beating up old men
The following is a response to Matt and Tom, but mostly Matt. To read up on the previous train of thought that has lead to this point go here for the background info.
I have to start by saying I really feel I have wondered into deep water. It would seem I need to read an entire library of philosophy to get up to speed on the topics we are discussing, so if I come off sounding totally ignorant, please forgive me. I am really basing my arguments off of life experience, feelings, and what little reading I find time to do. Having said that, you both have made some very good points that are more than worthy of some honest reflection.
Let me start by addressing Matt's comment:
"I don't regard "right and wrong" as inherent qualities of an object or situation... For example: let's say I see an old man being beaten up - it's an act I truly consider to be wrong. That's not because of the act itself, someone with a different biological and social set-up could probably walk past and see nothing bad about it (though given the general similarity of human nature across the world they'd be a pretty extreme kind of person.) For me the wrongness of it is all in my reaction to it"
That's EXACTLY the position you must take from the atheist perspective. There is no objective standard of right or wrong. There's only how I feel and react to given situations. At a glance this perspective may seem to bundle this problem up into a nice little package, but upon further inspection our life experiences betray it's adequacy.
Matt, you are telling me that you "know" that your old man example is not actually an example of something that is inherently wrong, you just "feel" that is given your biological / sociological situation. By means of logical extension you must now continue this train of thought. What then of beauty? Is there anything in this world that is then worthy of the title, or is there simply matter that your chemistry causes you to feel a certain way about? What of love? Is anything worthy of a love beyond reason?
Perhaps you are right. On logical grounds I don't think you can state it much clearer than you did. Perhaps humanity is truly on it's own. Perhaps we are the product of blind processes that take no notice of us. Could it be that all our strivings for honor, justice, love, and peace are nothing more profound than a species being ruled by a mindless, chemically induced, desire for survival? I don't know about you brother, but there's something deep inside me that rebels against the idea that there is no such thing as objective right or wrong. I cannot accept the notion that gazing into the heavens on a moonless night, far from our city lights, does not ACTUALLY warrant the feelings of awe it inspires. It rebels against the idea that my love for my wife an son is nothing more than breeding instinct and the instinct to preserve my genetic line. It's not rational. I readily admit that, but I would not go so far as to say it's illogical. The problem for us is that for me to use my logic, you would need to admit the "possibility" of something outside of what we call nature. Many people reject the supernatural because they reject religion and superstition. I, however, do not believe that one follows the other. There is much to reject about religion and superstition, but the idea of a personal God who who is the foundation of all reason, love, ethics and beauty is not one of them.
Okay, I'm sure I've lost you there, but that's where I'm at. I still plan on responding to Tom. It's just that he obviously has SO much time on his hands! ; ) I suppose I shouldn't talk. I'm usually in bed by nine, but this has kept me up til 12:15!!! All we need now is a campfire...