Atheist Morality

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Atheist Morality

A place for atheists to discuss morality issues. What shapes your morality? What new perspectives have you found since abandoning faith (if you ever had any)? Is there any merit to religious moral authority?

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Religious Faith Morality & Epistemological Absurdities

Discussion Forum

Morality as Contagion

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by Joan Denoo on Sunday. 1 Reply

Torture - symptom of Decadence

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by Idaho Spud Dec 16, 2014. 6 Replies

How Religion can make you happy to kill! - Thunderf00t

Started by Loren Miller. Last reply by Jimmy McCann Dec 16, 2014. 7 Replies

Defining Evil in today's world

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by Ruth Anthony-Gardner May 20, 2014. 2 Replies

Climate Destabilization Is Violence From Above

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by Ruth Anthony-Gardner Apr 9, 2014. 2 Replies

Natural Selection and Morals

Started by Steph S. Nov 15, 2013. 0 Replies

Thinking about science increases morality

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner Aug 27, 2013. 0 Replies

The New Abolitionists

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner Jun 15, 2013. 0 Replies

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Comment by Alex McCullie on August 25, 2010 at 8:51pm
I read three huffingtonpost articles by Matt Rossano: Understanding Religion Through the Lens of Relationships, Why Religion Is Not Delusion, and Augustine of Hippo: A Role Model for Intelligent Faith. I like his psychological take on religious belief and why 'rational' arguments will not dissuade believers. I made a similar point during a public lecture I made on Naturalism to a local atheist group.
Comment by Glenn Sogge on August 25, 2010 at 8:18am
I'll second the recommendation of the Lakoff & Johnson books along with most of the other stuff Lakoff has written (I don't know about the recent socio-political things, tho'.) Plus, Women, Fire, and Other Dangerous Things is a great title.
Comment by Alex McCullie on August 25, 2010 at 3:44am
I'll look at Rossano. I appreciate the lead. Thanks again (I have read Boyer's book and enjoyed. As always, it's all about time or not enough of it.)
Comment by Alex McCullie on August 25, 2010 at 1:02am
Thanks. My reading and study is reasonably wide (though admittedly from a philosphical bent). Definitely check out edge.org for the recent morality seminar, if you haven't done so already. Hauser's moral grammar (a la Chomsky) is very interesting. Also you could look at Lakoff and Johnson in books like "Metaphors We Live By" and "Philosophy in the Flesh". They say our higher-level conceptual thinking - love, beauty, and so on - evolved from earlier physical interactions such as movement and is often reflected in our metaphorical language. Very interesting! Alex
Comment by Alex McCullie on August 24, 2010 at 4:21pm
I probably don't tie 'embraced' atheism to a specific world-view as you do, even though I'm quite comfortable with the one you advocate. I agree, though, that by rejecting the god of society, atheists need to look elsewhere for explanations about our beliefs and behaviour, typical our biological, familial, and cultural histories. Similarly philosophy offers useful frameworks for reviewing these and suggesting future actions.

Overall I still see David Hume as being correct when saying that reason is slave to the passions. World-views and moral attitudes and responses are later rationisations (almost like retelling of a dream) of our deeper emotional responses to others and the world around us.

We share some common moral sensitivies or receptors (moral grammar in Marcus Hauser's terms) by virtue of common biological evolution, but our moral intuitions are well and truly shaped by culture and society. Even the concern for the individual (harm, rights) is very much a Western, secular concern. Other groups often put greater emphasis on group solidarity even at the expense of personal harm (to themselves and others).

When I give public lectures on naturalism and atheism I'm often asked whether naturalists must be by necessity moral relativists.
Comment by John B Hodges on August 24, 2010 at 3:14pm
I am not daunted by intellectual rows. 98 percent of philosophy is crap.

There are many nonreligious folk who might technically qualify as atheists, but who don't identify themselves that way, because they don't think it is important. (I was one for some years.) They call themselves environmentalists, motorcyclists, photographers, whatever they DO think is important. People who bother to CALL themselves atheists share at least one positive position: that it is significant, it is important, to be free of god-beliefs. In other words, god-beliefs are not only false but also harmful.

Accordingly, it is implied that self-described atheists have, besides an absence of
god-beliefs, a critique of religion and SOME idea of an alternative to it.
Comment by John B Hodges on August 24, 2010 at 1:53pm
If you take "atheism" to mean "the absence of god-beliefs", then, as you say, atheism as such says nothing about ethics. But, it is not correct to say "there is no such thing as atheist ethics", neither is it strategically wise to say so. Any ethical system that makes no appeal to Divine authority, makes no use of supernatural consequences, would qualify as an atheist ethic, since it involves no god-beliefs. It is just as easy to have atheist ethics as it is to have atheist sports or atheist music. All secular things qualify as atheist things.

I have an essay that I have not posted, wanting to review and edit first, about "Positive Atheism", which argues that many prominent atheists, leaders of atheist organizations, have taken the position that atheism is more than the simple absence of god-beliefs; it is the rejection of the slave-mentality inherent in deity-worship. It is the "weltanschaung" (comprehensive worldview) of those free of god-beliefs. And therefore, as a practical matter, organized, activist atheism must offer positive alternatives to the views and practices that we have rejected. In metaphysics, philosophical naturalism; in epistemology, science; in ethics, Humanism; in politics, Democracy.
Comment by Alex McCullie on August 24, 2010 at 7:52am
When anyone discusses ethics or morality, I'm reminded of the caveat nicely expressed by WIERDs. We are from Western, Industrialized, Educated, Rich, and Democratic countries and carry moral sensibilities of that background. The vast majority of the world's people are not and therefore they are a likely to work with quite different set of moral precepts. One example may be individualist (typically Western) vs collectivist. Alex
Comment by John Jubinsky on August 24, 2010 at 6:32am
I think many of us are rather forgiving about things we do and less so when others do similar annoying breaches of conduct.

This is true in too many cases. One of the statements that Aesop is famous for is:

The injury we do and the one we suffer are not weighed on the same scale.

In that we see something wrong with this double standard morality cannot be divorced from the golden rule. However, we do not have to subscribe to religion to understand or believe in the golden rule. It is philosophical, not religious.
Comment by Alex McCullie on August 24, 2010 at 5:37am
Jonathan Haidt in a recent Edge seminar on morality described morality (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) as "consensual hallucination".
 

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