfortable too. But, I’m also the worst person on earth to ask advice about relationships. So the fact that it makes me uncomfortable is, if anything, a plus for it.

      Anyway, in this post I’m just reporting what the standard evangelical Christian position is on male/female relationships.

      • Egoist says:

        Serious question:

        In Christianity, why does God have a gender? And why is that gender male?

        I have a funny response to this (because he likes F@&%ING his creation), but I was wondering what your thoughts are on the matter.

        • ABT says:

          Good thing Islam doesn’t have that problem of a gendered God!

          But let’s stay on the topic at hand….

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        But it’s still vague – could you give a real life example of how I should expect Kate to submit to me?

        • Ken B says:

          The fur lined cuffs are best.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            We prefer leather.

            But why do you assume she’s the submissive one?

            • Ken B says:

              “how I should expect Kate to submit to me?” Word order was my best subject!

      • joeftansey says:

        “DK the “submissive wives” always made me uncomfortable too.”

        It makes me uncomfortable when I imagine her being married to some abusive douchebag. I imagine this is were secularists want to focus. They want a contingency plan for bad partnerships, and heaven/hell doesn’t satisfy them.

        But in a truly trusting relationship, submissiveness is such a blessing. It is amazing to lead without resistance or to follow without fear. I don’t see why there should be a proscribed gender hierarchy, but it makes sense to take advantage of each other’s strengths.

        • Ken B says:

          I think you mean prescribed.
          And Bob’s book argues against you here, because it does not countenance DK being the submissive one. Whatever form that takes.

          • joeftansey says:

            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proscribed

            I agree the bible probably did not mean to have a household where the wife could be the leader. But Bob has taken the literal meaning of the texts very far at least once before…

            What if a woman was submissive to her husband, but the husband gave her permission to be the head of household sometimes? “I command you to give me orders…”

            • Ken B says:

              Saying Y should submit to X is *prescribing”. Forbidding that Y submit to X is *proscribing*.
              There might be a symmetry if you assume there are only two options X/Y or Y/X so that a prescription implies a proscription. But the quoted injunction is a prescription not a proscription, and there are two proscriptions in fact: x = Y is forbidden.

              • joeftansey says:

                “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

                Of course, there are many quotes from both pre/pro scription.

              • Ken B says:

                Let’s split the difference: Bob is wrong.

                :)

      • Tim Miller says:

        Hey Bob, “The Complete Husband” by Lou Priolo is one of the best books I’ve ever read about the Biblical view of Husbands loving their wives. It goes into a proper view of submisison. It neither promotes the egalitarian view nor the domination view, rather, the biblical view of lovingly laying down your life. Another book that looks at the husband and wife roles the same way is “Christian Living in the Home” by Jay E. Adams.

        http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Husband-Practical-Biblical-Husbanding/dp/1879737353

        http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Living-Home-Edward-Adams/dp/0875520162

    • Chase Hampton says:

      “We’re getting more moral… without objective truth”

      Is that objectively true?

      • George says:

        This guy.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        I don’t understand why people always respond with this.

        They don’t realize that rather than being insightful, it’s the ontological equivalent of “do you still beat your wife?” Asking it misses the whole point.

        Why do you have the need to ask? Why are you sure there’s anything substantive to the objective/subjective distinction as it’s applied to the sentences we use to describe our reality?

        • Egoist says:

          Daniel Kuehn…

          “I don’t understand why people always respond with this.”

          Probably because those who argue humans do not or cannot know objective truth, are themselves eliciting an objective claim, which of course is a self-contradiction.

          “They don’t realize that rather than being insightful, it’s the ontological equivalent of “do you still beat your wife?” Asking it misses the whole point.”

          It’s of a completely different form and content. “Do you still beat your wife?” is a rhetorical device to insinuate that the person to whom you are allegedly only asking a question, is beating their wife.

          But Chase’s response to your statement that humans are without objective truth, is not a rhetorical device, but is rather a rather reasonable and commonplace method of logical inquiry called self-referential analysis, specifically, testing for performative contradiction.

          If one believes that humans are without objective truth, then that belief itself either cannot be an objective truth, in which case it is merely hypothetical, or else it is what it seems to be, an objective truth itself, in which case it is a self-contradiction.

          “Why do you have the need to ask? Why are you sure there’s anything substantive to the objective/subjective distinction as it’s applied to the sentences we use to describe our reality?”

          Is it an objective truth that he asked you something?

          It is an objective truth that he is sure there’s something substantive to the objective/subjective distinction?

          Etc…

          You argued we are getting more moral. Are your readers supposed to take that as an objective truth, or just your opinion? The way you asserted it was not as from a skeptic, or a nihilist. No, the way you asserted it suggests you are arguing in favor of an objective truth, which is that humans are getting more moral.

          Basically what is happening here is that you want to present “lack of objective knowledge” as an objective knowledge itself, thus the contradiction.

          Denying objective truth carries far reaching implications and consequences of which I don’t think you are aware.

          But please don’t misunderstand me as saying you MUST be logical. That is a choice and is up to you. You have the power to be logical and illogical, whenever it suits your interests.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            re: “Probably because those who argue humans do not or cannot know objective truth, are themselves eliciting an objective claim, which of course is a self-contradiction.”

            Thank you for just restating the point.

            re: “is a rhetorical device to insinuate that the person to whom you are allegedly only asking a question, is beating their wife.”

            Which is precisely why it’s equivalent. Asking whether I’m citing objective truth is just a rhetorical device to insinuate that there is an objective truth.

            re: “If one believes that humans are without objective truth, then that belief itself either cannot be an objective truth, in which case it is merely hypothetical, or else it is what it seems to be, an objective truth itself, in which case it is a self-contradiction.”

            Egoist, don’t you see how this evaluation of the question is premised on there being this thing called “objective truth” that has the qualities you ascribe to it?

            In other words, your claims are self-referential. That’s all I’m asserting when I say there’s no objective truth.

            re: “the way you asserted it suggests you are arguing in favor of an objective truth, which is that humans are getting more moral.”

            Once again, Egoist, you’re assuming your own conclusions. Is the verb “to be” tied up in an objective external reality or is it not? When you assume it is – as you have done here – of course I sound contradictory. But that’s not a very convincing way of demonstrating a contradiction.

            I agree, though. If you are right, then it follows that you are right. Happy?

            re: “Denying objective truth carries far reaching implications and consequences of which I don’t think you are aware.”

            Ah, I thought I’d get through one comment by everyone’s favorite pseudonymous buzzkill without the “you all are just ignorant” argument. Oh well.

            • Egoist says:

              Daniel Kuehn…

              Which is precisely why it’s equivalent. Asking whether I’m citing objective truth is just a rhetorical device to insinuate that there is an objective truth.

              That’s precisely what makes it not equivalent. Chase isn’t rhetorically insinuating that YOU beat your wife or that YOU believe that objective truth exists. He is rather addressing the argument you are making, and critiquing it as it stands.

              You don’t actually have to take a stand on this issue one way or the other. The argument you made, as it stands, contradicts itself. Any argument that posits X cannot (logically) also presuppose a denial of X, and vice versa.

              The statement “This sentence is not in the English language” is a performative contradiction of the type you made. It is not so much important that you do or do not believe that the statement is or is not true. It is rather important that the argument as it stands, contradicts itself. The content of the argument contradicts the presupposition of the argument.

              Egoist, don’t you see how this evaluation of the question is premised on there being this thing called “objective truth” that has the qualities you ascribe to it?

              Should I take that statement as an objective truth? Again, if you deny humans can know objective truth, then (not only is that a contradiction once again, but also) I would have to take your statement as being merely hypothetical, in which case you would be obligated to consider on what terms your hypothesis would potentially be falsified.

              You’re making a priori arguments and you don’t even notice it.

              In other words, your claims are self-referential. That’s all I’m asserting when I say there’s no objective truth.

              But you said that prior to anyone using self-referential analysis. If all you are asserting is that my statement is self-referential, then you are still not addressing the implication of your statement being either merely hypothetical, subject to falsification, or it is a priori, and thus inherently inconsistent.

              “the way you asserted it suggests you are arguing in favor of an objective truth, which is that humans are getting more moral.”

              Once again, Egoist, you’re assuming your own conclusions. Is the verb “to be” tied up in an objective external reality or is it not?

              You’re still not addressing the implications of YOUR argument. You’re trying to switch the burden onto me, which we can get to soon, but you still haven’t really considered your own argument.

              It’s a simple question. Yes or no: Is your statement that humans are without objective truth, itself an objectively true statement, or not? If it is not, then again, it is merely a hypothesis that is potentially falsifiable, and you would be obligated to consider counter-arguments. If you are not so willing, if you are certain you’re right, then you contradict yourself.

              When you assume it is – as you have done here – of course I sound contradictory. But that’s not a very convincing way of demonstrating a contradiction.

              But your arguments have assumed so, that’s the point. Your arguments are not being presented as hypothetical, subject to potential falsification. They are being presented as how things really are, that you are right and that I am wrong.

              If you deny objective truth is knowable, then you can’t even claim to know that I am arguing what I am arguing, nor can you claim to know that your arguments are merely sounding contradictory rather than actually being contradictory.

              In other words, you can’t claim I am wrong unless you presuppose objective truth is in your head.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                Egoist – you don’t need to keep explaining what a contradiction is to me. You need to explain why what I said is a contradiction in a world in which you haven’t already assumed that conclusion.

                I agree – if we all assume that Egoist is right, it follows naturally that Egoist is right.

                Insofar as there is no objective truth, of course nothing I say is objective truth. Your mistake is in evaluating that claim as if there were an objective truth (it’s just a hypothetical, etc. etc.). Obviously I’m happy to entertain other ways of talking about things. That’s practically obligatory in a world where the objective/subjective distinction is dismissed. Your mistake is in assuming some alternative to that as if there are “objective” claims that aren’t in that predicament.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                re: “If you deny objective truth is knowable, then you can’t even claim to know that I am arguing what I am arguing, nor can you claim to know that your arguments are merely sounding contradictory rather than actually being contradictory.”

                No not at all. I can claim anything I want that seems to make sense of the world around me and I can treat that as my model of the world that I work off of. And you are welcome to present me with a different way of thinking about the world that I might find even more useful. But your hang-ups on an old duality hardly prevent me from claiming this. You can present arguments which may or may not sway me. But presenting definitions doesn’t prove anything. It just shows that the building blocks of our sentences about the world either are a little different (as in the case where you think the verb “to be” has properties that I don’t think it has), or may be only imperfectly adapted tools for the job.

                In either case it doesn’t do the work you want it to do. Logic is a particular set of word-rules, it’s not a universal law. It aids in saying useful things about the world is contingent on how you’re using it. Staking out a definition and standing on that is not a very convincing way of saying something useful about the world.

              • Egoist says:

                Daniel Kuehn:

                Egoist – you don’t need to keep explaining what a contradiction is to me. You need to explain why what I said is a contradiction in a world in which you haven’t already assumed that conclusion.

                There is no such thing as a “possible world”, knowable to MAN, in which the laws of non-contradiction, identity, and excluded middle do not apply.

                They are necessary for the human mind to even grasp concepts.

                They cannot be assumed away, because by assuming them away, one is still presupposing all of them.

                I agree – if we all assume that Egoist is right, it follows naturally that Egoist is right.

                That is not my argument.

                My argument is that you claimed objective truth is unknowable to man. This claim is either true or false.

                Insofar as there is no objective truth, of course nothing I say is objective truth. Your mistake is in evaluating that claim as if there were an objective truth (it’s just a hypothetical, etc. etc.).

                That’s absurd.

                “Insofar as there is no objective truth” is a claim to an objective truth yet again.

                If you claim that nothing you say is objective truth, then neither can your claim that I am assuming a particular conclusion be regarded as objectively true.

                You also cannot claim I am making a “mistake”. A mistake implies my idea is not in fidelity with some truth external to my mind, i.e. objective truth. Thus, by saying I am mistaken, you are presupposing objective truth yet again.

                Obviously I’m happy to entertain other ways of talking about things. That’s practically obligatory in a world where the objective/subjective distinction is dismissed. Your mistake is in assuming some alternative to that as if there are “objective” claims that aren’t in that predicament.

                Again, your claim that I am mistaken cannot be regarded as true, if you deny truth is knowable.

                Your mistake, and I am entitled to arguing you are making a mistake because I do not deny that objective truth is knowable to me, is that you are rejecting the very logical presuppositions you yourself are using in the very course of your argumentation.

                re: “If you deny objective truth is knowable, then you can’t even claim to know that I am arguing what I am arguing, nor can you claim to know that your arguments are merely sounding contradictory rather than actually being contradictory.”

                No not at all.

                Contradiction yet again. If you say that what I said is wrong, then you are presupposing truth, and that my mind is not consistent with that truth.

                Otherwise, “wrong” doesn’t mean what you think it means.

                I can claim anything I want that seems to make sense of the world around me and I can treat that as my model of the world that I work off of.

                Yes, you can claim anything you want and try to divorce words from their praxeological foundation, but you will not be able to do that, and saying mere words and claiming to only be saying words doesn’t mean you will necessarily avoid being objectively wrong and it doesn’t mean I am unable to know that.

                And you are welcome to present me with a different way of thinking about the world that I might find even more useful. But your hang-ups on an old duality hardly prevent me from claiming this.

                Old duality? The objective/subjective distinction is what underlies your entire set of posts to me, whether you accept it or not. It is contained in the very structure of your statements.

                You can present arguments which may or may not sway me.

                How will you or I know if you have indeed been “swayed”, if you deny truth is knowable? What, that you have been swayed of being swayed? And that you have been swayed that you have been swayed that you have been swayed?

                You could not consider yourself actually swayed in an infinite chain of sways of sways.

                But presenting definitions doesn’t prove anything.

                Is it an objective truth that I am only presenting definitions? You would say no. But then how can you be doing what you seem to be doing, which is claiming to know that I am indeed only presenting definitions?

                It just shows that the building blocks of our sentences about the world either are a little different (as in the case where you think the verb “to be” has properties that I don’t think it has), or may be only imperfectly adapted tools for the job.

                It only shows that if you incorrectly view logical propositions as ontologically divorced from objective reality as an a priori (objective, thus contradictory) foundation!

                In either case it doesn’t do the work you want it to do. Logic is a particular set of word-rules, it’s not a universal law. It aids in saying useful things about the world is contingent on how you’re using it.

                This is incorrect. Logic is not mere wordplay. Logic is grounded in the empirical, real world concept of action.

                Staking out a definition and standing on that is not a very convincing way of saying something useful about the world.

                That’s what you are doing! You are the one, not me, who is claiming that logic is mere wordplay and definitions, and you are sticking to your definitions and claiming to not be convinced by them.

                Denying the ontological status of logic is a first step towards intellectual confusion and permissiveness.

            • Justin says:

              I’m having a hard time understanding how I can reasonably be swayed by your arguments when I have to accept the assumption that the words “gooble goggle spigglity foo” might be just as enlightening.

        • Ken B says:

          Computers are getting faster.

          Is that an objective truth? Do you realize the theory of time this commits you to? The ontological implications even of defing computer ….

          Here’s my response. Computers are getting faster. That’s a fact. I’ll let you worry about just what *kind* of fact it is.

          People are getting more moral.

          • Egoist says:

            I read “Here’s my response”. Is it is objectively true that what follows that opening statement is indeed your response, rather than say the response of Bob Murphy?

            I read “Computers are getting faster. That is a fact.” Is it objectively true that you stated a fact and that you are leaving it others to worry about what type of fact it is?

            You say people are getting more moral. Same question.

          • Justin says:

            That’s not an analogy to what was quoted.

            The following is:
            “Computers are getting faster and nothing is objectively true”

        • Chase Hampton says:

          “Why do you have the need to ask? Why are you sure there’s anything substantive to the objective/subjective distinction as it’s applied to the sentences we use to describe our reality?”

          Because the claims, “Genocide is wrong according to an objective moral standard by which all human actions are judged.” is substantively different than the claim “I think genocide is wrong.”

          Interestingly, I agree that fundamentally morality is subjective. I interpret the morality of each human action based upon my subjective standard, and you do the same with yours. However, what binds your actions to my standard and vice versa? What even binds my actions to my own standard, since my standard is subjective and changes to meet my desires? The point is, without an objective standard of morality, any condemnation of an action seems a little silly. What you’re left with is might (and persuasion) makes right, since it is the moral standards of the powerful and persuasive which are imposed. What if those who are powerful and persuasive determine that genocide is moral? And what if they are unwilling to reason with or acknowledge Daniel Kuehn’s standard of morality?

          And then, what if there was a being which designed our universe and our existence with a purpose, and furthermore that this being had its own standard of morality for the universe it created, which was expressed in its creation? Would this being’s subjective standard of morality apply to our universe in such a way that it became the objective standard of morality?

          • Egoist says:

            You had me until the last paragraph.

  2. Carrie says:

    If you’re faced with someone who actually sees no difference between the law of the jungle and human society, and who is demanding that you “rationally” explain why he should refrain from exploiting a weaker person if it benefits him, then there’s nothing you can quote from Ayn Rand that will prove him wrong.

    Objectivists would explain that exploiting a weaker person isn’t actually in one’s self-interest!

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Carrie, but it is when it comes to horses and other farm animals, right? We exploit chickens all the time. Objectivists don’t think we are actually hurting our properly understood interests then, right?

      • Matt Miller says:

        I’m no expert on Randian philosophy, but I believe the objectivist argument is that a man’s ability to think makes him infinitely more valuable than the brute force he could provide if enslaved and forced to engage in brute labor like an animal would be.

        They don’t say “man is unique because he was made in God’s image,” but they still maintain that man is unique because he has the ability to reason, and the question of how or why he has this ability is irrelevant.

        • David Friedman says:

          Objectivists claim that violating rights is never in one’s rational self-interest. But, in my experience, they have no adequate response to what is sometimes referred to as the prudent predator problem–the individual who violates rights only when he has good reason to think he can get away with doing so and gain by it. Demonstrating that such situations never exist is hard–I think impossible.

          On the other hand, I think there is a serious problem with claiming that atheists don’t, and religious persons do, have an adequate response to “might makes right,” a problem illustrated by the point already made. If the only reason to do what God tells you is that he is omnipotent and will punish you if you don’t then that is simply another version of might makes right.

          To get around that, you need some argument to show that God is good–that what he orders you to do is also what you should do. That requires some “pre-God” basis for moral judgements, in order to judge God with them. And once you allow for moral judgements that are not coming from God, there is no reason why the atheist cannot have them too.

          • Egoist says:

            This cat is eloquent.

          • Chase Hampton says:

            “To get around that, you need some argument to show that God is good–that what he orders you to do is also what you should do. That requires some “pre-God” basis for moral judgements, in order to judge God with them”

            No, you do not. The claim is not that God/God’s will is consistent with some standard of morality, but that the standard of morality by which HUMAN action is judged is God/God’s will. I understand how such a claim can easily lead to a sort of “might makes right” argument (though I’m not convinced that it necessarily does). Still, no matter what reason it is that God is the one determining the standard of morality for human behavior, he can choose to determine that might makes right is inappropriate for humans interacting with one another. So, it is certainly possible for might makes right to be incorrect without any appeals to a pre-God basis for moral judgements.

            • Egoist says:

              Still, no matter what reason it is that God is the one determining the standard of morality for human behavior, he can choose to determine that might makes right is inappropriate for humans interacting with one another.

              So I can avoid being tied up with might makes right if I can hire someone else to do the “might” for me, because it is “inappropriate” for me to personally do it?

              So, it is certainly possible for might makes right to be incorrect without any appeals to a pre-God basis for moral judgements.

              The context was might makes right per se, not might makes right for humans only.

              The argument is that the only way around might makes right per se, would be for morality to be extra-theological.

          • Ken B says:

            No wonder Hidden Order is the best econ book!

            • skylien says:

              Apple-polisher! (Hope that is the appropriate term, or would bootlicker have been better?).

              ;)

              • Ken B says:

                Well, the man *is* closer to being the son of god than Bob’s nominee!

                :)

              • skylien says:

                Hehe, you just can’t stop.

                :)

                I have not yet read hidden order, but of course ‘the machinery of freedom’ which is really great.

              • Joseph Fetz says:

                In my line of work we call such people “ball-washers”.

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          Couldn’t you enslave him to think instead of perform brute labor?

    • Egoist says:

      Is it not possible for a human being to be so dimwitted that they would only be valued in interactions when they are exploited?

      Suppose a seller of heroin is only offering heroin to me. Suppose he is weaker than me. Suppose also that I believe I could gain from his existence only if I lie and cheat him in some respect. Would you say that my belief cannot be true, ever?

      Suppose I am visiting a foreign city for a day. Suppose I believe I have an opportunity to gain by defrauding someone, but would not gain otherwise. Would that belief necessarily be false?

  3. The Existential Christian says:

    A Sunday post before 11:59 P.M.? You must be catching up on your work.

  4. John Thomas says:

    The point that the author is trying to make is that universal morality does not exist without an all powerful being who dictates it (God). If there is no god then the concept of right and wrong only exists in a individual’s mind. There is just universal existence. Not is moral or immoral university; only to a person. Might makes right means that whoever has the most power and strength will force his ideas on others. When the US govt says something is wrong, it is only wrong to the government, but unfortunately the govt has the force to bully people into acting how it wants. To me, the US govt is wrong, but I have less power to enforce my beliefs if my beliefs call for enforcement.

  5. Z says:

    “People are simply terrible.”

    Completely true. But in today’s society you’re not supposed to say that. If you say that to someone they will explode with “HOW DARE YOU BLAH BLAH BLAH…..!!!!!” which is nothing more than arrogant self serving bloviating. You’re supposed to think everyone’s wonderful and nobody does anything wrong. In fact they will tell you that you are arrogant for pointing out their mistakes and feign offense.

    • Egoist says:

      Or one can think a third way. One can deny that people are simply terrible, and one can deny that people only do right.

      I think saying people are terrible is nothing more than arrogant and self-serving bloviating, But then again, I also think that saying people are wonderful is arrogant, self-serving bloviating too.

  6. Egoist says:

    In this context, then, it would certainly be worth bringing up the possibility that there exists an omnipotent Being who has serious issues about immorality, and who spelled out quite specifically what He thought the rules are.

    God, or at least the human creators of the ten commandments, were pro rape.

  7. terrymac says:

    I’ve sometimes come to similar conclusions, Robert, but you may not like the way I get there.

    Suppose all religions are founded upon absurd presuppositions about Magic Monsters. Nevertheless, over time, some religious belief-sets confer advantages upon their believers. If one is honest, uses force proportionately for defense, respects the property of others, treats one’s neighbors and family with due respect, yadda yadda yadda, one is likely to live a more peaceful and prosperous life and to beget children who do likewise, and to attract new adherents. Meanwhile, if one believes in sacrificing firstborn children, squandering one’s wealth, sloth, and so forth, one is likely to have a short and miserable life, to be poor, and to drive away possible adherents who seek “something better.”

    In short, there is a sort of evolution of religious ideas. The handy thing about religion is that, as you say, it does provide a sort of shortcut: The Bible sayeth “thou shalt not steal”, therefore I shall not steal. — much shorter than “If we lived in a society where everybody steals, we’d have to expend a lot of effort defending from theft, which would divert resources from other, more productive uses.”

    You can see this particular principle in action in stores in different neighborhoods. In the suburbs, plants and bicycles and other goods for sale are often placed outside the store. It is customary to select goods and go inside the store and pay for them. In ghetto neighborhoods, the same goods are locked up inside the store, under the watchful eye of a security guard. Different social customs, different costs – and different prices. The suburbs may not be particularly religious compared to the ghettos, as measured by church attendance, but suburban people tend to have a history of behaving in ways which comport with certain religious values. That is, perhaps, how they became wealthy enough to live in the suburbs.

  8. Sam Geoghegan says:

    Regarding rights or anything supposedly originating from God, if God created rights, then the universe could administer them just as authoritatively. If the source of god is incomprehensible, then so too is the ultimate source of the universe. Rights, as with physical laws, could just as persuasively existed for eternity.
    I realise one could deduce from this that God and the universe are synonymous.

  9. Bob Murphy says:

    Just to clarify something that I was unclear about in the original post: I am not saying that an atheist/agnostic can’t come up with a “reasonable” moral code. After all, Murray Rothbard tried to do just that, based on what he called natural law. I love the natural law tradition in general, and think people really do have natural rights.

    However, what I’m saying is that if someone says to you, “Why should I care about morality AT ALL? Why should I think there is a separate set of constraints on my behavior–side rules, so to speak–to which my actions must conform, as I go about maximizing my personal satisfaction?” then you cannot use pure reason to convince this guy.

    This is why I don’t think utilitarianism works. Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as morality if you take utilitarianism seriously. There’s no difference between a moral person and one who maximizes his own utility, regardless of the effects on others. The two happen to coincide empirically, that’s all.

    David Friedman, if you’re still reading, it’s somewhat ironic because I think you’re the first person that really asserted this in my personal reading. In Hidden Order you had a section titled “The Limits of Reason” or maybe it was “The Limits of Rationality” (talking about the prisoner’s dilemma as it applied to soldiers facing an advancing enemy). When I first read that, I was a utilitarian (or a consequentialist I guess) and bristled at it, thinking you had to be wrong, because otherwise my whole worldview would collapse. Well, now I don’t think you were wrong.

    • Egoist says:

      You guys should read Stirner.

      • martin says:

        However, what I’m saying is that if someone says to you, “Why should I care about morality AT ALL? Why should I think there is a separate set of constraints on my behavior–side rules, so to speak–to which my actions must conform, as I go about maximizing my personal satisfaction?” then you cannot use pure reason to convince this guy.

        So what is a Christian going to say? Is he going to say “because god says so”? What if the other person answers “I don´t believe in god”?

        I´ve read the “without god there can be no morality” argument many times, but exactly why should an atheist – who, according to the same argument, is obviously amoral – care?

  10. Felix says:

    http://www.hackettpublishing.com/philosophy/on-the-basis-of-morality

    “Schopenhauer’s On the Basis of Morality deserves to be a standard text for courses in religious ethics. It doesn’t fit into the prevalent genealogies of virtue ethics and utilitarianism, thus reminding us of other genealogies (pessimism, Nietzsche, Buddhism). It poses fundamental questions about the monotheistic background to the dominant ethical systems of the day as virtually no other work does. I have found that reading it after an intensive study of Kant’s ethical and religious writings leads to fantastic discussions, which open the floor for great insights into the relation of religion and ethics.”
    —Mark Larrimore, Princeton University

  11. martin says:

    The “all morality is bogus” argument (aka “might makes right”) is about the silliest argument one can make. If you really believe that, the smart thing to do would be to live by it but don´t tell anyone…

    • Egoist says:

      Or one could live by it in plain sight, as long as one can convince enough people that one’s actions are a “legitimate” enactment of “laws”.

      Obama has just convinced a few millions of people that he can murder women and children via drone attacks. He is doing this in plain sight (well, without the help of the MSM of course, who ignore it…until a drone is shot at by a local freedom fighter, I mean terrorist, and then it’s Hysteria! Sensationalism!).

      Might makes right, however much you want to attack it, has been the modus operandi for states for millennia.

      It would take a truly innovative and unique revolution to abolish might makes right.

      • martin says:

        Which proves my point exactly. If Obama believes might makes right, he´s doing the smart thing: living by it, but NOT arguing it. (Or has he claimed somewhere it´s OK to murder women and children because he has the power to do it? Would give a whole new meaning to “yes, we can”…)

  12. AJ says:

    Meh, religion is used just as much as a crutch to execute atrocities or inequalities as “natural law” does.

    The Catholic moral code has really done nothing to protect kids from criminal priests nor punish them appropriately. Or go back the last several hundred years and see the conquering and militant mentality in the name of Christ. And their stance on birth control but support/allowance of vasectomy is just silly. Seems kinda choosy.

    The Catholic and Protestant moral code did nothing to stem the violence in Ireland.

    The moral code of Muslims has not stopped them from stifling women’s rights and flying airplanes into buildings or murdering people in the street who draw a cartoon.

    The Jews have been enslaved on and off and groups of people have tried to exterminate them for well over a thousand years so it is at least understandable why they are somewhat defensive and uncompromising regarding Israel and the surrounding area. However, depending on what stories you believe in the old testament at one point in time they were an unyielding group of conquering nomads with the justification of being “God’s chosen people”.

    Regardless of your religious affiliation or belief, your code of conduct is your own and the bottom line is you either respect other peoples freedom and property or you do not. It is that free will thing. Religious, kind of religious, agnostic, or atheist, I really don’t think it matters. All groups have their ass holes and saints in what I would argue (but not at all based on fact) a statistically similar percentage.

  13. joeftansey says:

    “Yet the people who try to beat them on secular grounds, basically arguing that when it comes to dating, girls and guys are exactly the same blah blah blah, are simply fools. They get crushed in the debate, and everybody deep down knows it.”

    Secular liberal grounds*. Being an atheist doesn’t commit you to cultural marxism.

    “I can’t even imagine how cynical and disgusted with humanity I would be by the time I’m 70, except for the fact that there was one Man who was so good that He made up for the rest of us.”

    So if you didn’t believe in God, but had a really amazing wife and kids, it wouldn’t offset the misanthropic dirge? I don’t know any perfect people. In fact, most of the really exceptional people I know have some really ridiculous problems. But I just try to take the good and leave myself out of the bad… Unless they cross a line and I feel the need to get involved (a friend recently joined the military D: ).

    “The thing is, the atheist libertarians who try to reason with them, don’t have much of a leg to stand on. If you’re faced with someone who actually sees no difference between the law of the jungle and human society, and who is demanding that you “rationally” explain why he should refrain from exploiting a weaker person if it benefits him, then there’s nothing you can quote from Ayn Rand that will prove him wrong.”

    Discourse ethics will technically work here, but the kind of people who claim might-makes-right tend to fail at understanding nuanced arguments.

    When they say “I can shoot you because I have power”, they want you to make the futile argument from morality. And then they will say “AHA! But your morals don’t matter if I have a gun!” It’s just an adolescent thought experiment. It doesn’t work if you don’t take the bait.

    “In this context, then, it would certainly be worth bringing up the possibility that there exists an omnipotent Being who has serious issues about immorality, and who spelled out quite specifically what He thought the rules are.”

    Although, really, if these guys laughed at common sense don’t-shoot-innocent-people morality, they would probably laugh at your theology too.

    “This is NOT what I’m saying. The case for the existence of God obviously doesn’t depend on whether it would be convenient in these other disputes. All I’m saying is, since I came to believe in the God of the Christian Bible for other reasons, as a happy offshoot I can easily dispose of the problems above–problems that are quite thorny for the atheist libertarian who believes in rights and thinks girls should be placed on a pedestal.”

    Agreed. But the easy disposal is only personal. You cannot use these arguments on atheists, and you would have a very difficult time using them on Christians less serious than yourself.

  14. The Merit That Fascism Has Won For Itself Will Live On Eternally says:

    “A living Christianity cannot exist side by side with, and within, Capitalism”

    (von Mises, quoted in Jorg Guido Hulsmann, Mises, the Last Knight of Liberalism, p. 982)

    “[Jesus] rejects everything that exists without offering anything to replace it. He arrives at dissolving all existing social ties…. The motive force behind the purity and power of this complete negation is ecstatic inspiration and enthusiastic hope of a new world. Hence his passionate attack upon everything that exists. Everything may be destroyed because God in His omnipotence will rebuild the future order…. The clearest modern parallel to the attitude of complete negation of primitive Christianity is Bolshevism.”

    (von Mises, Socialism, p. 413)

    “Jesus’s words are full of resentment against the rich, and the Apostles are no meeker in this respect. The Rich Man is condemned because he is rich, the Beggar praised because he is poor…. In God’s Kingdom the poor shall be rich, but the rich shall be made to suffer. Later revisers have tried to soften the words of Christ against the rich … but there is quite enough left to support those who incite the world to hatred of the rich, revenge, murder and arson…. This is a case in which the Redeemer’s words bore evil seed. More harm has been done, and more blood shed, on account of them than by the persecution of heretics and the burning of witches. They have always rendered the Church defenceless against all movements which aim at destroying human society. The church as an organization has certainly always stood on the side of those who tried to ward off communistic attack. But it … was continually disarmed by the words: “Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the Kingdom of God.”

    (von Mises, Socialism, p. 420)

    “Social cooperation has nothing to do with personal love or with a general commandment to love one another… [People] cooperate because this best serves their own interests. Neither love nor charity nor any other sympathetic sentiment but rightly understood selfishness is what originally impelled man to adjust himself to the requirements of society…and to substitute peaceful collaboration to enmity and conflict.”

    (von Mises, Human Action, p. 168-9)

    • That its foreign policy, based as it is on the avowed principle of force in international relations, cannot fail to give rise to an endless series of wars that must destroy all of modern civilization requires no further discussion. says:

      “Since the third century Christianity has always served simultaneously those who supported the social order and those who wished to overthrow it. . . . It is the same today: Christianity fights both for and against Socialism.” – Socialism, p. 378

      • ABT says:

        Sooooooooooooo what’s your point?

        Cake or death?

  15. Ken B says:

    Yes, the argument from authority is darned convenient sometimes.

  16. terrymac says:

    There are two problems with the “argument from religion.”

    First, it is unconvincing to agnostics, atheists, and even some “rationalist” believers.

    Second, religious people disagree. For instance, many people will say that usury is unlawful, according to scripture. A logician might point out that a single contradiction can be used to prove anything – are you sure there are absolutely no contradictions in the Bible? Just one would allow proof of anything at all.

    I don’t know if there are any watertight arguments.

  17. ABT says:

    It’s funny to read everyone’s response to this post.

    Because most (I can name names if you’d like) seem to be making Bob’s point. Like reading the whole thread about (paraphrasing):
    “Well are you taking your statements to be objective truth? ”
    “What is objective truth?”
    “How can you say anything ever if you don’t believe there is something TRUTHIER out there that we can approach towards?”

    So it seems that Bob, in believing in a Creator and that he must be a slave to the Creator and his morality, has CRUSHED all of these circular claims. Then people have a hard time digesting how to even search for truth if you cannot even get past there being one in the first place.
    Just all seems so funny….

    One man’s truth is another man’s objection that you can say anything at all. Enjoy the semantic gymnastics atheist libertarians!

  18. Tel says:

    Finally, I’ve seen a lot of debates among libertarian types on Facebook about the existence of natural rights. Lots of the “tough guys” boast about “might makes right” and how rights don’t exist, etc. “Hey, unless I go get me a gun and shoot those NATO soldiers, I don’t own my house!” That type of stuff. The thing is, the atheist libertarians who try to reason with them, don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

    Why would an atheist libertarian argue about this? If you think the guy in question is OK, then just nod along with what he says. If you think the guy is a trouble maker then since he already accepted the “might makes right” philosophy then all you have to do is beat him up… but you don’t even need to do that with your own hands, after all, you are paying for a police force, and they are professional thugs provided just for this purpose.

    The bit you guys are missing is that all of society is founded on the “might makes right” principle, and that’s the reason we even have a society. Think back to ancient Greece, sure they were famous for maths and theatre but what they actually did is convince large numbers of young men to get shield and spears together and form a phalanx. Lots of guys pointing their spears in the same direction, who are well trained and disciplined will very easily beat the daylights out of disorganized rabble.

    Ultimately it was the Roman soldiers who defeated both Jesus and all the other Jews that Jesus disagreed with on philosophical matters, the only reason we remember Jesus at all is because Peter managed to make some of this philosophy useful to Rome. The reason Christianity was useful to Rome was that it helped provide the social fabric that allowed them to keep power and eventually it led to chivalry, knights and the feudal system.

    Morality is not an alternative to “might makes right” it is simply the logical extension of the same principle to a team scenario. No need to look for deep spiritual principles here… pragmatism is sufficient.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Morality is not an alternative to “might makes right” it is simply the logical extension of the same principle to a team scenario.

      And Austrian economics is basically Keynesian economics with more than 1 person.

      • Tel says:

        Hmmm, I think that’s a little backwards. Austrian economics came before Keynes.

        Probably should say that Keynesian economics is Austrian economics boiled down until we can operate on a presumption that all people function as one aggregate person.

        Of course, the interesting part of both politics and economics (and warfare for that matter) is how exactly you get a large and disparate group of people to work as a team.

        • skylien says:

          What you actually need is all people looking at the FOMC’s decission what the new target interest rate is and change their time preference schedule accordingly (The beauty about this part is, that the FOMC would not need to actually buy or sell any bonds anymore to reach the target, mere jaboning was sufficient).

        • Ken B says:

          Um Tel. I think Bob is saying the equivalent of “Yeah and pink is blue applied to more than one dress.”

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Right. Tel sorry to make you waste your time responding to that. I meant, as Ken B. suggests, that I thought your original claim didn’t make any sense.

            • Tel says:

              I thought I had answered both interpretations.

              If you have a large group of people working as a team with a common purpose to defeat a common enemy, then they will win wars and defeat disorganized individuals. This has been demonstrated so many times throughout history that it just isn’t funny.

              Yes there have been a few times where big empires have been defeated by guerilla tactics (e.g. the US War of Independence, or the Vietnam War) but even in these cases the guerilla’s were not just disorganized individuals, they did fight with a common purpose and they did have an organizing principle — it was just more loose knit than they typical command and control structure used to win wars.

              At any rate, after the dust settles, the winner gets to define what is “right” and you can be sure that will be an extension of whatever guiding principle they use to organize their team. So we have “might makes right” on a mass scale, even though individuals within that particular group (i.e. the winning group) must submit to some code of group ethics (possibly Christianity, possibly Islam, or whatever).

              Of course, whatever system of group ethics you choose, also must offer some advantage to the individuals (possibly only a small advantage), else no one would follow it.

  19. John Hayden says:

    Well done Bob. I turn to you for your economic insights and end up getting a delight from your faith insights.

  20. ken says:

    If there’s an omnipotent being, isn’t that the same as arguing that might is right? Since that omnipotent being seems to show no interference with the actions of bullies, if I were a bully I might argue that God is on my side as He does not interfere in my bullying and I’m bigger than you so I must be right.

    As a non-theist, I would argue that natural rights are not rights that inhere by some divine gift. After all, what an omnipotent being gives, he can then take away. If God wants to make some man King on Earth, then that is his power and natural rights are meaningless, no? I would argue, instead, that natural rights are an ethic. That if you or anyone else wants equal justice then the natural rights ethics are the only system that allows one to objectively define right and wrong as it relates to the use of political action. God may be the creator of order, but just because he’s powerful does not give him the right to judge anyone other than by the natural rights ethics. Any other action on the part of God to interfere with the life of a peaceful person is bullying. Therefore, if God is good, then he cannot violate natural rights, yet His requirements in order to get on his good side and avoid post-life punishment do mean that He violates natural rights.

    For example, adultery is not a violation of the natural rights of any of the parties involved even though one or more of the parties may feel hurt or violated, it’s their choice to feel that way and no force or fraud can claim to have been done merely by the act of adultery. It is a matter of freedom of association, and while it breaks marriage vows, God could not treat it as a crime, or sin, worthy of punishment without violating the natural right of the adulterer to choose with whom he or she wishes to associate.

    I firmly hold that natural rights are the only ethical system that works for humanity to achieve peace and liberty for every individual. I don’t need a divine being with the power to force his right through his might to tell me that.

    • ABT says:

      Have you considering that God isn’t some bully imposing his “ethics” or rights on you, but rather God (being all knowing and your inventory, of course if you are willing to consider that) is telling you how you are?

      So its a matter of “how you are”. Kind of like I know if I somehow built a random number generator computer program that takes whatever random number, x lets say, and performs the operation 1/x. I know 1/0 will cause the computer to freak out and may not things persay but it sure as heck will produce a “bad” (incorrect) outcome.

      So God says “thou shall not divide by zero! But my mercy to you is that I will allow you to choose what to divide by. I’m seriously telling you not to divide by zero, though. It will screw you up.” So the morality of such an operation is felt through the knowledge of your Creator that not only is it bad but it is a scar against your soul and such a program is “damned”.
      I suppose your soul = the memory registers in this example?
      Not the BEST analogy but I think you get my point.

      There is no reason why your natural ethics should be more valuable than someone else’s or that it shouldn’t apply to interactions between animals and humans or plants and human? Why would humans be more valuable than plants and be allowed to eat defenseless foliage? or chickens?

      • ken says:

        I don’t much care what God might be telling me.

        As for your value comparison, I’d love to see Bob’s answer, but I’d say that a rock or slug or plant cannot assign value, hence you have no value to a rock or slug or plant. However, humans can assign value, and most, if not all, humans, assign a higher value to at least one human than they do any rock, slug or plant.

        As for the reason why a natural rights ethics would be more value, I would again point out that value is subjective. It is like any other system that must be sold, that is, it is the task of the proponents to get others to assign a value that is higher than what those others give up to get it. My way is the attempt to appeal to the rational mind. If, for instance, the person I am talking to insists that the world would be better off with equality for all under the law, then I would show the reason why the natural rights system of ethics is the only system of ethics under which that ideal can be achieved.

        • ABT says:

          Good deflection to the “God is telling you things” part.

          Who cares what the builder is telling me I’m going to build my ship out of bricks! Enjoy the bottom of the ocean, I suppose.
          And please no smart ass comments about the ability for a brick vessel that can be constructed so that it is buoyant. You get what I’m gettin at.

          “i’d say that a rock or slug or plant cannot assign value, hence you have no value to a rock or slug or plant”
          But consider an animal. They seemingly “make decisions” and move about, just like a human. You looking at the actions of a dog would not be able to say with any evidence that the dog is not “deciding” what to do. In the same way you cannot know what is going on inside of another person with regards to decision making. So for all intents and purposes, you and the dog are animals in this world who eat, poop, and play. So again, I ask what in your system makes you more valuable.

          Bob (and likely other Christians) would likely reply with one of these statements:
          1) Man was created in the image of God making him exalted over all other creation
          2) Angels bowed to the first man, Adam demonstrating his position in the universe
          3) Many verses point to Man having to be a good steward of this world and having dominion other creatures
          So Bob doesn’t have as much difficultly with the question as to why are human’s superior. No verbal gymnastics needed, so long as you believe in the God of the Bible.

          “If, for instance, the person I am talking to insists that the world would be better off with equality for all under the law, then I would show the reason why the natural rights system of ethics is the only system of ethics under which that ideal can be achieved.”

          Sounds like circular logic to me. Are you saying a natural rights system would be fit into the idea of equal rights under the law for all? But isn’t the “law” in your example a natural rights system?
          And what if the person you are talking to insists that, say, men are generally physically stronger than women and therefore superior overall because they value physical strength. Would that fit into your natural rights systems?

          It seems your system is ill defined or maybe im just not getting it.

          • ken says:

            If someone is an authority on a subject, I see no reason not to listen to them. I’ll listen to a boat builder and follow his advice when building a boat. If I don’t follow his advice, and I sink my boat, does that mean that the boat builder should punish me for not following his advice?

            If there’s a wise being out there, perhaps even a creator of human kind, then yes, I’d like to hear what he has to say. There is much wisdom in the Bible, to that I’ll agree, and much wisdom to be found in other religions as well. However, that does not then lead me to the conclusion that I should submit my will to one of these wise entities, or get on my knees and kowtow and worship and beg for help.

            Quote: “So again, I ask what in your system makes you more valuable.”

            The faculties that I have to create and assign value, and to communicate that value to others in order to trade. Without that, there is no value, there just is the present, which is where dogs and other animals live.

            Quote: “Bob (and likely other Christians) would likely reply with one of these statements:”

            That does not mean that value is not subjective, Bob just asserts that there are another set of entities assigning value.

            Quote: “Sounds like circular logic to me. Are you saying a natural rights system would be fit into the idea of equal rights under the law for all? But isn’t the “law” in your example a natural rights system?”

            Yes. But that doesn’t make it circular logic. Natural law, being the best system for political equality among human beings should be the basis of law, and there should be no other basis if that equality is the desired outcome.

            Quote: “And what if the person you are talking to insists that, say, men are generally physically stronger than women and therefore superior overall because they value physical strength. Would that fit into your natural rights systems?”

            I’m not sure how. Natural rights, as I understand it, stem from the faculty of humans to be rational moral actors and to recognize the rights of others.

            If you want a discussion of natural rights, I’m sure you can find one around here. The topic of this thread, and the reason I got into it, was Bob’s apparent belief that atheists cannot find common ground with Christians on the source of rights. I think he’s incorrect; but I also think that he’s right that many atheists have not given it much thought are often ill-informed about the subject.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Ken, in your system of natural rights, if I create something with material that nobody else owns, do I own the thing I just created?

      • ken says:

        Bob. Yes. However, if I see where you are getting at, I would disagree that if I create something sentient, ie. a self creator, from material that nobody else owns, that being would also have natural rights and I would not own him/her/it. He/she/it would be a self-owner.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Ken what about the non-sentient things? Do you agree God–if He happened to exist in the way the Bible describes–owns every atom in the universe except those that constitute human bodies (and the bodies of whatever else might be sentient elsewhere in the universe)?

          • Ken B says:

            Danger! Danger Will Robinson!

          • ken says:

            It’s an interesting question. I’m not sure that there’s just one description of God in the Bible as the way He supposedly exists. An omnipotent, omniscient, infinite God would not be an entity, but would be everything. In that case, we are just a part of God and cannot be separated from Him. And using words like “Him” are just a way for our limited minds to deal with the infinite. In that case, I would find it hard to reconcile the idea that the infinite would become a single point in order to interfere in the operations of a single part of its self. It would be something like you or I telling specific neurons in our brain how to fire. If we are a part of one great Is, then it’s only our limited minds that perceive a separation from God and it is that perception which creates the illusion of suffering.

            If, on the other hand, there is a supreme creator being with seemingly infinite knowledge and power, then even if he were to own every atom by virtue of being the creator of those atoms, that would not give him the right to ignore the natural rights of humans.

            So, if God is the owner of every atom because he created them, does that give him the right to act like the state when it creates arbitrary rules and punishes peaceful people for violating them? Are we really slaves to God’s demands? Or, perhaps, the universe is God’s gift, all those resources available to sentient beings to make of them what they will. In which case, does that still give God the right to assume the power of the state and punish peaceful beings for violating arbitrary rules?

            • Bob Murphy says:

              If, on the other hand, there is a supreme creator being with seemingly infinite knowledge and power, then even if he were to own every atom by virtue of being the creator of those atoms, that would not give him the right to ignore the natural rights of humans.

              OK so what if God says, “If I catch you working on the Sabbath, I will prevent any of my oxygen atoms–my property, you’ll recall–from entering your mouth or nostrils.” That is totally consistent with your view of natural rights, assuming God exists in the way I think He does.

              • ken says:

                If I invite you over to my home and tell you not to touch my chocolate candies or I’ll kill you, is it right for me to then kill you when you go ahead and eat them anyway? It would rightful for me to evict you, but murder would be an inappropriate response.

                And, even if killing you would be appropriate response, given that all other measures to evict you have failed, I still can’t reconcile that with the right to put you into a torture chamber for eternity for eating my chocolates. And I really do like my chocolates!

              • ken says:

                Perhaps, Bob, it would make sense for us to define what are natural rights in our mind, and then we can see where there is common ground. I believe strongly in the power of faith, but I am still not a theist. I find it irritating when someone maintains that a non-theist or atheist can not subscribe to natural rights, just as I find it irritating when my fellow non-theists gets the message of Jesus totally wrong. I think there needs to be a common ground, especially since I come from that leftist-socialist-atheist background and have embraced peace and voluntarism as the ideal political organization of mankind.

    • Tel says:

      Since that omnipotent being seems to show no interference with the actions of bullies, if I were a bully I might argue that God is on my side as He does not interfere in my bullying and I’m bigger than you so I must be right.

      That’s basically justification for the entire feudal system… and it worked for more than a thousand years.

      Fundamentally we never really left that… we just evolved our technology to the point where the level of complexity and specialization requires that individuals are given a lot more freedom to organize their own affairs and along with that freedom they can also organize themselves to pull down a particularly annoying bully.

      I’ll point out that even in the Feudal age, kings were still considerably constrained by their reputation. Kings had to keep the church reasonably onside, because the church had the ear of the common folk and once news got back to the Pope, he did have some power to influence political events. Kings also had to keep side with the nobility, because those nobles could gang up against the king and throw their support behind some different king. Kings even needed the merchants interested enough in trading that they didn’t just shift their trade routes to some other kingdom.

      • ken says:

        Tel, you’re right, it was a justification; that does not mean I am justifying feudalism. Far from it. The discovery of the natural rights system of ethics is as fundamental to the political liberty of individuals as the discovery of the scientific method was to human progress. Just as there are still many superstitious people, there are many who hold on to old systems of ethics in which might is right. I don’t see why God has to be the catalyst to acceptance of natural rights.

  21. Dissident Thinker says:

    An Austrian economist and born-again Christian, match made in heaven! Keep up your excellent commentary. It’s great that you intersperse economic commentary with something even more important, the Gospel.

    I don’t like to get into great philosophical debates with big words. All I know is that we are all great sinners and I can feel it in my conscience before an almighty God who provided us with a way out (Jesus Christ).

    The good person test: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCSUKIhjevo

  22. President Awesome says:

    I used to be a born again christian, now i am nothing – or probably a nihilist. or a lazy agnostic. The evangelical or american born again belief system has a lot of good value, even if at foundation is based on a whacky irrational delusion.

    However I think Burke is one of the great thinkers that traditional institutions or traditions may have a lot of value despite being irrational (or becuase they are irrationa), because the way they came about took into account alot of steps, compromises, and practical actions that led to a good result – which might be impossible for someone (even if really intelligent) to reason to that answer. This was in part his argument against the liberty of the french revolution.

    I think nietzsche also pointed out the ridiulousness of trying to reason one’s way to a moral code or belief system. there are no morals, no meaning and no limit on our action. people like leo strauss think its good to keep that a secret. thats what i think anyway.

    BM, you should really ditch a religion if you want no restriction or limit on your thoughts. john stewart mill spends about 1/3 of on liberty (i think) trashing christianity precisely because of this.

  23. DoNotGiveInToEvil says:

    Just wanted to share one of my favorite articles that argues for the necessity of reasoning based on *some* worldview (and that only the Christian worldview can ultimately make sense out of reality). It’s worth a read! “Why I Believe in God” by Cornelius Van Til: http://www.reformed.org/apologetics/index.html

  24. Mike says:

    “since I became a born-again Christian ”

    lol.

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