Atheistic Morality, Oh my

Discussion in 'Off Topic Area' started by Socrastein, Jan 19, 2006.

  1. Socrastein

    Socrastein The Boxing Philosopher

    One of the most common and at the same time ridiculous arguments I hear from theists, usually the Christians, is that there is no morality without God, without the Bible, oh dear what are the atheists thinking when they say they still have morals, they must be nuts or closet theists. For some odd reason many theists have one heck of a time getting their mind around the idea of an atheistic morality, that is, any moral code that does not rely on a big guy in the sky telling everyone what's what.

    There are numerous ways to justify morality without ever even referencing a metaphysical being, what from deontology to virtue theory to utilitarianism, and all the little mixes in between. I won't delve into them all, because they are all beautifully sophisticated enough to justify more wordage than I intend to use. Rather, I shall give one strikingly simple yet incredibly hard to deny premise on which one can atheistically base a strong moral foundation, and it requires nothing more than a respect for reason :)

    If one were to hurt, steal, rape, kill, or perform any other action that took from another sentient being's happiness and desire to add to one's own happiness or desire, there is a tacitly assumed premise at work here that goes a little something like "My happiness and desires are more important than yours".

    This is an unsupportable premise.

    Therefore, it is irrational to place one's happiness and desires above the happiness and desires of other people.

    Therefore, it is irrational to hurt, steal, rape, kill, etc.

    Simple enough, and nowhere did I even mention the word God. If it's really that easy to come up with even a very simplistic and fundamental atheistic moral guideline, then why are so many convinced that such a thing is impossible? That was far from impossible. Quite easy in fact, took me less than a minute.
  2. aikiMac

    aikiMac aikido + boxing = very good Moderator Supporter

    How so?
    I missed the step over to the conclusion.
  3. CosmicFish

    CosmicFish Aleprechaunist

    Excellent post Socrastein! Many atheists would go on to say that their morality is worth more because they adopt it from choice, rather than being frightened into behaving that way by an intimidating deity figure, or from the fear of punishment.

    My own morality comes mostly from how my parents (both atheists) brought me up. They taught me that, as humans, we are a social species and need to co-operate with each other if we are to get on. Even though strictly speaking I'm agnostic, I'm strongly sypmathetic to atheism and live an essentially atheistic lifestyle.

    One thing I can't help but notice is that the selfish or immoral individuals often tend to get what they want by being selfish but only in the short term. Long term, they're distrusted, people are less likely to volunteer help to them off their own backs when they're in trouble, and they tend to attract like-minded individuals to themselves. :rolleyes:

    More "moral" individuals often seem to lose out, but once again only in the short term. Long term they're trusted, liked, people are more generous towards them and will more readily volunteer help without being asked. One thing they seem to share in common with selfish or immoral individuals is the tendency to attract like-minded individuals to themselves. ;)

    Obviously the above is a generalisation, and it's purely my own personal observations, but I think it expands upon your point by providing another reason why an atheist would want to be moral without recourse to a deity.
  4. Socrastein

    Socrastein The Boxing Philosopher

    There is no objective measure with which one could elevate their happiness and desires over those of everyone or anyone else. If you have one, let's hear it. If you don't have one, then I assume you agree.

    It's the same reason one could say that pizza isn't objectively better than any other food, that rap music isn't objectively better than any other music, that the Mona Lisa isn't objectively better than any other painting. There is no objective standard by which to measure such things, they cannot even be referenced without appealing to one's subjective experience. One may subjectively view their desires or happiness as being superior, but to act on this as though it were in any way objective (by infringing on the happiness and desires of others) is simply irrational, as irrational as trying to force people to eat only the foods you like as though your preferences had any sort of objective value.
  5. EmptyHandGuy

    EmptyHandGuy Valued Member

    It might be irrational to hurt, steal, rape, kill, etc. but it still happens. People do put their own happiness and desires before someone elses, it's human nature. An example is the kids I work with have no problem with stealing other peoples stuff, they see no wrong in taking another kid's bike, mobile, etc. When challenged about it more likely than not they will say they took it because they didn't have one and they wanted one. And they also have no problem with violence either, if someone disagrees with them their usual first course of action is to beat the snott out of them (if they can).
    Then you have the problem of morality being personal to the individual. Whos to say my morality is the same as yours. You might think that it's not ok to steal, but I might believe it's a perfectly repsectable way of doing buisness. When you leave it upto the idividual to make moral choices then we all make different ones.
  6. Socrastein

    Socrastein The Boxing Philosopher


    My post was created with the intent to show that it is possible to formulate a moral code without God. I have shown that. You have not refuted it. So what is the purpose of your post, may I ask?
  7. kmguy8

    kmguy8 Not Sin Binned

    well well.. a little touchy on the reply don't you think....

    while I am inclined to agree such a thing is possible, even in fact likely your logic does skip a step...

    your example of an objective measure of hapiness, while verbose, means little...

    were you simply to state that one could feel that way (not everyone) you would still ahve an example of a self-constructed morality..right?

    who denies that one can develop thier own moral code... everyone does.. some for rightous reasons.. others for fear of punishment...

    while I cetianly can understand your emotional objection and anger at having somebody's code forced on you.. that has been happening since the bigger early hominid cased away your great-great-great..etc grand-daddy from the tribe for trying to get it on with one of his ealry human wives...

    every group, left to its own establishes a collective ruleset, code, moral construct whatever...

    I have never seen anyone deny it.. nor have I ever seen someone prove the obvious so forcfully as if it were revelation....

    relax and grow up..
  8. Socrastein

    Socrastein The Boxing Philosopher


    What? Are you addressing me? If so, what emotional objection? What anger? Where was I being immature? What are you talking about?

    *EDIT* By the way, this is not a "discussion of specific religious beliefs" so why did it get moved to religion?
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2006
  9. tekkengod

    tekkengod the MAP MP

    i fully agree with both socrastein and cosmic fish! because i DO adopt moral by choice it is validated by the individual.
  10. Saz

    Saz Nerd Admin

    Because its more to do with religion than philosophy. And before you complain any more about it...

  11. CKava

    CKava Just one more thing... Supporter

    I wouldn't worry about it being in the religion section Socrastein it probably means you'll get more of a debate than if it was in the philosophy section. Anyhow I 100% agree with you, moral behaviour does not rely on religion.

    And kmguy maybe you should ease up on the elipses. When I read an elipse I think someone is taking a pause (which I believe is the point of them) so your posts read like someone extremely out of breath or someone trying to sound deep by pausing thoughtfully after every sentence. Also it is customary for sentences to begin with a capital letter and for paragraphs to consist of more than one line. All this might seem pedantic but whats the need to post in such a fashion? Its kind of like Making Every Word Start With A Capital Letter... it serves no purpose (and yes those elipses meant a dramatic pause) and worse the people who tend to post in those unique styles also tend to be rather silly which Im assuming your not.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2006
  12. KickChick

    KickChick Valued Member

    Just to backup Saz (like she really needs it but...)

    Atheistic being in the title just happens to catalog this thread into this forum.

    Atheism being "the state of being without religious beliefs"

    Read this
    Morality Without Religion
  13. Zfactor

    Zfactor New Member

    Let me begin by saying that the argument you started with is illogical in every way, if for no other reason that you provided absolutely no justification for the conclusion:

    First of all, just because you said it is an "unsupportable premise" doesn't mean that it is. You can't suppose the validity of a premise based on the fact that you can not think of a supporting argument. Furthermore, you can't suppose the validity of a premise without providing supporting or countering information. Therefore, since one of your premises are invalid, the argument is invalid. It would be the equivalent of arguing that God exists because you can't refute his/her existence 100%

    Also, irrationality is subjective, not objective. It depends on the moral/social structure that you are observing or speaking out of. I find it irrational that women are subverted in Middle Eastern countries and forced to wear the hijab. But that does not mean that Middle Eastern cultures think it is irrational, in fact they are adamant about it and feel they have perfectly justifiable reasons.

    To SUPPORT the premise that you claim is "unsupportable," consider the following. If it was truly irrational for one to further their happiness at the detriment of others, then we would not have poor and rich people, the need for minimum wage, or unions/workers' rights legislation. Rape, murder, and other forms of extreme crime would only be committed by people with mental deficiencies that impair their ability to think rationally.

    Also, following the arguments of Locke and other social/political philosophers, people do follow the "my happiness at the expense of yours" framework. However, realizing that everybody can choose to follow this framework, and at fear of their own harm, people agree to have governments and laws (that’s the extreme reader's digest version).

    And finally, if it is truly "irrational" for the "my happiness over yours" idea, then any and all money that we get beyond what we need for lodging, transportation to work, and food would go to impoverished regions to help support the starving and sick.

    I also think you missed the point of the argument of "without religion there would be no morality." It refers to the beginning of all civilization and organization. The creation of laws and societies as we know them are what are created/supported with religion in this argument. It has nothing to do with your personal upbringing or the laws of society as we apply them now.

    That all being said, I think there is morality without religion, but I think it rises much in the way Locke describes it in his Treatise(s) of government.
  14. CosmicFish

    CosmicFish Aleprechaunist

    It's interesting how we all read our own preconceptions into other people's posts. Socrastein's reply came across to me as being calm and rational. His last sentence was slightly sarcastic, but still pretty bland by MAP standards! ;)
  15. kmguy8

    kmguy8 Not Sin Binned

    me too.. thats why i did not repost...
    he just seemed to emphatic and dramatic
    i did read that into it..... sorry Socrastein
  16. CKava

    CKava Just one more thing... Supporter

    Attack Of The Elipses!
  17. Ero-Sennin

    Ero-Sennin Highly Skilled Peeper Supporter

    And he didn't say firstly . . . not a once. Look how good it sounded :woo:
  18. Topher

    Topher allo!

    As I posted in the “Free Will” thread, morality is older than religion. Why?

    -- If morality is directly linked to religion, how come different cultures have different morals, despite the same religion being prevalent in multiple cultures?

    -- Some morals are the same in cultures where there a different religions and belief systems. (i.e. murder, rape etc)

    -- Morality can vary per religion, so which religion has the correct morals?

    -- What about atheism. Are atheists not moral?

    -- Why would a person devoid of any religion live by similar morals as some religious people?

    -- Morality such as kindness and generosity is innate in animals other than humans. I’ve yet to see any religious animals (other than humans.)

    -- Morality existed before religion and was likely one of the reason for the creation of religion. “If you do not act in kindness etc you will forever burn in hell…..” Unfortunately some take this to the extreme.

    It is more moral to do something good for the sake of doing it than it is out of fear. Many religious people act in the fear of being rejected by their God.

    On another note, here’s an interesting quote which I guess is related to this:

    Physicist and Nobel prize winner Stephen Weinberg describes religion as an insult to human dignity. 'Without it,' he says, 'you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.'

    Religious morality can and has been used justify some of the bad stuff in the world, such as slavery, murder and wars.
  19. tekkengod

    tekkengod the MAP MP

    SOME HA! you mean most. :)
  20. Topher

    Topher allo!

    I was being kind! :eek: :D :rolleyes:

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