So I got into it on Twitter with some nut that said "atheists can't have any morality" because he thinks the only logical source for morality is Yahweh (go figure). I'd been meaning to write on the topic (yes, it's been covered multiple times, I'm aware), so I made this.
Now he's claiming it's "the most fallacious thing" he's ever read, that it's full of begging the question, and somehow proves "absolute morality". Since I'm too close to my work, does anyone want to take a crack at it and confirm either that he's full of shit, or I am?
Zevaeros, the problem is that once again the argument is being misunderstood.
This is an articulate version of the argument:
"Being a good person is the right thing to do because right and wrong are tied to some ultimate spiritual truth. It doesn't matter what our individual religions teach. All of us adhere to a very similar archetype and this archetype justifies our acceptance of the very concept of morality. We see no justification for your present acceptance of the very concept of morality in the first place. Morality can't be justified because it is natural. It can be accepted, it can have utility, but no logical justification can be provided to justify any case where morality is no longer advantageous to an individual."
So basically what they are contending is that if you do not believe in the supernatural, you need to pull a Descartes, and throw out all morality. When you point out things from the bible that appear immoral, the reply is then that you haven't really done a Descartes, and proved that morality is a rational concept to accept in the first place. The contention is that without an archetypal justification, morality is logically good only as long as it is advantageous. This is because without an archetype, morality is reduced to personal benefit, rather than being adherence to something bigger.
I, however contend there is something bigger, and that is why morality works in the first place. And it is really rather big.
HE'S full of it!
We know morality has a natural basis, but my take is that morality needs a philosophical basis for the sake of greater inspiration. I can't spend too much time explaining this because of classwork I need to do, but here is where I am at right now in discovering the basis.
I believe that morality works so well, because it is tied into a the orderly principle of the universe. Orderly things are functional, this is why we value morality. It is attached to something bigger and we need to find that connection.
I think I am getting closer to finding that. Value is measurement.
Morality is a system of values. Between order and disorder, only order can be given value because disorder has no measurable properties so disorder can't be given value. Value is a measurement, but value has its limitations in functionality for finite beings.
So morality is grounded at the intersect between order and functionality. This makes pure order, like stasis not a good thing, and disorder have no value.
Absolute morality is like an absolute best color.
"the only logical source for morality is Yahweh"
How so, specifically?
How can one cite Yahweh as a source for morality when there is no real evidence for Yahweh's existence? I think I might be able to cite Jello as a source for morality - but at least I could prove the existence of Jello.
And if one brings up Yahweh of the Judeo-Christian bible - well, that character, in my opinion, is a horrible literary figure with no consistent, acceptable morality. Yahweh of the Judeo-Christian bible, in my opinion, is not worthy of worship - the bible itself is a testament to that.
And, I get my morals from common sense and respect for life - religion, however, including Christianity, would give me the "right" to condemn or justify condemnation of others (and burn "witches," shoot doctors who perform abortions, hang homosexuals, stone adulterers, etc.).
Tell your theist to search on "Code of Hammurabi". He'll find morals much older than Yahweh's.
"atheists can't have any morality" Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and those that are bad (or wrong). (Wikipedia)... Theists state they conduct themselves morally because they believe in a Heaven and Hell. This means that a theist does what is right because they want to go to Heaven and avoid Hell. If that is the case, they CANNOT be behaving morally. Their actions are to attain a reward and / or out of fear of punishment. Atheists are the ONLY people who can truely be moral because their actions do not result in reward (Heaven) and are not motivated out of fear (threat of punishment in Hell). When an Atheist choses to do what is right, she or he does it because it is right (relativistically to the culture), not to please and not from fear.
Morality is a code used to guide one's actions for the purpose of obtaining benefit. I'm quite certain there can be no absolute universal code beyond specifying actions necessary to maintain one's life as similar actions are needed by each human to maintain their lives. Constructing a moral codex based on a standard of value derived from answering the question of what benefits one's own life seems an easy task as its obvious objective moral facts obtain. Each person is the sanction of their own existence and thus the reason for their own life. Hence morality comes from rational self interest and has nothing to do with evolution, emotions, altruism, or collectivism.
No, morality hasn't always been for benefit. For the last few thousand years morality has also incorporated stepping beyond oneself and personal benefit. The capacity for rational thought enabled morality to extend past this to being attached to a greater higher purpose.
But your system is the very system that this Christian argument is arguing against. Once it is only "this is only for my benefit" we have a problem. The best way to show why is this: That would make God completely moral no matter what he does or tells us. This invalidates atheist moral objections to the character of God.
Morality is not just benefit in its common use. It is tied to ultimate goodness in its present context.
Robert - you've come to know me well enough by now, that you know I like to reduce things to simple terms, and what you're suggesting, is something I've for years called the "Little Jack Horner" approach.
Remember Little Jack Horner? "He put in his thumb, Pulled out a plum, and said, 'What a good boy am I!'" Not as silly as it sounds - it's entirely possible we live moral lives simply because we want to be seen in our own eyes as "good boys" or girls. Granted, that implies no absolute morality, but rather a morality d'jour, but hasn't our concept of right and wrong changed with time?
We find repugnant the biblical concept, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," but in those times, before mental illness was recognized, and yet today, it's not entirely understood, killing someone believed to be a witch would have been a "good" thing to do. In one of the Asian countries, last month - 21st century for cryin' out loud - an old lady was killed by a mob for being a witch, and I'd be willing to bet they felt they had done nothing "wrong."
I had a good friend once who believed that even those soldiers who've thrown themselves on hand grenades, did so to feel good about themselves.
I don't believe that here, on this forum, we'll find THE definitive answer to a question that Man has been debating for millennia, but I concur with your opinion.
All any of this means, if one takes your Twitter correspondent seriously (LOL!), is that Christians CANNOT be moral without the threat of eternal hellfire; but atheists CAN. Case in point: ME!