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#11 statman

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Posted 25 March 2008 - 11:47 PM

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 knew I should have remained silent.
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.
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#12 octopuppy

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 10:52 AM

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.

That would pose a problem for the atheist (if we agreed with that definition, that is ;) ), though fortunately merriam-webster has been kind enough to leave us a little window of opportunity:
d: sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment <a moral obligation>

The basic nature of animal life is self preservation, so what is good for me.

I disagree. This is an oversimplification of the effects of evolution. It would probably be more accurate to say that the basic nature of animal life is to exhibit the kinds of behaviours that would generally be most likely to result in the preservation and propagation of one's own genetic code. This isn't a great link to explain the concept but it's something. When you consider the fact that your genetic code is stored in your children, and (to a decreasing extent) extended family, social groups, and species as a whole, this allows for some very unselfish behaviour. You may also consider the fact that human beings are social animals, and that there are rewards at the group level for unselfish behaviour. I don't think we can be accurately characterised as self-serving, and my personal observation bears this out.

How can you define being content with who you are? What makes you content?

Now there's a can of worms! I'll just say that improving the world around me would have to be part of that.

Contentment is best obtained with ignorance. Ignorance is Bliss.

Possibly, but that's a price I'm unwilling to pay. Contentment doesn't mean stagnation. I like to learn and challenge myself and realise my full potential as a person. That's my idea of contentment.

It is when we learn about other things we could have that we gain envy, and are discontent.

Then we learn about envy and, if we are wise, get past it.

Define pathological. We define criminals by those who choose to go against the socially accepted norms of what we term morality.

I used the word "pathological" to indicate that criminal behaviour generally benefits nobody, not even the criminal. It may be a product of having psychological problems, of being misguided or just plain stupid. The point is that criminal behaviour is a "disease" in a social sense because it benefits nobody. It is not so much a choice to put selfish interests before others (though a criminal might justify it that way), it is more a complete failure to act in anybody's best interests. You might consider it a symptom rather than a disease. What it isn't is a rational choice based on different priorities.

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.

It's true that social norms can do a lot to compromise morality on a group level, but morality still is what is it, even if a lot of people have found a reason not to act on it.

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.

Exactly. Which is why I will bring up my children to acknowledge the real consequences of their actions, seen or unseen, and to understand that "getting away with it" is the rationale of a fool, which always backfires on you in the end. That way they can learn to obey the laws of their own innate morality without me needing to pollute their rationality with superstitious inducements.

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?

These are the dilemmas, folks. But since there seems to be too many to address in one thread I think I might start some new ones :D

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.

Good rant! I totally agree with you. Judging by the Praeger reference, I expect you're American, but I can tell you for a fact that the UK is also going down the same toilet of moral abdication. I think it's the government's fault (honestly I do despite the obvious irony! :lol: )*

* On consideration that's a really dumb thing to say but I meant it when I said it so I'll leave it in as an example of apathy in action!

Edited by octopuppy, 29 March 2008 - 10:56 AM.

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