Post Reply Morality
Posted 2/14/08
Many people seem to get their sense of morality from religion. So, if you have no religion, where does your sense of morality (if any) come from?

Does being an atheist imply that you're amoral?
Posted 2/14/08 , edited 4/18/08

magnus102 wrote:
Personally I think we get it from evolution , empathy, self interest, and reason. This article was one that I read awhile ago I liked quite a bit.

http://mwillett.org/atheism/moralsource.htm

I agree that this is where morality (and religion) actually come from, but my question was more along the lines of where various atheists think they personally get their idea of morals from.

Lets say that we were to just eliminate all religions. What system of morals and ethics would people follow?

It seems to me like most people still get their ideas of what is moral and what isn't from some sort of religion, even if they reject certain fantastical-sounding assertions of the religion (such as the existence of a God being, or an afterlife).

I also think that if we did eliminate all religion peoples' morals would suffer because the average person simply can't construct a reasonable set of morals from intuition, reason, and empathy. Furthermore, you also have to worry about psychopathic people who have no empathy who might only be deterred from antisocial behavior by the threat of burning in hell or something after they die (assuming the threat of getting caught by the police wouldn't be enough.) Therefore there's a sort of belief that is "useful" in the sense that it may deter negative behavior even if it isn't "literally" true.

Anyway, I do sort of wonder if "secular humanistic" beliefs aid in survival as well as traditional religions do. It's possible that ideas like "God" have evolved to serve some sort of purpose which isn't adequately addressed by more "modern" types of moral thinking. In Buddhism we have no real "God," but there's the idea of rebirth and actions from one life having consequences in not only the same life but the next one as well. Perhaps that serves the same purpose as "God." If so, then a nihilistic interpretation of secular humanism may be inferior in the sense of survival adaptation.
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Posted 2/20/08 , edited 4/18/08
I believe in the basic morals *shrugs* like the ones set up in the laws, but I don't agree with all of them.
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Posted 2/24/08 , edited 4/18/08
well yeah, america is a christian society, so its natural that we'd inherit their christian morals even if we don't pray to the christian god.

but i do think that most "morals" exist naturally in all of us to create a community thats safer than facing the wilderness by ourselves. they've been programmed in our brains since our hunter/gatherer days to make community life easier so we can take on external threats.

thats my theory anyways.
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Posted 5/14/08 , edited 5/14/08

shibole wrote:


magnus102 wrote:
Personally I think we get it from evolution , empathy, self interest, and reason. This article was one that I read awhile ago I liked quite a bit.

http://mwillett.org/atheism/moralsource.htm

I agree that this is where morality (and religion) actually come from, but my question was more along the lines of where various atheists think they personally get their idea of morals from.

Lets say that we were to just eliminate all religions. What system of morals and ethics would people follow?

It seems to me like most people still get their ideas of what is moral and what isn't from some sort of religion, even if they reject certain fantastical-sounding assertions of the religion (such as the existence of a God being, or an afterlife).

I also think that if we did eliminate all religion peoples' morals would suffer because the average person simply can't construct a reasonable set of morals from intuition, reason, and empathy. Furthermore, you also have to worry about psychopathic people who have no empathy who might only be deterred from antisocial behavior by the threat of burning in hell or something after they die (assuming the threat of getting caught by the police wouldn't be enough.) Therefore there's a sort of belief that is "useful" in the sense that it may deter negative behavior even if it isn't "literally" true.

Anyway, I do sort of wonder if "secular humanistic" beliefs aid in survival as well as traditional religions do. It's possible that ideas like "God" have evolved to serve some sort of purpose which isn't adequately addressed by more "modern" types of moral thinking. In Buddhism we have no real "God," but there's the idea of rebirth and actions from one life having consequences in not only the same life but the next one as well. Perhaps that serves the same purpose as "God." If so, then a nihilistic interpretation of secular humanism may be inferior in the sense of survival adaptation.


I was reading a book on evolutionary psycology and I really don't like the theory that we developed morality through natural evolution.

Secularly I think it came not from the tangible biological evolution, but rather the immaterial social evolution. Morality isn’t something engrained into each of us at birth. I saw a documentary, for example, in which a child was actually adopted by dogs while he was still just a baby.

He grew up behaving like dogs, attacking, biting, maiming, stealing, running around in the nude, and valuing the life and comfort of others not at all. He was capable of affection, but had no real realization that an entire external world existed in cognition to himself. He had no idea that another person, entity, or item can mean anything at all.

There’s always the attack of, “why then do we see parallels in moralities in completely unrelated cultures?” Well, there’s many answers. It could’ve just been coincidental. Bronze was invented simultaneously in the East and in the West, by people with absolutely no communication. It was invented individually.

People are people-and as people we think like people, naturally our separate histories are going to have certain similarities, even though geography also causes them to be starkly different.

Besides this, we all did originate from a specific area, didn’t we? So then, maybe they’re all different branches of the same thing. Christianity and Islam, for example, are both broken forms of Judaism. Naturally they share similar moralities, even though their beliefs are in stark contradiction.

Sikhism branched from Hinduism and Islam. It also has many Judeo values.

The fact is that mental tendencies that we develop evolutionarily do exist-but they’re at least relatively consistent, but morality isn’t. It changes too deeply with each generation. Personally I don’t agree with the theory that we evolve to have morality for survivals sake.

Even just looking at our closest relatives-while they do have affection and relations, they don’t have anything even remotely similar to the human version of morality. To think that there was just a sudden evolutionary explosion with absolutely no similar relative in all the world of selective development seems like a tad of a stretch.

Posted 5/15/08

SeraphAlford wrote:
I was reading a book on evolutionary psycology and I really don't like the theory that we developed morality through natural evolution.

Secularly I think it came not from the tangible biological evolution, but rather the immaterial social evolution. Morality isn’t something engrained into each of us at birth. I saw a documentary, for example, in which a child was actually adopted by dogs while he was still just a baby.

I wasn't saying that it evolved genetically necessarily, but it probably did evolve and is linked to real-world properties such as what makes groups of people better able to survive.

Things like empathy are probably genetic though.

I checked out Dawkins' book "The Selfish Gene" from the library, but I have too many books checked out and just returned it without reading it. I decided there were other things I wanted to read more, basically. I suppose I'll check it out again later if I feel like it.
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Posted 5/15/08

shibole wrote:

I wasn't saying that it evolved genetically necessarily, but it probably did evolve and is linked to real-world properties such as what makes groups of people better able to survive.

Things like empathy are probably genetic though.

I checked out Dawkins' book "The Selfish Gene" from the library, but I have too many books checked out and just returned it without reading it. I decided there were other things I wanted to read more, basically. I suppose I'll check it out again later if I feel like it.


Ah, I see. Well, then I guess I just sort of agreed with you, didn’t I? Well, that’s good. Did you ever get to read God and the New Physics, by the way? (Off topic, might just message me or ignore me…?)
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