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 abhor the industrial slavery of the old south myself. I respect in a way the slavery of the Greeks (and if you're familiar with the literature of the time, you'll know that the slaves were beloved members of the households and were grateful in a way for their status).
We just need to be careful acting on beliefs without supporting facts. Kind of sounds a little like religion, doesn't it? We also need to realize that just having a word in hand doesn't mean it is the end of the story, and the lesson of the word "slave" is a pointed example of that fact.
We dislike the idea of slaves because of the kind of slavery that comes to mind.
@Davyd. What I'm saying my ethics is based on the goal of the avoidance of causing unnecessary harm and suffering and promoting happiness and well being.
Suppose you get a promotion over someone else you know in your heart is more qualified and more needy, and that losing this promotion will cause more suffering and harm to the other party than to you. At the same time, accepting it will benefit you and yours greatly.
Does your ethic require you to refuse this promotion?
A more "realistic" example? I think my example is one many people run into. They get a promotion from a boss who likes them for irrational reasons when promoting someone else, less favored by the boss, would be better.
The fact that almost every discussion of ethics seems to eventually get brought back to meat eating by certain members would tend to indicate an obsession with the topic.
It jus tseems to me that people, like lions, sharks, squirrels, kangaroos, and all the other creatures tend to do what it is their nature to do.
I don't buy the argument that carnivores are bad, but they are forgivable because they are stupid, which seems to be the converse of claiming that we have an ethical sixth sense which allows us to do things against our nature.
Ethics is about attitudes and emotions not truth and facts, which is why ethical disputes aren't resolvable.
Also, I'm a determinist, which means whatever anyone does is something they necessarily had to do. It would seem to follow from that that any harm or pain I cause is necessary as well, along with whatever harm or pain I suffer. There is no such thing as unnecessary suffering unless you can demonstrate that determinism is false, and I've never seen anyone do that.
Things happen when circumstances are right. The end of slavery in the US happens in a way similar to ice melting. People argued against slavery in response to their environment. Slavery ended when it was time to end.
Morals are things that we feel strongly about. If theists follow the Golden Rule or refrain from killing or robbing just because it is written in the Bible then I really feel sorry for them. I am also a bit skeptical.
I like to distinguish between morals—a mostly religious approach to right and wrong behavior—vs. ethics—a more philosophical approach.
Morals—An authoritarian prescriptive/proscriptive approach. "Do/don't do this because someone says so." The Ten Commandments is a good example.
Ethics—A way for an individual to determine the best course of action instead of following an external set of pre/proscriptions.