I think that many atheists, when deciding or coming to terms with their own moral precepts, eventually fall into one of several philosophies for guiding their decision-making.

Scientific method
Law and order
democratic rule

(this list is by no means comprehensive, but I think that it encompasses a lot of us)

A socialist atheist follows the precept that the good of the community promotes the ultimate good of the individual, and that ignoring the needs of those who are unable to care for themselves reflects badly on the rest of us.

The objectivist/individualist atheist believes that the rights and beliefs of the individual trump the rights or needs of the many, except in very rare cases. The strength of the individual gives strength to society.

The scientific atheist depends on objective measures of reality in order to find truth and meaning. A thing or idea must be proveable in order for it to have validity.

The law and order atheist believes that the rules of society guide and inform morality.

The democratic atheist applies the precepts of American democratic ideals elaborated in the Constitution to find guidelines for their beliefs.

The hedonist atheist is guided by individuals needs and desires, with very little thought or reference to the morality of the dominant culture.

It is my belief that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to greater societal acceptance of non-theistic belief is that many theists view our moral underpinings primarily as hedonistic, which I think that most of us here would agree is far from the truth. I think that most atheists will fall into 2 or 3 of the first 5 I listed, with understanding or respect for the others (except, possibly for the objectivists/individualists and socialists, who are pretty much mutually exclusive).

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Comment by Your girl Friday on December 18, 2008 at 10:35pm
Comment by Clarence Dember on December 16, 2008 at 5:06am
Luck for us there's a Constitution and a Bill of Rights to base the "practical" on.
Comment by Your girl Friday on December 16, 2008 at 3:28am
I would also note that I am a practical woman; I'm pretty sure I fall mostly into the civil-law abider category. I like rules that work on a day to day level.
Comment by Your girl Friday on December 16, 2008 at 3:22am
I think that they overlap in the essentials, but not in specifics. In adherence to established law, the civil-law citizen, the constitutionalist, the scientist all agree in generalities
(that laws are externally based), but not the derivation of the rules (practical, law, ideal).
Comment by Clarence Dember on December 15, 2008 at 5:54pm
I've seen Liberatarians voicing a similar view- with respect to the ranges a person's politics may be located close to.

In my own observations
I find that education is the mastery of accepted forms, cumulative towards a discrete practice. So varied credentials with their respective canon of ethics and tenets of the profession can not overlap in a VENN diagram.
Comment by Your girl Friday on December 15, 2008 at 10:54am
I don't view the categories as mutually exclusive. I expect that they can be plotted graphically: x= individual decision-making belief, y= level of external (social) input into those decisions.
X values run an order from randomness (chaotic decision-making, whim, or, if you will, instinct) to order (logical decision-making based on external sources). Y values run the gamut from socialism to anarchism (objectivism would be on this scale close to no social input).

Or at least, that is how I was imagining it. It is something akin to www.politicalcompass.org.
Comment by Clarence Dember on December 15, 2008 at 12:30am
Altruism is as mutually exclusive to Rational self interest as is whim based thinking to fact based decision trees. When it comes to Law enforcement it is often against the known information present in the scientific method employing comminity.
There are plenty of mutually exclusive sentiments among the various members of the athiest community. Standard bearers versus the more eclectic strategies here. Force based orientations of regulated economies versus laissez Faire.
Godess versus Patriarchy- it goes on and on.
Comment by Lone Wolf on December 14, 2008 at 11:45pm
To say we fall into one of those category's is a bit of a false dichotomy cause none of them are really mutually exclusive.

What benefits the society usually benefits (thats if it actually benefits the society and not some idiot(s) in power or its just their [the idiot(s) in power] stupid flawed philosophy) the individual but individual rights benefits the society.
The scientific method is a powerful tool and is the best (if not only) way to determine what works and what dose not work and thus best for determining what works for you the individual as well as whats best for society.
Law and order is an appeal to popularity.
Democratic rule, while the constitution is good for somethings, determining morality its not.
And hedonism, well you have to think about your self some times, if you only ever do for others you will never do for your self.
Comment by Clarence Dember on December 14, 2008 at 11:43pm
Socrates: "A life unexamined is a life not worth living."
Comment by Your girl Friday on December 14, 2008 at 11:09pm
What is the point of living a life unexamined? To do without knowing why, that is the ultimate weakness of character.



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