Why are discussions about morality so futile?

The reason is simple; our ethical systems are completely different. The christian sysem is “deontological” (rule or command based), while the secular system (mine and other atheists with whom I conversed) is mostly “consequentialist”. Not fully, because we consider the “end” and the “means” equally important.

For the deontological approach the main emphasis is on obedience. The result is at best secondary, or more likely irrelevant. Looking at the example of Abraham, it would have been “moral” for Abraham to go ahead and kill his son, if God would not have stopped the execution. This proves that obedience is much more important than the “usual” moral consideration against murder. Also looking at Genesis, the “original sin” was disobedience.

For the consequentialist the means and the outcome are relevant, while the “intent” is not important. If someone does a lot of good deeds just to be proud of himself, the christian view condemns him for “pride” (mortal sin!), and disregards the good deeds. The consequentialist does not care about the intent, the good deeds are sufficient.

The christian system is not consistent. On one hand it says that “good deeds” are not sufficient to have an act be considered moral, unless the “intent” was also good - in other words, the deed cannot be “intrinsically good”. On the other hand it declares that some actions are “intrinisically evil”, even if those deeds are beneficial or neutral. Ho-hum! :shrug: Just another inconsistency, of course - among the many.

No wonder that there is no common ground.

Mine is neither. Mine is based in conversion of heart, and following one’s heart, trusting in the conversion process.

Original Sin is rebellion against the One Life that is the source of all life. In Abraham’s time, there was nothing at all like a "‘usual’ moral consideration against murder. You live and were early formed in a society shaped by Christian values, and many good ones have rubbed off. They are from God, they are not what man would be in his natural state, i.e. without the influence of grace.

Man can only judge the action, while God judges the heart. But from a good heart comes good actions, and from a bad heart bad. So my way is antecedent to yours.

:shrug: It is indeed more difficult to be good than it is to be evil.

I think you misunderstand the nature of Christian Morality.

“You shall follow the law that is written on your hearts”. The Old Testament, the Covenant of Moses gave to Israel a Law written in Stone, and expounded upon by the High Priests. It was legalistic, and prohibitive. It was about obedience to that law.

The Christian Covenant has but 2 Laws:

  1. Love the Lord your God with All your Heart, All your Soul, and All your Strength.
  2. Love your neighbour as yourself.

The moral Law written on our hearts is, in Catholic Theology, referred to as “Natural Law”.
This is derived from looking at the world around us and what the Lord has revealed to us in His Creation, and it is further informed by what he has revealed to us in His Word.

The examples set in the Old Testament tell of a pedagogical period where the Lord was educating His People and bringing them to the point of the Coming of the Messiah.
We are no longer in that time.

When the church tells us that some act is Intrinsically Evil, it is with good cause and with direct attributable harm caused to the sinner, the victim of the sin, or to society as a whole.

If something is defined as a sin that is because it either causes harm, or has unmitigated and unreasonably high chance of causing harm. This could be to the sinner, a third party or to the broader society.

We have discussed one or two areas in detail in the past, but if my memory serves me correctly you have tended to directly reject our arguments about the direct or indirect harms caused or in some cases called significant harms “good”. There is a significant frame of reference issue causing part of this. You and I currently lack the ability to see certain issues from the same viewpoint or to consider some of the others views as valid. this causes severe difficulty in reaching any form of meaningful resolution to those discussions.

I hope and pray that the reason you are on this forum is that at some level you are truly open to learning and changing your views. I pray the Lord will work in your heart and lead you to His Grace.

On the topic of Obedience. the current teaching of the Catholic Church is clear that blind obedience does not mitigate ones culpability for committing a gravely immoral act. One is subject to the guidance of your own conscience, but that must be properly formed and informed.

… " You’re not the boss of me. " …

…" You have no right to tell me what to do. " …

Another person who doesn’t understand the concept of mortal sin.

and disregards the good deeds. The consequentialist does not care about the intent, the good deeds are sufficient.

So a molester giving candy to a child to gain its trust is doing a good deed?

Calling Christian morality rule based is a gross simplification, but it is true that Christians say that morality exists because there is a Good to follow, and see consequentialism as pretty much just wrong. That is, the Christian says that we should strive for good effects, but only within the bounds of good actions.

I think our main problem is that Christians simply don’t believe that morality can be self generating. Most atheists I have talked to have said we should behave morally “because it works,” or sometimes “because enough people think it works that they easily can and will hit you with a big stick if you don’t.” The problem is that doesn’t create any kind of binding should, only another layer of consequences - a person can rationally completely and totally ignore such a morality if he 1) doesn’t like it and 2) is willing to put up with people trying to hit him with big sticks. It doesn’t make any action actually good or bad, or even inherently wise or wise.

Which means that nothing, not genocide or murder or rape or anything, is actually bad under such a system. There is no good or bad. Just ways to avoid getting hit by a big stick, and ways to convince yourself that it’s ok to hit others with a big stick if they do something you don’t like.

Which, so far as I’m concerned, is not morality at all, but just a useless mind game. It becomes a game of what you can get away with doing to get what you want.

As for this:

[quote=Tyrion]The christian system is not consistent. On one hand it says that “good deeds” are not sufficient to have an act be considered moral, unless the “intent” was also good - in other words, the deed cannot be “intrinsically good”. On the other hand it declares that some actions are “intrinisically evil”, even if those deeds are beneficial or neutral. Ho-hum! Just another inconsistency, of course - among the many.
[/quote]

You’re just wrong. You’re making the error of saying “not (for all x phi(x) ) = for all x (not phi(x))”. That is, an action becomes immoral if a single one of the conditions for it to be moral is missing, not only if they all disappear. An action is intrinsically evil if the “this is an acceptable thing to do” condition is always missing.

Guilt for an action is of course different. You appear to be confusing an action being objectively immoral and an action being sinful as well. Good intent (insofar as it is part of lack of knowledge and not just doing something that is known to be evil in an attempt to bring about good, knowing also that that is evil) and lack of knowledge and coercion can lessen or eliminate a person’s guilt for a bad act, but do not change whether or not the act was acceptable in itself.

Discussions of morality are futile because we are to live morality, not discuss it. The world will know who Christ is if we love one another. There’s nothing inconsistent about the lot of it.

When’s the last time you heard a homily about Hell?

Why are discussions about morality so futile?

From what I can see, it is because of ignorance.

Well, some Protestant groups might be deontological, but mostly deontological moral thought stems from Kant, who held that unless an act stemmed from some imperative (sense of obedience or duty), it was not per se moral (which does not seem to have indicated that it was necessarily immoral).

Moreover, morality cannot be based solely on obedience–there must be other aspects lest one obeys and does wrong–we cannot evaluate whether or not to obey without standards other than obedience.

For the deontological approach the main emphasis is on obedience. The result is at best secondary, or more likely irrelevant. Looking at the example of Abraham, it would have been “moral” for Abraham to go ahead and kill his son, if God would not have stopped the execution. This proves that obedience is much more important than the “usual” moral consideration against murder. Also looking at Genesis, the “original sin” was disobedience.

Yes. If I went into a potter’s workshop and picked up a vase and threw it on the floor, that would be the destruction of another’s work without his permission or against his will, no? But if the potter *told *me to break the vase, it would be a different thing altogether.

In the same way, God *created *Isaac. Isaac belonged more to God than to Abraham.

The Catholic view is that obedience is a virtue among and equal to other virtues. It is not the basis for morality; thus, to call Catholic morality deontological is inaccurate.

For the consequentialist the means and the outcome are relevant, while the “intent” is not important. If someone does a lot of good deeds just to be proud of himself, the christian view condemns him for “pride” (mortal sin!), and disregards the good deeds. The consequentialist does not care about the intent, the good deeds are sufficient.

That’s kind of naive and short-sighted of the consequentialist, isn’t it? Completely aside from the inner development of the person, there is always the potential for people to fall under the power of someone who does a great deal of good, like those landlords in the old movies who let widowed mothers of pretty girls slide on the rent and then damanded the daughters.

The christian system is not consistent. On one hand it says that “good deeds” are not sufficient to have an act be considered moral, unless the “intent” was also good - in other words, the deed cannot be “intrinsically good”. On the other hand it declares that some actions are “intrinisically evil”, even if those deeds are beneficial or neutral. Ho-hum! :shrug: Just another inconsistency, of course - among the many.

If an act is “beneficial or neutral,” then it is not intrinsically evil. The fact that you or even many people are mistaken about its moral nature does not render *us *inconsistent; it just means that you do not understand why we consider it evil.

Also, I am not sure that you really understand the meaning if intrinsically evil. It is not a comment on the person committing the act; it is a comment on the nature of the act in itself, aside from other aspects which enter into the question of the morality of an act. Since individual acts can be rendered immoral by several things, there cannot be an intrisically good act, but there can be intrinsically evil acts.

No wonder that there is no common ground. [/FONT]

Well, since there is not a common understanding of how to judge morally, there is no common ground. We do not lack common ground because we are deontological, since we are not; we lack common ground because we are coming from completely different places.

This is America and we don’t call anyone ignorant.

Besides, we have self-esteem issues.

My previous reply was based on extending the benefit of a very large and looming doubt about your sincerity. However, since the topic is morality, an honest assessment of your motive is actually in order here.

The real reason discussions about morality are so futile with certain individuals when they ask for the Catholic view is, the Catholic view is truth-based, and the view of said individuals is advantage-based. If said individuals had the pure motive of seeking the truth, the discussions would not be futile. But if said individuals are only seeking their own agendas and not the truth, then according to Catholicism, the real motive behind their asking the question in the first place, is immoral. They are not truly seeking correct morality but they are seeking rather to justify their own agendas. They are already aware that their agendas are at odds with the Church’s agenda, so they come to the Church as to an enemy rather than as to the necessary help to their salvation. So it is lack of sincerity on the part of the one ostensibly seeking the truth, that is to blame for the futility of the exchange.

It is a well-known and widely accepted fact, that a human being cannot predict all of the outcomes of any particular action. Both Scripture and common sense attest this fact, so there can be no excuse for the atheist who claims Scripture is wrong, since his common sense agrees with Scripture on this point. A human being can, however, predict his own motive, and can with complete freedom decide either to act or not to act on any particular motive. That is why Catholic morality is motive-based and action-based, rather than result-based. It is realistic, as we do not control our results, rather we control our actions, and our decisions as to whether we act on a particular motive or abstain from acting because of a moral restraint.

Hi Tyrion, I think you’ve mistaken the concept here.

“Good deeds”, or acts which are in themselves good (for example, feeding the hungry), are not sufficient for an action undertaken by an agent to be moral; necessary, yes, sufficient, no. Why? Because when we are asking if something done is moral, we are asking either (i) is it moral “for me” to do or (ii) am I being moral. Now, certainly actions like feeding the hungry may very well be good actions, and so be moral for me to do, but if my intention in feeding the hungry is solely to get fame, then my action might not be a moral one: I might do good, but not be good.

Christianity is concerned a lot more with being than doing, that’s why “intent” is so important while consequences are not.

So, to get back to what you said above: an act can be intrinsically good; however, the totality of an action for the being of a moral agent might not be.

And we can see why this is the case.

Having sex with my wife is a good act. However, if she has just undergone an operation and the doctor told her not to engage in strenuous activity for a month until she heals or else she might get worse, and if I know this but just want to get pleasure regardless, then although the act engaged in might be good, because the circumstances and intent are not, the totality of the action for my being is not moral. I hope that makes sense! hehe

Slight correction here: obedience is inferior to charity. If there is ever a conflict between the two, we are to adhere to charity rather than obedience. The virtue of charity actually IS the basis for morality, unlike the virtue of obedience. I would say that obedience, particularly in one who has taken a vow of obedience, comes second only to charity.

You say that the conversations are futile. What end are you trying to achieve? What do you want to change about Catholics and their morality?

Thank you :slight_smile: I am still learning about all this.

He isn’t trying to reach an end. As usual he’s just trying to make others angry.

Actually, that’s what a lot of Christians seem to think that a lot of atheists think. Well, maybe some of them do and there are certain aspects of morality where perhaps a big stick does come in handy. But let me give you an example to show that, at least, for me, it doesn’t carry a lot of weight.

I’ll be going out with the family tonight for a birthday celebration. I’ll be having a few pre-dinner drinks and there’ll be plenty of wine on the table, so I know that come closing time I shall be, how shall we say, a little relaxed. So I won’t be taking the car.

Now there are two reasons to not drink and drive. One is that if you are caught doing it, you may well lose your license and suffer a heavy fine. That’s the big stick. The other is, obviously, that my driving skills will be impaired and I’ll be at a greater risk of causing an accident. The reason I won’t be taking the car is the second one.

The first really doesn’t come into play because I have realised that it is actually immoral to drink and drive and to put other road users at risk. This comes from my not unreasonable realisation that many lives could be changed for the worst and I can empathise with anyone whose life would be affected in that way.

The big stick obviously needs to be there to discourage those who haven’t reached that decision that it is actually immoral to drink and drive. But it shouldn’t be the reason why you don’t do it. Just, I guess, as it would be for a Christian to argue that he doesn’t murder simply because he wants to avoid going to hell.

I’m sure we could find some common ground. :wink:

Consider “hate crime laws”–that’s a modern, more typically secularist way of saying intent matters. Some people think it’s not enough to punish a criminal for committing a crime–some want to punish them extra for what the criminal thought before or while committing the crime. And then there are countless “feel good” things people do where the outcome matters little and the feelings matter most.

For me, I believe intent does matter, but the actions matter too–and I’m also interested in outcome. For instance, in my own life, I’m sometimes motivated to do right actions because I am concerned about the final outcome of where I spend eternity.

Don’t be so sure we don’t have some common ground.

It’s not based around “obedience”, it’s based around “obedience toward God”.
Ignoring love toward God or fear of God, there is a simple / logical explanation as to why someone should obey God: God is omniscient and infinitely just.
In the Abraham example, Abraham’s “moral consideration” is completely irrelevant, as God himself, being omniscient, is in the better position to make the call (and being infinitely just, would never make the wrong call).

The christian system is not consistent. On one hand it says that “good deeds” are not sufficient to have an act be considered moral, unless the “intent” was also good - in other words, the deed cannot be “intrinsically good”. On the other hand it declares that some actions are “intrinisically evil”, even if those deeds are beneficial or neutral. Ho-hum! :shrug: Just another inconsistency, of course - among the many.

It’s not inconsistent… you’re just defining “act” incorrectly. The “act” is not just the ends… the “act” also includes the means/intent. An act is “intrincially good” if the ends are good AND the means are good. It is “intrinsically evil” is the ends are evil OR the means are evil. There’s really nothing inconsistent about it. I understand that your point is that you don’t believe that the means/intent make any difference, but that’s your opinion and has nothing to do with the Christian system being flawed.

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