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Traditional values, causes, problems, and solutionsIs the collapse of traditional...

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wiseboy | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 27, 2009 at 10:20 AM via web

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Traditional values, causes, problems, and solutions

Is the collapse of traditional values the cause of various problems in the world?

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 27, 2009 at 12:27 PM (Answer #2)

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To suggest that the collapse of traditional values is the cause of many problems in the world today doesn't get us very far. By that I mean, what do you mean by "traditional"? Do you mean the values of the hunter gatherer tribes who were displaced by agricultural cultures? The values of the ancient Greeks who valued glory so highly that Achilles might be considered within his rights to step away from battle in the Iliad because his pride had been shamed? The values of pre-Civil War America, which included slavery?

In other words, to discuss this question usefully, you'd need to define "tradition" and "value." You'd also have to show that a change in values is the same as a collapse in values. Does the contemporary world value physical labor less because we have machines to do it for us?

There are organizations dedicated to traditional values, and some of them show the difficulty involved in this discussion. Take The Traditional Values Coalition (http://www.traditionalvalues.org). It defines traditional values, but does so selectively.

 

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted February 27, 2009 at 1:45 PM (Answer #3)

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I would like to see you reframe this question to something like "Which traditional values are important to the continuation of society as we now have it?"  Problems may be an important impetus to change/improvement, and these may require a realignment of values.

But there are some values that I feel are necessary to maintain.  I think family is one of these values.  Hard work is another.  Religion/Faith (not "a" Religion, but the values in them) is yet another.  After all, if there are no long term values, how do we make long term decisions?

What do others think?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 28, 2009 at 6:09 AM (Answer #4)

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I agree with #3.  There are certain values that have gone to the wayside and are the center of argument like Religion/Faith as stated above.  I also think the value of marriage defined as one man and one woman is being threatened, which throws a wrench in the works of "tradition" and what the original plan was and still is.  Otherwise, procreation (another "tradition" embedded in humanity and supported by religion/faith as a beautiful thing when in a secure, monogamous relationship between one woman and one man) is null and void as well. 

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 28, 2009 at 8:35 PM (Answer #5)

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The supposition that traditional values (however defined) have collapsed is erroneous.  The conclusion that such value collapse is the cause of problems in the world is unfounded.  As others have stated, be precise in your meanings to have a meaningful exploration of your question.

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cburr | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted March 7, 2009 at 10:08 AM (Answer #6)

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Answer #4 is a good example of one of the difficulties with "traditional values." Throughout history, "tradition" has certainly been used to preserve positive social structures. But it has also been used to prolong discriminatory thinking rooted in self-interest, fear or ignorance.

Of course, children benefit from being raised in a secure and loving setting. However, to suggest that only a monogamous one woman/one man relationship can provide that secure and loving setting is unfounded and dangerous.

How many religious one man/one woman families do you know that are too busy to give the children the support they need , or that are downright toxic environments? How about gay couples who provide a loving home in which the children thrive? What about a grandparent or other caring person raising children with love, or even communal environments which offer enriching opportunities for children to grow?

The key, I think, is to be able to look critically at the qualities that a society needs to thrive, without getting bogged down in what we are used to.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 8, 2009 at 2:52 PM (Answer #7)

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Answer #4 is a good example of one of the difficulties with "traditional values." Throughout history, "tradition" has certainly been used to preserve positive social structures. But it has also been used to prolong discriminatory thinking rooted in self-interest, fear or ignorance.

Of course, children benefit from being raised in a secure and loving setting. However, to suggest that only a monogamous one woman/one man relationship can provide that secure and loving setting is unfounded and dangerous.

How many religious one man/one woman families do you know that are too busy to give the children the support they need , or that are downright toxic environments? How about gay couples who provide a loving home in which the children thrive? What about a grandparent or other caring person raising children with love, or even communal environments which offer enriching opportunities for children to grow?

The key, I think, is to be able to look critically at the qualities that a society needs to thrive, without getting bogged down in what we are used to.

  The problem with this position is that, in my experience, it tends to lead to just about anything --- and the development of values tends to be tied to political positions/agendas.  Although I hate to mention the most controversial of topics, let's look at abortion.  For decades it was murder; one day, a few people voted, and it was OK.  What change in values made this possible?  The argument states that it is a woman's right to control her body.  The real issue, it seems to me, is whether you are ending a human life ... and we have never bothered to answer that problem; it seems to have been conveniently ignored.  "Abortion" has lead to "late term abortion" which, in my value system, is just murder.  Many of you will disagree with my values in this regard, but that points to the real problem:  if tradition is not the source of our values (and I do not think that it is in all cases), then what will replace it?  How will we "look critically at the qualities that a society needs to thrive" when there is little possibility that we will ever agree on these?  When one person calls another person's values "dangerous," how do we get past that?

What do you think?

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samaffey | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 10, 2009 at 8:14 AM (Answer #8)

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In response to #7 – while I don’t want to engage in a debate about the moral position of whether abortion is right or wrong, I think you bring up a good point about moral issues being driven by politicians and political agendas. There has been a shift on what a lot of people accept as “traditional values”.  I think the particularly dangerous shift has been in the amount of emphasis that people now put on material positions.  People now spend so much time focusing on the things they want to own that they let other things, like education and family, which is responsible for the attitude of the new generation.

In response to #3 – I completely agree.  After working with the youth of today, and observing the behavior of the 20-somethings, I think there are certain values that a individual needs to have to not only make decisions but to be a productive member of any society.  Family is right up there at the top, along with a belief system.  I hesitate from using “religion”, only because I think that a person can have a personal code of ethics and morals without belonging to a specific religion.  I think there needs to be a national discussion on what values are important to the American people – although this might be impossible as long as “values” continue to be a political issue.

Any thoughts?     

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jillyfish | Student , Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted March 10, 2009 at 9:14 AM (Answer #9)

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The answer to the original question is an emphatic, unhesitating "No". We are not in a Dark Age, we are in a New Age.

The age of child-like certainty is over. It is a vast, cold, meaningless universe. Death is final and no-one has any answers. We must face these unpleasant truths. All we have is our humanity. We must grow up or fail.

Many current problems are caused by traditionalists (Bush, Bin Laden, Ahmedinejad, etc) who refuse to face difficult truths, preferring to hide inside old stories.

One of the 19th century's most influential philosophers said this about the old ways...

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? .... Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” Nietzsche

The old ways are gone forever. We have proved that we evolved by chance from monkeys on an unimportant planet. Our tiny existence utterly fails to define the near-infinite universe. All ancient religions have major errors and inconsistencies. Like it or not, they are wrong. Mankind has no God-given direction or purpose.

You can resist that and live in denial and even start wars rather than accept it... but it won't bring God back. There is no God. God is dead. We have killed him.

We must find our own way from here. It won't be easy. But we can be so much more free than before. There's no God to tell us what to do.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 10, 2009 at 12:38 PM (Answer #10)

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Phew.  Although I fully understand the post in #9, and have spent time studying the text referred to, I think it would be helpful to treat Neitzche with the same skepticism that he treats the existence of God.  It is impossible to prove that God exists or does not exist; if it could be proven, we would all agree.

I think that this is a language problem.  If by "God" you mean the definition of God in a particular time and place, then it is probably correct.  Our understanding of God is often pegged to a time and place (eg. thinking of God as some kind of a King), and this understanding must change as our consciousness grows/evolves. What we have killed is an outdated understanding of God; either God existed once and will always (time words don't really work with God, but it's what we have), or he/she (again, the failure of words) never did because we can't kill a spirit.

Most of the individuals mentioned in the post are not traditionalists; they are radicals.  I think it's unfair to put Bush in with Bin Laden, probably because there is no agreement with his politics.  There are many traditionalist who have never caused any problems for anyone.

In some ways, I agree with the post, but that's because of my vision of God.  I believe that God has given us the world to "redeem." I don't know if there is a plan we have been given for this; I think we have been given intelligence to work it out.

The problem of having no external referent to truth is that it tends to become totally subjective.  Without an external referent, how do we establsih moral standards for all of us/most of us?

 

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted March 10, 2009 at 5:20 PM (Answer #11)

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And now back to the topic at hand:

Traditional, as a word, is an adjective. The problem with adjectives is that they lack precision. Think about it: how do you measure or calculate using concepts like "big, ugly, pretty, fast, smelly," etc.? Not to be repetitious, but if the tradition from which the values were extracted could be pinpointed, people would better be able to address this topic.

Values, on the other hand, is a plural noun in this case. Again, however, the word is a vague idea. If we are talking about traditional cannibalist values, that prospect is entirely different from discussing traditional Christian values of the early 20th century. Specifics would greatly improve the quality of this discussion. As it is, one might conclude we have a series of posts comprised of grandly-written speculations.

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marilynn07 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted March 10, 2009 at 5:27 PM (Answer #12)

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Let's simplify this question and get away from specific ideas that we may or may not ever agree on.  What exactly do we mean by "traditional" values?  The traditional values of the Pathan tribe in Afghanistan are fine in their place, but forceably applied to others by the Taliban government caused no end of problems in their country.  Same for ultra-extreme Muslims, extremist so-called Christians, ultra-orthodox Jews agitating in Isreal, etc.  Let's just look at the basics of values that most societies in history have espoused.  We have already identified, "family" as one, which seems pretty ingrained in human beings.  If you have a child, you will understand how basic this one is.  Then there is "spiritual belief"- let's leave out the word "religion" since religions are theories about the concepts of "god" and "mankind" and "the universe."  Our society in America is in a series of struggles about this- gay marriage, abortion, etc.  The world is aflame with these issues- a misunderstanding of jihad espoused by some Muslims being one example, the ultra-Orthodox pushing their society toward more trouble with Palestinians, etc.  Even "New Agers" that think "traditional religions" should be done away with because of some of these problems.  I believe the root problem is more that people become overly sensitive about what they like and want instead of looking at what the "traditional beliefs" are really about- love of family, respect for others, respect for "god" and self.  These things have not gone away, but they have been obfuscated by economic pressures, by the personal and political ambitions of various self-appointed spokespersons and religious and political personages who will twist anything to fit their ambitions.  Traditional values are not disappearing- they are being twisted into unrecognizable shape by religious, political and economic forces.  Unthinking people refusing to look and think about what these values really are, and what they really mean in a personal and social way, are simply pawns in the hands of those forces.  The world appears to be falling apart because we respond to pressure and allow those pressures to tear us apart, instead of using our minds to think about how to get along with one another using these values in positive and productive ways.  The traditional values I find most in short supply these days is RESPONSIBILITY, and respect for the differing views of others.

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jillyfish | Student , Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted March 11, 2009 at 4:17 AM (Answer #13)

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Reply to #11: But God is the topic at hand! Christianity couldn't be more central to this discussion. The original question concerns 'The Collapse of Traditional Values'. You asked for specific examples of traditional values. Here are some...

Thou shalt not kill.

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Thou shalt not bear false witness.

etc

These laws are the absolute cornerstone of our sense of right and wrong. For millennia, we have used these laws to define our morals. And why shalt thou not kill or steal? Because God says so, that's why. So I hope you now see this topic's relevance. Our traditional social values use The Bible as their base. So if we destroy God with science, have we also destroyed the glue for our social and moral code? Can humans be moral without the stick-and-carrot of religious laws?

Look at Post #4. It is solid evidence that many people still believe, "Good behavior = Conformity to God's laws." God upholds their moral code. BUT... Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Darwin, Bohr, Freud, Crick-and-Watson et al have scoured the universe and found no God. We opened Pandora’s box and it was empty. We can’t just close the box and pretend nothing happened. As Nietzsche said, The Christian God of Planet Earth, who judges and answers prayers and intervenes, is dead. Like it or not, we can't go back.

God isn’t there to help us anymore. We must adopt secular humanism. Welcome to the New World Order.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 11, 2009 at 8:00 AM (Answer #14)

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to jillyfish:  why do you see Nietzche's performance as having absolute truth here?  Nietzche was just a person with lots of his own problems.  Many people have scoured the universe and not found God; other who have scoured have.  I'm still looking.  Instead of signing on with the few people you mention (there are lots of others) who haven't found God, I suggest we all keep looking, and that we redefine the idea of God (as discussed in earlier post) so we have a better understanding of the possibilities.

I have grave doubts about "secular humanism."  I don't know what it means (but I'll be looking for your post), and don't know how we will ever come to a common understanding of morality ... we haven't done so well thus far.

Anyway, let's see where this discussion goes ...

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jillyfish | Student , Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted March 11, 2009 at 9:09 AM (Answer #15)

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Nietzsche was simply the first to point out what has now become evident.

Christianity's original view was the universe as a small, Earth-centric place full of Angels and Devils, miracles and wonders. A completely unscientific world where God moved, spoke and acted. A place made exclusively for Man by God. A place with clear, strict rules, dictated directly by God to Man. 

God made Man above animals to live well and please him. He flattened cities or flooded the Earth, if you lived badly! He was a very involved diety. 10 plagues he sent to the Egyptians! His laws had serious consequences. Man felt God's voice in earthquakes and saw his ire in lightening. They saw his love in the miraculous fruit-giving trees and his messages in the miraculous shooting stars and rainbows. God made water fall miraculously from the sky to miraculously grow the bounteous crops. God made huge trees miraculously grow from tiny seeds. The sun rose in the East and sank in the West and miraculously rose again. God sent summer. God sent winter. Surely the power of God was everywhere.

Look at how the medieval mind reacted to The Black Death epidemic. They were convinced it was God's punishment. Not a virus, but a judgement. A real angry God really killing naughty people.

Then... Nicholas Copernicus said, "Hang on. We go round the sun. We're not the centre" and put the first crack in God's personally-controlled, purpose-built universe for Man...

cont...

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jillyfish | Student , Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted March 11, 2009 at 9:26 AM (Answer #16)

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cont...

Fast Forward 500 years and all of God's miracles have been taken away from him by science. He is no longer a close active God but merely an abstract symbol. He doesn't involve himself anymore.

Visions are now schizophrenia.

Earthquakes are now plate tectonics.

Rainbows are simple properties of light.

The Black Death is a harmful, single-celled organism spead by rat fleas, not God.

The God who smashed Gomorrah or Spake Unto Moses is gone. If there is a God, he has left everything on auto-pilot and removed himself to another dimension. The universe is now controlled by forces and math, not the Almighty.

So therefore (deep breath)... God is dead.

And with his death, his moral authority died with him. He is no longer our judge. His legal system has collapsed. We will not be punished if we disobey him. So, in my opinion, the 'traditional value systems' asked about in this thread are also dead and we are forced to create our own moral authority.

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marilynn07 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted March 12, 2009 at 1:02 PM (Answer #17)

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If we're going to continually refer to Nietzsche here, let's get our facts straight.  Nietzsche never stated that God is dead.  "Thus Spake Zarathustra" is a work of fiction, written to explicate a series of philosophical constructs which the author was mulling over.  In this book, one fictional character says to another, "Your God is dead."  In other words, character A says to character B that B's concept of diety is (in A's opinion) outmoded.  There is never a statement made that there is no "god" or what "god" might or might not be like.  There is never any indication that the opinion of a character may or may not be actual reality.

Let's remember here, people who write are trying to convince the reader of something, whether the writing is an essay, a novel, or anything else.  Even works of history may contain opinions or viewpoints that are mistaken or incorrect, much less a work of philosophy (which is basically just throwing out ideas and developing them) or a work of fiction.

If there was no "god" then it never died.  If there is a "god", our philosophies are probably irrelevant to its nature.  This thread is not about "religious" values, but "traditional" ones.  These are different words and mean different things.  Let's try to be precise in our thinking.  The very first post was the most applicable; the term "traditional" needs to be defined before we can do anything more than pontificate on our own opinions.  What we most need to do is think seriously about what we read and imagine, about what we see and experience.  Blindly accepting any philosophy or idea is foolish and potentially dangerous.  That is how we end up with things like, oh, the Nazis, racism, unnecessary wars, the election of foolish leaders (which the world has seen a lot of in the past 150 years), etc.

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jillyfish | Student , Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted March 13, 2009 at 3:00 AM (Answer #18)

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This is all about the collapse of our traditional values.

God is dead like Zeus is dead or Ra is dead or Thor is dead. We have stilled God's 'mighty hand' with science. Try to imagine what people believed before we had science. They believed God parted the Red Sea with a flick of an eyebrow. He turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt!

Imagine you're a medeival peasant. Rain was proof of God. Thunder was proof of God. Rainbows, tides, the sun, mountains, volcanoes: terrifying, undeniable proof of God etc etc. Everything was inexplicable and proof of God. 

And God was an ever-present, lethal, omnipotent judge. He was a tangible moral arbiter. You followed his rules, or you went to hell. They feared it! Life was God's big exam that you failed at your peril. Did you ever notice the similarity between 'God','Good' and 'Devil','Evil'? We used God as our definition of Good and as our policeman of good behaviour.

Today, who really believes God would send a great flood if he was angry at Man's behaviour? Science has eradicted the God who judges and 'waxeth in his wrath'. We have explained him away. Traditional Christian Values no longer have an enforcer. God is not going to smite you if you ignore him. We have successfully rejected his authority.

So, in summary, 'Christian' no longer equals 'good', because good (God) is dead. The current upheavals in our society are part of our search for a new definition of Good.

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted March 13, 2009 at 7:29 AM (Answer #19)

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"...let's get our facts straight.  Nietzsche never stated that God is dead." Marilynn07

Try here... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_is_dead

The phrase 'God is Dead' is of course headline-grabbing. But the thinking behind it is solid enough; Nietzche foresaw the erosion of the Christian authority caused by Darwin's discovery.

Our Traditional Values are based on Traditional Science, Religion, Philosophy and Social Structures. Like it or not, we have collapsed those traditional models.

You can no longer tell society, "Sex is wrong", "Abstinence is good", "Blasphemy is immoral", "Respect authority" etc becuase these are less and less relevant to the modern world.

Constructing society's morals with Christian codes is an out-dated concept. It won't work. Too many people reject the authority of the Church. I refuse to adhere to religious morals. If I want to have sex with someone I like, then I will. Claiming God is upset is just too bad. I don't care if God is upset.

In fact, its God's followers who are upset, not God. Beware anyone who gets angry on God's behalf or acts as God's moral bulldog. Most of the time their own private life fails to meet the standards they demand of others. It is a telling fact that many aggressive defenders of old fashioned values get caught in massively hypocritical scandals.  Click below for a long and hysterical list of examples.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_evangelist_scandals

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marilynn07 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted March 13, 2009 at 11:12 AM (Answer #20)

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There seems to be a segment here equating "traditional values" with one religion, Christianity, which apparently some of you see as the only "good" values and others see as outdated or which they simply don't like.  "Traditional" values and societies predate Christianity by thousands of years.  Both groups are proving my point- we need to think about personal values and standards, not personal opinions or prejudices for or against a particular religion.  I don't see anything about the original question that refers to Christianity, or Islam, or Vedanta, or any religious ideology.  Why does one have to have a specific "god" (or none) to have personal standards of behavior?

For instance, the "thou shall not kill, commit adultery, etc." list.  Well, if you think about it, stealing, killing, scewing around with your neighbor's significant others, etc. are all things that will almost certainly cause you and those around you serious problems.  The point is that doing things that are practically guaranteed to cause you trouble is not the smartest thing to do.  Abstaining from those particular type of things shows respect for yourself and your fellow humans, and minimizes problems in your life.  Maybe we should say "positive and negative" instead of "right and wrong", but the terminology does not change the cause and effect relationship.

As far as hypocracy goes, it doesn't seem to matter what religion (or none at all) which people espouse.  I'm sure we could find a list of rabbis or imams or gurus or atheists just as long if we looked around- it's human nature to want what we want, regardless of the consequences.  One of the most common "traditional" values throughout history in all cultures has been self-discipline, and hypocracy has been just as common throughout history as a personal failure.  Again, personal behavior and respect for oneself and those around is what "values" are about.  Because no one defined "traditional values" to start with, this discussion has been mostly about nothing but personal opinions and prejudices, and therefore meaningless.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 13, 2009 at 12:06 PM (Answer #21)

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"...let's get our facts straight.  Nietzsche never stated that God is dead." Marilynn07

Try here... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_is_dead

The phrase 'God is Dead' is of course headline-grabbing. But the thinking behind it is solid enough; Nietzche foresaw the erosion of the Christian authority caused by Darwin's discovery.

Our Traditional Values are based on Traditional Science, Religion, Philosophy and Social Structures. Like it or not, we have collapsed those traditional models.

You can no longer tell society, "Sex is wrong", "Abstinence is good", "Blasphemy is immoral", "Respect authority" etc becuase these are less and less relevant to the modern world.

Constructing society's morals with Christian codes is an out-dated concept. It won't work. Too many people reject the authority of the Church. I refuse to adhere to religious morals. If I want to have sex with someone I like, then I will. Claiming God is upset is just too bad. I don't care if God is upset.

In fact, its God's followers who are upset, not God. Beware anyone who gets angry on God's behalf or acts as God's moral bulldog. Most of the time their own private life fails to meet the standards they demand of others. It is a telling fact that many aggressive defenders of old fashioned values get caught in massively hypocritical scandals.  Click below for a long and hysterical list of examples.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_evangelist_scandals

  There are a lot of generalizations and ad hominem arguments here.  It is also an argument toward moral relativism ... "these are less and less relevant to the modern world" ... what makes them relevant?  Their inconvenience?  Is it the average behavior that makes something moral?  The statement "If I want to have sex with someone I like, then I will" doesn't make something moral, even for yourself.  It denies the existence of moral actions because you define it by what you want ... so if you want to steal something, is that OK because you say it is or you want to?

And who cares about the small minority of religious people who have violated their principles?  Most of them have NOT and have lived what traditionalists would call good lives ... arguing from the particular to the general doesn't help your case.

Which is not to say that I am arguing for traditional values, although I think most of them have a history that predates Christianity (which seems to be the whipping boy here) and they will probably continue to exist in some form for a long time to come ....  I think we need to be open to reconsidering values, but not rejecting them out of hand because "God is dead" --- which is open to many interpretations.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 13, 2009 at 6:59 PM (Answer #22)

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Maybe we should turn this discussion just a bit and answer the question:  if there is no external referent for our morals, then what can we realistically use?

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