Re: Some Words Clarified
It was absolutely painful to see you try to respond to the request of an associate Baptist minister to define truth, justice, morality, good, honesty, and law. After all, an atheist does not hold unusual or idiosyncratic views of these words. Rather, rational ideas about these concepts are to be found in numerous woks of philosophy going back to Plato and before. You do a valiant job of trying to bring some of this in, to be sure, but there is no way to do justice to someone like Kant, for example, in a few words, as you do, not without some philosophical common gorund, which you don't have with this fellow. (He'll likely just quote Kant back to you to the effect that he -- Kant -- was not an atheist and was happy to say that the "moral law within" was implanted by God, etc.) The unusual and idiosycratic creep in primarily when they are mixed with the theological. Thus, it is much easier to say what an atheist would say that these things are not by way of contrasting as a way of contarsting atheism with theism:
Truth IS NOT believing mutually contradictory and incomprehensible propositions of fact, such as that God both loves human beings and that God sends human beings to hell, there to suffer in agony for all eternity.
Justice IS NOT whatever an all-powerful supernatural beings says, such as that it is OK to murder one's own children if commanded to do so by such a being.
Ditto for morality, good, honesty, and law. All of these terms are to be found in good dictionaries, which give the ordinary usage of them, and none of which, at least in the dictionaries that I use, bring in theological concepts in order to explain them.
This fellow's "questions," therefore, are nothing of the sort. They are as much a "question" as the Pharisees' asking Jesus whether it is lawful to pay the (lawfully required) tax to Caesar. I would recommend that you recognize the motivation/intention behind this fellow's "questions" and respond accordingly. He wouldn't be asking unless he were either an utter ignoramus or because he hoped to be able to tear apart your response (as anyone could, including myself, given the complexity of the concepts) to show that you are wrongheaded.
If it were me, I would suggest that he read some philosophy texts or, if he has, invite him to explain what it is that is confusing him about these terms. Where does he think unbelievers have them wrong as compared to believers? And why does he think God makes a difference to any of them? Those, to my mind, are the sorts of issues that woudl be more fruitfully explored with someone like this. Because he's certainly not going to be enlightened by the responses you give. Not given his likely motivations for asking what he does.
Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.