Wednesday, June 28, 2006

James Joyce and the Horrible Absurdity of Eternity

Cay of Galileo's Dream left a quote in the comments section of my last post of what has to be the best expressive writing on the horrible absurdity of eternity that I have ever read. I decided to re-post it here.

The quote that Cay was gracious enough to provide is from James Joyce, a rather poetic Irish writer from the early 20th century.

Cay is in normal text and the James Joyce quote is in italics:

Sorry for the long post, but James Joyce's description of eternity is enough for me, even if it meant an eternity of "heaven" or whatever fantasy existence one longed for. I'd rather die for good than "live on" for eternity:

"For ever! For all eternity! Not for a year or for an age but for ever. Try to imagine the awful meaning of this. You have often seen the sand on the seashore. How fine are its tiny grains! And how many of those tiny little grains go to make up the small handful which a child grasps in its play. Now imagine a mountain of that sand, a million miles high, reaching from the earth to the farthest heavens, and a million miles broad, extending to remotest space, and a million miles in thickness; and imagine such an enormous mass of countless particles of sand multiplied as often as there are leaves in the forest, drops of water in the mighty ocean, feathers on birds, scales on fish, hairs on animals, atoms in the vast expanse of the air: and imagine that at the end of every million years a little bird came to that mountain and carried away in its beak a tiny grain of that sand. How many millions upon millions of centuries would pass before that bird had carried away even a square foot of that mountain, how many eons upon eons of ages before it had carried away all? Yet at the end of that immense stretch of time not even one instant of eternity could be said to have ended. At the end of all those billions and trillions of years eternity would have scarcely begun. And if that mountain rose again after it had been all carried away, and if the bird came again and carried it all away again grain by grain, and if it so rose and sank as many times as there are stars in the sky, atoms in the air, drops of water in the sea, leaves on the trees, feathers upon birds, scales upon fish, hairs upon animals, at the end of all those innumerable risings and sinkings of that immeasurably vast mountain not one single instant of eternity could be said to have ended; even then, at the end of such a period, after that eon of time the mere thought of which makes our very brain reel dizzily, eternity would scarcely have begun."

Excellent. I have written about the eternity problem on this blog before, but James Joyce captures the gravity of the eternity problem much better than I do. A finite, single life is infinitely more valuable than an infinite existence could ever be worth.

And Cay gets the Eternity Quote of the Year Award!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Los Angeles Times Agrees With Kill The Afterlife

Thanks to Sean Prophet at BlackSun Journal for posting on this first and bringing it to my attention.

The Los Angeles Times has a recent article entitled: 'End Times' Religious Groups Want Apocalypse Soon.

And it isn't just Christians. All the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) want to destroy the world as we know it and bring in a bloodbath of Godly proportions, all so that they can get their special reward and so that everyone who doesn't believe what they believe will be tortured forever.

Church lady moment: "Well, isn't that special?"

We are now at the point where even the Los Angeles Times is agreeing with what I've been saying for some time now. Afterlife believers worship death. Afterlife Believers get together in social networks and fantasize about the end of the world.

I have always maintained that afterlife-believers, by necessity, place the "next life" at a higher degree of importance than this life. Within the Los Angeles Times article, there is one very funny, some might say pathetic, example of an afterlife-believer who sacrifices an aspect of this life in favor of the afterlife:

Then there is Clyde Lott, a Mississippi revivalist preacher and cattle rancher. He is trying to raise a unique herd of red heifers to satisfy an obscure injunction in the Book of Numbers: the sacrifice of a blemish-free red heifer for purification rituals needed to pave the way for the messiah.

So far, only one of his cows has been verified by rabbis as worthy, meaning they failed to turn up even three white or black hairs on the animal's body.

We have Jews that steal land from others because they think that God "promised" the land to them. We have Muslims blowing up Jews and themselves(!) in order to secure a better position in the afterlife. We have Christians who are breeding cows to bring Jesus back so that he can end the world! We even have Christians on Internet message boards who sit around and stroke each other's fantasies about the world ending in a bloody Armageddon.

Not all afterlife-believers act on their desires, true. But they all share the same desire. They prefer their imaginary afterlife to this life. On one hand I cannot blame them for their preference. For example, when I was a child I would often fantasize about living in a slightly different world where I had superpowers, or where everyone got along and we had unlimited technology and happiness. But I grew up. So on the other hand, I have nothing but disgust and contempt and derision for these fully grown adults who cannot grow up and discard their imaginary Peter Pan worlds, especially when they try to force their imaginary vision onto others.

I think it is appropriate at this time for me to restate the premise of blog: "The concept of an afterlife is inhumane and immoral. Belief in the continuation of your "soul" or consciousness after death is wishful thinking. Belief in an afterlife devalues the one life that actually exists: this one."

Kill The Afterlife, not this life.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Afterlife Belief Makes You Insane

It appears that many jurors for Andrea Yates' new murder trial already think she is insane. And I agree with them.

Andrea Yates, proud member of the Offspring Murder Club, is undergoing a new trial for murdering her 5 sons because God told her to do it. The last trial's verdict was thrown out over some stupid Law and Order TV episode.

I believe Andrea Yates should win this trial. She is totally insane. That's what religion does to you. When you believe that death != death (for the less geeky readers, "!=" means "does not equal"), and you act on it, you are insane. However, I also believe that insane people who kill others because they don't recognize that death = death should also be put to death. Hey, if they don't think that death = death, then let's put their theory to the test with them as the test subjects! After all, they already forced some innocent victim to be their own test subject.

Any afterlife-believer that kills another person, believing that they are doing them a favor, should be recognized as insane, and should have their belief of death != death put to the test on themselves. According to their own beliefs, we would be doing them a favor! Andrea Yates, and indeed all the members of the Offspring Murder Club, believed they were doing their poor children a favor.

Kill The Afterlife, not the children.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Prove It!

In the comments section of my last post, a commenter named Joker said:

You're wrong.

How can you prove that there is no higher power, a God, a higher being of existance?

How many times must these superstitionists throw around their faulty guilty-until-proven-innocent argument? The first post I ever made at this blog was entitled Burden of Proof, and here is the first paragraph of that post:

The first step in refuting both the afterlife and god arguments, is the burden of proof. The burden of proof means that the one who asserts a positive statement, like "there is an afterlife," is the one who must support the statement. The asserter is "burdened" to prove the assertion.

Attention all afterlifers and superstitionists: It is up to you, first and foremost, to support your afterlife and God claims. While I personally enjoy supporting my anti-afterlife arguments, it is not up to me to prove the non-existence of an afterlife in the same way that it is up to you to prove that there is one.

Atheism and anti-afterlifeism are negative claims. Negative claims are defaults; they require no proof to stand on their own, for they don't actually claim anything positive.

A positive claim is like saying "Blark exists." It is asserting a positive. It is saying what something is.

A negative claim is like saying "Blark does not exist." It is not asserting anything positive. It is only saying what something is not.

Now, when a positive claimant presents his arguments or evidence to support his positive claim, it is then only proper for the negative claimant to respond to those positive arguments and refute them, or accept the positive claimants argument. So, a negative claimant isn't exactly free from having to do anything.

However, the negative claimant is not the one who has to make the first shot. The negative claimant has nothing to do until the positive claimant first makes his argument. Just because negative claimants like myself take pleasure in providing evidence for the negation of something, doesn't mean that the positive claimant's position is the default. It does not mean that the positive claimant's position is already assumed. It does not mean that the positive claimant has no responsibility to support his own claim absent of the negative claimant's refutations or objections.

The ball is in your court, you superstitious, immaterialist, Neverland seeking, fairy-tale believing, gullible storybook readers!

Think there's a God? Think there's an afterlife? Prove it!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

And He Slew the Clubites...

Ever been clubbing late at night and been harassed by messengers of the Lord? Jesus' General has A Reading from the Gospel of Left Behind that I can totally relate to.

Here is, by far, my favorite line (from verse 6):

And thus it was so with all of the clubites for Techno had banished their love for our Savior from their hearts.

Yeah, techno rules. Forget God, I've got DJ Tiesto!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Doubter of the Fish Doubts Rational Self-Interest in Split-Second Emergency Decisions

My friend Olly and I have been tossing the proverbial hot potato of morality back and forth for a few posts now, and he recently threw the potato back into my court. This post will serve as my attempt to throw the hot potato back at him.

Olly and I get closer and closer to being on the same moral page with each consecutive response to each other. Even if Olly ultimately rejects my fact-based individualist moral system, it still feels good to be making so much progress with each round of our discussion. It is a fresh change from the brick walls that seem to pop up so frequently in so many moral conversations.

Olly begins his response with some kind words:

Aaron Kinney posted an excellent response in our ongoing conversation about morality, self-interest, etc over at Kill the Afterlife (post can be found here). Let this post serve as my volley back, so to speak.

As Aaron fleshes out his argument for me, I'm finding a few things out. First off, while I do still have my sticking points, I'm impressed by the completeness of Aaron's system. Even if in the end I come to disagree with Aaron, I won't say that he hasn't thought it through!

I really appreciate Olly's remarks. I would like to note that, at least to me, the thoroughness of my "thinking it through" is actually a feature (rather, a strength) of my moral system. What I mean is that my moral system easily lends itself to thoroughness in application. Why? Because it combines the axiom of self-interest with the objectivity of a fact-based reality, and applies these ideas consistently through the principle of universality. The axiom of self-interest, the objectivity of fact-based reality, and the principle of universality are all thorough by their nature, and therefore provide a superior applicability to any other moral system, especially the relative ones. Once you familiarize yourself with the fact-based individualist moral system, and get a firm grasp on it, you will find that it is applied with ease to any moral scenario, with satisfactory results.

Now, let's move on to the meat and potatoes of Olly's response!

First off, in response to my request for clarification on the principles Aaron claims are absolutes, Aaron brings up Francis Tremblay's essay The Moral Razor as an explanation for the principal of universality. The exact quote from Francis is

"A moral principle or system, or a political principle or system, is invalid if it is asymmetrical in application (to locations, times or persons)."

On this, I will agree with Aaron (and of course Francis) completely. If morality/immorality is defined as being interactive between different actors, then the reciprocation of that interaction is what makes the actions themselves moral. But here is where, again, I see a problem with Aaron's argument. Aaron follows up the principle of universality with a derivation of an axiom (which I had asked him to do for me), the axiom of self-interest. Basically, as I understand it, Aaron's argument is that if the principle of universality says that a moral principle that is true for one person is true for all persons, then if self-interest is true for one person, then it is by logical definition true for all persons as well. The quote from Aaron:

"Thanks to the principle of universality we can say that if self-interest is valid for one individual, then it is valid for all individuals."

I don't think that you can derive a specific axiom, such as the one that Aaron posits, from the principle of universality.

Olly is a sharp guy. He caught me red-handed in a mistake. I did indeed imply that the axiom of self-interest is derived from the principle of universality. This is of course incorrect. I wrote my sentence wrong and got the ideas flipped in my head. Olly is correct. The axiom of self-interest is not derived from the principle of universality. Rather, the axiom of self-interest and the principle of universality work in concert with the facts of reality to determine what actions are moral and what actions are immoral. This needed clarification, and I'm glad that Olly caught this.

Olly then has more to say about the principle of universality:

The principle is talking about morality in general, and when applied in that sense it works. But applying it to try to derive specific morals becomes a major problem. What Aaron has done is break the principle of universality down to the following logical sentence form: if x is valid for one individual, then x is valid for all individuals. The problem is that the variable x can be anything and the axiom still works. A Fish Bibbler could just as easily claim: If Christian morality is valid for one person, then it is valid for all individuals. The only argument then is attacking the validity of Christian morality itself (which Aaron does very well on a daily basis), but you can't use the principle as a standalone argument.

What the principle of universality (aka The Moral Razor) says is not in relation to values, but in relation to moral rules or moral principles. The principle of universality cannot be used to say, "Mustangs are good for me, so Mustangs are good for everyone," but it can be used to say, "Coercion is wrong when initiated against me, so coercion is wrong when initiated against any individual." The difference is hard to see at first glance, but is of vital importance. If you remember one thing about the principle of universality, remember this: The principle of universality is not applied to individual values, but to the moral framework in which those values exist. The principle of universality is the universal application of a moral framework equally to all individuals, not a universal application of the same values.

It often helps me to use this analogy: Values are all different, just like all rocks are of different shape and mass. But the moral framework that people express their values in is the same for everyone, just like the same laws of physics apply equally to all rocks, regardless of the rock's shape or weight.

After Olly agrees with me that even Kamikaze pilots were acting in accordance with their perceived self-interest, Olly raises an objection first mentioned by the esteemed Sean Prophet about the difficulty of making a rational moral decision in split-second emergencies:

...I'd like to refer to a comment by Sean Prophet from the Black Sun Journal, in response to an earlier post in the ongoing converation with Aaron:

Sean Prophet: "In practice, when a couple is attacked by an armed aggressor, things happen so quickly that it would be nearly impossible to make a rational calculation."

I think that Sean hits the nail on the head with this one, and I would say that science supports him. I would argue that in that split second decision to jump in front of a bullet, it's Fight or Flight that kicks in, not any conscious decision that I make. If that's the case, then indeed I'm not making a rational decision about self-interest, but rather making an instinctual move to save my wife. But why?

So here's where I'm going to concede a point to Aaron, before I clarify that I still think he's wrong in some ways . Aaron has me mostly ready to buy his self-interest theory. But it doesn't mean that I buy every aspect of it. I would like to ask Aaron for one more clarification first: does the recognition of self-interest have to be a rational one? Let me explain:

So my answer to the above 'why?' I think it's an extension of Richard Dawkins' theories about the self-interest involved in saving copies of our genetic makeup. If I was saving the life of an offspring, Dawkins argues it's because it's in my self-interest to keep a copy of my genetic code alive. But in the case of my wife, since we don't share genetic code (or indeed even kids with shared genetic code yet), Dawkins theory falls down.

So to extend the theory, I would argue for a kind of genetics-by-proxy argument. Tribalism is heavily ingrained in human beings, over centuries and millenia of evolution. I would argue that the instinct here is not just towards my own genetic code, but to those that I have extended that familial obligation too, through emotional bonds. This is, in some ways, neo-tribalism for the 21st Century. While the tribe itself has been mostly erased from modern culture, the instincts towards tribalism (loyalty to loved ones, protection of mutual interests, etc) remain.

In emergency situations, things get complicated, and as Sean Prophet said, there is no time to make a rational decision. Instincts come in to play in these situations. However, genetic code-sharing is not the only motivator in an emergency situation like this. I would argue that whether it is familial, friendly, loving, or even professional/financial, any kind of bond between two people, if strong enough (in other words, if incorporated enough into one's perceptual lens or worldview), will cause a person to put himself at considerable risk for the sake of the other, since the interest of the victim directly relates or affects the interest of the rescuer/intervener.

Let's say that I see a stranger in a suit getting robbed downtown. I would likely not intervene directly, because it isn't worth risking my life for this guy. I would probably just call the cops and stay a safe distance away. However, let's say that this same man in a suit getting robbed is a potential buyer for my self-started business (if I had a self-started business). This man's interests are then much more closely related to my own, and it would be worth more risk to take a personal stake in this man's safety, because if this man gets robbed, hurt, or killed, then there goes my chance at selling my business! I might offer my own wallet to the robber, or even step in between the robber and the potential buyer as a way of protecting my interests, and by proxy, the man in the suit's interests. I'm not saying that I would necessarily take a bullet for the guy (it probably depends on the purchase price of the business and how my personal financial situation is), but I am saying that, in emergency situations, my own personal risk-taking will directly increase in proportion to my personal stake in the victim's well-being. This personal stake can be financial, emotional, genetic, or any other kind of connection.

Now the more important question: In an emergency situation, is it necessary to have time to logically think things through before making the appropriate action? No. Why? Because the human mind tends to subconsciously incorporate knowledge automatically during split-second decision-making. If, during moments of logical thought, I am aware of my love for my best friend, I need not be consciously aware of this love when I jump in between my best friend and a bullet. This is because my subconscious mind automatically incorporates this knowledge into my decision-making during that split second. I will automatically and instinctively act to save my best friend without taking the time to logically weigh my options and reflect on how much I value my friend.

Now of course the human mind isn't perfect. After taking the bullet for my best friend, I may lie bleeding on the ground regretting my split-second decision. The grass is often greener on the other side, after all. However, my argument of subconscious knowledge/value incorporation into split-second decision-making still stands. In that extremely brief moment, my mind automatically chose what seemed to be the best option: To protect my values (my best friend).

If you look carefully, you can see split-second decision-making in many daily activities. For example, I know that proper driving technique in America involves driving on the right-hand side of the road. I also know that turning the wheel of my car controls the car. I also know that I value my car, and my personal safety, and that my actions in controlling my car directly affect the well being of my car and myself. So if I am driving down the road, and I suddenly see headlights coming right for me (yes this has happened to me before), I will instantly and instinctively know that 1) the oncoming car is doing something he isn't supposed to be doing, which is driving on the wrong side of the street, 2) that I don't want to hit this dumbass, and 3) that I better spin my steering wheel to alter my course and protect myself and my precious, precious Mustang. I will perform these actions subconsciously. There is no time for logical thought, and typically only after the whole emergency scenario has passed will I have time to think about the chain of events, my automatic reactions, and how well it all turned out.

From avoiding accidents to playing video games to conducting oneself in social situations, people automatically incorporate conscious knowledge at a subconscious level for the purposes of making instinctive split-second decisions in accordance with their values, all without having to "think" about it. Even sports heroes, rock stars, and firefighters will tell you that their best performances (when saving lives, making the goal, or pulling off a sick guitar riff) were when they weren't consciously pondering each action or decision made, but instead just reacting automatically to the situation, with their mind in an almost shut-off or trance-like state, where only after the actions were performed did the person consciously think about what happened.

This is why practice, or value reinforcement, is so important to a good performance. In fact, I think that a skillful sports performance and a split-second life-saving act are very similar. The sports hero practices the same play over and over, reinforcing it into their mind. Similarly, Olly spends lots of time thinking about his wife and his love for her, reinforcing her value to him in his mind. So when the sports hero has that chance to make a goal, or when Olly has a chance to protect his wife, that split-second decision will be made, and the action will be performed, because that value was repeatedly drilled into their head beforehand.

This post got longer than it needs to be, so it's time for me to wrap this up. People always act within their perceived self-interest. People are motivated by their self-interest to apply the facts of reality (at least as they perceive them) to their values, and determine their actions accordingly. The more a value is reinforced within a person's mind, the easier it is to act automatically in split-second decisions without consciously pondering the logic behind the decision until after the action is performed (thanks to the subconscious mind).

I feel that in this recent sequence of posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), I have justified the fact-based individualist moral system, through an explanation of its principles, a refutation of objections raised, and easily understandable real-world examples of the system in action. What do all of you think? Who agrees with me now that a godless, individualist, fact-based morality is the way to go? If anyone still has objections or questions, what are they?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Doubting Morality?

Recently, a Seattle-area Kill The Afterlife reader by the name of Olly contacted me about my fact-based individualistic moral system. Apparently I got him thinking about all kinds of moral things. Good! I would say the greatest satisfaction I get out of this blog is making people think.

Olly decided to start a blog over at wordpress to tackle these moral issues, and hopefully to continue blogging about his thoughts and views in perpetuity. His blog is titled 10,000 Reasons to Doubt the Fish.

Olly's first post addressed my moral system. I responded to him in the comments of that post. Then, Olly posted another post in response to my comments. So for a history on the dialogue between Olly and I, please visit those links. I am now going to respond to his second post.

Olly seems to agree with my claim that values are contextual to individuals. But Olly does not seem convinced of my claim that morality is based on universal principles:

“morality is based on principles, and principles are universal”. Here’s where I take some issue with Aaron. I’m not necessarily arguing that he’s wrong about this statement, but I feel that I personally need something more to back it up...

...If each person uses their value system based on moral absolutes or universals, then what ARE those moral universals? Claiming that there is an absolute, means that there should be an axiom of some kind that can be derived from it. If that’s the case, I guess I’d like a clearer idea of one or two or ten of these axioms, whatever they may be.

First off, to defend the principle of universality, I would like to point to Francois Tremblay's excellent essay, The Moral Razor. To quote Francois, "A moral principle or system, or a political principle or system, is invalid if it is asymmetrical in application (to locations, times or persons)."

I don't want to get into too much detail about why this is so, but if you read the article, you will see what I mean. I will at least say that, like all laws of physics, all moral principles are universal. If E=mc2 in the Milky Way, then E=mc2 in the Andromeda galaxy as well. Similarly, if it is wrong for person A to coerce person B, then it is also wrong for person B to coerce person A.

Is the principle of universality an axiom (Olly was looking for axioms)? I don't think so. But it is a logical rule. What I believe is an axiom is self-interest. Thanks to the principle of universality we can say that if self-interest is valid for one individual, then it is valid for all individuals.

Over at Olly's blog, I said, "...all legitimate “other-interest” is based on the fundamental “self-interest” in that you are you, you own you, and you are only able to see from the direct perspective of you, and you will fundamentally only willingly act within the perspective of your own best interests, automatically." In response, Olly has this to say:

My issue with this statement is the problem of self-destructive behavior. How does something that I choose to do, which is self-destructive, fit into the self-interest worldview? Aaron is arguing that my diagram is inaccurate, because the other-interests, as he puts them, are still based in self-interest. But what possible self-interest can come from a self-destructive act?

To answer Olly's question, I would say that happiness is the self-interest that can come from a self-destructive act. Crack addicts sure are happy when they smoke their crack, even though they know that it is self-destructive! Kamikaze pilots in Japan were quite happy and even honored to be "chosen" to die in the name of their country! Why? Because they had such a high value on the idea of a Japanese Empire that they considered it worth more than themselves, and consequently were jumping with joy at the chance to fulfill this twisted value by killing themselves in a Kamikaze attack. But then again, the Kamikazes thought that they were going to another life after their suicidal attacks. So it was within their perceived self-interest to do the attacks, and they were happy to do them.

Here is a way that I like to look at it: Does a given person value a long life or a exciting one? Do they value quality or quantity? Usually a mix of both. If I had a choice to live to 100 and never have sex, or live till 40 and have lots of sex, I would probably choose to live for 40 years. Some other people might choose to be virgins and live till 100. This is because people have different values, but in both cases, the person has chosen based on their own self-interest.

And what is more destructive to one's life anyway? Dying at 40 and having lots of sex, or living for 100 years without ever getting to fuck?

It is rather easy to connect the dots and see how self-destructive acts can still be performed within the (at least perceived) self-interest of the individual. I think even the term "self-destructive" is contextual. What is being destroyed, fundamentally? One's body/life, or one's values? I would argue that, fundamentally, "true" self-destruction is more like value-destruction. If someone's values conflict with the sustainment of their body, then maybe they have some stupid values, but they will ultimately choose their values over their health or well-being.

Olly mentioned a scenario where he would choose face certain death to save the life of his wife, rather than let her die and him live. I countered by saying that even that choice would be within his own self-interest, because he valued his wife so much that he would rather die for her to live than live without her. Olly responded thusly:

Ok, I can somewhat see Aaron’s point here. Indeed, it would be my personal choice, therefore on some level it may be considered in my own self-interest. I don’t necessarily see how the choice would make me happier, because presumably (at least in the context of my example) I’d be dead, but it would be a choice to help someone else, based on my own care of that person.

Olly forgets that as conscious beings, we have the ability to predict the future and imagine future feelings that we would feel over the results of future actions. Indeed, we can even feel happiness or sadness in the present time over anticipation or prediction of a future event. For example, if I could somehow know with certainty that I will be hit by a car and killed tomorrow, this would cause me great sadness in the present, even though I won't get run over for 24 hours. I would be feeling present emotions based on events that have not yet happened.

Of course, if Olly took a bullet for his wife and died, he would not even be around to feel the happiness of saving his wife's life. However, at the moment that Olly chose to take the bullet, he would already feel happy (as happy as can be while his soul mate is being shot at) at the fact that he made that choice and will accordingly obtain the desired future outcome. Not to mention the fact that Olly knows that the alternative choice (letting his wife die) would, in the future, cause him enormous sadness.

Olly then turns to smoking cigarettes as an example of a self-destructive act, and asks for clarification. Fortunately, Olly is a smart guy, and he already (and correctly) predicts the likely answer that I would provide:

Take smoking for example. I know how bad it is for me, and yet I do it anyway. I know that, continued, it will probably kill me in the end. There is no benefit to be gained from smoking, with the one exception of enjoyment. In the context of the argument that Aaron is making, self-destructive acts could still be considered moral acts. Indeed, they wouldn’t even be considered morally neutral acts, because if we are acting for our own enjoyment, we are acting in a moral way (back to the self-interest standpoint). I may be slowly committing suicide by poisoning my body, yet it would be considered moral within the framework given. Maybe that IS what Aaron is arguing, but if so I’d like clarification.

Olly is right. Smoking cigarettes can be perfectly moral, even if it will shorten your life by 20 years and fill your lungs with tar. If smoking is a value, and you enjoy it more than you enjoy living to 100 years old, then it isn't self-destructive, is it? I think this underscores my earlier claim that value-destruction is avoided by people, but not necessarily physical-self-destruction.

The fulfilling of one's values does not equate with maximum lifespan or even maximum physical health. It equates with maximum happiness. That is why it is perfectly moral for one person to never want to smoke, and perfectly moral for Olly to enjoy smoking. Both people would be fulfilling their own values.

Olly then brings up a good point about self-interested acts that may adversely affect others against their will:

But what if that act, at the same time as being in my own self-interest, adversely effects others around me against their will[?] do you deal with conflicts between self-interested (aka moral) acts and the negative effect of those acts? Which wins, morality or immorality? What’s the trump card?

Immorality always trumps morality in that if a self-interested act coerces another individual, then that act is immoral. In other words, if individual A has a value that involves coercing individual B, then the value that individual A holds is immoral. The value should be altered or fulfilled in such a way as to not coerce the other person. This is because if person A's value is coercive to person B, then person A is in fact forcing his value onto person B. Person A would be violating the very concept of "individualism," where every individual is a sovereign entity that wholly owns itself and determines it's own actions and values.

Olly then illustrates his point with a desert island scenario:

Take another example. Let’s say I’m stranded somewhere, me and one other person. We’ve run out of food, and it’s becoming clear that rescue is far off. What if I were to realize, and then act upon this, that if I killed this person, I could survive through cannibalism long enough to be rescued? Aaron says that consent gives legitimacy, but he ALSO claims that morality is based upon self-interest (not Utilitarian self-interest, but upon the universal principles that are derived from self-interest). So where does that leave me in this dilemma? I’m at a point where an action would be both moral and immoral at the same time which, is just as untenable position as relativism itself.

Self-interest only sanctions actions which involve taking actions on behalf of oneself. When person A takes an action that involves himself, he can legitimately do so because he owns himself (the concept of self-ownership). Person A cannot take an action that involves person B (assuming that person B did not give consent), because person A does not own person B. Person B does not belong to person A, but to person B.

In the desert island scenario that Olly provided, person A would need consent from person B. If person B does not give consent, then person A is fucked. Besides, the desert island scenario ignores many things. It assumes a dichotomy that in reality wouldn't exist. Even a desert island is part of a living breathing planet and there are fish in the sea for food. Besides, on a desert island, water would be the primary concern, not food.

Olly then makes a statement about utilitarianism:

To wrap up this long post, I would argue two things: first, that self-interest cannot be, at the most basic level, separated from utilitarianism. I think that Aaron is probably right, that there are some universal axiomatic principles that can be derived and used as morals, but that in the end they come back to being utilitarian.

I would instead say that self-interest is itself an axiom, and is itself fundamental. From the axiom of self-interest, and the axiom of identity, and the axiom of causality, we can recognize moral principles that are universal (the direct opposite of utilitarianism), and we can apply those principles to the facts of reality. In other words, we start with our self-interest and our recognition of reality, and we then apply our moral principles to our given scenario to figure out which action would be the most moral one. It is not based on anything utilitarian. Utilitarianism is fundamentally opposed to such a concept as a universal framework of moral principles.

Olly then says more things that I disagree with:

The second thing I would argue is that an act can be moral, in a utilitarian sense, and be other-interest based at the same time. I would argue that me giving my life for my wife is a utilitarian choice, but not one that is in my own self-interest. Arguing that it would ‘make me happier’ is falling towards the very relativism that Aaron is striving against, because it becomes to easy to say ‘this act is moral, because it makes me happy’, and apply that to many MANY acts that I think most people would consider immoral. Take the problem of a serial killer. It may make them happy, indeed the ONLY thing that may make them happy, is to murder people. If they were to stop, they would be miserable.

I would have to say that there is nothing moral about utilitarianism. And I must disagree that "make me happier" is relative. Moral relativity would say that "make me happier" is not moral at all. Moral relativity says that no person's value fulfillment is objectively "moral." Moral relativity denies any true "good" or "bad."

In regards to dying for his wife, Olly forgets that the only reason he would do it is because he wanted to do it. And the only reason he would want to do it is because it would make him happier than if he didn't. Olly would be hard-pressed to explain how he would freely perform an action that he didn't really want to do.

As far as serial killers go, if the only thing they value is killing other people, then they are violating the axiom of identity. They are assuming that they own these other people when they force their values upon them and kill them. Besides, the moral razor will slice the serial killer's logic to pieces. If the serial killer thinks its ok to kill others, then logically, the serial killer must admit that it’s ok for another to kill him. He must admit the validity of another person wanting to kill him, and he must not stand in the way of that happening. Furthermore, if a serial killer values the death of any given individual, why doesn't he value the death of himself as well? Why not commit suicide while he's at it?

In fact, the serial killer is the ultimate and relativist. A serial killer must deny individualism and self-ownership; he must deny that each individual is a valid sovereign entity who owns himself and determines his own values and actions. A serial killer must totally deny any universal moral principle, for the serial killer must necessarily apply different rules to himself than he does to everyone else.

Olly wraps up his serial killer argument:

So either you can argue that what they are doing IS indeed morally acceptable, with all of the obvious problems that come with that, or you can argue that it is immoral for them to kill people. But if that’s the case, then they are putting other-interests ahead of their own self-interest, in order to be more ‘moral’.

This is incorrect. The serial killer would not be putting other people's interests ahead of his own. What he would be doing by not killing people, is recognizing that he never owned those other individuals in order for him to assign his values to them in the first place. The serial killer, in choosing to not kill others, would simply be recognizing that everyone owns themselves, and that it is not possible for him to legitimately force his values onto others. By not forcing his values onto others, the serial killer is not putting the interests of others ahead of his own, but merely recognizing that other people with other values exist, just like him, and that they are free to act on their own values, just like him. By not killing people, the serial killer would be consistently applying to all individuals what he already applied to himself.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Round and Round the Morality Pole with Josh Brisby

My new friend, Josh Brisby from The Reformed Oasis, and I have been running around the morality pole, each of us claiming that the other is presupposing our respective moral systems to support their own.

Check out his latest post in response to me. I got to say, Josh Brisby is a refreshing change of pace from the other Christians that I've been talking to as of late, especially that down-syndrome sufferer, BJ. I'm so glad when mutual respect is observed between two people that disagree on an issue, because it allows for a much more enjoyable, constructive, and informative discussion.

Let's get down to it then. The meat of Josh's response starts out with this:

Aaron holds to the fundamental axiom of self-interest, which is to say that it is clear that everyone tries to live on this fundamental principle. He then argues that the main reason Christians become Christians is to simply avoid hell--that is, for their own self-interest, because everyone lives for his or her own self-interest.

I called him out on this. I claimed that when God regenerates a sinner, He opens our eyes to see that His ways are right and just.

Unfortunately, Josh admits that Hell (if it existed, which it doesn't) is a good reason to be a Christian later in the same post. Now, I want to make clear a minor point. Josh said that I was arguing that the main reason Christians become Christian is, "simply to avoid Hell." That is not quite what I meant, although it may have sounded that way. What I meant to say was that Hell is a major motivating factor in most people's conversion to Christianity (or any other Abrahamic religion depending on the geographic region or cultural surroundings), but it isn't necessarily the main or only reason, although it may be for some. Of course, something as scary as Hell, when contrasted with something as supposedly desirable as Heaven, would only logically serve as powerful motivator.

But let's get back to Josh's Hell concession. Near the end of his post, Josh pleads with me to open my heart to Jesus in part to avoid Hell, despite his earlier claim that Hell does not serve as the stick in a cosmic carrot/stick discipline system:

Stop kicking against the God who made you. You need to turn to Christ not only to be saved from God's wrath, but to avoid intellectual futility, to which you now hold.

Emphasis mine. It seems that Josh subconsciously already knows what I am maintaining: that Hell is a major fear-factor that serves to gain followers and maintain ranks in the Christian ideology. Believe and obey, or burn!

In my last post to Josh, I equated the Christian moral system as a master-slave moral system, and I then called it disgusting. Josh replied:

Of course Kinney thinks this is disgusting. He fails to see that God's ways are beautiful. He fails to see that only God's ways make sense. He is living for himself. He is his own god, and he does not want King Jesus to reign over him. It takes a miracle of sovereign grace to break our sinful stubborn rebellion.

First of all, I want to know why God's ways are beautiful. Are they beautiful because God conforms to outside standards of beauty, or because God simply decrees that his ways are beautiful? This is very similar to the moral dilemma: Is God moral because he conforms to an outside morality, or is He moral because he defines morality to simply be whatever He wants it to be?

Secondly, Christians are living for themselves as well. They cannot get around it. They assume it in their moral system, leave it unspoken and denied, yet they must use it to justify their following of God's rules. Why does Josh care if He follows God's law? Why does Josh delight in pleasing God? Because it makes Josh happy. Josh wouldn't follow God's law if he didn't want to; if it didn't serve his self-interest.

I would really like to see a straightforward answer from Josh explaining why he loves God and obeys his rules?

Finally, if breaking our sinful stubborn rebellion truly takes a miracle of sovereign grace, then how can I be called to task to submit to Jesus anyway? If it requires a miracle from the Lord, then that means its up to Him! Josh should be pleading with God for me to repent, not me. I am powerless to do so; I am not the one who can make that decision.

Josh then addresses my mention of how the law of the conservation of energy (aka the first law of thermodynamics) disproves creation:

He asks how I can account for the fact that the matter/energy in the universe was never created nor destroyed. What Kinney fails to recognize here is that this law in science is not dealing with origins, nor can it. Can science really explain our origins?

Yes. It has. Matter/energy is eternal; it was never created, nor will it ever be destroyed. Only time is temporal. And only science arrived at this discovery, not faith, not prayer, not the Bible. Indeed, measured and testable observations of the universe directly contradict the claim that the universe was ever created.

Josh then "turns the tables" on me:

Science entails the use of inductive principles for the scientific method. I am turning the tables on Kinney here and asking the following question: Aaron, how can you begin to talk about science given the claims of your worldview?

MY worldview rests solely on observation of independent facts, not the whims of the imagination or the "faith" of things unseen and unprovable. Faith is, by definition, belief without physical proof or material evidence. I, however, am a materialist. I believe only in things that are verifiable materially. In other words, I believe in science and wholly reject all knowledge claims based on faith.

I wonder if Josh Brisby is familiar with the God of the Gaps argument (I assume he is) and how, as science keeps progressing, it also is squeezing out the "God did it" answers from the gaps in our knowledge about reality?

Time for me to flip the table back again and ask Josh how he can make any claims about science given that his worldview is based on faith? When science and faith collide (evolution vs. creationism for example, or God creating the universe vs. the first law of thermodynamics), which does he choose? Does Josh choose the faith of the Bible, or the science of the first law of thermodynamics? He chooses the faith, and rejects the science.

Next, Josh addresses my "fact-based" moral system:

Kinney recognizes the problems of relativism and tries to place a "fact-based" system in place of it (as if there were such a thing as a "fact" outside of the interpretation our various worldviews assign to it), but he is unable to show me from where he derives his ethics. I am still waiting for him (or any other atheist) to tell me what "good" and "evil" is. He still hasn't told me.

Emphasis mine. I emphasized that part because it is a nihilistic thing to say, that there is no fact outside of our perception. Baloney! Fact is not dependent upon one's perception, but one's perception is dependent upon fact! If a bullet is speeding toward your skull, and you are unaware of it, the bullet will still kill you. The existence of the speeding bullet aimed at your skull would be a fact, and your perception (that you are unaware that a bullet is going to hit you) will not override this fact. Fact always wins over perception. Facts exist independently of any perception. If all conscious entities in the universe suddenly died, the facts of the universe would still exist, even without any entity to perceive them.

Now let me answer the question in which Josh asks where I get my ethics. I get them from facts of reality, and my own self-interest. It makes me happy to be alive and feel good. Food helps me live and feel good. Why? Not because I want food to sustain me, but because it is a fact. I cannot avoid the fact that I need food to live and feel good. So, food is a value to me. It is moral for me to eat food as needed to sustain my life and well-being.

It's that simple. We take one's self-interest (I want to be alive and feel good), and look at the facts (food is required for life and feeling good) and we make a fact-based moral conclusion: eating food is moral for said individual.

Now let's quickly define "good" and "evil". I imagine that Josh would define "good" as "that which pleases God" and "evil" as "that which displeases God". I, on the other hand, would define "good" as "the realization of one's values" and evil as "the restriction or prevention of the attainment of one's values".

In my moral system, the only thing that is immoral is coercion, or force. Lying, cheating, stealing, physical force, etc. Why? Because to coerce someone is to violate their ability to realize their own values. Coercion is the forcing of one's values onto another.

As long as you are acting within your own self-interest and not forcing your interest onto another, you are acting moral. My moral system is not complicated or hard to understand. It applies the facts of reality within the context of the values of a given individual.

This moral system of fact-based individualism is what Christians borrow from when they choose God! They believe that God is a fact, as well as Heaven and Hell, and because they value their own happiness, and believe that these so-called "facts" about God and religion will bring them happiness, they choose God and the religion. Simple as that.

Josh then mentions Romans 1 and 2 to argue that God's law is written on my heart:

I would like to close off this response to Mr. Kinney by pointing out that he has once again demonstrated that what God's Word says about him is true. Romans 1 and 2 says that God has written His Law on the heart of every man, yet people kick against this and set up idols in God's place.

But which laws are these? I don't agree with any of the Ten Commandments (actually 30 commandments in 3 different versions), that's for sure. The commandments about lying and stealing are okay, but the killing commandment is contextual and I cannot endorse it. For example, if I am in the terminal stages of cancer, and I ask my friend to kill me for my own sake, then it isn't immoral for him to kill me. But lying of course is coercive, and so is stealing. But the lying and cheating commandments are just accessory examples of coercion itself, while my moral system gets to the foundation and says that coercion is wrong. The Bible never says, "don't coerce".

What is written on my heart is the facts of reality and how they apply to my individual values. Not some stupid crap about boiling baby goats in milk and not working on the Sabbath. I'll work whenever the fuck I want to! Indeed, many of the commandments in the Bible are coercive themselves, and are diametrically opposed to my moral system.

Josh then confronts my problems with original sin:

Kinney is appalled at the notion of original sin. He finds it hard to understand why we would be punished for something that someone else did. I am not going to go deep into this, but I am just simply going to ask,

Why is this a problem for you, Aaron, given your worldview? By what standard do you have a problem here? Who cares who gets punished?

Original sin is a misapplication of identity and cause and effect. Only individuals are responsible for individual actions, and the notion of guilt being inherited is ridiculous. It is simply not logical, and it is coercive as well, because it is the forcing of unearned guilt onto an individual for something they didn't do.

My worldview holds the sovereignty of the individual in the highest regard. That is the standard I base my issue with original sin on. Josh wants to know who cares who gets punished? I care. If person X robs me, I want him to be punished, not person Y. Nobody would be satisfied if an innocent person suffers the consequences for the evil actions of a criminal, while the criminal gets off scot-free. Or more appropriately in the context of original sin, if a criminal commits a crime, he should get punished and him alone, not all of his descendants for all eternity.

Next, Josh tries to give an answer for my question about why he should follow God's rules, but only succeeds in pushing back the question:

He asks me why I should follow God's rules. The answer is that I owe God my obedience. He made me. He saved me. He redeemed me. As Dr. Bahnsen has well pointed out, if a watchmaker makes a watch, but it doesn't do what it is supposed to do (namely, tell time), then you throw it out. Furthermore, you don't reward the watch if it does what it is supposed to do.

Likewise, as question and answer 1 of the Shorter Catechism correctly says, man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. I owe God my allegiance because He is my Creator.

But why does Josh care to give God his obedience just because he owes it to Him? Why does Josh care if he gets "thrown out" like the proverbial watch in Dr. Bahnsen's example? Why does Josh want to fulfill the allegiance that he allegedly owes God? Josh says, "Because He is my creator" but he doesn't make the connection as to why that alleged fact would make Josh want to obey God? Josh only pushed back the question.

Next, Josh brings out the big guns of emotional appeal:

Aaron, it is reasonable and fair for you to bow the knee to the lordship of Christ. He is patient with you. Today is the day of salvation. Turn to Christ and live.

I appreciate Josh's attempt to help me by advising me to do what he thinks is the correct course of action. Obviously, Josh and I both have the same goal: to determine the truth and find happiness and serve our own self-interests. Josh is appealing to me to turn to God because, like him, he feels that it is within my self-interest to do so. The disconnect is in our premises; in our beliefs about what the facts are.

I must say that I still do not believe that God exists, I still do not believe that Jesus existed, and I am still convinced that the master-slave moral system of Christianity is immoral, and that the only appropriate moral system (that Christians borrow from, no less), is a fact-based individualistic morality.

While I am still repulsed by the ideology of Christianity, I am pleased to sharing this continuing discussion with Josh Brisby. He and I have the same ultimate goal, but our premises are totally different. I hope that, some day, I would be able to open Josh's eyes to reality, and free him from the mental enslavement of the Christian superstition. But he seems like a happy guy nonetheless, and he definitely seems to take pleasure in Christianity. At least he is pursuing his own self-interest.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Worst BJ I Ever Had

BJ from Men of Athens recently crawled out of the Christian blogosphere to respond to my comments made to Josh Brisby at The Reformed Oasis. While Josh Brisby seems like a nice guy who is open to honestly discussing issues of God and the afterlife, BJ seems to be just the opposite. BJ is the type who smacks down questions with "because God says so!" type of responses, and as a result his answers are sorely lacking in information, justification, or even logical thought. BJ's responses are, in effect, a type of anti-thought.

Let's all talk a stroll down the roadway of BJ's "Men of Athens" blog, his response to me, and his superstitious afterlife disease that has most definitely rotted away his logical thought facilities.

The first thing to note is the description of BJ's Men of Athens blog. You can find this blog description just below his blog title. Here is BJ's blog description:

I believe from sacred scripture alone, that I am a wretched sinner according to God's standard, and the "good news" is that I am saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, and the glory goes to God alone. This is the Gospel and I negotiate it with no one.

Holy shit. This description is probably the craziest, most self-demeaning, and most brainwashed Christian blog description I've ever read. I was going to pick it apart, but I think that just leaving it here for all to see is sufficient; it exposes it's own vile nature plainly and proudly.

Now let's move on to what BJ says about me. BJ starts off by explaining how I used to be a follower of Ayn Rand but now subscribe to self-interest. That's all well and good, but then BJ comes off half-cocked by making an ignorant accusation. At least he correctly predicts that I will deny such accusation. The difference though, is that while BJ has no evidence to support his accusation, I have ample evidence to deny it with.

BJ says:

To set the context I must mention that recently a brother in Christ suffered the lose of an unborn child. This brother was, I my opinion, kicked while he was down by Aaron Kinney (AK hereafter). Ak may deny this acusation.

If BJ actually surfed the comments section of the Christian who suffered the loss, he would see the things I wrote directly to him. Allow me to paste the things I said directly to the Christian in question, just to see how badly I "kicked" him while he was down:

"Even atheists sympathize with you [Christian], myself included...

When I was a small child, I watched my mother go through multiple miscarriages. It was very sad and traumatic. Of course our family got through it ok but it is definitely an emotional rollercoaster ride...

Dont give up [Christian]. You have the support of both Christians and atheists in the goals your family is reaching for. Im glad to see that you are looking at it from a "glass is half full" perspective...

Well, if your God does exist, I hope that he blesses you soon with a healthy happy bouncing baby. And if He doesnt exist, then I hope that no natural complications arise from you and your wife's next pregnancy."

Obviously, BJ didn't do his homework. I did nothing other than to give the Christian who suffered the loss full emotional support and sympathy, and I meant every word I wrote. In response, the unfortunate Christian (who does not often reciprocate kind words with me, making this instance even more significant) replied to me thusly:



I will note that, in response to a challenge from Josh Brisby after I made my supportive comments, I went over to Josh's blog, The Reformed Oasis, and left him the following comment. Please note the disclaimer, and realize that I wrote this comment a very short time after writing all those supportive comments earlier:

"But you have to accept [God's] will whatever it is. I mean this with no disrespect to anyone when I say: Shouldnt you have popped open a champagne bottle at the news of the miscarriage?"

My champagne argument was meant entirely within the context of accepting God's will, and my earlier supportive comments made my sympathetic feelings on the matter clear. BJ, on the other hand, did nothing but throw mud at me and directly insult me like a whiny little bitch:

Spare us with your condescending comments like...

"I wish the best for your friends (I know who they are) and hope that next time their "God" allows them to have a successful pregnancy

We see through your low-life, indirect assault on our brother. Ask Mr. Neil to post your question as the next Q.O.D. Now go put your nose in the corner of intellectual impotence and stay there until you can play nice.

Although I am sorry to hear of your Mother's miscarriages. Hopefully you can console people now, having lived through such experiences. How does it go again?...." Its okay Mom, its only a little meat-bag that isnt even human yet." So how many pounds of meat do you think your mother lost?

Who pissed in BJ's Cheerios that morning? Realize that BJ posted this comment before I posted my champagne comment! That means that he was acting all fussy before I even posted what was my only risqué comment in the whole discussion. Neither did BJ even answer my question of why should a Christian feel bad about anything that happens if its all God's will anyway. BJ was so concerned with insulting me to make himself feel better that he ignored the substance of the topic at hand altogether.

I wanted to ignore BJ and consider him part of the background noise, but after he made a whole post about me, and did so with such shoddy thinking, I felt like I had to finally address him. Now that I addressed most of the ad-hominem in the various comments sections, let's finally take a look at BJ's "increase the font size until they submit" tactics of addressing my actual arguments. I'm not going to actually reproduce the enlarged font sizes in his replies because Christians do that kind of thing all the time, and it's annoying, and it looks like crap. Just realize that every "...NEXT!" sentence of BJ's involves enlarged fonts in a very annoying manner. If you want to see it for yourself, click here:

Lets assume for the sake of argument that the atheist has no reason to feel bad at the death of a loved one (I do not agree with this in reality but Im granting it right now to drive a point home). Then what reason does the Christian have to grieve at the death of a loved one?

Because our worldview says we!

BJ wants to push back the question so badly that he has to do it with extra big letters. BJ is a total intellectual retard, who is a victim of acute "push the question back and pretend you answered it" disease, and he is at such an advanced stage of the disease that he really believes that he is answering the question!

Of course, I am not going to take his assertion on his word alone, for his word is worth shit to me, since he has proven to be unable or unwilling to act like a moral person, unlike some of his Christian peers.

Where in Christianity does it say that a person of faith may lament and mourn God's will? What passage in the Bible does it say that in?

And more importantly, just proving that a Christian can grieve at the death of a loved one doesn't provide a reason for the Christian to actually do it. Even if I were to take BJ's word at face value and concede that the Christian can grieve at God's will, it still doesn't answer my question "...what reason does the Christian have to grieve at the death of a loved one?" In other words, assuming that the Christian can grieve at God's will, why would he want to do so?

Christians can do just about anything they want to. Christians can definitely sin. So should they sin just because they can, using BJ's (il)logic?

BJ then proceeds to round two of his question pushing:

In fact, what reason does the Christian have to follow any of Gods laws?

Because we love God and those who love God delight in His!

At this point I wonder if BJ even understood my question? This is an exemplary example (ha ha funny word play) of a non-answer.

Why does the Christian love God? Why does the Christian delight in His law, and follow it? BJ keeps repeating that something is a certain way, but utterly fails to answer my question of why it is, or should be, that way.

BJ then addresses (poorly) my question about Heaven and Hell as a motivating factor:

Because of the threat of heaven or hell?

No...because we love God and delight in His!

What a cop out! BJ insists that Heaven and Hell are irrelevant and superfluous, and still doesn't seem capable of giving me a reason why the Christian loves God and delights in His law, or why the Christian even should.

Funny how Christians constantly threaten everyone with hellfire and eternal damnation, and proudly trumpet promises of eternal heavenly bliss, until you ask if Heaven and Hell are motivating carrot-stick factors, at which point the Christian claims that Heaven and Hell are superfluous and irrelevant.

Heaven and Hell are very powerful tools in the converting of people to Christianity. Why do Christians attempt to make them irrelevant when morality is called into the discussion? Maybe because, subconsciously, they get the feeling that if they admit their importance, the proverbial sweater will unravel?

But after my Heaven/Hell question, I quickly noted that even admitting that Heaven and Hell were motivating factors would still only push the question back, yet this goes right over BJ's head:

No, that only pushes the question back one level. For why should a Christian care if he ends up in heaven or hell?

Good question Aaron. This shows you really understand what you are saying. Not! How can a Christian go to hell? Why does a Christian need to be worried about hell? Im not worried about hell, are you?............ NEXT!!!!

If anyone is having trouble understanding anything, it's clearly BJ. Even if we assume that no true Christian goes to Hell, my argument is still valid! Is Hell a motivating factor or not? BJ insists that it isn't but fails to provide any motivating factor or reason for why Christians do what they do and believe what they believe. Calvinists, as I understand it, believe that everyone is preordained to go to one or the other. Do they not worry about which one they end up in? According to most Calvinists that I've talked to, you cannot know if you are going to Heaven until you die. Why does BJ seem so sure? My question of "why?" remains unanswered.

Let's assume that BJ is sure that he will go to Heaven. Is Heaven a motivating factor for him? If so, why? If not, why not? What is it that makes BJ love God and delight in His law? Because God says so? If so, then why does BJ care what God says? So far, BJ has no reason for any of this. Does BJ even know why he loves God and follows God's law?

And why is Heaven and Hell so commonly talked about to believers and non-believers alike? How can Heaven and Hell be irrelevant if they are used as primary tools in Christian evangelizing? Recently we had Ray Comfort on the Hellbound Alleee show, and if you browse to the Living Waters evangelical site, the first thing they have is a quiz that attempts to determine if you are "...good enough to get to Heaven?" Heaven and Hell irrelevant? My ass!

BJ then explains that all Christians go to Heaven:

AK's ultimate question is this...Why should a Christian care if he ends up in heaven or hell? AK maintains that it is because of self-interest. I think not. Think about the question. Are Christians concerned about where they will spend eternity? Is hell an option for a Chrsitian? Noooooo! AK's questions assumes that Christians are working for entry into Heaven, or else they get fire. It is fallicious and he is all screwed up philosophically, logically, and theologically.

According to BJ, all Christians go to Heaven, including Hitler. Fine. But again, it pushes back the question one level. In fact, for BJ to claim that he is sure he will go to Heaven because of his faith implies that he is indeed concerned about the carrot/stick system of Heaven and Hell, because he is comforted in the belief that he will end up in Heaven. He implies that he is concerned about whether or not he gets the reward of Heaven, but since he is already secure in his belief that he will receive this reward, he claims that he doesn't worry about Hell at all. The only reason BJ isn't worried about ending up in Hell is because he believes that he already obtained the motivating factor/reward of Heaven. He admits the motivating factor of Heaven and Hell without realizing it.

BJ then talks about whom Christians are concerned with:

Christians are concerned in the interest of others. That is to say, we have others-interest in mind, not self-interest. Hence, the Great Comission.

When I talked to Matt Slick on his radio show, Matt insisted that Christians are, and should be, concerned with God's will and God's interest. Matt Slick insisted that the only reason we do anything is for God's glory, and immoral acts are immoral acts not because of the damage done to the person, but because God says it's immoral. Matt Slick insisted that the only entity we can truly wrong is God, not other people.

I don't know how much BJ agrees with Matt, but BJ's blog description indicates that he does. Specifically the part that says "...and the glory goes to God alone."

Christianity states that immoral acts are immoral not for their effect on another person, but for their effect on God. Everything in Christianity revolves around God's self-interest. It is silly for BJ to say that he is concerned with other people's interest. At best, he is only concerned with other people's interest by proxy, because God says he should be. So foundationally, BJ is (or should be) only concerned with God's self-interest.

In Christianity, self-interest is only legitimate when it's God's self-interest, and everyone else is owned by Him, lock, stock, and barrel.

BJ then finally makes a real attempt to answer one of my questions, but employs a no-true-Scotsman fallacy in doing so:

I will attempt to answer questions from within my worldview. What AK really is asking, although it was roughly stated, is "What did the unbeliver we once were have in mind when we chose Christ? Self -interest as AK maintains? Well, some so called conversions start with the decision of ," Do you want to go to heaven or hell?" And the unbeliever says wellll.....Heaven sounds better, and would be a better business move (self-interest). Yeah! What the heck...I will sign up! So in this case AK's question is a juggernaut for that person. I do not believe this is what happens at conversion, and hereafter is my philosophy of what happens at conversion.

No TRUE conversion happens because of the threat of Hell is what BJ is saying. So called conversions? Porridge, anyone?

BJ then poses his own question, and then exposes his cognitive dissonance regarding self-ownership and free will:

The question I pose is, "Who does what in Salvation? " The Christian Worldview claims that God does everything. God elects His people, and Saves them from Himself.
Does scripture reveal something differnet about conversion than what I have said above? Does not God replace the heart of stone (AK's heart), for a heart of flesh (Believers heart)? Does not God draw men unto Himself? Yet at some point AK mistakenly thinks that Christians do the decision making. While it is true that we chose God freely, it is only after regeneration takes place that we want to chose. By being regenerate we will chose God. Not because of hell or heaven, but because God has called us unto Himself. We are His people and He is our God. However, it is true that after conversion we learn that people will be in hell, and in heaven. Heaven is kinda the perk of being chosen. As for those in hell, I guess they didnt have their self-interest in mind when they rejected the Gospel.HA!

BJ admits that God does everything and chooses who gets saved and who doesn't. BJ admits that all ownership of everyone and everything is God's. BJ admits that humans don't even get to decide if they are Christian or saved or anything.

But then BJ says that Christians choose freely, only after regeneration takes place. So only after God chooses someone to be a Christian and be saved do they choose to do so themselves. What? You can't have your cake and eat it too. Either you make your own decisions or you don't. BJ seems to reject self-ownership as well. But how can BJ be guilty of anything if he doesn't make his own decisions and doesn't even own himself?

BJ claims that after conversion, Christians learn about that people will be in Hell and Heaven. Bullshit. Non-Christians all know this fairy tale; they don't become aware of it after they convert. Again, Heaven and Hell are big conversion tools, and BJ admitted as much just a few paragraphs earlier (in his Scotsman fallacy response).

BJ says that Heaven is also a perk. But a minute ago it was irrelevant and superfluous. Perks are positive things that are not irrelevant. Perks are desirable and beneficial by definition, and certainly not inconsequential. BJ wants to have his cake and eat it too with Heaven/Hell, self-ownership/God-ownership (as in God owns you), and free will. His claims keep flipping with each argument he tries to answer.

And how can people not have their self-interest in mind when they reject the Gospel and go to Hell, if they didn't know about Hell in the first place as BJ is (momentarily) claiming? BJ implies that the non-believers know about Hell two sentences after he says they don't learn about it until they convert.

BJ has the cognitive-dissonance meter pegging off the scale here.

In a blogosphere of (mostly) thinkers, BJ is a mouthpiece; a parrot for Christianity squawking off the same old cookie-cutter non-answers in an attempt to drown out any thought-provoking questions. "God did it! Squawk! Because I said so! Squawk! I'm going to Heaven but it's irrelevant! Squawk! I don't know the meaning of the word 'why'! Squawk!"

BJ appears not to understand what "pushing the question back" even means. BJ seems not to understand why he follows God, loves Him, and delights in His law. BJ comes off as the ultimate brainwashed automaton. It is ironic to see BJ use such a dismissive tone, when his own conduct inspires non-believers such as myself to dismiss him.

Normally I make a point to attack only the ideas and not the messenger, as I did with Josh Brisby, who is a really nice guy. But BJ is very insulting to me and antagonistic and acts almost like a troll. So I'll lay down some insults of my own just for fun.

BJ is an asshole. BJ is stupid. BJ sucks at defending his worldview, and accordingly, sucks at evangelizing. He makes Christianity look disgusting (remember his blog description, not to mention his tone). Rather than bring the unsaved into the fold, he alienates them. He is an asset to atheism and a liability to Christianity. He acts too big for his britches. He acts like the type of Christian whom other Christians would claim "he isn't a true Christian!" BJ sucks at using spell check, which makes his over-confident and dismissive tone come off as half-cocked, rushed, sloppy, and gives off a "bite off more than he can chew" kind of feel. Odd that he is so good with font-size manipulation, but so poor at using the spell-check feature. It shows that BJ is more comfortable using force, authority, intimidation, and emotional appeal, instead of using logic, professionalism, clarity, and well-thought-out arguments.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Josh Brisby and the Master-Slave Morality of Christianity

Josh Brisby and I had a little dialogue a while back in the comments section of this thread at his blog, The Reformed Oasis.

Josh asked me this:

Why is it sad for you, as an atheist, when someone dies? Why do you grieve? Is it bad that they died? What is "bad"? What is "good"? I haven't heard an answer yet, and I don't see how your worldview even begins to account for such things. The problem of evil is a problem for the atheist.

My response to him was, "Argument from ignorance."

Josh responded to this in the comments of my thread entitled Christians Don't Know What Reality They Exist In. He had this to say:

You said that I gave an argument from ignorance. But when I asked you to account for morality in your worldview, I never said "Christian theism is true because atheism is not true." I of course believe that Christian theism CAN account for these things, but I was merely asking you to account for them. I have been waiting for a very long time to hear how you can begin to account for morality, and I'm still waiting.

Josh's argument was indeed an argument from ignorance, because he said, "I haven't heard an answer yet, and I don't see how your worldview even begins to account for such things. The problem of evil is a problem for the atheist." Because he hasn't seen an answer, he implies that it isn't possible with his "...I don't see how..." statement.

Josh then brings up my objectivist days of the past and claims that Hell is superfluous:

Apparently you do not hold as strongly as you once did to the philosophy of Ayn Rand (which most philosopher's consider a philosopher in diapers). But now you want to hold to "axiomatic self-interest" and say it is the ultimate presupposition, so to speak. But you fail to realize that Christians don't become Christians merely to avoid hell. By God's grace, He opens our eyes to realize that Christ has crown rights, and we have been violating them.

Josh is right in that I don't follow Ayn Rand's Objectivism like I used to. What I believe in is a fact-based morality. In fact, I am a soldier in the War on Relativism, and if Josh wants to know more about my morality, he should check out the posts found over there, including the one that I wrote.

Now let's get to Josh's claim that "Christians don't become Christians merely to avoid hell." Does Josh mean that Christians don't care about Hell at all (a dubious claim)? Or that Christians become Christian for other reasons in addition to avoiding Hell? If it is the former, then I would have to firmly disagree with Josh. If it is the latter, then I would say that he has given us no new information, and still, he does acknowledge that Christians wish to avoid Hell.

But Josh seems to miss my point. Why do Christians wish to avoid hell? I'll get back to this in a moment.

Josh then exposes the master-slave morality of Christianity:

In fact, the Christian theistic worldview is *diametrically opposed* to the notion of axiomatic self-interest. I need Christ for my sin-sick soul, because I am a selfish person, and I am selfish to the core. But how dare I violate God's Law, and how dare I live contrary to His standard. In salvation, God opens our eyes to see that His ways are right and just, and we owe Him our allegiance as our Creator.

Read that paragraph carefully, folks. The morality exposed in it is in fact rather sickening. Being interested in one's own self is evil and we all must serve a master who is obviously selfish to the core, states Josh. Josh says what I've heard a thousand times before: that Christians are diametrically opposed to self-interest! I've heard similar sentiments from Matt Slick, who recently told me that we don't even own our own selves, but that God owns them!

That, my friends, is a classic master-slave scenario. God is the master, humans are the slaves, and the only entity who's interest is valid is God's interest. Disgusting.

Self-interest, on the other hand, is diametrically opposed to master-slave relationships. The only person you own is yourself, and everyone has a right to pursue his or her own interests, and therefore not be forced to pursue anyone else's.

And just as the Christian snake-oil sales manual commands, Josh begins trying to convince me that I have a problem so that he can sell me the "cure":

You see Aaron, I would be just like you if it weren't for God's saving grace. I call you today to repent of your sins. Stop living selfishly for yourself and live for Christ. He reigns over you and you live in His borders, under His sovereignty. But if you want to live in His Kingdom and not submit to His rules then you are an illegal immigrant. You will be dealt with.

I can't tell for sure, but it seems that Josh is implying that God writes the immigration laws of America. I don't want to debate political issues like illegal immigration on this blog, but I will at least say that it is rather funny to equate the laws of the United States of America with the laws of God.

And as far as repenting, first Josh is going to have to convince me that God exists. Maybe Josh can explain to me why the matter/energy that comprises the Universe is timeless and eternal; it was never created, and can never be destroyed. And maybe Josh can explain to me why I should submit to a master-slave moral system such as that found within his Christianity.

Josh then exposes how the master-slave moral system of Christianity allows for God to operate along different moral rules than his slaves... uh, I mean, worshippers:

The ways of Christ are right and just.

In other words, God always operates along the just and right moral system.

We owe God our obedience and love, and He deserves the highest honor.

So God demands that we worship him and serve his interests. Of course this means that God is also fulfilling his own self-interest. So according to Josh, it is right and just for God to follow his own interest. So couldn't it be right for us humans to follow our own interests as well? Josh doesn't think so:

It is wrong and evil for us to live selfishly. Repent of your wickedness.

Holy crap! So it's right and just for God to follow his own interests, but not for us to do so? God must receive all the praise and love and glory, and to be #1 on everyone's lists, but we cannot put ourselves on the top of our own lists? God gets to have all the good rules, and we get all the crap rules. God operates on a different set of moral rules than humans do!

God is the master, humans are the slaves. To top it off, the humans must be punished for actions that they didn't even commit (original sin)! When laid bare, this moral system sure doesn't make Christianity look any more appealing.

Josh finishes off by giving me one of the threats found within the Bible:

Be warned:

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (Romans 2:5-8)
(See also Luke 19:11-27)

On a moral note, this is just plain evil. Josh explains his master-slave moral system, then threatens me with ultimate punishment if I don't accept his master-slave moral system and believe in his invisible friend. It matters not what good deeds I commit in my life, for the betterment of my peers or myself. All that matters is whose flag I'm waving and whose ass I'm kissing. All belongs to God.

A more absolute, far-reaching, and all-encompassing master-slave moral system than this could not possibly be conceived. Seriously! It is totally comprehensive! "God owns your ass and everything you do and the only thing that matters is how much you agree with this statement."

But on a technical note, why does that passage mention eternal life in such a context? Technically, eternal life is guaranteed to everyone in the Bible, the only question is where you will spend it. Darn that Bible and its confusing terminology. If I had a choice after death between Heaven, Hell, or simply not existing (not having eternal life), I would choose to not exist.

And now for the real issue I raised earlier, that Josh has so far failed to address. What reason does Josh have for following God's rules? So God demands all the glory and he owns us all. So what? Why should anyone care what God wants us to do? Why should a human want to follow God's rules and please Him? How does Josh get from an is to an ought?

As I have stated before, Morality cannot be based on God's rules.