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Secularism, Materialism and Pragmatism


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#1 needimprovement

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 03:33 AM

Secularism must be distinguished from secularization. Secularization is the praiseworthy contribution of modern man which avoids the primitive temptation to explain all mysterious and unknown forces in terms of spirits, gods, or some other supernatural power. Due to secularization, modern man is aware of his mastery over life and of the fact that the future of the world is, in a very real sense, in his hands.

Secularism is something quite different. Secularism is an attitude or philosophy of life which holds that only secular values are real and that all religious values are nothing more than superstition.

Materialism holds not that material things have value, but rather that only material things have value. More money, a bigger car, a nicer home: These are the only values worth living for. Because religious cannot directly add to your material gains, they are a hindrance.

Pragmatism holds that a thing is worthwhile only if it is useful. Since God cannot build a computer or give you a better complexion, he is not real, or at least he is unnecessary.


What are your thoughts?
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#2 AzurePhoenix

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 05:24 AM

I can't help but feel it's important to ask whether or not you're confusing and hybridizing the seculr philosophical concept of Materialism with the absolutely distinct socio-economic sort of materialism related to economic consumerism... or if you're JUST talking about the latter, in which case, why are you bringing it up in relation to secularism?
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#3 PhDwannabe

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 01:24 PM

Materialism holds not that material things have value, but rather that only material things have value. More money, a bigger car, a nicer home: These are the only values worth living for. Because religious cannot directly add to your material gains, they are a hindrance.



Since you haven't answered Azure's question about how you mean it, I'm going to assume from your definition that you were talking about, in her words, the socio-economic sort of materialism related to economic consumerism. To that end, I don't think your definition is exhaustive enough. I'm not sure an ideal materialist (again, in the socioeconomic sense) sees only material things as valuable. Look at the rise of switching church affiliations in the last several decades--I think peoples' "god-shopping" is plenty indicative of and described by what we might call materialist values. Individuals' flaunting or obsession with membership in various things could also be up there. I don't just think it's treating only physical things with value--I suspect that part of the deal may be in treating non-physical things like physical objects of value.

Though, again, if we are talking only about the socioeconomic stuff, I echo Azure:

why are you bringing it up in relation to secularism?


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#4 Marat

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 07:47 PM

I think that secularism as you define it has to be viewed as a subset of secularization. Once we get out of the habit of explaining incidents of spontaneous combustion by reference to the unpredictable ire of Vulcan, the fire god, then it is a natural generalization of that attitude that we also dismiss an over-arching Deity as the gurantor that all social values and meanings are valid.

The modern, securalist view of the world accepts the difference between values and facts, but also recognizes that both values and facts can be valid, though the former derive their validity from their role in sustaining social morality, while the latter dervice their validity by being empirically testable givens of our everyday experience.

The mistake of the religious view of life, in contrast, is to assume that both facts and values require the same type of support in their correspondence to some thing outside themselves which makes them real. Facts certainly require such support, but values derive their support from the importance of their role in supporting the moral cohesion of society, not in the fact that some thing outside them, like a given Deity, confirms them and makes them real.

It would be absurd to think that we couldn't believe that murder was wrong, for example, unless we also believed in the superstition that a three-headed cat on Mars with infinite powers who had also created the universe told us it was wrong! The evil of murder is clear from the role that that act plays in the violation of our value system. But the value system doesn't have to be propped up by a three-headed cat confirming its value, but by the fact that murder involves violating our essential social commitment, required for the existence of a peaceful society in which all can flourish, not to infringe the vital personal autonomy of others for our own interests.
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#5 jedaisoul

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 10:23 PM

Secularism is something quite different. Secularism is an attitude or philosophy of life which holds that only secular values are real and that all religious values are nothing more than superstition.

Materialism holds not that material things have value, but rather that only material things have value. More money, a bigger car, a nicer home: These are the only values worth living for. Because religious cannot directly add to your material gains, they are a hindrance.

Pragmatism holds that a thing is worthwhile only if it is useful. Since God cannot build a computer or give you a better complexion, he is not real, or at least he is unnecessary.

What are your thoughts?

My thoughts are that those are strawman definitions that you made up. See Wikipedia:

Secularism is the concept that government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs.

Nothing to do with "all religious values are nothing more than superstition". Just a belief that secular government should not be run according to religious beliefs.

In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions.

This does not deny God's existence. It just says, if God exists, then he is materially real. Don't you believe that God is materially real???

Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it

This means that if Christianity works for you, go with it. What is your beef???

It seems that you are either ignorant of the meanings of these terms, or choose to misrepresent them for some reason. Neither of which impresses. Did you not think to look up the definitions of these terms before giving us the benefit of your opinions? Obviously not. :(

Edited by jedaisoul, 18 August 2010 - 10:37 PM.

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#6 needimprovement

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 08:31 AM

I can't help but feel it's important to ask whether or not you're confusing and hybridizing the seculr philosophical concept of Materialism with the absolutely distinct socio-economic sort of materialism related to economic consumerism... or if you're JUST talking about the latter, in which case, why are you bringing it up in relation to secularism?

I brought this up because in a pluralistic society we are often confronted with conflicting moral values. A possible source of morality is made an actual source of morality by our believing in it. Such things as friends and our emotions should be among our sources of morality. We must, however, not let ourselves be guided by them in a way that undermines our own convictions. A Catholic Christian forms his or her morality basically on the teachings of Jesus as made known by the gospels and the Church. The teachings of Jesus also prompt the Catholic to withdraw from or counteract all activities that attack the true dignity of man as a child of God. Secularism, materialism, and pragmatism create an atmosphere in which it is often difficult to live up to the Christin ideals. Only by being true to Christ can we be true to ourselves and to others.
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#7 AzurePhoenix

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 12:36 AM

My question stands; are you confusedly hybridizing philosophical Materialism with materialistic consumerism, as your strange description of Materialism in the opening post indicates, or are you just talking about a warped interpretation of the latter?

Only by being true to Christ can we be true to ourselves and to others.

So have you changed your mind and abandoned your belief in being open-minded, or did you just never mean it in the first place? Or are you just too spectacularly dense to comprehend the hypocrisy? -_-
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To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And, at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some things I can't remember, all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.
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#8 Marat

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 01:42 AM

A materialist in the broad sense suggested in the OP could be a person who adopts a positivistic view of the world, which requires that everything believed in either have direct empirical proof for its existence, be required as a necessary implication of the existence of something else grounded in direct empirical evidence, or be a value whose derivation can be traced to rational human interests which can be justified rather than merely accepted on faith. Such a 'materialist' would then not necessarily be a 'materialist' in the sense of valuing only money and trinkets, since he could also have a deep and abiding respect for the moral principles which ensure that everyone in a human community is treated with equal concern and respect.

I would submit that a person who believes that all value is derived from the assumed existence of some supernatural being and from what that being requires of us is himself a materialist in the first sense. This is because instead of respecting moral values because he understands their importance in preserving the dignity of real humans around him, he lets the purported existence of some given thing, a deity, impose all his beliefs on him. Worshipping this thing, making it the font of all value, simply for its actual existence rather than because the values it endorses make rational moral sense, is materialistic, since the whole value system would disappear were it not for the reality of this object. The atheist, in contrast, believes in his morality because of its own intrinsic value, not needing some object outside of it to support it, so he is less materialistic than the theist.
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#9 padren

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 01:48 AM

I brought this up because in a pluralistic society we are often confronted with conflicting moral values. A possible source of morality is made an actual source of morality by our believing in it. Such things as friends and our emotions should be among our sources of morality. We must, however, not let ourselves be guided by them in a way that undermines our own convictions. A Catholic Christian forms his or her morality basically on the teachings of Jesus as made known by the gospels and the Church. The teachings of Jesus also prompt the Catholic to withdraw from or counteract all activities that attack the true dignity of man as a child of God. Secularism, materialism, and pragmatism create an atmosphere in which it is often difficult to live up to the Christin ideals. Only by being true to Christ can we be true to ourselves and to others.


Out of curiosity, how would you suggest a pluralistic society deal with incompatible moral codes? If a group of Mormons believes it's okay for a 41 yr old man to marry and have children with a 14 yr old girl... most would argue that "attacks the true dignity" of the girl (and a few other things honestly) and the pedo should be arrested. Some religious people believe women shouldn't have the same privileges as men. Some (including many Catholics) believe that women shouldn't even have control of their own reproductive organs.

Secularists say "having sex with children is bad mkay... there is evidence that says it's bad" and yet some Mormons say "it's what God wants and God says it's all good and even a moral duty" so who has the right to do what? What should morality be based on?
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#10 needimprovement

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 06:59 AM

My question stands; are you confusedly hybridizing philosophical Materialism with materialistic consumerism, as your strange description of Materialism in the opening post indicates, or are you just talking about a warped interpretation of the latter?

No, socio-economic is general statement so I cannot comment. Wealth in and of itself, not to mention its possession, isn't per se wrong, presuming you're not vowed to poverty or anything. Not in the slightest.

St Paul says that it is the LOVE of money which is the root of all evil, not merely its possession or use, whether on oneself or on others.

Neither is there anything wrong with spending on your own pleasure and enjoyment, as long as you balance this out with spending a proportionate amount on others.
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#11 AzurePhoenix

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 06:00 PM

Read my words carefully. You are confusing and mixing together two types of materialism in your opening post. Your initial definition of materialism is wrong for BOTH types. Without quibbling over the semantics of wealth to avoid the point, and preferably after youve looked up explanations for both, since you clearly dont have a clue and I'm too disgusted to do it for you (someone's already posted a correction in fact which you've failed to respond to), PLEASE CLARIFY WHICH MATERIALISM DO YOU ACTUALLY MEAN
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To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And, at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some things I can't remember, all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.
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#12 jimmydasaint

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 10:42 PM

I think n-i is following the following definition of materialism per se:

S: (n) materialism, philistinism (a desire for wealth and material possessions with little interest in ethical or spiritual matters)
S: (n) materialism, physicalism ((philosophy) the philosophical theory that matter is the only reality)
WordNet home page


Link

He/She is, de facto, following the meaning that approximates to economic or materialistic consumerism, which I can infer from the O.P.

Moreover, his/her definition of secularism also needs a bit of definition and I think the O.P. refers to the first definition:

1 a : of or relating to the worldly or temporal <secular concerns> b : not overtly or specifically religious <secular music> c : not ecclesiastical or clerical <secular courts> <secular landowners>

2 : not bound by monastic vows or rules; specifically : of, relating to, or forming clergy not belonging to a religious order or congregation <a secular priest>

3 a : occurring once in an age or a century b : existing or continuing through ages or centuries c : of or relating to a long term of indefinite duration <secular inflation>

Link

So n-i's definition of secularism points to a society or way of living which does not need to derive its education or moral character from religion.

I had no idea what pragmatism meant until I read the following definition (no. 2) and I found out that it was a philosophical movement:

1 : a practical approach to problems and affairs <tried to strike a balance between principles and pragmatism>
2 : an American movement in philosophy founded by C. S. Peirce and William James and marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is pre-eminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief


Link

or:

a. the doctrine that the content of a concept consists only in its practical applicability
b. the doctrine that truth consists not in correspondence with the facts but in successful coherence with experience


Link

I think the reason secularism was mentioned as an over-arching theme was that it subsumes the two further concepts of economic consumerism and also pragmatism. This is not my view as a process of deductive reasoning but it may serve to explain why n-i was expressing personal views in that form in the O.P.

Edited by jimmydasaint, 20 August 2010 - 10:43 PM.

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#13 needimprovement

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Posted 21 August 2010 - 10:18 AM

Out of curiosity, how would you suggest a pluralistic society deal with incompatible moral codes? If a group of Mormons believes it's okay for a 41 yr old man to marry and have children with a 14 yr old girl... most would argue that "attacks the true dignity" of the girl (and a few other things honestly) and the pedo should be arrested. Some religious people believe women shouldn't have the same privileges as men. Some (including many Catholics) believe that women shouldn't even have control of their own reproductive organs.

Secularists say "having sex with children is bad mkay... there is evidence that says it's bad" and yet some Mormons say "it's what God wants and God says it's all good and even a moral duty" so who has the right to do what? What should morality be based on?

A pluralistic society is one in which the members of the society are offered more than one norm of moral behavior. Such a situation presents the individual with the problem of not merely trying to do what is right, but of having to decide what is right in the first place. Expressing the same thing in the form of question:

who has the right to do what?
What should morality be based on?
Which source of morality is the right one to follow?

The following incident should help illustrate the nature of the problem.

James is a senior in high school. He wants to go to a party. His mother gives him permission and tells him to have a good time. But just as he is leaving the house, James' father comes downstairs and tells James that he cannot go because of his low grades on his last report card. Jame's mother totally disagrees. She gets angry and tells James to ignore his father and go ahead and leave.


James is faced with the predicament often described as "damned if you do, and damned if you don't". His problem arises from his parents, as two sources of morality, telling him to do two contradictory things at the same time. On a much broader scale, this is the plight of modern day youth who are often besieged with not two but many contradictory answers as to what is the right thing to do in any given situation. It is not as though the proabortionists, for example, came out and said they realized they were wrong, but were pushing abortion all the same. On the contrary, they strongly assert that Catholics are wrong and they are right. It is not hard to see why such a situation is the cause of moral confusion and uncertainty.

The following will hopefully help to further clarify this point. The following positions are held and fostered by different groups in our society today. Each of the position listed is considered to be immoral by the Church.

1. Marriage should be abolished so people could move on to another partner when they wished.
2. A woman should be allowed to have an abortion on demand.
3. We should painlessly kill the very old and the retarded because they are no longer useful to the society.
4. It is a waste of time to go to church. Besides, religion is no more than a superstitious hangover from the past.
5. The only worthwhile goal in life is to amass as much material wealth as possible. Nothing else matter.

The sharp contrast between the Church's teaching and the ideas expressed above is but a small indication of the widely divergent and often contradictory answers given for moral questions. The question that automatically emerges is: "whom are you to believe?" When your faith comes up against the thinking of others, how are you to arrive at the right answer to the problem? Surely the Church is not saying that everyone is wrong except those who follow the Church's way of seeing things. Surely the Church does not ask you not to think for yourself. The picture presented is a confusing one. It seems at times as though everyone were walking on jello, and the only certain thing that can be said about any moral question is that the answer will always be certain. In this day and age, even the simplest statement is followed by a question mark. We appear to have lost our compass in a world that constatly offers to new problems.

The sharp contrast between the Church's teaching and the ideas

Now that we have made clear some of the moral problems that arise from living in a pluralistic society, we can begin by stating a few principles that may help to clarify things.

The first point is that each person and idea with which you come in contact is only a possible source of morality. Nothing is actual source of morality until you internalize it by believing in it. As soon as we believe in someone or something, we let that idea into ourselves and are changed in the process. We see this in a child's growth and development. A child spontaneously believes, that it is internalizes, all that it is taught by its parents. This deep faith in the parents is what makes the parents such as overwhelmingly significant force in a child's life.

But as we grow into adulthood, we should no longer blindly believe everything we are told. We are not meant to be sponges that spontaneously absorb every idea that is presented to us. Rather, we have both the power and the responsibility to judge for ourselves what we will believe or not believe. The following example will illustrate what is being said here. Imagine two students who are studying communism. The first student gains much knowledge about communism but his study in no way directly affects his thinking. The second student, however, actually becomes the source that changes his whole life. So, too, with any other reality of life. They remain only possible sources of morality as long as we do not believe in them. They do not become actual sources of morality until we internalize them in an act of faith. It is one thing to learn about abortion. It is something else to believe in it. One can know about atheism and remain a Catholic. But one cannot believe in atheism and be a Catholic. One of the problems of living in a pluralistic society is that we often internalizes values we see on television and elsewhere without realizing we have done so. Living in a pluralistic society calls for clear thinking and awareness of ourselves.

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me" are the lines of a well-known children's lyric. The statement is true only so long as you do not believe such words. If you begin to believe them or those around you begin to believe them, words can hurt just as babdly as sticks and stones. This same idea is expressed in the words, "The pen is mightier than the sword."

The same holds true with unchristian moral values. They are harmless to te Christian unless the Christian begins to believe in them and acts by them.


The second point to keep in mind is that we must be very careful to distinguish between "the world" and "evil in the world." In other words, we must recognize that the Church has no monopoly on goodness. It is obvious that there is much good in the world, even though it is no way associated with the visible Church. For example, research projects that try to overcome diseases such as cancer, or the CARE or Red Cross programs that help the poor and underdeveloped nations. Being a good Catholic in a pluralistic society does not mean shutting one's eyes to the goodness in the world. On the contrary, a Catholic should be willing and ready to take an active part in all activities that work toward the betterment of mankind.

The third point is that the world is not only a place of goodness but also of evil actions and ideas that lead people away from their dignity as children of God. Here the Catholic must be able to rely on his or her own convictions that flow from faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church.

One well-known thinker once said, "Distinguished in order to unite." That is, just as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle must each be perfectly shaped in order to fit together into a whole, so, too, the different groups in a pluralistic society must each try to be true to their own convictions if they are truly unite and form a living society. Catholics must take their active place in the community by being true to Christ. This cannot be done if Catholics yield to every force in society, so they become invisible by becoming no different from those who are not Christians.
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#14 Edtharan

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Posted 21 August 2010 - 03:17 PM

James is faced with the predicament often described as "damned if you do, and damned if you don't". His problem arises from his parents, as two sources of morality, telling him to do two contradictory things at the same time. On a much broader scale, this is the plight of modern day youth who are often besieged with not two but many contradictory answers as to what is the right thing to do in any given situation. It is not as though the proabortionists, for example, came out and said they realized they were wrong, but were pushing abortion all the same. On the contrary, they strongly assert that Catholics are wrong and they are right. It is not hard to see why such a situation is the cause of moral confusion and uncertainty.

I think this is a bad example, not for the choice of James, but the reaction of the parents. In it the mother gets angry. This anger seems to be a non-sequiter and an irrelevencey to the question of morality. The only resolution for the non-squiter is that there is some background of friction between the mother and father not expressed explicitly in the example.

If there is such a friction, it completely changes the moral question of the example. It no longer comes down to the morality of following one or the other, but of antagonising an already exisint and complex issue of relationships.

But, I gather that was not the question you were after as you are more talking about different choices rather than specifics of relationships. In that case, the question of morality comes down to a choice for James:

1) Do I think I deserve to go out.

2) Should I work to better my future.

This is the real choice presented here. What the parents are offering is these choices (so their anger or lack of ander reall has no relevence on this). What James is presented with here is not a moral choice, but a value choice between short term gains and long term gains.

When James asked permission of his mother he was delegating the responsability for this value choice to her, but this value choice for him is also equally his father's chocie (so when he delegated this choice to his mother he also delegated it to his father too).

As we mature we have to learn to make such value judgements, and this would be one such time that James has to learn and demonstrate to his parents that he is capable of making good judgements. It is in effect a rite of passage for James. If he chooses correctly (ie: shows that he has learned the values his parents taught him) then he is seen as more mature and on his way to becoming an adult, if he chooses incorrectly, then he will not gain this right.

If I was james (and when I was younger I too was in this same position - without the anger), I would let my parents know that I understood that I had to make the value judgment and then make it and explain why I made it (and this is what I did do). By doing so and demonstrating that you are capable of making such choices, you gain respect and acknowledgement from your parents that you are mature and can be trusted to make good choices in your life.

So this is not a moral choice you have presented, but a value judgment between short vs long term values (btw: I chose to stay home and studdy - and for that I was rewarded with the right to make latter choices as to whether I was allowed to go out or stay home).
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#15 Marat

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Posted 21 August 2010 - 03:47 PM

Part of Needimprovement's confusion seems to stem from two sources: First, his assumption that values must arise from beliefs rather than from rational reasons; and second, his assumption that the reasons for values must arise from their support by some underlying and distinct entity on which they depend, rather than from rational arguments based on the support they derive from their relation to other social values on the same level of reality. Reality exists all on one tier, with nothing mysterious underlying it and thus making some things sacred and other things evil for reasons we cannot access. Rather, all reasons are on the surface and pellucid to the intellect, so we value some actions and reject others because we are rationally persuaded by their relation to other values and facts that they are good or bad, not because we obey anything that simply tells us they are good or bad.
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#16 needimprovement

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 02:37 AM

Part of Needimprovement's confusion seems to stem from two sources: First, his assumption that values must arise from beliefs rather than from rational reasons; and second, his assumption that the reasons for values must arise from their support by some underlying and distinct entity on which they depend, rather than from rational arguments based on the support they derive from their relation to other social values on the same level of reality. Reality exists all on one tier, with nothing mysterious underlying it and thus making some things sacred and other things evil for reasons we cannot access. Rather, all reasons are on the surface and pellucid to the intellect, so we value some actions and reject others because we are rationally persuaded by their relation to other values and facts that they are good or bad, not because we obey anything that simply tells us they are good or bad.

There are two possible sources of morality.

1. Friends as a possible source of morality.
It is good and necessary part of friendship that we let our friends affect us by seriously considering their attitudes and opinions. This is especially true in adolescence, when peer relationships play such an important role in growth and development. In order to make an important point, however, we will examine a situation in which a person uses friends as a source of morality in a bad sense. That is, friends are used as the only source of morality. In other words, the person purposely avoids referring to his or her parents, to a priest or counselor as people who could help them make moral decision.

For example, your only two accepted sources of morality are your two friends. (let say that all other possible sources of morality are rejected). Take note of the fact that:

Friend A = gives you a "no" reply to your question because of the sources of morality he or she accepted.
Friend B = it is for the same reason that gives you a "yes" reply.

The above example brings out the point that, although you can and should be open to the judgment of your friends, you at the same time, must know your own convictions. Perhaps your friend has rejected a source of morality which you yourself strongly believe in. For a person to blindly follow the will of another in this way is not that person's friend but rather a mindless puppet. True friendship always respect differences, and helps each partner to feel more secure with his or her own convictions. Jesus' warning that if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch is easily applied in turning solely to friends as your source of morality.

2. Emotions as a possible source of morality.

Young people also frequently depend on their emotions or feelings in trying to make a moral decision. With regard to the emotions, two extremes are to be avoided:

First, we must avoid a stoic denial of the emotions as though cold, hard logic was the only worthwhile measuring stick of life's decision. We are not computers, nor are moral decisions made in an abstract vacuum. Feelings of love, sympathy or concern are often powerful forces to move us to good actions.

The second extreme is to conclude an action is morally right simply because it feels right. The first extreme is wrong because it isn't human enough. This second extreme is wrong because it isn't realistic. It fails to take into account the mysterious and often irrational force with which our emotions can express themselves.

Our feelings can be compared to clouds overhead: They may be bright and cherry, or dark and foreboding. They are real part of our world, yet you would not want to try to ride home on one. Ignoring our feelings can make us inhuman, yet letting ourselves be led by our feelings alone is like trying to walk on smoke. In short, we must both master and respect our feelings at the same time. They may often indicate what is the right thing to do, but they must never be our only guide in the face of serious moral questions.

If you should happen to wake up tomorrow morning feeling sad and depressed, that doesn't mean that life itself is sad and depressing. Your course of action would hopefully not be to go out and shoot yourself, but rather to do something positive to get back in a good mood. The same with moral problems: Simply because you feel a certain act is right does not mean it is actually right. You will hopefully try to find out if your feelings are valid or not.

I think this is a bad example, not for the choice of James, but the reaction of the parents. In it the mother gets angry. This anger seems to be a non-sequiter and an irrelevencey to the question of morality. The only resolution for the non-squiter is that there is some background of friction between the mother and father not expressed explicitly in the example.

If there is such a friction, it completely changes the moral question of the example. It no longer comes down to the morality of following one or the other, but of antagonising an already exisint and complex issue of relationships.

But, I gather that was not the question you were after as you are more talking about different choices rather than specifics of relationships. In that case, the question of morality comes down to a choice for James:

1) Do I think I deserve to go out.

2) Should I work to better my future.

This is the real choice presented here. What the parents are offering is these choices (so their anger or lack of ander reall has no relevence on this). What James is presented with here is not a moral choice, but a value choice between short term gains and long term gains.

When James asked permission of his mother he was delegating the responsability for this value choice to her, but this value choice for him is also equally his father's chocie (so when he delegated this choice to his mother he also delegated it to his father too).

As we mature we have to learn to make such value judgements, and this would be one such time that James has to learn and demonstrate to his parents that he is capable of making good judgements. It is in effect a rite of passage for James. If he chooses correctly (ie: shows that he has learned the values his parents taught him) then he is seen as more mature and on his way to becoming an adult, if he chooses incorrectly, then he will not gain this right.

If I was james (and when I was younger I too was in this same position - without the anger), I would let my parents know that I understood that I had to make the value judgment and then make it and explain why I made it (and this is what I did do). By doing so and demonstrating that you are capable of making such choices, you gain respect and acknowledgement from your parents that you are mature and can be trusted to make good choices in your life.

So this is not a moral choice you have presented, but a value judgment between short vs long term values (btw: I chose to stay home and studdy - and for that I was rewarded with the right to make latter choices as to whether I was allowed to go out or stay home).

We can begin by pointing out that the totally uncommitted person in a pluralistic society appears to have a certain kind of freedom in being able to choose any set of moral values he or she wishes. Many people today choose so as to be able to do as they please.

Speaking in terms of "Law and Freedom", we would say that the uncommitted person possesses an external freedom but can never have inner freedom as long as he or she refuses to commit himself or herself to another. Inner freedom, to be all we can possibly be, comes only in the commitment of a love relationship. In love we become set free from sterile isolation and self-centeredness. At the same time, however, we are bound and committed to the loved one who has set us free. This commitment to the will of a loved one makes the loved one an important source of morality in our lives. Hurting or in any way offending the loved one is immediately seen to be wrong and in some sense, immoral. A Catholic certainly should be someone who has found some degree of inner freedom in his or her love relationship with Jesus Christ in the community that is the Church.

Furthermore, a Catholic Christian's relationship to Jesus is not simply a relationship among others. Rather, it is unique, and for this reason fidelity to the will of Christ is also unique. It transcends the fidelity of a disciple to a great moral teacher, or the fidelity proper to deep friendship.

The uniqeuness of a Christian's relationship to Jesus consists in the following truths of our faith:

1. God created us from nothing in an act of infinite love. All that we are and have we owe to him. We are related to God as children to a Father.

2. The mystery of sin is that we have fallen away from a true relationship with God. We have become, in a sense, wounded and unable to heal ourselves.

3. God sent his only Son who healed us in his death on the cross. We are related to Jesus as the sick are to the physician who heals the.

4. Through belief in Jesus we gain access to the power of his resurrection, so that we too can share in his victory over death and Sin.

5. It is not enough simply to believe in Jesus. We must then live out that faith in our daily actions. This daily fidelity to Jesus in a day-to-day life is the root reality of Christian morality. Jesus once said that, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Being moral is, for the Christian, being true to God's love which comes to us in Christ.

Read my words carefully. You are confusing and mixing together two types of materialism in your opening post. Your initial definition of materialism is wrong for BOTH types. Without quibbling over the semantics of wealth to avoid the point, and preferably after youve looked up explanations for both, since you clearly dont have a clue and I'm too disgusted to do it for you (someone's already posted a correction in fact which you've failed to respond to), PLEASE CLARIFY WHICH MATERIALISM DO YOU ACTUALLY MEAN

I was saying that we shouldn’t focus on material, Earthly riches but on what really matters. Our time on this Earth is a very tiny speck when compared to all of eternity which we want to spend in the glory of God's presence in Heaven. This is our chance to show God the best that we can do with what we have here. For all of us there are different lessons to learn depending on which Earthly family we got and which country we are in, whether we were blessed with talented hands or intelligence or physical beauty, etc. Money is not how God measures our value and money is not how he shows His love for us.

why are you bringing it up in relation to secularism?

To a certain extent, Christianity does that man has progressed and grown considerably since he emerged from caves. Man is a great builder; he contributes much to the development of the world. Note some of this achievements of man over the past few centuries which would lead a person to conclude that man is indeed incapable of failure.

Science. Our grandparents in their youth, had no televisions or stereos. But who would have belived that in the 1960's man would be walking on the moon? And in our lifetimes there will undoubtedly be colonies of "earthlings" populating space stations and maybe even other planets.

Science has also brought about a communications revolution. Today, we can easily communicate with many people almost anywhere via Internet, or mobile phone. Never in man's history has there been the potential for world unity due in no small measure to our ability to exchange ideas almost instantaneously.

Along with the communications revolution there has been a revolution in transportation. Goods and people are closer to each other than ever in man's history.

A third revolution brought about by scince is a "leisure" revolution. machines, tools, computers, and the like have lessened our work load such thaqt it will not be uncommon for he next generation to work for a maximum of 20 hours a week. With so much free time, people will have opportunity to develop really human live pursuing -if they wish -studies, cuktural and artistic acheivements, and play.

Medicine. Our average life span has doubled in the past 75 years or so due to man's achivements in medicine. He has found a cure for polio, diptheria, and many other killer diseases. He is capable of transplanting body parts to extend his life. We are living better and longer lives due to the painstaking work of our doctors and researchers in the field of medicine.

Social science. We have made strides in this field, too. Man has developed some sophisticated forms of self-rule where individuals have a say in the choice of their leaders and in the development of programs that effect their welfare. Some governments have programs of universal education, health benifits for lll their citizens, social security benifits such as old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.

While admitting these tremendous advances in the above and other fields, Christianity recognizes - on the other hand -certain destructive tendencies in man. We are both builders and destroyers; we are living paradoxes. Evidences of evil and sin in the world are present all around us. Note the following examples:

War. World War 1 was labeled the 'war that would end all wars." Yet 20 years after the completion of that war, the nations of the world were using tremendous scientific know-how for destructive purposes. The United States will not forget the Vietnam War that resulted in internal strife in their country, loss of respect abroad, and widespread economic recession.

Prejudice. We discriminate against people because of color, speech, and Regional differences. Prejudice reached its natural conclusion with Hitler's attempted genocide of the Jewish people in the Second Wold War.

Corruption. Young people are almost cynical about the greed and corruption and lying in top government offices. Daily we read about proce-fixing in big business or bribe-taking by our police forces. Widespread thievery takes the form of income-tax cheating and shoplifting.

Cosmic evil. If the above is not enpugh to convince that "utopian" of man's evil tendencies, he still has no contend with so-called "cosmic evil". Typhoons kill innocent people. Earthquakes destroy men, property and fortunes. Daily, people -through no fault of their own -are born lame, retarded, impoverished, and the like.

Much evil affot in the world results from man's inhumanity to man, his failure to live a constructive kind of life. To the degree that a person is responsible for his/her won evil attitudes and actions, to that degree he/she is sinning. Of course there is much evil in the world for which mankind does not seem directly responsible. For example, natural disasters bring about much human suffering which is not apparent responsibility of human evil. Cosmic calamities are part of the great mystery of evil.

Edited by needimprovement, 26 August 2010 - 12:45 AM.

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#17 Moontanman

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 02:43 AM

A great deal of the evil that is afoot in the world is caused, both directly and indirectly, by religion, a great deal of that evil can be laid at the feet of catholicism. There is no doubt that if you regard natural disasters as evil then they are also the result of god, either through direct action or inaction. To think that god is not responsible for evil is delusional...

Edited by Moontanman, 26 August 2010 - 02:44 AM.

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#18 Edtharan

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 05:00 PM

There are two possible sources of morality.

Nope, there ahve been at least two more proposed already in this discussion that would qulaify:
1) Evolution
2) Group survival.

There is a branch of Maths called Game theory. In this the mathemeticians try to work out the reasoning behind decisions and the optimal decisions to make.

ONe that I think explains a lot of Morality is called: The Ultimatum Game (http://en.wikipedia..../Ultimatum_game).

With this game there are two participents and one of them is given a sum of money they can split between the two players as they like, however, if the second player disagrees with the split, they can reject the offer and neither player gets any money.

Very simple.

If you give it a moment's thought, you might come to the conclusion that any money is better than no money, and so say that player two should always accept an offer greater than 0. But interesting things happen if you play this game with either a group of people, or with repeated offerse between the same players.

Now, when you look at the maths behind this, it actually becomes an advantage to jectect unfair offers (that is close to 50:50 splits) because the other players see that you will cause them to have less money in the long run.

What emerges is that in group situations morality emerges from this situation due to the mathematics involved.

This is direct proof that you do not need God to create morals, but that they can emerge as a result of decisions that have to be made as part of a group.

Again, as with pretty much all my posts, I am not using this as proof against the existance of God, only that your claims that God exists because of these specific arguments do not actually prove the existance of God. Basically I am arguing for the Agnostic position that: The existance of God is undecided.

We can begin by pointing out that the totally uncommitted person in a pluralistic society appears to have a certain kind of freedom in being able to choose any set of moral values he or she wishes. Many people today choose so as to be able to do as they please.

You have to be aware that just because someone has a different set of morals to you, this does not make their choices arbitary. That is, just because someone is uncommitted to a religion does not mean that theya re free to choose "any set of moral values he or she wishes". In fact, the choice is much more constrained that with religion. We are less free to choose our morality than someone how subscribes to a religion is because we ahve to provide evidence for our moralistic choices rather than re-inteerpereting something that has been translated and interpereted an uncounted number of times (that is: the bible).

For instance: The bible clearly states that to kill is one of the greatest sins against God (it is one of the 10 commandments), and yet, GOd will willingly help people kill others (incluiding innocent children).

So where does this leave "morality" based on the bible? Is it ok to kill or not? I don't know it isn't clear.

Because of this lack of clarity, the "morality" of the bible can be anything I want it to be. This would give me much more choice than if I had to justify my morals rationally and logically.

Furthermore, a Catholic Christian's relationship to Jesus is not simply a relationship among others. Rather, it is unique, and for this reason fidelity to the will of Christ is also unique. It transcends the fidelity of a disciple to a great moral teacher, or the fidelity proper to deep friendship.

There is a claim here, but no evidecne. Until you can actually provide evidence that God exists and that Jesus exists in reality then one can not claim that such a relationship is unique. If the entity in question does not ahve to exist in reality, then I cna just as easily have that same kind of special relationship you described with an imaginary friend.

That Imaginary friend could claim that I have to ahve that deep a relationship with them, and I might even feel that deep a relationship with them, but this does not mean that the imaginary friend exists in relaity, or that those feelings have any meaning other than delusion.

And this again is the question: Can you show that the feelings you have for God are more than a delusion? (remember the evidence has to distinguish between the claims that the feelings you have are based on a delusion and that the feelings you ahve are not based on a delusion because God is real - which means that you have to provide evidence that your God is real).
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#19 Mr Skeptic

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 05:58 PM

There are two possible sources of morality.


There's only one possible source of morality -- the values which the individual chooses for themselves.

Now, these choices will be influenced by things -- our evolutionary history as social animals gives most of us a set of inbuilt moral values and both the capability and desire to match the values of society. Of particular interest is mirror neurons, which help us understand others including the ability to feel what they are feeling (empathy). Empathy more or less necessitates a version of the golden rule, since making others feel bad will make you feel bad too. (eg, "love your neighbor a 10th of what you love yourself").

Another aspect is social conformity. To function as a social species, certain sacrifices to individuality are necessary or at least highly desirable. For example, people's vocabulary "naturally" drifts towards the vocabulary of the groups they spend time with. The same is true of values. For example, foods eaten as a baby tend to be preferred as an adult.

Once you know a person's values, you can deduce moral behaviors for those people. For example, if you have two individuals, one of whom likes vanilla and chocolate equally and has empathy (or wants social standing), the other prefers chocolate. Suppose the first individual is in a situation where he is in charge of dividing a chocolate and a vanilla cupcake with the second individual. The correct moral choice is to give the second person the chocolate cupcake. Were the first person not to realize this on his own it would be extremely easy to convince him of it by rational argument based on his values and the values of the second person.

As you can see, the morals are entirely determined from the individual's values, the situation, and reasoning. In many cases there is a conflict between values. In this case, finding the right moral choice will require more detailed knowledge as to which values are most important to the individual.
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