Atheists Cannot be Moral Redux

Hi All,

We had a discussion many moons ago about atheists and morality and a lot has happened since then. I reached some new conclusions (which I'll withhold for now so I don't poison the water) and at least one other poster here has some new ideas about it.

So, I was wondering what the prevailing opinion is out there on this topic. Do you believe that atheists can be "moral"? Is it impossible for an atheist to be truly moral? Is "morality" something to which adherents have a valid claim? The infamous Dawkins and Harris had a discussion at Oxford about this about a year or so ago that was very good and I would also be interested in what anyone thinks of what was discussed there.

Thanks and all are welcome.

- kk

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    Simon Paynton

    Kir - are you still saying that morality doesn't exist?  I'm not going to get drawn in here, but ---

    does behaviour exist?  [from a previous post:] 

    From "Wild Justice - the moral lives of animals":  

    "Social animals live according to well-developed systems of prohibitions against certain kinds of behavior and proscriptions for certain kinds of behavior.  These prohibitive and proscriptive norms govern the behavior of individuals within a group and relate to harm, welfare and fairness.  These behaviors, in philosophical lingo, are other-regarding, as opposed to self-regarding." 


    We can behave in a moral way - i.e. do the right thing - even though this moral choice may be unpopular with our peers.  



    I think we can divide moral behaviour as follows:



        [idiosyncratic] social conventions

        [universal] social conventions




    "Wild Justice" talks about various "clusters" of behaviour.  The boundaries are always approximate.  I've adapted their model slightly.  Here is my rough version:





    Empathy cluster

    sympathy
    compassion
    caring
    helping
    grieving
    consoling



    Cooperation cluster

    reciprocity
    generalized reciprocity
    trust



    Altruism cluster

    generosity



    Fairness cluster

    sharing rules, eg. who eats first
    impartiality (ie. everyone is treated the same without favour)  
    expectations of what we deserve and how we should be treated
    indignation



    Justice cluster

    forgiveness
    punishment
    revenge
    retribution


    I've noticed that "fairness" is relevant to our feelings of dissatisfaction in life. 

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    Simon Paynton

    I've come to the conclusion that when solving a problem, it is crucial to ask the right questions.  In this case, people want to know "what works?"  i.e. what actions or values help me to uphold this basic principle? 

    Thanks for your comment about Wikipedia by the way.  I do rely on it, and I do need to check the material. 

    I'm currently into investigating how this  http://plus.maths.org/content/does-it-pay-be-nice-maths-altruism-pa...  ties up with this   https://www.myotherdrive.com/dyn/file/282.505806.13102012.04415.6a6...    This does assume that both are right, which is not presently fully known.  They are both good models in my opinion.  That's science for you I guess.  

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      Simon Paynton

      Experience is a big factor in empathy too.  I need to put that in the diagram.