Christians may pretend to think that we atheists are all "this" close to committing rape and murder, but the fact is we don't commit rape and murder, any more than they do.
When people ask "why should atheists be moral?", that is a misleading question. They should really ask, why ARE atheists moral? [Why do they hardly commit rape and murder at all ...?]
Good question. Why.
Why do you, personally, always try and do the right thing? Why do you, personally, sometimes do the wrong thing? Do you go against your own moral code?
Christians seem to spend a lot of time agonising over moral issues. I think that is great. We do the same thing here on Think Atheist. Both Christians and atheists explicitly feature the study of morality as part of their belief systems. I think it's fair to say that the two groups are roughly equal in moral standards and behaviour.
I'm not looking for theories about society or stuff Richard Dawkins says or anything like that. I just want to hear about your personal experiences of yourself. I'm hoping some patterns might emerge. After all, we're all human beings, and there's only a limited number of reasons why we do things.
The reasons I try and do the right thing are probably that: I want a clean conscience and an orderly life. I don't want to s*** in my own bed. I think I derive confidence from feeling I'm doing the right thing morally. I feel empathy for other people and don't want to hurt them unnecessarily. If I love someone, I'll move heaven and Earth for them. If I have a strong belief that something is right, I will aim to uphold that belief.
I would go against some of my normal moral beliefs if I thought it was justified and wouldn't cause too much trouble. There would have to be a very good reason - beyond just getting my end away, for example.
I am as moral as one can be - but they are my morals, not xian morals. I have shacked up with a bloke for 23 years - not married - a xian would see me as very immoral - and I am very proud of the fact that I am not married. When I see 'many' xians cheating on spouses, then going to church, I feel sick. I am really black and white about many things - a lie is a lie is a lie. The many charletans like Ted Haggard having a homosexual 'affair' for three years, whilst being married and having children. Like the pope covering up pedophilia ad nauseam. The list goes on.
I am more of a puritan than the majority of xians - but I also don't care, none of my business, what anybody does in their private life, as long as nobody is hurt. I have a lousy memory, and know I would forget when I lied :) so I don't.
I am totally and absolutely loyal - until crossed, and I have been by an ex, and also by so called good xians, and it always puts me on the back foot. I have a tendency to believe what someone tells me.
I don't have dark conniving thoughts - therefore have been told - Geez, you are naive'. Nah, just too honest for my own good.
Result - if someone says they are xian - I run.
I also have an immaculate conscience, and sleep really well at night.
Maybe I am just too lazy to be that conniving and manipulating - it must be exhausting :D
@ Suzanne - thanks for replying. This actually is a very serious project, even though I'm not doing a brilliant job of it so far. I want to discover the commonest reasons why people behave like good people, without having to be told to by a religion. Let's face it - that's not a good reason in itself. There must be more to it than that. I suspect that we are not crediting (say) Christians with enough sophistication. I would guess that atheists' reasons and Christians' reasons boil down to the same things in the end - the only difference being that Christians agonize over this subject hard, and atheists tend not to worry about it too much. That's why Christians have a lot to contribute to the subject, if they are doing it right, which they often do.
So, perhaps I could classify your reasons for behaving well, as follows:
1 It's less effort than being bad.
2 You want a peaceful conscience and a quiet night's sleep.
3 You're straightforward with people and don't play games.
4 You're loyal and possibly too willing to believe well of people.
5 You care about your behaviour, and hold yourself to high moral standards.
Thank you Suzanne.
I don't actually 'care' about my behavior, it just 'is'.
I really, really don't play games
I don't have an inflated ego, or care about proving myself. People have had the audacity to call me arrogant :D
I hate, detest, loath hypocrites.
I don't 'want' a peaceful conscience etc. - that is just the result of who I am.
My morals are certainly different to a religious person - they would class me as a big sinner :D
Xians hate being found out when they have been hypocritical. They are the ones that have no trouble looking you in the eye and lying.
I am only loyal if they deserve it, and that includes my children.
Cross me, and I will cut you off in the blink of any eye.
Suzanne is always a pleasure to read your answers
And ill ditto everything she said because i couldnt have said it better.
Thank you kind Sir- just don't cross me :D and don't worry, you could have said it better.
I think behavior is innate - religion or not - which is why one gets good xians, they are good people, 'cause that is who they are, and then there are the hypocrites, who are cheats and liars anyway - it is just that they are the ones who hide what they actually are behind cloth, cross and bible or qua-ran or whatever. What xians consider is a sin, I don't, and I consider the bible one long sin. There are things in the bible that would not have entered my head. If one can't read out any part of the bible to a child - there is something dramatically wrong. When Jehovah Witness come to my door, I ask what certain passages mean - what is their interpretation of it. Gets them every time :D
I believe in determinism, so I think people do what it is in their nature to do. I rationalize that I do good because there's never a good reason for doing bad, but basically, like everyone, I just do what I do without analyzing what I do very much. As a determinist, there wouldn't be much point to that.
I just thought I'd highlight that some of these points are not reasons for being moral in and of themselves; rather they are demonstrations of existing morality. By today's standards, points 3 and 4 simply express that you already are moral, and as such they give no reason, but simply state a fact. Points 1, 2 and 5, on the other hand, are reasons, and therefore should be treated as such.
Just thought I'd let you know, as it's important if you are planning on constructing some kind of argument.
that's fine - I'm just collecting data, I'm not sure if there is an argument to be constructed. Possibly your point comes down to the age-old question, how can people be compelled to behave well? Atheists already behave well. So - why do they?
Compelled? I don't know that they can. After all, isn't that what religions try to do? We know how well that works!
But encouraged to behave well? Simple: education. Teach them to actually think rationally, independently, and critically, and more often than not, they behave better.
It seems that the more rigid the authority, the more unquestioning the obedience, the worse the behavior. And remember, religion isn't the only authority in our culture, but it goes hand in hand with the entire consumerist package. Opiate of the masses and all....
I think you've probably hit on the point of the whole question. We all need to know how to think for ourselves, because every situation is different.
There is a rationale behind being moral and being an atheist. Firstly, it is in the medium and long term interests of humans to be such as it fosters a secure society which is a priority for MOST people. We are much like all animals in that respect; we may fight regularly, but ultimately we protect one another and form cohesive packs for security against other species/tribes. I suspect, although obviously I can't be sure, that cooperation, which is akin to morality, is an evolutionary development, and possibly an imperative to some degree.
On a higher level, and secondly, human intelligence and rationality would encourage this kind of societal development since it promotes commerce and successful economic growth, which in the long term is likely to bring to each person greater wealth, and a superior standard of living, than they could otherwise accumulate through theft etc. (theft etc. importantly carries risk and foments chaos which is unappealing to creatures with rational minds).
Granted most of these are likely to occur at an unconscious level, so we still can't really explain why we, as conscious creatures, act in such a way. Nevertheless it offers and explanation, of sorts...
# cooperation, which is akin to morality, is an evolutionary development,
Tom - apparently, you're right. Groups whose members co-operate amongst themselves do better than unco-operative groups. So the individuals in the co-operative groups survive better.
I like your other points too, I haven't thought about those yet. (I'm not kissing you though.) I'll save your comment as material.