I knew I should have remained silent.
I don't entirely agree with that. Why do "getting ahead" and "what is good for me" have to be the dominant drives? What I want for myself is to be content with who I am. Sometimes that means acting selflessly. In the end we all do what we do because of some internal drive, but we should not infer that this makes people selfish.
Actually I would say that criminal behaviour is generally pathological behaviour. It does not stem from a selfish morality so much as a failure to integrate into society and develop sensible patterns of behaviour.
Yours is an interesting post, statman. On the face of it, it would seem that the religious have their morality served up to them on a plate and atheists make it up as we go along. But I must disagree. The basic tenets of religious morality (7 laws of noah, 10 commandments, etc) usually constitute pretty obvious stuff that most people would agree with. The finer points of religious morality are usually cherry-picked from religious texts, while undesired "guidance" which does not fit in is ignored. So it is not really religious texts that dictate morality, it is the way religions interpret them, which in turn is based on the prevailing morality of the times, plus other social and political factors. So the religious also "choose" their morality, but they do it more as a herd and less as individuals.
Atheists, on the other hand, are not amoral. Many atheists have very strong morals, they just have to decide for themselves what those morals are.
Both groups are ultimately guided by human nature. And since we all have that in common, this holds out the possibility of a moral code that could work for all.
I never said athiests are amoral. Everyone has morals, and everyone decides what their morals will be, regardless of how religious they are. Your morals are part of you, and help you make choices. Without morals, you would be totally directionless.
The definition of moral (see: http://www.merriam-w...ictionary/moral ) is based on what is right and wrong behavior. What is good, and what is evil. The basic nature of animal life is self preservation, so what is good for me. There are different levels of good involved. How can you define being content with who you are? What makes you content? Content is a choice. I can be perfectly content living on grubs and grass, if I don't know anything other than that. Contentment is best obtained with ignorance. Ignorance is Bliss. It is when we learn about other things we could have that we gain envy, and are discontent.
Everyone is inately selfish. Is this a bad thing? No. We are born that way...wanting to eat when we are hungry, to sleep when we are tired, and to get our diapers changed when they are dirty, and we cry until our needs are met. We all have different goals in life. Those who believe in another life can aim their selfishness in how to enter that other world-"How can I be saved". Those who don't believe in another life try to get satisfaction in this one.
Define pathological. We define criminals by those who choose to go against the socially accepted norms of what we term morality. A majority of the criminals in the current U.S. Penal system are there due to some type of addiction. They cannot get what they need in order to fill satisfied. With all addictions, there is never a point where you will be satisfied. The more you have, the more you want. But the point is, they did what they did to get what they wanted when they wanted it. They didn't think about the social consequences, and definitely didn't think about religious consequences.
What is Human Nature? Isn't it survival of the fittest? We give up a lot of our freedom to "fit in". We try to live by the socially accepted norms, but do not always accept them as part of our basic morality.
Look at Nazi Germany. Many people allowed the government to do what they did because it helped get them out of a recession, and gave them a sense of unity, a common goal. National Socialism (Nazi) gave the people the basics of what they needed, and they didn't want to think that it came at the expense of others. Many (and many of these are religious) turned a blind eye to the killing of millions because it helped them. So where were their morals? The social norm had changed. We live at the expense of others.
I remember a long time ago watching an episode of Dennis Praeger, not that I always agree with him, but he stated something that rings true to me. I would rather have my children learn to obey the law because they are worried about a God watching over them that sees everything than a law that you can circumvent by finding ways to get away with things. If nobody sees, is it a sin? As long as nobody gets hurt, right? The sad truth is, someone is always getting hurt, but we just cant, or don't, see it.
How should we define a moral standard. Whose standards should we choose? Should we isolate ourselves, so we never have a harmful impact on someone else? Should we stop developing so we don't hurt the environment? Should we not help our neighbor because we might get sued?
People usually agree that killing is bad. But what about killing out of necessity? What about euthenasia? What about killing to prevent more killing? Where do we draw the line? How much damage must occur before we change?
One of the largest problems facing todays society is not definition of morals, but the acceptance of responsibility. If we can shift the responsibility, then who cares about the morals. I am no longer responsible for killing, it was my parents fault, or my psychiatrist, or depression, or the gloves no longer fit. I am no longer responsible for being stupid, large corporations, or the government are supposed to protect me from myself. We can circumvent the socially accepted morality, because we are no longer responsible.
Thanks for allowing me to rant.