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 sigh repeatedly during these discussions because, as atheists, we all should really have a better answer than I see most of us having.
Don't sigh, that's why we keep having these conversations. :-)
Nelson, I could wax philosophic and attempt to come up with a TOE (Theory of Everything) that would shake theists to the core, but the truth is, that I can never speak for anyone but myself, and I would be deluding myself and attempting to delude others, if I were to try to do so.
This may sound a bit simplistic, but so is E equals MC squared:
I'm an Atheist. There's no god, no heaven, no hell, and no life after my electrical impulses shut down. I don't have to live with a god, but for as long as it lasts, I must always live with myself, and if we're all there is, then we're all we've got. If there's no afterlife, anything I do, anyone I touch, I have to do it now. If I detract from another's enjoyment of the brief existence we all share, I have to live with that, and that is simply something I'd rather not do. I can't purport to tell other atheists how to think or believe, that's something we each have to decide for ourselves - we exchanged the hard and fast rules a "god" gave us, for the right to think for ourselves. I can only decide what I feel is important to me. As simple as it may seem, that's all the argument I need.
Well we can't have that now, can we?
Yeah, there’s one thing I can’t comprehend about people who worship the God of Abraham. God demands you worship/love him. Hello religious people! Do you not see anything “morally” wrong with this? Here’s a little friendly advice. More like a rule really…….
If something demands you worship/love it, then it doesn’t truly love you in return.
Now in its delusional psychopathic mind – it might think it loves you. But it doesn’t. That’s not love. It’s an immoral concept. And as a human being… you should have a problem with it. I would argue that worshiping is immoral. So… I’m the one without morals? hmmmm
Is not this Craig's argument?
RE: "we can't say that anything is actually good or bad"
Actually Nelson, Shakespeare concurred when he wrote, "Nothing ever is right nor wrong, but thinking makes it so." And that's where the difference lies - thinking makes it so.
If my thinking determines how I relate to others, you may well ask from where that thought process comes. I can't put it into an axiom by which others can live, but I can say that I had good examples as a child - my parents, while religious in beliefs, were not particularly religious in practice. I learned basic "rights" and "wrongs," based not on religion, but on their personal life experiences of how people should treat each other if we are all going to coexist in this world.
Dostoevsky told us that without god, "all is permitted," Again, I disagree. There are certain social obligations we must expect of ourselves and others, if we are to live in an organized society, but again, there's no need to refer to biblical concepts of right and wrong to access those. Frankly, I can't recall the last time I killed a witch.
If I were to suggest a moral code of conduct with which each of us could successfully, securely and peacefully live, I would have to refer to the Jerry Springer show, as simplistic again as that may sound. Near the end of his show, Springer has a segment called, "Jerry's Final Thought," during which he murmurs platitudes regarding the theme of that particular day's show. But he ends the segment with the only commandment I've found worth following - he says, "Be good to yourself, and each other." I can think of nothing to add to that.
Just so you are able to admit a little grey towards Xian's there is Mother Theresa, Bishop Tutu, and George Muelller. Not all of them fly in lear jets to their speaking engagements.
And along with Bill Gates and other's, we could also list Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and others.
Neither party is black or white but shades of grey.
Yes, but at least Pol Pot never cheated on his wife! ;)
Good morals help sustain human existence and advancement. If you value humans, be they friends, society, or the species in general, you have or are working to develop good morals that will sustain and advance that which you value. If you don’t value humans, you need fear and conditioning to guide your behavior, kind of like a trained dog does.
Theists could reply that way. And I would say “what morals accomplish is precisely the question.”
Your question “why would you value humans without an objective grounding to morality” would evidence a failure to understand my point. Morality exists because of a value of humans, not the other way around as your question asserts.
You are free also to not value humans. That seems to be what you refer to as cutthroat. That’s a lack of morality.
Self interest is not inherently bad and does not preclude one from caring about others. I am self-interested and I am my final judge. I treat others well because I value them and want them in my life. I judge myself to be a good person. So do all the Christians and Muslims I know. Does lack of faith change that I'm a good person? (I don't really mind if they think I'm going to hell, but I would mind if they thought it made me bad.)