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The Socratic Club A club that Lewis founded at Oxford. A forum devoted to general philosophical and spiritual discussion

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Old 04-14-2012, 01:30 AM
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Default How much is truth essential to a strong moral base?

I've found something here that has somewhat vexed me. As an atheist, I find one of my strongest leanings is towards truth, wherever that may lead. I've been told frequently that atheists have no moral basis.. but I've been told also by chirstian friends of mine that my desire for truth makes me an agnostic (which I am willing to accept, because, frankly, why not? No evidence is no evidence, but it's also not proof of no god).

So.. ultiimately, I guess I'm a little confused/concerned/interested.

If you believe to nearly 100% that someone is lying or misleading you, what are your duties, both as a christian and otherwise, to call them out on it?

I ask, because as an atheist who relies on truth as a watchword and a key point (ask EveningStar, I am relenteless and unyielding to truth, and not afraid of where it may lead), I find myself vexed and frozen by certain things here.

If you know something to be true... or if you have doubts.. and you think other people are being hurt or misled, do you say those doubts, or keep them silent?

If you keep them silent, how do you handle the fact that if you are correct, other people are being hurt?

I realize this is very much an ethical quandry on my behalf, but am just curious.
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Old 04-14-2012, 03:28 AM
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Pardine

I sympathise with your quandry. Obviously, each person believes that their beliefs are the true ones (otherwise they wouldn't believe them) and frequently, to a greater or lesser extent, that others are being hurt by their adherence to incorrect beliefs. It is clearly permissible, and sometimes a moral duty, to attempt to persuade others to change their beliefs.

I think the answer to your question lies in love. In my experience, few if any people are persuaded to change their minds because of evidence alone, at least on significant issues. For most people, evidence doesn't even rank as the highest single factor. Frustrating as that may be for me as a philosopher to accept, it is true (and I am very much aware that I don't form my judgements on the basis of evidence alone either, and I am not convinced that I always ought to do so either).

In seeking to persuade people, therefore, we must think not only about the conclusion we wish to reach (that they change their minds) but about how we go about doing it. Do we show them respect? Do we demonstrate care for them as a person, separate from the things they believe? Do we argue for their benefit or simply to prove ouselves as more intelligent or as better arguers?

If I put together the best argument in the world, but present it in the wrong way, I will not persuade a person to change their mind. If anything, I will make them hold on more stubbornly to their false belief simply to spite me.

Consequently, in deciding whether to try to persuade someone to change their mind on an issue, I need to consider the impact from their own point of view. How much damage is their current belief doing to them? How much improvement would a change of mind bring to them? What are the person's own priorities - do they care about truth, or do they care about people, or do they care about justice, or what? If I am genuinely doing it for their benefit, then seeking to persuade them is the right thing.

It also depends on the context, though. On a public forum such as this one, for example, there is perhaps more scope to test evidence in a more impersonal, more objective kind of way. It still requires respect, obviously, but by participating in the forum a person is implicitly agreeing to have their views challenged and dissected by others. However, discussions on the forum have different purposes and we need to be sensitive to this. Some are to persuade and debate, but others are simply to explore or to understand, and we may make a mistake by debating on a thread that is about trying to understand, for example.

Does that help to answer your questions?

Peeps
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Old 04-14-2012, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Peeps
I think the answer to your question lies in love. In my experience, few if any people are persuaded to change their minds because of evidence alone, at least on significant issues. For most people, evidence doesn't even rank as the highest single factor. Frustrating as that may be for me as a philosopher to accept, it is true (and I am very much aware that I don't form my judgements on the basis of evidence alone either, and I am not convinced that I always ought to do so either).
I agree with Peeps. If it's a clear case of someone telling drivers the bridge up ahead is safe, and you know for a fact it has been washed out -- you have an obligation to share the truth and ASAP.

But in other matters ... if you felt, for instance, that all the Christianity promulgated here was bound to hurt the young people who come in contact with it, because you have been hurt by other Christians, I think you would have to consider long and hard before sharing your truth with them and encouraging them to turn away from Christianity. And you might not even be effective unless you had already established a relationship with the particular person you were trying to dissuade ...

In philosophical issues, of course, it's difficult to judge when you can frankly say you have the truth. We all believe we do, but there is no concrete/scientific evidence for one philosophy over the other. The best we can claim is faith, and the proof of how our lives are different because of our philosophy?
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Old 04-14-2012, 12:58 PM
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Do not fear, Inky,

It has nothing to do with religion , per se, or any desire to "guide people to atheism" or the like. It's more a "do I open my mouth or keep it shut when I see people playing games with other people's emotions?"
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Old 04-14-2012, 02:00 PM
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My answer would be that trust has inherent value. Some folk believe that their God, Goddess or Gods arbitrarily gives certain things righteousness or sinfulness. That depending upon the whim of the almighty, incest might become a duty, murder an act of faith and marital fidelity a mortal sin.

I don't think so.

There are certain eternal truths...they take their truth from the rules of formal logic which, I might add, I believe to be the systems that govern God's sanity. Take away sanity and you take away truth because sanity is the ability to distinguish between what is and what isn't.

If we are sane, we would value some of the same things a God, Goddess or Gods would value and for the same reason. We have sanity. And because lies in a system of beings manipulates the ability to tell what is from what isn't, it also manipulates collective sanity causing society (the prey) to be less sane due to the deceptions of the criminal (the predator).
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Old 04-14-2012, 05:15 PM
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Default i've been reading the esstional C.S. Lewis and his book might help you with this ques

i hope this book recomendation helps you with your questions a little bit, The Essential C.S Lewis, C.S. Lewis was an atheist before he became a believer,
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Old 04-14-2012, 05:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pardine
Do not fear, Inky,

It has nothing to do with religion , per se, or any desire to "guide people to atheism" or the like. It's more a "do I open my mouth or keep it shut when I see people playing games with other people's emotions?"
Pardine

Perhaps you can't do this without opening up the debate itself, but could you give some examples of the kind of thing you have in mind?

Peeps
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Old 04-15-2012, 04:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Pardine View Post
If you believe to nearly 100% that someone is lying or misleading you, what are your duties, both as a christian and otherwise, to call them out on it?
If it's something trivial and nobody is getting hurt, I'm not gonna be bothered about it. Sheesh! If I had to do that every time someone lies to me I'll go crazy. I have a life.
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