Discussion Forums - Freethinkers, Atheism, Agnosticism

Topic: Moral Codes

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
Page:   Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Moral Codes
Date Posted: 2/18/2009 8:01 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
Back To Top

I often hear people talk about how without religion, there would be no moral code for people to follow which I think it total nonsense.  I believe in live and let live, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, do unto others and all that stuff that most people understand out of pure common sense.  And that's what I think it is- common sense and humanity.  What do you think?

Date Posted: 2/18/2009 11:59 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2006
Posts: 2,087
Back To Top

I completely agree Vanessa.   I think the Wicca code says something like, "If it harm no one, do as you will."   Any Wiccans correct me if I'm wrong!  And that is a great ideal to live by.  Moral codes are affected by society in general - not just by religion.  My husband was raised with no religion whatsoever - never went to church in his life (except weddings and funerals) and he's one of the most moral people I know.   Western European countries are a lot more secular than the US and they seem to be surviving without any moral catastrophes.

 

Date Posted: 2/19/2009 8:50 AM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2006
Posts: 5,716
Back To Top

Some of the most "religious" people I know have the worst morals I've ever seen.  Seriously, it wouldn't surprise me if one or more them were imprisoned for felony charges.  Religion has nothing to do with morals.  First and foremost, our behaviors are very primitive and instictive.  Our higher intellect is what allows us to work together and form a basis for society.  We wouldn't survive as a species without it.  Individually, we are raised with different variations of morals but (hopefully) a level of respect for others.

Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 2/19/2009 10:18 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
Back To Top

I often say that the bible is a book of stories to teach morals and ethics (especially in the new testiment) and not a book meant to be taken literally. I agree with you Rockstargirl, some of the most imoral people in the world are so called "devoutly" religious. Teh problem is they spend to much time trying to argue the "truth" in the bible, they dont learn to live by its lessons. In Religulous, Bill Maher brings the point up. He points out how many wars are fought in the name of religion, and also says to many people "do you think that is really christian like".

I agree that the most moral people I know, are either non-religious of believe in eastern religions.

Date Posted: 2/19/2009 1:14 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
Back To Top

I think I morals are taught, not innate.  Even if individuals in the US are non-believers, we were all brought up with Judeo-Christian values.  In a place like Tokyo, the way prostitution is viewed, for example, is completely different then anywhere in the west.

Most people I know are not practicing Christians.  I know lots of practicing Jews.  I grew up around Catholics and Jews, I never really met any Protestants until I was an adult.  To be honest, I don't really see much correlation in morality with either religion or non-believers.  It's such a sticky subject.  It was always something that my brother and I spoke to my dad about a lot.  My father's family were non-practicing Muslim, he's agnostic, my mother is a (liberal, progressive) practicing Catholic.  My brother and I both went through phases where we were violently anti-Catholic.  My dad used to put stop to the hyperbole by saying: "Look at your mother, she lives according to Christian values, and she's a really good person, right", and the answer was "True."  So, I learned not all Christians are wicked hypocrites.  I read this board and realize I grew up in backwards land.

My brother lives in Asia and knows just as many Buddhist assholes as we know Christians. 

I think it's impossible to look at morals in this country and parse it in terms of believers/non-believers, as we all drank from the same Judeo-Christian cup.  I think I'm a moral person, but what does that mean?  I know extreme anti-consumerists and socilaists who are every bit as intolerant as many Christians.  Many christians on this site would probably think I am Immoral for a battery of reasons.  Bill Maher is a misogynistic jerk according to people I know who have worked on his shows over years.  It's so funny, but believer or not, I look at him and he's a lot ike the angry Irish Catholics I grew up around in my family.  He just doesn't go to church. 

 



Last Edited on: 2/19/09 1:15 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/4/2009 12:18 PM ET
Member Since: 8/28/2006
Posts: 462
Back To Top

I tell my daughter that natural 'law' has been around much longer than religious morality...It is a survival of the species thing...you don't kill me, I won't kill you...I explain to her that if people learned a very long time ago to work together for the common good rather than stealing from each other...

 

I always find it amusing (not in any good way) that our prisons are full of these religious people who managed to get their by breaking a commandment like 'thou shalt not kill' or something...all covered with tattoos of the virgin and praying hands or some other religious stuff...I can't help but shake my head at the hypocracy of it all...

Or, they murder someone and then 'find jesus' while sitting in prison...cause..doncha know...if you find jesus and accept him into your heart you shall be saved and forgiven!!! 

 

Honestly, I don't get why people would want to spend eternity in the same place as a bunch of murderers, rapists, child molesters and theives...I really don't.

Date Posted: 3/5/2009 12:29 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top

The Wiccan Rede is And in it harm none do as ye will. Its generally shortened to harm none though. Just an FYI I picked up in my pagan days.

Pagan rules make sense to me just like all other religions codes of ethics make sense to me. Of all religious rules the Wiccan Rede makes the most sense and is the easiest to follow. Dont hurt anyone or anything and you will be alright. Alas though the mythologies of religion are where I stray. I cant believe them and since the mythologies are what the religions are founded upon I cant follow the religions. The moral and ethical codes of those religions are easy to follow though. I mean who thinks its a good idea (other than sociopaths) to kill people?

I find that it is a cultural thing rather than a religous thing to feel entitlement though. I know people of all walks who think the world owes them something just for showing up and getting their name right. The prisons are more populated by people who call themselves christian because there are more people in the nation who call themselves christians. Its like the World Series of Poker. A lot of people take the fact that a woman has never won the main event to mean that men are better at poker. The reality is that women are outnumbered by over 100 to 1 in the world of poker so statically its far more likely for a man to win the main event than a woman.

Date Posted: 3/5/2009 1:29 PM ET
Member Since: 8/28/2006
Posts: 462
Back To Top

Oh, I get that (second part of your post there)...I just find it amusing...Where were their morals...I have to laugh at people who jump up on their pedestals cause they think they have such wonderful morals since they are christian or something...and then they turn around and do something wrong or just plain nasty.

Just gotta laugh...

Date Posted: 3/5/2009 1:40 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top

Yesh the largest concentration of hypocrites Ive ever had the pleasure of aquainting was in churches. The sad thing is that I didnt realize it until after I left the church. Preaching charity then wearing gaudy and awful garish clothing that cost enough to feed a small nation. Playing keeping up with the Jonses is a big thing amoung the church goers in my area (I suppose it is everywhere) One preacher drives an escalade which he got new after another bought a bright fuchia truck (cant remember the model but its god awful ugly with the extended cab thing). Getting drunk every night of the week and preaching against it on Sunday. Just to name a couple things. Thats not to say that I think all or even most christians are hypocrites but like the earlier example there are more of them so stastically they are more likely to be hypocrites.

Date Posted: 3/6/2009 9:17 AM ET
Member Since: 8/28/2006
Posts: 462
Back To Top

Yep, having been raised catholic..I am well aquainted with hypocracy also.  I wonder, do they recognize it for what it is and ignore it or don't even see it?

Date Posted: 3/6/2009 12:51 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top

You know I dont know that most people recognize it I certainly didnt until I had removed myself from it.

Date Posted: 3/6/2009 10:13 PM ET
Member Since: 8/28/2006
Posts: 462
Back To Top

Ya, it was one of the things I hated about being forced to go to church when I was a kid....I was aware and used to get in a lot of trouble for questioning/commenting/ect...lol

Date Posted: 3/6/2009 10:20 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top

I wasnt forced to go. I wanted to go and I loved it. It wasnt till a jackass preacher pissed me off that I started researching religion and realized that I didnt believe any of them.

Date Posted: 4/14/2009 12:56 AM ET
Member Since: 12/25/2008
Posts: 79
Back To Top

Vanessa--I don't know any christian who thinks that, without religion, one cannot be moral.  I do believe (we've talked about this before), that you can't have an absolute, unchanging foundation for a set of moral values without a transcendant *ethic* upon which to base it.  For example, anyone, regardless of their religious opinion would agree with the moral value that posits "murder is wrong", but it's a religious ethic that dictates "life is inherently sacred", and this is where many religions (the christian religion, in particular) parts ways with moral systems that don't reference God.  There can be a consensus that the murder of an innocent person is wrong, but what ethical system informs your view of what constitutes a "person"?  This is an important question if you want to arrive at a basis for arriving at the decision of whether abortion, euthanasia, or assisted suicide (for example) is "murder" or "mercy".  If you don't possess a transcendant ethic, your particular decision on these matters is ultimately arbitrary.  A christian can't honestly say (if they're consistent with their worldview) that they are more moral than someone else because that person believes abortion is not murder.  They can't say that because the two individuals have completely different moral systems, and their position on one particular matter doesn't suggest which person adheres to their own moral standards more rigorously than the other.  What the christian, or theist, can say (in my opinion), is that they have the benefit of a real, divine, transcendant revelation that lays down the truth of who man is and who God is, which gives us an immutable framework for making ethical decisions.

Date Posted: 4/14/2009 1:06 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2006
Posts: 2,087
Back To Top

Vanessa--I don't know any christian who thinks that, without religion, one cannot be moral

I'm not Vanessa, but unfortunately, I know quite a few Christians who think that one cannot be moral without religion - and their religion to be specific.

 

Date Posted: 4/14/2009 1:12 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
Back To Top

I can't tell you how many people, including my own relatives, have told me that atheists have no morals, that without a belief in god anything goes.  Most of the time I hear it from Christians, although I have heard it from a few Jews and once from a Muslim.

Date Posted: 4/14/2009 8:48 PM ET
Member Since: 1/13/2005
Posts: 2,317
Back To Top

I do believe (we've talked about this before), that you can't have an absolute, unchanging foundation for a set of moral values without a transcendant *ethic* upon which to base it.  . . .

There can be a consensus that the murder of an innocent person is wrong, but what ethical system informs your view of what constitutes a "person"?  This is an important question if you want to arrive at a basis for arriving at the decision of whether abortion, euthanasia, or assisted suicide (for example) is "murder" or "mercy".  If you don't possess a transcendant ethic, your particular decision on these matters is ultimately arbitrary.

Ah, but, see from my point of view, the transcendescent ethic is really the arbitrary item, because a bunch of people got together and made it up.  My interpretation of what you're saying is that making the easy calls -- a general set of morals -- is simple.  However, making the harder calls -- are euthanasia, abortion or assisted suicide murder -- can't be done without a rigid set of "ethics" to tell you what to do.  Essentially, because reasonable people can disagree, we have to have a deity to break the tie and provide us with that overriding ethic, aka the moral absolute.

Assuming I have that right, I think the problem with that is that 1) the easy calls are never as easy as they look.  I think everyone would agree today that slavery is wrong, but there are still people on this planet who own slaves, today, and sleep just fine.  Outright murder aka "honor killing" is not a moral issue in some places.  When it comes to truly close calls, those on which reasonable people can disagree, I think that moral absolutes may make things easier, but they don't really make them clearer.  If I decide to let someone else tell me that because a fetus is a person abortion is murder, all I've done is abdicate my right to think the matter through for myself.  I'm not sure I can think of a moral absolute that I agree with.  Even killing -- is it always wrong to kill?  What if they're trying to kill you?  What if they're attacking your family?  What about opposing army members?  The list is much longer than that.

Also, I don't think those of us who find the issues more complicated, and not settled by an externally imposed value, are making an arbitrary decision.  We may be making a *personal* decision, but those aren't the same thing.  The values that I have because I was raised with them, because I read about them, because I went to school, and because through personal experience aren't arbitrary, they're just mine.  In a democratic society I share mine, other people share theirs, and hopefully we come to a consensus eventually.

Date Posted: 4/14/2009 8:56 PM ET
Member Since: 1/13/2005
Posts: 2,317
Back To Top

You all are right regarding the hypocrisy issue.  Religion does not make people moral, and a lack of it doesn't make them immoral.  I wonder sometimes if religion isn't actually inimical to morals because so many religious people seem to use it as a cop out -- if I do whatever rituals my religion demands of me, I can be whatever kind of a jerk I want outside the church door.  I know not all religious people are like that, some are truly wonderful.  However, at least the relatively amoral non-religious people that I know (not many) are at least honest about it. 

Date Posted: 4/14/2009 11:30 PM ET
Member Since: 11/13/2005
Posts: 1,950
Back To Top

There is a reason all major world religions have a version of the "Golden Rule".    http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm 

Empathy is a powerful thing, and people of all (and no) faiths have the capacity to empathise. To say that we need a belief in a higher power in order to recognise that we are all human beings sharing a planet doesn't resonate with me at all.

Date Posted: 4/15/2009 12:48 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 1,001
Back To Top

I can't tell you how many people, including my own relatives, have told me that atheists have no morals, that without a belief in god anything goes.  Most of the time I hear it from Christians, although I have heard it from a few Jews and once from a Muslim.

I've heard it so often from Christians, too, but they're the same "Christians" who think everyone but them will go to hell.  I'm pretty appalled that you heard it from Jews though Vanessa, because it's not at all a part of our religion; to the contrary, the most frequently-stated command in Torah is all about treating gerim - strangers - well, and never holding ourselves above them.

As far as morals/ethics go, I was completely non-religious - sometimes anti-religious - before I became religious.  But nothing about my morals or ethics changed when I began to believe in God, because I already had a strong moral system.  I wasn't raised to have one, I came to it on my own.  And even now, I still say that all things being equal, I'd trust the ethics of someone non-religious over their religious counterpart any day!

Date Posted: 4/15/2009 8:01 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
Back To Top

Samantha, that thing you said about empathy is exactly what I think.  Right on.

Jeanne, I was at a Purim carnival with a roomie from college when someone else I knew from campus asked why I was there since I was Christian.  I told her I wasn't christian, I was agnostic and she and her friends started giving me the third degree on why I wouldn't go around stealing or lying without a religious code to tell me doing so would be wrong.  My roomie called them out, since apparently those girls had no problem lying to their parents and that shut them up.  She rules.

Date Posted: 4/15/2009 12:54 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2008
Posts: 21
Back To Top

"Honestly, I don't get why people would want to spend eternity in the same place as a bunch of murderers, rapists, child molesters and theives...I really don't."

I really do have to say, that besides the fact that many of the people in prisons in the US are there because of some kind of substance abuse issues, it's your lack of faith in humanity that really shines through here. And I think that is probably the biggest issue any have with atheists and those that are against all religions. That lack of belief often times leads to a lack of hope, whether you realize it or not. And while I agree that alot of the whole finding jesus in jail thing is BS most times, there ARE people that change their lives because of time spent incarcerated.

Anissa (WVgrrl) - ,
Date Posted: 4/15/2009 1:02 PM ET
Member Since: 1/16/2009
Posts: 432
Back To Top

Chris (elroy), I would disagree with you about how many Christians view the morals of non-Christians, and I agree with Beverly and Vanessa. For example, my Jehovah's Witness extended in-laws (I realize JWs aren't exactly Christians, but they think along the same lines on this issue) have made comments behind my back about this, suggesting that I am not a good person. And a guy on the math evolution thread made a comment to the effect of "people who believe in evolution (which implied non-Christians, although he didn't say this) felt they could do whatever they wanted because they didn't have to take responsibility for their actions." (I'm paraphrasing.) 

EDIT: Clarified that my response was to Chris B/elroy, not Chris B/mannythepoolshark.



Last Edited on: 4/15/09 1:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/15/2009 11:55 PM ET
Member Since: 12/25/2008
Posts: 79
Back To Top

Anissa--I can't claim to know "how many christians view the morals of non-christians" [as immoral in some way]; I spoke from my own experience.  I don't doubt the experience of those who responded with different perspectives, unfortunate as it is.  Maybe it is my good fortune (or naivete) to have fellowshipped with mostly very thoughtful, and largely non-judgmental christians who understand "morality" in the same way I do--as something defined by the surrounding culture and, to some extent, by oneself.  The only thing I can say for sure is that it's not the bible that tells anyone, christian or not, what is "moral" for someone who doesn't in the first place subscribe to biblical ethics.

Date Posted: 4/16/2009 12:06 AM ET
Member Since: 12/25/2008
Posts: 79
Back To Top

Ann--Ah, but, see from my point of view, the transcendescent ethic is really the arbitrary item, because a bunch of people got together and made it up. 

Well, if that were true then there would be nothing "transcendant" about it, right?  No doubt that's your assumption, but we obviously differ on that.

Ann--My interpretation of what you're saying is that making the easy calls -- a general set of morals -- is simple.  However, making the harder calls -- are euthanasia, abortion or assisted suicide murder -- can't be done without a rigid set of "ethics" to tell you what to do.  Essentially, because reasonable people can disagree, we have to have a deity to break the tie and provide us with that overriding ethic, aka the moral absolute.

I don't think it's as simple as saying "morality defines the 'easy' choices, and the tougher ones require ethics".  For a christian, *every* moral choice derives from (what we believe to be) God's transcendant ethic.  I don't believe murder is wrong because it's illegal; I believe it's wrong because God said it is.

Ann--Assuming I have that right, I think the problem with that is that 1) the easy calls are never as easy as they look.  I think everyone would agree today that slavery is wrong, but there are still people on this planet who own slaves, today, and sleep just fine.  Outright murder aka "honor killing" is not a moral issue in some places.  When it comes to truly close calls, those on which reasonable people can disagree, I think that moral absolutes may make things easier, but they don't really make them clearer.  If I decide to let someone else tell me that because a fetus is a person abortion is murder, all I've done is abdicate my right to think the matter through for myself.  I'm not sure I can think of a moral absolute that I agree with.  Even killing -- is it always wrong to kill?  What if they're trying to kill you?  What if they're attacking your family?  What about opposing army members?  The list is much longer than that.

I really think this makes my point.  You and I could agree on a great many things that we both consider "moral", but that's mostly because we live in a common culture that defined those things for us.  If we were sitting together with a Rwandan Hutu, however (not to generalize), he might tell us that murder is most certainly justified, provided that it is someone from the Tutsi tribe.  Now who is more moral?  He's living by the commonly accepted moral standards in his tribe, while we live by ours just the same.  It would be arrogant for either one of us to call the other "moral" unless we could all point to the same ethic to reference *why* murder of a particular tribesman is right or wrong.  The christian says "I know that ethic, and it comes from God's revelation to mankind in the Bible".  What does the Hutu point to?  What do *you* point to in order to substantiate your disagreement with him?

Page: