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Obey No1kinobe

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No god = No Morality?

Recently, and reasonably frequently, there are claims made by some very thoughtful people that without god or without religion there would be no absolute morality and human civilisation risks sliding into survival of the fittest.

For someone like me who assumes all the law giving gods are man made and so are the religious laws - we have always managed to develop morality ourselves anyway. Perhaps human morality is a mix of instinct, cultural and experiential programming and reason. I include religion in the programming part.

But there is still the question would an end to traditional religions remove a pillar in society that improves the human condition.

For the more religious, I guess you had better hope you have the right god and right interpretation and right set of divine laws.

Also if a god gave us a conscience, this seems to work more or less with or without belief in any particular deity or dogma. You may be a good person but might not get to heaven.

So would the decline of traditional religion shift us towards survival of the fittest? No.

1) Atheists can be as good or evil as believers

2) Some religious laws are immoral from the perspective of equality, freedom, and improving the human condition. We would be better without these.

3) Religion had thousands of years to address slavery, race and sex equality, sanctity of life and has not done well. The enlightenment drove these forward.

4) During the reign of religion we have had more wars, murder compared to now - as the grip of religion has decreased.

5) Where we see religious fundamentalism we often see more violence. The most devout are often the most dangerous.

6) USA one of the most religious first world countries in the world with a huge rate of gun crime, murder, imprisonment compared to less religious western nations.

7) We owe much of our more civil societies to enlightenment values of equality, freedom

We have a sound basis for morality without god. We don't need god to value life.

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Closing Statement from Obey No1kinobe

Thanks all.

The key takeaways for me are:

(a) Many people believe that if god given absolute rules are taken away then anything goes. This seems to be a key teaching in Christian circles.

There is a lot of confusion here. Many think they know who god is and what his rules are. Somehow they ignore or explain away that there are many gods and conflicting god given rules. What if you have the wrong god, wrong rules, or there is no god. The certainty is sad to see.

Also, it is just a human definition that whatever god does is moral and what he says is moral is the absolute. If god punishes us in hell it is moral. If god asks us to smite neighbouring tribes it is moral. If god floods the world and kills nearly everyone including innocent babies it is moral. Original sin passed from generation to generation is moral.
This is similar logic to that used in the Nuremberg trials. It was only a war crime if the allies didn't do it.

We are gods play things his creation his rules. You can not challenge them. Well we can. We can judge these rules and gods actions and see some are good, some are silly and some are downright cruel. You might believe these are the rules, but how can you say they moral other than by definition.

(b) That if religion fades as a morality indoctrinator, we may lose some of the nasty medieval rules, but need to be sure we put energy into living moral lives, guiding our kids, and supporting a moral society.

I suggest we invented the gods and their rules, we can build on these and secular foundations in the future without gods


I have to disagree. Firstly there are so many different conflicting beliefs on what absolute morality is. It simply does not exist in this simplistic form.

Lorraine, all I can say is I don't think personal revelation, however profound is a sound basis for absolute morality. There have been many revelations and they don't all agree. It might work for the individual but don't claim it is the ultimate truth.

Imagine if

  • Apr 23 2012: I'm going to go back and define morality again. Morality is behavior that is acceptable in a culture by that culture. Having relations with your cousin is acceptable in some cultures, but not in others. Therefore, morality is subjective. Moral absolutes are defined by where one is at, culturally. All over the world, every day, cultures kill other cultures because their moral code tells them that what they are doing is okay and good for their culture. In Rwanda, the Hutu's killed almost a million Tutsi's. Why? They didn't like them. They just wanted to get rid of them. For 10 years, Hutu's killed their neighbors. They couldn't readily get guns, so the used machetes for their primary weapon. Now, I'd like to know, how to you come to a point in your life where you look at your moral compass and it says, "It's okay. Take your machete and go to town on those people". Here in America, if someone kills someone with a machete, it will make the network news lead story. That's just one death. I'm telling you this to illustrate that the Hutu's had morals. Their morals included killing every Tutsi that they encountered.

    This scenario is what happens when man defines his morals. This why I do not wish to leave the moral making decisions up to my fellow man. This scenario has happened thousands of time over history. Jews, slaves, Serbians, Cambodians, and even the Aztecs, were victims of another culture's own self proclaimed morality.

    This is why, I embrace Christianity. But this thread is not about religion. So I say that my morals come from my faith. My faith says that the number one commandment is to love God. The 2nd commandment is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. That is the Christian belief. When Christians kill witches, or jews or homosexuals, or non-christians, they are not following the teachings of Christ. Islam also teaches love above anything else. Islamic fundlmendalists pervert their teachings and kill in the name of Allah. They are not morally right.
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      Apr 23 2012: Fair enough Casey. I''m with you on your 2nd commandment. Pity it didn't make it into the originals.

      Some forms of Christian belief are relatively benign, but most ideologies have the possibility of extremism, especially religious ones. Catholic militias and orthodox militias in the Balkans. Catholic versus Protestants in Ireland still. All the Islamic stuff. I actually think Religion is just one of the factors not the whole story in most cases, but it adds a lot of heat.

      Your benign beliefs are not the whole story of Christianity, and definitely the whole story of Religion.

      And being benign does not make your faith the truth.

      Also, all religions and gods are man made so subjective anyway in my opinion. You come full circle. IF you think your source materials are the best there is, fair enough as long as you have looked at them objectively, suspending your faith for a minute and see it how others see it.

      I'm not sure you have read all the bible - Isiah, Leviticus etc. Or the Koran. they are a mix of good and bad. Not all love. Islam is submission. The new testament has less angry tribal god nonsense, but is still apocalyptic, human sacrifice, etc etc. And isn't Yahweh the Father this murdering god of bronze age imagination was pretty brutal. Same god right. Trinity and all that. How do you reconcile this?
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    Apr 20 2012: I would just like to say, that no cultural morality = no cultural morality. Do you need god to have a culture of moral behavior? Of course not... but if the culture of moral behavior has been passed on through tradition, and church, for so many generations, and you remove the church from the equation... You might end up with a survival of the fittest scenario. Removing the pillar of religion and tradition, would not destroy our society, removing it, without replacing it, might... Or at least, it would not be ideal.

    I write about sexual politics, and gender roles a lot, not because I'm an expert, but because I think it's a fun topic, in which it's so easy to find yourself delightfully wrong in your perceptions. My core message in regards to the sexual revolution is that a generation of young people tried to entirely uproot traditional views of sexuallity, but they didn't really spend the time to theorycraft what would replace it. There was no great literature about what the world was going to look like as the genders moved towards equality. It needed to be done, the goals were noble, but I feel like they put the cart ahead of the horse a bit, they replaced something oppressive, with... nothing. That created a lot of conflict.

    I feel like people in my generation are on the verge of a similar abandonment of religion... and, before we get rid of our traditional pillars... this time, we might want to figure out what we want the new columns to look like. Big fan of Atheism 2.0 and similar ideals. That said... Religion is literature, written by authors, trying to communicate a moral, and anyone who is certain that it's more than that, and it's necessary, is delusional.

    America is not a religious country by the way. Our politics are infected by religious zealotry at the moment, but it's almost all from obscure, small population areas in the south. No where you want to visit in America is religious. Just like anywhere, stick to the coast : )
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      Apr 21 2012: I agree in that Freedom without responsibility or constraints may lead to chaos.

      We don't need religion to tell us how to live good lives but we still need to think about and work towards living good lives.

      In this conversation, this point has become more clear to me.

      I also understand the unease having a supposed absolute morality removed. We have to figure things out for ourselves. I'm for personal freedom, but not absolute.

      Whether it be smoking or whatever there is a balance to be struck between freedom and control.
      And we haven't got it all worked out.
      I have some male friends a bit confused and resentful about the current gender situation.
      It is complicated. Not all women want the same thing. When does affirmative action become unacceptable discrimination against the majority.

      I suggest a morality without god may be a mix of individual and group or social dynamics.
      We will still be underpinned by laws, the judiciary etc. There will still be police.
      Not sure if we will have the coherence that broadly shared relgious views bring but these are diminishing as the mix of different cultural relgions become more diverse in the West and the number of non believers grows ity is happening.

      I think the great past and present phillosophers will help us. I can't wait to take a look at the Secular Humanist Bible, the good book.

      As individual we have a choice every day how will live our lives. We can set boundaries and discuss values with our kids, and most of all live by example.

      School, education etc can help.

      There may still be some gap as the churches empty. But I'm optimistic we can work it out reasonably well.

      The human project has a long way to go.

      From an outsiders perspective - sometimes message of Jesus seems to be drowned out by the creed, but my experience in US have been people are a bit more open, a bit louder, maybe even a bit friendlier and just as helpful and kind and screwed up as anywhere else on an individual level.
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      Apr 21 2012: David, could you expand what you mean by no cultural morality = no cultural morality
      Its like saying no fish = no fish

      I think we tend to pick up on our local cultural or family or social group values whether they are religious inspired or not.
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        Apr 22 2012: You pose the question, does, no god = no morality... No, of course not, but since 90% of living human beings use god, and god based books as the primary means of conveying morality to their children, through culture... No god, plus, not replacement with cultural ethics, equals no cultural morality.

        I must say here, that, I live in the burbs of Los Angeles/Hollywood... So I am at the epicenter, of what is often considered the primary cultural vehicles of the American secular culture, television and film... We also have quite a music scene... The cultural morals being expressed by the people around me, are pretty much... awful.

        I'll give you 2 examples, from close friends of mine, who are educated, affluent, and for the most part, good natured people. "Oh, I have to tell you something, in case we hang out... From now on, I always just got out of a relationship" said my friend, matter of factly. "I'm assuming I can guess why..." I reply.

        "Yeah, you probably can... It works... It's what women want to hear."

        "You do reallize that this is basically what the battle for the human soul, and morality is all about right? And, you're basically telling me that at 28 you've given up, and you're going to switch sides... Now you're one of those guys that people like us used to compete with..."

        "Oh yeah, totally... but this is what we're competing with, you learn what narative works with the largest number of women, and then you let the horrible relationship sort it out."

        "Good luck with that... You've always been kind to me, but if you pursue this path, I hope it makes you miserable, in that particular area of your life"

        "Oh, I know... It probably will."

        This is virtually verbatim btw, I have an insane memory. A few weeks later a friend of mine literally said this, "Having sex is a good way to get to know a girl"... It reminded me of Elliot Reed, in Scrubs "I like to use sex as an icebreaker"...
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        Apr 22 2012: These are not examples of Los Angeles culture... These are examples, of the danger, of a complete lack of cultural morality. These are examples of a complete lack of respect for the importance of sexual selection.

        That's actually the most fascinating thing to me about most of my secular educated friends... Darwin pretty much began secular history... and... He thought what you did with your genitals was pretty darn important... In fact, he thought the future of humanity rested on it.

        This is also the danger of film rather than literature as moral standard bearers... In a film, when two characters meet who are going to have sex, within 5 minutes... it'll be the next morning... That's to move the story forward... not to try and express an new sexual standard of morallity : p

        Thus, I suggest all people that want to look at morallity through a non religious lens, should try to work together to create a culture, with a cannon of great literature, a cannon of great film, and a cannon of great music. Things that most people in the culture still engage in a shared experience over, but that have deep moral significance.

        Personally I think every member of my generation should see Frank Capra's "You Can't Take it With You", Hitchcock's "Vertigo", and more importantly every film ever made by Akira Kurosawa... Wait, that's a bit too much, just three should be necessary, the others reccomended, "Ikiru", "The Seven Samurai", and "Record of a Living Being".

        We need artists to stop being post modern relativists and start saying something... In the words of Kurosawa "I wanted to make movies that made people, want to be, better... people". We need to keep that spirit, as we abandon its traditional standard bearers, like organized religion. Also, we need to avoid falling victim to positive thinking guru's and prosperity preachers.

        I wrote a 3 commandments awhile back, got deleted.



        Love people who are different.

        Stay healthy.

        Learn as much as possible.
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          Apr 22 2012: David, this is what it is all about. I like your 3 commandments.
          I wonder what the secular 10 would be. I wonder if TED has done this before.
          Could be a good conversation.

          Seven samurai was great. Better than the Western version. I watch a lot of movies in preference to TV. I honestly don't have one off the top of my head that made me think or feel deeply or even LOL in the recent past. Drive was the most stimulating recently. Maybe I just have a case of bad taste escapism.

          A lot of cinema is just a reflection of what we are as a society or the artists themselves or just what makes money. Its sugar. Perhaps this is the danger of individual freedom. Our brains react to sugar, to porn, to violence, to drugs without some sort of self control or longer view we can become slaves to our senses. Perhaps This is one aspect of where a church or religious community may have some practical benefits for social order and to help prevent individuals melting down. Its a shame the central plot is as factual or plausible as a Hollywood movie.

          I'm with you if you are proposing some constructs or vehicles to encourage the best in us as the old technology, mythic religion gets weighed down by its dogma and claims.

          I've been to Babylon. Its sweet like sugar, but not fulfilling. I think at least half the people who have freedom and enjoy it excessively soon realise a bit of balance is more rewarding. It might be good to have more viable anchors for people to bounce against and not just relying on luck, or moments of personal insight.
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    Apr 18 2012: Religion provided us not with a means for morality, it provides us with new measures for communication and control. Even though religion played a major role in the creation of large civilizations, nowadays it doesn't serve any real purpose other than culture. I mean we have the rule of law.

    I dare not say that religious believe is ignorance, just because I don't believe in it. Because in philosophy there is no single truth, only practices that have become the standard.

    We can even argue that we, we human beings, have become gods ourselves. Surely, we haven't become immortal entities, but who says god is such? But we can play with live and death, even within our own species.

    I do think religion has some fundamental value, especially as they are the basis/ origin of today's institutions. Nothing will change that, or we need a new age of enlightenment. Though I wouldn't look at religion per se when talking about societies problems.

    1) Agreed
    2) Last time I checked there was no solid definition, but yes they do oppose some of our laws. Especially when we want to give everyone equal opportunities.
    3) Even within the boundaries of rationality some of these subjects would still not be dealt with. So the enlightenment might not be the best candidate for defense, not to mention that most of the thinkers were pro-slavery if it helped the common good. I think this has more to do with deviant benevolence as it was a logical step at the time (political or economical).
    4) The kingdom of god is within all men, not a within a single men, but within all men. It would be wrong to blame religion for it, because then you'd be as wrong as the so called prophets which did exactly the same. However, I agree that it does provide us with a scapegoat, which is just wrong.
    5) ^See above^
    6) Though if we look at the economical condition of the population as a whole it could be compared to an underdeveloped country.
    7) Name 4 national institutions/societies without religious roots.
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      Apr 19 2012: Hi Kevin, you make some good points. Thumbs up from me.

      3. I see the development and implementation of enlightment values as a process, and perhaps not the end of the process but a big step from relying on the bible.
      Civil rights in the US for example only got addressed in the 1960's.
      Same with Australian Aboridgines getting the vote.
      Decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1970's etc.

      4. Values and individual human implemention are 2 aspects, intertwined.
      I'm not using the crusades etc or despot popes as eveidence that relgion is the key driver for all evil in the paste.
      I'm just pointing out it does not seem to be any better deterent than those living by say humanist values.
      Also atheist individuals can be as evil as any pope or god king.

      6 - good point.
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        Apr 19 2012: Personally I don't think science will replace religion, maybe a new ideology will tied to better "rationality", but not within our life time. There is a very large population of religious zealots in the scientific departments, even in medicine and human biology. In my personal opinion is science not something that is going to counter religion. Though it does have some value when it comes to decreasing acts of extremism.

        So let us say we do change the mindset of humanity, one towards progress in science and civilization. What do you think the effect are?
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          Apr 19 2012: I agree science is not a substitute for religion.
          It just a process helps us find out about the universe. Still lots of gaps.
          Maybe we don't need any specific ideology.
          I'm not affiliated with anything in particular.
          But maybe one or several may help guide us.

          I agree humans are remarkable in that you can be a geologist, pass exams based on millions of years in one part of your life and belief the world is 6000 years old in another.
          Science is not an ideology or a movement.
          Humanism is a bit closer to that.

          Life without religion. I'll need to ponder that.

          I guess my focus here is just to argue that if religion died out in a country of natural causes we would not automatically end up with anarchy.

          Like you said, we have the rule of law etc. Regardless of the beliefs of the originators, the system of law is in place. The bill of rights etc not going anywhere. There will still be prisons and moral delemmas.
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    Apr 18 2012: Why do some people think that simple concepts of the golden rule, respect for other people, empathy and compassion would disappear if traditional religion faded away?
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      Apr 18 2012: Because... they've been brainwashed to think this way?
      And because religions would go out of business if they claimed to be useless.
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        Apr 18 2012: Thanks Gerald.
        It certainly seems to be parroted response.
        Mind you I probably have my own programmed responses.
  • Apr 21 2012: In a word, wrong. If you depend on your fellow humans to set the bar for morality, you will be in deep trouble real soon. Just ask any Jew that made it through the Holocaust or any African American in America. Religion sets standards that are fixed by a higher power than man. It takes away our (that believe) choice of what we can do to each other. Morals created by humans are simply rules that we make to protect us from ourselves. We prohibit murder because we don't want to get murdered. We prohibit robbery because we don't want to get robbed. But if we avoid robbing because we believe that it violates our creator's command, then it becomes absolute, set in stone. We don't do it because there are ramifications that are external to this world. It is true that non-religious people are good and fine citizens with good morals. But their morals are defined by the society that they live in and their personal experience. When you acknowledge a creator and accept his rules, nothing can change it. Society's morals change all the time. If you wore a bikini in the 40's, you would be considered for all intents a purposes, naked. Now a bikini can't cover too much. People change their morals with society all the time, but God's rules stand forever.
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      Apr 21 2012: You raise a lot of interesting points Casey.

      You seem to assume there is a God with a set of rules these have been revealed to humans? Big call. Which god? What are the rules according to your understanding? Do we all have similar access to these rules or does it depend on where and when you were born. Do they appear infallible or man made like every other god you don’t believe in?

      Take Christianity. Apparently an immaterial god outside space and time (what does it actually mean to be outside space and time) created the universe either 6000 or 13 billion years ago. This almightly creator then chooses Abraham and his decedents as his people, subject to his laws. The rest of the world has no idea. 2000 years later a derivative of this develops that is eventually open to gentiles. About 1700 years later most humans have had contact with followers of this religion with many stuck in other cultural religions. Not very efficient if there is a creator of the universe.

      You mention the holocaust which if you are correct happened while there is absolute morality. God stands by and watched it happened, ignored every prayer but a few. So if there is one it does not seem to be working.
      Are you suggesting that we all need to believe in the same absolute truth and things will be better? Do you want a global theocracy?

      Are you suggesting that we can not judge the holocaust as evil unless there is no absolute morality. Other than some upset muslims, who wouldn’t judge the holocaust as evil. Ridiculous.

      Or are you saying things are better if we have an absolute scale by which to judge human beings and for there to be justice after life on earth. This may appeal to our sense of fairness and desire for an easy solution to moral delimmas but does not make it true. This divine judge watching over us sounds sinister. That would send most of us to hell for eternity is absolutely abhorrant. Who would wish for this sort of god to be a reality?
      • Apr 22 2012: I didn't say that there is a God. I said that people that believe that there is a God, or I guess, more specifically, the Christian God, live and obey His commands. They believe that murder, stealing, adultery,
        any lying are wrong based on what their creator says. As for evil on earth, lets assume that you are a robot, sitting on a bench in a laboratory. Your creator pushes the "on" switch. You spring to life, aware of where you are and aware that the person that created you is standing there in front of you. How can you tell him that it would be unfair for him to turn you off again? He created you, he can do whatever he wants with you. You are his property. That is the way Christians look at life. We are God's possessions. We know that he can do with us whatever he wants at any time and it is completely in his right to do it. That is one big benefit of recognizing a creator. You realize that your world is in your creator's hands. The universe did not create itself. The universe is not self existent. As far as morals and ethics go, why is killing the guy who cut you off on the freeway wrong? He's going to die sooner or later. Who say's it's wrong to kill him now? Lawmakers? Ted Kennedy? Rules made by people change. Punishments are arbitrary. Different rules apply to different classes of people. If you are seeking absolutes, there is only one choice and that is to seek a higher counsel. Otherwise, you will be left holding your hat in your hand and hoping for the best by people that are in a position to judge you by getting there by popular vote.
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          Apr 22 2012: its only gods rules if the believers are right. otherwise its just a man made god and man made rules like every other religion. faith alone does not make it true.

          Then we are back to the same place. I notice most societies worked out the rules you mention.

          I don't object to those ones in general. However I would kill in self defense. I would lie to stop someone else getting killed. I might steal from the rich if my family was starving and there were no other options.

          I do object or challenge other rules from this god. Killing adulterers through to not eating shellfish or carrying out genecide if gods agents ordered me to. Most Christians pick and choose. In Christian philosophy if god says sopmething it is automatically moral no matter if it wouldn't be if someone else did. The Christian god murdered everyone except Noah etc. If there was evidence we were gods creations and his to order around, to kill, to punish eternally it would still seem immoral to me.

          Aslo there are not a lot of laws about the environment etc in the bible and we do just fine.

          I hope we treat our children with more love than Yahweh.

          Thankfully there is no convincing evidence.

          apologies for the wrong assumption.

          i was a christian in the past and understand the position.
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          Apr 23 2012: Hi Casey, I probably wouldn't go for Ted Kennedy.

          I guess our moral systems are all man made, so I wouldn't leave it all to 2000-4000 year old religions or the pope either.

          I believe we have thousands of years of philiosophy on ethics - good and bad human conduct - actions and motives, considering the other.

          There are no ultimate cookie cutter solutions. Religions just attempt to simplify the problem with benefits and trade offs from doing so. I note religious people decide which religious framework and whether to take the whole lot of it or pick and choose. Don't see many Jews stoning adulterers these days. Still see women oppressed. Still there is some good stuff in Buddhism, 10 commandments, etc if you sift through the bronze age dross.

          We are not starting from scratch. Socrates, the good life, Jefferson and enlightenment values, Bertrand, Grayling, etc. What is so bad with the UN Declaration of human rights.

          I think it is sad if people believe we need to gods and scriptures to live an ethical life, to have a civil society etc. Its insulting to human species actually. Its like something from our infant stages of development. Maybe we are disobedient teenagers now, but even teenagers grow into adults. The thinking you raise keeps as us moral infants. Lets grow up, accept the challenges facing us and take responsibility.
      • Apr 23 2012: Please don't go down the road of pointing a finger at God for not stopping tragedy. I hate to get into religion here, but it seems that morals are directly tied to religion. God created the world, and then gave us all free choice to do whatever we want, with full knowledge of what he expects. To say that he didn't smite Hitler is absurd. It's our world, Hitler is a free man and he did what he did. God will deal with Hitler. I don't know what will happen to him, but it's not for me to know. God has given us all the information to lead peaceful, happy, productive lives and we can take it or leave it. It's our choice.
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          Apr 23 2012: I don't mean to point the finger at god as god is just a human idea to me. Just pointing out some of the contradictions in the religion I know best.

          Morals are only tied to religion if you believe in gods that have rules for humans.

          There is just so much suffering in the world, natural and human. Hard to connect this with a supposed loving god. It seems more like what you would expect materialistically in terms of earthquakes and floods, the brutality of nature. But Christian or JEws or Buddhist could be correct - but not everyone.

          If you believe in an interventiosit god who answers prayer, he seems a bit selective. Prayer answered - must be good. Not answered - must move in mysterious ways.

          Do you believe god ordered adulters to be stoned in the past? Do you believe god caused the great flood? Is god active in the world?

          Can not have it both ways.

          The idea of ultimate justice after death is another consolation but again no one knows for sure what happens after death. Although the Christian version is a bit flawed. If Hitler had earnestly asked for forgiveness, and accepted Jesus as his savior and repented he'll be in heaven.

          If a human tortured someone for a year, they would be a monster. But god can do this for eternity because we made a choice and he made us.

          How much of a choice is it when you are born in Saudi Arabia. How much choice is it when all religions look man made. How much choice 2000 years ago if born in China. Or 300 years ago and born in New Zealand.

          Again I don't know your beliefs, but there are so many mental contortions in faith. Some people even think the world is 6000 years old. An amazing feat. Similar arguments can be used for most religious frameworks. One key thing is I can not dispprove an immaterial, invisible god. How convenient for you. But then you can not prove it either.

          You sound like me many years ago.
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      Apr 21 2012: If there is no absolute morality it does not stop us working out what is good and what is bad to the best of our ability. Moral questions can get very difficult. I see the attraction of assuming a set of beliefs are the absolute. But even these don't provide a simple answer sometimes

      Thou shalt not kill. What about in self defense. The Jains and Quakers may say no.
      What about to save the life of an unborn child or mother.
      Some say death for apostasy etc.

      What if god tells you to perform genital mutilation on baby boys or girls. What about the rights of the child?

      Tied in with some fairly universal values there are often nasty, violent, or sexist or trivial laws and commands. Don't eat pork or shellfish. Kill adulterers and disrespectful children. Cut the hands of thieves.

      Take the god of the bible. He committed genocide on the human race in the flood. He promoted genocide of the Hebrews neighbours. He condemns us to eternal torture if we rebel against his less than convincing existence and dubious conflicting books and laws.

      And he created us in a way that guaranteed we would do evil to one another and suffer disease.

      Surely we can do better than this early iron age and medieval morality. We have in the enlightenment.
      No more slaves, equality, freedom etc. But a long way to go.
    • Apr 22 2012: There hasn't been a single time when the bar for morality has not been set by our fellow human beings. Not once. Yet, here we are. Well, actually in deep trouble. So you might have a point there.

      I prefer people to learn that there is no creator giving us commands. Otherwise everything would be "set in stone," and we would approve of slavery and stoning homosexuals and adulterers, and a whole bunch of other quite idiotic rules. There would be no objective reality helping us decide. Morality would be meaningless except in the sense of "it violates what the big lady/guy wants."

      Acknowledging our own responsibility might help us grow up and stop being these stupid and thoughtless little kids who need a big-daddy/mommy telling us what she/he prefers us to rule in and out. Not an easy task, I know, but that's all we've got.
      • Apr 23 2012: As long as we set our own standards, we will be morally corrupt. Man cannot set his own standards. This evidenced everywhere you look. Our country's government was set up so that one branch could override the other. Why? Because the framers knew that if one branch had all the power, it would become corrupt and immoral. It is a reflection of their personal religious beliefs. They did not declare that all men are equal, based on their opinion. They declared that all men are made equal by their creator. Strike that line from the Declaration of Independence and you have a declaration of what some guys thought 236 years ago. I don't want my freedom and recognition of my independence contingent upon what some lawmakers say. I want my law to be based on universal standards, standards that are unchanging, immutable, and everlasting. In other words, I need a standard that is set forth by a power higher than man.

        Who do you wish to give you your freedom? God or man? Even if you don't believe in God, you can still accept your freedom as given by God as a proxy. I will never be able to say that "I'm free because the government said so". That is ridiculous. Governments come and go. Laws come and go. God's laws, whether you like them or not, never change. I'm free because God says that I'm free according to the founders of our country. That is absolute moral-ism.

        You and Obey1kinobe have me stumped on multiple religions. The original question was if humans can be moral without God. I guess I have to say no. Humans will find a reason to do immoral things to each other and in the process, they will define what they are doing as moral. There has to be an unchangeable baseline and that, by definition can't be defined by man. There are many religions and most violate my morals. So, I guess I get my morals from my belief system. I assume that other cultures get theirs from their belief system. It's rare that cultures have morals based upon the opinions of their citizens.
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          Apr 23 2012: Hi Casey, the issue you have identified in regards to different morals from different belief systems is close to the core.

          How are the morals I have based on a humanistic perspective any less valid than those based on all the false gods.

          I guess I don't see any convincing evidence for any interventionist god, or any particular religion. The bible in itself provides evidence that the god it talks about is not moral, unless you apply a special pleading fallacy and define whatever god does as moral. Which is a human construct.

          Saying it or believing it is from a god does not make it so.
          Which seems to be Gabo's point too.

          What are the universal standards? What the Christian god says, what the Buddhist suttras say, the book of Mormon? By what authenticated and recognised source?

          I understand the desire for universal irrefutable standards but they don't exist in the way you desire. It just takes a few steps more to come up something good. minus the baggage of religion that is workable.

          Imagine even the rules in different religions were developed by humans.

          You have an indirect point I need to reflect on in that maybe people will respect laws less if they don't believe there is a connection to a god boss, even if the god does not exist. Maybe just the thought of hell, or being reincarnated as a worm for bad acts, having an invisible thought policeman watching you all the time, might encourage some people to act according the god laws.

          I'm not sure that in itself is enough to warrant paying homage to false gods and their man made laws. In the end living a good life because you want to seems a better motive then fear and obedience to a human mythic creation, or their human spokes people.

          Starting with our best understanding of the truth might be more sustainable than imaginary gods.

          If humans can not be moral without gods, then we are all immoral because there are no proven gods.

          I guess in the end we will disagree on this topic. Good to have a contrary view
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    Apr 20 2012: I would like to begin with that I believe that morality is not attached to God/god.
    However,
    Premise 4 (During the reign of religion we have had more wars, murder compared to now - as the grip of religion has decreased.) is a poor statement.
    First, when is your definition of the “reign of religion”? When is this time period? Because there are many religious nations in the modern world, as a matter of fact the United States is both a great world power and a religious nation. There were also many religious nations throughout history, with worship dating back to the paleolithic age.
    Second, it is important to note about the measurement of war in the statement. i.e. Time per century, amount of wars, deaths per war? I assume your statement is talking about the inquisition and/or crusades. Because as far as I know, the 20th century had one or two minor wars of their own.

    I will continue further upon responses.
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      Apr 21 2012: Douglas, I agree point 4 could do with more explanation. I have a habit of getting to 2000 characters and trying to make too many points.

      The reign of religion is a rather loose term. I meant it as a short hand way of saying religion has been more pervasive, and powerful an influence on society in the paste.

      Over time we have seen the development and spread of democracy, human rights, right to trial, equality, freedom of religion etc. I would argue that these developments have reduced the power of religion

      We have generally moved away from state religions with some exceptions.
      The history of Europe is savaged by one version of Christianity being imposed on another and back again.
      The Queen of England is still the patron of the Anglican church.
      I recall Catholics only got the freedom to openly practice in the UK a few hundred years ago
      The popes had more power in the paste.

      Religion used to be the only game in town for explaining disease, earthquakes floods, the existence of life and the universe etc. Western science was only freed from religion in the last 200 years when supernatural explanations were finally no longer accepted. We now have non religious if partial explanations for life and the universe - bacteria, plate tectonics, evolution etc.

      I refer to Steven Pinkers the better angels of our nature in regards to the general decline of violence especially in the last 50 years. Society is more civil than ever. Still a long way to go on a local and global level.

      Many Americans are very religious. However, the Federal constitution is secular and does not permit the establish of a state religion. We could discuss the remarkable dynamics in how the most power country in the world has about 40% of people still believing in a 6000 year old earth.
      My point is you can no longer burn witches in the US. Progress.

      It is not meant to be a precise time period rather a transition with religion moving from being very powerful to less. But by no means complete.
  • Apr 19 2012: Philosophy deals with morality under the head of moral philosophy, otherwise known as ethics. Normative ethics deals with the practical methods of determining a moral course of action. Applied ethics deals with how a moral outcome may be arrived at in any particular situation. Meta-ethics deals with the truth values of moral propositions.

    Many acts can be entirely ethical without making any reference to god(s). Deeply held religious beliefs tend to produce fundamentalist mindsets (albeit the beliefs are sincerely held) which tend towards violent outcomes when the established status quo is challenged.

    Much that is highly unsavoury has been perpetrated in the name of god. I try to behave ethically without needing god as my reference point. I cannot accept the insular, psychopathic and deeply divisive gods who appear to be supported within my local community.

    My personal moral code is not based in the teachings of any particular church for I don't belong to any and have never done so. My morality is a personal set of rules which makes sense to me and I try to live by that code.
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      Apr 20 2012: Thanks Jeff. Those heading ring a bell for me from grad school. I'm very rusty.

      Let me be devils advocate for a second.

      A) You say "Many acts can be entirely ethical without making any reference to god(s)". As a practical atheist I would say god does not even enter the mix so all actions can be assessed completely apart from religion. A theist might agree with you if the actions just happened to coincide with their gods divine commands, followed up with good works alone won't get you to heaven.

      B) Much that is highly unsavoury has been perpetrated in the name of god. The religious might argue most of these are humans misunderstanding gods will, or simply using god as an excuse, or that these acts are actually holy if they agree that the motivation and acts aligns with their view of gods will. Now we don't need god to do nasty things. I wonder if god adds a bit of heat we might not have otherwise. I think religion might exacerbate some issues. Israel/Palestine would be a mess even without religion in the mix. It is even more difficult given god is involved.

      Some people believe everything is predetermined or known by god. There are secular and religious arguments about free will as well. But that is another topic.

      I guess in the end we all have a personal set of rules, resulting from a mix of instinct and experience, whatever the source.

      If you take god out of the equation you don't need to explain away killing witches or inbuilt sexism in dogma. But I do get the point this independence has its own challenges. We have to think for ourselves. Stopping our reliance on god almost seems like growing up as a species from one perspective. From another it is rebelling against our creator. What fun this all is.

      Thanks for the interesting comment.
      • Apr 21 2012: Thanks Obey. :)))
        I have tried to discuss god with priests of various faiths, at varying points throughout my personal timeline. Answers are always vague and I get no sense that there is any genuine commitment to answer my questions about their particular god, in an honest fashion.

        I get a sense of devious sleight of hand, as if the subject is not really up for debate and it would be a disaster if it were to be discovered that religious folk have invested their lives and their time in something that is unlikely to be fruitful (useful?) to them... maybe in the sense of guaranteeing the devout a place in heaven.

        The notion that goodness (behaving according to ones religious tenets) is somehow going to bring a reward from god (the afterlife?) is utterly puerile and I would expect any half-sensate 5 year old child to detect the flaws inherent in this version of god.

        I remember attending a friend's wedding ceremony (he and his partner were lifetime members of the Quaker sect) I was struck by the non-pushy ceremony and the quiet dignity exhibited by the congregation. Famous Quaker personalities have managed to engage my interest throughout my life and I have a nominal respect for the principled Quaker viewpoint. Sadly, my friend's marriage ended after his wife could take no more senseless and violent beatings.

        The anecdote was apropos nothing in particular save to illustrate that religious conviction does not inform the lives of ordinary people sufficiently well, to prevent immorality. Only people with the luxury of having a visibly public stance (usually the incomparably wealthy or religious leaders) can afford to be the public face of the views which they profess to own.
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          Apr 22 2012: Hi Jeff. I agree that anyone pushing a specific religious interpretation has their work cut out for them.

          I support freedom of religion within limits. This does not make it out of bounds for the obvious criticisms. I'm also aware have strongly it keys into even the most intelligent and thoughtful people. A very tricky meme.

          The sad story remind me that at the heart of the challenges regarding morality and how we treat each other are humans. Belief in most likely false gods is not the solution. The solution must be in human hands. We are the problem and we should take responsibility for finding the solution.

          Thanks again
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    Apr 18 2012: God and/or religion do not serve for the ethical basis for my life and yet I would consider myself to be a moral person. So based off your statement of no god= no morality, how do you explain my lack of immoral behavior?

    Judgements of moral actions do not come from the god book. it comes from our brain and our innate biological characteristics.

    In the bible God talks about stoning ones wife for not being a virgin. The Qu'ran advocates honor killing. Both acts are deemed to be the most grotesque. That fact that no one really supports stoning and honor killings leads me to believe that God is not the moral basis of our lives (or everyone's life).

    I think science and philosophy are better moral guides than God
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      Apr 18 2012: I agree science and philosophy are better moral guides than God
      We have enough powers of reason to work out what is good for the human condition, although some issues are difficult - involving competing values or rights.
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        Apr 22 2012: I agree with everything you said. Now here comes the but:

        Ok but do you really think the issues with values are too difficult to, for the lack of a better word, solve?

        I do not deny the fact that values are competing but the reason why I think they create problems is because they seem to be relative and therefore personal.

        The point I'm trying to make is don't you think we can figure out which values serve a suitable purpose and which one's don't from a scientific and philosophical perspective?

        As Sam Harris would say, please don't take this to be arbitrary or anything..... I don't want to come off as a tyrant but I think relativism creates a lot of unnecessary problems being that we really do not operate like that.
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    Apr 24 2012: Perhaps we should distinguish between faith and religion. At times, we can describe faith according to religion. For some faith comes from within. For some it is a revelation; for some it is a connection; for some it was always an interior reality. It is as real as inspiration.

    There is no way to quantify faith. We can know many things "about" faith, but that doesn't mean we know faith. An inadequate analogy might be that it is the same with knowing a person. You can know all of the quantifiable elements of a person and not truly know why they respond to something like a new sound or piece of music.
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    Apr 23 2012: hell is more wicked than hitler. ownwership or power does not excuse cruelty. i would torture a disobedient dog for aminute. yet the christian god does for eternity. its just evil.
  • Apr 22 2012: We prohibit murder, robbery, etc.
    but it is us who create the reasons to commit crimes to begin with.
    Religion has failed miserably at providing a moral context for living.

    And science, which isn't necessarily supposed to, has had ample opportunities to provide one anyway, and has also failed miserably to do so.

    We don't need a god, that is true. We don't need the bleach of science to take all the mystery, magic and meaning out of life either.

    What we have, is or are, unjust systems that can never be made just. They are or it is, the ultimate cause of what we then label as moral, immoral, criminal, etc.

    It is not possible, correct, accurate or helpful, (I believe) to observe, study, conclude and label, things or people as having a "criminal mind" (immoral?), unless this is done in a society (system) in which there are no reasons to be criminal. We create all this bullshit in individuals. We make our children mentally ill, and the posers of this "high-ground morality" preach, "it is for the good of the children." Bullshit.

    Thus, we need to get rid of our systems and create "just ones" and we will have a morality that develops that is healthy, helpful, nuturing and real and that works.

    The so-called "morality" we think of today, speak about and debate over is close to 100% wrong. Hard to imagine or accept I know, but most likely true. Things need to change and people think only about re-stirring the pot and seeing if something else forms instead of throwing it all out, or making more laws so that the now privately-owned prison system will never be short of clients. Is breaking a law immoral when laws don't solve the problem and more of them make more people criminals?

    "Don't get rid of the cause of something bad. Why how could we live without what we are so comfortable and familiar with?"
    Let's just talk about it all.
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      Apr 23 2012: Hi Random. Let me try respond to your interesting points.

      I see the Science part explaining our behaviour is scientific terms, nature, nurture, evolution, group dynamics etc. It also challenges or offers an alternative evidence based view on human behaviour as opposed to religious interpretations. I'm not proposing science as providing all the answers in regards to what is ethical and what is moral. It is just a piece of the puzzle.

      The philosophy and ethics has a lot to offer in the latter. We have been thinking about these questions in religious and secular terms for thousands of years.

      I personally don't find science removes the mystery and meaning out of life. I'm in awe of the size, depth, complexity of life and the universe as revealed by Science. God as a burning bush - not so much, but we can still enjoy these and other stories.

      We don't even have to give up transcendent experiences, or exploring our consciousness. It is just done through non religious paradigms.

      Sure this is not the same as thinking the creator of the universe is interested in having a personal relationship with me and will judge me when I die. There is some good and bad in the religious view. We lose both if religion fades as people realise they are man made.

      I could go into a long argument about the consolation, morality, art, inspiration that we might lose if religion faded and point out that there are alternatives without resorting to conflicting supernatural belief systems.

      Life still has meaning without god. In fact our life on Earth is more precious if there is no afterlife or reincarnation.

      If people want to go on believing their particular religious delusion, so be it. Unless this starts to harm others etc.

      Are you saying we are focusing too much on the laws and outcomes and not on the root cause of problems? I tend to agree with that. Perhaps a mix of poverty, inequality, lack of personal and parental responsibility, ignorance, lack of options etc
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    Apr 22 2012: Obey #1 .. you are asking a question almost equal to "No Bicycle=no teapots?".
    Both "god and "morality" do not exist.
    These are garbage-bin-words ..

    Places to contain assumptions that cannot be resolved for now.

    HAve you anything of substance to break open these silly bins and allow for real commication to penetrate?



    CAn you see a way forward?
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      Apr 22 2012: Hi Mitch, I think you might be right on the no god part, although for god and morality it depends on your definition.
      Some say the universe is god. The word god currently has about a 6.4 billion interpretations. The other 600 million are non believers.

      So would I be correct is saying we don't need religion to have a civil society?
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        Apr 22 2012: I get the notion that the god-space that people cast into their neural matter has some kind of function .. but that we've lost the manual.

        Need some definitions. (not interpretations) OK - I'll give it a go.

        Society = a species bound by an aproximately shared secondary perceptive field facilitated by capacity for symbolic communication.

        Civil = not known at this time due to deep assumptions imbedded in the word. For the purpose of the discussion I'll assign a definition: Civil = a vector expressing teh total average error of the extant combined secondary metaspace of the species. Low error would be classified as high civility, high error would be classified as low civility.
        A threshold limit would define the functionality of the society as measured by "harm" level resulting from error.
        Harm = the measure of damage inflicted on the members of the society by the society and other individuals.
        Harm would be attenuated by "healing".
        Healing = the repair of harm.

        A "harmer" would have high error in secondary perceptive field.
        A "healer" would have low error in secondary perceptive fied.
        SO the civil threshold would be equal to harm minus healing is less than zero.

        A truly civil society would be one where harmers are healed.
        (This is one of the lost pages of teh "god" manual.)

        SO what are the mechanics of teh harmer and the healer?
        It all has to do with connective logic in the core self.
        TO enable communication, 2 copies of core self are made into the secondary perceptive metaspace - one for self, one for other.
        Symbolic communication is fed through each proxy to code/decode and undergo error correction.
        In teh healer, both proxies are wired correctly into body regulation - therefore expression of body-specific symbols in the "other" proxy elicit real body reaction in teh core self" (empathy) - e.g. actual or potential harm to "other" results in negative body response in proto-self.
        In the harmer, either the wiring has been inverted, or is corrupted somehow.
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          Apr 23 2012: Hi Mitch. Isn't communication a wonderful thing.
          I guess my attempt at describing the question was imprecise.
          I guess you have a fair idea of the meaning I was trying to convey.
          How would you describe the question?

          Expanding in my imprecise language, some people are worried that if we stopped using laws and commandments passed down in religious scriptures and dogma we risk becoming a more brutish society, survival of the fittest etc, anything goes?

          I think it is important that we raise and education ourselves and our children to consider what is ethical behaviour, what reduces human suffering, is compassionate, considers the other, is fair and just, that improves the human condition and helps improve our lives.

          Lots of words with many connotations but I guess you get the gist of what I'm saying.

          Reading through your last comment you seem to be assessing the situation but not making conclusions as too whether a reduction or elimination of religious faith would adversely impact humans in terms of how we ethical behave in regards to one another.
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        Apr 23 2012: Hya Obey#1,

        I am indulged in a super-reductive process to undo all the garbage-bin words.

        A process of saying BS!!! to everything .. and then go hunting for the assumptions plastered-over by dogma. IT is like the eternal pub-crawl through all human error .. it's like splashing around in infective slime - all the acreted damage of our species' first stumbling steps.

        Most of what people worship as gods are simple tribal flags to hang on the wall of their understanding - to cover teh great gaping hole. Their god talks out from that flimsy flag saying "cool dude - you did the right thing, kill anyone who lifts my skirts and you will be happy in the .. ahem .. afterlife! DUDE!!!

        And the religeous guy - litenning to his tribal flag, will continue to nail-down the edges by tansfixing shirt-lifters around his falg, untill the whole thing is circumscribed by bleeding martyres .. and stil the flag puffs-out and rends with the wind of reality .. in the name of an "after life" .. that is worthless to the living.

        Who gives a toss about after death?? We are ALIVE. We are here to live, we are NOT here to die, and all seeking death .. well .. we should let them have it.

        There should be clinics for that.

        Then the living can get on with life.

        We are babies, and we have so far to go - let's not be constrained by the religious who are covered in artifacts of cloth to suppress the truth.
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        Apr 23 2012: Um .. describing the question?

        I read it as:

        WHat is the boundary of human delusion?

        How is it that our delusions define us and catch our feet in mud?

        How do we escape the mud without leaving our thongs behind?

        DO we even NEED thongs?

        What the universe wants from us is clear:

        honesty, sharing, Empathy and love. THese are teh principles of noise-reduction that the next evolutionary step is asking for.

        Unfortunately for us - these characteristics don't develop unti puberty - at the time of the great brain-death

        Without these, we cannot pass. So we have to reduce the brain death to a time earlier than puberty, in order to remove the male competitive imballance from our development.
  • Apr 22 2012: Hi Obey,
    [O] "The solution must be in human hands. We are the problem and we should take responsibility for finding the solution."

    I am in complete agreement with this viewpoint.
  • Apr 21 2012: Hi Obey No1kinobe.

    I checked out the talks you highlighted and must say I was very impressed with Jonathan Haidt's talk. First class, thanks for bringing it to my attention. With regards to the purposes of this debate, it reminded me of a something I read in a Steven Pinker book, not sure if it was his invention or he was quoting someone else, but what he stated was:-

    People say we need God but what they really mean is that we need police.

    I have a new understanding of that now, cheers for highlighting that talk which I may otherwise have missed :D
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      Apr 22 2012: Hi Terry. I found that enlightening too.

      The Pinker quote is powerful. Thanks for that. Reflecting on it, it connects to our fear of anarchy, desire for fairness and recognition some humans will try and take advantage others if there are no constraints.

      I suggest we have evolved to be both compassionate and competitive. This mix or individual and group dynamics seems to have been fairly successful from an evolutionary perspective but has a dark side that can not be ignored.

      This conversation has raised my appreciation of the point many theist make about the risks of religious decline and highlight that we should be vigilent, we should promote positive values. No absolute morality is not an excuse for no morality. I just hope that some might reflect and see that Religion as a social technology has pros and cons. That its decline does not automatically lead to the end of civil society etc. We can still have "police" etc.
      • Apr 23 2012: Unfortunately I have leant the book in question out to a friend and it has yet to return... However as I recall he was reflecting on a strike by the police in a town in Canada(?), within a few hours the army had to be called out to restore order. The talk by J Haidt brought that to mind and I think it has some relevance to your point 6.

        Being atheist myself I certainly agree that we don't need religion in order to value morality and decent behaviour. In fact religion can, though by no means always, foster a strong sense of out-group hostility, if you are not a believer then you are 'the enemy'. On the other hand I'm sure that the majority of religious people wouldn't suddenly go out looting and killing if there was some devastating proof of the non existance of god(s). Or if they were told 'You know what God is having a day off today, do as you want and you won't be judged for it'. Morality doesn't need religion to back it up.

        With regard to the need for police, there certainly seems to be a continued need for that institution, provided of course there is sufficient oversight. People want to be protected from the police as much as by them, as power without oversight tends to lead straight to abuse. As you correctly state our group dynamics have a dark side that cant be ignored.

        Maybe it is possible to educate ourselves out of this negative side of behaviour I certainly think so. I say that personally I don't need God, the UN or the police to behave well, I do it anyway as that is the way I would like to be treated. Aristotle, said it better - 'I have gained this by philosophy, that I do with out being commanded what others do only through fear of the law'
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    Apr 21 2012: Obey,
    My position is this; No God = nothing. God is what is doing the creating. If there was no God, then there would be no one to say that God does not exist. And the morality issue becomes mute. Do we understand God? Now that is another question altogether.

    Religions were formed to try and understand what is doing the creating. They have been all over the map (twisted, distorted, enlightening, dead wrong, good, bad, and indifferent). The Judeo-Christian tradition presents a view of God in which its own followers failed to stay on track. The old testament books of history reveal kings who departed from the faith, bringing calamity to their own people. They foretold the coming of a messiah, yet they had him killed as their own prophets foresaw. The Muslim world speaks out against its own brand of terrorism with little heed. Does belief in God lead to morality? Obviously not for many people.

    People make command decisions based on what they believe. If what they believe is built on false notions, then their decisions are going to be as twisted as their beliefs. Would getting rid of religion lead to a decrease in morality? In fact, it may even result in an increase in morality because people would no longer be motivated by false notions. That of course is in the ideal world. In the real world, trying to get of religion would spark its own horror as those who adhere to it would revolt with untold hostility.

    I am not against criticizing religion. I am against trying to do away with it altogether for the reason just cited. As the truth filters in, people will start to make their own decisions as to what they are willing to believe. I wrote a book called "The Merging of Two Worlds". I received some interesting feedback on it lately. A friend passed it along to her church going neighbors. She said they loved it. I asked if they would like me to speak at their church? She said they no longer attend because my book proved to be far more informative on the subject of faith.
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      Apr 21 2012: Hi Roy, I'm not advocating doing away with religion. I support freedom of religion within limits. However I strongly oppose theocracies. In this conversation I'm just arguing that civilisation flawed as it is will not automatically collapse if religion died a natural death.

      Your position no god = nothing is the majority position over the course of human history.
      This has been debated elsewhere and I think the result is it is something we can not prove or disprove. It makes sense to some and seems the wrong direction to explain one of the most difficult questions facing us to others.

      From my perspective we have a universe how did it get to be as it is. One solution has been that there must be a cause. To get around this cause being caused they arbitrarily define this cause being uncaused. As if this explains anything. Its just a bizarre trick of dislogic. Then by some feat of the imagination most make a huge leap that their cultural god or gods are this uncaused cause. How they know this cause is intelligent, personal, human focused, eternal, and has no preceding cause is based on their scriptures or just to suit their position.

      Why not some non intelligent cause. Why not some eternal seed or conditions for the current universe and numerous other rationales that have just as much credence.

      As you allude there are over 3,000 gods known to scholars some will multiple sects and denominations and an individual interpretation for every person. The case for an interventionist god is pretty flimsy. Those that believe with certainty that their interpretation is the most correct are in a sense delusional. I include theists, non theists and everyone in between.

      I guess one strength or weakness of the god argument is it can be melded to prove anything you want.

      Your comments and others reinforce to me that if religion dies out we still should educate, we should be vigilent, we should promote positive values. No absolute morality is not an excuse for no morality.
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        Apr 22 2012: Ancient cultures personified the cause of the universe. That is where the idea of an intelligent PERSON came to be. Such a person does not exist. But the personification pertains to something, and that is where I argue that quantum fields are the cause. They have all the qualities that were equated to God.

        I agree that religious claims focus on the personification as if it is real, but never really get beyond the image to what really created this universe. This is delusional and needs to be addressed in some manner. I have gone beyond the personification and saw God as something that is real, but not as religion claims it to be.

        Agreed that we need to educate people about positive values and put delusional gods to bed. That is the same position of the old testament; idol worship was not allowed. but religion has brought it back by having us believe in delusional gods because they don't understand who (or what) the God of Israel really was.
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      Apr 22 2012: Hi Roy I just read your comment again and thought I might offer a few more comments.

      I agree religion has provided some societal benefits but not without consequences. Whether you believe in gods or not, the actual interpretation and practice of religion is a human construct.

      One of the inherent dangers of religion is associated with humans thinking their view of god, often tribal or cultural is the correct one. That their holy scriptures are the truth. While this may inspire us to good. It obviously inspires us to evil as well. This sort of belief can be used to see the other as non human and justify acts of evil. It is sadly part and parcel of human religious belief.

      The old testament books reveal a god that is jealous, cruel, petty even genecidal at times. Sure that not the whole picture. I've explanations that the nasty god and loving god often correlates to whether the Hebrews or their rulers felt threatened or secure. Aligning with this god seems inherently dangerous. The record of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions speak for themselves - a mix of good and evil. Like the people that invented them.

      Then there is the argument for truth whether we like the answer of not. Look at all the religions, rules and interpretations. The truth is they conflict in many ways and can not all be true. How do we know which are closer to the truth. Humans use a mix of intuition, reason, experiential programming or just take the cookie cutter approach. Even the more explorative can not help but see god through their cultural lens.

      To say my god said so does not work for those who have other gods or no gods. It is flawed. More flawed than working it out objectively in my view.

      I guess my point is why not find more reasonable, safer approaches to support a civil society than relying on religion with its obvious subjectivity, falsehoods, and negative aspects.

      I believe we can now do better than religion to promote a civil society if we really tried.
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        Apr 22 2012: Religion has been a work in progress. It is inherently flawed by human error in interpretation. But that is one of its warnings; beware the power of deception. They know that it has dangers, but feel that they have somehow straightened it all out. You and I both know that they haven't.

        I feel that our job is not to do away with religion, but to address its flaws. By challenging religion with opposing views, you put them on the defensive. By showing correlations between religious and scientific ideas, you give credence to their ideas but show them where the errors exist. Some will rebuke you, but some will take notice. I am finding that I am getting people's attention by my book because it doesn't attack religion, but provides interpretations that make sense.

        As far as the subjectivity, falsehoods, and negative aspects of religion, when you relate these to Satan, religious advocates don't turn a blind eye. You're talking their language. That is what I am trying to get people to see. Show them the error of their ways in their own language, and they don't shut you off.

        The part of religion that I want to keep is the spiritual ascension that leads to Christ consciousness. Whatever impedes this process needs to be weeded out. Even religious advocates will have a hard time arguing this logic. And if you can introduce science in this manner, then you have a shoe in.
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          Apr 22 2012: Thanks for expanding Roy.
          I agree that the automatic response for most people might be to dig you heels in if your core beliefs are challenged. I probably do the same.

          Still sometimes someone says something that jars me, or makes me do a bit more thinking or research and deepens, broadens or refines or significantly changes my world view. Its a work in progress.

          While I think the equilibrium is shifting slowly towards more non theists, I guess religion will be a powerful force for decades, maybe centuries to come. When I see how far we have come in the last 5000 years, I'm not so sure about the next 5000 years, or 50,000 years. We will probably be very different humans in 5 million years.

          Whether its religion, or new age, mysticism or some sort of spiritualism based on supernatural precepts, I guess it keys into our human psyche. Its a powerful meme.

          I'm not completely sure what I'd like to see happen in regards to religion. I guess I'd like see a less tribalistic world, less conflict, less terrorism, more equality, respect for childrens rights, more acceptance of the fact that no one knows for sure. That blind faith is not a virtue. Using your brain to improve the human condition is. And please no more Theocracies.

          In practical terms, I don't want other peoples religious dogma to be the basis for our laws without a valid secular argument.

          Perhaps a mutli pronged approach is best. I think there is a place for the militant atheists. In a way they may have helped opened up some space to be critical of religion. I think they may have a point. Perhaps we would be better off without it on balance. There is something about religion that makes even some of the smartest most compassionate accept weird stories and act weird or even cruel.

          I think the religious moderates have a role too to standard up to the extremists. Maybe every human construct has positive and negative aspects and to expect religion to be benign is the same as expecting democracy to be perfect
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    Apr 21 2012: Just out of curiosity, what would be your take on a scientific perspective of morality? Do you think its something science should be concerned about or do you think religion and philosophy should be the disciplines that focus on morality?
  • Apr 21 2012: Morality is those action and behaviors that lead to the good health and well-being of individuals and communities. The belief in God is not necessary for morality to occur. In fact, every action and behavior we engage in contributes either to our health or illness, and to our well-being or misery. Some actions and behaviors are more dramatic than others.

    Ethics is the real issue behind religion, law, and politics. Morality is what it is. Ethics is what we want to see. Morality has an absolute character in that every action can be shown to contribute either to our health and well-being, or to our illness and misery. Ethics is relative in that we can prioritize which moral actions and behaviors we would like to focus on and give importance to.
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      Apr 22 2012: Thanks David. I would agree with promoting behaviour that improves the human experience/condition.
      Also that a key element of law, government etc should be to provide a civil society.
      One difficulty is determining the priorities especially if religion is in the mix.
      E.g. if religious cultural values say a raped woman should marry her rapist.
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    Apr 19 2012: No god = no morality , this is not true of course (if I got the obscure sense of your words) . We can be in a sense moral without believing in God , I guess this is what you meant to say . We can't be absolute moral and I guess in this sense God could help us .

    What the atheist aren't , I never heard of at least one , is to be holy , such a thing is obviously not for atheists . And this rises questions .... .

    As about your points it's not much to say , of course you are one-sided , and throwing the blame only on religion proves ignorance . Where you, the atheists, will understand that the religious people lives are determined by the same conditions as of the other people ? where you will understand that a person who calls himself a religious person is not necessarily one ? Mitt Romney , he is a mormon but he don't gives a damn on this religion when it comes about a presidential race ...... , just to be put to choose between this two .... .

    Who said you need God to value life ?......... George Bush? Let me tell you he did that to get some votes .
    Both this guy could be honest believers (I doubt it) but in this case they are very ignorant about what religion is about .
    (this are just some examples ) .

    'the reign of religion ' never such thing existed .....
    ..............and so on .

    In fact I would say the true religious people , the real spiritual one , about who the atheists are usually amazingly ignorant , are the best people in the world .
    • Apr 19 2012: There is no such thing as "absolute moral." That's an oxymoron. Morality is necessarily relative for there to be moral beings.
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        Apr 20 2012: Absolute morality is a whole other conversational.

        Interesting point about us being restrained as moral beings if there is an absolute. I'll have to think about that as it is not immediately clear to me.

        There are so many considerations against there being a universal absolute morality.
        For starters which group of divine commands are the correct ones?They can not all be true.
        Even if there is a creator, which revelation interprets its will correctly?

        A lot of it comes back to whether there is a interventionist god/creator.

        And then the rules don't all make sense today. Why didn't Jesus condemn slavery?
        Does the Caste system make sense in the 21st C.

        And then there is the human interpretation of the supposedly divine material.
        Women can be priests. No they cant.
        Contraception is fine. No it isn't.
        We should circumcise our children. No we shouldn't.
        Polygamy is okay. No it isn't.
        Interest is bad. Its okay.

        I guess there may be some non believers who think there are some or should be universal rights and responsibilities and codes of behaviour etc.
        I guess if these were written down 2000 years ago, they would be open to slavery etc.
        And that's what we see in the bible.

        Its an interesting concept, but there is no judge in the non relgious world to say what the absolutes are even if you believe non violence is an absolute, it is only your opinion. Which is where the conservatives or religious often get caught up. Nothing is certain if there are no absolutes.

        Which seems to be reality for me. Nothing is certain. It is complicated and simple arbitrary guidelines get you so far but should be open to scrutiny.

        Even with absolute values or rules they can conflict - obey your husband versus respect your wife.
        Who decides if

        From a secular viewpoint there are issues even with the concept of bills of rights leaving little room for improvement or adjusting to changing technology and society (a single shot rifle is not the same as an automatic machine gun.
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        Apr 20 2012: Gabo :

        Explore it a bit if you want to , why do you think that in order to exist moral beings the morality must be relative to that beings ? if this is want you meant to say .
        • Apr 20 2012: It's the other way around eduard, for there to be a morality there has to be beings who hold a morality. You would agree that we can't hold a lion to our moral standards. Thus, morality is relative to moral beings. Easy. You see?

          Edit: "Absolute" is a word both misused and abused by creationist quacks in order to promote their gods.
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        Apr 24 2012: I see , but it doesn't mean that for an absolute being absolute morality cannot exist . Absolute morality meaning here holiness.
        • Apr 24 2012: Meh,
          The morality still depends on there being this being. So still relative. Subject to "the nature" of this god. Relative. Here the meaning of words is very important because this "absolute" thing is mere rhetorical trickery to promote a twisted view of morality, that it comes from some absolute unchallengeable source. Thank Huitzilopochtli that this is not so. Otherwise we would be subject to idiotic moralities as they come from "sacred" texts.
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      Apr 19 2012: Actually, in this debate I'm trying to make points that support the argument that civilisation will not collapse into survival of the fittest if religion became extinct or that we don't need god to be moral.
      So it is a bit one sided in many parts as I state my case

      I'm not saying Religion is responsible for all the ills in society and through history.
      I'm not saying religion did not have an important role in terms of group control.
      In fact religion is linked to humans and humans have always done things good or bad.

      I'm pointing out that human civilisation could just carry on just fine if religion was removed today.
      Evidence for this is that you can be moral without god.
      Also, that religion has not been and is not a perfect vehicle for promoting moral behaviour.

      Anyone who gives it 5 seconds thoughts can figure out that what Hitler did as a Catholic, or what the past popes did, or child abusing priests is not proof that god or the pure form of the religion is lacking in itself.

      But what you fail to get is that many people who consider themselves religious, believe in god, are doing gods will. And sometimes they actually are in line with holy scriptures. You seem to be the one ignoring
      By what authority do you selectively ignore scripture or judge who is or isn't acting in line with gods will.

      Anyway the point is that we can do just as well without religion even if you are right and every evil act by the religious is a distortion of religion. We can have values, human affirmed, that values life.

      In fact if you can just for a second imagine the world from our view where humans imagined the various gods - every society, even atheists, can come up with values that support order, fairness, property, life etc.

      Sure there was never a period when people behaved as you would have expected if they followed your view of religion. Supports my argument.

      But atheists are a minority now and even smaller in the past. Religion had more power. The human part is the real part
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        Apr 20 2012: I understand your point . I see your case as an attack to religion , an very unsubstantiated one due to your arguments , this is why I replied to you in the way I did .
        So even though we can be in a sense moral without believing in God , the religion can help us to be moral , as long as it do this i don't see why to refuse the help .
        Your arguments that share your conclusion : we don't need God to value life , are nonsense . I tried to share it above .
        Now I do it even a bit more : - if you can receive help , why to refuse it , in my opinion this is immoral .
        - your evidence are lacking in precision a lot :
        - the religion , real religion is a perfect vehicle to be moral .
        -the idea that many religious people are doing bad things it's not a proof that without religion we could do better or at least be just as fine as before.
        -if you refuse the help you can't be as good as the believers .
        -the enlightenment is very much a product of religion .
        But in the end the main idea if you can receive help , why to refuse it ?


        As about God's will , by the way I'm not ignoring anything here, it's a bit much to talk ; and on this I don't value your opinions too much .
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          Apr 21 2012: E G, firstly I'm not trying to attack religion, I'm not saying religion does not have the potential to guide people to be more moral, I'm just pointing out we don't need it, and it has not been that effective, and that many of the conflicting sacred texts or core teachings are a mix of moral and immoral as the absolute truth and this is a concern. Then there is the interpretation of religion.

          If you see this criticism as an attack on religion so be it. Seems rather fragile.

          I actually don't need to attack religion. Most attacks on religion have been by other religions or sects within a branch of religion. Yahweh versus the other gods of the early Hebrews. Catholics versus Protestants, Christians versus Jews versus Muslims etc.

          The source materials and core teachings are evidence against religion as a source of absolute morality.
          If people of faith can not see both the vengeful god and the compassionate one in the old testament they must have rose tinted glasses on.

          It seems you feel you have some special insight into what is true religion and what is not. This is part of the problem with religion everyone has different beliefs and they all think they have some special insight into the truth or morality etc. In fact in a way you are attacking or disagreeing with the beliefs of billions of theists who have different views to you.

          You say the real religion is a perfect vehicle to be moral. Until you come up with a reasonable argument to support this authority to judge what is real religion and what is not this is just your opinion.

          If I refuse the help of every god invented by humans, that in all probability are imaginary, that have texts that are a mix of good and evil, I see no evidence we will be worse off.
          In most cases gods do not offer help. They command our obedience, sometimes with the threat of eternal torment if we refuse. Others are exclusive to the chosen

          We can now take the training wheels off and think for ourselves and the world will not collapse.
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      Apr 19 2012: I'm not ignorant of the more enlightened religious people.

      Jesus may have offered revolutionary insights compared to the old testament. Or at least was a catalyst for his followers to develop a more inclusive church, that no longer required circumcision etc.

      Buddha offered many insights into the human condition.

      These teachings and others or personal exploration have led to many profound insights.

      And of course there are deeply spiritual people inspired to do good, maybe more than atheists per capita.

      But these seem to be the minority. It is a reasonable point to consider if society would suffer significantly without these few. However there are also non religious people doing great things to help others, or donating money etc. These good deeds do not need to be relgiously inspired to do good.

      You just seem to ignore the dark side of religion. You also seem to discount the majority of religious people who are no better or worse than non believers. Isn't that a bit one sided?
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        Apr 20 2012: Come o GM : -to say that you are not ignorant about the most enlightened religious people because you heard about Jesus and Buddha is an absurdity , it's like saying you are not ignorant about scientist because you heard about Enstein and Newton .

        Well Gm , you don't know me , I don't discount the majority of ........ , i don't value them too much as religious people , that's all .
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          Apr 21 2012: E G, did you not read my entire comment. I actually concede that some religion may be part of what inspires some people to compassionate acts, and that the religious may do more good acts, charity than non theists on average. You can deliberately take my comments indicating that the compassion shown by Jesus and Buddha out of context if you wish but it does not further your argument.

          True I don't know you and can only go by your comments. You seem to believe you have some special insight that allows you to judge the billions in the religious majority. Most of your comments don't seem particularly enlightened.

          Buried in your comments taking offence at any criticism of religion, judgement of what is true religion, and refusing to accept that from a non theists viewpoint you need to do more than simply proclaim the examples of the issues in religion are not real religion, there are actually a few good points. Shame they are buried in the apparent arrogance many seem to exhibit in terms of believing they hold some special insight into the truth.

          Even the most strident non theists admit they don't know there is no god for sure, often acknowledge that a deist approach could most reasonably be argued while pointing out the probability of any of the uncountable conflicting specific human interpretations of god are likely to be flawed or false. Even if you think all religions are glimpse of some ultimate creator or intelligence, this may still be wrong.

          I don't know what your beliefs are. Every god believer has a different interpretation which makes discussion religion actually discussing 7 Billion different interpretations of god, morality etc. You seem to be deliberately opaque in this regards. I'd be interested to understand your beliefs a little better given you seem pretty sure the majority of religious people have got it all wrong. Is it their beliefs or is it their behaviour? What special insight do you have?
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        Apr 24 2012: You got me , you made me an interesting characterization, I won't say it is false .
        I don't try to come up with enlightened comments , in fact I know they don't seem enlightened . What I said is weak , that's true .

        But the problem is other : atheism does not require a powerful attack to be destroyed ; it does it from itself , I'm just other guy who comment .

        I don't know where will meet again here on TED, if we will but the first thing you should know about my ideas is that the religion in my opinion is not only a mental/intellectual problem , it's more , it involves an entire being ; this is why I don't value too much the 7 bn interpretations (if such thing exist) ; to criticize religion from this perspective means actually to not criticize it at all .
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    Apr 19 2012: At this point I'd like to reflect on some of the comments so far, some of the videos, and even some of the comments from other conversations that triggered this debate.

    Jonathan Haidt reminded me of the powerful fact that we all think we are right and that everyone has reasons for what they believe and some may be useful.

    In another conversation someone stated don't throw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of the end of religion. Another warned of the risk of removing religion or spirituality from the morality situation.

    Most of us seem to believe we are a mix of instinct and reason. Some add a supernatural flavour in terms of spirit or a god given conscience. I believe we have a conscience. We are not born with a blank slate.
    We all have the capacity for care, reciprocity, fairness, heirachies, tribalism etc. Some say this is from God. I suggest it is from evolution.

    And then this raw material is melded by our experience.

    So I would acknowledge some of the former concerns in this way - while we have these innate positives we also have the innate negatives that take us in the selfish direction. Studies show if there is no punishment there will be freeloaders and takers and thieves etc. Tribalism is good for order within groups but leads to conflicts between groups, I'm all for sexual freedom, but advise against becoming addicted or hurting others or yourself.

    So I agree society benefits from having positive programming. Religion has provided us with this in part.

    So for those who have no religion, we still need to teach our kids ethics and positive values. We need to be good role models etc. Perhaps we still need stories, but not the sexist tribal violence ones.

    We still need to protect the bill of rights etc. We still need laws and punishment. We still need to be both compassionate but strong.

    With this I suggest we are not going to sink into survival of the fittest if religion became extinct.
  • Apr 18 2012: If we needed a god to value life we would be monsters.

    gods = no morality, because if gods dictated what is right and wrong, then morality would be meaningless. We would be accepting whichever rules as long as they came from such gods.
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      Apr 19 2012: I agree. ISn't it better to do good because you think it is the right thing to do rather than becasue god told you to or you will be punished.

      I also note some of the gods rules are evil and barbaric. Stoning adulters. Glad the Aztec religion is extinct too.
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    Apr 18 2012: Your points 2 - 6, point towards the grotesquely distorted forms of religion that many (including myself) detest - religions that have allowed themselves to become poisoned by politics and commercialism. As far as they go, I am as atheistic as they come.

    However, I also firmly believe that our capacity to intuit true spirituality - autonomously or in religions that are free from agendas of materialism, self-aggrandisement, indoctrination, elitism, oppression of women, etc - is actually a psychological imperative. I think the human brain has evolved to accommodate (and even to thrive on) spirituality and religion. I would not be at all surprised to find that this same brain region might also be the natural birthplace of morality, and which does not necessarily have to be ascribed to a single God figure.

    You mention the enlightenment values of equality and freedom. I'm interested to know: do you think that the basis of these values may have come about through legislative means and by positive discrimination, as opposed to being heartfelt? - A 'should' rather than a 'want'?

    Are enlightenment values on their own enough to carry us through what seems to me to be something of a moral vacuum of the modern age?
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      Apr 19 2012: Allan, your points advance the debate - thanks.

      Re 2 to 6, I break this down to firstly the what do the core teachings or scriptures say.
      The old testament tells the Hebrews to stone adulterers to death. It is unequivocal.
      It is not distorted - it is the supposed word of god, later contradicted by JC that some people chose to follow, but the majority of Jews did not.
      I'm saying many religions contain bad stuff. Some worse than others. Some better.

      Perhaps you are actually distorting this by interpreting this in light of your world view.

      Secondly, are humans distorting the basic teachings and scriptures. In the situation above no.
      In extreme Jewish groups settling in Palestine because god supposed gave them this land - maybe.
      A Christian blowing up an abortion clinic - maybe. I hope it is seen as a distortion by most Christians.
      Hating homosexuals - probably is a distortion for Christians, but not in old testament times.

      So I agree sometimes humans may distort the general messages. Which goes to point out that religion is not that effective anyway. I argue we could do just as well in the C21or better without it.

      I agree religion infuses our history and institutions. Nearly everyone was religious so I guess everything good and bad has an element of being done by the religious people - this does not make religion good or bad in itself.

      Perhaps Religion played a vital role in our more primative past in terms of government, law, control etc against anarchy. This would be a fair point worthy of examination. But can we have morality without god or religion, I believe we could.

      Perhaps profound consciousness exploration within relgious or non relgious frameworks supports moral development. It could do.

      Spirituality and Religion do key into evolved humans - I'm not sure if this supported survival in the past or is a by product of brain development driven by other purposes. Possibly both. Same mind can make nukes. Does not make it good or necesary or correct
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    Apr 18 2012: The talk in the link talks about morality

    http://www.ted.com/talks/frans_de_waal_do_animals_have_morals.html

    Do they also have god ?
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      Apr 19 2012: I'll have to look this up when I have broadband access later.
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      Apr 19 2012: Very interesting. Its easy to see some of what we are in them, and a lot of what we are from them.
      Evolved group dynamics.
      Off course we have moved past this but there are these positive instincts as well the 4 F's

      Still I would caution taking this video alone as convincing evidence of well developed fairness etc in other animlas. Some examples were a little trivial. Maybe the monkey just preferred grapes and was not that upset about the other getting grapes. Anyway, interesting for a short talk.

      I'm often surprised that people don't see how much in common we have, especially with the smarter mammals. We all share the mammalian part of the brain, and also a bit of neo cortex. But also we need to be careful not to project ourselves into animal behaviour.

      But some things definitely look like compassion and empathy, fairness etc if it were humans doing it.

      But we also have some of the other animal instincts and behaviours that are in the other direction.

      We can be base if we choose. Some do with or without religion.
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        Apr 19 2012: Hi Obey

        After landing into todays level of civilization , with lot of religions, societal , cultural, national norms, plenty spirtual thoughts, philosophical ideologies, scinetific developments with evidences, we homo sapiens are still struggling to define Morality......!!!

        Definitely one single experimental vedio can't be taken for granted as the proof of Morality in animals.But as you rightly said it gives some clue about collaboration , a bit of compassion may be which we always thought to be only our domain.....examples of collaboration , group dynamics are also available far below the mammal in the hierarchy of animal kingdom i.e. bees , ants in natural setting also.

        Don't get surprised please , we are most interesting creatures.......many people out there who possibly don't think we belong to animal kingdom.......may be we are super animal or not at all animal something super natural.....despite of our certain actions with which manytimes even animals are getting ashamed of.....

        In this discussion question notion is that without a God syndrome human being is immoral !!! That means human need threat / reward to be moral (which itself concludes human behavior parallel to the monkey of this experiment) ?

        The people who don't believe in God (there is a good number out there) all are immoral ? How they are immoral ? What actions of those people are immoral?
        How many wars , havoc of genocide, rape etc were created in this world by people who don't believe in god so far compared to those happened in the name of religion by religious people ?

        By the way what is that 4 F's you referred....can you please elaborate a bit..?
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        Apr 20 2012: LOL
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          Apr 22 2012: The 4 F's are my contribution to the field of human psychology.
          Although I may not be the first to come up with this turn of phrase.
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        Apr 22 2012: Hi Obey

        Wow , that's great to know those are your contributions .

        You know our village people for long (i am not sure about time line, ancient wisdom !!) used to say we live for Food & other one (after translating into English)

        Now as I was thinking why they were not talking about your other 2Fs I mean Fight & Flee ?
        Seems could come to a logical conclusion which is, the reason of Fight & Flee are Food & other one....:)

        Makes sense ?
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          Apr 22 2012: There is also "startle". (do nothing, wait and see).

          But we have to examine what we are - we are not insects, we are not lions, we are not bulls.

          We are the quest to expand perception far beyond senses.

          Is there "morality" in that? Only so far as we expand accurate perception.

          Is there "god " in that .. probably .. but no one can say .. we are sundered from truth by the gap of perception .. except in our true "self".

          Relality (truth) leads. We will never know it.

          Is there another "god" that is used only to correct our acumulated guilt and shame from the necessary mistakes of our questings?

          I'd say we are talking about the normal god that gets worshipped .. and that god seems to have become irrevocably insane. Can we fix "god"?

          Very probably .. but we wil first have to recognise his function in our own minds. That will cause holy wars .. worthwhile I think ;) - i twill force teh next necessary adaptation.
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          Apr 22 2012: Salim, Perhaps the 4 F's are from our reptilian brain. The oldest part.
          Our drives to eat and mate. Our response to danger to flee or fight.
          The love part starts in the mammalian part.
          Analysing all this is probably in the neo cortex.

          If the food is not tasty it might be good to flee.

          Mitch - Startle >>>> Freeze. 5 F's whoohoo.
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        Apr 23 2012: 6th F can be "Frightened" .....what do you think Obey & Mitch ?
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          Apr 23 2012: @Obey #1 .. "freeze" . .then it's an "F"!? I Like it!!

          Makes a lot more colour in WTF!!! (What is This F??!!)

          @Salim .. Hmm "be frightenned" .. ?

          That's the grandaddy of half the F's ..

          I like lizards - they scamper about my feet in the morning on the back step - and get pssed off because I interupted their sunning. But they don't think I want to eat them, so they come back real quick.

          The "go away" "come towards" things are pretty logical.

          It's really good to have nice clear things to define life. : Eat this, don't eat that, This is nice, this is not, This will kill you, this won't, If I fall that far, I'm screwed .. have sex with this, don't have sex with that.

          Shame things are not that easy for humans huh?

          In the human .. we can imagine them all .. and the imaginary F's what letter are they?
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          Apr 23 2012: Come home my beutiful friends..
          It is by music we do this,
          No, not that music over there .. but by the music heard through mist .. the one that calls you

          It s tradition .. And music holds our old self, and we have gone too far.

          The reed and the string . and all the real players .. all the songs and tunes are : "come home"

          Home awaits .. we await.

          YOu will .. go far . and then you will come home to deliver your painful blessing . in song.

          Come home and sing with us!!

          there is no other home.

          Come lie on he grass with the beautiful man and women, be drunk in our company , be in love with us - tell your jopkes of wisdom and call all who can hear .. come home.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF3fW4Nox9U

          Play this with us. We are not alone, we are not perfect.

          We are .. human - let none be afraid.

          COme home.
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          Apr 23 2012: Hi Salim, I tend to agree with Mitch - Fear might sit a level up driving some behaviours
          When we fear death, injury, pain (emotional or physical), feel in danger we might Fight, Flee or Freeze. Probably not a good time to eat or romance.
          A nice dinner date might be better for the other 2 F's.

          I imagine our lives were simpler as hunter gatherers.Society, life is cluttered with complexity. Yet in amongst it all we still feed and fight and fornicate. Some things haven't changed so much I guess in a way. Still I like the internet, anti biotics. Probably a decent balance in their somewhere.

          Funny, but cockroaches freak me out more than spiders. Logically it should be the other way round.
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        Apr 23 2012: And what about the spiders?

        Where I live, within 1 KM of me, there are the 2 most deadly spiders in the world: THe Sydney Red funnelweb, and teh BLue Mountains Black funnelweb _ the black male has the most deadly neurotoxin found on earth - it is toxic-specific to about 22 large insects and Humans and Chimpanzees. No other primate or mamal is hurt by them. But it is only the male that kills us - the female can make us a bit sick, but not kill.

        Mostly, the big spiders come in when it is hot, or if it rains. The big female Huntsman comes in all the time, but the male only comes in when they go active for mating. The Huntsman is a big spider - a big female once bit my wife coz it was hiding under teh door-hndle of teh car - she got 2 big punctures in her finger and freaked teh hell out and captured it in a paper coffee cup for identification. ANd brought it home so I could Identify it. .. These things sometimes drop off the ceiling onto my face as I sleep .. it's like having your cheek stroked by silk. THey are not toxic to humans. ANd we let teh daddy-longlegs live in all the corners f teh house, because they eat spiders - specially the Redback - which is nasty - more toxic than the Black Widdow, but the same genome.

        THen there's the snakes.
        WIthin 1Km of me there are about 600 snakes - and they are populated by the 10 most deadly species on the planet. They are defined by teh genus of "black" snakes .. and "brown" snakes .. the browns are the more potent versions of teh Cobra, which is not all that toxic.

        They live in the trees mostly - and eat birds .. it's like a billion-year-old rivalry .. so there are birds that eat snakes, and snakes that eat birds, and we rarely see the snakes. The Blacks like to eat frogs - so we don't go near the waterways without stout boots. I like the frog calls at night .. but snakes are deaf, and make no sound. But they do feel vibration, so we stomp when we enter long grass.
        Also - around me there are 1000 humns - I worry bout thm!
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        Apr 23 2012: Obey

        I also agree with you and Mitch about fear being grandaddy (Nicely coined by Mitch) of Fight, Flee ot Freeze
        But pondering it seems we sometimes get Freezed with astonishment !!
        We Fight without even any threat just to show our supremacy.....!!
        !We Flee at times not being ashamed .......!!!

        Well , just joking I am......

        Mitch , enjoyed the music of your link.....:)
        I was impressed with my short trip to Blue Mountain once, as didn't know about the spiders or snakes you metioned neither I did Flee, nor was Freezed , nor was Frightened......so "Ignorance is Bliss " :)
        I fed myself there but other .......no luck :(
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          Apr 24 2012: I sort of put the thing about the spiders/snakes to highlight our tendency to perceive "false positives". That's where we get startled by teh wind rustling some leafs and think "could be a tiger - better run". It has more survival value than a false negative: "Ah, it's just the wind" then get eaten by a tiger.
          Snakes and spiders are not in the business of biting humans, but they don't like being dcked round with. Awareness and respect close the gap on the false positives.

          What I am looking at these days is the basic regulating machinery that controls our body-states. FOr instance, the fight/freeze/fight response is ruled by adrenalin .. then there's the all the rest of teh neurotransmitters and endocrine homones..

          All in all they are much like a bunch of levers all connected into the mid and hind-brain. Mostly controled by the brain to maintain a basic "comfort zone" .. and everything is focussed on that process.
          If you are a spider or lizard or rat, it is all driven from your primary field of perception - that is tightly locked to your field of senses. This limits the potential "field of agency" - your options for action.
          However, the human is new order of creature. Our primary field of perception is firstly expanded beyond the senses by having some pretty impressive mapping and predictive ability - giving us wider choices of action.
          But we have a special trick - symbolic communication - this creates the "secondary" field of perception - which is massively greater than teh primary field - because through communication, we gain the primary perception of others. And more than that, we gain the secondary field of perception of others as well - creating a tertiary field of perception. All that power dude!
          Problem is, we are still basically lizards. We have not learned to refrain from turning our power against each other. OUr advantage was developed for our species - using it against our species is sub-optimal. Here is the true definition of "morality".
          God is what?
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          Apr 24 2012: @Salim Blue Mountains is pretty nice .. I grew up around here .. very lucky.
          The uilleann pipes are a 350 year old tradition That extends a 5000 year old tradition that goes back even beyond 25000 years. Bagpipes were present in messapotamia and India, and nearly every European and Asian region has a form of it. It all branches out from teh river reed which is still used in most these instruments .. the reed itself has some quasi-mystical arts associated with harvest and preparation. THese arts have been handed down over the millenia. I myself, was trained by a respected pipe-maker who lives nearby, his lineage can be traced back about 500 years.
          Getting involved in this stuff begins with a passion, as it is followed, a new world unfolds. One encounters a hidden society in which the power of humanity is never turned inwards.
          It seems to only operate around traditional music .. and perhaps dance .. maybe other ways.
          From this, I know there is a way home - if only we walk that road. It is hard, but it is beutiful.
          Maybe there is "god" in that?
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          Apr 24 2012: Hi Mitch, Do you think our primal responses can be triggered by non physical threats like someone trashing your religious beliefs?
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          Apr 24 2012: Absolutely.
          (And a damn good question!)
          From a number of levels - the religious beleif example is very good for this analysis:
          1. Threat to potential agency.
          Social groupings are often defined by a religious belief. Being part of any grouping delivers a lot of benefits(potential agency). There is teh sense of security that the group will act in concert to repel attacks on its members by outsiders. There is the sense of cohesion within that group defined by the common customs and practices - this defines how value(potential agency) is processed and maximised within the group. Most religious groupings will have a philanthropic component to spread risk for the benefit of the whole.
          TO attack the flag of that group is to threaten the potential agency of the members.
          2. World view. A religion is structured, by and large, on big chunks of untestable assumption - these assumptions will be woven into the rules and laws of the group and be the basis of the justifications used to control the behaviour of the members. TO trash these assumptions is to throw the member into confusion - it is difficult andpainful to re-construct an entire world-view. THe process of reconstruction will result in some vulnerability,. and may also generate a sense of shame and guilt. This can lead to depression as new patterns of behaviour need to be learned.
          All these aspects will be processed by the self-proxy and the group-proxy, these proxies will have direct connection to body-regulation - the forecast on the proxies will encounter the threat of harm and trigger fight/startle/flight (to some degree).
          THe proxies deal with potentials - they are actors being run through forecasting simulations. It is by their connection to body regulation that the context is framed, and the evaluation of projected outcomes. It may be less intense than direct threat of violence, but
          the connection is the same one. Primal. I suspect that the signal gets stronger as the "harm" prediction gets closer in time.
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          Apr 24 2012: I'll go on a bit ...
          Belief .. this is a strange word.
          At one level, your entire perceptional framework is defined by beliefs.
          (This is red, this is hot, this is sharp this is fluffy etc) It is the set of classification through which the senses are processed into cogent information.
          THere are cascading levels of belief - each stage of perceptive field will be defined by a belief set - primary field is concerned with the senses, just around that is extended primary field (basic causal forecasts) these beliefs are causal patterns based on direct observation (trajectory assessments and imediate threat/benefit assessments).
          In the secondary perceptive field, the belief filters are more concerned with words and concepts - it is here that all medium/long-term assessments are forecast. The tertiary field is more concerned with long term evaluations of human dynamics. There could be more levels - no reason why they can't be quite deep.
          Within the perceptive fields, there is a lot of stuff that simply cannot be tested by direct observation - senses have gaps, some causal relationships take too long to observe directly, nand there is a lot of false information floating about in communication.
          SO - where there is no observable causality or physicality, we place chunks of assumption to fill the gap in knowledge - and complete the world-view.
          When we talk about religious belief, we are talking about assumption structures.
          The religious person will resist any alteration to them, the "scientist" is defined by penetrating these assumptive gaps. So there will be a lot of tension between these groups.
          It is all very important, becase it is our total perceptive field that defines our potential agency .. disruptions in perception have direct affect on our ability to act - and the accuracy of it.