Hi All,

We had a discussion many moons ago about atheists and morality and a lot has happened since then. I reached some new conclusions (which I'll withhold for now so I don't poison the water) and at least one other poster here has some new ideas about it.

So, I was wondering what the prevailing opinion is out there on this topic. Do you believe that atheists can be "moral"? Is it impossible for an atheist to be truly moral? Is "morality" something to which adherents have a valid claim? The infamous Dawkins and Harris had a discussion at Oxford about this about a year or so ago that was very good and I would also be interested in what anyone thinks of what was discussed there.

Thanks and all are welcome.

- kk

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Hey Obfuskation,

I would have to disagree that morality is a myth.  I look at it more as an instinctive framework with wide variables.  The impulses arise naturally, but are personally codified through experience and/or indoctrination.

My rationale for this is that:

Morality cannot exist practicably speaking as there is no
way to operationally define it. It cannot be operationally defined because we
cannot be certain that any two arbitrarily selected individuals will agree as
to what is “moral”. Therefore, morality can never be made objective. This was
never a possibility, though so many have tried. If it cannot be made objective
then we cannot operationally define it, ironically, by definition. An
operational definition is one that all observers can observe to be one and the
same because they act operationally upon the assumption of its definition for a
common purpose. Without this condition, any operational definition of morality would
be internally inconsistent.

Thus, anyone speaking of morality is speaking of myth, imo.

- kk

I should probably clarify that my disagreement is based on the wording of your claim.

Morality is simply standards of behavior that are seen as right or wrong.  There is an abundance of moral codes in the world, with understandable variances between cultures.

If your claim is that an objective moral code is a myth, then I would tend to be in agreement.

This is my distinction between being moral (adhering to The Ten Commandments or The Golden Rule, for example) and ethical, which involves simply looking for the best choice among many.

I've noticed that sources vary on their degree of codification regarding 'morals' and 'ethics' to the point where they are pretty much interchangeable.

Harvard has a great lecture series on Youtube about ethics/morality; it's a long watch, but well worth it.  Here's a link to part 1.


Whenever two words are interchangeable, that is less useful than two words with related but distinct meanings. 

Agreed.  I was just making an observation; no value judgement was intended.

If your claim is that an objective moral code is a myth, then I would tend to be in agreement.

It all depends upon what you mean by "objective," though, doesn't it. You can hold a copy of The Ten Commandments in your hands, as an object. And in that sense, it is objective. 

Hey Unseen,

Yea, I think we are in fact in agreement. By "objective" I'm saying that there is no moral framework for which we can guarantee every human being will agree, and no way to prove an outlier wrong. You may be the only one that agrees.

- kk

Hey Obfuskation,

Yes, thats what I mean. My fixation on this issue vis-a-vis deconversion sometimes causes me to assume too much.

- kk

RE: "some impudent individuals" - interestingly, the word, "immoral" (choosing that specifically, so I can't be accused of going off-topic) clearly means, "not moral" - but I discovered that there is no such word as "pudent," from which to be, "not pudent." so whoever that person was, who was "impudent," he (or she) should definitely try to turn his (or her) life around and start being pudent for a change.

The reason I popped in, is to tell you that when that thing with the black text happens, and I've seen it happen a number of times, if, while you still have that 15-minute window to make corrections, you will click on the "HTML" window on the upper right of your toolbar, the present window will be replaced by a window with not only your original text, but the HyperText Markup Language that tells the computer how to project your comment onto the screen. That done, scroll down to where your sentence begins that is all-black, and you will see a line preceding the first word in that sentence - it will begin with this symbol < and end with this one > and between the two will be a line of what to you will be gibberish, but to the TA server, will say a great deal. One of the things you can expect to see, is a 5- or 6-digit number, which describes to the computer, the color it is to use on the text. Delete that entire line, from < to > then hit the HTML button again, hit "Save," and you should be good to go next time that happens.

I'm having a problem with this discussion as well, in that everytime I hit someone's "Reply" button, instead of a window opening, I'm simply taken (against my will) to the top of the page. No matter how many times I try, the result is the same. My only option appears to be what I'm doing now - posting in the window at the beginning of the thread, despite the fact that I can safely assume that my comment will wind up nowhere near your original post about the blackout.

As you were - and if I run across anyone being not pudent, I'll convey your message.

It's a good thing you put in the caveat about not going off-topic, or it would have been off to the education forum for you.  :)

Sesame Street? Big Bird is safe now, you know --



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