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How do atheists defend their morality?

Discussion in 'Religious Issues' started by Harper, Apr 16, 2012.


  1. Harper

    Harper
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    This is similar to another recent thread but I wanted to hone in on a more rudimentary problem and one less about personal feelings. Atheists often state "I don't need a god to tell me what is moral." They often seem to be dodging the issue of how they then justify it, as if we're to assume we all know that there is a right and wrong and we know what it is. Which is actually quite convenient for atheists because most people do believe in some morality, both religious and non-religious. It isn't true though, a few prominent philosophers have questioned the idea of good and evil and people disagree all the time about what is moral.

    The other defense seems to be something in regards to how societies and their moralities evolve over time. This is cultural relativism, which it is a fact different cultures have different beliefs but that's not a justification as to why we'd be morally obligated to follow any of those beliefs and if we were obligated, that in itself would be another unjustified moral principle.

    Atheists require proof in God, which is fine, but I've yet to hear a good defense from atheists proving why we should be 'moral'. You being an atheist, convince me I'm obligated to follow this thing you call morality.

    I'm much more willing to accept that evolution and game theory has created this farce we call 'morality' and that the reality is we have no real obligation to follow it. We only should to appear that we are for the sake of social acceptance. I also think this might be the reason we don't have popular atheists saying 'morality is just some B.S. people made up, do whatever you can get away with'.

    I'm really not interested in personal feelings. I want to see logical arguments.
     

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    #1 Harper, Apr 16, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
  2. Gunhaver

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    I've always found that asking myself if I'd want someone to do to me what I'm considering doing to them to be sufficient. As for why I feel the need to think that way, Dawkins can explain it better than I can.

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XtvWkRRxKQ&feature=related"]Richard Dawkins On The Source Of Morality - YouTube[/ame]
     

  3. Guss

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    Morality is just the common consensus of what morality should be. If you don't reach consensus, people will call it something else besides morality. Is it moral to tell women to keep themselves covered up? If the consensus of a region says so, then that is their morality. Is it moral to stone adulterers to death? Morals are great. Pick some and use reason to convince others you are right.
     
  4. Smacktard

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  5. Paul7

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    Long but good article by William Lane Craig showing that if there is no God, objective moral values to not exist.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-...logical-meta-ethical-foundations-for-morality

    Here is a sample:

    "The objective worthlessness of human beings on a naturalistic world view is underscored by two implications of that world view: materialism and determinism. Naturalists are typically materialists or physicalists, who regard man as a purely animal organism. But if man has no immaterial aspect to his being (call it soul or mind or what have you), then he is not qualitatively different from other animal species. For him to regard human morality as objective is to fall into the trap of specie-ism. On a materialistic anthropology there is no reason to think that human beings are objectively more valuable than rats. Secondly, if there is no mind distinct from the brain, then everything we think and do is determined by the input of our five senses and our genetic make-up. There is no personal agent who freely decides to do something. But without freedom, none of our choices is morally significant. They are like the jerks of a puppet's limbs, controlled by the strings of sensory input and physical constitution. And what moral value does a puppet or its movements have?

    Thus, if naturalism is true, it becomes impossible to condemn war, oppression, or crime as evil. Nor can one praise brotherhood, equality, or love as good. It does not matter what values you choose--for there is no right and wrong; good and evil do not exist. That means that an atrocity like the Holocaust was really morally indifferent. You may think that it was wrong, but your opinion has no more validity than that of the Nazi war criminal who thought it was good. In his book Morality after Auschwitz, Peter Haas asks how an entire society could have willingly participated in a state-sponsored program of mass torture and genocide for over a decade without any serious opposition. He argues that

    far from being contemptuous of ethics, the perpetrators acted in strict conformity with an ethic which held that, however difficult and unpleasant the task might have been, mass extermination of the Jews and Gypsies was entirely justified. . . . the Holocaust as a sustained effort was possible only because a new ethic was in place that did not define the arrest and deportation of Jews as wrong and in fact defined it as ethically tolerable and ever good.6

    Moreover, Haas points out, because of its coherence and internal consistency, the Nazi ethic could not be discredited from within. Only from a transcendent vantage point which stands above relativistic, socio-cultural mores could such a critique be launched. But in the absence of God, it is precisely such a vantage point that we lack. One Rabbi who was imprisoned at Auschwitz said that it was as though all the Ten Commandments had been reversed: thou shalt kill, thou shalt lie, thou shalt steal. Mankind has never seen such a hell. And yet, in a real sense, if naturalism is true, our world is Auschwitz. There is no good and evil, no right and wrong. Objective moral values do not exist.

    Moreover, if atheism is true, there is no moral accountability for one's actions. Even if there were objective moral values and duties under naturalism, they are irrelevant because there is no moral accountability. If life ends at the grave, it makes no difference whether one lives as a Stalin or as a saint. As the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky rightly said: "If there is no immortality, then all things are permitted."7

    The state torturers in Soviet prisons understood this all too well. Richard Wurmbrand reports,

    The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, 'There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.' I have heard one torturer even say, 'I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.' He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.8"
     
    #5 Paul7, Apr 17, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
  6. Harper

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    Thanks for the response but I think that video kind of highlights the dilemma I was talking about. The second guy ask 'if naturalism has given us these morals how do we account for keeping them?' Dawkins basically doesn't have a reason for us to follow this evolutionary morality. He even states that his following a morality is an irrational feeling that he wouldn't want to live in a society where people behave in a way he wouldn't wish them to.

    "I've always found that asking myself if I'd want someone to do to me what I'm considering doing to them to be sufficient. "

    Wouldn't it be better to convince others to treat you the way you want to be treated, then get over whatever you can on them?
     
    #6 Harper, Apr 17, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
  7. Harper

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    I addressed this in my original post: "This is cultural relativism, which it is a fact different cultures have different beliefs but that's not a justification as to why we'd be morally obligated to follow any of those beliefs and if we were obligated, that in itself would be another unjustified moral principle."

    How something came to be called moral is not what I'm interested in. I'm looking for a justification of why anyone is obligated to follow this 'morality'.
     
    #7 Harper, Apr 17, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
  8. TalkToTheGlock

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    Can't you all just drop it already. I'm an Atheist and sick of hearing from both sides. Both Atheist and religious. You just rehashing the same stinking topics day in and day out. Does it really matter? No.

    I believe what I want, you believe what you want. Who cares? With the state of our world right now, do you honestly think that anyone cares if you are an Atheist or religious or whatever.

    I take of sick and dying people everyday and give it 100% physicially, mentally, and emotionally. Those people I care for and help either heal or make them comfortable in their dying days don't know or care what religion if any. I make them feel better and that is all that matters to me. I don't need you, a bible, or any middle man to tell me how to be compassionate and caring. I just am. It is how I feel. You can't control feelings with anything. I don't need a catalyst.

    But, what do I know about morality. I have hundreds of thank you cards from patients and families that I have helped and cared for.

    If you are questioning anothers good moral decisions and "If they believe in this or that then howndonyou explain morals", the problem doesn't lie within that group, it lies within yourself. That goes for believers and non-believers.





    iPhone 4
     
  9. Guss

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    You can either follow it because you believe it is the rational thing to do or you can follow it because the majority will toss you in jail if you do not. It's always nice when people adhere because of the first reason, but the second reason will catch them in any event.
     
  10. Harper

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    Like I stated previously "I'm really not interested in personal feelings. I want to see logical arguments."

    This is not a religion vs. atheism thread. I'm not even promoting that morality is real. I sincerely am curious about what the atheist justification is. I have no agenda other than to learn.

    I don't mean to be rude but I really don't want to read about feelings.
     
  11. Javelin

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    They attend guest speaker dinners and send gift cards in the mail.
     
  12. Guss

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    That's something you should always bring up when trying to achieve consensus on a moral issue under discussion. Your comment reminds me of agnostic Sir Bertrand Russell's opinion of the Golden Rule from the Bible... "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," leaves room for the temptation to remake others in our own image, to impose what we think is best for them. Russell said "Do not do unto others what you would have them do unto you, because their tastes may be different!"

    So clearly there is no simplistic objective set of rules that can be followed.
     
  13. Guss

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    Yes, it is cultural relativism. It's a dynamic thing, always shifting, always being discussed. It doesn't really matter to us until it becomes codified into a law. At that point, it doesn't matter whether you like it or not, you will obey or risk consequences.
     
  14. CitizenOfDreams

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    Are you asking what keeps non-religious people from doing things they consider immoral? Same reason that keeps people from eating spoiled food. We don't need to consult The Holy Cookbook to recognize stale bread.
     
  15. Animal Mother

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    You're not, in any objective sense, but if you don't follow the morality of the society you inhabit you risk the consequences imposed by that society. In some instances, that threat may be what prevents actions that would be classified as immoral, in other instances it may be a sense of empathy or altruism.
     
  16. Guss

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    Can you rationalize why you exclude feelings from morality? One person commented that he helps people just because he feels like it. Isn't that reason enough?
     
    #16 Guss, Apr 17, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
  17. Gunhaver

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    There is certainly a lot of that going on which is where we get lawyers and politicians. It's not a constant for everyone. To me it explains why people in small, tight knit communities tend to be more honest and polite. You just can't get away with much when word gets around but people in big cities that are far less likely to re-encounter strangers are much more likely to do what they can get away with because the odds are better.

    In my opinion humans are simply animals with a higher social structure and greater ability to understand the impact of their actions on others. My personal definition of 'evil' is an unencumbered selfishness by people that have not inherited that tendency to suppress impulses for fear of social repercussions. Someone is greedy and takes all the berries but that aids their survival. That's what we call evil and it works the same way even up to someone killing millions for their own power. Again we label it evil. Another realizes that by always being good to others in the group they will want that individual to stick around and help him to survive. We call that good and it works the same way all the way up to Mother Teresa and Gandhi. Which way you go is mostly a matter of what you're good at.
     
    #17 Gunhaver, Apr 17, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
  18. Keyhole

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    You don't need an old book or a magical man to give you morality. It comes from the life experiences of the individual. I don't need Jeebus to tell me not to steal from or hurt someone else, but if you do...please church it up by all means!
     
  19. Lone Wolf8634

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    Humans are social animals. Our first morals are instilled in us by the "pack" we live in, just as in other animals who raise their young in a social setting. We learn what is expected of us, what our place in the pack is and what is acceptable and non-acceptable behavior from those around us. This continues through childhood, all the while we learn our place in larger and larger packs, until as adults, we are able to function in our society.

    From there, we act according to our needs. If we want power and money, our morals will change accordingly to allow us to gain that power, in other words, a driven businessman will be able to justify actions that.....say a person who wishes to join the clergy may consider "wrong" or vicious.

    Criminals can justify most any action they commit, because thats what they want at the time.

    Some folks are honestly altruistic and want to help others, or at the very least, not hinder or hurt them if they can help it.

    IOW, morals are relative to the individual, group and society.

    I probly made a mess of explaining that though....
     
  20. airmotive

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    This.
    Some people need to be threatened with eternal fire in order to not rape their daughters and kill their brothers.

    I need no such threats. I can decide all by myself to not do such things.

    Just like on a jobsite....some people show up and work. Other people need the threat of having their pay docked or being fired in order to get minimal effort out of them.

    If an old book and a man in a $3000 suit yelling at you on the TV is the only thing that keeps you from being a child rapist, I'll take my godless moral compass, thank you.
     
    #20 airmotive, Apr 17, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
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