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.
So you think all the societies that came before us were "wrong" and us modern folk are "right"? Maybe it's because I'm a third generation atheist? but I don't see the world in terms of "wrongs" and "rights", I see the world in terms of undesirable and desirable, subjective values. There are many a politician and business tycoon I would put in jail (and I'm being overly polite here), and many a prisoner I would release from jail...
It's not about religion, its about acceptability, coercion, punishment, and group cohesion voir group think. The French, Russian, Chinese, and Cuban revolutions were desirable and had overall good impacts on their respective societies and in the process have shown humanity a world of alternatives, which would not have been achieved without death. Did a minority of the remaining population hate their guts, yes, but overall, the majority won.
On a similar note, religion's main benefit to individual humans is happiness, so really, if happiness was the main factor in valuing human endeavours, you'd leave religion alone. Humans are so easily duped into happiness ;( Look at Bhutan, a nation who's main value has long been happiness.
My sole objective in life is dying as guilt free as possible, which means contributing to leaving the planet in no worse a state than when I was born onto it.
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Morality actually has a basis in reason, oddly enough. Morality also evolves with circumstance, and it's this aspect that seems to trip people up more often than not. Absolute morals don't exist anymore than absolute anything.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm2Jrr0tRXk - Who Says Science Has Nothing To Say About Morality? by Sam Harris, speaking with Richard Dawkins later.
Well, that was easy. Yes, it was Sam. http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html
Here is another by Jonathan Haidt http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html
Great talks, both of them.
Of course science can provide us with clues about the global consequences of our actions. But it's still up to our subjective minds to weigh the various costs of our actions.
To me, a corporation which is polluting an area with lead, thereby affecting the learning potential of all the children in the neighbourhood is an absolutely horrible consequence as it places the profit-making potential of the few over the health of the many. But obviously, in our society, a vast majority think profit-making is more important than the health of those people. On top of that that corporation may derive a secondary benefit from the lack of learning ability, those kids will likely grow up being non-voters, further enshrining the power of the corporation over the people. Is this moral? Most people think it's just fine though, scientifically minded people less so, but still.
Everyone weighs harm differently, it is a subjective matter which science does not provide answers for, it is completely determined by the values taught to us during our formative years, which very few humans stray very far away from later on in life.
I believe all things should be morally acceptable as long as it doesn't directly harm anyone needlessly.
For instance , taboo things like brothers and sisters having sex or Polygamy , etc .. I see no reason to think this harms anyone as long as all adults are consenting.