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absalom's avatar

What is God's role in humanity's understanding of morality?

Asked by absalom (7542 points ) September 30th, 2010

I was struggling with a response to this question and some thoughts came to mind that I’ll put down here. I’d’ve asked them in the thread but they aren’t really related to Satan so much.

Mostly I am asking these questions to understand what the religious folk feel.

@Nullo said that our moral standard comes from God (or, I’m presuming, some form of God or gods) and people then appropriate that standard for their own lives while at the same time rejecting its divine source.

My question(s), then:

Where does morality come from? Where does our understanding of it come from? How do we know (in a religious context, not a social one) what is moral and immoral?

Can people be moral (‘good’) without God? And if we are able to reject God and still maintain some moral sense, as @Nullo says, can we do likewise with Satan and still know or recognize ‘evil’? Following that, what use is there for God and Satan as ideas or presences in life? Does this suggest (I’m just reaching here) that God and Satan are only the anthropomorphic representations of humanity’s preexisting conceptions of what is good and what is bad?

I agree with those saying that most people’s understanding of morality still comes in some distilled or diluted form from a religion or doctrine.

But which came first: morality or man? If God (or some god) produces a moral standard, how does He (it) communicate that standard to humanity? We have the Commandments, but a moral standard obviously existed before that. What novelty or new morality does the presence of a divine being provide? Are we just attributing our own moral choices to a higher power, for no good reason?

Does the attribution of morality, or of ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ liberate humanity from culpability when it does something bad? (I.e., the ‘devil made me do it’ excuse, etc.)

I am not a religious person and so these things are all very confusing to me.

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52 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

From a functional view, God’s edicts and religious edicts, at their best, generally help to enforce ethical standards that help a given society maintain order and maintaing order helps humans, as a species, reproduce and survive, e.g. murdering and stealing creates disorder, societies try to prohibit murdering and stealing, people still do it, societies say “God forbids this” so people may engage in less murdering and stealing than otherwise. An incredible oversimplification, but you get the general idea.

wundayatta's avatar

Here’s my view on this. My theory is that morality comes from human interactions. We see what works and what doesn’t, in terms of our goals. We find that we are better able to survive if we treat each other as we want to be treated then if we steal and try to “get over” on others. It is something that I think game theorists believe would come up in any society. I believe it, anyway.

Now what is God’s role in this? Think of morality as something that is learned. As with much learning, you have to do some persuading in order to get people to buy into the moral system. Sometimes we don’t have time or the will to let our children learn this stuff on their own. Sometimes we can’t wait for people to figure it out (if they didn’t figure it out as children).

In a patriarchal society (and most are), it is standard to have a leader who tells people the rules and they better follow them, or else. It seems efficient. No one has to think. You just have to do what the leader says and everyone is ok.

Some religions use God this way. God is the leader of leaders, and if you don’t do what He says, you’ll lose all rights to be in this society. Of course, God says what his priests say He says. This was especially true in times when priests were the only ones who were educated and who could read. Knowledge is power, and the religious folks were the only ones with a lot of knowledge.

So, to keep folks in line, they created a mythology around the idea of a Deity. These stories were used to illustrate the power of God, and they bought the legitimacy the priests needed to tell people to do what they said.

God, then, has a civilizing function. He is a tool in the process of pacifying society. He doesn’t always work, of course. Then you have to figure out how to get people who break the rules to feel like they can come back into society without being killed. And thus you get a separation of church and state. God loves the sinner, and the state kills the sinner, to put it crudely.

This isn’t the case with only the Christian God, either. All religions provide ways of passing knowledge on. Gods are pedagogical tools, as are ritual and music and dogma. It’s all in aid of teaching people something they would figure out anyway, if they thought about it very much. But by using a God to pass on information, you don’t have to convince anyone that something makes sense, you can get them to accept it because the Deity said it was so.

It’s efficient and it worked in past times, but now education is much more universal. People think for themselves much more. A didactic deity is no longer appropriate. Yet so many religions try to keep that deity in place. Others are more willing to change with the times, and their deities take on different roles, since they are no longer needed to convince people of what is right and true.

There is, of course, a whole lot more I could say about just about every aspect of this, but I will leave it here. God helps in the process of teaching people about what works to hold society together. This worked well in a time when hardly anyone was educated. Now that most people are educated, it isn’t working well, and that is one of the reasons why so many people have become atheists.

Nullo's avatar

Really, a lot depends on your paradigm.

1) Yes.
1a) To the Christian, God and Satan can’t really be evaluated strictly in terms of utility; they’re there, and you’ve got to deal with that.
2) Morality. God has always been, and is unchanging. On the other hand, even the most optimistic estimates of Man’s presence on Earth only go back what, a couple million years?
3) Communication wasn’t much of a difficulty. Adam and Eve spent quite a lot of time with God; I expect that Right and Wrong came up at least once. Kind of a moot point, since they were created without sin.
4) “The devil made me do it” doesn’t fly with most Christians. The Bible is rather clear that sin has its price, and that even forgiveness won’t rid you of the consequences of your actions.

ETpro's avatar

I agree with @wundayatta. I believe our understanding of morality comes from logic and experience of what it takes to successfully live in a group, where your very life may depend on the support of other members of the tribe, village, city, state or nation. Man invented his various gods and assigned to them human attributes, including what he knew was needed to make his society function smoothly.

If I am right about that, then gods just give authority to the strictures society long ago identified as needful for smooth social integration.

We see evidence of this in moral requirements that made perfect sense thousands of years ago, but actually work against society’s best interest today. The prohibitions against homosexuality and the reverence for families with very large numbers of children made perfect sense in a time when few children survived into adulthood, the average life expectancy was 35 or 40, and famines or plagues could easily put the continued existence of humanity at serious risk.

Today, as we approach 7 billion humans on earth and life expectancies grow ever longer, as resources dwindle and pollution mounts, the values of many millennia ago do not make much sense. But since we have given up thinking about what works for the common good, and assigned it all to a God who laid down laws 4,000 years ago or more, we continue to do what damages our own best interest.

crisw's avatar

“But which came first: morality or man?”

Morality, at least in the primitive sense. While animals cannot extrapolate morality in the way that humans can, all social animals have some behaviors that restrict wanton killing of their own kind, and have behaviors designed for appeasement when they commit some “transgression” against a group member. We can see this easily in dogs, where ritualistic behavior prevents serious fights and the exposed tummy and lip-licking of a puppy turns off aggressive behavior in an adult dog.

The ancestors of humans no doubt had such behaviors. As our intelligence and social networks grew, such behaviors became more complicated and even more ritualized. In some aspects, it was probably morality that crated religion, not the other way around.

Qingu's avatar

Assuming by “God” you mean the specific god of the Hebrews, Yahweh, I hope you know what moral standard you’re getting into. Yahweh orders slavery and genocide (Deuteronomy 20). He commands women who can’t prove their virginity on their wedding night to be stoned to death on their father’s doorstep, and commands rapists to marry their rape victims (Deuteronomy 22), apparently agreeing with the common belief in ancient Mesopotamia that women are the property of men.

When you read Deuteronomy 20, or the entire book of Joshua, which repeatedly celebrates God-ordered genocides against the tribes of the holy land, what is your reaction? Do you think that stuff is moral because a book says a god ordered it?

Qingu's avatar

By the way, here’s the relevant text from deuteronomy 20:10:

When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you in forced labour. If it does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you.

Thus you shall treat all the towns that are very far from you, which are not towns of the nations here. But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God.

Is this your moral standard?

ETpro's avatar

@Qingu I particularly like Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:5, 22:9–11 about stoning to death all who wear garments of mixed fibers—we should all be able to agree that any clod who wears cotton polyester deserves death by stoning. This message sponsored by the Steam Iron Council to End Permapress.

Oh and by all means, stone to death anyone who eats shellfish.or anything that doesn’t have fins and scales as Leviticus, 11:10 says. This one brought to you by me and all my cephalopod brethren.

lillycoyote's avatar

So if our morality come from God, who exactly determines what God believes to be moral and what God believes to be immoral? People like to cite the Old Testament and The New Testament as places where God has clearly expressed moral imperatives. Not getting into the issue of numerous places the Christian or Judeo-Christian scripture totally contradicts itself, in terms of moral imperatives, but nowhere in the Bible is one of the greatest evils that one human being can commit against another, that is the enslavement of another person, ever condemned by god or anyone else. If one of the greatest evils that exists, the evil of slavery, is not condemned in the Bible anywhere why should anyone consider anything in the Bible regarding morality to be right, to have come directly from God and therefore be obeyed? Or do you think that slavery is morally defensible?

I suspect that god, if there is one, would not care at all whose pants we get into as long as we simply stopped slaughtering one another and stopped exploiting each other for our own gain.

ETpro's avatar

@lillycoyote ~Off to the coatroom for you, young lady. I can see you are far to moral to understand our God, who commands slavery.~

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Some people, like with much else, need god to learn morality or to know what morality to follow. Some people learn morality on their own.

lillycoyote's avatar

@ETpro The other big issue I have is that, if homosexuality is such a great, horrible, horrific sin there seems to be two places in scripture where it is conspicuous in it’s absence. If this is not off topic, and that is in the Ten Commandments and in the Gospels. If God believes that homosexuality is such a great sin, such and abomination, why did he not find a place for it in the Ten Commandments. He did not think stealing or murder so obviously wrong that it did not bear mention. God was not squeamish about discussing sex because one of the commandments prohibits adultery and it seems that if he had to dispense with one, how could coveting be more worthy an entry than “though shalt not commit homosexuality?” It seems that if he was absolutely determined to keep it to just the ten, the coveting would have been the one to have been replaced with the prohibition against homosexuality. The other place is in the Gospels. If homosexuality is such a great sin why is it that Jesus didn’t have a single, absolutely not word one to say on the subject? And Jesus had quite a lot to say about a whole lot of things. He wasn’t exactly shy.

Now I am going to the cloak room where god and I will be lamenting about how terribly wrong and sorry he, she or it was to turn over the whole “Revealed Text” project to hacks, PR people and lobbyists who have never had any interest in it above promoting their own agendas. I’d better get there soon, because he, she or it has probably already probably had two or three Jack Daniels already, ahead of me and he, she or it has usually started crying after the second one.

Qingu's avatar

Homosexuality is declared an abomination in Leviticus, about 7 chapters before the slave trade is declared perfectly legal.

ETpro's avatar

@lillycoyote I truly can’t fathom why today’s Christians feel perfectly fine about wearing mixed fiber clothing, eating seafood without fin or scale, and planting mixed seeds—all abominations just as worthy of stoning as homosexuality. It seems that even though Jesus freed them from the law, they are determined to keep that one part of it firmly in place.

ragingloli's avatar

“God” is a good example for our morality.
An example how not to behave.
I am not a fan of genocide, smiting, death for trivial offences, the death penalty in general, thinking of believing in something without evidence and despite evidence to the contrary (faith) a virtue, destroying people’s lives because you want to win a bet against Satan, cursing humanity for something he set up, etc.

lillycoyote's avatar

@ETpro Don’t worry, at least some people are fighting the good fight. If you are yet not aware of the decent, god fearing people at God Hates Shrimp then you should be.

Edit. We are getting quite a bit of rain here and the power has flickered on and off once or twice, so if I disappear, it’s because I’ve lost my power. Either that or god is attempting to silence me using lightening bolts and his special electrical powers which I can’t defend against, as an ordinary mortal. I can’t be sure.

ETpro's avatar

@lillycoyote Great website. Thanks for the chuckle. I hope God decides to leave your power on.

Linda_Owl's avatar

There is no “god”. The concept of “god” is man’s creation, created out of human’s need to feel that there is an all-powerful being that can & will protect us – if we follow all of the rules that have been created to go along with the “god” creation. Most of us are, basically, moral – we value honor, love, & kindness – we do not need a “god” to tell us what we already know.

JustmeAman's avatar

http://www.prophecyfulfillment.com/

Here is a site you can look at a few prophecies that are happening today. There are too many for me to try and give to you. You will not accept it nor agree with it anyway so I’m not going to do the work. This site will go over tons of information and you can decide for yourself.

crisw's avatar

@JustmeAman

How is this site any different from the thousands of sites that do the same thing with the Prophecies of Nostradamus? This site is no different. Take some obscure verbiage that could apply to anything and claim it applies to something today.

JustmeAman's avatar

@crisw

Exactly what I expected so what is the point? Why should anything be brought up to someone with a closed mind concerning what they asked. You didn’t ask to get any answers you asked so that you could dispute the information. So you have all your answers. There is not one thing I could say, display or do to change your view or mind. And maybe it should be that way but I’m done giving any information. My information is for people with open minds so until I test out the waters so to speak I will refrain from answering. Thanks

crisw's avatar

@JustmeAman

“There is not one thing I could say, display or do to change your view or mind”

Sure there is. Show me one unambiguous example in the Bible where it gives a specific and absolutely clear prophecy that could only apply to one event- not an unclear “someone will be punished because they are bad.” or the like.

JustmeAman's avatar

@crisw

Frankly I don’t want to nor do I have the energy to try and get a debate going with you. It would absolutely serve no purpose. I have given my opinion on the matter and it is therefore a closed issue. Let them that have eyes see and them that have ears hear.

Qingu's avatar

@JustmeAman, I have a policy of not visiting links to websites that people give me in place of actual arguments. When having a discussion, I think it’s important to be able to support your argument in your own words.

You seem absolutely convinced that the Bible contains numerous prophecies that are coming true today. And yet when asked for even a single example, you link to some generic website and then throw up your hands, claiming you’re not even interested in supporting your supposedly deeply held belief.

Let eyes that see and ears that hear indeed.

eden2eve's avatar

@Qingu
Read your own posts up thread to see why one wouldn’t bother to engage with you. Even when you have been proven wrong, you can’t be wrong.

JustmeAman's avatar

Exactly @eden2eve there is absolutely nothing one can say to show anything more than what is in their minds now. @Qingu Frankly your policy doesn’t hold any water with me at all. And when you say you think its important well good for you and you can keep that philosophy if you wish it is up to you but it is not mine and I will be how I choose.

crisw's avatar

@JustmeAman

All the obfuscations cannot cover up the fact that you really don’t have the data. That’s the real story here. This seems to be a recurring pattern- you make claims, then when asked for verification you run away complaining. And you blame those who ask you to verify your claims. This simply doesn’t work well to convince anyone that you are correct.

JustmeAman's avatar

@crisw No I give opinions not claims. They are from my very own experience and far more reliable than reading someone else’s writings from books. I am writing a book does that mean that everyone should quote me and use my references? They can if they so choose but it is up to the individual. I’m not falling for your bait and will not engage in idle conversation which is what a one sided conversation is. You are on a constant vigil to dispute anything you can and disrupt the question and cause someone else to be wrong in your eyes. I will not play that game so keep your opinions and I will mine. Deal? I have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone but I will share my own personal experience and will not allow you to demean it.

crisw's avatar

@JustmeAman

“They are from my very own experience and far more reliable than reading someone else’s writings from books”

You are claiming that there are true prophecies in the Bible. That is a book, last I checked.

Qingu's avatar

Whether or not a book says something is not a matter of opinion or personal experience.

absalom's avatar

@JustmeAman

Let them that have eyes see and them that have ears hear.

And let them that have tongues, or in this case fingers, add to the discussion. You said you’re done giving information, but this seems to be the first time you’ve posted anything in the thread. Are you done before even starting? I’m not sure how laziness like that could help your case. Like @Qingu, I don’t want to read links. I want to talk to you, a person, instead of a (more) anonymous author. It’s like you’re outsourcing your arguments because you don’t have any of your own and it damages your credibility.

Thanks @all for the answers so far, they were great. I’ll try to respond to each of them eventually, when work settles down.

JustmeAman's avatar

Even though we see the end times signs so clearly, it’s still difficult to comprehend. What does it all mean? Where is it all leading? Why is there so little peace in the world when we have such unprecedented knowledge and unlimited potential?

Dr. Linus Pauling, winner of Nobel Prizes in 1954 and 1963, has said he believes the greatest catastrophe in the world is approaching. This looming catastrophe might well result in a world war which could destroy civilization and spell the end of the human race. Or, it might take the form of mass starvation among a world population that has been doubling every 35 years. Civilization might end because of the collapse of the systems on which it depends; or the end of civilization might result from weather changes induced by governments to improve the yield of crops.

The book of Revelation describes the end times. It speaks of a one world government, a godless dictator, total regulation of all business, plagues, crime and rebellion, and devastating disasters. To many, it seems like a far-off time. But there are “signs of the times” in today’s headlines – signs Jesus said would herald his return.
Some people argue that the characteristic of ‘end time’ people have been our character throughout the ages and that people haven’t really changed. In its simplest form, that is true. It’s not that we don’t do the same things, what’s relevant is that we do it with increasing intensity and we are teaching new ways of doing it. Certainly, these things have been happening since the beginning of time. However, the intensity of these things today is such that we dare not blind our eyes to their meaning.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, `It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, `Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. [Matthew 16:1–4]

Jesus said, “You can read the signs of the weather in the sky, but because of spiritual blindness you cannot read the signs of the times.” Our Lord was saying the Jews of that day were blind to the signs of their time. He indicated that only those who have spiritual illumination and discernment from the Holy Spirit can hope to understand the trends and meanings of history. This explains why so many people haven’t got a clue about what’s going on and why most of our political leaders are taking us down the path to destruction.
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” [1Tim. 4:1]

We are now living in the last days.
The only way to understand the big picture is to look at the Bible and the various categories of signs that the Bible predicted would come together just before the return of Christ. The key to understanding current events is in some familiar old scriptural passages. Jesus Himself gave us the best insight shortly before his execution on the cross.

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, ’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [Matthew 24:4–14]

General ‘signs’ Jesus said would be visible prior to His return.
• Deliberate deception by men of God’s Word
• Rise of false Christ’s
• Increase in wars and rumors of wars
• Famines, Pestilence & Earthquakes
• Discrimination and hatred against Christians
• Backsliding, turning from the faith, betrayal
• Hatred of Christian against Christian
• False Prophets and “New Age” leaders
• Lawlessness abounding
• Love and concern for others grows cold
• Gospel preached worldwide

Our Lord told us not to be troubled, because these are only the beginning of “birth pains” [Matt. 24:8]. I believe that God is warning the world. The world has broken His covenant and has gone away from Him and these events are warnings designed to turn us to Him. And what we have seen thus far is just a prelude. The warnings are going to continue during the next few years, even building in intensity. After these warnings, the real judgment is going to come.

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel, let the reader understand, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days are not cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christ’s and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect, if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. – Matthew 24:15–28

ragingloli's avatar

General ‘signs’ Jesus said would be visible prior to His return.
• Deliberate deception by men of God’s Word
• Rise of false Christ’s
• Increase in wars and rumors of wars
• Famines, Pestilence & Earthquakes
• Discrimination and hatred against Christians
• Backsliding, turning from the faith, betrayal
• Hatred of Christian against Christian
• False Prophets and “New Age” leaders
• Lawlessness abounding
• Love and concern for others grows cold
• Gospel preached worldwide

When in history has this ever not been the case?
In fact, the past fits those criteria better than the present.

General ‘signs’ Jesus said would be visible prior to His return.
• Deliberate deception by men of God’s Word
Catholic Church in the middle ages, suppressed science, persecution of “witches” and “heretics”. Even today, Christian Fundamentalists are actively fighting science in Amurka.
• Rise of false Christ’s
That was already 2000 years ago.
• Increase in wars and rumors of wars
Ever heard of World War I and II? That was 70 years ago.
• Famines, Pestilence & Earthquakes
Modern medicine has eliminated countless once lethal conditions. Infant mortality has never been lower. Life expectancy continues to grow. Humanity has never been healthier.
Natural desasters happen just as often as always. They are reported more often due to mass media, but the number of occurance is NOT rising.
• Discrimination and hatred against Christians
That is the exception, because Christianities Iron Fist rule of the middle ages has been broken. Back then, they were the biggest oppressors and discriminators. Though it is on the rise in Amurka, unfortunately.
• Hatred of Christian against Christian
Again, when the Protestant movement happened, there was a lot of hatred between the catholics and the protestants. There still is. Especially the war between proTesties and Cathies in Northern Ireland that has been raging for decades. Even before that, Christian communities that dared to defy catholic dogma were brutally squashed.
• False Prophets and “New Age” leaders
Those pop up all the time. Biggest of them, Jesus.
• Lawlessness abounding
Crime has been with humanity for all recorded history. I do not see that it is worse now than in the past. For example, today you do not have to fear to be robbed by bands of raiders when you step outside of town.
• Love and concern for others grows cold
Greed, hate and general selfishness are human core traits. Do you think the crusades, the witch and heretic burnings all the wars in human history, the genocide against Jews, the natives of north and south america and the nuclear slaughter of Japanese civilians have been acts of human compassion and love?
• Gospel preached worldwide
Well, duh. That was the goal of the Church since ever. Otherwise they would not send legions of missionaries (aka decepticons) into 2 of 3 spatial dimensions. 3 once we discover alien civilisations that they want to deceive by sending their professional liars into space.

JustmeAman's avatar

Some people argue that the characteristic of ‘end time’ people have been our character throughout the ages and that people haven’t really changed. In its simplest form, that is true. It’s not that we don’t do the same things, what’s relevant is that we do it with increasing intensity and we are teaching new ways of doing it. Certainly, these things have been happening since the beginning of time. However, the intensity of these things today is such that we dare not blind our eyes to their meaning.

JustmeAman's avatar

The apostle Paul warned that the last days would bring a marked increase in FALSE TEACHING. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” 1 Timothy 4:1. The last days are described as “perilous times” because of the increasingly evil character of man and people who actively “resist the truth” 2 Timothy; 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

Other possible signs would include a rebuilding of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, increased hostility towards Israel, and advances toward a one-world government. The most prominent sign of the end times, however, is the nation of Israel. In 1948, Israel was recognized as a sovereign state, essentially for the first time since A.D. 70. God promised Abraham that his posterity would have Canaan as “an everlasting possession” Genesis 17:8 and Ezekiel prophesied a physical and spiritual resuscitation of Israel (Ezekiel chapter 37). Having Israel as a nation in its own land is important in light of end times prophecy because of Israel’s prominence in eschatology Daniel 10:14; 11:42; Revelation 11:8.

crisw's avatar

@JustmeAman

If you are going to quote huge swathes of texts you didn’t write it’s only right to give their source.

Look up “quote mining” sometime.

ragingloli's avatar

@JustmeAman
what’s relevant is that we do it with increasing intensity
The contrary is the case.
Modern medicine has created the most healthy population in all of human history.
Western civilisation is the safest place to live in human history.
Democracy and the Social Welfare state has created a society with the most social and economic equality in human history (though conservative would love to undo that).
We have abolished slavery, the death penalty (in civilised countries, that is), created equality for almost everyone, regardless of gender, skin colour, or beliefs.
If anything, we are moving away from the “end times”

absalom's avatar

@JustmeAman

Again you’ve proven yourself lazy by pasting something from a website’s text whose author can’t even comprehend the most basic rules of English grammar.

More importantly, what you’ve posted is meaningless. I mean it’s really meaningless. It is the flimsiest excuse for real information I’ve seen presented on Fluther. Can’t you even cite specific, contemporary examples of the prophecy’s fruition?

Maybe this is one:

There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

Wow. Thanks, Jesus. A profoundly relevant prophecy.

Why do earthquakes, of which there are 500,000 every single year, have to mean anything? How is it even a ‘prophecy’ to say something so vague and obvious and inane as ‘earthquakes will happen somewhere in the future’? And you’re using events like these as ‘signs of the times’? They are signs only of Earth’s tectonic plates. Anyone who takes them for the fulfillment of a prophecy is a desperate fool.

He indicated that only those who have spiritual illumination and discernment from the Holy Spirit can hope to understand the trends and meanings of history.

How convenient for the spiritually illuminated. By what is your spirit illuminated? By poorly and vaguely written exegetical texts appropriated from websites that misquote ironic news headlines to propagate otherwise unfounded claims? By the same website that advertises a service for ‘Christian singles’? (Because even though the Rapture is nigh, no one wants to die alone!)

Qingu's avatar

@crisw, it’s not quote mining… it’s just plagiarism.

@JustmeAman, if the author of the Jeremiah Project website you’ve plagiarized from would like to come on Fluther and discuss this issue, I would be more than happy to respond to his points. In the meantime, please make your own arguments, in your own words.

crisw's avatar

@Qingu

You are right, but I was also referring to discussions JMA and I have had in the past. Either way, it’s unsupportable and lazy scholarship.

mattbrowne's avatar

Schopenhauer once said that compassion is the basis of all morality. Religions offer one way to lead a compassionate, reflective, and productive life to help shape the future of our societies.

GODincenter's avatar

God has no role. He is Free and enjoying his freedom, ever since he gave us Mind and Intellect FREE as we wish to use it. But remember he too gave us Rules and Regulations. In many names Bible. Old testament, New testament, Koran, Torah and many many more. Basic parts are same, Only color, shapes, beauty, cover, lipsticks, powders, perfumes are different. In short interpretations are of our own ego“s, not his purity.

CaptainHarley's avatar

In football, this would be called “piling on.”

I can’t help but wonder if this were an elucidation of Islam whether those of you who seem to love to attack Christianity would behave the same. I rather doubt it. Some of you have all the consistency of an urn of curdled milk. : )

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley – Let’s ask this – I see people who claim to be Christian all the time trying to force people to believe what they do, to try to discriminate against gay people as they think God should want, etc. I see this often from Christians (as they claim to be) because this is the Western world…where we are, in fact, majority Christian. So, when the criticism is aimed at Christians, that’s because those of us who sometimes direct it that way have directly experienced a significant amount of discrimination from Christian individuals.

So, when Christians complain about the consistency in the criticism and the consistency in this, note that it’s not a function of whether the belief deserves criticism or defense, but rather when the majority is attempting to shift all blame to a minority.

80% of the population in the U.S., for instance, identify as Christian. So, when people generally experience persecution from religious people, of course the vast majority of that is from Christians.

So, is it surprising, do you think, that you see more criticism of Christianity? The thing is, instead of criticizing people for being inconsistent, you have to think of WHY that might be the case.

When you know that the numbers clearly show that it’s natural that there’s more criticism against Christians, shouldn’t you aim all your criticism at those in the Christian community who are discriminatory, hateful, etc.? That seems to be what is demanded of minority populations (why don’t more moderate Muslims help us out? why do crazy gay people shove the parade down our throats?).

Put your own house in order. It’s the biggest one. THEN…get back to us.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@iamthemob

As I’m sure you know, Christianity is not monolithic. I have repeatedly chastised those who forget that God is love and for all the good it has done, I could have saved my breath. So I know whereof you speak, yet when you lump us all together as having identical behaviors, it hurts me. : (

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley

I feel like you are indeed well aware that I do not view Christians as a uniform (or even close to uniform) group. ;-) But, the problem is that claims about “those who love to attack Christianity” as well as “Islam” (and claims about the two go hand and hand) flip the script. One can’t state that “all Christians are different” by pushing criticism onto another group that is, by implication, somehow capable of being generally described in a way that is unfair when describing Christianity or Christians.

Now, in the end, the above comment that I made assumes a diverse view in Christianity. However, due to the size of it in the Western world, there is a comparatively enormous number of Christians who are behaving very, very badly. And doing so loudly. It is the Christian community that has the most power, and it has a huge amount of it, to actually reform itself and demand that people who are Christian adhere to the best practices of it. They are generally also the most capable of the major religions, as the majority live in fairly free societies and under free governments.

So, it is the most troubling that they seem to wince and refuse to accept criticism in many cases, and in response talk about how bad Islam is (which suffers from being in place in areas where there are many oppressive regimes) or to describe people as being uninformed about Christianity, or describing it generally, or that the people they talk about aren’t “real Christians.” Because there are so many Christians, the community should be powerfully aiming the effort to reform on each other and themselves, don’t you think?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@iamthemob

Of course I do. It has happened before, but we have no guarantee it will happen again. One of the Church’s strong points has always been its capacity for self-renewal. We can only hope that capacity is undiminished.

mattbrowne's avatar

Instead of relying on personal anecdotes, we should use empirical evidence @iamthemob. There are about 2.2 billion Christians worldwide according to Wikipedia in these countries:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Christian_world_map.png

A comparatively enormous number of Christians who are behaving very, very badly?

How many are we talking about?

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_right some 15% of the electorate in the United States tell pollsters they align themselves with the Christian right, which serves as an important voting bloc within the U.S. Republican Party. In recent years, Christian right groups have appeared in other countries than the United States such as Canada and the Philippines. However, the Christian right remains a phenomenon most commonly associated with the United States.

15% of 230 million eligible voters in the US is 34.5 million. Let’s throw in a few million aggressive ultra-conservative Christians from Canada, Philippines and a few hardliners from the Vatican and weirdos from Opus Dei and other similar organizations and we might end up with 40 million folks who are behaving very, very badly. Or let’s say 50 million.

That’s about 98% of all Christians who are not behaving very, very badly, who are chastiing those who forget that God is love as @CaptainHarley pointed out. What else could be done to bring the house in order? Create laws that forbid the 2% hatemongers to call themselves Christians? Exclude them from our communities? Yes, and this was done with Terry Jones in Germany for example, see http://voices.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/09/terry_jones_too_radical_for_ge.html but, well, he just forms his own new community. There is no worldwide enforcement agency removing people from “the house” i.e. all churches that might exist.

No honest atheist was able to forbid Stalin calling himself an atheist. Everyone is free to call himself a Christian, an atheist, a democrat or whatever. Gaddafi’s Libya tells everyone that it’s a direct democracy without any political parties, governed by its populace. Well, worldwide I’d say there are a comparatively enormous number of “democrats” who are behaving very, very badly.

So let’s be fair with each other.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – You completely misunderstand my argument, and therefore I don’t think you understand how damaging your counter actually is.

First, your argument is illusory (note – this is probably all going to sound more curt in text than it would in person, so just try to take no offense. ;-)). It’s dishonest to use numbers that are assumed when your categories are completely undefined. What is behaving very, very badly? And who is it that we should really judge when we talk about people behaving very, very badly? And by what standards should we judge them based on the available freedoms, information, etc.? I argue that we cannot honestly look at all global parties when it comes to religious ideology with the same lens, particularly when we are talking about the issues of Christianity and Islam, as we are dealing with a majority of one living in states where there is a ideological respect for freedom, whereas the majority of the other is living in states where there is an ideological respect for obedience to authority.

Context always always ALWAYS matters. When we talk about the behavior of Christians vs. Islam, we can only be fair when we talk about them in the U.S. or the Western world…and even then, I would say the U.S. only, as European speech and religion laws were directed at multiculturalism (which therefore allowed for ghettoization of certain populations) where the U.S. is more geared toward diversity (which therefore requires one to sacrifice certain traditional beliefs in order to interact more with the general population). We cannot talk about the populations globally. It’s like saying white people are more hard-working in the U.S. because they are generally more successful and are the vast majority of the wealthy, and ignoring that discrimination and poverty worked to prevent other minority groups from starting on equal footing in many cases.

In essence, therefore, the behavior of U.S. Christians should be held to a high standard as (1) the religion’s central message is one of love and acceptance, and (2) it’s adherents are in a nation where they are the vast majority, as well as (3) that has a basic foundation of equality and respect for the beliefs of others.

Instead, we have hearings on Muslim radicalization in the U.S. Instead, we claim that not enough moderate Muslims are speaking out. Instead, we have Christians stating that gay pride parades shove a lifestyle down their throat, and that the community should expect that people dislike them because they can’t quiet down and keep their private lives private.

THAT’S behaving badly. And that’s not a minority at all – in fact, it may very well be a majority. And that’s the problem with any Christian attempting to qualify their behavior by talking about Islam or Muslims. Do you disagree that when they do, they are almost inevitably talking about people who were not raised in a democracy, and almost always certainly not native-born U.S. Muslim citizens? I know you’re not in the U.S., but I know you’re familiar enough. ;-)

Therefore, the comparison lowers, essentially, the standard of behavior for Christians in Western areas to that of Muslims in non-Democratic areas, or raised with that mentality. Even more harmful, it is a comparison raised as an excuse to avoid criticism for behavior that is bad by a majority (and, if you look at polls on civil rights issues on things like gay marriage, you’ll see that there is a MASSIVE movement against allowing for the recognition of the rights by the Christian majority – not extreme, but majority – against it in a manner completely contrary to both Christian tolerance and democratic equality). It is, in essence, what you’re doing “Well, it may be bad, but it’s not really really bad.”

So what you see is a profound hypocrisy, don’t you think? Your statement is an attempt to argue against, somehow, putting your house in order, because what can you do? Kick them out of the club? Legislate their speech? It moves the goalposts to a point where because you can’t get out the worst elements unless you resort to dictatorial tactics, the criticism is misplaced. This is the same argument that seems to be the one used by a vast majority of Christians – and, this is the one time I feel comfortable generalizing. BUT, at the same time, the Christian majority is stating that a minority group isn’t doing enough to change the majority’s negative impression of that minority. That the minority group is more responsible for eliminating the worst elements in it if the majority group, which is again based on an idea of love and tolerance, and in a Western respect for equality, if that majority is to respect them. So it’s fine that Christian leaders are saying that gays are a danger to our children, or that political Christians are spreading fear about extreme Sharia law taking over our Constitution…because while there are still terrorists, or while there are still flashy promiscuous gays, they should expect Christians (ironically) to judge and generalize them accordingly.

No, I’m sorry, but in this instance, @mattbrowne, fairness actually places a higher duty on Christians, if we are being honest about fairness. I know you know that I will step in and defend Christianity from criticism, and think that it’s a religion that has profound potential for good. But where it is deserving of criticism, objectively, we can’t forgive it. And it is when Christians push responsibility for their behavior off by unfairly comparing their bad deeds to the bad deeds of those in a completely different context that criticism is warranted and fair. And it is fair, here, to hold Christians to the highest standard, as they are the majority in a free country (or countries). They are the majority of the people in power. They are the majority of the leaders. And a majority of those leaders are, instead of accepting responsibility for their bad behaviors, trying to shift the blame.

In my opinion, every single time that a Christian is criticized, even virulently, it is their duty as a Christian, as dictated by Christ, to accept the blame, turn the other cheek to the hate (as, if we’re again being fair, most likely comes from bad encounters with Christians) and try to be an example of what it is to be good – not point to someone who is worse. It is the duty of every Christian who, seeing a politician attempting to spread fear about a minority group, or a church leader speaking against another religion, or against gay people as dangerous, or against immigrants as stealing our jobs, to vocally protest and declare that it is not Christian to attempt to approach the problem by looking at the other as an enemy, and talking about what they’re doing to us or what they want, and instead reaching out and understanding. As the majority, they have the power to do this. They could be successful at it. And they would potentially eliminate so much conflict and push progress in doing so.

Don’t, therefore, presume to compare the bad behavior of Christians as a majority to that of others if it is, indeed, bad. There is no excuse for it. And it allows for the worst kind of apathy in the end. Because, arguably, it is not those that do bad or evil that are to blame for the success of it, but those that silently allow it to happen.

Arguing that there are people that act worse than you is objectively true. It almost always is. But the very fact that there are Christians judging minorities and blaming them for not changing the majorities mind, or claiming that the majority’s sense of morality is the mightier that it is therefore right, is to me proof that Christians are not doing anything remotely close to what they should be.

In the U.S. the majority has voted to amend their state constitutions to deny the rights of marriage to gay men and women. To deny them the right to adopt children. The majority of people have done this. The majority of Christians. They are in the majority and they have the ability to enact sweeping change for the good at all.

That Christians make me fight for the right to not be called a deviant, to love whom I want equally…that the majority (and it is the majority) assume that U.S. citizens who are Muslims aren’t really Americans…that this happens is, objectively, deplorable. It seems it should take so little effort for someone raised in a religion of love in a country of freedom to promote equality.

Why then isn’t it already here? Because Christians don’t want it. They want their privilege. I say that with sadness in my heart, because it’s objectively true. The votes prove it.

comicalmayhem's avatar

I don’t have time to read all these responses or answer your question, but I’m sure I will later cause I find this very interesting.

josie's avatar

Morality exists as a concept at the moment that human consciousness arises.
Human beings do not know reality directly. Different percepts are integrated in our brains into abstract concepts. From that, our faculty to reason assembles concepts into a working but abstract knowledge of reality.
Thus, exists the notion of morality, a code for helping us decide what to do in any situation, given the fact that
A. We must choose our actions
B. The choice makes a difference, because we are mortal and thus every action carries some risk of being a lethal mistake
C. We need an abstract code (morality) because it is too cumbersome and occasionally dangerous to work through the reasoning puzzle for every event that occurs-the proverbial case by case basis.
Thus, morality is the key to helping us survive by “knowing” what to do as we confront existence.
Morality is NOT a set of social norms that determines, by consensus, how we should treat each other.
It has nothing to do with the existence of God.

Invoking the will of God was a good way to convince bronze age people to act a certain way while in each other’s company.
The custom has lingered for a good long time.

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