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Best anti-theistic arguments are metaethical, and implications


MonDie
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I never studied much philosophy, but I have thought about metaethics and religion quite a bit. Evaluating theism seems to require a predictive model of the behavior of the god, and such a model is difficult to fathom since a god is a mind and we tend to consider minds more whimsical than natural forces. This is where metaethics comes in. Ethics is concerned with what is ethical whereas metaethics seems more concerned with why one ought to be ethical. Some metaethicists argue that ethical behavior is rational, that the ethical choice is the objectively better choice in a way that we can grasp rationally. This presents a problem for theism if the god has to be ethical too, for this might imply a different kind of world than ours, e.g. a world without suffering. This argument is particularly easy to mount when the god is assumed to be all-powerful and all-knowing, but it is similarly relevant to others scenarios such as the simulation hypothesis. Incidentally, the ethicist's situation is especially apt for addressing the purported function of theism: to regulate the ethical behavior of humans. This argument does not just bind the god to particular actions, it binds us humans to particular actions too. If ethical behavior is rational, then we can only be unethical through weakness of will or stupidity. If Ethan decides that sadism is rational after all, then he has to acknowledge that there might be a god after all, a sadistic god who knows that sadism is no better or worse than benevolence. As a believer, Ethan may or may not believe that the god will punish his sadism, but Ethan can only return to atheism by rejecting sadism as irrational and striving to overcome his sadistic urges. A rejection of sadism would certainly be implied by any form of ethical hedonism such as the sort of utilitarianism endorsed by Peter Singer. As it turns out, this metaethical theory can be defended as rationally superior to rational egosim, or self-serving behavior, by criticizing the distinction of self vs others. Not having read the book, I am nonetheless aware that Sam Harris describes something similar in his book The Moral Landscape.

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I never studied much philosophy, but I have thought about metaethics and religion quite a bit. Evaluating theism seems to require a predictive model of the behavior of the god, and such a model is difficult to fathom since a god is a mind and we tend to consider minds more whimsical than natural forces. This is where metaethics comes in. Ethics is concerned with what is ethical whereas metaethics seems more concerned with why one ought to be ethical. Some metaethicists argue that ethical behavior is rational, that the ethical choice is the objectively better choice in a way that we can grasp rationally. This presents a problem for theism if the god has to be ethical too, for this might imply a different kind of world than ours, e.g. a world without suffering. This argument is particularly easy to mount when the god is assumed to be all-powerful and all-knowing, but it is similarly relevant to others scenarios such as the simulation hypothesis. Incidentally, the ethicist's situation is especially apt for addressing the purported function of theism: to regulate the ethical behavior of humans. This argument does not just bind the god to particular actions, it binds us humans to particular actions too. If ethical behavior is rational, then we can only be unethical through weakness of will or stupidity. If Ethan decides that sadism is rational after all, then he has to acknowledge that there might be a god after all, a sadistic god who knows that sadism is no better or worse than benevolence. As a believer, Ethan may or may not believe that the god will punish his sadism, but Ethan can only return to atheism by rejecting sadism as irrational and striving to overcome his sadistic urges. A rejection of sadism would certainly be implied by any form of ethical hedonism such as the sort of utilitarianism endorsed by Peter Singer. As it turns out, this metaethical theory can be defended as rationally superior to rational egosim, or self-serving behavior, by criticizing the distinction of self vs others. Not having read the book, I am nonetheless aware that Sam Harris describes something similar in his book The Moral Landscape.

And all that is counted by the terrible and pointless(I swear, if so much as one person quotes me on this saying I'm wrong, I'm gonna freak out.) statement that:

God has his reasons for everything.

So it's hard to argue the ethical standpoint.

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And all that is counted by the terrible and pointless(I swear, if so much as one person quotes me on this saying I'm wrong, I'm gonna freak out.) statement that:

God has his reasons for everything.

So it's hard to argue the ethical standpoint.

 

Any argument that has as little (or as much) soundness as Russell's Teapot can be dismissed without need to say it is wrong - it is not even wrong

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I never studied much philosophy, but I have thought about metaethics and religion quite a bit. Evaluating theism seems to require a predictive model of the behavior of the god, and such a model is difficult to fathom since a god is a mind and we tend to consider minds more whimsical than natural forces. This is where metaethics comes in. Ethics is concerned with what is ethical whereas metaethics seems more concerned with why one ought to be ethical....

 

I would argue with your definition of meta-ethics. Ethics deals with moral principles, the way we live our lives, and the determination, formalization, and promotion of a code which allows us as individuals and communities to flourish. Meta-Ethics is the study of how those codes arise and why the human polity and individual need ethical systems of thought - ie what is morality?

 

Most ethical systems hold within themselves the reasons for adhering to a certain set of life choices guided by an ethos in the ancient Greek usage.

This presents a problem for theism if the god has to be ethical too, for this might imply a different kind of world than ours, e.g. a world without suffering.

 

You are now using ethical in a different sense - a more modern and subtle sense; in the above quote you are using it to mean 'following an enlightened, caring, and wholesome system of ethics' . But that is not what ethical really means in philosophical terms. Ethical means following a system of life choices with an end in mind - it really has little to do with the morality of the decisions. I don't think anyone would argue that the Spartans lacked a compelling ethos - but they might well not be called ethical in the modern usage.

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Your title Best anti-theistic arguments and your first post is too difficult for your average confused theist to get their heads around. It is simpler to ask theists to define what their god is in one or two sentences. Various answers are generally forthcoming. Answer A Jesus is god, answer B God is everywhere etc. Answer A Jesus or Prophet ascended bodily into heaven, therefore Jesus or prophet went of in a space ship is the only logical answer. You then ask would they then worship an Alien from another planet if they landed on earth. Answer B is the god particle scientists sometimes try to uncover.

 

As for your argument ref ethics, it is a nonsense to even engage in a conversation ref ethics with someone who supports religions, which include stories of genocide human and animal sacrifice, separating families and friends who do not believe in the stories etc.

 

Why any one imagines the human race wants religion is a mystery, why religion evolved is fairly simple, it is to control groups of people. God is watching you must have been like security cameras today, if people think they are being watched they don't misbehave.

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I would argue with your definition of meta-ethics. Ethics deals with moral principles, the way we live our lives, and the determination, formalization, and promotion of a code which allows us as individuals and communities to flourish. Meta-Ethics is the study of how those codes arise and why the human polity and individual need ethical systems of thought - ie what is morality?

 

Most ethical systems hold within themselves the reasons for adhering to a certain set of life choices guided by an ethos in the ancient Greek usage.

 

I was not defining metaethics. Metaethics includes but is not limited to rational reasons for favoring impartial motives over self-serving motives, for such contemplations are one possible origin of ethical thought among other possible origins such as the self-serving usefulness of conforming within and benefiting from a cooperating society. I suppose that these two origins would result in separate ethical theories that would conflict at times, leaving the word "ethical" ambiguous in a way that will only become apparent from certain special cases. For the purposes of the opening post, being ethical means having a universal preference for impartial behavior rooted in the rational superiority of impartial decision-making to selfish or instinctual decision-making.

Edited by MonDie
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The posts about Christian intelligence are difficult to follow and not exactly on-topic. There are many of us who fall somewhere inbetween those who are dogmatically, exclusively, either/or religious and those who dismiss anything remotely spiritual-like as if current science = current knowledge = knowledge of everything.

Edited by MonDie
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