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I was reading how Asian Stinkbugs are becoming a real problem for farmers in the northern states. Ironically, one of the most effective predators of the stinkbug is another pest the farmers have been killing off by the millions - the European Starling! If we could just GM the Starlings to eat the stinkbugs, and not the corn...

re: another rabbi: can anyone here make any sense out of this paragraph for me? my plato is a little rusty.

Maybe I should also recommend that Jacobs read Plato, who pointed out four hundred years before purported Christ that “piety” (for this you can read “morality”) cannot issue directly from the gods, since if gods loved impiety (read “immorality”) we would not adhere to their will. This shows that we have standards for morality independent of what gods dictate.

also, whatever he's trying to say here, he's pulling the "atheist classic"- arguing about judaism/christianity while only addressing christianity. his point is a historical one (that plato predated christ by 400 years) that completely ignores that christ was a jew who's ancestors, 400 years previously, had certainly had plenty of contact with the greeks- perhaps plato himself. we know this because of the influence on judaism of greek thought, i don't know if or how it might have worked the other way around but the author of this article is completely circumventing the point he is trying to dispute.

don't get me wrong- i don't think whatever it is that we call morality had to come from religion any more than this guy does. but he's trying to prove it's IMPOSSIBLE, and as far as i can see, doing a pretty bad job of it.

He only mentioned Christ in passing. Isn't it mentally exausting to create your own confusion through such lengths?

He is simply stating the obvious arguement you must have heard a hundred times, and using christs birth as a way to date how long the arguement has been around.

To put it firmly in your old testament:

If God asks you to kill your own child, what is the moral thing to do?

A. Do what god says, as he is infallable and moral.

B. Refuse to kill your child because that would be immoral regardless of what god says.

If you answer B the Rabbi is a moron that embarrasses you.

And by moron we obviously mean bigot.

I liked the simplicity of your retort, I ripped it off and reposted it on HuffPo.

I am not often genius, but once in a blue moon, I can be brief.

From Decorah, IA: The Raptor Resource Guide. At 1st I thought the eagle photo was from there until I saw the Norfolk link.

re: Plato.

Wait! Weren't the Greek Gods totally amoral? I mean, weren't they the crew for whom Omnipotence and Caprice were never mutually exclusive - some times they messed with us just because they could. I always thought so, and considered it much kinder and gentler than the Christian views that so often blame good people for their bad fortune.

re: "If God asks you to kill your own child, what is the moral thing to do?"

My all time fav song - "God said 'Abraham, kill me a son.' Abe said 'God, you must be puttin' me on.' God said 'no.' Abe said 'what?' God said 'you can do what you want Abe but.. the next time you see me coming, you better run.' Abe said 'where you want this killin' done?' God said 'Highway 51.'"

I say, Question Authority.

Well, OK. In that case, it's highway 61.

Highway 61 it is for sure. my bad. thanks for the correction

can anyone here make any sense out of this paragraph for me? my plato is a little rusty.

The Euthyphro dilemma

is found in Plato's dialogue Euthyphro, in which Socrates asks Euthyphro: "Is the pious (τὸ ὅσιον) loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?"

The dilemma has had a major effect on the philosophical theism of the monotheistic religions, but in a modified form: "Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?" This question has presented a problem for theists ever since Plato's original discussion, and it continues to be an object of theological and philosophical discussion today.

thanks, joann.

so, "in modified form", piety now=morality? i didn't create this confusion for myself, as red says above, rather it was done for me long before i was born- but not by plato- and believed by people i, like you, don't take very seriously. i don't see any connection whatsoever between the two concepts, hence my question, which was considered a stupid one by a tag team who apparently take this juxtaposition at the same face value their religious opponents do. yet another reason i see them all in the same light- as ignoramuses.

doing the will of a capricious god (or gods, in plato's case) may be the right thing or the best thing. morality, however, is a much more recent invention.

Piety in Ancient Greece

The concept under discussion, translated as 'piety', was known as Eusebia in ancient Greece. The word 'piety' comes from the Latin pietas and means 'dutiful conduct' while, today, 'piety' is usually understood as "religious devotion and reverence to God" (Ameican Heritage Dictionary) but, in ancient Greece, Eusebia meant neither of these exclusively and, at the same time, meant more. Eusebia was the ideal which dictated how men and women interacted, how a master should speak to a slave, how one addressed a seller in the marketplace as well as how one conducted oneself toward the gods

we know this because of the influence on judaism of greek thought

Ah, and thus the commandment that "Thou Shalt Not Have Any Gods Before Me", implying that there is more than one god. But since this particular god chose the Jews as the chosen ones, he's particularly special.

and thus the commandment that "Thou Shalt Not Have Any Gods Before Me", implying that there is more than one god.

no. the idea that there is more than one god predates the greeks, and certainly their "golden age", and even the presumed time of abraham- if he existed, of course- by millenia. the influence of greek thought on the jews starts to show up in historical sources around 2500 years ago, when the discussions that became the basis of what we now call the talmud were taking place and roughly congruent with the "golden age" of greek thought and culture. idol worship- the practice you refer to is, as far as we know, as old as humankind itself. scholars, be careful with your words.

and thanks for the references. if you read them CAREFULLY and without bias you won't find anything to contradict what i've said here thus far. in your second reference, you'll notice that you are no longer referring to piety OR the greek word for it, but rather "virtue"- "ethikai"- a concept which the greeks had a very different view of than modern man and which, for instance, like the bible, included rules about how to treat your slaves but no "moral" judgement about slavery itself.

"piety" both for us and the greeks involves loyalty to a god or master and does not involve the "morality" of said god or master. the idea that it DOES is, as i've said, a much later rationalization/invention- one which both atheists and faithies are only too willing to grasp at in their never ending contest to prove who is more stupid.

Is morality a virtue, does a pious man strive to lead a virtuous life? However you want to define all the terms the analogy was a good one, the form was right, and now back to the birds.

"piety" both for us and the greeks involves loyalty to a god or master and does not involve the "morality" of said god or master

Shubert Spero (Morality, halakha, and the Jewish tradition) says the following:

The strong implication of the thirteen middot of God's close identification with morality..

God's identification with morality is absolute: God is goodness.

The prophet brings the divine imperative from a God over whom no evil impulses hold sway, whose will is essentially moral and good.

link

In the 9th century we see the war against Yahweh carried into His own camp, and Baal-worship attempting to set itself up within Israel. His prophets therefore assert the sole right of Yahweh to the worship of His people, and the great prophets of the 8th century base that right upon His moral transcendence. Thus they at once reveal new depths of His moral nature, and set His uniqueness and supremacy on higher grounds. During the exile and afterward, Israel's outlook broadens by contact with the greater world, and it draws out the logical implications of ethical monotheism into a theology at once more universalistic and abstract.

Early Israelites are, therefore, more properly described as Monolatrists or Henotheists than as Monotheists. It is characteristic of the religion of Israel (in contrast with, e.g. Greek thought) that it arrived at absolute Monotheism along the line of moral and religious experience, rather than that of rational inference. Even while they shared the common Semitic belief in the reality of other gods, Yahweh alone had for them "the value of God."

morality, however, is a much more recent invention.

link

At the beginning of Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle tells us that there are two different kinds of human excellences, excellences of thought and excellences of character. His phrase for excellences of character — êthikai aretai — we usually translate as “moral virtue(s)” or “moral excellence(s).” The Greek êthikos (ethical) is the adjective cognate with êthos (character). When we speak of a moral virtue or an excellence of character, the emphasis is not on mere distinctiveness or individuality, but on the combination of qualities that make an individual the sort of ethically admirable person he is.

This entry will discuss “moral character” in the Greek sense of having or lacking moral virtue. If someone lacks virtue, she may have any of several moral vices, or she may be characterized by a condition somewhere in between virtue and vice, such as continence or incontinence.

re: JoAnn - "If someone lacks virtue, she may have any of several moral vices, or she may be characterized by a condition somewhere in between virtue and vice, such as continence or incontinence."

Here's a question. Are you saying that for the Greek philosophers, one may not have any moral vices and still be a virtuous person?

I mean, suppose you try to be good ALMOST all the time, behaving ethically, honestly, generously, almost ever chance you get, but now and then you leave a couple of swallows of milk in the jug just so ya don't have to wash the bottle, or you happen to 'not notice' that cat oogie on the carpet cuz you really don't want to clean it up? Do those several moral vices blow the whole 'Excellent person' thing forever? Gads, that doesn't sound too fair. Also what does peeing often (incontinence) have to do with virtue? I mean, as long as you're not using the elevator, what's the moral dilemma here?

So jonathan, ye who understands the word of G-d, are you saying that Yawheh is beyond any moral standards? He is supra moral? Morality was not addressed by neither YHVH nor his wife SHRH?

The covenant had to do with being grateful to YHVH and thus obeying him without question as a way of showing one's being grateful and demonstrating one's belief in the importance of the covenant?

So the idea of morality and being rational predates the concept of religion vis-a-vis early Hebrews?

are you saying that Yawheh is beyond any moral standards? He is supra moral? Morality was not addressed by neither YHVH nor his wife SHRH?

that's correct.

the "shrh" thing is bullshit, though. i'm surprised you bought into it so easily (i saw the news stories too. doesn't take much digging around in the hebrew bible to refute the flimsy evidence presented for this. for instance, the commands "not to plant" and " to cut down" asherot- which have been seen both by scholars and rabbis as sacred trees or groves- something there IS plenty of evidence for, and i see no reason to change this view based on pure speculation and a false conception that there are a lack of references in the old testament, and that this points to some ancient scribal/patriarchal conspiracy.)

The covenant had to do with being grateful to YHVH and thus obeying him without question as a way of showing one's being grateful and demonstrating one's belief in the importance of the covenant?

covenant has little to do with gratitude. it's a deal, pure and simple.

"obeying yhvh without question" is something neither jews nor their progenitors (like abraham) have EVER done. this idea comes from christianity, and later, even more strongly, islam- even though neither of them consider themselves bound by this covenant, they both judge the jews for having broken it, then go on to say that unquestioning belief and obedience to the "new version" are required.

"demonstrating ones belief in the covenant" is done by KEEPING the covenant which does not, as i said, involve "obeying without question". at least for the jews, who are the only ones even pretending to be obligated in this covenant. questioning and making adjustments to said covenant are part of the deal, and it works both ways so fair enough i think.

So the idea of morality and being rational predates the concept of religion vis-a-vis early Hebrews?

the IDEA of morality,yes, absolutely imo. morality as it is today (at this stage of it's evolution) absolutely not. morality, being separate from the keeping of a set of commandments most of which do not even involve what we would call moral issues, is not a concern of "yhvh" but of mankind.

thanks for asking. :)

so this brings us back to my original question, and may help you understand how i found it to be nonsensical:

“...piety” (for this you can read “morality”) cannot issue directly from the gods, since if gods loved impiety (read “immorality”) we would not adhere to their will."

does ANYONE yet understand how this makes no sense as a syllogism or even a statement?

addendum re: christianity and "unquestioning obedience"-

as far as i can tell from the gospels themselves, jesus, whatever else a modern jew might think of him or the religious tradition that sprang from his life/teachings, remained firmly within the jewish tradition of questioning both god and the rabbis of his time. it was his later interpreters who (to my amazement, given the content of the gospels) added this "unquestioning obedience" thing. and the muslims after them took it to crazy extremes, to the point where the word "islam" itself means "submission".

to be fair, later interpreters of judaism also spoke about "morality" and "submission to god's will". but i am not one of those who claims that modern judaism is some kind of "pure" tradition, untouched by foreign ideas. rather, i enjoy looking for (and finding) those "divergence points" on the evolutionary family tree of the jewish religion. fwiw, even in modern, orthodox judaism, neither "morality as a necessary part of god's will", nor "unquestioning submission" to any version of it that you just can't work with is a requirement for being a "religious jew in good standing". in this sense, modern judaism is congruent with ancient judaism. imagine my relief. :)

Since you have added the complexity of what piety means and since you have stated that morality has nothing to do with being pious, let's start from the beginning, where you state the following:

don't get me wrong- i don't think whatever it is that we call morality had to come from religion any more than this guy does. but he's trying to prove it's IMPOSSIBLE, and as far as i can see, doing a pretty bad job of it.

Well, what he actually said was the following:

The conclusion that morality cannot come from gods seems so obvious to me that I’m baffled why people like Collins and Jacobs believe otherwise. Well, maybe Jacobs just believes that morality doesn’t necessarily come from God, but that religion itself buttresses morality

So you're switching back and forth between god and religion.

Anyway, then you stated the following:

questioning and making adjustments to said covenant are part of the deal

being separate from the keeping of a set of commandments most of which do not even involve what we would call moral issues, is not a concern of "yhvh" but of mankind.

So aren't you making the argument that morality comes from mankind and not from either some god or religion?

aren't you making the argument that morality comes from mankind and not from either some god or religion?

sort of. i'm saying (again) that the IDEA of morality doesn't come from religion and in fact has nothing to do with it, but that MODERN morality (as an evolving idea) has little to do with the "morality" of the ancients and much more to do with religious ideas. i can see how this might be confusing.

again: morality itself is not a religious concept. it's modern form has been heavily influenced by religious concepts.

clear?

perhaps you're looking for a "for instance".

ok: homosexuality was not considered "immoral" by the ancient greeks. the torah of the jews forbade it's practice, and this was interpreted by many to mean that (including some jews, but especially christians and muslims) it is "immoral". we now live in a world where many people take it "on faith" that homosexuality is immoral, in spite of the seemingly obvious fact that it was merely forbidden- with no explanation other than a word loosely translated as "abomination" that also applies, for instance to the eating of shrimp- to the ancient hebrews.yea, many things the god of the hebrews forbade his people which had NOTHING to do with morality, except insofar as people with agendas (are there any other kind?) interpreted it that way.

now we live in a world where a lot of people are saying "hey, wait a minute, homosexuality isn't immoral! god must be wrong!" when, in fact, god never said it was "immoral".

so, as i've been saying for years: in their ignorance, the atheists just happen to be right, though they don't really "get" why this is so. and, on the other hand, in their even greater ignorance, the faithies are wrong- though they, too, don't understand why this is so.

i wish you could step into my shoes for just a moment, joann, to see why i get such a chuckle out of all this. as hard as it's been for me to explain this to atheists over the years, believe me, it's been fun and not ENTIRELY wasted time, whereas i wouldn't even THINK of making these points on a christian or muslim blog.

this is a compliment. be complimented.

Okay, so if I understand you correctly, you're indicating that you understand what the 'god of the hebrews', as evidenced via the Old Testament, is 'saying' (via his spokespersons) more than the xtians and most other people do. The 'ten commandments' were nothing more than suggestions for Hebrews on how to be prosperous as applied to that moment in ancient history.

Well, this means that the Old Testament, and any other such ancient religious texts, are nothing more than advice offered up by the elite long ago. This was the advice from the elites to the hoi poloi which had to do with how to conduct oneself in order to be prosperous. They just used the notion that it was a god who was offering up this advice in order that their suggestions have a stronger influence on the behavior of the hoi poloi.

again: morality itself is not a religious concept. it's modern form has been heavily influenced by religious concepts.

Well, that is precisely what Coyne is arguing when he said the following:

Well, maybe Jacobs just believes that morality doesn’t necessarily come from God, but that religion itself buttresses morality. And in some cases it does, though I much prefer a morality that comes from secular reason than one associated with a despotic sky-father.

What he's saying is that modern religious people interpret the "commandments", or "suggestions", as rules of morality which have the weight of the supreme ruler of the universe behind then, and that we'd all be better off if we just used secular reasoning to determine what is or is not moral.

His statement that morality cannot logically derive from gods still stands because it is mankind who determines what is and is not moral, i.e. what is right or wrong. What is right or wrong has to do with how behavior affects society and should be debated on using modern secular reasoning and not the words written in ancient texts which apply to societies long ago.

And for you pedants, yeah, it's spelled 'hoi polloi'.

you understand what the 'god of the hebrews', as evidenced via the Old Testament, is 'saying' (via his spokespersons) more than the xtians and most other people do.

yes.

The 'ten commandments' were nothing more than suggestions for Hebrews on how to be prosperous

prosperous? what are you talking about? "suggestions"? where are you getting this? they were commandments, to the jewish people alone. full stop. how the jews interpreted them and lived them is called "judaism". their god-given right to interpret them as they chose is right there in the text. (go ahead, ask me where. but check it out yourself before you go and look foolish. hints: jethro, the 70 elders, and tzelophochad's daughters.) how the christians and muslims screwed this idea up is beyond me, but not my problem- just like what you're saying here is not what i've been saying. sigh. the "telephone game".

...advice offered up by the elite..."

wtf? since you don't believe in god, who in any case is not human and therefore not part of any "elite", i assume you're referring to the ancient hebrews- an insignificant extended family of slaves wandering around in the desert and defying their god and his emissary at every opportunity - as an "elite"? gimme a toke 'o that shit, maybe i'll be able to twist it your way.

i have no idea where you're getting this "prosperity" stuff. and if coyne agrees with me, well, well done. as i say, he's right, but he doesn't understand why.

Wow! So right here on 1gm, an atheist blog/forum I've met a guy who understands the supreme ruler of the universe more than anyone else around here. Fancy that. It's almost like talking to the supreme ruler of the universe himself! Holy shit.

their god-given right to interpret them as they chose is right there in the text

Well now, isn't that convenient. I like that idea.

I refer to them as 'suggestions' rather than 'commandments' since you say that it's a-okay to question these 'commandments' and even disobey them, and yet still remain a "religious jew in good standing", so your Hebrew god , I take it, won't be too upset with you not following his 'commandments'. In that context, I would consider them to be suggestions rather than commandments, as you have the right to interpret them as you will. Not much of a commandment if the commandment can be interpreted. Hell, it's not even a suggestion. It has no meaning at all. If my father told me to do something, but I am free to interpret what it is that he's telling me to do or what not to do, well, that means that aren't any rules at all. Cool!

i assume you're referring to the ancient hebrews- an insignificant extended family of slaves wandering around in the desert and defying their god and his emissary at every opportunity - as an "elite"? gimme a toke 'o that shit, maybe i'll be able to twist it your way.

Well, yes of couse, duh. Well, since we all have the right to interpret/twist things any 'ole way that we want to, no problemo.

Alas, those who wrote the text in the Old Testament were just some bozos wandering around in the desert. So the Hebrews believed hook, line and sinker what these other yahoos were telling them? wow...

I get this prosperity shit from you. You're the one telling me that the 'commandments' were intended for the Hebrews cause they were the chosen ones and shit.

By 'prosperity', I mean to multipy and continue to spread the seed of the 'chosen ones'.

If my father told me to do something, but I am free to interpret what it is that he's telling me to do or what not to do, well, that means that aren't any rules at all. Cool!

i take it you didn't have much of a relationship with your father, or even the idea of a "father". as a father, i can tell you that this is EXACTLY what i hope for my kids, and no, it doesn't mean that there "aren't any rules at all". it means that if i am impressed by their interpretation or rearrangement of my "rules", even if they stray from my initial wording, or if they can show me how it doesn't apply in their particular case, i am even more proud of them than if they had simply "obeyed"- because it means that they are THINKING. obedience will only get you so far- god knows. :)

"prosperity" = "chosen"? or "multiplying"? don't get weird on me now. it's not like we haven't been over this before. shit. gimme another toke. (good word to know- "shachta' in hebrew).

if they can show me how it doesn't apply in their particular case, i am even more proud of them than if they had simply "obeyed"- because it means that they are THINKING

or even, i forgot to mention but most important, if they can show me with a logical or even heart-based argument why they cannot or will not, under any circumstances do "my will".

this is what jews DO. it's the historical basis of atheism, and also the reason the christians and muslims have visited so much violence upon us- because we don't "fit the narrative" of the all-good, all-loving, one-sided god who isn't interested in the least in what his "children" might have to say and only cares about obedience or "belief". this is the god that so many otherwise intelligent atheists are wasting their time on, imo- just like the christians and muslims. they've fooled you pretty good. and after all the work we put into you! ingrates. :)

Now give me shachta now

jonathan, did you make this video? ;)

jonathan, did you make this video? ;)

no, but i would love to write for this show, it's one of my favorites.

But of course one of your favorites would be the kind of humor that feeds into your own cultural prejudices. I am also a victim of my own cultural prejudices.

And don't bogart that joint, pass it over to me. I wanna smoke some of that shit which allows me to do anything that I want to 'cause I am free to interpret what the supreme ruler of the universe is telling me via his bozo spokespersons who used to wander around in the desert and shit, and not only that, it is me who understands what this supra natural being really wants. Marvelous.

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