Posted by: Andrew G | December 26, 2009

The Problem of Absolutes

First month of this blog and already I am off my 3x a week habit. Due to holidays and supposed priorities (family, food and shopping??) I haven’t squeezed in the Wednesday or Friday entries. No biggie. It’s just a matter of catching up and keeping the faith with myself.   (sigh)

Some good news — Christmas gatherings were a lot of fun this year. I got practically nothing on my wish list, but I did get some other bountiful, wonderful things. I got what looks like enough cash to take a Flash Introduction course at Loyalist College. It’s an online course, and probably not as thorough as I would like, but it will start me in the right direction.

People love to talk about how their unique learning style makes them only learn in certain ways. Well, I know I’m a listener and questioner, so a teacher with (semi-) organized lessons seems to get the job done well for me. Some people just play with things until they ‘get it’. Some people have to measure or put things together on their own and discover for themselves. Some people read. And  some people can’t be bothered and just have to get their hands dirty with the job in front of them. In the end we all have to get to the doing, the work. Whatever the flavour, I hope the course starts me on all the doing that I have planned in my head.

Now, I wrote all that so I could talk about religion. My favouritist of funny subjects. Whatever path you take, like whatever learning style you may have, it will certainly shape a part of your understanding. But at the heart of it, what’s the ultimate goal of each religion out there?


The agenda may be different, and the tools different, but in the end each religion is trying to accomplish control. It may be a beneficial thing, like self-control and the power to choose your behaviour to one another. It can even be something simple, like the creation and recognition of a community that fosters the lives of its members.

Does God really want you to believe, or does God really just want you to control yourself? Would there really be over 700 rules to live by in the Bible about behaviour if the most important thing is belief?

Sometimes you need to carry truth in order to convince people to behave the way you want them to. Otherwise, why would anyone listen to you? You would have to be awfully charming, or wildly entertaining, to pull off “I think you should do this, even though I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

And I think this is a major stumbling block for agnostics and atheists right now. Or at least, for moral relativists. There needs to be some answer to the problem of “Why should we be ethical if there are no absolutes?”

There is an amazing debate on whether or not there is a moral reality, or intrinsic good and evil, that can be found here and in the comments.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t solve the problem. If anything, it just reduces down to the initial starting points of each side. Hence the problem with argument and debate that I have mentioned earlier. But it does put a few important ideas into perspective. Absolutes, for one thing, can be extremely comforting. At least with absolutes, you know where you stand. Unfortunately, they can get to be extremely difficult to prove or defend.

But I do want to get back to the agnostics and atheists. How do you behave in good ways if you do not believe in good or evil? Well, there are certainly a lot of efforts and arguments going into that right now. Personally, I have an idea that I would like to try an flush out, but I don’t know if I have the competence at this time. I would love to put together something called “The Gospel according to Nature: How even our morality has been affected by evolution”

Isn’t that a challenging title? What if there is biological evidence to support living the ethical life? I”m not talking about finding that ultimate proof that there is an intelligent design, or anything like that. I just want to play with the idea that by observing how the natural world works, how organisms work, we could conclude an ethical code. And of course, would it be even remotely close to the ethical codes of any religion?

Not absolute truths from revelation, handed down from Heaven. Observable and testable patterns of behaviour that lead to good living for a community. Imagine how different it might actually be from what we want to believe right now? Imagine what kind of arguments such a thing would stir in people!

I’ll leave this for now. Time to go have some fun with the toys I got for Christmas.


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