Salvation

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Salvation

Postby George Jelliss » Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:00 am

I've just been listening to Melvin Bragg's "In Our Time" on Radio 4 which was a discussion about the famous "Diet of Worms" where Luther was summoned to give an account of his heresy before the authorities.

A lot of the argument centred on the idea of "Salvation", which is a concept that I don't think I've ever really understood, since it has no meaning to a nonbeliever. It seems to require the prior belief that when you die you will be judged and go either to heaven or hell, perhaps via pergatory. Going to heaven is being "saved", hence "salvation". Perhaps there is more to it than this, that others here could enlighten me on.

One logical consequence of this idea would seem to me that if you believe this theology and you wish to be saved you should try to do good things in this life, so that your life will be judged good enough to go to heaven. However, Luther said that while everyone should do their best in whatever role they were allotted in life, only God could judge. This was known as "justification by faith alone".

The Catholic Church used the fear of punishment after death to raise money, for building St Peter's for instance, by allowing people to buy "indulgences" that let them off with a fine instead of time in hell or purgatory. The German Princes, were naturally against German money being lost to Italy in this way, and Luther provided theological arguments against the practice. It was one of the German Princes who saved Luther from being burnt as a heretic by kidnapping him on the way back from Worms and shutting him up in a castle until the furore had died down.

For an unbeliever the incentive to behave well in life is to be well thought of by your contemporaries, or at least those of your contemporaries whose judgment you respect, and perhaps by future generations, and also to be well thought of by yourself, that is to try to live up to your ideals. This assumes that you have given some thought about what those ideals should be. Socrates called this living a "considered life".

I was going to write a bit more but seem to have lost my train of thought for the moment. I'm not sure how this strictly relates to creationism, but presumably they are "lying for the faith" which was something Luther favoured. He was not great on logic.
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Postby In principio » Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:35 pm

Hi,

I'm afraid I don't understand your logic here. Why was Luther encouraging lying for the faith? I don't understand how this works? I also listened to that show - in fact I know one of the people who was interviewed personally - and I don't remember her saying anything like that?

Thanks,
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Postby George Jelliss » Wed Nov 29, 2006 10:34 am

Lying for the faith is a well-established principle of christianity and islam:

http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/lying.htm

Though how it is reconciled with the commandment about "not bearing false witness" is difficult to comprehend.

I don't think it was discussed on the programme, which you can find here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/ino ... 1012.shtml

So you know Charlotte Methuen. Did you study theology with her at Oxford?
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Re: Salvation

Postby SeaLion » Wed Nov 29, 2006 1:31 pm

George Jelliss wrote:
...<snip>...

For an unbeliever the incentive to behave well in life is to be well thought of by your contemporaries, or at least those of your contemporaries whose judgment you respect, and perhaps by future generations, and also to be well thought of by yourself, that is to try to live up to your ideals. This assumes that you have given some thought about what those ideals should be. Socrates called this living a "considered life".
...<snip>...



Interesting point.

Creationists (Fundamentalists of a number of faiths, in fact) charge that in the absence of God, there can be no morality -- it's part of their fervour in militantly imposing religious belief (this is made quite explicit in the Discovery Institute's 'Wedge' strategy). It is claimed that if one does not believe in God, one would feel no restraints in behaviour: we would all be rapists, murders, cannibals, or what have you. Indeed, I have often heard the charge, by Creationists on discussion forums, that people such as myself defend Theory of Evolution with the deliberate intention of eroding belief in God and thereby enabling no end of personal *immorality.*

Which is nonsense -- but worrying nonsense, at that. I find it rather alarming that there are some folks who appear to fear what their own actions might be did they not believe in a supernatural diety. In those cases, I sometimes find myself rather hoping they don't lose their faith, lest they really do go on the rampage!

But it remains the fact that, God or no, we *do* possess a 'moral' sense, and it is of great interest to me that an excellent case can be made that such a 'moral sense' may be as much a result of evolution as our opposable thumbs. That is to say: our species would have surely gone extinct had we not evolved, at a very deep level, mechanisms of social interaction and co-operation. Such mechanisms, which are our emotions, are essential to our very survival. And such mechanisms would exist, and with powerful effects, even without undertaking the kinds of rational, Socratic introspection you mention in your post.
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Re: Salvation

Postby nickh » Wed Nov 29, 2006 2:07 pm

I agree that, as humans, we do have a moral sense - a sense of right and wrong. The difficulty is that it varies from person to person and without any agreed standard is a very fluid thing. This is a real problem for a pluralistic society and not one which should be solved by imposing the views of any individual group! It only really works where there is consensus.

It is changes to the, once accepted, moral code which are feared, in some cases at least, with some justification. It could be argued that some sort of "christian tradition" lies behind much of today's accepted morality in the UK. As that "tradition" weakens, it is not possible to predict how this will change.

This is quite different to saying "atheists are immoral", but how can an atheist (or humanist) build an argument against, say, the "euthanasia" of the elderly once they are a drain on the resources of society?

By the way, the is not just a rhetorical question, I would like to know what others think.

Nick

SeaLion wrote:But it remains the fact that, God or no, we *do* possess a 'moral' sense, and it is of great interest to me that an excellent case can be made that such a 'moral sense' may be as much a result of evolution as our opposable thumbs. That is to say: our species would have surely gone extinct had we not evolved, at a very deep level, mechanisms of social interaction and co-operation. Such mechanisms, which are our emotions, are essential to our very survival. And such mechanisms would exist, and with powerful effects, even without undertaking the kinds of rational, Socratic introspection you mention in your post.
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Salvation

Postby Anonymous » Wed Nov 29, 2006 2:09 pm

nickh wrote:

This is quite different to saying "atheists are immoral", but how can an atheist (or humanist) build an argument against, say, the "euthanasia" of the elderly once they are a drain on the resources of society?

By the way, the is not just a rhetorical question, I would like to know what others think.

Why does a moral code have to be explicitly religious?
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Re: Salvation

Postby nickh » Wed Nov 29, 2006 2:26 pm

I don't think I said it did and, of course, it doesn't. The question is how is a non-religious (i.e. no higher authority than man to look to) morality to be established and, more importantly, how can it stand up to those who wish to contest it?

Nick

mikeybrass wrote:nickh wrote:

This is quite different to saying "atheists are immoral", but how can an atheist (or humanist) build an argument against, say, the "euthanasia" of the elderly once they are a drain on the resources of society?

By the way, the is not just a rhetorical question, I would like to know what others think.

Why does a moral code have to be explicitly religious?
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Salvation

Postby Anonymous » Wed Nov 29, 2006 2:34 pm

nickh wrote:
I don't think I said it did and, of course, it doesn't. The question is how is a non-religious (i.e. no higher authority than man to look to) morality to be established and, more importantly, how can it stand up to those who wish to contest it?


I personally consider the first part of your question to be far more
important. Also, I do not see a distinction between the first part of
your question and my prior question to you: see ethnography on the
Bushmen and religions such as Buddhism.
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Re: Salvation

Postby SeaLion » Wed Nov 29, 2006 2:48 pm

nickh wrote: It could be argued that some sort of "christian tradition" lies behind much of today's accepted morality in the UK. As that "tradition" weakens, it is not possible to predict how this will change.



I don't agree here; the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons of Britain followed a moral code not so wildly different from one we would recognise, 'pagans' of the antiquity were capable of living perfectly 'moral' lives. Neither Christianity nor any other religion can be shown to have ever introduced *morality* to an utterly amoral portion of humanity. Indeed, I don't believe one could identify an utterly 'amoral' portion of humanity!

There does appear to be (to me, at least) a core set of basic moral values common to our species, though with some cultural variation. But 'murder' is universally recognised as a grave ill, 'fratricide' a particularly heinous form of 'murder', 'incest' to be abhorrent (a few Egyptian Pharaohs notwithstanding!), &c. &c. And it is remarkable how common, across ancient cultures with no contact with one another, are codifed versions of the 'Golden Rule' ('do unto others as you would have them do unto you'), which is also an optimal strategy for co-operation within a social species.

Certainly, religions incorporate these pre-existing 'moral' concepts -- because they are sound. We care for our young -- or our species would not be here. We frown on (but don't always escape) causes of social discord, because conflicts lead to species-threatening violence, &c. &c.

Moreover, it can be demonstrated that religions, as much as incorporating pre-existing moral codes, have also introduced some destructive new values. Christianity has been (mis)used to justify slavery, and in very recent times. Islam has been (mis)used to fly planes into the World Trade Center. To say nothing of the religious justifications advanced for appalling and immoral acts in inter-sect conflicts (Protestants v. Catholics, Sunnis v. Shi'a, and so forth).

I suspect your final sentence quoted above reveals the real concern: contemporary 'immorality.' I could probably guess the 'hot topics' you have around this -- but I don't wish to put words in your mouth, in case I am not reading your remarks appropriately.
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Re: Salvation

Postby George Jelliss » Wed Nov 29, 2006 3:42 pm

nickh wrote: /// how can an atheist (or humanist) build an argument against, say, the "euthanasia" of the elderly once they are a drain on the resources of society?

By the way, the is not just a rhetorical question, I would like to know what others think. ///


Euthanasia is discussed quite thoroughly on the BHA site:

http://www.humanism.org.uk/site/cms/con ... splash=yes

What you are talking about is involuntary (compulsory) euthanasia, which of course humanists do not propose, since it is inhuman.

If the test is being a drain on the resources of society, how about euthanasia of theologians ...?
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Re: Salvation

Postby nickh » Wed Nov 29, 2006 3:57 pm

Or with too much time to post on forums :wink: .

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George Jelliss wrote:If the test is being a drain on the resources of society, how about euthanasia of theologians ...?
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Re: Salvation

Postby Roger Stanyard » Wed Nov 29, 2006 6:06 pm

nickh wrote:I agree that, as humans, we do have a moral sense - a sense of right and wrong. The difficulty is that it varies from person to person and without any agreed standard is a very fluid thing. This is a real problem for a pluralistic society and not one which should be solved by imposing the views of any individual group! It only really works where there is consensus.

It is changes to the, once accepted, moral code which are feared, in some cases at least, with some justification. It could be argued that some sort of "christian tradition" lies behind much of today's accepted morality in the UK. As that "tradition" weakens, it is not possible to predict how this will change.



Nick, this is something that interests me outside of the scope of BCSE.

I'm not at all convinced that weakening of the Christian tradition as you put it makes it impossible to predict how accepted morality changes. The inverse is that continuation of tradition would make accepted morality predicable.

Nothing I have ever understood about moder history suggests that this is the case. Most of us (religious or otherwise) I guess, find the idea of capital punishment abhorrent but it is widely support by the evangelical right in the USA to this day.

Over the last couple of generations we have seen a radical change in the preception of black people by white people. Quite frankly 50 years ago racism was a socially acceptable standard of most religiously inclined (and other) people who believed that they were moral. Today, following 50 years of religious decline, racism is an exceedingly dirty word and considered to be highly immoral by most people.

I don't think 50 years ago most people would or could have pedicted that was the case.

My major points here are that morality is not necessarily derived from religion and that it can and does arise independently of religion. Indeed, my opinion (and my opinion is cheap here) is that organised religion is the product of morality, not the other way round.

I always also find it rather odd that so many fundamentalists (particularly in the USA) see the only form of morality as that based on the Christian religion. Morality is a universal concept, not a Christian-only concept. I don't think the "morality" of Japan or the Japanese is somehow second rate or bogus because it is not based on a Christian tradition. I don't think Turkish people are inherently more dishonest than people with a Christian tradition behind them - indeed, the evidence clearly suggests that they are not.

Moreover, all too often the more extreme religious fanatics run up monsterous arguments to promote their position. One, for example, is over marriages. The extremists seem to believe that marriage is a Christian institution. It isn't, never has been and never will be. It's a universal institution practised everywhere over all history because people are basically monagomous.

That's my pennyworth over for the rest of the day.
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Postby Gwynne » Wed Nov 29, 2006 8:14 pm

Hi Roger, given your stated interest you may already have seen these but just in case Interview with Steven Pinker by Robert Wright on being good without god - there are also interviews on the same topic with Daniel Dennet, Francis Fukuyama and others and this interview, again with Pinker (and Richard Dawkins) at the Edge on the same subject.
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Salvation

Postby Dave Oldridge » Fri Dec 01, 2006 2:24 am

On 28 Nov 2006 at 6:35, In principio wrote:

Hi,

I'm afraid I don't understand your logic here. Why was Luther
encouraging lying for the faith? I don't understand how this
works? I also listened to that show - in fact I know one of the
people who was interviewed personally - and I don't remember her
saying anything like that?

Luther was not exactly a brilliant theologian. And yes, he was
encouraging lying for the faith. He also changed the very basis
of the faith, redacted scripture and declared 'sola scriptura' on
the rest of it, thus resurrecting a 1200-year-old idea that was
originally rejected on the grounds that scripture is not self-
consistent enough to support the notion and, in any case, does
not teach it, thus causing the proposed doctrine to fail its own
test of authenticity.

--

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Postby Timothy Chase » Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:14 am

Like Genesis I and II - with their two conflicting "chronologies" of creation.

*

I think it particularly perverse that those who argue that the only foundation for morality is to be found in their "literalist" interpretation of the Bible are the very same people who are so willing to consistently and systematically lie for the sake of their faith. It seems so obvious that this is one of the most efficient ways to destroy the moral foundations of the individual - and those that follow.
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