EricE

Does morality require a god?

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You are asking two questions... one in your subject line and one in your post.

Our sense or morality is defined by what we accept as true.

If we accept that all we have in life is from our birth to our death then our morality will of course be defined in terms that maximize life and living now.

If we accept that we had existence before birth and existence after death then our morality will of course include maximizing this life as well but it will be tempered by what we think we might need to do to secure a good life-after death as well.

As for God... if we accept that he exist then we have accept he has a bigger and even larger picture to frame morality...  If to God this mortal existence is like a dental visit... Generally unpleasant but for our benefit.  Then the idea of God allowing someone that is finished get pulled out of the chair (die) and leave the office (got to heaven) while having others say in the chair (live) for more work is not a big deal.

 

The problem we get is when we try to cross the morality streams without also taking on the accepted foundation.

To someone that doesn't accept continued existence after death has almost by default also rejected the foundation to understand God's morality.

 

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11 hours ago, EricE said:

Many LDS friends have tried to convince me that morality necessarily comes from a god. But is that the case?

Setting aside other religions and gods for the moment, the god of the Book of Mormon doesn't seem like the moral compass I should follow. For example, Alma 14:10-14 describes how god told Alma and Amulek not to save the wives and children of believers from being burned to death so "that the judgements which he shall exercise upon [the offenders] in his wrath may be just..."

It seems to be saying that god is directly displaying a preference for punishing those who harm the innocent, over saving the innocents in the first place. 

Wouldn't the moral action be just the opposite?

The question you ask is more or less a chicken or egg thing.

If we assume that there is a God of the kind that the Judeo-Christian ethic would imply, then we must also assume all good comes from Him.  If so, any truth, any correct morality, any virtue, will come from Him.

If we assume there is no such God, then we must also acknowledge that we all have differing ideas on what "good morality" is.  Therefore, morality, is simply something we grow up with and develop as we live through our learning and life experience.

But notice that I said about God that any "correct morality" comes from Him.  Even if we assume there is a God as I spoke of, we still acknowledge that different people's understanding of truth varies.  And therefore, our own understanding of "correct morality" varies as well.  But that doesn't change the fact that there are some underlying universal principles that are going to be true whether we understand/believe them or not.

Even if the whole world believes the earth is flat, that wont' change the underlying truth that the earth is a sphere.  The flat earthers will continue to point out that as far as we can see, the land is flat.  Does that make it so?

Now, to move onto your comment about Alma & Amulek.  When we see something that God is doing that we believe is unjust or immoral, we can either decide that God is doing something wrong, or we can decide that there is something we're not understanding -- either about God, about the situation that is being depicted, or about what the "true morality" of the decision is.  Either we accuse God or we try to fix the weakness within ourselves.

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24 minutes ago, estradling75 said:

You are asking two questions... one in your subject line and one in your post.

Our sense or morality is defined by what we accept as true.

If we accept that all we have in life is from our birth to our death then our morality will of course be defined in terms that maximize life and living now.

If we accept that we had existence before birth and existence after death then our morality will of course include maximizing this life as well but it will be tempered by what we think we might need to do to secure a good life-after death as well.

As for God... if we accept that he exist then we have accept he has a bigger and even larger picture to frame morality...  If to God this mortal existence is like a dental visit... Generally unpleasant but for our benefit.  Then the idea of God allowing someone that is finished get pulled out of the chair (die) and leave the office (got to heaven) while having others say in the chair (live) for more work is not a big deal.

 

The problem we get is when we try to cross the morality streams without also taking on the accepted foundation.

To someone that doesn't accept continued existence after death has almost by default also rejected the foundation to understand God's morality.

 

I see it as two parts of the same question, but apologies if it wasn't as clear as it needed to be. 

I don't believe that morality is defined by what we accept as true. That's far too broad of a definition and would include "dogs exist" (which is true) as an aspect of morality.

However, in this case I'm questioning whether the god of the Book of Mormon is a moral figure worthy of following. Can you help me better understand your comparison to the dentist's office? I don't think "generally unpleasant" is comparable to allowing your children to burn to death when you have the power to stop it. 

If this were any other being besides a god, we would call such an act "monstrous." Is it different because of who it is? And if so, isn't that by definition Special Pleading?

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20 minutes ago, Carborendum said:

The question you ask is more or less a chicken or egg thing.

If we assume that there is a God of the kind that the Judeo-Christian ethic would imply, then we must also assume all good comes from Him.  If so, any truth, any correct morality, any virtue, will come from Him.

If we assume there is no such God, then we must also acknowledge that we all have differing ideas on what "good morality" is.  Therefore, morality, is simply something we grow up with and develop as we live through our learning and life experience.

But notice that I said about God that any "correct morality" comes from Him.  Even if we assume there is a God as I spoke of, we still acknowledge that different people's understanding of truth varies.  And therefore, our own understanding of "correct morality" varies as well.  But that doesn't change the fact that there are some underlying universal principles that are going to be true whether we understand/believe them or not.

Even if the whole world believes the earth is flat, that wont' change the underlying truth that the earth is a sphere.  The flat earthers will continue to point out that as far as we can see, the land is flat.  Does that make it so?

Now, to move onto your comment about Alma & Amulek.  When we see something that God is doing that we believe is unjust or immoral, we can either decide that God is doing something wrong, or we can decide that there is something we're not understanding -- either about God, about the situation that is being depicted, or about what the "true morality" of the decision is.  Either we accuse God or we try to fix the weakness within ourselves.

Doesn't that leave out the possibility that god, if he exists, does things BECAUSE they are moral?

But regardless, it seems illogical to solve a mystery by appealing to a higher mystery. If this god cared enough about this particular story to include it in the Book of Mormon, then it would seem there is a lesson about his nature he is trying to tell. It would seem the only lessons we can rationally pull would be either that he is immoral for letting women and children burn so that he can justly punish those doing the burning, or that this was actually a moral act to be exemplified. 

How are we to determine which is the correct answer? If the act would be labeled as monstrous if it were committed by a human, do we have a reliable method for determining that it is moral because a god did it?

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6 minutes ago, EricE said:

I see it as two parts of the same question, but apologies if it wasn't as clear as it needed to be. 

I don't believe that morality is defined by what we accept as true. That's far too broad of a definition and would include "dogs exist" (which is true) as an aspect of morality.

However, in this case I'm questioning whether the god of the Book of Mormon is a moral figure worthy of following. Can you help me better understand your comparison to the dentist's office? I don't think "generally unpleasant" is comparable to allowing your children to burn to death when you have the power to stop it. 

If this were any other being besides a god, we would call such an act "monstrous." Is it different because of who it is? And if so, isn't that by definition Special Pleading?

What is morality... other then a standard based on what we think is true/correct?  Sure you can claim morality based on absolute "Truth" on the way thing "Really" are... and I would agree...  But I would also point out that our understanding of "truth" and what is "Real" is greatly limited and not universally agreed upon... thus any practical discussion has to accept those limits and acknowledge them constants on them.

As for the dental analogy... let me try another one to see if it can clear it up.

We have a toddler.  That toddler has some understanding and the child can tell what makes it happy. The toddler discovers candy.  The toddler finds that candy makes it happy.  The toddler therefore finds it totally moral to eat as much candy as possible.

We have a parent of the toddler.  The parent has a greater understanding then the toddler.  The parent knows that too much candy is not good for the toddler, so the due to the parent's morality the candy is taken away.  The parent instead gives vegetables and other things that are good for the toddler.  And when the parent decides that limited candy is ok to give to the toddler they make the toddler share.

Clearly based on the what Toddler knows and accepts as moral (candy is good... more candy is better)  the parent is behaving in an immoral fashion by withholding candy.

Is the toddler correct? Clearly not.  But due to the limits of the toddler's understanding they have a very hard time accepting this. 

 

Any time we try to judge God's morality we have realize that we are like the Toddler judging the Parent (By the very definition of what it means to be God).  We might think we know what is best for us... we might even throw a fit when it is denied.  That does not make the toddler's (our) morality superior... in fact it is decidedly inferior... but the toddler (we) can't discern that... the best it can do is trust the parent (God) and hope to learn and understand how the parent (God) made the superior moral choice

 

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I track with the OP's big picture contention. God must be both strong and good. If He's not strong, I don't NEED to follow Him. If He's not good, I don't WANT to follow Him. So, if a soul is finding some spiritual attraction to the BoM, and asks sincerely, "Is this god moral?" then isn't that fantastic? At some point, the question must be answered and sustained. The answer will likely come through a combination of scripture study (examination), observation of the followers of this God, and through personal prayer and revelation. Once the answer comes, scriptures are so much more meaningful, because we no longer find ourselves constantly second-guessing God's actions and commandments.

BTW, I'd make this same argument for any monotheistic religion's God--yeah...including my own. :-)

 

Edited by prisonchaplain
broaden statement

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1 hour ago, estradling75 said:

What is morality... other then a standard based on what we think is true/correct?  Sure you can claim morality based on absolute "Truth" on the way thing "Really" are... and I would agree...  But I would also point out that our understanding of "truth" and what is "Real" is greatly limited and not universally agreed upon... thus any practical discussion has to accept those limits and acknowledge them constants on them.

As for the dental analogy... let me try another one to see if it can clear it up.

We have a toddler.  That toddler has some understanding and the child can tell what makes it happy. The toddler discovers candy.  The toddler finds that candy makes it happy.  The toddler therefore finds it totally moral to eat as much candy as possible.

We have a parent of the toddler.  The parent has a greater understanding then the toddler.  The parent knows that too much candy is not good for the toddler, so the due to the parent's morality the candy is taken away.  The parent instead gives vegetables and other things that are good for the toddler.  And when the parent decides that limited candy is ok to give to the toddler they make the toddler share.

Clearly based on the what Toddler knows and accepts as moral (candy is good... more candy is better)  the parent is behaving in an immoral fashion by withholding candy.

Is the toddler correct? Clearly not.  But due to the limits of the toddler's understanding they have a very hard time accepting this. 

 

Any time we try to judge God's morality we have realize that we are like the Toddler judging the Parent (By the very definition of what it means to be God).  We might think we know what is best for us... we might even throw a fit when it is denied.  That does not make the toddler's (our) morality superior... in fact it is decidedly inferior... but the toddler (we) can't discern that... the best it can do is trust the parent (God) and hope to learn and understand how the parent (God) made the superior moral choice

 

Well, first I would argue that morality is not based on what we believe, but (as Sam Harris argues in his book The Moral Landscape) on well being. Meaning, the well being of both us as individuals and us as a society and as a species. There are certainly some objective morals under this foundation (e.g. life is preferable to death), and it is through discussion, debate, and learning that we build the rest of our moral system.

The issue I have here is that you are positing that the act of allowing the women and children to burn to death must necessarily be a moral one because it is god doing it. However, the evidence being presented is essentially that god's morality is non-understandable by us mortals and therefore cannot be questioned. 

If god's morality is non-understandable by mortals, then by definition we cannot judge it as moral, right? That would be like telling your toddler about linear algebra. Are you correct in your explanation? The toddler is absolutely unable to judge for themselves.

What we do know is that (I'm assuming that you agree with me on this point, apologies for the assumption if not) if the state were to decide not to send in the police to stop someone from burning a group of women and children, and their argument was that they wanted to let it happen so that they could justly put the men in jail, that would be fantastically immoral and we would all be up in arms. Therefore, the act is against our (human) morality. If god has a morality we can't understand, then how can we determine whether or not it is good?

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39 minutes ago, prisonchaplain said:

I track with the OP's big picture contention. God must be both strong and good. If He's not strong, I don't NEED to follow Him. If He's not good, I don't WANT to follow Him. So, if a soul is finding some spiritual attraction to the BoM, and asks sincerely, "Is this god moral?" then isn't that fantastic? At some point, the question must be answered and sustained. The answer will likely come through a combination of scripture study (examination), observation of the followers of this God, and through personal prayer and revelation. Once the answer comes, scriptures are so much more meaningful, because we no longer find ourselves constantly second-guessing God's actions and commandments.

BTW, I'd make this same argument for any monotheistic religion's God--yeah...including my own. :-)

 

Is personal revelation a reliable method for determining truth? No matter what religion you believe in, there are more people who have (and do) believe in a different religion and/or god. And each of those differing religions/gods' followers claim to have their own personal revelation that what they believe is true. Does it not then stand to reason that since personal revelation does not yield consistent results, we must instead look to independent verification to determine truth?

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@EricE, personal revelation can be personally persuasive. After all, most of the disciples of Jesus died because of what had been personally revealed to him. The Apostle Paul converted from a strident practice of Orthodox Judaism to being a radical proponent of The Way. However, you are correct that, by itself, personally revelation would be a weak foundation to form a convincing worldview. Nevertheless, I would argue that such is a necessary component.  There are recognized scholars in most fields who hold wildly different perspectives. In those fields in which a dominant ideology exists, such was often achieved through politics, intrigue, and through ostracizing opposing perspectives (visit heterodoxacademy for more on this). No one suggests that the multiple perspectives in the academe means that scholarship is an unreliable venture.  My alma mater had a great theme that addresses your query well:  Knowledge on Fire!  We need objective learning, good examples, AND the inner witness. Anything less, and you simply have a plausible perspective.

 

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5 minutes ago, EricE said:

 

Well, first I would argue that morality is not based on what we believe, but (as Sam Harris argues in his book The Moral Landscape) on well being. Meaning, the well being of both us as individuals and us as a society and as a species. There are certainly some objective morals under this foundation (e.g. life is preferable to death), and it is through discussion, debate, and learning that we build the rest of our moral system.

The issue I have here is that you are positing that the act of allowing the women and children to burn to death must necessarily be a moral one because it is god doing it. However, the evidence being presented is essentially that god's morality is non-understandable by us mortals and therefore cannot be questioned. 

If god's morality is non-understandable by mortals, then by definition we cannot judge it as moral, right? That would be like telling your toddler about linear algebra. Are you correct in your explanation? The toddler is absolutely unable to judge for themselves.

What we do know is that (I'm assuming that you agree with me on this point, apologies for the assumption if not) if the state were to decide not to send in the police to stop someone from burning a group of women and children, and their argument was that they wanted to let it happen so that they could justly put the men in jail, that would be fantastically immoral and we would all be up in arms. Therefore, the act is against our (human) morality. If god has a morality we can't understand, then how can we determine whether or not it is good?

Through discussion, debate, and learning that you want to build the rest of our moral system... Means it is about as Good as science... which means it is limited by what we can currently know and understand and prove through our limited senses...  Understanding that are constantly being revised as our tools become greater, and more refined, and more sensitive.  That is not anything more then moving what we accept as moral to our interpretation of a process.

We can't prove God scientifically.. we will never put him under a microscope.  Which means your model and method must reject the very existence of God because it can't examine him.

Which means your "moral" process can't understand God's morality because the process you use blinds you to him.

 

But there are way to to understand and accept God...  We just have to accept what the scripture have given us about God.

Point one..  God is the Creator of All.

Point two...  There is life after Mortal death.

Point three...  This mortal life is designed to be temporary and to test us.

Leading to Point four...  God can and does make the call on when our temporary mortal test is done and move us to the next stage.

If we accept that the Well Being of Individuals, and us as a society and as a species is a foundation of determining Morality of actions (which I am ok with) and it turns out that individuals are immortal.  And that this life on earth has serious impact on our immortal existence... Then any morality judgements are seriously flawed if they are limited to the understanding of an 80ish year long life span.  And like the toddler with the candy we risk harming and reducing or long term well being because we are blind to eternal reality we are heading into.

 

 

 

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13 hours ago, EricE said:

Many LDS friends have tried to convince me that morality necessarily comes from a god. But is that the case?

Setting aside other religions and gods for the moment, the god of the Book of Mormon doesn't seem like the moral compass I should follow. For example, Alma 14:10-14 describes how god told Alma and Amulek not to save the wives and children of believers from being burned to death so "that the judgements which he shall exercise upon [the offenders] in his wrath may be just..."

It seems to be saying that god is directly displaying a preference for punishing those who harm the innocent, over saving the innocents in the first place. 

Wouldn't the moral action be just the opposite?

If we attempt to make sense of anything like morals, justice or even truth within the parameters of mortality (birth and death) there is none.  Any search for morality, justice and other such things are nothing but a fantasy in mortal life.  The universe is not moral or just to mortals – the only way to justify such thinking is if there is some authority and power beyond death – and by definition that is G-d.

The point of the Book of Mormon is that until a person chooses evil by actual deeds they cannot be judged as evil and your objection is – that by then it is too late.  But this is only if you use the parameters that point between birth and death.  You are in a paradox you cannot solve and I can easily prove you wrong by just you statements thus far.  But if there is any possible consequence outside of birth and death – you cannot argue there is a problem.  So you cannot say G-d is unjust or immoral and that applies for any definition of G-d – Book of Mormon or otherwise.

 

The Traveler

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6 minutes ago, estradling75 said:

Through discussion, debate, and learning that you want to build the rest of our moral system... Means it is about as Good as science... which means it is limited by what we can currently know and understand and prove through our limited senses...  Understanding that are constantly being revised as our tools become greater, and more refined, and more sensitive.  That is not anything more then moving what we accept as moral to our interpretation of a process.

We can't prove God scientifically.. we will never put him under a microscope.  Which means your model and method must reject the very existence of God because it can't examine him.

Which means your "moral" process can't understand God's morality because the process you use blinds you to him.

 

But there are way to to understand and accept God...  We just have to accept what the scripture have given us about God.

Point one..  God is the Creator of All.

Point two...  There is life after Mortal death.

Point three...  This mortal life is designed to be temporary and to test us.

Leading to Point four...  God can and does make the call on when our temporary mortal test is done and move us to the next stage.

If we accept that the Well Being of Individuals, and us as a society and as a species is a foundation of determining Morality of actions (which I am ok with) and it turns out that individuals are immortal.  And that this life on earth has serious impact on our immortal existence... Then any morality judgements are seriously flawed if they are limited to the understanding of an 80ish year long life span.  And like the toddler with the candy we risk harming and reducing or long term well being because we are blind to eternal reality we are heading into.

 

 

 

Unfortunately that response seems to ignore my question. If you cannot understand god's morality, than how can you judge it to be moral? 

It is true, our understanding of morality, like science, continues to improve and grow with our understanding of the world. So how does it make sense to look at things like god allowing women and children to be burned to death, or (jumping over to the bible for a moment) god condoning slavery--things which we as a species have judged to be immoral--and say that actually it is moral we just don't understand it?

I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm asking for how you can demonstrate your claim to be true. If you cannot understand god's morality, than how can you judge it to be moral?

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The fundamental problem is that as an atheist you're not going to get any traction on a board of believers.  Most don't see the forest for the trees. 

Let's take personal revelation and the fact that it presents inconsistent results. Prayer is a form of meditation/self soothing and when we meditate we feel good.  Like Meditation when we pray we feel good. So when I pray and ask God if the church is true and let's say that I really want to believe that it is I feel good ( missionaries would that good feeling as the spirit) they may be right it very well may be the spirit OR because I am in a meditative state I feel good in general and tell myself that God is answering my prayers.

Now I am a believing LDS, but I think that as members we need to tread very carefully when we pray for stuff. 

Back on topic, independent verification would be great but God does not work that way. Faith is the answer. 

You cited Alma 14:10-14 we weren't there Alma and Amuleck could have written whatever they wanted, maybe they thought it was a good idea to leave the women there I don't know. Maybe they prayed about what to do and felt good about it (see my example of prayer and meditation). We have accepted it as scripture but I in no way see it as God being immoral.

 

 

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10 minutes ago, prisonchaplain said:

@EricE, personal revelation can be personally persuasive. After all, most of the disciples of Jesus died because of what had been personally revealed to him. The Apostle Paul converted from a strident practice of Orthodox Judaism to being a radical proponent of The Way. However, you are correct that, by itself, personally revelation would be a weak foundation to form a convincing worldview. Nevertheless, I would argue that such is a necessary component.  There are recognized scholars in most fields who hold wildly different perspectives. In those fields in which a dominant ideology exists, such was often achieved through politics, intrigue, and through ostracizing opposing perspectives (visit heterodoxacademy for more on this). No one suggests that the multiple perspectives in the academe means that scholarship is an unreliable venture.  My alma mater had a great theme that addresses your query well:  Knowledge on Fire!  We need objective learning, good examples, AND the inner witness. Anything less, and you simply have a plausible perspective.

 

Assuming that the bible is an accurate depiction of what happened, the apostles didn't have personal revelations in the sense that we're talking about. Jesus stood in front of them and they personally witnessed the events. Such is not the case today. Today we're relying on a method that yields result indistinguishable from just personal feelings and inner monologue. 

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14 hours ago, EricE said:

It seems to be saying that god is directly displaying a preference for punishing those who harm the innocent, over saving the innocents in the first place. 

What "seems to be" isn't always what we may imagine.

In that specific case, maybe so. But we have Abraham's experience with Lot and Soddam. god would have spared the cities for ten righteous men's sake.

And there is the eternal perspective that here'n'nowers, like most atheists, ignore. It isn't always bad to die when one is in a repentant state. It isn't even always bad to die unrepentant — thank a soldier willing to die on account of you.

Lehi

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7 minutes ago, omegaseamaster75 said:

The fundamental problem is that as an atheist you're not going to get any traction on a board of believers.  Most don't see the forest for the trees. 

Let's take personal revelation and the fact that it presents inconsistent results. Prayer is a form of meditation/self soothing and when we meditate we feel good.  Like Meditation when we pray we feel good. So when I pray and ask God if the church is true and let's say that I really want to believe that it is I feel good ( missionaries would that good feeling as the spirit) they may be right it very well may be the spirit OR because I am in a meditative state I feel good in general and tell myself that God is answering my prayers.

Now I am a believing LDS, but I think that as members we need to tread very carefully when we pray for stuff. 

Back on topic, independent verification would be great but God does not work that way. Faith is the answer. 

You cited Alma 14:10-14 we weren't there Alma and Amuleck could have written whatever they wanted, maybe they thought it was a good idea to leave the women there I don't know. Maybe they prayed about what to do and felt good about it (see my example of prayer and meditation). We have accepted it as scripture but I in no way see it as God being immoral.

 

 

I'm not looking for "traction." I just enjoy the conversations :)

How is faith the answer to anything? I would define faith as the excuse people give for believing something for which they don't have a good reason. For instance, I can take it on faith that my bottle of mountain dew here is going to turn into pure gold. Do I have a good reason for believing that? No. But I take it on faith.

So if you can have faith in quite literally anything, is faith a reliable method for determining what is true?

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4 minutes ago, EricE said:

How is faith the answer to anything?

Do you believe that someone can acquire knowledge from a priori experience?  

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8 minutes ago, LeSellers said:

What "seems to be" isn't always what we may imagine.

In that specific case, maybe so. But we have Abraham's experience with Lot and Soddam. god would have spared the cities for ten righteous men's sake.

And there is the eternal perspective that here'n'nowers, like most atheists, ignore. It isn't always bad to die when one is in a repentant state. It isn't even always bad to die unrepentant — thank a soldier willing to die on account of you.

Lehi

That seems to be a rationalization for allowing the brutal murder of women and children. It reminds me of a conversation I had with an evangelical a few weeks ago, who in a discussion about child-rape and why god wouldn't step in and stop it from happening, argued "well we don't know if the child wasn't a sinner and was being punished by god." That attitude seems devoid of any morality whatsoever. 

My question is about how can you justify the morality of a god who acknowledges that he could stop the burning of women and children to happen, but chooses not to so that he can punish those who did the burning?

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5 minutes ago, MormonGator said:

Do you believe that someone can acquire knowledge from a priori experience?  

As in "I once burned my hand on the stove, and from that I learned not to touch a hot stove again?" Yes.

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10 minutes ago, EricE said:

Assuming that the bible is an accurate depiction of what happened, the apostles didn't have personal revelations in the sense that we're talking about. Jesus stood in front of them and they personally witnessed the events. Such is not the case today. Today we're relying on a method that yields result indistinguishable from just personal feelings and inner monologue. 

This might be true for the 11, but not for Paul. He saw Jesus as a vision, just as some claim today. I'd also suggest that what the disciples experienced could count--because many saw Jesus physically, but did not follow him. For those who did, it was the internal, spiritual affirmation that convinced them.

BTW, if you are interested in diversity in the academe, the site is:  http://heterodoxacademy.org/

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5 minutes ago, prisonchaplain said:

This might be true for the 11, but not for Paul. He saw Jesus as a vision, just as some claim today. I'd also suggest that what the disciples experienced could count--because many saw Jesus physically, but did not follow him. For those who did, it was the internal, spiritual affirmation that convinced them.

BTW, if you are interested in diversity in the academe, the site is:  http://heterodoxacademy.org/

Again, assuming the bible is accurate, that is correct about Paul. But that still means that god appeared to him, meaning he did not believe on faith, but on evidence of things he had seen. 

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5 minutes ago, EricE said:

As in "I once burned my hand on the stove, and from that I learned not to touch a hot stove again?" Yes.

That would be more A Posteriori experience. Experience learned through observation rather than understanding.  

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12 minutes ago, EricE said:

I'm not looking for "traction." I just enjoy the conversations :)

How is faith the answer to anything? I would define faith as the excuse people give for believing something for which they don't have a good reason. For instance, I can take it on faith that my bottle of mountain dew here is going to turn into pure gold. Do I have a good reason for believing that? No. But I take it on faith.

So if you can have faith in quite literally anything, is faith a reliable method for determining what is true?

When you want to define truths you are looking for absolutes, faith puts aside the absolutes. We need to have faith in bigger things not turning Mt Dew in to gold. We should have faith in an afterlife, in a God and creator. We can no more prove this than turning Mt dew in to gold but I would rather have a little faith than to believe that when I die nothing will happen.

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6 minutes ago, EricE said:

That seems to be a rationalization for allowing the brutal murder of women and children. It reminds me of a conversation I had with an evangelical a few weeks ago, who in a discussion about child-rape and why god wouldn't step in and stop it from happening, argued "well we don't know if the child wasn't a sinner and was being punished by god." That attitude seems devoid of any morality whatsoever. 

And it's not a position we Saints take, so I have no reason at all to defend it.

6 minutes ago, EricE said:

My question is about how can you justify the morality of a god who acknowledges that he could stop the burning of women and children to happen, but chooses not to so that he can punish those who did the burning?

This goes back to your original query: can you be good without God? The answer is no because you do not know what "good" is without God.

Even with God, we have the comparative. He cannot do two contradictory things, i.e., save the women and children, and give the evil full rein to exercise their wickedness.

Would you let one of your children get sick if it meant you could develop an antigen so the others would avoid the illness altogether? That's rough;y the same question.

Lehi

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