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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The foundation of morality is various hard-wired patterns in the brain, set there through evolutionary biology (with some arbitrary emergent properties mixed in).  For instance: empathy - the Golden Rule - starts to develop around one year of age as the mind grasps that others feel emotions and have an inner self.  Severe trauma/abuse, or genetic mutation, can mess with the development of empathy (yielding, among other things, sociopaths), but its development is a standard part of brain growth and development.  If we had evolved from non-social creatures that breed through mitosis, for example, then maybe empathy wouldn't be part of brain development and the Golden Rule wouldn't be a foundation of moral systems.

And there are other hard-wired roots to moral systems.

Of course, socialization and culture also shape moral codes.  But even without gods, and without a book, groups of humans seem to develop moral systems founded upon empathy.  With random nonsense like Don't Have Homosexual Sex mixed in.

Further to our discussion on morality, I've done an article about cooperative breeding, thought to be the evolutionary "ground zero" of human prosociality. 


I've just slapped it together, so if you have any questions or require any clarification, just say. 

The member formerly known as Joshua writes "what makes something moral or amoral is the intention behind the action. sins are amoral because they are damaging to you in some way or form."

So, if something I do is immoral it's immoral because I'm damaging myself? Not damaging the other person?

I deleted Joshua's a/c because he added replies to 7 posts, all within 1 hour, explaining how magic his god is even though I had already warned him about proselytizing.


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