Atheists: Where Do You Get Your Morals?

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PLEASE READ THIS EDIT!!!!
(EDIT: Some very smart people out there. Well done, Escapists.

HOWEVER, some people seem confused about my question. I'm not saying that atheists have no morals, and that you are nasty villainous people. I want to know WHY AND WHAT you believe; just saying "empathy" isn't a very good answer, because it's a very nebulous term. I want to know what your moral code is, legal style: "I do X because I have thought about Y issue and decided X is the best answer because Z."

Just some general principles, but not so broad that anything could happen.

I did not write this thread with the idea of spreading my faith or being disingenuous. I just wanted to know about your moral choices. In retrospect, I should not have started to discuss myself, because people are thinking that I am just trying to make you believe that you fit into my cosmology. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. I just wanted to examine you like a character in a play, and see if I could tease out your motivations. As such, I don't think I will be responding to this thread anymore. Thank you to Sylvine, Sak Sak, and the others who gave me an interesting and enjoyable time.)

OP:
(NOTE: This isn't a place to trash religion or atheism. There is plenty of other threads for that.)

I've noticed that the Escapists seems to house a lot of atheists, so it is to you that I address my 2-part question: Where do you get your moral code, ethics system, or whatever you want to call the principles you live by, and what is it?

Do you try and rip God out of the (theoretical) religious upbringing you had? Do you derive it from the surviving works of some ancient philosopher? Do you use the local legal system as a base?

I want to know what you choose to guide your life.

FAIR WARNING: if I don't understand the system that you describe, I may ask questions to or pose moral dilemmas for you; This isn't an attempt to condemn you, just to understand you (probably. Future Me might be a massive dick).

Uhhhhhhh, the culture I grew up in and my upbringing. What are they? I don't know what they are. A mixture of Humanism and the Harm Principle, I guess.
Edit: I welcome questions to enhance clarity. And the questions sound fun.

I'd imagine it's much the same as religious folk do. People pick and choose what texts seem important to them, and interpret them in ways they think make sense, based on how they view the world.

This worldview has to come from somewhere else.

Atheists get their morals from Homeopathic form of Religion.

Homeopathy for those who don't know is bullshit medicine where you take something, dilute it. Then dilute it again... and again... and again and again. You dilute it until it is basically water.

Religion influenced early morals but then morals thought up by philosophers which can be summarized down to: Don't be a dick, replaced our former Christian morals and formed more a utilitarian model of morals.

Aim to get for yourself but what you get is limited by those around you so in order to get for yourself get for others too.

---------------------------------

I'm not an Atestist thoughand side in the "...well there could be a God" Camp so pretty much think What would Jesus do? None of this bull about hating gays. My "morals" are pretty small though. Off of the top of my head: Try not to be a dick. Don't ever use force again women. Try to never kill someone unless there is no other option.

....... thats about it.

I think Voltaire sums up morals the best: "I have no morals, yet I am a very moral man"

Empathy.

edit to avoid the low-content post patrol: I assemble the moral code under which I operate through a combination of reason and empathy. I understand that my actions affect other people, and I spend a substantial amount of time reasoning out what I believe to be right action and right belief, based on a desire to avoid acting in ways that I would understand to be morally wrong, if done to me.

Comando96:
Atheists get their morals from Homeopathic form of Religion.

Homeopathy for those who don't know is bullshit medicine where you take something, dilute it. Then dilute it again... and again... and again and again. You dilute it until it is basically water.

Religion influenced early morals but then morals thought up by philosophers which can be summarized down to: Don't be a dick, replaced our former Christian morals and formed more a utilitarian model of morals.

Aim to get for yourself but what you get is limited by those around you so in order to get for yourself get for others too.

---------------------------------

I'm not an Atestist thoughand side in the "...well there could be a God" Camp so pretty much think What would Jesus do? None of this bull about hating gays. My "morals" are pretty small though. Off of the top of my head: Try not to be a dick. Don't ever use force again women. Try to never kill someone unless there is no other option.

....... thats about it.

I think Voltaire sums up morals the best: "I have no morals, yet I am a very moral man"

how does that make sense at all. for them to get morality from a homeopathic form of religion, religion would have had to have strong morals in the first place, but most of what we consider morality today has anything to do with religious teaching.

morals in a way are kind of like language, sure if you try hard enough you might be able to pinpoint some of it to an original creator, but most of it kind of just developed with society , sometimes that society is heavily influenced by religion, thats where we got stoning adulterers and burning witches, other times it is not.

Comando96:
Atheists get their morals from Homeopathic form of Religion.

Homeopathy for those who don't know is bullshit medicine where you take something, dilute it. Then dilute it again... and again... and again and again. You dilute it until it is basically water.

Religion influenced early morals but then morals thought up by philosophers which can be summarized down to: Don't be a dick, replaced our former Christian morals and formed more a utilitarian model of morals.

Aim to get for yourself but what you get is limited by those around you so in order to get for yourself get for others too.

I disagree.

In my opinion, morality evolved from the behaviour any social animal needs in order for the group to work.

At some time while this was going on, religion popped up and stuck its oar in, yes, but in order for the religion to be accepted, it had to be compatible with the existing rules of society.

A religious decree that bans indiscriminate murder, for example, is going to be popular because people are against indisriminate murder to begin with, otherwise the society doesn't work.

thaluikhain:
At some time while this was going on, religion popped up and stuck its oar in, yes, but in order for the religion to be accepted, it had to be compatible with the existing rules of society.

This is probably much more true than the reverse. Humans are social by nature and necessity. Religious morality systems are likely the result of primitive attempts at codification and extrapolation of that social-moral understanding as described using parable and tradition.

reonhato:

Comando96:
Atheists get their morals from Homeopathic form of Religion.

Homeopathy for those who don't know is bullshit medicine where you take something, dilute it. Then dilute it again... and again... and again and again. You dilute it until it is basically water.

Religion influenced early morals but then morals thought up by philosophers which can be summarized down to: Don't be a dick, replaced our former Christian morals and formed more a utilitarian model of morals.

Aim to get for yourself but what you get is limited by those around you so in order to get for yourself get for others too.

---------------------------------

I'm not an Atestist thoughand side in the "...well there could be a God" Camp so pretty much think What would Jesus do? None of this bull about hating gays. My "morals" are pretty small though. Off of the top of my head: Try not to be a dick. Don't ever use force again women. Try to never kill someone unless there is no other option.

....... thats about it.

I think Voltaire sums up morals the best: "I have no morals, yet I am a very moral man"

how does that make sense at all. for them to get morality from a homeopathic form of religion, religion would have had to have strong morals in the first place, but most of what we consider morality today has anything to do with religious teaching.

Hahaha. You're such a homeopathy noob. The more diluted the solution is, the stronger it is. And it does the opposite of what the solute would do on its own.

Well, I was raised Christian for most of my life, but it was my day to day life and not really religion that kept me in line. I was taught by my parents to be polite and respectful whenever possible and my diet of violent television (and really, television in general) was limited. I don't think I can once remember ever doing anything because I thought it would please God or whatever.

In that vein, had I been raised without the Christianity, I don't see how I would have turned out much different.

*Disclaimer: not strictly an atheist; more an apathetic agnostic, but what the eff, eh?

Comando96:
snip

Why would you explain where a null-group that doesn't include you gets such a personal and complex thing as a moral code? That would be like me explaining why you and your friends chose your college majors. I don't know what you chose, and I don't know why, because I'm not you, and I don't even know you. Moreover, you probably all chose something different for different reasons. And that's assuming you even went to college.

OT: I don't believe that either morality or rights can be absolutely defined. There are no such things as inalienable rights or human rights or similar concepts. If they were inalienable, we could not violate them. However, we are social creatures and therefore need some way to encourage cooperation, so we create morals and rights. Because they are a construct and are influenced by a vast array of beliefs and prejudices, some of these will be sound, some will have little to do with cooperation, and some will actually run counter to the concept of community.

I try to remember why we have morals when making my own judgements. I try to act in a way that creates the most beneficial results for all parties involved, minimizes conflict, and encourages cooperation. At the same time, while I may not agree with other people's morals, I respect them as long as I don't think they will cause harm.

Seanchaidh:

reonhato:

Comando96:
Atheists get their morals from Homeopathic form of Religion.

Homeopathy for those who don't know is bullshit medicine where you take something, dilute it. Then dilute it again... and again... and again and again. You dilute it until it is basically water.

Religion influenced early morals but then morals thought up by philosophers which can be summarized down to: Don't be a dick, replaced our former Christian morals and formed more a utilitarian model of morals.

Aim to get for yourself but what you get is limited by those around you so in order to get for yourself get for others too.

---------------------------------

I'm not an Atestist thoughand side in the "...well there could be a God" Camp so pretty much think What would Jesus do? None of this bull about hating gays. My "morals" are pretty small though. Off of the top of my head: Try not to be a dick. Don't ever use force again women. Try to never kill someone unless there is no other option.

....... thats about it.

I think Voltaire sums up morals the best: "I have no morals, yet I am a very moral man"

how does that make sense at all. for them to get morality from a homeopathic form of religion, religion would have had to have strong morals in the first place, but most of what we consider morality today has anything to do with religious teaching.

Hahaha. You're such a homeopathy noob. The more diluted the solution is, the stronger it is. And it does the opposite of what the solute would do on its own.

no they claim it to be stronger, in reality it is just diluted to the point it is often non-existent and has no more effect then a placebo. a homoeopathic remedy is diluted, thus very weak, the opposite of weak is strong.

McMullen:

OT: I don't believe that either morality or rights can be absolutely defined. There are no such things as inalienable rights or human rights or similar concepts. If they were inalienable, we could not violate them.

You could say breathing is an inalienable natural right, yet I could choke you and deprive you of that right resulting in death.

Or I might be mistaking a natural right with something else. *shrug* My misconceptions know no bounds.

Thunderous Cacophony:

FAIR WARNING: if I don't understand the system that you describe, I may ask questions to or pose moral dilemmas for you; This isn't an attempt to condemn you, just to understand you (probably. Future Me might be a massive dick).

Sounds like you're sincerely interested in our morality's, and that sounds like a good way to figure out how someone's morality works.

While I'm not a religious Buddhist, I do believe the general principle of karma is true.
If I tend to be nice, forgiving and helpful to other people, those people will also tend to be nice, forgiving and helpful towards me.
But I don't believe that if I'm acting generous in Afghanistan, people in Mali will reward me. And I don't believe there's much benefit in being nice towards stupid, bullying people.
I've also heard about the explanation of the original Sanskrit meaning of 'compassion'. It doesn't mean you've always got to be nice towards other people; sometimes being rude can be the best way too.

So, as an individual, I try to be nice in general, and if my friends suddenly need me, I'll try to help them.

But in my ideal world, the government wouldn't give a shit about morality. Your freedom ends where you're limiting someone else's freedom, but if you'd like to f*ck animals, do it.

I'm a secular humanist. Running out of time here, so here's a few quotes:

"...a commitment to the perspective, interests and centrality of human persons; a belief in reason and autonomy as foundational aspects of human existence; a belief that reason, scepticism and the scientific method are the only appropriate instruments for discovering truth and structuring the human community; a belief that the foundations for ethics and society are to be found in autonomy and moral equality..."

"An appeal to reason in contrast to revelation or religious authority as a means of finding out about the natural world and destiny of man, and also giving a grounding for morality...Humanist ethics is also distinguished by placing the end of moral action in the welfare of humanity rather than in fulfilling the will of God."

I'm not afraid to say that most of my morals come from Christianity.

Why? I live in what, for some time, was (still is?) a Christian country and the basics of being good to others, forgiveness for most things, etc just make sense. But I also recognise the total hypocrisy in some Christian 'morals' regarding gays etc, so would not ever say I have "Christian morals". Plus I don't believe in the whole god thing...

Basically I think it comes from my upbringing, in which I was very lucky to have parents who took the time to teach me right and wrong (too many don't bother), and my experiences up to this date have filled the details on top of the basics I was taught.

I hated everyone in this world for a long time but one day I thought how a perfect society should work and I started to act like it. And I read a lot of works of philosophers like Nietsche, Kant, Rawls, Locke and choose the thing I like as my 'morals'. I act as moral as I can or I will hate myself.

Morality comes from the society we live in. It was around a long time before religion and it will be around a long time after religion.

Religion added a supernatural element to morality in order to encourage the right behaviour. The idea of a supernatural being watching over your actions was ideally suppose to help keep people in line.

Put it this way, animals such as chimps, dogs and even bats show precursors to what we consider morality. A chimp for example will return favours. They have the basis for morality but have no religion.

The idea that religion came up with the idea of morality is just retarded. Out of all the morals in the bible we count most of them as immoral. What do we still adhere to today, don't steal, don't murder and that's about it.

Thunderous Cacophony:
Where do you get your moral code, ethics system, or whatever you want to call the principles you live by, and what is it?

Why is this question of interest? That reason, in short, is 'where' I get my morals. Morality is something that is very obviously of interest for reasons other than "X said thus and such". Those reasons, one might call them explanatory metaethical principles, are the source of my moral ideas.

I have a sort of "golden rule" morality; "Do unto others" ect. Unfortunately not everyone would be treated the way I would be treated so it creates some interesting conflicts where I believe that it is proper for me act toward someone in a fashion that they do not agree with. A simple example is where I believe blunt honesty is how I would prefer to be approached yet others seem to think it quite unkind to be bluntly honest in many situations.

As for where I get my morals, it has been primarily from experience. I used to be a horrible little brat who would steal and lie and such. When I eventually saw how it hurt the people I cared about I started to act differently. Where I used to be quite the little liar I am currently probably more honest than most people though I still occasionally lie in some small matters, particularly when people are prying into personal matters that can not be kept personal without a lie.

I do what I feel comfortable doing. I dont have any set in stone morals. If it feels right, its right, if it feels wrong, its wrong.

Ironically its the same way "religious" people seem to handle it, you know, with the whole "I like this part of the bible but not this part" stuff.

I freely admit that they're mostly imposed by my parents and my growing up, and genetics probably fit in there somewhere, it's not absolute like religions but it works.

My question is always the reverse for believers, do you seriously believe ALL that's in your holy book? I mean half of it is common sense and then the other half is either contradictory or totally off the wall. And if you don't agree with it then why do you consider yourself associated with that religion? You might as well make it ALL up and at least be independent.

I do whatever I want, unless it harms other people. How do I know what harms other people? Learned from experience or media at a young age I guess. Generally I try to keep the golden rule of "do undo others" and I tend to be nicer/put more value on young children too so I suppose that's an extension of my general morality.

One word: Empathy.

Longer version: I get what I have from my upbringing, so I guess I follow what my parents did and observe what is the norm around me?

Thunderous Cacophony:
Where do you get your moral code, ethics system, or whatever you want to call the principles you live by, and what is it?

Do you try and rip God out of the (theoretical) religious upbringing you had? Do you derive it from the surviving works of some ancient philosopher? Do you use the local legal system as a base?

I think that the implication that morality comes from the Bible is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Does this mean that humankind was completely immoral and anarchic for the tens of thousands of years before Jesus? Are the parts of the world that still haven't been converted to Christianity inherently immoral places, full of sin? I do't think so.

I think we all get our morals from an innate sense of right-and-wrong that developed early in the development of our species. Humans are social animals, we need to cooperate to get things done (try hunting a mammoth single-handed) and that's why, like many social mammals, we have empathy and altruism. Most of us operate on a variation of the "Golden Rule" principle - when we take an action, we can't help but think "how would I like it if somebody did that to me" or "if everybody in society did this, would society work?". I think there will always be a minority who are willing to break the "rules" of society, but the majority of people are predisposed to act in a moral, non-destructive way.

So no, I don't try to remove God from the equation because I don't think God ever had anything to do with it anyway. Nor do I think that we should be deferring to the "wisdom of the ancients" on moral matters; we are all perfectly capable of deciding on how to act morally, right here and now.

The legal system is, I feel, a "best-fit" set of guidelines that reflects a societies moral values. Stealing is immoral, hence it's illegal. Killing without a good reason is immoral, so it's also illegal. And so on. Some laws evolve or change to reflect changing social values: decriminalising homosexuality and giving equal rights to women for example.

Empathy and society.

The Golden rule for example, was not invented by Christianity and we can see underpinnings of morality systems in social herd animals of today, including among others: chimps.

My morals come from me being able to set myself into the position of others and understand if I would prefer to be in their position or not. It is of course a lot more complicated than that, but it along with rational understanding of how societies work and inherently valuing human life over death, prosperity over suffering, health over sickness etc leads to my current moral views.

I do not believe there is any absolute morality, except in the sense that we can have few statements acting as guidelines on that regard: "Generally speaking, life is preferable to death" being one of these. I do not accept that stealing is always immoral for example - these are too context dependant for us to make any kind of overbranching value judgements. Pretty much the only moral absolute I'm willing to accept is that groups and societies and moral decision ought to work towards minimizing the harm while maximizing the benefit, towards the greatest amount of people.

Thunderous Cacophony:
(NOTE: This isn't a place to trash religion or atheism. There is plenty of other threads for that.)

I've noticed that the Escapists seems to house a lot of atheists, so it is to you that I address my 2-part question: Where do you get your moral code, ethics system, or whatever you want to call the principles you live by, and what is it?

Do you try and rip God out of the (theoretical) religious upbringing you had? Do you derive it from the surviving works of some ancient philosopher? Do you use the local legal system as a base?

I want to know what you choose to guide your life.

FAIR WARNING: if I don't understand the system that you describe, I may ask questions to or pose moral dilemmas for you; This isn't an attempt to condemn you, just to understand you (probably. Future Me might be a massive dick).

((having just read my own post, before anyone jumps down my throat; consider "religion" to be shorthand for the various Abrahamic traditions, and any ancient religions not currently practiced - no "I am a Buddhist, your argument is invalid [freakypear.jpg]" nonsense))

I get my morality(I prefer ethics, morality has connotations of imposition) from the same place the modern religions pinched it from; philosophy. Lets be honest here, religious morality today is substantially different, for most adherents, than it was in the past, prior to the Enlightenment. Most "traditional" religious moral "laws" are either evident attempts to teach common-sense survival practices of the day(Jesus as Bear Grylls, arf arf), or are culled wholesale from whatever previous religion the inhabitants of the area followed, in order to make the transition to the "new order" easier. The handful of unique additions in each case are simply fiction designed to teach the social attitudes of the day.

It was the Enlightenment, the beginnings of modern science, the refocusing of philosophy on the Greek schools, indeed the beginning of the diminishing of the power of religious thought, which has lead to the cuddly modern form of religious morals that, for example, most Christians follow; the emphasis on the "love thy neighbour"/charity parts of the text, the cherry-picking whichever bits you fancy and studiously ignoring the more unpleasant stuff, and the way that each sect claims that it is the bowl of porridge that's juuuust right, while all the others are too hot or too cold.

So yeah, I start with philosophy, and I add rational analysis, even to the extent that I have been accused of "Scientism"(in my opinion a meaningless term invented by bumbling metaphysics advocates who're terrified that their carefully cultivated air of mystery will evaporate if their nonsense is subjected to any actual analysis, as opposed to the meaningless self-congratulatory posturing they're used to). That's led me down the path of Utilitarianism, to some extent, but I'm quite a big fan of the work of Dr Sam Harris - he may be a bit more woo-prone that most of the scientists I respect, but his approach of applying definitive neuroscience and the scientific method through a Utilitarian framework is quite excellent.

Thunderous Cacophony:
I've noticed that the Escapists seems to house a lot of atheists, so it is to you that I address my 2-part question: Where do you get your moral code, ethics system, or whatever you want to call the principles you live by, and what is it?

I'm feeling sorely tempted to ask you if you'd have a morality system if there was no god, and where that system would come from. Would you be incapable of acting morally if you knew there was no god? Would you not know that rape, murder, and theft were wrong if god was not there to tell you?

Humans are a social species. We've evolved a sense of empathy towards each other, and this is the driving force for virtually all interactions within our species. Hell, the golden rule, essentially the basis of society, is nothing more than this empathy put on display.

Society, empathy and my upbringing.
I know what I dislike, so I try not doing that to others.
I try to be nice, because I like to be treated the same way.

I don't call mine "morals" I call them "common sense". I wouldn't like my stuff getting taken so I don't take other people's stuff. I don't like getting insulted so I try not to insult others.

My brain. Tells me to do all sorts of weird things. ahhh time to eat.

Simple empathy, really.

I know what I certainly wouldn't like, and I won't cause it to others. It's simple, really. It's the golden rule, but with all the space-gramps business out of the picture. It's still a rather practical rule.

Same place most people get their ethics from. I.E: Certainly not a holy book, as even a brief lecture of the most popular celestial bestsellers will show anyone.

Maybe a god. I obviously can't disprove an undisprovable being (though I can classify it as unlikely to exist and unreasonable to believe in), and if there IS an unprovable supreme being that gives me my morality without me noticing, well, so it happens. It begs the question, though, why people would disagree fundamentally on some issues regarding morality if that would be the case.

In any case, wherever it actually comes from, I perceive it as though it was a product of reasoned logic - mine and that of other people - coppled with empathy.

Most acts can be classified instantly by a simple question, anyways: Does it cause unnecessary harm? If no, go with it. If yes, try not to. True, determining what "necessary" means in this context is a bit trickier.

One thing that amazes me, though, is that some people like to say something along these lines (like Al Sharpton in the embedded video above): "If there is no supreme being, where do You get Your morality from? The one currently in power?" - and they appear not to realize what they are saying!

A person who gets their morality from a supreme being gets it from the one currently in power. What other justification is there? That a god is by his nature good, and we're not, and therefore what god wants must be good? Well who says? That's a terrible outlook, to say: I don't know better, I am incapable of knowing and thinking for myself: Tell me what is right and what is wrong! As such, where is the difference between someone who blindly follows his faith and someone who blindly follows, say, the letter of the law - besides the fact that the latter actually has direct evidence of the power of the state, whereas the power of god must be taken on faith?

It's puzzling, really.

~Sylv

thaluikhain:

In my opinion, morality evolved from the behaviour any social animal needs in order for the group to work.

See Spot Run:

thaluikhain:
At some time while this was going on, religion popped up and stuck its oar in, yes, but in order for the religion to be accepted, it had to be compatible with the existing rules of society.

This is probably much more true than the reverse. Humans are social by nature and necessity. Religious morality systems are likely the result of primitive attempts at codification and extrapolation of that social-moral understanding as described using parable and tradition.

In Essence: This.

Morality is born from a biological-sociological necessity and codified in socio-cultural rituals and guidelines. As such, I see religion pretty much as the first of such codifications, or in other words: the first form of a social contract.

The most interesting question now would be as to why deistic (or, to be a bit more precise, supernaturally charged) thoughts proved (and seemingly still do to some extend) as successful as they evidently did in spreading and perpetuating (at least some) of those guidelines in the first place. Was it just because deistic thoughts just came up first? Or does that hint at some deeply ingrained affinity of some humans for
these kinds of ideas?

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