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.
Gotcha. I was just making sure I didn't miss part of the convo. :)
Your question wasn't formed very clearly, and judging from the comments, it has generated a lot of confusion over what exactly it is that you are asking (although part of that is necessarily that they don't know what they're talking about either). The first part of your post suggests that your mother supports some kind of Divine Command Theory of morality. Well, given the phrasing of your question, the Divine Command Theorist can respond with a resounding YES! Morality IS based on the views of an individual, and that individual is GOD. So that is just ONE example of how morality can be "relative to an individual" and yet still morality is still an objective fact about the world. There are other possibilities as well.
We need to carefully distinguish between moral relativism and ethical subjectivism. Your question appears to be this: Is ethical subjectivism true? Whereas most everyone seems to be responding as if your question were: Is moral relativism true? And depending on how one understands each question, the answers might not be the same. I recommend you pick up a philosophy book on ethics. There are many good, short, readable intro books out there, but the one I most highly recommend is James Rachels' "The Elements of Moral Philosophy." I learned from it as an undergraduate student, and now as a graduate student I use it as the intro text for my students.
It seems that your way of thinking is essentially a tolerance of a diverse range of lifestyles, I share such a way of thinking as many people do today. In the above case the 'homosexuality is wrong' argument has it's genesis in the bible (see what I did there).
I do not think this debate can be settled as long as God is in the picture. If God is always there and 'real' for your mother, how can she develop tolerance for LGBT lifestyles? God finds them deplorable and he is unlikely to change his opinion any time soon. However should an epiphany reveal that there is no God, then she may be persuaded towards more tolerance for them, as they are simply citizens with a sexual preference that they cannot choose.
I mostly agree with this, especially about the importance of tolerance. To me, the issue is more about imposed morality, not just morality itself. IMO, most intelligent animals seem to have some sense of morality; the difference with humans is that their more sophisticated intelligence enables them to push moral ideas to unnatural/artificial extremes.
So it also just occurred to me how I'd like to stop giving God or The Bible so much credit for morality. They aren't really the genesis of morality. It starts at some small level in animals, then it evolved culturally via musings, philosophies, religion... and other kinds of intellectually (but artificially) produced "law". Maybe I'll stop trying to point out how God & Bible has imposed so much terribly-designed morality on humanity, because after all, it's humanity that actually invented God & Bible.
E.g. God-like morality and bible-like morality are both just products of humanity's cultural phase of invented and imposed Bible-Age Morality. (I'm sure there's a better way to say this, so that it includes other sacred writings besides the Bible.)