Wednesday, March 28, 2007

moral anyways

11:29 PM Posted by: M., 9 comments

This is a totally underdeveloped thought (as are most of mine), but I was thinking about morality--and how morality would exist in an atheistic world, and I am thinking that morality wouldnt be that much different than in a christian--or rather, theistic present--world.

I would consider our world to be "theistic-present"--where there is a large percentage of humans who believe in some kind of God, and this God either demands morality, or embodies it--either way, there is morality derived from God (at least that is what Christians believe)...but anyway, in this theistic-present world, there are moral and immoral people. I guess for the purposes of this, I will just speak on Christianity because I am not confident enough in my knowledge of other religion's views on morality. If morality only really comes from Christians then,
---how/why do non-christians act morally? how/why do christians act immorally?
(I am not looking for the free-will answer) Are non-christians just inspired by christians? Are christians just tarnished by non-christians?

I think that in this theistic-present world, there are people who act "immorally" and "morally," but the lines are not drawn clearly between believers and unbelievers.

Just the same, I think that in an atheistic world, there would still be people acting morally and immorally. Moral actions at the core are still actions, and I think that people would not stop committing the moral actions just because they get to roam free and "sin." Some people do good, and some people do bad. I think that self-awareness plays a big part too--everyone knows the consequences of immoral acts (at least those that have consequences that can be sensed or described), but people respond differently. Maybe (person A) can beat up old ladies, and (person B) cant even kill a bug--but that doesnt mean that without a belief in God, (person B) would start beating up old ladies. I cant prove things like this, but I just think it is ridiculous to look at the world and expect morality to fail without christianity.

I also think that people's personalities and environments pre-dispose them to sin or immorality. I mean, for example the Christians that oppose abortion probably would still be against it even if they were not christians. Also, there are moral things that Christians don't do. For instance, not killing--even letting the State kill--is probably a moral thing...but christians let us go to war to protect ourselves(opposite of the symbolism of Christ's death) and execute criminals (cutting short their time to convert to christianity)...or look at the Federal budget. I protested with lefty Christians in 2005 against the omission of money for food stamps in the Federal Budget--(I presume that feeding the poor is a moral issue--mentioned in the Bible a few times I guess), yet my Christian parents supported the food stamp-less budget saying something about "abuse of the welfare system" or something. Or just look at our world. Could a lot of christians not sacrifice their nice cars and houses and great jobs to go and help the poor in other countries and feed the hungry? (especially since they have ETERNITY to live in luxury) I dont know. It just seems to me that the Christian "morality" is the easy morality. They are moral about what they would be moral about anyway...and they are immoral about things they dont want to give up and dont think God is worth(ahem, Ted Haggard, meth...ahem male prostitute)

why do christians get to be imperfectly moral, while non-christians have to be perfectly immoral?

i dont know. this is the most cluttered thought i have posted and the worst described. i am not trying to make an argument or hypothesis, just thinking.


agnosis said...

Continue your thinking in this area, I believe it will be fruitful. Theistically based or dependent morality is one of the biggest farces of religious thought. It's also one of the last bastions of fear based reasoning in some Christian apologetic work. Even before I became agnostic I had given up the notion of theistic morality. The only direct influence Christianity has on morality is through fear of punishment. Many Christians don't commit certain acts deemed immoral because deep down they're afraid of hell or some other type of retribution by the Lord of Hosts.

In America, Christian morality is political morality. The Religious Right has become so politically intertwined that the GOP might as well invest in a couple of stone tablets to start writing on. The illustration of your parents serves as a case in point. Many issues are considered by their relation to which political party is endorsing/opposing them and not by the (de)merits of the issue at hand. Another glaring example is the criticism that the NEA's new president, Richard Cizik, is getting for his pro-environmentalist stance. There's no way global warming could possibly be true...Al Gore made a movie about it.

Give me a freakin' break.

Becky said...

I don't think it is cluttered at all. I believe you are looking at the hypocrisy of religion. All religions including Christianity are hypocrites which is what Christ exposed. The problem is Christians believe they are just because they do not do the offensive immorality but we are just the same.

to try to answer your question about why non-Christians can do good things and vice versa. From how I view things humans were created good (not perfect but good). Then we fell. Does that mean all of the goodness was irradicated? I don't think so.

I think I'll stop there. Keep seeking


Ed Lynam said...

I beg to differ that a revealed morality is no different that a human derived morality. Let's look at human cultures prior to the introduction of Judeo-Christian moral laws: 1) hunter-gatherers in Americas/Africa/Eurasia, typically savage and often cannabalistic, some anthropologist estimate that up to half of all prehistoric cultures were cannabalistic. That hardly qualifies as showing that human beings are naturally good or even capable of becoming good, since those conditions lasted tens of thousands of years. 2) Emerging agricultural societies in America (Aztec/Inca/Maya), Asia (China/India), Europe (Celt, Greek, Roman), Middle East (Egypt, Mesopotamia). These societies were utterly brutal. They often practiced human/child sacrifice, torture of humans for pleasure, and glorified warfare. Women were usually without rights. Some of these also lasted thousands of years without any sign of self-correction. 3) modern societies isolated from Judeo-Christian influence or which rejected such influence as a matter of policy: medieval Japan, Genghis Khan, Imperial China, Tamerlane, Ottoman Empire, Communist USSR, Communist China, Nazi Germany. Contrast these situations with the lives of those truly invested in following the Christian faith like the early church martyrs, residents of monasteries and religious orders over the years, missionaries to the unreached, and those who were influenced by the ideas of equality found in the Bible and said "we take these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..." Mankind has never achieved this degree of collective moral consciousness ever before. And it is the growth of the application of the true revealed theistic morality that is the driving force behind such achievements. Atheists did NOT achieve this, though they'd like to think it was human derived. But the evidence is to the contrary.

marie said...

Hey Agnosis, Becky and Ed, thanks for that--You guys wrote really interesting stuff and kind from three different views--I like that. Ed, you gave good examples illustration and I believe I agree with you. All those things are puzzling, and it is interesting how so many christians have lived morality---this led me to put up another post.

exapologist said...

It's utterly bizarre to think that we need to believe in God to be moral -- as though all people are, at bottom, sociopaths, wholly lacking bonds of sympathy and affection in their internal constitution. Before a person converts, or after a person deconverts, are they unable to love their child, their friends, their family, the suffering?

I can't recommend highly enough Plato's Republic for a great answer to why it's rational to be ethical.

JumpingFromConclusions said...

Great thoughts here, Marie. I agree with you on a lot of this- I think humanity could have morality without a belief in God. I do think that belief in God has inspired many people to live better lives, though (and I'm not saying I think you'd disagree with this). Belief in God can also be used as a tool though, politically and otherwise. I think, like so many things, it can be used for good or for bad. Excellent post; it's started some good discussion!

Heather said...

**why do christians get to be imperfectly moral, while non-christians have to be perfectly immoral?**

I've always found something dangerous about this view. If telling someone that they can never live up to a perfect standard, you're essentially setting that person up to fail. ANd if telling someone that they'll never be good enough for God, and God has every right to punish that person, then I can understand the obession with morality. Because some in that mindset have to be terrified that they don't believe the right thing, or haven't asked for forgiveness the right way.

On the other hand, the 'I'll never be good enough for God' can also be an excuse to sin. It's in one's nature, it'll happen eventually, but I'm forgiven, so it's okay.

agnosis said...


Some logic please. You're comment initially contrasts two sets without differentiating what you're talking about. Revealed morality vs human derived is one thing and Judeo-Christian morality vs every other moral system in existence is quite another. Since you don't differentiate, I'll do my best to comment. If you intended to show the superiority of revealed vs human derived morality based on brutality and cannibalism, you need to prove that all those cultures were atheistic. I think that's impossible historically. If anything, the brutality of child sacrifice and other moral atrocities can often be directly tied to some belief in some deity and the commands believed to be revealed by such deity.

On the other hand, if you're comparing Judeo-Christian morality to all other moral systems based on brutality, a few things need to be reckoned with. YHWH is/was a god of genocide, moral codes such as Hamurabi's reflect similar thought patterns and practices as the Decalogue, and Christianity is responsible for the Crusades and the Inquisition. The list could go on, of course. Finally, you need to esablish the direct causal relation between any theistic belief and objective moral behavior in such a way that excludes all other possible causal factors. Exapologist's comment captures the subtle and absurd implication of hard theistic moralities.

marie said...

Thanks Agnosis,

that was a really good point about cultures practicing immoral acts and such doing so under the direction or delusion of some other gods--not in the name of "no-God." Come to think of it, I dont believe I have ever been introduced to a society that has been wholly atheitic--at least devoid of a god and/or overarching political ideology.I totally agree that it is important to differentiate between (judeo-christian societies vs. non judeo-christian societies, and judeo-christian societies vs. atheistic societies)--

I was seeing this same argument about the Nazis and such in another forum, and I believe the logic mentioned here should be introduced there...

As always, thanks everyone for these thoughtful responses--I think my brain has grown more in the last few months than in my 23 years!