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Atheists, you need to rethink your morals! How about it?

There seems to be a common misconception among religious people of all kinds that atheists are somehow less moral, and that religion "enriches" one's morals. And so moral and religious discussions are often intersected. I think this is wrong in more ways than one, but for the sake of character limit, I'll save it for now.

The question is how do we separate the two? And this is what the idea is about - we need a new term beside "atheist" to serve (from the viewpoint of religious people) as a middleway between religious (and therefore moral in their view) and atheist (and therefore immoral in their view). This term however must not be exclusive from religion... it needs to be inclusive.

So, without further ado, here's what I believe is the best such term:
Moralist - Anyone who follows the positive and/or negative version of the golden rule, including in cases of conflicts with holy scripture.

The conflict part is critical. Without it, the term can label anyone who's ever heared the golden rule. With it, you label any non-fundamentalist religious person AND the larger part of atheists.

Why the word "moralist"? Regardless of what your faith is, a word like "moralist" can't bring bad associations. Just imagine someone condemning you for being "moral". It would be counter intuitive.

How can this make any difference? If used as an additional label (as opposed to replacement) it can estabilish a common ground between religious people of all kinds (say, Crhistians and Muslims) and atheists, and therefore help reduce religious prejudices and tensions and separate religious from moral discussions.

Assuming you like the idea, how can you support it? Next time you're in a moral conversation, if you follow the golden rule, say you're a moralist, regardless of what your religion is. Don't drag your holy stripture (if any) into the conversation, but do express your opinion as influenced by it. Next time someone asks for your religion, say you're a "moralist [religion]".

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Closing Statement from Vasil Rangelov

I'd like to thank everybody who participated in this conversation, and this goes double for theists. The term/label would be of little value if no theist person adopts it, though it would still be a good thing even if only atheists adopt it.

I'd like to reiterate something I had to constantly answer in the conversation for anyone not willing to go over it all:

Being a "Moralist" does NOT mean you follow ONLY the golden rule.

There are many moral questions that can't be answered directly by the golden rule or are simply out of its scope, since the golden rule deals only with personal prevention. You being a moralist only means that if something (holy scripture or ideologies) lead you to do something that is against the golden rule (slavery, rape, genocide, etc.), you claim you would ignore those parts in favor of what the golden rule leads you to... but you'd still follow everything else said something leads you to.

It's not like using the term itself is going to "change the world" or something. No. For the most part, the world is already full of Moralists. They just aren't using the term. But what this can help with is illuminate this very fact, and in the process, tare down most walls of religious prejudices (most visibly so in the atheists vs. theists and Christians vs. Muslims part). Taring down prejudices is not the end goal. It's just the start. The start towards the end goal of having a unified definition of what's moral, and in turn, have a unified society, while still respecting everyone's rituals, deities and opinions on unprovable things.

Also, I'm personally not deeply attached to the word "Moralist". I'd be willing to use any word, as long as it carries the same semantics, which FYI are different than "Humanist".

If anyone has further comments to make to this, you can comment in this conversation
http://www.ted.com/conversations/1585/if_god_is_love_and_love_is_god.html
which is basically the same idea, except I'm also suggesting a word for it.

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    Mar 18 2011: "Doubt Everything. Search your own light". (Siddartha Gautama)

    I'll use this citation on every topic i see that involves religion, and i'm not buddhist.
    Anyone should follow the beliefs that make them happy with themselves (of course, allied to the golden rule). The problem is that ppl don't follow beliefs cause they like them (most of time) they do that cause they are teached to do that way. Plus, if they don't follow the principles of their parents or friends they will be ridicularized.

    No one is born muslim, christian, atheist and so on, they should doubt of what ppl are saying to them and follow their own truth, path, light, reason, etc... And let the others be what they want.

    Any individual i get to stop and think about this is kinda victory for me. There isn't space for everything cause of the social constraints, but the way the societies build themselves made this a matter of hate and death.

    Shame on us all. Search for your own light.

    PS: all that said, i agree with you 100%,
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        Mar 21 2011: I disagree. In fact, babies don't know what is god, or the idea of god. They just don't know. Being an atheist requires that you are familiarized with the concept of god.
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          Apr 4 2011: No it doesn't. Being atheists means to lack belief in god. Without being familiarized with the concept of god, you don't have a belief in it (because you don't know), hence are an atheist.

          Before humanity first became aware of the concept of god, they were atheists. Atheist is the default state of a mind in the absence of religion.

          We don't know if any other animals believe there was a divine being that is responsible for the creation of the universe, but if we assume they don't (because they don't know or because they thought about it and decided "nah"), they're all atheists.
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    Apr 5 2011: wow 3 hours left...

    More often than not we are born into this world in pain, gasping for air, hungry, cold, blind and thrust from the womb forever lost to the comfort that is our mothers heartbeat, until death subjected to a cacophony of overwhelming sound and other sensory bombardment.

    Immediate need for survival leaves very little if any opportunity for this incredible life form to miraculously develop any sense of compassion.

    Without the guidance and protection of a caring parent the actions driven by an immature mind responding to fear, produces an entity typically unconcerned with interdependence or polite formality. So what we have is a greedy, self centered, rude and destructive child. I have often joked that this might be the reason why God made babies so damn cute. Otherwise we might just eat our young. lol.

    Sadly, as evidenced by the current state of world affairs, some of them never grow up.

    I can only say that I feel blessed to have been included in such dialogue and respectfully thank you all for your constructive input. Sages and Scientists keep the dialogue open.

    The next step however is to put all our rocks on the table and work towards defining our correlated understanding.

    If there is any hope for us to evolve (not become extinct) we must embrace the infinite beyond ourselves.

    Love God and you love yourself.
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    Mar 26 2011: @Peter Law
    "Imagine you have no mechanical knowledge at all, never had anything to do with cars, but someone has given you a licence. So you buy your car, read the handbook, & eventually are quite at home driving your car.
    If however, the car came with no handbook; what then ? Are you ever going to change the brake fluid ? Are you even going to drive the thing."

    Where in this metaphor does morality fit?
    The license itself? You don't need a manual for your license to be applicable to the car.

    Or is it the knowledge of what could go wrong with the car (with the license being "life")? I don't know how's the case in the rest of the world, but where I live, to get a license, you need to know what kind of stuff must you maintain on a car. You don't need to know exactly how the engine works (law) or how the car and everything in it was made (creation) or how must you dispose of the car (afterlife), but you do need to know that besides fuel, there's these things called "oil", "cooling/anti-freezing water" and "brake fluid" that must also be replaced on certain basis that the car itself will show. Those indicators (moral principles) are a standard, so you know your knowledge will apply regardless of what the car brand (deity) is.

    If even those fixes don't work, there's car repair services, and you may go to a specialized mechanic (priest) or you could go to a non-specialized mechanic who more often than not will be able to treat a wider range of problems (logic, science, philosophy and others).

    Or is the act of driving itself (with the license and associated knowledge being "life")? To be driving a car, above all, you need to know the basics of driving in general (the golden rule), even if you're falling short on more advanced driving techniques (moral principles) which BTW the car maker wouldn't be teaching you, even in a manual.

    That's as far as I'd go with this metaphor of course. Otherwise, we're again mixing morality with the question of whether god exists or not.
    • Mar 26 2011: ok so you get in the car, and drive - foot on the accelerator, hands on the wheel. that's the act of driving. that's what you called "life"

      but you added on to that some basics of driving "the golden rule" which I guess means don't do things like barge people off the road, overtake on the inside, speed, knock people down etc

      the trouble is all of those basics aren't natural presumptions of what to do in a car they're driving codes invented by outside forces e.g. governments.

      but the golden rule means treating others as you want to be treated and you want to be given the right to invent your own morality (the "golden rule") so I should be able to invent my own too. so if you don't mind I'll ignore those government rules, I never did like speed limits oh and by the way I'm driving a monster truck.
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        Mar 26 2011: What I said in the second last paragraph was about the act of driving being equal to morality in the metaphor, with the license and associated knowledge being "life". The same way you can have a license and not drive, you can have a life and not be moral (which in the case of morality is universally considered wrong of course; the metaphor breaks at that point).

        If you just have your foot on the accelerator and start knocking random people down and other stuff, you're still performing driving (morality), but at that point, I think we can agree you're doing it wrong by any standards, law or otherwise.

        Different countries (religions) have different laws (doctrines, rules, or in the case of atheists - moral principles) regarding driving behavior, but they all share a few common basics like not running over people (the golden rule), and in the end of the day, the laws exist for the purpose of all participants on the road (species on Earth) to be safe while being out there (strange... I hadn't thought of it until writing it, but this coincides with Dawkins' idea of morality being an evolutionary invention).

        A year ago, I had a math teacher that actually put an interesting spin to this (while explaining complex numbers, oddly enough)... he said law is a subset of morality extended but enclosed with principles based on morality, and morality is a subset of human behavior extended but enclosed with principles based on human behavior, and that this subset cycle could in theory go beyond this. To break out of the enclosure of a subset and go to the superset, you must understand the superset you're going to, and the reasons behind the principles that defined the subset. After understanding them, for a proper transcending, you need to ensure a path back to the subset, which would you'd have a guarantee for if the fundamental reason for the subset's creation is fulfilled... I'm just paraphrasing here based on what I understood then, but it was still something of the sort.
        • Mar 26 2011: Vasil, sorry if I misunderstood how you were using the driving metaphor in your first post.

          With regards to your third paragraph in this one. Your argument that all people share the same basics is not true.

          If we continue with the driving analogy - were you to be taken to rural India during portions of the twentieth century (and this, if anecdotal evidence is to be believed). If a member of the kshatriyas class were to knock down a dalit this would not be seen as a crime nor dealt with with justice. We may also see the same in Apartheid South Africa and numerous other countries.

          However the wider point is on the "golden rule" - and it is NOT universal: Nietzche argued that we should abandon such moral rules. Marx saw the needs of the whole as greater than that of loving the individual, then Mao applied this with horrific consequences. Some eastern mystics argued that suffering was "maya" or illusion, whilst others argued that it was punishment from past lives and the poor should be ignored. etc etc

          I agree with your math teacher on subsets and supersets.This in fact is my key point.

          You argue that the "golden rule" makes sense because it enables us to be "safe whilst out there on the road". Here the golden rule is a subset of the superset that we should be "safe whilst out there on the road".

          If the superset falls so does the subset. The key thing then is to prove that "being safe" is identifiably the correct action.

          There are some essential problems in achieving this
          - not all cultures agree with the premise
          - all cultures are equal in their viewpoint since there is no higher law

          There are also some problems in reconciling it with its subset "the golden rule"
          - the golden rule may sometimes require you to be unsafe
          - the golden rule in your interpretation stipulates wanting others to have what you have. thus they must be able to make up their own moral system which disregards the golden rule.
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          Mar 27 2011: Hi Birdia

          Sorry, but there's no way to get this reply where it should be.

          "I don't mean to argue with you, however, the "religion=morality" stance only works in certain parts of the world or groups of people. it certainly doesn't stand in my own life or many non-religious people I know."

          I have never said that Religion=Morality. What I am saying is that IF our creator has given us moral guidance, then we would be foolish to ignore it. Christians believe he has, so we try to obey; with only limited success. Non-believers still have the same morals in their conscience; which, like the written version, can be ignored. You guys in general make just a good job as us.

          The bible centres on the Jews; apologies to Eskimos.

          :-)
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          Mar 27 2011: Hi Vasil

          Could you suggest to TED that we are allowed to reply to our own posts. This would help a great deal with positioning.

          Yes the manufacturers instructions is only for those who believe. You would need to examine the evidence regarding any 'Holy Writ' that you considered relevant. Most Christians are convinced in this regard, so it not surprising they use biblical guidelines.

          On the Golden Rule. Take the case of Sodom where the men of the town wanted to rape the two strangers. It may well be that the men of the town would be quite happy to be gang raped; as that presumably was commonplace there. The strangers were from out of town, & presumably weren't up for it. The Golden Rule by itself is insufficient to cover all eventualities.

          :-)
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          Mar 28 2011: Hi Birdia

          As a fellow human being I can easily agree with you. However, in the final analysis, it is the truth that matters. When we cross that final frontier all our nice ideas will disappear & the truth will unfold.

          :-)
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        Mar 26 2011: Hi Guys
        I think James gets it. There are two options on how we conduct ourselves.

        1. Mankind decides for himself. This results in majority rule; or those intimidated/led by the majority.
        2. Our manufacturer tells us. This displeases many, but at least; like the 'Highway Code'; it's the same for everybody, & hopefully the best in the long run.

        This of course opens the "correct god" can-of-worms, but that's a different topic.

        :-)
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          Mar 26 2011: To me, those two options are the same thing, wrapped in a different package.

          A set of moral rules by allegedly divine author, allegedly written down/passed by a certain known someone(s)... Even assuming that any god in any form described by any religion really exists, what guarantee is there that the moral codes were from God, and not by a certain someone (perhaps the known author who allegedly passed it, or someone who was authoritative over them)?

          If we were to just meet, and you didn't know I'm a moralist atheist (yeah, I'm practicing putting the phrase out there...), I may as well tell you the following story:

          "God spoke to me... he said he didn't wrote the bible, and he's been trying to tell it to various people over the centuries, but instead of passing it to the people straight, they all created their own religions. Well, I didn't, I know the truth, and I must share it with you because God said he'll send me to hell if I misuse this information like he did to everyone before me. God told me the only thing he ever really meant was the golden rule, and all else should be up to us. That he created this complex brain of ours so that we may base our moral codes not from a misunderstood book, but from it, and that the only thing we ever needed was the 'push' of the golden rule... and yet, we allowed ourselves to think that he instead wanted more from us. All else was people manipulating us. We need to free ourselves from the human will and follow only God. Follow only the golden rule, and decide the rest between ourselves."

          Now, of course, you already know me, so you know this is obviously fiction, but imagine just for a second that you didn't know me or that someone else said it... would this make sense? If you believe in God, and that he hands to us our moral code, wouldn't it make sense that along the way between God's word and your mind, someone lost or altered what God wanted to say, in the end shaping your morals to be what made sense for most people?
  • Mar 22 2011: WOW are you all listening to yourselves? All this ridiculous babble about -isms...
    WHO CARES what you label yourself or anyone else? Its not about what you say. Its not about what you believe in. Its about what you DO. You can say you have good morals and that you're a good person and that you love Jesus and he loves you and blah blah blah but what have you DONE? Have you donated money you've made to help AIDS in Africa instead of renting a movie from Blockbuster or eating out? Have you given your spare time to build houses with Habitat for Humanity? I'm sorry but the majority of you are full of it because no matter what fake deity you believe in or how many cows and goats your ancestors sacrificed to their fake deities or which symbol your religious building has on it, nothing matters unless you have put your own selfish wants and beliefs aside, gotten on your hands and knees and helped your fellow man at the most basic, empathetic level. Everyone thinks their story is unique and that their feelings are so different from everyone else but they aren't! Everyone feels the exact same way you do all the time! So realize that no matter who you are, how much money you have, where you come from, or how good you think your own farts smell, there is not one single person on this Earth that is any better or worse than you. We are all people. Forget Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Atheism, Moralism, and whatever; THEY'RE JUST WORDS! They only mean what you allow them to mean. Don't let words with finite definitions rule your lives- get up and do something for the world, for your fellow man! Let's phase out religion and phase in working together. Let's phase out gods and phase in progress. We are human beings, the most awesome force this planet has ever seen- we have to rid ourselves of ridiculous superstition and come together for a common good, for every common good.
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      Mar 22 2011: You and I may not care what we label ourselves. That's not the case for everyone though. For many people, the fact you fit or don't fit a certain label is by itself a bad thing, and this hinders their ability to come with you to a common ground for the common good.

      There are some labels that, assuming are true for said person, we should indeed not tolerate - psychopath and terrorist, to name two.

      The problem is the rhetoric very easily trips itself, which is a catalyst for useless arguments and false assumptions. You have people (very few on TED though; TED is full of people smarter than that) who assume "Islam = Terrorism => Muslims = Terrorists", "Barrack Husein Obama = Sadam Husein = Psychopath", and the ones that I'm hoping to tackle if I can persuade people to introduce this in their rhetoric - "No religion = No moral absolutes = No morals = Atheist", "Another religion = Other moral absolutes = Immoral (= Islam = Terrorism)".

      As much as I too would like for people to forget all religions and actually do something - to donate money or do something useful - I know a straight talk like that can't change people. You first need to acknowledge the right stuff that's already part of their world view, and gradually build up from there, replacing further perceptions as they come along.

      The term I'm trying to introduce is not the end. It's the start. The start we're already on, but don't realize it, because the rhetoric keeps us apart.

      In my ideal scenario, this would be a gateway to atheism, but I'll be happy even if it becomes nothing more than "religious tension destroyer".

      Disclaimer: I have not donated to any NGOs, nor have I ever traveled abroad for any reason, mostly because I don't have enough finances; I've "donated" my time translating TEDTalks, and I still "donate" my time on forums helping people with programming issues, but that's not noble in the classic sense.
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    Mar 19 2011: We need to disconnect what we think is an obligate relationship between morals and religion. Being moral does not mean you are religious. Morals is what us and society have created over years and years of excistence. Yes, maybe religion was involved in some moral development (think 10 commandments) but in the end, it was humans, that is their thought processes that developed to what we think to be morally correct. I don't think we should slap the title "moralist" on an individual if they aren't religious. Being moral in my opinion, is the indelible stamp of human kind, we all have this characteristic.
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      Mar 19 2011: Couldn't agree with you more, but the fact is that's not what the rhetoric leads people into. One typically has to explore all moral principles and all religions before they reach the otherwise simple concept that religion does not equal morality. Not everyone takes this journey.

      Seeing that the rhetoric makes religion be perceived as a short cut term for "good person" (Christianity in particular*), it seems logical to me that there is a need for the rhetoric to be reevaluated to match the truth, which is precisely what you said. For this to happen, there is a need for a label for this otherwise obvious thing. People are natural at using labels to devide themselves into groups. Wouldn't it be great to have a label that would start off as a devisor (separating people who follow the golden rule from those who don't) that eventually ends up uniting people instead (because it will lead people to the very conclusion you're presenting)?

      * No, seriously. I'm starting to loose count of all movies and news reports/interviews in which there was a phrase like "I am a good person. I go to church"... as if going to church (and implicitly: being Christian) is any proof that you're a good person.
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    Mar 18 2011: I prefer humanist.

    Atheists are the only group of people who are classified for LACK of a belief. It makes trying to generalize them even harder and more pointless. "Atheist" tells you less about someone than any other label. It's not even a matter of intelligence or education or logic: there are many atheists who don't believe in God because they simply have had a hard life full of pain and loss.

    But then all "religious" labels have become similarly pointless. There are Jews who believe in reincarnation and those who don't, there are Christians who believe angels go around helping people and those who don't, there are Muslims who believe that alcohol is sinful and those who don't. The words that used to imply a whole book full of meaning now are barely held by many.

    Everyone just picks and chooses those bits of a religion they agree or are taught to believe in and apply the whole label to themselves, usually considering that label to be divisible down to one single tenet, like belief in Jesus as the son of God. But even that doesn't always apply: Just look at the Jews for Jesus who will insist that they're still Jewish.

    Back to the original point, however, what you can usually rely on, things like creationism, belief in an afterlife, etc, are all still broad ancillary beliefs that are presumed when you hear someone say they believe in God. Not so with atheists. Though rare, there are atheists who believes that black cats cause bad luck, or an atheist who believes in an afterlife or reincarnation.

    The reason is simply that if you claim a religion, monotheistic or otherwise, you are claiming the belief in SOMETHING. That something may vary widely from person to person of the same faith, but you at the very least know that they believe that there is more to the world than what we can sense or make sense of.

    An athiest simply does not believes in a god. That lack of belief has nothing to do with how they perceive the existence ghosts, fairies... or Scientology.
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  • Mar 13 2011: An interesting idea, also cuts out lots of atheists. So does give a nice common ground. e.g.
    Nietzche definitely wasn't a "moralist" since he thought that the concept of morality was made up! Other atheists adopt "traditional" moral norms.
    Atheism is by its nature amoral rather than immoral.
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    Mar 10 2011: Having been in countless conversations that got heated for the reasons you describe, Vasil, I can affirm that I would like to have a common ground on which to discuss morality without having to debate spiritual traditions or origins.

    The main risk we run is that people may infer that saying "I'm a moralist Christian" implies that other Christians are not moral.
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      Mar 10 2011: 'The main risk we run is that people may infer that saying "I'm a moralist Christian" implies that other Christians are not moral.'

      >:-)

      Well, well, well... wouldn't that be something.

      If they fall into the trap of trying to debate that, it's easy to point at the bible's "plot holes" where it is indeed in conflict with the golden rule and therefore conclude not all Christians are moral - slavery, to name one of the few such things which is also present in the new testament. Pressed to that corner, Christians are left either being "extremist Christian" and supporting slavery, or being a normal sane person and admit they're a "moralist Christian" along with all (or most?) of their peers. Common ground (or lack thereof) estabilished.

      And actually... if they reach to the conclusion that not all Christians are moral... that's "mission accomplished" right there. It's the very idea of this term - to make people realize they don't have to be Christians to be moral, and that being Christian (or any religion) doesn't guarantee morality on its own.
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    Mar 6 2011: Is it really necessary to brand ourselves moralists seeing as we all have morality to some degree?
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      Mar 6 2011: You're assuming everyone is reasonable enough to know that... if only that was the case.

      In fact, I remember early in my childhood (up until 12 or so) I was the kind of person I'm describing above. I didn't thought of atheists as "completely immoral", but I did thought of them as less moral and of myself as more moral.

      It wasn't until I learned about ancient greek myths (age 9) that I asked myself "What gives the bible any more merit than ancient greek myths? The fact it's in the book? No, that's not it... The fact Jesus existed? Troy existed, and those are still myths. Something's not right here" and even then, I hanged onto religion due to its moral teachings, or rather, what I presumed its moral teachings were about. I thought of the golden rule as being exclusive to Christianity, until I saw news of "bad" priest on TV and personally met a few "modern" turkish people in my life (around age 15) that I realized Christianity doesn't equal morality. Dropping god while keeping morality on was a slam dunk from then on.

      If the rhetoric around me clearly separated religion from morality, I would've dropped religion much sooner. Besides, I live in a region where it's hard NOT to meet civilized people from other religions, but not everyone has this "luxury".

      Also, see the following conversation for an actual example of such people:
      www.ted.com/conversations/59/a_world_without_religion_how.html?c=194677
      Unfortunatly, this guy is not alone in his way of thinking.
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      Mar 6 2011: Good question Matt, and I'll take it a little further. Is it really necessary to brand ourselves anything? I am everything and nothing. I live each and every moment as morally as possible, and do not practice a particular religion.

      You make some good points Vasil. What gives any belief more merit than another belief? What we choose to believe, somehow gives merit to our lives.
  • Apr 4 2011: I am a recent Agnostic/athiest I love the Idea of being a Moralist. I haven't been able to tell my family, whom are die hard christians, that I no longer beleive the same way they do. But I think it might make it easier to tell them I'm no longer a christian not athiest but a Moralist.
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      Apr 4 2011: Do say it like "Moralist Agnostic/Atheist" please. You know, to reflect "religion" as part of it. Otherwise, the term would sound as exclusive as "humanist", and it needs to be inclusive.

      And I suggest you first start by pinning this Moralist label onto them, to further soften the blow.

      BTW, I recently had a conversation with my mother where I started saying we're atheists. We've been using the term "non-believing Christians" for a long time to label ourselves, which only a year ago I realized was equivalent to atheist, but now that I used the term, she was like "Well, I wouldn't say I'm ATHEIST". I then said "Mom, do you think there's a God?". She said "No. God is a human invention". I said "There you go, you're an atheist! That's ALL the term means". "OK, fine, we're atheists" she said. Upon further discussions, to my surprise, I found out the reason she didn't liked the word atheist was not because of morals (like all atheists, she knows morality and religion are two different things), but because she liked the holidays, and thought atheists means we would deny celebrating them. My response was "As atheists, we can deny any stories and superstition around holidays, but that doesn't mean we must not celebrate the holiday itself. It only means we don't have to", and she agreed.

      If your family are die hard Christians, you'll likely have a harder time, but that's just another "weapon" for your arsenal ;-) .
  • Mar 28 2011: There is a huge gap between theoretical morals and practice. This gap is unanimous reality that caused and causes many tragic events for human societies (Just consider how politicians have the norm for being immoral decision-makers). The separation between moral codes and human behaviour is so large that it needs rethinking. Addressing the factors behind this gap is an important research issue. Whatever these factors may be that cause this serious discrepancy, there is one obvious outcome: we live in unjust world. In his book “Why I Am Not a Christian” Bertrand Russell wrote (I perceive in bitter sarcasm) the following “This world that we know was made by the devil at a moment when God was not looking”.
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    Mar 27 2011: @Peter Law
    "Yes the manufacturers instructions is only for those who believe."

    That's sort of the main problem most atheists have with religion... the manufacturers' instructions (again assuming he exists) are for those who believe in the instructions... regardless of whether they believe in the maker himself. As far as morality is concerned, it shouldn't make a difference if people believe in him or not, as long as they follow his instructions (again assuming they're indeed his instructions, and not simply what makes sense for most people).

    "On the Golden Rule. Take the case of Sodom where the men of the town wanted to rape the two strangers. It may well be that the men of the town would be quite happy to be gang raped; as that presumably was commonplace there. The strangers were from out of town, & presumably weren't up for it. The Golden Rule by itself is insufficient to cover all eventualities."

    If it's by mutual consent, it's no longer "gang rape" by definition, but an orgy instead, and at the point of mutual consent, the golden rule is fulfilled, since all involved parties know if what they're about to do would be the way the other wants to be treated. If the citizens of Sodom followed the golden rule, they'd require consent by the people they're about to f**k with. I mean surely, even if orgies were common place, they were still, by definition, with consent, and if gang rapes were common, they were by definition without the consent of raped people.

    If the strangers had a say in the manner (Lot inviting them and then later offering to the people his daughters as substitute isn't exactly letting anyone affected having a say in the manner), explicitly said "No thanks", and were still f**ked (or if the people of Sodom still tried to f**k them), then yeah, we can conclude the people of Sodom were rapists, therefore immoral because they did not followed the golden rule by requiring consent as they'd most likely demand for when someone wants to f**k them.
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      Mar 28 2011: Hi Vasil

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Rule
      The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim, ethical code, or morality that essentially states either of the following:
      1.One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (positive form)
      2.One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (negative/prohibitive form, also called the Silver Rule)

      Nothing about mutual consent. Now we have two rules.

      :-)
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        Mar 29 2011: Guilty as charged. Yes, I used another moral principle (that of mutual consent) to fill in the gap of knowing the other, which is required for the golden rule (well... knowledge or a guess at least), same way you used the bible to fill the gap for the missing definition of "life" in the abortion issue, also (implicitly) required by the word "others" in the golden rule.

        Well, if you have another passage of the bible that can actually explain why the people of Sodom were immoral (and what they should have done differently in order to be considered moral), than bring it on. As long as it's not in conflict with the golden rule, we can agree to have different, equally valid views, as we did on abortion.

        There is no need for the golden rule itself to be the answer to everything. That's what I meant from the start by "inclusive" - all morality sources, like holy scripture or moral principles - are equally valid alternative sources for the term "moralist", both as gap fillers or full answer providers, as long as what they lead to in the end doesn't conflict with the golden rule. If you want to limit yourself with the bible, that's OK.
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          Mar 29 2011: Hi Vasil

          As a 'Bible-Thumper' I am happy to be limited to it. The bible is at the same time very clear and unpopular on the problem of morals, . I will risk the wrath of the site by spelling it out.

          Mankind, left to himself will degenerate morally. Only knowledge of, and obedience to God can prevent this. The history of the Jews is a roller coaster of obedience & rebellion, which is mirrored by God's blessing & cursing.

          Not rocket science, but it seems to be beyond us. Jesus's version of the Golden Rule is equally simple & like yours, 2-part.

          1. Love God.
          2. Love one another.

          That's it pure & simple, & it will cover all eventualities. (I wait to be corrected)

          :-)
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          Apr 1 2011: Peter,
          You write: "Mankind, left to himself will degenerate morally. Only knowledge of, and obedience to God can prevent this". Are you saying that all those who do not choose to be obedient to a God are degenerates?

          You say "it seems to be beyond us". Isn't there something in the bible that says we are all made in the image and likeness of God? How can it be "beyond us" if we are all created in the image and likeness of God?

          I agree with you that to "love one another" is pure and simple. Does it say in the bible that only those who are obedient to a god are capable of loving each other?
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          Apr 1 2011: Hi Colleen

          "Are you saying that all those who do not choose to be obedient to a God are degenerates?"
          Not at all, but by the standards of God we are all degenerate. It seems to work at the national level. Many countries were founded on Christian principles & thrived morally & fiscally. Then we start to trust more in ourselves & let things slip generation by generation. Our trust in God recedes & we make our own rules. Moral decay sets in, closely followed by fiscal decay, as I believe the West is suffering at the moment.

          We are created in God's image, much the same as a newborn is created in it's parent's image. the newborn is certainly not up to speed, most things are beyond him/her.

          We are all capable of loving one another, but a recent reply to my post equated it with sex, which was missing my point. The bible talks of Agape' Love, which is a selfless concern for the wellbeing of others regardless of cost or reciprocation. I guess we need to understand that before we can attempt it. However I have no doubt that there are many who do well at it without biblical help.

          I have to practice it by making dinner for my wife; catch you later.

          :-)
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          Apr 1 2011: Peter,
          That is one of the reasons I abandoned religion many moons ago...because I was told that I was born a sinner...a degenerate. Even as a small child that didn't make sense to me.

          Trusting in myself did not cause things to "slip". It caused me to be more aware of myself, everyone and everything around me. I made a choice to make my own decisions, rather than believe in a dogma that felt unnatural to me. I agree with you that "there are many who do well at it without biblical help":>)

          And I think you're missing my point Peter. You write: "Mankind, left to himself, will degenerate morally. Only knowledge of and obedience to god can prevent this". That feels like a judgment of anyone who does not believe what you believe Peter.
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          Apr 2 2011: Hi Colleen

          It is normal to have to teach infants how to behave. Left to themselves they would trash the joint. We do not have to teach them to tell lies, we do not have to tell them to be selfish, or have a tantrum, all this comes naturally to them. This is how we are, unless taught otherwise.

          I guess the other point is what is moral ? Everybody has their own ideas on this, even me. However, if God truly is our parent, then what he says goes. If he is the creator of the universe, then he has earned respect. If not; then anything goes, we are all moral in our own eyes. And as we know, the one thing we learn from history, is that we learn nothing from history. Perhaps I do judge you by what I believe, & no doubt you judge me by what you believe. Not really a way round that.

          :-)
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          Apr 2 2011: No Peter, telling lies, being selfish, having tantrums and trashing the joint are not natural for children. Children come into this world as joyous, curious, accepting loving beings. You certainly don't seem to have a very good perception of children, do you?

          Imagine how our world could be if all children were encouraged to continue to use the natural qualities of curiosity, acceptance, and love? Imagine what it might be like if children were encouraged to think, feel and make decisions for themselves, rather than be stuck with the belief that "what he says goes"?

          I do not judge you Peter, because there certainly is a "way around that". Judging someone is a choice.
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          Apr 2 2011: Well Colleen I can't say I've met many children like that. Not my own, not our Sunday School, not the youth club I helped with, not my nephews & nieces. I'll keep looking though.
          In our generation biblical morality is largely forgotten, so maybe utopia is just around the corner.

          :-)
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          Apr 2 2011: Peter,
          Sorry you have not seen the beauty, curiosity, joy and love that children offer us. That is all I've seen in children including my own, and all children I've encountered throughout life. Do you suppose children may live up to our expectations?

          "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" (Marcel Proust) Keep looking Peter:>)
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          Apr 4 2011: Peter,
          I just watched a documentary about cults, and the recent attraction of teenagers to cults. I thought of you because one of the statements that came up over and over again, was "we will do whatever "he" tells us to do...we will be obedient to him" (the leader of the cult). Most of these young people who were interviewed were from good christian homes, in which they were taught to be obedient to their god and do whatever their god wanted of them. Do you think that a certain programming in youth, may sometimes cause young people to give up their freedom of choice?
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          Apr 4 2011: Hi Colleen

          There is a hunger among people, most intense among the young, for a 'something' they instinctively know is out there. This can make people susceptible to all sorts of things. I think David Coresh started out as a regular pastor until he started to drink his own bath water.
          If the bible is to be believed, these false religions & cults are designed to fill a need & at the same time lead people away from God. Jesus never manipulates anyone, but many use his name to manipulate others & that is despicable.

          We have to ask why are all these religions out there. If we do not accept that there is a real God then what is the explanation for all the false ones ? If there was no real money, then why would the counterfeiters bother ?

          :-)
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          Apr 4 2011: Hi Peter,
          I agree that there is a "hunger among people", and perhaps many people are looking "out there", which, in my perception is looking in all the wrong places. When people are looking "out there", of course they are susceptable to "all sorts of things". The cult that was investigated in the documentary I watched, was based on the bible and teachings of Jesus Christ.

          If we empower children to look in themselves for answers, rather than be obedient to another person or entity, perhaps they would stop looking "out there" for something and realize that the power and strength is in knowing ourselves and what is "in there". It is that strength and "knowing" that supports us with our own decisions and prevents dependence on others for our beliefs.

          Telling children thay are degenerate sinners, they need to be obedient to another entity and "what he says goes", believing that it is natural for kids to lie, be selfish, trash the joint and have tantrums, is disempowering to kids Peter, I sincerely hope you will re-evaluate some of your beliefs about children you are interacting with.
        • Apr 5 2011: Hi Peter.
          This is a little late in the reply chain but i would like to ask you a question. I would also like to apologize in advance if you addressed any of my concerns in the numerous replies between my reply and the particular statements that I am replying to. I read the aforementioned statement and felt and urge to immediately reply.

          You previously stated "Mankind, left to himself will degenerate morally. Only knowledge of, and obedience to God can prevent this." My question to you is; how are you able to prove this statement? More specifically; how is it that knowledge of, and obedience to any other God (assuming you believe in a Judeo-Christian God) such as Zeus or Allah for instance, is any less correct than having knowledge of and obedience to your God.

          As Sam Harris stated in this video "Who are we to say, that the proud denizens of an ancient culture, are wrong to force their wives and daughters to live in cloth bags? ... and more so "Who are we not to say this?" I suppose what i'm trying to get at is; how are you so sure that you have the answer to morality?

          Which sort of leads to my next question.

          I would like to make a quick comment on another of your statements.
          "1. Love God.
          2. Love one another."
          You seem to imply that both statements are necessary, but how are you able to claim that only the second is not sufficient. It seems to me that if we were to follow the second statement, and the second statement alone, our civilization would be morally guided towards "good."

          Let me know what you think please. Regards.
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          Apr 5 2011: Hi Colleen

          Many cults are based on Jesus. There are three reasons for this :-
          1. If you mix truth with lies, it makes the lies more believable.
          2. Jesus personally has a lot of admirers, Christian & otherwise.
          3. It fulfills prophecy for the 'End times'.

          Do you honestly think I would call a child a 'degenerate sinner' ? When I asked my parents where I came from & what I was doing here; they couldn't answer. They had spent their whole life & the thought never entered their heads. Very frustrating for a child.
          So I have a choice with children, & I want to be honest with them.

          1. You are a freak of nature, closely related to monkeys.
          2. You are a special child of God & He loves you very much.

          As I do not believe 1. myself, I am only left with 2. The kids seem to be quite happy too. They are quite free to change their minds later on.

          :-)
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          Apr 5 2011: Hi Jackson

          "Mankind, left to himself will degenerate morally. Only knowledge of, and obedience to God can prevent this." My question to you is; how are you able to prove this statement?

          The truth of the statement lies on whether the God of the bible is real or not. I cannot prove this to you, only God himself can. He has promised to reward those who diligently seek Him, if He doesn't then we have a problem, but He has changed the life of millions. In my humble opinion Zeus & Allah don't exist, but you need to check these things out for yourself. The bible is credible in history, archeology, & science; it can be falsified.

          "I would like to make a quick comment on another of your statements.
          1. Love God.
          2. Love one another."

          Again it depends on the reality of God, or Jesus if you prefer. (same guy)
          How we love people will very much depend on what our conception of good & evil are. If for instance we think sleeping around is ok. We would encourage our children to try before you buy; After all it makes good sense.
          If, on the other hand, you believe the bible which says that when we have intercourse the two become one for life, and that separation will damage us, then our advice would be different. Societal norms change with each generation, so without a good foundation, we are going to flounder.

          :-)
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          Apr 5 2011: Peter,
          You have stated clearly above that we are all born degenerates, as well as other unattractive falsehoods about children. Every interaction you have with a child carries the energy of your belief. I don't ever recall hearing an evolutionist stating, as you have, that "you are a freak of nature, closely related to monkeys".

          I believe that if there is a God, he/she/it is responsible for creating everything, including the wonder of evolution. There is absolutely nothing freaky about how our world and people have evolved, and it is very sad that you believe that.

          I'm sorry you were frustrated as a child Peter, and I absolutely agree with you that "without a good foundation, we are going to flounder".
        • Apr 5 2011: Hi! Peter, with all my respect for your faith, I really don't mean to hurt you, but have you ever contemplated on the possibility to be born in Arab country and geographically and culturally being a muslim, would you be then a wasted child for your " the only God" ?
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          Apr 5 2011: Good question Natasha,

          All children are precious, and should be nurtured to believe in themselves no matter what other beliefs or cultures they are born into.

          During 12 years of catholic schooling, the catholic church tried to teach me that we were the "chosen" ones, and everyone else was going to hell. Thankfully, my devout catholic mother saw through the hypocrisy of that belief. She actually did "love one another" as equals and I'm grateful that I learned at a young age to do the same:>)
        • Apr 5 2011: Thank you, Colleen, I always ask the believers of "named" God, whatever the name, how they can be comfortable with their God, being so selective. For me, it contradicts the idea of the overwhelming love that God inspires.
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          Apr 5 2011: Hi Colleen

          Your Catholic background has done a good job of immunising you; I can understand that. My description of evolution was a bit tongue in cheek after your "degenerate sinners" description. How would you paraphrase the evolutionist position then ? We are supposed to be related to apes, so would accident of nature be kinder ?

          :-)
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          Apr 5 2011: Hi Natasha
          Things may well be different if I was born Muslim. I may well question why the need to kill any of my friends who converted to Christianity. Why is this necessary if we are all just playing church ? Christians have a long history of being killed for their faith, it certainly upsets someone.
          I personally don't always agree with the way God has organised things, but I appreciate that He knows a bit better than me what's going on. It would be a bit like my goldfish questioning our household budget; what does he know ?
          :-)
        • Apr 5 2011: Peter," God doesn't play dice" I believe so. It's not God who "organised things" , it's us. And we should do it better. First step is to stop fighting, to recognise the truth that we are one.
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          Apr 5 2011: Peter, in response to the god of the bible being real because of HIS influence in the world, I believe you can argue Bob Marley, Ghandi and Mark Zuckerburg are also God. They have changed the course of history just as much as Jesus has.
          You're right though; morals change with every generation. But the "foundation" you speak of also changes. You can't use the Bible's set of morals today because no one fears the wrath of God if they make mistakes anymore. The Bible God can't exist in a world where an iPhone lets me access thousands of ideas and thoughts in seconds in order for me to form beliefs. Morals will keep changing as the world gets more connected. Ideas are flowing and merging too fast for archaic beliefs.
          It wasn't too long ago that kids saying they are smarter than their parents would be morally wrong. Now, Zuckerburg connects the world drunk from his dorm room at age 19. #Awesome
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        Mar 29 2011: Those people of Sodom sure loooved those angels (in this sexy, yet non contradicting to Jesus' version of the golden rule kind of way), and considering they lived along just fine before the angels came, I'm willing to assume they also loved one another too... probably in more ways than one, as you suggest.

        If Jesus' version of the golden rule alone is sufficient, then... you're saying they would've been moral, as long as they also believed in God (and still behaved in the EXACT same non golden rule conflicting way)? And God destroyed them for being good only because they didn't believed in him while being good? You're suggesting God kills good people?
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          Mar 30 2011: Hi Vasil
          If the wind changes with your tongue in your cheek, you'll stay like that.
          I don't know how Lot fared before this time. However, according to the narrative, his two daughters were still virgins, so maybe he had an agreement, or maybe these guys had no interest in girls. Don't know !
          Our language has devolved a bit since this time; love can mean all sorts of stuff. Ancient Greek had 4 or 5 words for love. The one Jesus used was Agape'. This basically means an unconditional concern for another's well-being regardless of the cost, or reciprocation. This is the form of love that He showed for mankind by dying on the cross. I don't think it applies to the Sodomites, who just wanted to fulfill selfish lust, regardless of the cost to the recipients. There is a similar story in the bible where the woman died during such treatment.
          We can see parallels in our liberal society. Maybe it's just me; but isn't there also an increase in wars & natural disasters ? Could it be someone is trying to tell us something.

          :-)
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        Mar 31 2011: "I don't think it applies to the Sodomites, who just wanted to fulfill selfish lust, regardless of the cost to the recipients."
        But it being "regardless of the cost to the recipients" is your implication. The bible doesn't clarify it, which is why I introduced consent as a variable that, if clarified by the bible, would deem them moral or immoral. With consent, there is a concern for the cost to the recipients. "Selfish lust", yes, but with consent, at least it's not "regardless of the cost to the recipients".

        But the bible doesn't go to that... it's like even with consent, it's immoral. Why? We don't know. Concern for the cost of the recipient is clearly not it if consent doesn't play a role. Lack of belief in God? Maybe that's a reason to wipe them (from the bible's viewpoint, same way as radical Muslims want to kill the infidels), but not a reason for them being immoral.

        Suppose the reason is the "selfish lust" part, which would also explain why consent isn't introduced (i.e. the whole idea of "selfish lust" is immoral, even if consent is involved)... why is it immoral? What's your guess? Another bible passage to justify it? Is it immoral enough to warrant God wiping them out, as opposed to sending them to hell when they die, like he normally does for sinful people?
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          Apr 1 2011: Hi Vasil

          Romans 1v27
          "and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error."

          It's immoral because God says it's immoral. However if you listen to medical folk it is also a disaster waiting to happen. It almost always ends in medical problems; not to mention mental & emotional problems. God wants what's best for us.

          The Sodomites will be there in Hell with the rest. No-one can escape eternity, we are all immortal.

          :-)
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        Apr 4 2011: "It's immoral because God says it's immoral"
        It's like you just set on fire the bridge I thought we had built.

        I thought we agreed to override the bible whenever it conflicts with the golden rule, and accept it as valid when it doesn't.

        By the golden rule, if you fancied men, you'd want the right to fancy men (i.e. be gay). From the viewpoint of the gay, if one is not gay, as is the case by default in nature (or if you prefer, according to the word of God), then one should have the right to not be gay. There's nothing inherently wrong in either preference by the golden rule, but the bible sees it as wrong, so we can override that, same way we can override slavery.

        What IS immoral indeed is either side taking away that right out of the other side, same way as by the golden rule, they wouldn't want that right taken away from them. A homosexual having sex with a heterosexual (and inherently, taking away his/her right to be heterosexual) is immoral. In the same way, a heterosexual condemning someone for being homosexual (and inherently taking away his right to be homosexual) is immoral.

        If the Sodomites were killed only because they were gay, then they were inherently killed for nothing.

        "However if you listen to medical folk it is also a disaster waiting to happen. It almost always ends in medical problems; not to mention mental & emotional problems."
        There's these things called "condoms" as far as the medical problems are concerned. Regardless of sexuality, without them, you're exposed to the same kind of venereal diseases. OK, so maybe for gays, the chances are higher, but still. And I'm not sure about the mental and emotional problems you're talking about... haven't heard any data about that (links please?). Yet I'm pretty sure that whatever the case, the same mental and emotional problems can be found in people of any sexuality, even if indeed, the percentage is higher among gays.
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        Apr 5 2011: In response to your question about paraphrasing the evolutionary explanation, I've always liked "You are the result of millions of years of ever changing life". It's somewhat neutral, but it can easily be twisted into a positive direction with something like "You are special, because of all other possible life that could have happened throughout those millions of years, you happened".

        To me at least, that sounds more beautiful than "God (a.k.a. An invisible father of all life on earth) created you". That explanation is very short and can be just as easy to shut a kid up with it in the same fashion the stork can be used as an alternative answer to "where do babies come from" or as Santa can be used as a motivator for being good.
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    Mar 26 2011: (damn this reply system... being 3 levels only...)

    @james wood
    "Vasil, sorry if I misunderstood how you were using the driving metaphor in your first post.
    ..."

    - not all cultures agree with the premise - Like who? I can only think of radical religions and dictators as examples, but those aren't really "cultures". Radical groups take supplies by indoctrinating people at a young age at which point they aren't informed of the premise to be disagreeing with it, and people under dictatorships have little choice, so even if they disagree, we wouldn't know.

    - all cultures are equal in their viewpoint since there is no higher law - one more reason we need a point from which we can all start, understand our differences and go about taking the best of all view points along the way.

    - the golden rule may sometimes require you to be unsafe - Indeed. Same goes for any moral principle. It's natural occurrence which has in turn created what we call "moral discussions".

    - the golden rule in your interpretation stipulates wanting others to have what you have. thus they must be able to make up their own moral system which disregards the golden rule. - If we start with the premise of the golden rule not being overrideable, and have people agree to that (and only that), then by definition they could indeed be making up their own moral system (the same way I could be making up mine), as long as it's not in conflict with that. It starts off by people augmenting this with their existing world view that already satisfies this, eventually reaches a point where we have a nearly full understanding of what's moral (with the golden rule itself being the only "dogma" of sorts), ends up with us potentially ditching the golden rule for something that isn't going to be a "rule", but would still achieve the same effect... this must all happen gradually though. I can't imagine myself intentionally breaking the golden rule unless I had another non-rule based system with the same effect.
    • Mar 26 2011: Vasil,

      You agree that the golden rule may require you to be unsafe.
      You have stated previously that the reason for the golden rule being adopted is for safety.
      Please explain why this is not a contradiction.

      You state that the golden rule should not be "overridable".
      The golden rule states that people should be treated as you want to be. You want to have the right to make up your own morality. People therefore must be allowed to override the golden rule.
      Please explain why this is not a contradiction.
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        Mar 26 2011: Oh... sorry. I thought you meant "unsafe" as in "unsafe in your world view", "unsure if the principle is applicable" if you will.

        If you mean "may require you to be unsafe" as in "may expose you to harm", then this goes back to something else I said earlier - the golden rule is for personal prevention only. Another being doing something harmful to you... the golden rule can't answer what you should do at that point or after it, and indeed, if the other person does not follow the golden rule (which likely they don't if they've intentionally harmed you), you may be exposed to harm regardless of whether you follow the golden rule or not. If they do follow the golden rule, then you most likely aren't going to be exposed to harm. Of course that's still "most likely" due to the definition of "harm", but when the principle is common, at least we can further start clarifying "harm" (with killing and stealing being only the prime examples).

        I want to have the right to make up my own morality... but one that is still built upon definitions we can agree on (with the golden rule happening to be the definition most people can agree on). For us to agree upon something(s), it means for said thing(s) not to be overridable by anyone who agrees with it (me included), unless we all agree not to agree about it, and in turn, not agree with any of our moralities derived from the definition(s), defeating the original purpose in the process, unless there's an alternative set of definition(s) to replace the old one(s).

        The larger the set of stuff we have to agree with, the easier disagreements can arise, with all religions being examples of that. That's why there's a need for a common starting point, with further points being defined separately along the way to keep things in check. We already have political and religious labels, but we're missing moral principle labels. And if there's one moral principle that desperately needs a label (because of its significance), it's the golden rule.
        • Mar 27 2011: Vasil,

          Perhaps I misunderstood you. I had thought from the title "atheists you need to rethink your morals" that you wanted other people to adopt the "golden rule". This led me to my suggestion that, thinking all morality was equal, yet propogating one particular variant to others was illogical.

          This last post seems to indicate that your idea is actually just about people who already believe in the "golden rule" being able to identify others who do so too. Therefore you are free from that charge of being contradictory.

          Likewise if you are allowed to put the golden rule to the side and react as you wish when someone hurts you, then you are free from much of the accusation of "safety" contradicting the golden rule.

          Two thoughts then:
          1) There may be no need for the term moralist since loving those who love you is exactly what Christians have been taught unbelievers would do. (Luke 6)
          Loving your enemies as Christ and others such as Gandhi taught does seem nobler though!

          2) Your moral system as just described is about wrong actions and has little place for the wrongs of inaction. Since safety is parammount above the golden rule then, if I see someone drowning I have no obligation to help them if it involves any risk to myself. Even if were I to be drowning I would want someone to help me.
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        Mar 27 2011: 1) That's what they've been taught, but it's still taught as a "we (believers) vs. them (non-believers)", with both "we" and "them" practicing this only within their group (with "group" being undefined outside of "we"). If we have a common term, then there's no longer "we vs. them" but instead "anyone who practices this vs. anyone who doesn't". You may say that's already the case with almost all people being covered, but that's just it... many believers don't realize that's already the case due to the lack of the term.

        2) That's right if we're talking about the negative version of the golden rule (a.k.a. the silver rule). If we take the positive one, then personal wrongs of inaction are also covered. If I were drowning, I'd want to be saved, therefore if someone is drowning, based on the positive version (treating others as I'd like to be treated), then it becomes my moral obligation to, if not save the person myself (I don't swim well; I wouldn't be creating a risk for myself, but I still wouldn't be able to help in time; same would apply if I could not swim at all and would therefore create a risk for myself), quickly alert someone who can.

        As for the title... I was hoping to bring in the kind of theists that would otherwise "cheer for me" that I'm doing this dick move, only to make them realize that's not what I'm doing >:-) . I'm not explicitly targeting only atheists, as you've already realized.

        On a side note... there's this guy Edward Current:
        http://www.youtube.com/user/EdwardCurrent
        He's a Christian, and I fully agree with him. I'd highly encourage the promotion of these videos to theists... especially if theists do the promotion. He is right! Checkmate atheists!
        • Mar 27 2011: Thanks Vasil, hey I think the whole idea is good, "moralists" - its a good useful term

          But I still think its basically that you personally like the golden rule rather than it being the natural logical outcome of intelligent thinking.

          I continue to think its a contradiction that a basic principle flowing from atheism is that morality is invented (so no viewpoint is better than anyone elses) but at the same time you want others to join in "cheering" for your cause.

          I also still think that you need to decide which is more important - loving others or looking after number 1 and if it's loving others you need to decide why.

          The cases you've given point out a real truth, that in loving others we often do ourselves a favour. but sometimes this isn't the case.

          I leave you to look up this story.
          http://www.eyamplaguevillage.co.uk/index.php/eyam-plague

          What they did was great for the North of England but often meant death for them.

          I personally think what they did was the right thing to do, it follows the golden rule.
          But if you adopt the golden rule as a way of self preservation then it makes no sense at all.
          and I've seen no alternative philosophical justification for the golden rule given by any non-theists.

          I think I'll leave it there. No desire for "check mate" - unlike Edward Current - good satire of Christians- I wonder what the guy really believes!?
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        Mar 29 2011: @james
        "I personally think what they did was the right thing to do, it follows the golden rule.
        But if you adopt the golden rule as a way of self preservation then it makes no sense at all.
        and I've seen no alternative philosophical justification for the golden rule given by any non-theists."
        Depends on the definition of "self" and "others". If Dawkins is correct in the idea of morality existing for the sake of gene preservation, this makes sense, because if everyone was infected, the whole gene (as in "potentially all of humanity") would've died, and that way, most of the gene pool is preserved. How far back in the gene pool do you go is another question... the more closely related, the more your desire to preserve the gene I guess. Those people were unlikely to save their own genes, but had the possibility to preserve related (human) genes, and so they choose to do so.

        As for what Edward Current believes... here's a hint... his background and description is on his channel and other stuff.
        Yeah, he's great. In the first few videos of his that I watched, I was like "He's either the dumbest Christian I've ever seen, or is the most brilliant satirist I've ever seen". I was glad to later find out he's the latter. I still sometimes watch his videos and later need to remind myself its satire... he's THAT good.

        @Birdia
        You mean it looks like a fictional being? That it's looks bad ass? Both? LOL
        • Mar 31 2011: Vasil,

          If we accept that this is correct and , "morality exists for gene preservation" then some things seem to follow naturally:

          1) If you are correct that the preservations of related genes is important then our animal conservation efforts should focus on beasts that are more closely related to us. - funds should be diverted from saving whales to saving gorillas and from gorillas to chimpanzees. Or alternatively to those in structurally significant positions within our own ecosystem.

          2) If it really is about the most closely related genes then the preservation of those related closely to you becomes more important than those from another area. You have clearly suggested that this is not the case in both your reply to the Eyam story, your suggestion that we should follow the golden rule regardless of ethnicity and your rebuttal of the argument that evolutionary morality leads to facism.

          3) In the scariest scenario if morality really is about gene preservation then people should follow the sexuality that best enables gene preservation.

          On a side point - whilst some new atheists (e.g. Dawkins / Dennet) do argue that:

          "morality developped/exists BECAUSE OF gene preservation"

          and some (although I am not sure that your assessment of Dawkins being one is quite fair on him) regard this as being the same thing as

          "morality exists FOR the sake of gene preservation".

          The leap is not watertight.

          To give a biological analogy: a mutation may be preserved BECAUSE of it being a favourable attribute in one set of conditions but that same thing may be used millions of years later FOR something else. A greater philosophical justification of morality being FOR gene preservation is thus necessary.

          Since we are now aware of our own consciousness we may act at variance to the genetic cause of our morality.

          Unfortunately I will be offline from about eight hours time so won't be around for the ending of this thread. if this is goodbye, thanks, i've enjoyed the chat.
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        Mar 31 2011: 1) Gorillas and chimpanzees, AFAIK, are not as endangered as whales. Monkeys that are endangered are already being taken care of by concerned animal keepers. So yes, our desire to help primates would be greater if they're as near extinction as whales, but they have less need to be helped currently, therefore we don't help them that much currently.

        2) Same deal. Yes, the preservations of my relatives, as well as that of people of my own area becomes more important than that of people living elsewhere, but that's when we're talking about equal kind of endangered-ness. The Eyam were already about to die, and if there was a way to cure them, I'm sure the people nearby would've cured them, whether they were direct relatives or not. If people on the other side of the world knew about this and had a cure, they also would've done everything in their power to bring the cure there, because they'd know those people need a cure more than they may have needed other more minor things.

        3) Sexuality, much like religion, is a personal choice. If someone decides to be a homosexual, and realize their lineage will not be continued, fine. Some homosexual couples decide to adopt kids, which I'm guessing is sort of their way to feel more "moral" in the "gene preservation" kind of way... I mean, whether a kid is your direct descendant or not, he is human, he still has a large part of the kind of gene that is part of you.

        - "A greater philosophical justification of morality being FOR gene preservation is thus necessary. "
        Ah. I'm starting to see your point. Maybe you're right. Indeed, maybe even if morality originated for the sake of gene preservation, it's current existence may be for something else.

        But that's why we have moral "codes" like the golden rule. Until we fully understand morality and human behavior in general, moral principles and codes are our guidelines, same way as religion was once people's guideline to non explainable phenomenons like why "the tides come in...", etc.
        • Mar 31 2011: Vasil,

          thanks for the quick reply.

          1) good answer, not sure I can quite buy in to the idea of looking out for the mountain gorilla more than the whale (they're both extremely endangered)...both just seem like amazing complex creatures. an example I guess of differing moral codes!

          2) seems like there's a couple of rules, treat people as you would like to be treated, but treat close relatives / those living closer better than those distant from us.

          again I understand the point but localism / nationalism is the reverse of my idea of the golden rule, I tend towards a belief in all mankind being of equal value and importance

          3) sexuality, I agree must be a personal choice and you made a really interesting point about why we all should consider adoption.

          I agree codes are vital I just think that its important that they have a solid philosophical justification behind them. If they're just what we like, then we ignore them when we don't like them.

          I've found my grounding in Jesus Christ but I get it that loads of people don't buy that or see it as a justification either!

          It's been good chatting, thanks for opening the conversation and I hope that more people adopt the golden rule because of it. Goodbye. Peace.
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    Mar 19 2011: @Frederic Pinsonnault
    What word other than "moralist" or "humanist" would you prefer? What would roll out of your tongue nicely and still give good enough vibes to anyone hearing it?

    "Reducing morality to the golden rule is over simplification. The golden rule is just the start of the discussion on morality and is not that even that good at solving moral dilemmas. It is just a good guideline."

    Exactly. The very thing that makes it excellent for a common ground estabilishment. By "common ground" I don't mean "the answer to everything", I mean "something both parties can agree to fall back to in a debate". Having a common ground is essential to having a united society, but making it (appear) exclusive the way religions tend to make themselves is like having more of the same, with humanist being the best example of this. The common ground, by definition must be "common", as in "be applicable to everyone affected by it (in this case all non-extremist people) and ALLOW for diversity outside of its scope".
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    Mar 19 2011: @Damon Pourtahmaseb-Sasi
    I agree with you for the rest, but the problem with humanist is that, like religion, it's also exclusive, and no religious person wants to fully exclude themselves from religion...

    Let me try putting it like that:
    @Peter Law
    Would you consider yourself a "humanist Christian", as in "you believe in god, but you don't use any religious dogma as a basis of morality and/or decision making"? Based on your post, I'm guessing your answer would be "No", because as you say, you get your "moral absolutes" from the bible.

    However, would you consider yourself a "moralist Christian", as in "you believe in god, and you base your morality on the golden rule, turning to the bible for any moral question that the golden rule can't answer"? Unless you support slavery or "killing people who plant different crops side by side" (I hadn't heared that one before...), you may as well anwer "I guess I am".

    To answer your questions about atheist positions on moral questions like abortion or homosexuality, I must first qualify myself as a "moralist atheist" as in "I don't believe in god, and I base my morality on the golden rule, turning to places other than holy scripture for moral questions that the golden rule can't answer". With that in mind:
    - Abortion - the problem is the exact definition of "life". If a foetus at ~3 months is not yet life, than by the golden rule you put yourself into the mother's shoes, and it's clear that she must have the right to take back control of her body and life. If that foetus does qualify as life, then by the golden rule you place yourself in it, and it's clear you shouldn't kill it. That's why (moralist) atheists are typically on the side of choice - the mother must be reminded of her own definition of "life" and take a moralistic decision based on it.
    - Gay marrige - by the golden rule, if you were gay, you'd want to have the right to marry a guy. Seeing that the act of marrige is not itself violating the golden rule - "Yes".
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      Mar 19 2011: Hi Vasil

      You're right about me not identifying with 'Humanist Morals'. Maybe a 'Moralist Christian' as you suggest, but you're understanding is wide of the mark in my opinion.

      I will try to explain, but as such things are 'spiritually discerned' as far as the bible is concerned, I may have limited success. It's good to talk though.
      Jesus is aware of our tendency to add our own rules to augment what God had said in the Old Testament. The Jews had so many rules & regulations it was confusing. Never heard of the planting crops one either, but it may well be in there somewhere. Anyway Jesus gave us two; 1) Love God; 2)Love each other.
      So basically we have the 'Golden Rule' plus loving God. Simple & straightforward. He said that if we follow those then we have fulfilled all the other ones. So that's my basis. Just two rules, & I can't even manage that.

      Abortion. The main reason we have to believe that the fetus is not human is that the theory of evolution taught that for a while; maybe it still does. The bible is quite clear, it is human from conception. My understanding of the science would agree with the bible. The decision should reflect the seriousness of the situation.

      Gays. Let me say it is rare where I live. I have a dear friend who is a lesbian, & has a life partner. They are both dear to me & I wouldn't hear a word against them. I don't have any problem with their choice. I don't need to agree with them to love them.
      The Gay movement is leading people into promiscuity with the promise of happiness. This promise is unlikely to be kept. We have an aids epidemic, & if the bible reflects history, as I believe, then we may get to the rape on demand culture of Sodom. Maybe the Golden Rule doesn't apply ?
      That said, it is my job to love people, regardless of their life choices. Some choices are better than others, that's all I'm saying.

      :-)
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        Mar 19 2011: While I admire your dedication to "keeping things simple" and sticking with the Golden Rule + God, (the latter of which I obviously find superfluous, whether He exists or not (and I happen to be open minded to that question, being more agnostic than atheist)) it seems to me that you're doing a pretty good job of figuring out your morals for yourself, regardless of what the bible says. Which begs the question of why you put the bible in high esteem, since much of the Old Testament, and quite a bit of the New, is so riddled with plotholes in the whole "Just love eachother and Me" story that Jesus is reported to say.

        On homosexuality: I suspect ignorance (meaning literally, "the lack of knowledge") is the root of most bigotry, and I've met many people in my life who have changed their views on subjects like race and gender once they've become more educated on them. To say "The Gay movement is leading people into promiscuity with the promise of happiness" is not just untrue, it's judgmental and propagandist. Where have you heard it? The Gay movement itself? Doubtful.

        You're speaking from the same "lack of knowing" that many do when they imply that the Gay movement is any more "promiscuous" than the "straight community." Cheating on a loved one, or sleeping with multiple people, whether married or not, is not more common among gay people than it is straight ones. Studies have actually indicated the opposite. By what evidence do you make such a judgment? What you see on TV? What you hear from others? You've admitted that it's rare where you live, but even if you've known a handful of gays who sleep around, you'd still be exhibiting the availability heuristic, a cognitive bias by which you give more weight to a few situations you notice and generalize them rather than considering the many instances you don't.

        Walk into any "normal" straight bar/club/college party, small town or big city night life, and tell me that straight people are more monogamous than gays.
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        Mar 19 2011: - Abortion - OK, you're augmenting the missing definition of "life" with that of the bible. That's compatible with the "moralist" definition I'm presenting, making you a "Moralist Christian" indeed. I would instead turn to science, but as far as science is concerned (OK, fine... from what I've gathered from science), there is no clear indication as to whether the ~3 month old foetus is just part of the mother (like an arm, an organ or an ovum) or an actual separate life form, leaving the question opened to individual interpretation and/or further research, which is what leads me to my "pro choice" position.
        - Homosexuality - I thought you meant only gay marrige, but since you mean it in general... being gay is acceptable by the golden rule (which is also a reason you're comfortable with having lesbian friends, despite the opposing position of the bible). Doing all bad things that you associate with gays (promiscuity, rape) is not acceptable by the golden rule and religion alike. So if everyone was a "moralist gay", you can be sure the world would not turn into Sodom and Gomorrah. If everyone was a "non-moralist gay" or a "non-moralist [any sexuality]", I'm not so sure.

        Actually, now that you mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah... that's actually the best example of how the bible treats non-Christians (the bible AFAIK doesn't clarify if the people of Sodom and Gomorrah believed in another god or were atheists, but either way...) - it automatically assumes everyone outside of it is SOOO immoral (without going into specifics) that it leads the listener into equating the lack of belief into the Christian god with lack of morality, hence creating the initial perception of [insert any non-biblically sound label] being immoral.
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    Mar 18 2011: Hi Vasil
    I am a Christian, & can only speak for myself. I disagree with your premise that Christians consider themselves more 'moral' than Atheists. I get my moral guidance from the bible. At times I fail miserably to live up to them, but am grateful that I am forgiven for that. Many Atheists are more 'moral' than I am by the bible's standards.

    The difficulty that I have is understanding where the Atheist get's his moral absolutes from. If we take abortion for example. The moral 'norm' varies with time & peoples opinions; likewise homosexuality. I guess both practices are OK with today's Atheists, but a century ago this would not have been the case; tomorrow; who knows. These are obvious examples, but the whole moral spectrum suffers from the same problem.

    It's straightforward for me; I go along with the bible as a matter of faith. So regardless of my opinion, I have little doubt of my position on moral matters. I am also sure that the ground will not shift beneath my feet & that 'my' moral guide will be consistent. The Athiest on the other hand can easily have his moral compass altered by a new generation, new legislation, etc., so how can he really know whether he is being moral or not.

    So is the Christian more 'moral' than the Atheist ? No-one can answer that. We are all fallible humans doing the best we know how to lead a good life.

    :-)
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      Mar 18 2011: You misunderstand the fundamental difference between having a moral compass guided by a book, and having one guided by your intellect.

      To claim that you get your morals from the bible is ridiculous: you're saying that if the bible didn't tell you not to kill, you would think it was okay? Maybe a lot of your beliefs are ancillary and specific to the bible's teaching, but your "morality" is not. You are a thinking, feeling human being, and regardless of how often you live up to your moral code, you have a sense of right and wrong which is inherent to strictly yourself.

      Generally, it's those ancillary beliefs that are the difference between atheists and religious folk. What food to eat when, how to treat those outside the norm, what actions are considered "good" or "bad" regardless of whether they hurt anyone... Those are what change for a religious person depending on how strictly they follow their bible. I presume you are not for killing people who plant different crops side by side?

      You say that regardless of your opinion, you have little doubt because you stick strictly to the written code. Atheists have no written code. They are individuals: see my post above/below yours. Each atheist must decide for themselves what is moral and what is not, and why. Many doubt, learn and grow. But atheists have no faith in words written millennium ago to dictate modern life.

      Lastly, do not be so sure that your morals cannot shift beneath your feet, or that that is such a bad thing. An immortal religious person born 2000 years ago may well still believe in slavery (no objection in bible, commonly practiced at time) gender inequality (inherent to many religions) stoning adulterers (still practiced by extreme Muslims) etc. An immortal atheist's beliefs would have changed with each new intellectual breakthrough, each shift in empathy with their understanding of civil rights, each new wave of acceptance for lifestyles different from our own, that harm no one (like homosexuality
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    Mar 14 2011: I'm not an atheist, but I get that there is a valid distinction between what I call 'good people' who don't wish to hurt others and will act morally in the face of a conflict what their culture or religion says and those who are pious but are willing to hurt others (or impious and willing to hurt others). Not sure about the term 'moralist' though, as it has a connotation in English of being the type of person who imposes one's morality on others. I think it might work best in English to put the word 'ethical' as a modifier in front of the religious or nonreligious term, as in 'Ethical Atheist" "Ethical Agnostic" "Ethical Pagan" "Ethical Christian" "Ethical Muslim". Yes, it does kind of insult the other people, by stating that they are not ethical, which is probably the truth, in my opinion, but it does take a stand. The kind of people who hurt others while feeling secure in their piety probably need it that clear anyhow.
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      Mar 15 2011: The problem I for one have with using the word "moral" or "ethical" is mostly that it can be used to describe not just people, but actions. "Ethical behaviour" or "moral deed" define a kind of action performed by anyone, whereas "Muslim behaviour" or "Christian deed" define actions that were performed by people of a certain faith. Add to that the fact that what's "moral" or "ethical" isn't clearly defined, but is insted elaborated by various rules, religion being one of them.

      This term must only be applicable to labeling people, so that when applied to actions, it gives the same impression as the religion examples.

      I saw the definition of moralist you're reffering to before creating the topic, but all other stuff I could form would either require you to be a snake when telling them (ethicist, ethician), sound too close to the original to be note worthy (moralian), give bad associations (gruler, goldener) or simply sound like giving your mouth a seizure of sorts when used in a sentence (moralistician, moralitarian).

      At least as far as pop culture is concerned (American and British movies, songs and games), I haven't really heared the word "moralist" be used... at all... when people are pissed at someone for imposing their morals on them, they usually use words like "forceful", "abusive", "[religion]", "[specific moralily set label]", "[curse word]" instead. And if they're doing the imposing, they don't identify themselves as "moralist", they define the behaviour of said imposed on person "immoral".

      Besides, that's the ONLY other definition of "moralist". It's not like "humanist" which has 4... sounds like a safe word to take, despite the otherwise bad association.
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    Mar 13 2011: Vasil, I think you are starting with a red herring. Is it really a common misconception among religious people that atheists are somehow less moral? How common? How do you know this? While you can no doubt find examples of people who make this claim, I haven't found it particularly pervasive.

    While the golden rule is useful, I don't think it's enough to deal with real-world moral conundrums. For instance, what is the moral way to deal with a criminal according to the golden rule? Do you ask what the criminal would have you do to him? Or what about a drug addict? I can imagine how I would like to be treated if I was addicted to a serious drug: I would want more money to fuel my addiction. So is giving money to drug addicts the moral thing to do? You might say, "No, that's not what a drug addict *really* wants, they want to get better" but then you are off the tracks of the golden rule because you are substituting your ideal of good for theirs and that is the problem religious moral ideals suffer from.

    Applying the golden rule is certainly a good way to go about life, but it is insufficient when confronted with many of the classical ethical dilemmas (Plank of Carneades, the variation of the trolley problem, etc). I'm not arguing for religion, only that simple solutions aren't enough.
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      Mar 13 2011: Agree. The golden rule is not sufficient to address every single moral question... mostly because it doesn't deal with punishment and consequences - it deals with prevention for yourself. It is the one thing shared among sane people of all religions, as well as atheists, and the one moral principle which has never in on itself caused bad things by the people who follow it, which is what makes it the perfect candidate for a common ground.

      All other principles, such as those discussed by Michael Sandel for example, have ambiguities and exceptions... stuff that is essentially what makes morality as complex of topics as it is.

      The way you deal with people who break the golden rule is out of the scope of the golden rule. However, we do have laws for that. Laws that based on the golden rule and others must estabilish what's "right" and only then deal with those who fail to do the right thing.

      To answer your question with the golden rule, I could only say if I would deem it moral for me to be in the place of the people you describe - I won't steal, because I wouldn't want someone to steal from me. I wouldn't con people, because I wouldn't want to be conned. And as for drug addiction... I simply don't want to die young, which is enough of a reason. THAT is what makes it moral not to give money to a drug addict - if I was in their place, I still wouldn't want to die, despite me wanting money (without wanting to get better).

      As for how common of a misunderstanding among religious people this is... ask Richard Dawkins how many times he had to answer where he gets his morals from. Ask religious people on other forums what would they do without religion (similarly to the conversaion I linked before). If you could go back in time, you could even ask my younger self.

      The only reason there's no formal evidence (like a survey or something) is because no one has done a wide research on the topic. But I wouldn't be surprised if such a survey confirms these suspicions of mine.
      • Mar 19 2011: Vasil, I may be wrong but I think that Dawkins is asked “where he gets his morals from” not because people think he is immoral but because it is a weakness in his argument.

        He has never fully answered the question. It is also because theists and atheists have an essentially different outlook on what is meant by the term “moral”

        Dawkins believes that morals are a human invention.

        He therefore should by nature be a normative moral relativist: accepting them all to be equally invalid. However as a militant atheist he regularly criticises religion not just on the basis of its flawed logic in arriving at its morals (i.e. through ancient books) but also because things it encourages, like killing and intolerance are “wrong”, things like tolerance are “right”. Furthermore he suggests that other people should actively oppose religion. In both these cases he is applying moral absolutes.

        As such he is unable to remain a moral relativist.

        Dawkins has tried to address this by talking about “evolutionary ethics” the idea that ethics could and have been arrived at upon the basis of what is best for evolutionary development. In this case however “morality” is essentially about personal/group survival. Since this is inherently self interested most theists do not acknowledge this as being “moral”. This is because the core morality of most major religions is centered around self denial and self sacrifice...Thus the recurrent accusation that atheists are not moral.

        Dawkins himself is also very unhappy with the idea that religion should be adopted where its evolutionary benefits can be identified.

        There is another option. Dawkins could accept the idea of AJ Ayer that he is an emotivist. His moral judgements are just expressions of emotions, saying don’t kill is equivalent to saying cakes are nicer than chocolates. But I guess as a scientist he prefers more definite and clear answers.

        Why are you in favour of the golden rule, emotions or survival or something else?
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          Mar 19 2011: I'm in favor of the golden rule because it makes sence, because it's not ambiguous, because it works, and has historically worked. Religions have the reputation of being morally right because they base themselves on the golden rule, and they work in keeping morality thanks to it.

          The problem with religions however is that they put further stuff (additional rules and rituals) around the golden rule, that ultimately causes confusion and can lead people into doing morally wrong things, because they perceive them as part of this grether and better thing that their religion portrays itself to be.

          I'm inclined to agree with Dawkins on morality being an evolutionary invention. That doesn't make it a bad thing though. It just provides a non holistic reason for its inception and preservation, as selfish (from a species' perspective) as it may sound. According to evolution, we are common relatives with pretty much all life on earth, so following from that, we should be moral towards everyone (person or an animal) to preserve both our genes and theirs. Is gene preservation via morality selfish? Yes. Does that make morality a wrong thing to practice? No.

          The reason Dawkins avoids answering this question in full details is because, like all atheists, he believes morality has nothing to do with religion, and he tries to keep the two separate. The thing he doesn't realize is that morality is the very reason people have sticked to religion for all this time. All other parts that make up a religion are not worth fighing and arguing over. Why would a radical islamist blow himself up? Because he'll get a reward in the afterlife from Allah? Yes, but the reason he believed that to begin with was because he was raised to believe this (and anything "Allah" says) is morally the right thing to do. Why would anyone believe in god (Allah, Yahweh, etc.)? Because that's part of the "morality package" version they took when they were introduced to it, and only it.
      • Mar 20 2011: I agree. Making a choice based on gene preservation is not wrong. I guess my point was it is neither right nor wrong, it is neutral.

        Since theists base their concept of morality on the idea that certain things are right or wrong, they struggle to understand this alternative view of morality which is based more on a cost / benefit analysis. Leading to the conflict over "morality".

        Your argument that the golden rule "makes sense" does as you've said hold a lot of water historically. Communities that have adopted it have tended to thrive. However on this analysis the ultimate correct action, is to do that which makes the community thrive. This may sometimes include abandoning the golden rule.

        For example: if you were from the blue coloured tribe and people from the purple coloured tribe attacked you with the aim of wiping out all blues. Then killing all purples living in amongst your village might be the right thing to do in order to stop there being a threat to your survival from an enemy within. Alternately it might not, as they could be good negotiators. Nonetheless your reasoning could not be dictated by something as arbitrary as an invented "golden rule".

        Equally thriving may sometimes mean adopting religion. For example the drug dealer who reforms because he believes God has "saved him" may well turn back to drug dealing when that "faith" is undermined, even if it is done so by extremely morally minded atheists. Thus in this case theism would be the correct option to promote in order to make both the community (without so many drugs on the street) and the individual (due to decreased risk taking) thrive.

        Dawkins will not accept this analysis of the occassional benefits of religion. For him the "truth" of atheism is paramount above "survival ethics" but he has no philosophical grounding for such a stance since by definition his atheism denies belief in moral truth. I therefore presume him to be an emotivist with an emotional reaction against religion.
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    Mar 8 2011: Vasil:

    Seems like there's already a word. Although it has multiple meanings see wikipedia meaning #4 for "humanist":

    "A secular ideology which espouses reason, ethics, and justice, whilst specifically rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision-making."

    btw:

    There's a great discussion on this topic (and related topics) between Robert Wright and Daniel Dennett:

    video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3133438412578691486#

    In it Dennett describes a thought experiment meant to compare morals to philosophical ideals (kind of a universal truth). He says [paraphrased] - imagine there exists a distant planet with a highly evolved intelligent life form. Wouldn't you consider it likely that they would have developed some form of the golden rule?
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      Mar 8 2011: "humanist" - as you point out - EXCLUDES religious dogma as a basis of morality and decisioun making. That's where the difference with the idea for a new term is.

      With this new term (regardless of the exact word for it; I'm opened to suggestions for another word), you INCLUDE religion as a possible alternative source. You say "If your religion offers something that's not in conflict with the golden/silver rule, fine, use that part of your religion as a basis for this decision or morality making".

      So, for example, if one's religion states that it's moral for a woman's face and body to be covered AND they don't enforce it on a woman (as the silver rule would forbid them from doing; you don't want someone enforcing you to do what HE believes to be moral), so be it.

      Another example: my country celebrates a few old pagan rituals "for good health and prosperity". Most of them don't violate the golden/silver rule, but some do (e.g. spinning a dog over a river bridge and throwing it into the water*), and those are not officially approved, despite being practiced. A moralist will be anyone who doesn't approve of the immoral rituals, even if he believes in the moral righteousness of the other rituals.

      The main point is not to alienate religious people, but to embrace the good moral teachings of their religion, and deal with the rest afterwards. If moral and religion are separated, religious people are left not defending their "beliefs" (an umbrella term which includes morals, dietie(s), creation and afterlife), but defending their "tales", which makes it much easier for them to embrace alternative explanations of whatever tales they've been told (whether the explanation is fiction, exaggeration, metaphor or something else).

      *For the record, from what the media showed last time, the dogs seemed having fun doing this (wagging tail and everything). I don't believe in the ritual, but that ritual didn't seemed to violate the golden/silver rule, despite being presented as one.
      • Mar 14 2011: > "humanist" - as you point out - EXCLUDES religious dogma as a basis of morality and decisioun making. <

        Does Humanism by itself necessarily exclude some kind of divinity? Wouldn’t that be ‘Secular Humanism’, a subset of Humanism?
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      Mar 23 2011: Hi Tim

      I had a listen to the link with Dennet. Interesting as far as it goes, but he is preaching to the choir.

      I prefer the cut & thrust where ideas are questioned,, rather than agreed with. You may like to try :-
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iw7J15TeDG4

      :-)
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        Mar 24 2011: Thanks for the link. Had a good laugh at both D'Souza and Dennet's speeches (obviously, for different reasons at each).

        Dinesh D'Souza is actually another good example of the kind of person I'm talking about having misconceptions of atheists and mixing religion with morality. Atheism doesn't have to do anything with morality (i.e. it doesn't define morality), but Dinesh treats it as another ideology that comes with its own moral compass that includes anything that religions have not preached. In his first appearance, he used the words "Darwinist" and "Atheist" interchangeably, and further used "Darwinism" as an ideology (with its own moral compass and everything) by introducing fascism's "survival of the fittest" mantra. You can see how he clearly went like "Atheist = Atheism = Darwinism = Fascism = Hitler = Psychopath". I'd like to see him try pulling this off at a "moralist atheist".

        Later, seeing he agreed atheism doesn't imply immoral behavior, even though it includes it (because atheism doesn't define morality; though that part was never mentioned in the debate the way I'm saying it now), he argued morality, overall, can't exist without religion(s) being around. He has a point in that humanity needs to put a label on good and bad people, and have some sort of ground definition of the concept of good and bad.

        My main problem is his assumption that the only way to go about having such definitions is with religion. But he is right in that the rhetoric is lacking any such labels and definitions outside of religions, which is exactly what this term should fix - a basic label for a "good person" (without delving into the specifics religions go to; just a basic foundation we can all agree on, that being the golden rule, since it's already the basis of all religions and atheism alike), that can apply to anyone, regardless of any non-morally centered stuff (creation, deities, afterlife) that's currently under the umbrella of religions.
        • Mar 25 2011: D’Souza comes across as a rather scary right winger who combines Christianity with the politics of fear and patriotism. He does however tap in to a strong vein of Christian philosophical thought on atheism and morality.

          The conflict occurs because of a difficulty to understand each other’s terms of reference.

          Theistic morality flows from their philosophy on God. i.e. a moral law giver gives moral law.
          When Theists debate with Atheists they often make the false presumption that Atheist’s morality does or should also flow from their philosophy on God, therefore they state:

          no God = no morality

          or

          no God = evolutionary morality = survival of the fittest = facism.

          Most modern Atheists however do not trace their morality from their Atheism since rather sensibly they realise that you can’t create a moral system out of a lack of God.

          Instead Atheist morality tends to be based around claims of logic. In reality these are invariably illogical. For example Dawkins has stated that since we share DNA with other life forms we should treat them well. But one statement does not flow from the other. A concept of care for others is not an inevitable conclusion from shared DNA. Dawkins is simply expressing an emotional preference for universally being good not a logical conclusion.

          Theists invariably find this odd since most modern atheists argue that atheism is driven by a desire to live according to logic and science not on emotions and faith but morality can be different. Some theistic debaters also point out that it is patently false to claim that morality is a human invention which is therefore not capable of being universal and at the same time to criticise religious morals.

          In most debates Christians are not trying to accuse Atheists of lacking morals. Rather they are trying to persuade them to become Christians by pointing out: You have a belief in universal morals = a belief in a moral law giver = you actually believe in God but you won’t acknowledge it.
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          Mar 25 2011: Vasil/James

          From a Christian perspective, I see the problem as similar to buying a car.
          Imagine you have no mechanical knowledge at all, never had anything to do with cars, but someone has given you a licence. So you buy your car, read the handbook, & eventually are quite at home driving your car.
          If however, the car came with no handbook; what then ? Are you ever going to change the brake fluid ? Are you even going to drive the thing.
          I believe that I have been given a machine to get around in by the manufacturer. I also have the handbook. The instructions vary a bit from what I may have guessed myself; but in general everything seems to work OK, & I trust that the maker knows best.
          For the guy who believes that his machine has no maker, it must be a bit more of a shot in the dark. Luckily the maker has built in a safeguard to guide us (conscience), but it's no substitute for the manual.
          No two people agree about everything, so how do we get a decent set of morals to live by without a manual ?

          PS Some good debate on morals. Muslim v Atheist
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONAcBRPbPLE&NR=1

          :-)
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          Mar 26 2011: Peter, that's an excellent analogy. Unfortunately, it leaves out some important details about the handbook:

          1. It's written in an archaic language; the translations are substantially different.
          2. It gives instructions in the form of stories which require interpretation.
          3. It's very old and much of the advice doesn't seem to apply to this particular car.
          4. In fact, some advice is bizarre, like stoning the car when it isn't running right.
          5. It seems to make factual statements that do not agree with observation.
          6. People wield power by claiming to be the true interpreter of the handbook.
          7. There's not one, but many handbooks that all claim to be the true handbook.
          8. These competing handbooks also suffer from the above problems.
          9. Disagreement over the true handbook is heated, wars break out, people die.

          Given this, some people may get fed up and decide to just open the hood and figure out how this thing runs using their intelligence and reason. In fact, they may make a project of it by proposing hypotheses and testing them to see how the car runs with different kinds of maintenance. Over time their understanding of the car will gradually increase and they may even publish their own manual with the understanding that it will be updated as new information is learned.

          Given the two scenarios, I have no doubt which manual I would buy with my car.
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    Mar 7 2011: I vote we start with the Silver Rule. Not that we couldn't some day work up to the Golden Rule. But a more attainable starting point might be useful.
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      Mar 8 2011: LOL :-D

      And what is the silver rule? The same as the golden rule, but just called differently?
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        Mar 8 2011: Similar, but a lilttle different...google it:>)
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          Mar 8 2011: Interesting... According to Wikipedia, the "Silver Rule" is actually equivalent to what Karen Armstrong calls "the negative version" of the Golden Rule.

          Well, however you call it, it's the same deal. I've edited the definition in the original post slightly to reflect what I had in mind initially anyway, which with the silver rule in the mix would translate to "anyone who follows the golden and/or silver rule".
        • Mar 14 2011: The Golden Rule & the Silver Rule are both expressions of reciprocity.

          The Golden implies what you like, everyone else likes too. This is not true. If I want to spend all my money, fly around the world, taste food, and then be destitute the rest of my life, it does not follow that others want to the same thing.

          The Silver rule assumes what you don’t like, everyone else doesn’t either, regardless of whatever you do like. This is also not true. If I don’t like doctors or receiving medical
          treatment, it does not follow that others don’t want it either.

          Personally I favor the Pagan Rede, "An' ye harm none, do what ye wilt". Basically, do whatever you want, so long as you don’t hurt anyone. No reciprocity involved.
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          Mar 15 2011: @Vincine
          And how is "do whatever you want, so long as you don’t hurt anyone" any different from the Silver Rule exactly? You still need to make an assumption about what would hurt someone, same as the Silver Rule.

          Like I said to Mark Meyer, the Golden and Silver rule deal with personal prevention only, making the Silver Rule pretty much equivalent to the Pagan Rede, and making the Golden Rule be something sort of "do whatever you want, as long as it benefits anyone".
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      Mar 8 2011: if you are all ok with the silver, i take the gold, can i? :)
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