Re: MD Hume, Paley and Intelligent Design

From: Arlo J. Bensinger (
Date: Fri May 06 2005 - 19:48:38 BST

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    > First, thanks for a thoughtful response. Second, how can "spiritual"
    > principles become "intellectual patterns?" Seems to me a spiritual
    > principle is known through revelation, not reason.

    Good point. I'm not quite sure how to answer this, so I'm going to have to "sit
    on it" a bit.

    > I'm not sure that "Thou shall not kill" is much of an intellectual pattern,
    that is, based on an in depth rational analysis of alternatives. Rather, I see
    it as a social pattern required to maintain the viability of an in group.
    There's no hesitancy in killing members of the out group if the in group is
    attacked. The Giant is no Jesus.

    I think a strong argument can be made through intellectual reason as to why
    "killing" should be prohibited in a society. For example, I don't attribute it
    to any divine being, and yet I don't kill people because I don't want to live
    in a society where I can be killed. That's just simple reason to me, not divine
    mandate (and I believed that long before I read the MOQ).

    But your last point is what I mean about adopting bits and pieces of
    "Judeo-Christian" morality. Killing "non-Christians" is not considered
    "immoral" if it has the "justification" of government. This is what allowed us
    to drop napalm on Iraqi citizens during the war... something I personally doubt
    Jesus would condone.

    But I do think the intellectual level can point to a way out, towards thinking
    about global community rather than nationalistic preoccupation. After all, on
    the intellectual level there are no Americans and Iraqis, just people. Their
    actions may be moral or immoral (and should be applauded or condemned as such),
    but as people there is no distinction. When I hear the report of a father who
    watched his little girl burned alive by napalm, I am absolutely appalled and
    sickened and able to condemn such an act as immoral, whether that father is
    American, Iraqi, Chinese, French, Maori, Eskimo, whatever.

    > Unless we can appeal to a higher power for moral guidance, are we not
    defenseless against the whims of those who wield the coercive power of

    I think I'd make the distinction between individuals appealing to a higher power
    for their own guidance in resisting external threats (such as coercive
    government), and giving that external agency the right to claim it has that
    higher power on its side.

    That is, I have nothing against any individual Christian or Buddhist or Pagan
    from relying on their own "spiritual insights" to resist coercive government. I
    have everything against that individual Christian or Buddhist or Pagan from
    "becoming" or "validating" the coercive government by making its policies
    "God's Will". You are not, in this case, resisting coercive power, you are
    merely making it coercive "for" Judeo-Christian morality. All those people who
    are not Christian, then, become victims of the oppression you say you are

    > Keeping in mind that legislation is coercion, Jesus implored people to act
    morally for the sake of their everlasting souls, not for the sake of staying
    out of jail. Whether one precludes the other is, of course, highly debatable.
    We've had plenty of exchanges to know where each of stands in that debate.

    All I meant to show was that we do call for "legislation of the Bible" when it
    involves telling others what they can't do. But we refuse it when it entails
    telling us what we should do. Whether "any" of it should be legislated, is of
    course the big question, and is foundational to what you had asked me (about
    Judeo-Christian morality).

    > > But, talk about "homosexuality", and every Christian around goes
    > > screaming for laws to protect us.
    > Do you have gay marriage in mind?

    I think its a good fault line in this discussion. The laws against it are based
    soley on it being in violation of biblical morality. And those who are against
    it use this as primary evidence on why it should be outlawed.

    However, like I said, the biblical morality that tells people to reject
    materialism, to feed the poor, heal the sick, shelter the homeless are flat out
    refused as "socialism" (when legislated), even though Jesus spent more time on
    THAT message than on anti-homosexuality.

    To me, that's only using biblical morality to justify power, rather than turning
    to it for a true guiding principle. To use it to control, rather than structure
    one's own life.

    > > (How many people actually keep the Sabbath holy?
    > Which is why I shy away from legislation to enforce the morality of Jesus
    mentioned above.

    Precisely, because this one tells *you* what *you* should do, rather than
    allowing you to tell *others* what they can't do. I don't mean to sound harsh
    with that, but this seems to be the critical distinction made when people call
    for the legislation of Judeo-Christian morality.

    > What I take away from your answer in general that it's OK to use the Judeo-
    Christian basis for morality so long as it isn't used to justify national
    interests and doesn't rely for its legitimacy on God. In other words, moral
    foundations such as the 10 commandments can be legitimatized by intellect alone
    without appealing to any spiritual source. Is that somewhere close to your

    Pretty much, although your first comment above gives me pause. I'll have to
    think about that some.

    > If so, I don't know of any philosophy that deliberately sets out to
    > justify Judeo-Christian principles of morality on a strictly rational
    > basis. Perhaps you or someone can lead me to such a philosophy.

    I think any philosophy that would do this wouldn't seek to justify
    "Judeo-Christian principles" soley, as that would be placing philosophy in the
    service of supporting one nationalist view. But I think that many of the
    principles outlined in the Bible and the Koran and Rig Veda and other spiritual
    works could be uniformly supported by a philosophy, yes. Why hasn't it been
    done (to my knowledge)? I don't know.


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