Morality And God

“I dont need a God to tell me basic humanitarian actions which are obvious we need to do”.That was a comment i got when discussing with an atheist.My questions are.Since morality doesnt come only from God where else does it come from?Family?Relationships?Upbringing?Or even maybe evolution>How do we explain the difference in morality that people have ?What would you answer to this person ?

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Christian morality comes from interpretations of the Bible. Those interpretations are situated in history and shaped by culture, so there is a spectrum of practices and views on Christian ethics change over time.

All human cultures have moral codes that are transmitted and enforced in community. You aren’t born with innate knowledge of these cultural codes, you are socialized into them, but there probably are some very basic evolved psychological predispositions that aid even very young children in basic moral judgments. Even very young toddlers want to help someone who is distressed, for example. But they’ve done studies and shown many dogs will try to comfort a crying human, so who knows if responding in very basic socially cooperative ways is “morality.”

There aren’t universal human moral codes, they are all shaped by the beliefs and values of a particular community. What is grossly immoral in one culture might be morally obligatory in another. For example, in some people groups in Africa, twins were seen as demonic and the moral thing to do was to leave them out in the woods to die in order to protect the community. Many Asian and Latino cultures think that the American practice of putting elderly parents in nursing homes at the end of their lives is morally reprehensible, whereas many Americans see it as providing and caring for their parents’ needs.

Christians believe that all humans have the capacity to innately recognize there is a God, and there is right and wrong. (Romans 1) But God’s will for human morality is revealed in Scripture and Jesus and through the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s not innate.

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Can you show me that objective, distinctive, exceptional, superior morality unique to Christians in action anywhere?

I don’t think morality is objective, do you?

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Not address to me but that makes me wonder: can widely shared subjective experience be the basis for an objective fact?

Of course I don’t think of morality as a list of required and forbidden acts whose goodness or evilness stems from divine decree. Whatever else it may be, morality is a human phenomenon although traces of it may be found among our closer relatives.

But I suppose it can be said that the moral dimensions of our actions is an objective fact about fhs subjective experience of human beings.

I think of morality as following an agreed-on community standard with regards to obligations to one oneself, one another, and sometimes God. It’s part of culture in that it is socially, not biologically transmitted. I think it’s altruism and cooperation that are human phenomena (possibly evolved traits), but also observable to some degree in other species as well.

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Yes I do. Quantifiably. Starting with utilitarian, sustainable behaviour that promotes life expectancy, reduces morbidity, facilitates diversity; that first does no harm - that does not abuse power, that is as fair as possible to the goal of equality of outcome and addresses the other evolved, genetic, pre-moral, hard wiring, one of which is a sense of the transcendent. That Christian belief that you mention is not unique to Christians by a long walk; being unique to all Abrahamic faiths, as Paul got it from ancient Judaism, and the North American indigenous peoples, the Ituri and many others makes it uniquely but not universally human. There is, of course, a totally natural explanation for that. So, again, what makes Christian morality better than anyone else’s? Or does that just beg the question of objectivity? Like Thomism, God is obvious but only if you’re born and raised Catholic or convert to the mystery, or Islam where everyone is born Muslim but you can only retain that in a Muslim culture and obtain it by submission - Islam. All humanists of course know that their morality is best, so how do we choose between competing moralities, including the arbitrary beliefs of all religions, without objective criteria?

Not completely no. But I certainly do think there are objective elements to it. Some questions of morality can be investigated because many aspects of human well being are measurable (and by the word “human” I am not enslaving morality to the service of a single biological species alone – human ideals are quite capable of doing better than that).

I frankly find these tendencies to oversimplification hard to comprehend. Morality has both objective (measurable and demonstrable) and subjective elements, and has both things which are socially relative and things which are absolute (based on universal reasons). Morality is too important for it to be bent and molded into fitting a theoretical ideology. As for its subjectivity, it is not just that morality cannot hold itself up by its own bootstraps any better than science can, where these human words have to be defined somehow in order to have any meaning. But that inability is part of the reality which makes the purely objective extreme unrealistic. To this we can add the inherently subjective nature of well being itself, which makes it highly dubious to force a single definition of well being on everyone let alone one reduced to measurable quantities only.

But this does not justify ignoring those aspects of well-being which are measurable to leave it all to personal judgement and personal prerogative alone. We have every right to ignore and dismiss indignation and bluster propped up by nothing more than ideological clap-trap when the evidence tells us otherwise – that there is measurable harm or that there is no harm that we have been able to measure. So we draw lines between personal and public morality because the harm done by imposed morality is measurable and thus not justified unless we have very good objective reasons for it.

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That works for me.

You are the one who brought up the idea of better.

As a Christian, I believe Christian morality is the morality God instituted, God revealed, and God desires of humans. My moral commitments are not threatened when other people have different standards and don’t think mine are best. I have never recommended Christianity to anyone because it has the “best” morality. It has Jesus who reconciles people to God.

What would you have answered to him?

I’m intrigued how God can have a morality that isn’t glaringly obvious, that one has to sign up to on faith in the marketplace arbitrarily. Good and bad. Christianity has the best, the best possible, but most Christians by a country mile don’t know it. So they have to make do. With still very, very good, second to none, the Beatitudes, I ask you, but with a heart of darkness: damnationism.

Here is an interesting quandary: If somebody offers the world something good … in fact … very good - an offer of apparent “relationship paradise”, if you will; and that is all they put out there: no threats … no if you don’t take me up on this offer - I’ll see to it that you’re tortured forever … in short: no enraged host willing to slaughter any and everybody if they decide they’re too busy or too distracted to attend his wedding feast right then (so we’re setting that parable aside here, obviously) … Even just the offer of a good thing; doesn’t that set up a scenario where some people don’t get to enjoy that good thing? And not because the person wants to keep anybody deprived, but only because said person isn’t pushy about anything and just wants everybody to know it’s on offer - take it or leave it as you wish. Some are going to pass, or may delay a long time before accepting. I’m not saying that this “analogy” is completely parallel to Christianity, though it is in some ways. But would you call this setup “damnationism” since some will, for one reason or another, be doing without?

I recently read an article by someone protesting “enablism” (which I can’t find the link to at the moment); but that author cautioned us against our linguistic presumptions, betrayed by phrases such as “fell on deaf ears” or “turn a blind eye” which casts blind and deaf communities as a lesser status. She, as a deaf person, feels offense that somebody would presume that a deaf person is missing something or suffering as somebody of a lesser status because of their “condition” (all my paraphrasing words are just from memory here).

I found myself having some questions about it all - I certainly would agree that nobody should be made to feel inferior or as a kind of “second-class” citizen of society on such terms. But at the same time, when 99% of us enjoy reasonably good sight and hearing, we can safely conclude that this is most definitely the norm among humans, and those of us who’ve grown up with it very much don’t want to lose either one. So if or when we become deprived of it, we very much do feel a loss for ourselves. Does the acknowledgement of that reality entail that a person who lives with deafness or blindness (or who has never known any other state) is somehow “lesser”? I’m not sure I see the need for the majority of humanity to linguistically tiptoe around everything here - but of course I do realize that may be my privilege talking since I am within those particular norms.

If there is something good brought to the world, then it would seem there suddenly springs into simultaneous existence the deprivation of that same good thing. How does one deal with that?

Well, it kind of follows from believing in a God who reveals himself directly through communication with humans, and a God who desires relationship with humans.

My answer would be, “you are correct.”

A great deal of morality and all morality which can be called absolute, is true because of universal reasons independent of culture, society, religion, and whatever God that religion may be pushing. I believe in a God that commands things because they are right and good, and not one which commands things arbitrarily so that we have to believe they are right and good just because He says so. Such an authoritarian morality may be appropriate for toddlers before they the develop the reasoning capabilities needed for understanding why some things are right and other things are wrong, but I believe God seeks to raise up a people with a better grasp on morality than that. Indeed you can say this is God’s ultimate dream, to have a people with the law of God written on their heart and thus doing what is right because it is right and not simply to curry favor with whoever happens have power.

To be sure, I believe God exists and that His role in our lives is that of a shepherd who seeks to bring out the best in us and help us to be all we can be. And thus those who believe, hope that God will teach us more and better things. But since there are reasons why things are good or evil then it is entirely possible that we can learn such things on our own eventually – not guaranteed… but possible and maybe even probable.

P.S. Clearly I am no fan of the moral argument. In fact, I am not a fan of any of the arguments for the existence of God. I think they encourage people to replace their faith in God with a faith in the premises of such arguments… and that is borderline idolatry.

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So the morality, whatever it is, is secondary to that?

Now that, Sir, is very good. A Gordian knot. And [I’m!] an Alexandrian swordsman. So you know what’s coming : )

This good thing is way beyond us. And it’s right here, right now, among us, on us, within us. And we don’t get it. All pass. None enjoy it. The Kingdom of God, Eternal Life is right here, right now. Living according to it is the highest aspiration any of us could have. Some of us think we do. We aggrandize our feeble efforts, we tell God that we give Him our all, we offer our lives as a living sacrifice. It don’t add up to much do it? I mean who doesn’t love Alison Krauss’ A Living Prayer? Atheists are moved by it. But we’re nowt. I’m the longest serving volunteer in a church outreach to the homeless, and I hang my h[e]ad at the grandiose prayers that are offered up before we open the doors. We’re giving 1% of our time to be halfway decent to desperately needy, otherwise unhelpable ‘unsaved’ people and that’s a big deal?

All pass? None enjoy it? That means me too, the raving universalist liberal. No I don’t enjoy it. I don’t enjoy the fact that it cannot be said. The realisation of its utterly justified orthodoxy has come too late, doubt has ravaged me, and my wife. Only one fellowship in a hundred miles, out of twenty, thirty million people, gets it. We cannot have the conversation anywhere else, not in our three closest Anglican=Episcopalian churches in 10 years. Nobody gets it. You can tell without saying it. And it’s dangerous to say it. I once shook my head, about 16 years ago, at some damnationist horror being regretfully expressed and the guy, a medic, clicked and pointed his finger at me and said ‘Heresy!’. I responded with Sir John Harrington, ‘How then doth treason prosper, for if it prosper, none dare call it treason.’. The heresy was his. Is Christianity’s.

So, whatever it is that you and the vast majority of the ‘saved’ think people are passing on, isn’t the true completely good news. The analogy of the deaf and the blind is great. And fails. Even though I know that the congenitally blind and deaf can be offered sight and hearing more and more through surgery and technology and it must be entirely natural for them to shake their heads at the meaninglessness of it, like talk of transcendence to us mundanes. All the enthusiasm of the sighted and hearing has to be taken on faith, which doesn’t add up to much. The analogy with universal salvation is far better than with whatever lesser thing Christianity thinks it has to offer instead. In the transcendent all lacks, even if we’re aware of them or not, are made up. Sight and hearing are thrust upon the incurable congenitally literally and figuratively deaf and blind whether they want it or not! How outrageous of God to heal people who didn’t know they were sick! Who didn’t know what they were missing. Have you seen that video of the congenitally deaf baby who hears their mother for the first time? 15 years down the line they may well think ‘I wish I was still deaf Mom!’. But that won’t happen in eternity.

So yeah, passing on the second rate gospel is damnationism. Condemning people to eternal deafness and blindness because they don’t know what you’re talking about because it’s incoherent, sweet and bitter, a chocolate covered turd, when you could fix it, is sick. Not divine.

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Yes, I do not think the essence of faith is morality at all. I don’t even think morality is the point of the Kingdom of God that Christians pray will come. Justice, peace, righteousness-- flourishing for all, yes. But I don’t think you get there by convincing everyone to follow the “best” moral statutes, I think you get there when humans are transformed by a spiritual power beyond themselves, by being united to God in Christ.

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Good and true as ever Christie, but it’s morning now and my dimming faculties are slightly sharper. Or blunter…

Pursuing justice, peace, righteousness aka equality of flourishing outcome for all, now, is the point, is the Kingdom of God, is morality. You get people united to God in Christ, whether they know it or not, by that transformation now. There is no them and us. So faith without morality is meaningless.

Thanks for the Allison Krauss “Living Prayer” reference. I’m among the ones who love it … now that I know about it. [I notice that the closed-captioning got one word significantly wrong: she most definitely sings ‘release’ (not ‘relief’) - whatever difference that might make - I have a feeling that no true artist or poet would tolerate such a casual exchange.]

Yeah - your sword smithing probably looses any Gordian Knots; but can also leave a shamble of tangles loosely scattered all over the place; probably much to your satisfaction. Far be it from me to disagree with your assessment that the true heresy belongs to the establishment. It is indeed a shame that we give much less than 1% of our time and labors to the desperate, and crow with the loudest trumpets even in advance whenever we do or even so much as just intend or plan to do something.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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