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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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.

But we don't live in that world.  No, we don't by choice.  We do not feel the need for a set of external pre or proscriptions, because we do not believe in the Great Enforcer.  Morals have to come from within.  If they were dictated, they wouldn't be morals, they would be rules.

"If they were dictated, they wouldn't be morals, they would be rules."

I LIKE that!

Ethics come from within, because they involve deliberation and the quality of one's character. Morals, by contrast, involve rule bound behavior, such as following The Ten Commandments. 

Then I am amoral but ethical by your standards. 

Perhaps the US Constitution fits your bill.

I'm not moral but am ethical. The term "amoral" carries a lot of negative baggage with it. Don't know how to interpret your Constitution reference.

Not for me, it doesn't.  It frees me. 

The Constitution and declaration of rights could provide you with a source for moral values, if you felt it was important to have these external morals.

I am comfortable with the mesh of morals and ethics I have built up over the years.  Why wouldn't I be?  They are mine, tailored to fit me.  Are there people who follow morals they don't actually believe in?

I'm not saying morals are always bad, but anything good in morals should be able to be arrived at through ethical analysis.

Hey Strega,

That's interesting. Either by Right of Conquest or by referendum, I suppose we could all agree on a legal framework to pin up a moral code. Just make sure it is as you say, Constitutional; that is, fundamental law, so lawyers, sycophants, harpys and psychopaths can't monkey with it too much.

Problem, however, is that is not objective in my mind. If but one person dissents it is not objective, imo.

- kk

Dr. Grixis,

Think like someone without a conscience for a second, you know, think like lawyers and politicians think. If you don't have an objective standard what do you think they're going to do with that? Just my opinion, but I think that's the biggest reason. The second big reason for insisting on an objective framework is deconversion. If I'm going to deconvert someone it helps a lot if I have a  moral system to offer them that is objective, solid and can be substitued in the stead of their current moral system.

- kk

You don't have a new moral system to offer, you only have to make them realize that they already follow the same subjective system of morality as atheists do. The only difference is the realization or acceptance of that fact.

And lawyers and politicians would be the first to know about subjectivity in practice of law and government, which forms our morals.

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