Surprise Richard! You get to be my first guest blogger!
Telmeimwrong has asked Richard,
God said don't bear false witness.
I decide to pay my taxes
Is that wrong? (since it was formed for the wrong reason)
"But if both sides are honest (such as Johnny)" are you saying that I am not honest?
Richard said "You have no answers as to how to live morally, how to think through such moral issues as we are presently discussing, or moral conflicts in your own life with the people around you. You have no basis that says, “This makes sense and I must therefore act on it! By what standards will you judge yourself and your life on your deathbed? To formulate those standards of morality, a proper way of knowing Truth must be understood and performed intellectually, unwaveringly." Expound on this. To me, it flies in the face of reason. What is truth then? What is the proper WAY of knowing it?
Here is Richard's response.
Telmeimwrong you have raised three good points, the answers to both are related, and may be difficult for you to deal with. My response is not in any way intended to harm your sensibilities, any more than might be the case in pointing out that a map has been misread.
1. "Taxes" is easy. All of us, are under the considerable coercive power of the state initiating force against us. Pay them! You should not go to jail. However, without taxation you could buy the same services much more cheaply than at the price the state provides. (Even the police, courts and military could be paid for by means other than taxation, and still remain impartial means of dealing with transgressions by citizens and foreigners). Thus the right reason to pay taxes is not a matter of honesty, but of opening your wallet to state approved confiscation. The stateâ€™s job is to protect you from theft of your property, today it is the thief. See my discussion of the nature of a thief, next.
2. "Honesty" is not a matter of not lying, not stealing or not committing fraud. Those are the outward manifestations of a deeper intellectual form of dishonesty. Honesty is recognizing that unreal things truly are unreal! The liar wants to rewrite reality in order to sway someone else's judgment away from what is real. The thief or con artist is pretending that he has some sort of right to what he has taken. Usually they do it through some sort of rationalization, such as "they have lots of money and won't miss it", "they are only rich cause they got all the breaks, and no-one will give me a break" etc etc. Although their new possessions are not their own, they blank out of mind the fact that their ownership is unreal. Thus their dishonesty is fundamentally intellectual.
This is precisely the case, through phenomenal social and parental pressure, with religionists. At one level or another, usually before their minds have matured, their mentors teach them that the unreal is real. The same mentors embed their unrealities in all sorts of very real things, as authority figures, making themselves all the more believable. Rare indeed is the *child* who can resist that. (See the poem in my next comment by William Blake)
Nonetheless some children do resist at some level. Although I was an altar boy, I was always troubled by the â€˜miracleâ€™ stuff. As a teenager I had resigned myself that such things must happen, but just not in my experience, so I had best believe in God. By 18, reading "The Source" by Roland Michener, I began to seriously doubt. At 35 yrs of age I grasped (recognized) the unreality of gods and religion and with great joy, became an atheist. Joy, because I was no longer under the oppressive scrutiny and manipulations of this quixotic power called God. The World was just what it was, and wonderful!
So, I can now say, "yes" at that fundamental level, with all the deeper complications I mentioned earlier by which homosexuals became homosexual, you are being intellectually dishonest particular in the context of religion, as was I. The consequences of that dishonesty affect countless areas of your life (as they affected mine). Harder still, your peers accept them so that they feel normal and right to you and make you feel included socially. They are not honest... not any more than it is right for today's Muslims or yesterday's Christians to murder heretics/apostates.
3. I do not know what you mean when you say my comment "flies in the face of reason". I think the question is asked too soon. Reason and truth must be understood before it can be answered. I can only say Morality can and must be developed through secular reason (there is no other kind), not faith, and move to your next sub-questions.
Truth is obtained through oneâ€™s five senses, and by Reason. Reason is a major component of the branch of philosophy named Epistemology, a 'big' word (that is, "very abstract") that can be hard to get one's mind around (it was for me). Epistemology, in short, is the study of how Men can know the truth, what makes the truth so, and also what errors can be made in trying to get there. It is a very large and complicated field...
Truth is the recognition of Reality. Notice its meaning is closely related to the meaning of Honesty. The moment a mind allows unreality to occupy a space in its understandings, it will run into contradictions. Each contradiction will butt up against real, related issues, time and time again. (This you are experiencing, and are here responding to very well) E.g.Calling a witch doctor to deal with your child's diabetes, by chanting, burning herbs and waving talismans, will result in your child's death. So will a policy I have seen on store windows, outside homes and on church signs in the Caribbean that says "Let go and let God". (Think of Jehovahâ€™s Witnesses and blood transfusions!) Nope, the child needs insulin (a transfusion); s/he needs adults who recognize reality if the child is to live: the child's pancreas is not producing insulin, and that is what must be addressed.
I cannot possibly explain epistemology to you in any significant way (this is already 800 words!). It is a field you would have to investigate yourself. The most I could do is recommend material that would require many months of reading. I have spent thousands of hours on it in the last 20 years, and am still no expert.
Understanding epistemology is highly rewarding because it provides one with protection from harm, whether in politics, ethics, science, economics or in social interaction. This is because reason is man's only tool of survival --man does not survive by sharp teeth or claws, by speed or strength, nor even by camouflage. Knowledge of epistemology ought to be the goal of any liberal education, and many of its elements should be taught before a child leaves grade school.
I often sign off e-mails with the following, and it seems appropriate here.
Reason and the philosophical principles upon which it depends are sought by rare minds, who grasp that day to day life is not a barrier to that study but the reason for it. @2001 by Richard @2001