Morality - Where does it come from?
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17-02-2012, 04:10 PM
Morality - Where does it come from?
This issue has been particularly bothersome for me in the last year or so, and an article finally got me to write about it. In it, an unidentified Christian left a comment on a blog or Facebook page or something that said something to the effect of, 'You're an atheist, therefore you have no morals because you don't believe in God. That gives me cause not to hire you, not to introduce you to my family, not to trust you because you don't believe. You could kill me or rape my daughter for all I know.'

This viewpoint stems from religious people, particularly Christians, that because we don't believe in the god who's supposed to provide all the morality in the world for us, we can't be moral ourselves. And yet, who do we see spreading hate about homosexuals? Who do we see killing people? What ideology is dominant in the majority of U.S. prisons? The religious. They are responsible for the havoc wrought upon the Middle East, the majority of prisoners in the U.S. are Christian, and they are the one thing that's keeping marriage from legal for everyone.

It's a double-edged sword that they swing. They claim we can't be moral while at the same time they are guilty of committing and allowing some of the worst crimes against humanity. This is the essence of hypocrisy right here, and it cannot go on any longer.

But first, we must answer a question: Where does morality come from, if not from a god or gods? What allows us to live in peace, before we even started believing in gods? It's quite simple really, which is why, I think, most religious people have such a hard time grasping it. It comes from us. It comes from us wanting to live, and from us recognizing that we both want and need other people in our lives, and in order to do that, we have to protect them from harm. It comes from our sense of sympathy and empathy, thinking 'I don't want that to happen to me, so I won't do it to anyone else.' It also comes from experience. We have more or less learned that a society driven by violence and oppression won't last as long as a society that is peaceful and kind because the other people simply won't live very long.

The religious ask these questions a lot in response: Well, if you're so clever and special, how would you define morality that will make it so much better than that of my god? Are they objective or subjective morals? Are they absolute morals? If there is no such thing as absolute morals, then when is it ok to rape a child? If there is such things as absolute morals, then why haven't humans come up with a universal set of morals? We can't seem to agree on one.

To answer these questions, one must know how the religious define morals, and what subjective and objective morals are. Morals are how we determine what is 'right' and what is 'wrong.' For the typical religious person, their morality is described as objective and is based on a set of rules provided by a supreme, supernatural, unchanging entity; thus the morals that are set are absolute. Subjective morality is based on our own personal opinions and experiences. But really, defining objective morality is subjective to ones views. One could define objective morality as anything that is based on something that doesn't change. This is exactly what other theists do, particularly the other Abrahamic religions. Its definition is subjective to their views; they believe in the Bible/Torah/Koran, thus they think this definition of objective morality is valid. It's this observation that lets me remain unconvinced that objective morality defined as such even exists. If the god of the Bible provided objective morals, why do Christians cherry-pick the Bible and decide which moral laws to follow? What stops them from going out and trying to buy a slave? What (I assume) disgusts them about someone being stoned to death because they were working on the Sabbath? They end up applying a subjective set of morals without realizing it.

I'll answer the later question first. I contend that the only reason humans wouldn't be able to agree on what's right and wrong because of the religious. Many of the religious laws that have been introduced over the centuries directly conflict with the morals of otherwise good people. Examples being slavery and the purgatory of homosexuals, females, those of african and/or asian descent, etc. But I would refute the statement that humans can't agree on what's right and what's wrong because on the whole, we have. We have generated societies based on the cohesiveness of our moral values, particularly in the past few hundred years or so with the prime example being America. Our country was founded on the principles of freedom, not religion. Our founding fathers thought that if they constructed the government and it's laws so that the people could be free to do what they want, the people would find a way to co-exist and live with one another. Religion-based government doesn't allow that, because the three Abrahamic religions are so bent on proving that their god is the right one and that they are supported by that god that they feel the need to prosecute and do away with anyone who says otherwise. It's in the Bible, there's no denying that.

The first question is a little harder to answer because it delves into subjects that are generally not as conclusive as the religious demand them to be. To begin, we have to ask, why would raping a child be considered morally wrong? This is fairly easy to answer; it causes unnecessary emotional and physical pain to the child. This is objectively true; it doesn't depend on what the rapist feels or anyone else feels for that matter; they are causing the child pain. This is where the definition of morality comes into play. I take morality to be based on whether an action or statement causes pleasure and well-being or pain and injury. I do this because it's a consistent definition of morals. If someone benefits from an action or statement in terms of happiness and health, then I say that action/statement is morally right. If someone suffers pain and sickness because of an action or statement, then I say that action/statement is morally wrong. Now, I could say that this constitutes a set of objective morals. But then I would run into the same problem as before. Why do I think pain and sickness is wrong?

The most obvious answer is that people don't want to feel pain. Pain and/or sickness can lead to death, also unwanted by people. But what about the person who takes pleasure in the pain and sickness of others? Admittedly, the definition I assigned to right and wrong falls apart for this person. Again, what people perceive as right and wrong is subjective, I freely admit that. To address this problem, we must look at the effects on society by such a view. Morals that have no problem with pain and sickness often lead to the destruction or extinction of a civilization because pleasure and health were not promoted and thus neglected. Whereas a society that embraces pleasure and health and tries to dimmish pain and sickness last much longer. So if we assume that the person who has a tangential or opposite view of morality has something wrong with them, (Physically or Mentally. Whether it's a deformity in the brain or the way they were not properly raised by their parents, etc.) then we can assume that their views fall out of the norm and are thus not relevant to defining morality.

This definition of morality can be demonstrably applicable to anyone, because it has the same effects regardless of who the person is and how they think. Which is why I and anyone else in the world can judge the morals presented by the Bible because they promote pain and sickness on a regular basis.

I want to touch on a point that is routinely made in morality discussions. The Euthyphro dilemma asks, 'Is something morally right/wrong because God said so, or did God say so because it is morally right/wrong?'

The first part begs the premise that God can say anything can be right or wrong. But this leads to the conclusion that God's commands are arbitrary, which means morality is not based on reason but on the whims of a celestial being. The whims of such a being could become contradictory at any time, which renders the definition of morality meaningless, because there's no consistency to it's definition. Once morality is determined to be meaningless, then it begs the question of whether you actually need God for morality because you don't know what morality is.

The second part begs the premise that God commands based on a set of established morals. This also renders the need for God unnecessary because the morals don't come from him, they're only delivered by him. And if this is known to be true, then there's no reason why we can't figure out what this set of morals is ourselves.

And yet, the religious continue to have the audacity to claim they have the moral high ground because they were taught that their faith allows them to do so. They wave their holy books in our faces, reading only the good parts that are acceptable in today's society but skipping over the parts where God is a petty, horrific figure that condones the deaths of thousands of people. They are quick to boast their 10 commandments include thievery and murder, but they neglect to mention that slavery is condoned by the Bible. They boast of having good, Christian families while they shy away from (but don't condemn) WBC and their anti-gay posters and teachings. They condemn the Danish cartoonist and his novel for being too critical, too comical about religion, but not the violence and the deaths of the people that ensued afterwards. It is a pitiful, backwards, barbaric ideology that should've died out long ago. It's degrading, it's hypocritical, and it's open to any interpretation, moral or evil, and therefore, not needed.

If you want morality, look at the people around you and talk to them. Figure out how they behave, regardless if they are theist or atheist, and compare your views with theirs. We can no longer afford to have a Bronze Age book as the source of our morality when we have bettered ourselves in the time since its creation.

Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told.
-George Carlin
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18-02-2012, 05:21 AM
RE: Morality - Where does it come from?
I hate to break the news to you, but humans are not moral? We have been killing each other for hundreds of thousands of years. Before religion-after religion-doesn't matter. We kill millions of people and have probably killed a billion since we evolved from apes. The only reason humans behave at all is because we don't want to go to jail. Humans are only as civilized as we have to be. As incomes rise, and standards of living rise, there is less need to off each other to survive. If we all lived in the woods with no laws, we would do ungodly things to each other like we did in the past.
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18-02-2012, 05:06 PM
RE: Morality - Where does it come from?
Moral or ethical behavior is an invented concept of humans.

This is the basis for it.
One guy kills another for his coat. The dead guys brother kills the first guy in retribution, takes back the coat and some other stuff. The new dead guy’s family goes after the brother, but he's ready with his family. War breaks out and lots of people die, especially the better hunters. The village nearly starves to death the next winter. The leadership gets together and decides that it all started with the first guy trying to steal a cost and killing someone.
They agree on a rule against stealing and murder, later call it morality.
Years later to reinforce the rule the Shaman invents a god and says that moral law is from him.
Fast forward to the 21th century and William Lane Craig is telling you that Objective Moral Values can only come from God therefore God must exist, because Objective Moral Values do exist.

David Hume argued that morality was based on Taste.
Kant got pissed and ripped Hume on ethics calling morality based on duty.

All that said, we just decide on what is acceptable social behavior, call it moral or immoral to make it sound more important than just an idea on how to get along.

The old gods are dead, let's invent some new ones before something really bad happens.
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18-02-2012, 10:36 PM (This post was last modified: 18-02-2012 10:42 PM by houseofcantor.)
RE: Morality - Where does it come from?
tl,dr. Big Grin

Chemical intelligence; the cell asks, do again? Shit like dopamine says yeah or nay. That's morality, all the way back to one; we can use it - atheists - they can only fucking abuse it. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Wink
(17-02-2012 04:10 PM)Kale Garrison Wrote:  'You're an atheist, therefore you have no morals because you don't believe in God. That gives me cause not to hire you, not to introduce you to my family, not to trust you because you don't believe. You could kill me or rape my daughter for all I know.'

That's not morality, that's identity. YHWH is the fourth identity; first person, second person, third person, YHWH. It's almost subliminal coding for the preservation of power structure.

Peeps ask, what's your name, your occupation; they're looking to identify you. When you identify yourself as "without god," yeah, don't expect roses.

If you think these numbers don't matter or morality does not exist, you ought to come kick it with Johnny, see me lowball some Christians. They don't give me no shit, I'll tell you whut. Wink

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