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> A New Religion Thread, What does it mean to you?
Guest_AK_WDB_*
post May 7 2009, 06:25 AM
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What does religion, or lack thereof, mean to you?

To elaborate: I'm not religious. I'm by nature a skeptic of the supernatural, and my brain does not compute the idea of a higher entity deciding how everything happens on Earth and how people should behave. I believe there's a natural and scientific explanation for everything. This comes with a HUGE caveat: I do NOT believe in moral relativism, the idea that there is no absolute right and wrong. The lack of a deity does not imply that humans can ethically behave however they want. I find that being irreligious helps me to intellectually develop my moral values, because I have to use sophisticated thinking to justify them rather than falling back on some deity or religious text. However, I do not always feel that I do the best job living up to these values, and I'm curious to see whether those with a religious or spiritual grounding feel that they do better.

So, my discussion questions for you:
1. What's your faith or lack thereof? Elaborate however much or little you wish.
2. Why do you profess this faith? Is it how you were raised, or did you convert? What about the history and specific ideas of this faith (or lack thereof) appeals to you?
3. How does your belief system enhance your moral beliefs about human behavior and help you live up to these values?
4. If you're a member of an organized religion, what would you change about your religion? If you're not, what would you change about the general attitudes of atheists and nonreligious people?

Challenging the validity of an assumption or assertion is, of course, encouraged as in any debate. Do not attack anyone's religion or attack religion in general.
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Guest_TheWerg_*
post May 7 2009, 06:38 AM
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1. I guess you would call me agnostic, leaning more toward deism. I actually tend to hold with the tenets of Christianity, in spirit but certainly not in letter. I actually think I do believe in Jesus, etc. But I think the problem arises when we take the Bible as a literal rulebook, rather than what I think it should be clear that it is: a set of guidelines. For example: homosexuals. By the letter of the Bible, this is wrong, but in the spirit of acceptance, understanding, and compassion that seems omnipresent in Jesus' actions, I think we can develop our own sense of whether it's right or wrong to accept them for who they are rather than view them as abominations. I also don't necessarily believe in heaven, hell, or any form of afterlife. I'm sorta shaky in that regard, though.
2. I was raised in an open environment, and I ultimately arrived at this conclusion after a lot of thought. I was not raised with any religion, and have never been to organized services.
3. I believe that our objective systems of morality are highly flawed. Everyone believes that his set of morals is the only one that's correct. Not true. It may be one of the few that are correct in his particular set of circumstances, but it may be completely wrong in another circumstance. I've developed my own sense of morality, as I believe all people should. I believe in Kantian universalizability and I think one of the only universal moral criteria is that you take no action that imposes upon the freedom of others to pursue their own set of morals.
4. I think that those of us lacking an organized faith are often too quick to dismiss those who have one as stupid or unreasonable.
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Guest_Dr. Roffles_*
post May 7 2009, 06:42 AM
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I have faith that there is a higher power of some sort. That doesn't necessarily mean a singular being; I have faith that, somewhere, somehow, there is a race of beings (or a singular being) that are intellectually and metaphysically superior to the human race. We will not necessarily come in contact with them/it, and they/it do not necessarily have any interest in exerting control over us or messing with our lives. But I do not believe we are simply the be-all and end-all of creation. When people ask, I tell them I'm a deist, because I do believe in the general tenets of deist theology. Then again, I also believe in many of the general tenets of Islam and Christianity. But deism serves more as a reflection of something that most people aren't entirely familiar with, and as such, something that doesn't come with widespread theological preconceptions.

I find that more valuable than trying to explain how I specifically disagree with specific tenets of a commonly held philosophy. Heh. Quite frankly, in response to your third question, it doesn't. I think of my moral beliefs as exogenous to whatever religion I happen to profess. This isn't to say I don't care about my religion -- I have 2 or 3 friends currently training to be priests, and I have the utmost respect for the clergy (of any religion) and deep believers -- but that I consider morality and religion to be, really, separate topics with some similar guiding thoughts. I don't think I always follow my values. I think it's difficult for anyone to expect themselves to succeed at that. But I do always try, and I think when it comes to morality, sometimes one must accept their own imperfection before they can accept the world as it is and enjoy it for what it's worth.

Generally, I like religious people more than nonreligious people. The reasons why are roughly the same reasons I tend to like the Duke track athletes more than I like some of the super-nerds in the super-nerdy frat (Psi U). They're just... well, less pretentious. There's an air of decided pretention among most atheists and nonreligious people I know, and to be honest, it bugs me more than the occasional spurts of weird logic or strange, disagreeable conclusions that my really religious friends can come up with. There's this air that they are unequivocally better than the religious. I disagree with that, and it sort of puts a pall on my relations with a lot of my Hitchens/Dawkins worshipping friends.

EDIT: Just to clarify, I posted that 4 minutes after Daniel and did not read his post before writing this. I guess we're just that awesome that we agree on basically everything without even talking about what we're responding to before responding, guys. (Awww yeahhh.)

This post has been edited by Dr. Roffles: May 7 2009, 06:46 AM
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Guest_AK_WDB_*
post May 7 2009, 07:15 AM
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QUOTE (Dr. Roffles @ May 6 2009, 10:42 PM) *
I have faith that there is a higher power of some sort. That doesn't necessarily mean a singular being; I have faith that, somewhere, somehow, there is a race of beings (or a singular being) that are intellectually and metaphysically superior to the human race. We will not necessarily come in contact with them/it, and they/it do not necessarily have any interest in exerting control over us or messing with our lives. But I do not believe we are simply the be-all and end-all of creation.

Bolded is what I agree with most. It seems incredibly unlikely that we're the only intelligent life forms to have developed anywhere in the universe. But I don't believe that said other life forms would be supernatural, although given the weirdness and uncertainty of the nature of spacetime and the possibility of the existence of higher dimensions, they could easily appear to be supernatural.

QUOTE
Quite frankly, in response to your third question, it doesn't. I think of my moral beliefs as exogenous to whatever religion I happen to profess. ... I consider morality and religion to be, really, separate topics with some similar guiding thoughts. I don't think I always follow my values. I think it's difficult for anyone to expect themselves to succeed at that. But I do always try, and I think when it comes to morality, sometimes one must accept their own imperfection before they can accept the world as it is and enjoy it for what it's worth.

True story. Here's a little more on where I'm coming from on the morality issue: I feel that in order to justify your moral beliefs and encourage others to share them, you should be able to honestly say that those beliefs have led you to a happy and fulfilling life. Right now, I don't feel like my own life is particularly happy and fulfilling for various reasons. So I'm curious what role religion plays in helping people toward personal success and the ability to integrate their moral beliefs into that success. Essentially, how does religion make you happy---or does it?
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Guest_TheWerg_*
post May 7 2009, 07:17 AM
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On the happiness point, I tend to subscribe to this:
QUOTE (Herodotus)
Call no man happy until he is dead.
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Guest_tryingtothinkagain_*
post May 7 2009, 08:10 AM
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1. I am a Methodist (Christian denomination).
2. I was originally just raised a Methodist since I was 5 (I still remember my baptism), but I have since grown into it. I don't know if it is a coincidence that I grew up with the influences that I did, but I have taken a very methodical approach to my religion, and am always adding to my understanding of it.
3. After studying and thinking about evolutionary biology as much as I did this year, I have come to see how a lot of Christianity in the light of evolution. Just as nothing in biology makes sense without evolutionary biology, neither does much in our society. I bring little emotion to my religion, but bring a cold logic to it. To me, the existence of God is what gives value to the incredibly - miraculously, even - complex chain of chemical reactions commonly referred to as life.
4. Quite simply, I would increase the level of adherence to the morals put down in the Bible, and decrease the level of blind followers that either fold like a wet tissue or swing like a blind boxer (yay for similes) anytime someone of even middling intelligence attacks their faith.

This post has been edited by tryingtothinkagain: May 7 2009, 08:10 AM
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Guest_Justin Nichols_*
post May 7 2009, 04:33 PM
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1. I am an atheist. I do not have faith that there are no gods, I simply lack faith that there are any. I don't think I'm better than anybody else by the way, and I haven't noticed that trend among my nonreligious friends.
2. My mother does not believe in any gods, but my father told me that there was one when I was young. In junior high, I started to realize that I had OCD and realized it would greatly affect my personality. I realized that I could swing from one deep interest right into another, almost overnight, and my personality would change radically very often. I began to consider the idea of there being a soul, or some immutable part of us that transcends our bodies, implausible. I began to feel like a social outcast, and wondered what purpose there was in that. Then, as I learned more about science and the scientific method, I realized that a belief in a deity really wasn't necessary in my life. It didn't do or explain anything, so I let it go.
3. I have a conscience and I feel a motivation to help people because of that. And, people are ultimately dependent upon each other, so what goes around comes around. My lack of a religion forces me to justify each of my morals with reasons of why they actually help people. I cannot justify anything in the name of my religion: no harm, no hypocrisy. My acceptance that the short time we have on earth is all that we've got forces me to be the best person I can be in the time that I do have. I'm not perfect, but my lack of religion has caused me to really think about morality and what it can actually do for people.
4. The word "atheism" gets tossed around a lot, and nonreligious people often get confused about what it really means. My mother is technically an atheist, but calls herself an agnostic out of confusion. There are many nonreligious people that I would like for them to either 1.) have a better understanding of the terms "atheism" and "agnosticism" 2.) not be shy about their atheism or agnosticism.
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Guest_Subversive Asset 2.0_*
post May 7 2009, 04:42 PM
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1. What's your faith or lack thereof? Elaborate however much or little you wish.
2. Why do you profess this faith? Is it how you were raised, or did you convert? What about the history and specific ideas of this faith (or lack thereof) appeals to you?
3. How does your belief system enhance your moral beliefs about human behavior and help you live up to these values?
4. If you're a member of an organized religion, what would you change about your religion? If you're not, what would you change about the general attitudes of atheists and nonreligious people?
1) My facebook has (to maximize pretentiousness, of course) these in the following order: apatheist, mere atheist, agnostic, cultural Mormon. But in a non-pretentious setting, I'll probably say atheist.

2) Just wasn't feelin' it. My entire experience growing has been growing up LDS, of course, but grappling with a skepticism and apathy of core concepts. It came to a point when the things I could comfortably and reliably say I had a testimony in where the practical and pragmatic parts of the religion, but I couldn't say I believed in the spiritual underpinnings because I didn't. And then one day I realized, OOPS! All pragmatics with no spirit do not a religion make! So, there was not so much a conversion as there was a realization that I was using bad definitions.

3) Where my apathy comes in is that I do not think that the core religious beliefs have very much to do with morality and human behavior and helping me to live up to these values. For example, it does not matter if there actually was a civilization of Hebrews who traveled to the Americas or not for me to decide to not drink tea or coffee. It's just that, the religion provides a foundation of "explanation" for why we do certain things and why we don't do certain things (so that if you lose that background, you might ask, "Why do I hold this to be moral and hold that to be immoral?" -- but then again, I would certainly not want that to hinge on something like the likelihood that a book is true and real.)

But that's all trivial stuff. Anyway, I think we shouldn't take things for granted or make unrealistic expectations that reality shows us continuously to be true. And I think that oftentimes, when we assume a god (minus that tricky deist god, but then I ask, what reason do I have to believe in that one especially?), we create unrealistic expectations that reality can't live up to. So to me, mere atheism is simply a stripping away of unrealistic expectations.

4) I'll answer this both ways. I have this weird fantasy where the LDS church becomes kinda like judaism, where it's not just a religion, but it's also a culture. I mean, there aren't a lot of religions that have considerable populations of people who would still consider themselves part of the religion even if they don't believe in it. I mean, you have lapsed Catholics, and secular Jews, and post-Mormons/cultural Mormons, etc., But it's interesting to see how each religion treats these groups. anyway, that's just rambling.

As for the atheists and agnostics...one, I think agnostics need to recognize that they aren't even answering the right question. Agnosticism is a position on knowledge. It is not a position on belief. So, while it's perfectly acceptable to answer, "Does God exist?" (a kind of factual, knowledge-implicit question) with "I don't know"...answering "do you believe..." with "I don't know" makes you sound like a twit who doesn't even know yourself. This is important, because atheism and theism/deism are two options that cover the entire field. Law of excluded middle, etc., You are either A or not A....there is no "fence" to sit on. Secondly, atheism has a wide range of positions within it too. There's negative/weak atheism, which is just lacking a belief in god. (e.g., Do you believe in god? "no, I do not believe in god.") There's positive/strong atheism, which is a positive belief there is no god. (e.g., Do you believe there is no god? "Yes, I believe there are no gods?") Positive atheism isn't the only kind!
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Guest_Jonesy_*
post May 7 2009, 04:57 PM
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QUOTE (AK_WDB @ May 7 2009, 01:25 AM) *
What does religion, or lack thereof, mean to you?

To elaborate: I'm not religious. I'm by nature a skeptic of the supernatural, and my brain does not compute the idea of a higher entity deciding how everything happens on Earth and how people should behave. I believe there's a natural and scientific explanation for everything. This comes with a HUGE caveat: I do NOT believe in moral relativism, the idea that there is no absolute right and wrong. The lack of a deity does not imply that humans can ethically behave however they want. I find that being irreligious helps me to intellectually develop my moral values, because I have to use sophisticated thinking to justify them rather than falling back on some deity or religious text. However, I do not always feel that I do the best job living up to these values, and I'm curious to see whether those with a religious or spiritual grounding feel that they do better.

So, my discussion questions for you:
1. What's your faith or lack thereof? Elaborate however much or little you wish.
2. Why do you profess this faith? Is it how you were raised, or did you convert? What about the history and specific ideas of this faith (or lack thereof) appeals to you?
3. How does your belief system enhance your moral beliefs about human behavior and help you live up to these values?
4. If you're a member of an organized religion, what would you change about your religion? If you're not, what would you change about the general attitudes of atheists and nonreligious people?

Challenging the validity of an assumption or assertion is, of course, encouraged as in any debate. Do not attack anyone's religion or attack religion in general.

1.Agnostic. I was raised Catholic and educated in their schools for 13 years, however I, logically, can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a god.
2.Logic
3.If you need the threat of some omnipotent nanny with a large wooden spoon who smacks you when you do something "wrong", in order to justify acting in an ethical manner, then you're doing it wrong.
4. Skip, because I don't care what they think.

Also, the self control it takes to not bash on something as stupid (to me) as religion here is going to kill me, so I'll probably avoid this topic.
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Guest_Tsjr1704_*
post May 7 2009, 08:09 PM
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1. Atheist, dialectical materialist (raised a Catholic by two wonderful Polish parents).
2. Because it's the only worldview that is grounded in reality.
3. It helps me believe that individuals are in material conditions that have some degree of social permanence, which will ultimately mold their behaviors and mental processes. For example, money is a material force in society. It embodies different social relations. It's physical material body (the bill) and it's importance in every-day affairs give it a degree of permanence that ideas, preferences, and words don't have. If you don't own capital, you could reasonably predict that you will go through a maze of economic choices, to find a job that will pay you the most. And I don't have any “value” to live up to since values are not concrete, tangible things.

I became an atheist because I was consumed in Nietzsche during early high school. I loved Dawkins, Hitchens, and other "militant" atheists that wrote volumes about how religion was the source of all evils. I saw that their method was incorrect and unmaterialist (people of faith can be scientific, too).
4. Religious freedom is a fundamental tenant of democracy, but naturally neither it's practitioners nor anyone else can deny anyone the benefits and protection of civil and criminal law, especially to women, children, and GLBT people. Enforcing securalism is essential.

This post has been edited by Tsjr1704: May 7 2009, 08:44 PM
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Guest_Tsjr1704_*
post May 7 2009, 08:41 PM
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QUOTE (debator @ May 7 2009, 04:11 PM) *
dialectical materialism isn't a religion and you know it.


So?
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zzzptm
post May 7 2009, 09:14 PM
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The Fisher King
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1. What's your faith or lack thereof? Elaborate however much or little you wish.
2. Why do you profess this faith? Is it how you were raised, or did you convert? What about the history and specific ideas of this faith (or lack thereof) appeals to you?
3. How does your belief system enhance your moral beliefs about human behavior and help you live up to these values?
4. If you're a member of an organized religion, what would you change about your religion? If you're not, what would you change about the general attitudes of atheists and nonreligious people?

1. Mormon, strongly so.
2. Because I know it is true. I did convert, but my conversion is ongoing as I grow in my faith and continue in my search for truth.
3. It helps me realize the moral basis for the existence of the universe.
4. No changes.


--------------------
"The world could perish if people only worked on things that were easy to handle." -- Vladimir Savchenko
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Guest_Ambivalent Mike_*
post May 7 2009, 09:15 PM
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1. By definition I am a Christian (a follower of the man called Christ). However, I do not believe in an external set of morals, i.e. there is no inherent right or wrong; what may be right for one person, may be wrong for another. I don't believe life has any inherent meaning and or any sort of logic to it. However, at the same time it is impossible to live life without meaning, therefore meaning must be created. I hold these two viewpoints simultaneously. There is no wrong way to interpret Christianity; I attempt to use Jesus's examples when I am at a loss for how to handle a situation. Yet I do believe that you cannot put an overarching system of morals on everything; it's all subjective. I believe whether an afterlife or a God exists is entirely irrelevant. But I do believe in God, because his existence is irrational and absurd. But the focus of everything for me is to love those around you no matter what.

All of my beliefs are not set in stone. I always have an open mind. I change from time to time, sometimes radically.

2. I was brought up Catholic, never thought about anything. But then my life turned upside down for quite a while and I just started searching I guess you could say. I started with C.S. Lewis, jumped to Stoicism, and then finally ended up with Camus and Sartre. I've been influenced by other authors, people around me, and my own experiences as well.

3. I merely try to live out my life going at it the best I can. I make moral decisions as best I can, using what I garner from different philosopher's examples. My main principles go along with some of Jesus's tenants. Turn the other cheek and just loving everyone around me as best as I can, no matter who they are or what they've done. Love for your fellow man is key in my opinion.

4. I still consider myself Catholic. Mainly because I love the community and I just feel like I fit in there. Even though I differ on alot of issues, I would still consider myself part of the Catholic Church. I don't know what I would change.
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Guest_Jonesy_*
post May 7 2009, 09:19 PM
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QUOTE (debator @ May 7 2009, 04:17 PM) *
QUOTE (Ambivalent Mike @ May 7 2009, 02:15 PM) *
1. By definition I am a Christian (a follower of the man called Christ). However, I do not believe in an external set of morals, i.e. there is no inherent right or wrong; what may be right for one person, may be wrong for another. I don't believe life has any inherent meaning and or any sort of logic to it. However, at the same time it is impossible to live life without meaning, therefore meaning must be created. I hold these two viewpoints simultaneously. There is no wrong way to interpret Christianity; I attempt to use Jesus's examples when I am at a loss for how to handle a situation. Yet I do believe that you cannot put an overarching system of morals on everything; it's all subjective. I believe whether an afterlife or a God exists is entirely irrelevant. But I do believe in God, because his existence is irrational and absurd. But the focus of everything for me is to love those around you no matter what.

whooooooaaa let's talk about this. i can think of all sorts of things that i would call objectively evil. torturing babies, for instance. justify to me how this could be right for someone.

If you have to torture the baby to somehow stop a terrorist attack that would kill millions of people.
(Hey, this is religion, no one said it had to make sense)
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Guest_TheAwesomeKid_*
post May 7 2009, 09:20 PM
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Or, you know, the holocaust.
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Guest_Chloe_*
post May 7 2009, 09:23 PM
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I'm an Agnostic Jew. I was raised in a conservative Jewish household. My father was also raised Jewish, and my mother converted from Catholicism when they were married. She really fell in love with the Jewish culture. She's a total socialite, and she fit right into the local Jewish community with all it's gatherings and...well, cooking.

Anyway, my parents were really counting on me to be a "good Jew," after my older brother declared himself atheist. I was forced to attend Hebrew school 6 hours a week after day school first through sixth grade. Unfortunately, I believe my hate for that experience contributed to a lot of my tendency today to distance myself from my Jewish community. I never really got into the whole God thing, even as a kid, but I never spoke up. So I felt like an outcast when all the other kids professed their undying love for God without hesitation. I made an agreement with my parents that I would never have to attend activities at my temple (with the exception high holidays) ever again after my Bat Mitzvah. I raced to get there and had my Bat Mitzvah when I was twelve.

My parents were disappointed, but they know I'm so much happier this way. Looking back, I'm actually glad I had the exposure to some kind of faith - but I'm so grateful that I was given the choice to take my own path. And I don't just mean my parents; the members of my Temple, many of whom are super Orthodox, are really understanding and accepting of my agnostic views. That's why I still like to consider myself as part of Judaism, because I have such respect for this kind of community. We're connected by a sort of faith in people rather than God.

I don't know what I would change about Judaism itself. The only times I've ever felt wronged were experiencing people use the religion as an excuse to act condescending ("Oh, Chloe doesn't go to Temple anymore? That's too bad...MY child goes every week.") or to exclude others ("Other monotheistic religions are good, but only Jews are the TRUE children of God."). That's just remarkably silly. Not to mention the total opposite of the acceptance and sense of community that draws me to the faith.

So yeah. That was way longer than I expected it to be. Most of this is fluff, methinks, but I'm in a ranting mood.
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Guest_Ambivalent Mike_*
post May 7 2009, 09:30 PM
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QUOTE (debator @ May 7 2009, 04:17 PM) *
QUOTE (Ambivalent Mike @ May 7 2009, 02:15 PM) *
1. By definition I am a Christian (a follower of the man called Christ). However, I do not believe in an external set of morals, i.e. there is no inherent right or wrong; what may be right for one person, may be wrong for another. I don't believe life has any inherent meaning and or any sort of logic to it. However, at the same time it is impossible to live life without meaning, therefore meaning must be created. I hold these two viewpoints simultaneously. There is no wrong way to interpret Christianity; I attempt to use Jesus's examples when I am at a loss for how to handle a situation. Yet I do believe that you cannot put an overarching system of morals on everything; it's all subjective. I believe whether an afterlife or a God exists is entirely irrelevant. But I do believe in God, because his existence is irrational and absurd. But the focus of everything for me is to love those around you no matter what.

whooooooaaa let's talk about this. i can think of all sorts of things that i would call objectively evil. torturing babies, for instance. justify to me how this could be right for someone.

Perhaps it is justifiable in some situations. It depends on the person, motivation, and effect. Let's say you had an indigenous tribe that believed that if they didn't torture children then perhaps their God would plague them with natural disasters.

But the main point of that statement is that I try never to say that I know for sure that what this person is doing is "wrong". I may think it is, I may disagree. But I leave it up to God to judge, for what do I know about that person's true intentions and mental stability?
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Guest_Jonesy_*
post May 7 2009, 09:36 PM
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QUOTE (debator @ May 7 2009, 04:35 PM) *
that's admirable, not wanting to judge, but i think that there is an objective morality, and just because we don't know all of its intricacies doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

let's say it's a guy living in the present-day US who does it because and only because gets sexual pleasure from torturing babies. is this inherently evil?

I think that action in that context with that intent is wrong, but that doesn't make it wrong all the time. Isn't that the whole idea?
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Guest_Subversive Asset 2.0_*
post May 7 2009, 09:39 PM
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I think what debator is trying to do is posit that situationist ethics are objective.

So...asking if "murder" is right or wrong doesn't have enough context or situation. But "murder of x, y, and z" conditions is wrong, and "murder in a, b, and c" conditions is right.

At least, maybe that's what he's saying.
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Guest_Ambivalent Mike_*
post May 7 2009, 09:40 PM
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QUOTE (debator @ May 7 2009, 04:35 PM) *
that's admirable, not wanting to judge, but i think that there is an objective morality, and just because we don't know all of its intricacies doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

let's say it's a guy living in the present-day US who does it because and only because gets sexual pleasure from torturing babies. is this inherently evil?

In that case I'd say that I'm 99.9% sure that it's wrong tongue.gif I get where you're coming from though; there are times where you have to judge in order to make decisions. I just believe there are some things we can never for sure know.

My favorite example is I believe it is wrong to kill. For any reason. But that only applies to me. That doesn't make self-defense or armed service "wrong". I feel that if I were to participate, however, I would be doing wrong. But some people believe you can kill for good reasons, and in that case I don't believe that they are in the wrong. Sorry I get so wrapped up in circles, it hurts my brain sometimes, lol.
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