Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How can I be moral if I'm an atheist?

Religious believers do not have a lock on morality. In fact, I would argue that I'm more moral than 95% of religous believers. Where do I get this morality from if I don't believe in a god?

Evolutionary theory does have some thoughts on the issue of human morality, but I'll just speak for myself. It comes from my view of equal rights for all people. No race or religion is innately superior to any others. We all have the right to life, freedom, and all that nice stuff. I also believe that all life has just as much of a right to exist on this planet as we do. They are amazingly adapted organisms, and have earned their right to be here through victories in the trials of evolution.

I largely believe in the Golden Rule, which is to treat others as you want them to treat you.

Economic philosophy also plays a role. I believe in the capitalist principle of private property, therefore it is wrong to steal.

I hold myself to a very high moral standard. No violence, cheating, lying (except in special circumstances, such as protecting people's secrets), stealing, infidelity to my girlfriend, etc. I pay my taxes, pay my bills and pay my debts. I believe that my word and my honour are important, and do my absolute best to keep my promises. I give money to several charities. I don't 'borrow' anything from work. I don't even own (knowingly) any piece of pirated music, movies or software on my computer. I pay for it all. If I don't like the price, I don't obtain it.

Now, when I compare myself to all of those weak, immoral religious believers out there, I have to feel good about my morality standard. I'm a better person than 95% of those racist, hypocritical, lying, cheating, tax-evading, promise-breaking, greedy, selfish, adultering, wife-abusing, child-abusing, animal-abusing, child-support-evading, child-neglecting, drunken, drug-addicted, drug-dealing, kiddie-porn-viewing, bar-fighting, road-raging, prostitute-visiting, thieving, raping, murdering, welfare-defrauding, bribe-accepting, conning, nuke-Mecca-supporting, hateful, warmongering, religious wackos.

And I'm definitely a better person than those weak, sexist, hypocritical, child-abusing, gay-prostituting, defrauding, stealing, lying, murdering clergy that all of the other immoral people look to for leadership and guidance.

(In reading the above, give me some credit. I'm in no way saying that all believers are guilty of all of these immoralities. What I am saying is that every day, each of the immoralities is committed by many believers. I commit none of them, at least not to any significant level. For believers to then try to play the morality card against me is intolerable garbage.)

So go ahead, pray to your god for help with your weakness and immorality. I'm strong, and I have no need of an imaginary friend to give me my strength or morality.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Religious believers do not have a lock on morality."

I am not sure that I have ever met a Christian who claims that Atheists cannot be moral. However, there are some pretty crazy Christians in the world. I think that you may be misunderstanding the original argument. The premises are below.

1. If God does not exist, objective morals do not exist.
2. Objective values do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

I fear that you go about this post in the wrong way. "Evolutionary theory does have some thoughts on the issue of human morality, but I'll just speak for myself."

If you are an Atheist, then evolutionary theory has all of the thoughts on the 'issue of human morality'. The 'morals that you talk about nothing more than subjective ideas that have no authority in the end.

"We all have the right to life, freedom, and all that nice stuff." May I ask, where does this sudden idea of rights come from? A Judeo-Christian/religious worldview! Friedrich Nietzsche understood this when he wrote the parable of The Madman (below).

"Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!"---As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?---Thus they yelled and laughed

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us---for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars---and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?""

Admin said...

"I am not sure that I have ever met a Christian who claims that Atheists cannot be moral. However, there are some pretty crazy Christians in the world."

Yes, you need to watch more YouTube videos. I've had somebody write to me and claim that if their god didn't exist, there would be nothing stopping us from all killing each other. Seems to imply no morality without gods, or at least, no REASON to be moral.

"1. If God does not exist, objective morals do not exist.
2. Objective values do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists."

I'm guessing you're just trying to explain their point of view here, but I disagree with point #2.

"May I ask, where does this sudden idea of rights come from? A Judeo-Christian/religious worldview!"

I STRONGLY disagree. I've tackled this before in other posts scattered over the morality section of the site. I have MANY questions about this. If it's true, why have other cultures throughout history (not Judeo-Christian, some which have never heard of those beliefs) also made murder punishable? How can individuals of these societies feel that murder and theft are wrong? Why have so many murdered in the name of the Judeo-Christian religion? Why is there so much killing, by your god, in the book which you propose preaches this moral to us? Why do many animal species not kill members of their own species?

I look around, and base my morals on what helps myself and what helps society. I believe your rights end where mine begin, and vice-versa. This comes from a view that I am NOT special, unlike the Judeo-Christian view which teaches that we are special. Everyone is the same as me, NOT UNIQUE. And that's why I must respect the rights of others. My reason for acting on these morals is that it makes for a productive society. It's the co-operative spirit, which has allowed us to evolve into the position we are in now.

If we found an alien civilisation, do you think it would be possible that they have the concept of rights, even if they've never heard of a Jew or a Christian?

As for the parable..... you read a lot, don't you?

Admin said...

"If you are an Atheist, then evolutionary theory has all of the thoughts on the 'issue of human morality'. The 'morals that you talk about nothing more than subjective ideas that have no authority in the end."

Yes. There are no objective morals, mine are subjective ideas, and they have no authority. Does that bother you? Funny that I follow my moral code better than ANY religious person I know. I PRIDE MYSELF on my moral code and my integrity. If all people were like me, we wouldn't have politicians anymore, because nobody would be sleazy enough to do the job properly. :-)

Admin said...

Also, was the approval of slavery in the Bible part of the Judeo-Christian view that all people have equal rights to happiness and freedom?

If the Bible wasn't one of the most violent and despicable books ever produced, I might agree with you.

Anonymous said...

"If it's true, why have other cultures throughout history (not Judeo-Christian, some which have never heard of those beliefs) also made murder punishable? How can individuals of these societies feel that murder and theft are wrong? Why have so many murdered in the name of the Judeo-Christian religion? Why is there so much killing, by your god, in the book which you propose preaches this moral to us? Why do many animal species not kill members of their own species?"

You did very well here to demonstrate the idea of objective moral values. It is the fact that societies across history agree on certain morals that one can say that there is objective morality. So, your questions do nothing to convince me otherwise.

"There are no objective morals, mine are subjective ideas, and they have no authority. Does that bother you? Funny that I follow my moral code better than ANY religious person I know. I PRIDE MYSELF on my moral code and my integrity."

Ah, the typical Atheist fallback. Here is the problem. First, I agree with you. The religious community has been very contradictory with its preaching. However, this does not mean that all religious people think or act in this manner. Second, it is Christianity that teaches us that we all fall short in our moral values. All of us. It is the fact that Christ died on the cross for our sins that we have any hope in having relationship with God.

"Also, was the approval of slavery in the Bible part of the Judeo-Christian view that all people have equal rights to happiness and freedom?"

Interestingly enough, it was the european Christians who strongly opposed the slave trade in America. It is a common fact that is often left out by Atheists. Also, it was Christians that abolished slave trade. Now, you may say, "Well, there were political motives for the abolitionists". And this may be true. But you cannot make a universal claim such as that.

This will be my last comment for this blog. I find it very difficult to reason with a man who finds the philosophical community to be unable to answer philosophical questions. I want to make it clear that I am not leaving because I feel intimidated or whatever. It is just pitiful how people have lost respect for the philosophical community. It is a true pity.

Admin said...

"You did very well here to demonstrate the idea of objective moral values. It is the fact that societies across history agree on certain morals that one can say that there is objective morality. So, your questions do nothing to convince me otherwise."

So there are no societies which aren't thought of murder as OK? There were, they just failed. How else can you explain all of the tribal wars killing anybody who wasn't one of your own?

What about homosexuality and pedophilia? Those have had different stances by different societies in history, and even today.

You'll be convinced otherwise no matter what we write here.

Wiley_Coyote said...

Just a thought... isn't it more praiseworthy to be a moral Atheist than a moral Theist? All the atheist has to direct their actions is their own moral code and sense of what is right and wrong, whereas the Theist has a guide book that lays it out in black and white.