Faith

Defending the Faith: Some alternatives to Christian ethics

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  • FJSL Houston, TX
    May 25, 2017 8:06 a.m.

    @ mhenshaw

    Karen R. here.

    "If the universe is utterly indifferent to all moral codes, then all behavioral choices become morally equivalent. "

    To the universe maybe, but not to us because some don't work for us.

    "So we can't rule out that the possibility that some species has evolved such a moral code somewhere in the cosmos."

    We also can't rule out that they've evolved moral codes precisely like our own. So this is a meaningless argument.

    "...and yet throughout history we persistently see people imposing such codes on scales small (murderers) and large (Stalin, et al)...Evolution is manifestly *not* taking care of it.

    The same can be said for gods/religions. Also, you're creating the straw man that evolution produces perfection. There's no such claim.

    "There's no evidence that we evolving into a more peaceful species."

    Actually there's ample evidence. Just look at the behavior sanctioned in the Christian OT. We reject most of it now. I'd also refer you to Steven Pinker's book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined."

  • mike_m Scottsbluff, NE
    May 23, 2017 11:23 a.m.

    @mhenshaw
    As an atheist I object very strongly to the moral code that God's wrath was on American Indians and His spirit with those who drove, scattered and nearly destroyed them as found in 1 Nephi 13. Using your reasoning, I could easily say that the Book of Mormon celebrates murder and depraved activities. If you want to bring up Stalin, et al you can't ignore what really happened in the Americas beginning in 1492. The excuse that it was God's will or prophecy fulfilled doesn't make it any better than the atrocities that have happened in the 20th Century.

    As for evolution, no society has celebrated the murder of members of their own group. Murder of one's own people has always been contrary to any culture. If it were not the people of such a culture would very quickly be destroyed by their own members. Evolution has apparently worked. Your claim that such a culture might be found somewhere in the cosmos has no more basis than claiming a Pepsi machine might be found on Pluto. Real evidence here on planet Earth just doesn't fit your claim.

  • mhenshaw Leesburg, VA
    May 23, 2017 6:56 a.m.

    >>Your suggestion of a species evolving that celebrated murder and "depraved" activities isn't found in the archaeological record.

    When discussing evolution and the origin of moral codes, we're dealing with a sample size of one -- the human species. Given the universes' size and estimated number of planets, a sample size of one is barely anecdotal evidence. So we can't rule out that the possibility that some species has evolved such a moral code somewhere in the cosmos.

    >>So our right/wrong code survives even in the presence of other equally valid ones.

    You miss my point. If the universe is utterly indifferent to all moral codes, then all behavioral choices become morally equivalent. Atheists respond, "A moral code celebrating murder isn't going to work for a species' survival...and the natural course of evolution would take care of it"; and yet throughout history we persistently see people imposing such codes on scales small (murderers) and large (Stalin, et al) and the atheist's argument gives us no *moral* grounds to object to any of it. Evolution is manifestly *not* taking care of it. There's no evidence that we evolving into a more peaceful species.

  • Lagomorph Salt Lake City, UT
    May 22, 2017 11:26 p.m.

    Dr. Peterson in fewer words: Christians are inherently peaceful. When they perpetrate acts of barbarism, it is a lapse or falling away from their true character. Non-Christians are inherently barbaric. When they perpetrate acts of barbarism, they are merely living up to their essential natures.

    It is a subtle form of the No True Scotsman logical fallacy, as well as a double standard. Christians produce works of literature containing massive brutality exceeding Beowulf, yet Dr. Peterson sees Beowulf as defining Norse pagan culture, but Christian brutality is a deviation from the norm. Why can't Beowulf be a deviation as well?

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    May 22, 2017 8:03 p.m.

    5/20/17 comment of sharrona:

    2nd paragraph is partly lifted from the work of M.W. Peak, Nov. 2013 and partly from the work of Chris Henderson, April 2017. The 3rd paragraph is also Chris Henderson's work.

  • CMTM , 00
    May 22, 2017 10:51 a.m.

    RE: Craig Clark." for others' motives."

    I voted Against Hillary because of her handling of Benghazi.

    As a Vietnam Veteran,(USAF Security Police Squadron/AF infantry) who probably would might not be alive without supporting airpower. Every day that I was on the flight line, or in a bunker, I was in harms way, But I had confidence we would have air support.

    I know how she takes care of the veterans .E.g..,
    “ CNN exit polls, veterans voted at a 2-1 ratio for Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. In Ohio, North Carolina and Florida -- battleground states rich with military history -- a number of counties pulled for Trump at numbers higher than those John McCain and Mitt Romney candidates had over President Obama in 2008 and 2012.”

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 22, 2017 8:58 a.m.

    mhenshaw,
    " . . . .In any case, the refusal to accept any charitable explanation for others' motives is, in no small part, responsible for the polarization and paralysis that's crippling our political system today."
    ______________________________
    That wasn't my meaning. Enough voters found Trump acceptable in spite of his hateful language although there were surely more than I care to think who voted for him because of it.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    May 22, 2017 7:02 a.m.

    @ mhenshaw

    "...if atheism is correct and humans are simply accidents..."

    First, "atheism" is a position on a single question and that question isn't, "What's the origin of our moral sense?" So the sentence should read, "If scientific studies are correct..."

    Second, there is nothing random about the development of a moral sense that increases a species' chance of survival. Nature selects what works best. Turns out having a moral sense works best for social species. So there IS a right and a wrong. Right promotes survival. Wrong endangers it.

    "...a species that evolved on another world could evolve a moral code that celebrated murder..."

    See non-social species, where eliminating one's competition IS precisely how it works. We would call this an amoral code, though. But it serves the same purpose: enhancing survival. Therefore, yes - it IS as valid as our own. It doesn't, however, make it valid for us because it doesn't work for us.

    So our right/wrong code survives even in the presence of other equally valid ones.

  • mhenshaw Leesburg, VA
    May 22, 2017 4:22 a.m.

    >>I can't swallow that. My suspicion is that a vote for Trump meant that his bigotry-based campaign was no disqualifying obstacle for those who gave him their vote.

    63 million people voted for the man. Surely that's a large enough base for both viewpoints to be valid? In any case, the refusal to accept any charitable explanation for others' motives is, in no small part, responsible for the polarization and paralysis that's crippling our political system today. We must be more generous in our views of others or things will never get better.

  • mike_m Scottsbluff, NE
    May 21, 2017 11:03 p.m.

    @mhenshaw
    Our capacity to care for one another has been critical to our survival as a species. Your suggestion of a species evolving that celebrated murder and "depraved" activities isn't found in the archaeological record. What is found concerning humans is an evolved cooperation and compassion, the very things that make us human. There was no moral code from sacred writings, it is really quite simple. If a behavior works to the benefit of the survival of the species it gets passed on. A moral code celebrating murder just isn't going to work for the survival of a species in the long run and the natural course of evolution would take care of it.

  • mhenshaw Leesburg, VA
    May 21, 2017 5:16 p.m.

    >>I think the research shows that it's evolution, not religion, that's responsible for our moral sense.

    Unfortunately, if atheism is correct and humans are simply accidents emerging from an uncaring universe, then any "moral sense" that we possess is likewise a random accident and thus easily disregarded. In fact, a species that evolved on another world could evolve a moral code that celebrated murder and every other "depraved" activity, and that belief system would be just as valid as ours.

    There would be no "right" or "wrong"; and if no right or wrong, then no reason why we should not abuse each other for selfish personal gain.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    May 20, 2017 9:27 a.m.

    RE: Karen R .”Another possibility: Men made gods out of men on earth.”

    Atheism thinks of themselves as a group that without worship. Yet, they do still worship. They “believe in humanity, not god.” Belief here means more than simply an intellectual assent,
    They are talking of faith, that state of committed belief that Christians often talk about.

    This makes each man an individual god, worshiped by his fellow gods, and each god worshiping himself.

    E.g.., “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you're gonna have to serve somebody.”[yourself] Bob Dylan

  • mike_m Scottsbluff, NE
    May 20, 2017 5:00 a.m.

    @CMTM "Then Why did God destroy mankind?" He didn't.

  • Michael_M Scottsbluff, NE
    May 19, 2017 2:28 p.m.

    @Husker1
    America's indigenous peoples did not die at the hands of Communism or Stalin or Lenin so what is your point to marxist?

    But according to 1 Nephi 13, they died because of the wrath of God on them and that His spirit was with those who drove, scattered and nearly destroyed them. It is those doctrinal teachings that I find morally condemnable and that I reject, just as much so as I condemn the actions of genocide committed by Stalin, Lenin, Mao Zedong, Hitler, etc. and even the Mormons involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. No God has ever been involved in any killings, it is all done by humans against each other. It is obscene when a God is claimed to be behind.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    May 19, 2017 1:35 p.m.

    It is fatuous to segregate religion from politics, they are one and the same; just that organized religions approach to governing is more deceptive and relies more on the influence of dead men and ancient folklore.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 19, 2017 12:12 p.m.

    Husker1,
    " . . . . A vote for Trump simply meant he would be a better President than Hillary."
    ______________________________
    I can't swallow that. My suspicion is that a vote for Trump meant that his bigotry-based campaign was no disqualifying obstacle for those who gave him their vote.

  • Husker1 Northern Utah County, UT
    May 19, 2017 11:22 a.m.

    @marxist "Yes, and let's not forget this Christian supported genocide of native American populations, including and especially by Andrew Jackson, Trump's idol."

    How many millions have died at the hands of Communism?? Stalin and Lenin alone are responsible for the murder and torture of millions.

  • CMTM , 00
    May 19, 2017 11:17 a.m.

    RE: Michael_M . "There is no justification for biblical genocide."?

    Then Why did God destroy mankind? “.. the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth,… for I am sorry that I have made them’” (Gen 6:5-7).

    “.. Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and Took Them All away; so shall also the[2nd] coming of the Son of man= [Jesus] (Mt 24:38-39).

    RE … if [Y]our unrighteousness highlights the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unjust to inflict His wrath on us?( I am speaking in human terms.)By no means! In that case, how could God judge the world?(Rom 3:5-6)…

    But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?(Rom 9: 19-21)

  • Michael_M Scottsbluff, NE
    May 19, 2017 8:52 a.m.

    @CMTM
    There is no justification for biblical genocide. Those same stories from Deuteronomy were used to justify murder of American Indians.

    These quotes from The History of the Pequot War, Reprinted from the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1897, pages 30, 35, 81 are of the Mystic Massacre and demonstrate one of the finest examples of Christian ethics applied to American Indians by colonists, filled with the Spirit of God according to 1 Nephi 13:

    "Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies!"

    "It was the Lord's Doings, and it is marvellous in our Eyes!"

    "Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents. Sometimes the case alters; but we will not dispute it now. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings."

    In your attempt to justify Biblical genocide which I used in context with the destruction of America's indigenous peoples, you have labeled American Indians as sinners, in the darkness of sin, as rebellious people, ripe for God's death sentence. That is the Christian ethics that I reject and condemn.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 19, 2017 8:33 a.m.

    "I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened."
    ______________________________
    Russia had a turbulent history with Bolshevism, Stalin, etc. But Solzhenitsyn is not unique in placing blaming on people turning away from God. There is ever a strain of Old Testament retribution in the prophets witheringly chastising the children of Israel for bringing calamity on themselves with their unbelief and idolatry.

    The worst calamity in U.S. history was the American Civil War. It followed in the aftermath of the Second Great Awakening in which religious interest was revitalized and new religious movements emerged including Mormonism. Our Civil War resulted not from turning away from God but from the failure of the nation to peacefully resolve the slavery issue.

    It’s time we let go of the notion that bad things that happen are God’s punishment that does not discriminate between the guilty and the innocent.

  • CMTM , 00
    May 19, 2017 8:15 a.m.

    Michael_M. He told the Israelites to kill all of the Canaanites.

    “It is because we are sinners, and because God so often shows us grace, that we forget the justice of God, and the darkness of sin. When we read about the execution of the Canaanites we ought not to ask, “How could God do this?” but “Why does He not kill us all?” The shocking part of the story of the conquest of Canaan is God’s love for His rebellious people, not His just wrath toward other rebels. From the moment of our conception we are all under God’s just death sentence.

    Every moment of every day is a momentary stay of execution. When we forget this truth we show ourselves to be the sinners we are. But praise His name, Christ came into the world to save sinners. He who knew no sin became sin for us, and died a sinner’s death that we might live. “ R.C Sproul

    “The difference between Christian thinking and non-Christian thinking is that man is normal now, but biblical Christianity says he is abnormal now(total depravity), because at a point in time (the Fall)he changed himself not epistemologically but morally.” Francis Schaeffer

  • Gadfly Smyrna, TN
    May 19, 2017 7:56 a.m.

    Interesting blurb at the link from the Mormontimes page although I never found it in the article.. I do not consider myself an atheist nor does anyone else in my ward that I know of and yet I look forward to a time of peace and love. We may call it the Millennium rather than the Age of Aquarius but even in my youth I never thought of Aquarians as atheists. Maybe I should go tell my bishop that I have been an atheist for the past six decades because I express a testimony of Jesus Christ and His teachings and didn't know it. T

  • Michael_M Scottsbluff, NE
    May 19, 2017 2:09 a.m.

    @marxist
    The Christian ethics of that genocide are canonized in the Book of Mormon, stamped with God's spirit and blessing just as surely as found in Deuteronomy where He told the Israelites to kill all of the Canaanites.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    May 18, 2017 8:14 p.m.

    @ joe5

    I'm all right with my comment too.

    @ Marxist

    "That said, much of our moral sense does come from religion. It seems to be necessary."

    I think the research shows that it's evolution, not religion, that's responsible for our moral sense.

  • Rogers Lambert Radford, VA
    May 18, 2017 5:31 p.m.

    At the time of the civil rights efforts (nineteen fifties and sixties) the secular humanists seemed to occupy the moral high ground well ahead of some of us more religious folks.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    May 18, 2017 3:51 p.m.

    @Michael_M "14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten."

    Yes, and let's not forget this Christian supported genocide of native American populations, including and especially by Andrew Jackson, Trump's idol.

  • joe5 South Jordan, UT
    May 18, 2017 2:44 p.m.

    Escher,

    How very convenient to ignore the more contemporary comparisons of the French Revolution, Marxism, and the best four paragraphs of the column with Solzhenitsyn remarks at the very end. Very selective reading and/or comprehension on your part. You reject the entire premise but you disagree with a single part of his column.

    "The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge."

  • Husker1 Northern Utah County, UT
    May 18, 2017 2:25 p.m.

    @marxist "But let me point out Christianity was (is?) comfortable with great brutality, such as black slavery, assassinations (Allende and Diem come to mind), and the acceptance of the wholesale abuse of women (eagerly vote for Trump)."

    You make it sound like Christians took a vote and unanimously decided to support slavery and abuse of women. That's ridiculous. All people, including Christians, are fallible and make bad decisions. Plus, there are literally hundreds of other factors that determine a persons behavior.

    Also, a vote for Trump does not indicate acceptance of abuse of women. A vote for Trump simply meant he would be a better President than Hillary.

  • Lagomorph Salt Lake City, UT
    May 18, 2017 1:37 p.m.

    Peterson: “Although Christians have often fallen short of the teachings of Jesus…”

    And with that facile dismissal Dr. Peterson conveniently elides two millennia of Christian violence not supporting his thesis, including the Crusades, Inquisition, Holocaust (one may argue Hitler’s personal theology, but the German populace that aided and abetted was predominantly Christian), the literal and cultural genocide of indigenous peoples worldwide, American slavery (defended from the altar), the subjugation of women and sexual minorities (ditto), and on and on. Can’t we also say that Robespierre “fell short” of Reason and give Reason a pass?

    Dr. Peterson plucks a few examples from literature (aka fiction) and treats them as anthropological treatises proving pagan savagery. Yet wouldn’t the figurative Man From Mars dropped into the neighborhood multiplex conclude that Americans are a bloodthirsty lot? Our mythical imagery does not dictate our culture.

    The headline promises a discussion of “alternatives to Christian ethics,” yet only atheist and pagan (not at all the same) ethics are discussed. What of the Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians, etc.? Where are they lie the brutality scale?

  • EscherEnigma Ridgecrest, CA
    May 18, 2017 1:37 p.m.

    @joe5
    Checking article again... Nope. This is still the same article that compares Beowulf to Tutu and tries to credit Christianity with the difference.

    You want to see what's different about Christianity? You have to look at contemporaries. And Tutu is not a contemporary of Beowulf.

  • Michael_M Scottsbluff, NE
    May 18, 2017 1:22 p.m.

    God's spirit was with the Europeans and His wrath on American Indians when the largest loss of human life second only to the flood of Noah occurred over an area of land mass second only to Asia.

    1 Nephi 13:

    12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

    13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.

    14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.

    15 And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.

  • joe5 South Jordan, UT
    May 18, 2017 1:17 p.m.

    KarenR and EscherEnigma:

    I don't know what article you are responding to but it's a shame you didn't read this article before commenting. Your observations might have been much more relevant if you had read and understood the content of this column.

  • EscherEnigma Ridgecrest, CA
    May 18, 2017 12:43 p.m.

    If you're trying to compare "Christian morality" to others in an attempt to show superiority, shouldn't you compare our to contemporaries? So don't compare Beowulf to morality from 1300 years later, compare it to Christians from then. Who behaved largely the same.

    Heck, I can argue that just about any moral system that was around a hundred and fifty years ago is decadent. Just point out how it's supporters were on both sides of issues like slavery, women's rights, and executing gay people.

    Pretending that modern morality is because of Christianity requires you to ignore everything done by Christians *before* modern times. And also what's doesn't being done by Christians in Africa and Russia.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    May 18, 2017 12:34 p.m.

    There's a lot that needs to be said here, but no where enough room.

    But let me point out Christianity was (is?) comfortable with great brutality, such as black slavery, assassinations (Allende and Diem come to mind), and the acceptance of the wholesale abuse of women (eagerly vote for Trump).

    That said, much of our moral sense does come from religion. It seems to be necessary.

  • CMTM , 00
    May 18, 2017 12:07 p.m.

    RE: Craig Clark. “There is wisdom in the teachings of Jesus but not in what man is too often inclined to do with them." True,

    Love your neighbor as yourself, test. Where you see Love, insert your name and see .

    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It((Love)does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. —1 Cor 13:4-8) Did you Pass*?

    Love( Agape) is described in 1 Cor 13. The Greek word agape is often translated “love” in the N. T.. “Agape love” is different from other types of love e,g ..Philia love, Brotherly love like Philadelphia.

    RE: the use of the Law:
    "The law of God is a mirror of God’s holiness and our unrighteousness. *It serves to reveal to us our need of a savior.
    The law of God is a restraint against sin. The law of God reveals what is pleasing and what is offensive to God.
    The Christian is to love the law of God and to obey the moral law of God." R.C.Sproul

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    May 18, 2017 11:33 a.m.

    "Men have forgotten God."

    Another possibility: Men made gods out of men on earth.

    Since history shows we can be led to commit atrocities whether our gods are material or immaterial, maybe the solution is to teach our children to be wary of gods.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 18, 2017 11:05 a.m.

    Washed in the blood of the lamb is an idea that fundamentally undermines Christian ethics. It holds that man is basically evil and nothing he does of his own accord can save him. The natural pitfall of that is . . . .

    Free from the law.
    Oh happy condition.
    I can sin as I please
    And still have remission!

    Belief in God avails us nothing as a trite self-serving rationale. Contrast the divide between the fashionable so-called 'prosperity theology' of some charismatic Christian preachers today and Jesus posing the question, “what does it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

    There is wisdom in the teachings of Jesus but not in what man is too often inclined to do with them.