Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Moral relativism, explored.

This post was inspired by Bint Alshamsa's first comment on the CultureForAll article titled: "Do the Palestinians deserve a state to call their own?". This response is guided by her comment, however it is not personal and no offence is intended. This is an exploration of moral relativism. If I have made any mistakes please point them out for me, thanks. Introduction: Morality and Philosophy Moral relativism is a philosophy that rejects moral truths and instead adopts the concept that morality is relative to the person. If you are brought up thinking that to murder the weak and innocent is fun (I will call this the Immoral Environment) - it is a perfectly moral thing to do. Moral absolutism dictates that regardless of the circumstances there are moral truths and any relative circumstances that individuals may have should be ignored. According to this theory if a person is brought up in the Immoral Environment but takes the step up and perhaps assaults someone instead of murdering them, their actions would still be immoral in comparison to those of a person who was brought up with high moral standards and does not assult anyone. Judaism is different, according to the Rabbi I spoke to last Wednesday Judaism stands between absolute and relative morality. Using the example above, if this hypothetical person thinks it is fun to murder the innocent, it is understandable due to the circumstances. If he/she actually acts on these ideas and murders an innocent child it would still be wrong. The Rabbi continued to explain that we all have different "moral levels". That said, we all have a duty to improve our own moral level. There is no point in looking at someone on a lower moral level and thinking "wow, I am so much better than them" and being satisfied. It means nothing. It's just as meaningful if Roger Federer played me at tennis and won. So what?! He is at a different level to me. We all have to improve at our own level. Remember this scenario again: # Person A is brought up in the Immoral Environment but takes the step up and assaults someone instead of murdering them. # Person B was brought up with high moral standards but does not make any effort to improve further. Even though Person A is still doing wrong (assault), the actual act of improving morally is a great Mitzvah and is better than if he stayed at his natural level like person B did. So Judaism sits somewhere in the middle, or depending on how you look at it, Judaism sits at both places at once! Moral Relativism Bint stands at the moral relativism side of the spectrum.
"Who should be allowed to decide what a group needs to do or be in order to have a state of their own? In other words, whose standards should matter most?"
Aka. Freedom loving people have no right to say that a genocidal terrorist group leading a dangerous indoctrinated population should not have a country to run. Our ideals are no more moral than theirs.
"It's rather patronizing for an outsider to assume that they can possibly know what a groups 'real interests' are or should be. If I were to say that Jews should only be given a state if they are willing to conform with what the non-Jews think they should do, it would be equally ridiculous as non-Palestinians claiming that their conditions should be met before Palestinian statehood is recognized."
Bint attempts to make us understand that there is no moral truth. Who are we to say that a genocidal terrorist group linked to the Nazis is morally wrong. They think we are morally wrong! In Bint's world we just have our own perceptions of morality and the only thing that is wrong is for us to impose our ethnocentric ideas of morality on another culture. It is wrong for me to say that a culture which indoctrinates its youth with hate is immoral. It is wrong for us to say that the PLO's goal of genocide is immoral - all these ideas are, according to Bint's moral relativism, equal. Who are we to judge? This is bordering on insanity.
"Let's say we did decide to only give states to those societies where there is no hatred and only love and where the population has apologized for whatever wrongs any of their members might have engaged in."
Clearly, being human, this is impossible.
"Do you realize what that would mean for Israel? Even more importantly, do you know what that would mean for every single nation on this earth?"
What is Bint asking here exactly? Well, she is saying that what would it mean for the world if every nation was perfect. If there was "no hatred and only love and where the population has apologized for whatever wrongs any of their members might have engaged in." I would call that a Utopia myself. This is a straw man, as Wikipedia describes it:
A straw man argument is a logical fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact misleading, because the opponent's actual argument has not been refuted. Its name is derived from the practice of using straw men in combat training. In such training, a scarecrow is made in the image of the enemy with the single intent of attacking it.
So right now Bint wants us to the image of a Utopian world in our minds:
"There isn't a single nation that has fulfilled the pre-requisites [sic] that you are proposing."
And here we have the rest of the straw-man argument. There was no proposal of creating a nation where everything is perfect. The only concept of creating a nation with "no hatred and only love and where the population has apologized for whatever wrongs any of their members might have engaged in" was created entirely by Bint. We were proposing a nation that does not support genocidal ambitions or indoctrinate its youth from point blank. The Utopia world that nobody was talking about was created simply to be destroyed in an effort to create an argument - but it doesn't work. It is not logical.
"If you're going to talk about who has committed sins, then which religion's definition of sin should we use?"
(You don't even need to stop at "which religion". Some of the most moral people I know are agnostic. You do not need to be taught religion to know the difference between right and wrong.) This is more moral relativism, but Bint has a very good point which can never be answered. Trying to answer this question puts the reader in an impossible position by forcing them to personally decide what is the correct moral code. Naturally whatever decision you make it will alienate millions of people who have a different perception to morality than you have. Is it fair for you to dictate what is moral and what is immoral? Do you have the guts to say your perception of morality is right and they have it wrong? Does that make you a Bigot? Nobody can properly answer this question - and it is not supposed to be answered. It is supposed to make you think. "Perhaps there are no moral truths and it is all a matter of opinion. If it is all a matter of opinion what right do I have to say that people who have aspirations for genocide should not have a state. That might be moral after all."
Bint To Red: "Even if you do choose to believe in a particular deity--which is perfectly acceptable to me, even though it would mean that you were no longer an atheist--your ideas about what sins someone should apologize for are just irrational because they may not share your same preferred deity and the sin-list that goes with it."
Bint's moral relativism can be extended to the insane. Maybe our opinion that genocide is wrong is irrational because Adolph Hitler may not agree with it. With this philosophy we will be going around in circles until we die - and that is exactly why the Islamic Fascists love the so-called left so much. The "left" has lost it's morality and can justify the unjustifiable. This philosophy will also be the death of our civilisation because it will excuse murderers and weakens our resolve to defend ourselves against a people who would not tolerate this kind of thinking. Moral relativism is an affront to law - it impedes our ability to protect basic freedoms because we put ourselves into a position where we have no right to tell someone else that what they are doing is wrong, regardless of what it is they are doing. Bint thinks this is intelligent, the consequences prove this philosophy is most unwise.
"Unless you can convince the rest of the world to believe in your deity-of-choice, then there is no reason why others must make these apologies for behaviors that you think of as sins."
Let me re-write that for you: "Unless you can convince the rest of the world to believe that genocide is wrong, then there is no reason why others must make these apologies for behaviours that you think of as sins." Here is the philosophy of moral relativism in its purest form.
"You see, arguments break down whenever you try to mix logic with religious views."
Bint views this loophole of morality to be logical. But is it logical? Let's read it again: I wrote: "Unless you can convince the rest of the world to believe that genocide is wrong, then there is no reason why others must make these apologies for behaviours that you think of as sins." You can come to your own conclusions. What I will add is that regardless of how logical it is, this philosophy is blind and dangerous.
"You see, arguments break down whenever you try to mix logic with religious views."
Bint suggests that she is completely logical, and logic is better than religion. This is her victory. You can't win because whatever you do she will draw you back into the relative moral loophole until you take the bait and say that your moral values are right and anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, essentially humiliating yourself in the process. Personally I see this entire philosophy as humiliating for Bint. I see her attempts to justify genocide as being immoral because genocide is wrong. No ifs no buts no conditions. Moral relativism is what Bint believes in, with it she can twist and turn morality like a game to lead us into a world where one can never say anything is wrong. A world where someone can morally punch you in the face for no reason at all.
"Trying to fight religion with religion doesn't work because you'll never be able to convince everyone to adopt one single belief system. As long as others have their own preferred religion, they will base their actions on what's right in their belief system and not what's right in yours."
Bint is Atheist. She can't prove there is no God but she "believes" there is no God - that is why Atheism is like a religion. In contrast Agnostics tend to be more mellow, they just don't care if there is a God or not because they feel that it will not make a difference to their lives. Being Atheist, Bint naturally believes and asserts that all moral law is man-made. Who is one person to claim that their manufactured morality is superior to that of someone else's design. We are all equal after all. As it is impossible to convince everyone of any set moral truths Bint concludes that there are no set moral truths. In essence, if you can not convince everybody that genocide is wrong, it is not wrong - so would you please stop imposing your bigoted ethnocentric views of morality onto another culture. Epilogue I don't know if "epilogue" is the right word to use here, but it will do! All this moral relativism reminds me a little of Stephen Colbert's "Wikiality" with a slight twist. The relativism may be there - so is the insanity. The difference in the form relativism that Bint advocates is that there is no popularity contest. Even if 99% of the world say that genocide is wrong, her philosophy dictates that they are just being ethnocentric. Updates I may update this article with examples of Moral Relativism in the news; and perhaps link to any other articles that I post on this subject at CultureForAll (or elsewhere).
  1. Charles at Little Green Footballs posted a Reuters article titled: "Egyptians who enslaved girl, 10, get U.S. prison":
    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two Egyptian nationals who pleaded guilty to enslaving a 10-year-old Egyptian girl at their Southern California home, making her work long hours serving their family of seven, were sentenced on Monday to prison terms. [...] "The young victim in this case was subject to inhumane conditions that included both physical and verbal abuse," U.S. Attorney Debra Yang said in a written statement. "As a result of recent changes in federal law she has been granted a visa that will allow her to stay and hopefully prosper in the United States," Yang said. In pleading guilty in June the defendants admitted bringing the girl to the United States from Egypt in 2000 when she was 10 under an arrangement with her parents, confiscating her passport and forcing her to work 16 hours a day as a domestic servant. The girl was required to assist the couple's youngest children in getting ready for school, to prepare and serve food, clean the home, do laundry and work in the yard, according to court papers. She was not allowed to attend school and was told she would be arrested if she was spotted alone outside their home. The couple each admitted to slapping the girl at least once to get her to work, the court papers said. Authorities did not say how her plight came to light.
    Charles: Egyptian Slavery in Southern California. But really, who are we to judge their culture?
  2. I recently read an Aish.com article on Athiesm which states:
    One who sees only random forces behind why we humans find ourselves here can have no reason to believe in objective categories of good and evil. I took pains to stress that I was not contending that atheists are bad people, and certainly not that religious people are necessarily good. I was not judging anyone, rather stating a self-evident philosophical truism: If our perception that some deeds are good and others are not is but a quirk of natural selection, none of us need feel any commitment to morality or ethics.
  3. Here is another Little Green Footballs post on the University of California:
    The University of California Irvine has been the subject of many posts at LGF, because the school plays host to one of the most unabashedly radical Muslim Student Union groups in the US. And now the anti-Jewish incitement has reached such a fever pitch that on the weekend of October 8, a student housing building was defaced with swastikas. What? You didn’t hear about it on the news? Apparently, deranged expressions of antisemitism on California campuses are not really news any more. In response to this event, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel Gomez held a meeting and demonstrated exactly why UC Irvine has degenerated into a pit of hatred:
    Some of the Jewish students at the meeting revealed that they and others had been subject to verbal and physical intimidation at the hands of MSU members, and that they had previously reported these claims to campus security. In light of this, some students asked that Drake place restrictions on where MSU events are held, saying that if their events were held in classrooms as opposed to public spaces, their effect would not be as broad. However, Chancellor Drake told Jewish students at the meeting that he cannot restrict any club, that it would be “violation of law to prohibit certain speech.” Gomez emphasized that though hate speech may be present, he would not seek to curtail it, as “one person’s hate speech is another person’s education.”

10 comments:

Steven said...

Please excuse the poor writing skills. I am better at debating than writing essays (or so I think), hense the way I have posted this.

:)

Red Tulips said...

Steven,

This was excellent. Thanks for writing it!

Bint Alshamsa said...

Wow! An entire post inspired by me! I'm pretty flattered to be able to be your muse. :o)

Well, I suppose I should get down to my response to this.

Judaism stands between absolute and relative morality.

Anything other than moral absolutism is moral relativism of some sort.

If he/she actually acts on these ideas and murders an innocent child it would still be wrong.

Right and wrong isn't just determined in terms of morality. There are several other standards of right and wrong that are equally valid and, perhaps, even more valid than using morality as the mearsuring stick.

The Rabbi continued to explain that we all have different "moral levels". That said, we all have a duty to improve our own moral level. There is no point in looking at someone on a lower moral level and thinking "wow, I am so much better than them" and being satisfied.

Who established this duty? What if others established different duties (that were mutually exclusive to this supposed duty) and they state must be carried out by everyone? I think there is a "point" behind looking at others and believing you are at a higher "moral level" than them. The point is it serves (in the minds of those who do this) as a justification for dehumanizing and and engaging in violence against the targeted group or individual.

Even though Person A is still doing wrong (assault), the actual act of improving morally is a great Mitzvah and is better than if he stayed at his natural level like person B did.

The "natural level" of all individuals is the same. The person commits an act of violence is not to be commended for not engaging in even more damaging forms of violence. They have still committed an act of violence which is always less ethical than simply not engaging in assault or murder or any other form of violence against other people.

Aka. Freedom loving people have no right to say that a genocidal terrorist group leading a dangerous indoctrinated population should not have a country to run. Our ideals are no more moral than theirs.

What's the point of this strawman argument? Have I said that any one doesn't have the right to say anything? Please show where I did, if you think you saw that. I haven't even touched on the moral aspects of any of these behaviors. My statements are simply concerning logic, rationality, and ethics. Morality is pointless to discuss because it is a subjective term and we aren't all using the same guidelines.

Bint attempts to make us understand that there is no moral truth.

Boy, you couldn't be more wrong. Perhaps this seemed like an "attempt" because that wasn't even my goal in the first place. If you want to know whether I believe in moral truth, just ask me and I'll tell you what I think.

They think we are morally wrong!

Indeed they do and even if you believe that they are wrong, the point is that you thinking they are wrong and them thinking that you are wrong isn't going to solve anything. All it does is point out differences in opinion.

In Bint's world we just have our own perceptions of morality and the only thing that is wrong is for us to impose our ethnocentric ideas of morality on another culture.

Uh, have you been following me around Steven? ;o) If not, how could you possibly know what things are like in my world? If you want a list of things that I think are wrong, I'll be glad to supply one. Would you like a short version or an extended one? I guarantee there will be a lot more than what you're claiming I think.

It is wrong for me to say that a culture which indoctrinates its youth with hate is immoral. It is wrong for us to say that the PLO's goal of genocide is immoral

Nope. You can say whatever you want. That doesn't have anything to do with what's factual, of course.

all these ideas are, according to Bint's moral relativism, equal.

Wrong again. To me, all of these ideas are just that--ideas. I don't think that policies should be made based on ideas. I think that policies should be based on facts.

This is bordering on insanity.

Of course it is. That's why people make strawman arguments like the ones above. If they were sane, then they'd be as hard to refute as what the person actually said.

Clearly, being human, this is impossible.

It's not impossible. It's just highly, highly unlikely to occur given that we are humans with the same tendencies and desires as all other humans.

What is Bint asking here exactly? Well, she is saying that what would it mean for the world if every nation was perfect.

Oooh! You almost had there but you missed by a mile. I asked a question. A question is not an assertion. If you understand that I was asking something, then why would you then claim that I am asserting something?

So right now Bint wants us to the image of a Utopian world in our minds:

This is pretty funny because you just defined what a strawman argument is and then you proceeded to make another one. If I wanted someone to imagine a Utopian world, then I'd have asked you to do so.

...[sic]...

If you're unfamiliar with this spelling of the word, this might help: pre-requisite I hope, however, that this isn't going to turn into one of those pointless grammar police conversations. We could all engage in that activity but it only serves as a distraction from the issues, I think.

There was no proposal of creating a nation where everything is perfect.

Is there anywhere in my supposed strawman argument where I claimed that someone had proposed a "nation where everything is perfect"? Is there anywhere that I said that we should believe in creating a nation like this?

We were proposing a nation that does not support genocidal ambitions or indoctrinate its youth from point blank.

Okay. That's the proposal you've made. I didn't propose any nation at all. I simply stated that there are no nations where all of the inhabitants have, in the words of Red Tulip, given up all desire to genocide, and have turned from hate to love, and have actively apologized for their past.

The Utopia world that nobody was talking about was created simply to be destroyed in an effort to create an argument - but it doesn't work. It is not logical.

You're right. Nobody was talking about a Utopia, not even me. If you think that I was trying to claim that the whole world or even one country in particular should be a Utopia, then please explain where I stated that. Your creation of this idea that I'm looking for a Utopia is simply the result of looking for something that isn't there.

(You don't even need to stop at "which religion". Some of the most moral people I know are agnostic. You do not need to be taught religion to know the difference between right and wrong.)

If someone is discussing sin then they're discussing religion because sin is a religious concept. Right and wrong are not inherently religious concepts ergo the terms "right" and "wrong" are not synonymous with the term "sin". By the way, I think it's great if you have people in your life who have views that you admire. In my "moral code" we should all try to appreciate those around us and especially those who try to treat us well. Egads! Did I just make an absolutist statement? Heaven forbid such a thing! ;o) (Just joking!!)

Trying to answer this question puts the reader in an impossible position by forcing them to personally decide what is the correct moral code.

It's not an impossible position at all. It's a question. It can not force anyone to decide anything. However, it does point out what's problematic when it comes to trying to get people with different moral codes to believe that one in particular is superior to all others. Besides, if this is an "impossible position", then why do so many people claim to know what is the correct moral code? Are they all wrong? If at least one of these individuals in the world managed to decide this, then how could it be impossible? Do you have a moral code that you believe to be correct? If so, then you too are proof that this is not an impossible position to take.

Naturally whatever decision you make it will alienate millions of people who have a different perception to morality than you have.

Every decision that one makes in life could alienate you from millions of other people: whether or not to eat a hot dog, whether or not to wear a mini-skirt, whether or not to shave your underarms and legs, whether or not to engage in pre-marital sex, whether or not one will even get married at all. All of these are decisions that people can make based on their moral code. All of these decisions will set you apart from the decisions and lifestyles of billions of other people on this planet. Does that mean we should be reluctant to make these decisions? I don't see any reason to live my life around what's going to please the whole world but perhaps others do. If you do know of any such reason why we should try to please the entire world population of humans, then please let me know.

Is it fair for you to dictate what is moral and what is immoral?

You know, I remember when I was diagnosed with the cancer on my ribs and spine. I really wondered how could it be fair for me to have this awful disease when there are people like Osamma bin Ladin and Kim Jong Il walking around perfectly healthy. As someone with deist beliefs, it was a bit challenging. However, the oncological psychiatrist at the cancer center where I was told me something I'll never forget. He said that "fair" is nothing we should expect from the world. All that "fair is good for is determining how we'll treat others. I truly believe that.

Do you have the guts to say your perception of morality is right and they have it wrong?

I don't see what's so gutsy about this. If you believe something to be true with all your heart, then wouldn't you want to tell others so that they can benefit from whatever you've gained from your view?

Nobody can properly answer this question - and it is not supposed to be answered. It is supposed to make you think.

Why are you assuming that no one can properly answer this question? Perhaps someone does have some logical answer. I mean, if we should be guided by morals (instead of facts), then I think it's a rather essential question to have answered. I can explain why I think that people should be guided by the principles I've mentioned here.

Bint's moral relativism can be extended to the insane. Maybe our opinion that genocide is wrong is irrational because Adolph Hitler may not agree with it.

Well, I must admit, this strawman argument that you've come up with regarding my beliefs is rather insane.

With this philosophy we will be going around in circles until we die - and that is exactly why the Islamic Fascists love the so-called left so much.

Oh my! There's that illogical "Islamic Fascists" term cropping up again. Well, that's a whole other topic, I suppose. As far as I can see we are going around in circles because people still think that there is some exception when it comes to how they should treat others. As long as people think that their violence against innocent people is justified, we will see many more genocides, homicides, and suicides. Of this I am sure.

The "left" has lost it's morality and can justify the unjustifiable.

I wish that everyone would stop trying to justify the unjustifiable, especially when it comes to violence against others. Even if it happens every century, every decade, every year, every day and every hour, violence against innocent people is just unethical.

That's the same thing I've been saying since I started posting here. So please explain how this is relativistic. Unlike others, I do not believe that certain rules apply to some but not others. That's relativism.

This philosophy will also be the death of our civilisation because it will excuse murderers and weakens our resolve to defend ourselves against a people who would not tolerate this kind of thinking.

Unless you are psychic, your predictions are just conjecture and nothing more. Furthermore, it is relativism that attempts to excuse all those who perpetrate violence against others. However, no matter how much some people try to justify killing in the name of nation-building or ethnocentrism or any other kind of bigotry, my resolve is not weakened and I know that I am not the only one who is still dedicated to not supporting violence.

it impedes our ability to protect basic freedoms because we put ourselves into a position where we have no right to tell someone else that what they are doing is wrong, regardless of what it is they are doing.

This is illogical. No one's moral relativism could possibly impede your ability to tell someone anything. No matter what they believe, you can still say whatever you want.

Bint thinks this is intelligent, the consequences prove this philosophy is most unwise.

Bint thinks you ought to ask her whether she believe in this philosophy before you make erroneous statements like this. Creating some imaginary idea that you would like to assert that I'm carrying around in my head is just illogical.

Let me re-write that for you:

Instead of changing what I wrote, why not respond to what I said? It wouldn't take much more effort to do so, you know.

Here is the philosophy of moral relativism in its purest form.

No, this is logic. Even if we really, really want someone to do something and we think that they should do something and we want others to think that they should do it, the fact is that unless you can get that targeted person to agree with you, they won't even believe that they must do what you want. If what you and Red Tulips stated was something that a particular group must do, then the fact that they aren't doing it (and show no signs of even trying to do it) then it isn't a must. Palestinians are being born, living and dying without ever doing what you are saying they "must" do. So how can your assertion be logical?

Bint views this loophole of morality to be logical. But is it logical?

How is logic a "loophole of morality"?

What I will add is that regardless of how logical it is, this philosophy is blind and dangerous.

Woahh!! What a world we live in when logic is considered "blind and dangerous" and unproven, disputed assertions are believed to be the preferred option.

Bint suggests that she is completely logical, and logic is better than religion.

Where did I suggest that? Did I ever say anything even remotely close to this? Come on, this is just downright silly!

This is her victory. You can't win because...

I didn't realize that this was some sort of competition. I thought it was a discussion. If it is a competition, what is the prize and does it come with a toaster?

whatever you do she will draw you back into the relative moral loophole until you take the bait and say that your moral values are right and anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, essentially humiliating yourself in the process.

Wow! You really are imputing me with a lot of power! I figure that everyone here is intelligent enough to decide what they want to talk about. You see, I'm of the opinion that I'm talking to people, not fish.

If someone thinks their views are right and others are wrong, what could be humiliating about voicing that? You certainly haven't had any trouble deciding what you want to say to me. Isn't everyone here just as capable? The other people here seem pretty intelligent to me.

Personally I see this entire philosophy as humiliating for Bint.

Yeah, I would feel humiliated if that was actually my philosophy.

I see her attempts to justify genocide as being immoral because genocide is wrong. No ifs no buts no conditions.

You couldn't be more wrong when it comes to my views. This is a good example of why someone should take the time to read what someone says before they assume what the person thinks. If you actually took the time to read the posts that we've been making, you'd see that from the beginning I've said that ALL GENOCIDE IS WRONG

Since you haven't done that--at least I'd like to believe that you haven't because the alternative is that you either didn't comprehend what you saw or you are purposely telling untruths--I'm going to go back and show you some of what I've said in this discussion. I'd love for you to show me how this is justifying genocide:

If we start saying that those who kill innocent people can be heroes, then how can we also have any grounds for saying that people should stop killing innocent Jews?

and

I refuse to go along with gross generalization no matter what ethnic or religious group we're talking about, including Jews.

and

I certainly do not believe that I should be held responsible if ever some Black or Native American or Irish individuals or groups blew up buildings nor would I claim that you should be held responsible every time some Jewish individual or group blows up buildings.

and

It's still ethnic stereotyping and that just isn't rational or acceptable to me.

and

Unless you buy into the religious claims of either groups, there is no reason to see one person wishing death and destruction upon an entire population as superior to another person wishing death and destruction upon an entire population.

and

I would not accept that as an excuse if African-Americans wanted to go to the city of Toronto and set up their own nation where Blacks are given preference over the people who were living in that area already based on the fact that more than TWENTY MILLION Africans lost their life as a result of the Maafa. It simply isn't democratic to apply different rules for people based on their ethnicity or religion.

and

As much as I love my ethnic traditions and abhor the genocides that slaughtered most Native American nations into oblivion, I just can't condone that sort of thing. I see your life as having just as much value as mine because it is a human life not because we may have similar beliefs or traditions or heritage. I truly hope that you feel the same way.

and

I do not believe that terrorism is ever justified. The problem with saying that the cause must be "THAT GREAT" is that those who engage in terrorist acts almost always feel that their cause is "THAT GREAT" even though the people who are their victims usually disagree.

and

I do not see how terrorism saves lives. It simply exchanges one type of atrocity for another. I see nothing ethical about that, especially since the majority of people who are victims of terrorism aren't necessarily guilty of anything.

and

It's rather scarey to hear that some think that we should judge who lives or dies based on what we think of their religious tenets and traditions. Weren't these the same sort of arguments that the Nazis made about what might happen if Jews were allowed to take over the world?

and

But even if there was the possibility that an evil Jewish or Muslim world-government might come to power and make the world the sort of place that's uncomfortable for people like me, I still don't think that it would be acceptable for me to kill Jews or Muslims.

and

I don't see violence as being any more acceptable because it wasn't indiscriminate.

and

It certainly isn't hard for me to say whether it was justifiable to kill the families of those who supposedly cooperated with Nazis. It was wrong. See, that was easy. See, that was easy. Do you know why it's easy for me to say that? It's because I would say the same thing if someone wanted to kill your family because they didn't like something that you did.

and

This is the same hypothetical-scenario-making that the Nazis engaged in. I don't accept the idea that killing innocent people was justifiable for them nor do I accept the idea that killing people who have committed no crime is justified for anyone else who just wants to obtain or maintain certain demographics in their particular country.

and

It doesn't matter what religion you belong to, you have a choice. If you do go out and kill others, then you have made your choice and you are simply being hypocritical if you say that others shouldn't do the same.

and

Jews and Native Americans were once the "THEY" that people were justifying violence against. I have no desire to see any individual or group go through that. Our offspring deserve better than that.

and

I have no more affection for those who kill the children of Jews either. My heroes are those who did not choose to become killers of their fellow mankind.

Do I need to go on? If so, I can. These are the quotes I found with a quick glance back. Please show how these statements justify genocide. That is an awful claim for you to make about someone, especially when that person has devoted years of their quite limited life time to advocating peace and doing their best to explain these cultures to those who know nothing about them. I truly hope that if you are a person who believes in morals, then you'll feel some inclination to examine whether or not my statements really reflect the idea that I am okay with genocides. What a disgusting idea!

A world where someone can morally punch you in the face for no reason at all.

In case you haven't noticed, that's the world we live in. Every day there are people who are killed despite the fact that they have committed no crime. All of the innocent lives lost to suicide bombers in Israel/Palestine alone are proof of this. It's certainly not the world that I want for my child.

Bint is Atheist. She can't prove there is no God but she "believes" there is no God - that is why Atheism is like a religion.

Okay, you're really talking out of the side of your neck now. If you'd bothered to read this thread at all, you'd know that I stated up front that I am a theist. If you'd even a good bit of my blog posts you'd know that I'm quite religious.

Being Atheist, Bint naturally believes and asserts that all moral law is man-made.

What can I say? You're just wrong.

As it is impossible to convince everyone of any set moral truths Bint concludes that there are no set moral truths.

How could I conclude that when I'm not even an atheist. Hello? Red Tulips is the one whose the atheist here--and that's perfectly okay with me--but I certainly see no reason to give up my religious beliefs. My faith plays a huge role in how I deal with my health. It provides meaning for me and gives me hope for the future even when there are no statistics that can prove what will happen to me. I'm more than a bit saddened that someone would make all of these assumptions about me without even taking the time to talk to me about my views. That is a courtesy that I would extend even to a random stranger. I wish you did too because, from your writing, you don't seem like the sort of person who'd just enjoy telling untruths about someone.

Even if 99% of the world say that genocide is wrong, her philosophy dictates that they are just being ethnocentric.

My philosophy dictates that someone actually read what a person says before they attempt to play mind reader.

----------------------------------

I am actually more comfortable with this sort of format than I am with essays. I find it much easier to show exactly what I'm addressing when I write something. So, please do not feel alone in using this sort of format instead of strict essay-writing. We aren't in grade-school any more, so there's no one to rap you on the fingers if you don't put a comma or a paragraph in the "proper" place.

Steven said...

:) Thanks for the reply.

Red Tulips said...

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I wrote a very long reply that was since eaten by blogger.

*bangs my head against a wall*

This is the essence of what I wrote.

---------

Bint Alshamsa's 'moral absolutism' is in fact so extreme that it leads to moral equivalence.

Here is the essence of what she is saying.

"All killing is wrong, regardless of why the killing occurred. Nonviolence is always possible."

This is totally unsupported by history and reality.

The Jews of Europe, for the most part, peacefully resisted the Nazis. They were executed en masse for this.

According to bint, any Jew who resisted was as bad as the Nazis.

According to bint, if someone killed Hitler, that would have been as bad as Hitler's actions.

The two actions - genocide of 6 million Jews (as well as thousands of gypsies, gays, and communists) and the killing of Hitler would be considered 'equivalent.'

In bint's world, no one is allowed to fight back. In that sense, she absolutely is advocating a genocide, as no one would be allowed to fight back against genociders.

In bint's world, the Israelis who fight back against the Palestinians who are attempting a genocide are as bad as the Palestinians who aim for civilians. In bint's world, killing a baby is morally equivalent to killing Osama Bin Laden.

Given the following precept is true:

There are people who will kill and will aim for civilians...

Then the other precept is also true, according to bint...

Fighting back against the genociders is equivalent to genociding onelself, as 'nonviolence' is always possible.

Bint is flat out wrong.

If the Israelis stop resisting the Palestinians, they will be SLAUGHTERED. The slaughter of Israelis is VIOLENT. Hence, even if the Israelis cease all forms of resistance, nonviolence is not possible, as a genocide against Israelis IS a violence!

What bint really means to say is that Israelis are not allowed to fight back against the Palestinians, as that makes them equal to Palestinians.

But that assumes that the Israelis WANT war and that if they don't fight back, there will no longer be any violence. Again, not supported by the facts.

Thankfully, in American and world jurisprudence, there is a little concept called mens rea.

Killing to protect one's life is not the same as killing for the sake of killing. I know bint does not see that, but it is at the very foundation of law itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mens_rea

Right and wrong existed long before religion. 'Sin' is not just a religous concept, but rather it is a concept that is found in NATURAL LAW.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law

Steven said...

:) Thanks for taking the time to reply, and so extensively.

I have enough to say simply from your response to write a new entry.

When I have time to write it and post it I will include a link in the "updates" section.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Red Tulips:

Here is the essence of what she is saying. "All killing is wrong, regardless of why the killing occurred. Nonviolence is always possible."

Can you show where I made this assertion even once? Instead of trying to create an argument that you can easily respond to, why not respond to what's actually written? That would certainly save us a lot more time than what I've spent asking you to back up these unproven assertions that you make about me and the other groups that you've mentioned in this series.

This is totally unsupported by history and reality.

History can not prove or disprove whether or not killing is right or wrong. It's like saying "Your username isn't Red Tulips because the price of gas has gone up over the years."

The Jews of Europe, for the most part, peacefully resisted the Nazis. They were executed en masse for this.

Plenty of people peacefully resisted the Nazis and were not "executed en masse" or executed in any other way either for that matter. In fact, many of them survived and have since then been honored for their courageous stance in the face of such dire conditions.

According to bint, any Jew who resisted was as bad as the Nazis.

That's funny because when I looked back at our conversation, my actual statement was quite the opposite. If I claimed that those Jews who resisted were just as bad as the Nazis, then can you please point out where this took place. This is what I did say:

However, the fact that not all Jews decided to just placidly accept any discrimination and incarceration that the Nazis saw fit to impose on them doesn't make them terrorists in my eyes so would be illogical to consider those Arabs (who are also unwilling to just go along with Israeli discrimination and incarceration) to be terrorists either.

Now, if you think you see something in that statement that looks like me saying that Jews who resisted were as bad as the Nazis, then you're just not comprehending what the sentence said.

According to bint, if someone killed Hitler, that would have been as bad as Hitler's actions.

Where have I ever made this claim? You are perfectly free to make as many more strawman arguments as you'd like but none of them prove that I do now or ever have believed in any of these silly ideas you've come up with.

The two actions - genocide of 6 million Jews (as well as thousands of gypsies, gays, and communists) and the killing of Hitler would be considered 'equivalent.'

Since when was it me who's been discussing what's morally equivalent. Of the two of us, you're the only one who has felt the need to discuss what may or may not be the equivalent to someone else's morals.

In bint's world, no one is allowed to fight back. In that sense, she absolutely is advocating a genocide, as no one would be allowed to fight back against genociders.

It's really hard to even take this part seriously. Can you ever show where I've stated that no one is allowed to fight back? What I have said is that everyone can choose whether or not to be a killer. If I believed that no one was allowed to do this, then why don't any of my statements reflect this idea of yours? In my world, people fight all of the time. They are obviously allowed to do so because the majority of people in this world do not feel impelled to prevent fighting even when it can be prevented or ended. In order to advocate a genocide, I'd have to find the idea of murdering or incarcerating innocent people to be acceptable. Of the two of us, I'm not the one who claims that such actions are justifiable. So who is really advocating genocide?

In bint's world, the Israelis who fight back against the Palestinians who are attempting a genocide are as bad as the Palestinians who aim for civilians. In bint's world, killing a baby is morally equivalent to killing Osama Bin Laden.

I'm not sure if the astronauts have have the internet out there in space but I assure you that my world is the same one that you are currently inhabiting. As a matter of fact, I was of the impression that we were even inhabiting the same continent and nation. I'm down here in southeastern Louisiana. What world are you on?

Given the following precept is true: There are people who will kill and will aim for civilians...Then the other precept is also true, according to bint...Fighting back against the genociders is equivalent to genociding onelself, as 'nonviolence' is always possible."

Since this is your quote, how could it be "according to bint"?

Bint is flat out wrong.

Wrong about what? What is it that I have said that has been proven to be wrong? Were you attempting to do anything other than make an unproven assertion here?

If the Israelis stop resisting the Palestinians, they will be SLAUGHTERED. The slaughter of Israelis is VIOLENT.

Of course the slaughter of Israelis is violent. So is the slaughter of any other group. It's the brutal aspects of the act that makes it "slaughter" as opposed to other similar terms.

Hence, even if the Israelis cease all forms of resistance, nonviolence is not possible, as a genocide against Israelis IS a violence!

This is another of the same sort of non sequitur fallacy you made earlier. Whether or not nonviolence is possible on the personal level, which is what I stated, can not be determined by whether or not Israel ceases (or falis to cease) any particular action.

What bint really means to say is that Israelis are not allowed to fight back against the Palestinians, as that makes them equal to Palestinians.

Of course the Israelis are allowed to fight the Palestinians just as the Palestinians are allowed to fight the Israelis. What I mean to say is exactly what I did say--the fact that these two groups can engage in these activities does not mean that it is ethical for them to do so. It also doesn't mean that I agree with or support any group that engages in violence against innocent people. In case you haven't read it enough times, my view is that genocides are always wrong because they entail the killing of innocent people. I don't make exceptions for those who wish to kill Jews any more than I make exceptions for those who wish to kill those of any other particular ethnicity or nation.

But that assumes that the Israelis WANT war and that if they don't fight back, there will no longer be any violence. Again, not supported by the facts.

Yup. This certainly isn't supported by the facts. It couldn't be supported by the facts because the fact is that the only assumption here takes place when you claim that I believe in something that I've spoken out against directly.

Thankfully, in American and world jurisprudence, there is a little concept called mens rea.

Intent doesn't and can not determine whether or not someone wants war. It also does not and can not determine whether or not violence would result from a particular action or non-action. All that mens rea does is establish what some governments will use to determine how they will punish or fail to punish certain individuals. It can't determine the ethical nature of any particular action.

Killing to protect one's life is not the same as killing for the sake of killing. I know bint does not see that, but it is at the very foundation of law itself.

If this is true, then you don't know what you think you know. Of course the killing that someone does is not necessarily the same as the killing that some do for the sake of killing. There are all sorts of ways to kill someone and for every single method, there are myriads of different justifications that people can attempt to piece together in order to make themselves feel better about their actions or those taken by groups that they like or dislike.

Right and wrong existed long before religion.

There is no reason to assume this. Unless you have some means of ascertaining when religion began then you certainly can't determine whether or not these concepts of "right and wrong" pre-date religion.

'Sin' is not just a religous concept, but rather it is a concept that is found in NATURAL LAW.

Sin is a religious concept. Furthermore, nothing about Natural Law can prove that sin is not a religious concept. You do realize that Natural Law is simply a philosophical theory, right? In that article that you linked to, did you notice that several of the famous noted proponents of this theory are religious figures? Did you think this was simply a coincidence?

By the way, perhaps you and Steven should get together and decide whether you want to claim that I a "moral relativist" or a believer in "moral absolutism". I'm pretty sure that if the two of you could agree on this, it would make your erroneous claims about me at least seem a bit more valid to those who don't take the time to actually read what I've said here. So far, it seems that the two of you are projecting a lot of the beliefs held by others you may have encountered on to me.

You claim my views are moral absolutism.

He claims I'm an atheist.

And--because I've lived with me for the past thirty years--I am quite sure that you are both wrong. ;o)

What's the point in treating me as if I'm dead already? I'm sure that the time will come where anyone who wants to know my views will have to settle for making some assumptions but while I'm still on the green side of the grass, I'm still capable of telling people what I think.

It's beginning to seem a bit creepy with how you guys are talking as if you're presiding over my funeral.

Red Tulips said...

bint,

I assure you that Steven did not mean 'to treat you as if you are dead already.'

I did not, either - if it came off that way.

More on your post later.

Red Tulips said...

bint,

You said again and again that 'nonviolence is always possible.'

Please point to a single case of nonviolent peaceful resistence against the Nazis by the Jews that resulted in the saving of Jewish life.

Obviously, I am aware that many Jews simply fled Nazi Germany and were able to live because of this. I also know that, prior to Nazi Germany starting the Holocaust, some Jews were saved out of Germany. That is not my question.

I want to know of a single case of Jews saving Jews in the middle of the Holocaust that was done in a nonviolent manner. One single case.

You flat out said on multiple occasions that 'nonviolence is always possible' and 'killing leads to more death.'

So point to one single case of this. You would certainly have half a leg to stand on if you could point to a single case of this.

The concept of sin has been linked to religion, but also is linked to secular humanism. I am referring to crimes against humanity, and NOT against God. Secular humanists absolutely believe in morality and right and wrong.

http://www.secularhumanism.org/

The fact that you lump together what Israel is doing to the Palestinians and what was done to the Jews during the Holocaust is the essence of BOTH moral absolutism AND moral relativism.

All killing is wrong, according to you. This is moral absolutism.

Hence, according to your very words:

I don't see violence as being any more acceptable because it wasn't indiscriminate.

That means that aiming for Bin Laden is the same as aiming for a crowd.

Both involves killing. And killing is always wrong.

Your extreme stance on killing results in presenting equivalencies between very different scenarios.

Correct me if I am wrong, but according to you, there are two choices: die or fight back. Those are the only two choices if one wants to be ethically sound. Should someone fight back, they are no longer ethically sound to you, as killing is always wrong, regardless of why it is going on.

I already presented the most extreme examples of gunmen going into your home and hoping to annhiliate your family, and you still said that killing would be wrong EVEN THEN.

I realize you are being consistent, and certainly I cannot criticize you for that! I also realize you do not give Jews a double standard that you would not apply to yourself. What you are saying does not stem from antisemitism - I see that very clearly.

What I don't get if why you insist on these logical extremes. The 'choice' between killing and being slaughtered oneself is hardly a choice at all. If what you are saying is that you are hoping to avoid a slaughter, then isn't a slaughter going to happen if Israel does not and accepts Palestinians coming in and massacring Jews? And is it ethical of a nation to allow the mass slaughter of its citizens because it refuses to fight back? What is the point of nationhood if NOT to get some measure of protection against the world?

You also said the following:

In case you haven't read it enough times, my view is that genocides are always wrong because they entail the killing of innocent people. I don't make exceptions for those who wish to kill Jews any more than I make exceptions for those who wish to kill those of any other particular ethnicity or nation.

This assumes that Israeli Jews are actually trying to genocide Palestinians when they fight back. This is absolutely untrue. The Israelis have the firepower such that if they wanted to, they could kill every Palestinian in a matter of days. Yet they do not do this. Why? Because they take the time to only kill those who are terrorists and take great pains to avoid civilian death. This is never 100% - but the intent is not to kill civilians. As I said, this is equivalent to a robber coming into your home, shooting at you, and when you shoot back, you kill a civilian. The legal responsibility for that death is on the robber. Same applies here.

Where is there an intent to genocide? If there was such an intent, the Palestinians would have ceased to exist long ago. I already showed you a link to an extensive archive of Palestinian textbooks and media, showing a clear intent to wipe Israelis off the face of the earth. We know the Palestinians are attempting a genocide (not all are, but at least the leadership is). This is definitively proven. If they had the firepower, they would kill every Israeli today. What do you point to when you claim that Israelis are genociding the Palestinians? What shred of evidence can you even claims supports this?

The bottom line is that your claims of Israelis genociding the Palestinians are as spurious as your claims of Israel being an apartheid state.

Steven said...

By the way Red, I just read your post. Very well written. :)