Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This Church Says Torture Is Wrong


The First Parish Unitarian Church I pass on my way to work has taken down the "Room For Different Beliefs" sign and replaced it with this one.

The sign implies, of course, that there is such a thing as right and wrong, that moral values really do exist, and do so objectively, that is, independent of anyone's personal opinion. Otherwise, if this were simply the expression of a preference, what would be the point of the sign?

You might say, "To create a consensus among a majority who will then be able to put a stop to the practice." However, if this is just an opinion, and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, what's the point? On what basis should one opinion outweigh any other opinion? This sign makes sense only if it expresses a view that transcends personal preference.

However, the church has already indicated that they have room for my beliefs. And, I just might believe torture is right. And since they have room for the belief that it's wrong to say torture is wrong, they're in a dilemma. It's a good thing that they have room for the belief that it's OK to hold contradictory beliefs!

25 comments:

  1. I love how you deconstruct those Unitarians' absurdities.

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  2. While I agree that the sign implies there is a right and wrong, it makes no similar implication that this is independent of personal opinion. (At least not that I can see). The purpose of the sign could simply be the opinion of the church at this time. In 100 years or when the next Republican administration comes to power, churches might start posting signs like "Terrorism must be stopped", implying torture would be an acceptable way to do that.

    Back in the time of Jesus, a church might've put out a sign that said "Slaves must obey their masters" as slavery was commonly seen as "right". However, it is now most of humanity's opinion that slavery is wrong. What's changed? The act of slavery hasn't changed, but to our current sensibilities, it is wrong.

    Nothing is inherently right or wrong. Morality does not exist without humans. Thus, concepts of right and wrong are all subjective.

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  3. The sign can't imply that there is a right and wrong and be an expression of personal opinion at the same time. Those views are incompatible with each other. Additionally, it's reasonable to conclude that the church views the sign as more than an expression of personal opinion, since personal opinion is, by definition, personal, and one opinion is no better than any other opinion, except to the extent to which it reflects a greater truth.

    About slavery, I think you've misrepresented the view of slavery as spoken of in the Bible, since nothing akin to the modern racist-motivated practice was ever condoned by the Bible. Take a look at this article which discusses the matter in more detail. Slavery in the Bible

    I was taken aback by your statement that, "Nothing is inherently right or wrong." since in another post you said, "I would disagree with the notion that 'if you are an atheist, there is no evil'". Your most recent statement seems to reflect a change in position, since these statements clearly contradict each other.

    I find it incredible then that you no longer believe that Hitler did anything inherently wrong. Torturing babies, lynching, rape, etc. None of those things is inherently wrong? You don't really believe that, do you?

    I must give you credit for one thing, however. You have not avoided acknowledging that these are the inevitable conclusions of a consistent believer in a strictly materialist world view.

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  4. Bobmo,

    You're debating skills are much too sophisticated to resort to straw man arguments. Of course I believe that Hitler was wrong. That torturing babies, lynching, rape, killing people because you think your God told you to is wrong.

    Just because I don't believe in the "inherent" wrongness or rightness of things doesn't mean that I don't believe in right & wrong. My brain, inner conscious, whatever, tells me what is right and wrong. That's how I can believe things are evil even though I don't believe in inherent evilness. I see no contradiction.

    If the notions of right and wrong are opinions then the sign is just a reflection of that opinion. Perhaps saying "personal opinion" is throwing you off. It's more of a "group opinion" of that church. The determination of what is right and wrong depends on the majority opinion of the population at the time.

    You seem to take an incredibly liberal view of Biblical translation. What do you make of this passage from Exodus?

    Exodus 21:20-21 "And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money [property]."

    You can beat your slave but as long as he (or she) doesn't die, no punishment? It sounds like slavery to me.

    Consider this less liberal interpretation of what God has to say about slavery

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  5. I appreciate the compliment. I think ;-)

    However, what I did was follow your statements to their logical conclusion. Granted, you never said Hitler was not wrong. But, using your reasoning, the conclusion is inescapable.

    Let me juxtapose two quotes from this post:
    Perry: "Nothing is inherently right or wrong."
    Bobmo: "I find it incredible then that you no longer believe that Hitler did anything inherently wrong." [Emphasis added]

    Here it is in the form of a syllogism:
    (A) Hitler was responsible for many acts of murder.
    (B) Nothing is inherently wrong.
    (C) Therefore, none of these acts was inherently wrong.

    Where is the straw man here? Tell me how (C) does not follow, given (A) and (B).

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  6. Your straw man is created by your erroneous implication that if things are not inherently wrong than they aren't wrong. Rightness and wrongness depends on the prevailing opinion or current zeitgeist. The current zeitgeist holds that what Hitler did was wrong, thus he was wrong.

    The point where you create the straw man. "Granted, you never said Hitler was not wrong. But, using your reasoning, the conclusion is inescapable."

    The conclusion is not inescapable. If you said Hilter was not inherently wrong then your logic is correct. But you said Hitler was not wrong which is something I vehemently disagree with. Hitler was wrong. The concept of inherent rightness or wrongness is unnecessary to arrive at this conclusion.

    In the future, it may happen that the zeitgeist of the world changes to one in which people view the slaughter of animals for food as wrong. (Many vegetarians hold this view already.) Does that mean a future human looking back on the 21st century is right in concluding that most of the population was immoral because we supported/participated in the enslavement and murder of animals?

    Concepts of right and wrong change with the times. Humans become more civilized and change their thinking on things that the Old Testament Bible said were ok like slavery, capricious beating of other humans and incest (the Bible must endorse this as it says humanity originated with a single pair, Adam and Eve, who had two sons who must've impregnated their sisters to populate the Earth). Or when Noah's family was the only ones left to re-populate the Earth, there must've been some Biblically supported incest going on there.

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  7. Bobmo, I would guess that every time you use the word "wrong" you mean "objectively wrong" or "inherently wrong". When moral relativists use it they would have to mean wrong in their own opinion. It is simplistic to say that all opinions are equally valid. Moral decisions can have huge consequences and should not be taken lightly if we want to have peace and prosperity.

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  8. Bobmo, I would guess that every time you use the word "wrong" you mean "objectively wrong" or "inherently wrong". When moral relativists use it they would have to mean wrong in their own opinion. It is simplistic to say that all opinions are equally valid. Moral decisions can have huge consequences and should not be taken lightly if we want to have peace and prosperity.

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  9. Oops. Didn't mean to post twice.

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  10. Perry, let me play my old English teacher and tell you that you didn't read my post very carefully ;-)

    My only purpose was to establish that you believe nothing Hitler did was inherently wrong. That's the inescapable conclusion, and I think you agree with it.

    But, just for the record, regardless of your other views of the rightness or wrongness of Hitler's actions, do you agree with the conclusion (C) of the syllogism I used?

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  11. I think I read what you wrote pretty clearly and answered in the affirmative that I agreed with you syllogism. Perhaps not directly spelled out but in my post I agreed.

    But I don't think that your "only purpose was to establish that you believe nothing Hitler did was inherently wrong."

    Because you said "Granted, you never said Hitler was not wrong. But, using your reasoning, the conclusion is inescapable."

    In this sentence you inexplicably dropped the term "inherently" and just used the word "wrong". It completely changes the meaning.

    You try to equate "wrong" and "inherently wrong" which is something I disagree with. Things can be "wrong" even if they aren't inherently wrong.

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  12. Hey, Bobmo, I enjoy the dialogue. I'm glad to see that there are still thinking people up there. Can you send me an e-mail? Nathan and I haven't been able to reach you at the address we have. Thanks!

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  13. Perry, my purpose for that post was precisely to show that you believe that nothing Hitler did was inherently wrong (since that's where our disagreement lies).

    I didn't drop the term "inherently." If you reread the sentence that beings with "Granted," you'll see that I was describing your position, so I could not use the word "inherently." That would have been a mischaracterization of your view.

    In my 7/30/2008 5:37 PM post, I was trying to say two things:
    1) Perry does believe that what Hitler did was wrong (hence the "Granted..." statement)
    2) But Perry does not believe that anything he did was inherently wrong.

    That second statement is the "inescapable conclusion" I referred to.

    I've tried very hard to accurately represent your views and I think I've done that so far. I might disagree with them, but it does neither of us any good if I misrepresent them.

    Now, Dedwarmo correctly suggests that when I use the term "wrong" I mean "objectively wrong," which I define as something that is wrong independent of the opinion of a person or group of persons.

    There is actually a slight difference in meaning there, but I assume your position is the same with either term.

    Homenest, I can't tell from your name which eagle you are :-) Feel free to write me at bobmorrison SPAM IS BAD -AT- gmail.com (remove the SPAM IS BAD :-)

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  14. Perry, I just read your comments at Was Hitler evil? so I'll take that as your reply to this thread. More to come...

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  15. Bobmo, would you say that some things are wrong only sometimes? Was eating ham wrong at one time?

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  16. Yes, some things are wrong only at certain times. For instance, killing a fellow human being is wrong when done for fun, but not wrong when done in self-defense.

    So, in a similar sense, eating ham was wrong for certain people at a certain time.

    Other things are always wrong, such as torturing babies for fun. This is true even if the majority believes it is right.

    Do you believe the majority can ever be wrong about matters of right and wrong?

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  17. Pointing out contradictions made by a religious establishment? LOL. Talk about going for the low hanging fruit.

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  18. Sense,

    There is really very little difference between the contradictions made by many religious establishments and those made by most atheists, since many religious establishments behave as if there were no God anyway.

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. Leviticus 25:44 "And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have-from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves."

    The part where it says "slave whom you may have"

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  21. Perry said...
    Back in the time of Jesus, a church might've put out a sign that said "Slaves must obey their masters" as slavery was commonly seen as "right". However, it is now most of humanity's opinion that slavery is wrong. What's changed? The act of slavery hasn't changed, but to our current sensibilities, it is wrong.

    While the people may have thought it ok to have slaves, I see no evidence God approved, slavery is and was a fact, God instructed slaves how to deal with their situation but I do not see that as His approval of slavery. He tells us as sinners to repent but He does not approve sin. Is anyone aware of scripture that states or even implies God approves of slavery.

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  22. You likely won't find any evidence that God approved of slaves because you don't seem to want to see it.

    To me, the Leviticus quote is compelling evidence. You likely disagree which is a reasonable position.

    What evidence do you have that God didn't approve of slavery?

    God frequently told people what they can't do. (no murder, no stealing, no swearing, etc.)

    When did God ever say, "Slavery is wrong"? Shouldn't that be something that made the 10 Commandments ahead of a silly one like "don't take the Lord's name in vane"?

    Profane language is a more significant sin than slavery?

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  23. Perry said...
    Leviticus 25:44

    Thanks, thats interesting and deserves further study.

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  24. vane"? ....vain! If one believes in God and believes he is Omnipotent, Omniscient etc. I would think God could decide if one sin is silly or significant. Appearently God really gets ticked if you use His name as a curse word or in a flippant way. Some one with your belief system will laugh and scoff at God for whatever He is, thinks or decides to do. Your are no greater sinner than I or anyone else and from my point of view you should repent and trust Jesus to redeem you from the fallen state you do not believe you are in, but thats just what I believe and as you judged me in the earlier post, "You likely disagree which is a reasonable position.", you likely disagree with me which I beleive is a reasonable position. We will find out who is right or wrong after we keep our appointment with the grave. Have a gday.

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