A common comment that will be thrown at you when debating or discussing with a theist will be that "if you don't get your morality from god, where do you get your morality" or "are atheists then immoral" or something else of that flavor. There are many way to address these comments such as discussing where morals come from and the definition of morals, which can be tricky, or that morality is intrinsic in each being and you don't need god to have them or that morals preceded religion and there are plenty of examples that can go along with that last point. These can all be very effective but I heard something the other day that I felt made a lot of sense.
When asked "were you a moral person", the person, who was an atheist said, "you're right I'm not moral because morals is a set of behavioral guidelines derived from authority whether real or imagined and I don't use morality in my day to day life to make decisions, however I'm a very ethical person, and I think that social ethics as they evolved out of social dynamics, are a better course to pursue then morality, because if you're being a moral person, and you are doing what the authority has instructed you to do, that authority may not in itself be moral. So for me social ethics are the way to go."
Now I understand that by ethics are defined as moral behaviors. But the distinction is blurry to me. So I would like to hear your opinion on a) the differences between the two if there are any in your view and b) your preferred method to answer this question. How do you answer someone who comes at you with the "morality" argument?
This is a good point Cara. It's a good way to get into a discussion and as Nelson said defining the terms give you a clearer point of reference to refute and respond.
I don't have morals. What I have is COMMON SENSE.
My answer to anybody who asks me how I can be moral without God's direction, I say "No, it's YOU who can't be moral without God. I behave morally and ethically because I have a natural empathy for other living things. I can put myself in their place. You, on the other hand seem to believe that you would be a wicked person without God to constrain your evil impulses. I think that says a lot more about you than it does about God."
I guess they would then say, that "natural empathy" came from god.
I think you hit it Dale - "empathy" is the key. In fact, a sociopath is one who has absolutely no empathy for anyone. I would suggest that both the Bible's and Confucious' versions of the "Golden Rule," are based on exactly that, empathy, - feel what your neighbor/others feel.
No one needs biblical commandments to feel empathy - sometimes a reminder couldn't hoit, but no need for commandments.
I like that answer a lot.
I would have replied earlier but I was busy stealing people's wallets and handing out lesbian "rainbow badges" at the local school ;-)
Hey, FumbleFingers - I picked up three wallets while I was writing that post, and if being a lesbian means thinking about girls all day, I suppose I could use one of those ribbons myself!
Oh, so you have to actually be a girl to be a lesbian? Never mind --
Morality exists even in the complete absence of religion. Case in point - tribal groups exist in remote locations of our planet who live peacefully and in harmony with one another. Their language doesn't even contain a word for god much less morality.
Morals are standards by which an individual understands what is right or wrong.
Ethics are standards by which a group of people understand what is right or wrong.
You can act morally, but still act unethical. Or you could act immorally, but still be ethical.
Here's an example.. We're all familiar with the recent issues Penn State has had with child sexual abuse. It's been said that Joe Paterno (head coach) notified his boss of the allegations against Jerry Sandusky when he found out. That was all he did. Ethically, he did was he was supposed to do... Many think he had a moral obligation to do more, such as reprimand or fire Sandusky outright. So therefore they think he was immoral due to his lack of additional action.
That being said, you can based your morals on the ethics of a group. That could be your parents, extended family, a gang or a local church group. You may even decide those aren't right for you and break away for those groups to form a set of morals based on your own experiences or another group's ethics, which many of us here have done.. In short,-- Yes, Atheists are moral.
I can definitely see what you're saying, Rob, and I don't disagree with you, but I think you have to agree that the line between the two is sometimes very thin.
Should there even be a line? I'm not saying, I'm asking anyone who cares to respond.
Kind of goes without saying when the individual is influenced by the group, you will have overlap of the individual morals and the group ethics. As a result one will reflect the other..
Though that isn't always the case. Like the abortionists who bomb clinics.. They're doing what they morally feel is correct and they'll be the first to say the clinics are doing something morally wrong.