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. 

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Yes, we can use words however we choose.

The two points I was trying to get across are that word choice can matter in both getting an idea across and having it repeated (meme reference) and "Because no atheists are speaking up to stop that claim to the word [moral], we are being painted as immoral."

Because most people believe that being moral is a good thing, portraying athiests as immoral sets us up as bad people. There is little to no talk (that I have heard) from public atheists arguing against this portrayal. I hope that is not the case but it looks that way and that is bad for atheists.

How do we change public opinion/viewpoint? Present something easy to understand and memorable. I was encouraged to find other atheists also making a distinction between morals & ethics. I'm discouraged by your (Simon) responses because it sounds like the idea isn't getting transmitted easily and clearly.

So I'm left unsure how to proceed.

(If you would prefer this be set up as a seperate topic, please say so.)

Yes, we can use words however we choose.

Except that understanding is based on sharing meanings. It doesn't necessarily mean that we need to define words exactly the same, but it does mean that we must make the differences clear.

It's always best to use words in a commonly used fashion in the interest of understanding.

I agree, Unseen.  It's just that nobody is ever going to distinguish between morals and ethics, apart from a few nit-picking dictionary-heads. 

How do we change public opinion/viewpoint? Present something easy to understand and memorable.

I agree with this, Ward.  Rather than prancing around shouting "morals!" "no, ethics!" "morals!"  "ethics!"... we need to present something ELSE easy to understand and memorable. 

Frankly, I've got something up my sleeve, and I'm in the process of pulling it out.  It's in the pipeline.  I don't think Richard Dawkins would like it though.  I don't want Sam Harris to get hold of it, because I don't like his camp.  Having said that, it will probably be exposed for a piece of crap.  We'll see.  Right now my Christian friend is checking it out, and I haven't heard back, which is a good sign. 

@ Unseen "... but it does mean that we must make the differences clear."

That was a part of my point. You read far, far too much into my "Yes, we can use words however we choose." reply to Simon.

@ Unseen " It's always best to use words in a commonly used fashion in the interest of understanding."

So you only use the dictionary definition of a word and have never used slang? Or depending upon how you meant that: You only use the latest meaning of the word?

My comments to Simon also apply to your post.

@ Simon Paynton "It's just that nobody is ever going to distinguish between morals and ethics, apart from a few nit-picking dictionary-heads."

Really? You don't think language changes at all? You might want to do some research on how languages evolve then. Or else scrap any plans to introduce a concept that presents new meanings of existing words.

@ Simon Paynton "... we need to present something ELSE easy to understand and memorable."

Why? Several other people posting to this thread presented the same concept independently.

You also seem to assume that the "moral/ethical" dichotomy doesn't already exist and isn't memorable. It should have been obvious from the multiple independent sources that the opposite is true:  the "moral/ethical" dichotomy is "easy to understand and memorable."

Plus, a quick check of a thesaurus shows a wealth of other terms with far more baggage than "ethics".

I had been unsure of presenting the "moral/ethical" dichotomy but the independent usage by others says the idea is right on the money. Is your concept as strong? Have others independently presented something close to or the same as what you have" in the pipeline"? If not, it may need more work.

Additionally, you and Unseen seem to not understand that "ethics" has been used in the terms "medical ethics", "board of ethics", et al for several decades giving it a long established feel and subtle meaning of a "logical and reasoned code of behavior". Similarly "morals" has – at least in some dictionaries – the meaning of a "code of behavior based on religious belief" as well as the more recent decade or two of religious people claiming it for themselves.

I'm not proposing some radical change. I'm just advocating a clarification of current meanings. Then turn the game the rabidly religious are playing back upon them: they call atheists immoral, directly and indirectly, then we agree and point out morals are flawed and dangerous since they lead to things like 9/11 so we do our best to be ethical.

Or do you want to continue to be marginalized and maligned?

Humans are sociable animals. Most of us like to interact with others. Those lacking a conscience must lead a lonely life.

Great Question!

I started out moral mainly to avoid hellfire and damnation. Then I guess it kinda moved to more of an issue of karma. Not that I really believe in karma; but I have this deep-seeded feeling that you reap what you sow. (I know, I still sound like I am clinging to my religious roots.) However, I have never been an altruist. I really believe that a truly selfless act is almost impossible to find. I am a good person becasue that is what is expected of me. How I conduct myself in life and business directly translates to my own happiess, whether that be wealth or friendship, etc..

Now, I am learning that it's in my genes. Morals evolved along with everything else. It just comes naturally to most people. So that is where I am trying to recenter my paradigm.

Stephen - bed - lie in it.  Also, have you heard of the research which found that ethical business is more profitable?  Apparently so. 

Moral is such a BIG word, it can mean so many different things to different people. I try to do what is right in my daily life. I'll pick up and return the shoe the toddler loses at the grocery store. I've stepted in when I saw a nieghbor abusing his girlfriend. I would report child or animal abuse if I wittnessed it. I'll help some one if I can when I can. Is this moral behavior? I don't know, it's just me being part of the world around me. I'm generally a happy person and if I can make some one elses day a little better or safer, I'm a little happier. That was not always the case for me.














Deborah - I get it.

I am a moral person because I am a member of a social species which means that my survival depends on others caring if I survive or not, which means that I have to care whether others survive or not . When enough of us begin to care about each others survival that's when we go beyond merely surviving and begin to thrive (live a long happy fulfilling life and successfully reproduce if that's a desire). All species desire to thrive which is why all species have various ways of ensuring that they can reproduce successfully... the human strategy like many other species on this planet is a social one.

A rough summary of my moral beliefs would have to be;

1)If you don't directly or indirectly intentionally physically harm someone with an action, then its ok (to myself included; drugs, unsafe sex, suicide, etc.)

2)Doing something against the law or another person's core moral beliefs is fine as long as you don't get caught

3)Any form of intentional child abuse is unforgivable

4)Treating someone differently because of something they can't control such as physical/mental illness, race or color. Creed was intentionally left out.

5)Avoid lying.

My primary reason for following my moral code is because I'd hate to have any of the above things happen to me, ya know the old golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Outside of these rules I could care less as long as you don't bother me about it.

I truly and honestly love my neighbor. I try my hardest to do every single thing that I do out of love for others.

No reciprocal altruism. I don't care what it costs of myself.

Even though it is exceedingly impossible to meet the standard that I hold myself to, that is no reason to give up.


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