What makes something moral or amoral?

I feel like we've had this discussion a million times on Think Atheist in some way shape or form. I should know the answer already. Without a holy book to tell me what to do or how to act I do feel pretty.....lost.

Can I admit that out loud? Yes I feel lost. I feel pulled in many directions on a number of issues and I really don't know how to resolve this turmoil. 

So my question is really that simple:

What makes something moral or amoral?

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Well thanks Bob for restating the ideals, but here in the real world of practical application we have things like Prop 8, the Defense of Marriage Act, Religious Freedom Act, and countless other examples of xian intolerance of and xian-backed legislated discrimination against gay.

Those are all good examples of something that can potentially be a moral position, or not. 

Since this is a thread on morality, do you claim that those stances are "wrong?"  Or is this merely group politics for you, like an argument about whether a tax cut or tax increase is justified based on whether you or your friends benefit?

If you do believe that those stances are "wrong", on what basis do you make that claim?  Can you describe any objective, evidence-based reasons for doing so?

I think this gets to the heart of @Belle's question, and mine as well.

By "those stances" do you mean anti-gay?

I'm not saying gay is wrong or right. I'm saying what IS wrong, what IS immoral, is one group restricting the equal rights of others. Especially when that group holds itself up as a shining example of morality.

We should start a new hashtag called #NotAllChristians just like #NotAllMen.

Good article, looks like I should be reading more Phil Plait.

I'll bet some would also like #NotAllAtheists. (Does it already exist? I've avoided twitter for a couple years now.)

@Bob
I'm trying not to read too much into the way you included gay people on the same list as enemies, criminals, and tax collectors, when you seem to be saying they deserve compassion no matter how repugnant they may be.

Or for those lovable Hindus: a widow throwing herself on her husband's funeral pyre...as you know...what else would she do without her man owning her?

Or for our sweet forgiving merciful Muslim friends: murdering someone who has a bad opinion of their sky god

Or for our animist friends: Clubbing to death an albino...who is obviously a witch

Or for our Sikh friends: Carrying a sword at all times

Or for our Jewish friends: Having your period without totally isolating yourself

Or for our Bhuddist friends: Existence is suffering...so suffer...you were probably an asshole in a past life.

Morality is biologically hard-wired into the human race

I would love to know how you imagine that biology determines whether I choose to be mean to someone today.   This is just nonsense, and shows a lack of understanding of biology.

Something like a third of teenagers report having stolen from a store in the past year, and a similar number report having stolen from a friend or relative.   A similar number report having been bullied.  Between 75 and 95% of college students report having cheated in high school.

Now explain to me how morality is biologically "hard-wired"?

Morality, like science or anything else, is taught and learned.

Couldn't biological factors have a statistical impact on a population, even if it doesn't "determine" any one course of action by a single actor?

Here's another question: do you suppose those teenagers knew the stealing and cheating were wrong? Was the problem really that they were never "taught" those things? Of course not.

Determining what's right and wrong is what a moral system is supposed to do. Stopping people from doing immoral things is NOT something a moral system can reliably do. People find ways to justify things. Instilling self-discipline and respect for others is a tougher thing, that most likely happens in one's upbringing and through one's peers.

Baloney on the mostly religious construct. Humans experienced morality long before established religions existed. Isolated indigenous tribes in various locales on our globe had moral systems of conduct that functioned quite well. And there is recent sociological research evidence that supports the notion of a DNA-related predisposition to be moral. Theists often want to take credit for things when they really shouldn't.  

Human morality has been hard-wired by evolution, and evolution encodes behaviour into a species' DNA.  Rightness and wrongness?  You're talking about the fact/value divide, which is, so it is said, logically impossible to cross.  But there is a basic universal human moral sense that supplies universal values of right and wrong. 

It's true that religion has been a very effective propagator of morality. 

I would have to append that comment about religion being an effective propagator since the church's moral code in the Middle Ages was highly suspect.

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