I was wondering and wanted to ask the group a question. What ethics and moral code you follow as an Atheist?

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Hey Nerd .. I liked it so much that I copied and pasted it here. Thanks so much!


Our Mission

The Ethical Society of St. Louis is a diverse, ethics-centered community of caring people dedicated to deed before creed:

Bringing out the best in the human spirit,
Appreciating the uniqueness and worth of every person,
Treating all with dignity and respect,
Cultivating a community of people who support each other through the stages of life,
Raising the quality of all our relationships,
Acting with reverence and commitment toward the natural world,
And working to create a more just, loving and sustainable world for all.

We seek members who embrace these ideals, and we actively pursue and welcome a diverse membership.
Our Beliefs

"Ethical Humanism" (also sometimes called "Ethical Culture") is the name of an evolving body of ideas that inspires Ethical Societies. Humanism, a progressive philosophy of life, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. (See our most recent Statement on Ethical Humanism.) As a nontheistic organization, we foster free religious thought, and our mission is to help answer the ultimate questions, "How can we create meaningfulness in this life?" and "How should we treat each other?"

To better understand Ethical Humanism, please see our Ethical Humanism Resources page.

Right .. it is nice to meet with like-minded people.

I was lucky, and most of what my parents taught me was a fine ethical code. The very few parts of their beliefs that were unacceptable to me, I rejected, and I learned viewpoints from others that made sense to me, and I incorporated their ideas. I do like the statement by the Ethical Society of St. Louis, but it is very vague, and therefore subject to lots of different interpretations. My own ethical views tend to be much more specific than that, and so some of my ideas would probably be repugnant to others. But their ideas might be repugnant to me, too!

My biggest problem with vague statements like the St. Louis group is, what about when one statement conflicts with another in reference to a specific situation. For example, recognizing the worth of every person (just what is a person, anyway? If the Supreme Court doesn't know, then I sure don't) vs. creating a sustainable world. Some people regard fetuses as persons, but how can our already extreme overpopulation be justified in light of our need for a sustainable world?

Can ethics be situational? How do we get along when people have different concepts of what is ethical, even disregarding any religious influence?

I was raised in a tradition where we are encouraged to argue with everything, and consider all the  possibilities we can think of, while keeping in mind that there are probably other possibilities we didn't think of. But I know many people find that offensive.

So I guess your question is way too broad, and I can't answer it.

I couldn't of said it any better myself .. thanks Nerd. You are very insightful.

Well that's ok .. but you did answer it and you did a good job too.

From my blog at: https://slrman.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/ethics/

Enlightened Self-Interest

A popular theist argument for religion is “Without religion (god) we would have no morality or ethics.”  So without religion can there be morality?  Morality based upon fear of punishment or seeking rewards isn't really morality at all.  Perhaps what they are saying is that they would be evil without fear of hell.  Then they project that lack of moral courage upon everyone else.  I say to them, "Don't judge others by yourself.  Your lack of ethical backbone is not universal."

People can practice what I term enlightened self-interest.  An individual’s self-interest is best served by doing no harm to others except in defense of themselves or those in their care.  This thinking does not need threats of eternal punishment to follow, It only requires thinking about what will ultimately yield the best results for yourself.  Treating others fairly and generously is always better for yourself, personally, financially, and socially.  

Those that co-operate and adapt have always been more successful.  As such, basic ethics has evolved to improve the survival of species.  Indiscriminate killing, sex with close relatives, cannibalism, are a few examples of things that are contrary to survival of the group.  The most cooperative and adaptable species have the best survival rate.  Even animals conform to these "moral issues".  That religions have attempted to claim these things originated with them and would not exist without religion is not just hypocritical, it is ignoring obvious facts. 
There are more complex issues that apply more directly to humans.  For example, robbing a bank may yield temporary wealth, but at the expense of either a prison term or a life of fear, running from the law.  Similarly, cheating others in business dealings may increase profits for a time.  Eventually, your reputation will be so poor that your business may fail.  This is a simple principle that, “It’s always cheaper to make a customer happy than it is to make him angry.”  This same idea can pay dividends in ordinary human relations.  For reasons I don’t understand, few businesses or people appreciate this idea.  Maybe it’s because they operate on deist principles?  Everything is forgiven if you repent before you die. Although that wouldn’t seem to help those you cheated, treated badly, or even murdered.

So should nothing be discouraged?  Should everything be permitted?  Capable, informed individuals could engage in any activity that interests them even if it puts them personally at risk.

An example would be an automobile race.  It is certainly dangerous to drive at racing speeds and it is equally dangerous to stand near the race course to observe or record this event.  Two people may choose to do these things if they understand and accept the risks involved.
One question that arises from this would be, what if one or both of these people have a spouse and children that depend upon them for financial and emotional support?  Should they still do this knowing that if they are injured or killed it will cause some degree of harm to these dependents?  If they choose to do so, does anyone else have the right to prevent them?
Those are ethical questions that can and should be debated, but each person must be free to choose his own answer.  No other person, religion, or government should have the right to make these choices for us.  If you are keeping in mind that humans are often in error and thus prepared for all possible consequences, no matter how remote the possibility, you can do what you think best.
Thanks so much for you response. I agree. I am going to follow the link and read your blog.

I like the term "enlightened self-interest", though the religious as well as the secularly indoctrinated will say that is narcissistic and evil because they don't  understand what it means.

I don't believe in violence in the name of self-defense.  I have learned that there is another way to provide defense.  I call it proactive peace.  (It's a long story, but I've put it to the test and it works - even when facing imminent death).

I believe that I am the god of my reality, and that there are no other gods who have any power in and over my life unless i give those other gods my consent by giving up part of my power.  I don't choose to disempower myself in this way.

I also believe that the separations we see among ourselves is an illusion.  Through consciousness, all are united as one.  Thus as I do to you, I do to me.

I believe that life is a mirror, so as I think about you, I think about me and vice versa.

I belive that as I do to others, the belief that allows me to do causes me to allow what I have done into my own life.  So it behooves me to treat you as I want to be treated.

So it all boils down to "Harm none, then do as you Will".

Well, it sounds like you are a loving, idealistic person. I'm idealistic, too, but there are some times when it doesn't work. To wit:

You said:

I don't believe in violence in the name of self-defense.  I have learned that there is another way to provide defense.  I call it proactive peace.  (It's a long story, but I've put it to the test and it works - even when facing imminent death).

Well, that didn't work for my relatives in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust. They tried, at the Warsaw Ghetto, but it was too little and too late. There ARE times when only violence will do, to prevent genocide. Mentally imbalanced individuals in power, like Hitler, Idi Amin and Ahmadinejad DO need to be removed by violence, if necessary, to prevent far more violence if they get their way.

You said:

I believe that as I do to others, the belief that allows me to do causes me to allow what I have done into my own life.  So it behooves me to treat you as I want to be treated.

I can't go that far. Christian missionaries are as obnoxious as they are because they think they are treating you as they would want to be treated, i.e. bringing you the "Good News". I would rather NOT treat you as I, myself, DON'T want to be treated, which means that if I find something obnoxious, I'm sure as hell not going to do it to you. I much prefer the philosophy of "leave others alone, unless they indicate that they need help, or the fact that help is needed is obvious, for example (among many others), to save their lives". Incidentally, that is the difference between the philosophy of Hillel and Jesus, who lived at approximately the same time, and both were influential in different communities. I prefer Hillel, by far.

But I do like your conclusion about not harming anyone, (insofar as you are able -- sometimes you do harm without knowing it, like the enthusiastic vegetarians and vegans who have made quinoa unaffordable to the people who depend on it for their basic staple nutrition).

My moral code is based on the golden rule, which is found in many cultures, all of which predate Christianity: 

Treat others the way you want to be treated. I think that one sentiment covers the whole gamut of humane morality.


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