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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MikeyMike - you need to say more than that my friend. 

@Unseen   This has been the sub-thread:

Reply by Simon Paynton on March 12, 2012

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 March 17, 2012

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. 

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

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

@ Simon Paynton "So what?  I don't take my authority from "several other people".  I decide for my self."

You claimed that our idea of a morals/ethics dichotomy was somehow lacking (although you did not really say how) and that something else was needed but you did not say why something else was needed. Mutliple people coming up with the same idea independently says that the idea is easy to "understand and memorable" which was your implied reason for "something else" so I was pointing out that your reason & reasoning was faulty.

Now you've made it clear why you were bashing an idea that is evolving naturally in English: you have an alternative you want to eventually present. It would have been better to simply acknowledge it and leave it at that, or acknowledge it and say you won't support it because you have a better idea which you aren't yet presenting.

@ Simon Paynton "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."

The dictionary says pretty much the opposite: ethics being the study of morals (as the biggest distinction between them). And a tendency to use ethics only as a noun and moral mainly as an adjective.

The dictionary says pretty much the opposite: ethics being the study of morals (as the biggest distinction between them). And a tendency to use ethics only as a noun and moral mainly as an adjective.

Speaking as someone with a background in philosophy, dictionary definitions of philosophical terminology often leave much to be desired. Morality is guided by prescriptions and proscriptions. Ethics is the thoughtful and deliberative attempt to do what's right (The Good), prescriptions and proscriptions aside.

@MikeyMike1   I disagree. I have a moral duty to act appropriately toward non human animals. It is mirrored to some extent in legislation but goes far beyond that. It is not imaginary. Duties can moral too, Where do you get the idea that they are either legal or imaginary?

Legislated or imaginary. I get that from the lack of any other justification that can claim truth out of any sort of necessity. By that I mean, you have no proof there is a duty. The only proof one might have is that it's the law in a jurisdiction where one has a duty, by remaining there, to obey.

You're speaking for yourself, but your belief (held apparently on faith) has no hold on anyone else.

Philosophers usually distinguish between ethics and morals. This is a technical distinction, for originally, both words mean the same, the only difference being that ‘ethics’ is of Greek origin, while ‘morals’ is of Latin origin. The former, then, in the technical sense, signifies morality in general, whereas the latter signifies specific moral systems. In my view, there is no moral system appropriately applying to every actual and possible ethical concern. Therefore, I simply refer to myself as an ethical rather than a moral person.

I cannot tell you exactly why I am an ethical person. I can only tell you what I believe has made me such. The explanation may, however, mostly consist of post-rationalizations.

I was raised in an only mildly religious family. My parents never talked about ethical matters implying a religious basis, let alone a necessary one. They read to my brother and me tales from a children’s version of the Bible only occasionally, and we never went to church on a regular basis.

Personally, I never thought about ethical issues with a relation to religion when I was young. So far as I can remember, it has always felt so bad to do something considered morally false – I stole small amounts of money from my brother twice – that I never wanted to do it again. This is, I believe, the emotional basis of my ethics.

The rational basis only came to my conscious mind when I grew older. It simply does not make sense just to kill other people, or steal from them, or discriminate against them because of their ethnical inheritance, skin colour, or other aspects of outer appearance.

In the end, it appears to me to be a natural feature of a healthy human to be ethical by default. This can only be altered by genetic defects, as seen in psychopathy, or by faulty education, as done – nay, committed – by religion and other deluded worldviews such as fascism.

In the end, it appears to me to be a natural feature of a healthy human to be ethical by default. This can only be altered by genetic defects, as seen in psychopathy, or by faulty education, as done – nay, committed – by religion and other deluded worldviews such as fascism.

ichbindaswortistich - thanks, that's a very interesting angle. 

there has been research which has demonstrated that the great apes and some birds (crows at least) have built in moral/ethical systems some aspects of which are learned others which might be genetic (or learned far more quickly and subtly). Unfortunately I'm tired and can not remember sources.

I read a source which disputes that, but can't remember it either. Oh well.

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