Morality Without God?

Discussions on a ranges of philosophical issues including the nature of truth and reality, personal identity, mind-body theories, epistemology, justification of beliefs, argumentation and logic, philosophy of religion, free will and determinism, etc.
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Re: Morality Without God?

#46

Post by PaulSacramento » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:48 am

Butterfly wrote:
PaulSacramento wrote:
1. It is a universal fact that humans do not like what they consider to be bad things done to them.
2. So, if all humans independently do not like bad things done to them, then it is wrong by human standards to do bad things to humans.
3. It then becomes a fact that doing bad things to humans is wrong.
#2 does NOT flow from #1, sorry and history has shown us this over and over.
Just because I don't like my property stolen, doesn't equal me NOT stealing someone else's if I can.
There is no "fact" that doing bad things to humans is wrong.
Killing 100 to save 100 million would be considered right by many people.
Of course #2 flows from #1. If you don't like your property stolen you may still steal someone else's, but that does not mean it is morally right. Doing bad things to humans is wrong, if you as a human don't like bad things done to you.

The point is not whether many people might consider it right to kill 100 to save a 100 million people, but rather its a point of moral symmetry. Would those people who are choosing to kill the 100 to save 100 million want to be one of those 100? The moral solution to that problem would be to ask who wants to willingly give their life for another, not to have it taken from them by another.
IN short, morals are subjective.
So, in short, WHO sez what is moral?

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Re: Morality Without God?

#47

Post by PaulSacramento » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:54 am

Butterfly wrote:
Icthus wrote:
Butterfly wrote:There is no objective standard outside of the human experience to define good and bad. The Muslims have their Koran, the Christians have their Bible, the Hindus have their Vedas...who's to say which is right?
Unfortunately, most of us here believe that there is an objective standard outside of the human experience, and that it is God. Simply stating that there isn't an objective standard won't convince us that it is true. The fact that different people believe in different sources of morality doesn't mean that none of them are real. Saying "who's to say which is right?" won't cut it if one IS right. We Christians would argue that God is the source of morality, specifically the God of the Bible.

Also, you seem to be conflating objective morals with universally held morals at a few points. Though all people (and that's being generous, a single madman could throw off the whole system) may not like it when others do bad things to them, that in no way forces them to accept the Golden Rule by making the jump from themselves to others. Even if all people believed in the Golden Rule, that would no more make it objectively true than believing the Sun revolves around the Earth would make the solar system shift. If the Christian God exists, then objective morals exist, and they are in no way dependent upon human understanding.
We know that human morals do exist, but we don't know if any god exists. I have shown a perfectly plausible way in which morality can emerge without the existence of a god. Now that doesn't mean a god doesn't exist, but it does mean that morality can exist without a god. Just because most of you here believe in the Christian God, doesn't prove he exists anymore than because most of the ancient Greeks believed in Zeus meant he was real. The existence of morality doesn't prove the existence of God.
I think someone has been reading Sam Harris.
You also have the same issues that Harris has with his view of "evolved morals".
The simple fact is that IF morals are based on doing what makes us happy or in doing what we feel is best, then they are subjective.
If they are subjective then WHO decides what is moral?
And if what is moral is based on how benefitial something is for the individual, what about the group? and if it is what is best for the group, what about the individual?
You seem to be advocating morals based on what the group feels is best for everyone, a "dictatorship of morals" based on the "majority consensus".
Who gets to decide what is moral? the majority.
How do they decide? But what they feel is most benefitial for them.
Who is them? the majority OR the group in Power.
In short, Might makes right.

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Re: Morality Without God?

#48

Post by PaulSacramento » Tue Oct 02, 2012 7:01 am

William Land Craig's rebuttal on Sam Harris' " The Moral Landscape":

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/navigati ... -landscape

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Re: Morality Without God?

#49

Post by Butterfly » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:20 pm

PaulSacramento wrote:
I think someone has been reading Sam Harris.
You also have the same issues that Harris has with his view of "evolved morals".
The simple fact is that IF morals are based on doing what makes us happy or in doing what we feel is best, then they are subjective.
If they are subjective then WHO decides what is moral?
And if what is moral is based on how benefitial something is for the individual, what about the group? and if it is what is best for the group, what about the individual?
You seem to be advocating morals based on what the group feels is best for everyone, a "dictatorship of morals" based on the "majority consensus".
Who gets to decide what is moral? the majority.
How do they decide? But what they feel is most benefitial for them.
Who is them? the majority OR the group in Power.
In short, Might makes right.
I think you've missed the point again.
I have established the fact that universally people do not like bad things done to them, so while that may be subjective to all humans, it becomes an objective fact that universally applies to all humans. Morals are based on the Golden Rule which is again common to all humans...everyone likes to be treated with equal human rights, so you should treat others with the same human rights you like to be treated with. It can't get any simpler, and there is no need for an outside divine source.

Throwing a god into the picture does nothing to solve the problem of establishing an objective morality, because their are so many different religions, that have different gods making different moral judgments.

Here is a link to a good article on this topic called An Atheistic Foundation for Objective Morality.
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Re: Morality Without God?

#50

Post by PaulSacramento » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:29 pm

Butterfly wrote:
PaulSacramento wrote:
I think someone has been reading Sam Harris.
You also have the same issues that Harris has with his view of "evolved morals".
The simple fact is that IF morals are based on doing what makes us happy or in doing what we feel is best, then they are subjective.
If they are subjective then WHO decides what is moral?
And if what is moral is based on how benefitial something is for the individual, what about the group? and if it is what is best for the group, what about the individual?
You seem to be advocating morals based on what the group feels is best for everyone, a "dictatorship of morals" based on the "majority consensus".
Who gets to decide what is moral? the majority.
How do they decide? But what they feel is most benefitial for them.
Who is them? the majority OR the group in Power.
In short, Might makes right.
I think you've missed the point again.
I have established the fact that universally people do not like bad things done to them, so while that may be subjective to all humans, it becomes an objective fact that universally applies to all humans. Morals are based on the Golden Rule which is again common to all humans...everyone likes to be treated with equal human rights, so you should treat others with the same human rights you like to be treated with. It can't get any simpler, and there is no need for an outside divine source.

Throwing a god into the picture does nothing to solve the problem of establishing an objective morality, because their are so many different religions, that have different gods making different moral judgments.

Here is a link to a good article on this topic called An Atheistic Foundation for Objective Morality.
I got your point.
I just disagree with it, that's all.
I disagree that the moral compass we have should be based on what we like being done to us based on what we dislike being done to us.
That is pure subjective morals.
You bring up the golden rule again, but I think you forget that while many cultures and religions have that rule, it is NOT applicable to all.
In the ancient greek culture it was applicable only to citizens and, typically, men only.
Christianity uses the "golden rule" as a STARTING point, not the end.
We are to go beyond it and treat those that would treat us wrongly BETTER than we want them to treat us., we are to pray for those that persecute us.
The "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" seems to pale in comparison.

The golden rule can't be the basis for morality because it is totally subjective,
Beside, WHO sez the golden rule means anything more than any other "human constructed" rule?

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Re: Morality Without God?

#51

Post by KravMagaSelfDefense » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:40 pm

Butterfly wrote:Addressing the question of the title of this thread, “Morality without God?”, I find it quite easy to trace out the origins of morality without the need of a divine source.
Once consciousness arose in animals the next step was self-consciousness, the state of being aware of oneself...from the point that humans became aware they naturally connected the idea of right and wrong using themselves as the model for morality.
When one is aware of disliking something done to their own selves, one then projects that dislike onto others, hence the birth of the "Golden Rule" or "Morality". Self-consciousness is the state from which morality was born, that is what sets us apart from all the other animals...the ability to project our own feelings and desires onto another being and know that it is either right or wrong because of our own awareness.
Self-awareness also gave birth to the idea of purpose and beginnings. Naturally when one is aware of their own existence, the question emerges...where did I come from, and what is my purpose? Thus, the idea of a creator who formed us for a purpose naturally arose, since our origins are hidden from our understanding.
Hey thanks for the response. It's been a while since this thread has seen activity. I'll jump right in and see what I can comment on.

Your first argument is an interesting one. I have seen it before, so it doesn't quite convince me. The problem is that by explaining man's ability to discern right from wrong by bringing up man's self-awareness, you seem to only kick the can down the road. The next inevitable question is, "where did man get his self-awareness?" I do not see self-awareness as being properly explained by chemical reactions and atoms in motion. There is no conceivable way in which atoms in motion can combine to create a living consciousness, an independent identity, a self-aware mind. The existence of self-awareness, to me, is strong evidence against the idea that man has purely naturalistic origins.
I would also challenge the premise that self-awareness alone leads to the ability to make moral judgements. There doesn't seem to be any naturalistic or evolutionary reason why we even think of things in terms of right and wrong. Morality seems entirely arbitrary and meaningless in the evolutionary worldview. So, in a way, our ability to make moral judgements points to the fact that those judgements do mean something, that we were given this faculty in order to discern actual truths. And, of course, I hold that we were given it by God at the moment of Creation.
Sin, like morality is a concept, not an “objective fact”, which emerged out of the consciousness of man. Without the self-awareness of the human animal “sin”, like morality does not exist; it is not a law or principle upon which life is built. The concept of sin arose solely from the state of self-awareness of our own selves, and the idea that somehow the desires of our humanity are innately bad.
So now we're touching more on the original idea of my first post, which was not necessarily how we began to discern right from wrong but whether or not right and wrong actually exist. In other words, the debate over whether or not morality is objective and subjective, instead of the debate about where man got his moral sense from.
I always challenge those who say that morality is not real to think long and hard about what they are saying. I have never met or talked to anyone who believed what you just said through and through. On the surface, you can say that morality is meaningless all day. But we all innately know otherwise.
Would you, the person behind the username Butterfly, witness the rape and murder of a little girl, and then declare to investigators and news anchors, "Morality is a concept, not an objective fact! Morality emerged out of the consciousness of man. Without the self-awareness of the human animal, morality does not exist!" Think about it. I do not think you believe what you think you do.
If morality exists as a “truth” in the universe in the same way as say the Pythagorean Theorem does then why has mans concept of what is moral continued to change with time, and consciousness level?

The fact that morality is objective does not imply or require that man always agree on what is right or what is wrong. Where did this premise come from? I agree that there has been much moral debate over the millennia about human affairs. But it doesn't change that there ARE objective moral facts that apply to human affairs. Furthermore, most people do agree on the basic questions of morality, such as the evil of murder and thievery and the rightness of philanthropy and selflessness.
Take for instance the biblical passage in Numbers 31, where Moses orders the Hebrew soldiers by command from God to kill all the male children and women who are not virgins, and then proceeds to give the remaining 32,000 virgins girls to the Hebrew soldiers to keep for themselves…by today’s moral standards killing women and children and taking people as slaves is totally unacceptable and immoral, yet the Hebrew’s in biblical times seemed to think God allowed such behavior.
Num.31:1-2 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people. Num. 31:18-19 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
You know what? You're right. It does sound cruel, it does sound brutal. And I'm not too proud to admit that I struggle with these verses from time to time. Sometimes I return to the fact that the environment that the Israelites lived in at the time was harsh and hostile, and sometimes survival depended on establishing psychological superiority over one's enemies. I'd also emphasize a difference between a killing sanctioned and directed by God and one committed by man because of his sinful nature. To God, death is meaningless, merely a phase through which we pass into eternity. But man does not hold the same authority over life as does God.
So those are my thoughts. I'd caution against going down this trail, however, because it might deter from the original topic.
There are countless other examples in the Bible where acts that are considered immoral by today’s standards are commanded and condoned by its God. Morality appears to come solely from the emergence of self-awareness and the ability to reason, there is no need of a “Divine Source” as the author of morality.
Well again I'd challenge the idea that morality comes from reason alone. This is very important, so read carefully: reason deals with things that are, the state of things. Morality deals with the way things should be. There is no connection between the two; they are entirely divorced from one another. You cannot reach the conclusion "killing is wrong" through logical syllogisms and proofs. There are some truths that we are all justified in recognizing, but which are not based in "reason" or rational thought process. And this applies to atheists as well as Christians.
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Re: Morality Without God?

#52

Post by Butterfly » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:41 pm

Katabole wrote:
Butterfly wrote:You forgot to include the rest of the statement spoken by Jesus in which he likened the first to the second, and concluded that upon both hung ALL the law and the prophets.
Actually, I didn't forget the second commandment at all. I deliberately left it out. You see if Jesus had said, the first commandment is love your neighbour as yourself and the second is like it, that you should love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul and mind, it changes the meaning of what He is saying. When Jesus says it is "like" it does not mean "it is the same as". This is why the explicit use of the words 'first' and 'second' are so important in this verse. Is that order necessary or only coincidental? Would the commandments have the same significance and work just as well if they were in reverse order? Or could they be treated as independent of each other--in effect simultaneous. I see that as a matter of priority that is critically important.
It is critical that the second commandment be quoted with the first, because it is inextricably tied to it. Jesus said that upon BOTH of the commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets, meaning that without the second the first is incomplete. Unless a person truly knows how to love themselves they cannot love God, nor anyone else. Being able to love ones neighbor as themselves is necessary before anyone is able to love their god. To profess love for a god requires only words, but loving ones neighbor is only valid by demonstration.
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Re: Morality Without God?

#53

Post by Icthus » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:59 pm

Butterfly wrote:I think you've missed the point again.
I have established the fact that universally people do not like bad things done to them, so while that may be subjective to all humans, it becomes an objective fact that universally applies to all humans. Morals are based on the Golden Rule which is again common to all humans...everyone likes to be treated with equal human rights, so you should treat others with the same human rights you like to be treated with. It can't get any simpler, and there is no need for an outside divine source.

Throwing a god into the picture does nothing to solve the problem of establishing an objective morality, because their are so many different religions, that have different gods making different moral judgments.

Here is a link to a good article on this topic called An Atheistic Foundation for Objective Morality.
You still haven't dealt with the possibility that a human might not hate having bad things done to them. Also, the fact that all people may agree on something does not make it objectively true. You seem to think that if a moral belief is held by everyone, that it is "objective morality." That isn't how it works. That isn't the way objective morality is defined in philosophy. In fact, it is almost the opposite of what objective means, since it usually means that a truth is mind independent. The fact that you claim that morality doesn't exist outside of the human mind automatically makes it subjective.

I don't even understand what you mean when you say that adding a god into the picture doesn't solve the problem. It isn't as though all the gods people believe in exist at the same time and argue about morality. If, for instance, the Christian God exists, then he is the one true God and morality comes from him.

And that link is not a "good article." I don't know of a single philosopher who would take that argument seriously. If you look at the literature produced by philosophers these days, you won't find them saying that the Golden Rule is objective morality. It's pretty much the consensus position among both atheists and theists that apart from a supreme lawgiver morals must be subjective.
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Re: Morality Without God?

#54

Post by Katabole » Tue Oct 02, 2012 1:13 pm

Butterfly wrote:Jesus said that upon BOTH of the commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets, meaning that without the second the first is incomplete.
And as I have stated, without the first the second would spell nothing. You evidently have a hard time grasping the first because as you have said:
Butterfly wrote:So, which God is it that exists? The Muslim god? The Hindu gods? The biblical god, Yahweh?
Evidently, you don't believe in Jesus so debating with me regarding a statement made by Jesus Himself considering I believe in Jesus is contradictory. I humbly suggest you read Ravi Zacharias' book, 'Jesus Among Other Gods' it should really help you. From my own perspective, if Jesus Christ is not God and as He and the Father (Yahweh) are one as He says, then having a debate about loving your neighbour is a moot point because I have already accepted that Jesus is not only God but the only God and the other gods you listed are created gods, which we happen to call idols. I have already realized that without Jesus I am but a collection of atoms dancing to my DNA and if I decide to help my neighbour or destroy my neighbour it doesn't matter because my existence never had a purpose. That may seem arrogant to you but without Christ I would have to agree with atheist philosopher Richard Dawkins that all there is is blind, pitiless indifference.
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Re: Morality Without God?

#55

Post by RickD » Tue Oct 02, 2012 1:48 pm

The opening quote from Butterfly's link:
Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. ~ Steven Weinberg
Without religion(God), what basis does one have for calling someone "good" or "evil"?
John 5:24
24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

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Re: Morality Without God?

#56

Post by Butterfly » Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:18 pm

KravMagaSelfDefense wrote: Hey thanks for the response. It's been a while since this thread has seen activity. I'll jump right in and see what I can comment on.

Your first argument is an interesting one. I have seen it before, so it doesn't quite convince me. The problem is that by explaining man's ability to discern right from wrong by bringing up man's self-awareness, you seem to only kick the can down the road. The next inevitable question is, "where did man get his self-awareness?" I do not see self-awareness as being properly explained by chemical reactions and atoms in motion. There is no conceivable way in which atoms in motion can combine to create a living consciousness, an independent identity, a self-aware mind. The existence of self-awareness, to me, is strong evidence against the idea that man has purely naturalistic origins.
I would also challenge the premise that self-awareness alone leads to the ability to make moral judgements. There doesn't seem to be any naturalistic or evolutionary reason why we even think of things in terms of right and wrong. Morality seems entirely arbitrary and meaningless in the evolutionary worldview. So, in a way, our ability to make moral judgements points to the fact that those judgements do mean something, that we were given this faculty in order to discern actual truths. And, of course, I hold that we were given it by God at the moment of Creation.
Thanks! I appreciate your comments :D

I can totally relate to the idea of morality being given to humans as a faculty to discern truth by a creator, but the more I dug into the roots of morality the clearer its origins became. As I mentioned in my first post, all life has consciousness, humans are only one step higher in that we have self consciousness which makes all the difference in the world, because now we can compare ourselves to others which gives life meaning. Now, the idea of meaning has been introduced into the picture, which inevitably leads to the ability to make judgments. If you want to posit the idea that your God gave man his self-consciousness that is your prerogative, but it doesn't change the fact that self-consciousness leads to morality.

KravMagaSelfDefense wrote:So now we're touching more on the original idea of my first post, which was not necessarily how we began to discern right from wrong but whether or not right and wrong actually exist. In other words, the debate over whether or not morality is objective and subjective, instead of the debate about where man got his moral sense from.
I always challenge those who say that morality is not real to think long and hard about what they are saying. I have never met or talked to anyone who believed what you just said through and through. On the surface, you can say that morality is meaningless all day. But we all innately know otherwise.
Would you, the person behind the username Butterfly, witness the rape and murder of a little girl, and then declare to investigators and news anchors, "Morality is a concept, not an objective fact! Morality emerged out of the consciousness of man. Without the self-awareness of the human animal, morality does not exist!" Think about it. I do not think you believe what you think you do.
I do not say morality is meaningless! It is humans who give morality meaning based on our self consciousness. The rape and murder of a little girl has tremendous meaning for me because I can relate to her humanity and her gender, all because I am a self conscious being. If rape and murder was an objective moral fact that exists independently of humans, than animals would be guilty of rape and murder. Humans are the ones through their self consciousness, that give the moral meaning to rape and murder...outside of the human sphere it doesn't exist.
KravMagaSelfDefense wrote: The fact that morality is objective does not imply or require that man always agree on what is right or what is wrong. Where did this premise come from? I agree that there has been much moral debate over the millennia about human affairs. But it doesn't change that there ARE objective moral facts that apply to human affairs. Furthermore, most people do agree on the basic questions of morality, such as the evil of murder and thievery and the rightness of philanthropy and selflessness.
You mentioned murder, thievery and selflessness as being a few examples of objective moral facts. How would you define murder, or thievery? There are many many cases in the Old Testament that would be considered murder, or thievery by today's standards, but are approved of and allowed by the Bibles god. If something is an objective moral fact how can it change through time?
KravMagaSelfDefense wrote:
There are countless other examples in the Bible where acts that are considered immoral by today’s standards are commanded and condoned by its God. Morality appears to come solely from the emergence of self-awareness and the ability to reason, there is no need of a “Divine Source” as the author of morality.
Well again I'd challenge the idea that morality comes from reason alone. This is very important, so read carefully: reason deals with things that are, the state of things. Morality deals with the way things should be. There is no connection between the two; they are entirely divorced from one another. You cannot reach the conclusion "killing is wrong" through logical syllogisms and proofs. There are some truths that we are all justified in recognizing, but which are not based in "reason" or rational thought process. And this applies to atheists as well as Christians.
You are giving a very narrow definition to the term reason, so you can make a distinction between morality and reason. I say no such distinction occurs. Humans can use reasoning and rational thought processes to determines the way things should be. And yes, there are certain truths that all humans recognize, but the reason they do are based on reason.

I am re-posting this link to an article titled An Atheistic Foundation for Objective Morality. As of yet it stands unrefuted.
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Re: Morality Without God?

#57

Post by PaulSacramento » Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:23 pm

You do understand that without an objective GOOD, there is NO golden rule.
The golden rule is 100% subjective and it is subjective to what is viewed as good and good is subjective to what the individual believes to be good and how good is defined.

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Re: Morality Without God?

#58

Post by BryanH » Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:25 pm

Without religion(God), what basis does one have for calling someone "good" or "evil"?
Your questions basically says implies objective morality... If you don't take that into account, you can talk about good and evil without God.

But regardless of that (let's say that God exists and we have objective morality) we have a mental disease called psychopathy. Those people are basically evil because they are ill. Would you care to explain how God created such people?
You do understand that without an objective GOOD, there is NO golden rule.
The golden rule is 100% subjective and it is subjective to what is viewed as good and good is subjective to what the individual believes to be good and how good is defined.
Look around you in society and through out history. Does it seem to you that the golden rule applies or that morality has changed with the passing of time and society?

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Re: Morality Without God?

#59

Post by PaulSacramento » Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:33 pm

Look around you in society and through out history. Does it seem to you that the golden rule applies or that morality has changed with the passing of time and society?
Are you asking me if what is viewed as moral today is the same as 500 years ago, or 1000 years ago?
Certainly the answer is no.
Argument can be made that we are more OR less moral than in the past.
Certainly the "golden rule" does NOT apply in all parts of the world, certainly not equally.

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Re: Morality Without God?

#60

Post by BryanH » Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:51 pm

Are you asking me if what is viewed as moral today is the same as 500 years ago, or 1000 years ago?
Certainly the answer is no.
Argument can be made that we are more OR less moral than in the past.
Certainly the "golden rule" does NOT apply in all parts of the world, certainly not equally.
What baffles me the most is that all people who believe in this "objective morality" fail to see that people are very subjective beings. God imposing objective rules on subjective beings, well, kind of irrational, don't you think? And that not mentioning that God created us so subjective in the first place.

But anyways Paul, let me ask you something:

If God made you choose between killing your own child and killing someone's else child? Which one would you kill?

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