The current theist/atheist debate

This collegium and forum are dedicated to the study, discussion, re-creation and application of classical Roman and Greek religion and philosophy.

Moderator: Aldus Marius

The current theist/atheist debate

Postby Marcus Tullius Ioannes on Sun Nov 25, 2007 1:14 am

There is an aspect of this debate that interests me as it relates to ancient philosohy.

Proponents of current religion, when responding to an attack by the likes of Hitchens or Dawkins, sometimes claim that without God, or perhaps more accurately a belief in God, there is no morality, or reason to be moral.

I am not sure this is the case, at least if "God" is defined by those believing in current religions, such as Christianity. Certainly the ancient philosophers were able to come to the conclusion that the virtuous life is the "good" life without relying on the existence of a personal God, and did so long before Christ and long before the Judeo-Christian ethos was stamped on Western civilization.

The Stoics, for example, seem to have developed their ethics from a consideration of the inferences they made from what they believed to be human nature, and how it relates to nature as a whole. It is true that Epictetus, at least, seems implicitly or explicitly to recognize the existence of a creator, as also seems to be the case with Aristotle. But I wonder whether the creator they believed in can be said to be the God we see worshiped today. Acquinas, when considering the "proofs" of the existence of God, would go through the Aristotelian argument for a first mover, and then state "and this we call God." But don't we now consider God to be much more than that? And if that is the case, is it legitimate to maintain that without God there is no reason to be moral?

Any thoughts or comments on this issue would be welcome.
Philosophia est ars vitae
User avatar
Marcus Tullius Ioannes
I. Auxiliary
I. Auxiliary
 
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Oct 13, 2007 4:53 pm
Location: Wisconsin, U.S.A.

God and Morality

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Tue Nov 27, 2007 4:18 am

Salve, Ciceroniane -

It is also interesting to note that a determined defender of Christianity, C. S. Lewis, used the independent existence of morality, of "natural law" or the common innate feelings people have that some conduct is good and some is bad, as an argument for the existence of deity. It is a distinctive thing of people that they are

... haunted by the idea of a sort of behaviour they ought to practise, what you might call fair play, or decency, or morality, or the Law of Nature.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Bk I, Part 3.

As I recall, he argued that this is something born within us, observable and provable, and therefore a good argument for, at the least, a divine thread in our lives.

So I don't think that the people you refer to have a very strong argument - even among their own co-religionists. I think they are really saying, "We are so angry and so lost in this appalling, nasty old world, that were it not for God's commandments, we would feel free to be as fully violent as our frustrations sometimes demand." And it may be that good conduct itself pre-dates the idea of God.

Vale.
Valerius Claudius Iohannes
Curator anno MMDCCLXII
Centurio Honorarius Societatis

:: Adversitas bono viro intelligentiam docet. ::
User avatar
Valerius Claudius Iohanes
Curator
Curator
 
Posts: 674
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2004 4:28 am
Location: Sancti Leandri Oppidum, California Franciscencis, Conpactae Civitates Americae

Postby Marcus Tullius Ioannes on Sat Dec 01, 2007 5:11 pm

You are quite right about C.S. Lewis and his argument based on the existence of a nature law. And, I think it is arguable that there is such a law. I believe he went so far as to infer from that not only the existence of God, but that God is angry, and will punish us, if we vary from it. I could not follow that part of the argument.

He also argued I recall that since Christ pronounced himself the Son of God, he must either have been truly that, or a lunatic. Since it makes no sense to believe him to be a lunatic as so many are and have been believing Christians, I think the argument goes, he must truly have been the Son of God.

I think the problem, or one of the problems, with this argument is that it assumes he actually referred to and believed himself to be the "Son of God" as we define that phrase at this time. Certainly the Greek and Roman traditions are full of instances of gods having children, and Augustus, for example, was proclaimed the son of the god Julius. However, I don't think that those like Augustus were thought to be the "Sons of God" in the sense that Christ is believed to be the "Son of God." Also, one has to wonder whether the Gospels are accurate in that respect, unless one believes them to be divinely inspired.

Dawkins seems to argue that what has been ascribed to natural law may simply be the result of evolution. I disagree with him that if that is the case, natural law has no basis in God, because I do not believe as he seems to that evolution is inconsistent with the existence of God. But if there is a designer, it seems that he/she/it need not be the kind of God that is and has been the subject of our worship.

I have read some of the Stoics, and have begun reading Epicurus, and it seems that these ancient philosophers developed a high standard of morality in philosophical systems which recognized the existence of a Creator, but not a personal God, which seems to be the kind many people seek today.
Philosophia est ars vitae
User avatar
Marcus Tullius Ioannes
I. Auxiliary
I. Auxiliary
 
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Oct 13, 2007 4:53 pm
Location: Wisconsin, U.S.A.


Return to Collegium Religionum et Philosophiarum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron