The Instigator
Danielle
Pro (for)
Winning
91 Points
The Contender
popculturepooka
Con (against)
Losing
50 Points

Secular ethics ought to be prioritized over religious ethics in the legislative process.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 25 votes the winner is...
Danielle
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/2/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,920 times Debate No: 12890
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (37)
Votes (25)

 

Danielle

Pro

In America, we use John Locke's concept of the social contract theory to determine law. Locke argued that the government could not act on behalf of a collective conscience, and that individual conscience must be protected from government authority [1]. As such, religious differences ought to be tolerated. The concept of a separation between church and state therefore refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state [2]. In other words, it becomes not only unconstitutional but downright unethical to allow the beliefs of one particular religion to dictate the law that governs all citizens. As such, a different standard of ethics must be applied to law.

Secular Humanism is a philosophy that espouses reason, ethics, and justice, and specifically rejects supernatural and religious dogma as the basis of morality and decision making. It is a life stance that focuses on the way human beings can lead good, happy and functional lives morally consistent with the ethics that govern their fellow man [3]. It should be noted that secular ethics do not necessarily oppose or inherently contradict religious ethics. Certain sets of moral beliefs, such as the golden rule or a commitment to non-violence, could be held by both positions and mutually agreed upon [4].

Let's consider the reality that not everybody believes in the same god (or rules), yet laws are intended to govern all citizens regardless of creed. As such, the first problem in prioritizing religious ethics is not knowing which religious ethics to follow. Using secular ethics, we can find ways to determine moral codes of conduct applicable to all people without showing a preference or tolerance for one religious perspective over another.

For instance, Buddhists typically stand united in defense of legalizing gay marriage [5], while fundamental evangelicals vehemently rally against it [6]. Some even rightly point out that homosexuals would be condemned to death if people applied Biblical law to constitutional law, which stands contrary to the moral code espoused by groups such as the Human Rights Campaign. Therefore, if we plan to prioritize religious over secular reasoning, one of the most pressing concerns is not knowing which religious doctrine to adhere to. Imposing one particular creed on citizens against their will is tyranny, and why many original settlers came to America in the first place.

Another problem lies in the fact that no human nor scientific measure can either prove or disprove the existence of god [7]. As such, we have no reason to apply religious ethics over secular ethics when secularism is based on tangible, verifiable standards, and the basis for religious ethics is questionable, at best. Also, remember that religious ethics and secular ethics do not always disagree. When they do, we must realize that secularism offers a reasonable and logically sound basis for determining ethics, making it is a morally superior standard to something we cannot fully rationalize. These concerns make religion an insufficient standard for law making.

Con may try to argue that law should dictate right and wrong, therefore if the secularist position is wrong and the religious position is right, that the religious standard ought to be prioritized over the secular. First, how would it be determined that the secular position is wrong? I contend that secular reasoning would generally lead to this observation. Nevertheless, one must consider why law was derived in the first place.

When people live together in society, disputes inevitably arise. There are only two ways to resolve these disputes: violently or peacefully. Because violence has high costs and produces unpredictable results, human beings naturally seek peaceful alternatives [8]. As such, laws are created to resolve discrepancies in the way people live, act and trade. Rules that govern these aspects of life need not be determined by a supreme being or creator, but are in fact feasibly reconciled by the rational individuals who determine the necessity of law in the first place.

In short, legislative law exists solely for our convenience to live peacefully in a functional society. If one chooses to follow a religious code of moral conduct, they are free to do so in their personal lives. However considering there is no evidence for god nor is there absolute evidence to prove that the Bible or any other religious book accurately portrays god's desires, then again we come to the conclusion that secular ethics ought to be prioritized in the legislative process. There we have concrete answers to reconcile disputes whereas with religion we do not.

Furthermore, let us consider the ways in which sometimes religions call upon people to (violently) harm others or contradict modern science or standards of morality. For instance, Bishop John Shelby Spong rightly points out, "...texts from the source we call Holy Scripture have been used in the past to defend the divine right of kings and to oppose the Magna Carta; to condemn Galileo and to assert that the sun does indeed rotate around the earth; to justify slavery, segregation and apartheid; to keep women from being educated, entering the professions, voting or being ordained; to justify war, to persecute and kill Jews; to condemn other world religions; and to continue the oppression and rejection of gay and lesbian people" [9]. This is proof that upholding religious ethics can have devastating effects on individuals and even entire nations. Religious ethics are not infallible or able to be defended as inherently righteous simply by applying the word "god."

Moreover, there is still an ongoing debate about whether or not morality is objective or subjective [10]. Even if morality is indeed objective, it does not have to be rooted in religion. There are many philosophies that espouse an objective standard of morality without relying on god(s) as a divine law giver [11]. Still, the fact that there is such a widespread dispute about the nature of ethics and morality proves that human beings - whom laws are intended to govern - should have an active say in the rules that govern their lives. If they don't, they are nothing more than oppressed slaves.

Philosophers all through the ages have widely agreed that self-governance was a good, moral standard [12]. Even if one looks to religion to evaluate their own ethics, I fail to see why everyone shouldn't have that same opportunity to either choose or not choose whether or not religious ideals will play a part in their standard of life. If not, what right do believers have to impose that standard upon them? I eagerly look forward to Con's questions and rebuttal.

== Re-Cap of Pro's Arguments ==

1. We can't prove god exists making it an irrational basis for morality.
2. Even if god(s) existed, his/her exact desires are disputable.
3. Following religious dogma has been problematic in the past.
4. The law is applicable to everyone, yet religious beliefs on morality vary and we don't know which are right.
5. The government cannot speak on behalf of all religious morality.
6. The government imposing religion is oppressive tyranny.
7. A separation of church and state is right and necessary to respect rights.
8. Secular humanism is a logical philosophy with reasonable ethics.
9. We are capable and willing of governing ourselves ethically using this system.

10. Conclusion: Secular ethics ought to be prioritized over religious ethics in the legislative process.

[1] Feldman, Noah. Divided by God. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2005. pg. 29
[2] http://tinyurl.com...
[3] http://tinyurl.com...
[4] http://tinyurl.com...
[5] http://tinyurl.com...
[6] http://tinyurl.com...
[7] http://tinyurl.com...
[8] http://tinyurl.com...
[9] http://tinyurl.com...
[10] http://tinyurl.com...
[11] http://tinyurl.com...
[12] http://tinyurl.com...
popculturepooka

Con

Thanks to theLwerd for challenge; this should be a good debate.

theLwerd propounds a common strain of argument(s) against religious beliefs being involved in the legislative process but I shall argue that this line of argument is faulty. I shall also point out how there seems to be special pleading and double standards here; many of the reasons L offers for secular ethics being prioritized over religious ethics can equally be applied to secular ethics and philosophies. If the same line of reasoning can be applied to her own position how is it that religious ethics are to be singled out and excluded from the legislative process? My answer is there is no good reason for this to be so.

L's arguments for the prioritization of secular ethics seem to fall into groups so I will try to deal with them in each section.

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We can't know for certain God exists/God's intentions whereas secular ethics doesn't have that issue with ambiguities
==========

L states in various places: "Another problem lies in the fact that no human nor scientific measure can either prove or disprove the existence of god. As such, we have no reason to apply religious ethics over secular ethics when secularism is based on tangible, verifiable standards, and the basis for religious ethics is questionable, at best ...However considering there is no evidence for god nor is there absolute evidence to prove that the Bible or any other religious book accurately portrays god's desires, then again we come to the conclusion that secular ethics ought to be prioritized in the legislative process. There we have concrete answers to reconcile disputes whereas with religion we do not."

I think there are some good arguments for God's existence [1] but I want to challenge an assumption here - does one need proof for a certain class of beliefs in order for them to be considered rational? It doesn't seem to be true. For one that leads us to a nasty, nasty, regress problem where you have to provide proof ad infinitum for any substantive claim and for two there are certain beliefs that I don't need to proof for but nonetheless rationally hold. The reliability of my memory for instance. I could not produce an argument for the reliability of my memory without first presupposing that my memory is reliable which is clearly question begging. Surely I'm still rational for holding that *in general* my memory can be trusted. Why could not belief in God be considered one of these basic beliefs?

I also want to question the sometimes explicit and implicit argument L makes here - that secular ethics are somehow verifiable or tangible in a way religious ethics are not. This seems false to me. Secular ethics covers a wide variety of philosophical systems - everything from utilitarianism to virtue ethics to Kantian ethics. There is just as much diversity and disagreement among secular people on which ethical system to use as there is among religious people. As L points out there's still disagreement among secular philosophers and laypeople if morals are subjective, objective, or just don't exist at all. That hardly seems to paint the picture that secular ethics can provide definitive answers whereas religious ethics cannot!

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Imposing Religious ethics would be unfair/unjust because not everyone is religious
=========

L notes: "Let's consider the reality that not everybody believes in the same god (or rules), yet laws are intended to govern all citizens regardless of creed...Therefore, if we plan to prioritize religious over secular reasoning, one of the most pressing concerns is not knowing which religious doctrine to adhere to. Imposing one particular creed on citizens against their will is tyranny, and why many original settlers came to America in the first place...I fail to see why everyone shouldn't have that same opportunity to either choose or not choose whether or not religious ideals will play a part in their standard of life. If not, what right do believers have to impose that standard upon them?"

The basic argument seems to be that because not everyone is religious or doesn't believe God exists (or believes in a different God) secular ethics should be given priority. The problem is if the line of reasoning were extended this would apply to pretty much every ethical system. If it is to be argued that religious ethics shall be de-prioritized because America is a religiously diverse nation then by the SAME token it can be argued that *secular* ethics should be de-prioritized due to America being a secularly diverse nation. Not everyone will endorse the same secular ethical theory so it'd be unjust and tyrannical for any legislative process o be influenced by a particular secular ethical theory. This leaves us at an impasse where it seems that that no system of ethics, religious or secular, should be involved in the legislative process. Obviously this is impractical and absurd so there must be something wrong with the line of argumentation; if the same line of reasoning can be applied to L's position then how is that secular ethics are to be prioritized over religious ethics? It seems Pro is excluding one option unfairly and engaging in special pleading when there is no relevant difference between the lines of reasoning between both cases.

==========
The Dangers of Religion
==========

L points out that: "Furthermore, let us consider the ways in which sometimes religions call upon people to (violently) harm others or contradict modern science or standards of morality. For instance, Bishop John Shelby Spong rightly points out, '...texts from the source we call Holy Scripture have been used in the past to defend the divine right of kings and to oppose the Magna Carta; to condemn Galileo and to assert that the sun does indeed rotate around the earth; to justify slavery, segregation and apartheid; to keep women from being educated, entering the professions, voting or being ordained; to justify war, to persecute and kill Jews; to condemn other world religions; and to continue the oppression and rejection of gay and lesbian people" [9]. This is proof that upholding religious ethics can have devastating effects on individuals and even entire nations. Religious ethics are not infallible or able to be defended as inherently righteous simply by applying the word 'god.'"

This applies equally well to secular ethics. Secular ethics and philosophies have been used to justify numerous breaches of ethics to say the least. Any one looking at the history of 20th century will note that most of the brutalities of that century were committed in the name of a secular cause - communism, nationalism, fascism, economic strife, etc.

This blanket prioritization of secular ethics over religious ethics is strange to me - after all, the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, and movements against communism, fascism, and apartheid were explicitly motivated by religious ethics and beliefs. Ought secular ethics have been prioritized then when these people motivated almost purely by religious reasons seeked to influence legislation that effected everyone - religious and non-religious alike? All Ls' arguments amount to proving is that some religious reasons can be bad to allow to have influence in the legislative process. So what? This gives us no reason to prioritize secular ethics over religious ethics - because the exact same can be said of *secular reasons*.

I contend that Pro has not successfully shown that secular ethics should be prioritized over religious ethics in the legislative process as the arguments she uses to show this apply equally well to her own position. This leads us to the conclusion that neither secular nor religious ethics should be prioritized in the legislative process and either should be analyzed on their own merits.

I will deal with the other objections next round if space permits.

=========
Sources
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[1] http://www.theapologi...
Debate Round No. 1
Danielle

Pro

Many thanks to my opponent for accepting this debate. He has four main contentions in response to my arguments, which I will break down numerically for clarity:

1) One doesn't need proof for a certain class of beliefs in order for them to be considered rational.

----> In order to be considered a rational belief, it must be consistent with known facts in reality and adhere to the laws of logic [1]. To me and many others, the concept of god does not fall within either or both of those categories. While Con's link attempts to present logical arguments for the existence god, that alone is not enough to present a logical basis for certain religious beliefs. For instance, I pointed out in the last round that most Christians are vehemently opposed to gay marriage. While the argument that marriage is a religious institution has merit, the undeniable reality that it's also a political institution (consider the innumerable political effects of marriage) gives the religious argument against gay marriage no basis, so why would one wish to impose their religious ethics into law? Many Christians, especially Evangelicals, are also opposed to civil unions [2]. What logical or rational basis is there for imposing one's oppressive beliefs onto another non-believer on the basis of religion alone?

2) Secular ethics are just as unreliable as religious ethics considering there are many secular systems.

----> There are many religious systems, and I never suggested Con must defend one or all of them. Instead, I posit that he must defend espousing religious ethics in determining law on the basis of religion alone instead of applying secular reasoning. This also means that I don't have to defend every secular ideal. Instead, I have to explain why using secular reasoning is preferable. This leads us to Con's next point...

3) If it is to be argued that religious ethics shall be de-prioritized because America is a religiously diverse nation then by the SAME token it can be argued that secular ethics should be de-prioritized due to America being a secularly diverse nation. Not everyone will endorse the same secular ethical theory, so it'd be unjust for any legislative process to be influenced by a particular secular theory.

----> This is a straw man of Pro's position. Here Con says that a particular secular ethical theory would be applied, when the resolution only contends secular ethics (reasoning from a secular basis) be applied. In other words, that human faculties such as logic, reason, or moral intuition be used to determine law, instead of law making being derived from purported supernatural revelation or guidance. It makes NO such mention of ANY secular theory over another, and simply contends that god be left out of the legislative process.

Con's contention only helps prove my case. He acknowledges that there are all kinds of religious beliefs and ideals, so it follows we do not know (can not prove) which is right and which is wrong. Moreover, Con hasn't told us why one has any right to impose their standard of right and wrong upon another. My supposition that god should be left out of law making therefore makes even more sense according to Con's concession of religious diversity. Murray Rothbard once said, "It is not the business of the law to make anyone good or reverent or moral or clean or upright." In the last round I pointed out the purpose of law and how it was derived: out of necessity to solve disputes, for our convenience to live peacefully in a functional society.

Here Con tries to say that because both religious and secular diversity exists (in terms of ethics), we have no reason to prioritize the secular. However this is completely false; we have every reason to prioritize the secular in order to respect people's right to adhere to their own belief system - religious or not. This is a SECULAR concept. A religious legal system (theocracy) would promote espousing one objective belief stance over another. However we can come to the secular rationalization (and have, since the inception of this country) in personal freedoms including the liberty to adhere to one's own moral standard. If Con, as a Christian, does not believe in abortion, then he need not have one (or instruct his girlfriend/wife to get one). However he has yet to explain why he should have the authority to enact his religious belief into legislation.

Furthermore, in the last round I pointed out that religious ethics and secular ethics were not always at odds. The concept to be considered in this debate is the basis of reasoning. Should human rationality be the basis of reasoning for law making, or should god? Well even if the religious belief that abortion is wrong is the correct objective moral standard, I've contended that we can come to that realization using secular reasoning. This again leads us nicely to Con's final point...

4) We have no reason to prioritize secular over religious ethics, because both systems have led to atrocities.

---> Applying secular reasoning leaves room for rectifying mistakes. Many religions presume god to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. As such they follow holy books verbatim regardless of how devastating the effects might be. Even the Christian Bible (New Testament) condones slavery in many instances; here's one -- "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ" (Ephesians 6:5-9).

Therefore, when Con says things like the abolishment of slavery were motivated by religious beliefs, I say nay. Something like the abolishment of slavery was fostered by secular rationalization which people decided to apply to Biblical and other religious teachings. Otherwise, if they followed the Bible explicitly, they'd be telling the slaves to obey their masters as they do Christ (which they did tell them back when slavery was still legal). Here we can see how the Bible could be explicitly used to defend legalized slavery.

However, the "travesties" that Con mentioned - i.e. communism, fascism and nationalism (which is only his opinion -- many people love nationalism and communism, by the way) aren't even good examples of ethical institutions but political ones. Secular humanism seeks justice. Religious ethics seek "god's justice" but we don't even know if god exists or what god wants. We know human reason exists and that human beings want freedom, justice and certain rights. Therefore it is far more preferable and reasonable to make human law based on human reason. After all if we can't trust human reason, then we have no reason to accept religious philosophy considering the concept of god (and the "proof" Con tried to present for god) exists only as the result of human's capacity to reason that god exists.

Point: I don't have to defend all secular philosophies just as Con does not have to defend all religious philosophies. Instead, I support secular ideals for law making. Secular humanism is simply the notion that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without being religious. Con has not proven in any way that this is not possible, or that we need to prioritize religious beliefs in order to come to the best legislative decisions.

== Conclusion ==

Con has ignored my questions as to what authority the law has to force one's religious beliefs upon another's (which is oppressive, tyrannical and contrary to American standards of law). Instead he says secularism does the same thing. On the contrary, the secular notion of not imposing ANY religious belief on another is what I have advocated, i.e. upholding the notion of separation of Church and State. Also, one can use secular reasoning to determine which set of ethics is best instead of just accepting "god's law" or will. We don't need god for moral reasoning.

[1] http://tinyurl.com...
[2] http://tinyurl.com...
popculturepooka

Con

Again, thanks to Lwerd.

I will order my responses according to Pros numbering.

1) Pro says that the concept of God is not considered rational to her and others but the rejoinder here is easy: I don't consider the concept of secular ethics rational. That has no bearing on whether the concept is actually rational or not. Pro takes that to be a great asset of secular reasoning and ethics.

1a) There is a logical or rational basis for imposing one's "oppressive" beliefs onto a non-believer on the basis of religion alone if that particularly religious belief is conducive to peace which is what Pro mentioned as the purpose of law. I noted that earlier with examples of opposition to slavery, apartheid and no civil rights for minorities who's proponents endeavored to influence the legislative process with basis ground mostly, if not entirely, in religious ethics.
It is no good to point to specific religious beliefs like opposition to gay marriage or civil unions viewed as dangerous and unjust and then argue from that that no religious ethics ought to be prioritized in the legislative process because, again, an analogous situation can drawn with secular ethics.

2) Fair enough.

3) I misconstrued Pro's position slightly. Apologies. But, the objection can easily be modified to be applied to secular ethics in general. If it's argued that religious ethics ought to be de-prioritized because not everyone is religious and would not accept the reasoning behind the legislative process then by the same token it ought to be that secular ethics ought to be de-prioritized because not everyone is secular and would not accept the reasoning behind the legislative process. The main thrust of my argument is that Pro argues that references to God (i.e. religious ethics) ought to be left out be legislative process due to reasons x, y, and z but yet, similarly, the same type of reasoning Pro uses to argue for that conclusion can also be applied Pro's own position. It's special pleading to reject the thesis that at least some of the time religious ethics should be given priority over secular ethics in influencing the legislative process on certain grounds when, by those same reasons and grounds, Pro should also reject the thesis that secular ethics should be prioritized over religious ethics in the legislative process.

3a) I did not make the claim that because there a variety of religious beliefs and ideals that we cannot know which ones are right or wrong. What I said was the exact same problem plagues secular ethics/beliefs so proclamations of secular ethics coming to definitive answers where as religious ethics cannot are premature and should be rejected a reason to prioritize secular ethics over religious ethics in the legislative process. I agree with Pro's purpose of the law but this still doesn't make it clear that secular ethics ought be prioritized as it could very well be that some religiously influence legislative process is more conducive to peace than some secularly influenced legislative process. Like, say, belief that God prohibits murder contrasted with everybody must dispose of their gas-guzzling cars and trade them in for electric ones.

And of course I have the right to impose my standard of right and wrong on someone if I believe murder is wrong and I further belief that anyone who murders ought to be punished due to my standard.

3b) Pro claims that notion of respecting peoples' right to adhere to their own belief system is a secular concept. Actually it is not. The concept of religious tolerance came from earlier religious thinkers - not from any secular sources. For example Thomas Aquinas wrote: "Augustine says (Tract. xxvi in Joan.) that "it is possible for a man to do other things against his will, but he cannot believe unless he is willing." Therefore it seems that unbelievers ought not to be compelled to the faith." [1] And Tertullian wrote: "It is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions: one man's religion neither harms nor helps another man. It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion— to which free-will and not force should lead us— the sacrificial victims even being required of a willing mind... " [2]

Pro's point seems confused here. I does not necessarily follow from me advocating the influence of religious ethics in the legislative process that it will become a theocracy and neither do I advocate that. As wikipedia points out: "Theocracy should be distinguished from other secular forms of government that have a state religion, or are merely influenced by theological or moral concepts..." [3]

4) Apply religious reasoning also leaves room for rectifying mistakes. It's quite possible for human reasoners to misunderstand a divine command for instance.

Also, Pro makes several mistakes:

4a) I don't have the space to get into exegesis of the Bible as it is irrelevant to debate anyhow but...actually, the Bible does not condone slavery. John Locke refuted that claim centuries ago. "I confess, we find among the Jews, as well as other nations, that men did sell themselves; but, it is plain, this was only to drudgery, not to slavery: for, it is evident, the person sold was not under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power: for the master could not have power to kill him, at any time, whom, at a certain time, he was obliged to let go free out of his service; and the master of such a servant was so far from having an arbitrary power over his life, that he could not, at pleasure, so much as maim him, but the loss of an eye, or tooth, set him free, Exodus. xxi." [4] Put shortly his main argument was that the Hebrew word "ebed" is not correctly translated to the word "slave" - it means more like "indentured servant". There also numerous injunctions against slavery all throughout the Bible. (Exodus 21:16, Revelations 18:13, 1 Timothy 1:9-10 for example).

4b) Pro's attempt to say that the abolishment of slavery wasn't motivated explicitly by religious belief seems contrived since Pro's exegesis of scripture is faulty. William Wilberforce once said, "God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners [moral values]". [5] Which he explicitly backed up with bible verses about the equality of all men before God. That goes back to the point that really the issue is about certain religious beliefs or ethics - that does not give Pro the license to make a general argument against religious ethics influence on the legislative process as secular ethics are subject to the same criticism.

4c) I do not need to prove that we need to prioritize religious ethics - all I need to proves that we ought not prioritize secular ethics over religious ethics. Nor do I need to prove that people are not capable of being ethical and moral without being religious.

========
Conclusion
========

Indeed, my response (after a fashion) was secularism does the same thing because it is pertinent to the issue. Pro rejects religious ethics being prioritized over secular ethics in the legislative process on certain grounds; by the same reasoning Pro ought reject secular ethics being prioritized over religious ethics on the same grounds.

Also, the separation of church and state has to do mainly with establishing a state (national) religion - it has nothing to do with whether religious ethics sometimes having an effect on the legislative process.

Resolution negated.

==========
Sources
==========

[1] http://www.ccel.org...
[2] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] John Locke Second Treatise on Civil Government Ch IV, sec 24
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 2
Danielle

Pro

Thanks, PCP.

1/a) Con says he finds secular ethics to be irrational and thus should not have to accept them. This has nothing to do with my contention. I asked what the rational explanation was for imposing beliefs on the basis of religion alone. Con responded that there is a logical basis for doing so "if that particularly religious belief is conducive to peace." This is a terrible argument; I've explained that people create laws for the sake of diplomacy and their own livelihood. The concept of espousing peaceful laws has nothing to do with god but the desire to live in a functional society. If people want laws for peace, it can easily be derived that peace is the moral option based on secular ethics.

Con writes, "It is no good to point to specific religious beliefs like opposition to gay marriage as unjust and then argue from that that no religious ethics ought to be prioritized, because an analogous situation can drawn with secular ethics." This is a strawman; I never denied that evil can be done in the name of secularism. What I said in regard to gay marriage was: "The undeniable reality that [marriage is] also a political institution gives the religious arguments against gay marriage no basis, so why would one wish to impose their religious ethics into law from that?"

Here Con misrepresented my point and did not address my question at all. In a secular society, it is much harder to implement bigoted laws because they would have to be justified by standards that didn't rely on circular logic such as "the Bible told me so." It's true that people have come to the same or other immoral conclusions using secular perspectives; however, as I explained in the last round, using secular reasoning leaves more room for rational discussion. When you say something is "god's will" then a theist will accept no reasonable answer to the contrary for nothing can truly challenge such an assertion. If what is or isn't god's will is disputed, it further proves god's will cannot be the sole basis for determining morality.

2) Werd.

3) Con writes, "If it's argued that religious ethics ought to be de-prioritized because not everyone is religious, then by the same token it ought to be that secular ethics ought to be de-prioritized because not everyone is secular."

First, I've explained that one can apply whatever religious moral standard they wish to their own life. However laws are not limited to the religious or the secular -- they apply to everyone. Therefore it is non-sensical and tyrannical to impose specific religious beliefs onto non-believers. How would Con feel if only Muslim politicians were elected from here on out, and as such imposed all kinds of Islamic laws onto citizens? As a Christian, I'd imagine that Con would be deeply offended if not downright outraged that he was being forced to swallow a system that said politicians need not justify outside of the explanation "Allah says so."

As such, religion alone cannot be the basis for the law; some other ethical standard ought to be considered in the process. That is not to say that the religious perspective is wrong, but simply that it needs to be justified for a reason outside of "god's will." Humanism posits determining and defending concepts of justice and morality not using a standard limited to a particular sect of believers, but that applies to equal respect for all of humanity, and demonstrates a moral standard applicable to all people regardless of creed.

3a) Con writes, "I did not make the claim that because there a variety of religious beliefs and ideals that we cannot know which ones are right or wrong." However in R1 I explained that it is logically impossible to either prove or disprove god, therefore it logically follows that we cannot know which beliefs are right and wrong whether Con said this or not. Con continues that since we can't disprove god, it doesn't make sense to apply secular ethics. I've explained that while we can't prove god's existence, we CAN prove the faculties of human reason. It's non-sensical to apply "god's will" when we don't know if god exists let alone god's desires, but it's perfectly sensical to apply human logic in determining law because we know (solipsism aside) that humans exist, reason exists, and that humans can rationally determine the laws they want to govern them.

I completely disagree with Con's assessments here. First he says that religious ethics ought to be prioritized if they're the most conducive to peace. I've explained why religion alone should not be the basis for law making, and that a peaceful solution or alternative can be derived from secular ethics. Even in the instance where a secularist advocated war and a theist advocated peace, peace may be the moral option; however, saying peace is moral simply on the basis of religion is unjustified. Explaining why peace is moral for any reason outside of god's will advocates a secular perspective.

Con says he has "the right to impose my standard of right and wrong on someone if I believe murder is wrong and that anyone who murders ought to be punished due to my standard." THIS IS COMPLETELY FALSE. First, Con himself has no right to dole punishment on anybody. Second, *murder is illegal* and society at large deems it a heinous, punishable offense by the government. As a theist Con might believe that fornicating in a church is immoral, but he has absolutely NO right to punish one for doing so according to his own standards lol that's simply not true.

3b) Con is under the impression that because a theist believed something, it must not be a secular concept. This again is false. Just because a theist stated something was immoral does not mean it's not a secular concept upheld by a religious figure. Also, Con quoting Tertullian proves nothing and certainly not that tolerance was a "theist's concept" considering pre-Socratic, atheist Greek philosophers advocated the same thing about 460 years before Tertullian [1].

4) Con concedes that people misinterpret "divine command" and have all throughout history, so there's absolutely no reason to value something on the basis of it being divine command alone considering you don't even know what god's will really is!

4 a/b/c) This is irrelevant to the debate, but I'll bite considering Con completely misrepresented slavery in the Bible. It's true that many slaves were "indentured servants" as Locke described; however, this was ONLY FOR MEN and specifically excluded to non-Israelites [2]! They were released after 6 years *only if they were Jewish* and certainly not if they were women. The Book of Isaiah is explicit in that innocent children were forced into slavery on behalf of someone else. Also there was a difference between indebted slaves and those sold into slavery like Joseph (Genesis 37:25-28) or captured slaves from foreign land, as well as rampant rape and sexual slavery. Female slaves who were raped were subsequently whipped [3]. Women were *forced* to marry random, ridiculously older men against their will or face death. Please don't let Con delude you into thinking the Bible was anti-slavery.

-- CONCLUSION --

It's true that the SoCaS primarily refers to not establishing a state religion; however, "Mr. Madison said he apprehended the meaning of the words to be that Congress should not establish a religion, enforce the legal observation of it by law, or *compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience*" [4].

Con never denied the fact that god is NOT a prerequisite for morality. We can apply moral laws using secularism (this remains uncontested). We have no reason to presume we know god's desires (and we got it wrong many times in the past, apparently), so dictating law based on "god's will" is delusional and counterproductive.

[1] http://tinyurl.com...
[2] http://tinyurl.com...
[3] http://tinyurl.com...
[4] http://tinyurl.com...
popculturepooka

Con

Thanks to L for the invigorating debate.

1/a) Actually, my claim about secular ethics was made as a parallel rebuttal argument to Pro's own claim about her and many others not seeing the concept of God as rational so therefore not a good grounding to influence the legislative process. Sure, I can accept that - but yet if I don't see secular ethics as rational then, again, by the same token, they lack sufficient grounding to influence the legislative process (or at the very least be prioritized).

I was arguing on Pro's own terms. If there is a clear cut specific case of religious ethics leading to a peaceful state of affairs but secular ethics leading to the opposite (unjust violence perhaps) it seems clear that one ought to choose to choose the religious ethics *even if they disagree with the reasoning*. One could argue that laws exist to protect God-given rights in any case.

"This is a strawman; I never denied that evil can be done in the name of secularism."

...which is exactly the point I've been driving at this whole debate! If the same can be said of secularism then one of Con's original grounds for prioritizing secular ethics over religious ethics - the dangers of religion - is rendered a moot one!

Pro argues that it's much harder to implement bigoted laws using secular ethics (!) because at the very least they don't rely on circular logic like "the Bible told me so" (even though that wouldn't be circular anyhow) but then says that of course people have come to immoral conclusions utilizing secular ethics (that kind of negates the whole point of secular ethics prioritization, no?) but ultimately it leaves more elbow room for rational discussion because a theist won't question God's will and if they do then that means morality is independent of God's will.

I have several things to say about this:

1b) It's not clear that using only secular reasoning would lead to more rational discussion (see: China).

1c) This presupposes that there couldn't be as much rational discussion about theological reasoning; that seems clearly false as there have been many discussions about what exactly is or is not a divine command - especially in medieval Europe. If someone came up to me and claimed that they had been told by God to sacrifice their child on an altar to ensure safe passage on airplane flight I naturally am going to be suspicious and more than likely argue with them about it (after calling the police of course).

1d) This confuses a basic matter of epistemology and metaphysics. It cannot be argued from the simple fact that their is disagreement about what exactly God' will is or that whether we can know it (an epistemological claim) to therefore morality is independent of God (an ontological claim). It'd be like me saying because there is disagreement about whether the morning star is the evening star therefore the morning star is not the evening star.

2) (^_^)

3) Yes, laws apply to every person - religious and secular alike. What I've been waiting for is reasons why the asymmetry in regards to religious ethics is justified. The only reasons Pro has offered can be equally applied to Pro's own position. Pro's position puts a burden on religious people (that they cannot use their own religious beliefs in influencing the legislative process) that is nowhere present on secular people (they can use their own secular beliefs however) and has not adequately justified why this is.

Pro's contention about a Muslim politician actually helps illustrate an important point I've made continually throughout the debate. The major reason *anybody*, including myself, would oppose a Muslim politician imposing Islamic laws on everybody is because *I believe they are false*. I wouldn't oppose it because there's something special about religious ethics that automatically rule them out. I'd be similarly opposed to a secular law that banned me from praying before my meals in public. Sure, secular folks might be peeved that they have to live with an ethical system they believe is false influencing their legislative processes but that is NO grounds for de-prioritizing religious ethics as, analogously, situations can be brought up that if Pro's logic were followed then SECULAR ethics would have to be de-prioritized. Imagine their is a Muslim woman, in say, maybe, France. She feels it is her religious duty to wear a burqa yet there is an anti-burqa law there that requires her to uncover her face. She rejects the secular rationale for that law as false. The similarities are striking.

What this suggests is that is not whether the grounds are religious or secular that is important when evaluating what type of ethics should influence the legislative process; it's that the reasons should be evaluated ON THEIR OWN MERITS. This does not support Pro's contention that secular ethics ought be prioritized. It makes absolutely no sense to prioritize secular ethics over religious ethics when secular ethics are subject to the the very same type of criticisms that led to religious ethics being de-prioritized.

I'd also like to point out that Pro claims humanism provides a universal standard that is not limited to a particular sect of believers...but that problem is that is! It's limited to the believers of humanism. As Pro well knows there are tons of secular ethics theories out there that offer different and contradictory conceptions of the terms justice and what "morality" even means. Humanism hardly offers the benefits that Pro touts it does.

3a) It does not follow. For one, I argued one does not need proof to have a justified belief in God and for two
Neither did I make the claim that since one cannot disprove God that it doesn't make sense to apply secular ethics. My argument, since the start, has been that all the reasons that Pro offers for secular ethics' prioritization in the legislative process equally apply to Pro's own position.

Pro's last argument would be like me arguing that since we don't know if morals actually exist or not (moral nihilism) then no ethics should be prioritized in the legislative process because we can't even prove if there is such a thing as what it means to be moral. Even if we can't strictly prove the existence of morality it makes no sense to rule it out of the legislative process.

Pro's position here seems absurd. Pro is literally saying that appealing to religious ethics in the legislative process is unjustified at all times and at all times a secular justification must be given instead. Again, this raises the specter the abolishment of slavery and apartheid and the like due to people advocating specifically religious ethics. That would be fine if Pro had given a sufficient argument for to conclude. Unfortunately, I don't think Pro has made that case.

I think Pro misunderstood me. It's entirely correct for me to view murder as wrong and expect the government to impose a punishment on someone who thinks the opposite and decides to murder random people.

3b) No, I'm under the impression that the freedom of religion concept came from religious thinkers and Pro's appeal to the pre-socratics leaves me confused because I am not exactly sure what Pro is referring to as I cannot see the source.

4) Does not follow. To conclude that religious ethics are essentially worthless and unknowable because there has been disagreement on them is fallacious. It's a non-sequitur.

4a) Sadly, I don't have any space to get into this and as Pro say it is largely irrelevant. I'd just like to note that Oxford Dictionary defines a slave as: "a person who is the legal property of another or others and is bound to absolute obedience, human chattel". Locke correctly noted that ebed in the OT were not considered to be property and it was illegal to an ebed (Exodus 21:26-27) or murder an ebed (Exodus 21:20-21).

========
Conclusion
========

I think my case has been made sufficiently. Thanks for reading.
Debate Round No. 3
37 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Tes95 3 years ago
Tes95
The entire idea of Separation of Church and State works both ways. The fact it exists is to prevent problems the secular forces upon the religious, it is not a matter of opinion.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Kinesis
Yea pop, you crazy b@stard. ^^
Posted by wolfhaines 5 years ago
wolfhaines
The fact that fairy tales have any influence in adult affairs at all is disturbing.
Posted by Grape 5 years ago
Grape
I can't believe I haven't seen this until now. Looks great, I'll have to read when I have the time.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Kinesis
BTW, I'm free for while now. If there's anything you'd like to debate me (destroy me) on, I'd love that.
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
I just noticed all of the votebombs.....lol but yah it's hard to go deep with limited rounds.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Kinesis
I think it's a shame awesome debates like this one have a voting period; it prevents people bothering to read it later even though it's a controversial and impressively presented issue. Mind you, I couldn't easily come up with a winner. I don't think either side did much more than skim the surface.
Posted by MarquisX 6 years ago
MarquisX
"However if you vote against gay marriage specifically because the Bible is against gays, then that's not fair (and dangerous)..." So now people have to give reasons as to what they vote and why? That's just UnAmerican. What then would you do to people who says it because of the Bible? Deny them their right to vote? also lawmakers can not impose Islamic law on me. This is a democracy. If the majority of the country wants Islamic law, simple I leave the country.""If you are ashamed to stand by your colors, you had better seek another flag."
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
popculturepooka
"Mayhaps he just thinks he made the weaker arguments."

Lol, no. I just didn't vote because you got vote-bombed.
Posted by Danielle 6 years ago
Danielle
I've explained myself. You claimed I was "notorious" for something and yet you only being here 2 weeks makes it really implausible for you to know what I am "notorious" for. Based on my brief interaction with you I can by that token say you're notorious for randomly saying douchey things. I've never seen you or heard of you in my life, yet somehow you know what I am "notorious" for. This implies that in your minor stint on DDO, so far you have gone around to see how I voted on many of my own debates. That's a little stalker-ish, unless you were checking the voting statuses of all of my debates for a particular reason...?

In that case, why don't you go back on all of those debates you checked out and give me an example where my opponent didn't vote for THEMself. This debate is only one example, and of course PCP can vote for himself if he wants. Mayhaps he just thinks he made the weaker arguments. You criticized me for doing something everyone else does, without pointing out to everyone else that they do it too. This seems to be singling me out unnecessarily. I can also say the same exact thing about people's writing style ("My opponent's argument is ridiculous", etc) and yet you only choose to condemn me. I don't even think I said anything along those lines in this debate.

Maybe I came off harshly and I apologize, but judging someone prematurely is also unnecessary. Since both debaters have the opportunity to vote (effectively to cancel each other out, if they wanted to go that route) that this becomes irrelevant.
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