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Atheist Ethics and Morality

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Matthew78, Aug 26, 2011.

  1. Matthew78

    Matthew78 aspiring biblical scholar

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    I'm starting this thread to discuss a topic that arose in the thread "Is atheism absurd?" I mentioned that I had abandoned atheism and Secular Humanism. I want to explain why. This was a sad decision for me but it was something I felt that I must do. Here's why:

    As a Secular Humanist, I believed that this universe was probably the only reality that existed. There were no divine beings, no "souls", no "spirits", no "afterlife", no ultimate meaning or purpose to life. Purpose and meaning were subjective and depended on the individual. When I first became a Secular Humanist, I was actually overwhelmed with joy. It was the first time I felt confident in my life. I felt I was deserving of respect, deserving of rights, and deserving of dignity. I could live an honest life with no phantoms of divine wrath or the threat of hellfire for something like "thought-crimes". I must admit with some blush as I type this; I was also looking forward to sex. Being a Secular Humanist meant that I could have all the sex I wanted to and there was no divine being who was punishing for having lustful thoughts, imagining undressing a woman, or enjoying seeing a woman in a bikini or just plain nude. No divine being was going to judge for me having sex, either. I could have purely casual, no-strings-attached sex with a lady, just because she was beautiful, and there would be no divine retribution for it!

    I credit Richard Carrier with helping me. I had been having a private correspondence with him through e-mail and the more I read his writings and, eventually, his book Sense and Goodness Without God, the more I liked Secular Humanism. I read other books such as Paul Kurtz' book In Defense of Secular Humanism. I was pleased to find a worldview that cherished science, reason, democracy, and inalienable human rights. No god was needed.

    The more and more I read about Secular Humanism, though, the more troubled I became. I was an atheist and a philosophical naturalist. I believed that it was likely that this phyiscal world was all that existed, all that ever existed, and that that was ever likely to exist. Everything had a natural explanation from the Big Bang, to the origin of life, to the origin of human consciousness. I felt satisfied that no god existed, no "celestial dictatorship" as Christopher Hitchens is sometimes fond of putting it.

    The problem came with the question of why. If we live in a physical world with no divine beings, no souls, no spirits, no afterlife, no cosmic purpose, and this physical world is likely eternal, then we, as human beings were ultimatey just a collection of cells. We are the sum of our cells and whatever emerges from our cells. Whatever our cells do individually and collectively makes up who we are. It was that simple. I read about different theories of morality and meaning. Richard Carrier proposed "Goal Theory" as a theory of morality. Michael Martin proposed his "Observor Theory". The late ecoanarchist thinker, Murray Bookchin, proposed "Social Ecology".

    It was reading Bookchin's book The Philosophy of Social Ecology that I began to find Secular Humanism to be unsatisfying. Bookchin proposed an ecological theory of ethics and while I liked his "Social Ecology", I couldn't convert. Bookchin didn't answer the questions I kept hoping he'd answer. He didn't answer questions like, "Why bother to be moral?", "What does it matter if we are moral or not?", "Why bother to even live?", and "What is the point of living?" I read other books and I grew increasingly dissatisified. Carrier's theory didn't satisify me. I read from Kai Nielsen's books Ethics Without God and Why Be Moral? I was so haunted by these questions that I even contacted the author David Eller and told him of my concerns.

    I ordered a copy of his book Natural Atheism. He personally autographed it and sent it to me. So I contacted him and explained what was bothering me and I invited his input. He graciously gave me a copy chapter of his next book (this book has since been published). I skimmed to the point where he was to answer my questions. His chapter disappointed me greatly. I didn't e-mail him to argue the point or complain about how disappointed I was. But I continued reading. I read Michael Martin's book on atheism and morality. Finally, almost halfway through a course in the philosophy of religion at SFSU, I came to conclude that I couldn't continue to call myself an atheist anymore.

    I believed that if a god of love and goodness existed, then that god is guilty of criminal negligence. But to judge this divine being, there would have to be an objective morality. There would have to be objective moral values as well as a theory explaining where these values come from, why they are important, and why they matter to begin with. I came to conclude that the problem of evil was actually a paradox. This philosophy class was about the problem of evil. To condemn or judge requires a moral standard. I realized that in order to judge a divine being and condemn that divine being for criminal negligence, an objective morality must exist. But if it really does exist, then it must come from outside of human beings.

    It must come from a source that transcends human beings and subjective human experience. If not, then why do we care about morality? Why do we care about meaning? Why do we even bother to care what is right or wrong? Yet we do treat morality objectively. If we didn't, we couldn't condemn evil people like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, or Pol Pot for crimes against humanity. It is only because we treat morality as if it is objective, can we have a legal system that punishes murderers and sexual predators.

    I didn't know how to resolve this paradox. In fact, for our last paper in this philosophy class, our instructor asked us to tell if our thoughts had changed or remained the same after this class. I wrote that my thoughts had, indeed, changed and I explained the paradox as I thought of it. My instructor liked my paper and I got an A in this class. I wrote in my paper that I could no longer call myself an atheist until I knew where objective morality came from, why it mattered, and what made it objective. Otherwise, the argument from evil, whether logical or evidential, lost all of its force. The paradox had to be resolved some how.

    I quit going to SFSU after a very nasty bout of depression which almost cost me my life. That was over a year ago (from the time that this post is being typed). I haven't been back to SFSU and I don't plan on returning. But the questions that tormented me haven't been resolved. After abandoning Secular Humanism, I renewed my quest for answers. It was at the time that I abandoned Secular Humanism, I became interested in religious Humanism. I started reading into Unitarian Universalism. I really liked what I read and every time I read into this liberal religion, I grew a greater liking for it.

    I went back and read some of the atheist literature that I found disappointing. I read, again, from Richard Carrier's book. I read some online essays from a website calling "Ebon Musings". I started to research the problem of evil for a book that I wanted to write on the subject. I read a paper by Raymond D Bradley, titled "The Free-Will Defense Refuted and the Existence of God Disproved". It was a fascinating paper. I read Bradley's other writings. I read a paper about a proof of atheism by him. I then came to a new conclusion. I came to conclude that for an atheist or Secular Humanist, there probably wasn't any objective morality. The way for an atheist to resolve the paradox proposed by the problem of evil was to adopt a position of moral nihilism.

    It was when I came to conclude this that I had joined this forum and I decided to discuss this problem as a thread. I mentioned abandoning Secular Humanism/atheism in another thread and so I decided to start this one. Now people should know my reasoning. So here is the problem as I see it:

    If this universe is all that there is and there is nothing supernatural, nothing divine, nothing "spiritual" or whatever word we may use to describe the so-called "supernatural" or "paranormal" realm, then this physical reality is all that there is. We human beings are a collection of cells. But that's all we are. So, if we are a collection of cells, then why should we be moral? Why should we attach meaning to our lives where no meaning has existed before? What does it matter whether we are moral or not? Why bother? Life has no objective meaning or purpose and our existence is merely incidental. We weren't put here for a plan, or so Secular Humanists believe, so why even bother? What is the point? Why should we care?
     
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  2. bobhikes

    bobhikes Nowoligist
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    Simply put I do everything because I want to. There can be no other reason and no other reason is important.

    I am moral because I want to be.
    I live because I want to.

    I do not need to be told what morals are or how I am supposed to use them. I do not need anyone to give a purpose to my life it is my life and my choice. I am who I am and like the person I am.
     
  3. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    It seems to me exceedingly superficial to argue that since there is nothing supernatural, there is no meaning or morality in life. In a way, it's very hard to believe anyone could honestly think his or her life was meaningless and their morals null and void simply because there are no ghosts in the machine.
     
    #3 Sunstone, Aug 26, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2011
  4. Me Myself

    Me Myself Back to my username

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    I would recommend meditation, personally.

    About morals, I always thought they come from our own self. I am no atheist, but I think being atheist or not makes no difference when it comes to being moral as long as you are in contact with your own self.

    Compasion is a form of hapiness in itself. I´ve read more than once that the brain activities of the monks after their meditation in compasion goes towards optimism and other forms of emotion that foment hapiness while they remain grounded and objective.

    I beleive if you want to find why the human beings have been so worried with morals for so long you may want to get in touch with yourself, and remind you yourself why you and everybody around you is important.

    Just because morality trascends doctrine, doesn´t mean that it doesn´t exist.

    In any case, that would be my advice, try out meditation for your hapiness and the peace you are looking for. It may take good time, but 15 minutes a day in exchange for a meaningful life are well worth it even if it does take some time.

    Whatever you choose, I wish you luck, peace and hapiness in your path.

    We all diserve it.

    Blessings :)
     
    #4 Me Myself, Aug 26, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2011
  5. Rhizomatic

    Rhizomatic Vaguely (Post)Postmodern

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    I take issue with this. A true moral relativist would easily be able to judge another for violating their morals. There's quite a bit of ground between (some articulations of?) relativism and nihilism. I can condemn others for violating human rights while also acknowledging that human rights are a category constructed within a culture and not necessarily right for all cultures. The fact that my morality is relative to my biological/ cultural/ historic/ geographic/ etc. context hardly changes the fact that it's my morality. It is still just as effective (which is really just to say affective) as if I subscribed to a system of purportedly-objective deontological ethics.

    A couple things come to mind.

    First off, it's not a why question. We are moral. Barring sociopaths and the like, we feel empathy for others. We could postulate why this is (evolutionary psychology and sociology are helpful here), but the simple fact of the matter is that it is. We have an inherent inclination towards value and morality.

    Tied to my first point, there are distinct psychological benefits to having a coherent system of morals/ values/ meaning. You've contrasted secular humanism to different deontological religious values, but there are a number of teleological religions like Buddhism that do not recognize an objective morality or meaning inscribed into the universe, but rather devote themselves to forms of values and meaning designed to be psychologically beneficial to the practitioner and the community.
     
  6. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    I hate it when people just post a link to a video, but I'm not posting it as a substitute for my own argument - I'm just posting it because I think you might find it interesting.

    There's a really good lecture by Matt Dillahunty (of the Atheist Experience/the Atheist Community of Austin) that's related to this - particularly how a moral system can work without being externally imposed:

    Matt Dillahunty: The Superiority of Secular Morality | The Atheist Experience on blip.tv

    It's just over an hour, but informative, IMO.
     
  7. Jeneshisu

    Jeneshisu Smile ^^

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    Wow, that was quite the read! You seem very nihilistic and very confused. I hope that maybe I can help you somehow sort through your thoughts.

    I used to be an Atheist for a time. And I inevitably became nihilistic also, because I was not content with it. I really made myself miserable. I drove myself crazy with all the same questions you are asking now.

    In the end, I came to the conclusion that some questions don't have objective or logical solutions. And can only be answered with more uncertainty or are just better left alone for now.

    Learning is apart of the human experience. We are aware of ourselves and we don't know why or how, and it may end up being impossible to know. It's true that you and me are just a bunch of cells and chemicals, but it's also good to remember that all those cells and chemicals are what make us what we are. Regardless of how demeaning it might originally seem, it's not the point. The point is that you are there and I am here. The means isn't that important.

    Sometimes it's difficult to find meaning in life when we look at things too objectively. Because meaning IS subjective and somewhat abstract. More logically minded people often run into this same dilemma. They see the world around them and they spend hours trying to figure it out and figure themselves out, but as a result, they miss out on the experience. And regardless of how skeptical or open minded you might think yourself to be, you are still stuck in one mode of thought.

    The solution is to try and break out of that cycle. Instead of thinking so critically about everything, take the time to just experience life instead. That was my antidote to nihilism.

    As far as morals go, human compassion/empathy and understanding is usually the mode which dictates how we behave in society. Laws and enforcement are also created accordingly. It's not perfect, and it doesn't just develop in itself overnight, and it's not exactly something we're born with. Some things have to be learned and other things have to be unlearned, and those things differ with each culture because different things have worked for different people for different periods of time.

    What you feel or think as far as morality goes is a factor that's created by yourself and the people and events around you. And again, most of it is driven by compassion which is in our nature as human beings.

    Is it objective? Not really. But it's not entirely subjective either. There are universal aspects that I think that most people can agree on, and then there are the rest that tend to shift a little bit more.

    And to answer the question why you should bother to be moral at all is not so simple. Because you also have to define what morality means to you first.
     
  8. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Greased up & ready for action!
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    Wow! Yeah, that.
     
  9. Sententia

    Sententia Well-Known Member

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    I don't have the book at hand as I have lent it out but have you read Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape?

    The Moral Landscape - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  10. idav

    idav Being
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    Nihilism isn't just a problem for atheists. If an atheist gives all meaning and worth to come from god then take away that god and they are just nihilist. The only difference between being an atheist and theist and having purpose is that for an atheist purpose will not come from a dictator god. For an atheist purpose would come from you. Being theist doesn't solve the issue any better with some higher being giving you the purpose especially when you have no choice in the matter. I don't ask why we should attach meaning to our lives. I ask why should I let someone else attach meaning for me.
    I do enjoy this book.
     
  11. ManTimeForgot

    ManTimeForgot Temporally Challenged

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    If you want meaning you need look no further than the affect that your continued impact has upon all future members of humanity. Yes, your individual impact is diluted, but it is diluted across a near infinite number of actors. Meaning is conserved, never destroyed.

    Purpose? You can only give yourself that. Do you like having a pleasurable existence? Well start from there.


    Why bother acting moral? So long as the preponderance of humanity acts in a moral manner it increases the chances of humanity's continued existence which is demonstrably good if you prefer to matter. Also; if you act flagrantly immoral, then people will reject you and possibly even harm you. If you don't want to die, then don't be a killer.


    MTF
     
  12. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    If we're a collection of cells, then why not be moral? Why not attach meaning to our lives where no meaning has existed before? Why not bother? Why shouldn't we care?

    Your argument basically amounts to saying "there's no reason to choose A or B, so I should choose B." You ignore your own argument when you get all mopey and apathetic, because if there's no reason for anything, then there's no reason to be mopey and apathetic.

    If nihilism is right and there is no "true" justification for anything, then there's no justification for investing yourself in sullen nihilism. If you're right and there's really no objective purpose or meaning, then you're entirely free to follow whatever purpose and meaning you want.
     
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  13. Sententia

    Sententia Well-Known Member

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    Hah... Yeah its a challenging book to read for sure. Most of the people I lend it too are ****** off at me until they finish it. Granted I have a grand sample of three so don't read into it too much but its definitely a challenging book to read... even as an atheist. There is a lot in there to think about.

    I haven't made my mind up yet if I agree with Sam but I do want to read it again and think it was a fantastic read.
     
  14. Splarnst

    Splarnst Active Member

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    In order to “abandon atheism,” one must believe in the supernatural. So, are you saying that you believe in the supernatural because you're not satisfied living in a world without an “objective” morality? What's more, the existence of the supernatural doesn't help your problem at all. If we have no reason to be moral or to live, then no supernatural being has a reason to be moral or to live. If we can't give our own lives meaning, then another being certainly can't do it either!
     
    #14 Splarnst, Aug 26, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2011
  15. Acim

    Acim Revelation all the time

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    I underlined parts that stood out for me.

    My first response is there is no 'should.' I would say for sure no 'should' from the 'physical reality is all there is' perspective, and I would think to moral relativists, that lack of should is undeniably welcome. From my spiritual understanding, there is also no should, or no obligation to worship God / Life, as that would (obviously) contradict freedom. So, let's just remove 'should' from the equation. Left then with "why are we to be moral?" or simply "why are we moral?"

    Second point is I agree that if only physical is real, then thoughts as qualitative concepts are not real, and therefore there is no objectivity. No subjectivity. None of that. It is ALL imaginary. Thus morality would be imaginary. Thing is, at this point a few things occur (of so I think). One, we are still going to think thoughts (or I am) and conclude those thoughts exist, are real, have validity, and can be met with some sense of joining or consensus. This to me is huge, but could still be referencing something that is ultimately imaginary. Second thing at this point gets tricky and yet I think needs to be said. If physical is real, then our concepts of it, all of our concepts of it, is imaginary. There is no table, no chair, no air, no whatever. We are making up those concepts. We may not be making up the properties / processes, but given enough of a desire to debate, and I'll say we are making all of that up. Our whole basis of rational, for distinctions, etc. would be imaginary. Thus arguably the physical (as mental construct or perception) is imaginary. From here, I would venture back into territory that says perhaps, just maybe, our concepts are not imaginary. And at this point is where faith trumps reason. It simply does. We have 'gut feeling' that our thoughts are meaningful / real.

    Third and essentially final point is realizing we give all meaning to all things that we believe exist and/or have knowledge as existing. While there is lots to say here, to keep this post relatively short, I'll just add that this 'giving meaning,' I continue to understand as something that happens through us, not from us. It happens through us via nature, but a nature that is evidently non-physical. Again, this is faith based, but is also logical, if understanding what meaning (actually) is. And one thing that is clearly given us is the logic of what we do to others (includes thoughts / judgments) we are doing to ourselves. And THIS is where I see morality coming from. This realization which is rather obvious, and yet is possible to deny, and to live as if I can hurt another and I am not hurting myself, or I can love another and am not necessarily loving myself (instead acting lifeless).

    This 'as if' I am not impacting me, is IMO, the grand illusion, and is why we think morality needs to be objective. Why morality, at some level, has to be obligatory, for if it is not, anarchy would be inevitable, and one (or more) person(s) could go about living and take advantage of all other persons. Lest we build into the system punishment, and give that all meaning we observe in 'nature around us.' You hurt another, we hurt you, as is law of the land. Not realizing this is only perpetuating idea of 'we hurt ourselves.' This has a logical extreme that I reckon none want to have realized, but at that extreme is the realization of 'I did this to myself.' And as that can be realized at any point (for many already is realized), then in creeps forgiveness (changing own perception of doing unto another) and a system of correction is in place that undoes the grand illusion. The kicker is, it was, or is, already undone, as it is illusion and is essentially a myth being perpetuated. Again this is the short version. But forgiveness is ultimately the illusion that undoes the grander illusion.
     
  16. Matthew78

    Matthew78 aspiring biblical scholar

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    I have quoted this from a post on the "Is atheism absurd?" thread. I wanted to respond to it here because I didn't want the other thread to get off topic.

    Before I play devil's advocate with your comments, I want to point out that I have become very skeptical of competition. After having read from Alfie Kohn's No Contest: The Case Against Competition and Robin Hahnel's book Economic Justice and Democracy, I am very suspicious of competition. I have come to view all competition as being inherently destructive and I prefer cooperation instead, especially equitable cooperation. Anyways, onto your comments...

    Let me be very clear. Are you arguing for a utilitarian theory of morality here?

    But where do we get these "rights" from? It seems that a "right" in this context is merely a social construct that exists by virtue of verbal or written fiat. It's not some Platonic ideal that assumes concrete form in the form of a social contract between two or more people or between the governing power and the consenting governed.

    Playing devil's advocate, why should we care about any such rights or corresponding duties? Why care about any duties or the need to respect any such said duties? What does it matter whether we have rights, respect these rights, and respect the duties corresponding to any rights? What does it matter?

    It's deemed morally wrong, sure, but playing devil's advocate, why should we care about what is deemed morally wrong? If my right to cross the street entails your duty not to intefere, what does it matter if you do, in fact, infringe on my right? Why should we bother to care?

    I agree with this. But playing devil's advocate, we can ask why should we care about whether or not this equilibrium exists or not? I can ask why does it matter whether the balance is tipped in one direction or another? I can ask why should we care?

    The only way that one can opt out of morality would be voluntary death. It seems that even if people do not like morality, they are duty-bound to observe it, unless they don't care if their freedoms are suspended, their privileges revoked, and they don't care if they are incarcerated or not.

    I'm not so sure I agree with this but I will gladly concede it for the sake of discussion.

    I agree. In this case, the only way to not bother living would, indeed, be voluntary, self-inflicted death.

    I disagree rather strongly. I do need to justify meaning in my life. Especially, if I'm an atheist. If I am a philosophical naturalist, I really cannot see any point to living or life. Not even our most strong innate desire to survive and reproduce would really override that kind of nihilism.

    The fact of that I'm on this forum is evidence that I'm on a quest. I personally find Secular Humanism to be unfulfilling. So I'm doing something about it. I have been growing more and more apathetic to life. I don't like apathy or depression so I'm doing something about it. I completely admit it; I am deeply dissatisfied with philosophical naturalism. Not even what I thought was, originally, the best perk of being a Secular Humanist, limitless sex with consenting adult atheist women, can change that. When I was an atheist, I really loved the thought of limitless sex with atheist women but it totally lost its appeal.

    Anyways, andys, I await your response. :)
     
  17. Alceste

    Alceste Vagabond

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    I don't get your "IF / THEN" statement.

    "IF there's no [god / soul / afterlife / angels / Santa Claus / unicorns], THEN life has no purpose or meaning."

    From a purely logical perspective, I think there needs to be something stuck in between the first and second half of this argument. In order to conclude that disbelief makes life meaningless, you are first taking it as a given that believing in the factual truth of our cherished myths causes our lives to be filled with meaning and purpose. IOW, both halves of your statement are the same. It isn't really an "IF / THEN" at all. You think theism makes life meaningful, which means non-theism must makes it meaningless, but you haven't shown the reasoning that led you to conclude theism is meaningful in the first place.

    If I had to guess what's going on here, I think you might be at a stage of your psychological development where you are missing the carefree simplicity of childhood, which in your case came coupled with religion (I assume). I think you are attributing your feeling of angst-filled nostalgia to religion because that is the most obvious difference in your life between then and now. Perhaps you are just getting older, and you'd be feeling mopey and nostalgic for times past with or without religion.
     
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  18. idav

    idav Being
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    I do agree with what he is saying and love that he is able to go at it from a neurological standpoint.

    He is certainly able to answer plenty of questions and is able to pinpoint how science can help us choose the correct answers for moral questions. There certainly are wrong answers which is illustrated in society, we see what works and what doesn't work.

    The only thing that gets me is that he is not able to really answer why we should want to be happy and healthy except to say that we want to avoid the worst kinds of suffering. Sam Harris just sort of ignores the subjectivity of morality by dismissing the notion of inflicting suffering as being OK based on perspective. I still kind of agree with it though because I can't imagine someone condoning someone being brutally raped and murdered or something to that extent and someone try and argue that it is just moral subjectivity. If there is actually someone out there that wouldn't mind being brutally tortured and murdered I'd think they're in an unhealthy state of mind to begin with. From what I've seen we all know what suffering is and we all want to avoid it no matter what our version of real suffering is. At the same time he does say there are many peaks and valleys to well-being so in that sense it is acknowledging subjectivity while staying with the concept of there being right and wrong answers based on the knowledge science can provide.
     
  19. work in progress

    work in progress Well-Known Member

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    Before we get to "here's why" I want to ask: what does it mean to abandon atheism or secular humanism? Atheism doesn't hold any extra baggage than nonbelief in God or an intelligent creator of our world, and secular humanism is a pretty open naturalistic philosophy that has few commonalities besides a statement of ethical principles; so what would you be abandoning if you merely decided that there must be a creator or something more than the physical world?

    That is not necessarily a universal view of secular humanists. We are not all dedicated to the pursuit of our own individual desires. The difference is that "objective" would be meaning and/or purpose that is shared by others in the community. Your emphasis on souls, spirits and afterlife, indicates that you can't see meaning in a temporary life that doesn't last forever...whatever that is. This indicates more of an existential fear of death, which is common, but should be worked through rather than trying to convince yourself of some doctrine of immortality and ending up living in denial of death until you find yourself full of doubt again late in life.....don't mean to be a downer, but this does happen to many people who are nominally religious, but never thought through their beliefs until late in life, or they found themselves facing a crisis caused by a serious illness.

    Sounds like you were struggling with something similar to that 'old time religion' that I grew up with! But, again, this is where people are all different. Even as a teenager, it wasn't so much the sexual repression that made me want to break out; it was being stuck with having to be silent about dogmas and doctrines I knew were false, but not being able to say anything about them or what I really believed. After I got out, I didn't go hog-wild when it came to sex -- I had sexual relations with two girlfriends before I got married 26 years ago, and even with no divine surveillance camera in the sky watching me sin, I've led a more conservative sex life than most of the churchgoers I've known over the years....everybody's different, and wants different things out of life.

    That would make you alot more positive or sure about naturalism than many naturalists are. To say that there are no other forces in nature, would have made you a physicalist; but many naturalists are a lot more tentative with what else is out there. I prefer an understanding that if there is something other that presently would be considered supernatural -- as soon as it can be verified to exist and understood in an empirical manner, then it becomes a force that has to be incorporated into our understanding of the natural world. But who says we 'know everything about the origins of the universe, origins of life and consciousness? I don't think even a pompous *** like Hitchens even goes that far.

    It may ultimately depend on what sort of persons we are, our temperament, and other factors that generally make us satisfied and happy, or dissatisfied and unhappy with life. Maybe they couldn't give you a personal answer "why be moral" or "why go on living" because these aren't questions you can intellectualize your way towards. You either enjoy living, or you don't, and you either understand why it's better to be moral, or you don't -- it's not something to reason towards, it's an intuitive feeling we either have or don't have...which I think someone else already mentioned previously.

    We all have to find our way in life and find ways to provide meaning and satisfaction. I don't believe everyone needs the same recipe, so for what it's worth, maybe someone thinking along your lines of a short life in a natural world being meaningless, doesn't belong in the community of atheists and secular humanists! Regardless of what Dawkins, Hitchens or any other evangelists of new atheism say, not everyone finds naturalism a comforting worldview. If you find a supernatural theory that you can actually believe in, maybe that would be better for you.

    NO, but I'm tired of talking about this one!

    Which doesn't have to mean it is transcendent or supernatural! When we talk with others and share experiences, we discover how many of our subjective impressions...like the sky is blue, can be corroborated by others; so an objective morality is just following the principles that we share with others, not reaching for some divine law that's supposedly handed down to us from above.


    Sad to hear! I hope things are better now. But this is why earlier I was thinking that you were expecting something from Carrier and other naturalist philsophers that they can't provide for you. All a naturalist can do regarding ethics and morality is try to determine what actions and behaviours are more and less beneficial, they can't make you want to follow whatever code of ethics they are promoting.


    I like the U/U's. I've gone to a Unitarian church near where I live, a few times. I hate to say it but, that's my kind of church! The religion is just based on a code of ethics and principles, that are naturalistic, not transcendent or require the acceptance of any supernatural beliefs that is required by virtually every other religion. I attended one Sunday morning meeting last year on atheism, and when a show of hands was called for, approximately one quarter of those in attendance raised there hands when asked if they identified themselves as atheists or agnostics....that's not something I would have found at any other church service!

    I'll go back to my previous answer - that naturalism isn't enough for you, and since you are looking for something else besides what we know of in nature, make sure that it's something that makes sense to you on a deeper level, rather than some superficial dogma that you'll be poking hoes through within a year or two....good luck with your search for meaning!
     
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  20. work in progress

    work in progress Well-Known Member

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    I didn't read the book, and I'm not a Harris fan, but from what I've read so far, I get the impression that he would have received less of a backlash if he presented science as something that can help answer moral questions, rather than claiming that science is going to provide the definitive answers.

    Harris seems to use alot of his own views and opinions as a guide that should apply to everyone else. I'm still stuck on the fact that this is the idiot who made a moral argument for justifying a nuclear first strike against the Muslim World in the End Of Faith.
     
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