TED Conversations


This conversation is closed.

Do right and wrong exist?

I'm curious about objective right and wrong. If you believe in God, this is a no-brainer. Some things are wrong, some things are right, simply because God says so and He knows. But if you don't believe in God, can you still believe in objective morality? I personally don't think you can. I mean, what do you base it off of? How do you find out what's objectively right or wrong? (By objective I mean "existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality." from dictionary.com)
Sure, there's subjective morality. Any idea of right or wrong come up with by a human is by definition subjective. That's all well and good. Problem is that it only applies to people who believe in it and it gives them no authority to proclaim anything as "what we should be doing." Very often everybody disagrees with each other and we don't get anywhere. (Just look at Congress for an example of this.)
Maybe you disagree with me and you think there is objective morality but no God. That's fine. I would like to ask you to answer a question for me though. Let's pick an easy one. Why is rape objectively wrong? Don't misunderstand me, I can't think of a single instance where rape wouldn't be wrong. I believe very strongly that sexual abuse is one of the greatest evils in the world. Why is it evil? If you can answer me without using a God-based or subjective argument, I'll concede the point.
That point is this: Without God, there is no such thing as right and wrong, only the things we call right and wrong. And since nobody can agree on what to call what, we're all in a lot of trouble.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Feb 27 2013: I really like your statement that without God there is no such thing as right and wrong!

    It is so easy to react to a snarling and obnoxious clerk in a store and say "I have every right to shop-lift here!!"

    There are civic and moral codes/rules that govern society. As you know many countries have different codes and rules, especially their governments. Specifically male - female relationships are all over the map.

    In addition to that, every individual who thinks something is right, will do it (see above) or that something is true and thus believes that. Often it depends whether we think we can get away with it too.

    The highest code is the spiritual code. This was started by the giving of the Ten Commandments. We should not see humans before that point as people who would kill and covet anybody and anything they felt like. The giving of the 10 Commandments only made braking them sins against God.
    It is also the case that we cannot be regarded as spiritual or followers of the spiritual code, without first following the moral and civic codes as the base or foundation.
    • thumb
      Feb 28 2013: Why is gods rules or this spiritual law any different from any other code of conduct?

      Because god says so?

      Or because this enhances our lives in some way we can access?
      • Feb 28 2013: Because there is only One that is good and thus the Source of good.

        The motive for the good we do makes it good for us, or not. People that don't believe God exists can only do good with the thought "I am good!" That is self-merit, and that does not make our character any better.
        To be really selfless, one needs the realization that it is not our good we are doing but His.

        That is what the Swedenborgian concept is based on of doing good "AS IF of ourselves."
        • thumb
          Mar 1 2013: So we can not do good if there are no gods?

          Some big presumption in your position.
      • Mar 1 2013: Not good for the one doing it. Who do you thank and give merit for the good you are doing?
      • Mar 2 2013: The least you can do is thank your neurons or other active brain particles.

        Maybe you're right, after all science says there is nothing more than that..
        • thumb
          Mar 2 2013: As far as we can tell good and bad are human concepts related to how we interact and behave. A mix of nature and nurture.

          That doesn't mean there is not value in thinking about and promoting codes of conduct or values that reduce suffering and improve the human condition.
      • Mar 3 2013: "As far as we can tell good and bad are human concepts related to how we interact and behave. A mix of nature and nurture."
        That's right, "as far as we [our body] can tell.. But that is choosing to limit yourself to what the body can tell us. If you decide to force yourself, and allow yourself, to think above time and space, to think and see relationships above matter, you'll experience spiritual life.
        You are now limiting yourself to civic and moral code and, one might say, that those codes are enforced in one way or another. Either by law or by friends.

        The next higher, the spiritual code, is not enforced at all. It is not, and cannot be enforced by anything or anybody, not even by God, because that's what gives us free choice.
        No one can tell what we are thinking and thus can't tell why we do anything. So, for our protection, no one can tell what spiritual state we are in, whether we choose to be spiritually alive or dead.

        You probably heard the saying "We are what we love." Since love is spiritual, no one can see or measure or determine in any way what kind of person we are because it is impossible to do so.
        In addition to that, love (we) can only exist in freedom. No freedom = no love.

        Very much in line with that is this little book. The Doctrine of Life. It says much of the above but shows much more than I can here.
        Sections in "Teaching About Life" (notice the second one?)
        < Everything to do with religion is about life and doing good
        < We cannot do good on our own
        < Doing good from the Lord means refusing to do evil
        < The Ten Commandments show us what is evil
        < We become spiritually good as we refuse to do evil
        < Refusing evil involves struggling against wanting to do it
        < We must refuse evil as if we do that by ourselves
        < If there is any other reason, we are not refusing evil, only not showing it
    • thumb
      Feb 28 2013: ...

      "The highest code is the spiritual code. This was started by the giving of the Ten Commandments"

      Ten Commandments?! ...

      Not likely, at all...
      Just look around the world at so many people living good live's without these commandments or even a hint of christianity..

      I know many good people who know right from wrong and live good lives and are not christians, or even align themselves with religion, and these include my three children.

      And yes, it does make our character better, and our lives more noble, if we live well, do the best we can, with no expectation of an afterlife or reward
      • Feb 28 2013: What was left out?

        Just responding to the first passage. The next and last verse #25 says "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."
        So no authority, no higher rules and certainly no spiritual guidance.

        This follows my post above. Also, as explained in the Second Coming, people wrote the Bible from their own perspective and God used those words to portray a higher, spiritual level of meaning. It is that spiritual meaning which makes it God's Word, not the literal text.

        This is how we believe the Word of God should be regarded and how it then makes total sense,
      • thumb
        Mar 1 2013: Too many graven images these days.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.