Wednesday, December 12, 2012

NoSCo on Morality

Irony can be funny. For today, Nick Peters -- who voices NonStampCollector in my TektonTV videos on him -- provides us with a written response to an entry NoSCo wrote (yes, he actually can write, can you imagine?) on a freethought blog. Maybe eventually NoSCo will also get noses for those stick figures of his.


Recently, the NonStamp Collector (NoSCo) posted an argument about Christian morality with someone asking about the holocaust and saying “If Hitler had won the war, would we say that the Holocaust was right?” NoSCo issues a number of statements in reply.

Firstly, we wouldn’t condemn Hitler for having done it. That’s part of the analogy, I know, but it’s worth stating again. We would possibly admire him for having done it, if we were brainwashed enough, although that is not necessary for the analogy to hold. At one extreme we’d praise him for it, at the other, we’d just be hush-hush about it with a tacit acceptance. Chances are there’d be a middle-ground between adoration and tacit acceptance that most people would occupy. All, though, as the example specifies, would pretty much be in line with the idea that Hitler had done the right thing.

Interesting to say that we have to be brainwashed to accept that what Hitler was did was not wrong. This would imply that indeed, we do know that it was wrong. It’s also noteworthy that NoSCo thinks we’d all be in lock-step saying this was right. There was always opposition to Hitler and there’s no reason to think that it would stop had he won the war somehow. Of course, it could be that everyone who disagreed enough would be killed. Could it be NoSCo just would not disagree enough? Still, it is difficult to argue such hypotheticals, but I find NoSCo’s first admission to be revealing.

What we would think, at the very least, is that it had been necessary. That’s the kind of justification that would come out for it, and would be held by just about everyone, even those not necessarily praising Hitler for having done it. We would look back and think, and maintain, that in the case of the early 20th century, things had gotten so bad, or were about to take such a massive turn for the worst, that drastic action had become appropriate, and the genocide had been a viable option, even if not necessarily the only one. For some, it would have been the best option. For others, simply necessary and justified.

There is no reason given for this. Upon what does NoSCo base this? Today, we do not look back at a number of great tragedies in history and think that they were necessary.
If we were all brainwashed by propaganda, as the example mentions, then that propaganda would, again, necessarily, include the idea that the Jews had deserved their genocide. Even if we didn’t share Hitler’s zeal, we would all at least be sitting around saying that yes, there had been extenuating circumstances that had deemed it necessary in that particular case for the Fuhrer to have carried out such an incredible act.

Once again, we have to be brainwashed. In other words, we have to be taught to believe that the holocaust was okay. Keep in mind the question is about asking if the holocaust was really wrong. What we would do in response is interesting, but if the holocaust was wrong, it was wrong regardless of if we all stood up and praised Hitler forever.

Now, the hypothetical seems to be suggesting, that no matter the propaganda, it would still have been wrong to have carried out the Holocaust. Read it again and check the language. The analogy ends with a kind of suggestion that indeed this is part of the whole moral argument for the evidence for God, as a necessary objective moral law giver. “Would it still be wrong…?” Because, presumably, we all do know that it was wrong. I mean, certainly the world gets along on that assumption.

This is indeed what is being suggested. If something is wrong, it is wrong. There cannot be excuses for it. This does not mean that everything is clearly black and white. There are areas of difficulty in ethics, but the only reason that gray exists is because of the clear reality of black and white. This is the fundamental question that needs to be answered. Was the holocaust really wrong?

Instead, NoSCo ignores the argument with this:

But look again at the picture I was painting there. Doesn’t it look familiar? Making excuses for genocide? Pointing out its necessity? It should be very familiar: It is comprised of exactly the kind of responses that Christians give when challenged on the Old Testament genocides.

Yes, they (very mostly) say: genocide is bad. Objectivity bad. Absolutely immoral. It’s just that in this case, the case of the Israelites entering the promised land, genocide was actually moral and morally necessary. It has to be viewed in the correct context to be correctly understood morally.
Glenn Miller has dealt with the idea of how badly NoSCo is dealing with this, as well as the improper appeal to "genocide". Bt at the start, there is a difference in that Israelites were dealing with the behavior of a people in one region that they (the Israelires) were entitled to be in and were not on a path to have a final solution to the pagan problem. Still, there is something worth noting here.

NoSCo does not deal with the argument.

Instead, he does a tu quoque with saying “Your position is inconsistent!” Well even if that was the case, which it isn’t, it does not mean that NoSCo’s position isn't as well. If NoSCo wants to argue against objective morality, then he has lost any argument against the “genocides” in the OT. If he wants to argue that the events in the OT were ipso facto wrong, then he needs to have a moral basis as the argument suggests, and it has not been given here. 

Later, NoSCo goes on to say:
You’re using the bible, and the morality inherent in the bible, to judge the morality of the bible.

So many atheists regularly have this ignorant position that Christianity teaches that no one can know right from wrong unless the Bible says so. This is just the opposite of my position. I contend that when the Bible says X is moral or immoral, it points to a truth independent of itself still. For instance, it is not the case that Jesus was crucified because the Bible says so. Jesus was crucified and the Bible says so because it’s true and it’s true in what it reports. The saying of it in the Bible is not the reason why it’s true. 

In fact, in the history of Christian thought, this has been the case with Natural Law thinking. The very argument from morality implies this. After all, how could the arguer point to NoSCo’s judgment of right and wrong unless it was to be assumed that NoSCo ought to know this and he doesn’t need the Bible to know it?

NoSCo wants to have it both ways. He wants to avoid objective morality, but when he wants to condemn God, he wants objective morality. He cannot have it both ways and he will need to choose which one he wants to go with.


  1. When describing the problem of evil, atheists often make things harder on themselves by arguing that the Christian God is inconsistent with the real evil in the world. Whenever you make an argument which says proposition x conflicts with reality y a significant burden of proof comes upon you immediately. Not only do you have to maintain that an inconsistancy exists between x and y but you also have to maintain that y is true. This to me shows that atheists motivation is emotional and not intellectual. They can’t stand the pain of a paper cut so they blame God.

    Intellectually it would be a stronger argument to say that the Christian God is inconsistent with the Christian view of evil. I’m still not convinced by such arguments but they are easier on the atheist.

  2. “What's to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn't right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question”—Richard Dawkins in "Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist"

    "So, why is Adolf Hitler wrong? he murdered millions, and his only justification, even if it were valid, was based on things which he should have known were factually wrong.
    Why is it wrong to do that?
    Because I said so."—Dave from the ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society