The other day my mother and I got in a bit of an argument over homosexuality and whether or not it was moral. She was adamant that it wasn't, saying, "Anyone who doesn't follow God's law is immoral." Needless to say, that really hurt (seeing as she is fully aware that I'm an atheist). But she believed it.
So here is my question: is morality based on individuality? For example, if one person believed it was wrong to steal and then did it anyway, would this be worse than the person who thought stealing was ok? If my conscience tells me one thing and someone else's conscience tells them another thing, am I justified in saying they're wrong?
I'd appreciate hearing everyone's thoughts on this.
Thanks for all the comments. Here is a follow-up question: Let's say for a moment that morality IS subjective. Then is there such a thing as a bad person? It seems to me that if morality is relative, then you can't hold another person to your moral code, in which case there could be no law, which would result in chaos.
Or do you create laws based on what the majority of the people think is moral? That idea wouldn't work--just think about how often has the majority been wrong. And there I go again, imposing my personal definition of what is right and what is wrong on others.
Regardless of what anyone says, I just don't see how things such as murder, dishonesty, etc. can be considered moral. If I were to encounter someone who said that they were, I would just say that he or she had been desensitized and had lost touch with their conscience.
How is this for a theory: Everyone is born with a conscience. Morality is, in fact, objective. It is not grounded in God, but rather in human nature. Society influences us and changes our opinion of what is right and wrong, but if we are able to look past societal norms and find the truth, we can get closer to the natural morality that we are born with. Therefore, there is a universal right and wrong, we just don't always know what it is.
Just an idea; I'm sure it's flawed. Sorry for the long post. I hope I'm making sense. The entire concept is starting to make my head spin, but I really want to find at least some semblance of an answer. Thanks!
What people believe in terms of ethics is very time- and culture-bound, not bound with any kind of human nature. The Mayans would cut the heart out of a living being as a sacrifice. The Spartans would toss weakling babies off a cliff. Today, we mutilate male babies' penises in the name of religion.
It's false that everyone is born with a conscious (psychopaths and sociopaths being the most obvious examples). Conscience tends to be bound up with those time- and culture-bound beliefs.
In the end, we all just muddle along when it comes to right and wrong.
Your proposed theory is quiet impressive but i have the feeling that it is flawed in its proposition. Firstly because you stated morality to be objective and at the same time goes on to state the influences of societal norms and opinions. Which means you are actually trying to say that Morality is both subjective as well as objective. A better tentative proposition would be that a person is born neither by an objective moral conscience nor a subjective one. But he/she is born with a potency to objectify his/her consciousness. The externals only play a vital role in shaping its destiny for actualizing it.
Deconstruct (read closely) "... if one person believed it was wrong to steal and then did it anyway, would this be worse than the person who thought stealing was ok?"
At the moment I'm stealing, I'm concentrating on not being seen. If I'm caught and incarcerated, or if I'm almost caught but get away, I might think of right and wrong. If I later become prosperous and remember, I might make amends.
If I do none of that, I'm a sociopath. The odds are that instead of becoming rich and powerful, my life will be so unhappy that I might end it.
Being rich or powerful? I've heard of rich people killing themselves. I haven't heard of powerful people doing so, but have heard of their being killed.
About your "one thing" and "another thing" query, say they're wrong if you want to be alone.
Is morality relative? Of course it is. Find two people whose religions differ and set them to arguing who's right and who's wrong.
It probably depends on the situation.
You're justified in saying you think she's wrong.
I think that if you believe stealing is wrong but you steal anyway, that's worse because not only are you stealing, you're breaking your own integrity. However, sometimes stealing is necessary, and let's face it, nobody gets hurt, things are only things and can be replaced, but "people don't grow back".
Alyssa - ask your mother if it's OK to kill. When she says no, remind her that the Bible commands her not to allow a witch to live, then ask if she'd like to join you in hunting down witches and killing them. You probably won't have that discussion more than once.
Einstein assured us that all things are relative, but some relatives are easier to get along with than others.
Stanford says this about morality....
"The term “morality” can be used either
- descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
- some other group, such as a religion, or
- accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
- normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons."
Webster says this about immorality...
Definition of IMMORAL
: not moral; broadly : conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles
You could have asked, "Is your favorite color orange?" and gotten more definitive answers than you will get with this question.
According to Webster's definition of immoral, yes... homosexuality is immoral.
According to Stanford's definition of morality, yes... homosexuality is moral. (according to rational persons)
all harmful acts = immoral
all immoral acts ≠ harmful
You can tell anyone that you feel they are wrong and be justified in doing so... People do it all the time. Just don't expect them to care about what you think.
Things like rape, murder, theft, harming others... those are all harmful acts and would be considered "immoral" in any culture. Homosexuality is immoral because it conflicts with tradition and general moral principles but it is not a harmful act so it's moral b/c rational people don't think it violates any general code of conduct.
btw... stealing is never "right" no matter what someone has been taught to believe. There are kids that are raised in "pick pocket" houses. Even though some are doing it to survive, it doesn't make it right or moral.
Once again, I draw the distinction between morals/morality and ethics/ethical behavior. Morals and morality are all about conforming to rules, be they called Commandments or be they couched in a culture's traditions (e.g., it's bad for a Hindu to consume beef). By contrast, a person making an ethical choice sets all that aside and considers both the proximate consequences of the available choices as well as the consequences down the road and then makes a choice. HOW does one make that choice? It goes on in the brain and is governed by the physical laws which govern all things, including brains. So, much as we'd like to know, we can't. People do what it is in their nature to do.
Not sure if this was supposed to be a response to my post or just in general... It doesn't add or take away from anything I said.
Just in general. Not being argumentative.