Can atheists tell right from wrong?

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by Norsefire, Aug 30, 2008.

  1. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

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    Let's look at this a bit. Why do you think the atheist is in a different position in relation to morals than a theist?
     
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  3. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    Observation:

    A theist is given their moral compass. All they are required to do is follow the moral standards their religion requires.

    In contrast the atheist has the additional responsibility of determing what standards should apply. This is is a much greater responsibility than simply following a set of rules and so the atheist should be applauded for shouldering that larger task.

    (Note: I am not an atheist.)
     
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  5. Balerion Banned Banned

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    Not quite. All people, unless they are fundamental theists, follow society's moral code (unless they are what we would consider as immoral). As an individual, you don't have to figure out anything, so long as you live in a society.
     
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  7. Yorda Registered Senior Member

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    something doesn't become objective if everybody believes in it

    reality isn't so black and white

    as much as i believe in the greek and egyptian myths

    don't preach to me, i say what i want
     
  8. Balerion Banned Banned

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    Then what, exactly, makes it objective?

    Actually, it is. I know it's human nature to make much more out of things than they really are, but the truth is that life is pretty black-and-white.

    And yet the Christian kind are the only ones you're trying to pass off as true.

    I didn't preach to you. You started giving me your sermon about how I am God and God wants me happy, and I told you to stop. It had nothing to do with the conversation at hand, and I was just letting you know you're not going to convert me to your odd brand of mysticism, so there was no point in trying.
     
  9. Yorda Registered Senior Member

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    the others are true too but nobody ever talks about them and knows nothing about them and the christian myths are more interesting to talk about because people still believe they're true

    i don't try to convert anyone to my stupid beliefs, i just speak about them
     
  10. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

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    Not sure if you were responding to me, but hey, I am curious about something so I will take it that way. I agree in part with your model above, but in a way aren't we misrepresenting the theist. The theist will rarely claim (simply) 'this is God (or God's word) and thus these are the rules.' They tend to claim that this is a good or great god and that the rules make sense. If they simply shrugged and said 'I dunno, seems cracked not sleeping with my neighbor's wife, but God said it so....' They always, in my experience, believe that they too can see the good both in their God, in religious texts and in the rules.

    Are they not, then, trusting their own abilities at the same level as an atheist. Admittedly an atheist must start from the ground up and build morals. However BOTH can react to existing moral systems - often theist - and work from there. Both claim to be able to see the good and can justify.

    I do think that many theists feel their position is stronger because they are not claiming the godlike ability to see the good and make good rules. But actually they must be doing this.

    It's an issue that comes up for me a lot in relation to certain theists. A tacit and sometimes not so tacit claim is that the atheist is making to large a claim for him or herself. How can they determine the guilt? But the theist is making just as large a proclamation about their own abilities.
    (I am not an not an athiest either.)
     
  11. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    I was really making the remarks as a general observation. After I had posted I realised you might think they were a response to you and indeed I think they work on that level too.

    I think I agree broadly with most of the points you make. I was partly attempting to be provocative, because those Christians who falsely believe they have superior morals to atheists need prodding occassionally. That is not a view you would find from middle of the road protestants in the UK.

    I believe, as I think I posted earlier in the thread, that our morals are largely an expression of sound behaviours that will promote our survival and that of our children. Some of these are behaviours are genetically determined, some are wholly learned, and most are a mixture of the two. The learning takes place within our society, made up of family, friends, school, neighbours, local and global environment, etc. In a staunch Christian family the church will play a major role in this. In an atheist family the other elements of society will dominate.

    My observation could be rewritten like this:

    Well Mr fundamentalist Christian, since you accept the morals given you by God, taking no responsibility for the correctness of those morals, but hiding behind the excuse that they are written in the Bible, then you must acknowledge that the atheist, who must individually determine what is right and wrong, is a more responsible and hence a more moral individual.
    If their assumption about the moral code dictated by the Bible is correct, then they must logically arrive at the conclusion I have outlined.
     
  12. Balerion Banned Banned

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    No, they don't. They are raised into their moral foundation by living in a society. What is so hard to understand about that?

    The problem theists have is that they assume atheists must be creating their own moral values. It's not true.
     
  13. Balerion Banned Banned

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    Well said.
     
  14. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

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    First I did say this
    Meaning that most atheists are working from existing moral systems that have come out of religions. Or have been out of them for a while, however much different societies have their slants on these moral codes.

    Further, atheists have to choose the morals of their society or that portion of it they identify with, just like theists do. I don't know any theists or atheists who simply say 'Well, I am doing what {authority A} says and have no way to evaluate it.' They are both convinced they have chosen well (or chosen well not to move away from an upbringing set of morals).

    I think both groups are choosing.
     
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    That looks like attempted abdication of responsibility by the theist.

    A theist is just as responsible for the moral standards they choose to follow as any atheist, surely.
     
  16. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, but notice this....

     
  17. Yorda Registered Senior Member

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    if i could i would kill myself so that you wouldn't have to hear me preach, but i can't.
     
  18. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

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    (I think there is a missing step in the argument. Something about how individually determining is more responsible by definition.)

    Yes, that is pretty much how I took your argument and I appreciate it and hope it humbles some.

    I work with theists in another way-I target the false humility and 'sense of one's place' some seem to think they have.

    While the atheist may have to individually determine what is right and this may be a set of piecemeal acts of hubris - either via tacit acceptance of some societal moral or by reason and argument - theists do the same thing with hindsight - they always have good explanations for whatever moral rules they humbly received - Ie. they have godlike intelligence also - and, since they make claims to their god being good, also make claims to recognize the good.

    As an example of the first theist act of hubris, a theist anti abortionist nevers leaves it at
    'well, God said not to.'
     
  19. Yorda Registered Senior Member

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    its not my fault that i exist
     
  20. Balerion Banned Banned

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    Those moral systems did not come out of religions. The religions got their moral systems from the society they were created in. I think more theists need to understand this...but then again, I guess they wouldn't be theists if they did...but anyway, a displeasure with certain aspects of a society's morality has birthed many religious sects.

    I'm not arguing against the idea of individuals helping to change the course. A society is a collection of individuals, so obviously they do. My point was that the individual is born into the moral system, and believes all or most of it to be correct. This is why most people that are born into a religion stay with it for the rest of their lives. There are those that question, those that actively seek change, but most people fall into the societal machine, and believe what they are told. Society does change, however, but it's a much slower process.
     
  21. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

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    I don't think it is as simple as you are making it out to be, but you have a good point. My problem with it is 1) go back far enough and the distinction between religion and society dissolves and 2) I think it makes a lot of sense to talk about Judao-christian values, for example, and how they cut across Europe via Rome and formed the foundation for most thinking about morals in that whole area. But I am not so concerned with this issue. I think both the atheist and the theist are responsible for choosing their moral system and that in this choice they are making bold statements about their own abilities - at least any time they are clear about what is good and what is bad. I am, via this, challenging mostly theists who seem to think they are not making much of a claim about their own abilities by 'simply' following the word of God.

    I grew up in a big eastern us city and I could not possibly have thought most of it was correct because it was so damn complicated and contradictory. Just working with the moral differences between my mother and father would have been worth a couple of doctorates. I agree that most people experience themselves as not really choosing and as following common sense interpretations of their secular and/or religious environments, but I think there is a lot of choosing going on. I think they think it is simply common sense or going with the right flow, but they are cutting out a lot and not paying attention to their own choices and choices not to choose. And they are simplifying and mythologizing their own socieites when they do this.

    They also make claims to have good reasons for their beliefs and to know why their morals make sense and are good. Even if this is only hindsight justification it is the equivalent enormous act of skill and pre-choice process would be.

    Thus theists' claims to be humble followers of God are BS. They assume a tremendous amount about their own abilities.

    Perhaps most do, but these people, the vast majority of them will also claim to understand why their morals make sense, why they should listen to the authority they listen to and so on.

    Hubris abounds in their daily choosing to continue and their reasoning around why they are right to do so.

    The theist who simply says 'I am making the best guess I can but I really don't know, this is what I've been told' escapes my argument. But few seem to admit this.
     
  22. Balerion Banned Banned

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    Well, I do believe that religion influences society, but there are obvious reasons for also believing that society operates outside of it. First, the fact that societal moral values are never the same as religious values, unless that religion is the ruler of that land. Second, there is no evidence that any of the fundamental religious morals that we do prescribe were created by that religion as opposed to adopted by that religion.

    And while Judeo-Christian morals may have influenced Europe, society ultimately decided what was good and what wasn't. And again, I still say the Judeo-Christian values were adopted by the religion, rather than invented by it.

    I disagree. There is some choosing, but again, the argument you made was that people build their moral compass from the ground-up. I say that isn't true. You may have had a unique experience (unique in the sense if it isn't what most people go through), but you really don't speak for most people.

    That's because it does make sense to them. Who are you to say they don't? You're assuming an awful lot about your own abilities, I think.
     
  23. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

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    I think they choose not to notice. How many of them got different moral values about how to treat women from each other their parents? (think about the divorce rate and the reasons for divorce and think you will see that many people, right out in the open, experienced important value differences between their parents. (I am not a child of divorce either so there are many others in this group). Further my group of friends had theists and atheists amongst them and undecideds or didn't give a shits. Then the values of my teachers, which was a complicated batch of values that in general did not fit with either of my parents values - it was public school and I did not come from a religious home, but there it was.

    I don't think people want to notice the confusing morass of values they are presented with. OK, Amish teenagers pre-Rumspringa have gotten some degree of monolithic values, but even that is probably an outsiders mythologization of the Amish.

    I am not saying they don't. I am saying the opposite. In fact that is precisely my point. It does make sense to them. Even if they were simple receivers of their values, they think those values make sense and they can tell you why. Those explanations are as complicated acts as any building a morality would be. One must know what is good, how these rules lead to that goodness, how breaking the rules leads away from the goodness, etc. A huge edifice of reasoning - not necessarily good reasoning but they sure think it is. My point is not to say it does not make sense to them, but that in fact it does. And in this making sense they are making huge claims about their abilities. And they do this all the time. Again, a religious anti-abortionist will tell you why their stance makes sense. They are trying to demonstrate the same skills as any secular humanist. They are claiming that they can recognize the good themselves and know why it is good, etc.

    Who doesn't? Which is precisely my point. I am tired, in relation to certain kinds of theists, of being told implicitly that they are somehow making less of a claim about their abilities. As far as I can tell their hubris quotient is as high as mine.

    And you seem right up there with us.
     

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