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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This is where I perceive the core danger and harm of religion - that accepting these core claims predisposes a person against the need for evidence or rational thought in decision making. But that's a topic for a different thread.

Mith - that's an excellent idea.  "Can a Christian be rational?"  or something like that.  It's kind of central to atheism.  Also, "How rational are atheists?"  Not too rational, in my opinion. 

Reply by Mith Barnes 2 hours ago

... Now I know that theists will be quick to point out that religion does so much charity, and Christians are commanded to love their neighbors, etc. 

An accompanying point is that in spite of the message to ALL Xians to help others, only a small percentage actually do so. If all Xians were charitable America (and others) would be a very different and much better country.This is another point where morals prove lacking. Especially since they can just ask forgiveness for their failings instead of actually doing something to make up for those failings.

Excellent points, thank you for adding them! 

I always did think that whole asking forgiveness was rather an ethical get-out-of-jail-free card, and tends to seriously impair the development of personal responsibility...

I am moral because I only have one life with no post-death "do-over", so I have to cope with the consequences of my actions right here and now. I also wholeheartedly reject the ridiculous notion that suffering is noble, so I seek to minimize it for myself and for others.

MikeyMike - valid point. 

Would that include, oh, bacteria?

Definitely not bacteria, but many animals are capable of feeling pain and distress.  I'm not big on animal rights, so I don't have any particular views on this issue. 

Most animals don't die in a hospital room with their relatives by their side. We are not diminishing an animal's life in any way by fulfilling it's natural destiny. I'm against cruelty for cruelty's sake or animals used merely to test cosmetics, but animals as prey for food doesn't bother me at all.

But if we're keeping them in captivity, we surely owe them a good quality of life, where they are capable of feeling it. 

Where does that debt come from? What is the ethical basis for it? I choose not to be cruel to animals and if I were raising them for food, it'd be in my self interest to keep them in good condition. But there's no debt being paid there. Simply my preference based on my natural self interest. All animals act based on self interest (or in some cases in the interest of their species).

The debt comes from the fact that we've created these farm animals and we keep them in captivity.  This means that if, like you, we don't want to be cruel to animals, then we have a responsibility to give captive livestock a decent quality of life.  

All animals act based on self interest (or in some cases in the interest of their species).

But ... we humans don't only act out of self-interest.  We have a highly-developed sense of empathy, as do many other animals, and we see it as morally good to help others.  Also - animals and humans do lots of things that are not seen as good by most people.  To say that "all animals do X" is not necessarily a good justification for something. 

All of that adds up to an explanation of why many people feel a need to be kind to animals, but it is light years away from creating a duty. Like rights, there are two kinds of duties: legislated and imaginary. Outside of those possibilities, we are left with the wishes, hopes, opinions, attitudes and tendencies of individuals.

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