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1646
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Topic

Utilitarianism is a Preferable Moral Foundation Compared to the Bible

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All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

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With 1 vote and 1 point ahead, the winner is ...

Undefeatable
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Philosophy
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I am a Utilitarian and I believe the system is superior to following The Bible's teachings.

Bible Morality: "Ethics in the Bible refers to the system(s) or theory(ies) produced by the study, interpretation, and evaluation of biblical morals, (including the moral code, standards, principles, behaviors, conscience, values, rules of conduct, or beliefs concerned with good and evil and right and wrong), that are found in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. " -- Wikipedia

Utilitarianism: "Utilitarianism is a family of normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being for all affected individuals.[1][2] Although different varieties of utilitarianism admit different characterizations, the basic idea behind all of them is to in some sense maximize utility, which is often defined in terms of well-being or related concepts. For instance, Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, described utility as "that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness...[or] to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered."" -- Wikipedia

I will be arguing majorly with John Stuart Mill's framework including improvements upon the basis of Utilitarianism.

Preferable Moral System: The preferred moral system would be more logically sound, have fewer contradictions, etc. This looks at the claims and stories/examples from the system creators and see if they enact the theory correctly.

Burden of proof is shared

Round 1
Pro
Utilitarian foundation

Utilitarianism is based on the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The strengths of utilitarianism lies in predicting practical and realistic solutions to real life situations. So if we asked if it was moral to kill 10,000 people for mind controlling aliens that hold unlimited happiness, this would obviously miss the point of Utilitarianism.

The consequentialist nature of the moral philosophy combines with everyone's natural desires. We all want happiness one way or another. Everyone is treated equally, regardless of emotions, sexuality, gender, etc. Fairness matters in real life because everyone is created equal, and should be treated as such to begin with. Utilitarianism also promotes Altruism as it considers society in general rather than encouraging you to be selfish.

In addition, the lower or higher goods can prove to prevent solely property based gains. For example, some people say that killing a person will give them 10 million dollars, which they feel is far greater happiness. However, as a life is worth more than nearly any amount of money (unless societies collapse or other collateral damage is done), we would not allow a person to kill another to gain a vast fortune, unless their own lives were in danger.

Utilitarianism is very simple and quite sound. Even though it requires some occasional sacrifices, so long as the overall societal justice is not eroded, the action would be justified. One common counter claim is framing an innocent to prevent riots. But this assumes the framing is perfectly done and that the justice will not arbitrarily select random innocents to lynch every single time. Over time, the public would lose trust in the prison and therefore create a negative utility. Therefore the overall arching nature of Utilitarianism is reasonable and powerful.

Through this debate I will focus mostly on attacking Bible's moral foundation weaknesses, because Utilitarianism has very few to no flaws until my opponent is able to come up with sufficient objections.

Moral Contradictions

The Bible holds many moral contradictions in its stories versus its principles, laid out by sacred-texts.com. (https://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cv/scb/scb02.htm)

Just to list a few, the Bible forbids robbery, yet commands robbery. Lying is forbidden, yet then approved and sanctioned. Killing is forbidden, yet it is commanded by God. Slavery and oppression were forbidden, yet it was ordained. Unless Con is able to refute the vast majority of this, it already seems unclear what is happening in the moral system and what decisions should be made by persons. 

If this wasn't convincing enough, God's rules are forever changing, while utilitarianism holds the same values throughout --happiness, or utility. Patheos.com realizes 20 damning bible contradictions.  One key take away is that God made different laws, despite his seeming omnipotence and omnibenevolence. Should he not have realized the moral laws and foundations to begin with, rather than having to change them? (patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2018/10/top-20-most-damning-bible-contradictions/)

In part 2, Patheos continues, first noting that Romans 3:28 claims that "a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law". However, James 2:14 counters this by noting "what good is it...if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?" To add upon this, it's unclear if repenting or baptism is what will save you from your damning acts. 

In part 3, God delivers more incredulous moral decisions. In Jeremaih 16:11, he "punishing the children for the sin of the parents", yet in Deuteronomy 24:16 once again defeats this by noting "fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers". As you can see, the immorality of the parents' actions are ambiguous. On the other hand, Utilitarianism could easily agree with Deuteronomy, as it would result in severe social injustice to punish children for their parents' sins. There is no contradiction formed with Mill's school of thought. 

A good moral foundation being able to decide what to do in a situation. That way we know what is wrong and what is right. God even punishes sinners for doing wrong. But with ever changing rules, the Bible's moral foundation is greatly muddled. God set the commandments as ideals that should never be broken, yet he still allows the rules to change under arbitrary reasoning. Unless there is greater logic and links to these contradictions, it seems that The Bible's moral foundation is impossible to accept.

Lack of Justification

Even though Con may say that morality may require some kind of principle, even if it was not Utiliarianism, the lack of justification in the Bible clearly falls apart. The only circular reasoning is that God is all that is good, and that all that is good is from God. Yet it seems impossible to differentiate a God from a clever Devil, both powerful but claiming they know the right things. In fact, it seems strange that God bases the morality mostly from their own views, and therefore the only way they can be wrong is if they admit that they are wrong. God could save you and it would be moral; God could kill you in the same situation and it would be moral. Any situations as long as they were formed from the "almighty God" would suddenly become moral because God defined himself as the realm of morality. But circular reasoning surely isn't good enough. How would Con know if God performed an evil action? The answer is he can't. He has to assume that God is already good. Therefore, the bible's morality falls apart.

Indeed, I ask Con to justify any of the following situations offered from news24.com, but I've listed the most problematic portions below. (news24.com/news24/MyNews24/The-14-Most-Abominable-Bible-Verses-20121224):

  • God smiting the 50,000 men for looking into the ark
  • Deuteronomy 25:11 - if two men are fighting and a woman touches his private parts, you cut off her hand
  • Peter 2:18 allows slavery and perversity
  • Exodos 21:7~8 allows sex slavery 
  • Luke 16:18 considers divorce same as debauchery
  • Kings 6:28~29 allows cannibalism 
  • Kings 138~12 allows incestuous rape
  • Chronicles 21:14~15 has God smiting all the people in general rather than punishing an individual act
As you can see Utilitarianism is a very sound moral philosophy system, while the Bible has poor justification, contradicting passages, and is a horrible moral foundation to follow overall. It is an excellent religious story, but there's no way it can beat the best of moral systems.
Con
What is this "Morality"? Which of the two best uphold it? Why should we care?

A heartwarming thank you to Undefeatable for creating this debate. It is an important topic because Morality, what we ought to do, affects each and every second of our lives, even more so then our personal world views, tastes, and situations.  Let's get to the bottom of this all important "Morality" and figure out whether Biblical Christianity or Materialistic Utilitarianism best uphold it.

First,
What is Morality??!

Definition of morality
Such a word is easy to take for granted, just like the word "good," a quick google search reveals that "moral" has come to mean many different things It has been used as a story to teach a lesson,  used closely to "morale," as the
mood of an army, and also the standards by which one ought to live.

Another google search reveals Oxford Language's definition
Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.
  • a particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society.
  • the extent to which an action is right or wrong.
Morality of this debate
The Morality I wish to discuss is the one which can only be proven by the resolution. A foundation is something we all can lean on and something stable to build on. Similarly, Morality is the objective standard by which each one of us is bound to live by. This has three implications: 

The Test-
     1. It is not arbitrary
     2. It is binding
     3. Unconnected to human desire.

(1)
Objective means "to the point" or that there is an aim or purpose rather than aimless or purposeless.
(2)
Another question, of course, is why Morality at all? Morality, being the standard for human good, is a guidance for us to be the best version of ourselves. So then it is crucial that we understand what is moral or right and so discover what we ought to do whether it pleases us or not.
(3.)
This is key to this debate, because if Morality is indeed objective in this way, we can reject it, deciding it does not please us, even if it is for our own good. Just as a kid might reject his parent's wishes for him to stay out of the cookie jar, even if that means he gets sick from it.

Alright then, now what does the Bible have to do with it? Wait...what exactly is the Bible? That's a harder question to answer. I think it is best put by the International Bible Society:  "The Bible is the account of God’s action in the world, and his purpose with all creation." (2)

So the Bible is actually a description of the workings of a higher authority "God" and his purpose with his creation.

****CAUTION***** Before I continue, remember this debate is not about whether God exists, but whether the Bible presents a better foundation for Morality then Utilitarianism. God's existence is another topic to be discussed and another debate. Thus we must view the Bible within the context that God does indeed exist and whether that provides a better foundation.
****END OF CAUTION*****

Fair enough then, what does the Bible say about Morality? What should this mean to Morality's cause?

I will do my best to summarize the first question. The Bible is a work that is hard to pin down with just a few passages. To get the full context you must view it as a whole, which is really hard to do. Also I do not claim to know everything about the Bible, but what I do know I will share it to the best of my ability. I implore everyone to read the Bible for themselves, to see what biblical scholars have to say about the context and then decide what is right.


The Great Story:
The beginning.
The Bible starts out by explaining why things exist at all, point to God as the creator, and his creation being us.
"In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth{...]God created mankind in his image;"(Genesis 1) (3)
It mentions in Genesis (The first part of the Bible) that God found his creation to be good.

"God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good." (Genesis 1) (3)

But something happens. God then gives his first human creation, Adam and Eve, a choice: To choose his will or their own. This is of course the story of the tree of good and evil and well...it does not go well. Adam and Eve reject God, eat of the forbidden fruit and are banished and subject to death and other hardships along with the rest of humanity. God does not leave humanity to its own devices however. He promises to redeem them despite rejecting him.

The middle:
(There is so much I am summarizing here, but bear with me.)
Now humanity finds itself with its own decisions and the world is filled with many evil ones. But, all is not lost. God chooses a people to lead humanity from their own plight. This people become known as the Israelites and are given special guidance (The ten commandments) which set them apart from the rest of the world. It is moral guidance unseen in this sea of chaos. Though it is imperfect, God is not done yet.

The End?
After many empires and civilizations falling and climbing using the basic idea of "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," God decides it is time for further progress. This time, during the Roman rule of Jerusalem, God comes himself as Jesus, bringing an updated and stronger calling to the moral law.

  • he extends the law against murder (Exod. 20:13) to anger (21–26)10
  • he extends the law against adultery (Exod. 20:14) to lust (27–30)
  • he makes the law restricting divorce (Deut. 24:1) stricter (31–32)11
  • he takes the law designed to prevent lying (Num. 30:2) further (33–37)
  • he takes the law designed to restrain retaliation (Lev. 24:19–20) further (38–42)
  • he extends the command to love one’s neighbor (Lev. 19:18) to enemies (43–48)12  See Citation (4)
He is of course murdered in the process. Turned out not too many ancient people subscribed to these higher moral standards which we now take as granted (as shown by the old testament texts Undefeatable lays out quite nicely). But even in dying He leaves a Church. Led by his Apostle followers, this Church continues the charge to bring humanity back from its rejection of God.

To  be continued...
What does this mean for us? It is a testament to objective Morality. This "Morality" is the way we were created, with purpose. Whether you believe in God as a source or not, this remains true. Just as sapling has a purpose to grow to a tree, we too have a destiny to fulfill. The question thus becomes whether God as described in the Bible provides the foundation. The answer is of course yes, because God is the reason this purpose exists in the first place. This means there are things we ought to work toward, regardless of opinion, just like the sapling.

The Bible fulfills Morality's obligations
1: It is not arbitrary
2. It is binding
3.  Unconnected to human desire.

(1) The Bible presents God as making creation with purpose and so is not arbitrary
(2) The purpose is binding on all humanity and though we can reject it, it will always affect us.
(3) Thus the final test is also justified because our desires do not affect this divine purpose. It remains the same.

Now what about Utilitarianism? What does it offer in the way of foundation?

First the definition by oxford languages:

Definition of Utilitarianism
  1. the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority.
    • the doctrine that an action is right insofar as it promotes happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct.
Observations:
(1.) Utilitarianism is subject to our opinion
              a. No standard for good.
"the doctrine that an action is right insofar as it promotes happiness"
What is happiness? The issue here is that this term is left up to the individual to decide. Morality becomes whatever we decide makes us happy. This is of course flawed because we can determine literally anything makes us happy.

"Let's put a smile on that face" -Joker
              b. So Anything Goes
What we are left with using Utilitarianism as a foundation, is whatever we decide we want. This creates an ends justifies the means mentality.
That, as long as we think think an action will make us happy, it is good. Of course, this leads to horrible decisions, such as
the choices of the socialist dictators in Germany, USSR, and as well as the CCP and DPRK etc...These people decided that to bring "happiness" to their people that they need to leave tens of millions dead with hundreds of millions more depraved of their human dignity.
              Impact: Not Objective
Utilitarianism has no foundation. It is like building a house upon a fault-line where ideas are always on the move. It will be destroyed.

(2.) It necessarily violates Morality

(Let's take a look at the test)
1. It is not arbitrary
2. It is binding
3. Unconnected to human desire.

(1.) Utilitarianism is not objective, rather subject the arbitration of our opinion
(2.) There is no restriction on behavior. Even the joker is justified in "putting a smile on that face" due to his want to make you happy :/
(3.) It is by definition connected to what we want and feel.

Conclusion:

Because, the Bible fulfills the grounds for Morality in its casting of God as the objective source and Utilitarianism lacks any objective standard, the Bible is indeed preferable to Utilitarianism as the Moral foundation.

To Truth!
-logicae

Sources:
Round 2
Pro
Logicae opens up with a subtly different interpretation of morality. While we both agree morality has to be binding and un-arbitrary, I disagree with the connection to humanity. Note how he has zero support for why it cannot depend on human desire. Utilitarianism's foundation is precisely founded on desire, plus outcomes reaching that desire. Because we ultimately strive for the general good of the people, our theoretical societal rules follow utilitarianism closely. I find it heavily illogical that right and wrong should have nothing to do with human desire, especially since evolution has driven us to survive precisely due to the correct desires being selected. Food, sex, water, and shelter. These are the crucial basis, helping form the desire to survive and suffer the least. This scientifically backed idea is solid and Logicae has very little backing to refute this.

But okay, maybe voters won't buy this. Let's continue. Notice how Logicae heavily fails to refute all my round 1 arguments, proving that the bible fails under his very system.

Extend moral contradictions.

Extend lack of justification.

The contradictory passages where god commands followers to break his laws shows that they are arbitrary. They are not binding. And perhaps they are connected to human desire -- whether they want to follow God or not. Already, there is a severe crack in Con's logic and reasoning. I see no reason to address God's "updated law", as he seems to repeat his old commandment ideals, with the same resistance against adultery, murder, divorce, and lying. Yet God does not seem to repent himself for making these mistakes of violating his commandments, despite demanding his followers to do the same. The contradictions in actions clearly destroy the bible's credibility as a moral foundation.

Even if this wasn't enough, Logicae heavily misinterprets utilitarianism, arguing that it is "vague" and that people cannot decide on what generates the most happiness or utility. However, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights has the majority of nations able to decide on essential rights that would assist citizens in general. Some examples are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Some other more detailed rights are housing, voting (for citizens), health care, education, etc. All these are relatively subjective, yet very difficult to refute. These resources help citizens potentially improve their lives and allow for a consistent society that can output better resources. And the people would perform better as well. When you are kind and reasonable to the law enforcement, they are able to hold firm. When you help the poor out of their situation, they are less likely to resort to stealing methods which would detriment people.

Even if Logicae would ask why this is important, let's focus on one specific example. Both the Bible and Utilitarianism admit that murder is unjustified in the vast majority of cases. If we can support the right to life, this would support the Bible, and raise utility in my moral system. Due to our ability to decide what can improve society in general (and prevent people from executing detrimental actions), it's clear that there are ways to interpret people's desires. Within real life, political systems are often used to judge people's true desires, with majority vote winning being the standard. The practical application of utilitarianism within democracy supports values of freedom and equality that even the Bible is forced to agree with. What separates the bible and utilitarianism is that the Bible can hardly make political decisions and is far less useful in general. Is gun control justified? The Bible doesn't know. Utilitarians say to weigh the benefits against the costs. Should we go to War in Iraq? The Bible would surely say no murdering, unless Iraq has blasphemous sinners. Utilitarians would weigh the lives lost to the detriments that Iraq would cause. As further detailed here, we can see that Utilitarianism is far more practical and applicable as a moral foundation system.

Logicae refers to masochists and sadists who may poorly skew the nature of utilitarianism. However, as the vast majority of society is unlikely to be Joker's and want to slash other people to bring themselves happiness, it seems unlikely that we would allow Joker to slash people at random. Even if a theoretical society found the majority of happiness gained by slashing people, that would mean most people being slashed would be Joker or Joker-like people anyways, causing the criminals to punish each other and still result in a moral society. 

Remember that it has to be the greatest good for the greatest amount of people -- by the people's standards. So we could allow a BDSM community to hit each other in the face to gain joy, but not general society to slap each other as a greeting. I hope that makes more sense.

Now back to con.
Con
In this round I wish to discuss Undefeatable's objections to the Bible and more importantly his opinions on Utilitarianism.

The Test

In the first round I gave the grounds necessary to prove the resolution.

     1. It is not arbitrary
     2. It is binding
     3. Unconnected to human desire.

Undefeatable agreed to the first two propositions, but not the third. This will be the focus of this debate.

Notice the reason for his objection:
Utilitarianism's foundation is precisely founded on desire, plus outcomes reaching that desire.
In order to see the problems arising from this kind of thinking. We must remember the definition of Morality I gave in my opening:
Morality is the objective standard by which each one of us is bound to live by.
Notice also that Morality contradicts human desire because it binds us to its rules even though we may want otherwise. This explains why societies such as the Nazi regime are wrong, though they thought themselves justified with their desire to exterminate millions of Jews.  This objective standard of behavior causes trouble to Undefeatable's cause because Utilitarianism necessitates diluting Morality down to what we find desirable.

Human Desire Is No Foundation

Because human desire is inconsistent (Everyone desires different things), it also violates the first test. The first and second tests were connected, with the third serving to connect the first to Utilitarianism's reliance on human desire.

The impact here is that Utilitarianism is necessarily arbitrary, which makes it antithetical to a foundation. A foundation must be sound, unchanging, not arbitrary. 

I find it heavily illogical that right and wrong should have nothing to do with human desire
The problem of definition

Undefeatable here changes the meaning of Morality. He calls upon evolution to make "good" mean whatever promotes the flourishing of humans. Then it is easy to say that it is "good" to flourish, because that is just the same as saying it is flourishing to flourish. Undefeatable needs to show why flourishing is good.

Logicae heavily misinterprets utilitarianism, arguing that it is "vague" [United Nations Declaration of Human Rights has the majority of nations able to decide]
This is an argument from authority and boy are authorities are often wrong. Take slavery as a good example. It was deemed Moral by governments to own slaves in colonial times, but now governments deem it bad. Inconsistent. (I will point out more examples if I must, but I think everyone can think of a bad thing a government has deemed right and vice versa)

Undefeatable's burden to show Utilitarianism's uniformity still remains. "Good" still remains subjective in the Utilitarian's view.

Now on to Undefeatable's take on the Bible.

Apparent Contradictions

It is the classic God argument. Basically that, because Undefeatable decided that God does something wrong, God contradicts himself. Seems simple and safe.

But...wait

What gives Undefeatable the right to make that judgement? Why should we believe Undefeatable's moral judgement? This very attack of the Bible rears its ugly head.

No Foundation for Attack

Since Undefeatable has given us no justification for his opinion, it makes it nor harder to counter his assertion with my own. Though I think Undefeatable grossly misinterprets the texts and takes them out of context (I will shown one such example in a second),  I think he has also assumed one key thing:

Assumption: God has no good reason for allowing evil

This is a fatal assumption, because there can be reason why evil can exist. Take for example work. Work sucks, but with it you can achieve goals not accessible without it such as weight loss or a successful business. Disciplining children is another seemingly bad thing, but works out to a greater good.

The burden for Undefeatable in order to prove these "contradictions" is to show that God can have no good reasons for allowing evil.

Putting context back into scripture

Ok, now a little fun context search of scripture.

Exodos 21:7~8 allows sex slavery 
This seems bad right? But was slavery the norm of the time? Of course it was.
The objection here is that the people at the time were not ready for the moral jump of several millennia to the moral standards of the 21st century. 

In conclusion, Undefeatable remains without foundation, both for his attack of scripture and his defense of subjectivity in Utilitarianism. 

To Truth!
-logicae 





Round 3
Pro
I have no time again due to bad time management, so extend all arguments. Logicae still hasn't proved how the bible isn't self-contradictory. Con states there are mysterious reasons that god does things but this is just an appeal to authority and the standard assumption that already defines God as all that is good. He hasn't mentioned any other reason why God would send people to hell normally for murder but then go ahead and murder thousands of people merely for thoughts or being a bystander.

Con has also failed to attack utilitarianism well. Re look at my arguments and notice how he hasn't hit through the crux of practicality and very few contradictions.
Con
No rebuttable of past round. Extend.

To Truth!
-logicae
Round 4
Pro
Logicae had previously claimed he can explain the contradictions, but when faced with the opportunity to do so, he balked merely because I waived the round. This should raise a red flag to voters reading this. Logicae has still not explained in detail why God is able to willy-nilly change his mindset, despite the seemingly "objective" viewpoint that Logicae vouches for. Furthermore, Logicae says that human desire has been vague and arbitrary, yet nearly all humans value food, drink, and sex to survive, which I noted as universal values. I also have pointed out that we've bene able to establish essential rights such as life, freedom, security, and a few more others (like basic utility). Logicae thinks this come from nowhere but this allows us to thrive forth and basically be human. It's what propels life scientifically and through society.

While God's "perfect goodness" is far worse with the contradictory passages -- extremely loose and vague. I haven't copied all the excerpts from the websites, but my summary should give an enough impression of how he violates his own moral laws. Despite the fact that he is meant to set the perfect standard. His wrath allows him to violate his no-murder rule. His hate of his enemies allows him to punish people through association. And despite his allowance of free will (so much so that he would allow for evil, by his own standards), he would also allow -- and even vouch for -- slaves to be oppressed by their masters and lose this precise free will. 

At heart, Con has failed to refute that Utilitarianism is truly practical -- it takes what an entire society wants as a whole, and raises it to be the prime value to run upon. With the greatest happiness possible, Utilitarianism is relatively sound. There are no contradictory decisions made. On the other hand, Logicae claims I must show that God has no reasons for allowing evil. So you are telling me that God treats evil as hated, throwing them in hell, smiting and making them suffer, but secretly desires for evil to exist? If evil must exist for balance, then it seems unreasonable to force further evil upon evil. If God has a reason for allowing evil, then that means he should also punish himself for executing malicious actions -- or otherwise forgive malicious men -- because apparently being perfectly good includes doing contradictory actions in the favor of God's commands. If he agrees that evil is an inevitable result of nature, it hardly seems fair to punish them, else you should punish God himself for inevitably breaking his own rules. Logicae also dismisses slavery being accepted because it was the norm at the time, while now we almost universally agree that slavery is immoral. Regardless of past or current values, based on the value of free will itself though, it seems very strange that you would allow people to be violated as means to an end. Con has failed to explain this completely.

In the end, the bible still seems too arbitrary and loose to be considered a strong moral code. It seems to me that the norms that contradict God's desires were executed, and allowed by God regardless, because he commanded it. Neither because he is good, nor that good is God, but merely because he wanted it. And we loop back to the problem of the Perfect Devil who can say that everything evil is good because only he can command it. And therefore Con's case falls apart with the clear examples. God seems to set some reasonable rules, but then commands people to break them some times. Con has failed to provide sufficient reasoning for the apparent breaking of rules. Vote for pro.
Con
Forfeited