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2/13/10

Atheism and Rape - Walter Sinnott-Armstrong Elucidates

This post has been moved to True Freethinker were it resides at this link

18 comments:

  1. Your mistake is assuming that atheism, which merely makes the assertion that there is no God, must also have a complete philosophical rationalization for all ethical behavior. The philosophy that covers that ground would be more secular humanist, I think. You objections to the arguments about rape you present don't disprove atheism, they simply suggest that if God does not exist, we need to make one up. Looking at the Bible, I see ten commandments, but none against rape. Looking at the Bible, I see rape condoned and even mandated by God. Since God is now the ultimate decider of all things of Good and Evil, then rape, on His say-so, is a good and positive thing, a concept so obscene it allows me to paraphrase the final line in your piece: "Therefore, the fact of evil in the world is perhaps the very best reason for rejecting theism."

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  2. "Atheism offers no ultimate justice and is therefore morally bankrupt and unjust itself."

    Not owning a cat offers no ultimate justice and is therefore morally bankrupt and unjust itself.

    See how little sense you make?

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  3. Yeah, but the problem is that God is even worse as an explanation for morality than the common sense/intuitive reasons that atheists, humanists and Sinnot-Armstrong give. I mean, catch up mariano, Plato knocked god out of the ethical ball park 2500 years ago.

    God or no God, rape is wrong. The "because God said so" explanation hasn't been accepted by serious thinkers for millenia. So, we look for an alternative one.

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  4. Mariano, the definition of words are not arrived at through argumentation. Common usage establishes definitions. Sinnott-Armstrong's explanation of why rape is immoral seems within reason given how the term "immoral" is commonly used.

    There are two issues at hand. The first issue is what makes something good or bad. The second issue is why someone should choose to do the good. In my opinion, atheists have a much harder time with the second issue than the first.

    The mere fact that a universe without a deity would not guarantee ultimate justice is not a reason to believe God exists, for it is logically possible that ultimate justice will not occur.

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  5. Anonymous 2, what purely secular reason can you give for the rapist in Bill Vallicella's scenario not to commit rape?

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  6. Rape is considered "bad" because of our hard-wiring. Do you really think a person needs to be told not to rape to know it is bad?

    Humans are a social species. Things are viewed as "evil" or "bad" if they harm the functionality of society. The family structure is a big part of human society, naturally we would view it as evil -- the rapist obviously isn't going to stick around to help raise any children, this hardwired agreement is what allows a female human "access"
    to her reproductive system.

    And atheism is irrelevant to this. In-fact the bible is quite lenient on rape, as long as the rape victim is not married -- then the rapist must pay some silver to the father, and is "forced" to marry her for life.

    The Bible is cruel to the rape victim, as shown from my above example. Also there is the biblical law of stoning the rape victim if she is raped in a town and is not heard screaming. Some justice....


    -----------------------------------------------
    The Atheist Perspective

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  7. "Your mistake is assuming that atheism, which merely makes the assertion that there is no God, must also have a complete philosophical rationalization for all ethical behavior."

    This article is simply noting the problem with ethics according to an athiestic worldview. Athiesm can only offer relativist ethics which simply offers no explaination for concepts such as right or wrong.

    "The philosophy that covers that ground would be more secular humanist, I think. You objections to the arguments about rape you present don't disprove atheism, they simply suggest that if God does not exist, we need to make one up."

    You're right it doesn't prove that athiesm is wrong. It just means athiesm as a whole is a moral vaquum that needs to borrow absolute morals from theistic religions if it wants intellectually sound.

    "Looking at the Bible, I see ten commandments, but none against rape."

    Althought it doesn't say so in the commandments you're forgetting what the new testament says, "love your neighbour as yourself".


    "Looking at the Bible, I see rape condoned and even mandated by God. Since God is now the ultimate decider of all things of Good and Evil, then rape, on His say-so, is a good and positive thing, a concept so obscene it allows me to paraphrase the final line in your piece: "Therefore, the fact of evil in the world is perhaps the very best reason for rejecting theism."

    If you want to be taken seriously than you must offer a verse in the bible that condones raping. In other words, put up or shut up.

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  8. Anonymous wrote the following: Athiesm can only offer relativist ethics which simply offers no explaination for concepts such as right or wrong

    Christianity's ethics are objective, but they're just as relative. As seen in the Bible, if God were to demand that Christians rape Muslims, it would be happily committed while proclaiming the rightness and justice of such actions.

    Christian morality is relative to the desires of God. Those desires may change (and they have changed, if the Bible is taken as evidence), and the faithful must conform no matter whether they contradict Scripture or personal belief.

    Christian morality is relative. Absolute morality is a myth made up by people who refuse to be honest about the nature of their faith.

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  9. @anonymous and Steve:

    "Looking at the Bible, I see ten commandments, but none against rape."

    Althought it doesn't say so in the commandments you're forgetting what the new testament says, "love your neighbour as yourself".


    Actually it is:
    Commandment #7; Exodus 20:14 'You shall not commit adultery.'

    Elaborated on by Jesus in Matthew 5:27-32
    '27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31 It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'

    Ultimately, as anonymous rightly points out, the summation of the whole is to 'love your neighbor as yourself' as recorded in Matthew 7:12; 22:37-40; 19:19; Luke 6:31; 10:27; Mark 12:31; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8; and Leviticus 19:18.

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  10. @WEM:

    As seen in the Bible, if God were to demand that Christians rape Muslims, it would be happily committed while proclaiming the rightness and justice of such actions.

    If it were demanded of anyone (or any 'god') it wouldn't be of YHWH since it goes against what is revealed in Scripture. Now that would be a true contradiction and therefore either Scripture would be false or the person making the claim would be.

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  11. An essential problem with Mariano's argument is simply that "because God said so" is not a logically binding reason to follow some moral commandment. This is the "is-ought problem," i.e. that one cannot derive an "ought" from an "is."

    Say that God told humans not to rape. Say that God punishes anyone who rapes. Great. So what?

    See the problem? There is no logical reason to do anything that God says. Maybe you want to, but it does not follow logically that "because God said XYZ, therefore I should do this or that."

    Therefore this argument from the religious is nonsense. They say that atheism or secularism provides no binding, logical reason to do anything moral. But neither do they!

    Therefore the "is-ought" problem remains for all moral philosophies, religious or secular. Therefore a religious moral philosophy is equal (and not superior) to a secular one on this count.

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  12. And I forgot to mention: the reason that the theistic morality fails this logical test (as all morality, religious or secular, will) Mariano must make emotional appeals in order to cast the religious morality as superior. To wit:

    "Thus, atheism makes evil and suffering even worse:
    1) Because, being a mere impotent concept; it does nothing about evil and suffering except complain.
    2) By guaranteeing that it is for nothing—no higher purpose or meaning..."

    Etc, etc. There is no logic left in Mariano's box, so all he has left is an emotional rejection of atheism/ secularism or atheist morality.

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  13. secularist10, the is/ought gap is not a problem. If you desire X, and doing Y will bring about X, then you ought to do Y.

    Now consider the rape scenario described above. By definition, the prospective rapist has a desire to avoid suffering and to experience pleasure. If he is an atheist, he believes raping the victim will fulfill his desires and have no negative consequences. He believes he should rape the victim. On the other hand, if he is a Christian, he believes that the negative consequences of God's judgment will outweigh the benefits of raping the victim. He believes he should not rape the victim.

    I do not claim this proves God's existence. It merely illustrates how a belief in God may cause people to be better than they otherwise would have been.

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  14. Jayman:

    Interestingly, if you think is-ought is not a problem, then you would be going against most of religious intellectuals' argument, and thereby defending the atheist/ secularist morality from their point of view.

    But in any case, I do think it is a problem. You said: "If you desire X, and doing Y will bring about X, then you ought to do Y."

    This makes sense as normal human discourse goes, and I of course agree on that basis. But the issue is logical deduction. As far as logical deduction is concerned, it is not possible to derive the word "ought" from the word "is." The only thing that can logically come from an "is" is another "is."

    "If he is an atheist, he believes raping the victim will fulfill his desires and have no negative consequences."

    This is a fantastic statement. It does not follow from the lack of belief in god that "raping will have no negative consequences" in that situation.

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  15. secularist10, I don't subscribe to your dichotomy between theist and atheist ethics. It is logically consistent to believe that God will judge our actions and that certain ethical positions can be defended without resorting to divine revelation. And not all atheists are moral relativists.

    Regarding the is/ought problem, I disagree that an "ought" cannot be logically derived from an "is." You admit it is possible "as normal human discourse goes." That is the only sense of the word I am interested in. If you are using some abnormal definition of "ought" it is irrelevant as nobody uses the word that way.

    You closed by stating: "It does not follow from the lack of belief in god that 'raping will have no negative consequences' in that situation." I agree with your statement, that it is still possible for negative consequences to occur. However, if the agent wants to rape the victim and believes no negative consequences will occur, he will rape the victim. On the other hand, if the agent believes there will be negative consequences he will not rape the victim (even if those negative consequences may not actually come about). Our intentional actions derive from our desires and beliefs, not necessarily from desires and reality. This is why beliefs can play a large role in how we act.

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  16. Jayman:

    "You admit it is possible 'as normal human discourse goes.' That is the only sense of the word I am interested in. If you are using some abnormal definition of 'ought' it is irrelevant as nobody uses the word that way."

    Excellent! Then you agree with me that Mariano's basic argument against secular/ atheist/ naturalist morality fails, for reasons I gave above.

    In any case, I humbly suggest you reconsider your statement that my use of "ought" is abnormal. It is just as normal as anyone else's. It's not about the definition of the word, but rather the style of thinking in normal discourse vs that which is demanded by stricter logic.

    "On the other hand, if the agent believes there will be negative consequences he will not rape the victim..."

    Yep, no argument there. Glad to see we agree. This statement has little to do with atheist morality per se.

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  17. Is anyone truly this stupid?

    Clearly you do not know any Atheists, or you might realize that we are not evil bastards.

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  18. Here are four rape-tolerant and pro-rape quotes from the Bible.

    Saying "That's irrelevant, the Bible commands to love one's neighbor" is conveniently vague. It means that every time society changes its mind about a given moral question — deciding that genocide, slavery and rape are, in fact, bad, while miscegenation and polytheism are, in fact, okay, etc — Christians can always say that the previous generations contradicted the command to love, and therefore weren't true Christians. I have a feeling this is what future Christians will be saying about today's homophobes (indeed, many current ones already do).

    It's hard to disagree with love. But phrased by itself, it does almost nothing to change anyone's behavior. People who act out of hate see themselves as acting out of love.

    If you want to effect social change, it's not enough to tell everyone to love their neighbor — everyone already thinks they do. Instead, tell them that slavery is evil, that sex should be consensual, that it is wrong to slaughter people for their ethnicity or beliefs, etc. That way, you will actually have a conversation. The Bible never gets around to having that conversation, except on the pro- slavery, genocide, and rape sides.

    The Bible says rape (of women) and slavery are okay, and it says to love one's neighbor. How does a theist come to decide that the command to love should be interpreted as overruling the contradicting passages? I submit that it is through that theist's modern, non-religious moral intuition that, for example, women are autonomous beings, that no one should be property, and that to behave otherwise is, in fact, unloving. Does the Bible tell us that slavery is unloving? Or do we, using available evidence, philosophical discussion, and testimony from slaves, tell ourselves that?

    Could God possibly have decreed that rape is moral? If not, then morality is a thing beyond God's ability to will. If so, I for one won't listen to that God — and neither, apparently, do most Christians.

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