Do we need to abandon all moral ideologies because we are atheist?

Why does it seem that there are so many atheists who want to go the exact opposite extreme of religion?  Maybe I’m more of a humanist then because I do still have a very strong ethical code that I decided on using logic and a true sense of compassion towards others.  Moral judgment can be based on the net positives it can provide for the whole of society.  Aren’t we all striving to improve ourselves and our communities? Freedom is a wonderful thing worth fighting for, but if those freedoms are not for the betterment of society then we must question if that particular freedom would be best if regulated instead.

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hi Steven, i think you are ontrack, i mean as social animals i think we have instincts to be altruistic for the survival of the group which makes it easier to survive and likewise an instinct to band together to defeat larger dangers than one person could handle like a neighboring group or a pride of lions or flood for instance. Not to forget the getting better food and sex in a group than you would alone. If you are alone, there is no need for morals at all, what would you be moral about? Im just reaffirming my own thoughts on the subject... thanks for evryones thoughts this is great!

There is a difference though when your talking about a societal group you have now left behind Morality for Legality.


In any group there is a set of values but those are laws with consequences..


Its the reason god doesnt enter into morality at all even for religious people. Commandments are laws not morality.


Morality is what you do when no one is looking. The consequences have to be self imposed to be a true moral.

I'm not sure I agree with that.  A huge part of socialization is propagation of the species, which is purely instinctual.  The instinct to put yourself between a child and harm is strong in many people, even when the child isn't their own.  When an emergency happens, people will often do things that will cause themselves harm to protect a child, a spouse, or even another person who they don't even know from a perceived threat without giving it a single thought.  We have learned, as a species, over the last million years, that to preserve "the clan" is central to our own survival.  I know if I saw a woman being raped in an ally way by several men, I would not hesitate to jump into the fray, even if I was pretty sure that I would be harmed or even killed in the process (I know this for a fact, since it did happen).  Based on your assertion, my instincts should have told me not to do that, since I gained no benefit and it would have caused no harm to me to just keep on walking.  And since I was in the middle of the sh!t before I really knew what I was doing, my "morals" had no play in the situation.


I do know that a lot of people *would* have walked on by for fear of getting hurt themselves.  Or from just straight lack of empathy for the victim.  That's why I say that morals can't possibly be based on a reward / punishment basis.  Your moral fiber is who you are in the dark, when you think no one is watching.

I think your example the morality isnt saving the clan. the morality is that you would feel bad watching someone else suffer and not acting when you could have.


The clan mentality builds on and enforces personal values but there not dependent on each other.


If i saw someone not of my clan say a christian being abused by a priest i am not part of that clan yet i feel empathy and the need to act based on my own personal suffering that would occur by not acting. If my soul motivator was clan preservation the suffering of another clan would not affect my emotions at all.

The language instinct by steven pinker talks about the instinct to acquire an art, and im wondering along the same lines if empathy itself is something like a pseudo instinct that may not develop without others teaching, i have read somewhere that children dont develop empathy until a certain age when their brains are developed enough.
Some adults ... actually quite a few never develop it. The term for them is sociopath... which has an unfortunate meaning in our society as meaning an evil person often who kills with no regard. But simply put its someone with no ability to empathize. Its said a large percentage of Corporate CEOs are sociopaths.

I was actually giving two different examples, and I didn't say saving the woman from being raped would "preserve the clan."  What I was saying was that we got our moral beginnings and basis from that spark, but our morals have grown since that basic beginning.


However, in your particular example, that is precisely what morals were, not all that long ago.  In the past, it was perfectly socially moral to watch someone being beheaded or strangled by hanging or beaten to death as long as they were not of your "clan".  And it is still morally acceptable in societies today.  That is why it was perfectly moral and ethical to own other people as slaves within the last 150 years in THIS country.


Morals change and progress as people become more mature and caring.  That's why I said it is sociological and fluid.

yes morals are fluid. I dont disagree with that.


The disagreement i have is very small with you. I believe morals exist without the society and that shared morals are actually the binding points of our cultures. So the relationship is more that society depends on morals of individuals to grow its laws and social interactions.


When it flows the other way.. a PERFECT example being religion there is often personal moral compromise and value breakdown that occurs. a good example being the closetted homosexual. Societal rules can compromise personal morals. A personal moral that goes against societal rules is ostracized or corrected. This is why society operates in laws not morals.


I consider them seperate things because of the very way that the flow happens. Morals are personal and individual.

Actually, it appears we are saying basically the same thing.  I agree that morals are personal, which is what I was saying about morals being different for every culture, town, parish, church, family, and individual.  What I mean by them being sociologically based is that our moral base comes from the society that we grow up in.  Yes, they are ultimately based on the individual, being influenced by that individuals experiences, but they are also highly influenced by the culture(s) you have been exposed to.  That is why there are women in islam countries that find it perfectly acceptable that their daughters or mothers get stoned to death for a moral indiscretion, even if it is only perceived.  Whereas people in sane communities would be enraged by that same act.  However, we do things in this country that they would find morally abominable.  Yes, there are individuals that have moral codes that are completely against their current societal "norms", after all, none of us can talk in absolutes, but in general, we are raised into our own moral code my our society (both in general and individual contacts) and our experiences. 


And, yes, before you jump on it, (again, we are NOT talking absolutes here), those are NOT the ONLY things that contribute to a person's personal moral code, but they are a huge part of most peoples' codes.  When you talk about the "lone wolf," in order for that person to have never had any influence from societal pressures, that person would have to have NEVER been exposed to any type of society.  You are talking about Tarzan, not some lone biker.  And just because someone is a hermit now, doesn't mean that person has NEVER been exposed to society in any way.  For society to have influence on a person, that person need only be exposed for a very short time.  Actually, it even precludes Tarzan, because he was exposed to a "society" of a kind, because the Great Apes have societies that he was exposed to.  Just because they were primitive, doesn't mean they wouldn't have an influence.


In a discussion like this, you can't pull out a single exception in order to discount the general hypothesis.  There will always be exceptions to these types of rules.  But I think most people here understand that we can only talk in generalities in these types of discussions. 

Then we cannot in good conscience call anything even remotely based on instinct a moral.

And based on that definition of instinct we've eliminated a heck of a lot.

Your right.


Instincts are a subconscious evolutionary need.


Morals require reasoning and choice and are active decisions based on empathic consequences.

The Golden rule has NOT always been! In fact, it has been around only for a very short time... hmm, religious times...




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