I love your page, you are one of the most intelligently written religious webmasters I have found so far, next to the pod leader for religious web pages on Tripod.. and his page is under construction. I am a Junior at NYU, I have just completed an intensive 2 year liberal arts curriculum and am now studying Communications Management. I search the internet for things that religious people say to prove their faith is valid. This is because as an agnost I find it rewarding to challenge either side, but I lean heavily in favor of atheism. I also rather admire Mr. Sagan, whom I only started reading this summer, even if some of what he says is preposterous:>. Oh and lastly, on my list of "credentials," I work at a non profit organization strongly tied to the Unification Church and Rev. Moon, my parents are both in the Unification Church and I was brought up with strong Christian beliefs, and I have had a strong reaction to it -- not because of the Unification Church's falseness, but because I had to take a step back and look at religion. Abstinence from sex, drugs and so forth are strictly adhered to in the Unification Church (at least by the lowly members), and perhaps my conflict with those rules is what made me NEED to take a look at religion. Liberal arts also helped me form a better perspective, as I took 4 semesters of Philosophy of the Western World.
I agree with what Dave Stark wrote to you about the Moral Law. The heart of the matter is that ultimately, the Moral Law proves nothing. And while his point seemed clear to me, Mr. Stark wrote about many other things which seemed to lead away from getting his main rebuttal. Man follows the moral law because it suits him as a social creature, and he has benefitted because of it. Fear of a punishing God has helped the slightly less conscienscious (sp?) to be moral, but for the sake of a logical proof (and this is something Carl Sagan talks about in his Skeptical Thinker's Kit):
* If the conclusion based on the evidence is not the most simple explanation of the phenomena, it is not a good conclusion. *
People around the world all follow the same moral laws, give or take, let's say. That seems pretty incredible, and thus requires a good explanation. One is that (no other evidence for God provided) there is a force that has existed since the beginning of time. We can't touch it, see it, taste it, smell it, hear it, see its footprints or measure it's passing, yet it surrounds us. It created the universe and created us. While this seems a bit far fetched -- it is almost a non-sequitur depending how you look at it -- it explains the striking phenomenon completely.
A simpler explanation is that these moral laws were self-evident and not following them led to strife and misery, so human societies learned to abide by them. That -*- simpler explanation -*- is why God's existence must be put in doubt. For it also explains the phenomenon completely.
People seems to believe in God because so many "unexplainables" or what people want to explain and understand are attributed to God. Humans understand things by their causes. As this list of phenomena attributed to the divine piles up, God's existence seems to become more and more plausible. Whenever the sun is shining, it's God, happy. When it rains, God is sad. When you bump your knee, God is reminding you that you shouldn't have done certain selfish things last week. When you survive a car accident, it's a miracle. There are simpler explanations for each of these phenomena. By simpler, I mean, not necessarily less complex -- just more plausible.
I took the liberty of putting a link to your Carl Sagan: A Response to Moral Law page to my own growing essay page. If you want, I'll remove it but you strike me as the kind of person who wants interaction and communication, so don't mistake my meaning -- I don't expect you to want me to take it down, but by all means I will if you wish it. Come see how I represent it. My essay page is at http://members.tripod.com/~dark_circle/essay.htm. I think some of the links here you'll enjoy as well.
Thank you for your attention.
Thank you for your e-mail & for placing the link to the Carl Sagan article on your website. I would like to also post your letter on mine. And eventually give my reflections. I kind of work on this in spurts, so it may take a little while. I appreciate being able to dialogue with someone like yourself, especially on what are the most important issues.
My question about the moral law would be this: You yourself seem to acknowledge its remarkable universality, depth and persistence. Does evolution account for that? More pointedly, how do we explain the moral atheist like Carl Sagan? He considered that ethical demands were just one more thing that evolution has thrown up, but he still appealed to them in his exhortations to sacrifice our own immediate comfort in order to save the environment. He even asked us to go against the most fundamental law of evolution in order to achieve that goal.
Fr. Phil Bloom