Atheism Discussion 2.0 - Roundtable Discussion in Progress

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Fire_Ice_Death, Sep 17, 2005.

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  1. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    As many of you know I created a thread a while back; it was to discuss Atheism and how people have come to be Atheists. And for a while this worked and it worked okay, but eventually things got too unwieldy as Atheism encompasses more than just how we?ve become Atheists. There?s more to it and the purpose (I had hoped) would be to garner a bit of understanding from people who aren?t Atheists since there are a lot of misconceptions out there. But that was the hope. It actually left the thread unfocused and I was banned for 6 months so I couldn?t have helped any way. And eventually you have what we had in that thread; personal comments, flaming, baiting, and all of this from both sides of the aisle. My intent was sadly not achieved and only created more animosity.

    Now, I am starting something new, I?m going with an amphitheatre style thread and we?re going to have topics of discussion and keep things from getting out of hand. Our first topic is morality. This is a huge point of contention among the atheists and religious folk. I won?t speak for everyone, but morality (in my view) is a developed process and is passed on from your parents. And that determines how you turn out. However, some people take theirs from their peers and this is where there are some changes in their view of morality.

    I?m not saying all Atheists follow this view, in fact, I?m sure there?s more than a few who don?t. But I would like everyone to post their views, mostly Atheists, but if it?s done without preaching, everyone can as well.

    I want to make one thing clear for everyone?this thread is for discussion, not preaching, from both sides. If you?re going to preach your views then go somewhere else. But those who want a semi-serious discussion of Atheist views, then by all means, come on in.
  2. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    I definitely hope this thread goes well.

    A fresh start should help :).
  3. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    I'm going to echo KW's sentiment. This is an important topic which does attract both preconceptions and controversy, but I am confident we can discuss this like mature adults. :)

    I have a question; although many atheists are moral people, who learned morals from sources other than a Christian upbrining; would you consider it inaccurate to suggest at the core these morals are in part, Judeo-Christian (at least insofar as the influence of Judeo-Christian beliefs on Western societal development)?

    E_S
  4. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Perhaps the morals most of us are familiar with are Judeo-Christian in origin, but that doesn't do much to explain how a religion and culture like Buddhism can have a great deal of morality without developing with any of those influences.
  5. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Excellent point. Some of you who have been here for some time will notice I don't partak ein religious/moral debates often. It's not something I think about very much, to be perfectly honest. So I'm going to defer to more learned people and see what I can take awayf rom the discussion. :)

    E_S
  6. benkenobi151 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 16, 2005
    star 4
    Morals can come from more than just parents. They can come from culture, TV(unfortunatly), friends, school, and sometmes even other religions.
  7. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    Ender_Sai, for the most part, that's not inaccurate, for several reasons. For one, because several of the "Judeo-Christian" values are several of the most universal values, values that simply make sense no matter how you slice it. For another, many of us, even if we do not consider ourselves Christian, were raised in an environment predominantly Judeo-Christian, and that certainly affected how we see and comprehend the world, even if we disagree with parts of it.

    KnightWriter, there are actually theories that in those thirty years unaccounted for in Jesus' life he travelled east, which would go a long way toward explaining why so much of what he said has so much in common with eastern ways of thought.

    But I'm very tired now, so I'll probably be back here tomorrow.
  8. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    KnightWriter, there are actually theories that in those thirty years unaccounted for in Jesus' life he travelled east,

    Oh, I'm aware of those. All the same, however, Buddhism developed its core values system well before the existence of Jesus.
  9. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    So basically, those views aren't uniquely Judeo-Christian but they factor predominantly in JC thought.

    Does anyone hold a different view on this? That morals are derived from religion? If so, why?

    E_S
  10. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    I think morality is at it's most simplistic form a matter of a survival mentality. Some might conclude that morality is almost selfish since it tends to sound like the only reason you do not harm others is because they might harm you in return. That statement to me is true, there's nothing wrong with it, and without such an idea one might be considered a sociopath.

    But that's not all there is to it of course. Means of survival would have been very important when global populations were much lower. A complex social system comes about where reliance is made between members of a group.

    Upon the birth of a child you don't try to harm the child, you do you best to keep the child safe if for no better reason than to avoid extinction.

    I think with a larger brain at our disposal we can take on a deeper and more complex meaning to all of this. We can give definition to love, we can analyze our feelings and what they mean to us and give ourselves an understanding of what sympathy is and what we see in it.

    But we are not so different from animals. In a quick little search to word this out I found this list of what a few members of the non-human animal kingdom do for each other:

    --Dolphins support sick or injured animals, swimming under them for hours at a time and pushing them to the surface so they can breathe.

    --Wolves and wild dogs bring meat back to members of the pack not present at the kill.

    --Male baboons threaten predators and cover the rear as the troop retreats.

    --Gibbons and chimpanzees with food will, in response to a gesture, share their food with others of the group.

    --Vampire bats regularly regurgitate blood and donate it to other members of their group who have failed to feed that night, ensuring they do not starve.(YUCK!)

    --In numerous bird species, a breeding pair receives help in raising its young from other ?helper? birds, who protect the nest from predators and help to feed the fledglings.

    --Most mammal carnivores like wolves or dogs have a habit of not harming pack members below certain age, of opposite sex or in surrendering position (in case of some animals, the behavior exists within entire species rather than one pack).

    --Vervet monkeys give alarm calls to warn fellow monkeys of the presence of predators, even though in doing so they attract attention to themselves, increasing their personal chance of being attacked.

    --In social insect colonies (ants, wasps, bees and termites), sterile workers devote their whole lives to caring for the queen, constructing and protecting the nest, foraging for food, and tending the larvae. Such behaviour is maximally altruistic: sterile workers obviously do not leave any offspring of their own (so have personal fitness of zero) but their actions greatly assist the reproductive efforts of the queen.

    Neat huh?

  11. EnforcerSG Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2001
    star 4
    Morality is a huge issue, and the biggest problem is that no one seems to know what a moral is? Is it a rule? Is it an absolute (but what that means is also a huge question)? If they are not absolute then what happens?

    Just a little exercise I think everyone should do; imagine you were writing the dictionary and you got to "moral." What would you (not Webster or dictionary.com or someone else) write as that definition?

    I look at it from an action and reason stance. Everything we do we do for some reason. It may be subconscience; it could be the result of another point of view; it could be that our bodies are programed in a certain way; it could be a choice, but all in all, what we do we do for a reason. But as far as I know there is always a reason.

    So, what is that reason and what is its source? Actually the source question does not really matter with how I look at morals. Basically asking it will result in an infinite 'why' set of questions (like asking someone 'why did you steal it?' and he says 'cause I am greedy.' You then ask 'why are you greedy?' and so on). So lets look at the direct reason.

    Simply put, as I define it, morality is just a word that describes an action that was done primarily for selfless and non-harmful reasons. However there is no absolute-ness to that. Again, morality is just a word, and like any word it has the letters/sounds, a definition, and the 'physical' thing it represents. The word moral is in no way absolute to the other two parts; just like I could call the color of grass 'red' and the color that grass will not change.

    So, should we talk about good and bad now? ;)
  12. motisfortiva Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Mar 2, 2005
    star 2
    Beautiful is more like it. Life. People obviously have a bad habit of taking this all for granted, and it shows from day to day. I wish I could say more ATM but it just not possible. [face_tired]

  13. EnforcerSG Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2001
    star 4
    This is a new thread and although I may be overstepping my bounds as just some random guy, there are a few obvious things I want to through out there.

    I say let the theists come on in and ask all the question they can and want. If they come however, they should come to understand the atheistic view, question it and come to conclusions, but not to defeat it (if through questioning and understanding it, some irresolvable contradiction is found, then that is fine, but it should not be the purpose to prove atheism wrong). Also there should be several things that are understood for there to be any useful discussion.

    The first is that for any question to even belong here it pretty much must assume that there is no god at all. That carries along with it some baggage (and it is hard to put into words but I will try). Many arguments I have heard is that the world could not be as it is (or it could not exist at all) without a god. Any questions about atheism is going to have to assume that the world as is can exist without god. If you do not believe so and want to discuss it later (when morals and whatever else is next is done), then you better be very darn clear how it cannot be.

    Second, the fact that there is no god is going to change a lot of things. Many concepts, like morals, love, free will, etc, have definitions that have many parts, especially when defined religiously. Obviously those things are going to be very different concepts without a god. Obviously morals as a Christian would define it probably do not exist in a godless world, however (unless you have a lot of good and clear explanations to go with it) that does not really mean anything.

    Third, understand at its root that atheism says nothing more than 'there is no god.' Atheism itself says nothing more morals, love, naturalism, etc. However the underlying assumption that there is no god does effect those things. But those are just consequences of atheism, not a direct part of like the Christian God and Biblical morals go together.

    And finally, all of these things go together. These facts are all on the same level and support and help each other. Especially one and two where without a god version of (for example) morals leads to a contradiction in a world without god.
  14. Andreas_Lamont Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 15, 2005
    star 1
  15. EnforcerSG Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2001
    star 4
    Andreas_Lamont Once we are done here we should go back to morals. I fear that we are going a little away from understanding atheism and going to understand Christianity. Please understand that this post was more addressed to theists who may want to come in and discuss something. I was just trying to give them some guidelines and tips to make their discussion actually worth something.

    Looking at it from a believers point of view, the world cannot exist as it without God, God made everything including things like morals, and God is a 'cornerstone' of everything in this universe. I am basically saying that if they are going to come here with the proper purpose of trying to understand atheism, then they must be able to imagine a world where those things are not true and accept that this is that world (or if they don't then they better be darn clear and complete as to how it is impossible. If a theist would simply saying 'there are no morals without God' then they are wasting our time. If a theist wants to understand the consequences of atheism by asking something like 'should we follow morals if they are not absolute?' then that is fine).

    Just to illustrate... At one point you said that you believe all morals are made up by man. That is fine, but Christians obviously do not believe that and so to tell them to not be bound by beliefs like that in this thread, I need to acknowledge beliefs like that. My point was just to set up some ground work for theists to actually be able to understand atheism if they come here.

    If there is anything that you typed that you want me to specifically reply to, let me know.
  16. JediTre11 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 25, 2001
    star 4
    moral - the proper adherence in action or thought to a set of beliefs existing within a perspective or perspectives

    That was easier than I thought. Too easy. Anyone have anything for this?

  17. EnforcerSG Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2001
    star 4
    JediTre11

    You didn't say if it was a noun, verb... ;)

    moral - the proper adherence in action or thought to a set of beliefs existing within a perspective or perspectives

    Actually I find that definition very unsatisfying, but annoyingly accurate.

    Basically it is too subjective and general. Do morals only involve ethics, good and bad, or do they refer to anything? If anything, then my perspective that my computer can be turned on by pushing the power button and actually doing so is a moral action.

    Also immorality is a question. Immorality is more than just the improper adherence... because to most people, not adhering at all is immoral. But to the person not adhering to my perspective is moral in his mind. Is there an answer?

    But it is a solid definition that works well.
  18. Dingo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2001
    star 5
    Are you trying to define 'moral - what is a', or 'moral - what is it to be'? Because they are linked and yet the first can be defined completely independantly of the other.
  19. Neo-Paladin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2004
    star 4
    All right, I'll put my head on the chopping block for this one ;)

    As a member of society I support secular humanism as an excellent value set to follow as I live in society, as it is the most pluristic values set I have found. In sum it is the best way to live in a diverse society.

    However, I have never been satisfied that there can be "good" or "evil" without it being defined from outside human experience. I lose a dollar, it is a bad thing. Someone else finds my dollar it is a good thing. Which was it?

    When the nature of good and evil is considered from a purely naturalistic perspective morality is necessarily relative, as there is no absolute measure to gage good and bad against. And you have to look pretty hard to find ethicists who won't argue relative morality is worthless.

    Now, I think a creator wants us to live in the best way possible, which brings me back to a moral set very close to secular humanism.

    I love the new thread title by the way. :D
  20. VoijaRisa Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 2002
    star 5
    Er... Everything I planned on saying has already been said.

    ie. There's no evidence besides baseless circular arguments claiming God created all morals. The morals all atheists I've met subscribe to are the ones that every belief system (not just religions) hold to and are just common sense because without them, society would fail to function. It doesn't take God to figure that out.
  21. Neo-Paladin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2004
    star 4
    I agree completely, in so much as society fails without rule, and all value sets that govern interpersonal interaction seem to boil down to much of the same thing (until you start talking what gets applied to whom).

    But without an absolute measure, can there be absolute judgments to what is good and what is bad? Granted, I can't tell you what the measure is definitively, but with faith in a deity I can be confident the measure exists. When I dabbled in being agnostic I found my doubt in the existence of deity also brought doubt in my existence of absolute right and wrong.
  22. VoijaRisa Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 2002
    star 5
    Are you implying that there is such a thing as absolute right and wrong? Personally, I don't think it is. There are things that are almost always right or wrong, but things must always be taken in terms of the circumstances. For example, most people would agree that killing is wrong, but killing in self defense is completely justifiable. Thus, it can't be an absolute.

    Meanwhile, religion tries to make it out to be an absolute. One of the 10 commandments is "Thou shalt not kill"; Not "Thou shalt not kill unless you have a damn good reason". Jesus also speaks of turning the other cheek. But is this something that should always be done?

    Again, morals are not absolute. The only reason I can find that it's repeatedly argued that they are, is because Christians repeatedly try to claim the moral high ground and without having clear cut rights and wrongs, they can't delude themselves from realizing that, as long as no one's getting hurt and the "common sense" morals are being followed, we're all really on the same level.
  23. J-Rod Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2004
    star 5
    What is a moral? I think many of you are describing behaviour. Morals are, IMO, feelings. How you respond to these feelings shows whether you are a moral person.

    Morals? Actions, thoughts or deeds that result in a positive feeling of selflessness. I.E. "Warm fuzzy."

    You can do something that feels wrong. Not feel guilt about it. Believe it ain't anyone else's business (and you may be right) But you can't really call it moral.

    And, has been alluded to earlier, many morals are common to many unrelated morality systems. Ever wonder why?

    'Cause morals are, indeed, universal.
  24. Cheveyo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2001
    star 5
    J-Rod, I think the discussion is about morality and moral actions, and what makes an action moral, or amoral.

    Is an action considered to be moral behavior because it is sanctioned by God? Is it moral behavior because the act is selfless (assuming we can agree there is such a thing as a truly selfless act)? Is it moral because it benefits the whole of society? Is it moral because it benefits one other person?

  25. Aumgn Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 2004
    star 3
    Atheists draw their morality from the same place God draws his, though we usually come down a little harder on genocide.

    Attributing morality to God is the same 'God of the gaps' ignorance that attributes nature to God, natural disasters to God, or election results to God. But the fact is, this claim that morality is nonsensical without a God is rubbish, and is in itself amoral. It's basically asserting that might makes right, and morality is what it is because God is stronger than us and decides what's good and evil. From this point of view, God could declare rape not only acceptable, but a positive moral action and we would have no choice but to accept this as moral truth. You can even see such awkward defenses in discussion with believers in biblical inerrancy, who defend biblical atrocities because God said it was right.

    What few universal morals do seem to exist are the result of defence mechanisms, recoiling at the sight of murder, for example, and not the programming of a God who arbitrarily decided what was right based on his/her opinion. This is most obvious in the case above, where any sensible person would be disgusted at the actions of God as described throughout the Bible.
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