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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

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  • 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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