Thursday, December 16, 2010

God's Quality Control 3.8

Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. The honorary author of this section of the guide will be Mary Finkelstein, Prestonwood's Special Events Coordinator, or Special Assignments Coordinator, depending on whom you ask. I encourage you to complain to Ms Finkelstein on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Ms Finkelstein's pockets.
  • p.14 Ms Finkelstein says of asuperstitionists that our ethical “foundation is based on societal norms and agreed morality which has proven to be a less-than-desirable shifting sand morality over the centuries.” And of course, the morality based on Yahweh has shown itself to be supremely beneficial for society, right? The world became a better place back in Moses’ day, when Yahweh banned slavery, torture, child abuse; when it ruled that a man who rapes a woman has to pay for the woman to see a qualified therapist for the rest of her life; when it told us that compassion for victims is a thousand times more important than justice for perpetrators.
  • What do these people mean when they claim that secular morality leads to “shifting sand”? They want to pretend that they’re talking about people like Hitler, while they forget about all of the misery caused for millennia before him, by people who sincerely believed that they were doing the will of Yahweh. They want to pretend that they’re talking about a short-lived eugenics movement, while they forget about slavery, which is fully endorsed by Yahweh, ignored by Jesus, and merely clucked about by Paul, leaving the door wide open for centuries of misery.
  • What they’re really talking about is sexual freedom and abortion. But these are just more examples of their twisted pseudo-morality. They’d rather take away some of the best fun in life from people, just because they don’t like their sexual choices. They’d rather people to get married first and find out afterward whether they like having sex with each other. They’d rather a child be born and live a miserable childhood and a miserable life instead of being aborted and going straight to Heaven. You’re right: it is extremely difficult for everyone to agree on moral standards. But your determination to insinuate your religion into morality is making it impossible to have the very conversation that could move us closer to agreement.
  • p.14 “Relativism results in a variety of disconcerting conclusions,” such as “the bizarre judgment that Mother Teresa is no more and no less virtuous than Adolf Hitler.” Let’s forget about the fact that Mother Teresa could give Hitler a run for his money. Let’s talk about the concepts of virtue, right, wrong, sin, deserve, punishment, good, evil.  These concepts have been with us for a really long time. Where have they gotten us? Here. Is this where we want to be? No. We need to get rid of these outdated ideas and replace them with something that actually works. Or at least something that fails less. I propose that we focus on human well being. As Sam Harris recently pointed out, we don’t need a fixed, absolute definition of well being, any more than we need a fixed diet in order to get proper nutrition. The difference between food and poison is obvious; the difference between a healthy person and an insane person is usually obvious. We could have a conversation about the subtleties of what it means to be healthy if we could only ditch this archaic way of thinking.
  • p.14 Thomas Jefferson said, "God who gave us life gave us liberty." This is another trick. Jefferson also said, "I...see nothing but [demonism] in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians," and, "The Christian God is a being of terrific character - cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust." He also said, "...the day will come when the [virgin birth and divine parentage] of Jesus will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter." Some consider Jefferson a deist. I'm not sure, he seems to have been a little more complex than that. But he clearly never meant "Yahweh" when he said "God," although Ms Finkelstein wants you to believe that he did mean "Yahweh".
  • p.15 Ronald Reagan said, "Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience." Folks, that's just bullshit. Yes, there are people who seem to have no conscience, but it's not because they're atheists. If it were, then you might expect that those countries with a large atheist population would be overrun with violence. The inverse of Reagan's quip is rather suspect as well: "With God, there is virtue." Look no further than the leadership at Prestonwood Christian Academy for a counterexample.

That's 3.8. Thanks for watching.

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