Greed, Wealth, Anger and Envy

“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.” ~George Carlin

The “Occupy Wallstreet” movement is no longer dominating headlines but I still find people debating the “haves” and the “have-nots” and what to do about them. Like most in the Occupy Wallstreet movement, I’m a political independent. I consider myself moderate: a centrist with beliefs spanning both liberal and conservative ideals. I saw a list of 18 demands allegedly made by Occupy Wall Street but their official website denies there are any demands. I agreed with the 18 demands but I disagree with many of the things I read on the official website.

There has always been and will always be “haves” and “have-nots”. People are born equal . . . in their humanity — but not in their genetic endowments or social status or familial advantages. While I laud the desire to enrich the poor, what I REALLY admire is those who actually work and sacrifice to enrich the poor. If more people would walk the talk, the world would be a much better place.

Liberals are often willing to foot a larger tax bill in order to provide programs to assist the poor. This is admirable. But better than higher taxes would be (heavily) increased charitable contributions. Government programs are bureaucratic, wasteful and, effectively, mandatory whether or not you agree with the program(s). Charities also target needs you may or may not agree with but at least contributing to them is voluntary: entirely up to you. In effect, society would “vote”, with their charitable dollars, on which causes have higher priorities.

Which leads us back to walking the talk. Charities can’t do enough because people, overall, aren’t willing to sacrifice enough. Most of us talk a good game but aren’t really willing to do without the nicer things in life . . . like a new car every couple of years or bigger homes or the latest gadgets.

If you want to solve society’s ills, there’s nothing stopping you. If you want government to handle it for you, then just keep in mind: you get what you pay for (if you’re lucky). A total solution would be very expensive and might well lead to ever-greater reliance on government dole.

Personally, I believe government should provide a safety net for those in dire need and should also legislate against all forms of unfair employer practices. Minimum wage, full time, should be enough to live on. Everything, within reason, should be done to ensure the poor have the opportunities they need to rise above their circumstances. The operative word in the prior sentence is “opportunities”. Government should provide a helping hand — not a handout. Poor individuals who have the gumption and wherewithal to benefit from government programs (vocational education and employment assistance, student loans, job programs, low-cost housing, unemployment insurance, etc.) should have those programs available to them.

But what about the half of the population on the low side of the I.Q. bell curve? A significant number of them simply don’t have the wherewithal to enjoy material success. Many are lucky to keep their heads above water. What quality of life should we ensure them? What material considerations (if any) are essential to ensure? This is where things get messy. After providing temporary safety nets (food, shelter, health care) and employment opportunities . . . what else should we do? How much should we sacrifice for the less fortunate?

If we all sacrificed whatever is necessary to ensure the happiness of everybody . . . would the underclass diminish or would it grow? Would we all be richer or would we all be poorer? Would our expectations be realized or would the expectations of the “have-nots” increase as the expectations of the “haves” decrease? Would we prosper?

I suppose arguments could be made for just about any position on this topic. But I assert that human nature is what it is and it’s pointless to pretend it’s something it’s not. We’re lazy. We need incentives to get off our asses. The profit motive works but we need to guard against excessive greed. And it goes without saying that we need to care for those who really need care.

It’s not perfect but who says it can be . . . or should be? I think such a cumbayá utopia would bore us to death.

If only we could all have been trust-fund babies. I certainly wouldn’t complain. But we’re not. Neither should we covet or blame people for their inheritance. I was raised in a poor family. We actually got through our toughest time thanks to a grant from the Red Cross. My father became more successful later in life and has never forgotten the Red Cross. He gave, generously, to them until his death a few years ago. Anyway, he taught us personal responsibility. It’s essential. It’s part of adulthood. He never resented the “haves” for what they have. Their circumstances were irrelevant to his.

And that’s the way, I believe, it should be. But please note that this is a separate issue from caring for the poor. Sure, there are people who get rich off the backs of the huddled masses but that doesn’t mean every well-to-do person is a callous user of faceless victims. Most well-to-do people earned their wealth through hard work, sacrifice and savvy moves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with their wealth. Many (most?) are Democrats, so having wealth does not mean one must be a Republican.

Occupy Wallstreet represents a very vocal rise in resentment against corporate greed — due mostly to the global financial meltdown such greed precipitated. Many of the movement’s followers go further than this and blame or verbally attack wealthy people. I don’t like prejudice or discrimination of any kind. Being wealthy is not a negative or a sin. That kind of loose talk is due to insecurity and envy. Insecurity about one’s own future and envy that hides its covetousness behind cries of “spread the wealth”. I have no problem with punishing those who enjoy ill-gotten gains but I don’t fault anybody for simply being wealthy.

Wealth is not the problem. Excessive greed is. In a capitalist system, the profit motive drives commerce. And commerce makes the world go ’round. There is no other system yet devised that is better able to meet the needs of a burgeoning world population. Money is King.

It’s an essentially flawed system because human beings are essentially flawed. And it can’t be fixed until people care more about others than for themselves. In other words: it can’t be fixed. But thanks to truly caring, liberal-minded, people, we’ll continue to try anyway.

Maybe someday . . .


© Copyright 2012 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com


The Devil trumps God: Family Feud

This video is full of surprises. I can’t say much in advance or I’ll spoil the surprises. When these 2 wholesome Family Feud families square off, expect the unexpected. The question is: “Name something that gets passed around.”

Why Harris Lost His Debate With Craig

I just stumbled upon a year-old YouTube video named, “Sam Harris gets destroyed by Dr. William Lane Craig”. It’s the 2-hour University of Notre Dame debate held on April 7, 2011, between Harris and Craig. It was titled: “The God Debate II: Is Good from God?” The video can be found at the bottom of this page.

And guess what? Harris really was destroyed by Craig! What a disappointment.

Craig started off with the premise that objective morality can only exist if God exists and, alternatively, if God does not exist, objective morality can not exist.

Harris then presented his premise that science can identify objective morality by determining what contributes to the well being of conscious creatures.

Craig rebutted with a scholarly evisceration of Harris’ premise that cited: the absence of moral objectivity in atheism; the subjectivity of human flourishing; the is/ought distinction; and more.

As Harris walked up to the podium for his own rebuttal, I realized that he CAN’T rebut Craig because he agrees that there is an objective basis for morality: namely the application of science to the question of human flourishing (well being). And sure enough, Harris didn’t counter a single Craig rebuttal. Instead, he launched into his usual attack on the Bible and its morality.

In disgust, I stopped watching when Craig came back to the podium and rightly pointed out Harris’ lack of a rebuttal.

Harris was so invested in his flawed thesis that “science can solve moral problems” that he was blinded to the risk of agreeing that morality is objective. The fact is that Craig is right! Objective morality can only exist if God exists: if God does not exist, objective morality can not exist.

The atheist position should have been that objective morality can not exist because God does not exist. In other words, morality is subjective. But even if you were willing to entertain God’s existence, Craig is arguing divine command theory, which was dismissed centuries before Jesus came along, by Euthyphro’s Dilemma (“Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”). Euthyphro’s Dilemma stemmed from a famous conversation between Euthyphro and Socrates that took place just before Socrates stood trial for impiety and corruption of minors . Surely, Harris is familiar with it. I have no idea why he wouldn’t use it.

Euthyphro’s Dilemma can be rephrased as: “Is an act moral because God wills it or does God will it because it is moral?” If it is moral because God wills it, then it is arbitrary or capricious: without basis in reason. Anything God commands, no matter how horrendous, would be moral. If you uphold the divinity of the Bible, then you are forced to accept that God’s will is arbitrary. But if God wills a thing because it is moral, then morality is independent of, and external to, God. If morality is independent of God, we don’t need God to have morals. Indeed, God is not omnipotent if he is constrained by an external morality.

But that’s an old argument. Thanks to advances in human understanding, particularly evolution, we have a perfectly human explanation for morality that does not require God at all. Because atheists do not believe in God and the supernatural realm, only the natural realm is left: the universe and everything in it. Nature has only a prime directive: survive. There is no good or bad, right or wrong, in nature. Morality is an entirely human construct and, as such, must be subjective – because humans can never be perfectly objective: as Craig points out, that would require a perfect God – an infallible authority.

As an atheist, Harris should have had a 2-pronged strategy: 1.) point out the lack of perfection in the biblical God and 2.) provide a naturalist understanding of morality; admitting up front that it is subjective and relative but, in the end, far superior to the flawed morality of an imperfect God.

Euthyphro’s Dilemma reveals the myth of God’s moral perfection so I won’t go into much detail on that count except to flesh out the slavery criticism because it’s upheld in the New Testament as well as the Old. This is important because Christians typically cop out by claiming fidelity only to the New Testament, since it represents a new covenant with God through Jesus.

I’ve recently written on the naturalist understanding of morality. If the following is familiar to you, just skip to the end.

The naturalist understanding of morality asserts that we have evolved empathy as an impetus to cooperation. Combined with personal experience, empathy leads most of us to a “Golden Rule” sense of morality. From experience, I know what hurts me: with empathy, I know the same things likely hurt you too. Experience and empathy is all we need to decide most moral matters. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you . . . because we need each other to survive and prosper.” We are complex social animals, so this rule of thumb isn’t sufficient for every moral decision but it is fundamental to most. Without this impulse for cooperation to counter our impulse for violence, we would probably squander the intellectual prowess responsible for our survival advantage.

It’s a fallacy (with obvious religious motivations) that “we can not be moral without God”. Our morality is part of the human condition and existed long before Moses. Morality is not a dispensation from God: it is subjective and personal and, because it is informed by experience and empathy, develops as we mature. As a matter of fact, we ALL use our personal morality to overrule Biblical morality. And by ALL, I really do mean ALL: believers and nonbelievers alike. This fact is amply demonstrated by our universal rejection of slavery and the subjugation of women (well, maybe not the Muslims so much). Even though God/Jesus condoned the subjugation of our fellow humans in both the Old and New Testaments, we ALL overrule God’s morality with our own and reject such human subjugation. Not only is God NOT the source of morality but he stands corrected by us all. WE decided what is moral. WE decide what is religiously worthy. NOT God.

You need to ask yourself: “If we overrule God, why do we need him at all?”

This subjugation of our fellow humans is a failing of Biblical morality that can’t be reasonably addressed by apologetics. This is critical for all believers to understand. THEY CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. Either God is perfect or he’s not. Either the Bible is divinely inspired or it’s not. Either God is the source of morality or he isn’t. Even a believer, if he’s honest with himself, must admit that if God’s morality grows outdated, it was never perfect and timeless to begin with. The alternative is to claim that God is right and that the subjugation of our fellow humans is NOT at all immoral – that it is, in fact, desirable. But we ALL know that’s an untenable position. We all know that is WRONG. We will not reverse our hard-earned moral progress to align it with God’s morality. This is why the issue is out of reach of apologetics.

The truth is that the Old Testament, New Testament and Quran reflect the morality and level of ignorance that existed in their respective eras and areas . . . precisely as they MUST if they’re written without the benefit of God’s input. These ancient tomes are NOT divinely inspired. God is NOT perfect. The issue of human subjugation proves that the personal, revealed, theist, God of the Abrahamic religions is irrefutably false. This doesn’t completely close the door on God, however: there’s still supernatural hope for the impersonal, cosmic, God of deists and pantheists.

Empathy is a human trait that spawns a number of other human traits just as naturally as it spawns morality. Empathy also spawns human dignity and worth, cooperation and compassion. We can live reasonably moral lives without God but not without empathy.


© Copyright 2012 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com


Slam Dunking God

The naturalist understanding of morality asserts that we have evolved empathy as an impetus to cooperation. Combined with personal experience, empathy leads most of us to a “Golden Rule” sense of morality. From experience, I know what hurts me: with empathy, I know the same things likely hurt you too. Experience and empathy is all we need to decide most moral matters. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you . . . because we need each other to survive and prosper.” We are complex social animals, so this rule of thumb isn’t sufficient for every moral decision but it is fundamental to most. Without this impulse for cooperation to counter our impulse for violence, we would probably squander the intellectual prowess responsible for our survival advantage.

It’s a fallacy (with obvious religious motivations) that “we can not be moral without God”. Our morality is part of the human condition and existed long before Moses. Morality is not a dispensation from God: it is subjective and personal and, because it is informed by experience and empathy, develops as we mature. As a matter of fact, we ALL use our personal morality to overrule Biblical morality. And by ALL, I really do mean ALL: believers and nonbelievers alike. This fact is amply demonstrated by our universal rejection of slavery and the subjugation of women (well, maybe not the Muslims so much). Even though God/Jesus condoned the subjugation of our fellow humans in both the Old and New Testaments, we ALL overrule God’s morality with our own and reject such human subjugation. Not only is God NOT the source of morality but he stands corrected by us all. WE decided what is moral. WE decide what is religiously worthy. NOT God.

You need to ask yourself: “If we overrule God, why do we need him at all?”

This subjugation of our fellow humans is a failing of Biblical morality that can’t be reasonably addressed by apologetics. This is critical for all believers to understand. THEY CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. Either God is perfect or he’s not. Either the Bible is divinely inspired or it’s not. Either God is the source of morality or he isn’t. Even a believer, if he’s honest with himself, must admit that if God’s morality grows outdated, it was never perfect and timeless to begin with. The alternative is to claim that God is right and that the subjugation of our fellow humans is NOT at all immoral – that it is, in fact, desirable. But we ALL know that’s an untenable position. We all know that is WRONG. We will not reverse our hard-earned moral progress to align it with God’s morality. This is why the issue is out of reach of apologetics.

The truth is that the Old Testament, New Testament and Quran reflect the morality and level of ignorance that existed in their respective eras and areas . . . precisely as they MUST if they’re written without the benefit of God’s input. These ancient tomes are NOT divinely inspired. God is NOT perfect. The issue of human subjugation proves that the personal, revealed, theist, God of the Abrahamic religions is irrefutably false. This doesn’t completely close the door on God, however: there’s still supernatural hope for the impersonal, cosmic, God of deists and pantheists.

Empathy is a human trait that spawns a number of other human traits just as naturally as it spawns morality. Empathy also spawns human dignity and worth, cooperation and compassion. We can live moral lives without God but not without empathy.

Choosing faith means rejecting truth. Which do you really want?


© Copyright 2012 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com