If you agree with the definitions that follow, do freethinkers havr morals or ethics, or a combo?
Ethics: A system of thinking about correct behaviour that comes from personsl introspection.
Morals: A system of thought about behaviour that is based on some outward form od authority such as government ornreligion.
Not exactly, because both involve how to justify your actions. In the case of ethics, you think about it, weighing the facts and the likely results and the impact of those results generally, and then you act based on that determination. In the case of morality, you simply carry out a rule ("though shalt..." or "thou shalt not...").
Ethics: I did what, all things considered, seemed to be the best thing to do.
Morality: I did what I was supposed to do (based on scripture, commandments, etc.).
This assumes that morality is always imposed from without, and denies the role of individual choice and conscience.
On the other hand, we could say that conscience always comes from both without and within. I've read, and I agree, that conscience (the super-ego, partly conscious and partly unconscious) starts life as the norms we absorb from our parents or caregivers as children. Then it is educated and modified throughout life as we accumulate experiences of dealing with other people. And what is morality, if not the way in which we treat others?
And what is morality, if not the way in which we treat others?
It also prescribes/proscribes private behavior that doesn't affect others.
But surely behaviour that doesn't affect others, isn't covered by morality. Attitudes and ideals however, are covered by morality. Or perhaps ethics.
To the extent that an individual thinks and is ready to ignore prescriptive guides like the Ten Commandments, they are engaged in ethical thought, not morality.
That's true: an individual can engage in ethical thought, moral philosophy, for their own benefit or that of others.
I'd say that morality exists at the individual level, while ethics deals in meta-knowledge: knowledge about the subject of morality. It's all rather much of a muchness I think, there is so much overlap.
Morality, as prescriptive, exists at the social level. Ethics is an individual enterprise.
To answer the OP, atheists are probably no more or less moral (pro-social) than any other group. However, atheism currently doesn't have a widely known, formal moral framework.
As for the religions: that's pretty much what a religion consists of, along with some other things: a supporting mythology, a charismatic founder, a system of social control, and an organized hierarchy. These are not necessarily bad things: in "olden days", when our protection from barbarous natural contingency was much more precarious than it is now, we needed a fairly rigid system of social control so that we could cooperate together for purposes of survival. This is why radicals (such as Jesus) were treated with so much suspicion and hostility.
It reminds me of this scene from Pulp Fiction:
Vincent dries his hands on a towel while he continues his
dialogue with the mirror.
...It's a moral test of yourself,
whether or not you can maintain
loyalty. Because when people are
loyal to each other, that's very
Mia is on all fours trying to crawl to the bathroom, but
it's like she's trying to crawl with the bones removed from
her knees. Blood begins to drip from Mia's nose. Then her
stomach gets into the act and she VOMITS.
So you're gonna go out there, drink
your drink, say "Goodnight, I've had
a very lovely evening," go home, and
jack off. And that's all you're
That's what I want my website to be like, but without the references to blood and jacking off.
Like I've always said... well, once or twice anyways... well, paraphrased:
The phrases "moral behavior" and "ethical authority" are not as meaningful or useful as the phrases "moral authority" and "ethical behavior". Morality is presumed ideal, possibly of divine origin, and non-negotiable. Ethics promotes and thrives on the reliability of repeatable, mutually-beneficial agreements, yet still allows leeway for negotiation between specific parties involved.