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Why I Am Moral (By an Atheist)

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posted on Aug, 31 2011 @ 01:02 AM
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Anyone do a deed that can be considered "moral" by both atheists and religious people.
The deed can be done outside of a religious/atheistic frame of context... without the person consciously thinking about his beliefs/ lack of.

I think the human capacity to feel empathy and do good is inherent (whether you believe it came from God or if it evolved) and people do moral deeds without consciously referring to where morality came from

Like say, running to the sea to rescue a drowning stranger... When there is no time to think "God would want me to do this" or "Im doing this because I, as a human being, have evolved to feel empathy for that person who is about to drown". The rescuer could be a religious fundamentalist and the rescued, a hardcore atheist or vice versa.... the only thing running through the rescuers head is "sh#t, I gotta help".

Also, anyone can do a deed that is considered "immoral" by both atheists and religious people.
Using the same example of a drowning person, both a religious person and an atheist can be cruel and rationalize somehow that he is not obliged to save him... and leave the man to drown.




posted on Aug, 31 2011 @ 07:05 AM
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Originally posted by charles1952
Dear bogomil and xxsomexpersonxx,

I must beg forgiveness again, you certainly have better things to do than wait around for me. I've been absorbed in a few personal matters, but I also wanted to do a little library digging. I know the internet may be much faster, but books are still special.


No, that's fine. That's actually a nice thing about forums like this, there's no rush.


Originally posted by charles1952
I ran across something that has, at first glance, filled me with a kind of excitement. It seems to combine xxsomexpersonxx's (and how in the world do you pronounce that?) desire to look both inside himself and study carefully, and bogomil's desire to reach across cultures, times, and societies do establish a workable universal system. (If I am misstating your goals, please correct me.)

There is a book written by C. S. Lewis entitled "The Abolition of Man." It's a short little thing, the version i found has 121 pages. But I was most attracted to the last two-thirds, and of that, the appendix which Lewis describes as examples of the Tao.


It's "some person", easy to pronounce. Sometimes I use an underscore to separate the words, sometimes I use X's to separate them.

I am converting an old PDA into an Ebook reader for my girlfriend, and buying a few books to put on it. Already, The Abolition of Man sounds like a good read. I'll put that, and maybe some other C.S. Lewis books on their too. That's good timing for you to bring up, as I've been wanting to put books that "Make you think" for her.

While, the concept of the 'Tao' seems sketchy to me, I'll have to withhold most judgement until after I've read it. I'll still have my hands of the PDA often enough to be able to.

I'll also be reading Friedrich Nietzche. I don't know much about him besides that he was very brilliant and controversial, Whether or not I ultimately agree with what he has to say, I feel that reading conflicting opinions, help shine different perspectives on your own, and are just as helpful to refining your own as reading ones consistent with what you think.


Originally posted by charles1952
I've picked one internet link, more or less at random, to a discussion of Lewis' book. Take a look if you're interested.A Discussion of "The Abolition of Man."


I will be checking this out. I've got little time online now though, so I'll have to wait until tonight.

~
Again, thank you. I'm always interesting in a good read.



posted on Aug, 31 2011 @ 02:17 PM
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Hello, sk0rpi0n, good to have you along for the ride and thanks for the comments.

You'll have to get past the critical eyes of that famous pair, bogomil and xxsomexpersonxx, but I find nothing wrong in your presentation. I am a little confused, however, by "the human capacity to feel empathy and do good is inherent...."

#1 Do you mean that from birth we have the ability to feel empathy and do good, we may or may not choose to do good, but if we want to we can?

#2 Does it mean that, if not corrupted by our surroundings, we will grow up to feel empathy and do good?

#3 Does it mean something else?

I do think there is a difference here that matters. If you pick #1, then I don't understand your point. Certainly we can do good, but we also have the capacity to do evil. So? (Wait a minute, unless, maybe you're saying that we can only do evil if we're "insane." Therefore, we don't really have the inherent ability to not do good.) The thread headline, which I keep forgetting, asks "Why I am Moral... ." If we have the choice, I'm wondering about why we choose to be moral instead of immoral.

If you pick #2, then it seems you're saying we don't have a choice about it, we're born with "moral" feelings. But that those feelings can be detroyed by others.



Anyone do a deed that can be considered "moral" by both atheists and religious people. . . . Also, anyone can do a deed that is considered "immoral" by both atheists and religious people.


You're absolutely right, but can we go further? Is every deed that an atheist thinks is moral, also a deed that religious people think is moral? And vice versa? If not, where do the differences lie?


The deed can be done outside of a religious/atheistic frame of context... without the person consciously thinking about his beliefs/ lack of. ...
Like say, running to the sea to rescue a drowning stranger... When there is no time to think "God would want me to do this" or "Im doing this because I, as a human being, have evolved to feel empathy for that person who is about to drown".
The rescuer could be a religious fundamentalist and the rescued, a hardcore atheist or vice versa.... the only thing running through the rescuers head is "sh#t, I gotta help".


Right again, sk0rpi0n, but where is this desire to help coming from? Do we rescue the drowning because we have been taught to by other people who think it is the moral thing to do? Do we rescue them because that is how normal people are born, we're all born with the same sense of "good" and "evil". Let's not even get started yet on how we know that "good" is good. Who decided that?


Using the same example of a drowning person, both a religious person and an atheist can be cruel and rationalize somehow that he is not obliged to save him... and leave the man to drown.


Well, ok, but I don't understand where cruelty comes from if we have a desire to do good. Do the non-savers think there is some "gooder" good that makes them non-savers? Maybe its the insanity idea, that people who do bad things are really insane?

Sk0rpi0n, you have opened some interesting doors. Please write back, I'd like to understand more clearly than I do now.


Sorry, another thought just broke in. If we automatically do good without thinking about, what happens when we DO think about it? Do we get better moral decisions, worse decisions, or the same decisions. Forgive me for speaking for the famous pair mentioned above, but I think xxsomexpersonxx would say that thinking about moral questions give better decisions. As for bogomil, I suspect he would lean more toward the same decisions, with a shading toward the "thinking gives better results" side. But I can easily be wrong (and expect that I am), and encourage you to ask them yourself if it is important to you.

With respect,
Charles1952



posted on Aug, 31 2011 @ 02:23 PM
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reply to post by charles1952
 




I must beg forgiveness again, you certainly have better things to do than wait around for me. I've been absorbed in a few personal matters, but I also wanted to do a little library digging. I know the internet may be much faster, but books are still special.


Firstly, apologies to interupt.

You need not beg, or even ask for forgiveness, I would only offer my thanks for your participation. (I'm sure Bogomil and others would offer the same sentiment)

I completely agree, the information on the internet can easily encourage a disposable mind, depending on how it is used, and what "sources" you choose to pluck your information from, For the unenthusiastic, it can certainly seem like “information-overload”. Once more, I agree with you - you can't beat a good book, or a few...on a kindle.


desire to look both inside himself and study carefully, and bogomil's desire to reach across cultures, times, and societies do establish a workable universal system.


I'd be inclined to agree with that perception, albeit perhaps an assumption on my part; I've noticed an acceptance and agreement with certainly anthropic principles in their words. I’m relatively certain, like myself, that they have a deep love for civilisation and our brothers and sisters as a whole, or to be more general; life, consciousness, love, the transcendent, the numinous, our experience in the physical realm.

To me, the concepts of destruction and hate should surely be despised as they only seek to diminish the gifts that we have, perhaps these ideas are the amalgamation of what we (and many religions) call evil? Just a thought.


At the end of the book he quotes passages from the Egyptian Book of the Dead and Precepts of Ptahhetep; the old Norse Volospa and Havamal; The Analects of Confucius, as well as many other sources from Babylon, India, England, the Jews, the Romans, Christians, American Indians, Anglo-Saxons, Greeks, etc.

I was astonished at the vast number of sources drawn from all places and times, all fitting within the Tao.
Could this be the start of something that can draw all of us together? No matter how many examples we might find, it is not proof, but surely it is evidence; evidence that our goal may well exist.


I had a "debate (or at least a conversation) a while ago, regarding "Taoism" and "Religion" and whether Taoism should be considered a "religion" or a "way of life", almost, like Zen Bhuddism, it appears to encourage free thought, and introspection, dogma does not have to be accepted on cold faith, that I like, and I have no qualms with such a "way of life".

To critique certain religions, is not to denigrate the wonderful ideas and moral values that you can extract and contemplate in-depth, as you can similarly do so with great philosophers and minds throughout our history (Socrates, Epicurus. perhaps even Ghandi)

Again, thanks for your participation and greetings to you, comrade.
Kind Regards,

-NF



posted on Aug, 31 2011 @ 02:34 PM
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reply to post by charles1952
 


***OFF TOPIC RESPONSE***


You've noticed something happening here that seems to me to be very rare on ATS. Here, there are people who are not hurling insults, shouting incendiary slogans, or playing tricks to win some imagined prize or ego boost. These gentlemen are thinking about their beliefs, clarifying them for themselves and others. There is a sharing of viewpoints, thoughts, and knowledge, and it seems that everyone is coming out the better for it.


Charles,

You certainly can't beat it! And gentlemen, indeed. And Of course, including yourself.


Say, NeverForget, is the UK still the place of my dreams? I've never been, but I imagine small villages with pubs all over where I could spend an afternoon with a pint and a pipe watching people throwing triple twenties. Are the people generally polite and cheerful, welcoming to strangers? Could I join a London club? Buy a masterpiece of an umbrella? Spend weeks in museums amd libraries? My parents are Canadians, so I have no trouble with royalty. If it's as wonderful as I imagine, can I get in? I could babble for a page, but I've noticed they've imposed a limit on how much we can type. I'll never get near it, but still it makes me nervous.


Well, sir, you certainly are stereotyping, which of course can be completely exused, as this is exactly how I imagine bonnie ol' England, and you're definetly not far off, believe me. Especially up here in the sparse idyllic North!

I grew up in the countryside; hiking, biking, pub-meals, beautiful countryside smells, and certainly a welcoming cosy atmosphere in many of the pubs. Of course, I can't speak for all of England, and my fears are that these beautiful stereotypes are soon to be gone; forever expanding city scapes, and poverty and despair that exists within them (I'm sure you heard about the riots)

There are some beautiful places that I can certainly reccomend, that I'm sure; would certainly live up to your quintessential stereotypes.


My parents are Canadians, so I have no trouble with royalty. If it's as wonderful as I imagine, can I get in? I could babble for a page, but I've noticed they've imposed a limit on how much we can type. I'll never get near it, but still it makes me nervous.


I'm afraid I can't offer the same solace with the Royal family, Although I enjoy the history, and I accept that much of what we have now, rests heavily with the influence of the Monarchy.

I hope that you visit one day, and that your expectations are more than satisfied.

Peace again to you,

-NF



posted on Aug, 31 2011 @ 03:33 PM
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reply to post by charles1952
 


Dear Charles (being european I too like this addressing-form),

I must similar to your generousity also commend your role on this thread. You are a brilliant catalyst for a constructive and decent exchange of perspectives. A quality not to be underestimated.

A few thoughts on your post to Skorpion:

Mankind is, with some fluctuations of the 'average', made of unique individuals, but for practical purposes it can be an advantage sometimes to categorize some of the common factors. Personally I like the asian gunic (also cosmological) model, which at the human level basically puts us in the categories of those who have anchors in life from intellectual, emotional or physical approaches. Though the medieval european four-temperament model could similarly be used.

The intellectual type, to which I mainly belong, will construct its morality with the 'tools' of the intellect, the emotional and physical types similarly with their 'tools', but without going into much detail (which would be extensive), I believe that the outcome amongst existentially sane (i.e. socially functional as the measure-tape) will be rather identical.

I can conclude rationally, that it 'could be me tomorrow' needing help, and I see the sense in a society, which on general principles have the capacity for picking up those needing immediate help or the 'loosers' on life. This system is far less expensive than it's sometimes accused of, and it gives a psychological safety to its citizens.

The emotional 'empaths' almost define themselves, and while I don't have much natural empathy with adult humans, I have with small children and animals, so I can understand the unreflected helping-response from the more encompassing empaths. Something in you just trigger this.

The physical types may have a pub-brawl now and then, but it stays with that. There's no burning down of houses, you have a family to support and so have others, and extensive violence is bad for business.

As the exceptions to this manifested majority we have a relatively small group of A-moral individuals. Far smaller than one would expect from media- and entertainment coverage.

And this is not an idealized hope on my part....I'll give a direct example from life.

I travelled much in former Sovjet areas for 15 years, lived there altogether on and off for two years, and got a good knowledge of this part of the world.

These people are overall the most charming and honest group one could wish for. Even the smallest shop-keeper with hardly a survival income would be meticulous about the change, and while eastern europeans have some problems about keeping time, they would basically be trustworthy.

The media- and entertainment perspective gives the impression of e.g. russians being a bunch of Chicago-gangsters, but it is only a small (but exceedingly brutal) part of the population being that way.

And now my main-argument...one could suspect, that the repressive Sovjet system had made these people so timid, that they stay 'decent' out of fear. But that's far from the truth. There was distrust of authorities and you stayed away from authorities when possible, but BETWEEN the ordinary citizens a great solidarity developed. The common needs were not always met from authorities (though education, transport and medicin were superb), 'people' took care of the rest amongst themselves with an easygoing openness, the richer westerners somewhat have lost.

Maybe necessity is the mother of (whatever), and it could have been total ego-tripping hedonism. Only it wasn't.

Mankind CAN spontaneously and without being drilled, develop morality.


edit on 31-8-2011 by bogomil because: spelling errors



posted on Aug, 31 2011 @ 05:23 PM
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Great topic NeverForget...

I've been looking for a place to jump in here... Thanks Charles!



I am a little confused, however, by "the human capacity to feel empathy and do good is inherent...."

#1 Do you mean that from birth we have the ability to feel empathy and do good, we may or may not choose to do good, but if we want to we can?


A child doesn't understand empathy, good or bad... At birth a baby has its undeveloped senses, and gradually though several stages (defined by "professionals") the concepts of Good and Bad, empathy... kindness etc etc are taught, and learned through experience. As a child, we learn how to react to certian stimuli... and each individual's reaction to external stimuli creates their "outlook" on the world. Of course it differs depending on said stimuli...

If for example, a child develops learning that cruelty to animals isn't bad, or in some cases even promoted. This child will either carry that "value" through out his life and probably demonstrate that belief, or it might change if the correct stimuli is applied.

An infant has no sense of morality... though as they grow and learn morality (or lack there of) it develops according to what is learned and experienced.

Check out some stuff on Erik Erikson... his theories are still used as examples of thought on child development in school. www.childdevelopmentinfo.com...


#2 Does it mean that, if not corrupted by our surroundings, we will grow up to feel empathy and do good?


Eventually everyone grows to learn what morality is according to various groups or beliefs. There is a reletively general consensus of what is Good and what is bad though there are always some who fall outside of every consensus as well.


Is every deed that an atheist thinks is moral, also a deed that religious people think is moral? And vice versa? If not, where do the differences lie?


I think its obvious where the differences lie, just look at some of the posts made by members of various religious afilliations. The hate spews from many of them, and of course there are a few althiests that hate everything as well. The differences is athiests will just tell you to go to hell, religionists tend to threaten your "eternal soul" and some even condem you for your thoughts and actions. Neither is better or worse then the other honestly... though some religionists can be much more annoying (IMHO)

Which is more "Moral" in your opinion?


Right again, sk0rpi0n, but where is this desire to help coming from? Do we rescue the drowning because we have been taught to by other people who think it is the moral thing to do? Do we rescue them because that is how normal people are born, we're all born with the same sense of "good" and "evil". Let's not even get started yet on how we know that "good" is good. Who decided that?


Not everyone would rescue this person. There are even a few that would point and laugh. Each individual's morality code is his own... and again, its taught and learned through each individual's experiences in life.


And what happens when we DO think about it...Do we get better moral decisions, worse decisions, or the same decisions.


You react according to what you've learned... If you had to think about your decision, you're questioning no one but yourself. Perhaps at that time your morality code might change depending on what you're reacting to. Sometimes we question ourselves, and make bad decisions because of it... sometimes its the opposite.

There are also those who are "selfless"... meaning they would give anything to help another person regardless of the consequences. Some would even give their life for another...

I believe the reason these people do such things is universal "love" for all life.


edit on 31-8-2011 by Akragon because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 31 2011 @ 05:50 PM
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reply to post by Akragon
 


I can give you support for your thoughts from an inverted perspective.

I had the bad luck, that my childrens' mother (my former wife) was a fanatic believer in permissive upbringing. She brought a 2½ year old monster with her into the marriage, Eric Cartman personified, and there where moments, when I thought ....something bad....

As a teacher I met several similar children, 7-16 years of age, whom a correctional institution would have done a world of good. And the world a world of good.

Morality developes, it's not inborn.



posted on Aug, 31 2011 @ 09:54 PM
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******ANOTHER OFF TOPIC POST******
Dear friends,

I would like to take a few days off from this conversation. I will miss it, it's become a home for me, but 1) my wife, our bread-winner as I am disabled, has just lost her job. I have to find something I can do, no savings. and 2) I became angry with an ATS member and a moderator and need to collect myself.

With respect,
Charles1952



posted on Aug, 31 2011 @ 10:32 PM
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reply to post by charles1952
 


No problem, don't worry about it. I feel most of what could be said about my perspectives has already been said anyways.

Regardless, I'll see how things go when you get back. No hurry, and I hope you work things out well.



posted on Sep, 5 2011 @ 12:44 PM
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Originally posted by micmerci
reply to post by NeverForget
 


My question is - what is it that caused our brains to evolve differently than every other species on the planet? Is it an evolution thing? Or could it be that we have a spirit within us? And that is what separates us from every other living thing? Where did that spirit come from?


There's a theory of human intelligence called 'The Peacock's Tail'. Self-awareness and manipulative intelligence gave an evolutionary advantage, and then this was passed on to further generations, becoming ever more successful at passing on the genes which favour human intelligence. The idea is that the process accelerated and almost exceeded the evolutionary need - like the way a peacock's tail is far too large and colourful. It serves the purpose of attracting a mate, but even a fraction of the tail would've served the same purpose.

What has limited the size of the human brain from ending up in Mekon-style domes is the evolutionary trade off between the advantage gained from intelligence and....the size of the cervical canal in the pelvis. Humans are born far more vulnerable and dependent on their parents than many mammals, because the pelvis has not evolved to allow the full sized skull through at birth. Most of the development of human intelligence and survival skills happens outside the womb, whereas many mammals with small brains and lower intelligence are ready to stand and run (and therefore survive) within minutes of birth.



posted on Sep, 6 2011 @ 12:30 AM
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Originally posted by billy197300
reply to post by Lionhearte
 

Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
I am in no way knocking your religion but I don't believe 99 percent of the crap people that I know spew at me daily. Why would I believe something someone I never knew, possibly said 2000 years ago? Especially something as arrogant as that. No, I think you are wrong. Morals do not come from God at all, they come from your heart. IMO


I agree with some of the things here, but I also believe that meaning can be found in the Bible.



posted on Oct, 5 2011 @ 03:03 PM
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Morals come from your brain's ability to rationalise. Nothing more.



posted on Oct, 5 2011 @ 03:15 PM
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reply to post by Jepic
 

I'm not sure I understand your post. Rationalize? What does that mean to you.

If your brain tells you something is right or wrong, do you believe it? Why? How do you really know what right and wrong is.



posted on Oct, 5 2011 @ 05:18 PM
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Originally posted by charles1952
reply to post by Jepic
 

I'm not sure I understand your post. Rationalize? What does that mean to you.

If your brain tells you something is right or wrong, do you believe it? Why? How do you really know what right and wrong is.


It's not something you believe, it's something you know.

Let's take the act of stabbing a man with a knife. You know it is wrong and bad to stab a man with a knife because you know it causes him pain. Therefore you rationalised. You rationalised that an act is wrong because it gives a negative outcome.

Let's take the act of picking up a dog without a home from the rainy streets. You know/rationalised it is right to pick up the dog because otherwise he/she will suffer from the cold, the rain, hunger, etc... By knowing this you know you made the right choice in taking that dog with you.
Same goes for people who decided not to pick up the dog. They know they made the wrong choice because now the dog will suffer. They also rationalised.

Just goes to show you there are different types of rationalities.


On the other hand if you didn't have the ability to rationalise, you wouldn't know what right or wrong is. Thus you wouldn't know what moral is.

I do feel it also has to with our ability to feel emotions.



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