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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.

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  • Mar 3 2013: Human thought is relative. This may be called 'relativity of mind'. Take away God from the picture and we are left to our wits. Not only we proclaim what is right and wrong based on our perception but also hold on to it as truth and become egoistic about it. There is an element of passion indeed. Take any 'ism' as an example. There are zealots who defend it come what may. If Adam Smith or Karl Marx revisit today they will certainly redefine the concepts. But we will be very hesitant to do so. The point I am making is that no slavery to any idea even if it is good. Freedom of my mind to modify is important.
    A criteria for right and wrong can be whether it promotes human welfare or not. This can be Godless but involves empathy for humanity. This love for humanity is natural and in-built. This argument is not in conflict with spirituality.
    Spirituality beyond religion may eventually dawn on us and probably lead us to the path without intellectual hair splitting.
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      Mar 3 2013: I agree.

      Suggest we can be spiritual in an atheist way too.

      No gods. Just exploring our consciousness and the universe.
      • Mar 3 2013: If the exploration of the universe (or 'physical realm') is known as science, is the empirical method our prayer? :P
      • Mar 4 2013: Universe fascinated man for centuries. The scientific method has been rigorous and was a great leap forward from superstition but is prevelant in the last few hundred years. On the other hand man's wonder and fear resulted in several erroneous conclusions over several millenia. This may be called 'empirical'. Having said that I am open to the fact that intuition and great humility resulted in understanding the final reality by very few. in do think with a genuine prayer on the lips we will get more spiritual. The problem of all religions is the organization ,grouping, rules, books-in the process lose the original truth. Somehow prayer to me is something more than empirical
    • Mar 3 2013: A Sethuramiah, your remarks were so well put that I have just shared them with a friend on another forum.
    • Mar 3 2013: A Sethuramiah,
      In my years on this Earth, I have modified my thinking many times on many subjects. You stated it very well. We need to be able to do this in order to grow and become.
    • Mar 4 2013: This reply states my own feelings very well. We should measure the effect we have on other humans and on the wider world. Try to be aware to what extent we are spreading pain and suffering and what extent we are spreading joy and love.

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