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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Oh, so you have to actually be a girl to be a lesbian? Never mind --

pax vobiscum,

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.

pax vobiscum,

 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. 

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?

pax vobiscum,

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)

Barry -

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."

pax vobiscum,

As a theist, I would not argue that the atheist is immoral without a belief in God, but that the atheist got his or her morals from God regardless of their worldview. In other words, God gives you a sense of right and wrong like He gives you a sense of smell. You're born with it. But anyways, if I were to objectively give an account for the reason of morality/ethics, it would be love. It's right if it's with love and wrong if it's not... nothing to do with our 'inert desire for survival'.

That's only marginally less insulting and annoying


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