If you are a non- believer, why be moral when no one is looking?

If you are a non- believer in, all that you do is being recorded in the heavens, why be moral when no one is looking?

If there are no records and no witness, why not do anything you want?

 

If no one sees you do it, then is it a deed not done?

 

If all of this is true, then why do we have a conscience, where did it come.

 

We are told in scriptures that our conscience is our natural way of doing God's will in the absence of his Law.

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Morality is relative.  It's something we instinctively do to survive.  The question remains, whose records do we care about?  Who says anything is recorded in "the heavens"?  They don't exist.  Sky and space exist in an expanding universe that has nothing to do with our morality.

Conscience is a double-edged sword.  One person's conscience can be another's delusion.

Conscience is  unnatural if it is scriptural because it is dogma based and not reasoned. Conscience can be called awareness,applied knowledge, or rationality. It's something we instinctively have and it might be in our DNA as we develop this ability.  Often, what we call conscience is a platitude, an easy out, a robotic reactive message rather than a reasoned, examined and tested view of the world.

A popular science version of why injury to certain parts of the brain affects moral reasoning and moral behavior.  It only covers a fraction of the changes that can occur in the expression of moral behavior due to brain abnormalities, impairments, developmental glitches and accidental damage, but it's easy to read for the lay person.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/22/science/22brain.html?ref=health

Morality is an evolved trait that keeps society ordered.

 

End of story.

Here I am, a guy with and MA in Philosophy (albeit many years ago) and I think I remember Socrates' answer to the question of "Why should I be honest when I know I can get away with it and nobody will know?" which was in the context of the discussion of the Ring of Geiges. Geiges came into possession of a magic ring which when he turned it around on his finger made him invisible. Geiges could do all sorts of mischief if he wanted. He could steal, cheat, pull anonymous pranks, and even murder, and there would never be a witness. What argument could we offer him against committing mischief and mayhem? As I recall Socrates made the argument that to behave in that way, similar to lying, makes you alone in the world. When you do bad things in secret, you paint yourself into a world apart from humanity. BTW, I take the view that we need to be ethical, not moral. "Morality" implies adhering to a fixed set of does and don'ts. If you're moral, you obey your morals even if the consequences are unethical. In other words, the only thing a moral person considers is whether he is conforming to a prescription or commandment. An ethical person has to think well beyond that and examine the consequences of his actions.

Interesting reply, Unseen.  I understand the point your are making, and agree.  The terms you use, however, are ambiguous.  My profession has an ethical code that consists of a whole lot of rules, some of them very specific.  According to your definitions, this would be a Code of Morality, instead of a Code of Ethics.  Confusing. 

How would it sound to refer to the first set of the Top Ten Commandments as The Short Moral Code of Yahweh  and the amended version (which few Christians even know exists) as The Shorter Moral Code of Yahweh while the third set becomes The Very Short Moral Code of Yahweh-Jesus-H.Ghost?

Well, I guess I was a little loose in my terminology. I would always relate the idea of morals and morality to some overarching belief about reality or theology. But let's say you're a psychologist or doctor or accountant. What organizations of that nature call a "code of ethics" is really not that elevated. It's more along the line of "agreed upon (or legislated) standards of behavior." I wouldn't call them actual ethics in a philosophical sense. They are just standards of behavior some committee put together. That's not real ethics to a philosopher like me. They may be based on beliefs about ethics, but they aren't ethics per se.

I'll accept that.  Perhaps they should be termed Professional Codes of Behavior.

"Why be moral when no one is looking?"
Because it's the right thing to do.

"Why not do anything you want?"
I do, but I treat others as I would like them to treat me, a saying much, much older than the "Book".

"If no one sees you do it, then is it a deed not done?"
I'll see it, and I am someone.

"Then why do we have a conscience?"
If we didn't we wouldn't have evolved to where we are today.

"Where did it come?"
All animals have a conscience to some degree.

"We are told in scriptures that our conscience is our natural way of doing God's will"
I don't care what the scriptures say, I'm not superstitious.

You set off another train of thought for me.

I have seen two years old, barely able to talk, put their hand out to the cookie jar and then stop as they say, with their mother's intonation and speed:  "Nnnoooo".  before reluctantly pulling their hand away.  This restraint usually doesn't last long and the cookie jar is raided while saying more "Nnnooo" s.  The behavior is instructive because it showns that children who are too young to have any concept of a god are already learning to behave in ways that their society considers to be "good". 

Ethics is a very interesting topic, and the fact that the search for a basis for ethics continues to confound very brilliant philosophers should tell us something. One thing almost all philosophers will agree to is that to have a philosophically satisfactory ethical system, it must be based on some sort of absolute. Otherwise, it's just something one person or a group of people think should be. In that sort of situation, there will never be any way to settle ethical disagreements conclusively.

 

One sort of absolute, of course, is God. If He doesn't exist, then we have a problem in terms of justifying ethical beliefs.

 

The worst sort of justification is to treat general agreement as an absolute of sorts. Why? Well, suppose a minority, such as Mexican-Americans or atheists, were to be hated enough by the majority that they (the majority) would want to put them in labor camps.

 

And yet, general agreement appears to be what nonbelievers are left with. Doing what most people believe is right sounds good as long as you agree with the attitudes of the majority.

 

One precept I think most non-religious philosophers would agree with is that ethical disputes can't be settled in any satisfactory way because "disagreements over values are disagreements as to attitude not as to facts." The only thing that approaches a settlement is to somehow change the other person's or group's attitude. That rarely happens, because people are prisoners of their personal histories, and those personal histories drive them toward the attitudes they have.

Interesting thoughts, Unseen.

Bible literalists are "cafeteria Christians" who pick and choose what to believe just like liberal Christians. They just won't admit it. For example, the biblical passages recommending harsh treatment of homosexuals are taken as literal truth, whereas some of the ridiculous Bible passages, such as those recently referred to by Rosemary are pretended not to exist.

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