Godless Morality

With ConcernedThinker’s blessing, I’m re-blogging his post because it is a very eloquent summary of  my position as an atheist. Unfortunately, not all atheists are on this page. Neither are all Christians for that matter. Many on both sides of the “void” could  learn a thing or two from what ConcernedThinker says.

GODLESS MORALITY      

by CONCERNEDTHINKER      August 9, 2015 ~

At best, religion gives people bad reasons to be good.  At worst, it leads them to commit senseless atrocities in the name of divinity.  Many religious believers assert that morality cannot exist without gods.  They view morality as divine, rather than human.  In reality, morality is at the core of what it means to be human.

We know that consciousness arises from a series of chain reactions which occur within the nervous system.  Our subjective experiences are part of consciousness.  These subjective experiences are the basis of morality.  Moral actions are those which promote general well-being and immoral actions are those which spread suffering or diminish well-being.  This view of morality is so simple that it’s often dismissed without much consideration.

Intuitively, we know that it’s wrong to cause suffering.  Mirror neurons allow us to share the experiences of those around us, which causes empathy.  Empathy uses the basic principles of experiential morality to influence our behaviors.  We really want to help other people.  We really want to make their lives better.  Our altruism comes from our consideration for the experiences of others.  Altruism is a “good” reason act morally

via Godless Morality | God Came From Monkeys.

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8 thoughts on “Godless Morality

  1. Hi unkleE

    Point 1: I suggest you read ConcernedThinker’s recent blog https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/36567611/776946080

    Point 2: Does your source address the Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, the centuries of war and strife in Europe as Catholics and Protestants vied for supremacy, the current Jewish/Arab problems in the Middle East, the current Sunni/Sheer sectarian violence bringing misery to thousands?

    Point 3: I think you are confusing animal behaviour with human behaviour. We have evolved past this stage. As I’ve never met a person who claimed this so I don’t know what I would say in this hypothetical situation.

    Point 4: Point taken about the origin of the quote. Are you trying to imply that all “these people in the western world whose lifestyles are directly or indirectly responsible for much suffering and inequality in the rest of the world” are secular rather than religious?

    Ken.

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    1. 1. Hi Ken, I read the post you referenced. I like the theme and it was a nice short post which expresses a few personal views. As such, I see no need to argue against them. If that is how “concernedthinker” feels, then so be it. But I do feel sad, because presumably he/she has had a bad experience and views religion with jaundiced eyes. I can understand that. People and organisations can behave badly, and often do. That is why some christians distinguish between “religion” and “following Jesus” – the first can be a bad trip for some, and is often less than fully satisfying for many, but the latter has been for me wonderfully fulfilling and liberating.

      I was expecting something a little more in the way of evidence. Do you know that scientific studies show that, while there are many variations in religious experience, overall religion is associated with better than average wellbeing and prosociality (goodwill to others)? So concernedthinker’s nicely written diatribe is not really the norm?

      2. There are actually about 18 sources quoted in the two references I gave you, and you may find it worthwhile actually checking those two pages out. I think all the conflicts you mention are in there somewhere, though not all the sources mention them all. Most of the references are by competent historians and university scholars, not just internet raves. Your question suggests that you are having trouble coming to terms with this different perspective, which is why I suggest you read it all for yourself.

      3. I’m glad you haven’t met anyone who holds these views, or at least you aren’t aware of it. But it seems Adolf Hitler’s master race was something like these views. And philosopher Alex Rosenberg has this to say (selected from a longer list):

      Is there a God? No.
      Is there free will? Not a chance!
      What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad? There is no moral difference between them.
      Why should I be moral? Because it makes you feel better than being immoral.
      Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes.”

      May I ask, do you agree with him? And my original question was, if you disagree, how would you show he was mistaken?

      4. No, I’m not implying that at all. They would be both. My point was not only that you might know people whose pleasure causes others harm, but you and I might actually be those people. And from that, I was pointing out that ethics is a very serious business, and I felt the article you quoted over-simplified. The issues are not as black and white as concernedthinker suggests, and the facts sometimes are opposite to what he and you have said. I hoped it might be worth pointing out some of this.

      Thanks.

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      1. None of us are perfect, whatever world views we subscribe to. And yes, everyone can be selfish and inconsiderate at times but I’m not a philosopher. Nor am I into long debates via the comments section. As you rightly say, life is not black and white. We all have to work out what best suits our personal needs and search for our own answers.

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        1. OK Ken, I’m happy to stop there. But I have this hope that you may not say some of the things you have repeated in this post without first checking out the data, for I’m assuming that you, like me, want to base your views on evidence. Thanks for the opportunity to read and discuss. Best wishes.

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          1. Thanks unkkleE. You’re right, we should base our views on evidence. Certainly I always try to do so, but with very emotive subjects like religion, it is sometimes difficult to do so. Best wishes.
            Ken

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  2. Hi Ken

    I can’t see reasons for a few things here, and I’m wondering if you could explain them please?

    1. Can you explain “At best, religion gives people bad reasons to be good. “ please? I am a christian, and I’m wondering what bad reasons you think I have to be good.

    2. “At worst, it leads them to commit senseless atrocities in the name of divinity.” Isn’t it equally true that irreligion can do the same? If so, does this change the perspective a little?

    3. “Moral actions are those which promote general well-being and immoral actions are those which spread suffering or diminish well-being. “ What makes this definition of morality true? How would you answer someone who said: “I don’t think general wellbeing is good. I think my wellbeing is good”?

    4. “Intuitively, we know that it’s wrong to cause suffering.” How generally true is this? Some people seem to enjoy causing some other people to suffer, and many others choose to do it for personal or group gain. How would you see this principle working out in practice?

    Thanks.

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    1. Hi unkleEl. RE: I can’t see reasons for a few things here, and I’m wondering if you could explain them please?

      1. Can you explain “At best, religion gives people bad reasons to be good. “ please? I am a christian, and I’m wondering what bad reasons you think I have to be good.

      The writer was alluding to the Christian belief in Satan and Hell, and the belief that sinners who don’t repent will be consigned to an eternity of suffering. Moral of story: behave yourself or else!

      2. “At worst, it leads them to commit senseless atrocities in the name of divinity.” Isn’t it equally true that irreligion can do the same? If so, does this change the perspective a little?

      Yes, I agree some senseless atrocities are carried out from time to time for purely secular reasons, but most of the atrocities throughout history result from sectarian differences between various religions or subsets of a religion e.g. Christian v Muslim, Protestant v Catholic, etc

      3. “Moral actions are those which promote general well-being and immoral actions are those which spread suffering or diminish well-being. “ What makes this definition of morality true? How would you answer someone who said: “I don’t think general wellbeing is good. I think my wellbeing is good”?

      Simple. I would tell them they are a selfish psychopath and a menace to society. Fortunately they are few in number.

      4. “Intuitively, we know that it’s wrong to cause suffering.” How generally true is this? Some people seem to enjoy causing some other people to suffer, and many others choose to do it for personal or group gain. How would you see this principle working out in practice?

      You said it yourself “Intuitively, we know that it’s wrong to cause suffering.” This is the norm and the vast majority of people are intrinsically good by nature. People who enjoy inflicting suffering on others are sadists and again they are a menace, but fortunately they are the exception rather than the rule. I’m 74 years old and I’ve never known one.

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      1. Hi Ken, thanks for your answers. I think you and the author are describing a different form of christianity than I believe.

        1. I don’t try to behave morally for the reasons you give. Most christians I know and read believe they are saved from hell by grace, and they try to act morally out of love for God. What is wrong with that motivation?

        (BTW, I don’t believe the Bible teaches everlasting suffering either.)

        2. Have you evidence to show that your statement here is true? I have a little on this matter, and it shows that:

        (i) More people died at the hands of atheistic regimes in the 20th century than at the hands of religious bodies in 2 millennia.
        (ii) Expert studies show that only about 10% of wars have religious causes – check out Does religion cause wars?.
        (iii) Expert studies also show that until recently, the same was true for terrorism, i.e. mostly not caused by religion but by other factors. But in the past few years the rise of Islamic terrorism in five countries has made this the dominant cause of current global terrorism – see Does religion cause terrorism?.

        I think it is easy to think what is commonly said on the internet is right, but in this case expert studies show it appears not to be.

        3. That is a fair answer, but have you any objective evidence that you are correct in your judgment? What if someone said evolution is about survival of genes, individual or group, and they are just doing what is needed to ensure survival?

        4. That quote was from you, not me, but I won’t argue with it. Your examples are reasonable, but what about people in the western world whose lifestyles are directly or indirectly responsible for much suffering and inequality in the rest of the world? I presume you know many such people?

        I make these points not to be argumentative, but because I think the author you quoted was quite simplistic and offered little evidence for what they said. I think we need to go a little deeper. What do you think?

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