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.
Lars, you numbskull, here's your original post.
Well I don't actually see me self as a very moral person. I live by a very simple set of rules:
1. Don't kill or steal - Unless your life depends on it
2. Don't lie unless you have to
So far I've only broken rule number 2
And here's my witty reposte. Are you ready?
"Lars, how do I know you're telling the truth?"
Hang on, maybe I'm a numbskull. You've got me all confused.
My morality is guided by empathy and humanistic ideology, but at its core is probably described by a few reasons that fall into either category.
- Entitlement. I feel that all people have a right to a happy life, because I feel I have a right to a happy life. I cannot rationally justify why another person should be denied this, if I feel entitled to it myself.
- Idealism. I think that achieving greater things and making life better for myself, love ones and society in general, requires the cooperation of society. To do this it is functionally required that people don't treat each other like dicks. If I act like a dick, I am undermining my own goal in achieving a better society.
- Guilt. Anytime I have caused pain, or grief to someone I have regretted it. Even the occasional violent revenge fantasy makes me feel guilt. Not because I feel that it is entirely wrong to fantasize wrong things, but because I imagine the subsequent human suffering, and I am saddened by the idea of being its cause.
- Love/Social Instincts. At least in a general understanding of it. It makes me happy when other people are happy. Treating other people fairly and generously, has the reciprocating effect of making me happy. It sounds selfish to some extent, but I would debate anyone who stated love isn't selfish.
I can't think of any other reason that doesn't heavily overlap with those points. Not only do I feel that those points are true, but I can logically see how morality can be derived from them.
Thanks for that Raymond.
I personally enjoy a good "violent revenge fantasy" sometimes, I feel it gets it out of my system without causing any actual trouble.
I don't see that selfishness always has to be a bad thing.
How do you define "morality"? How is it logically derived from your reasons for wanting to "behave well"? Is that a stupid question?
Morality is probably best defined for me as a set of guidelines to treat other people and society, such that I cause the least amount of harm while maximizing the well being of myself and others.
@Ward Cressin "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?"
I think you're either being facetious or you haven't thought much about how communication takes place. I don't speak only after checking a dictionary. But whether a "dictionary" definition, a common usage, or slang, it needs to be understood by the other party. What would be the point of deviating? The point is to COMMUNICATE. Talking in code, idiosyncratic meanings, or unfamiliar slang or jargon defeats that purpose, doesn't it?
How not so?
Jamfoo the "ice box" with a neutron burger.
Now if that sentence contained a mix of unfamiliar slang, jargon, idiosyncratic usages, etc., how the f*** could you understand what I meant?
MikeyMike - you need to say more than that my friend.
@Unseen This has been the sub-thread:
Reply by Simon Paynton on
I don't care what words the Christians use. We're all free to use the English language for the purposes it was intended. I don't avoid the word "right" even though I don't tend to agree with right-wing people.
Reply by Ward Cressin on
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 ...
Then, Unseen, you misread what I wrote (unless you were being facetious) and have been resisting actually reading what I've been saying. I do tend to be straightforward and even blunt but I still do get to use hyperbole which is what "Yes, we can use words however we choose." was.
You have missed the point of my reply you are quoting. You were unclear in the post I was replying to which is why I gave two answers. Also, you clearly don't understand what slang or jargon are since you imply that slang and jargon do not deviate from the normal usage of a word which is not true. All slang is unfamiliar when it is introduced. All jargon is unfamiliar when it is introduced.
Languages evolve. Words gradually change in meaning. Jargon and new words (in the general language) get introduced to increase the ability to communicate rather than fumbling around with antiquated words and phrases.
Did the terms "television", "computer", or "DVD" exist 100 years ago?
The word computer did.. The other two did not.. 200 years ago a computer was a person who did math computations. Thanks to Charles Babbage, it now means a machine that does binary computations. :)
Ward - thanks for posting. I don't mind if people disagree with me, it's stimulating and it furthers debate. Damn, you're all fired up, and I have been at the whisky.
# Why? Several other people posting to this thread presented the same concept independently.
So what? I don't take my authority from "several other people". I decide for my self.
Who the f*** cares about baggage? Let's make some new baggage.
# 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.
They kind of have, but no-one's gone all the way like I have. Certain people, eg. Sam Harris, have got most of the answer. Anyway, I did mine first and then I read about theirs. The reason I'm keeping it under wraps is purely because I don't want certain people (Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris - respect -) to get the credit. I want someone I agree with to get the credit. I know it's right because my life depended on getting it right. As far as Wikipedia can tell me, it turns out that no-one else in history has been in the same situation and gone on to make it public. I'm no cleverer than anyone else - I've just had a strange life, plus I'm clever. Nothing remarkable there. It wasn't nice.
It seems to me that "morals" (principles, values, moral beliefs, call them what you will - the concept remains the same) are the "theory", and "ethics" are the practice. Pretty clear distinction for us nit-picking dictionary-heads. However it seems to me that you want to avoid the word "morals" because it sounds bad after the Christians have finished shitting it up. Yes it does sound bad. However, we're not Christians. We're rational people with new ideas. The Christians will listen to us. The atheists? I don't care. We could learn some lessons from the Christians in searching self-criticism (a primary virtue). We could learn a lot of lessons from Christians. In many ways, they do it right, where atheists do nothing. We should be working together on the same side.
# 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?
That's why we need to come up with a robust moral system of our own. We prefer to say stuff like "moral objectivity doesn't exist" because we can't think of anything else. We like saying "I believe X, now why is X true?" So do Christians, but... so what?
Unseen - I agree. We need to speak English.