Atheists: Where Do You Get Your Morals?

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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).

Eh, I suspect most answers are going to involve a hodgepodge of stuff. For me the two biggest factors are reason and consequentialism.

Neither of my parents are religious (my father comes from an Irish Catholic family but he himself is pretty much atheistic), and they just taught me not to be a dick and to obey the law. I was taught that doing dickish things was wrong, regardless of consequence, rather than being threatened with Hell or something. Basically the same as what would have happened if I derived morals from religion, except I don't go to church.

You don't need God to tell you that something is wrong; God telling people something is wrong was derived from an existing sense that it's wrong. Society created religion, and as a result religion reflects the views of the society that created it. Which is why the Bible treats women like property.

A mix of ponies and actual thinking. I've been brought up to know that as long as you don't do anything morally wrong there really isn't much you can't do. As for MLP, well sometimes a person needs a rainbow coloured flying pony to tell you morals.

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'd say mainly rationalism.

It's the best way to summarize it, by political persuasion I am a social-liberal, though while that is the ideal I tend to skew towards pragmatism.

When put on the spot I am sort of hard pressed to really describe it in detail though, I suppose I could anticipate one of them, which would be "Why not be a prick then?" - I don't believe that I would profit from it in length.

I could crack someone over the head and steal his wallet but it'd be immensely disruptive to my plans for going to business academy and if I did get through that after I was released from prison it'd be awfully hard to get a job. The value contained in that wallet would be insufficient to justify the lost revenue from wages I would have earned. Supposing I knew I could get away with it there is still the risk factor, and I don't gain anything from making lots of enemies.

I made mine up.
It works quite well, except when I draw attention to it.

SakSak:
These four kinds of behavior - empathy, the ability to learn and follow social rules, reciprocity and peacemaking - are the basis of sociality.

Interesting stuff. This reminds me of the four mechanisms that Richard Dawkins suggests are responsible for human morality (which, he believes, are all Darwinian processes that are concerned with the survival of genes, not individual organisms):

1) Genetic kinship: acting more favourably towards those who are related to you.

2) Reciprocation: giving favours in return for favours, either immediately or in the future.

3) Cultivating a good reputation: following on from point 2, it's important to be seen as reliable in the "you scratch my back, you scratch mine" arrangement - even if you're secretly "playing" the system.

4) Conspicuous generosity: advertising your wealth, bravery, kindness, etc through public acts of sacrifice or charity. Think Bono or Bob Geldof (cough*wankers*cough).

ToastiestZombie:
A mix of ponies and actual thinking. I've been brought up to know that as long as you don't do anything morally wrong there really isn't much you can't do. As for MLP, well sometimes a person needs a rainbow coloured flying pony to tell you morals.

Must confess I am not well acquainted with MLP. What exactly does that show teach, other than Friendship and the Magic thereof?

Istvan:

I could crack someone over the head and steal his wallet but it'd be immensely disruptive to my plans for going to business academy and if I did get through that after I was released from prison it'd be awfully hard to get a job. The value contained in that wallet would be insufficient to justify the lost revenue from wages I would have earned. Supposing I knew I could get away with it there is still the risk factor, and I don't gain anything from making lots of enemies.

Conundrum time:Imagine that there is a house that is very conveniently located for you: close to a business academy, public transport, nice neighbourhood, whatever makes the ideal location for you. The owner of the house does not use it and never checks it, and none of the neighbours would mind if you moved in. However, there is still an owner, and he has put up signs discouraging squatters. Would you move into the house, knowing that the owner does not want people there but has no knowledge that you are there?

SakSak:

*Snip* of Post 65, about animal morality

That is some really interesting research, thanks a lot for sharing that. If I ever get into this kind of debate, that's what I'm gonna reference.
However, I have to wonder about the motivations behind the morality. The thing about rhesus monkeys starving themselves so that others won't get hurt was pretty amazing, but the article also said that young monkeys sometimes had a toe or finger bitten off as punishment for breaking the rules. I must wonder how much of what they do is thinking of what is morally right, and how much is just a very complicated conditioning. Similarly, it said that female chimpanzees sometimes act to stop their wars (a noble act) because they were "sensing that discord makes their community worse off and more vulnerable to attack by neighbors." (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/science/20moral.html?pagewanted=all)

What makes human morality special, from what I can tell, is that people arrive at the same conclusion from many different ways. Humans, understanding pain and suffering, and not always with strict social rules, almost always arrive at the conclusion that it is not right to harm another person or allow them to be harmed, although the paths that they take are many and varied. While you may see this as primate psychology, I see it as the Spirit, which also allows us to act in a way that the animals don't seem to.

The Spirit is what allows people not only to act to help others, but to not act when others hurt them. Turning the other cheek is the most noble act, because it means that you are willing to suffer rather than inflict the smallest amount of suffering on another. It also means that you forgive, fully and without hesitation, "wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted" (to quote Da Orky Man in post 70), without the system of tit-for-tat repayment described in the articles. While your argument and evidence were well-founded, I see this self-sacrifice as the thing which separates us from animals.

Pluvia:
One counter question, using a hypothetical situation:

If it was proven that your god didn't exist, therefore there was no sin, would you rape, murder, torture and steal because you weren't going to be punished for it after you died?

If the answer is yes then you are a terrifying person, if no then why not?

There you go. That is where atheists get their morals.

I reference you to posts 36 and 59 of this thread, where Stagnant, Sylvine and I had this discussion. To paraphrase to the point of distortion, I believe that, if there could be a universe without God, that people would act as though whatever means they chose were justified by the ends. So they may not rape, steal and murder, unless they thought that that was the best option available to them: Logic without morality.

Smiley Face:
*Snip* of post 68, on religious befuddlement

Have you read Small Gods by Terry Pratchett? He is one of my favourite authors, and that is one of my favourite books of all time. In it, he describes how a religion was built from one small act of a small god, which grew larger as more people began to worship the god and built a structure from his words, making him more and more powerful. The god then leaves to party it up in the realm of the gods. When he returns, however, he is so powerless that he appears not as a giant bull or a pillar of fire, but as a tortoise. He discovers that his religion is doing well; people have built a theocracy with an empire and rich temples. However, there is only one person is the entire church who still has faith , who believes not in the fearful power of the inquisition or the built-up confusion of theological arguments, but believes in the fundamental truths of the god, the value of other people in light of it.
That is what religion is about: not about the shell that we build around it, but the beating heart that is our relationship with God (can you tell where I fall in debates about the Protestant Reformation?)
As for the Chaotic Evil thing, I think that people would act fundamentally in their own self-interest, without regard for the means they used. To repeat an earlier comment, drow society in D&D is powerful, and the people there often work together when they see a common good. However, when they think they can get the slightest edge by doing something different, they do it without hesitation.

Da Orky Man:
*snip* Post 70, on the scientific method and the Ten Commandments of Humanism

That seems like a great system. I particularly like Commandment 4, which I unabashedly stole for my own use. For an Ork, you seem like quite a considerate person.

Sylvine:

I'm surprised the rest of my statement didn't provoke much of a response. Isn't it nonsensical to muse about what society would look like without god, if god is assumed to have created the universe?

Think about it, 'cause it's important.

I just assumed we were talking strictly about moral hypothetical situations. I have no problem imagining a universe without God for such purposes; it's just trying to imagine this universe without Him that I have trouble with. :)

Sylvine:

If Jesus was of a divine origin, wouldn't it stand to reason that he should know better than to adopt a flawed and easily misinterpreted manner of teaching? I can't blame him if he was just human - which I believe he was, if he existed at all, which seems likely -, but I'd expect more from a divine messiah.

As to Your reply to See Spot Run, I still can't say I'm satisfied with such an explaination. The god You are describing increasingly seems like a deistic one, not a theistic one: Providing some rough framework for the universe to operate, but not interfering with anything. I can't see how one makes the leap from such a god who resembles a natural law more than a personal force to, say, the god of the bible, with very definite characteristics.

Ultimately, I don't quite understand the need for this thread. Obviously, You already think You know where atheist get their morality from - You said You believe it is the spirit of god which guides us, so presumably it's all of us. The fact that atheists can come up with nearly the same moral code as theists, but without the belief in the supernatural, seems to prove it. As such, it shouldn't ultimately matter whether we believe or not, since we're capable of behaving "the right way" in any case, whether we think our behavior has a natural or a supernatural origin.

Jesus was a divine messenger; however, he was also human, and therefore understood human thinking. I direct you to the work of the Arab philosopher Farabi. He said that mankind is divided into three groups: Prophets, philosophers and the people. The people cannot understand complex truths about God; they need prophets to take the ideas and turn them into images for them to understand. Philosophers can understand part of the truth, but cannot communicate it to the people as the prophets can. When philosophers take the words of the prophets and change them (by translating, or choosing which ones to include in the holy texts, or whatever) the meaning of the revelations of the prophets gets changed as well.

For the theistic vs. deistic God, I believe that God is like a parent after you move out: He still loves you deeply and without hesitation, and He will care for you if you ask, but He also respects you enough to allow you the freedom to live your life as you choose, dealing with its ups and downs as you decide is right, and trusts that the lessons He taught you will guide your steps.

And the thread was not actually supposed to be about me or my views on morality. I wanted to find out how the atheists around here formed their moral codes: what books they read, what arguments they had, what choices they made to come up with the bedrock for their life. I may believe that it all stems from a certain source, but you people (it's OK for me to say that, I have an atheist friend) obviously have different views, so I wanted to find out about them.

Sylvine:
Oh... and I'm just responding because I lack anything better to do. Don't feel obligated to pursue this, or, god forbid, think I'm trying to convert here.

"Lack of something better to do" is the only reason anyone does anything on the internet. But seriously, I've had a lousy couple of days, but this debate has been the best part. I didn't think you were trying to convert me anymore than I was trying to convert you. I thought we were just having a fun and important discussion.

Thunderous Cacophony:
Must confess I am not well acquainted with MLP. What exactly does that show teach, other than Friendship and the Magic thereof?

Friendship? Magic? Jeez, that sounds like all the parts of the bible we don't hate! :V

My morals, like everyone's comes from their upbringing. Even though I am Atheist I grew up in a christian household, so most of my morals are that of a middle-class, white, western (UK) & christisn family. My father was born just after WW2, he was brought up with the idea of socialism and Communism being evil and that as a nation we try to protect Europe from them. I was brought up listening of stories of my Father over in Ireland fighting the IRA and Catholics, so I have some morals in me saying, terrorism is evil no matter how powerful your agenda is and Catholicity is also evil and greedy and sponsor terrorism(Obviously I've learn that this was a stereotype and not always the case). My parents were big on me helping others, so I now have quite a big charity outlook in my life and do everything I can that will help others.

Thunderous Cacophony:

Conundrum time:Imagine that there is a house that is very conveniently located for you: close to a business academy, public transport, nice neighbourhood, whatever makes the ideal location for you. The owner of the house does not use it and never checks it, and none of the neighbours would mind if you moved in. However, there is still an owner, and he has put up signs discouraging squatters. Would you move into the house, knowing that the owner does not want people there but has no knowledge that you are there?

Being a squatter is still illegal and comes with the risk of having your criminal record tainted. I am not at a loss for resources and in these times it seems unlikely that the owner would refuse to consider someone renting the place. If that was impossible I would move on. It's merey a question of a type of luxury, not life or death.

This is really bugging me. Religious asking where atheists get their morals from have obviously not read the bible properly. Or at all. People in previous threads have been trying to promote the bible as a moral source, only to have their arguments ripped to shreds by others who have in deed read it properly. The book is to full of advocated shit to be used in such a discussion. People here refusing to admit that the biblical slavery was bad and so on. You know who you are. With such a stand, who are they to speak of moral?

So it is kind of rude or ignorant (take your pick) to ask an atheist this when the source they them selves hold as true is in every intelligent way unfit as a moral platform for a decent human society. I like to call them "but it was good slavery people".

Thunderous Cacophony:

Wulfheri:
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.

How do you define moral? From my understanding, Locke is the OG liberal, opposed to the aristocracy and slavery. Meanwhile, Nietzsche believes that it is right for the strong and capable to control society and the less capable people. How do you reconcile the two?

I dont think you understand Nietsche, it's not the strong but the strong in the meaning of accepting life (not as a burden) and live it to the fullest. Standing above the pain and see through the happiness.
I think you see Nietsches ubermensch as some propaganda for Nazis but they just fuckt his theory up.

NuclearShadow:
If he truly has the intent to take in answers and then judge based off of what is given to him then this is great. If he simply has the plan of not accepting any answer no matter what than he is doing something offensive.

If this is so, all well and good, but it is a silly question nevertheless. It is like people asking me why I do not steal, rape or kill "You do not believe in god. You do not fear god. What keeps you from doing it?" Common sense and human decency of course. Like they need this explained. That is what gets me.

It is like they look big eyed out to a world where there aren't any books telling people what to say or do. "Look! People who make their own choices and are responsible for them?" Ok not so bad in most cases, but that is the impression.

Thunderous Cacophony:

SakSak:

*Snip* of Post 65, about animal morality

That is some really interesting research, thanks a lot for sharing that. If I ever get into this kind of debate, that's what I'm gonna reference.
However, I have to wonder about the motivations behind the morality. The thing about rhesus monkeys starving themselves so that others won't get hurt was pretty amazing, but the article also said that young monkeys sometimes had a toe or finger bitten off as punishment for breaking the rules. I must wonder how much of what they do is thinking of what is morally right, and how much is just a very complicated conditioning. Similarly, it said that female chimpanzees sometimes act to stop their wars (a noble act) because they were "sensing that discord makes their community worse off and more vulnerable to attack by neighbors." (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/science/20moral.html?pagewanted=all)

What makes human morality special, from what I can tell, is that people arrive at the same conclusion from many different ways. Humans, understanding pain and suffering, and not always with strict social rules, almost always arrive at the conclusion that it is not right to harm another person or allow them to be harmed, although the paths that they take are many and varied. While you may see this as primate psychology, I see it as the Spirit, which also allows us to act in a way that the animals don't seem to.

The Spirit is what allows people not only to act to help others, but to not act when others hurt them. Turning the other cheek is the most noble act, because it means that you are willing to suffer rather than inflict the smallest amount of suffering on another. It also means that you forgive, fully and without hesitation, "wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted" (to quote Da Orky Man in post 70), without the system of tit-for-tat repayment described in the articles. While your argument and evidence were well-founded, I see this self-sacrifice as the thing which separates us from animals.

You say it is only social condition, but doe that not also apply to humans...?
http://www.motifake.com/image/demotivational-poster/1002/discipline-discipline-demotivational-poster-1266000306.jpg

Now, of course I am not arguing that animals have such complex morality as humans, or indeed any codified systems of ethics at all. But they have the basis for it. They display empathy. They display complex social structures, with rewards and punishments associated for reinforcing or destabilizing that structure: Remind you of basic Monarchy and Feudalism? They display ability to hold grudges and to forgive grudges. They display, at times, self-sacrifice to the most lethal absolute.

Everything that makes human morality so special, is build on top of the same building blocks that more cerebral and social animals have.

Where then is a Spirit required, if one simply allows for more complex brains and more complex social situations for those brains to navigate in?

I also must reject your blanket statement of humans always coming to the same conclusions on moral issues, what with our diverse history and even today global diversity regarding topics such as:
Homosexuality
Abortion
Painful punishment as a method of child rearing
Cannibalism - highly relevant considering it is still practised.
Slavery
Treatment of prisoners
Death Penalty
Rights of women
and so forth.

If there is indeed a Spirit guiding our morality, it is not guiding us all into the same destination. Rather, it's almost like every society has it's own particular twist on things based on its history...

Thunderous Cacophony:
How do you define moral? From my understanding, Locke is the OG liberal, opposed to the aristocracy and slavery. Meanwhile, Nietzsche believes that it is right for the strong and capable to control society and the less capable people. How do you reconcile the two?

Hang on there, 'strong' in Nietzsche's definition means an intelligent, driven and moral person. It's a definition that's mostly determined by what somebody does, and not by whom he is. The physically strong people have the role of acting as the enforcers of the rule of the intelligent, over what Nietzsche describes as mediocre people, based on a definition that's pretty much people who can't be arsed to improve themselves, ever.

In return for being the rulers, the intelligent are expected to have a just rule over the others.

The model of society that Nietzsche puts forwards is in part already reality, and outside of that pretty utopian.


If looking up something about Nietzsche, be very very carefull with the sources. There's myths going around, advertised by Christian extremists (and a few Islamic ones) meant to demonize Nietzsche, because he opposed priesthood and the corruption of organised religion. Even many Christians not conciously trying to lie about Nietzsche have heard about those myths and half-believe them to be true because they've never looked into the subject.
One example of such lies is the claim that Nietzsche inspired the nazis, while the Nazi idea was that the dumb and physically strong reigned supreme, the intellectuals (Nietzsche's rulers) were the enemy, and no just rule was expected. Another purpose of such propaganda is to try and deny or downplay the role that Christianity played in national-socialism and the Holocaust.

Thunderous Cacophony:
Various comments on the state of nature sans God, the Holy Spirit, and the importance of faith

Yes, I have read Small Gods, as well as most of Pratchett's stuff. I find it amusing that you include this reference alongside quotes about the Holy Spirit being the font of good in people, as in Pratchett's world, the many, many Gods are quite certainly NOT good in the sense you're talking about, and yet, again, you still find good people, such as Carrot.

Thunderous Cacophony:
Humans, understanding pain and suffering, and not always with strict social rules, almost always arrive at the conclusion that it is not right to harm another person or allow them to be harmed, although the paths that they take are many and varied. While you may see this as primate psychology, I see it as the Spirit, which also allows us to act in a way that the animals don't seem to.

Frankly, I feel your Holy Spirit example writes off goodness as an inexplicable divine force, much as Zeus explained lightning. Heck, you've done as much here - you see a result, people being good, you can't explain it, and so you say it must be God. The difference here is that there in fact ARE reasons available for people being good, such as evolutionary psychology, and the rational capacity of humans, but you're rejecting them in favour of the Deus Ex Machina explanation that God did it. Frankly, I find it's insulting to think that humans are incapable of ethical behaviour without someone making us do it - especially in light of the evidence that we are perfectly capable of doing it.

The difference, of course, is that you claim these accounts are lacking somehow, that they fail to explain all cases of moral behaviour - for instance, someone not doing evil for personal gain with no chance of repercussion. Except, neither does your Holy Spirit example, because people very often do just that - sometimes they don't, and sometimes they do. You might say that sometimes people ignore the Holy Spirit, or it doesn't work sometimes, but that's not an explanation - that's just saying 'it does X unless it doesn't' - not an explanation. On the other hand, evolutionary psychology can be overcome by conditioning or force of will, some people don't always exercise logic (although I think that can be an ethical failing) or aren't very good at it, and some people have different priorities than ethical action, and so doing evil makes sense for them - and if something makes sense, people usually do it.

Why would I want to do evil? Society has created a system wherein if anyone knows I did it, it harms me more than it helps. The Drow example you gave is a good one for this, because it's clearly a flawed society - why would people favour a society with more risk and less security? Drow aren't doing that because they're lacking moral instinct, they're doing it because they're stupid. Moreover, that society works this way is good - I don't want to do evil because doing so harms society, people as far back as Socrates understood that, and Kant's categorical imperative works from this principle, and can be seen as another rationale for empathy.

It ignores the reality that being good just makes sense - if I had the opportunity to stab someone in the back for personal gain, I wouldn't do it unless personal gain was really that important to me. It's a question of priorities - some people think moral action is important for their sense of self-worth, for the good of society, and because the well-being of others has importance as well as my own. Other people don't. Adding in some divine explanation undermines the goodness of those decisions, as well as being superfluous and a poor explanation to boot.

So, in short, how does your Holy Spirit idea make sense?

As I read through this thread, it all seems to become a bit dishonest. Perhaps there's something I'm missing, but why do you bother asking us where we get our morals from, if you are already under the impression that you are already damn certain where they come from(that being, from the spirit of your god)?

Everyone, I direct you to the edit I have made in my first post. Feel free to continue the debate, but I don't think I will be part of it.

Thunderous Cacophony:
SNIP

Happy to answer, i tend to stick to the ideals from this book:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Landscape

Very usefull, basically underpins the idea that morals do NOT soley belong to the religious, that morals CAN be derrived purely from logic, and that logic and emotionless are NOT neccessarily associated.

The idea is that you have two societies, one where everyone is suffering the maximum amount all the time and one where everyone is as happy as possible ALL the time. The idea is that the latter society functions better and obviously happyness is good. It discusses things like the idea sadists LIKE causing other pain so theres a tradeoff of happyness there and how its dealt with, the idea that moral reletivity is over used and such like.

The basic principle is that an ideal utopian society is one where everyone is equal, healthy and happy to the maximum extent. Thus decisions are made on the basis of "what will maximise health, rights and happyness of the idividual" depending on what situation im in.

I base my actions on "Treat others as I wish to be treated" because on the whole, if you're nice to people they're nice to you back.

But of course not everyone's the same so you have to factor in "as I would wish to be treated if I were them" which is trickier but possible if you take time to listen to and understand the feelings of others.

And why do I try to live by morals at all? Call me crazy but I like nice people, and nice people tend to want to be your friends a lot more if you're nice too.

BiscuitTrouser:

The basic principle is that an ideal utopian society is one where everyone is equal, healthy and happy to the maximum extent. Thus decisions are made on the basis of "what will maximise health, rights and happyness of the idividual" depending on what situation im in.

So the book Brave New World portrays the best kind of society? Should we be striving for that?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_new_world

sharks9:

BiscuitTrouser:

The basic principle is that an ideal utopian society is one where everyone is equal, healthy and happy to the maximum extent. Thus decisions are made on the basis of "what will maximise health, rights and happyness of the idividual" depending on what situation im in.

So the book Brave New World portrays the best kind of society? Should we be striving for that?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_new_world

Not at all, that book deals with many issues such as the rights of people to intelligence, the freedoms of love and other such issues that in current sociatal rules would lead to unhappyness. Brain washing is not counted as happy. Many critics said what you have and to an extent, yeah a brave new world has a few good points going for it you have to admit, some of the more totalitarian ones arent appropriate but the idea that our morals should be derrived from the persuit of true happyness is pretty good. True happyness is rather personal so to say that as a rule "sex should be 100% open" isnt correct, rather to say "sex should be as open as makes one happy with anyone who also feels that it makes them happy" is true, taking the example of the initial "school yard" in the book.

A brave new world has too many indoctrinated ideals to be an example of the "perfect" end of the moral landscape, a perfect society is open and lets its people decide for themselves what true happyness is without having rules of engagement given to them, rules of how to treat others sure, but not rules on how one should achieve their own happyness. Thats a personal thing and as long as it doesnt harm others it can be whatever you want.

You can still play by the social constructs of a modern society such as the west, just on the basis that what is right and wrong can be determined by what affects a persons wellbeing and quality of life. Maximising wellbeing is the aim of any situation.

Self derived, through empathy and an understanding of the societal minutiae that makes humanity click. Although far from perfect beings, humans are still shockingly altruistic, and, in a society geared about this tendency, it's always to the individual's benefit to act in accordance with what's implicated by this order. There is no universal rule. There is no set path. This is what makes it all the more beautiful, that we take moral action based on a constant WE'RE forced to justify.

Morals? I'm just making this up as I go along...

From basic sanity and rational thought.

My morality comes from mix of upbringing, outside influence, and knowledge. I have two moral codes, one I use always that changes slightly over time and a second for emergency use in life threatening situation but thankfully never had to use emergency second moral code.

Redoing this, because I wasn't really clear before.

I subscribe, for the most part, to the idea of moral relativity. With most actions the correct, or moral, choice differs depending on the situation.

For example, stealing is not wrong in all cases. I like Piaget's Heinz and the Pharmacist.

The one thing I do believe is wrong in all cases is killing. Violence similarly is almost always wrong, this includes violent language.

I get this both from Piaget, Gilligan and cultural/upbringing influences.

BiscuitTrouser:
snippity snop

So living life for the pursuit of happiness[1] is a moral life?

Have you read much aristotle or plato?

[1] It's happiness by the way :)

I always find the ironic answers given to "Where do you get your Morals?" most amusing.

All morals are acquired through education - mostly parental - and osmosis - mostly associative.

Look to countries without functioning governments, or without governments working for the good of the people, where looting, rape and gang warfare is the law of the land. The morals of those people were acquired from the previous generations, and so forth. They learnt to do what they do both from what was done to them, and from what they've seen others do. This is how we are as a species.

Regardless of how much we wish it to be so, "human nature" is not to be kind to one another. Our history has more years of war than of peace by a margin of about 100 to 1. We are brutual, unforgiving, deviant and downright despicable. Without education and control, we are easily the worst species on the planet in terms of what we do to one another.
Hell, all it takes for us to revert back to our terrible selves is for the power to go down for about an hour. When the lights go down, watch the looting and rampages begin.

'Generosity' worked against us before we developed farming, and it hindered our survival. We lived in small groups and kept our rations to ourselves. After farming, we needed strict control of our food and population to ensure we could provide for all. As a result, we divided ourselves into larger sects based around food and other resources, and have waged war against other sects since before recorded histroy to obtain the possessions of others.

Today, in most countries, we have a civilised way of life. Most people from Australia, the UK and the USA have acquried "Christian" morals, whether they wish to acknowledge this or not. A hundred years ago, Christianity was the primary - and in some countries 'Offical' - religion. This has filtered down to today through simple transferrence and osmosis along the generational lines; you learned from your parents, they from theirs, etc.
Western society is slowly moving away from "Christian" morals as it's no longer taught to "most" children, meaning there are proportionally less people to pass it along to their children in each generation. Is it effectively being bred out of the population.

In the last 50 years, as we have seen "Christian" morals decline, we have seen Western society as a whole go from bad to worse in the same time period. You only need to turn on your TV to see it. Whether or not this is a bad thing is up to your particular point of view.

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?

Morality existed a long time before Christianity. A long, long time before.

So I find the notion that Christianity has a monopoly on morality to be incredibly intellectually insulting and a touch arrogant. Not to mention that actual Christian morality is a different kettle of fish from the morality that most Christians hold. The Bible's view on morality is at times bat shit insane.

Where do I get my morals from? Same place as everyone else. Through the evolution of human behaviour and culture.

I don't hurt anyone because I don't want anyone to hurt me. I don't kill people because I don't want to be responsible for ending someone's only shot at life. People who don't hold these base morals are the ones we throw in prison and call psychopaths.

I don't need the fear of ever lasting punishment or ever lasting reward to be moral. Both my punishment and my reward lie here on Earth.

Hafrael:

BiscuitTrouser:
snippity snop

So living life for the pursuit of happiness is a moral life?

Have you read much aristotle or plato?

Well now i feel silly for making such a basic typo. Pretty much, but not personal happiness, more of a collective sociatal happiness. I mean paying my taxes doesnt directly make me happy. However the knowlegde that I provide roads and healthcare means that tax rises dont instill instant anger in me, I consider carefully the full impact of the tax rise on those around me as well as myself. I know that it's a small bother for me but for others this may increase their quality of care or community far more than it will marginally decrease my budget for luxuries.

I have read the work of voltare but I'm afraid I've never got around to Plato. I should really give it a read.

Zeh Don:

Regardless of how much we wish it to be so, "human nature" is not to be kind to one another. Our history has more years of war than of peace by a margin of about 100 to 1. We are brutual, unforgiving, deviant and downright despicable. Without education and control, we are easily the worst species on the planet in terms of what we do to one another.
Hell, all it takes for us to revert back to our terrible selves is for the power to go down for about an hour. When the lights go down, watch the looting and rampages begin.

'Generosity' worked against us before we developed farming, and it hindered our survival. We lived in small groups and kept our rations to ourselves. After farming, we needed strict control of our food and population to ensure we could provide for all. As a result, we divided ourselves into larger sects based around food and other resources, and have waged war against other sects since before recorded histroy to obtain the possessions of others.

Today, in most countries, we have a civilised way of life. Most people from Australia, the UK and the USA have acquried "Christian" morals, whether they wish to acknowledge this or not. A hundred years ago, Christianity was the primary - and in some countries 'Offical' - religion. This has filtered down to today through simple transferrence and osmosis along the generational lines; you learned from your parents, they from theirs, etc.
Western society is slowly moving away from "Christian" morals as it's no longer taught to "most" children, meaning there are proportionally less people to pass it along to their children in each generation. Is it effectively being bred out of the population.

In the last 50 years, as we have seen "Christian" morals decline, we have seen Western society as a whole go from bad to worse in the same time period. You only need to turn on your TV to see it. Whether or not this is a bad thing is up to your particular point of view.

Lets start on your first observation. War for 100:1. Well thats a vague and meaningless observation, when you have seven BILLION people one guy is always gonna be fighting at least one guy. A REAL observation with any value is "What proportion of total human time is spent in peace" or to be more clear, "If you added up total years of every individuals lives where they personally experienced war, then put it over the total years anyone has ever lived what % would we get.". I imagine actually rather low. Not to mention that just because a few people fight wars doesnt mean we all do or want to or even agree. Thats our governmental system today. Far from perfect. Extrapolating human behaviour from a minority is a classic masanthrope trap and I will forever be seeing this in misanthropic posts.

Ah and the "When you turn on the TV its all horrible ergo the world is a terrible place" arguement I hear so often. First off the christian values being taken away for the most part? The intolerence of people who are different. And the silly arbitrary rules. The idea that every man deserves happiness and that to be good to eachother is the best and most rewarding lifestyle is still taught everywhere, not to mention its just demonstrable, and id like you to cite where it is not anymore in the western world. And explain what is being taught instead. So much more giving occurs than ever before, medicine is developed for the sick, GM crops feed thousands developed by a man you've never heard of just because he wanted to help. You never see this on the news. But its there. Honestly to say that Christian morals are directly proportional to societal happyness is a little stupid, seeing as the egyptions and greeks both formed efficient and intelligent societies. Especially the Greeks. Before Christianity the Romans were doing a good job as well.

What if I said I didn't believe in morality, and had no moral code?

BiscuitTrouser:
Lets start on your first observation. War for 100:1. Well thats a vague and meaningless observation, when you have seven BILLION people one guy is always gonna be fighting at least one guy. A REAL observation with any value is "What proportion of total human time is spent in peace" or to be more clear, "If you added up total years of every individuals lives where they personally experienced war, then put it over the total years anyone has ever lived what % would we get.". I imagine actually rather low.

It would be, if you were aiming for the "How much of an average person's life time is spent fighting war", which is a fairly useless statistic given the current context.

No, the thing about war is simply the residual effects it causes as it ripples throughout the effected societies. This is really some sub-level of "Chaos theory"-esque extrapolation, but a war fought anywhere in the world has it's negative and positive effects in any and all connected societies.
The longer a war is fought, the more wars that are fought, or the longer the time period of any connected societies that are exposed to wars, the greater these residual effects. We're still feeling the effects of World War II to this day, both socially and economically, both good and bad, for example.
So, the sheer length and number, not to mention scale, of the wars we have records of is a fairly good indication of what human civilisation - and by extrapolation, humans - are all about, as these wars dictate how our connected societies form and grow. If we're able to sustain several wars and basically endure the side effects for basically all of recorded human history, what does this say about us a whole?

BiscuitTrouser:
...Ah and the "When you turn on the TV its all horrible ergo the world is a terrible place" arguement I hear so often...

Since you failed to understand my particular point, I'll presume I worded myself terribly and will restate my particular fact.
I have little to no interest in "the horror of the world" that the various media corporations shovel upon us, as by simple over-reporting of a particular series of events a media outlet can sway the public opinion into believing something is extremely common. See: basically everything bad.

No, what I meant by "turn on your TV" is simple: turn it on, and see what's on. What are we, as a whole, supporting through our viewing? Terrible television programs that have been scientifically proven to literally make the world worse. New articles that make parents freak out over imaginary "sex parties" (see: rainbow parties).
Look up some of the studies conducted on the effects of reality television, for example, in relation to crime. It's, frankly, terrifying.

Everything that we are shown and told to listen to is altered, changed, and created to make us little more than walking piggy banks - and as a whole, we're falling right into line.

BiscuitTrouser:
...The idea that every man deserves happiness and that to be good to eachother is the best and most rewarding lifestyle is still taught everywhere, not to mention its just demonstrable, and id like you to cite where it is not anymore in the western world...

Well, the most obvious examples are: everywhere. Take your pick. The financial industry - including stock agents, banks, and insurance firms - the real estate industry, the video game industry (lol, right?), the movie industry, the television industry, the music industry, the legal industry; these people influence society as a whole. What we see, hear and buy influence our behaviour more than what we're taught in school by underpaid teachers, and told to do by our too-busy-to-help parents.

While it's nice to pretend that we're all taught to be nice to one another, and that this has resulted in a better world, the truth is the people who succeed in today's world generally do so at the expense at others. The lack of this teaching is demonstrated by the societies in which we live, where and on what we spend our money, and the way we spend out time.

BiscuitTrouser:
...And explain what is being taught instead...

Nothing. That's kind of the issue; we've taken out a clear set of morals guidelines and replaced it with "if it feels good, do it."
As most of ourselves and our children are now acquiring our morals and society understandings through osmosis, we're seeing rich dumb people celebrated around the world, and underpaid teachers sweating in class rooms. We see criminals with record and movie deals, and then wonder why our children would rather do drugs than get a higher education - which, in turn, has led to the epidemic of the skills shortage in the western societies.

BiscuitTrouser:
So much more giving occurs than ever before, medicine is developed for the sick, GM crops feed thousands developed by a man you've never heard of just because he wanted to help. You never see this on the news. But its there...

Proportionally speaking, and taking inflation into consideration, charity donations have remained pretty level across the last few decades - only slightly increasing in times of economic hardship, such as now. However, proportionally speaking, less and less of the funds donated reaches it's intended destination.
Everything from television advertisements to printing expenses for fliers has risen dramatically, and often charity organisation are offered little to no deductions.

Medicine is a corrupt and viciously calculating field. While it's nice to see Doctor's Without Borders and volunteer GP's helping those in need, the truth is medicine is one of the most profitable industries in the world. Billions of tax-payer dollars are used to under-write the cost of publically available medicine - this means we pay less, because the Government is paying a size-able chunk of the cost to the pharmaceutical companies on our behalf. They don't lower the cost to help anyone.
Believing that unknown heroes in labs are solving the worlds problems is very noble, the truth is that well paid scientists are working hard on the next privately funded treatments while under non-disclosure agreements to ensure when that next cancer treatment is found, the company responsible for it makes a fucking fortune from those who need it.

And listing GM crops as feeding the needy is a pretty bad joke. Practically every publically available GM crop available to farmers is re-written to ensure that the crop itself is incapable of producing seeds.
This ensures farmers are required to buy those extra-good GM seeds each year from the companies who make them, rather than simply harvesting the naturally occurring seeds. Think of it as D.R.M. for food. GM food isn't helping anyone except the companies who own the rights to it.

BiscuitTrouser:
...Honestly to say that Christian morals are directly proportional to societal happyness is a little stupid, seeing as the egyptions and greeks both formed efficient and intelligent societies. Especially the Greeks. Before Christianity the Romans were doing a good job as well...

And each civilisations who you've listed was utterly destroyed as a result of their own doing at the height of their decadence. Next you'll be telling me that 21st Century America is the light of the modern world and stands as an example of what can happen when Christian morals are rejected.

A far better example would be some of the smaller European countries who managed to resist the spreading of Christianity and Islam, and who adhere to their own morals. Then again, the sex, drugs and guns trades generally flourish in those countries, so you'll need to be selective with your examples.

Zeh Don:
And listing GM crops as feeding the needy is a pretty bad joke. Practically every publically available GM crop available to farmers is re-written to ensure that the crop itself is incapable of producing seeds.
This ensures farmers are required to buy those extra-good GM seeds each year from the companies who make them, rather than simply harvesting the naturally occurring seeds. Think of it as D.R.M. for food. GM food isn't helping anyone except the companies who own the rights to it.

Er..."Terminator Seeds" were proposed way back when, but AFAIK, they have not become commercially available, and have hardly dominated the farm industry.

Zeh Don:
And each civilisations who you've listed was utterly destroyed as a result of their own doing at the height of their decadence.

Um...yeah, that's one way of looking at it, but it's not definitive. You could argue they were conquered by mightier nations, Persians/Macedonians/Romans for Egypt, Macedonian/Romans for Greek, various other Romanised or Middle Eastern groups for Rome, depending on when you say they ended.

"Utterly destroyed" is flat out wrong. The rulers may be different people, the society evolved into something else, but that is the manner of things, with or without destructive forces at work.

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