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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I assume some things. I assume my senses aren't deceiving me, at least most of the time, that my belief I'm a male human living on the shore of Lake Erie in Ohio is a fact, that my hair won't grow back, that I know what blue is, etc. But those are all beliefs and thus are not facts. I can't build an argument on them and build to a conclusion that is anything but tentative and opinion-based.

However, if you want to build an ethical system, it needs to be right or it can't lay much of a claim to being ethical.

BTW, you didn't affirm that pet ownership is slavery.

Are you saying that you don't make assumptions about the interests of others when coming to an ethical position? You can't prove your ethics are true any more than I can. Any time you form an ethical response involving another, you make assumptions, just like me.

"However, if you want to build an ethical system, it needs to be right or it can't lay much of a claim to being ethical."

How can you prove any ethical system to be right, when it's just subjective, just your opinion. You do believe ethics are relative and subjective, right?

I know you like to pick fringe issues to confuse matters. Pet slavery. Don't understand the term?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery 

If I felt inclined to discuss pet ownership, I would consider whether it involves unnecessary harm/suffering. I would consider the interests of the pet because it can feel pain and suffer. I would also consider the interests of the pet owner, again on the criteria unnecessary harm suffering/ promotion of happiness and well-being.

This mayhelp you.

Are you saying that you don't make assumptions about the interests of others when coming to an ethical position? You can't prove your ethics are true any more than I can. Any time you form an ethical response involving another, you make assumptions, just like me.

Of course, I simply am not making a claim to universality. I don't claim to make choices for others.

"However, if you want to build an ethical system, it needs to be right or it can't lay much of a claim to being ethical."

How can you prove any ethical system to be right, when it's just subjective, just your opinion. You do believe ethics are relative and subjective, right?

To be an ethical system that determines what's right not just for you but for others, it needs to be based on facts, not attitudes. I can't see how such a system is possible. The upshot is to stick to deciding what to do for yourself and don't preach to others based on a very iffy "system."

I know you like to pick fringe issues to confuse matters. Pet slavery. Don't understand the term?

"Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work."

If one substitutes animals for people in the above definition (from the source you gave) then clearly keeping pets is both kidnapping and slavery. A pet is property and is used for the entertainment and companionship of the owner. In the same way that you guess that animals don't want to be subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering, what is necessary about a cat or dog or parrot being used in this way? Set them free!

If you truly believe that animals need to be considered in terms of pain and suffering and that they need to be allowed to enjoy the pleasures of a full life without interference from humans, it would seem to make keeping pets a form of animal slavery. Instead of letting your dog, cat, or parrot live the life of its wild peers, one co-opts its life in order to entertain a human. Sounds like a form of animal slavery to me. If someone did that to you, you wouldn't consider it harm.

How weird!

It's just a matter of working out all the additional consequences of what you base your vegetarianism on. This is a standard way of critiquing proposed systems of all kinds. When some of the consequences seem reasonable but other clearly seem wrong, there is a good reason not to adopt the system.

Well I am not claiming to make choices for others either. I explained the basis for my ethical position and gave my reasons, making assumptions like you do but showing a logical rationale.

You call it preaching, I don't see it like that at all. No one has a gun to anyone's head, demanding they read anything I write. But I think I have a right to argue my position. Not unlike those who opposed slavery in the recent past.

I know you see no merit for my opinion, perhaps contempt. But what I think I have is an alternative to religious morals, something that I have given thought to and am prepared to try to be consistent about even where it goes against my own self,interest. 'Bully for you' I hear you say, but I'm not trying to impress you.

Pets as slaves. Not sure pet dogs have a place in the wild. Caging birds seems to cause unnecessary suffering to me. Cats, not sure they miss out on a natural life. Other animals would not I think suffer the injustice of captivity as would a funtional human being.

John Major, I think it isn't as much compassion that drives #2, as it is the avoidance of what Tooley-Singer call specieism.  It seems you say "It would be wrong to eat another human, on account of not wanting to be specieist, it should also be wrong to eat another animal.

But I would argue that the research done by Haidt and others show that disgust is tied to what is bad for the health and survival of a person and the person's species.  It wouldn't be related to compassion but rather survival.

That having it be wrong to eat another human is tied to survival, seeing humans as a food source would be bad.  I think it also matters how sentient of a creature we are talking in relation to compassion.  You don't want to eat something that triggers your "humans are not safe to eat disgust mechanism". Mixing the tooley-singer philosophy in with the natural "don't eat your own species" mechanism, is a bit of a mistake.  It is an unnatural forced-over application of something that isn't intended to serve that purpose.

That is why eating Unseen's bear wouldn't be wrong.  But eating an alien would be, because there are more factors involved there.

John Kelly. What I'm saying is that we treat other humans ethically, not on the basis of their uniformity, but on the basis of their capacity to feel pain and suffer. We wouldn't discriminate amongst humans on the basis of colour, sex, intelligence, height, weight, whatever. These are arbitrary measures. But, given the huge variance within the species, it would (and has) been possible to do so.

So, rather than pretend we are all the same and use that as a basis for fair or equal treatment, we recognise in others the capacity we know we have, that is to feel pain and us suffer. This is the basis of the Golden Rule that many atheists espouse, we know what we don't like, so owe don't do it to others.

But, once we recognise pain and suffering as a basis for ethical consideration, the question arises, why limit it to our own species? Just like humans have interests that require consideration from an ethical standpoint, based on a capacity to suffer and feel pain, so too do other animals.

We can't pluck arbitrary distinctions from the air to suit our own species (intelligence is a favourite) since we have already conceded this is not a sound basis for ethical consideration. Accepting consistency is a foundation of good ethics, those non human animals that are sentient similarly deserve to have their interests recognised.

Theist:  If you don't believe in God, where do you get your morality from?

Athiest:  The same place you do.

http://brucelynnblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/where-do-atheists-get...

I simply state that a logical person understands that a sustainable lifestyle requires that a person lives life by the Golden Rule, just like Jesus said was the second greatest commandment.  (They can't argue with that.)

Then I tell them that I'm an Atheist because I recognize Atheists care more for their neighbors than Christians do, and I cite some of the recent data demonstrating this.

I finish by saying that I can do more good in the World as an Atheist than I ever could as a Christian, and if they could show me that I was wrong, I would become a Christian again, which usually leaves them speechless.

Invariably to justify their own religion, they have to believe that I left Christianity because I was 'disillusioned' by the failure of some other Christian, and they tell me that I have to understand that Christians are only human.  I respond to this by stating that Atheists are only human too, but for some reason the rate of divorce, child abuse, incest and imprisonment is lower among Atheists than it is among Christians.  So I would rather be a human Atheist than a human Christian.

Another piece of data, Data - the percentage of atheists in prison is in the single digits.

Apparently something like 0.07 percent (i.e., 7 in every ten thousand) of convicts will claim to be atheists.  Quite disproportionately low compared to the five or so percent of the general population in the US who are atheists.

LOL

What possible advantage could there be to claiming to be an atheist in a prison?

First off, a lot of the toughest guys there will paradoxically think of themselves as Christian (this goes for gangs from the streets of Sicily to Los Angeles). 

Secondly, part of getting out early can involve showing a change of heart which can often be boosted by a recommendation from the prison's chaplain of your supposed faith.

True, the figures don't mean much in that context--for the reasons you point out, but it is great to have them to throw in the bigots' faces when they accuse us of being immoral.  In my personal experience, there is every reason to believe that the figures aren't too far wrong.  Religious people are bad people.

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