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The Nature of Morality

Discussion in 'Culture & Religion' started by vyo476, Apr 19, 2008.

  1. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    If there is no God and no "soul" then life is simply life, to be lived for the living of it, not as preparation for an afterlife. Living "well" becomes more a necessity because this, here, is all there is, rather than living "well" in order to get into the better afterlife.

    However, what is considered "well" is, and must be, subjective.

    All moral restrictions derive from social constructions ("societies"). The "group mentality" produces the feeling, sometimes the strong feeling, that violating certain moral standards is "wrong," when the only thing that will feel wrong totally naturally to an individual is an action which leads to personal loss of some kind. One the most pervasive social units in Western history is the Christian Church, and as a result its ideas on morality have become so ingrained in our culture that even places that have rejected the church still adhere to norms and values that resemble some of its core "morals" - mistaking them for "morals" that are entirely personally derived. I've seen plenty of atheists and agnostics who denounce God but uphold many of "God's" values, unable to see that even if they are making a personal decision to adhere to those morals, the thing that makes them want to follow those morals is still socially-instilled, which still derives back from the Church. I'm sorry, Mare, that's just how history has shaped the West.

    The only atheists and agnostics who own their own morality are the ones who have gone through every single thing they consider "wrong" and asked themselves why they consider it to be wrong. And "well, rape is wrong because hurts someone" isn't a good enough answer - because the next question is, inevitably, "why is it wrong to hurt others?"

    I, myself, haven't managed to get through all of this yet, but someday, hopefully, I will.
     
  2. Mare Tranquillity

    Mare Tranquillity Active Member

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    Re: Abortion: Right or Wrong?

    I think you give religion too much credit, there are indigenous societies who have come to many of the same moral positions as we associate with Christianity, but their morals don't come from that source. Because you are unable to answer a question about why something is wrong doesn't mean that the only answer is the religious one. The idea that you put forward about agnostics and atheists is incorrect, you seem to be giving ownership of morality and ethics to the religions as if they invented them. More likely it is that the violent Old Testament god's morality was tempered by people who didn't buy the religious dogma.

    You seem to feel that religion can anwer the question about why it's wrong to hurt someone, but they can't answer that any more accurately than anyone else. All they can do is repeat what they've been told, the idea that you have to "own" your own morality is nonsense, religion doesn't own morality anymore than anyone else. My philosophy of HARM NONE is the litmus test for my behavior, is that "stolen" from some religion? I don't think so, people came up with the tenets for religions not vice versa.

    If some religion could prove that they had access to God and that God had given them their moral instruction, then you'd have a case, but so far there is nothing to prove that this has happened. Scotsman makes really good points about the variety of things that are supposedly "religiously" moral behaviors.
     
  3. Mare Tranquillity

    Mare Tranquillity Active Member

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    Re: Abortion: Right or Wrong?

    Religion is a remarkably powerful force in the human being, it leads people to do things that might otherwise be impossible. Acts of great compassion and cruelty have been done in God's name.

    I was just banned for life from the Political Hotwire discussion site because I trespassed on the religious beliefs of one of the moderators. He banned me with no explanation except the word "racist", which if anyone has read my posts is obviously a mere excuse. I did nothing to this man's religious beliefs except question the basis on which they were built and point out the glaring inconsistencies. I guess it was too much for him--it must be terrible to live one's life with so much fear.
     
  4. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    Re: Abortion: Right or Wrong?

    Religion is just another form of social construct, another "society" itself - however, the major religions, especially Christianity, are far more pervasive throughout both history and the modern world than regional societies. Christianity has had a massive social impact on the world, the West in particular.

    Remember, this has nothing to do with validity, nothing to do with who is "right" (because, from a subjective stance, everyone is - and no one is), but everything to do with where influences came from.

    I didn't say this. My point, summed up, is that the Christian Church was so pervasive, so large, so important in considering the development of the West, that over the centuries the Church's ideas on morality and society's ideas on morality got so intertwined that is difficult, sometimes, to see which is which.

    Do you own your own morality?

    Tell me, have you ever sat and really considered why you think some things are wrong?

    I became an agnostic originally as a rejection of Christianity, because I saw Christianity as hypocritical (amongst other things). However, it took me a few years to realize that while I had separated myself from the Church in name, in spirit I still acted very much like a Christian is told to. My new goal is to determine right and wrong for myself, not to be told by any society - religion included.

    Perhaps I hold other agnostics to a high standard. I don't believe that's unfair.

    I never said I believed that religions are static.

    That is simplistic, but essentially correct.

    The people who blindly adhere to a religion's moral tenets might disagree; or, more appropriately, I might disagree based on their existence.

    I should clarify: When saying "own" I meant to use the concept of ownership metaphorically, to symbolize originality. In that sense, religions "own" some peoples' morality in that their morality is based off of that religion.

    We could have an entire thread based on the challenge here.

    But I'll bite. "HARM NONE" is a command to social order; the only purpose of imploring people not to hurt each other is to make sure that society stays orderly and functional. Religion is, and has always been, a tool of social order, probably the most effective tool of social order in the history of the world. As such, the harming of others is prohibited by most religions (in varied forms, of course). It's taken centuries of civilization, in its varying forms, for the idea that harming others is "wrong" to reach you, and during those centuries, what do you suppose the most enduring institution to promote "harm none," or something close to it, has been?

    Of course, there's always the possibility that your philosophy stems from hours of introspection, whereupon you concluded that the maintenance of social order is preferable to achieving a greater level of personal freedom (or any of the other results of a breakdown of social order). That's possible too.

    Which is it? Did someone tell you what "right" and "wrong" were and you accepted it? Or did you go out and figure it out for yourself?

    People came up with the tenets of religion based on sociological preferences. The norms and values of Jesus and his followers (or just "the early Christians" since I'd prefer to avoid sparking another "There never was a Jesus!" argument) became the norms and values of Christianity. Christianity took those norms and values and made them into commandments, etc.

    Today, there are people who look at those commandments and live their lives by them, unquestioning. Christianity owns their morality completely. There are other people who reject Christianity itself but still live with most of the moral standards of their Christian neighbors (in most cases, these are the atheists and agnostics you could point out to someone like arbitor and say, "these are moral atheists," and have any hope he might agree). Although they seek alternate societies to claim as their own, Christianity still owns enough of their morality to make a case for it being a part of their lives. Only those who reject Christianity itself and the morality that Christianity has imposed on our society may truly free themselves from religion.

    I said nothing about religion being correct. You put that in my mouth. In fact it matters very little, in terms of social impact, if they turn out to have been "right." The impact will still have been there.
     
  5. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    Re: Abortion: Right or Wrong?

    If you wish to continue this line of conversation, I suggest we move to another thread, as this one is supposed to be about abortion. It's up to you.
     
  6. Mare Tranquillity

    Mare Tranquillity Active Member

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    Re: Abortion: Right or Wrong?

    I'm good with going to another thread--which one?
     
  7. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    Here we go - I even moved our posts on the topic from the Abortion thread to this one, for easier access and such.
     
  8. Mare Tranquillity

    Mare Tranquillity Active Member

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    Thanks, vyo, pretty slick being a mod and arranging things to suit.

    I'm curious why you give religion any credit or kudos for being the orginators of morals or ethics. Is there any proof that religious people thought this stuff up? Or did they just write it in their book and claim credit?
     
  9. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    I'm not saying that religion invented morality. Morality's been around longer than that.

    I'm saying that the morals espoused by the Christian church have blended into secular society's morals after centuries of Christianity's large-scale impact on every facet of Western culture.

    In essence, what most people in the West consider "right" and "wrong" is heavily influenced by Christianity - whether they believe in Christianity or not.
     
  10. Mare Tranquillity

    Mare Tranquillity Active Member

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    Yes, with certain limits I think that's true, sexuality being one of the big issues where people may pay lip-service but don't really believe it. Hell is another one, very few people truly believe in Hell, if that was a real possibility looming over you, many more people would pay attention to it. Right now the punishment of Hell ranks behind being killed by lightning and or hit by a meteorite.

    Homosexuality is another area where I think religion is losing credibility since there is no particular evidence that being gay is wrong or harmful.

    But to your general contention that most people in this country fall in line with "Christian" morality I guess I'd have to agree. I do think that this is the default position because so few people want to think and make their own decisions. This is going to be a short thread at this rate.
     
  11. numinus

    numinus New Member

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    Morality is an OBJECTIVE existence in the same way that mathematics is an OBJECTIVE existence.

    To say otherwise demonstrates an utter lack of comprehension in ethics and mathematics. Seeing as mare is actively selling his anti-religion crap in this thread, I would add that it is conveniently subjective to people with an agenda as well.
     
  12. Bunz

    Bunz New Member

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    Excellent posts so far Mare and VYO. If I can just throw in some thoughts and maybe further things along a bit.
    I will agree that in general the laws in America reflect Judeo-Christian "values". I am one who thinks it unwise to unduly define and enforce ones definition of morality over another in most cases.
    I think what is overlooked is the historical grip Christianity had over nearly all aspects of life under European monarchy and imperical systems. The government was often legitamized through evoking a heavenly mandate. The church was the source of faith, and socialization. It was the main educator, source of art and the final say on issues that could not be explained through modern science. Now this is a broad generalization, but I think you know what I am getting at.
    It has really only been the last 50 years or so, really the TV age that church attendance has gone down considerably. Now I dont know if that is a coincidence or not. I am not implying one necessarily.
    It doesnt mean though that our morals have changed considerably or in a negative way. Remember we all have a price, and to an to some extent are flexible in our morals.
     
  13. Mare Tranquillity

    Mare Tranquillity Active Member

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    Thanks for the personal attack, Nums, it's nice to see a foolish consistency is still the hobgoblin of your mind.

    Math is objective, anyone can come up with the same answer. Morality is subjective because you can look around the country and the world and see that people have come up with many different moral "certainties" which contradict each other--and there is no way to prove the validity of any of them. Not like math at all really.
     
  14. numinus

    numinus New Member

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    Morality is merely the yard stick by which the values of all human actions are measured. What is the sense of measuring anything if the standard you measure with changes, hmmm?

    Please spare the members of this forum your concoctions of fancy which you peddle as logic.
     
  15. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    For most people, the standard doesn't change much over a lifetime. The point? It's comforting.
     
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