Dear Howie, Russell & Friends,
As Russell and I approach our first anniversary of blogging and second anniversary of friendship, I’ve been reflective. I tend to be that way before milestones of all types. As a runner and hiker, the milestone analogy has always resonated with me. It also fits well with my realistic expectation that I’ll be dead in less than 50 years. Where am I? Where have I been? Where to next?
The reading, writing, and breakfasts of the last two years have been invigorating. I’m learning again. I felt that way when I read both of your responses to my comments on Romans 3: 1-4. I wrote this doozy of a sentence:
I think that my faith in my own love of people, justice and mercy would be shaken as my intellect finds non-theistic normative reasons less convincing.
This was in response to Howie’s question:
I’m curious: if tomorrow all scientist, theologians, and philosophers got together and came to a 100% consensus that there are no gods would you then stop loving people, justice, and mercy?
Russell wisely replied this (to me):
Can you clarify this sentence a bit? I think I’m misreading it.
I’ll work backwards. Russell, you are not misreading, I am miswriting. I know better (only because I keep failing) than to use big words obscurely rather than smaller words well-joined. Here’s a replay of my sentence with better communication (more words, but less dense):
If I did not have God as a reason for my morality, I acknowledge that I would still be moral. My reasons include strong and positive personal experiences with very moral very skeptical people (you first among them). But, if God as the basis of my morality went away I would be less sure of myself. I would not understand why I wanted to be good when there is a stronger impulse in me to do the wrong thing. It may be (as I have often suspected) that my nature is more corrupt than yours. Genes and experience have made me less kind, gentle, and forgiving. So I may be that person who needs religion more to civilize me.
Back to Howie. He replied:
When I was a Christian I chose to follow the Jesus I thought still existed because I believed that he represented what is truly good. I was drawn in by some of the beautiful sayings in the sermon on the mount. I wasn’t following because I thought he was the most powerful one with the keys to afterlife so I better listen to whatever he says no matter what he asks, even if it goes against my moral sense. This seems to be the theme of the Abraham/Isaac story, as well as the genocidal conquests in the old testament and those things go against my own moral sense.
Then Howie referred me to thoughts he had about morality. I read for an hour and the time was well spent. I especially appreciate the referral to a clean article on the concept of infinite regress. Russell has mentioned coherentism before and I didn’t take the time to learn that it was a possible solution to the problem of infinite regress (constant asking of “why?”, like a child).
Like Howie, I find this topic important. Do I claim that the moral law is imprinted on our spirits by Creator God? Do I allow that he did so with the behavioral aspects of human evolution? Do I consider “these truths to be self evident”? Did Plato get it right? I do claim the first assertion, yet my reasons are not yet sufficient to reply to honest questions. One thing I’m appreciating about this process is that I need more humility and patience. I need to listen well. I honestly find this more interesting than my current car listening adventure of why entropy validates the arrow of time and makes macroscopic closed timelike curves unlikely [insert wry grin].
This place is safe for respectful argument. This place is safe for conversation. I’m one of the most ignorant people here and I’m excited about learning!
Do you have skeptical or believing friends who exemplify morality to you? I would answer: Russell. Why do you think they are that way?
photo credit: Der kleine Kinderfreund by Anonymous Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Der_kleine_Kinderfreund_T11_img05.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Der_kleine_Kinderfreund_T11_img05.jpg