"Where's the Evidence, Cretin!?"

A man and a woman have been married for a few months. They are in love, they get on well, everything has been going well. Until, one day, the husband begins reading The God Delusion.

His wife comes downstairs on Saturday, asks him if he wants a coffee. He replies that he would like one. She makes it and he sips it and puts The God Delusion down.

"Darling", says the husband, "Do you love me?"
The wife smiles. "Oh funny face, you know how much I love you. Of course I love you, sweetcheeks!"

But the husband isn't smiling. He turns to her, puts his coffee on the table, lights a cigarette and says, "Where's the evidence, cretin?"
"What? Are you mad!? Don't call me that!" says the wife, "Why on earth do you need evidence?"
"Because I do. I need evidence in order to believe something," he says, "People who don't believe things without evidence are sky-fairy myth fairytale tossers with no brain".
"Well," she smiles, "I'd have thought last night would be some evidence, wouldn't you, hey?"
He replies, "You could have been faking it. I need hard, empirical, scientific evidence."
"I can't give you hard, empirical, scientific evidence! What's gotten into you?!"
"I need evidence", he repeats.
"Well you'll have to trust me," says the wife.
"Trust you. I can't!" says the husband. "How can I trust you without evidence?"
"Oh for ****s sake! What's going on? I married you didn't I, isn't that evidence enough for you?!" she says exasperated.
"You could have loved me that day and maybe I believed it then, but now I need proof. Do you love me?"
"Yes, of course I do" she replies, "We've only weeks got back from our honeymoon. We're happy, aren't we?" she says, tears rolling down her cheek.
"We were, but now I need evidence," he replies, coldly.
She sobs, "I don't know what to say. I don't know what kind of evidence you need. I love you, darling, that's all I can say. Why is what I tell you not enough for you? All I can do is tell you that I love you and try and show you how much I love you. I'd do anything for you. I'd die for you if I had to! You have to take it on faith."
The man stares with eyes fixed upon his wife, "Faith? What kind of irrational creature do you think I am?! Evidence, bitch. Come on, I need it now."
The wife runs upstairs, shouting, "You've gone mad! You're insane!"
"I'm insane?! I'm insane!? It's you who can't provide the evidence!" he retorts.
His wife's tears turn to anger as she returns with a suitcase. "I'm going to stay with mummy in Shropshire and maybe, maybe if you sort yourself and snap out of this 'evidence' garbage I'll consider coming back. Who do you think you are anyway, calling me a cretin!?"
Quickly, she grabs her keys, takes her handbag with her suitcase with her and goes out, slamming the door behind leaving only the sound of her fading footsteps behind her.

"See," says the husband, as he takes a drag on his cigarette, "I knew she didn't love me...Now, what page was I on...?"

Comments

The Passion is evidence of God's love for us.
The Bones said…
Yes, I would say so too.
The Bones said…
The point is all belief works on faith and trust. Nobody requires evidence for everything in life. If someone called me and said, "Laurence, your dog has just died," I wouldn't say, "Show me the corpse! I need evidence," especially if I trusted the person telling me.

Really, it is about trust in the Church that bears the message of Christ. What She says, you take on Faith, believing that Christ established Her.

It isn't that the message of Christ is totally absurd. The problem is that people do not trust the messenger, but the Church has always, even since day one, borne the brunt of mockery from those who do not believe. It is not a new thing, despite the abuse scandal.
Paul said…
That wasn't the point at all (or it's a terrible worded piece). The point was quite clearly that a man loving God is like a man loving his wife and the atheist who denies God is like the man who denies his wife. Clearly, as I said, a terribly ill-conceived analogy. Love is an expression of the relationship between two beings, the atheist does not question this expression, he questions the existence of one of the beings (the unseen one).

"If someone called me and said, "Laurence, your dog has just died," I wouldn't say, "Show me the corpse! I need evidence," especially if I trusted the person telling me."

This is based on the fact that (in this example) you have a dog, know dogs do die, and presume there is no reason someone would so lie to you. If that person said "Laurence your dog turned into a golden orb and ascended to heaven but only I saw it and have no further proof" you might start to get suspicious! If you knew someone coveted your dog and they said "Laurence your dog just died while you were out the room" you might also ask for proof. See, whether or not we demand proof and the amount of proof we require is heavily dependent on the situation. In a situation where a priest, after wasting 40 years of his life in a decrepit church, says he is certain there is a God and we should just carry on without asking question, then of course the burden of proof is higher.

"It isn't that the message of Christ is totally absurd. The problem is that people do not trust the messenger"

Well, the 'message' of Christ, such as it is, is nothing absurd at all. The point of disbelieving that there is a God unseen with all these properties you are simply guessing at in a bid to ward off fear of death is not to challenge the message. It's just to say there is no supreme being corresponding to that message. If you think loving your neighbour is good, why do you need to say 'I think it's good because a bigger being tells me so'? Surely that's not really thinking it's good. let's suppose you could disprove god's existence. Would you automatically stop loving your neighbour? If you would then you have no business speaking about morality, you would just be a dark-hearted cynical child who merely pretends to love your neighbour in case god smacks your bottom for disobedience. True morality doesn't require the protection of mythical super men
The Bones said…
Okay, if you can keep it civil, I'll publish your comments. Others can join in, if they can maintain a respectful dialogue.

Point 1: Not so. I don't think the analogy is so bad.

You are saying that the expression of love is the evidence of love between two people.

But, what if one person does not know what love really is? You are suggesting, for one, that we all know what love is. You are suggesting that an understanding of love is universal.

Well, first you are making a universal statement that you say is true. This statement is that there is such a thing as love.

There is no God, you assert, but there is such a thing of love. Love is, by your own definition, relational.

However, the existence of love is not usually a part of the atheist creed. Certainly Dawkins would suggest that love is merely a product of a species which has a particular behaviour towards love. He would also assert that this tendency towards loving is inherently selfish - hence the selfish gene.

Yet, and yet, by most definitions, love, at its best is not motivated by selfishness but by a desire to give or nurture or care for another.

A real atheist would thereby reject love's existence. Also, in searching for love, he would require evidence of it. You say, well, we all know what love is. Yet, merely someone demonstrating love to an atheist would not be enough, since the evidence he requires is scientific and empirical. It is rational, something achieved only through reason and empiricism not demonstrable through actions.

Secondly, if the empiricism to which the atheist is attached is followed naturally, if she leaves him, it means she no longer loves him. That's why he ends up saying, "I knew she didn't love me". In the final analysis, love is 'faithful to the end'. Her love was not strong enough to cope with his atheism and so she leaves. He is let down because her love is not unconditional, or faithful, like God's love is for us.
The Bones said…
Point 2: Then you appeal to truth. You even appeal to 'true morality'. Well, you are a relativist. For a relativist there can be no 'true morality' because what is true for one can be different for another. Yet again you find yourself appealing to what, for an atheist, must be a fictitious fairy tale - the existence of objective truth. No, objective truth is, actually, for you, subjective truth, since you can assert that nothing is universally true. Unless you are appealing to some moral law. Okay, so from whence did this moral law appear. Did it drop down from the sky? Did it come down from a mountain?

Yet, really, you are like Pilate before Christ, when he asked 'What is truth?'

In order for truth to exist there must be something True. There must be a source for truth, otherwise nothing is true, or indeed, false. There is also falsehood, of course.

Without realising it perhaps, you make appeals to timeless values, as if they appeared yesterday, like 'truth'. Well, you tell me your truth, dear man, and I'll tell you mine.
The Bones said…
By the way, this fear of death stuff to which you keep referring. I've already explained the reason why I believe. That reason is grounded in my own failure to love well, my own failure to love another in a way which could be objectively described as 'good'. The fear of Death was not something by which my mind's landscape was dominated.

Now that I believe, I think about death more than I did when I did not, since I have more awareness of the fact that I shall have to answer for my life.

You impute motives to those who believe, as if you are in their shoes, yet you are not.

Secondly, while the fear of death is an acceptable reason to believe in God, since it suggests that after death, comes judgment, it is not a particularly noble one. It is better to simply believe in God because God simply is.
Paul said…
Keep it civil, Ok (it will mean overriding my innate urge to mud sling).

"Point 1: You are saying that the expression of love is the evidence of love between two people."

I'm not. What is love eh? Difficult one, I certainly don't have an answer. But it doesn't matter. If I love God it doesn't matter whether or not God is 'real', the love is real. If I love art it doesn't matter whether art is 'real', the love is real. Now, when we love an abstract entity, we are taking a stance toward the world (we are, in effect, saying 'I WANT this to be real'). So far so good. But if someone comes along and says 'yeah but art isn't a thing out there. There is no entity floating around called art, it's just a product of your attitude toward certain things you deem artistic' then I don't think we would have too many problems. It's more or less the truth of the matter (unless you're Plato and think there really is a form of art). That's all I am saying about God. The love is not questioned, I am just saying you make a wild leap from this to the existence of such a being, which is actually a weird assumption that you would never otherwise make.

"(1)Dawkins would suggest that love is merely a product of a species which has a particular behaviour towards love. (2)He would also assert that this tendency towards loving is inherently selfish - (3) hence the selfish gene."

(1) - not sure I understand you here. Your version of Dawkins is saying "X is merely a product of Y's behaviour toward X", but it can't be. Y can't have a relationship with or behaviour toward X that pre-exists the X itself, it would be an entirely circular definition. If the species has a particular behaviour toward love that implies there is already a love to have a behaviour toward, as such that love can't be a product of that behaviour. If Dawkins did indeed say this he is clearly mistaken

(2) He'd be wrong. Pop-evolutionary explanations miss the point of describing things. If I say sight is 'merely the product of evolution' I would of course be speaking the truth from a certain perspective (without the evolution of sight we would be sightless). But that hardly explains what sight is. Similarly, evolutionary attempts to pin consciousness to some selective advantage it gave us are pointless, because even if this origin is a fact, it doesn't exhaust the qualities of the thing itself. Explaining the origin of something is not sufficient to understanding that thing itself. But this is also true of theological arguments that claim by postulating a divine origin we have somehow learned something. We haven't, it's just a trick of the mind

(3) But aren't you deliberately misreading his argument here. It's basically Adam Smith's argument applied on the biological level. The argument is that what we take on a conscious level as benevolence is actually self-interested behaviour. I don't agree at all, but by saying most definitions of love accept it is
"not motivated by selfishness but by a desire to give or nurture or care for another" you aren't really challenging his point, since he knows full well most people think this, but is trying to show that the nurturing instinct is itself a natural drive that is beneficial to the species (a non-caring group of apes would not last long, they are group hunters and have to live as a group. Yet his point is that each individual within this group benefits from caring traits which make the transmission of their own genes more likely).
Paul said…
"A real atheist would thereby reject love's existence. . . demonstrating love to an atheist would not be enough, since the evidence he requires is scientific and empirical." I think this is the crux of your confusion. You assume that a denial of God as an existential attitude (the belief that humans do not need to hide behind god-talk when ever they say something is wrong, the belief that, with respect, we think it is cowardly to have to always say "I know it's wrong, God told me so" rather than just having the courage to admit you know right from wrong) is the same as an attitude that accepts nothing without proof. When I love someone I do not need to doubt or question this love. I feel it, it is real. I know the person is real. The point is not about love. It is about claiming that on the basis of a feeling you can verify the existence of an entity. You can't. I don't know that my wife exists only because I love her, these are two entirely separate issues and the christian frequently confuses them. Atheism is the denial that a supreme being does in fact exist, that we can know about him or have sufficient evidence for this belief in the documents we have.

"if the empiricism to which the atheist is attached is followed naturally, if she leaves him, it means she no longer loves him. That's why he ends up saying, "I knew she didn't love me"."

I'm not sure I follow you here. What does empiricism (the belief that knowledge comes from sense perception) have to do with this? there can be any number of reasons a woman leaves a man, one of which may of course be that she no longer loves him. If the poor heart-broken man says 'I knew she didn't love me' is he not simply trying to make himself feel better in his hour of crisis by pretending he had suspected her true character all along? I just don't see what relevance it has.

"her love is not unconditional, or faithful, like God's love is for us." Yet if you don't do what he says you'll burn in hell, right? So it is clearly conditional. Anyway quite why a supreme being does or doesn't care is irrelevant, he's god and can do what he wants, he is hardly likely to care what you or I think. The mere idea that god is being faithful to us is patently absurd if he is of infinite wisdom and the very mark of perfection. his wisdom would be sufficient to know all before and after the event, he hardly needs to keep faith in us mortals.


N.B. Atheism is not "attached to empiricism", but to its opposite, rationalism. I deny God not because I have seen proof to the contrary (an empirical matter) but because I deem it irrational to believe in god. I will repeat an earlier point: YOU are an atheist with respect to Islam. You claim there is no Allah, that the Koran is not sufficient proof of Allah, and that the Muslim faith is therefore a collective delusion.
Do you do this because you are an empiricism who has seen into heaven and didn't see Allah? Not at all, it is because you are a rationalist who understands that these claims are fanciful. You are therefore perfectly prepared to agree with me in rejecting the existence of gods, even if billions of people sincerely believe in them. You claim to know there is no Allah (you must do, his existence is incompatible with the existence of your god) but somehow this knowledge does not make you a curmudgeonly atheist who always demands proof of what the Muslims claim. I am merely applying the same method you yourself rely on to another god, the god that you claim is real. My position here is clearly more consistent - I am applying the same standard of belief uniformly. You apply doubt and scepticism to other gods, but then somehow forget all of this when it comes to the god you want to believe in
Paul said…
“Well, you are a relativist.” – please don’t make things up. You have heard the pope use this word and now you’re convinced it’s synonymous with atheism. I took great pains to explain to you why it is not. To say there is no God, whether or not such absence upsets people, is to say that merely wanting something to be true does not make it so. I said a false morality would be a religious one. To claim X is good because God said so is to claim X is only good because God says so (otherwise you wouldn’t need to pin it on God, it would be good anyway). If you believe that you are a relativist who can follow orders but not feel morality in its truest sense.

“For a relativist there can be no 'true morality' because what is true for one can be different for another” Not really, but since I’m not a relativist I don’t care. Well, for the record this isn’t true. Have you ever met anyone who claims that anything is as true as anything else? Seriously, have you? It’s a straw-man created by popes, no one actually thinks like that. There have been many hundreds of good theories founding morality on reason alone, both within and without the church. The church itself never said you only need to do XYZ because God said so. It wouldn’t get you very far would it, since God tells you not to cut your hair, talk to menstruating women, eat oysters etc, but is silent on a range of other moral issues that the church had to work out by constructing rational systems of thought (very good ones too, as you highlight in your Aquinas post).

“Yet again you find yourself appealing to what, for an atheist, must be a fictitious fairy tale - the existence of objective truth.” Yet again you miss the point of atheism. The more I engage with you on this the more I am convinced that an awful lot of Christians are simply quite ignorant of atheism and what it entails. This is a positive sign, it means there is hope for humanity to overcome its curse. “The existence of an objective truth” is not a fairy tale to the atheist. There is no God. This is an objective truth. Christ was not the son of God, nor was Ye’w’la the son of the sun god Rah, nor was Quetzocottal the sun god himself. These objective truths of religion are believed by all atheists. Your confusion is once again assuming that (a) all atheists are relativists (what ever that means since care is taken never to adequately define yourself) and (b) as such do not believe in objective truth (which is also not synonymous with moral relativism anyway).
Paul said…
“objective truth is, actually, for you, subjective truth, since you can assert that nothing is universally true” – yet I deliberately gave you several examples of universal truths I do think we can agree on, whether or not we agree on god’s existence or non-existence. I don’t think you’re stupid here at all, but it is unfortunate that you have been brainwashed by the pope’s anti-relativism crusade. He is clever, he knows no one really accepts extreme relativism, but he has made it his mission to tie healthy scepticism and rational thought to relativism in a bid to stop debate. Now if someone denies god you can shout ‘relativist’, even if that person has been quite clear they are not. Clearly, no evidence of a person’s non- or anti-relativism is sufficiently strong to overturn this pope-placed prejudice, and he has ensured that his followers are now incapable of entering into a debate without taking this assumption along as an amulet. I repeat, I am not a relativist, nor does anyone deny the existence of objective truths, nor is relativism synonymous with such a denial anyway.

“In order for truth to exist there must be something True. [yes] There must be a source for truth [no]”. It is true that 2+2=4, that truth entails that 2+2=4 of course. There is no need however for a source to this truth. I COULD say ‘well that truth proves that a goblin in the sun created maths’, or ‘God guarantees truth’, but these latter assumptions are wishful thinking designed to claim truth for the sake of a dubious social project. Anyway, the problem with suggesting all morality comes from god is that we only have the bible to go on, and in the portions where god speaks, well I for one don’t care for his morality one jot
Paul said…
"That reason is grounded in my own failure to love well, my own failure to love another in a way which could be objectively described as 'good'. "

Bleak sad it is that you lost your love, and I hope she forgives you and lets you come back to her. But then I did say earlier I suspected an awful lot of Catholics had been driven to their beliefs by personal moral failings that they could not overcome through power of will or moral practice. Hence the attraction of clinging to the belief that we're all sinners and that our guilt will eventually be washed away by god's loving grace.

Look, if you mistreated a girl, the lesson is 'Ok Laurence, that was stupid. Don;t do it again and learnt hat you can't mess people around'. Not 'Ok Laurence, that was stupid, let's say there is a god and he loves me even more than she did'.
The Bones said…
Paul, you've already contradicted yourself. About love you seem confused.

You said above that, and I quote.

"Love is an expression of the relationship between two beings, the atheist does not question this expression."

The idea that love is the expression of relationship is rather a good definition. Now, all of a sudden, you have changed your mind and have said and I quote:

"What is love eh? Difficult one, I certainly don't have an answer. But it doesn't matter."

Er, no, actually, it does matter, if you are going to have a discussion about the nature of love and the possibility of it having an origin, having so very confidently before asserted that you know what love is.

"If I love art it doesn't matter if the art isn't 'real'."

Er, yes it does Paul. If the art isn't 'real', then you cannot appreciate it. You love art, not the concept of art, and neither do you love all art, unless, like Christians, you assert that you like 'art for art's sake,' as we do works of love or mercy, for God's sake.

"When I love someone I do not need to doubt or question this love. I feel it, it is real."

There are never times, then, when you do not feel it? Are you suggesting that if you do not 'feel it' then it is not 'real'? It sounds like you believe love is a feeling. Can you love when you do not 'feel it'?

"There can be any number of reasons a woman leaves a man, one of which may of course be that she no longer loves him."

Do you mean that she no longer 'feels' like she loves him or that she no longer 'loves' him.

"Her love is not unconditional, or faithful, like God's love is for us." Yet if you don't do what he says you'll burn in hell, right? So it is clearly conditional."

No, Paul, love is by its nature both just and merciful. In other words, if we sin against God, we can receive God's forgiveness through Confession and private prayer. God is love. If your wife betrays you and sleeps with someone else, you can do one of two things: a) sling her out of the house, b) forgive her if she desires your forgiveness. Oh, but I'll be that's the hard road! Why would anyone forgive such a betrayal of trust?

Finally, regarding your moral relativism, yes, Paul, I'm afraid you are a moral relativist because you do not believe in an absolute morality. You cannot believe in an absolute morality unless you believe in God.

Your morality is relativist in as much as it may differ to that of your neighbour who may also be an atheist. However, you may believe that the use of internet pornography is okay, moral and licit. However, if your neighbour, who is also an atheist, knew that you watch pornography, he might be horrified and think, 'that's wrong' on the grounds of it being contrary to nature and gravely injurious and exploitative of women.

In order for an atheist to appeal to a morality other than one which belongs only to him, he has to appeal to a morality which is by its own nature timeless:

So, for example, you, as an atheist may say, murder is wrong. Well, today it is wrong. Was it wrong yesterday? Will murder always be wrong?

If we say that murder was wrong 4,000 years ago, and that murder is wrong today, and that murder will always, as long as the world turns, be wrong, then you are saying that no matter what time or age human beings live in, murder is wrong. You are saying that there is a timeless moral value. If the moral value is of itself timeless, then it is eternal. Now, if the value is eternal, then eternity must exist. In order for eternity to exist, there must be something Eternal.
The Bones said…
The one thing I always 'feel' when I listen to or read what militant atheists say, is that they do not know what love is.
Paul said…
It’s not a contradiction, I was changing the level of discussion. When it comes to discussing a man’s love for his wife then “Love is an expression of the relationship between two beings”. When I ask “What is love eh” I am saying that a general definition of love as an abstract entity not rooted in a concrete situation is not relevant to the discussion. This is also the point with art (which you misread)

You suggest that I said: "If I love art it doesn't matter if the art isn't 'real'." Perhaps you merely misread what I said, but the very slight change in sentence is crucial. I actually said: “If I love art it doesn't matter whether art is 'real', the love is real.” See, in your quote I am saying it doesn’t matter if “the art” (piece of art or artwork to be admired) is actually real, in my sentence I am saying it doesn’t matter if an abstract entity, art, on the basis of which aesthetic judgements are made, is real. Of course it does matter if THE art work is real, how could I have a relationship to something that isn’t real? However, it doesn’t matter whether this relationship can be distilled and made into an entity in its own right, ‘art’ (a fundamentally odd and misguided notion that is the basis of all religious statements). I can say I think XYZ is great art, proceed to list my conditions for great art that I believe a rational person would accept, and continue to love art without having to imagine that the notion of art is a substantive entity hiding out of sight. Surely this is how all non-Platonists think? The only alternative is to believe that ‘art’ as a general category or thing is flying around the cosmos and we somehow get ‘in contact’ with it when we think of art. That’s just too wacky for me. Likewise with love. I love my wife without worrying whether or not that expression of a relationship between two concrete beings is in itself a third concrete being, the entity you call love, that lives somewhere in a magical realm we never witness (until perhaps death when all is conveniently disclosed by the loving grace of love the entity – see how mad this stuff becomes when you take the reification of relations into entities to its natural conclusion?)

“It sounds like you believe love is a feeling. Can you love when you do not 'feel it'?” Yes I can. I love my wife, I do not love my neighbour’s wife (in that way at least). If someone were to ask me whether I can be sure I do not love my neighbour’s wife I would of course reply that I doubt I love my neighbour’s wife precisely because I do not feel love for her. What is the problem here? Let’s see if your assumptions hold true for other areas of life. I enjoy coffee and don’t enjoy alcohol, I can be sure I enjoy coffee because I like the taste, even if that taste is not perpetually present to me or always in my mind. I don’t need to assume the existence of a coffee god in some hidden realm who guarantees the persistence of this enjoyment throughout time and even when I am not directly enjoying it, do I? I can just say ‘I enjoy coffee’ and you will accept that I mean I am the type of person who, given the opportunity, likes a good cup of coffee. You wouldn’t say “but if you are on the bus and don’t feel this love do you not then stop loving coffee? Isn’t it only the coffee gods who guarantee this love throughout time?” Well, if you have no problem with such statements, then why not accept they can be applied to love.

“Do you mean that she no longer 'feels' like she loves him or that she no longer 'loves' him.” What’s the difference? Isn’t this just the coffee god thing again, where the difference between feeling you like coffee and actually liking it resides in a hidden kingdom where desires are preserved. Wacky stuff indeed
Paul said…
This is very similar to your later claim:

“If we say that murder was wrong 4,000 years ago, and that murder is wrong today, and that murder will always, as long as the world turns, be wrong, then you are saying that no matter what time or age human beings live in, murder is wrong”

Firstly, murder is, by definition, wrongful killing. Murder will always be wrong because the wrongfulness of the action is part of the definition of murder. If a killing is not wrong it is not defined as murder (such as death during war, manslaughter, burning a heretic for not believing in exactly the same dogma as the man with the torch). However, your problem here is the second part of this paragraph, where you leap to an utterly surreal assumption:

“If the moral value is of itself timeless, then it is eternal. Now, if the value is eternal, then eternity must exist. In order for eternity to exist, there must be something Eternal.”

OK, fine, so there is something eternal. Eternity. Oh no wait, you mean God don’t you, even though that isn’t the logical conclusion of what you’ve just said but an unnecessary assumption. Was murder wrong before humans existed? Would such a statement even make sense?
Paul said…
“You cannot believe in an absolute morality unless you believe in God.” – Or Allah, or Vishnu, or Ra, or any other being who people invent to explain why they think what they think is true is actually true. I will repeat my point since you haven’t addressed it: If morality depends on a hidden law giver (God) then you are saying you do not see any reason to be moral whatsoever without this law giver. If you are saying that you are a cynic and don’t believe in morality at all. Furthermore, there is no reason to say this, it’s an arbitrary conjecture designed to defend the otherwise indefensible belief in God. Suppose I were to say, for instance, it is wrong to act in a way that I would not want others to act, and that my knowledge that this is a good moral guide stems from the law of non-contradiction that all humans have knowledge of by necessity. I have now given you an absolute standard that did not come from God. If you then reply that “the only reason to be moral is if god wills it and tells me so” you have made two errors. (1) you have assumed the truth of your argument and then used this assumption as proof of its validity (you haven’t told me why it’s true, you’ve just repeated your point). (2) I have it on good authority that God said any man who speaks to a menstruating female shall be exiled, that he may buy slaves, but that he may not eat shellfish. The authority I have for this is the only evidence of God’s commands we have, the bible. But you choose to disobey the Lord. You don’t buy slaves and think it is wrong to do so (I hope). You don’t petition the state for a non-menstruating in public law. You probably enjoy a mussel now and then. So if God is so necessary to absolute morality, and if only God’s commands are moral commands, why do you choose to betray his commands? Surely you must have some non-God-given sense of right and wrong if you are prepared to question the word of the almighty.
Paul said…
Look, the basic problem with your argument is (1) above: assuming the truth of your argument and presenting it as proof. You will say, for example, ‘If you don’t believe in God then how can you know slavery is wrong’. But this would only hold if I accepted your premise that the only way to judge an action is in reference to God’s will. Since I don’t believe this, and since you have given me no argument or reason to believe it, this presents me with no problem. (this is without even considering the fact that God has spoken and told you it is morally acceptable to keep slaves). Surely you accept that there are dozens of sound arguments against slavery??? If you met a slave-trader in China (i.e. you can’t assume he will be moved by appeals to your god) and you wanted to condemn him wouldn’t you say something like “but keeping a person as a piece of property is immoral, by what right do you place your own interests ahead of this poor slave’s”? I would. I certainly wouldn’t say “but God thinks slavery is wrong”, firstly because this would hardly be a strong condemnation, I would want him to know I had GOOD reasons for my morality, not arbitrary ones, and secondly because he would say “how do you know god thinks that. He doesn’t say it in the bible, quite the opposite.” If you ignore this once again and continue to insist that my belief in the immoral of keeping slaves is meaningless without a belief in God then I can only conclude you don’t actually think it is wrong to keep slaves in and of itself, but only because god thinks so and you have to follow him (this is clearly the antithesis of morality and a very seditious relativism that you seem to believe but are blind to). Very finally, let’s assume an entirely different point: that there is no absolute moral standard (I don’t agree, clearly, but let’s play along). Why does this matter? I can still condemn someone’s morality as being worse than my own can’t I? Judging better and worse in reference to a standard need not imply absolutes. I can say Godfather 2 is better than Godfather 3 without presupposing the ideal Godfather film. I can say our freedom is better than biblical slavery without presupposing the ideal society. Very finally, your biggest contradiction: you say repeatedly that without god we can’t be absolutely sure that what we say is right or wrong (a position I have conclusively debunked), yet you acknowledge you can’t be absolutely sure if there is a god, so why is believing there is a god who makes morality certain but not being absolutely certain that there is a god to make this certainty a fact any different or preferable to believing that there is a morality about which we can’t be certain? Aren’t I just saving myself the unnecessary hypothesis that there is a god? Besides which, I have shown that morality does not require god, the pope’s insistence that it does is based on the fact that there are no other good arguments for god left. Proof from design, the five ways, etc etc have all been shown to fail. All he has left is the ridiculous lie that all non-believers are relativists hell-bent on evil. It might convince a few people for a few years, but ultimately it’s doomed to fail like the other arguments failed
Paul said…
BTW, thank you for hosting the exchange, it was enjoyable. I know you won;t be convinced, but it's at least good to hear the other side of the argument (for me at least) expressed in a cogent and passionate way
Paul said…
"The one thing I always 'feel' when I listen to or read what militant atheists say, is that they do not know what love is." But you just admitted you only started believing in god as a foil for your own inability to love. Surely it's the catholics who can;t love humanity, hence they invent the god who does so on their behalf
Lazarus said…
@Paul

'The point was quite clearly that a man loving God is like a man loving his wife and the atheist who denies God is like the man who denies his wife. Clearly, as I said, a terribly ill-conceived analogy.'

That's not what I take from the analogy. Isn't it more,'You reject the existence of God because there's not the right sort of evidence for him, so you should also reject the existence of (our) love because there's not the right sort of evidence for that either'?

'Atheism' covers a multitude of sins. But there's certainly a brand of atheist who wants to reject everything that can't be measured or proved in some quasi-scientific manner. I take Laurence's point to be that this sort of 'show me' attitude impoverishes life by undermining romantic relationships and that we'd reject it there. Consequently, we have no reason to assume that it is any more applicable in other areas such as religion.

A point I'd agree with...
The Bones said…
Bye and God bless

By the way, regarding coffee. You know when you've had bad coffee, you know when you've had good coffee and you know when you've had great coffee.

See how St Thomas's proof can work here. It's called the degrees of perfection. There must, somewhere exist the ultimate coffee, I hope you realise that.
The Bones said…
I'd imagine if anywhere sells it, it will be Waitrose.
The Bones said…
"If morality depends on a hidden law giver (God) then you are saying you do not see any reason to be moral whatsoever without this law giver."

No, that's not what I am saying. I am saying that it is likely that the person who rejects the law of God is likely to construct his own morality.

Hence he will say, 'Murder is wrong' but abortion is okay, because, well, "I say so!"

Regarding menstruation and mussels.
I think you might have us mixed up with another religion there.

Anyway, as you have gone, God bless you and yours.
The Bones said…
Paul, it was a joke concerning atheists and the ability to love. Have you never noticed how terribly without charity or respect Dawkins is?