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Is it really possible for something like morality to be an evolved characteristic?


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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 1:43:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2012 4:52:20 AM PDT
Harry M to Irish L : " So when slavers claimed that the loopholes allowed slavery, they also conveniently ignored the other side. Which means that they were not following the word of God even by traditional definitions. "

Harry, this is just an aside - but it seems like it wasn't so much a matter of finding" Loopholes " as " sloppy reading and " loopy " interpretive methods.

Genesis 9 reads :

" Cursed be Canaan: A servant of servants shall he be to his brothers...Blessed be... Shem and let Canaan be his servant."

Thus, strictly speaking, it is inaccurate to talk of "the curse of Ham." It's the "curse of Canaan".
Ham had four sons: Cush is listed first and Canaan, last (Gen. 10:6.)
"Ham's son was Cush, the forefather of Ethiopia." Scholars agree that "Cush" means "black."
Hence many expositors concur that "Ham...was the forefather of the black people," through his son, Cush. Yet, Ham was the forefather of other peoples also-through his other sons. So why focus attention exclusively upon only one lineage-Ham's black descendents? Moreover, regardless of the ethnic origins or skin colors of the Cushites, the fact remains that no curse is pronounced on either Ham or Cush. "

" The curse of servitude was pronounced on Caanan, another of Ham's sons. The Bible states clearly that Noah cursed Ham's fourth son, Canaan, not Ham's first son, Cush (the black, "Ethiopian.") There is no Biblical justification for transposing Noah's curse from one of Ham's sons to the other. "

At least not until the Biblical scholars worked their dark magic on Genesis 9 - to an extent where general { traditional ?} agreement was established linking the misnomered " curse of Ham " to "skin pigmentaion " and perpetual " slavery. " Here is the map of the misreading :

" The story of Noah in Genesis was probably written down around 1000 BC, although perhaps as early as 1250 BC or as late as 600 BC. The great period of biblical interpretation was much later, roughly 100 BC to 400 AD, with important contributions by Jewish rabbinic scholars and later the early Christian fathers. We need to understand the historical setting during the interpretive period, particularly with respect to slavery. Generally, slaves were prisoners taken in war. In addition, a black slave trade between Arabia and East Africa flourished under the Roman Empire. The slave trade plus wars of conquest brought blacks into the slave markets in the Near East, Greece and Rome--the three centers of biblical interpretation and scholarship for Jews and Christians.
The percentage of slaves who were black was fairly small compared to those who were European or western Asian. However, in those three centers, while not all slaves were black, all blacks were slaves.

All slaves were foreigners and thus "other ' and black slaves had a noticeably different skin color, and so visually stood apart. Over time black skin came to be associated with slavery, and that was reflected in biblical interpretation of the story of Noah's curse. Two key elements were established early on.
First, by around 150 AD, some commentators were claiming that the curse of slavery on Canaan either included Ham or was really a curse on Ham. Second, the curse somehow made Ham black-skinned."

" How did the commentators arrive at this farfetched interpretation? To reiterate, the bible says nothing about skin color or race. It happened like this:

" After the story of drunken Noah and the curse on Canaan, there's a table of generations listing seventy children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., who became seventy nations, repopulating the whole world (7 and 10 are both magical numbers of completeness in the biblical texts, and 70 is often used to mean completeness, wholeness). Nahum M. Sarna writes:

" Presumably, at one time, these lists were supposed to represent the nations of the world known to the ancient Israelites, but the precise identification was lost over centuries. It defies the consistent application of any single criterion of selectivity or of principles of classification . . . racial characteristics, physical types, or the color of skin play no role in the categorizing. Nor is language a guideline. "

" The earliest commentators looked at the story in context--the curse on Canaan, followed by the table of genealogies and then the story of the Tower of Babel--and concluded that the sequence as a whole was meant to explain human differentiation, that is, the different nations, languages, and cultures imposed on mankind by God. As early as the first centuries AD, Noah's three sons were connected with the three continents then known--Shem with Asia, Japheth with Europe, and Ham with Africa."

This wasn't a matter of settled opinion. Haynes cites a medieval interpretation that Noah's three sons represented the three classes of society--those who prayed (the clergy), those who fought (knights) and those who worked (peasants and artisans). Nonetheless, the idea that Noah's children were the basis of later racial divisions--broadly put, blacks, whites, and Orientals--was influential and gained wide currency. "

" Ham, in this view, had begotten the dark-skinned branch of mankind. In the table of generations, three of Ham's children were dark-skinned peoples: Kush (west central Africa, south of Egypt), Mizraim (Egypt) and Put (Libya). Interestingly, only Canaan--the one who was actually cursed in the bible--was not dark-skinned. (See footnote 1.)

At this time, the name Ham was believed to be related to the ancient Hebrew word meaning black, brown, or dark, as well as another word meaning hot, implying scorched by the sun. (Aside: etymologists now pretty much agree that this is incorrect. For more, see footnote 2.)

Thus many of the Jewish rabbis and the early Christian fathers linked Ham's descendents with dark skin, the mark of Noah's curse.
We have statements to this effect from Origen (c. 185-254), Augustine (354-430) and Ambrose of Milan (339-397.) The curse on Canaan, which probably referred to the Middle Eastern political situation in the 10th century BC, was now interpreted by some as a perpetual curse on Ham's descendents."

" It wasn't just Christians and Jews who interpreted matters this way. By the late 600s and early 700s, Muslim conquests in Africa brought an increasing number of black African slaves into the Near East. Islamic literature as early as 650 AD includes a few explicit references (such as Wahd ibn Munabbih and Ka'b al Akhbar) saying that God changed Ham's color and the color of his descendents because of Noah's curse. These are the first texts explicitly linking slavery with blackness. "

{ And the wrangling continues as to whether Muslim or Jewish commentaters got in the first " Curse of Ham" lick }

{ Also : Jewish scholars, working around the 6th century AD, introduced the idea that Ham was marked by dark skin.
From the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 108b: "Our Rabbis taught...[that] Ham was smitten in his skin." {Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 108b}
James Fenton says from the "medieval versions [of these events] we learn more about the nature of Ham's misdeeds. He mocked Noah's nakedness, and invited his brothers to do the same (which they refused). What is more, this is not the first of Ham's transgressions. When they had all been on the Ark together, Noah had insisted that everyone be sexually continent, but Ham, by the aid of a magic demon, slept with his wife. Next day Noah saw his footprints, and there grew up an enmity between Noah and his son. Ham was punished by being given a black skin. When the world came to be divided up, Japheth received Europe, Shem got Asia, and Ham was awarded Africa." }

" In the 1500s, beginning in Spain and Portugal, physical status (like race) was linked to social status and the slave stereotype was established. The stereotype went beyond mere slavery.
Ham was also a symbol of sexual transgression (based on interpretations that his offense against Noah was somehow sexual and that he was sexually loose in the Ark). Not only were blacks destined to be enslaved, they were connected with sexual depravity."

" There's no clear date when what Stephen Haynes calls "the fateful conjunction of slavery and race in Western readings of Noah's prophecy" occurred. The process was gradual. As sermons and speeches re-interpreted the biblical text, the curse of Ham became the ultimate justification for slavery. It explained why there were different races, and why the black races were slaves. David Goldenberg writes:

Perhaps the clearest and most succinct expression of this belief are the words of the Dominican Fray Francisco de la Cruz, who reported to the Inquisition in 1575 that, "'the blacks are justly captives by just sentence of God for the sins of their fathers, and that in sign thereof God gave them that color."

" By the late 1600s, the curse of Ham was well entrenched as divine sanction for slavery. In colonial America, the belief that Ham was black, and that Noah's curse was race-related, was widely subscribed to in both the North and South."

" By the 1830s, when the American anti-slavery movement had become a political force, slavery advocates had evolved an elaborate, systematic defense of slavery, arguing from scripture.
"Noah's curse was a stock weapon in the arsenal of slavery's apologists, and references to Genesis 9 appeared prominently in their publications."
For example, J.J. Flourney, writing in 1838, says, "the blacks were originally designed to vassalage by the Patriarch Noah."
Even many blacks accepted this as their God-ordained state.

The literal meaning of the biblical text was left far behind. This wasn't the first time, and won't be the last, that the bible has been twisted to support beliefs that are completely incompatible with the original intent. David Goldenberg writes:

Of course, anyone could look in the Bible and see that the Curse of Ham was a chimera. But it didn't matter how patently absurd was the argument from Scripture. When the Bible states that Canaan was cursed, it really means that Ham was cursed. And what was the proof? The fact that Blacks are enslaved. These arguments are, of course, irrational (Canaan means Ham) and circular (it must have been black Ham who was cursed with slavery because the Blacks are enslaved) but that did not matter. The Curse of Ham legitimized and validated the social order by divine justification. No matter how irrational or circular, the arguments were accepted because they supported society's beliefs and practices, and with God's approval. "

From Dex at " The Straight Dope "

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 5:47:59 AM PDT
"It looks like some people cheat, lie, or kill to survive. Moral behavior would have nothing to do with survival of species."

It appears that both selfishness (even to the point of sociopathy) and cooperativeness are sexually selected for. Women, if you don't want to be abused, stop marrying the "bad boys."

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 5:54:58 AM PDT
Irish Lace says:
"Men are interested in only two things, adequate child-bearing hips and adequate mammaries to ensure his get receive a decent feed. "

AND can she cook.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 5:56:34 AM PDT
Irish Lace says:
"A perfectly natural fear of domineering women.

Ooooops. It is mere coincidence that this appears immediately following posts from AxeGrrl and Irish Lace. My humble, abject apologies says Allan, grovelling"

Hmmmm .... what are you apologizing for? Seems like an astute observation to me. Are you suggesting that there is something _wrong_ with domineering women?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 6:00:50 AM PDT
Irish Lace says:
"I agree that if the scriptures are taken as a dictated guidebook from God, then the lack of condemnation of slavery is a serious issue. But if you have a realistic perspective on them, this lack does not diminish their value. It merely reflects the realities of the people whose community was being fostered.... And don't expect the NTSF fallacy to rescue you. I am not even arguing "this is not the true Bible" here. Just, "that is how life was.""

Yes, Harry. Life then, as now, was reflective of the fact that there is no objective, universal moral law. Humans just have to make it up as we go along.

That is and has always been the point.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 6:05:26 AM PDT
Irish Lace says:
Thank you. That was very interesting.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 6:10:06 AM PDT
Allan says:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYHLyzjt314&feature=related

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 6:24:43 AM PDT
Tom says:
Exactly what "morality" is should also be clarified. For some people, the hallmark of morality is authenticity, for others, it is to develop golden mean between extremes, for others, it is acting out of a sense of duty. Christian morality has the hallmark of acting in accordance with God's designs. Now an atheist will have a much more difficult time acting in accordance with God's designs if they don't belief in, know, or love God. That's just simple common sense. An atheist is certainly able to live in accord with another system of morality, or to do good things without any kind of moral system in mind.

For the record, the Catholic tradition of Christianity acknowledges that doing what is right and good is something distinct from belief in God. Somebody who doesn't know God or Jesus is certainly capable of a certain level of Christian morality. Because of our fallen nature, though, belief in and clinging to God goes a long way toward rectifying one's will to choose the good, to say nothing of the grace of Jesus Christ.

Put another way, when you fall in love with Jesus Christ, you have a much greater motivation to act in a moral way. And if you don't know Jesus you simply will not be able to live up to the fullness of Christian morality, which presupposes faith in Jesus.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 6:32:24 AM PDT
Allan says:
''Put another way, when you fall in love with Jesus Christ, you have a much greater motivation to act in a moral way. And if you don't know Jesus you simply will not be able to live up to the fullness of Christian morality, which presupposes faith in Jesus.''

That arrogance is never far off, is it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 6:44:48 AM PDT
Tom says:
It isn't arrogance but a matter of simple logic.

In the Catholic tradition, the morality of an act depends on the act itself, the intention behind the act, and the circumstances that surround the act.

Christian morality, in its fullness, presupposes faith in Christ, choosing what is right and good out of love for Christ. So an atheist cannot act in a fully "moral" way by Christian standards because they do not have that faith. If the scope of morality is drawn more narrowly, say to the ability to do good for others and act in a relatively unselfish way, but not specifically out of love for Christ, then an atheist is certainly capable of being moral.

But the fullness of Christian morality implies a certain kind of intentionality, that of love for Christ. And this presupposes faith in Christ. So once again, an atheist can be moral, but not fully moral in a Christian sense.

Now that's pretty simple isn't it?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:02:19 AM PDT
Allan says:
''So once again, an atheist can be moral, but not fully moral in a Christian sense. Now that's pretty simple isn't it?''

It is.

Provided one accepts that Christian morality is severely limited compared with what can be available to an atheist.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:07:58 AM PDT
mark says:
"Christian morality....is right and good out of love for Christ."

"to do good for others and act in a relatively unselfish way"

If there is no distinctly necessary, moral difference, why presuppose anything?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:14:41 AM PDT
Tom says:
The aim of morality shouldn't be the availability of various alternatives, but to define the principles of right action and good conduct. The concern should be with what is truly right and good, not with versatility per se.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:19:37 AM PDT
Tom says:
But there is a distinct difference, at least in principle, and probably in practice as well.

A Christian who is living and acting in a Christian way is motivated by love of Christ. An atheist is not. So even if both of them are serving the poor or forgiving someone who harms them, they are not doing the same thing.

And precisely because of this difference, I would argue, it is easier for a Christian to do what is right (at least from the perspective of, "should l do this or not?").

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:19:59 AM PDT
Allan says:
''The concern should be with what is truly right and good, not with versatility per se''

Straight atheist thinking.

Be good, for goodness' sake.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:22:29 AM PDT
Allan says:
''And precisely because of this difference, I would argue, it is easier for a Christian to do what is right (at least from the perspective of, "should l do this or not?").''

Atheists have no reason to kill those who disagree with them or condemn them to an eternity of torture and torment for not seeing things their way.

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 7:24:07 AM PDT
Tom says:
"Straight atheist thinking. Be good, for goodness' sake."

No it's not. God is the source of all goodness.

Be good for God's sake.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:27:31 AM PDT
Tom says:
"Atheists have no reason to kill those who disagree with them or condemn them to an eternity of torture and torment for not seeing things their way."

A quick glance at history is clear about the fact that both religious people and atheist are capable of violence and absolute condemnation. It is simply the way these things are justified and the language with which one does them that constitutes the difference.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:31:11 AM PDT
Allan says:
''No it's not. God is the source of all goodness. ''

And since all deties are man-made in our own image, this gets back to straight atheist thinking.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:33:37 AM PDT
Allan says:
''A quick glance at history is clear about the fact that both religious people and atheist are capable of violence and absolute condemnation.''

Only Christians (and other followers of the Abrahamic deities) are capable of violence and absolute condemnation in the name and cause of their deity.

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 7:36:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2012 7:37:29 AM PDT
Stratocaster says:
As someone who was raised as a Christian, I can't think of another religion that is more IMMORAL! The history of Christianity is rife with horrific acts and abhorrent behavior.

Some of the most decent and honest people I've ever known are atheists.

As far as the question put forth in the opening post - Remember:

Children have to be TAUGHT not to steal
They have to be TAUGHT not to lie
They have to be TAUGHT to share
They have to be TAUGHT not to prey on the weaker.
So no, unfortunately I don't think it is "possible for something like morality to be an evolved characteristic". It must be taught.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:37:43 AM PDT
Tom says:
Your reply is senseless.

Atheism is the belief that there is no supreme being. If I say that the goal of morality is to act out of love for the supreme being, who defines what is good and right, them I am, by definition, not articulating an atheist vision of morality.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:39:42 AM PDT
Tom says:
True, but how does that make the violence and absolute condemnation of atheists any better?

Both are deplorable.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:45:47 AM PDT
Allan says:
''If I say that the goal of morality is to act out of love for the supreme being, who defines what is good and right, them I am, by definition, not articulating an atheist vision of morality.''

Your reply is senseless.

If I say that all deities are man made in the image of man then, by definition, the goal of any morality is necessarily an atheist vision of morality.

We have evolved over millions of years as a social/tribal Great Ape subset and accordingly all our moralities are genetically programmed to ensure the survival of the tribe until they are overridden by cultural conditioning.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 7:49:40 AM PDT
Tom says:
How can one so readily generalize that Christianity produces more immoral people than other religions? Just because you can think of a handful of examples where Christians have done bad things? Have you studied other religions and cultures? This is a complex topic. As far as the history of sin in the Christian world, it has been alive and well. It has also been alive and well elsewhere in the world throughout history.

I agree that morality must be taught, but the basic sense to choose what is good and avoid what is evil, I would say, is innate. One may be able to say that it, in a sense, springs from--though goes well beyond--sensory experience.
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