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Mississippi priest fakes cancer diagnosis to scam money from churchgoers

Underseer

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https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com...urch-parishioners-with-fake-cancer-diagnosis/

OK, he hasn't been convicted yet. Guilty until proven innocent and all that.

However, this is far from the only time something like this has happened, and so I think it's worthwhile to talk about why it happens.

Euthyphro Dilemma
The Euthyphro dilemma predicted thousands of years ago that gods can't make you more moral. I would take the dilemma even further and argue that the dilemma proves that no authority of any kind can make you more moral.

If you get your morals from an authority, how do you know that the authority is moral?​

The only way to resolve the dilemma is to develop a definition of morality that is independent of the authority, but the moment you do that, the definition is the source of your morality, not the authority. If you don't develop a definition of morality that is independent of the authority, then morality is completely arbitrary based on the pronouncements of whoever claims to speak for the authority. In other words, authority-based moral systems lead to the most extreme form of moral relativism imaginable in which morality becomes the arbitrary whim of another (generally a religious leader or group of religious leaders.

Theist responses generally fall into two categories:

  1. The dilemma is not a dilemma because I declare the authority to be perfectly moral
  2. The dilemma is a false dilemma because there's this third option over here.

The first fails to understand the nature of the dilemma. You can't just arbitrarily declare the authority to be moral since that is exactly the thing the dilemma seeks to determine. You can't just declare yourself correct by fiat, I don't care how arrogant you are.

The second is just an endless shell game in which the theist claims that something other than the authority is the authority that is the source of the morals. This doesn't actually resolve the dilemma, but merely shifts the same dilemma to a new authority. For example, one common Christian answer is to say "Ah ha! This is a false dichotomy because it is god's nature to be good!"

Technically, this might be an example of the first bad response, but sometimes it's the second. In that case, God's nature is now the authority on which our moral system is based. How do we know if God's nature is good? The only way we can do that is by developing a definition of morality that is independent of God's nature, but the moment we do that, the definition is the source of our morality, not God's nature.

See how it works?

They just shift the claimed authority and declare the dilemma resolved. Then you have to explain to them all over again from scratch how they still have the same dilemma with the new authority.

Thus authority-based moral systems cannot produce morality, only demands for obedience. Under the feudal/monarchic systems of the past, the aristocracy did not make a distinction between morality and obedience. If you made past aristocrats choose between morality and obedience, they would demand obedience every time. The shape of history bears this out, and the stories of the Bible stress the importance of obedience over and over and over again.

Why Do It?
If no authority-based moral system can make you more moral, why does every religion claim to provide what no religion can?

I think it's just a marketing gimmick. If you believe that your religion is what makes you a better person, then you will be less likely to question the man in the pulpit for fear that doing so will cause you to become a bad person. As Dan Dennett once said (pardon my paraphrase), religion is a trap baited with our desire to be good.

If any theists are reading this, let me be explicit: the man in the pulpit can't be right about your religion making you more moral. If you know right from wrong, that came from you. Not your religion, not your holy book, and definitely not the man in the pulpit; it had to come from you or nowhere else.

Modern religious leaders no longer bow to a lord. They are no longer making you obedient to them so they can make you obedient to a lord. However, the man in the pulpit still has a profit motive, and if he has enough followers, he enjoys some political clout as well. Even in a free society with freedom of religion and separation of church and state, religious leaders still benefit from obedience, and thus have no reason to stop making false claims about morality.

There's a couple of things wrong with this.

First, if you teach followers to use a bad understanding of the nature of morality, there's a chance they'll make bad moral decisions and think they have made good moral decisions, such as what happens with modern American evangelicals arguing in favor of toddler concentration camps and permanently separating children from families[ent]mdash[/ent]causing permanent lifelong emotional trauma in the process[ent]mdash[/ent]and not only believe that they are doing good in the world, but will get angry at anyone who suggests that what they are promoting is wrong.

Second, it makes it harder for people to critically analyze the morals of their own religious leaders. Oh, theists are perfectly capable of being quite critical of the religious leaders of other denominations and especially other religions, but generally have a hard time doing it with their own religious leaders.

Which is how slimebags like the asshole linked above got away with it for far too long. People just don't want to believe that the man in the pulpit did something bad, and might even help the church cover up whatever happened in order to protect the illusion of moral superiority.

You see this same phenomenon play out with Catholic pedophiles or with Protestant pedophiles.
 

untermensche

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Religion is like a mental virus.

It infects the host that in turn infects other hosts.
 

ronburgundy

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Good OP, well articulated.

I would just add a couple related points of clarification/extension. Theistic morality does produce the most arbitrary, internally inconsistent, and self-serving moral dictates, but I'm not sure that is the same as "most relativistic". Also, even if it is the most "relativistic" it is designed to appear the least relativistic and most objective and selfless. That is the appeal and a major motive beyond why monotheism has been so successful. It isn't simply that religious authorities "market" the religion, but that ideologies have responded to natural psychological/emotional desires and existential fears that most people have. Over time, this "market-forces" of sorts selected for and refined religion into the sort of authoritarian monotheism that came to dominate. There is not actual source for morality other than the subjective tastes of those who create, abide by, and enforce those codes of conduct.

Morality is not what is but what "should be", which is a concept without meaning outside of subjective minds that want things. But that realization forces people to take personal responsibility for their morality and thus all their actions, having to expend effort identifying principles of personal and shared desires and reasoning about how they relate to actual causal consequences of various actions. That is a heavier emotional and work load than most people want to expend. Plus, our own desires and interests are unstable and uncertain even to ourselves. If they are the only moral order in the world, then the world and what is just has no certainty and stability, and that makes people anxious.

Order and certainty are comforting. Theism and other authoritarian ethics solve these problems by giving the delusion that one's own desires are really not one's own but those of some eternal omniscient being whose desires do not change and are rooted in complete perfect knowledge of all things, and who is ultimately the one who bears all responsibility, so we can act with conviction and ignore our doubts and regrets.
 

Underseer

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When I say "most relativistic" I mean that it is based almost entirely on who does things rather than on what is done.

That's how you end up with absurdities like William Lane Craig arguing that the slaughter of all the infants and animals in a city is morally good if the right person orders it, but morally bad under every other circumstance.

I'm a literal moral relativist in that I don't believe objective morality is a thing. Morality is a property of decisions, which can only be made by minds, so it can't be objective. And yet, I can't say that an action becomes right or wrong based on who orders it. That is simply absurd.

Mass baby slaughter is good when god does it, but bad when anyone else does it.

Child molestation is bad when a Catholic priest does it, but good when a Protestant senate candidate does it.

Rape/sexual assault is bad when a racial minority does it, but when a rich white man does it, he needs to be rewarded with a seat on the Supreme Court.

Treason is bad when Hillary Clinton is accused of it based on a pack of lies, but now that we have credible evidence that Trump has committed actual treason, it's wrong to try and stop it.

Again and again, we see that they evaluate morals based on who does things rather than what is done, and then turn right around and insist that the existence of objective morals proves the existence of their imaginary friend.
 
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