Early in the chapter, we read and discusses Antony’s work Good Minus God.  There was a point at the end of the work that really struck me with the idea of redemption.  Antony said, “You do not lose morality by giving up God; neither do you necessarily find it by finding Him … Most importantly, you lose the guarantee of redemption … You cannot have that if you are an atheist. In consequence, you must live your life, and make your choices with the knowledge that every choice you make contributes, in one way or another, to the only value your life can have”.  I find this idea to be very powerful.  Forgiveness is a common motif in faith, particularly in Christian faith.  On the belief that morality is centric to God, following the Christian values is important to maintaining a moral stance.  But, if you fall apart on these values, one can always count on God to forgive what choices you have made. Antony’s closing statement is,  “Some people think that if atheism were true, human choices would be insignificant. I think just the opposite — they would become surpassingly important”.  A person does have to live with the mistakes they make for the entirety, but with faith a person can see that they are forgiven.  Morality being a part of human nature is a great point through this work.  A person, though not religious, does have to live with their actions.  There will always be a sense of right and wrong even without the idea of eternal damnation for immoral choices.  Human nature knows what is wrong and what is right, and we can feel it when we are doing something immoral.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The “Golden Rule.”

This phrase is passed on from generation to generation as a means of providing morality. Since most of the recipients have a sense of empathy, the message is generally well received. Morality is our set of guidelines on how to live, and what is right and wrong. For the majority of my life, I have abided by this golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated. For example, don’t break into someone’s house and steal their possessions (unless you want someone to do that to you). There are many messages that can be drawn from this rule, but there are three main conclusions: don’t treat others badly unless you want to be treated badly, if you put nothing in, then you will get nothing out, and if you are kind and grateful, then others will be the same in return.

I’m choosing to start with the negative because to me, this argument is the most basic- even though it can have the largest consequences if not followed. It seems fairly simple, don’t steal, harm others, etc or bad things will come to you. Many people, however, believe that they are inherently special and that they can avoid the consequences of their bad actions. If you treat others badly, then you were either treated badly, or you will get what is coming to you, and others will treat you how you’ve treated others. This may seem like a fairly abstract concept, but the golden rule wouldn’t be the golden rule unless many people believed in it. Essentially, the most commonly drawn conclusion from the golden rule is don’t treat others badly unless you want the same to happen to you.

Another conclusion from the golden rule is what you put in is what you get out. Essentially, the more effort you put into a relationship, the more you get out of it. If you want to be truly cared about, then you have to care about others. This also ties into the third conclusion, which suggests that being kind brings kindness. I believe that herein lies the difference between a genuine desire to help others and helping others to help yourself: altruism vs egoism. I do not believe that people are pure altruists or egoists, simply because all people do things for themselves and for others. Rather than confining people in the binary of altruism or egoism, I believe there is more space in-between where all people lie. It is the degree of altruism and egoism that makes a difference. I do not mean to say that people can not commit altruistic acts, and the same for egoistic acts, but I do not believe that one action can define a person. Essentially, almost all people will prioritize themselves at some point and others at another points, but it is the degree to which they do so that makes a difference.  This is where the altruism vs. egoism debate ties back into the golden rule: if you truly care about others, then others will truly care about you. You may still care about yourself more than others, but as long as the degree to which you prioritize yourself over others is not too skewed, then who’s to say you’re not an altruist?

Biological Evidence to Support Altruism?

In this post, I would like to discuss the concept of altruism. First, I admit that it may be difficult to acknowledge that some people in our world are truly selfless and willing to help others so that they (the “others”) benefit. However, a news article published just three days ago (September 22nd, 2014) claims not only that altruism exists, but also that there is biological evidence for it:

In this article, it is mentioned that an immensely kind-hearted and selfless lady, Angela Stimpson, donated a kidney to someone she did not even know. In my opinion, such an act is an example of true altruism because the motive is clearly for the benefit of the organ recipient. Abigail Marsh, mentioned in the article as one of the most famous researchers of altruism in the US, agrees with me. Fascinated by altruism, she decided to investigate whether any biological evidence exists for this phenomenon. In a research study, she imaged the brains of 19 altruists (those who had donated a kidney to a stranger, including Angela Stimpson) and 20 non-donors to compare brain size and also took MRI scans of her participants while they completed computerized tests. She found that the amygdala, a region of the brain heavily involved in emotional response, was noticeably larger in the altruists than the non-donors. Furthermore, she found that the amygdalae of the altruistic participants were more sensitive to images of “people displaying fear or distress” than those of the non-donors.

These findings are truly exceptional because they provide sound biological evidence that altruism is a legitimate phenomenon that exists in our world. Additionally, they undermine the cynical viewpoint we discussed in class that everyone in the world is an egoist and performs good deeds only for self-satisfaction. After all, only a true altruist would donate their organs for the good of others.

Commentary on Good Minus God

On Wednesday we discussed the article “Good Minus God: The Moral Atheist”. I can see why she thinks that morality is independent of the existence of God. If the meaning of “good” relies on whatever God commands, then “good” could mean anything. I do agree that moral value does exist in the natural world but I just don’t understand where that goodness would come from if God did not create it. Does it just automatically appear when someone is born? I agree more with the Divine Command Theory because God does have commandments that people are suppose to obey because He is the only one who has the power to always do good. I believe that the Divine Command Theory does require faith and trust in God and I can see why atheists are skeptical of this theory but I don’t see how people can just rely on what they think is morally right if they aren’t perfect.

A Comparison Between Arguments Made By Louise M. Antony and Paul Kurtz

In this post, I would like to compare arguments made by Louise M. Antony in her article “Good Minus God” and Paul Kurtz in his debate with William Craig on “Is Goodness without God Good Enough?”

In her article, Louise Antony argues that from an atheist perspective, morality is not imposed on the world by a divine entity. Instead, she believes that morality is present in the world and is a part of human nature, stemming from human experiences and our upbringings. In essence, her viewpoint is that morality is innate within humans and therefore what is morally good is discerned by humans themselves rather than decided by God. She goes on to distinguish between two types of theories concerned with this topic: Divine Command Theory (DCT) and Divine Independence Theory (DIT). Proponents of DCT believe that God decides what is morally good. On the other hand, proponents of DIT believe that moral goodness is independent of God. Antony, of course, is a Divine Independence Theorist and as mentioned previously, believes that morality is an innate human value that is independent of God.

In his debate with William Craig, Paul Kurtz argues that morality is independent of belief in God. His main argument is that “morality and moral behavior do not depend on divine commandments but on the development of an inner moral sense and, particularly in the young, the growth of moral character, and the capacity for moral reasoning” (Kurtz/Craig Debate Pg. 25). He believes that as evolutionarily advanced species, we humans are capable of sensing feelings among one another and are clearly able to discern morally good actions such as love and friendship towards one another. Lastly, he believes that in order to best resolve moral dilemmas, we must all find a common ground and learn to reason together based on common moral principles.

It is evident from both Antony’s and Kurtz’s arguments that they are share very similar if not identical viewpoints with respect to morality as it relates to religious beliefs. Hence, I believe it is fair to say that Kurtz himself is a proponent of DIT, just like Antony. Both philosophers believe that morality is independent of religious beliefs, that one does not have to believe in God to know what actions are morally good. To conclude, both Kurtz and Antony, as defenders of atheism, make the powerful claim that life is meaningful even if one is an atheist.

Religious Disagreements vs. Scientific Disagreements

In this post, I compare religious disagreements vs. scientific disagreements and how I believe them to be different. In the case of religious disagreements, there truly is no “correct answer.” For instance, as Hick concludes in “The Problem of Evil,” one can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God (pg. 47). Therefore, I believe that one can be rationally justified in believing God exists but one can also be rationally justified in believing God doesn’t exist. How do we know who is correct? The simple answer is we don’t. In the contrary, I believe that in the case of scientific disagreements, there is a “correct answer.” For instance, let’s consider the issue of global warming. Assume we have one individual who believes global warming exists and another who does not believe so. It is easily provable that global warming does exist and is a growing problem by examining environmental patterns such as the melting of glaciers in the northern and southern poles of the Earth over time. In such an instance, we have physical proof of global warming and its effects on our planet, and thus we can conclude that there is a correct answer to this scientific disagreement. As Richard Feldman put it in his article, “if one side had it right, then the other had it wrong” (pg. 199).

To summarize, I believe that religious disagreements lead to two opposing viewpoints, each rationally justifiable in its own rights, with no one viewpoint being superior to the other. On the other hand, scientific disagreements have a clearly correct viewpoint, provable by physical evidence. This, I feel, is the difference between religious and scientific disagreements.

Fear of God

On Friday we discussed the idea of fearing God and not completely having free will because of that fear. The fear of possibly ending up in hell can push people to try to always do the right thing which means that we’re not really free to do whatever we want. I believe that there are different kinds of fear. There is fear that forces people to try to do the right things because they believe that it’s the only way to get to heaven and away from hell. They fear the uncertainty of the after life and rely on good works to get them to heaven. Based on Christian beliefs, there is a different kind of fear that comes with loving God and wanting to please Him. Since Christians are “children of God”, they have a fear of disappointing God but they also have peace because of their faith.

Confidence in Religious Beliefs

Today in our Philosophy 1100H class, we discussed the perspective described by William L. Rowe called “friendly atheism” and how in essence, it seems impossible. A friendly atheist is one who believes that they are rationally justified in their religious beliefs, but who also believes others are rationally justified in their own. For example, a friendly atheist would be able to “agree to disagree” with a theist in terms of their belief in religion. Rowe himself along with Richard Feldman both conclude, however, that friendly atheism is inherently futile. If two people fully believe that they are correct and rationally justified in their beliefs, and their beliefs contrast, then there is no way for either one to believe the other can be rationally justified-its just not logical. I, however, have experienced a lack of certainty in my beliefs in any direction. With all of the evidence that I have gained throughout my lifetime, I do not see myself fit to make the ultimate decision about my fate, and I believe that very few people, if any, really are 100% certain in their beliefs. How is it possible to believe in something that you don’t know is true? Although people may have experience religious fallacies or supernatural miracles, there is no solid factual evidence of a superior being (otherwise everyone would believe in the same one). Essentially, I do believe we can “agree to disagree.” On some level, people can recognize that someone else could be right, and to completely dismiss another’s ideals is generally irrational. People may have ideas that can persuade them in certain directions, but to conclude that something that is not within our reality is completely true seems irrational. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an atheist or a theist, I’m simply somewhere in-between. I believe most, if not all, people are somewhere in-between, yet they hold on to whatever helps them sleep at night. At the end of the day, I have my reality, and that’s all I need.