Atheism and Morality

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Atheism and Morality

Postby Herman » Wed Aug 08, 2007 9:37 pm UTC

Inspired by the "Atheism" thread. Forgive me if this topic was discussed there; I slogged through about the first eight pages and didn't see it, and then gave up.

A common argument made by some religious apologists is that atheists cannot have a basis for morality because they don't believe in a higher power to tell them what's good and bad. Some common atheists' responses:

1. People didn't randomly kill, rape, and steal in prehistory, and then suddenly stop when the 10 Commandments showed up. Indeed, some animals demonstrate selflessness that is sometimes extended to others not directly related by blood.
2. Atheists are underrepresented in the US jail population.
3. Religious people do horrible things, sometimes *because* of their religion.
4. Of course atheists aren't sociopaths; they have a conscience like everyone else.

All this aside, a question remains for atheists: lacking a belief that your conscience has a supernatural source, where do you think it comes from? If the answer is naturalistic (such as herd instinct), why do you follow it?

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Postby pingu » Wed Aug 08, 2007 9:42 pm UTC

Introducing a "God" to the equation to tell you what is right and wrong doesn't change anything. If God tells you X is wrong, what makes it wrong? Does the cycle continue, and God's god tells him that X is wrong, perpetuating infinitely?

No. That can't happen. X is wrong because X is intrinsicly wrong. That's the problem, and being a theist doesn't change the problem.

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Postby mosc » Wed Aug 08, 2007 9:49 pm UTC

Your #3 makes no sense I'm sorry. Atheists do terrible things too and you could just as stupidly claim it's BECAUSE of their atheism. It would make equally little sense.
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Postby Belial » Wed Aug 08, 2007 10:54 pm UTC

Atheists do terrible things too and you could just as stupidly claim it's BECAUSE of their atheism. It would make equally little sense.


The point is not that religion is bad, but that religion does not make you automatically good.
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Postby Herman » Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:03 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
Atheists do terrible things too and you could just as stupidly claim it's BECAUSE of their atheism. It would make equally little sense.


The point is not that religion is bad, but that religion does not make you automatically good.


Yes. I'm not really trying to argue about which kind of people are better, those with or without religion. (Because it's a pretty pointless and tired argument). Rather, I'm asking, in a more academic sense, where atheists think morality comes from, and why it's valid.

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Postby Verator » Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:08 pm UTC

Morality comes from the "Insuring the survival of the species" part of all animals.
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Postby PandoraBound » Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:11 pm UTC

No, I would say first off for #3, people do really horrible things in the name of religion, just look at the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Islamic Jihad some Muslim fundamentalist are doing right now.

And to anwser your last question, what is your conscience but a collection of morals that you stand by? And, these are formed by your upbringing in your enviroment. I personally, believe in God, but a conscience does not need to be divinely inspired to exist, and some of the most honorable and moral people I have met are athiest.

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Postby dagron » Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:16 pm UTC

Things that are moral (essentially treating others well) are generally good for society in general, which benefits the individual. It's in my best intrest to behave in a 'moral' fashion, regardless of whether someone is threatening me with eternal hellfire if I don't.

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Postby PandoraBound » Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:32 pm UTC

Yep. I agree completely. It's sad that some people who believe in God only do it out of fear. Its a major point where I've found the most moral people are athiests, because they genuinely WANT to, not out of fear of damnation, etc.

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Postby bbctol » Thu Aug 09, 2007 12:29 am UTC

I follow most of the Ten Commandments because a lot of them are laws, and in general it's not in my best interests to break them. I've had religious people ask me "Well if you don't believe in thou shalt not kill why don't you just kill someone?", to which I usually respond with "I'd get arrested?"

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Postby bonder » Thu Aug 09, 2007 12:55 am UTC

I think that our morals came about through evolution or a process similar to evolution. We need to have some form of morals for society to function properly. If everyone thinks that it's ok to kill people for no reason, then that society is not likely to last for very long. We also see moral behavior in primates (citation).

These morals would have been around before the religion in which they are codified. I'm pretty sure I'm stealing this from Dawkins or Hitchens, but does anyone really believe that the Hebrews didn't know that killing and stealing was wrong until Moses came down from the mountain with the stone tablets?
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Postby mercurythief » Thu Aug 09, 2007 1:02 am UTC

Does anyone really believe in an objective right and wrong without believing in God?

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Postby Herman » Thu Aug 09, 2007 1:54 am UTC

Introducing a "God" to the equation to tell you what is right and wrong doesn't change anything. If God tells you X is wrong, what makes it wrong? Does the cycle continue, and God's god tells him that X is wrong, perpetuating infinitely?

No. That can't happen. X is wrong because X is intrinsicly wrong. That's the problem, and being a theist doesn't change the problem.


I like this one. I've heard it was first put in formal terms by Plato. Basically, he asked, "Are good things good merely because God says they're good? Would murder be good if God said it was? Or is morality independent of God's fiat?" He preferred the latter, and noted that if it was true, God is obeying the moral law like everyone else (albeit perfectly) so God as a source of morality isn't necessary.

But if this is true, there still remains the question: where does morality come from, if not from God?

3. Religious people do horrible things, sometimes *because* of their religion.


Your #3 makes no sense I'm sorry. Atheists do terrible things too and you could just as stupidly claim it's BECAUSE of their atheism. It would make equally little sense.


I wasn't necessarily endorsing this view. I was listing answers to the question of atheist morality, often given by others, that in my opinion do not answer the question completely enough. That was one of them.

Morality comes from the "Insuring the survival of the species" part of all animals.


Three problems with this one:
1. Many animals act in ways that would be considered very evil if they were human. Most of morality is unique to humans, as far as we know.
2. It's a topic of some dispute as to whether any animal, including H. Sap, has the instinct to ensure the survival of its own species. Generally, in the animal kingdom, altruism is limited to members of one's family, or a herd or tribe in which all members are pretty closely related. Different herds or tribes, on the other hand, often compete violently and have no mercy towards one another.
3. Even if morality is entirely explained by instinct, what justification do you, as a rational thinker, now realizing this, have for continuing to follow it?

And to anwser your last question, what is your conscience but a collection of morals that you stand by? And, these are formed by your upbringing in your enviroment. I personally, believe in God, but a conscience does not need to be divinely inspired to exist, and some of the most honorable and moral people I have met are athiest.


I agree with your last sentence. Again, I realize that atheists, and indeed religionists of every stripe, can be morally good people. I'm asking if anyone has an intellectual theory of morality in the absence of the supernatural.

As for the first part: So people learn morality through their upbringing and environment. True. I learned how to multiply in school. But if I had never learned, 2*3 would still equal 6. So you can argue that teaching someone something does not create it -- morality can exist independently of someone knowing it. Plus, there are some environments that you can imagine that would teach the *wrong* morality. If you met someone raised in an environment you believe to be evil, you could perhaps admire him for sticking to the best he knew, but would nevertheless try and correct him. Once again, morality is independent of environment.

I follow most of the Ten Commandments because a lot of them are laws, and in general it's not in my best interests to break them. I've had religious people ask me "Well if you don't believe in thou shalt not kill why don't you just kill someone?", to which I usually respond with "I'd get arrested?"


Things that are moral (essentially treating others well) are generally good for society in general, which benefits the individual. It's in my best intrest to behave in a 'moral' fashion, regardless of whether someone is threatening me with eternal hellfire if I don't.


Not all the time. This only get you to "do whatever I want unless the chances that I'll get caught, and the punishment if I do, outweigh the reward of doing the bad thing." Do you believe that? What would you think of someone who cheerfully admitted to believing that?

Yep. I agree completely. It's sad that some people who believe in God only do it out of fear. Its a major point where I've found the most moral people are athiests, because they genuinely WANT to, not out of fear of damnation, etc.


*Sigh* Yes. Atheists are great people. Any theories as to *why*?

I think that our morals came about through evolution or a process similar to evolution. We need to have some form of morals for society to function properly. If everyone thinks that it's ok to kill people for no reason, then that society is not likely to last for very long. We also see moral behavior in primates (citation).

These morals would have been around before the religion in which they are codified. I'm pretty sure I'm stealing this from Dawkins or Hitchens, but does anyone really believe that the Hebrews didn't know that killing and stealing was wrong until Moses came down from the mountain with the stone tablets?


Read the opening post. Do you understand why I think those reasons aren't satisfactory?

Does anyone really believe in an objective right and wrong without believing in God?


Apparently they do. But why?

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Postby VannA » Thu Aug 09, 2007 2:35 am UTC

Ultimately, as has been expressed here, all moral thought (Including, from a non-thiestic point of view) those codified by the varying religions,
(Speaking of which, how do you, as a religious person, co-relate the markedly similiar nature of most religious behavrioural systems?)
is derived from what is best for the individual.

And, quite frankly, what is best for an individual is that they live in a group that allows them to do what they enjoy, with an minimum of interference, and a maximum of support.

When this is extrapolated, you have a social structure like a net, where people don't randomly kill each other, because they do not want to be randomly killed.

They don't steal (Where ownership is a concept) because they do not wish to be stolen from.

The people least in moral touch with their society are those that fail to understand that their own survival is ultimately dependant on the survival of the social-gestalt they are part of.

All of this, of course, is intinct and habit derived from several thousand years of practice.. its only in the last few hundred years that population densitites and familty structures have moved far enough away the original tribal condition, that things start to go screwy.

And even then, things like internet forums, clubs, etc, form their own tribal units.

Morality is codified survival of the group.. and it is present in damn near ALL creatures.. as necessary for the niche those creatures fulfill.

Many of the higher primates show very similiar survival traits to humanity, which in turn, can be identified as morality, altruism, etc.

What Humanity, as a whole, now needs to decide, is whether or not we can survive as we drastically change the world around us.

We have no Moral obligation to the things that are not Human.. but I would entertain we have ethical obligations, although thats a whole nother topic.
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Postby bonder » Thu Aug 09, 2007 2:37 am UTC

Herman wrote:
I think that our morals came about through evolution or a process similar to evolution. We need to have some form of morals for society to function properly. If everyone thinks that it's ok to kill people for no reason, then that society is not likely to last for very long. We also see moral behavior in primates (citation).

These morals would have been around before the religion in which they are codified. I'm pretty sure I'm stealing this from Dawkins or Hitchens, but does anyone really believe that the Hebrews didn't know that killing and stealing was wrong until Moses came down from the mountain with the stone tablets?


Read the opening post. Do you understand why I think those reasons aren't satisfactory?

I don't see anything in the OP that says why you don't think that the "our morals evolved" view is satisfactory. I'll summarize some of the examples in the article I linked: chimpanzees who can't swim have drowned trying to save others; rhesus monkeys will starve themselves if pulling the chain to get food shocks other monkeys; and chimps are more likely to share food with those who have groomed them. These actions are ones that we'd expect to see people doing, and if you accept evolution, it's good evidence for our morals to have evolved.

As for why people still follow these morals that we have evolved, 1st if everyone stopped following them, then society would cease to function, and 2nd what reason do I have to think that it's not a good idea to be nice to people? Also, I could take an extremely selfish view and say that I'm happy when people are nice to me. I like being happy. I notice that people are nicer to me when I'm nice to them. Now, I have a selfish reason to follow these morals.
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Postby VannA » Thu Aug 09, 2007 2:44 am UTC

bonder wrote:As for why people still follow these morals that we have evolved, 1st if everyone stopped following them, then society would cease to function, and 2nd what reason do I have to think that it's not a good idea to be nice to people? Also, I could take an extremely selfish view and say that I'm happy when people are nice to me. I like being happy. I notice that people are nicer to me when I'm nice to them. Now, I have a selfish reason to follow these morals.


Everything is inherently selfish.
The difference is one of awareness.

You can be aware of only your immediate needs as an individual, and sate those at the expense of all others. (Very 'selfish' person)

You can be aware that the best way to fulfill your own needs to see that other's needs are fulfilled, knowing that in turn, they will help see to yours.
(A very 'good' person)

You can discard your own (typical) needs, and fulfill the other needs that drive you, and dedicate yourself to others, with no care for your own 'worldly' needs. (A saint.. and just as crazy as the first example, if a lot less destructive)
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Postby zenten » Thu Aug 09, 2007 3:41 am UTC

mercurythief wrote:Does anyone really believe in an objective right and wrong without believing in God?


I'm confusing how believing in God has anything to do with believing in an objective right and wrong. I mean, if you count "right" as "things that let you go to heaven" and "wrong" as "things that make you go to hell" you're now talking about selfish actions to get you where you want to be, not morality. And I haven't heard any arguments about morality coming from God outside of those kinds of arguments.

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Postby mercurythief » Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:29 am UTC

Yeah, it is pretty much all about definitions. I would define an objective moral as a law of the universe; something that would exist even if life did not. That is different than defining morals based on their effects on people. I'm not talking about defining 'right' as 'whatever maximizes human happiness.'

It seems to me that God is the only possible source of such morals, which pretty much makes me a nihilist (and it is exhausting).

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Postby Vaniver » Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:33 am UTC

mosc wrote:Your #3 makes no sense I'm sorry. Atheists do terrible things too and you could just as stupidly claim it's BECAUSE of their atheism. It would make equally little sense.
No, it makes perfect sense. If a religion says "sacrifice your son to God," and people do it, it's because of their religion. If the religion says "kill the infidels" and people do it, it's because of the religion.

Now, that last statement pretends that religion has never been the cover thrown over another motive. We want their land, and we'll justify taking it because they're godless. It's silly to claim that religion has always been the cover, though, so it stands at least in part.
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Postby yy2bggggs » Thu Aug 09, 2007 6:35 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:If a religion says "sacrifice your son to God," and people do it, it's because of their religion. If the religion says "kill the infidels" and people do it, it's because of the religion.

Religious morality often evolves with a group of people to allow what they think is right or excuse what they wish to be right. It's a common occurrence to use rose colored glasses to read scriptures.

Herman: Consider people who are religious, who believe God to be a source of good. Why are they moral?

Is it because they fear punishment? Then they aren't really moral.

Is it because they love God? Why would one do such a thing?

Is it because they simply want to be good? Why would an atheist be different?

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Postby e946 » Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:25 am UTC

I strongly believe that morals are subjective and change over time. 300 years ago, enslavement of black people was common and accepted, but nowadays, the practice is viewed as a horrible thing to do (Very stronly immoral). Who knows what people 300 years from now will think of our everyday activities?

That being said, I have the morals I do because it's how I was taught, much in the same way that if someone is taught that rape, murder, and other "immoral" are okay and normal, that person will see no problem in doing those things. I have absolutely no desire to kill people because I was raised not to. At present, I see many benefits to the way I was taught, so I don't challenge it.

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Postby Gelsamel » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:21 am UTC

I think it's a mixture of just looking at the world, observing the actions of people and deciding for yourself what your morals are. I think instincts may play a certain role.

Also, I think for the percentage of population that are atheists that the 2nd common response is wrong (at least I've heard it's about equally represented).

Also I disagree with the notion that some thing, be it action or other, can be intrinsically wrong.
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Postby Bondolon » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:26 am UTC

There are a bunch of people posting in this thread under hidden premises, and most of them are difficult to presume, at best.

1) As for the "evolved sense of morality" thing, that's problematic for two reasons. The first is that, while animals sometimes do things that "seem" selfless, there's no way to show that they are, and animals also do tons of things that seem decidedly not selfless. The second is that the explanation itself if just teleological, positing that because some behavior A might help ensure the survivability of species B, said behavior A exists to help ensure the survivability of species B, and that's pretty informally fallacious. He's asking why, and you're giving a "well, it does this", but that's an outcome, and not a reason.

2) "Moral things help ensure society's continuity". Same as above, but replace animals with people. Also, vikings, selfishly ransacking villages, were sure as hell doing a better job of surviving than those villages. Their selfish society propers in almost any scenario, and the less selfish society dies off.

3) "Morals come from what is best for individuals". While presupposing the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes is fun (quite, at that), it's not really convincing for proving a "why". In this view, humans would have to have, at some point, actively decided to group up, and they didn't. Most mammals are social creatures, and almost all primates are in some form. We've been grouping since before we could question "if" we should do something, so our "why" certainly shouldn't come from the notion that we did.

That being said, this topic is the exact reason that the discipline of Ethics exists. There are various Ethicists who say that, without religion, morals can't exist. Others, like Kant, say that morals are a function of logic, and that it's actually relatively easy to say exactly why morals came about, and what things are or aren't moral. Others say there are no morals, and others say that morals only hold any weight within groups, instead of between them. In other words, there are myriad well-developed opinions on this topic and (not to be rude), most of the ones in here are considered pretty stupid by most academics who talk about this stuff.

Now, THAT being said, it's not unreasonable to take Kant's view and to say that, as an Atheist, one can still have morals because morality is a product of reason. Atheists have consciences just like everyone else, and someone like Kant says it's because they are reasonable, just like everyone else. That's only one perspective (again, there are myriad), but it at least shows that it's possible to have a "why I should be moral", even as an atheist.

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Postby mosc » Thu Aug 09, 2007 3:26 pm UTC

you want my honest answer to this? Y'all ain't going to like it. Atheists have morals because they've adapted RELIGION into their system of beliefs by stripping out the parts they don't like and keeping the rest. The "golden rule" comes from millennium ago at the very foundations of several modern religions. Atheists, on average, are fairly religiously rooted about their morals.
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Postby bbctol » Thu Aug 09, 2007 3:28 pm UTC

mosc wrote:you want my honest answer to this? Y'all ain't going to like it. Atheists have morals because they've adapted RELIGION into their system of beliefs by stripping out the parts they don't like and keeping the rest. The "golden rule" comes from millennium ago at the very foundations of several modern religions. Atheists, on average, are fairly religiously rooted about their morals.

The Golden Rule was also developed independently by various philosophers who had nothing to do with religion. Oops!

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Postby Andrew » Thu Aug 09, 2007 3:32 pm UTC

mosc wrote:you want my honest answer to this? Y'all ain't going to like it. Atheists have morals because they've adapted RELIGION into their system of beliefs by stripping out the parts they don't like and keeping the rest. The "golden rule" comes from millennium ago at the very foundations of several modern religions. Atheists, on average, are fairly religiously rooted about their morals.

Have you read any Dawkins?

In The God Delusion he mentions a more exhaustive version of this set of dilemmas http://www.daylightatheism.org/2007/06/ ... ffect.html and a study which showed that people generally adopt almost exactly the same moral stances regardless of religion or culture.

Furthermore, I suggest to you that the similarity between atheist and religious morality comes from this fairly uniform 'in-built' morality. All religions are ultimately the creations of mankind, and so their broad moral values are necessarily similar to those of default-atheist mankind.
Edit:
The Golden Rule was also developed independently by various philosophers who had nothing to do with religion. Oops!

Well it had to, didn't it, if it was ever going to sit "at the very foundations of several modern religions"? Religions incorporate morals; they don't invent them. Always remember: atheists were here first.
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Postby Vaniver » Thu Aug 09, 2007 3:34 pm UTC

bbctol wrote:
mosc wrote:you want my honest answer to this? Y'all ain't going to like it. Atheists have morals because they've adapted RELIGION into their system of beliefs by stripping out the parts they don't like and keeping the rest. The "golden rule" comes from millennium ago at the very foundations of several modern religions. Atheists, on average, are fairly religiously rooted about their morals.

The Golden Rule was also developed independently by various philosophers who had nothing to do with religion. Oops!
One of the earliest moral and philosophical authorities were forced to flee because of their lack of respect for the gods of the time. Oops!
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Postby yy2bggggs » Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:18 pm UTC

mosc wrote:you want my honest answer to this?
No, I prefer truth.

There are problems with your honest answer that make it hard to believe. It requires religion to be be capable of manipulating the human psyche to deep, fundamental levels, even without incorporating the religion. It is, in essence, a sort of conspiracy theory. Plus, it incorporates "religion" and "not like it", and hints at a fear of being manipulated, which suggests very strongly that it's more politically motivated (resist everything that touches religion) than truth oriented.

I demand a healthy sense of proportion.

I think the OP (with subsequent clarifications) tends to just have a buried false assumption about the psychology of a standard, goodness-seeking religious person--and that assumption is that, because they are religious, they are good. But it kind of begs the question--the religion proper is merely a set of beliefs. There's no particular reason why it inflicts a desire to be good upon you. You still have to want to be good. If you love God, you have to want to love him, or love him for a particular reason. If you strive to be moral, you have to do it because you want to. In fact, I doubt you'll actually wind up finding the fabled person who wants to be good solely to earn heavenly rewards and to avoid punishment (try, for example, to find someone with exemplary behavior, who says he doesn't love God, but is merely scared of him).

And I think on some level those who believe know this doesn't quite work, which is why heaven is always made sweeter and hell more foul; the goal here is to try to find something that will force someone to want to be good. It's a desperate plea.

When it gets down to it, people are good because they want to be good, period. This is why a religious person is moral, and there's no reason why it should be different with the atheist.

Edit:
As for the aspect of what is good in the first place, as it relates to the edict of God, see the Euthyphro dilemma.

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Postby mosc » Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:31 pm UTC

As a Jew, I believe there is a little piece of God in all of us. It inherently provides a direction for right and wrong. You could say I think you are a religious being whither you agknowledge it or not. We are all god's children, regardless of if you want to be or not. Course, I'm not saying it's some kind of supernatural force at all. Nor is it distinctly human. I think it's in our genes as much as anywhere else. There's nothing spiritual about it really, it's just the belief that you are capable of it.
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Postby Belial » Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:33 pm UTC

As a Jew, I believe there is a little piece of God in all of us. It inherently provides a direction for right and wrong.


Even if that were true (an "if" of monumental proportion), that would just be our way of knowing right from wrong, it wouldn't be what *defines* right and wrong.
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Postby mosc » Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:34 pm UTC

ok, the definition is arbitrary.

It's self fulfilling. We know what is right and wrong so we named it. Thus it was defined.
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Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:43 pm UTC

Andrew wrote:Always remember: atheists were here first.


You sure about that?

mosc wrote:It's self fulfilling. We know what is right and wrong so we named it. Thus it was defined.


Not so much self-fulfilling as circular reasoning, really.
Why is this right?
Because we know it is.
How do we know it is?
Because it is.
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Postby mosc » Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:46 pm UTC

I agree, I think early humans (like most other primates) tend to react like many inanimate objects are alive when they don't understand what is going on. It's hard to see them not viewing things like the wind or the sun as some other animal doing this or that. The notion of anything moving or having some action at all that was not alive probably was foreign to them.
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Postby Inseperable Hausdorff » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:40 pm UTC

mosc wrote:ok, the definition is arbitrary.


An arbitrary definition is a very poor one.

Every moral code makes assumptions. One might assume that the purpose of morality is to minimize overall harm; the another may assume that morality is simply obedience to power. So instead of asking, "What is the ultimate definition of morality?", you should be asking, "Which definition of morality is best*?"

*Also, you should ask, "What does it mean for one moral system to be superior to another, anyway?"

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Postby Andrew » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:53 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Andrew wrote:Always remember: atheists were here first.


You sure about that?

Religion cannot exist without a mind to dream it up. The first mind capable of doing so would probably have wanted to have lunch first, and maybe build some shelter, and perhaps even have a look around, or learn to walk or speak. And until he got around to inventing a god to believe in he was by any reasonable definition an atheist.

So yeah, the atheists were there first.

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Postby mosc » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:54 pm UTC

Also, you should ask, "What does it mean for one moral system to be superior to another, anyway?"


to answer that question, you'd have to compare them to another moral set, probably your own. Which moral set is better than the other (and there certainly are noticeable differences out there) is Dependant on your point of reference.
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Postby mosc » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:56 pm UTC

Andrew wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
Andrew wrote:Always remember: atheists were here first.


You sure about that?

Religion cannot exist without a mind to dream it up. The first mind capable of doing so would probably have wanted to have lunch first, and maybe build some shelter, and perhaps even have a look around, or learn to walk or speak. And until he got around to inventing a god to believe in he was by any reasonable definition an atheist.

So yeah, the atheists were there first.


lol, I don't agree with a word of that. First off, please stop using religion and belief in god interchangeably! They are not directly linked. One does not imply the other.
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Postby Inseperable Hausdorff » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:58 pm UTC

mosc wrote:
Also, you should ask, "What does it mean for one moral system to be superior to another, anyway?"


to answer that question, you'd have to compare them to another moral set, probably your own. Which moral set is better than the other (and there certainly are noticeable differences out there) is Dependant on your point of reference.


You are suggesting that such a determination is subjective. Are there no objective criteria to determine between moral codes?

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Postby zenten » Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:13 pm UTC

Andrew wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
Andrew wrote:Always remember: atheists were here first.


You sure about that?

Religion cannot exist without a mind to dream it up. The first mind capable of doing so would probably have wanted to have lunch first, and maybe build some shelter, and perhaps even have a look around, or learn to walk or speak. And until he got around to inventing a god to believe in he was by any reasonable definition an atheist.

So yeah, the atheists were there first.


So it's your argument that my pet budgies are atheists?

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Postby yy2bggggs » Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:13 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
mosc wrote:It's self fulfilling. We know what is right and wrong so we named it. Thus it was defined.
Not so much self-fulfilling as circular reasoning, really.
Why is this right?
Because we know it is.
How do we know it is?
Because it is.

Actually, this isn't necessarily equivalent to what mosc said. The form, "We know what x is, so we named it. Thus, it was defined." doesn't entail that you are applying that argument. It's merely a mix between pragmatism (ordinary sense, not the philosophical movement sense) and referential definitions. It would be different if the whole thing weren't actually talking about the very definition of the word, but in this case it is doing just that.

Consider changing it to: "We know what red is, so we named it. Thus, it was defined." What is being claimed is that there is some particular environmental discrimination we perform, and it's useful enough to give it a word. Once you name it with a word, that word is defined (referentially). There really isn't a circular argument here, or even much of an argument at all. Essentially, it just boils down to a complex way of making two claims--that there exists something we can discriminate that we give a word to, and that by doing so the word is defined referentially.

I wouldn't call this self fulfilled either.

mosc:

Since you're Jewish, and believe people are religious regardless of acknowledging that they are, that naturally invalidates what I said earlier. Still, it doesn't make your argument look better--it still looks like a politically motivated argument. Merely the politics change. In this case, it just seems like a changed definition of the word "religious".

Without a religion, I hardly see the word religious as being applied properly--specifically, I think if you're claiming that someone who has no religion is religious, then you're bending the definition of terms beyond its breaking point. It winds up being that the word "religious" loses its real meaning.

And since atheists don't necessarily have religions (indeed, many atheists do not), this word manipulation is taking place.


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