• About TWIM


    The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer's Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.



    TWIM is the first and only theist blog listed on the Atheist Blogroll, which currently contains over 1,000 blogs. It goes without saying that I don't endorse hardly any of the views of any of them. Contact Mojoey for more information.



    Ironically, TWIM won an award for "Best Atheist / Skeptic Site" from this site. Much obliged.



  • TWIM updates via email.

    Join 13 other followers

  • Feedback

    
    
    You and your commenters are a feast of thinking — great stuff.

    -C.L. Dyck
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I have no need to engage with racists, so will ignore cl’s further diatribes.

    -faithlessgod,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

    -Hermes,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [faithlessgod and Hermes] fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls.

    -JS Allen,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. I’ve been following him for quite some time and he’s one of the most effective Christian trolls out there. No one can completely destroy a conversation as effectively as he does, and with such masterful grace and subtly that he rarely gets banned. This isn’t a blunt-force “U R Hitler!” troll, this is the Yoda of trolling.

    -Eneasz,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

    -al friedlander,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...I wanted to get a message to you outside of the context of specific discussions on CSA. You make good, insightful contributions to that site, and since I often agree with you I'm glad there is someone else there defending my positions better than I sometimes can. However I don't think anything of value would be lost if you stopped engaging in personal combat with juvenile snipers.

    -Zeb,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thank you for your wonderful response - so reasoned in the race of [Waldvogel's] blustering.

    -Annie Laurie Gaylor
     Freedom From Religion Foundation
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thanks for a great Op-Ed.

    -Marianne Ratcliff
     VC Star
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...as atheists we need to make sure that someone like cl and any Christian readers of [An Apostate's Chapel] don’t come away with the perception that the atheists caved in or were incapable of responding. I’m sure that a lot of Christians who find cl incomprehensible at times and don’t even bother reading him themselves will come away with an assumption that cl is that sort of rare intellectual theist who can prove that gods exist. And that’s how those inane rumors about the feared xian intellectuals start…

    -bbk
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself...
    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be. They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

    -R.C. Moore
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You're doing a fine job.

    -Prof. Larry Moran
     Dept. of Biochemistry
     University of Toronto
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Phyletic change and vicariance (or, drift and selection versus population isolation), as cl points out, are much better ways of describing what are unfortunately more commonly known as micro- and macro- evolution, respectively.

    -Dan
     Biology postdoc
     Univ. of Cyprus
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl says, “The minute you call yourself a Christian or an Atheist or whatever the heck else, you automatically get painted by other people’s interpretations of those words, which are almost always different and almost always distorted.” cl’s point couldn’t be more on. As cl points out there is an important reason for not claiming any real religious (or lack thereof) belief. It puts logical constraints on one's arguments due directly to the bias of the individual that is translating the English to mind ideas of what it means to be religious.

    -Bobaloo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins.

    -Cipher
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me or my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you [sic] faith. I'm seriously considering banning you cl, as I've heard you were banned on other sites. You are much too ignorant for us to have a reasonable discussion.

    -John Loftus
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I admired the way you handled yourself in the discussion on John's blog. I'm not patient enough to keep my sarcasm in check with some of them blokes, but appreciate those who are.

    -David Marshall
     re: Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl, I have to say, while I fundamentally disagree with you, you are an individual which I highly respect. I think your responses are always well thought out and your insights always well thought out and pertinently derived.
    [Y]ou have made me a stronger atheist in my regards to critical thinking and debating. I really can’t wait to hear more from you. Hell, I’d even buy you a drink, good sir. Cheers!

    -Parker
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Bottom line? Sometimes I think he's right about certain arguments, and I don't have a problem admitting that. Other times, however, I think he's wrong, and I've called him on that. But I have found he can be pretty reasonable if you (1) don't overstate your case, (2) make concessions when you have, and (3) insist he do the same.

    -Lifeguard
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I like it when [cl] makes me stop, think and question if I am making unfounded assertions or if I am being sloppy. What has been annoying me about cl of late is that he is being excruciatingly anal...

    -seantheblogonaut
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I really can't thank you enough for catching me on my error in rhetoric. I always love a good debate! And I always enjoy your posts, as well! Keep up the great writing and the excellent eye for detail!

    -BZ
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You make me smarter...

    -Mike G.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ..thank you, cl. I discovered your blog on a random web search and saw it as an oasis amidst a vast desert of seemingly intractable theist-atheist debate.

    -Sung Jun
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    It's good to be able to discuss with people who are open and respectful, and know that disagreement does not mean disrespect... You are to be congratulated, not only for your patience, but also your ability to hold an ever-growing debate together with an impressive degree of structure.

    -Ritchie
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    My tone is derogatory... [cl is] ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked... In the time he's been here, he's shown a consistent pattern of antagonizing everyone he comes in contact with, monopolizing threads, derailing discussions with perpetual complaints, quibbles and demands for attention, and generally making arguments that display a lack of good faith and responsiveness... it's become intolerable. I'm not banning him, but I'm putting in place some restrictions on how often he can comment.

    -Ebonmuse
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This is no defense of the annoying cl, but what a self-righteous, prissy atheist you turned out to be, Ebonmuse. I'm disappointed in you, stealing a strategem from the theists.

    -The Exterminator
     to Ebonmuse
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I certainly didn't get any bad impression about cl, and I can't relate his comments with any of the things (Ebonmuse) said above. I actually thought it was quite interesting to have him around.

    -Juan Felipe
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Please continue to allow
    cl to post his views and make it clear that he is still welcome. And let me be clear, cl is not a lunatic.

    -Curtis
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    With one exception, you are the most coherent and intelligent theist I've seen on this site...

    -Steve Bowen
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I'm rooting for cl. I hope he perpetually manages to skirt the rules enough to do his damage, forcing rule revision after rule revision, ad nauseum. Awesome! Let's watch as Ebon, ever more frustrated, continues to struggle to figure out how to keep his precious private blog neat and tidy as cl keeps messing up his papers while one by one, readers leave due to an every increasing administrative presence. Outstanding! Well I won't go. The thought of this sounds like the most entertaining thing that probably would have ever happened on Daylight Atheism. Hot damn!

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Your visit has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater...

    -Brad
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I do have a lot of respect for you too. You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual with a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, cutting through all the bullshit rhetoric on the way down. The fact that many other atheists seem to unreasonably despise you bothers me a lot, because I think that maybe they aren’t acting in good faith.

    -Peter Hurford
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am not going to waste any more time parsing your comments to decide if they've crossed the line or not... So I banned you.

    -Greta Christina
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Be rude... cl invites rudeness. Would you want an incontinent little puppy coming into your house?

    -(((Billy))) the Atheist
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Note to all my regular readers: Since An Apostate’s Chapel is a free-speech zone, I don’t censor conversations.
    As it appears that cl is a troll, please note that I will not be responding to him any longer. I ask that you refrain from doing so, as well. Please don’t feed the troll!

    -The Chaplain
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    …I can’t reconcile being a "freethinker" with banning speech. [cl's] comments are not offensive in the normal understanding of that term, and he poses absolutely no threat except perhaps to some imagined decorum. Why can’t atheists lighten up, for no-Christ’s sake?

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Is it going to distract from my meal when crazy uncle cl starts blathering out nonsense, pick his ears with a carrot or start taking his pants off? No. In fact, it might actually heighten the experience in some amusing way. So no, I don't see cl's work as damage.

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll cl. Albeit an evolved troll, but a troll nonetheless. Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

    -GaySolomon
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl is] is either a sophist or an incompetent when it comes to the english language... (sic)

    -ThatOtherGuy
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I’d say cl is pretty sharp... it may be tempting at times to think that “the other guy” is arguing out of some personal character flaw rather than a sincere desire to acknowledge the truth, I still think it’s better to debate respectfully... It is disrespectful to make unsupported accusations against people, e.g. by suggesting that their views are caused by an intrinsically corrupt and immoral nature.

    -Deacon Duncan, 3-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] cannot refute my facts, so he needs must find (sic) some scapegoat in order to claim that he has confronted the enemy and proven them wrong... cl, sadly, has proven himself to be the sort of guest who comes into your living room and sneaks behind your couch to take a crap on the floor, just so he can tell all your neighbors how bad your house smells and what an unsanitary housekeeper you are... an interesting case study in the negative effects a Christian worldview has on a reasonably intellectual mind.

    -Deacon Duncan, 6-17-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

    -Deacon Duncan, 4-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I won’t be publishing your most recent comment because it’s a return to the same sort of schtick you’ve pulled here before: re-writing other people’s arguments to make yourself look misunderstood and/or unfairly accused, taking “polyvalent” positions so that when people address your points you can claim to have said something else, distorting other people’s arguments, trolling for negative reactions, and so on.

    -Deacon Duncan, 10-8-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [E]gomaniacal troll.
    You win... You’re a disingenuous sophist through and through, cl. And a friggin’ narcissist to boot! Since I’ve thoroughly and purposefully broken the Deacon’s rules of engagement, I shall consider my right to post henceforth annulled, and move on - dramatic pause, lights out.

    -jim
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He either thinks in a very weird way or he's quite the con artist.

    -mikespeir
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I will gladly admit that I have a boner for cl. Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

    -Eneasz
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Long time reader first time poster... I like reading what you
    have to say over at Daylight Atheism so I figured I'd pop in here.

    -Pine
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

    -KShep
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You’re not a reasonable thinker in my book. You’re simply an arguer, for better or worse. I’m Michael Palin, you’re John Cleese. You’re just a disputation-ist, bringing everything into question...

    -jim
     Reason vs. Apologetics
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Motherfucker, this is an interesting blog... Quite the group of commenters.

    -John Evo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are very articulate, and I can only assume that it's a result of high intelligence; an intelligence that's interested in, and can understand, healthy debate. However, at every turn, that's not what I or others seem to get.

    -ex machina
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a troll, a liar, and a useless sack of shit. Not only that, but you're still wrong even after moving the goal posts and trying to re-write history. So, you can stop cyber stalking me now and trying to provoke me. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it so that you can whine about how I'm being irrational and mean to you and stroke your pathetic martyr complex. You're a pathetic attention whore and I've already given you too much attention. So, back the fuck off, stop following me around the intarwebs and trying to provoke me, and fuck off.

    -OMGF
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I would just like to say that, OMGF, having read the debate as a neutral observer, some of the things cl says about your style of argument are true, IMO. It is quite hasty, which means you occasionally haven't got the central point cl is trying to make...

    -John D.
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...this is a difficult question that deserves more than a kneejerk reaction, not to imply that you're kneejerking. You're the least kneejerking person I've met.

    -Quixote
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    If you’re here playing devil’s advocate, then, hey, you do a great job at it, it’s a service, keep us sharp... You’re a smart guy, but those are exactly the ones who give the worst headaches!

    -Lifeguard
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a waste of time, cl. A big fat black hole of bullshit sucking in everyone who comes into contact with you.

    -Spanish Inquisitor
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    As for all that harsh invective that's come your way, umm... I gotta say, I've seen some of the invective, but I haven't seen the behavior on your part that called for it. Maybe I've just not seen enough? I don't know... from what I've read, I can tell that you're a smart person, and whether you deserved any of that treatment or not is quite frankly immaterial to me; I just want to deal with the smart person at the eye of that storm.

    -D
     She Who Chatters
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I now think that you’re an atheist, just having fun at other atheists’ expense. If that’s the case, kudos.

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
  • Advertisements

The Argument From Justice

P1    Systems that are amenable to justice are superior to those that are not;

P2    Atheism is not amenable to justice;

P3    Christianity is amenable to justice;

C      Christianity is superior to atheism.

Advertisements

51 Responses

  1. Be prepared to address ‘secular humanism’ in this round. Atheism is a lack of belief, doesn’t positively assert anything. The thing that crosses the line from ‘is’ to ‘ought’ is humanism.

  2. Atheism is a lack of belief, doesn’t positively assert anything.

    That is the technical definition that we’re all aware of, yes, but in practice you and I both know atheists don’t walk around in an intellectual vacuum. My latter point doesn’t relate to this argument, though.
    Point is, what does your distinction have to do with this particular argument? I have a feeling I should have kept a certain adjective before “justice” but I’ll wait to hear your explanation first.

  3. Justice how things ‘ought’ to be, yes or no?

  4. A definition of “justice” would be nice; but amenability as susceptibility leaves me suspicious of what’s being said. I’m reading this as, “Christianity is susceptible to the imposition of justice upon it,” but I believe that the historical record reveals a great many injustices perpetrated by Christians operating on a then-ubiquitous understanding of Christianity (the state of the meme at the time), which wrongs have never been righted.
    If instead you meant that justice happens according to Christianity, I thought that people got undeservingly saved from well-deserved Hellfire under Christianity? If justice means “people getting what they deserve,” then P3 is manifestly false.
    And since the lack of belief in a deity, by itself, carries no moral system with it, atheism by definition leaves itself wide open for any moral system to come in and state its case. So atheism is susceptible to imposition of justice, if that’s what “amenable to justice” means.
    OK, so a whole lot here depends on just how these terms are defined, and I’ll bet I’m talking past you at least a little, but that’s my first impression of where this goes.

  5. Dominic & D,
    By “amenable to justice” I refer to the ability to impose retribution for wrongdoing. Atheists – meaning people who claim no God(s) and no afterlife – necessarily believe that a man like Hitler can escape Earth unpunished, and “get all his evil without having to pay for it.”
    So, let’s reparse:
    Absolute justice is superior to less than absolute justice;
    Atheism can only supply less than absolute justice;
    Theism – especially Christianity – can only supply absolute justice;
    Theism – especially Christianity – is superior to atheism.
    Is it clear now?

  6. I have a hard time seeing how the superiority you’re referring to is anything more than the preference many humans have for the imposition of retribution for wrongdoing.
    Christianity doesn’t supply absolute justice. Absolute justice, as Christianity defines it, either exists or it doesn’t.
    How does the fact that many would find a world where such retribution exists superior to one where such retribution doesn’t exist have anything to do with the accuracy of either of those worldviews?

  7. Purported tagteamer that I am, I think you’ve got a problem with this one, cl. Theism, especially Christianity, can only supply absolute justice if God exists, and that only if He exists as defined by traditional theism/Christianity. If God exists, we already know that theism is superior to atheism. If He doesn’t, it’s difficult to see how theism is superior. Therefore, your argument’s soundness here rests on the proposition that “(the Christian)God exists.” Always back to the de facto question, it seems.

  8. Lifeguard,

    How does the fact that many would find a world where such retribution exists superior to one where such retribution doesn’t exist have anything to do with the accuracy of either of those worldviews?

    It doesn’t. The argument isn’t meant to establish the accuracy of either atheism or theism, rather the logical superiority of theism for those who accept the premise that absolute justice is to be preferred. In short, for those who agree absolute, perfect justice is to be preferred, some form of theism should be preferred.
    MS Quixote,

    Therefore, your argument’s soundness here rests on the proposition that “(the Christian)God exists.” Always back to the de facto question, it seems.

    Of course. But – since we can’t answer that question – I begin these syllogisms by allowing the possibility that either atheism or theism can be correct: first, I begin with some premise. Next, I evaluate the state of affairs that would result if atheism is correct, followed by the state of affairs that would result if theism were correct – in light of whatever premise we start with. Lastly, I conclude whether atheism or theism is more likely to entail the favorable state of affairs the premise established.
    Does that make more sense?

  9. “Atheists – meaning people who claim no God(s) and no afterlife – necessarily believe that a man like Hitler can escape Earth unpunished, and “get all his evil without having to pay for it.”
    And Christians-meaning people who claim God(s) and an afterlife- necessarily believe that a man like Hitler can escape Earth unpunished, AND reap eternal rewards, simply for adhering to a metaphysical formula i.e. accepting Christ.

  10. jim,
    When I say, “A man like Hitler,” I refer to an unrepentent person who caused significant suffering to others. Christians generally do not believe that unrepentant sinners “reap eternal rewards.”

  11. I think I’m the only one who actually got cl’s argument on this one. Put differently, Christians have a reason to behave, atheists do not. Better?

  12. This entire post has been bothering me on several levels since I saw it, since it seems to need more premises than you’ve offered in order to work as logic. As it is, it looks like opinion masquerading as fact (i.e. what is just to you is not the same thing as justice to me). Leaving that aside for now…
    The premise seems to be flawed, in that you seem to indicate in comments that *preferring* absolute justice is equal to absolute justice *existing.*
    Would I like for there to be retribution for wrongs done, some kind of karma either in this life or (if it exists) in the next? Sure! That would be wonderful.
    Is absolute justice possible? No, so we have to content ourselves with the justice possible, flawed as it can be.
    Besides, if you believe that people are basically sinful and, just by existing, deserve what Jesus put himself through on the cross, then… maybe we need a sliding scale, and in human justice, we do (flawed as it can be). In any case, justice and mercy *can* coexist in a single entity, but I’m not sure they can coexist at the same time in the same place. So some form of theism that predicates itself on grace and mercy, by its nature, does not serve justice.
    (Keep in mind, cl, that I am not well-versed in philosophy and logic, so the language you might use to refute what I say may go over my head. I apologize in advance. I also may not follow up and just leave most of the arguing to people more inclined to enjoy debate. I mostly wanted to put in my two cents.)

  13. I think D raised the most solid objection yet. Let’s see if my clarification affects her response at all. I don’t see that it should, but who knows. I believe something like D’s response is essentially what jim was getting at in his comment #9. I expect he’ll correct me if I’m wrong.
    Dominic,

    Put differently, Christians have a reason to behave, atheists do not. Better?

    No. Much worse. Much farther away from the original intent. I must’ve really mis-expressed myself this time. It feels to me like you might be overthinking this thing, to be honest. It’s really very simple: if there are no God(s) and consciousness terminates upon death, there is no potential for absolute justice – period. So simply I’d dare to call it tautological. If we decide that absolute justice is to be preferred, then going off that criteria alone, theism becomes the better choice.
    neosnowqueen,

    As it is, it looks like opinion masquerading as fact

    Yet,

    Is absolute justice possible? No, so we have to content ourselves with the justice possible, flawed as it can be.

    Isn’t the impossibility of absolute justice your opinion, as opposed to a fact?

    In any case, justice and mercy *can* coexist in a single entity,

    I agree.

    but I’m not sure they can coexist at the same time in the same place.

    Why not?

    So some form of theism that predicates itself on grace and mercy, by its nature, does not serve justice.

    You’ve essentially echoed D‘s response, so now it volleys back to me, and I’ll see what I can do.

    I also may not follow up and just leave most of the arguing to people more inclined to enjoy debate. I mostly wanted to put in my two cents.

    Though I do it plenty, I really don’t enjoy debate that much, to be honest. I’m more into reaching common ground despite differences, so by all means, please keep talking. It’s a welcomed and refreshing change.

  14. I mean absolute justice within the human world, through human means and human minds. It cannot happen, because human beings are flawed. I don’t mean that they’re sinners who would regress into chaos if they didn’t have religion. I mean that we’re bound by our own individuality. Empathy is the closest thing to psychic that we have, and that’s not very close at all. And because humans cannot be everywhere and know every mind, absolute justice cannot be exacted through human means. That’s what I mean when I say that absolute justice, presuming an absence of a moralizing god, is impossible.
    However, the original point was that just because I don’t believe absolute justice is possible doesn’t mean it isn’t something worthy to hope and/or strive for. Atheism, or rather secular humanism, is amenable to justice – it’s just harder to get to it, since everything isn’t more neatly packaged in a book of rules. Instead, those rules have to be created, and sometimes recreated or altered as times pass. I would like to note here, though, that secular laws do not arise from a vacuum.
    As far as mercy and justice coexisting at the same time and the same place: can a person be condemned to spend the next ten years on death row before execution and granted freedom from prison at the same time?

  15. You’re just telling me you have an unrecognizable definition of justice then… You keep presenting these 3 step logical conclusions using terms that leave people with wildly different conclusions than what you’re trying to express or prove. First “veridically superior” and now “amendable to justice”.
    Justice is a “how things ought to be” motivation. It’s not any kind of hard fact or independently discernible thing. Some people see eternal damnation as ultimate justice since it makes them feel really good to imagine someone they really hate suffering forever, while other people see it as the ultimate injustice, since nothing done in life could justify eternal torment.
    This is another non argument, you could’ve shortened it to one line. “Christianity makes cl feel better than atheism.”
    Er… ok, that’s nice, I suppose.

  16. It just came to me: D‘s claim apparently reduces to, “mercy vitiates justice.” D – is that a reasonable paraphrase? If not, can you throw me a life raft here?
    neosnowqueen,
    What do you think? Would you say that God granting mercy to a sinner who rightfully deserves punishment entails a violation of justice?

    I mean absolute justice within the human world, through human means and human minds.

    A-ha. I didn’t, and thus explains the discrepancy.

    ..because humans cannot be everywhere and know every mind,

    Careful! Those are cuss-words to certain commenters around here! [/inside joke]

    ..absolute justice, presuming an absence of a moralizing god, is impossible.

    Actually, that was the whole point of the original syllogism. So, do we agree?

    Atheism, or rather
    secular humanism, is amenable to justice

    Then, perhaps we’re still talking past each other re: “amenable to justice.” What I’m saying is, under atheism, someone like Hitler can get their evil for free. Under atheism – if actual human beings don’t punish somebody like Hitler – people like Hitler get away with it. That’s what I mean when I say atheism is “not amenable to absolute justice.”

    As far as mercy and justice coexisting at the same time and the same place: can a person be condemned to spend the next ten years on death row before execution and granted freedom from prison at the same time?

    No. They would have to be condemned before they could be granted mercy, and once they were granted mercy they would no longer be condemned. However, what do either of our arguments stand to gain or lose if we agree there?
    Dominic,

    You keep presenting these 3 step logical conclusions using terms that leave people with wildly different conclusions than what you’re trying to express or prove.

    Language is tough, I admit, and I’m really trying to choose my words carefully, but I’m not forcing anybody to make any assumptions, am I?

    Justice is a “how things ought to be” motivation.

    I sought to minimize that problem with the premise: “IF we agree that absolute justice is preferable to less than absolute justice,” then on that criteria alone, atheism becomes the inferior choice. If you accept the premise yet remain an atheist, well.. I don’t know what else to say, other than I’m curious to know why. OTOH, if you don’t agree that absolute justice is preferable, well.. then like you said, it’s another “So what?” Syllogisms only work if we share the premises, which is why I pick premises that would appear absurd to deny.

    This is another non argument, you could’ve shortened it to one line. “Christianity makes cl feel better than atheism.”

    Hey, speak your mind freely, but I don’t think that’s entirely fair at all. For one, Christianity doesn’t make me feel better than atheism; to be honest, at times it makes me quiver in my boots, and I often wish I COULD BE an atheist! Dying – for good – seems too easy, and leaves absolutely nothing to fear. Point is, feel free to denounce the argument, but at least on valid grounds.
    For two, “justice” is not as subjective as you might think. As an analogy, if we’re both US citizens, that means we both implicitly agree that murder is wrong (“wrong” meaning “should not be done here in the US”). That would be the shared premise, by virtue of which we both remain obligated to prefer non-murder over murder in all instances. Right?
    Well, do you hold the premise that absolute justice is “better than” less than absolute justice? I do, just like I share the premise that checkable claims are “better than” non-checkable claims. Accordingly, theism is a checkable claim; atheism is not. Theism can potentially mete absolute justice; atheism cannot.
    Hence, two of the many reasons I’m not an atheist.

  17. Jurisprudence.
    No theism required.

  18. Assuming, of course, that “preferred” is the sole criteria for “superior.” If it isn’t, then how does the preference alone establish superiority?
    It would be like saying:
    P1 A taller person is more likely to win a basketball game than a shorter person;
    P2 Lifeguard is 6’1″;
    P3 Mugsey Bogues, a former professional basketball player, is 5’3;
    C Lifeguard is more likely to win a basketball game than Mugsey Bogues.
    If I define likely to win solely in terms of height (where I have the advantage) and simply assume all other things are equal, then my argument is right (even if it is, in reality, inaccurate).
    For your argument to hold one would have to assume that the only relevant factor in determining the superiority of a worldview is the preference for a world of absolute justice at the exclusion of preferences for other qualities an individual might have when adopting or developing a system of beliefs.

  19. “IF we agree that absolute justice is preferable to less than absolute justice,” then on that criteria alone, atheism becomes the inferior choice. If you accept the premise yet remain an atheist, well.. I don’t know what else to say, other than I’m curious to know why.

    There you go again, “preferable”. Like I said, matter of taste. If you feel that absolute justice ought to be meeted out, then one would feel that Christianity should be true. Hence “superior” translates into “preferred”.
    Is != ought. Big distinction, but people tend to fudge it in haste all the time. And to be fair, I see atheists make the is/ought fallacy all too often when trying to write up social contracts when arguing secular morality.
    But here, you’re the one trying to impose “ought” onto “is”.

    If you accept the premise yet remain an atheist…

    I’ll say it again, is != ought. You can feel as though your rich uncle should leave you his estate as inheritance rather than his recently acquired 20yr old trophy wife, but that won’t make any imposition on what his will is going to actually say.
    This is why my first post pointed to the apples and oranges nature of this… ugh… “argument”, since it appeared as thought you were strictly arguing from the position of “ought”, which has nothing to do with atheism, and is addressed by secular humanism instead.
    But now it seems you’re just arguing that there’s simply no point in being an atheist, and are simply finding as many different ways to repackage Pascal’s Wager as you can.

  20. very interesting post, cl. i’ve been working on one myself. give me your thoughts.
    the argument from the value of human life
    p1. systems that value human life above non-human life are superior to those that do not.
    p2. creation allows for greater value of human life over non-human life.
    p3. evolution does not allow for greater value of human life over non-human life.
    c. creation is superior to evolution.

  21. I have to agree with Dominic on this one. Just because theism may occasionally be more comforting than atheism doesn’t necessarily make it superior (especially since the theistic and atheistic concepts of justice can be radically different, i.e. sliding scales vs. absolutes).
    If the Christian god exists, then fine, I’m going to hell, which I don’t consider at all just. If the Hindu concept of reincarnation is true, then fine, I’ll probably come back as someone worse, which doesn’t strike me as justice. (In both cases, I have my own very personal reasons for thinking that, which I will not share here.)
    Secular humanists *are* amenable to justice. Maybe not perfect justice, and maybe not the justice that you think is justice, but just because it isn’t convenient or simple doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Which should be the issue here: not what we want, but what is true.
    And as a side note, you cannot be condemned and set free at the same time. You can be set free and then condemned, or condemned and then set free, which confirms my argument (which is admittedly a matter of semantics, which is usually more important to me than other people, which is fine).

  22. Two things:
    1) Though atheist resistance to this argument is strong, I’m willing to bet that none of us really believe that less than absolute justice (hereafter LAJ) is “better than” absolute justice (hereafter AJ). Right?
    2) We cannot decisively answer the question of whether AJ or LAJ actually IS better; for, as Dominic notes, we’ll always run into an element of subjectivity, and there’s really no point in arguing one opinion vs. another.
    However, presuming we share the premise that AJ is “better than” LAJ, the point of this argument is to convict the listener by the listener’s own convictions. Regardless of whether AJ actually IS “better than” LAJ – *in actuality* – the question is, “What do each of us believe?” Those of us who believe AJ is “better than” LAJ yet remain atheists ultimately accept a worldview that cannot provide “the better” in terms of absolute justice. I’m interested in understanding why.
    John Morales,
    What does the concept of secular jurisprudence have to do with the superiority of absolute justice (AJ) vs. less than absolute justice (LAJ)?
    Lifeguard,
    Regarding your P1 – I notice you’re still using words like “more likely,” but establishing likelihood isn’t the purpose of this syllogism. I only wish to show that – for those people who believe AJ is “better than” LAJ, then based on that criteria alone – theism must be “better than” atheism, because atheism by definition cannot provide AJ.
    You’re a lawyer; presupposing either state of affairs is possible, do you – as in Lifeguard – believe absolute justice is “better than” less than absolute justice? Yes or no?

    For your argument to hold one would have to assume that the only relevant factor in determining the superiority of a worldview is the preference for a world of absolute justice at the exclusion of preferences for other qualities an individual might have when adopting or developing a system of beliefs.

    Of course; that’s how all syllogisms work, and that’s why I intend to offer boatloads of them in time. Read them with a disclaimer like, “All other things being equal, and presuming both atheism and theism are possible, then solely on the basis of whatever criteria we’re discussing, theism is better than atheism because… (insert conclusion).”
    So: if we begin on equal footing by granting the possibility that either atheism or theism may be true in actuality – on the basis of the criteria of amenability to AJ alone – theism is CLEARLY the better choice. You have no way out of this but to argue against one or more premises: you have to say something like, “Absolute justice is actually not preferable,” or “Atheism is actually amenable to absolute justice,” or “Theism – especially Christianity – is actually not amenable to absolute justice.” I will accept and chew on these objections, or variants of them.
    That’s what D did, and that’s why I think hers is the strongest objection so far: because it doesn’t merely voice personal distaste for the argument; it actually challenges one or more premises.
    Dominic,
    I understand your objection: you claim my premise is an arbitrary proclamation, therefore my argument is a “non-argument.” I get that.

    But here, you’re the one trying to impose “ought” onto “is”.

    I disagree. I’m completely unconcerned with whether AJ “actually is” better than LAJ; I’m concerned with whether you believe AJ is better than LAJ. Yes or no question: do you – as in Dominic Saltarelli – believe that absolute justice is preferable to less than absolute justice? Why or why not, and feel free to expand definitions as needed.

    You can feel as though your rich uncle should leave you his estate as inheritance rather than his recently acquired 20yr old trophy wife, but that won’t make any imposition on what his will is going to actually say.

    Have you met my uncle? That prick couldn’t get 20yr old trophy wife if he tried! (Luv ya, T). Seriously though, I don’t know where we can go from here. I acknowledge that you personally find the argument a “non-argument,” but you know how I feel about opinions.
    jason,
    Well, well… thanks for coming by. As for your argument, well.. let me address that later. I promise I will, it’s just that to do so right now, I’d have to shift mental gears and break from the current stream of thought. Fair?
    neosnowqueen,
    I’m convinced we’re talking past each other. If not, perhaps I’m hearing something different than you intend at one or more points. If so, I apologize, and I’m always willing to try again:

    Just because theism may occasionally be more comforting than atheism doesn’t necessarily make it superior

    Of course the matter of which is more comforting is no matter at all; that’s why this is the argument from justice, and not the argument from comfort. Who introduced the concept of comfort into the discussion?
    I tried to tell Dominic it’s not about comfort, and that I actually find atheism much more comforting than theism. Theism does NOT make me comfortable – at all. Contrary, how easy and comforting to actually believe that this is all just some arbitrary atomic dance, after which we just die and disperse! Could it get any easier and comforting than that? Clearly, I believe atheism is “more comforting,” but apparently, I’m not to be believed there?
    IOW, regardless of my stated positions to the contrary, you and Dominic seem to be arguing that my argument is “not an argument” because I’m arguing from comfort – yet the position I’m arguing for is the position I’m least comfortable with. Does that seem like valid objection on you and Dominic’s behalf? I don’t think so; I think your guys’ job here is to attack premises, not simply voice personal
    distaste for a conclusion I’m not even making – because we all have our own opinions, right?
    The question remains: is not a system that can provide absolute justice (AJ) intrinsically “better than” one that cannot, simply by nature of the fact that it allows for a “moral best” so to speak? In your opinion.

    Secular humanists *are* amenable to justice.

    I agree. Has something I said led you to believe that I’ve argued otherwise?

    ..you cannot be condemned and set free at the same time.

    Of course. That’s so obvious it’s tautological, and I wholeheartedly agree with you: for the same subject and the same offense(s), condemnation and mercy are mutually exclusive. Again, I agree. My question was, does our agreement on this point affect either of our arguments in this thread? If so, how?

  23. You wrote: “You’re a lawyer; presupposing either state of affairs is possible, do you – as in Lifeguard – believe absolute justice is “better than” less than absolute justice? Yes or no?”
    Of course. As a lawyer, I also believe it is better for a guilty man to go free than an innocent man to be imprisoned. Does that mean I am committed to the belief that our legal system does not, in fact, erroneously incarcerate innocent people?
    As a human being, I also believe that a world where there is no ignorance, starvation and violence is superior to a world where such things do not exist. Does that mean I am committed to believing that there are no wars, no sickness, no ignorance?
    While I recognize that things like the existence of wars, sickness and ignorance are in a different class than certain Christian claims when it comes to verifiability, my point is that preferences have nothing to do with the truth of any particular claim, and, for that reason, it is irrelevant to the atheist-christianity debate whether or not I prefer a world of absolute justice.
    The life of every human being is replete with examples of circumstances where reality falls far short of people’s preferences.
    My personal feelings about whether one option or the other is better than the alternative has no bearing on reality.
    In fact, it might be wise to consider the possibility that one’s own preferences in any particular regard can sometimes seriously impact on one’s ability to arrive at a proper conclusion.

  24. Make that third paragraph start:
    As a human being, I also believe that a world where there is no ignorance, starvation and violence is superior to a world where such things do exist.

  25. I disagree. I’m completely unconcerned with whether AJ “actually is” better than LAJ; I’m concerned with whether you believe AJ is better than LAJ. Yes or no question: do you – as in Dominic Saltarelli – believe that absolute justice is preferable to less than absolute justice? Why or why not, and feel free to expand definitions as needed.

    Simple question, simple answer.
    No.
    Absolute justice is abhorrent.
    It’s a sanctimonious appeal to emotion that serves no other purpose than appeasing the desires of sadists and gluttons.
    I don’t care how many baby fetuses Hitler sacrificed to Odin, or how much the Pope loves Jesus, or whatever. Nothing is so good or bad that is deserves never-ending anything.
    This what you were looking for?

  26. Lifey,
    I’ll get back to ya. I’m in a pinch right now.
    Dominic,
    Thank you, and I apologize: you’ve confirmed this lingering suspicion I’ve had that outlining my personal positions on traditional Christian theology would be a productive move on my part, one that would facilitate clear discussion for us all.
    Questions: was eternal damnation mentioned anywhere in the original syllogism? If not, is it safe to say you really believe that eternal damnation is abhorrent, and not necessarily the concept of absolute justice I introduced? Lastly, does your opinion of the argument change if you consider that I’m not necessarily equating AJ with eternal damnation?

  27. Actually, I can get to this before lunch:

    ..preferences have nothing to do with the truth of any particular claim, and, for that reason, it is irrelevant to the atheist-christianity debate whether or not I prefer a world of absolute justice.

    Correct. Do you simply disbelieve me when I say that I agree? How many more times would you like me to say that yes, I agree: preferences have no bearing on the truth or reality of either atheism or theism? I agree, I agree, I agree! No offense, but you seem to skip right over that.
    Now, seeing as how atheism retains zero potential to fulfill absolute justice – if our sole criteria in evaluating the superiority of atheism and theism were the relative ability of each to fulfill absolute justice – is not some form of theism undeniably the better choice?
    You can say something like, “Yes, but so what,” or “Yes, but for other reasons, I remain an atheist,” and I would simply acknowledge either of those and move on. Else, attack my premises, not your perception of my motivation for the conclusion I draw from them.
    I’m not voting for that which makes me more comfortable; I’m voting for that which retains the highest potential to restore moral equilibrium to the universe – and that’s not atheism.
    Even if you disgree, can you at least concede that, 1) I – cl – find atheism more comforting than theism; and 2) In THIS CASE, I – cl – prefer theism because it retains the highest potential to restore moral equilibrium to the universe, and NOT because I find it “more comforting?”
    If you can concede both those points, I would be more than willing to leave it there – unless of course you wish to press further. In that case, well.. I’m always game. You know that.

  28. This is why I said your concept of justice was unrecognizable. I said eternal “anything”. Be it punishment or reward.
    Ask me what a sufficient amount of justice would it take to balance Stalin’s account for his crimes against his own people, and I would say as much suffering as he meeted out. Granted, this would take lifetimes, but it is finite nonetheless. For me, that would be “absolute” justice, eye for an eye, paid in full. But you asserted that Christianity was what provides “absolute justice”, and Christianity no longer asserts that Hell is nothing more than “sinner rehab”, it has since changed it’s position and declared Hell to be eternal.
    On the flip side, Heaven is an eternal reward that is granted in return for… nothing.
    Justice, in any sense that I recognize it, doesn’t even factor in.

  29. You wrote: “Even if you disgree, can you at least concede that, 1) I – cl – find atheism more comforting than theism; and 2) In THIS CASE, I – cl – prefer theism because it retains the highest potential to restore moral equilibrium to the universe, and NOT because I find it “more comforting?””
    I can certainly concede that, at least. Are you willing to concede that theism– simply as a belief system existing in the syllogistic vacuum you’re describing– does not have the potential for anything?
    That it is only the universe as it actually exists that has the potential for such justice IF God exists?
    That in THIS CASE, you – cl – prefer theism because it allows you the internally gratifying belief (as opposed to “potential”) that THERE IS moral equilibrium in the universe, as opposed to the belief containing potential within itself?
    Maybe I’m not explaining myself clearly enough, but maybe this will help: My belief that the Mets will win the World Series next year does have any potential– only the Mets have that potential (although, in fact, they probably don’t). In the same way, a system that purports to explain the potential for justice in the universe, does not contain potential.
    It’s hope at best… certainly as far as the Mets are concerned.

  30. Dominic,

    For me, that would be “absolute” justice, eye for an eye, paid in full.

    I agree, and so here we are, finally at the last frontier of the argument from justice as delineated by Dominic and cl: would you say that atheism – defined as the belief that there are no God(s) and consciousness ceases after death – can provide this “absolute justice” as you just described it? Yes? Or no?
    Lifeguard,

    I can certainly concede that, at least.

    Thank you for believing me. I really do find more comfort and “easiness” in the idea that this is all just some arbitrary atomic dance, after which we just die and disperse. So, if I were to pick which sounded more comfortable or “easiest” between atheism and theism – and that was my sole criteria for the selection – I would be an atheist.

    Are you willing to concede that theism– simply as a belief system existing in the syllogistic vacuum you’re describing– does not have the potential for anything?

    I’m not really sure I’m hearing what you intend me to, but my immediate answer is, No. Do you think I should? If so, why?

    That it is only the universe as it actually exists that has the potential for such justice IF God exists?

    Are you saying that if God exists, it’s actually the universe that has the potential for justice? If so, I’m lost.

    That in THIS CASE, you – cl – prefer theism because it allows you the internally gratifying belief (as opposed to “potential”) that THERE IS moral equilibrium in the universe, as opposed to the belief containing potential within itself?

    In this case, I prefer theism because I believe that absolute justice is better than less than absolute justice (AJ > LAJ). Now, each of you also believes that AJ > LAJ – yet that sets up a conundrum you can’t get around: though you believe AJ is to be preferred, you also believe in a worldview that by definition lacks all potential to establish AJ.

    My belief that the Mets will win the World Series next year does [not] have any potential– only the Mets have that potential (brackets mine)

    Did you mean to include the [not] I added? If so, I say that you are correct, but I thought we already agreed that the syllogism isn’t meant to determine which is more potentially true?

    In the same way, a system that purports to explain the potential for justice in the universe, does not contain potential.

    Correct, but God certainly contains that potential, if He exists, right? Accordingly, atheism can’t contain that potential, even if it’s true, right?

  31. I agree, and so here we are, finally at the last frontier of the argument from justice as delineated by Dominic and cl: would you say that atheism – defined as the belief that there are no God(s) and consciousness ceases after death – can provide this “absolute justice” as you just described it? Yes? Or no?

    No.

  32. Okay, so now I’m confused. I’m assuming that your definition of “absolute justice” is close to the idea of “perfect justice,” so I’ll go with that and tell me if I’m wrong.
    Let’s start from the beginning: how is atheism not amenable to justice? Because it doesn’t allow for the actual existence of absolute justice, even if we can strive for it?
    How is theism amenable to justice? Because in some theistic religions, there are absolutes?
    From the way I’m interpreting what you’re saying, you say that if you like absolute justice, you should be theist. But that seems to be presuming that the very existence of the concept of absolute justice means that there is or can be absolute justice.
    From my perspective, the existence or nonexistence of absolute justice doesn’t matter if you’re atheist or theist. Just because you want there to be absolute justice doesn’t mean that you should be a theist, anymore than the other way around.
    Basically, I think the entire line of logic is flawed – in an effort for four-line simplicity, you made the matter far more complicated, especially since we (and not just the two of us) seem to be getting confused on the meaning of the terminology we use. (And people wonder why I get so stuck on semantics – it’s because one word can have myriad meanings, even more when you consider all the contexts!)
    (And again, as a side note not so relevant to the argument, Christianity would make my life a helluva lot easier, so I guess it depends on an individual’s personality and life experiences.)

  33. First of all:

    I think I’m the only one who actually got cl’s argument on this one. Put differently, Christians have a reason to behave, atheists do not. Better?
    – Dominic Saltarelli

    I’m an atheist and I have the best reason to behave, period: I want to be a good person, The End. That’s as far as it goes for me, pal.
    So yeah, eye for an eye is absolute justice? I thought that was the definition of vengeance, which is not justice. We can go around in circles all day saying what we mean by “justice,” though, so I propose that cl replace the ambiguous term with an unambiguous one.
    But yeah, I’ll readily agree that Christianity leads to more vengeance-seeking than atheism does, if we’re going with “eye for an eye” justice. I would also say that mercy vitiates that sort of justice, as well. I maintain that justice is “people getting what they deserve,” however; I also believe that punishing people for wrongdoing, in and of itself, does not do good. I outline this position in Let’s Play Slippery Slope!, the crucial passage to the present discussion being:

    So far, we all ought to be able to agree that justice is a desirable thing, it needs chains of moral responsibility upon which to operate, and these moral chains have to “stick to” causal chains which can get complicated. Given that, let us imagine that Burt hypnotizes Ernie, and as a result of this hypnosis, Ernie becomes a serial murderer; Ernie’s first victim is Big Bird. Big Bird’s murder is a morally bad act, to be sure, and we can see that Ernie is the immediate cause of it (well, the method of murder is technically the immediate cause, but whatever). But, since we understand that Ernie only murdered Big Bird because Burt hypnotized him into becoming a murderer, we can see that the causal chain extends through Ernie back to Burt. I think we can all agree that the moral chain also goes back to Burt, but in order to do so, it must go through Ernie.
    This puts Ernie in an interesting position: neither the causal nor the moral chain has its source in Ernie, yet Ernie committed the murder itself and is thus inextricably involved. And, per my stipulations, Ernie will kill again unless we do something about the causal antecedents which precipitated Ernie’s actions. In short, and obviously, Ernie’s hypnosis should be cured – we don’t want him to keep running around killing people, do we? Moreover, I think Ernie deserves to have his hypnosis cured, which makes curing him a just action. While it is too late by far to give Big Bird what he deserves, we can still do justice to Ernie by curing his hypnosis. Obviously, something needs to be done about Burt and his hypnotic method as well, since the creation of murderers tends to be detrimental to society.

    Perhaps the most telling point made so far is that it doesn’t matter whether God actually exists or not, since we can’t tell for sure. This means that we humans still have to do the sticky business of sorting out what “morality” and “justice” are, and the Bible isn’t kind enough to spell out a coherent moral theory explaining what the good is and why. So, says I, since different people have different religions, we need to come up with a system of morality that we can live with regardless of religion. Secular morality is the only universalizable morality; threats of Hellfire do no good to unbelievers, and believers who are restrained only by fear of Hellfire are unstable lunatics.

  34. I’m an atheist and I have the best reason to behave, period: I want to be a good person, The End. That’s as far as it goes for me, pal.

    Irrelevant. I was trying to understand what cl was getting at by “amendable to justice”.

    So yeah, eye for an eye is absolute justice? I thought that was the definition of vengeance, which is not justice. We can go around in circles all day saying what we mean by “justice,” though, so I propose that cl replace the ambiguous term with an unambiguous one.

    When speaking of punishment, the two labels, “justice” and “vengeance”, refer to exactly the same act. The only difference in deciding which word to apply to this same act of punishment is a matter of public opinion. Attempting to differentiate between punishment that is “just” and punishment that is an act of vengeance is a matter of finding enough people who feel the same way about different
    circumstances as you. Don’t believe me? Try it.

    So, says I, since different people have different religions, we need to come up with a system of morality that we can live with regardless of religion. Secular morality is the only universalizable morality; threats of Hellfire do no good to unbelievers, and believers who are restrained only by fear of Hellfire are unstable lunatics.

    Holy Christ on a Stick… I could not disagree more. We absolutely, positively, do NOT need to “come up” with a system of morality. If you want to talk slippery slopes, that one is hands down the very worst one to take. We have a system of morality, place, right now, that works just fine, we call it “civilization”. Different religions simply add additional layers of woo-woo nonsense on top of this. While our current intuitive understanding of things like altruism, justice, and fairness are far from delivering an idealized, utopian society, the resultant civilized behavior the occurs under legal systems based on such subjectivity is good enough (property rights, individual rights, etc…, because those are the things you want for yourself, so it just feels right for that to be the law). When people start taking it upon themselves to start writing social contracts, that’s when things get ugly. People are too stupid to centrally plan anything.
    I mean, seriously, what the hell do we need to “come up with” at this point anyways? Strip away all the superstitious nonsense and you still have a human race that prefers to get along with their neighbors and not worry about getting stabbed in the back.
    There is nothing… NOTHING, Christian about “thou shalt not steal, murder, etc…” The Christian part concerns having no other Gods and keeping the Sabbath holy.
    If you’ve ever been frustrated at the way theists keeping trotting out Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot, this is exactly why. This attitude of universalizing morality with some new utopian system is proto-Marx/Lenin/Stalin/etc…
    This is a prime example of the is/ought fallacy I referred to earlier (post 19).

  35. cl: per your ‘tautological’ statement, perhaps you’re shooting for something like this? Not sure…
    P1: Systems that are amenable to GodX-type justice are superior in materializing, or embodying, GodX-type justice to those that are not;
    P2 Atheism is not amenable to GodX-type justice;
    P3 Christianity is amenable to GodX-type justice;
    C Christianity is superior to atheism in materializing, or embodying, GodX-type justice.
    I went this route because it precludes discussion over whose justice is superior, since that’s a dead-end as far as deductive reasoning goes. I don’t know if I’m in the park with this one or not, but at least it seems properly tautological this way.

  36. jim,
    If you got any more in the park you’d be on the mound here. One thing though: I wasn’t as much concerned in forming a proper tautology as much as just expressing what I meant by the argument, if that makes any sense.

    I went this route because it precludes discussion over whose justice is superior, since that’s a dead-end as far as deductive reasoning goes.

    I think “superior in materializing, or embodying” is a good way to describe it, and in this comment I’ll say externalizing to mean the same thing. Yours is an accurate paraphrase here, the only problem for me is, what you replace “AJ” with gives the atheist more wiggle room to resist the argument: they can simply deny acceptance of the “GodX-type justice.” In fact, I’d say many atheists would be more likely to automatically reject your argument simply because it contains the trigger word God, and although my original included the trigger word Christianity, it was enveloped by a general theism meant to be inclusive of other faiths.
    Much like the strategy with this MGH thing (if you happened to read yesterday’s post), that’s why I sought to establish a baseline “absolute justice” that we all agree on regardless of our (a)theism, and I don’t necessarily think such efforts were as much of a dead end as one might think. Looking through this thread, and taking each person’s view of AJ, I can see a basic core that I think all of us share. For example, Dominic implied, “as much suffering as [one meets] out.” D offered, “getting what one deserves.”
    I’ll probably write a follow-up to this post, but I’d say thanks to everyone who stuck through it.

  37. cl:
    “…the only problem for me is, what you replace “AJ” with gives the atheist more wiggle room to resist the argument: they can simply deny acceptance of the “GodX-type justice.”
    That’s actually what I was shooting for, as I thought you were going more for internal consistency than in comparing various interpretations of the word ‘justice’. You’re also going for a baseline justice, then? I can’t really see how that can ever be addressed to everyone’s satisfaction, but…maybe.
    I had some ideas today about where you might be trying to go with these little syllogism thingies. I’ll try to hash it out for myself, and then present it to see where I’m going right or wrong.

  38. I’d have to agree with Jim. We all have an idea of what would constitute justice, and they may certainly have similarities, much as moral codes in most religions resemble each other to some degree. But that’s no guarantee that we’d agree when someone deserved something, because we don’t always agree on absolute rights and wrongs.

  39. jim,

    You’re also going for a baseline justice, then? I can’t really see how that can ever be addressed to everyone’s satisfaction, but…maybe.

    It won’t, as in to “everybody’s 100% satisfaction,” but we’ve been successful in establishing a baseline already: Dominic implied, “as much suffering as [one meets] out.” D offered, “getting what one deserves.” I agreed with both of those, and intend to respond in more detail to D’s objections. For now though, what would you offer as your definition of absolute justice?
    neosnowqueen,
    I think the strength of the original syllogism remains even amidst strong disagreement over our definitions of what absolute justice would entail. Could you provide your definition of absolute justice? I’ll try to demonstrate what I mean.

  40. Hm, absolute justice, eh? It’s hard for me to deal with that one in the sense of rewards and punishments. I don’t believe in free will, so retribution in the absolute sense is sort of like punishing a rock for rolling downhill to me.
    Wow, the more I think about it, I don’t think there is such a thing from my pov. Justice seems necessarily relative to a particular complex of ideas about how people SHOULD act, with the assumption that they could act differently than how they actually do. Put people in the situation most of us see lower animals occupying, and I think you’ll get where I’m coming from. I mean, I can understand wanting to mete out punishment…giving one ‘what they deserve’…from an emotional level. But not from a logical one, given my presuppositional base i.e. ‘hard’ determinism.

  41. Justice is necessarily relative to a particular set of ideas of how one should act. In that regard, and probably many others, it seems Jim and I agree.
    cl – the ultimate difficulty in accepting this seemingly simple line of thinking is that it implies more than what you offer. If I do prefer absolute justice, then I do have to prefer the concept of God in order to maintain rationality. So, you’re putting many people into a bind in having them answer your line of thinking. Of course, I could be not understanding the entire thing even after skimming through the comments.
    In the most theoretical sense, and the most idealistic one, I do prefer the ‘idea’ of absolute justice. However; do I find it plausible? no; do I find it reasonable? no. The reasoning behind this is as follows: in order for there to be absolute justice, there must be a judge. Who judges? God? What sort of God? You’re getting into a great many problems. But, that seems to be irrelevant to this discussion.
    Off the bat response: yes, I prefer it, in an idealistic and passionate response. A more analytical view of this shows too many flaws to find want of it.

  42. WritingShadows,

    The reasoning behind this is as follows: in order for there to be absolute justice, there must be a judge. Who judges? God? What sort of God? You’re getting into a great many problems. But, that seems to be irrelevant to this discussion.

    Not at all, it’s highly relevant.
    Euthyphro dilemma.

  43. Relevant in the “big picture,”
    certainly. According to the previous comments, it has nothing to do with the argument, at least, from what I gather from the comments, it’s not relevant.
    Plato’s The Republic was an great read though.

  44. That ‘an’ should be an ‘a’ and I forgot to thank you for the link. ;)

  45. Atheists – meaning people who claim no God(s) and no afterlife – necessarily believe that a man like Hitler can escape Earth unpunished, and “get all his evil without having to pay for it.”
    From the way I see it, Hitler did not escape unpunished. For the last two years of his life, he saw the gradual destruction of all of his dreams and aspirations. Witnesses attest to his physical and mental deterioration over the last months of the war which he spent cowering in his bunker beneath the Reichstag. Then he committed suicide.
    Stalin, on the other hand, did get to perpetrate a lot of evil and pretty much got away with it. Would it be great if were somewhere right now being tormented for his crimes? Sure it would! But it does not mean that there must be a hell to punish bad people.

  46. Thanks for that comment jim. I acknowledge your opinion and again, thanks for at least trying.

  47. WritingShadows,
    I think the argument works regardless of inability to converge on a working definition of justice.

    If I do prefer absolute justice, then I do have to prefer the concept of God in order to maintain rationality. So, you’re putting many people into a bind in having them answer your line of thinking. Of course, I could be not understanding the entire thing even after skimming through the comments.

    I believe you’ve accepted a false dichotomy. I could envision scenarios where absolute justice is possible without a personal God or deity.
    Still, the “bind” you allude to is one of the arguments key strengths IMO: it forces atheists to admit that their worldview is entirely incapable of externalizing that which they tend to believe should be externalized.
    IOW, atheism is absolutely useless for the acquisition of any kind of “ultimate best.”

  48. John Morales,
    Feel free to explain the relevance of the dilemma to this discussion.
    Tommykey,

    From the way I see it, Hitler did not escape unpunished. For the last two years of his life, he saw the gradual destruction of all of his dreams and aspirations. Witnesses attest to his physical and mental deterioration over the last months of the war which he spent cowering in his bunker beneath the Reichstag. Then he committed suicide.

    That’s an interesting way to look at it, as well as one I’d agree with, though it doesn’t refute the argument in the OP (not that I’m saying you’re saying it did, either).

    Stalin, on the other hand, did get to perpetrate a lot of evil and pretty much got away with it. Would it be great if were somewhere right now being tormented for his crimes? Sure it would! But it does not mean that there must be a hell to punish bad people.

    Of course that’s not what it means. But what my argument does mean is that all atheists who prefer something even remotely close to “Absolute Justice” believe in a worldview that is literally incapable of providing that which they believe in and value. You attest to this when you say, “Sure it would!”

  49. Feel free to explain the relevance of the dilemma to this discussion.

    I thought it was obvious: substitute justice for morality in the dilemma, and it remains equally applicable.

  50. And what would the “it” in your sentence refer to? The dilemma? Or the argument? Please, explain yourself.

  51. “Absolute justice is superior to less than absolute justice;
    Atheism can only supply less than absolute justice;
    Theism – especially Christianity – can only supply absolute justice;
    Theism – especially Christianity – is superior to atheism.”

    This just sounds like wishful thinking to me. You’d like something to supply absolute justice, and Christianity supposedly does, so that means Christianity is valid.

    However cl, I’ll have you know that I have completely rejected atheism and am heading toward theism. Thank you for all the eyeopening content. :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: