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?

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Sad but true, atheist freethinkers included.

"PS - I think you said you're from Oklahoma - if so, is Clara Luper still among the living? Great lady!"

Texas actually.  No clue about Ms. Luper.

Oh, that's right - Baja Oklahoma - sorry, David, for the Rick Perry moment --

One of the problems with talking about conceptual thought is knowing what we are talking about. What is conceptual thought? What is a concept? In many usages, a concept would be hard to distinguish from such ideas as a presupposition, a stereotype, a causal relationship. It's a notion with so many possible interpretations it's almost meaningless by having too many meanings. The word exists in a fog of meanings.

What do we mean by "concept" here?

Does group effort really mean anything when it comes to animals? Ants and termites exhibit group effort, and yet do we really believe an ant has much of an interior life? Ants will throw themselves at an invading predator, be it a wasp or a bear in a su;icidal attempt to defend their home and their queen. Is there actual altruism there? If ants do it and bees do it, is it really a sign of being a higher being if an elephant, wolf, or lion does it? If I have to believe that an elephant acts with a view toward the effect of the act on the future, don't I have to attribute the same thing to a bee by parity of logic?

Edited version: "If I have to believe that a human acts with a view toward the effect of the act on the future, don't I have to attribute the same thing to a bee by parity of logic?"

All animals are equal.  Just some are more equal than others.

Wouldn't it be wiser to consider the differences between the cognitive capabilities of species, look at studies and weigh the evidence rather than simply ascribe similar mental capacity based on similar behaviour?

Wisdom depends upon Truth. Truth demands Proof.

RE: "do we really believe an ant has much of an interior life?"

I've heard they watch a lot of antenna TV --

And they can lift televisions 10 times their own weight!

@John Major

@Unseen. Some things other people do are wrong. Keeping slaves is wrong. I am quite happy to say so. Recognising we all have different codes can only be stretched so far. What sayeth thee?

This is a belief. No matter how firmly you believe it, it will always be a belief and not a fact.

The Greeks kept slaves they took as prisoners on the battlefield. Their choice was to let them go and perhaps face them again on another day or to execute them or to take them as slaves. Slavery as mercy.

If you had lived in a different time and in different cultural environs, you would almost certainly have different views on many of the things you believe now and might have done things that by the perspective of today would be contrary to your current beliefs. And that includes finding slavery an acceptable alternative, and perhaps the best for all, everything considered.

@Unseen. I agree with the slavery comments and of course agree that we cannot always judge the past by modern standards. This was not my point.

I agree that when I call some things wrong, it is my belief, not an absolute. My point was that I am comfortable to say things are wrong, whether or not the other person thinks they are wrong or unethical. We cannot always reserve judgement out of a respect of a differing opinions, differing ethics if you like. Wilberforce would not have assisted in the abolition of slavery had he kept his mouth shut. He saw slavery was wrong, called people on it and finally helped abolish this cruel and unnecessary practice. It is in my view unethical not to,speak out against cruelties in the world.

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