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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The FIRST one! I would have bet a million it wasn't there, and lost it all! Score one for Strega!

Morality like so many attributes to our psyche i think are inherrent because of our emotions. We know how we would feel if these "immoral" acts were perpetrated on us and therefore would not revisit them on others. There are aspects of morality that are scewed by the consensus of society but in general those that cause direct harm are at the discression of that moral compass we all have. I have been an atheist all my life and would consider myself a moral individual. I didn't need "God" to tell me how either, growing up I learned of all the atrocities commited in the name of  God using the morality of the various Holy books to justify the slaughter of those that disagree or have control of this land or resource that the other wants. A very close anylitical look at the Bible for instance will show you that the moral tenets set down within such as thou shalt not kill were actually tribe specific. In otherwords you do not kill in your own tribe but those other tribes, which follow one or many of the thousands of gods that existed at the same time or before Judaism and Christianity came into existance, are not protected by these rules.

In reality the Bible, Koran, etc. were good at spreading general views on morality to the masses to remind people but really changed nothing. The people with various forms of mental illness that we can now diagnose were living by a completely different code, one that comes about when the wiring is different upstairs. These people were from all walks of life and of all faiths and are some of them now important historical figures for immorality.

My conclusion is that neither the religious nor the non-religious have the patent on morality. I think that the patent is held by the completely sane... from a farmer and his wife on up to those at the heights of power who do lead moral lives and care for themselves and the people around them. And by the same token the non-religious and the religious have equal  parts in the annals of immorality. And God(s) have absolutely no part in it, if there really was an omniscient omnipotent being out there I think it would be able to create species and planets with much fewer problems, also it would be able to write a book that needs no editing and interpretation and present it to all of its creations. Unlike the God(s) we worship which seem to have a lot of the human flaws which constantly divide us, like petty jealousy for instance. I also feel that the fact that there are so many gods in existance and that have disappeared well before the conventional modern gods came to be is to me the greatest evidence of the fact that they don't exist and that morality comes from within us all.

Hey Nikos,

A very close anylitical look at the Bible for instance will show you that the moral tenets set down within such as thou shalt not kill were actually tribe specific. In otherwords you do not kill in your own tribe but those other tribes, which follow one or many of the thousands of gods that existed at the same time or before Judaism and Christianity came into existance, are not protected by these rules

That is interesting. And it makes sense, too. It would explain much of the dichotomy regarding killing in Christian Canon. Thanks for that great info.

- kk

Morality evolved naturally in humans. We can dance and prance around with definitions and semantics until the cows come home but it has nothing whatever to do with religion or any of the non evidenced gods of bronze age cults - period. Not to be a sour curmudgeon but this topic is getting old in a hurry. 

Hey LogicalLunatic,

Morality evolved naturally in humans

Really? Did you mean the capacity for morality? I doubt that value judgments themselves evolved from anything, right?

- kk

part of our ever evolving selves? we may be slowing down on physical evolution but the mental change is surging ever forward


Perhaps, but this oft-presumed mental change is wholly unrelated to biolgoical evolution. They are too entirely different concepts people for some odd reason easily confuse in loose conversation. Human thought and philosophical ideas have changed over the last 1000 years due to a phenomenon wholly independent of natural selection. Our ideas are not "evolving", they're just changing as we conveniently desire. And there is no preferred direction or program by which this change occurs.

- kk

I disagree.I think it is a part of evolution our thoughts and ability to reason is a complex biological process. With that said our emotions and our sub-concious are a part of that same process. I think the evolutionary process has become more internal here we have to evolve mentally to be able to deal with our modern world. I honestly believe in the next few hundred years or so our minds are going to go through some major changes. We need to adapt to the world that we have changed around us...

Had this in my inbox this morning:

John Major has sent you a message on Think Atheist

Subject: Ethics/Morals
Hi Arch Nice to hear from you my friend, I'll take a look. Hope you're well!

It should be a refreshing treat, having a British statesman join us on the board, right Strega?

Arch - Nice, I've got a speeding ticket in Shrewsbury that ... never mind

- kk

Does it really matter whether morality and ethics have an objective basis?

I am inclined to think that people would prefer to be able to claim that they have some kind of objective standard, but would not care for it too much myself.

Quality of life determines to some extent morality, and that is hardly objective. Usually it's much easier to find out which kinds of behavior are immoral, without necessarily pinpointing morality to an objective standard.


Of course it matters. If there were a deity who gave us a set of pre- or proscriptions to follow, then we'd have an objective morality. But we don't live in that world. 

There are tests for quality of life, but like all tests which generate objective results (in terms of the test criteria), the original designing of the test involves applying subjective judgments.




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