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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]".


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
which is basically the same idea, except I'm also suggesting a word for it.

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  • 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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