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?
I generally have an excellent command of the English language Rob, but i'm really having a problem with discerning the difference between morals and ethics. In fact, my dictionary defines ethics, as "the moral correctness of specified conduct," which throws it back to morals.
In your example above - abortion foes who bomb clinics - would it be safe to say they knew it was morally wrong to bomb the clinics (an act that could well result in human death, the thing they're trying to prevent), but that they feel it is ethical to do so (in order to save further lives)?
I'm not in disagreement with anyone here - I'm really not clear on the difference. Anybody?
They would solve that morality issue with saying that killing babies is more morally wrong and therefore justifies the killing of a doctor who performs abortions, even though the reasons he performs the abortions are ethically accepted within the medical community.. Their reasoning is if they have to kill one doctor to saves hundreds, thousands of innocent babies-- they will.
"God" preforms abortions.. They are called miscarriages.
And based on that book they use nothing can happen outside of gods will.. I think that includes abortions.
With most of the 卐tians I know, I feel like saying if God gave you your morals, maybe he needs to take them back. They're obviously defective. (As in that "hard to pick one reason" post on here)
I think Mohandas Ghandi summed it up when he said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
That's only marginally less insulting and annoying
Trouble is, all of the facts demonstrate the absurdity of such a view.
First, research into moral psychology shows that, like language, though there's an innate capacity for altruism, fairness, justice, and cooperation, there's a developmental path from infancy through childhood and into adolescence to an understanding of right and wrong– no, we aren't born with a sense of right and wrong.
Second, if we get our morality from God, why is it that our moral intuitions are so radically different from his? Why do we agree that women are entitled to equal rights and opportunities and yet God views them as property, as a commodity to be traded, bought and sold? Why do we agree that genocide is wrong while he not only permits it, but encourages it, even urges it? Why do we agree that slavery is wrong and yet he not only permits it but even provides rules governing the institution? Why do we agree on the value of religious freedom and yet he dictates slaughter for anyone that would dare worship another god than he?
Third, evidence from behavior of other species and from research into moral psychology in humans shows that morality is an evolved behavior, with precursor (proto-morality) behaviors like altruism, reciprocity, fairness, justice, empathy and others existing in other species with an understanding of these basic concepts in babies as young as only a few months. This means that morality was around way before religion was, and certainly way before the Yahwist cult or its subsequent permutations in Christianity and Islam were around.
So, as a theist, if you would argue that way, you would be, and are, wrong.
Yep. I laugh every time this point is brought up, mainly due to your second point. Even without knowledge of psychological/anthropological studies like your first and third points, all it takes is a little knowledge about your own religion to realize that God's morals are vastly different than our morals today (at least for most of us). How people can be so blatantly ignorant never ceases to amaze me.
Quite. And that's without even invoking the Euthryphro dilemma. For, let's say that God gives us our morality. Okay. Great. But how do we know what God gives us is moral? Is what is moral moral by virtue of God's say so, or is what is moral moral independent of God's say so?
If the first, what is moral is arbitrary; God could say anything is moral and that would be moral. The very terms "moral", "amoral", and "immoral" are meaningless then. And if the second, God doesn't set what is moral, he only points to what is moral independent of him. Presumably then, we can discover what is moral on our own. (And at the very least we're left wondering, if morality needs an objective grounding like the theist says, where does God-indpendent morality get its objective grounding then?)
EXCELLENT summation Nelson! Actually, it's one of those, "I wish I'd said that," moments!
I would add to this that the statement that a god gives us morals/senses requires at least some measurable evidence (which there is none) otherwise the hypothesis fails immediately.
I could counter by saying that "<insert anything> gives me my morals" and it would hold as soundly as your argument.