Friday, September 26, 2008

The Complicity of Good - Absolutes Fester into Evil

The attempt on the part of believers to claim “absolute knowledge” about anything – the delay of an adoption, God’s opinion of terrorist attacks, whether God ‘created’ evil or not, etc – is arrogant and divisive. Without some external, empirical means of testing and evaluating those absolutist claims, they are no more valuable nor insightful than any other unsourced and unsupported claim.

Religious believers of all stripes have made exactly the same type of assertions as all others, they come to many different conclusions, and attribute their absolute “truth” as the will of their deity (be it Jehovah, Allah, Vishnu, Brahma, Odin, Zeus or any other human-created conception). The only reason Christians think it’s the Christian God is because that is the culture and upbringing they had instilled from childhood.

I have no problem with someone taking comfort in their beliefs, in using their beliefs to provide a means of dealing with uncertainty, sorrow and joy, etc. It is their right to hold whatever beliefs they wish, and I don’t dispute that, nor would I attempt to deny them that right. My issue is with the claims of absoluteness that all believers make – that what they know is “true” based on dreams, imaginings and retellings of ancient parables and fables.

I have a few open-ended questions for believers to answer. At least give them some consideration:

  1. Is it possible that you are wrong? I am asking a serious, introspective question here. I know you claim certainty and truth, but how can you, as a mortal human being, imperfect and finite, possibly know “for sure”? If the possibility exists that you are wrong, however slight, does that in any way alter your feeling of certitude and view of “truth”?
  2. You say that “his spirit lives inside” of you. Could you be misinterpreting it or be deceived by some other spirit or supernatural entity (like Loki the Trickster or Satan)? (Remember, you are not perfect nor all-powerful, you are just another human in this finite world)
  3. If you were born and raised in another part of the world where Christianity is not the dominant religion, do you think would you still be Christian? Why or why not?
  4. Why should anyone accept that your god is more “real” than any other? What evidence can you provide that is UNIQUE and EMPIRICAL that differentiates your chosen deity from all the others?
  5. A Muslim would say the same things to me – that because I don’t believe in Allah, I can’t truly understand the meaning of the Koran and what Allah has “freely given us”. Why is your statement more ‘true’ than a Muslim’s? How can someone who is not part of either belief system choose between them, logically and correctly?
  6. You say “The God I know asks me to love my neighbor as I love myself. My faith is certainly not in the same category as someone whose 'god' is telling them to kill others.” But isn’t that disingenuous – isn’t it true that there are numerous instances described in the Bible where God directly commands individuals, groups and nation-states to kill others? Just because YOU haven’t been told to “kill others”, why do you assume that no one else has been told to by your god?
  7. And to bring it all together – is what God does good because it’s from God, or because it is inherently good? If the former, then God can do evil and still call it good. If the latter, then there is a standard outside and above God that exists to evaluate actions, and God is not supreme. Can you provide any justification or explanation why your conception of God counters this?

Most believers are genuine, honest, caring and kind. I have nothing against them personally. My concerns, as described above, are entirely about getting believers to understand the damage that claiming “absolute truth” can cause.

It’s devotion to “absolute truth” that gave the hijackers of Sept 11th their inspiration.

It’s devotion to “absolute truth” that let the Crusaders slaughter hundreds of thousands of non-Christians.

It’s devotion to “absolute truth” that erased the Middanites (Numbers 31) and Amalekites (Exodus 17:11-16).

It’s devotion to “absolute truth” that the followers of David Koresh, Jim Jones, Charles Manson and other mass murders used to justify their actions.

It’s devotion to “absolute truth” that allows children to die of neglect (

It’s devotion to “absolute truth” that allows mothers to kill their own children (

While I don’t think most believers would commit such heinous and unethical acts, the problem is that there is a complicity in their views because by claiming “absolute truth”, it gives legitimacy and grants clemency to all those others who would take it beyond decency and commit atrocities.

Because reasonable and moderate believers claim the same absolutes, it allows a safe haven and respite for those who aren’t moderate and reasonable to shelter under. And that is where the festering wounds of evil infect and spread – with the unwitting assistance of otherwise good, decent and honorable people.


Anonymous said...

Am I correct in assuming that you are a moral relativist? Are you aware of the damage that position has caused?

If you are not, can you give me a run down on what your objective basis for passing judgments is?

After all, some atheist philosphers have found their values in, for example, struggle and the "Will to Power".

As Nietzsche said, "Elimination of the weak and defective, the first priciple of our philosphy. And we should help them to do it!" (Nietzsche, The AntiChrist, sec. 2)

Ya got a problem with that, sport?

Bertram Cabot, Jr.

Chuck Lunney said...

No, I'm not a 'moral relativist'. I'm a empirical ethicist.

I notice that you didn't address the actual substance of the article, and instead focused on ad hominems and insults. Is there a reason you're so rude and impolite?

As far as an insight into where my ethics come from, read the blog. You should get a pretty good idea of what I think from it.