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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2004 1:31 pm 
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Raif wrote:
Chalain wrote:
Why is that? Must morality also be perfectly logical?

Ought to be. :)


Ok, but realize: That's a religious statement, Raif. So I'll ask again: Why?

Raif wrote:
Modern morality can be, though not of the religious variety.


Okay, I'll bite. What is this modern morality of which you speak? What are its tenets, and where is it taught? Is the "new morality" anything more than the "old immorality"?


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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2004 6:09 pm 
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Chalain wrote:
jeremiahsmith wrote:
The difference being "how much behind-the-scenes stuff do I have to make up to resolve these contradictions"?


Pretty much. :P


As long as you admit you're BSing up front...

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As opposed to "how much context, history and evidence do I have to discard here in order to create or exacerbate a contradiction?"


I'm looking at the same context you are, Chalain. I don't recall any of these verses being followed by "Oh, just kidding!" or "The Lord hath provided an explanation for that verse in the following chapter:" The Bible is the Bible and it says what it says.

And what evidence, exactly? Actual historical evidence? Evidence from other verses and chapters? Traditions? Stuff people have made up?

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I should point out that I differ from a very, very many Christians in a few key beliefs: Most Christians I know believe in God because they believe in the Bible, and the Bible tells them to believe in a God. Their faith in the Bible and its perfection is axiomatic. God is secondary to the equation, and only exists as inferred from the Book. For me, the existence of God is more or less axiomatic. The Bible comes from God, through prophets and historians, who, in the end, are human.


So if mere fallible humans are responsible for it, how we know they got it right? Or that they didn't just make up the whole thing? Why should we care what they say about divine matters? It's easy enough to claim divine inspiration. If the Bible was written by humans, why should we expect it to have any more authority on gods, spirituality, and divinity than the Iliad, Qu'ran, Upanishads, the Book of Mormon, or Dianetics? How do we know Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (or the people writing in their names, at least) are more authoritative on the nature of the Deity than Mohammed, Homer, L. Ron Hubbard, Charles Manson, or Tyler Durden? Because you just "have faith"? Because you like their version of God better than Mohammed's? Because it's the version your parents used?

"If there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth."


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So there's one fundamental disconnect: I don't believe the Bible is perfect. Actually, you and I probably agree there. The disconnect would be that, with both of us armed with imperfect Bibles, I still find great value in mine.


Doorstop?

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The Short List: John 3:16, Matt 6:28-34, Matt 7:9-11, Isa. 49:15-16.


Those all say God loves us, but I'm not seeing anything in there about him getting pissed at us for being bad kids.

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Okay, hold on a minute. You're taking song lyrics written by a repentant adulterer and murderer, and trying to lay out a set of rules and constraints that God must run by.


The song is describing God. If it's not an exact description, why would God let it past quality control? And if David gets it wrong here, who's to say he didn't get God's nature wrong elsewhere?

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"Perfect Bible implies the existence of God" again.


Not that, but the converse: existence of the Christian God implies a perfect Bible.

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David, you may recall, started out a a shepherd, faced Goliath armed with a sling and his faith, was delivered, and ended up becoming King of Israel. So far, so good. Then he sees Bathsheba bathing naked, lusts after her, sleeps with her, then arranges to have her husband killed so he can marry her. Whoops. David eventually realizes that this was probably not a good move viz. the whole "God" thing, and repents. One imagines that this was not a brief or painless process; David had to experience real contrition and attempt to set things right with his maker. What we do know from the scriptures is that David was, at least in part, forgiven. Psalms 16:10 indicates that David still must pay for his crimes, but that the Lord will not leave him in hell forever.


The way the sentence is phrased says that "his anger endureth but a moment" is a general quality of God. David's not saying "his anger towards me endureth but a moment". He's saying it as if it were a general quality that he knows and can count on.

Also, Psalms 16:10 says nothing about David knowing he must pay for his crimes. The whole psalm says nothing of it, either. The psalmist is looking to God for protection from his woes and enemies, and he knows that his woes won't last forever. Where does the psalm say that David knows he has to pay for his crimes?

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This is a man who had nothing, gained everything and lost it, and found forgiveness in the eyes of his God. NOW let's read Psalms 30, from the beginning... This is poetic metaphor, plain and simple. You're talking about a man who is going to spend thousands of years suffering in hell waiting for the judgment day (2,900 years and counting) and who summed it up simply as "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." His psalm is a hymn of praise and gratitude, and perhaps intended to inspire other wayward souls to face their own wrongdoings and turn back to the Lord and repent. "Yeah, the Lord might be angry with you. But you know what? Turn around anyway, it's worth it."


How do you know David was talking about hell here, the same hell Jesus spoke about? It's doubtful he was even familiar with the concept. This psalm looks like he's simply thanking God for keeping him from danger, protecting him from his enemies. There's no indication that "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" was intended to refer to anything besides earthly suffering.

And how do you know he'd've gone to hell at all? If I recall, Christian mythology is rather silent on what happens to God's people who died before Jesus came around.

You've also fallen back on the "that verse is just figurative/metaphorical" defense. How do you propose we tell the difference? Poetry can still be literal.

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More "perfect Bible implies the existence of God".


Not that, but the converse: existence of the Christian God implies a perfect Bible.

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The danger here lies in the logical fallacy that discovering imperfections in the Bible proves that there is no God.


The Bible is supposed to be inspired by the Christian God: an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving entity. And yet there are imperfections in it, on such little things as who begat who, to bigger things such as the nature of God and how to obtain salvation. Even the tiniest imperfection shows that the person responsible isn't perfect. But God's supposed to be perfect. If there are imperfections in a book written by God, it means either that God couldn't keep them out of his book, that he didn't know they would cause problems, or that he doesn't care if these imperfections lead people away from him into Hell. These behaviors are not consistent with the Christian God. I believe John Wesley said it best above.

And if it wasn't inspired by the Christian God but by men, as you insist, then what good is it? It's as fallible as all the other supposedly holy texts, the ones you don't follow. What would make the Bible more special than the Qu'ran?

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This may sound absurd on the face of it, but that's pretty much the argument I get on this track.


I'm thinking it only seems absurd to you because you take the Christian God as axiomatic.

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Many of the atheists I meet today are what I would call "disenfranchised Christians". They were told the Bible was perfect, then saw for themselves that (a) it wasn't, (b) neither were the people who told them it was perfect, and therefore (c) the whole darn world must be crazy. Most of these people came to these conclusions at the same time in their life that they were trying to sort the universe out and make sense of everything, and when the Bible let them down, out went the Baby Jesus with the bath water.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: If the Bible's not perfect, what good is it for learning about a perfect God? If the Bible is fallible, why should we care what it says about Jesus, especially when the stories told about him are full of contradictory accounts, extraordinary claims, like miracles and even zombies (Matt. 27:52-53), and imperfections in Jesus' behavior.

Also, C doesn't follow from A and B... the whole darn world's not crazy simply because the Bible is imperfect. That only that implies that the two billion people who follow it anyway are crazy.

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But I digress. My point is that it is possible for God to exist and be perfect, and the Bible to exist and be imperfect.


Then if God exists, the Bible isn't his book. If any god is responsible for authoring the Bible, it sure as hell wasn't the one Christians worship. It's vague, contradictory, scientifically wrong, and in it God condones and orders behavior that any decent person would consider abhorrent. How can we trust what the Bible says on Jesus and salvation if it was written by fallible humans? Particularly fallible humans who can't back up their statements?

Thomas Paine, a Deist, believed in the existence of a god and he thought the Bible was absolute rubbish:

"For my own part, my belief in the perfection of the Deity will not permit me to believe that a book so manifestly obscure, disorderly, and contradictory can be His work." - Letters Concerning "The Age of Reason"

"As to the book called the bible, it is blasphemy to call it the Word of God. It is a book of lies and contradictions and a history of bad times and bad men." - writing to Andrew Dean, August 15, 1806

"When I see throughout this book, called the Bible, a history of the grossest vices and a collection of the most paltry and contemptible tales and stories, I could not so dishonor my Creator by calling it by His name." - Toward The Mystery

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...all the adults in Israel, who had witnessed the miracles in Egypt and deliverance from Pharaoh and then refused to take the land of Canaan at the Lord's command, were told that they would not live to enter the promised land.


You know, as I read that passage again, I start thinking more and more that not only are these events fiction, they're not even very good fiction. I'm just a little curious... if the Israelites really had witnessed God's power and miracles, why would they distrust him? Why does the author of Numbers insisting on depicting the Israelites as idiots? "He can make hail and fire rain from heaven and slaughter the firstborn of Egypt like no one's business, but I don't think he can help us here!" If God wanted them to take the promised land, and knew the Israelites were gonna freak out in spite of what he'd done, why didn't he demonstrate his power beforehand so that the Israelites would know it was a piece of cake? Both God and the Israelites are depicted as incompetent. But I digress.

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As far as the unfairness of the children being punished for the sins of the parents... has it not ever been so? People make choices every day that affect those around them. Fathers drink and beat their kids. What did the kid do to deserve it? As for the children in Israel at that time, they were led through the wilderness, fed by manna, and blessed by other miracles that rivaled any actually performed in the promised land. Can you really say the Lord abandoned them?


What God is doing is more like the father committing a crime and the children getting sent to prison along with him.

Numbers 14:33, NIV wrote:
Your children will wander around in this desert forty years, suffering because of your sins, until all of you are dead.


Emphasis mine. This message is coming from God. Even though God said earlier in the chapter, verse 21: "But as surely as I live and my power has no limit...", and Moses said in verse 19: "You are merciful, and you treat people better than they deserve," apparently he wasn't capable of enacting a more merciful way of solving this problem. Why not just let the Israelites keep marching, with the warning that anyone who sets foot in the promised land without God's permission will be struck dead? The children don't have to suffer decades of desert living and the parents don't get to go to the promised land. Problem solved. It would be more merciful and within God's power. Hell, I'm better at this than God is.

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And Israel wasn't struck dead for disobedience, either, unlike poor Uzzah.


The parents of Israel were killed for disobedience, too. God just chose to take the "long, slow torture" method instead of the "ZOT!" method.

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All he wanted to do was steady the ark when it looked like it was about to fall over, even though he knew there were strict commandments that only a priest come in contact with it. (2 Sam 6:6-7).


Let's see... he sees his people's most holy relic about to topple, and, like most people, would have reflexively reached out to steady it. Even when you know you're not supposed to reach out for something (like, say, a soldering iron you just dropped), sometimes it's really hard not to. Uzzah got killed because of reflexes. His intent was to protect the ark, and God, instead of taking this into account, just smites him. Why would God have even made the oxen stumble and the ark fall? He would have known Uzzah would have acted reflexively. For the record, David didn't seem too happy with this either.

Just to make my point even more, the Bible also fails to agree with itself on where this happens: 2 Samuel says it happened at Nachon's threshingfloor, and when the story's told again in 1 Chronicles 13:9-10, it happens at Chidon's threshingfloor.

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What's the difference here? Well, for one thing, the faith of all Israel depended on Uzzah not touching the ark.


How do you figure?

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...but Gideon's tempting of the Lord really only affected Gideon.


Only 'cause it worked. Given God's track record, God could very well have smit hundreds because Gideon pissed him off.

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Also, notice carefully the context involved in all of these examples. To the penitent, or the suffering prodigal, the message is "God's anger is short. Repent and come back." To the unrepentant, the message is of dire warnings and sufferings to follow.


Even the penitent in hell? Even if they repent, they're stuck in hell.

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Reading the cliff notes for these cases and then trying to assign exactly how much punishment should be given in each case... you're trying to think of the Bible as your owner's manual for God.


I'm sorry. I was merely under the impression that the Bible was intended for us to learn about God.

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Okay, what's happening? Judah is being displaced from its birthright, and its heritage is being taken away. Very specifically, Judah's sin has displeased the Lord and he's going to allow them to be taken into captivity. (Verse 4.) [...] You can read it literally, of course. God is going to toss a wobbler that he isn't ever going to get over.

Or figuratively. This is it, guys--you've pissed God off but good, and things are never going to be the same.


You're doing the "it's only literal unless it causes problems" thing again. Either God will stay mad forever or he won't.

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Or heck, you could read it probably as the message Jeremiah (not you, the other one) is trying to get across in the entire chapter: "Don't Sin! It's bad! It's really, really bad!"


Why would he resort to hyperbole to do so? Why not come right out and say that? Dramatic effect or not, hyperbole is still technically exaggerating and deceit. I.e., lying. Why would a God of Truth resort to hyperbole? There are ways of getting your point across that don't require exaggerating.

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Dork. Fire and brimstone as a metaphor for hell? Look it up yourself.


Dork. I know that fire and brimstone is used to describe hell. How do you figure it's just a metaphor?

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The exact nature of hell is not made clear in the Bible, however; you are correct that my thoughts on it are conjecture. Although as conjectures go, it fits the existing theory pretty well. Got a better one?


How about actual fire like it says, repeatedly? (Or that it doesn't exist at all, but I doubt that's gonna fly here.)

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Jeremiah wrote:
And yet if you repent, he doesn't let you out of hell.


King David disagrees:

Psalm 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;


For starters, many other versions translate what's "hell" here as "the grave" or as Sheol, the generic afterlife, not as the same place of punishment Jesus referred to. David's just saying God won't let him die. (Then again, you wouldn't expect this sort of difference between versions at all if God's word weren't ambiguous.)

Secondly, Jesus disagrees several times, and says hell is eternal punishment:

Matthew 25:46, KJV wrote:
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.


Even if King David went to hell and was made an exception, which you can't support, everyone else is still there forever. No exception is mentioned anywhere for those who repent in hell.

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Agreed. I don't have a good, purely Biblical support of that that for you, however. I won't bore you with stuff you would call made-up, but my theology holds that nobody ends up in hell but by their own choice, and after every chance to repent has been spurned. Life isn't fair, but the Judgement is.


The hell it isn't. According to Christian mythology, judgment is not based on works but how much of God's ass you kiss. A person who spends their life devoted to helping others, feeding orphans, helping the sick, etc. but who doesn't believe in God goes to hell, whereas a drug-dealing, child-raping, serial-killing, bank-robbing lowlife can beg forgiveness on his deathbed, die a minute later, and end up in heaven. That's fair? Is it fair to send people to hell who never even heard of Jesus, God, and the Bible? How is their choice to not follow God if they're not even presented the option?

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I suppose so. But it's probably a good thing police officers don't reason like you do, either:

Witness number 1: "I was at the scene, he stabbed him with a knife."
Witness number 2: "I was at the scene, he stabbed him with a knife."
Witness number 3: "I was at the scene, he stabbed him with a screwdriver."
Police: "There you have it, boys: conflicting testimony. Burn down the courthouse."


The difference being that we know humans are fallible. The Bible is supposedly God's inspired word, and God's supposedly perfect. If all of the witnesses had claimed infallibility for their statements, and yet they were contradictory, you know their statements can't all be infallible. And if witnesses lie about even the little details, how sure can you be that they're not lying on the big details?

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Okay, we've already dispensed with the notion that if you can find one contradiction I can't disprove, that the Bible is broken and this proves there is no God, right?


Maybe you have, but that wasn't my stance. My stance is that if the Bible is imperfect, then it wasn't written by the Christian God, and is no more reliable as to the nature of whichever god exists, if any, as any other book.

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This particular contradiction, however, actually requires the reader to want there to be a problem in need of fixing:


The two verses say completely different things, Chalain -- hell, most of the two genealogies are completely different. Saying that you have to really want to find a contradiction to see one here is absolutely idiotic. That's like if you argued that the Mona Lisa wasn't a picture of a woman and that you have to really want to see a woman to see one in the picture.

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Does begat always mean a single generation, father-to-son? "Adam begat the race of men" sort of flattens out the ol' family tree.


Where exactly would you stick this overarching begat into things? The two genealogies go off in different directions immediately after David. And if begat does have this generation-skipping meaning when used in these name-by-name genealogies, who's to say you can't use it that way elsewhere? Why is it that words only have different meanings when there's a contradiction?

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Simon was called Simeon was called Peter was called Cephas. Is it possible that Heli and Jacob were the same person?


"Er, technically, you're fucking Mary. But, it's all the same to her."

If you want to assume that Heli and Jacob were the same person, back it up. In any case, though, you'd also have to show that Matthan (Jacob's dad) and Matthat (Heli's dad) were the same person (although that's a bit more likely, actually.) Still, even if Matthan is Matthat and Heli is Jacob, there's still a crapload of discrepancy. Matthew's genealogy has Jesus 27 generations after David, Luke's has him 42 generations after David, and most of the names on both are different -- even to the point of which son of David Jesus is descended from: Nathan or Solomon?

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To obfuscate his murky claim to Jewish heritage, Herod destroyed and then outlawed the keeping of genealogies. Is it possible that Jacob was as close as Matthew could verify?


Given that Jesus' ancestry from David was supposed to be a very important part of his Messiahhood, you'd think Matthew would expend every effort on this. Or even that God would step in and point out any mistakes. You'd also expect Luke and Matthew to get most of it the same, but they didn't.

Plus, according to the Virgin Birth, Joseph wasn't Jesus' father at all, so the genealogy is pointless. (Unless you want to argue that begat can also imply adoption, in which case you'd better support that.)

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To resolve this contradiction, I have to make stuff up that at least one of these is true. But to prove that this IS a contradiction, you have to make stuff up that all of them are false.


By that logic, to prove that a criminal committed a crime, I'd have to disprove every other alternate hypothesis, such as "aliens did it and pinned it all on this guy". I've supported my statement that these two genealogies are contradictory; anyone reading them could tell they were strikingly different, and there's no Biblical evidence to support any of the usual rationalizations. (Although you've done better than the standard apologetics party line, that one of the genealogies is actually Mary's, not Joseph's.) If you want to make your assertions, back them up. Give good evidence that Heli = Jacob, give good evidence that begat could have meant more than one generation, give good evidence that Matthew couldn't get a complete genealogy. Just because you can come up with an explanation doesn't mean it's right.

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I still stand by my claim, that you're finding contradiction because you're looking for it.


"You're only seeing a woman in the Mona Lisa because you're looking for it."

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...more importantly, however, you place too much weight on the existence of contradiction.


Too much weight? If they're there, the Bible isn't the perfect word of God and is no more useful than any other book claiming to talk about God. How much simpler do I have to make it?

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You're straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel. You're focused so hard on whether Jacob had 42 oxen or 43 oxen, that you overlook thou shalt not kill.


It's interesting to note that differing versions of the Bible can't decide whether to translate it as "kill" or "murder", as Dennis McKinsey points out several times over the course of his newsletter's run. Murder implies only unlawful killing, whereas killing implies any taking of life, even in self-defense or in war. (A quick look at the dictionary backs this up.) A rather significant difference, and yet trained Hebrew scholars can't decide on what was said. Why such ambiguity in a supposed holy text?

Not to mention that God orders his people to kill frequently.

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Why is that? Must morality also be perfectly logical?

...Where does it say that?


Nowhere in the Bible, that's for sure. The same God called "good, merciful, and gracious... abundant in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6) tells Moses in Numbers 31 to kill the Midianites, even the young males and the women who weren't virgins. Numbers 31:17, KJV: "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him." Orders right from God through Moses. Then in the next verse he says: "But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." And the God, the God abundant in truth, who, according to Proverbs 12:22, finds lying an abomination, admits that he lies and deceives:

Ezekiel 14:9, KJV wrote:
And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.


Wow! How good and moral this God fellow is. Not to mention consistent. Is it somehow okay for God to violate the rules he sets? What example is that? Why should God not be held to the same standards?

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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2004 8:32 pm 
Chalain wrote:
Ok, but realize: That's a religious statement, Raif. So I'll ask again: Why?

Are you defining morals as necessarily religious? Am I amoral by virtue of being atheist? Nope. I'll get into why I think religious moralities are a problem below.

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Okay, I'll bite. What is this modern morality of which you speak? What are its tenets, and where is it taught? Is the "new morality" anything more than the "old immorality"?

Modern isn't the best term. perhaps "rational." These would be moral and ethical systems that had identifiably rational roots.

A lot of the religious moral systems demand adherence to long-outdated and/or corrupt systems. For instance, the orthodox Jews and their pork restriction was probably put in place for a good reason based around sanitation and unclean pork. That simply doesn't apply anymore. Roman catholics have all kinds of nasty tenets; unrealistic sexual restrictions on priests that result in Badness would be among them.

In the former case (outdated morals), it's usually just annoying for those who follow it. In the case of morals that result from corrupt moral leaderships, they cause great harm. Do you really want your ethical/moral system to be determined by a bunch of long-dead fellows who dreamed it up to keep power? I believe the seven deadly sins fall into this catagory, as well as a lot of what Confucious (SP?) taught.

I don't want to get into bashing all religion, at the moment. ;) I just think that the best ethical/moral systems tend to be the ones that have clear, thought out reasons for what they (pre/pro)scribe. WHY don't you kill people? Most anyone can name you a reason not based in religion. Why don't you rob your neighbor? Again, the answer lies in reason. If a moral can't be explained, I don't think it's got any merit.

Or perhaps we could go on another tangent: ethics and morals are always, on some level, personal. I dislike the entire idea of assigning an organization to figure it out for me. And for much the same reasons, I dislike somebody else doing the same. Allegory: If you set up your security properly, but the next guy relies on Comp USA, it's you who'll suffer from his security holes with bot attacks and other such unpleasantess.

* Note: I use the terms "morals" and "ethics" interchangably for the purpose of this brief post. I trust we both know the difference, and I'd prefer not to get bogged down in that detail (as has happened in the past) instead of the overlying question.


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