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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@ 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.

Try this:

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/041612.html

Excerpt from Wild Justice - The Moral Lives of Animals by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce

Well, then they also sin. Try this:

http://www.research-in-germany.de/newsletter-issue-13-august-2011/7...

BTW, the operative phrase in YOUR article is a lesson for all such discussions: "We’ll never know why Binti Jua did what she did."

Actually you can know.  In fact there are several areas of science devoted to this very facet of knowledge. Not to mention age old philosophical musings on the matter.  Neuro imaging, and behavioral studies can very much know why you do what you do.  Thoughts and behaviors are the results of physical and observable processes, hardly something you can compare to something defined to be outside the realm of physical reality.

If you created a robot that could mimic moral behavior, is the robot being moral? If so, then robots that replace workers should receive hourly wages.

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