The all-in-one Christian Web Site Community - Praize.com
Skip to Content

Whence good and evil?

Quote Reply
Whence good and evil?
From Prayer Requests:

Jeanne writes:

<<Sarah, Paul and you are essentially saying the same thing; that any good in human beings comes from the Christian conception of their Creator Deity; human beings as "merely" evolved primates have no possible way of being simply good or simply evil unless they are influenced by some supernatural entity.>>

To which Chris replies:

<<Or perhaps 'evolved primates' have identified behaviors that are widely regarded as either 'good' or 'bad' in terms of what is 'good' or 'bad' for human beings and the rest of creation.

If ALL human behaviour is to be considered 'acceptable behavior' for human beings, where does that leave us socially?

in your non deity universe, who decides what is 'acceptable human behavior' and why?

The main point St Paul was trying to get across was that individual human beings should not have the freedom to decide for themselves, 'what is good behavior' and 'what is evil behavior'. That would be a recipe for domination by psychopaths, sociopaths and tyrants.

A deity, for you, could merely be a convenient way of setting a standard for ethical behavior, which is reasonably acceptable by the majority of humankind. That is after all what 'God's Law' is usually about, isn't it? What has been set down traditionally by tribes and nations as being normally acceptable human behavior.

None of the Ten Commandments are complete innovations which came down from God on Mt Sinai, never having been conceived by human beings ever before.

Adultery was taboo long before Moses got the tablets of the law. Murder was punishable by death previously. (Moses was in fact himself a fugitive murderer) and Joseph was accused of adultery with Potiphar's wife. Stealing, lying, and disrespect for parents ALL were already regarded as 'antisocial behaviors', frowned upon by humane societies.

I would go as far as to say that the only commandment that was relatively unique and innovative was "You shall love The Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve", and even that one had been established beforehand in Egypt under Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, 1364-1347 B.C.)

The problem with having human beings make up their own moral code, is that we would all come up with one that would suit US, but not everybody else.

This is what the story of Adam and Eve reveals. That human beings, once having taken upon themselves the right to decide 'what is good and what is evil', will never agree among themselves about what ACTUALLY IS good and evil in any objective sense. It is always relative to their own opinion.

Which I think is about where you are standing right now. Your standard of behavior is what you have decided for yourself to be appropriate, both for yourself and for others.

That is an almost universally human way of regulating one's own morality, while being observant of social norms and the behavior of others.

Christians, on the other hand, put the teachings of Jesus Christ high on their list of 'things to do', 'or not to do'.

Belief in a supernatural being is optional. Ethical behavior is a moral requirement for all human beings if they are to have fullness of life. Anything less is detrimental to human happiness and progress. >>


I will reply in a bit in the next post.

-Jeanne
"The Ox is slow, but the Earth is patient."
Quote Reply
Re: [jeanne53] Whence good and evil? In reply to
Hi Chris.

You write:

<<If ALL human behaviour is to be considered 'acceptable behavior' for human beings, where does that leave us socially? >>

All human behavior is considered natural, but that does not mean acceptable by societal standards. Whether pack or tribe or communities of millions, society itself chooses which behavior is acceptable.


As you continue:

<<in your non deity universe, who decides what is 'acceptable human behavior' and why? >>

Human beings are mammals, primates specifically, and as all animals that live in groups, we also establish what the group is willing to accept in individual behavior, usually assigning a "pecking" order, as well. Those individuals who act outside the boundaries of accepted behavior are punished and if behavior does not improve, they are ejected and forbidden the protection and company of the group and may even be killed.

Who decides? The Alpha member of the group.

This is where we derived our principles and these tactics still hold in some form or another. You are correct that this means that sometimes the Alpha may be deranged and institute behavioral rules that are detrimental to individuals and the group as a whole, but that is natural. Eventually that Alpha fails due to age and health...or maybe due to revolt when the group sides with a new Alpha to bring down the old, hoping to alter the society of the group to the betterment of all.

Humans still do this, but more of us are electing the new, instead of killing the old.

This is all stuff you know and most people have a sense of the way human societies have progressed.

That all deity beliefs have a core of values that read similar means that these are the values, which humans figured out for themselves were the best at producing harmonious societies.

And you stated such:

<<A deity, for you, could merely be a convenient way of setting a standard for ethical behavior, which is reasonably acceptable by the majority of humankind. That is after all what 'God's Law' is usually about, isn't it? What has been set down traditionally by tribes and nations as being normally acceptable human behavior. >>

Except there was never and is not now a need for a deity.

You continue:

<<I would go as far as to say that the only commandment that was relatively unique and innovative was "You shall love The Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve", and even that one had been established beforehand in Egypt under Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, 1364-1347 B.C.) >>

That only occurs in monotheisms, and yes, Ra was thought for a time to be the One True God and Creator by at least some Egyptians. I don't think it lasted or was well accepted, but I suspect that it allowed an introduction of the idea so that later another monotheism was adopted in the area, much the same as Mitra allowed for the same. The jealousy of all the other gods humans have imagined and worshipped over time was different from the ultimate commandment of Yahweh for humans to rid themselves of the others and only accept it as the One True Creator Deity.

You also write:

<<The problem with having human beings make up their own moral code, is that we would all come up with one that would suit US, but not everybody else. >>

But...humans did make up their own moral code and still do. Some have worked well, because they create harmony for the group. This desire for harmony and belonging to the group for protection and company leads individuals to reign their natural impulses. If a human chooses to live alone, he or she can do whatever is desired, yet even that condition leads to a desire to have harmony and peace, unless he or she is a raving maniac, who eschews all natural instincts to survive with sanity.

The common denominator in the Ethic of Reciprocity is human beings, who can think beyond a desire to please the Alpha or to gain positive treatment for themselves. They are able to empathize with the other, because humans share a moral language that does not alter with our deity belief or non-belief.

You could say that is a "god-spark" in each of us and it well may be something like that, but that it comes from Yahweh and Jesus is no less far fetched than it might come from a common ancestor from another galaxy. That line of thinking brings us around to First Cause eventually.

You continue:

<<This is what the story of Adam and Eve reveals. That human beings, once having taken upon themselves the right to decide 'what is good and what is evil', will never agree among themselves about what ACTUALLY IS good and evil in any objective sense. It is always relative to their own opinion. >>

I was reading an article, wherein the author quoted the Hebrew interpretation of this Tree of Knowledge as they "had experience of good and evil" not "knowledge of" which is a subtle yet not insignificant difference.

They were not tasked with deciding, but with recognizing through experience, the difference.

<<Which I think is about where you are standing right now. Your standard of behavior is what you have decided for yourself to be appropriate, both for yourself and for others. That is an almost universally human way of regulating one's own morality, while being observant of social norms and the behavior of others.>>

Yes and it is totally human, which the creation of gods and of God is, as well. And...it comes from millions of years of human history and was placed in religious terms to assist in passing those traits most likely to produce harmony. Deity beliefs and religions that supported them were tools for humanity. But...like anything of human invention, they got out of hand quickly.

<<Christians, on the other hand, put the teachings of Jesus Christ high on their list of 'things to do', 'or not to do'.>>

But..not very well. Perhaps not as well as atheists put the Ethic of Reciprocity and promoting harmony on their list of "things to do." You may not point to evil and deranged atheists who don't to prove me wrong. You know there are Christians who fit that bill, too. Atheists and other non-Christians do not have evil-doings and "destroy the world, my community first" or "kick the dog and hit my kids" or "rob the bank and shoot the neighbor" on the lists of "things to do."

The teachings of Jesus are much as the teachings of other philosophers and great leaders and Humanists everywhere.

You end:

<<Belief in a supernatural being is optional. Ethical behavior is a moral requirement for all human beings if they are to have fullness of life. Anything less is detrimental to human happiness and progress.>>

Indeed.

-Jeanne
"The Ox is slow, but the Earth is patient."