I post mostly messages and commentary about religion and politics, and the scary occasions when they collide.
I am a: Liberal, Green, Christian, Math teacher
Lover of Math, Philosophy, Animals, Civil Rights, and Arguments of all kinds.

28th August 2014

Post with 3 notes

Private School

I sometimes think that the outrage generated by certain issues blinds us to what should be more important ones.

My job, for example, is tutoring math to children in both public and private(read: religious) schools. Almost without fail, the private school kids are years ahead of the public school kids, despite the fact that most of the time there is no obvious difference in intelligence with either group. From looking at homework, however, I know that the private schools demand a lot more from a lot younger kids. Consistently. 

And I once had a student that made me just… absolutely infuriated with public schooling. She was struggling to pass her end-of-year assessment, and with math generally, in danger of failing and being held back. It was obvious to me after one tutoring session that 1. She was bright, 2. This problem had been present for a long time. Her family did not have much money for tutoring, but they did pay for the services when it was obvious she wouldn’t be able to advance on her own. Technically, she got a discount rate of “we’ll charge the same but she gets a private tutor and you can come in however many times you want.”

After considerable hard work on both our parts in reteaching her five years of math, she did pass- but my question is, how is it the school never noticed this painfully shy, smart kid despite five years of failing grades? Why should her family pay money they don’t have for a service that is theoretically guaranteed to everyone, regardless of class or income? There are solutions to these problems, and plenty of other developed countries have better ones than America.

To get back to my original point, there is no question that teaching evolution or religious indoctrination in schools is A Bad Thing. But when people complain about “religious, private schools” in general as being a bad thing because of that, or because religion = bad, it makes me want to shake those people. There are far worse injustices happening to far more kids in public schools, and not nearly enough importance placed on fixing them. Wealthy parents should not be the only ones whose kids are guaranteed success. My company should not even exist, because the service should be provided, publicly, without charge, to all students.

Should private school kids be learning about religious beliefs besides Christianity? Maybe. Should all kids know the numbers that add together to make 10? Freaking yes.

Tagged: religionchristianityschoolseducation

26th August 2014

Question reblogged from Existential Crisis Factory with 23 notes

thread-of-fire said: Since I previously saw you wondering about morality, it turns out there is good philosophical grounding for it (regardless of god belief). It is outlined in Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier, and he uses the work of other philosophers there too.

existentialcrisisfactory:

 

Arbitrary means subject to individual will or judgment without restriction. That a set is a grouping of numbers or that a circle is a series of equidistant points are definitions, but they are not arbitrary ones chosen without any restriction. The restriction of goodness is similarly determined by the nature of God, the one who created the universe and gave meaning to the word, “goodness”, by creating creatures intelligent enough to understand speech. It’s not whatever “a god” happens to want it to be, it’s what The God, the only one under consideration in Christian philosophy, created the universe to contain.

Now, if you don’t believe in God, I understand that this argument doesn’t mean anything to you- but actually, the argument has nothing to do with you. It is only how Christians understand God and morality. The question for atheists is, where does goodness come if not from this source? Is goodness objective, and why? Those questions are not resolved by insisting that Christian beliefs about God are incorrect: The only issue here is what objective standard exists for you, if any.

This would make sense if “Christians” had a universal philosophy or morality. But Christian morality varies as much between sects and individuals as any other concept of morality, which would indicate that morality does NOT come from God or even from the Bible, but rather is something that is far more individual.

Not really. What it indicates is that humans understand God imperfectly and don’t have any way to be certain what His will is- and that I agree with, and most Christians agree with. As far as morality varying between sects, I think you’ll find more diverse opinions on morality within a sect or a particular church than you’ll necessarily find significant differences between what one denomination believes verses another. That’s human nature, not God’s.

There are many kind and decent Christians, who I think are being wonderful forces for good in the world, and if this is because they’ve found some kind of peace or encouragement in religion, that’s great. However, there are also a lot of Christians who—also claiming that their morals come from God—do very little besides spread hatred and misery and destruction. And, of course, there’s every shade of humanity in between.

That people are sometimes evil has nothing to do with whether God is. It is certainly possible to argue that God is inherently evil, and some philosophies do- all I’m offering is that this is the Christian argument about God.

Now, being an atheist, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but my own sense of morality is based around what I think is as objective a standard as possible. If something causes harm or has the potential to cause harm, it’s bad. Things that don’t cause harm range from being neutral to good, depending on whether or not they have positive benefits. Ethical or moral decisions then become a sort of risk-reward assessment.

How do you know what causes harm and what doesn’t? People don’t always agree on the specifics, so how is your philosophy different from a personal opinion on positive versus negative? Would something be considered harmful if all people agree that it is, a majority of them, a minority, or just you? It also isn’t an idea that conflicts with belief in God. I agree with the principle, just not that it’s an inherently objective standard.

So, for example, speeding down the highway is generally wrong. While the risk of real harm from speeding may actually be smallish, the degree of harm possible is great, so it makes logical sense to play it safe most of the time. However, speeding down the highway to get someone to a hospital in an emergency might be acceptable—the risk of harm to an already injured person is a known quantity that can be weighed against the risk of potential harm to other drivers so that people can choose accordingly.

Eh, not sure I agree that that’s wrong more than it’s thoughtless or careless. It’s a bad idea to speed, but speeding doesn’t make someone a bad person.

I would actually argue that basically EVERYONE uses a version of this moral decision-making process in their day-to-day life and that God rarely factors in to most moral decisions except as a possible consequence. People who believe, for example, that homosexuals or people who accept homosexuals are all going to go to Hell may not see bullying actions towards homosexuals as harmful—or at least not harmful by comparison to the possibility of going to Hell. Another example: no matter how many times reparative therapy for homosexuality is shown to be truly damaging, many people continue to support it because they truly believe that without this therapy people will go to Hell forever. When weighed against the possibility of eternal torment, basically any earthly harm can be justified.

Only because those people don’t understand what Hell is. And on that, I’m not arguing with you against those who support those treatments, because it is a horrible practice and there’s nothing biblical or Christian about it. If someone is committing a sin or in danger of Hell, that is their choice, and God respects humanity enough to allow us to remove ourselves from His presence and influence, if we choose. Humans should have the same respect for each other. The point of avoiding Hell is not that it is an unpleasant place, but that committing sin causes harm, either to ourselves or to others around us. Sometimes that harm isn’t always obvious, or it may take years to notice the effects, but that is the intent behind avoiding it. 

Does that mean that you should believe any given Christian who claims that you are committing sin by doing X? No, of course not, and neither would I. That’s why we should study and read from a variety of sources.

In general, however, I just don’t think most people are really going around thinking “what would Jesus do?” to figure out everyday moral choices. In most cases, the golden rule—do unto others, etc.—is much more in evidence, and while people might attribute that basic moral sense to God or whatever, it seems to be pretty nearly universal, extending even to non-human animals—who are increasingly being shown to have deep emotional lives and pretty great capacity for moral reasoning.

Ah, but see, the reason why it seems universal to you is because, to me, that is how God intended morality to work! Even animals reflect that, to a lesser degree. The question “what is God’s nature” is very different than “do I/Christians know His nature at all times?” Actually, I think the bible makes it pretty clear we won’t, and thus we should ‘test all things, and keep the good.’

liberalchristian:

I appreciate the book suggestion. My issue with morality without God is not that I’m not aware of the work of any philosophers attempting to resolve the question, but that their answers are unsatisfactory. Moreover, many atheists give the impression(or state outright) that they have never considered the question at all. And just so I’m clear, the argument is not that a single atheist cannot be a good person(of course they can), but whether the concept of “good” even makes sense without an objective, non-human being that defines it. 

There are, however, several religions that provide answers to the moral debate without God(Buddhism would be one), and philosophers since Plato that have attempted to define goodness, with or without deities.

The point being, in my roundabout way of getting to it, that God—whether one believes in Him or not—doesn’t provide any more objective basis for moral and ethical decision-making than anything else. When it really comes down to it, we’re basically all making our decisions the same way—by weighing pros and cons, risks and benefits, and trying to make the best decisions that we know how.

I agree that most people make daily moral decisions in roughly the same way, and I agree that you believe, as an atheist, that God doesn’t provide an objective standard of morality. I believe that He does, and that the purpose of life is to come closer to understanding what His morality is, and attempt to follow it.

Source: liberalchristian

26th August 2014

Question reblogged from CanadianAtheist with 23 notes

thread-of-fire said: Since I previously saw you wondering about morality, it turns out there is good philosophical grounding for it (regardless of god belief). It is outlined in Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier, and he uses the work of other philosophers there too.

liberalchristian:

I appreciate the book suggestion. My issue with morality without God is not that I’m not aware of the work of any philosophers attempting to resolve the question, but that their answers are unsatisfactory. Moreover, many atheists give the impression(or state outright) that they have never considered the question at all. And just so I’m clear, the argument is not that a single atheist cannot be a good person(of course they can), but whether the concept of “good” even makes sense without an objective, non-human being that defines it. 

There are, however, several religions that provide answers to the moral debate without God(Buddhism would be one), and philosophers since Plato that have attempted to define goodness, with or without deities.

It absolutely is arbitrary. If this were the case then “good” is whatever a god happens to want it to be, or whatever a god happens to be. There’s no objective moral standpoint here. Arbitrary doesn’t mean changeable, that’s not the issue. The issue is that the standard of goodness is arbitrarily defined by some god’s actions, commandments, or nature. There’s no reason that something is good, or that something is moral, we’re just defining a god as “being good by nature.”

Arbitrary means subject to individual will or judgment without restriction. That a set is a grouping of numbers or that a circle is a series of equidistant points are definitions, but they are not arbitrary ones chosen without any restriction. The restriction of goodness is similarly determined by the nature of God, the one who created the universe and gave meaning to the word, “goodness”, by creating creatures intelligent enough to understand speech. It’s not whatever “a god” happens to want it to be, it’s what The God, the only one under consideration in Christian philosophy, created the universe to contain.

Now, if you don’t believe in God, I understand that this argument doesn’t mean anything to you- but actually, the argument has nothing to do with you. It is only how Christians understand God and morality. The question for atheists is, where does goodness come if not from this source? Is goodness objective, and why? Those questions are not resolved by insisting that Christian beliefs about God are incorrect: The only issue here is what objective standard exists for you, if any.

Source: liberalchristian

25th August 2014

Question reblogged from Wanna Make Out? with 23 notes

thread-of-fire said: Since I previously saw you wondering about morality, it turns out there is good philosophical grounding for it (regardless of god belief). It is outlined in Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier, and he uses the work of other philosophers there too.

funkyavacado:

liberalchristian:

I appreciate the book suggestion. My issue with morality without God is not that I’m not aware of the work of any philosophers attempting to resolve the question, but that their answers are unsatisfactory. Moreover, many atheists give the impression(or state outright) that they have never considered the question at all. And just so I’m clear, the argument is not that a single atheist cannot be a good person(of course they can), but whether the concept of “good” even makes sense without an objective, non-human being that defines it. 

There are, however, several religions that provide answers to the moral debate without God(Buddhism would be one), and philosophers since Plato that have attempted to define goodness, with or without deities.

The objective of being good is to be good. Duh. Why do you need the promise of heaven to be moral. You can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat.

Objective in this context means existing independently of human thought or society. The purpose of being good varies depending on your philosophical tradition. I don’t need the promise of Heaven to be moral. And I am a vegetarian. Can I still have pudding?

Source: liberalchristian

25th August 2014

Question reblogged from CanadianAtheist with 23 notes

thread-of-fire said: Since I previously saw you wondering about morality, it turns out there is good philosophical grounding for it (regardless of god belief). It is outlined in Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier, and he uses the work of other philosophers there too.

 

This really doesn’t solve the problem. It pushes it back a step, perhaps, but the issue is still there. What do we mean when we say that a deity’s nature is good?
We mean that the qualities of the deity are reflected in the universe He created. They cannot be changed any more than the universe could be- whatever He intended this world to be, that’s the way it is, and the way it was always meant to be.
Either it is good by some independent standard, like before, or goodness is defined as the god’s nature.
Therefore, goodness is one part of God’s nature. The ability to create the universe is another. 
If the latter is the case, it would mean anything that is it within the deity’s nature to allow, promote, command, or otherwise approve of, would be good
by definition. If such a deity approved of murder, in any context, or scenario, then it would be good necessarily, at least within that context. If this god were to approve of genocide, that would be good by definition too.
I agree. If God were in favor of murder(and we would have to -very carefully- define the context of that murder, and whether it was God’s will as opposed to humans speaking on His behalf), then murder would be the desired action. 

liberalchristian:

I appreciate the book suggestion. My issue with morality without God is not that I’m not aware of the work of any philosophers attempting to resolve the question, but that their answers are unsatisfactory. Moreover, many atheists give the impression(or state outright) that they have never considered the question at all. And just so I’m clear, the argument is not that a single atheist cannot be a good person(of course they can), but whether the concept of “good” even makes sense without an objective, non-human being that defines it. 

There are, however, several religions that provide answers to the moral debate without God(Buddhism would be one), and philosophers since Plato that have attempted to define goodness, with or without deities.

“Good” or “moral” behaviour would still be arbitrary, since it would just be whatever happens to be within this god’s nature.

But that’s not at all arbitrary, unless God’s nature were actually changing, and it’s not. You could compare it to the laws of physics or mathematics. Certain rules- as opposed to any arbitrary rules we might invent- are true for both fields. Assuming we know those rules correctly and are applying them accurately, they will never change. 

Source: liberalchristian

25th August 2014

Question reblogged from Lit by the fires of the numinous with 23 notes

thread-of-fire said: Since I previously saw you wondering about morality, it turns out there is good philosophical grounding for it (regardless of god belief). It is outlined in Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier, and he uses the work of other philosophers there too.

 

liberalchristian:

I appreciate the book suggestion. My issue with morality without God is not that I’m not aware of the work of any philosophers attempting to resolve the question, but that their answers are unsatisfactory. Moreover, many atheists give the impression(or state outright) that they have never considered the question at all. And just so I’m clear, the argument is not that a single atheist cannot be a good person(of course they can), but whether the concept of “good” even makes sense without an objective, non-human being that defines it. 

There are, however, several religions that provide answers to the moral debate without God(Buddhism would be one), and philosophers since Plato that have attempted to define goodness, with or without deities.

So, when I used the word “defines”, that was a bad choice. It is because God is.

But if good is defined by God’s nature and he can’t change his nature, that limits his omnipotence. God’s nature becomes more powerful than God.

Not at all, no more than God’s inability to make Himself no longer omniscient, or no longer God, means that His omniscience limited. All it means is that there are certain qualities about God that are consistent: Omniscience, Goodness, Eternal, Timelessness, etc. They are the qualities that make Him God.

Source: liberalchristian

25th August 2014

Question reblogged from CanadianAtheist with 23 notes

thread-of-fire said: Since I previously saw you wondering about morality, it turns out there is good philosophical grounding for it (regardless of god belief). It is outlined in Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier, and he uses the work of other philosophers there too.

canadianatheist:

liberalchristian:

I appreciate the book suggestion. My issue with morality without God is not that I’m not aware of the work of any philosophers attempting to resolve the question, but that their answers are unsatisfactory. Moreover, many atheists give the impression(or state outright) that they have never considered the question at all. And just so I’m clear, the argument is not that a single atheist cannot be a good person(of course they can), but whether the concept of “good” even makes sense without an objective, non-human being that defines it. 

There are, however, several religions that provide answers to the moral debate without God(Buddhism would be one), and philosophers since Plato that have attempted to define goodness, with or without deities.

The problem there is that morality can’t be objective simply because a being defines it. In that sort of scenario, it would either be independent of the deity itself, or the deity would be arbitrarily deciding what “good” is.

The Christian argument I’ve heard for that is that goodness is a property of the nature of the Creator of universe. God doesn’t ‘decide’ what good is so much as He embodies it as a condition of having created existence and goodness itself. So, properties of God are not independent of Him, as they could not have come into existence without Him. Nor is it arbitrary- goodness is whatever qualities there are inherent in the Creator’s nature. Neither came first and neither exists separately. 

This also is part of the argument of God being the ‘first cause’, i.e., not contingent on anything else. Everything else in the universe is contingent on something else, but those qualities inherent to Him(like goodness) are not. 

So, when I used the word “defines”, that was a bad choice. It is because God is.

Source: liberalchristian

25th August 2014

Quote reblogged from Craig Wells with 7 notes

Beware of the person of one book.
— Thomas Aquinas (via craiganthonywells)

25th August 2014

Question with 23 notes

thread-of-fire said: Since I previously saw you wondering about morality, it turns out there is good philosophical grounding for it (regardless of god belief). It is outlined in Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier, and he uses the work of other philosophers there too.

I appreciate the book suggestion. My issue with morality without God is not that I’m not aware of the work of any philosophers attempting to resolve the question, but that their answers are unsatisfactory. Moreover, many atheists give the impression(or state outright) that they have never considered the question at all. And just so I’m clear, the argument is not that a single atheist cannot be a good person(of course they can), but whether the concept of “good” even makes sense without an objective, non-human being that defines it. 

There are, however, several religions that provide answers to the moral debate without God(Buddhism would be one), and philosophers since Plato that have attempted to define goodness, with or without deities.

Tagged: religionphilosophyatheism

2nd August 2014

Photo reblogged from Grenzauslotung with 8 notes

grenzauslotung:

liberalchristian:

grenzauslotung:

liberalchristian:

grenzauslotung:




You’re right in the sense that what he has written does not imply God, but his conclusion contains God anyway. That’s why I added the ommited premise, which is neccesary to come to that conclusion. If he just concluded to “a being” there would be no problem, but he didn’t and this is what I counter.

If you’re saying that you’re the one who added that original premise, then you apparently altered what the OP stated(and made it circular) solely for the purpose of mocking them over your own inability to follow their logic. Classy. And I’m done, you have nothing to add to the debate.

grenzauslotung:

liberalchristian:

grenzauslotung:

liberalchristian:

grenzauslotung:

You’re right in the sense that what he has written does not imply God, but his conclusion contains God anyway. That’s why I added the ommited premise, which is neccesary to come to that conclusion. If he just concluded to “a being” there would be no problem, but he didn’t and this is what I counter.

If you’re saying that you’re the one who added that original premise, then you apparently altered what the OP stated(and made it circular) solely for the purpose of mocking them over your own inability to follow their logic. Classy. And I’m done, you have nothing to add to the debate.