Eighth Round: Atheist's Post
Note: the ">" signifies an earlier post.
For the most part I'm going to abide by your request to focus on your reply here and not the linked "full" reply to my thread. However, there is one part that I cannot in good conscience let stand without rebuttal.
In my previous post I pointed out that you (at this point I was still using the pseudonym "Jane," hence, the feminine pronouns below) had written a "Young Earth" essay that contained numerous false facts and said:
While she may simply have been ignorant when she wrote this essay, even that would show a reckless disregard for the truth (by any academic standards). The information was out there and easily accessible; so if she cared enough about the truth to research her own claims (rather than simply citing the claims of someone else without checking them), she would not have made them.
Ignorance is a reckless disregard for the truth???? Sheesh. Then I suppose your ignorance of the communicatio idiomatum, nestorianism, the hypostatic union, etc., forensic imputation, etc., means that you have a reckless disregard for the truth. Amazing claim on your part. You continue to make illogical statements that are easily refutable.
I'm sorry Matt, but this defense is extremely weak. I have not written papers on communicatio idiomatum, nestorianism, the hypostatic union, etc., etc. with false fact claims. It is not mere ignorance that displays a disregard for truth but writing a paper from a position of authority that makes truth claims of which you are ignorant and which you could easily have corrected with rudimentary research.
This is simple stuff, Matt. And quite frankly, you're too smart not to be able to understand the difference between being ignorant on a subject and writing a paper on a subject in which you are ignorant and in which you make false claims.
If you were in junior high school, such an effort would be deemed poor scholarship. In high school it might only be considered irresponsible. But in the adult world, when you take upon yourself the role of teacher and authority, you cannot casually make false statements and try to retain the high ground by claiming you just didn't know any better . . . especially when the knowledge needed to correct those facts is so easily found.
Is this the sort of behavior your objective moral code leads to?
As this appears to be the final post of this debate, I would like to begin by thanking Matt for engaging in this discussion and for hosting CARM. Although I unfortunately no longer feel welcome on CARM or able to post here after this debate ends, I have enjoyed my years as part of CARM’s community greatly, and have learned a great deal here--about Christianity, about myself, and about how to structure an effective argument. Our differences aside, thank you for making that possible.
Since this is the end of the debate, I will try to sum up the main points as I understand them, and why I don’t feel you have made your case.
Does atheism lead to negative moral behavior?
If I understand you correctly, one of your central assertions is that atheism has moral consequences, i.e. the moral behavior of atheists is worsened by their lack of belief in God. As discussed, I believe you have failed to make this point for three reasons: you have looked at a narrow set of data, you have failed to demonstrate any comparative difference between atheists and theists, and you have ignored contrary data. Let’s take these points in turn.
Narrow set of data and contrary data. You said, in your last post, “I did not look at a very narrow set of data. I looked at a broad spectrum of atheist behavior and extracted out of that broad spectrum, examples represented about the whole. Come on, you know where the aarm (atheist board) is. Go there and read through the posts of the atheists and take note of the vulgarities, insults, gossip, slander, etc. there is so prevalent there. It would be such an easy task to go there and extracted examples of atheist behavior based upon atheistic principles.”
But this is precisely what I’m talking about. You are picking and choosing the data that supports your point, you are ignoring contrary data. There are plenty of respectful exchanges on CARM (and AARM, for that matter, although I am barely familiar with that board) between theists and atheists, as well as atheists who don’t fit the pattern you pain. More significantly, you seem determined to look at a fairly trivial transgression--rules violations on a bulletin board--when there are more substantive moral issues you could be addressing, either by reference to quantitative studies or by the anecdotes you seem to prefer. Let me refer you to an example--described by a Christian who responded to your recent diatribe against atheists:
Just part of that post: I'm not a regular on the ATH board, but over the years, "the atheists" here (not all of them, to be truthful, but if you can lump them all together, so can I) were among the first to p.m. or e-mail me with words of encouragement and helpful advice when I sustained a serious injury in a bus accident in Boston in 2001, when I returned after being hospitalized for a week in early 2002, then immediately afterward, when I lost my job. . . even when the "stoopid, stoopid fire ant" bit me in the toe and I almost died.
A CARM atheist in my area offered to drive to the hospital to donate blood when I had abdominal surgery in mid-2002. (Fortunately, it wasn't necessary, but the offer was greatly appreciated.) Another atheist offered to take me to a favorite health food store to choose products for a friend's six-year-old son. (I had posted about his life-threatening illness, and that he cannot tolerate the foods most children his age love.) Another e-mailed me carefully selected, meticulously transcribed, "kid-tempting" recipes for that "anonymous" child, based on the food restrictions I had posted. Both of them have followed up with inquiries about and concerns for his health (which is still seriously compromised).
What's your definition of love and compassion? I'd say offering encouragement, time, and one's own BLOOD for a stranger is pretty high up on the list.
Which do you think is a better indicator of moral character, Matt? Whether a person obeys the rules of CARM or whether one offers real-life love and support to a relative stranger?
Lack of comparison between atheists and theists. In your last post you said, “Furthermore, when you say that I have an inability to follow an argument, you're making an unfounded assertion.” Unfortunately it is not an unfounded assertion--it is a simple fact that I have demonstrated previously and will clarify here.
You have repeatedly asserted that any discussion of Christian behavior is off-topic because the subject is atheism and morality. By this logic, one could seemingly demonstrate that not smoking leads to lung cancer. After all, it’s not hard to find individuals who don’t smoke and who also have lung cancer. And if someone tried to compare the incidence of lung cancer between smokers and non-smokers, one would simply say (if I may borrow your own words), “Here is an example of your lack of logical prowess. Whether or not smokers have lung cancer has no bearing on the lung cancer of the non-smokers. The non-smokers themselves who have lung cancer are the topic of this immediate discussion. If others who are smokers have cancer or don’t have cancer has no bearing on the non-smokers having cancer. You are not staying on topic.”
It’s simple stuff. If you want to argue that X leads to outcome Y, a fundamental step must be to show that Y is more prevalent when X than when ~X. Thus, even if the topic is X, ~X is by definition relevent to the discussion. This is true whether X is smoking and Y is cancer or X is atheism and Y is immoral behavior. That you call it a red herring indicates either that you have no answer or that you simply don’t understand how causal connections work.
Do atheists actively disbelieve in God?
Another fundamental assertion on your part is that atheists don’t merely lack belief in God but actively disbelieve, i.e. they believe that no God or gods exist. In fact, you state, “I believe it is an active choice that they make. I believe atheists actively choose to not believe in God.”
Originally you asserted that this was demonstrated by atheists’ behavior. Since actions follow from beliefs rather than from non-beliefs, it was, you argued, correct to assume that atheists have an active belief in the non-existence of God, rather than “passive” lack of belief in God.
After getting over some confusion on my part over what you consider a belief (i.e. you are talking about all beliefs rather than merely belief in what does or doesn’t exist), we have established that there are many beliefs that could explain why atheists come to CARM, including a belief that they will enjoy the discussions, a belief that the world is better if atheists and theists understand each other, etc.
So where does that leave us? I believe I’ve shown convincingly that someone who simply lacks belief as we’ve defined it (i.e. due to perceived lack of evidence) could still be drawn to CARM for reasons stemming from other beliefs, such as those above. In your most recent post you said, “it can be many reasons why the atheists are on the carm discussion board. But the fact is, it is a board title "Atheism" and the atheists are there. It is fair to conclude that they are there because they are atheists. Since atheists disbelieve in God, I conclude that they are there because they disbelieve in God. Furthermore, I also believe that atheists may have many sub reasons why they are here. Perhaps they want to explain atheism better. If that is the case, since they disbelieve in God and they are on the atheist board, I'm concluding they are here because they are atheists.”
It seems that me that you are conceding the point--or at least conceding the evidence. You agree that these other reasons are both plausible and valid. You have offered no evidence to support the claim that atheists who say they lack belief actually believe in the non-existence of any gods, let alone that they are making an active choice to disbelieve. Thus, there seems to be no reason not to take the many atheists at their word when they describe their own beliefs. And yet you do not. You insist that atheists still actively disbelieve in God and choose to disbelieve.
It seems that the basis for your belief is not empirical evidence (since you’ve basically conceded the point) but Biblical. You conclude with the assertion that I am an enemy of God and the only support you offer is Biblical. Now, I accept that you believe Biblical support to be sufficient. But I hope you’ll agree that it is more or less impossible to have a discussion over a point where the support is Biblical given that I am an atheist.
Are atheists less trustworthy than theists?
Chad7: And, as noted, I do not consider breaking rules on a discussion board to be of great moral importance. I would, for example, rank it as less important than publishing an allegedly scientific essay with false facts from a position of authority.
Matt7: of course you don't. I do. Your subjective moral system places little value on something that does not suit you.
This is, of course, yet another example of you making a baseless assertion that ignores what I’ve said about my moral code. Just to be clear, my moral system quite often places great value on things that are inconvenient for me. I am constrained from lying for my own gain, from stealing, from having an affair. When I was a securities analyst, I was pressured by my firm’s Corporate Finance Director, Head of Sales and senior management from the home office in London, to write a flattering report on a client of ours that was in difficulties. I refused--costing myself considerable bonus money and very nearly my job.
In simple terms, your caricature of moral subjectivism, in which values are meaningless and morals are changed on a whim to suit one’s current wishes, is just that--a caricature. I don’t know a single person who fits your description, and that you continue to repeat it this far into the discussion only supports my assertion that you are ignoring (whether willfully or simply out of blindness due to your preconceptions) what I’ve written and repeating your original assumptions over and over.
It does happen that on the scale of things that I consider dishonest--breaking the rules of a discussion board isn’t the most heinous crime imaginable. But this brings us back to the threads that eventually led to this debate and to a point I made there. I’ve been unable to find the thread, so I’m paraphrasing you from memory (forgive any innacuracy); but you said that while you did trust some atheists, you would be less likely to trust someone who believed morals to be subjective rather than someone who held to an objective standard. My reply was that regardless of what a person claims, you must be guided by his or her actions, i.e., their track record, in deciding whether that person is trustworthy. A person may state that they hold to a particular moral standard when in fact they do not, or they may hold to a moral standard that should lead to trustworthy behavior but doesn’t due to character issues or some competing values.
This, then, brings us to a challenge you made to me to prove that I’m not a liar. It starts with our exchange over the “Christian and prominent CARMite” who described your initial approach as a deliberate attempt to create division.
Chad7: Your claim that your post was not intentionally divisive and inflammatory is simply not credible. You said that you came to "rattle cages". More importantly, when your post created "division and flames" you said that you got exactly the reaction you expected. If an action causes effect X and the person who made the action and observed the effect says that he got exactly what he expected, it is unavoidable that he is saying he meant to cause X.
Matt7: Okay. It doesn't matter what I claim. You subjective system of moral application. So even if I tell you the truth, it doesn't matter. Sure, I like to rattle atheist cages periodically. What's the problem with that? Just because a post creates division and flames does not mean that the post is wrong. Truth has a way of causing division. Furthermore, to get the reaction I expect does not mean that post is intentionally divisive. If I expect atheists to behave badly and I post something that is true and they act badly, that is not my fault. It is likely creating a discussion board for atheism and knowing full well that the atheists will come in and then act badly. Is it my fault that they do that? Of course not. My actions did not cause the atheists actions. They cause their own. And in their unfairness and in their hypocrisy, they like to twist whatever they can in order to make anyone else look bad . . . except themselves.
(Side interjection: You claim that your post is not divisive on the grounds that you did not force the angry responses it generated even though you expected them. By this logic, there is no such thing as a divisive post since the anger a post generates is always the responsibility of the readers rather than the author.)
Chad7: In other words, no one is trying to read your mind, Matt. We are taking you at your word.
Matt7: Then prove yourself to not be a liar. Believe me when I tell you it was not to cause division. Those are my words.
And now we have the problem. Once upon a time I would have taken you at your word--I generally trust people unless I have reason not to although of course there are degrees of trust. If you did something that seemed designed to insult or flame but told me it was not your intent, I would take you at your word.
Unfortunately, I can no longer do so. It’s not just that you are contradicting yourself--saying things that clearly indicate you did intend to create division and then claiming that you didn’t. That I could simply accept and take your word over appearances although I would probably remain skeptical. The problem is that you have eroded your own credibility beyond the point where it makes sense to trust what you say is true.
You have made great hay over rule violations of atheists and hold this up as a clear sign that they are untrustworthy. Fair enough--we all have to make judgments as to whether we can trust people. Now let me share some things that indicate untrustworthiness to me--on a far greater scale than violating the rules of a discussion board--so you will understand why I can no longer take you at your word, and why I believe your own actions proclaim the weakness of your case. (Anyone who would rather not read this section, please do a search for the words “moral subjectivism,” and it will take you to my conclusion on the main points and current standing of the debate).
Of course, you may write this all off as an ad-hom attack, or you may even claim it is a violation of CARM rules. But I submit that I am doing nothing more than you have--quoting individuals (in this case you), indicating actions and drawing conclusions about integrity from those actions.
You have explicitly called the people in your list “liars and not to be trusted.” Let us now see examine the behavior of one who claims he is incapable of lying and who claims that his objective moral standards offer a reliable source of trustworthiness.
If you promise to do something and then don’t, that indicates low trustworthiness.
This is, after all, the crux of your argument that rule violations mean that atheists are liars. So what am I to think about you removing two long posts (both in-depth responses to essays you’d written about atheism) from CARM with the promise that you were going to respond to each of them when, of course, you never did? That, by the way, was when I learned that if I was writing a long post in response to one of yours, it was worth writing it as a separate document, so that it wouldn’t get “lost."
Complaining loudly about double-standards while blatantly practicing them demonstrates low integrity.
One of your other big complaints about atheists is that we have a double standard as evidenced by your (unsupported) claim that atheists never alert on each other but alert on Christians. By this, one could be forgiven for assuming that you think it’s wrong to limit one’s attacks to people on “the other side”. And yet at the same time, you are calling one group of people (atheists) “liars and not to be trusted” because they violate the rules while saying nothing about Christians who do so. Where is your indignation over folks like Undead and J.Sloan who have repeatedly, openly, and deliberately violated the rules by coming back under new names when banned? Sloan has publicly stated that every time he has been banned, it was deliberate on his part--that is, he has deliberately chosen over and over again to break the rules and then to break them again by returning under a new name. I’m sure, of course, that you are outraged by this and will be contacting him immediately to make it known that you consider him a liar and not to be trusted.
Of course, your double-standards aren’t limited to whom you condemn. They are also easily seen in what you consider to be a violation of CARM rules. Consider the following statements:
"You're exposing your prejudices, inconsistency, and lack of ability to read properly."
“Do better by reading and learning.”
"Is English your second, third, or fourth language?"
All three statements mock the understanding of the person they are responding to. According to you, the third statement is such a clear rules violation that it merits being part of your list of infamous atheist rule violations and stands as evidence that its author is a liar and untrustworthy. And yet the first two are perfectly acceptable. The only substantive difference I can see is that the third one was an atheist mocking a Christian whereas in the first two you were mocking someone.
Another double-standard has surfaced recently. Apparently it is now CARM policy (or close to it) that if you personally judge another person to be an unbeliever because he or she doesn’t share your doctrinal beliefs, you will then deem the use of “Jesus” in his or her name to be a deliberate mockery of God. Thus, WimpforJesus has been told that his name is a rules violation while, for example, FoolforChrist is not. Moreover, you have asserted that he is a spy--a clear character attack. Once again, the irony of hearing mind-reading complaints from someone who feels personally qualified to name someone an unbeliever and a spy over doctrinal differences, and thus conclude that said person is deliberately mocking God, is rather shocking.
To write an essay from a position of authority (i.e. knowing that non-experts will believe what one is writing is reliable because of their trust in one’s person and/or position) when one does not know what one is talking about shows a disregard for the truth and indicates untrustworthiness.
You did this. You know full-well that many Christians will believe the claims you make because of who you are, whether those claims are Biblical references or secular facts. You knew (or certainly should have) when you wrote that young-earth essay that a non-expert would assume that you had done the research needed to check your claims, and would thus conclude that your claims were reliable. You also knew, or certainly should have, that you had not done that research and that your claims were thus unreliable.
When a person has been caught in a moral lapse, a dishonest diversion and counter-attack (rather than admission of the lapse), is an indicator of low integrity and trustworthiness.
When I highlighted the fact that you had written blatantly false claims in the essay mentioned above and said that you may simply have been ignorant but that writing the essay from knowing ignorance still showed a reckless disregard for the truth, you completely distorted my point and launched a counter-attack:
Ignorance is a reckless disregard for the truth???? Sheesh. Then I suppose your ignorance of the communicatio idiomatum, nestorianism, the hypostatic union, etc., forensic imputation, etc., means that you have a reckless disregard for the truth. Amazing claim on your part. You continue to make illogical statements that are easily refutable.
The distortion is clear. Writing from authority about a subject in which one is ignorant is changed to ignorance alone, allowing you to avoid acknowledging what you had done and to launch a counter-attack on your straw man.
It is dishonest to state or clearly imply something that one knows to be false.
I invite you and any CARMites reading this debate to recall the following paragraph (which is about the “alleged” Christian/“prominent CARMite” who wrote the paragraph I quoted some chapters back, critical of Matt’s approach to ATH):
Matt7: well, I don't know the person is or is not a Christian. You are the one who stated it. Furthermore, what qualifies you to be able to tell who is and is not a Christian? Second, I only have your word to take on this. Since your morality is based on subjective at it, why should I believe you that you ever received an e-mail? You have not told me who is so that I might verify. How to why know that your subjective morality has not led you to manufacture an e-mail in order to substantiate your position?
Does anyone reading this doubt that Matt is stating that he doesn’t know who the author of the paragraph is, or if he even exists? Matt doesn’t merely imply it--he states, “I only have your word to take on this,” asks why he should believe that I ever received the paragraph, and that he can’t verify who it was since I haven’t told him. (Tellingly, Matt even refers to an email, although I never said how I received the paragraph in question.)
Of course, Matt, you do know who wrote that paragraph. You know because he told you he wrote it and he did so before you wrote your first response to that post. You may judge him as a non-Christian, but your ability to pretend that you have no idea who he is indicates low trustworthiness on your part.
It is dishonest to bear false witness against another person, or to make an accusation against a person without sufficient evidence.
In your October newsletter you discuss the recent conflict with CARM’s atheists and say, “We found out that a couple of moderators who disagreed with me actually started feeding the atheists information from private conversations that only the moderators and I have access to.”
Considering that only two moderators are known to have disagreed with you and those two have lost their moderator status, I hope you will not accuse me of mind-reading if I say it’s clear which people you’re talking about. Now, of course I can’t know all the evidence that you have to hand, but I do know the following things:
1. Neither moderator was my source for the EVAN post that I cited.
2. Neither moderator admitted to sharing any such information. You demanded of them (and all the mods) an oath that they had not shared any information with the atheists. One refused your demand that he take an oath regarding his personal communications, saying it was inappropriate for you to go fishing any time you thought there might be a leak, and the other took the oath even though he resigned as a mod.
3. Neither moderator has been presented with any evidence against him.
4. When Diane was challenged on the assertion that former mods were sharing information in a thread on ATH, she cited as evidence the statement by the mod that he would not take the oath and considered it inappropriate. She posted (under the subject “Oh really!”):
"I will not make such an oath. Any conversations that I have
privately, CARM-related or not, are, frankly, none of the business
of CARM administration. "
If the best “evidence” CARM has to offer is a refusal by one mod to take an oath, it suggests there is no credible evidence whatsoever.
5. Having spoken with many atheists, I can find none who back up your accusation--i.e., not one cites the two mods as a source of any private information.
Given all this, why should I or anyone else conclude that your accusation is true, rather than bluster and libel?
When someone consistently distorts what I write, even to the point of saying that I’ve said things when I’ve said precisely the opposite, it causes me to question their integrity and trustworthiness.
We’ve already looked at two examples above--one regarding the young-earth essay and one regarding my moral system in which you said that it places little value on something that does not suit me, despite my having given you at least one clear counter-example. I’ll limit myself to just a few more to make the point clearly.
I wrote (in Chad6):
Now I don’t have access to your records of alerts. What I do have, however, is a knack for noticing patterns. One of yours is that when you believe the facts are on your side you list them in great detail (as above, with the quotes from atheists). When you are short on supporting facts, you tend to make sweeping statements but leave any references out (as with your semi-regular claims on EVO that ID “cometh” or “has great power” without any follow-ups on just what is comething or what that power is).
With that pattern in mind, I’m betting that the alerts don’t back up your assertion. My challenge to you is simple. Take the alerts from when you took off the moderators (September 18) until October 1 (which is when I think you first made the assertion publically) and break them down into the following groups:
Atheist alerts regarding you.
Christian alerts regarding you.
Atheist alerts regarding other Christians.
Atheist alerts regarding other atheists.
Christian alerts regarding other Christians.
Christian alerts regarding other atheists.
Other uses of the alert system.
Let’s see if the data backs up your claim, in the opinion of the community.
Matt6: Regarding a pattern you claim to see. In this debate on atheism and morality, you offer your subjective observation about a pattern. Interesting. Regarding the ID issue, what does that have to do with the debate topic?
So far, just a non-answer. I replied:
Chad7: What is interesting is that you seem to think that repeating the word "subjective" back at me is some sort of rebuttal to anything. I made a challenge. That you are unwilling to accept it suggests that I'm right.
Your response was:
Matt7: . . . suggests you're right about what? That morality for you as an atheist is not subjective? That it is not interpretable? That you don't have the "right" to be able to apply a moral system that you invent to whatever situation you see at the time to be sufficient?
The distortion is clear. I stated the reasons for my challenge (a noticed pattern of your behavior), what I wanted to look at (a breakdown of alerts as noted above) and what I expected to see. The beauty of a written debate is that you can easily see what I wrote so there is no serious question as to what I’m referring to when I say, “That you are unwilling to accept it (the challenge) suggests that I’m right.” Instead you act as though I’d never specified what I was talking about.
Of course, this evasion makes me even more confident that you know what the results would be and that they would run counter to your claims.
Next, in responding to your assertion that atheists are free to change their moral code to suit their present needs, I said that my moral code was based on my moral values and that:
Chad5: My values do grow and change modestly over long periods of time, but I cannot suddenly decide to change them. Example: Not long ago, I spent the night at the house of an attractive friend while in California. She is single and quite interested in me. Specifically, if I wanted to have sex with her, she would be very willing. According to your logic, I should be able to "turn off" the value I place on fidelity to my wife, honesty, and my wife's happiness (which would be put at risk if I were to cheat since she might find out) and have an affair.I could not and cannot . . . and the idea that I should be able to do so because my values are subjective shows a severe lack of understanding of what "subjective" means. (It does not mean "weak and flimsy".)
Look at your reply:
Matt5: All you're telling me is that in your subjective morality, you have chosen to be faithful to your wife. But, I noticed that your risk of being caught was a factor.
Not only do you ignore the whole point about values not being easy to change, you twisted the moral concern that my wife could be hurt if she found out about an affair into a selfish fear that I might be caught. (Later, of course, you would ignore this example altogether in order to repeat your assertion that my moral system doesn’t put much value on things that don’t suit me.)
Naturally the claim that you have distorted what I’ve written is vulnerable to the “mind-reading” protest. It is impossible to know with certainty whether a misrepresentation is deliberate or accidental. But the pattern here is of misrepresentation that is regular, large in magnitude and exceedingly clear in differences between what was said by me and reportedly said by you. On its own I might put it down to misunderstandings, but it also fits with a pattern of deliberate obfuscation.
Moreover, the pattern continues elsewhere. You state now that you didn’t intend to create division at all, but earlier you explained your actions by saying it was impossible to cause division between Christians and atheists because we aren’t unified to begin with. You declare yourself the winner in our debate but then tell me that you have no intention of declaring yourself the winner because that wouldn’t be fair.
You said, in response to my paragraph explaining how I have not acted like an enemy of CARM or of Christianity, “In this one paragraph, you've altered my opinion of you. I have more respect for you now and perhaps I have had an opinion of your character, that not only was I unaware of, but I find that I must alter. If what you have said is true, I applaud you. In fact, I would prefer to dialogue with you as a friend than as an atheist.”
Of course, that was the same day during which you launched an anti-atheist diatribe proclaiming, “I have seen nothing in the any of the atheists the shows me any aspect of love and compassion on their parts. I've seen nothing in any of them except for desire to rebel against God.”
It’s just another blatant contradiction . . . never mind the insult to one particular atheist who has shown you and your family love and compassion, as well as directly supporting your ministry. And these posts were written on the very same day!
There are also numerous exchanges like this:
Matt6: You impose upon God the moral judgment that he cannot impose his morality upon you.
Chad7: Just to be clear, I do not do this. See below.
Matt7: I know you don't.
If you know I don’t, why did you assert that I do? And why did you repeat the assertion later on in the same post in which you said you know I don’t? Why do you say, over and over again, that I do X, that I believe X or that I have conceded X when even a cursury reading shows the opposite to be true?
Ultimately, you have shown yourself, in my subjective opinion of course, to be incredible and untrustworthy. You will, based on history, most likely dismiss this claiming that I have no logical basis to make such a judgment. So be it. I’m simply explaining why I don’t trust you . . . if under your “objective” moral code it’s all right to do the things I’ve listed here, all I can say is I’m glad I don’t share it.
Bluntly, your own behavior has completely undermined your case--your alleged belief in objective morals has yielded a track record of behavior I for one would be ashamed of, and seems furthermore to have made you impervious to recognizing your lapses and repenting.
The remaining points of moral subjectivism.
The one thing it seems that you and I agree on is that this debate is no longer going anywhere. I believe this is because you are unable to see moral subjectivism for what it is. To you, it is flimsy, changes willy-nilly for non-moral reasons according to whim and circumstance. From this, you assert several things:
1. That a person with a subjective moral code can and will change it to suit their convenience.
I believe I have answered this convincingly. My subjective moral code is based on my deepest moral values and those values do not change to suit convenience. I have given examples but the point should be obvious to anyone. Try to turn off your moral belief that life is valuable, or that it’s wrong to rape. You can’t, and neither can I.
The difference between moral objectivists and moral subjectivists is not that one group holds to values that are unchanging while the other group has temporary rules that change with the wind. Both groups hold to core values, core principles. The difference is simply that moral objectivists believe that those values reflect an objective truth of the universe, while moral subjectivists believe they, like all values, exist only in minds. If there is a practical consequence to either viewpoint, you have failed to demonstrate it.
2. That subjective moral codes are inherently unreliable and thus there is little reason to trust someone who holds to a subjective moral system.
For example, you say, “I only have your word to take on this. Since your morality is based on subjective at it, why should I believe you that you ever received an e-mail? You have not told me who is so that I might verify. How to why know that your subjective morality has not led you to manufacture an e-mail in order to substantiate your position?”
The problem with this is obvious--the same question can be asked of someone who (allegedly or not) holds that morals are objective. The question essentially breaks down to, “How do I know what moral principles you hold and how strongly you hold them?”
Either one of us can say that we value honesty quite highly. But either one of us could be lying when we do so. You want to assign special doubt to someone who believes that morals are subjective, but without reason.
Similarly, either one of us could hold the moral axiom, “It is wrong to lie,” and yet still lie. Perhaps our moral strength is not great, and we commit moral lapses when our other wants conflict with them? You claim you’re incapable of lying, but how do I know that that isn’t a lie? How do I know, for example, that you deleted my addendum by accident? I’ve given you the benefit of the doubt, but how do I know that you didn’t do it because you feared that if other Christians saw you admit to what you’d done they might realize that other claims you make might be similarly unsubstantiated? By deleting it you avoid having to answer it since you’ve already stated that you’ve made your final post. (Not that I think this is what happened; I’m simply pointing out that what you claim about your morality doesn’t necessarily mean much unless your actions back it up.)
In short, the simple assertions a person makes offer us nothing, whether that person believes (or claims to believe) in objective morals or not. In both cases our best recourse is to look at the integrity and trustworthiness a person has shown with his or her actions. I know trustworthy Christians and untrustworthy Christians as well as trustworthy and untrustworthy atheists. I’ve yet to meet an untrustworthy Buddhist, interestingly enough. Perhaps I need to get out more.
3. That a person who acts on their subjective moral code in a way that imposes their values on others is being inconsistent.
Again, I think this has been amply answered. By example, I place a high moral value sentient human life. Why should I not act to protect one person from being killed by another? Why should I not vote for representatives that will make murder a crime?
The answer is simple – there is nothing inconsistent in acting on my moral values, or on the moral codes that I derive from them. And the fact that I believe those values exist in my mind (and thankfully in the minds of most other people) doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly being inconsistent if I act on them. You seem to insist that if my values exist in my mind I should trivialize them to the level of food preferences, but you give no basis for this assertion (other than repetition).
Matt, I hope that you will one day take a fresh look at this question and address these three points, rather than repeating your assertions and logical inventions. If you do, I encourage you to read through his posts before answering them--it may help. In any case, I wish both you and whoever you hold that future discussion with more success as communicating than we’ve been able to have.
And with that, I conclude my final post on CARM*. I would like to thank you, Diane and the rest of the CARM leadership, moderators, volunteers and community for the many things I have learned here over the past years, for the friends I have made, and for the fun I’ve had discussing all sorts of topics. The CARM community has at times infuriated me, made me laugh, caused me to change my opinions, inspired me to pray, and taught me far more than I could summarize here. Thank you all. I regret that I no longer feel able to post here, but current differences notwithstanding I wish you all the best and hope that we will meet again under different circumstances. I will still check my pms from time to time if anyone wishes to contact me.
With best regards,
* The one caveat is that I may return to answer any response from Matt to this post; his last post indicated that he was, reasonably enough, finished with this discussion, so that will probably prove unnecessary.