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.
I see morality as arising from two sources. The first being simple survival instinct, and the second coming from our evolution as a social animal.
At one pole is the survival of the fittest attitude, personal responsibility focus, and reward for our hard work ethics. At the other pole, we have our altruistic side, tendencies to help and share, and pooling of resources to improve the standing of the group. Moral arguments involve where different people draw their personal lines between those poles.
Imaginary sky beings are not the source of morality, neither are the religious institutions that maintain their existence by exploiting the generosity of their believers. Morality is fundamental to the nature of social animals -- religion simply tries to claim the credit for it.
Is there a process - for lack of a better term - that we can use to determine what a "good" or "moral" behavior between these two poles would be in a given situation? I like the way you framed it.
That's the trick. Multiple points between the poles could be equally valid, all depending on what 'blend of balance' is subjectively appealing. Multiple behaviors could also be equally valid on a given point. That gives a wide range of behaviors that could be considered moral (or immoral).
All part of the argument as to why morality is subjective. It is easy to find agreement on morality at the poles, but much harder among the subtle grades closer to center.
So, does this mean that we can't find an objective rule to apply for those gray areas inbetween? I think that's what you are saying, right?
Second, unrelated question: As for the poles, can you ever be sure you've correctly identified a pole? In other words, can you ever be sure that your "extreme" is actually the most "extreme" possibility?
I think it would be possible to find an objective method to weigh actions in respect to moral values, but the establishment and scaling of values would be very subjective between cultures and individuals.
I think that the most extreme ends would probably be the realm of mental illness. Probably psychopathy at one end, and some type of martyrdom complex at the other. That's off the top of my head; I haven't put much thought into stretching the poles to extremes, and I'm doing hit and run posts from work. :)
No worries, yea, this makes sense. So, if anyone were to come up with an extreme, regardless of how good of a job they did, would you be confident that this is an ulitmate extreme, or extreme for which there can never be found one to exceed it? I'm asking because this gets at Sam's point.
I can't say one way or the other. Like I said, I haven't put a lot of thought into this area.
Let me get this straight. You expect me to pass judgment on the state of my own morality?
Ha, well, not exactly. I was just asking if you think an atheist can be moral. And if so, how?
Okay, so this is the second part I was holding back until I got some opinions to work with. My conclusion after looking at it for a while was that:
Morality is public myth.
I concluded that there is in fact no such thing as "morality" and that this was something created or promoted to global awareness through religion. It is a testament to how effective the propaganda of religion can be.
This poses a big problem for atheists because we are in the unenviable position of having to defend our "morals" when we (or lets say just I) know that morality is a myth anyway. And how do you explain that to an adherent? This is just one more example of how powerful the clutches of religion really are. The influence of religion has infected everything, from "morality" to sexuality (which is not a myth), and virtually every atheist still buys into it.
I'll share my rationale as we discuss
Hey - thx - kk
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.
I would also disagree that morality was created or promoted into awareness by religion. I would say that it was hi-jacked, and rigid moral ideologies were created and propagated by religion.
The great thing about morality and it's origins is that it seems to be the current main battleground in the theist/atheist discussion. It's a discussion where atheists hold an advantage, because we are not encumbered by the savage immorality within 'holy' books the way theists are.