I have been having a discussion with someone who believes that, as nonbelievers, we cannot know good and evil. He asked me, “….how do you know anything at all to be true according to your beliefs?”
This discussion was originally started on another site and was continued under another topic/post here at the end of the comments section.
It’s an interesting idea, and one worthy of discussion (and more appropriately under a new title). How DO we know if we have sound epistemology? How do we know what is good and evil if there is not a universal truth, handed down by god? How do we, as a society and as individuals, decide what is moral and what is not?
It’s important that those who do believe in god understand that morality, in our view, has nothing to do with god. I will continue the discussion with Derrick’s comment below, and if anyone on either side of the debate would like to join in, please remember that, no matter our views, we’re still on the same team.
@Anthony Interesting post to say the least.
I need to confront certain elements of your thinking in this post. However, I would like this to take the form of an open and public debate with words (by the good graces of our hostess, Deborah, and
good will of this on-line community).
You state: <i> Truth is that which corresponds to the mind of the biblical God. </I>
Let us begin with an understanding of the principle word at play in your argument: Truth. I am selecting the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) definitions that seem most relevant to this discussion.
OED defines “truth” as…
I. The quality of being true (and allied senses).
1. a. The character of being, or disposition to be, true to a person, principle, cause, etc.; faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, constancy, steadfast allegiance.
2. Second, we cannot rely on Blaise Pascal’s assertion (or any similar assertion) since it is grounded in the idea that goes does exist, so the wager theory of god’s existence is off the table. We must agree that, like Schrodinger’s cat, we need to keep god in an indeterminate state for the purposes of this discussion: god both exists and does not exist at the same time until we reach a point where observation proves existence.
3. a. Faith, trust, confidence; b. Belief; a formula of belief, a creed.
4. Disposition to speak or act truly or without deceit; truthfulness, veracity, sincerity; formerly sometimes in wider sense: Honesty, uprightness, righteousness, virtue, integrity.
5. a. Conformity with fact; agreement with reality; accuracy, correctness, verity (of statement or thought).
6. Agreement with a standard or rule; accuracy, correctness; spec. accuracy of position or adjustment;
7. Genuineness, reality, actual existence.
9. a. True statement or account; that which is in accordance with the fact: chiefly in phr. to say, speak, or tell the truth; b. loosely. Mental apprehension of truth (in sense 11); knowledge.
10. a. True religious belief or doctrine; orthodoxy. Often with the, denoting a particular form of belief or teaching held by the speaker to be the true one
11. a. That which is true, real, or actual (in a general or abstract sense); reality; spec. in religious use, spiritual reality as the subject of revelation or object of faith (often not distinguishable from 10).
12. a. The fact or facts; the actual state of the case; the matter or circumstance as it really is.
Of all the possible definitional uses, I want to address 5, 6, and 7 as those tend to be central to the debate. We will fundamentally disagree as to what constitutes “fact” in this case. You content that
god exists; ipso facto that is the truth. I contend god does not exist; ipso facto that is the truth. Because we are mired in “belief”at this point, we must find another means to verify our positions.
This gives rise to the biggest question: How does one prove god exists? In order to do this, we need some ground rules.
First, we cannot ask “Prove god does not exist!” since it is impossible to prove a negative (i.e., “Prove there is no such thing as a flying pink unicorn.”). Thus, we have to rely on proving god exists.
Second, we cannot rely on Blaise Pascal’s assertion (or any similar assertion) since it is grounded in the idea that goes does exist, so s existence is off the table. We must agree s cat, we need to keep god in an indeterminate state for the purposes of this discussion: god both exists and does not exist at the same time until we reach a point where observation proves existence.
Third, we cannot simply point to the universe as a whole and state “There is proof god exists.” It is physically beyond the means of either of us to test the whole of the universe. We must use reasonable, testable, and verifiable evidence. Proposed logic, so long as it survives scrutiny, can be used as evidence.
Forth, we need to avoid semantic arguments. Should we disagree over a phrase, we need to reach consensus regarding its meaning. Since this
should be a thoughtful debate and discussion, semantic disagreements need to be dealt with post haste.
Fifth and finally, we must refrain from ad hominem attacks and keep strictly to the debate of the issue. Since we do not know one another personally, we should not attack one another in words.
If you find this acceptable, it would be a pleasure to engage in this debate.