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:
I'd just thought I'd my own personal attempt at addressing some of these questions.
Please excuse some of the broad generalizations made. Oh, and I'm aware that some of this maybe be a bit hare-brained and rambles about a bit, please be lenient when reading the following, I am pretty tired.
I do consider if a sense of morality is some sort of evolutionary apparatus to propagate our D.N.A(redundant?). However, once assumed true, that means that when I see something that draws indignation out of injustice done to me or someone else, that it is purely a biochemical reaction evolved in our species to make sure that there is enough congeniality to ensure that we do not wipe ourselves off the face of the earth due to belligerence.
Whether this is the case or not, it is not something I could base my philosophy of life upon. Please consider the following -- If someone were to rob and stab a family member, and get away with it, my utter rankling would be nothing more than a chemical reaction fostered by evolution. The sense of some sort of right and wrong that transcends our daily humdrum existence would be sought after with no results. My mind's frenzied state, and my heart's fervent sense of being wronged would be just a biochemical dictate.
Now if I consider if I(I in another reality) happened to stab someone and take their money. Lets say I subscribed to some sort of crazy philosophy that allowed me to justify it to myself. I've decided there was no god, and no external(outside of this world) punishment that was to be doled out because of my actions. I believe that robbing is an efficient(and exciting) way to continue my existence. I've decided that societal norms are not going to hinder me from becoming rich and satiating my animal impulses. I steal more and more often, each time stealing exponentially more until I get wealthy and die. I also inseminated several dozen women. Would I be wrong to do these things? Well if I look at it from a point of view which no external entity determines what is good or what is wrong, it seems to me to be logical way to live(In this reality, find this behavior atrocious). By legitimate I mean, if there is low risk, and I can set aside my natural conscience, there seems to be no reason for me(other reality me) not to do this.
If I tried to apply some kind of moral sense into this -- either based on faith or logic -- and we assume that there is no external entity dictating what is moral, it is then up to me to create it.
I can tell this man(myself in the other reality) that his plan is illogical, that human kind can do more for themselves if everyone works together. To which he would respond, I don't doubt that my friend, but first, humanity must have a system in place which is obliging to cooperation. That takes time. Time is something I don't have, I'd rather steal -- it's quicker and less frustrating.
Fine. I tell this man, what you are doing is wrong! He replies, in accordance with whose standards? I am doing what suits my needs and I can get it done. Just because you have some kind of evolutionarily based emotion that makes you feel that this is unjust, it does not mean it has any sort of actual meaning. I am not beholden to your emotions.
I say, God has forbidden you from taking such actions!. He responds, God? Why don't you know about the mathosophical proofs created by Dr. Hrashisuruba nearly a century ago, it has proven the concept of god is just a delusion.
Well I can go on with these questions, but eventually I(in this reality) would just end up shooting me(in the other reality) in the head.
Which is really illustrates what it would end up as. A power game. Those who are in power dictate the terms by which others live by. It does not matter if something is "right" or "wrong". It just ends up being who can better angle their leverage to apply their sense of what ought to be; "selfish" or not.
Not to say that a universe without God cannot be a "moral" universe. It just wouldn't have absolute morality. Life would have nothing to do with the great ideals I have. It would just be one arbitrary decision after the next, all at the whims of biological and chemical regulation as a result of evolution.
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.
I don't think an apologist could know for certain if people would rape, kill, and steal at a drastic rate if religion was gotten rid of(or vice versa). However, I do think that thinking that rape, murder, and theft in a universe without an external form of morality is wrong, is just not true. It might be disagreeable. Though not wrong, because there would be no such thing as right or wrong.
2. Atheists are underrepresented in the US jail population.
Does this mean that criminals have a greater tendency to be agnostic or theists? Yeah, maybe so. Does it mean that using a system of morality completely created by people, that the prisoners are bad? Using your standards, yeah you could argue that. Personally I can think of no reason to tell these men that what they did was bad. Or in other words, I can't tell these men that my feelings (which are formed by societal norms and evolution) in regards to what they did should dictate their behavior.
3. Religious people do horrible things, sometimes *because* of their religion.
Yes, and personally I believe God really dislikes these things. However, are these things really horrible? Or do we just apply intuitively formed
norms of right and wrong to them, and then assume that these are right.
4. Of course atheists aren't sociopaths; they have a conscience like everyone else.
Yep, I've never met an atheist sociopath. I've never met a sociopath before. I don't doubt you have a conscience. It's just that, in a world without external morals setting standards for reasons unknown, I assume that conscience is just an evolutionary tool, and not some kind of guidance for an abstract sense of right.
ntroducing 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 think it's assumed that God knows what's wrong because he knows things beyond the bounds of our logic. It's not relativistic because God has a master plan that makes complete sense, but is outside of our understanding while we are still using human brains(as opposed to when we are freed in forms of souls).
If it is assumed that X is intrinsically wrong, that it comes from some outside source in the universe(and whatever is beyond). As a Christian, the universe is a part of God, and God is an separate but still the same part of the universe. God dictates what is good or bad because it is in the nature of the universe itself. God is the universe. When was that dictated and how? It's always been this way. Just as we cannot know things like infinity, we simply can't expect to comprehend the nature of these things, at least not yet.
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.
Yes, but words like honorable have not the meaning that you intend(I assume). When I feel like something is honorable, I do not mean, "oh, a biological reaction flooded my brain with chemicals and I feel attuned to you because you hold the same set of values as me, and by values, I mean we share the same principles which are evolutionary artifacts that allow us to co-exist and perpetuate our DNA.
In a world ran by evolution without an outside maker of some kind, this is what would be what is happening. What we imply is different, but is totally apart from what the truth would be in that situation.
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.
Actually, you have no idea if it is in your best interest to be treating others well. It could be that you would find yourself in a much more pleasing state both internally and externally if you would screw some people over once in awhile. I mean, aside from your arbitrary sense of right and wrong derived from evolution, there is nothing stopping you. You probably haven't tried the alternative in an efficient fashion, and you could be sure(nor could I). And ideally speaking, a Christian would not have his primary reason to be good be to avoid hellfire. It would be because he loves his brothers and sisters of the world.
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?"
Just move to the right country and it would be much easier to get away with it and benefit at the same time.
(Speaking of which, how do you, as a religious person, co-relate the markedly similiar nature of most religious behavrioural systems?)
How do I view the correlations between two similar religions? I think the divine conscience is within all humans, and other religions many times manifest things that are written into our being by God. Though I think my philosophy is the "best", or else maybe I'd be a Scientologist. I hear they have orgies.
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.
In my interpretation of Biblical teachings, you do things right to further the greater god in accordance with God's teaching. I don't think I take into consideration if I will goto hell if I see someone in need of help. I think of what will happen to that person(Ideally I hope). Take for example the parable of the good Samaritan.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour asthyself.
And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed,leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
As to why morality can't be objective outside of a universe without external morality? Well if you prescribe to evolution without external morality, our morality is based off evolutionary impulses. You can go against certain evolutionary impulses like compassion, and satiate another like avarice. Though some people wouldn't like that. Though if they said it was "wrong", that simply wouldn't be true. It would be an opinion based of emotion, and maybe logic. Rather than saying it was morally wrong, it would be more accurate to say something like, THAT ISN'T SOCIETALLY SOUND AND MY EMOTIONAL IMPULSES(WHICH STEM FROM EVOLUTION) IS CREATING TURBULENT FEELINGS. PLEASE STOP!
You can have two conflicting philosophies of life and have them both be "right".
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.
I believe that God gave us a conscience for a reason. Blaming religion because a bunch of sociopaths and the emotionally deranged killed people does not seem fair.
Consider people who are religious, who believe God to be a source of good. Why are they moral?
I personally try to be moral because God has given me a conscience to follow to serve him and be good.
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.
God created man with a unique sense of right and wrong. As to what is right and wrong in a God created universe(and whatever is beyond is universe); I think I can say that apart from what is said in the bible, it is essentially an intuitive understanding that can't be fully understood within our mortal coils. We can define situations in which we can decide what is right or wrong, but we really do not know why something is right or wrong. However, it is assumed that God gave us enough knowledge to make the distinction between good and bad because it is part of the grand plan. For reasons unknown, complete knowledge is veiled from us, so we must feel it out with our hands.
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.
Actually, assuming God created man, and man made Christianity, it can be assumed that religion came first.