Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
AmyJ
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Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Post by AmyJ » 04 Mar 2019, 10:04

I am currently taking several ethics courses as part of my education. I was interested in exploring with my husband how different ethical schools of thought presented in the scriptures. I figured that it was common ground because religion does teach ethics.

Maybe I hit a land mine because the connotation of the word ethics implies human reasoning about behavior instead of revelation inspired by God about behavior? Or in other words, a human given code instead of a God given code of behavior? Maybe thinking about ethics and ethical behavior felt judgmental and required a shut-down of the conversation? I just wanted a high-level categorization of ethical schools of thought in the scriptures, not a specific debate about specific schools of thought.

Off the top of my head, I see the following broad strokes:
  • You have principle based ethical teachings in the Beatitudes, the 2 Great Commandments, and in Captain Moroni's banner of liberty.
  • Alma's teachings are consequence-based (you get fruit when you tend a fruit tree).
Is there anything else I missed?

AmyJ
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Re: Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Post by AmyJ » 04 Mar 2019, 10:13

NOTE: I am pretty sure that teachings from latter-day prophets could also be classified as coming from different ethical schools of thought, and the dissention/debate between them re-categorized accordingly.

Roy
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Re: Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Post by Roy » 04 Mar 2019, 11:20

One of the ethical schools of thought is that God sets the commandments and expects obedience. From this idea if God where to command the opposite of what he has heretofore commanded than that would change the ethical choice. This is an idea taught in Mormonism.

Another belief of Mormonism is that God inspired the framers of the US constitution and the bill of rights and presumably any other document that has led to the advancement of human kind. Thus it can be argued that many of our systems of government and schools of ethics can be traced back to God in helping us to live in relative peace one with another.

One of the straw man arguments put up by Christians is that without God there are no rules except kill or be killed and brute force (The movie "God is Not Dead" makes this argument as their microphone drop moment). The very existence of these different schools of ethics make it clear that one can live a moral and ethical life without a belief in God.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

nibbler
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Re: Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Post by nibbler » 04 Mar 2019, 12:44

Roy wrote:
04 Mar 2019, 11:20
One of the ethical schools of thought is that God sets the commandments and expects obedience. From this idea if God where to command the opposite of what he has heretofore commanded than that would change the ethical choice. This is an idea taught in Mormonism.
Mormonism is kinda weird. Sometimes it's how you describe, other times god is bound by the same commandments and laws that we are bound by. Moral relativism isn't true at all... and it is very true.

nibbler
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Re: Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Post by nibbler » 04 Mar 2019, 12:55

I'm not the best person to ask for scholarly definitions for ethics but you have to be careful with the OT. Sometimes the message appears to be "might makes right."

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On Own Now
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Re: Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Post by On Own Now » 04 Mar 2019, 13:14

AmyJ wrote:
04 Mar 2019, 10:04
I am currently taking several ethics courses as part of my education. I was interested in exploring with my husband how different ethical schools of thought presented in the scriptures. I figured that it was common ground because religion does teach ethics.
If I put my long-ago believer hat on, I would not have said that religion teaches ethics or that the scriptures present any views from ethical schools of thought. I would, instead, have said it spun in the opposite direction: that ethics is a secular (and less-than) version of what is taught in religion. By saying that religion teaches ethics, you have inadvertently dismissed religion as not necessary. Beware the inadvertent dismissive messages when speaking to someone who believes differently than you do.
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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SamBee
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Re: Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Post by SamBee » 04 Mar 2019, 17:39

Roy wrote:
04 Mar 2019, 11:20

One of the straw man arguments put up by Christians is that without God there are no rules except kill or be killed and brute force (The movie "God is Not Dead" makes this argument as their microphone drop moment). The very existence of these different schools of ethics make it clear that one can live a moral and ethical life without a belief in God.
I don't consider this a straw man at all. On a smaller scale, we see regularly that when a legal system breaks down all kinds of things happen and people go off and do whatever they want because they think there will be no consequences.

Why are most crimes committed? Because the criminals either think they won't get caught (e.g. looting during riots because the police can't handle the volume), or the punishment won't exceed the crime. A few exceptions to this but that's another story.

One can apply this exact same argument to God. It doesn't prove God exists, but it does prove God is a useful myth (if not real) of course, which helps humanity function in a more civilized manner. Many, but not all, who believe in God, have the idea that their good and bad will be repaid.

While there are those who live decent lives without the concept of a human police force and without God, the brutal truth is that a world like that would be a disaster. The strongest would prevail against those whose morality was more altruistic, except in those survival situations where a collective action was needed. Many people would not feel the need to be good, just as many do not today - the only thing they would have is social cohesion. But the reason most people do not behave like that is because there are legal penalties. We actually have a lot of psychopaths and sociopaths in the world. Most are intelligent enough to realize crime is a bad route.

In terms of evil, the Christian worldview does have an Achilles' heel, namely that evil people who believe in God can try and turn to God before they die. Many have reportedly done this and it explains the Middle Ages when the vast majority believed in God. But even that is not entirely bad as we don't know when we'll die. However, in theological terms that removes the deterrent for some people to do good during most of their lives.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

Roy
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Re: Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Post by Roy » 05 Mar 2019, 10:12

I suppose that it would be interesting to study whether atheists live lives that are more or less or about the same ethical as their Christian counterparts. The moment in the movie that I felt was a straw man argument was when the student quotes Fyodor Dostoevsky to the effect of "Without God everything is permissible." Since the class does not allow cheating then God must exist. This seems like quite a stretch. I am not exactly sure the context in which Dostoevsky made his statement but the existence of rules (and consequences for breaking them) does not prove the existence of God.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

AmyJ
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Joined: 27 Jul 2017, 05:50

Re: Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Post by AmyJ » 05 Mar 2019, 10:25

Roy wrote:
05 Mar 2019, 10:12
I suppose that it would be interesting to study whether atheists live lives that are more or less or about the same ethical as their Christian counterparts.
I think it would be interesting - but there would need to be a distinct category for agnostics. My reasoning is that atheists do not believe in God or a higher force, agnostics don't believe or disbelief in God or a higher force, and believers do believe in God or a higher force.

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On Own Now
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Re: Gospel and Ethics Land Mine

Post by On Own Now » 05 Mar 2019, 11:12

In Atheism and Theism, alike, it is easy to find people who live by strong sense of obligation to do good and to avoid doing wrong. It is, unfortunately, also easy to find people in both groups who don't. So, from that standpoint, I don't believe that Atheists are any more susceptible to anarchy than any other group.

That said, I do think there is a valid argument for the what SamBee has said...
SamBee wrote:
04 Mar 2019, 17:39
... God is a useful myth (if not real) of course, which helps humanity function in a more civilized manner. Many, but not all, who believe in God, have the idea that their good and bad will be repaid.
If we were all altruistic and bound by our inner drive to act ethically, I don't think there would be so much need for laws and law enforcement. I have jury duty this week, which is an indicator that crime is still alive and well. If people had a belief that they could "get away with it", I have no doubt that there would be even more crime, but as it is, punishment looms large enough to keep people from doing what they already know to be wrong. God simply offers another layer to the equation: it might be a lot later, but his judgment is "something you can't avoid". I suspect hope for reward, fear of punishment from God works especially well among people with the long-view always in mind. The same people who save diligently for retirement are the people most likely to have a slightly altered trajectory if they have a belief in God.

So, while I vehemently reject the idea that no morality can exist among Atheists, I do believe (and I don't think I'm betraying my fellow Atheists) that Atheists have less motivation than Theists to be good on an every-day basis. That lower motivation, means that for Atheists to act in good ways requires more work and personal commitment - a sort of self-imposed discipline. Put another way, if I lost my wallet, would I rather have it found by an average Christian or an average Atheist? Both know it would be right to look me up and return it with all the cash inside. There are some Christians and some Atheists who would do exactly that. There are some Christians and some Atheists who would take out the cash and throw the rest in the garbage. But if I'm playing percentages, I'd probably rather have it found by an average Christian than an average Atheist.

Note, though, that I also caveat this by saying that self-assurance in a higher power can and does have an effect of sometimes allowing people to jump out of the morality lane entirely, in ways an Atheist would be much less likely to do, with the notion that God approves for a higher purpose (killing Laban, polygamy, Danites, MMM, to name a few).
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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