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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

How would you have evil if no Satan?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21300 points ) September 29th, 2010

So many want to disbelieve in God so does that mean they do not believe in Satan also? And if there is no Satan how can there be evil? How can anyone coin the moniker of evil on people like Charles Manson, Saddam Hussain, Tommy Lee Searl, Richard Ramirez, etc.? Killers would be just part of the landscape, they would be no different than the croc that lies under the water in the river taking down the weak, young, and sick wildebeest. The wildebeest hold no grudge or have a need for vengeance anymore than the croc killed for the trill of it. Death was death, and attack was just part of the daily biz. Where would evil come from if not from Satan and how would you have Satan if no God?

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52 Answers

Hobosnake's avatar

Someone (I believe St. Augustine; could be wrong there) theorized that evil was simply the absence of good just as darkness is simply the absence of light—you can’t bring a “dark candle” or anything of the sort and darken a lit room, similarly, evil does not itself exist, but an absence of good certainly abounds. This is an explanation of evil that allows for a reality with God but no Satan, or for a reality with both. The truth is I don’t know which side of the fence I am on, but I certainly believe in a reality with God as its creator. Without God there is no good, erego there is no absence thereof, leading to there being no evil and no morality. The absence of satan isn’t an issue here. In the end I sometimes assume man in his earthly state doesn’t need any pushing in the wrong direction; he goes there on his own. But I do believe there is in fact a wrong direction, and that is one reason I must believe in a God.

faye's avatar

Evil and good don’t depend on god or satan.

muppetish's avatar

1. I do not “want to disbelieve in God” – I simply do not believe in God.
2. I do not believe in Satan.
3. I do not believe in the dichotomy of good and evil (as in: there are good people and evil people.) I believe there are people who choose to do acts that are perceived as positive (good things) and people who choose to commit acts that are perceived as negative (“evil” things).
4.“Good” and “evil” are abstract words and are, therefore, subjective.

How would we have evil without Satan? The word “evil” exists regardless of whether one believes in Satan, a Satan-like figure. The terminology will only disappear if we remove it from our vocabulary.

Vunessuh's avatar

The definition of evil is listed online as follows:
1. Morally bad or wrong; wicked.
2. Causing ruin, injury, or pain; harmful.
3. Characterized by or indicating future misfortune; ominous.
4. Bad or blameworthy by report; infamous.
5. Characterized by anger or spite; malicious.
6. Morally objectionable behavior.
7. Profoundly immoral and wrong.

It is very rare to read in a dictionary that Satan is evil’s synonym or directly related or is what defines this word.
Therefore, and this has always been my personal stance as well, Satan and evil don’t always have to be related, aside from fairytales. Evil can easily exist with or without Satan. Someone can be evil without motivation from Satan. I personally do not believe that Satan exists, but if he did and if we believed that all evil only came from Him, then we are taking the responsibility of one’s own shitty actions out of millions of people’s hands.

If Satan = bad/evil then I take it God = good/angelic – but one cannot tell me that all of the good and bad in the world is only because of Satan and God.

It is highly illogical to say that if we all found out for sure tomorrow that Satan isn’t real, that all the human beings who have raped, murdered, kidnapped, etc. are suddenly excusable.

If that’s the case, then are you saying that if there is no God, there can be no good?

This Satan bologna is a crutch used by psychopathic mothers who drown their children and say the Devil told them to do it.

Horseshit.

The choices we make are human and they come from no other being but us.

Hobosnake's avatar

@Vunessuh Are you insinuating that there can be good without God? That kind of came out of nowhere in terms of placement in your post, clarify please.

Vunessuh's avatar

@Hobosnake Absolutely, but understand that I don’t believe in God. However, if God were real, I believe that with or without Him, goodness would still exist. People aren’t good just because God tells them to be. Humans who are good people and do and create good things do so by their own choice.

Hobosnake's avatar

@Vunessuh Other than that goodness would continue to exist, I agree with you. Free will is one of the central aspects of Christianity, and you seem not to realize that. Supernatural forces don’t have the final say in your behavior according to most Christians. Influences are another story though. The issue isn’t that people wouldn’t continue to do “good” things without the existence of a god, the issue is that “good” things wouldn’t be objectively defined in the first place. That’s really one of the deadlocks in Christianity-Atheism debates, not to say that Atheists don’t have their own.

Nullo's avatar

Satan is not Evil the way that God is Love.
For the time being, I have decided that Evil is functionally a deficit of Good.

Vunessuh's avatar

@Hobosnake How do I seem not to realize that free will is one of the central aspects of Christianity when I never mentioned anything about Christianity in the first place? I’m not making any of this about religion.

We certainly disagree that good things wouldn’t be objectively defined without the existence of God. I do not believe that God is the reason why there is good or that it had to start with Him.
I am a non-believer after all and there is an abundance of good around me, so my questions are pretty much answered.

Vunessuh's avatar

@Hobosnake Actually they’re not all answered. I have a quick question for you – Are you saying that if God doesn’t exist, these things that we as human beings currently call “good”, would turn meaningless and/or nonexistent because they can’t objectively be defined without God’s “presence”?

crisw's avatar

I am an atheist. Of course I don’t believe in Satan, any more than I believe in any gods.

To address one of your points that I do not think anyone else has- a lion that kills a wildebeest is not immoral. Morality requires the ability to conceptualize what is good and what causes harm to others, and the awareness to make decisions based on this information. Animals do not have such capacities, except in the most rudimentary sense, and thus, like babies, small children and the mentally incompetent, they cannot be held morally responsible for what they do.

Normal adult humans, however, have the capacity to make moral choices. Those who choose to harm others without cause violate moral codes. These codes arose not because of any gods or devils, but because we are a social species. All social species have mechanisms to prevent intragroup strife- overly violent group members were unlikely to leave many offspring and unlikely to get help from relatives.

So what is evil is what goes against societal mores. Religion simply adds layers of trappings over the basic social morality that all humans share; often it twists such moralities bizarrely, condoning behavior that most rational humans would find appalling (such as stoning women to death for adultery) and prohibiting behaviors that harm no one (such as wearing mixed fibers.)

Hobosnake's avatar

@Vunessuh that’s exactly what I’m not saying. What I am saying is that their “goodness” would be meaningless and nonexistent, as we would all turn to dust in the end regardless and there would be no higher power to determine their meaning. Their only meaning would be for survival and acceptance, as @crisw points out, and even that concept is severely limited and defined by the society you live in, and isn’t really true in a world without a higher power as might makes right in the end under those circumstances.

Nullo's avatar

The killers-as-crocs notion is a likely outcome of moral relativism.

Vunessuh's avatar

@Hobosnake So if God exists, it is defined as “good” if I turned in the wallet to lost and found, but if He doesn’t exist, there is no meaning or existence at all behind my motivations, intentions or the deed itself of turning in the wallet, simply because there is no higher power to determine that for me?

The problem is, you’re speaking from a standpoint that God does exist and this is what would happen if he suddenly didn’t. That’s not how it works. He either exists or he doesn’t. He’s not hired one day and fired the next. If he doesn’t exist, then clearly we have the capability to place meaning behind all of the good in the world without a higher power.
If he does exist, then we either would or wouldn’t be able to place meaning behind what is “good” either with or without a higher power. We’ll never know, but the world doesn’t suddenly decide to turn to dust just because God doesn’t feel like existing anymore. That’s why I don’t feel your argument is valid.

If we all found out God doesn’t exist would everything “good” lose its meaning and would we turn to dust? Um, no. The world would continue as it is now because we developed this way without Him.

crisw's avatar

@Hobosnake

“Their only meaning would be for survival and acceptance, as @crisw points out,”

That is not what I mean at all. What I was pointing out is that the rich and complex moral life of humans is explainable by our evolution as social animals.

You have not defined what “meaningless” means. Certainly our lives can be meaningful and valuable even if they are the only lives we have and there is nothing after.

How, exactly, do you think the existence of a “higher power” determines what is right and what is wrong and gives it meaning? Please explain especially regarding the fact that the majority of humans in the world today are not Christians.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

muppetish I do not believe in the dichotomy of good and evil (as in: there are good people and evil people.) I believe there are people who choose to do acts that are perceived as positive (good things) and people who choose to commit acts that are perceived as negative (“evil” things).
4.“Good” and “evil” are abstract words and are, therefore, subjective. How would one qualify what is positive or negative? With out some benchmark on good and evil what some would think as evil would be positive to another. Vlad the Impaler to many was a hero and a great leader, to many others he was a blood thirsty, sadistic ruler. He took most all of the families of the boyars and either worked them to death in captivity or impaled them, the young and old alike. Because they were hate people like the Ottomans he shed no tear for them. Who was to say he was not evil unless they were able to best him and make him stand in peril of his action? He thought by killing these people and getting them out of the way he was doing good. I would suspect in his mind vanquishing people he thought was his enemies was positive. Who determines this ”positive” or ”negative” action when no all see it in the same light?

Vunessuh I personally do not believe that Satan exists, but if he did and if we believed that all evil only came from Him, then we are taking the responsibility of one’s own shitty actions out of millions of people’s hands. We still have free will. To go as you suggest would be to give drunk drivers a pass because the moment they became drunk they lost all ability to know they should not be driving, and that it was the barkeep’s fault for allowing them to leave with their keys instead of wrestling them to the dirt and taking them. Not everyone who gets drunk drives their car, many walk, take a cab, or call someone. Others make the choice to try and drive home.

I believe that with or without Him, goodness would still exist. People aren’t good just because God tells them to be. Humans who are good people and do and create good things do so by their own choice. Who determines what this ”good” is and what is not good? If it would exist san God how would man come to that conclusion? If man decided good on his own when animals cannot would that not be because man had more intelligence and thus created good and evil but in reality there is just actions and reactions? Maybe some people might see slaughtering others as the mean to a positive end for them and their group, thus not seeing their actions as bad or negative but positive for them. Dictators have done such in the past, seen people they though needed to be purges from their lands and nations and either gassed them in the villages or gassed them in camps, or simple marched them in front of a large trench and shot them; and they believe themselves right to do it. Who is the ”good” czar to determine if it is or not?

crisw Normal adult humans, however, have the capacity to make moral choices. Who gets to decide what is moral and how did they come to that? When the US dropped the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima did the government and people of the US see it as immoral or just? I have never heard of anyone officially saying it was immoral, mostly that is was needed. If Al Qaeda got hold of nukes and leveled downtown LA most here would say it was immoral (we would not come out on the positive end of the stick), but to Al Qaeda they would have seen it as quite moral and just. Back in the West when the army gave smallpox contaminated blankets to the Native Americans they did not see it as immoral they seen it as strategy to get rid of the Read Heathens. I am sure the native American thought different about the act (if they ever caught wind on how they were bamboozled).

Nullo's avatar

@Vunessuh I’m rather inclined to think that God provided a moral standard, and then some people made copies of it when they got tired of Him and went away.

Vunessuh's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central You’ve misunderstood what I suggested.
I didn’t make that statement to express how it should be. I made that statement to express how it would be if Satan really is the cause of all evil – if we believed that, we would be excused of any and all bad behavior and instead place responsibility on Satan rather than on ourselves. My whole entire point was about free will. I don’t think I communicated that correctly at first. You said that killers would be no different than a croc killing a wildebeest and I said that theory is illogical because with or without Satan, we are still solely responsible for our own actions.

And yes, I was going to say that this “goodness” we speak of is really rather subjective. Even laws set in stone can’t and won’t make everyone happy because some individual opinion believes that a lot of these laws hurt a lot of people and cause a lot of damage. (e.g. abortion, gun laws, capital punishment, not allowing homosexuals to marry, slaughterhouses etc.) while others believe some of these are actually important and good for their own reasons.
What I think is good and bad will be different from what you think is good and bad. So, there really is no definite answer to what is “good”.

@Nullo Yes, believing that God provided a moral standard makes better sense. I don’t understand what you mean by the rest of it, though.

BoBo1946's avatar

Have often wondered why God did not destroy Satan. I’ve read that Satan is a spirit and cannot be destroyed, but will be cast into the Lake of Fire at the end of time. Also, Satan like all people in Heaven has a free spirit. Find that interesting.

People’s beliefs of Satan range from the silly to the abstract—from a little red guy with horns who sits on your shoulder urging you to sin, to an expression used to describe the personification of evil. The Bible, however, gives us a clear portrait of who Satan is and how he affects our lives. Put simply, the Bible defines Satan as an angelic being who fell from his position in heaven due to sin and is now radically opposed to God, doing all in his power to thwart God’s purposes for humanity.

Satan was created as a holy angel. Isaiah 14:12 possibly gives Satan’s pre-fall name as Lucifer. Ezekiel 28:12–14 describes Satan as having been created a cherubim, apparently the highest created angel. He became arrogant in his beauty and status and decided he wanted to sit on a throne above that of God (Isaiah 14:13–14; Ezekiel 28:15; 1 Timothy 3:6). Satan’s pride led to his fall. Notice the many “I will” statements in Isaiah 14:12–15. Because of his sin, God barred Satan from heaven.

Satan became the ruler of this world that functions apart from God and the prince of the power of the air (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). He is an accuser (Revelation 12:10), a tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), and a deceiver (Genesis 3; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 20:3). His very name means adversary or “one who opposes.” Another name used Satan, the devil, means “slanderer.”

Even though he was cast out of heaven, he still seeks to elevate his throne above God. He counterfeits all that God does, hoping to gain the worship of the world and foment opposition to God’s kingdom. Satan is the ultimate source behind every false cult and world religion. Satan will do anything and everything in his power to oppose God, and those who follow God. However, Satan’s destiny is sealed—an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Sources: Bible, Yahoo, and myself.

ratboy's avatar

The Taliban stone a woman because she is an evil-doer behaving in a manner proscribed by their religion. Who is evil?

muppetish's avatar

“Who was to say he was not evil unless they were able to best him and make him stand in peril of his action?” When I said I don’t believe people are essentially good or evil, it’s because nobody is born that way. I don’t believe we are born sinners or saints. I guess if I had to use a common philosophy, it would be “tabula rasa” – clean slate. The decisions we make after we come into being are what can be determined as good or bad, but there are not good or bad people.

That is why I would not say Vlad was an inherently evil human being, but one who committed atrocities (or acts of “evil”, if you will.) This is my subjective opinion based on personal beliefs. I have long since reconciled that there will exist people whose perspective conflict with my own. The people who believe Vlad was a force for good? I think they are wrong. but it’s all about our perspective.

Who determines this ”positive” or ”negative” action when no all see it in the same light?” I believe, as evidenced by your given scenario and the one @ratboy proposed in his post, it is absolutely clear that we determine what is “positive” and “negative” on an individual basis. I am rarely, if ever, swayed in the direction of accepting universal truths (especially when it appears as a binary.)

crisw's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central

“How would one qualify what is positive or negative?”

It’s pretty easy. A valid morality, like any other valid thought system, must be consistent (morally equivalent situations are treated equally) and coherent (the conclusions make sense from the premises.)

At the base of morality are prohibitions on doing unjustified harm to others. The rest springs from that.

“With out some benchmark on good and evil what some would think as evil would be positive to another. ”

Thinking so does not make it so. If the base standard is “don’t cause unjustified harm to others” than torturers and tyrants are wrong for this reason, even if they think they are right.

“Who determines what this ”good” is and what is not good? If it would exist san God how would man come to that conclusion?”

As I asked Hobosnake- “How, exactly, do you think the existence of a “higher power” determines what is right and what is wrong and gives it meaning? Please explain especially regarding the fact that the majority of humans in the world today are not Christians.”

“Who gets to decide what is moral and how did they come to that? ”

I explained a bit of this above. I also don’t see how a god enters into any of the equations you gave. I can take a rule like “Do not harm others unless such harm will prevent a greater harm” and make rational decisions. How exactly does anything in the Bible tell anyone what to do, especially given the many contradictions and outright loathsome statements in it?

Nullo's avatar

@Vunessuh I reckon that God established a moral standard. Biblical history (and regular history corroborates withe the collection of other gods running around) shows that people pretty much rejected God at various points in history, and I suspect that they kept what parts of the moral standard that they liked, and developed stopgaps for what they didn’t.

Jabe73's avatar

Not everyone that believes in God believes a literal devil or Satan exists, some do. I do not think you need a scapegoat called “Satan” to blame for all the evil people do. Many people are their own devils (and unfortunately other people’s too).

absalom's avatar

Where would evil come from if not from Satan and how would you have Satan if no God?

It would come from you. (It is in you right now.)

If you do believe in Satan and insist on seeing evil in a religious or Manichaeistic context, consider Satan the thing that tempts humans to indulge in the evil that already exists within them. He is not capable of engendering evil by himself. How could he be? We would have all been doomed by now if he could just ‘produce’ evil, which like anti-matter would begin to annihilate the material ‘good’ that exists in the world.

But that is just me thinking in a hypothetical fashion, as though Satan and God and good and evil all exist within clearly demarcated areas or something. I personally don’t believe in evil or in good in the terms you’re describing them – maybe I don’t believe in them at all except as necessary aspects of the moral schemata people rely on in their day-to-day judgment of things.

A binary conception of good/evil is valuable because it simplifies the world and allows us to act without constantly deciding the moral implications of the action, but it is not the truth. ‘Good’ and ‘evil’ as concepts are just cognitive facilitators. The concepts allow for simple and (quite frankly) lazy moral choices, most of the time. But who is to say everything you do doesn’t contain both ‘good’ and ‘evil’? To attribute good entirely to God and evil entirely to Satan is the extreme of the binary moral schema and, like someone has already said, removes the danger of culpability in an individual – at least to a degree. In the same way, attributing an action strictly to ‘good’ or ‘evil’ is a lazy oversimplification of the action.

Killers would be just part of the landscape…

I think that’s a fantastic way of describing killers. Why do they have to be anything else?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@crisw At the base of morality are prohibitions on doing unjustified harm to others. We are still at the quandary of who determines what is justified or unjustified harm? Many dictators slaughtered thousand if not millions because they felt those they slaughtered disrupted the course of government or was dangerous, in any case not needed in the society they were purged from. Would Pol Pot be seen as a monster if he was never vanquished he and his Khmer Rouge believed they were doing good works. Those on the outside looking in didn’t think so. If good and evil is just evil is basically derived from a group consciousness it logically has about as much umph as any religion because there is nothing but the believe in those that follow it that makes it relevant at all.

@absalom It would come from you. (It is in you right now.) It was in us as an innate trait that wasn’t taught why would good not have been that? If there was such an experiment where you could put to babies and teach them language but nothing else they would figure out what is evil and good to what evil and good is to the greater American standard? If they came to the conclusion that killing game for sport just because they were bored with no intent to eat it would that truly be good since there would be no one to oppose it?

crisw's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central

“We are still at the quandary of who determines what is justified or unjustified harm? ”

I was writing in a bit of moral shorthand. The ethics of causing harm are a long and complicated subject, on which dozens of philosophical books have been written. if you are really interested in a position simnilar to mine, may I recommend The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan? Although it focuses on animal rights, it starts with the structure of a basic non-utilitarian ethic based on preventing harm.

In a nutshell, harm is what is injurious or perceived as injurious to a being. All sentient beings strive to avoid harm and maximize pleasure, and all ethical systems are based around this basic fact. The simplest, most coherent and most consistent ethical system is to avoid harming other beings, unless that harm is necessary to prevent an equal or greater harm. Thus, for example, although a baby perceives a vaccination as harm, vaccinating is permissible because it prevents a greater harm. As a corollary to this, if an act causes no harm to anyone, it’s permissible.

Hobosnake's avatar

The issue isn’t so much that goodness “wouldn’t exist”, but that its subjectiveness would make it meaningless, both in the sense that no one can really justifiably be held accountable by anything other than natural forces if goodness is not objectively determined. Also notable is the fact that if there is no reason behind it all and in the end all of reality does cease to exist, what difference does anything make?

@crisw regarding the “prevents a greater harm”, I bring you back to the eugenics argument.

crisw's avatar

@Hobosnake

You never answered my original question-please do! How, exactly, do you think the existence of a “higher power” determines what is right and what is wrong and gives it meaning? Please explain especially regarding the fact that the majority of humans in the world today are not Christians.

As for the eugenics argument, eugenics programs cause great harm, much greater than they prevent, and are thus unethical.

Hobosnake's avatar

@crisw that is very much a matter of opinion. If you lived in 1940s Germany you would probably view the situation quite differently. Fascism basically viewed order as the greatest good and put it above all else. Preservation of order was, in a sense, their morality.

And to answer your question, objective morality itself must be viewed as a “higher power,” in that it lies above other considerations and can guide one’s life due to their belief that this is the right thing to do. If determining what is right is left up to nature, which is fallible, entropic, and consists of differing opinions and conflicting self-interests, there is no objective definition, and morality is only as solid as the natural realm is like-minded. A power higher than the natural realm that is distinct from it but also interacts with it leads to true objective morality, as the morality is determined by that power alone.

crisw's avatar

@Hobosnake

Sorry, but you didn’t answer my question at all. I am looking for the mechanics of your morality. How does any individual determine whether a specific act is right or wrong? I’ve given the framework of such an approach; how does yours work?

As far as what the 1940s German thinks, it is not relevant because the person is not thinking correctly. It is possible to determine objectively whether most practices are or are not harmful.

Hobosnake's avatar

@crisw there is no “correctly”, you basically just used a different word. For them, that was “correct” thinking just as they viewed it as moral. Note that, just as they had a theory of “correctness” drilled into their head by propaganda, so have you, and so have all of us.

From my approach one decides which act is right or wrong by looking to the higher power’s revelation of himself, in Christianity’s case the bible.

crisw's avatar

@Hobosnake

Can you give some concrete examples of how Biblical morality directly applies to modern situations as opposed to those concerning oxen and asses yoked together? Something like the ethics of reality TV or copyright law.

While an ethic based on the harm principle can answer such questions, I don’t see how a Bible-based one can (at least any more clearly than, say, the Prophecies of Nostradamus.)

And, in consulting the Bible as your source of morality, what do you do about all of the hideously immoral or just downright silly advice in the Bible? How do you pick and choose that polyester blends and haircuts and working on Sundays are OK but murder and abortion are not- using the Bible alone and not your own “fallible” experience? What about genocide, slavery, subjugation of women- all branded as perfectly OK by God Almighty?

And, again, what about the majority of people on this planet who are not Christian?

“For them, that was “correct” thinking just as they viewed it as moral.”

You aren’t understanding me. Thinking that something is so does not make it so. Harm can be measured. No matter how you word it, from any objective standard these people were causing harm.

Hobosnake's avatar

@crisw There is a verse (although I’m having trouble finding it) that urges one to follow the laws of one’s nation in all cases except where they conflict with the law of the Lord. Couple this with copyright, for example, which is basically the idea that one’s ideas are one’s property, and you basically just have another case of “thou shalt not covet/steal”. As for the period of duration of a copyright, I believe that’s more of a logical issue than a moral one (though I do believe their length has indeed gotten a bit ridiculous, and, as your article points out, in the act of doing so they defeat their original purpose).

As for reality TV, I truly don’t know what to say. I’d say society has biased me to view it as unethical, and that’s fine with me to some degree. More than anything though I typically view it as just kind of stupid. It is of course a bit of a selfish act, which is obviously discouraged as it is in most religions, to be entertained at other’s expense, but religion doesn’t often talk about psychological trauma rather than physical, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that at their inception psychology was a lot less relevant.

When it comes to that I definitely have to agree that the harm principle is useful, but I find it synchronizes well with the bible and really is only defined when used in conjunction with it.

Regarding the picking out of todays laws, I’ve wondered the same thing myself, although I can think of a few examples. I remember a distinct part of the bible about the releasing of the Christians from not being able to eat “unclean” animals (so we can eat non-kosher), but that’s the only specific one I can think of. When it comes to slavery, the nature of slavery was very different in Jewish society and more akin to servanthood but for a fixed amount of time. I seem to recall hearing or reading about punishments for abusive slave owners, but I’m not sure about that one.

Regarding the subjugation of women, let me step out of my slightly professional air for a moment and into a one of cynisism and say I know of more than a few who could certainly do with a little subjugation. In all seriousness, however, that was a completely different time. If by “subjugation” you meant “unable to make their own life for themself”, then they actually were pretty well-off. Instead of working as a carpenter or a farmer they worked as a housewife. Considering the tools and technology of the age, I’d assume they had a much lower mortality rate. If you mean being stoned to death for adultery, I believe men were also, although a man’s adultery was much harder to prove, so that’s just a sad physiological fact. I know when Jesus came he changed this law (and many others) not to say that it is moral to fornicate, but instead to say that to forgive is divine. To be honest, I have just as much trouble regarding our current policy on adultery. It sure is causing a lot of harm that we just seem to be ignoring.

As for genocide, we don’t always understand that one. I do know that it wasn’t “OK” in the sense of if you got bored you could just go murder an entire nation. It was only allowed when God commanded it. As for why he commanded it in the first place, there are a few possible reasons there. When it comes to a battle where one was ordered to slaughter basically every living thing in the city, it was a sort of pride/profit factor—one would often leave the king or leaders of the city alive as a sort of trophy and parade them around in humiliation after victory, and, more understandably, one would often profit from the oxen, farmland, etc. of a conquered land. In destroying everything in a sense they showed that they did not profit at all from this venture; and that indeed they need not, for the Lord was their provider. Whether or not the passing on of that message was worth all of the lives in an entire city is the problem, but as I said I don’t know if I can address that. The only thing I can say is that it may have been some sort of preventative measure for something that God knew would happen otherwise.

Lastly, who the heck has an objective standard? We are all of us affected by propaganda; if you were to find someone who hadn’t been (say, someone who had spent their whole life on a deserted island), they wouldn’t be a credible source due to their lack of civilized experience, and in fact would probably use a survival-of-the-fittest ideology that might even encourage eugenics. It’s a self-destructive cycle—being a part of society is a requirement for forming it, yet it also biases you to a point where you are unqualified. Our beliefs are all the product of our experiences; mine are just as much as yours; yet in cases such as this they are mutually exclusive.

How is harm measured? For that matter, how is benefit measured? They are both subjective in your world, each a matter of opinion.

“And, again, what about the majority of people on this planet who are not Christian?”

Taken out of context, I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

Jabe73's avatar

@crisw Do you have a bible? The verses for obeying the laws of the land are mentioned in Romans, chapter 13 verses 1 to 7, except for the circumstance you mentioned when these laws disobey god’s laws. You might not understand the old English written verses in the old bible I have literally so you are probally better off looking this up on the net (probally a newer translation that is easier to understand).

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@crisw The ethics of causing harm are a long and complicated subject, on which dozens of philosophical books have been written. if you are really interested in a position simnilar to mine, may I recommend The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan? I have not the time to read that book in full give me the digest tour to get me up to speed. How would animal rights denote right or wrong, good or evil? The only reason there is animal rights is because of humans. It is not like the wildebeest are going to form a union against the crocs by claiming they are not treated well because they can’t cross the river with out several getting snatched. Animals don’t care about how or when they kill other animals, only humans get wrapped up in that and only behind certain animals. If that was a component of good and evil would not the animals have it because they have not the sentient to be aware of a soul, God or the Devil?

crisw's avatar

@Hobosnake

Thanks for your reply. However, I am not sure if you see what you are saying. You claim that your morality is based on the Bible, yet you say things like “Regarding the picking out of todays laws, I’ve wondered the same thing myself.” What that means, then, is ultimately your morality doesn’t really come from the Bible. It comes from your interpretation of the Bible. You pick and choose which laws you follow and which you do not, which are relevant to today’s world and which are not. You can’t quite recall which verses permit which acts, you aren’t really sure which things are permissible, you make excuses for genocide and ignore the issue of slavery.

In other words, you could be just as moral- if not more so, without the Bible. You state “When it comes to that I definitely have to agree that the harm principle is useful, but I find it synchronizes well with the bible and really is only defined when used in conjunction with it.” How is it only defined in conjunction with the Bible? I certainly don’t need a Bible to use it. And how does it synchronize well? The Bible is full of incident after incident where great harm was caused, great suffering was inflicted, for no good reason. Isn’t using wild bears to kill a group of children because they insulted a bald man, for example, just a wee bit excessive?

And look at how often throughout history, those who claimed to be using the Bible as their moral authority committed heinous acts of cruelty. From the Inquisition to witch hunts to slavery to today’s crusade against gay marriage, those who profess a Biblical world view have often clearly been on the morally-wrong side.

As far as “the majority of people on this planet who are not Christian”- where do you think their morality comes from? Or are they all immoral?

crisw's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central

Too bad you don’t have time to read the book. It’s truly one of the finest philosophy books around. I recommended it not for its stance on animal rights, but for its clear explication of an ethic based on the harm principle, which is just as applicable to humanity- you have to explain the source of human rights before you can move on to animals. If you are truly interested, I recommend this short essay.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@crisw Factory farming, they say, is wrong — it violates animals’ rights — but traditional animal agriculture is all right. Toxicity tests of cosmetics on animals violates their rights, but important medical research — cancer research, for example — does not. The clubbing of seals is abhorrent, but not the harvesting of adult seals. That would be the de facto hypocritical standing of animals rights which has really little to do with evil and Godliness, you can’t say you are horrified by cute baby harbor seals getting their heads bashed in but say “good going” to poisoning rats or blasting gophers with your shot gun so they would not cause holes that could harm your cattle or horses. If animals rights were taken to an end we would all be vegan. We are not vegan because God never intended man to be vegetarian or vegan. There are many places in the Bible where they killed a fatted calf in greeting or celebration of someone, not to mention the offering the High Priest made on behalf of people to atone for their sins.

Some of the rational virtues of this view — what I call the rights view — should be evident. Unlike (crude) contractarianism, for example, the rights view in principle denies the moral tolerance of any and all forms of racial, sexual or social discrimination; and unlike utilitarianism, this view in principle denies that we can justify good results by using evil means that violate an individual’s rights — denies, for example, that it could be moral to kill my Aunt Bea to harvest beneficial consequences for others. Biblically that would not be allowed because 1st off the money and goods belong to Mrs. Bea, even if she had intended to parcel it out to descendants down the road of after she died it is still hers now, for anyone in the family to desire to have it now with out her giving it to them is coveting her property; a sin. If they kill her to get the property then they have sinned again with murder.

Well, perhaps some will say that animals have some inherent value, only less than we have. They are less. Gen:1 20–30, God has made man ruler over all that swam in the waters, flew over the trees and crawled, ran or walked on the Earth. Animals are here for man and man is here for God. God did not place the animals here to worship Him, the animals have no concept they are even created by God. Jesus died to cover our sins. Animals cannot be covered for sins they have no concept of or for a soul they don’t have. Does that mean we man can be poor stewards of the animals? I don’t think so, even when God sent the flood to wipe man from the earth he had Noah build the ark so the animal population would not be wiped out with man, even God seen animals having a place on this planet even if not equal to man.

IMO for one to have the concept of unnecessary cruelty the concept of ”do no harm” has to originate from somewhere. As with the all encompassing care for those who can’t understand like children or the mental deficient. We are all saved by grace if one wants it because Jesus died for all who would accept.
If there was no evil and evil can come in many increments killing aunt Bea would be logical because if no one liked her and she was old and going to give it anyhow, her not dying to assure this once in a life time deal would be a dime holding up a dollar. But then hard core logic could be used in many cases that seem cruel only because of the concept of good and evil we have that will make it less palatable like seeing cute fuzzy seals getting their heads whacked and skinned alive at times.

eden2eve's avatar

Satan is sometimes called “the deceiver”. He’s real, and he’s hard at work. Read Screwtape Letters for some great insight on his mindset, methods and effectiveness.

I think that people can surely be evil without Satan’s help, but that said, I think that Satan does help the process along considerably. He can encourage subtle ways of thinking which can be very distorted, and, dare I say it? Evil.

He was the one who was responsible for the atrocities that many blame on religion. No, I shouldn’t say responsible, because individuals were responsible. They were just influenced (deceived) into believing that what they were doing was for a “righteous” cause. Very similar to many examples I could provide regarding present-day situations.

An example might be, it’s ok, even encouraged, to curtail the existence of an infant who has yet to be born, even though they have done no harm, and even if they could remain alive if they WERE to be born, because… well… they haven’t been born yet. But it would be an atrocity to curtail the life of someone who has committed horrific acts upon another living being, or many beings, because, well…. it’s immoral to take another human life. Sounds a bit twisted and hypocritical, and sounds as if someone has clearly been deceived…

I feel that I have been roundly instructed on this site as to some of the ways that Satan works his deceptions. He can make people think they are doing good whilst they are doing much the opposite. Pretty sad to me.

crisw's avatar

@eden2eve

“He’s real, and he’s hard at work”

And you can prove this how?

“Read Screwtape Letters for some great insight on his mindset, methods and effectiveness.”

Um, that’s a work of fiction. I could just as well say “Read Tolkien for some great insight into elves.” It doesn’t, alas, make elves real.

”[Allowing abortion] Sounds a bit twisted and hypocritical”

Not at all, at least if you are trying to be logical rather than purely emotional. A zygote is not a person in the moral sense any more than an acorn is an oak tree. That’s probably a discussion for another time, but it’s the pronouncement that the two are equivalent that is twisted.

eden2eve's avatar

@crisw
I don’t have to prove it to you. But if you are INTERESTED, and open minded, enough to explore a little, be my guest. Do you not believe that fiction can contain truths? You encourage others to explore your beliefs, but obviously have no interest in exploring those of another. This seems to be arrogant and self-important to me.

Your “enlightened” pronouncements are not impressive, and your obfuscation regarding abortion serves to prove my point. How can a baby who has been the innocent victim of a “partial birth abortion” ever be defined as a “zygote”? And how did you get to be the judge of what is “moral”? Thank you for so eloquently illustrating my point. You are deceived.

crisw's avatar

@eden2eve

“I don’t have to prove it to you.”

The burden of proof is on the person making the claim that something exists.

I am very interested and open-minded, and I have done a great deal of research. I have found absolutely no credible evidence that Satan exists. This isn’t arrogance or self-importance; it’s a reliance on fact rather than faith.

“Do you not believe that fiction can contain truths? ”

Of course it can. But you verify those truths with real-world evidence. There is no more evidence that Satan exists than that elves do.

‘How can a baby who has been the innocent victim of a “partial birth abortion” ever be defined as a “zygote”? ”

You didn’t specify “partial birth abortion” in your original post, so you are moving the goalposts. As I said, I don’t want to derail this thread, and I do have a pretty lengthy explanation for my stance. If you want to ask a question on the topic, I would be more than happy to answer.

crisw's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central

The problem with most of what you wrote is that it presupposes the existence of God and the divinity of the Bible. That isn’t a valid argument. If a person doesn’t believe in God and believes that the Bible is a work of myth, then telling that person that the Bible says we can do thus and such isn’t a very effective argument. You have to start with showing why one should believe in those things in the first place.

eden2eve's avatar

@crisw See my original post on the topic:
“and even if they could remain alive if they WERE to be born, ”
I in no ways moved the goal post. This was clearly posted and would include the abortion scenario I mentioned later. Your lengthy explanation would fall on deaf ears, just as mine has done on yours. There is no good explanation for the dichotomy that this situation poses.

crisw's avatar

@eden2eve

“Your lengthy explanation would fall on deaf ears”

So you are admitting that no amount of evidence or logic would cause you to change your mind? That’s too bad- and, again, a clear example of the difference between faith and reason. As I have said many times, in many discussions, if religious folk could present actual incontrovertible evidence of their beliefs, then of course I would change my mind. That’s the only logical thing to do.

“just as mine has done on yours”

But you haven’t explained anything. I’ve listened to everything you have to say. Just because I disagree with it doesn’t mean I am not listening. You can’t call me “deaf” just because I won’t take what you have to say on faith.

Hobosnake's avatar

@crisw While you may be correct in your assumption that the picking out of currently-applicable laws is based on interpretation of the bible, please don’t jump to conclusions. I simply don’t know the process; it may be more logical than you think.

“The difference between faith and reason”. Yes, indeed, they are different. Reason leads basically nowhere without faith. Look at Descartes for that principle.

In your response to @HypocrisyCentral you said that we need to give reasons as to why one should believe in the Bible and God before we can presuppose their credibility and base morality off of them. For one thing I don’t think that’s the case, just as I haven’t required you to give me any reason to believe in your worldview itself before you express morality in that system. We’re discussing morality as it relates to our worldviews, not the credibility of our worldviews themselves. Second of all, as circular as it may seem, the idea of objective morality needing basis in such a worldview can be viewed as apologetics in itself, and as it’s what the original question and topic of debate is actually addressing, allow us to stick to it.

Hobosnake's avatar

@crisw When it comes to the She-Bear incident, let me first commend you for your knowledge of abstract biblical events, that is a rare encounter indeed, although it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. Second of all, there is quite a bit in there which I certainly do not understand. The reality is (and feel free to call this a cop-out, but it does make sense if you think about it) that if a divine being like the God of the bible were to exist, he certainly wouldn’t be easy to understand. Think of a four-dimensional object, for example. While we can theorize about them and come to some knowledge of them, it’s difficult/impossible to fully wrap our minds around them, because they’re on a higher dimensional level than what we can empirically experience. So, once again, the only explanation I can offer is that it cannot be really understood. It can be understood, however, that the bible is not condoning those acts. That and other situations you can bring up are usually intensely specific—either incredibly situational or featuring a direct order from God. In either case, something weird is bound to happen. But Elijah is the only case where you see bears being called out to attack youth for their dislike of the hairstyle of a prophet, so it’s not as though it’s telling us to go around calling hordes of wildebeest anytime someone criticizes our facial hair. We might even go so far as to assume there were other factors in this intensely specific situation that were lost in translation (in the grand scheme of things, this really wasn’t a very important event) or never recorded.

Before you overuse the “lost in translation” idea, consider it from my worldview for a moment (it won’t hurt, and you’ll be free to return afterwards). If the Bible truly is God’s divine word than it follows that it would be divinely protected throughout its many translations, and, on a more objective note, this has appeared to be the case. We have some pretty dang old manuscripts of the bible and they are still almost completely in check with our current translations, even without revision.

As for those who are not Christian but do moral acts… well, that brings up a sad fact but also the one that leads to the central point of Christianity. Certainly “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, so the Christian assumption is that all people, even Christians themselves, are inherently amoral. Believe me, I know I am. Sin is basically defined as not following the ten commandments and as what damns us to hell. Redemption through faith in Jesus Christ is what mitigates this. So basically, if you’ve sinned at all, you’re screwed, but if you have the slightest bit of faith, you’re saved. Oddly enough, in this sense the very thing I’m arguing is somewhat invalid: Christianity, as opposed to Judaism, actually somewhat diminishes the meaning of morality, but that’s a good thing considering true morality is impossible. At times, I’ve actually viewed the ten commandments as more of a guide to living a better, healthier life. More on that in a moment. Many of the old laws that we now ignore today were actually weeded out in this manner; kosher laws, which were explicitly weeded out (I believe in the book of Acts) as I previously mentioned, have been theorized to have originally existed largely due to the fact that proper cooking procedure for those animals did not really exist at the time and therefore the eating of those animals was a pretty dang risky procedure that would likely have led to a lot of problems.

As for still-relevant biblical laws concerning this, I once again give you adultery. It sure as hell seems like people are having fun ignoring this one, but it’s basically unheard of for people to go to marriage counseling because the couple hadn’t had sex before marriage, while the opposite is a lot more prevalent than you think, even in the case of people who strongly felt that the act of adultery before marriage isn’t wrong at all(and we’re talking neither party in the marriage). Think about that for a moment. People are going to counseling or getting divorces for committing an act they didn’t (and often still don’t) even believe was/is wrong or even harmful. That’s pretty overwhelming evidence that it’s more objectively harmful than we realize. In this sense, as difficult as it sometimes can be, I try to view maintaining sexual purity as an act beneficial to myself in all ways, which is certainly not to say I never succumb to such temptations.

Hobosnake's avatar

@crisw Allow me to make a quick point. I realize I am probably guilty of this as well and it’s almost definitely a product of defensive reading (which is basically inevitable at this point), but at times you seem to be taking things out of context when it comes to your quotes of other flutherites. @eden2eve, for example, only seemed to be offering his/her insight and opinion regarding the original question, and wasn’t so much participating in our own debate. I believe he/she could have made it a bit clearer, but I don’t think his/her (gosh that’s getting annoying, dang internet anonymity) original intent was to prove anything, but rather solely to offer up a few points primarily for those of us who already assume the religion-centered worldview.

crisw's avatar

@Hobosnake

I see the same problem in your work that still has not been addressed. How can morality truly be “Biblical” if it is filtered through layer after layer of purely human understanding?

“Reason leads basically nowhere without faith. Look at Descartes for that principle.”

As Descartes was a person of great religious faith, one would expect him to have such a worldview. And, unfortunately, his faith markedly colored what he considered to be reason- such as his insistence that animals could not feel pain and were merely automata.. Descartes believed this not because of evidence, but because he needed to believe so in order to keep his faith and his belief that animals had no souls.

It is perfectly possible to have reason without any religious faith whatsoever; you haven’t really made much of an argument that it is not.

“We’re discussing morality as it relates to our worldviews, not the credibility of our worldviews themselves.”

The topic of this discussion is “How would you have evil with no Satan?” This is very much a question of credibly. If Satan does not exist and God does not exist, the question is meaningless. If we do not define “evil”, the question is meaningless.

“If the Bible truly is God’s divine word than it follows that it would be divinely protected throughout its many translations, and, on a more objective note, this has appeared to be the case. We have some pretty dang old manuscripts of the bible and they are still almost completely in check with our current translations, even without revision.”

The consistency of manuscripts, if it exists, certainly is no sign of divinity, as we see the same thing in many ancient manuscript cycles such as the Norse Eddas. And, in addition, even if it has an astounding level of consistency, why would a deity care to reproduce a manuscript that is chock full of inaccuracies,failed prophecies, bad advice and contradictions? And why, if it is the product of an omniscient being looking to the future, does it contain nothing that a goatherder in ancient Mesopotamia would not know?

A better sign of an actual divinely-inspired work would be unambiguous, totally clear, verifiable prose. This does not in any way describe the Bible.

“Sin is basically defined as not following the ten commandments and as what damns us to hell.”

This is another sign of just how out-of-touch the Bible is with reality. Look at the Ten Commandments. Do we see clear, unambiguous prohibitions agains what is truly harmful and exhortations to do what is good? No. Not drawing pictures of idols is more important than “Don’t treat people as means to an end.” Keeping the Sabbath holy rates better than “Treat all people as equals.”

“kosher laws, which were explicitly weeded out (I believe in the book of Acts) as I previously mentioned, have been theorized to have originally existed largely due to the fact that proper cooking procedure for those animals did not really exist at the time and therefore the eating of those animals was a pretty dang risky procedure that would likely have led to a lot of problems.”

There are fascinating books out there such as Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond that explore just how such beliefs are based in common-sense and what works, rather than in any divine revelation. The Bible also contains a lot of really silly advice. I bred goats for years, and I can guarantee you that showing some sticks to my goats didn’t make them produce striped kids… No, if the Bible has said something along the lines of “The Lord saith that the striped goat shall come forth when the he-goat and the she-goat both carry the proper allele of the Agouti gene” then we might be getting somewhere :>D

“As for still-relevant biblical laws concerning this, I once again give you adultery. It sure as hell seems like people are having fun ignoring this one”

Keep in mind that the Old Testament specified that only women could commit adultery! “Adultery was the” sin of “trespassing on a man’s property. Until marriage women were the property of their fathers. After marriage they became the property of their husband.”

Adultery can be harmful, but not because the Bible says so. Any harm-based or contractarian ethic would disallow breaking a vow of sexual exclusivity without the consent of the parties involved.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@crisw You have to start with showing why one should believe in those things in the first place. I guess the flip side of that would be those who believe the Bible to be a bunch of balderdash and bogus lies should prove why not doing what is in the Bible and doing their own thing is better.

With out some divine oversight any morality is just a collection of opinion from like-minded people, it is only germane to the region and the people who choose to follow it. Because if what is thought to be evil or immoral in the East could be seen as very moral and good in the West. Who would actually be right? The one who has the military muscle or the political umph to dictate policy and make the other capitulate? To try to have evil with out Satan or God who created him would be like trying to call yourself the champion in a league where no one kept stats or counted wins or victories. It would just be one team believing they won the most and declaring themselves the champions of which no one would care anyhow.

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